Thunderstorms and Wildflowers

(Apologies to those with feeds for the number of pictures lengthening this post.)

Earlier this week, I decreed Wednesday to be “Take a Fucking Hike Already!” day. I haven’t been out as much as I would like as of late, and so in an effort to get more outdoor time as well as make myself some schedule self-care time, I decided to take one afternoon every week for extensive hiking or similar outdoor endeavors. I headed out to Washington to Catherine Creek, which I had heard has absolutely beautiful wildflowers this time of year (or so said the author of the Portland edition of 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles). I also recently replaced my old, dying camera with a refurbished Lumix care of Woot.com, and though it’s proven its worth in photographing my artwork, I wanted to see how it did with nature photography.

So I jumped in my car Wednesday morning and headed out into the Gorge. Even in the middle of the week, the parking lot at the trailhead was almost entirely full, though it has capacity for about fifteen cars before you start parking on the grass. The day was absolutely brilliant–sunny, upper 60’s, some breeze from the west. I got my gear (such as it was) situated, and headed on up the trail.

Now, I had had the intention of hiking the entire 4.1 mile loop. However, my progress ended up being significantly slower than I had intended because I kept finding really pretty things to take pictures of. Before I even got to the trailhead, in fact, I had already pulled over to the side of the road to take pictures of some poppies:

And then there were mossy carpets spiked with bitterroot:

Plus some verdant young oak leaves:

And pine trees, both live…

…and long dead…

Never mind the tadpoles.

And the turkey vultures.

As I proceeded up the ridge, I had a great vantage point to see a massive array of dark clouds coming up over the mountains to the southeast. At first I figured they would most likely pass by to the north and east of where I was. However, the wind shifted, and I began to worry as they started my way.

It wasn’t until I heard thunder, though, that I decided that being up on an exposed ridge was a great way to become a headline; “Hiker killed by lightning strike”, while it sounds less dramatic than it probably would be, is not what I’d like my last word in this world to be.

So I made my retreat back down the trail, only having made it a little over a mile up in the first place. The rain started to fall just as I got to my car, and so I headed back west toward Portland and sunnier skies.

This hike really exemplified postindustrial humanity’s relationship with nature in a very basic nutshell. Human being goes out with shiny technology to take a particular slice of nature back with her. Bigger, scarier and much more uncontrollable slice of nature thwarts nicely planned activities. Retreat ensues. Unlike many people, though, I didn’t see it as a waste of time or a reason to curse the storm. I was grateful for the time I got out on the ridge, and was rather philosophical about not having any control whatsoever about the storm coming in and changing anything. If anything, I felt fortunate that I had enough time to get off the ridge and to my car safely, and that I got to see a phenomenon that’s pretty rare on my side of the Cascades (I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve heard thunder in Portland, which is entirely different from my experiences growing up in the Midwest!).

And I did get a poem out of it, too:

Catherine Creek, 5/18/2011 – by Lupa

Stem-threads bow their heads;
The ladies hold their hats against the wind.
The sun yields to massive paws
Of a bear rumbling across the ridge.
Only the birds are defiant:
Ravens pick at wet, grey fur;
Vultures ride the warm breath;
Swallows look no further than their brush.

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5 thoughts on “Thunderstorms and Wildflowers

  1. Ooooh…it makes me *so* happy to know that if I ever move northwest I won’t have to give up vulture-watching. And I know it’s incredibly geeky, but my first thought on seeing the picture of the storm moving in was “that looks like good dire wolf country”.

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