Sunday, September 27, 2015

Fall Colors at Easy Pass

Fall has arrived in the Cascades and the proof is in the colors! Vibrant warm hues of crimson, gold, and orange painted the rocky trail and oozed out of the rounded glacial valley walls. We had superb weather with a start of sunny skies that transitioned into low, quick moving clouds and sleet. As will happen in the mountains, this change of conditions was unannounced and created dynamic vistas that transformed quickly, repeatedly exposing and blanketing the ring of jagged peaks around us. It was such an awesome show to witness and made me giddy for the onset of fall and winter!

Signs of fall colors appeared as soon as we broke out of the forest at the start of the trail.

The trail cuts through a fall pallet.

Stephen walking through the bright berry bushes.

Wondering where the larches were, we finally start to see them high on the pass.

The view behind us as we climb up the pass.

 Larches at the top of the pass.

Larches covering a peak on the pass.

An old glacial valley

Clouds hugging the mountain as they quickly make their journey over the pass.

Colors painting the rocky outwash areas.

Looking down another glacial valley painted by fall colors.

Stephen in awe of the dynamic scene.

Electric larches

Stephen blending in with the large forest.

 Me walking through an autumn rainbow (Photo: S. Newman)

"Layla" enjoying the view.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Sunrise Lodge, Mt. Rainier

What is a visit to Washington without getting up close and personal with Mt. Rainier? The day before my mom left, we did just that with a hike starting from Sunrise Lodge (northeast side of the mountain). The weather forecast projected rain, but the webcams still showed clear skies for the northeast side. After triple cross-checking the weather and webcams throughout the early morning, we finally decided to risk it and make the drive to Rainier.

We were in luck as the change in weather was moving in slowly, but never became inclement for us. In fact, the high cirrus clouds made for more dynamic photos!

Mt Rainier from the road to Sunrise Lodge

Mom and me along the hike

Looking out at the meadows below

More meadows with Rainier in the background

My hiking companions

Posing for a photo along the trail

With the impeding change in weather came the winds. As we made our way along the trail toward Mt. Rainier, the winds kicked into high gear and were blowing at what must have been 40 mph gusts. The harsh forces were a reminder of why there is so little vegetation at these high elevations.  Fortunately, we didn't have to endure the gusty conditions for the entire trail. The return route was on the leeward side of the mountain flank we walked along and provided protection from the winds.

Lots of triangles

We even saw Bruno Mars on the trail! Haha!

Out of the wind and on our way back to the lodge.

Can't get enough of this view!

While eating lunch, we had a visit from some of my favorite birds--the Gray Jays! I've never seen such a consistently curious species of bird. If they think you have food or hear the slightest rustle of someone in a bag, they come out of the woodwork to see what goodies they can snag. Below are some photos of them checking out our lunches.

Using Craig as bird bait (photo: L. Sells)

 Mom is just like Snow White with animals!

Rainier and cirrostratus clouds warning of a change in atmospheric conditions.

Post card views as we wave goodbye to the mountains.

Ruby Beach, WA

We were greeted by a foggy morning on the coast as we made the return drive home from our adventures in the Hoh Rainforest. The fog was so thick that it became a cloak of invisibility for the vast Pacific Ocean. No matter how hard we looked for the water from the cliffs, we only saw a scene of bright gray.

We randomly pulled over at a beach with hopes of visible rocky outcrops and could not have been more pleased! We found sea stacks and cobbles and drift wood (oh my!). Combined with the fog, these features made for lots of dramatic photo opportunities.

Mom walking into the beach photographer's paradise.

Cobble beach, drift wood and rock cairns...

...lots of rock cairns!

 Finding my niche.

Mom enjoying the cobbles

Be the rock!

A small offshore island emerges from the fog.

Pretty thick fog!

Hoh Rainforest

This week's blog post features a special guest--my mom! She visited me in Washington and we hit the road to check out some of the state's most spectacular sights. First up on the list? Hoh Rainforest!

Overwhelmed by old-growth trees such as the sitka spruce, big leafed maple, and alder, the temperate rainforest got prettier and bigger with each step. Mosses and lichens were suspended from  branches like party streamers and with tufts of ferns springing out from any empty space on the forest floor, every shade of green was represented.
Mom looking for an elk in the alders.

Big trees, little mama.

Many of the trees in the forest grew from seedlings landing on a nurse log. Once the nurse log decays away, it reveals the intertwining of roots belonging to the new, adult trees.... (Photo: L. Sells) this!

Mom along the Hoh River Trail.


We spent two days playing among the trees and sleeping at their feet. Despite the dry summer, we were able to have a camp fire within the park. Feasting on ramen and Cliff Bars, we spent the evenings dining like vagrant queens around the fire's glow and catching up on much-needed mother-daughter time!

Mom in a sea of green.

Walking along the Hoh River.

Mount Olympus in the distance.

Stopping to check out the waterfall (upper right).

 Elk (Photo: L. Sells)

 A couple of rolling stones gathering moss! (Photo: L. Sells)