Northeast of Portland, somewhere between Mount Saint Helens and Mount Adams, lies a small pocket of wilderness known as Indian Heaven. A small, beautiful, microclimate oddity, Indian Heaven melts out later than other nearby alpine areas at the same elevation; as a lake-dotted plateau, it has earned the name of Mosquito Heaven in the summer, which is part of the reason why Andy and I have never been there. It's not known for glorious, high alpine views, but rather the quiet exploration of lakes and meadows.
Fall is in the air. Even though the season hasn't officially turned, the smell of the world and the quality of the light are beginning to change.
We decided we wanted to explore a place we had never been before- for some reason, I always assumed Indian Heaven was much, much further from Portland than it actually is, so it was a pleasant discovery to arrive to the trailhead only 70 miles from the house.
49° at noon at 4000 feet. Yes, fall is in the air.
We took off from the Thomas Lake trailhead, heading towards the huckleberry and heather-choked low alpine meadows the wilderness is so famous for. The day was gray, and the temperature continued to drop as we gained elevation, our pace slowed by the plethora of huckleberries I was grazing on alongside the trail. Nature's buffet was very conveniently placed on this day.
It seemed every corner we turned, a small tarn or large lake suddenly appeared out of the forest. Higher up, the meadows were lovely, broken piecemeal by patches of trees and more lakes. By the time we reached Blue Lake, we were ensconced in clouds and light rain, the wind blowing hard, the temperature down in the low forties.
|the last of the lupine|
We ate lunch on the move, back to the trailhead, occasionally adding yet more huckleberries to the mix.
I haven't spent much time in the high alpine (my true love) this summer; still, it feels really, really good to be hiking again. And truthfully, I've been enjoying exploring new areas that normally wouldn't even hit my hiking radar. I think Indian Heaven may have just hit the fall hiking list- what a gloriously quiet, floating walk in the woods.
THOMAS LAKE TH TO BLUE LAKE
Indian Heaven Wilderness, Washington
~7 miles, ~900 feet elevation gain