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Archive for the ‘autumn’ Category

Upper McCord Creek Falls

Upper McCord Creek Falls

Early autumn is a perfect time for hiking in the Pacific Northwest. The bugs have died down, the weather has cooled, but the sun is still shining. And thus my husband, Gary, and I headed out Tuesday to enjoy the outdoors. Looking through 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan, I noticed two short (2-3 mile) hikes in the Columbia Gorge, so close to each other that they were together in one entry. Wahclella Falls and Elowah Falls. Despite our proximity to the Columbia Gorge, we’d never hiked either trail. Time to check them out!Columbia Gorge

Elowah Falls, Columbia GorgeThe first one as we drove east through the Gorge (Oregon side) was Elowah Falls–with a bonus falls available (Upper McCord Creek) with a little extra uphill walking. The trail headed gently uphill, becoming a bit steeper on the Upper McCord part. It passed through shady forest, unfortunately close enough to hear the freeway sounds for much of the way, but finally heading back into the woods a bit. The McCord part opened up to a nice view of the Columbia River with Mt. Adams in the distance (I was thankful for the railing here, as the dropoff was steep.) before arriving at a nice, though rather small, waterfall. We explored a bit, then headed back toward Elowah Falls. As we neared the cascade, we could feel the temperature cool, until we came out in the rocky area below the falls, a fine place to rest and enjoy the view.

Elowah Falls hitting the rocks

Elowah Falls hitting the rocks

Elowah Falls itself tumbled down from the cliff like a long, feathery tail, its pattern constantly changing, fascinating to watch.

Wahclella Falls, Columbia Gorge

Wahclella Falls

We left Elowah Falls, deciding to drive the three miles or so to Wahclella Falls and see what it was like. We were glad we did. The Wahclella Falls trail began as a gentle stroll along lovely Tanner Creek. We watched a pair of dippers zipping from rock to rock in the stream, whistling merrily. Sunlight sparkled on the creek, but the path was shady most of the way, a good thing as the afternoon was warming up. The path climbed higher above the creek before dropping back down to the falls area. Which was beautiful. Wahclella Falls poured into a deep pool, which emptied into rambling Tanner Creek. We sat by the falls and ate our PBJ sandwiches, then wandered on–with many photo breaks along the way. Gary had to explore a little cave near the river–apparently it went back quite some ways, but wasn’t high enough for easy exploration. We meandered on through the rocky little valley, across the creek and back up to the main trail. It is a hike I certainly plan to return to–a little gem I am so glad we discovered.

Cave near Wahclella Falls

Cave near Wahclella Falls

Amazing that we can live in one area for so many years and yet miss out on nearby places of beauty. Why had we never thought to hike those trails before? It’s a reminder to me to watch for beauty all around, for even the familiar places we take for granted may be wondrous if we keep our eyes and hearts open.

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Cumulus clouds September.

As we edge toward autumn, change is in the air. The heat of summer slowly dies away, replaced by crisp, foggy mornings and cool breezes. Clouds roll in, sometimes huge, fluffy white mountains, other times layers of gray filled with rain.blackberry jelly and green beans

Leaves begin to turn color. We harvest the garden—plucking the last few ears of corn, a few fat cucumbers hiding under the leaves, red and golden cherry tomatoes, and, of course, zucchini, which is not yet ready to call it quits. Apples redden on the tree. The pantry shelves hold jars of beans, the freezer bags of corn. Blackberry jam and jelly await winter breakfasts. Our garden has done well.

Liberty applesA hush settles over the street, as children head off to school. I drink in the quiet and let it settle into my soul. September. Even the sound of it is soft and flowing, like the afternoon breeze as it rustles through the treetops. Like a treasure you hold, not in your hands, but in your heart.September sunset

And in the evening we stroll down the street as darkness falls earlier and the sun sets in a bright sky.

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deer fern frondsRecently I’ve hiked some gorgeous trails in British Columbia–trails with views of turquoise lakes and gleaming glaciers, trails that looked down on cities and rivers and out to distant mountains. I will likely post about some of these hikes soon. However, the other day I was hiking down a more ordinary path, one that wound through a pretty, but not spectacular, forest. There were no grand views to catch my eye, so I found myself noticing little things that I might otherwise have missed.Elderberry

moss patternThe bright red berries of the elderberry stood out against the browns and greens of the woods. In a damp area, fronds of deer fern formed a subtle pattern of light and dark. Other tiny ferns grew on tree trunks amid the moss. Farther on the yellowing needles of some unidentified conifer added color to the scene. Were they dying, or did they always turn yellow in the fall? Something to research, I guess.yellow needles

Odd types of moss grew on the ground just off the trail like tiny shooting stars all gathered together. And finally, small butterflies gathered on a wet stretch of the path, apparently sipping water from the tiny puddles. They flew up as my feet approached, landing on leaves, rocks, and even on me. Rusty orange wings on top, but brown underneath–when the butterfly closed its wings, it could easily be mistaken for a dead leaf. Ah, nature’s brilliance!

butterfly on rockThe grand views are wonderful, but the little things are just as important. It takes all these small organisms to make up the forest that reflects so majestically in a mountain lake. To God all are vital, just as each person–however ordinary and unknown–has a special place in God’s kingdom.

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Sunrise, 10-30-2013The dark gray haze of early morning is beginning to brighten, but the grass is still covered with frost.

“Time to go!” husband cheerfully cries. I look out the window and sigh.

The chill air makes me shiver as I step onto the porch.

“Didn’t we run later in the day last fall?” I ask, zipping my fleece as high as it will go.

“Maybe, but I like to get it done first thing in the day.” Husband is already jogging in place, patiently waiting for me to get warmed up. I take quick walking steps, easing into the run. Why was it I wanted to run anyway? And so early, when day has barely arrived?Mt. Hood and sunrise

Then I look up. Ah, sunrise. I had forgotten about sunrise. We run a bit, then I whip out my phone and take a picture. Further on, I stop again. Mt. Hood silhouetted by brilliant golden clouds. Yes, this is why early morning is the time to be out. Husband patiently waits. (See a pattern here?) I move on, inspired and beginning to warm up. And I keep watching the sky as the colors change and fade into streams of sunshine. A glorious fall day!

Morning sunlightFunny how life always seems better when you look up.

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Mt. Rainier, river

Our last day at Mt. Rainier was like so many fall days in the Pacific Northwest—wet and gray. Clouds moved in, muting the greens of moss and leaves, the reds and blues of berries, the gold of fall’s last blossoms. I hid my camera in my pack, bringing it out only briefly to capture some quick moment of beauty.

Mt. Rainier, vine maple

raindrops on huckleberry bushes, Mt. RainierWhen the rain stopped for a bit, I ventured out again. Firs towered over me, grown tall in the moist soil. The river rushed by, energized by the added water. And all around me, pictures of nature’s magnificence in miniature beckoned. In the days past we had enjoyed the grand vistas—wide, blue lakes, majestic peaks, hills rising above the fog. Today I focused in on the little things.

Mt. Rainier, lichens

Leaves speckled with raindrops. Oregon grape nestled against a tree trunk. Lacy leaf patterns in the vine maple. Miniscule forests of fungi. Amazing beauty that is so easy to miss in our hurried lives.

Mt. Rainier, Oregon grapeGray days can be depressing. Clouds surround me and the rain beats upon me, forcing my eyes downward. However, if I keep my eyes open, I can still discover those small blessings that make each day special.

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Multnomah Falls, OregonLiving just east of Portland, Oregon places us in close proximity to a couple of top Oregon destinations: Mt. Hood and the Columbia Gorge. Thus when we had a brief visit from a Japanese friend, who wanted to see the forest, those two options came to mind. The Gorge is closer and warmer this time of year, so we settled on a trip to Multnomah Falls.

Crown Point and Columbia Gorge, Oregon

We hoped to take the old Columbia Gorge Highway, which winds through the woods and past several waterfalls, but that was not to be. A “Road Closed” sign greeted us near the Larch Mountain turn off. We had to be content with viewing Crown Point from the distance.

Wahkeenah  FallsOver to I-84 we drove, and east toward the falls. We tried a turnoff a mile or so before the Multnomah Falls parking lot and were rewarded by a view of Wahkeenah Falls on our way to Multnomah. We spent a few minutes beside that beautiful little falls cascading down the hill.

Then on to the biggie. Multnomah Falls had, as usual, lots of visitors snapping family photos in the mist near the falls, hiking up to the bridge, paying outrageous prices at the snack bar, and buying souvenirs in the lodge. We joined those hiking beyond the bridge, enjoying the rare sunny December day. We stopped to admire the powerful Columbia River below and enjoy views of the falls through the trees. So much water: truly an Oregon gift. We may not always appreciate the rain, but it does help create this beauty. I wouldn’t trade it for all the sunshine in California. (Or even Australia…)Multnomah Falls

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Summer has ended, but nice weather lingers on. In my garden, that means tomatoes. The plants I put in late, due to a long, wet spring, have had time to grow and produce their best crop in years. The vines are like a Christmas tree hung with red globes.

Peas are a distant memory, the pole beans were recently pulled out, and half the corn stalks lie bent to the ground, presumably demolished by a hungry raccoon family. Even my prolific zucchini plants have wilted during the cold of night. But the tomatoes spill out across each other and into the aisle, dotted with orange and red rubies that glitter in the sunshine. I munch on sun-warmed cherry tomatoes as I pick my crop. What could be tastier?

Tomatoes pile up on my kitchen counters. I slice them for sandwiches, put out bowls of cherry tomatoes for snacks, add them to recipes, but I can’t use them all up. So I pull out the canner, dusty on the back shelf, and get to work. And finally those juicy, red tomatoes fill pint jars, ready to brighten my pantry with their bright colors. Summer in a jar.

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