A larch in front of other larches

Looking for larches

Move over, aspens. There’s a new fall tree in town.

This weekend, Cobalt and I went on an epic hike in search of larches, trees I had never heard about until a few weeks ago. These needley trees look like your typical evergreens during the summer, but then in the fall the needles turn yellow and fall off, like your typical deciduous trees. So cool!

In addition, it’s been two years since Cobalt and I have lived in Colorado, and we missed our fall tradition of seeing the glorious aspens turn yellow against the bright blue Colorado sky.

So when we found out that the Pacific Northwest has larches, we knew we had to go find them.

It’s not exactly easy. Larches in the state of Washington live at high elevation (~5,000 ft) in the northern part of the Cascade mountain range. So we had about a three-hour drive to wiggle northeast to the Cascades and then up.

But it turned out to be a beautiful day for a drive. To get to the Cascades, we drove through tunnels of orange and yellow trees that were shrouded in fog. Perfect for people who love fall and Halloween. Then as we climbed into the mountains, the sun came out and we were surrounded by outstanding views of the craggy mountains in this mountain range. Seriously, it was jaw-dropping.

My co-worker had recommended that we do the Cutthroat Pass trail, because it would definitely get us high enough to see larches (the trailhead is about 4,000 feet), and it would possibly be less crowded than other popular hikes in the area. The weather was too perfect though, so I think half of the state of Washington had the same idea we did.

Anyway, the trail was great! It was coated in snow, which ranged from a little dusting at the beginning to more prominent snow as we climbed. But the sun was out, so we weren’t too cold. We had INCREDIBLE views of the surrounding mountains, and we started to see larches nestled on them as the trail went on. Then suddenly, at about 6,000 feet, we found ourselves surrounded by these beautiful turning-yellow trees…. and all the other humans who had come out to find them.

We found them!!!
Cobalt admiring the view

Cobalt and I wandered around the larches for a while, taking pictures and getting to know them.

Getting up close and personal with a larch….

Their needles are thinner than those of other needled trees I’ve encountered, so they felt feathery and soft. Their softness and the way they were organized on the branches made the branches look like yellow pipe cleaners jutting out of the trunks. For some reason, the twisty nature of the larch branches made me think of skeletons. Not sure why.

Similar to other deciduous trees, each larch needle turns yellow in its own time. It makes for a gorgeous mix of yellow and green on any given tree.
Looks spiky but soooo soft…

After meandering through larches and humans, we found a large rock in the sun and decided to stop for lunch. We enjoyed our excellent views of the larches and the light breeze that swept across the area while we munched on carrots and cheese.

Also part of the lunch view: This neat mushroom!

Then it was time to head back down. :(

These little puffs caught my eye as we headed back down. I like that you can see the larches in the background.

These trees are magical. I can’t wait to go back and visit them again next year — or maybe next week. I miss them already.

Leaving you with some mushrooms and a baby tree!

Behind the Scenes

Happy Veterans’ Day! When I was in high school band, we used to have a concert for veterans on Veterans’ Day to celebrate them. Well, I am no longer in band but I still wanted to acknowledge all veterans today.
Leaf Week concludes today (special surprise tomorrow) with this crazy leaf picture. I really like this picture because the leaves in the foreground are actually not in focus and the leaves in the background are in focus. Good times. I like to give all leaves a chance to be in focus, you know? And sometimes the leaves in the background just feel a little left out! Well, now’s your time to shine, guys!

Black and White: Riding out the Storm

For today’s black and white picture, I decided to post this semi creepy picture of what happens when all the leaves fall off the tree! I took this picture in May 2008 when I was visiting Fort Collins, CO with my family to get my sister settled into a summer program at CSU. That means I took this picture on my old old old point and shoot, my trusty Canon Powershot A75 probably about a month or so before it bit the dust. Man, that was the best and most loyal digital point and shoot I ever had; it hung around through three years of college insanity and then one year of fun in New Mexico. So A75, I salute you!
Anyway, I really like that the branches of the tree kind of look like a claw and that the bird is just sitting on this creepy claw being like “Yeah… just chillin’…”

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Berries for dessert?

(or death…)
Wooooo Leaf Week is in full swing now… So as I was saying yesterday, I took a bunch of pictures around campus last week trying to find the perfect leaf pictures to enter into a leaf picture contest. That means that I have a ton of awesome leaf pictures that are sitting around thinking they are not good enough now because I didn’t use them as my contest entries. You can feel better now, leaf pictures, because now you are on my blog! Wow… that was a long explanation. Anyway, this was actually one of my favorite pictures that I took in my leaf picture quest but I decided not to enter it because well, it has berries, not leaves as its focus.

I didn’t do much to this picture. I just edited out some random dots in the sky and then cropped it.

Portrait: Do You Like My Leaf?

I have decided that this week is going to be Leaf Week in honor of all the gorgeous trees out there right now. Also, I took some leaf pictures to submit to a photo contest and was so inspired by it that I decided to post (other) leaf pictures in my blog too! So starting out this week is my friend Janet, who works in my lab with me and who is also awesome. Janet has been crazy stressed lately writing her thesis so that she can graduate. It’s due today so yay Janet for getting it done! *round of applause for Janet* Anyway, on Friday, she took a break from writing and went outside in the gorgeous fall weather (it was 70 degrees outside… in November!!!!) to take leaf pictures with me! This one was my favorite.

First a note: (I have had a suggestion that this photoshop section takes away from the magic of my pictures… Do other people feel like that? Should I just include a brief summary of the picture and that is all? I have been posting the photoshop section because it is kind of a record keeper of what I actually did do to each picture and I thought people might be curious about how I process my pictures… but discuss!)
Today’s Photo: When I take pictures on my DSLR, it saves the picture both as a JPG and as a raw NEF file so that I can have multiple ways of editing my pictures. I’ve been working on learning how to edit the JPGs on their own since I can apply those skills to any picture taken on any camera but for Janet’s picture, I actually used both NEF and JPG editing techniques. Janet’s face was a little underexposed so I fixed the exposure and the white balance of the NEF photo. Then I switched to editing it as a JPG. I cropped it and darkened those bright leaves above Janet’s head because let’s face it, they were outta control!. That’s it! :)