Monthly Archives: January 2014

Signs of Spring

I know, the frigid blast from the east just passed, and it’s a little soon to be talking spring.

But, one of our rangers just spotted the first wildflower of the season at Rowena Crest, and the view was singing “spring!” from Vista House today.

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Looks like a grass widow a.k.a. satin flower (Olsynium douglasii) to me! Rowena Crest, January 25, 2014.

Need a hand identifying Pacific Northwest Wildflowers? 

Here’s a cheat sheet for beginners:  Mountain Wildflowers: 57 Common Species

And a great website for reference:  http://www.pnwflowers.com/

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With the sun in the south and east this morning, a rainbow appeared in the mist to the north and west.

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Vista House. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

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Crown over the Crown.

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. . . And no one else around to see it all!

 

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Slight Breeze from the East

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Differences in winter temperatures cause winds to rip down from the east in the Gorge.

Well, it is a little breezy here in the Gorge this week.  Trees are falling over, limbs are ripping through the air, litter is playing tag, rangers are trapped in their vehicles at Vista House, visitors are finding (and losing) their center of gravity, and newscasters are having a heyday.

http://www.kgw.com/news/High-winds-head-to-East-County-Columbia-Gorge-241676571.html

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High winds kick up waves, and the spray can make rainbows. Is there a pot of gold in the Columbia?

It’s that time of year.  Bitterly cold, dense air from the deserts in the east is ripping down the Gorge towards the warmer ocean and replacing the warmer, less dense air in Portland.  The narrow passage between two different climates makes the Gorge the perfect place for this kind of gap wind.  Wind can be fun (I simply love it), but extreme wind is reason for extreme caution.

Check here for the weather at Vista House, Crown Point:   http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/mesowest/getobext.php?wfo=pqr&sid=D6193&num=60&raw=0&banner=off  (NOTE:  1/24/2014:  Our wind gauge is not currently reading correctly; actual wind speeds and gusts are HIGHER.)

Our Rooster Rock webcam shows conditions on the Columbia River:  http://www.pdxgreen.com/RoosterCam.aspx

Heading out into the wind?  Here are a few things to think about . . .

Secure Your Stuff

There are two fates for the loose objects outside during high winds.  They either a) become lost or ruined or b) become projectiles injuring people, pets, or property.  Neither one of these is good.

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Rangers are dedicating hours to cleaning up after this week’s high winds. Tree at Rooster Rock.

Watch Your Face

You know that fancy backpack you’re wearing for your Gorge hikes?  The one with hip belt and chest strap?  It is out to get you.  Big gusts turn loose straps into whips and these lashes are killer on the eye.  Make sure they’re securely tucked or tied off.

Choose Your Vehicle (and Your Route)

High profile vehicles get blown around in the wind; a big gust can push you sideways, or, if your vehicle is really tall, tip you over.  Driving I-84 in high wind is stressful.  If possible, choose the slower, more scenic Historic Columbia River Highway.  And watch out for debris.  It is more than Parks and ODOT can keep up with.

What's RIGHT with this picture?

What’s RIGHT with this picture?

Park Thoughtfully

Nearly every park vehicle in the Gorge has a funky door feature—this comes from high winds ripping the door out of a driver or passenger’s hands and flying forward.  Park with the front of your car pointing INTO the wind.  And if you need to use your feet to force your way out of your car, you should probably just stay inside.  Even if you get out, you’re asking for a tumble.  It’s not cute.  And it will be recorded.

And with that, it is time for me to jump in my car and blow east!

2014 Gorge Resolutions: Choose Your Own Adventure

Well, it is a new year.  2014 has arrived.  And it is time (nearly past time) for the year’s resolutions.  Typically, resolve means to “settle or find a solution to (a problem or contentious matter).”  If you’re like me, your resolutions tend to be the same . . . and tend not to work.  So, a few years back, I went for the other definition of resolve, to “decide firmly on a course of action.” I switched from problem-solving to goal-setting.  And this year, it is all about the Columbia River Gorge. 

Want to join me?  Below is the result of my brainstorm.  Choose 10!  Or 20.  Or 30.  Feeling like a “Big Year”?  Go for all 50.  It’s time to choose your own 2014 adventure.

50 Things to Do In the Columbia River Gorge in 2014

  1. Hike 100 miles of different trails in the CRG.
  2. Visit all State Parks in the CRG.
  3. Visit 25 waterfalls in the CRG (there are over 90), at least one of each type (plunge, horsetail, fan, cascade, punchbowl, block, tier, and segmented).

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    Have you been to this waterfall?   Or talked to this ranger?  #3 and #39.

  4. Visit one Washington and one Oregon museum in the Gorge.
  5. Tour the Lewis and Clark sites along the CRG.

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    Did you know?  Rooster Rock is a Lewis & Clark site.  #5.  Check.

  6. Visit a fish hatchery.
  7. Conduct your own naturalist study—visit and document changes at one spot 20 times throughout the year.
  8. Have a “three-pronged” adventure day (bike, hike, camp, windsurf, kiteboard, standup paddleboard, bird watch, fish, swim, paddle, disc golf, rock climb . . .just pick three!)
  9. Drive (and/or bike!) all existing portions of the Historic Columbia River Highway.
  10. View the Gorge from the water.
  11. Hike to the highest point in the Gorge.
  12. Read the journals of Lewis and Clark.
  13. Watch a documentary on the Gorge OR a movie filmed in the Gorge.

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    If you’re up early enough for #18, you might see this flying saucer!

  14. Learn 10 new Gorge plants.  Photograph and sketch them.  Note their habitat.
  15. Learn 10 new Gorge birds.  Sketch them and learn their songs and calls.  Note their habitat.
  16. Go on a search for the rare Larch Mountain Salamander.
  17. Go on a search for the rare wildflower, Columbia Kittentails (Synthyris stellata)—only found in the Gorge.
  18. Hike to a viewpoint for a Gorge sunrise.
  19. Give back by volunteering for a day trail work, invasive weed removal, or litter cleanup in the Gorge.
  20. Stay a night in the Gorge.
  21. Attend a guided hike or educational program about the Gorge.
  22. Visit one Oregon Trail historical site.
  23. Visit one Native American petroglyph or pictograph.
  24. Find the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the Gorge.
  25. Study the Missoula Floods, who was Bretz?
  26. Walk through an oak grove in the Gorge.
  27. Stand in a waterfall “mist zone.”
  28. Hear the distinctive warning call or “whistle” of a pika.
  29. Sketch a plant using the “macro” point of view.
  30. Sketch the Gorge landscape from a viewpoint.
  31. Track wildlife prints on the beach.
  32. Write a letter and drop it off at the Bridal Veil Post Office.

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    This tunnel on the Historic Columbia River Highway is only accessible by foot or by bike. Go for #40 and #9!

  33. Hug an old-growth tree.
  34. Visit the site of a sawmill or fish cannery.
  35. Step foot on the Pacific Crest Trail.
  36. Learn the legend and geological story behind the Bridge of the Gods.
  37. Research historic photos of Celilo Falls, visit the site and imagine the power of the falls.
  38. Hike to a viewpoint where you can take in both Mount Hood and Mount Adams.
  39. Talk to a park ranger.
  40. Ride your bike on a section of the Historic Columbia River Hwy.
  41. Photograph the basalt columnar joints common in the Gorge—dark, six-sided, regular columns.
  42. Watch the Tundra Swans at Rooster Rock’s Mirror Lake in the winter.
  43. Look for petrified wood near Eagle Creek.
  44. Dip your fingers in either end of the Gorge—at the Sandy and Deschutes Rivers.
  45. Spot an Amtrak train passing through on the Washington side.
  46. Watch the salmon run.
  47. Watch the dam locks give a boat passage.
  48. Watch the moon rise over the Gorge.
  49. Stargaze in the Gorge.
  50. Share the Gorge with a friend

Phew!  It is going to be a busy year.  Best get started.  Worried about finishing?  #51 is “Find Bigfoot.”

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Finish them all? Time for #51. Track Bigfoot!