I am a hunter; albeit not the type that typically comes to mind when someone says “I’m going hunting this weekend”. I’m a photographer, and while my “prey” is still sometimes wildlife, my “weapon of choice” is my camera. This weekend was no different; while hundreds of hunters descended on the woods to stalk deer and elk, I too joined them only I was on a different hunt – one for the colors of fall.
In the Pacific Northwest, fall colors are different from what one would expect if they go to view the fall colors on the East Coast. Depending on where you go, reds can be observed in huckleberries and vine maples; but our predominant color is yellow – in big leave maples, cottonwoods, and larches. Due to car issues, I missed the spectacular golden larches this fall; but with the leaves just waiting for a good rain/wind to blow through and send them to the ground, it was time to make the best of it and head out to see what colors I could find.
Saturday’s plan was to view the waterfalls in Silver Falls State Park east of Albany, Oregon. You know what they say about the best laid plans……they never seem to quite work out how you planned them. Little did I know that there was a half marathon/marathon through the park that day; plus the fall colors were pretty much done so not the best of photographic opportunities. Okay, time for a change in plans…..I’d read that the Columbia River Gorge was near peak so it was time to head back north and see what I could salvage of the day. Not realizing that historic Highway 30 was closed headed down towards Vista House, and refusing to backtrack the way I had come to get back on to I-84, I found a gravel road that judging by the map, would get me down to the waterfalls that I wanted to photograph. It was a lovely little road with only one other car on it, so stopping to photograph the big leaf maples was really simple to do.
After making it down to the bottom of the gorge, light was fading fast, but I still managed to get some images of Shepard’s Dell Falls and Wahkeena Falls before calling it a day and heading back north in the dark.
Sunday morning, it seemed like driving back down I-5 to Woodland would be a good idea – if the leaves were at peak in the Columbia River Gorge, then they should be pretty good at the Cedar Creek Grist Mill just outside of Woodland too. Right? Wrong! The grist mill sits in a relatively narrow canyon and the winds had removed the vast majority of the leaves from the trees. Time for another plan. After heading back towards Woodland then then towards Cougar, Forest Service Road 90 up into the Lewis River Recreation area proved to be a spectacular place to explore. While Lower Lewis River Falls was pretty socked in with fog, the road past that was amazing in color.
I also located Taitnapum Falls, which I have to admit, was a little disappointing from a photography standpoint. The falls themselves appear to be spectacular, but the trail makes it hard to view them in their entirety.
Much too soon it was time to head back down Forrest Service Road 90 and out to Forest Service Road 25 towards Randle instead of backtracking back towards Cougar and I-5; but, not before I stopped to photograph this unnamed stream that looked amazing flowing through a carpet of big leaf maples and alder.
…..Until the next adventure…..