Sunday, January 31, 2021

Wild Waves of Cape Disappointment

Now that I'm no longer working, I have much more time to spend honing my photography skills with my neighbor (and fantastic photographer) Cheri.  A couple of weeks ago, she suggested we go to Cape Disappointment on the Washington coast.  High tides were predicted and that meant huge wave action.


Backlit lighthouse


Cape Disappointment has a cove below a lighthouse by the same name.  The rocky cliffs and submerged rocks here have a reputation for creating monster waves.  This cove was our day's destination.  Arriving in the early morning hours, we discovered the lighthouse and cape flooded with bright sunlight, totally backlit.


Powerful waves

What does a photographer do when the light isn't favorable?  Adjust expectations and try to find alternate compositions.

A bit of color


So I donned my sunglasses, (the morning sun was really bright!) guessed on my exposure settings, and clicked away.  And to my surprise, I actually managed to capture a few good images.


Can you spot the bird?


As the morning wore on, the light began to change direction, creating a bit of color in some waves.


Lots of spray with these!


After a bit of practice, I began to get the hang of tracking a wave as it moved towards the shore.  


The fan-shaped waves were my favorite


It was really fun to watch a wave build.  The water would rise up, and I'd try to guess if it would get big enough to produce a large splash.  Once and awhile the waves would break into fan shapes (those were my favorite!).  Some waves would hit shoreline, only to flow back towards the sea.  When they met with another incoming swell, that's when the action got good.

Curling fan


It was most satisfying to capture a gigantic splash the moment it happened.


Waves hitting waves


After a few hours of wave watching, it was time for a break.  We decided to walk over to the nearby beach to see what we could photograph.  Cheri had brought her dog Stella and she happily raced along the sand, tongue hanging out in a doggy grin.

Cheri and Stella


 Stella loved to play fetch.  Cheri found a stick and threw it towards the water.  Stella wasted no time in retrieving it.

Fetching the stick


Is there anything happier than a running dog with a stick in her mouth?


A happy dog!


I spotted a flock of snowy plovers.  We tried to discreetly approach, but these little birds were aware and bolted when we got too close.  And boy, were they fast!


Snowy plovers


Despite this, I kept trying to get some good captures.  I must've taken several hundred images!  But I enjoyed the challenge.  And the plovers were a lot of fun to watch.


Cute little birds


The plovers liked to feed next to the waterline.  However, when the waves came, these birds would hustle towards shoreline to escape the deluge.  Once the water receded, however, they were right back into the surf, pecking away at goodies in the sand.  When the plovers took flight, they'd swoop and turn in unison. 


The afternoon light was much better

After a nice long beach walk, Cheri and I decided it was time to head home.  However, Cheri wanted to drive past the lighthouse one more time to check on the wave action.  Upon arrival, we discovered some amazing afternoon light on the cove.  It was illuminating the waves, highlighting their golden hues.  Out came our cameras!


Lots more color in the afternoon


There was a bunch of driftwood along the shore stacked high enough to interfere with our captures, so Cheri and I stood on top of a nearby picnic table to ensure the woody debris wasn't in our shots.  Hand holding our cameras we feverishly began to capture the beautiful waves, now lit up by the afternoon sun.


The lighthouse in better light


These afternoon waves were even better than the ones we'd been photographing all morning.  Some of these next images were among my favorite wave photos ever.  Sit back and enjoy......


Foamy waves

This one looked like blown glass

Nature's fury


Scallop patterns

Colorful fan

It was so relaxing to watch the waves rise in the ocean, travel towards land, and finally break on the barrier rocks.  Cheri and I stayed perched on top of the picnic table for well over an hour.  It was so fun we didn't want to stop.

Huge explosion!

But all good things must eventually come to an end.  Our backs began to tire from holding up heavy camera and lens combinations.  After shooting all day, Cheri and I realized we had memory cards full of fantastic wave images - how many more did we really need?

It was a memorable fun day.  We're already talking about coming back on the next high tide, clear weather day.  Cheri and I both agreed it would be awesome to capture a sunset with the waves in the foreground.  Stay tuned, it might just happen!

Monday, January 25, 2021

Gorge Winter Sunrise

My first week of retirement I dived right into doing the stuff I'd always wanted to do.  Such as capturing a winter sunrise over the Columbia River Gorge.  

The show was just getting started


My neighbor and photography mentor Cheri wanted to travel east to photograph eagles at the Dalles dam.  I wanted to photograph sunrise over the Gorge.  As a compromise, we left town early enough to catch sunrise at nearby Rowena Crest. 


Lots of color to the east


Our timing was perfect.  The sky began turning colors just as we pulled into the Rowena Crest parking area.  Looking east over the Columbia River, this viewpoint was a perfect place to capture the morning show.

Pink skies over Lyle, WA


And oh what a beautiful sunrise it was!  Brilliant oranges and yellows lit up the sky, reflecting in the river below.


Colorful reflections in the river


Then the light began to turn pink and blue.  Clouds formed ripples in the sky.


Loved the ripply clouds!


Although Cheri and I spent most of the time furiously trying to capture all the beauty, we did occasionally step back from our cameras to take it all in.  Such a privilege to witness this daily miracle!


Cheri in action!


There's something wonderfully peaceful about watching the day begin.  Witnessing the transition from total darkness to daylight.  From faint light in the east progressing to amazing colors illuminating the sky, to the brightness of full morning sun.  

I have a feeling I'll make time for many more of these in my future.


Sunday, January 17, 2021

Hardy Ridge - January Edition

A new year called for a fresh beginning to the hiking tally.  So on the first weekend of 2021, I started things out right with a trek up a nearby favorite, Hardy Ridge.

Leafless forest

There's lots to love about this trail.  For one, located on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge, it's a short drive from home.  For another, it climbs up a high ridge with fantastic views of the adjacent foothills and mountains, as well as the Columbia River below.  And during certain times of the year, it's forests and high ridge erupt with wildflowers.  But best of all, this trail can be hiked year-round, making it a great option for winter days.


Sun rays filtering through the trees

Now that I'm retired I've become a huge weather-watcher, scanning the local forecast to pick the best days for my outdoor recreation pursuits.  This particular day sunny weather was predicted, which called for a hike with views.


White bark trees


I started my journey on an abandoned road, lined with lush forest.  Although the leaves were long-gone, the stark white trunks and mossy branches made for great photo subjects.  And the sun's rays streaming through the woods were also mighty eye-catching.


Spooky, mossy forest

At one trail junction, I captured an image of the moss-lined path meandering through a fairy-tale forest.


Path through a fairy-tale forest


A series of old roads and trails led me steeply uphill until I was nearly to the top of Hardy Ridge.  Here I was met by strong winds and surprise snow and ice.


Frosty leaves


My feet slid on ice-covered rocks.  Chilled by the wind, I stopped to pull on my puffy jacket, gloves and knit hat.  I began to think that due to the wind and ice, an attempt to reach Phlox Point, my day's destination, might not happen.  But I soldiered on anyway, to see how far I could get.


Snow on Hardy Ridge

On top of the ridge, the grasses were covered in a light skiff of snow.  Adjacent bushes were coated with a layer of frost.


Frosty needles

Frosty needles of a nearby spruce tree were beautiful.

Looking ahead to Phlox Point

Trudging through the snowy trail, hunkered down against the ferocious wind gusts, I looked ahead to Phlox Point.  I knew I had to cross a talus slope to get up there.  If the rocks were covered with ice, there was no way I'd attempt to climb through it.  But I had to at least check things out.

Phlox Point selfie with Mt Hood

Lucky for me, the rocky slope was open to full sun, so there was no evidence of snow or ice to be found.  Encouraged, I climbed through the talus and emerged onto the final ridge leading to Phlox Point.  I was gonna make it after all!

Amazing Mt Hood views

At Phlox Point, I found another group huddled behind a patch of trees.  Choosing a spot far enough away for proper social distance, I sat down and enjoyed a well-earned lunch break.  The trees provided an excellent wind break.  Now sheltered and sitting in full sun, I was even able to warm up a little.

Looking across the ridge

The other group having lunch at Phlox Point were friendly.  Before they left one of the men mentioned they'd driven by the trailhead to the newly-reopened Eagle Creek Trail and found it overflowing with vehicles at 8:30 in the morning.  Here on Hardy Ridge, I'd only seen a handful of people thus far that day.  Another reason to love this trail!

Crow couple

Rested and refreshed, it was time for me to descend.  But before leaving, I wanted to capture a selfie for my blog's newly-created 2021 hiking page.  Propping the camera on top of my backpack, I set the timer and ran to a spot on the ridge.  A happy accident - not only did I get a good image of myself, I also happened to position myself right next to Mt Hood!

Fantastic views!

Ah yes, Mt Hood was now visible.  Clouds had obscured the mountain on my ascent, but during my lunch break they'd miraculously cleared away.  The mountain was now out - her gleaming white peak a beacon shining across the Columbia River Gorge.  My descent may have been delayed by a prolonged photography session.

Looking east down the Columbia River Gorge

Finally picking my way across the ridge, I came upon a crow couple sitting on the moss-covered rocks.  The birds didn't seem fazed by my presence and I was able to get extremely close for some good shots.

Columbia River close-up


The it was back across Hardy Ridge.  Much of the morning's snow and ice was rapidly melting in the midday sun so the going was much easier.  At the final viewpoint, I stopped to capture a few images of the Columbia River before making my way down.

Fern-filled forest on the way down

Being a fan of loop hikes, I always descend Hardy Ridge on a different trail.  Zig-zagging through the forest for a half mile or so, it finally comes out on another abandoned road.

Hardy Bridge Trail

To add a bit more mileage and because it's a nice forest walk, I took a detour on the Hardy Bridge Trail.  The forest here was thick with moss and quite scenic.  And the hiker bridge spanning Hardy Creek is a beautiful sight.

Bridge over Hardy Creek

Then it was a matter of following more abandoned roads, some which intersect with the Hamilton Mountain route, back to the parking area.  It was here I saw the most people of the day, mostly Hamilton Mountain hikers.

Hardy Creek


Being solo on the trail allows ample time for contemplation.  Knowing I needed to set goals for 2021, I began to plot my hiking challenges for the coming year.  One of the bright ideas that popped into my head that day was making a goal of hiking Hardy Ridge once each month during 2021.  So now that I've completed January's edition, it will be interesting to see how it compares to my experiences as I tackle this trail each of the next 11 months.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Sunrise Fail and Bennett Pass Snowshoe

It was the last Monday of the year.  I had one final deferred holiday that needed to be used before retirement.  Sunny weather was predicted for the mountain.  Since there had been many spectacular sunrises lately, I got a bright idea to arrive early enough to catch sunrise over Mt Hood at White River Snopark.

Sun trying to break through the fog


Rising at o'dark hundred, I made the 1 1/2 hour drive to Mt Hood, through silent freeways and icy roads.  And then, only a couple of miles from my destination, I hit a dense fog bank on Barlow Pass.  Driving the final miles through thick clouds was nerve-wracking - visibility was so low I nearly missed the White River turnoff.  Pulling in to the parking area, I turned off the car and stared into foggy predawn blackness.  I couldn't see a thing!

Foggy forest


Should I go to another place?  Not really keen on driving back through the heavy fog I decided to stay put and hope that things cleared before sunrise.  Spoiler alert......that didn't happen.  While waiting for daylight, three other vehicles pulled up.  The people in these vehicles were friends that had the same idea as I.  When the light became bright enough to make out some nearby trees, we all emerged from our cars and walked over to river's edge.


White River

Ugh - there had been spectacular sunrises all week and I'd picked the one place with fog!  But I was here now and there was nothing else to do but make the best of it.  Wandering around the snow with my camera, it was time to stretch my creative juices to their fullest.


Frost-crusted tree


The trees were all covered in beautiful white frost and these made great photo subjects.  And although I cursed the fog initially, it did make for some nice images, especially when the sun began to rise through the clouds.

Teaser glimpse of the mountain


I spent a happy couple of hours roaming the area between the river and well-tromped trail capturing winter scenes.  And of course just as I was preparing to leave, the clouds parted and Mt Hood finally peeped through.  But by that time the sunrise was long past.

Bennett Pass Road

Time for part two of my grand plan!  A short drive down the highway (now mostly clear of fog) brought me to Bennett Pass.  The parking area here provided skiing and snowshoeing access down a closed Forest Service road.  I'd read trip reports about this trail and I decided to check it out.

Tall, snowy trees


Now nearly 9 am, the parking area was already filling up.  Strapping on my snowshoes, I passed a huge group of beginning snowshoers (an outing sponsored by REI) and tromped down a well-packed road through the woods.

Lovely clearing


Well above the foggy White River, there was nothing but blue skies and sunshine here.

The snow-covered forest was most lovely

The snowy forest was lovely.  A delightful winter wonderland!  I loved the heavy snow coated branches, the white-dusted trunks, and abundant green lichen draped over the trees.  So very scenic!


Mossy tree trunks

As I traveled down the road, small rays of sunlight randomly shone through the trees.  I couldn't help but try and capture a few of these wonderful sunbursts.

Lots of sunbursts

I passed a few cross country skiers returning from their early morning trips and one woman on snowshoes.  The woman told me of a "fantastic viewpoint" not far down the trail.

Grand viewpoint


And boy was that woman right!  About 1.75 miles in, I came to a clearing.  And there was a drop-dead gorgeous view of Mt Hood.  A couple of skiers were just leaving so I had the place to myself.  Perfect place to sit and enjoy a cup of tea and snacks.  And....maybe try for a selfie or two....

Sparkly snow

After my wonderful break, it was time to continue the journey.  Before resuming my trek I couldn't help trying to capture the nearby sparkly snow.  Sunlight reflecting on it's surface made the snow glitter like diamonds.  So hard to capture with a camera, I still gave it a good try.

Snow roller

After the viewpoint I had to climb up a moderately steep hill.  Most of the trail thus far had been fairly level, so I grunted, groaned and sweated.  Then the trail leveled out to another clearing and I passed through an area where the trail (road) had been cut into a steep bank.  Snow rollers had formed on the downhill side, and they made fun photo subjects.

Fog lingering in the valleys


The views were pretty nice here too.  I loved the sweeping panoramas of the adjacent forested foothills and the fog lingering in the valleys.

Nature's beauty
I'd heard there was a place on this trail that skiers referred to as the "Terrible Traverse."  From my research it appeared this spot was located about 2.5 miles from the parking area.  Curiosity drove my decision to check this area out.  Why did it have this nickname?  Was it really that terrible?

The Terrible Traverse - my turnaround point

Well.....the answer was yes.  I came upon a portion of trail that was precariously perched on the side of an extremely steep slope.  Snowmobile and ski tracks led over this precipice, so it appeared others had successfully navigated the area.  But eyeing the steep slopes above, and not wanting to be swept away by falling snow, nor slip into the forest below, I decided this would definitely be my turnaround point.

Nice view of Hood from the traverse

As I turned around and prepared to head back, there in front of me was a killer view of Mt Hood.  A nice consolation prize.  So intent on making forward progress, I hadn't thought to look behind me until now. 

Glorious mountain view

So back I tromped, checking out the snow rollers once again, down the hill, returning to the wonderful viewpoint.  Now occupied by a group of snowshoers, I kept my distance and instead captured a different view from atop an adjacent hill.

Loved these dense, mossy forests

Then I made my way back to the trailhead.  By now it was nearing noon, and the rest of the world had woke up.  I passed several skiers and snowshoers.  From the one mile mark, I began to see all kinds of people, mostly newbie snowshoers and families with sleds, trying to find a clear hill.  The closer I got to the end, the more people I began to see.  The parking area wasn't very big, where were all these people leaving their vehicles?

One more Mt Hood view near the trailhead

I returned to a chaotic scene at the trailhead.  People were everywhere, sledding on the side of the parking lot, walking through the adjacent forest, driving through looking for a spot to park.  Vehicles were lining the adjacent road almost to the nearby ski area entrance.  Time to get the heck out of dodge!

On the way home, I couldn't believe the amount of people that had descended upon Mt Hood.  I'm sure the combination of a sunny day, the fact it was a holiday week, and COVID closing many places of entertainment all contributed to the large crowds.  People had parked right along the highway and were out of their cars playing in the snow.  Right along a busy highway!  (The local news later reported that people parking along the highway would be ticketed and towed.)

Although my sunrise plans were skunked by fog, I ended up with a pleasant snowshoe trip through a wonderful new trail - and the early arrival meant I avoided most of the later crowds.  I'd call this trip a win!