J. W. Donley

Writer, Photographer, Programmer

Tag: PNW (Page 1 of 2)

Joe’s Photo of the Week – Lake Diablo

Are you dreaming of warmer, more sunny days?

Good! Because today’s Joe’s Photo of the Week is from back in sunny summertime.

The family and I took a little road trip out east on I-20 just to see what was out there. This is one of the many stops we checked out that day.

Lake Diablo!

 

Joe’s Photo of the Week – Samish Overlook South

This week’s photo is from a spot fairly close to Bham. If you drive south on I-5 about 15 minutes than head west you’ll find the Samish Overlook. From here you can hike on up to the popular Oysterdome viewpoint, which I’ve yet to do. But the view from the parking area is amazing.

This photo is the view looking south over the flat farm lands of Skagit Valley.

 

Hiking the Heliotrope Ridge Trail

A Hike up for Glacial Views

Hiking the Heliotrope Ridge Trail in the North Cascades.

As an Okie, seeing a glacier was not something I was likely to see without traveling very very far. Even seeing substantial mountains in Oklahoma was not a real possibility. There were the Wichita Mountains down near Lawton but they were just a patch of high piles of granite boulders. All of it surrounded by plains which teeter on the edge of desert. It is beautiful out there. There are buffalo, and the rugged terrain is a welcome site in comparison to the forever rolling highways edged with billboard after billboard.

The Wichita’s are the best place to hike in that part of the country. But they do not compare in majesty to the North Cascades of NW Washington. Some call them the ‘American Alps’.

Recently I moved out of Oklahoma and up to Bellingham, WA. This is only 30 minutes South of the Canadian border. One of the best perks of living here is the easy access to outdoor adventure.

BHam (as the locals call it) is right on the shore of the Salish Sea. The beaches are less sandy and more rocky here, but the views out the San Juan Islands are amazing.

But to the west are the Cascade Mountains. The volcano, Mount Baker, is in view from everywhere. But it is about 40 miles away. As are all of the awesome trails that meander the sides of the volcano and the landscape surrounding it.

The Hike

The first hike I tried out in the Cascades is Heliotrope Ridge. This hike gets you up close and personal to Mount Baker and a couple of the glaciers anchored to it’s side. Trail is 2.5 miles one way. Almost all up hill. 1800 feet of elevation gain. (according to Dayhiking the North Cascades by Craig Romano)

During this first hike I came across a WTA (Washington Trails Association) volunteer work crew. They are a local organization that helps to maintain the trails. They were out there digging drainage trenches and placing stones and logs to help in the steeper parts. I have great respect for all of volunteers who do this.

I’m not in the best shape, so the first third of the trail is a grueling up hill trudge for me. But after a while you get to a point that you decide you’ve gone too far, and that you might as well just finish. It is then that the trail levels off a bit for quite a while.
There are also a few creek crossings to beware of. The first is an easy stone hop across. The second is not as easy, but there were a couple logs laying over the top. The third isn’t too bad. But the last one is a doozy.

Both times I’ve gone out on this trail I’ve been stopped at this last crossing. The first time I could’ve gone across bare foot and dried off on the other side, but I was already too tired. The second time I came prepared with water proof socks and water shoes to change into. But the weather was substantially warmer, and the glacier above was melting fast enough to make the creek a danger to cross.

Note: Always remember that during the days the temperature will rise causing more glacier melt, which then causes the creeks to rise. Your trip back over the creeks will be more difficult.

So instead I backtracked a bit on the trail and went up the summit route for a view of the glaciers. This route is used by those summiting Mt. Baker and is very steep. But you only have to go up a short distance to get above the tree line and see the Coleman and Roosevelt Glaciers.

Most of the hike you are surrounded by large trees. These trees put Oklahoma trees to shame. They tower above seemingly forever. Occasionally the trees clear out giving you vistas of the surrounding Cascade Mountains and the meandering valleys between. While approaching the last creek, Mt Baker makes itself known and stands tall above the meadows that now surround you as you approach the tree line.

Photos

Conclusion

I love this hike. It is beautiful from beginning to end, with the rolling glacial creeks, the giant trees, and the grand vistas over the valleys radiating from Mt. Baker. I’m a bit biased towards this hike since it was my first North Cascades hike, but I do highly recommend it if you get the chance.

Here’s a little video I put together of my hike here

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Joe’s Photo of the Week – Mt Baker Appreciation

Today I bring you sad sad news. Last week the last 2 miles up to Artist Point have been shut down until the snow thaws next year.

But, to cheer us all up, this week’s photo isn’t just one photo; it’s a collection of photos of Bellingham’s favorite volcano!

Mt. Baker!

PNW Photo of the Week – Raptor Ridge Trail

From here in Bellingham I have access to a lot of amazing hiking trails. Just over an hour east and there are trails crawling over the North Cascades surrounding Mt. Baker. But there are also trails right here in and around the city of Bellingham.

A large system of trails called North Chuckanut Trail System borders the south edge of town. These trails traverse through a patchwork of state parks, city parks, and forest lands. Some of the biggest portions are in Larrabee State Park and Arroyo Park.

Awhile back I tried out a large loop leading up to Raptor Ridge. This is 8ish mile round trip takes you up to some of the highest elevation in the Chuckanut mountains.

How To Get There!

Here is a great description of the hike: http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/raptor-ridge-chuckanut-mountain

Unlike that description I started from the North Chuckanut Trailhead. Instead of turning onto Old Samish Way, just keep going straight on Chuckanut drive for a tiny bit and you’ll see a sign and parking lot on the left for the trail head. You’ll just hike north on the Interurban trail until you get to a marker in the Arroyo park area leading you up the Hemlock Trail. Then, the hike is uphill for a good 3 miles at least.

This image is taken on the Raptor Ridge Trail only a little bit after turning off the Hemlock trail. This section is horse free, as it is very narrow and winds through some large rocks.

After checking out the overlook I continued down the Raptor Ridge trail to the Lost Lake Trail and took that back North to where I started.
I’m not in the best shape, so this 8 mile hike was a doozy for me. But it was worth it. The Raptor Ridge Trail running from the Hemlock to the Lost Lake trail was beautiful. There are massive trees, plush ferns, and blankets of moss everywhere.

PNW Photo of the Week – Wave Interference

Welcome back for another Pacific North West Photo of the Week! Last week I gave you an amazing image of Mt. Saint Helens. And that mountain is huge. I hope that the image conveyed at least a little of the hugeness I experienced when I was there taking the picture.

This week I’m giving you something completely different on the size scale. I’m going from the massively huge all of the way down to the tiny. I call this image:

Wave Interference

When I look out on the waters of Bellingham Bay I not only see the constant undulating large waves but also the tiny waves within these waves, and the waves within those. I love the fractal like behavior of waves. There is an overarching large wave system, and, no matter how closely you look, there is always a smaller and smaller wave system acting within the bounds of the large systems.

I’m sure there is some really cool physics stuff going on here, and if I had unlimited free time, I’d love to spend time learning the intricacies of fluid dynamics and all of the fancy physicy stuff. Some would say learning the mechanism behind these seemingly magical layers of nature take away from that magic. This is not true. As we learn more and more about how things actually work, things become more magical. As we understand things, more questions always arise.

So, be sure to get out there, and not only take pictures of the large sweeping landscapes. But also get down on your knees with that macro lens and look at the minutest details. In the mundane surfaces, such as waves and sidewalks and tree bark and even human skin, you will find ever deepening layers of magic no matter how close you look.

So get out there and take some pictures, and be sure to come back next Monday for the next Pacific North West Photo of the Week!

PNW Photo of the Week – Mount St Helens

Mount Saint Helens, the volcano which erupted in 1980

Last week I shared an image of the local volcano. Mount Baker stands to the east of Bellingham, and can be seen on clear days between the trees. It is a very large and beautiful mountain.

But there is another volcano to the south. One that erupted very recently, well, recent in geologic terms.

I am talking about Mount St. Helens. Recently, the family and I took a trip down to Astoria, OR for our 13th wedding anniversary. On the way back home we took a little side trip to see this giant.

It’s hard to summarize this amazing landscape. Even the picture does not do the real thing justice. Truly, if at all possible, you must go and see this wonder yourself.

It is an experience standing in, what was, the blast zone and seeing the never ending fields of new life. Streams cut deep gashes across the land and flowers are everywhere.

Approaching the viewpoint you drive through forest covered mountains. But as you arrive, the trees disappear. They were all incinerated and/or blow down by the eruption in 1980.

This national monument is reminder of the awesome power beneath our feet, moving continents, creating mountain ranges and islands, and causing destruction.

I give you:

Mount St. Helens

Mount Saint Helens, the volcano which erupted in 1980

PNW Photo of the Week – Chuckanut Forest Scene

Chuckanut Forest Scene

It’s that time again. Pizza time? Oh, I wish. But no, It’s time for the Pacific North West Photo of the Week! I call this one Chuckanut Forest Scene.

The Background

Do you remember that 8 mile hike I told you about a couple weeks ago? Well, this is another shot from that same hike. (You will probably see a some more images from this hike in the future, it was a long day, and I took a lot of pictures.)

Looking at this image, you would think this was taken out in the Hoh Rainforest. But it is in the Chuckanut Mountain Trail System, just south of Bellingham. I’ve lived here almost 2 months now, and I am amazed at all of the trails in and around town.

This was one of the mossiest parts of the 8 mile hike. The hike took me over 6 hours to complete. Most others that do this loop are in much better shape than me and do it in around 4 hours. The first 4 miles are all up hill, as you go from about 50 feet elevation to over 1500 feet. The view at the end was worth it though.

Raptor Ridge

(Bonus Image: view from the Top of the Raptor Ridge Trail)

Here is another photo from that same hike from a previous PNW Photo of the Week.

Chuckanut Forest Scene

As always, I hope that you enjoyed this week’s image. Let me know what you think down below in the comments.

To learn more about the Chuckanut Mountain Trail System go here: http://www.co.whatcom.wa.us/2051/Chuckanut-Mountain-Park

PNW Photo of the Week – Misty Mountains

Misty Mountains in the Distance with San Juan Islands and Sail B

It’s time for yet another Pacific North West Photo of the Week! I hope you’re as excited as I am. This image came out amazing. I call it Misty Mountains in the Distance with San Juan Islands and Sail Boat.

The Background

This is another shot I took out on the whale watching tour with the family. We were heading west between the San Juan Islands to Friday Harbor. While out and about stretching our legs I noticed a portion of landscape that just screamed “Bob Ross painting”. Doesn’t this image just look like something Bob Ross would paint? Look at all of those happy trees. And the bottom edges of the mountains seem to be painted over with a cloudy mist.

I did crop it down quite a bit, but I think the ultra compressed verticle dimension adds to the image. Your eye starts on the left and the bit of land points you across the bottom of the misty mountains and too the lone sailboat on the right.

Misty Mountains in the Distance with San Juan Islands and Sail B

Let me know what you think of this one down in the comments. Also, I would love to hear your suggestions on the type of images you would like to see on here.

Also, be sure to check out past entries for PNW Photo of the Week.

PNW Photo of the Week – Bare Roots over the Path

It is time for this week’s Pacific North West Photo of the Week! It is called Bare Roots over the Path.

The Background

A few weeks ago I took on the longest and toughest hike I’d ever been on. The path was over 8 miles long, but, I’m proud to say, I made it through. Under a mile in I had to stop and catch my breath due to the very steep trail. There I looked down and saw a webbing of roots over the path with the ground worn away around it.

This week’s image is of these roots spread across the trail in the middle of the forest.

What adds to this image is the light. There was a beam of light streaming through the canopy above. I wanted to that light hitting the roots to be the center of the image. Also, I wanted an extremely low angle of view for this image. The texture of the small roots needed to feel like a large landscape across the image. So I got down to my knees with my pack on my back and framed the shot.

The shot came out fairly well, I hope that you all like it as well. Do let me know in the comments below.

If you would like to see more images of the Pacific North West be sure to check out past entries for the PNW Photo of the Week.

 

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