Monday, March 10, 2008

New Panoramas of Oregon

With two years of catching up to do, this update increases the number of panoramas of Oregon on the site from 257 to 375. Let me tell you about it guidebook by guidebook.

The Oregon Coast:

In June of 2006 I finished my long trip to the northwest with a couple of days on the southern Oregon coast. I came over the mountains from Corvallis to Newport on Yaquina Bay, then worked my way south. There are new panoramas in the following localities: Newport, Alsea Bay and Yachats, Heceta Head, Cape Blanco, Port Orford, Rogue River, and Boardman State Park.

My favorites are one taken late in the day at Whaleshead Beach (standard size or fullscreen), and a scene with local people crab fishing by the big bridge at Yaquina Bay (standard size or fullscreen).

Portland and the Columbia River Gorge:

I have added several new views of Oregon City, including the John McLoughlin House National Historic Site. See the Oregon City localities, upper and lower. This was the first incorporated city in the west, along with many other firsts, and was the official end of the Oregon Trail.

In the Columbia Gorge section I added some much-needed spherical shots of waterfalls, such as Latourelle (standard size or fullscreen) and Multnomah (standard size or fullscreen). There are new panos in every locality except Bonneville Dam, just start at Crown Point and work your way east. I particularly like this shot of Wah Gwin Gwin Falls at the Columbia Gorge Hotel (standard size or fullscreen).

The Willamette Valley and Southern Oregon:

New panos of historic Champoeg (the birthplace of American Oregon), Canyonville, Grants Pass, and the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument near Ashland. Once again I had to skip Salem because of a lack of time - but next year for sure.

The Oregon Cascades:

In July 2007 I spent a week in the Oregon Cascades, enjoying a long day hike in the Marion Lake area, another day seeing waterfalls and forests on the upper McKenzie River and Willamette Pass Highway, plus the dramatic lava fields of McKenzie Pass.

I planned to spend two days on Mount Hood, but had to cut it short when heavy smoke from a fire on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation cut visibility and made breathing difficult. All I managed to see before beating a trategic retreat was Timberline Lodge. But there was an unexpected bonus - it was Smokey the Bear's birthday, and he posed for a picture with me (standard size or fullscreen) (Smokey is the one on the left).

I also finally got around to taking the boat tour at Crater Lake. The views of the lake from the rim drive viewpoints are beautiful (standard size or fullscreen), but the lake level perspective is very different (standard size or fullscreen).

Only two tours a day go to Wizard Island, which I have always wanted to visit, so I had to get up early to stand in line (no reservations taken). We only had two hours on the island, just enough time to hike to the top of the cinder cone, around the rim, and have lunch. Fast-moving clouds made panoramic photography difficult, but it was a very satisfying day's outing. Recommended. My favorite shot features one of the silvery snags on the crater rim (standard size or fullscreen).

Eastern Oregon:

In summer 2007 I targeted a few previously overlooked areas east of the Cascades. First, the lower John Day River and John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Painted Hills unit and Sheep Rock unit. I particularly like an other-worldly shot of the boardwalk at Painted Cove (standard size or fullscreen).

Back closer to the mountains, I documented the charming town of Sisters, including one of my periodic personal appearances, in a delightful campground in the ponderosa pine forest east of town (standard size or fullscreen). Further south, I added a few shots from Newberry National Volcanic Monument and the interesting area around Fort Klamath.

There are a lot more panoramic opportunities waiting for me in Oregon and I plan to visit there every year. I need to revisit the Kalmiopsis area in the southwest corner and Smith Rock near Bend. I love the river canyons on the west slope of the Cascades, and need to get back to the alpine meadows on Mount Jefferson when they are summer green and flowery. The Oregon coast always beckons, and I need better panos of the Seaside/Cannon Beach area, and the Cascade Head preserve.

But most importantly I need to spend a few days concentrating on the charming city of Portland. It was on my itinerary in both 2006 and 2007, but got rained out both times.

On My Way to Leadville

Sometimes I end up spending more time along the way than at my planned destination. On my Colorado Rockies trip last summer (June 28 to July 10), out of thirteen days on the road I only spent two in the Rockies, and on one of those it rained all day. But it was a successful trip nonetheless, improvising and exploring as I dodged bad weather and major forest fires. I ended up shooting a lot of places from my list - just not the ones that I had planned on, and have added new panoramas to no less than eight guidebooks.

My first night was spent at Pyramid Lake on the Paiute Indian Reservation north of Reno. You can camp almost anywhere along the west shore of the lake (though there are no facilities) and I was able to find a spot on a bluff top with no other campers nearby. So this trip began with a night of magnificent solitude (standard size or fullscreen), a great sunset, then an even better sunrise (standard size or fullscreen). Better entertainment than any casino-hotel in Nevada, as far as I am concerned.

Then I hit the highway and spent most of the day crossing Nevada to Salt Lake City. I had planned to revisit Temple Square and drive out to Antelope Island to camp, but the heat was oppressive and the air was polluted with smoke from forest fires, so I ended up in a motel.

But the day after that was great. First a couple of historic Mormon towns: the railroad town of Ogden; then Brigham City with the nearby Bear River Wildlife Refuge on the northern arm of the Great Salt Lake. The Salt Lake is a closed basin and in wet years the lake level rises, in dry cycles it recedes. There is an impressive new visitor center (standard size or fullscreen) , replacing one that was flooded out a few years ago.

Late in the afternoon I got to Golden Spike National Historic Site. I expected not much more than a plaque out in the middle of nowhere (the railroad bypassed this area many years ago). To my amazement, when I got there I found the two historic locomotives standing on the tracks, nose to nose as in the famous photographs (standard size or fullscreen). They are replicas, very faithful ones, and had steam up ready to roll. You can stand on the tracks between them, directly over where the golden spike was driven (standard size or fullscreen). I barely had time to take a few different views, when they announced that the locomotives were going back to the train shed. So I hustled a mile down the tracks and shot them as they steamed past (standard size or fullscreen).

Some of the places I shoot are completely fortuitous, I just stumble upon them, or I see something intriguing on a map. It said "Thiokol Missile Exhibit" on the map near Golden Spike so I made a slight detour to check it out. It turned out to be a missile fuel facility, closed to the public, but with an impressive array of (dummy) missiles in front of the office building (standard size or fullscreen). It's a company with an interesting history.

Finding a cool and pleasant place to camp that night turned out to be a challenge and I ended up heading east into the Wasatch Range. I was pulled over by a state trooper for going 75 in a 50 mph zone as I came down the grade towards Logan. He let me off, presumably because I claimed (with total honesty) to have been distracted by the beauty of the view.

The next morning I went up to Tony Grove Lake (standard size or fullscreen), north of Logan Canyon, named for the "tony" local elite who used to camp there. Then I followed the Bear River from Bear Lake (standard size or fullscreen) south all the way to its source on the north side of the Uinta Mountains, ending with the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway. Nice lakes and meadows but the most dramatic parts of the range are remote from any roads and not easily viewed.

There was a huge forest fire burning in the eastern Uintas, with smoke blowing east - right towards where I was heading next. So I poked around the southwest corner of Wyoming for a couple of days. Fort Bridger is a fascinating bit of history (standard size or fullscreen), maintained as a state park. To camp I drove south to China Meadow in Wasatch-Cache National Forest, an area popular with locals and practically unknown to the outside world (standard size or fullscreen).

Evanston, Wyoming is an interesting old railroad town (standard size or fullscreen), which will be even more so when they finish restoring the locomotive roundhouse. This is rolling sagebrush country, thinly settled, with the original route of the trans-continental railroad running through it (standard size or fullscreen). Fossil Butte National Monument is famous for its fossil quarry and has an excellent visitor center, but what I enjoyed most was the road up to the mesa top (standard size or fullscreen).

Then south once again into Utah, the forest fire still burning, but the smoke blowing elsewhere. Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area was a surprise. I expected a red rock canyon(standard size or fullscreen), but not the adjacent high country (standard size or fullscreen). To get around the gorge the road climbs through miles of beautiful forest with extensive views (standard size or fullscreen), then drops dramatically to the Green River .

Next major stop was Dinosaur National Monument. The canyon of the Green River was scenic (standard size or fullscreen), but the famous dinosur quarry was closed for rehabilitation, and the heat was intense. Some miles east I took a road that heads north from the tiny town of Dinosaur into the monument's backcountry, Another beautful high mesa (standard size or fullscreen), ending with a short hike to a dramatic viewpoint above Echo Park (standard size or fullscreen), the junction of the Green and Yampa Rivers. I badly wanted to drive down to the river, but was feeling pressed for time - this was my Colorado Rockies trip, after all, and it was more than half over, with the Rockies not yet in sight.

On the way back to Dinosaur I saw lightning strike repeatedly in the flatlands below, then a column of smoke. It is not often that you actually see lightning start a fire (I phoned it in). I drove eastwards through rolling country, stopping for a great sunset (thanks to all the fires), then camped on the Yampa River in the eastern part of the monument (standard size or fullscreen).

The next day I finally reached the Rockies at Steamboat Springs, where it began to rain, and continued all day and night. But the next day the weather was clear and I made a loop through some of the best of the Colorado Rockies. First through the Eisenhower Tunnel on Interstate 70, then back over the top on Loveland Pass (standard size or fullscreen) and down past the Arapahoe ski resort (standard size or fullscreen).

West on the interstate again for a while, then south to Leadville (standard size or fullscreen). A very impressive and well preserved old mining town, free of the condo and resort development that has spoiled so many places in Colorado. Leadville was especially meaningful as I had just been reading Wallace Stegner's masterpiece Angle of Repose (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics), a signficant part of which takes place there.

From Leadville I crossed the headwaters of the Arkansas River (standard size or fullscreen) and headed west again, into the Sawatch Range and over Independence Pass (standard size or fullscreen) to Aspen. I had intended to put some effort into documenting this interesting area, butAspen was just too crowded and busy and I couldn't handle it.

Seeking a high cool place to camp I headed west and ascended Grand Mesa. This is an amazing and little known feature, a huge plateau of high country with desert all around. I spent the next morning exploring its little lakes in flowery meadows (standard size or fullscreen), and spruce forests (standard size or fullscreen).

The Lands End lookout (standard size or fullscreen) was a CCC project, as was the road that zig zags up from the desert. A drunk driver had run off the road just below the lookout (standard size or fullscreen). The south side of Grand Mesa has a cluster of deep glacial lakes in forest (standard size or fullscreen) and there are some beautiful aspen groves (standard size or fullscreen).

But the day wasn't over yet. On the way to my motel in Grand Junction I made the loop drive through Colorado National Monument. Some prime red rock scenery (standard size or fullscreen) but the air was smoky and the light just wasn't good. At Cold Shivers Point a young woman was sitting on the cliff edge past the railing, feet dangling over the vertical drop, staring at her cell phone. I wondered if she was planning to jump, and if I should say something. But she didn't, and I saw her driving away a little later, so there was no drama after all.

My trip was almost over so I headed west on the interstate, with a short side trip to the petroglyph site in Sego Canyon (standard size or fullscreen) and road-side views of the San Rafael Swell country (standard size or fullscreen). It was smoky everywhere, but got much worse as I approached Salina. Sure enough, dozens of big fires were raging ahead and traffic was backed up for miles. Over a hundred miles of Interstate 15 had been closed and I had to detour down the old highway along the Sevier River. But it worked out okay - I camped at Cedar Breaks National Monument that night (standard size or fullscreen).

This put me far from from my original route, and fires were still burning to the north. So I headed across Nevada on the Extraterrestrial Highway, stopping at the Little A'le Inn (standard size or fullscreen) for a beer (standard size or fullscreen). That night I camped very comfortably in the Jeffrey pine forest east of Mono Lake (standard size or fullscreen).

So, the trip to the Colorado Rockies was kind of a bust, but on the way there and back I saw: Pyramid Lake, Ogden, Brigham City, Golden Spike, Thiokol missiles, Logan, the Uintas, Fort Bridger, Evanston, Fossil Butte, more Uintas, Flaming Gorge, Dinosaur, Echo Park, Grand Mesa, Colorado National Monument, Cedar Breaks, and the Extraterrestrial Highway. Not so bad, after all.

New Panoramas of Mount Shasta and Mount Lassen

The volcanic northeast corner of California is one of my favorite camping and hiking destinations. I swing through every year in the fall with my field class (see below) and often tarry a day or more on my way north to Canada in the summer. Over the last two years I have taken a number of new panoramas scattered around these two guidebooks, and now finally have them posted to the site.

Early summer of 2006 I explored upstream along the upper Klamath River from the Interstate 5 crossing - new country to me. Some beautiful landscapes (standard size or fullscreen), and of especial interest because of the controversy over two hydroelectric dams that block salmon and steelhead migration. We may well see the removal of Iron Gate Dam (standard size or fullscreen) in the next decade. Restoration of the fishery would be wonderful, though we would also lose these beautiful high desert reservoirs (standard size or fullscreen).

Upstream even further I had a look at the Klamath Wildlife Refuges and the agricultural town of Tulelake, center of the upper Klamath basin water crisis in dry years.

On my way to Canada in August 2006 I spent most of a day documenting the very complete and interesting company town of McCloud, just a few miles east of Interstate 5 on the south slopes of Mount Shasta. Controversy here, too, over a proposed huge bottling plant for natural spring water.

Lassen Volanic National Park is a gem, but a difficult one to visit because the road is blocked with snow for so long into the summer. My wife and I made a long weekend camping trip there in late July 2006 and I filled in some of the major sights.

Manzanita Lake is the classic postcard view of Mount Lassen (standard size or fullscreen). Lake Helen records some of the heaviest snowfall in the world, and true-to-form was still frozen the last day of July (standard size or fullscreen). We didn't have time to hike to Bumpass Hell (my panos of which are very old and need to be replaced), but the Sulphur Works is a smaller version, and right on the main road (standard size or fullscreen).

Puget Sound Updated

On my many trips north through Washington to Canada I always seem to be rushing along Interstate 5 and missing the interesting places just a bit off to the side. So in 2006 I slowed down and explored. First the old port district of Bellingham known as Fairhaven - where a jazz concert was taking place (standard size or fullscreen). Then south on Chuckanut Drive (standard size or fullscreen), which follows the steep shore of Puget Sound where I-5 goes inland. Then a few hours in the picturesque waterfront village of La Conner (standard size or fullscreen), over the Rainbow Bridge (standard size or fullscreen) and on to Deception Pass, (standard size or fullscreen) one of my favorite Northwest camping spots.

In 2006 I spent just one day walking around Seattle. I could only cover the downtown area and part of the waterfront, plus a quick visit to Pike Place. I really need to devote a week to Seattle some time (maybe summer of 2008), so I can begin to do justice to this beautiful city.

In late July last summer I spent a few days wandering around the Kitsap Peninsula and the San Juan Islands (plus the Olympia Peninsula, as noted here). The weather was superb, which is not always the case up there.

I was charmed by the Port Orchard area, near Bremerton. Further north I visited the pseudo-Norwegian town of Poulsbo (standard size or fullscreen), the restored historic town of Port Gamble (standard size or fullscreen), and the lighthouse at oddly named Point No-Point (standard size or fullscreen).

San Juan Island itself was wonderful, with the historic legacy of the Pig War at English Camp in the north (standard size or fullscreen) and American camp in the south (standard size or fullscreen). Plus the lighthouse at Lime Point (standard size or fullscreen) and some very nice countryside, including a lavender farm (standard size or fullscreen).

A beautiful ferry ride (standard size or fullscreen) took me to Orcas Island where I camped at Moran State Park, the gem of the Washington park system. The ranger urged me to drive immediately to the top of Mount Constitution to enjoy the exceptionally clear evening. I did, and it was worth it (standard size or fullscreen). I went back the next morning (standard size or fullscreen). The tower here was built by the CCC.

Also on Orcas Island - beautiful lakes in Moran park (standard size or fullscreen), mariculture in Ship Bay (standard size or fullscreen), the elegant Rosario Resort (standard size or fullscreen), and charming little harbors scattered around (standard size or fullscreen), before I had to return to the ferry dock (standard size or fullscreen) and head back to the mainland. I was due at my niece Sarah's wedding in two days, in Vancouver, and could not be late as I was to perform the ceremony!

On my way home, after the wedding, I spent a few hours in the interestng town of Centralia. It is the only town in Washington (or so far as I know the entire West) to be founded by an African American - named George Washington (standard size or fullscreen). It is also noted for a violent clash between the International Workers of the World (IWW - or "wobblies") and the American Legion, in 1919, known to history as the Centralia Massacre. Centralia has a well preserved downtown district (standard size or fullscreen) and a number of interesting murals (standard size or fullscreen). I also managed to photograph Amtrak passing through (standard size or fullscreen).

These additions brought the number of panoramas in the Virtual Guidebook to Seattle and Puget Sound from a pathetic 60 to a reasonably respectable 165. In summer of 2008 I hope to spend some time in Seattle, maybe make a day trip over to Bremerton, revisit Tacoma, and poke around the southern Sound.