Sunday, November 29, 2015

Fall Comes to Mt. Hood

Yes....this post is from September.  Yes....I'm still woefully behind.  And're going to see some fabulous fall colors.

Frosty fall leaves

Lassen National Park was great, but it was time to reacquaint myself with my own backyard.  The following weekend, I took a short trip to good ol' Mt. Hood - my local playground.

Mt. Hood towers over a golden meadow

In search of fall colors, I headed over to Hood's east side, parking at the Elk Meadows Trailhead near Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Area.  I'd heard reports of huckleberry bushes in full autumn finery around Umbrella Falls, and was dying to check things out.

Backlit red leaves

Overnight temps had dipped into the 30's and I was surprised to see frost on the leaves at the beginning of my hike.  After such a hot summer, it was a shock to need gloves and a knit cap!  But I love cold weather hiking and knew I'd get toasty warm once I got moving.

The multi-hued huckleberry bush

The trail to Umbrella Falls climbed through a dense fir forest, it's understory covered in places by colorful huckleberry bushes, their leaves a kaleidoscope of reds, yellows and oranges.  Really brightened up the woods.  A most pleasant distraction for my camera.

Trailside color

It's a quick 2 mile jaunt to lovely Umbrella Falls.  I visited this area last year and the autumn color show around the waterfall was incredible.  Hoping for a repeat performance, I was sorely disappointed when, upon reaching the falls, the leaf colors were practically nonexistent.  Not only that, but Umbrella Falls was bathed in alternating bright morning sun and dark shadows, extremely difficult lighting conditions for photography.

Umbrella Falls close up

Sigh....what's a photographer to do?  I'd hiked all the way up here, I wasn't going to go away empty handed.  So I focused on a shaded area of the falls, zoomed in and got some macro shots of the running water.

Another waterfall macro shot

The green moss and reddish rock color made for some interesting photos, don't you think?

Bright bushes line the creek

Better than nothing, anyway!  And I did get a couple of nice images of some brightly colored bushes near a footbridge spanning the creek.

Hood peeps over the crimson bushes

After spending the better part of an hour at Umbrella Falls trying to capture something, I finally decided to pack it in and continue on the rest of the loop trail.  From last year's hike, I knew this path would meander through Mt Hood Meadows' ski area before circling back to the trailhead.

More lovely red hues

Last year I hiked this portion in pouring rain, and didn't get many photos.  This year, with the day's bright sunshine, I stopped frequently to capture what I'd missed.

Tons of color in this ski run

Surprisingly, the best fall colors were in the middle of ski runs.  Crimson huckleberry leaves, golden hues, and bright yellow colors made checkerboard patterns in the clearings.  Oh, it was amazing!

Patchwork color under the HRM Lift

Having been skunked at Umbrella Falls, the fantastic colors I found under the ski lift more than made up for things!

Golden ferns

A great day to be up on the mountain.  I hiked a mere 5 miles and 1500 feet elevation gain, but it was good to be back on the home hill and fun to see my favorite ski area dressed up for fall.

Sharing with:  Through My Lens and Our World Tuesday.

Friday, November 27, 2015

West to the Coast

Heading home from Lassen Volcanic National Park, I wasn't thrilled about another slog straight up I-5.  So instead, I opted for a scenic return trip via the California and Oregon coastlines.  Although this route required another travel day, the promise of seeing majestic redwoods and gorgeous ocean scenery made for an easy decision.

Roadside elk in Cali

Leaving Lassen Park that morning, I was first sidelined with an ominous "low tire pressure" warning on my car that took an hour to resolve.  Then I hit construction hell between Redding and the California coast (Highway 299 west of Redding has got to be the worst road ever!) that delayed me at least another precious hour.   By the time I finally reached Hwy 101, and the Cali coast, it was well into mid-afternoon.  I realized I'd need to put the pedal to the metal if I was gonna get to Bandon, Oregon, my day's destination, by sundown.

Park entrance sign

But I wasn't missing a chance to see the California redwoods.  Although originally planning for a long hike in Redwood National Park, I ended up with only enough time for a quick quarter-mile romp through lovely Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

Regal trees

But this little state park was a gem.  It's lush forests full of enormous redwoods, I was totally awed by their size.  Their bases were larger than a small car, with trunks soaring skyward towards the heavens.  Sadly my lame attempt at photography didn't even come close to capturing their grandeur.

Hike through an amazing forest

Even though the dense forest made for tough lighting conditions, I enjoyed walking through the cool, dark, fern-filled forest.  A welcome break after eight stressful hours in the car.

Sunlight peeks through the tall trees

Opting to detour from Highway 101, I followed the Newton B. Drury Parkway through the park.  A narrow scenic lane that wound through the heart of the forest, it made a lovely side trip.

Sunrise at Bandon, Oregon

Then it was back onto Hwy 101, for the long trek northward.  I especially enjoyed driving the southern Oregon coastline, which was drop-dead gorgeous.  Sadly, there was no time for exploration.  (I've already bookmarked this area for a return visit next spring)  I arrived in Bandon just as the sun was sinking below the horizon.  There was just enough time to check into my yurt at Bullards Beach State Park, before night set in.

Fisherman heading out

After spending three nights camping in a small tent, it was wonderful to sleep in a large, heated yurt.  The next morning I woke before dawn and decided to check out sunrise on the beach.

Coquille River Lighthouse

Following the park road, I passed by a large parking lot and boat launch area.  Looking back towards the Coquille River, I noticed the sun was beginning to come up.  It was illuminating the river with a lovely golden glow.  The nearby highway bridge made for a nice backdrop.  Quickly parking the car, I grabbed my camera and hurried to capture this scene.   I sat on the bank capturing this amazing sunrise and watched many boats of fisherman heading out to sea.

Iron stained tower

After the sun crested over the horizon, I returned to my car, and continued down the park road to the Coquille River Lighthouse.  Sitting near the end of a grassy jetty, the morning light illuminated it's cute little tower with a warm glow.

Morning light on the building

Originally constructed in 1896, this light guided ships past the dangerous shifting sandbars at the Coquille River and harbor at Bandon.  Although decommissioned in the 1930's, the lighthouse was restored both in 1976 and again in 1991, when a solar powered light was installed in the tower.

Another lighthouse view

Photographing this beautiful lighthouse on a sunny fall morning was a delight.  Between the amazing sunrise and exploring this scenic beach, my day was off to a great start.

Downtown Bandon

But after awhile, a rumbling tummy convinced me it was time to head into town for some breakfast.  Stumbling upon a wonderful little bakery, I inhaled a delicious breakfast burrito, tea, and picked up some cranberry-white chocolate chip cookies to sustain me for my journey's final leg.

Pier and boat launch

Bandon was such a cute little town.  After breakfast, I enjoyed a quick stroll through the main business district.  I loved it's main street, lined with unique local shops - bookstores, cafes, antique shops, brewpubs.  Bandon's waterfront boasted a wide boardwalk with amazing ocean views.

Bandon public art

There was even some interesting public art.  This fish sculpture, constructed entirely of discarded plastic items, was prominently placed along the main drag.  Not only artwork, this piece also sent a message - don't throw your plastics into the sea.

A fish made of plastic

Oh, I loved Bandon so much it was hard to leave!  But home was calling, so I continued my journey up Hwy 101 before heading home to Portland via Corvallis and I-5.

A successful solo trip!  I finally visited a National Park long on my bucket list, and revisited a lovely section of the Oregon/California coast.  I enjoyed traveling alone, making my own schedule, and the freedom to stop to take photos whenever I wanted.  Some have commented that I was brave to journey by myself, but I felt it refreshing and empowering.  My motto is, don't let the excuse "I have no one to go with" keep you from doing something you really want to do. 

Sharing with:  Scenic Weekends and Our Beautiful World.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Odds 'n Ends from Lassen NP

As you can imagine, I took hundreds of photos during my visit to Lassen Volcanic National Park.  Quite a few of them didn't really fit into a particular theme, so I've combined these stray shots into a final catch-all blog post.

Panoramic forest view

After climbing Lassen Peak, I made a few additional stops on the road back to Manzanita Lake.  One was to check out Kings Creek Falls.  Although I'd heard reports of a lovely cascade, by the time I reached the falls, late afternoon backlight created poor photographic conditions.  So I took photos of the grand forest panorama instead.

Kings Creek

And meandering Kings Creek was quite lovely too.

Sulphur Works

I also drove by a roadside mud pot called Sulphur Works.  Sulfurous clay was mined here in the late 1800s, but now this active hydrothermal area has been presevered within the park boundaries.

Don't be like Mr. Bumpass

This warning signs made me chuckle.  The small stick figure in the lower sign reminded me of poor old Mr. Bumpass.  (If you missed that post, read about it here)

Bubbling mud pot

A mudpot right at pavement's edge was bubbling furiously.  I didn't get very close!

Colorful hill

Sulfurous minerals leaching out of the soil over time have created some striking colors.  Kind of makes up for the barren landscape.

Fall colors just getting started

Lassen Peak's NE side was the portion of the mountain that collapsed during the May 1915 eruptions.  The initial lava dome collapse and subsequent ash clouds and release of hot gases sent a high speed flow of gases and lava down Lassen's slope, devastating everything in its path.  Not only the lava, but high temperatures instantly melted mountain snow, creating massive mudflows.  This NE side is referred to as the "Devastated Area" and some remnants of the great eruption are still visible today.

Golden meadow

Huge car-sized boulders can still be found perched between the regrown Ponderosa and Lodgepole pines, hurled miles by the force of the blast and mudflow.

Car sized rock from 1915 eruption

Although this entire NE side was laid bare in 1915, you wouldn't know it today.  Tall aspens, Ponderosa and Lodgepole pine forests cover most of the former devastated area.

Sparkling stream

Gazing across Lassen's broad expanse, I wondered to myself if this is what Mt. St. Helens will look like on the 100-year anniversary of its eruption.

Lassen reflection

Nearby golden marshy meadows produced some great fall colors, and a surprise Lassen Peak reflection.

Loomis Museum

On Manzanita Lake's northern shore lies the Loomis Museum, home to historic photographs and other National Park information.  It's unique rock building makes a great photo subject.

B.F. Loomis famous photograph (scanned postcard)

The museum got its name from photographer B. F. Loomis, who captured several photographs of Lassen's many eruptions.  His most famous photographs were of the largest blasts, occurring in May 1915.  A series of five images, depicting the various stages of the explosion, are prominently displayed in the Loomis Museum.  Extremely impressive, considering the primitive camera equipment of the time.

Reflection Lake shoreline

Across the road from Loomis Museum was a nature path.  It passed by Reflection Lake's shoreline, noting the different varieties of pine trees.  Although I'm usually not one to explore developed nature trails, this one was well done.

Lily Pond

I passed by a very large lily pond.  Not only was it's surface covered with an impressive amount of water lilies, it's blue waters reflected the nearby forest quite nicely.

Giant pinecones!

Some of the local pine tree species produced extremely large cones.  They were are big as my size 9 feet!  (Sorry, I can't remember which variety of pine tree produced these)

It's called Reflection Lake for a reason

Since my nature hike had only briefly passed by Reflection Lake, upon completion of the trail, I headed back for a better view.

Lovely Lassen reflection

Boy, was I glad I did!  I thought the prior day's mountain reflections from Manzanita Lake were good. Well...let me just say they call it Reflection Lake for a reason.  The mountain images reproduced in it's still, blue waters were nothing short of marvelous.

Almost like a painting!

A good way to end my time at Lassen Volcanic National Park. 

Sharing with:  Weekend Reflections and Through My Lens

Monday, November 16, 2015

Bumpass Hell

You're probably thinking to yourself, "What kind of place is this to have a name like Bumpass Hell?"

Morning mountain reflections in Lake Helen

Lassen Volcanic National Park is known not only for a recently erupting volcano (Lassen Peak, 1915), it's also home to a wide array of unique hyrdrothermal features.  Steaming fumaroles, gurgling mudpots, and boiling hot springs all exist in a 16-acre site known as Bumpass Hell.  It's like a miniature Yellowstone sprung up in the heart of in Northern California.

Trailhead sign - proof that I'm not making this name up

One of the most popular places in the park, a short 1.5 mile trail takes scores of visitors to this unusual land of hot springs.  My campground neighbors advised an early start if I wanted solitude.  So the next morning, I rose before daybreak.  Arriving at the trailhead by a quarter to eight, I was the third car in the lot.  Briefly delayed capturing some picture-perfect reflections in Lake Helen's calm waters, it was time to check out this place with a funny name.

First look into the valley

The trail itself was unremarkable, save for a fantastic viewpoint of the nearby mountains about halfway.  Fifteen minutes later, a small gap in the trees revealed a bird's-eye view of my destination.  Steam rising from a barren clearing, Bumpass Hell spread out below.  I felt a shiver of excitement - not only was I excited about seeing (and photographing) this land of sulfur and steam, it appeared I had it all to myself!

Lots of steam rising

A long descent down a steep hill took me to the first boardwalk.  Because the temperatures of these hot springs and mud pots are well above boiling, contact would result in serious injury.  Sturdy walkways provide visitors safe close up views.  Because - no one wants to suffer the fate of Kendall Vanhook Bumpass - the man responsible for this area's unusual name.

Boardwalks protect visitors from being burned

A cowboy and early explorer, Bumpass stumbled upon these hydrothermal features in the early 1860s.  This discovery came at a cost - he badly scalded his leg after accidentally breaking through a thin crust above a mud pot.  Upon returning to civilization, Bumpass characterized this area as "hell."  Hearing his story, a newspaper editor convinced Bumpass to take him along on a return visit.  Some people are slow learners, and poor Mr. Bumpass fell in a second time, burning the same leg, which eventually required amputation.

Squeaky chipmunk

Standing on the boardwalk's edge, gaping at this wondrous place, I noticed a tiny chipmunk (or maybe it was a golden-mantled ground squirrel...) standing quite close.  He was on his hind legs squeaking loudly.  The little guy let me get within inches, and my large camera lens didn't seem to faze him.  I got a great shot of Mr. Chipper with his tiny mouth wide open, before he finally noticed me and scampered away.

Interesting colors

Time to check out the boiling pools!  I traveled to one end of the boardwalk that offered great views of a robins-egg-blue hot spring.  Dark orange patches of sulfur lined the adjacent banks.  Steam rose from nearby fumarole vents.  (And as you can imagine, it smelled pretty nasty)

I took a short video so you could all enjoy the scenery.

Boiling water

Informative signs along the boardwalk's railing provided explanations of the odd, boiling landforms.  There were fumaroles (steam vents), boiling springs, and mud pots, which were an intermediate phase between the fumarole and boiling spring.  The amount of available water determines whether you'll have a boiling spring, fumarole, or mud pot. 

Interesting sediments

Deep under Lassen Peak, a body of hot molten rock is responsible for these strange, bubbling features.  The deep magma chamber heats ground water to temperatures well above boiling.  As the water nears the surface, it erupts through fissures, creating steam clouds and mud pots.

Boiling mudpots make cool patterns

The place was far from quiet, as the belching mud pots and boiling pools made all sorts of strange gurgling sounds.

Silty mudflow tracks

Big Boiler, the largest and hottest fumarole in the park, hissed and grumbled nearby.  Steam temperatures have been measured as high as 322 degrees F (161 C) here, making it one of the hottest fumaroles in the world.  The constant churning and heat have enlarged Big Boiler over the years, requiring a recent reconstruction of the boardwalk, when part of it eroded away.

Another video of this fascinating place!  (Just because)

Sulfur makes bright colors on the landscape

Walking along the boardwalk, I was disappointed to find the upper portion blocked by an orange fence.  Apparently this reach was under construction.  I peeped around the barricade, tempted to step around and continue across the closed walkway.  But not wishing to suffer the same fate as Mr. Bumpass, I wisely decided to turn back.

Steam rising from many fumaroles

The trail continued past Bumpass Hell, continuing another 2.5 miles to Kings Creek picnic area.  Although I wasn't planning on hiking that far, I did climb the adjacent hill to get another look at this steamy valley.

The hot landscape didn't bother this chipmunk

And I spotted another chipmunk/ground squirrel perched on the side of a hot spring.  The little critter didn't seemed at all bothered by his proximity to scalding steam and water.

Another geothermal pond

From my high perch, I got some great views of geothermal features adjacent to the closed boardwalk.  Another large mud pot/hot spring was directly below, and it was as spectacular as the others.  I relaxed, had a snack, and enjoyed the solitude.

Hot mud makes interesting patterns

I was extremely lucky, and had the entire place to myself for the better part of an hour.  But all good things eventually come to an end, and as I sat upon the hill, people started to arrive. 

People are starting to show up

I'd heard by midday the boardwalks get crowded with visitors.  Not wanting to fight for viewing space (especially so close to all that hot mud and water) I decided I'd collected more than enough images.

Loved this blue-gray pool

The day was getting warm anyway, and I still had to climb back up that steep hill. 

A look back up the valley

But not before snapping just a couple more photos of this fascinating, unusual place.  Having visited Yellowstone National Park many times, (one of my favorite National Parks) I was totally wowed by the geothermal features in Bumpass Hell.  They're on par with anything you'd see in Yellowstone.

Last look at this unique area

Glad I got up early and experienced Bumpass Hell without the crowds.  A great way to spend a glorious fall morning!

Hang in there, I've got one more Lassen post coming up (hopefully you aren't tired of this place yet).

Sharing with:  Through My Lens and Our World Tuesday.