Friday, May 30, 2008

Rowena Crest

Variety being the spice of life, those of us living in the Pacific Northwest are well-seasoned. We got a little taste this week. First, we took my brother-in-law and niece hiking at Eagle Creek in the Gorge. They were anxious to be on the road to head home to Idaho, so our hike became more of a march. We were finished by noon.

It seemed like such a waste to go home from the Gorge at noon. My husband and I opted to try someplace new to us on this damp, May day. We continued east, exited at Mosier and took the Old Columbia River Highway to Rowena Crest and the Tom McCall Preserve.

From the drizzly forest of Eagle Creek to the wide open and breezy meadow at Rowena was quite a transition. Out on the plateau, we are at turkey vulture level and they soared by us, riding the brisk wind. Brown grasses nod and wave as we walk the path. Several varieties of wildflowers weave through the grass. Oaks (including poison) fringe small ponds along the trail. It seems odd to hear red winged blackbirds up here. At the edge of the plateau, a spring-green meadow is one “floor” down in a notch that curves south, with the scattered tops of oaks visible. I stand and let the wind buffet me as I gaze in every direction.

Views? Of course, this is the Gorge! The Columbia is at your feet and the town of Lyle is across the river. I'm not sure if you get the usual freeway noise here—the traffic is not visible and it was too windy to hear it, anyway.

From I-84 take the Mosier exit 69 or exit 76 for westbound traffic. Follow the Old Columbia River Highway to Rowena Crest State Park. Two trail leave from the Viewpoint—one is a thigh burner (that hill you see to the south) which we choose not to do because the clouds were so low as to spoil the view. Our hike out to the edge of the plateau was about two miles with only slight elevation loss.

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