Steve Cole

Hannegan Peak

After a couple of weeks off, I was eager to get out again. I had wanted to return to Hannegan Peak several weeks ago but it wasn’t in the cards. Hannegan Peak is a 10 mile roundtrip day with 3,500 feet of elevation gain. Once atop the peak, you are treated with tremendous views of the North Cascades, Mount Shuksan, and Mount Baker. Even before reaching the summit, the hike provides views of crystal clear Ruth Creek and snow capped Ruth Mountain.

Panorama of the Nooksack Ridge and Ruth Creek valley
Ruth Mountain ahead (Hannegan Pass in the upper left)
From the trailhead, the trail climbs towards Hannegan Pass over 4 miles. The lower stretch of trail is alive with a wide variety of plants and wildflowers. I saw lots of Columbine, Cow Parsnip, Penstemon, and Tiger Lilly in bloom. The upper half of the hike spends more time in the forest and included Queens Cup and Sitka Valerian in bloom. A half mile before Hannegan Pass lies the turnoff for Hannegan Camp, a backcountry camp in a beautiful sub-alpine setting.

Small seasonal runoff near Hannegan Camp
Stream at Hannegan Camp
The final half-mile up to the pass includes some open meadows which were in between stages- too early for the main wildflower display but too late for the Glacier Lillies. Hannegan Pass proper is a forested pass with some minor views to the northeast. The pass is really just a busy junction. To the right is the way trail that climbers use to climb Mount Ruth. Straight ahead the trail drops down into the North Cascades National Park and the Chilliwack River valley, providing access to Copper Ridge, Easy Ridge, and Whatcom Pass.

Grouse on the Hannegan Peak trail
Halfway point to the top of Hannegan Peak. Highest point in the photo is a false summit
Some of the exposed geology of Hannegan Peak, which was part of the Hannegan Caldera
To reach Hannegan Peak, the trail the heads left from the pass is the choice. From the pass, it’s one mile and another 1,200 feet to the summit plateau. The trail switchbacks through meadows as the views get bigger and bigger. A final snow slope brings you up to the wide summit plateau and a short stroll over to the true summit.

Panorama from the summit looking at Ruth Mountain, Mount Shuksan, and Mount Baker
Mount Blum in the distance
Chilliwack River valley and Whatcom Peak & Mount Challenger in the distance
Geology of Peak 6445
The views from the top are some of finest I’ve seen in the Cascades. A full 360 degrees provide ample eye candy: Goat Mountain, Mount Larrabee, Copper Mountain, Mount Redoubt, Whatcom Peak, Mount Challenger, Mount Blum, Ruth Mountain, Mount Shuksan, Mount Baker and hundreds of other peaks. I spent about an hour on the top taking photos before beginning the long hike out.

Heather in bloom atop Hannegan Peak
Ruth Mountain and heather
Jagged Ridge and part of the Nooksack Cirque
Mount Shuksan
Overview of the Hannegan Pass area (center) and Ruth Mountain
Heading home...

While on the summit, I tried out an iPhone app that I had picked up recently: Peaks from Augmented Outdoors. Using the iPhone’s GPS and compass, it attempts to label mountains and peaks in your vicinity. It works without a cellphone connection so it’s perfect for backcountry use. You can take a snapshot of what you see and then share it later via email or Twitter. I opted for the screenshot of the app in use:

Screenshot of the Peaks app in use
The accuracy of the labels is only as good as the calibration of the iPhone’s compass. In my use, most of the labels were in the ballpark but a few were off what I thought to be a bit much. I didn’t realize it at the time but you can fix errors like what I saw while using the app. Oh well! The app costs $2.99 in the App Store. The only improvement in it that I’d like to see is a slider that restricts the search results from the user by distance. This is a feature of a similar program ( that’s free but requires a cellular network in order to operate.

Banff Mountain Festival 2010 Honor

I’m VERY excited to announce that my photo, “Forest from the Tree” has been selected for an Honorable Mention for this year’s Banff Mountain Photography Competition! There were 2,500 hundred submissions and only 17 photos total were selected. The exhibition will take place from October 30th through November 7th at the Banff Centre in Banff, Alberta. In addition to this showing, the photographs will also tour selected cities across North America.

I plan on attending this event in person so expect a report from it as well as updates about the touring aspect of this competition!

Click for a larger view
For more information about the taking of this photograph, you can read my original blog post here.

I will be out of town this coming week so there won’t be a new post until after next weekend!

Summer in the Nooksack Valley

I spent the day before July 4th traveling around the North Fork Nooksack River valley. I was primarily interested in several waterfalls but I also revisited a small creek that I haven’t been to in a while. The weather was perfect for photography (cloudy and dry) and was a mixture of success and setbacks. I had hoped to find a possible vantage point across from Nooksack Falls but that did not pan out on this trip. I also had hoped to photograph Wells Creek Falls from creek level but that also did not happen due to high water and too many water crossings to gain entrance into the falls’ amphitheater. The last setback was getting cliffed out while bushwhacking up Deadhorse Creek to Deadhorse Falls. If the falls are your goal, follow the LEFT (or east) bank upstream. The right side is easier travel initially but becomes a very steep cliff face as the falls come into view.

On to the successes..

Clouds shroud the upper slopes of Church Mountain
Cascade Creek
Cascade Creek
Cascade Creek
Cascade Creek
I made a quick stop at Nooksack Falls to shoot a summer version of a photo I took a few winters ago. I’m very happy with the end result:

Nooksack Falls
I’ve shot a particular creek that flows into the Nooksack immediate above Nooksack Falls a number of times throughout the winter but have rarely visited the stretch of creek located upstream of the Mount Baker Highway. The higher flows right now made conditions more conducive for a visit:

Un-named Creek
Un-named Creek
Un-named Creek
And now…..Wells Creek Falls. It’s somewhat visible from Wells Creek Road and located just 1,000 feet upstream of the road. How hard can it be? Well……….VERY. Photographing the falls from creek level can be done but is best suited for fall when the water levels are lower. On this day, the water was running deep enough to discourage fording since the hike would require several fords across the creek to gain entrance into the waterfall’s amphitheater.

From about the halfway point between the falls and the road, my friend and I looked up and weighed my options. Both sides were steep walled ridges but we decided to go with the right hand side. We huffed it back out to the road and then crashed into the forest. I’ve crashed through some huckleberry dominant understories before but this was unreal. The huckleberry was thick and 6 feet tall. Negotiating this was a huge drain on energy. On the flip side, the floor of the forest was quite prolific with bunchberry in bloom (no photos, though!).

After a lot of scratches and brush crashing, we arrived at the location of the falls. Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear vantage point due to the thick forest. Here’s what I was able to capture:

Wells Creek Falls
If I didn’t believe it before, I do now- the Wells Creek drainage bites back!

Tye Waterfalls

I wasn’t going to head out this weekend but decided I needed to get out after a very lengthy day of yard work. Forecasts were stream and waterfall friendly so I decided to head up Highway 2 to check out a couple waterfalls in the Tye River valley. First, I decided to revisit a location from a couple weeks ago to re-shoot it under better conditions:

Unnamed Creek - Foss River Valley
Unnamed Creek - Foss River Valley
Next up, Alpine Falls which is just east of the Old Cascade Highway’s west end. The volume of water is pretty high so it’s hard to get a balanced exposure and detail in the waterfall:

Tye River
Alpine Falls (Portrait Version)
Alpine Falls (Landscape Version)
My last stop was was a waterfall I had no idea existed which is appropriately named Scenic Falls. It’s located just off of the road to the Surprise Creek trailhead and pretty impressive. Once again, with water volumes running on the high side, photos were difficult because a hefty amount of spray downwind of the falls. I found a “dry zone” which was partially shielded by a slope to take the photos you see here:

Lower Scenic Falls
Another view of the lower Scenic Falls
Base of the upper Scenic Falls
Upper Scenic Falls
Bunchberry bloom
I will return to Scenic Falls at some point to re-shoot it. It was late in the day but I saw another vantage point up higher and outside of the spray zone so I’m anxious to try it.

Less traveled path to Mount Rainier Waterfalls

Mountain forecasts called for showers so it was time for some waterfall photography. Using Bryan Swan’s excellent Northwest Waterfall Survey website, I found an area in Mount Rainier National Park with a high concentration that was new to me. I originally wanted to visit this area last fall but the first snows of the year closed State Route 123 and my access. The area is the north end of the Eastside Trail which begins on the south end at the Stevens Canyon entrance to the park and travels all the way north to Cayuse & Chinook Pass.

Six miles south of Cayuse Pass, a trailhead at Deer Creek allows you to drop down into the valley and begin your hike. The trailhead is more known for being the backside hike up to Owyhigh Lakes but it intersects the Eastside trail at the Deer Creek campground in the valley floor. From the trailhead, the roar of Deer Creek gets louder until you are afforded a great view of Deer Creek Falls. A few more switchbacks down bring you to the Deer Creek campground and the trail intersections.

Deer Creek Falls
Old Growth - Eastside Trail
Deer Creek Falls
My original plan was to hike south along the Eastside trail to Stafford Falls and then return to explore the opportunities around the triple confluence of Deer Creek, Chinook Creek, and Kotsuck Creek. Along my way, I passed a couple returning from Ohanapecosh Falls and based on their recommendation, I decided to extend my hike south to there. The forest here is somewhat open but lush. Vanilla Leaf and oval leafed huckleberry dominates the understory. Huge trees are common but not widespread throughout the area.

Chinook Creek
Vanilla Leaf - Eastside Trail
Chinook Creek Cascades
Chinook Creek Cascades
Chinook Creek Cascades
My first stop south was an area known as the Chinook Creek Cascades, the beginning of which is where a trail bridge crosses the creek. The creek encounters a series of drops through a tight rock formation and the clarity of the water only accentuates the scene. From here, Stafford Falls is another 0.5 mile to the south. It’s not quite visible from the trail but it can be heard when volumes are high (such as on my visit). A short way trail veers off to the left which brings you to an elevated perch. The scene is somewhat reminiscent of Punchbowl Falls in Oregon since it has a nice drop into a large circular bowl before emptying downstream.

Stafford Falls
Stafford Falls from below
Another way trail leads you down to the water’s edge. The rock around the Stafford Falls bowl is solid rock with sheer walls but near the outlet there is a small platform in the rock to take pictures from. After some lunch and additional photos, I made my way south to the Ohanapecosh Falls (another 1.5 miles south from Stafford Falls). The trail continues with lush portions of forest along with some dark stretches with no understory.

Eastside Trail south of Stafford Falls
Vanilla Leaf along the Eastside Trail
The middle portion of the distance gets quiet as the trail is high above Chinook Creek and not quite close enough to Ohanapecosh River but it soon begins to roar as you draw close. The trail crosses the river just above the very top of the two-tier waterfall. The river here is deep, blue, and fast so a slip here would result in serious injury. Despite the spectacular nature of the falls, the Park Service does not have a developed viewpoint for the falls. A clear view of the entire falls can be had but you must travel south of the falls a couple hundred yards (and potentially off trail).

Ohanapecosh River just above the falls
Ohanapecosh Falls
A steady rain greeted me at the falls and by the time I was finished, I was soaked along with my backpack and gear. I began my (uphill) hike back to the trailhead. Although it was late in the afternoon, I made one last stop on my way back. I remember seeing what appeared to be another waterfall off trail before I had reached Stafford Falls. It turned out that my suspicion was correct and a short diversion brought me to it creekside.

Chinook Creek
Chinook Creek
From here, I kept my head down and hiked out back to my truck. The 0.4 mile hike UP from the valley floor to the trailhead is a bit cruel at the end of a long day but it doesn’t take too long. Despite the fowl weather, it was a great day of solitude and sights in Mount Rainier National Park. I ended up not visiting some locations I wanted but I know I’ll be back- there’s way too much to explore!

As a side note, there won’t be a post next week as my numerous outings from the past few weeks has also created a pile of domestic duties I need to work on!

The Foss

I finally found myself bsck on more familiar ground this week after my trip to Honduras. I lost track of time recently so I spent the best day of this weekend framing my entry for next week’s Edmonds Art Show (I’ll save my original destination for next weekend). I still felt the need to get out so I headed out to the Foss River valley to explore some more.

First up is a small creek that runs underneath Highway 2 a little bit west of Skykomish. I’ve thought about stopping at this location for a while now but never have. It turns out that it did have some photo worthy opportunities:

Unnamed Creek
Unnamed Creek
From here, I pressed onward and headed up the Foss River Road. Once again, there’s one particular creek that I’ve crossed but never explored. The full sunshine was havoc but once again I found some interesting scenes:

Unnamed Creek - Foss River Valley
Unnamed Creek - Foss River Valley
Unnamed Creek - Foss River Valley
Unnamed Creek - Foss River Valley
Next up was a second visit to a particular spot along the Foss River that I found earlier this winter. By now, the weather was SLOWLY turning with scattered clouds beginning to drift through. Still- bright sunshine was still dominating:

Foss River
Foss River
Foss River
From here, I headed up the valley to see if I could get up to the Evans Lake trailhead. It looked hopeful but about 1 mile shy of the trailhead the road became snow covered and undriveable. At one point, I happened to look up and watched some whispy clouds stream across the ridgeline above me. The clouds were backlit due to the sun and a halo kept appearing:

Sun Halo
From here, I doubled back down the valley and wanted to quickly check out the conditions near Jack’s Pass on the Beckler River Rd. I was bummed to find a MASSIVE windfall blocking one of the side roads off of the pass about 0.5 miles in. A four foot diameter trunk sheered off about 30 feet off of the ground. I’m not so sure this will get cleared this year. That will put a damper on a few of my plans!

2 Days of Gorging – Part 2

The flipside of spending so long at Multnomah Creek was that it threw my schedule right out the window. I ended up having to pare back my very ambitious list of places to visit and made my way to one of the shorter trips on my list…

Little Zigzag Falls

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Full descripton of the area is here on the Portland Hikers website. The trailhead is interesting since it’s located at part of the original road up to Government Camp. There’s an interesting sign which shows an old photo taken from this location. The vegetation wasn’t as leafed out as along the Gorge so things were a bit barren..

Little Zigzag Falls
Little Zigzag Falls
Little Zigzag
Coltsfoot - Little Zigzag

Zigzag River

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Right around Milepost 46, the Zigzag River crosses underneath US Highway 26. The stretch of river downstream of the bridge seemed interesting so I stopped to explore compositions. Unfortunately for me, there was a cabin located alongside one of the banks so I had to exclude it from my compositions. I really enjoyed working with the bright streaks of sunlight on the surface of the churning river..

Zigzag River
Zigzag River
Zigzag River
Zigzag River
Zigzag River

Mount Hood sunset from White River – Take 2

With the day nearing its end, I returned once again to the White River Snowpark hoping for a nice sunset. Through the day, a nice array of clouds seemed to linger around the summit of Mount Hood but, as sunset drew close, they vaporized. The sunset turned out to be a carbon-copy of the previous night’s. Bummer…

Mount Hood sunset along the White River
Sunset along the White River

Siouxon Creek

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The following morning, I began my drive back to the Seattle area but included a sidetrip to Siouxon Creek, which I discovered through my reading of the Portland Hikers Trip Report forum. It’s located in the South Central portion of the Washington Cascades and has the distinction of having a paved road all the way to its remote trailhead. It turns out to be a relic of the former glory days of logging and one forest superintendent’s idea to promote more logging. The trail travels through maturing second growth forest alongside the creek and passes near a few waterfalls.

This was my first visit and so it was all new to me. The creek turned out to be much wider and more open that I had envisioned so photography in bright sunny conditions wasn’t going to be good. I ended up focusing my efforts on the forest itself since it was so magical. The understory is dominated by Oregon Oxalis (which was almost ready to bloom) and full of surprises. If you go, be prepared to encounter a variety of groups because the trail is open to hikers, mountain bikers, and horses..

Oregon Oxalis and Wood Fern - Siouxon Creek Trail
Forest Scene - Siouxon Creek Trail
Mossy Jack
Forest Scene - Siouxon Creek Trail
Forest Scene - Siouxon Creek Trail
Sometimes the results don’t meet the expectations placed beforehand, and this trip fell into that category. How one responds to these challenges can make or break the entire outing. I come away with more valuable experience shooting in extreme light conditions and I hope this will only help me out during my future outings. I know I’ll be back next year (if not sooner!)..

2 days of Gorging – Part 1

I’ve decided that a couple days in May down in the Columbia River Gorge area is a good thing and so I made plans to go down this past week. The actual date was a little earlier than I would have liked due to other committments. Originally, I started doing this in order to photograph the endless field of Arrowleaf Balsamroot that blooms atop Dog Mountain, I’ve since then chosen to expand my itinerary to include other parts of the Gorge as well as neighboring Mount Hood.

At the last minute, I had to alter my plans and drop the Dog Mountain hike due to some highway construction located at the trailhead. I substituted the hike to Indian Point on the Oregon side in its place. The weather was forecasted to be mostly cloudy with a slight chance of thunderstorms for the second half of my time down there but it remained sunny and clear the entire time (horrible conditions for photography!) And now the photos..

Indian Point:

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Not many photos from this first hike. A detailed description can be found on the Portland Hikers website. Overall, a wonderful forested hike to a prominent point overlooking the Gorge. Views north to Mount Adams, and east to Dog Mountain..

Oregon Grape branch nestled at the base of a Douglas Fir. Indian Point Loop Trail
Panorama from Indian Point. Mount Adams in the distant center.
Lone tree growing from the top of Indian Point

Mount Hood sunset from White River:

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First attempt had a small cloudcap over the summit but hardly any color due to the lack of clouds. I hiked about 2/3rds of a mile up the White River looking for a composition and settled on this location. Turns out some better spots were located much closer to the parking lot!..

Sunset on Mount Hood along the White River
Mount Hood cloudcap

Multnomah Creek:

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One of the highlights for me. Multnomah Creek feeds the very famous Multnomah Falls and the portion of the creek upstream of the famous falls contains some AMAZING scenery and a number of waterfalls. I spent nearly 5 hours here and only made it about 3/4 of a mile upstream of the main falls. A full description can be found on the Portland Hikers website. It’s worthy of an entire day!..

View back down over Multnomah Falls
Waterfall just upstream of the famous Multnomah Falls
Multnomah Creek
Multnomah Creek
Multnomah Creek
Middle Dutchman Falls - Multnomah Creek
Upper Dutchman Falls - Multnomah Creek
Ecola Falls - Multnomah Creek
False Solomon Seal - Multnomah Creek
Rock Patterns - Dutchman Tunnel
Rock Patterns - Dutchman Tunnel
Oregon Oxalis
Nature's cathedral ceiling - Multnomah Creek

More to come in Part two!…

Back from the Gorge

Bottom of the lower Multnomah Falls. A cliched shot to be sure but I think it's required under Oregon law..
I’ve returned from my 2 day trek down to the Columbia River Gorge and Mount Hood but have close to 400 photos to wade through. The weather did not go as forecasted so difficult lighting was present at every location I visited (i.e. sunny with no clouds!). I’ve gone through a fair amount of the photos but still have a ways to go. I should have a number of photos to share sometime this week!..

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