Posts Tagged ‘September’

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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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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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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Naches Peak Trail, Mt. Rainier, anemone seed heads   “On a clear summer or crisp fall day, this might be the finest day hike in Washington,” the trail guide said. (Day Hike! Mount Rainier by Ron C Judd with Seabury Blair, Jr.) I would have to agree.Mt. Rainier, Mountain Ash, Naches Peak Trail

My husband and I set off on September 4, as the morning sunshine lit up the white fuzzy heads of Western anemones. Meadows all along the route held the remnants of what must have been a riot of color just two or three weeks before. Now a few asters, some lupine, and an occasional monkey flower by a stream remained to hint at summer’s beauty. Dwarf mountain ash held bright orange fruits, and huckleberry plants hid sweet, blue treasures under their leaves. We munched as we walked.

Tarn on Mt. Rainier, Naches Peak TrailOn a larger scale, the views were magnificent. Jagged rocky peaks surrounded us, a few with patches of snow still accenting their slopes. Blue mountain tarns reflected stately fir trees and white clouds. Peace descended upon us in the silence, broken only by the caws of a crow, the chipping of juncos in the trees, and the hushed murmur of a cool breeze.Mt. Rainier, 2013, Naches Peak Trail

An uphill climb brought us face to face with Mt. Rainier itself. Sadly, clouds veiled its peak, and we could only glimpse the white skirts of snow on the lower section. We stopped to rest on a rocky area, where a friendly chipmunk—or perhaps a ground squirrel—agreed to pose for me.

Chipmunk, Mt. Rainier, 2013 Then on back down, past Tipsoo Lake, an opal set in an emerald field. Over one more ridge, then down to the truck, with enough huckleberries in my pack for a lovely pancake breakfast.Tipsoo Lake, Mt. Rainier, 2013

“How can people see this beauty and say there is no God?” my husband wondered. I couldn’t answer.

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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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We (husband and I) made another trip down to Ashland, Oregon to visit my brother. Last year we hiked Ostrich Peak, an exhausting, but beautiful hike. This year I requested something a bit less strenuous. Brother suggested Grizzly Peak. It turned out to be an excellent choice.

We drove up to the trailhead, where there was supposed to be an excellent view of surrounding mountains. However, smoke from forest fires in the region obscured the view. We headed up the trail–yes, it was uphill, but not as steep or as long as Ostrich. I could manage with only occasional rest breaks. We hiked through tall firs, passing meadows that must have been filled with flowers in early summer, but were now golden with dried grasses, with a dash of yellow-blooming sagebrush hear and there. It was cool in the woods with a morning breeze blowing.

Then we rounded a bend and emerged into a very different environment. Rolling hills before us, but covered with tall, whitened toothpicks of trees. Several years ago, the East Antelope fire had raged through those hills, destroying everything but the tree trunks. Grass and a few scraggly bushes were moving in, but that was about it. We stood on the border, lush firs behind us, barren landscape before us. A harsh reminder of the power of fire.

The trail led us into the open for a bit, through the rising warmth of the noontime sun, then finally back into the cooler greenness. I fell behind the guys, stopping to take pictures of a few late flowers, seedheads, and bright red berries on still-green bushes. I took deep breaths of the fresh air and enjoyed the mostly downhill end of the hike. A lovely way to spend a morning in September! (And no, there aren’t any grizzlies on Grizzly Peak.)

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And now for another waterfall hike!

After a few gray, rainy days, the sun burst out on Wednesday. Perfect timing, as my brother was in town, and we all (brother, husband, and I) wanted to go hiking. So out the Columbia Gorge we headed, winding along the old highway past Multnomah Falls, with its usual crowds, on to Horsetail Falls, where the hike begins.

We started at Lower Horsetail Falls. I watched a car stop in the middle of the road in front of the falls. A young man hopped out, struck a pose, then jumped back in the car after the picture was snapped. Silly tourists.

Like most hikes around here, this one began with an uphill climb. However, the breeze blew cool and refreshing, giving me energy to keep going, even when the menfolk disappeared around the bend. I enjoyed the lush woods, the ferns growing thick on the hillsides, and the tall trees shading the path. I had fun testing my new camera, a Canon Rebel DSLR T3i, on sights big and small.

After a few switchbacks, we came to a fairly level stretch, a nice place to catch my breath and watch the sunlight flickering through the maples. Soon Upper Horsetail Falls loomed up ahead through the trees. The trail went right behind the falls—what fun!

Next we descended toward the Oneonta Gorge, crossed by a footbridge. We paused to stare down into the deep canyon and at another falls pouring through the narrow banks. Then back up again, out of the gorge and uphill for another mile to reach Triple Falls, a picture-perfect place for lunch. Sunshine, a cooling breeze, a crashing waterfall: what more could we ask for?

It was all downhill after that, an easy ramble to the old highway, a walk along the road and through a tunnel back to Horsetail Falls. A beautiful day for a beautiful hike!

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Peace and beauty are two things we look for when selecting a campground. We found them both in abundance this week–and less than an hour and a half from home. And an amazing hike to boot!

We (husband and I) only had two and a half days for the camping trip, so I honed in on areas close to home. We settled on Paradise Creek Campground on the Wind River, about twenty miles north of Carson, Washington. We found ourselves a big, well-shaded site where river sounds could lull us to sleep in our tent. Facilities included outhouses and a hand pump for water, but we like primitive, so it was perfect.

We woke early our first full day there, eager to get out hiking before the temperature rose too high. We drove a few miles back to the Falls Creek trail. It was an easy hike, the book said, and so beautiful that you wouldn’t even notice the small rise in elevation. Well, that wasn’t exactly true. We did notice the climbing trail, which was a bit steep in places, but we also noticed the bigleaf maples and cedars towering above us, the graceful curve of the vine maple branches, and the freshness of the air. We saw the changing character of Falls Creek, splashing loudly over rocks in places, settling into deep, dark pools other places. We felt like wanderers in Middle Earth as we stopped beneath trees heavy with moss to admire the busy stream.

Then we reached the falls. Falls Creek was, indeed, aptly named. The creek cascaded down basalt cliffs lined with moss, thundering into the deep pool below, forming two distinct falls. Mist sprayed out, cool and refreshing after that uphill climb. Wavelets splashed against the dark, always-wet rocks at pool’s edge. Maidenhair ferns clung to the cliff in small patches. The late morning sun stretched long fingers into the canyon, highlighting the moss and edging the trees with light.

The roar of the falls drowned out all background sounds. Were birds singing? Planes passing overhead? I had no way of telling. We sat there for quite some time, drinking in the serenity. I took lots of pictures, too, trying out my new camera. I tried to fit the beauty of the place into a small rectangular frame. Success could only be partial.

The way back was a pleasant downhill jaunt with time to visit hidden pools and bright cascades, time to enjoy the wonder of a place I definitely hope to visit again.

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Garden before weeds

Garden before weeds

We returned from a short camping trip, and I went out to pick a few lingering zucchini and tomatoes. The garden has more weeds than vegetables now. Every year I vow to keep ahead of the weeds; every year, they win out. I turn my back for a few days—kept away by hot weather or vacation—and they stage a coup. It always amazes me how quickly an orderly garden can degenerate into a jungle.

As I pass our few fruit trees, I see pears scattered on the ground. I should have canned them, but I didn’t. The house we planned to paint this summer still carries its faded and chipped coat of green. In our neck of the world, summer ends in three days. And I know that just as many chores await me inside–everything from house cleaning to writing assignments.

I hear a sparrow sing from a nearby bush. How simple life must be to a sparrow. It looks for food every day, builds a nest and lays eggs in the spring (if a female), feeds the young until they can feed themselves, and sings to announce its territory (if a New World male). Of course, it must also avoid predators, and finding food could be difficult at times. I’m not saying its life is easy, just simple.

A sparrow never worries if the neighbor has a better nest. It doesn’t have to spend years in singing school or nest-building school (or pay for its children to do so). Whatever instinct doesn’t cover, it learns by watching its parents. While there may be some individualism in songs, the sparrow doesn’t worry that it won’t find a job if another sparrow sings better than it does. It doesn’t concern itself with being a role model or contributing to the community. Because it has no possessions, apart from the nest, the legion of chores that awaits me has no meaning for the bird.

Of course, I could simplify. I could trim my possessions, drop outside commitments that drain my time, and concentrate my energies on what is really important. Live a little more like a sparrow. Yeah, I think I’ll put that on my “to do” list. I’ll get on it right after we finish painting the house and cleaning up the garden…

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