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Washington Desert in Bloom

We have our own desert here in the state of Washington. You may not think of Washington as a desert state but the Columbia Basin area of Eastern Washington is a high desert. It is a favorite place for us to roam in the Spring and enjoy the wildflowers.

The wildflowers this year are going to be great. It has been an above-normal year in rainfall. We have also had a colder year so Spring is coming slowly. We had hoped to get out last weekend but it was rainy and cold. It even snowed down to 2,000ft!

But we knew it was time to go so even the rain couldn't stop us. I knew from the reports on NW Hikers Forum that the bloom was running about two weeks behind. G won't be able to get out the next few weeks because of Smartyplants plant sales so it was now or wait.

We decided on Vantage area because it was lower in elevation and we wanted to try to find Salvia dorrii. A little googling for where it occured and I found it listed on Turner Photographics as being located in the area. The backcountry hike at Ginkgo Petrified Forest in Vantage would give us a chance to check it out along with views of the Columbia. I highly recommend Best Desert Hikes: Washington for planning.

After tangling with traffic, we made it to Ellensburg by 10:30am. We decided to drive out the backroad on Vantage Highway to see what might be happening at Whiskey Dick also. We had seen some great wildflowers there in April 1998. I don't know how much longer we will be able to find flowers in this region because PSE is building a wind farm.

We didn't see many flowers until we got to the interpretive trail in the park and boy what flowers! The arrow-leaf balsamroot was in full bloom waving in the wind. It was surrounded by large clumbs of showy phlox which perfumed the air. It was intoxicating. We went on to the trailhead for the backcountry. It was a little scary having to walk up the canyon through the black basalt rocks knowing it was a prime location for rattlesnakes. We keep our hiking sticks poised and made lots of noise. It is still too cold.

At the top of the bluff we were treated to a spectacular desert garden and gorgeous views of the river at our feet. We meandered shooting photos and investigating. It was hard to go back. We're going back in a couple of weeks to see the cactus.

Here are some pictures from flickr:
Arrowleaf Balsamroot overlooking the Columbia River Showy Phlox (Phlox speciosa)
Arrowleaf Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata)

This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 21, 2006 11:02 AM.

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