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Artists Point

Wow, the views here are amazing.  I think some of the best I’ve ever seen.  I didn’t get to go on my hike today, but the 3 hours drive here and back were totally worth it to see the sunrise over the mountains.  There was only a couple other people there at the time.

So last night I decided I’d go hiking, I wrote about those plans in the last post.  I left here at 2am, forgot the tripod.  It was a pretty easy drive, I was surprised by the number of cars still on the road, I guess they’re mostly drunk drivers at that time.  But the traffic cleared out the further I got from Seattle.  I managed to get the car GPS to give me directions pretty much all the way there even though there wasn’t an actual destination point just a road.  But it did pretty good.  Once I got off the freeway there was almost no cars the rest of the way, I think the whole 1-1.5 hours of driving I passed maybe 3 or 4 cars on the road.

When I started getting into the national forest, I had to watch out for deer.  I only saw 2 deer on the way there.  One gave me a pretty good scare.  It was standing on the side of the road facing the direction I was driving (so butt facing me) so I didn’t see the reflection in it’s eyes and then right when I got close it turned it’s head and I saw the reflection and it scared the crap out of me.  I slammed on the breaks and swerved.  Fortunately it didn’t move or I might have hit him.

As I got closer the sun was coming up and I was starting to worry I was going to miss the sunrise.  Fortunately, I made it there in time.  I would probably have preferred to be there maybe 10-15min sooner than I did though.

I quickly parked and jumped out of the car in my t-shirt.  It was a little cold as the temp was only 45.  There was a wall of snow in the parking lot about 10-15 feet high and the toilet building is almost covered on one side.

I got some great shots, although I took a ton of photos before I realized that while the sky was great a lot of my shots of the mountains we’re all black.  What I really needed to do was to take bracketed shots and combined them with HDR.

Bear Tracks
Bear Tracks

Next time I’ll remember my tripod and do that.  In a way I’m glad I forgot my tripod because not having it made me much faster moving around and taking shots.  I also saw what I think must be bear tracks.  I’m not sure, but they’re pretty big, so that’s my best guess.  Either that or it’s the biggest dog ever.

As the sun moves up, the sky color keeps changing.  It starts with a red/purple and slowing turns more orange and then yellow as it finally rises.  Once the sun actually rises over the mountains it’s pretty much done so you want to try to get most of your shots in within the 30min or so before the sun rises.

Sunrise at Artists Point, North Cascades, WA
Sunrise at Artists Point, North Cascades, WA

You can also get some nice shots of the sun just as it’s risen as well.  I didn’t take very many shots like this, but here is one that I like.  There’s a little bit of lens flare in this one.  I’m not sure if I should photoshop it out or not.  Sometimes lens flare can add to the photo, but this is so small amount of lens flare you almost don’t realize it’s lens flare and ask, What is that green light on the rock?  The was done with a single shot, but thinking about it now, it would have been better if I had set this on a tripod and done set of 3 bracketed shots and merged them with HDR.  I was way too excited to slow down for all that at the time anyway though. :)

View from Artists Point, North Cascades, WA
View from Artists Point, North Cascades, WA

I took a bunch of panoramas as well.  I’m wondering if I should pull out the Nodal Ninja and learn to use it again.  Seems like the ones I’ve been doing, Lightroom has no problem stitching them, so hasn’t really been necessary yet.

Mount Shuksan, North Cascades, WA
Mount Shuksan, North Cascades, WA

By the time the sun had risen, I’d taken about 225 shots, just in that 30min period.  I was scrambling around taking pictures of everything as fast as I could.  As the sun rises, the light keeps changing so I’d want to take the same shots over and over.  Mount Shuksan looked amazing.  I live the huge snow clumps on the side.  Right it front it looks like there is a big chunk that is almost ready to break off and become an avalanche.  I kind of wish there was something out there that you could see in the shot for size scale.

Mount Baker, North Cascades, WA
Mount Baker, North Cascades, WA

Mount Baker was glowing purple/pink but unfortunately I didn’t really have the greatest angle of it.  Mount Shuksan was far more impressive looking from the parking lot where I was.  There was a guy that had climbed up the hill.  I wonder if he had a better viewpoint than I did.  Maybe I’ll try going where he did next time.  Patty and I plan to go back sometime.  I’m excited for her to see it.  It’s worth the 3 hour drive, even if that’s all you go to see.

Mount Shuksan from Picture Lake, North Cascades, WA
Mount Shuksan from Picture Lake, North Cascades, WA

Once the sun had risen, I headed back down the mountain and went to Picture Lake Trail.  There is a big one way circle around the lake so I went around it and parked at the trailhead.  The walk isn’t more than a couple hundred yards.  There are two vantage points, the second one is a little better as the trees are not blocking the mountain.  This is probably one of the most amazing shots I’ve ever taken.  And I was literally only on the trail for a total of 5 minutes.  Took a bunch of pictures and left.  As soon as I took them, I was like “Nailed it”.  So I got out of there, the scenery was amazing, but I had other plans.  And I already knew I’d be coming back with Patty.

First world problem, next time do I stop at Picture Lake for the sunrise or try to get to the vantage point at Artists Point that that other guy had?  You can’t choose both and they’re almost too far apart to get the sunrise at both.  I barely got this one.  Decisions, decisions.

Road to Welcome Pass Trail
Road to Welcome Pass Trail

Anyway, I headed out because it was now around 6am and I was excited to get on the trail and start my hike.  There is a really bad gravel road that takes you to the Welcome Pass Trail, but it’s not even on Google Maps.  I could only tell that it’s there by looking at the satellite view.  The road was pretty terrible.  It was a small gravel road that only one car could drive down and there was almost no places to turn around.  Huge pot holes and rocks.

Fallen Tree on Road
Fallen Tree on Road

I was scared I was going to damage the car.  But there wasn’t anyway to turn around so I had to keep going.  Eventually though, I came across a downed tree that blocked the road.  We’ll guess I’m not going to go any further down this trail.  Bummer.  About 100 feet back there was a campsite.  By campsite, I mean clearing next to the road with burn marks from a fire and nothing more.

Campsite on the side of the road
Campsite on the side of the road

You can see it in this picture off to the right side of the road.  I backed the car up back to this campsite and used it as a turn around.  This was the only place on the road that I saw where you could turn around.  If that wasn’t there I would have ha to back the car up all the way out.  Now that would have been scary.  The road looks much tamer in these pictures that it was.  These parts right here weren’t all that bad.  I made my way back out and tried heading down NF-3065, you can see it in the map picture above as the white line.  This road too was a bad gravel road, although not as bad as the one to the trailhead.  It was at least grave all the way across and in most places had enough room that two vehicles could scoot past each other if they needed to.  I drove that road to it’s farthest northwest point as seen on the map hoping there was a place to park or a trail marker or something but no luck so I turned around and headed back out.

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