Saturday, January 23, 2016

Northwest Museum Snapshots: Henry Art Gallery

Beyond busy downtown Seattle and Portland Art Museums, many smaller museums and galleries thrive in the arts-minded Pacific Northwest. Look for several to be featured this year here at Pacific Northwest Seasons 

A treasure trove of contemporary art in Seattle sits perched on the western edge of the University of Washington campus, just below the UW's iconic sculpture of George (Washington) himself.

Originally a small brick box of a building that opened in 1927, in 1997 the Henry Art Gallery completed a major expansion that quadrupled the overall gallery space and created an amalgam of quasi Neo-Gothic and contemporary architecture. I think this juxtaposition of new and old is part of the Henry's unique appeal.

When I was studying art history at the UW, I used to love to wander into the Henry and browse the manageable-sized galleries. I don't know about you, but I get sensory overload in big museums (and big box stores for that matter). While the Henry now has more space to exhibit, it still feels intimate. 

The old (left) and the new (right) Henry Art Gallery buildings

This rainy, cold January afternoon was perfect for getting a dose of art, so I drop by the Henry for the first time in a couple years. As usual I'm challenged, amused, and inspired by the art and installations there.

My first stop is, as always, the James Turrell Skyspace room (pictured at the top of this post and below). The first time I was here was for an intro to Zen meditation, and since then this space has hosted many more such events for quiet contemplation and perception-bending light displays.


Entry to this space is via the original entrance to the Henry, and I pass outside to reach this open-door, unheated room. It's about experiencing natural light and the elements, tweaked with a genius artist's touch.

Looking at the original Henry entrance from Skyspace

After sitting, absorbing the light, then taking photos, I sneak back into the warmth of the original main galleries.  

Right now the feature exhibit, The Body Draws, is the first major American exhibition of avante garde German artist Franz Erhard Walther's work.  His art is as much or more about the process than the finished product. So the exhibition features drawings, films, and fabric elements of his participatory events, of which there was one at the Henry earlier in the exhibition.

Franz Erhard Walther installation

As I stand and watch some of the films of the events, which are slow and deliberate, my natural impatience wells up until it gives way to the "being" of the artistic moment. Which is partly what his art is about.

Then I walk downstairs to the large lower level space, where a colorful exhibit by Californian artist Pae White is set up. I get so caught up in the sensory feast that I get reprimanded by a museum staffer who sees me walking into some of the display yarn on the floor, which I didn't notice. My bad.

Pae White installation

Then it's time for me to head back out into the damp January chill, where I enjoy the view outside the entrance back up campus to distinctly  not contemporary Suzallo Library.  

View toward Red Square and Suzallo Library

Like I said above: juxtapositions. I believe they make our lives richer and more interesting.

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.

 When You Go
The Franz Walther exhibition runs through March 6, 2016. The Pae White exhibit only runs through Sunday, January 24, 2016. Besides the art exhibits, the Henry offers a vibrant menu of events, ArtBreaks, film screeningstalks & performances, and ArtVentures (second Sunday of each month at 2 pm). Here are directions to the Henry and hours/admission. Like many museums, it's closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.  There used to be a cafe at the gallery, but right now it's not operating. The guy who took my admission said they are seeking a new vendor to operate the cafe, so hopefully this year.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Winter Hiking in the Columbia Gorge: Wahclella Falls

Sadly, this trail burned in the September 2017 fire and remains closed. Trail conditions for the first 0.3 mile were assessed as in poor condition. The trail is covered in rocks and tread is buried in multiple places. Special safety concerns: Continuous rock fall, upslope hazards, and possibility of slides along trail.

Like a homing pigeon, I'm drawn to the western Columbia River Gorge's abundant waterfalls and lush green riot of moss and ferns whenever I visit  Portland. I always try to sneak up for a hike along the Gorge's many trails, some I've walked since I was a girl and some for the first time.

On a rainy morning recently I hiked to Wahclella Falls, a first for me. When I was growing up in east Multnomah County this trail near Bonneville Dam wasn't open for public access, but now it's quite popular. Of course. It's easy, relatively close to Portland (about 30 minutes east up I-84), and gorgeous.

When I get to the trailhead around 8:30 on a Saturday morning, there's only one car in the parking lot. Anymore that's pretty unusual on a weekend.

After layering up in fleece and a water-repellent shell, I start up along swollen Tanner Creek through a forest of moss-encrusted trees. It rained heavily the last few days, so there's a lot of water rushing down the narrow canyon walls into the creek.

Pretty quickly I cross a small bridge with a waterfall (Munra Falls) gushing beside the trail with the intensity of a fire hose.

Looking back down Tanner Creek to Munra Falls and bridge on the right.
This short and easy hike (1.8 miles roundtrip with just 300 feet of elevation gain) starts out fairly flat along the creek before rising gently. Right away I pass evidence of slides down the steep basalt canyon walls.

It occurs to me that hiking after a heavy rain in a slide-prone area is not the safest place to be. (Same goes for those icy days when traversing sections of trail with steep drop-offs.) Just the day before a woman had been killed by a landslide on the Oregon coast. So I proceed  with caution, a little more quickly than usual.

One of several slides across the trail.
But I'm rewarded with ethereal beauty that makes me feel like I'm walking through an ancient Chinese landscape painting.

Ephemeral waterfalls that aren't there in the drier months have sprung all along the trail, mingling with remnant patches of snow from a few days earlier. After a very dry 2015, it's fantastic.

Not too far from the Main Event (Wahclella Falls), I come to a fork in the trail and decide to stay high.  From here it's not too far down to the end of the loop trail. 

I can feel and hear the falls before I see it. And then there it is, flowing full throttle.

Wahclella Falls

With the rain coming down harder, I don't linger too long after taking a few shots. It's hard to capture the falls with all the mist and rain.

Looking back up the trail

Of course I can't resist stopping to take more shots along the way. I especially love the vibrant aqua green-blue of the creek between the mossy rocks.

And the moss!

Traffic is picking up on the trail on the way back. I'm always slightly surprised at how many more people are on the trails than when I roamed the Gorge as a teenager.

'Twas a short hike, but I need to return to Portland to meet up with some friends. I drive back west on I-84 along the Columbia River happy and refreshed from this morning dose of nature nourishment.

Do you have a favorite hike in the Columbia Gorge? Would love to hear in the comments below.

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.

When You Go
The trailhead is about 30 miles eastward up the Gorge from Portland. From I-84, take Exit #40/Bonneville Dam. Turn south at the stop sign and drive about 100 feet. Stay to the right, which takes you to Wahclella Falls trailhead.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Skiing into the New Year

My New Year's tradition involves a road trip to the edge of Mt. Rainier, where I start the year off right with a brilliant bluebird day at Crystal Mountain. With stunning views of the Big Kahuna of Cascade volcanoes just a few miles away, it's hard to not get revved up for the year ahead.

With a series of snowstorms in December right up until Christmas, Northwest skiers and riders are flocking to the mountains to slake our thirst from last winter's drought. And the slopes haven't disappointed.

It's still dark when we leave Seattle on a freezing cold morning. Gonna be really cold up there in the mountains I think as I scrape heavy frost off the windshield. 

Even in the predawn, Rainier looms large on the eastern horizon. I snap a few windshield shots en route at 60+ miles per hour. (No I wasn't driving.)

The world is a little fuzzy this early on New Year's morning. From Interstate 5.
30+ minutes later, from Enumclaw

Even though we arrive before the lifts open, a steady stream of cars has already half filled the lower B lot at Crystal, and people are crowding onto the parking lot shuttle. Wait, isn't everyone else supposed to be nursing their New Year's Eve hangovers?

So we get our tickets (sigh, no reloading your card online anymore for that discount and bypassing the ticket line) and head on up.

After a few warm-up runs over on Forest Queen, it's time to go up to the top. Because of that view. 

And of course the great skiing down the upper bowls.

Probably one of the most popular photo spots in the state of Washington.
Looking back up Green Valley.
Of course it's a five-star day, with all five Cascade volcanoes in the state visible along with many other peaks that divide our region from wet west and dry east. Prominent to the southeast is Mt. Adams, looking for all the world like Rainier's slightly smaller sibling. (Always makes me smile remembering that I've stood atop that mountain.)

Mt. Adams
So we ski easy, then harder, bump into old friends during lunch at Campbell Lodge, and go back out to tear up the slopes for a few more hours. Then quit while we're ahead.


Nothing makes me feel quite so alive as an excellent day skiing under blue skies in the mountain fresh cold air. What a way to start the year.

I hope your year is off to an equally good start.

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.

When You Go
Crystal Mountain is about 70-80 road miles southeast from Seattle (depending on where you start from in the city) on the northeastern edge of Mt. Rainier National Park. Check out their website for details on lift pricing, hours of operation, etc.