by Jeff Goulden
Olympic National Park, located in the north-west corner of Washington State, is undoubtedly the most diverse national park in the United States. Because of this diversity and its incredible beauty, the United Nations designated Olympic National Park as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981.
The central core of the park has high glaciated mountains and expansive alpine meadows. Surrounding this central region are extensive old growth and temperate rain forests. There are eleven major river systems that drain the Olympic mountains. These riparian zones provide quality habitat for the region's anadromous fish species. As if this weren't enough, the park also protects over 70 miles of wilderness coastline, making it the longest undeveloped coast in the lower 48 states.
Over 90% of Olympic National Park is designated as wilderness. You can access the outer edges of the park by road but the heart of the Olympics along with the coastline is primitive wilderness. It is here that the visitor is required to travel on foot, living with Mother Nature on her terms.
Influenced by mountains, glaciers, rivers and sea, Olympic National Park has diverse climate conditions. About twelve feet of rain falls each year on the west side rain forests. The eastern side of the park lies in a rain shadow, barely receiving 25 inches of annual rainfall.
From tiny flowers in alpine meadows to the sea stars in coastal tide pools, many species populate Olympic National Park. Geology, climate, isolation, history and sheer size come together to protect the ecosystems of this nearly one million-acre park. Olympic National Park is indeed a living laboratory and a home for flora and fauna of all sizes.
If you are interested in helping to protect and preserve the park, please consider joining Olympic Park Associates, a non-profit organization formed to promote the values and resources of this national treasure.
More pictures of Olympic National Park can be seen in my Olympic National Park 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 Margie Goulden
Jeff and I have hiked and backpacked around the Spirit Lake area since 1973. Of course it looks a lot different now than it did before the devastating eruption of Mount Saint Helens in 1980.
A friend recently recommended we hike to Norway Pass. It was a hot day for a hike through the exposed Mount Saint Helens blast zone. The hike is only 4.5 miles round trip, and a constant gradual incline. According to the hike books, the trail only gains 300 feet of elevation. However, my body believed it was double that.
The trail was lined with wildflowers for the first mile and a half. You could see for miles around, except for the few areas of shade that were more than welcomed. The trail switch-backed above Meta Lake for over a mile while the fireweed, paintbrush and foxglove dotted the hillside.
Arriving at the seemingly insignificant Norway Pass, Jeff had a feeling that he had been here before. On returning home, we found the pre-eruption Mount Saint Helens map and, tracing the trail that we had backpacked 36 years ago, we discovered that we had indeed left our footprints on this very pass.
In 1977 we couldn't see the mountains for the trees; whereas today all three volcanoes (Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, Mount Saint Helens) were splendidly in view and the trees were few and far between.
It was a sobering thought to return to an area that was totally changed by the ravages of Nature. And it was likewise exciting to have been a part of the history of Mount Saint Helens' historical impact in Washington State.
For more information on the Norway Pass hike, go to the Washington Trails Association. For more information on the National Monument, go to Mount Saint Helens National Monument. Also, be sure to check out Jeff's Mount Saint Helens Gallery on Istockphoto.
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
Some people's idea of an adventure would be to island hop in the San Juan Islands of Washington, stay in a bed and breakfast and enjoy fine dining. This is what I thought my daughter Molly had in mind when she proposed a trip to the San Juans. I had forgotten about that high range of mountains in Colorado also known as the San Juans Little did I realize I would be carrying a 50 pound pack up a steep trail. Oh, did I mention we would be hiking with Molly's dog Shuksan? More about him later.
The San Juan Mountains is an area of incredible beauty with many mountain peaks reaching 14,000' and meadows and lakes at or above timberline around 11,000'. Meadows are abundant with wildlife, small lakes, creeks and wildflowers. Some of the hiking trails in the San Juan Mountains are not well marked or maintained so these areas don't experience many hikers. This was alright with Molly and me. We wanted to experience true wilderness.
Historically, much of the development in the San Juan region is based on mining. It's disturbing to see the many abandoned mines and rundown buildings. The small towns we drove through celebrated their rich mining heritage and an effort is underway to preserve this heritage while cleaning up the damaged environment. Today, the economic driver of the region is tourism with the natural beauty of the area drawing thousands of skiers, hikers, offroad vehicles and river rafters.
After flying into Durango on Sunday and meeting Molly, we drove to the sleepy former mining town of Silverton, the county seat of San Juan County. Silverton is at 9300', and coming from sea level, I could feel the effects of the thin air right away. Many visitors come to Silverton via the historic Durango to Silverton Railroad. We liked Silverton and its quiet laid back atmosphere; and as it turned out, Silverton would be our home base for the next 3 days.
Our original plan was to backpack to Upper Ice Lakes Basin at 12,300' and spend Monday and/or Tuesday night camping and exploring. After talking to the Forest Service ranger in Silverton, we decided to camp in the lower basin at 11,300', then day-hike to the upper basin from there, which turned out to be a good choice. Lower Ice Lakes Basin is an incredibly beautiful area of lush green meadows dotted with lakes and ponds, fed from above by many streams and waterfalls. Marmots run amok in the meadows much to Shuksan's delight. We set up camp in a beautiful meadow by a babbling creek.
After a tasty dinner of canned chicken and ramen noodles I explored the lower basin with my camera, taking advantage of the glowing evening light. Shuksan spent his evening chasing marmots. Molly spent hers chasing Shuksan and yelling "SHUKSAN NO!!".
Tuesday's challenge was to climb from the lower basin to Ice Lake in the upper basin. After a light breakfast we started hiking and crossed several creeks without incident. With lighter packs we gained mileage and elevation quickly, arriving at Ice Lake by mid morning. The upper basin was incredible with several still-frozen lakes, surrounded by 13,000' peaks.
A few of the early wildflowers were in bloom. I can only imagine what this place looks like in late July and August when the wildflowers are in full bloom. As beautiful as the upper basin was, I'm really glad we camped down lower. The upper basin is above timberline, exposed to the weather and still soggy from recent snow melt. After lunch at Ice Lake, we decided to head back down to the lower basin, break camp and spend the night in Silverton. While in Silverton, Molly searched on her Iphone to find a hike for Wednesday.
According to reports on the internet, Columbine Lake is a 3.5 mile hike to 12,600' elevation on a "seldom used" trail. The "seldom used" turned out to be the only correct part of the report. Just finding the unmarked trailhead was a 1.5 hour ordeal. And that was after fording a knee deep stream and walking close to a mile on an abandoned mining road. Once we found the trailhead, we proceeded uphill through the trees. Eventually we reached timberline where we could see a pass 700-800 feet above us. Since the hike was supposed to be only 3.5 miles, I assumed the lake was just over the pass. Not a good assumption! When we reached the pass at 3:00PM, the trail almost disappeared.
We spent the next hour and a half negotiating snowfields and talus slopes (loose rocks) until we reached Columbine Lake. We allowed ourselves 30 minutes to enjoy the beauty of the lake and its surroundings before heading down at 5:00PM. On the way down Molly leashed Shuksan so he couldn't chase marmots. A wise decision indeed since we saw not only marmots but also a coyote and a young elk. We arrived back at the car at 8:00PM, not having seen another person all day. We later found on the official National Forest Service web site that Columbine Lake is at 12,800' and the hike is 5 miles one way. When you include the 3/4 mile walk on the road, we ended up hiking almost 12 miles that day. All things considered it was a very challenging but rewarding hike. The section from timberline to Columbine Lake has some of the most stunning high elevation scenery I have ever seen. And, when you see more wildlife than hikers, it's a true wilderness experience.
After the tiring hike, I looked forward to pitching the tent, grabbing a bite to eat and crawling into my sleeping bag. Wrong again! The campground near Ouray where we planned to stay was full. Molly again came to the rescue with her Iphone and found us the last hotel room in Ouray. We arrived at the hotel at 9:30PM and checked in after asking about restaurants. "Oh, everything closes at 9, but we have a microwave oven in the room", the manager said. "Great", I replied "we can cook our camping food in that." We checked into our room and Molly started dinner while I got ready for a badly needed shower. Within minutes of putting the dinner in the oven, the hotel experienced a power failure. After reassuring us several times that the power would soon be restored, 30 minutes later we finally finished cooking our dinner of chicken and couscous. We collapsed into our beds around midnight. It had been a really long day!
On Thursday morning we went out for breakfast and saw a little of the town. Ouray is a strange old mining town built on both sides of the Uncompahgre River canyon. The town is completely surrounded by high mountains. The streets are not level, having to follow the contours of the steep canyon. This is definitely not the place to be if you have claustrophobic tendencies. After a short hike up the Uncompahgre Canyon, we were on the road again.
The remainder of the trip was fairly uneventful. After visiting the bustling ski resort of Telluride we camped at the nearby Matterhorn Campground. Remembering the real Matterhorn in Switzerland from many years ago I failed to see the resemblance.
Heading back toward Durango on Friday, we stopped at Mesa Verde National Park. The park has a rich history of native culture and many interesting and well preserved cliff dwellings but is not the wilderness experience I enjoy in many of our national parks. We saw as much as we could while tolerating too many tourists and a temperature that exceeded 90 degrees. It was time to continue to Durango.
Friday evening in Durango we visited Ska Brewing and sampled their beers; then dined on Serious Texas Barbecue. The food was tasty, plentiful and very reasonable. Saturday morning Molly and Shuksan enjoyed a much needed run on the Animas River Trail while I walked and photographed the picturesque scenery. Later we picnicked in a pretty park on the Animas River and savored our adventure. Too soon it was time to leave for the airport and my flight home.
My flight from Durango to Denver was delayed 3 hours by mechanical problems and I missed my connecting flight by only 10 minutes, forcing me to sleep on the floor in the Denver airport and arriving in Seattle 12 hours later than scheduled.
Despite the setbacks it was a great week. Molly and Shuksan are always fun companions and I wouldn't have reached Columbine Lake without their support and persistence. Shuksan has become quite the little hiker, carrying his own food as well as some of our water. I definitely look forward to our next adventure together. Maybe we'll go on a ferry boat ride to the San Juan Islands.
To see more of my trip pictures go to the San Juan Mountains Gallery on Istockphoto. 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
Contrary to popular belief, it doesn't rain all the time in Washington State. Indeed, there are several rain forests in the state, some of which get over 100 inches of rain each year. Seattle, as a point of reference gets an average 38 inches of annual precipitation. Spokane, in the eastern part of the state gets less than 17 inches.
There is a vast central region in Washington that receives less than 10 inches of annual precipitation and has sagebrush, cactus, lizards and even rattlesnakes. Average summer temperature is 84F but can easily top 100F. Why the big difference between this and Western Washington? The answer is in the the high Cascade range of mountains that divides the state and creates a rainshadow effect. West of the Cascades is generally cooler and sometimes cloudy. Summers east of the Cascades are generally dry and hot.
Does the arid climate really qualify Central Washington as a desert? You won't find Sahara type sand dunes or Saguaro Cactus. This is not the Mojave or Sonoran desert of the American Southwest. Not even close! Technically, Central Washington is a shrub steppe environment, dotted with sagebrush, layered with basalt from ancient volcanic flows and divided by dry coulees and grassland ridges. Seasonal creeks and waterfalls are not uncommon. It is cold in winter and hot in summer. Winter snowfall is relatively light, inviting not only the occasional hiker but an abundance of wildlife seeking refuge from the snowbound high Cascades.
Lest I forget to mention the views, they are simply stunning. In the Cascades one can hike miles uphill through dense forests to get to a viewpoint. In the desert the view is limitless. And if you work hard to reach a ridge-top, you can literally see forever.
Spring is a season of incomparable beauty in Central Washington. The desert comes to life with all manner of plants and animals. The temperatures are cool and comfortable, the aspen trees are leafing out and the hillsides are colorfully carpeted with Arrowleaf Balsamroot, Yellow Bell, Lupine, Yarrow and many other wildflowers. In April and May the streams are running, marmots are waking up from hibernation and the melody of birds fills the air.
Much of the Central Washington desert is publicly owned land administered by federal or state agencies. There are many maintained trails as well as off-trail hiking. Most trailheads require some sort of parking permit. State lands generally require a Discover Pass while some federal lands need a Golden Eagle or BLM Day Use Pass. Be sure to check a guidebook or the appropriate agency for specific hikes and the permit required.
An excellent resource for hiking in Central Washington is the Mountaineers' book "Best Desert Hikes in Washington" by Alan L. Bauer and Dan A. Nelson.
More pictures of this amazing part of Washington can be seen in my Washington State Desert 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.
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
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.
by Jeff Goulden
Nevada's Valley of Fire State Park is located near the town of Overton, 56 miles northeast of Las Vegas. The park is named for the fiery red sandstone formations found throughout its landscape. Established in 1935, Valley of Fire is Nevada’s oldest and largest state park. Ancient trees and early man are represented throughout the park by areas of petrified wood and 3,000 year-old Indian petroglyphs.
On May 20, 2012 there was an annular solar eclipse in which the sun forms a ring around the moon; a spectacular phenomenon to view. Since it had been advertised that Nevada's Valley of Fire State Park was an excellent place to see this event, I was extremely fortunate to be there in the late afternoon when the event occurred.
Viewing a solar eclipse without proper protection can be damaging to the eyes, so I concentrated on photographing the surrounding landscape. Several other photographers with welding goggles and other eye protection looked skyward to record the actual eclipse. However, the real action was on the ground. As the sun passed behind the moon, the land acquired an other-worldly glow, providing me the opportunity to capture some brightly colored and radiant scenes, including the two shown here.
Early morning and late afternoon/evening are the best times of day to photograph the Valley of Fire. The entire park with its red rock is quite colorful, but the multi-colored Rainbow Vista and White Domes areas are especially beautiful. More images of this picturesque state park can be seen in my Valley of Fire 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.