Marriott Basin Coast Mountains British Columbia

Marriott Basin Coast Mountains British Columbia

Marriott Basin alpenglow, Coast Mountains British ColumbiaMarriott Basin alpenglow, #61843    Purchase

Last month I made my third trip into Marriott Basin, in search of new landscape images. Hot on the heels of my recent trip to Whatcom Pass, I wanted to get in as many backpacking photo trips as possible before wildfire smoke returned. This season has been one of the worst in history for wildfires. Both in the western United  States and British Columbia numerous large fires are burning.

Located in the southern Coast Mountains of British Columbia, Marriott Basin is an extensive alpine area. Access to the area is from Cayoosh Pass on highway 99, about an hour’s drive east of Pemberton. Nearby is the extremely popular Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. While the lakes are popular with sightseers and day hikers, the Joffre Group of peaks is wildly popular with climbers and backcountry skiers.

Generally above 6000′ Marriott Basin contains several lakes and numerous peaks for climbing, most notably Marriott Peak. My previous trips to Marriott Basin entailed one overnight backpack to Mount Rohr, technically outside the basin. The other was a winter ski trip to the Wendy Thompson Hut, located at the head of the basin. The Wendy Thompson Hut is operated by the Alpine Club of Canada and is open year round. However, the hut sees most of its visitors during the winter and early spring ski season.

Avalanche warning sign Coast Mountains British ColumbiaTrailhead avalanche warning #61910    Purchase

Marriott Basin Trail

Getting into Marriott Basin is fairly straightforward, with summer access being slightly different from winter. In summer you can drive a couple of miles up a brushy gravel secondary road to the trailhead. Parking and turnaround space is extremely limited and you my need back down the road to find a spot. The total length into the basin from trailhead to the hut is around five miles with about 2000′ feet of elevation gain. I say around and about since I don’t carry a GPS and rely on maps and online trail guides instead. Depending on your fitness and pack weight the hike in can be from 2-4 hours.

Posted at the trailhead is a large sign warning of and explaining avalanche hazards, which generally is of no consequence in summer. Hikers accustomed to hiking on U.S. trail in the Pacific Northwest may be in for a rude awakening. Well marked and easy to follow, the trail receives very little maintenance. Climbing over logs around boulders and muddy areas the trail is pretty rough in places. After a short level spell the trail climbs a headwall very steeply, without switchbacks, trough forest. Near the top of this section is the turnoff for Rohr Lake and Mount Rohr. From here the trail levels off a bit and zigzags around muddy bogs and small meadows until a tricky log crossing of a stream. On my visit the water was low but in late spring early summer the crossing must be quite exciting!

Marriott Basin trail Coast Mountains British ColumbiaMount Rohr junction #61905    Purchase

Marriott Basin trail Coast Mountains British ColumbiaCreek crossing, Marriott Basin Trail  #61892    Purchase

The next section of the trail climbs into the subalpine zone, or the boulder zone as I call it on this trip. As soon as you start breaking out of the trees the trail is almost constantly negotiating rocks and boulders. The constant ups and downs and zigzagging can be very tiring, especially in warm weather. However the views also begin to open up now, above to the ridge tops and over to green Marriott Lake. After reaching the far end of the lake the last bit of climbing to the hut begins. Again, depending on your pack weight this section can be short or agonizingly long. In all it’s less than a mile and 200′ higher up. A level boulder filled meadow with a meandering stream is home to the hut.

Wendy Thompson Hut Marriott Basin, Coast Mountains British ColumbiaWendy Thompson Hut  #61793    Purchase

Wendy Thompson Hut

The upper lakes were my ultimate destination, so I only paused briefly for a rest and inspection of the hut. Wendy Thompson was a ski patroller and paramedic. She died tragically in 1995 at the age of 33 in a Medivac flight crash in the Queen Charlotte Islands. As a memorial and legacy to Wendy, her parents and the ACC worked with volunteers to build this hut.

Since my last winter visit the ACC made some substantial renovations. They extended the entire length, added solar powered lighting and USB ports. They also replaced the obnoxious smell of kerosene heaters with a wood burning stove. As is usual in backcountry huts one of the tables was covered in maps, guide books, and misc. reading material. Also present was the obligatory cribbage board and multiple decks of cards.

From the hut the work begins again. Access to the upper lakes is via more and bigger boulder fields without benefit of a trail. Some well placed rock cairns mark the way but mostly it’s a pick your own best route deal. Once at the upper lakes it wide open wandering in all directions. I set up camp in a spot suitable for easy access to photo ops of the distant peaks and valley below.

Boulder field Marriott Basin Coast Mountains British ColumbiaBoulder field, cairn visible in lower right corner  #61849    Purchase

Upper Marriott Basin

The next day I did some exploring and I set my eyes on  an easy ridge within my comfort level. Hiking and easy scrambling over boulder slopes brought me to the crest with new view to the west and north. One of the reasons I picked this particular ridge was for the unobstructed views of Cayoosh Mountain. Sitting at 8200″Cayoosh  is a fairly bulky chunk of rock with the north and east aspects covered in glaciers. Looking down between me and Cayoosh was a high pass with a small green lake. To the north was a long deep valley with countless peaks on the horizon. Taking in such a view I immediately wished I had my camp set up here! Photographing in good light would be spectacular. I guess I”ll have to make another trip back sometime.

Later back at my camp I settled in to wait for evening light. Although the sky was mostly free of clouds, there was some nice alpenglow present which enabled me to make a few photos. It was nice to watch the progression of layered colors after sunset. First came yellows and oranges followed by purples and blues of the Belt of Venus.

Marriott Basin backcountry camp Coast Mountains British ColumbiaCamping in Marriott Basin #61795    Purchase

Cayoosh Mountain Coast Mountains British ColumbiaCayoosh Mountain #61805    Purchase

Marriott Basin Coast Mountains British ColumbiaUpper Marriott Basin #61815    Purchase

Back at the Hut

The next day I had planned to hike out to my truck but on exploring the area near the hut I decided to stay an extra night. Near the hut were small grassy meadows and a small stream among more boulders. I found a nice campsite near the small stream which held potential for some nice photographic compositions. I tried to make some evening photos but the light was bland, especially with no clouds. In the morning it was apparent that winds had shifted. Smoke once again began to creep across the sky. Although there still weren’t any clouds the light was a bit nicer, with the smoky haze giving a more pastel hue to the scene. I set up my tripod in a few predetermined places and came away with several more photos.

I had a quick breakfast and packed up my gear. Although I wasn’t as successful with photos as hoped I did have a great time. And I did manage to find a new view that was worthy of a return trip.

Marriott Basin campsite British ColumbiaMarriott Basin Camping #61863    Purchase

Marriott Basin, Coast Mountains British ColumbiaMarriott Basin #61871    Purchase

Marriott Lake smoke haze, Coast Mountains British ColumbiaSmokey haze over Marriott Lake #61884    Purchase

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Bay of Fundy New Brunswick

Bay of Fundy New Brunswick

Bay of Fundy low tide Bay of Fundy New BrunswickBay of Fundy at low tide  #58545    Purchase

A year ago I made my first visit to the Bay of Fundy New Brunswick. For many years the Atlantic Provinces of Canada have been on my must see list. Last year my wife, Coleen, and I finally had the opportunity to visit and photograph in this beautiful region. Our plan was to spend six weeks traveling to Nova Scotia and New England for fall color photography. Since we had to drive through New Brunswick we couldn’t miss the opportunity to check out the fabled Bay of Fundy.

Fundy National Park

Fundy National Park was our first stop in the Atlantic Provinces after leaving New England. Fundy National Park showcases rugged coastline, over 25 waterfalls, dense Acadian Forest, and of course the famous tides. We excitedly pulled over at the first overlook of the bay. After such a long drive across the continent it was a welcome sight to see and smell saltwater again. We checked in at the visitor center to secure a campsite then quickly set up our home for the night.

Fishing Boats Bay of Fundy New BrunswickFishing boats, Alma, New Brunswick  #58493   Purchase

We stayed in Headquarters Camp and found it very convenient, being very close to the bay. Campers in Fundy National Park have a variety of options available in three different campgrounds. You can choose between traditional tent and RV sites, yurts, rustic cabins, oTENTik, or the new Goutte d’Ô. Goutte d’Ô is a structure with a water droplet shape suitable for couples or family. I must warn, however, along with the park’s daily use fee per person, the cost of renting out an oTENTiks, or Goutte d’Ô could be higher then a nice motel room.

Alma, Bay of Fundy

Our next objective was to pay a visit to the small town of Alma in search of lobster. While in town I made some photos of fishing boats moored to piers at high tide. My plan was to make some comparison photos of low and high tides. We searched the town but couldn’t find any open lobster shacks. It turned out the season had closed so there wasn’t any lobster available. So we settled for the next best thing, clam chowder and fish & chips. I wish I could report that we had a good introduction to east coast seafood, but it wasn’t to be. The clam chowder was very watery, with hardly any cream clams or flavor. Unfortunately the fish & chips were no better, a small fillet covered in thick very greasy batter. Although we were sorely disappointed, our dining luck will greatlyimprove in the coming weeks!

Dickson Falls Trail, Fundy National Park Bay of Fundy New BrunswickDickson Falls Trail, Fundy National Park  #58487   Purchase

Dickson Falls

Aside from the obvious attraction of the bay and it’s tides, Fundy National Park also has over 100 kilometers of trails. I wanted to check one of those trails before getting ready for evening photography. I decided on the popular Dickson Falls Trail, a short walk into a forested ravine to a famous waterfall. Upon entering the forest I was immediately struck by the heavy fragrant scent of spruce trees. Forests in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are classified as Acadian, a mix of northern hardwoods and boreal spruce usually found in the far north. A well constructed boardwalk trail takes you through a cool green forest which felt more like home in the Pacific NW. Due to all of New England and the Atlantic Provinces experiencing a severe drought, Dickson Falls turned out to be a disappointing trickle.

Bay of Fundy New BrunswickBay of Fundy headlands  #58518   Purchase

Bay of Fundy New BrunswickFog over Bay of Fundy  #58525   Purchase

After the hike we returned to a wide overlook of the bay and settled in to see what kind of light evening will bring. A quaint feature of Fundy National Park is the placement of red Adirondack chairs in quiet scenic locations. It was relaxing to take advantage of the chairs as we gazed across the bay hoping to see whales. While we didn’t see any whales in the bay I did manage to make a few semi-abstract photographs of cloud patterns.

Bay of Fundy at low tide Bay of Fundy New BrunswickFishing boats at low tide, Alma New Brunswick  #58535   Purchase

Fundy Low Tide

I got up early the next morning to drive down to the bay for low tide. It was quite a sight to see such a low tide. All the fishing boats were now resting high and dry on a gravel and mud seafloor. After scouting for photos along the expansive low tide beach I headed back to camp to pack up and move on to Nova Scotia. I was hoping to make a stop along the way at Hopewell Rocks to photograph the famous sea stacks. However, as we pulled into a full parking lot the sight of a large quantity of tour busses was discouraging. I knew from experience that the best views for photography would be crowed with tourists. So with a tinge of regret we instead drove on to our next main destination, Cape Breton Highlands, Nova Scotia.

It seemed a shame though to have only a little more than a day for this area. I guess we’ll have to come back again!

Low tide Bay of Fundy New BrunswickBay of Fundy low tide  #58540   Purchase

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Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 2

Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park

Mount Challenger North Cascades National Park, Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 2Mount Challenger, North Cascades National Park  #61740    Purchase

Several weeks ago I was finally able to make a return visit to Whatcom Pass and Tapto Lakes. In the heart of North Cascades National Park, Whatcom Pass is quintessential North Cascades wilderness. It rises out of deep untouched forest valleys to jaw dropping views of rugged glacier clad peaks. From Part 1

Exploring Tapto Lakes Basin

Tapto Lakes is one of those locations that many hikers dream about visiting. Remote, high in the subalpine, and surrounded by rugged snowcapped peaks, the lakes have all the features of a classic backpacking destination. Tapto Lakes sit in a basin about 800′ above Whatcom Pass. The basin contains on large lake and several smaller lakes set in a heather filled subalpine meadow. The basin is shaped somewhat like an amphitheater, with the main show being the stupendous views of Mount Challenger and Whatcom Peak. Situated in a designated cross-country zone by the park service, with a permit you are free to camp anywhere among the lakes, though with a few caveats.

After investing two days of hard work reaching the lakes I woke up rested and refreshed. Content on not having to hike anywhere with a full pack I took in the view and planned my day. Of course since my main reason for being here was landscape photography I woke up early to survey the light. I had already identified several excellent spots to run to in the event of some great morning light. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case on my first morning, so I had lots of leisure time to explore all the lakes. My usual modus operandi is to spend most of the day scouting out and lining up possible compositions. I then try to assign a priority to them and work from top down when the lighting becomes appropriate. My first evening had some very nice light, enabling me to photograph some classic reflections of Whatcom Peak.

Whatcom Peak North Cascades National Park, Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 2Whatcom Peak, North Cascades National Park  #61499    Purchase

The View North

On my second day I decided to move camp to a higher location. My map showed a very small lake not far away in its own small talus fringed basin on Red Face Mountain. It appeared to offer even more commanding views, along with quick access to a ridge on Red Face Mountain. The short hike up was definitely worth it. The lake still had some snow along one side and also had some good composition qualities. I quickly found an excellent spot to set up camp, after which I hiked up to the ridge.

Bear Mountain Reveille Lakes, North Cascades National Park, Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 2Bear Mountain and Reveille Lakes, North Cascades National Park  #61536    Purchase

As I crested the ridge I was presented with incredible views of the wild peaks to the north. Dominating the view was Bear Mountain and the jagged needle-like spires of Mox Peaks and Silver Peaks. Far below the precipitous and crumbling ridge were the turquoise colored Reveille Lakes. All of this territory was completely devoid of trails, a true wilderness only accessible to the most determined mountaineers. I sat there for quite some time, contemplating how fortunate I was to be in such a special place. I got up after a while and headed back down the slope, wondering if I’ll ever return.

Waiting for Light

Back down at the lake the day was wearing on and it was time to set up some compositions. Some clouds had moved in and were swirling arounds the summits of nearby peaks. I was hopeful they wouldn’t completely sock in everything before sunset. I moved to the back of the lake where Whatcom Peak cast a nice reflection in the still waters. Waiting to see what would happen I photographed a series of images in which the clouds and reflection created a sort of Rorshach effect. Although the light didn’t have a dramatic saturation of color, I did like some of the subtle pastel tones. All in all it was a very satisfying day.

Whatcom Peak reflection North Cascades Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 2Whatcom Peak cloud reflection, North Cascades National Park  #61603    Purchase

Whatcom Peak reflection North Cascades, Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 2Whatcom Peak cloud reflection, North Cascades National Park  #61630    Purchase

Middle Lakes

The next day feeling that I accomplish my goals and not wanting to overly duplicate images, I packed up and moved on. A bit east of Tapto Lakes are a few more small lakes, the most accessible being Middle Lakes. I decided to spend my last day here before heading back. Climbing back up to the ridge I turned and bid a somewhat sad goodbye to the lakes I had dreamed of revisiting all those years.

Middle Lakes turned out to be an easy short mile or so further, there was only a steep rock slope to cross to add a bit of excitement. When I reached upper Middle Lake I found the setting to be somewhat desolate. Surrounded by steep slopes on three sides and a boulder filed at the outlet, there didn’t seem to be any good campsites. I moved on to check out the lower lake. The lower lake was more attractive, but it too afforded little flat ground for camping. However, when scouting for campsites I noticed an odd mound near the lake outlet with intense iron red soil. There appeared to be springs emanating from the mound. The main spring had formed small red mineral terraces similar to Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone. I felt the water but it was cool to the touch.

Mineral spring North Cascades, Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 2Mineral Spring, North Cascades National Park  #61666    Purchase

Mount Challenger North Cascades National Park, Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 2Swirling clouds over Challenger Glacier, North Cascades National Park  #61711    Purchase

I ultimately found a nice spot for the night among boulders and heather meadows with a commanding view of Mount Challenger. For a mountain with such an imposing glacier it seemed that its elevation should be more than 8236′. During my entire stay in the area I noticed a nearly constant flow of  clouds near its summit. Apparently for such a modest height Mount Challenger tends to make its own weather, partly explaining the huge glacier. Most of that afternoon and evening I enjoyed and photographed a show of mists whimsically curling around the summit. To commemorate my trip to this special place I made several photos of my campsite, including a couple with the tent illuminated.

Backcountry camp North Cascades National Park, Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 2Illuminated tent and Mount Challenger, North Cascades National Park  #61751    Purchase

Hiking Out

The next day it was time to head out, retracing my steps down to Whatcom Pass and into the Chilliwack River Valley. Although I was filled with a deep sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, I was also sad to say goodbye. I faced a long day of hiking filled with retrospection on this and my first trip to Whatcom Pass many years back. Once again a highlight was riding the cable car across the river. After around ten miles I reached Copper Creek Camp, tired with plenty of hot spots on my heels and toes. The next day I faced the stiff climb back up to Hannegan Pass and then the final miles out to the trailhead where my truck waited.

Nearing the pass I began to meet more hikers. Many of them were just beginning trips similar to mine. You could easily see the excitement in their faces, anticipating the wonders that were waiting for them. Of course I stopped to chat and helped stoke their excitement by passing on some of the highlights from my own trip. Then it was down the pass for the last five miles of the trip. Although I was out of North Cascades National Park and in the Mount Baker Wilderness, it was easy to sense civilization was close. I began to see more people on a wider well maintained trail. I got back to my truck in a few hours, in a parking lot that had dozens of cars in it.

Tired but happy I began to drive home. I began thinking how soon I might get a chance to go back to Whatcom Pass.

Backcountry Camp North Cascades National Park, Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 2Campsite on Red Face Mountain, Whatcom Peak in the distance, North Cascades National Park  #61589    Purchase

Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 2

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Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 1

Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National

Whatcom Peak reflected in Tapto Lake, North Cascades National Park, Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 1Whatcom Peak reflected in Tapto Lake # 61497    Purchase

A Long Awaited Journey

Everyone has a place they dream of, somewhere that holds a special spot in their heart. At some point in their lives, usually at a young age, they see a picture or read a story about a place that for various reasons grabs their imagination. They carry it with them over the years and hope someday for the chance to visit it in person. For me it has always been mountain wilderness. And not just any run-of-the-mill mountain wilderness. It had to have a primordial feel. Dark mysterious forests, raging rivers, and rugged peaks with jagged rock summits jutting out from expansive glaciers. For me the North Cascades fit the bill perfectly. It was this vision that drew me to Whatcom Pass many years ago.

Mount Challenger, North Cascades National Park, Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 1Challenger Mountain, North Cascades National Park  #61459    Purchase

Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 1

Several weeks ago I was finally able to make a return visit to Whatcom Pass and Tapto Lakes, in North Cascades National Park. In the heart of the park, Whatcom Pass is quintessential North Cascades wilderness. It rises out of deep untouched forest valleys to jaw dropping views of rugged glacier clad peaks. Far away from any road town or cell signal. My first visit was way back in the late eighties and I’ve been wanting to go back ever since. There have been many reasons for my delayed return, not least of which is the long tiring hike accompanied by swarms of flying insects.

Unlike most backpacking trips this one has a few major ups and downs in addition to covering lots of miles. The first day climbs a pass and then descends deep into another valley. The next day you must climb all the way up to another pass, then higher to the lakes basin. In all you’ll cover around 40+ miles and about 8500′ of elevation, including side trips, before returning to the trailhead. A very strong hiker could make it in two days, most people allow three to four days. My primary goal was for photography and relaxation so I gave six days to accomplish this trip. Aside from the photography thing I always feel that if you work so hard to get some place why hurry to leave? Take your time to relax and enjoy the surroundings!

Hannegan Pass trail North Cascades, Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 1Hannegan Pass Trail through Ruth Creek Valley, Mount Baker Wilderness  #54291    Purchase

Hiking to Hannegan Pass

On the first day I made an early start, hoping to make it through the brushy Ruth Creek Valley before the black flies awoke. It’s about five miles and 2000′ up to Hannegan Pass, along a very scenic trail that sees very heavy foot traffic. I’ve been up this trail to the pass nearly a dozen times and never get tired of the open views of rugged Nooksack Ridge. About halfway up you begin to see snowcapped Ruth Mountain guarding the head of the valley. Ruth Mountain itself is a popular destination for hikers climbers, and skiers in early season. Although I’m not much of a mountaineer I managed to hike up the glacier to the summit several years back. From the top you get an incredible view of Mount Shuksan and it’s glaciers spilling into Nooksack Cirque. Truly awe-inspiring!

North Cascades National Park Sign, Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 1Entering the park #61415    Purchase

Down the Chilliwack Valley

On reaching Hannegan Pass I took a rest to have a snack and dry off my sweat soaked shirt. I also chatted with a group of volunteers that were part of a trail maintenance crew. From here it’s all downhill into the wild Chilliwack River Valley, losing all that hard-won elevation. Shortly after leaving the pass I finally entered North Cascades National Park, indicated by a weather beaten-wooden sign. The hike down into the valley is through a beautiful untouched fragrant forest of silver fir, mountain hemlock and grand fir. The feeling here of true wilderness is very tangible, even the trail seems wilder. From the pass I needed to travel another five miles to U.S. Cabin camp, my first night’s destination.

Old growth forest Chilliwack Valley North Cascades, Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 1Old growth forest Chilliwack River Valley, North Cascades National Park  #61421    Purchase

Ten miles is about my limit for hiking with a full mutli-day pack, so I was glad to reach the camp and set up my tent. Amazingly there were very few bugs so far and I was able to relax and eat dinner along the river unmolested. I was even able to make a few photos of the impressive forest at this camp. That night I turned in early in anticipation of a grueling hike the next day. I had to hike another seven miles and over 3000′ up to my next and ultimate destination, Tapto Lakes above Whatcom Pass.

The next morning I again got up early to hit the trail. The first stop of the day was the unique crossing of the Chilliwack River via a hand operated cable car. I don’t know how common these contraptions are but for most hikers it’s a highlight of their trip. Later in the season crossing the river on foot wouldn’t be very hard, but why pass up such an interesting experience? Two hikers and their packs can fit in the car which is operated by pulling on a rope. It’s pretty easy getting across the first half since the cable sags down a bit.  After that you begin to pull your weight up to the opposite side. By the time I got the car docked on the platform my arms were pretty tired from pulling. Of course I had to make sure I got a few photos before moving on.

Cable car North Cascades National Park, Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 1Chilliwack River cable car, North Cascades National Park  #61427    Purchase

Climbing to Whatcom Pass

After the river crossing it’s back to work again on the trail, which now goes through a very brushy section. Years ago, on my first visit, the chest high brush was covered in morning dew. After a half an hour of hiking I was soaking from the waist down. A few miles later the climb to Whatcom Pass begins in earnest. The trail begins to rise from the valley bottom and gradually views open up to rugged Easy Ridge. After what seems like an eternity Whatcom Peak comes into view and the terrain begins to take on a subalpine look. I arrived at Whatcom Pass exhausted and again drenched in sweat from the climb.

Whatcom Pass trail North Cascades, Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 1Whatcom Pass Trail, North Cascades National Park  #61764    Purchase

I still had another mile and 800′ feet of elevation to travel to my camp at Tapto Lakes. At this point I was wiped out and didn’t think I could make it. The trail to the lakes is more like a climbers route, with sections so steep you need to pull yourself up by root and branches. While deciding if I had the energy I spoke with a few other backpackers doing the cross-park hike to Ross Lake. Like me they spent the whole morning climbing up to Whatcom Pass. However, they only paused briefly to take in the views before heading down again into the adjacent valley.

Again I though to myself, what’s the point in all the work if you hurry past the best parts? The previous day I met a woman doing the Pacific Northwest Trail. This 1200 mile long trail starts at Glacier Park in Montana and ends at the Pacific Ocean. Like the Pacific Crest, Continental Divide, and Appalachian trails, you need to hike a set number of miles each day to complete it. During our brief conversation I couldn’t help admiring her determination and stamina. At the same time I also felt a bit sorry for her that she needed to hurry through such beauty to stay on schedule.

Mount Challenger North Cascades, Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 1Challenger Mountain and Whatcom Peak, North Cascades National Park  #61443    Purchase

At Tapto Lakes

By this time I felt physically and mentally rested enough slog up to reach my camp at Tapto Lakes. Taking it very slowly, the climb proved easier than I anticipated. Soon enough the views exploded to include Mount Challenger and the imposing rock buttresses of Whatcom Peak. A short 200′ descent into the basin brought me to beautiful Tapto Lakes. The day was still young so I took my time and leisurely explored the area to find the best campsite. The only other people there was a small group staying at the pass below. They had day hiked up to the lakes to take in the views and a quick dip in the frigid lake waters. When they left I had the entire place all to myself!

Time to rest and take it all in, and do nothing but marvel at the rugged beauty that spread before my eyes. At last I returned to the place that held my imagination spellbound for nearly 28 years.

Coming up in part two: Exploring and photographing at Tapto Lakes.    Click here to read part two

Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park, Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 1Tapto Lake, North Cascades National Park  #61455    Purchase

Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park Part 1

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Coast Mountains

How to tell if you’re hiking in the Coast Mountains trail of British Columbia:

  1. State of the art bridges over creek crossing
  2.  Deep mud with slippery logs and branches strategically placed for optimum ankle twisting

I actually love these types of trails, there’s a sense of  true wilderness about them, unlike some of the crowded super highway trails found in Washington and Oregon. These pics are from a few days ago during a visit to Marriott Basin in the Coast Mountains.

I have lots of new photos in the works from this and my previous trip to North Cascades National Park. Stay tuned you’re going to love them!!

Marriott Basin trail Coast Mountains trails British Columbia

 

Coast Mountains trails British Columbia

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California’s Sonoma Coast

California’s Sonoma Coast

Sunset Sonoma Coast wildflowers, California's Sonoma CoastSunset, Sonoma Coast California  #60392  Purchase

California’s Sonoma Coast stretches roughly from Bodega Bay in the south to Mendocino County line in the north. In this post I will feature areas of Sonoma Coast State Park, a highly scenic and popular area to the north of Bodega bay. This was my second visit to the area, and the first in which I was able to take time to appreciate and photograph the scenery. Visiting in the spring I wanted to take advantage of plentiful wildflowers along the coastal bluffs, and the greenery of surrounding hills. Although visiting during spring I avoided persistent coastal fog there were constant winds instead.

Sonoma Coast wildflowers, CaliforniaSonoma Coast California  #60377  Purchase

Iconic California Highway 1 runs the entire length, with numerous places to pull off for enjoying the view. The most dramatic view can be had just north of the state park. Here the highway switchbacks high up a headland. The entire coast all the way to Point Reyes is visible from this point. Sonoma Coast State Park is comprised of several scenic sand beaches and rugged headlands. Being a close drive to San Francisco the park sees a large number of visitors from the metropolitan area. Bodega Bay, being the hub for all the activities, also has the claim to fame for having Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds filmed there. I couldn’t identify any of the set locations on my visit though. I was too preoccupied with delicious Oyster Po Boy sandwiches from Fisherman’s Cove a local seafood venue.

California Highway 1 Sonoma CoastHighway 1 along the Sonoma Coast #60421  Purchase

Aside from the beaches and wonderful restaurants Sonoma Coast is a great location for watching migrating whales. While admiring the view from a bluff a local man pointed out to me a group making their way north. They were a fair distance off and hard to see even with binoculars. I had never seen whales, despite living many years in proximity to the coast, so this was pretty exciting. Goat Rock to the north has some of the most dramatic scenery, and is a bit of an oddity. This headland was quarried back in the 1920’s to provide building material for burgeoning San Francisco. As a result Goat Rock in its present state looks more like a detached sea stack.

Sonoma Coast sunset CaliforniaSunset, Sonoma Coast California  #60303  Purchase

If you decide to visit this wonderful area I have a couple of essential tips. Make sure you book accommodations well in advance. I arrived on a weekday in the shoulder season and was only able to gain the last campsite by arriving early in the morning. Make sure you have enough time for leisurely exploring the area. At least three days, and preferably a week, would be best to see and photograph the sites. Lodging and food can be fairly pricey if, like me, your are from outside the area. State Park campsites all along the California coast start at $30 and can be as high as $50. For these prices there also is no guarantee of full facilities in good working order. Private campgrounds of course will cost more but may be better maintained.

Point Reyes Beach Point Reyes National SeashorePoint Reyes Beach, just south of Sonoma Coast #60262  Purchase

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Burney Falls and Sonoma Valley California

Burney Falls and Sonoma Valley California

Burney Falls and Sonoma Valley CaliforniaBurney Falls #60182 Purchase

Last April I visited Burney Falls and Sonoma Valley California as part of a Spring photography tour. This tour encompassed hood River Oregon the northern California coast and finally back to eastern Oregon. On the way to the California coast I took the opportunity to make my first visit to these iconic locations.

Burney Falls, California Burney Falls and Sonoma Valley CaliforniaBurney Falls #60183 Purchase

McArthur Burney Falls State Park is the second oldest state park in California. Located  in the Cascade Mountains northeast of Redding the falls are the centerpiece of the park. Created by both Burney creek and springs issuing from layers of volcanic rock, the falls are an imposing site. Like many large waterfalls Burney falls can be difficult to photograph due to constant mist created by the thundering water. Visiting at this time of the year there isn’t much colorful foliage around the falls so I decided to focus on details. Using a medium telephoto lens and long exposures, I found numerous compositions on the far side of the falls. The rest of the park is mainly forested with several hiking trails and a very large and pleasant campground. Unfortunately since I was anxious to get to the coast I stayed only long enough to photograph the falls.

Sonoma Valley Vineyards Burney Falls and Sonoma Valley CaliforniaSonoma Valley Vineyard #60208  Purchase

My next brief stop on the way to the coast were the famous vineyards of the Sonoma Valley. Considered the birthplace of the California wine industry Sonoma Valley is home to some of the oldest vineyards and wineries in the state. Alexander Valley in the north was where I was able to leisurely drive along backroads to photograph the lovely scenery.

Along the way I had to stop at Soda Rock Winery. Not only were there some nice vineyards to photograph, there was also the imposing and whimsical Lord Snort guarding the entrance to the winery.  Showcased at the 2016 Burning Man Festival, Lord Snort is a metal sculpture by Bryan Tedrick. Visiting the tasting room, I felt very much out of my league among the lavish furnishings. Trying a white wine, I don’t remember what kind, the nice woman behind the bar talked up the complexity of notes, which of course just flew over my head. If this had been a distillery in Scotland it would’ve been a much different story!

Sonoma Valley Vineyards Burney Falls and Sonoma Valley CaliforniaSonoma Valley Vineyard #60221  Purchase

Lord SnortLord Snort Soda Rock Winery

Sonoma Valley Vineyards Burney Falls and Sonoma Valley CaliforniaSonoma Valley Vineyard  #60213  Purchase

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Washington Pass North Cascades

Washington Pass North Cascades

Liberty Bell Mountain Washington PassLiberty Bell from Washington Pass   #61304   Purchase

My last post featured a hike up to Maple Pass along the North Cascades Highway of Washington State. This post will feature the second part of that short trip. Not far up the road from Rainy Pass and the Maple Pass trailhead is one of the premier areas of the North Cascades, Washington Pass. Sitting at 5477′ this is the high point of the North Cascades Highway. It also features one of the best views of dramatic mountain scenery in the state accessible by vehicle. During the winter months the pass closes due to deep snows and hazardous avalanche conditions.

Proudly guarding the pass is Liberty Bell Mountain and its attendant peaks, The Minute Man and Early Winters Spires. All of these and surrounding peaks are composed of a pinkish type of granite carved from the Golden Horn Batholith. The quality of rock attracts climbers from all over the globe, and in early spring ski mountaineers.

Kangaroo Ridge, Washington Pass MeadowsKangaroo Ridge from Washington Pass #61316   Purchase

The aesthetic beauty of the area also attracts photographers, me being one of them. Most visitors new to the pass generally head to the dramatic views of the overlook area. However I enjoy the peaceful solitude of the adjacent meadows and the wonderful compositions it offers. The meadows are the headwaters of State Creek and can be classified more as wetlands. Photographing on the spongy ground requires very light steps to protect the delicate plants. Another requirement is a willingness to get your feet wet and a tolerance for swarms of flying biting insects!

Liberty Bell Mountain Washington PassLiberty Bell reflected in State Creek #61365  Purchase

Autumn is also another great time to visit as the subalpine larches fringing Liberty Bell are turning gold. However the sun is then at a lower angle and doesn’t illuminate much of the north face of the mountain. When the road opens in spring you can also get an idea of how the pass looks in winter conditions.

To see more images from this series please visit my New Images Gallery, where you can also purchase prints and licenses for commercial uses.

Washington Pass North CascadesWashington Pass #61343  Purchase

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Maple Pass North Cascades

Maple Pass North Cascades

Hikers on trail North Cascades Maple Pass North CascadesHikers on Maple pass Trail, North Cascades  #61268

Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit a few of my favorite areas along the North Cascades Highway. The first being a wonderful day hike up to Maple Pass. It’s been quite a number of year since I did this hike, and since the trail was extended into a loop trip I was excited to check it out. I won’t get into the details of the trail except that it quickly gets you up into the alpine and offers some of the best views in the North Cascades. Being one of the first to the pass it wasn’t long before a steady procession of hikers appeared. I usually try to avoid weekend hikes due to the crowds but in this instance it was nice to meet lots of nice folks. In addition I was able to include hikers in some photos to add to my recreation files.

Hikers on trail North Cascades Maple Pass North CascadesHikers admiring view from Maple Pass Trail, North Cascades  #61284

As you’ll notice in the photos I mixed up the processing a bit from my usual style. Since these were all made during midday it seemed a good opportunity to try out a high key look. I’m a firm believer of photographing in all types of light and getting creative with different types of processing to fit the occasion. Beautiful dramatic evening light is great but you’re not stretching your artistic boundaries if that all you do. Of course my next post will most likely include some of that very style!

North Cascades Maple Pass North CascadesNorth Cascades from Maple Pass  #61260

Black Peak, Lake Ann North Cascades Maple Pass North CascadesBlack Peak and Lake Ann, North Cascades #61302

Maple Pass North Cascades

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