Sometimes, even the most devoted gardener needs to tear herself away from the garden for some inspiration.

Gardening is so many great things – artistically challenging, scientifically stimulating, peaceful, energizing, grounding, fun, and more – but "worry-free" it is not.

There’s always something to plan, contemplate, or fiddle with. Normally I love that. But there comes a time in the summer when that constant fiddling starts to get to me. And when that happens, I start fantasizing about a trip.

This year, my wishes were fulfilled: I had the good fortune to be invited to join a group of rafters on the Deschutes River this past weekend. My hosts were expert rafters and avid fisherpeople with all the right systems and equipment to make the trip run smoothly… allowing me the leisure to spend daytime hours off-river either napping or wandering across the grassy hills identifying plants and listening to birds. There was also plenty of time to enjoy the rushing river, sweeping wind, bright blue sky and, Saturday night, an utterly luminescent full moon. After months of battling the rainy, cold spring weather and working to get my clients’ gardens caught up and productive, it was a much-needed vacation and a blissful way to reestablish my connection to and love for the natural world.

Not that the Deschutes shoreline is pristine… the banks of the lower Deschutes were ranch land until recent years, when the native grasses, shrubs and riparian species have been permitted to reestablish themselves. There are plenty of non-native plants throughout the ecosystem and the sound of the freight trains passing on the tracks just up the ridge is an intriguing part of the whole experience. But the land and river alike have been sculpted over the eons by Mother Nature herself, and you can feel the grandeur of it, no matter how cushy your camping equipment may be.

Click through the slideshow and tell me whether you think Nature’s own garden of river, rock and dryland plants can possibly be rivaled by any human creation!