Old growth, deep-green Douglas fir populate much of the Cascades, so as I made my way to Opal Creek Wilderness this weekend, I did a lot of peering into the understory. The Clackamas follows the northern portion of the West Cascade Scenic Byway and the drive along the river’s shore is restorative…splashy sounds, hyper oxygenated riffles, white rapids that give me goosebumps, even from a distance. The most striking foliage is still gathering force, although cherry-red vine maples and gold-colored oak have begun to peek out here and there.
My resource at Mt. Hood Vacation Rentals tells me that nights up around Rhododendron have just started getting cool – down around the 40’s. That and sunny days are the recipe for the most spectacular leaves. She estimates that in the next week or so, colors will really start to change as you head towards Mt. Hood.
Opal Creek is a gem of a destination. But, I had a lot of great choices. I might have gone around the mountain for a day on the Infinity Loop and returned home on the Historic Columbia River Highway. I might have chosen to continue south with a drive into Oakridge that would have included a mandatory stop at the Brewers Union Local 180. Taking the byways in autumn means there are no wrong turns…just a lot of beautiful road in every direction.
Jae Heidenreich, guest contributor
Oregon’s Mt. Hood Territory