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.
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!
Our hike on the Iron Goat Trail was more than just exercise. It proved to be quite an educational experience. There were many relics of the old railroad and a lot of signs telling the tale of how the railroad was built and why it was abandoned later. The Cascades get a lot of snow and in the early 20th century, the snow depths in winter were a lot more than they are now. It was not uncommon to get 15-20 feet of snow along this part of the alignment in those days.
This snow caused trouble with avalanches as a result of the amount of trees that had been cut for timber when building the railway. Landslides were also a problem in other seasons. To protect from the snow, sheds were built over the track at places most vulnerable to avalanche. This practice is continued to this day in the mountainous areas of US railroads.
These snow sheds had a reinforced concrete wall on the uphill side. A timber structure was then built out over the track to provide cover with concrete bases for the supporting timbers on the downhill side of the structure. Most of the timbers have either been removed for reuse or have decayed after a century up on the mountainside. The concrete walls are still in reasonable shape. Some spalling of the concrete has occurred but otherwise they look solid. A lot of plant life has grown over them and they do have water cascading over the top in many places. The bases for the timber supports are still visible in many places.
There are many of these sections along the trail. The first one you come across is quite a surprise but, after you have seen a few of them, they start to be normal when you get to another section. They are pretty large structures though.
The ferry ride from Swartz Bay back to Tsawwassen was on a day that wasn’t particularly nice weather wise. And we emerged in to the open water from the islands, I was wandering about with the camera. The view to the mountains north of Vancouver opened up and they were in clear sunlight with the snow reflecting the warm winter light beautifully. It was a distant shot but a panorama seemed to be a good idea. Everyone on the boat seemed to be taking notice and plenty of people came out on deck to take their photos.
Buildings designed for snowy environments have pitched roofs to stop too much snow accumulating. It can gradually shear off the building, sometimes in the form of snow sheets and sometimes, courtesy of some melting, as giant icicles. Wandering around the buildings in Jackson and Yellowstone, I was taken by the large sheets of snow and ice. The visitors’ center at Yellowstone had a particularly large amount of snow drifting off the roof and obscuring the view out of some of the windows. Other icicles looked rather precarious and, if you should find yourself beneath them when they fall, it could be detrimental to your health!
Our ride through the refuge was covered in this post. Scattered throughout the herd were a large number of bull elk. At this time of year they are not competing for anything other than food so there was little tension between them. Instead, they seemed focused on feeding. However, they still had antlers so they made an imposing sight when they looked the right way.
For my birthday, Nancy took me on a trip to Jackson Hole.Part of the trip was a journey in to Yellowstone National park in a snowcoach.The snowcoaches are modified vehicles to handle to snowy terrain.They come in two main forms.One is the tracked vehicle and the other is based on monster truck tires.The one we took was tracked.It was a pretty standard van design with four wheel drive but the wheels had been removed and replaced with triangular track arrangements called Mattracks.These can deal with pretty much any snow.The only downside is that they are a bit noisy, not too fast and boy do they guzzle fuel.One our trip we stopped for fuel twice and were pretty low by the time we got back.
We also saw some of the other vehicles out and about. The monster truck tired vehicles can attain better speeds and efficiency (plus the maintenance is so much lower) but they are not as reliable in dealing with the worst of the conditions. However, they do seem to be the way that everyone is going. Our guide told us the tracked vehicles are gradually being replaced. It should be noted that, after the winter, the tracks are taken off and they revert to normal road use.
I had a long layover at Salt Lake City when connecting on a Delta flight. The sun was out and the mountains in the background were covered in snow so it made for a rather pretty backdrop for the airport operations. It was a bit Delta-centric given that they hub at the airport and we were in one of their terminals but it did make for some nice light and scenery for aviation shots.
One of the things I thought I knew about the Seattle area was that it didn’t snow very much. In our first winter here, we had one snowy day and it thawed very rapidly. This winter has been a bit different. We have had a couple of large storms come through. The area is not well prepared for snow and the steep grades are not good when things get slippery. Here are some shots from around our area during and after the snows.
Christmas morning in Kirkland had us waking up to some snow. It had started to snow a little on Christmas Eve but plenty more had dropped overnight. This was not snow that was going to last long. It was rather heavy and damp and, having built up on the branches of the trees, it was pretty precarious. When some of it slipped off, it would take whatever was below it too resulting in some significant dumps on the ground below or you if you were unlucky. Paying attention to what was above you was a good idea.
I went out first thing. Since it was Christmas morning, not much traffic had been out so the roads were reasonably untouched. The light from the street lamps was still a factor in some places. I wandered around the neighborhood checking out the view before it all went away. The temperatures were not too low so I didn’t have to wrap up much and I knew things would soon melt. However, it was a scenic place to be for a while and added a certain atmosphere to Christmas Day.