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!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Island Lake, Wind River Range

Early light on an unnamed bluff near Island Lake in the Wind River Range, Wyoming, USA.
Island Lake, Wind River Range, Wyoming.
The Wind River Range in Wyoming is one of my favorite hiking, climbing and photography playgrounds.  The area has become considerably more popular in recent years, namely the Cirque of the Towers and Titcomb Basin areas (other areas can still be void of people!).

This image of an unnamed bluff at Island Lake was taken shortly after sunrise, very near camp.  I had backpacked in with big climbing aspirations, only to turn my ankle in the first couple miles of the hike.  With trekking poles I was able to continue the hike at a snail's pace to our destination, but that was it.  I spent the next several days resting my ankle and soaking it in the cold water in hopes of prepping it for the hike out.  It seemed to work!

This image recently appeared in a national newspaper in the U.K., supporting an editorial article about dumb hikers who injure themselves in the backcountry.  I'm kidding of course!  At least about the article content anyway.

If you are interested in the Wind River area, I invite you to view my Wind River Gallery for many more images.  I hope they motivate you to consider paying the area a visit.

As always, thanks for visiting!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Photographing Windy Ridge at Mt. St. Helens

I spent last weekend down at Mt. St. Helens - Windy Ridge area to be exact.  I chose this area for the likelihood of clouds and flowers based on the forecast and some recent trip reports.
I had clouds around the summit of St. Helens most of the day, and thunder clouds engulfing the Cascade crest.  I was excited for what evening would bring, but alas, the clouds faded and all but disappeared by sunset.  I hoped for their return as forecast in the morning, but it did not happen.

While the flowers were out along my climb of Mount Margaret and around Windy Ridge, they just are not the strong showing I am accustomed to in the area.  They are quite sparse, actually.  It will be interesting to see how the flower show develops around Mt. Rainier in a couple of weeks (the park predicts peak bloom to occur in early July this year).  Will they be fabulous fields of splendor, or skeletons of their normal selves?

I spent some time doing star photography around midnight in the Windy Ridge vicinity as well.  I'm pretty new to star photography, and there were a lot of rookie mistakes made!  But I also found some things that worked and am anxious to get out and try again.

The orange and yellow you see on the horizon is not the sun, but rather light pollution from the Portland and Vancouver area.

I hope you are getting out and enjoying the early hiking season as well.  Hope to see you on the trail!


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Photographing Horseshoe Bend in Glen Canyon National Recreational Area

Horseshoe Bend is a fantastic and very unique feature of the Colorado River near Page, AZ. Here the river has actually created a 270 degree bend in the shape of a horseshoe!

The overlook is reached via a 1.5 mile round trip trail from a parking area off U.S. Route 89, just south of Page.  You can't miss it.

The trail itself is an easy, albeit sandy walk.  It climbs from the parking lot up to a ridge, then descends the other side to the wide overlook.  The overlook has no railings.  It is an exposed cliff with a 1000' sheer vertical drop to the river below, so watch your step!

The overlook area is large and there are many vantages to enjoy your view from, or in this case, compose your image.  For the top image, I ventured south along the rim away from the people for some morning solitude.  The image to the right was taken from a location that allowed both river channels to be viewed.  I like both perspectives, for different reasons.  I've seen other compositions that include more of the cliffs and even cut off one of the channels.  A lot of things work here.  Be creative and play a bit.

The Paria Plateau and Vermilion Cliffs serve as colorful backdrop to the west, and catch the morning light well.  The colors of the rock change throughout the day as the angle of light changes.

Horseshoe Bend is best photographed at sunrise, though a dramatic sky at sunset would also work.  Surprisingly, only a small handful of photographers were present the mornings I visited.  Be warned that by mid-day this place can become a zoo as the tour buses and RVs show up!

A wide angle lens is necessary to capture Horseshoe Bend in its entirety, unless you plan to stitch.  A 2 and 3-stop GND filter will also be needed, unless you are shooting hdr or bracketing for post-process stacking.  A warming filter might also be considered.

To get all of the Colorado River in your frame, you will need to stand right up to the lip of the rim!  This can be daunting, with a 1,000' vertical drop at your toes!  I found that having a camera and tripod in front of me gave me some false sense of security and allowed me to focus on the task at hand without worrying.  I'm not sure why.
I would recommend including some rock in your foreground to give scale to the scene.  Truth be told, it will be hard NOT to get rock in your foreground with a wide-angle lens!  Keep the amount of sky to a minimum, unless something interesting is happening.

Have fun and enjoy this beautiful stage as the show unfolds before you!

To view more images from the Southwest, view my Southwest Gallery (this will be updated in the near future).  As always, thanks for looking!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Enjoying the Backcountry of Mount Rainier.

Mount Rainier reflected in a tarn at sunset near Indian Henry's
Hunting Ground.
Mount Rainier National Park is a magical place to visit in the summer months, especially when flower meadows are on display.  Flowers typically start appearing in mid-July in the high country and can last into September.

One of my favorite places within the park to stretch my legs is on the west side, to the many destinations up the West Side Road.  For motivated hikers, a loop trip can easily be done up the West Side Road to Klapatche Park, then follow the Wonderland Trail south through St. Andrews Park, down to the South Puyallup River, up to Emerald Ridge, and on to Indian Henry's Hunting Ground as a side trip before backtracking to the Tahoma Creek Trail and descending it back to the road, and following the road back to the car.  I have done this trip in both directions, and find it a fun and rewarding full day outing.

But as a photographer, an even better reward is to camp along the way, allowing one to experience the beauty and serenity of sunrise and sunset from such extraordinary locations.  Such moments in the mountains can be very special and memorable.

This image was taken during a backpack with my son to Indian Henry's Hunting Ground last summer.  We approached via Kautz Creek, camped at Devil's Dream Camp, and spent the evening wandering the meadows of Indian Henry's and the tarns near Mirror Lakes, where this image was taken.

This reflection image of Mount Rainier will be appearing in an up-coming issue of Backpacker Magazine.

You may view many more of my Mount Rainier images by visiting my Mount Rainier gallery at

As always, thanks for looking!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Where Did All the Snow Go?

Mount Rainier from Glacier View.
What a crazy winter it has been in the Pacific Northwest.  The seasonal term itself could be debated this year, and accused of being a no-show.

How crazy is it?  One can currently drive to many trailheads's over 4,500', such as the Glacier View trailhead in the Glacier View Wilderness outside Mount Rainier National Park.

I coupled this hike with a climb of Mt. Beljica a couple of weeks ago.  What's crazier than being able to access this area so easily in February?  Hiking the almost completely bare trail all the way up to the summit of Glacier View!  This hike typically isn't available until early to mid-July!

What are current snow conditions around our state?  Well, Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park currently reports 4" of snow on the ground.  Their web cam shows bare ground currently.  They should have 87" right now.

Mount Rainier from Glacier View.
Mount Baker, which should be sporting 138" of snow right now, has only 22".

Snoqualmie Pass?  Reportedly there is 21" of snow, but I haven't seen it in any of the posted pictures.  Ski operations finally threw in the towel a week ago and closed shop.  They've claimed the closure is temporary, but with the forecast dry for the next three weeks, it likely will be for the season.

What does this mean for us outdoor lovers?  Hiking season is upon us!  One thing I've notice on the hikes I've been getting out on is the lack of people on the trail.  On a Saturday hike up Glacier View, I didn't encounter a soul the entire hike up or down.  On my climb of Mt. Beljica, I met only a couple and their dog in Beljica Meadows.  That was it.

So, its time to push aside your skiing disappointment and grab your hiking boots.  After all, how many opportunities will you have to hike to typical July destinations in February?

See you on the trail!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Mountain Goats in the Alpine

Mountain goats inhabit the Rocky Mountains, Cascade Range, and other western mountain ranges in North America.  They are found in Washington, Idaho, Montana, British Columbia, Alberta and into the southern Yukon and southeastern Alaska.  They have been introduced elsewhere, including  Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, South Dakota, and the Olympic Peninsula of Washington.

In my home state of Washington, we are fortunate to see them on most any mountain hike we may go on.  They are primarily found in alpine and sub-alpine areas, so the key is to ascend above the tree line for the best viewing opportunities.

I photographed and watched this nannie and kid for an extended period of time during a fall visit to Ingalls Lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. 

This image is currently appearing in the pages of a world-wide distributed wildlife book.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Top 10 All-Time Posts (sorry 2014, no slight intended!).

I know what you are thinking (besides how late this post is), shouldn't this be about my top posts for 2014?  Well, that seems to be everyone's offering this time of year, so why not "shake it up", "go against the grain", "stand up to the man", "think outside the box", "go down the path less traveled", "be my own individual" - whatever you want to call it.  Let's do this!

1.  The North Circle - Glacier National Park.

The Garden wall above flower meadows in Granite Park, Glacier National Park, Montana, USA.
Flower meadows below Fifty Mountain.
My all-time highest viewed post by far is about a backpacking trip I did several years ago in Glacier National Park.  The North Circle provides some of the most beautiful backcountry scenery the park has to offer.  The trip begins at Logan Pass and ends at Many Glacier (or vice versa).

We spent a total of 7 days doing the North Circle in August, spending time at Granite Park, Fifty Mountain, Sue Lake, Stoney Indian Pass & Lake, Mokowanis Lake, Elizabeth Lake & Ptarmigan Tunnel. Sue Lake was accessed by climbing over the shoulder of Mt. Kipp from Fifty Mountain and descending the Chaney Glacier down to Sue Lake Bench. A cross country descent led us down to intersect the Stoney Indian Trail and put us back on the North Circle proper. This variation allowed us to avoid descending several thousand feet down to Waterton Lake, only to have to regain it again to Stoney Indian Lake. And Sue Lake Bench was worth its hardships in gold.

This was a very special trip filled with excitement and adventure, and plenty of wildlife (including a grizzly encounter).  I'm ready to go back!

2.  Photographing Yellowstone National Park.

Blue skies reflected in the waters of Crested Pool, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA.
Crested Pool.
I've spent a lot of time in Yellowstone National Park.  It's an amazing place for photography.  There is so much variety available that something is bound to capture the interest of most shutterbugs.

The park has very distinct features, offering geysers, hot springs, waterfalls, terraces and mud pots.  Each of these features require a slightly different approach with the camera, as well as lighting and weather conditions. 

There is enough to keep you busy here for weeks!  What's more, the abundant wildlife will adds a definite bonus!

3.  Photographing the Enchantment Lakes

Prusik Peak above fall larches at sunrise as a storm clears, Enchantment Lakes, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington, USA.
Prusik Peak at sunrise.
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.

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.

4.  Buck Creek Pass/Spider Gap Loop

Early light on Glacier Peak above Image Lake in the Glacier Peak Wilderness, North Cascades, Washington, USA.
Glacier Peak above Image Lake.
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 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.

5.  Dr. Jose Rizal Park - Wow!

Seattle at night from Dr. Jose Rizal Park, Seattle, Washington, USA.
Seattle from Dr. Jose Rizal Park.
Dr. Jose Rizal Park has amazing views of the Seattle skyline from the south, as well as Safeco and Qwest Field, and Elliot Bay.

The first view that gets your attention is obviously the view of the city and the freeway wrapping around it. At night (or early morning in my case), headlights and taillights create colorful streams of ribon during long exposures. The above image was exposed at 15 seconds, f16.
Qwest Field (now Century Link) is a close second in the running for your attention from this park, at least at night. The colorful blue roof serves as a beacon south of the city.

Dr. Jose Rizal Park is located on Beacon Hill, just off of Dearbon Street (the exit to take off I-5). The approach from the south is a little indirect due to one-way streets and freeway obstruction, but it is worth the effort! Check it out next time you are in the area!

6.  Painted Hills Unit - John Day Fossil Beds NM

Painted Hills at sunset in the John Day Fossil National Monument, Oregon, USA.
Painted Hills at sunset.
 The Painted Hills Unit of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is one of the most popular subjects in Oregon for landscape photographers. It is also the most well known of the unique formations within the monument.

Located near Mitchell, Oregon, the Painted Hills are a photographer's dream. They are colorful, patterned, contrasting, unique and extremely fascinating. Their colors change throughout the day and with even the most subtle change in light. They consist of stratifications of yellow, gold, black, and red as a result of layers of fallen volcanic ash from ancient volcanoes.  The Painted Hills are truly a photographer's delight!

7.  Artist's Palette - Death Valley National Park.

Artist's Palette in Death Valley National Park, California, USA.
Artist's Palette in Death Valley National Park.
Artist's Palette is on the face of the Black Mountains along Artist's Drive in Death Valley National Park.

As the name would suggest, it broadcasts an aray of attractive colors in its rock. The colors are brought on by the oxidation of different metals; red, pink and yellow is from iron salts, green is from decomposing mica, and the purple is from manganese.

The Artist's Drive area provides evidence of one of Death Valley's most violently explosive periods, though this is not the predominant thought on your mind while viewing these colors of the rainbow.

8.  In memory of Karen Sykes, 1945 - 2014

This is the saddest entry on the list.  The hiking community lost a truly special person and lover of life itself this year.

Image of Karen Sykes, courtesy Alan Bauer.
Karen Sykes, 1945 - 2014 (image courtesy Alan Bauer)
I first met Karen in 2007 - March 13th, 2007 to be exact.  It was a special day because it marked my first time hiking with her and another new friend, Alan Bauer.  Little did I know that both would become very good friends and colleagues.
On June 18th, Karen met her fate doing what she loved.  Her final adventure took place in Mount Rainier National Park, on a hike to Owyhigh Lakes with her boyfriend Bob.  Karen did not return. 

There are more questions than answers as to what happened on that day.  And most likely, many of those answers will never come.

I will miss Karen.  I will miss her joyous smile and infectious laugh.  I will miss her quest for adventure and seeking to notice details along the way that others might overlook.  I will miss her kind heart and goodwill to those around her whom she found so important in her life.

Rest in peace, Karen.  You have touched the lives of more than you ever could have imagined, and will be sorely missed.

9.  New Years Eve From Kerry Park!

The city of Seattle from Kerry Park on Queen Anne Hill, Seattle, Washington, USA.
Seattle cityscape from Kerry Park.
Kerry Park is one of, if not the, supreme view of the city skyline that Seattle has to offer, and includes the bonus of Mount Rainier off on the horizon. The visual is magical.

Access to the park was pretty straight forward and easy, even on such a day as New Year's Eve. It is certainly a popular spot, but as with many tourist locations, people come and people go. Too crowded for you? Wait 10-15 minutes.

Kerry Park is not very large. In fact, the "park" is mostly down below viewpoint, and requires a steep descent to visit. Kerry Park as photographers know it is more of a paved viewpoint, roughly 100 feet long. The best vantage if from the far west (right) end near the steps that descend to the play area and basketball court.

A visit to Kerry Park at sunset should be a must on every visitor's list. I strongly recommend it.
The park is located on Queen Anne hill, just west of Queen Anne Ave.

10.  Updated! New for the Holidays - Poster Prints!

Mount Rainier above flower meadows on Mazama Ridge near Paradise, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, USA.I'm excited to share my newest product with you - poster prints! These 12x18 standard sized prints were created by my good friends at ADG Printing in Lynnwood just in time for the holidays and my upcoming shows! They represent 6 of my most popular images from my home state of Washington, and some personal favorites as well.

Well, that's it!  Now it's time to shed the past and move ahead to 2015.  I hope all your hopes and plans see fruition, and that it is a great year for everyone!

See you on the trail!