Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Again in the Footsteps of Lewis and Clark
I ventured east last weekend. I was torn as to where to go and by what route. I am afraid our chilly weather once again dropped snow in the pass and at some places I was hoping to visit. I decided to head down to the Columbia River Gorge and stop at Catherine Creek and Lyle. Last year at this time, Catherine Creek a exploding in wildflowers. Saturday the experience was quite different. We had fair skies all the way and it did not seem that the winds were very fierce in the Gorge. High winds are caused by the pressure and temperature variations in the areas on either sides of the Cascade Mountains. There are several gaps in the range, most notably Enumclaw, south of Seattle and the Gorge, where the Columbia River divides Washington and Oregon. It was not until I got to Catherine Creek that the winds really started getting strong. I was glad that my warm gloves were in the car. I picked up a trail that loops east of where I walked last year. I was drawn by an oak tree lined canyon and wanting to know what this basalt canyon supported. Here there were flowers I did not see the last time I was here. A more sheltered area, the wind was still problematic. Most of my photos just has a touch of blur. Most of the soil here is quite thin and fine grasses and moss carpets can build up and support flowers on the sides of the rock walls. Spring Gold and buttercups dominate right now. But I did find a new flower, Steers Head. These fun flowers are related to Bleeding Heart aka Dutchman's Pants. I am afraid my photo does not do justice to the gentle blush of the colors. Bleeding heart are very common along most trails in the moist woods of the west side. I will say in all my ramblings in the east side of the state, this is a first for me. Yellow Bells, usually the first flower of the dry side Spring, were few and far between. Many had already crumbled. Those in the more sheltered areas were doing well. I encountered a couple standing up a little path, looking at the ground with camera and binoculars. When they looked up I asked them "what do you have?" Chocolate Lily!. I was thrilled as this rare flower is not yet blooming on this side of the mountains. I walked up the path and sure enough, HUNDREDS of them, many still tightly budded. Oh the frustration, the wind bobbed and whipped them about, I could barely get a decent shot. I am cheating and posting a photo I took at Washington Park last June. I continued my walk up the oak lined canyon. I did grab and nice robust acorn for my collection. The dominant color was brown from all the fallen leaves. This Blue Hounds Tongue was easy to find. Climbing out of the canyon and over the brink of the hill, the slope was all grass and filled with Shooting Stars ... and Camas. Camas was a vital diet staple for the native people of this region. The starchy tubers were cooked and used like potato. Lewis and Clark wrote of the effects of too many of these tubers. In these slopes the near related Death Camas is equally abundant. The flowers are distinctive and white but the tubers could not easily be told apart. It is well known that Camas should not be harvested except by those expert at their collection. These slopes do not support many trees. This stout pine looks to have been easily toppled by winds. I moved down slope and across the road. I knew a photo-op for my Scavenger Hunt. The topic "silence" I originally wanted to go up to the stage stop above Ellensburg and photograph the old broken buildings there, but I knew the snows had been through in the previous 24 hours and I don't think Pearly Mae is ready to drive in that muck. But this bench is so isolated and it was exactly as I remember. "Silence" This is a panorama from the bench east on the Columbia. I spent the rest of the day wandering the roads all the way over the last ridge on the left looking for the states only resident population of Acorn Woodpeckers. I had no luck. I spent the night in The Dalles and was torn as to what direction to head Sunday morning. I looked at my Gazetteer and saw an area on the map I had noticed before but never investigated "Big Lava Beds" south of Mt Adams. The weather forecast showed the rains advancing and I noticed that some of the precipitation echos on the Doppler was snow. I decided I would venture up to the Lava Beds as it was nearest the highway route home. I knew fairly quickly that I had made a road mistake. I found myself at a good elevation above the Gorge returning east, parallel to the river rather than north and inland. AH me, I am usually better at navigation and decided I better relocate. I came around a bend and saw this! A roadside decorated with plastic Easter Eggs in the bushes and trees. Oh man this took me way back to when we made Easter Egg Trees. Mom would find a likely shrubbery branch and we would blow and decorate eggs, string and hang them. I can still remember the effort of trying to blow the egg out a too small pinhole. But after several shots I realized that this was my shot for "Easter" on the Scavenger Hunt. I am so pleased. I finally found the road up to Lava Beds but did not get very far. Snow on the road. Darn me, I forget that the elevation east of the mountains is higher than at home. I forget that not everywhere has Sea Level as its starting point of reference. Well I will prepare better next time and venture to this interesting place. The lava beds are said to be pretty impenetrable. People say the footing is difficult and dangerous. There is a trail that parallels the edge and climbs a nearby mountain, so I will set that as a goal for later in the season. The mountain is called Huckleberry, so I will bring a handy collection container.