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 interested in visiting one of Oregon’s best gorge hikes but unfortunately the most popular hike I would recommend the Eagle Creek trail. However, it has now become the most overcrowded and over used hike in the entire gorge. Tourists and recent transplants have overtaken the entire stretch of the gorge but Eagle Creek has really seen the most traffic. It’s really not surprising since there isn’t anywhere else in the lower 48 states like it but you can no longer hike the trail in solitude. If you find yourself driving along I-84, whiling looking for a good trail, you might want to take in consideration the parking problems that come with the popularity of your favorite hiking spot. The parking lots can be full very early in the morning and if you’re driving through during the afternoon it becomes more like a parking lot at a Walmart in Oklahoma. If you’re planning a trip, I would go very early in the morning and go during off season. There are a lot more hidden and less used trails in Oregon that I would rather go to during peak season. However, that said, The Eagle Creek trail offers some of the best waterfalls in the gorge. Punchbowl Falls is the most popular but Metlako Falls holds it’s own. If you want to get a really good view or take photos, you actually have to climb over the railing and brace yourself against a tree. However, you will want to be really careful since you will be standing just centimeters from a 100 foot cliff and you will certainly die if you fall. You can still get a good view of the falls from a safe distance but you get a much better view while in harms way. I took this photo of Metlako Falls while hanging on the cliff and it’s always worth the extra effort. You will want to use a tripod so you will want to be extra careful and you also want to ensure that you are braced against the tree since you can find yourself forgetting that you are merely centimeters from sure death. The best time to take photos of the gorge is during late Spring and early Summer. This is when the vegetation is lit up like a roman candle. You haven’t seen green until you have visited during this peak season. Seriously, the Oregon gorge green will make any other green look like brown. I took this shot while using my Canon Rebel T1I and attached my Sigma 17-70-mm lens. I also used my bubble level and remote switch. I also use a Manfrotto tripod but it’s not the lightest tripod. However, when you’re concerned about movement, it’s good to use a heavier tripod to ensure that you don’t have the slightest of movement. This is especially true since I set the shutter speed at 10 seconds and there was a breeze flowing up from below.
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.
If you have ever visited the Trillium Lake area, in winter, you’re probably aware that it can get very busy and the trek can be very congested and uninspiring. However, if you take the time and exert the energy, you can really find yourself in a very complicated and exhausting trek. I have snow-shoed the Trillium Lake snow park several times, over the years and I have taken many side trips around the lake as well as taken some of the trails that take you well away from the lake. However, last week I attempted to get off the main trail and went straight up. I ended up at a bluff that I never knew existed and realized that I truly had stumbled on an amazing viewing spot This photo was taken from the top of the bluff. Unfortunately, you can’t see Mt. Hood in the background due to the overcast skies. I was amazed by the views, as well as how easy it was to get to the top. There are hundreds of massive granite boulders that make up the bluff and the hill beneath. There is also pristine powder with huge boulders creating an awesome sledding opportunity. To understand just how cool this spot is, I recommend that you check on google maps and look for a small bluff of granite rocks standing in the middle of the forest. It’s just east of Trillium Lake. I was really lucky to find this spot since I had been asking myself if I was getting too bored with snow shoeing. This view changed my mind and made me realize that it’s worth making your own tracks. However, my story only gets more crazy from there. From this viewing spot, you can actually see highway 35 in the distance but unfortunately, you really can’t tell if it’s actually the 35 or the 26. This is where I made my first mistake. Because I ended up going around to the bottom of the bluff and skirted along the snow covered granite boulders, I really wasn’t paying attention to when I needed to change direction. The rest of the trek was pretty steep but I had fun traversing to the bottom and when I got there I noticed that there was a lot of water in the form of several creeks that were snaking between the elevations of the forest. This is where I crossed my largest and scariest snow bridge. It took me a while to find the best spot to cross but it was also over 8 feet above the creek and I ended up having to jump from one snow covered tree to another. Did I also remind you that I always snow shoe with my 5 year old Australian Cattle Dog? He always goes with me but he is also scared of having to swim or cross narrow bridges. Luckily the snow bridge was pretty wide so it was really easy to cross and my dog didn’t have any problems with navigating the bridge. Shortly after I got to the other side, I noticed that there were dozens of other creeks and brooks that I would have to navigate. I actually ended up in a huge meadow that was dotted with lots of shallow creeks. I still wasn’t sure how far I was from the Trillium snow park, so I decided to try to make my way towards the Hwy. However, just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, I ended up breaking my snow shoe. The grommets and the plastic band that wraps around the aluminum frame completely broke off. This was my worst nightmare since I now found myself in a meadow filled with water and waist deep snow. I was especially concerned since I really didn’t know how long it would take me to find my way back and I wasn’t sure how many more creeks I would have to cross with a broken snow shoe. Once I realized that I couldn’t go any further I decided to inspect my snow shoe and realized that I could remove one of my shoe laces and wrap it around the snow shoe. Luckily it worked pretty good but I wasn’t really comfortable since I now didn’t have a shoe lace on my shoe. Nothing worse that having to snow shoe in waist deep snow and having to jump across creeks and brooks with a sloppy snow shoe. It also didn’t help that I was still pretty lost. Unfortunately, it didn’t get any better since I ended up having to pick a pretty scary part to cross the final creek of my journey. After I jumped several feet to the rocks and snow on the other side, I forgot to think about what my dog was going to do. Just as I thought, he too one look at his options and stood there and didn’t move a muscle. Without going in to detail, I spent the last 20 minutes pleading and cursing at him. I’m really glad that no one was there to see or hear me at this very low point of the day. At this point, it was starting to get a little dark and I had no intentions of spending the rest of my day trying to barter with my dog. I ended up taking off my snow shoes and crossing the creek in order to retrieve him. I finally picked him up and rather gingerly tossed him to the other side. I was exhausted at this point but I knew that I still had a rather long journey ahead. Luckily, I was in for a treat since I didn’t have to cross over any more creeks and once I noticed some rather broken up snow at the top of a small hill, I had finally reached the Hwy. I ended up paralleling the Hwy for about 2 miles until I reached the parking lot. I can now say that I had one of my most amazing snow shoe treks ever and it’s pretty crazy to think that I was questioning the joy of snow shoeing earlier in the day.
A great day hike along the Mt. Hood national forest is near Ramona Falls. It’s an easy hike with rewarding views of Mt. Hood and a cool resting area right in front of the falls. You will also find yourself hiking near some of the most interesting rock formations that helped create Mt. Hood. The trail system offers you the opportunity to continue towards the Timberline trail or towards Lolo Pass. Either way, there are endless places that you can explore some of the best nature spots near Mt. Hood. This particular photo was taken along Ramona Creek and you will have several opportunities to capture some very interesting and intimate moods of the forested area. Since you will want to bring your tripod, in order to get waterfall photos, you may want to limit your hiking time at the higher elevations since the trail becomes very steep and grueling if you plan on hiking towards the mountain. The trails can also get a little tricky since the Sandy river is born from this area and there are several creeks that start from the glaciers. If it’s raining, I would recommend that you stay away from the Sandy River as well as look out for washed out bridges that may cause you to become stranded. Several people have been injured or killed over the past decade and with the area being so secluded and steep, you will want to be aware of any changes in the weather. The hike to Ramona Falls is about 7 miles round trip but the hike to Bald Mountain is a grueling 13 mile loop. It’s also 2,000 feet of elevation gain and if you go I would bring plenty of food and water. Because the trails near Ramona Falls offers some of the best hiking for nature lovers as well as plenty of hiking opportunities I would recommend it as a great summer hike. There is plenty of shade so I would also recommend it as a place to get away from the hot weather in the valley.
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 2014-2015 winter may be a total waste in the Pacific Northwest as well as the Western Rockies but at least we can still hope for a descent spring in the Pacific Northwest. I am totally convinced that this winter will go down as the worst snow pack ever recorded from every Western State, including Alaska and even Western Canada. Looking at the current snow totals, from around the western part of North America, I can confidently predict that we will break all recorded totals in history. This is bad news for ski resorts, the economy, water tables, fire season and countless others. However, since the Pacific Northwest is still getting plenty of rain I can only hope that we will still enjoy a good spring. We may not have the thunderous waterfalls rolling down from the snow covered mountains but we may be blessed with lots of rain totals where snow would otherwise dominant the landscape. We may even be able to venture out along the western slopes of the Cascade mountains earlier than normal and bask in the glory of extreme beauty of the colorful vegetation and warmer temperatures. Unfortunately it’s to the dismay of the bankrupt ski resorts and broken economies that rely on the heavy snow totals. I know that we have recouped a lot of snow totals in late February and March but it seems that this pineapple express is pretty ruthless this time and it isn’t looking good for a comeback. I’m not going to put away my snow shoes and remove my snow tires just yet but I am already getting ready for some sweet waterfall shots earlier than expected.
One of the best places to snow shoe inside the Mt. Hood forest is along the Barlow Trail. There is a small ski park just off of Hwy 35 and it offers some of the best terrain within the area. You can cross country ski, snow shoe or if you feel up to the task, you can carry your snow board or skis to one of the many higher elevations and make some fresh tracks. The trail system will take you as far east as you can go but if you plan on heading west, you will find yourself standing along Hwy 35. However, you won’t have any problem getting some great shots of Mt. Hood as long as you can work your way to an open clearing or higher elevation. You will pretty much be engulfed inside the forest so you can expect to be standing below some pretty spectacular trees. There are also hundreds of small creeks that wind throughout the area so you will want to be prepared to cross a few of them as well as navigating through some of the underbrush that grows along the creeks. However, if the snow pack is deep enough, you may not have to worry about any of the creeks or underbrush since they could be several feet below the snow pack. If you plan on taking some photos you will want to keep in mind that you are directly south east of Mt. Hood and since the sun will most likely be at about a 90 degree angle from the mountain, you will want to be sure and attach your CIR-PL and plan on looking for ways to avoid too much glare. This is especially true if you encounter clear blue skies like the one I posted. The direct sun along with the intense glare from the mountain and snow can really make it difficult to get a good quality shot without too much overexposure. Normally I would bring my tripod on days like this but since the trek is so strenuous and difficult due to the trees, you would be better served if you leave the tripod in the car and just plan on taking a lot of photos and utilizing your histogram as much as possible. Since I took a lot of photos of the trees, covered in snow inside the park, I made sure to remove my Cir-PL in order to maximize the limited light penetrating the forest. You can end up passing some pretty spectacular shots without even knowing it while trekking through the snowy forest if you’re not careful. I try to remember to look up as much as possible in order to take advantage of every opportunity. Because the snow park if pretty small you can expect it to fill up on weekends but if you get a spot you can expect limited crowds. The best thing about the Barlow snow park are the views of Mt. Hood and the forested trees so you may want to pick a day when the skies are clear and just after a big snow storm blankets the trees.