by Jeff Goulden
One of the most iconic images in all of the 59 U.S. National Parks is that of Delicate Arch in Utah's Arches National Park. Delicate Arch has become an unofficial symbol for the state of Utah and has even been used as a background for the state license plate.
A visit to Arches National Park isn't quite complete without a visit to Delicate Arch. A distant view of the arch can be seen from the Delicate Arch Viewpoint, a mere 50 yards from the road, but to experience its majesty you really need to hike to the arch.
The trail to Delicate Arch starts at Wolfe Ranch where there is a fairly small parking area for this popular hike. The trail to the arch is 1.5 miles and gains 480 feet in elevation. There is no shade on this trail so on a warm day you need to take at least one quart of water per person.
From the parking area, the trail takes you past the Wolfe Ranch homestead built in 1888. Just past the homestead, the trail crosses Salt Wash on a suspension bridge. From here a short side trail goes to some ancient Ute petroglyphs that are definitely worth seeing.
Back on the main trail you soon reach red slickrock and some easy walking. Just follow the rock cairns and you will reach the top of the hill where the trail gradually levels out. Beyond this point you are on a rock ledge with some exposure to heights. In a short 200 yards you reach the viewpoint.
Late evening is a great time to photograph Delicate Arch. The setting sun bathes the red rock in a soft glowing light. The distant La Sal Mountains make an excellent backdrop for the arch.
Having your picture taken under the arch seems to be a popular pastime among visitors. Please be considerate of others who want to take pictures and don't linger near the arch for too long.
Returning to the trailhead after sunset isn't much of a problem. The footing is good and you just need to follow the rock cairns.
For more information about hiking to Delicate Arch go to the Arches National Park website.
More pictures of Delicate Arch and Arches National Park can be seen in my Arches National Park Gallery. Signed fine art prints from many of my photographs are available for purchase on Fine Art America. For special offers and to follow my photographic journey please Join My Email List.
by Jeff Goulden
According to Merriam-Webster Online, an irruption is defined as a species "undergoing a sudden upsurge in numbers especially when natural ecological balances and checks are disturbed". Washington State has seen an irruption of Snowy Owls in both 2012 and 2013.
Scientists don't know for sure what causes an irruption, but it is almost certainly linked to cycles in the lemming population. A Snowy Owl will consume 3 to 5 lemmings per day so the survival of Snowy Owls depend on this food source. Since most of the owls at Ocean Shores are dark spotted juveniles it is thought that the younger birds were forced by older owls out of their native habitat in search of alternative food. Ocean Shores with its abundant population of shore birds is an ideal substitute for the owls' native arctic tundra.
Ocean Shores on the Pacific Coast has seen significant numbers of these magnificent birds in January and February of this year. Damon Point is a strip of land with lots of dune grass and driftwood logs. It is a very similar habitat to the owls' native arctic tundra. The owls have excellent vision from their perch on the logs and when they see their prey they can fly off to pursue it.
November through March are probably the ideal months to visit Damon Point if you want to see Snowy Owls. Visitors need to respect the bird’s habitat and privacy. Snowy Owls are relatively calm birds but don't like to be harassed. If you want to photograph the owls use a telephoto lens, keep a respectful distance and don't rush toward them. If the bird begins to move as you slowly approach, back off.
Damon Point is on the southeastern tip of the Ocean Shores Penninsula.
For more information and directions to the point go to the Washington Trails Association. To learn more about birding in the Grays Harbor area go to the Grays Harbor Audubon Society.
More pictures of Snowy Owls can be seen in my Snowy Owls Gallery at Istockphoto.com. Other bird species can be seen in my Joy of Birds Gallery. Signed fine art prints from many of my photographs are available for purchase on Fine Art America. For special offers and to follow my photographic journey please Join My Email List.
by Jeff Goulden
Mount Rainier National Park is much more than just a mountain. It’s a wonderland of sights, sounds and smells which shares a mystery and majesty with all who enter its domain.
The park represents four unique life zones in its 235,000 acres. In addition to the thousands of climbers who attempt the 14,410 foot summit each year; a similar number backpack the 97 mile Wonderland Trail. This popular trail encircles the mountain and takes in all four life zones gaining and losing 20,000 feet along the way.
The Transition and Canadian zones are below 4,500 feet elevation and are mainly forested. Here deer, elk and bear seek shelter in addition to many smaller mammals and birds. The babbling streams offer life to the flora and fauna of the woods.
The Hudsonian zone between 4500 and 6500 feet consists of smaller trees and the fragrant sub-alpine meadows. Here, in the short growing season, wildflowers carpet the earth with an abundant array of color.
The Arctic-Alpine zone above 6500 feet is unique with a harsh treeless characteristic. A short stretch of the Wonderland Trail passes through this zone. From here the hiker sees the overpowering glaciers extending their arms down the mountainside. This zone speaks of ancient history, eons of glacial carvings and massive rock slides.
The swirling clouds, the penetrating fog, the fragrance of the wildflower meadows, the birds and mammals, the glaciers, the towering firs are all part of the wonderland of sights, sounds and smells that makes up Mount Rainier National Park.
If you are interested in helping to protect and preserve the park, please consider joining Mount Rainier National Park Associates, a non-profit organization formed in 1985 to promote the values and resources of this national treasure.
More pictures of Mount Rainier National Park can be seen in my Mount Rainier Featured Gallery. Signed fine art prints from many of my photographs are available for purchase on Fine Art America. For special offers and to follow my photographic journey please Join My Email List.
by Jeff Goulden
On the high desert plateau of central Oregon stands Smith Rock with its sheer cliffs of compressed volcanic ash. It may look out of place in the surrounding desert but it's also one of the most amazing places in a state known for its abundant natural beauty.
Smith Rock State Park is located less than 10 miles north of Redmond just east of the town of Terrebonne. The appropriately named Crooked River winds its way through the 651 acre state park.
The cliffs of Smith Rock are composed of welded tuff (compressed volcanic ash) reaching a height of up to 550 feet. The canyon rim and campground sit mostly on columnar basalt.
Although Smith Rock is known as a mecca for rock climbers, it's also a great place to hike, photograph or just enjoy nature. The best time of day to photograph Smith Rock is shortly after sunrise. Wait on the canyon rim and watch the sun bathe the rock faces in the early morning glow. Be sure and use the Crooked River in your shots to provide lines leading to the towering rock faces.
Several movies have been shot at Smith Rock, including the 1975 film Rooster Cogburn starring John Wayne and Katharine Hepburn.
More pictures of Smith Rock State Park can be seen in my Smith Rock Gallery at Istockphoto.com. Signed fine art prints from many of my photographs are available for purchase on Fine Art America. For special offers and to follow my photographic journey please Join My Email List.
Jeff's Photo Blog
In this Photo Blog I have combined my 50 year passion for photography and my love of the natural world, creating a portfolio that reveals nature in its pure and simple beauty. I am pleased to share my passion with you through this blog.