Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 in Photos

One of the things I love about blogging is looking back on the past year's posts.  Memories flood through my mind as I remember those beautiful hikes, fun ski days, or the sense of discovery from trips to new places.  It's like a visual scrapbook of my life. 

So once again, I'm featuring a representative photo from each month of blog posts from 2015.  Although some are favorite images, a few photos were chosen because they portrayed a significant moment from the past year.  Because I'm always terminally behind, some of these photographs weren't actually shot in the month they were posted.  But no matter, your job is to merely sit back and enjoy this visual recap of Linda's Lens 2015.

New Year's Day at the Coast

Finally recovered enough from my bunion surgery to drive again, I took my dog Bear on a New Year's Day excursion to the Oregon coast.  Although chilly, the skies were wonderfully sunny, and I got some outstanding photographs.  This image is bittersweet as it was Bear's last trip to the beach.  Now nearly 14 years of age, he's unable to walk more than two blocks due to ailing hips. 

Smith Rock in Winter

A calendar photo of snow-covered Smith Rock State Park inspired me to rise early one morning and make a 3-hour drive to catch the sunrise here.  Although last year's mild winter meant no snow, I did capture some wonderful early morning fog rising from the valley.

Mt. Washington

The snow gods aligned during a February trip to Bend with a much-needed snowstorm giving the Cascade Mountains a lovely white coat.  I captured this stunning image of Mt. Washington from Santiam Pass.



A bucket list item finally fulfilled, I visited the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm in Woodburn, Oregon during peak bloom.  Thanks to fellow blogger Becky for being a such wonderful tour guide!  We had fun capturing tons of colorful tulip images with our cameras. 


End of the Season

Okay, so this photo actually happened in April, but didn't get posted until May.... Although 2015 was a dismal snow year for the Cascades, I did manage a dozen days on the slopes.  Santa brought me a GoPro camera, and I had fun recording images in a new way.  Loved its wide angle lens - perfect for capturing chairlift photos with my favorite ski buddy!


Seaside Sunset

A solo trip to the central Oregon coast gave me the freedom to stay up late and capture this stunning image of a sunset over the Pacific Ocean.  2015 was definitely the year of the coast - I logged more trips here than the previous five years combined.


Panther Creek Falls

A jaw-dropping magazine image prompted me to find SW Washington's elusive Panther Creek Falls.  Not easy to reach, but certainly worth the struggle.  As I exclaimed in my post "I've found the most beautiful waterfall in the world!"


A Deacon in the Family

Another event I was late in posting, my son Cody's deaconite ordination took place in June.  My family traveled to Helena, Montana to witness this special ceremony.  Naturally, I took copious photos, but my favorite was this candid moment between Cody and his bishop.


Vista Ridge

My foot finally healed, I filled the late summer months with hikes in the mountains.  It was so hard to pick a favorite from September's many great treks, but this image of fireweed flowers from Mt. Hood's Vista Ridge Trail won out.


Where the Buffalo Roam

During my annual family visit to South Dakota, I played tourist, taking in the various attractions from around the Black Hills.  Although there were many great images to choose from, this buffalo in a unusual position (I referred to it as "buffalo yoga") was my favorite.


Lassen National Park

In mid-September, I made a solo trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park (but *ahem* didn't blog about it until November).  A place I'd wanted to visit for many years, this little-known National Park didn't disappoint.  Truly one of this country's hidden gems, I'm already scheming to get back there again.


Angels Landing, Zion National Park

2015 was the year of the National Parks.  Not only did I make it to Lassen, in October my hubby and I made a grand three-park tour of the southwest, hitting Zion, Bryce and the Grand Canyon's North Rim.  Although I've only begun recapping this amazing trip, there will be lots more good stuff to come!  In the meantime, enjoy this image of Angels Landing, one of my favorite hikes in Zion National Park.

Bonus Image!

Fall Colors, Indian Heaven Wilderness

Of course, because I'm unable to narrow my photos down to only 12, I always like to include one bonus image for my "year in review" post.  Seeing as I didn't post any fall color pics (and believe me, there are many!) I'm including this shot of vivid huckleberry leaves from SW Washington's Indian Heaven Wilderness.

Thanks to all my readers for your visits, follows, and comments.  This blog is merely a happy hobby to record my passions.  I'm flattered so many of you are willing to view my photos and read my attempts at writing.  I truly appreciate the support!

Looking to the year ahead, I'm already planning more adventures.  Stick around and see where the road leads me and my camera in 2016.

Happy New Year!

Sharing with:  Through My Lens and Our World Tuesday

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Angels Landing

(Continuing the recap of my mid-October trip to southern Utah...)

In my last Zion National Park post, Roger and I experienced a very stormy night while camping in the park.  We'd planned to hike the famed Angels Landing trail the following day, and I was worried this bad weather would force us to cancel.

At the trailhead

Luckily, the next morning dawned dry and thunderstorm-free.  My hubby and I awoke to a sopping wet tent (which had leaked onto our sleeping bags sometime during the night).  We'd planned to spend tonight in a nearby motel, so our camp had to be broken down and packed into the car for the day.  Crabby from lack of sleep, we both groused our way through this unpleasant task.  But finally, with all our damp gear crammed into my poor car, we parked in the Visitor Center lot, and caught a shuttle bound for the Angels Landing trailhead.

Roger rockets ahead

Angels Landing is one of the most famous hikes in the National Park system.  A nearly 1500 foot tall rock formation located within Zion, it's a 2.5 mile one-way climb to the top.  The views from the summit are magnificent - stretching down the canyon in each direction.  To access this spectacular panorama, the park service constructed an amazing trail that in some places is cut into solid rock.  One portion of extremely steep switchbacks is known as "Walter's Wiggles" after the first superintendent of Zion who helped engineer this section.

Muddy Virgin River

Today's trek began in the same location as yesterday's Emerald Pools hike.  Crossing the same bridge, I noticed the Virgin River was a totally different water body from the previous day.  Thanks to last night's rainstorms, this placid, clear, meandering stream had been transformed into a wide, muddy torrent.  On the opposite shore, the paths parted, and instead of heading left to Emerald Pools, today we took the right fork towards Angels Landing.

Fall colors just beginning

Scenery was absolutely stunning from the start.  The trail followed the Virgin River's banks, and wound through a wooded area, with fall colors just beginning to show.  Colorful sandstone peaks rose from the river, Angels Landing jutting prominently in front.  Although clouds lingered in the sky, diffused morning light was fantastic on the nearby rock walls.  Right off the bat, I was stopping and taking photos, and Roger, not wanting to wait, zipped ahead.


After a half mile, the path begin to climb, switchbacking steeply up the first sandstone cliff.  Puffing while ascending the steep grades, I took lots of photo (ahem-rest!) stops.  These frequent breaks provided chances to take in the fabulous scenery that kept getting better the higher I climbed.  There were some great views looking back down the trail.  The switchbacks were so tight, I mistakenly thought we'd already reached Walter's Wiggles.

Sinuous path upward

After a mile, we got a break from the climbing as the trail leveled out and passed between Angels Landing and the adjacent Cathedral Mountain.  This gap between the two peaks, known as "Refrigerator Canyon," was named for it's continuous cool breeze and shade.  During hot summer days, this canyon provides welcome relief for hikers.  Today, however, with cloud cover and temps comfortably cool, overheating wasn't a problem.

The trail was hewn into the rock

Roger would rocket ahead on the trail for awhile, and then wait for me to catch up.  Sometimes, I'd see him gazing down from an upper switchback.   Once I'd been spotted, he'd continue on.

Switchback in Refrigerator Canyon

After a scenic stretch through Refrigerator Canyon, I turned a corner and there before me were the famous "Walter's Wiggles."  A set of 21 very tight switchbacks, literally stacked on top of each other, the trail seemed to rise straight up.

Walter's Wiggles!

Although I'd met lots of people on the trail, thus far I'd been hiking by myself.  But everyone seemed to congregate at the Wiggles.  I began my climb in a crowd of people, and passed many more on my way up.  These sharp switchbacks seem to slow many hikers. I was surprised by a few of the people I saw trying to climb this trail - they didn't appear to be fit enough to attempt such a strenuous hike.

This trail is crazy steep

Of course, I huffed and puffed plenty all by myself.  The Wiggles was an extremely steep climb.  It was kind of freaky to look back down and see the switchbacks nearly vertically stacked on top of each other.  It was quite a view!  Yeah, I took a lot of "photo" breaks to capture these unique sights.

Scout Lookout (aka "chicken point")

Then suddenly I reached the top of Walter's Wiggles.  The terrain flattened out into a broad saddle.  I'd reached Scout Lookout, a wide area of sandstone leading to the final steep push up Angels Landing's very top.

Final precarious route to the top

Scout Lookout is also known as "chicken out point."  Many people, upon reaching Scout Lookout, get a glimpse of the final half mile scramble trail and decide they've gone far enough.  I told myself I wasn't going to chicken out, but when I saw the "route" (it wasn't a trail!) to Angels Landing's summit I decided there was no way I was going to attempt it.  The route was a nearly vertical climb up very slippery wet sandstone, with only a chain to hang onto.  And it was crowded with people going in both directions.

Amazing view below

Roger debated continuing on to the top.  But the large amount of people swarming the summit made him reconsider.  My hubby and I decided we'd climbed high enough.  The views from Scout Lookout were mighty fine, and we didn't have to risk our lives for them.

Wall of red rock

Roger and I found a place on the rocks, ate a snack, and enjoyed the amazing scenery below us.  We also were entertained by our fellow hikers, some beginning their climb and turning around, others waiting for companions to return from the top.  A group of chipmunks stealthily scurried amongst the crowds looking for crumbs, and boldly climbing into unattended backpacks.

Proof we made it

The cloudy skies, which until now had remained dry, began to drop precipitation upon us.  Now Roger and I were doubly glad we hadn't attempted a climb to the very top.  This rain would only make the slippery sandstone even slicker. 

Roger admires the white sandstone

Roger noticed another trail leading away from our perch, that appeared to contour the top of this saddle.  Not many people were hiking this direction, so he suggested we follow it for a bit.  Growing weary of the mass of humanity parked at Scout Lookout, I was more than happy to leave.

Rough trail

We followed this rough path through rocky landscape for a half mile or so.  The rain let up, and I enjoyed the views of adjacent rocky peaks.  But Roger's knees were beginning to bother him, so he suggested we head back down.

High altitude bathrooms

I was surprised to see two small restrooms perched above Scout Lookout.  When I decided to use one, Roger said he was going to head down, and he'd meet me on the trail.  Approaching the bathrooms, I was disappointed by a sign that said these restrooms were for emergencies only.  (Apparently they are difficult to keep clean - big surprise)  I decided I could wait.

Back down Walter's Wiggles

So it was back down Walter's Wiggles!  The descent was much more fun now that I wasn't gasping for breath - and the views pretty darn spectacular.  But there were still mobs of people climbing up.

Quite an amazing trail!

Here's a photo showing the intricate rockwork lining these sharp switchbacks.  As you can see, constructing this trail was quite an engineering feat!

Fantastic views going down

The canyon views were even better as I descended down the first steep cliff.  By now, the rain had stopped, and I even glimpsed a bit of blue trying to break out.

Looking down the canyon

I caught up to Roger and trailed him down the final sinuous switchbacks.  Although his knee was still aching, he'd been taking it slow, and it was doing okay.

White dome

As the trail leveled out, and began to follow the Virgin River once more, I began to see sunshine lighting up the canyon.  Turning around, I got a final view of Angels Landing, beautifully lit up by the sun, with a bit of blue sky behind.  A wonderful scene, I captured a few final images to remember this fabulous hike.

Blue skies to finish our hike

My favorite trail in Zion so far, I was glad the weather cooperated.  But now it was early afternoon, and there was still time for another hike.  Where should we go next?  Come back for my next post, as my Zion National Park trip continues....

Sharing with:  Through My Lens and Our World Tuesday

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Ornament Trail Revisited

Two years ago, I discovered a wonderful surprise hidden deep in the forests of the Columbia River Gorge.

Hidden surprise

There's a short trail where colorful Christmas ornaments dangle from tree branches.  Bright seasonal decorations blend in with moss and ferns.  My friends and I did a bit of detective work and successfully located this place of year-round Christmas cheer.  I shared photos and stories from this trip on my blog and it became a wildly popular post (which has been getting a huge amount of hits lately.  Not sure if there's a resurgence in interest, or the Russian spammers are at it again....)

Snowy path

After our first visit to the Ornament Trail, my friends and I agreed a trek to this place should become a yearly tradition.  However, last December I was laid up with a bum foot, and hiking anywhere was out of the question.

Holiday cheer in the forest

But this December, foot now healed, I was raring to revisit this magical place (and hang a few shiny baubles of my own!)

Glittering bells

Sadly, my friends bailed on the hike - they wanted to wait until there was snow on the ground.  And rain was forecast for the entire weekend I was planning to go.

Candy cane

I came close to staying home.  Mulling around the house until late morning, my hubby finally noted the clearing skies and encouraged me to just hop in the car and go.  He said I'd be much happier if I did.

Ornament-laden branch

So, with hubby's urging, I grabbed camera and hiking boots, deciding to take advantage of the afternoon weather window.  Although a few brief showers speckled my car on the drive, by the time I pulled into Multnomah Falls parking lot, things had dried up.

A nutcracker in the moss

It was 11:30.  With sundown around 4, I knew I had only a few short hours to hike the 8 miles to the Ornament trail and back.  No photo stops for me - the big camera got packed away in my fanny pack and I told myself it couldn't come out until I'd arrived.

Ornament selfie

I practically galloped along the paved path leading up Multnomah Falls.  Dodging crowds of tourists, I reached the top in record time.  Transitioning to the dirt of the Larch Mountain trail, I left this sea of humanity behind.  The higher I climbed, the quieter the woods became.  Which was just fine with me.

Cookie cutters add a splash of whimsy

Although the day was wet and cold, I was met with an unexpected surprise - snow and ice on the trail!  Although slippery, it was kind of fun to walk through.  Really set the mood for this holiday-inspired hike.

Red bell

Although slightly worried I wouldn't remember the exact location, an old gps waypoint led me right to the spot.  The entrance marked only by a couple of small ornaments, I was happy for the guidance.  To the untrained eye, it would've been easy to miss.

More surprises!

But once I started down this trail, the magic began!  Only a few yards from it's beginning, the forest opened up to several trees brimming with colorful Christmas decor.  Such a wonderful surprise, hidden deep in the forest!  I had a jolly time snapping photos of all the lovely decorations.

Old, weather-beaten ornament still hanging on

The Ornament Trail is located near the Trails Club Lodge.  I'm not sure the origin of this wonderful path, but I suspect it was created by club members.  The exact location is kept a secret.  Discovery is part of the fun of visiting this place.  And, as far as I know, anyone can add an ornament to the collection.

Forest jingle

Which was part of today's mission.  I carried a box of tiny colorful Christmas balls to leave dangling in the forest.  It was fun finding places to hang this new batch of decorations.  Hopefully, they'll still be attached to the trees when I visit next year.

Silver bell

After a half hour of decorating and photographing, it was time to head back.  I didn't want to be stuck in the forest after dark.  Luckily, the return trip is all downhill.  I put the pedal to the metal and made record time, arriving back at my car by 3:30.  Not only did I beat the darkness, I also barely escaped the next round of rainstorms, which hit as I drove home.

Adding a few ornaments of my own!

So glad I got out for a return visit to this wonderful trail.  I had the place to myself (unusual this time of year) and even enjoyed a bonus snowy winter landscape.

Driving home, humming Christmas carols, I realized a trip to the Ornament Trail had made me much happier. My hubby, like always, was right!

Merry Christmas to all my readers!

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