Columbia River Gorge, waterfalls, and flower farms, a scenic Oregon drive — before the fire


I debated about writing this post right now. During our August road trip from San Francisco to Portland, we made a day trip along the majestically scenic Columbia River Gorge, the “playground of Oregonians” that’s currently on fire. As the Eagle Creek fire has raged for a week along the waterfall-festooned gorge, threatening historic structures and torching 33,000 acres, even raining ash on the city of Portland, I’ve been saddened to think that the natural beauty we marveled over just a month ago may be blighted for years to come.

And yet wildfire is a natural occurrence (even though this fire was human-caused), and perhaps the fecundity of northwestern Oregon will soon hide the burn scars. People’s homes, of course, are a different story, and every loss there must be difficult to bear. As a tribute to the region, I decided to go ahead and post about our recent day spent exploring the wonders of the Columbia River Gorge.

Waterfalls


Streaming from high cliffs along the Oregon side of the Columbia River, more than 90 waterfalls make this a spectacularly scenic area. A number of big ones can be easily viewed from pullouts along the Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway, and trails take you to others, like Bridal Veil Falls, pictured here.


Latourell Falls, spilling straight down from a cleft in a lichen-covered basalt cliff face, is especially beautiful.


Wahkeena Falls sluices down a curving drop and then fans out into a wide sheet along the trail…


…creating a chilly breeze for those who get close.


The most famous of the waterfalls is Multnomah Falls, a 620-foot cascade with a picturesque footbridge between the two drops.


We climbed the trail to the bridge and admired the view along with throngs of selfie-taking tourists.

Hood River


All that waterfall viewing made us hungry, so when we reached Hood River we headed straight to Full Sail Brew Pub for burgers and a tasting flight of their beers (delivered on a sail-shaped stand, no less) on the deck overlooking the colorful sails of kite and wind surfers on the river.


Afterward, we walked along the river to see the kite surfers and wind surfers doing their thing.

Fruit Loop


Next we headed south along the Fruit Loop, a 35-mile loop in the scenic Hood River Valley, where dozens of orchards and flower farms offer their wares at roadside farm stands. We stopped at the picturesque Gorge White House for cherries, drinks, and a stroll through their you-pick flower field.


Snow-capped Mt. Hood floats in the distance — rather otherworldly to this Southerner. I could hardly tear my eyes away from the mountain…


…until I spotted the flower field.


Dahlias in summer glory glowed in the late afternoon light.


Black-eyed Susans too


Mesmerizing


Ahh, look at them!


Tall sunflowers blazed against blue skies.


I admired their friendly faces.


And so did the bees.


Gladiolus flying colorful pennants


By the time we left, all the farm stands were closing for the day, but we stopped at Lavender Valley Farm anyway because of an amazing view…


…Mt. Hood rising over roadside meadow grass and Queen Anne’s lace.


That sky!

Columbia River


As we drove back along the Columbia River toward Portland, the sun was gilding the river and cliff faces. At a pullout, we stopped to admire the view and get a few golden-hour shots. That’s Vista House, an observatory atop a sheer promontory, where we’d stopped for a bird’s-eye view earlier that day.


What a majestic view


I’m grateful to have experienced the beauty of this place for a second time. Click here to read about an earlier visit I made in 2014, with lavender fields in bloom below Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams.

Up next: Danger! My return visit to the Danger Garden of Loree Bohl. For a look back at the Eugene, Oregon, garden of Rebecca Sams and Buell Steelman, click here.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Get ready for fall garden tours in Texas! The Garden Conservancy is sponsoring Open Days tours in Fort Worth on Oct. 8th, San Antonio on Oct. 14th, and Austin on Nov. 4th.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

A narrow side yard lives large in the garden of Rebecca Sams and Buell Steelman


I don’t think I planned a family road trip from San Francisco to Portland just to have an opportunity to swing through Eugene, Oregon, to visit the garden of Buell Steelman and Rebecca Sams, the husband-and-wife design-and-build team at Mosaic Gardens, whose work I greatly admire and recently wrote about for Garden Design. But then again, it’s possible.

Rebecca and Buell graciously invited us to stop by and see their garden last month, even though 1) they weren’t even going to be there, 2) their garden was newly exposed due to the cut-back of a neighbor’s tree, and 3) their poor plants had just endured an unusually long heat wave with little watering. Knowing that their garden is beautiful because of its compelling structure, not just the plants, I wasn’t worried.


And I wasn’t disappointed. Rebecca and Buell’s garden is essentially a long, skinny side yard that slopes sharply downhill from their house. They tackled this difficult space by creating a series of rooms linked by axis views to focal points. Like running your fingers along a string of beads, you enter their garden via a garden room — a gravel foyer — at the top of the slope, pause, look ahead to a focal point, advance toward it, pause in the next garden room, look ahead to the next focal point, and so on.


Each focal point, like this stock-tank pond (yes, one of the inspirations for my own), draws you forward but also gives you a reason to stop and look around, enjoying the mosaic of beautiful plants that Rebecca and Buell have created.


Stone stairs lead you down into the garden. Cascading sempervivum grows in the crevices of the stone retaining wall. Above, a frosty blue conifer cascades on a larger scale.


A wider view, with Japanese forest grass flowing like water alongside the steps.


Now we’re in the pond garden, a sunken space not visible from the street. The stairs where we entered are visible behind the pond. Atop the slope, strategically placed trees screen neighboring houses from view.


Stepping back a few paces, down a short flight of steps, here’s an even wider view. The gravel path flows around the pond so you can view all sides. The narrow spaces around the pond are densely planted with columnar trees, shrubs, and perennials to create layering that makes those beds feel deeper.


And look at the gorgeous plants! I asked Rebecca to ID this combo for me. From left to right: Cotinus ‘Grace’, a sport of ‘Conica’ Picea glauca, a mystery fern (“This thing is a wonder. Gorgeous, even in drought with a blast of midday sun. We don’t recall where we got it, but we’d love to find more. If someone knows this one, please tell me!”), Rhododendron ‘Yak x pak’, Corydalis lutea, and Galtonia candicans, aka summer hyacinth (“the best plant that no one grows — we love it, and so do the hummers”).


Looking across the pond, your eye travels along a path, past a brick BBQ and the stairs to their back deck, to a chocolate-colored pot framed by a living arbor. The pot stands out against a corrugated, galvanized-steel fence.


A closer look. A horizontal bamboo fence adds an Asian flavor to this area, and white hydrangea glows alongside the path. Espaliered trees arch over the path to create a living arbor.


Past the arbor you enter an edible garden, which jogs left into a small back yard. Asparagus was blooming here…


…and grapes dangled from a wire trellis fence.


A gateway in the trellis fence allows access to another garden room — an orchard of fruit trees, anchored by an approximately 4-foot-diameter stacked-stone sphere that Buell made.


I love this.


Apples were ripening in the orchard.


Returning through the garden, here’s another look at the espaliered arbor…


…and artichoke.


Back at house level, a long, narrow porch leading from the driveway to the front door is adorned with a collection of potted succulents massed for impact.


Other potted plants add interest to the edge of the gravel “foyer” garden, with fabulous skinny conifers visible in the background, growing along the property line and creating the illusion of greater depth.


River stone as art object in the garden


Another look from the top of the garden into the sunken side yard.


Eucomis flowers


Rattlesnake master (I think) and red dahlia


How do you approach the garden from the street? Via this almost secret-garden stone stair, through touchable grasses, conifers, and perennials. How could anyone resist taking a peek?


A gravel driveway leads to a garage, but knowing they wouldn’t be parking in it, and wanting to create more of an entrance and drop the cars slightly out of view, Buell and Rebecca dug out the driveway, put in a low retaining wall, and repaved the drive with gravel so that it sits about a foot lower than the entry garden. Isn’t this a nicer spot to come home to than entering through a dark, cramped garage?

My thanks to Rebecca and Buell for sharing their beautiful garden with me! I do hope to meet them one day, too.

Up next: Our day trip along the Columbia River Gorge to see waterfalls and mountain views — a tribute to an incredibly scenic area that is now tragically on fire. For a look back at our visit to the dormant volcano and sapphire lake of Crater Lake National Park, click here.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Get ready for fall garden tours in Texas! The Garden Conservancy is sponsoring Open Days tours in Fort Worth on Oct. 8th, San Antonio on Oct. 14th, and Austin on Nov. 4th.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

After the volcano blows: Crater Lake National Park


Mt. Mazama spilled its guts in a massive volcanic eruption 7,700 years ago, emptying itself out to such an extent that the mountain collapsed in on itself, creating a 3,900-foot-deep caldera. As the centuries ticked by, the caldera partially filled with snowmelt and rainfall, transforming into a sapphire-blue lake — the deepest lake in the U.S., with a depth of 1,943 feet — ringed by a partially forested mountain ridge at an elevation of 7,000 feet. Meanwhile the volcano kept belching up lava, creating cinder cones on the lakebed. One, dubbed Wizard Island, rises like a conical wizard’s hat above the lake’s surface, making a mini-mountain island to one side of the 6-mile-diameter lake.

Such is the dramatic history of Crater Lake, a national park in south-central Oregon that I’ve long wanted to visit and saw during a family road trip last month.


Ombre shades of blue

Crater Lake is famous for its sapphire hue. It’s so blue, we learned, because the water is very deep and nearly pure. No streams or rivers flow into or out of the lake, and so it doesn’t contain river silt or mud. The park receives a tremendous amount of snowfall every year — 43 feet on average — which helps keep the lake at a constant level, compensating for evaporation.


The rim views are stunning, but it’s even more amazing when you think about the fact that you’re standing atop the rim of a volcano, looking into the cone. True, it’s dormant, but no one’s ruling out the possibility of a future eruption.


Wildfires were raging in the area when we visited and the park’s West Rim Drive was closed, so we weren’t able to drive the entire rim. I worried that smoke would haze the view of the lake, and it did get hazier throughout the day. But when we arrived that morning the skies were clear and the lake clearly visible.


The caldera’s steep, crumbly sides make it impossible to reach the lake except along a single trail, the Cleetwood Cove Trail, which usually opens in mid-to-late June. My husband and daughter were keen to hike it. Following tradition, they both plunged into the icy lake — surface temps are around 50° or 60° in summer — just to say they did.


Crater Lake is a snowy place for much of the year, and we saw for ourselves that snow can remain on the ground even into August.


Off East Rim Drive, we saw the Pinnacles: fossil fumaroles — aka ancient volcanic vents — that cemented through intense heat the ash they spewed. Surrounding material eroded over the centuries, exposing the fossilized vents as fantastical spires.


Of course, pun lovers that we are, we immediately dubbed this photo Penickles at the Pinnacles.

Up next: The inspiring, jewel-box garden of Buell Steelman and Rebecca Sams, owners of Mosaic Gardens in Eugene, Oregon. For a look back at our visit to Redwood National Park and Fern Canyon, click here.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Get ready for fall garden tours in Texas! The Garden Conservancy is sponsoring Open Days tours in Fort Worth on Oct. 8th, San Antonio on Oct. 14th, and Austin on Nov. 4th.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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