November sunrises can be stunning. There is something about the atmosphere that gives these cooler months a brighter palette. I headed out Wednesday just before 5:00 am to get to Mount St Helens for the sherbet skies of a mostly clear morning.
It was stunning.
It was also viciously cold.
By the time I made it to the Loowit Falls Viewpoint near Johnston Ridge the roads were icy, walking was dicey and my Nikon stopped working. I put on my microspikes for the trail at West Boundary but the blowing snow and wind quickly sent me back to the car. I’m hardy, but I’m not stupid. With wind gusts and temperatures both in the 20’s, I didn’t spend a lot of time on the trail.
I drove up to Johnston Ridge and had the giant parking lot to myself. The snow was blowing with the wind gusts and it felt like a frozen tundra. My camera still wouldn’t function. The shutter button literally froze. It recovered eventually but begged to stay in the warmth of the car.
The road is open all the way to Johnston Ridge. It’s mostly clear but there are snowy, icy spots on the road all the way up. Pearl was made for these drives. I understand that in December, this road will be gated up for the winter and not re-opening until May. Next clear day with less wind, I will definitely head back for that hike along Truman Trail.
I spent a little time near Coldwater Lake after leaving the ridge. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen choppy water on that lake. Well … at least not like this. Everywhere you see water on the path it has turned to solid ice. If you’re looking for winter, rest assured, I found it on the mountain.
I saw dozens of elk in places and just a handful of juncos. At the Coldwater Lake picnic area, the restrooms are still closed. An act of senseless violence from October left the restrooms completely destroyed. I said my own version of a prayer today for the human beings that could do such things. And I might be secretly hoping for a little karmic balance too.
After a short walk along the Hummocks Trail I decided to head out. I’d hoped for some birds on this sunny Wednesday so I headed further south to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. There is an auto tour here that ordinarily takes 30-45 minutes for the loop drive. If you’d like to see what I see, but can’t always do the walking, this is a great option. All of the photos below were taken from my car on one of my four trips around ! I stayed hoping for an equally colorful sunset, but it was soft and muted. A perfect ending to daylight.
I’m more sore today from sitting than I am from walking. I’ll be back to my regular morning walk soon. For today, I’ll get my old man, Yoda, out for a walk at the park and take in whatever the day has to offer.
Wonderful day, you are a hearty soul, sunrise to sunset!! I’m so impressed. That hawk. Just love that face. Thanks for sharing your day.
They are always so serious looking, aren’t they? If I had cooperative weather I’d do it more often (like summer) but I do have the luxury of picking and choosing now and I never take that for granted. Thanks for sharing it !
Stunning sunrise images, Bon. Why does cold air/snow seem to make nature so much more beautiful!? Loved all the shots but the one through the tree… WOW!
Thanks, Mare. It was a spectacular day despite that bone-chilling cold. The snow is like a blank canvas … I was hoping for bluebirds!
Thanks Crystal ! The road to Johnston Ridge is usually open until mid December. But even after it closes, if the snow isn’t too bad, you can do the West Boundary Trail up to Johnston Ridge. That way you pretty much can expect little to no company up there. Yeah, the bathroom thing is just sad. They estimate the damage at around $10,000. Sigh. I agree with your thoughts on whoever might have done it. Roads are still just a little icy and slick toward the top, and parking lots have compact snow, but I expect that will change soon. Pretty stunning at sunrise.
I am surprised the road is still open all the way through. It’s so gorgeous and I’m pretty sure my Jeep could handle it, so I think I’ll try to get up there when I get home from Annapolis and sneak in a snow visit before the road is closed. I’m so glad you had spikes for the trail (I don’t) but it seems like the wind and cold were brutal that day. That toilet photo looks like they absolutely smashed it to bits. I hope whatever anger was trapped inside got spent on that toilet and not on something more valuable, like a life. Thanks for praying for that tortured soul(s), and I join you on wishing for some balance too. Great shots as always. I have to be honest, the shots of snow make me so excited. I’m not a snow lover, not really, but I guess a part of me does miss winter, now that I live on the coast. Thanks for the tour Bonnie!
Gorgeous sunrise! Worth the price of admission. And what the actual f*** on the restrooms! Both of them? I’m totally without a shred of understanding. Copper pipes? Surely not. It looks beautiful up there, if not for the cold. (The photos loaded immediately!)
You are not wrong about that sunrise 🧡 And the bathroom thing, omg, it makes my blood boil. Last month there was speculation that it was about that idiotic tik-tok challenge to vandalize school and public property. I don’t know what’s wrong with people. It was gorgeous yesterday, but bone-chilling with that wind. At least it keeps the crowds down !
And FYI, both bathrooms in the picnic area but the boat launch area was spared.
Wonderful drive by photography!
Thanks, Jocelyn. Have you been down there recently ? Lots of ducks and shore birds too. I have a photo of a killdeer hanging out with a Wilson’s snipe !
Ooo, what a magnificently serene and happy hawk! <3 But those leaves! Cold for real, your camera knows when enough is enough. Also terrible vandals. 🙁
Oh yes, cold for real ! And also correct, my camera knows when to quit. The red-tail hawks at Ridgefield were plentiful. I saw at least half a dozen different ones in the several hours I spent there.