Spring green colors and the smell of deep forest greet us as we exit our vehicles. Today, we hike to the heights of the Columbia Gorge's southern cliffs with Oregon Wild's Wendell Wood. (In my opinion, Wendell is THE MAN when it comes to botany in the gorge. Wendell often refers to Russ Jolley's wildflower book, but I've never hiked with Mr. Jolley, so I can't compare the two. All I can say is that Wendell is a walking encyclopedia of wildflowers, a natural teacher and just an all-around nice guy.)
The trail pulls uphill for just over two miles, through predominately Doug fir forest, to a rocky outcrop 1500 feet above the Columbia River. Fortunately, we must stop often to identify flowers. Wendell talks about whether the plant is edible, explains plant parts and tells us about uses of the plant by Native Americans.
Unlike our previous trips with Wendell, though, I find I am not so overwhelmed with trying to remember all the flowers. With even the slight increase in my identification skills, I can spread my attention to the songs of hidden forest birds, to the clink of volcanic rocks as we passed through a slide, and to the wonder of the river and mountain viewpoints on the trail.
After lunch perched on the rocks at Angel's Rest, we continue toward the Wahkeena Falls trail head, along the frothy water spilling from Wahkeena Springs, past the silver spray of Fairy Falls and the final cascade of Wahkeena Falls. Larkspurs (Delphinium trillifolium), tiger lillies (Lilium columbianum), and Oregon Flag (Iris tenax) are the flowers of the day today.
This six miler can be done in either direction with a car shuttle. To reach the Angel's Rest trail head, take the Bridal Veil exit (28) from Interstate 84. Go slightly uphill to a parking lot at the junction of the Old Columbia River Highway. The trail begins across the highway. To start at Wahkeena Falls, turn left on the old highway and drive east about three miles to the marked trail head at a picnic area.