Friday, November 20, 2020

Just Another Coastal Sunset....

It had been awhile since I'd visited the Oregon Coast.  Only a short hour's drive from home, I really had no excuse for this long absence.  So two weeks ago I decided to remedy things. 

Foamy seas


My favorite weather forecaster was predicting a beautiful sunset that day.  Having missed out on several brilliant skyshows recently, I felt the need to finally capture one.  So I texted my neighbor and photographic genius Cheri and suggested we head west to photograph sunset on the coast.


Wild wave show on the jetty

Although I'd initially suggested Cannon Beach (can't go wrong with Haystack Rock), this was a wildly popular place, and therefore usually crowded.  Cheri suggested a quieter alternative, nearby Rockaway Beach.


Sad reminders of the ocean's dangers

On our way to Rockaway Beach, Cheri and I passed through the town of Tillamook, and then headed north by Tillamook Bay.  A popular place for fisherman and crabbers, we stopped on the north jetty to watch huge waves roll over the rocky breakwater.  It was quite the show!


Wish I knew the story behind these crosses


I noticed four crosses had been placed in between the jetty's rocky surface.  Names and dates were painted on each one, and three of the crosses bore the same date of death.  I didn't know the story behind these crosses, but assumed they must have been due to some tragic boating accident.  Sad reminders of the ocean's dangers.


Cheri is in position for sunset


After lingering around the jetty for a good half hour, entertaining ourselves watching the huge waves crashing over the rocky wall, Cheri decided we'd better get to our sunset spot to allow enough time for set up.  Luckily, Rockaway Beach wasn't very far up the road, and 10 minutes later, we pulled into a tiny parking area.  The beach was a short walk through a tunnel of vegetation.

Sun trying to break through the clouds


The beach was a wide open expanse of sand and sky.  Two large sea stacks stood prominently to the south.  And, best of all, crowds were nil.

Glowing ball
Unfurling our tripods, Cheri and I set up our cameras and waited.  To pass time, I took dozens of photos of the sea stacks, in every conceivable angle and f stop.  The tide was coming in, so I had to keep a sharp eye out for the larger waves and book it towards shore if they came in too fast.  I wasn't keen on getting wet feet!  Cheri, much better prepared, was sporting a set of high-topped rubber boots so the waves didn't bother her in the least. 

A few rays break through
A thick fog layer hovered in the southern sky, and we were worried it would engulf the setting sun.  But, to our good fortune, as the sun sank it popped through a break in the clouds.  Brilliant rays streamed across the sky and golden colors reflected in the wet beach sand.

Sinking behind the clouds


Hooray!  A gorgeous sunset!  Cheri and I worked our shutters furiously trying to capture it all.


After the sun had set, the sky turned a brilliant pink

After the sun dropped below the horizon, the few people gathered on the beach watching the show began to leave.  Little did they know the best was yet to come.

Beautiful clouds and reflections
Post-sunset the sky turned a brilliant color of pink.  It lit up the clouds and reflected on the sand.  This was way better than the sunset itself!

Last of the sky color

So dramatic - and breathtaking!  Cheri and I agreed it had been very much worth the drive.  After packing up our equipment, we stopped in the nearby town of Garibaldi for some take-out fish and chips before heading home.

This quick trip made me realize I need to visit the Oregon Coast more often.  I've decided one of my New Year's resolutions will be to photograph more ocean sunsets. 

Friday, November 13, 2020

Angels Rest

During the summer months, I avoid hiking in the Columbia River Gorge.  The trails are packed and, quite truthfully I don't think it's the prettiest season.  In my opinion, fall is the best time to visit the Gorge.  Fabulous turning autumn leaves put on quite a show, a perfect compliment to the already amazing scenery.


Lovely fall foliage near the trailhead

So when late October rolls around, I reacquaint myself with this "gorge"ous (pun intended!) corner of Oregon.  A couple of weeks ago, I was trying to decide on a Friday hike.  Knowing rain was forecast for the afternoon, I wanted a short trail close to home.  Angels Rest Trail popped on top of the list.

Colors glow through the trees


Angels Rest is an exposed bluff on the Western end of the Gorge's Oregon side.  The summit, composed of an old lava flow, follows a rocky spine exposed on three sides by cliffs.  This lofty promontory offers excellent panoramic views of the Columbia River below.  It feels as if you're on a balcony high above the river.

Alder forest


But due to the close proximity to the Portland Metro, combined with a relatively short distance (only 2.4 miles to the top) and picture-postcard views, this trail is wildly popular.  The trailhead regularly fills up early, and on weekends parked cars often line both sides of the highway.  Not a fan of uber-crowded trails, it had been many years since I'd visited Angels Rest. 

Angels Rest summit up ahead


But I reasoned that an early morning arrival would help avoid the masses.  The gloomy weather forecast for the day might also deter people.  My planned early start worked perfectly, giving me my choice of parking spaces in the small lot adjacent to the Scenic Highway.  The early bird gets the worm - or in my case - the parking spot!

Columbia River glimpses


This trail has the unfortunate distinction of being torched by wildfires twice during the 32 years I've lived in Oregon - once in 1991 and more recently with the infamous Eagle Creek Fire in 2017.  The 1991 fire burned the summit area while the 2017 blaze scorched most of the trail's route.  Today was the first time I'd hiked Angels Rest post-Eagle Creek fire and I was anxious to see how much damage had been done.

Recent wildfire damage

The damage was apparent from the start.  Huge Douglas firs near the trailhead bore black burn scars on their lower trunks.  But I was encouraged to see many of the deciduous trees had been spared, and were now defiantly showing off their best fall foliage.

Brilliant vine maple

An alder grove just past Coopey Creek crossing was looking beautiful, golden leaves shining through burned forest remnants.  I also enjoyed a few patches of brightly colored vine maple gracing the upper open slopes.  The only good thing about the wildfires - they did open up fabulous Gorge views from the trail.  They also provided a clear view of my destination ahead - the cliffs and rocky summit of Angels Rest.

Burned-out forest east of Angels Rest


Although the trail is short, it does climb steeply, gaining 1500 feet in just 2.4 miles.  I huffed and puffed along the upper switchbacks but made good time in reaching the rocky summit outcrop.  

Colorful bushes amidst the burned trees

All that was left to reach the viewpoint was a walk along the rocky spine itself.  As I scrambled across the wide open plateau, I noticed extreme fire damage to the forest directly east of the outcrop.  It was sad to see such beautiful woods totally obliterated, the trees gray skeletons of their former selves.  The only silver lining was patches of brightly colored bushes, obviously established post-fire, glowing through blackened trunks.

Perfect place for a bench

Although I'd met a few other people descending while on my uphill journey, I was pleased to find the summit deserted.  Bushwhacking and scrambling the final few feet I came upon my destination - a wooden bench placed at an especially commanding Columbia River viewpoint.

Classic Gorge view


From here I gazed at (and of course photographed!) the Columbia River's classic westward view.  Taking advantage of such nice seating, I rested on the bench and enjoyed my hot tea and a snack.  Reading a small plaque, I learned that it had been placed in memory of someone.  For that reason, I was saddened to see the wooden seat had been carved up and covered in graffiti - very disrespectful to the person it commemorated. (This is why we can't have nice things!!)

Angels Rest looking west

As I sat on my high perch, I noticed another woman peering through the bushes.  She appeared to be seeking the same viewpoint that I now occupied.  The woman lingered nearby for a few minutes, stealing occasional glances my way.  I assumed she was waiting for me to vacate the area.  But being in no hurry, I stubbornly held my ground, and ended up taking a much longer break than originally intended.  The woman finally gave up and moved on, and when I did decide to leave I found her sitting near the eastern end of the plateau.

Colorful understory


Because the trek to Angels Rest itself is such a short hike (for me anyway) in years past, I've added mileage by following a continuation of this trail as it contours the ridge directly to the east.  I climbed a short distance, and then rambled through more burned-out forest, stealing occasional glimpses back to Angels Rest, it's rocky cliffs now visible through newly-created openings in the forest.

Vibrant leaves

Although the fire damage here was sobering, I did enjoy the best autumn colors of my entire hike.  Bushy undergrowth had come back strong and their golden leaves brightened an otherwise gloomy forest.

More Angels Rest views

I followed this trail another half mile until it became overgrown and faint.  Several downed trees that had yet to be cleared also presented obstacles.  Deciding this was enough for the day (and also eyeing the sky - I wanted to beat the predicted afternoon rain) I turned tail and retraced my steps first back to Angels Rest and then downhill to the trailhead.  Although I'd had the path mostly to myself all morning, I met so many folks on my descent that when I reached the bottom I wasn't at all surprised to find both parking areas now overflowing.


Latourell Falls

No Gorge trip is complete without visiting at least one waterfall, so before heading home I made a short detour to nearby Latourell Falls.  One of my favorite Gorge cascades, it was looking mighty fine with some fall color accents.  As you can see, autumn is definitely the best time to not only hike the Gorge, but also to photograph it's waterfalls.

A great morning getaway - so glad I have such world-class scenery only a 45 minute drive away!

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Larch March

When fall rolls around, I closely monitor all the hiking Facebook pages and websites for the best places to view autumn finery.  Up in Washington state a majority of the posts featured photos of the lovely groves of Western Larch trees.  A unique species of conifer, instead of remaining green throughout winter months, the needles of the larch turn gold and drop in autumn.


A few last bits of fall color on Fret Creek Trail

When it comes to large groves of larch trees, Washington has the upper hand over Oregon.  But not having the time to travel to my neighboring state up north, nor a place to stay, I had to rely on getting my larch fix closer to home.  And luckily there's a spot east of Mt Hood that boasts a few stands of these beautiful conifers - the Badger Creek Wilderness.


Bridge crossing


From past hikes in the area, I remembered the larches began to turn color by mid-October.  So I planned a Friday trip in hopes of catching some golden needles.  My trail of choice was the Fret Creek Trail.  This lovely 2-mile jaunt climbs through a fir forest dominated by huckleberry bushes.  Although in past years the huckleberry leaves were a lovely hue of yellow, today I found most of them way past their prime.  Only a few scraggly bushes still held fading gold leaves.

Oval Lake

Was I too late for the larches?  Trekking past Oval Lake, the only bit of color was a few red huckleberry leaves along its shore.

Lichen-draped trees


Reaching the junction with the Divide Trail, I admired the long strands of lichen that draped nearby Douglas Fir trees.  Then, turning south I climbed steeply up the ridge to Palisade Point.

First larch sighting


About halfway up my climb, I stopped for a breather and admired the forest scenery spread out below.  And there, amongst the Douglas fir forest were a few larch trees, their golden needles glowing prominently against the deep green.

You gotta look up

So I wasn't too late!  As a matter of fact, judging by the pale green needles mixed in with the gold, it appeared the color transition was just beginning.

Fall brilliance

After taking in a the wide-sweeping views on top of Palisade Point, I followed the Divide Trail further south as it roller-coastered up and down.  I kept my eyes glued upward.  That's where the larches were.

Golden needles


Very few of the tall tree's branches were at eye-level.  It would've been easy to miss the golden larch needles had I not kept looking skyward.  As a matter of fact, I later ran into a couple on the trail and mentioned the larches.  Neither one of them had seen any!  I advised them that "you gotta look up."

Spiky needles

The larch trees were scattered about the forest, mostly in groups of 3's and 4's.  There wasn't any huge concentration of them.  And most of the golden-hued branches reached high above my head.

Mt Hood with a UFO-shaped cloud

Still, the trees were beautiful, and it was a thrill to see so many.  I wandered down the Divide Trail until it connected with a gravel road to nearby Flag Point fire lookout.  Having been to the lookout many times, and not in the mood for an uphill road walk, I sat down on a nearby log to take a lunch break.

Larch love


Lunch finished, I turned around and retraced my steps back to Palisade Point.  Wanting to get a selfie for my "65 Hikes" blog page, I found one group of larches that happened to have low-hanging, accessible branches.  I had a fun time capturing poses with the tree's spiky golden needles (and just so you know, no larches were harmed in the creation of this image!)

Golden in the sunshine

Back at Palisade Point, the light was better, and I captured this image of the forested ridge over Flag Point with a few spots of gold larch trees mixed in.  If you look real closely, you'll even see the Flag Point fire lookout tower.

Spots of gold on the hillside

Wanting to add a bit more mileage to the day's total I followed the Divide Trail north of Fret Creek to Lookout Point.  It was another thousand feet of climbing in a mile and a half.   Huffing and puffing uphill I thought "why did I choose to do this?"  But upon seeing the fabulous Mt Hood view on Lookoout Mountain's summit I decided it had been worth it.

Mt Hood from Lookout Mountain


After taking in the 360 degree panorama of the adjacent wilderness, and chatting with a couple enjoying wine and cheese at the summit, it was time to head back.  The return trip was quick - a steep, but sweet downhill trek following first the Divide Trail and then the Fret Creek Trail. 

Wide open views from Lookout Mountain

Funny thing, driving the Forest Service road from the trailhead back to civilization, I passed by a huge grove of golden larch trees growing right along the road!  I could've had my larch fix without the long hike and climb.  But.....I would've missed the fantastic views of Mt Hood and the scattered larch forests.  And I kind of like to work for my scenery.

A successful larch march on a beautiful sunny fall day!


Friday, October 30, 2020

On the Shores of Crater Lake

Like many folks, this year's COVID pandemic has forced hubby and I to vacation closer to home.  For us that meant taking more in-state camping trips.  In mid-August I booked a site at southern Oregon's Diamond Lake.  Our favorite camping spot when the kids were young, it had been years since we'd spent time here.


First overlook

Although Diamond Lake itself is a worthy destination, one of the great things about staying here is it's close proximity to Crater Lake.  Oregon's lone National Park, this ultra-blue mountain lake is a photographer's dream.  The deepest lake in the US (1,943 feet), it's deep blue color is due to the extensive depth and purity of the waters.  Fed only by rain and snow, scientists consider Crater Lake to be the cleanest and clearest large body of water in the world.

Beginning the hike down


Created from a great eruption of Mount Mazama around 5700 BC, this lake formed in the large caldera that remained after the mountain's explosion.  Scientists believe this eruption deposited ash as far east as the NW corner of what is now Yellowstone National Park, as far south as central Nevada, and as far north as southern British Columbia.  This destructive event is thought to have created 150 times more ash than the May 18, 1980 eruption of nearby Mt St Helens.

Fabulous lake views


One of my brothers lives in nearby Central Oregon, and we invited him to join us for the weekend.  And outdoor enthusiast like my hubby and I, it didn't take any convincing.  After spending the first day fishing (the guys) and walking around Diamond Lake snapping photos (me) I suggested a visit to the more famous lake for the following day.


The lake's water changed color near the shore

The 30-mile Rim Drive that encircles Crater Lake is a worthy trip.  Open only in the summer, this road provides visitors magnificent views of this natural wonder.  Numerous auto pull-outs, scenic viewpoints, and trailheads enable visitors to enjoy this park's impressive scenery.  But access to the lakeshore itself is only allowed at one point - via the Cleetwood Cove Trail.


Almost there!

Although I've visited Crater Lake numerous times in the 30-plus years I've lived in Oregon, I'd never hiked this trail to the water's surface.  So I suggested to the guys that we check it out.


Here I am at the shoreline of Crater Lake

Hot weather was predicted that day, so we got an early start.  That meant the first few viewpoints we stopped at were uncrowded, which in this time of COVID was just fine.  After a short drive down the rim road, we came to the Cleetwood Cove Trailhead's huge parking area.  Again, our early arrival guaranteed our pick of parking spots.  I grabbed my camera stuff and followed hubby and brother across the road to the trail.

I was surprised to see people swimming in the lake

The Cleetwood Cove trail isn't very long - only 1.1 miles to the lakeshore.  But it is steep, dropping 700 feet in elevation as it switchbacks down the crater's rim.  For this reason the park rates this trail as strenuous.  As we started down the trail, we were met by intermittent groups of people huffing and puffing their way back up.

Lots of people gathered at the shore


Oh the were the views stellar!  As I descended I couldn't help stopping frequently to capture the scenery.  It was a new and different perspective of the lake and I wanted to get as many images as I could.  Of course, the guys kept walking and I began to lag far behind.


Loved the clear waters


Probably the most exciting part of this short hike was seeing the lake's surface getting closer and closer the lower I traveled.  Soon I was able to notice the difference in water color - it was an aqua shade in the shallow areas nearest the shore.  And of course the lake's crystal-clear waters meant I could see all the details on the rocky bottom.


Last look before climbing back up


Finally I reached the trail's bottom and the lakeshore.  It was really interesting to see Crater Lake at water level, with the rim rising above, instead of viewing it from the top of the rim.  I found my hubby and brother near the boat dock, waiting patiently for me.  A couple of men were casting fishing poles into the water, but I didn't see any fish caught.  I was amazed to learn there were fish in this lake.  Six species of fish were introduced into Crater Lake between 1888 and 1941, but only Rainbow trout and Kokanee salmon have survived.

View (rest) break on the way up

The most unexpected surprise was seeing people swimming in Crater Lake.  As I hiked downhill many of the folks trekking back up were wearing swimsuits and carrying towels.  When I finally reached the shore, I was shocked by the large number of people already splashing around in the water.  Later, checking the park literature, I discovered that, yes swimming, fishing and wading are indeed allowed.  However, to keep the lake water pure, scuba equipment, inflatable items, boats, waders and life jackets are not allowed.  (I don't understand the logic of allowing people in the water but not items - I would think all those bodies wouldn't be good for the water's purity either.)  It was interesting to see so many people swimming despite the cold water.  In summer, the lake's surface temperature averages only 57 degrees.  Even though it was a hot day, I wasn't interested in dipping my feet in the lake's chilly waters.

At this overlook I could almost fit the entire lake in my frame!


And speaking of boat dock, the National Park Service normally offers boat tours of Crater Lake during summer months.  However, just like everything else, COVID cancelled all boat tours for the 2020 season.

Phantom Ship

After spending a half hour wandering around the short path at the water's edge, taking photos, and watching the crazy swimmers, we decided it was time to head back.  By now more and more people had arrived and the lakeshore starting to get crowded.

What goes down must come up, and the hike back to the parking lot was brutal.  By now temps had risen significantly and it was hot!  Hiking uphill in the heat was not any fun.  My hubby, the mountain goat, marched up the trail like it was no problem.  However, my brother and I slogged uphill at a much slower rate.  We took advantage of a bench near the halfway mark for a quick breather.


Wizard Island from Discovery Point


Back at hubby's truck, we discovered the huge parking lot had now entirely filled in.  As a matter of fact, a vehicle hovered nearby waiting to snatch our parking spot the minute we left.


Fireweed at Diamond Lake

We finished driving the entire Rim Loop road, stopping at the scenic viewpoints that looked interesting.  By now it was midday, and the park was full of visitors.  There were lots of vehicles with out-of-state license plates - and not just from the states adjacent to Oregon. (I even saw a car from Florida!)  The virus wasn't stopping people from traveling, that's for sure.  Our final stop, Discovery Point, was swarming with so many people that I snapped a few quick images and we got the heck out of there!  Time to head back to our campsite at Diamond Lake and chill in the shade.


Dramatic storm clouds over Diamond Lake


That evening a huge thundercloud drifted by, grumbled a bit, but didn't drop any precip.  But it did make for an amazing sunset over Diamond Lake, which I was fortunate to capture.

Fabulous sunset

A wonderful weekend exploring a favorite National Park, catching up with my brother, and relaxing at a beautiful lakeside campsite.