Friday, October 26, 2007

The McCall Preserve at Rowena

Tom McCall Preserve, Rowena OR


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A few photos from the Nature Conservancy's Tom McCall Preserve at Rowena, out in the east end of the Columbia Gorge. This may be my favorite spot in the Gorge. It may be one of my favorite spots, period, but explaining why is difficult. I don't think I've ever convinced anyone. I could go on about the wind in the grass, sheer basalt cliffs, and so forth, but most of eastern Oregon is basically like that. There's something else I can't put my finger on. I don't mean that in a mystical mumbo-jumbo sense. It just means it's something I haven't figured out just yet. If it comes to me, I'll let you know.

So for now I'll proceed under the assumption I haven't convinced you. And really I'm not sure I want to convince too many people about the place. Present company excepted, of course. Feel free to visit, O Gentle Reader(s), but don't tell anyone else about it. They'll all show up at once and ruin the silence and desolation. They'll probably stand around with their cellphones yakking to their brokers, or whine that there's no Starbucks nearby, or drive all over everything in their gigantic SUVs, or demand guardrails for the protection of small children and large dogs. They'll ruin everything. In short, it's best to take a Tom McCall sort of attitude about the place.

Tom McCall Preserve, Rowena OR

So the preserve is a desert plateau high above the Columbia River, pretty much the last place you'd expect to find a wetland area. But the preserve hosts a couple of small ponds, with frogs, lilypads, trees, the whole works. You can see one of them in the top photo, right above the cliff. Here are a few closeups of one, including a couple of infrared pics.

Tom McCall Preserve, Rowena OR

Tom McCall Preserve, Rowena OR

Tom McCall Preserve, Rowena OR

One of the many trails around the plateau. Here's a decent page about hiking the area, although I'm not sure that's necessary. It's hard to get lost here, being mostly flat and treeless. But if you do, the plateau's surrounded by cliffs on three sides, roughly, so there's only one way on or off. In the worst case, you could just find any cliff and do a wall follower algorithm and you'll get back to the entrance eventually, probably.

Tom McCall Preserve, Rowena OR

Tom McCall Preserve, Rowena OR

When you do see people discussing the McCall Preserve, it's often about spring wildflowers. I've never actually visited when the plateau was in bloom; there were a few tiny blue ones being whipped around in the wind, but that was it. I've seen some photos, though, and I think I may have to go check the place out in April or so. A few good wildflower galleries can be found here, here, and here.

Tom McCall Preserve, Rowena OR

Looking southwest, with the tip of Mt. Hood in the distance.

Tom McCall Preserve, Rowena OR

The road past the preserve is an eastern bit of the old Gorge Highway, and it crosses over a narrow part of the Rowena Dell on another of those great, photogenic bridges they built back then. I don't want to sound like one of those old coots who insist everything was better back in the Good Old Days, because that would be stupid. I'm sure modern bridges are built to a high standard of technical excellence and so forth. They just aren't as photogenic, generally speaking.

Tom McCall Preserve, Rowena OR

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