Ascending Eightmile Creek Canyon, I soon left behind scattered oak trees and emerged into the wide open spaces of the east end of the Columbia River Gorge. Tiny naked broomrapes were in bloom near the small, spring-fed creek. Following game trails, I kept my eyes open for mule deer. Soon I spotted some movement above me. Sure enough it was ten deer feeding along the canyon rim. And, in another one-quarter mile, I spotted two more mule deer close by. They are always a treat to see. It brings back many memories of deer hunting in North-central Washington as I was growing up.
But let me return to the beginning. On the first Friday of May I drove to Columbia Hills State Park to visit the Dalles Mountain Ranch. The hillsides were ablaze with the golden flowers of arrow-leaf balsamroot and the purple flowers of desert lupine, augmented by cluster lilies, harsh paintbrush, waterleaf, larkspur and many other wildflowers. There are no established trails in the Park, so I took off cross country following canyons to the 3,300-foot summit of Stacker Ridge where an FAA tracking site was located. The 360° views were spectacular, including the Columbia River stretching far to the east and rimrock canyons to the north.
I would be remiss not to mention the wind though. It was gusting up to 30 mph and felt like it was coming off a snow bank. I got on the lee side of a building out of the wind and warmed up while eating a snack. Maybe I took a little snooze too. Later, I put the daypack back on and hiked back to the car on a scenic access road closed to public vehicles.
All in all the hike was six miles in length with 1,800 feet of elevation gain. I did find two bloodsucking, hitchhiking ticks on my pants. I think that makes five this spring. Notwithstanding the ticks and the cold wind, it made for a very enjoyable trek.
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