If you’re gearing up for some great Mt. Hood hiking, this summer, I would highly recommend that you put the Gnarl Ridge hike on your list of things to do! The destination is actually just on the other side of Lamberson Butte but the Gnarl Ridge is located far below. You can also get to Cloud Cap from the same trail. The trail usually opens around late June but it really depends on how good or bad the snow season was. However, You can complete the hike if parts of the trail are still covered in snow but it can also be pretty tricky. You would also have to hike off trail and be comfortable with hiking in some steep snow covered terrain that can get pretty steep. This is on the north side of the ridge and this is the part that could be covered in snow and fairly steep towards the top. Most of the trail ascends from the southeast part of the ridge but the remaining part is on the east side and it can get pretty windy and can still have snow well into July. The photo posted in this blog post was taken from the back side of Lamberson Butte. The elevation is 6500 feet and the start of the hike is at an elevation of 4470 feet. This hike is pretty Difficult since it does have 2400 feet of elevation gain and the entire hike is 10.2 miles round trip. It’s also fairly strenuous and there are’t very many lulls along the hiking trail. However, this hike has it all…. Glacier access, views of the entire Oregon and parts of the Washington Cascades, foot bridges, river access as well as several small creeks that offer a great cooling off spot. You will also want to pack some mosquito repellent and lots of snacks and water. It can get pretty hot on the east side of the mountain but most of the trail is covered by the trees. There are also abundant wildlife and dozens of wildflowers to photograph. I took this shot with my Canon Rebel T1I.
The best way to really enjoy all of the snow that has finally been assaulting the Cascades is to take a trip with your pet and plan on snow shoeing in waist feet deep powder. We are finally seeing some descent snow conditions and it looks like we are getting close to our normal winter weather. I actually took this action shot of my dog, Buck, while snow shoeing along the upper crest of the White River snow park last year. We were able to snow shoe near the same spot last week but we found ourselves in whiteout conditions as well as feeling the effects of becoming snow blind from the snow and winds. More snow is pounding the area at this time now and hopefully we get another few more days of heavy snow. I’m looking forward to getting up there soon and I highly recommend that all of you dog owners that have athletic dog’s allow them the opportunity to enjoy the snow just like their human owners.
The Washington and Oregon Cascades have received between 1 and 3 feet of snow over the past several days and we are now gearing up for some 70 and 80 degree temperatures in the valley. We can expect warm temperatures and epic blue skies in the Cascade range. Though it would seem like it would be the best time to visit, you would be warned to expect some pretty dangerous conditions since the snow will be very soft and small or large avalanche dangers will be in effect. I would even recommend staying well within the ski boundaries or if you plan to be snow shoeing. I would advise you to stay well away from any of the cliffs surrounding the back country. This time of year is by far one of the best times to head up to the mountains but I always find myself trying to figure if the dangers are worth the risk. I’ve taken a lot of chances but I can’t really see my self trying to out run an avalanche with a pair of snow shoes and lugging 25 pounds of equipment. This particular shot was taken on the south side of Mt. St. Helens and the summit is dotted with snow shoe tracks leading up towards the summit. It’s actually not too difficult to snow shoe but I would recommend that you get there as early as possible, bring lots of snacks, lose the camera weight and have your dinner waiting for you at your car. The drive time from Portland, Oregon is over 2 hours and you will be pretty tired once you get home. I have only brought my tripod with one time when snow shoeing at high elevations and I will never do it again. I like being able to quickly draw my camera and begin panning the area for some great shots. I usually only bring one or two lenses and carry my camera on my front chest for quick draws. Since the snow glare is pretty brutal, I would recommend that you bring a CIR-PL and plan on constantly checking each shot that you take since you will be adjusting your shots almost every time you take a photo. I always utilize my histogram and adjust the white balance whenever needed. I also usually only use my Sigma 17-70mm lens whenever I’m climbing a snow capped mountain since I am more drawn to the panoramic views rather than close ups. This is especially true since I’m already on the mountain and I want to capture the huge landscape that’s either above or below me. I also make sure to layer my clothes and pack survival gear in case I find myself in trouble. I don’t own a avalanche beacon but I rarely take too many chances. However, I will be getting one soon once I’m ready to make the investment. I also snow shoe with my dog so I’m always looking out for his best interest and that pretty much keeps me from going somewhere where he can’t follow me.
September is one of the best months to explore the Cascade mountains, with chances of a dusting of snow as well as 75 degree afternoons! This photo was taken near the summit of Devils Peak, which is located just outside of Zigzag. The hike is a grueling 4.2 miles straight up with little to no flat areas and a grueling 4.2 miles straight down. Plan on feeling like you were given charlie horses throughout your entire legs as well as hobbling for the next few days but you will be glad you did it. Just make sure to bring plenty of water and snacks since you will surely work up an appetite and you will get pretty dehydrated as you march straight up the mountain.
[/caption] Massive storm clouds hovering over the Three Sisters! This photo was taken from Smith Rock State Park in Central Oregon and there was a massive and impressive storm system that had been hovering over the Oregon Cascades for several day’s. Usually, the storm are held back by the Cascade mountains but this storm was no match for the mountains. This massive storm was worming it’s way through the snow capped mountains as well as around them and above them. To get this shot I hiked near the highest elevation in the Smith Rock Park and zoomed in to a focal length of 135mm in order to frame the entire storm clouds and mountains but still keep a descent field of view. I didn’t use a tripod and had the CIR-PL attached as well. I just made sure to change the white balance to 0 in order to avoid any camera shake or blur. I also set the ISO at 100 and the shutter speed was at 1/250 seconds. Normally I make sure to use a tripod whenever I max out the focal length of the lens I’m using but since I had hiked over 8.5 miles and was pretty well set with good light and plenty of sunshine, I decided to take a chance.
[/caption] Beautiful sunny afternoon after a huge snow storm blanketed the Cascades with fresh powder. A great time to head out into the Cascades is just after a huge snow storm covers the forest with fresh powder. You will want to make sure that you bring some snow-shoes or cross country skis if you want to take advantage of the solitude that the forest offers. I usually don’t bring a tripod with me since it can really weigh me down and cause me to lose valuable time while photographing the area. However, sometimes I will bring it along just in case I need it or if I don’t have too much gear with me. I’ve learned that you don’t have to bring along a tripod if the skies are completely clear and the sun is at it’s highest point. However, once the clouds come over and the light starts to decrease, you are pretty much done for the day unless you plan on increasing your ISO, turn on your IS and increase the white balance. I can especially get more creative whenever I’m not attached to my tripod while snow-shoeing since I can get into some really precarious positions in order to get the best photo. Attaching your CIR-PL also allows you to saturate the sky no matter if it’s blue or overcast. You just want to make sure that you always check your histogram after every shot to ensure that it’s not too over saturated or over exposed. The snow can cause your shot to be either over exposed or under exposed so you want to make sure that you review each shot that you take and then adjust your settings accordingly. This will allow you to delete the bad ones and ensure that you only keep the very best. I’ve also learned that you will want to invest in a front camera harness so you can protect your camera from the elements as well as give you quick access to your camera without having to take off your camera bag every time you want to take a shot. Sometimes I don’t even bring my poles, which can slow me down when I’m grabbing for my camera.
[/caption] Mt. Rainier was literally sucking this cloud formation and pretty much spitting it out on the other side. One of the most spectacular things about Mt. Rainier is watching the clouds form and then disperse around the mountain. Most of the clouds that form near the park eventually end up near the summit of the mountain and then evaporate after the mountain finishes eating them. You can spend several hours or days watching some of the most spectacular displays of clouds dancing around the mountain and then almost becoming lunch like a Venus fly trap drawing in flies. If you look closely you can see a long and narrow white streak shooting from the clouds and up into the sky. That’s actually the clouds being sucked in by the mountain. I’m not sure of the meteorological term but as I was photographing I noticed that it started at the base of the mountain, while it lured in the cloud and then the streak grew and split the cloud. There is no denying that Mt. Rainier is the most behemoth mountain in the lower 48 states and demands the most respect due to its enormous size, enormous glaciers and its incredible ability to devour entire cloud systems. I have never been disappointed when visiting the park and I can assure you that you will enjoy one of the most spectacular photography session of your life.
[/caption] Mt. Rainier has hundreds of creeks that are formed just below the dozens of glaciers carving through the mountainside. Driving along the main roadways offers visitors the opportunity to witness the wonders of geology that Mt. Rainier National Park offers. Since there are so many massive and steep creeks rushing down the mountain you can see just how devastating and dangerous these creeks are. There are also hundreds of waterfalls free falling all along the park since the topography is do diverse and steep. This photo was taken from Hwy 706 which traverses on the south side of the park. I pulled over on the massive bridge that carries travelers over the enormous canyon and glacial eroded area below. You can see all of the boulders on both sides where the glacial runoff has eroded the valley below over the years. I was looking south and the sun was just starting to come over the Tatoosh mountains but unfortunately the canyon below was still completely obscured in the shadows and the horizon was overexposed. I made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch since I wanted to get some of the movement of the creek without having any blur. The ISO was set at 100 and the white balance at -1. I attached my CIR-PL and warming filter in order to take advantage of the morning light.
[/caption] There are so many waterfalls within the Mt. Rainier National Park that it would be impossible to count them all or even visit all of them. However, some of the most beautiful waterfalls are just a short hike or found near the main road. This particular waterfall was coming from the Tatoosh Range and was just a few yards from the road. I attempted to hike along the cascading water but the rocks were so slick that I ended up positioning myself along its edge and took several photos. The sun was already behind the Range so I was able to set the shutter priority at 8 seconds and the white balance at -0.7. Since I had my CIR-PL attached the aperture was at F-16 since the lighting was so dark. The sun was just enough in the foreground that I was able to stand in the sunlight as the majority of the waterfall and vegetation were completely in the shadow’s. The forest was teeming with so many creeks and small waterfalls that you could spend an entire season photographing just the water.
[/caption] One of the most photographed spots along the Smith Rock hiking trails is near the start of the trail that leads to the footbridge that takes you over the Crooked river. Looking west you can see the Cascade mountains as well as the most recognizable rock formations in Central Oregon. I have never posted this particular photo scene since I believe that there are just too many photos from this vantage point but I decided to finally post this photo since it really looks pretty cool. You can see Black Butte in the distance with just a little bit of snow on its summit. If you want to enjoy one of the best hiking trails in Central Oregon I would recommend visiting Smith Rock State Park. I’ve enjoyed hiking during the winter just as much as summer and you don’t have to worry about the heat or the summer crowds. It’s also one of the best areas for photographers with over 8 miles of scenic trails and every inch of the trails offering a photo opportunity. There is absolutely not a single spot in the park that doesn’t offer a great photo. I would highly recommend packing a wide angle and a telephoto lens as well as a CIR-PL and warming filter. I pretty much use my 17-70mm lens. I would also pack a tripod to ensure that you don’t end up with any blurry photos. However, you will be doing so much hiking that you will likely only use your tripod when needed since it would take you several days to hike the entire park while setting up your tripod for every photo opportunity.