Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Fret Creek Trail

I love this time of year.  Cooler temperatures.... leaves beginning to turn.  Fall hiking is the best!

Vibrant huckleberry leaves

The last day of September, I took advantage of dry, partially-sunny weather for a ramble in the forests east of Mt Hood.

Fantastic colors

The Badger Creek Wilderness boasts a wonderful trail network, traversing Mt Hood's drier eastern foothills.  One of the best treks for fall colors is the Fret Creek Trail.

Yellow-lined trail

I'd hiked the Fret Creek Trail once before, eight years ago on another sunny autumn day.  I remembered being blown away by the intensity of the huckleberry leaf colors in the forest.  Overdue for a return trip, Fret Creek became the day's destination.

Cute little Fret Creek

Although it's a long drive to the trailhead, the journey is entirely on paved Forest Service roads.  Parking near Fifteenmile campground, I admired a larch tree, it's needles turning gold, before shouldering my backpack and camera and beginning my trek.

Saggy bridge

Forest colors were terrific from the very start!  Huckleberry leaves were in fine form, displaying shades of yellow, orange, and red.  Good thing I cleared my memory card.

Unique leaves

For the first two miles, this trail meanders through a lovely forest.  Although climbing steeply at times, the scenery provides a good distraction.

More forest shots

Fret Creek burbles nearby, first down in a deep ravine, before the trail flattens out and crosses it several times on a couple of saggy log bridges that look like they've seen better days.

I hit the colors at peak

But the huckleberry bushes stole the show - at times so thick across the forest floor, they looked like a continuous yellow carpet.

Yellow carpet under the trees

Yeah - I'd definitely hit the peak of fall color!

Bright color burst

After passing by brushy little Oval Lake, my trail intersected with the Divide Trail.  Trekking steeply uphill through a zone of brilliant red huckleberry leaves brought me to the cliffs of Palisade Point.

Palisade Point

Palisade Point was a huge rock outcrop on the side of some steep cliffs.  My first big viewpoint, the forests below Mt Hood spread out like a dark carpet.  A worthy spot for a snack break!

Loved these backlit fluffy pods

Continuing on the Divide Trail, I headed east deciding to check out the views from Flag Point fire lookout.  I'd hiked here from a different trail a couple of years ago and knew the views were worth the extra miles.

Flag Point Lookout

So onward I trekked, following a ridgeline that roller-coastered up and down a couple of steep hills.  Fall colors were still doing well, and the huckleberry leaves were joined by a small forest of larch trees, needles just beginning their golden transformation.

Fabulous view from the lookout tower

After another mile I came upon the dirt road that led to Flag Point.  From here it was an easy 3/4 mile walk before I glimpsed the fire tower rising above the trees.  Happy to have arrived, I was looking forward to a nice lunch and views from the lookout cabin.

Mt Hood framed in the tower

In past visits, the tower had been shut up for the season.  But as I approached, a man stepped outside, waved hello, and invited me to come on up.

Lots of steps to get up there!

It was a long trek up four flights of steep stairs, but arriving on top, I gaped at the fabulous views.  The guy manning the lookout was very happy for some company and proceeded to talk my ear off.

Golden larch needles

The man told me he'd been stationed at this tower since early July.  It was his seventh summer being a fire spotter, and although he enjoyed the job, it did get lonely at times.  Showing me some stunning sunset photos he'd captured on his phone almost convinced me to volunteer for fire watching duty next year.

My favorite color spot

I appreciated the man's hospitality, but after a half hour, I was getting hungry.  So I thanked my new friend for showing me around, and proceeded to climb back down.  But not before I captured a few great shots of Mt Hood from up high.

This way to the lake

After a quick lunch break in the forest below, it was time to retrace my steps to the car.  That also meant I'd see all those lovely fall colors a second time around.

Oval Lake

Passing by Oval Lake, the afternoon light was much better for photography, and I captured a few shots of it's shallow, grassy banks.  The lake and trail brought back memories of the last time I'd hiked here with my dog Bear.  He'd had so much fun romping through the forest.  A wave of sadness made me realize how much I missed my four-legged hiking buddy.

Red huckleberry leaves are my favorite

Descending back through the colorful forest again, I kept my camera busy capturing more lovely scenery I was sure I'd missed the first time around.  Even so, I still managed to make it back to my car with enough time to hit happy hour at one of Hood River's fantastic brew pubs.

Wonderful day!

A fine start to the fall color hiking season, I looked forward to exploring more of my favorite trails in the coming weeks.


  1. Linda, what glorious, spectacular views! Another gorgeous series, thank you so much for sharing. I also love the cooler temperatures! Perfect for long nature walks. :)

  2. Wonderful place to hike, but where are the shots from the look out tower, please tell me you took some.

  3. Também gosto desta altura do ano a natureza ganha outras cores.
    Gostei bastante das fotografias.
    Um abraço e continuação de boa semana.

  4. From the tinniest details to the grandest views...delightful.

  5. Breathtakingly beautiful fall foliage and mountains scenes.

    Mersad Donko Photography

  6. Your beautiful photos were just the pick me up I needed on this heartbreaking morning. This was a gorgeous hike at the perfect time of year. I love it when a fire tower is open and they actually invite you on up! Thank you for a bright spot in my morning!

  7. Fall is fun, isn't it? As you have noticed, I too have been spending time out in the color. Enjoyed the pictures, I'd never heard of the Badger Creek Wilderness before but it's now in my very large list

  8. The underbrush gave you terrific colors. Forestry tower people are usually very hospitable. I took outdoor E. kids up to a fire tower every year. the guy was a fantastic story teller and let the kids in his house all the time.

  9. Really lovely pictures. I especially like the yellow huckleberry carpet. :-)

  10. Lovely autumn colours and I like that amazing rock outcrop.

  11. Such a beautiful trail, and great views.

  12. So beautiful! I bet that fire spotter was very happy to have some company.

  13. Fall is the best hiking season here too, and I've been out a lot. But nothing like the mountains you have to hike through.

  14. Great colors! I should probably clear my memory card again.

  15. With a view like that it would be wonderful to be a fire spotter here! Those Huckleberry Bushes are beautiful:)

  16. Hello Linda, another wonderful hike. The fall leaves and views of Mt Hood are gorgeous. Awesome post and photos. Happy Thursday, enjoy your day and the weekend ahead!

  17. SO neat to get a tour of a lookout tower! I have been to the one at the forestry center in Tillamook Forest, but never ever one in the wilderness that is manned! Too cool:) Loved the beautiful colors in this post, especially the yellows...beautiful!

  18. just awesome.... So beautiful pictures..

    Please visit: http://from-a-girls-mind.blogspot.com

  19. Nice. During a short walk today I had an encounter with a Blue Tongue Lizard - about 12 inches long - its must be spring. Do we live on the same planet?!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  20. I filled in at a fire tower that was only a four mile hike. Gah! I couldn't get a moment of peace! Pick your tower wisely!

  21. Lovely to see all the Autumn hues.

  22. Looks like a great place to hike in the fall, and the colors are lovely. Such a fun fire tower that is

  23. I do love your autumn colors! And the scenery is just fantastic. Thanks for sharing these lovely photos with us.

  24. What fabulous views you had - Mount Hood is a show-stopper. I like seeing those red, orange and golds! I read an interesting book about a fire spotter in NM. It's a solitary life.

  25. Autumn is great for hiking if it's not raining all the time. I love the autumn colours.

  26. Wonderful scenery and colours as always :)

  27. Killer view from the lookout tower. love those golden larch needles.


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