Late Winter and early Spring are the best times to catch a glimpse of a bald eagle almost anywhere in the Pacific Northwest. They have been making such a great come back that I’ve had the privilege to watch them for several months over the past 5 years or so. Many of the juveniles are finally starting to leave the nest and the parents are seen nervously hanging out by the nest as they wait for it to return. It really is awesome to watch the parents standing like statues as they gaze into the horizon hoping to spot the younger eagle. If your lucky you can even watch the young eagle practice their fishing tactic when they swoop down onto a lake or river and then stretch out there talons like they’re about to grab a fish. You really know that the juvenile eagle is getting close to home when the parents start to squawk like mad and then carry on when the juvenile gets closer to them. I took this shot along the Columbia River at Astoria, Oregon. If you want to guarantee an opportunity to see some eagles, I highly recommend that you plan a visit Astoria. There are several eagles within the city and you can pretty much just camp near the river and wait for one to fly overhead.
June Lake is located on the south side of Mt. St. Helen’s, Washington and to get there it’s an easy 1.5 mile hike. However, the drive to the trail head is about a half day of driving if you’re coming from Portland, Oregon. You would be advised to bring lots of food and just plan on barbecuing your dinner at the small park located at the trail head. If you’re interested in an amazing hiking trip you will want to continue past June Lake and hike along the razor sharp lava covered trail. There are actually dozens of trails that you can choose from so you will want to bring a trail book or study the hiking maps located along the trail. You can even hike to the swift glacier and hike as far as you can until you get too tired to continue any further. The south side of the mountain looks much different from the north side. There are no signs on the south side of Mt. St. Helen’s that it ever even erupted but you will truly be amazed by the beauty and endless amounts of options available. Most people that choose to summit the mountain, in winter, start from near the June Lake trail head. However, even in summer you can hike towards the summit and pass several places of interest along the way. There are several additional water falls, lava flows, canyons, lava tunnels and beautiful alpine flowers that dot the landscape. Because the lava rocks are so sharp, I would think twice about bringing your dog with you on this trip. A dog’s pads could end up getting cut to shreds almost anywhere along this part of the trail. I would even recommend bringing a small first aid kit with lots of band aids since it’s pretty easy to brush up against the lava rocks and end up with a pretty deep cut. However, there are other hiking trails near by that don’t pass through the lava fields if you want to hike with your best friend. You will just want to study the trail maps before you head out. I’ve visited several times to snow shoe during winter and that can even be a better time to visit. Once you get to a high enough elevation you will have an awesome view of Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood.
Mt. Hood, Oregon! One of the most seductive and tantalizing mountain in the state of Oregon. I have snowshoed or hiked most of the trails along the Mt. Hood wilderness but sometimes I find a spot that I had been overlooking for several years. The White River snow park is one of the most popular snow shoe trails along the southeastern flanks of the mountain. However, if you wanted to cross over the White River, you would be sorely mistaken if you think that you could just hop across the river from the White River snow park. However, if you were to continue on highway 35 just over the bridge, you would see the Green Apple snow park. The snow shoe trails from this park takes x country skiers and snowshoers away from Mt. Hood and towards the south east. However, if you want to head up to the higher elevations of Mt. Hood you will want to quickly cross the highway and gear up for a challenging and vigorous trek. You will end up paralleling the White River and if you expect to just hike along the river you will be sadly disappointed. Unfortunately, the river has several forks and it’s pretty dangerous to cross at the beginning of your trek. You will need to hike along the hills above the river and then cautiously pick a safe line down from the hill and head towards the creeks edge. You really want to be careful since you could create a small avalanche. This is especially true if the temperature are warm and the snow is too soft. I found this out on my way back just before finishing my day. Once you get near the creek, you will want to look for a safe crossing area. There are several smaller creeks that create a boundary between you and the White River. I ended up having to cross three different smaller creeks. I also ended up having to again climb higher along the ridge since I was a little nervous about getting too close to the river at one point. I ended up traversing parts of a very steep hill and I noticed that there had been a lot of snow that fell from higher up. I just kept going and was lucky not to have any issues with the snow giving way. I never really felt like there would be any type of avalanche but I also didn’t want to have the snow slip from underneath me. Once I got at the bottom of the hill, I realized that I could have avoided the hill and just kept along the edge of the creek. I ended up picking a new line on my return trip. The most difficult part of the trip was just a few hundred yards away. There is a part of the trail that takes you to a fairly wide part of a creek that is also moving pretty quickly and it pretty much butts up against a very unstable part of the massive hill near it. There were a lot of boulders and rocks that had been falling from the 20 foot edge just above me and I could only hold my breath and quickly keep moving. I actually ended up getting too close to the creek and found myself falling through the snow and getting stuck for about 15 seconds. Luckily it didn’t take me too long to run the gauntlet. However, on my return trip, I noticed that there were several new rocks that had fallen after I had crossed earlier. You can even hear the debris crackling above you so you want to move fast. Once I got past the gauntlet, the trail opened up and I was able to hike directly to the White River. The smaller creeks were deep below the snow and I no longer had to worry about crossing any more water. This part of the trail was well worth the trek. Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters were already within view and the views of the mountain were well within sight. The trek to the higher elevations of the mountain are a few miles but the views are endless and you have ample opportunities to hike along the river. Unlike the White River trail, you have more opportunities to get close to the river and even more opportunities to bask in the solitude. Eventually, you will end up somewhere near the Timberline Trail. However, wintertime allows you to pretty much go anywhere you want to go and there are several snow covered parts that allow you to be a storm trooper and challenge yourself as much as you want. The massive lava butte that separates between the White River Glacier and the Newton Clark Glacier looks pretty tantalizing but I didn’t have the guts to summit it. I ended up just continuing towards the mountain and stayed in the middle of the massive snow covered walls. Each side of the mountain was at least 1,000-2,000 feet high and I noticed that there were a lot of crackling sounds. There is actually a waterfall that is about 20 feet high and helps create the White River. It’s easy to get to and once you get near it, you can get some pretty awesome photos. You pretty much have to stop at that point since the massive rock walls limit your mobility and you would have to traverse down a sketchy area and then head up a very steep wall of rock and snow. If you were really adventurous you could continue up towards the summit and probably even go another 3,000 feet in elevation before needing to either turn back or dawn your crampons and ice ax. Once you get to that spot, you would probably be able to see the skiers and snowboarders at the Mt. Hood Meadows ski area as well as Timberline. If you plan on doing this trip I would plan on bringing a lot of snacks and don’t forget your camera. I did bring my snow shoe poles but I never used them. I brought my dog and I just made sure to bring extra food for him since he burned a lot of energy chasing the snow as it tumbled down most of the steep hills that we climbed. I also only brought one lens since I didn’t want to add too much weight to my trip. I brought my Canon 23/135mm lens and attached my CIR-PL, warming filter and UV filter. Since I didn’t bring my tripod I made sure to turn on my stabilizer and I always checked each of my photos after each shot to ensure that they were either blurry or crooked. Unless your really critical of your shots and expect to spend over 8 hours on the mountain, I wouldn’t recommend bringing your tripod. You will just get too frustrated with lugging it with you and if the sun is bright enough, you won’t have to worry about camera blur or camera shake.
< Just another epic day snowshoeing on Mt. Hood, Oregon! This photo was taken on Friday and I was snowshoeing along the White River. If there is enough snow and if the upper parts of the creeks are snow covered, you can cross over the creeks on a number of snow bridges and then continue up another mile or snow. You can get up to about 8,000 feet, where you can then see Mt. Jefferson and parts of the Three Sisters. As you can see, the skies were blue and Mt. Hood was looking stellar as always. I was a little concerned since there were some really nasty rain clouds in the lower elevations and I thought that they were going to eventually ruin my epic journey up the cairn. I was pleasantly surprised that the weather actually improved as the day moved along. The clouds eventually left most of the Cascades and I was able to view Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters without any threats of clouds blocking my view. However, the day earlier, rain and snow blanketed the mountain witch made the snow crunchy in some areas and downright knee deep in others. There were a lot of snow drifts and I ended up in hard and crunchy snow one second and then found myself buried up to my knees the next second. I have never experienced conditions like that but we haven't had a very cookie cutter winter either. I was pretty sure that I would see or hear some avalanches around me since the temperature was hovering around 50 degrees but luckily I never had any problems with loose snow. I could see where some small avalanches had taken place but I never had any problems or close calls. My dog had a pretty rough time getting through the knee deep powder but overall he was able to keep up. He did finally figure out that it's a lot easier to just walk behind my snowshoe tracks but he always seems to want to be either beside me or in front of me.
Portland, Oregon isn’t considered one of the biggest metropolitan cities in the United Sates, so it can make it very difficult to photograph the city in a way that allows someone to see Portland as a large metropolitan city. Most photographers can utilize their talent and trickery to make something look bigger or even more stupendous that it really is. Hotels are a good example since they will hire a photographer to take photos of their property outside and only take photos that will give potential visitors the perception that it’s located in an ideal location or that their property is more stellar that it really is. Unfortunately, once they arrive at the property, they are surprised that the hotel is less than desirable. However, you can’t blame the photographer since they only took photos that didn’t include any of the undesirable buildings or other obstructions that make the hotel less than desirable. This brings me to the fact that photographing an entire city can be very frustrating and difficult. Portland, Oregon is no exception since it is mostly regarding as a very large town with some tall buildings dotting the cities landscape. Actually, it is a pretty descent sized city but it’s high rises are located in several different parts of the metropolitan area. If you have looked at any of my other photos that I’ve posted on my blog, you have noticed that I’ve chosen several different locations to photograph the city. This causes you to only see a very small part of the buildings due to the fact that the city is very spread out. However, I did want to post the photo on this article to show how you can only include a cluster of building in order to give the impression that Portland is much bigger than it really is. I chose a day when there weren’t any clouds and the skies were perfectly blue. I also made sure that there weren’t too many shadows being cast from the buildings. This allows one to see only the cluster of buildings, rather than dark shadows hiding the subjects. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to eliminate the bare trees in the foreground of the city scape. I was hoping to crop them out but then I would have had to also crop out parts of the buildings. Too get this shot, I made sure to attach my telephoto lens and zoomed in enough to capture the buildings on both sides and made sure that there wasn’t any bare or open spots on either side. Again, this gives the allusion that the buildings are never ending.
The other day, someone asked me to tell them which was my favorite hike near or on Mt. Hood. It took me a second but then it soon dawned on me that there is only only hike that towers over all the rest. This hike offers everything that you wold expect from a Volcanic mountain should. I immediately explained to them that it was the Elk Meadows hike. I then explained to them that you also need to hike past the Elk Meadows trail and head straight up towards Mt. Hood, which becomes the Gnarl Ridge trail. This epic hiking trail offers everything that a wilderness hiker would love. You hike among an ancient and pristine forest, cross over several creeks and rivers. You even have the chance to cross along a wooden bridge that spans over a recently melted glacier. You can walk along an alpine meadow with millions of flowers dotting the bogged grassland. Once you leave the Elk Meadow trail, you then get the chance to explore the Gnarl Ridge trail and it’s impressive. You will immediately notice the elevation gain within just seconds. The trail shoots straight up as you hike through the tall trees. Your ultimate goal is to get to the summit of Lamberson Butte. The photo that I provided was taken from the Lamberson Butte viewpoint. With it’s elevation at 6,500 feet, you will realize that you have hiked over 2,030 feet of elevation gain. Before you can get to the top of the butte, you may have to traverse along a very steep and difficult part of the butte if it’s still covered in snow. However, if there isn’t any snow, you won’t have to worry about anything. The trail is just below an overhang and below the trail it’s a pretty steep drop, so if there is still snow, the trail may be buried and you may have to slowly navigate your way around this sketchy part of the trail. Once you get to Lamberson Butte, you will find yourself with a pretty spectacular view. You can see Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters in the south and Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helen’s towards the north. Mt. Hood stares you straight in the face as you gaze due west. Alpine flowers grow in some of the most precarious spots along the volcanic covered earth. Huge boulders are spread out across the volcanic landscape and you can hear and see some of the boulders crashing down all around you. Gnarl Ridge is an unforgiving and massive cairn just below from where you will be sitting and the glaciers high above created the cairn that created Newton Creek. This is the creek that flows under the wooden bridge that you will be crossing during the early part of your hike. There are several glaciers on the eastern slopes and many mt. climbers start from the base of Lamberson Butte. It’s a very windy area but you can find some pretty descent cover and more flat stretches just north of the butte. This is a great spot to take a break and have lunch. The views are awesome and you can plan on spending several hours taking photos. Again, if you study the photo, you will notice the many areas that I’ve mentioned. If you want to continue up, you will be able to follow the trail until it disappears under the snow. The snow lingers well into August or September so you will want to plan on bringing your snow shoe poles and maybe even some grip soles or traction cleats for your shoes. You won’t necessarily need crampons since you will be going from snow to rock several times. I pretty much kept on hiking towards the summit until I began to cramp up and trust me, you will. If you look at the photo, you will see that you will be hiking on the right hand side of the summit. You can see that it’s mostly snow and bare rock and the elevation gain is pretty steep. You could pretty much hike until you get to the summit but you will soon find yourself exhausted and starting to realize just how difficult it would be. You could easily cover over 5,000 feet of elevation gain before you even realize it. I would recommend that you bring your dinner with you and plan on eating at your car as well as rest for a while before heading home since you will be very tired, hungry and dirty. There are two places where you can start your hike. They are only a few hundred feet apart and they are both off highway 35. The first parking spot is just a few yards from the Mt. Hood Nordic Center and the other is the Clark Creek Snow Park. Just remember to purchase your parking pass or your annual Northwest Forest Pass.