|Dew-speckled golden leaves|
Luckily for me, there's a few shorter Mt Hood hikes that deliver in the fall color department. One of my favorites is the Umbrella Falls Trail. A short 4.5 mile jaunt through scenic huckleberry fields, this trails packs a lot of bang for your buck, featuring Mt Hood views and a spectacular waterfall.
|A few green huckleberry leaves left|
Fearing crowds, I got an early start one chilly October morning, and was pulling into the trailhead by 8:30. The color show started almost immediately, and I wasted several minutes photographing morning dewdrops on a bunch of colorful huckleberry leaves.
|Red huckleberry leaves|
Then I climbed uphill through fir woods lined with more huckleberry bushes showing off their fall finery.
I even spotted a group of the locals having breakfast.
|"What's the weird lady doing?"|
Of course, they were just as interested in me as I was with them ("What's that weird lady with a camera doing?").
|Footbridge at Umbrella Falls|
After two easy miles, I spotted the cute log footbridge next to Umbrella Falls.
|Sunlit huckleberry leaves|
The surrounding forest was a kaleidoscope of colors. Umbrella falls itself wasn't too shabby either. A beautiful stair-stepped cascade, it fanned out across the rocky cliff face.
|Umbrella Falls in all her glory|
From lots of trial and error, I've learned that cloudy days are the best for waterfall photography. Although skies were overcast most of the way up, the sun decided to break out right before my arrival. Doh!
|Falling water close-up|
I set up my tripod anyway, and got a few good shots in the shady portions. But when the sun occasionally ducked behind a cloud, I clicked my shutter like a madman.
|A splash of fall|
I spent a good hour walking around Umbrella Falls, trying out different angles, hoping to capture that money shot.
|Color in the surrounding bushes|
I think the above image was my favorite of the falls.
|Cloudy Mt Hood sighting|
Then I packed up my gear, and headed back through Mt Hood Meadows. Crossing the ski area boundary, I came upon a patch of brilliant red bushes. Mt Hood rose above the trees, making a perfect anchor for my camera's frame.
|Colorful ski run|
I'd just hiked in this same area last July and it was fun to see how different the ski slopes looked with wildflowers replaced by autumn hues. Maxing out my camera's current memory card, I replaced it with another one out of my bag, and discovered the card had images on it from that same July hike! What a coincidence.
|Orange huckleberry leaves|
Who says ski areas look ugly in the off-season? Not here at Mt Hood Meadows. I think it's beautiful year-round. As a matter of fact, the best fall colors were right under the chairlift.
|The HRM chairlift sits idle|
I finished my trek with a steep downhill ramble that led me back to my car. With the day still young, I contemplated another short hike, but since my toe behaved itself, I decided not to push it.
|Patchwork quilt of fall hues|
Crisp, sunny fall days are my absolute favorite for hiking. Here's hoping I get a few more before the snow flies.