Flood alert in the high Wallowas! Wildflowers are surging, overflowing meadows, and crushing the headwater springs with their weight of beauty. Fueled by snowmelt from the big winter, they jostle, tumble, and flourish. Butterflies kiss their petals. Bees bury deep into their pollen-filled hearts. Hummingbirds sip their nectar.
After six days backpacking in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, my head spins with the radiance, the fragrance, and the crescendo of wildflowers on the run. Breezes ruffle the rainbow fields of Indian paintbrush, mariposa lily, aster, hyssop, buckwheat, groundsel, lupine, phacelia, wild onion, penstemon, fireweed, and pearly everlasting… and so the list rolls on like a river gathering force with every tributary.
Each kind finds its place among its own community. Monkey flowers cling to the springs in the company of columbines. Elephantheads spire in the soggy meadows where bog orchids cast their intoxicating tropical scent. Buttercups flash from the melting snowfield. White phlox hunkers low in the windy pass like snow itself, blooming fast before the short summer ends. Elevation matters, so does soil, aspect, rock, wind, shade, companionship, and always the fresh pure water. Pause on the trail and I can almost hear the roots drinking as the hot sun beams upon photosynthesizing leaves and swooning blooms.
If I could, I’d scent these words with their heady perfumes, and enliven the page with the flight of a butterfly that carries a flame in every wingbeat – the Milbert’s Tortoiseshell.
I’d add the audio of the trickling spring and even my own heartbeat speeding up as I wade an icy, powerful stream or kick steps in a slanting high snowfield.
Instead, I’ll offer a few wildflower photos from the trip. Wes and I ascended and descended three passes, saw waterfalls pouring into alpine lakes, touched ancient whitebark pines, and I hugged one of the biggest larches ever. For each wilderness hero and heroine who worked so tirelessly to protect this Eagle Cap Wilderness – Oregon’s largest, the holder of the headwaters, and a place of reverence– I offer you a wild bouquet, one that will never be plucked from its stem, only admired and celebrated.