Northern Cascades National Park – Pacific Crest Trail

Wednesday, September, 26After hiking the Maple Pass Trail on Monday, we took Tuesday off. My knees, which rarely hurt, were feeling it this day. It also gave me a chance to write-up the blog, review hundreds of images and process them. The legs were still feeling it on Wednesday, but we were up for another walk – albeit a shorter one. We’d talked to a ranger about possible hikes, and one she recommended was a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail, from Meadows Campground to Grasshopper Pass – a distance of about 4.5 miles out-and-back. Even that is probably more than we want to do, but we can turn around at any point.

To get to the trail, we drove up a 15 mile pot-holed, rough and narrow Forest Service road to get to Meadows Campground. The PCT trailhead is actually another mile past the campground with it’s own parking area. The first thing I noticed once we got up the road a little, was how much smoke was wafting around the valley we’d just left. We’ve had incredibly great clear weather and I thought the previous week of rain had pretty much put them all out. Not quite. Fortunately for our hiking pleasure, the light breeze was keeping out of this valley for now.Further on up the road, we saw our first turning patch of aspen. There aren’t a lot of them around here and this was a small group, but they were nice to see. On the hills above us, was the main attraction – more larch (aka tamarack trees). The real draw of today’s walk is that we don’t have to hike up 1000’ to get to them. The trail leaves right about where the trees begin. There is still elevation gain, but we will be in the trees most of the way.Photographing from the forest road itself proved to be pretty interesting on it’s own. Once we got out of the lowlands, we could see we were in a huge old burn area. Looks like most everything burned here at one time and only low growth flora has returned so far. As we wound closer to the trailhead, much the undergrowth became back-lit and began to glow. I enjoyed the way it interacted with the burned trees.
Once on the trail, we were immediately walking through groves of larch. It was a brilliantly bright day, making it a big contrast challenge, but walking this trail was a pleasure. Extremely well maintained with views all along, we stopped constantly for pictures.Huckleberry, turning autumn red, carpeted the valley and set-off the both pines and larch. There are breaks in the trail where it crosses vast talus slopes. These can often be treacherous to navigate. But here, while the path is narrow, it is also nicely cobbled for flatness, so easy to walk. As is usual, it took us about 2 hours to go about a mile and a half. As the trail wound around the shoulder of the mountain, we were treated to a new valley view. The fire had swept this one as well. Still an impressive view. We stopped for lunch and to take it all in. Each time we stopped we would decide to go up to the next bend, then decide whether to go on. Once we got around this one and saw that all the trees were burned, we decided to turn around. It was still interesting, and I wanted to see what was up ahead, but it was looking like a long decent to Grasshopper Pass and the knees were not up to it today. The walk back was just as enjoyable as the walk in. It was still early afternoon, but the lower sun angle of autumn meant everything was even more back-lit than on the way in. I would have preferred a more overcast sky to provide more even light, but this was still a pretty awesome walk. Driving back down the mountain, we stopped again at an overview. From here we could see the path and remains of the fires that came through. There is much more here to photograph and experience, but it will have to wait for another time.

Tomorrow, we hike another favorite trail – Blue Lake.

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Northern Cascades National Park – Maple Pass Hike

Monday, September 24Deciding to wait until Monday turned out to be an excellent idea. On Sunday, the raindrops were as numerous as the visitors to the park, while Monday was just the opposite. We were on the trail by 9 am and enjoyed mostly sunny skies, with a fair amount of residual clouds hanging around. They would thicken during the day and provide changeable lighting conditions. Maple Pass is near that upper left peak in the picture above. That’s where we’re going. This is one of the more ambitious trails Mary and I will attempt these days. It is a 7.2 mile loop with more than 2000’ rise in elevation.The last time here, it started snowing near the the highpoint at Maple Pass and was rainy most of the rest of the way. Mary turned back before reaching the Pass. She swears she won’t today. We chose to hike the loop counter-clockwise again. It is a more gradual rise this way and, once out of the lower heavily forested half-mile, spectacular views of the valley and Lake Ann give us an excuse to stop often. Doing it clockwise to start, means an extremely steep rocky hike up in deep forest. There are only a couple of breaks in the forest for views of Rainy Lake in the first 2 miles up, so there is nothing to distract from this slog. But doing it our way also means coming down this way. It is really tough on the knees.The forested portion of the trail soon gives way to wide open, but extremely steep meadows of low growing vegetation. I was a little worried we wouldn’t see much autumn color, but while it wasn’t yet at peak, it was quite nice even at the lower elevations. As we moved higher, Lake Ann and the surrounding terrain came more into view. The bowl-like walls around the lake were on fire with autumn color in sections, but the larch trees we could see from here at the higher elevations still hadn’t started changing significantly. The foliage varied in intensity from dull to brilliant, depending on which way one looked. There is still lots of green evident. Not everything has begun to change. As you might expect, the higher we got, the more intense and abundant the color became. It was just a matter of finding compositions and waiting for clouds to even out the light.  On days like this, I try to make images as the edges of clouds come over a particular scene to soften the light a bit. This bright day is a very contrasty situation to deal with – it can be too much for the sensor to handle and it taxes the limits of my RAW files.  At the edges, the light softens for just a couple of seconds before getting too flat, but that is often enough to make it possible to get all the digital information to make a believable image. The trail moves into a section of switchbacks, that make the incline much easier to negotiate. They blend in so well that even looking from directly below, they are well disguised. The trail leads to the Heather Pass junction with a trail that leads to Lewis Lake and beyond. We hiked down this larch-covered trail a bit 2 years ago, but today a sign was posted that seemed to close the trail to allow for heather restoration. Heather is among the first plants to become established in terrain like this and it is extremely delicate. It takes years to get started and can be destroyed simply be it being walked on a couple of times. On this popular trail, it happens a lot. Whole sections of meadow are roped off along the trail from here to the top to keep people off. So instead we continued on the Maple Pass trail to a terrific overlook of the trail to the lake. Of course we were’t there more than 5 minutes before we saw several hikers walking down that trail. There were just a few twigs and branches crossing the path indicating it was was a no-no, so it could have been made a bit more definitive. So we lunched at a point a little further up were we could see for miles. We also had our first up-close look at the larches. Up here, some had made the change to bright yellow. A tantalizing tease. It was time to get walking again. We hadn’t made it to the halfway point yet and it was after noon already. We still had nearly 1000’ to go to the Pass. The trail follows along below a ridge with new views of Lake Ann. The mountain views kept getting more grand, but even at this higher altitude, the larches were still quite green. After more uphill trudging, we got to Maple Pass. From here we could see into 3 different valleys with our 360’ view. Everywhere we looked was a specular vista. We lingered here for a time, psyching up for the downhill pounding to come. This first part of the descent is an alpine wonderland of autumn color. There are few pine trees in this area, just a bunch of lovely turning larches and bright red huckleberry growing into the still green heather. The trail descends quickly from here, but is no less wonderful. The larch forest becomes thicker for a while and we had great backlighting for a good stretch. As we got into the pines more, the trail began to get steeper. Initially, there is a partial view of Rainy Lake, offering the hope of more nice views on the way down. But there are few to be seen after this point. It just keeps dropping down steeper and rockier. Getting to this spot about halfway down (the best view I could get the whole way down), was the last glimpse of Rainy Lake we got. The rest of the hike down was in deep forest with often mucky switchbacks. In the future, I might just go up the way we did, but turnaround at Maple Pass. There is a lot of great scenery after the pass, and it would be a shame to miss it, but the last portion going down is a killer.

We may actually come back to do the first half again once fall has really taken hold. Maybe in about a week. We haven’t decided how to wok out our remaining days here. It all depends on the state of change in the foliage and weather.

Next: A walk along the Pacific Crest Trail

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Into Northern Cascades National Park

Getting Settled
September 21
It took us a few days to get up here. We stopped for 2 days near Yakima to cover chores and write and upload, and as a way to break-up the drive. It’s another 160 miles to Winthrop, which is about 40 miles outside the National Park. There didn’t seem to be a lot of choices for camping near town – and we wanted to for a couple of days while we waited out the busy weekend. I was lucky to find a space available at Pine Near RV Park, just off the main road through town. We’d stayed here in 2016 a couple weeks later than we are here now. Big difference. Back then the town was nearly deserted. Now it is still in full autumn tourist mode. The RV park is pretty nice as these places go. We were placed in a 62’ back-in site on the end of a little bluff so that we looked out over a green lawn where deer regularly grazed each morning and night.

We had a few chores left over to do while here, and definitely needed to do more research on the trails we want to hike while in the park. There will be no cell/internet once we leave town, so we need to download everything we might want before we leave.

There are several forest service campgrounds much closer to the areas we want to hike. We can cut off a big chunk of travel time, pay a lot less ($6 instead of $44), and enjoy a more rustic scene – if they are not filled up. We wanted to ride up on Saturday in the RAV to check them out, and maybe do a short walk or two, and move to one on Sunday.We set out late morning to scope out Klipchuck and Lone Fir campgrounds. Kilpchuck is lower in elevation at 2,900’ than Lone Fir at 3,500’, but Lone Fir is another 6 miles closer to our hikes. Nights are getting quite cool at even 2000’, so we chose Klipchuck. Both camps had plenty of larger spaces we could fit in, and both had some sites quite open so that our solar panels would be of help. The other deciding factor was that as one goes deeper into to the valley and mountains, it gets wetter and wetter. Often, when it is sunny and hot in Winthrop, it is raining in the mountains. Where we camped is decidedly sunnier and warmer. Neither camp was full on Saturday, so we were set for Sunday.
That left the rest of the day to get a sense of how autumn color was progressing. We first drove up through Washington Pass to an incredible Viewpoint overlooking Liberty Bell Mountain and the entire area. There is a nice little overlook hike that follows along a precipitous ledge for a time, before bending back through a lovely forested area.I could see from here that the autumn color had only affected the lower growing shrubs and  some trees. We were told the Larch trees were beginning to change at the higher elevations, but here there was little evidence of it having started. I did see some changing in other areas though.Looking back down the canyon back toward Winthrop. These clouds hung over the mountains and showered all day. Back in Winthrop, it is sunny and very warm. Here, cold and wet.
We lingered all along the path as the light over the scene was constantly changing. An occasional shower would roll through the canyon, sometimes sprinkling us. When a larger squall came through, we retreated to the car and resorted to lunch and coffee. It was just so nice and frosty out on this final day of spring that we didn’t want to end our day yet. We drove on to the Maple Pass trailhead that we will be attempting on Monday. Instead of hiking the 7 plus mile, 2000’ elevation gain loop trail to the pass, we would do the Rainy Lake stroll of about 2 miles round trip that leaves from the same trailhead.This paved walk is flat and easy. It winds through typical rain forest vegetation, but I found some really nice compositions of moss on trees and ferns just starting to change color.Rainy Lake was living up to its name this day. As we reached the end of the trail is a pretty nice view of the lake in a steep bowl surrounding it on 3 sides. Up there in the clouds on the ridge is where we will be hiking on Monday.The light was really flat because of the heavy overcast at the viewpoint. I was hoping we would get a sun break, but it got darker as more clouds moved in. Looking down instead I found a really cool effect of the raindrop ripples in the crystal clear shoreline. I may like this image best of all so far. The showers were turning to steady rain as we left the parking lot, headed back to camp in Winthrop. As we got out of the mountains, the sunglasses came out and we were in shorts minutes after arriving in camp.

Next post will be about our Maple Pass Hike.

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Mt. Rainier

Skyline Trail
September 17We pulled into the Ohanapecosh campground inside Mt.Rainier National Park yesterday afternoon after leaving Mt. St. Helens. The rain held off until we were set-up, but started in earnest soon thereafter and continued well into evening. We made some hiking plans for the morning. This stay was sort of intended mainly to kill a little time until we move to the North Cascades – our main destination for this trip. We’re waiting for the Larch trees to turn their bright yellow/orange fall color up in the higher elevations, before we begin our stay in the area. In the morning we set out on the parks’ Stevens Canyon Road for Paradise – the busiest, most popular place in the park. It’s a 22 mile drive up and down massive rain-forested canyons, to a destination that put us at the foot of the giant dormant volcano. Along the way we stopped for some of the views and turning foliage.We hadn’t actually seen the mountain yet, and didn’t think it was likely since there was so much fog and clouds on the way, so when we came around one bend in the road, it was a real WOW moment.
We stopped several more times as new views kept coming into our sight. I am sparing you about a dozen more from slightly different angles and different positions. Don’t worry, there are many others to come.We stopped next at Reflection Lake. This is one of the iconic sights of Rainier. How could we pass it up? The best photo time to be here would be sunrise/sunset. We’re here about mid-morning, so not optimal. Fortunately the trees behind me cast partial shadows over the blooming in the foreground, softening the light and highlighting some of the shrubs. I like this one in a postcardy kind of way. The road continues along, revealing stunning views of the ragged-edged Tatoosh Range. When we got to Paradise, we found the huge parking lot already nearing capacity. You won’t see many people in my pictures here, but oh, they were here by busloads. Not all are hiking the Skyline trail, but it is a steady stream heading to the trailhead. Including us. A good 1/3 of the trail from the start is paved and easy to walk on. But it is also a very steep incline all the way up the 1700’ to the highest viewpoint, called Panorama Point. This gain is over about 1.5 miles before it descends in about the same manner.It was quite warm in the sunshine, but shade was another story. All of the brush hanging off the shaded side was covered in frost. On the direct other side, was a marmot sunning himself on a very warm rock. It was simple amazing how flat he got himself. Little did we know how many of these guys we would today.We found the best course was to let large groups herd on by and resume our rather more leisurely pace. Our slow-mo ascent made for a lot of rest stops at wonderful views under a blue sky with cool (sometimes cold) breezes. We brought along a number of layers and gloves and such, but were down to long sleeve shirts quickly.While having lunch at one spot, I turned around and saw another marmot not more than 5’ away. He’d been there the whole time, but blended in so well I didn’t notice. Most other folks just walked on by.The Glacier Vista branch off the Skyline Trail brought us to a grand view of the mountain face and the glaciers dripping off of it. Fog was drifting in and out of the scene, sometimes creating really dramatic light.Almost lost in the above picture is the glacial waterfall dropping off a ledge. Even at this point we hadn’t reached the Panorama Point at 6,800’. There were more marmots at this spot as well. They were all feeding and sunning and, um, grooming. I was walking along the trail at one point and stopped for a breather. I was there a couple of minutes, then looked down. Another marmot about 10’’ from my foot was lounging. completely unconcerned with me. Another nearby, was munching on a cheerio. I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than 2 marmots in one trip. We saw still more on the hike down the other side.As we walked along the ever-rising path, I looked up long enough to see Mt. Adams poking out from under cloud cover. This is the first time I’ve seen the peak since being here. At 12,281 feet, it is the second highest peak in the lower 48. Second only to Rainier. I was also really enjoying the layers of trees that seemed to go on forever.As we continued on up, snow began making an appearance on the trail. We also discovered that we were not yet at the high point of the trail. It was perhaps less steep, but larger portions were now covered in slushy walked on snow.  We finally started our decent. It was a switchbacky affair through the slush and semi-muck for a time, but the views always overpowered discomfort. As we got down to lower meadow elevations, greenery started returning, getting thicker as we descended. Once now into the meadows, the trail goes from switchbacks to somewhat deep steps that jangled my knees each big drop-off. Each step was several steps long, than a big drop, for a good mile.These meadows are a huge hit during the summer bloom season. I can see why just by how many dead flowers remain. The flora is very sensitive to human impact and signs posted every few feet remind visitors to stay on the path. Mostly they seem to. We saw at least 4 more marmots on these hillsides. A wonderful end to the hike greeted us at the Myrtle Falls bridge. The mountain had been cloud covered most of the way down, but cleared momentarily for us while we waited. We popped into the Lodge cafe afterwards, that had a nice selection of chocolate truffles and coffee to temporarily sooth our aches.

The Road to Sunrise
September 18We actually had visions of another hike today leaving from the Sunrise Visitor center, but the morning reality of our tightening legs from the 1700’ hike yesterday told of another reality – car trip and maybe a couple of short hikes.We also thought we might get up for sunrise at Sunrise Lake, about 20 miles from the campground. Instead, we made it there at about noon. Pretty harsh light, but it was a stellar day and we had a nice little walk on the boardwalk around the lake. On a calm morning, this would be a nice location for pictures, but seeing the crowds on the last trail, I imagine this easy to reach spot would have photographers lined up all along the boardwalk.This is more of a sight seeing day for me, although I found some nice reflections of trees and clouds in the little lake. All along this road (thats what the Garmin calls it, “Turn left on The Road”), are vantage points to view the incredible valley’s and canyons of Rainier. Clouds created more dramatic moments and we lingered at several of the viewpoints. We reached the Sunrise Visitor Center late in the afternoon. They call it sunrise for a pretty good reason. In the afternoon, the mountain is backlit – harsh and flat at the same time. Being here at sunrise gets you the money shot, but it’s also a 25 mile drive in the dark on a very twisty road.We took another short walk to Emmons Vista – a nice viewpoint for seeing the White Valley and Rainier behind it, but being backlit, not so great. After sunset, there might be some alpenglow to liven things up a bit, but not for us on this trip. We sat at the viewpoint for a time, watching the clouds form and move about the mountain, before heading back to camp. We stopped once more to investigate a basalt formation by the side of the road we’d seen on the way up. We are leaving Mt. Rainier tomorrow, eventually arriving in North Cascades National Park in a couple of days from now. We hear the Larch are beginning to turn.

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Mt. St. Helens – East

Norway Pass Hike
Friday September 14
We had it in our minds to move on to Mt. Rainier after our stay in the St. Helens area, but when we moved a little north to restock and do chores in Castle Rock, we realized we were quite close the the eastern side of Mt. St. Helens already. We decided to stay around a little longer to hike a trail we’d researched earlier – the trail to Norway Pass. While it was a long 35 mile drive to the trailhead, the chance of getting up close to Spirit Lake at the base of St. Helens was too good to pass up – as long as we could see the mountain, but It looked to be shaping up as a beautiful day as well.Norway Pass Trail is 2.25 mile portion of the Boundary Trail. It hooks up with several other trails that go off in several directions, but we will do it as a 4.5 mile out-and-back hike with a 900’ elevation gain. We were out early and the drive to the trailhead over a rough, cracked pavement road, made us slow down quite often. We also stopped for some of the grand views along the way,. Eventually we made it to the trailhead where only a couple of cars were in the lot – probably hunters.

I guess they’ve given up asking humans not to feed the animals.

The trail is a fairly steep constant uphill rise, but being so consistent, it really didn’t seem too bad. The first beginnings of fall color are starting to appear in the upper elevations. Mostly it’s huckleberry bushes, but some smaller brush is also showing color. On the early sections of the trail, I found looking down more interesting than looking up. Strange tree fungus and more blasted tree trunks were along the way. I found huckleberry leaves, contrasting with ferns that have yet to turn, battling for my interest with the first maples turning red. Even in late September, wildflowers are in surprising abundance.Their flowers spent, fireweed stems still made themselves interesting.As the trail rises, wonderful views soon come into view. Meta Lake is visible all along the first parts of the trail. Much of the trail in the upper sections here is narrow with very steep drop-offs. It helped a bit that it was also quit overgrown so that we couldn’t really see just how sharp a drop-off it was. I got the sense that if one slipped off the trail, one would be rolling through the brambles for a very long time.

Sculpted remains of blasted wood.

After 2 1/4 miles, we came to a trail junction. My map indicated we were at Norway Pass, but there was no view. Looking around, I could see just the edge of a lake, so followed the junction trail up another 100’ or so and was rewarded with terrific views of Spirit Lake and Mt. St. Helens before us. The mountain was mostly visible with just the top semi-covered. We climbed up the trail a bit more until we found an area where we could sit and have lunch while watching the light change.Even 40 years after the eruptions, shattered logs still float in the lake. The park service did not allow salvage operations to occur inside the newly formed monument borders. The giant landslide and mudflows following the  eruption flowed into Spirit Lake, moving it, enlarging it, and halving it’s depth. At the same time, raising the water level which submerged all of the recreational facilities along the original shoreline.. I was hoping the clouds would lift completely off the mountain, but as we ate lunch and watched and waited, this was about the best we got. It did lift enough to see the new snow inside the crater that had fallen in the past 2 days. After clouds dropped down over the mountain, we began our hike back down the hill – again looking at blasted wood and new growth along the trail. After finishing the hike, we decided to drive out to the Windy Ridge overlooks of Spirit Lake and the mountain. At a couple of the overlooks, we found more nice views from different perspectives. Even the clouds lifted again for a more complete view of the area. On May 18, 1980, a lateral blast from the mountain occurred, flattening the most of the trees in the valley below and covering the area in 14” of pumice. The forest service, fearing fires and insect infestations, set out on a 5 year plan to remove dead trees and replant. They envisioned the valley as a complex ecosystem and living laboratory. The results are far different than the Weyerhauser planted tree farms.With rain predicted for tomorrow, we will be using the time as a travel day to get us to Mt. Rainier for several days of exploring.

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More Mt. St. Helens

September 11, 2018
Sediment Dam
Catching up on blog posts today after the last week of no internet/phone service while in Mt. Rainier Natural Park.There is much more to do off the main route 504 up to Mt. St. Helens Observatory. We had a couple of short walks in mind for today. Another party rainy day, but that works well for us – as long as we carry our rain gear. Our first stop was a 1 mile walk out to the sediment dam. I had imagined this to be either a dam created by sediments flowing down after the eruption, or perhaps a dam made out of sediment. Neither is correct.Well after the eruption, sediment kept flowing down the river in such abundance that it continually clogged waterways downstream. Engineers built this dam in order to staunch the flow downstream. I am guessing the idea is to catch it at this point, letting it back up while the flowing river is allowed to cut a channel through. Seems to be working.
Wetlands are being created along the edges of the sediment dam.
The entire area around the monument is a Weyerheuser tree farm. The clearcutting creates a really odd looking forest.We stopped at a couple of points future up the road. It was getting quite cloudy again, but the dramatic light made standing in the light shower quite nice. The mountain was completely obscured. I wanted to work on making images of the forest that I described earlier – to try and captured that vibrating effect I noticed. The best locations I found to do this was from several new bridges built between chasms choked with Weyerheuser farm trees rising up and over the surrounding mountains. Only in these places could I get a vantage point high enough and far back enough to get what I wanted.The bridges weren’t really built with walking  in mind. There is no sidewalk – only a 4’ painted buffer zone between me and traffic, and another 4’ high ledge to lean against. Looking down was slightly dizzying proposition.I waited for Monday to do this because the weekend was quite busy on the roadway. Today only occasional cars – and a few logging trucks – were on the road, and the were driving cautiously.
I was still leery of walking out there though, and started by having Mary drive and stop midway while I jumped out to make a photo. I soon realized that cars were so few, and people were actually driving at or below the speed limit, that we just parked at the end and walked back onto the bridges. I worked great. Skies were clearing a bit by now, so we moved on to the Loowit Viewpoint. The Boundary Trail runs for many miles around the monument, and can be picked up a lots of different spots. This portion was one we walked out about a quarter mile a few days ago and loved.  It is a narrow trail and hugs the mountain as it wraps arounds one bend after another. Each time around a bend, wider views of the mountain and valley are revealed. As we walked, the clouds covering Mt. St. Helens began to rise.We caught a glimpses of the crater and peaks. A bit of snow could be seen, but soon the clouds dropped again. We lingered here for a time, but soon we could see a new squall making it’s way up the valley. We made our way back to the car and got back as the rain began again. It looked to be a long shower and it was getting late. We called it a day and returned to camp. We are breaking camp to move a little further north tomorrow. A new base for the eastern side of Mt. St. Helens and then on to Mt. Rainer.

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Away we Go

The first 2 weeks of this new road trip was really about getting up to Coburg, OR to get 4 of our larger RV windows replace due to fogging in between the double panes – then getting through the Labor Day holiday weekend. It was a smokey mess driving north up I5 through California. Fires to the left and right made for pretty grim driving. Once in Oregon, the smoke was generally blowing in other directions, so not quite as bad.

The window replacement went well, and to kill some time while the work was done over 2 days, we found a walk or two to enjoy and spent some time in Eugene at a Saturday market. Because I am behind in my blogging, I’m going to post mainly pictures from the walks with just a few words to go along.

Peppers at the market in Eugene.

A reed constructed enclosure at Pisgah Arboretum.

A walk to the Tamolitch Blue Pool
On a hot Saturday of the Labor Day weekend, we walked a very crowded 2 mile hike to the Blue Pool.

It was a bit odd to see a scuba divers’ shimmering image exploring the bottom of the pool. In the hour we sat on the ledge above, he never surfacd.

Tamolitch Blue Pool.

Silver Falls State Park, OR
After leaving the Eugene area, we stopped at nearby Silver Falls State Park. But even after the holiday, we could only get reservations for a 2 day stay. It really requires a longer stay to get to more of the park. As it was, we enjoyed a wonderful “first look” hike that brought us by seven or eight waterfalls – several that we could walk under. Strangely, within Silver Falls State Park, no waterfall is named that. Rather, they all emanate from the Silver River.

South Falls, Silver Falls State Park

Under the waterfall.

Lower South Falls.

Looking down the Silver River.

Backlit Maple Leaves.

Even in Oregon, waterfalls go dry sometimes.

Mt. St. Helens
After our 2 days at Silver Falls, we moved north into Washington and the Mt. St Helens area. We were here in 1982, 2 years after the eruption. Then we could only drive in a few miles. It was a typical day then – grey, rainy and cold. We couldn’t see the mountain then, or 30 or so years later when we were here under the same circumstances – cold, wet, grey.
This visit is a little different. The road now goes into the Mt. St. Helens National Monument 25 miles to a terrific visitor center and overlook. I didn’t think the mountain would be visible at all because of the seeming ever present cloud cover here, but as we drove up, the clouds began to part and rise and we did indeed get a view.

Lilly Pads. Silver Lake. WA

Hoffstadt Creek Bridge.

Toutle River Basin. Just a thin ribbon of water flowing this late in the season.

The monument is surrounded by a huge Weyerheuser “tree farm”. It is hard to think of all these thousands of acres of trees as a farm, but it is how the land has been used for a very long time.

Hummocks in the foreground and the mountain comes into view.

The newly formed Castle Lake. It wasn’t here 40 years ago.

Volcanic ash many feet thick is being eroded by runoff from the mountain.

Blasted tree stumps miles from the crater are still to be seen everywhere.

Remaining downed trees show the direction of the blast.

These trees were all planted 40 years ago by Weyerheuser. Logging resumed – first with salvage operations for 2 years, now, 40 years later, are beginning to be harvested again.
From one of the overlooks on the way up, we found a narrow trail that led around several hills to spectacular views of the Mountain and the Toutle River Valley.

The lava dome inside the crater.

I was wondering if I would find anything to photograph for my latest photo project here in the pacific northwest, dealing with the anthropocene. After the eruption, congress created the 110,000 acre National Monument around the mountain, banning any salvage or replanting within the borders. A natural regrowth is occurring. Weyerheuser invested 9 million into salvage and replanting. At lower elevations they planted Douglas-fir, higher elevations Noble fir. The result is a mono crop forest ripe for harvesting.  I’ve been working with some of these areas, but it has been difficult to really convey the resulting look of the forest. The sameness of the trees in many areas created sort of a vibrating visual effect that is very odd. I’ll have to see if this comes across when I make prints. Not sure if it is working in these little pictures. Other species have pushed their way in, such as hemlock, western red cedar alder and maple. A Hike Amongst the Hummocks
We hiked an easy 2.5 mile trail through the hummocks area formed from the mud and ash that in flowed down the mountain into the river basin. These hills and depressions formed when water percolated through the mass causing depressions that filled with water to become ponds. The terrain would go from rainforest-like to bare exposed earth and grassy plains.

This day the mountain was out in all it’s glory.

The only view we’ve had of Mt. Adams so far. More to come very soon.

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