Rocky Coulee Recreation Area, Vantage
Whiskey Dick Unit (day hike), LT Murray Wildlife Area
In an attempt to find some spring weather and to escape the very long and cool winter-spring of the Puget Sound, we headed east toward the Wild Horse Wind Farm in hopes of wildflowers, sage birds, and sunshine. Unfortnately when we got there a massive dark cloud hung over the ridge, seemingly unwilling to budge. After much assessment and reevaluation, we decided to try for sunshine at lower grounds at the nearby Rocky Coulee Recreation Area adjacent to the Ginko Petrified Forest State Park on the Columbia River. Decending from the ridge, we managed to escape the rainclouds and arrived at the campground in sunshine and a few breezes, but over all pleasant. We stayed at the campground with friends over the weekend. The rainclouds continued to dump and hail on top of the ridge and the windfarm, but by the time it reached us at the campground, the weather remained mild and even warm at times.
The campground's riparian habitat hosted a good variety of spring migrants. Bullock's Orioles, Western Tanagers, and Black-headed Grosbeak sang from the willows. Small warbler flocks gleaned on the leaves and a pair of Yellow-breasted Chats squawked and chattered from the dense brush. At the river, Caspaian Terns hunted over the water, a single Western Grebe called for a mate, and a large raft of Greater Scaup drifted. Rock Wrens constantly chattered from the surrounding basalt. And many families of Yellow-bellied Marmots basked in the sun on rocks.
Rocky Coulee Recreation Area was also only a 30 minute drive to the Whisky Dick unit. We hiked there after the storms had passed and soaked in the warmth and sunshine. The wildflowers were in full force. The late spring rains boosted plant growth and compressed blooms into a smaller window, which we seemed to hit perfectly. Fields of narrowleaf goldenweed, spreading phlox, thyme buckwheat, and lupine bloomed along side arrowleaf and Hooker's balsamroot. The Simpson's Hedgehog cactus was still blooming below the ridge and bitterroot began blooming in the desert cement. It was truly a spectacular showing of wildflowers. Birds were also active - Brewer's, Lark, and Sagebrush Sparrows were particularly randy. After a long wet spring, a weekend in the sun and sage was the perfect way to recharge the internal batteries.
Pictures (click on thumbnail to enlarge)