Our trail climbed steeply, and the payoff was incredible views of the Columbia River Gorge.

Our trail climbed steeply, and the payoff was incredible views of the Columbia River Gorge.

DSC_0035I joined a Meetup Portland group recently.  I actually just heard about Meetup on the radio, and it turns out there are groups all over the country – tons of them! For stamp collectors and entrepreneurs and knitters and singles over 60 and gamers and history buffs. If you’re looking for a group to join, check this out and see if you find anything you like: http://www.meetup.com. Ok, cheesy advertisement over. (They didn’t even pay me!)

Anyhow, the group that looked the best to me was PNW Women’s Outdoor Group, Hiking in the Pacific Northwest. I made a great choice! The leader is a person brimming with positive energy, the women were all enthusiastic about being on the trail. The group offers at least three events a week – so there is no possible way I could do all of it, but I love the idea that there is always something going on, and I can sign up for what works in my crazy busy schedule.

A lovely trailhead sign for the Cherry Orchard Trail.

A lovely trailhead sign for the Cherry Orchard Trail.

We hiked through trees at the beginning, but soon climbed up and out onto the exposed mountainside.

We hiked through trees at the beginning, but soon climbed up and out onto the exposed mountainside.

I went on my first hike on an incredible and unseasonably spectacular sunny day in the Gorge. We all gathered at a meeting place just 5 minutes from my house (it couldn’t get any more convenient) and piled into vehicles together. That was nice because I was able to get to know a few of the women before we hiked.

One great thing about this group is that I will be introduced to new trails in the Columbia River Gorge that I haven’t had a chance to hike yet. In this case, I had hiked the Coyote Wall trail near Lyle, Washington, so I knew the landscape. When the announcement came out that we would be hiking the Cherry Orchard Trail that also begins near Lyle, I knew ahead of time that I would like it.

One person in our group was very knowledgeable about the wildflowers and was able to name everything we spotted.

One person in our group was very knowledgeable about the wildflowers and was able to name everything we spotted.

I was surprised at how many wildflowers were bursting to life so early in the season.

I was surprised at how many wildflowers were bursting to life so early in the season.

Our winter sun doesn’t rise very high in the sky yet, and it was a chilly chilly morning. What a boon, then, to be hiking on the Washington side. The cliffs with all the waterfalls you’ve seen in my posts are on the Oregon side, and that side stays shady much of the day all year round. On this morning we hiked the other side of the river, and soaked up the sunshine till we were toasty warm and smiling.

It was a nice short trail – only two miles – and the views hit us right away and made the little discomforts all worth it. Getting up at 6am on a weekend, bundling up in freezing morning temps, going alone into a group of strangers for a day…an inexpensive price for being out in this beautiful world with beautiful women.

Even in the leafless brown winter, this landscape is compelling.

Even in the leafless brown winter, this landscape is compelling.

Looking down onto the Columbia River.

Looking down onto the Columbia River.

That's me, holding my Tilly hat to make sure it didn't blow into the next state!

That’s me, holding my Tilly hat to make sure it didn’t blow into the next state!

I was feeling a little artistic with this one.

I was feeling a little artistic with this one.

Looking east from where we picnicked at the top of the trail.

Looking east from where we picnicked at the top of the trail.

And looking west, back toward Portland, from our lunch stop.

And looking west, back toward Portland, from our lunch stop.

Something about this landscape is stunning to me. On the surface, it is desolate and dry and colourless. Still, I find it spectacular.

Something about this landscape is stunning to me. On the surface, it is desolate and dry and colourless. Still, I find it spectacular.

This is me, photographing one of the ancient Cherry trees for which the trail takes its name. Thanks to the group leader S for the photo!

This is me, photographing one of the ancient Cherry trees from which the trail takes its name. Thanks to the group leader S for the photo!

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