After completing the section of the Historic Columbia Gorge Highway that includes the Mosier Twin Tunnels, you can continue in the car (that is after you have walked back to where the car is parked) through the village of Mosier and back up onto the high plateau. Your destination is Rowena Crest which is about a 6 mile drive. This contains a large parking lot and viewing area, but is also the start of two trails that form the McCall Nature preserve – operated by The Nature Conservancy.
This area continues the transformation from the wet side to the dry side and by this point you are into bunch grass prairie. Almost the only trees around are those that sit on the banks of the lakes here. On the web site they say:
Lava flows, catastrophic floods and volcanic ash deposits shaped a mound-and-swale topography that perplexes the experts. Earthquake sorting, freezing and thawing, erosion, soil accumulations by plants and wildlife burrowing activities have all been suggested as having caused the mounds.
Don’t let any of that fool you, it is just a nice undulating area on a high plateau with some great overlooks up, down and across the Gorge. Wildflowers and wildlife were everywhere that you look. I was a little early for the display of balsamroot and lupine and will have to return in a few weeks.
There are two official trails here. One of them, a 1.7 mile trail and an elevation gain of 1100 feet to McCall point. This is only open May through October as they say that when the ground is too wet, hiking can damage the trail. The other trail is a gentle 1.1 mile and “It crosses the plateau to cliff edges and encircles a permanent pond.” It was clear to me where most parts of this trail were, but I saw no path encircling the pond and yet I did see a number of other trails that went off to various parts of the preserve. The trails are rough dirt trails and it thus could have been that people had been making their own trails, so while I tried not to stray, I may have done.
If you go in summer be careful for ticks and rattle snakes. I have also read that it can be very windy up here at times, so be prepared for that as well.
If you feel more adventurous, how about a hike up to the top of McCall Point. It is 4 miles round trip and a 1000ft of elevation gain, but you will see different wildflowers and wonderful views of the mountains on clear days. This blog will give you the details.
Brought to you by Brian Bailey
[amazon_enhanced asin=”0967783070″ /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”0897328817″ /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”0961815272″ /] [amazon_enhanced asin=”1570616272″ /]
[mqMap key=”dFj1″ width=”500″ height=”310″ src=”http://www.mapquest.com/embed?icid=mqdist_mb_wp&c=dFj1&maptype=map&zm=9&cr=45.71957754834553,-121.77975426946273&projection=sm&showScale=false”]My New Map[/mqMap]