Photo of the month: Reflections on Golden Larches and Enchanted Places

Written and Photographed by Joshua Stern, Northwest Photographer

Every autumn there is an amazing transformation that takes place in the North Cascades—the turning of the larches. These beautiful deciduous conifers abandon their summer green for the warm glow of fall. This natural phenomenon is best showcased amongst the granite peaks and alpine lakes of The Enchantments. To protect this fragile environment wilderness permits, which are limited and difficult to obtain, are required for overnight trips. Unfortunately, I was unable to secure a permit during peak season and knew my only option was a one-day thru hike.

I have always been reticent about thru hiking this route knowing the 18-mile grind would keep me out of the core of the Enchantments during the golden hour. Watching the weather I realized there would be a single bluebird day immediately following a snowstorm. Despite my reservations, the thought of golden larches, alpine lakes, and granite peaks dusted in snow was too powerful to be ignored.

All I can say is the Enchantments blew me away. For the majority of the hike I was in complete awe and left at a loss for words. Every turn in the trail brought a new magical paradise. Nothing exemplified this like the view from Leprechaun Lake: a perfect reflection of golden larches and a snowy McClellan Peak painted on the lake’s still surface. To capture this image, I had to balance, crouching precariously, on the slippery rocks at the edge of lake. Even today, I am left with a perfect memory of that moment, framed in my mind.

I spend much of my time in the mountains and when I am not out in the wilderness I am home thinking about where to explore next. I keep heading back into the mountains for the adventure and challenge each new experience brings. I love our public lands and cherish the environment, as they are what fuel me. However, now more than ever, I fear for their preservation. It's up to us to fight for these special places.

Joshua Stern is a New York transplant who fell in love with the wild landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. He spends his time in the mountains climbing alpine rock, skiing backcountry powder, and backpacking while always searching for the perfect image. You can see more of his work and follow his adventures on Instagram @alpinenapping.

December Photo of the Month: Up in the Air


Written & Photographed by Dylan Furst, Northwest Photographer

After hiking many of the trails and visiting most of the lakes in the Central Cascades range, I had been craving a new perspective. The opportunity for a helicopter ride over Blanca Lake presented itself, and I was not about to let it pass. With a sunrise wake up call, we flew out from Boeing Field and started our flight into the mountains.

It’s amazing seeing the Cascades by helicopter, the perspective is so much different than an airplane. As we began to fly above the mountain peaks, you could feel the sharp winds from the valleys below move the helicopter, humbling you with it’s power. With the doors being off at the same time, this flight is not for people who are afraid of heights. It’s a pretty amazing feeling to look down and be so close to untouched waterfalls and pristine wilderness that most likely nobody has explored. I decided to put my feet out and snap a photo, but It proved to be more challenging than it looked. When I stuck my legs out of the cockpit, it took a lot of my strength to hold them steady in front of me. We could not idle in the air due to the danger of the winds and had to keep the helicopter moving, thus making it very hard to compose my photograph. In a way it reminded me of shooting a wedding, you really only have one chance to get the perfect photograph, and our pass by over Blanca Lake was the first kiss.

Photographing nature makes me feel alive. It gives me a great appreciation for the world we live in, and compels me to share the feelings I have in these moments with my audience. Not everyone can appreciate the beautiful area that surrounds us, and I want to inspire others to feel the same way that I do. Photography has allowed me to have an even stronger connection with nature, and I think everyone can appreciate it if they give it a chance.  

Born and raised in Bellingham, Washington, Dylan Furst's backyard in the Pacific Northwest has heavily influenced his style as a photographer. From hiking without direction and driving unfamiliar roads, there’s no greater feeling than not knowing what’s around the next corner. Visit his website.

This photograph was taken by a professional photographer. We always advocate to be use proper safety on the trails and in the outdoors.