Fall trip to Mills Canyon and Keystone Point

Keystone Point is a prominent landmark overlooking the Columbia River, Waterville Plateau, and the Entiat Valley.  To get there is to drive up through Mills Canyon, a drainage that burned out in the 1988 Dinkelmann Fire, and again in the 2014 Mills Canyon Fire.  My first trip to Keystone Point was in 2011, as part of a project to repeat historic panoramic photographs for the U.S. Forest Service.     Out of curiosity I returned to Keystone Point to produce an update.

Mills Canyon is not for everyone.  The pavement quickly ends and  turns into a steep, narrow, double-grip road.  There are no guard-rails and going off the side would likely be fatal.   It would make a great motorcycle ride or mountain bike ride for the super-fit.  The beauty of Mills Canyon is you can see a long ways, the flowers in spring are abundant, and in fall there is nice color.  Other than in deer season, a person is likely to have Mills Canyon to themselves.  I have only once encountered another vehicle.   On my most recent trip I did find a few Kokanee and Keystone Light beer cans, an indication of who does visit.   To my way of thinking driving the roads out there with a beer in hand is pretty foolish. 

My comparison photograph turned out particularly well, because the day was clear and the time of the year was a close match with the original image taken on October 2, 1935.  I learned something about photography through this project.  My whole career, I have avoided middle of the day photos in full sun.  Well in this case, I actually got the best match with the original panorama by  recording the scene in late morning, close to noon.  Without duplicating the shadows in the same way, the two scenes are hardly recognizable.  In the nineteen thirties there was a wide expanse of forest.  That is all gone now.  To read the article on fire and recovery in Mills Canyon click the link at end of this blog entry.

 Comparison set of photographs from Keystone Point overlooking Mills Canyon

Comparison set of photographs from Keystone Point overlooking Mills Canyon

 The foliage of wild rose, spiraea and fireweed paints the slopes orange in Mills Canyon .   Bitter cherry and Douglas-maple supply a nice contrasting yellow. 

The foliage of wild rose, spiraea and fireweed paints the slopes orange in Mills Canyon .   Bitter cherry and Douglas-maple supply a nice contrasting yellow. 

 Whittled away by the fire of 2014, a Douglas-fir snag creates a halloween-like appearance.

Whittled away by the fire of 2014, a Douglas-fir snag creates a halloween-like appearance.

 The berries of bitter cherry must appeal to robins, as there was a flock of them feeding. 

The berries of bitter cherry must appeal to robins, as there was a flock of them feeding. 

 The road on the ridgeline separating Mills Canyon from Spencer Canyon leading to  Keystone Point.

The road on the ridgeline separating Mills Canyon from Spencer Canyon leading to  Keystone Point.

 The willows behind me have grown tremendously in the two years since the Mills Canyon Fire of 2014.  Behind me are some of the few remaining large ponderosa pines. 

The willows behind me have grown tremendously in the two years since the Mills Canyon Fire of 2014.  Behind me are some of the few remaining large ponderosa pines.