A beautiful picture of Mt. Jefferson at Jefferson Park, Oregon. This photo was taken on October 3rd and you can see all of the Salmon berries in the foreground. They are in abundance throughout the entire Jefferson Park area and if you’re lucky you might stumble on a black bear foraging. I never got a chance to see one but I did notice several bear tracks and scat throughout the park and I did hear some rustling in some brush but I never took the time to find out what it was. September and early October is the best time to visit the park if you want to take advantage of getting the opportunity to see some wildlife like bear, elk or deer. However, the days are much shorter and the snow covered peak of Mt. Jefferson is at it’s lowest point of the year. You will have the opportunity to forage around the salmon berry drenched canvas as well as still have the opportunity to swim in one of the many lakes in the park. The weather can actually be warmer and sunnier during the months of September and October as well as maybe even getting a little of dusting of snow in the early mornings. The crowds are also much smaller then the summer months and this can be critical if you’re planning on back packing or hiking on the weekend. However, the summer months offer longer days and more snow at the higher elevations. Summer also brings out the ever so brilliant alpine flowers that canvas the park. You can literally feel like you could get lost in all of the wildflowers throughout the park. Even the lakes and smaller ponds will be at their highest levels and you can also follow some of the small creeks travelling through the lakes and fusing them into one giant water system. The biggest drawbacks about visiting during the summer months is that if you are planning on visiting during the weekend, you can expect to see hundreds of other hikers and back packers. This can really ruin the alpine experience. However, if you visit during the mid week, you are less likely to see as many people. Another drawback is that sometimes the trail will be covered in snow until August and that can really cause a problem unless you come prepared. The last time I visited was in early July and I couldn’t hike past the 1/2 mile mark without having to put on my snow shoe gear and I eventually ended up just finding a ledge and taking photos from there. I basically ended up losing out on a great hiking trip but at least I brought some snow shoe gear to get me about 3 miles up the trail. You also really want to check the weather and even contact to ranger station to see if the forest road is open. Sometimes it doesn’t open until later in the summer or there may have been a washout or fallen trees blocking the road. This can really ruin your day if you make the 100 plus mile drive and then only find out that the road is closed. You will need to purchase a Northwest Forest pass in order to park at the trail head and I would also recommend that you store your dinner in your car for your return since you will be pretty hungry, thirsty and very tired and dirty once you get back to your car. The hike to the park is 5.1 miles one way and it’s very steep. The elevation gain is 2400 feet and that’s only to the park. There is another 1000 feet of elevation gain available if you decide to continue past the park. That also doesn’t include the 3 or 4 miles of trails that winds it’s way around the area. If you plan on doing a day hike I would plan on hiking over 15 miles round trip since you won’t want to just hike to the park and then sit around. There is way too much to do and see once you get to the park. In fact, the real views and fun doesn’t even start until you get to the entrance of Jefferson Park and believe me you will know when you get there. About a few years ago, I was taking some photos of Mt. Jefferson when all of a sudden a snow owl leaped from a tree branch and quickly flew away. I never had a chance to even take my camera off the tripod to get a shot. There are even some waterfalls that you can take photos of as well as several snow bridges along the higher elevations that you may be able to cross.
[/caption] The glacial lake that is located on the northern flanks of Broken Top is absolutely stunning. I was disappointed that by the time we arrived at the lake the clouds had moved in and eliminated my attempt to gt a fabulous shot of the mineral laced lake with it’s beautiful turquoise color. However, I was happy to see that almost the entire lake was frozen and there was a large snow island that was tempting me to hike across. If you like hiking the Three Sisters wilderness, this place is a must see. You will also have great views of Mt. Bachelor, the Three Sisters and the surrounding area as far as Diamond Peak and Mt. Thielson in the Southern Oregon Cascades
[/caption] Early Fall at Jefferson Park is sure to provide the best photography opportunities since the late Summer wildflowers are still in bloom as well as the red huckleberry leaves blanketing the alpine carpet. Since many of the trails have been closed in order to try and restore the park, you have to really look for opportunities to photograph Mt. Jefferson with the foliage in the foreground. There are still dozens of trails to suite your needs but you do want to stay focused since its easy to miss a terrific photo opportunity. It’s especially true since you will find yourself immersed in the sheer beauty of the area. I almost missed the opportunity to take this photo since I was heading towards the opposite part of the park in order to hike above the alpine lakes and I was worrying about running out of daylight. This photo was taken between Russell Lake and the mountain and I really liked the view of Mt. Jefferson with the foliage, trees and rocks in the foreground. I was using my tripod, bubble level and remote switch but placed it low to the ground in order to get as much foliage in the photo without reducing the field of view. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and had the focal length at 17mm in order to get a panoramic shot so I could include as much of the mountain and foliage as I could. Since I had attached my CIR-PL and warming filter as well as set the ISO to 100 and the white balance at -1.3 the aperture was at F-5.7 and the shutter speed at 1/128 second since the camera mode was in Program/Normal. The photo was taken at about 1:20pm and the sun was at about a 90 degree angle above the mountain so the saturation was nice.
[/caption] Russell lake is the largest and most predominant alpine lake in Jefferson Park. If you hike up the PCT that summits near Park Butte, Russell lake stands out like a soar thumb and creates a fantastic image in the Park below. Even if you only have the energy or time to hike just above the Park you can get some awesome photos of Mt. Jefferson and Russell lake. However, you really need to make sure that you are at the lake at the right time if you’re wanting to get a good shot with Mt. Jefferson and the lake. The late afternoon or early evening seems to be the best time since the sun is lower and at about a 90 degree angle. This is especially true if you are there during Fall. You are more likely to have some shadows around the mountain and the lake will create a better reflection. I took this shot using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and had the focal length at 17mm in order to get the most panoramic photo as possible as well as ensure the largest field of view. I was standing right at the lakes edge and made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch. It was about 2:45pm and the sun was at a 90 degree angle and the water was fairly calm. However, I still wasn’t able to get a reflection of the mountain in the lake. But at least the glare from the sun created a great color in the right side of the lake. Since I had the camera mode in Program/Normal the aperture was at F-5.7 and the shutter speed at 1/128 second. I also attached my CIR-PL and warming filter and set the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -0.7.
[/caption] Another spectacular view of Mt. Rainier can be found at Bench lake which is only a short 1 mile hike. You have the opportunity to visit Snow lake which is an additional 1 mile hike as well as get the opportunity to see some black bears and hike along the Tatoosh mountain range. The hike may be short but it is a very scenic and spectacular place to travel since you get a chance to see the mountain is all its splendor with little to no crowds. However, I would recommend hiking during the off season and during the weekday. I took this photo at about 1:15pm, the sun was well behind me and there were absolutely no clouds. I was fortunate to avoid any sun glare and the brightness was limited since I was standing just in front of a barrage of trees. The trail also ends just as you get to the lake so your limited with your ability to move around the lake. You are pretty much only able to take photos along the beach due to the heavy vegetation. However, the beach is sandy and you cat set up your tripod at the very edge of the water. I had attached my Sigma 17-70mm lens and made sure to attach my CIR-PL and warming filter. This helped saturate the sky and bring out the warm tones of the trees and mountain. I actually took this photo with the lens at focal length 21mm but many of the photos were taken with the lens at its most panoramic focal length. However, I liked the color and saturation is this particular shot. I had the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -1.3 and since the camera was in Program/Normal mode the aperture was automatically set at F-6.4 and the shutter speed at 1/166 second. I made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch in order to avoid any camera shake or blur. There are several creeks and wildflowers that dominate the entire hike.
[/caption] The views along the Jefferson trail, which ultimately leads you to Jefferson Park and Russel Lake is one of the most scenic and beautiful areas found in the Oregon Cascades. Once you reach the alpine valley in Jefferson Park you will be met with dozens of small alpine ponds as well as some fantastic flowering vegetation that can only be found in the alpine wilderness of the Cascades. Because Mt. Jefferson is so remote, you will need to drive on a road that is less traveled and either gravel or dirt, so be prepared to get your car a little dirty. I took this photo while standing near one of the alpine ponds and Mt. Jefferson can be seen behind it. I wanted to get a shot with the trees in the photo along with the snow capped mountain and the pond. You can really see just how pristine and picturesque the setting is in Jefferson Park. Depending on the time of year you visit, you will be able to see dozens of alpine flowers dotting the park. Since I wanted to get the most panoramic photo as possible I used my Tokina 12-24mm wide angle lens and had the focal length at 15mm. I attached my CIR-PL and warming filter in order to reduce the sun glare and warm the natural tones. The sun was at about a 90 degree angle on the right but the glare was still pretty intense. I spent most of my time trying to find the best spots that weren’t overexposed due to the intense glare from the sun. I had the camera mode in Normal/Program so the aperture was at F-6.3 and the shutter speed at 1/99 second since I did have the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -0.3. I also made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch to avoid any camera shake or blur.
[/caption] One of my favorite places that I hiked and visited early last September was along the trails in Jefferson Park, OR. The day before I took this photo it had snowed along the higher elevations of Mt. Jefferson so I was able to get some really great photos of a recently dusted mountain. However, the snow had long melted along the Jefferson Park by the time I had arrived. This photo was taken on 9/10/10 so the lighting was fantastic and the sun glare was not that challenging since most of the photos were taken in the afternoon and early evening. I took this particular photo at 5:00pm and the sun was at the far right which was in the west. Most of my photo time in the Park was between 3:00 and 6:00 pm so I was blessed with some great lighting. However, the morning was shrouded with clouds and I couldn’t even get my first photo of Mt. Jefferson until about 1:00pm. I was using my Canon EOS T1i along with my Tokina 12-24 wide angle lens. I had the focal length at 14mm in order to get as much as I could in the view finder. I was amazed at the amount of photo opportunities there were in the Park. Next time I will either camp over night or hike to the Park in the early morning in order to take advantage of the vantage points dotting the park. I was using my warming and CIR-PL filter and the camera was in Program/Normal mode so the aperture was at F-6.4 and the shutter was at 1/80 second. I believe I was using my tripod, bubble level and remote switch when I took this photo. I set the ISO to 100 and the white balance at -1.7 since the sun was still pretty intense. There were dozens of alpine flowers surrounding the Park as well as elk prints. I can only imagine how many elk visit the Park when the crowds are gone. There are several creeks transferring the melting snow down stream as well as several waterfalls plunging down the higher elevations. Jefferson Park is truly a hike worth taking
[/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.