Larch Mountain is one of those places in the Columbia River Gorge that few people seem to know about, largely because it is a bit of a one-trick pony: there’s a single, small viewing area at the top of the mountain, a short 5-minute hike up from the parking lot. It’s out of the way if you want to do the Vista House/Multnomah Falls route, and, if you’re looking to make a day of it, there aren’t any simple hiking trails or picnic areas with sweeping vistas. (You can, however, go for the 14.4-mile ‘difficult’ trail from Multnomah Lodge, if, unlike me, you’re sufficiently in shape.)
However, the drive up the mountain is a beautiful winding ride (also 14 miles) through dense forest, and I never tire of it, especially on the bike. If you’re there on a clear day, what you get is a stunning panoramic view of five mountains in the Cascade Range: Jefferson, Hood, Adams, Rainier, and St. Helens. And, at 4,000 feet, the summit of Larch is also much cooler than the river floor, which is one of the reasons I head up here frequently during the summer.
Last night, Duncan and I decided to drive up to the top of Larch. A full moon was due about 25 minutes before sunset, and we were hoping that we might get a shot of the moon coming up alongside Mount Hood. (I was also itching to try the Nikon D800, which I’m evaluating to see if I’m up for the switch from Canon, but that’s a post for another day.)
Unfortunately, the moon came up about 40 degrees to the north of Mt. Hood, so epic moonrise shots weren’t in the cards, but it was still a lot of fun. The top of Larch was like a party, with a large group of folks hoping to watch (or photograph) a lovely sunset in a beautiful place while there was still a hint of warmth in the air. There were photographers with big-ass tripods and others with cameraphones. There were people with friends from out of town, and couples with glasses of champagne toasting the moon. Duncan and I had a great time shooting and chatting in the midst of all this, with the added bonus of meeting the photographer Hudson Henry, who was a blast to be around. And, as it turned out, fun to shoot as well, while he jumped on the bluff atop the mountain to grab some shots of the Columbia valley below. I grabbed the one above and the one below, and couldn’t really decide which one I liked better.
(You can see larger views of either photo by clicking on it.)
[Duncan has a couple of great shots of Hood over on his blog.]
While you’re at it, check out Hudson’s shot of the Enchantments; it is quite beautiful.
(Yes, this shot is very similar to this one from a couple of years ago. I like that one too.)