The Woodburn Tulip Festival is in full swing again and it’s not the same one that I remember from just a few years back. I’ve been visiting here for the past several years and I used to go 2-3 times a year in order to get the best tulip shots. However, now it’s become such an overcrowded spectacle you would have a better time driving through Los Angeles traffic then run the course in Woodburn. I was very surprised that they had far less acreage of tulips than in the past but even more surprised to see a full on theme park going on near the main buildings. There must have been a dozen booths and over 25 rides for the kids. There was a lot more to do for people but it seems like the tulips are no longer the main course. They have even opened up three parking lots as well as increased the prices to park. You can’t blame the owners for seeing an opportunity to make good money since it has now become a cash cow for them. I wouldn’t be surprised if they make more money on parking fees, food and kid’s rides than they do selling their tulips. This is especially true since they didn’t have very many tulips on their farm. It was literally half the size as in the past. It also seems that they have increased the number of days that they run the festival. More days open means more money and that is a good business decision but it only increases the days of gridlock when driving through the area as well as the city of Woodburn. With all of the new people moving to the area I’m sure that the tulip festival seems like heaven on earth. Not a lot of flowers or vegetation in the southwest. I stopped counting all of the knee high white socks and sneakers. I haven’t seen that many pale tourists since Las Vegas or Disneyland. If you want to visit in order to get some good shots of the tulips, I would recommend that you go very early or towards the end of the day since it’s a mad house for most of the day. I thought that we could avoid some of the crowds, so we went at 4 pm but it was still a complete mess. All three of the parking lots were packed but at least we were able to find several spots since a lot of the visitors were leaving. We must have counted over 500 cars packed along the roads trying to leave. What really surprised me is that they no longer plant any of their tulips in the large garden along the main road. The photo that I posted was from the garden. I would just lay on my stomach in the grass and get a killer shot of the tulips bunched together. I used my Canon Rebel T1I and Tokina SD 12-24mm F-4 lens. I also attached my bubble level. I positioned the camera in order to get a shot with the stems, flowers and sky. The bubble level helped me ensure that the camera was straight. This was one of the best places to visit but it seems that they no longer plant in the garden any longer. Even though it’s way too over crowded, it’s still a great place to visit and I would recommend going but If you don’t like massive crowds blindly milling about, I would stay home.
If you’re gearing up for some great Mt. Hood hiking, this summer, I would highly recommend that you put the Gnarl Ridge hike on your list of things to do! The destination is actually just on the other side of Lamberson Butte but the Gnarl Ridge is located far below. You can also get to Cloud Cap from the same trail. The trail usually opens around late June but it really depends on how good or bad the snow season was. However, You can complete the hike if parts of the trail are still covered in snow but it can also be pretty tricky. You would also have to hike off trail and be comfortable with hiking in some steep snow covered terrain that can get pretty steep. This is on the north side of the ridge and this is the part that could be covered in snow and fairly steep towards the top. Most of the trail ascends from the southeast part of the ridge but the remaining part is on the east side and it can get pretty windy and can still have snow well into July. The photo posted in this blog post was taken from the back side of Lamberson Butte. The elevation is 6500 feet and the start of the hike is at an elevation of 4470 feet. This hike is pretty Difficult since it does have 2400 feet of elevation gain and the entire hike is 10.2 miles round trip. It’s also fairly strenuous and there are’t very many lulls along the hiking trail. However, this hike has it all…. Glacier access, views of the entire Oregon and parts of the Washington Cascades, foot bridges, river access as well as several small creeks that offer a great cooling off spot. You will also want to pack some mosquito repellent and lots of snacks and water. It can get pretty hot on the east side of the mountain but most of the trail is covered by the trees. There are also abundant wildlife and dozens of wildflowers to photograph. I took this shot with my Canon Rebel T1I.
We may be getting close to spring, in the Pacific Northwest, but it looks like winter is holding a pretty steady grip. We are again experiencing some pretty awesome snow storms in the Cascade mountains but also some relentless rain in the Willamette Valley. This can only mean one thing for all of you flower lovers…muddy and sloppy flower time. If you plan on visiting any of the numerous tulip festivals throughout Washington and Oregon, you better plan on bringing your rubber boots and rain jackets. There is nothing more messy than walking along the rows of flowers that other people and machinery have trampled on. However, we may get lucky from next weeks forecast and just maybe get some sunny skies that might dry up some of the standing water that otherwise would be rows of flowers. However, I wouldn’t get my hopes up. I took this picture while visiting the Woodburn, Oregon tulip festival last year. It was also pretty muddy then as well. There weren’t a lot of photo opportunities due to the weather conditions and extremely muddy and flooded spots all along the grounds. March can be a really tricky time, in the Pacific Northwest, and it’s too bad that some of our best flowers sprout during the month of March. It’s especially bad if we get a late start on winter or a second winter since it always takes place in March.
Spring has officially arrived in the Pacific Northwest and if you live near Portland, Oregon, you know that Forest Park offers some of the best places to take in the lush green vegetation that surrounds the Northwest. There are still some dormant plants along the edges of the trails as well as the underbrush but you can still expect to see some amazing wild trillium’s blanketing the forest. The past few weeks have brought a lot of rain to the trails and forest canopy but we are looking at a pretty sunny and warm next few days. You can expect to be hiking on a very soft trail system as well as still enjoy the coolness surrounding the park. Summer can be really bad, with the trails as hard as a rock, stagnant air and lifeless vegetation. However, Spring offers the exact opposite, with the best hiking opportunities that the Pacific Northwest could ever create. The weekend’s can get pretty busy, so I would recommend that you go on a weekday. Early morning or later in the day can be the best time to go if you can’t get the time off, during the afternoon. If you plan on taking some photos, I would recommend that you attach your wide angle lens and plan on getting some great shots of the towering and lush trees overhead, like the photo that I just posted, You can also get some great shots of the trails, winding through the green canopy. You will also have the opportunity to get some shots of the creek since the previous rains have swollen the brooks and small creeks that wind throughout the park. However, you may want to bring a tripod in order to get the best shots. You will also have some great opportunities to see some of the woodpeckers that call Forest Park home.
Spring is officially here and the tulip festivals are being celebrated all over the western parts of the Pacific Northwest. Some of the best tulip farms are located between Western Washington and Western Oregon. There are over 50 places to go take in the majestic beauty of the flowers but one of the easiest to get to, if you reside in the Portland area, is the Woodburn Tulip Festival. It’s a very nice drive and pretty easy to get to. However, you will be surprised if you haven’t been to the festival over the past two years. I was unpleasantly surprised to find out that their entry prices have skyrocketed and the annual parking pass has gone from $15 to $40. You also have to pay $5 per person, which is much more than the $5 per car entry the last time I went. They have really cashed in on the tremendous increase of out of state residents that need to get their Festival fix. It also didn’t help that the parking lots were completely packed and you were lucky to be able to walk along the pathways without bumping in to a family or two. It also didn’t help that it’s still pretty early and the tulips were pretty sparse and need about two more weeks before they will be out in full force. I normally just go to get some really good pictures but I was impressed to see that they really increased the amount of rides and events that they offer. They almost tripled the amount of rides and added several tractors along the walking paths so families could take more photos of their kids with the flowers in the background. It’s a great place to bring your kids and they even allow dogs to walk along the flower paths. I probably wouldn’t recommend that you visit during a weekend since it would be pretty crazy and since we went on a weekday, I could only imagine what the weekend will be like. Since the tulips were not out as much as I would have liked, I ended up attaching my 50mm prime lens and concentrated on getting some close up shots in order to avoid having a million people in my panoramic photos and a sparse row of flowers standing out like a sore thumb. I highly recommend that you visit but plan on shelling out some cash if you have a large family.
The Cherry Blossom’s have made an early display in the Pacific Northwest and it looks like the recent rains have already closed down the show pretty early. Even though Spring just started, most of the blossom’s had started blooming several weeks ago. You can still find a few trees that bloom later than most but you will have to wait for a few days before the sun reappears in order to try to photograph any of the trees that are still in bloom. I was really surprised to find almost no bees swarming around the trees throughout the Willamette Valley. I only found one bee hive and usually I find myself immersed and surrounded by hundreds of hungry bees swarming along the trees. Maybe it’s because they bloomed well before spring or maybe it’s a sign that the bees are having a harder time that we thought. Most of the spring vegetation is still dormant or just barely starting to show their colors, so I expect that once it starts to dry out again and warm up the bees will be out in force. I would recommend that you get ready for some pretty spectacular spring flowers to make a rather awesome entry by early next week. Even though there are a lot of tulip’s and lily’s making an early arrival, I think that we should have a pretty spectacular display of flowers over the next several weeks.
One of the most grueling hikes in the Mt. Hood National Forest is a hike called Devils Peak Lookout. It provides over 3200 feet of elevation gain and is a 8.2 mile round trip hike. The hike is pretty much straight up and straight down. It’s also like doing heavy squats up and then heavy lunges down. The only rest time available is when you decide that you need to take a break. You can also expect to feel like you have 50 charlie horse running through your legs for at least 5 days. You literally won’t be able to walk normally for almost 5 straight days. If you don’t believe me, go ahead and make the hike and then you will. By the time you get half way down from the trail, you will start to really feel the pain shooting through your knees and quads. You can rest anytime you want but unfortunately, you are only putting off the inevitable. I usually rest about every mile or so and then snack a little bit in order to recharge. The hike itself is amazing with fantastic views along the way as well as spectacular old growth forest the entire length of the hike. The photo that I posted is just one of the millions of photo opportunities that you will find throughout the entire hike. There are several areas where you will be able to walk across some really small trickles of water but the best part is it provides the opportunity to cool down. I normally drench myself as much as possible since I’m usually sweating like a pig even though 90 percent of the trail is completely shaded from the sun. The name of the trail is actually called Cool Creek Trail but you don’t actually hike along or near a creek. I don’t think any of the small brooks that you will see actually pass as a creek. This is especially true since they pretty much dry up during the summer months. However, it did rain the morning I made the hike so I was able to find some trickling water at one of the spots. There is also a creek where you park but it’s called Still Creek. If you’re training for a serious climb, I would highly recommend this hike but if you’re only looking for a easy or moderate hike, I would recommend that you avoid this trail. There are plenty of other hikes available within the Mt. Hood Wilderness area. However, this hike has it all! Awesome views of Mt. Hood and Jefferson, salmon berries, Oregon grape and rhododendrons. You may also see several different species of alpine birds.
Mt. Rainier is one of the West’s most visible and prolific volcanic mountains and if you’re planning a visit during the month of September you can be sure to have the time of your life. The best thing about visiting is having the opportunity to watch some of the most awesome displays of Mt. Rainier devouring clouds that venture too close to it’s summit. The mountain can literally suck in a cloud and completely disperse its energy. As you can see from this photo, the cloud is spinning around the summit like a flushed toilet bowl and it’s just about to be consumed. I first noticed the cloud when it was over 10 miles away but as the morning turned into afternoon the cloud was beginning to get sucked into the mountain. It literally spun the cloud around until it was literally consumed. It was very entertaining and awe inspiring to watch this phenomenon. I would highly recommend a visit during the month of September since school has started and the peak summer season is over. The crowds are almost non existent, which is in itself the most important reason to go in September. You will also almost be guaranteed sunny and warm temperatures with lots of sunshine. You will also have a great opportunity to see black bears foraging for food as well as elk and deer. The late summer foliage is in full display and the wildlife is unbelievable. Also, since the mornings and evenings are much cooler than during summer, most of the wildfires are mostly contained or completely out. This will allow for cleaner air, skies and longer views of the wilderness.
When the temperatures are hot in the valley, you are better off heading towards the higher elevations in the Cascade mountains. However, you have to be sure to lather a lot of sun screen and carry lots of water when heading out into the wilderness. You can pretty much lose 10-15 degrees in the higher elevations but you will find yourself immersed in the sun and breathing pretty hard while you climb towards the sky. You are guaranteed to find nothing but sunshine in the Cascade mountains during the summer months, so I always look for a hike that will be a challenge, offer the best views and allow me to beat the heat. The Gnarl Ridge hike is no exception since you will climb 2400 feet of elevation gain and you will be standing just below Mt. Hood with lots of cool winds blowing through your hair. You will also be able to hike along an ancient forest and have the opportunity to still get a little bit of sun on your pale body. The absolute best thing about the hike is that you cross several creeks, large and small, as well as several opportunities to hike across several snowy patches on the north side of the trail. The water temperatures are freezing and it provides a great opportunity to cool yourself down by dipping your feet in the frigid water as well as splashing the rest of your body. The temps are literally just above freezing along Newton Creek since it’s glacial melt and the numerous creeks along the trail are cold enough to drop your core body temperature pretty fast. The only downside about making this difficult hike is that you will need to bring a lot of water and snacks and that can really add weight to your day pack. However, you’re load will gradually start to lose weight as you consume your water and food. The round trip hike to Gnarl Ridge and back is 10.2 miles but if you have enough energy, you can continue up the trail and hike to some of the alpine glaciers that are just above Gnarl Ridge. The trail will take you to Cloud Cap and several mountain climbers take this very trail when they’re wanting to climb the summit from the north. This photo was taken while standing at the Gnarl Ridge viewpoint and it’s looking southeast. Mt. Jefferson is just to the right but out of the picture and the horizon is a little hazy due to the sun being so bright and just above me when I took the shot. Lamberson Butte is on the left and it looks pretty steep so I have never climbed it. The rock formations are epic and you will find yourself taking hundreds of photos while trying to depict the rocks as objects from an alien planet. There are dozens of small alpine flowers dotting the landscape and you will want to tread lightly so you don’t kill or damage the fragile flowers. You can also hike to a huge waterfall that is fed by the glaciers and eventually makes the 1,000 foot drop towards Newton Creek. Just before you get to Gnarl Ridge you will get a great view of Mt. Adams in the north but unfortunately a fire had destroyed parts of the forest that is just in front of the view. However, if you wait just before you get to the level part of the trail, you can get a great shot of the mountain without the dead trees in the foreground. This is also the part of the trail that you will most likely find snow covering the trail and unfortunately it’s a very steep part of the hike and it’s at about a 65 degree angle. If you’re afraid of heights or just afraid of falling and sliding a few hundred feet, you may want to wait until late summer when the snow has completely melted. Since this part of the trail is on the north side of Lamverson Butte, the snow hangs around a bit longer and the trail cuts along the butte, which makes it more treacherous if the snow is still covering the trail. However, if you bring some snow-shoe poles you won’t have any problems navigating through the snow.
My first trip to the San Juan Islands in Washington State was an awesome experience. The weather was stellar and the sights were an amazement of incredible views. San Juan Island is one of the largest of the islands and it’s about 55.3 square miles and about 6,950 residents. However, I’m not sure if that’s full time or part time residents. Friday Harbor is the only town on the island and also where the ferry drops visitors off. We caught the ferry at Anacortes and it was about a 45 minute trip. However, make sure to get there early and plan on waiting for a while before boarding the ferry. It’s pretty expensive on the island so I would recommend bringing as much food as possible and make sure you fill up your gas tank in Anacortes. When driving through the island, it looks more like an agricultural area more than an island. It reminded me a lot of the Willamette Valley in Oregon. However, the rocky shores were teaming with viewpoints that included Mt. Baker to the east, the Olympic mountains to the south and Vancouver Island, Canada to the west. There are also two lighthouses on the southern part of the island, several densely forested areas as well as numerous fresh water lakes dotted along the island. There are plenty of historic places to visit and the interior has several rolling hills that offer some of the best road bike riding I have ever seen. We saw several deer as well as several sea otters in Mitchell Bay. There are several places that you can view orcas from the island, but unfortunately we didn’t see any. There is a small winery and an alpaca farm. Several cattle, horses and sheep are raised here as well as wheat and grass. There are several old barns and houses to photograph and with the Olympics always close by, you can sometimes get the mountains in most of your pictures when visiting the southern side. There are two harbors and dozens of coves and bays throughout the island. I was amazed with the amount of kayaks on the island. Most visitors coming off the ferry had either a bike or a kayak strapped to their vehicles. Sometimes they had both. I was able to get a lot of photos with kayaks in the picture, which made for some great sunset photos. I was able to kayak where I was staying, which was at Mitchell Bay on the north side of the island. You could see Vancouver Island, Canada and I paddled near several sea lions, kayaked through a kelp garden, saw several jelly fish and watched as some very expensive sail boats and power boats steamed by. There is also a 1 mile hike up Young Hill, which is about an 800 foot elevation gain. It provides a fantastic panoramic view of the Olympics, the many harbors and Vancouver Island. One of my favorite spots to photograph and visit along the shore was at tiny Reuben Tarte County Park, which is on the north east tip of the island. You have an incredible 180 degree view with several islands in the distance. You can see the mountains on Vancouver Island and photograph the ferries heading to Sidney Harbor as well as the many sailboats and power boats in the San Juan Channel. Since I was limited on time I visited San Juan County Park to get my sunset shots. It was only about a 10 minute drive from Mitchell Bay and there were several areas to set up my tripod. To get this photo, I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and had the focal length at 38mm. I was using my CIR-PL, warming filter and UV filter as well as my tripod and remote release. The sun had just set so I was able to get the orange glow exploding over Vancouver Island and Andrews Bay. I wanted to get a good glare from the sky but I was afraid that the moon would come out too blurry so I only set the shutter priority to 10 seconds. The F stop was at F-5.6 and I set the ISO to 100. I have several photos where I had set the shutter to 30 seconds but this photo really shows the colors of the sunset. While I was taking these photos, I noticed several sea lions swimming by and I was hoping to maybe to spot a pod of killer whales but unfortunately that didn’t happen. I would highly recommend visiting the San Juan Islands if you want to really experience an epic journey. There are several other islands that the ferries can take you to, but I was very impressed with what this island had to offer.