Saturday, December 20, 2014

Southwest Washington Timelapse

A short collage of winter timelapses taken in Southwest Washington using a fisheye lens.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Coldwater Lake

Published in Seattle Backpackers Magazine

The shimmering waters of the Fjord ripple below ragged, tundra-clad peaks, its waters lined by the stunted forest of the high arctic. The lonely cry of a Loon echoes across from a far shore and, seemingly in answer, a mournful howling sounds from the autumn-tinted copses of alder and wind-blown firs. Where is this rugged wilderness, you ask? Is it some forsaken corner of Alaska, accessible only by the most intrepid of bush pilots? Or is it, perhaps, one of many fjords in the troll-haunted wilderness of Norway, Svalbard, or Iceland? It is, in fact, Coldwater Lake, situated smack dab in our own proverbial backyard; an Arctic paradise created by the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. Read More.......

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Brenthaven Velo Backpack Review

Check out my review of the Brenthaven Velo Backpack on

If you commute by bicycle, and carry along electronics, then the Brenthaven Velo Backpack is for you! Rugged yet sleek, the Velo’s water resistant exterior protects against all but the heaviest rain, while a waterproof interior pocket guarded by two sets of sealed zippers will keep laptops with screen sizes as large as 16” snug and dry. This interior compartment is also cleverly designed to suspend a laptop in the center of the pack so that it is not touching any of the exterior walls.Read More.........

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Jousting and Jets

Photograph Jousting by Andy Zahn on 500px

What's better than a renaissance fair packed with acrobats, magicians, falconry and overpriced food? Having an airshow going on overhead at the same time! It may not have been the greatest day for the performers; if an act grew boring everyone's eyes would begin drifting skyward to watch the incredible stunts performed above.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Heliotrope Ridge

Here's my latest article published in Seattle Backpackers Magazine!
When I was growing up, my parents would regale me with stories of their adventures in Alaska— particularly their accounts of glaciers, which they visited by foot, ski or kayak. I have since been enamored of these ice rivers, but most of my hiking has been done in Southwest Washington or in Idaho, where there are few easily accessible glaciers. I have seen them in the distance— on the slopes of Rainier or in the crater of St. Helens— but for the most part they have been too far away to make a deep impression. My quest to encounter a real, crevasse filled, blue tinged, rock crushing glacier finally led me to Heliotrope Ridge on Mt. Baker, where the awesome spread of the Coleman Glacier lay waiting. Read more at

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Heather Meadows in Black and White

Photograph Artist Ridge by Andy Zahn on 500px
Heather Meadows and Artist Point are sublime and spectacular places, but in black and white they become also a mysterious land ripe for adventure.

This gallery is the first in a series of posts about my adventures at Mt. Baker this summer.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Autumn Wildflowers

Photograph Blast zone beauty by Andy Zahn on 500px

Summer is on its way out, but there are still plenty of wildflowers blooming along the shores of Coldwater Lake; Goldenrod, Pearly Everlasting and Bistort compete with the turning colors of vine maples.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Idaho Lightning

I look forward to the spectacular lightning storms whenever I visit Idaho, and this year didn't disappoint! The last two photos were taken from the front porch of the cabin during a storm that brought truly torrential rain!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Harry's Ridge

Here's my latest hiking article published in Seattle Backpackers Magazine:

Is it the Alaskan tundra? The high moors of Scotland? No, it’s the desolate high country of Mt. St. Helens— seemingly barren from a distance, yet teeming with vibrant life when observed closely. Perhaps the best trail on which to experience the bleak splendor of the monument is the winding path to the top of Harry’s Ridge.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Hay stacking timelapse video

A timelapse and slow-motion video of stacking hay near Toledo in Southwest Washington, it makes me tired just watching it!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Bringing in the Hay

Early July marks the beginning of the hiking season - the time when all sensible people are out enjoying the high country, probing the retreating snowline as it uncovers the vast riches of the wilderness. I, however, through obligation and a less than steady source of income, must spend a month of summer waiting for the hay. Only a few days are actually spent hauling the hay; most of the time is spent hanging around the house waiting for farmers to call us. Time that could have been spent hiking is instead spent waiting for the silent phone to ring, and when the call does come, it is usually to tell us that the hay has been delayed by another week due to the long range forecast predicting a 20% chance of light mist.

Monday, July 7, 2014

My Bold Grandmother

My Grandmother is amazing! She just turned 90, and coincidentally published her third book. The book is  Bold Women in Alaska History ( $10.80), and I can think of nobody more apt to have written it than my own bold grandmother, Marjorie Cochrane.

Hiking in Willapa National Wildlife Refuge

My latest article was just published today in Seattle Backpackers Magazine! Check it out: Hiking in WIllapa National Wildlife Refuge

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Backpacking on Long Island

Hiking along Smoky Hollow
The weathermen were out to get us again. Just a few days before our planned trip to the Enchanted Valley, the forecast had turned from mostly sunny to solid rain and clouds for the foreseeable future. We awoke Sunday with barely 2 days of sunshine before us and no time left to get ready for a long trip. A split-second change of plans and 30 minutes spent throwing gear into backpacks put us on the road underneath the wobbling length of a borrowed canoe. Two hours later we had arrived at the headquarters of Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, and with the canoe wallowing through the receding tide, crossed the channel to the wild bulk of Long Island.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Scotch Broom

I have sorely neglected this blog for the last few weeks, but now that I have more time to write I will start posting again! For now here is a gallery of photos of the invasive weed Scotch broom, taken beneath the transmission lines at Gnat Creek. I have never seen such a wide variety of colors of this weed, if only it wasn't so ugly the rest of the year, and so harmful to the environment!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Barrier Falls

Barrier Falls
Due to heavy memorial day traffic (so many campers!) and a tight schedule I was unable to do as much as I would have liked to on the way home from a weekend on the Long Beach Peninsula. We decided to drive home via the Oregon side of the Columbia River, because for some inexplicable reason we thought it might be easier to cope with the hoards of camper on the long straight stretches of Highway 30 than the on the curving rollercoaster of roads on the Northern side of the river! It didn't make much difference; apparently all the roads of the Pacific Northwest are bumper-to-bumper campers on Memorial day.

However I did get a chance to stop a photograph Barrier Falls; a beautiful cascade just a short walk from the Gnat Creek fish hatchery, which is located less than 30 minutes to the north of Astoria along highway 30. So enjoy the photos while I try to get the memories of crawling along at 30 miles per hour on a 50 MPH highway behind the Great White Landwhales, out of my head.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

North Cascades article published in Seattle Backpackers Magazine!

Today Seattle Backpackers Magazine published my article Land of the Golden Larches. My sincerest thanks to the folks at SBM for publishing the story, and for their fine editing work!

So check out the article and begin planning your own trip to high peaks of the North Cascades!

Here's some photos that didn't make it into the article:

Monday, May 19, 2014

Meet Earl: the rugged tablet every outdoors enthusiast should own.

Update: Earl has experienced significant delays, don't expect it to be released until mid 2015 at the earliest.

Rewind time by two years and you will find me doodling out my idea of the perfect tablet. Those who follow my blog will know that I am an avid hiker who is not unfamiliar with rain drenched winter trips and precipitous off-trail treks. My perfect tablet would have to be able to be water proof, temperature resistant, and able to withstand the rigors of trekking through rough terrain. It would need a solar panel to stay juiced on long backpacking trips, and an E-Ink screen to preserve battery life and provide greater readability in bright sunlight. It would need a GPS, and a variety of sensors to help gauge changing mountain weather. This was all just idle day dreaming; though I could easily have assembled most of the parts into a working android device, I lacked the skills and resources to build a case, and to program the necessary functions into the completed device. I am also blessed with an extraordinarily short attention span, so the tablet doodle was soon joined by a futuristic car doodle and a doodle for a combination back pack - jet pack!

Travel forward in time by a year and a half, and you will find me just signing up for Twitter.  I tweet a few hesitant messages promoting my newly created blog, and then out of curiosity peruse my twitter feed. After sorting through piles of dumb spam, I finally come upon a tweet right out of an old techy day dream: meet Earl, the world's first true survival tablet.

A prototype model of the Earl, taken from a recent progress update on the Official Earl Website

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Spring skiing at Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood is still draped in snow, but the icy grip of winter is slowly relinquishing its hold on Wy'East. Skiing through the slush along Vista Ridge this was apparent, for on every subsequent run down the mountain a few new brown spots would appear beneath the groomed ski trails atop the ridge. I had never been to Mt. Hood, in winter or in summer and I was suitably impressed by the glacier capped volcano.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Deception Pass

Bowman Bay Pier
Bowman Bay
Pulling into the Bowman Bay campground after dark with the light of the full moon streaming through the trees, we discovered that Deception Pass had been appropriately named: on the Washington State Parks reservations website, our campsite had been portrayed as secluded, nestled among the bushes and trees-a great distance from any neighbors. In reality, our tent site was exposed and crowded beside similar sites, each occupied by a hulking motorhome, their windows shedding baleful light that overwhelmed the comforting moon glow. So tired were we from our 5 hour drive (which included the rigors of the Puget Sound rush hour), that we barely grumbled about our surroundings, and collapsed quickly into our sleeping bags.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Port Townsend in miniature

I spent last weekend camping at Deception Pass (which I will describe in an upcoming article!) and on the way back we took the ferry from Friday Harbor to Port Townsend, which is perhaps one of the finest journeys-by-ferry in Washington State. From the ferry approaching Port Townsend we had a picture-perfect view of the city, and I was able to capture a number of decent photos. However they were somewhat bland to my eye, and so to make them more unusual and appealing I turned a few of them into miniatures:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Signs of Spring: Part 4


Green- that is the word to describe April in Washington; a rainbow of verdant hues carpets the forests and fields, with only a few stubborn trees clinging to their drab winter garb. In past weeks I was able to photograph every sign of spring-not now! Every morning there are a dozen new plants springing from the ground, new leaves budding from barren branches, flowers bursting into bloom fast as fireworks in July.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Signs of Spring: Part 3

The last few days have been incredibly rainy-I guess the weather is making up for all the sunshine of last week! Many flowers took advantage of that sun to bloom; Oregon Grape, Trillium and violets now decorate the forest floor.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


The turkey's have reached new milestones this week. They had their first trip outside. They are always begging to be out of their cage in the kitchen, but hesitated to leave the safety of the cage in the out of doors. Before they left their cage they were peering up at the extinguished heat lamp as the sun warmed them. They seemed puzzled as to the source of the heat!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Signs of Spring: part 2

Spring is definitely closing in on Southwest Washington. The grass is turning green and buds are swelling on every tree. Gardens are turning a vivid yellow as daffodils burst into bloom. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Beyond Ridge Camp: A proposal for new trails near Mt. St. Helens

Minnie Peak from near Ridge Camp

A bleak tundra extends before me, a wasteland of twisted stumps, wind blasted scrub growing in among rusted relics of a forgotten age. Behind me, dark moors rise out of sight into low hanging clouds; before me, the gray plateau drops precipitously into the coiling fog. This is not some scene from a post-apocalyptic Sci-fi novel, and mutated beasts do not lurk amongst the foggy crags (at least, not so far as I know). This is the hinterland of Ridge Camp, a bleak and lonely destination high in the Mt. St. Helens blast zone.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Signs of spring: part 1

Spring is nearly upon us!

The first Crocus bloomed on Wednesday, and buds are welling on daffodils, trees and bushes. The bees are stirring in their boxes and the hazelnut tree is draped in golden flowers. Over the last week our pasture has changed from grey to verdant green. The peacocks are calling and fanning their tales and flocks of birds are flying in from the south, filling the morning air with song.  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Confessions of a Bibliophilic Hiker

By Andy Zahn  

      When I was twelve years old, I found a book while digging through the spider infested boxes in our garage. It was called 100 hikes in the South Cascades and Olympics by Harvey Manning and Ira Spring. Ten years later, my collection has expanded to over 70 books covering trails in every corner of the mountains of the West Coast. One of my projects during the long dreary months of this winter was to move all my books from a sagging, overburdened shelf to a new set of shelves. In the process, I realized that just as these books shaped the shelf, they have shaped many aspects of my life.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

From Behemoths to Bantams: Backpacking through the ages

Grandad with his pack basket
      As my uncle heaved his pack up over a 6 foot high granite ledge to me, I realized the reason for his weariness. This ancient wicker behemoth with who-knows-what filling its cavernous depths must have weighed a ton! The two shoulder straps were padded only by thin, decaying leather-there was no hip strap, no pockets, frame or high tech air-cooling trampoline. It was a relic of a simpler age of backpacking.

     This ancient piece of equipment once belonged to my grandfather, a veteran of World War II. He was a foot soldier in that war-trudging through the mud and blood of the battlefields of France. There he carried an 80 pound machine gun in addition to his own gear, so he was no stranger to heavy loads.

       After the war, Grandad became a fire lookout in Idaho. Being a lookout in those days was not a job for day-dreaming poets. When he spotted a fire, Grandad would set out cross country with a Pulaski, radio, and rations, among other equipment, all of which weighed over 70 pounds, to fight the fire himself. When his lookout days were over, he took up backpacking with his family. Their gear was army surplus, and Grandad carried almost everything in that wicker pack that my uncle still carries- two 20 pound down sleeping bags and cast iron cookware (my mother and her sisters carried only small rucksacks with their own cotton sleeping bags), but after carrying machine guns during the war and firefighting gear on the lookout, Grandad wouldn’t have complained about the weight.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Timelapse: Winter in Southwest Washington

The lowlands of Southwest Washington don't get much of what most people would think of as winter; mostly it just rains.....and rains, and continues raining for months on end! However last weekend it finally snowed, and I recorded our 5 day winter here in a 2 minute timelapse video. I plan on doing the same in the spring, summer, and fall-so stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Winter camping in the Hoh Rainforest

The gentle patter of rain on the roof of a tent is a calming sound that lulls weary campers into deep and welcome sleep. Awaking to find oneself immersed in a small lake formed overnight by aforementioned seemingly gentle, but constant, rainfall is somewhat less appealing. Winter backpacking on the Olympic Peninsula can hardly be described as a comfortable or even pleasant experience, but when Cabin Fever descends during the interminably dull winter months that characterize Western Washington, an insane lust for adventure may seize the heart, and the mystery of the Olympic Rainforest offers ample opportunity to quench that desire.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Building a Green House: a timelapse construction

We built this greenhouse last summer over a period of about a month, I used a waterproof Pentax camera to capture the whole thing in a time-lapse video and condensed it down to a length of just over 3 minutes.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Snow at last in the Mt. St. Helens High Country.

Late afternoon sunshine on fresh snow in the Mt. St. Helens high country.

An imposing bank of fog.
      For most of the winter the mountains around Mt. St. Helens have seen little snow. However, recent storms have laid down several feet of the white stuff, and the hills are now covered in a comforting blanket, lessening fears of a summer drought. Thick fog banks cloaked many of the high peaks Sunday, and the low angle of the sun caused valley hugging fluff to suddenly go dark and thunderous one moment and then collapse in a wave of ethereal tendrils the next.

Swirling clouds and snow-coated trees.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Saving the Enchanted Valley Chalet

The Enchanted Valley Chalet
Photo by Will Baker, see more of his work at
The Enchanted Valley is a hidden Shangri-la lying in the deep, wilderness heart of Olympic National Park. Nestled in the verdant meadows of this valley is a nearly 100 year old Chalet that has been a shelter for rain-pelted hikers, and a base for mountain rescue missions. But this historic shelter is threatened by the flooding of the Quinault River and is on the verge of being lost forever.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Best Photos of 2013

Cispus Basin Waterfalls
December Sunset
Spirit Lake with Mt. Adams in the background
Fire on the Water
Frost Sculptures
Lake of the Angels
Leaf in Seaweed
Mountain Goat Kid
Sego Lillies
Mount Adams and Snowgrass flat.
The Goat Rocks
Walking on Water

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Lake of the Angels

As my water bottle slipped from its holster and plummeted over the edge of the cliff I was clinging to, visions of doling out my mothers meager water supply while the sun beat mercilessly down upon us flashed through my mind. Abandoning the trail, I slid down the near vertical face of the mountain. Clinging to roots and clumps of grass, I descended in an avalanche of dirt and rock. I found the bottle wedged miraculously intact beside a dead log, and, much relieved, but cursing the prospect of the return climb beneath my breath, headed up again.

The Grave of Carl Putvin
    The Carl Putvin trail begins in the deep valley of the Hamma Hamma River, and is marked by the grave of its namesake. The placement of the grave serves as warning to any hikers foolish enough to take this trail. Unfortunately for us, we interpreted this only as an interesting historical marker. The next mile of trail was an easy walk through the woods and we quickly convinced ourselves that all the guide books warning of the trail’s horrors had been written by a bunch of lily livered wimps.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Snowshoeing at Paradise, Mt. Rainier

First published in the Longview Daily News

January and February are the months of cabin fever when I dream of the rainbow fields of the high country in summer, but "flowers" of another sort still bloom high in the Cascades. Born of eddies of the ice-laden gales, monochrome lilies of frost and powder carpet the slumbering meadows. Alpine firs, already twisted by the summer zephyrs, are rendered yet more Suessian by the drifts of winter. For those brave enough to venture into the howling winds and blowing snow, winter does hold its wonders.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Fall hiking in the Columbia Gorge.

First published in the Longview Daily News.

Below my feet, the wooded slot canyon of Oneonta Gorge plunges to dizzying depths. A storm is blowing in and gusts of wind scented with autumn and tinted with rain fill the air with a rainbow storm of falling leaves. Loud with waterfalls; brilliant green with moss and ferns; bonsai trees clinging to the walls — the canyon is like something out of a fairy tale. This is only one of the many great trails on the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge. Even in winter this is one of the top hiking options of the Pacific Northwest.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Rampart Ridge, A pilgrimage into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

First published in The Longview Daily News.

I'm a dreamer. I dream of mountains, lakes and meadows, deep forests and high peaks. In the dark months of winter such dreams are sweetest. Backpacking adventures will grow in my mind. I make lists, draw maps, memorize guide books and glue my eyes to Google Earth. Most plans fade into oblivion; some stay and morph with time.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Exploring the Utah Canyonlands

First published in The Longview Daily News.
Hiking in the Devils Garden

Camping in Arches NP
Where was the tent? Only a few hours before we'd left it atop a southern Utah plateau covered in fantastic sandstone fins with views stretching all the way to the Sierra La Sal. Now all we saw were just a few scattered, lonely tent stakes. An English couple informed us that they had seen it blow past like a tumble weed. We later found it running with a herd of wild sagebrush and it took some effort to lasso the wild beast and haul it back to camp.
With all the fantastic beauty around us it had been all too easy to forget to properly stake the tent down and be reminded of how wild this land truly is.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Enjoy the beauty and solitude of Mt. Rainier's Palisades Lakes

First published in The Longview Daily News.

"Watch out for the hamsters!"
With this dire warning from a tourist, we started our hike to Palisades Lakes in Mount Rainier National Park.
The Palisades Lakes are part of a quiet back country hidden in plain sight of millions of visitors to one of the most famous parks in America. Chances are, if you've toured Mount Rainier, you have stopped at Sunrise Point, that impossibly sharp curve in the road that takes you in a moment from the green depths of the forest to the fantastic park-land of Sunrise. You have no doubt peered down to the emerald pools twinkling below, but then you probably hopped back in the car and, with the rivers of ice looming above, continued on to Sunrise.
Backpacker magazine recently featured the Palisades Lakes trail as one of the best places to find silence and solitude in the national park. The article featured Gordon Hempton, a "professional sound photographer" who measures silence in periods of 15 minutes or more without human-caused sound. He has claimed that Palisades Lakes are one of only 35 places in western Washington to qualify as a quiet place. Thus intrigued, we wanted to find out for ourselves if the claims to quiet so near to a busy tourist destination could possibly be true. Sunrise road usually closes around early October, so time was running out for our visit.