Thursday, April 30, 2015

More From the Ranch

Now that I'd photographed the heck out of that old car, it was time to point my viewfinder elsewhere. Lucky for me, the Dalles Mountain Ranch doesn't lack for photo subjects.

Old wagon and flowers

Oh yeah - this place was a photographer's paradise!  The next items garnering my camera's attention were the ancient, weathered ranch buildings.

Predawn light hits the barn

The Dalles Mountain Ranch is located on the site of an 1869 homestead, the first recorded in this area.  For the next century, it operated as a working cattle ranch, until 1993, when the current owners deeded it the state of Washington.

Weathered mailbox

Ancient barns, corrals, and farmhouse still stand, slowly deteriorating from the wind and weather. 

Dawn is breaking

On my way to the auto's flower field, I captured a few images of the old barn in pre-dawn light.

Low clouds hanging over the valley

A few wisps of fog rolled over the adjacent hills, making for some interesting scenic shots.

Flowers everywhere

Weathered fences abounded!  There were rotting wooden corrals, and rusty, tumble-down barb wire enclosures.  Wildflowers popped up everywhere, providing a little of Mother Nature's decor.

Broken-down barn

Visitors were free to roam around most of the old buildings.  But no one was allowed inside.  Seeing the poor conditions of these structures, I wasn't about to venture in!

Gravel road leads to the old house

Wandering down the main gravel road, I decided to check out the farmhouse.

The porch has seen better days

The house was in very poor shape - all it's windows boarded up, the porch sagging, siding peeling off.  But I wondered what stories this place could tell - if only walls could talk!

Floral carpet

There was an old cemetery uphill from the house, with a few gravestones dating from the 1880s.  (You can see photos from last year's post)

Tumble-down fence

I'd heard reports of a marmot family living under one of the old corrals.  Not sure the exact structure, I was rounding the corner of one weathered building, when I stumbled upon them.

Marmots peeking out from under a barn

They were adorable!  I stood motionless, and the marmots peeped their little heads out from under the foundation.  I didn't have the most powerful zoom lens on my camera, but made do the best I could.

Barnside view

Trying to move in closer, I scared the marmots back into their dens.  I hung out nearby for several minutes, hoping they'd come out, but there were no more signs of the critters.  Oh well, at least I got to see them - and was able to get a couple good shots.

Mt Hood watches over the ranch

From the parking area, high on the hillside, gave the best ranch views of them all.  Not only all the buildings were in view, Mt. Hood rose her glorious snow-capped self over the horizon.  I could see why the first settlers decided to homestead here.

But...there were more flower fields to explore farther up the road.  I'm not done yet - check my next post for more fabulous scenery!

Sharing with:  Good Fences and Wednesday Around the World and Weekly Top Shot

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Auto.... Again

The things we photographers do to get the shot!

Like waking up insanely early and driving 2 hours to catch sunrise in an amazing place.

Flower fields before sunrise (can you spot the old car?)

Last May I discovered the Dalles Mountain Ranch, part of  Washington's Columbia Hills State Park.  East of the Cascade Mountains, it's wide-open grassland erupts into a colorful carpet of wildflowers each spring.

The sunrise shot

Our lack of winter and earlier-than-normal spring meant wildflowers were blooming nearly a month ahead of schedule.  I caught wind of flowers peaking at the ranch, and scanning the weather, took vacation on the sunniest day that week.

First light on the old auto

Arriving in the chilly pre-dawn, I was pleased to discover there were now highway signs guiding visitors to the correct road, and a brand-new parking lot, complete with a restroom!  

Morning light on lupine

Although I'd beaten the sunrise, it wasn't too far away, and I quickly gathered my equipment.  I wanted to capture the sunrise from a beautiful vantage point.  After debating locations the entire drive, pulling into the site, I instantly knew the place.  That old car!

Lupine close-up

The Dalles Mountain Ranch offers tons of photographic opportunities.  But none are as famous as one rusted old car, left to rot in a fabulous wildflower field.  Last year, I spent the better part of a morning hunting for the auto and was ultimately successful in finding it's location.  This time around, I knew exactly where to look.

Old farm view through the fence

Hefting my tripod and backpack I hotfooted through fields and over fences to where the auto lay.  The eastern sky was lightening, and birds were singing their morning songs.  So very tranquil.  A wonderful way to greet the day!

Lovely country!

The auto was surrounded by a sea of yellow and purple.  Balsamroot and lupine were blooming profusely.  The flower show was just as good, if not better, than last year.  A giant patch of lupine was growing along the fenceline and appeared to be at peak bloom.  Suddenly it came to me - I had my sunrise shot.

The entire hillside is yellow

Noticing the eastern hills were getting brighter by the minute, I quickly erected my tripod and pointed it towards the lupine field.  Not two seconds later, the first rays of light began breaking over the horizon. 

Loved the light on these flowers

I'd hoped to capture a sunburst, and was able to fire off a half dozen shots before the sun rose over the hills.  Now that it was up, I turned my camera around to catch warm morning light illuminating the flowers and car.

Gnarly oaks

Then I wandered through adjacent fields, shooting everything that caught my eye.  These old oak trees, with their gnarly branches, were particularly striking.

Old fences made good subjects

As was this weathered, tumble-down fence.  A nearby patch of brightly colored flowers didn't hurt either!

Lit up lupine

Having shot the usual compositions that almost every photographer captures, I tried some different angles.  I kind of liked this one, shot through the barb wire.

Classic old car photo

But couldn't resist a couple of classic poses.

Downhill views were mighty fine too!

The wild, rolling grasslands captivated me.  Living in Portland, enclosed by buildings, tall trees, and lush greenery, there's something freeing about these wide-open landscapes.  Reminds me of my home state of South Dakota.

View through the window

Getting up early has it's benefits.  I had the car and it's flower fields all to myself for nearly three hours.  But just as I was finishing up, I spotted a silhouette ambling along the fenceline.  Another lady had arrived.  Time for me to move on.

Lupine stand tall and proud

It's interesting - this rusty car's location used to be such a secret.  I think the cat's been let out of the bag.  Later that day, I noticed at least a dozen cars parked nearby, and probably just as many people with tripods fanned out around the auto.  (And this was on a Thursday morning.)

But by that time, I'd moved on to the old ranch buildings and dazzling flower fields nearby.  Which you'll get to see in my next post.

More photos to come!  Stay tuned!

Sharing with:  Scenic Weekends

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Hamilton With the Hubby

I can probably count on one hand the number of times this past year my hubby has accompanied me on a hike.  He's a die-hard fisherman, his off-time filled with trips to the river chasing the elusive salmon.  But every once and awhile I can get him to join me for a ramble.

This way to the summit!

My friends Young and John had invited me to a post-hike beer fest in the gorge town of Stevenson, WA.  They planned to hike Table Mountain, a very strenuous climb with over 3000 feet of elevation gain.  My foot wasn't quite up for that, so I decided to visit nearby Hamilton Mountain instead.

Looking down from Rodney Falls

I had to do a little convincing to get Roger to come along, but the promise of cold beer afterwards sealed the deal.

Crossing the bridge

Hamilton Mountain is one of my go-to Gorge hikes.  Located on the Gorge's Washington side, once across the Bridge of the Gods, it's just a short jaunt down Hwy 14.  An eight mile loop climbs 2000 feet to tremendous views.  A perfect trek for this lovely spring day.

Oregon Grape (in Washington)

The Hamilton Trail has a little bit of everything.  Lovely mossy forests, waterfalls, birds-eye Gorge views, wildflowers, and a charming creek.  From the trailhead, it's a quick 1-mile jaunt to Rodney Falls, a unique 50-foot cascade that emerges from an enormous rock cavern.  A long, sturdy bridge crosses the waterfall's base, getting visitors close enough to feel it's spray.

First grand Gorge view

Once past Rodney Falls, the climbing began..  Roger and I switchbacked through thick forest, occasionally rewarded with a glimpse of the mighty Columbia River, getting farther below every time.

Peek-a-boo through rock crack

Since January, my hubby has been hitting the gym in earnest.  By early April, he'd lost a total of 21 pounds.  The payoff from these tough workouts was very evident as Roger quickly left me in the dust.  I swear someone strapped a jet pack on him!

Tall cliffs at midpoint

About halfway up the mountain, the forest opens up and our trail passed by an amazing viewpoint.  Steep cliffs dropped nearly vertically.  The panorama of forest and river below was truly jaw-dropping. 

Expansive view from the cliffs

Here's what our viewed looked like.  Not bad, eh?  A little reward for all that tough climbing!


Unfortunately, our climb wasn't finished yet.  Nearly a mile of switchbacks still awaited us.  Ugh!  I puffed along, watching my hubby practically gallop up the trail.  Luckily, there were lots of pretty flowers to distract me (and give me an excuse to take a photo **ahem*** rest breaks).

At the summit proper

But all that uphill trudging finally paid off as I puffed the final yards to the summit proper.  Although the trail provides many great vistas, Hamilton's summit is sort of overgrown.  You have to look over the tall bushes to get your views.  No matter, we'd made it.  Roger and I found a bare spot to sit and enjoy our lunch.


Instead of returning on the same trail, I always turn a hike up Hamilton Mountain into a loop.  Some of the best views are along a high saddle directly north of the summit.  After finishing our lunch, that's where Roger and I headed.

Roger tries to photograph some flowers

Prior to reaching the saddle, we passed through some second-growth woods teeming with wildflowers.  The colorful displays even enticed my hubby enough to stop and take pictures!

Red Currant (I think!)

There were lots of these red, flowery bushes, that I think are readers can correct me, if I'm wrong.

Columbia River and Gorge from the saddle

And then we popped out onto the wide-open ridgeline of the saddle.  It's here you'll find the best views of the entire hike.

Looking back across the saddle

We could see across the Columbia to the Oregon side of the Gorge.  I spotted mighty Bonneville Dam, spanning the entire river.  And Table Mountain dominated the eastern skyline.  We waved to Young and John somewhere on it's slopes.

Trail sign fun

Then, from the saddle, a mix of trail and old roads took us downhill to charming Hardy Creek.

Wandering through the woods

One final trail led us along this creek, through gorgeous woods.


Filled with more lovely spring wildflowers.

Bleeding Hearts

Finally, we ended up re-joining our original trail near Rodney Falls. Crossing under it's mighty cascade, I took advantage of good afternoon light to get a decent photo.

Rodney Falls in better light

By the last mile, my foot was beginning to ache, and I was quite ready for a cold brew.  The trail roller-coastered a bit until finally settling on a constant downhill grade.  A clearing for huge powerlines offered a final glimpse of the mountain we'd just conquered.  Fabulous late afternoon light filled the sky, and it was too tempting not to get some final shots.

Last expansive view before the trailhead

Although my uber-fit hubby spent most of his time way ahead of me, I still enjoyed having him along on a hike.  And now it was time to reap the rewards of our day's exertions. 

Bring on the beer!

Sharing with:  Wednesday Around the World and Our World Tuesday.