I found myself back in the Columbia River Gorge this past weekend for another spring wildflower hunt - this time aiming for some of the higher elevation blooms on the south-facing slopes of Dog Mountain, on the Washington side of river. I shared the hike with my roommate, her fiancé, and their two very adorable and energetic canine companions - who were absolutely certain that we must have been headed to the dog park along the Sandy River when we headed out from Portland on I-84. Thankfully, I don’t think we disappointed them too badly in the end.
Unlike my last trip to the gorge, the weather was anything but picture-perfect. We left Portland in a rainstorm, transitioning to merely threatening grey skies by the time we reached the base of the mountain. Looking up, the summit of Dog Mountain - our goal - was entirely obscured in clouds. Which, in retrospect, explains extremely clearly why the wildflowers in the upper meadows of Dog Mountain bloom almost a month later than at Rowena Crest.
As we hiked up through trees, I had the sinking feeling that we had come too late for the wildflowers - after all, they’ve been so early this year! Of course, the dogs didn’t mind - they were busy picking up sticks along the trail for us to throw (including trying to pull up some large roots). All my fears evaporated suddenly, though, when we emerged onto the upper meadow.
The mountainside was covered in yellow with flashes of red and purple where fireweed was interspersed. The blooms, combined with the spectacular views of the gorge and the heavy clouds flying around us, made for a pretty intense scene. And, just as we approached the summit, a group of trail runners came up the trail (absolutely crushing the climb!) and I was able to capture a few images of them against the mountainside as they ran by. Best of all, I connected with them through Instagram a few days later (#DogMountain) and was able to surprise them with some photos of them running!
We didn’t stay on the summit long considering how cold it was sitting in the clouds. Instead, we headed back down to the car - where the dogs happily collapsed in the backseat - and drove the few minutes over to Backwoods Brewery to celebrate the hike with beer and pizza.