Last week was another awesome day up on Mt. Hood, Oregon. I visited the same place that I was last week and what a difference a week makes. The previous week was a complete whiteout with nothing but snow blind conditions but last week it was nothing but blue skies and spring like conditions. We were also blessed with a good two feet of powder, which made the snow shoeing more than memorable. However, the temperatures got pretty high and I ended up finding myself in some pretty soupy conditions later in the afternoon. At first I was a little hesitant about heading towards the lower end of the White River Glacier but as I continued along I realized that it look pretty safe. The temperatures were a little cooler and the wind was pretty gusty. You can see some of the wind swept snow in this photo. Too bad a lot of the snow was blown off parts of the higher elevations but at least it provided some character. The snow did eventually start to get pretty soft but by this time I was almost at the stopping point. If you haven’t been to the White River snow park or made the trek to the top of the trail, I highly recommend that you visit. You will want to expect the unexpected since there is no place to escape the changing conditions and if you do find yourself in a whiteout or snow blind conditions, you can expect a very dangerous and stressful trip down since each side is a steep 500 foot drop off and you would surely be trapped or stuck in the creeks below. There are a couple trees about 300 yards from the top but they wouldn’t provide a lot of protection. However, they could provide a good point of reference while making your way down. You would probable just want to hunker down and wait for the weather to change if you did find yourself in dangerous conditions since I couldn’t imagine anyone surviving a fall from either side and I surely wouldn’t want to be the first. The good thing about the trek is that you can see quite a bit and you would probably be able to see any change of conditions but unfortunately you are pretty close to the mountain and aren’t able to see much on the west or north and this is where most of the nasty weather comes from. I have actually run down with my snow shoes and I think that you could get down safely if you were trying to beat out a fast moving storm. I would also recommend that you bring your best camera and lens while visiting this spot. I took this photo with my Canon Rebel T1I and my Canon 23-135mm lens. I’ve packed my tripod with me before but it can get really cumbersome and heavy so I started leaving it behind. It’s also not worth setting it up most times since I usually end up taking between 500-1000 shots at a time and I no longer have the patience with a tripod when snow shoeing.
I was surprised to find myself in Whiteout conditions while snow shoeing along the White River, in the Mt. Hood National forest. I had been monitoring the forecast for the past few days and thought that I would take a chance, even though the forecast was calling for a mixture of rain and snow. I was fortunate to find that it started snowing just before the Tom, Dick and Harry parking area, along the 26. It continued to snow but got much heavier as I continued past Government Camp. Good thing that I kept driving since the snow really started to get heavy as I took the Hwy 35 exit. The snow at the White River snow park was more like graupel but at least it wasn’t raining. My first mistake was that I never brought my ski goggles with me. That ended up being a huge mistake because it snowed the entire day and it only got windier and heavier as I increased in elevation. I found myself in mostly whiteout conditions as I crossed over the white river and headed towards the summit. I never got anywhere near the summit but I was intrigued by the complete whiteout conditions and I was also experiencing snow blindness. This is where my ski goggles would have come in handy since the wind was blowing the snow in my eyes and I ended up squinting for part of my journey. I could see for a few hundred feet but I couldn’t make out any of the snow directly in front of me. I literally didn’t know if I was about to step off a 100 foot cliff or a 1 foot step. I ended up looking for small trees that provided me with more depth of my surroundings and ended up having a pretty fun time exploring this phenomenon. I was concerned that our winter was over early again but this current winter weather if providing a pretty good second chance to get back some of our snow pack that we lost during our previous warm up.
Mt. Rainier is one of the West’s most visible and prolific volcanic mountains and if you’re planning a visit during the month of September you can be sure to have the time of your life. The best thing about visiting is having the opportunity to watch some of the most awesome displays of Mt. Rainier devouring clouds that venture too close to it’s summit. The mountain can literally suck in a cloud and completely disperse its energy. As you can see from this photo, the cloud is spinning around the summit like a flushed toilet bowl and it’s just about to be consumed. I first noticed the cloud when it was over 10 miles away but as the morning turned into afternoon the cloud was beginning to get sucked into the mountain. It literally spun the cloud around until it was literally consumed. It was very entertaining and awe inspiring to watch this phenomenon. I would highly recommend a visit during the month of September since school has started and the peak summer season is over. The crowds are almost non existent, which is in itself the most important reason to go in September. You will also almost be guaranteed sunny and warm temperatures with lots of sunshine. You will also have a great opportunity to see black bears foraging for food as well as elk and deer. The late summer foliage is in full display and the wildlife is unbelievable. Also, since the mornings and evenings are much cooler than during summer, most of the wildfires are mostly contained or completely out. This will allow for cleaner air, skies and longer views of the wilderness.
Crater Lake lodge is located at Crater Lake National Park and offers the best views of the lake. Not only is the lodge one of the most spectacular built lodges throughout the entire National Park system but it provides visitors the opportunity to view the entire lake. Most National Park lodges are tucked away and don’t really show the splendor and beauty of the park that made the lodges famous. However, Crater Lake lodge is perched on the best real estate surrounding the lake and is located in the best geographical location throughout the entire park system. There aren’t a lot of lodges that are built upon a caldera that erupted over 7,000 years ago and provide views of the nations deepest lake. The average snow fall at Crater Lake can exceed 533 inches, which made construction of the lodge very challenging. The lodge was constructed in 1915 and throughout the years, several additional building were built just below the lodge in order to provide additional amenities. This photo was taken from within the grand lodge and you can see that the views are spectacular from within the building. There are several rustic but comfortable chairs lining the very large deck that offers visitors the opportunity to lounge and take in the splendor of the views. Half of the rooms face towards the lake and you will be amazed of the views looking across the lake and into some of the mountains that sit just north and east of the park. The lodge is open year round but due to the snow pack, only the south entrance is open and plowed during the winter season. The north entrance normally doesn’t open until July and even parts of the rim road doesn’t open until July. I’ve visited the park during the first week of July and wasn’t able to drive via the north entrance near Diamond Lake. I ended up having to make that additional 50 mile drive but was able to avoid some of the traffic due to the fact that only the south entrance was open. I also brought my snow shoes and ended up being able to snow shoe through gobs of snow and even had the chance to trail blaze in areas that would normally be closed during peak summer. About 99% of the visitors only take the time to glance at the lake so you will have the opportunity to experience some great solitude as well as work on your tan since the sun in this part of the Southern Oregon Cascades is most epic. If you’re planning a visit to Oregon, Crater Lake National Park is a must.
< Just another epic day snowshoeing on Mt. Hood, Oregon! This photo was taken on Friday and I was snowshoeing along the White River. If there is enough snow and if the upper parts of the creeks are snow covered, you can cross over the creeks on a number of snow bridges and then continue up another mile or snow. You can get up to about 8,000 feet, where you can then see Mt. Jefferson and parts of the Three Sisters. As you can see, the skies were blue and Mt. Hood was looking stellar as always. I was a little concerned since there were some really nasty rain clouds in the lower elevations and I thought that they were going to eventually ruin my epic journey up the cairn. I was pleasantly surprised that the weather actually improved as the day moved along. The clouds eventually left most of the Cascades and I was able to view Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters without any threats of clouds blocking my view. However, the day earlier, rain and snow blanketed the mountain witch made the snow crunchy in some areas and downright knee deep in others. There were a lot of snow drifts and I ended up in hard and crunchy snow one second and then found myself buried up to my knees the next second. I have never experienced conditions like that but we haven't had a very cookie cutter winter either. I was pretty sure that I would see or hear some avalanches around me since the temperature was hovering around 50 degrees but luckily I never had any problems with loose snow. I could see where some small avalanches had taken place but I never had any problems or close calls. My dog had a pretty rough time getting through the knee deep powder but overall he was able to keep up. He did finally figure out that it's a lot easier to just walk behind my snowshoe tracks but he always seems to want to be either beside me or in front of me.
It’s official! Winter has officially avoided the entire state of Oregon! Unfortunately, it’s also possible that the state of California and Washington may be facing the same fate. I never thought that I would be regretting purchasing my annual snow park pass. However, at least I never had my snow tires installed. Nothing worse that driving around on some meaty snow tires inside the urban jungle and getting even worse gas mileage. However, I haven’t totally given up hope. We’ve had some pretty late storm surges during the months of March in the past decade or so and maybe we are heading towards it again. If not, we are doomed to face the fate of Southern California and maybe even worse. I still have faith that the great state that is known for it’s heavy rain totals and mucky reputation will once again bask us in the glory of some heavy snow with scary rainy weather along the valley’s below. I do though, will never take up snow dancing again since I’ve worn out my snow dancing shoes and must now just put my faith in mother nature to remember how beautiful the Cascade mountains looks after an abundance of snow has draped it’s peaks.
This is one of the most iconic winter scenes ever…. Blue sky, volcanic snow capped mountain and snow covered trees in the foreground. This photo pretty much wraps everything up in a perfect little bow. There aren’t very many places in the lower 48 states that offer this type of landscape but the Pacific Northwest will always offer the best. The best thing about this photo is that the mountain is completely covered in snow, with no bare spots and the sky is as blue as a tropical ocean. I would never argue that this photo is my best work but I just wanted to add this photo to my blog so I can try to explain that it includes all of the ingredients that make for a perfect winter setting as well as the most iconic photographic opportunities. To get this shot, I stood on the west side of the mountain and the sun was at about a 90 degree angle in the upper right of the photo. Days like this are pretty common in the Cascade mountains, especially after a massive snow storm. You just want to get out before any of the snow has enough time to fall from the trees. Snow covered trees are one of my favorite things to photograph and unfortunately it doesn’t take long for the weight of the snow to cause the snow to fall from the branches.
[/caption] Mid summer view of beautiful Mt. Hood and it’s alpine wilderness! Another cool shot of Mt. Hood with a great view of it’s western alpine flanks. The Mazama and Cairn Basin trail travels through the left part of the photo with several great views of Mt. Hood. There are endless amounts of wildflowers growing in the lush green alpine wilderness that spans below the higher elevations and if you decide to hike on Mt. Hood’s western side you will be immersed in several picture perfect spots. Having a tripod will allow you to take the additional effort to get the best shot but you will also find yourself taking a lot less photos and reducing your travel distance by as much as 85%. On hikes like this, I like to ensure that I have the proper settings on my camera and leave the tripod in my car in order to take more photos and hike as far as possible without being bogged down by a tripod. If you have good light, and a steady hand, you can eliminate the chance of ending up with blurry photos or camera shake. I still attach my CIR-PL but I just make sure that I’m always using the histogram and making adjustments as needed.
[/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.
[/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.