I have a long-standing love affair with the seasons of transition: spring and fall. In springtime, I would say it is my favorite season, but when autumn arrives, I contradict myself and say, No, autumn is best. On October 16th, the autumn day flaunted all it’s glory for the enjoyment of any who cared to notice. And I did care to notice.
I left my home in west central Washington and drove east on US-12 over White Pass in the Cascade Mountains to Yakima in the east central part of the state. The sky was blue, dotted with cotton-ball clouds. The leaves were turning color. And the apple harvest in the Yakima Valley was luscious.
Yakima County agriculture yields more produce than any other Washington county — cherries, peaches, apples, and a variety of vegetables and grains. 75% of the hops grown in the U.S. come from Yakima County. The reason for my trip on this fine autumn day was to buy organic Fuji apples at the farm where they were grown and bring them home to make into applesauce. Apples were my reason, but I was determined to enjoy the drive and the visit to Yakima.
Just after I went over White Pass, elevation 4,500 feet, I glimpsed a flash of blue out of the corner of my eye. There was a bit of shoulder just large enough to accomodate my little car and a quick glance in the rear-view mirror showed no one behind me, so I jammed on the brakes, came to a quick stop, then hurriedly backed onto that little gravel patch as if I were parallel-parking at a city curb. I grabbed my camera, walked across the two-lane highway, and stepped over a guard rail, the better to enjoy this sight.
After composing that shot, I turned off the camera and just stood there, breathing in the crisp mountain air and soaking in the beauty of what was in front of me. I couldn’t help thinking, Why doesn’t the highway department make a proper pull-off for people to enjoy this view? I have passed this by many times, catching just a glimpse of blue out of the corner of my eye. Only today, for the first time, was I able to react quickly enough to pull off the road into the only small space where it could be managed.
An hour later, I arrived in Yakima just in time for lunch. I was in no great rush, so I stopped at a restaurant, rather than a fast food joint, and had a nice soup, salad, and quiche lunch. Then, I followed the driving directions I had written down in advance, drove up a big hill, and entered an area of strip malls. If I hadn’t had an address and been looking for it, I never would have noticed the small sign and narrow driveway tucked in between the stores. Once I turned in, however, it became obvious that the apple orchard had been there much longer than the shops. The quality of the apples was marvelous and the price was low enough that my savings on the purchase of 75 pounds more than paid the price of fuel to get there.
Once my mission was completed, I was free to explore for awhile before heading home. I wanted to check out a portion of the 10-mile-long Yakima Greenway Trail that I had read about, but never seen. There are several access points to this trail along the banks of the Yakima River and I chose the southernmost spot, near the town of Union Gap. The Poppoff Nature Trail provides a pleasant stroll on gravel past some ponds and connects at both ends to the paved Yakima Greenway Trail, forming a 0.8 mile loop that was perfect for me. It was as I passed one of the ponds, that I saw the wood ducks visible in the banner photo at the top of this page.
Shortly after the Poppoff Trail joined the Greenway Trail, I got this lovely view of fall colors across the Yakima River.
Then, it was time to leave the river and head back toward the car. This pond was a fine place for me to say good-bye to a lovely trail, with a promise to return some day.
Back on the road again, it was my intent to get a cold beverage at a convenience store and then head for home — a good 2.5 hour drive. I made good time until I neared the summit at White Pass, where I decided to turn off at Clear Creek Falls Overlook. It was less than half a mile from where I had seen Dog Lake in the morning, and in fact is the outflow of that lake.
There was a steep gravel path that, I suppose, would take the agile hiker to a better view of the falls than I had. Without a handrail or a walking stick to steady me on the loose gravel, I contented myself with this view from a concrete platform. I didn’t linger, as it was late afternoon in the mountains and my fingers and nose were getting cold. I did, however, take a moment to snap this shot of the view to the west from the parking area.
Not long after I went over White Pass and started down the west slope, I caught a glimpse of white between the trees. A quarter mile after that, was a viewpoint that I couldn’t resist. Just a few days before, the snow level in the Cascades had dropped down below the 6,000 foot level for the first time this fall, and there was just enough snow on Mt. Rainier now to make it sparkle in the late afternoon sun. I have never seen the 14,411-foot mountain any prettier.
Enough, I told myself, you really do need to get out of the mountains and home before dark. As it turned out, easier said — or thought — than done, because there was one more viewpoint where my car insisted on parking. The Palisades.
About 10 miles east of Packwood, WA, along US-12 is this towering remnant of an ancient Dacite lava flow. It is not known whether land or glacier stopped the flow so suddenly at this place.
This towering lava cliff in an area called Goat Rocks, dwarfs the tall fir and hemlock trees at it’s top. The cliff was cast in shadow and I’m sure it would photograph better at mid-day, but hopefully you can get an idea of this last impressive sight of the day.
After that, the car agreed to take me home, with no more detours. I got home just as the sun was setting. What a glorious fall day. It just doesn’t get any better than that.