Washington · USA
The sun sets upon a comfortably warm early-spring day, casting sublime highlights of orange and violet onto a kaleidoscope of clouds that were just beginning to release their stranglehold upon Mount Adams.
It was a fine conclusion to a day spent in the great outdoors and about as fine an introduction to the magic of Trout Lake as I could have wished for Ashley, given the somewhat last-minute decision we made to head there after enjoying the 360° view atop Mitchell Point toward the eastern end of the Columbia River Gorge. In between, we quelled our dinner appetites with delicious eats at Stonehedge Gardens in Hood River, seated beside a little manmade waterfall beset in a charming outdoor seating area. About our only complaint that evening was not being able to catch a glimpse of any of the vociferous but elusive frogs that somehow managed to shroud themselves completely in the bigleaf periwinkle ground cover, even though they couldn’t have been more than a couple of arm’s lengths away (I’m still VERY suspicious it was all a gag conceived by the establishment owners using tiny hidden speakers strategically hidden in the garden)...
Bellies suitably stuffed (and I do mean stuffed), we raced like maniacs toward Trout Lake, trying to get there before sunset without making mincemeat of the numerous deer known to roam the area. En route, Adams would show its broad southern face every now and then, but the summit looked to be ensconced in some stubbornly tenacious clouds.
Less than thirty minutes later, we arrived on the scene to find three other vehicles occupying the comically small parking area. Two other photographers had already set up shop on the shores of the flowing lake and were snapping away at the still-shrouded mountain peak, so I set up my tripod very low and off to the side, not just to stay out of their field of view but also to get a better reflection in the calmer shallows flanking the near shore. The color was certainly there but not so much the mountain, and I was hoping it would show soon before the light began to subside.
A few minutes later a nice gentleman by the name of Vivek pulled up, and the tiny parking area became a can of SUV-shaped sardines. Vivek was visiting from California on a photography workshop, breaking free from the group after a long day in the Gorge to end his day where it had begun that morning. Clear skies and the sun’s northerly azimuth conspired to make a photographically lackluster sunrise, he said, but at the last possible minute he thought he'd give it another go at sundown.
The clouds blotting out the summit began to tease themselves apart right about then, and I fired off a few long exposures just to see what I could capture. Optimal colors and cloud cover never quite coincided that evening, but both Ashley and I were more than happy to simply be there, breathing in the fresh air, listening to the honks, bleats, and wingbeats of the resident waterfowl, and watching the restless clouds roil about the mountain along with their corresponding lake reflections like some slow-motion Rorschach test.
Twilight descended with nary a trace of alpenglow, so I packed up my gear and we bid the others a kind farewell. After an improvised ballet of vehicular movements we managed to extricate ourselves from the tight quarters and begin the long journey home. Vivek had plans to stay at Trout Lake well after sunset, hoping for clear skies after all the lights went out so he could do some star trail and other night-sky photography. This being perhaps my 15th time there in the past few years, I've come to learn the mountain's capriciousness all too well, and so I can only hope he ultimately found what he was looking for.
Glancing over at the passenger seat every now and then on the quiet drive home, I know I certainly did.