Northwest

Mt. Baker National Forest Waterfall

Mount Baker National Forest Waterfall

A small waterfall located on the Mount Baker Highway a few miles inside Mount Baker National Forest

On our next to last day of the Washington state trip, we journeyed into the Mount Baker National Forest with hopes of catching an amazing view of Mount Baker. As I documented earlier, the conditions weren’t great and we didn’t capture the glorious images I had imagined. Fortunately, we did find some waterfalls that were surrounded by the lush foliage of early spring.

This waterfall was near the roadside of the Mount Baker Highway. It isn’t tremendously high, perhaps only twelve feet or so. It is beautiful, though. The contrast of the flow of water along with the fir tree and rock face makes for a lovely image.

I may post some other images from our last day, but I think it’s time to move on to images from this summer and fall. I’ll start with those on the next post. Enjoy!

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Mt. Baker Waterfall

Mount Baker Waterfall

This small but beautiful waterfall was flowing immediately adjacent to a forest service road on the approach to Mt. Baker

I had a small bucket list of the places I wanted to visit while in Washington. On that list was a particular view from the Mt. Baker ski area. Unfortunately, the drive to the spot was not near any of the other spots on our shot list. However, given the snowy, icy conditions in the North Cascades our options were relatively limited there, photographically speaking.

So, on the next to last day of our trip we ventured north on back roads toward the Mount Baker Highway. As it turned out, the views from the road were often spectacular as we looked east toward the North Cascades. Occasionally, we would get a peek of Mount Baker through the mountains in the foreground and we got some idea of the size of the mountain we were headed toward. It was obviously a massive geographic feature.

Eventually, we made our way to the Mount Baker ski area where Picture Lake is located. The images I had seen from there were beautiful reflections of Mount Baker with wildflowers or beautiful fall foliage surrounding the lake. As we approached the ski area and climbed higher and higher, it became apparent that snow had only recently been cleared from the road. In fact, the road was not even open out to Artists Point, a spot that gives a spectacular view of Mount Baker. Although we could get to Picture Lake it was still covered in snow and ice. Obviously no reflection shots would be forthcoming. As we poked around we even found snowboarders getting in some of their last runs of the season!

I was bummed but I still had made it to an incredible view of the mountains. As we made our way back down the road, we continued to look for unique images that would capture the spirit of the area. In that process we ventured down some forest service roads looking for other views and scenes. During that process, we came across a series of waterfalls flowing near one of the forest service roads. This fall was only six feet tall or so, but was lovely to photograph. I especially like the moss in the foreground and the vibrant spring foliage that surrounds the waterfall. This shot was a one second exposure that required a four stop neutral density filter to slow down the shutter speed. There are a few more images from the spring trip in the list, but soon we will be moving on to images from this past summer and fall. Enjoy.

Leaving Washington Pass

Leaving Washington Pass

The beginning of the long descent from Washington Pass toward Marblemount

I love road shots. Something about the ribbon of asphalt bisected by a yellow line is appealing to me. I especially like road shots when something interesting like a snow-capped mountain is in the background. So, I couldn’t resist this image.

The scenery in the North Cascades is phenomenal. As I write this many months after capturing this image, there is a winter storm warning for this part of the country. They are expecting 12-23 inches of snow. We were there in the North Cascades in early June and the snow was just beginning to melt. This road, the North Cascades Highway, had only opened on May 10, about a month earlier. The road hasn’t closed yet this year but the normal closing date is in late November.

I look forward to returning to this area of the country one day. I hope to do so in late summer in order to see the wildflowers in full bloom and to be able to hike the trails when they are snow free. Until then I’ll be satisfied with memories of images like this one. Enjoy.

Approaching Washington Pass

Approaching Washington Pass

The view from North Cascades Highway approaching Washington Pass from the east

Our intent had been to hike a bit of the Pacific Crest Trail and some other trails in the North Cascades. It quickly became apparent that any hikes at an elevation of more than 3500 feet or so would be nearly impossible. Our first attempt was the trail to Cutthroat Lake. According to our information the trail was only a mile and a half long and clearly marked. For the first mile or so that information seemed accurate. With the slight gain in elevation, though, the trail quickly became snow-covered. At first, the hike was still manageable. But, fairly quickly, we lost the trail and the snow became deeper and deeper. At one point, I realized that I was walking next to a stream or a series of streams. I was likely hiking over water. Quickly, I realized I was hiking over water. My leg punched through the snow layer and my boot plunged into a foot of water or so. I was thigh deep in snow and had one boot in a stream. I managed to extricate myself, but I really didn’t want to go any further without a clear sign of where the trail led. Unfortunately, there were no obvious markers or we were so off course that we were off the trail completely. At this point, we realized that we could end up on one of those television shows detailing the tragedy of two hikers found dead of exposure only a short way from shelter. We chose to cut our hike short and pick our way back the way we had come.

I still don’t know how close we were to Cutthroat Lake. I think we were very close, but I also think the lake was completely ice and snow-covered. That was certainly the case with other lakes closer to Washington Pass. There was a small pond near the pass that would have made a perfect reflecting pool for the awesome alpine landscape surrounding us. Unfortunately, it too was still covered with ice. Rainy Lake is almost visible from the highway but the trail for it is a bit further down the road. When we parked at the roadside, the parking lot itself was still covered with three or four feet of snow. The only other cars parked there were from cross-country skiers who were still using the Rainy Lake trail to ski on! Needless to say, we wouldn’t be doing much hiking unless we wanted to purchase some snow shoes. Fortunately, we had been able to do a bit of hiking in Stehekin. Instead, we settled for multiple passes over Washington Pass and a short jaunt up the snow-covered road to the overlook near the top of the pass. The good news was that we were able to view the mountains with a significant amount of snow still on them. It made the already impressive range even more beautiful.

The image accompanying this post is a view of the mountains nearing Washington Pass. We stayed in Mazama on the eastern side of the pass for one night. We stayed on the western side of the pass for another night. This view is from the North Cascades Highway about a mile from the pass. The spire on the right side of the image is Liberty Bell. It is remarkable from any angle but especially from this view. The road curves to the left from this point and then makes a hairpin turn back to the right in front of Liberty Bell. On that section of the road, there was still a forty to sixty foot high wall of snow that had only recently been cleared. The quantity of snowfall and the resulting avalanches up here must be amazing. I need to return in August one year. It seems that the window between the thaw and the first snowfall of each year must be relatively short. In any case, the North Cascades are dramatic and unbelievably scenic. Enjoy.

Ross Lake and the North Cascades

Ross Lake and the North Cascades

Looking north over Ross Lake and the North Cascades range

There are two similar lakes in North Cascades, Lake Chelan and Ross Lake. Both are long, narrow, glacier fed lakes that lie at the base of a mountain range. The primary difference is that Chelan is a naturally occurring lake that has been dammed whereas Ross is a reservoir built primarily for power production to feed the city of Seattle and surrounding environs. Both are beautiful and bounded by majestic mountains.

We passed by this view of Ross Lake several times as we shuttled back and forth across Washington Pass. Going over the pass is an awe-inspiring trip and compels you to try it over and over again. The payoff on the western side of the pass through fifteen miles or so of mountains is this sight. Here, you are looking northward toward the Canadian border. I don’t know about this image, but on a clear day you almost certainly can see mountains on the other side of the Canadian border. As you can see from this image, even in mid-June, spring was still arriving. Only a few days before we arrived it was still snowing. You can see the high mountains still have a fresh cap of snow.

The who area is called the Switzerland of America. From this image it isn’t difficult to see why. Enjoy.

North Cascades Highway Waterfall

North Cascades Highway Waterfall

A beautiful waterfall located along the North Cascades Highway in Ross Lake National Recreation Area

We took the ferry back down Lake Chelan leaving Chelan. After a thirty minute plane ride up the lake, the ferry ride seemed interminably long. Even though we were on the “express” ferry, it still took over three hours to go back down lake. After that it took two hours to drive down the valley and back up into the valley approaching the pass over the North Cascades. By the time we crossed the pass late that afternoon we had traveled for six hours and were only about ten miles from the part of the Pacific Crest trail that we had been on the day before!

We made several treks over the pass via the North Cascades Highway. This waterfall was on the western side of the pass in the Ross Lake National Recreation Area. Curiously, even though the region is referred to as North Cascades National Park, none of the North Cascades Highway actually runs through the park. The only time we were actually in the park was during our time in Stehekin. Nevertheless, the mountains and scenery were equally magnificent in the entire region.

More from Agnes Gorge

Agnes Gorge View

A beautiful stand of lupin on the precipice of Agnes Gorge

The trail to and along Agnes Gorge is a relatively flat 2.5 mile hike. When we were there, there was a considerable variety of wildflowers in bloom. Fortunately, the streams crossing the trail were not yet flowing enough to cause a major problem. I think a few weeks later the snowmelt would have created much wider and deeper streams to cross.

The big payoff for the hike comes at the end of the trail. The view there is down into the gorge with the Stehekin River rushing madly along. There are several stands of lupin that frame the view and make it even more remarkable. That’s where the image above was taken. I’ve included a couple more of lupin and the beautiful evergreen forest that are encountered along the way. Enjoy.

Agnes Gorge Lupin
Wild lupin found along the Agnes Gorge Trail
Agnes Gorge Evergreen

The soft leaves of the local evergreen forest contrasted against the beautiful silver bark of trees in that forest

Agnes Gorge Birch Trees

Birch and Fern

A stand of birch trees and ferns found on the Agnes Gorge Trail in North Cascades National Park

Well, I’m starting to fall quite a bit behind on my posts. I’m still posting images from June and I still have much to blog about from this summer and now fall. I’m doing my best to keep up, but life is really busy right now and the blog is a lower priority than work and family. The bad news is that I’m behind. The good news is that I have quite a stockpile of images to post from the past few months. It’s nearing the dreary season for photography in my neck of the woods. Hopefully I will find some new spots to shoot, but winter is not usually a really productive season for me photographically speaking.

These images are from our trip to Washington State back in June. More specifically, these are from a short hike that we took on the Agnes Gorge Trail in North Cascades National Park. Virtually all of the trails at higher elevations were still snow-covered so we were fortunate to be able to hike here. The hike was out to an overlook of the gorge itself and was full of wildflowers, small streams, and a variety of other plant life.

I think the variety is what struck me as beautiful on the Agnes Gorge trail. We saw a multitude of deciduous and evergreen trees, many different spring wildflowers, and had a couple of unique views of the southern part of the mountains in North Cascades. I’m sure there was abundant animal life as well. We just didn’t have any first hand encounters with bear, deer, or other critters.

This stand of birch trees was the only one I recall seeing on the hike. However, as we wound through it on the way up the gorge I noted how beautiful it was. I’m glad I stopped for a moment to photograph it then. As it turned out the hike was a bit longer than we had anticipated. If I had waited for our return trip, I might have missed the image altogether because we were moving at a fast clip to meet our ride back down the valley. I suppose there is nothing truly noteworthy about the image. I just love the contrast between the stark white bark of the birches with the vibrant green of the ferns and other groundcover. I hope you enjoy the look as well.

Birch Trees and Fern

A stand of birch trees and ferns found on the Agnes Gorge Trail in North Cascades National Park

Dogwood and Stehekin River

Dogwood and Stehekin River

A dogwood tree in full bloom stands beside the snowmelt induced rushing waters of the Stehekin River

Our plan had been to hike part of the Pacific Crest Trail, but the winter snows were still deep enough to cover all of the trails above 3500 feet. So, we came up with a backup plan. All of the locals in Stehekin indicated that there were still a lot of wildflowers on the Agnes Gorge Trail. So, we set our sights on hiking it.

There was a small problem with our plan, though. For whatever reason, the National Park Service bus that normally ran up and down the valley was not in operation for the three days of our visit. After riding bikes up to Rainbow Falls we realized that the valley would get steeper and steeper as we neared the head of the valley. The eleven miles up and back plus the miles in the gorge seemed too much for one day.

Fortunately, the young innkeepers at the Silver Bay Inn were extremely accommodating. They offered to drop us off and pick us back up a few hours later. Considering all that they had to do to keep the inn running, it was an extremely gracious offer. After viewing the elevation gain on the way up the valley, I’m really glad that we didn’t hike the eleven miles up!

As we were being dropped off we were given the directions to the trailhead. They seemed straightforward enough, so off we went. As it turned out, the directions were fine, but our attention to detail – or lack thereof – wound up costing us an extra two or three miles of hiking. Somehow, we managed to hike straight past the turnoff to the Agnes Gorge Trail. That was the bad news. The good news was that the road/trail went past some spectacular scenery. It was on this part of our hike that I took this image of the Stehekin River.

It was amazing to me that the dogwoods were still blooming. I’m from Atlanta and the dogwoods had bloomed in late March at home. Pamela and I took a trip to Vancouver in mid-April and the dogwoods were blooming there. Now, it was early June and I saw dogwoods blooming for a third time. I felt like I had experienced spring three different times in one year!

The snowmelt was pushing the Stehekin River into a raging torrent. The green of the lush plant life created a wonderful contrast to the frothing white rapids of the river. The rock in the foreground has some wonderful texture and yet another shade of green seen in the moss and algae embedded in the rough surface of the granite. All together, they capture the feel of the cool spring day we took for our hike.

I’ll describe the Agnes Gorge Trail in a future post. If you ever make it to Stehekin, you really should go up the valley and hike in this area. It is truly beautiful. Enjoy.

The View from Lakeshore Trail

The View from Lakeshore Trail

The Lakeshore Trail near Stehekin offers incredible views of Lake Chelan and the North Cascades

Although I didn’t have a great category for Stehekin before I arrived, I quickly found that there is a ton to do there. I suppose I had presumed that the entire community would be in close proximity to the ferry terminal and park ranger‘s residence. Instead I found a community that reached up and down the valley for several miles that had an amazing variety of people and industry.

I knew that there was hiking in the area, but my assumption was that every hike was up and into the North Cascades. Although there were plenty of trails in that region, there were a ton of cool little hikes in Stehekin proper. We were fortunate to hit the Lakeshore trail one evening after dinner. Because we had arrived near the summer solstice, the sun didn’t actually set until 9:00 or later. So, we had time to eat dinner and then stretch our legs looking for great photo opportunities.

My primary focus on this hike was to find a patch of lupin growing wild that could be used as an interesting foreground for a shot across Lake Chelan toward the North Cascades. Although I did find some lupin, none of it was lit enough or in the correct location to yield the shot I had in mind.

I settled for this image. At a bend in the trail, the late afternoon light illuminated the trees and the lake shore. I like the glow that has developed in the tree branches, the deep blue of the lake, and the snow still present on the mountain range in the distance. I hope you enjoy it as well.