Thursday, May 26, 2022

Wildflower Time in the Gorge

The spring bloom has begun!  

It's a tradition of mine to follow the spring wildflower bloom as it progresses in the eastern Columbia River Gorge.  This area is known for it's prolific display of colorful wildflowers, mainly yellow balsamroot and purple lupine.  One of the best places to see fields of wildflowers is Washington's Columbia Hills State Park, home of the Dalles Mountain Ranch.  When the flowers are peaking, this is one place I make a point to visit.

Mt Hood peeping through a cloud layer

This year, the unseasonably cold and wet spring weather delayed the wildflower bloom.  Instead of wandering wildflower fields in early April, I didn't make it to the Dalles Mountain Ranch until the third week of that month.  That's when I hitched a ride with my friend Catherine and her family for a day of hiking and flower-viewing around Columbia Hills State Park.

Beautiful clouds over the bluffs

Our trail of choice that day was a loop beginning at the Crawford Oaks Trailhead.  After weeks of rainy weather this particular Sunday dawned sunny and dry.  Everyone was ready for some outdoor recreation, as evidenced by a full trailhead parking lot.  But Catherine's husband found a grassy spot to squeeze his truck, and we unloaded and began our hike preparations.  I had to walk through tall grass to get my backpack and boots from the truck's bed.  I emerged from the weeds and immediately discovered a tick on my pant leg.  Then I noticed two more of the tiny pests on my backpack.  Eeeek!!!  They'd evidently hitched a ride as I traveled through the grass.  Brushing both pants and backpack off thoroughly (and frantically checking the rest of my body) I thankfully didn't find any more.  But paranoia persisted for the rest of the day, with me fearfully checking out every little itch and tickle.

Wildflowers are in bloom!

Bladders emptied, boots on, backpacks donned, and bodies checked (once again) for ticks, our group was ready to depart.  In addition to Catherine's husband, her younger daughter also joined us.  They're very interesting people and it was fun to chat with each family member.  From the trailhead we traveled uphill via an old road for about a mile.  Fantastic views of Mt. Hood were enjoyed in the first quarter mile.  The bluffs ahead decorated with yellow desert parsley made for stunning scenery.  

Lovely spring colors on the adjacent hills

I'd hiked this very same trail back in February (see post here) when the area was barren and brown.  Boy what a difference two months makes!  Today the hills were green and lush and wildflowers dotted the prairie.  

Another Mt Hood sighting near the ranch

It was about 3 miles from the Crawford Oaks trailhead to the Dalles Mountain Ranch.  Our trail climbed to the top of the cliffs for glorious views of the Columbia River and Mt. Hood.  Then it turned inland and we rambled through colorful fields towards the ranch.

Sunny balsamroot bloom

Although yellow sunflower-like balsamroot flowers were blooming, purple lupine was just barely getting started.  There was plenty of color, but we didn't see full fields of flowers like in past years. It looked as though peak bloom was yet to come.

Fields o' flowers

Despite the decreased floral numbers, it was still a lovely sight to follow the trail as it wandered through the fields.  With my morning's tick encounter fresh in the memory banks, I resisted the urge for off-trail wanderings and diligently stuck to the beaten path.

More flowers....

I'll be quiet now so you can enjoy the next couple of photos....... :)

Yellow as far as the eye can see

Lone lupine

Almost to the ranch!

Balsamroot and bee

Soon the familiar ranch buildings came into view and I was happy to see that our lunch destination wasn't far.  It was now past noon, as my tummy kept reminding me.

Catherine's family knows how to lunch in style

Last February, my hiking group had taken a break at a picnic table strategically placed among the old ranch buildings.  I mentioned this particular table to my friends and they were all for making that our lunch stop.   

Trader Joe's goodies and a tablecloth!

Catherine and her family know how to lunch in style!  They packed a bunch of delicious goodies from Trader Joe's, paper plates, and even a tablecloth.  So much more classy than munching a PB&J while sitting on a rock.

Colorful fields

After a most wonderful break, it was time to pack up all the lunch fixins and continue our journey back to the trailhead.  Catherine's daughter decided to stay behind at the picnic table and we agreed to pick her up after we'd finished the hike (the ranch is also accessible via a road).  

Gotta pay the old car a visit!

Although the ranch was surprisingly not as crowded as it usually gets during bloom time, there were still a few folks wandering around the premises.  One man inquired if we knew where the famous old car was located.  Well - he asked the right person!  After many years of photographing the ranch's rusting automobile that sits in a spectacular field of flowers, I was able to point him in the right direction.  I decided we might as well pass by the car too, so Catherine and her hubby followed me to the old girl's final resting place.

Purple and gold

The flowers in the ancient auto's field were some of the best we'd seen all day.  There was a large patch of especially vibrant purple lupine and the balsamroot was also thick.  Oh the photo ops!  Our return trip may have delayed by several minutes......

Lots of smiles today

But finally my friends and I pulled ourselves away from the grand floral display and did a bit of cross-country scrambling to connect with the return portion of our loop.  

Wide open views towards the river

From here it was a pleasant downhill walk through wide open fields with more grand views.  In no time we reached the parking lot.  To avoid a repeat tick encounter, Catherine's husband thoughtfully reparked the truck on pavement before we changed our boots and hopped in.

Post-hike goodies

A quick drive on gravel roads took us back to the ranch where Catherine's daughter was waiting.  Upon our arrival, my companions produced another surprise.  Today happened to be their older daughter's birthday.  Although she lived out of state, that didn't stop Catherine and her family from celebrating.  In her daughter's honor Catherine pulled out a box of cupcakes and candles.  After everyone had their goodies, I used Catherine's phone to record a video of her family singing "Happy Birthday."  (Which was then sent to the birthday girl)  So much fun!  A wonderful end to a most excellent hike.

Celebrating a birthday

Roaming the flower fields of the Dalles Mountain Ranch in springtime always puts a smile on my face.  Sharing this gorgeous place with a fun bunch of people made it even better.

(P.S.  Thankfully no other ticks were found on anyone!)

Sunday, May 22, 2022

More Spring Babes

In a prior post, I promised gosling photos from my nearby park.  Well, the time has come.

Prepare yourselves for a cuteness overload!

Hello there!


In early April, my neighbor Cheri reported she'd seen three goose families with babies at our local duck pond.  She also shared that the best time to see the little ones was early morning when they were out foraging with their parents.  So the next day I rose before sunrise in hopes of capturing photos of the cute baby fluffballs.

Adorable, fluffy little guy

Luck was on my side!  Not only did I catch all three gosling litters in a nearby grassy soccer field, it was a rare sunny morning so the light was fantastic.

Goslings fighting over a worm

The little babies were pulling worms out of the soil for their breakfast.  (I didn't realize until that day, but apparently goslings eat worms)  When one gosling would get a worm, it's siblings would run over and try to snatch it from them.  It was funny to watch the squabbles and I managed to capture a couple of cute images.

Time for a swim in the pond

After several minutes, one set of parents decided they'd had enough of this crazy lady following their babies around with a camera, and waddled down to the pond.  

But first, a drink!

Before entering the water, however, all of the little fluffy goslings lined up on the bank and took a drink.

Goose family swimming away

Then the family promptly dropped into the pond and swam away.  The rising sun bathed the geese in such nice light, I clicked away until they were gone.

Goofy goslings out for a swim

A week later, I returned to check on the goslings.  A couple of the litters had grown quite a bit already.  There was one brood of smaller babies (born later I assumed).  The young geese were as cute as ever.


The older goslings were starting to lose their yellow fluff and their bodies were turning a bit grayer.  Every once and awhile they'd flap their tiny, but useless wings (I tried to get a photo to no avail, the little guys were too fast!)

Hey, I want that worm!

There were still lots of worm fights to photograph, however.

Deep in thought

I even caught one family as it swam by me.

Gosling buddies

This park has an asphalt walking path around the pond's perimeter.  For some reason the geese all liked to congregate on the path, forcing many pedestrians to detour onto the grass.

Line up for a photo!  Uh, well 3 out of 5 ain't bad...

A group of the little guys decided to line up on the path.  Well, three of them did anyway.

All cuddled up in a ball - such cuteness!

Then they all cuddled up together into one huge fluffball.  Oh so precious!

Almost to big to fit under mom's wing

Another group of the larger goslings all crowded under their mother's wing.  They were getting so big the babies nearly didn't fit.  It won't be long before they will have to sleep elsewhere.


Another wiser family of goslings decided to just bed down in the nice soft grass for a mid-morning nap.  Oh, the life of a little goose!

It's so wonderful to see all the springtime babies!  Hope this collection of adorable gosling photos makes you smile.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Tulips x4

Where I live, trees and flowers start blooming in March.  Towards the end of March one of my favorite flowers begins displaying it's beauty for all to see.  Of course, I'm talking about the humble tulip.

My hubby planted a batch of bulbs in our backyard and they erupt in a wild blaze of color every year.  Many houses in my neighborhood nurture colorful tulip displays in their yards.  But the best place of all to see tulips is the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm.  Located south of Portland near the town of Woodburn, they host a festival each year that runs from late March into early May.  Their huge, colorful fields are a photographer's delight.

It's tulip time!

I try to make it to the tulip festival every year.  Last year, I bought a season pass that provided unlimited visits to Wooden Shoe's fields.  That must've given me loyal customer status because in November I received an email from the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm advertising a "Black Friday special" - a half price season pass to the 2022 festival.  Well of course I wasn't about to pass that up!

A beautiful shade of purple

I forgot about my purchase until mid-March rolled around.  That's when reports of the fields opening hit my social media feed.  It was then I remembered I already had a season pass.  It was time to put that baby to work!

Loved the light illuminating these red ones

In late March, I made a quick afternoon trip to the tulip farm to check out the bloom status.  Although I saw lots of flowering tulips, there were just as many fields full of green stalks yet to open.

Some nice stripes of color

No matter, it was a lovely, rain-free afternoon and I enjoyed walking around the colorful rows that were in bloom.  I had my season pass - I'd be back!

Many tulips yet to bloom

Two weeks passed by, me busy with other things.  Then my neighbor Cheri texted me one rainy Sunday morning asking me if I wanted to run by the tulip farm.  I replied "of course!"

Two weeks later - what a difference!

My oh my, how things changed in two week's time!  The place was now in full-on, colorful bloom.  Despite this gray, drizzly day, the flowers looked absolutely gorgeous.

Everything was in full bloom

We wandered through rows upon rows of tulips of every shape, size and color.

Raindrops on tulip

Overcast skies made the colors absolutely pop.  And raindrops falling on the flowers made for some good photo subjects.

Color everywhere...

Sit back and enjoy a few more photos from the day....

The windmill in the distance

More dewdrop blooms

The fields were spectacular!

I'd told my friend Kim about the tulip fields and she was interested in visiting.  So two days later I returned, this time with Kim.

My friend Kim tries on some new shoes

It was a horrible, stormy day.  The wind was whipping, rain squalls moving through, even a bit of hail.  But on the plus side, there were hardly any people!

Stormy skies

Despite the less-than-ideal weather, Kim loved it.  We took lots of photos.  (Or I should say I took lots more photos).

Rain-battered blooms

Of course, with the rain there was lots of mud.  And the tiny hailstones ripped a few petals off the flowers.  But it I still had a good time.

One of my favorite colors

You'd think after visiting the tulip farm twice in a week's time I'd be done for awhile.  But no....

Hot air balloons launched at dawn

I still hadn't captured a sunrise over the tulip fields, something I try to do once every year.  The constant cloudy, rainy weather wasn't helping matters.  But then I noticed a promising forecast for Friday.  Even though I'd already visited twice that week, I had to go back!

Sunrise over a frosty field

So I rallied Cheri for another tulip farm visit.  Driving through the foggy darkness that morning, we thought at first sunrise would be foiled by fog.  But as we turned onto the final road, the skies miraculously cleared.  Sunrise was on!  

Morning sky

As Cheri and walked towards the tulip fields we got another surprise - it had gotten so cold the night before that there was frost on all the flowers.  I'd never seen such a thing!

Balloons in the air

The frosty flowers were stunning.  Cheri dubbed the frozen beauties "tulipsicles."  Many photos may have been taken.....  

Frozen field

If that wasn't enough, the tulip farm also launched three hot air balloons at dawn. air balloons....frosty tulips.  There were so many things to photograph, it was like a three-ring circus.

Reflections in a mud puddle

A spokesperson from the tulip farm said the frost wouldn't harm the flowers.  As a matter of fact, she stated the cold temperatures would help preserve the bloom.  It must've worked well because this year the tulip festival stayed open an extra couple of weeks.

My favorite tractor

As the morning sun rose higher in the sky, all the icy coatings melted off the tulips.  I could see the flowers rebounding already.  And they looked none the worse for wear.

The windmill surrounded by color

Towards the end of this fourth visit, Cheri noticed a sparrow hopping around the ground.  Wanting to get a photo of it in the flowers, we flushed it towards the fields.  The little bird obliged, hopping on top of a bloom, even belting out a happy spring song.

This sweet sparrow sang for us

I'd hoped to make a fifth visit to the farm and catch a sunset but the weather never cooperated on a night I was free.  Oh well, with four visits under my belt, I can certainly say I got my money's worth from this year's pass!  Hope you enjoyed my batch of photos from 2022's Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival.

Until next year.......