|Vine maple multicolors|
I originally planned to split up my drive with a hike along the Metolius River. But when people began posting spectacular fall color photos from Clear Lake, my itinerary changed in a hurry.
Located just west of Santiam Pass, Clear Lake and the McKenzie River are known to have amazing displays of fall colors. Although I'd camped here twice in summer months, this would be my first autumn visit.
|Still water makes for amazing reflections|
Another early drive got me to Clear Lake's day use area by 8:30 one sunny Thursday morning. Although the temps were still chilly, nearby colorful vine maple leaves immediately warmed me with excitement of things to come.
A five mile trail circles this gorgeous gem of a lake. Passing by the store/boat dock and cabins, I soon left civilization behind, plunging into a thick green Douglas Fir forest accented with plenty of red and orange hues.
Clear Lake's still waters reflected the colorful leaves and green trees perfectly.
|One of many log bridges|
The first mile took way longer to traverse. There were just too many wonderful photo subjects!
|Close up colorful leaf|
Rounding the first inlet, I came upon the aqua blue waters of Great Spring, a natural underground spring that bubbles up from rocky lava below. The lake's only water source, it's responsible for the crystal clarity and a nearly constant chilly temperature year-round.
|Unique aqua water|
By then the sun had risen enough to take the chill from the air. And I started to get passed by hikers. Quite a few of them! I figured on this weekday morning I'd have the place to myself. But it appeared I wasn't the only one who'd got wind of the wonderful autumn display here.
|Clear Lake boat dock|
Traveling further around the lake got me a few nice views of the restaurant/lodge building and boat dock. Even though motorized boats are banned here, it appeared the place was doing a brisk business renting row boats and kayaks. Lots of folks launching vessels from the ramp area!
The path ducked in and out of forested areas, offering peek-a-boo glimpses of the lake, ringed by more colorful vine maple.
I began to see fisherman bobbing in their boats, hoping to land the "big one."
|Fall leaves and blue skies|
Beyond the boat ramp viewpoint, I reached the first of many barren lava fields. A hot place for summer hikes, it was downright comfortable this cool, fall morning.
|Red bushes in the lava fields|
And lined with brilliant red and yellow leaves, it was much prettier than the summer.
|Colorful path through the lava zone|
I may have taken way too many photos here.
|Fantastic views across Clear Lake|
Late morning light turned Clear Lake's waters a stunning blue.
Between lava fields, I passed shady areas where the night's cold temps had coated some leaves with a thin layer of frost. The melting ice created nice water droplets - and photo ops.
At the lake's southern end I came upon a huge patch of golden leaves that reflected perfectly into the water. I had to scramble down a steep bank to capture the full scene, but it was worth it.
|Fishermen enjoying the color show|
Now in the homestretch, I traversed the lake's west bank. Although mostly in thick forest, a few viewpoints produced stunning displays of color, reflected into the water like a Monet painting.
|Kayakers on the water|
|Mt Washington peeps over the trees|
Near the end of my journey, I was treated to a glimpse of snow-capped Mt. Washington, peeping over the treetops.
|Flaming red trees|
Just before the parking lot, I came upon these fire-red leaves, perfectly illuminated in the midday sun. Probably the best view of the entire hike, I clicked off several frames before ending my journey back at the car.
Wowza! Clear Lake was definitely one of the best displays of fall color I'd seen in Central Oregon. Glad I made the detour on my way over the mountains. Now it was on to Bend....but I did have time for a quick stop at the Metolius River.
I'll show you what I found in my next post!