Up, up, up
before the crowds
to earn a view
Paying in sweat
for a payoff of smiles
sunshine skin and a daisy* goldmine
Then off to Thunder Island
to count our treasures…
*Okay, okay. Not daisies. The yellow eruption of springtime flowers on Dog Mountain is mostly Balsamroot (or Balsamorhiza in Latin, because you know how much I love details and flora).
On the Sunday before Memorial Day Weekend, Ted and I left our little ones at home in Portland with my good friend Mel, and we left for a half-day excursion to tackle one of the Columbia River Gorge’s famous wildflower hikes.
Ted’s friend Kirsten issued the original invite, and we rallied a big group of hikers including my brothers, parents, uncle, and cousins (and their dog!) to join us. The trail is not for the faint of heart: that blood muscle pumps hard as you climb 2800′ in less than four miles (and then descend again), but the views are phenomenal, the crisp early morning air is sweet…and the tower of ice cream waiting at the end seems an honest wage for the work.
It’s not too late to get out there this coming week/end and see the gorgeous blooms for yourself!
Check the tips at the end of the post, and leave me a note with your favorite wildflower hikes.
Parking is limited, and the trail only gets more crowded as the day goes on.
Yes, There are Dogs on Dog Mountain
More than I ever would’ve imagined, to be honest.
Swaths of color struck me just as the sweeping fields of blooms we saw in South Africa, just as we were departing the country at the beginning of their season.
Vistas stirred up visions of wildflowers blooming during cherry season in the high hills of Lebanon.
Tiny endemic jewels reminded me of Inca Trail blossoms dotting the rugged path to ancient ruins.
How incredible to live in this little dot on the planet, and to be surrounded by such beauty.
To explore is to become ever more grateful.
Spend Your Life with Your Pals
My brothers Jesse and Drew (just missing Seth in New Zealand and Noah and Joel in Los Angeles).
My parents, Susie and Cam, who just celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary:
Ted and me. Not quite as footloose and fancy free as South Africa, but maybe even happier, and certainly more courageous. (Kids bring out mad survival skills, don’t you know?)
The iPhone timer was running: one hour and fifty-seven minutes to the top.
We used to travel the world and post online for people back at home.
Now we climb little mountains and FaceTime our kids. (Three year old Lucie was jazzed to have Ted point out Mt. Saint Helens way off in the background… She’s been fascinated by our descriptions of the famous Pacific Northwest volcano that erupted and lost its top 37 years ago this May.)
By the time we returned to our parked car around 10:30am, the lot was abuzz with day hikers slathering sunscreen and bug spray and volunteers tracing finger trails on little maps and shuttle busses stopping briefly on their circuits. I’m so glad we arrived early. The crowded trail on the decent was enough of an obstacle; it was enough to avoid poison oak and mosquitoes on the way up! I can’t imagine climbing the mountain in that midday swarm of people.
Go early, enjoy early, leave early.
Food and Drink and Dessert: Thunder Island Brewing Company and Eastwind Drive-In
After finishing our not quite four-ish hour Dog Mountain hike, we drove back across the Bridge of the Gods to the Oregon town of Cascade Locks and ate and drank at Thunder Island Brewing Company under the umbrellas along the Columbia River.
We even spotted the same Sternwheeler we’d cruised on for my grandma’s 80th birthday celebration a few summers back:
And what’s an outing without a little “not quite like Portland” coffee razzing and a little dessert indulgence?
So That’s the Recipe:
Spend time with people.
Eat good food.
Drink good drinks.
Dog Mountain – A gain of 2800′ to earn stellar views of the Columbia River Gorge. Hiking during the height of wildflower season yields stellar views of native flora. The pros will tell you, arrive before 8am or after 5pm during high traffic months of March to September, and be sure to stay on the trail and avoid the poison oak!
Thunder Island Brewing Co. – A small batch brewing company with a drinking (and dining) patio on the Columbia River. They also have a couple guest taps and serve guest wines and ciders, too. Ted went for beer; I jumped at the Swift Marionberry Cider.
Eastwind Drive In – Larger than life soft serve. I made the mistake of ordering a medium; they’re huge. Chocolate and vanilla swirl really hit the spot, though.
Best Wildflower Hikes in the Columbia River Gorge – In case our adventure whets your appetite for more.
Currently Blooming Wildflowers in Oregon and Washington – for the play by play no matter if your read this post now or three years from now.
15 Endemic Plants of of the Columbia River Gorge – Endemic means not found anywhere else on the planet. Let that soak in. What a wonder!