From where I live, it's a 35-40 minute drive to the last town on the edge of Mt. Hood National Forest, Estacada. From there, it's a 30 mile drive to the middle of nowhere.
If you go hiking in the area where the Upper Clackamas River is fed by it's many sources, you might find a place I know populated by ancient boulders the size of houses and vans.
The river is forced to make a turn and a cave has formed high up at the bend. Once or twice a year, the water temperature rises to a barely tolerable 50+ degrees and the cave becomes easily accessible.
In this picture, the cave is just around the bend to the left. It was taken on one of the hottest days in summer, and the water is still difficult to tolerate in areas where it moves faster. Only slow moving pools have enough time to absorb the heat of the sun. I reluctantly took advantage of this opportunity to access the cave in minutes rather than hours.
The rest of the year, it takes quite a while to hike across the massive boulders and treacherous water forced through them. I remember fishing for trout in the many bubbling rapids up there with my friend, Ben.
He dropped his keys into one of the terraced pools among the boulders. With uneven depths as much as 12 feet and water flowing at forceful speeds, we had to learn how to hot wire his car the hard way.
Luckily, he had the break-down manual with the electrical diagram of the ignition. Breaking the steering column lock stopped him for a bit, until another camper produced a long pry-bar.
It's just a matter of leverage, I guess! We push started it, for fear we mis-interpreted the wiring diagram & would cause fatal damage, and he was good to go. When Ben got back to town, he tried crossing and contacting (in order) the three wires we had identified, and sure enough it started up! Necessity is a wonderful teacher. The trout were delicious, by the way!
Recent Camping Trips & Photos
A Great Start to 2011 Camping Season
Posted Jun 25, 2011, 11:02 AM by Aaron SemlerPDX
We began our season early and paid for it in the form of torrential rain and winds for the first weeks. A few tarps go a long way, and we used every one we had, needing to sacrifice one just for the wood pile. The water is high, almost higher than I've ever seen it.
An alder fell across our "beach access", but until just recently, the water was well on our side of it. We've since cut it away, as the waters are fast receding farther away from camp. I used my new (used) chainsaw, and later, made a dart board for my throwing knife. It's a rather large one, shown in scale next to my Bowie-style hunting knife, but highly balanced and fun to throw.(in full size mode, you can press SPACE to pause the slideshow)
At the start of the season, there wasn't much dry wood around. Lighting fires required a little liquid motivation, but luckily we had plenty of Weber juice to get it going. Within the first week, I bought a small chainsaw to help ease the load this year. It's already paid for itself many times over, but is rather small compared to what the pros use.
It truly is a small world. This year, I met a man my age that happened to, in the mid-80's, live next door to my late and beloved Grandpa, Wild Bill Perkins. We shared stories and some ice cold beers. Later, he brought down his "feller's saw". Now that's a chainsaw! In less than 30 minutes time, he had doubled the wood pile I've been building over the past few weeks.(in full size mode, you can press SPACE to pause the slideshow)
Mt. Hood National Forest, June 7th 2010
Posted Jan 4, 2011, 3:15 PM by Aaron SemlerPDX
Waters are running high this year. We had a late spring and a mild start to the summer. Most of the mornings so far have been covered in clouds, with the afternoon and evening clear. This has become the norm for the entire summer this year.
With any luck, the evenings will remain clear into August, when the Perseids meteor showers peak. The entire Milky Way is visible at night, and with so many stars, it's hard to point out even the most recognizable constellations.(in full size mode, you can press SPACE to pause the slideshow)
The place where I camp with John is right on the river. We have to use a wheel barrow to schlep the gear down to it. Being a ways back in the woods gives us a bit of selective privacy. Though it's not far from forest service "camp grounds", this entire fork of the river is only accessible from this site.
You don't need to walk far to find some interesting things to see. The slugs are over 6 inches long, and they really cruise! Under the bridge in the daytime, I can always find at least one bat hanging out. They are about the size of a mouse. Up the road, a massive chunk of rock fell from a cliff face into the river below. The water now makes a deafening roar flowing through that section.(in full size mode, you can press SPACE to pause the slideshow)
Grifford Pinchot National Forest, July 7th 2010
Posted Jan 4, 2011, 3:28 PM by Aaron SemlerPDX
Happily, I spent several peaceful days alone up in Washington following the 4th of July weekend. The drive from Oregon to Washington is a beautiful one. I cross the boarder in Cascade Locks, on the Bridge of the Gods. It is a very old bridge suspended hundreds of feet above the Columbia River Gorge.
The entrance to the camp site is past the last official "pay" campground, along a winding forest road and can easily be missed when driving at speed. It is quite a ways back from the road, along the Little White Salmon River. With only one unimproved, primitive camp site, you'll never have to worry about camping around strangers. The drive is around 80 miles from where I live, and I don't know any other primitive (free) camp sites in the area. Luckily, I have never driven the almost 2 hour drive and had to find another site due to occupancy in the 10+ summers my family and I have visited it.(in full size mode, you can press SPACE to pause the slideshow)
By the time I got up here, the temperature was already in the high 90's. After the long, hot drive, I slathered on some SPF 50 and jumped in the river. It's amazing that even in such hot sun, the river is bone chilling cold! Just diving in and getting back out is enough to lower your core temperature between gasps and heartbeats. I like to walk in the river in aquasocks, but it's painful until my feet go numb and are used to the cold.
.(in full size mode, you can press SPACE to pause the slideshow)
My Favorite Photos
Posted Jun 25, 2011, 11:18 AM by Aaron SemlerPDX
Not far from camp is the bend in the river, forcing white water at amazing force through the many boulders and channels.
I don't remember every visiting this spot with the water so high. It makes such a deafening roar that it's difficult to hear someone even 10 feet away.
The sun came out here and there, affording some good shots. My new cellphone is not gonna make it as a camera-combo. These photos cannot be blown up much without serious distortion. Nikon, here I come!
Still, I had to share this scene. This is where Ben lost his keys. We were fishing for trout on silver spoons, and catching one every few casts.
(click photo to view original size - may be slow depending on internet speed)
Posted Aug 4, 2010, 12:44 PM by Aaron SemlerPDX
Further upstream, the river is forced to cut a side path into the forest, encircling an island that only exists early in the season, before it rejoins the river on the other side. In the middle of the summer, the water level drops and this pool becomes land locked on three sides. The lagoons formed in the area are home to many fire bellied salamanders. We find them sitting on rocks under water, some very large.
This particular area of the lagoons has a beautiful boulder covered in moss and plants. The sun shines through this opening for only a few hours a day, with rays of amazing yellow light.
(click photo to view original size - may be slow depending on internet speed)
- Goat's Beard Posted May 31, 2013, 9:54 AM by Aaron SemlerPDX
Mount St. Helens
Posted Aug 9, 2010, 8:52 AM by Aaron SemlerPDXFrom Mt. Scott, December 2008Though difficult to see, in the center of the picture is the infamous Mount St. Helens. It blew it's top when I was less than a year old. My Uncle was hiking in the National Forests at the time, days hike from his vehicle, when the ash covered everything like a blizzard.The sky turned dark mid-morning, & he had no idea could have happened. Armageddon, perhaps?This is the very first photo I took with my current digital camera, laughably a Samsung Jetset cellphone. I took this photo in the morning when the clouds were still lingering low. I can only imagine how this entire region was changed in 1980.(click photo to view original size - may be slow depending on internet speed)
The Bridge of the Great Spirit
Posted Aug 29, 2010, 10:05 AM by Aaron SemlerPDX(click photo to view original size - may be slow depending on internet speed)This was such a great opportunity to shoot this sign. The history of this bridge makes me enjoy this photo on an almost eerie level. Long before the modern Bridge of the Gods was built to connect an important leg of the Pacific Crest Trail, another bridge existed before nature washed it away long ago. It was known at the Great Crossover in centuries past, when a great collapse of mountains on one side of the gorge created a land bridge over the expanse. This is thought to have created a dam, and subsequently, a inland sea stretching as far as Idaho. Over time, the center of the natural dam eroded through, creating a naturally arched bridge that local Native Americans said was built by The Great Spirit.I sometimes get lucky with sun flares in photography, and here it seems to fit the Great Spirit and God theme of the photo.
- Ancient & Modern Highway Posted Jul 13, 2010, 1:33 AM by Aaron SemlerPDX
Posted Jul 21, 2010, 11:32 PM by Aaron SemlerPDXparticular morning, I got up much earlier than my cousin, John. The sun was just rising above the tree tops of the valley east of our camp. The rain from the previous evening was turning to steam and the rays of light looked absolutely stunning shining through it.I walked to the river and took a series of photos, trying to block the sun and photograph the sun rays in the steam. What I got was more amazing than I could have planned. I will most definitely make a poster out of this one!(click photo to view original size - may be slow depending on internet speed)
Naturally Colored Easter Eggs
Posted Aug 7, 2010, 10:18 AM by Aaron SemlerPDXEaster, April 2010When I took this, I had just began using a digital photo editor. I had some fun dropping the color from all but the eggs themselves. I love this photo, and I remember when my brother was in a photography class as a teenager creating this kind of effect chemically.(click photo to view original size - may be slow depending on internet speed)
Here's what's new:
Posted Jun 25, 2011, 11:30 AM by Aaron SemlerPDXIn years past, we've had to rely on luck and long wood hunts. This year, I bought a small Pulan chainsaw, and it's instantly changed the quality of the wood we can get. I was shown a spot, several miles up the mountain ridges, with plenty of well seasoned wood cut by PGE in previous seasons. With my Pulan, I can load my car with 4-5ft spars and easily buck them into splitters back at camp.Our conservation of wood used to follow the "8 Bat or First Star" rule. We wouldn't light the fire until we saw either 8 bats fly overhead or the first star. This year, we're having morning fires and not even putting a dent in the pile. I love power tools!
High waters make for Class 5 rapids
Posted May 23, 2011, 12:18 PM by Aaron SemlerPDXThis year, the amount of snow melting high up in the mountains is keeping the rivers down below running very fast. The water level is higher than I've ever seen it at this time of year. At certain bends and bottlenecks, the water flows so forcefully that new and old paths have opened up. Many areas where rafting would be impossible due to large boulders, are now Class 5 rapids with 4 foot drops and amazing speed!
Things change every year, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot...
Posted May 13, 2011, 1:15 PM by Aaron SemlerPDXAside from the usual differences we experience each new season, like fallen trees, new paths and obstacles in the rivers, and closed roads, things generally don't change much. Unfortunately, this year, things are changing quite a lot.The forest service contract for campground management expired and the contract went to a different company. This ended a very long legacy and is literally changing the layout of the paid-public sites. The closest site to where we camp now has an unknown fate. It may changed to a day-use only area which would be nice for us "primitive" campers and make for some quiet nights. If it becomes unregulated, primitive camping, we will see a large number of the wrong kind of people staying for long periods of time.