Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Summit Day on Mt Bachelor

Day two of my Central Oregon weekend, and the weather couldn't have been more different.  Doing a complete 180 from Saturday's cold, windy conditions, Sunday dawned calm and clear.

Yahoo!  Let's go skiing!

South Sister fills the sky

My brother and I grabbed our gear and headed up the road to Mt. Bachelor.

Sunshine on the Rainbow Lift

Blue skies, bright sunshine, and a bit of new snow greeted us.  After a couple laps on the Pine Martin Lift, we decided to check out things on the mountain's far east side.  Although the only lift here, the Rainbow, is an old, slow chair, I love skiing it's terrain.  I'm willing to put up with the long ride.

The Summit is open!

Heading uphill, the lift's slow pace provided lots of time to look around and take photos.  Glancing towards the summit, I noticed the lift to Mt. Bachelor's very top was running!  Since the summit isn't open very often, I convinced my brother to give it a try.

Fantastic scenery on the ride to the summit

The Summit Lift takes skiers to the very top of Mt. Bachelor, elevation 9000 feet.  On a sunny day, the ride alone is a treat.  All the surrounding mountains spread out behind you.  (Too bad the best views are at your back!)

Unloading at the top, skiers slide through the lift house, and emerge to a wonderful panorama of mountains and lakes.  I kept my GoPro camera running the entire ride, and edited the footage a bit to show you the best parts.

Views from the very top

Exiting the lift, we skied over to the roped ledge to have a peek off the backside.

My bro and I on the summit

A very nice mountain host offered to take our picture.  You know me, I never turn down a chance to be in a photo!

Snow-free lowlands

Oh what glorious views!  All the mountains south of Mt. Bachelor spread out before us.  I spotted several lakes along the famous Cascade Lakes Highway.  Due to our unseasonably warm winter, instead of seeing white, the lower reaches were totally snow-free, and the lakes very much unfrozen.  Only the highest mountaintops had any snow.

Ice-crusted top of the Summit Lift

The lift house's roof was still wearing an icy crust.  The top of Mt. Bachelor gets some extreme weather - high winds and icy precip.  It's a rare winter day that the summit is actually open, and even rarer to have nice weather.  We lucked out big time!

Incredible views from on high!

After several minutes of gawking and photo-taking, my brother and I began our descent down the Summit's steep, icy slopes.

Broken Top and Three Sisters mountains are front and center

Although the lower slopes still had a small layer of new snow, the runs up here were nothing but a sheet of skied-off ice.  Ugh!  I hate skiing on ice!

Halfway rest break

Knowing a fall on these icy slopes would mean a long, fast slide to the bottom, I skied slowly and carefully, taking frequent stops. 

But having breaks wasn't all bad - it meant plenty of photo and video opportunities!  And lots of chances to enjoy this amazing scenery.

Icy trees

I stuck my GoPro pole inside my jacket, and tried to get some point of view footage as I skied downhill.  But I moved so much that the video might make some folks a little seasick.  Still, I edited a short bit to show you what it was like.

Another look down

After filming for a couple of stretches, I shut off the camera (or so I thought), and pointed the lens down.  I then proceeded to ski all the way to the bottom of the Summit Lift.  Imagine my surprise when, about 10 minutes later, I looked down and realized the camera had been rolling the entire time.  When I later reviewed the video, I had about 10 minutes of my feet!  But it was kind of interesting, so I included a quick clip in the video above. 

Three Sisters from the Outback lift

We ended our perfect day on the mountain's west side, first exploring the Outback Lift, and finally ending with a couple runs down Leeway, one of my favorites.  The views from this side of the mountain were fantastic, with peaks lining the sky.

Here's a final video clip showing my glorious trip down Leeway.  You'll notice I stop at the beginning to give everyone a good look at the Three Sisters mountains.  That's our continual view as we skied down this trail. 

(One of my readers commented about how well I hold the camera still.  I have to tell you, it's not me - I wobble all over the place!  The GoPro camera has some amazing built-in image stabilization, and it blows me away how smooth my skiing videos turn out.)

This is one happy skier!

Although our ski down the summit wasn't under the best conditions, my brother and I agreed the spectacular views were totally worth it.  Any day you get to ski from a sunny mountain summit is a good day!

Sharing with:  Scenic Weekends and Skywatch Friday and Weekly Top Shot.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Winter Comes to Bend

Mid-February, snow was in the forecast, there was but one thing to do.

Time to visit Central Oregon!

A snowy Mt. Washington

After that snowy Thursday (the one that had my skiing friends doing the happy dance), the clouds opened up.  Although Mt. Hood only gained a couple of inches, Central Oregon was the big winner in the snowfall jackpot.  Mt. Bachelor reported a whopping 6 inches.  Even in town, Bend boasted a thick blanket of the white stuff.

My brother's snow-covered front yard

Early Saturday morning found me traveling over the Cascades, Bend-bound.  Winding down Santiam Pass, I just had to stop and take some photos of Mt. Washington's breathtaking snow-covered peak.

Some of the neighborhood locals

Pulling into my brother's street, I was greeted by a herd of locals, calmly munching on the neighbor's landscaping.

Lovely winter scene

Although I was eager to sample Mt. Bachelor's new snow, they were reporting high winds (aka 60 mph gusts) that effectively shut down most of the lifts.  With skiing no longer an option, my brother invited me hiking.

Snow covered bushes

You know me, I never say no to a hike!

Domino loves chasing snowballs

So my brother, his wife, and their young dog Domino all headed to one of their favorite trails on the outskirts of Bend.

A happy pup

There's a huge trail network west of town that follows the Deschutes River.  My brother comes here often to exercise his dog.  Domino always has lots of energy, and it's the perfect place to let her run.

Wind-blown snow makes a pretty scene

We parked near a closed road, covered in a thick blanket of white fluff.  Following the road, I marveled at the lovely snow-covered trees.  Mother Nature does a great job of decorating!

A sunburst peeps through the forest

So... many.... photo subjects!  I lagged behind from the very beginning.

"Domino, fetch!"

The road we followed was above the Deschutes River.  Every once and awhile the trees would part enough to give me a teaser glimpse of it.

Deschutes River view

Meanwhile Domino was having a blast running after pinecones, and jumping in the air trying to catch snowballs in her mouth.

 Snowball action shot

Is that a happy dog, or what?

Face of a happy dog

After a short trek, we drove down to the banks of the Deschutes.  While Domino took a dip in it's frigid waters, I roamed the bank looking for interesting subjects.

Lovely white bushes at river's edge

Of course, I found tons of stuff to photograph.  Such as these snowy bushes.  Or some colorful vegetation lining the river bank.

Bright colors along the Deschutes

It was wonderful to take a walk in the newly-fallen snow.  And nice to be outside on a sunny winter's day (and be reminded that, yes it is indeed still winter!)

Sharing with:  Saturday's Critters and Scenic Weekends.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Happy Dance!

Late February and there'd been no measurable snowfall on Mt. Hood the entire month.  My ski bus friends and I had started to give up hope.  It seemed winter was skipping straight into spring. 

But then, on the last Thursday of the month, a hopeful sign.

It started to snow.

We saw actual real live snowflakes drifting from the sky!  My friends and I were so elated, we broke into a happy dance (which I captured on video).

And I tried to get a selfie that included those wonderful white flakes.  I think I partially succeeded.

The rest of the day things alternated between furious snow flurries and sunbreaks.  Gotta love the bipolar PNW weather!

Although windy and cold, my friends and I braved the top lift to ski it's famed "Outer Limits" trail.

I couldn't resist shooting a video for my loyal blog viewers.  Won't you take a trip with me down Outer Limits?

Although the snow continued to fall off and on all day, the accumulation was minimal.  Still, it was so wonderful to finally see something besides rain coming out of the sky.  It gave my friends and I hope that the ski season wasn't over quite yet.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Cascade Head

My day at the beach had been productive so far.  I'd caught excellent morning light at Cape Kiwanda, and discovered a new favorite beach.  After an early lunch in Pacific City, I headed further south for part two of this coastal adventure - exploration of a unique headland that was on my "must hike" list.

A multitude of trailhead signs

A windswept, grassy headland just north of Lincoln City, Cascade Head is one of a handful of locations where the Cascde Head Catchfly and the threatened Oregon Silverspot Butterfly are found.  Because of this ecological rarity, the Nature Conservancy maintains this area as an experimental forest and nature preserve.  It's a designated UNESCO biosphere reserve.

Breaking out of the woods

What drew me to visit were several glowing descriptions of gorgeous wildflower summit meadows, as well as dramatic ocean views.  Although several trails cross this 270-acre site, many are closed during winter and spring months to protect the endangered flora and fauna.  So today my path of choice was accessed from the headland's southern side.

The ocean in sight!

The actual trailhead for this hike was beside a narrow gravel road, where parking is no longer allowed.  Visitors must park at a nearby boat ramp, and follow a new, well-made trail along this road about half a mile.  My foot, still a bit sore from this morning's deep sand trek, wasn't super happy about the road walk.  But I soldiered on anyway, figuring it would loosen up once I got going.

Leaving the forest behind

At the old trailhead, things went vertical.  A check of my hiking book confirmed I was in for a climb - 1100 feet in 1.7 miles.  Realizing the elevation gain, I hoped my foot was up for the challenge.

Lovely wide-open views

The first part of the trail wasn't too exciting.  An uphill slog through a boring forest, it didn't take long before I was sweating bullets and pulling off my long sleeve layer.  In my backpack were three heavy camera lenses, that I now regretted carrying.  More than once I asked myself if this was going to be worth it.

The Salmon River Estuary

A sunny February Sunday brings out people, and there was no shortage of company on this trail.  I met lots of parties heading down, and pretty much everyone passed me on the way up.  I was surprised by the number of dogs I saw (at least six) despite the numerous signs, both at the trailhead and several places along the way, specifically prohibiting dogs.

Lower viewpoint

After nearly a mile of slogging, the forest suddenly opened up, and I was treated to my first view of the blue Pacific Ocean.  And boy, was it dramatic!  Water as far as the eye could see. 

Crashing waves below

The path continued, cutting a deep track through a grassy plain.  The higher it climbed, the better the views got.  Southward, I began to see Roads End Beach, the Salmon River Estuary, and the town of Lincoln City.  Before me, the land appeared to culminate in a sharp, green point.

More ocean waves

I took a water and snack break overlooking the green headland.  Although a faint user trail meandered along it's apex, I was sure it wasn't an approved path.  (Although I was tempted to go check it out!)  Views to the north included a cute little cove, surrounded by steep cliffs.  Despite what looked to be amazing views, I kept my distance from the edge.

Peek-a-boo sea view

A father and son joined my grassy perch.  We had a pleasant conversation, while watching the waves crash at the base of the steep cliffs, far below.  A lovely spot for a break!

The higher I climb, the better the scenery

But the summit was calling, so I packed up my snacks and continued to slog up Cascade Head's grassy slopes.  With sunny skies and no shade, it didn't take much before temps heated up.  I was climbing in a t-shirt, sweating February!

Looking back down on the lower viewpoint

By now, my foot was beginning to throb.  My body, out of shape after three months of no exercise, was also protesting the uphill climb.  I briefly considered turning around.  After all, I still had to get myself back down this thing.  I didn't want to damage my still-healing right foot, and the views were pretty good already.  Was there anything to gain by going all the way to the top? 

The full panorama

But.....I like summits.  Once I've started on an uphill path, I hate to admit defeat by turning around short of my goal.  So I ignored my body's complaints and kept going. 

And, in the end I was glad I did.  Finally atop the summit, resting in the grass, I relished the wonderful coast panorama I'd worked so hard for.

I can see for miles

Views were jaw-dropping!  The entire coastline south spread out before my eyes.  A large sandy beach at the Salmon River Estuary's mouth was front and center.  I could see the entire town of Lincoln City.  A blue Salmon River wound back towards the Coast Range.  And of course, the Pacific Ocean spread beyond the western horizon.

The only disappointment was that I was too early for the wildflowers.  Blooming in the summer months, the only vegetation I saw now was lots of green grass.  (Don't get me wrong, it's always great to see green in winter.)  I made a mental bookmark to return in July.

Close up of Road's End Beach

The return trip wasn't a lot of fun.  Going downhill was hard on both feet, and by the time I finally reached the car, they were both sore and throbbing.  I'd initially planned one more stop at the beach in Neskowin, but realizing I'd probably overdone it, instead headed for home.

No worries, my feet recovered just fine the following week.  And now with this latest trip, I'd filled another gap in the Oregon Coast map.  Not a bad way to spend a sunny winter's day!

Sharing with: Our World Tuesday and Wednesday Around the World.