Hood River, Oregon has some of the best wind for kite surfing and windsurfing! With warm and dry wind tunneling through the Columbia river gorge, you can pretty much expect some great conditions. Hood River, Oregon pretty much has the best of both worlds. It isn’t as dry and hot as The Dalles, which is just a few miles in the east but enjoys much better sun drenched days than Portland in the west. It literally sits right at the cusp of the cool west and the dry east. Mt. Hood is just to the south of the city and Mt. Adams is just to the north. Hood River was rated as one of the best river city’s in America and one of the most outdoor oriented cities. There are several rivers that flow near the city as well as epic mt. biking and hiking trails. You are only a few miles from some of the best waterfalls in the state and only a short drive from year round skiing. Agriculture and vineyards make up the biggest part of their economy but manufacturing of kite surfing and windsurfing gear are also a dynamic part of the economy. There are also several breweries that make up the economy. The population might be small but most of the homes are owned by families that live as far away as the east coast. There aren’t a lot of places that have what Hood River has during the summer months and a quick trip will show you why. Nothing better than spending the day catching some of the best kite surfing conditions on the planet and then relaxing at a brewery taking in the views of the gorge. There are also a lot of points of interests just a short drive from Hood River. If you’re planning a trip, I would plan on spending at least a week during the summer time and plan on getting a pretty good work out. Don’t forget your kayak, bike, hiking gear, skis/snowboard, windsurfing/kite board and rock climbing gear. It’s pretty much required that you love the outdoors and really want to get a work out but if not, there are dozens of wineries and fruit stands that you can gorge on. If your into bird watching, you may also want to bring a good pair of binoculars or a telephoto lens since you are sure to see dozens of osprey, hawks, eagle, falcons and turkey vultures. The agriculture and vineyards attract every rapture you can imagine and you’re guaranteed to see them soaring above the Columbia river as well. I’v spotted several osprey catching fish in the river and then see an eagle steal it right out of their talons or coercing them to drop it from the sky. There are also several rapture nests lining along the river in the gorge.
One of the most epic places to visit when visiting Portland, Oregon is Forest Park. There are over 5,100 acres of forested trails with over 70 miles of hiking terrain. Most of the trees are second growth with a few patches of old growth. However, compared to other city’s forests’s, you may as well call Forest Park the largest forest in America. There are over 100 species of birds and over 60 mammals that call Forest Park home. If you really want to take advantage of the incredible vegetation I would recommend that you visit between May and June. May is great since you’re able to see wild flowers, such as iris and trillium but June is the best month to witness the park in a complete canopy of neon green vegetation. It almost takes on the effect of a tropical forest. There are millions of ferns and several creeks that cut through the forest as well as several small wooden bridges that carry hikers over the sometimes muddy creeks. Most of the trails are fairly easy to hike but if you’re interested in getting a good workout, you can easily find parts of the trail that have steeper inclines and cover more elevation gain. If you’re interested in mt. biking, you will be glad to find out that there are over 30 miles dedicated to bikers. Most of the trails are pretty steep, so you will have to be in pretty good shape if you expect to climb some of the challenging and sometimes muddy trails. However, a good part of the biking trails are on the old road that traverses the park but the city has done a good job of doing some maintenance work in order to make it more of a wilderness trail. There are several areas where you can start from and if you’re driving to the trail there are several parking areas where you can find the best trail. Since the trail is just seconds from several Portland neighborhoods, most people just step out of there front door and make a quick trip to the nearest trails. There are several viewing spots that will give you a glimpse of the Portland skyline, views of Mt. Hood, Adams, St. Helens and Rainier. You can also get a glimpse of the st. John’s bridge as well as the train bridge and the Willamette river. However, the best views are from nearby Pittock mansion.
The trail that leads to triple falls is one of the most scenic and spectacular trails in the Gorge. The trail leads you past four beautiful and very photogenic waterfalls, unbelievable views of the gorge and the Columbia River, old growth forest and parallels the creek that feeds the waterfalls. The best time to visit is between May and early July. This is the best time to catch the creeks at their highest level and the foliage is usually in full bloom. The wildflowers are also spectacular and some of the most widespread in the Pacific Northwest. However, since the weather can be unpredictable, sometimes the foliage can stay dormant well into June depending on the temperatures during spring. The photo that I posted is the most popular viewing area of the waterfall and you can really see just how awesome this part of the gorge really is. The creek climbs several miles past Triple Falls and the trail parallels the creek and offers millions of photo opportunities. I may sound bias but this part of the Pacific Northwest makes any other parts of the world look like a desert. To get this shot I made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch. The viewing area is a very uneven and steep cliff so setting up your tripod can be tricky and only one person at a time can take this photo since it’s so narrow. I set the camera mode at shutter priority and set the shutter speed at 4 seconds. The aperture was at F-18, the ISO was at 100 and I adjusted the white balance to -0.7. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and set the focal length at 17mm in order to get the most panoramic view as possible, without having any vignetting. The day was mostly overcast and the sun was directly behind the waterfall. It was about 12:22pm but since the clouds were moving so fast I just waited for the best opportunity. If you plan on visiting and expect to get a photo of triple falls, without having dozens of people sitting along the waterfall, you may want to come during a weekday and a very overcast or rainy day since hikers like to sit just above the waterfall and take pictures. I was pretty fortunate to only have to wait for two hikers to eventually move away from the area before I could get to work. the elevation gain to triple falls is only about 600 feet but you could continue all the way to larch mountain if you’re up to the 6.5 mile hike. This is one hike that you will truly be glad you took and you can expect some of the most fantastic views of your life.
Unless you plan on wading out in a foot of frigid water to get this type of shot, I wouldn’t plan on making the trek until the water level starts to drop. The water level is so high that the rocky beach is almost completely underwater. I have never seen the water level in the gorge this high since I started hiking the gorge over 20 years ago. As you can see from this photo, Punchbowl Falls is beyond swelled. In order for me to get this shot I had to take off my socks and shoes and wade out in about a foot of water before I could get a clear shot. The water is moving pretty fast so you need to steady your tripod as firmly as possible and hope that it doesn’t move. In case I did lose my footing and found myself swimming in the frigid creek I made sure to leave my photography bag, with all of my other lenses, at the safety of the creeks edge. The creek was so cold that after about 30 minutes I completely lost feeling in both of my legs from the knees down. The pebbles and rocks that you are forced to stand on are pretty jagged and hard but once my feet became numb I lost all feeling and was forced to rely on my tripod to steady myself as I scrambled back to the edge. Next time I will bring my Teva’s so I don’t have this problem again. Though the vegetation is starting to spring there are still several plants that still haven’t bloomed as well as several of the old growth trees that have only just begun to show their buds. This created a challenge since I wanted to take advantage of the swelling creeks and waterfalls but not include any of the shots with the bare vegetation. The harsh winter and cool and rainy spring has really made it tough on the gorge this year. The wildflowers are even somewhat confused. Several of the flowers are growing along the high cliffs but most of the wildflowers that grow along the creeks are barely out. I chose this shot in order to show just how much water was thundering over the falls as well as ensure there were no bare branches. I was using my Canon T1i along with my Sigma 17-70mm lens. I made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch in order to avoid any camera shake. This was especially difficult since the tripod was in the middle of the fast moving creek. I attached my ND8, warming filter and CIR-PL so I could have the camera in Shutter Priority mode. The focal length was at 21mm and I had the shutter open for 5 seconds. The aperture was at F-13 and I set the ISO to 100 and the white balance at -0.7. I spent about 45 minutes in the creek so I had plenty of time to adjust the focal length and the shutter speed and white balance but I was forced to basically just adjust and shoot as quickly as possible. The morning and afternoon was overcast so the sky was perfectly covered and it never even tried to rain. The trees should start blooming within the next week so I hope that my next trip here will offer more color but still plenty of water.
The Wallowa mountains are located in the northeastern part of Oregon and are part of the Columbia Plateau. The Wallowa Batholith is formed of granite from a magma upwelling in Late Jurassic and Early Cretaceous time. The placement of this rock caused uplift of the surface, which at the time was tropical sea. There is no doubt that the Wallowa mountains offer some of the most amazing scenery anywhere located in the lower 48 states. It has the second largest roadless wilderness in the lower 48 and it boasts 37 peaks over 8,000 feet. There are endless amounts of hiking trails throughout the wilderness and you can expect to see some of the most diverse ecosystems and wildlife anywhere. However, if you want to explore the Wallowa’s, you will want to plan on bringing your A game! The trails are very steep, long and very strenuous. The entire wilderness area is a backpackers dream but if you are only planning a day trip you will want to study your options very carefully since most of the mountain lakes are over a day hike away. You literally will be pushing your athletic limits just to get to your destination and then you have to hike out again. There are some really good books that will show you all of the hundreds of trails available and then you will just need to decide on your route. The most popular place in the wilderness is right near Wallowa lake state park. The park offers one of the best campgrounds and there are several lodges, yurts and cabins. Most of the backpackers start from this spot since there are a lot of parking spots available and it seems to be the most popular place to start. In fact, most of the best trails start from here and when you get back to your car there are plenty of places where you can immediately get some food or find a place to wash up or crash. I’ve camped at the park several times but I have never backpacked so I have spent a lot of time researching the best trails to start from in order to take advantage of the best things to see and do. However, you will want to keep in mind that if you find a trailhead that you want to start from you will want too keep in mind that most of the forest roads that take your desired spot are very rough and you may need a rig that has a high clearance and possibly 4 wheel drive. Again, this is rough country and the only place where you can avoid the need to go off road to find a trail is from the Wallowa lake campground area. The wilderness is like a giant circle of mountains and you can enter from almost anywhere in order to start your hike but you will find that most of the roads leading to your hiking spot is very primitive and hard to get to. The photo that I posted was taken from Aneroid lake and it’s a very difficult 12 mile hike round trip. The elevation gain was 2,950 and you will feel the pain when you get back to your campsite. However, the views are epic and you will come across some of the most amazing scenery that offers too many to list. No matter what trail you decide on, you can pretty much guarantee that your destination will take you to either a lake or a nearby river. This means that you will want to pack a pair of swim trunks and plan on going for a swim if it’s warm enough. However, the rivers can and are pretty treacherous so you will want to be sure that you aren’t swimming anywhere near a waterfall. The rivers are absolutely massive and thunderous and can really ruin your day. However, there are millions of places where the rivers become very slow and calm and will literally be telling you to dawn your swim suite. You will also want to bring as much food as you can possibly carry. You will absolutely burn enough energy to fuel the space shuttle and you won’t want to have to turn around early because your food supply has gotten too low. You also want to be sure and pack a good camera since there are a lot of wildlife that make the Wallow mountains home. Some that you may see are: eagle, hawks, osprey, black bear, elk, deer, moose, fox, coyote and even wolf. I’m sure that I have left some out but you get the picture.
Mt. Rainier is located in Washington state and is the main attraction at Mt. Rainier National Park. The park was established in 1899 and includes over 369 square miles of wilderness. The elevation of the mountain is 14,410 feet and is the tallest volcanic mountain in the Cascade mountain chain. It is also the most glaciated mountain in the lower 48 states. Carbon Glacier is the largest glacier by volume in the continental United States and Emmons Glacier is the largest glacier by area. The park also contains over 91,000 acres of old growth forests. Over 1.8 million visitors visit the park every year and the winter months all but reduce the visits to almost zero due to the enormous snow that it receives. Probably 99% of the 1.8 million visitors are just during the summers months. If you do plan on visiting the park I would recommend that you try to get there as early as possible and plan on visiting during the mid week. The crowds are just too big during the weekends in the summertime. However, most of the visitors are gone by 6:00 pm, which means that the highest majority of the visitors are pretty much only making a road trip and rarely even get out of their cars. Most of the tourists end up only walking through the visitor centers and maybe taking a very leisurely stroll on one of the paved trails. There are two lodges and several campsites but it’s only a fraction of the visitors that are only driving through. This actually makes it for a great day trip. I’ve been to the park 3 times over the past few years and I have had the chance to hike throughout the southern part of the park and was pleasantly surprised to rarely see too many people. Again, most of the visitors don’t hike the trails. However, since it’s such a long drive from Portland, I would recommend that you get an early start and plan on getting home very late in the evening. However, if you are camping or staying at one of the lodges or nearby hotels then there isn’t any hurry. If you do end up arriving at the park during the afternoon you will want to plan on sitting in a long line of cars at the parks entrance and plan on driving around looking for a parking spot when you get to the park. If you get there early enough, you won’t have any wait to get in the park or finding a parking spot and since you will want to pick a hike, you will find that most of the crowds will have come and gone before you get back to your car. Last time I was there, I brought my camping stove and I never saw a single car at the parking lot just below the main lodge. In fact, I only counted two or three cars even driving by while I was almost within touching distance from the mountain. Because I drive from Portland and I have only been able to make day trips, I haven’t been able to make it to the north or north east side of the park but I do hope to get there this summer. It’s hard to imagine spending all of your time driving around when the mountain is beckoning you to explore its many adventures that are too many to list.
A beautiful picture of Mt. Jefferson at Jefferson Park, Oregon. This photo was taken on October 3rd and you can see all of the Salmon berries in the foreground. They are in abundance throughout the entire Jefferson Park area and if you’re lucky you might stumble on a black bear foraging. I never got a chance to see one but I did notice several bear tracks and scat throughout the park and I did hear some rustling in some brush but I never took the time to find out what it was. September and early October is the best time to visit the park if you want to take advantage of getting the opportunity to see some wildlife like bear, elk or deer. However, the days are much shorter and the snow covered peak of Mt. Jefferson is at it’s lowest point of the year. You will have the opportunity to forage around the salmon berry drenched canvas as well as still have the opportunity to swim in one of the many lakes in the park. The weather can actually be warmer and sunnier during the months of September and October as well as maybe even getting a little of dusting of snow in the early mornings. The crowds are also much smaller then the summer months and this can be critical if you’re planning on back packing or hiking on the weekend. However, the summer months offer longer days and more snow at the higher elevations. Summer also brings out the ever so brilliant alpine flowers that canvas the park. You can literally feel like you could get lost in all of the wildflowers throughout the park. Even the lakes and smaller ponds will be at their highest levels and you can also follow some of the small creeks travelling through the lakes and fusing them into one giant water system. The biggest drawbacks about visiting during the summer months is that if you are planning on visiting during the weekend, you can expect to see hundreds of other hikers and back packers. This can really ruin the alpine experience. However, if you visit during the mid week, you are less likely to see as many people. Another drawback is that sometimes the trail will be covered in snow until August and that can really cause a problem unless you come prepared. The last time I visited was in early July and I couldn’t hike past the 1/2 mile mark without having to put on my snow shoe gear and I eventually ended up just finding a ledge and taking photos from there. I basically ended up losing out on a great hiking trip but at least I brought some snow shoe gear to get me about 3 miles up the trail. You also really want to check the weather and even contact to ranger station to see if the forest road is open. Sometimes it doesn’t open until later in the summer or there may have been a washout or fallen trees blocking the road. This can really ruin your day if you make the 100 plus mile drive and then only find out that the road is closed. You will need to purchase a Northwest Forest pass in order to park at the trail head and I would also recommend that you store your dinner in your car for your return since you will be pretty hungry, thirsty and very tired and dirty once you get back to your car. The hike to the park is 5.1 miles one way and it’s very steep. The elevation gain is 2400 feet and that’s only to the park. There is another 1000 feet of elevation gain available if you decide to continue past the park. That also doesn’t include the 3 or 4 miles of trails that winds it’s way around the area. If you plan on doing a day hike I would plan on hiking over 15 miles round trip since you won’t want to just hike to the park and then sit around. There is way too much to do and see once you get to the park. In fact, the real views and fun doesn’t even start until you get to the entrance of Jefferson Park and believe me you will know when you get there. About a few years ago, I was taking some photos of Mt. Jefferson when all of a sudden a snow owl leaped from a tree branch and quickly flew away. I never had a chance to even take my camera off the tripod to get a shot. There are even some waterfalls that you can take photos of as well as several snow bridges along the higher elevations that you may be able to cross.
Spring is officially here and it will only be a few more weeks until the gorge will be ready for some serious photography hunting. I only say that because the gorge usually doesn’t become completely prepared for a photography hike until all of the foliage has come out of its dormancy and begins to clog the landscape with a sea of green. Early May or even as late as mid June is the best time to take advantage of the intense green landscape but it really depends on the weather. If we are lucky enough to get a more mild spring, then the gorge is more likely to see it’s foliage come out early. However, if we get a colder and wetter spring, then the foliage won’t come out until late May or mid June. However, you can always expect to still have a great waterfall and creek in your shot no matter what the weather is like. The water levels will still be high and you can expect some pretty thunderous waterfalls cascading through the basalt cliffs as they carve their way through the lower elevations. The photo that I posted is of Elowah Falls and it’s pretty easy to get to. It’s also a very popular waterfall since it’s only a short hike and it’s pretty awesome to look at. You can expect to get a little wet while crossing over the bridge and you can even take a swim in the fresh water pool that is directly under the waterfall. Since the trail can get pretty busy you may want to visit during the weekday, if you want to get some shots of the waterfall without having dozens of people in the foreground. You will also want to plan on drying your lens fairly often since the water spray is pretty intense and if you don’t you will end up with a bunch of photos with nothing but water droplets on your shots. I would also recommend that you bring along your tripod, bubble level and a remote switch. You would also be doing yourself a favor if you attach some ND filters. I normally set the shutter speed between 3 and 5 seconds and since the light can get pretty high, you don’t want to end up with any overexposure. A tripod will also allow you to ensure that they don’t come out blurry and uneven. Using a tripod along very uneven and a tricky landscape is a lot of work but you don’t really have a choice. Try doing this with a dog with you as well and this will really test your patients. Not only does the trail that leads to Elowah falls offer great shots of the waterfall but there are great opportunities to photograph the old growth forest, wildflowers, wildlife, creeks, moss, lichen and dozens of other photo opportunities.
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.