Archive for the ‘Cascades’ Tag

Single-Image Monday? Perspective   4 comments

I was late getting back from a climb this weekend so have to apologize for no single-image Sunday post.  I always have believed, however, in the phrase “better late than never”.  This is a somewhat unusual perspective on Panther Creek Falls in SW Washington.  It was captured during the rainy-misty weather we had recently, weather which now seems like a distant memory as temperatures soar into the upper 90s.

Panther Creek Falls, Washington

Panther Creek Falls, Washington

Enjoy!  All my images are copyrighted and most (including this one) are not available for free download without my permission.  Please contact me if you have any questions.  Thanks for looking!

Single-image Sunday: Punchbowl Falls   2 comments

Springtime in Oregon is a time of full rivers and waterfalls.

Springtime in Oregon is a time of full rivers and waterfalls.

During spring’s high water flows, it is necessary to get wet to get a river-level view of Punchbowl Falls on Eagle Creek in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.  Later in the year you can wade up further toward the falls.  This spot is a 2-mile hike in from the trailhead (which is about 40 minutes drive east of Portland on I-84).

Awash in Waterfalls   9 comments

A little-known waterfall in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge requires much effort to reach, being set in a pristine and beautiful alcove not accessible by trail.

A little-known waterfall in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge requires much effort to reach, being set in a pristine and beautiful alcove not accessible by trail.

The waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest are both abundant and beautiful.  When I travel to other places in the world, and hear of a waterfall to check out, I always try to dial back my expectations so I’m not disappointed.  We are so spoiled around here.  Of course when we’re talking Angel or Victoria Falls, or even those in Yosemite closer to home, that’s different.  Those waterfalls are world-renowned for good reason.

Victoria Falls, which sits on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border, is one of the world's great cascades.

Victoria Falls, which sits on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border, is one of the world’s great cascades.

Waterfalls of the Gorge – Formation & Geology

The Columbia River Gorge, which slices through the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest along the border between Oregon and Washington, has an abundance of waterfalls.  In fact the Cascades were named for all these cascades along the length of the volcanic chain.  Most of the waterfalls in the Gorge are located on the Oregon side of the Columbia River.  This is because the south side of the river faces north, and so is kept cooler and much wetter than the drier, south-facing Washington side.

Most Oregon waterfalls drop over basalt cliffs, such as Toketee on the North Umpqua River.  This is not surprising, since basalt is a very hard rock, prone to forming cliffs resistant to erosion.

Most Oregon waterfalls drop over volcanic basalt, such as Toketee on the North Umpqua River. This is not surprising, since basalt is a very hard rock, prone to forming cliffs resistant to erosion.

Why are there so many waterfalls here?  Well to start with the climate is wet.  The Columbia’s active and ancient down-cutting, combined with the fact that rocks on either side are very hard volcanic basalt, means that the smaller tributary valleys are left perched above the level of the Columbia.  The Missoula Floods, which were the biggest in world history as far as we know, raced through here more than 10,000 years ago.  These deluges scoured and further deepened the Gorge, helping to sculpt the steep sides down which the waterfalls tumble.

This geological setting has given us easy access to the waterfalls, a fact best illustrated by Multnomah Falls, which can be seen from Interstate 84.  Multnomah is Oregon’s highest cascade at 620 feet (189 meters) total, in two tiers.  Multnomah Creek is busy eroding the basalt of course, but its progress is much slower than the Columbia’s (which is also much older).  And so the cliff that the waterfall drops over stands very near to the creek’s mouth.  Realize that waterfalls erode their cliffs such that over time they move backward, upstream.

Multnomah Falls is Oregon's highest waterfall and one of its most popular tourist attractions.  Here it is in full flood.  The bridge crosses just above the lower cascade and a trail continues to the top of the tall upper cascade.

Multnomah Falls is Oregon’s highest waterfall and one of its most popular tourist attractions. Here it is in full flood. The bridge crosses just above the lower cascade and a trail continues to the top of the tall upper cascade.

There are some larger streams in the Columbia Gorge, such as Eagle Creek, that do not tumble over a tall cliff near their confluence with the Columbia River.  These streams are eroding softer formations, often following fractures or faults that make their jobs even easier.  They are larger streams because of this easier erosion, not the other way around.  Softer rock formations equals larger drainage basins and thus more water captured by the stream.

These side-gorges are not lacking waterfalls however, far from it.  One simply needs to hike up them to get to the cascades.  Your hike will have the added benefit of leaving behind the traffic noiset from he busy interstate.  You will generally be hiking through a narrow and lush gorge.  Eagle Creek, in fact, is one of the most stunning hikes of this type to be found in the world.

A small but beautiful waterfall called Faery Falls in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge.

A small but beautiful waterfall called Faery Falls in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge.

Off-the-Beaten-Track Waterfalls

Now on to this past weekend’s waterfall adventures.  I was on a mission not to visit and photograph those waterfalls with easy access, nor even those along one of the many trails in the Gorge.  My goal was to find at least one new waterfall, at least new for me.  Since I’ve hiked all through this area, that meant going off-trail.  With the recent wet weather, and also the new spring growth, I was in for some wet and messy travel through thick, slippery and potentially nasty brush and down logs.

The first hike was up McCord Creek to see if I could find some small cascades above beautiful Elowah Falls.  The going was pretty rough, and I decided to turn around in order to have the opportunity to visit both Upper McCord Creek Falls and Elowah Falls.  The two are actually so close together you can consider them to be two tiers of a single waterfall.  I could not get a unique angle on Upper McCord Creek Falls, so I”m not posting a picture of this one.  For Elowah, which is accessible by a trail, I wanted to get a good angle from near mid-point of the stream below the tall (220 feet) cascade.  It was raining and the flow was very high.  I got blasted with water from the falls when I passed it on the trail.  Then I clambored out onto a log to reach a mid-stream rock.  I set up there, but had a lot of trouble keeping my lens dry.  The resulting haze gives the picture a bit of a dreamy look, I think.  I will return to this spot when it’s not raining.

Elowah Falls in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge drops into a lush alcove filled with mossy boulders.

Elowah Falls in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge drops into a lush alcove filled with mossy boulders.

The second hike was up Moffett Creek, which enters just east of McCord.  Moffett Creek is a fun one to hike up, primarily because there is no trail.  This is best done in late summer when flows are low enough to wade up the creek where necessary.  This time of year is a different story.  I tried hiking up the creek to reach nearby Wahe Falls (also known as Moffett Crk. Falls).  But it quickly became obvious that the stream (which requires constant crossing) was flowing with too much power to negotiate the route safely.  I turned around and hiked up onto the side of the valley, following the Munra Point Trail.  I soon left the trail and started traversing up the side of the valley, aiming for where I thought the falls were.  It was steep, slippery and very tough going.

A forest of cedars surrounds the waterfall on Moffett Creek in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge.

A forest of cedars surrounds Wahe Falls on Moffett Creek in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge.

I was about to give up when I glimpsed the falls through the trees.  That gave me hope and I gutted out the last steep, thick section.  It’s an 80-foot single drop waterfall, seen by very few people (especially during spring flood).  There is a beautiful cedar tree near its base.  As per usual, it started raining steadily as I set up.  But I managed to get a couple good shots before calling it good.  It was near dark by the time I got out of there, soaking wet and muddy, but with a nice feeling of accomplishment.  There are more cascades further up Moffett Creek.  But that requires climbing gear, a partner or two, and lower water flows.  This is very rugged country.

Hope you enjoyed this illustrated primer on waterfalls.  I will post more waterfall photos on an irregular basis.  Just click on the pictures if you’re interested in prints or download rights.  You will need to click “add image to cart” and then make your choices.  Don’t worry, they won’t be added to your cart until you decide what you want.  The images are copyrighted and illegal to download for free, sorry.  Thanks for your interest, and thanks for reading!

Not a waterfall, but I needed a sunset shot to end this.  Crown Point and the Columbia River Gorge

Not a waterfall, but I needed a sunset shot to end this post! Crown Point and the Columbia River Gorge.

Friday Foto Talk: Disappointment   6 comments

Frozen Mirror Lake in Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon.

Frozen Mirror Lake in Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon.

My goal with these weekly topics is to cover things that are not covered well in other photo blogs, but which nevertheless must be faced and dealt with by every photographer.  So many photography blogs tend to be a little too technical (hello, it’s an art form!) or at the opposite extreme so filled with attempts to elicit chuckles that you wonder at the end if there was anything useful to take away.

When I first started taking pictures there were a few photography classes (which I couldn’t afford), and that was it.  Sure, a few photo how-to books were on the shelves, but I wasn’t into reading books on how to take pictures, I was into taking pictures!  Nowadays of course there are a bazillion ways to learn about photography.  The dirty little secret?  There is not all that much to learn (in a hushed voice); the rest is gained by doing.

So with that little dig directed at the photography education “industry” I will talk about something near and dear to my heart: disappointment.  Last Friday’s topic was on technique, this one isn’t (I like variety, what can I say).

If you are just getting going with photography, particularly landscape and/or nature photography, you will soon be very familiar with disappointment.  You’ll realize being skunked when you go out to get that epic shot is a more common occurrence than being blessed with a special image or three.  The key is to give yourself permission to be disappointed, but not to feel discouraged.

As you go along, you’ll naturally want certain pictures, and it’s often very specific light, foreground, etc. that you imagine capturing.   I live in Oregon and though I have 50 or 60 of my framed photographs on the walls, I don’t yet have a picture of Mount Hood.  Sure I have good shots of Hood, but I haven’t captured Oregon’s highest mountain in its snow-clad, alpenglow-tinged, crystal winter-light magnificence.  I might print and frame a shot of some monastery high in the Himalayas that is merely good.  The exotic location makes it worth framing, despite minor flaws.  But I somehow can’t allow an iconic mountain so close to home to be displayed in any other way than pure excellence.  Some days the mountain never crosses my mind; on other days it’s all I can think about.

That was the case today when I saw the perfect weather conditions developing.  I wanted a snowy winter portrait of Hood with plenty of clouds in the sky and the kind of light pervading the atmosphere that only cold weather can provide.  I drove up in the afternoon and parked near a trail that heads up to a frozen lake directly southwest of the mountain: Mirror Lake.  The exact viewpoint I was headed for, being halfway up a steep slope, is not one used other photographers.  A similar photo can be captured higher up at the top of Tom Dick & Harry Mountain (nice name, huh?), and this is a fairly popular place with local photographers.  But my hopes were for a better foreground.  Since the sun sets south of west these days, and since the snow gave easier access to the bouldery slope, I was destined to be in the right place at the right time, just before sunset.

Tom Dick & Harry Peak.  Actually this is Dick, one of the triple peaks.  They stand above Mirror Lake near Mt Hood, Oregon.

Tom Dick & Harry Mtn. Actually this is Dick, one of the triple peaks. They stand above Mirror Lake near Mt Hood, Oregon.

I donned cross-country skis and set out.  I climbed up to the lake, took a few shots, and continued up the steep slope behind the lake.  It got steeper and steeper, and I struggled a bit.  All the while, I noticed the mountain was peeping in and out of dramatic clouds.  I had high hopes.  Just as the light started turning golden, I grunted up the last few yards before it leveled out.  I’m not one to wax on about great dangerous adventures while taking photos, but the avalanche danger was definitely very near my comfort limit.

I began to notice some clouds coming in.  It had been showing signs of clearing, so I ignored the ominous grey blobs in the sky.  But as I crested the top, it began to snow, and I looked over to see…nothing.  Actually there was something, a dull grey expanse where there should have been a mountain.  I could even see, peeking through, swatches of perfect magenta light on one ridge of Hood.  But the clouds formed a very effective shroud.

I waited for a miracle, but it didn’t happen.  I had been clouded out.  After having spent time, money (for gas) and sweaty effort, I had nothing to show for it – zip, zilch, nada!  I had little time to sulk though, because it began to get dark.  I quickly realized my vulnerable position and skied back down to the lake.  A dozen or so nice powder turns was my reward, and this was certainly something!  After all light had gone but a dull red glow on the western horizon, the clouds quickly dissipated and the mountain came right out.  So typical!

Skiing out on Mirror Lake as the sun goes down.

Skiing out on Mirror Lake as the sun goes down.

Here is the lesson you might have learned already.  Unless you set up lights and can control most aspects of the shoot (except for which side of the bed your model woke up on), you will be forever at the mercy of capricious mother nature.  You will do best to get the pictures you can, but there is no avoiding the desire to capture some favorite subject in a specific way.  That’s when you are set up for the big D.  Just as with life, it is important to take all of your photography disappointments in stride too.  Get a few pictures if you can, but learn that you can live to fight another day.

Whatever you do, don’t give up.  Return to that spot again when the weather conditions are dynamic and unpredictable.  Do not return when the skies are impossibly clear and there is no chance for getting clouded out.  Why?  Because that will not give you the picture you really want.  You see, what we really want is something on the edge of being there and not there.  This diaphanous thing will only exist one day out of a hundred, and only for a few minutes at that.  Remember that persistence will eventually give you a picture that is worthy of hanging on yours or anyone else’s wall.  And most important, you will have earned it through your own dogged determination, all the while having the odd adventure and more than one brush with disappointment.

Mount Hood is completely covered with clouds just in time for a glorious sunset.

Disappointment: Mount Hood is completely covered with clouds just in time for a glorious sunset.

Life without Mountains? No way! Paradise Park   Leave a comment

Indian paintbrush bloom in Paradise Park on Oregon’s Mount Hood.

Shifting gears now, into the realm of my nature & landscape photography & exploration.  But I’ll return to travel again soon.  Mount Hood is the closest major mountain to where I live in Oregon.  I don’t think I could be happy living somewhere without mountains.  I will never understand why people retire in flat Florida.  We in the Pacific Northwest of America are blessed with several different ranges of mountains, but it’s the Cascades that are the tallest and most convenient to where most of us live.

Before going on, I should mention the images you see here are available for licensing and download, or you can purchase as prints.  Visit my website or contact me for more details.  It’s not lawful to download and use them without permission.  Thanks for your interest and cooperation on this.  Okay, back to the mountains!  We have had a much cooler and wetter Spring and early Summer than the rest of the country.  And so the high country has been slow to melt off.  But now the snow is beating a rapid retreat and flowers are beginning to reach their peak in the subalpine meadows of the Cascades.

Lupine bloom along the ridgeline near Paradise Park on Mount Hood, Oregon.

One of Mount Hood’s finest hikes follows the Pacific Crest Trail west from Timberline Lodge and drops for a few miles, only to rise again to Paradise Park.  It is about 11 miles but feels longer.  You will do most of your climbing on the return trip.  With photography it took us a full 8 hours to do the hike.  That includes the 1/2 hour we spent building a rock bridge across Zigzag Creek.  We could have simply taken off boots and waded across, but that would have been too easy.  Besides, who doesn’t like building things, even if it is only a dozen rocks plopped into a river to form a hop-hop crossing.  Those rocks were heavy though!

One of the numerous waterfalls along the trail to Paradise Park, Mt Hood, Oregon.

The weather was perfect, sunny but not hot.  Beautiful lupine, indian paintbrush, glacier lily and beargrass, along with other flowers blooming along the trail, water tumbling everywhere, and the west face of 11,235-foot Mount Hood looming over all of it.  I mentioned the crossing of Zigzag Creek, but you will also need to cross the canyon it has carved.  Moderately steep switchbacks on either side make you earn your entrance to Paradise Park, which extends north from the opposite side of the canyon.  Soon after crossing the creek, a loop route departs the main trail and enters perfectly named Paradise Park.

Park is a word applied to subalpine meadows near timberline (at 5000-6000 feet elevation here).  Gorgeous streams lined with water-loving wild lily and monkeyflower pass boulders dropped by glaciers.  Glaciers are still visible from here, but they have retreated far up the mountain during recent (warming) times.  There are several great camping spots, and one was occupied by a backpacking couple.

On the return trip (it’s an out and back hike), the clouds which had been hanging in lower elevations began to rise and swirl among the trees, causing a beautiful effect looking toward the sinking sun.  Light was shifting so fast I did not bother to set up a tripod, and it was just bright enough shooting into the Sun for hand-held pictures.   As we approached the Lodge, Mount Jefferson formed a distant counterpoint as the last rays of the sun hit the iconic building.

Mount Hood’s Timberline Lodge is less than an hour and a half from Portland, Oregon, and parking is free.  In summer Timberline is crowded with ski camp participants, mostly youngsters in bright lycra.  They look a little funny in their enormous boots, lugging bulky boards.  You might think the trail would be crowded as well, but realize that most people do not have the energy for an 11-mile hike, so you should only see a few other hikers in Paradise Park.

Mists swirl through the forests of Mount Hood in Oregon.

This hike is near the top of my list on Mount Hood.  There are a few other great ones, but Paradise Park requires a fairly short drive and you get to park somewhere that does not require a Forest Service parking pass.  For me, one who does not go along with the Forest Service on this, it’s a nice bonus!

So if you find yourself at Timberline Lodge  some day, set aside the good part of a day to do Paradise Park.  If you don’t hang about taking tripod-mounted pictures, it should only take about 6 hours.  You will thank yourself for taking the time to hike through the flower-filled meadows and beautiful forests of Mount Hood.

We don’t have the highest mountains in the world, and they are not stacked on top of each other as in the Rockies or Alps (they are isolated volcanoes). But this is enough for me.  And since Portland lies only an hour or so from the Cascades, it’s the next best thing to actually living in mountains.

I’m watching many family members and some older friends retire to Florida now, and I just can’t see myself joining them.  Where would I hike?  Where would I ski?  No thanks!

Timberline Lodge floats above the clouds on Mount Hood in Oregon.

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