The autumn color around town was looking pretty good, and it seemed to be near peak in the lower mountains as well. So I took a hike up one of my favorite autumn destinations – Siouxon Creek (That’s pronounced SOO-Shawn creek).
The Siouxon Creek trailhead is located just south of Mt. St. Helens, in southwest Washington State, about a 2 hour drive from Portland. Interestingly, the road is paved the whole way… which is unusual for this kind of hike. Typically, you’ll encounter gravel the last few miles of these roads. The road had been washed out about 6 miles before the trailhead for much of 2009, but was recently repaired.
Siouxon Creek is a pretty straightforward hike along a creek… fairly flat, with a loop at the end. If you include the loop, it’s about 9 miles. But you don’t have to do the loop to have an enjoyable experience, and encounter many photographic opportunities along the way. The trail never strays far from the creek, so there are plenty of places to get down close to the water for some creek in the foreground.
The weather forecast was “mostly sunny”, which is usually not ideal for a trail like this, as bright dappled sunlight through the forest creates too much contrast for a pleasing image. But, this time of year, the sun never gets very high, and Siouxon Creek is in a canyon, with the trail being on the south side. So, the trail itself sees little sun.
It was indeed sunny most of the day. While this didn’t interefere with many shots, I wasn’t able to do justice to the really nice fall color on the opposite side of the creek. The bright colored leaves in full sun were too saturated, and inconsistantly lit (leading to a mottled appearance). I just had to shoot around the sunspots. This cut-down on the number of possible shots & angles, but in a place like Siouxon, there is always plenty to shoot.
So, I spent most of the trip focusing on smaller interesting subjects, like mushrooms. I also managed a few decent shots of the creek, but only in locations where the sun wasn’t a factor. A few clouds did roll by, and that allowed me a few extra opportunities. The sun also moved quite a bit during my ~5 hour visit. Shots that were in shadow on the way out were in sun on the way back. This was a good example of why you don’t want to “save shots for later”. If you see a good photographic opportunity, take it. A good deal of what makes nature photography work is timing, and if you wait… there goes the timing.
This trail is open to mountain bikers, so be aware of that. On one occasion during this hike, I had crouched down really low to get a macro photo of a mushroom, when a couple mountain bikers zipped by. If I’d been in the trail, it would have been ugly, as they couldn’t have seen me. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any shots of the bikers. A couple semi-blurred “motion” shots would have been nice, but it was too hard to predict when a biker would come by, and such a shot takes a bit of planning.
There was so much going on in the first few miles, I ran out of time to include the loop at the end of the trail (which includes a couple more waterfalls). I’ll have to go back… but probably next year, as the leaves have fallen, and the snows are coming!