Sadly, Russ Jolley, author of the incomparable Wildflowers of the Columbia River Gorge, recently passed away. Along with Friends of the Columbia Gorge founder Nancy Russell, Jolley successfully fought to preserve the Memaloose Hills within the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area, and open the land to public access. Today the hills are owned by the Forest Service and yet remain little known, despite a superlative wildflower display without the crowds drawn to nearby Rowena Plateau or McCall Point.
I hiked the Hills for the first time this year, and the wildflowers were incredible. The trail leaves the old
The air was filled with the scents of spring, the hum of bees, and the shadows of raptors gliding above the fields.
When I hiked in, just before the creek, I spotted movement ahead of me. Five deer wandered a nearby meadow, unconcerned with my presence. I watched them for a while, then continued on. On the way back, I walked quietly towards the meadow to see if the deer were still there. They were: four healthy-looking blacktail does, sleek with brown coats and big eyes and ears turned towards me. The fifth doe was sickly and thin with a matted coat, and traumatic eyes. It must’ve been a hell of a winter for that one.
I spent a few hours among the deer and flowers and then jumped in the truck to head to an afternoon hike at Stacker Butte farther east. The weather stayed clear all day – not at all like the gathering clouds this evening. It feels like autumn now, with today’s rain, but though autumn is probably my favorite season, I’m not ready to give up the sun. Fall is a time for ritual and celebration, remembering and reflection. But I’d like a few more nice days in the mountains. There’s nothing quite like hiking Cooper Spur or Indian Heaven when the air is clear and crisp, there’s frost in the shade, and the meadows and alpine trails are lined with amber and scarlet huckleberries and mountain ash. Something to hope for, I guess - though, if it keeps raining, I can always go back to Memaloose, and hoist a beer for Russ.
Distance: 3 miles
Elevation Gain: 450ft
Region: Columbia River Gorge - East
Information: No fees, no facilities. Watch for poison oak.
Directions: Drive I84 to Mosier (exit 69) and continue west on the old