Driving back from the Columbia River Gorge yesterday (Friday, June 25), we followed Highway 97 north through Yakima and Ellensburg towards Leavenworth, a beautiful drive that took us both through rich farmland and near desert.
Along the way we saw the huge windfarm just north of the Columbia, had some spectacular views of Mount Adams and arrived tired and hot near the Mineral Springs campground where the road to Red Top begins.
The Forest Service road we followed was very rough in spots and four-wheel drive vehicle would have been better, but driving slowly we arrived at our destination.
We had been given a very careful description of where to find the Lady's Slipper orchid we were looking for by our good friend, Martha Anderson. She had made several trips to the area recently and describes these orchids in a recent blog entry: http://meanderingwa.blogspot.com/2010/06/last-weekend-of-spring.html.
We found these Mountain Lady's Slippers exactly where she described them. There were 20-25 plants, almost all in flower, scattered in the dappled shade of deciduous trees and shrubs.
The flowers, with their dark sepals and white pouches were very difficult to photograph in the conditions in which they were growing, part sun and part shade. The fact that there was a stiff breeze made photography even more difficult, but the sunlight accented many of the features of these lovely flowers in a way that even the best photos can't show.
The flowers are covered completely with fine hairs which glitter in the sunlight, giving them and almost surreal appearance. The bright yellow of the column adds a nice accent to the brown and white of the flowers and we noticed that some columns were without the red spotting that we observed on others.
After taking photos we headed further up the road and followed it to its end to a primitive campground and a trail leading to the fire lookout at the top of the mountain.
Note: The picture of me taking pictures was taken by my wife. The Lady's Slippers can just be seen where the camera is pointing.