June 16, 2007

Copper Creek

Beargrass Yet another cloudy Saturday, so I decided to head for Copper Creek near the Nisqually entrance to Mount Rainier. This would be my third or fourth attempt to photograph the creek, and I hoped for better conditions this time. My first destination was Osbourne Mountain, however. The conditions were terrible for shooting from the viewpoint I'd found there last year, but I wanted to see if the road was still traversable after the winter floods. There are a couple of tricky spots, but I did make it up to the viewpoint, and there were patches of beargrass starting to bloom along the way. Most were still only half open, but at the peak of the hill at my viewpoint, there was a prominent one fully opened, and I stopped to shoot it.

While I was in the area, I also wanted to see if the road to the Glacier View was open, and I made it all the way without hitting any snow. I talked to some hikers coming off the trail and they said the snow was still deep on the trail, so that will have to wait until later in the summer for me. There was beargrass all along the Copper Creek Road (FS-59) as well, moreso than on the way to Osbourne, but here too they were still opening.

Mossy Boulder on Copper Creek I spent a majority of the day standing beside or in Copper Creek. The water level was good, and the thick canopy overhead blocked most of the rain. Aside from a few poorly timed sunbreaks, the weather was great for shooting a river. There was a campsite set up on the east side of the creek, but there was no one there at the time. I felt a little conspicuous there, like I was trespassing, but I never needed to get within 100 feet of their gear, or even on the same side of the creek. I explored upstream a bit, but the high winter water levels has stacked quite a bit of debris there and even rerouted part of the flow. But just up from the collapsed shelter the creek was picture perfect, and I spent most of my time here, shooting from several different places.

Cascade and Cedar on Copper CreekCopper CreekCascade and Fern

Afterward, I made a quick trek into the park to see the flood damage for myself. The Nisqually River bed is twice as wide as I remember it, and the Sunrise Point Campground really is gone. The only remnant was a distant picnic table on a piece of land jutting into the river bed. The old Kautz Creek channel was virtually dry, with just a trickle where the entire river once flowed. A few hundred yards up the road, a new section of road crossed the new river bed, flowing through the forest.

There was still quite a bit of snow in Paradise Valley, but the road was open, as was Stevens Canyon Road to Reflection Lakes. The lakes were completely thawed and ice free, but Rainier wasn't visible. Winter still held its grip at that elevation, at least on this day.

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