Monday, August 31, 2015

Return to Wahclella Falls

Wahclella Falls is my go-to waterfall.  Located in the Columbia River Gorge, it's a short drive and an even shorter hike along lovely Tanner Creek to access this silky little beauty.

Bridge and waterfall (from top of an adjacent boulder)

Yep, it's a good "bang for your buck" hike.  And in early July, still nursing a healing foot, it fit the bill for easing myself back into hiking.

Tanner Creek

Of course such a short, easy, accessible trail means it's also wildly popular, so I rose early that day, arriving at the trailhead by 7 am, to beat the masses.

Under bridge peek-a-boo

The trail follows beautiful, mossy Tanner Creek for a mile through an ever-narrowing canyon.  Even in July, the effects of our hot, dry summer could be seen.  The moss wasn't as green as usual.  It looked a little dry and brown around the edges.

Full falls view

But arriving at canyon's end, Wahclella Falls was as stunning as ever.  And there was still a decent amount of water tumbling through it's chasm.

Lovely mossy rocks

Trying to capture a different perspective of this cascade,  I spied a house-sized boulder towering over the creek.  It appeared others had climbed to it's top and taken photos from this perch.  Strapping my tripod to my backpack, I clambered onto an adjacent log, and scrambled along it's length.

Another photographic angle

From the log, I then had about a 15 foot climb up the face of this boulder.  I gingerly dug my toes into tiny clefts in the rock and grasped onto tree roots, and other handholds.  At one point, I began to question my sanity for trying to scale this boulder (with a recovering foot, no less!) but in the end, I finally heaved myself on top.

Tall cliffs

From my perch on the boulder's apex, the views weren't too bad.  But the waterfall still hid behind the bridge slightly.  No matter, I'd expended lots of energy (and adrenaline!) to get here, I was gonna get some photos!

Tiny wildflowers

After making lots of images from the boulder's summit, I carefully crawled back down it's face (even scarier than the climb up!)  I then prowled around the splash pool and bridge, trying for that money shot.

Picturesque Tanner Creek 

I really got lucky with the early hour visit.  I had the place to myself almost the entire time.  It was nice to be able to take photos without waiting for other people to move.  About 9 o'clock, when others began arriving, I took this as my cue to leave.

Creekside boulders

Wandering back along the return trail, I made a few stops to capture the beauty of Tanner Creek.  The large mossy rocks, and dense green foliage is scenic in any season, even a hot dry summer.

The last of the summer flowers

I spied these purple beauties near the trailhead.  Since our spring bloom had happened so early, I didn't expect to see any wildflowers.  So these were a bonus!

Gorgeous purple wildflowers

A peaceful early morning romp in the woods.  It was so nice to be out on the trail again. 

Sharing with:  Our World Tuesday

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Yet Another Coastal Tour

I've been everywhere, man!  Or so it seemed, the day I decided to take another coastal tour.

Three Arch Rocks

It was early July.  Although my foot was healing nicely from mid-June's unexpected pin removal surgery, it wasn't quite trail-ready.  But after sitting home all of July 4th's three day weekend, I was itching to go somewhere.  My alternate "gimpy foot" excursion destination?  The Oregon coast of course!

Tunnel through Maxwell Point

I'd already logged more coastal visits in 2015 than the previous five years combined.  Why not go for the gusto?

Tunnel Beach

My grand plan was to arrive by mid afternoon, hang out on a beach for awhile, have a seafood dinner in some cute local restaurant, and wait for a fabulous ocean sunset.  Of course, things don't always work out the way you imagined.....

Lots of scenic sea stacks

I arrived at the tiny town of Oceanside to cloudy, dreary weather.  The washed-out skies produced terrible light for photography.  Although this time I was able to see the famous Three Arch Rocks from the beach (last time I was foiled by fog) all my photos were turning out drab and colorless.

Barnacle-crusted rock

Although the skies were blah, I did happen to catch the coastline at low tide.  One of the cool things about Oceanside's beach is the existence of a sturdy concrete tunnel through Maxwell Point, an adjacent headland.  Accessible during low tides, this passageway leads vistiors to a secret seashore on the opposite side, christened by the locals simply "Tunnel Beach."

Up close barnacles

It had been many, many, many years since I'd ventured to this side of the headland.  Popping out of the tunnel, I was pleasantly surprised.  The rolling surf was dotted with several small sea stacks, artfully arranged along the sand.  I'd forgotten all of this was here.  Some interesting photo subjects after all!

Young people playing in the surf

So I spent some time roaming around Tunnel Beach, taking copious images of it's very photogenic sea stacks.  A large number of people had also navigated the tunnel, and were walking the beach, or hanging out amidst the rocks.  One group of young adults were even frolicking in the Pacific's chilly waters.

Another scenic view

After awhile I tired of the crowds, and decided to check out another location.  Returning to my car, I headed up the road to nearby Cape Meares.

Ocean cove at Cape Meares

Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint boasts impressive tall ocean cliffs, a cute historic lighthouse, and fantastic ocean views.

View from the lighthouse

I'd traveled here in late January, and had the place nearly all to myself.  Of course, on a Friday in midsummer things were quite a bit different.

Cape Meares Lighthouse

Wowza were there people!  Crowds of visitors lingered everywhere.  Although you can't tell in these photos, I had to wait for long periods of time to get a clear shot.

Cute lighthouse flag

But the Cape Meares Lighthouse was still charming as ever.  And the view from it's perch as lovely as I'd remembered.  The caretakers had even added a cute little lighthouse banner to it's flagpole.

Bob Straub State Park

But having my fill of crowds, I decided to go south in search of a quieter seashore.  Heading towards Cape Lookout, I was distracted by a seafood restaurant on Netarts Bay, and ended up taking an early pit stop for dinner. 

After a bite of greasy fish and chips, (not the best I've ever had) I continued my drive southbound.  Following the Three Capes Scenic Route, the road led me past Cape Lookout State Park.  When it appeared I'd have to do some walking for the views here, I kept on going.

View of Cape Kiwanda

The Three Capes Scenic Route ended up in Pacific City at Cape Kiwanda.  A popular beach I'd visited earlier this year, it was full of weekend guests.  Continuing through town, I spied a sign for Bob Straub State Park.  Now there was a place I'd never been before.

Footprints in the sand

Pulling into the parking lot, only a handful of cars had claimed spaces.  Climbing up over a large dune, I came upon a very scenic sandy beach.  At that moment the sun, absent all day, popped out from behind the clouds and lit up the early evening sky.  The light on the beach was so gorgeous I was able to get a few nice images of the sand, grass, ocean, and sky.

Ocean view at Neskowin

One more destination on my quest.  A place I'd wanted to visit on an earlier trip but ran out of time - the tiny town of Neskowin, just a few miles further south of Pacific City.  A quick jaunt down US 101, I pulled into a large parking area off the highway, and realized beach access would be a bit of a walk.  Normally this wouldn't have been a problem, but my foot was starting to protest the day's many short trips on unstable sand.  After debating for a few moments, I reasoned I was here now, and unsure when I'd have another chance to see this beach again.  I decided to check it out.

Neskowin Beach and Proposal Rock

The main attraction on Neskowin's beach is a large sea stack called Proposal Rock.  I think the legend is that an old sea captain proposed to his fair lady here, hence the name.  By the time I reached this beach, the sky had clouded up once again, producing crummy light on said rock.  That, and the long walk through shifting sand had been the final straw for my achy foot.  I snapped a dozen underwhelming photos and headed back to my car.

Ocean view near Cape Lookout

The third part of my grand plan had been to capture a lovely ocean sunset.  But the cloud layer kept getting thicker as I drove back north again.  I'd hoped to return to Oceanside's beach and get a nice photo of the colored sky with Three Arch Rocks in the foreground.  But glancing at the gray clouds, I knew it wasn't worth my time waiting around.  So I ended my evening early, and headed back home.

Even though my afternoon hadn't quite gone as planned, it still got me of the house and exploring the Three Capes Scenic Loop from one end to the other and back again.  And, despite the crowds, I'd had a good time.  Another coastal trip logged for 2015!

Sharing with:  Wednesday Around the World and Through My Lens

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Summer Flower Garden

Every spring my hubby plants a backyard flower garden for me to enjoy (and of course photograph!)

This year was no exception.  In early April, he buried several bulbs.  Throughout the spring, I watched green stalks rise from the soil.

Then in late May, flowers began showing their colorful faces.

First were the lilies, in many different shades of pink, orange, and yellow.

Then came the dahlias, with their neat rows of multi-hued petals radiating out from a central core.

The gladiolus opened next, their tiers sporting gorgeous ruffled petals.

Many early mornings found me grabbing my camera to capture perfect light on the flowers.

I filled many a memory card with gorgeous images.

There were other bloomers - deep purple flowers, whose names I didn't know.

We even coaxed a half dozen coneflowers to rise from the dirt.  With their slender pink petals and large fuzzy center, these became my favorites.

Sadly, by late July our flower garden began to dry up, a casualty of this year's unseasonable hot and dry weather.

Now nothing but a patch of brown, dried-up stems, I'm sad every time I look at it.  But I'm very thankful for the hundreds of photos I've taken throughout the summer.  At least I have a photographic record of the lovely garden that was.  Seeing these colorful images always cheers me up.

I've posted some of my favorite flower pics here today hoping they will bring cheer to your lives too!

Sharing with:  Through My Lens and Our World Tuesday.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Montana State Capitol

It's always interesting to me the cities that get chosen as state capitols.  Often it's not the largest nor the most well-known getting the nod.  For example, here in Oregon, our capitol is in Salem instead of the more populous Portland, and in my home state of South Dakota, it's a tiny city named Pierre (which by the way, is pronounced "peer" not "pee-air") winning out over several larger towns.

Montana is like that too.  Instead choosing the big cities of Billings, Bozeman, Missoula, or Butte, it's state capitol is a humble town in the west-central region - lovely Helena.

Capitol bldg back entrance

Already in town for my son's ordination, I was interested in checking out the Montana state capitol building.  It's not everyday you have the opportunity to explore another state's government seat!

Top of the dome

After confirming the building was open on Saturdays, my family and I braved the afternoon's 100 degree heat and headed to the Capitol grounds.  Sitting on a hill overlooking the city, I was surprised to see the Capitol building surrounded by tidy residential neighborhoods.  Driving past it's spacious lawns, we ended up parking near the rear entrance, and entering from the back door.

Lovely flower garden

The grounds were meticulously landscaped with many ornate trees and colorful flower beds.  I couldn't resist a couple shots of these purple beauties.

Entering the building

The Capitol building itself was a stunning sandstone and granite structure with a weathered copper dome crowning the highest point.  A statue depicting lady liberty sat atop this dome.  During the Capitol's construction this statue arrived on a rail car from back east.  Nobody knew what it was for or who had sent it, due to the statue company's records being destroyed in a fire.  The Capitol builders wanted a statue for the dome, so they used this one.

For 100 years the name, origin  and sculptor of this statue remained a mystery.  Not knowing her name, locals nicknamed the statue "Liberty."  In 2006, a descendant of the sculptor contacted the Montana State Historical Society and filled in the missing blanks.  The real name of the statue is "Montana" and it's sculptor Edward J. Van Landeghem.

Loved the interior color scheme

The interior was even better.  Stunning tilework adorned the floors.  The walls were painted in a beautiful color scheme of rose and teal with gold accents.  Ornate marble columns anchored the doorways.

Looking up into the rotunda

My family and I walked into the building's very center and looking upwards, gaped at it's massive rotunda.

Paintings surrounding the rotunda

The rotunda was anchored on four sides with paintings that depicted four types of people from Montana's history.  On one side, a native American.

The trapper

On another, a explorer and fur trapper (thought to be Jim Bridger).  The other two sides held paintings of a gold miner and a cowboy.

Although guided tours were being offered that day (and most of the small handful of visitors present opted to join) my family and I were content to explore on our own.

Southern archway

After lengthy looks around the rotunda, everyone ascended a nearby staircase that took visitors the the second floor.  The building wing above this staircase was referred to as the "southern arch."  A window at the stair's very top was made of colorful stained glass.

Gorgeous stained glass window

The house and senate chambers were on these floors.  I didn't think they would be open on weekends, but when we tried the doors, they opened!  We peeked inside each chamber, but didn't venture far inside.  Later, reading about this capitol building, I learned that a painting by the famous Western artist Charles M Russell resides in the House Chambers, above the speaker's chair.  If I had known that at the time, I would've for sure taken a photo or two!  (That's what I get for not reading the brochure before roaming around with my camera)

Statehood Centennial Bell

Montana gained statehood in 1889.  The Montana State Capitol building was built between 1899 and 1902.  After two design competitions, a winning design was chosen and construction began.  Between 1909 and 1912, additional wings were added to the building.

More rotunda art - the miner

I was amazed by the amount of intricate detail and lovely artwork that adorned the capitol building's walls.  Although it had been years since I'd visited Oregon's capitol building, I didn't recall it being quite as fancy.

"Driving the Golden Spike" artwork

One of the more intriguing paintings (that I actually took a photo of) was a half circular work hanging above the southern arch.  Called "Driving the Golden Spike" this artwork appeared to depict construction of the transcontinental railroad's last link.  The only problem was this happened in Utah, not Montana, so I'm not sure why this event was chosen for Montana's state Capitol building.

The Cowboy

A staircase continued to a third story.  Balconies beside two arched openings gave visitors a grand view of the ornate lobby below.

View looking down from the 3rd floor

Hallways off the main lobby lead to the Governor and Secretary of State's offices on either end.

Descending the staircase (and trying not get into mom's photo!)

Although it was blazing hot outside, I ventured out the Capitol's front doors to get some photos of the magnificent front lawns.  And the impressive statue front and center.

Outdoor statue

This statue of a man on horseback with sword raised depicts Civil War Union General Thomas Francis Meagher.  In 1864, he took over as territorial governor, and wrote an early constitution for Montana, hoping it would be used once Montana became a state.

Front of capitol bldg

Before I ducked back inside to the air conditioning, I took a few final shots of the Capitol's grand entrance.  Although the light was in a bad direction, I managed one halfway decent shot of the stone carvings adorneding the building's exterior (and I'm still puzzling over the "1899" date on front).

I hope you enjoyed this tour of Montana's gorgeous state Capitol building.  A laid-back friendly place, I was pleasantly surprised to be able to wander a good portion of the building and enjoy it's large collection of stunning artwork.  If you ever find yourself in Helena, a stop here is highly recommended.