Saturday, May 30, 2015

Sunrise at the Tulip Farm

The alarm buzzed at 3:30 am.  Groggily, I stumbled out of my warm bed.  Ugh - all I wanted to do was crawl back in and continue catching Z's.  Oh, this was insane!

Here comes the sun!

Such is the life of a photography enthusiast.  I'd signed up for a class led by a professional photographer.  We were meeting at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm (the same place I'd visited in early April.)  Since one of the goals was to capture a sunrise, meet-up time was at

Rising over the tulips

The wee hours of a late April Sunday found ten sleepy students gathered in the tulip farm's parking lot.  Our instructor, Gary Randall of Gary Randall Photographic Art, gave some quick instructions and led us out to the tulip fields, still very much in bloom three weeks after my initial visit.

Hazy skies make incredible sunrises

Having picked this date nearly a year in advance, Gary had no idea what sky conditions would be for sunrise.  All ten students tiptoed through the tulips, lined up our tripods down one row, and hoped for the best.

Illuminating these white tulips

Smoke from large wildfires burning in Siberia throughout the week had created hazy skies in the Pacific NW.  As it turned out, this made for an incredible sunrise that morning.  The sun rose over the horizon like a flaming red ball.  Skies went from a rose tinge to glowing orange.  Truly amazing!  My fellow students and I clicked our shutters like madmen.

First hot air balloon

As if the spectacular sunrise wasn't enough, the tulip farm had another treat in store.  Shortly after sunup, several hot air balloons began launching over their fields.

Another balloon rose over the fields

The multicolored balloons were a wonderful sight to behold!  Rising slowly above the tulips, they gave our class even more photo subjects.

This one didn't quite make it up

I watched three balloons float into the sky.  A fourth began inflating, and I readied my camera to capture it's ascent.  But, something went wrong, and the balloon began to shrink back down.  The most colorful one of the group, I was disappointed it didn't get to fly.  But I got a few shots of it anyway.

Tulips and tractor

Once the sun was high in the sky, our focus changed to a lesson on macro photography.  Having never before used a macro lens, I bought a new 60 mm for the occasion (any excuse to purchase new equipment!)

Still lots of flowers!

I picked up some tips on how to use my new lens.  Then my fellow students and I swarmed several pots of colorful tulips to practice our newly-found skills.

Tiny bug on a petal

I'll admit, many of my macro shots that day were throw-aways.  But I did come away with a couple keepers.  My favorite photo was of these white and red striped tulips. 

My fave tulips

In the end, I think I learned as much from my fellow classmates as I did from Gary himself.  I met a great bunch of photographers, who totally understood the need to rise at such insanely early hours.  So much fun to hang out with like-minded people!  And it was great to visit the tulip farm one last time before the flowers were done for the season.

Sharing with:  Scenic Weekends

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Moseyin' Around Mosier

Springtime just wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Mosier area.

Columbia River from Rowena Crest

The tiny town of Mosier, Oregon is located near the eastern end of the Columbia River Gorge.  Landing on the Cascade Mountain's eastern slopes, it boasts drier and sunnier weather.  Perfect for sprouting early wildflowers!

Loop-de-loop road

One sunny day last April, I rose early and headed east to catch some of the flowery goodness.  First stop - Rowena Crest, a spectacular plateau just east of Mosier.  Not only does this place burst with color every spring, there's some pretty cool windy roads you have to drive to reach it.  (Perfect place to film a car ad, don't you think?)

The balsamroot was out in force!

The vast fields of cheery yellow basamroot didn't disappoint either.

Cloud reflections on the Columbia

After wandering Rowena Crest's high plateau for awhile, capturing dozens of flower images, I returned to my car, and headed back to Mosier.

Mosier Pioneer Cemetery

Last year, I discovered a great new trail that began right inside Mosier's city limits.  (Photos and story can be found here.)

Lovely lilacs

This trail climbs to a short hill to the local pioneer cemetery.  Overlooking the Columbia River, it's a quiet, scenic resting place.  Wildflowers and a lovely lilac bush were blooming. 

Tiny gravestone for a tiny person

Some of the town's founding families were buried here.  I think it's so interesting to read gravestones from days long ago.  I always wonder what stories they could tell.

Sweeping views from Mosier Plateau

Continuing past the cemetery, the trail follows Mosier Creek and Mosier Creek Falls.  As I climbed, the canyon walls deepened.  Houses perched precariously on the opposite rim.

Lupine dancing

Then my path began switchbacking up the side of Mosier Plateau.  Wooden stairs were placed at the steepest climbs. The forest opened up into grassland, and I began to feel the sun's rays beating down.

Fluffy yellow balsamroot

And then - I was on top!  The Columbia River opened up below me in a spectacular panorama.

Follow the path

Oh the flowers!  Huge fields of yellow balsamroot covered the plateau's wide-open surface.

Gorge panorama

I wandered across the plateau, taking in these amazing sweeping views.

Busy bee

I admired the bees, busy gathering pollen.

Took zillions of balsamroot shots, from every conceivable angle.

Heading back towards town

After soaking in the stupendous views and gorgeous flowers, I reluctantly pulled myself away and trekked back down.

Colorful bloom

But I made time for a couple more photo ops on the return trip.  This colorful flower was just begging to be photographed.

Interesting gravestone

I had to get one more shot of this interesting headstone.

More lilacs - just because!

And these gorgeous purple lilacs.

The best way to end a hike

There's no better way to end a day of exploring than to partake in a local brew and burger from one of Hood River's amazing brewpubs.  Another great spring excursion in the Gorge!

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

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Hardy Ridge Friday

I love it when John sends a hike invitation that coincides with my Friday off.

The gang's all here!

Wanting to take advantage of this sunny April day, John chose a trail that promised big views - Hardy Ridge, on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge.

Tunnel of green

I'd hiked Hardy Ridge for the first time last June and was pleasantly surprised by the sheer number and variety of wildflowers blooming.  Although cloudy skies foiled the ridgeline views that day, the amazing floral display more than made up for it.  But, thinking it was too early for flowers, today would be an opportunity to catch those views I'd missed.

Bleeding Heart

It was a "hardy" group of six that gathered at the trailhead.  Our fearless leader John led us down an abandoned road for a mile where we then turned down an old trail that he described as "undulating."  (We gave John high grammar points for using such a big word!)


This trail was quite lovely.  The surrounding forest had exploded into a dazzling display of neon-green new leaves.  We felt as if we were hiking in a tunnel of green.  Pale pink Bleeding Heart flowers bloomed in the underbrush.

John gets up close and personal with a flower

Leaving the "undulating" trail, our climb began in earnest.  We switchbacked through a dense forest, it's floor decked out in with white trillium blooms.

UPF (unidentified purple flower)

There were other flowers blooming, equally as pretty, but we had no idea of their names. 

Another UPF

In the end, my friends and I dubbed these lovely blossoms "UPF" - an acronym for "unidentified purple flower."

Our first major viewpoint

After climbing for an eternity (well, it seemed that way!) we were rewarded with our first big view of the Columbia River.

Young capturing some Glacier lilies

A short, steep jaunt got us to the top of Hardy Ridge proper.  And what was waiting for my friends and I?

Glacier Lilies all in a row

More flowers!  This time cheery yellow Glacier Lilies were the main attraction.  I'd never seen these varieties blooming in the Gorge.  And they were everywhere!

Bonneville Dam waaay far down!

Contouring along the ridgeline, the forest opened up and we began to enjoy the first of many fabulous vistas.  The Columbia River shone a bright blue as it wound through the Gorge.  Bonneville Dam looked like a tiny children's toy from way up here.

Following the ridge

Our goal was to make it to the very end of Hardy Ridge.  John assured us we'd have a wonderful lunch spot there.

Amazing lunch spot...

And, boy was he right!  At ridge's end were front-row views of Table Mountain.  Our panorama stretched far down the Columbia River Gorge.  We couldn't have chosen a better day to enjoy it all.  The sky was as clear as a bell.

With a Mt. Hood view!

And looking towards the south, Mt. Hood towered over the horizon.  How perfect was that?


Yes, it was an amazing lunch spot.  My friends and I perched on the slope's edge and took in all these marvelous views.

And more Glacier lilies!

Finishing up my lunch ahead of everyone else, I got a head start on the return trip.  I'd glimpsed a huge patch of Phlox and Glacier Lilies nearby that I really wanted to photograph.  Leaving ahead of the group I could take my time and get some good shots without worrying about being left behind.

Here comes the group

Of course it didn't take long for everyone to catch up!

And there they go!

And then pass me by.

Fabulous Hood view

But it was a great opportunity to get some action shots of my friends.  Mt. Hood provided quite a stunning backdrop.

Back down the ridge

Then it was all downhill.  Descending the ridge we were treated to one last view of the fabulous panorama of wooded hills, nearby mountains, and shining river.

Here come John and Dorene!

Then it was back through the thick forest, along more roads, until the trailhead, and our vehicles, came into view.

Trees springing back to life

Everyone agreed we'd hit the weather jackpot today.  The clear skies made for incredible views.  Although not expecting any wildflowers, I was pleasantly surprised by such a wide variety so early in the season.  Once again, Hardy Ridge Trail had delivered.

Enjoying our reward!

We capped this perfect day with a visit to one of the Gorge's famous brewpubs.  A cold brew is always the best reward.  Cheers everyone - thanks for such a great hike!

Stats:  9 miles, 2500 feet elevation gain.......and one pint of delicious cherry stout.