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Friends of Columbia Gorge offer "Flower Frenzy" hike

Friends of the Columbia Gorge Spring Hiking series has added two new twists this year: Flower Frenzy, a wildflower challenge to educate hikers on the flowers of the gorge and Play & Stay, five weekend packages to encourage gorge hikers to lodge overnight in gorge communities.

The Spring Hiking series includes 60 educational outings from March 16 through July 18 for hikers of all levels. Offered on weekends and weekdays, these hikes follow the wildflower blooms from the eastern end of the Gorge westward and are led by gorge experts in the areas of botany, geology and gorge history.

Flower Frenzy is a challenge to identify 25 of the most interesting gorge wildflowers. The gorge is known worldwide for its wildflowers: over 800 species, 15 of which are found nowhere else in the world. The Flower Frenzy challenge runs from March 1 to July 31 and Friends provides easy steps to take to identify wildflowers on the trail (remember, flowers in the wild should never be cut or collected). Members of Friends of the Columbia Gorge will receive prizes upon completion. To view the list of 25 flowers and to register, visit: www.gorgefriends.org/flowerfrenzy.

For gorge hikers from out of town, Friends is introducing five Play & Stay weekends. Hikers can take advantage of Saturday and Sunday hikes while enjoying overnight stays and local dining with businesses that support Friends of the Columbia Gorge. The Play & Stay weekends include: March 16 and17 with Morning Song Acres B&B, April 6 and 7 with Skamania Lodge, April 13 and14 with Celilo Inn, April 27 and 28 with Oak Street Hotel, and May 31 through June 2 with Quinn Mountain.

“Everyone is excited about the new Play & Stay option being offered by Friends of the Columbia Gorge. It’s great to come out for the day, but it’s a much richer experience to stay a while and take your time exploring the area — and get to know the people who live, work, and play here year ‘round,” says Kerry Cobb, director of marketing for the Hood River Chamber of Commerce. Visit www.gorgefriends.org/playandstay for complete program information.

Beyond Flower Frenzy and Play & Stay activities, other outings include:

• Stewardship work parties on the 3rd Saturday of the month on Friends’ Land Trust properties;

• A special Histories & Mysteries Tour with wildly popular Scott Cook, author of the Curious Gorge on April 28th. He’ll point out petroglyphs and pictographs, arches and erratica, wildflowers, Stonehenge secrets, and more!

• Wildflower photography workshops at Columbia Hills State Park on May 4 and 5 to learn how to capture the spectacular balsamroot and lupine;

• A Gorge Geology tour in partnership with the Ice Age Floods Institute May 11;

• A full moon hike at Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge May 24 focusing on creatures of the night, especially bats.

All outings are free and open to the public, however, some are member-only outings. The full hike schedule and registration can be found online at: www.gorgefriends.org/hikes.

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