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First Blush

Sunrise, Mount Rainier. Washington State.

Morning is magic! Waking up in the High Cascades, surrounded by Mount Rainier, Mount Saint Helens, Mount Adams, and an estimated 4,375 other named peaks. Add to those peaks an uncountable number of watersheds all making their way, flowing, and tumbling, downstream to the Pacific.

Sun up on Mount Saint Helens. Washington State.

Early morning is that special time of day known as Alpenglow, the golden hour, magic hour, and first light. All refer to the soft shadows and vibrant colors that come from indirect sunlight reflected or diffracted by the atmosphere before sunrise or after sunset. That reflection and diffraction is what makes the day start with breathtaking and enchanted light, color, and shadow. Pure magic.

Mount Adams Alpenglow. Washington State.

It is a great time of day for photography, but not always easy to experience. For my June images of Rainier, I was up and out by 3:30 am and headed to Sunshine Ridge. I barely made it. Frustrating to be close but not there as the blue hour arrives, a different but equally wonderful time that introduces (sunrise) or closes out (sunset) the golden hours. Too often on this trip, end of day found me in the valley or among the trees, and I completely missed several sunsets. And then of course, sunrise and sunset sometimes fizzle out. I carried my camera and tripod down to catch the evening light on the Ohanapecosh River, only to have the light just quietly fade away into darkness. Of course, watching the light fade off the river was special in itself, and a great way to end any day.

Light in the Mountains! Sunrise Ridge, Washington State.

The High Cascades, or Cascade Range, extends from southern British Columbia through Washington and Oregon to Northern California and is part of the Pacific Ocean’s Ring of Fire (South America, North America, and Kamchatka in Russia). It includes nearly twenty major volcanos, with twelve volcanos over 10,000 feet in height. This Range is an eight hundred mile chain with close to three thousand volcanic features. Rainier, Saint Helens, Glacier Peak, Crater Lake, Mount Jefferson, and others have erupted over the past four thousand years. On some days, from here in Bellingham, you can see a small plume of smoke above Mount Baker.

Incoming Clouds. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington State.

All of the images in this set capture the magic hours of sunup and sundown and are all located in the broader Cascadia Bioregion.

Mount Shuksan, Mt. Baker Wilderness. Washington State.

In this area, the interaction between rivers and mountains has really defined the Pacific Northwest. A dataset for rivers in the Cascadia Bioregion identifies 40,081 steams, covering 285,000 miles. In addition to the Cascade Range mentioned above, the bioregion also includes parts of Idaho, southern Alaska, and northern California through the watersheds of the Columbia, Fraser, and Snake River Valleys. This bioregion stretches over 2,500 miles of Pacific coastline and contains some of the largest tracts of untouched old growth temperate rainforests in the world.

“Cascadia… is a land of falling waters.”

“A region where rivers are knives, and glaciers, plows. A world in which water in all its forms animates everything, inscribing a living memory into the landscape. Water is the voice of this place, calling life into the land.”

White Salmon River Sweet-Pea. Washington State.

Both the Cascade Range and Cascadia were first named for the many cascades along the Columbia River Gorge. Cascadia incorporates some of my favorite rivers, including the Nooksack here in Whatcom County, the Skeena, Stikine, Homathko, and Bella Coola rivers in British Columbia. It includes many rivers that have found their way into my photographs and stories such as the Skagit, Stillaguamish, Rogue, Deschutes, Umpqua, Cowlitz, and many more.

“Each mile on a river will take you further from home than a hundred miles on a road.”

Bob Marshall

Sunrise, Lake Padden. Whatcom County, Washington State.

Rivers in Cascadia are unique and produce some of the longest and most consistent seasons in the West. The western slopes get occasional summer rain, glaciers produce steady streams of ice melt in summer, and the porous volcanic rock allows rain and snowmelt to percolate into these rocks and reemerge through large, steady springs that nourish rivers all year long.

In addition to light and beauty, flowing water is always on my mind and a constant companion when I travel. Waterfalls, kingfishers, and moss draped bridges are a constant reminder of the close-held connection and relationship between the water and the land I am passing through. Always in the back of my mind is the role that water, and rivers have had in sculpting the Cascades and my home here in the Northwest. Home and rivers -- synonymous for all of my adult life. Water and flow – inspiration and another wonderful form of magic.

Final Blush, Salish Sea. Washington State.

End Notes:

· Bioregions are defined through watersheds and ecoregions, with the belief that political boundaries should match ecological and cultural boundaries, and that culture stems from place.

· I found much of the information on Cascadia on the Cascadia Department of Bioregion website. It has a ton of great information and I encourage you to check it out. I’ve provided links to most information but have made changes to fit within this blog. Again, more detailed information is available at

· The Rivers in Cascadia paragraph was taken with changes and abbreviations from the Pacific Northwest section of Western Whitewater, from the Rockies to the Pacific by Jim Cassidy, Bill Cross, and Fryar Calhoun. You can purchase a copy on Amazon by following this link.

· My next blog may be a few days late. Stephanie and I are off to spend a week on the Wild & Scenic Middle Fork Salmon in Idaho. Time with good friends and one of the most beautiful and amazing river trips in the world.

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