Posted tagged ‘Mount Hood National Park Campaign’

2015 Calendar… and looking back on 2014!

December 30, 2014
The view from Owl Point is the cover image for 2015

The view from Owl Point is the cover image for 2015

Each year since 2004 I’ve published a wall calendar dedicated to the special places that make Mount Hood and the Gorge a national treasure — and of national park caliber! You can pick one up for $30 at the Mount Hood National Park Campaign store at CafePress, and you’ll also be supporting the campaign website and this blog when you do!

The following is a preview of the calendar images I picked for the 2015 edition, along with some backstory behind the photos. All of the photos were taken from November 2013 through October 2014. Part of the challenge each year is to come up with 13 new calendar-worthy images, which in turn ensures that I get out on the trail and poke around my favorite haunts, plus a few new spots whenever I can!

For January, I picked a close-up view of the upper Sandy Glacier and the towering cliffs of the Sandy Headwall. This view came from an early snowfall last winter, one of several trips I made to the Bald Mountain and McGee Ridge:

January features the upper Sandy Glacier and towering Sandy Headwall

January features the upper Sandy Glacier and towering Sandy Headwall

On one of those trips to the McGee Ridge viewpoint, I had just set up my camera and tripod along the Timberline Trail when a pair of climbers came down from the mountain. They were obviously not typical hikers, and soon I realized that they were the explorers I had just written a blog article about! “Sandy Glacier Caves: Realm of the Snow Dragon!” was written partly in anticipation of the Oregon Field Guide 2013 premiere episode that featured the glacier Caves… and my new trail acquaintances, Brent McGregor and Eric Guth.

Look closely, and you can see Eric and Brent's boot prints in the snow near the Snow Dragon cave

Look closely, and you can see Eric and Brent’s boot prints in the snow near the Snow Dragon cave

Brent and Eric pointed out several features around the glacier caves from our vantage point. I was later able to add a postscript to the original article to elaborate on some of the new details about their discovery that I learned that day on the trail.

Eric Guth and Brent McGregor on the trail in 2013

Eric Guth and Brent McGregor on the trail in 2013

I’ve also been able to help Brent with his historic research on the formation of the glacier caves with a series of images I’d taken of the Sandy Glacier since the early 2000s. I’ve photographed the glacier in detail pretty much every year for more than a decade, mostly because of it’s scenic beauty, so it was great to discover a more practical use for all those photos!

For February, I picked a photo from a memorable winter day on Mount Defiance (below) after a bank of freezing fog had settled in on the mountain for several days. Nearly every surface was covered with long, beautifully developed ice crystals that had grown undisturbed in the almost still air of the freezing fog layer.

February features a frosty forest on the slopes of Mt. Defiance

February features a frosty forest on the slopes of Mt. Defiance

On that frosty day, I also stopped to photograph the sign shown below on the way up to Mount Defiance, as it showed amazing insight and precision by the Hood River County road department in deciding where to stop plowing!

Winter wonderland ahead!

Winter wonderland ahead!

For March, I picked a scene from the Pacific Crest Trail where it climbs along the west rim of the White River canyon. This section of trail is also part of the Timberline Trail, and is surprisingly overlooked, given the views and close proximity to Timberline Lodge.

March features the White River Canyon from the Pacific Crest Trail

March features the White River Canyon from the Pacific Crest Trail

I posted an article in 2011 on the buried forests that can be seen here. The deeply carved maze of ravines that make up the White River canyon are cut into volcanic debris from the Old Maid eruptions that occurred from 1760 to 1810, and subsequent erosion has revealed some of the well-preserved trees that were buried in these eruptions. The 2011 article describes how to view these old specimens.

I also enjoyed watching a lenticular cloud form over the mountain in the hour or two that I sat on the canyon rim that evening last winter — one of my favorite mountain phenomena. You can see just the beginning of the cloud over the summit in the calendar view, and the tiny sliver later blossomed into the classic lenticular cloud shown in the view below, as I was packing up for the day:

Lenticular cloud forming over The Mountain

Lenticular cloud forming over The Mountain

Lenticular clouds typically form when moist air from approaching weather fronts is compressed as it passes over the big volcanoes in the Cascade Range. They often form as much as a day before the cloud bands of a Pacific front actually arrive, so are a useful barometer of changing conditions.

For April, I picked something a little different: a desert scene just a few miles east of the mountain, where the same White River that originates from its namesake glacier in the previous scene flows east into the rugged rimrock country of Oregon’s High Desert, shown below:

April features the lower falls at White River Falls State Park

April features the lower falls at White River Falls State Park

Over the millennia, the White River has carved through many layers of Columbia River basalt to form its desert canyon, but as it approaches the confluence with the Deschutes, the river encounters an especially tough series of basalt layers. The result is the spectacular White River Falls, a misty green emerald in the desert, protected in a small state park.

The lower falls pictured in the April image is about one-half mile downstream from the main falls, and well off the popular trail in the area. The calendar image is actually just a cropped portion of a very wide panorama (below) that captures more of the rugged scene at the lower falls.

Original jumbo-pano that the calendar image was cropped from

Original jumbo-pano that the calendar image was cropped from

The scoured bedrock in the foreground of this view is testament to volatile nature of the White River: seasonal floods regularly surge to this depth, engulfing the floor of the canyon.

In another 2011 article titled “Close Call at White River Falls”, I described the threats to this magnificent area, and why it deserved better protection — perhaps someday a unit of Mount Hood National Park?

The old powerhouse at White River Falls

The old powerhouse at White River Falls

In addition to the natural scenery, the canyon is home to the fascinating ruins of an early 1900s hydroelectric plant. Desert weather has helped preserve the many relics in the area, but arid conditions haven’t prevented vandals from taking an increasing toll on priceless historic resources.

The powerhouse is amazingly well-preserved inside

The powerhouse is amazingly well-preserved inside

Hopefully, we can someday stabilize the White River Falls site and preserve the remaining traces of history for future generations to explore.

For May, I chose another unusual image for a Mount Hood National Park calendar: Middle North Falls on Silver Creek. Why? Mostly because what we now know as Silver Falls State Park was once proposed to become a national park in the 1920s! It would have been a terrific addition. The scenery, alone blows away many of the existing national parks monuments in our park system!

May features the famous Middle North Falls on Silver Creek

May features the famous Middle North Falls on Silver Creek

Alas, the national park proposal failed after a National Park Service study deemed the logged-over landscape of the 1920s too ravaged to be worthy of park status. Thankfully, that didn’t stop the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s from building the elaborate, magnificent trail system and beautiful South Falls Lodge (listed on the National Historic Register in 1983) that we still enjoy today.

The national park idea for Silver Falls resurfaced again in 2008, when Oregon State Senator (then Representative) Fred Girod proposed it during a special session. Notably, Dr. Girod is a Republican from Stayton, representing the Senate district that encompasses Silver Falls State Park, so maybe we’ll see the idea resurrected in the future? I like that maverick thinking, Senator!

Trail ranger leading a kids hike at Silver Creek -- how very cool!

Trail ranger leading a kids hike at Silver Creek — how very cool!

On the visit last spring when I photographed Middle North Falls, I was reminded that Oregon’s state parks do a pretty good job of embracing the national park tradition at Silver Creek when a young ranger appeared, leading a group of youngsters on a day hike. Kudos to Oregon Parks and Recreation Department for providing programs like these!

Could Silver Falls State Park become a unit of a future Mount Hood National Park? Why not! One tangible benefit would be the opportunity to expand the footprint from the current park boundaries to include the rest of the upper watershed of Silver Creek. The park more than doubled in size in 1958, when a federally funded expansion added in a portion of the headwaters, bringing the park to the present size of just over 90,000 areas.

The amazing, national-park-quality amphitheater behind North Falls

The amazing, national-park-quality amphitheater behind North Falls

Yet, heavy logging and large private inholdings upstream continue to impact Silver Creek stream with silt and algae blooms. These impacts could easily be reversed if the upper watershed were managed for conservation and recreation, instead — especially if the park were expanded to include the upper watershed and its associated habitat.

For June, I picked an image of Butte Creek Falls, a nearby cousin to Silver Creek located even closer to Mount Hood, within the Santiam State Forest. Like Silver Creek, the upper watershed of Butte Creek is heavily logged, with some obvious sediment and algae in the stream as a result.

June features Butte Creek Falls

June features Butte Creek Falls

Also like Silver Creek, the health of Butte Creek could be turned around with a shift to managing for conservation and recreation. Unlike Silver Creek, most of the lands in the upstream watershed are already held in the public trust by the State of Oregon.

Unfortunately, our state forests are held captive by a legislature determined to log them to feed the state general fund — and to ensure that rural counties that already pay only a fraction of the property taxes levied in other parts of Oregon aren’t inconvenienced with paying for their own schools.

Therefore, the best way to restore Butte Creek would be to transfer it to Oregon Parks and Recreation Department as a very large state park… or incorporate it into a future Mount Hood National Park! At a minimum, it’s time for the Santiam State forest to focus on restoring forests and protecting watersheds, not just future timber sales.

Always travel with an automotive repair expert!

Always travel with an automotive repair expert!

The behind-the-scenes, somewhat embarrassing story that goes with the Butte Creek Falls image is one of my hiking buddy Jamie Chabot helping change a flat tire after our trip to Butte Creek and nearby Abiqua Falls. We managed to take a couple of wrong turns in the maze of logging roads and clearcuts that surround the small preserve containing Butte Creek: at some point, I jumped out to survey the canyon below to figure out where we went wrong… only to hear a HISSSSSSS coming from one of the rear tires!

There was no room to pull off to the side, so we were in the awkward predicament of having the car up on a jack in the middle of an active logging road. Fortunately, we were able to install the spare before a loaded log truck came barreling our way! My belated apologies to Jamie for doing the heavy work while I took pictures… but somebody had to document the episode for posterity!

Jamie was also my hiking companion on a couple of trips to Owl Point last summer. This has been an annual favorite of mine since a group of volunteers from the Portland Hikers forum rescued the Old Vista Ridge from being lost to official Forest Service neglect in 2007.

Each year, the trail seems to get better, thanks to a lot of unofficial TLC from anonymous trail tenders. Today, the Old Vista Ridge trail is in great shape and now forms the boundary of the expanded Mount Hood Wilderness, so in that sense has been etched into legal permanence. Hopefully, it will eventually make it back onto the Forest Service inventory of officially maintained trails, a status it clearly deserves.

July features Mount Hood from Owl Point

July features Mount Hood from Owl Point

There are now several geocaches and a trail log tucked along the historic old trail, and it’s amazing to see how busy the area has become now that it has been featured in several popular hiking guides (including Williams Sullivan’s “100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon” and Paul Gerald’s “60 Hikes within 60 Miles of Portland”).

One trail log had more than 60 entries for just 2014, including this wonderful entry from a young family introducing their kids to the adventures of hiking and exploring the Mount Hood backcountry at a very young age:

My favorite Old Vista Ridge trail log entry… ever..!

My favorite Old Vista Ridge trail log entry… ever..!

One of my favorite experiences on the trail is seeing young families introducing their junior hikers to our public lands, battered field guides in hand. Just like my own formative experiences just a few decades ago.

For August, I picked an image from another of my favorite spots, just off the Cooper Spur trail, above the lower extent of the Eliot Glacier. This image was taken on one of those days when clouds were wrapped around the mountain for much of the day, but suddenly cleared for a few minutes — just long enough to capture a few photos before the mountain disappeared, once again:

August features the Eliot Glacier on Mount Hood's north flank

August features the Eliot Glacier on Mount Hood’s north flank

I certainly do not mind sitting on the shoulder of the mountain waiting out the clouds (there’s no such thing as a bad day on the mountain, after all!), but a bonus during this wait was learning a new bird species (to me), as a pair of these small birds (below) stopped by to check me out:

Horned lark at Cooper Spur

Horned lark at Cooper Spur

This is a horned lark, a wintertime migrant to our area, and the pair I saw had likely arrived recently when I spotted them last August. The Portland area actually has a year-round resident population of streaked horned larks, which look similar to horned larks and are a threatened species. These are details I learned after the trip from the helpful folks at the Portland Audubon Society.

According to Audubon staff, horned Larks are widespread songbirds of fields, deserts, and tundra, where they forage for seeds and insects, and sing a high, tinkling song — and thus were quite at home in the tundra conditions of Mount Hood’s high east side. Though they are considered common, they have undergone a sharp decline in the last half-century. Their very generalized range map shows them wintering from the Cascades west and breeding in summer in Canada tundra/steppe terrain.

For September I picked an image from Wyeast Basin, taken toward the end of a lovely early autumn day as a family and their dog ambled across the sprawling meadow. Wyeast Basin is remarkable for the surprising number of springs bubbling up from the mountain slopes and racing one another downhill, often just a few feet apart.

September features early autumn colors at WyEast Basin

September features early autumn colors at WyEast Basin

While this view (above) from the calendar is the familiar scene at WyEast Basin, I also turned my tripod around to capture the web of springs and streamlets flowing north toward the big Washington volcanoes, on the distant horizon. The talus slopes of Owl Point can also be seen in the distance from here, just above the tree line.

The view north to Owl Point and the Washington Cascades from WyEast Basin

The view north to Owl Point and the Washington Cascades from WyEast Basin

For October, the scene is from Elk Meadows, perhaps the most photogenic of the string of alpine meadows on Mount Hood’s rugged north side. In this view, the Coe Glacier tumbles below the summit, and 7,853-foot Barrett Spur looms darkly on the left. Avalanches roll off Barrett Spur in winter, sometimes with devastating effect on the alpine forests below, as the many bleached snags and stumps in Elk Cove suggest.

October features beautiful Elk Cove in autumn

October features beautiful Elk Cove in autumn

My companions for the Elk Cove hike this fall were Jamie Chabot and Jeff Statt. I met both when Trailkeepers of Oregon (TKO) was founded in 2007: Jeff was the founding president of the new non-profit, and Jamie the original creative force behind the TKO logo, Portland Hikers calendars and the TKO web identity.

Tom, Jamie & Jeff enjoying a little slice of paradise at Elk Cove

Tom, Jamie & Jeff enjoying a little slice of paradise at Elk Cove

Both Jeff and Jamie continue to support TKO after all these years as the organization continues to grow, and we still meet up for periodic trail stewardship projects together. I’m honored to have them as trail friends, and having them along on this hike made it extra-special!

For November, I picked a familiar view of Triple Falls on Oneonta Creek, taken during an especially wet week in the Gorge. Normally, the somewhat muddy runoff in this scene would be a deal-killer for photos, but I came around to the idea that in this case, it told the story of swollen Cascade streams during the stormy months of late autumn rather nicely, so added it to the mix.

November features a swollen Triple Falls on Oneonta Creek

November features a swollen Triple Falls on Oneonta Creek

I was memorably soaked on the hike to Triple Falls, not because rain is particularly unique in the Gorge, but because I had just re-ducked my trusty canvas hat (for waterproofing)… but had left it drying in the oven, at home! I discovered this fact at the Oneonta trailhead, so circled back to the Multhnomah Falls lodge to see what sort of hats were in stock.

It turns out that baseball caps are the ONLY option at the Multnomah Falls lodge — and I HATE baseball caps! (primarily because they don’t fit all that well on my basketball-sized head..!) Well, at least I could support my alma mater, and I hit the trail $20 poorer with a ridiculous, ill-fitting beanie that (sort of) kept my large, bald head dry…

You would hate baseball caps, too, if you had a basketball-sized head like mine…

You would hate baseball caps, too, if you had a basketball-sized head like mine…

Once on the trail, I also ran across one of the most extensive landslides to form in recent years, cutting away a 100-foot swath of the Oneonta Trail along a steep canyon section. Trail crews had constructed a temporary crossing of the slide, but just a few days after that trip in November, the slide claimed more ground, erasing the temporary trail. Such is the ongoing challenge of keeping trails open in the very active landscapes of the Gorge and Mount Hood!

A rip-roaring Oneonta Creek after the first big autumn storms

A rip-roaring Oneonta Creek after the first big autumn storms

For December, I picked a late fall image of Elowah Falls, taken from one of the long-bypassed viewpoints along the original Civilian Conservation Corps route described in this recent article on McCord Creek.

December features a wide pano of Elowah Falls on McCord Creek

December features a wide pano of Elowah Falls on McCord Creek

Photographing a 213′ waterfall at close range means a wide-angle lens and blending some images. In this case, I merged three vertical images taken with my 11mm lens to create the panoramic view. This is my first time photographing from this spot, and I will definitely return!

By now you’ve been introduced to my trail buddy Jamie, and on the way out from Elowah Falls that day I ran into Jamie and his two boys! They were headed toward the upper falls on McCord Creek on that very busy hiking day in the Gorge. It was great to see Jamie passing on the hiking tradition to boys!

Jamie and his rugged boys hitting the trail at McCord Creek

Jamie and his rugged boys hitting the trail at McCord Creek

That’s it for the 2015 Mount Hood National Park Campaign calendar highlights, and now for a few thoughts on the blog…

Thanks for another year!

I launched the WyEast Blog in 2008 as a simpler way to promote Mount Hood and the Gorge as “national park-worthy” than updates to the project website would allow. And though I didn’t post quite as often this year for a whole variety of reasons (mostly, real life getting in the way), I was amazed to see the readership for the WyEast Blog continue to grow in 2014.

Yours truly taking in the first big snowfall on Mount Hood in early November

Yours truly taking in the first big snowfall on Mount Hood in early November

In early 2014, the monthly page views edged above the 5,000 mark for the first time, and jumped well above that mark during the peak hiking months of spring and summer. More importantly, the list of official blog followers has grown steadily to 141 this year. These are the true Mount Hood and Gorge junkies that I have in mind when I post to the blog, and these are also the folks who send me both nice notes and periodic corrections — both are greatly appreciated!

I posted a total of 14 articles this year, down a bit from previous years, but bringing the six-year total to 136 articles. I’ve also got a bunch of new articles in the oven, ready to post when time allows. So, the WyEast Blog will be around for awhile!

The two most popular articles continue to be:

10 Common Poison Oak Myths (2012)

Ticks! Ticks! (10 common myths) (2013)

The “ticks” article has been viewed 38,147 times since I posted it in 2013, and the poison oak piece 21,545 times — sort of amazing! But these numbers have validated my obsession with providing thorough, detailed, geek-worthy articles that are more in the magazine format than typical blog fare.

Taking in the fall colors at Butte Creek

Taking in the fall colors at Butte Creek

So, enough facts, figures and anecdotes: if you’ve read this far in my annual, somewhat (ahem!) self-indulgent post, THANK YOU for being a reader… and most importantly, thanks for being a friend of Mount Hood and the Gorge!

See you on the trail in 2015!

Tom Kloster
WyEast Blog

2014 Mount Hood National Park Calendar

November 29, 2013

2014Calendar00a

Each year at about this time I assemble the Mount Hood National Park Scenic Calendar. The proceeds are modest, but do help support the Mount Hood National Park Campaign website, WyEast Blog and related project expenses. But the main purpose is to simply promote the national park concept by making the case for the campaign with pictures.

What the calendar looks like - oversized 11x17” pages you can actually use!

What the calendar looks like – oversized 11×17” pages you can actually use!

I’ve published the calendars through CafePress since 2004, so this year’s calendar marks the tenth edition. All of the photos in the calendar are from trips and trails I’ve explored over the past year.

I get a surprising number of questions about the photos, so in addition to simply announcing the 2014 calendar, this article tells a bit of the story behind the new images.

The 2014 Scenes

Cover: Sandy Headwall and Glacier from McGee Ridge

Cover: Sandy Headwall and Glacier from McGee Ridge

The cover photo of the Sandy Glacier headwall is really a nod to a chance encounter I had with Brent McGregor, the fearless cave explorer profiled in the Thin Ice: Exploring Mount Hood’s Glacier Caves, a recent Oregon Public Broadcasting feature. I had just posted a WyEast blog article on the program a few days prior, and happened to run into Brent and his climbing partner, Eric Guth, on the Timberline Trail that day in October.

2014Calendar02

Brent and Eric were on their way down from spending the night in the Snow Dragon glacier cave, and provided me with an amazing personal account of their adventures inside the caves. I also learned a bit of the glacier cave geography from the spot where we met atop McGee Ridge. The cover image for the calendar was taken from that spot awhile after the (now famous) ice cave explorers continued down the trail. A most memorable evening!

January: Tamanawas Falls dressed in white

January: Tamanawas Falls dressed in white

The monthly scenes begin with a snowy afternoon at Tamanawas Falls in the January image (above). The photo was taken in December 2013, and stitched together from three separate photos — the first of three such composite images in this year’s calendar.

The conditions were perfect that day, and a bit deceptive, as this was the first big snowfall of the season — and thus we was able to simply hike up the trail without snowshoes, albeit with the aid of boot spikes.

Brother-in-law David taking in the magic at Tamanawas

Brother-in-law David taking in the magic at Tamanawas

My brother-in-law David joined me for the hike to Tamanawas Falls, celebrating his return to Oregon after spending the past thirty years living in distant places, far from the life he knew growing up here among tall trees, big mountains and countless waterfalls – the best kind of reunion!

The February image (below) is an evening scene from one of the viewpoints along the historic Bennett Pass Road. The blanket of valley fog rolled in just as the sun dropped behind the mountain ridges, making for an especially peaceful scene.

February: WyEast's under-appreciated southeast side from near Bennett Pass

February: WyEast’s under-appreciated southeast side from near Bennett Pass

Ironically, the story behind the image is anything but quiet, as I was visiting Bennett Pass on New Years Day — apparently, along with the rest of Portland area population!

A “pristine” framing of this image suffered as a result, as the fresh blanket of snow from the previous night had already been heavily trampled by the small army of skiers and snowshoers (and their dogs) that day! Otherwise, I would have loved to included this image (below), with a pretty little noble fir in the foreground in the calendar. Maybe I should bring along a rake next time..?

Heavy ski and snowshoe traffic on New Years Day!

Heavy ski and snowshoe traffic on New Years Day!

For the March image, I picked a mid-winter Gorge scene captured at Elowah Falls on McCord Creek, just west of Cascade Locks (below). This is another composite image, made from a total of six photos, with the goal of giving a panoramic feel that matches the immensity of the setting.

This is the finished image:

March: Elowah Falls in late winter hues

March: Elowah Falls in late winter hues

The six separate images look like this before merging:

Six photos make up the original panorama at Elowah

Six photos make up the original panorama at Elowah

Once merged, I cropped the final image to fit the dimensions of the calendar:

The calendar image was then snipped from the composite image

The calendar image was then snipped from the composite image

There’s a bit of a story to this scene, too: the graceful, multi-trunked bigleaf maple framing the falls will soon succumb to the power of McCord Creek, as the stream has recently eroded the bank to the point that the main trunk of the tree is hovering over the creek, in mid-air (below).

Change is coming to this maple along McCord Creek

Change is coming to this maple along McCord Creek

This section of McCord Creek has suddenly experienced a lot of erosion in the past few years, so this is part of a larger change happening to this iconic spot – much more to come as we watch the power of nature at work, and a reminder that change is constant in the natural landscape!

For April, I picked a familiar spot in the Columbia Gorge at Rowena Crest (below), where the blooming lupine and arrowleaf balsamroot frame the river and town of Lyle in the distance. It was a typically blustery day in the Gorge last spring when I visit this spot, and though the overall bloom in the east Gorge in 2013 was somewhat disappointing, the McCall Preserve at Rowena still had a very good flower show.

April: blustery winds at Rowena Crest..? Naturally!

April: blustery winds at Rowena Crest..? Naturally!

The May image (below) is from the wonderful little loop trail at Butte Creek Falls, an gorgeous little canyon in the otherwise heavily logged foothills southwest of Mount Hood. This view shows the upper falls, a quiet, understated cascade that hides an impressive cave tucked behind the falls. The main falls of Butte Creek if just downstream.

May: pretty Upper Butte Creek Falls is tucked away in serious logging country

May: pretty Upper Butte Creek Falls is tucked away in serious logging country

I enjoy this trail because of the contrasts, as the approach to the trailhead passes through some of the most horrendously cut over timber corporation holdings in Oregon. By comparison, the vibrant, mossy canyon holding Butte Creek is a reminder of what we’ve lost — and hopefully will restore, someday.

Spring is waterfall season in Oregon, so the June image stays with the theme, this time countering little-known Upper Butte Creek Falls with the queen of all Oregon cascades, Multnomah Falls (below).

June: a composite photo from a very busy viewpoint

June: a composite photo from a very busy viewpoint

This image is the third blended photo in the 2014 calendar, this time composed of three separate images (below) taken at the perennially crowded lower overlook along the Multnomah Falls trail. As with the other composite images, my goal was to give broader context to the scene — in this case, the massive array of cliffs that surround Multnomah Falls.

Three photos came together for the Multnomah Falls image

Three photos came together for the Multnomah Falls image

As always, mountain scenes fill the summer months of the calendar, starting with a view of Mount Hood’s towering west face for July (below). This image was captured in mid-July, and though a bit late for the full glory of the beargrass bloom, it does capture the final phase of the bloom. This scene is from one of the hanging meadows high on the shoulder of McGee Ridge, looking into the valley of the Muddy Fork.

July: beargrass bloom in the hanging meadows above the Muddy Fork

July: beargrass bloom in the hanging meadows above the Muddy Fork

For the August calendar scene, I chose an image from a hike to Elk Cove. It’s a bit of a repeat from past calendars, but one of my (and most everyone else, I suspect) favorite views of the mountain. The alpine bloom came late to Elk Cove this year, and still hadn’t peaked when I shot this photo in early August:

August: my annual pilgrimage to "the view" from Elk Cove

August: my annual pilgrimage to “the view” from Elk Cove

I’ve shot this scene many times, but on this particular trip several hikers passed by while I waited for the afternoon light to soften. Two groups stopped to chat and pose for me, including a pair of hiking buddies doing the Timberline Trail circuit and a family from Olympia, Washington visiting Elk Cove for the first time (below).

Round-the-mountain hikers arriving for a night at Elk Cove

Round-the-mountain hikers arriving for a night at Elk Cove

This group traveled from Olympia to visit Elk Cove

This group traveled from Olympia to visit Elk Cove

Both shots let out a little secret about my favorite photo spot at Elk Cove: it’s only about ten feet off the Timberline Trail, which crosses right through the drift of western pasque flower in the foreground!

For the September scene, I picked an image of Wiesendanger Falls on Multnomah Creek (below), named for Albert Wiesendanger, a pioneering forester in the Columbia River Gorge.

September: Albert Wiesendanger earned a place name with his falls on Multnomah Creek

September: Albert Wiesendanger earned a place name with his falls on Multnomah Creek

Most hikers are (understandably) looking upstream, toward Wiesendanger Falls, when they walk through Dutchman’s Tunnel (not a true tunnel, but more of a ledge carved into the basalt cliff) along Multnomah Creek, just below the falls.

Thus, few see this inconspicuous bronze plaque at the south end of the tunnel honoring Albert Wiesendanger:

2014Calendar20

Wiesendanger not only had an important role in shaping of the trails and campgrounds we now enjoy in the Columbia River Gorge, he also went on to lead the Keep Oregon Green campaign. He is a little-known giant in our local history, and deserves to have his story more widely told.

The October scene isn’t from a trail, but rather, a somewhat obscure dirt road high on the shoulder of Middle Mountain (below), in the Hood River Valley. I learned of this spot several years ago, and often make the bumpy side trip if I’m passing through in early evening — it’s one of the more stunning views in the area, showing off the spectacular Upper Hood River Valley at its finest.

October: The upper Hood River Valley from a lesser-known viewpoint on Middle Mountain

October: The upper Hood River Valley from a lesser-known viewpoint on Middle Mountain

For November, I chose a photo of Wahclella Falls on Tanner Creek taken a year ago (below), in early November 2012. Why? Because the monsoons we experienced in September of this year really did a number on the fall colors. Foliage was battered by the winter-like weather, and trees were deprived of the normal autumn draught conditions that help put the brilliance in our fall.

November: Tanner Creek as it would normally appear in early November

November: Tanner Creek as it would normally appear in early November

The result of our cold, wet September was a very early leaf fall and generally muted fall colors, as can be seen in these views of Wahclella Falls taken from the same spot at almost the same time of year in 2012 and 2013:

Our rough September weather in 2013 was devastating to autumn foliage

Our rough September weather in 2013 was devastating to autumn foliage

Finally, a winter scene along the East Fork of the Hood River (below) wraps up the 2014 calendar as the December image. This photograph was taken from the footbridge leading to Cold Spring Creek and Tamanawas Falls, and was captured on the same day as the opening January image in this year’s calendar.

December: The East Fork Hood River in winter

December: The East Fork Hood River in winter

Among the missing elements in this year’s calendar are scenes from the Cloud Cap area and Cooper Spur, on Mount Hood’s north side. This is largely due to the indefinite closure of the historic Cloud Cap Road, abruptly announced by the Forest Service earlier this year.

This road closure had a big impact on recreation. While it’s possible for seasoned hikers to make the much longer trek from the nearby Tilly Jane trailhead, for most (especially families and less active hikers), it means that Cooper Spur and the spectacular views of the Eliot Glacier will have to wait until another year.

Cloud Cap Road in 2010: salvage logging slash lines the road two years after the Gnarl Fire swept through in August 2008

Cloud Cap Road in 2010: salvage logging slash lines the road two years after the Gnarl Fire swept through in August 2008

The reason for the Cloud Cap Road closure is a bit more worrisome: five years after the Gnarl Fire roared through the area — and four years after an extensive salvage logging operation toppled hundreds of “hazard” trees along the road — the Forest Service has decided that standing trees must once again be felled in order to “protect the public”.

Oddly enough, the road remains open to hikers, skiers and cyclists — apparently because the hazardous trees only fall on cars? We can only hope that the scars from this latest “improvement” don’t further degrade the historic road, when huge piles of slash were left behind, where they still line the old road.

One that didn’t make it…

Metlako Falls (from the wrong side of the fence)

Metlako Falls (from the wrong side of the fence)

The above view of Metlako Falls on Eagle Creek was in my folder of favorite 2013 images to include in the annual calendar, but I decided to save the scene for another year. Why? Because in July, I headed up a mighty (okay, two-man) Trailkeepers of Oregon crew to clear out the brush that has blocked safe viewing of Metlako Falls for many years.

Previously, the only way to capture a photo like the one above, photographers had to step OVER the cable hand rail, and stand perilously close to the 200-foot brink dropping into the Eagle Creek Gorge. The hazard to hikers was bad enough, but the “sweet spot” for photos was so over-used that it was starting to erode the ground underneath it, potentially destabilizing the rest of the cliff-top Metlako Falls overlook.

Chris Alley was one half of the TKO crew, and the only hiker with a 16-foot pole pruner on the Eagle Creek Trail that day!

Chris Alley was one half of the TKO crew, and the only hiker with a 16-foot pole pruner on the Eagle Creek Trail that day!

The solution was straightforward: the Gorge unit of the Forest Service approved our plan to trim the offending brush using a 16-foot pole saw. This kept us safely on the uphill side of the cable fence, with just enough reach to clip the brush.

The task at hand: trim overgrown brush and maple limbs

The task at hand: trim overgrown brush and maple limbs

With my Trailkeepers partner Chris Alley along for the project, we made quick work of the offending branches on a rather hot, sticky day. After a couple hours of sawing and lopping, Metlako Falls was once again safely in view! This is a project I’d wanted to do for awhile, so it was great to finally have it sanctioned as a Trailkeepers of Oregon project.

The author: "I can see clearly now (the brush is gone)!"

The author: “I can see clearly now (the brush is gone)!”

Now, I’m looking forward to next spring, when I’ll head up there during the waterfall prime time to re-capture the scene — safely, this time! I’ve already been back this year, and enjoyed seeing casual hikers admiring the unobstructed falls, snapping photos on their iPhones.
_________________

The thirteen images I chose for the 2014 calendar are from a few thousand images I’ve taken this year on close to 50 outings to Mount Hood and the Gorge! As always, the magnificent scenery only strengthened my conviction that Mount Hood should (and will!) be set aside as a National Park! Hopefully, the scenes in the calendar continue to make the case, as well.

How can you get one?

The new calendars are available online:

2014 Mount Hood National Park Calendar at CafePress

They are large and functional, measuring 17” across by 22” tall when hung, with plenty of room for writing notes and scheduling activities. CafePress packages them carefully, with each calendar sealed against a corrugated cardboard backing for support. You can also order them with gift wrapping at additional charge.

The calendars sell for $29.99 + shipping, with about 25% of the proceeds going to support the Mount Hood National Park Campaign. They make terrific stocking stuffers (…although you’ll need an 11×17” stocking…), and CafePress now makes it even easier by offering PayPal as an option.

And as always, thanks for your support of the blog and the campaign!

Five Years!

November 24, 2013

FiveYears01

This week marks the five-year anniversary of my first post on the WyEast Blog, so I thought I’d share a few factoids and highlights from the past five years to mark the occasion. I started the blog as a way to provide more timely content than is possible on the Mount Hood National Park Campaign website and as a way to more actively champion the idea to anyone willing to read the articles!

It has been to my great surprise that so much traffic has come to the blog over the past five years. My articles are in long-prose format, eclectic and hyper-detailed in nature and only posted every couple weeks, so the WyEast Blog is way out of the mainstream of the post-constantly-or-die culture of the blogosphere. Yet, visits to the blog continue to grow: the following chart shows the monthly growth in traffic over just the past two years:

FiveYears02

Dark blue shows actual visitors to the site (data that only became available in 2012) and light blue shows page views. On average, most viewers read about 1.5 pages, or from my perspective as the author, roughly ever other visitor takes a look at a second page during a visit. The chart also shows seasonal spikes of summer traffic — not something I would have expected, but more on that in a moment.

A typical day brings between 100 and 150 visitors during the off-season, and total visits are rapidly approaching 100,000 – another milestone for an oddball blog! Most of that traffic has been in the past two years.

The following chart shows monthly visitors for the full five years — with an audacious FOUR in that first month in 2008 (thanks, mom!) and about 2,500 so far this month (the green box marks the month with the most traffic in the history of the blog, with 5,651 visits in August of this year):

FiveYears03

Equally surprising (to me) is the diversity of visitors coming to the blog. A majority is directed from search engines, but they come from all over the world. This map shows their origins for just the past week:

FiveYears04

This map shows their origins over the life of the blog, with a surprising number of visitors from well outside the English-speaking world:

FiveYears05

Some of that far-flung traffic is nuisance (spammers), but I suspect most of the exotic locales are explained by the most popular topics and search terms. For example, the following chart shows the most-read of the 120 articles that I’ve published over the life of the blog — and not surprisingly, the companion posts on coping with ticks and poison oak continue to be visited regularly from points far and wide:

FiveYears06

But close behind the creepy-crawly articles are posts on the history of the Timberline Trail, one of my “proposal” articles addressing some of the problems facing Oneonta Gorge and — perhaps most surprisingly — an article on the Clackamas River Trail!

The following chart highlights the most popular search terms that have brought readers to the blog, with “Oneonta Gorge” standing head and shoulders above any other common terms that brought visitors to the site:

FiveYears07

I deviated from the top five them for the above chart in order to include the seventh most popular search term — the WyEast Blog, itself! Of course, that could just be one person who keeps typing the same search term in, for lack of a bookmark… (mom… dad?)

The search terms that bring readers to the site make for a VERY long, and often bizarre list, with most being used just a few times, or often just once (“lost boots Paradise Park”). The weekly view (below) of search terms shows this nicely, with the expected “ticks” followed by some interesting, very specific queries:

FiveYears08

I’m guessing the last two are from the same person — and hopefully, the tick article helped persuade that visitor to get some medical attention… yikes!

That’s probably more than enough retrospective, so if you’ve endured the charts and graphs thus far, thanks for your interest in the blog — and especially the thoughtful comments and encouraging e-mails I’ve received along the way!

Tom Kloster
November 2013

WyEast Blog has a new address!

November 14, 2011

The WyEast Blog has a new, shorter URL as of today — www.wyeastblog.org — with the goal of making it easier to find, and to underscore the non-profit mission of the Mount Hood National Park Campaign. The old URL will continue to work indefinitely, but the new address will make it a little easier to find the blog, or share the address with others.

Thanks for visiting, and thanks for your support!

2012 Mount Hood National Park Calendar

October 30, 2011

Each year at about this time I assemble the Mount Hood National Park Scenic Calendar. The proceeds are modest, but do help support the Mount Hood National Park Campaign website and related project expenses. The main purpose is simply to promote the project, and make the case for the campaign with pictures.

I’ve published the calendars since 2004, and the photos in each calendar are from trips and trails I’ve explored in the previous year. Thus, the 2012 calendar features photos I’ve taken on my weekly outings throughout 2011.

I get a surprising number of questions about the photos, so in addition to simply announcing the 2012 calendar, I thought I would dedicate this article to the story behind the images.

The 2012 Scenes

The cover image for the 2012 calendar is a world-class favorite: Punchbowl Falls on Eagle Creek (below), one of our iconic local scenes that is recognized around the world. The Eagle Creek trail is busy year-round, so I picked a Wednesday morning in June to slip in between the crowds, and had Punchbowl Falls to myself for nearly an hour.

Cover: Punchbowl Falls on Eagle Creek

In spring, this view requires wet feet — or waders — to shoot, as I was standing in about a foot of water and 30 feet from the stream bank to capture this image. I chose wet feet over waders, and to say they were numb afterward would be an understatement!

For the January calendar image, I picked this view (below) of the southeast face of Mount Hood, as seen from the slopes of Gunsight Butte. This was taken on a very cold afternoon last January on a snowshoe trip in the Pocket Creek area. This image benefited from some Photoshop editing, as I removed my own boot prints from the otherwise pristine snow in the foreground!

January: Mount Hood from near Pocket Creek

I try to reflect the seasons with the monthly photos as best I can, but the February image (below) of the Sandy Headwall in the new calendar is an example where the scene could be in mid-winter, but was really captured just a few days ago, with the first blanket of snow transforming the summit of Mount Hood.

February: The Sandy Headwall in early autumn

This close-up photo was taken from the slopes of Bald Mountain, near Lolo Pass on a brilliant autumn afternoon. It features a new camera toy I picked up this year, too — a 70-300mm telephoto lens that replaced my older, less powerful version.

For March, the calendar image (below) is from a June hike along the Hot Springs Fork of the Collawash River. The stream is known to many (incorrectly) as “Bagby Creek”, as it is home to the historic guard station and rustic bath houses at Bagby Hot Springs.

March: The Hot Springs Fork of the Collowash River

The Bagby area has been in the news this year because of an ill-conceived and controversial Forest Service plan to privatize the operations, but I hiked the trail for the beauty of the stream, itself. It’s a beautiful forest hike through old-growth forests and past lovely stream views, albeit very well traveled by the hordes of hot-spring seekers!

The April calendar scene (below) is one that few will ever see in person, as it features an off-trail view across little-known Brooks Meadow, on the high slopes of Lookout Mountain, east of Mount Hood. The day was especially memorable for the wildlife all around me as I shot the scene — elk bugling in the forest margins, hummingbirds moving through the acres of wildflowers and several hawks prowling the meadow from the big trees that surround it.

April: Brooks Meadow and Mount Hood

I featured Brooks Meadow in this article earlier this year, and was later disappointed to see closure signs posted at the public access points. So, until the policy changes, this view is officially off-limits to the public.

For the month of May, I picked a much-photographed view of Metlako Falls from along the Eagle Creek Trail (below). This view was captured on the same day as the Punchbowl Falls scene on the calendar cover.

May: Metlako Falls on Eagle Creek

A little secret among photographers is that a clean shot of Metlako Falls requires you to plant at least one foot on the scary side of the cable fence that otherwise keeps hikers from slipping over a 200 foot cliff. It’s perfectly safe… as long as you don’t fall! My main goal was to capture the scene with the spring flowers that appear in the lower left, something I’d admired in other photos.

2011 was a wet year with a persistent snowpack in the Oregon high country, so June hiking was still focused on the lowlands, and especially on waterfalls, which benefited from the runoff. In early June, I made a trip along the Clackamas River Trail to beautiful Pup Creek Falls (below), an impressive, lesser-known cascade tucked into a hidden side canyon, just off the main stem of the Clackamas. I profiled the hike in this WyEast Blog article.

June: Pup Creek Falls

For July, the scene is another familiar view — the sweeping panorama of Crown Point and the Columbia Gorge from Chanticleer Point, at Women’s Forum State Park (below).

In a typical year, this might have been a day for hiking in the mountains, but in 2011, the lingering snowpack persisted until the end of July. This image shows the resulting swollen, flooded Columbia, with spring levels of runoff continuing well into the summer.

July: Crown Point and the Columbia from Chanticleer Point

The high country trails finally opened in early August, and I followed one of my summer rituals with a hike to Cooper Spur, high above Cloud Cap Inn on the east slopes of Mount Hood. This view (below) is from the south Eliot Glacier moraine, just below the spur. I profiled a proposal for improving the Cooper Spur trail in this WyEast Blog article.

Not visible at this scale are the ice climbers who were exploring the lower Eliot Glacier icefall that day, in the right center of the photo.

August: Eliot Glacier and Mount Hood from the slopes of Cooper Spur

In September I was doing research on historic Silcox Hut, located about a mile and a thousand vertical feet above Timberline Lodge. The venerable structure was built in 1939 by the Works Progress Administration for a mere $80,000, and served for many years as the upper terminal of the original Magic Mile chairlift. The Friends of Silcox Hut restored the structure in the 1980s, and it was reopened for overnight guests in 1994.

Though I rarely include man-made structures in the calendar, this view of Silcox Hut (below) shows how the structure seems to rise up as part of the mountain, itself, in a triumph in architectural design. The worker on the ladder is part of a 2011 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) project to further restore the building for generations to come.

September: Historic Silcox Hut

In October, I usually scramble to capture early fall foliage images for the calendar. Mount Hood and a group of vine maples obliged this year in this view from Lolo Pass Road (below), captured just a few days ago on a beautiful Indian Summer day.

October: Mount Hood in Autumn from Lolo Pass Road

The November calendar scene (below) is from Lolo Pass, proper, taken in late October on a crisp evening just before sunset. The scene includes all of the ingredients that make autumn on Mount Hood so rewarding for photographers: the first blanket of snow had fallen at the highest elevations, while the meadows above timberline have turned to shades of read and gold. The mountain, itself, is wrapped in swirling autumn clouds. Spectacular!

November: Mount Hood at sunset from Lolo Pass

The final image in the new calendar is of Tamanawas Falls in winter (below). The falls are located on Cold Spring Creek, a major tributary to the East Fork Hood River, and this scene was captured last January while on a hike with an old friend visiting from Nevada. In this scene, rays of intermittent sunshine were lightening up mist from the falls, creating what can only be described as a “winter wonderland”! The hike to Tamanawas Falls is described in this 2008 WyEast Blog article.

December: Tamanawas Falls on Cold Spring Creek in winter

The thirteen images I chose for the 2012 Mount Hood National Park Calendar were narrowed from 117 images that I had set aside over the course of 2011. These were the “best” of several thousand images taken on something upward of 50 outings to Mount Hood and the Gorge. As always, these adventures took me to new places and discoveries, as well as my old haunts.

And as always, the magnificent scenery further confirmed my conviction that Mount Hood should be set aside as our next National Park! Hopefully, the calendar makes that case, as well.

Where can I get one?

The 2012 calendars are available now at the Mount Hood National Park Campaign store. They are large and functional, measuring 17” across by 22” tall, with plenty of room for writing notes and scheduling activities. They sell for $24.99, with about 25% of the proceeds going to support the Mount Hood National Park Campaign.

Thanks for your support!

20:1 Odds

August 31, 2010

As part of their August 2010 feature on National Parks, Sunset Magazine gave a nod (of sorts) to the Mount Hood National Park Campaign! The surprise article explained a mysterious round of phone tag that I played with a Sunset writer in late July (though I never actually connected with her). As part of the cover story, Sunset gave odds on “Our Next National Park?” Here’s what they had to say:

3:2 – Valles Caldera National Preserve, New Mexico – in a bill for full park status

4:1 – San Gabriel Mountains, California – under study by the National Park Service

7:1 – Pinnacles National Monument, California – another monument proposed for promotion to full park status

8:1 – Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Washington – also under study, in this case by a citizens committee that may recommend bumping it from failed USFS management to National Park Service protection

20:1 – Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon – “A labor of love by a Portland city planner, this campaign faces a couple of roadblocks, the main one being it’s similar to what’s already in the NPS portfolio (hello, Mt. Rainier!)

100:1 – “Ancient Forest”, Northern California/Southern Oregon – “Another quixotic cause from a lone visionary, this 3.8 million-acres swatch would link ecosystems to help preserve species… but it’s a long shot.”

Twenty-to-one? I like those odds! The article also included a link to the campaign website, so kudos to Sunset for the free publicity, skeptical as they may be!

Of interest to me in this bit of lighthearted journalism is the old “parks as museum samples” canard that comes through — we’ve already got Mount Rainer, and it’s interchangeable with any other volcano in the Cascades. Next!

Well, that mindset actually dates back to Gifford Pinchot, and a few other early conservationists, who had no way of knowing that by the end of the 1900s most of the forests of the Pacific Northwest would be laid low, or that 10 million people would live within a few hours drive of the big Cascade peaks, looking for recreation, drinking water and a piece of what once was in America’s rainforest region.

Fortunately, the new national parks movement is redefining why we need more parks, and helping move beyond a museum collection mindset and toward a more holistic vision of ecosystem protection and restoration for all sites of national significance. With a little luck, Sunset Magazine will be featuring a new Mount Hood National Park on its cover in a few years, too.

Mount Hood National Park on Hike Yeah

March 28, 2010

Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of meeting Alex Head, host of the weekly Hike Yeah program. We recorded a two-part podcast that covers all aspect of the Mount Hood National Park Campaign, and you can stream or download the first 30-minute segment (Podcast 40) from the Hike Yeah website now:

Hike Yeah | Podcast 40 | Mount Hood National Park Campaign

The second segment will air next Friday at 2 PM, and will appear as Podcast 41 on the Hike Yeah website. Alex is a fine interviewer, and had really done his research into the MHNP project before the show, so we were able to jump right in to the questions that people are most curious about: how would National Park management differ from the Forest Service? Would there be additional entry fees? What about my dog..?? Those questions, and many more are covered in the interview.

The second segment airing next week is a bit more expansive, as Alex focused more on things that I’m doing outside the MHNP Campaign, but I did manage to bring it back to the cause I care about most! Alex provides a terrific service with this program, so if you’re a hiker be sure to subscribe and catch his show every week.
______________________________

Edited to add in the link to the second part – rambles onto other subjects like waterfall hunts, restoring old trails and the birth of Trailkeepers of Oregon, but does get back to the main theme of Mount Hood National Park toward the end:

Hike Yeah | Podcast 41 | Mount Hood National Park Campaign

Thanks for the opportunity, Alex – it was fun!


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 156 other followers