A sunny but cool Sunday afternoon with a bit of spare time on my hands meant I headed over to Kenmore to see whether there was any floatplane activity. The answer was not much. However, I did get something a little larger overhead. Traffic in to Paine Field was running on a northerly flow. A Dreamlifter made an approach and was followed a little later by a 747-8F destined for UPS once test flying is complete. They both turned on to approach overhead the north end of Lake Washington so I got shots of them both.
Heading home on Sunday afternoon, I saw a hot air balloon overhead Woodinville. Passenger flights are a regular feature here but I was interested to see if I could work out where they were routing. I decided to follow them. I managed to get a couple of places where I could stop and get some shots as they flew above. One of these was not far from home. At this point, they seemed to be descending quickly. As they dropped below the trees, it was clear that they were landing. I wasn’t sure where this could be but jumped in the car again to see. Where they ended up. More to come…
Having made our first stop at Lake Wenatchee State Park, we continued on in the direction of Leavenworth. The highway takes you down a river valley with the Wenatchee River at its core. This is a pretty drive at any time of year and the many pull offs are often filled with people stopping off the enjoy the view. A colder fall day meant it was slightly less busy but it also meant deeper shadows. Still, there were plenty of people enjoying the scenery, even if they weren’t getting out of the cars for too long.
Having written about whether HDR is still worthwhile in a recent post, the shaded valley was something that I figured was still possibly needing a technique that could handle a wide dynamic range. Other spots were still in open light and were an easier bet. The difficulty of a valley like this is communicating the feeling within the rocky walls. Wider lenses allow you to show more of the scene but they also diminish the scale and I find it hard to give the impression you get when actually there. I actually spent some time with a longer lens picking out details of the scenes rather than the whole thing but I wasn’t going to give up on that completely.
Any airport in North America on any given day will have a reasonable chance of a Bonanza showing up. Them come in all vintages, shapes and sizes but they usually come! I’ve therefore shot tons of them over the years. However, I think I may have had a first in that I recently shot a turbine Bonanza. It was on the approach at Paine Field and it was obvious that there was something different about it. The noise was clearly a turbine and the tip tanks had been fitted with winglets. Given the location, I assume they are for drag reduction since they wouldn’t add much to directional stability. Tip tanks are probably a must given the rate at which turbines burn fuel compared to pistons. It was a smart looking thing with the revised nose shape looking quite graceful. Sadly the landing wasn’t as graceful but floating is fine when you have 10,000’ ahead of you!
Long before we moved to the Pacific Northwest or even visited the area, there was one mountain in the area that I knew all about. Mt St Helens exploded in 1980 killing over 50 people and devastating a wide area. The idea that the side of a mountain would just slide away and the exposed volcanic activity would blow out with the force of tens of megatons of explosive was amazing to me then and it still is. I had been thinking of taking a visit for a long time.
The lack of a reason for time off this year means I have built up a balance of PTO that the company wants me to use so I booked a random day off in the middle of the week and, with nothing else planned, I thought a road trip was worthwhile. It is a little over three hours south of us to get to the mountain so I headed off earlier with a good forecast. I was a little skeptical as I drove south in the rain and low cloud but weather changes quickly here and altitude can make things change fast.
The road to Windy Ridge Viewpoint closes in the winter but it was still mild enough and there was almost no trouble on the road. The deep shadows combined with the sun breaking through the trees made for some awkward conditions to drive up while watching out for the sudden deteriorations in the surface which appeared without warning. The majority of the road surface is perfect but every once in the road, a little chasm will appear! Also, while the air temps were in the 50s, the shade meant there was the occasional icy patch on the road which gets your attention on steep sections with big drop offs!
As I got closer to my target, I started coming around corners which provided a view to the mountain. It is a dominant shape even without the 1,600’ or so that got blown off it forty years ago. This was not an ideal time to visit for photography purposes because the sun is so far south so it is a little backlit but the good viewpoints are in the north and, even if I had been there for sunrise, it would still have been a less than ideal sun angle. That would have required an overnight there which I didn’t feel was a great plan.
When I got to Windy Ridge, I was all alone. There were two vehicle parked up near the trailhead but the occupants were obviously off up the trail. It was just me. Consequently, it felt super tranquil. I read up on the disaster and what happened to the area and the people. I spent a lot of time just staring at the mountain. The hollowed out side of the mountain gives you an idea of just what got blown out. There are new bulges in the surface as magma pushes up from underneath which serves to remind you of just what you are looking at. This thing has blown on multiple occasions and will again at some point. Right now it looks benign. The eruption from 1980 continued on and off into the mid 2000s. It is quiet for now but it will cause trouble again at some point. The desolation of the area, even after 40 years, is a stark reminder of the power of a volcano. Some trees have. Grown up but most of the landscape is still barren. Everything was scoured clear by the high speed and burning heat of the blasts. Some areas were sheltered by geography and they are were things have grown back first but they are in the minority. Quite a place. One day I shall go back and do the hike to the summit.
In this recent post, I had an RAF Poseidon flying over the house. A little while later, I was at Boeing Field when the same jet came back from a test flight. Here are some shots of it as it rolled out after landing. It wasn’t long after this that the jet was delivered to the RAF and made the trip to its new home in Lossiemouth.
Sometimes trips that are set up with something specific in mind end up delivering something totally different. We knew it was a little late but planned a trip up into the Cascades with the aim of checking out the fall colors. We went up towards Stevens Pass but rapidly realized that, while there was some color in the trees, the more important issue was the amount of snow on the ground. The temperatures up in the pass were well below freezing and the ice across the highway was something that focused the mind.
We were heading for Lake Wenatchee State Park and the park was certainly a lot more snowy than we expected. It has a north and a south entrance and, having not been there before, we headed to the north entrance first. It turned out that this was mainly the campground and heading around the roadway which was pretty snowy got us nowhere interesting. A reversal of course and we tried the south entrance which was far more productive. It took us down to the edge of the lake and a wonderful vista. The combination of blue skies, a lake, snow and some tree colors was beautiful. While the air temperature was low, there was no wind. Consequently, it was quite comfortable. Add in the lack of other people and you felt like you had discovered something special.
Our original plan had been to walk along the trails in this part of the park. However, the depth of the snow was not something we had brought boots for so that was not going to happen. Instead we stayed in the area near the parking lot and enjoyed the views across the water before retreating to the car with its plentiful heat!
While at Boeing Field on a sunny day, I was pleased to see a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk flying along the runway. MH-65s are the local Coast Guard helicopters so a Jayhawk is a nice change. Having seen the MH-65s doing a fly through before, I was hoping that we would get the same but they actually pulled up and turned in the the FBO. However, once on the ramp, the kept rotors running so I knew they would be out again soon.
When they did come out, they actually back taxied to the far end of the field. I would have been a lot happier with them making an intersection departure closer to me but that wasn’t to be for some reason. Consequently, they had gained a fair bit of altitude by the time they came level with me. A belly shot was not what I was after but never mind. The underside view gives a good view on the three external tanks that the Jayhawk can carry. That gives some serious range when heading far offshore to rescue someone in need.
I have driven past the Seahawks training facility on I-405 more times than I can think of. I have also ridden by a couple of times on my bike when doing the loop around Lake Washington. I was doing another ride but, this time, I wasn’t bothered about keeping my average speed up and so was willing to make stops along the way if there was something worthy of a look. I figured this would be one such thing.
It is called the Virginia Mason Campus and is located alongside the lake. There are outdoors facilities but there appears to be a large indoor training space. A huge twelfth man flag is on the side of the structure. I took a quick look around and grabbed some photos with my phone. I thought I had taken a couple more but the app I use has been misbehaving recently and some of the shots were not saved. As I made my way out, I passed the entry sign which appears more welcoming than the fences and guard houses suggest when you get closer.