Thursday, December 1, 2011

My Head in the Lenticular Clouds - Mount Hood

"A cloudless plain blue sky is like a flowerless garden." - Terri Guillemets

If you have spent much time looking at my pictures, you might be tempted to believe that every time I walk out the door with my camera, the weather and lighting are perfect, and the photography muses are being generous to me. I have to tell you, that's just not the case. Sometimes, the weather doesn't cooperate. Sometimes, I set in the car and watch the clouds roll in and the rain start falling. Other times, no matter how hard I try, the light just isn't right. However, a bright blue sky isn't always ideal, and to be honest, can be a little boring.

Thanksgiving weekend, I was sitting home with the itch to go out with the camera. Sometimes I feel like an addict who hasn't had a fix in a while. I just need to go, even if I don't have any spectacular ideas on where I want to go. For lack of a better idea, my husband suggested we take a drive around Mount Hood. So we loaded into The Zombie (the nickname for my SUV), and headed out on Highway 26 east towards the mountain.

Despite the recent snow, the roads were pretty clear. The holiday crowds were strangely absent, but there was one remarkable visitor to the mountain - lenticular clouds.

Mount Hood from White River Sno-Park

They sat atop the peak like a baseball cap on a man's head, or as someone else described them, a fascinator on a royal wedding guest's head.

Others looked like cotton candy spun in the sky. What do you think they look like?

We continued our journey around the mountain on Highway 35 towards Hood River, taking a detour on Forest Service Road 44. There is a very large sign as you turn off Highway 35 warning that the road is not maintained for winter travel. We found some pretty deep snow, but nothing that The Zombie couldn't handle.

"The Zombie"

We drove about five miles up the road before turning around. We found this snowman, down a side road, who looked lonely out there by himself in the middle of the national forest. Someone should have at least left him a scarf or a hat. We stopped and gave him some company before continuing on towards Hood River.

Not far from Parkdale, there were several cars parked along side the road. My husband and I turned in unison to see exactly what the attraction was as we drove past. Once we saw what they were stopped to peer at, we turned around immediately.

The only apt description is it was an impromptu photographer "convention." There were a half dozen or so of us, all with our cameras held to our faces, capturing images of this:

We all stood there and snapped away until the light completely drained out of the sunset. Mother Nature had sent the clouds out to put on magnificent show and I feel lucky to have been there.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Golden Lining - Crooked River Canyon

"Where would I live if I were a man of golden words or would I live at all?" - Andrew Wood, Mother Love Bone

My youngest daughter, Odessa, and I recently traveled to Central Oregon to both visit family and so I could participate in a craft show with my photography creations. I had set out a full agenda for our travel day over. Some hiking, lunch in Bend, and just doing what I love to do best - playing with my camera.

Mount Hood as seen from one of our stops

Unfortunately, my vehicle had other ideas. My Land Rover - which I affectionately call "The Zombie" because my husband has brought it back from the dead after rebuilding the engine - had some brake issues and we were forced to make several prolonged, unscheduled stops. By the time we reached Madras, to say I was  annoyed and frustrated would be a a gross understatement. The way I saw it, my day had been ruined and I just wanted both the day and the road trip over with.

As we reached Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint near Terrebone, "golden hour" had just started to set in. I decided this was a good time to make an unscheduled stop, this time that I chose, and see what I could capture with the camera.

Anyone who has met Odessa, knows that sometimes she can be a bit "bouncy", and after being cooped up in a sometimes moving vehicle most of the day, she had a lot of energy that needed to be burned off. She was very excited to have a chance to stretch her legs. However, when I saw this sign, I immediately began to rethink my decision to stop here.

The view here was incredible. Once we got to the rock wall, and peered over, I could understand why a warning sign is necessary at the parking lot. I snapped off a few shots, drinking in the last of the sunlight and the smell of sagebrush in the air.

Odessa wanted a turn with the camera as well. I nervously helped her hold it and she grabbed a few shots of her own. Apparently she thought everyone needed to see this image of the wall.

A photo by Odessa

The grounds here were absolutely littered with leaves, over ankle deep in places. Like any other little kid, Odessa could not resist such an opportunity, and ran and jumped in them with a look of pure glee on her face.

She then decided that it would be fun to bury herself in the leaves, kinda like a little crab in the sand.

Can you find Odessa in the leaves?

After I was able to locate my child again, we were back on the road. As we drove down Highway 97, I thought to myself that the day wasn't the complete disaster I had thought it had been. The chance to watch my girl, so completely happy playing in the leaves, and capture those images with my camera was truly the golden lining to the day.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful - 2011 Edition

As I hunker down indoors, taking shelter from what I refer to as Hurricane November, the wind and rain are pelting the Northwest. Soon it will be time to put on the elastic pants and partake of the feast of Thanksgiving, to be followed immediately by the cardiac exercise known as Black Friday. Like many others this time of year, I am also taking a few moments and reflecting on the things I am thankful for this year. They include, but are not limited to:

My two beautiful daughters, whom I have managed to drag from one corner of Oregon to the other, and they have ridden along happily. Okay, maybe not happily the whole time, but, with minimal whining from the back seat. Their pleasant moods may have resulted from some form of bribery on my part. In any event, they are two of the best travel companions I could ever have!!

Two of my favorite pictures of my girls from our travels this year!

My health. Well, most of it at least. Despite the fact I may sample a little bit too much Oregon wine and beer from time to time, and stuff my face with pork at every opportunity, I somehow still manage to make it to the top of hiking trails from time to time to see some magnificent things.

Ramona Falls - My favorite hike this year!

The 25th Birthday of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act. Not just this year, but every year I am thankful that this natural treasure has been preserved for my children, and their children in the (very, very, very distant) future to come.

There could have been a housing development here.

My favorite camera lens. I would truly be lost without it. While camera bodies have come and gone, it has been my trusty companion. Through it, I have viewed the beauty of the Northwest and my children laughing and playing in the outdoors. With it, I have captured images of memories I have made with my family.

Last, but not least, my great friends and family. You know who you are. You are the ones that constantly support me in all my endeavors. You listen to me complain, or brag a little about that great little adventure I went on. You look at all my images and tell me how beautiful they are, and also throw a little constructive criticism when I need it. You come by my blog, and leave great comments that reassure me someone is actually reading the stuff my brain is spouting out. I am thankful for every single one of you, every single day and don’t you forget it!!

Yes - I am looking at you!!

With that, I will end my once a year, mushy and sappy ramblings. I hope you all have a great holiday in which you fill your belly with tasty treats!

What are you thankful for this year?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fall's Spectacular Show in the Columbia River Gorge

"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower." - Albert Camus

Fall is when the Columbia River Gorge pulls out all the stops to put on a spectacular show. Red, gold and orange pops from every tree branch in an explosion of color. The leaves hang on for dear life as the east wind attempts to blow them loose to tumble to the ground.

The show is hitting its peak right now. Many branches are already bare, the east wind having done its job, and roads are covered in a blanket of fall color. Like the harvest season that has just ended in Hood River, soon the show will be over, so catch it while you can.

On a mission to Hood River to procure more apples for my famous apple butter on the final weekend most fruit stands are open, my girls and I made a few stops to experience the autumn beauty only the Columbia River Gorge can offer.

Our first stop was Benson Lake State Park along I-84, just before you reach Multnomah Falls. A popular fishing spot, we found it totally devoid of other people. With the wind calm and the sky shining blue, the reflection of fall foliage on the lake surface was surreal.

Nest we stopped at the Eagle Creek Fish Hatchery. My oldest daughter, Sage, recently studied the life cycle of salmon in school.

Here they were easily viewed from the banks for the creek as they swam upstream. As they put on a show of their own, I couldn't be sure if it was in competition with the trees above, or in symphony with them.

Pictures don't do this sight justice. The sounds of the rushing water of Eagle Creek, the salmon as they swam and splashed in the current is just something that should be seen. Therefore, I took a little video to transport you to the banks of the creek with me.

We could have spent hours there. In fact, we very well may have because time seemed to slip away as the girls played in the fallen leaves and I stood mesmerized by the salmon.

We tore ourselves away and continued our journey to Hood River and arrived at the fruit stands just before they closed. It was one last visit to the orchards, and we returned home with another 20 pounds of apples in the trunk destined to become butter.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Something Spooky for Halloween

"Hold on, man.  We don't go anywhere with 'scary,' 'spooky,' 'haunted,' or 'forbidden' in the title."  - Shaggy from Scooby-Doo

Halloween is my favorite holiday. It is the only day of the year one can truly be what you want, whether it be a super hero, a practitioner of the black arts, or the walking dead. Not to mention the candy. I think there is no better way to honor this holiday than to present some black and white images captured at some spooky, and maybe a little creepy places.

Golden is a ghost town located in Josephine County, Oregon not far from the famous Wolf Creek Inn (which they say is haunted). Once a thriving mining town, the remaining buildings are now being restored as part of Golden State Heritage Site. The church, however, is not original and was actually built in 1950. That doesn't make it any less spooky.

 Generally, I only share pictures captured around the Pacific Northwest. I included this picture from my honeymoon in Mexico because nothing says spooky like an ancient Mayan temple in the jungle. Don't you think?

Oval Temple, Coba Archaeological Park, Yucatan, Mexico.

Okay, so ski lifts don't generally scream "scary". I will admit that. These were standing sentry at Timberline Lodge, waiting for ski season to arrive. Some of you may know that the exterior of the lodge played stand in for "The Overlook" in "The Shining", a movie that scared the you know what out of me as a child. Is the fact they were stuck on chair 13 a coincidence, or is something supernatural at work?

I'll be honest. There is nothing I like capturing images of more of than old rusted trucks. I wonder what great adventures someone took in them, before leaving them out to the elements for nature to reclaim. Ghosts of road trips past must linger in their cabs. I found this one sitting in a field near the ghost town of Shaniko, Oregon.

You may be sensing a theme here, but, yes, here is yet another ghost town picture. This cabin is located in Liberty, Washington. Last time I was here, there were still some home sites for sale. You could certainly get away from it all here. Plus, you never know. There might still be some gold in them thar hills.

Finally, a picture of Mount Hood because is there anything scarier than a volcano in your backyard that could erupt at any time?


Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Non-Invasive Species Invades the Northwest: Sarah and Wahclella Falls

"Toto, I have a feeling we are not in Kansas anymore" - Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz

You may remember my friend Sarah from North Carolina. Some of you have even had the pleasure of meeting her in person, or talk to her almost daily via the internet as I do. I have given her my blue ribbon tour of the Columbia River Gorge, and a round trip around Mount Hood on her visits out west. It's been a pleasure to view the beauty in my backyard through her eyes. I wanted you all to have that same experience, so I asked her to write a guest post for my blog on our trip to Wahclella Falls, one of my favorite hikes. I hope you enjoy seeing the Northwest from her point of view as much as I have!! 

Her words and pictures follow.

As an East-Coaster, I really know very little about the Pacific Northwest. On my recent trips out there, some of the most fun I’ve had has been the times that Cari has “kidnapped” me to show me the beauties of The Columbia River Gorge and Mount Hood. She always refuses to tell me where we are going (as though I would know where she was talking about anyway), throws me in the back seat of the car with one or both of her kids, and tells me that if I see anything I want to stop to take pictures of to let her know.

On our latest little adventure, we had a gorgeous, blue-skied Sunday morning that was perfect for opening the windows and roaming the world. Cari, her youngest—Odessa, and I hopped into the car and did just that. 

When Cari put the car in “Park” we were at Wahclella Falls Trail. I, of course, had never heard of this. But one of the things I’ve learned with Cari is that if she takes me there, it is worth seeing. We slathered on some sunblock, made sure we had full water bottles, slung our cameras over our shoulders, and headed up the trail. 

The trail featured some of my favorite things about the trails of the Pacific Northwest: rocky streams, moss-covered trees, and plenty of shade. No sooner had I framed a shot than Miss Odessa decided that this moss-covered rock was the perfect place to take a break. I think she improved my shot. What do you think?

Once we started back on the trail, it suddenly took a sharp “upward” turn. 

Okay, maybe not such a sharp turn for a regular hiker, but for this gal who usually only traipses around the Coastal Plain of North Carolina, which is decidedly flat, it was sharp. But between the shade and the little hillside “trickles” along the way, it was a pretty pleasant climb.

When we got to this little bridge with its nice little waterfall “trickle,” I thought Cari had found Heaven. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so relaxed and completely in her element. When I got closer, I realized why. To be this close to the rush of the waterfall is both exhilarating and hypnotic.

But alas, we had another, larger waterfall to see, so we headed upward. One of the cool things about hiking upward is that you get to look back downward as you climb. It’s really a cool feeling to look back down at the treetops. It gives you a completely different perspective on nature’s majesty and our place in it.

I’ll be honest. There was a point in the hike when I was praying, “Lord, if I don’t make it out of here, it’s been a nice life.” But about fifteen steps later, I saw the waterfall and realized that it had been worth every step. There’s just nothing like getting as close as you can to a waterfall, leaning back against a mossy rock, and feeling the spray in your face. This picture doesn’t begin to do it justice. I wish I could capture the symphony of hearing the waterfall crash into the creek below. For me, it was an almost religious experience. 

At this point, I think Cari could look at me and see that if I didn’t have a break, she was going to lose me on the trail back. We crawled down to a calmer section of stream and found some large, lumpy rocks to sit on. I peeled my socks and shoes off, dug my flip flops out of my bag, and waded in the F-R-I-G-I-D water for a few minutes. Now, Cari asked me not to divulge her secret for cooling down one’s water bottle after a long, hot, climb. But maybe I can slip in a picture…

While we sat on our rocks and rested our feet, Odessa decided to teach us some lessons about rocks. We told her that if she found some gold in that there stream, Miss Sarah could afford to move to the Pacific Northwest. (I’m writing from North Carolina. Does that tell you how that turned out?)

Happily, since the trip to Wahclella Falls was mostly uphill, the trip back to the car was mostly downhill. And though we were all worn out when we got back to the car, I think it was a good tired. Like we had done something special and worthwhile. I can definitely say that it’s a trip that I would suggest to other hikers and it’s definitely one I would make again.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Oregon Bounty: Harvest Time in Hood River County

"Earth here is so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest." - Douglas Jerrold

Autumn is harvest time, and I can think of nowhere that puts on a better show of Oregon's bounty than Hood River County.

At the Annual Harvest Festival held recently along the banks of the Columbia River, some of the gems of the valley were on display.

Orchard fresh apples...

...and pears straight from the tree.

Acorn squash..

 ...and I forgot what this was.

 Also some pretty juicy looking Italian plums.

Even some ornamental cabbage for your landscaping needs!

Of course, no harvest celebration would be complete without pumpkins!

Harvest Festival may be over, but farm stands all along the Fruit Loop offer a large variety of local produce. Soon they will be closing to the public until Spring. Do yourself a favor and go grab some Oregon Bounty while you still can!

Plan Your Visit:

Hood River County Fruit Loop

Hood River County Chamber of Commerce

Travel Oregon