Confession - I almost didn't make it to the April Alpine Trails Book Club outing. Our destination for the month was Columbia Hills State Park for a weekend of camping, hiking, and other adventures. With such a long drive, going for just one day to join the group for our Sunday hike was out of the question, but spring is always a busy time for me at work, and in years past I've ended up working at least one day each weekend from late April through late May. Thankfully, I not only managed to avoid working through the weekend, but was able to take Friday - all without falling to far behind! Three whole days spent away from my computer, soaking up the glorious sunshine in the company of an inspiring group of women was just what I needed to restore me. Our weekend was filled with all sorts of adventures, but my favorite was certainly our Sunday hike through the wildflowers studded hills at Dalles Mountain Ranch.
After setting out from the new trailhead at Dalles Mountain Ranch, our group barely made it 300 yards before we were stopped in our tracks by an explosion of purple and gold - in the form of lupine and arrowleaf balsamroot - for one of many impromptu photo shoots. Our group quickly spread out, and I fell to the back, lingering to admire (and photograph) the spectacular views. In one quiet moment, I found myself serenaded by an unassuming brown bird (edit: I was able to identify it as a Western Meadowlark) whose unfamiliar song was one of the loveliest I've ever heard. I could've happily spread out a blanket on the spot to sit in the company of my tiny friend, but there was a group to catch up to.
With a persistent wind tearing up the Columbia River and across the hills, the dainty wildflowers danced about, making my attempts at photography a mostly futile effort. Still, I felt an irresistible urge to get as many photos as I could, trying to store up the feel of the sunshine on my face and scent of flowers for the exhausting weeks ahead. With a long drive home, we didn't have much time to linger on the trail, but along with the rest of our group, I found it difficult to leave. Already I'm dreaming of turning a spring road trip to the Columbia Hills into an annual spring tradition!