Monday, November 17, 2014

Indian Heaven - East Crater Trail

The marathon was done.  Fall colors were here.  I had just a few short weeks 'till I'd be waylaid by foot surgery.  Time to get in some hiking!

All decked out in hunter orange!

The month of October was dedicated to visiting my favorite fall trails.  First up on the list, the East Crater Trail into Indian Heaven Wilderness.  I'd hiked here Labor Day weekend last year when the huckleberries were ripe.  But in early October, it was fall color I was after.

Cute mushroom family

The Indian Heaven Wilderness is a lovely high altitude plateau located roughly between Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens.  Numerous trails crisscross it's forests, the most famous being the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  Dotted with dozens of small lakes, this place is known for mosquitoes in July and huckleberries in August.  And, if you catch it just right, spectacular fall colors in October.

Nice pond reflection

My friend Mary Ellen was a willing partner for this latest adventure.  From past experience, I knew hunting was allowed in the Indian Heaven Wilderness, so we both made sure to sport plenty of orange attire.  Although an online check showed deer season wouldn't start until the day after our hike, I wasn't taking any chances.

Vivid red huckleberry leaves

The Indian Heaven Wilderness is located in southwestern Washington.  The East Crater trailhead was a long drive from Portland, so Mary Ellen and I got an early start.  Despite the nice weather, mine was the only car in the gravel parking pullout.

Nice color mix in the meadow

Autumn colors had started in earnest.  We hadn't traveled very far down the trail when the first reddish-orange huckleberry leaves were spotted.  Although the berries were long gone, the bright colors were a fine substitute.  From there on, my friend and I were treated to a continuous display of fall finery.

Junction Lake shoreline

We passed a couple of tiny ponds, their still waters providing perfect reflections of the trees towering above.

Monet painting?

After 2.5 miles, Mary Ellen and I reached Junction Lake.  Located at the crossroads for many trails (including the PCT) it was appropriately named.  Colorful huckleberry bushes circled the shore, brightening up the already beautiful woods.  Some of the red and yellow colors reflected in the lake's ripply surface, the mirror images resembling a Monet painting.

Mary Ellen relaxing at Junction Lake

My friend and I took a short break here, admiring the beauty all around us.  Such a peaceful place!

More colorful huckleberry leaves

After a short rest and snack, it was time to start our loop through the heart of Indian Heaven.  Leaving the East Crater Trail, we climbed short, steep path that led us over a ridge and down to Lemei Lake.  Puffing up the incline, my legs, not yet a week post-marathon, protested.  But happy to be out hiking on this glorious day, I ignored their complaints and soldiered on.

A patchwork quilt of color

We descended the ridge into a lovely alpine meadow, decked out in golden hues.  Lemei Lake, a shallow, but scenic water body became our lunch stop.

Lemei Lake outlet creek

After refueling with PB & J, apples, and some of Mary Ellen's sea salt butterscotch caramels (my new Trader Joe's fave!) my friend and I followed the trail's continuation, past Lemei Lake's scenic outlet creek.

This path leads to a junction

After two miles on the Lemei Lake trail, we reached a junction with the Indian Heaven Trail.  Our path to this trail sign was lined with more golden fall goodness.

Mossy old forest

We hiked through a gorgeous, mossy old growth forest.

Hiking past a talus slope

And past several talus slopes, complete with chirping pikas.  We stopped, looked, and listened, but were unable to spot any of the elusive rock rabbits.

Clear Lake's gorgeous shoreline

A short 0.3 mile romp brought us to the shores of lovely Clear Lake, and the PCT.  For 1.6 miles, we traveled an especially beautiful stretch of the PCT, past small, sparkling lakes and giant fir trees.

Vintage PCT trail sign

Mary Ellen spotted this vintage PCT trail sign nailed to a tree.  Cool!

This way to Lemei Lake

And then the PCT took us back to Junction Lake, where we'd started our loop.  The fall colors were so nice here, Mary Ellen and I thought it warranted another short break.

Colorful shore

With gorgeous scenery like this, who wants to head home?

New life from an old stump

But sadly, we couldn't stay forever.  My friend and I finally tore ourselves away from this special place, and headed back down the East Crater trail.

Yellow leaves light up the forest

Not only did we hit the fall colors at peak, Mary Ellen and I saw only one other hiking party the entire day (and no hunters).  The weather was warm and sunny and we had the place to ourselves - fall days didn't get any better than this!

Technicolor trail

With tired feet, but a happy face, I headed home.  My camera full of colorful images, they would provide good memories from this perfect autumn day.

Stats:  9.2 miles, 1000' elevation gain.

Sharing with:  Our World Tuesday and Wednesday Around the World.


  1. So much beauty here, Linda. And thanks for mentioning the name of the leaves...Huckleberry. Their colours are lovely, as is everything else you have shared here.

  2. What peaceful locations! I can almost feel the serenity:) Love that stump photo!
    Blessings, Aimee

  3. Beautiful memories to aid your recovery (and to brighten a rather drab November day in England).

  4. Spectacular area! So much to see and enjoy. And photograph. Yes, who wants to head home with such gorgeous scenery! I suspect that no matter where you go, you go home with oodles of photographs!

  5. fabulous, awesome images. love that old tree stump with new life growing out of it.

  6. Wow! Gorgeous place and wonderful photography ~ do take good care of YOU!

    Happy Week to you,
    artmusedog and carol

  7. Wonderful sequence of shots. I'd love to be hiking there.

  8. Fantastic post.. Your images depict not only what you see but what you feel. Wonderful!

  9. I've been wearing orange while running in the woods. I'll be glad when hunting season is over! Looks like a beautiful hike.

  10. What gorgeous autumn colours! I love the new life growing on that old stump.

  11. Linda, you have went on so many amazing hikes! I love that mushroom family and the fall patchwork. We planted a Huckleberry this year. I picked the fruit and was going to make jam or syrup, but I don't think it was ripe. Tasted very bitter. Maybe they needed to go through a freeze.

  12. What a wonderful hike! The autumn colors and the stillness of the lakes are beautiful I admire that you could hike uphill a 1,000 feet--I'd find such elevation challenging. I need much more conditioning. I hope your foot is healing well!

  13. Beautiful place! And the Fall colors add even more beauty!

  14. Oh, I miss hiking. I belonged to a hiking club when I lived in IL - it was so much fun. Love your photos!

  15. In a way that I can't quite put my finger on, this trail looks different than those you usually hike. It is just beautiful. Hope you are recovering nicely and soon to be back out there hiking!

  16. Very nice- especially liked the red huckleberry

  17. i have loved seeing your colors in this amazing fall hike! Especially the mushrooms and the gorgeous red leaves.... ;well just all of it! Sorry to hear you will be having foot surgery, but when you love hiking like you do, imagine it is something that will later enhance your enjoyment of hiking these amazing trails. Good time of year to chose having this done, and plenty of recovery time!

  18. Absolutely stunning scenery Linda.

    Hope you're relaxing and healing nicely. Are you bored yet??

  19. What a splendid hike! The reflections were unbelievable! Especially loved that stump!

  20. These were wonderful. Love fall and you found some beautiful scenes with great fall colors. Loved them all.

  21. My goodness, what a rich bounty of exquisite images! One is more beautiful than the next. Thank you for sharing this.

  22. These are so lovely, Linda!
    I've need to share of my October photos, as to hang onto a little bit of Fall feeling a while longer!
    Arctic winter land here already.

  23. Oh wow! beautiful place and amazing pictures!

  24. Another beautiful hike and lovely photos.

  25. We really don't get colours like that here in Autumn - I think I need for retire!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  26. This reminds me of my beloved Adirondack Mountains. Fantastic images!!! Tom The Backroads Traveller

  27. Great hike! Beautiful scenery, gorgeous autumn colours and lovely reflections.

  28. Wow; marvelous nature photographs and I wish I could enjoy hike with the beautiful scenery like these♡♡♡
    Sending Lots of Love and Hugs from Japan, xoxo Miyako*

  29. Hi! Thanks for the comment over on my blog! You have wonderful photography skills, I enjoyed your hike very much, the PNW is so very beautiful! I see you have a Border Collie too! I follow another blogger who is a hiker out of Bellingham...she is on my sidebar DJanity

  30. I haven't been to Indian Heaven for a few decades now, but it used to be our favorite backpacking destination when we were younger. I'd love to go back, and your photographs bring back such lovely memories.


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