Crest Lupine

The Sier­ra Neva­da Moun­tains offer rich wildlife habi­tat, wild pub­lic lands, and a diverse array of plant life—some of the most stun­ning of which are its abun­dant and var­ied wild­flow­ers. From the redun­dant to the rarely seen, the Sier­ras con­tain some tru­ly beau­ti­ful, col­or­ful and odd­ly shaped foliage.

Here are some of the highlights:

woolly mule's earsWooly Mule’s Ear (Wyethia mol­lis )
Look­ing an awful lot like a sun­flower sit­ting atop large, fuzzy leaves, wooly mule’s ear is one of the most abun­dant wild­flow­ers in the Tahoe area. In fact, it has even earned the col­lo­qui­al name “Tahoe toi­let paper” due to its acces­si­bil­i­ty through­out the region and its soft, ample leaves, which can serve a hygien­ic func­tion in a pinch. How­ev­er, don’t con­fuse it with the equal­ly abun­dant arrow-leaved bal­sam­root, which is also abun­dant in the Tahoe area but sports upside-down heart-shaped leaves, as opposed to the oblong leaves of the wooly mule’s ear.

 

Crest LupineCrest Lupine
There are a large num­ber of sim­i­lar look­ing lupines in the Sier­ras, includ­ing Gray’s, Brewer’s, Tahoe, and Torrey’s, just to name a few. The easy way to tell a lupine is its palmate leaf struc­ture and pur­ple Plan­tag­i­naceae struc­ture (like a clus­ter of small snap­drag­ons), and you can dif­fer­en­ti­ate the crest lupine based on the hard, tooth-like struc­ture at the back of each flower, which will also help you remem­ber the name, giv­en its sim­i­lar­i­ty to a cer­tain tooth­paste brand.

 

GayophytumGayophy­tum
Com­mon­ly referred to as ground smoke, these tiny, four-petaled flow­ers grow all over the place, though you would hard­ly ever notice them. The tiny white flow­ers sit atop a del­i­cate frame of stems, sim­i­lar to baby’s breath. Despite their unas­sum­ing appear­ance and diminu­tive size, they are actu­al­ly in the prim­rose family.

 

alpine lilyAlpine Lily (Lil­i­um parvum )
One of the most beau­ti­ful wild­flow­ers dom­i­nat­ing the Sier­ras and its foothills is the Alpine lily. This bell-shaped flower is also called the Sier­ra tiger lily due to its orange col­or and spots. While it looks like it has six petals, it real­ly only has three, and the oth­er three petals are actu­al­ly its sepals.


On the oth­er end of the scale, the last two flow­ers are rare, but if you hap­pen to spot one, do remem­ber that their place on this plan­et is ten­u­ous and frag­ile. Nev­er pick any of the fol­low­ing flow­ers, and be aware that wild­flow­ers are fick­le and can­not be grown in cap­tiv­i­ty, so don’t even think about try­ing to steal them and grow them in your own gar­den. It will not work, and you will just be killing one of a hand­ful of these spe­cial beauties.

steer's headSteer’s Head (Dicen­tra uni­flo­ra )
An appro­pri­ate­ly named flower, Steer’s Head often grows in wet, shad­ed patch­es. Its shape close­ly resem­bles that of a steer’s head all in white, and if you spot this del­i­cate flower, be care­ful not to tram­ple or oth­er­wise dam­age even a sin­gle flower, as they are uncom­mon and should be pro­tect­ed at all cost.

 

Bolandra californicaSier­ra Bolan­dra (Bolan­dra cal­i­for­ni­ca )
Native to the High Sier­ras, this unas­sum­ing small plant grows in shade along the water and often out of gran­ite, and is even rar­er than the steer’s head. Its urn-shaped flower is most­ly green, which close­ly match­es its stem col­or, with just a hint of pur­ple, while the upside-down bell of the petals pro­tects its repro­duc­tive parts. If you see this flower, give it a wide birth and ensure pets do not tram­ple or pee on it.

spring hiking

spring hikingWhen peo­ple think about hik­ing in spring, they imag­ine beau­ti­ful green forests, flow­ing water­falls, bright sun­shine and crisp air, but spring hik­ing comes with its own haz­ards, so be wary. Every sea­son comes with dif­fer­ent chal­lenges and haz­ards, and it is impor­tant to be aware of the haz­ards so that you can stay safe.

Spring may seem beau­ti­ful but weath­er con­di­tions can be errat­ic. Your hike might begin in a warm, sum­mery val­ley, but you may find that after an hour you are walk­ing through heavy rain and snow.

Here are five of the most com­mon spring hik­ing haz­ards so you can stay safe when you are hiking.

Insects
One of the biggest hik­ing haz­ards in spring are the insects and bugs. Fly sea­son nor­mal­ly occurs between spring and ear­ly sum­mer, and if you are unpre­pared you will come home with lots of itchy bites that can take weeks to heal.

You will need to invest in a good insect repel­lent to take with you, and make sure to remove any insects or ticks that you see on your skin while you are hik­ing. You could also rub raw gar­lic on your skin before­hand as it is a nat­ur­al insect repellent!

You should wear long pants, long sleeves and long socks to min­i­mize the like­li­hood of insect bites. You can even tuck your pants into your socks to help keep insects on the out­side of your clothing.

Flood­ing
Water cross­ings can become flood­ed in spring after heavy rains. This means that small streams can turn into rac­ing tor­rents that can eas­i­ly sweep you away. If you are plan­ning a hike, try to avoid water cross­ings unless you know that they are not flood­ed. Cross­ing a flood­ed water stream is very dan­ger­ous, and it is like­ly that you will get wet. This can be a real prob­lem if you are in a cold area as you are more like­ly to con­tract hypothermia.

spring hikingSnow And Ice
Spring may feel much warmer than win­ter, but the moun­tains are nor­mal­ly still cov­ered in snow and ice. Make sure to wear long pants and sleeves if you are hik­ing in spring, and keep your hood up if you are walk­ing under­neath trees that are cov­ered in wet snow. It can also be use­ful to invest in snow shoes if you know that you will be hik­ing a snowy route. You can buy back­packs that are designed to hold snow shoes, which makes it eas­i­er to trans­port them when you are not wear­ing them.

If you are hik­ing an icy trail you should try to do the hike ear­ly in the day, as icy sur­faces are much eas­i­er to walk on when they are still sol­id. You can also buy spikes to help you stay safe as you cross icy paths.

Mud
As the ice and snow start to melt, mud becomes a real haz­ard. Most hik­ing trails are mud­dy dur­ing spring, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t hike. Sim­ply keep to the dri­est part of the trail (nor­mal­ly the mid­dle part), and make sure that you wear water­proof boots; if not your feet will quick­ly get wet!

It can also be use­ful to wear water­proof socks and trousers, as it is very like­ly that you will get wet mud on your ankles and legs. This will help to keep your ankles and legs warm and dry, no mat­ter how mud­dy the trail is. A cheap alter­na­tive: put your feet in plas­tic bags, though we can’t promise you won’t be met with any fun­ny looks.

Hunt­ing Season
Lots of peo­ple assume that hunt­ing sea­son takes place in fall and win­ter, but spring is still hunt­ing sea­son for cer­tain species. Look up your state’s hunt­ing sea­sons to see if your hike takes place in a hunt­ing zone. If you are hik­ing through a hunt­ing zone, make sure to dress in bright col­ors, such as blaze orange, so that you are clear­ly visible.

Crested Butte

Some might argue the great­est thing about spring is the explo­sion of col­or that hap­pens as trees come back to life and flow­ers begin to bloom. If you’re seek­ing out some tru­ly breath­tak­ing views for your spring camp­ing trips, here are a few spots where the kalei­do­scope of col­ors will rock your world.

Crested ButteCrest­ed Butte, Colorado
The annu­al Wild­flower Fes­ti­val in Crest­ed Butte isn’t held until July, but many of the blooms begin ear­ly in the spring. End­less arrays of trails sur­round the town lead­ing up into the moun­tains with great views of the sur­round­ing land­scape. You’ll find your­self knee-deep in blooms of orange, gold and pink flow­ers. A lit­tle high­er up into the West Elk Moun­tains and you’ll find bril­liant yel­low alpine sun­flow­ers every­where you look, along with stun­ning death camas, del­phini­ums and blue columbines.


Franconia NotchFran­co­nia Notch, New Hampshire
New England’s fall camp­ing sea­son is the stuff of leg­end for those seek­ing out some col­or­ful views, but even in Spring, the rolling hills near Fran­co­nia Notch State Park can rival any com­pe­ti­tion. The illus­tri­ous pur­ple lupines of Sug­ar Hill are prac­ti­cal­ly world-famous and Fran­co­nia Notch puts you front and cen­ter for the show. It also doesn’t hurt that the sur­round­ing White Moun­tains make for some of the most epic adven­ture grounds in the coun­try. In ear­ly spring the lupines are accent­ed by bril­liant hues of red, yel­low and white blooms.


Smokemont Loop, North CarolinaSmoke­mont Loop, North Carolina
While Ten­nessee might house the most famous por­tions of the Great Smoky Moun­tains North Car­oli­na lays claim to the most beau­ti­ful parts in ear­ly spring. That’s because the Smoke­mont Loop Trail near Chero­kee comes alive with a cacoph­o­ny of white, pink and pur­ple vio­lets and foam flow­ers once the weath­er starts to warm. The trail itself is a sim­ple route that’s well suit­ed for any lev­el of hik­er and there are rough­ly 140 camp­sites avail­able to plant to your tent. You real­ly can’t go wrong any­where in the Great Smoky Moun­tains, lov­ing­ly nick­named the “Wild­flower Nation­al Park.”


Hite Cove, YosemiteHite Cove, Yosemite, California
The Sier­ra Nevadas already hold some of the most awe-inspir­ing views in the west­ern hemi­sphere and come March through May the moun­tain­side comes even more alive with wild­flow­ers. Home to arguably the best wild­flower camp­ing and hik­ing in the state, or the coun­try, the Hite Cove Trail is cov­ered with 60 dif­fer­ent vari­eties of wild­flow­ers dur­ing the spring sea­son. It’s a fan­tas­tic spot for out­door adven­tur­ers, sea­soned hik­ers and your aver­age flower enthu­si­asts to set up camp and expe­ri­ence beau­ty in its truest form.


carrizo plainCar­ri­zo Plain, South­ern California
With the super bloom in full sweep (and swal­low­ing your news feed), it’s no sur­prise this epic dis­play of col­or makes the list. While a super bloom doesn’t hap­pen every year you can still find plen­ty of spots in the SoCal desert where the blooms pop up each spring. Chief among them is the Car­ri­zo Plain Nation­al Mon­u­ment. Locat­ed rough­ly 100 miles north­east of Los Ange­les, this large grass­land plain is 50 miles long and show­cas­es some of the most vibrant col­ors you can imag­ine. All of which are set against a pret­ty beige back­ground to make them tru­ly pop. There are plen­ty of camp­grounds to be had with the eas­i­est, Sel­by, nes­tled right in the nation­al monument.

Mount Rainier

To expe­ri­ence the paint strokes of nature in their prime, pass by wild­flow­ers dur­ing your favorite hikes. If you trek any of these trails dur­ing the right time of year, you’ll see an abun­dance of beau­ty you’ll nev­er for­get. To catch some wild­flower dis­plays at the right time, it’s worth check­ing out these 10 best trails for wild­flower hikes.

Columbia GorgeUpper Sec­tion of the Cape Horn Trail—Columbia Riv­er Gorge, Oregon
A great hike any time of the year, the upper sec­tion of the Cape Horn trail on the Colum­bia Riv­er Gorge real­ly blos­soms to life each spring. Fea­tur­ing sweep­ing views of the Colum­bia Gorge and a close look at the cas­cad­ing Cape Horn Falls, this rugged hike is also con­ve­nient­ly locat­ed only about 45 min­utes away from Port­land. Hik­ers need to be aware that the low­er por­tion of the Cape Horn loop trail is closed from Feb­ru­ary until July to pro­tect nest­ing Pere­grine Fal­cons, but the upper loop is always open and is a great place to find some wild­flow­ers come spring.


Blue­bell Island Trail on the Clinch River—Centreville, Virginia
The sweet spot to explore the Blue­bell Trail in Bull Run Region­al Park of North­ern Vir­ginia is mid-April, with over 25 vari­eties of wild­flow­ers bloom­ing along the path. Not sur­pris­ing­ly, the most com­mon wild­flower you’ll see on this very-mod­er­ate walk­ing path is the Peren­ni­al Blue­bell Flower, which adds a splash of col­or to the Vir­gin­ian coun­try­side. To see more wild­flow­ers in action, the sur­round­ing Bull Run Region­al Park offers 1,500 more acres to explore, includ­ing the 19.7‑mile, nat­ur­al-sur­face Bull Run Occo­quan Trail.


Crested ButteWash­ing­ton Gulch Trail #403—Crested Butte, Colorado
Some­times referred to as “the last great ski town in Col­orado”, Crest­ed Butte and the adjoin­ing Crest­ed Butte Moun­tain Resort does have quite the rep­u­ta­tion for being a world-class ski­ing des­ti­na­tion. Ask any­one who has stuck around past the Col­orado win­ter though, and they’ll agree that there is still a lot to do and see when the snow melts away. A prime exam­ple of that can be found with the 7.8‑mile, out and back Wash­ing­ton Gulch Trail (also referred to as Trail 403). Fea­tur­ing an awe-inspir­ing com­bi­na­tion of wild­flow­ers and full panora­mas of the sur­round­ing Rocky Moun­tains, it’s wild­flower hikes these that makes every­one and their cousins want to move to Colorado.


Deep Creek Loop Trail—Deep Creek Recre­ation Area, Great Smoky Moun­tains Nation­al Park
Beard­tongue, Bluets, and Blue-Eyed Grass; these are just some of the many wild­flow­ers you can expect to see through­out the spring when you vis­it the cel­e­brat­ed Deep Creek area of the Great Smoky Moun­tains Nation­al Park. With an abun­dance of water­falls and streams to nav­i­gate through and around, the eye-catch­ing col­ors on the ground won’t be the only thing vying for your atten­tion. The Deep Creek Loop Trail is rough­ly 4 miles long, though it is inter­sect­ed with oth­er fas­ci­nat­ing trails that sprawl through­out the area, ensur­ing that you get to choose your own kind of adven­ture when look­ing for wild­flow­ers in the Great Smoky Mountains.


Antelope ValleyAnte­lope Val­ley Pop­py Reserve—Lancaster, California
Locat­ed in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia in the Mojave Desert, the Ante­lope Val­ley Pop­py Reserve fos­ters an incred­i­ble bloom of the Cal­i­for­nia state flower, the Cal­i­for­nia Pop­py. With a bloom that gen­er­al­ly ranges from mid-Feb­ru­ary to late May, vis­i­tors have plen­ty of time to check out these sea­son­al sur­pris­es of the desert land­scape, and the state-pro­tect­ed Ante­lope Val­ley Pop­py Pre­serve has 8 miles of mod­er­ate trails to immerse your­self in all the col­or and aro­mas of this stun­ning spring hike.


Suther­land Trail—Catalina State Park, Arizona
Sit­u­at­ed square­ly in the San­ta Catali­na Moun­tains, the 5,500 acres of Ari­zona back­coun­try of Catali­na State Park attracts vis­i­tors year-round to this high-desert land­scape. Whether it’s hik­ing, bik­ing or bird­watch­ing, many of the local Tuc­so­nans and fur­ther-trav­el­ing explor­ers will agree that the best time to explore Catali­na State Park is between March and April, when the rugged foothills and canyon depths come alive with wild­flower col­or. With the dras­tic back­ground of desert land­scapes con­trast­ing nice­ly with the col­or of a new sea­son, the 8.6‑mile, one-way Suther­land Trail is per­haps one of the best places in the coun­try to appre­ci­ate wild­flow­ers while you hike.


Mount RainierBench & Snow Lakes Trail—Mt. Rainier Nation­al Park, Washington
Locat­ed lit­er­al­ly in Par­adise, the Bench & Snow Lakes trail can not only give you some of the best wild­flow­ers looks you’ll see all sum­mer any­where else in the nation, but as a back­drop to all the action, the impres­sive Mount Rainier is also vis­i­ble most days when the fore­cast allows it. This 2.5‑mile loop is a pret­ty mod­er­ate start to the day, though it can give views that will last you a life­time, and there are plen­ty of oth­er trails in the Par­adise and sur­round­ing areas of Mount Rainier Nation­al Park to explore, prov­ing what many already knew, that Mount Rainier Nation­al Park is one of the best places to catch mid-sum­mer wild­flow­ers and year-round adventure.


Niquette Bay State Park Trail—Colchester, Vermont
Locat­ed on the shores of Lake Cham­plain as an inden­ta­tion of the much larg­er Mal­letts Bay, Niquette Bay State Park is a 584-acre facil­i­ty that is a pop­u­lar place to explore for the neigh­bor­ing res­i­dents of Burling­ton, Ver­mont. Open only dur­ing day­light hours with camp­ing not allowed, day hik­ers at Niquette Bay State Park can find dolomite lime­stone cliffs, sandy shores and for just a few weeks in late April, an impres­sive col­lec­tion of blos­som­ing spring flow­ers that line the 3.2‑mile trail that mean­ders through the park. While Niquette Bay is beau­ti­ful any time of the year, it is these spring moments that real­ly set the scene for this pic­turesque State Park.


Mt TimpanogosThe Tim­pooneke Trail—Mount Tim­pano­gos, Utah
Mount Tim­pano­gos stands tall as the sec­ond high­est sum­mit in the Wasatch Range of Utah, only behind the neigh­bor­ing Mount Nebo, and the trails and scenery sur­round­ing the top of this rugged moun­tain are con­sid­ered a Utah clas­sic. There are two ways to get to the top of Mount Tim­pano­gos, the 8.3‑mile Aspen Grove Trail, and the 7.5‑mile Tim­pooneke Trail, and while both are fair­ly demand­ing one-ways routes to the top, each also shares some fan­tas­tic wild­flower vis­tas between July and August. With such read­i­ly avail­able views of wild­flow­ers pressed against the Wasatch Moun­tains, you don’t even need to make it to the top of either hike to have a mem­o­rable time explor­ing Mount Timpanogos.


Cot­ton­wood Creek Trails—Custer Gal­latin Nation­al For­est, Montana
Locat­ed in the Boze­man Dis­trict of Custer Gal­latin Nation­al For­est, the three dif­fer­ent Cot­ton­wood Trails (South, Mid­dle & North) all offer dense for­est and mead­ow land­scapes as they mean­der next to Cot­ton­wood Creek. Much not­ed as a hike for a hot day thanks to the adja­cent cold waters of Cot­ton­wood Creek, the best rea­son to get on these trails between June and August is the wild­flow­ers that take over the area, pre­sent­ing a stun­ning view of alpine excel­lence. All three trails pro­vide dif­fer­ent flo­ra options, and all three trails pro­vide dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ences in terms of hik­ing dif­fi­cul­ty but check them out in the right sea­son and all three won’t fail to stim­u­late your spring­time senses.

I’m sit­ting on my porch on the first day of spring. Gar­den flow­ers are already bloom­ing. Leaf-out is begin­ning in the wilds. Light is stretch­ing more into the evening. But to real­ly appre­ci­ate the explo­sion of nature that’s hap­pen­ing, watch for these signs that spring is real­ly here and sum­mer is on the way.

©istockphoto/VladimirKoganReturn of the Osprey (ear­ly April)
The Camel­lias in my yard bloom ear­ly, but spring isn’t real­ly here until the Osprey shows up. The West­’s pre­mier fish-eat­ing rap­tor, they cruise in from their win­ter­ing grounds in South Amer­i­ca right around April Fools Day. Osprey are beau­ti­ful birds with a loud, pierc­ing call, and they’re not shy around peo­ple, so it’s obvi­ous when they return. You’ll see them soar­ing above rivers and lakes, and build­ing big nests on trees, phone poles, riv­er chan­nel mark­ers and any­thing else with a good van­tage point near water.

©istockphoto/PDidsayabutraThe Gorge Explodes in Col­or (April-May)
The Colum­bia Gorge is one of the worlds’ most unique land­forms and it also hosts one some of the best wild­flower explo­sions in the world. The bloom—which includes sev­er­al species that occur nowhere else in the world—happens in phas­es and moves east to west. The first half of May is usu­al­ly the peak. Hikes com­bine a work­out, spec­tac­u­lar vis­tas and catch­ing our breath while fig­ur­ing out the dif­fer­ence between Colum­bia desert pars­ley and Slen­der-fruit­ed desert pars­ley. Clas­sic hikes are Dog Moun­tain, Cather­ine Creek, and Tom McCall Preserve.

©istockphoto/Sam CampThe John Day Riv­er (May-June)
The plea­sures of a desert riv­er are many. The John Day, Oregon’s longest free-flow­ing riv­er, com­bines vir­tu­al­ly all of them into one trip: cur­rents that whisk you along, camps that com­bine great riv­er-watch­ing with hikes to vis­tas above the riv­er, tall cliffs and deep canyons, soli­tude and rap­tors and bighorn sheep. And this year, with a decent snow­pack, the riv­er will actu­al­ly have water in it. Ser­vice Creek to Clarno Bridge and Clarno Bridge to Cot­ton­wood are the clas­sic runs. The low­er run includes Clarno Rapid, the most dif­fi­cult rapid on the low­er John Day, but it can be portaged. Be pre­pared to get a per­mit online and pack out human waste.

©istockphoto/ AndyworksLife in the Heron Now (April-June)
Ever since it got plopped onto the label of one of Portland’s first craft breweries—Bridgeport’s Blue Heron Ale—the gan­g­ly, croaky, pho­to­genic Great Blue Heron has been both the city’s unof­fi­cial and offi­cial bird (it also appears on the city seal). Herons nest in mas­sive rook­eries around the city. The most famous rook­ery is on the north end of Ross Island, vis­i­ble via a short pad­dle from down­town. Herons also nest at the tech cam­pus­es on 185th, the apt­ly named Heron Lakes Golf Course and at Jack­son Bot­tom Wet­lands. Cohab­i­ta­tions of herons and egrets can also be vis­it­ed by canoe on the north shore of Bybee Lake in North Port­land, and at Reed Island near Washou­gal, WA. Watch­ing adults sit­ting on nests and bring­ing food to the hun­gry hordes of cack­ling young is a Port­land tradition.

©istockphoto/FRANKHILDEBRANDUrban High Fliers (April – July)
The return of Pere­grine Fal­cons to Port­land is a heart­warm­ing sto­ry about wildlife in the City. And not just return­ing: shack­ing up, rais­ing kids and thriv­ing in the urban envi­ron­ment. After rebound­ing from the effects of DDT, Pere­grine Fal­cons began nest­ing on the Fre­mont Bridge in 1994. They have set up oth­er nests on bridges, sky­scrap­ers, and cliffs in the area. Like humans, birds find that rais­ing kids in the city comes with a set of chal­lenges: traf­fic, expo­sure to pol­lu­tion and inter­ac­tions with every­thing from news heli­copters to young that stum­ble into big events at Water­front Park while they’re learn­ing to fly. Port­land Audubon Society’s Pere­grine Watch has helped pro­tect nests and young from haz­ards or urban life. In addi­tion to the Pere­grine, a pair of bald eagles has been rais­ing kids on a nest in the Ross Island lagoon. Pad­dlers should stay 50 feet back from the nest until the mid­dle of July.

©istockphoto/PaulTessierWacky War­blers (May-June)
War­blers are among the most col­or­ful and intrigu­ing birds that pass through dur­ing migra­tion. They’re also a chal­lenge for out­door lovers to learn and iden­ti­fy, but the rewards are worth it. They tend to flit about in the tops of trees, and there are enough of them that it can be hard to tell a Wilson’s war­bler from a Her­mit War­bler until you learn them—but at least they’re col­or­ful and dra­mat­ic-look­ing. Nerd up on these bright and flighty fowl with Port­land Audubon Soci­ety’s class­es and soon you’ll be a full-fledged twitcher.

©istockphoto/Frank LeungWhen the Var­ied Go Away (May-June)
In the Willamette Val­ley low­lands and on the coast, most morn­ings you’ll hear a dra­mat­ic high flut­ing sound that sounds more like it belongs on the moors of Scot­land than the rain­forests of the Pacif­ic North­west. It’s a Var­ied Thrush, a cousin of the Robin, first described to mod­ern sci­ence by Lewis and Clark. When they leave the Val­ley it’s a sign that spring is about to turn into full-blown sum­mer. Where do they go? Up. Var­ied Thrush­es are ver­ti­cal migrants: they leave the low­lands for the fir and hem­lock forests of the high cas­cades, arriv­ing there soon before the snow melts off the hik­ing trails. It’s a sure sign that you’ll soon be head­ed for the high coun­try too.

The West Wind Blows (June)
When the west wind starts to blow through up the Colum­bia from the coast to the Gorge, it’s a sign that you’re in for full-on sum­mer. The result of greater warmth in east­ern Ore­gon than in Port­land cre­ates the flow of air through the Gorge, cre­at­ing the nuclear-force winds that wind­surfers, kite­board­ers, and rough-water sea kayak­ers love. The same thing hap­pens on the Low­er Colum­bia fur­ther west as the Willamette Val­ley heats up: air flows from Asto­ria and the Coast up to the Colum­bia to Port­land. This is great news for the wind­surfers at Jones Beach west of Rainier. It’s bad news if you’re com­plet­ing one of the Northwest’s pre­mier pad­dle jour­neys: the Low­er Colum­bia Water Trail from Port­land to the sea. That’s a trip for May before the west wind stops your progress downriver.

©istockphoto/SilvrshootrAh, the shoul­der season…a time when the snow has sub­sided, sum­mer is around the cor­ner and every­thing is just a lit­tle too slushy for sol­id rip­ping or hard­core back­pack­ing. What to do with your­self, you might ask? Plen­ty. This mag­i­cal time of year is per­fect for try­ing out new adven­tures while you’re tran­si­tion­ing from your love of the pow­dered slopes to your pas­sion for the sheer ver­ti­cal or putting foot to earth.

Indoor Rock Climb­ing and Yoga
Whether you’re a hard­core climber or just in it for recre­ation­al pur­pos­es, indoor rock-climb­ing is sweep­ing the nation. Gyms are crop­ping up all over and often offer more than just climb­ing; some fea­ture yoga, cycling, and cross­fit class­es. Con­sid­er join­ing a gym this spring and cou­ple your climb­ing with yoga. In just a few months time, you’ll be more toned and ready to tack­le some out­door pursuits.

A Hot-Springs Road Trip
Nat­ur­al hot springs per­sist through­out the west and can be found in Col­orado, Ari­zona, New Mex­i­co, Ore­gon and Cal­i­for­nia amongst oth­er places. There’s noth­ing quite so peace­ful as sit­ting in a warm spring sur­round­ed by the rem­nants of snow dust­ing the sur­round­ing moun­tains and canyons.

Con­sid­er a road trip to Straw­ber­ry Hot Springs in Steam­boat Springs, Col­orado and make some leisure­ly turns at the resort while you’re at it.

Fat-Tire Bik­ing
For moun­tain bik­ing enthu­si­asts or out­door lovers look­ing for a new adven­ture, Fat-tire bik­ing is the new win­ter fron­tier. Con­sid­er a spring trip to breath­tak­ing Crest­ed Butte, and enjoy bik­ing on their numer­ous alpine trails.

Snow­shoe­ing
Hard­core ath­letes may guf­faw, but snow­shoe­ing can actu­al­ly pro­vide an excel­lent work­out and stun­ning views.  Plus, snow­shoe­ing typ­i­cal­ly requires less prepa­ra­tion than back­coun­try ski­ing. As the snow­pack melts, con­sid­er using Yak­trax to nav­i­gate icy conditions.

Wan­na up the ante a bit? Con­sid­er adding ankle weights if you’re train­ing your legs for moun­tain bik­ing and back­pack­ing season.

Aggres­sive Rest and Relaxation
No, seri­ous­ly. You’ve played hard all win­ter. Maybe you logged 100 plus days on skis, per­haps you enjoyed con­sid­er­able hours ice climb­ing or win­ter moun­taineer­ing was your jam this year. What­ev­er your pas­sions and pur­suits, a per­fect­ly respectable way to spend the shoul­der sea­son, per­haps even the most rec­om­mend­ed way, is in utter relax­ation mode.

This is the time to be gen­tle with your body. Get more sleep and par­tic­i­pate in some hatha yoga to realign and stretch out those tired ten­dons and muscles.

You’ve earned it. Shoul­der on.

Ahh Spring — a time when old man win­ter slow­ly retreats back to the south­ern hemi­sphere, giv­ing life to all sorts of ani­mals, includ­ing us. Here are 10 things to look for­ward to this Spring.

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Run­ning in a t‑shirt
Yes, you can run all win­ter long and many peo­ple do. There is still some­thing spe­cial about blast­ing over your favorite trail clad in just a light t‑shirt for the first time in the spring, wind flow­ing over your arms bare to the world. Relat­ed bonus: Shirts vs. Skins.

outdoor riding

Bik­ing in shorts
Sim­i­lar to run­ning in a t‑shirt, bik­ing in bik­ing shorts ver­sus tights, pants, Wind­stop­per, Gore-Tex, fleecy appar­el real­ly does not con­test. Of course, you can ride in the cold teeth of a snowy win­ter night, but the warm embrace of a Spring breeze is just so darn pleasant.

Migrat­ing birds
Feel­ing Twit­ter­pat­ed? You’re not alone. Head to a local wildlife refuge or wilder­ness area to see birds that only pass through a cou­ple times a year. This is also a great time to enjoy the antics and songs of man birds as they do their best to impress their lady counterparts.

Peo­ple watching
A sure sign of spring in Min­neapo­lis, more reli­able than the appear­ance of the reli­able Robin, is the del­uge of stu­dents onto the Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta mall. In cold cli­mates across the world, a sim­i­lar phe­nom­e­non will take place; peo­ple will shed their win­ter coats and emerge, bewil­dered, into the first warm and sun­ny day to loll on the grass and play Fris­bee. Enjoy!

Sum­mer Beers (and beer gardens)
Beer gar­dens and sum­mer beers high­light the chang­ing sea­sons with fresh, usu­al­ly lighter fla­vors to be savored out­doors. Check out the unique Ver­nal Men­the from Ska Brew­ing, which will be released lat­er this month.

gardenFresh Greens
Among the first veg­eta­bles that do well in any gar­den, green such as arugu­la, spinach, let­tuce, and kale thrive in the cool weath­er before summer’s bak­ing heat. Get out and plant ear­ly, even before the end of hard frosts, to take advan­tage of the best grow­ing sea­son for deli­cious, home­grown leaf vegetables.

Out­door concerts
In Den­ver, this means Red Rocks and gor­geous moun­tain venues. In oth­er towns across the city, parks and out­door the­aters will spring to life after a win­ter of hiber­na­tion. Get online and research your town’s free con­cert series now. It’s like­ly about to begin.

Flow­ers
It doesn’t mat­ter where you live, some­thing will be bloom­ing. Some famous flow­ers include the cher­ry blos­soms in Wash­ing­ton D.C. or (lat­er) spring­time col­ors of the Rocky Moun­tains or scent of lilacs float­ing across the heart­land. This is the time of year to rel­ish the sim­ple beau­ty of nat­ur­al flow­ers doing their thing.

grill

Kites
Kites have come a long way in a short time. From trick kites that zip and dart with the pull of a string to kitesurf­ing setups that will lift an adult high into the air, the array is real­ly mind-bog­gling. Pick a set­up for begin­ners and get kiting!

Grilling
Among the sim­plest cook­ing imple­ments, the grill is also one of America’s most beloved for its sim­plic­i­ty. Fire. Cook. Eat. The grill is not only a favorite in the back­yard but a won­der­ful sym­bol of the camp­ground, where cook­ing over an open flame has been ele­vat­ed by some to a fine art. So get out there and enjoy, the fire bans of sum­mer are like­ly just around the corner.