[/caption] Late afternoon shot of the west side of Mt. Washington with the sun glaring down. This photo was taken at the edge of Big Lake looking east and the sun was at about a 90 degree angle on the upper right of the frame. The huge shadow in the center of the mountain was created by the upper part of the summit shadowing the bottom part of the volcano. Trying to get the perfect shot was difficult during this time due to the intense glare being created by the high sun. However, there were several great photo opportunities while using my 50-250 telephoto lens. The shadows on the mountain, from the leeward side, created a great personality and really gives the mountain a distinct look. I made sure to attach my CIR-PL and kept the ISO at 100 and even reduced the white balance to -0.3 in order to avoid too much glare. I pretty much had to stand behind a tree and block out the sun most of the time since there wasn’t a cloud all day. The photo was taken with my Canon 50-250mm kit lens and I had the focal length at 250mm. I had the camera in Program/Normal mode so the aperture was at F-7 and the shutter speed at 1/400 second. I made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch in order to a avoid any camera shake or blur. If you visit during winter, I would make sure to pack all of your lenses since there are too many opportunities to get great panoramic and telephoto shots. Big Lake is an easy 30 minute snow-shoe trek from the Hoodoo parking lot and if you’re x-country skiing it will be even quicker. However, you may want to make the trip around the lake and it’s much easier on snow-shoes.
[/caption] One of my best snow-shoe adventures was when I visited Big Lake, which is just a short hike from the Ski Hoodoo parking lot. Big lake is actually frozen in winter so you could take your chances and x-country ski or snow-shoe over the lake since I saw several snow-mobile tracks x-crossing the frozen lake. However, during my visit it was rather warm and the edges of the lake weren’t frozen but I was able to cross over the lake in some areas. The trek around the lake is pretty easy and you get some unbelievable views of Mt. Washington. There are also areas where you can try to climb towards the snowy banks of the mountain. However, I ended up turning around after about an hour, of trudging up its steeps banks, since I was more interested in visiting the lake. I actually underestimated the magnitude of the uphill trek and expected to get above the treeline rather quickly but was sorely mistaken in the difficulty. If you had all day and have some luck with sunny skies you will have a great opportunity to see Three Fingered Jack towards the north. I would also think that if you could snow-shoe up one of the many lava cones you would get a descent glimpse of the Three Sisters in the south and Mt. Jefferson in the north. I hope to visit Big Lake and Mt. Washington this winter and will post some photos if I get any of these views.
[/caption] Mt. Washington isn’t the tallest mountain in the Cascades but at 7,794 feet it’s one of the most photogenic. Big lake offers some of the best swimming during the summer months and during winter it completely freezes so you can cross country ski or snow show over the entire lake. There are several hiking trails that traverse the Mt. Washington Wilderness area as well as endless snow-shoeing trails available during winter.
[/caption]I was able to take some really great shots of Mt. Washington and Big Lake once the fog lifted and revealed the mountain. This is one of those snow-show trips that I had to find myself since neither my Oregon snow-show book or any of my hiking books had this trip anywhere. I started my trip at the Benson snow park, near Hoodo Ski hill. There is a church camp at the lake. For the most part it looked pretty well closed. However, it looked as though they were renting out several of the A-frame cabins to anyone that could get to the camp. I never saw a single person but I did see a few snow mobiles and two barking dogs that seemed to enjoy following me for a few yards. the trek from the snow park to the lake is about 5 miles. The trek around the lake was about 3.5 miles. I went past several picnic areas as I plowed the wet snow. There are two camping areas on the Western side of the lake. The sun was so bright and the temperatures got so warm that it felt like summer and the snow eventually was like play dough. The lake was still completely frozen but I only hiked across near the edges. However, there were several snowmobile tracks covering the frozen lake. As the day wore on, I could see several edges of the lake turn to slush. I did eventually step in a slushy part which soaked through my shoe. By the end of the day, both of my feet were soaked and nearly frozen. Since there were no clear maps of the trip, I first found myself going the opposite direction of the lake and straight up mt. Washington. After about 2 miles of a grueling climb I decided to head back towards the lake. After the day was done, I probably covered about 12 miles in about 8 hours. I only stopped long enough to eat and make some changes to my lenses. I also broke my sunglasses which was not good since the glare from the sun, lake and snow was absolutely blinding. I would highly suggest a snow-shoe trip around Big Lake since the views are awesome and you will surely burn some calories. I didn’t see any hiking trails around the lake, so snow-shoeing may be the only way to go around the lake. You can also get a good glimpse of Three Fingered Jack at several points along the trek around the lake.