We’re tracking snow accumulation and melt-out in the Cascade forests, collecting key data that will help ensure water security for valleys and communities below.
Written and Photographed by Heather Weagant
Growing up east of the Cascades, I was always drawn to the mountains. Without the ability to enjoy the trees and prominent peaks on a daily basis, I quickly learned that the forest was something special and needed to be cherished.
My family would spend countless weekends at our cabin in Packwood, enjoying the fresh mountain aromas and the surrounding sights. As a young girl, my grandfather would take me to his favorite fishing stream, Skate Creek, in hopes to land some trout for dinner.
Located between Ashford and Packwood, Skate Creek was only a short drive away from us and provided hours of fishing, exploration, and the opportunity to create new memories. I spent many hours as a child with a fishing pole in my hand, scouring the moss-covered rocks in hopes to find slugs and caterpillars, and enjoying a number of hidden waterfalls along the way.
As I’ve grown older and have started a family of my own, I continue making those memories with my own children. While the trout aren’t as abundant as they used to be, my son still loves dropping a line in hopes to catch the big one. My daughter never tires of throwing rocks in the stream or finding a plethora of leaves, each one bigger than the last. It’s their smiles and happiness that keep me coming back.
As I become more serious in the hobby of photography, Skate Creek is now a place I never visit without a camera in hand. In addition to the rugged wilderness it provides, there is a great amount of untouched beauty that begs for attention. Whether it’s cascading waters flowing over boulders, deep blue pools, or the multitude of colors changing between every season, my camera always has something special to catch.
While visiting the cabin on a weekend in early October, the intermingling of clouds and sunshine provided the perfect atmosphere for an autumn scene in the mountains. As I plotted my day, I knew that there was one place I could not resist: Skate Creek. It took some self-control to wait until the sun began to set, but the wait was worth it. Due to recent rainfall, the ground was saturated and the creek was flowing with some ferocity, the leaves dripped with lingering raindrops and the unseasonably warm sunshine shone through the low lying clouds.
The sun beamed off the golden leaves, setting the perfect autumn tone. With every slight breeze, leaves dropped one by one off of the trees, littering the ground in vivid shades of yellow and orange.
It’s moments like these that I remember why I am continually drawn to this place. This is one small section of a meandering creek that provides more sights than your eyes can take on in one single visit. I am one of the lucky ones who can call this majestic mountain paradise a second home, and hope that others take the time to visit a place so near and dear to me to experience the beauty it has to offer while making memories of their own.
Heather Weagant is a landscape photographer sharing beauty and experience from all over the Pacific Northwest. When she doesn’t have a camera in hand, she is teaching special education and spending valuable time making memories with her family.
You can see more of her work on Instagram @hweagant.
Cover Photo – the story behind the picture
Early Morning High in the Mountains
Written by Molly Bogeberg, Marc Hershman Marine Policy Fellow
Photographs by TNC and (3) Benj Drummond
We set out early from Seattle, leaving in the dark at 4 a.m. Lauren Miheli, Iris Redwood-Sawyerr, Robin Stanton and I were heading east of Snoqualmie Pass to meet photographer Benj Drummond to capture images of us exploring some of the 48,000 acres of forests the Conservancy was about to acquire in the Central Cascades.
Once we arrived, we consolidated our bags of gear and warm layers and piled into one car to head up the mountain. At our destination on Cabin Mountain, I put on every layer that I had brought with me–a wool layer, puffy down jacket, teal scarf, teal mittens, wool beanie, and my blue raincoat. I had been told that red and orange were the best colors for an outdoor photoshoot, but I could not be convinced. As an ocean- loving, marine scientist (and now a marine policy fellow at the Nature Conservancy), I was sure that blue would be best!
We all donned our headlamps and followed Benj (who had pre-scouted the area) into the dark, straight up to the peak where the photoshoot would commence. As we hiked up the mountain, we did our best not to slip on the slick muddy ground and dew covered rocks. We were met with gusty winds and fog banks moving in and out of the trees. My warm layers seemed futile against the elements and we all found refuge from the wind huddled behind a rock.
Lauren, Iris, and I took turns climbing high up on rocks with our headlamps as the sun started to appear. It was apparent that the light conditions were going to be a challenge. After a couple of hours of waiting for the sun to shine through the high clouds and fog, we lumbered back down to the car and took off down the mountain to get breakfast in a nearby town.
When returned to the site, the light was still not ideal, but Benj showed his expertise and patience working with different angles and locations to get “the shot.” As I climbed to the top of themost prominent rock, it was a little bit precarious, but thanks to a background in ballet I was able to keep my balance. This rock begs to be climbed! It juts out from a ridge on Cabin Mountain and overlooks a gorgeous valley with expansive views of the new land acquisition. It was really a breathtaking place to stand and take in your surroundings.
As an avid hiker, explorer, and conservationist I was excited for this opportunity to see the forest team’s hard work in the Eastern Cascade forests firsthand. I am truly honored to work for an organization that seeks to protect areas such as these to maintain ecosystem services, sustainable jobs, and places for us all to find peace in nature.