Springtime brings carpets of color to Catherine Creek, Washington, in the Columbia River Gorge. Some 200 species of wildflowers bloom on the open slopes above the river; it’s gorgeous, and a great hike. We clamber around there at least once every spring and fall in love with the landscape all over again. The peak flowering time is March through June.
Right now the yellow balsam root is in bloom, along with irises and crazy little shooting stars. For weeks, fields are a palette of shapes and colors, from rich green miner’s lettuce to flamboyant red-orange paintbrush. Blue-eyed grass, desert parsley, camas, glacier lilies, meadows of purple and blue lupine–well, I could go on. As you hike the undulating hills, ever more fabulous views open up, east and west along the Columbia and south toward Mt. Hood and the Cascades. Catherine Creek is about 60 miles east of Portland. To get there, you follow I-84 to Exit 64 at Hood River, cross the toll bridge to Washington, and turn right on Highway 14. Drive 5.8 miles, turn left on old Highway 8, and in less than 1.5 miles you’re at the parking area. South of the road is a paved trail with descriptive signs. On the north, trails rise through the fields. We walk where the spirit moves, up to oak and fir groves, crossing the creek, checking out an abandoned corral and a high wall of columnar basalt rock. There are ravines, ponds, and a little waterfall. I’m ready to go back right now. Here I am with our friend Peter, happy hikers.