Wednesday, December 24, 2014

It's Almost Here!

The big day is nearly upon us.  And I think I'm finally ready.

We've chosen a tree.

Hauled out multiple boxes of Christmas decor and spread it throughout the house.

The tree has been trimmed.

Cookies baked.

Gifts wrapped and under the tree.

Our wreath hung.

And house bedazzled with lights (look out Griswold's!)

To all my blogging friends......Merry Christmas from my family to yours.  May your holidays be warm and bright. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Last of the Fall Colors

Being laid up with a bum foot for the past 7 weeks (yes, it's been that long!) has put a serious crimp in my photo-taking.  But one early December morning, I noticed the bushes by our front window had finally changed into their autumn colors.  And - bonus - they were adorned with tiny glittering dew drops.

A photo opportunity not to be missed!  I dusted off my camera, and hobbled outside.

Usually by December, most of the leaves around here are long gone.  But this fall's unseasonably warm weather has delayed everything, including the leaf drop.

It was sooo nice to be able to use my camera again.  And, lucky for me, I didn't have to travel very far.

My foot is healing, but it's been a long, slow road.  I still can't walk very far without it swelling up and feeling uncomfortable.  However, tonight I was able to get a shoe on for the first time in weeks.  So that's progress.  I'm hoping to be able to start driving again soon - maybe even this weekend.  And maybe - just maybe - I'll be able to ski in January (if our mountains ever get some snow...)  Fingers crossed!

But running and hiking will likely have to wait another couple months.  Since I've finally run out of current pics, I'll be dipping into my archives for blog material.  It'll be some good stuff - trust me!

In the meantime, enjoy the last of Portland's fall colors for 2014.

Sharing with:  Scenic Weekends and Weekly Top Shot.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Another Waterfall Friday.....Continued

My last Friday off before foot surgery, the goal was to get in a few final trail miles.  After a great, rain-free visit to Tamanawas Falls, I was hoping the sky would stay dry long enough for a second hike.

Golden meadow

From Tamanawas Falls parking area, I drove a short distance up the highway to Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort.  Along the ski area's entrance road was a trailhead providing access to several paths into Mt. Hood National Forest.  One such trail led to lovely Umbrella Falls.

Tiny wooden bridge

While packing up for the day's second ramble, I could tell the weather was changing.  Overhead clouds appeared thicker and darker, the air heavy with humidity.  I'd have to hustle to beat the rain!  Just in case, I made sure I had my rain jacket, and plenty of plastic bags.

Lovely stairstepped Umbrella Falls

The path to Umbrella Falls climbed steadily for about a mile before flattening out into a pretty alpine meadow.  The grasses, now golden brown, made a fine contrast to adjacent green forests.  I passed lots of gnarly old firs with interesting shaped burls (many looked like butt cheeks!)

Close up of the tiers

Moving quickly, I hoped to arrive at Umbrella Falls before the rain hit. That meant photo stops were few and far between.  Although the trail stuck mostly to heavily treed forests, passing through one clearing, I thought I felt raindrops.  Diving back into the woods, dense branches blocked any precip, and I rationalized it was all in my head.  It wasn't until I popped out into another meadow and felt pitter-patters on my jacket that I realized the rain had already won this race.

Creek crossing

At that point, I knew the falls weren't far, and decided to continue my trek.  The rainfall wasn't very heavy, and thanks to thick fir branches covering the trail, I stayed dry most of the way.  I'd almost arrived at my destination when Mother Nature decided to let loose.

Fall colors and moving water

What timing!  I arrived at Umbrella Falls to a downpour.  Luckily two large fir trees at the fall's base provided a nice shield from the deluge.  Stowing my backpack safely under their branches, I set up my tripod and got to work.

Creek under the bridge

Throughout the hike in, I was disappointed by the lack of fall color in the woods and meadows.  But arriving at Umbrella Falls, I hit the jackpot.  Both sides of the waterfall were covered with multi-hued huckleberry bushes, in vibrant yellows, reds, and oranges.  Downstream, gold and yellow foliage brightened the adjacent forest.  Wowza!

Amazing fall colors

And then there was Umbrella Falls herself.  Oh what a gorgeous cascade!  Water sheeted down tiered rock formations, like a lacy bridal gown.

Wonderful white streams

Heavy rain made photography difficult.  If I ventured out from under the tree's protective branches, my camera got drenched.  I tried covering things with my raincoat, but it was hard to operate the shutter.  I ended up mostly cowering under the trees, with short forays into the forest, where I'd snap a couple of pics, and dash back under cover to dry out the camera.

Technicolor woods

But with such a fabulous scenery, I wasn't giving up easily.  Despite the rain, I kept trying anyway.  For every good image, I got five others that were rain-speckled.  But persistence paid off, and when I finally decided to quit, my memory card was almost full.

Umbrella Falls surrounded by spectacular color

I've visited Umbrella Falls plenty of times in the summer, but this was the first I'd ever seen it in the fall.  If the leaf colors are always this fantastic, I think an autumn trip here will become a new tradition. 

Hiking back through Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort

Finally, wet and cold, I knew it was time to head back.  I stripped off my soaking wet soft shell and replaced it with a dry insulating layer and my rainjacket.  Then I made sure everything inside my backpack was stored in plastic (ziplock bags for my phone, wallet, and camera, and a large garbage bag for everything else)  People often ask why I carry such a large backpack.  It's times like these I'm thankful to have extra clothes and gear.

One of my favorite ski runs

Valuables stowed, and dressed in rain gear, I headed down the trail.  I had a choice of taking the same trail back to my car, or exploring a loop that circled through Mt. Hood Meadows ski area.  Deciding I was as protected from the weather as possible, I opted for the loop.

Rain aftermath

I've never had so much fun hiking in the rain!  The return trip was an absolute delight.  I splashed through puddles, slid in the mud.  Rain-saturated light made fall colors pop, and the scenery was outstanding.  Trekking through the ski area boundary, I enjoyed seeing some of my favorite runs without snow.

In the midst of the final leg, I soberly realized this would be my last hike for several weeks.  Resolving to enjoy these final miles to their fullest, I happily tromped along, breathing fir-scented air, and lingering over beautiful wooded scenery.  As if on cue, the bunion in my right foot began to throb, affirming that my upcoming surgery was indeed the right decision.

Wet hike today

I arrived at my car, soaking wet, but happy as a clam.  Changing into dry clothes, I drove all the way home in a torrential downpour.  Although the rain didn't hold off for my second hike, I felt pretty badass for sticking it out anyway.  Amazing photos of Umbrella Falls, and a fun return trip through the rain were the rewards.

Stats:  4.6 miles, 800 feet elevation gain

P.S.  To my readers:  I think I have the comment verification thingy fixed.  Thanks to great advice from Mersad, (changing the comment preferences to "embedded") I was able to eliminate it.  Hopefully none of you will have further problems commenting, but if you do, please email me.  My email address is in the "contact me" section of my profile.

Sharing with:  Weekly Top Shot and Our World Tuesday.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Another Waterfall Friday

October 24th.  In less than a week, my right foot would go under the knife.  It happened to be my Friday off, and I was chomping at the bit for a woodsy ramble.  Of course the weather forecast wasn't very promising.  Rain predicted to start after 11 am.....ugh.

Fall colors are here!

But it was my last chance to hike for several months - a final opportunity to catch some fall colors.  I just couldn't stay home.  Rain be damned!

Usual trailhead signage

After pondering destination choices, I decided to visit a couple favorite trails on Mt. Hood's east side.  Located in the mountain's rainshadow, I hoped this would guarantee a little drier weather.  Not only offering spectacular scenery and fall colors, these treks also boasted a pair of lovely cascades.  Yessiree, it was gonna be another waterfall Friday!

A few larch trees

I've found that when planning to hike the more popular trails, it pays to get up early.  I rose at my normal weekday time, and instead of heading to work, pointed my car towards Mt. Hood.  I arrived at Tamanawas Falls trailhead just a little after 8, second car in the lot.

Scenic bridge crossing Cold Spring Creek

I was delighted to have the trail to myself.  From the parking area, I immediately crossed the East Fork of Hood River over a sturdy log bridge.  For the next half mile, I meandered along its banks, taking in the green fir forest, accented with an occasional burst of yellow deciduous leaves.

Leaf-lined trail

At the first junction, I left the East Fork behind, climbing up a small ridge, with views looking over a cluster of golden larch trees.  Shortly thereafter, I came upon a smaller log footbridge crossing Cold Spring Creek.

Fallen leaves make cool patterns

Besides the destination waterfall, this bridge was one of the most scenic spots of the trail.  Cold Spring Creek gurgled merrily, framed by tall firs and mossy boulders.

Tamanawas Falls

From here on out, the trail paralleled the banks of Cold Spring Creek.  The walk here was a pure delight.  Golden leaves lined my path.  Frothy rapids churned below.  Huge mossy trees towered high above.  Gorgeous!

A closer look at the falls

Besides the amazing natural beauty and waterfall at the end, this trail is also popular due to it's short length.  From Cold Spring Creek, just over a mile of trekking will bring you to the base of 100-foot-high Tamanawas Falls.

Gigantic mushrooms

The approach to the falls is dramatic.  After crossing a huge rockslide at the base of some high basalt cliffs, the canyon narrowed.  Rounding a forested corner, the trees suddenly thinned out, and there before me, framed by the canyon's end, Tamanawas Falls suddenly came into view.

Hangin' out with the falls

A truly stunning location.  The falls spilled over the top of an ancient lava flow, creating a white curtain of water.  The high basalt cliffs and adjacent green forest framed this cascade nicely.  Although disappointed by a lack of fall colors, it still made a perfect photo subject.

Color is everywhere!

I hiked down slippery rocks, getting as close to the fall's base as I dared.  Recent rainfall had the cascade roaring, and the spray forced me to keep my distance.  Still, I set up my tripod and captured tons of shots, wiping water droplets off my lens in between takes.

Gold-lined trail

After a lengthy photo session, I retreated into a stand of trees for a quick snack.  While enjoying my cliff bar, I spotted a cluster of huge mushrooms - each as large as a salad plate.  Besides the obvious waterfall, another photo subject!

Wonderful, mossy Cold Spring Creek

Although the base area here often gets crowded with hikers, I had the place to myself the entire time.  It was nice to be able to take all the photos I wanted and not have to wait for people to move out of the way.  I also enjoyed the silence.  Some people don't understand why I like to hike by myself.  Although I do enjoy sharing the experience with friends, there are times I crave the solitude of nature.  Today was one of those days.  Spending quiet time in a spectacular area does wonders for the attitude.

Red leaf standout

Darkening clouds in the sky finally convinced me it was time to head back.  One of the great things about an out-and-back trek on such a fine trail was getting to see it all a second time.  Although I stopped to photograph a few of the sights I'd missed, the return trip was much quicker.

Nice creek views along the trail

I didn't see a soul until I was almost back to my car.  By then, half a dozen vehicles had crowded in, and I spotted three parties heading towards the first bridge.  Being an early bird has it's rewards!  I was glad I'd gotten my butt out of bed at o-dark-thirty.

Not only did I miss all the people, the rain held off the entire time.  Although prepared to get wet, I was happy to be loading a dry backpack and coat into my car at hike's end.

Bridge selfie

But now it was barely noon - way too early to head home.  Although the sky was threatening to pour, there was one more trail on today's agenda.  After a quick lunch break, I drove further up the road to check out Umbrella Falls.  Crossing my fingers, I hoped my luck would hold out long enough to beat the rain a second time.

Join me for my next post and see what happens!

P.S.  To my faithful readers, I have comment word verification turned off in my blog settings, but that pesky box keeps showing up anyway.  According to one of my blogging buddies (thanks Stewart M!) you can ignore the word verification and your comment will still post.  I love reading all your comments, so please don't let that darned thing stop you from saying hello!  :)

Sharing with:  Outdoor Wednesday and Wednesday Around the World.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

It's Holiday Cookie Time!

You know me - I love all cookies.  I don't discriminate between taste, shape, type, or season.  But if pressed to choose, I'll admit Christmas brings out the very best of cookie-land.

Spritz butter cookies!

During the holidays, my kids and I make many varieties of goodies.  But year after year, the ones that always end up first on the list are these scrumptious spritz butter cookies.

Cody mixing the dough

Growing up, my mom had a vintage cookie press.  It popped out cool-shaped treats.  Mom had a amazing butter cookie recipe that she would whip up during the holidays.  The cookie press would create stars, wreaths, Christmas trees, pinwheels, and even camels!  Before entering the oven, my siblings and I would cover each one with liberal amounts of colored sugar.  In my family, it just wasn't Christmas without a big plate of "spritz cookies."

Little camels, ready for the oven

When my kids came along, I continued the tradition.  I acquired the exact same cookie press as my mom (an amazing garage sale find!).  Using her recipe, I'd set the kids down for a fun afternoon of baking.  While I mixed the dough, and squirted cookies onto the pan, they were in charge of decorating.

Squirting out trees

When my kids became teenagers, our roles reversed.  My son Cody, who loves to bake, took over the job of chief cookie maker.  I was happily demoted to sprinkle-shaker.

Making cookies is a family project

This past weekend, both kids were home for Thanksgiving.  Getting in the spirit of the season, Cody dug out my cookie press.  Joined by my daughter Denise and I, the three of us enjoyed a fun afternoon of baking.

I even found a way to help, while keeping that foot elevated

Still sidelined by slowly-healing bunion surgery, I found a way to help decorate while keeping the foot elevated.

Adding the sprinkles

Volunteering to bring cookies for a party later that week, Cody whipped up three batches.  He kept one white, colored one green, and another red.  Denise and I adorned his creations with red and green colored sugar.  So festive!

"No more pictures mom!"

Being laid up for the past month, I was eager to use my camera again.  My poor kids became unwilling subjects.  They put up with me for awhile.  Then I got "the look" from my daughter.

The cookies are done!

My new camera goes up to 6400 ISO.  All of these photos were shot at ISO 6400 without using a flash.  Although some images were a bit grainy, but I think most of them turned out quite nice.

Mmmm.....nothing better than freshly baked cookies

Our house quickly filled with the mouth-watering aroma of cookies baking.  Once a batch was pulled from the oven, my kids and I eagerly sampled the goods.  (Hey - gotta do quality control!)  Is there anything better than a warm cookie straight from the oven?

Although my kids are now back at their jobs and school, I look forward to having us all together again at Christmas.  Hmmmm.......think I can get them to make some more cookies?

Sharing with:  Our World Tuesday