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Posts Tagged ‘wildflowers’

Silver Star Hike

Silver Star Mt. hike provides the quintessential¬† hiking experience in the SW Washington Cascades! The Forever Young Hikers of Clark county were at it again. This hike affords outstanding 360 degree views of 5 volcanos (St. Helens, Rainier, Adams, Hood and Jefferson) … on a clear day. We saw the bases of all but Mt. Jefferson.

Besides stellar views, “The Sound of Music” landscapes and dozens of vibrant wildflowers this peak is quite conspicuous on the eastern ridge-line from Vancouver and Portland.

The hardest part of this trek was getting there! The last 5 miles was a deeply rutted, winding dirt road. We approached from the North, at trailhead #180 (elevation 3,175′).

It was about 3 miles to the summit with a 1,200 ft elevation gain. The incline was steady and relatively easy due to the broad trail. The loose rock trail bed kept all eyes on the ground when walking.

We stopped often to catch our breath and savor the terrain. The cloud ceiling was still pretty low on our ascent. (Perfect weather for a workout.)

The clouds broke up a bit as we reached the summit.

It is hard to visually convey the exhilaration of the exertion, the vast open space, the heights and power of wilderness. This view is looking east from the summit trail.

I believe this is Pyramid Rock (looking west).

Again, but for the cloud ceiling we would have seen the volcanoes. This is the most we saw of Mt. St. Helen’s.

Below is an awesome shot that demonstrates how Silver Star got its name … I’m told from the star-like junction of five ridges.

The western ridge is bordered by the Yacolt Burn area, which is now a state park. Trees were not replanted and the western slopes remain treeless — but densely covered in shrubs and wildflowers.

Speaking of wildflowers, we counted 50 (20 less than last year’s count) and it was clear that with this year’s cool wet spring has delayed the peak bloom at this elevation. We saw bear grass, penstemon, golden pea, iris, phlox, violets, service berry, columbine, paintbrush, Sitka Valerian — and on and on! Gentian was everywhere but not yet blooming. This USGS link illustrates some of the most abundant wildflowers.

The Avalanche Lilly was especially profuse.

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Silver Falls Hike

The Forever Young hikers went to Silver Falls state park in Oregon. It made for a great hike. Read about the curious history at this post.

With so many falls I couldn’t help but think of Ronald Reagan’s infamous quip, “Once you’ve seen one redwood you’ve seen them all.”¬† There were at least ten falls and photographically speaking, once you’d seen one … well, enough said.

We started at North Falls. Click on the image to enlarge and see the trail that goes under/behind it.

It has to be said that the geography of the area is spectacular. The water pours over these massive lava “shelves”. The force of the water has carved out enormous hallow caves underneath which allow for trails.

Here’s a view from under the falls. All those negative ions recharged our batteries. You can just barely make out a group of hikers on the cave trail just to the left of the water column.

Again, we have FDR to thank for putting the CCC to work restoring the area. It’s now the largest state park in Oregon.

Other falls came in all shapes, heights and sizes — from broad and flat to wispy, slithery streams over moss-laden rocks. A word of caution at this time of year — pay attention! Portions of the trails are steep and slippery.

With all the shade and misting from the falls the wildflowers were robust! The moist rock walls were covered in cascading sedum and saxifrage. There were trillium, delphinium, mosses and ferns. I discovered an awesome Pacific NW wildflower site at Turner Photographics.

Here’s my photo of what I think is Hooker’s Fairy Lanterns (Prsartes smithii):

Corydalis scouleri was blooming and was everywhere along the trail:

These hikes bring out the kid in me. The easy socializing and conversations. Meeting new people. It’s like being on the playground in first grade.

All the planning and driving is done by others — often to places I’d never heard of (being a newbie and all). What a deal for $16! I’m having a ball. I was thoroughly (and happily) exhausted by day’s end.

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I went out on my first 50+ Hikers’ hike for 2010. It was pouring rain in Vancouver and Portland but got steadily dryer as we drove East. Our first hike was Hood River Mountain – just past Hood River, Oregon.

Just across from the trail head was this gate. I think this could be called a chain of locks.

Here’s the topo of the trail:

As hikes go, this was an easy one — only 3 miles RT and a mere 600 ft elevation. As the map shows, the elevation gain was initially steep but it leveled off to a very pleasant ‘table’ with sweeping views of agricultural fields and orchards.

The spring wild flowers were just coming on. The most notable of which were the Balsamroot:

Lupine vegetation was lush but not quite blooming yet. Here’s the Indian Paintbrush :

We also saw Larkspur, Glacier and Fawn Lilli’s, Brodiaea hyacinthina, Service Berry, Big-Head Clover, Fiddlenecks and lots, lots more.

Here’s a field of Butter Cups seen on our down-hill return:

After lunch we took a second jaunt at the Rowena Plateau — a square mile nature preserve on the bluffs overlooking the Columbia River. Again, fields of wild flowers and sweeping views.

Just below this cliff we spied this very healthy looking coyote.

And last, but not least was the ice cream stop at Route 30 Cafe in Mosier, where Umpqua ice cream was served. Here’s the big picture:

See: Grant’s Getaways – Rowena Crest Wildflowers from Travel Oregon on Vimeo.

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A Walk in the Woods

The Master Gardener Road Tour visited Bob & Joan Zumstein’s Tree Farm / Nature Preserve in Woodland, WA. With the clear skies the nighttime temps have been below freezing. We passed acres of tree farms being “watered” with overhead sprinklers — to create an ice shield to protect the seedlings.

At 9AM it was still frosty at the Zumstein’s.

First stop was the water wheel Bob had rigged up to catch fresh creek water for his cows — so they wouldn’t clomp down to the creek bed and wreck havoc on the fragile vegetation and creek bank.

Click on image to enlarge and see the ice-crusted spokes.

This was a wild-flower walk through the Zumstein’s 85 acre farm which includes a forested ravine. Creeks lace through the property. Here’s the high-spirited, ever-smiling 70 year old Joe pointing out ferns and other wild flowers.

At the edge of one forested trail we came upon a Thatching Ant (Formica spp) mound. Dr. Brun, the WSU faculty advisor for the Master Gardeners can be heard in the background. (more info)

It was nippy at the start — but proved to be a glorious spring day. We came out of the woods onto a high rolling meadow, where I lay down in the grass under pristine blue skies. Here the rest of the tour follows Joe to another destination.

On our way back to our cars we passed the junk and ‘spare parts’ section of the farm — something every gardener knows comes with the territory of working the land! Here’s a relic of former days.

I found these old objects visually satisfying.

Next stop was lunch in Kalama and Watershed Gardenworks in Longview.

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Wild Harvest

As winter ebbs the forest floor is coming alive! Stinging Nettles are one of the first to burst forth with tender new shoots.

Nettles are a power food –¬† with high levels of minerals — especially calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, silica, iodine, silicon, and tannin. They’re a good source of vitamin C, beta-carotene and B-complex vitamins. (phew!) Nettles also have high levels of easily absorbable amino acids. They’re 10% protein — more than any other vegetable.

So there! Are you convinced now? And they’re all over the place. My hiking friend Laura and I head out for a sheltered spot out near the Columbia Springs fish hatchery. We came armed with rubber gloves and clippers.

It was stoop labor to be sure. But it was pleasant in the sunny afternoon, chatting as we picked. Indian plum, Salmonberry were blooming and Thimbleberry was leafing out — earlier than usual in this El Nino winter.

Here’s a Trillium blooming among Miners lettuce.

I washed the Nettles twice and steamed up a large skillet full. I just plunked the still rinsed-wet Nettles into a skillet of olive oil and garlic and covered. They steam down to a fraction of their original volume. They have a mild taste, so season generously. Use in recipes as you would spinach. It freezes well.

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Forever Young hikers went up the gorge to hike the Herman Creek Pinnacles.
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It was about 6 miles round trip with a 1,000 ft. elevation gain. It was another lovely hike with varied landscape with falls, rivers and views.
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There was a substantial bridge over Herman Creek.
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It provided a lovely river views.
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We trekked across two large talus slopes.
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The trail climbs immediately and then veers west along the side of the slopes — offering occasional views of Cascade Locks, the Columbia river and Washington.

We came across this striking Lobster mushroom
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These “Rattlesnake Orchid” leaves poked through the leaves and mosses.
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This climate is moss nirvana! I think we have an encyclopedic array of specimens. Just goes to show that every climate makes something happy! Those are baby Licorice Ferns poking through.
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This was a really nice hike with just enough challenge to satisfy. We were all a little slap-happy on the drive home and sang along to the falsetto refrains of “Sherry Baby” … in an assortment of keys.

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By the Book

Afoot-afieldIn my attempt to improve my hiking skills, I bought the aptly named “Afoot &Afield: Portland/Vancouver“. I chose a nearby hike at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.

Alas, trail maps are not road maps. Trails themselves are far more mutable and the surrounding environment subject to change without notice.

Below is my edited version of the map (replete with trails that weren’t mentioned and the corrected location of the gate):
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All in all, the hike was a disappointment. It was soggy, flat and engulfed in head-high Canary Reed Grass.
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The misplaced gate sent me sloshing off on a half mile detour.
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This is not a “seldom used service road”:
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Whereas this is:
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It’s obvious after the fact. But all was not lost. This is August after all. Trail-side fruit was abundant and ripe. My first encounter was a heavily burdened pear tree. The trail was full of crushed and rotting fruit.
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The himalayan blackberries were copious, plump, ripe and very sweet!
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I picked and ate and picked some more.
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This is the lovely Spiraea Douglasii with a resident bumble bee hanging over the duckweed filled Gee Creek. It’s hard to photograph because the slightest breeze sends it aflutter.
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