Shooting Mt. Rainier with my Canon SX60HS

After seeing all the flowers at Mt. St. Helens, we decided to go up to Sunrise on Mt. Rainier to see if the flowers were blooming there, too. Besides, I wanted to try out my new Canon SX60HS.

A few years ago I hiked the same route with Leslie and a friend of Ted’s who was younger than I was. I managed to keep up with them on the trail, but ended up scaring myself because my heart was racing at 120 bpm for an hour and a half after we got back to the car. It scared me enough that I made Leslie drive down the mountain. I resolved after that to lose some weight and to train harder because I wasn’t about to give up hiking in the mountains.

I’ve lost 30 pounds since then while managing to increase my strength. I still have problems getting enough oxygen due to some moderate COPD, but my heart and leg muscles can manage the climb without protesting until after I get home. Just the memory of that hike, though, has made me unwilling to carry extra weight, even if it’s a camera. I bought the Canon SX60HS precisely with these kinds of hikes in mind.

Unfortunately, at first the weather wasn’t very cooperative. Clouds obscured the mountain most of the time we were there,

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though they made the long uphill stretches easier than normal.

At the top, the camera showed its versatility. This shot was taken at the widest setting.

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You can almost see the hiker on the left side of the shot.

Here is a medium range shot centered on the hiker,

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and here is an extreme closeup centered on him.

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Personally, I was blown away by the detail. I think if he were walking toward the camera I could identify him.

This capture of a Marmot that almost crawled up my leg showed the camera’s versatility. I doubt I could have gotten him in frame with the lenses I normally have mounted on my main camera.

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The camera also seems good at taking closeups of flowers like these Avalanche Lilies,

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managing to even capture the drops of water.

It even captured the fuzz on this Indian Paintbrush.

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It also did a nice job of capturing Rainier as the clouds finally cleared on our descent.

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Lest I begin to sound like a “fanboy” of the SX60HS, you really have to search to find out how to shoot HDR. Unfortunately, I hadn't read far enough to find the setting for HDR on this trip. Next time.

I also wasn’t happy that the only bird I saw on the trip flew off before I could get it in focus, though I’m not quite ready to blame that on the camera’s limits yet. There’s certainly a learning curve with the camera that I haven’t mastered yet. It's pretty clear that I would never use it as my primary birding camera, but I knew that before I bought it.

A Trip to Mt. Rainier

Thank goodness Rick and Jan asked us to go with them to Mt. Rainier last Sunday, just before my trip to Vancouver to have a tooth pulled in preparation for a dental implant. As it turned out, it’s been a bit of a rough week. The dentist didn’t want me to work out on Tuesday, and I didn’t feel like working out until today. Except for celebrating Rich’s birthday with a full Thai dinner, I ended up not getting much done the whole week.

Luckily I had shots of Mt. Rainier to play around with while wasting time. I shot them in HDR so I had to spend extra time processing them. Even with the mountain towering in the background, I was quite impressed by the snow-covered trees,

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though it was hard to separate the trees from the forest.

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In all my years of cross-country skiing I don’t think I’ve ever seen more snow on the trees,

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probably because they had a major storm the night before and the sun hadn’t had a chance to melt the snow off the limbs and the wind hadn’t had time to do its work, either.

The mountain played peek-a-boo with us much of the day, ducking behind the clouds whenever we got to a good viewpoint,

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but our patience was rewarded by this pristine view of the mountain covered by several feet of fresh snow.

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Mt. Rainier’s Alpine Gardens

Usually when we go to Mt. Rainier we spend most of the day at Sunrise walking and circle around the mountain to home. Mary who was visiting from Boston wanted to see the main lodge, Paradise, and we hadn’t spent as much time as usual walking at Sunrise so we decided to visit Paradise, too. Unfortunately, once we got there we found out that half of Seattle must have decided to visit on the same day. We circled the main parking lot and when we couldn’t find a parking spot decided that we would park in one of the secondary lodges and walk to the lodge the back way. That plan was waylaid when we found the trail closed due to a bear sighting between the lower parking lot and the lodge.

So, we had to settle for this view of the southern side of Mt. Rainier

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and the ridges on the other side of the valley.

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Our disappointment, though, turned to awe when we discovered meadows blanketed with wildflowers, the kind you’d usually expect in late August, not July 1st.

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After trying to capture their beauty in mere photographs, it became quite clear why Impressionists abandoned realism for abstract colors.

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Confronted with such timeless beauty one could see why John Muir was inspired to write,” Every one of these parks, great and small, is a garden filled knee-deep with fresh, lovely flowers of every hue, the most luxuriant and the most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I ever beheld in all my mountain-top wanderings."

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It was a magical visit.

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Right after the grandkids went home, Leslie’s friend Mary from Boston spent a week with us. Without the chickens to feed and dogs to care for, we managed to get out more than we did the previous two weeks, though I still didn’t get back to the gym.

For me, the highlight of the week was the day trip around Mt. Rainier, and, although it was barely July, it turned out to be the ideal time to visit the mountain. Our Summer of Sun continued in full force, and not only was Mt. Rainier beautiful from the north side

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but I think this is the best view I’ve ever gotten of Mt Adams from the north side.

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Usually it’s blocked by haze or clouds.

Although the north side isn’t as well known for its flowers as the south entrance, the flowers were in full bloom. My favorites were the Indian Paintbrush,

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which could be found in a variety of striking colors.

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Though not as bright as the Indian Paintbrush, purple and white Lupine still dominated the landscape.

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If you could take your eyes off the towering mountain long enough, you could see not only the flowers but butterflies and insects everywhere.

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Despite the crowds, you almost felt like you were experiencing Nature directly.

Fall Colors on Mt. Rainier

Washington State isn’t known as “The Evergreen State” for nothing; most of our forests are made up of Firs, Cedars, or Pines, so we don’t experience the kind of colorful Fall season that states like Vermont do. But that doesn’t mean we can’t experience Fall colors with a little effort — and the best place to do so this time of year is in the mountains, as seen in this shot taken on our recent Rainier trip.

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Personally, I feel Fall colors stand when contrasted with our evergreens,

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even if the color comes from low-growing shrubs and not trees.

That’s not to say there are no deciduous trees, but they are few and far between since they can’t compete with evergreen forests for light. Here in the Pacific Northwest you’re more likely to see a Vine Maple

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than a Maple Tree, and more often than not it will reach out from underneath a fir.

Most of the color, though, comes from colorful shrubs like huckleberries or brilliant shrubs like this

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or this.

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I was sorry that we missed the meadow flowers this year, but the brilliant Fall leaves helped to assuage my disappointment, especially since my plans to visit Indian Heaven when the huckleberry plants were turning Fall colors fell also through due to rain.

Soon these leaves will all drop or be covered by snow, but hopefully their brilliant colors will serve as an amulet against the grey skies that have begun to envelop the Pacific Northwest, especially since this is supposed to be a long, wet winter.

Trailing Clouds of Glory

After I cut my trip short and missed a trip through Mt. Rainier on my return trip from Vancouver, I convinced Leslie to take a day off from work to tour Mt. Rainier since we hadn’t done so this summer and parts of it were already closing for the year. We usually start our round-the-mountain tour with Sunrise, but Leslie wanted to visit Chinook Pass since she hadn’t been there for years. I don’t think I’ve ever approached the mountain from that direction, so I got a new view of it:

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Truthfully, at first I didn’t think that could be Mt. Rainier at all. I can’t remember ever seeing it seem that small.

It was reassuring to see it in its fully majesty when we backtracked and drove up to Sunset, or at least to the major viewpoint leading to Sunrise.

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Of course, even this approach doesn’t make Rainier look as imposing as it does from the West Side, from Tacoma or Seattle, but it certainly looks more imposing the closer you get to the Sunrise Visitor’s Center.

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This shot was taken a short ways up the trail we usually walk

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where you can get an even better view of the mountain, but we didn’t have as much time as usual because we’d first driven up to Chinook Pass.

The weather on the top of Rainier can be dangerously variable, but on this day it seemed to be .

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trailing clouds of glory. It was never clear whether these clouds had just got hung up on the mountain or whether they were the result of evaporation from the glaciers themselves. There certainly weren’t any clouds to be seen anywhere else.

Though I suspect I would have appreciated these mountains even more after a day spent in the desert, it would be difficult to enjoy them more than I already do. Living in Seattle for much of my life, we always felt it was going to be a good day when we could see Rainier standing guard over us in the distance. It certainly is a good day when I can hike/drive around the mountain.

A Spring Test Run in Our New Camper

It’s been a hectic few days, pleasantly so, for a change. Leslie and I decided to take a test run in our new Toyota Tacoma and Camper to Eastern Washington and catch a little sunshine in the process. We drove South and over White Pass, the southernmost pass across the Cascades. Unfortunately, it was overcast, if not downright cloudy on the west side of the pass so shots were difficult at best.

I’m not sure any photograph could ever capture the magnitude of these Palisade columnar igneous structures (dacite lava)

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but they’re definitely a magnificent sight in real life.

They’re wasn’t much snow in the pass itself, but you couldn’t miss it in the Goat Rock Wilderness to the south,

Goat Rock Wilderness in the Clouds

and it looked like they might get even more snow.

Unfortunately, the snow pack in the pass itself was quickly melting.

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It looked more like early summer than early Spring, but it’s hard to complain when you consider the drought this year in California and southern Oregon.

We stopped at the Yakima Sportsman State Park ostensibly to let Leslie decide if she wanted to camp there overnight, but I knew I wanted to stop to get pictures of the Wood Ducks that stay there all winter.

male Wood Duck

Their willingness to pose makes the long drive more than worth it.

I’d intended to spend the night at the quiet campground at Brooks Memorial State Park, but it was closed, despite what it said on my State Parks app I checked the day before we left. I was not happy when I got there only to discover it was closed. After that I didn’t trust the app and wasn’t sure where we were going to spend the night. We ended up spending the night at the Mary Hill State Park, which was pleasant enough except for the long trains that ran most of the night. I won’t be staying there again since the only reason I stop is to sleep.