Monday, October 15, 2012

Rainy Day in Indian Heaven

I hadn't been hiking in over a month.  Running and marathon prep dominated my entire September.  During this same time, the PNW experienced fantastic fall weather - warm and sunny, with no rain in sight.  Perfect for hiking!  More than ready to enjoy fall colors under October's dry sunshine, I looked forward to getting the race over with.  I was itching to return to the trails.

Size matters!  Click on any photo to enjoy a larger version.

Wilderness area sign

But the weather gods have a twisted sense of humor.  The Friday following my marathon, after weeks of dry weather, it began to rain.  The entire weekend was predicted to be wet.  All my hiking plans got washed away, like fall leaves in the gutter.  What's a girl to do?

Go hiking anyway.

Fall colors from the very start!

In desperate need of an outdoor fix, I was willing to trek in any weather.  Saturday morning, after hemming and hawing trying to decide where to go (looking for maximum fall colors while trying to avoid hunters) I finally settled upon the Indian Heaven Wilderness.  I'd heard reports of amazing vegetative color in this area.  And I'd been hankering to get up there all summer.  Now was my chance!

Droplets glitter on wet leaves

The Indian Heaven Wilderness is located in Southwestern Washington, between Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens.  It's a scenic high plateau, dotted with alpine meadows, small lakes, and huckleberry bushes a-plenty.  A popular place for backpacking and huckleberry picking, this forested wilderness is a busy place in late summer.  But on a rainy October day, I'd have it all to myself.

The forest floor ablaze with yellow

I threw all my raingear, and two large hefty garbage bags into my car.  And against my better judgement, ended up taking Bear (couldn't resist those doggy eyes!)  I packed a couple of towels and a blanket, hoping to at least attempt to dry the dog off  before allowing him back in the vehicle.

One last huckleberry

It's a long drive to the trailhead, but I was so happy to finally go hiking I didn't care.  Besides, the forests outside Carson, WA were an amazing show of fall finery.  I was enjoying the scenery so much, it didn't register that I was also seeing lots of pickup trucks carrying men dressed in orange.

Golden reflections on Dee Lake

I arrived at the Thomas Lake Trailhead, only the third vehicle in its spacious parking lot.  Upon arrival, the intermittent mist that had been falling throughout my drive turned into fat raindrops.  Outfitting myself in full raingear, I put one of the Hefty bags to use as a pack cover.  Bear, however, was on his own.

Will you quit taking pictures and just hike?

From the very start, the Thomas Lake Trail was everything I'd hoped.  Bright red huckleberry bushes lit up the forest.  Yellow foliage added accents.  The water droplets on the leaves sparkled like diamonds, and my camera, which I'd carefully packed in a plastic bag, immediately came out.

Gorgeous meadow

My camera didn't stay in the bag for long.  A little further down the trail I came upon a forest floor completely covered with bright yellow bushes.  A fantastic display, there was no way I was missing this.  Although the skies were dark and foggy, the lack of shadow made for some good photographic conditions.  The bright colors seem to pop out of the gloom.

Rain-jeweled leaves

But the best was yet to come.  After 0.7 of a mile, I came upon the first two tiny lakes, Dee and Thomas.  The path squeezed between the lakes was lined with orange and red huckleberry bushes.  After uncovering the camera for more wet shots, I decided to explore Dee Lake's shoreline.

Colorful hues in the meadow grass

One side of this lake was rimmed with yellow and gold bushes, their colors reflecting in the still waters.  Fabulous!  I positioned my tripod on the muddy shore and fired away.

Golden-rimmed pond

Leaving these lovely lakes, I continued on my quest.  The trail began to climb, and my legs, still recovering from last week's marathon, protested.  I slowed my pace and inched along.  At the top of the hill I was surprised to see a couple of hunters, dressed in orange and toting rifles, heading my way.

This shoreline is ablaze

Since I was hiking in a wilderness area, I mistakenly thought hunting wasn't allowed here.  Obviously this was not the case.  Stopping to chat with the men, I learned they were deer hunting.  They hadn't spotted a deer all day, and were heading back to camp.  One of the hunters advised me to wear orange, and when he saw I didn't have any, gave me one of his extra orange vests to wear.  What a nice guy!  I was extremely grateful for his kindness.   

Kaleidoscope of color

Not far from the hunter encounter, I came across an incredibly lovely alpine meadow.  The fall colors were in full swing.  The meadow grasses were a rich golden color, the heather bright red, and its perimeter rimmed with red and orange huckleberry bushes. The foggy woods gave the place a surreal feeling.

Brilliant colors circle the lake

A short distance from the meadow, I spotted a small pond a little ways off the trail.  Like most of the water bodies, it was encircled with brilliant fall colors.  But these colors seemed more vibrant.  And they were reflecting nicely in the water.  Determined to photograph this scene, I searched for a trail to access the lake.  Not finding one, I bushwhacked through wet bushes to reach its shore.  The cross-country trip was worth it - I found the pond a charming little place.

The trail winds through more fall colors

Leaving the pond, and continuing on the trail, I ran into another hunter.  He was also a very nice man, and we chatted for a couple of minutes while he petted Bear.  After leaving this hunter, I came upon a large meadow with the best colors yet.  It was jaw-droppingly beautiful!

Follow the red and yellow-lined path

Of course, about this time the rain began in earnest.  Large fat drops pounded down, making photography all but impossible.  I tried my best, wiping off the camera and shoving into my jacket between shoots.  I did manage to get a couple of good photos, which are the last three in this post. 

But I was getting tired and cold, and although my raingear kept me dry, it was sopping wet and clammy.  Bear has a thick fur coat, but he was absolutely soaked.  And the rain didn't look like it would let up anytime soon.  Time to head back.

Wet but beautiful

Back at my car, I peeled off wet layers and threw them in a garbage bag.  I tried my best to dry off Bear, but finally gave up, and let him in the car.  I drove home through heavy rain, accompanied by the lovely aroma of wet dog.

Had I been hiking regularly last month, I probably would've passed on this weekend. But hungry for an outdoor fix, I took the plunge and was rewarded.  It was great to be on the trail once again, and foul weather just added to the adventure.  There's another level of beauty when you're in the woods on a drizzly fall day.  You just have to get wet to find it.

Linking to: Share Your Cup Thursday, This or That Thursday and Sunny Simple Sunday.


  1. Oh my gosh Linda, this is absolutely breathtaking! Even in rainy weather the colors are brillant. I have not been able to hike hardly at all this summer and Fall. Missing it and I sure enjoyed getting my fix through you!

  2. I totally agree with your statement that hiking on a rainy day adds a totally different element which in some ways, is equally as dramatic as the clear, sunny days. These pictures are just mesmerizing. Love being so close to the Smokies where hunting is not allowed. But some of my favorite trails are in wilderness or national forest areas and I do have to pay attention to the different hunting season.

  3. Linda! The U.P. may be a blaze of yellow and orange, but right now I'm envying those reds on the forest floor! Bear makes a lovely counterpoint to all that color, even when wet. I took a quick 2 mile run in a drizzle the other day because I hadn't run in a week. The mist in your photos was worth getting wet, glad your hike turned out so well...keep that orange vest tucked away in the car for future hikes!

  4. Amazing! The leaves are so vibrant, I love it! Sometimes the misty/foggy hikes are even more special:)

  5. Beautiful photos and nice write up. So different to fall in these parts.

  6. There's nothing wrong with a hike in the rain (although it's not something I get to do where I live, since it only rains during the afternoon thunderstorms). And you certainly got some gorgeous photos out of it. And I'm sure Bear loved it!

  7. Wow! Fabulous shots!! Congrats on the marathon completion...looks like the universe rewarded you with some exceptional beauty!

  8. Ahhhhhh........So fresh, so clean, so colorful! how I love the PNW! God's Country in every way!
    thanks for sharing your beautiful outing!

  9. Wow gorgeous pictues. I think the rain made everything pop.

  10. As a new visitor to your blog I am jealous. Not only that you got to go hiking but the beautiful scenery you saw along the way. Can I go with you next time? Ha.

    I stumbled upon your blog while researching hiking trails in Oregon. I am also learning how to take outdoor photos with my camera I have had for a few year but have not really learned how to use until now. So your blog is perfect for me to follow.

    I love the fact that you add so much detail with the photos. I wish I did not have so much to do today as I would love to pack up my dog Liz and go hiking.

  11. I can't tell how much I loved your pictures! And how much I would love to be there, too ...

  12. Incredible!! What beautiful colour....I just can't find the words to describe it!The dark green trees and mist really set the colour off! I'm soooooo glad that you went and shared with us. It almost felt surreal....I kept thinking that it had been coloured in like that scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy falls asleep in the poppies!! A delightful post...I have joined your followers as I want to find you again! I am so glad that you shared on Simple Sunday.
    You never said how you did in the Marathon even though you referred to it quite a lot!? I'd better stop now but ...thanks so much. Joan

  13. What gorgeous photos! I would love to learn to hike. You write so well, so descriptive. Very enjoyable post. I am glad you got your fix. I am a new follower.

  14. Linda, your photos today are absolutely stunning! The nice thing about rain is that it really deepens the colors and makes them pop in photos, don't you think?

    You might want to keep that hunter orange vest in your backpack. We don't have to worry about that here in Chicago, but down in Kentucky this time of year, there are hunters everywhere.

  15. Amazing photos! What a lovely hike. Visiting from Sunny Simple Life :)

  16. Hi Linda, just wanted to stop in and let you know that I will be featuring you at Share Your Cup Thursday.

  17. Hi there, I am visiting from Jann's blog and Share Your Cup Thursday. Your photos are truly beautiful. I've never seen such colour on the ground before other than blueberry fields in fall. Even in the rain the photos are gorgeous. Blessings, Pamela


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