An Afternoon Exploring Along Skate Creek, Lewis County, Washington, 2016

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A landscape photograph of Mount Rainier and the Nisqually River as viewed from the Skate Creek Road (Forest Road 52), Lewis County, Washington
“Mount Rainier, Nisqually River, Washington, 2016”
–Purchase Print–

I was debating whether or not to explore to the north of Highway 706 out of Ashford, Washington or to the south into Lewis County along Skate Creek (Forest Road 52). Not knowing what the outcome of the afternoon’s weather would be, I headed down FR52, hoping to get a few landscape photographs of Mount Rainier and if not, some nice nature photos of the forest along Skate Creek.

A nature photograph of late summer  vine maples as viewed along Forest Road 5230 in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Lewis County, Washington.
“Late Summer Vine Maples, Lewis County, Washington, 2016”
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The morning started out with a heavy overcast and by the time I was driving along the Nisqually River, the clouds had cleared and Mount Rainier was visible just outside the National Park. Unknowing to me, that wouldn’t last long.

In an effort to obtain a better vantage point to photograph Mount Rainier, I decided to take a chance and explore up FR5230. FR5230 steadily climbs as it leaves the Nisqually River valley below. Although rutted in sections, the road is in good shape. It was still a little early for autumn colors, with only the vine maples changing colors at about the 3600-foot elevation.

A landscape photograph of a partially submerged log in an unknown name lake in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Lewis County, Washington.
“Unknown Lake, Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington, 2016”
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Along the way, I noticed a small lake along the road where I parked and hiked down on a fisherman’s trail in an attempt to capture a few photographs of the lake. I was unable to find the actual name of the lake on the various maps I had on hand.

A landscape photograph of a forested bluff along the ridgeline of Lookout Mountain in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Lewis County, Washington.
“Forested Bluff, Lookout Mountain, Lewis County, Washington, 2016”
–Purchase Print–

After the stop at the lake, I continued on to the roads end, around Lookout Mountain (which apparently never had an actual lookout on it), past a large un-named bluff to where the road ends at an old log landing. From the old landing, there were nice views of the valley below, and potential views of Mount Rainier on a clear day, but that wasn’t happening today.

A panoramic landscape photograph of Lookout Mountain located in the Gifford Pichot National Forest as seen from Forest Road 5230 in Lewis County, Washington.
“Lookout Mountain, Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington, 2016”
–Purchase Print–

I drove a few spur roads in the area. There may be more potential views if I had climbed to the ridgeline from where I turned around. Because clouds obscured Mount Rainier, I took advantage of the abundant ripe huckleberries (there were multiple camps of berry pickers in the area).

A landscape photograph of Bear Prairie along Forest Road 52 (Skate Creek Road) in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Lewis County, Washington.
“Bear Prairie, Lewis County, Washington. 2016”
–Purchase Print–

After the drive along FR5230, I continued south on FR52 towards Packwood, Washington. As I was driving, I could see a large meadow coming up on my GPS. I was hoping to be able to see the meadow from the road, and sure enough, FR52 briefly skirts one portion of Bear Prairie.

I found a parking spot and located a trail that led down through the bushes and out into the prairie. There was a well-used trail crossing the large meadow, and staying on the trail, not to cause further damage to the boggy ecology, I was able to capture a few photos looking to the northwest towards what appears to be Tumtum Mountain.

A nature photograph captured along the banks of Skate Creek during late summer in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Lewis County, Washington.
“Late Summer Along Skate Creek No. 1, Lewis County, Washington, 2016”
–Purchase Print–

After the stop at Bear Prairie, I stopped at various vantage points along Skate Creek and captured photographs of the flowing creek surrounded by early autumn colors (actually very late summer), courtesy of the vine maples.

By the time I got to Packwood, I had about an hour or so of daylight left. After fueling up, I made a little side trip up FR45 to roads end to the Soda Springs Campground.

A nature photograph of the day's last light shining on the forest as viewed from near the Cowlitz Horse Camp off of Forest Road 45 in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Lewis County, Washington.
“Last Light on the Forest, Lewis County, Washington, 2016”
–Purchase Print–

By the time I was back to Highway 12, it was completely dark. I made my way back through Mount Rainier National Park over Cayuse Pass and down State route 410 towards the Puget Sound lowlands, completing an awesome day of exploring and capturing photos.