Tamanawas Falls

I love shooting in the snow. I love playing in the snow, basically doing anything in the snow, for short periods. One of the perks of living in Portland is I usually have the choice. Its an hour away, but I don’t have to deal with it in the city.

This year we had a decent storm. But my home in North Portland only got about a half inch. Eastern Portland and the Gorge got dumped on, but with the weather came day care closures so I wasn’t able to get out. On top of that my social media was suddenly drenched with photos of Multnomah Falls in the snow, and it killed my desire to head to the Columbia River Gorge knowing it was flooded with photographers. Photographing something while standing beside 25 people photographing the same thing is something I’m working to avoid. So I stayed home and took photographs of my daughter:)

The following week after the crowds had died down I decided to head up to Mt Hood for the day and break in the new snow shoes my wife Elizabeth had given me for Christmas. Theres a great website called http://www.outdoorproject.com that has awesome ideas for places to go with maps, photos, and descriptions of what to expect. I found a pretty fun looking snowshoe hike to a waterfall called Tamanawas Falls. I was pretty out of shape, but decided I could handle the four mile in and back hike.

I packed up and headed to the trailhead bright and early. I wasn’t sure what crowds would be like on a Thursday, and I was the first one there. Im still relatively green at snowshoeing and dressed to be comfortable. I was also breaking in some new boots I had grabbed recently at the Columbia outlet store. I started up the trail, and though it had gotten a few inches the night before, the trail was pretty packed down. Would I need the snowshoes?

Nope. Im pretty sure that at 4 or so of the 6 or 7 times I’ve been snowshoeing I’ve ended up carrying them. I have some micro spikes on the way, and should probably start with them next time. Luckily the shoes were pretty light, so I strapped them to my bag and carried on.

The views along the trail were magnificent. Most of the way up the trail the Cold Spring Creek is right along to your left. The deep snow beside the trail had me a little nervous about getting to the bank though. I was able in a few spots pretty easily. I probably could have strapped the snow shoes on and gone in anywhere! But I wanted to play it safe. Since I had dressed to be comfortable at the trailhead, now that I was working out I started to get really warm really quick. My comfort was diminishing rapidly, as my new boots were starting to chafe and my glasses would fog up every time I looked through the viewfinder of my camera. I was learning a lot really fast. Microspikes, dress lighter, don’t break in new boots on a trail, and use some damn contact lenses. These lessons are good for me. Next time I would be much more prepared, and luckily this hike was only 4 miles. In the long run I would much rather dress lighter and be a little chilly, than be hot and feel like I’m dragging tons of extra weight through the woods. Regardless, I was really enjoying myself. Peace and quiet, the beauty of the snow, and I could sense the falls at the end would be well worth the effort.

At one point I wiped the fog from my glasses, and without any notice (usually the sound of a large waterfall lets you know you are close) I was confronted with the view of what I had been working for. Tremendous. Larger than I had expected, and just gorgeous. I had reached Tamanawas Falls.

The Destination

“The Destination”

Most of my gear was still in my pack, and rather than stop and setup with ND filters and what not for a shot, I made my way in. A woman had caught up with me on the trail, and at this point she was past me. Wearing micro spikes, she wandered right up behind the falls. I decided that would happen for me next time. But there was a small pool a short ways downstream from the falls so I decided to set up there for my main shots. It was a bit tricky. I shot a ton. Im still somewhat new to using Sony cameras 100% of the time, and their tiny histograms make me nervous shooting in the snow. The scene was in the shade, so it was pretty dark, and I really didn’t want to blow out the snow while trying to expose to get the whites white.

I shot here for a good half hour or so. I walked up the hill to the right a little bit, but started slipping, and really feeling the blistering happening to the back of my feet from the new boots. So I decided to head back, with my camera still on the tripod so I could stop for some more shots on the way. I struggled. Within 10-15 minutes I was in excruciating pain (I still can’t wear shoes and I’m writing this 3 days later). I stopped as often as I could, but found I was getting frustrated as most the spots I veered off the trail to the bank, I couldn’t find a composition that I liked. I did get a few that ended up being some of my favorite shots from the trip, including these-

It was a really long trip back. I was cursing out loud every time I came around a bend expecting to see the trailhead. Fortunately the majority of it was downhill. My glasses seemed to be permanently fogged up, and my feet were just killing me. But I made it. And it was 100% worth it. I texted my wife that I was safe, and jumped in the car. I hadn’t eaten in hours, so hauled butt back to Hood River for some much deserved beer and chow. Mission accomplished!

Every time I do a trip like this it makes the next one better. Comfort for one. But also because I learn more and more about getting my camera to do what I want. Sometimes its a struggle when you realize something was just a bit off, but next time you go out you try and remember. With the crazy technology of todays equipment, there’s always new things to learn. But one thing I know every time, is I am incredibly lucky to live somewhere where in an hour from my house I can be on the side of a mountain. I struggle living in Portland often, after being here for 25 years. But these trips remind me why I stay here. It truly is an amazing place. And soon I will be able to share it with my daughter….

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