Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Horsethief Butte in the Central Columbia Gorge

With the unrelenting rain fest in the the Pacific Northwest, the only two places with some degree of sunshine was 90 miles to the east, in Central Oregon and 350 miles to the north, on the Sunshine Coast of B.C.. Needing more shots of the "dry" side of the Cascades in the Gorge, it seemed like a good time for some late afternoon photography.

The rain and mist grew heavy in the waterfall part of the Gorge, but blue was visible in the East!

A prominent formation of basalt known as Horsethief Butte always looked like a great place to explore and photograph. Many years ago I made a brief stop and vowed to return. It was a great day here, but also a great wind was blowing from the west, which added drama, interesting cloud formations and swaying vegetation.

Horsethief Butte

Horsethief Butte is a great promontory with interesting basalt formations and plant life. I climbed up the north side to do a bit of rock scrambling for fun. It was very windy, with gusts in the 35 knot range, so it was really blowing on top. Found a few back eddies to shelter from the wind and enjoy the view.

View looking north towards the Columbia Hills from the top

After exploring the central part of the Butte, I took the trail around. Sun was beaming in and out of view and getting close to the hills in the NW. I set up for taking a panoramic view, hoping the sun would hit the Butte one more time before disappearing over the hills. I was rewarded.

Sunbeam on the Butte with clouds haloing top

Strong winds and mountains can create interesting cloud formations. This long lenticular cloud formed down the Columbia River valley, constantly changing shape. There was also a bit of green in the grasses left before the heat of summer really takes hold here.

Lenticular cloud at Horsethief Butte

The clouds and light looked like it might develop well over Mt. Hood, so a found a clear view and waited. Rewarded again with the clouds clearing away and lighting up like a neon sign at sunset. It was the longest day of the year, so it was getting late.

Lenticular and clearing storm clouds over Mt. Hood

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Spring in the Columbia Gorge

Rain, rain and more rain has been the theme here in the Northwest. Now that may not come as a surprise to many, but this year has been record setting. Although we don't have much in the way of thunder and lightning on the "west" side of the Cascades (three bolts of lightning is a big deal here) there has been a deluge or two.

All the rain has filled the creeks and rivers with scads of water, with no lack of water in the Gorge last weekend. I headed out a bit later in the day with hopes of storm clouds moving in towards evening (some came), and the landscape photographer's greatest desire; a colorful sunset.

All the rain prompted me to check out one of my faves, beautiful Elowah Falls and the trail beyond. After retrieving my forgotten glasses in the car, I noticed this beautiful Colombian Lily, suspended in mid-air on its stem, right along the trail. Had to sprawl down on the ground to see it properly. Got a few stares from passerbys.

Columbian Lily on the Elowah Falls Trail

Elowah Falls was humming. Lots of everything: noise, rushing water, spray, wind blasting at the base of the falls. First spent some time just absorbing the scene. Took a series of photos to create this composite at one of the usual but best spots. Creek raced by, spray came and went, lots of lens and camera swabbing. It was great.

Elowah Falls and McCord Creek

Now I needed to get over the bridge in front of the falls to continue on the trail. Looked like quite a bit of spray and wind. Donned my rain jacket, but thought I didn't need the rain pants. Not the right decision. It was a sideways cold monsoon on the bridge...soaked to the bone...

The trail was beautiful, covered at times by Salmonberry bushes on both sides. Clearings of heavily moss covered rocks below cliff faces. A nice group of Paintbrush.

Beautiful group of Paintbrush

Now for those storm clouds. Due to the jet stream taking direct aim on Oregon, things are moving through here quickly. Although it looked a bit threatening at times, it stayed dry. Except, of course for having to cross the bridge again by the falls on the way back. Put the rain pants on this time...

Storm clouds gather overhead

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Spring in the Olympics

It's always a pleasure to return to the Olympics. The first place visited when moving here 35(!) years ago this May was Lena Lake in the Olympics. The memory is clear; had a great hike, spotted a Dipper swimming in the stream, fantastic peaks, beautiful forests. Seemed like I had found paradise. 35 years later, it's more beautiful than ever.

Dipper surveying his domain on the Sol Duc

With turbulent weather, there can be unexpected surprises. It was dismally gray as sunset approached with little hope of something interesting. With some last minute clearing, suddenly the sky lit up with pinks and magentas. It was quite amazing. Almost strange to see such intense colors and grandness compressed into this tiny picture below. This is a composite of 5 photographs. Will make a grand print...

Rich sunset looking west at Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park

Loons are occasional visitors here. It's usually lone males prying the waters of Lake Crescent, far from shore. Morning revealed this one close in. Had to shoot through the cabin windows, as he would otherwise be gone in flash.

Early morning Pacific Loon

Hiked into Sol Duc Falls (Sol Duc means "Sparkling Waters" in Quileute), a popular hike near Hot Springs Resort. It is also the beginning of the trail to Seven Lakes Basin and the glorious High Divide. The prevailing Westerlies had been prevailing on the Olympics, with generous drippy, cold days, swelling the Sol Duc and creating quite a cascade at the falls.

Sol Duc Falls with Spring Runoff

Evening brought some color before the gray closed in.

Mist and Light over Mt. Muller