Wednesday, October 5, 2011

In search of fall color: A weekend getaway

This past weekend, a friend and I headed up to a friend's cabin just past Snoqualmie Pass along the I-90 corridor in the hopes that we'd get away; have some one-on-one time to catch up and talk, hike, cook, listen to some classic 80's and 90's pop, and sit in the cabin with a fire going in the fireplace as we watched a lame action movie.

Vine maples pass Snoqualmie

I kind of treated our weekend getaway as an opportunity to also scout out plants and views of the Pacific Northwest landscape; studying my natives, taking photographs, and, hopefully, being treated to a spectacular fall foliage show was on my agenda.

DSC03931Driving through, there wasn't all that much, unfortunately. Along the side of the road as we took exit 62 on Lake Kachess, we noticed a few vine maples that were showing some color. On a morning stroll by myself, I noticed a few interesting groundcover plants alongside the road that I never really get tired of seeing. Our native coltsfoot (Petasites frigidus v. palmatus) and the lovely heart-shared leaves of Asarum caudatum, the Western Wild woodland ginger. These are garden worthy plants (in fact, I grow a gold leaf form of out native coltsfoot that I seriously need to thin out, btw) and to see them in their natural setting is kind of cool.

Petasites along the roadside

In a roadside ditch, the Asarum and its humble hearts.

But what I was really hoping to see were the views from the lakeside with the water and the distant hills spotted in bright yellows, oranges and glaring reds. While the views were still captivating, there wasn't really any color yet.


It was peaceful, tranquil and a much needed break to just regroup and be reminded of what was an awesome summer. The lack of color almost seemed to symbolize a slow transition; almost as if to say that parts of the summer still exist, but nature has to take its course so you just have to trust it and, in time, it will all fall into place.



  1. The photos of the mountains with the water were beautiful. We have plenty of color here in West Virginia. but we don't have mountains quite that big.

  2. Thanks for the compliment! I often take for granted just how great the mountains in our area truly are. I've yet to experience fall color in the east in person. The photos I see are incredible! Cheers to autumn!

  3. I don't usually get out this much but I went down to the Columbia Gorge area last weekend, and over to Chelan the weekend before that. Fall colors are all late this year, perhaps because all the plants thought September was the peak of summer? Or maybe because the dry season was shorter than usual.

  4. The autumn meeting of the Cascade Heather Society was held at Paradise on Mt. Rainier the weekend of Sept. 18th. It was so amazing--the meadows there were showing absolutely NO sign of fall! It looked more like the end of July, with all kinds of wildflowers in bloom, including the huckleberries! Usually by mid-August the vine maples along the road that skirts Alder Lake are showing reds and yellow . . . but this year? Still all green.

    Tomorrow I'm picking up Laine from Steamboat Island Nursery and driving up to Far Reaches at PT; maybe we'll see some color . . . and some sun :-) . . . but definitely some interesting flora.

  5. There are some signs of color up there, Gary! I'm actually headed up there early next week for a talk and a friend just posted a photo on Facebook of some deciduous trees that are looking great!

  6. We're back from PT. Yes, we did see some signs of fall, including (mostly) yellows of the maples that line the forest edges along US101.

    Another sign--and one that I'm starting to appreciate more and more in my own garden--is the increasing "sight distance" that comes with baring the branches. It's only been recently that I have noticed my feelings of regret during the onset of spring foliation as several of my favorite winter vistas become obscured by the season's new leaves.

    Where there are mixed stands of evergreen and deciduous shrubs and trees, the low winter light can illuminate the landscape in the range of 6" to 6' for much longer distances than occur in any other season.

    So, fall color or not, I still sense the onset of fall and winter by the increase in number and quality of the understory vistas. - Gary

  7. Great insight and observation, Gary.