[/caption] This photo was taken near the Windy Ridge viewpoint on the north side of the volcano. There is a large parking lot and an easy trail that takes you to a great vantage point. You can see Spirit lake directly below you as well as Mt. Rainier in the distance. You can also see Mt. Adams to the east and Mt. Hood looming in the distance to the south. Mt. St. Helens is so close that you can almost reach out and touch it. This photo was taken at the viewpoint. I took this photo on 7/14/10 at around 6:10pm so the winds had picked up and the sun was pretty intense in the horizon. My CIR-PL and warming filter helped soften the glare from the sun and mountain as well as bring out the shadows along the volcano. I set the ISO to 100 and the white balance to -1.3 in order to limit any additional overexposure. I had the camera mode in Program/Normal mode so the aperture was set at F-5.6 and the shutter to 1/250 second. I was using my Sigma 50mm macro/prime lens as I was trying to focus on the top left of the foothills near the base of the mountain. You can see most of the glaciers and late summer snow accumulations looming in the distance as well as some of the moraines dotting the mountain. I highly recommend visiting the north east part of the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Area but be prepared for a long drive with no towns in the immediate area. There are views of 4 volcanoes, an abundant of summer wildflowers, herds of elk, rivers, creeks and waterfalls as well as a short trip to the base of Spirit Lake. You will experience a truly scenic and magical place that is almost impossible to capture in a photo.
[/caption] One a sunny day you are able to see as far north as Mt. Rainier and as far south as The Three Sisters. There is a secret vantage point where you can get one of the most spectacular views of the Washington and Oregon Cascade mountains. You can read about this place on my article that I wrote on 6/14/10. Late Spring is my favorite times to hike along the foothills of the Cascades since the mountains still have an abundant of snow as well as in parts of the lower elevations. The creeks, alpine lakes and smaller rivers are also swelled to the brim with runoff. You can also still witness many of the spring wildflowers basking in the warm sun. The air is also more pure and less polluted. The views seem to be never ending during the months of May and June. I took this shot on 6/12/10 and I was using my Canon EOS T1i along with my Canon 18-55mm kit lens. I attached my warming filter as well as my CIR-PL. I also used my tripod, bubble level and remote switch in order to avoid any camera shake since it was a bit windy and my footing was a bit sketchy. The sun was a bit low since it was about 5:30pm and the sun was directly behind me. You can clearly see Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams in the distance. The field of view is large as well as the depth of field which makes this shot especially appealing since there isn’t any blur in the foreground or background. I set the focal length to 35mm in order to include each of the mountains without reducing the focal length anymore than I needed to. I would have tilted the camera lower in order to include less of the sky but the forest trees were so low that it would have caused the depth of view to be too soft. The camera mode was in Program/Normal so the aperture was set at F-6.3 and the exposure speed at 1/80 second. I set the ISO to 100 and the white balance at -1 in order to keep the shot as sharp as possible.
[/caption] The White River snow-shoe trail takes you directly to the edge of Mt. Hoods south eastern glacier that allows you to walk along 500 foot drop offs from both sides. It’s one of the best trails along Mt. Hood to snow-shoe if your looking for some of the most difficult and scenic areas within the Mt. Hood Wilderness. The White River trail is about 3 miles long and this photo was taken at the very end of the designated snow-shoe trail. However, you don’t have to stop at this spot since snow-shoes are like unstoppable off road vehicles that can go almost anywhere you take them. The snow-park itself is located just off of Hwy 35 and about 10 miles from Government Camp. The trail is pretty easy at first as you follow along the White River while Mt. Hood looms in the short distance straight ahead. You eventually start to climb in elevation as you walk past ancient old trees and the views start to increase. You have several options once you get to the end of the trail. You can hook up to the Timberline Trail that will take you up and over the tongue of the mountain which you can see in the lower and left part of this photo. This trip is epic and I highly recommend it if your up for the challenge. You need ample amounts of snow since you have to cross the river as well as climb up some really steep terrain in order to get to the other side. If there is enough snow, its pretty easy. Just make sure and watch your step since it will really hurt if you fall off the edge. The ascent is very strenuous so bring plenty of water and snacks. The wind can also be very strong, which can limit your ability to see as well as some pain so I recommend you wear eye protection and face mask. You really need to be careful since at this part, as you can see in the photo, the drop offs are very steep and you would surely need medical help if you were to fall. Doing this in high winds was a little spooky but it was also very exciting. If you are afraid of heights or have vertigo, I would maybe skip the Timberline Trail. However, once you get to the top, its truly magical. Unfortunately, the trail does end since there is a 500 foot drop off at the end of the trail so it truly is the end of the trail. If you look at this photo and follow the snow line of the cinder cone you can almost see exactly where the trail ends. I took this shot back in 1/9/09 when I was still using my Panasonic DMC-FZ30 420mm point and shoot. I was using my 81b warming filter as well as my CIR-PL. I was also using a tripod, bubble level and remote switch. I had the camera set on Landscape Mode/Normal so the aperture was automatically set at F-4 and the shutter speed was at 1/50 second. I set the ISO to 80 and the white balance to 0 since the snow glare was pretty intense. I have probably hiked this trail 2 dozen times and I’ve always been impressed with the view as well as the many other trails available if your up for more. I highly recommend this part of the Mt. Hood Wilderness.
[/caption] One of my favorite hikes near Mt. Hood has got to be one of many trials that face the west part of the mountain. the views are spectacular and there is a lot of peace and solitude. There aren’t any paved roads, only narrow and windy gravel roads that take you to around 4000 feet elevation gain. One of the most scenic trails is the Timberline trail which takes you around Bald Mountain. At this part of the trail you can get some of the most spectacular photos of the mountain. The Mt. Hood national forest surrounds the mountain in the foreground and the birth of the Sandy River is directly below, along with the dozens of amazing waterfalls pouring out from the glaciers clinging along the mountains flanks. The photo shown here was taken just below McNeil point and you can see one of the waterfalls that helps form the Sandy river on the upper left. Muddy fork travels directly below which becomes part of the Sandy river. At this particular spot you are in the middle of two relentless creeks on both sides. You are basically on an island that only allows you to go straight up if you are trying to avoid the water. However, I did have to jump across the muddy creek, which can be very dangerous if the water level is high. I usually spend a few minutes looking for the safest spot to jump since I don’t want to break any of my equipment. You can also see another waterfall on the far right of the photo. I took this shot when I noticed how picturesque this photo looked with this Foxglove in the foreground of Mt. Hood. I was using my Canon EOS Rebel T1i along with my Tokina 12-24mm wide angle lens. On this day the haze was particularly bad and the glare from the sun was pretty intense. I made sure to attach my UV, warming and CIR-PL filters in order to soften the sky and bring out the colors of the vegetation. I set the camera to Program/Normal mode which put the aperture at F7 and the shutter speed at 1/125 second. I set the ISO to 100 and the white balance to -1 step due to the brightness of the sun. I was trying to get as much in the frame as possible so I had the focal length at 20mm. I didn’t want to have any blur in the corners of the photo so I ended up having to crop each of the corners. Since I was looking up for so many of my shots, several parts of the photo looked somewhat blurred. This was mostly due to a combination of things…. The field of view was huge, there were several subject in the photo and each subject was either close or farther away. It was like trying to take a 3D photo. Hiking in this part of the Mt. Hood national forest is best during late Spring or Summer. You will still find some snow and the flowers are amazing.
[/caption] The best place by far to really enjoy the scenic wonders of Mt. Jefferson is at Jefferson Park, which is about a 10.2 mile hike with 1800 feet of elevation gain. The trail starts on the west facing side of Mt. Jefferson and the last 8 miles of the drive are on a well maintained gravel road. The entire hike is loaded with amazing scenery and it’s probably the most pristine place in the state of Oregon. I never saw any clear cut, heard any automobiles, nor did I hear or see any planes flying overhead. The only thing I saw was an awesome forest with miles of trees, dozens of views of Mt. Jefferson, as well as dozens of different types of wildflowers and alpine lakes within Jefferson Park. You also hike over several small creeks that make for a perfect spot to rest and soak in the pristine cold water. The trail is well maintained but it’s not as clearly marked as I would have expected. With Jefferson Park being hailed as one of the busiest trails in Oregon I expected it to be more clearly marked. I hiked the trail the day after we had two days of heavy rain showers and the higher elevations of Mt. Jefferson had received a good little dusting of snow. Unfortunately I took a wrong turn near the top of the first 1.5 miles and headed towards Triangulation Peak trail and ended up hiking about 4 miles total in dense forest with the rain water and dew clinging to the shrubs that had lined the narrow trail. Within 1/4 of a mile my socks, shoes and my entire lower body were soaked. I had almost decided to cancel my quest to Jefferson Park but I actually ended up missing the switchback that headed back to the parking lot and then again found myself on the Jefferson Park Trail. I was informed by some backpackers that I was now only about 2 miles from the Park at that point. I will for now on always make a copy of the trail and have it with me. The mountain finally made its appearance later in the afternoon and I was amazed at how close I was to it. I was able to see where the mountain had repeatedly sent an avalanche of snow throughout the years which had created a swath of downed trees that looked like a smooth carpet of grass with trees that looked like snapped twigs on the outer banks. Once you get to Jefferson Park you will see dozens of alpine lakes, wildflowers and thousands of vantage points. I could spend months photographing from within the park. However, there were several closed parts due to heavy traffic that had destroyed many of the Park’s fragile vegetation. The Sentinal Hills and Park Butte surround the outer parts of the Park which really gave it a true alpine atmosphere. I took this shot right in the heart of Jefferson Park and the small pond in the foreground didn’t have a name. You can see the alpine grass in the pond and the Paintbrush wildflowers teaming all along the Park. To get this shot I was using my 12-24 wide angle lens and had the focal length at 15mm. I had the ISO set at 100 and the White Balance was at -1. I had the camera on Program Mode which allowed the shutter speed to run at 1/60 of a second. I was using my CIR-PL, warming filter and my UV filter in order to cut down on the glare and increase the warmth of the setting. I was using my tripod, bubble level and my remote switch in order to avoid any movement since I was concerned about losing some of my photos due to camera shake. I didn’t want to take any chances on this photo trip. I would highly recommend this hike and next time I hope to backpack here so I can have more time to really take in this amazing place. I can only imagine how beautiful the sunrise and sunsets are here.