If you’re interested in visiting one of Oregon’s best gorge hikes but unfortunately the most popular hike I would recommend the Eagle Creek trail. However, it has now become the most overcrowded and over used hike in the entire gorge. Tourists and recent transplants have overtaken the entire stretch of the gorge but Eagle Creek has really seen the most traffic. It’s really not surprising since there isn’t anywhere else in the lower 48 states like it but you can no longer hike the trail in solitude. If you find yourself driving along I-84, whiling looking for a good trail, you might want to take in consideration the parking problems that come with the popularity of your favorite hiking spot. The parking lots can be full very early in the morning and if you’re driving through during the afternoon it becomes more like a parking lot at a Walmart in Oklahoma. If you’re planning a trip, I would go very early in the morning and go during off season. There are a lot more hidden and less used trails in Oregon that I would rather go to during peak season. However, that said, The Eagle Creek trail offers some of the best waterfalls in the gorge. Punchbowl Falls is the most popular but Metlako Falls holds it’s own. If you want to get a really good view or take photos, you actually have to climb over the railing and brace yourself against a tree. However, you will want to be really careful since you will be standing just centimeters from a 100 foot cliff and you will certainly die if you fall. You can still get a good view of the falls from a safe distance but you get a much better view while in harms way. I took this photo of Metlako Falls while hanging on the cliff and it’s always worth the extra effort. You will want to use a tripod so you will want to be extra careful and you also want to ensure that you are braced against the tree since you can find yourself forgetting that you are merely centimeters from sure death. The best time to take photos of the gorge is during late Spring and early Summer. This is when the vegetation is lit up like a roman candle. You haven’t seen green until you have visited during this peak season. Seriously, the Oregon gorge green will make any other green look like brown. I took this shot while using my Canon Rebel T1I and attached my Sigma 17-70-mm lens. I also used my bubble level and remote switch. I also use a Manfrotto tripod but it’s not the lightest tripod. However, when you’re concerned about movement, it’s good to use a heavier tripod to ensure that you don’t have the slightest of movement. This is especially true since I set the shutter speed at 10 seconds and there was a breeze flowing up from below.
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.
A beautiful shot of Mt. St. Helen’s taken from the Johnson observatory. If you want a great photo opportunity I would suggest that you drive to the observatory parking lot and then make the moderate hike to the observatory. However, if you visit during the summertime you will be able to drive to the top but you won’t find the killer winter views or the solitude of the area. During the summer months, 99.9% of the visitors come during this time. The most spectacular time to visit is during winter or early spring but you will just want to check the weather and road conditions.
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.
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.
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.
A great day hike along the Mt. Hood national forest is near Ramona Falls. It’s an easy hike with rewarding views of Mt. Hood and a cool resting area right in front of the falls. You will also find yourself hiking near some of the most interesting rock formations that helped create Mt. Hood. The trail system offers you the opportunity to continue towards the Timberline trail or towards Lolo Pass. Either way, there are endless places that you can explore some of the best nature spots near Mt. Hood. This particular photo was taken along Ramona Creek and you will have several opportunities to capture some very interesting and intimate moods of the forested area. Since you will want to bring your tripod, in order to get waterfall photos, you may want to limit your hiking time at the higher elevations since the trail becomes very steep and grueling if you plan on hiking towards the mountain. The trails can also get a little tricky since the Sandy river is born from this area and there are several creeks that start from the glaciers. If it’s raining, I would recommend that you stay away from the Sandy River as well as look out for washed out bridges that may cause you to become stranded. Several people have been injured or killed over the past decade and with the area being so secluded and steep, you will want to be aware of any changes in the weather. The hike to Ramona Falls is about 7 miles round trip but the hike to Bald Mountain is a grueling 13 mile loop. It’s also 2,000 feet of elevation gain and if you go I would bring plenty of food and water. Because the trails near Ramona Falls offers some of the best hiking for nature lovers as well as plenty of hiking opportunities I would recommend it as a great summer hike. There is plenty of shade so I would also recommend it as a place to get away from the hot weather in the valley.
Just another amazing photo of the San Juan Islands, Washington. Actually, the body of land in the distance is Vancouver Island, Canada with Victoria on the far left but as you can imagine, I took this photo while standing along the banks of San Juan Island. Spring and Summer is the best time to visit and if you’re lucky, you can expect to have the opportunity to get some fantastic sunset shots. Summer will almost guarantee amazing weather with warm days and beautiful sunset views like the one I posted. One of the best things about the islands is that it can be very calm and almost ghostly out along the straight. You would think that there would be hundreds of boats cruising along the glassy water but I found that it’s almost void of all boats. This can really allow a photographer the ability to get some epic shots by setting your shutter priority to 30 seconds and without having to worry about any distractions. I was able to set the shutter speed at 30 seconds for this shot and I was amazed at the colors emulating from above and below Vancouver Island. I was very lucky to have a very clean camera sensor since I ended up taking hundreds of shots while setting my shutter priority between 15-30 seconds each time. Again, I highly recommend that you plan a trip to the islands between Spring and Summer and plan on bringing all of your lenses and filters since you will end up using every one of them.
Spring has officially arrived in the Pacific Northwest and if you live near Portland, Oregon, you know that Forest Park offers some of the best places to take in the lush green vegetation that surrounds the Northwest. There are still some dormant plants along the edges of the trails as well as the underbrush but you can still expect to see some amazing wild trillium’s blanketing the forest. The past few weeks have brought a lot of rain to the trails and forest canopy but we are looking at a pretty sunny and warm next few days. You can expect to be hiking on a very soft trail system as well as still enjoy the coolness surrounding the park. Summer can be really bad, with the trails as hard as a rock, stagnant air and lifeless vegetation. However, Spring offers the exact opposite, with the best hiking opportunities that the Pacific Northwest could ever create. The weekend’s can get pretty busy, so I would recommend that you go on a weekday. Early morning or later in the day can be the best time to go if you can’t get the time off, during the afternoon. If you plan on taking some photos, I would recommend that you attach your wide angle lens and plan on getting some great shots of the towering and lush trees overhead, like the photo that I just posted, You can also get some great shots of the trails, winding through the green canopy. You will also have the opportunity to get some shots of the creek since the previous rains have swollen the brooks and small creeks that wind throughout the park. However, you may want to bring a tripod in order to get the best shots. You will also have some great opportunities to see some of the woodpeckers that call Forest Park home.
Yesterday was a great day at the White River East snow park. As I drove from Portland, the entire west side of mt. hood was blanketed in clouds. However, as I neared closer to the Trillium lake snow park, I noticed that the trees in the higher elevations had a dusting of snow on them. I realized that the south and east part of the mountain had accumulated a few inches of snow. I quickly headed to the east snow parks. The day seemed like a spring morning….Sunny and 39 degrees. As I ascended towards the mountain, I again didn’t need my snow-shoes until about 1/2 mile up. The snow finally started to get deep and I could see several x-country and snow-shoe tracks. Once I got to the main lookout area, above the power lines, I noticed that the smaller creek just below was still covered. I decided to snow-shoe towards the higher elevations of the glacier on the south east side of Mt. Hood. I was able to shoe up the moraine, until I was met my a sheer drop from both sides and only about 2 feet of walking space. I decided to stop at that point. The day was epic. The mountain showed itself several times and the storm clouds continued to move north at light speed. The sun never left since the clouds were at a very low altitude. I would recommend this trip since it gives a much better perspective of the volcano and the sheer magnitude of the snow drifts on both sides of the mountain gave me some great photo opportunities.