a misty forest walk in the cascades featuring the devastating power of mother nature, weird fungus and delicious cookies
After a lovely, misty afternoon in the woods with the boys along the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River on a Saturday (in which the sun was apparently shining just about everywhere else across the Pacific Northwest) I found myself with a small window of opportunity for some serious(ish) shooting as dusk descended somberly upon the river so I got busy and managed a half dozen somewhat-long exposures. The boys were splashing behind me with glee and doing things like scooping up interesting river rocks when Oliver Fern tripped in his clumsy rubber galoshes and landed approximately face-first in the river. Those darn boots go everywhere lately and they’ve got a tendency to cause trouble! At any rate, further photographic endeavors were immediately kiboshed so we could get the heck out of Dodge City. When we were up here in December I almost got us stuck on the snowy road but now it’s just terribly pot-holed and muddy, certainly not as crummy as the old days yet terrifically unpleasant.
I used a six-stop ND filter for this particular picture and got 25 seconds for the exposure. The arched beam and cable-hung structure in the distance is the Gateway Bridge (luckily for Oliver Fern the trailhead is just over yonder and we had plenty of extra dry clothes). It felt unbelievably nice to get some proper use out of my gear. I’ve schlepped a pretty good kit (tripod and ballhead, filters, extra lens, doo dad widgets) on the past half dozen walks with the boys for mostly no reason (not counting the priceless pictures of them I always come home with but those don’t require the full 12 pounds of ballast) and in all seriousness, I almost left the pretty good kit at home for this outing. Although it’s true the potential for such instances are precisely why I saddle-up and trudge onward like an arthritic mule I just wish they weren’t spaced so far apart!
The woods in this part of the Cascades has been one of my favorite close-to-Seattle mountain places for years, over a period of time a well-deserved (now mostly dated) reputation for nefarious hi-jinks and seediness tended to creep out nicer people, spooking them to elsewhere on the map. On the other hand, if the gradually-disappearing piles of garbage and drug paraphernalia, burned-out vehicles and surly ne’er-do-wells didn’t do the job, the ghastly rough road took care of things. Some years were extremely bad for the family car, like the summer I pounded our Volvo station wagon (finally decommissioned last summer) far enough up the road for a long day to Hardscrabble Lakes and the summit of Big Snow Mountain. That era’s getting over: The road into the heart of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Valley is being engineered for niceness (and more people). While the days of the valley being an overlooked sort-of-place are clearly over, it’s a topic about which I feel conflicted and wistful. Every time we come up here Adam likes me to retell the story about how I let him accidentally topple face-first into the cold river when he was a little baby. I had him buckled into the freestanding backpack carrier which was propped amid cobbles of the river in such a way to afford him a clear view of the scenery, he was an unusually happy clam and I was taking advantage of the situation with a few long exposures. My sore back was enjoying a break from the death-grip of the carrier’s straps and the shutter was taking its time to close when I looked over and watched Adam tipping forward in slow motion. We spent hours on the river that day and nary another soul heard Adam’s hysterical sputtering and shrieking or my apocalyptic groans of parental contrition (in case you’re wondering, I confessed to his mother that night).
At any rate, the trail along the river was an adventure to the fullest for the boys, what with the recent storm damage. A spectacular mess of splintered jackstraw and shattered granite required frequent gymnastics. Whereas my knees, back and groin didn’t appreciate the slippery hopping-downness at various angles all that much, Adam negotiated each obstacle course with aplomb: He was more excited than usual about being in the woods because this was the inaugural hike in his new spectacles and he thrilled every time they fogged or misted. He’s a brainier eight year old and I couldn’t be happier, he’s adorable in his glasses. I’ve found it hard to stifle a grin the past several days every time he tries one of his bad jokes or puns on me.
Finally on this particular afternoon we would come to a familiar high plateau in the woods. It was carpeted velvet with sphagnum moss and featured an exceptional view of Garfield Mountain where the valley widens. We situated ourselves upon soggy, bouncy nurse logs for a long lunch-and-cookie session. Oliver Fern and Adam provided entertainment for their mother and I with a mix of mossy stick-sword fighting and specimen-gathering. We inspected lots of weird-looking fungus. The way back featured plenty of pattering, splashy raindrops on our foreheads and a somewhat ill-advised detour through a grove of naked, spiky Devil’s Club to savor more of the river. But the forest was a calm green curtain……