On January 3, it snowed in Centralia

Seminary Hill Natural Area in Centralia was a grateful recipient of Sunday's snowstorm.

Seminary Hill Natural Area in Centralia was a grateful recipient of Sunday’s snowstorm.

I’ve loved snow ever since I was a kid.

Imagine how I felt today at church when our pastor looked outside and announced it was snowing. Most people sitting in the audience cheered and I probably said the loudest “amen.”

After church I had to take a trek around town as the snow fell furiously, coating the city of Centralia in a blanket of white. Within an hour there was easily an inch of snow on the ground, and the weather brought with it a quiet to the downtown area I had not heard during daytime in awhile.

It doesn’t snow often in Centralia, and when it does it doesn’t usually stick. Today we all got to see both, and it brought a tremendous amount of joy to people I saw.

Here are some of the photos I shot today and tonight, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed the time I spent in my favorite weather.

The snow clouds continue to move over Centralia, as seen from Staebler Point.

The snow clouds continue to move over Centralia, as seen from Staebler Point.

Snow flocks fir trees at Staebler Point in the Seminary Hill Natural Area.

Snow flocks fir trees at Staebler Point in the Seminary Hill Natural Area.

Diffused light from snowfall is seen through trees along the Rufus Kiser Trail at the Seminary Hill Natural Area.

Diffused light from snowfall is seen through trees along the Rufus Kiser Trail at the Seminary Hill Natural Area.

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There’s never a bad day to head to the Oregon Coast

Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach is always tremendous.

Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach is always tremendous.

I like meeting new people. I like driving to the Oregon Coast. Today I did both.

Four of us headed to Cannon Beach, Oregon with a goal of just enjoying the day. The weather could not have been better, the scenery more vibrant or the food more good. It was just a great day overall.

We drove from Chehalis down to Rainier, Oregon and over to Astoria, then did a quick north Oregon coast tour before crossing back into Washington and heading back to Chehalis via Raymond.

No time for words, but lots of time for photos. Here they are.

Beaver Falls near Rainier, Oregon is reduced to but a small shower, but the signs of autumn abound all around it.

Beaver Falls near Rainier, Oregon is reduced to but a small shower, but the signs of autumn abound all around it.

This seal is peering into my soul from the Mooring Basin in Astoria.

This seal is peering into my soul from the Mooring Basin in Astoria.

Run, dog, run. The beach at Fort Stevens State Park near Warrenton, Oregon was delightful today.

Run, dog, run. The beach at Fort Stevens State Park near Warrenton, Oregon was delightful today.

Here's a bit of 'Murica and some tourists enjoying the view in Seaside.

Here’s a bit of ‘Murica and some tourists enjoying the view in Seaside.

Kids, don't make the seagull mad. It will fly right over you and paint your head white.

Kids, don’t make the seagull mad. It will fly right over you and paint your head white.

My camera took a dip in the Pacific Ocean today. It still, oddly and thankfully enough, works. The lens might be toast though.

My camera took a dip in the Pacific Ocean today. It still, oddly and thankfully enough, works. The lens might be toast though.

We stopped at Rainbow Falls State Park along State Route 6 in Washington on the way home and I was able to snap a couple quick photos.

We stopped at Rainbow Falls State Park along State Route 6 in Washington on the way home and I was able to snap a couple quick photos.

Travelogue: A 43-mile ride along one of Oregon’s best bicycle trails

The Buxton Trestle carries cyclists, equestrians and pedestrians over Mendenhall Creek about 8 miles north of Banks, Oregon.

The Buxton Trestle carries cyclists, equestrians and pedestrians over Mendenhall Creek about 8 miles north of Banks, Oregon.

Saturday called for a trip to the Banks-Vernonia State Trail in Oregon, a 21-mile paved rails-to-trails corridor between two old logging towns along an otherwise off-the-beaten-path stretch of highway in rural Oregon somewhere between Portland and the coast.

Vernonia is 30 miles from my hometown of Rainier, but there’s no quick way to get there. The most direct route from Rainier takes you up Apiary Road, a county road that passes nothing but trees for about 12 miles or so until it spits you out at State Highway 47. From there, take a left and you’re in Vernonia in about another 15 minutes or so.

Vernonia was a very sleepy town when I was a kid. It seemed like it was searching for an identity, and more recently it bore the brunt of the 2007 floods in Oregon as the Nehalem River flooded a good majority of the town.

But in even more recent years, it has been reborn with the completion of the Banks-Vernonia State Trail, administered by Oregon State Parks. One drive through the town reveals a freshened-up business district with several shops and restaurants that are bicycle-friendly. On this day I would see a few cars parked near the Vernonia Market with dozens of cyclists ready to hit the trail.

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Here’s the best viewpoint in Lewis County, by far

The Burley Mountain Fire Lookout is one of the seven wonders of Lewis County.

The Burley Mountain Fire Lookout is one of the seven wonders of Lewis County.

Very few places in the Northwest exist that are easily accessible by vehicle that allow a sweeping 360-degree view of mountains, valleys, sunsets and more. One of them exists right here in Lewis County.

Burley Mountain isn’t necessarily a short drive from even the closest town, but the road there can be driven the entire way if you have a high-clearance vehicle. You’ll be rewarded at the end and greeted by an unassuming cabin of sorts that is begging for one to come inside and sit a spell while gazing upon the mountains in the distance.

Inside the Burley Mountain Fire Lookout, looking to the southwest.

Inside the Burley Mountain Fire Lookout, looking to the southwest.

Mount Rainier is one of several peaks visible from inside the Burley Mountain fire lookout.

Mount Rainier is one of several peaks visible from inside the Burley Mountain fire lookout.

The gorgeous landscapes that surround the cabin have led many people to write about their experiences and leave notes for current and future visitors to read. A podium of sorts in the middle of the lookout contains capsules of other people’s adventures.

Some people write prayers, others reflections -- and others, both.

Some people write prayers, others reflections — and others, both.

After resting in the cabin for a time, step outside and walk around for a bit. You can see Mount Rainier to the north, Adams to the southeast, St. Helens to the southwest and, on occasion, Hood all the way down in Oregon to the south. Bring a camera with a zoom lens so you can get some great shots of Washington’s majestic peaks!

Mount Rainier is all the more impressive when viewed from a mile high, miles away.

Mount Rainier is all the more impressive when viewed from a mile high, miles away.

Mount Adams, Washington's second-highest peak, gives Rainier a good run for its money in terms of natural wonder and beauty.

Mount Adams, Washington’s second-highest peak, gives Rainier a good run for its money in terms of natural wonder and beauty.

I could go on, but I’ll let the photos speak for themselves when describing the awe-inspiring beauty of the Burley Mountain area.

The edge of Burley Mountain is a great place to sit, pray, reflect or just do whatever puts your mind and soul at peace.

The edge of Burley Mountain is a great place to sit, pray, reflect or just do whatever puts your mind and soul at peace.

Fall is approaching, as evidenced by the colors of the flora on Burley Mountain.

Fall is approaching, as evidenced by the colors of the flora on Burley Mountain.

Even the trip there and back takes you through some neat stands of forest. Very little traffic makes the drive somewhat relaxing, if not for all the washouts in the road. If you’re in a passenger car, you’re better off hiking the remaining 2.7 miles in from the four-way intersection, though.

Forest Road 7605 leads through some scenic stands of forest up to Burley Mountain.

Forest Road 7605 leads through some scenic stands of forest up to Burley Mountain.

Signs make the way to Burley fairly easy to find.

Signs make the way to Burley fairly easy to find.

So how does one get there? Take U.S. Highway 12 into Randle, then hit State Route 131 south. When you come to a fork in the road, take it left and follow the signs into the Gifford Pinchot National Forest to Cispus Center. Pass Cispus and then find the signs for Burley Mountain about a mile ahead. Take the trip slowly and easily up the mountain because of potholes, ruts and other things that make your car hate you. A Forest Pass may be required, FYI.

Travelogue: Lower, Middle and Upper Lewis River Falls

Lower Lewis River Falls looks especially awesome in the morning with the sun at a lower angle.

Lower Lewis River Falls looks especially awesome in the morning with the sun at a lower angle.

A beautiful Northwest Saturday gave the perfect opportunity to take a short yet rewarding hike to an area that is home to some picturesque waterfalls that must be seen in person to be thoroughly enjoyed.

A group of guys from my church and I drove about 110 miles from Lewis County to the Lower Lewis Falls Recreation Area, home to the aptly-named Lower Lewis River Falls. The waterfall there was gorgeous, but a three-mile hike to the upper falls was well worth it.

Here are some photos from our trip:

Lower Lewis River Falls, again gorgeous with the sun casting a nice color on it.

Lower Lewis River Falls, again gorgeous with the sun casting a nice color on it.

There was quite a good volume of water even with the low snowpack this winter.

There was quite a good volume of water even with the low snowpack this winter.

Stairway to heaven?

Stairway to heaven?

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Travelogue: Norway Pass to Mount Margaret

Mount St. Helens and Spirit Lake are seen from the Boundary Trail looking from the Mount Margaret Backcountry.

Mount St. Helens and Spirit Lake are seen from the Boundary Trail looking from the Mount Margaret Backcountry.

Two Saturdays ago, I took a trip to the Mount St. Helens area yet again. But this time I took a different route.

I had never been to the northeast portion of the MSH National Volcanic Monument, so I figured I would try to visit the Windy Ridge area. However, I thought Norway Pass looked like a good area to traipse around for a bit, so I cut that trip off a few miles early and headed to the trailhead.

The trek was about a good 11.5 miles there and back, good enough for some decent elevation gain and a great workout before I had to head back early due to the time of day. I did not have any nighttime equipment with me, otherwise I would have been out there longer.

I don’t have all the time in the world to post about my trip, but AllTrails.com has some good hike reports from people who have done the same hike.

Meanwhile, here are some of my own photos, shot with a 2013 HTC One and edited on my Surface Pro in Lightroom 5.6.

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Travelogue: Hiking to Coldwater Peak

Mount St. Helens seems to keep a watchful eye over a forest it blew down when it erupted in 1980.

Mount St. Helens seems to keep a watchful eye over a section of forest it blew down when it erupted in 1980.

Today, my friend Aaron and I took a hike to Coldwater Peak in the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. It was my fourth trip to MSH in the past two months, and this one offered the best views so far as the landscape and terrain changed many times throughout the hike.

The trail afforded us opportunities to get glimpses of four Northwest peaks: Rainier, Adams, Hood and the one looming closest, St. Helens.

In all, the hike totaled 12.7 miles and took 4 hours, 19 seconds of moving time to complete. We rested a few times, so our total trip time was a little over 6 hours.

I thought I would do something a bit different with this photo set and develop them in black and white. I think it gives the photo collection a different feel.

That peak in the middle was our destination. Coldwater Peak stands at roughly 5,700 feet.

That peak in the middle was our destination. Coldwater Peak stands at roughly 5,700 feet.

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A trip to Seaquest State Park

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Seaquest State Park is probably one of the least talked-about gems of the pristine landscape that is Washington state. Just five miles east of the small town of Castle Rock, the park offers a cozy camping and hiking experience in a setting that is home to an old-growth forest that tells quite a story.

My father worked at the park in the early 1980s, before I was born — and subsequently would take my brother and I to Seaquest many times over the years. We would walk the trails, see the changing scenery in the forest and then stop for lunch before visiting my dad’s alma mater, Toutle Lake High School just east of the park.

It’s a place I still enjoy to this day, and Saturday I took my first trip there in three years. It was as if the park is frozen in time and has the same tales of history to tell among the hundreds of thin tree trunks that tower over the forest floor like organ pipes.

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Saturday’s walk was much like many others I had taken throughout my life there, but my father and brother were not with me this time. Instead, I sought solitude in the forest after a week of emotionally draining work. It would prove to be just the remedy I needed as I trod slowly past damp moss, growing ferns and a thick mass of forest undergrowth that insulated me from the outside world.

Taking my camera into the forest might not have been the best idea initially, as a cloudburst spewed forth rain for 15 minutes, muddying up the trails and forcing me to seek shelter under a bent-over tree.

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I stayed under that tree for a time, but once the rain passed, the sun peeked out and illuminated the trail a shade of green more vibrant than it had been upon my arrival. Just that scenery change opened up a world of memories for me, as I remembered visiting my grandparents who lived just one road over from the service entrance to the park at my back.

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A part of the Seaquest State Park system exists on the other end of State Route 504, as a walkway takes one over the slowly-disappearing Silver Lake. There, you can see wildlife — especially small colorful birds — singing their songs and calling out into the open air.

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Silver Lake is interesting in that, as mentioned before, it is slowly disappearing. It is plainly evident by the presence of more greenery in the water than in years past when I visited there. But it is still a beautiful sight nonetheless, and one that I will always hold dear in my heart as an embodiment of everything Northwest, everything home: the trees, hills and beautiful shades of green that the rain so generously contributes to.

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I highly recommend taking a couple hours and enjoying Seaquest State Park. To get there, take Exit 49 from Interstate 5 and head east on State Route 504. The entrance to the park will be on your left, five miles from where you exited the freeway.

A day trip to the Long Beach Peninsula

My friend Megan and I took a trip to Long Beach, Wash., yesterday. Here are some photos. Enjoy!

A tourist snaps a quick photo of the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse over the Pacific Ocean on Saturday, March 23, 2014.

A tourist snaps a quick photo of the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse over the Pacific Ocean on Saturday, March 22, 2014.

A beautiful, cloudless spring day opened up a view of the Pacific Ocean as far as the eye could see.

A beautiful, cloudless spring day opened up a view of the Pacific Ocean as far as the eye could see.

Tree branches frame -- and partially obscure the view of -- the ocean as seen through Dead Man's Cove at Cape Disappointment, Washington.

Tree branches frame — and partially obscure the view of — the ocean as seen through Dead Man’s Cove at Cape Disappointment, Washington.

A young boy dances in the sand at the edge of the Pacific Ocean as the sun begins to set in Long Beach, Wash. on March 22, 2014.

A young boy dances in the sand at the edge of the Pacific Ocean as the sun begins to set in Long Beach, Wash. on March 22, 2014.

Two people and their dogs walk along the beach at Long Beach, Wash. at sunset.

Two people and their dogs walk along the beach at Long Beach, Wash. at sunset.

The Astoria-Megler Bridge dominates the landscape over the Columbia River as it empties into Youngs Bay.

The Astoria-Megler Bridge dominates the landscape over the Columbia River as it empties into Youngs Bay.