Saturday, November 7, 2015

Divine Colors in Indian Heaven

No matter when you plan to be on vacation, it always feels like you're missing out on something at home.

Such was the case during my early September South Dakota trip.  Cheeking the local hiking reports from my parent's computer, I stumbled across some recent photos of SW Washington's Indian Heaven Wilderness.

Fall huckleberry leaves

Those images blew me away.  Taken during a rainy, foggy day, the intensity and hue of the leaves were outstanding - deep reds and vibrant yellows.  Oh no, the fall colors were starting already!  And I was four states away.  Upon returning home, I knew exactly where I was going.

Roger contemplates a lake

Back home, the following Sunday morning, Roger and I pointed my Subaru towards the woods north and east of Carson, WA, destination Indian Heaven Wilderness.  Known for it's plentiful huckleberry fields in the late summer, this beautiful area of high lakes and alpine meadows also sports gorgeous displays of fall color.

Wilderness sign

Debating over which of the many paths into this wilderness to choose, I finally settled on the Thomas Lake trail because a.)  it was the closest trailhead and b.) it was the shortest distance (which hopefully meant more fall color bang for the buck).

Another lovely lake

Even though it's the closest, it's still a long drive to the Thomas Lake Trailhead.  After an hour and a half of winding Forest Service Roads, my hubby and I arrived at the parking area.  To our surprise, it was nearly full.  I squeezed my car in one of the very last spots.  Must be a lot of leaf peepers out today!

My hubby looking for fish

But.....hikers weren't the only folks here.  My hubby and I hadn't traveled far down the trail when we ran into a couple of men bow hunting for deer.  Apparently the season had just opened.

Yellow huckleberry leaves

Roger used to bow hunt, so he struck up a conversation with the men.  After leaving the first group of hunters, we ran into more.  We also passed a large number of overnight campers returning to the trailhead.  Due to it's relatively flat, short trails, the Indian Heaven Wilderness is a popular backpacking destination.

One the few green areas yet to turn

The nice thing about this trail was you didn't travel very far before arriving at the first of many lovely lakes.  Thomas and Dee Lakes were a mere 3/4 mile from the parking area.  Although shrunken in size from the hot, dry summer, both water bodies sported golden leaves around their shorelines.

Monet reflections

Our day's destination was Blue Lake, a 3-ish mile jaunt from the trailhead.  After the first lakes, we climbed a small hill and passed by Brader and Naha Lakes.  We stopped for a snack beside a tiny, unnamed lake with an impressive display of fall color lining its shores.  Bright reds and oranges reflected in the calm waters resembled a Monet painting.

Multicolored bushes

The color in its nearby woods wasn't too shabby either!

Colorful path

From the "Monet lake," Roger and I continued on, following the narrow, often deeply rutted path.  This area gets lots of hiker traffic, and all this love has rapidly deteriorated many trails.

Technicolor lake

Beyond our snack spot, the huckleberry bushes really started to ramp up their colors.  Deep reds, dazzling oranges, and bright yellows all lit up the forest in a brilliant display of autumn finery.  Instead of being stuck with monotones, it always amazes me that the same huckleberry leaves can turn into three different colors.

Golden lakeshore

Roger and I passed by several small lakes, rimmed by some of the most outstanding fall colors yet.  One was lined with blazing golden foliage.

More beautiful lakes

While another sported technicolor bands around its perimeter.

Tree reflections

I was enjoying myself so much photographing all the dazzling colors, that I didn't even realize we'd missed our trail at the junction.  I meandered behind Roger, taking frequent camera breaks, and it never dawned on me that it was taking an awful long time to reach Blue Lake.

Bright red huckleberry leaves

We trekked through an area where the trail was a faint line through a lovely meadow.  Again, I didn't think much of it (it had been a couple of years since I'd hiked here) until we arrived at Junction Lake.  Uh-oh.....this wasn't our destination.....we'd accidentally wandered 2 miles in the opposite direction!

Fall finery

Fortunately, Indian Heaven is easy to navigate.  I whipped out my map and determined we'd accidentally taken an old abandoned trail.  From our current location we could either retrace our steps, or take the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) two miles and rendezvous with Blue Lake.  Although the PCT option would add a couple miles to our day, this loop sounded much more interesting.  We decided to go for it.

Yet another lovely trail

The PCT is a nice, wide, well graded trail.  After meandering through the rutted, sometimes faint, earlier path this seemed like a superhighway.  The fall colors weren't as good here, however, so Roger and I put our heads down and motored through the two miles between Junction and Blue Lake.

Marshy meadow

After that amazingly colorful abandoned trail, the PCT was sort of blase.  I didn't take a lot of photo stops here.  But that was probably a good thing, as it was approaching mid-afternoon and we now had extra miles to travel.

The PCT!

Finally Roger spotted a patch of blue between the trees.  Yahoo!  Blue Lake at last!  This lake got its name due to its distinctive aquamarine color.  I tried in vain to capture a bit of it on my memory card, but this was the best I could do.

From Blue Lake, it was an easy jaunt back to the trailhead.  We passed by the trail junction where we'd gone astray, and realized our mistake.  But I was now glad for the mishap.  The best colors of the day had been along that trail.

Blue Lake at last

My favorite way to end a hike is to indulge in beer and pizza at one of the many fabulous Gorge breweries.  And on our way home, that's exactly what Roger and I did.

With the high elevation fall colors now in full swing, it was time to change my focus from summer flowers to autumn glory.  And as you'll see in future posts, there's lots more to come!

Stats:  9 miles, 800 feet elevation gain.

Sharing with:  Our Beautiful World  and Weekend Reflections


  1. What wonderful autumnal sights. I would love to stroll such vivid colored woods. The Blue Lake is a special place indeed, almost like a jewel. Looking forward to more.

  2. Indian Heaven is one of my favorite places on earth. It's where I did my first backpack trip, and where I got the most mosquito bites per square inch ever. And from that aborted pack trip we ended up at Spirit Lake for the first time, nearly a decade before the eruption. We've been back other times,but never for day hiking. Say "Indian Heaven," and a flood of memories come rushing back. Thanks so much for the beautiful photos... I know where we're going backpacking next autumn!

  3. Divine colours indeed, Linda! Absolutely gorgeous and picturesque. I love your smile! :)

  4. What beautiful shots! Thanks for sharing with us at OUr Beautiful World!

  5. Hello Linda, what a gorgeous hike. The fall colors and all the lake scenery are beautiful. I love the glacier blue color of the "Blue Lake". Lovely post and images. Thanks for taking me along.. Have a happy new week!

  6. Awesome! - Wow the fall color was so beautiful along these trails. I really enjoyed talking this hike through your lovely photos.

  7. Being from the tropics I only imagine trees changing colours. I love how on this walk it is the low growth plants making a carpet of colour. Sooo beautiful.

  8. Oh this is awesome...fall colors, lots of lakes AND you took me to an area I was contemplating when we stayed in White Salmon, but never felt like driving way out there to hike! Looks like it was very much worth it!

  9. these scenes with the autumn colouring and refelctios are superb

  10. What a beautiful hike you took, love the area!

  11. What a lovely location! I'll have to try to find it too!

  12. I love your philosophy - if lost, make the best of it! These fall colors are amazing. Since ours are long gone. I'm enjoying yours. I heard your mountains got some snow - another storm due for us on Tues. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for both of us!

  13. Monet Lake, that's a new way to look at nature! It does looks like an Impressionist painting. I can just picture him there painting 'en plein air'!

  14. Belas fotografias e excelente reportagem.
    Um abraço e boa semana.

  15. Very nice series - and the colors were great

  16. As you say I've found by trial and error that dull wet days are often the best for vivid colours. Lovely photos and another new area for me. Know that feeling of ' being in the zone' well,concentrating on getting the perfect photograph and oblivious to everything else around me. It's a kind of euphoria... and addiction :o)

  17. Hi! There are many beautiful lakes. Monet reflections is very fantastic. Do you have a Subaru car? My son is working at Subaru motor company's headquarters. Thanks for using the car.

  18. Love the colours! A great fall hike!

  19. Awesome photos, Linda....looks like the lake is down.

  20. I love a beneficial mishap! :)
    I also love the "Wilderness Sign" photo.. with its forest background of beautifully straight, furry looking tree trunks.
    Here in northern MN we have particular lakes that are gorgeous aquamarine colored, in contrast to the rest (hundreds and thousands) of the "normal" lakes that are just your regular lake color. I've studied about what makes them that way, and they are my absolute favorite to get out and kayak on. Like little bits of the Caribbean here in the north! Great trails, Linda. Always fun to see where the next one takes you!

  21. Another beautiful hike and more great photos - isn't it wonderful living near wilderness?

  22. It is nice to see you hiking with your husband on this post, Linda! My husband and I always hike together--he always encourages me to keep up with him as I'm slower on an elevated trail. The autumn color makes everything look so special! I'm glad you fund Blue Lake--it's beautiful! Beer and pizza sounds like a wonderful treat after a day full of exercise

  23. Those Huckleberries get an amazing fall color! What a pretty hike! I just love the Blue color of Blue Lake...perfect! :)

  24. Beautiful colors Linda! Autumn always makes me eager to see the lovely leaves, but hunting season makes me a bit nervous to do so in the areas I want to explore.
    Blessings, Aimee

  25. I absolutely loved reading about your home and seeing your gorgeous, gorgeous photos! Indian Heaven Wilderness is certainly a beautiful place! Thank you so much for sharing them with all of us!

  26. Wonderful photography!! Such an amazing place!! Thanks so much for sharing at OBW!!

  27. gorgeous scenery. love your "monet lake" images.

  28. Gorgeous scenery and wonderful colours! Fall colours are my favorites.


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