Wildflowers Along The Roads Less Traveled

The road less traveled

May your life be like a wildflower growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day.

—Indian Proverb

🌿  🌿  🌿  🌿

Some of the best drives are along the roads less traveled—those narrow, winding, hilly, rocky, chuckhole, dusty, washboard roads that make you wish you’d donned a helmet and taken a Dramamine before leaving home.   

Sometimes these are Forest Service roads, reasonably maintained, heavily graveled, dusty, and wash-boarded—the kind of road that vibrates your innards and can leave you feeling a little queasy.  Other times, the roads are old Indian trails or emigrant routes barely wide enough for a single vehicle.  Then there are the old logging roads with their steep, narrow, often staggering ledges in various stages of decay that yield a minefield of tire popping, axle-breaking, half buried rocks that can bounce you right off the edge!  In fact, some of these roads are so intimidating that I sometimes find them safer to walk than to drive. 

So why take the roads less traveled?  For starters, fewer crowds and little traffic, in fact, you might not see another human being for miles.  They also provoke curiosity because, more often than not, they lead to someplace marvelous—maybe a small lake, or perhaps a wildflower meadow, a babbling trout stream, an enchanting waterfall, or some spectacular vista.  The rewards are many.  

The Clear-Cut

Unfortunately, not every view is pleasing to the eyes because where there are roads, there are clear-cuts—open, ragged swaths of land that often look like war zones.  It’s not easy to see this kind of ruin, and I console myself, telling myself that the land will heal.  In time, in decades, in centuries, the land will heal.

Giant Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata) Snapdragon Family
Douglas’s Aster (Aster subspicatus) Aster Family
Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium) Evening Primrose Family

If there is one positive thing that can be said of clear-cuts, it is that they offer some great wildflower viewing.  We knew of one near Mud Creek—an old clear-cut where people like to camp, and do a little target shooting.  Turning from Mud Creek Loop onto the logging road, it led us a short distance through some lovely subalpine forest that was hard to admire as we went bouncing along.  While not steep, the road was narrow and brutal, pocked with chuckholes and tire poppers that will chew you up and spit you out.  How anyone can travel this road with a motor home or pull a trailer without breaking an axle is beyond me—but they do it. 

Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) Rose Family

By the time we reached the clear-cut, we we’re lucky we didn’t have concussions.  We stepped out of the pickup, and stretched our legs and breathed deeply.  The August air, sweet and refreshing, felt good in our lungs at 3,600 feet.  The clear-cut was peaceful with all the sounds of birds and insects, and a gentle breeze that swept over the surrounding peaks that rustled the trees in the surrounding forest.  Spanning the clear-cut were small dips and rises where the earth had been bulldozed; a lot of uneven ground littered with a lot of deadwood.  Stumps and logs had weathered to the color of stone.  Nearby, fresh split wood had been stacked and awaited the next camper.  

Bull Thistle (Cirsium vulgare) Aster Family
Oxeye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) Aster Family
Hardhack (Spiraea douglasii) Rose Family

A touch of autumn could be felt in the breeze and seen among the orange-red berries of the Sitka mountain ash (Sorbus sitchensis) that grew all around.  Twinberry or “inkberry” (Lonicera involucrata) whose leaves the deer had browsed, was heavy with toxic indigo fruit that were left to ferment in the sun.  In the mix of the deadwood, and the shrubs that grew to cover them, wildflowers bloomed in all their glory.  

Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea) Aster Family—This was the most abundant wildflower.
Canada Goldenrod “Meadow Goldenrod” (Solidago canadensis) Aster Family
Sitka Mountain Ash (Sorbus sitchensis) Rose Family
Black Twinberry “Inkberry” (Lonicera involucrata) Honeysuckle Family
Mount Hood

Beyond the clear-cut, the forest grew tall and green across the mountains and valleys that seemed to go on forever.  Rising over a distant ridge, Mount Hood’s ice and snow-clad peak touched the sky.  Chickadees sang from the edge of the clearing, emerging just long enough to grab a seed or insect.  Echoing out of the woods came the maniacal laughter call of the pileated woodpecker.  Insects were abuzz.  Dragonflies hunted the air.  Butterflies danced on the breeze, their colorful wings as delicate as tissue paper.  Bees buzzed with happiness, and with good reason.  It was wildflower season.

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Copyright 2012.  All rights reserved.

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