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Sperry Peak is located in the Cascade Mountains along a section of the scenic Mountain Loop Highway. From Granite Falls on the Mountain Loop Highway, drive about 28 miles to Forest Service Road NF-4065. Turn right on NF-4065 and drive almost to the end of the road, about 1.6 miles, to a turnout on the right. Views of Sperry Peak are west/southwest, and another lookout worth a visit is about 0.2 miles further. Along the way, you'll pass the Verlot Ranger Station-Public Service Center, a great place to stop for information on the region, maps, trail conditions, road closure information and trail passes, if you intend to hike, and it's also the last real bathroom for many miles. This section of the Mountain Loop Highway closes with enough snowfall, so you may need snowshoes if the snow levels are high.
The area is usually comfortable through most of the year. It's rarely ever too hot and very rarely muggy, though winter can be quite cold. Winter snows produce incredible and dynamic landscapes, but also make it harder to reach many of the higher-elevation spots without chains or snowshoes. Spring months warm the snow, leading to many waterfalls, raging creeks and full rivers. Summer months bring less rain and very green forests. Fall begins to get cooler, and the daylight shortens quickly, but regardless of the season, the sun sets toward Sperry Peak, so keep that in mind when planning. Be patient with the weather. For this shot, the area was completely clouded over until there was a break in the clouds that lasted about 30 minutes, so it was worth the wait. Bear in mind that this is the Pacific Northwest. Be prepared for ample rain, though it's often in the form of drizzle, and the clouded, dispersed
light can especially accentuate macro photography.
I use a B+W circular polarizer to cut down glare, bring out the natural colors of the area, darken skies and add more detail to clouds. Bring along a macro lens to capture close-ups of wildflowers and berries. I carry a Tamron AF 180mm F/3.5 Di SP A/M FEC LD (IF) 1:1 Macro. Whether shooting wide landscapes or macros, a tripod is necessary for sharp shots. I use a Manfrotto tripod with an Acratech V2 ballhead for fine-tuning compositions. A wide-angle to capture the landscapes is a must. I bring a Tamron 18-270mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC or 11-18mm F/4.5-5.6 Di II SP LD. For some very wide shots, I'll shoot a series of images at a longer angle and use Photoshop's Photomerge panoramic mode to stitch them together.
The views of Sperry Peak are beautiful any time of year, but the winter months offer the most striking details of the mountain. Winter also can present the most dangerous conditions, however. The best time to visit, therefore, is just after the first few snows of the year when the road is still drivable. During the early fall, the wild blueberries and huckleberries provide splashes of color in the region, with large expanses in some areas, particularly on Mount Dickerman.
Contact: Verlot Ranger Station-Public Service Center, (360) 691-7791. See more of Randal R. Ketchem's work at his website, www.rrkphoto.com.
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