Melakwa Lake to Pratt Lake

This is a kind of interesting blog post: a trip report. Something that I have not done before. Another thing that is unique to this blog post is how fast I did post-processing of photos. Typically, it takes me days if not months after an actual trip. This time I’ve done it in a day.

Yesterday with a good company I went on a one way hike starting at Melakwa Lake trailhead and finishing at Pratt  Lake trailhead. It was an interesting and challenging hike, slightly over 14 miles long (not counting the side trips we took). Just walking it would take us 7 hours. 5 more hours we spent photographing and taking side trips. Overall the trip took us 12 hours. We started hiking at around 6am and finished around 6pm.

Not far from trailhead the trail passes under I-90 viaduct with its nice curve:

In 40 minutes we got to the first waterfall without a name. We just passed by since we tried to get to Keekwulee Falls by sunrise. It was another 30 minutes before we got to Keekwulee Falls and we missed sunrise which turned out to be not a big problem since there was no beautiful sunrise and the light was not aligning with the waterfall either.

It was still great that we got there so early. The early morning sun was lighting up granite wall across the waterfall reflecting back soft warm light while waterfall itself stayed in shadow with water reflecting deep blue of the sky. Keekwulee Falls was a great destination for photography: it has so many intricate streams, cascading water, emerald pools, that provide endless opportunities for images.

We spent one and a half hours by Keekwulee Falls. I could easily spend there even more making more images. Once we left this waterfall we went on climbing even steeper higher to a pass. Doing this early morning with air still cool after night definitely made it easier. At some point we passed one more waterfall but it had no close approach. We could barely see it thru trees. Once over the pass we quickly got to the first alpine lake on our hike: Melakwa Lake with Upper Melakwa Lake just a short distance away. At this point the sun was high. The light was flat – the kind of landscape photographers don’t like. I was not discouraged by that since the main goal was exploration. Still I made it a goal to take at least one interesting photo on each lake. So here the go in the order of appearance.

Melakwa Lake:

Lower Tuscohatchie Lake:

Near Pratt Lake:

Pratt Lake:

Pratt Lake was the last alpine lake on our trail. Once we passed it the trail went up steeply to a pass that would get us over the ridge closer back to civilization. Unfortunately I must say I did not find lakes very picturesque. The all elongated north to south with approaches from south or  north end surrounded by tall granite walls on both west and east side. This means that there is no photo opportunity at sunrise or sunset.

Once we got to the top of the ridge I saw this tree covered with bright orange mushrooms. Just had to take a picture of it:

Over the ridge and on the way down to Pratt Lake trailhead the trail was uneventful: monotonically old growth forest. It was an easy walk down but I was not surprise to see tired faces of people walking up. For them it was long, steep and boring hike. There were occasional small streams but they were lacking enough water to become interesting. It has been a very dry week here and it was a sunny side of the ridge. Still there was one interesting waterfall which I’d like to return back to after rain:

Enchantment Lakes [1]


Just like good wine I want to give photos from a good trip to settle in, give my mind time to relax and reflect, almost forget about them to have a fresh look before starting post-processing.

My story begins way before we actually stepped on the trail. It starts with learning that a group of photographer was planning an five day backpacking trip to Enchantment Lakes. I thought of going to that place for a while. The name itself – Enchantment Lakes – sounded so captivating waking up imagination. I even thought to do it as a day trip… well, I did not quite knew what I was up against.

I got on that group that had eight photographers in it including me. Since I knew it will be physically challenging trip I started running every day. That certainly helped me a lot of the trip.

I also started gathering all the right equipment and none of it was photography related: sleeping bag, sleeping pad, warm clothing, waterproof clothing and boots, backpack, and so on. One of the photographers – John Song – helped me a lot with selecting the right equipment since he has gone on backpacking trip to Enchantment Lakes before. Two days before the trip he inspected the content of my backpack and gave some final suggestions. (Thanks, John!)

As we were getting closer to the trip people started dropping off. Many were concerned about smoke due to wildfires raging in close vicinity of Enchantment Lakes. (Luckily it was not a problem at all. The wind was blowing smoke in direction opposite to Enchantment Lakes.) Only three people stepped on the trail. And I was one of them.

My trip to Enchantment Lakes was the most impressive experience of my life in many different ways: first time backpacking, first time hiking so high, first time visiting Enchantment Lakes, first time overcoming fear of heights.

All those stories are coming. For now I’ll leave you with this image I took at Lake Viviane in Lower Enchantments.

I’ll Take It!

Couple weeks ago I went to Rainier again. You know I’m falling in love with it. (See my post New Eyes.) While there I met a couple of photographers. We got talking a little bit, all three excited about nice sunset.

On the way back we were passing a view of Paradise Lodge with a nice backdrop of after sunset sky with nice hues of orange, red and blue. Their reaction was “It is not worth taking.” Mine was “I’ll take anything that excites me.” I think it turned out pretty nice.

Paradise Lodge
Paradise Lodge

Path of Light

Photography has been and hopefully remain as much about playing and experimenting. One of such fun things is to introduce an artificial light sources in a landscape. The official term for it is “light painting” but for me it is just playing with flashlights, imagining what a landscape can be, and then getting a surprising result.

Like in this photo that I took at the Second Beach in Olympic National Park just after sunset, when it was dark enough for a long exposure and dark enough for a flash light (actually 3 flashlights) to make a difference.

Path of Light
Path of Light

Freeway Poppies

California poppies can be found in Western Washington only along roads. I’ve spotted one of such places along one of freeways while driving my son to gymnastics. The hills was burning orange covered with poppies.

The next morning I woke up a little bit earlier to get to that hill and photograph poppies before work. I parked the car at the nearest parking lot next to a store and walked to that hill. The poppies were as good as the day before – an island of the Nature beauty in the middle of a city.

So, there I was, lying on a ground photographing poppies with cars passing by at a high speed. Here are a few photos I took:

Flower Hill

As I wrote in my previous post (Good Night, Ladybug) there is a hill close to my house that has various wild flowers blooming every year. Here are a couple more photos that I took at that hill recently.

Just a Little Bit of Water

Day 5, Sunset

Finding water is a bit of a challenge in Death Valley. On a rainy year (which was a few years ago) there was water on Badwater flats and lots of photographers and spectators were taking photos of reflections. This year there was no water at all on Badwater.

As I was driving thru the valley I noticed a brisk reflection of the Sun. It must have been water.

Indeed there were a few small creeks with salty banks. And where water is there is life. There was some grass. Most of it dried out but there was some still green. The dry ones mineralized with salt turned into sharp spikes.

That’s where I settled waiting for a sunset.

Here are a couple of images I took at that place. The first one is right before the Sun disappeared, the last rays just touching the tops of the greenery:

Last Rays
Last Rays

And here the afterglow:


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