Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 in Photos

The annual "year in photos" recap is always my favorite post.  I love reviewing entries from the past 12 months, remembering the amazing places I've visited, and good times I've had with friends and family.  When I started this blog five years ago, it was originally intended as a place to post vacation photos for my family to see.  From these humble beginnings, "Linda's Lens" has grown into a digital scrapbook documenting my (mostly) outdoor adventures.

As you might have guessed, choosing photos to represent this past year was no easy task.  Some of these images were chosen as much for the significance of the event, as the quality of the shot.  There was much hemming and hawing, lots of thought, and quite a bit of decision-making.  But in the end, I feel confident you'll enjoy the collection I've assembled below.

So - without further adieu, I bring you - 2013 in Photos!

January - I spent all my weekends on skis, either at the resorts, or in the backcountry around Mt. Hood.  A ski trip up the White River Canyon on a bitterly cold, blue-sky day produced some of the most amazing winter landscape images.

February - I celebrated my 50th birthday in style by traveling to Salt Lake City with my good friend and best ski buddy Kim.  Although we only had one powder day out of three, the Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons were gorgeous, and the ski areas loads of fun.  I'm already saving my pennies for a return trip.

March - Portland's rainy dreariness was finally broken by massive amounts of colorful tree blooms.  These cherry trees along Portland's waterfront are iconic for their yearly pink blossom show.  I think you can see why.

April - I checked off an item in my bucket list with a trip to the John Day Painted Hills in Central Oregon.  These fantastic colored landforms were everything I'd hoped and so much more!  I loved this area so much, it may become an annual spring trip.

May - So many great outings in May, it was hard to pick a favorite.  But reviewing the photos from a Mother's Day hike along the old Eagle Creek Trail, I realized this bright, mossy, green, old-growth forest scene represents all that I love about the woods here in Oregon.

June - This month's photo was an easy choice.  My daughter's graduation from Oregon State University was our family's big event for 2013.  Definitely a proud mama moment!

July - So many hikes....so many photographs.....how do I pick just one?  This photo, of my friend Katie descending from the Coldwater Peak Trail at Mt. St. Helens, was the one I kept coming back to, and eventually got the nod.  This view alone makes it one of my favorite hikes.

August - The hike to McNeil Point on Mt. Hood's western flank is one of my all-time favorite summer wildflower hikes.  One beautiful summer day, Katie and I paid a visit, and were handsomely rewarded with the best display of red paintbrush and pink heather I've ever seen.

September - With the "Monkey Butter Express" I completed my third consecutive Hood to Coast Relay.  Although not in top running shape, it was still my best H2C yet, thanks to the support of my wonderful teammates in Van Two.  This shot of my team crossing the finish line together is my all-time favorite H2C photo.

October -  An unseasonably dry month meant lots of opportunities to hit the trail.  And I did, even taking a couple vacation days to get to all the places on my "must hike" list.  Another month where choosing one representative photo was extremely difficult.  But this shot of Coldwater Lake on a calm fall morning eventually snagged my final vote.

November - November was the month of waterfalls.  It's no secret I love to photograph waterfalls, and the Columbia River Gorge has more than enough to keep me busy.  Although my hard drive is full of gorgeous white cascade images, this one of the twin fans of Upper McCord Creek Falls finally won me over.

December -  With the mountains lacking sufficient snow, I again took to the Gorge, this time in search of frozen waterfalls.  A cold Sunday afternoon was well spent, as I came away with amazing scenes such as this icy base of Horsetail Falls.

And - as a special bonus I give you my favorite photograph of the year.  Choosing this was no contest.  During a mid-October visit to Silver Falls State Park, I was producing mediocre images of Lower South Falls.  Almost ready to pick up my tripod and continue on, at the last minute I spied sunlight filtering through the trees above.  Positioning myself so that the rays produced a star-shaped sunburst, I fired multiple shots.  The result was this beautiful image that I'm extremely proud of.  I hope you like it too.

One last item - announcing the winner of the "Linda's Lens 2014 Calendar."  The lucky winner is Kim@Snug Harbor who blogs over at Snug Harbor Bay.  Congratulations!  Kim, please email me your address at lindaslens13@gmail.com and I'll ship your calendar right out to you.

Thank you to my readers for all your kind comments and interest in my little adventures.  The best part about blogging is hearing from so many nice people from all over the world.  I really enjoy writing the stories and sharing my photos from this amazing Pacific Northwest that I call home.  Keep it right here, I've got even more good stuff planned for 2014.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Skimpy Ski Season

Since buying my new skis on the hottest day of August, I've been waiting.  Through September, October, November, I've been patiently counting the days.  Getting my gear ready, tuning my skis, checking weather reports, watching the newest ski movies, becoming hyped.

But has the weather cooperated?  Nooo.......!

Mt. Bachelor in the fog

Oregon has had one of the driest Decembers on record.  Although many folks don't miss the rain, it spells bad news for those of us who love to ski.  At Thanksgiving, Mt Hood Meadows, my local ski resort had a 24" base.  Almost a month later, nothing much has changed.  People are still sliding on that same 24 inches of snow.

Sunny skies and frosty trees

However, that doesn't mean I didn't go check things out for myself.  The first Friday in December had me battling frigid temperatures (it was a whopping 4 degrees!) at Meadows.  Although the grooming crew did a great job with what little snow they had, many slopes were looking sadly barren.

Fog bank hanging over the mountains

The following weekend, I packed my car and headed for Central Oregon's Mt. Bachelor, hoping to find better conditions.  I left foggy, cold Portland at 5 am, and four hours later, arrived to partially blue skies and frosty slopes.  The fog was hanging low and thick at the base.  But a short chairlift ride brought me out of the fog bank and into a beautiful sunny day.

Chair with a view

Although Bachelor had about a foot more base than Mt. Hood, it still wasn't enough to open the entire mountain.  The first day of my trip, only two of the seven main lifts were in operation.  As with Meadows, the grooming crew here had also done a great job, taking snow from the parking lot and spreading it on the slopes.  Coverage was good on all the runs I skied.

My new "fat girl" skis

Of course, I was itching to use my new boards.  But with minimal snowpack, I didn't want to risk hitting a rock or tree stump and scratching the bases on their maiden voyage.  I started out with my old beat up skis, but upon discovering the runs were well covered, switched to my fancy new, wide, (115 cm under foot) Solomon Rockette skis. (aka "the fat girls")

By afternoon, the fog was lifting

Although it was fun to use my new toys, I found these wide girls are best used for powder days, and not groomed runs.  Trying to turn these babies on hardpack snow quickly wore my quads out (time to hit the gym harder!)

And the mountains played "peek-a-boo"

One of the great things about skiing at Mt. Bachelor is the wonderful mountain views from its slopes.  On the first day, the Three Sisters and Broken Top Mountain were shy, and stayed hidden behind the fog.  But by mid-afternoon, their tops could be seen peeping out from the clouds.  A nice way to end day one.

Day two began with this interesting cloud

Day two I teamed up with my friend Kim (who'd driven out separately with her sister) and my brother Dale, who lives in nearby Bend.  That morning as we headed towards the mountain, I noticed two things.  One - the sky was clear and blue, and two - temperatures were way above freezing.

Kim and Dale take in the views

Kim, who suffers from terminally cold feet when she skis, was hoping to try out her new boot heaters.  Well, she didn't need them today!  We were all sweating after the first couple of runs.

Dale has a snow blob on his helmet

Dale had a minor wipeout, and a small chunk of snow stuck to his helmet.  I told him he looked like a dinosaur.  So when I took this photo, he had to play the part!

Lift line under the cone

I ran into Kathy and Dean, two of my skiing friends, who happened to also be at Bachelor that same weekend.  All five of us decided to take a run together.  We'd barely traveled a quarter of the way down the slope, when Dean hit a hidden snow ridge, caught air and came down hard.  When he didn't get up, Kim went to fetch the ski patrol, while Dale and I hiked up to give him aid.

This scenery can't be beat!

After a sled ride down to the medical center, the prognosis was a possible ACL tear in Dean's knee.  Not what anyone wants to hear!  Dean was majorly bummed, of course, and so was I.  He's one of my favorite ski buddies.  I'll miss ripping up the slopes with him this year.

The Three Sisters

After helping Kathy get things settled, I met back up with Kim and Dale to continue our skiing.  But it was hard at first.  I kept thinking about how how quickly an innocent crash had led to a season-ending injury.  It made me dial back my skiing a bit.

Blue skies and mountains

Despite the bad news of my friend's injury, I still had a fun weekend.  Although the mountains here need much more snow, it still felt good to be back on skis again.  And a trip to Central Oregon is always wonderful, especially in the winter.

Kim and I strike a pose

But a bad cold the week of Christmas, and the lack of snow have kept me away from the mountains ever since.  I'm double-crossing my fingers and toes, praying for snow, and making sacrifices to Ullr, the snow god (alcoholic sacrifices, hee-hee!)  And if that doesn't work, I'll resort to doing snow dances.

This girl wants to ski powder.  Please bring us some snow!  Please, please, pllleeeaaaseeeee!!!!!!

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Bonus Day

During our mid-December cold snap, running water wasn't the only casualty.  An explosion and fire in an underground electrical vault left a nine-block area of downtown Portland without power.  Lucky me - this outage affected the building I work in.  Initially everyone was told that power would be restored within the day.  But one day stretched into another, and I ended up with two unexpected days off.

A helpful warning on the trail

The first day was spent catching up on Christmas shopping.  But when I learned there'd be a second day, I considered this a bonus.  And in my book, bonus days are not to be spend doing chores!  Knowing the Gorge was still frozen, I grabbed my camera, and headed back to check out some more waterfalls.

Bridal Veil Falls

The first stop in my bonus day trip was Bridal Veil Falls.  A short hike down a steep, switchbacking path leads visitors to a stunning viewpoint.  Although the day was much warmer than it had been during my first visit, I still encountered icy spots on the trail.  One person who came before me was nice enough to write a warning on the frost-covered path.

Icicles at the base of Bridal Veil Falls

Although some of the ice had now melted, Bridal Veil Falls was still mighty stunning.  A double cascade, with an upper and lower tier, the surrounding frosty vegetation made it look like a bridal gown's lacy train.

Partially frozen creek

And the icy creek below was just as scenic.

Frozen water sculptures

I spent more time taking pictures of the unique ice shapes in the creek.  There were some cool subjects!

Looking upriver towards the falls

But I didn't want to spend all my day here....there were other waterfalls to see.  After about an hour I headed back up the path.

Frosty downriver view

My plan was to hit Wahclella Falls next.  One of the few waterfalls I hadn't visited on my recent Fall Gorge Waterfall tour, I figured it was due.  But on the return trail from Bridal Veil Fall, I ran into a lady I knew.  She told me some friends had recommended Elowah Falls.  Apparently this waterfall in its frozen state was pretty amazing.

Icicles line the trail to Elowah Falls

So a change in plans!  I pointed my car toward Elowah Falls instead.  Hiking in, I got a glimpse of things to come, when I noticed these large icicles hanging over the trail. 

Icy Elowah Falls

As you may remember, I visited Elowah Falls earlier in November.  Well, what a difference a few weeks, and a few degrees drop in temperature makes!

Spray at Elowah Falls base makes interesting patterns

The entire rocky amphitheater was coated in white frost.  Huge icicles clung to cliffs high above.  The bridge below was coated in layers of ice.  And, best of all, in the area directly below the falls, was an enormous cone of bluish ice.

Below the "ice cone" at Elowah Fall's base

This cone at the fall's base looked like a big ice volcano.  Apparently, it had been growing throughout the week of freezing weather.  Each drop of water hitting the base helped create another layer of ice, building it higher.

The bridge was caked with ice

Although I wanted to get closer, one thing held me back.  The day's temperatures finally reached above the freezing point, and everything was melting.  Icicles intermittently came crashing down from the cliffs above.  Huge chunks of ice dislodged and hit the waterfall's base with a loud roar.  I didn't want to be anywhere nearby!

Another look at the "ice volcano"

Luckily, I could still get a nice view of the falls without risking my life.  Slipping on my trusty microspikes, I stepped out into the icy, white world.

Ice crusted fern

Elowah is a very tall waterfall.  At 289 feet, that's a lot of water dropping down.  As it falls, the spray travels a long ways.  The waterfall's influence line was very apparent - anywhere you saw white frosty ice.  And the misty droplets froze on everything - rocks, trees, leaves, even the ferns.

Admiring the view from the bridge

I ventured over to the ice-encased bridge and took in the views.  It was a great (but safe) place to observe the waterfall's bottom and get a close-up look at it's incredible icy cone.  It was also the perfect spot to capture a couple selfies!

Checking out the bridge icicles

By the next weekend, temperatures had warmed up above freezing, and much of the Gorge ice was on the melt.  I was so thankful for the opportunity to take another trip and see some more frozen waterfalls before they were gone.  Glad I spent my surprise day off on the trail, doing something fun.

Because that's what bonus days are for.

P.S.  You have until December 30th to enter my calendar giveaway.

Sharing with:  Weekly Top Shot.

Monday, December 23, 2013


During the first week of December, frigid temperatures descended upon Oregon.  Although the eastern half is used to true winter, the Willamette Valley isn't.  As we Portlanders shivered in our boots, Mother Nature went to work.  With mercury dipping into the teens, something special began happening in the Columbia River Gorge.....

Unusual ice formations

All the waterfalls began to freeze.

Latourell Falls wearing a white coat

On average, the Gorge gets at least one cold snap a year.  However, these episodes are almost always accompanied by snow or freezing rain, creating treacherous driving conditions.  Only the very brave dare venture to check out the ice display.

The photographers are out!

This year, however, the cold temps were accompanied by dry weather.  With no icy roads to contend with, waterfall peepers flocked to the Gorge in droves.

Frosty branches frame the falls

I was one of them.  There's nothing more fascinating than seeing running water freeze.

Well, the falls themselves don't freeze solid.  Weight and velocity of the running water keep the main portions of them liquid.  But around the fringes of every waterfall, amazing ice sculptures begin to form.

Even the ferns have an icy coating

I began my winter wonderland waterfall tour on an extremely cold Sunday morning.  My car thermometer read a whopping 17 degrees as I pulled into the parking lot at Latourell Falls.

Ice clings to vegetation

I grabbed camera, tripod, backpack, and some newly-purchased microspikes.  These wonderful contraptions slipped over the bottoms of my boots to provide traction on icy footpaths.  From a visit several years ago, I remembered the base area of these waterfalls was extremely slippery during freezing weather.

The stone walls below Wahkeena Falls are coated with white

At such an early hour, I thought maybe I'd have the place to myself.  Ha!  There were already a half dozen photographers scattered around Latourell Fall's base as I approached on the trail.  I found an interesting vantage point, and began shooting away.

Icy branches dangle over the creek

Oh - it was such an amazing scene!  The entire rocky bowl around Latourell Falls was coated in a thick, white frost.  The spray coming off the falls froze into many intricate patterns on the rock walls.  Tree branches, rocks, ferns - all were coated with an icy film.

Multnomah Falls looks amazing

Almost immediately, my hands began to get cold.  I stuck them in my jacket pockets between shots to try and warm them up.  Then I noticed an icy film forming on the surface of my lens.  The mist from the fall's spray was landing on my lens and freezing.  I had to continuously scrape frost off my lens - kind of like scraping an icy car window.  The hazards of photographing frozen waterfalls!  This was something I'd never anticipated.

Icicles dangle above Multnomah Falls bridge

After a good hour and a half at Latourell Falls, I began to get really cold.  Time to head back to the car and warm up.  My body thawed as I drove to the next destination - Wahkeena Falls.

As you know from a very recent blog post, I'd just visited Wahkeena Falls a couple of weeks prior.  Talk about a huge difference!  The rock walls at the waterfall's base were coated in a thick film of ice.  The vegetation on the sides of the creek were covered with delicate icicles.  Another wonderful display of Jack Frost and Mother Nature in action!   

Ice on the falls - a rare sight

Knowing it would be an absolute zoo, I had originally planned to bypass Multnomah Falls.  But nature was calling, and I knew they'd have a warm restroom.  Plus I happened to be in the right place at the right time, and scored a front-row parking spot.  So a stop here was in the cards.

Vegetation trapped in the ice

And I'm glad I decided to check it out.  Multnomah Falls was absolutely outstanding.  It's a beautiful waterfall in any season, but lined with frozen ice makes for a jaw-dropping scene.  Yes, it was wall to wall people here.  Yes, I had to elbow my way through the throngs to get some of my photos.  But capturing this rare show of nature was totally worth it.

Base of Horsetail Falls

My final stop in the day's tour was down the road at Horsetail Falls.  Because the viewing area is just off the road, this place was packed with people.  But the intricate ice patterns formed on the rocky wall behind this cascade were amazing.

Ice-choked creek at Horsetail Falls

I shot a bunch of photos of the falls themselves, the ice adjacent to the main water stream, and the partially frozen splash pool below.  Then, wanting to escape the crowds, I decided to take a short hike up the adjacent trail and check out Ponytail Falls.

Unique ice formations on the sides of Horsetail Falls

I'd visited Ponytail Falls a month ago, when colorful falls leaves adorned the trail.  Boy, what a difference a month and several degrees drop in temperature makes!

Ponytail Falls

Besides Multnomah, I thought Ponytail Falls was the most spectacular of the cascades I visited.  Tucked into an icy grotto, the splash pool below was outstanding.

Glittering ice at Ponytail Falls base

I loved the patterns freezing water made on the rocks below.  The coolest view of all was when I moved behind the falls.  Quite a difference from a month ago!  (Remember?  If you don't, check it out here.)

Wintry scene behind Ponytail Falls

By the time I finished up with my Ponytail Falls photo session, the sun was beginning to sink, the air getting colder.  Time to head back.  But with a memory card full of great shots, I knew the day had been a success.

Frost-covered stone fence

I did make time for one last photograph.  The carved stone wall along the Gorge Scenic Highway caught some of the spray blowing off of Horsetail Falls.  It coated one side of the gray posts in a blanket of white.  I found it most fascinating the patterns freezing waterfall mist made on its surrounding objects.

I knew our weather was supposed to warm up by the following weekend.  I didn't think I'd get another chance to see these frozen falls again.  But sometimes the unexpected happens, and just two days later I was given another chance...... Be sure to check out the next next post for more frozen fun!

(Also don't forget to enter my calendar giveaway!)

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