Ariel, Washington

Ariel, Washington

After zipping on up through Oregon, the next state headed north was Washington. After having spent several months in the huge state of California and really exploring it in depth, it was amazing to zip right on up through Oregon and be hitting yet another state so quickly. The Pacific Northwest was already showing itself to be gorgeous and I was eager to see what else this place had in store for me…

Before I left for my trip, a friend had suggested that I take a good road atlas with me, even if I had a GPS, and that was a fantastic piece of advice. On the atlas I saw the town of Ariel listed near the OR/WA border. Time to go make a little detour to go see it! When I got into town, it was so surprisingly small that I wondered how in the world it was even on the map!!

The Ariel Store... so that's where I came from!

The Ariel Store... so that's where I came from!

While I was stopped to shoot the post office pic above, one of the local ladies pulled over and commented that she didn’t think the sign was all that photogenic. We both laughed and started talking. I looked around and asked where the rest of the town was, beyond just this store and the post office, and she told me that other than a few houses nearby, this was it! The population is apparently only about 100 or so. Despite its small size, it’s actually quite well known. Why? Well in the early 70’s, this guy named D. B. Cooper hijacked a commercial airliner (he’d brought a bomb on board which is why airports now have metal detectors) and, flying south from Seattle, parachuted out of the plane flying with $200,000 somewhere around the WA/OR border… and he vanished without a trace, despite an enormous manhunt. He would have landed somewhere near the town of Ariel if he survived the jump, which no one knows, and so today they have a celebration in his honor every year called “Cooper Day.” If you look at the sign above, you’ll see the guy parachuting down with money going everywhere.

After making this stop, I decided that this evening’s destination would be Mt. St. Helens. Looking at the map, I would be approaching the viewpoint for the volcano from the east looking west. What this means from a photographer’s perspective is that you’re gonna be shooting a backlit view, which quite frankly usually looks pretty ugly, though there are certainly exceptions. Nevertheless, it felt like an exciting prospect so I made my way over to the volcano. (Learning to trust and follow my excitement is a skill I’m continuing to develop…)

Driving to Mt. St. Helens

Driving to Mt. St. Helens

Perhaps the thing that jumped out at me the most on the drive up were the TREES. It’s still summer when these photos were taken and yet the leaves were all treeless, the non-evergreens that is. Actually, take a look at this view in the same area:

Blasted trees near Mt. St. Helens

Blasted trees near Mt. St. Helens

It’s been 30 years since Mt. St. Helens erupted and yet you can still see the trees after they got blasted down. How crazy is that!? This area is actually protected so we can watch the process of regeneration and see how nature comes back to life after blowing itself up. Cool, eh? 🙂

When I finally got up to the viewpoint, I parked my car and quickly snapped a pic, even though the light on the mountain wasn’t particularly attractive. Turns out that, like what happened at Crater Lake, this first shot would actually be the only shot in which the mountain would actually be visible! The rapidly changing weather here in the mountains of the PNW is very different from what I’m used to elsewhere where things don’t change so quickly.

Mt. St. Helens backlit in afternoon light

Mt. St. Helens backlit in afternoon light

As I relaxed here for the sunset, these clouds you can see quickly started to roll on over to the mountain, obscuring it from view.

Mt. St. Helens being obscured by the evening clouds

Mt. St. Helens being obscured by the evening clouds

Occasionally the cloud pattern would be such that I’d get a peek at the sharp summit of the volcano.

Mt. St. Helens poking up through the clouds at sunset

Mt. St. Helens poking up through the clouds at sunset

Behind me was this big hill with a walkway you could walk up to get a more elevated perspective of the volcano, but given this cloud cover, I wasn’t interested in powering up the big hill to get a maybe slightly better perspective. Near me was a dad with the same idea, watching his wife and kids run on up the path. We were talking about the cloud cover when he pointed directly behind us where Mt. Adams was standing tall. I was so focused on Mt. St. Helens that I didn’t even realize Mt. Adams was visible here!

Mt. Adams at sunset

Mt. Adams at sunset

Since Mt. St. Helens didn’t look like it was gonna do much this evening, I turned my gear around and set it up to shoot a timelapse of sunset on Mt. Adams.

Shooting a timelapse of Mt. Adams

Shooting a timelapse of Mt. Adams

Now it was CRAZY windy up there and when I went back to look at the timelapse results, I discovered that that footage is definitely gonna need some deshaking applied, if I do wind up using it. The view of sunset eastward on the mountain wasn’t too spectacular, but you can see the raw unedited footage as shot:

One of my favorite views from this leg of the trip was actually the view west during sunset. There was this beautiful lake reflecting the sunset light as these gorgeous sunbeams shot down from the sky. I was seriously tempted to stop my timelapse on Mt. Adams and bring over my SLR so that I could get some nice stills of this view… Here’s what the video camera recorded:

Talk about amazing…

After tearing down my timelapse setup on Mt. Adams, I packed up and started heading out, on towards Mt. Rainier for the following morning’s sunrise. Wonderfully enough, I could actually see its rounded snow-capped peak in the distance, a preview of what’s to come.

Rainier in the distance at sunset

Rainier in the distance at sunset

Leaving Mt. St. Helens and heading over towards Mt. Rainier, I was treated with driving through some gorgeous fog at dusk. So beautiful… 🙂

Coming back down through the evening fog

Coming back down through the evening fog

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