North Cascades National Park

The North Cascades National Park is situated in the northwestern corner of Washington State, along the Canada border. It’s a wonderfully rugged piece of wilderness, half a million acres of meadows, jagged peaks, glaciers, forests and wonder.

The North Cascades National Park does not get a lot of visitors, by National Park standards. That’s due in part, to the fact that the park is not on the way somewhere, unless you’re circumnavigating the US border! It’s a 3 hour drive, north from Seattle. In short, it’s an out of the way place. If you got there, its because you meant to!

Which is all fine with me. Less people means more solitude.

The park is bisected by the North Cascades Highway into two units. The North Unit is more remote than its southern sister. There are fewer trails.

The legendary Picket Range is here. Peaks like Mount Terror, Mount Despair and Mt Challenger tower over the deep, wet valleys filled with nasty things like Devils Club.

Trail access from the west side is via Hannegan Pass. Heading east from the town of Glacier on SR 542 (Mt Baker Hwy) for 13 miles there is a well marked turn off for the Hannegan Pass trailhead.

All sorts of important info about permits to camp overnight in the park, can be found here

Its about 4 miles to the pass, and from there you can do a short easy scramble to the top of Hannegan Peak, or a more involved climb of Ruth Mountain.

Just down the east side from the pass you enter the National Park. There is a campsite, Boundary Camp, and a trail junction. You can ascend Copper Ridge to Silesia Camp and Egg Lake, or follow the main trail down the Chilliwack River (there is a spot where you pull yourself over a chasm in a cable car) to a junction where you meet a turn off for the trail to Whatcom Pass.

This is one of the more remote parts of the park. The views of Mt Challenger and its namesake glacier are mind blowing. I have visited twice, the first visit was magnificent, and the most recent a total white out of gray.

From Whatcom Pass you can retrace your steps back to the car, or you can continue your trip east, and hike down along Little Beaver Creek to the shores of Ross Lake and take a water taxi to Ross Lake Resort,  or hike out via Beaver Pass.

A longer and more spectacular trip is to take the turn off for Copper Ridge. This is one of the few ridge hikes in the park, affording breathtaking views of Mount Shuksan, Mount Baker and host of other peaks. There are several camp site along Copper Ridge, Silesia Camp has the best views anywhere, and Copper Lake is a wonderful place to camp along the route.

The trail loops down the Chilliwack River, which you ford just south of the Canada border.

In early August expect to be wading through a river filled with salmon. It is quite a sight. From there its an easy hike to the junction with the Whatcom Pass Trail, and so you can make a loop out of the trek.


The Southern Unit has many more access points along Highway 20, Ross Lake to the east and Lake Chelan to the south. The Pacific Crest Trail passes through on its way to Canada.

In the next two posts we will visit some of the most spectacular areas in the lower section of the park.

Here is an image of Mount Logan from the North Fork Bridge Creek.

Mount Logan, North Cascades National Park

Earth Day 2015

Earth Day

What is Earth Day all about?

We live on a cool planet.


Mount Rainier

It’s beautiful.

Evening Light

Point of the Arches

There are mountains.

Colchuck Lake, Enchantments

Colchuck Lake, Enchantments


Washington Park, Anacortes

Washington Park, Anacortes



Bridge over Skagit River

Bridge over Skagit River



Skagit Tulips




Pacific Crest Trail, Pasayten Wilderness


AndyPorter_deer_ wildlife

Deer at Cascade Pass



boys a

Atop Maple Pass


and LOTS more.


Park Butte Lookout


Lets try harder to not fuck it up!

Snow Geese on Fir Island, Skagit Valley

Snow Geese on Fir Island, Skagit Valley


Skagit Valley



Spider Meadows






Elements of Coolness

Last week I was preparing materials for my latest photo class, on Photo Composition. I included basics on Subject and Theme, Rule of Thirds, selective focus, leading lines, framing and all the stuff I’d learned over the years, reading “How to…” articles and photo books.
flowers and clouds 4
Then I started thinking about what I actually do, in real life, when I am out taking pictures.

And I realized that while I do utilize all these things, what I really do is to focus my attention on adding what I call Elements of Coolness.

Isolation Lake, Enchantments

Isolation Lake, Enchantments

Looking at pictures taken by other people I am often awestruck at the magnificence they managed to capture. And after a while I began to notice that the images I admired the most had one, or in many cases, more than one really awesome aspect to them.
Generally the more Elements of Coolness in the image, the more remarkable the image is. Photos with several stay imprinted in my brain.
Maple Pass Loop Storm em
What is an element of coolness? Well, a reflection adds a very cool aspect to a photo. Bright colors do it for me (I’m a Color Junkie). A wide view from high on a ridge, wildlife, an awesome sunset, fireworks, people doing crazy stuff, flowers, mountains, stars, hot air balloons, the moon, a stormy sky…all of these are Elements of Coolness.
Sequim Balloon Festival

Sequim Balloon Festival

July 4th Carnival

July 4th Carnival

Sunset on the Port Townsend Ferry

Sunset on the Port Townsend Ferry

North Cascades Mountain Goat

North Cascades Mountain Goat

So, when I am planning to head out to capture images I have (of course) a plan of what I am going to take pictures of, as in flowers, or mountains, or whatever. Mostly I am considering how I can add cool components to the shots. I await sunrise or sunset. I watch the skies and look for crazy clouds or weather. Water and reflections are a magnet for me. I get out there and scan for lines or patterns.

Samish River

Samish River

I plan outings based on the moon cycle, flowers blooming, trees changing, sun setting and stars shining.

Colchuck Lake, Enchantments

Colchuck Lake, Enchantments

My goal is to add as many elements of coolness as I can to the image. Sometimes its luck, like when I visited Palouse Falls this spring and happened to choose a night when some intrepid soul had started a camp fire down in the basin at 1am!
Palouse Falls

Palouse Falls

But more often than not I am able to add coolness elements by going back several times. Once you’re at a place once you get a feel for the place. When you return you can even bring things with you, like more people, or a dog…or a photogenic tent.

Sahale Glacier Camp

Sahale Glacier Camp

I went to photograph lookout towers several times and had issues with illuminating the inside. A headlamp just wasn’t cutting it. So, on my latest trip I hauled a special flashlight that opened up and threw out a nice broad, softer light.
Park Butte Lookout and Mount Baker

Park Butte Lookout and Mount Baker

Next time you see an image that you fancy, count up how many elements of coolness there are. Sometimes there is only one, like a picture of the tulips, but when you start adding more elements, wow, the image really takes off.
Tulips at Sunrise

Tulips at Sunrise

Start a list of your own. Think in terms of how you can add cool elements. Work out learning new techniques for image capture (like nighttime shooting) so that your list is bigger. And Voila!, you will soon have cooler images of your own.

Skagit Valley Sunsets

These first three images were taken along Cook Road, just east of I-5. There is a barn here, with no house nearby and the views are expansive. Of course landscapes and skies are always better with stuff in the foreground! tractor-and-sky-1m



This next set of three images was taken 2 nights later, out along the Bayview-Edison Road, just west of Edison. That’s the Samish River there.



Left Fork Canyon and the Subway, Zion National Park

Zion Subway Panorama Panorama of the “Subway”, Zion National Park

Most Zion visitors stay in the valley.
Zion National Park Zion Valley from the Angel’s Landing Trail

There are other parts of the park to visit. In order to not let some of these other areas become as overrun as the main valley a permit system is in place to limit the number of people. I am quite happy for this, solitude is one of my most valued commodities.
zion people 1004 Admiring the canyon…

One hike available is called Left Fork Canyon, aka “The Subway”. The subway name is from a short section of the hike (the entire trip is 9 miles) where the canyon walls curve and it looks like you’re inside a subway tunnel.
Zion National Park and the "Subway" Subway

The hike can be done two ways: From top to bottom as a through hike, you’ll need to cars, one to park at each end. This also necessitates that you have experience in rappelling, climbing and in many seasons, you’ll need to bring a wet suit. Zion National Park and the "Subway" Rappelling down into the Subway section of the hike

The other option is to hike the trail from the bottom up, to the Subway entrance, and then turn around and hike back. This trip is also 9 miles (4.5 miles each way), but does not require climbing skills or a wet suit. Zion National Park and the "Subway" Entrance to the Subway

The bottom up hike starts with a scramble from the parking area down to the creek. From there you just follow the water course until you come to the subway entrance. Max and Ella 1em

Along the way are a myriad of pools, grottoes and fantastic views as the canyon becomes more and more narrow. lfc-2m Grotto along Left Fork Canyon

tree-9m1 Trees in the canyon

There are also a very well preserved set of dinosaur tracks right along the trail. Dinosaur Prints Dinosaur Prints Fossilized

The Subway itself is a true wonder of nature, the smooth, etched walls of the canyon curve overhead while emerald green pools of water glisten. lfc-6m1

subway 1234567em

subway 1234568m12em

subway and people 124em

subway and people 123em

The canyon itself arcs with a slit above revealing beautiful red rock towers jutting over the floor striated with luscious hues.subway 1112m

subway 123456em




If you want to pay this holy canyon a visit, go on line and apply for a permit WELL in advance of your trip.

This is a hike you will not soon forget!

Skagit Valley Greening Cards for Sale!

I have updated the cost of the cards and locations where you can purchase them!
Skagit Valley Greening Cards for Sale!

The 10 images below are now printed on 5.5″ x 8″ thick linen finish paper. They have a luxurious feel to them and the colors are magnificent. One side is the image an the other side has the name and location of the image. They can be send as post cards, but come individually sealed in a plastic sleeve with an envelope.

Price is $3.50 each; a bundle of one of each (10 cards) for $25.
Wholesale pricing available!

The shipping cost varies based on the number of cards you’d like, email me for prices

Send in your payments (checks or money orders only, please!) to:

Andy Porter
440 Nelson Street
Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284

The cards will ship out within 24 hours of your order being received.

Here is a list of locations where you can purchase the cards:

In Mount Vernon
Skagit Valley Hospital Main Pharmacy, in the Skagit Regional Clinic Building
Skagit Valley Hospital at their new River Bend Facility Pharmacy
In Sedro-Woolley
Simply Silver and More located on Metcalf Street in Downtown Sedro Woolley
Hoagland Pharmacy on Highway 20
Sedro Woolley Auto Licensing and Chamber of Commerce office on Metcalf Street
In La Conner
Caffe Jubilee on First Street

red tulips blue and orange sky Skagit Valley Tulips

DCF 1.0 Sahale Glacier Camp, North Cascades National Park

carnival 5em Sedro-Woolley Carnival

Orange sky, pink tulips Orange Sky, Pink Tulips @ Skagit Valley

mt baker Mount Baker

Sahale Arm Trail,  North Cascades National Park Sahale Arm Trail, North Cascades National Park

Light and Tulips Light and Tulips

Point of the Arches Point of the Arches, Olympic National Park

waterfall 2-Recovered em Indian Creek Waterfall, North Cascades National Park

Arches National Park, Utah Arches National Park

On the Cover of Northwest Travel magazine

Here is an image I captured and it is now on the cover of the May/June Issue of Northwest Magazine! The image is Mount Logan and a waterfall on the North Fork Bridge Creek Trail, North Cascades National Park. One of my favorite places in the North Cascades…Here is a link describing how to get there!
Northwest Travel May June 2014
Here is my full sized original image:
Mount Logan from North Fork Bridge Creek, North Cascades National Park

“Wilderness 50” Celebration

2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act. In September of 1964 President Johnson signed into law the Wilderness Act, one of the most important pieces of legislation in the US regarding protection and preservation of Wilderness.

Wilderness 50 “The 50th Anniversary National Wilderness Planning Team (Wilderness50) is a growing coalition of federal agencies, non-profit organizations, academic institutions, and other wilderness user groups whose purpose is to plan and eventually implement local, regional, and national events and projects, specifically designed to elevate the profile of wilderness during the 50th anniversary celebration.”

One of their programs was to hold a photo contest and use the winning images as a part of their plans to inform people about the significance of the Wilderness Act.

More than 50 images were chosen and these will be displayed as large format prints in the Smithsonian Museum, in Washington DC starting in September!

I submitted several images to the competition and this image, here was chosen as an Honorable Mention in the People in Wilderness Category and will be used on signage for the various events and displayed in the museum.
Morning at Sahale Glacier Camp Sahale Glacier Camp in the Steven Mather Wilderness in North Cascades National Park, in Washington.

As a part of the process I was asked to submit a personal story about the image. Here it is:

“My connection with wilderness began when I was 16. I spent a month in the Sawtooth Wilderness in Idaho, learning how to backpack, climb and survive. The trip changed my life and encouraged me to continue. Treks along the Pacific Crest Trail and the Andes followed.

Then my life changed again and I was off on a different purpose. For almost 20 years I followed the light only to wind up in the darkness. And then I felt the wilderness call to me again, beckoning me back into her arms.

I had packed my old life in boxes and uncovering them produced an old hiking guide. I scoured it and found the most exciting sounding trip in there, recruited a few friends to accompany me and off we started.

I had forgotten what mileage and elevation gain portended and as we began our trip up to Sahale Camp. It slowly came back to me, what sweat and struggle were all about.

We finally made it to the camp well after dark and collapsed in our tent.

This image was captured the next morning. My life was changed anew; I had found a new purpose. Wilderness had rescued me again.”

I am excited and proud that any image of mine would be used to promote and protect wilderness!

Zion Canyon, Zion National Park

One of the most commonly captured images is from this view point, on the bridge over the Virgin River. The main highway makes a sharp curve and crosses this bridge. You will often see the bridge lined with photographers.
This shot was taken at about midnight, with a Canon 6D and a Rokinon 14mm lens.
I just got lucky on the satellite crossing and of course Orion looks stunning hovering above the scene…
Zion River and Orion