Thursday, June 30, 2016

Ramona Rhodies

It's rhodie time on Mt. Hood!

Usually these lovely pink flowers don't unfurl until mid-June.  But this year's early bloom had me traveling to Hood's west side on Memorial Day, hoping to catch some rhododendron sightings.

It's rhodie time!

Ramona Falls was the trail of choice for my day's ramble.  It's a very popular hike, so I rose early and was parked at the trailhead by 8:30 am.  Even then, at least a half dozen people were already cued up at the wilderness permit box.  No worries about being alone today!

Sandy River in the morning

While filling out my permit, an older lady (well, older than me) asked if I knew the condition of the Sandy River crossing.  She mentioned this was her first hike in many years, and was nervous about  traversing it by herself.  Always one to help a fellow hiker, I suggested we stick together until the crossing.

Treacherous river crossing

Ramona Falls trail follows the eroded banks of the Sandy River for 1.4 miles until coming upon the infamous crossing.  In years past, the Forest Service had installed a seasonal bridge to assist hikers across this strong, glacial stream.  But after a freak heavy rainstorm in 2014 washed the bridge away (sadly causing the death of one unlucky person who happened to be on it) hikers have been left on their own.


Last year, due to the presence of two sturdy logs, crossing the Sandy was a snap.  One log was large enough for people to walk upon, and the other was positioned slightly higher than the other, providing a perfect handhold.  I hoped winter rains hadn't washed them away.

Pink forest highlights

But unfortunately, they had.  Although one large log still laid entirely across the Sandy, the other "handrail" trunk was gone.  Another downed tree paralleled the crossing log for a short distance, but not enough to provide a continuous handhold.

Rhodie twins

Summoning up my courage, I clambered onto the larger downed tree.  Carefully scooting my feet on its surface, I inched slowly across.  Once the "handhold" log was no longer in reach, I had a 10 foot section that had to be traversed entirely balancing on foot.  If that wasn't bad enough, it just happened to be over some large rocks, and the river's strongest current.  I knew a fall here would likely cause broken bones - and possibly being swept downriver.  Let me tell you, that was the longest 10 feet of my life!

These flowers are whitish inside

But I made it!  Now safely across, I shouted encouragement to my companion, worried how she'd manage the crossing.  However, my new friend wisely decided to sit down on the log and butt-scoot across.  A much more stable option, I bookmarked this technique for the return journey.

Pretty in pink

Both now safely on the other side, my companion asked if she could stick with me to the falls.  I was happy to have her company, but warned that I stopped a lot to take photos.  I didn't know if this woman would wait around every time I took a shot.

The bees were busy

After a bit of confusion finding the trail continuation, we plunged into the forest.  Ramona Falls can be accessed via a loop trail, one path along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) paralleling the Sandy River, and the return via lovely Ramona Creek.  A 7-mile loop, it's short distance and relatively flat terrain make it a popular hike.

Junction with the PCT

I was pleased to discover that the rhodies were indeed blooming!  My companion found out right away how frequently I stopped for photos.  But she seemed to take it in stride, and told me again how happy she was to have a hiking partner.

Tall rhodie bushes

The forest was gorgeous - deep green foliage, brightened by many pink rhodie flowers.  It was a slow 2-mile trek, but finally we came upon the PCT junction with the Ramona Falls Trail.

Ramona Falls

Ramona Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls on Mt. Hood.  I love it's tiered cascades spilling down a steep, basalt cliff.

Love the multiple tiers

I got busy with my tripod and camera, while my new hiking friend took a rest and had a snack.

Selfie at the bridge

The area below Ramona Falls was a busy place.  Seeing my large camera, I got asked to take a few people's pictures (I never mind doing this).  Despite this, I did manage to get a selfie of my own in front of the falls.

A beam of light illuminates the middle

Ramona Falls is inside a canyon area, and is usually at least 10 degrees colder.  My new friend began to get chilled and wanted to start moving again.  So I took one final photo.  The morning sun had just began to crest over the clifftop sending a perfect beam of light across the cascade.  A lovely capture, if I do say so!

Lovely forest along Ramona Creek

Besides the waterfall, the best part of this hike is the return trip via Ramona Creek.  This trail meanders through a lovely green, mossy forest with Ramona Creek, a beautiful fern-lined stream, gurgling nearby.

More rhodies here too!

And of course there were more rhodies to photograph!

Tall pink cliffs

Throughout the hike, my companion shared her life story with me.  She'd been widowed at an early age, left with four boys, the youngest still a baby.  She'd raised all four boys on her own.  Her sons now grown, she finally had time for herself.  Her husband had been an enthusiastic hiker, but since his passing, she'd never had time to go.  Today was her first hike in over 20 years.

These flowers sure brighten up the forest

My companion was happy I'd agreed to stay with her.  She'd been nervous about being on a trail by herself - especially having to cross a raging river. 

Once again back across the river

Back at the infamous crossing, both of us sat down and butt-scooted back across the log.  The log was tilted uphill, so it took some effort and arm strength.  But we made it safely across once again. 

Not as easy as it looks

By now the area was swarming with people.  We stood on the opposite shore watching several people navigate the downed logs.  Although some of them didn't look capable of balancing, thankfully everyone I watched made a successful traverse.

Mt Hood made an appearance

As we hiked up the Sandy's steep banks,  looked behind to see a gleaming white Mt. Hood perfectly framed by the river's path.

Sandy River and surrounding forest

But at the trailhead, the large gravel lot was now completely full.  My new hiking friend again thanked me for taking her along.  I told her it was my pleasure to help someone get back into hiking.  As we parted ways, I hoped I'd given her confidence to try another trail.

Sharing with:  Floral Friday Fotos

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Soggy Hardy Ridge

Yes, I live in the Pacific NW.  Yes, it rains a lot here.  Despite this, I still get disappointed when wet weather falls on the weekend.

But that doesn't stop me from getting in a hike.

Ridge trail junction (and still dry!)

That's why I have raingear!  (After spending all that $$, I don't want it languishing in a closet after all)

Foggy forest

So, despite the less-than-stellar forecast, I decided to make a mid-May trip up Hardy Ridge,   I'd heard the wildflowers were blooming and was dying to check it out.

Raindrop-speckled daisy

Although I left my house in dry conditions, it didn't take long for the rain to catch up.  Driving through the Gorge, it battered my car in windy sheets.  I began to have second thoughts..... Just how badly did I want to do this hike?


Bur the weather cleared up upon my arrival.  I quickly got my gear together and hit the trail, hoping to finish before things got wet again.

Bushes intrude on the trail

Of course it didn't take long for distractions to slow me down.  First, it was a lovely patch of white daisies.  Then some vibrant orange paintbrush.  The cloudy, wet conditions were perfect for photography!


Overcast skies made already bright colors pop.

Western wallflower

And the raindrops on petals and leaves made these lovely subjects even more interesting.

Vine maple leaves

I trudged uphill along an abandoned road for a couple of miles until it intersected with a proper trail.  This path zig-zagged steeply through a lush forest.  Near the top, I began to pass by colorful patches of wildflowers.


There was lupine, purple penstemon, yellow wallflowers and vivid orange paintbrush.

Trail through a flower garden

All were dripping moisture from the recent rainstorm.

Lots of color!

Nearing the first major trail junction, I began to notice droplets of water beading on my jacket.  It appeared the brief dry spell was ending. 

Wild roses

When hiking, I carry my DSLR camera in a fanny pack around my waist.  Since this fanny pack isn't waterproof, for today's hike I'd wrapped a large garbage bag around it.  Photography was kind of a chore, unwrapping the bag, taking the camera out, getting the shots, returning it, and repositioning the garbage bag.

Vibrant paintbrush

But when the rain started up, I was darn glad I'd brought that garbage bag.

Raindrops like look jewels

I managed to get a couple more shots of drippy leaves and blossoms before the rain began in earnest.

Drippy penstemon

Although my Canon 7D is fairly waterproof, I didn't want to risk damaging it.  So I wrapped that garbage bag good and tight around the fanny pack.  But the day's photography wasn't done yet - oh no.

No views today

Because I still had my little GoPro!  With it's waterproof case I could continue to record images of this foggy, wet day.

Finally reaching the ridge, I was disappointed to find it cloaked in heavy fog.  There would be no views today!  However, I was able to capture the weather on a short video.

Foggy ridgetop
Continuing on across the ridge, I passed ghostly forests.  As I came out into the first clearing the wind began to kick up.  Not only was it now rainy and foggy, it was now also windy.  Yup, pure misery!

It's getting thicker.....

Although I'd intended to hike all the way up to Phlox Point, about halfway across the ridge, I decided to turn around.  It was rainy, windy and cold.  My clothes were soaked from both the rain and from brushing against soggy vegetation.  My boots were so wet they squished when I took a step.  Huddling behind a small bush, I quickly gulped a bite of lunch.  Then, retracing my steps, I headed back down the ridge. 

I always like loop hikes, so on my return I followed the trail proper as it snaked through a dense forest.  About halfway down I passed by a large rock shaped like a boot that was perched on an old tree stump.  Supposedly a well-known local landmark, I snapped a couple of shots for posterity.

Ghostly forest

Then it was a long, wet downhill trudge to my car.  The rain began to fall heavily and everything on me that wasn't well covered got totally soaked.  Boy was I glad for that garbage bag protecting my camera!  For a cheap plastic bag, it performed admirably. 

After not seeing a soul all day (another advantage to hiking in bad weather) for the last two miles, I was followed by a couple and their dog.  Arriving at the trailhead, I joked that we were the only people crazy enough to be out here in this weather.

Soaked to the bone!

Once home, after a hot shower and dry clothes, it was time to view the photos from the day.  Although not great for hiking, the foggy wet weather produced superb lighting conditions.  I discovered many images I liked.  My wet hike had been vindicated - it was totally worth braving the inclimate weather! 

Moral of the story - don't let a little rain stop you from getting out on the trails.  You might just see something wonderful.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Silver Falls Spring

Never one to waste a precious Friday off, when my son's graduation mass coincided with a scheduled "flex" day from work, I took the opportunity to get in a morning hike at nearby Silver Falls State Park.

Rhodies blooming at the lodge

It was mid-May - perfect time to visit!  Wildflowers would be at peak bloom, and the waterfalls running full.


Parking my car near the South Lodge, the nearby woods were already showing off pink accents from blooming rhododendron bushes.  Things were off to a great start!

Green canyon reflection on the water

Walking down the paved path from the lodge, I was greeted with a superb view of South Falls.  This 177 foot tall beauty spills into a large, rocky amphitheater.  Lush, green foliage surrounded the area, its color reflecting in the splash pool below.

South Falls

My arrival was perfectly timed.  I got most of my South Falls photographs before the rising sun crested into the canyon.  Although it provided lovely back lighting on the forest, the contrast between shade and sun made conditions difficult for photography.  Time to move on!

Sunlight filters through the forest

So I ambled down the trail to the next waterfall.  The scenery was a pure delight.  My path followed lovely Silver Creek, which burbled between the dense forest, ultra-green with new leaves.

Lovely white flower

And I discovered lots of wildflowers blooming along its banks. 


Like delicate pink Corydalis and purple larkspur.

Larkspur were thick!

After a mile, the path began to switchback steeply downhill.  Rounding a sharp bend, Lower South Falls came into view.

Lower South Falls

Although its top was beginning to be illuminated by sunlight, most of this cascade was in shade.  As I set for some long exposure shots, my trusty 24-105 mm lens decided to poop out.

Silky fan

Arghh!  Equipment failure is so annoying!  Luckily, I'd packed a couple extra lenses and quickly switched to my 11-24 wide angle. 

Great view of Lower South Falls

This lens was actually perfect for fitting the entire waterfall in the frame.  I loved this view of Lower South Falls, looking up at its very top.  A similar image to this one, which won second place in a 2014 local photography contest.

Striped wildflowers

After spending a lot of time at Lower South Falls, trying for that perfect waterfall shot, I had a quick snack and continued towards the next cascade.

Bug on a bleeding heart

There were so many wildflowers along this portion of the trail!  Like these vibrant bleeding heart blossoms.  A little bug on one of the flowers even posed for me.

Ferns were prolific!

Not only flowers, the forest was thick with these deep green ferns. 

More unknown (but pretty) wildflowers

So many flowers, but sadly I couldn't identify many.  I really need to educate myself more on wildflower identification.

Sturdy bridge over the creek

Around 2 1/2 miles in, the trail crossed over Silver Creek on this very sturdy footbridge.

Double Falls

Not long after, a short side path led me to Double Falls.  An extremely tall, thin falls, I had to stretch my neck to see the entire length.  Good thing I had the wide angle lens on my camera!  Even with that, I could barely fit in both cascades. Can you see the other waterfall near the top?

Bottom of Double falls

I really loved how the very bottom of Double Falls fanned out into a series of smaller stairsteps, like the train on a bridal gown.

Rainbow at Middle North Falls

A short distance away, roared Middle North Falls.  One of my favorites, I hastened the pace, eager to revisit.  A side trail leads visitors directly behind its lacy curtain.  And - bonus - I spied a tiny rainbow in the creek below!

Middle North Falls

This year, our spring had been drier than normal.  Although it affected all the park's waterfalls, nowhere was this more apparent than at Middle North Falls.  Usually this cascade flows as a wide curtain across the entire basalt cliff.  But this year its output had been reduced to a single stream.

Lovely old-growth forest

By the time I'd passed by Middle North Falls, it was past noon, and the sunny skies had given way to hot temperatures.  The creek and waterfalls had cooled things down considerably.  But once I climbed out of the canyon, things got warm real quick.  Although my return trek was through a lovely old-growth forest, it was a hot hike.  The only saving grace is that it was short (1.5 miles) and I spied a patch of beautiful purple iris.

Wild iris

I returned to my car in plenty of time for the 4 o'clock mass.  My morning ramble fit perfectly into this busy day!

Although autumn is my favorite time to visit Silver Falls State Park, I was pleasantly surprised by the abundant spring beauty, and the number of wildflowers blooming here on this warm day in May.

Sharing with:  Floral Friday Fotos and Scenic Weekends