Saturday, May 28, 2011

Things that fall...

Well... obviously, there are waterfalls - my favorite photographic subject.  I found numerous waterfalls, large and small, on the lower slopes of Mt. Rainier.  The first is in a ravine alongside the road.  I saw no trails descending into the canyon to get a better viewpoint.

The southerly road into Rainier NP was the only one open, and that one was blocked by snow near the midpoint.  At one of the overlooks, there were two small falls dropping down to the road.

Not all that falls in Rainier is water, at least liquid water.  There are places along the road marked by signs prohibiting stopping, due to avalanche paths. Further up the road, I could get a good view of one such, including the bridge carrying the road across the slide path.

Leaving Rainier NP, I was driving along and glanced right into the shadows.  There I saw a beautiful little rill surrounded by verdure.  One of the largest mountains I have seen, and my favorite photo turns out to be this tiny little waterfall.

In the crater at Mount St. Helens, there is something that is falling very slowly - a glacier.  The crater opens to the north.  In the crater is a dome of slowly growing volcanic ash and lava.  Between that dome and the crater walls, a glacier, sheltered from the sun by the high crater walls, is growing and slowly pushing its way north, downslope toward the Toutle River, Johnston Ridge and Spirit Lake.

Falling a bit faster are bits of rock, snow and ice on the walls of the crater.  The steep slopes are very unstable and rockfall is a very frequent occurrence.  The rock and ash sliding over the snow and ice paints fan-shaped patterns on the east wall.

Monday, May 23, 2011

When Giants Sleep, They Sometimes Snore

Last fall, I visited Lassen.  Lassen is the southernmost of the big Cascades stratovolcanoes.  It erupted in the early 1900's.  While I was there, there would be occasional ventings of steam or smoke from the crater.

A few days ago, I drove to Mt St Helens.  The Johnston Observatory was open, and I stood near where David Johnston stood 30 years ago, in line with the crater and the blast of ash and debris that overwhelmed him seconds after he radioed a warning of the blast.  I felt like I was looking into the mouth of a monstrous cannon as I looked up at the crater from a mere six miles away.

I listened to a Ranger's presentation about the activity in the Crater of Mt St Helens.  As he was speaking, I watched steam venting from the dome in the crater.

Over the next ten minutes, the steam plume grew.

I know that this is the most heavily monitored and instrumented mountain in the world, but it was still unnerving to stand there and watch vapors escape from the depths of the earth by means of the crater dome in front of me.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Things that go BOOM!

I am in a very nice campground.  To the northeast, about 40 miles away, is Mt Rainier.  It can be seen poking its white top above the nearer mountain range across the valley.

To the south, about 35 miles away, is Mt St Helens. 

Both of the above shots were from the driveway to the campground.

One of the hardest tasks for me, in photographing these giants is that no photo seems to capture a sense of the size of these monsters.  They loom above their surroundings, white capped, and beautiful yet sinister in their potential.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Reminiscenses - Vernal Falls

There is a trail at Yosemite called the Mist Trail.  It leads from the valley, along the side of the Merced River.  As one approaches the base of Vernal Falls, the mist from the falls is guaranteed to drench you.  It also makes the footing a little uncertain, but that has been minimized by carefully formed and cut steps at key places.

From the base of Vernal Falls, the trail rises up the 300 foot drop on a series of steps, some of which are steel, bolted to the cliff face.

At the top, the view of the gorge below is pretty impressive, but what captured me was the sheer scale of the falls, with tourists in the foreground.

The trail continues up a series of switchbacks to the top of Nevada Falls.  For the very fit and more adventurous, one can continue through the upper Merced valley to the northeast side of Half Dome, then up to the top via steel cables mounted in the granite.  I did not make it that far, much to my regret.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Deschutes River, mid-Spring

The Deschutes River is a beautiful mountain river that rises from the western flanks of Mt. Bachelor,

a stratovolcano which while quiescent is an internationally known ski resort south of Three Sisters and Broken Top.  The river runs south to a reservoir, then emerges to flow east and north, eventually reaching the Columbia River.

As the Deschutes River turns north, it drains several volcanic areas including the Newberry Caldera and Paulina Peak, Paulina and East Lakes, and the eastern slopes of Mt Bachelor.  One tributary from eastern Mt Bachelor gave me a reflective scene alongside the road.

Paulina Peak is a shield volcano whose existence is marked by massive obsidian and lava flows which form Newberry Caldera.  At this time of year, it is snow-covered and totally inaccessible to the likes of me.  It rises over the valley between it and Mt Bachelor.  I am camped approximately half way between these two giants.

The view of Mt Bachelor above is from a vantage point a few hundred yards from where I am camped.  Across the road from me is a field which is populated each evening by a herd of elk.

In La Pine State Park, the Deschutes River passes a vista known as MacGregor Overlook.  The river snakes through the area, with Paulina Peak looming above.