Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 in Photos

It's time again for my favorite post of the year.  I love looking back through past entries, remembering the fun ski trips, hikes, and new places I've been.  It's been a busy year for me - visiting three national parks (Crater Lake, Badlands, Olympic) skiing some new backcountry routes (including a Mt. St. Helens summit) hiking a huge number of trail miles, and running four races (one relay, two half marathons, and the Portland marathon).

As with previous years, I've chosen a representative photo from each month of blog posts.  Not all images chosen were my very best.  Some got the nod because they captured an especially meaningful moment in my life.

I hope you enjoy my 2014 visual scrapbook!


The Ornament Trail

A low amount of snow in the mountains meant hiking instead of skiing.  Accompanied by friends John and Young, we traversed the Columbia River Gorge in search of the famed Ornament Trail.  Our quest met with success, and I had a blast capturing a wee bit of Christmas deep in the forest.



A rare mid-February snowstorm transformed Portland into Snowlandia.  Six inches of the fluffy good stuff fell at my doorstep.  Work was closed, and I spent a delightful two days playing in the snow with my doggie.


Crater Lake in Winter

A long time winter bucket list finally fulfilled, my hubby and I visited Crater Lake in winter.  We hit weather jackpot, arriving on the heels of a huge snowstorm that cleared out upon our arrival.  Two magical days followed, skiing and snowshoeing in wonderful fluffy powder, enjoying bluebird skies.


Summitting St. Helens

Ever since I started backcountry skiing, I'd longed to summit Mt. St. Helens on skis.  After a failed attempt in 2013, friends John and Young invited me on their yearly trek.  One of the toughest things I've ever done, it was a 7 1/2 hour grind to the top (losing my glasses along the way).  But once upon the summit, all strife was instantly forgotten.  Young captured my moment of glory.


The hunt for the auto

After seeing dozens of photos on the internet, I set out to the Dalles Mountain Ranch to capture their lovely spring wildflowers.  But my main goal was to find a rusty old auto slowly deteriorating amidst a field exploding with color.  It took some searching, but my quest met with success.


Evening at Ecola

An evening trip to the Oregon coast provided some wonderful light in which I captured one of my favorite beach scenes.  This shot of Indian Beach at Ecola State Park was definitely a winner.


Ed's Trail to Silver Star Mountain

Hands-down my favorite hike of 2014, I skipped work for a chance to join John on a trek up Ed's Trail to Silver Star Mountain.  The abundant flowers and mountain views made for a photographer's dream.  A wonderful group of hiking friends was icing on the cake.


Cooper Spur

Such a great many wonderful to pick a favorite?  After much pondering I decided the trip I made up Cooper Spur with friend Mary Ellen won the nod.  After several years of closure, the Forest Service finally opened the road to Cloud Cap Inn, providing access to this wonderful trail high on Mt. Hood.


Bear Butte, SD

On my annual family trip to South Dakota, I managed to squeeze in a couple hikes.  Climbing Bear Butte was actually my parent's idea.  It had been decades since I'd hiked here, and I found out quickly what I'd been missing.  Not only a spectacular panorama, also a great opportunity for quality time with family.


Broken Top Crater

It's no secret I love Central Oregon.  During a fall tour of this area, I explored some new trails and filled a memory card.  The hike I took with my brother into Broken Top Mountain's crater was nothing short of spectacular.


Ozette Triangle, Olympic National Park

Although foot surgery sidelined me the months of November and December, the blogging didn't stop.  A photo backlog from numerous fall trips provided plenty of material. And sitting at home gave me a chance to catch up!  A trip to Olympic National Park produced many great images, but this one from a hike on the Ozette Triangle was my favorite.  


Tamanawas Falls

My last hike before foot surgery, I visited two beautiful waterfalls on Mt. Hood's east side.  Arriving early in the morning, I had gorgeous Tamanawas Falls all to myself.

And.....A Bonus Photo

Abiqua Falls

Because I love waterfalls, I just had to include this shot of Abiqua Falls in my year-end recap.  A new place visited in 2014, it took a long drive along a horrible road, and muddy scramble down a faint path to reach this beauty.  Sometimes the best things in life require a bit of extra effort, but they're always worth it!

Thank you to all my blogger friends who regularly stop in and comment.  With all the photo-taking I do, my family and friends sometimes think I'm a little crazy.  It's nice to get positive feedback from fellow photographers who "get it."

Once my foot is healed, (hopefully I'll be skiing by MLK Day) I plan to get back on track, posting photos of my outdoor adventures.  Santa brought me a GoPro camera, and I'm itching to put it to use.  I've got lots of good stuff planned for 2015, so I hope you'll keep dropping by.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Banff Day Two - Glaciers and Teahouses

This is second in a series recapping my 2008 trip to Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada.

Our first day in Banff National Park was merely an appetizer.  My hubby and I's brief visit to Lake Louise left us hungry for more.  The next morning we awoke early, and headed back for further exploration.

Lake Louise on a foggy morn

Many trails depart from the lake's emerald shoreline.  But after much research, I decided to combine two of the favorites; treks to the Lake Agnes Teahouse, and the Plain of Six Glaciers.

Our day's goal:  hiking up to Abbot Pass Viewpoint to see the glaciers, and visiting the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse.  Then we'd head over to Lake Agnes, the Big Beehive, and the Lake Agnes Teahouse.  Round-trip, the distance was about 10+ miles and a couple thousand feet of elevation gain.  Ambitious, yes, but we wanted to take in as much of Banff as possible.  That's what we'd traveled here for.

Climbing above the clouds

Roger and I began our hike retracing yesterday's steps along the lake's north shoreline.  Reaching the inlet creek at the far end, our trail began to climb.  Almost immediately the surrounding scenery changed.  We traveled though a narrow valley, sandwiched between tall peaks.  A gravelly river of glacial melt snaked through it's very bottom.

Glacial melt flowing towards the lake

Oh were the views spectacular!  Steep, jagged mountains rose on all sides.  Lush green forests carpeted the lower valley.  Picture-postcard perfect!  (And, yes I kept my camera clicking in hopes of capturing a postcard shot of my own).

Although the morning started out overcast and foggy, the higher we ascended, the clearer the skies became.  Small pockets of blue sky teased and provided encouragement to my hubby and I through the difficult climbing.

Plaza at the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse

The trail switchbacked steeply through a thick wooded grove, and then suddenly the forest opened up into a huge clearing.  Someone had paved a patio area with local rocks, and installed wooden benches for tired hikers.  This scenic place offered visitors front-row views of the massive glaciers at valley's end.

Glacial ice hanging on the mountain

Roger and I glimpsed the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse through the trees.  It was still fairly early, and we weren't yet hungry, so we agreed to save our stop for the return trip.  The glaciers, and Abbot Pass Viewpoint were calling loudly, and we were eager to see them up close.

An interesting cairn!

As we departed from the viewing plaza, Roger and I passed by an area sporting cairns of all shapes and sizes.  Not sure if they were constructed by tourists, or bored locals, but there were some very unusual ones.  Made great photo subjects!

Amazing alpine views

The final 1.5 km of trail was exciting.  With each step, the mountains drew closer, and appeared to rise even higher.  The clouds parted enough so we could see their craggy summits.  Glacial ice perched on steep cliffs grew in size, and appeared near enough to touch.

Lake Louise is very tiny from up here

Looking back down the valley, Lake Louise was just a small aqua-blue dot.  Wow - we'd traveled a long way!

Looking down on the glacier

Our defined trail deteriorated into a rocky plain.  Cairns marked the route to the designated viewpoint.  We followed other people through the desolation (we were by no means alone!)  Finally, we came upon a large area where everyone seemed to be congregating.  Assuming this was the Abbot Pass Viewpoint, Roger and I pulled up a rock.

Dramatic place for a photo op

An amazing place!  You could see the white glacial ice perched high on a steep cliff.  I don't know how it stayed in place - the entire slab looked ready to slide off at any minute.  Small amounts of ice and snow were continually sloughing off its face, collecting at the base below.

Mountains and dirty ice

The glaciers themselves spread out between the mountain peaks.  Their surfaces a dirty gray, you had to look hard to realize this was a river of ice and not part of the mountain.  Deep crevasses splitting across the glacier's surfaces were one of the more obvious clues.

Proof I was there

Roger and I rested, snacked, and took copious photos.  We oohed and aahed after witnessing a large icefall roar down the mountainside.  And Roger got some unwanted attention from a very friendly chipmunk (more about that in a later post!)

The trail travels over a moraine

A continuous stream of people snaked up the gravel moraine to this viewpoint.  I was surprised by the large number of visitors who'd made this trek (a six mile round trip).

Heading back down the valley

After about an hour of sightseeing, Roger and I realized if we were going to hit all our day's destinations, it was time to get going.  So back down through the rocky moraine we traveled.

In one place, the trail was carved into a rock ledge

With views just as spectacular going down as climbing up.

The Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse

In no time, we were back at the Plaza and the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse.  A cute little log building in the middle of nowhere, this wilderness cafe catered to hungry hikers.  Originally built as a rest stop for mountain climbers en route to Abbot Pass, this building now operated during summer months.  Due to it's isolation, all supplies had to be either helicoptered in, or packed up by horses and people.  The building had no running water, and all cooking was done on propane stoves.  Employees either hiked up, or slept in nearby outbuildings.

The place was packed!

By the time Roger and I reached the teahouse it was early afternoon, and I was ready for a bite.  However, the place was packed to the gills with other hikers.  I looked around for a table, to no avail.  We had to settle for dry granola bars, sitting on rocks outside.

Fantastic views on the trail to Lake Agnes

Bellies full, we continued our trek to Lake Agnes and the Big Beehive.  This trail stayed high as it contoured across the mountaintops, providing killer views of Lake Louise, far, far below.

A nice bunch of fireweed

And it meandered through fields of lovely pink fireweed.

Mirror Lake and the Big Beehive

Roger and I reached the shores of tiny Mirror Lake, in the shadow of a massive rock known as the Big Beehive.  Very impressive indeed!

Lake Agnes Teahouse

From Mirror Lake, we climbed past a small waterfall to the very scenic location of Lake Agnes Teahouse.

We stopped in for a cuppa

Perched on a tall cliff's edge, this cute teahouse had a wonderful view of Lake Agnes and the Big Beehive.  As with the Plain of Six Glaciers, this place was also packed to the rafters with customers.  However, we lucked out, passing by a table just as it was being vacated.  Acting fast, I claimed a spot by quickly plopping my backpack onto a seat. 

Beautiful setting for a teahouse

So my hubby and I enjoyed a very expensive cup of tea and scone surrounded by 360 degrees of amazing scenery.  A wonderful high mountain cafe!  Despite the high prices, I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Lake Agnes

After refueling, I detoured over to Lake Agnes to take in the views and snap a few pics of it's dramatic mountain setting.  Then it was down, down, down, a wide switchbacky trail, returning to our starting point on the shores of Lake Louise. 

Lake Louise outlet - looking back to where we'd been

We ended our day's journey at the opposite end of Lake Louise, looking back towards the immense glaciers - the base of which we'd stood at just a few short hours ago.

What an amazing journey!  Truly one of the most spectacular trails I've visited, and a high point of our Banff National Park vacation.

But wait, there's more......much more.  Part Three is next - look for it soon after the new year.

Sharing with:  Our World Tuesday

Friday, December 26, 2014

Banff National Park - 2008

Told you I was gonna dip into my photo archives!

Since I've been laid up for nearly two months, there's been zero opportunities to get outside and gather new material.  So I'm calling into action some old, never-before-blogged photographs.

 Banff National Park!

In July of 2008, my hubby and I spent a week at Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada.  A full day and a half's drive from Portland, we arrived on the first afternoon with enough time for a quick tour of the park's most popular sites - Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.  

Lake Louise

The scenery here was calendar-worthy; steep, craggy peaks and emerald glacial lakes.  First, Roger and I stopped by Lake Louise.  This long, aqua-blue water body was located in one of the most breathtakingly beautiful spots on earth.  Jagged mountains rose straight up from it's surface, towering high above.  Glaciers clung precariously to their rocky walls.


Roger and I parked in a giant lot near the lake's fancy hotel, the Chateau Lake Louise, and joined the throngs of people out for a stroll.  We followed a path paralleling the lake's north shoreline.  Although mid-summer, I was able to spot a few late blooming wildflowers. 

Looking back towards Chateau Lake Louise

The farther we traveled from the parking lot, the fewer people we encountered on the trail.  By the time we reached the lake's opposite end, only a handful of hardy souls shared our path.  In such a crowded place, the solitude was wonderful.  We looked back towards the lake's other end, catching a nice view of the famous Chateau Lake Louise.

Looking towards the glaciers that carved this lake

At this end of the lake, we could get a much better view of the massive glaciers perched high upon the mountainsides.  They sat on such steep slopes, it appeared the ice could topple into the valley at any minute.  Millions of years ago, these glaciers were responsible for carving out this beautiful lake we were enjoying today.

At the lake's end, mountains rise up steeply

The mountains rose so quickly, they looked like massive rock walls.  Only a narrow valley separated the lake's inlet creek, created by water from the melting glaciers.  A trail continued through this valley, climbing until it reached the base of these vast ice sheets.  But, pressed for time, Roger and I decided to save this hike for another day, and turned around at the lake's far end.

Chateau Lake Louise - an amazing hotel!

Back at the parking area, Roger and I ventured into the famous Chateau Lake Louise.  A UNESCO World Heritage site, this hotel was originally built as a base for outdoor enthusiasts over 100 years ago.  It has since emerged as a luxury resort, catering to the well-heeled vacationer.  We gaped at the gorgeous interior, and peeped into the fancy dining room.  But there was no way in the world we could afford to eat, let alone stay, in such a place.

The hotel grounds were immaculately landscaped

So, after a quick tour of the fabulously landscaped hotel grounds, we decided to stop by Lake Louise's next-door neighbor, Moraine Lake. 

Moraine Lake

Probably the most famous mountain view in all of Canada, Moraine Lake and it's corresponding jagged peaks are jaw-dropping.  You've no doubt seen this view on a motivational poster somewhere.  The lake is situated in the picturesque Valley of the Ten Peaks.  Moraine Lake is also glacially formed, and it's brilliant blue color due to the refraction of light on the glacial rock flour continually deposited in the water.

Obligatory tourist photo

About the time Roger and I pulled into the parking lot, the skies opened up and doused us with a heavy shower.  We braved the elements anyway, and I attempted to take some shots of this magnificent view.  The cloudy skies and dark light didn't make for the best photos, but I made a valiant effort to capture some digital memories just the same.

Our reward after a rainy day

It rained for the remainder of the afternoon.  We'd reserved a site at a nearby park campground, but not wanting to set up in damp conditions, decided to first head into the city of Banff for some dinner.  As we rounded the last bend on the highway into town, the clouds parted, revealing a brilliant rainbow. Taking this as a sign of good things to come, I made Roger stop the car so I could capture it on my memory card.  

Mount Cascade view from the town of Banff

Our vacation was off to a great start!  The evening skies cleared, and Roger and I were treated to some lovely views of the mountain ranges encircling the town of Banff.

Stay tuned - I'll be posting more photos from this trip throughout the next couple of weeks.  And, as per tradition, be sure and stop by on December 31st for my "2014 in Photos" annual review.