Category Archives: Photography
My vacation is winding down, so I really wanted a wilderness experience. As I get older, I seem to have fewer and fewer of them, and that’s a shame. I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire, but yesterday I sought to rectify that absence and headed to the north side of the highest mountain in Oregon. The drive is long but the hike is shorter and easier than many approaches.
From the Vista Ridge Trailhead, the trail goes through half a mile of typical Cascade forest, then emerges into a charred landscape left over from the Dollar Lake fire in 2011. The underbrush is thriving, but here are few trees left alive over ten feet tall. Lots of silvery trunks make for an odd atmosphere, but I find it fascinating. Once I climbed out of that in a couple miles, the wildflowers started dotting the sides of the trail. I’d worried I was late, but not at all. Once I hit the Timberline Trail, I had a quick decision to make about finding a campsite. I chose to seek a new spot in Elk Cove, a big open meadow below the steep slopes of Mount Hood abutted by the massive talus slopes of Barrett Spur.
Once I made camp, I snacked and headed out on a hike to points east. Three stream crossings later, a couple of which are tricky, I made it to a nice set of rocky slabs above Compass Creek Falls. It’s hard to get a straight-on view of the falls, because it’s below the trail. I found a nice flat rock and napped briefly in the sunshine. Sleeping in the sun feels like vacation.
The flowers along the trail kept surprising me. Yellow, lavender, red, white, pink, orange. It’s such a treat to catch the mountainsides bedecked in coat of many colors. My walk back to camp was uneventful other than starting to see a lot more people. It was a good day.
My only disappointment was when I realized my camp was too far in the shadow of a massive ridge to see the comet Neowise, but that was a small price to pay for the lovely vista I had while eating a mediocre freeze dried dinner. An early evening ramble along a user path in the meadows let me see a different perspective of creek and flowers and mountain above. I took a series of photos and eventually wandered back to my tent feeling intoxicated by the beauty of the area.
I woke early today and headed out, knowing I had business to attend to at home, but also knowing my legs might not be up for another side trek. I am already thinking about my next visit to the area.
Hello! It’s been a minute. Or two years, but hey, who counts? I have been spending more time on Instagram as I’ve been trying to really learn photography. Check it out if you like. @joshbakerwriter. So it may seem a bit ironic that I am back on the blog using only cell phone shots. Ha ha. Life is funny. My wife and I spent some time out in the Columbia River Gorge this week. There are so many pretty places out there. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, many popular trails are closed, but we still found some great spots.
Dry Creek Falls is roughly a 4.5 mile round trip hike from Cascade Locks. The forest shows signs of the Eagle Creek Fire in the first half, yet it still manages to be green in both the canopy and the ground cover. The slopes are steep but the trail is not. This is an easy hike for the two miles or so to the small babbling brook that is Dry Creek. The falls are a few hundred yard up a side trail. Yes, it’s worth it.
If you are looking for additional exercise opportunities in the area, consider a walk around Blackberry Beach or a ride on the nearby mountain bike trails. One could also put in their kiteboard on the Columbia there. Whatever your flavor, Cascade Locks probably has it. Have fun out there, and stay safe.
In the Baker family, when one wants to check out an area with which we are not familiar, we say that we are “‘vestigating.” A gray Sunday seemed like the perfect time for such an outdoor ‘vestigation that offered possibilities for photographic endeavors. My new Sony DSC HX400v was calling my name, as I am still less than adept at its various controls and menus. My friend Hamid was game for a hike, and he knows more about photography than me. Winning!
Kellogg Lake is a major geographical feature in the Milwaukie area, yet few people see it unless they live in certain spots or ride the light rail train, which crosses the outlet from an elevated perspective. Elsewhere, it is hard to view the water. A modest trail network descends a hillside behind the Presbyterian Church. I’d heard of this but had no good information. So Hamid and I explored, trying first this route and then that. There is plenty of walking to be had for a small area, spur trails going out both sides of a small peninsula, where we checked out waterbirds, foliage, and views across the lake. We kept spooking an egret who was close to us on a few occasions. I was never fast enough on the shutter to catch it in flight, but I did find it from afar. Magnificent bird.
Rain started coming down in earnest after we hit the far end of the lake, and although we saw a heron and enjoyed the different vantage points, there was less to explore there, so we adjourned to the Beer Store Milwaukie, which is also a restaurant and bottle shop. I opted for Ninkasi’s seasonal ale, Sleigh’r. Hamid got a stout. It’s tough to go wrong with 15 rotating taps. We enjoyed lots of interesting conversation about art, music, friends, and the circuitous paths our lives had taken, topping off a very pleasant afternoon.
Initially, Denise and I headed for Latourell Falls. The sky was foggy, the temperature cool, so I was not overly excited, but I wanted to stretch my legs and take some photos with my new camera. Once we got on the scenic highway at Corbett, plans evolved. We stopped at first great viewpoint, known as the Portland Women’s Forum Viewpoint. Not a bad seat in the joint. I’d never been to the far end to the parking lot before, with slightly better views of the river and a classic look at Crown Point. From there, we drove to the nearby Vista House atop Crown Point, then dropped into the trees on the winding road to the first big falls of the Gorge.
For a few reasons, we didn’t set out on a real hike at Latourell Falls, which I’ve previously documented on this site. Instead, we strode up the first steep pitch to a nice viewpoint of the falls, then turned back. I was thinking Shepperd’s Dell would be our next spot, but I forgot all about Bridal Veil Falls State Park! Silly me. It isn’t dramatic from the road, but this is a hidden gem with two very different trails. Since Denise had not seen the river overlook trail, we skipped the waterfall trail and ambled about the meandering flat trail. There are views of the mighty Columbia in both directions, and great head-on looks at the Washington side of the Gorge in the Cape Horn area.
Shepherd’s Dell is not much of a spot to hike, but it has a cool falls, which is made more mysterious by upper reaches I’d never before noticed. The watercourse almost corkscrews. Cascades are visible through the trees along the highway which are invisible from the trail itself. This is a great little spot for a rest.
Like its big brother Multnomah Falls, Wahkeena Falls is a popular spot, and with good reason. The falls is not one clean plunge, but a couple of horsetails and a cascade below to boot. The base of the main falls is easily accessible by paved trail.
Knowing this, we cruised up there. It only takes a few minutes. I was impressed by the flow and the breeze which that created. I didn’t dally long by the falls proper, but continued past. We hiked up about 11 switchbacks to Lemmon Viewpoint, which took perhaps 20 minutes. I didn’t remember how tough the trail was, but it was easy, and the views were great. It was a nice capper to another great tour of the Columbia River Gorge.
Note: In double checking spellings of a couple waterfalls, I stumbled on a cool site for waterfall lovers, Northwest Waterfall Survey. I knew a number of the names, like Ecola and Mist, but was not aware of Dalton, Little Necktie, and a few others. Just when I needed new ideas for local exploration! Happy hikes, everyone.
My first trip to Alaska didn’t last nearly long enough. That said, my wife planned a heck of a trip in a tight time window. We flew late at night from Portland to Anchorage. After a few hours sleep, we ate breakfast at a nearby café which included reindeer sausage. Yep. Soon enough we had a rental car and headed north. Talkeetna, here we come. As soon as we passed the city limits, mountains loomed to the north and east. The forests were not as dense as those I am accustomed to in Oregon and Washington. The hemlocks and spruces were lovely, but on the small side. No matter. The scale of the land itself was cause for celebration. We stopped at a few different spots and saw stunning vistas. Mountains, lakes, wildlife and cute towns. I envisioned a hundred hikes on that two hour drive.
We arrived in Talkeetna a bit earlier than expected, and I moved up a flightseeing trip as a result. Twist my arm. Ten of us flew in a small plane courtesy of Talkeetna Air Taxi north to the Alaska Range. From the braided Susitna River to the Ruth Glacier and a fly by of big peaks, I was in heaven. We landed high on a glacier and gawked for fifteen minutes. Immaculate snowy peaks with massive cliffs were everywhere. The weather was perfect for us, if a bit warm for alpinists. For a mountain lover, this was almost a surreal experience, a bucket list trip to be sure.
Back in Talkeetna, Denise and I grubbed at Denali Brewing’s patio on a warm evening. They had a nice beer selection and great food. Mostly I remember the peanut butter pie. After exploring the town a bit more, including some unique street vendors, we retired to our room in the quaint Roadhouse. A nap was in order, but shortly after 11 p.m., we got up and headed out in search of the Aurora Borealis. We found it nearby. My photos are not great, but I include one for reference. Interestingly, there is a firm in Talkeetna that offers lesson on how to take photos the northern photos. Next time I will bring a better camera and take that lesson.
Not bad for one day. Look for more photos soon, including some of spectacular hiking in Denali National Park. Happy hiking.
Dawn broke clear and cool over the upper Clackamas River drainage after an impromptu camping trip amid the teeming hordes escaping the metro area. Every campground was full for miles. So it goes. It was a great morning to look at clear water, tall trees, and mossy rocks. Then there was the low waterline at Detroit Lake, living the late summer reservoir life of stumps and marinas in the mud. We did a lot of walking, although we didn’t end up taking a serious hike. We simple went with the flow, something at which I do not always excel. We found gorgeous spots of placid river, and soaked up views from the dam at the foot of Detroit Lake. Ten to fifteen fishermen cast their lines right off the top of the dam. Some of them were even successful. Pretty cool.
Once we got out of the foothills, we had a decision to make. We could go to a popular hiking area like Silver Falls or Opal Creek, but we opted instead to do something a bit more unique, based on the classic on-the-fly smart phone search. Onward to Willamette Mission State Park! It was there that Jason Lee established a Methodist mission in 1834, two decades before Oregon was even a state, and survival had to come before any conversion of Native Americans. The part comprises almost 900 acres of river, lakes, orchards, and open fields. It’s just over an hour from home, yet I’d never visited. Time to change that.
Once in the park, we walked the short trail to the of Goose Lake, then drove to the viewing spot of the nation’s largest Black Cottonwood, which is not incredibly tall in comparison to redwoods or Douglas firs, but boy, that trunk is massive!
One of the cool things the park does is create what they term a ghost structure, which duplicates the basic shape of the original mission buildings. The structure was built close to the riverbank, and mosquitoes were a big problem, along with malaria. Not such a great spot, as it turns out. The mission moved to Chemeketa, now known as Salem, in 1840. Ironically, an 1861 flood ravaged the area, and the main river channel moved further west. The water below the ghost structure is now a landlocked lake most of the year.
The trails were pretty, and dotted with nut trees and apple trees. There were many walnut trees, and a lot of a few other species, which probably included filbert trees. A few deer darted through the area, perhaps looking to nosh on some apples.
Once we left the orchard area, we discovered a path to the Willamette River itself, on a quiet rocky beach with calm water that instantly make me think of Huckleberry Finn. I skipped a few rocks, which Jackie wanted to chase. Sorry, not a ball, buddy.
It was a lovely spot, and the temperature was perfect. Just visible downstream was the Wheatland Ferry. It seemed such an quaint anachronism that we had to take it.Such happenstance led us to Dayton, a cute little town which was apparently founded by Joel Palmer, part of the Barlow Road entrepreneurial team and namesake of the Palmer snowfield and chairlift at famed Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood. We also chowed on great burgers at the Block House Café. Then came the Sunday afternoon traffic issues, part of which was caused by a pair of tractors on the highway, which seemed humorous yet fitting in Oregon’s wine country, and a fitting capstone for the day.
It is not often one gets to walk on flat ground in the Columbia River Gorge. For an area with a wide river and mostly minor mountains, there’s few hikes without healthy elevation gain. For those of you keeping score, that’s what makes it a National Scenic Area. That and the countless classic waterfalls. Sometimes, however, flat ground is the best spot of all from which to appreciate high ground.
Rooster Rock State Park has a hidden side, reached best from the east bound exit ramp from Highway 84. A short access road drops down near Mirror Lake to a tiny parking area. An obvious track leads east over mostly flat ground through a deciduous forest toward open land that does indeed offer great views of the surrounding hills. The walking is easy for the first mile and a half. After that, the land gets more brushy, and I had to exercise care to avoid thorns and stickers which seemed to possess varying levels of malice. I still got some nice scratches on my calves. Waaah.
The end goal of the Youngs Creek hike is a bridge over the modest creek. I wandered around the area for a while, trying to get a glimpse of waterfalls above. I could not, although I could see Angel’s Rest in the distance as well as numerous nearby cliffs before I plunked my pack down on the bridge and contemplated the noises of the sunlit world. The highway is near to the north, and the railroad is just below the flanks of the hills to the south. Yet I felt very serene in this so called bottomland, which would certainly look rather different in winter or early spring. Today, however, it was a dry, yellowing land. The forested areas felt very different, with tall grasses and bushes pushing into the shaded track. Another good one in the books.
When earlier this year a cousin did a short post about Flume Knob in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, my curiosity was piqued. It is far from a major peak, but it offers great views for a modest effort. What’s not to like? So when my wife and I returned to the Empire State for a mini family reunion last week, Flume Knob was on my mind.
The Adirondacks are a huge area. The mountains are not high, but they make up for that in ruggedness. Any given trail will feature rocks and roots and varying degrees of steep factor. Some are fairly brutal. (I’m looking at you, south side of Haystack!) Flume Knob is on the easier side of the difficulty continuum.
The namesake of the peak is a rocky narrows of the West Fork of the Ausable River. I was impressed with that before we’d set foot on the trail. The beginning of the trail, meandering through the Wilmington Wild Forest, barely climbed at all. It was crossed by mountain biking loops at regular intervals, though we saw no bikes. The quiet woods and easy grade made it easy to chat. Then the trail got more serious, and we climbed over rock and log, and up steep root-seamed dirt, to multiple false summits. Occasional ledges offered sunny views of the green blanketed valley and distant rocky peaks and let us catch our breath.
Eventually we all made it to the rocky nub of a summit, in the shadow of mighty Whiteface Mountain, two time site of the Winter Olympic skiing. Lunch, talk, bees, and photos were the order of the moment. Smiles came easily, and I took what was perhaps the sweetest mother-daughter shot I’ve ever taken.
We lolled about on top for a while, enjoying the sun. It was hard to leave the view, but we did, and walked down with care over the steep pitches. Back at the bottom, we looked at the namesake flume from the bridge on Route 86. The river shoots through an impressive rocky slot, below which is a popular swimming hole. If you can avoid the flying critters (a yellow jacket on top wanted my sandwich), the Adirondacks offer a wealth of outdoor pleasures.
In a shocking development, I went for a walk last Sunday. The weather was iffy, so I stayed close to home, and I was able to find another pleasant place to leg stretch close to the city. Canemah Bluff is located above the Willamette River at the south end of Oregon City. In the 19th century, pioneers settled there and established their own community, which predicated its economy on people who necessarily portaged around nearby Willamette Falls as they headed up or down the Willamette. The town was eventually annexed by Oregon City in the 1920s. It is still a lovely area, and the Children’s Park (no, I didn’t go down the slide) is a great place to start a walk. A small network of trails offers a few different options depending on your ambition and interest. Like Mount Talbert and Powell Butte, they have nice signage and mini maps on posts at junctions.
One of the things about this area is that, historically, Native Americans conducted annual controlled burns, and this affected biodiversity. Unlike many areas in Northwest Oregon, the bluffs here offer broad wildflower meadows lined lots of oaks and madrone trees, as well as alder and cedar forested areas further uphill.
The walking was easy, and I found myself marveling at the great colors all around. Bright wildflowers abounded in the open areas, but the most amazing hues of all (and this on a gray day) were on the madrone trunks. In a couple photos, they seemed to almost glow a rusty color. Eventually, I caught a glimpse of a pioneer cemetery, then headed uphill on the Old Slide Trail. They were very pleasant woods to amble about. On that segment of trail, I found myself falling into arty photography, noticing the symmetry in a certain fern’s fronds, a stand of deciduous trees, even the perfectly placed bee in the center of a flower. I have found that taking a great photo gives me a great deal of pleasure, but there is nothing like a good walk. Happy hiking, everyone.
It has been far too long since I wrote a significant post. I could have posted about this hike or that, yet my life isn’t that simple. I work more than 40 hour a week, and I have other interests besides hiking. Shocking, I know. I learned today that I won a juried photography contest (a shot from a local hike), I have been working on a collection of poetry, and I am trying to attend musical events when I have the energy for local heroes and national stars alike. An ingrown toenail is also a big reason I have put off big hikes. I know, excuses, excuses. Enough about that. Let’s go somewhere!
This morning, I helped hang an art show which will benefit Alzheimer’s research, then caught a lunchtime concert by Franco Paletta and the Stingers, a summertime series of outdoor shows in the park by our neighborhood library. An outdoor adventure seemed like great way to top the day. I decided on the kayak, and went for a jaunt upstream on the Willamette, paddling solo past Elk Rock Island, taking in a view of scrubby cliffs, including what in the winter is a sizeable waterfall but is now little more than a trickle bound in slimy green verge.
Then I met Mr. Heron. He eludes me much of the time. When I’ve walked along the bank to capture his image, he spooks and flies away in that dinosaur way. In the kayak, however, I got within thirty feet from two directions. He seemed curious but never left the spot behind a giant log in the rocky shallows.
The shoreline crags of Elk Rock Island were teeming with swimmers and fisherfolk, and I was glad to have a view of that rocky world rather than be among them. The river itself had occasional wakeboarders and tubing boats, yet it still seemed serene. A new perspective is almost always a good thing. Look for more water adventures in the future. Happy summer.