Saturday, February 29, 2020

June Lake, One Year Later

After playing catch-up for like, ever, it's time for a post that's a little more current.  Guess what - this one actually occurred in the same month I'm writing about it!

Two weekends ago, I convinced my hubby to join me on a snowshoeing outing to lovely June Lake, on Mt St Helens' south side.

Blue sky and frosty trees

I'd had a terrific snowshoeing trip here last February.  As a matter of fact, this day's trek happened almost exactly a year later (only off by one day!)

Sunlight made the snow sparkle

Remembering that the trailhead parking lot filled quickly, I made my hubby rise early and we drove through darkness and fog for half of the two-hour journey.  Highlights included seeing two large elk herds very close to the road.  Our early start paid off with our choice of parking spots.  As a matter of fact, we were the only hikers - the rest of the vehicles parked here were large trucks hauling snowmobile trailers.  (I had no idea snowmobilers were such early birds.  Now I know!)

One of many sunbursts

A thick blanket of snow had fallen overnight, coating the trees with beautiful white goodness.  As hubby and I began our walk through the woods, I was delighted to see blue sky and sunshine breaking through the clouds.

Taking a breather by an unfrozen creek

The first mile was on a series of trails paralleling the closed road.  Being the first people that morning also involved breaking trail though six inches of snow and a bit of route-finding through the woods.  Due to low snowpack, we had one especially interesting creek crossing.  No snowbridge covering the water meant hubby and I had to slide down the creek bank and clamber up the other side.  I was sad to see the low snowpack - it was nearly half of 2019's amount. 

Last year the snow almost covered this sign

No place was the low snow level more apparent than at the June Lake Trailhead sign.  I remembered from 2019 that snow nearly covered this sign.  For comparison, take a look at last year's post here

Our only glimpse of MSH all day

From the official June Lake Trailhead, hubby and began climbing through a forest of beautiful snow-flocked trees.  Occasional openings in the woods gave teaser glimpses of Mt St Helens' base.  Although the sky overhead was blue, the mountain itself hid under foggy clouds all day.  This was as good a view as we got.

Random trail photo

Because we'd started so early hubby and I had the trail nearly to ourselves.  On our way up to June Lake, the only other people we ran into were a couple with their dogs heading back down.

Crossing a snow-covered bridge

I'd forgotten what a climb it was to reach June Lake!  Although only 500 feet in elevation gain over a mile and a half, we were huffing and puffing and shedding clothing.  I was more than ready for an early lunch break and kept hoping the lake was just around the next bend.

Happiness at June Lake

When we finally reached a snow-covered bridge, I knew the lake wasn't far.  Trudging up from the bridge, I saw the familiar cliff face surrounding one side.  Hooray!

Unnamed waterfall at June Lake

Although only 10:30 in the morning, hubby and I inhaled our sandwiches.  We then sat by the shore and admired the waterfall cascading down the rock wall on the opposite side.  Although last year the lake's waters were frozen solid, this year's mild winter meant no ice had formed on it's surface.

Enjoying a nip of "winter warmer"

For winter adventures, I always pack a thermos of hot tea.  It's always nice to have something that warms me from inside.  This time, hubby also packed a flask of bourbon.  A nip of this "warmer" tasted mighty fine on a cold winter's day.  Almost better than tea!  (well, almost)

Not bad for propping the camera on my backpack!

Although I was hoping to follow the same loop hike as last year's journey, the low snow foiled my plans.  The next segment of trail crossed a boulder field, and since there wasn't a large amount of snow filling in the spaces between the rocks, I was afraid of slipping into a crevice.  So to be safe, hubby and I decided to retrace our steps back the way we came.

Snow falling off trees

The return trip through the forest was just as lovely.  By now, rising temperatures were melting the snow on the tree branches, and huge clumps were sliding off all around us.  We had to be careful not to end up under a tree when it was releasing it's load.

Packed trail through the snow

After a few near-misses, I got creamed by a branch full of snow.  Then hubby got sideswiped by a "tree bomb."  No harm done - we just laughed and brushed ourselves off. 

Getting bombed by falling snow

By now the rest of the hiking world had woken up, and we met a steady stream of people on our way down.  Popular among snowshoers, Hubby and I had been lucky to have June Lake all to ourselves the entire time.

Nice photo of hubby

Finally reaching the road, I realized my left heel was bothering me.  Removing my boot, I was dismayed to discover a huge blister had formed on my heel.  What a rookie mistake!  Having hiked for miles last year with no issues, I couldn't believe it.  But - I had worn my snow boots instead of my trusty hiking boots and my feet apparently weren't used to them.  (Note to self - wear hiking boots on the next snowshoe trip)

Walking the road back

Not wanting to brave the creek crossing a second time, we ended up walking on the closed road most of the way back to the parking area.  Closing the loop, we'd logged a respectable 6 miles for the day. It was fun to revisit a favorite snowshoe trail, and interesting (and a little sobering) to see how much snow conditions varied from year to year.

Another great outing, and hike No. 4 for 2020.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

An Autumn Tour Through Silver Falls State Park

If you're gonna be late, be very late.  That's why I'm just now getting around to posting photos from what was a great autumn color season in NW Oregon.

South Falls, Silver Falls State Park

From past experience visiting Silver Falls State Park, I knew that peak fall color usually occurred in mid-October.  So my photo-buddy Cheri and I hatched a plan to visit on the third weekend of that month.

Moss and golden leaves

Prepare to be amazed!  Silver Falls State Park is a waterfall lovers paradise that I visit every year in the fall.  Not only does it boast ten beautiful cascades, the surrounding forest erupts in one of the best displays of autumn color anywhere.

More trail scenery

The day of our planned visit was a typical Pacific NW rainy, misty day.  Perfect conditions for photography - cloudy, even light made for zero shadows and vivid colors.

Silver Creek view

From the south parking area, Cheri and I first stopped at the overlook to South Falls.  I was happy to see the adjacent tree in peak color - a fiery bright orange.

Those mossy tree branches made great photo subjects

After recording copious images, Cheri and I slowly made our way down the trail to the waterfall's base, snapping shots of the lovely golden foliage and mossy tree branches lining our path.

Another shot of South Falls

Not only does Silver Falls State Park have a slew of fantastic waterfalls, the surrounding Bigleaf maple forest is equally stunning.

Fog, moss and leaves

Mossy tree branches stretching over the trail looked like old, gnarled arms.

Colorful vine maple leaves

Fantastic fall leaves weren't confined to the canyon where all the waterfalls resided.  Cheri and I also discovered some colorful vine maple trees right next to the parking lot.

Vine maple adjacent to the parking lot

I love vine maple as their leaves erupt in red, orange and yellow.  A cornucopia of color!

Cheri blends into the leaves

Cheri's bright yellow raincoat blended perfectly with the golden vine maple leaves.  Can you spot her?

Fall colors on North Falls Trail

From photos recently posted on the internet, I knew the canyon below North Falls was sporting some fantastic fall colors.  I suggested to Cheri that we check it out.

North Falls Trail

The trail to this cascade is short.  However, the fabulous golden leaves along the trail delayed our cameras so much I was beginning to wonder if we'd ever get there!  (A good problem to have)

Behind North Falls

The cool thing about this waterfall is the trail directs hikers to deep grotto behind the cascade.  The views looking out into the forest from behind it's watery curtain are first-rate.

My fave shot behind North Falls

And of course the fantastic autumn colors made this great view even better!  Recent rains had North Falls absolutely roaring, and the force of the water tumbling over it's dropoff was spectacular.  Cheri suggested instead of photographing the cascade using a slow shutter speed (like I usually do) to freeze the churning water with a fast shutter.  I took her advice and really liked the way my photos turned out.

One more North Falls image

Silver Falls State Park in autumn never disappoints!  I visit this park every year, and think this was one of the best fall color shows I've ever seen here.  Glad Cheri and I were able to hit it at peak leaf color. 

Hope you enjoyed the show.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Frog Lake Non-Snowshoe Hike

Wanting to get a start on my 2020 hiking challenge, I asked my friend Catherine if she was available for a snowshoe hike the Friday immediately after New Year's Day.  Lucky for me, she also had the day off work, so we made plans to explore the area around Mt Hood's Frog Lake.

Foggy morning on Frog Lake

Arriving at the sno-park that morning, we debated whether to use our snowshoes or not.  A few days of warm sun and freezing nights had transformed the snow-covered trail from powdery fluffiness to white concrete.  After much hemming and hawing, Catherine and I finally decided to leave our snowshoes in the car.  We started out, our hiking boots easily traversing the well-packed snow covering the road to Frog Lake.

Photo op with classic Mt Hood view

After a quick mile we reached the turn off to the Frog Lake campground and day use area.  Following a rougher trail, Catherine and I dove into a thick forested lane, sunlight filtering through the tree branches.

Mt Hood looking over Frog Lake

Peeping through the foliage, Catherine glimpsed snow-covered Frog Lake and bushwacked to it's shore.  I followed suit, post-holing through some deep snow pockets until I came out onto the fog-covered lake.  Morning sun shining through the misty clouds made for some great photo ops.

My turn for a photo op!

Both Catherine and I had previous visits to this picturesque lake during warmer times.  Remembering an amazing view of Mt Hood from the far side, we followed the snowy shore in search of our favorite mountain.  Lucky for us, by the time we reached our destination, the fog had lifted to give us picture-perfect mountain views.

Icy lakeshore

After LOTS of photo ops, I packed away my camera and eyed the icy east shore.  A very faint boot-packed trail snaked through the snow up a steep slope.  It looked as though this path was the only way around the lake, so we gingerly climbed over slippery rocks.  The ice got so bad, I pulled out my microspikes and gave one to Catherine, while I put the other over my boot.  Figuring some traction was better than none at all, we slowly made our way up and over the icy track until thankfully reaching flatter, snowier woods.

Beautiful snowy woods

Making our way through the snowy campground, Catherine was happy to discover the outhouse still open - and even had a small amount of tp left on the roll!  Then following the campground road, we located the trail to Frog Lake Butte.  Should we continue?  Of course the answer was yes.

Snow-covered tree trunks

So up, up we climbed, through beautiful snow-sparkled woods.  At one point the trees cleared and I got a great view of Mt Jefferson.  Although the day was cold, the steep climb warmed me enough that I was removing layers trying to cool down.  Finally a junction with the Twin Lake trail came into view.  Catherine and I took a quick snack break, re-donned our jackets, and dusted off the snow-crusted trail signs.

Lower Twin Lake

After climbing for nearly a mile and a half, the downhill trek to Lower Twin Lake was a wonderful change.  However, snow was much deeper on this side of the ridge, and if not for a well-packed base underneath, we would've definitely needed our snowshoes.  The snowy woods here were absolutely gorgeous, and I may have taken a few photo breaks.  :)

Blue sky at Lower Twin Lake

After a lovely mile romp through the beautiful snow and forest, Catherine and I came upon another junction at ice-covered Lower Twin Lake.  Happily, blue sky was breaking through the clouds and sunshine sparkled off the snow.

The locals have noticed our presence

A great place to stop for lunch!  And we were famished.  Catherine found a log near the shore, and we gratefully slipped off our backpacks and readied ourselves for a nice break.

Friendly Gray Jay

But.....Catherine noticed a half dozen gray jays had perched in the tree directly above us.  And they were eyeing our food.  When we didn't immediately produce the goods, the birds flew over to another group of hikers to investigate their lunch offerings.

Catherine makes a new friend

Yes, I know feeding wildlife is a no-no, but the birds were so cute, we couldn't resist crushing up a small handful of trail mix nuts to tempt them back our way.  In no time, Catherine became popular with our feathered friends.  She had an entire flock landing on her outstretched arms.

Very popular with the birds

The birds were so intent on stealing a bite of my lunch, I had several land right on top of my head, just waiting for a chance to grab an apple slice.  It was obvious that these birds were very much used to getting handouts from hikers.

They all liked my hat

After spending a delightful hour eating lunch, enjoying the view, and being entertained by the gray jay's antics, it was time to continue our trek.  We climbed out of the Twin Lake basin up through more thick forest.  The afternoon sun occasionally burst through an opening, creating some nice scenes.

Afternoon light through the trees

For the final mile, Catherine and I followed a hard-packed, snowy Pacific Crest Trail, closing the loop back to the parking area for Frog Lake.  As we were packing up the car, a man with a huge backpack stopped by and asked if snowshoes were necessary to access Lower Twin Lake.  The man said he was planning to spend the weekend at the lake.  Although we'd traversed the entire loop without needing them, since snow was predicted for the weekend I advised the man to bring his snowshoes for the trip out.  Both Catherine and I were a little surprised the man had planned such an ambitious outing without checking the forecast.


It was a fun day exploring a new hiking/snowshoeing loop in the Mt Hood National Forest. And Catherine and I got away with a snowy trek sans snowshoes. 

Hike No. 1 of my 2020 challenge is now in the books!

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Wild Waves

How did you spend New Year's Day?  Sleeping in and/or nursing a hangover from the previous night's festivities?  Never one for celebrating in that fashion, I went to bed before midnight and rose early to accompany my neighbor and photography mentor Cheri on a trip to the Washington coast.  High tides and huge waves were predicted at Cape Disappointment - creating a perfect opportunity for some photo ops.

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

Although I'd visited Cape Disappointment once before, it had been many years ago.  Luckily, Cheri was familiar with this popular state park on Washington's coast, just north of the Columbia River.  She drove right to a parking lot with a fantastic view of the Cape Disappointment lighthouse.

Sunlit wave action

Not only was the lighthouse perched on a tall, rocky cliff photogenic, so were the waves that came crashing at it's base.  A popular place for wave-watchers, we had to jockey our tripods around many other photographers who'd also arrived for the show.

Fan wave

It took a quite bit of practice shots before I got the hang of capturing the tall waves, rising up, curling, and finally crashing into the shoreline.

Green sea water

The day's weather alternated between faint sunshine and dark, rain-spitting clouds.  Luckily we'd brought umbrellas, which were held over tripods when the squalls blew through (we didn't want to lose our places so our cameras stayed put).

Huge splash

It was mesmerizing to sit and watch the waves.  Some rolled over the rocks, while others hit in such a manner they created lovely fan shapes.  Every once and awhile a huge wave would crash into the shore with a fantastically tall splash.

Iconic lighthouse view

Since we never knew when one of the larger waves might hit, Cheri and I constantly stood watch beside our tripods, not wanting to miss the "big one."

Powerful wave curl

We stood at attention most of the day, from 9 am to nearly 3:30 in the afternoon.  Finally, knees and feet tired from standing, we decided to call it quits.  We'd both filled our memory cards with thousands of images.  How many more wave photos did one need?

One of the larger waves

Still, loathe to depart, we sat on a nearby driftwood pile for just a few minutes longer, hoping to witness a huge splash.  With high tide scheduled for 4 pm, by now a large crowd had gathered. 

Wave and fishing boat

But it had been a fun day on the coast, and we finally headed for home.  A different type of photography for me, I'd learned a lot on this outing. 

A great way to ring in the new year - and decade!