Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018 in Photos

2019 will mark my 10th year of regular blogging.  Can't believe I've kept up this little hobby for so long!  Looking back in my archives, I also can't believe this will be my blog's 8th "year in photos" recap.  (Where does time go?)

In the past, these year-end recaps have featured a photo from each month of the blog.  Being woefully behind all of 2018 (sometimes by 3 months), I had a dilemma.  Should the photo come from the month it was actually taken, or the month it got posted?  After debating for an entire week, I decided to scrap the entire "photo from each month" format and try a different approach.  2018's "year in photos" will instead highlight favorite photos from the past year - images that embody the most memorable moments, regardless of month.  While perusing the blog, trying to whittle down the contenders, I repeatedly asked the same question:  "Does this photo represent a defining memory of 2018?" 

Here's the 13 that made the cut:

Happy face on the slopes of Schweitzer

In February I made a trip to Schweitzer Ski Area in northern Idaho.  My son, who was supposed to meet me, got sick at the last moment and I ended up skiing solo for two days.  Although the weather was less than stellar, I surprisingly had a great time.  I usually suck at taking selfies, but this pic from the first day became one of my favorites - fully capturing the joy of the day.

Grand Canyon sunrise

In March I took on a grand adventure, traveling solo to Arizona and the Grand Canyon.  I spent two days seeing as much of the South Rim as humanly possible.  Such an incredible place!  This photo, taken right before sunrise, was my favorite of the trip.

Hangover trail, Sedona

After visiting the Grand Canyon, I journeyed south to meet up with blogging buddies Hans and Lisa near Sedona.  They took me on several incredible hikes exploring the surrounding red rock country.  It was really hard to pick just one photo, but I finally settled on this image from the Hangover Trail, that I think comes close to portraying the grandeur of this area. 

Lone tree on Chatfield Hill

No year end recap is complete without at least one wildflower image.  I spent much of April and May chasing after the wildflower bloom in the Columbia River Gorge.  Trying to explore new places, I rambled through the Memaloose Hills, and discovered this lovely lone oak tree on flower-filled Chatfield Hill.

Waves at sunset - Harris Beach

In late April, I finally got back to the southern Oregon coast, a place I'd longed to explore further.  It was a wonderful trip, full of gorgeous rocky coastlines, crashing waves, colorful sunsets, tidepools, and even some wildflowers.  This photo, taken my first night at Harris Beach State Park really captured the texture of ocean waves and pre-sunset sky.

Cascade summertime butterfly invasion

Summer 2018 was spent in the Oregon Cascades hiking as many trails as time off would allow.  One thing that was constant throughout June and July were the high concentrations of colorful butterflies I found on nearly every trail.  It was definitely a good year for the winged insects, and my memory cards were full of their lovely images. 

New grand-puppy

In July my daughter adopted a golden retriever pup she dubbed my "grand-puppy."  Another cute photo subject!  (My daughter, tired of my constant camera clicking, was relieved I now had something to take photos of besides her)  It's been fun to watch the little guy grow, and document his changes.

Rainbow at Comet Falls, Mt Rainier National Park

August brought another trip to Mt Rainier National Park.  This year I concentrated my visit on the SW corner of the park, near Paradise.  Lots of wonderful hikes and places to explore!  It's no secret I love to photograph waterfalls, so no year-end recap is complete without at least one image.  My favorite waterfall photo of year was this capture of a rainbow at the base of Comet Falls.  Plagued by terrible light that morning, it was only a fluke that this image turned out as well as it did.

Mt Rainier's amazing Skyline Trail

Although I wasn't going to include two images from the same place, I couldn't pass up documenting my hands-down favorite hike of the year.  After two rainy attempts, the third day I hit weather gold, with sunny skies for a trek on Mt Rainier's famed Skyline Trail.  This path climbs up the side of Washington's famous mountain for jaw-dropping high alpine views.  And the wildlife - marmots galore!  I even witnessed two marmots fighting.  An incredibly memorable day.

Mt Jefferson reflections on Russell Lake

I'd always wanted to backpack into Oregon's famous Mt Jefferson wilderness and capture a sunset at one of the many lakes.  In late August, I hitched up my courage and my stamina, and covered the 7-mile, 3000 foot climb into Russell Lake, where I was richly rewarded for my efforts.

Morning balloon launch - Stratobowl South Dakota

During an early September trip to visit family in South Dakota my niece invited me to watch a hot air balloon launch.  Although high winds kept the balloons from rising too far, seeing the process of inflating these massive airships was fascinating.  And the photo ops weren't bad either!

Fall hues brighten Mt Hood

Although I did lots of fall color hikes, most haven't made it made it to my blog's pages yet.  But one that did was a mid-September return visit to Mt Hood's Paradise Park.  Although mostly known for lovely summer wildflower displays, I can vouch that autumn is equally as stunning.

Snowy Plovers in flight

In November, sidelined by an injury, a neighbor expanded my photographic horizons by introducing me to the wonderful world of wildlife photography.  Being mostly a landscape photographer (where subjects are immobile) it's been a new experience trying to shoot moving animals.  My challenge for 2019 will be to perfect the art of capturing birds in flight.


I must admit, my enthusiasm for writing posts took a nosedive this year (as evidenced by the lowest number of entries since starting this blog in 2009).  It appears blogging is fading in popularity - many of the people I used to follow have abandoned their blogs, or only post occasionally.  I even considered taking a break from the blogging grind myself.  It would be easy to just slip off into the sunset as others have done.

But....Linda's Lens has been a wonderful way to chronicle my (mostly) outdoor activities.  I very much enjoy rereading past posts, remembering the adventures.  It's also been a great avenue to share my work - in both photography and writing (or my attempts at writing).  Don't get me wrong - all the pageviews and comments are very much appreciated - but the main reason I stay up late editing photos, or trying to pull words out of a tired brain, is for my own personal pleasure.  It's been my creative outlet and mental escape from a dull, technical government job.

Soooo...dear readers, looks like you're stuck with me for another year.  :)   Already 2019 has some exciting events cued up - my daughter's wedding, another Grand Canyon trip, and quite possibly my retirement (we'll see).  Strap yourself in, it's gonna be an exciting ride!

Happy New Year! 

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Scenes From Montana

Time for something different - a post in real time (instead of three months ago!)  My hubby and I traveled to Montana this week to celebrate Christmas with our son.

Wintry reflections

 My son currently resides in a tiny western Montana town, right next door to one of his parishes.  I thought I might miss the conveniences of the larger city where he lived last year.  However, I've been pleasantly surprised by the beautiful scenery right outside his front door.

Tumble-down fence

While my son was busy Christmas Eve and day, I took walks around the neighborhood with my camera.

Red berries (perfect for Christmas!)

Snow began falling Christmas Eve day, coating everything in a fluffy blanket.  I was happy to see we'd have a white Christmas.

Frosty tree

My gift to you - snowy Montana scenes to enjoy.

Abandoned barn

Snowy road

The scenery here is fabulous

Next door photo ops

Scenic creek

The parish next door to my son's house has a wonderful tradition.  They light fireworks after Christmas Eve mass.  This year I was ready with camera and tripod, and managed to capture some of the show.

Fireworks after Christmas Eve mass

The church itself is over 100 years old.  It's a lovely little chapel, complete with colorful stained glass windows.

Lovely country church

Wishing all my readers a wonderful Christmas and holiday season! 

(Fall hike catch-up will resume after the new year.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Paradise Park and Split Rock

So begins the September frenzy - the race to get in as many high elevation hikes as possible before the fall rains begin.  One of my favorite autumn trails is the loop from Timberline Lodge to Paradise Park, which I try to complete every year.

Timberline Lodge

One sunny, but mild (aka "finally not blazing hot") Friday I decided to check out this classic Mt Hood hike.  Although the amazing wildflower meadows were long gone, I was hoping for an early dose of fall color.

Colorful valley

The mountain answered in a big way!  After a fairly uneventful trek starting at Timberline Lodge, across barren ski slopes, and through both Little Zizag and Zigzag Canyons, I began my climb into Paradise Park.  I came upon the most stunning little valley, it's sides covered in patches of orange, red, and yellow.  It looked as though Mother Nature had swiped a paintbrush across the landscape.

Bright red berries

Some of the bushes were laden with clumps of bright red berries.  Not sure what type they were, but I certainly wasn't tempted to eat them!

Meadow at Paradise Park

I took a short break at what's normally a fantastic wildflower meadow at the Paradise Park trail junction.  However today the flowers were long gone - all withered away, replaced with golden hues of drying grasses.  At least Mt Hood put on a good show.

Trail junction

I did manage to spot a small patch of straggler asters.  Probably the last of the summer wildflowers.

Last of the summer wildflowers

 And a few Western Pasqueflowers (aka "hippy on a stick") occupied an adjacent meadow.

Still a few "hippies" hanging on

I wandered through a ravine with a tiny stream flowing through, it's sides beautiful shades of green and gold.

Golden ravine

And then climbed into another technicolor meadow bursting with more of those red berry bushes.

Blast of fall colors

Now high above treeline, the surrounding landscape was dominated by gray glacial soil and rocks.  However, one ridge sporting vivid fall hues really stood out amongst the moonscape.

Vivid ridge amongst mountain gray

I'd heard reports of a large boulder cracked in two pieces that was a popular landmark.  Nicknamed "Split Rock" I'd unknowingly walked by it on previous hiking trips.  Today I was determined not miss it again.

Split Rock in the distance

Looping across Mt Hood's barren glacial plain, I spotted the rock before coming upon the faint user trail that accessed it.  It was definitely a dominant feature - how had I not noticed this before?

The famous boulder

So I trekked slightly uphill to Split Rock's base.  The views from here were mighty fine.  Mt Hood dominated the skyline. 

Mt St Helens view from Split Rock

 I even spotted a distant view of Mt St Helens from one side of the rock.

Plaques set into the rock

Someone had stuck two metal plaques on the side of Split Rock.  Both commemorated two men that appeared to have contributed to recreational opportunities on Mt Hood.

More technicolor vegetation

After paying my respects to Split Rock, I continued downhill heading towards a junction back with the Timberline Trail. 

Like someone took a paintbrush to the meadow

The meadows here had some of the best colors of the day.  Bright crimson huckleberry leaves, golden hues of dried grasses and more vibrant orange leaves.  I hadn't expected such amazing fall colors so early in September.

Huckleberry bushes

Finally I again connected with the Timberline Trail, my return route.  Although it wasn't near as colorful as the high meadows, a few splashes of color lined the path and brightened an otherwise gray landscape.

Spots of color brighten the Timberline Trail

The Timberline Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail intersect for a few miles in this area, and as I was passing back through Zigzag Canyon, I noticed someone had created a "2100" out of rocks.  I'm assuming it was mileage already covered if you were northbound....maybe?

PCT trail mileage?

Although I love the Paradise Loop, it's only drawback is the final two miles are uphill.  Not a great way to finish a 13-mile day.  However, I did get another nice display of autumn finery, which helped buoy my spirits a bit.

Another lovely fall scene

And an unexpected "peek-a-boo" view of Mt Hood from the base of a rocky ravine made for a nice photo op.

Mt Hood peek-a-boo

Finally Timberline's ski lifts came back into view, and I knew the parking lot wasn't far.  The gray slopes surrounding the chairlifts looked sad.  Time for a coat of fresh snow!

Idle ski lifts waiting for snow

I ended the day with 13 miles and 2300 vertical of climbing under my belt.  And a camera full of amazing fall scenery high on Mt Hood.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Indian Heaven Fall Color (and Huckleberry) Show

Let the fall hiking season begin!  After another blazing hot summer, when September rolled around I was more than ready for autumn's cooler weather and changing leaves.

Leaves growing out of an old stump

SW Washington's Indian Heaven Wilderness is one of the best places to catch early season fall color.  Known for it's high concentration of huckleberry bushes (and berries!) come early September, the leaves of these brushy plants transform into a kaleidoscope of autumn hues.


My friend Catherine was game for a hike in this beautiful, lake-dotted wilderness.  After a long 2-hour drive from Portland, we parked at the East Crater Trailhead and began our day's trek.

Catherine gazing at the beauty

The first mile and a half was a boring slog through unremarkable woods.  But then the path wound by three tiny ponds, all rimmed with crimson-colored huckleberry leaves.  The tiny water bodies offered picture-perfect reflections of the surrounding forest.

Tiny pond rimmed by crimson leaves

Last September a forest fire charred several acres in this area, and soon after we passed the ponds Catherine and I came upon some of it's aftermath.  The blackened tree trunks were a somber reminder that these special wilderness areas can be taken away at any time at a moment's notice.

Fairy-tale mushroom

Fall is also the start of mushroom season and Catherine, much better versed in this specialty, kept a watchful eye on the forest floor.  She spied many different varieties, including this cute spotted one we dubbed the "fairy-tale mushroom."

Lots of these cute log bridges

The further we hiked down the East Crater Trail, the better the fall colors.  Huckleberry bushes are unusual in that their leaves can change into three colors - red, orange and yellow - all on the same bush.

Multicolored huckleberry leaves

Oh, and there were still lots of ripe berries hanging off the branches.  Catherine and I made a couple of quick stops in order to sample the goods.

Three different colors in the same bush

Our first major lake, Junction Lake, appeared through the mossy trees.  Someone had staked a tent near the shore, and this idyllic setting looked like the perfect place to spend a weekend.

Junction Lake's idyllic setting
Appropriately named, at this lake were many trail junctions.  We passed by the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) before continuing a short distance to the Lemei Lake Trail, the next stage of today's hike.

Trail to Lemei Lake

The Lemei Lake Trail skirted Junction Lake's shoreline, rimmed by more colorful huckleberry bushes.

Passing by Junction Lake

Then we climbed up a ridge above Junction Lake.  The ridge flattened out into a lovely high alpine meadow chock full of - you guessed it - more huckleberry bushes.

Very pretty leaves

These bushes were full of juicy, ripe berries.  All forward progress was halted as Catherine took out a container she'd packed along and began harvesting handfuls of huckleberries.  Not being as prepared as my partner, all the berries I picked went straight into my mouth.

Huckleberry picking frenzy

My tummy was beginning to rumble, so finally I persuaded Catherine to step away from the bushes and continue on to Lemei Lake, our day's designated lunch spot.  This tiny lake, set in a woodsy valley, is always my favorite spot to enjoy a bite.

Like someone drew a paintbrush across this meadow

After lunch, we continued on towards our next junction with the Cultus Lake trail.  The trail passed through more spectacularly-colored huckleberry bushes.

More huckleberries!

And of course all laden with more plump berries!

Another berry picking break

Such tempting concentrations of berries, Catherine couldn't resist.  She was determined to fill her bottle and settled in for a long-term picking session.  I just hoped we'd make it back before dark!

Clear Lake

Of course, it really didn't take that long to get a bottle full of berries, and 15 minutes later we were back on the trail.  Past the Cultus Trail junction we passed by lovely Clear Lake. 

Catherine is not sure if my climbing the talus slope is a smart move

On the uphill side of the lake, we passed by a steep talus slope.  And I heard the distinctive "meep-meep" of a pika.  These tiny rock rabbits that live in boulder fields are hard to spot.  Despite their shyness I was hoping we'd see one of these cute creatures.  Then, lo and behold, eagle-eye Catherine spotted one perched on a rock above us!

I actually saw a pika!

The zoom on my camera lens wasn't strong enough to adequately capture the little creature, so I began carefully climbing up the rocks hoping for a better view.  Usually pikas bolt for cover if they see humans, but this one stayed put.  I got fairly close, enough for two good shots, before the little guy spotted me and dived into a crevice.  What a thrill to finally see a pika instead of just hearing it!

PCT photo op

We ended our loop taking a stretch of the PCT back to Junction Lake, and then retracted our steps on the East Crater Trail back to my car.  Another great autumn hike in the Indian Heaven Wilderness.  Fabulous fall colors, ripe berries, and a cute pika sighting, my fall hiking season was off to a great start!