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Northwest Traveler

Travel news, consumer advice and trip reports for the Northwest and beyond.

April 10, 2013 at 9:41 PM

It’s wildflower time in Central Washington and the Gorge

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.

Arrowleaf balsamroot bloom by a trail at Horsethief Butte, in Columbia Hills State Park. (photo by Brian J. Cantwell / The Seattle Times)

Arrowleaf balsamroot blooms at Horsethief Butte in Columbia Hills State Park, in Klickitat County. (photo by Brian J. Cantwell / The Seattle Times)

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.

0 Comments | Topics: arrowleaf balsamroot, columbia hills state park, columbia river gorge

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