Category Archives: wildlife

Washington State Waterfalls

One of the most majestic and massive waterfalls that I’ve seen in a long time. It isn’t nearly as tall as Multnomah Falls but this 3-tiered cascade starts with a hidden 50-foot falls, spreads across a 70-foot fan and finally drops 80 feet into a huge rock punchbowl. However, the last part of the waterfall isn’t within view due to the trees and the sheer drop next to the falls. The waterfall is so wide towards the top that you could park a semi from end to end and still not block the falls. The trail starts at about 15 miles north of Carson, WA at a primitive and quiet parking area. The last few miles are on a gravel/dirt road with some potholes. The best part of this hike isn’t just to the waterfall. If you backtrack about 1/2 mile there is another trail that takes you to the top of the falls. This puts you at 2370′ and right on top of the falls. There are several viewing areas at this elevation and the panoramic views are incredible. The forest is also especially beautiful and quiet. There is also another great little creek that flows down just before the main falls that a bridge crosses. I’m pretty sure that it’s a natural spring since the upper trail never crosses this same creek and it doesn’t seem like it forks from Falls Creek. This photo was taken at about 12.22 in the afternoon. I returned to the falls for a second time in order to avoid most of the glare from earlier in the morning. To get this shot I used my 17-77mm lens. I set the focal length at 55mm. I had my warming filter and CIR-PL attached to the lens. I set the ISO at 100 and the F-stop was at 22. I set the Exposure Program to Shutter Priority and set it at 1.2 seconds. I used my tripod in order to avoid camera shake. There is a good chance that you may run in to a black bear, elk or deer since the forest gets pretty thick once you hike above the falls. You may even spot an eagle, osprey, hawk or turkey vulture soaring high above the forest. Since the hike itself is pretty easy and short, you may want to locate some other hiking trails in the area if you want to spend the whole day hiking.

Moon over Vancouver Island, Canada

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.

Hood River, Oregon

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.

Forest Park in Portland, Oregon!

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.

Wallowa Mountains, OR

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 National Park, Washington

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.

Mt. Jefferson, Oregon

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.

The Gorge, Oregon

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.

Bald Eagles

Late Winter and early Spring are the best times to catch a glimpse of a bald eagle almost anywhere in the Pacific Northwest. They have been making such a great come back that I’ve had the privilege to watch them for several months over the past 5 years or so. Many of the juveniles are finally starting to leave the nest and the parents are seen nervously hanging out by the nest as they wait for it to return. It really is awesome to watch the parents standing like statues as they gaze into the horizon hoping to spot the younger eagle. If your lucky you can even watch the young eagle practice their fishing tactic when they swoop down onto a lake or river and then stretch out there talons like they’re about to grab a fish. You really know that the juvenile eagle is getting close to home when the parents start to squawk like mad and then carry on when the juvenile gets closer to them. I took this shot along the Columbia River at Astoria, Oregon. If you want to guarantee an opportunity to see some eagles, I highly recommend that you plan a visit Astoria. There are several eagles within the city and you can pretty much just camp near the river and wait for one to fly overhead.

Mt. Hood, Oregon

[/caption] Beautiful hiking trails are abundant along Mt. Hood but one that really stands out is the Top Spur Trail! Even though some of the hiking trails that traverse along the Mt. Hood Wilderness can get pretty busy, the Top Spur Trail is a great trail route that takes you away from most of the congestion. The weekends can get pretty busy, like ALL of the trails but at least you will have less crowds to deal with and the views are second to none. You can pretty much choose your route and either head towards the summit, follow along the Pacific Crest Trail, hike to one of the shelter’s or hike to one of the many creeks that are born near the head waters of the many glaciers in the area. This photo was taken from the southern flank of Bald Mountain and since I wasn’t using a tripod I decided to get some of the wildflowers in the foreground. I knelt down as much as possible and made sure to get the mountain and as much of the flowers as I could but making sure that both the mountain and the wildflowers were in focus. There are dozens of waterfalls tumbling down from the cliffs as well as several species of butterflies and numerous wildflowers growing along the wilderness.