This is a photo of sparsely snow capped Broken Top with Sparks Lake in the foreground. Things again are looking pretty grim for parts of North America as far as snow pack goes. You know it’s bad when it’s December and it’s warmer in Utah than in parts of Florida and it’s even more dire when Washington’s Northern Cascade mountains get over 10 inches of rain in December. If this pattern continues, 2015 may be even warmer and worse than 2014. That’s pretty hard to imagine but by looking at statistics and witnessing the current climate, it’s looking more like reality. I personally wouldn’t want to be an owner or an investor in a ski resort or even have any type of business that relies on tourist traffic in the mountains. Currently, the entire Pacific Northwest is experiencing a pineapple express and it’s bringing over a foot of rain, which is very scary since it’s melting all of the snow that we did receive earlier and it should be coming down in the form of snow rather than rain in the higher elevations. Last years winter was so bad that I didn’t even put my snow tires on until almost February and I can’t imagine having a winter that bad again but unfortunately, we already are having an even crappier start than last year. I’m still pretty hopeful that I will be able to make some new snow shoe tracks but I am getting very anxious and pretty depressed about another crummy start to winter.
The weather in the Pacific Northwest has finally changed. This means that the weather is getting colder, wetter, stormier and very unpredictable. We can finally start to anticipate the changing colors of the leaves and the stormy clouds to appear. This will ultimately bring a lot of water to the waterfalls and snow to the higher elevations. Now is the perfect time to break out your camera and head to the Columbia River Gorge if you would like to take advantage of all the above. The waterfalls are amazing just as the rain arrives and the struggling foliage will come alive with the leaves falling from their high perch. You can also expect to witness some of the most amazing cloud formations as they move through the gorge like a freight train. I would recommend that you bring all of your rain gear as well as your best lens as well as your tripod, bubble level and remote switch. You may also want to choose the best trail since you will find yourself spending hours taking photos along the waterfalls. Sometimes I will just make a long road trip by starting out in Portland and driving to Hood River and stopping along the way. On my return trip, I will either back track or drive across the bridge of the gods, in Washington State and take some photos from the north side of the river. Either way, you can expect to get some pretty epic photos if you go on a day that is perfect for panoramic shots.
Cool shot at Silver Falls State Park, Oregon! Silver Falls State Park is a great place to get some really epic fall shots and it’s just an added bonus that there are 13 waterfalls that you can easily add into your photos. Since the area was carved out from a basalt outcropping, there are hundreds of carved out chasm’s that have several smaller waterfalls and whirl pools that collect leaves as they cling to the edges or get trapped in the swirling pools of water. The best time to visit, during the time the leaves are changing, are during the mid to end of October and towards the middle of November. However, you will want to keep an eye out for any changes of the weather since October can be very dry and unseasonable warm. This will cause the season to start later in the month and once the rains do arrive, your window of opportunity can be very small. The best thing to do is just pay attention to the weather and check the Silver Falls page in order to get any updates on the fall colors. The hikes around the park are amazing but you will want to be sure to bring your tripod, nd filters, remote switch and bubble level. I would also recommend that you bring plenty of food and water since you will find yourself hiking and snapping photos all day and before you know it you will be tired, hungry and very thirsty. If the weather is calling for rain, I would recommend that you bring rain gear since the rain can come without warning. I usually just pack a light rain jacket and extra socks in case I end up getting too close to the water or my shoes get too wet or muddy.
Beautiful photo of downtown Portland, Oregon in early Fall. Portland, Oregon offers some of the best fall colors, weather and temperatures on the planet and if you don’t believe me, check the local weather and you will see that the first week of October offers clear and sunny skies with temperatures reaching the high 70’s to low 80’s. You can almost guarantee some of the best fall weather anywhere in the Pacific Northwest. The awesome fall colors are just an added bonus but also offers visitors some of the most spectacular colors on the planet. I’m beginning to believe that the term “Indian Summer” was started in the Pacific Northwest since we experience that exact type of season perfectly. We experience early frost in the morning with cool temperatures that can dip down into the high 30’s to low 40’s. The morning’s can sometimes be a little foggy but by afternoon, the temperatures reach well into the 70’s with nothing but blue skies overhead. Almost anywhere in the Pacific Northwest offers the same Indian Summer season during September and October. Again, the fall foliage is an added bonus and it can hold it’s own to almost anywhere on the planet. It’s also nice to know that you can have a massive waterfall, river or snow capped mountain as your backdrop. One of the great things about visiting Portland, Oregon during this season, is that the tourists are gone and the days are perfect. There are still several festivals celebrating the fall season and you can get a much cheaper hotel as well as avoid the massive crowds at the best drinking holes and eating establishments. The Willamette Valley also boasts some of the world’s best wineries and wines. You are only a few miles from many of the best wineries, near downtown Portland, and I would recommend that you take advantage of them since the harvest season is at the same time.
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.
Beautiful view of the Olympic Mountains from Hansville, WA. The water in the foreground of the Olympic Mountains is Hood Canal and Driftwood Key. Hansville, WA is a small unincorporated community with no more than 3,000 full time residents but the geography offers some of the best views within the entire United States. You can see the sky scrapers of downtown Seattle, the Olympic mountains and the Cascade mountains. Hansville is only one of the many small towns that are within Kitsap Peninsula and each of them all offer some pretty spectacular views of the Sound and/or of the mountains. One of the best thing about the area is that it’s mostly protected by its small inlets and harbors. This allows the water to be pretty calm and offers several opportunities to swim, fish, kayak or sail. While visiting, I noticed that most of the people in the area were tourists, so you will want yo plan on dealing with a lot of traffic during the summertime and especially during the weekends. However, it’s easy to drive throughout the Peninsula in order to visit the many small towns and harbors dotting the county. There are several hiking trails along either the beaches or within the expansive forests. You will also have the opportunity to see a lot of birds of prey like, osprey, eagle and hawks. There are also a few fresh water lakes and camping spots that offer visitors to really take in the outdoors.
Crater Lake lodge is located at Crater Lake National Park and offers the best views of the lake. Not only is the lodge one of the most spectacular built lodges throughout the entire National Park system but it provides visitors the opportunity to view the entire lake. Most National Park lodges are tucked away and don’t really show the splendor and beauty of the park that made the lodges famous. However, Crater Lake lodge is perched on the best real estate surrounding the lake and is located in the best geographical location throughout the entire park system. There aren’t a lot of lodges that are built upon a caldera that erupted over 7,000 years ago and provide views of the nations deepest lake. The average snow fall at Crater Lake can exceed 533 inches, which made construction of the lodge very challenging. The lodge was constructed in 1915 and throughout the years, several additional building were built just below the lodge in order to provide additional amenities. This photo was taken from within the grand lodge and you can see that the views are spectacular from within the building. There are several rustic but comfortable chairs lining the very large deck that offers visitors the opportunity to lounge and take in the splendor of the views. Half of the rooms face towards the lake and you will be amazed of the views looking across the lake and into some of the mountains that sit just north and east of the park. The lodge is open year round but due to the snow pack, only the south entrance is open and plowed during the winter season. The north entrance normally doesn’t open until July and even parts of the rim road doesn’t open until July. I’ve visited the park during the first week of July and wasn’t able to drive via the north entrance near Diamond Lake. I ended up having to make that additional 50 mile drive but was able to avoid some of the traffic due to the fact that only the south entrance was open. I also brought my snow shoes and ended up being able to snow shoe through gobs of snow and even had the chance to trail blaze in areas that would normally be closed during peak summer. About 99% of the visitors only take the time to glance at the lake so you will have the opportunity to experience some great solitude as well as work on your tan since the sun in this part of the Southern Oregon Cascades is most epic. If you’re planning a visit to Oregon, Crater Lake National Park is a must.
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.
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon is a must stop for anyone traveling through the Southern Oregon Cascades. In fact, if you live in Oregon and you haven’t visited and explored the park, you are not even considered an outdoor person. It would be like living in Washington State and never visiting Mt. Rainier National Park. If you enjoy the outdoors and you haven’t visited Crater Lake then you might as well just tape yourself to your couch and call it a day. There are endless opportunities at the park. The Southern Oregon Cascades offer some of the most spectacular views in the entire lower 48 states. The hardest part is to agree on your favorite photo from the park. You will literally end up taking well over 1500 photos and then spend the next several days deciding on when to stop going through them. Historically, most visitors to the national parks only spend a few hours at the park and very rarely even venture 300 feet from their car. However, if you expect to really enjoy and have the opportunity to really take advantage of the splendor’s of the park, you will need to put on your hiking shoes or snow shoe gear and spend one or two days exploring the park. The snow can linger all year at the park and if you plan on visiting during the early parts of summer or late spring I would pack your snow shoes. This shot was taken on 5/30/12 and the snow was pretty deep. Usually the east part of the road stays closed until July and the snow drifts can linger well into July. I made sure to head out with my snow shoes since you couldn’t get close to the rim without trudging through several feet of soft snow. You can also amuse yourself by watching the fair weather visitors spend only about an hour at the park as well as doing nothing more than venture a few feet from the parking lot and only taking a few pictures. This is also a benefit to the nature lovers since you can almost feel completely alone in the park even though the main parking lot can be completely full. Late Spring and early Summer can be sun drenched and the glare from the snow and lake can cause a very intense sunburn so I would recommend bringing a lot of sun screen and applying it throughout the day since you will also be working up a good sweat. If you are wanting to venture near the rim, I would be very careful since some of the snow cornices can be very unstable due to the intense sun and warming temperatures. I rarely get too close but I have always been able to get some spectacular shots where ever I go. You literally can’t take a bad shot unless the sun is too intense or you are using the wrong settings on your camera. To get this shot I was using my Canon T1i and attached my Sigma 17-70mm lens and set the focal length at 28mm. Most of my shots are taken as a panoramic so I normally leave the rest of my lenses in the car. The aperture was at F-5.6 and I set the ISO at 100 due to the extreme glare. I also attached my CIR-PL and warming filter. Normally I would use my tripod but since the sun was out and the thought of lugging it around, I decided to leave it in the car. You will end up taking so many photos and covering so much ground, you will find that your tripod will spend most of its time in your backpack. You just want to be sure to keep a steady hand and try to ensure that it’s level. I always make sure to review every shot, by using the histogram, in order to ensure that it’s level. If not, I just delete and take another shot.