Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Colorful Day on the PCT

I'm adding one final autumn color post, because this hike was so beautiful I want to document it for future reference (yes, I'm definitely hiking here next fall!)

A sea of yellow

Due to my "injured reserve" status this summer, I missed out on hiking with many of my friends.  But in November I reconnected with hiking buddies Young and John for a trek through the Columbia River Gorge.  John wanted to take me on a section of the Washington PCT where he said the fall colors were always absolutely stunning.

Young admires the forest color

The place we hiked was a section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in Washington very close to the Columbia River.  We parked at a trailhead near Bonneville Dam and sauntered along a half-mile connector trail to rendezvous with the PCT.  I'd hiked this area many years ago, and was put off by a recent clear cut.  But now, after the passage of time, the area had rebounded into a lush second-growth forest.

Walking through the giant ferns

Usually peaking in late October, this year the fall color change was late.  Lucky for us, it extended well into November so on this day we hit it near peak.  And although Young and John claimed the leaf colors weren't as good as they'd been in the past, the huge amount of yellow foliage along this part of the PCT was still stunning.

Even the clear cut area had color

Oh yeah, the leaf color was very lovely!  Young and I traipsed through a wonderland of color, mostly yellow with a bit of orange thrown in.

Walking by Gillette Lake

After two miles of walking through thick, fern-filled second-growth, we came to a clearcut area.  Making room for huge towers supporting powerlines coming from nearby Bonneville Dam, the bare, bushy area was surprisingly colorful due to turning leaves on the  low vegetation.

Another view of Gillette Lake

We climbed over the clearcut hill and on the other side was Gillette Lake.  Although the leaf color here was rapidly turning brown, the winding trail down the lake was still a scenic journey.

Photo op on a log bridge

Although I'd hiked to Gillette Lake several times, I'd never before continued farther on the PCT.  As John led Young and I past the lake and up another rise, I felt excitement in exploring a "new to me" portion of this trail.

Big leaf maple

We passed a cute log bridge spanning a small stream, where Young an I posed for a photo op.

Vine maple

The we wandered by several big leaf maple trees, sporting their signature huge leaves.  I passed by a colorful patch of vine maple, that immediately got my camera's full attention.

Swallowed by the forest

My friends and I came to a larger creek and crossed a sturdy wooden bridge.  I paused on top to take in the gorgeous views of the creek lined with yellow and gold deciduous leaves.

Beautiful creek

By now we'd covered nearly 4 miles.  I told John my still-recovering foot could probably only handle an 8-mile round trip distance, meaning we'd need to turn around soon.  But John mentioned a nearby clearing with great views that made a perfect lunch stop.  Desiring to see this place, I sucked it up and kept on going.

View from our lunch spot

Lucky for me, John's lunch spot wasn't far beyond my 4-mile limit.  And it was worth the extra quarter mile.  Perched on the edge of a cliff, this clearing had a great view of the Columbia River and Oregon side of the gorge.

Catching my friends with food in their mouths

We all found spots on the ground and broke out our hot tea and sandwiches.  Between bites, I tried to get embarrassing photos of my friends with food in their mouths.

So. Much. Yellow.

Sitting for 15 minutes wasn't good for my foot.  After our lunch break I discovered it had stiffened up.  The rough, rocky trail had made it very angry.  And now I had 4+ miles to traverse to get back to my car.

More colorful forest 

However, the beautiful fall scenery was a good distraction from my foot issues, and once we got moving it did loosen up a tiny bit.  Back down through the lush forest we tromped, me getting out my camera at regular intervals.

Sturdy bridge crossing a creek

At the larger creek crossing, I bushwhacked down to the bank to get a photo of the bridge and the rushing water.

One more shot of the lovely scene

Back past Gillette Lake, still looking good in the afternoon sun.

Gillette Lake on the return trip

Through an alley of brilliant yellow and gold.

Alley of color

One of the things I like best about hiking with Young and John - they always end the day with a visit to the local brewery.  And they know all the best pubs.  This time they introduced me to a great place on the outskirts of Washougal, Washington.

A great day to be outside!

It was great to catch up with old friends and explore a "new" old trail in it's best season.  I'll definitely plan a revisit to this PCT section next fall.


  1. Those are gorgeous colours to see on a November hike!

  2. ...what a gorgeous place. Thanks for taking my along.

  3. Gorgeous! I sure hope that foot of yours has improved since this hike!

  4. Beautiful photos and a great hike! I wish you and yours all the best in 2023, sending wishes of peace, joy and happiness for the New Year. Take care, have a great New Year's weekend.

  5. These are gorgeous photos! I hope you enjoy many adventures this year.

  6. I remember poison oak at Gillette and this part not being especially scenic, but I guess I was wrong!


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