Sunday, January 22, 2023

Silver Falls SP in Winter

It was another rainy Saturday in January.  Despite the icky weather I was dying to get outside and hike somewhere.  My hubby looked at the hour-by-hour forecast and noticed the rain was supposed to slack off by afternoon, especially to the south of us.  Hmmm......what trails were to the south?  Why, Silver Falls State Park!

I wasn't going to post about this wonderful state park again so soon.  But after Hubby and I made a trip to Silver Falls a couple of weeks ago, I decided what the heck.  So you lucky readers get another set of waterfall photos from this stunning place!

Tall, elegant South Falls

After driving an hour and a half through absolutely pouring rain (what were we thinking?) the faucet miraculously shut off about 5 minutes from the park.  The weather app had been right - thank goodness!


Lots of mossy trees

Of course I've posted many, many times about this unique waterfall-rich Oregon state park.  It boasts the "Trail of Ten Falls," a path that leads visitors through a deep canyon full of gushing cascades.  Hubby wanted to hike the entire trail.  Not sure how my recently-healed foot would handle 7-plus miles, I told him I'd hike part way and see how things went.

This moss-covered branch looks like a gnarly hand

I've visited Silver Falls SP countless times over the 30-plus years I've lived in Oregon.  Because of so many visits, I often get in a photographic rut, taking the same images of the same waterfalls at the same angles every time.  So my challenge today was to try for a few unique perspectives of each waterfall.

Lower South Falls (can you spot my hubby?)

We began our journey at South Falls, the tallest waterfall in the park and the one closest to the visitor center.  After walking behind this behemoth cascade, Hubby and I headed down the trail to the next waterfall, Lower South Falls.  Since Hubby is a much faster walker, I let him get ahead so I could capture an image of him approaching the path behind Lower South. 

Photo op at Lower South Falls

The great majority of park visitors make the trip to Lower South Falls and turn around.  So we had much less people traffic as we continued down the trail to the next batch of cascades.

Approach to Middle North Falls

Past Lower North Falls, with it's tiny drop, we made the short detour to Double Falls.  But trees and canyon walls obstructed the view so we hiked back out and continued on.  Not far from Drake Falls, another tiny cascade, I glimpsed Middle North Falls spilling over it's basalt cliff up ahead.

Much more water here than in November!

Middle North is hands-down my favorite waterfall in the park.  It's wide flow makes fan-shaped rivulets as it plunges to the creek below.  And it's another cascade that hikers can walk behind.

Since there's a trailhead fairly close by, the number of people increased here.  It was hard to get a photo without someone in it.  But people in photos gives some scale to these tall waterfalls.  From all the winter rains, there was much more flow going over this falls than when I'd visited in early November.

Tunnel of moss

We decided to skip the side trail to Winter Falls, which I sometimes take when desiring a shorter loop.  By now, my foot still feeling good, I gave Hubby the go-ahead to continue to North Falls.  This portion of the trail is super-scenic, and is my favorite part.  I'd hiked here last spring, but winter was just as (if not more) stunning.  Thick moss covered all the trees and it positively glowed green.

Photograph of the photographer

After about a mile and one more tiny cascade, Twin Falls, we came upon a glimpse of North Falls up ahead, roaring down the canyon walls.  As Hubby positioned himself for a photo op, I took a photo of the photographer.

The huge cavern behind North Falls

North Falls has an incredibly large cavern behind it.  It gets my vote as the most fun waterfall to walk behind in the park.

Hiking out of the canyon to the Rim Trail

After paying our respects to North Falls, there was one more waterfall we could reach, Upper North Falls.  But it was a half mile out of the way, and by then we were ready to head back.  So Hubby and I climbed the steep trail out of Silver Creek's canyon to connect with the Rim Trail, which would take us back to the lodge and parking area.

Giant trees along the Rim Trail

After trekking through a canyon full of beautiful waterfalls, the return Rim Trail was kind of boring.  It wound through thick forests full of huge fir and cedar trees.  My eagle-eyed hubby even spotted a woodpecker!  About a half mile from the parking lot we started to feel sprinkles, and by the time we reached our car, the rain had returned.  Our timing couldn't have been better!

So glad I was able to carve out some time between rain showers for a hike through this gorgeous state park.  It does my body, not to mention my mental health, good to get outside, even on dreary winter days.

Friday, January 13, 2023

2022 Hiking Challenge Recap (Warning - Nerdy Post Ahead!)

It's time for my annual facts and figures hiking post.  I create this post for my own benefit - to memorialize my hiking year and provide accountability on reaching goals.  If you don't want to wade through a bunch of nerdy statistics, feel free to just breeze through the pretty photos.  But if perusing a bunch of data is your jam, then by all means, read on!

To say this was a frustrating year for hiking is an understatement.  I was powering along, getting in lots of hikes, even making it up Hardy Ridge every month, when in late April things came to a screeching halt.  Out of nowhere, my left heel started hurting after every hike.  Soon, even short walks made it ache.  In denial for a couple of months, I tried to keep hiking, thinking it would eventually get better,  But by mid-June I realized I had a full-blown case of plantar fasciitis and if I didn't let my foot rest it would never heal.  So all my ambitious hiking goals I'd set in January went flying out the window.

Hike #25 - Amanda's Trail

However, despite being laid up for most of the summer I was still able to complete 62 hikes this year.  Specifically here are the numbers:

Total number of hikes in 2022:  62

Total number of miles hiked:  364 miles

Total elevation gain:  65,555 feet

(Just a reminder, all these hikes have been recorded on a separate blog page titled "2022 Hiking Challenge" accessed via a tab directly below my blog header.)

Hike #52 - Black Butte from upper trailhead

As far as meeting the goals laid out at year's beginning, I did meet two.  34% of my hikes were on "new to me" trails, surpassing the requirement that 25% of my hikes be on new trails.  And I did capture a creative selfie on all of my hikes.  As far as the other goals go, well......I'd just as soon forget I ever made them.  

Hike #40 - Glacier Bay National Park

So let's move on!  In other stats:

50% of my hikes were solo.  I really enjoy company as I did more hikes with friends this year.  The people I hiked most with were Debbie and Barry (13 hikes!) but also my Hubby, Catherine, Kim, and Young and John accompanied me on a few.

My busiest hiking months - a 5-way tie between January, March, April, May, and October with 7 each.  My slowest months were June and December with 1 each.

My longest hike was the February edition of my Hardy Ridge attempt at 9.5 miles at 2650 feet of elevation gain.

Hike #10 - Moulton Falls Loop

Hardy Ridge wins the prize with the most repeats at 5.  But I made 5 visits to Stub Stewart State Park (although hiking mostly different trails) so it deserves an honorable mention. 

35% of my hikes were out of state, with 21 of the 22 being in Washington, and the other lone hike in Alaska.

I visited a total of 21 new trails in 2022.  For someone who's been hiking in the area for nearly 30 years, I'm really proud of myself for discovering new places.  High gas prices forced me to look for hiking trails closer to home.  Never discount the nearby state parks and natural areas, I found some really great trails that I'll be returning to in 2023.

Hike #28 - Triple Falls Trail

My top ten favorite hikes of 2022 (in calendar order):

Hike # 2 - Gnat Creek Trail, 1/9/22

Hike # 10, Moulton Falls Loop, 2/7/22

Hike # 17, Labyrinth to Catherine Creek, 3/16/22

Hike # 20, Trail of Ten Falls, 3/23/22

Hike # 25, Amanda's Trail, 4/24/22

Hike #28, Triple Falls Trail, 5/3/22

Hike # 40, various trails in Glacier Bay National Park, 8/10/22

Hike # 43, Skyline and Golden Gate Trails, Mt. Rainer NP, 8/25/22

Hike # 52, Black Butte from Upper Trailhead, 10/20/22

Hike # 60, PCT from Bonneville Trailhead to Greenleaf overlook, 11/13/22

Hike #17 - Labyrinth to Catherine Creek

And, of course, my personal awards for hikes this year:

Hike #2 - Gnat Creek Trail

Favorite New Trail:  The Gnat Creek Trail in the Oregon Coast Range.  This one was a hidden gem, mossy green and beautiful, following two lovely creeks.  I'll definitely be returning!

Hike #29 - Mosier Plateau

Best Spring Wildflowers:  There's so many great places in the Columbia River Gorge to see fields of colorful wildflowers, however this year the nod goes to the Mosier Plateau.

Hike #43 - Skyline Trail, MRNP

Best Sumer Wildflowers:  No contest here, again it's the beautiful Skyline Trail in Mt. Rainier National Park.

Hike #60 - PCT from Bonneville TH to Greenleaf Overlook

Best Fall Colors:  There are many great places throughout Oregon and Washington, but this year my award goes to the Pacific Crest Trail between the Bonneville Trailhead and Greenleaf Overlook.  Thanks to my friends Young and John for showing me this lovely fall paradise.

Hike #1 - Dry Creek Falls

Best Winter Hike:  The 2022 best winter hike was a New Year's Day trek to Dry Creek Falls in the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge.  Frozen waterfalls for the win!

Hike #7 (and 13, 19, 27, 33) - Hardy Ridge

Most Challenging Hike:  My five attempts to climb Hardy Ridge from January to May.  I endured deep snow, icy tread, strong winds, and on the last two tries, a throbbing left foot that had me limping the final mile.

Hike #20 - Trail of Ten Falls

Best Waterfall Hike:  Silver Falls State Park's Trail of Ten Falls is always a winner.  This time I hiked it in late March and was mesmerized by all the full, gushing cascades. 

Hike #42 - Timberline Trail to Zigzag Canyon

Best Selfie:  Only the photos that I took by balancing my camera on my backpack, or other device count in this category.  This year the photo I took of myself and Kim and the edge of Mt. Hood's Zigzag Canyon is the winner.  Kim had her doubts when I propped my camera on top of my backpack and set the timer.  But I managed to not only get us both smiling, I also got Mt Hood in the frame.  I was pleased that the image turned out so well. 

Hike # 43 - Skyline Trail, MRNP

And my Favorite Hike of 2022:  Gotta go with the Skyline Trail at Mt. Rainier NP.  Fields of wildflowers coupled with fantastic mountain views, throw in a few wildlife sightings, and we have a winner!

So......what's in store for 2023's hiking challenge?  A big, fat nothing!  After setting ambitious goals for the past two years only to have them foiled by health issues, I've decided to take a year off.  I'll continue to record my hikes under a new "2023 Hikes" page on my blog, but that's it.  So follow along if you'd like and see where this year takes me.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Christmas in Montana

Since my son's work keeps him busy over the holidays, Hubby and I always journey to his home in Montana for Christmas.  This year was no different, except we didn't arrive until two days after the actual holiday.  A series of ice storms in Portland and the Columbia River Gorge kept us home two days longer than planned.  When the weather finally cleared enough to travel, we braved torrential rain, snowy roads, and ice storm remnants on our 11-plus hour drive.

Snow-covered mountains

But once we arrived, all travel woes were forgotten.  It's always good to see my son!

Walking by a photogenic scraggly tree

There's a wildlife management area on the outskirts of where my son lives.  It's a great place to spot birds, deer, and other critters.  Hubby and my son wanted to check out the adjacent lake to see if there were any ducks around.  My son had a hunting license and was interested in getting a few waterfowl.

Golden grasses

I never mind walking through a wildlife area.  I grabbed my camera and big lens in hope of spotting some birds.  Although temps weren't cold by Montana standards, it was still below freezing when we began our trek along an icy road.  It was an overcast day, and the light wasn't great for photographs, but the surrounding snow-clad mountains and golden vegetation were still pretty.  Good enough for some images in my opinion!

My guys looking for ducks

The guys made it over to lakeshore, only to discover the lake was frozen over.  Naturally, there wasn't any waterfowl to be found.  No duck hunting for them!

I caught a magpie sitting still on this fence post!

I, on the other hand, was lagging behind looking for birds.  I spotted a few magpies flying around, but these birds were so fast, it was extremely difficult to get a photo of one.  The only good shot I had was out the car window, when one of them landed on a nearby fence post and lingered just long enough.

Magpie on a tree branch

I did manage to capture another magpie sitting on a tree branch.  But I had to be fast with the shutter!

Partially frozen creek

We hiked by a partially frozen creek that I thought was very scenic.

Townsend's Solitaire

Passing by one bare tree, I spotted a fluffy, gray bird who was nice enough to hold still for several minutes.  Thanks to my friend Debbie, she later identified it as a Townsend's Solitaire.

Another one posed for me

There were a few of these gray birds flitting about and I captured another Townsend's Solitaire sitting in the branches of a tree.

Local deer herd checking us out

Last, but not least, we glimpsed a few of the resident deer herd.  Usually, by the time we noticed them, the deer were already on the run.  But one inquisitive momma with her young hesitated long enough to enable me to capture a few shots.

Although not recorded on my yearly hiking tally, this last "trek" of 2022 was a nice ramble with my family through a bleak, but beautiful corner of Montana.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

2022 in Photos

Well, we've all survived another trip around the sun.  For me it meant one more year of hikes, photography, and visits to cool places.  I'm nearly two years into retirement and still loving every minute of it.  Although COVID wasn't as much of an issue in '22 as the past two years, it was still out there - but unlike '20 and '21 it didn't stop me from doing stuff.  What did stop me - stupid plantar fasciitis on my left foot.  This persistent aliment shot a big hole into most of my hiking plans for the summer.  So I did what I normally do when faced with a roadblock - pivot!  Instead of hiking I turned my sights on photographing birds and had fun discovering new places to find my feathered friends as well as learning how best to capture those quick little buggers on my memory cards.

And now with 2022 drawing to a close, it's time for my annual "year in photos" blog post.  As my faithful readers know, this is my most favorite entry to write.  I compose this post mainly for myself, but also hope that anyone who views it will get as much enjoyment as I do creating it.

Once again, I've gathered together a collection of photos that I feel best represents the year gone by.  As per usual, these aren't necessarily always my best shots.  Some have been chosen because they represent memorable happenings of 2022.  Each image has been chosen from the month it was created.  And - surprise - you might see some new photos that didn't make it onto my blog.  That is, until now.

So let's get to it, and unveil the Linda's Lens top 12 photos from 2022:  


Mt. Hood at sunrise

For many days last winter I dreamed of capturing a snow-covered Mt. Hood at sunrise.  The only problem - I really like to sleep in.  For several evenings I would determine that tomorrow would be the day and set my alarm accordingly.  But when it buzzed the following morning, I'd just shut the alarm off and roll back over - later regretting my laziness.  Finally, one morning in January the planets aligned, and I was actually able to pry myself from my warm bed and drive along snowy roads to the Timberline Lodge parking lot.  Through frigidly cold and very windy conditions I witnessed an amazing sunrise that made all that effort worthwhile.  (Note to self - I really need to do this more often!)


Wooden bridge at Moulton Falls Park

I'm always on the hunt for new places to hike.  Although over the years I've covered most of the local trails, at the beginning of 2022 I was bound and determined to find some "new-to-me" hikes in the area.  An online image of a picturesque wooden bridge over the Lewis River at SW Washington's Moulton Falls Regional park inspired me to check this place out and get a photograph of my own.  After hiking a rough trail through second-growth woods, I emerged next to the mighty Lewis and was able to find the vantage I desired.  The green water and wintry foggy forest did a great job of capturing the mood of this beautiful place.


Grass widow blooms mean spring is here

One of the things I love about March - the wildflowers start blooming!  The farther east one hikes in the Columbia River Gorge, the greater their chances of spotting early blossoming beauties.  The first flowers to emerge from winter slumber are always the lovely purple grass widows.  In March, I took a wonderful hike with friends Debbie and Barry to the labyrinth, an interesting area of unique rock formations and sweeping gorge views.  Not only did we see hundreds, if not thousands, of grass widows sprouting everywhere, we were also lucky enough to spot an entire flock of colorful Lewis Woodpeckers.


Dueling goslings

This April, along with flowers, I focused on photographing the many birds around my home.  In the spring there's lots of "birdy" activity in NW Oregon.  One can find several different species in just about any park or preserve.  Not only were birds migrating, many were looking for mates, and once mates were found, raising their young.  At my local "duck pond" the resident Canada geese flock had just hatched several broods of tiny, yellow goslings.  Early one morning, I was lucky enough to capture two of these adorable fluffballs fighting over a worm.  Such cuteness!


Sunset at Bandon Beach

The year just wouldn't be complete without at least one visit to my favorite place on the Oregon coast - scenic Bandon Beach.  In May, I introduced my good friend Kim to this magical place.  So many things to photograph - unique sea stacks, tidepool creatures, birds (of course!), a cool lighthouse, and a sweet mama harbor seal with her pup.  But the main reason I return here every year is for the amazing sunsets over the ocean.  And once again the Bandon skyline didn't disappoint.


Cedar waxwing

This year June wasn't a great month for me.  Plantar fasciitis plagued my left foot, forcing a near-standstill to all hiking activity.  Luckily my neighbor Cheri got me out photographing birds, a definite sanity saver.  I added a bunch of "new to me" birds to my photographic catalog, including this beautiful Cedar waxwing, spotted at the local park.


Rhodie time!

In July I began attempting shorter hikes, but most of my camera's exploration came from driving tours, such as the one I made up to Mt. Hood to check out the rhododendron bloom.  Having missed it last year, I was determined to make up for lost time.  There's nothing I love more than seeing these gorgeous pink blooms brightening the forest.


Humpback whales feeding in Glacier Bay

August was awesome.  Hubby and I took a trip to Glacier Bay, Alaska.  Boy, oh boy was there a lot of photo subjects to be had!  We fished for halibut, toured Glacier Bay National Park by boat and foot, and kayaked Icy Strait.  But by far the highlight for me was a most excellent whale watching trip into Glacier Bay.  Our ship's captain had many years of experience and knew right where to go.  Not only did I witness a pod of humpback whales bubble net feeding several times, one whale breached right in front of the boat!  An amazing experience I won't soon forget.


Theodore Roosevelt National Park

After a trip to South Dakota to visit family, I detoured north to check another US National Park off my list.  Although I didn't hold high expectations for Theodore Roosevelt National Park (it was in North Dakota, after all) the place ended up blowing me away.  Not only was it drop-dead beautiful (pro tip - go in late September to catch the stunning fall colors), the place was full of all kinds of wildlife, from buffalo to wild horses.  I'm glad I took the side trip and explored this little corner of the west.


The Mighty Metolius in autumn

October was a grand month.  I spent many days outside in search of autumn leaf color.  A doggy sitting gig with my grandpuppies had me spending 10 days in sunny Central Oregon.  It was fun to explore a different part of my state during the annual fall seasonal change.  Lots of hiking trails were covered, with my most favorite being two separate trips to the mighty Metolius River, my vote for the prettiest water body in Central Oregon.


Hoyt Arboretum

November offered a continuance in my pursuit of changing leaves.  Due to a very hot and dry October, many leaves were slow to turn.  In a way it was nice, as fall color lingered nearly into December.  One chilly day, friends Debbie and Barry invited me to hike the trails in nearby Hoyt Arboretum.  Such a gorgeous place, I resolved to visit more often in the coming year.  It just goes to show, one doesn't have to travel far to find beauty - sometimes it's right in your own backyard.


Tumalo Mountain view from Mt Bachelor

Of course, December always means skiing, and this year the Cascades were blessed with enough snow that I was making turns early in the month for a change.  During the annual December trip to Mt. Bachelor I paused to take in the glorious snowy scene from it's slopes.  Tumalo Mountain was front and center in this view, a place I summitted during my October visit.  Standing in such a beautiful winter wonderland, I reflected on how lucky I am to live near such stunning places.  I also felt gratitude to have the good health this year (despite my foot issue) to continue exploring and photographing it all.


And so, dear readers, that's a wrap on another year of blogging!  As the number of people keeping blogs continued to dwindle in 2022, I often felt as though I was one of the last bloggers standing.  I really miss some of the blogs I used to follow, and the wonderful people who used to engage by commenting.  When I get discouraged by the small number hits or comments, I have to remind myself that the main reason I continue to keep a blog is for myself - as an online dairy to record hikes, trips, and other discoveries.  If others view my photos or read what I've written, I consider it a bonus.  It's very flattering (and a little humbling) to know there are still people who enjoy what I put out there in blogland.

So, once again, thanks to those of you who still faithfully follow, read, and comment.  You are much appreciated!  I'm not ready to quit anytime soon so I hope you'll join me for another year of photographic adventures.

Happy 2023!

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Colorful Day on the PCT

I'm adding one final autumn color post, because this hike was so beautiful I want to document it for future reference (yes, I'm definitely hiking here next fall!)

A sea of yellow

Due to my "injured reserve" status this summer, I missed out on hiking with many of my friends.  But in November I reconnected with hiking buddies Young and John for a trek through the Columbia River Gorge.  John wanted to take me on a section of the Washington PCT where he said the fall colors were always absolutely stunning.

Young admires the forest color

The place we hiked was a section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in Washington very close to the Columbia River.  We parked at a trailhead near Bonneville Dam and sauntered along a half-mile connector trail to rendezvous with the PCT.  I'd hiked this area many years ago, and was put off by a recent clear cut.  But now, after the passage of time, the area had rebounded into a lush second-growth forest.

Walking through the giant ferns

Usually peaking in late October, this year the fall color change was late.  Lucky for us, it extended well into November so on this day we hit it near peak.  And although Young and John claimed the leaf colors weren't as good as they'd been in the past, the huge amount of yellow foliage along this part of the PCT was still stunning.

Even the clear cut area had color

Oh yeah, the leaf color was very lovely!  Young and I traipsed through a wonderland of color, mostly yellow with a bit of orange thrown in.

Walking by Gillette Lake

After two miles of walking through thick, fern-filled second-growth, we came to a clearcut area.  Making room for huge towers supporting powerlines coming from nearby Bonneville Dam, the bare, bushy area was surprisingly colorful due to turning leaves on the  low vegetation.

Another view of Gillette Lake

We climbed over the clearcut hill and on the other side was Gillette Lake.  Although the leaf color here was rapidly turning brown, the winding trail down the lake was still a scenic journey.

Photo op on a log bridge

Although I'd hiked to Gillette Lake several times, I'd never before continued farther on the PCT.  As John led Young and I past the lake and up another rise, I felt excitement in exploring a "new to me" portion of this trail.

Big leaf maple

We passed a cute log bridge spanning a small stream, where Young an I posed for a photo op.

Vine maple

The we wandered by several big leaf maple trees, sporting their signature huge leaves.  I passed by a colorful patch of vine maple, that immediately got my camera's full attention.

Swallowed by the forest

My friends and I came to a larger creek and crossed a sturdy wooden bridge.  I paused on top to take in the gorgeous views of the creek lined with yellow and gold deciduous leaves.

Beautiful creek

By now we'd covered nearly 4 miles.  I told John my still-recovering foot could probably only handle an 8-mile round trip distance, meaning we'd need to turn around soon.  But John mentioned a nearby clearing with great views that made a perfect lunch stop.  Desiring to see this place, I sucked it up and kept on going.

View from our lunch spot

Lucky for me, John's lunch spot wasn't far beyond my 4-mile limit.  And it was worth the extra quarter mile.  Perched on the edge of a cliff, this clearing had a great view of the Columbia River and Oregon side of the gorge.

Catching my friends with food in their mouths

We all found spots on the ground and broke out our hot tea and sandwiches.  Between bites, I tried to get embarrassing photos of my friends with food in their mouths.

So. Much. Yellow.

Sitting for 15 minutes wasn't good for my foot.  After our lunch break I discovered it had stiffened up.  The rough, rocky trail had made it very angry.  And now I had 4+ miles to traverse to get back to my car.

More colorful forest 

However, the beautiful fall scenery was a good distraction from my foot issues, and once we got moving it did loosen up a tiny bit.  Back down through the lush forest we tromped, me getting out my camera at regular intervals.

Sturdy bridge crossing a creek

At the larger creek crossing, I bushwhacked down to the bank to get a photo of the bridge and the rushing water.

One more shot of the lovely scene

Back past Gillette Lake, still looking good in the afternoon sun.

Gillette Lake on the return trip

Through an alley of brilliant yellow and gold.

Alley of color

One of the things I like best about hiking with Young and John - they always end the day with a visit to the local brewery.  And they know all the best pubs.  This time they introduced me to a great place on the outskirts of Washougal, Washington.

A great day to be outside!

It was great to catch up with old friends and explore a "new" old trail in it's best season.  I'll definitely plan a revisit to this PCT section next fall.