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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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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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As the shinkansen (bullet train) shot along the rails from Nagano to Nagoya, I watched the towns rush by outside—houses with ceramic tiled roofs, rice fields flooded with water, little family gardens stuck in wherever they would fit. As we moved into the countryside, I was struck by the greenness. I thought I knew green and its many shades, but here were shades I couldn’t recall seeing before—the tannish green of bamboo, the yellow-topped green of some kind of flowers rising like feathers above the trees. Here and there white or pink or lavender blossoms added their accents to the riot of green.

Chion-in Temple, Kyoto

 Japan is a wondrous country of old traditions and new technology. Living in Oregon, where a building built in the 1800’s is considered old, I was amazed by temples and shrines over a thousand years old. They were solid, dark brown, smelling like the earth touched with incense. And all around them were grasses, bushes, and trees with a bright greenness that dazzled me—descendants of the trees that builders of the shrines hauled up steep slopes to create places of worship reaching the sky. Did they feel the awe I felt as I looked out over the valleys far below and thought of the God who created such living beauty?

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