Tapto Lakes

Mount Challenger and the Challenger Glacier in North Cascades National Park at sunset
“If you want blood, you got it” – AC/DC

This report is a bit longer than normal, for reasons that will become obvious.

A visit to Tapto Lakes and Whatcom Pass in North Cascades National Park has been on my wish list for a number of years. Each year I thought to myself that this was the year I’d make a go of it but never did. My regular backpacking partner hates the “rigidity” of NPS backpacking and also had knee surgery. If I was to do this, I would have to do this solo. Could I do it? It’s a two day approach and I’ll admit, this was a bit daunting to me. None the less, this was finally was my year and through a series of unrelated events, the timing of my trip coincided with clear and sunny skies. My plan was such:

Day One: Hannegan Pass Trailhead to U.S. Cabin Camp
Day Two: U.S. Cabin Camp to Tapto Lakes
Day Three: Tapto Lakes
Day Four: Tapto Lakes
Day Five: Tapto Lakes to Copper Creek Camp
Day Six: Copper Creek Camp to Hannegan Pass Trailhead

I headed out Sunday morning and stopped off at the NPS / FS Center in Sedro-Woolley only to be told that they don’t issue any permits for that area (FYI- you need to go to the Glacier Visitor Center for that). It’s still on the way so no big deal; An hour or so later, I stopped in Glacier to get my permit and, thankfully, I was able to get all of my plan permitted. Another hour or so later, I was headed up the trail towards Hannegan Pass.

The frontside trail up to Hannegan Pass is in great shape with still water available along the trail (not at the number of opportunities as earlier in the summer however). Flowers have been pretty much done for a little while but the views never go away. From Hannegan Pass onward, everything was new to me. After descending to the National Park boundary and Boundary Camp, the trail re-enters the forest and begins its descent. That descent seemed pretty blunt and I remember thinking that I wouldn’t look forward to this on my way back out.

The trail’s descent does ease a little as you approach Copper Creek camp. After a hydration break, I started out on the final 2.6 miles to U.S. Cabin Camp. The forest in the Chilliwack River valley is beautiful. At times, it’s mossy and with a diverse understory. Lots of big trees, too. My time seemed to also coincide with an explosion of mushrooms. Hundreds of them were everywhere and all sorts of varieties (I’m no mycologist). The size of some of these things was incredible.

Mount Challenger in North Cascades National Park at sunset
Constellation Orion over Mount Challenger in North Cascades National Park
Milky Way over Red Face Mountain in North Cascades National Park
Another thing there was plenty of was blowdown. It looks like the Park Service didn’t get much trail maintenance done either on the Chilliwack or Brush Creek Trail this year (sequestration anyone?). Much of the downed wood could be stepped over but there were a few times between U.S. Cabin and Graybeal Camp where you had to remove the pack to negotiate your way through it. Late in the afternoon, I arrived at U.S. Cabin and eventually found my site for the night. The forest around the camp is also beautiful and the quick stroll out to the Chilliwack River offers a few views of Copper Ridge high above or Mineral Mountain back up valley.

I had a pleasant night at U.S. Cabin with the exception of one party near the stock camp who was hooting & hollering like they were dispersed car camping. Eventually, they also settled down for the night. I was tired after the long day and part of me still wondered if I had it in me to make it up to Tapto Lakes. The next morning I headed out about 8:30 and took the obligatory cable car ride across the Chilliwack. Good times! Beyond here, I took a brief break at the Brush Creek bridge crossing for a few pictures and then continued on to Graybeal Camp.

From Graybeal, the fun ends and the work begins- 3 miles and 2,000’ of gain to Whatcom Pass. Much of the way is in forest so that does shield you from the sun. Make no mistake- in the middle of the day, it’s still warm so my progress with a full pack was slow. Views open up and teaser views of Whatcom Pass, Whatcom Peak, and Tapto Lakes basin above begin but that turn off for Whatcom Camp seemingly would never come. FINALLY, about 4:30pm I made Whatcom Pass. There’s no signage at the pass so it’s a little understated. I admired the Little Bear Creek valley to the north during a break before doubling back for the waypath up towards Tapto Lakes.

First light on Whatcom Peak at sunrise in North Cascades National Park
Driftwood scene along the shoreline of one of the Tapto Lakes in North Cascades National Park
Sunset on Mount Challenger and Whatcom Peak from Tapto Lakes in North Cascades National Park
I didn’t quite know what to expect of the trail from the pass up to Tapto and I can tell you I wasn’t ready for what it actually is: a waypath. Actually, it’s more like a fisherman’s trail during your ascent through the trees immediately above the pass with a few select class III moves thrown in for good measure. Not what you want after a long day on the trail and with a full pack. After making the turn off from the East Lake spur, I was taking a break on a boulder when some brush crackling upslope away from me caught my ear.

About 60 yards away, a nice sized black bear was grazing on huckleberries (ripe everywhere, BTW) and making his/her way down in the direction of Whatcom Pass. At first, the bear didn’t notice me but as I fumbled my water bottle and it ping ponged off several rocks, it became aware of me. A friendly salutation was met with indifference and it continued grazing. This would be the only bear I would see the entire trip. After FINALLY getting my first view of the Tapto Lakes basin, I got the rude surprise that my effort wasn’t over. There’s still a fair amount of switchbacks to descend to finally get into the basin. Coming off of the severe rains several days before my visit, parts of the trail were slick and I promptly banana peel slipped onto my ass.

As photography was my primary goal, I knew I wanted views of Challenger from my camp so I set out for the west end of the basin and settled in on a grassy pad located below Lemon Lime Lake (as referenced in this previous NWHikers thread). Sunset my first night was probably the “best” of my three nights, only because there were a few clouds to reflect some of the alpenglow light. The entire rest of my trip would be under cloudless skies.

Sunset on Mount Challenger from Tapto Lakes in North Cascades National Park
Constellation Orion over Mount Challenger from Tapto Lakes in North Cascades National Park
Constellation Orion over Mount Challenger from Tapto Lakes in North Cascades National Park
Overnight, I got up around 3:30am to shoot some stars over Challenger & Whatcom Peak. My three sunrises would be carbon copies- cloudless and not that exciting (but still wonderful to watch). Tuesday was my first full day of two in Tapto Lakes basin and I basically spent the day doing laundry, filtering water, and just lounging around. The true effort to make it up to Tapto from Whatcom Pass eliminated any desired to hike out of the basin until the end of my time in the basin.

Monday and Tuesday nights were both breezy as soon as the sun had set but Tuesday was especially blustery. It was like a freight train coming from the east and, honestly I was concerned when I left my tent that a strong gust might rip it away (I ended up putting a heavy rock inside as I shot some more stars). On Wednesday afternoon, I made the trek up to the ridge of Red Face Mountain. The hike up wasn’t too bad and not particularly sketchy. In fact, the only sketchy part was standing on the ridge looking north towards Indian Mountain and the headwaters of Indian Creek. The cliff drops abruptly so I didn’t linger long.

The next morning, I packed up and began my two day hike out. After Whatcom Pass, I enjoyed the downhill pace of the hike back down to Graybeal. In the middle portion of the trail between Graybeal and Whatcom Pass, the trail crosses through some extensive brushy avalanche slopes. As I tend to do, I clank my poles together to make noise since I’m travelling solo. About 20 feet from the end of the final brushy, rocky section of trail, the unthinkable happened.

Tapto Lakes basin from Red Face Mountain in North Cascades National Park
Mount Challenger from Red Face Mountain in North Cascades National Park
Mount Challenger at sunset in North Cascades National Park
As I clanked my poles together, I planted my left foot onto a rock. While intentional, my foot moved and that was unintentional. Like a calving glacier or a building imploding, I began to fall left (downhill) and I couldn’t plant my left pole in time.

“Oh sh!t..”

I hit belly first like Pete Rose sliding into a base, frantically trying to grab vegetation to stop my motion. Before I could grab anything meaningful, a small rock stopped me by saying hello to the side of my head. I was stunned at what had just happened but I was at least stopped. I sat up and felt the side of my temple behind my left eye. Looking at my hand, I saw some blood. I wiped it away and felt again; more blood. Damn.

I floundered in my attempts to climb back up to the trail (mind you I still have a 40lb pack on my back) but eventually did. Ok- I know I’m bleeding but I still had my balance; that’s a good sign, right? Thankfully, literally just around the corner was a small creek with cool water. I dropped my pack and used my bandana to clean the blood away. I reached for my iPhone and used the Facetime setting to snap a selfie to see what I had done to myself. Oh oh. That’s not good. Not BAD, but probably not good either. At this point, I began “cold compression” on the wound area by constantly soaking the bandana in cold water and applying it to the wound areas.

Challenger Glacier at sunset in North Cascades National Park
Looking down Little Beaver Creek valley from Whatcom Pass in North Cascades National Park
After 20 minutes of this, any bleeding had slowed and I decided I would continue to hike (my balance was still good) down and stop at Graybeal Camp to break out my first aid kit and figure out what to do. I put my sombrero hat on to cover most of the wound areas and after only a mile, I strolled into an empty Graybeal. At the primo campsite along the creek, I broke out my first aid kit and my iPhone yet again to actually see what the hell I needed to do. Another photo reassessment. The wounds weren’t actively bleeding and the swelling that was present wasn’t alarming. It stung and sucked but I still felt relatively normal. I got lucky. I applied some antibiotic and then cobbled together a knuckle & two standard band aids to cover the most serious wounds.

Now I was faced with a new dilemma- should I tell my girlfriend or not? I’ve used the inReach satellite messaging device since it was release for iPhones a couple years ago and this trip was no exception. Throughout the trip, I regularly checked in and apprised her of my whereabouts. I decided that I would text her and tell her about the incident but reassure here that I was ok and would continue on to Copper Creek as I had planned.

During the next 20 minutes, I played satellite 20 questions with a woman whose professional background includes nursing. There’s NO assuring someone with that background, especially when the injury in question is located someplace you can’t really see (“how deep is the wound?”, “what did you hit?”). By now, it was about 12:20pm and I couldn’t to sit around. I needed to get going to Copper Creek.
Giving blood in North Cascades National Park
Self applied first aid at Graybeal Camp in North Cascades National Park
Once again on the trail in the Brush Creek valley, my hiking pace on level and downhill trail sections was still fairly strong. I kept passing milestones- Brush Creek bridge, cable car, U.S. Cabin. Even as I finally encountered the elevation gain necessary to reach Copper Creek, I still kept a steady pace. I really began to think about the possibility of making the LONG push all the way out to the Hannegan Pass trailhead.

At 3:30pm, I reached Copper Creek. Four hours until sunset- could I hike the 3 miles and 2,000 vertical feet and make Hannegan Pass before dark? If I could, I knew I could suck it up and make the final 4 miles downhill to the trailhead. Away I went. I was in a zone, focused on left foot, right foot. Little further, break. A little further, break. Boundary Camp finally appeared and so did Hannegan Pass. 1 more mile and 700’ of gain.

Just prior to 7pm I pushed up an over the pass and started down the Ruth Creek side. I texted my girlfriend of my status and then hunkered down for the slog ahead. I tried to cover as much trail during the remaining daylight as I could safely and swiftly. At 2 miles from the trailhead, I made my final stop and topped off my water. Darkness now settled in and my headlamp showed the way. I slowed my pace since the trail is pretty rocky and I didn’t need ANOTHER spill.

The last mile would never end. In the dark, the trail I’ve hiked several times looked like nothing familiar. Where’s that avalanche debris you hike through?.. Suddenly, my headlamp reflected off of a car’s reflectors and then the wilderness sign-in box appeared. Oh my god, I just hiked 18.4 miles with a full pack (my new personal best). It was 8:50pm. Relief is dropping your pack into your truck and not having to put it back on.

After changing and a quick bandana bath, I started my drive home. There’s a small pocket of cell coverage where the Hannegan Pass Road meets the Mount Baker Highway so I text’d my girlfriend that I was driving home. At almost midnight on the dot, I was parked in front of her place. Once inside, she had her medical supplies ready and took a look. I was sure she was going to say that we needed to head to the ER for some stitches but she thought it looked good and didn’t need them. Whew. Actually, she was impressed with what I basically improv’d as first aid.

She cleaned out the wound areas, steri-stripped it, and bandaged it up for the night. I couldn’t remember the last time I had a tetanus shot so, at her desire, I got one the next morning. And that ended my first ever trip to Tapto Lakes. Despite a career best day of hiking, I incredibly felt GOOD the next morning. No extreme soreness, no knee pain. I have no idea how this could be.

A few more days removed from the trip, I still feel pretty normal with no ill side effects. My wounds seem to be healing nicely and look better. I was certainly lucky, no doubt about that. I’m not going to overthink my incident because it’s going to happen at some point or another. Mine was a fluke and not the result of stupidity. In the end, it was certainly a trip that I will not soon forget. I have yet to really go through my SLR photos but I think they won’t hold up much against the experiences and emotions of my trip. It was an arduous test and I passed it. That’s good enough for me.

Bear Mountain

Bear Mountain in the Wild Sky Wilderness
In 2008, the Wild Sky Wilderness was established by Congress after several years of grassroots lobbying. The areas set aside as wilderness lie largely in the southeast corner of Snohomish County and extend some of the protections that exist thanks to the Henry M Jackson Wilderness. The Wild Sky is comprised of three individual units- Ragged Ridge, Eagle Rock, and West Cady. The Eagle Rock and Ragged Ridge units are both characterized by steep and rugged terrain and the West Cady unit is characterized by miles of alpine meadows. The Eagle Rock unit is surrounded by roads (Index-Galena Road to the west & North, Highway 2 to the south, and Beckler River Road to the east) but lacks any easy access to its interior. Sure, logging’s historical infrastructure of now decommissioned roads provide some small amount of access but this area is devoid of any hiking trails. The creation of a trail plan was required when the wilderness was created but it will be several more years before any of the trails identified get constructed.

I’ve been interested in exploring the Wild Sky for a little while and finally got started this past weekend. I started with photographing Bear Mountain, which is in the northeast corner of the Eagle Rock unit. Using some of the existing forest service roads as a start, my final destination was the ridge line of San Juan Hill. During my research with Google Earth, it appeared to me that there were some open patches located around one of the high points on the ridge. The first thing I encountered on my visit was a decommissioned road. This was aggravating since I checked the Forest Service’s Motor Vehicle Use Map before leaving that morning and it is still shown as drivable. Guess I’d be hiking just little more than I had anticipated.
Bear Mountain (right) and Spire Mountain (left) in the Wild Sky Wilderness
Bear Mountain (right) and Spire Mountain (left) in the Wild Sky Wilderness
Troublesome Mountain (left) in the Wild Sky Wilderness, Columbia Mountain (back center), Kyes Peak (back right) in the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness
Since they are no trails, the directions were basic: climb uphill until it levels out. The steepness was pretty unrelenting. Many of the trees on the slope were almost J shaped due to the downward pressure that the winter snowpack puts on the trunks. It was a sweat filled 50 minutes to climb the 600 feet to gain the high point for this portion of the ridge but it quickly became worth it. The ridge top did indeed have several clear outcrops that looked both west and to the north. Even better, there were several weather snags that could be used as foreground elements for my photos.

The weather was certainly dynamic. There was a 30% chance of rain and, minute by minute, the amount of blue sky patches would change. It was perfect for a time lapse so I tucked my GoPro behind the base of one of the snags and fired it off. It was quite rewarding to get this peek into the wild interior of the Eagle Rock unit. The clouds did prevent us from enjoying views of Glacier Peak and some of the other more prominent peaks in the distance. Although we didn’t see any, there was evidence that mountain goats had spent some time up on the top (a few tufts of white hairs in the lower branches of a tree).
Bear Mountain (right) and Spire Mountain (center) in the Wild Sky Wilderness
Bear Mountain (center) and Spire Mountain (left) in the Wild Sky Wilderness
Bear Mountain (right) and Spire Mountain (center) in the Wild Sky Wilderness
After a healthy amount of time, I ended my time lapse and we packed up our stuff. We weren’t on the “true” summit of San Juan Hill but it wasn’t too far from us to the south. The ridge line is forested but travel wasn’t too bad thanks to the large amount of airy huckleberry shrubs. We even followed a faint trail or game trail for most of our traverse. We were close to the true summit but the point of diminishing returns had been reached. Neither of us felt particularly compelled to reach the highest point (it appears to be 100% forested anyways). The travel back down slope to the decommissioned road wasn’t as bad as our original ascent.

There was still some time left in the day and I decided that it was also high time that I visit the middle portion of the North Fork Skykomish River valley. It’s another place I’ve wanted to visit but haven’t been able to because the road (Index-Galena Road) had been closed to public access for several years due to flood damage. We made our way to the Troublesome Creek Campground. Across the road from the campground is a short nature loop trail along both sides of the creek. The water is clear and a brilliant shade of turquoise at times and the surrounding forest also has some interest as well. I thought there was a waterfall along Troublesome Creek but apparently it’s located along a different creek in the area. Oh well!
Bear Mountain in the Wild Sky Wilderness
Troublesome Creek in the North Fork Skykomish River valley
Boulder detail along Troublesome Creek in the North Fork Skykomish River valley
After coming home, I got a big scare- my memory card failed to read successfully. Oh god. Several weeks ago, I had a similar situation with my GoPro’s memory card. I turned to a card recovery program (RescuePro Deluxe) and it worked a miracle. Would lightning strike twice? Well- just about! I ended up losing a handful of images but I was able to recover the vast majority of them. After four years or so, I guess it was time to retire the memory card. There’s a lesson in there- retire your memory cards before you regret it!

Oregon’s Paradise

Wildflowers in Paradise Park, Mount Hood Wilderness, Mount Hood National Forest
Late July to early August is the time that meadows across the Cascade Mountain range come alive with wildflowers. Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park is perhaps the most well known location for wildflowers here in the northwest but it’s by no means the only location. A few years ago, I learned of a meadow on Oregon’s Mount Hood that’s home to an amazing display of beargrass, which is a grass like perennial but actually a member of the Lily family. Beargrass “blooms” follow a cycle so the number of beargrass that do bloom each year will vary. Once every so often, a super bloom will occur resulting in an impressive display and 2009 was such a year in a place named Paradise Park on Mount Hood.

Located in the Mount Hood Wilderness, Paradise Park is a four mile hike north from the famous Timberline Lodge via the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s actually quite an interesting hike in a number of ways. A typical wildflower hike starts low and climbs high but trekking out to Paradise Park starts high, loses 1,100′ of elevation, and then regains 1,000′ to reach the start of the meadows. The other aspect of this hike I found interesting was the variety of ecological zones that the hike travels through. The first mile or two traverses across a corrugated alpine pumice landscape followed by a brief re-entry into high elevation forest. This brings you to the rim of the impressive Zigzag Canyon, which is where the Zigzag River has cut down nearly 1,000 feet down through volcanic deposits. The 4,800′ bottom of the canyon crosses through classic western Cascade forest before reversing the experience on the way up to Paradise Park.
Zigzag Canyon, Mount Hood Wilderness, Mount Hood National Forest
Zigzag Falls in Zigzag Canyon, Mount Hood Wilderness, Mount Hood National Forest
Wildflowers along the South Fork Lost Creek in Paradise Park, Mount Hood Wilderness, Mount Hood National Forest
I was ultimately inspired to make my first visit by a hiker’s comment on the Portland Hikers forum (a great resource for hiking in Oregon) which indicated that the wildflowers were at peak condition right now. While there would be no beargrass blooms, I felt a change of pace from the rat race of Mount Rainier’s Paradise was in order (more on that in another blog post). Forecasts pointed to good weather for the most part but always with a “chance” of thunderstorms. My plan was to overnight in Paradise Park one night, hike out the next day, drive around the mountain and do it all over again at another meadow-y setting. Sure enough, I set out under sunny skies with an ever growing cloud above Mount Hood. Temperatures in the upper 70s made the hike a bit toasty, particularly with heavy pack. I’ve tried to pare down the weight of my backpacking set but I think I have a bit more work to do!

Even with 40+ lbs on my back, I found myself an hour later at the rim of the Zigzag Canyon (2.3 miles from my starting point at Timberline). After a break and some photos, an hour later I was crossing the Zigzag River and beginning my climb up to Paradise Park. The mid afternoon sunshine was still cooking so my climb up to Paradise Park took close to another 90 minutes. It seemed like I would never reach Paradise Park but eventually I turned the corner and there it was. Now, before I continue, I feel the need to explain something. Photographers use a lot of adjectives to describe scenes such as amazing, grand and stunning. So much so that they, perhaps, loose their impact.
Wildflowers in Paradise Park, Mount Hood Wilderness, Mount Hood National Forest
Wildflowers in Paradise Park, Mount Hood Wilderness, Mount Hood National Forest
Wildflowers in Paradise Park, Mount Hood Wilderness, Mount Hood National Forest
Despite my numerous outings over the last five years, I will admit that the number of times I’ve been truly moved by the scene in front of me have been few. What’s my definition of “moved”? I’d say it’s the desire to share what you’re experiencing with someone you hold dear. It’s wishing someone was with you at that moment because it’s the only way they can ever truly understand why you do what you do. Rounding the corner as the first meadow of Paradise Park came into view was one of those moments for me (only my second time this year). As picturesque as any meadow I’ve ever seen, I just wanted to drop everything and just stare. The sweat and fatigue of the journey to get here was but it was so, so worth it at this moment.

If I was to get ready for sunset, I needed to get going and set up camp. Not too far after entering Paradise Park is the South Fork of Lost Creek and the first campsites found in Paradise Park. The creek was lined with all sort of wildflowers along with one of the finest campsites I’ve ever seen. As good as it seemed, I decided to keep going, at least until the crossing of the North Fork of Lost Creek. Again, the creek was lined with wildflowers but the campsites were much more exposed. There was still a threat of thunderstorms so the prudent thing to do was to retreat back to the more sheltered campsites along the South Fork. I set up my camp and took a little nap before setting back out to the first meadow for sunset.
Wildflowers in Paradise Park, Mount Hood Wilderness, Mount Hood National Forest
Last light towards the west from Paradise Park, Mount Hood Wilderness, Mount Hood National Forest
Sunrise and wildflowers in Paradise Park, Mount Hood Wilderness, Mount Hood National Forest
Behind the Paradise Park Loop Trail signpost is a way path that meanders up through the meadow towards Mississippi Head and the rest of Mount Hood. The flowers here were thick, in perfect form, and consisted mostly of Lupine, American Bistort, Arnica, and some sporadic Indian Paintbrush. As I’ve grown fond of doing, I brought along my GoPro so that I could also shoot a time lapse series. The only downside of this is that you have to pick a spot and stay there. Sometimes this doesn’t work out to your advantage. At this lower location in the meadow, the focal point are the flowers and Mount Hood; not much else is visible due to the treeline which is literally all around you.

On this night, this didn’t work in my advantage. The large billowing clouds from the afternoon had pretty much disappeared by sunset. Minus the clouds, there wasn’t much left to capture and reflect the warm light of sunset. Behind me, though, the skies were filled with pinks and oranges. I worked my surroundings as best as I could before calling it an evening. Clouds seeped back in the darker it got and I pretty much knew that any star photography wasn’t going to be an option. I was tired enough that I didn’t have a big problem with that.
Sunrise and wildflowers in Paradise Park, Mount Hood Wilderness, Mount Hood National Forest
Sunrise and wildflowers in Paradise Park, Mount Hood Wilderness, Mount Hood National Forest
Wildflowers in Paradise Park, Mount Hood Wilderness, Mount Hood National Forest
Waking up at 4:45am the next morning, I hiked back to the same meadow for sunrise serenaded by the cooing of a mourning dove. It was quite evident that I was in for a gray sunrise. Still, there was little wind and the no bugs. True sunrise greeted me with a few moments of light rain. This area was so nice that I had been toying with the idea of extending my stay one extra night. The weather (and myself, frankly) wasn’t looking too good so I kept with the decision to hike out and head home. Before breaking camp, I continued furthered up the path to the upper slopes. I found it interesting that the wildflowers (primarily asters) were actually a little bit past prime and somewhat “burned” out. Lower slopes normally burn out before the upper slopes simply because that’s the way the snowpack melts back during the course of summer.

By the time I had packed up camp and hit the trail, the sun appeared. A bit bittersweet but frankly it didn’t last too long. Most of the uphill hike out was graced by cloudy skies which did keep me a bit cooler. Even with dubious forecasts, I crossed paths with lots of people hiking in towards Paradise Park. After returning home, I found that that Timberline Lodge received 2.5″ of rain during the time I would have still been out there had I extended my stay. One thing I sometimes do after a trip is re-examine my “research” on an area to better understand and merge the on the ground reality I experienced and the textual or other information I had leading up to my visit. I discovered AFTER the fact that there were two waterfalls in the Paradise Park area which I could have photographed. Doh! Even with such a quick introduction to the area, I know I’ll be back. Acres of wildflowers that I didn’t have to share with anyone? Why would I NOT return??! I would highly recommend a visit to Paradise Park!
Wildflowers in Paradise Park, Mount Hood Wilderness, Mount Hood National Forest

Lastly, I’d like to give a special hat tip to Oregon photographer Wesley Picotte who generously shared some of his knowledge with me while I was researching my trip. Check out his great work also from the Pacific Northwest. Thanks again, Wesley!

Top Ten Photos of 2012

It’s the end of 2012 and time to look back upon the previous year and pick out some favorite photos. They primarily are personal favorites but some of my choices were well received but others who viewed them. As for the year itself, I branched out a little bit, both geographically and subject-wise. I was able to pursue wildlife photography a little more with trips to Boundary Bay in British Columbia for the Snowy Owl irruption and my first ever trip to Yellowstone National Park.

1.) Big Four Mountain – South Fork Stillaguamish River Valley

Big Four Mountain - South Fork Stillaguamish River Valley

Taken from a spring outing, I was hoping to capture some avalanches coming down the impressive 4,000 foot high north face of Big Four Mountain. This conversion to black & white using Nik’s Silver Efex 2 worked well.

More photos from this trip can be found in my blog post here.

2.) The Tree and the Log – Boundary Bay, British Columbia

The Tree and the Log - Boundary Bay, British Columbia

This was taken in the late afternoon during my first ever visit to Boundary Bay, British Columbia to see and photograph the large gathering of Snowy Owls. The incoming fog white washed the entire scene but this lone tree stood out in stark contrast.

More photos from this trip can be found in my blog post here.

3.) Early Bird’s Worm – Everett, Washington

Early Bird's Worm - Everett, Washington

A sunrise shot from this fall, I was running a few minutes behind what I wanted and the color was already starting in the sky as I drove to this location. Thankfully, I was able to set up just before the peak display of colors.

More photos from this trip can be found in my blog post here.

4.) Pinnacles and Tree – Clear Fork Cowlitz River Valley

Pinnacles and Tree - Clear Fork Cowlitz River Valley

This was taken on a spring trip to the Ohanepecosh River valley in Mount Rainier National Park, but is not in the park. This spot is located along U.S. Hwy 12 just a few miles east of the SR-123 turn off for the park. I loved the colors of the lichen on the columnar volcanic rock and the small tree which gave some perspective for size.

More photos from this trip can be found in my blog post here.

5.) Spreading – Lewis River Valley

Spreading - Lewis River Valley

For the last couple years, I’ve made a side trip to explore the Lewis River valley near Mount Saint Helens on my drive home from the Columbia River Gorge. Near the trailhead for Middle Lewis River Falls, I spied this beautiful Vine Maple growing downslope of the Forest Service road. I loved the vibrant green from the young leaves and how the just gracefully spread around the snag located in front.

More photos from this trip can be found in my blog post here.

6.) Brilliance at Boundary Bay, Boundary Bay, British Columbia

Brilliance at Boundary Bay, Boundary Bay, British Columbia

Another shot from my visit to Boundary Bay in British Columbia. The next morning after my arrival, I was treated to one of the best sunrises of the year. I felt very fortunate (and lucky!) to have captured this given my unfamiliarity with the location.

More photos from this trip can be found in my blog post here.

7.) Fall, Meet Winter – North Fork Skykomish River Valley

Fall, Meet Winter - North Fork Skykomish River Valley

This photo was taken during my lone “real” outing for fall colors this year. on a hunch, I thought I should revisit some spots located in the upper drainage of the North Fork Skykomish River here in the North Central Cascades. I remember that one of my wishes for the day was a photo of vine maple color with snow (fresh snow had fallen recently). I was planning on seeking this out near the summit of Stevens Pass along U.S. Highway 2 but I was pleasantly surprised to find these conditions up the Skykomish.

More photos from this trip can be found in my blog post here.

8.) Shuksan Arm and Mount Shuksan – North Cascades National Park

Shuksan Arm and Mount Shuksan - North Cascades National Park

One of my perennial visits during winter is Artist Point near the Mount Baker Ski Area in the North Cascades. In this image, I loved the contrast between the warm sunset light on Mount Shuksan and the colder shadows that have overtaken the Shuksan Arm ridgeline in the lower foreground.

More photos from this trip can be found in my blog post here.

9.) Another Day – Yellowstone National Park

Another Day - Yellowstone National Park

Taken from my first ever trip to Yellowstone, this was my second sunrise and first from the Mammoth Terraces located at Mammoth Hot Springs in the northwest corner of the park. Sunrise wasn’t that notable due to the lack of clouds but I really liked how the direct light really accentuated the details of the terrace.

More photos from this trip can be found in my blog post here.

10.) Thorton Lakes Fall – North Cascades National Park

Thorton Lakes Fall - North Cascades National Park

Another first visit this year. Thorton Lakes is off by itself and takes a fair amount of grunt work to reap its rewards. I took this photo from the ridge that surrounds the lower lake and isolates some of the fall color located on the bench slopes between the lower and middle lakes.

More photos from this trip can be found in my blog post here.

There’s my top ten! As I usually do, I’ll throw in two more bonus photos…

11.) Evening Commute – Yellowstone National Park

Evening Commute - Yellowstone National Park

Taken on the last evening of my visit to Yellowstone National Park. Volatile weather during the day made for dramatic conditions at sunset. I decided to try my luck in the Slough Creek side valley near the Lamar Valley. As I turned onto the dusty road up the valley, we were stopped by bison crossing the road. It turns out that every bison in the lower valley would cross the road right next to the first parking pullout. I was faced with the dilemma of photographing sunset or bison using my Sigma 50-500mm lens. I ended up trying to do both. Most bison shots didn’t turn out but I was happy with the sunset related shots, especially given what I was using.

More photos from this trip can be found in my blog post here.

12.) Mount Jefferson Sunset – Mount Jefferson Wilderness

Mount Jefferson Sunset - Mount Jefferson Wilderness

During my visit to the Columbia River Gorge and Mount Hood region this year, I hiked up Tom Dick and Harry Mountain for sunset. As usual, I was running behind time wise and really had to bust my butt to make the summit in time for sunset. The last half of the trail was all snow and a lot of work. I made it but sunset wasn’t anything special with the exception of this little scene some 40 miles to my south. I took this shot with my 300mm zoom at 300mm and I just love the shape of the lenticular clouds above the mountain.

More photos from this trip can be found in my blog post here.

Still want more? Ok. I selected about 70 photos from this past year and put together this slideshow:

Happy holidays everyone and here’s to looking forward to 2013!

Website Update (and some commentary)

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve updated my website by adding nearly 40 new photos taken during the first half of this year. You can view those photos in my New Photos gallery. Normally, that would be the extent of my “new photo” announcement. This time, however, I’d also like to mention that I’ve also completed a large project where I have re-processed nearly every photo that is on my website (that’s 300+ photos).

I created my website about four years ago and a lot has changed since then. My experience, both in the field and with Photoshop, has grown tremendously. I’ve largely been focused on the present and the future but, earlier this year, I realized that I could do a better job of processing my oldest photos based on my current knowledge and skill set.

And so it began. I’ve posted a few before and after comparisons on my Google Plus account but I’ll share a few examples of what I’m talking about. One of the common mistakes I made was using a display that wasn’t color-calibrated. Eventually all serious photographers realize this mistake and incorporate color calibration into their normal workflow. Your not aware of it at the time but it slaps you in the face once you realize it. Here we have a waterfall scene along Deception Creek:

Deception Creek- Original (left) and updated version (right)It should be obvious that the original photo (on the left) has a HUGE green color cast to it. However, once corrected, the difference is striking. Here is another example from the wildflower meadows on Mazama Ridge in Mount Rainier National Park:

Mazama Ridge wildflowers- Original (left) and updated version (right)After the correction, the colors of the lupine really pop and it’s not due to an increase in the color saturation! Another type of correction, although less common in my collection, was for dynamic range. Now consider this photo of fall color in the Wells Creek drainage on the north side of Mount Baker:

Wells Creek fall color- Original (left) and updated version (right)The foreground was in shade but the upper ridge where the fall color was located was in full sunshine. When I originally processed this photo, my abilities at the time could only accommodate the shadows or the highlights but not both. At the time, not even an HDR process could produce a satisfactory result. Through what I have learned since then, I was able to blend two exposures from the original single RAW file and I’m very happy with the results. Now the clouds, bright fall color, and cliff faces are not overexposed *AND* there is sufficient detail in the shade of the foreground.

Some photos were originally color but, after some reflection, I felt would have more impact if converted to black and white. This photo of Hemispheres at the Mount Baker Ski Area is a prime example:
Hemispheres in the Mount Baker Ski Area backcountry- Original (left) and updated version (right)This process took quite a while and seemed like it would never end. In the end, however, I am quite happy with the results and feel that is was well worth the effort.

Mount Rainier Lemons

Lemons. Whattaya do you do with them??

I was really looking forward to some plans I had made with a friend this weekend to return to the Ohanapecosh River valley in Mount Rainier National Park to revisit Silver Falls and possibly the Grove of the Patriarchs. We made this hike about two winters ago but I never made it across the hiking bridge to the closer viewpoint of the falls. Leading up to the weekend, the weather forecasts were calling for snow at a low elevation followed for sunshine for the day of our hike. I was excited.


Two years ago, we turned onto SR-123 from US-12 and had to immediately park because the highway was snow covered. This year, in the dead of winter, it was completely snow free so we kept driving. We didn’t see ANY snow the entire way up to the gate at the entrance of the park. I thought we’d be able to get a nice cross country ski in on our way to the falls but there was no snow to be seen anywhere.

Entrance to Mount Rainier National Park along SR-123 on February 19, 2011
Entrance to Mount Rainier National Park along SR-123 back on February 16, 2009
This was a big letdown but we decided to hike up the road without our skis. We had traveled about 0.75 miles before we encountered any snow on the road and probably another 0.25 mile for it began to build a solid base. It was still thin, and that was reinforced by a Park Service truck which sped past us and then turned into the Ohanapecosh Campground. Just before the turnoff for the Stevens Canyon Road, you reach the trailhead for Silver Falls (2.25 miles from the winter gate).

As the trail dives into the forest away from the road, the snow disappeared. In fact, the short trail to the falls were pretty much free of snow and there were barely any patches of snow in the vicinity of the falls. This “La Nina” winter has really done a number on us in the Pacific Northwest. It should have been snowier in the mountains but it never has delivered. The log bridge crossing over the Ohanapecosh was snow free; 2 winters ago, it had a 3-4′ mound of snow up to its railing.

On the far side, we settled in at the viewing area and I attempted to take some photos. The sun had crested the eastern ridges and was shining brightly on the falls. The photo taking was extremely tough and I resorted to taking bracketed exposures. These weren’t the conditions I was expecting (or hoping) for but an interesting thing began to happen. The spray from the falls was beginning to develop a rainbow and, as the sun rose more, it was getting stronger.

Silver Falls rainbow along the Ohanapecosh River in Mount Rainier National Park
I kept firing off bracketed exposures from the top of the cliff. There are some rock slabs below but they appeared to be icy and very slippery. My friend explored it further and found out that there was a narrow but safe access along the rocks to a better vantage of the falls. I gathered up my gear and headed down to the spot my friend had described. It was better but the spray that was generating the rainbow was also coating the front of my lens rather quickly.

Silver Falls rainbow along the Ohanapecosh River in Mount Rainier National Park
Clear waters of the Ohanapecosh River in Mount Rainier National Park
Thus began a repetition of wiping off the front of my circular polarizer, rotating around, and taking my bracketed shots. I’ve done this dance several times before so now I always carry three microfiber cloths with me to help ensure I always have a dry cloth. We spent about an hour at the falls before hiking out. Originally I expected this to be a day long affair but the lack of snow really sped up our outing. Originally, I had hoped that we would finish with enough time to head a little further east on US-12 to the Palisades viewpoint for sunset but now….now we could double pack and head towards the mountain for sunset and I knew where we should go: Ricksecker Point.

This, of course, didn’t prevent us for still visiting the Palisades since it’s just around the corner from the SR-123 / US-12 intersection. The Palisades are a neat volcanic feature right along US-12. Across the small canyon from the viewpoint is an exposed columnar volcanic formation. There’s also a nice bonus view of Mount Rainier in the distance. The timing of our visit couldn’t have been WORSE because the sun was directly overhead of the formation. Photographs were impossible without glare I ended up with just this lone shot of the Palisades and this zoomed panorama of Mount Rainier:

Mount Rainier as viewed from the Palisades Viewpoint along US Highway 12, west of White Pass
Detail of the Palisades formation at the Palisades Viewpoint along US Highway 12, west of White Pass
The day was starting to get long so we needed to double back towards the Longmire entrance of Mount Rainer National Park. North of Morton, I noticed some puffy clouds were developing around the west flank of the mountain at around 5-6,000 feet. By the time we entered the park, it was too late to make it up to Paradise so I made Ricksecker Point our primary destination. This spot is a short loop road that has a couple turnout viewpoints of Mount Rainier, the west end of the Tatoosh Range and the Nisqually River valley to the west. In the winter, this road isn’t plowed so it provides a short opportunity to cross country ski. By this time of the afternoon, we had the backside of the loop all to ourselves.

The few clouds I had seen back near Morton turned into a thick mess at Ricksecker Point, obscuring the mountain. The views were otherwise fabulous and we came across an interesting set of animal tracks. If anyone knows what they are, please leave a comment! Only thing I could come up with was maybe a raven hopping across the snow & returning in the same track:

Unusual animal tracks in the snow at Ricksecker Point in Mount Rainier National Park. Please leave a comment if you know what it was!
Tatoosh Range ridgeline east of Eagle Peak in Mount Rainier National Park
Anyways, the afternoon light was beginning to warm up so we made are way back in hopes that the mountain was once again visible. It wasn’t- but the light was transforming into that classic pink winter light. I concentrated on the view towards the west but Mount Rainier began to show through some expanding windows in the clouds. I shifted locations and then concentrated on Mount Rainier. At the best time possible, the clouds began giving way and we were treated to it’s snowy slopes basking in pink light. Just magnificent!

Nisqually River valley in late afternoon light from Ricksecker Point in Mount Rainier National Park
Beginning of alpenglow light on the south slopes of Mount Rainier. Photo taken from Ricksecker Point
Mount Rainier revealed before the peak of sunset. Photo taken from Ricksecker Point
Mount Rainier Alpenglow from Ricksecker Point
Alpenglow light on the southern slopes of Mount Rainier. Photo taken from Ricksecker Point
Mount Rainier Alpenglow from Ricksecker Point
Mount Rainier Alpenglow from Ricksecker Point
Due to the NPS policy of shutting the gate in Longmire nightly, we couldn’t stick around too long after the show ended. We hurried back to my truck and drove back down the hill before the 6:30pm closure. The day turned out to be NOTHING like what I had envisioned. By remaining flexible and knowledgeable about where I was going helped me salvage the day. In fact, I ended up with some photos that I never would have taken had I followed through with my original plans!

In other words…make some lemonaide!

The Wet Sack

Fresh trace snow along the bank of Bagley Creek
So there it is. One photo from this weekend.

Pacific Northwesterners are an odd lot. Commercials like this wouldn’t be so funny if it wasn’t true. Anyways, I recently ordered a cross country ski package and after a lengthy delay due to the midwest snowstorm, it finally came. I was eager to try things out so I made plans with a friend to head up to the Salmon Ridge Sno-park. The Bagley Creek area can be accessed via their groomed trails and it’s mostly level or gently sloping so it’s a good place to learn the ins & outs of cross country skiing.

After a lengthy period of calm weather, this weekend brought a good storm system. On paper, the snow level would be just above the elevation of the sno-park but I hoped the Mount Baker area would make its own weather and perhaps lower the snow to the sno-park. It didn’t. My friend figured this would be the case and so he described our outing as a visit to the Wet Sack (instead of Nooksack). After having to double back to Maple Falls from Glacier to purchase the daily sno-park permit, we pulled into an empty parking lot at the sno-park. On the way, we drove through varying intensities of rain but it was just light rain at the parking lot.

After gearing up, we were off. Now, I’ve been snowboarding for 14 years but have never skied before. Having two independently moving planks under your feet is pretty weird. It took a while to find the proper center of balance but I managed to NOT fall on the way out to Bagley Creek. Cross country skiing is surprisingly efficient. We had travelled a fair distance before I even had broken a sweat or elevated my heartbeat. The worst thing I encountered were burning calf muscles (just like the first day of ski season).

I also found going uphill to also be less strenuous compared with walking on foot or snowshoeing. The only thing I can’t do comfortably is go downhill and that’s largely due to the fact that I have never skied before. I just can’t master the Pizza!

The further we traveled, the harder the rain become. By the time we reached Bagley Creek, the rain was falling about as hard as it could and we were both pretty soaked. We dismounted and headed into the forest along the creek to find some shelter. After some lunch, it started to sleet a bit and we mulled over what to do. My backpack glistened from all the water that was saturating it. I didn’t relish the thought of pulling out my gear in this weather!

In the end, we decided to hike a ways downstream to scout the lower stretch of river. The going was tough due to postholing through the snowpack. We traveled down about 100 yards and looked down at the scene I’ve photographed above. I was immediately drawn to the trace snow randomly covering a stretch of the gravel beach alongside the creek. After some careful zigzagging down the slope, we hit beach and I quickly set up to take a few shots.

I was now on my third set of gloves and knew it was just time to head back to the truck as fast as possible. Back on the trail, we geared back up and began our way back. My friend noticed that his cross country gear had failed so he had to walk out while I practiced my technique a bit more. Eventually we made it back to the parking lot and were completely drenched. The parking lot was a sea of slush and we stripped down our gear as fat as humanly possible.

It was a divine feeling once we began to feel the heater’s warmth. It took most of the 2 1/2 hour drive just to physically feel dry! Despite the brutalness of the conditions, it was actually fun! I picked one of the worst days of weather to learn how to cross country ski. Things should get only get better with much better conditions. I already have some plans for next weekend which I’m hoping will pan out nicely.

Oh- yes, I did fall but only once!

A Winter’s Day

Not much of a story for this entry. Here’s a variety of photos from another bluebird day up at the Mount Baker Ski Area and the North Fork Nooksack River valley. The river photos are from another new section of the river for me. A nice spot with some twists and turns in the river and the added bonus of a view of Mount Sefrit in the distance.

Razor Hone Creek inside the Mount Baker Ski Area


Snow flocked tree at the Mount Baker Ski Area

Table Mountain and the Bagley Creek Basin just outside of the Mount Baker Ski Area

North Fork Nooksack River with Mount Sefrit in the distance

North Fork Nooksack River with Mount Sefrit in the distance

Downed tree limbs trail into the North Fork Nooksack River

Fallen tree limb arches out over the North Fork Nooksack River

Mount Sefrit with fresh snow viewed from the North Fork Nooksack River valley

Near sunset view of South Sister (one of the Twin Sisters)

Near sunset view of the Twin Sisters

In the Clouds..

While Razor Hone Creek thwarted me yet again (there’s a double waterfall drop I’ve been eyeing but it’s dangerous to access), I was fortunate enough to enjoy some of the beautiful weather around the Mount Baker Ski Area and photograph some of the wild cloud formations that where trailing all around Mount Shuksan. It was a glorious bluebird type of day with unusually light crowds within the ski area. Over the course of just a couple hours, the constantly changing clouds kept creating dramatic views of Mount Shuksan.

I took about 20 or so shots of the scene but after reviewing the shots I realized that the photos would be better suited for conversion to black & white. The photos are fairly monochromatic to begin with with shades of blue dominating. The sunshine was also casting some dramatic shadows across the steep slopes of Mount Shuksan. A black & white conversion would help accentuate these features and increase the overall “power” of the scene.

During my early days of processing my photos, I used Photoshop Elements to perform my black & white conversions. The Elements version I’m familiar with (Version 6) provided a few quick settings for certain styles/looks and then a couple sliders to tweak them as desired. All along I knew that Photoshop CS was supposed to be a more powerful tool for black & white conversion. Once I finally stepped up to the full version of CS5, I found the black & white conversion process a bit daunting. Gone were the presets that I could start with and, in their place, were a number of sliders which at times seemed to do nothing!

There had to be some better way to do this and so I decided to download the trial version of Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro. This program is really an add-on to Photoshop CS (or Elements) and it’s sole purpose is to convert photos to black & white while providing the most flexibility in an easy to use manner. It’s not cheap (currently $180 but there are a few discount codes you can get from the web) but it gets high praise for the job it does.

Once you fire up the filter, the Nik Software dialog loads your photo (AND respects the Smart Layer functionality of CS!) along with a few dozen presets that you can chose to start your conversion with. Now, truth be told, a number of the filters don’t seem terribly useful (there are several sepia type filters based on different color tints for example). After playing with the options, I kept gravitating towards the “High Structure” style preset.

I found that the High Structure preset did a great job and I didn’t feel the need to make any drastic changes. There were some additional options such as simulating a variety of black & white film grains (I tended to like the Kodak 100 TMAX Pro) but I ultimately decided NOT to use one of these filters because it added TOO much grain for these particular images. Turns out that the only adjustment I felt I needed to make was to reign in the highlights just a little bit for one particular photo to prevent them from washing out.

Despite the impressive power and ease at which you can convert your photos, I’ve had a few glitches that I have yet to explain while using Silver Efex Pro, namely a cryptic error message telling me that the product had failed. This would typically happen when the filter dialog was loading or when I was ready to apply the filter. There was also a time when the dialog wouldn’t open but it added the filter into the list of layers in CS5. I frankly don’t know what caused this but usually a restart of CS5 would suffice. I will be purchasing a copy of Silver Efex Pro (a new version is just about to ship) and I just hope that these little quirky issues don’t follow me with the full version.

Anyways, here are the photos I chose to convert to black & white:

Clouds swirl around the summit pyramid of Mount Shuksan. Converted to black & white using Nik Software's Silver Efex Pro
Clouds swirl around the summit pyramid of Mount Shuksan. Converted to black & white using Nik Software's Silver Efex Pro
Clouds swirl around the summit pyramid of Mount Shuksan. Converted to black & white using Nik Software's Silver Efex Pro
Clouds swirl around the summit pyramid of Mount Shuksan. Converted to black & white using Nik Software's Silver Efex Pro

Tye is High

…and I’m moving on. Sorry- couldn’t resist the pun.

This past weekend’s weather brought a series of strong pineapple express weather systems. For those of you not from the Pacific Northwest, a pineapple express storm is one that originates from the area around Hawaii (hence the pineapple reference) and brings a lot of moisture and high snow levels. These storms sometimes quickly follow snow storms which bring rain on snow events and that spells major flooding.

This weekend’s storm brought moderate flooding to the Skykomish River basin and I decided to head up the valley along Highway 2 to check things out. Despite the “moderate” tag, the river levels were REAL high, seemingly higher than the record events of just a couple years ago. I first tried visiting Alpine Falls along the Tye River east of the town of Skykomish but the down spray from the falls was just too great for photography.

From there, I moved on to the Deception Falls Picnic Area to check things out. Located at an elevation of about 2000 feet, it’s closed in the winter due to snow but one can usually park outside the entrance along Highway 2 and (CAREFULLY) cross the busy highway and walk in. I’ve visited on two other occasions, one of which was during a flood event back in November of 2008. By far, conditions on this day were the highest water levels I’ve seen. Quite impressive!

Deception Creek side channel overflow at the Deception Falls Picnic Area - January 2011

High waters of this Deception Creek side channel lap against the bottom of a trail bridge - January 2011

Tye River high water surges along - January 2011

There are two observation platforms along the loop interpretive trail that highlight the river’s power during times like these. The first platform is located in an area where the river runs headlong into a rock wall, forcing it into a 90 degree turn. Compare yesterday’s flow versus a normal flow from two years ago:

High flows along the Tye River smash into the 90 degree turn - January 2011 (1/250th sec @ F13, ISO 12,800)

Normal winter flow along the Tye River at the 90 degree turn - December 2008

Quite a difference! Just a little further upstream is another platform where the Tye River flows over a waterfall and bends around a corner. Now compare yesterday’s flow versus high flow back in November of 2008:

High flows along the Tye River at the Deception Falls Picnic Area - January 2011

High flows along the Tye River at the Deception Falls Picnic Area - January 2011

High flows along the Tye River at the Deception Falls Picnic Area - January 2008

Once again, quite a difference. I made my way towards the Deception Falls along Deception Creek but the amount and force of the water was too great. The down spray was intense and the churning waters were actually splashing over the pedestrian bridge that leads you to the viewing area. My Pentax may have 77 weather seals but it can’t keep a camera safe from THAT much abuse! It was getting late in the afternoon and I wanted to make two more stops on my way back into town. I first stopped at a roadside wetland west of Skykomish. Ended up not getting very much (aside from even MORE soaked from the rain). I guess it looked cooler at 60mph!

Roadside wetland along Highway 2 west of Skykomish

Roadside wetland along Highway 2 west of Skykomish

My last stop SHOULD have been my first stop. Just west of the town of Index, there’s a spot along the Skykomish River where Kayakers park and launch into the river. In the middle of the river at this location is a huge (and I mean 2 story HUGE) boulder. On my way up earlier in the day, the river’s torrent was splashing up and OVER the top of this large boulder. I had to get a photo of this but decided to wait until my return trip.

BIG mistake.

Over the preceding four hours or so, the river level subsided enough such that the river was no longer splashing over the top. In the failing light, I was only able to snap a couple quick shots, and most weren’t up to snuff due to bad focus and some vegetation between me and the river which I could not avoid:

Skykomish River envelopes the huge boulder a few miles downstream of Index

Moral of the story is STOP AND TAKE THE PHOTO!

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