My usual look when in the field: sweaty, tired, and happy as hell
Earlier this morning, I read a lovely little blog post in which the photographer, stuck inside and unable to travel, decided she might as well take a trip down memory lane with her photos. It was a nice post with pretty pics, except there came a point when the enjoyment was ruined after this photographer mentioned that she and some pals had hiked up to a locked fire lookout and jimmied open the lock to get in. FFS, people! Please respect other agencies’ properties. If it’s locked, it’s locked.
Anyway, to get back to the gist of this post, I thought it would, indeed, be a nice idea to take a photographic trip down my own memory lane, as Washington state has a shelter-in-place order right now and I also can’t get out. Parks are closed, and since I have a compromised immune system and my sister with whom I live is 73, I’m just fine with staying at home. Heaven knows, I have lots of photographs and memories, so I thought I’d start with 2019 and work my way back.
In 2019, I was settled into my new home in central Washington. I’d FINALLY been able to move out of Texas and back to the mountains. I’m a mountain gal; I was born in northwest Montana and mountains are a part of my soul, not to mention I don’t much like the South’s politics or attitudes. Full disclosure, however, I do miss Big Bend National Park and Padre Island National Seashore. These two places are favorites of mine and I visited Big Bend 4 times and Padre Island twice. So, I suppose there actually is something I like about Texas.
Once totally moved, I wanted to explore National Park System units around my new neck of the woods. Washington is blessed with three national parks and several national recreation areas and national monuments, all between 2 – 6 hours’ (give or take) drive from my home.
I travel alone. I like it that way. I’ve always been a loner and prefer my own company. I don’t have to worry about whether or not anybody else is bored. I don’t have to deal with non-photographers who don’t understand why I want to stop every 10 minutes for a photo op. I can go where I want when I want, eat what I want when I want, buy what I want (or what I can afford), and basically do what I want, within the boundaries of decency and the law. That said, I wouldn’t mind hosting a photo workshop or photo tour – I do enjoy talking to fellow photographers and I do enjoy showing people different / better ways to get a beautiful shot. Other than that, though, I go solo, if I can manage it.
A winter morning along Kalaloch Beach, Olympic National Park in Washington state
My visit coincided with the partial government shutdown, which meant national parks were open, but not staffed. Lodging was open so I spent a few days in an awesome cabin at Kalaloch Lodge, my base from which I explored and photographed Kalaloch Beach, Beach 4, and Ruby Beach.
The view at Beach 4, Olympic National Park
Log jam at Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park
I was always mindful of the tides because I sure didn’t want to get caught in high water or squashed between beached logs, which can move around with the flowing water. I did make the mistake of wading through a beach stream only to get caught by an incoming tide that almost capsized me (and my cameras). Lesson learned.
A winter sunset over Kalaloch Beach, Olympic National Park
Winter weather creates terrific storms and clouds along the coast. Sunrises tend to be muted affairs, but winter sunsets can be blazingly colorful.
I really wanted to wander around the trails in the Hoh Rain Forest, but some roads were closed due to the season, and others were closed due to the shutdown, with nobody to make repairs to the storm damage or remove fallen trees in the road. So, I settled for driving to the national park portion of the Quinault Rain Forest, some 27 miles south of Kalaloch, where the road was open as were the trails.
My favorite photo spot was July Creek. There’s a parking lot and a trailhead to a very short loop which crosses over the namesake creek. Nobody else was there so all I heard were the sounds of birds, water dripping, and flowing creek water. The creek allowed me a great opportunity to practice my silky water skills. Because it was damp, the browns of the branches and tree trunks were dark and saturated, as were the greens, yellows, and reds of the foliage and fungi.
The bridge over July Creek in the Quinault Rain Forest, Olympic National Park
I’m a contributing writer and photographer (some use the slang “stringer,” but I like to think I’m more than that) for the National Parks Traveler. I’ve been volunteering my writing and photo abilities for this site since 2012. So of course, I wrote about my shutdown stay for the Traveler. Here’s the link.
“The Mountain” and Paradise Inn, Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state
When the Traveler wanted someone to report on the May Grand Re-Opening of Mount Rainier National Park’s Paradise Inn and its newly renovated Paradise Inn Annex, I raised my hand and volunteered to stay a few days up at The Mountain. FYI, there is still deep snow up there in May.
Going for a little spring snowshoeing, Mount Rainier National Park
It was nice to see the turnout for this event. I’ve stayed in the Annex when it was in big need of renovation, and a tour through the newly-refurbished building showed a world of difference. It was also great to hear about the history of the inn and to meet all sorts of national park / public lands luminaries. Here’s the link to my story.
June 2019: Mount Rainier National Park
Adventure awaits along the Grove of the Patriarchs Trail, Mount Rainier National Park
I live about 1-1/2 hours’ drive from Mount Rainier National Park’s boundaries, so it’s easy to make just a day trip now and then. I decided to take a trail I’d never hiked before, and chose the Grove of the Patriarchs trail. This relatively short trail ventures into the forest to a group of tall, old-growth trees that are, indeed, patriarchs of Nature.
The suspension bridge over the Ohanapecosh River, Grove of Patriarchs Trail
1,000 year old twins, Grove of Patriarchs Trail, Mount Rainier National Park
Approaching Stehekin Landing, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, in Washington
In the early 90’s, I lived in Seattle. I’d once read about this community called Stehekin, out in the middle of nowhere within the North Cascades. I distinctly recall scoffing that I’d never want to visit such an out-of-the-way place.
Enjoying the ferry ride to Stehekin, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area
Fast forward to 2019. I took a scenic, 4-hour ride on the Lady of The Lake ferry up to the headwaters of Lake Chelan in the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area to stay for a few days in Stehekin. It’s beautiful up there, peaceful, realllly out of the way, and has one of the best bakeries around (Stehekin Pastry Company – their lemon bars and pizzas are to die for). You really can’t get there from here, unless you take a boat, plane, or hike about 24 miles into this isolated community near the Pacific Crest Trail and North Cascades National Park. As a matter of fact, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area is a part of what is called the North Cascades Complex.
The clear, cold water of the Stehekin River, North Cascades National Park
A nice place to sit and meditate, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area
Of course, I wrote a story about my stay for the Traveler. Suffice to say, I’d be more than happy to revisit Stehekin again. No more scoffing.
Sunrise at the Diablo Lake Overlook, Ross Lake National Recreation Area, in Washington
I’d told the Traveler I planned on writing an article or two about places within the North Cascades Complex. Having already visited Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, I made plans to travel to Ross Lake National Recreation Area and North Cascades National Park. Here’s the thing: there are not that many places to lodge within this vast area of wild forest land, cold, clear rushing waters and rugged peaks. Most of the trails are for long-distance backpackers and there aren’t that many view areas into which you can drive in, look, then drive out. With that in mind, I opted for a short stay at the North Cascades Institute, which turned out to be perfect for exploring and photography.
A nice place to sit and rest, plus a little surprise visitor (can you spot it?), North Cascades Institute
A furry little visitor in the garden at the North Cascades Institute
Pearly Ever Lasting, Ross Lake National Recreation Area
Diablo Dam and the mountains of the North Cascades
With these July visits, I was able to put together my Armchair Photography Guides for the North Cascades Complex. I have rheumatoid arthritis. As such, I don’t really do much – ok, I don’t do any – long backcountry trips. I’ll hike at least 5 or 6 miles if the trail is relatively easy, but really, I am firmly of the opinion that anybody can photograph WOW-worthy images from view areas, shorter trails, and pullouts without ever having to go far from their car, camper, cabin, or tent. Thus, my Armchair Photography Guides were born. These guides have photographic tips and techniques for all, regardless whether you use a smartphone, point-and-shoot, or tricked-out SLR. If you go into the Traveler’s site and use the search engine to type in “Armchair Photography,” you’ll pull up all these guides pertaining to national parks I’ve visited.
August 2019: Olympic National Park
That short partial shutdown visit in this national park whetted my appetite for a longer trip, so I booked stays at Kalaloch Lodge (in a cabin, again), Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, and Lake Crescent Lodge. Using each of these places as a base, I explored further into this national park, from beaches to rain forests to rugged mountains. Olympic National Park has a little bit of something for everybody. While it’s usually pretty wet – particularly in the rain forest portion – I managed to luck out with dry, mostly sunny days and gathered enough material for three separate Armchair Photography Guides:
Part 1 – The Beaches
A Ruby Beach sunset, Olympic National Park, in Washington
Part 2 – The Forests
The trail into the Hoh Rain Forest, Olympic National Park
Part 3 – The Mountains
Hurricane Ridge scenery, Olympic National Park
Viewing the beauty of Morning Glory Pool, Yellowstone National Park, in Wyoming
I’d only visited America’s first national park for a period of about 2 days, and that was during my 2018 road trip move from Texas to central Washington. That first, short August stay almost put me off ever returning – well, at least, during the summer. Talk about crowds! Talk about stupid people doing stupid stuff! Talk about no parking spaces whatsoever! Definitely no social distancing. I only saw maybe 1/10th of 1% of what I wanted to see.
A return trip was in order and I made my plans for the autumn, which is a perfect time for a little holiday. There were fewer people, plenty of parking space (well, except at Grand Prismatic), and the photo ops were incredible. I totally understand why Yellowstone is a huge favorite among so many people. Of course, I wrote an article about my 9-day visit to this national park for the Traveler.
A view of the mountains at Swan Lake Flats on a chilly autumn afternoon, Yellowstone National Park
Black Growler steam vent and Ledge Geyser, Porcelain Basin, Yellowstone National Park
Resting in the golden grass, Yellowstone National Park
The lower Yellowstone Falls on a snowy autmun morning, Yellowstone National Park
Watching Old Faithful erupt from Observation Point, Yellowstone National Park
That sums up my 2019 photo travels. Do check out the various links in this post. These links helped keep this post from becoming a long-assed tome.
Next up: A Photographic Walk Down Memory Lane: 2018.