Picture-Perfect Places

Sarvent Glacier Cross-Country Zone, Mount Rainier

by Sherry Pincus

Sarvent Glacier Cross-Country Zone, Mount Rainer National Park. © 2015 Sherry Pincus.

Sarvent Glacier Cross-Country Zone, Mount Rainer National Park. © 2015 Sherry Pincus.

The Photographer

Sherry Pincus.  I’m an avid backpacker and photographer, and a personal chef based in New York City and northern New Jersey.

The Picture Perfect Place

Sarvent Glacier Cross-Country Zone, Mount Rainier National Park

What’s There To Photograph

A 360-degree view of mountains: Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood and others, and obviously Mt. Rainier. You basically have a front-on view of the entire east side of Rainier, literally from the southern edge all the way up the northern side. You can see absolutely all of it. And behind you, you’re looking down into an area with glaciers that rest on old volcanic plugs called the Cowlitz Chimneys. They’re very worn, they’re gorgeous and they’re covered with lichen and all kinds of minerals. For macro work, there are also these tiny alpine flowers—really tiny. The other thing there to photograph is a resident herd of 30-45 mountain goats that wander all through the area, literally right by you. They are completely unfazed by people.

When To Go

The time of year is very important. There would be no possibility to get to this spot safely other than from mid-July to the end of August. You have maybe a six- to eight-week window.

Why I Love This Place

I love the Sarvent Glacier Cross-Country Zone for its remoteness and the fact that it is so untouched by people. There’s only one permit issued at a time for this area, so it’s just you. You literally have all those hundreds of acres completely to yourself. And because you’re high up, your views of the mountains are just incredible. It’s so expansive that you have options for both sunrises and sunsets. The sun comes up over the Chimneys, and you watch that first light hitting on the mountain—that part of the day is just unbelievable.

How To Get There

The Sarvent Glacier Cross-Country Zone is accessed from the east side of Mt. Rainier, at Panhandle Gap, the highest point on the Wonderland Trail (which goes all the way around the mountain). You can get to Panhandle Gap from two directions:

1) You can approach from the south by entering at Box Canyon Trailhead, and hike 11 miles with over 4,000 feet of elevation gain. This is the route I take.

2) You can approach from the north, which is the easier trip. From the Fryingpan Creek parking area, it’s a 5.5-mile hike to Panhandle Gap. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s climbing, with a challenging altitude gain. You can do it in one day, but you’d be tired. The less taxing alternative is to hike 4 miles from Fryingpan Creek to Summerland, where you can spend the night at an official backcountry campsite (permit required). From there, you would have only 2.5 additional miles to get to Panhandle Gap.

(If you arrange for transportation, you can tackle either option as a through-hike, as opposed to out and back via the same route. The whole trip is about 19 miles with magnificent scenery every step of the way.)

Once at Panhandle Gap, you head off-trail due east for about a mile, and you’re just climbing up at that point. But it’s easy, like a rolling-meadow kind of climb. You know you’re in the Sarvent Glacier Cross-Country Zone when the edge of the earth arrives; you climb to the top of this area and then there’s a cliff that falls thousands of feet. You don’t have to wonder if you need to go further.

You don’t need a permit for hiking through this area, but you do need a permit to camp, and the hike is so long that you need to stay over. So, essentially, you need a permit to visit and photograph here.

For the best photography opportunities, stay at least one night, and I recommend two. You definitely want to be up there for at least one sunset and one sunrise. You’re putting a lot of effort just to get there, so you don’t want to arrive and have it be raining that night and then you’re done.

Also, there is no water. You have to bring in whatever you need. Check with the ranger station when you pick up your permit for information about current reliable water sources.

Google Map Link: Sarvent Glaciers
Park Website: www.nps.gov/mora


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Barred Owl, Mahogany Hammock, Everglades

Barred Owl, Mahogany Hammock, Everglades

Picture-Perfect Places

Mahogany Hammock, Everglades

by Chris Nicholson

The Photographer

Chris Nicholson. I’m the author of Photographing National Parks, and I lead workshops with the National Parks at Night program.

The Picture Perfect Place

Mahogany Hammock, Everglades National Park

What’s There To Photograph

Though the hammock (a dense stand of hardwoods in the otherwise marshlike environment of the Everglades) is beautiful as a “forest” subject, the primary attraction here is the barred owls. Go at the right time, and you’re almost guaranteed to find some to photograph. Other birds that frequent the spot (primarily in morning) are Cape Sable seaside sparrows (in spring), bald eagles and warblers. You can also do some nice work that includes the boardwalk winding through the trees.

When To Go

The best time of year to find owls is from mid-winter to early summer. The best time of day is usually late afternoon (preferably in overcast conditions, for better under-canopy photography) and during early blue hour, when the owls are more likely to be active and there’s still enough light to shoot.

Why I Love This Place

First, it offers a different photo opportunity than the rest of the Everglades, which is mostly about water, wading birds and alligators. Second, I love the idea of photographing owls, but am generally not patient enough to spend days “hunting” for wildlife. That’s not to imply that you can just walk into the hammock, point your camera in any direction and find an owl to photograph. But it’s nice to know where a concentrated population of an animal exists to improve the chances of finding a subject. Third, it’s beautiful and quiet—kind of an oasis of shade in otherwise exposed and primitive environment.

How To Get There

It’s not difficult to get to, nor hard to find; in fact, it’s on the official Everglades park map. From the main entrance station (near Homestead, Florida), drive about 19.5 miles on the park road, then turn right toward Mahogany Hammock. From there it’s a short drive to a parking lot, then a short walk to the half-mile boardwalk loop trail through the hammock.

Google Map Link: Mahogany Hammock
Park Website: www.nps.gov/ever


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