If Skagit Valley tulip fields are too crowded, head east for proof that spring is here. The wildflowers are blooming in Central Washington and the Columbia River Gorge.
On a drive across the state Wednesday to visit Columbia Hills State Park to do research for an upcoming installment in our series of state park profiles, I crossed Snoqualmie Pass (in pelting, 40-degree rain), then cut over through Yakima and then south over Satus Pass to the Gorge.
By the time I was heading up out of the Yakima Valley, in welcome sunshine, I got my first sightings of blazing yellow arrowleaf balsamroot, that cheerful sunflower relative that grows among sagebrush and is a sure harbinger of spring in the high desert.
Next as I headed over 3,100-foot Satus on Highway 97 were meadows of filaree, tiny five-petaled star flowers that gave whole pastures a special dye job — or maybe just a quick color rinse, because as I passed at 60 mph the flowers seemed to disappear if you looked straight at them, but in my peripheral vision whole fields went cotton-candy pink from thousands of fingernail-sized blossoms.
As the highway descended past Goldendale and into the gorge, purple lupine joined the roadside show. But the lupine is just starting, and if a road trip is in your future, you’ll get it at its best in another 10 days or so, then into mid-May, a local told me. Then, with lupine and balsamroot at their showiest, Husky fans can enjoy whole hillsides of purple and gold.
Here’s a link to a map to get you there.