Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Only 3 Days Left for this Special Offer!

Mount Rainier by Don Geyer
*Edit:  This sale has ended.
That's right, time is running out!

I have teamed with veteran guidebook author Craig Romano to offer a special savings! For a limited time, you can purchase my Mount Rainer book and Romano's NEW Backpacking Washington book together for over a 34% savings!

These books together retail for $28.90. But we are offering them as a package for $18.95! There are only 3 days left to take advantage of this offer!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Craig Romano & Don Geyer - A Special Book Offer!

Don Geyer and Craig Romano.
It's not too late!  But this special offer will be ending soon!

I have teamed with veteran guidebook author Craig Romano to offer a special savings! For a limited time, you can purchase my Mount Rainer book and Romano's NEW Backpacking Washington book together for over a 34% savings!

These books together retail for $28.90. But we are offering them as a package for $18.95! Again, this is a limited time offer, so you need to jump on it quickly! You can learn more at www.mountainscenes.com/special.html!

Order yours today!

You can also learn more about these books by reading my previous blog post.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Special Offer for the Holidays!

"Mount Rainier" by Don Geyer
I have a special announcement in time for the holidays!  I have teamed with veteran guidebook author Craig Romano to offer a special savings!  For a limited time, you can purchase my Mount Rainer book and Romano's NEW Backpacking Washington book together for over a 34% savings!

These books together retail for $28.90.  But we are offering them as a package for $18.95!  Again, this is a limited time offer, so you need to jump on it quickly!  You can learn more at www.mountainscenes.com/special.html!

Mount Rainier is a collection of my favorite photographs taken throughout Mount Rainier National Park, and includes my hints and recommendations about where, when and how to achieve successful photographic images of the park.  I have broken my recommendations down by season, and even by weather.  There is always something to photograph in the park!  If you're not a photographer, you can simply enjoy the artistic images and the moods and emotions they elicit as you take a visual tour thru this beautiful national park.  I try to explain the attraction of each area and the beauty such areas hold in certain seasons.

"Backpacking Washinton" by Craig Romano

Backpacking Washington is the most comprehensive backpacking guide to Washington State! Veteran guidebook author Craig Romano hits the trail again - this time to uncover amazing backpacking opportunities all over Washington's wilderness. Backpacking Washington details 70 routes, from the lush Hoh River Glacier Meadows to the open ridges of the Columbia Highlands and beyond. With an emphasis on weekend trips, routes range from overnight to weeklong treks and often include options for extending trips and choosing campsites.

Together, these books will make excellent gifts!  Give them to the hiker and photographer you know, or keep one for yourself and give the other away.  Hey, your secret is safe with me!

Again, you can learn more about this special offer at www.mountainscenes.com/special.html.

Thank you for visiting.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Buy Our Archival Quality Note Cards!

The biggest selling item at my shows has been my note cards, especially as the holidays near.  If you haven't seen these, they are very high quality cards - printed on acid free, 100% cotton fiber using archival ink. These cards will truly stand the test of time, and are suitable for framing!

I currently have eight sets available: Mount Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Baker, North Cascades, and Olympic. Different sets are available of Mount Rainier, North Cascades and Olympic, so it is worth checking them all out!

If you've been to my shows, you have been accustomed to purchasing individual cards as well. I am considering making these available online, at a future time.

These cards are perfect for "Thank You" cards, or just to keep in touch with a friend or loved one while adding a personal touch from the Pacific Northwest!

Which note card set is your favorite?  You can view them at www.mountainscenes.com/notecards.html

Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Come see us at the Kent Winter Craft Bazaar December 2nd & 3rd!

We are very excited to be part of the 2011 Kent Winter Craft Bazaar, now celebrating its 28th year!  Mark your calendars for this Friday and Saturday, December 2nd and 3rd, and come on down and see us at Kent Commons - right across the street from Kent Station!  The address is 525 4th Avenue N. in Kent.  Times are 10:00 am - 6:00 pm Friday, and 9:00 am - 5:00 pm on Saturday.  We will be at Booth #6.  Admission is $1.00.  Map available here.

This will be our first time participating in this show, though we have been hearing about it for years.  It's one of the originals in the area, and has quite the reputation!

This will also be our last show of the year. 

Don Geyer's note cards - individual and sets.

I've done something new for this show.  Of the dozens of new pre-matted prints I have prepared, I've included many from out-of-state destinations such as Yosemite National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, Death Valley National Park, the Oregon coast, Painted Hills in John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Skagit Valley tulips and more.  I'll have way too many to display, so I plan to have more bins to house the remainder!  Some of these images have appeared in various publications, while others are completely fresh and new!

Of course, I will still have copies of my signed book Mount Rainier, individual note cards, note card sets, postcards, and poster prints for sale as well.

As I mentioned in my previous post, one of the things I enjoy most about these shows is the chance to meet new people and share stories, as well as catch up with old friends and aquaintences.  As this will be our first time doing this show, I'm expecting to see mostly new faces.

So come on by and see us for our last show of 2011!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Come see us at the Renton Holiday Bazaar!

The Renton Holiday Bazaar is back for its 16th year, and I am excited to be a part of it once again!  I will have pre-matted prints, poster prints, individual and box set note cards, postcards, and my signed book, Mount Rainier available for purchase.

Come see us this Friday and Saturday, November 18th & 19th at the Renton Community Center, just off I-405 and the Maple Valley Highway.  Hours are 11:00 am to 6:00 pm Friday, and 9:00 am to 5:00 pm on Saturday.

One of the things I enjoy most about these shows is the chance to meet new people and share stories, as well as catch up with old friends and clients.  This venue has been very successful for us in the past and we are looking forward to another great show!

Come by and say hi!

Friday, November 11, 2011

In Loving Memory of Richard Lee Geyer - May 15, 1941 - Oct. 27, 2011

Dad hiking Ptarmigan Ridge in the North Cascades.
 The e-mail caught me off guard.  It was followed by a confirming phone call.  My dad failed to return home from a hike on October 27th.  It was now 9:00 am the next day, suggesting something was very wrong.

Dad set out to hike the Harry's Ridge trail at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.  He picked this hike out long ago, and was excited to visit the area.

I immediately thought of the exposed section of trail where it skirts an outcrop, and wondered if he suffered a slip.  I phoned the Skamania County Sheriff's office to report him missing.  They confirmed his car was still in the parking lot, and began to mobilize their resources.

 I threw most of my climbing gear into the back of my truck and, together with my brother, drove down to the Johnston Ridge Observatory.  Having had Mountaineering Oriented First Aid (MOFA) training, I was prepared to help out with the search and rescue any way I could.

Dad and I at camp on Ptarmigan Ridge in the North Cascades.
We arrived to learn there would be no search and rescue.  Dad's body had already been located.  He had suffered a tragic fall of ~ 40' and sustained a massive head wound.  An autopsy revealed that he also suffered a broken leg, dislocated wrist, and internal bleeding.  Though he did not die from the impact, he died very shortly afterward.


We spent most of the day with the sheriff out in the wind and rain, answering questions, digesting information gathered at the scene, and trying to make sense of it all.  I couldn't get my mind off my mom, and how we were going to break the news to her.  She would be devastated.

Dad with his brother Arlie and me on Burroughs Mountain,
Mount Rainier National Park.
I didn't realize it at the time, but I shouldered a tremendous amount of guilt over my dad's accident.  I introduced my dad to the mountains and hiking and backpacking.  He fell in love with them and we went on many, many trips together.  Safety had never been a concern with my dad on our trips.  He knew his abilities and always stayed within them.  Now I could only wonder if I had failed to prepare him in some way.  After all, I had always been there for dad.  This was only his second solo trip; his first being less than a year ago.  Both were to popular areas where he would never truly be alone.  Both were short day hikes.

When details of the autopsy were learned, it became clear that my dad's accident had nothing to do with lack of preparedness, but rather a decision he made while enjoying the moment.  He was looking for an even better view.  Bless him.

Dad and I at Death Valley National Park.
My dad had an incredible hike that day.  Upon arriving at the parking lot that morning, he spoke to a volunteer worker who couldn't get over the excitement in dad's voice.  It was a beautiful, sunny day and dad couldn't wait to get started on the trail.  He photographed his entire hike, including a herd of elk he found along the way.  I know my dad had a lot of fun this day.  The final events of his life would not have happened if he were not having fun.  He was enjoying the moment.

My dad and I enjoyed many hikes together throughout the state.  Burroughs Mountain at Mount Rainier National Park was probably his favorite, though Glacier View in the Glacier View Wilderness was a close second.  Other memorable hikes include Tolmie Peak in Mount Rainier National Park,  the Elwha and Grand Valley in Olympic National Park, Park Butte, Ptarmigan Ridge and Cutthroat Pass in the North Cascades,  High Rock in the South Cascades, and Norway Pass/Mount Margarett in Mount St. Helens National Monument.  I'm sure I am forgetting several more.

Dad hiking Fall Canyon in Death Valley
National Park.
We also traveled out of state to such places as the Wind River Range in Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park, Glacier National Park, and his favorite - Death Valley National Park.  Many memories from each of these hikes/trips will remain in my head forever.  And I will always smile when I think of them.

My dad experienced a rejuvenation in life after he started hiking with me.  He stopped smoking, started eating better, and began excersizing regularly.  I never thought about this.  It had to be pointed out to me by family.

I'm proud to have introduced my dad to hiking and backpacking.  Dad was truly a different person on the trail, and you could see how much he enjoyed it.  Being able to watch the sun rise and set from our tent in the backcountry was an entirely new experience for him.  He loved it.

Dad enjoyed the forest as much as the mountain tops.  His slow pace on the trail would sometimes frustrate me, and I would encourage him to pick it up.  He never understood my hurry, and wondered why I didn't slow down and smell the flowers more.  I would try to convince him that the higher views ahead were worth hurrying for.  I never won this argument.

Dad's tragic fall took place at a location where I have photographed from many times.  These images will always have special meaning to me now.  They are of his last view.

I am equally proud to know that some of my most popular images to get published have been from trips I did with my dad.  He was always tickled to learn of a new image use agreement, and we would relive the memory of that trip.

Dad on Lillian Ridge, Olympic National Park.
I can't speak highly enough of the staff at Johnston Ridge Observatory.  Todd, Roger and all the others - too many names to remember. We were offered courtesies beyond any and all expectations.  They were a class act and I am indebted to them. 

I would also like to thank Skamania County Sheriff Deputy George Barker for his kindness and thoughtfulness.  He was more than an officer on this day.  He was an understanding friend.

Rest in peace, dad.  You are missed and loved by many.  Especially me.  I love you.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Photographing the Enchantment Lakes

Prusik above frozen Gnome Tarn.
The Enchantment Lakes are one of the most beautiful destinations our state of Washington has to offer.  The high alpine lakes are set in granite basins surrounded by larches that turn brilliant gold in fall, and towering peaks above. They attract photographers, hikers and climbers from around the country.

You must have a permit to visit this fantastic place, which encourages one to plan in advance.  Of course, if you're feeling lucky, you can roll the dice the morning of by playing their lottery system.  Don't get caught without a permit; the rangers patrol the area and strictly enforce the permit policy.

Once the legal obstacles are handled, one must face the physical challenge of the approach, and decide which approach is best for them.

The Snow Lake approach gains 5,700' in ~9.5 miles.  Aasgard Pass, a favorite among many, has 1,000' less elevation gain and shorter distance, but uses a climber's path to ascend over a nearly 8,000' pass before descending to the lakes.  Neither approach can be classified as easy.

The Enchantment Lakes are best visited from late July through mid-October.  Late July-early August will often find the area mostly snow-covered, though peaks are very accessible.  Late August and September are the best hiking months; the area is mostly melted out and the weather generally continues to be nice.  This is a great time to explore and scramble in the upper basin.  October offers the turning of the larches, as well as the seasons.  It's common  to have a dusting of snow on the ground, making off-trail travel in the upper basin tricky.  Though photographic throughout the summer, October offers a photographer's paradise when the larches can be timed right.  Unfortunately, the weather can be unpredictable and present challenges.  One must be prepared for winter conditions, or to even cancel their trip altogether.

Larches above Sprite Lake.
 My first October visit to the Enchantment Lakes several years ago hit the larches at their absolute peak, and had fantastic weather from beginning to end.  I thought this was the norm.  My second visit found poor conditions with snow and heavy clouds.  I had to cancel my third visit entirely due to a prior system that dumped heavy snow in the area, and was forecast to last the duration of my visit.  I've learned to never take the Enchantments Lakes for granted again!

This year we once again had a system move in ahead of our visit, bringing temperatures in the 20's, and snow.  Nine inches of fresh snow were reported at Lake Vivian the day of our entry.  As such, we elected to to approach via Snow Lakes.  This would offer us a seemingly easier approach under the conditions, as well as an easier bail route should we need to beat a hasty retreat.

Camp near Sprite Lake.
We hiked in under sunny skies, knowing the forecast was for a short window of nice weather before a new system was to threaten our final day.

We arrived at Lake Vivian to find the few backpackers there had been tent-bound the previous day during a blizzard.  Reports were that nobody was camped higher.

We continued on to Sprite Lake, arriving after 9 hours of hiking and 5,700' above our starting point.  The snow awaited us as promised.
Prusik Peak Reflection near Leprechaun Lake.

October Photography

Photography options abound throughout the Enchantment Lakes.  But if looking for larches in October, the best option is the lower lakes; Lake Vivian, Leprechaun Lake, Sprite Lake, Perfection Lake, Inspiration Lake and Gnome Tarn provide excellent showings of larch.  Larch can be found higher, but their numbers are greatly reduced.  A central camp to easily access all these areas is recommended.

My Recommendations:

Prusik Peak above frozen Gnome Tarn.

Lake Vivian:  I have not photographed Lake Vivian, though having passed by it many times, I believe it to be very photogenic.  It offers a lake set in granite amidst larches, and a unique perspective of Prusik Peak above.  I'm not sure Prusik is very photogenic from this side, however.  I would probably tend to focus on the lake itself.  I hope to spend time photographing near its outlet stream, as well as up high from an obvious overlook along the trail.  I've always found myself passing through this area during the middle of the day, and camped too far away for a comfortable visit.

Leprechaun Lake:  I've always liked Leprechaun Lake.  It is lined with larches and offers excellent views of Prusik Peak and The Temple.  It's a large lake and subject to windy conditions.  I would suggest the chances of catching a reflection as slim to none.  However, don't despair!  Locate the trail that explores the peninsula of the lake.  At the very end are some tarns, one of which catches a beautiful reflection of the peaks above in late afternoon/evening, which is when the best light arrives.

There are many other excellent compositions to be had around this lake.  Be sure and check out the south shore.  A fun exploration to get there can begin from Sprite Lake.  More on that later.  There are also some beautiful tarns between Leprechaun Lake and the climb to Sprite Lake, and an interesting stream.
Upper Basin from Gnome Tarn.

 Sprite Lake:  Sprite Lake is a small gem of a lake encircled by larches, just shy of Perfection Lake.  It's quite pretty and often photographed.  If offers a small waterfall at its inlet from Perfection Lake, sandwiched between larches. Its outlet stream lines up to perfectly frame Prusik Peak.  There is excellent photography to be had from each and every side of this heavenly lake, which can hold an early morning reflection.  From this location, don't miss first light on the buttress above Perfection Lake to the west - it can turn a brilliant red in the right conditions, and reflects nicely if the water cooperates.

Wandering east off-trail from the lake, several tarns can be found, and much exploration around them.  I've spent an entire day playing in this area, and using it as a shortcut to access the south shore of Leprechaun Lake below by traversing around a knoll.

Prusik Peak above frozen Gnome Tarn.
Sprite Lake is also the popular jumping off point to visit Crystal Lake.  There is no camping at Crystal Lake, but it is a beautiful lake in a granite cirque with lots of interesting rock features and some larch - well worth visiting.

 Perfection Lake:  Perfection Lake is a very large lake with a prominent buttress to the west, and larches all around.  The basin at its head offers excellent groves of larch, and also serves as the junction with the Prusik Pass trail, which gives access to Gnome Tarn.  Campsites with incredible views can be found along this lake.  Goats are common residents here, as they are above.

Prusik Peak above larches and Perfection Lake.
There are many excellent vantages immediately around this lake for photographing, the best at or near the lake's head in my opinion.  For higher and much more encompassing views, follow the Prusik Pass trail up to Gnome Tarn, then gain the ridge above for unobstructed views back down to the lake, as well as Inspiration Lake and into the upper basin.

Other high views can be found by following the trail up to Inspiration Lake and locating the side-path near its outlet stream at the far end (before the steep climb).  For even higher views, continue with the steep climb up beside the waterfall.  At the top, take the side path east to the top of the prominent buttress seen below from  Perfection Lake.  The views are superb!

Photographer and upper basin of Enchantment Lakes.
Inspiration Lake:  Inspiration Lake is set in a deep cirque.  It's very scenic with larches lining its shoreline.  Isolation shots work well here.  Also, larches can be reflected in the lake.  Views from above the inlet waterfall are also very nice, allowing the inclusion of Prusik Pass and even Prusik Peak (though the later requires some work to successfully compose).

If you are staying at Inspiration Lake, make sure to follow the outlet stream to views of Perfection mentioned above.

Prusik Peak above Gnome Tarn.
Gnome Tarn:  Gnome Tarn offers the iconic image of Prusik Peak from the Enchantments.

For the easiest access to this lake, go to the junction at the head of Perfection Lake and take the Prusik Pass trail.

Many compositions can be had around this small tarn.  It holds a reflection of Prusik Peak well.  Add larches in season and the scene becomes...well, enchanting!

This scene is best photographed shortly after sunrise, once light has had a chance to light the rock of Prusik and the larches below.  If you arrive at or before sunrise, continue up to the ridge top to get above the larches to the south, and catch first light on the peaks of the upper basin - breathtaking!

Photographer in the Upper Enchantments.
The Enchantment Lakes are an incredible place to visit and photograph.  I would recommend budgeting at least five days for your visit, giving you an approach day, three full days to enjoy, and an exit day.  More days would be even better.

Having painted this area in such glorious light, I must also take time to stress some safety considerations.

Understand the physical challenge required to get into the Enchantments and make sure it is within your ability.  Both routes are physically demanding. 

Choose your gear carefully and be conservative.  Ounces add up quickly.  I recommend a wide-angle and medium range zoom lens, along with polarizers and GND filters for your camera gear.

Be prepared for the weather and elements.  The Enchantments can offer winter conditions at any time of year, and do.  October can be particularly cold.  During my visit, a group of photographers coming over Aasgard Pass in a blizzard learned this the hard way.  It ruined their trip.  Meanwhile, we found ourselves wearing all of our layers, all of the time!

I hope to have some of these images from my latest trip available on my web site soon.  In the meantime, feel free to check out images from previous Enchantment trips, or peruse other galleries of my web site.

If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line.

As always, thanks for visiting!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Washington Trails Association's 2011 Northwest Exposure Contest

Prusik Peak and Larches.
If you haven't done so already, be sure and submit your favorite images for the WTA's 2011 Northwest Exposure Photo Contest!  This is a really fun contest with categories that fit almost every style of photography.

Images must be taken in Washington, and they must be from the hiking trail/backcountry (no backyard photos).

I will once again be serving as a panel judge for this contest, and am looking forward to reviewing another year's worth of fresh and exciting images.  I hope to see yours too!

The deadline for this year's contest has just been extended to October 17th.

For more information on this contest, please visit the WTA's web page.

Edit:  The WTA just created a profile page for us judges.  Visit it to learn more about us and what we are looking for in a photo.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Buck Creek Pass/Spider Gap Loop

Fortress Mountain above pink heather on Flower Dome.
 The Buck Creek Pass - Spider Gap loop is considered one of the premier backpacking trips in Washington, and with good reason.  Glaciers, high passes and lakes abound along this fantastic trek.  Throw in a side trip to Image Lake (a must!) and this classic is raised to an even higher bar.  Do this trip during flower season and it will add to your enjoyment and photography.  This is an outstanding flower hike in season!

I elected to do this trip in the reverse route than most people for several reasons.  The first was that I was starting my trek on Labor Day Weekend, and assumed Larch Knob, the obvious first night camp, would be crazy busy (I later learned it wasn't).  The second was that I preferred walking the Phelps Creek Road downhill back to my truck rather than uphill.

Glacier Peak from Buck Creek Pass.
So, leaving my truck at the Buck Creek TH, I began my ascent to Buck Creek Pass on the extremely dusty trail.  This was a 9-1/2 mile day with 3200' elevation gain.  There aren't many highlights along the lower section of trail; it's pretty much a matter of just grunting up to the high country and camp.

From the upper camps at Buck Creek Pass, the views of Glacier Peak are excellent.  In fact, the volcano can even be photographed from this location in the morning hours.  The downside to these camps is that they are much more dusty than the lower camps, and further away from water and the privy.

Fortress Mountain above lupine on Flower Dome.
Fortress Mountain receives the best evening light in the area, so a stroll to Flower Dome is a must in the evening for photographers.  Maps are incorrect that the trail stops short of the top.  Also, the trail doesn't mess around; it gains elevation at an aggressive clip.

From Flower Dome, views of Fortress Mountain are excellent, and the flowers are expansive!  I found the best vantage to be from the NW corner of the meadows.  However, I recommend hiking to the top, then scouting from above to find your photography location of choice.

The morning hours are all about the trail toward High Pass and Triad Lake.  At 6,800', Liberty Cap makes an excellent destination for views.  However, the best flower photography is found much lower down - less than 20 minutes from camp at Buck Creek Pass.

Glacier Peak above Image Lake.
Triad Lake is a highly recommended destination while in the area.  In fact, if I could recommend only one side trip from Buck Creek Pass, it would be Triad Lake.  For even better views, find a safe line of travel to High Pass.

From Buck Creek Pass, the trail descends to a crossing of Small Creek, then climbs up and over Middle Ridge.  Atop the ridge, an unmarked side trail ascends up to Sheep Camp.  This is reportedly a magnificent camp and based on what I saw, I would have to agree.  Next time!

From Middle Ridge, the trail descends to a crossing of Miners Creek  and then climbs towards Suattle Pass and the junction with Miners Cabin trail.

The Miners Cabin trail begins by traversing a steep hillside in trees to and cliffs.  Just pass the remains of the miners cabin is the junction with Miners Ridge trail, which switchbacks up to Ladyslipper Camp and then traverses beautiful open meadows of flowers in season, all the way to Image Lake.  Photographers can spend some serious time along this section of trail.

Soon one arrives at Image Lake and the rolling green meadows all around.  Bears are not uncommon here, especially on the higher slopes.

Evening light on Fortress Mountain.
For more flowers and excellent views of Fortress Mountain, hike back to the junction with the Canyon Lake trail.  Hike it a very short distance and find an unmarked boot path leaving it and heading uphill.  It soon becomes a very distinct trail, traversing flower meadows as it climbs to Point 6758.  This is an excellent evening destination for photography.

Image Lake stands a better chance of holding a reflection in the evening than in morning.  However, Glacier Peak receives only a sliver of light on it's upper slopes from this vantage.  In my opinion, compositions of the lake and Glacier Peak are better served in the morning.

Sunrise on Glacier Peak above Image Lake.
Many choices and vantage points around Image Lake are available to the photographer.  Indeed, one may wish to spend a couple of days in this area to compose from multiple locations.

A trail navigates around the shores of the lake, placing the upper slopes of Glacier Peak immediately above the trees to the south for an interesting composition.

Up higher, a horse bypass trail navigates high above the delicate areas around the lake and offers a much different perspective.  This vantage offers more of the mountain and forests of the Suattle drainage, as well as a more encompassing view of the lake and surrounding meadows.  A trail on the north side of the lake connects these two trails.

Glacier Peak above Image Lake.
I found this area to be best photographed at sunrise, and then again in mid-morning once the lake and meadows receive sunlight.  Light comes fast to this basin, so don't wait too long.

Once the sun has climbed high in the sky and the photography is done, sprawl out and relax in this beautiful setting!

From Image Lake, one must retrace the trail back to the junction and continue on toward Suattle Pass.  A junction just before Suattle Pass gives the hiker a choice of taking the highly scenic shortcut to Cloudy Pass.  If conditions allow, I recommend it.

Dumbell Mountain above Lower Lyman Lake.
The views from Cloudy Pass are impressive.  Arriving at the pass and seeing the view of Lyman Lakes for the first time is an eye-opener - much more so than seeing them from Spider Gap, in my opinion.  There are campsites at and around the pass.  From the pass, a trail ascends up Cloudy Peak, offering many scenic campsites along the way and opening up views to Glacier Peak and north to Buckner, Goode and...the list is too long!

Camp above Cloudy Pass below Cloudy Peak.
This area was also the buggiest of my entire trip.   After setting my camera up on my tripod, I counted 12 horse flies on it within moments during mid-afternoon.  They were nasty!  In the heat of the day, I had to cover up in clothes.  I tried to hide from the flies in the shade, but the mosquitoes were there waiting to swarm me - in the middle of the day.

After a couple of hours of this annoyance, a couple of strong, extended gusts of wind blew through the pass.  When they stopped, I realized the large horse flies were gone.  They never returned.  It was the strangest thing.

The picture to the left shows my camp, as viewed from a knoll above the pass.  It's deceptive.  My camp is actually about about 50' or so above the pass.  Still it gives you a good sense of the area.  You can also see the path climbing the far slope to higher camps and views on Cloudy Peak.

I spent the evening photographing Dumbell Mountain above Lower Lyman Lake from a knoll to the west of the pass.  I really enjoyed this vantage.
In the morning I ventured up to a shoulder on Cloudy Peak, where Glacier Peak could be viewed through the V gap of Cloudy Pass and over Middle Ridge.  Lyman Lakes Basin didn't receive the morning light I thought it might.  The minor ridge to the west of Cloudy Pass and below Fortress Mountain did though.

Fortress Mountain above Cloudy Pass (my camp is just to the left of
snow patch, bottom right corner).
 Cloudy Pass is a wonderful area to hang out and explore (less the bugs).  Water is available just 1/4 mile below the pass if a water source cannot be found up higher.  I had the pass all to myself the night of my stay - well, except for the deer that visited me throughout the night.

From the pass, the trail descends through open meadows, then forest, to Lower Lyman Lake.  Near the lake's outlet stream is a junction, with the trail to Upper Lyman Lakes crossing the outlet stream and ascending the slopes beyond.

Reflection near Upper Lyman Lakes.
 Soon the trail leaves the forest and climbs through open meadows.   Bonanza Peak emerges to dominate the skyline to the east, while tarns catch the reflection of the ridge to the west serving as a backdrop to Lyman Lakes.  There is a lot to see and explore in this area, and a visit to the first upper lakes is a must.

Again, I was surprised to not see a soul in this area during my visit.  In fact, I didn't run into a single hiker after leaving Cloudy Pass until ascending to the Spider Gap col.  I would guess a weekend would be much different.
Reflection near Upper Lyman Lakes.
Finally, the much anticipated upper lake is reached and it is as advertised with the Lyman Glacier spilling into the lake below the icy walls of Chiwawa Mountain and icebergs floating in the lake.  One can only reflect back to older generation pictures of this glacier when it was much greater in size.  But the sight is still impressive.

This upper basin is an area that doesn't receive much light outside of mid-day.  Clouds would definitely help with photography here.  I had none, so I played with isolating the glacier and lake.  Still, the light was harsh and I would have preferred some high clouds to help diffuse the light.

The basin is also quite large and demands much exploring.  Definitely find the moraine trail along the shore of the upper lake.  You can follow this as far as you wish toward the Lyman Glacier and snow bank at the south end of the lake.  Find a spot atop one of the many large boulders and find time to relax and reflect.
Yours truly at Upper Lyman Lake.
 The route over Spider Gap is very straightforward and easy to navigate in nice weather.  The descent of the Spider Glacier down to Larch Knob was equally easy.  I highly recommend spending a night at Larch Knob!  Again, this is an area set in the deep valley of Phelps Creek and only receives mid-day light.  Seven Finger Jack and Mt. Maude receive evening light, but lack visual interest from this perspective without the help of dramatic clouds, in my opinion.

From Larch Knob it's a steep descent down to Spider Meadows via many switchbacks, but the trail provides a birds eye view of the valley below, which are quite impressive.  Spider Meadows offer a pleasant stroll through flowers in season.  Beyond the meadows, the trail is uneventful back to the trailhead, with the possible exception of crossing Leroy Creek in early season.  Then a 3 mile road walk back to your vehicle greets you.

Camp at Larch Knob with the Spider Glacier in the background.
I was surprised not to see any bears on this trip.  Buck Creek Pass was crawling with hunters, but in years past I have seen them around Image Lake and Suattle Pass.  I also expected to see one or two around Lower Lyman Lake.  But it was not to be.

I found my 24-70mm lens to be my only lens used on this trip.  I carried my 17-40mm, but it never saw the light of day.  I left the bigger glass at home, as I typically due on such extended trips.  The weight isn't worth it.

I highly recommend this extended backpack!  I would budget 6-7 days to really enjoy all it has to offer.  I would not consider anything less than 4-5 days.
As always, thanks for visiting!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

WTA Hike-a-Thon Winners

Congratulations to the winning photo entries for the Washington Trails Association's 2011 Hike-a-Thon!  Their prize?  A private day or weekend (to be determined) of photography on the trail with me!

I hope the winning contestents are looking forward to this as much as I am!

This should not to be confused with the WTA's 2011 Northwest Exposure Photo Contest, which I will be helping judge again next month.  I hope you all got your entries in!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Washington Trails Magazine

If you haven't already, be sure and pick up a copy of the Sept - Oct issue of Washington Trails Magazine.  It includes my article, "Finding Lost Pass" with accompanying photos.  Lost Pass is located deep in the wilderness of Olympic National Park, and is a real treasure.  You may view the online version of my article here.

Want to see more images from this fantastic location?  Check out my Olympic Gallery!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Glacier Peak Wilderness Backpack

I've just returned from an extended backpack in the Glacier Peak Wilderness of the North Cascades - 6 days total!  The weather was excellent, the bugs were bad, the miles were long, and the photography was great!  I met a lot of new people, and am excited to learn how the rest of their trips went.  Lots to share soon!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Mount Rainier Gallery Updated!

Mount Rainier above flower meadows near Skyscraper Pass.
 It seems funny to be excited about alpine wild flowers the first week of September, but that is exactly the case here in Washington!  A late snow melt has delayed the emergence of wild flowers in most areas, testing the patience of many.  The good news is that our patience is now being rewarded.  If you haven't gotten out to see them yourself, I highly recommend you do so!

I recently updated my Rainier Gallery, adding many new images from my recent time spent at Mount Rainier National Park, including images from Sunset Park, Shriner Peak, Skyscraper Pass, Yakima Park, Reflection Lakes and more.  Lot of flowers, meadows and sunrises!  Check it out if you get the chance!

As I write this I am preparing for a week long backpack in the North Cascades, and hope to come back with many images and stories to share.  Stay tuned!  And enjoy this upcoming window of nice weather in the Pacific Northwest!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Flowers Finally Arrive at Mount Rainier National Park!

Mount Rainier above flower meadows in Yakima Park at Sunrise.
Yes, it's true!  Flowers are finally starting to make an appearance at Rainier, much to the pleasure of photographers who's patience has been tested with the late thaw of 2011.

Sunrise is particularly breathtaking right now, with flowers pretty much at peak.   The same can be said of nearby Skyscraper Pass on the Wonderland Trail and Grand Park (bring your bug spray!).

On the south side of the mountain, flowers around Reflection Lakes are coming along nicely, and will probably peak in the coming week.  Paradise and Mazama Ridge are still sporting much snow, though avalanche and glacier lilies were both on display last weekend, along with patches of western pasque near Myrtle Falls.
Mount Rainier above flower meadows near Skyscraper Pass.
Opinions vary on the flowers show at Paradise and when/if it will happen.  Our warmest days are behind us.  Late August and September bring cool nights, laying the groundwork for the emergence of fall colors.  The last week of August was the popular prediction for flowers in the Paradise area.  While gorgeous displays of lupine can be seen near the parking lot, they are a long way from emerging in the meadows above.  I believe it will be the first week of September for the flowers to show.

My friend and fellow photographer Greg Vaughn recently spoke with Ron Warfield, retired Assistant Chief Naturalist at Mount Rainier National Park.  Ron offered some interesting insights, including his opinion that flowers will not be as prolific this year.   While I tend to agree, I can say that Sunrise surprised me with a very strong showing last week (go now!).

Mount Rainier above Reflection Lakes.
One of the downsides of such a late bloom for photographers is the grass, which has now grown tall enough to compete with the flowers.  This was very noticeable at Sunrise.

If you are planning a visit to Rainier in the coming weeks, plan to arrive early to beat the crowds.  I read reports of the park temporarily denying entrance last weekend due to reaching full capacity.  Definitely plan ahead.

Have flower information on the park that you wish to share?  I would love to hear from you!  Please feel free to add a comment or send me a note.

See you on the trails!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Back from Mount Rainier National Park!

I'm back!  I've spent the last week at Mount Rainier National Park and surrounding area.  I hiked a section of the Wonderland Trail from Sunrise to Carbon River with my kids.  I explored Upper Palisades Lake (turning my ankle on the way in).  On the south side of the mountain, I wandered the trails around Paradise and Reflection Lakes, and enjoyed a hike to the top of High Rock in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

I hope to post pictures soon!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Sunset Park and Golden Lakes, Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier reflected in a tarn in Sunset Park.
There is a reason that photographers from around the world are drawn to Mount Rainier National Park.  For starters, it is easily accessed and offers some of the most superb flower meadows our state has to offer.  It also serves up a heavily glaciered volcano as its center piece.

There is a side of the park that offers a little more solitude from the easily accessed areas of the park, though one must be willing to put in the extra effort to earn it. 

Away from the bustle of Paradise, Longmire and Sunrise exists the fabled land - the west side.  Emerald Ridge, St. Andrews Park, Klapatche Park and Sunset Park and Indian Henry's Hunting Ground (though Inidan Henry's can also be approached via Kautz Creek near Longmire) offer scenery unsurpassed in the park, with a fraction of the people. (with the Carbon River Road closure, this can now also be said of the north side)

Mount Rainier reflection in partially frozen tarn at Sunset Park.
Most of these locations are accessed via the West Side Road.  Closed at Dry Creek, 3 miles from its start, the West Side Road requires hoofing it or bicycling further up to the trailhead of choice.

Because of the closure of the West Side Road, Golden Lakes and Sunset Park are now more easily accessed from the Paul Peak trailhead on the Mowich Lake Road.  However, be warned; "more easily" does not translate to "easy"!

The trail descends 1,100' from the Paul Peak trailhead (or 2,400' from Mowich Lake - same trail distance) to the north and south forks of the Mowich River.  This elevation must be regained on the way out.  The south fork can be tricky if not impossible to cross in early season until the bridge is put in place.

Once across the south fork, it is a 2,400' climb in 4 miles to Golden Lakes in Sunset Park - 10 miles from the trailhead.  Mosquitos can be nasty here in season.  Bears are common.

Mount Rainier above Sunset Park.
From Golden Lakes, wander south along the Wonderland Trail around a ridge to open slopes of Sunset Park and numerous lakes.  For the best views, find the abondoned trail to the former Sunset Lookout site (despite a ranger telling me it no longer existed, it very much existed.  It may not be obvious at the junction with the Wonderland Trail, however.  This section was under snow during my visit).  Cross-country travel is easy here as well.

As the name would imply, evening and sunset are the very best time to visit here, offering brilliant light on the mountain as the sun sets to the west. (don't forget your headlamp for the return to camp).

Finish the evening off by beating it back to camp at Golden Lakes and watching the lights of Puget Sound grow ever brighter as dusk turns to dark.

Photographers will want wide angle and mid-zoom lenses here.  A 2-stop graduated neutral density filter is also a must.  The difficult part of photographing here is that the sun sets directly behind you durning the summer months, making it very challenging to keep your increasingly long shadow out of your composition.

I hope you get a chance to visit this wonderland.

Caution:  If approaching from the Paul Peak trailhead, do not leave valuables in your car.  Though quiet this year according to the rangers I spoke with, this trailhead has a history of vandalism and break-ins, thanks in part to its location at the edge of the park's boundary and close proximity to an ORV area.  Some hikers elect to start from Mowich Lake - same distance travel, but ~1,300' more elevation gain on the way out.

For more pictures, please visit my Mount Rainier Gallery!