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Posing at Upper Meadow

Posing at Upper Meadow

Written July 11, 2016

Picturesque lakes, mountain meadows, views of jagged peaks, a forest being reborn after a disastrous fire—all elements of the beautiful Canyon Creek Meadows hike from Jack Lake, not far from Camp Sherman, Oregon.

Getting to the trailhead from our campsite at Smiling River campground on the Metolius River was a bit challenging. Finding the forest road signs to make sure we took the right roads and bouncing along miles of washboard gravel were the main issues. They were quickly forgotten once we hit the trail.

The morning chill didn’t stop a group of school-aged children from splashing in Jack Lake while their teacher/caretaker watched from the shore. It made me shiver—don’t kids feel the cold?

Ghost trees

Ghost trees

We hiked through open pine woods—including several areas of bare “ghost trees” left from a 2003 fire. Small pine and hemlock were growing back, an encouraging sight. Farther along the forest got thicker as we entered unburned regions.

Lower Meadow was a green oasis of merging streams and flower-filled fields, although most of the flowers were yet to bloom. Apparently late July-early August is peak season for blossoms. Still we did see lupine, Indian paintbrush, cat’s ears, and other flowers scattered about.

lunchtime

lunchtime

Crossing a couple of small creeks, we ascended higher (and a bit more steeply) to Upper Meadow, which provided a spectacular view of Three Fingered Jack, still spotted with snow. As we hiked the even steeper trail past Upper Meadow, we had to cross a couple of large patches of snow before reaching the open rock area that led up to a viewpoint. The view was already amazing, and I was hungry and tired, so I wimped out and found a big rock to sit on while we ate lunch. My husband hiked a bit higher to a notch in the rock, but decided that was far enough. While a tricky scramble up a rocky hill will supposedly give views of the other Central Oregon mountains, we never made it there.Canyon Creek Meadows hike view

The hike down was lovely and we took the loop trail from Lower Meadow, which seemed empty of hikers but teeming with mosquitoes. (Could there be a correlation between the two?) Canyon Creek tumbled along next to the first section of the loop, milky with glacier water. More ghost trees stood sentinel around us, poking like needles into the deep blue sky. When we returned to Jack Lake, the group of children was gone, and a serene stillness filled the air.

Jack Lake in the afternoon

Jack Lake in the afternoon

We returned to the Metolius, which was beautiful and remarkably mosquito-free.

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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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Campsite at Kalaloch Campground Our first camping trip of the year—and extra-special because our son who lives in Japan would be coming. In fact, it was planned especially for him. We had done a lot of camping and hiking when he was young, taking two-week camping trips every September (one of the advantages of homeschooling) to places like British Columbia, the California redwoods, Yellowstone Park, and a wide range of sites in Oregon and Washington. He had also camped a lot in Boy Scouts. But now, with trips home mainly taking place around Christmas, he missed spending time in the great outdoors.False Lily-of-the-Valley

We did a lot of planning, trying to find a place that would be dry in May, a bit of a challenge in the Pacific Northwest. However, as the time drew near, forecasts were mostly positive, so we set our sights on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington. Kalaloch Campground—right on the Pacific Ocean—sounded good for our first stop, once we learned how to pronounce it (Kah-lay-lock). And it turned out to be a good choice.

Vine Maple, KalalochWe pulled into the campground mid-afternoon Saturday, relieved to find many campsites still open (First come, first served can be scary at a popular campground.). The beachside places were all filled, but we found a lovely, large site with plenty of room for the trailer and a tent for our son and a local friend who had come along. Lots of privacy and a Middle Earth feel to it. Surely elves lurked nearby. Sunshine filtered through twisting, mossy branches onto ferns and wildflowers as we set up our camp. A fresh sea breeze blew enticingly, and a feeling of peace settled into my soul.Kalaloch Beach

Soon we were down on the beach, drawn by the surf’s roar. The wind blew us along the rock-strewn, sandy beach, causing us to zip up sweatshirts and pull up hoods, despite the sunshine. We walked and we talked and we enjoyed being out in nature, away from computers and work and all those other things that crowd our lives. Just the four of us and the mighty ocean. We admired agates, watched gulls glide by overhead, noted the scraggly pines above the beach, all bent in the same direction.

Gulls and bent trees, KalalochThe ocean is so big, its motion ever-changing yet ever the same. I feel connected to eternity by the ocean, a tiny part of something great and wonderful. To share that with a son I rarely get to see was the best Mother’s Day gift possible.Sunset, Kalaloch Beach

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Scotch broom A warm, sunny spring day when my work shift is unexpectedly cancelled. What better thing to do than go bike riding on a nearby trail? From our place it’s a short drive into beautiful downtown Boring, a two-block long town which recently became sister cities with Dull, Scotland. Past the only gas station into the gravel parking lot, empty at the moment. Nice. We unload our bikes, strap on our helmets, and hit the trail.

Very little pedaling is required on the trail in, as it is almost all downhill. Sunlight sparkles through the mossy trees and lights up the Scotch broom along the trail. I make mental notes on where to stop for photos on the way back. That is when I will need the rest that photo breaks can give.End of Cazadero Trail

We pass a family walking their dogs down toward Deep Creek, but we keep going to the end of the gravel trail. Climb through the wooden fence to look down on the stream below, glittering in the afternoon sun. As we return to our bikes, a man comes down the trail, riding on a fancy recumbent bike, complete with windshield, blinkers, and saddlebags. He’s already gone over twenty miles today and has several still to go. More ambitious than I will ever be.

TrilliumWe start back, slowly now. Pedaling uphill is more work, and I take my time, enjoying the scenery, stopping to photograph flowers, moss-covered trees, and whatever else catches my eye. We take a side trail down to the creek. Trilliums and ferns line the shady dirt path. The air smells fresh, the bubbling water is clear and bright. We skirt the family with the dogs, giving them their privacy. Stand for a few minutes drinking in the spring greenness. Then back up to the main trail and more pedaling, as my face reddens with the effort. Ah, why must exercise be so much work? Still, the beauty makes it all worthwhile.Deep Creek and mossy trees

Stop and smell the roses, the saying goes. And look at the wildflowers in bloom, feel the sunshine on your face, hear the splashing brook. Look and see the beauty that God has made, and drink it all in. Let it fill you up with joy. This world can bring much pain and confusion, but here in the woods, I find the peace I need to keep going.

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Newport, Oregon, Nye Beach We sit in the comfy chairs on the third floor of the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon, gazing out at the gray sky and the rolling white caps. It’s our 36th anniversary, and we came to celebrate in this wonderful book-filled hotel. But my mouth hurts from the tooth that had to be extracted yesterday, and husband is coughing from the cold he caught recently. In our younger days, this might have ruined our special day.Sylvia Beach Hotel

However 36 years give one a little perspective. Seagulls soar past the windows, pushed by the wind. The sun peeks out briefly to light up the waves. Husband sketches a beach scene; I write these words. The ocean beats a constant rhythm into our souls. We are at peace.

Life needn’t be perfect to be good. So many times our expectations prevent us from enjoying the blessings we receive. We want the perfect job, the perfect wedding, the perfect spouse, house, and kids. But life has more glitches than a new computer system, and perfection is a rare commodity here on earth.

Newport, OR beach with gullsMy husband’s uncle had a stroke. While Uncle John partially recovered, he remained weak on one side and had difficulty speaking. A former outdoorsman, he took up painting with his good hand. He made the most of what he had. And whenever he was asked how he was—or many other questions for that matter—his answer was always “Good enough.”

And what’s so wrong with “good enough?” We all have things that keep our lives from being perfect—whether health issues, money problems, disagreements with family or neighbors, job hassles, whatever. We can spend our days bemoaning our problems, or we can accept what we are given and make the most of it. We can enjoy the blessings we are given.dark clouds at beach

The waves keep pounding onto the sand, an ever-changing, but ever-the-same pattern. Dark clouds promise rain. We sit side-by-side, staring out the window, sharing the beauty of the moment. Thirty-six years. Years filled with smiles and tears, joys and frustrations. Not perfect years, but definitely “good enough.”

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Lightning Lake reflection, British Columbia A couple of weeks ago we spent some time hiking in British Columbia. We saw many beautiful places–from snow-topped mountains to rushing waterfalls to turquoise lakes. However, one of my favorite hikes was the Lightning Lake Trail in Manning Provincial Park. Although one of the longer hikes we took, it was a pleasant ramble through green forests along quiet, little lakes. And it contained very little elevation gain: a big plus for a wimp like me! When I called for a camera break, it was actually to take pictures, not as an excuse to plop down on a log and pant until I had the strength to continue.Lightning Lake reflections

Kayakers in Lightning LakeLater on the Joffres Lakes Trail, we saw beautiful, turquoise lakes, their color coming from glacial silt that fed into them. At Lightning Lakes, on the other hand, the color of the lake itself was hard to determine. The lakes were so still and silent that they simply mirrored the world above: tall, green conifers, summer blue sky, white fluffy clouds. Rather than calling attention to themselves, they modestly drew one’s eyes to the beauty around them. Even the paddles of two early morning kayakers scarcely raised a ripple. They appeared to paddle through the treetops in their lake reflection.Flash Lake, Manning Provincial Park

If only I could be like Lightning Lake–so calm and peaceful that when people look at me, they see the love of God shining from my face. Lord, in all I do, let my life reflect your beauty!

Lightning Lake, B.C.

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fern, mossy tree, Falls Creek Falls Trail, WALast month my husband and I stayed at Paradise Creek Campground along the Wind River in SW Washington–a gorgeous place to stay and enjoy nature. I wrote this review of a hike we took, and I am now finally posting it. Better late than never!

The Falls Creek Falls Trail began quietly, through woods filled with ferns and mossy trees. Not as many flowers as the Observation Peak hike, but plenty of twin flowers, salal, and Oregon grape–the last no longer in bloom. We climbed gradually, following the splashing creek and working our way to the falls. The last third of a mile to the falls climbed more steeply before dropping a bit to a wonderful viewpoint. A refreshing breeze hit my sweaty face as we approached, and I was ready to drop onto one of many rock “chairs” to enjoy the view and rest in Creation’s beauty.Falls Creek, WA

The falls itself consisted of three cascades, but only two could be seen from the viewpoint. The upper of the two spread out with many fingers of water tumbling down the rock face. The fingers joined together into one long cascade as the lower falls crashed into a shaded, rocky pool surrounded by green moss. We ate our lunch here, joined by a cheeky chipmunk looking for handouts. We gave him a couple of nuts and a blueberry, figuring those were natural foods for a chipmunk. He ignored the berry, but stuffed the nuts into his cheek and scrambled off to eat.

Falls Creek Falls, WAAfter a rest we headed up–and I do mean up–to the Upper Falls Trail. The connecting trail was steep, but just a warm-up for the trip to the top of the falls. What a relief when we made it to the top. A nice view, but nothing comparing to Observation Peak. Still the trails around it were nice–level paths through open woods with sunlight and lots of green plants. A pleasant change from the grueling uphill to get there.Lower falls, Falls Creek Falls, WA

As we headed back down the steep, narrow trail, the squeal of brakes warned me that a mountain biker was behind us. How he made it safely down that treacherous trail I don’t know. but tracks we noticed on the way up indicated he wasn’t the only one.

The upper loop back was far from the cool stream, and the heat of the day increased until I felt my body could easily replace a room radiator, and sweat dripped off my hair. When we reached the trailhead, I collapsed into the truck and flipped on the air conditioner. Okay, I’m spoiled, I know. But it certainly felt good!

Falls Creek rapidsFalls Creek Falls Trail is a beautiful hike, but my recommendation for all but those working on stamina training: stop at the falls. It’s the highlight of the trip, and the Upper Falls Trail adds little to it. Is there a metaphor for life here? Not sure. Maybe just that effort and reward are not always equal.

 

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