Lower Twin Lake is in the Mt. Hood National Forest and the hiking or snow-shoe/cross country trails are easily accessible via Hwy 26 or Hwy 35. If you plan on hiking the trail during the season when there isn’t any snow, you have plenty of time to hike to both of the twin lakes. However, if you’re planning on snow-shoeing the trail, during the winter months, you will have less time to explore due to the limited sunlight and the deep snow pack that will slow you down. The best place to start a snow-shoe trip to the lakes is by starting at the Frog Lake snow park, which is located off of Hwy 35. The snow park is well marked and you won’t have any problem following the blue diamonds that help you navigate the snow trail. Parts of the trail actually follows along the Pacific Crest Trail and when you get to a fork in the trail there is a very detailed sign that shows you exactly where you are and where you will need to go. If you decide to go straight, you will continue to follow along the PCT and end up at Hwy 35. However, if you take a right you will be led straight to the Lower Twin Lake. you can continue to follow along the edge of the lake and you will eventually end up at Upper Twin Lake. The elevation gain is pretty steep just past Lower Twin Lake and if you’re snow-shoeing, you will really feel the burn in your leg muscles but if you’re cross country skiing, you will probably need to take them off and hike most of the way to the top. Once you get to Upper Twin Lake, you will pass Bird Butte and eventually end back at the PCT at a place called the shoulder. You will either have to take a right or a left and since you will want to continue the loop back you your car, you will want to take a left and head back the way you came. The entire loop is 8 miles and you probably won’t be able to snow-shoe the trail during winter unless you leave very early in the morning and plan on using a head lamp at the end of the trek since it will probably be getting dark. If you don’t want to do the 8 mile loop, I would suggest that you just make your way around Lower Twin Lake and then head back. The views are awesome and if the weather is descent, you can get some pretty awesome photos.
[/caption] Wildflowers with Mt. Hood in the distance. Late August is the best time to witness the millions of wildflowers growing along the western side of the Cascades. From Mt. Baker, Washington to Mt. Shasta, California, you can smell the wildflowers while you view a snow capped volcano. You may even see some of the dozens of wildlife that live among the wilderness as well as photograph the hundreds of waterfalls and creeks that swell beneath the alpine glaciers.
[/caption] The PCT cuts directly through the heart of the Columbia River Gorge and allows hikers to immerse themselves in the temperate forest. The PCT requires hikers to cross over the bridge of the Gods which spans over the Columbia River. Both Washington state and Oregon offer some of the most spectacular hiking trails as well as views during this leg of the trail. Some of the most beautiful and spectacular waterfalls and creeks are found along the PCT or just a few hundred yards from the main trail. Whenever I’m hiking in the Gorge I usually find myself hiking parts of the PCT in order to get to one of the many waterfalls. This photo was taken on the Oregon side and is just 1 mile from the river. You will find yourself surrounded by mossy Douglas Fir trees and hundreds of plants that resemble Costa Rica or Brazil. The trail is well maintained and there are several small bridges taking hikers over the fast moving creeks. Water is abundant along the Gorge and hikers will never have to worry about dehydration during this leg of the National trail. I used to always set up my tripod whenever I took photos of the forest but it got so cumbersome and time consuming that I stopped. However, I finally decided to figure out the best way to photograph the lush green forest without ending up with blurry photos. I remove my CIR-PL and attach my warming filter and UV filter. This helps bring out the colors of the vegetation but also eliminates the blurring effect created by the neon green plants. I usually increase the ISO to 200 and then find the correct white balance. I then just check the histogram to see if it came out alright, without too much over or underexposure and no blur or camera shake. I then make sure to use the sharp tool in Adobe Photoshop in order to ensure the shot is tack sharp. Without a tripod you can take thousands of photos as well as get deep into the forest without fumbling around. However, I do recommend having the proper filters and always utilize the histogram. This will eliminate the need to delete several of your photos when you get home.
[/caption] Paradise Loop Trail begins near the Timberline lodge and parallels Mt. Hood. The majority of the trail is part of the Pacific Crest Trail but you can cut off the trail and hike along Paradise Park which will then loop back to the PCT. The trail can get very dusty during the summer months due to it popularity so plan on getting very dirty. The elevation along most of the trail is above 5800 feet so you are above the tree lines and well within the many glacier carved canyons and volcanic rocks. In late summer the trail is inundated with wildflowers growing along the many creeks and steep slopes. If you are in need of some additional strain you can cut up from the trail and hike towards Mississippi Head which puts you directly in front of the mountain. This part of the trail is very strenuous due to the high elevation where the air is thin and the trail is very steep. You will find all kinds of alpine wildflowers that only grow near the 7000 foot elevations. The elevation gain is 2300 feet and if you make the additional hike up to Mississippi Head you will need to add an additional 1500 feet of elevation gain. This trail is well worth the effort and the views are stunning. I took this shot last August and I had just purchased my Canon EOS T1i camera. This was my first trip with the camera and I hadn’t purchased my bubble level or remote switch so I took this shot without a tripod. Unfortunately I had to handhold the camera which only allowed me to set the shutter priority to 1/5 second in order to avoid any camera shake. However, I did want to get some movement of the water. I was using my Canon 18/55mm kit lens and I set the focal length to 25mm. I had the camera mode in shutter priority so the aperture was at F-22. I set the ISO to 100 and the white balance at -0.3. I took the photo at about 2:00 pm so the sun was pretty bright. This helped eliminate any blur or camera shake even though the aperture was at F-22 and I was still able to keep the ISO at 100. I did attach my warming and CIR-PL filter in order to increase the contrast of the sky and foreground. This hike is already on my calendar for next August and I will be sure to bring an arsenal of ND filters, bubble level, remote switch and tripod.