McStackerklickicatherlabyrcoyowagon Road

I’m a nature person. If I don’t see a toadstool or a hawk every ninety minutes, I go into anaphylactic shock. But 2009 was my Waterloo.

funny-minion-quotes-being-sick-is-justWhen I wasn’t lookin’, severe bronchitis bent over and bit me square on the ass for two whole months. We’re talkin’ passing out on the keyboard, coughing up blood, greenish-yellow phlegm, and murderous thoughts. The whole damned spring hiking season, to be exact. That’s the longest I’d ever gone without cinching up a backpack.

By summer, cabin fever had risen to Wendigo levels, the point at which Canadian Mounties start thinking about a career change to Miami scuba diving instructor. I did sundry hikes here and there over the fall and winter while I got my strength back but my psyche was dangerously low on wildflowers. Oregon is famous for its spring bloom. And I missed it, all of it.858447-bigthumbnail-1The following May, I burst out of the house at dawn with two charged up cameras and a bag of snacks large enough to satisfy a soccer team. I pointed the truck towards the downloadColumbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and made a solemn vow not to return until the gas tank wheezed in exhaustion. I had a lot of makin’ up to do.

So, I hit seven trails in one day. You heard me.

Now, I’m not saying I hiked the entire length of those seven trails. I ain’t John Muir. But I did fill up several memory cards and then sleep like a rock that night. So, strap in. We’re gonna cruise the Gorge for squirrels and pretties.

Tom McCall Nature Preserve — Rowena Plateau Loop

There’s only one reason photographers flock here every spring like crows to a Hitchcock movie: lupinesmcstackerkilicki1-5-8-10webmcstackerkilicki2-5-8-10webWell, okay, and the balsamroot. And the view.mcstackerkilicki3-5-8-10webSome people like to get all cardiovascular about it and raise their heart rate. I just pick up a full-strength mocha in Mosier, same thing.mcstackerkilicki4-5-8-10web

Columbia Hills Natural Area Preserve — Stacker Butte

The lupines mobbed this party scene, too.mcstackerkilicki5-5-8-10webmcstackerkilicki6-5-8-10web


I promised you a squirrel. This one’s Californian.

The poppies are also Californian.




Klickitat Rail Trail — Fisher Hill Bridge

Onomatopoeia makes this route sound like the wheels of a train cruising down a track…klickitat…klickitat…klickitat…but the only real danger on the trail is gravity. It’s a long scream down to a watery death in the roiling Klickitat River. Perfect for picnicking.mcstackerkilicki11-5-8-10webmcstackerkilicki12-5-8-10web


The kayakers were okay with it. I was okay with staying on the tops of cliffs where cheerful yellow Washington Monkeyflower and striped Bi-colored Cluster Lilies were frolicking. With bees.



Catherine Creek — Universal Access Trail

Yeah, yeah, the trail was paved, shut up. I was doin’ seven in one day, I needed strategy.mcstackerkilicki15-5-8-10webDepending on your loyalties to Christopher McCandless, your internet search skills, and your fear of roughage, wild sweet pea is either delicious or the devil in a pink dress. Lots of foragers apparently eat it just fine. I’ll stick to cheeseburgers.mcstackerkilicki16-5-8-10webAll rose hips in the world are edible, too, but still: cheeseburgers.mcstackerkilicki17-5-8-10webWe’re gonna call this flower “yellow.”mcstackerkilicki18-5-8-10webAnd this one “pink.”mcstackerkilicki19-5-8-10webThe Bitterroot was my favorite, so flashy and independent. Who needs leaves?mcstackerkilicki20-5-8-10web

Labyrinth Trail — Coyote Wall

Okay, so I hiked one trail with two names. I scurried around on a lot of side trips that had no name at all so I’m counting this twice in equity. See my agent. Anyway, Coyote Wall brought the Bachelor’s Buttons.mcstackerkilicki21-5-8-10webmcstackerkilicki22-5-8-10webmcstackerkilicki23-5-8-10webBugloss Fiddleneck rose above its name and became successful in its field…of flowers.mcstackerkilicki24-5-8-10web

This baby Coast Manroot fruit will look like a full-blown cucumber by the end of summer. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about the name on that one.mcstackerkilicki25-5-8-10webRusty Popcorn Flower has an excellent name. If only it was growing right next to Butter and Eggs.mcstackerkilicki26-5-8-10webSilverleaf Phacelia was a party scene with bees, bugs, and ants dancing all over it.mcstackerkilicki27-5-8-10webEver meet an Ookow? You have now.mcstackerkilicki28-5-8-10webHe didn’t say “O-tay” or anything but I’m pretty sure he was a buckwheat.mcstackerkilicki29-5-8-10webThese were possibly Shrubby Cinquefoils. I don’t know, we only discussed the weather, we didn’t get around to names.mcstackerkilicki30-5-8-10webThey had some interesting art on their walls, though, very avant garde.mcstackerkilicki31-5-8-10webAnd a nice water feature in the living room.mcstackerkilicki32-5-8-10webThe renters could’ve used some of that water to hose down the kids’ room. Seriously, people.mcstackerkilicki33-5-8-10web

Weldon Wagon Road Trail

The sun was dippin’ awfully low by the time I got to Weldon Wagon, so the light for flower photography became either spectacular or infuriating depending on the shadows. This Red Columbine found the spotlight.mcstackerkilicki34-5-8-10webThis guy looked like a member of the Forget-Me-Not family reunion, but I’m pretty sure he crashed the party under a false name. If you know him, lemme know.mcstackerkilicki35-5-8-10webYou can always tell a phlox, though, they’re not shy.mcstackerkilicki36-5-8-10webWild strawberries treat diarrhea; they also cause it. It depends how many pints you pick and how many pints you eat. It’s BYOWC out here: Bring Your Own Whipped Cream.mcstackerkilicki37-5-8-10webI’m not a hound person, but I love Grand Hound’s Tongue–love, love, love it. Periwinkle blue does something to me. mcstackerkilicki38-5-8-10webSuksdorf’s Desert Parsley was another plant that lost the naming game. I wonder who he pissed off?mcstackerkilicki39-5-8-10webEarly Blue Violets were a little closed up. Not sure their introvert’s support group was working out.mcstackerkilicki40-5-8-10webBarely got a shot of the Pacific Dogwood overhead before the lights went out.mcstackerkilicki41-5-8-10webHowever, nature’s dimmer switch made Mt. Hood look extra sexy. The jaw-dropping sunset that followed became the header photo for my most recent blog.mcstackerkilicki42-5-8-10webmcstackerkilicki43-5-8-10webmcstackerkilicki44-5-8-10web

I carried on my enthusiasm for adventure that year with a 40th birthday present to myself: 40 new hikes I’d never been on before. No small feat, considering how often I lace up the hiking boots. Stick around and you’ll learn about them all.

May 8, 2010