Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Cedar Creek Grist Mill and Lewis River Falls

Every year I like to check out someplace new.  Luckily, there's no shortage of interesting and photogenic subjects in my immediate area.  One that comes up every autumn on the local photography social media sites is the Cedar Creek Grist Mill.

Cedar Creek Historic Grist Mill

Located just outside of Woodland, Washington, the mill is a short jaunt up I-5 from Portland.  One late October Friday afternoon, I decided to pay this historic structure a visit.

Hard to get a clear photo with all the trees

Fall is a wonderful time to photograph the grist mill.  Situated at the bottom of a narrow canyon, the adjacent slopes are ablaze with trees in full autumn finery.  Large, mossy branches surround the creek, draping over it's banks.

The mill, framed by mossy branches

The Cedar Creek Mill was originally built in 1876.  Throughout the years it was used for grinding grain, and as a blacksmith and machine shop.  After falling into disrepair, in the 1980s a group of local residents banded together to save the historic structure.  Through numerous bazaars and raffles, the group raised money to pay for badly-needed repairs.  Fully restored in 1989, the mill again ground wheat - just in time for Washington state's centennial celebration.

Still lots of fall leaves

Nowadays, the mill is on the National Register of Historic Places.  It functions as a working museum, demonstrating operation of a grist mill from a long-ago era.  Open most weekends, it grinds grains for visitors, and depending upon time of year, also presses apples into cider.

Covered bridge adjacent to the mill

I got lucky with a perfect fall day for my first visit to the mill.  Although the afternoon sun made photography a bit tricky, I was able to get a few shots I liked. 

Mill viewed from the covered bridge

The best place to capture the entire structure without trees blocking the view was on an adjacent covered bridge.

The bridge hidden by leaves

Of course, the covered bridge was a photo subject all by itself!

Covered bridge entrance

Although the mill wasn't open to the public that Friday, there were quite a bit of people inside, no doubt gearing up for the weekend ahead.

The Mill sign

Photographers comprised most of the visitors that day.  We all politely jockeyed for positions on the bridge and through tree openings along the opposite creek bank.  I struck up a conversation with one friendly man, and he pointed out a camera crew from the local PBS show "Oregon Field Guide" being led through the mill building.

Upriver fall color

Funny coincidence, the Oregon Field Guide story about this grist mill showed up on the OPB website just as was getting ready to write my blog post.  Check it out here.  The footage is from the very same day I happened to be there.

Lone leaf

Although the fall colors were a tad past prime, the Cedar Creek Mill was a worthy autumn destination.  It most certainly will see some return visits from me!

Lewis River Falls

With still a few hours left in the afternoon, I decided since I was in the area to drive the extra 60-some miles and see Lewis River Falls.  However, I sorely underestimated my driving time.  Winding narrow Forest Service roads take much longer to travel!  A full hour and 45 minutes later, I pulled into the day use parking lot at the very late hour of 4 pm.  Not wishing to drive the rough entrance road back out in the dusk, I had at most a mere hour to spend here.

Full view of Lewis River Falls

After driving for so long to reach these beautiful cascades, I was sorely disappointed to discover my subject in terrible light.  Mostly in deep shade, with the surrounding landscape in bright sunlight, capturing any halfway decent images was going to be tricky.

A few other photographers had set up tripods at an overlook and appeared to be pondering the same dilemma.  One guy in a group of three men recognized me from the Cedar Creek Mill.  Apparently they'd also stopped there first.

Golden leaves and falling water

Despite the challenging lighting conditions, Lower Lewis River Falls was gorgeous.  A wide, multi-tiered cascade, it fanned beautifully over a drop in the river.  The last of the fall leaves accented the surrounding area.  And the bright sunlight wasn't all bad - it did produce a brilliant rainbow!

Rainbow sighting!

One hour passes by much too quickly when you're shooting waterfalls.  Before I knew it, it was time to pack up and get out before darkness cloaked the area.  I was kind of disappointed not to be able to visit the other waterfalls in the area.  Guess that just means I'll have to come back!

Wanting to make a giant loop, I chose to return through Carson, WA with a stop at my favorite pizza and brewpub.  Although that meant a late arrival back home, despite spending most of the day driving, I felt I'd had a very productive afternoon.

To learn more about the Cedar Creek Grist Mill, you can visit their website.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Silver Falls Autumn Photo Extravaganza

Who's a fan of fall colors?  And who doesn't love waterfalls?  Together these two create breathtaking subjects for photographers everywhere.  The best place to capture such scenes - Oregon's lovely Silver Falls State Park.  When mid-October weather turns the leaves orange and gold, I plan my annual autumn photo extravaganza.

Oodles of colorful leaves

My neighbor Cheri is an amazing photographer.  I've admired her work for years.  We've always talked about getting together for a photo shoot, but our schedules never aligned.  Then I invited her to join me on my yearly Silver Falls autumn trip and happily, she accepted.

Lone leaf

Our chosen day arrived, cloudy and rainy.  Although Cheri had her doubts about avoiding the showers, I was happy as a clam.  Overcast wet weather makes for perfect waterfall photography conditions.

Scenic footbridge

Waterfall lovers, Silver Falls State Park is the place for you!  Boasting ten magnificent cascades, a 7-mile loop takes you past each one (and even behind some of them).  Not only that, the trail winds through beautiful, mossy old-growth forests.  A true gem of the Oregon state park system, this lovely area attracts visitors far and wide.

Path to South Falls

Being photographers, Cheri and I are both used to early morning starts.  Arriving at the park a half hour before it's 8 am opening, we busied ourselves with a quick shakedown photo session near North Falls Trailhead.  Cheri showed me some custom landscape settings on my camera and then we both unfurled tripods and got to work, capturing a few images of lovely Silver Creek.

South Falls

Arriving at the South Falls parking area, we'd barely left my car when both of us became distracted by some vibrant red vine maple leaves lining the parking lot.  Then Cheri spotted a scenic footbridge near the bathrooms.  Too many beautiful subjects!

South Falls again

But never fear.....we didn't forget our objective.  After a small delay, Cheri and I arrived at the viewpoint overlooking our first subject - mighty South Falls.  Dropping 177 feet off a basalt cliff into a forested pond below, this grand cascade was surrounded by vibrant yellows and greens.

Cool mossy tree

Naturally, a small shower greeted us upon our arrival.  I tried to trip the shutter while balancing an umbrella over my tripod, while Cheri, wiser and more experienced, simply placed a plastic cover over her camera and lens.  (I need to bookmark this tip for the next rainy day!)

Lower South Falls

After a lengthy session capturing South Falls and the beautiful, mossy forest that surrounds it, we decided to trek the half mile to check out Lower South Falls.  Cheri headed straight for the waterfall, while I sauntered through the forest, capturing the creek and it's spectacular autumn scenery.

My fave view of Lower South Falls

Finally arriving at Lower South Falls, I spotted Cheri near it's base.  The trail here leads visitors directly behind this waterfall's white curtain.  I followed Cheri to the opposite side, where I pointed out my favorite photography spot.  It was here that I captured this image that won second place in a local photo contest.

More mossy loveliness

Dodging raindrops and waterfall spray, we proceeded to capture this beautiful cascade from every conceivable angle.  I even slipped in a few shots of the creek below lined with moss-covered trees.

Backlit yellow leaves

Although I was up for hiking to more waterfalls, Cheri was ready to return.  So we retraced our steps back to South Falls.  Trekking back out of the canyon, I spied one more nice view of this regal cascade.  Too lazy to put up my tripod, I instead used a fast shutter speed to capture it's rushing water hurtling over the cliff.

South Falls - with a fast shutter speed

And I also caught a group of hikers admiring the view.

Lots of admirers

Our path to the parking lot took us past rustic Silver Falls Lodge, where I couldn't resist just a few more pics of this impressive structure lined with autumn's finest color.  (I'm sure I capture this same image every year!)

Silver Falls Lodge

Since North Falls and it's parking area were on our way out of the park, we decided to make a quick stop.

Behind North Falls

Only a quarter mile from the parking lot, Cheri was up for checking out this one final waterfall.  And we were both glad we did!  Situated in a beautiful green canyon, North Falls shot out of a crevice, dropping 136 feet into a rocky splash pool.  The trail took visitors into a huge cavern behind the falls, providing unique views of this churning cascade (plus shelter from the rain).

North Falls

Following the trail around to the opposite side of North Falls provided one final photo op of the white water washing over the rocks below.  The autumn colors in this canyon were especially nice.  Both Cheri and I agreed this was our favorite waterfall of all.

Cheri in her element

On our way out, Cheri stopped to capture the creek above North Falls.  The leaf-covered creek banks and white rapids were especially scenic.  Some final images to end what had been a wonderful (although sometimes rainy) day of photography.

Beautiful creek above North Falls

So much fun to share the day with someone who loves photography as much as I do!  And I was honored to shadow such a great photographer.  Hope some of Cheri's talent rubs off on me!  :) 

Great day with a fellow photographer!

Cheri specializes in bird and wildlife photography (every image she produces is amazing!)  To see more of Cheri's work, please visit her website here.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Metolius River

October is the perfect month to check out Central Oregon's fall colors.  After hiking around a splendidly hued Clear Lake, I had just enough time for a quick trip to another oft-photographed area east of the Cascades.  It had been several years since I'd visited the magical Metolius River.

Rapids and fall colors

The Metolius emerges from a spectacular spring that gushes mightily up from the ground.  It then winds through a steep, narrow canyon lined with stately Ponderosa Pines.  Located east of the Cascades, sparse undergrowth contrasts starkly with the lush green forests just over the pass.

Metolius River ducks under a bridge

Not sure exactly where to catch the best colors, I followed the main Forest Service road to Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery.  I wasn't really interested in seeing any fish - but there was parking and a restroom here.

Bridge to the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery

After the extravaganza of color at Clear Lake, autumn foliage along the Metolius was kind of a letdown.  I spied a small patch of golden bushes lining the river, but that was about it.

Eerie blue water under the bridge

However, churning blue rapids of the Metolius really stole the show.  The water was an eerie aqua blue color under the fish hatchery bridge.

Wonderful churning rapids

Instead of leaves, I took more photos of moving water.  (But some golden colors managed to get into a few frames)

A very photogenic river

The Metolius is a very photogenic river.  It's rapids twist and writhe, creating interesting current patterns.  And the turbulent water is an enchanting pale blue.

Lone fly fisherman

After spending some time near the fish hatchery, I drove further upriver in search of more fall color.  The river here is lined with a few Forest Service campgrounds.  Although most were already closed for the winter, I was able to park at Lower Bridge Campground, which appeared to still be open.

Downstream calm

What a beautiful place to pitch a tent!  Several sites were located right on the river with marvelous views.  I was surprised to see no one camping here.  I've totally bookmarked this campground for a return trip next summer.

Wildlife sighting

But on this lovely autumn day, the place was deserted, save for a couple of fly fisherman and a friendly lizard.

At Lower Bridge Campground

Walking along the riverbank, I came upon a few more brightly hued bushes.  They contrasted nicely with the Ponderosa pine trunks and cloudless blue sky.

I could stay here all day!

I could've stayed here the rest of the day, soaking in the sunshine and enjoying the peaceful sound of rushing water.  But my parents were due in Bend by dinnertime, and I didn't want to keep them waiting.  So I clicked my shutter one final time in a feeble attempt to capture a wonderful fall afternoon beside this beautiful river.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Clear Lake Color Spectacular

In Central Oregon's high country, autumn color reaches its height by early October.  From prior trips, I remembered vivid displays of red and orange vine maple leaves while driving over Santiam Pass.  So when my parents decided to visit Bend during the second weekend of October, I scheduled an extra day specifically for leaf-peeping.

Vine maple multicolors

I originally planned to split up my drive with a hike along the Metolius River.  But when people began posting spectacular fall color photos from Clear Lake, my itinerary changed in a hurry.

Colorful reflections

Located just west of Santiam Pass, Clear Lake and the McKenzie River are known to have amazing displays of fall colors.  Although I'd camped here twice in summer months, this would be my first autumn visit.

Still water makes for amazing reflections

Another early drive got me to Clear Lake's day use area by 8:30 one sunny Thursday morning.  Although the temps were still chilly, nearby colorful vine maple leaves immediately warmed me with excitement of things to come.

Submerged log

A five mile trail circles this gorgeous gem of a lake.  Passing by the store/boat dock and cabins, I soon left civilization behind, plunging into a thick green Douglas Fir forest accented with plenty of red and orange hues.

Backlit leaves

Clear Lake's still waters reflected the colorful leaves and green trees perfectly.

One of many log bridges

The first mile took way longer to traverse.  There were just too many wonderful photo subjects!

Close up colorful leaf

Rounding the first inlet, I came upon the aqua blue waters of Great Spring, a natural underground spring that bubbles up from rocky lava below.  The lake's only water source, it's responsible for the crystal clarity and a nearly constant chilly temperature year-round.

Unique aqua water

By then the sun had risen enough to take the chill from the air.  And I started to get passed by hikers.  Quite a few of them!  I figured on this weekday morning I'd have the place to myself.  But it appeared I wasn't the only one who'd got wind of the wonderful autumn display here.

Clear Lake boat dock

Traveling further around the lake got me a few nice views of the restaurant/lodge building and boat dock.  Even though motorized boats are banned here, it appeared the place was doing a brisk business renting row boats and kayaks.  Lots of folks launching vessels from the ramp area!

Great spring

The path ducked in and out of forested areas, offering peek-a-boo glimpses of the lake, ringed by more colorful vine maple.

Shoreside color

I began to see fisherman bobbing in their boats, hoping to land the "big one."

Fall leaves and blue skies

Beyond the boat ramp viewpoint, I reached the first of many barren lava fields.  A hot place for summer hikes, it was downright comfortable this cool, fall morning.

Red bushes in the lava fields

And lined with brilliant red and yellow leaves, it was much prettier than the summer.

Colorful path through the lava zone

I may have taken way too many photos here.

Fantastic views across Clear Lake

Late morning light turned Clear Lake's waters a stunning blue.

Dewy leaves

Between lava fields, I passed shady areas where the night's cold temps had coated some leaves with a thin layer of frost.  The melting ice created nice water droplets - and photo ops.

Golden trees

At the lake's southern end I came upon a huge patch of golden leaves that reflected perfectly into the water.  I had to scramble down a steep bank to capture the full scene, but it was worth it.

Fishermen enjoying the color show

Now in the homestretch, I traversed the lake's west bank.  Although mostly in thick forest, a few viewpoints produced stunning displays of color, reflected into the water like a Monet painting.

Kayakers on the water
Truly stunning!

Mt Washington peeps over the trees

Near the end of my journey, I was treated to a glimpse of snow-capped Mt. Washington, peeping over the treetops.

Flaming red trees

Just before the parking lot, I came upon these fire-red leaves, perfectly illuminated in the midday sun.  Probably the best view of the entire hike, I clicked off several frames before ending my journey back at the car. 

Wowza!  Clear Lake was definitely one of the best displays of fall color I'd seen in Central Oregon.  Glad I made the detour on my way over the mountains.  Now it was on to Bend....but I did have time for a quick stop at the Metolius River. 

I'll show you what I found in my next post!