Wildlife Wednesday 02/25/2015

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An eland sunbathing at the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch, San Antonio, TX

While in living in Texas I always enjoyed a visit to the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch between San Antonio and San Marcos, TX.  I captured this image of an eland sunbathing on a warm day in the Texas heat during our drive through safari experience.  If you are ever in the area, this is a great place to take friends and family.  The ranch has 400 acres to explore where you can view over 500 animals from 40 different species.

 

Marmot Pass Day Hike

Marmot Pass, Olympic National Park

Marmot Pass, Olympic National Park

11.5 miles round trip / 3489′ elevation gain

It’s hard to believe, but the weather forecasted for another sunny and warm winter weekend in the Pacific Northwest.  As usual, this meant it was time to plan another day hike.  As I mentioned in my last few day hiking posts, my husband and I have been joined by a new hiking partner.  Since I have been holding our new partner back with short hikes with low elevation gains, I decided it was time to challenge myself.  Letting our new friend choose the hike this week, we began our day on the Edmonds ferry headed west towards Marmot Pass in the Olympic Mountains.  I always love starting my day hikes with a 360° view of the Puget Sound surrounded by mountains.  As we made our way along the Olympic Peninsula across the Hood Canal bridge, I spotted a glimpse of two dolphins jumping out of the water in unison.  As we passed the turn off to the Lower Big Quilcene Trail, which my husband and I had just hiked a few weeks before, I was feeling nervous about pushing my abilities.  I was on my way to my longest day hike with the highest elevation gain I had ever attempted with nearly three miles of snow hiking!

We arrived at the trail head and started our journey along the Upper Big Quilcene Trail #833.1 just after 10:00 am.  The trail begins by slowly ascending as it follows the meandering Big Quilcene River.  The shade provided by the old growth forest canopy kept a cold chill in the air for the first two and a half miles.  The close to freezing temperatures kept a slight frost on the forest floor and parts of the trail as icicles hung from logs along creek crossings.  We welcomed the colder temperatures as the trail began to ascend at a steeper grade keeping our bodies quite warm.  After a few miles, the trail breaks away from the river and begins climbing across scree fields.  As we started to hike upon our first scree field we heard a loud cracking sound followed by yelling in the distance and noticed a small group of hikers stopped ahead of us.  The group was looking up towards the ridge line, and at that moment a very large rock bounced off the trail what seemed like only a few steps away from one of the hikers.  Moments later a much larger rock, that very easily could have been disastrous, came flying by the trail in the same section.  After a few nerve racking minutes we quickly raced our way across the scree field to catch up to the other group of hikers.  With fear in their eyes, we discussed with the group where the large rocks came from and what caused them to move from their once quiet resting place.  No matter the cause, we all decided it was best to move along the scree field as quickly as possible to seek comfort among the trees.  Once we reached the safety of the surrounding trees, we rested and tried to relax before heading back up towards the pass.

Crossing a boulder field along the trail to Marmot Pass, Olympic National Park

Crossing a scree field along the trail to Marmot Pass, Olympic National Park

View from the trail to Marmot Pass, Olympic National Park

View from the trail to Marmot Pass, Olympic National Park

The feeling of comfort didn’t last long since shortly after leaving the scree field behind us, the trail began to ascend into areas with small patches of snow.  As I have mentioned before, being a Southerner most of my life I am not too comfortable hiking in snow and ice.  Although the feeling of anxiety was beginning to rise, I was more prepared for the icy conditions having packed my newly purchased ice trekker chains.  I chained up and we continued our way up the trail which eventually became completely snow covered.  I was feeling fairly confident with the safety of my chains for the first section of the snow, but the trail soon became very steep.  The combination of snow, ice, and steep conditions threw me out of my comfort zone and anxiety took over.  At that moment I decided that an 8+ mile hike was respectable, and I could turn around feeling proud of what I had accomplished thus far.  I made my way back down the trail until I felt comfortable enough to stop and rest.  As I rested I watched my husband and friend make their way along the snowy switchback which looked very similar to the one I had just climbed.  After a short conversation with hikers making their way down from the mountain pass above, I gained the confidence I needed to push forward and try again.  I made my way along the steepest section of the snow covered trail with an inner dialog telling myself to take one step at a time and not to look down.  Realizing it wasn’t as scary as it seemed in my head, I gained more and more confidence and continued quickly up the trail with Marmot Pass now in sight just past a large snow filled meadow.  At this point I was lightly jogging upwards and finally made the last push to my final destination.  I had made it!  I welcomed the breathtaking views that surrounded me including Mount Baker and the Cascade mountains to the east with the Puget Sound waterways below.  The Olympic mountains extended from Marmot Pass with long, craggy peaks to the north, west, and south.

Marmot Pass, Olympic National Park

Marmot Pass, Olympic National Park

The view from Marmot Pass looking east, Olympic National Park

The view from Marmot Pass looking east, Olympic National Park

The view from MArmot Pass looking west, Olympic National Park

The view from Marmot Pass looking west, Olympic National Park

Looking up at Buckhorn Mountain from marmot Pass, Olympic National Park

Looking up at Buckhorn Mountain from marmot Pass, Olympic National Park

Even though I made my way quickly up the trail in hopes to catch my husband and friend at the pass, they had already started to make their way south to explore the ridge line.   I enjoyed watching the two of them as they made they way along the snow covered ridge backlit by the midday sun.  I kept a close eye on them concerned they would choose another way down the trail without our paths crossing.

My husband and friend along the ridgeline south of Marmot Pass, Olympic National Park

My husband and friend along the ridgeline south of Marmot Pass, Olympic National Park

Finally feeling relaxed, the sun filled mountain pass was the perfect afternoon lunch spot amongst several other hikers.  Even though we had climbed over 3500 feet, the air was warm from the direct sunlight.  Conversation with like minded people was pleasant and comforting after the long trek up.  I noticed my hiking partners closing in on my location at the pass, but they paused as they got closer.  Just as I had suspected, I could see them considering following the tracks of previous hikers who had chosen to glissade down instead of following the traditional trail.  It was at this point I decided to flag them down to make them aware of my location.  Once they realized I was the one waving and yelling in their direction, I packed up and made my way back down the trail.  The three of us were back together again just below the pass in the snow field after my partners had attempted to glissade down.  They were excited to see I had made it to the pass after all, and I was glad to be with my group once again.

We all shared a sugary snack and swapped stories about the last hour we’d spent apart before making our way back down the trail.  Feeling more comfortable than ever, the fears I’d faced before seemed to be a distant memory.  We zig-zagged along the snowy path sharing good conversation about our future hiking plans.  Before I knew it, the snow turned into patches and then finally disappeared altogether.  We moved quickly as the trail descended towards the parking lot.  Once again we swiftly moved across the scree fields back into the thick forested path.  Making great time, we crossed over creeks that were slightly higher from the days snow melted by the warm winter sun.  We knew once we had reconnected with the Big Quilcene River we were closing in on our last miles of the hike.  We climbed over two logs that blocked the path one last time as we made our final descent to the trails’ end.  Our aching muscles welcomed the sight of the parked cars along the forest road.  The sun was making its way behind the Olympic Mountain peaks as we drove along the Peninsula once more.  The sky filled with pink and purple clouds as the sun made its final appearance for the day.  It was the perfect ending to a perfect day in the mountains.

North Gallery in Edmonds, WA Small Works Show Acceptance

I am so excited to announce that my artwork has been accepted to the Small Works Show at the North Gallery in Edmonds, WA!  Many of my pieces were inspired by the nature in the Pacific Northwest, so I thought I would share them here on my blog.  If you are located in the Seattle area and enjoy art, join me at the Artists’ Reception on Sunday, March 8 1:00pm – 4:00pm or during the Edmonds Art Walk on Thursday, March 19 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm.  The Small Works Show will be on display for the entire month of March.  All of the photographs included in my blog posts are for sale at my Etsy Shop as well as artworks such as the ones in this post.

Harbor Seal, pencil

San Juan Seal, pencil on paper

Water Lily, pen/ink on claybord

Water Lily, pen/ink on claybord

Colorful Columbine, watercolor on claybord

Colorful Columbine, watercolor on claybord

Lorikeet, watercolor

Lovely Lorikeet, watercolor on claybord

Public Market, coffee

Seattle’s Best, coffee on claybord

Spilled Coffee Beans, coffee

Daily Grind, coffee on claybord

 

Wildlife Wednesday 02/18/2015

Lorikeet, colored pencil

Lorikeet, colored pencil

In addition to photography, I have a passion for creating art in many ways.  I captured an image of this lovely lorikeet at the San Antonio zoo in Texas.  I was so captivated by the array of colors I had to try to recreate it using one of my favorite mediums – colored pencil.  All of the artwork you see located in my blog including the photography is for sale at my Etsy Shop:  TamarasCameras.

Annette Lake Day Hike

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Annette Lake trail, Snoqualmie Pass

7.5 miles round trip / 1400′ elevation gain

What happened to the winter in the Pacific Northwest this year?  I’m not complaining by any means, but once again the weather felt more like spring as we headed east on I-90 towards the Cascade mountains.  Two weeks ago my husband and I tried to beat the crowds by leaving early, only to grab the very last parking space at the trailhead for our day hike.  Knowing the situation would be similar, we left even earlier waking before the sunrise.  After a quick stop to pick up a fellow hiking friend, our car was the third to reach the parking lot for the Annette Lake trailhead just after 8:00 am.  As soon as we stepped out of the car the sounds of Humpback Creek were thundering in the near distance.  Although the sun was shining and the Puget Sound area was unseasonably warm, in the higher elevations near Snoqualmie Pass a chill lingered in the morning air.  After reading recent trip reports for what is usually a snowshoe hike this time of year, we were prepared for a small amount of icy snow covering the trail at times but hoping for an unobstructed hike.  With anticipation for our first visit to a frozen lake, our boots hit the trail as fast as our feet would allow.  Almost as soon as the three of us started our way along the Annette Lake trail we came to a bridge crossing Humpback Creek with the backdrop of a beautifully cascading waterfall.

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Humpback Creek waterfall, Snoqualmie Pass

The trail to Annette Lake is filled with steep switchbacks most of the way climbing upwards towards our destination.  Although we started the morning bundled up to keep warm, after climbing only a few switchbacks we were already stopping to shed layers.  With the sun shining in a cloudless sky on unseasonably warm winter day, we couldn’t keep from smiling in spite of the exhausting push upwards along the trail.  As the trail ascended alongside the mountain it would occasionally cross a creek or river with very well maintained natural bridges to guide our way.

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Annette Lake trail, Snoqualmie Pass

We had to slightly navigate our way around hard packed ice once or twice, but it was hardly worth mentioning.  The snowpack was almost non existent and when it was on the trail the ice was so hard it was like hiking on small boulders.  On a few occasions we stopped to rest our aching legs and enjoy the wide open views across the valley and Humpback Creek beneath us.  Even with a few stops we made good time arriving at Annette Lake in one hour and forty-five minutes.  As we walked up to trail and the view of the lake came into sight, the sun was just peeking its head up behind the mountains as if to say good morning.

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Annette Lake, Snoqualmie Pass

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Annette Lake, Snoqualmie Pass

We spent the morning exploring the lakeside with the warmth of the sun upon our faces.  We took turns throwing giant rocks towards the lake in hopes of cracking the ice, but they only bounced and skipped across the thick, frozen surface.  As we paused for brunch we enjoyed listening to the soundtrack of a waterfall flowing into Annette Lake in the distance.  At times the sun would dip back behind the mountain peaks leaving us cold and eager to make our way back down the trail.

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Annette Lake with a small waterfall in the distance, Snoqualmie Pass

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Annette Lake, Snoqualmie Pass

With the sun still hiding behind the peaks and the trail descending, our warm layers came in handy once again.  The ease of the hike as we made our way back down the trail allowed for great conversation amongst friends.  Day hikers were pouring into the trail as we journeyed along making thankful for the decision to get an early start.  We were stopped several times by red faced hikers inquiring about the remaining distance and time to the final destination of Annette Lake.  In no time we reached the nearly full parking lot in the early afternoon.  Once again, our journeys in the Cascade mountains left us with the feeling of great satisfaction.  Blues skies surrounded the Puget Sound as we left Snoqualmie Pass behind.  Another beautiful day in the Pacific Northwest will hold a special place in our memories.