Fall Color Hikes

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  • by Lacy Turner

    I moved here, 26 years ago, with a built in love of fall color, but I had never in my life seen the fall oranges and reds of wild huckleberry. These low to the ground shades are the ones that thrill me now, and my friend Jan and I like to take our huckleberry trip to Trout Lake the first weekend of October. We hike Little Huckleberry on Friday, spend Saturday in Indian Heaven, and scramble up to the true summit of Sleeping Beauty on Sunday.

    Little Huckleberry Mountain is a mighty short hike (5.4 miles roundtrip, 1800 feet elevation gain) for such a big payoff. Goose Lake is front and center in an expansive view of the southern end of Gifford Pinchot National Forest, with Mounts St. Helens, Adams and Hood holding up the sky. Only one block of foundation remains of the former fire lookout perched at 4,781 feet. In early October the summit hill is solid red and the mid-afternoon sun shines through the huckleberry leaves so they look like stained glass. Little Huckleberry is accessed out of Willard, Washington on Forest Road 66; we get back on 66 to Forest Road 60 to Highway 141 to Trout Lake.

    This particular trip is a leisurely affair

    wherein Jan and I settle into the Trout Lake Valley Inn with a pile of books and notebooks (we write), and try to fit huckleberries into every meal. To this end we make liberal use of Heavenly Grounds and the Caf, both behind Andys Valley Service Station, for espresso, burgers, huckleberry pie, huckleberry shakes, huckleberry pastries, huckleberry jams and syrups. Camouflage clothing is de rigueur in Trout Lake in the fall, but the only time I even thought I spotted a hunter in Indian Heavena loud orange jacket was heading our way on the first day of hunting seasonit turned out to be Richard Getgen leading a group of Mazamas!

    Indian Heaven Wilderness is 20,782 acres on a high forested plateau (4,500 to 5,500 feet) scattered with more than 150 lakes and ponds and an abundance of open meadows. Lava once flowed from the volcanic knobs that dot the high spine (Lemei Rock, at 5,925 feet, is the highest point) so the area has the acidic, volcanic soil that wild huckleberry loves. The berries brought Native Americans to Sahalee Tyee (the chief s high, heavenly ground) 10,000 years ago; well into the 1920s, the Klickitat and Yakima peoples

    came every August to harvest berries, hunt, fish and race horses. Most of the Sawtooth Berry Field in the north is set aside for the use of Native peoples.

    I love the palette of coral to orange around the shallower lakes so we usually spend Saturday hiking the 10-mile loop from the Cultus Creek Campground: south past Cultus and Lemei Lakes to Junction Lake, then north up the PCT with a stop at Bear Lake. The trail back to the campground steps down through yellow mountain ash. Other best loved routes include the Thomas Lake Trail through meadows of huckleberry and heather to Blue Lake (a deep azure blue), and East Crater Trail, the easiest trek to huckleberry-rimmed Junction Lake. (I fear that Junction and other pond-like lakes may be nonexistent by fall of this drought year.)

    On Sunday morning we pack up and head to the Sleeping Beauty Trailhead, on 10 miles of gravel curves (Forest Roads 88 and 8810) that always feel like 20, especially for such a short hike: 3.2 miles round trip, 1,410 feet elevation gain. Once it comes out of the forest the trail offers plenty of huckleberry, but were on Sleeping

    Glitter, Glow, Shimmer, and Quake: Indian Heaven and Other Fall Color Hikes

    Photo: Hoyt Arboretum

    8 MAZAMAS

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    Beauty for the jaw-dropping close-up view of Mt. Adams. The final half-mile to the summit is a cool series of switchbacks between rock cliffs, topped with 100 feet of scrambling to the highest point.

    For Mazamas hardwired to squeeze as much hiking into three days as humanly possible: substitute Big Huckleberry (11.8 miles, 2,935 feet elevation gain) for Little Huckleberry, and on Sunday, drive to Lyle, Washington for brilliant fall foliage on the 31-mile Klickitat River Trail.

    OTHER FALL FAVORITESThe high sections of the Eagle Creek

    Trail, in the Columbia River Gorge, have a special fall magic. I love being up on the basalt ledges with yellow leaves floating down all around me. Horsetail Falls to Triple Falls is a great loop for autumn-turning big leaf maple.

    For amazing color without the crowds, head to tiny Trapper Creek Wilderness (6,050 acres) north of Carson, Washington. Big leaf maple dominates the canvas on lower routes with huge yellow-gold leaves

    underfoot and above. The Mazamas put years of work into these trails but I have most often hiked them in solitude. Twice, near the top of Observation Point, I have heard bugling from Trapper Creeks herd of Roosevelt Elk.

    Blazing vine maple lines the trail up Silver Star Mountain and the dominant late wildflower, explorers gentian, might have one last bloom through September. The most direct route to the summit is only 6 miles roundtrip; from the top you can pick out the crest of the Cascades running through Indian Heaven.

    Salmon Butte Trail, near Welches in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, is lined with vine maple, and huckleberry in colors burgundy to crimson. Its a bit of a slog in its new 12-mile incarnation, but the summit offers grand views of the Salmon River Basin. On the other side of Highway 26, the hike from Vista Ridge Trail to WyEast Basin can seem like a bit much driving for six miles of hiking, but visitors are few and far between on the north slopes of Mt. Hood in the fall and the crisp

    air makes the views go on forever. Opal Creek, in the Willamette National

    Forest east of Salem, is well worth four hours in the car. It is the ultimate walk in the woods, for more big, old trees than you will see anywhere else in Oregon. Giant firs and cedars are skirted with low fall color; luminous maples and creeks are scattered throughout.

    MUCH FURTHER AFIELD If aspen trees shake sweet music out

    of their leaves then I say the tinkling of the gold leaves is even sweeter. The most beautiful fall display of aspen I have ever seen was on the Kaibab Plateau heading to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon; the second best was the aspen grove at Fish Creek on Steens Mountain. Late September, both sides of Steens Mountain offer gorgeous aspen displays: Fish Creek and Big Indian Gorge on the west, lower Wildhorse Canyon on the east.

    Two hikes much further afield in Washington are on the top of my fall wish list. Four years ago, I hiked up Granite

    Fall Color, continued from previous page

    Larch fall color. Photo: Hoyt Arboretum

    SEPTEMBER 2015 9

  • by Andrew Bodien, Education Committee Chair

    The Education Committee is looking for new members. Specifically were looking for professional educators to help the committee support the Mazama Education Program. Helpful skill sets for members of the Education Committee include: form development, adult learning, curriculum development, class development, online form experience, and budget experience.

    Education is a central tenant of the mission of Mazamas and is part of our legacy. Every year hundreds of adults and children, no matter what their experience level, learn how to safely recreate in the mountains every year. We would like to expand those programs, but before we do so we need to solidify our base. That is why I am writing to you. Here are some of the positions that we need to fill on the committee:

    Evaluations: The Education Committee collects feedback from students on our programs. We need an educator with database and spreadsheet skills to organize and disseminate the results.

    Risk Management: We need a liaison to attend Mazama Risk Management Committee meetings to offer an educational perspective. Ideally this person has at least an intermediate level of climbing experience.

    Scope and Sequence: The Education Committee is in the process of developing the Scope and Sequence of its climbing schools. This scope and sequence document is meant to be a living, evolving work that documents what skills are taught and in what classes. We need a committee member to help complete this process. Ideally

    this committee member would have intermediate or advanced climbing experience in both rock and snow/ice.

    Skill-Builders: We are looking for an educator to coordinate our Skill-Builder program. This individual would have experience with Project Management. They, along with the Mazama Staff, would help support the people who are leading the various Skill-Builders that the Mazamas offer.

    If you have an educational background and any of these positions look like a good fit for you, please reach out to me at education@mazamas.org.

    Mountain near the end of August and ran into a slew of Seattle-ites picking huckleberries. I loved the gold/green palette of late summer but just knew that the fall color would blaze. And according to the Washington Trails Association website, early fall marks the eruption of a psychedelic blast of color on Granite Mountain (near Snoqualmie Pass). The Maple Pass Loop is my favorite hike in the eastern half of North Cascades National

    Park. I have yet to see alpine larch in the fall and I cant wait to get back to Maple Pass and see those dazzling yellow larches bursting up through the blazing undergrowth.

    BACK IN PORTLAND I will miss the turning maples at the

    Portland Japanese Garden (closed from September through March 2016) but I can still check out the Japanese Larch on the

    Redwood Trail at Hoyt Arboretum, along with 8,000 or so other trees and plants from around the world. Saturday guided tours will continue through October, with additional fall color walks. Maple Trail is the obvious choice but I love