Monday, January 17, 2022

New Year's Day Hike to Dry Creek Falls

I'll write about the final two "top ten" hikes of 2021 in upcoming posts, but first wanted to share this wonderful spur-of-the-moment hike my hubby and I took on New Year's Day.


Snowy trail through burned forest

Although 2022 dawned to chilly temperatures, the sky was clear.  A winter day without rain shouldn't be wasted, so I proposed to my hubby that we take a hike somewhere.  The Columbia River Gorge is always a good place to visit, and I suggested we check out Dry Creek Falls.  A relatively short hike and drive to the trailhead, it fit the bill since we'd had a late start to our morning.


Snow-covered treetops


Over the holidays, the Gorge had received a large amount of snow.  Not only snow, the mercury had plummeted the previous few days, leaving many wet areas with a coating of ice.  I was secretly hoping we'd find Dry Creek Falls at least partially frozen.  

If I was to get my wish, weather was sure cooperating!  It was a bone-chilling 18 degrees when we arrived at the trailhead.  I bundled up in my warmest coat, hat and gloves before starting out on the trail.


PCT this way!


The trail to Dry Creek Falls starts in the town of Cascade Locks and follows the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) for two miles before intersecting with an old roadbed that directs hikers to the waterfall.  The forest along this section of the PCT was severely burned in a 2017 wildfire, and remnants of this were evident from the number of trees with charred bases.


Downy woodpecker perched on a burned tree


The trail began with a steep climb and this uphill trek warmed hubby and I as we slogged along.  Passing one huge trailside tree blackened by the fire, we noticed a woodpecker hopping around the charred bark, digging for food.  Although I didn't have a zoom lens with me I made do with my 24-105 mm lens and got a couple images of this beautiful bird.  We stood and watched the woodpecker for a good 10 minutes before he got tired of us staring at him and flew away.



Snow made the burned forest look good


It was cold enough that you didn't want to stand still for long, and after watching the woodpecker, it was time to get moving!  Hubby and I sauntered through the beautiful, white-covered woods.  It's amazing how a coating of snow can make even a black, burned-out forest look good.


Our trail wound through the forest


Although the snow on the trail had been pounded into ice, we didn't have much trouble walking, probably because the grade was mostly uphill.  There were, however, a few slippery downhill sections where I was tempted to don my microspikes.  But hubby and I made it to the old road intersection without incident.



PCT bridge over Dry Creek


At the first trail junction, the PCT crosses Dry Creek via an elaborate wooden bridge.  Even though I've hiked this trail many times, it was the first time I'd seen this bridge covered in snow.


Icy Dry Creek


Our plans weren't to cross this bridge today.  The waterfall we sought was a quarter mile up the old road that crossed the PCT.  However, I couldn't resist making a detour to photograph the bridge and ice-choked Dry Creek running underneath it.



Looking upstream from the bridge


Images captured, it was then time for the short trudge up the road to reach our day's destination.  Snow-covered Dry Creek flowed beside our trail, looking absolutely magical with it's white dusting.


Our first look at Dry Creek Falls


I could hear the falls well before I glimpsed them.  A huge wall of basalt cliffs rose from the forest, and at a notch in the rock, Dry Creek poured through.  The cliffs surrounding the falls were cloaked in fantastic ice sculptures.  Dry Creek Falls itself was only partially frozen, fast-moving water preventing it from totally icing up.



Lots of ice on the canyon walls!


Oh, the entire area was even more lovely than I imagined!  I was psyched to find so much ice surrounding the falls.


Close up view of the cool ice formations


Out came the camera, and I immediately got to work capturing all this icy beauty.



Wide-angle look at the icy cliffs


Hoping to get some tighter shots, I edged as close to the gushing cascade as I could.  However, the waterfall's spray instantly froze on my camera lens (not to mention my glasses) forcing a hasty retreat.  I'd have to settle for more panoramic views.


Our "we were here" photo


Hubby and I were very lucky to have Dry Creek Falls all to ourselves nearly the entire half hour we spent at its base.  But the moving water and lack of sunshine made the temperature even colder in the waterfall's canyon and we were both getting chilled.  Time to get moving back on the trail.


Heading back through the snowy forest


Heading back on the PCT, it appeared the rest of the world had finally woke up, and we encountered group after group of hikers.  The temps had risen enough to make the icy trail slippery, and after a short stretch both hubby and I ended up donning our microspikes.  Seeing so many hikers without any traction on their feet (and some merely wearing tennis shoes!) made us fearful of accidents. We hoped none of them would end up slipping and falling.



Huge rock along the trail


It's interesting how the same trail can look different coming from the opposite direction.  I swear I didn't see this large boulder above the trail when we were heading towards the falls.  But I certainly noticed it on our return trip.  This huge rock looked out of place in the forest, and we both wondered how it got there.


Afternoon sun starting to peek through


After enduring cloudy skies most of our hike, the sun finally peeked through the trees in the final mile.  The light was so nice on the forest, I made several attempts to capture its glory.  But I find it never looks as good in the photographs as it did in real life.  Oh well, I'll keep on trying....



Sunburst


The best way to spend New Year's Day, I was glad to get outside and enjoy the dry weather, snow and icy waterfall.  Here's to the first of many great hikes in 2022!


Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Ape Canyon in November

It occurred to me that in the previous post I'd highlighted my Top Ten Hikes of 2021, but neglected to write a blog post about three of the top ten.  I felt bad about shortchanging these three wonderful treks - a hike that's earned a "top ten" billing deserves to have its own post.  To better explain the reason these specific hikes deserved their high rating, I resolved to turn back time and prepare narratives for each of the missing adventures.

This post highlights the first of the three "neglected" top ten hikes:


First view of the MSH

Back in November on one of the Facebook hiking groups I follow, someone had posted a trip report from the Ape Canyon Trail.  The article included several gorgeous photos of the snow-covered Mt. St. Helens and a couple up-close pics of mountain goats.  Ape Canyon was a trail I'd only ever hiked in midsummer for the wildflowers.  I didn't even know the road to the trailhead was still open (it closes during winter months).  But the thought of seeing MSH decked out in snow (and mountain goats too!) intrigued me enough to start the planning wheels in motion.  I picked a sunny day, and invited my friend Catherine to join me.


Sunshine on the trail

On the appointed day, I woke up to an extremely cold, frosty morning.  Worried about icy roads to the trailhead, I almost backed out.  If I'd been hiking solo I probably would've rolled over and went back to sleep.  But knowing I'd made a commitment to a friend got me out of bed and on the road.  After witnessing an excellent sunrise I was glad I hadn't backed out.  Nearing the trailhead and seeing Mt. St. Helens wearing a fresh coat of snow, gleaming white against blue skies, made me doubly glad to have made the effort.


Higher up we had to navigate a bit of snow

We emerged from the car to chilly temps, prompting both of us to don jackets, knit hats, and gloves.  Well - until I discovered I had two left hand gloves and no right hand ones!  (Memo to self - from now on always throw a second pair of gloves in the backpack!)  I improvised by pulling my shirt sleeve over the bare right hand.  Luckily, once we got moving our bodies warmed up quickly, and I didn't need gloves (glove) for long.


The grand viewpoint at mile 4-ish

I have a love-hate relationship with the Ape Canyon Trail.  Located on the mountain's south side, it traverses the edge of a huge lahar, created by a mudflow.  You have to plod nearly four uphill miles through a kinda boring forest, with only a couple of token views, before reaching the good stuff.  But once you hit the junction with Loowit Trail, the scenery is totally worth the slog!  There are killer views of Mt. St. Helens, so close you can see its canyons and glaciers in detail.  The wide-open Plains of Abraham start at the Loowit junction.  In the summer this area is covered in wildflowers - one of my favorite places to see colorful flora.  

However, the other drawback, Ape Canyon trail is a favorite of mountain bikers.  And they share the trail with hikers.  Although all the bikers I've ever encountered here have been nothing but polite, I'm always uneasy hiking on a trail that requires me to keep a sharp lookout for bikes barreling downhill.


Catherine says "hi"

Although Ape Canyon is a wildly popular during the summer months, today we were only the fourth car at the trailhead.  Catherine and I saw a grand total of one other hiking party on the way up.  It was nice having the place to ourselves, especially not having to worry about encountering mountain bikers.


The mountain is front and center as we continue to climb

After a half mile trek through second-growth woods, we took a short side path and were treated to a nice view of Mt St Helens from a cliff's edge.  The mountain sat prominently at the head of a mile-wide mudflow.  Ape Canyon hugs the edge of the Muddy River's vast lahar, a flow of mud, rock and ash created from the 1980 eruption.  Ape Canyon itself escaped damage from the blast, and further uphill the trail winds through a stand of huge old-growth trees, miraculously preserved.


Mt Adams and the beginning of Ape Canyon

Although our trail began clear of snow, we began to encounter it on the trail about halfway up.  Luckily the snow wasn't icy and was soft enough to provide traction.  It also wasn't very deep, so navigating through was a piece of cake.  As a matter of fact, it was kind of fun to walk on the snowy trail.  The first snow I'd seen this season!


The ridge where Catherine spotted the mountain goats

As we climbed up Ape Canyon, I took my usual position in the rear so I could take photos.  You'll notice there's lots of images of Catherine's back as she's marching uphill.  I tell my friends that when hiking with me, they get included in lots of photographs, whether they like it or not! :)


The snowy mountain against blue skies was stunning!

About 2/3 of the way up Ape Canyon Trail the forest opened up to stunning viewpoint of Mt. St. Helens.  Naturally, many photos were taken here including a few with Catherine in them (I told you my friends get in lots of pictures!)


Junction with the Loowit Trail.

From that point on, we began to regularly see glimpses of MSH and also Mt. Adams to the southeast.  The snow was now pretty much continuous, but navigating the snowy trail just added to the fun.  We climbed up a narrow portion of the trail where one side dropped off steeply into a deep canyon.  A narrow chasm rose up from the bottom.  This gap defined Ape Canyon's beginning.


This calls for some photo documentation!

From past trips, I knew the junction with the "round-the-mountain" Loowit trail wasn't far.  Although it was mighty tempting to continue on the Loowit for a ways further, we'd already decided the junction would be our day's destination.  It was a 5-mile trek to this point, so any additional distance would add to the day's total.  I really wasn't in shape to hike more than 10 miles yet, and even 10 miles was stretching it.  So when Catherine and I finally reached the Loowit Trail sign, we took the required photos for documentation, and then found a clear patch of rocks to sit and have lunch.


Eagle-eyed Catherine spotted two mountain goats on an adjacent ridge

While we were enjoying our sandwiches, eagle-eyed Catherine spotted a couple of white specks moving on a nearby ridge.  Mountain goats!  They were just barely visible to the naked eye.  Trying to keep my pack weight down, I'd left my big zoom lens at home.  Now I was wishing I'd lugged it up here.  Although all I had was my 24-105 mm lens, I focused in on the white specks, and clicked the shutter anyway.  After lots of zooming and cropping in my photo editing software, I managed to get a couple images where you can see that those white dots are really goats.


View towards the south, Mt Hood is visible on the horizon

Catherine loves to explore, so while I was content to sit in the sunshine and rest, she climbed up a nearby small knoll to see what was there.  She reported that the scenery was really great, enough that I was inspired to get off my duff and check it our for myself.


Great Mt Adams view

The views extended southward across the great lahar.  The forested ridge of Ape Canyon stood out to the east, and Mt. Hood was visible on the horizon.  A short distance further, I came upon a picture-perfect view of Mt. Adams, framed between two fir trees.  Yes, it had been worth the short uphill climb to take in these views!


One final mountain view before heading back

Although the day had started out near freezing, by noon the sun had warmed temperatures enough that Catherine and I shed jackets down to our base layers.  It was so nice to sit in the sunshine, warm our limbs, and turn our faces towards the sun's glow.  Our lunch spot had a great vantage of Mt. St. Helens, her white slopes looking fabulous against blue skies.  It was so wonderful I didn't ever want to leave.


A grove of huge old growth trees that somehow escaped the blast

But of course, we couldn't stay all day - there was still five downhill miles yet to cover and a two-hour drive back home.  So after a most excellent lunch break Catherine and I reluctantly tore ourselves away from this high viewpoint and began our journey back down Ape Canyon.


Evening light on MSH

The hike down was uneventful.  Nearing the trailhead, we made one final stop at the last viewpoint to say our goodbyes to MSH.  Good night, old girl!  

Amazing how visiting a familiar trail in a different season gives one an entirely new perspective.


Wednesday, January 5, 2022

2021 Hiking Challenge - Year End Recap (and Other Nerdy Hiking Stats!)

It's time once again to take a deep dive into my hiking numbers for the past year.  If you're not into geeky statistics, you might want to just scroll through the pretty pictures and move on to the next blog.  But - if you don't mind wading through a bunch of facts, figures, and opinions, then read on!  

Here we go......


Hike #50 - Boulder Lake, Bonney Meadows


From the spreadsheet created specifically to track my hikes in 2021, here are the results:

Total number of hikes completed:  65

Total number of miles hiked:  431 miles

Total elevation gain:  84,880 feet


Hike # 14 - the Labyrinth

Although I was able to complete the same number of hikes as in 2020, the mileage and elevation gain were down from the previous year.  This is due mostly to the two-month period where I did no hiking, thanks to June's emergency brain surgery and subsequent recovery period.  Even when I was deemed well enough to start hiking again, I had to begin with short mileage and low elevation gain while working myself back up to pre-surgery fitness.  Despite these health issues, the fact that I was still able to finish 65 hikes last year was somewhat of a miracle, and I'm proud of this accomplishment.


Hike # 13 - Edison Butte Snopark Snowshoe

Other interesting (to me anyway) stats:

58% of my hikes were solo.  The friends I hiked with most were Debbie and Barry (since they are retired too!) and I logged 7 hikes with them and one additional hike with just Debbie.

March and October were my busiest hiking months, tallying 9 each.  During July I completed a big fat zero hikes, due to recovering from brain surgery.

My longest hike was 12.5 miles (hike #34 Truman Trail), the most elevation gain in one hike was 3000 feet (hike #33 Nick Eaton Ridge), and my shortest hike was 1.5 miles (hike #65 Short Loop, Edison Butte Snopark).  

As per usual I didn't repeat many trails.  Hardy Ridge wins the prize for the most repeats at 5, but that was because I was trying to hike it every month of the year.

34% of my hikes were out of state.  However I only hiked in one other state last year, and that was neighboring Washington (so 34% of my hikes were in Washington!)


Hike #55 - Pinnacles Trail


So, how about my hiking goals for 2021?  How did I do?  As you may recall, these goals were:

  • 30 new PCT miles for 2021
  • 5 backpacking trips (a goal I didn't accomplish in 2020, I'm gonna try again)
  • 25% of my hikes must be on "new to me" trails
  • One hike must be a long (16+ mile) dayhike
  • One hike must be a high elevation gain (4000 feet plus) dayhike
  • Capture a creative selfie for each hike and post it on this page
  • And.....I'm gonna hike the Hardy Ridge trail once every month of 2021! 


Hike #34 - Truman Trail


Welllll..........

Goal #1 - Not accomplished.  I only recorded a paltry 7 new PCT miles for 2021.

Goal #2 - Not accomplished....sigh, for a second straight year......

Goal #3 - Accomplished!  32% of my hikes were on "new to me" trails.

Goal #4 - Not accomplished.  My longest dayhike was 12.5 miles.

Goal #5 - Not accomplished.  My highest elevation gain on a hike was 3000 feet.

Goal #6 - Accomplished!  I was able to get selfies for all of my hikes.

Goal #7 - Not accomplished.  I hiked the Hardy Ridge Trail in January, February, April, May and November.  That's all.


Hike #57 - Eagle Creek Trail


As  you can see, 5 of these 7 hiking goals went uncompleted this year.  Most of the blame falls on my June surgery and recovery, but I did have 6 months of good health prior to everything going haywire.  Being busy with things other than hiking, the main two being photography and skiing, cut into some of my time, and the weather was also a factor.  With a full year of retirement now under my belt I've had a chance to see how this "not having a job thing" really works.  Armed with the knowledge of how I really spend my time will hopefully help me allot things differently next year.


Hike No. 37 - Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop


Let's move forward and focus on the positive - My top 10 favorite hikes for 2021, by date completed:

Hike # 9 - Mirror Lake Snowshoe, 2/24/21.

Hike #13 - Edison Butte Snopark Snowshoe, 3/7/21.

Hike # 14 - the Labyrinth, 3/12/21

Hike # 34 - Boundary Trail and Truman Trail, 5/29/21

Hike # 37 - Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop, 6/8/21

Hike # 42, PCT to Sawtooth Mountain, 9/11/21

Hike # 50 - Boulder Lake and Bonney Meadows, 10/7/21

Hike # 55 - Pinnacles Trail, 10/23/21

Hike # 57 - Eagle Creek Trail, 11/2/21

Hike # 62, Ape Canyon Trail, 11/21/21


Hike #62 - Ape Canyon Trail

Favorite New Trail:  It's a toss-up between the PCT to Sawtooth Mountain, in the Indian Heaven Wilderness (fantastic fall colors!) and the Labyrinth on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge.  Both trails will definitely be repeated in 2022.


Hike #42 - PCT to Sawtooth Mtn

Most Challenging Trail:  This year the nod goes to the Truman Trail on Mt St Helens' north side, which I hiked towards the end of May.  It was a long, hot 12.5-mile trek through barren wasteland, leveled by the 1980 blast.  But, oh the views!

Best Spring Wildflowers:  Definitely the Dalles Mountain Ranch.  This place always puts on a good flower show.  After being closed in 2020 due to COVID, it was nice to return to one of my favorite spring wildflower spots.


Hike #23 - the Dalles Mtn Ranch

Best Fall Colors:  Again, a tie between PCT to Sawtooth Mountain (the huckleberry bush colors were incredible!) and my old favorite, Central Oregon's Clear Lake.

Best Winter Hike:   Definitely the magical morning I spent snowshoeing to Mt Hood's Mirror Lake.  Fresh snowfall, no people, and clear skies made this the obvious winner.


Hike #9 - Mirror Lake Snowshoe

Best Selfie Award: This goes to an image I snapped of myself last spring while hiking the Swale Canyon portion of Central Washington's Klickitat Rail Trail.  I didn't even use my phone - instead I turned my camera around on myself, and well, the results were pretty darned good!


Hike #20 - Swale Canyon


And finally my number one favorite hike of 2021 is none other than the PCT to Sawtooth Mountain.  The fall colors, incredible views, and the great company I had made this my absolute favorite hike of the year.

Now, what will my hiking goals be for 2022?  I've been kicking around a few ideas.  Do I want to go big and totally challenge myself, or create more modest hiking goals for the coming year?  I'm still mulling things over.  One thing for sure, I enjoy logging my hikes on a separate blog page and plan to continue that tradition, along with a selfie for each hike.  So be on the lookout for a new "2022 hiking challenge" page coming soon to this blog.  Along with more photos and hike descriptions I'll also unveil my goals for the coming year.  Something to look forward to!  


You can review all my 2021 hikes by clicking on the tab "2021 Hiking Challenge" located just underneath the blog header.

Friday, December 31, 2021

2021 in Photos

Let's kick 2021 to the curb!!

It's time once again for my favorite post - the annual "year in review."  The 2021 version is extra special, since it's my 10th YIR recap.  Can't believe I've stuck in there for so long - still plugging away, when many of my favorite blogs have faded into oblivion.  

After a craptastic 2020, I thought the year 2021 would be better.  It started off great - with me learning how to be retired.  (I was a model student!)   Then along came vaccinations for all, providing freedom to travel again.  But on my first big trip - finally visiting my parents since the start of COVID, I ended up having a health issue that required emergency brain surgery.  Once I recovered from that ordeal the Delta variant reared it's ugly head, again confining my activities closer to home.  And now we have Omicron.....

With retirement, my photo-taking has ramped up but my sharing of images not so much.  I've been so busy out there with my camera getting captures, it consumes much of the time I would ordinarily use for editing and processing of photos, not to mention creating blog stories.  Sooo.....postings to this blog have not been as frequent as I anticipated.  Oh well, maybe I'll do better in 2022.  (We'll see!)  

Nonetheless, as per my end-of-year ritual, I went back to the archives and pulled out a dozen images that I think best capture my experiences in 2021.  As always, these aren't necessarily my finest photographs, but ones that I feel best represent the year now past.  So sit back and enjoy this latest installment of Linda's Lens year in review!


January

Sunrise over the Columbia River Gorge

January - I was newly retired and already loving the freedom.  I got my first taste of how wonderful retired life could be on the first week of January when Cheri and I did an early morning Gorge trip to catch sunrise.  It was great to wake up early for something I wanted to do.  As the sun crested over the horizon, I thought to myself "I've been waiting my entire career for this!"  A good precursor of things to come.


February

Shore Acres State Park

I made a solo midweek trip to the south-central Oregon coast to capture waves and sunsets.  Staying in a freezing cold yurt at Sunset Bay State Park (the heater didn't work very well) I warmed up by getting out and photographing the unique coastline at nearby Shore Acres State Park.  I also spent a night in the nearby town of Bandon.  One of my favorite coastal towns, it's always a pleasure to capture sunset on Bandon's lovely beach.  


March

Cottonwood Canyon State Park

I reserved a cabin at Cottonwood Canyon State Park, someplace I'd wanted to visit for a couple of years.  Located in north Central Oregon, the dry climate here was a welcome relief from the rainy weather west of the Cascades.  The terrain here was also quite different from the green, mossy forests around Portland.  I enjoyed the wide-open spaces, partially sunny skies, (a rarity in March where I live!) and rolling hills along the John Day River.  I had a great time hiking most of the trails, and finally spotted some of the resident Bighorn sheep on my last day.


April

Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm

One of the advantages to being retired was the opportunity to visit places during the week, when crowds were far smaller.  One such place was the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, which after remaining shuttered during 2020, opened it's gates to visitors again in 2021.  Cheri and I bought season photographers passes so we could go anytime we wished.  I made good use of my pass with several visits over the course of their season.  The most memorable trip came in late April, when we journeyed to the farm at dusk.  We lucked out with a nice sunset, and had a great time photographing images of a colorful sky over equally colorful flower fields.


May

Spring flowers in the Gorge

Due to last spring's COVID quarantine, I missed the entire wildflower season in the Columbia River Gorge.  Now that trails were reopened, I wasn't about to miss it a second time!  During April and May I logged plenty of hiking miles on both sides of the river capturing acres of beautiful yellow balsamroot blooms, along with many other colorful spring wildflowers.


June

Happy to be out of the hospital

June.....the month where everything changed.  I'd been happily marching through retired life enjoying the copious free time and good health to do everything.  Then what started as a headache turned into emergency brain surgery for an abscess.  After a successful surgery and 6 days in the hospital, I emerged with an iv pump that would be my constant companion for the next 5 weeks, flooding my system with strong antibiotics to rid my body of the infection.  Thankfully this emergency occurred when I was visiting my parents in South Dakota.  I had a great team of great doctors and nurses and my family to take care of me.  This ordeal made me realize that life is precious and things can change in the blink of an eye.  I'll never again take my health for granted.


July

Fawns in my parent's backyard

Due to my medical emergency, what was originally planned to be a one-week visit turned into a 2-month stay with my parents.  However, my 2-month treatment duration in South Dakota turned out to be a blessing in disguise - I got to spend lots of quality time with my parents.  After not seeing them at all in 2020, it was great to have the bonus weeks to fully catch up.  While recovering I whiled away many hours sitting in their huge backyard, watching the wildlife pass through (lots of turkeys and deer).  Of particular interest were four fawns who made frequent visits, often getting a drink from the birdbath on hot summer days.  Photographing the local wildlife kept me busy while I slowly recovered.


August

One of my first hikes, post-surgery

In mid-August my treatment finally complete, I returned home to Oregon.  It was wonderful to be back in the beautiful Pacific NW once again!  I'd missed the hiking trails most, so I didn't waste any time in getting back outside.  One of my first hikes post-surgery was a trek on some new trails at Mt Hood Meadows.  A local ski resort in the winter, Meadows reinvented itself as a summer destination with the addition of several new treks around it's ski runs.  I can't tell you how happy I was to be walking around my favorite mountain once again, even if it was just a short saunter.


September

The neighborhood owl

One of the things I've done much more of this year has been wildlife photography.  My neighbor Cheri, who captures amazing wildlife images, took me under her wing, introducing me to several places where birds and other animals congregated and instructing me in the art of capturing animals in motion.  I've had a great time these past several months, photographing eagles, sandhill cranes, osprey, blue herons, wood ducks, pelicans, woodpeckers, and many more creatures.  But the best bird sighting of the year occurred right in our own neighborhood.  Cheri spotted a barred owl on one of her morning walks, and good friend that she is, alerted me to the owl's location so I could snap a few photos of my own.


October

Fall colors at Clear Lake

October is my favorite month of the year.  It's the time when fall colors erupt here in the Pacific NW.  Not being confined to weekends, it was a busy month traveling from various locations, chasing the peak autumn hues.  One of my highlights was spending a couple of days at Central Oregon's Clear Lake and surrounding areas.  With showy vine maple bushes lining it's shores, this lake is one of the best places to see fall color in Oregon.  And the lake, with it's crystal-clear waters, is a worthy attraction in itself.


November

The Eagle Creek Trail, post-fire

After being closed for nearly four years, the Eagle Creek Trail in the Columbia River Gorge finally reopened this summer.  Torched from a horrific wildfire that consumed much of the Oregon side of the gorge, I was afraid this favorite hiking trail had been irreparably damaged.  Immediately after it's opening, the Eagle Creek trail was mobbed by hikers.  Not keen on fighting the masses, I waited for a rainy November day to make my first visit post-fire.  Although many areas were full of charred trees, I discovered the canyon green and bursting with lovely fall colors.  Much better than anticipated!  Walking this trail once again was like seeing an old friend.


December

Happy to be back skiing!

When I was lying in the hospital last June recovering from a brain abscess and several neurological issues, one of my thoughts was "Will I be able to ski again?"  In December, almost six months to the date of my surgery, I happily returned to the slopes of Mt Bachelor (with a brand new helmet of course).  I picked right up from where I left off the previous season, with no apparent effects from the summer's infection and treatment.  I was elated!  After several long months of recovery, things finally felt normal again. 


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Earlier this fall I was cleaning out a closet when I discovered a bunch of my old diaries.  I'd faithfully documented my life during high school, but the entries tapered off quickly once I went off to college.  The last time I'd written was in the early 90s, after that life got too busy to continue.  Inspired to resurrect this tradition I considered the monumental task of penning a 3-decade catchup.  But then I came to the realization - I'd been keeping a diary right here since 2008.  This blog has been a visual account of my life, documenting events much better than any written diary could.  There's a lot of memories archived here on Blogger.  I find much enjoyment re-reading posts from the past and perusing photographs of previous hikes and outings.  This is what keeps me going year after year, even when comments to my blog dwindle and my enthusiasm for creating another blog post wanes.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is I'll keep on sharing photos and stories here for another year.  As 2021 draws to a close, I'm already hatching plans for new adventures to make up for the time I lost this summer.  I'm hoping for a healthy 2022 so I can do all the things I'd hoped to accomplish in 2021 and more.  

As always, thanks to you readers who are still hanging in there for commenting, viewing the photos, and reading the posts on this blog.  May the coming year bring you peace and health (and hopefully an end to COVID).

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!