Wildflowers on the Trail


Red Osier Dogwoods on Cowiche Creek

On Friday, our last day in the Seattle area, we drove with our friends Richard, Jana, and their yellow Labrador Lilly, out to Cowiche Canyon in Central Washington, a land conservancy in the high desert. We’d had a fair amount of rain and wind, but the end of the week had been clear and beautiful. We went specifically to see wildflowers, which bloom for a short window in spring.

We started our hike high on the plateau, meandering over a trail through the tall sage brushes and finding pockets of different flowers: desert violets, grass widows, fritillaria, gold stars, allium, and the common buttercup, to name just a few. Many were very small, and bloomed in small cracks between rocks. The violets in particular seem to relish leaning against warm, lichen covered rocks. The bright colors of the flowers popped against the dirt, the rocks and the gray/green sage bushes.

We laughed as we walked, Richard observing that Jana always needed to see what was around the next corner or over the next hill, Jana observing that Richard needed to follow every trail known to man to its conclusion, and me remarking that David had to go off trail where no one had ever gone before whenever possible. And so while it was hard to get lost in the area, we found ourselves off the main trail: we had to look over the next hill, then follow the trail… With a steep decline to the creek, we had decisions to make: Richard and Jana walked cross-country to a larger, more maintained trail; David and I followed the hill down, where perhaps someone, but not very many someones at all, had gone before.

The flowers on the plateau were a marvel, but my favorite sight of the day was the dogwood trees that lined Cowiche Creek at the bottom of the canyon. The red osier dogwood, implied by its name, has a bright red bark, and grows reed-like in great profusion along the banks of the creek. The Canyon is steeply lined with Columbia River Basalt and other rock forms, and the colors of the rock and earth and plants are muted. The red osier announces in color the creek and its meanderings.

We met up at the creek and found some rock fall on which to sit and enjoy lunch in the sun. Richard had made us chicken breast sandwiches on whole wheat bread, punctuated with just a few rings of red onion. Like almost any food I’ve ever consumed on the trail or after hiking, it was probably the best sandwich I’ve ever had! Lilly helped clean up any crumbs or ‘accidentally’ dropped Manchego cheese pieces.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something move on the canyon wall, a long furry something, scurrying from rock to rock. As soon as I was able to describe where it was on the hill so others could see it too, Richard said: “I know what it is, and – I kid you not – it is a yellow-bellied marmot.” We laughed about all the movies and cartoons where someone is called a “yellow-bellied varmit,” and figured there was some cowboy-speak word morphing going on.  Once the critter was lost from view, and after a short break, we made our way back up the canyon walls to the plateau and our car, and the drive back to Seattle.

We left Saturday morning for Battle Ground, Washington, just north of Portland, Oregon. We have been staying with friends from David’s Los Angeles years, visiting with them and their adult kids, David’s godchildren. We had to postpone a visit to Bend to see a college friend of mine but will see her on another trip north from the Bay Area. We leave tomorrow morning for the long trek to Lakeview, Oregon, where we’ll stay a few days with more friends before heading back to San Francisco. We’ve seen many friends and relatives – and slept in a lot of beds – on our way south. It has been a wonderful trip. …And, I’m very ready to be home.

* * *
Two notes:
First, for those of you following #dceaglecam (deceaglecam.eagles.org), you know that the pair of nesting Bald eagles in DC, Mr. President and The First Lady, are now tending two eaglets in their nest. The tiny little gray fuzzballs are visible for feedings, and TFL and MP share in providing fish or squirrel parts to their little ones. Then one of them, usually TFL, will settle back down on top of them for a while, while MP goes hunting again. (I can only imagine how nasty the edge of the nest is getting, what with all that food laying around…) I have loved watching them roost and hatch and now tend to their offspring.

Second, this will be my last post from the trail as we’ll arrive back in San Francisco on Thursday evening, my usual posting day. I’ve been asked whether I will continue to post, and while I wonder if a twice weekly posting schedule will continue to make sense, the answer is a definitive ‘yes!’ My plan has always been to blog for the gap year, and to see where writing, photography and blogging might lead me. I’ve been surprised and delighted by how much fun writing has been, and I’ve had great support from followers and random readers alike. So, thank you for coming along on this journey with me, and please stay tuned for more.


Get regular updates via email from DancingOnTheWayHome by clicking the “follow” button (on your tablet or pc screen – the mobile screens somehow don’t show it!). And thanks for reading!

Follow me on Instagram (dancingonthewayhome), where I post whatever catches my eye, in addition to a shot of our “front yard” every day at or after 5pm. Leave a comment or send me an email at DancingOnTheWayHome AT gmail dot com; I’d love to hear from you.


One thought on “Wildflowers on the Trail

  1. Haha. I was trying to remember which cartoon I heard of “yellow-bellied-varmint” -but I do remember it and always thought it referred to a coward. You have educated me – once again. Looking forward to your blog and hope you don’t find San Fran boring after all you have done.


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