Stock landscape and outdoor adventure photos from Oregon, Washington, and the Pacific Northwest

Posts Tagged ‘three sisters wilderness’

New Outdoor Adventure Gallery at Pacific Crest Stock Photography

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:

Hiking up the south face of Three Fingered Jack Mountain near Sisters, Oregon.  Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Hiking up the south face of Three Fingered Jack Mountain near Sisters, Oregon. Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Backcountry skiing near the Central Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness Area.  Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Backcountry skiing near the Central Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness Area. Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Sample Mountain Biking Images from Pacific Crest Stock photography:

Mountain biking near Central Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness Area.  Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Mountain biking near Central Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness Area. Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Biking at Lookout Mountain in the Ochoco Mountains near Prineville, Oregon.  Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Biking at Lookout Mountain in the Ochoco Mountains near Prineville, Oregon. Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Mountain biking above Tumalo Falls near Bend, Oregon.  Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Mountain biking above Tumalo Falls near Bend, Oregon. Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Mountain biking in the Ochoco Mountains near Prineville, Oregon.  Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Mountain biking in the Ochoco Mountains near Prineville, Oregon. Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Sample Backpacking Images from Pacific Crest Stock photography:

Backpacking in the Mount Hood Wilderness Area near Government Camp, Oregon.  Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Backpacking in the Mount Hood Wilderness Area near Government Camp, Oregon. Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Backpacking near Mirror Lake in the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area near Joseph, Oregon.  Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Backpacking near Mirror Lake in the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area near Joseph, Oregon. Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.


Backpacking near Camp Lake and South Sister in Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness Area. Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Backpacking near Camp Lake and South Sister in Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness Area. Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Sample Fly Fishing Images from Pacific Crest Stock photography:

 Fly fishing at Paulina Lake in Central Oregon’s Newberry National Volcanic Monument.  Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Fly fishing at Paulina Lake in Central Oregon’s Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Fly fishing at Aneroid Lake in Eastern Oregon’s Wallowa Mountains.  Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Fly fishing at Aneroid Lake in Eastern Oregon’s Wallowa Mountains. Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Sample Hiking Images from Pacific Crest Stock photography:

Hiking near the Crooked River at Smith Rock State Park in Terrebonne, Oregon.  Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Hiking near the Crooked River at Smith Rock State Park in Terrebonne, Oregon. Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

 Hiking in Central Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness Area near Bend, Oregon. Image available at Pacific Crest Stock photography.

Hiking in Central Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness Area near Bend, Oregon. Image available at 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.


Oregon Stock Photos from the South Face of Three Fingered Jack

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. 

 

 

View of Mount Washington and the Three Sisters Wilderness Area, looking south from the ridge below Three Fingered Jack.

View of Mount Washington and the Three Sisters Wilderness Area, looking south from the ridge below Three Fingered Jack.

 

 

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.

 

 

View of Three Fingered Jack’s Pinnacles and the dreaded ridge line running up to it.

View of Three Fingered Jack’s Pinnacles and the dreaded ridge line running up to it.

 

 

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.

 

 

 Winter Photo of the West Face of Oregon’s Three Fingered Jack Mountain Covered in Ice and Snow.

Winter Photo of the West Face of Oregon’s Three Fingered Jack Mountain Covered in Ice and Snow.

 

 

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. 

 

 

 Photo of the author, Troy McMullin, scouting for photographs below the pinnacles of Three Fingered Jack.

Photo of the author, Troy McMullin, scouting for photographs below the pinnacles of Three Fingered Jack.

 

 

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. 

 

 

Winter photo from high up on the shoulder of Oregon’s Three Fingered Jack Mountain.

Winter photo from high up on the shoulder of Oregon’s Three Fingered Jack Mountain.

 

 

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.”


North Sister Adventure: Mountain Lions, Pure Panic, and the Attack of “Wer Sprecht That?”

Sometimes, strange things pop into my head when I think I’m about to die.  On one recent close encounter, I muttered the words “Wer sprecht that,” which was a phrase I had not used in more than a decade.  This poorly composed German-English hybrid-of-a-phrase was originally coined many years earlier by Eric Poynter–one of my very best friends in college. 

Eric was just shy of 6’3.”  He had curly red hair and freckles, and he almost always had a big giant smile draped across his face.  When I first met him, he was wearing a somewhat undersized baby blue sweatshirt with bright yellow iron-on letters arching across its chest that read “Yo Mamma!”  He was the unique kind of guy who could wear a shirt like that through the inner city neighborhoods where our school was located, and actually get away with it.  He was also one of those crazy college kids who would chew and swallow plastic beer cups, press his tongue against frozen flag poles, or put a mound of mousse on his head and light it on fire just for laughs.  Eric had a ton of hilarious one-liners and in many socially awkward moments (e.g., when certain bodily sounds escaped anonymously from a crowd), I remember him just openly and honestly asking “Wer sprecht that?”  Loosely translated, it means “Who said that?”

 

After graduating as a pharmacist, Eric began to miss his days on the catwalk, and he eventually chose to go back into modeling.

After graduating as a pharmacist, Eric began to miss his days on the catwalk, and he eventually chose to go back into modeling.

 

Before attempting to explain the attack that I survived near North Sister in Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness Area, I feel like I should warn you upfront that this frightening experience is going to be somewhat difficult for me to put into words.  Not for emotional reasons, but mostly because I’m not exactly sure which letters best represent the sound of a huge mountain lion.  To adequately follow this story, you will need to do your best to imagine the meanest growl you’ve ever heard in your life every time that I type the letters “GRRROOOOWWWWL.”

OK, now that we’ve established the rules for reading, I’ll get on with it.  This experience started late one winter when my wife made the mistake of leaving me home alone for a week while she visited family in St Louis.  After a few days of living like a drunken bachelor, I decided that I was ready for a little winter photo adventure.  I have always had a hefty dose of affection (some might call it an affliction) for North Sister, and so I decided that I would try to do some exploring around the Millican Crater area.  I had been off trail in this area once before, and I remembered thinking that there were some pretty wide open views of North Sister along one of the ridges to the East.  I figured I could probably find my way back to that general area and get some nice stock photos of the mountain around sunset.  It was still wintertime up in the higher elevations of the Cascade Mountains, so I packed up the camera and snowshoes and headed out for a solo exploration. 

 

 Photo of Oregon's Three Sisters Mountains reflecting in Scott Lake.  From left to right: North Sister, Middle Sister, and South Sister.

Photo of Oregon's Three Sisters Mountains reflecting in Scott Lake. From left to right: North Sister, Middle Sister, and South Sister.

 

Not long after leaving the Jeep on snowshoes, I found the ridge line and started trekking cross-country into the forest of Ponderosa and Lodge Pole pines.  I climbed along the cliff band, zigzagging over downed trees and in and out of snow for about an hour or so before I was finally forced to admit that the mountain views were not as open as I had remembered.  I was very close to the mountain, but I couldn’t find a photo composition that wasn’t at least partially obstructed by tree branches.  Determined to find an open spot along the ridgeline, I continued deeper into the woods until I realized that the weather was beginning to turn on me. 

The light was fading quickly and the wind had started to pick up.  As the wind whispered through the trees, it would occasionally release an eerie, screeching sound as the taller pine tops rubbed against one another. The screeching sounds were kind of creeping me out, and the farther I went into the forest, the more nervous I got about whether or not I was going to be able to find my way back to the Jeep in the dark because the patchy snow melt meant that I was not going to be able to simply follow my snowshoe tracks out of the woods as I had originally planned.  With darkness settling into the trees and the air getting noticeably colder, I decided that it was probably safest for me to abandon my photo expedition and head back home.

 

Photo of North Sister in Central Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness Area.

Photo of North Sister in Central Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness Area.

 

Just then, as I started to reverse direction, I heard the loud “GRRROOOOWWWWL” of a mountain lion standing directly behind me.  I spun around as quickly as I could, and with eyes the size of ping pong balls, I began frantically scanning the woods for the source of the sound.  Finding no hairy beasts behind me, my mind jolted to a story that I had recently heard about some people who spotted a cougar perched in the trees while hiking on Pilot Butte.  I jerked my neck toward the sky, focusing my gaze from branch to branch in the trees overhead but I still couldn’t make eye contact with whatever it was that had just growled at me.  The fear was now pulsing through my bloodstream, and as I started mentally re-tracing my actions, I came to the realization that I had made several fatal mistakes.  With my wife out of town, I had gone into the woods alone without telling anyone where I was going or when to expect me back.  Even if I was to survive the imminent attack, I figured there was very little chance for rescue. 

I decided there was no time to waste.  I picked up my hiking poles and held them like two aluminum spears as I started making my way back to the truck.  Panicked, and panting very loudly, I moved slowly through the dark woods using a sort of spinning motion every few steps to make sure that nothing could sneak up on me from behind.  Unfortunately, with all of the spinning, I didn’t notice that I was approaching the edge of a nearby embankment.  My snowshoe slipped off of its edge, and in a split second, I was sliding helplessly down the slope.  To make matters worse, the lion let out another fierce “GRRROOOOWWWWL” at the exact moment that my weight slid out from under me.  I rolled to the bottom of the hill and landed in a fetal position.  Laying there, curled up in the snow, I knew that I probably looked like a small child to whatever huge creature was stalking me, and having just heard the second ““GRRROOOOWWWWL,” I fully expected to feel the weight of the cougar pouncing onto my back at any moment.  I quickly rolled over, and as I fought to get back onto my feet, my snowshoe broke through the crusty snow below me releasing an eerily familiar “growling” sound.  I paused for a second, and then I twisted my other snowshoe through the crust . . . again simulating a “growl.”   

And that’s when it occurred to me that there never was a mountain lion. It was simply my mind playing tricks on me.   The entire episode was just a by-product of my imagination, and probably at least partially related to the fact that subconsciously, I must have been a little panicked about being so far back in the woods alone after dark without any back up disaster plan.  As I re-played the episode in my head, I realized that the first growl occurred as I shifted directions in the snow and the second happened as my foot slipped down the slope.  Convinced that the all of the sounds had simply come from my snowshoes breaking though the crusty snow (and not from a huge hungry cat), I let out a nervous chuckle and thought to myself, “Wer sprecht that?”

Posted by Troy McMullin

NOTE: If you want to see additional pictures of North Sister, you can browse the Mountain gallery on Pacific Crest Stock or search the site for “Three Sisters.”  If you want to see pictures of the stalking mountain lion, you can visit the Atlas Snowshoe site.


Three Fingered Jack: Beware of the Greener Grass

Everyone has heard the saying about how “The grass is always greener on the other side.”  Well, this overly optimistic outlook is one of the problems that I often struggle with when I’m out scouting for pictures.  On one recent expedition, it almost cost me my life.   

 I wanted to do some scouting around Three Fingered Jack in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area, so I hiked into Canyon Creek Meadows (alone).  When I arrived in the upper meadow, it was absolutely gorgeous. 

 

Sunrise photo of Three Fingered Jack mountain with the wildflowers of Canyon Creek Meadows in full bloom.

Sunrise photo of Three Fingered Jack mountain with the wildflowers of Canyon Creek Meadows in full bloom.

 But for some reason, that wasn’t enough.  Despite standing in one of the most spectacular spots in the whole world, I couldn’t help but wonder what the views were like on the ridge to my immediate left.   I just knew that if I could find a way to get up on that ridge, I was going to find some unique and dramatic landscape shot that would be better than any that I have ever taken before.  The urge to climb that ridge was just overwhelming, and so I threw my camera gear into the backpack and started trekking toward the tree line.

As I approached the base of the ridge, the pine trees grew more and more dense until they became almost impassable.  The trees were only about 10 or 12 feet tall, but they had grown so close together that it was almost impossible for anything bigger than a rabbit to walk between them.  I began grabbing low hanging branches and with as much strength as I could muster, I started pulling myself through the wall of trees.  My backpack and tripod must have gotten hooked around a thousand different branches, and I swore that there was no way I would ever go back through this part of the forest again.  A few hundred vertical feet later, I finally popped out of the trees and found myself standing on a steep rocky slope. I attempted to traverse the slope, only to find that the boulders were incredibly unstable.  As they slipped and rolled under my feet, I started scrambling on all fours until I eventually made my way up to more solid ground.  From there, I could see a rock tunnel that spiraled up to what appeared to be an easy route to the top, so I did my best spider-man impression and wedged myself up through the winding rock tunnel.     

  

Winter photo of Three Fingered Jack. The ridge where I almost died is just out of frame to the left.

Winter photo of Three Fingered Jack. The ridge where I almost died is just out of frame to the left.

 It was at this point that I should have remembered the other saying about how “appearances can be deceiving” because once I made it through the tunnel, that apparently easy route to the top completely disappeared.  I was now standing on a ledge that was a little more than one-square foot around.  The ledge was too small to turn around on; the way down was much too steep to go back; and the only way up was via another ledge that was sticking out about 5 feet away.  In a bit of a panicked haste, I decided that my only option was to jump up and over to the other ledge.    

To lighten my load for the leap, I took off my backpack and tossed it and my hiking poles up to the ledge above me.  I then took another look at the distance, and this is when I began to have some serious doubts about whether or not I could actually make the gap, especially since the fear running through my body was causing my legs to grow weaker and weaker by the minute. On level ground, I wouldn’t have thought twice about jumping up and over to the other ledge, but with a few hundred feet of vertical relief below me, the whole idea of it was becoming rather unsettling. 

I stood there, trembling on the tiny ledge for several excruciating minutes trying to find another way out of the situation.  I looked down at the route I had taken up to this spot and started to imagine what it would feel like to have my body ricocheting down through the rocks.  I even remember staring down at the rock slide below me trying to calculate where my body might stop rolling if I couldn’t hold on to the ledge after jumping.  None of these thoughts were all that comforting, and as I started contemplating calling for an emergency rescue rather than attempting to make the jump over to the other ledge, I realized that a rescue call was no longer an option because my cell phone was already resting comfortably in my backpack on the other ledge.  That was the final straw and when I realized that I really had no choice at this point but to jump.  I focused my eyes on the exact spot where I thought I needed to land, and then I crouched down and quickly lunged across the gap reaching out as far as I possibly could.  I didn’t breathe for a few seconds until I finally realized that my fingers had firmly grasped onto the ledge above me and that my feet had found a hold on the side of the rocks.  Immensely relieved, I scrambled on to the top of the rocks, rolled over to my back, and swore that I would never again climb up something that I couldn’t safely climb back down.

The trip was rather uneventful from this point.  After a few more relatively easy scrambles, I made it to the top of the ridge.  The views from the top certainly weren’t worth dying for, but they were pretty spectacular–with the pinnacles of Three Fingered Jack towering directly overhead and wide open views of Mount Jefferson to the north, and Mount Washington and the Three Sisters Mountains to the south.  I found several interesting compositions up on the ridgeline, but unfortunately, the light was too harsh by the time I arrived to really do them justice with a camera.  Plus, to be honest, I felt like I had kind of lost my appetite for exploring any more on that particular day.  After 4 hours of hiking and climbing up to this spot, I probably spent less than 10 minutes on the top of the ridge, and then I turned around; found an easy way back down to the meadow; and hiked out to my truck—just happy to be alive.

  

Happy to be alive! Three Fingered Jack high in the Central Oregon Cascades.

Happy to be alive! Three Fingered Jack high in the Central Oregon Cascades.

 

Posted by Troy McMullin  

PS: Although I haven’t returned to the ridge since nearly being stranded on that ledge, I have a photograph in mind that I hope to capture later this Spring.  With any luck at all, it will soon be posted on our Pacific Crest Stock photography website.   We’ll keep you updated.


Killer Rattlesnakes and Photos from Central Oregon’s Alder Springs Trail!

One of my favorite  and lesser known Central Oregon destinations for hiking and Photography is the Whychus Creek canyon, which is best accessed from the Alder Springs trail head south east of the city of Sisters, Oregon.  This beautiful area is monitored and maintained by one of my favorite non-profit groups, the Deschutes Land Trust.  It offers classic high desert views of sagebrush seas, the Three Sisters Mountains, and the Whychus Creek Canyon.  Below is an image of the Three Sisters and Broken Top as seen from near the Alder Springs Trail head.

The Three Sisters and Broken top as seen from near the Alder Springs Trail Head

The Three Sisters and Broken top as seen from near the Alder Springs Trail Head

 

 

      This area is accessible for much of the year because it is lower in elevation than many of the more popular hiking areas of Central Oregon.  Trail details are available from many different local hiking guides and from the Land Trust’s website.  Parking is available at the trail head and the trail is easy to navigate but is not  handicap accessible.  Initially the trail skirts along a high desert ridge with some views of the surrounding buttes, the distant Oregon Cascades, and Whychus Creek far below.  Below is an image of the Whychus Creek Canyon from the Alder Creek Trail.  

Moody skies over the Whychus Creek Canyon along the Alder Springs Trail

Moody skies over the Whychus Creek Canyon along the Alder Springs Trail

 

 

I’ve been to the Alder Springs area many times but I’ve rarely seen the dark and moody skies like those in the above image which help to add interest to this photo.  In addition to the brooding skies, I love the big western feel of this photograph with its raw and rugged canyon zig-zagging into the distance between high desert mesas and the sparse details of junipers and sagebrush dotting the scene.  In early spring during certain years, you might be lucky enough to find a floral gem of the desert, the ephemeral Bitterroot flowers.  Below is one of my favorite groupings of Bitterroot blossoms seen along the Alder Springs trail.  

Bitterroot blossoms as seen along the Alder Springs trail in Central Oregon

Bitterroot blossoms as seen along the Alder Springs trail in Central Oregon

 

 

These delicate flowers seem to glow from within as if they have their own inner light source.  They are a favorite of my farrier friend, Big Todd, because I think they appeal to his delicate and sensitive side.  High along the canyon you can find all sorts of surprises.  I’ve made many trips there in early spring to capture the flamboyant accents of Balsamroot in full bloom.  If you want to enjoy these early season beauties, you should arrive before the deer herds as they seem to be a favorite snack for these foraging ungulates.  Perhaps, more importantly, you should only venture off trail to view these flowers with the knowledge that you will have a good chance of encountering Rattlesnakes fresh from their winter slumbers!  In all seriousness, I’ve noted a very strong correlation between these balsamroot being in bloom and Rattlesnakes coming out of hibernation.  On the day that I shot the following photograph of Balsamroot and basalt columns, I was “rattled” twice by the local serpents.  I was hiking off trail along a steep slope near a big drop down into the canyon floor.  As I crossed a rocky area, I heard a faint rattling noise.  A primal impulse triggered my flight or fight mechanism and I quickly chose the flight option!  As panic ensued I quickly leaped out of the area. During my less than grand exit, I spotted the fluttering tail of the rattlesnake disappear into a rocky crevice directly beneath my dancing feet!  Please keep in mind that I am not especially afraid of snakes, unlike my mother who seems to think they are the devil incarnate.  I simply don’t like being surprised by poisonous snakes while crossing rocky and exposed slopes.  After I’d cleared the area and my heart rate dropped to a reasonable level I rounded a canyon edge and saw another rocky slope I had to cross.  I conjured unhealthy visions of Indiana Jones in Raiders surrounded by viscous asps in Raiders of the Lost Ark.  I mentally gathered myself and selected the least exposed route across what the dark side of my imagination perceived as a giant rattlesnake breeding ground.  Mid route I stepped on a loose rock which toppled into an adjacent area and sure enough, RATTTTTTLE!  Panic!  To make matters worse, I was unable to spot my angry foe amidst all the plate sized rocks surrounding my nervous ankles.  I blindly bounded out of the area never seeing the offended serpent.  Perhaps, understandably, it took me a bit longer to compose myself after my second scare of the day.  Eventually I gathered myself and captured the following image of Balsamroot flowers backed by some beautiful lichen covered basalt columns high above Whychus Creek.  

 

Balsamroot flowers and Basalt columns along the Alder Springs Trail near Sisters, Oregon

Balsamroot flowers and Basalt columns along the Alder Springs Trail near Sisters, Oregon

One of my favorite images from this area also involved an adventure into this rattlesnake infested location.  The following image captures some of the most colorful rock formations I’ve ever found.  The brilliant orange and yellow lichen growths are simply stunning and when combined with the vertical accents of the basalt columns they make for a very surreal scene.  I’ve seen few images from this area probably because of the very real threat of rattlesnakes and because of the treacherous locations in which these beautiful rock formations seem to be found.  During the process of capturing the following scene, I was precariously balanced on the very edge of a 50-foot cliff with my left foot  and two legs of the tripod holding my 4×5 camera balanced on loose rocks. On multiple locations my tripod slightly slipped allowing me to experience a different form of terror than that offered by the hidden rattlesnakes!   Eventually I captured the following photo and then took a longer but rattlesnake-free route out of the Whychus Creek Basin.

Lichen covered basalt columns at sunset high above Whychus Creek along the Alder Springs Trai

Lichen covered basalt columns at sunset high above Whychus Creek along the Alder Springs Trail

 

 

The stunning color combinations, the vertical accents and the warm evening light make this one of my favorite fine art images.  

     In regards to the Alder Springs Trail, it really is quite special.  From desert mesas to cold flowing springs, beautiful sights are everywhere.  The trail passes through a spring laden oasis of plant life and eventually to the confluence of Whychus Creek and the mighty Deschutes River.  The take home message from this trail is that if the balsamroot have begun to bloom and you are wary of rattlesnakes, you should consider staying on the trail!  If you are interested in licensing any of these images, please visit the High Desert Gallery of our stock photography site, Pacific Crest Stock.  

By Mike Putnam


Mt. Bachelor snow photos and summer photos

 

    As part of our launch of Pacific Crest Stock, I thought that a small photo review of Central Oregon’s favorite alpine ski mountain might make an appropriate blog entry.  The images in this entry were obviously not captured on the same outing.  In fact, they required many separate outings for their capture.  All of you who are photo editors or image buyers have seen countless wintery images of Mt. Bachelor clad in snow but you may not know what goes into capturing those images.  Start with about 40 lbs of camera equipment, a 4AM wake up call, and sub zero temperatures (coffee is a vital element in this equation!).  Then proceed with 28 inches of fresh powder at Tumalo Mountain and a grueling and sweaty hour long snowshoe climb to get yourself into position.  Then you cross your fingers and hope that you can find an acceptable foreground.  After you stop climbing, your sweat quickly freezes on any exposed skin so an extra layer of clothing is a necessity.  Once you are in position for nature’s grand light show, you hope that there are no low clouds on the eastern horizon that will block the pink alpenglow from illuminating Mt. Bachelor’s eastern flanks.  You will struggle to keep your tripods legs from shifting because the powder snow is so deep that you can’t find a solid base to stabilize your camera during the long exposures required by a low light capture.  If you are lucky, you get to enjoy the warm pink glow of morning’s first light bathing you and everything around you.  If you’re really lucky, you skillfully expose the scene, you don’t get any snow on your film plates, you get to enjoy a beautiful Central Oregon Cascades sunrise and you get to share an image like the one below with your friends.

Mt. Bachelor in winter bathed by the pink alpenglow of sunrise

Mt. Bachelor in winter bathed by the pink alpenglow of sunrise

I shot this image with my trusty but heavy (explaining my 40 lb pack weight) 4×5 camera.  The finished prints of this image are so detailed that one can actually see several snow cats grooming Mt. bachelor’s ski runs.  It gives me a greater appreciation of the hard working people who do the grooming every winter morning so that we can have a better down hill experience.  Cheers to the groomers and may they always have warm fresh coffee!

     The next two images are taken from the Three Sisters Wilderness area.  Summer photos of Mt. Bachelor have their own set of challenges.  Everyone has seen summer scenes of Mt Bachelor shot from the sides of Tumalo Mountain but you rarely see any of those images with an attractive foreground.  Finding those attractive foregrounds takes lots of exploration, which I love, but frankly it is physical work as it always involves a heavy pack.  The following image was captured with my intrepid daughter, Emma.  I’d been to this same area several times in the preceding few days and realized that sunset would provide the best light quality, so I loaded up Emma, lots of bug dope, camera gear and enough snacks to keep up with Emma’s speedy metabolism.  I love the fullness of the foreground, flowing with red Indian Paintbrush.  I also enjoy the lines of the small streams threading through the scene and the one large boulder in the mid-ground.  Perhaps the most rare and un-repeatable part of this scene is the cloud caps over Mt. Bachelor.  Plain blue skies tend to be a bit boring while a pleasant cloud formation tends to add to an image and make it a bit more unique.

Central Oregon's Mt. Bachelor with a foreground of Red Indian Paintbrush as seen from the Three Sisters Wilderness Area

Central Oregon's Mt. Bachelor with a foreground of Red Indian Paintbrush as seen from the Three Sisters Wilderness Area

The next image was also taken from the mountainous area adjacent to Mt. Bachelor.  This photo required a long off-trail hike with some accurate GPS coordinates to find and capture.  The hike was a little too far and rugged for Emma, so I went solo on this particular shoot.  Once again, I was fortunate to have some interesting clouds that added interest to the scene.

 

Mt Bachelor and wildflower meadow in the Central Oregon Cascades

Mt Bachelor and wildflower meadow in the Central Oregon Cascades

 The following image was taken at Central Oregon’s beloved Sparks Lake near the Cascade Lakes Highway.  It is an exceptional location for both spectacular views and mosquitos the size of small aircraft.  If you visit in the early spring, take lots of bug dope and your camera.  This corner of the lake has lots of small islands covered in mountain heather, and at sunset, it can offer some stunning color on Mt. bachelor.  

Mt. Bachelor sunset reflection as seen from Sparks Lake near the Cascade Lakes Highway

Mt. Bachelor sunset reflection as seen from Sparks Lake near the Cascade Lakes Highway

If you have any interest in licensing these or any of our other Cascades  Mountain images, please visit the  Mountain Gallery of our new stock photography website, Pacific Crest Stock.  If you have any comments or questions about these images, you can contact us through the contact information at the top of this blog or through the comments area at the end of this blog entry.  

Posted by Mike Putnam