Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Coastal Tidepools

Tide pool at Point of the Arches, Olympic
National Park, Washington.
Tide pools along the coast are fun to photograph during the day, especially when there isn't much else going on photography-wise.  The colors can be vibrant and well saturated under the right light and conditions.  Those conditions are a cloudy day and low tide.

Tide pools are usually under water - they are only exposed when the tide is unusually low.  Often it teems with life and has much more marine vegetation, especially seaweeds. There is also greater biodiversity. Organisms in this zone do not have to be as well adapted to drying out and temperature extremes. Low tide zone organisms include starfish, abalone, anemones, brown seaweed, crabs, green algae, hydroids, isopods, limpets, and mussels. These creatures can grow to larger sizes because there is more available energy and better water coverage: the water is shallow enough to allow more sunlight for photosynthetic activity, and the salinity is at almost normal levels. This area is also relatively protected from large predators because of the wave action and shallow water.

For photography, a mid-range telephoto lens and polarizer are important tools, as well as a sturdy tripod.  The light should be even if shooting under the expressed conditions, so the task is pretty simple:  Compose a balanced and interesting scene, and go shutter happy!

This image was taken at Point of the Arches near Shi Shi beach in Olympic National Park.  It is one of my favorite tide pools.

This image is on its second go-around with an educational publisher using it in worldwide distribution.  Fun to be a part of the education process!

You can view this and more images in my Washington Coast Gallery if you wish.

As always, thanks for looking!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Roosevelt Elk in Olympic National Park

The Roosevelt elk is the largest of the four subspecies of elk in North America, and makes its home in the rain forests of the Pacific Northwest.  The desire to protect this species was the founding force behind the establishment of the Mount Olympus National Monument, which later became Olympic National Park.

This image was taken in early spring near the Hoh River campground in Olympic National Park, where a large herd is commonly found amongst the campsites.  Care must be taken in their presence as they can become aggressive if approached.

This image is currently being used for worldwide editorial use on a website through 2021 to promote wildlife conservation, I am proud to say.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Photographing Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon from Hopi Point at dusk, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.
Grand Canyon from Hopi Point at dusk.
I wasn't sure what to expect when visiting Grand Canyon National Park for the first time.  Based on all I had heard and read, I expected to be under-whelmed.  I heard stories about the almost permanent haze, the crowds, the canyon being too big to get a true perspective, etc.

Well, visiting the first week of April, none of these came into play.  I was absolutely amazed!

The South Rim offers amazing views of the canyon along its entire stretch.  I highly recommend walking the West Rim Trail to experience all the viewpoints, then come back with your camera for the golden hour and hopefully, a spectacular show.

Grand Canyon wall from Mathers Point, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.
Canyon wall from Mather Point.
The most obvious viewpoints along the South Rim are Mather Point and Yavapai Point.  Both are very accessible and can be quite crowded during the day.  In mornings and evenings, I didn't have any problems photographing from these locations.  They were quite pleasant and the views outstanding!  Both these locations are excellent for both sunrise and sunset.  Enjoy the views of Wotan's Throne and Vishnu Temple, as well as the sheer views down into the canyon.

As with all locations, I recommend arriving at least half an hour early (I typically arrive an hour early) to not only get set up, but to allow the creative juices time to start flowing on how you are going to approach the scene before you.  Depending on the weather, there are lots of different ways to approach photographing the canyon, whether it is isolating certain scenes, offering an expansive panorama, or something in between.  Storm clouds can add much drama to the scene and make you want to capture much of the sky above the canyon.  Clear skies will probably have you wanting to cut the sky out as much as possible and focus on the canyon itself.

Grand Canyon at dusk from Hopi Point, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.
Sunset on the Grand Canyon from Hopi Point.
Hopi Point is located along the Hermit's Rest Road and is an excellent sunset location.  To get there, you must either walk the West Rim Trail or catch the shuttle bus as private vehicles are not allowed on this road (the exception being December thru February).  I always chose to walk simply so I could scout other locations along the way, then catch the shuttle bus for the return after sunset.  Hopi Point can get pretty crowded, so be sure and arrive early.

Grand Canyon from Mather Point, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.
Grand Canyon from Mather Point.
Yaki Point rivals Mather Point as the supreme destination for sunrise photography.  The view is very open looking westward, offering miles of canyon.

Getting to Yaki Point requires the same logistical challenge as Hopi Point.  You must catch the shuttle bus at the Canyon View Information Center.  I recommend arriving an hour before sunrise.  Both mornings I did this, I found myself alone on the bus and the first one to arrive at Yaki Point.

The other option is to park at Desert View Road and walk the mile to Yaki Point.

Grand Canyon from Yaki Point at sunrise, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.
Grand Canyon at sunrise from Yaki Point.
As for lenses, I recommend mid to long range telephoto lenses.  You can leave the wide-angle lens at home, in my opinion.  The exception might be if you are lucky enough to get a dramatic sky with storm clouds, but even then the mid-range telephoto should serve you well.  I would also recommend a warming polarizer and a selection split GND filters.  Of course, a tripod goes without saying.

Above all, take time to enjoy your visit.  The Grand Canyon is an amazing place and should be experienced beyond the camera.  Be sure to get out and walk around and experience this magnificent wonder.

You can view more of my photography at www.mountainscenes.com.  I hope to have more of my Grand Canyon images uploaded soon.

As always, thanks for looking!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

A Moment in Time at Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens from Norway Pass, Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Washington.
Norway Pass
Norway Pass is a popular and very scenic pass located just 2.2 miles up the trail in Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.  It is frequented by day hikers looking to stretch their legs up the short but sometimes steep trail, and by backpackers and serious hikers heading further into the Mount Margaret Backcountry, possibly hiking to the summit of the incredibly scenic Mount Margaret itself.

Norway Pass offers beautiful views out over Spirit Lake to Mount St. Helens, and to Windy Ridge and the Windy Ridge parking lot.  In flower season, the trail and slopes can be dotted with the red of Indian Paintbrush and other wildflowers.  Even better views can be had further up, by continuing to Bear Pass or better yet, to the ridge just before Camp 1.

This image was taken during one of my early backpacks into the area.  It  was recently leased for worldwide editorial usage in the education industry.  To view more images from Mount St. Helens, please visit my South/Central Cascades Gallery.

As always, thanks for looking!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Remote View in North Cascades National Park

Forbidden Peak and Mount Torment above Moraine Lake, as seen from Eldorado, North Cascades National Park, Washington.
Forbidden Peak above Moraine Lake in North Cascades National Park.
North Cascades National Park offers some amazing remote locations that have to be visited to be fully appreciated.  The Eldorado Peak area is one of them.

This image of Forbidden Peak and Mount Torment above Moraine Lake was composed from near camp on the Eldorado Glacier in the heart of the North Cascades.  It was taken during an extended climbing trip, which included summiting Eldorado, Klawatti, Austera and Primus Peaks (otherwise known as the Klawatti traverse).  This is almost all glacier travel, with some glaciers being heavily crevassed.

This area sports some of the most rugged and impressive glaciers I have ever seen, especially along the backside of the Tepah Towers.  If you are a climber and properly trained and equipped for glacier travel, I highly recommend an extended visit to this area.

The area is most often approached from the Cascade River Road via an extremely steep climber's path after a precarious river crossing.  It can also be approached from Sibley Creek further down the Cascade River Road.  Other less common approaches include Thunder Creek and Snowfield Peak, though these approaches involve heavy bushwhacking and multi-day travel.

This image was recently licensed for world-wide editorial usage in the education industry.

You may view other images from this and nearby areas in my North Cascades Gallery.

As always, thanks for looking!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Western Travels - 2016 Wall Calendar

Western Travels is my new 2016 wall calendar.  It includes some of my favorite images from all over the Western United States and Canada.

This project has been a little late coming together, but the results have been fantastic in my opinion!  I think you'll agree!

I have included images from Mount Rainier National Park, Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Arches National Park, Death Valley National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Glacier National Park, Wind River Range, Eagle Cap Wilderness, Mount Robson Provincial Park, and more!

These images represent my travels from around western North America, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed composing them.

Feel free to preview the calendar!

I hope everyone is enjoying the holidays and looking forward to a great 2016!

Don Geyer

Sunday, October 11, 2015

My Craziest Backpack

Assiniboine reflection in Lake Magog at sunrise.
I think my title sums things up pretty accurately.  I recently travelled to Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park in the Canadian Rockies and backpacked in 18 miles to Lake Magog.  It was a five day trip, with nothing going as planned.  I had to improvise my plans each and every day.  I believe they call it making lemonade out of lemons, right?

I arrived at the Bryant Creek trailhead parking lot after dark after a full day of driving from Seattle, and nestled in to the back of my Explorer for a well-deserved evening of rest.  Okay, this much went off without a hitch (though the drive itself did not)!

I awoke at sunrise and packed up to hit the trail.  As I descended the path from the parking lot down to the abandoned road that now serves as trail, I pivoted to my left and felt a sharp pain inside my knee.  I knew it wasn't good, and that it would play into my day's travels.

My plan was to hike the entire 18 miles into Lake Magog on this day.  It's a day of just putting one foot in front of the other and looking at it as a "work day", to reap the benefits in the ensuing days.  Unfortunately, I battled knee pain and boot discomfort most of the way.  Strangely, my comfy boots of several years were now feeling too small.  Either they had shrunk or my feet had
grown.  Strange.

The long grind in was everything I remembered it to be, but worse.  The upper portions of the trail near Assiniboine Pass are much deteriorated, with deep, muddy channels.  I later learned that this was due to the floods of June, 2013.

My plan was to snag a spot in one of the Naiset Huts, but I carried a tent just in case.  This was good planning as the huts were fully booked well in advance.  Off to the campground I trudged upon learning the news.

Assiniboine reflection in Lake Magog.
I found a nice open meadow at the northwest end of the campground offering five tent pads.  These pads were in short proximity to the food preparation shelter, bear lockers, and privy.  I selected site #28, just a short distance from another occupied tent pad.  The other three pads were empty.

Upon setting my tent up and getting situated, I headed up to the food prep shelter for some dinner, where I met many other campers.  Amazingly, we all seemed to be from Seattle, and were photographers to boot!  We all chuckled throughout our stay at this fact.

The big plan circulating amongst all this day was to head up The Nub for evening photography.  This night was to be a treat.  Not only was it the Super Moon, but there would be a lunar eclipse shortly after sunset.  Everyone was excited for this, as they should have been, and had their fingers crossed for the cloudy skies to clear (they didn't).  Unfortunately, I just didn't have it in me.  I was tired and sore from the long day's hike in and knew I needed to rest my knee and feet.  Instead I opted to go for an evening walk to simply scout the area and refresh my memory of its layout.

It was a peaceful evening as I scouted several tarns and patches of larches around the lake.  I figured out my plan for the morning and returned to camp shortly after sunset.  I wasn't expecting what awaited me.

I had staked my tent all the way around and placed two large rocks inside the tent to anchor it.  All my food and food related items were stored safely in a bear locker.  All other gear remained in my tent, including all my camera gear.  When I returned to camp, my tent had been completely uprooted from the tent pad and was laying on its side in the grass meadow.

As I got near the tent I could see that the rain fly had a huge, jagged hole in it and the mesh door was ripped open - all up high.  Closer examination found the lone tent pole to be snapped as well, in a place that I could not repair with the repair sleeve due to a connection hub.

All my gear inside was undamaged.  Nothing was ripped, torn or chewed on.  Strange.  What was the draw?

It was dusk and getting dark fast.  I dragged the tent back over to the pad, but couldn't figure out how to makeshift the tent to get me through the night and began growing concerned.  I didn't want to have to roll up in it like a bivy sack, due to what I suspected to have caused this possibly still being in the area.

Finally, I learned that by leaning the rocks against the inside walls of the tent in a certain way, I could manipulate the broken pole to somewhat align.  Everything else soon fell into place after this, and I was ready for a sheltered sleep, as long as the wind did not pick up.  If it rained, I was going to get wet.  And of course, I had an open door policy for any rodents in the area as I had no way of securing the door.  None of these concerns came into play.

I didn't sleep a wink that night.  I heard animals sniffing around my tent several times and turned my headlamp on to scare them away.  Twice it must have been a deer as I heard hooves running off.  The other time was probably a porcupine or other similarly sized creature.  At one point I heard a long snarl of a cat a long ways off in the distance.  It seemed like a wildlife highway out there!

The next morning I enjoyed photography down at Lake Magog, meeting a fascinating photographer named Noel.  We talked a lot and I shared my tent story with him.  He offered me the use of his personal tent for the next couple of days as he was staying in a cabin.  This really meant a lot to me and I was excited that this event was not going to end my stay prematurely.

I then returned to camp and enjoyed breakfast at the food prep shelter.  I shared my story with several other campers and most everyone went down to investigate.  One thought circulating was that one of the curious deer could have snagged its antler in my tent while snooping around and freaked.  This actually began to have credence with me.  It was rutting season after all.

Muddy adult grizzly print on my tent.
I planned to hike to the lodge to report the incident after breakfast, but before I could, Noel and a lodge employee named Rachel arrived.

Together, we went down to my tent to investigate the area.  I hadn't been able to the night before as it was too dark when I arrived at my tent.  Also, the ground was frozen so I assumed there wouldn't be any tracks possible.

They immediately found two fresh digs near my tent, and fresh bear scat nearby.  It was undoubtedly a bear.  But there was a more obvious sign.  After full inspection of the contents of my tent by all, I laid the tent over to show them how I found it.  There, on the bottom side of my tent, were two muddy paw prints.  One from a large adult grizzly bear (pictured above), the other from her cub.

Fresh grizzly dig near my tent.
It was shared with me that their concerns appeared to be coming true.  A year ago at about the exact same time, a mother grizzly with a young cub ripped into a tent in the same area due to food.  They were rewarded for their efforts.  Fast forward a year and I appeared to be a sitting duck for the same mother and, now a year older cub.  The bears had only arrived in the area a day or two ahead of me.

Concern grew and was radioed to the powers that be.  In the meantime, the lodge had a tent they would lend me.  It was, however, recommended that I move to a different area.  They did not find me very argumentative.

Loaner tent from the Assiniboine Lodge.
I hiked to the lodge and picked up the loaner tent.  I returned to the campground to learn campers were being directed to "buddy up".  We all agreed that this was a good idea.

I found a nice site on the other side of the campground, next to a couple of guys from - you guessed it, Seattle.  The tent proved to be much bigger than my one-person, barely fitting on the tent pad.  But I was tickled with it, and appreciative to all (except those dang bears).

Rachel officially closed all the tent pads in the vicinity of where the break-in took place.

After getting everything set up, I went for a walk down to the lake to scout and photograph the larches in mid-morning light.  A short ways down the trail I looked down and noticed something interesting - fresh bear tracks, both mother and cub!  As I neared a vantage point where the trail descends to the lake, I saw the bears foraging in the meadow about 150 yards away.  The mother picked up on me pretty quickly.  Soon they both made their way upslope and disappeared in the trees.  This would have put them in close proximity of the lodge I thought (incorrectly), and I wondered what effect having bears so comfortable around people near the lodge might have on the campground status.

Adult grizzly print.
I enjoyed an evening of photography up on The Nub with some new photography friends, Randall and Brian, then returned to camp in the dark. I slept pretty soundly that night.

The next morning I awoke early and trudged through the darkness to the tarns to catch the reflection of Mount Assiniboine at sunrise.  It was a peaceful morning and the tarns were half ice covered in the sub-freezing temperatures.

Grizzly cub print.
I returned to camp and realized I had to make a decision on the coming days and what I wanted to commit to.  There were signs that the weather was changing and my knees and feet were not getting any better.  I mulled around for an hour or so before finally deciding to go enjoy some coffee while continuing the thought process.

I arrived at the food prep shelter to find that Rachel had assembled the campers to share the bad news; BC Parks had just announced the closure of the campground due to liability concerns.  They were concerned that if another tent incident happened without them acting, there could be legal trouble.  It also goes without saying that they did not want to encourage the mother bear to teach her young to rip into tents.

So their answer to the liability concern?  We were to all move our tents into the food prep shelter for the evening.  You can't make this stuff up.  My exact response was, "You can't write better comedy than this!  Somebody send this scrip into Jimmy Fallon!"

Randall, Brian and myself at the "homeless shelter".
For those not in the know, as hikers you are always taught that, when camping in grizzly bear country, always sleep AT LEAST 100 feet from any food area.  In fact, it is also recommended that you change out of any clothes you ate in as to not have any food aroma on the clothes you wear to bed.

But these were the orders handed down, and Rachel was simply serving as the messenger.

Before I continue any further, I have to praise Rachel.  She was awesome.  She went out of here way on a daily basis for us, bringing us fresh drinking water in a bucket that she collected herself after our water supply was shut down (frozen pipes), and always thinking of our well-being.  She was always trying to make our stay more enjoyable.  For each of my tent moves, she offered to help pack and carry my gear as well.  She even offered to go retrieve the loaner tent for me herself.  She was a remarkable host.

Back to the shelter, which we were now jokingly referring to as a "homeless camp".  None of us were excited about the situation for reasons already stated.  I was literally cooking and eating dinner ~ 2 feet from the entrance to my tent.  Randall and Brian devised a plan to barricade the entrances to the shelter with picnic tables before we retired into our tents for the evening.  This might have slowed the bears down, but I doubt it.

We came down from photography on The Nub that evening to find the trail taped off and official closure notices posted.  They proved a fun obstacle course in the dark.

We didn't sleep much that night.

The next morning the other campers prepared to fly out.  I packed up "camp" and moved down to the Naiset Huts for my final night.  I wasn't overly excited about the move as I enjoyed the privacy and solitude of camping.  Now I would have to share a hut with others.  It would be a different experience for sure.

I got settled into the Fleabane hut, then hurried up to the helicopter pad to say goodbye to all my new friends.  It was a pretty crazy crowd up there and I didn't linger long.

I ventured back to the lodge, where a gentleman named Richard Guy was celebrating his 99th birthday.  He was a well recognized gentlemen to all, for reasons I did not know.  Noel was tickled to have been able to take pictures of him hiking up The Nub the previous day.  99 years old and hiking up The Nub.  Wow!  The Canadian Alpine Club was building a new climbing hut somewhere in BC, and it was to be named after him.  What an honor.

Richard was being offered a birthday present of a helicopter ride around Mount Assiniboine (though he had to be tricked onto it as he would not accept a ride for only himself).

Me at the Fleabane hut.
I ventured down to the lake and found a rock to perch on and just absorb the views for the afternoon.  My mission for the day was to simply rest and prepare my feet and knee for the hike out in the morning.  Besides, sometimes you have to put the camera down and just smell the flowers (or in this case, larches).

Soon a helicopter swooped over me and headed across the lake towards the mountain, and I smiled.  It corkscrewed up and over the ridge, circling the peak at both near and far distances, and even hovered above the summit.  More smiles.

I ventured back and settled into my new accommodations. I enjoyed meeting my new roommates at the cooking cabin, a couple from Canmore who also hiked in.  My new environment wasn't bad as it turned out.  I enjoyed meeting new and different people with different interests.  There is always something to be said for that.

That evening I enjoyed photography at the tarns. Soon the mother grizzly appeared directly across the tarn from me.  She was in her own little world and could care less of my presence, though she was well aware of it.  Soon she was gone and I could hear her down by the lake.  I finished my evening with some star photography near the lodge, capturing the Milky Way directly over Mount Assiniboine.  It was a rewarding evening.

The next morning I returned to the tarns for the best photography of my trip, then beat it back to the hut.  I packed up and said my goodbyes before hitting the trail around 9:00 to hike over Wonder Pass and out.

A mother grizzly and cub had been seen in the vicinity of Wonder Pass in recent times.  There was even a posting of her charging a hiker about a month prior.  But in recent days, hikers venturing to the pass (including myself) had seen nothing, leaving many to wonder if they had moved on.

They hadn't.  About half a mile east of the pass I looked up to the mother and cub grazing on the distant open hillside.  I announced myself and they immediately began descending quickly toward me!  "No, no...I don't need a welcoming committee!", I thought.  I hiked another 50 feet or so and announced myself again.  This time they stopped and looked at me, then continued about their business.  This is when I realized that I was completely out in the open now where they could see me.  I wasn't the first time I called out.

My feet and knees took a pounding descending from Wonder Pass.  This trail too has had several washouts since I last hiked it.  Upon reaching the Bryant Creek junction, I did something I never do due to notoriously weak ankles; I donned my sandals and draped my boots over my pack.  Ah, comfort!

My time hiking the 18 miles into Magog Lake was 6.5 hours.  I thought I could shave about an hour off this time on my way out.  It didn't happen.

It felt good to reach the end of the trail and begin the drive home, with all the memories of my trip in tow.

I am still editing my images from the trip, and wouldn't you know it that my best images were taken on the very last day!  However, you can see images from previous trips to Mount Assiniboine as well as other destinations in my Canadian Rockies Gallery if you wish.

As always, thanks for reading!  And if you are planning a trip into this area in the future, feel free to reach out to me with any questions.  I'm always happy to help.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Fabulous Lupine at Mount St. Helens

Fields of lupine at Mount St. Helelns
Many people flock to Mount St. Helens to witness the aftermath of the devastating eruption of  35 years ago.  This is becoming harder and harder to do with each passing year.  Sure, the obvious signs are there - the "toppless" mountain, logs floating in Spirit Lake, downed trees on opposing hillsides, and scattered galleries of scorched and abandoned machinery.  But this is a much different landscape now than it was twenty years ago.

When I first started visiting Mount St.. Helens in the aftermath of the eruption, it was a stark, gray landscape that offered little more than the somber remembrance of that fatal day.  It was a depressing scene, seeing how all of nature's vibrant life had been destroyed.

Well, guess what?  The vibrance is back and people are taking notice.  One would be hard pressed to even notice the once charred landscape during a summer visit.  Why?  Because the park is alive again with flower meadows rivaling many others in our state.

The obvious place to visit is Johnston Ridge in early July.  Each year I visit this area I see more and more people, as well as photographers.  And for good reason.  This area is easy to get to and offers the parks best showing as seen from the road, in my opinion.

Windy Ridge is a little more difficult for the average tourist to get to due to the length of drive, but hikers and flower enthusiasts know it well.  While flowers can be seen from the road, some of the best displays require a little bit of hiking.

The above image is such a location.  While returning from a hike to the Plains of Abraham, I made a loop trip out of it by way of the Truman Trail.  What I descended to was one of the most intense and aromatic fields of lupine I have ever seen.  The view of the mountain is very unique here.

This image is appearing in a German book, and serves as another example of international interest in our beloved Pacific Northwest.

To view more images of this wonderful area, feel free to visit my South Cascades Gallery.

As always, thanks for looking.  See you on the trail!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Mount Hood from the Timberline Trail

Mount Hood from McNeil Point.
Several years ago I hiked a section of the northern Timberline Trail with a friend.  They say the prettiest and quietest meadows on Mount Hood are on its north flanks - opposite the crowds at Timberline Lodge.  I would have to agree.

The meadows were fantastic along the Timberline Trail and above.  Surprisingly to me, the trail was devoid of people.  We encountered very few people on this trip, and the few that we did were day hikers.

We spent our first evening climbing up McNeil Point.  The lighting was fantastic at the end as we watched it fade on the mountain.  Unfortunately, the sky didn't offer many clouds for drama, so it was mostly about the experience.

Mount Hood reflected in a tarn along the Timberline Trail.
The next morning we awoke early and returned to Dollar Lake, which we had scouted the day prior.  We then marched upward toward the top of Barrett Spur to get some more photography in before the late became too harsh.

The off-trail explorations were numerous and quite fun!  The scenery, of course, was incredible.

I've had three images from this trip appear in various publications - all shown here.

Mount Hood from Barrett Spur.
The most recent image is the top one from McNeil Point.  It is currently being featured as a full page image in a book being distributed world-wide.

This is an area I've always vowed I would like to return, only later in the year when I little more snow is present on the upper slopes of the mountain.  Perhaps this could be that year?

You can view these images of Mount Hood and more in my Mount Hood Gallery.

I highly encourage you to check this area out for yourself.  It's a bit of a drive from the Seattle area, but the scenery and solitude is well worth it.

As always, thanks for looking!

Monday, August 3, 2015

A Scene Forever Changed

The image to the left of St. Mary's Lake in Glacier National Park, taken shortly before sunrise from the Wild Goose Island overlook, was taken in 2010 (has it really been that long?).  I remember waking up 3 hours before sunrise at my camp at Avalanche Creek and driving the Going-to-the-Sun road over Logan Pass to beat the photographers camping near St. Mary Lake.  While I always won this race, I never needed to.  There was always plenty of room for everyone, and each morning was fun filled with joking and wild stories.  Photographers can be such a great group of people.

Will it be worth the drive and dedication in the future?  Will the landscape be forever changed?  This we will have to wait and see.  This entire area is currently closed due to a devastating wild fire, which will likely reshape this landscape into something much different when all is said and done.

The Reynolds Creek Fire was first reported on July 21st, 2015.  As of this writing, it has already burned over 3,558 acres in the park.  Over 515 personnel, 12 engines, and 7 helicopters are currently fighting this blaze, which is listed as 65% contained.  It is believed to be human caused, though InciWeb still officially lists the cause as "under investigation".

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed on the east side from the St. Mary Campground to Logan Pass.  And with the fire burning in close proximity to the road, this isn't expected to change anytime soon.  Already charred areas are reigniting due to low humidity and high winds.  Fire and smoke are expected to be visible up the Rose Creek drainage until the first snow of winter arrives.

I'm sure photographers, hikers, backpackers and outdoors enthusiasts in general are crossing their fingers and hoping for the best, especially those who have not yet had a chance to visit this beautiful and iconic place of the park.

I've spent a LOT of time in Glacier National Park hiking, backpacking, climbing and photographing.  I list the park as one of my favorites, and cherish the memories I've been fortunate to create there over the years. 

It's been a crazy year all over the west with wild fires.  There are several large ones currently in my home state of Washington.  California and Oregon are also experiencing tinderbox conditions.  Unfortunately the forecast is for conditions to worsen before they get better.

While wild fires are an important part of our ecosystem and many of us have learned to accept them as "change", it is always tough to see the aftermath - especially when it takes place in such a popular and scenic area of a national park.

My thoughts are with those battling this blaze, for their safety and well-being.  Stay safe.

I would like to credit InciWeb for the information and statistics reported above.  I recommend them as an excellent source to follow updates on wildfires.

If you haven't been so fortunate as to visit this beautiful park, or simply wish to take a stroll down memory lane, please feel free to visit my Glacier National Park Gallery.

Hope to see you on the trail in much safer conditions.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Flowers at Mount St. Helens

For many people, the subject of Mount St. Helens brings only imagery of devastation and destruction.  That is understandable, of course. 

For me, St. Helens brings imagery of that fateful day in 1980 certainly, but also many more.  I have triumphantly stared down into the crater from the summit rim, hiked and photographed my kids on its trails for publications, enjoyed its flower show in early July, and sadly, lost my dad in a tragic fall on a late October day.  The emotions the mountain has brought me pretty much run the gamut.

Mount St. Helens has a lot to offer, which might surprise a lot of people.  One of them is its flower show.  Yes, you read that correctly.

While most of the crowds flock to its neighbor to the north for the supreme flower shows, St. Helens proudly shows off her own display for those willing to come calling.  It's a further drive for most in the Puget Sound area, but well worth it.

This has been a very interesting year, with summer starting approximately Decemberish.  I kid, of course, but there is an element of truth to it.  We didn't have a winter.  The ski areas only opened long enough to seemingly meet the minimum requirement of days that they would not have to offer refunds (sad and unethical, in my opinion), and we never really had any measurable snow at the low to mid elevations in our state.

We had above normal temperartures most of the spring and early summer, shattering old records in some instances.  This cause rapid snow melt (what snow there was), and flowers emerged almost a month early on average.  I'm sure this caused great frustration for any out-of-towners scheduling vacation to be out here in late July or early August!

So the flower came early, as did access to higher level hiking trails.  Hikes that shouldn't be accessible until late July or early August were being done in early June!  It was crazy.

While the flowers came early, the displays I witnessed personally at Mount St. Helens did not measure up to normal years.  I spent time in both the Windy Ridge area and Johnston Ridge, and feel this statement is accurate for both areas.

The Windy Ridge side was actually quite disappointing.  I spent time around Windy Ridge proper, hiked the Mt. Margaret backcountry to Norway Pass and to the top of Mt. Margaret, and spent an evening at the Smith Creek Viewpoint.  Flowers were scarce.

Johnston Ridge offered a far better showing, whether descending the Boundary trail from near the Johnston Ridge Visitor Center, or hiking up the trail toward Harry's Ridge or Coldwater Peak (of which I did both).  While there were some excellent displays along both areas, I've seen better showings in previous years.  Variety was mostly missing.

What I was treated to during my visit to Johnston Ridge were some amazing sunrises and sunsets!  Unfortunately, the highlight of these shows were not above St. Helens, but rather to the north.  Still, they were amazing.

Back to the flowers (sorry, morning and evening sky shows distract me!).  What happened once the flowers emerged?  A continued warm and dry spell, that has continued to the day I am writing this.  This resulted in the flower display being very short lived due to lack of precipitation.  If you blinked, you missed them.

How did the flower show compare to the famous offerings at Rainier?  Well, I hoped to offer just that, but unfortunately, I cannot.  I fractured a toe at this most untimely period and was forced to take an unwanted break from hiking and photography.  However I have heard by many that the flower duration was very short there as well.  Due to our hot temperatures and lack of rain, I'm pretty confident this held true for most if not all of our state.

I hope you are all out enjoying our beloved hiking trails and enjoying this rare opportunity of great hiking weather most each and every day.  The latest forecast models for the Pacific Northwest show this pattern continuing through...wait for it....October 2016!

Hope to see you on the trail (eventually)!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Washington Trails Magazine

I would like to thank Eli Boschetto and the gang at Washington Trails Association for selecting my image of Glacier Peak and Image Lake for their July/August cover.

This image was taken during an amazing 5-day backpacking trip, starting and ending at Trinity, at the end of the Chiwawa River Road.  I connected Buck Creek Pass, Image Lake, Cloudy Pass, Lyman Lakes, Spider Gap and Spider Meadows on this adventure.

At the time I did this trip, access to the Glacier Peak Wilderness had restricted access from the west side due to serious flood damage along its primary access routes.  This included the Suattle River Road and the White Chuck River trail.  For hikers, this meant heading east of the crest for the easiest access to this area.

That has now changed.  After being closed for more than a decade due to limited budget, legal battles with over-the-top environmental groups, and complicated redesign plans, the Suattle River Road was opened to vehicle traffic on October 25th, 2014.  It gives access once again to 120 miles of hiking trails, including the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

The Suattle River Road is also a key entry/exit point for one of the most famous high country traverses in our state, the Ptarmigan traverse.  I have done this traverse several times, and am excited about doing it again in the coming years (fingers crossed!).  This traverse begins at Cascade Pass in North Cascades National Park and ends at Downey Creek along the Suattle River Road (or vice versa).

I hope you get out to visit some of the amazing scenery this area has to offer.  Hope to see you on the trail!