A wonderful day in the Indian Heaven Wilderness. It was mid-September, and summer was hanging on. Huckleberries were beginning to ripen, only one fresh sign of a black bear, and little sign of elk or deer. Scattered purple lupine, white yarrow and yellow cinquefoil dotted the meadows. It would be a couple more weeks before the ripe huckleberries would attract the bears in droves and their leaves would begin turning scarlet in earnest.
I began the hike at the Thomas Lake Trailhead on the west side of Indian Heaven. The 32 square-mile Wilderness lies between Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens. It contains over 150 lakes and has many large, open meadows to explore. After hiking two miles to the east, while passing eight lakes and gaining 800 feet, I bushwhacked across the meadows for two miles to Junction Lake and the Pacific Crest Trail. Soon, the autumn colors would perfectly framed the beautiful lake. (Some of you may remember The Oregonian published a fall photo of mine taken at Junction Lake in October 2008.) On the lookout for elk and bears, I took a four-mile loop hike to the north through large meadows and by multiple lakes. Lemei Lake, Clear Lake, Deer Lake, Elk Lake and many smaller bodies of water were passed. Soon I rejoined the Pacific Crest Trail and returned to Junction Lake.
From there it was a relatively easy hike southerly to Blue Lake located below Gifford Peak. After finding a nice spot in the sunshine, I laid back, ate a snack and marveled at the deep blue color of the lake. Only 3 ½ miles to go, and I savored every inch of the loop trail returning to the Trailhead. All in all the hike was 13 miles in length with 2,000 feet of elevation gain. Indian Heaven remains one of the prettiest autumn areas near Portland.