My love for nature preceded my love for photography. One of the places that connected the dots for me was the Alpine Lakes Wilderness of Washington state.
The Alpine Lakes Wilderness protects more than 400,000 acres of craggy peaks, mountain lakes and forests in Washington’s Central Cascades — an area that stretches between two busy mountain passes. Its proximity to civilization was what initially brought me there.
An hour after leaving Seattle you can be in a wilderness where even bicycles aren’t allowed. It was convenient. It would have taken me at least three times longer to reach Mount Rainier National Park. But after my very first hike in the Alpine Lakes, its beauty became its primary draw.
My first hike was to Lake Serene. It was a tough hike. The lake is about halfway up a steep mountain, but I had never seen water so blue. And it was just one of hundreds of lakes in the wilderness area. I tried to visit a few each week and began carrying a camera so that I could show others the incredible mountains most had never heard of.
In time, I started finding photos well before I even arrived at a lake. Trails in the region almost always follow creeks up to a lake. It seemed there was a worthy waterfall every half-mile or so.
Then I started noticing shapes on the bark of trees. Interesting arrangements of mushrooms. Patterns made by lichen on exposed rocks. There were days I didn’t make it more than a mile from the car.
But then I got distracted by other projects. Until a few weeks ago, it had been years since I had set foot in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
My return hike was to Lake Dorothy, a very popular area on the north side of the wilderness, although it wasn’t an area where I had spent much time previously. As I hiked up into the woods, I was quickly reminded of everything I love about the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
I saw patterns in the trees. At the mid-point of the hike to the lake, the trail crossed a creek; there was a giant waterfall on one side and delicate cascades on the other. Just below the lake I found a sheer rock face where several ferns were growing out of a wandering crack. And at the lake itself, I spent an hour finding creative ways to pair the horizontal streaks of pollen on the water with the vertical reflections of trees (the image at top of this post).
Beauty is where you find it. I always seem to find it in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.