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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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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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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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Lilies on the trail

Queen-cup lily

Trapper Creek Wilderness

Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington

Hubby patiently waits for me.

Hubby patiently waits for me.

We set out bright and early, bumped along rutty gravel roads, and reached the trailhead for the Observation Peak hike shortly after 8 a.m. Morning coolness still hung in the air, as we donned our packs and headed up the trail. Tall cedar and fir surrounded us, and wildflowers brightened the sides of the path–Indian paintbrush, bunchberry, anemone, queen-cup lily, vanilla leaf, and coralroot, among others. No sounds of civilization met our ears, not even an airplane. The deep silence was broken occasionally by a bird singing from some hidden branch high above us–and by the incessant buzz of flies and annoying whine of mosquitoes, who left their marks on our tender skin. Even after we applied repellent, they danced around our faces and ears, looking for spots we missed. Still, not the worst insects we’d met hiking; they were bearable.

View of Mt. Hood

View of Mt. Hood

My husband forged ahead on the trail, eager to reach the promised viewpoints. I plodded slowly up the hill, making frequent stops to enjoy the scenery and take photographs–oh, yes, and to rest. Uphill hiking and I have our differences. The tall trees and abundant flowers gave me something to admire as I rested. Beauty can sometimes be as refreshing as a good sports drink.

After some ups and down of the trail, we climbed the last 0.6 miles of steady uphill. What a relief when the trees gave way to rocks and new types of flowers–bear grass, Mariposa lilies (I think), two stately tiger lilies, and a bright purple flower that I have yet to identify. We topped the rocky ridge and the world spread out before us, the views as spectacular as the guide book suggested. Dark green, rolling hills below us and majestic mountains whichever way we looked. Rainier, St. Helens, Adams in Washington state, and Hood, Jefferson, and the tiniest glimpse of the Three Sisters in Oregon. Absolutely gorgeous!

Mt. Adams

Mt. Adams

That purple flower with Mt. Adams behind it

That purple flower with Mt. Adams behind it

We munched on PBJ sandwiches and enjoyed the cooling breeze as we took in the scenery. One thing about hiking around mountains; most trails go uphill. It can be hard work to reach the top–very hard work for some of us–but once I make it, I’m always glad I kept going. The wonderful view–and the feeling of accomplishment–makes it all worthwhile. A metaphor for life, no doubt. But I’d still love to discover a way to reach the top without working so hard!

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Reflection Lake

Reflection Lake

After feeling that nothing could beat the Naches Peak Trail, husband and I set off on the Lakes Trail in the Paradise area of Mt. Rainier and changed our minds.Mt. Rainier, Meadow with Flowers

The night had brought fearsome thunder, followed by a downpour, repeated again later in the night. Morning arrived in foggy gray, which continued to surround us as we drove to the trailhead. When we reached Reflection Lakes, the beginning of the trail, sun broke through and brightened the muddy trail. Behind the lake, Mt. Rainier still wore a gray hood.

The trail up to Paradise Visitor’s Center wandered through the woods, crossing a rocky, chattering stream, with occasional views of peaks behind us. Huckleberry bushes lined many sections of the trail, holding luscious blue fruits that we nibbled on.

Mt. Rainier viewThe uphill wore me down, as usual, but then we reached the aptly named Paradise. Mt. Rainier still hid her head behind the clouds, but at least the base showed. We took a short lunch break by the visitor’s center—not too crowded in September—and then hiked on. Now views turned spectacular. A new alpine meadow appeared around each bend, and the higher we hiked, the more blooms still lingered on the flowers. Craggy peaks and hills rose in the background with fog creeping into the valleys between. Green fields studded with rocks ran up to touch the mountain.

Mt. Rainier

Mt. Rainier

We stopped to rest in one rocky field by a stream. Soon marmots were popping out of holes to check us out. Later we saw blue grouse. Young ones followed their mother into the brush. An adult male gobbled huckleberries from plants along the trail. He would trot a short distance down the trail as we approached, but then get distracted by the juicy berries. Finally he turned off on a faint trail into the brush where he could eat his lunch undisturbed.

Marmot

Marmot

As we hiked back down toward Reflection Lakes, the fog moved in, and a drop or two of rain hit our faces. We walked past tiny alpine tarns and green meadows shrouded in fog back to the trailhead. Six miles completed and truly a gem of a hike! And the rain held off until we were back inside our little travel trailer, cozy and secure.Mt. Rainier Lake in the Fog

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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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WHigh Prairie Trail, Mt. Hoode’d been spending too much time at home working. I was feeling restless. Where should we go? Mt. Hood is always nice this time of year. It’s a bit early for black flies, and the alpine meadows are filled with flowers. So recently my husband and I headed up for a hike to Lookout Mountain on the east side of Mt. Hood.Lookout Mountain 105

We bumped over miles of washboard gravel road to reach the trail head at High Prairie. “Keeps the tourists away,” we said optimistically. And it appeared to be true, as there were only a couple of cars in the parking area. As predicted, the meadow was awash with color—white and yellow daisy-type flowers, Indian paintbrush, and more. We took the trail to the right, as recommended in the guide book. It was a wise decision. View after view of the mountaintop—only seven miles away—opened up as we hiked along. One place a field of red lava rocks added to the mountain view.Lookout Mountain 049

Lookout Mountain 039As we neared the high point, ghostly white tree trunks twisted in tortured shapes, bent by the wind. New kinds of flowers appeared. And talk about views! From the top, where a fire lookout used to stand, we could see mountains all around: St. Helens, Adams, Rainier to the north; Jefferson and the Three Sisters to the south.

Oval Lake, near Lookout MountainWe continued down—and I do mean down, with the path a bit steep in places—to Oval Lake, a couple of miles farther along. A scenic little lake where the deep quiet echoed softly in my ears. There we rested for what I knew would be a grueling uphill slog back to Lookout Mountain, before we hit the downhill path back to the truck. My fears proved true, for me at least. My husband, a runner, patiently waited for me during my frequent rest breaks.

Lookout Mountain, Mt. HoodWe took the old road from the lookout back to the truck—not as scenic as the way up, but a pleasant downhill stroll back to the bright meadow where we began. But now with tired legs, a camera full of pictures, and the peace that comes from spending time in God’s creation. Sometimes I forget, in the busy days of life, how much I need quiet, green places and towering mountains. At Lookout Mountain my soul was fed.     Lookout Mountain 060

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