You never really know where you’ll find leads to great photo opportunities and outdoor wonders. Dianne and I had the good fortune to photograph a wedding at The Farm, a B&B near Trout Lake, WA last Saturday. The B&B owners, Dean and Rosie, are a generous couple and provided wonderful and flexible service to the wedding party and to us. Dean mentioned in passing that he wished I could have time to visit Bird Creek Meadows to see the wildflowers and waterfalls. He was confident that there were still blooms to be seen even at this late date. We both agreed that it would have been higher quality in July but he seemed resolute that the blooms were still worth seeing.
I succeeded in leaving a flash and softbox at The Farm when we departed late Saturday night. A call to The Farm the next day confirmed that Rosie and Dean had the light and would hold it for me until Tuesday when I could get back to retrieve it. Instead of just making a mad dash to The Farm to pick it up I decided I’d gather my stuff from them and then hike into Bird Creek Meadows using the map that Dean had provided. Off I went with a full camera pack and high hopes for seeing new country, waterfalls and flowers.
After navigating some rough miles on a little-maintained BIA road I found the trailhead at Bird Lake on the Yakima Indian Reservation. I paid my $5.00 to park and enter the area, shouldered the pack and headed out for a 5 mile trek. The trail is well used and marked. A short distance up the trail I found a large are of wildflowers that had a bunch of butterflies visiting. After a short time I decided to get the camera out and chase of few from bloom to bloom. I ended up just setting up the tripod and the 70-200 lens and sitting in wait for butterflies to land on blooms near by. They were remarkably cooperative and I practiced quick framing, focusing and shooting for about 30 minutes before I packed up and headed on.
Just up the trail was Crooked Creek waterfall. One of my first impressions of the creek I had been following was how straight it flowed downhill. Steep gradients will do that. I found it somewhat amusing that the stream was called “Crooked Creek” when I looked at the map. The sun was high overhead and there were no clouds around. Definitely not my favorite time to take a waterfall picture. But the scene called out and I had nothing but time to appreciate it and do what I could to record it. I put a polarizer and a 2 stop neurtal density filter on the 17-55 and stepped into the stream to position the tripod. The variety of flowers and color was beautiful and you really can’t judge the bloom quality from a distance anyway. The filters did their magic and I was able to get a slow enough shutter speed to blur the water to my tastes. Several people walked by as I was tinkering with the camera and composition. No one lingered for much more than enough time to say “hi” before they snapped their own photo and moved on. I sat for a bit and appreciated the scene and my good fortune to be there before I trudged on toward the Hell Roaring viewpoint.
The view is outrageous. I found Dean and Rosie standing at the viewpoint with their overnight guests. They had led these nice folks to the area along with another couple from Trout Lake. I smiled inside as I thought how wonderful it was to see a couple in their mid-70’s encouraging others to see the area they lived in and loved. All six of them grabbed their hiking sticks and headed down as I unloaded the pack and tripod for a panoramic sequence. Mt. Adams looks rather small in the context of the Hell Roaring river canyon. What a grand landscape. I was beginning to calculate my return to home timing and decided that I’d move on rather than wait for the clouds to mature and add some more interest to the sky. I always regret leaving before a scene has the opportunity to “get better” with better light.
I stopped one more time on the return leg to Bird Lake when I found yet another group of butterflies working in an area of mostly spent blossoms. I thought I’d try to get a shot of multiple butterflies to show the density of them in this patch of flowers. A couple of fly fishermen scurried up the trail toward Bluff Lake with hardly a nod of their heads. Two other guys who I’d seen on the trail earlier also walked by and stopped to talk for a minute before they moved on. Clearly, this area is a popular hiking and climbing venue. As it should be.
I know now that Dianne and I will return next June or July to hike this wonderful loop when the flowers are fresh. We’ll plan an early start and a full day to catch the light when it ripens the scenes. And we’ll stop at The Farm to collect that beer that Dean offered as we shared the view from Hell Roaring viewpoint before they left. I sat at Bird Lake for a few minutes and thought about how wonderful it was to have discovered the area due to a chance comment from a person I’d just met and who was now offering a friendship I’d not anticipated. Such is life… full of rich surprises.