NW Road Trip Day 5

Thursday, 7 June, 2012

My original plan for today had been to swing back to Yaquina Head, to do some bird photography on the coast, which had been my main plan for the trip. Unfortunately I was awoken at about 6 a.m. to the sounds of torrential rain. It was a good thing that I put the tarp up over the tent last night.

After packing up my very wet camping gear, I headed out on the road. The weather was appalling, and even from the coastal highway you could barely see the ocean. There was no point in trying to take any pictures today, so I decided to cut my losses and just head towards home. I'm hoping to he to spend a bit of time near Mount Rainier so I'll head up that way.

I soon veered from the coast and headed inland. Justine and I had fairly recently discovered a winery in Oregon, Brooks Winery, and I decided to turn this horrible weather to my advantage, and stop in to their winery. It took me a bit it of my way, but I thought it would be worthwhile.

I was a bit early arriving at Brooks, so I caught up on writing these entries while I waited for the winery to open. Kindly, they opened a bit early, and so there I was tasting wine before 11:00. :-) The place makes great wine, especially their Pinot Noir, and I spent a good hour talking wine with the guy in the shop, tasting the wines and trying to decide what to buy with the limited amount you can bring back across the border. I made my picks, and was on my way. As the weather hadn't improved, I decided to bypass the coast and head straight north to my final stop at Mount Rainier.

The original tasting room at Brooks Winery.

The drive itself was pretty dull - the I5 isn't all that interesting in that part of the world, except for maybe the stretch through Portland and Vancouver Washington. I motored straight up, through periods of drizzle, punctuated occasionally by the odd torrential downpour. I stopped for lunch at a rest area, where I happened to notice a pair of downy woodpeckers that had made a nest in a dead tree. One was sitting in the hole, making a lot of noise. The other one would bring food every once in a while. It was pretty cool to see. I pulled out the camera, setup my tripod and managed to get some shots of the action. Figures - I head to the coast and the best bird life I see is in a roadside rest stop.

I got off the I5 at highway 12, and headed east towards the park. It was a nice enough drive, and I stopped occasionally to take some pictures. Once inside the park I headed to the campsite to claim a spot. There's probably only three other groups in the whole place. After setting up camp, I walked across the road to the trailhead, and did a short hike to Clark's Falls. Sadly, while the waterfall was impressive, it was not photographable. You look at it from the top, and there are too many trees in the way. As I came back down I did shoot a few things, and we'll see if any of them turned out.

One of the spots on the way back from Clark's Falls

As I completed the hike, the weather started to clear a bit. I thought I'd take advantage, and drive up to Paradise, at the top of the park. This urged out to be the best decision I made all week! The drive up was fantastic - this twisting, winding mountain road that rose up into the alpine. About half way up the road, snow was in abundance along the sides of the road, and there were waterfalls everywhere from the spring melt.

I did a couple of short hikes before the light disappeared. One involved crossing the river over this cool log bridge. 

I made it all the way to Paradise, but everything was closed for the day. It was freezing at the top, but as I turned around to head back, the clouds lifted and Rainier came into full view. I knew it is a big mountain, but I had no idea what the clouds were obscuring! The mountain just looms over the road, and while I snapped a few photos, nothing does it justice. As it was starting to get late, I had some hopes for the sunset. I pulled into a lookout point I had noted on the way up, and was treated to an amazing view of the mountain.

Most of my shots of Mount Rainier didn't work out, but this one wasn't too bad.

I stayed there for a good hour, watching the light change and the clouds move in and out. I took a ton of pictures, and have high hopes that some of them will turn out and do that amazing scene some justice. Once the light faded, I headed back to my campsite and made some dinner. It was late, and I relaxed in front of a fire as the night fell around me. Thankfully the rain was staying away, but the clear night was making the temperature drop. It was going to be another cold night in the tent. The park radio mentioned that we might even get some snow overnight - I hope they were referring to at altitude.