Outdoors: Hit the High Country for Wild Color

Cascade meadows are ablaze with color this time of year as wildflower blooms carpet hill and dale

Whether you set out from Artist Point on the slopes of Mt. Baker or the meadows of Spray Park at Mt. Rainier or the debris formed hills of Coldwater Ridge at Mt. St. Helens--or for that matter anywhere in the Cascades where you can get yourself to a decent elevation (3,000 feet and up or so) and into some kind of natural clearing--you will be treated to a wildflower display unrivaled anywhere on the planet. While the blooms have been getting a little earlier every year as a result of global warming, and also vary due to the previous winter's snowpack, the middle align=leftof July is a reliable time to spy hundreds of lupines, lillies, columbines, paint brushes, phlox, aster, fireweed, monkeyflowers, arnica and penstemon, to name just a few. (Depending on your exact location and elevation, your mileage may vary.) And you don't have to be a hero (and don a heavy backpack) to get to the blooms. Many are available to the casual dayhiker. At some spots, like Paradise at Mt. Rainier, you can check out unbelievable wildflower shows within viewing distance of the lodge parking lot. If you don't do it now, you might not have another chance for a year or so.