Feature Foto Friday: Colorful Skagit Valley Tulips

Featured “Fotographer”: Erin Deardorff

Website: Saving Memories by Making Memories

Background: I met Erin about five years ago in Denver.  We share the love for traveling and photography.  Erin and her husband, Brian, are self-proclaimed traveling science geeks that are Saving Memories by Making Memories (their blog’s name)! Erin started their blog to capture their charity bike ride a few years ago for Alzheimer’s and has kept it going.  Hikers, tandem bikers, skiers, and science lovers, Erin and Brian travel both near and far documenting their experiences in words and photography.  I’m fortunate to have shared a variety of trips with them.

Image Title: Colorful Skagit Valley Tulips

Location: Skagit Valley, Washington

Fun Fact(s):  After years of talking about it, Erin and Brian finally attended the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival and captured this shot.  The festival takes place during the month of April.  Blooming tulips signal the arrival of spring.  I’m ready to see those almost perfectly symmetrical flower buds!


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Day 279 – Columbia River Road (Part 2) and Mount Hood – Columbia River Gorge Loop

Day 279 – Columbia River Road and Mount Hood – Columbia River Gorge Loop, September 21, 2011

Another wonderful day in the Pacific Northwest!  After a quick snapshot of Mount Adams, I took
a short jaunt west from Trout Lake to explore an ice cave.  I expected to be taken on a guided tour, but
instead found myself alone in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.  Beneath the evergreens by a picnic area is
the entrance to a lava tube.  The cold air
from the winter is trapped inside the cave forming an ice pool with stalagmite
ice crystals poking upward from the floor.
Based on the information board map drawing there are two ice
pools, a natural bridge, a crystal grotto, a crack room, and a few pits.   I only
explored the first ten feet of the 400 foot cave as I was alone and had no
intention of falling on ice and sharp lava in the dark!  I also followed a path above ground which led
to the crack room and the pits.  Had I
had the proper equipment and a partner, I would have liked to see the crystal
grotto.  I bet it would be fantastic
especially closer to winter time.  The
weak beam on my flashlight just barely illuminated the area from a distance,
but neither my eyes nor my camera were successful in focusing on much!

From the ice caves, we continued slightly further west into
the forest where we found a natural bridge which looked like it was formed when
a lava tube collapsed.  Bushes whose
leaves were beginning to turn red with the fall weather blanketed the ravine as
Douglas firs, red alders, and hemlocks reached to the sky in the surrounding

Late morning, Petey and I finally left the forest and headed
back toward the river’s edge.  As we
followed along Highway 14, the moist forest climate turned arid upon reaching barren,
golden hills.  Amid these hills, is a
French-style chateau which houses the Maryhill Museum of Art.  The chateau, constructed of concrete, was the
inspiration of turn-of-the-century capitalist Sam Hill.  Paintings by Rodin and other European masters
can be found inside while a variety of sculptures can be found on the shaded,
manicured grounds where peacocks strut.

In addition we stopped at a few roadside viewpoints
including one near Celilo Falls, a sacred Indian fishing area, which now lies
beneath the dammed river.  Indians
accepted $26 million in 1957 in exchange for allowing the Dalles Dam to flood
and silence the falls.

Just a few miles east of the museum, we visited Stonehenge,
a concrete replica of the original, which Hill built as a memorial to
Washingtonians who fought in World War I.
Hill’s Stonehenge was the first monument in our nation to honor military
personnel.  It is said that the Quaker
pacifist began constructing the monument which was completed in 1929 after
visiting England during the 1914-18 conflict and was told it had been used for
human sacrifices to pagan gods.  Today,
the sacrifice legend is generally discredited, and it is believed Stonehenge was
a device used by stone-age astronomers to measure time and mark seasons.

After visiting the monument, we crossed the Columbia River
to follow its southern banks back toward the west in northern Oregon.    After
passing through The Dalles, I maneuvered VANilla along the historic Columbia
River Highway which switched back and forth up Oregon’s hills.  Ornate guard rails lined the winding
road:  some of painted white wood and
some of chiseled stone decorated with arches.
We enjoyed a lovely view from the Rowena Overlook on a still, calm
day.  It would have been tough to guess
that the Columbia River Gorge is one of the best windsurfing places in the
nation today.

We finished the day at a town campground along the river in
Cascade Locks.  I was pleased to happen
upon the quaint, sixteen spot area with free showers until I realized it would
be a noisy night.  I was camped about
twenty yards from active train tracks!
Still, it was a nice place to find.

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Day 278 – Columbia River Gorge

Day 278 – Columbia River Gorge, September 20, 2011

Today I headed inland along the Columbia River on the
Washington-Oregon border.  I spent my
time on the Washington State side and stopped to enjoy the panorama of Oregon’s
wooded hills and of the powerful river that lay at the foot vertical cliffs
from Cape Horn Viewpoint.

As I made my way east through this breathtaking area, I
reached Beacon Rock State Park where Petey and I followed a lovely trail
through the lush forest to Hardy Falls, Pool of Winds and Rodney Falls.  As we wandered along the trail, we came
across a bridge that crossed what was almost a dry creek bed.  A thin trickle of water rolled down the steep
hillside.  I thought to myself, if this
is the falls, I’m going to be one disappointed hiker.  Much to my relief, slightly further ahead, I
came across two signs pointing to the attractions.

Hardy Falls was nothing to write home about as the view was
relatively blocked by vegetation, but the Pool of Winds and Rodney Falls was
inspiring.  A path led us past a boulder
and up to a rock outcropping.  The falls,
tucked in the back of a cylinder of rock, cascaded down a mossy log into a pool
of water before it zigzagged down the rocky shelf to the creek.  Spray from the falls assisted by a tunnel of
wind cooled the air and dampened the rocks where we stood.

Upon return from our two mile hike, we stopped to admire Beacon
Rock situated across the road on the bank of the river.  This enormous monolith, almost 850 feet tall
and second only to Gibralter in size, is the core of a vanished volcano.  Lewis and Clark referenced the rock several times
in their recordings of their expedition.

From the park, we traveled about five miles or so to the
Bonneville Dam where, along with a cormorant, I got to watch salmon swim up river through the fish
ladders to spawn.  Humans count each type
of fish that passes through the ladders daily and post the counts.  The previous day nearly 19,000 fish passed
through the ladders and year to date over 2 million.  Salmon and Shad make up most of the count,
followed by Steelhead and Lamprey.lamprey
Lampreys look like eels that have a sucker mouth which they use to stick
to edges.

After a short time at the fish viewing, we stopped in
Stevenson for a stroll along the waterfront.
The windy day attracted several kiteboarders and windsurfers to the
white capped river.  In addition to the
water enthusiasts, a cruise line that offers an eight day journey on the river
was in port.  When I spotted the paddle wheeler,
I had hoped for a two-hour afternoon jaunt mentioned in my trusty book of
travels.  The operators told me those
types of trips were offered in Cascade Locks on the Oregon side.  I will be there in a few days.

If the drive along the river wasn’t scenic enough, I
followed the Cook-Underwood Road Loop up into the hillside for a spectacular
view of the Hood River Bridge and the majestic Mt. Hood.  Thereafter, I followed Highway 141 north to
Trout Lake where I found a county campground for the night.  ETB

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Day 275 – Travel Day

I had planned the morning to visit Hoquiam’s Castle and Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge before heading to Portland to visit some friends from my horseback riding days.  Both attempts turned out to be a bust.  Hoquiam’s Castle was built in 1897 by a timber tycoon named Robert Lytle.  It is a twenty room mansion, turned Bed & Breakfast.  I suppose I could have wandered into the lobby and looked around, but oddly I felt like taking a full-blown house tour to change things up on this dreary day.

Oh well, I snapped a photo from the outside and then headed toward the refuge which is known for its shore birds.  Sometimes 300,000 birds land here at one time and come from as far away as Argentina to feed on the shrimplike critters in the mudflats.  The gate was closed to the area and an airport was adjacent to the refuge.  It didn’t seem like an ideal place to spot birds unless I was looking for the manmade, metal type.

With that I turned south toward Portland and am currently taking advantage of a very nice highway rest area to blog before I meet my friends.  Rest Areas are interesting places.  I could probably write an entire page on people who stop at rest areas:  truckers, dog walkers, weary travelers, and those that simply HAVE to go to the bathroom…ETB

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Day 274 – Olympic Loop (Part 4)

Day 274 – Olympic Loop, September 16, 2011

I left the mountains and headed for the coast this
morning.  We took a brief drive through
La Push for a view of the harbor before returning to Second Beach, one of many
beaches in the Olympic National Park which seemed to encompass the entire western
peninsula of Washington.  I really can’t
imagine basking in the sun on Second Beach.
It requires a ten to fifteen minute walk along a trail which winds
through the rain forest before visitors can even set foot on the beach.  Aside the trail is a fallen tree with a root
system that has been turned into a shrine.
Rocks, shells, coins, marbles and even a bottle were placed in the tangled
roots to the south of the trail.  At the
end of the trail, beachgoers are greeted with piles of drift wood that must be
climbed.  Given I just impaled myself on
a log, crossing several logs was slightly disconcerting.  At least they were smooth.

Finally, I reached the beach and walked toward the
outcropping of rocks during what seemed to be low tide.  I found several orange and purple starfish
along with a few green anemones clinging to the rocks in the tide pools.  The crab and octopus eluded me on this
adventure, but I did follow a seagull around that did not want me to get to his
piece of seaweed or whatever object he felt was very important.  He hopped along the beach until I got too
close and then lifted into flight to land a hundred feet away only to repeat
the process once more until I snapped a decent photo.

From the beach, we turned southwest to the Hoh Rain Forest,
also part of the Olympic National Park. 
The Hoh is one of the best examples of a temperate-zone rain forest in
the world, and is one of the few coniferous ones in existence.  I took the Hall of Mosses trail that wound
beneath the shade of enormous trees covered in thick, hanging moss.  Ferns as well as a variety of other plants
blanketed the forest floor as woodpeckers poked at rotten trees.  I had hoped to spot the elusive Roosevelt
Elk, though it didn’t seem like an easy feat in the jungle of vegetation. I couldn’t help but think what this forest would look like in a few weeks with some of the leaves changing colors…I bet it is magnificent!

From the forest, we followed the Hoh River back to Highway
101 where we turned south toward Ruby Beach, so named for garnet crystals that
give the sand its pinkish hue.  I walked
north on the beach where a river and the coast meet to find a lot of rock, not
of pinkish color, and no garnets.  This
area of rock formations and drift wood seemed more interesting to me and all
the rest of the beachgoers.  Perhaps the
pinkish sand was to the south.  As the
white capped waves crashed on the shore, it appeared as if the tide was coming
back in, so after a brief visit, I rejoined Petey in VANilla.  Ruby Beach was actually a dog friendly beach,
and I considered taking him, but I presumed someone would fail to abide by the
leash law which would end up with me trying to keep a sometimes mean Petey away
from a bounding dog.  I was right.  As soon as I set foot on the trail to the
beach, I was greeted by a free roving dog.
I must say that is SO irritating, and I like dogs!  I feel sorry for those people that are afraid
of them.

Turning slightly inland, I headed to Queets Valley Rain
Forest.  My book mentioned a three mile
loop hike through the rain forest which starts from a campground located at the
end of a fourteen mile unpaved road.
With less commotion, there would be an easier chance to spot the
shy-natured Roosevelt Elk.  Well, I drove
what seemed like ten miles to find the bridge was closed to motor
vehicles.  I certainly wasn’t hoofing it
with Petey the rest of the way.

We turned around and aimed for a campground at Lake
Quinault.  On the way, we found another
road into Queets Valley Rain Forest, so we explored it for several miles until
it started splitting into a variety of directions.  We retraced our short tour in VANilla and
finally followed the north shore of Lake Quinault to what I had hoped to be a
nearby campground.  The road turned from
paved to dirt and from two lanes to one lane as it squeezed between enormous trees until we finally reached a split:
one direction to a campground and the other to the south side of the lake.  For such a large lake that was supposed to be
one of the most popular recreation spots on the Olympic Peninsula, the
campground seemed very far removed.  I
passed it up to find three of the next four campgrounds on the south shore
closed for the season!  By this time, I
had driven around so much, I thought I may as well drive another hour to
Wal-Mart, so I did!  ETB

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