Saturday, December 31, 2022

2022 in Photos

Well, we've all survived another trip around the sun.  For me it meant one more year of hikes, photography, and visits to cool places.  I'm nearly two years into retirement and still loving every minute of it.  Although COVID wasn't as much of an issue in '22 as the past two years, it was still out there - but unlike '20 and '21 it didn't stop me from doing stuff.  What did stop me - stupid plantar fasciitis on my left foot.  This persistent aliment shot a big hole into most of my hiking plans for the summer.  So I did what I normally do when faced with a roadblock - pivot!  Instead of hiking I turned my sights on photographing birds and had fun discovering new places to find my feathered friends as well as learning how best to capture those quick little buggers on my memory cards.

And now with 2022 drawing to a close, it's time for my annual "year in photos" blog post.  As my faithful readers know, this is my most favorite entry to write.  I compose this post mainly for myself, but also hope that anyone who views it will get as much enjoyment as I do creating it.

Once again, I've gathered together a collection of photos that I feel best represents the year gone by.  As per usual, these aren't necessarily always my best shots.  Some have been chosen because they represent memorable happenings of 2022.  Each image has been chosen from the month it was created.  And - surprise - you might see some new photos that didn't make it onto my blog.  That is, until now.

So let's get to it, and unveil the Linda's Lens top 12 photos from 2022:  


Mt. Hood at sunrise

For many days last winter I dreamed of capturing a snow-covered Mt. Hood at sunrise.  The only problem - I really like to sleep in.  For several evenings I would determine that tomorrow would be the day and set my alarm accordingly.  But when it buzzed the following morning, I'd just shut the alarm off and roll back over - later regretting my laziness.  Finally, one morning in January the planets aligned, and I was actually able to pry myself from my warm bed and drive along snowy roads to the Timberline Lodge parking lot.  Through frigidly cold and very windy conditions I witnessed an amazing sunrise that made all that effort worthwhile.  (Note to self - I really need to do this more often!)


Wooden bridge at Moulton Falls Park

I'm always on the hunt for new places to hike.  Although over the years I've covered most of the local trails, at the beginning of 2022 I was bound and determined to find some "new-to-me" hikes in the area.  An online image of a picturesque wooden bridge over the Lewis River at SW Washington's Moulton Falls Regional park inspired me to check this place out and get a photograph of my own.  After hiking a rough trail through second-growth woods, I emerged next to the mighty Lewis and was able to find the vantage I desired.  The green water and wintry foggy forest did a great job of capturing the mood of this beautiful place.


Grass widow blooms mean spring is here

One of the things I love about March - the wildflowers start blooming!  The farther east one hikes in the Columbia River Gorge, the greater their chances of spotting early blossoming beauties.  The first flowers to emerge from winter slumber are always the lovely purple grass widows.  In March, I took a wonderful hike with friends Debbie and Barry to the labyrinth, an interesting area of unique rock formations and sweeping gorge views.  Not only did we see hundreds, if not thousands, of grass widows sprouting everywhere, we were also lucky enough to spot an entire flock of colorful Lewis Woodpeckers.


Dueling goslings

This April, along with flowers, I focused on photographing the many birds around my home.  In the spring there's lots of "birdy" activity in NW Oregon.  One can find several different species in just about any park or preserve.  Not only were birds migrating, many were looking for mates, and once mates were found, raising their young.  At my local "duck pond" the resident Canada geese flock had just hatched several broods of tiny, yellow goslings.  Early one morning, I was lucky enough to capture two of these adorable fluffballs fighting over a worm.  Such cuteness!


Sunset at Bandon Beach

The year just wouldn't be complete without at least one visit to my favorite place on the Oregon coast - scenic Bandon Beach.  In May, I introduced my good friend Kim to this magical place.  So many things to photograph - unique sea stacks, tidepool creatures, birds (of course!), a cool lighthouse, and a sweet mama harbor seal with her pup.  But the main reason I return here every year is for the amazing sunsets over the ocean.  And once again the Bandon skyline didn't disappoint.


Cedar waxwing

This year June wasn't a great month for me.  Plantar fasciitis plagued my left foot, forcing a near-standstill to all hiking activity.  Luckily my neighbor Cheri got me out photographing birds, a definite sanity saver.  I added a bunch of "new to me" birds to my photographic catalog, including this beautiful Cedar waxwing, spotted at the local park.


Rhodie time!

In July I began attempting shorter hikes, but most of my camera's exploration came from driving tours, such as the one I made up to Mt. Hood to check out the rhododendron bloom.  Having missed it last year, I was determined to make up for lost time.  There's nothing I love more than seeing these gorgeous pink blooms brightening the forest.


Humpback whales feeding in Glacier Bay

August was awesome.  Hubby and I took a trip to Glacier Bay, Alaska.  Boy, oh boy was there a lot of photo subjects to be had!  We fished for halibut, toured Glacier Bay National Park by boat and foot, and kayaked Icy Strait.  But by far the highlight for me was a most excellent whale watching trip into Glacier Bay.  Our ship's captain had many years of experience and knew right where to go.  Not only did I witness a pod of humpback whales bubble net feeding several times, one whale breached right in front of the boat!  An amazing experience I won't soon forget.


Theodore Roosevelt National Park

After a trip to South Dakota to visit family, I detoured north to check another US National Park off my list.  Although I didn't hold high expectations for Theodore Roosevelt National Park (it was in North Dakota, after all) the place ended up blowing me away.  Not only was it drop-dead beautiful (pro tip - go in late September to catch the stunning fall colors), the place was full of all kinds of wildlife, from buffalo to wild horses.  I'm glad I took the side trip and explored this little corner of the west.


The Mighty Metolius in autumn

October was a grand month.  I spent many days outside in search of autumn leaf color.  A doggy sitting gig with my grandpuppies had me spending 10 days in sunny Central Oregon.  It was fun to explore a different part of my state during the annual fall seasonal change.  Lots of hiking trails were covered, with my most favorite being two separate trips to the mighty Metolius River, my vote for the prettiest water body in Central Oregon.


Hoyt Arboretum

November offered a continuance in my pursuit of changing leaves.  Due to a very hot and dry October, many leaves were slow to turn.  In a way it was nice, as fall color lingered nearly into December.  One chilly day, friends Debbie and Barry invited me to hike the trails in nearby Hoyt Arboretum.  Such a gorgeous place, I resolved to visit more often in the coming year.  It just goes to show, one doesn't have to travel far to find beauty - sometimes it's right in your own backyard.


Tumalo Mountain view from Mt Bachelor

Of course, December always means skiing, and this year the Cascades were blessed with enough snow that I was making turns early in the month for a change.  During the annual December trip to Mt. Bachelor I paused to take in the glorious snowy scene from it's slopes.  Tumalo Mountain was front and center in this view, a place I summitted during my October visit.  Standing in such a beautiful winter wonderland, I reflected on how lucky I am to live near such stunning places.  I also felt gratitude to have the good health this year (despite my foot issue) to continue exploring and photographing it all.


And so, dear readers, that's a wrap on another year of blogging!  As the number of people keeping blogs continued to dwindle in 2022, I often felt as though I was one of the last bloggers standing.  I really miss some of the blogs I used to follow, and the wonderful people who used to engage by commenting.  When I get discouraged by the small number hits or comments, I have to remind myself that the main reason I continue to keep a blog is for myself - as an online dairy to record hikes, trips, and other discoveries.  If others view my photos or read what I've written, I consider it a bonus.  It's very flattering (and a little humbling) to know there are still people who enjoy what I put out there in blogland.

So, once again, thanks to those of you who still faithfully follow, read, and comment.  You are much appreciated!  I'm not ready to quit anytime soon so I hope you'll join me for another year of photographic adventures.

Happy 2023!

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Colorful Day on the PCT

I'm adding one final autumn color post, because this hike was so beautiful I want to document it for future reference (yes, I'm definitely hiking here next fall!)

A sea of yellow

Due to my "injured reserve" status this summer, I missed out on hiking with many of my friends.  But in November I reconnected with hiking buddies Young and John for a trek through the Columbia River Gorge.  John wanted to take me on a section of the Washington PCT where he said the fall colors were always absolutely stunning.

Young admires the forest color

The place we hiked was a section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in Washington very close to the Columbia River.  We parked at a trailhead near Bonneville Dam and sauntered along a half-mile connector trail to rendezvous with the PCT.  I'd hiked this area many years ago, and was put off by a recent clear cut.  But now, after the passage of time, the area had rebounded into a lush second-growth forest.

Walking through the giant ferns

Usually peaking in late October, this year the fall color change was late.  Lucky for us, it extended well into November so on this day we hit it near peak.  And although Young and John claimed the leaf colors weren't as good as they'd been in the past, the huge amount of yellow foliage along this part of the PCT was still stunning.

Even the clear cut area had color

Oh yeah, the leaf color was very lovely!  Young and I traipsed through a wonderland of color, mostly yellow with a bit of orange thrown in.

Walking by Gillette Lake

After two miles of walking through thick, fern-filled second-growth, we came to a clearcut area.  Making room for huge towers supporting powerlines coming from nearby Bonneville Dam, the bare, bushy area was surprisingly colorful due to turning leaves on the  low vegetation.

Another view of Gillette Lake

We climbed over the clearcut hill and on the other side was Gillette Lake.  Although the leaf color here was rapidly turning brown, the winding trail down the lake was still a scenic journey.

Photo op on a log bridge

Although I'd hiked to Gillette Lake several times, I'd never before continued farther on the PCT.  As John led Young and I past the lake and up another rise, I felt excitement in exploring a "new to me" portion of this trail.

Big leaf maple

We passed a cute log bridge spanning a small stream, where Young an I posed for a photo op.

Vine maple

The we wandered by several big leaf maple trees, sporting their signature huge leaves.  I passed by a colorful patch of vine maple, that immediately got my camera's full attention.

Swallowed by the forest

My friends and I came to a larger creek and crossed a sturdy wooden bridge.  I paused on top to take in the gorgeous views of the creek lined with yellow and gold deciduous leaves.

Beautiful creek

By now we'd covered nearly 4 miles.  I told John my still-recovering foot could probably only handle an 8-mile round trip distance, meaning we'd need to turn around soon.  But John mentioned a nearby clearing with great views that made a perfect lunch stop.  Desiring to see this place, I sucked it up and kept on going.

View from our lunch spot

Lucky for me, John's lunch spot wasn't far beyond my 4-mile limit.  And it was worth the extra quarter mile.  Perched on the edge of a cliff, this clearing had a great view of the Columbia River and Oregon side of the gorge.

Catching my friends with food in their mouths

We all found spots on the ground and broke out our hot tea and sandwiches.  Between bites, I tried to get embarrassing photos of my friends with food in their mouths.

So. Much. Yellow.

Sitting for 15 minutes wasn't good for my foot.  After our lunch break I discovered it had stiffened up.  The rough, rocky trail had made it very angry.  And now I had 4+ miles to traverse to get back to my car.

More colorful forest 

However, the beautiful fall scenery was a good distraction from my foot issues, and once we got moving it did loosen up a tiny bit.  Back down through the lush forest we tromped, me getting out my camera at regular intervals.

Sturdy bridge crossing a creek

At the larger creek crossing, I bushwhacked down to the bank to get a photo of the bridge and the rushing water.

One more shot of the lovely scene

Back past Gillette Lake, still looking good in the afternoon sun.

Gillette Lake on the return trip

Through an alley of brilliant yellow and gold.

Alley of color

One of the things I like best about hiking with Young and John - they always end the day with a visit to the local brewery.  And they know all the best pubs.  This time they introduced me to a great place on the outskirts of Washougal, Washington.

A great day to be outside!

It was great to catch up with old friends and explore a "new" old trail in it's best season.  I'll definitely plan a revisit to this PCT section next fall.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Silver Falls Autumn Splendor

As per usual, I've been remiss in keeping this blog even remotely current.  So here's another catch-up post from early November, when the autumn leaf transition was in full swing.  

I came to the realization that although I photograph Silver Falls State Park every fall, by this time of the year I'm usually so far behind that my images never make it to an actual blog post.  This year I resolved to remedy that!  So without further ado.....for your viewing pleasure I present to you a recap of this year's visit:

Vine maple show

Due to the unseasonably warm and dry weather well into October, this year's autumn leaf change was behind schedule.  Normally the trees in Silver Falls State Park reach peak color by mid-October, so I time my visit accordingly.  This year, after being busy in Central Oregon most of October's latter half, I finally got to my favorite state park in early November.  Thinking I'd missed the fall colors, I was delighted to discover the leaf show still going strong.

More colorful leaves

Parking in the huge lot near South Falls viewpoint and the Silver Falls Lodge, one of the first things one notices is the nearby patch of brilliant vine maple bushes.  The colors never disappoint - fiery reds, flaming oranges, and dazzling yellows.  

Yellow explosion

I especially liked the bright yellow leaves.  There were two trees lining the parking lot that got my camera's immediate attention.  Both these trees were so stunning I couldn't decide which image to include in this post - so you get both! (You're welcome)

More yellow color

I could've stayed in the parking lot all day just capturing these colorful vine maple leaves.  But there were waterfalls to photograph, so I tore myself away.

South Falls

I was happy to see the trees still had some leaf color at the South Falls overlook.  Especially the huge orange-leaved tree to the right of the falls.  There's been many years I've arrived to find this particular tree already bare.

Interesting mossy tree

It was a funny fall season here this year.  When I visited, some trees were at their autumnal peak, others were already void of leaves, and a few trees were still sporting green foliage.  Usually the deciduous trees are more in synch with each other.

A different view of South Falls

I hiked the steep trail down into the canyon itself for a different view of South Falls.  Instead of it's very top I now had a good view of the bottom splash pool.  I've always liked this vantage, with tree trunks framing the waterfall's white veil.

Silver Creek

The park here offers several hiking loops to visit all, or some, of the ten waterfalls that this canyon is best known for.  Down the trail beyond South Falls autumn colors were muted, more brown than orange.  However, the mossy tree branches made fun photo subjects.  I followed a path along Silver Creek to the next lovely cascade. 

Lower South Falls

Lower South Falls!  A steep staircase took me to the waterfall's lower drop and a wet, slippery path led behind it's watery curtain.  My favorite angle to photograph this cascade is on the opposite side looking upwards.

Beautiful creekside colors

After Lower South Falls, it was about a mile hike following Silver Creek to the next little waterfall.  The colorful woods lining the creek gave me plenty to photograph along the way.

Lower North Falls

Lower North Falls, although only a tiny drop in elevation in comparison to it's taller sisters, this small but mighty cascade was still in a beautiful setting.  (And, yes I realize whoever named the park's waterfalls was not a very creative person!)

Leaves stuck to tree trunk

From Lower North, I followed the path through more colorful leaf and moss covered forest until I glimpsed my favorite cascade ahead - Middle North Falls.

Middle North Falls - first view

Middle North was another waterfall visitors could walk behind - and traipse behind it I did!

Middle North Falls - side view

I loved how the cascade's flow fanned out along the top of the basalt cliff it dropped over.  Falling water also made beautiful  patterns on the rocks directly below.  And the downriver forest was a green, mossy wonderland.

Walking behind Middle North Falls

After spending many happy minutes photographing my favorite waterfall at Silver Falls State Park, I packed up my tripod.  Although I would've loved to hike the entire ten falls loop, it was a bit farther than my healing foot could handle.  So I took a turn by Winter Falls and climbed back up to the canyon's very top.

Middle North Falls - the classic view

From there a 1.5-mile trail took me back towards the parking area.  I passed through more lovely fir woods, with some seriously huge trees.  I didn't have anything for scale in the photo below, so you'll just have to trust me!

Large trees on the return trail

Silver Fall State Park is beautiful in any season, but autumn is by far my very favorite.  Falling water, tons of colorful leaves, and gorgeous mossy forests, what's not to like?  I hope you've enjoyed my belated fall tour of this special place.

Oh - and Merry Christmas to all!

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

A Double Dose of Smith Rock

My late October doggy-sitting gig provided many opportunities for exploration and photography of Central Oregon.  One of my of my favorite places to visit when in this part of the state is Smith Rock State Park.  Lucky for me, my daughter's home wasn't far from this stunning area.

Morning light on the Smith Rocks

Smith Rock State Park is a geologic wonderland.  Tall rocky pillars rise up from the surrounding plains.  Built from volcanic ash and basalt, these massive formations are popular with rock climbers. However, this park is not just for rock jocks.  Hiking trails abound here also.  The Crooked River, true to it's name, winds between the palisades and a lovely riverside trail follows it's path.  There's another trail, (aptly named "Misery Ridge") that takes folks up and over the very top of these soaring pinnacles.  You can't go wrong with a visit to Smith Rock - the scenery here is absolutely spectacular.

Rocky reflections

I love visiting Smith Rock so much I actually made two trips during my 10-day stint.  The first, on the second day of my dog-sitting commitment, was a lovely bluebird morning.  After taking the steep trail down into the canyon, I followed another trail along the Crooked River.  Smith Rock's iconic basalt pillars made perfect reflections on the waters.

Fantastic morning light!

Still recovering from the previous day's failed Black Butte summit attempt, I limped along the path paralleling the Crooked River.  Although my legs were sore, today's hiking actually helped loosen up the overused muscles.

Great blue heron reflection

Walking under the shadows of the tall rock walls, I came to a bend in the river.  Perched on a rock was a Great Blue Heron!  In hopes of some wildlife encounters, I'd placed my large zoom lens in my backpack.  Quickly I switched lenses and fired away at the big blue bird.  After a couple dozen frames, the heron, probably tired of this lady paparazzi, flapped it's wings and took off across the water.  Lucky for me, I was already focused on the bird and got a couple of nice shots of it in flight.

Moon over the rock wall

Well, that was fun!  Now, onward - trudging along the river's edge, occasionally looking up at the cliffs far above me.  I got a glimpse of the moon's half-circle in the sky above one of the pinnacles and couldn't resist a capture or two.

A robin eyeing the juniper berries

Although most of the area along the river is covered in low bushes, I passed through one area of tall juniper trees.  A flock of robins were all over the place, snacking on the plentiful berries.  Although I usually don't bother photographing robins (they're a "dime-a-dozen" bird species as far as I'm concerned) these red-breasted guys were very close and posing nicely.  So I fired off a bunch of shots, and was really pleased with the results.

Another posing robin

And then I saw a magpie flitting between the branches.  Now a magpie was a species I definitely wanted to capture!  But....these guys are super fast and always on the move.  I tried my best, but this magpie definitely didn't want his picture taken.  Just as I would lock my focus, he'd fly off.  Or he'd land in a shady area.  After several minutes of waiting and watching I finally threw in the towel.

I finally got a magpie to sit still!

I walked a bit further along the river, admiring the lovely fall hues of the bushes.  But the day was getting hot and my legs were getting tired, so I decided to head back.  Because the sun was now higher, I made many photo stops on my return trip to capture the same scenery in different light.  After crossing the Crooked River pedestrian bridge, I was taking a break when I noticed a man nearby, camera focused on a magpie.  The bird was being harassed by a robin and it was standing still!  

Now was my chance!  Switching lenses yet again, I crept over to where the man stood and focused on the magpie.  Although the bird flew around a bit, it stayed in the area and kept landing on top of the nearby bushes.  Because the bird held still I was able to get my magpie shots.

Morning sun lighting up the yellows

After that successful visit, I knew I wanted to return to Smith Rocks one more time before my doggy-sitting gig was up.  But it wasn't until the very last day that I finally made it back.  This time, I decided instead of walking down the most popular riverside trail, I'd head the opposite direction down a less-visited path.

The Crooked River's colorful bank

The morning was chilly, forcing me to don my down jacket, knit hat, and gloves.  The grasses and bushes surrounding the Crooked River had transformed into hues of yellow and gold.  Sunlight streamed through the river canyon, lighting everything up.  It was another magnificent day.

Steep canyon walls

I walked about a mile before this trail headed uphill.  After huffing up a very steep path I landed on top of a plateau.  Here the Crooked River entered a very deep canyon with steep, rocky walls.  I had an excellent birds-eye view of both the towering pillars above and the river far below.

View from the top of the canyon

After drinking in the views I returned back down to river level.  By now the sun had risen above the surrounding hills bathing the entire Crooked River in light.  Although I'd taken photos along the river on my initial trip, the light was so good now I couldn't help taking duplicate photos of the same views.

Fall colors along the river

As I focused on one particularly colorful river scene, a man with his young son walked by, hand in hand.  It was such a cute moment, I couldn't help but include the duo in one of my shots. 

A man and his son walking by

With the sun now high in the sky, the surrounding rock pinnacles reflected nicely in the Crooked River's still waters.  I took so many photos of this scene, it was hard to pick just one for the blog!

Blue skies and reflections

Returning back to the Crooked River pedestrian bridge, I still had a bit of time.  So I decided to take the trail on the river's opposite shore, back in the same direction.

Looking east from the bridge

It's always interesting to see the same scenery from a different vantage point.

Views along the Crooked River

Like this view of the iconic Smith Rock pillar from the east along the river, instead of the image everyone gets looking to the north from the top of the canyon.

Golden weeds

The sagebrush had also changed to it's fall colors, a lovely shade of gold.

Zoomed-in look

It was about this time that my phone buzzed.  A text message from my daughter confirmed she and her husband were now back in the US (they'd traveled to Europe on vacation) and their flight home later that evening was still on time.

The classic view

It had been a wonderful 10 days, getting my doggy fix, and exploring some new and favorite places in fabulous Central Oregon.  Smith Rock State Park is stunning in the fall, and I was fortunate to be able to visit it twice during my stay.