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.
[/caption] One of the best places to get some spectacular views of the Three Sister’s and Broken Top are from the patio of Faith, Hope and Charity winery. Not only are you given great views of the Central Oregon mountain range but you also have some spectacular views of Smith Rock State Park. And not to mention the grounds of the winery are perfectly manicured and host several events like a blues concert that we attended as well as some opportunities to play several lawn games. There is even a large pond that the owners stock with Rainbow Trout and if you’re lucky, you may witness an osprey, hawk or even a bald eagle hovering high above. The tasting room is a renovated barn that houses several events and offers even better views of the landscape from the upstairs patio. The winery is nestled in a 315 acre private valley and they specialize in growing hybrid varieties in their 15 acre vineyard. Since there are so many variety of wildflowers dotting the vineyard, there are several opportunities to get some really cool shots of the high desert landscape and you may even be able to get the mountains in the background. The winery is located in Terrebonne, Oregon and is located amongst rolling farm grounds, canyons and ridges that will surely provide ample photo opportunities. If your visiting Central Oregon and you’re looking for some great wine, mountain views and great atmosphere, I would recommend Faith, Hope and Charity Winery.
[/caption] Beautiful view of Broken Top from crater meadow in the Three Sisters Wilderness area. If you’re looking for a great area to get in some great hiking and have an opportunity to get some great photos and take in some great views, you won’t want to pass up the chance to hike near Broken Top mountain. However, if you’re going for only a day hike and you want to avoid the killer up hill elevation gain that you must endure via the Green Lakes trailhead, you may want to cheat a little by driving to the Broken Top trailhead. However, you will need to endure over 4 miles of a rugged dirt road that calls for a high clearance vehicle and lots of patience. Once you get to the parking lot you will find yourself with having to deal with only about 500 to 1,000 feet of elevation gain, depending on what you want to do. You are pretty much smack dab in the middle of Broken Top and you can continue along the trailhead or span out in several different directions once you get to a well marked intersection of trails. This photo was taken along the crater meadow with two lava cones in the foreground and on both the right and left of Broken Top. There are plenty of wildlife in the area as well as dozens of alpine flowers dotting the landscape. You will also walk across several small to medium sized creeks as well as see several waterfalls. Even during mid Fall, you will find yourself hiking through snow as well as several snow bridges.
[/caption] Crater Creek flows down the alpine mountains near Broken Top with Ball Butte in the background. Hiking in the Three Sisters Wilderness offers several opportunities to visit many of the creeks flowing from the nearby glaciers as well as seeing the cluster of alpine lakes that dot the wilderness. The wilderness offers one of the most memorable experiences and provides the outdoor adventurer everything that a wilderness should. There are dozens of glaciers, snow-capped mountains, creeks, lakes, waterfalls, alpine flowers, wildlife and of course some amazing views. However, you will want to visit during the weekday or off seasons since summer and weekends can really get busy.
[/caption] The glacial lake that is located on the northern flanks of Broken Top is absolutely stunning. I was disappointed that by the time we arrived at the lake the clouds had moved in and eliminated my attempt to gt a fabulous shot of the mineral laced lake with it’s beautiful turquoise color. However, I was happy to see that almost the entire lake was frozen and there was a large snow island that was tempting me to hike across. If you like hiking the Three Sisters wilderness, this place is a must see. You will also have great views of Mt. Bachelor, the Three Sisters and the surrounding area as far as Diamond Peak and Mt. Thielson in the Southern Oregon Cascades
[/caption] If you stand near the southern most edge of Sparks Lake you will be able to get a fantastic photo of Broken Top and its reflection. However, you need to be be patient since it can be rather windy which will cause the reflection to disappear. You will also want to visit just prior to sunset and plan on chasing the best photographic opportunity. late Summer or earl Fall is one of the best times since the sun is lower and the lake is quiet. The lake will also be about 5 feet shallower so you will be able to walk around parts near the lake that are normally flooded and unobtainable. Make sure and bring your tripod, bubble level and remote switch since you don’t want any camera shake and you will be very impressed with the photo opportunities. I would also recommend attaching a CIR-PL and warming filter in order to maximize the color saturation.
[/caption] Sparks lake offers some of the best lakeside views of South Sister and Broken Top and early Fall is one of the best times to visit the lake since its usually calm and there are almost no crowds of people. Due to the low water level you can also hike farther into the lakes beaches and get a better view and photo of the mountains. I took this photo on 10/27/11 at about 5:20pm so the light was very low to the horizon and made for the glare from the lake create an exact image of the landscape. I was fortunate to find little wind and very few distractions in the water. However, parts of the lake were frozen so I had to move around the lake until I found the best place to photograph. The sun was mostly behind me and relatively low so I was able to take advantage of the color and lack of overexposure. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and attached my CIR-PL and warming filter. I also made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch in order to avoid any camera shake. I set the FL at 17mm in order to create the most panoramic scene since this photo would be a great candidate for a ultra panoramic photo and would allow you to crop out some of the water and sky. The aperture was set at F-4 since I also had the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -0.3.
[/caption] The weather in Central Oregon is summertime at its best. I was amazed at how much water was still in the Central Oregon high desert. The abundant snow and rain fall has caused every single lake, creek and river to swell well over its banks. Almost all of the hiking trails are still covered in snow and I have never seen so many pine trees flooded near the banks of the alpine lakes and rivers. I took this shot while driving on Century drive/Cascade Lakes Highway while returning from Green Lakes. It was about 7:20pm when we noticed these 4 bucks and a single doe grazing in the meadow. The doe was mostly laying in the grass as the 4 bucks crowded around her. I wanted to have Broken Top in the background along with the meadow and the dear in the entire frame so I attached my Sigma 17-70 mm lens and set the focal length at 57mm. Since I was sitting in the backseat I wasn’t able to set up my tripod so I had to try and be as still as possible without blurring the camera. This was especially difficult since it was getting late, the sun was low and I was using my CIR-PL and warming filter. I had the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -2 in order to saturate the landscape. The camera was in Program/Normal mode so the aperture was at F-5.6 and the shutter speed was at 1/128 second.