I started a recent blog entry with the words, “I always hike with the hopes that there will be a story to tell.” Well, here’s a story that I was never hoping I would have to tell. It’s one in which my trusty old Canon 5D camera was sent plummeting off of a 200-foot cliff to its death.
The day started off like many other photography mission days. It was a beautiful Spring morning, and my loving wife had given me clearance to spend the entire day hiking, biking, skiing or doing whatever I wanted to do. I noticed some great cloud formations stretching across the northern skyline, so I decided to take my trusty friend into the desert canyons near Crooked River Ranch to take pictures. I had scouted these areas several times earlier in the year and I was calculating that the deserts should be pretty close to reaching their peak (i.e., as green as they get and full of balsom root flowers). Based on the positioning of clouds, I figured my first stop should be Steelhead Falls on the Deschutes River. This deep desert canyon has lots of interesting hoodoo formations and traditionally good flowers about this time of year. Add in a good collection of cumulus clouds overhead, and its pretty hard to beat. Unfortunately, when I hiked into the waterfall, I found that the balsom root and Indian paintbrush were still on the early side . . . and, there was a fierce wind moving through the valley, which meant that I had virtually no chance of capturing any decent photographs of flowers anyway (because they would all be blowing around like mad).
I did the best I could with the situation at hand, and then decided to move a few miles farther downstream to the Camp Scout Trail. The Camp Scout Trail is a recently opened section of trail that descends through a steep, rugged canyon to the lushy confluence the Deschutes River and Wychus Creek. I’ve been there a few times since it has opened, and I think it’s one of the best desert hikes in Central Oregon, especially in late-April and early-May. After a level half-mile section, the trail opens up to dramatic, big-Western-style views.
As I followed the trail downstream from the fork, I was pleased to see that the balsom root flowers were much farther along in this area than at Steelhead Falls. I scouted around and took about a dozen photographs that I was very excited about, but then the wind started gusting again and it became clear that I was not going to get any more good photographs from this area. Rather than hiking the entire 3-mile loop, I decided that I would wait and bring the family back here a different day for a more extensive photographic experience.
I hurried back the Jeep, and then drove a few miles down the road to some other new trails along the Crooked River canyon. The Lone Pine Trail, Otter Bench Trail, and Opal Canyon Loop Trail are located just past Crooked River Ranch. Like Steelhead Falls and Camp Scout Trail, they offer incredibly scenic views, but parallel the Crooked River instead of the Deschutes River. My plan was to hike a short ways up Lone Pine Trail for a few quick photographs and then come back and mountain bike the 7-mile Otter Bench/Opal Canyon Loop network.
I left the Jeep and started up the Lone Pine Trail on foot, oblivious to the tragedy that was about to happen. At the first good viewpoint of the canyon, I dropped my backpack and unloaded my camera and tripod as I have done hundreds of times before. I started to compose the shot through my viewfinder, but then realized that the photograph I really wanted to get was going to require me to move a few more feet to my right . . . which, unfortunately, was going to put me dangerously close to the edge of a 200-foot cliff. I nervously inched toward the edge of the rock knowing that the cliff dropped off immediately behind me and to my right. With barely enough room to turn around on, I leaned over to check my lens and saw a bunch of debris clinging to its center. I carefully maneuvered around the tripod leg and started to reach for my backpack to get a clean lens cloth when a surge of wind came gusting up the canyon. The strong wind caught the lip of my cap and as I reached both hands to my head to keep my cap from blowing away, I saw that the wind had also caught hold of my camera. I looked back just in time to see my dear old camera and tripod go somersaulting off the cliff.
It was like one of those moments you see in the movies where everything is moving in super slow motion. Imagine a slow frame-by-frame scene with me on top of the cliff lunging for the foot of my tripod as it tumbles out of view and my mouth opening wide to scream “Nooooooooooooooooo!” That’s pretty much how it happened. After witnessing the unfathomable, I just dropped to my knees in disbelief and hung my head . . . unable to look up. After a few moments of dumbfounded silence, I rolled to my side and then crawled over to the edge to see if I could catch a glimpse of my camera’s corpse on the rocks below. I expected to see it and my tripod in a mangled heap of carnage at the bottom of the cliff, but I didn’t see it anywhere below.
Always an optimist, I decided that I would gather up the rest of my gear and then try to find a way down to the bottom of the canyon to re-collect any pieces of my camera gear that were still intact. It didn’t take long for me to locate a game trail that worked its way down a steep rocky outcropping and into the rattlesnake-infested area at the bottom of the cliffs that I had been standing on a few minutes earlier. As I approached the scene of the crime, I noticed a piece of carbon fiber legging that once belonged to my tripod. A few feet from that piece, I found the rest of my tripod. The tripod was no longer usable in any way, but all things considered, it had actually taken the fall quite well. One piece of the leg was missing and the ball head had broken off upon impact, but otherwise, it looked much better than expected.
My next task was to try to find the camera. Given that the camera is much heavier than the tripod, I figured that it had probably ricocheted farther down the slope. After a few more minutes of searching, I spotted my camera wedged underneath a twisted section of sage brush about 50-feet below the place where my tripod had come to rest. The entire right side of the camera had split open during the fall, and my $1500 lens had disengaged itself somewhere during the tumble. I knew there was no way that my lens would be salvageable, but in trying to give myself at least one small nugget of hope, I thought that maybe, perhaps, through some small miracle, that I might be able to at least re-use my polarized filter, which was attached to the lens before it fell. I searched high and low, under each and every brush pile looking for my lens, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. Using my best CSI skills, I backtracked and zig-zagged the entire area between where I found the tripod and where I found the camera, trying to cover every imaginable scenario. Just as I was about to give up, I caught a glimpse of that signature “L series” red circle. At nearly the same moment that I spotted my lens, it dawned on me that the lens cap was in my pocket before my camera blew off the cliff, which of course, meant that there was no way the polarized filter was going to survive the tumble. Sure enough, the filter was scratched beyond belief.
I then thought about all of the nice photographs that I had taken earlier in the day at Steelhead Falls and Scout Camp Trail, and let out a little smile thinking that since I had found my camera, I would at least be able to get those photographs off of the memory card. But even that small feeling of relief was short-lived because as I looked closer at my camera, I realized that the memory card had also ejected itself sometime after impact. I spent another 30 minutes looking for that tiny (but precious) memory card before I finally had to admit that it had been nearly a complete loss. With one fleeting moment of indescretion, I had lost my camera, lens, filter, memory card, and tripod.
And so with that, I packed all of the different pieces into my backpack and started hiking back to the Jeep, thankful that I still had a perfectly good lens cap in my pocket. . . and that it wasn’t me that had blown off the cliff instead.
Posted by Troy McMullin
We’ve recently uploaded some new landscape photographs to our Main Pacific Crest Stock Photography website. Please visit the following link to visit our New Oregon Landscape Photography Gallery. Below you can find a sampling of some of our newest additions. Enjoy and please let us know which are your favorite landscape photographs in the comment section at the end of this entry. Many of these Oregon Landscape Photographs are available as fine art prints at the following links. Bend Oregon Photographer- Mike Putnam
There are several different crops available for the above Mt. Washington Image including ones with plenty of text space if necessary.
The above macro image of swirling autumn ground cover taken at high elevation in the Central Oregon Cascades offers a more intimate view of autumn in Oregon.
A more thorough description of how I captured the above Sparks Lake Sunrise Photograph is available at the following link. to Purchase this Sparks Lake photo, visit my personal site, Sparks Lake Photo.
The above picture of Central Oregon’s Three Fingered Jack was taken at one of my favorite back country location at the peak of summer wildflower season.
The above photo of Bend Oregon’s Shevlin Park can currently be seen in a fine art version at the Sage Cafe in Bend Oregon’s Northwest Crossing neighborhood. Finally one last image of Central Oregon’s beloved Three SIsters Mountains during a beautiful winter sunrise.
The above photo of the Three Sisters Mountains near Bend Oregon, can be seen at the Mountain Gallery of our Main Pacific Crest Stock Photography site by visiting the following link. Oregon Mountains. Please do visit our site to see more of our new images. Pacific Crest Stock Photography
As Always, Thanks for visiting,
After living in Central Oregon for about a decade, Mike Putnam and I have managed to compile quite a collection of photographs for our Pacific Crest Stock photography company. As 2010 starts, it’s fun to look back and think about some of our favorite photographs from the last ten years. The New Year also marks the end of our first year of being in business together. It was an exciting year to say the least, and thanks to readers like you, our blog site has steadily grown through the months to the point that we are now getting nearly 4,000 visitors per month. We are very grateful for all of the clicks you’ve given us through the year, and for all of the other support and feedback that we’ve received from our friends, families, and customers. We truly appreciate it.
Although it’s nearly impossible to pick out our true favorites, the following photos have a certain level of sentimental value as they often represented significant milestones from our early photography careers. We hope you enjoy them.
1. Summit Sunrise
2. Strawberry Mountains
3. Sparks Lake Sunset
4. Skier on Three Fingered Jack
5. Mount Jefferson Wildflowers
6. The Monument at Smith Rock
7. Aspen Leaves
8. Mount Hood from Lost Lake
9. Basalt Columns
10. Oceanside Sunset
Thanks for all of your support through the year, and we’re looking forward to another exciting year in 2010. Cheers!
Posted by Troy McMullin
I always hike with the hopes that there will be a story to tell, but even under the most optimistic scenarios, there’s never any guarantee that the experience will actually be worthy of its own blog entry. This entry is an example of what happens when I go out on a photography mission, and miraculously, everything goes as planned. No mountain lions, no getting trapped high up on a cliff wall, and no sliding out of control down a steep backcountry slope. Just a simple, well-timed hike into a beautiful area to take pictures, and then an uneventful hike back out. Boring, but productive.
If you want to see more photos from my recent adventures, check out the New Images gallery on our main Pacific Crest Stock photography site. This gallery contains several hundred new images that Mike and I have taken over the last few months.
Posted by Troy McMullin
Although Central Oregon is probably best known for all of its winter and summer fun, we think it might actually be at its best during autumn. Between the months of September and October, the Central Oregon towns of Bend, Sisters, Camp Sherman, and Sunriver are blessed with reliably sunny days, cool clear nights, and absolutely spectacular fall color. If you haven’t experienced autumn in Central Oregon, you’re really missing out on a special time. To help get you get started on planning next year’s vacation, the Pacific Crest Stock Photography team has pasted some suggestions below with photos from some of our favorite fall-time trails and activities.
Ten Things to Do During Central Oregon’s Autumn Months
1. Go hiking in the lava flows around the Three Sister Wilderness Area. There are many different lava flows to choose from within a short drive of Bend, Sunriver, or Sisters. Most of the lava flows are interspersed with vine maples and other vegetation, which turn beautiful shades of red, orange, and yellow during the autumn months.
2. Go biking through a grove of aspen trees. Some of the best groves of aspen trees are found along the Deschutes River or Tumalo Creek Basin near Bend, the Ochoco National Forest outside of Prineville, the High Desert Museum between Bend and Sunriver, or near Black Butte Ranch along the outskirts of Sisters.
3. Go hiking or biking on the Deschutes River Trail. The Deschutes River Trail is a real gem of a trail that runs through the Deschutes National Forest and connects the towns of Bend and Sunriver. It contains several beautiful waterfalls and large groves of Ponderosa pine, larch trees, and aspen trees. This is a perfect place to hike or bike with small children.
4. Go explore the forest service roads bordering the Mount Washington Wilderness Area. There is a wonderful network of roads that runs between highways 126 and 242 just outside of Sisters, Oregon. The roads provide access to the Mount Washington Wilderness Area and also provide great wide-open views of Black Butte, Three Fingered Jack, and Three Sisters Mountains. In September and October, the roads explode with fall color. For more information and photos from the Mount Washington Wilderness Area, see our previous entry.
5. Go biking or rock climbing at Smith Rock State Park. Smith Rock State Park is always a magical place to visit, but it is especially nice in autumn when the banks of the Crooked River are alive with color. Because of its desert location, Smith Rock also tends to stay a few degrees warmer than the surrounding mountain towns of Bend, Sunriver and Sisters. This makes it an especially nice road trip on cooler October days. For more information and photos from Smith Rock State Park, see our previous entry.
6. Go visit the Camp Sherman Store and the Wizard Falls trout hatchery on the Metolius River. The world-famous Metolius River and the locally-loved Camp Sherman Store are two of the most special places in Central Oregon. The Metolius River puts on one of the most colorful autumn displays in the region, and between the fly fishing and hiking opportunities along the banks of the river, the trout-viewing at the Wizard Falls hatchery, and the awesomely huge sandwiches and well-stocked selection of local microbrews at the Camp Sherman Store, this stop belongs on your list of “must-do” activities. This is also a perfect place to hike with small children, and if your little ones need a little extra motivation, it might be nice to know that the Camp Sherman Store offers a large selection of penny candy (yes, a penny!). For more information and photos from the Metolius River, see our previous entry.
7. Go for a drive over McKenzie Pass. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the drive up and over McKenzie Pass is one of the most scenic drives in North America. It offers a fascinating tour through the middle of a huge lava flow that is surrounded on both sides by touring Cascade Mountain peaks. There are tons of short hikes and explorations that can be accessed from the road over McKenzie Pass. After the highway closes in late autumn, the McKenzie Pass area also becomes one of region’s premier biking destinations. For more information and photos, see our previous entries about McKenzie Pass or the McKenzie River.
8. Go hiking or biking on the North Fork Trail above Tumalo Falls. Although many visitors know about Tumalo Falls, few people venture beyond the top of the first waterfall. The real secret about this area is that there are at least another half-dozen impressive waterfalls hiding just a short ways up the trail. Hikers usually make the trip as an out-and-back adventure. Bikers are allowed only on the uphill section of the trail, so if you’re on a bike, continue past the last waterfall at the 3.5 mile mark, ride through the wide open Happy Valley and then cross over the stream to your right. After crossing the stream, the path continues along a section of the Metolius-Windigo Trail before dropping back down to the parking lot on the opposite side of Tumalo Falls via the Farewell Bend Trail. The entire loop is about 11 miles. For more information and photos from the Tumalo Falls area, see our previous entry.
9. Go fly fishing at one of Central Oregon’s many high alpine lakes or spring-fed streams. Central Oregon is blessed with a huge collection of high alpine lakes and spring-fed trout streams, which makes it a fisherman’s paradise. You could spend years visiting all of the lakes and streams hidden in the woods along the Cascade Lakes Highway, Santiam Pass, or McKenzie Pass, and never have to fish the same place twice. Grab your fly rod and go exploring. You know there’s a lunker waiting for you in the ripple.
10. Go for a drive over Santiam Pass. In autumn, the drive over Santiam Pass looks like something from a fairy tale. The windy, two-lane highway hugs the shoulder of the Santiam Rivers’ North Fork for many miles, and there is a splendid display of bright red vine maples nearly the entire way between summit of the pass (4,800 feet) and Detroit Lake (1,400 feet). This is definitely the route of choice if you’re coming to Central Oregon from Salem or Portland.
NOTE: Many of the activities above involve hiking or biking through our region’s National Forest areas. In autumn, it is important to remember that hikers and bikers are often sharing these areas with big-game hunters. As always, appropriate precautions and good common sense are highly recommended when venturing into the forest during hunting season.
To license these or any of our other stunning Central Oregon images, please visit our Oregon stock photos site, Pacific Crest Stock
Posted by Troy McMullin
I will be celebrating the 24-month anniversary of my 39th birthday in the coming days. Reflecting on this past year reminded me of last year’s big birthday bash when our families and friends threw a surprise party for Mike Putnam (who also turned 40) and me. Looking back now, there were numerous hints that should have clued me in to the fact that everyone around me was planning a party, but like a pawn in a game, I just went blindly through the day enjoying what I thought was a routine day in the life of a lucky man.
For example, I remember waking up that morning and having Julie (my wife) encourage me to go take some photographs. Now bless her heart, my wife has always been very supportive of my photography hobby/habit, but on this particular day, she actually seemed to be pushing me out of the door. That should have been my first clue that something strange was happening, but to be honest, it never even dawned on me. Instead, I hurriedly packed up my camera gear and headed out of the house before she could change her mind. I didn’t even know where I was going when I left the house. I just knew that Julie was giving me a hall pass, and that I wasn’t about to pass that up. Within a few minutes of pulling out of the driveway, I decided that I would drive south to see if there was any fall color around Salt Creek Falls, which at almost 300-feet tall, is the second tallest waterfall in Oregon.
When I first arrived at Salt Creek Falls, the sun was shining through the trees and directly into my eyes. Shooting waterfalls on sunny days is not exactly ideal photography conditions, and having the sun pointed directly into the lens of the camera is about as bad as it gets, so rather than setting up the camera, I decided to scout around the area for awhile in hopes that some clouds would eventually roll in. I fought my way through a thicket of dense trees and found a good location along the slope at the bottom of Salt Creek Falls, but every time that the sun would move behind a cloud, a small breeze would blow up from the base of the waterfall and shake all of the leaves in my foreground (which makes them appear blurry in timed-release waterfall photographs). I played this little game with the sun and wind for more than hour before finally deciding that this just wasn’t my day, and that it would probably be better for me to start heading back home so that I could help my wife with our kids. I hiked out of the woods and started driving over Willamette Pass when I realized that I had lost my sunglasses somewhere along the way. Then, as I was mentally re-tracing my steps, I remembered that I had actually lost my sunglasses the week before at the coast, which meant that today, I had actually managed to lose my WIFE’S sunglasses!
I called Julie and explained that I was going to be running later than expected because I needed to backtrack to find her sunglasses. Julie seemed almost relieved to hear the news, and she encouraged me to take as much time as I needed. That should have been my second clue that something strange was happening, but I didn’t get it because at the time, I was just feeling kind of bad for losing her sunglasses, and my mind was frantically trying to piece together all of the places that I had gone that day. I turned the Jeep around and started driving back toward the trailhead. I wasn’t exactly sure where Julie’s sunglasses might be, but I figured they were probably laying somewhere on that steep slippery slope near the base of the waterfall. I fought my way through the trees again, and as I popped out onto the slope, I noticed that the lighting conditions had improved considerably since I was there earlier in the day. A thick fog bank had moved into the valley, which created nice soft light on the foreground and waterfall. I quickly set up my tripod and composed a few shots. Then I looked down at my feet, and saw that I was standing about 4 feet away from a nice shiny black pair of Oakley’s. Sweet! I re-packed the camera and stuffed the sunglasses inside my backpack and then hiked back up to the parking lot at the top of Salt Creek Falls.
When I got home, Julie told me that Jake Bell (one my best friends) had called to see if I wanted to go have a few beers at Deschutes Brewery and then go back to his house to watch a football game. Apparently, two other good friends (Mike Putnam, My partner in Pacific Crest Stock and Max Reitz) had already agreed to go and Julie had told them that it was OK for me to go along too. I told Julie that it was nice for her to let me go, but that I didn’t really feel the need to go, especially since she already let me have the whole day off for picture-taking. I told her that I would be more than happy to watch the kids for awhile if she wanted to take a break, but she insisted that it was alright with her—and since I’ve never been one to turn down a little beer and football, off I went . . . completely clueless again.
At the pub that night, I learned that Max (who lives in Hood River) and Mike had spent all day hiking around Three Fingered Jack. We had a couple of beers and shared some photography stories, and all the while, Jake kept looking at his watch. Jake seemed nervous as a cat, and he kept prodding us along so that we could get up to his house before the game started. At one point, Mike left the table and Max asked Jake what time we all needed to be up at his house. I had just lifted my pint glass to take another drink, but out of the corner of my eye, I could see Jake immediately making some sort of awkward hand gestures to Max. Again, that probably should have been a clue . . . . but it wasn’t, at least at the time.
When Mike got back, Jake and Max immediately herded us out of the door and up to Jake’s house. Jake pulled into his driveway, and then he got out of the truck and started acting like he was getting something out of the back, knowing full well that Mike and I wouldn’t wait or offer to help him, but that instead we would head directly for his front door (and his fridge) and make ourselves at home. When Mike and I opened Jake’s door, we were immediately greeted with a big “Surprise!” . . . and then whole day began to a make a little more sense.
Posted by Troy McMullin
This is an announcement that we’ve have been waiting to make for quite some time. Pacific Crest Stock has recently created a new Outdoor Adventure gallery that includes images of people interacting with the natural environment. At this point, we’re limiting our collection to photos of people participating in human-powered sports, such as hiking, mountain biking, backpacking, rock climbing, mountaineering, backcountry skiing, and fly fishing. We’re working hard to expand our collection, and anticipate that we will be adding to the list of outdoor adventure sports in the near future. Just to give you a hint of what you’ll find in the new gallery, we have posted some of our favorite new Oregon stock photos below.
Sample Backcountry Skiing Images from Pacific Crest Stock photography:
Sample Mountain Biking Images from Pacific Crest Stock photography:
Sample Backpacking Images from Pacific Crest Stock photography:
Sample Fly Fishing Images from Pacific Crest Stock photography:
Sample Hiking Images from Pacific Crest Stock photography:
We’re very excited about our new collection of stock photos, and we hope that you will be too. If you like what you see, please bookmark the new Outdoor Adventure gallery and check back often as it will be updated frequently. For licensing information, call us at 541-610-4815.
Henry David Thoreau once said, “None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.” If Thoreau was correct, then I think Oregon’s Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area could be considered a virtual fountain of youth, because in my experience, it is almost impossible to visit this area without being overwhelmed with enthusiasm. In fact, anyone who peruses our photo galleries on Pacific Crest Stock probably can’t help but notice that Mike Putnam and I have a great deal of enthusiasm for the meadows and valleys surrounding Mount Jefferson. It really doesn’t matter if you are hiking into Jefferson Park, Coffin Mountain, or the Cathedral Rocks Canyon, there is almost no way to go wrong . . . as long as your camera works when you get there.
A few years ago, I was hurrying around in preparation for a day hike into Jefferson Park. It was mid-August and I knew that the meadows around Russell Lake would be overflowing with flowers. As I ran frantically from room to room in the house gathering up all of my equipment, I set my camera backpack on the kitchen counter. On one of my passes back through the kitchen, I quickly filled a Nalgene bottle, and slid it into the mesh pocket on the side of my backpack. The weight of the water bottle immediately caused my backpack to shift and tumble from the counter top down to the hard slate floor. I lunged to catch the pack, but by the time I had a grasp on its top strap, the bottom of the bag had already crashed into the ground. I said a few choice words and then gave my camera a quick inspection. Everything looked fine. Whew!
I loaded my gear into the Jeep and started making my way to the Whitewater trailhead just up the road from Detroit Lake. I ended up starting the 10-mile round trip hike later than anticipated and after a steep climb to the top of the first ridge, I realized that I needed to run if I wanted to make it to the meadows and still have time to get out of the woods before dark. NOTE: Now is probably a good time to mention that I really despise running. Many of my friends are exceptional runners; they actually claim to love it. But me, I’m just not a runner. Give me a bike or some skate skis, but please never ask me to run.
I reluctantly jogged a few hundred yards up the trail and then I temporarily slowed to a brisk hike as I contemplated whether or not I really had enough time to cover all of the ground in front of me even if I was able to run the whole way. But then, images of Jefferson Park in full bloom consumed my thoughts and convinced me that I could definitely make it . . . as long as I would be willing to run. And with that, I picked up my trekking poles and started the very miserable task of trail running up 1800 vertical feet of backcountry trails with a heavy backpack and worn out boots. Up over the ridges; around the corners; and through the creek crossings. I ran the whole way into Jefferson Park.
As soon as I got to the meadows in Jefferson Park, I could see that my timing was perfect. The purple lupine and Indian paintbrush were in their most glorious states. I rushed through the maze of flower-filled trails that lead to Russell Lake and found the perfect spot along one its tributaries. Mount Jefferson was being gently lit by the westerly sun, and with that majestic mountain looming directly overhead, I carefully set up my tripod, composed the shot, and pressed the shutter button. But nothing happened. I checked the power button; the camera was on. I took the camera off of the tripod and checked the battery compartment; the battery was where it belonged. I took the battery in and out and turned the power switch on and off multiple times, but nothing could bring my camera back to life. Then, as I was spinning the camera around, I noticed that one of the bottom corners was badly dented and I remembered how my camera had fallen off the kitchen counter earlier in the day. Realizing that the camera had been ruined and that I jogged all of the way into Jefferson Park for nothing, I took my cell phone out of my pocket, pointed it at the mountain, hung my head in disgrace and clicked a single low-resolution digital phone picture.
Then, I started walking—not running—back to my Jeep.
NOTE: If you want to see additional images from the Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area, you can browse our pictures in the Mountain gallery on Pacific Crest Stock or search the site for “Mount Jefferson.”
Earlier this spring(2009) My daughter, Emma and I had one of our many Daddy/Daughter days when My wife, Debbie was working . As is often the case, we decided that a hike would be a pleasant way to pass the day. I noticed some interesting clouds in the area slightly northwest of Bend, so I decided that a drive to Tumalo Reservoir would be a worthwhile journey for both Emma and I. The views of Central Oregon’s Three Sisters Mountains are great from Tumalo Reservoir and from some areas of the reservoir, the Sisters are nicely reflected in the water.
The above photo of Tumalo Reservoir taken on a different morning shows the Three Sisters nicely reflected.
Part of the reason that I felt Tumalo Reservoir would be a good destination was because Emma enjoys playing around water and the last time she and I had been there, we had seen several snakes which frightened but intrigued her. She’d been pining to see the snakes again but from a distance.
As we drove into the area, we crossed over a bridge at the east end of the reservoir where I stopped and captured the following image.
Pleasant clouds and an interesting shoreline had already made this a worthy day-trip. Only one thing troubled me. There was a mother and two children playing along the shores of the lake, occasionally interfering with my landscape photography. They seemed to be pleasantly playing but they weren’t helping my cause. Emma and I hiked along the southern edge of the reservoir until the mother and children were out of the way. The photos from that part of the hike were not inspirational but we did have a bit of excitement. First, I’ll give you a bit more background. My daughter, Emma is definitely a Girly-Girl. I mean this in the sweetest way possible. She loves clothes, she loves dolls, she fusses with hairstyles constantly. To sum up, she is no Tom-boy. Despite her girly ways, she does enjoy controlled adventures. Well on this day, the banks of the Reservoir were especially muddy. While I was taking pictures of the Three Sisters, Emma got bogged down in mud and lost a shoe. We were both entertained and decided it was best to not get too close to the water’s edge. After I’d gotten the photos I wanted, we worked our way back to where we’d parked. Along the way, I scouted some more photos. While taking one last shot, I heard a feminine screech, which could only come from one person and it could only mean one thing. Emma had seen a snake! She was simultaneously terrified and thrilled. Unfortunately, I was too slow with my camera and I missed this hilarious photo opportunity. With my moral support, she wanted to find another snake. She soon got her wish! As this snake wasn’t a surprise, there were no shrill screeches to fill the air!
As we approached the canal at the east end of the reservoir, we once again saw the Mother and her two children, the oldest of which was a little girl about Emma’s age. They were on the opposite side of the muddy canal when the older child said what I thought was “should I catch them a snake, Mommy?” Knowing that my ears had deceived me, we continued on towards the car. The little girl began scurrying along the the shore and in the water with a flurry of activity. Emma and I were intrigued. The little girl then proceeded to wade waste deep across the mud bottomed canal. The same canal that held shoe-sucking quick sand and flesh eating snakes! She was absolutely intrepid and totally indifferent to any aquatic obstacles in her way. As she neared us, Emma’s eyes widened to unprecedented widths! The little girls hands were full of sticks, No……They were full of snakes!
Keep in mind that I don’t have any kind of snake phobia, but I don’t like them surprising me either. Well this enchanting and fearless little girl was completely unfazed about the snakes writhing around her arms. As she shared her find, the snakes became completely calm in her hands. She explained that they were very friendly and that we should hold them. Emma almost had a heart attack! Eventually I worked up the courage to hold one snake and indeed it eventually calmed in my hand. Emma took a little more cajoling. Below is a photo of Emma building the courage to touch one of the snake charmers’ pets.
Obviously, Emma is excited and hesitant while the snake-handling nymph is completely at ease with the snakes. I was astounded! After many minutes of confidence building exercises, Emma eventually summoned the courage to hold a solitary snake.
I was very proud of her and I was simply amazed by the unknown little girl who was fearless and charming at the same time. For entertainment purposes, scroll up to the snake charmer and back down to Emma to assess their different comfort levels.
If anybody who reads this blog entry happens to know who the snake charming nymph of Tumalo Reservoir is, please contact me as I’d like to thank her and her mother for sharing with us. She was enchanting, charming, polite, personable, fearless, and entertaining. She truly brightened our day and the whole event was something that Emma and I will remember forever. Thanks!
To view more Central Oregon landscape photography of the Three Sisters and Tumalo Reservoir, please visit our stock photography site, Pacific Crest Stock Photography
by: Mike Putnam
As I try to find new locations to add to my photography collection on Pacific Crest Stock, I’ve begun to realize that careful preparation and a good working knowledge of cameras and compositions can only help a nature photographer so much. Really great landscape photography seems to rely just as heavily on steadfast persistence (i.e., going back to the same location over and over again until the conditions are perfect) and/or a whole lot of luck (i.e., having great conditions on the first trip to a new location). On one recent trip to Yaquina Head Lighthouse in Newport Oregon, I got very lucky.
While driving over to the Oregon Coast, I mentioned to Julie (my loving wife) that I had been hoping to get some photographs of Yaquina Head Lighthouse for the last year or so, but that my timing had not worked out yet. I told her that the images I was hoping to capture would have a warmly lit lighthouse with big fields of flowers in the foreground and interesting cloud formations in the sky. I knew that capturing these images would require me to be there in early summer (when the flowers are peaking) at either sunrise or sunset (to have the proper lighting) on a day with no wind (so the flowers aren’t blowing around during long exposures) and great clouds (to fill up what would otherwise be dead space in the sky). I could easily prepare for the first two components, but the rest of it was really up to luck. Because Julie and I live in Bend, Oregon (a high elevation mountain town more than 3 hours away), there was really no way for me to know if the flowers along the coast were even blooming yet (much less, peaking), and there was absolutely no way that I could control other key factors, such as the wind and clouds. All I could really do was hope for the best and try to be prepared to take advantage of any opportunity that presented itself.
On our first day at the beach house, I woke up early and stepped outside to check sunrise conditions. There were great cloud formations all around and no winds blowing. These were seemingly perfect conditions, except for the fact that I was standing outside our place in Pacific City and the lighthouse is located in Newport, which is about 45 minutes away. Although I really had no way of predicting what the conditions were going to be like that far way, I was fairly excited at the possibility of getting the lighthouse pictures that I had wanted and I quickly started weighing my options. As I contemplated whether or not to make the trip, I remembered that our kids had been very excited the night before and that they had stayed up much later than normal. I also saw that Julie was still sleeping on the couch with our 18-month-old daughter, and that neither of them moved a muscle as I clumsily banged around in the kitchen trying to fill up as many coffee cups as I could carry. All signs pointed to a late and lazy morning for the McMullin family, which was great for me because it meant that I should be able to get down to the lighthouse and back to the beach house before anyone even noticed that I was gone. I packed up my coffee and camera gear and started my sunrise drive down the Pacific Coast Highway.
As I left Pacific City, I noticed that the streams and fields were incredibly still (which confirmed there was no wind blowing), but that the cloud formations I had seen earlier were already beginning to change. By the time I drove through Lincoln City (about 20 minutes later), the skies had lost most of their big fluffy clouds, and I started to wonder whether it was going to be worth it to keep driving. Then, I figured I was already hopped up on coffee and that the worst thing that could happen to me was that I would end up taking a peaceful, quiet drive down the coast to a beautiful cliff-side lighthouse where the sun would end up rising in a cloudless sky. With that in mind, it seemed sort of ridiculous for me to turn around at this point, so I continued driving up and over the cliffs surrounding Devil’s Punchbowl toward Newport, Oregon.
As the highway dropped back down to sea level, I could see Yaquina Head Lighthouse off in the distance. The lighthouse appeared to be shrouded in fog and there were no signs of the cumulus clouds that I had seen earlier in the morning. That sight was a bit disappointing, but I’ve been around long enough to know that you just can’t predict what the weather is going to be like on the Oregon Coast, so I kept driving with the hopes of at least scouting out the flower scenes around the lighthouse. In my mind, I was thinking that if the flowers were in good shape, then I would see if Julie and the kids wanted to come back to the lighthouse around sunset so I could try again (NOTE: This is the persistence part of the equation that I was talking about earlier).
I arrived at the lighthouse shortly after sunrise and found exactly what I was hoping for . . . huge stands of wildflowers all around, great clouds overhead, and no wind. Pulsing with excitement (and perhaps a little too much coffee), I jumped out of the Jeep and started running around in circles trying to find as many interesting compositions as I could before the sun warmed the skies and the clouds faded away.
I had never been to Yaquina Head Lighthouse before, so I wasn’t exactly sure where to go first. I shot the images above within a few minutes of arriving, and then I backtracked and started scouting for more distant shots of the lighthouse.
Because Yaquina Head Lighthouse is a very special and popular place, there are only certain areas around the lighthouse where visitors are allowed to go. Most of the really great photographs would require one to climb over a fence and ignore numerous signs pleading with people to stay on the designated paths and cleverly pointing out things like “Our wildflowers grow by the inch, but they are killed by the foot.” As badly as I wanted to scout around on the other side of the fences for a unique composition, I knew that I couldn’t do it with a clear conscious and that I didn’t want to damage any of the wildflowers that were blooming so happily along the cliff tops.
I stayed on my side of the fences and shot a few more pictures of the lighthouse before venturing down to the rocky beach below. I quickly scouted a few hundred yards up the beach, but unfortunately, the clouds had already started migrating out to sea by the time that I found a scene interesting enough to photograph. Oh well, I have never been one to complain, and I certainly wasn’t going to do it on a day in which I had already been blessed with tremendous luck. The following picture doesn’t benefit from the great cloud formations that the others have, but I’m still drawn to it because I think it does a nice job of capturing the enormity of the scene and I like the way the ocean waves, cliffs, and lighthouse provide a nicely balanced composition.
Satisfied that I had successfully captured Yaquina Head Lighthouse in all of its glory, I hiked back up the cliffs and started my return trip. I glanced at my watch as I was climbing in the Jeep and noticed that I was running quite a bit later than expected. That’s also when it occurred to me that I had left in such a hurry that morning that I forgot to leave Julie a note letting her know where I was going or when I would be back. Julie and I have been married long enough that I figured she could easily guess that I was out somewhere on a photography mission, but I didn’t want her to be worried (or mad), so I figured that I better check in with her to see how things were going with the kids and to let her know that I would be home as soon as possible. When I called her, she wasn’t the least bit upset. In fact, Julie was genuinely excited for me. She told me that she couldn’t wait to see my pictures, but that everything was running smoothly at the beach house, and for me not to feel like I needed to hurry home.
I hung up the phone thinking “How did I get this lucky?” Although it’s always nice to have fortuitous photography conditions, my phone conversation with Julie reminded me once again that none of it would be possible without the unwavering and loving support of family. Nature photographers spend a tremendous amount of time out in the field, and our families are often either left behind or reluctant participants in all sorts of crazy adventures. We couldn’t possibly thank them enough for their contributions or tell them frequently enough that they are truly one of the best kept secrets of our success. Like I said earlier, luck is one of the key ingredients to good landscape photography, and perhaps “lucky in love” is one of the best types of luck that any photographer can hope for. In this regard, I’m a lucky, lucky, lucky man.
Posted by Troy McMullin
The climb up to the South Face of Three Fingered Jack is one of those ruggedly difficult hikes that is better measured in hours than miles. I have attempted to summit this ridge many times over the last few winters, but Mother Nature has always intervened in one way or another to keep me from making it to the top. My first few attempts were thwarted by disastrous route choices in which my journey ended abruptly at the bottom of cliffs that could not be navigated, and my next several trips ended a few feet from the summit when clouds or storms moved in that either covered the mountain or tried to blow me off of its edge. I tried again a few weeks ago (see previous blog entry), but the conditions were too difficult on that day and it ended up taking me much longer than anticipated. After many hours of tough climbing, I was forced to turn around less than a mile from the top.
Determined to finally make it to the summit before sunset, I drove over to Santiam Pass and started hiking around noon. My ultimate goal was to be on the summit for sunset pictures, but honestly, the conditions didn’t look that great from a photography perspective, and secretly, I was really just hoping to finally make it to the top . . . even it mean that all I could do was scout around for future photo expeditions. Because I couldn’t camp on the summit overnight, I also knew that being there for sunset meant that I would need to hike out long after dark. While packing up my gear, I decided to bring skis with me figuring that skiing back down the slopes would save me precious time on my return trip. That decision was probably a good one, but the added weight from my skis and boots came with consequences. Consequences that occurred to me as I took my first step and felt my snowshoe sink through the soft, Spring snow. The whole idea of snowshoes is that they help distribute your weight over a greater surface area, which allows you to float on top of the snow rather than post-holing through it. Each snowshoe has a certain weight limit though, and once you throw a heavy pack onto your back and start hiking through warm, mid-day slush, all bets are off on whether or not the snowshoe will actually be able to hold up its end of the bargain. On this day, the snowshoes did not necessarily work as designed. They functioned fine some of the time, but I could never allow myself to get fully confident in them because every fourth or fifth step, the snow would give way and I would suddenly feel my weight dropping into a knee-deep hole.
The added difficulty from repeatedly sinking through the snow was further compounded by the fact that there is no trail leading to the summit. There are occasional views of the mountain during the approach, but for the most part, it’s just a gamble on whether or not you are actually heading in the right direction. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately), I have done the hike enough times in the winter to know that the most direct route is not the correct route. Through repeated trial and error, I have learned that the best way to reach the summit is to hike several miles to the east before ever attempting to go north toward the mountain. Heading straight toward the mountain only ends in frustration at the fore-mentioned cliff band, while looping around from the east allows you to get on top of a ridgeline that winds its way to the summit. After about two hours of climbing through open glades, I finally made it to the top of this ridge where I was greeted with a partial view of Three Fingered Jack.
When looking at the picture above, it is important to remember that distances can be incredibly deceiving in the mountains. It’s kind of like being in Las Vegas and thinking that the casino “just over there” is within walking distance. Anyone who tries to walk around in Vegas soon realizes that the casinos there are so massive that the distances between them become nearly impossible to judge. Even after an hour of walking toward the casino that you thought was just a few minutes away, it seems as if you are no closer to it than when you started. That’s what it’s like in the mountains, except that the mountains are even bigger than casinos, and sadly, there are no cocktail waitresses when you finally get there.
Although it doesn’t look like it would be possible, the summit of that snow-covered ridge in front of Three Fingered Jack is almost three hours away. And those last three hours are some of the most difficult and challenging hours of hiking that you will find anywhere. One of the features that makes the hike so difficult is that the route to the top is littered with hundreds of strange and impossible-to-navigate snow formations. Winter storms fill the backcountry with winds blowing at incredible speeds, and over time, these winds sculpt the snow drifts into all sorts of bizarre shapes. There are snow fields on this ridge with huge waves of snow that look like something from a Dr Seuss movie. Each wave is like a 12-foot ocean swell that is frozen in place. And there will be one wave after another, with no way around them but to backtrack and find a new route. The photo above shows one example of what I’m talking about. It also demonstrates how the waves are topped with huge cornices of snow. These cornices are incredibly unstable and can break off and bury you without a sound if you make the foolish mistake of trying to climb up and over them rather than going around them.
In addition to all of the extra time and effort that it takes to backtrack around the snow swells, it becomes almost impossible to maintain a decent pace because the general pitch of the climb increases dramatically near the top. After seeing the cornices precariously perched on the open-side of ridge, I decided to make my approach from within the tree line shown in the left-hand side of the photo above. I chose this route because I was fairly concerned about avalanche conditions on the open, wind-packed side and because the trees gave me something to grab on to when the pitch became too steep to otherwise climb. I spent the next few hours rhythmically working my way up through the trees. Basically, I would make a series of kick steps into the vertical face of the ridge until I had a solid foot hold, then I would drop down to one knee for added stability in the snow while reaching my opposite hand up to the nearest tree branch in an attempt to pull my body up the hill as far as possible, all of the while trying to keep my skis (which were strapped to the outside of my backpack) from getting tangled in all of the other low-hanging branches. Trust me, it was about as much fun as it sounds . . . but eventually, I made it to the top.
I was immensely relieved to have finally made it to the summit. Unfortunately, high clouds had moved in from the West and partially covered the sun, and there were gale force winds howling along the top of the ridge. No matter, though. I was on top and that was all that mattered to me at the moment. Since the clouds were producing flat lighting conditions when I first arrived, I spent some time exploring along the top of the ridge in an attempt to find some interesting foreground compositions.
I eventually found a spot I liked and set up my tripod. Then, I sat down and took a well-deserved rest while listening to The Tallest Man on Earth on my iPod and hoping that the sun would eventually break through and give me some warmer light on the mountain. Unfortunately, the light never got better than “lukewarm” and after an hour or so of waiting in the wind on top of the ridge it looked like my chances for a good sunset photograph of Three Fingered Jack were diminishing.
Rather than waiting for sunset and then needing to ski out at midnight, I decided that it would probably be best for me to start my descent early. I followed my snowshoe tracks back down below the avalanche line and with the sun setting behind Maxwell Butte, I changed out of my snowshoes and into my ski boots. I had some doubts about this decision after the first few tele-turns flooded my sore leg muscles with lactic acid, but over time, I eventually grew numb to the burning pain in my legs and I started enjoying some of the best (if slightly wobbly) glade skiing that I have done in years. I survived a few close encounters with trees on my return trip, but overall, it was a very enjoyable ski and it suddenly seemed worthwhile to have packed my heavy skis and boots all of the way to the top. I arrived at the Jeep about an hour after sunset, and even though I didn’t quite get the photos that I was hoping for, I was filled with the satisfaction of knowing that I finally made it to the top. And now that I know that I can make it to the top, there’s nothing stopping me from trying it again. I’ll keep you posted.
Posted by Troy McMullin
NOTE: If you want to see more pictures from this day, you can browse our “Cascade Mountains” gallery or search the main Pacific Crest Stock photography site for “Three Fingered Jack.”
I just made a trip down to the Visit Bend Office in downtown Bend, Oregon to pick up a copy of their new Bend, Oregon visitor’s guide. As I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, one of our photographs graces the cover of this year’s guide and the whole thing looks great! To visit the previous blog entry regarding the cover shot which is of Mt. Jefferson and a gorgeous meadow of alpine wildflowers high up in the Mt. Jefferson wilderness area please click here. Mt. Jefferson cover shot . A sincere thanks goes out to Doug, Lynnette, Laurel, and the rest of the team at Visit Bend for selecting our image for their cover shot and for being great people to work with during this project. They have all proven to be personable, efficient, and talented people to work with and to know. I also mentioned in a previous blog entry that this cover is a special honor because both Troy and myself are both such big boosters of Bend and the entire Central Oregon area. For people like us who love the outdoors, there is no finer place to live and to represent the area we love in some small way is a huge honor.
The Visit Bend offices are located at 917 NW Harriman St. in Downtown Bend Oregon. They are a great resource for information about the whole Central Oregon Area so stop by say hello to their friendly staff, view some of their beautiful art work (My Fine art prints are displayed there!) and grab a copy of their new bend area tourism guide with one of our Pacific Crest Stock images on the cover. We hope they are as excited about the cover as we are. Also you can visit their very attractive website at Visit Bend. to see more of our grat landscape images, please also visit our main stock photography site at Pacific Crest Stock. Thanks for visiting!
It was a simple plan, really. Backpack into the base of Three Fingered Jack for a little snow camping, and hopefully get some good sunrise photos. What could possibly go wrong? Well, a bloody tree-riddled ride down an icy slope for one. Hmmm . . . I didn’t really see that coming.
Summer had arrived early in Bend, Oregon and I had the itch to go exploring in the backcountry. From a photography perspective, it is always tempting to get into the high alpine areas in early summer while there is still a lot of snow on the mountains, so I did a little scouting along the forest service roads outside of Sisters, Oregon and determined that I could drive most of the way into Jack Lake, which is the primary access point for Canyon Creek Meadows and Three Fingered Jack Mountain. The southeast-facing road leading up to Jack Lake is usually one of the first to melt off every year, and in early summer, hikers can usually drive up to the last big north-facing curve in the road– which is only a mile or two short of the trailhead. While going early in the year adds a few extra miles to the total hiking distance, it’s not a bad trade off for the added solitude that it provides. Plus, it’s always kind of fun knowing that you are one of the first to make it into the area for the year.
I parked the Jeep at the curve where snow was still drifting across the road, creating a steep ramp that sloped off the edge of the hill. I contemplated trying to 4-wheel it through the corner, but the sloping angle of snow and ice just looked a little too intimidating and I could easily picture the back of my truck loosing grip and sliding off the edge of the cliff and down into the valley below. It didn’t seem worth the risk just to save a few extra miles of hiking so I strapped on my snowshoes and started hiking toward Jack Lake. There’s a nice view of Three Fingered Jack from the lake, after which, the trail climbs gradually through a relatively dense forest of Fir trees and into the meadows near the base of the mountain. Although the trail was completely snow-covered, I have been fortunate to make this hike many times in the past and I have several waypoints saved in my GPS, which makes it very easy to find my way into the meadows.
I arrived in the lower meadow a few hours before sunset, but while I was hiking through the forest, thick clouds had moved in from the east and completely obstructed my view of the mountain. The clouds were hanging just a few hundred feet off of the valley floor, and as I started trying to formulate a backup photography plan that accounted for the possibility of morning clouds (i.e., no sunrise picture opportunities from the meadows), I remembered that the Pacific Crest Trail runs along the top of the ridge to my immediate right and that there were some really interesting views of Jack’s pinnacles from up on that ridge. I have a waypoint saved in my GPS of a “secret” climbers trail that traverses from the far end of the upper meadow to the ridge top, but this time of year, I knew that there was no way I would be able to make it up the steep climb and I was a little worried that I might trigger an avalanche if I attempted that route. Rather than taking the route from the upper meadow, I decided to try to find an easier way to the top by approaching the ridge from the lower meadow.
Within a few minutes of leaving the lower elevation meadow, I had climbed my way into the overhanging clouds. The temperature dropped precipitously inside the cloud bank, and I soon found myself covered with a fine, frozen mist. Fortunately, the heat that I generated while struggling to climb up the steep pitch with a 40-pound backpack more than offset the drop in external temperature. I picked and chose my way to the summit, hiking in and out of woods and rock slides until I finally made it to the top of the ridge. With virtually no visibility on top, I started hiking blindly west along the ridge top, sometimes following a knife-like cliff band that dropped several hundred feet on both sides. Given the steep exposure on each side of the cliff, I was frequently forced to take off my backpack and heave it up and over various ledges rather than attempting to awkwardly navigate the rocky scramble with it on my back. I finally arrived to an area that I recognized, and just before sunset, the clouds parted around Three Fingered Jack long enough for me to capture the following image.
Soaking wet and exhausted from the climb, I searched around the edge of the ridge until I found a small, fairly level snow-free area for me to set up my tent and then I crawled in and immediately crashed for the night. It seemed like I had just fallen asleep when my watch started beeping–alarming me that it was time to peak outside to check sunrise conditions. It was a bitterly cold morning, but fortunately, the prior night’s clouds were completely cleared out and the mountain was rising above me in all of its glory. I reluctantly crawled out of my toasty warm sleeping bag and into ice cold boots to start scouting the area for the best sunrise compositions. I was barely awake, so I collected up some coffee and my backpacking stove, Java Press, and camera gear and then stumbled toward the mountain until I found an attractive composition. I had just begun trying to warm my hands around a fresh cup of coffee when the first light of the day landed on the pinnacles of Three Fingered Jack.
It was the perfect morning for taking pictures. I hiked back and forth along the ridge line shooting the mountain from every conceivable angle until I felt as if I had done all I could with my current location. Then, I went back to camp, loaded up the rest of my gear and started mentally planning my return trip. I wasn’t too excited about trying to re-negotiate my way along the knife-thin ridge that I had followed the previous night, and after seeing the hard-packed snow on the slopes closer to the mountain, I was much less concerned about triggering an avalanche there, so I decided that I would make my way down the westerly route and into Canyon Creek Meadows for a few final photographs and then back out to the Jeep.
My plan worked fine for about 5 or 10 minutes until I lost focus, and accidentally stepped onto the back of my own snowshoe while descending the steep slope. That little misstep immediately sent me hurling head first down the hill. My water bottle shot out of the side pocket on my backpack and rocketed past my head and down the slope in front of me. As I watched it ricochet off of the trees a few hundred feet below, I fought to roll myself over to my side and dug in the edges of my snowshoes to stop my sliding. Both forearms were bleeding from scraping along the ice, but otherwise, I had escaped without any serious injury. Still, I was in no hurry to repeat that episode, so I left my water bottle to fend for itself and started traversing across the slope, using short careful steps. Traversing the steep, icy slope was much easier said than done, and less than half away across the open snow field, my left snowshoe lost purchase and I again found myself sliding uncontrollably. I shifted all of my weight uphill as I started to slide and between the force of losing my balance and the added weight of my backpack, the hiking pole in my right hand dug into the snow just enough to bend it at nearly a 90 degree angle.
Within seconds, I had slid into the tree line below, bouncing feet-first off the trees like a pinball. As I bounced off of the trees, my eyes quickly took turns between focusing on the next tree in my path and shielding themselves from the tip of my newly bent, L-shaped aluminum hiking pole, which kept flirting dangerously close to my retina with each impact. I pin-balled off of four or five smaller trees until gravity eventually deposited me into a deep snowy tree well. Bloody, but relieved that I had survived without breaking my leg or piercing an eyeball, I strapped my snowshoes onto the back of my pack and eased my way down the rest of the slope . . . this time, staying in the trees and using them for balance as I worked my way down reaching from one branch to the next. I followed my GPS coordinates to the bottom of the climbers trail and then limped out to the upper meadows.
As I stared at the mountain from its base, I could see the southern ridge on the opposite side where I had almost died on a previous hike (see previous blog entry) and then I re-played the events in my mind that occurred to me that morning. I just sort of smiled and shook my head in disbelief as I thought about myself pin-balling down the slope in the distance, and then I hiked out to the Jeep singing ““Always gets a replay, never see him fall, [the pinball wizard] sure plays a mean pinball.”
Posted by Troy McMullin
I’m amazed that I don’t see more pictures from the Mount Washington Wilderness Area, which is located just outside of Sisters, Oregon. It is one of my favorite places in Central Oregon; a virtual Mecca of possible explorations.
Perhaps one of the reasons that few photographers have experience with Mount Washington is that there are almost no trails leading into its base. To get to the cover shots, it takes a moderately good fitness level, some very good navigation skills, and a ton of patience. For example, two of my favorite approaches into Mount Washington require 10-mile cross-country slogs through a maze of beetle-downed lodge pole pine trees. To say that the terrain is “littered” with downfall is a gross understatement. There are sections where you literally hike for an hour on nothing but downed trees. With every exhausting stride, you are either stepping up onto a fallen tree or down off of a fallen tree. One gap in concentration, and you run the risk of twisting a knee and being stranded in the very dense (and non-cell-phone- friendly) forest.
But still, the rewards are totally worth it. In all of my trips into the backcountry surrounding Mount Washington, I have never seen another soul. I’ve occasionally heard the voices of climbers on the upper slopes, but I’ve never run into anyone. I think it is one of the most isolated and beautiful settings in all of Oregon.
In some ways, this area is even more inviting and easier to access in the winter or early spring because huge snow drifts cover most of the fallen trees. Each year, I like to wait for the forest service roads to melt off a little (so I can drive in as far as possible), and then I snowshoe or ski into the Eastern or Northern faces of Mount Washington. This time of year, snow and ice still cling to the mountain’s huge rocky face giving it an even greater sense of awe. Standing at its base, the Teton-esque vertical rise from the valley below is nothing short of spectacular.
Posted by Troy McMullin
NOTE: If you want to see additional images from the Mount Washington Wilderness Area, you can browse the pictures in the Mountain Gallery on our Pacific Crest Stock photography site or search the site for “Mount Washington.”