Saturday, January 31, 2009

Photo-cruising through the Kittitas Valley

My recent trip to the Yakima Valley area reminded me how much I appreciate and love photographing in another eastern valley - the lovely Kittitas Valley. Stretching from Thorp, through Ellensburg, and out east past Kittitas as it climbs toward the Boylston Mountain areas and Ryegrass Hill and Whiskey Dick Mountain, this fertile valley is a wealth of agricultural and wildlife photography. I'm eager to return this spring to catch all of my favorite special roads and locations that I have discovered through years of aimlessly roaming the back roads - and the views be across lush newly greened fields! But I did take a couple of extra hours to roam through a few of the areas I visit every time I'm in the area to check on them for my spring visit. Can't wait to return!

(photos: old weathered barn and Mount Stuart; elk herd in Thorp Prairie)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Ice debris in the Yakima Canyon

Ah, how alive I feel after getting two more drives through on one of my favorite roads in Washington - the Yakima Canyon scenic highway drive! I just returned from a very relaxing, enjoyable, and successful presentation with The Cascadians as I noted previously and I drove through the Yakima Canyon going both to and from the area. What a story the river had to tell. Last year you'll see the incredible ice dam view of the river. This year the extreme cold of December must have really caused massive ice build-up in the river,

and the following rapid warm up not only melted much snow in the region but that run-off must have really raised the level of the frozen river. There were areas of the river that have massive ice

piles along the shores that are 10-15' above the level of the river! I wish I would have seen this area in early January before the warm up, or right after it. To say the least the ice nearly was up on the road in areas. Aside from the awe of the ice scene, I saw numerous flocks of Common Mergansers on the river and eight Bald Eagles. And, luckily for all of us, I saw the huge covey of quail in the road on a tight curve and was able to slow and not disturb their lazy morning stroll along the road. SR 823 is a gem of a peaceful place on this wonderful place we call home.

(photos: signs in the canyon; ice debris along the Yakima River near Roza Creek; ice debris and views toward Umtanum Ridge)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Heading to Yakima

One of my favorite winter visits east of the Cascades begins tomorrow as I head toward Yakima for what has been for three years now an annual presentation for The Cascadians. What a fun group of people to go and see each January! While I'm going to give a talk on the fun hiding in my book Day Hiking-Mount Rainier, I always enjoy this presentation journey even more as I add photography hunting into the mix driving there and back. Of course somewhere in there is a drive through what has to be one of my favorite roads in Washington State - the Yakima Canyon.

Hopefully this year I'll enjoy the luck of a clear cold morning like these images from last year to make me do the happy photographer dance to yet again!

(photos: ice jam in the Yakima River near Roza Creek; lonely Canyon Road through the Yakima Canyon)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunset at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

Having to recently travel to Portland this week for my presentation and book promo work I used the day getting to Portland to my advantage. It was mostly sunny and I got down near Battleground, WA by mid afternoon and went to check the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. There are miles of hiking trails in the north unit but today, feeling like a bad cold was barreling at me out of control, I opted to enjoy the long auto-tour in the south unit. It is a grand big long winding loop on good gravel roads where you are to remain in your vehicles. This is key…as the wildlife is used to cars slowly passing through but no threatening people walking about! Your car? It becomes your photography blind! It was a joy to photograph Great Blue Herons, hundreds of Tundra Swans, dozens of Northern Pintails, and a mix of Hooded Mergansers, Northern Shovelers, Canada Geese, Common Mergansers, Buffleheads, and much more. Oh, and the nutria and river otters were cute as well! Get out there and find the wealth of great areas our NWR system has to offer us to enjoy locally. Don’t forget about the gems of NWR’s in Eastern Washington either, like Turnbull and McNary National Wildlife Refuges. (photos: Great Blue Heron; sunset with feeding Northern Pintails; Great Blue Heron; various Tundra Swans)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

TV promotion of Day Hiking-South Cascades book

Well, I'm not the type to spend much of my time "boasting" as I just let what I do speak for itself. But it was rather refreshingly exciting to have the pleasure of being accepted to do a guest appearance yesterday, Wednesday January 21st, in Portland on the ABC affilate KATU-TV Ch. 2 and their daily morning show "A.M. Northwest". This long running show is something that my mom used to watch many years ago even! The six minute long segment discussed how the Day Hiking-South Cascades guidebook is strongly intended for the Portland/Vancouver metro population, as well as promotion for my evening presentation and book signing at The Mazamas last night. The hosts Helen and Dave were great to meet and made the effort to get there very worth my time!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Race of the Outhouses

I’ve just returned from a short venture to one of my favorite areas of our state – the Okanogan Highlands. West of the Okanogan River Valley 17 miles tucked away in the high hills lies the small community of Conconully, population 190. This area, while low on population size, isn’t low on the reasons to visit! Conconully State Park resides right at the edge of town and Conconully Lake is gorgeous. However on this visit the lake was frozen over solid as I was visiting on Saturday for a different reason – the Annual Conconully Outhouse Races! This year marks the 26th annual running of the outhouses down Main Street in town. So grab your helmet, get two friends to push, and don’t forget your toilet paper or you’ll be disqualified!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Trumpeter Swans find their food again

Now that that flood waters have move on out to the Puget Sound, field are once again revealed as the prime real estate of The Valley. And, that brings the return of winter feeding grounds to our natural neighbors that visit the area – including the Trumpeter Swans. They seemed “lost” when the floods hit as they were wondering “hey, who buried our food under 10’ of water!!???”. I even saw one flock of 10-12 swans just on the fridge of Fall City along SR 202 swimming about in the flooded valley. No corn fields there, just peacefully wondering where the food was! But now they have returned to their normal areas with water giving way to dirt. They prefer fields of corn, silage corn fields planted in spring for fall chopping up as winter feed for cattle. They get the leftovers all winter in the fields left un-tilled and the WDFW helps too by planting areas in corn each year – stalks left remaining provide shelter for wintering pheasants and also cut fields give food for the growing Trumpeter Swan population in the Snoqualmie Valley (as in the Skagit Valley, Snohomish River Valley, etc…). You can see swans currently near Carnation in a field by Remlinger Farms, up by Carnation Farms Road by the old Nestle Farm area, and far north near Monroe by the confluence of the Snoqualmie and Snohomish Rivers. Enjoy these great birds and let me know what else you see out here this winter! (photo: Trumpeter Swans in an old corn field still partially flooded)

Monday, January 12, 2009

The departure of high waters in The Valley

It feels somewhat relaxing to see the Snoqualmie River back down again, looking innocently peaceful and now hard to fathom how water could have filled that much of a void above the current river levels. Amazing! OK, it's time to start putting the weather behind me and get busy searching for wonderful things in the natural world to learn about and photograph -- time to head out and find the Trumpeter Swans again and search for a reported small flock of Snow Geese in the lower Snoqualmie Valley and also down by the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge!
(photos top to bottom: (1)SR 202 late Wednesday as river approached crest of flood event; (2)Alderra Field aftermath - play ball anyone?; (3)Neal Road heading toward Fall City Farms; (4)Fishing anyone? WDFW public boat launch area near confluence of Raging/Snoqualmie Rivers

Saturday, January 10, 2009

SR 202 washout and airlift

Sadly, one of the main state highways in the Snoqualmie Valley, SR 202, became the scene of earmark video and images seen around the region and even outside of our state on Thursday afternoon 1/8/09. Not only did SR 202 have about a 90' section collapse and wash out, but the resulting rapid flow into the area homes ended in an emergency airlift of five or six members of the valley community. I'd like to personally thank every member of our regions emergency personnel and DOT agencies for all of the hard work put in 24-hrs a day helping make this flood event one throughout Washington pass without loss of life. And especially a thank you to the skills granted the fine individuals with the King County Sheriff staff flying Guardian Two and able to perform airlifts when things go from bad to worse.

Being capable of doing amazing things like these images only begin to share...we all should extend our thanks to them. Also do not forget to say thank you to your own neighbors who cared to ask you if you were doing OK.

(photos: scenes from east of Fall City on SR 202 showing aid personnel, washed out areas of the highway, airlift operations, etc...)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Too much water...a record flood on the Snoqualmie River

What a way to have the kids ease back into the school deal after an almost three week Christmas break. Monday a half day of school due to melting new snow, and one full day Tuesday. Now massive snows of the past three weeks have been flushed through Fall City and many surrounding communities from the Cascade Mountains runoff of melting snow and up to 17" of rainfall in under 48 hours at some mountain remote gauges. I've been busy trying to track what events have been occurring in our community, and also track what to do with yet three more days missed from school Wed-Fri this week! The Snoqualmie River near Carnation crested yesterday morning at 62.31 feet, a full foot higher than any previously recorded crest of the river since 1932. That is over 8 feet above flood stage across the entire valley! At Snoqualmie Falls the peak flow rate was over 60,300 cubic feet per second of water. Flood stage is 20,000cfs and most people who visit the falls see 2000-3000cfs or less. As I get through events of the past few days I'll continue to update things with what photographic journalism I got around to seeing - too much to share in just one post! (photos top-to-bottom: Welcome to Fall City and SR 202 bridge; Neal Road by King County Park; Fall City Grill on SR 203; SR 202 just east of Fall City before the washout occurred)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Fun visiting a grocery store

OK, so I might not be the most excited person in the world to head off to take a tour of a grocery store. But that is exactly what I did a few days ago, and I even took a tour group that consisted of my visiting parents along with me! Just over a month ago a newly renovated and enhanced supermarket opened up on Snoqualmie Ridge, The Ridge Supermarket. Owner Tyler Myers has done a wonderful job getting this store up and going for the ever growing population of Snoqualmie Ridge to have in their community. We worked together last fall to get local Snoqualmie Valley image work built in as part of the signage in the store and thus it was my turn to "show it off" a bit to my parents over the New Year holiday! We hope to bring updates to the signage with photos of local community events and people in the store as 2009 passes. So check back later this year to see what surprises might be waiting at The Ridge Supermarket. For now, my Mom really loved the one of the old Snoqualmie Schoolhouse a lot, but in true fashion she also stated, "But I really enjoyed them all!". (photos: The produce and deli areas of the Ridge Market...and a few of my photographs ranging from 4x6' up to 5x7' in size)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A new idea

Hello from the snowy foothills of the Washington Cascades. Having many people "wish they could hear more" about what I "see" in my photographic planning, and what I'm doing on a regular basis, I hope bringing this addition to my website presence ( will entertain you all. My enjoyment of photography goes much further than just taking photos. Photos to me express what I'm feeling that day, what I find important to my own life not just what I feel I should shoot for my own stock image files! Sometimes I'll be eager to share what I saw on our property while mowing the lawn! Other times I'll enjoy sharing what I learned about something in nature or historically new great stories to me. And yes, I'll share photography and ideas behind how I try things as well. Stay tuned and keep telling me what you are seeing out there! (photo: Trumpeter Swans coming in for a landing over a Snoqualmie Valley field)