The past several weeks have presented opportunities to photograph objects in the night sky. Exceptionally clear skies and dark nights allowed me to capture some long exposures of portions of the Milky Way. Other nights had interesting alignments of the moon with one of more planets.
Early in September, Venus and Jupiter aligned with the Moon in a nearly straight line in the western sky just after sunset. Compare this with an image taken a month earlier. In the course of a month, Mercury has dropped below the horizon while Venus and Jupiter have switched locations with Venus rising higher in the sky as Jupiter dips lower.
The following night presented great conditions for Deep Sky Objects (DSO) after the moon had set. I have wanted to image this portion of the Milky Way for some time and finally got the right conditions. There are many DSOs visible in this image and are labeled with their common Messier object names.
Several weeks later the crescent Moon was very near Venus in the evening twilight sky. Both are seen reflected in the waters of Lake Mary.
A week later Mercury and Jupiter—both now in the morning sky—rose side by side in the eastern sky above Flagstaff.
Later in October there will be a conjunction of Jupiter and the Moon and then a conjunction of Venus and Saturn. Weather permitting, I’ll be taking photographs.
It was finally time to begin the long drive back home but we had a few more places we wanted to visit on the return. Our first set of stops was in eastern Washington. I had heard of the Palouse before and we decided to drive the long way through this region. I’m certain that taking a guided photography tour of this region will result in hitting all the right places at the right time but we had just a few hours so it was pretty much whatever we happened to see.
The next two days involved a long, serpentine drive across western Idaho ending up in Stanley. We hiked to Bridal Veil Falls but they were a dud. Very little water was in the stream and the falls were a fair distance from the trail.
By late afternoon, the Pioneer Fire was roaring and spewing ash and smoke across the area. We’ve had to cancel plans because of fires and smoke in Idaho before—and we chose to cut short our plans again.
Fortunately, the smoke dispersed overnight and we had a very nice sunrise over the Sawtooth Mountains.
After leaving the Sawtooth Mountains, we drove…and drove…and finally made a stop at the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.
And, then, it was over. We were back home after three weeks of traveling across the west.
It was finally time to move to another area in the North Cascades and we decided that Mount Baker would provide some interesting hikes.
We departed the Cascades Pass Road and returned to Marblemount NPS Ranger Station to refill our water bottles. Unfortunately, their water system had problems and was not safe to drink. It’s interesting that all the campsites and campgrounds we visited either had no water or had water problems. Luckily, we carried a 5-gallon jug of water and still had enough for a few more days.
We stopped at the USFS Ranger station on our way to Mount Baker to get water…and it was closed for scheduled maintenance. But there was water available outside so we finally had a chance to refill.
After arriving at Artists Point we started our hike along Ptarmigan Ridge Trail towards Mount Baker. Wildflowers were plentiful and I spent lots of time taking photographs. The trail doesn’t really “end” but just fades away as it gets closer to Mount Baker. We selected a spot that we decided was our turnaround and had lunch. We were not in a hurry leave this beautiful location.
On the way back we took a detour towards Goat Lake and saw, of course, some mountain goats. They were lying on the ground and from a distance looked like pillows. We also saw this nice piece of trail art.
The next day we decided to do a portion of Chain Lakes Trail—but first we stopped at Nooksack Falls.
We headed up the Chain Lakes Trail to the pass between the Bagley Lakes and Iceberg Lake. In one direction we had wonderful views of Mt. Shuksun; in the other views of Mt. Baker.
The weather forecast indicated we were running out of warm and sunny days with a chance of showers for the next several days. It was finally time to leave the North Cascades and begin heading in a generally southerly direction. Towards home—but not homeward bound, yet.
We thought that we were almost there and that it would only be a short trip from the Columbia River Gorge to the Northern Cascade mountains. Wrong, again. There’s a lot of terrain to cover between these two locations. So we drove east on I-84 until we could cross the river on Highway 97 then north to Yakima, Washington. We stopped to load up on current maps (our highway maps of this area are old!). The good folks at the Visitor Center recommended a visit to Leavenworth—a Bavarian-style city. So we did. It was…um….interesting.
And, still, we had a long ways to drive.
We stopped in Winthrop—which had a nice grocery store—to stock up on food supplies for the next several days. Heading west we encountered several campgrounds—all full to capacity. It’s the beginning of the weekend so we weren’t too surprised. We finally drove down a Forest Service road to a trail head and decided this would be our camping spot for the night.
We’re finally in the Cascades. Dang—that took a long time to get here!
For the next few days we camp where we can and hike whatever interests us. Short hikes, long hikes, easy hikes, and hard hikes. Our first day hike was Fourth of July Pass. We did this as a backpack trip in 1987 carrying overnight gear and an 18-month old child in a backpack carrier. This time we travelled light —and the steep trail was hard. How in the world did we pull that off all those years ago? We were younger. Much younger.
I took several nice photos from this pass back in 1987 during evening twilight. This time it was mid-day and the light was boring. So here is one from 1987.
On the recommendation of some climbers that we met at a picnic area, we chose to hike to Blue Lake. It was only a few miles to the lake and the scenery was very nice—especially looking at Liberty Bell Mountain and various spires. These mountains are very popular with the technical rock climbing crowd.
We considered getting a backpacking permit but after discussing the possibilities with the Park Rangers, we decided to skip doing overnight trips and do more day hikes. While it would have been glorious to spend the night at the higher elevations, we were able to cover more ground travelling light.
We had learned from hikers we met on Fourth of July Pass trail and Blue Lake Trail of some “must do” hikes. One suggestion was Cascade Pass Trail and Sahale Arm up to Sahale Glacier. This was about 11+ miles round trip and about 4K vertical. Wonderful weather and fabulous views made this a great hike.
The first portion of our trip was well planned. We had permits for backpacking in specific areas and dates. We were going to meet our friends at an agreed upon time and location. The rest of the trip? We didn’t have a plan at all. So where to go next? After tossing around several ideas we decided on the North Cascades in Washington. With a destination selected, it was time to head to the Cascades—but not by the shortest or most direct route. We would make an intermediate stop at the Columbia Gorge.
It ended up being a long drive from the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains to the Columbia Gorge because we chose to drive on primarily on secondary highways instead of Interstates. Slower, yes, but so much more interesting. The first day of driving took us from Bridgeport to just south of Tahoe—but it did include a few hours of hiking. The second day of driving—mostly on Highway 89—barely got us into Oregon by early evening and we ended up stopping in Ashland for the night. We discovered that there was a food co-op nearby and we went shopping for both travel food and dinner items. What a nice store! Lucky Ashlanders!
And, then, another day of driving up Interstate 5 and trying to go around the east side of Portland to miss the traffic. That didn’t work out well as the traffic was moving at a snail’s pace until we finally got onto I-80 eastbound—and finally onto Historic Columbia River Highway.
Oh, it was worth it. The waterfalls on the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge are many and very beautiful. We arrived in late afternoon and stayed well into the evening. Watching the setting sun light up the upper portion of Multnomah Falls made it all worthwhile.
Here are some photos from the Columbia Gorge in Oregon.
This summer we travelled through several western states over a period of about three weeks. Major attractions included watching the Perseid meteor shower in the Nevada desert, backpacking in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains of California, viewing the waterfalls on the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge, and hiking in the northern Cascades of Washington. The weather was good with light rain on two days and heavy rain once—and that was on the drive home.
Here are some photos from Nevada and the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains.
The next post will include images from the Columbia Gorge in Oregon which has an abundance of waterfalls.
I found myself at Grand Canyon once again with hopes of interesting storms and lightning as well as sunset and astrophotography.
Late in the afternoon, these two cumulus towers south of Grand Canyon suggested that the next few hours could be interesting. Less than one-half hour later, the convection had become a Cumulonimbus with lightning. The storm was a fair distance away so that the lightning bolts were small—and in the wrong location. I had hoped to photograph a storm with lightning over the canyon but it was not to be.
A few days ago I was in the right place at the right time and watched thunderstorms at sunset that were producing lightning strikes across the nearby cliffs and mountains. The sun was low and was producing warm sunset colors on the hills and rain—and lightning.
This is a composite of several images taken over a period of six minutes.
With continued warm and dry weather expected we headed to Durango, Colorado, for a few days of mountain biking and hiking. We already had a few ideas for trails and we figured we’d get more while in town.
On our first day of riding we did the Dry Fork–Colorado Trail–Hoffheins loop with an extension on the Colorado Trail to the local “high point” giving us a total of about 17 miles. There were plenty of wildflowers along the Colorado Trail section along with occasional views of distant peaks. We also saw a family of wild turkey but, as usual, they were easier to see than to photograph.
With exceptionally clear skies, a waxing cresent moon in the west, and the Milky Way rising in the east it was time to head out and photograph…something wonderful. And so we set out for Wukoki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument.
Here is what the National Park Service has to say about this structure:
An architect today might win an award for designing Wukoki Pueblo. The corners, angles, and lines of masonry are meticulous. From its base, the eye is drawn skyward to a height that inspires awe of this ancient craftsmanship.
Indeed, the lines of this remarkable structure do draw your eyes upwards to the stars and the Milky Way. How often was this view seen by those who lived here ca. 1100–1200 A.D?