Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Bloomin' Barrels o' Cactus

Barrel cactus - in bloom! 
 Never before in my life have I seen the barrel cactus in bloom on Cactus Mountain! What a glorious and wonderful surprise awaited us when we took a picnic and headed north for an excursion with guests, Judy and Rick, winners of the Magpie Ranch stay at the Fishtrap auction.
Judy and Rick at Lone Pine Saddle

Rick and Judy traveled from Rattlesnake Canyon in the Columbia River Gorge to spend the weekend with us. We had some great discussions, exploring the intersections of our lives and pondering Oregon's geology and the massive basalt flows that link our two canyon homes. 

Rare sight - barrel cactus - AND its BLOOMING! 

Rick and Judy could probably tell from my near hysteria that the blooming barrel cactus meant a lot to me.  It was a fine day, with a hike to Lone Pine saddle, a picnic near the Palisades and a glimpse of the McClaran girls working on the new bunkhouse at Cow Creek.

Sunflowers, plox, brodia, gilia... 

Looking south from Cactus Mountain

It had been several years since either Mike or I had been that far north on the Dug Bar road. Grinding up the steep rutted switchbacks, I was reminded of my one trip over Cactus Mtn. in a two-wheel drive Suburban.

Mike was working at Dug Bar that winter and the kids and I were headed down to spend some time with him. Going in wasn't so bad, but coming out there had been a snow storm. After topping out on Cactus Mtn., I headed down the switchbacks toward Cow Creek with the automatic transmission in low gear and quickly found myself sledding out of control, hoping I'd make the next corner. We sold the Suburban right after that.

Picnic at the Palisades

The weather threatened squalls during our picnic, but we lucked out and the storms held off until we made it back to Horse Creek. I planned to cook some delicious Bunchgrass Beef for our dinner and right after Mike got the fire going, the rain and hail hit. 

Stormy cooking
 Cookie protests working conditions

The downpour was short-lived and dinner only briefly delayed while the cook protested working conditions.  The meal turned out great, T-bones and balsamic-marinated round steaks, with asparagus fresh from the garden. 

We savored the harvest with our guests.

Storm's over, cook is happy again.

From Sara at Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef.