Comet Neowise: Images from the North Cascades

This first set of images was taken on Monday, July14, at the Baker Lake Boat Launch. Mount Baker looms nearby and Mt Shuksan is off to the north, across the lake.

The Boat Launch has one very big, bright light, high up on a poll, illuminating the area at night. This is the source of the light on the trees.

About 11:30 pm the Northern Lights were visible and I was able to get a few pics.

For the most part I used the following settings: Shutter speed: 30 sec; f/2.8 and 1600-2000 ISO. I used a very long exposure on one of these shots and you can see the stars stretched a bit.

The next night I ventured up the Mt Baker Highway, heading to Picture Lake, but the comet was rising in the Northwest…the road is gated a bit past the Heather Meadows Ranger Station, again, view blocked…so we wound up along the road! Got a few decent pics…

Sunset at Artist Point

The Mt Baker Highway (WA Rte 542) runs from Bellingham Bay east, through the town of Glacier, past the two ski lodges and finally, to the roads end, at Artist Point.

The road to the ski areas is open year round, but the last few miles of road up to Artist Point is only open in the summer.

The view is quite dramatic, with Mt Shuksan looming above on one side, while the huge snow cone of Mt Baker sits by at arms reach.

Here are a few pics from a recent visit at sunset, and beyond.




Happy 50th Birthday, North Cascades National Park

Fifty years ago, on October 2, 1967, the North Cascades National Park was created.

Happy Birthday!

Diablo Overlook Panorama

From the first time I laid eyes on a map of the North Cascades I was captivated. The names of the peaks drew me in; Mt. Terror, Desolation Peak, Mount Fury. And then I saw a few pictures. The North Cascades looked like I thought mountains should look: deep dark forests, lush with life; sharp serrated peaks, ridge, after ridge, stretching to the horizon, donned with glaciers, spouting myriad waterfalls glistening in the sun….

My first visit was a mostly cloudy one. I hiked over Park Creek Pass from Stehekin. There were a few glimmers through the clouds of the majesty beyond.



It would be many years before I returned and tried again.

And I was able to confirm that indeed the North Cascades were everything I had dreamed of.

Lush forests and waterfalls

Sharp serrated peaks

Meadows and wildflowers…

and endless vistas

The North Cascades have not lost the feeling of wildness. For that I am grateful!

Happy Birthday, and Thank you, North Cascades National Park!



Silesia Camp and Copper Ridge, North Cascades National Park

The North Cascades National Park turns 50 this year! Learn more about its history here.

This is the 4th post in a series highlighting spectacular places in the North Cascades National Park. You can access earlier posts here.

Silesia Camp is located along Copper Ridge in the northern section of the North Cascades National Park.

You can hike there in one day, access is from the Hannegan Pass trail head. You must have a permit to camp there. Details here.

There are few camp sites with a better view then Silesia Camp.







Mount Shuksan and Picture Lake, North Cascades

Mount Shuksan is reported to be the most photographed mountain in North America. One possible reason for this is that Picture Lake and this vantage point are just a few feet from where you park along the Mount Baker Highway.
Mount Shuksan
You can see faintly a SUV there, on the left that I forgot to photoshop out…

This image is from a September visit, nice red color from the huckleberry bushes.

This spot is about a 60 mile / 90 minute drive from my house, in Sedro Woolley. The last 10 miles gain 4,000 feet and its quite twisty!
I have visited many times at night, hoping to capture the great arc of the Milky Way Galaxy above Picture Lake and Mount Shuksan. This image is from a visit in June.
To get a good image of the Milky Way you need a wide angle lens. This allows you to have a longer exposure, capturing more light. But the wide angle lens also makes everything look farther away!

If you would like to learn how to go about capturing night sky images like these you may be interested in a North Cascades Night Sky Photo Tour. This is where we meet some near Sedro-Woolley and I give a guided tour to a great location for night sky imaging (like Picture Lake!) and then assist you to capture your own images.  Here is the link to learn more. There are drive-in tours, where we return home late after our photo shoot, and also Overnight Tours here we will backpack into a cool location for night sky imaging, like her at the Winchester Mountain Fire Lookout.



The Road to Artist Point – Washington States Best Drive

Here is a link to a description of Artist Point, Washington’s Best Drive.

Along the way you’ll pass Picture Lake and this smashing view of Mount Shuksan, the most photographed mountain in North America.

Mount Shuksan

Mount Shuksan and Picture Lake


Mount Shuksan, North Cascades

Mount Shuksan, North Cascades

North Cascades Photo Tours will take you to photograph these places! Here are the details.

Mount Shuksan

This view of Mount Shuksan in the North Cascades (Washington State, USA) is the most photographed mountain in North America. This is due to its beauty (and Picture Lake!) and the fact that you can drive on a paved road to this very spot!

Here is an image I captured in the fall.

Mount Shuksan

Mount Shuksan

And here is a less common view, an image from last night!

Mount Shuksan and the Milky Way

Mount Shuksan and the Milky Way

North Cascades Trek – 2013

copper ridge 1em Sunset from Copper Ridge

The trek started at the Hannegan Pass trail head. We arrived Friday morning to a full parking lot and sunny skies ready to tackle a hard 5-day loop through the North Cascades. Weather reports for the area called for dicey weather, partly sunny/cloudy with a high percentage of thundershowers. But like most fools I told myself that this forecast did not by some magical, mystical way, apply to me.

Actually the story started 7 years ago when I hiked the Copper Ridge trail forded the Chilliwack River and made acquaintance with a bunch of spawning salmon. The image of all those bright red salmon in the pristine waters, deep in the wilderness just pulled me back, that and the lure of making it to Tapto Lakes, above Whatcom Pass.

The first days hike took us up to Hannegan Pass and then, entering the North Cascades National Park, up to Selesia Camp on Copper Ridge. This is easily on my list of top 3 or 4 camp sites in the park, the views of Mount Shuksan, Ruth Mountain, Whatcom Peak and the Picket Range and many more are just breathtaking.

copper ridge 2em The Picket Range under Storm Clouds

copper ridge 4em Mount Shuksan from Selesia Camp

The night brought lightening and thunder and rain but the morning, to our surprise was clearing. We headed up to the Copper Ridge Lookout, at 6,600 ft the highest point along the trail. The park ranger was there to greet us and we toured the lookout while she pointed out the names of all the peak surrounding us. The trail ascending to the lookout from the north meanders through a bright green meadow in a sinuous s-curve just below the lookout. Years ago I captured a wonderful shot of a hiker climbing out of the abyss…
Approaching Copper Ridge Lookout Out of the abyss, Copper Ridge, North Cascades – 2006

copper ridge 6em Hiker Approaching the Copper Ridge Lookout – 2013

Tanya, the Park Ranger commented that a lone hiker was approaching from Copper Lake and so now another chance was upon me to see about capturing again the silhouette against the backdrop of deep valleys.

Reluctantly departing from the views and company at the lookout we continued our ridge walk, descending to Copper Lake we stopped for lunch and a swim in its azure waters.

Surprisingly the weather held up and as we made the long traverse of the ridge the views were magnificent. Mount Redoubt and Bear Mountain stood out along the way.
copper ridge _Panorama3emm Copper Ridge Panorama

copper ridge 7em Storm clouds over Mount Redoubt

Reaching the end of the ridge we started down the long, seemingly endless series of switch backs towards the ford of the Chilliwack River and Indian Creek. The changes in the flora were dramatic as we descended from a bare forest floor carpeted with pine needles into a real rainforest, lush and green and wet.

The two channels are parallel for a short time here, first crossing the Chilliwack and then a short section of forested river bed we came at last to Indian Creek and behold, the salmon were there, spawning in great numbers. Taking off shoes and socks again we looked for a ideal spot to rest and relax to enjoy the wonder of the place. a gravel bar at the point of confluence between the two streams was a perfect place.

Indian Creek is not a big stream, maybe 80 feet across here as it spreads out along the valley floor and shallow, knee-deep with some nooks where the water is as deep as 3 to 5 feet.
salmon 4em Salmon in the Creek

The salmon were there, just as before. They were not headed anywhere, the group of 70 or so simply treading water, looking happy to finally be back home.

Clambering out along logs and snags I tried to capture shots of the scene. the bright color of the fish is so impressive, they seemed to hover in the sparkling clear waters, the colorful stones looking like the ground far below while the salmon soared through the sky above.

salmon 5em Flying Fish

The place is so remote, the forest envelopes you and it is like having gone back in time. Deep in that valley was like being in a different life, on a different planet.

salmon 3em Indian Creek Salmon

I bounced between standing still in wonder, trying to get some food, wanting to capture images and the strong desire to do something to take care of my aching feet. About 100 feet upstream a large brown/black bear appeared along the shore. we both froze, considering each other. As I started towards the camera a sharp noise frightened him back into the forest, my dreams of imaging the bear snacking on salmon vanished…

Sunset came swiftly. reds and blues and pinks and purples painting the waters with their fantastic hues.
salmon 2em Sunset at Indian Creek

Night brought even harsher weather than the night before. The crashing of thunder now muted by the deepness of our camp in the forest. I was again happily surprised to awaken to clearing skies and spent the next hour or so back in the stream with the salmon. Morning fog made the scene even more ethereal.
salmon1em Morning fog over Indian Creek

It was a struggle to pull away and start the long slog up to Whatcom Pass.

The suspension bridge above Indian Creek sways as you cross, the views up stream were captivating, the water coursing down in the dark green forest.
indian creek bridge em Suspension bridge over Indian Creek

waterfall 2-Recovered em Indian Creek Waterfalls
During the days travel we encountered many people: day-hikers and mountaineers, young and old(er), lost and found.  I advised one and all to make a point to take the time to go visit the salmon.

As we climbed up along Brush Creek the weather got gloomier and as we made it to the final climb at the valley head rain started. Our goal was Tapto Lakes that night, another hard 1,000 feet above the pass, but when we made it to Whatcom Camp the rains were pounding. Cold and wet we hurriedly set up the tent. Dry clothes, warm sleeping bags and hot food tend to improve the spirits quickly.

That night the storms really pounded. The tent was alight with flashes, the thunder and lightening coming simultaneously. Protected somewhat by the trees and the fact that we were a quarter mile down from the pass we lived through it, and awoke to an almost complete white out.
Mt Challenger lost in clouds Mt Challenger lost in clouds

My desire to hike another 1,000 vertical feet evaporated and I headed down the trail, back towards the Chilliwack.

Once back at the junction we’d passed the day before my path turned upstream, headed to Hannegan Pass to complete the loop. Fording the Chilliwack is now a more daunting proposition, the valley steeper and more narrow. Hikers are afforded two choices: to ford the waist-deep waters or to pull yourself across in an aerial cable-car!
Cable Car 2 em Chilliwack Cable Car

That choice was easy1 The cable car is in great shape, holding up to two backpackers (and their gear) the pulley system makes it easy to make the crossing, gliding 100 feet above the river below.

The last nights camp was at the Copper Creek camp, hoping to get a glimpse of meteors above we perched ourselves on the stones with w pie-sliced view of the heavens.
stars 1em Stars along the Chilliwack River

The last days hike up and over Hannegan Pass and back to the car was completed before lunch, the trails edge bordered with a carpet of herbaceous wildflowers.

As always my feelings are mixed at trips end: relief at the prospect of real food, a warm shower, soft bed and time off my throbbing feet but as we jump in the car for the drive back my heart is already longing for the cool, clear waters of the Chilliwack…
copper ridge Panorama1em Copper Ridge Panorama