The Columbia Gorge is a mecca for wildflower lovers – especially the Eastern end. Many years ago, we hiked Dog Mountain mid-May and we were astounded at meadows thick with golden balsamroot and purple lupine. Combine this with beautiful vistas up and down the Columbia Gorge and it is always a winner.
The bloom season is running about two weeks early this year. We decided to drive down on a Friday night and stay the weekend. It is about a 4 hour drive to Hood River in good traffic. Well, it was not good traffic and it ended up taking us 5 1/2 hours to drive. It was just 2 1/2 hours to get out of the Puget Sound.
The sun peaked out of the clouds on Saturday morning and it looked like a great day. We took advantage of the included breakfast at the Best Western and made it to the trailhead by 9am. The meadow was already in bloom with lots of death camas and purple shooting starts.
The trail meanders up through oaks. Many vernal pools and small streams created small mossy gardens. We were right on the edge of the rain and the day was misty. It made it very difficult to take photographs especially with a bit of west wind. But it did give us lots of rainbows.
You reach a ridge overlooking Rowland Lake. The rocky basalt is filled with small little gems and also lots of poison oak so it kept G on the trail. The trail continues to climb along the rim and then crosses a grassy hilltop underneath power lines before coming to the ridge crest. At this point, we headed right and into the forest. The trail steadily descends before turning east and dropping into the Catherine Creek Basin. Views of the rocky basalt cliffs on the eastern side of Catherine Creek and the rocky arch. The hike took about 2-3 hours with a lot of stops for photos and wildflowers.
We drove back over the river and headed east on the Oregon side to the Rowena Vista. We had our sandwiches and decided to walk a short ways out on the Rowena Plateau. The flowers were very similar and the weather was cloudy so we only hiked a short while before deciding to return to Hood River.
We stopped at Pfriem for an excellent pint – IPA for G and a Belgium sour for me. We went back to the hotel for a rest before heading out to Double Mountain Brewery for Pizza – it took us a while to be seated and even long for the pizza – it was very good but it did seem a long time.
Sun was just setting so we took a walk around the main part of Hood River looking in the windows before returning back to our hotel.