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|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.
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.
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.
|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|
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|
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.