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.
When 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.The 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 Columbia 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.
There’s only one reason photographers flock here every spring like crows to a Hitchcock movie: lupines. Well, okay, and the balsamroot. And the view.Some 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.
I promised you a squirrel. This one’s Californian.
The poppies are also Californian.
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.
Yeah, yeah, the trail was paved, shut up. I was doin’ seven in one day, I needed strategy.Depending 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.All rose hips in the world are edible, too, but still: cheeseburgers.We’re gonna call this flower “yellow.”And this one “pink.”The Bitterroot was my favorite, so flashy and independent. Who needs leaves?
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.Bugloss Fiddleneck rose above its name and became successful in its field…of flowers.
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.Rusty Popcorn Flower has an excellent name. If only it was growing right next to Butter and Eggs.Silverleaf Phacelia was a party scene with bees, bugs, and ants dancing all over it.Ever meet an Ookow? You have now.He didn’t say “O-tay” or anything but I’m pretty sure he was a buckwheat.These were possibly Shrubby Cinquefoils. I don’t know, we only discussed the weather, we didn’t get around to names.They had some interesting art on their walls, though, very avant garde.And a nice water feature in the living room.The renters could’ve used some of that water to hose down the kids’ room. Seriously, people.
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.This 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.You can always tell a phlox, though, they’re not shy.Wild 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.I’m not a hound person, but I love Grand Hound’s Tongue–love, love, love it. Periwinkle blue does something to me. Suksdorf’s Desert Parsley was another plant that lost the naming game. I wonder who he pissed off?Early Blue Violets were a little closed up. Not sure their introvert’s support group was working out.Barely got a shot of the Pacific Dogwood overhead before the lights went out.However, 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.
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