Brilliant Fall Colors at Icicle Gorge – Come Enjoy!

It’s fall! I hate this season. Yeah, I know, everybody else seems to love it, but I get all maudlin about the dying year. I hate the days getting shorter, the return of endless rain, all the deciduous trees and plants becoming skeletons, the endless pumpkin nonsense… yeah, killjoy, I know. I didn’t even like it in Arizona, when it basically meant the Peaks would be dusted with snow and it would finally drop below blast furnace temps in Phoenix. I’m just not a fall person.

But I do like the brilliant colors of the turning leaves. And I bloody adore Halloween. So there’s that.

Anyway. I’m trying to take advantage of every rare good day we get, and B and I lucked out tremendously. We hadn’t had a chance to actually go out and do anything since his new job started, but this time, he happened to have a day off on one of our few remaining spectacular days, and I was also free, so we hopped in the car and headed over the Cascades to Leavenworth. Just outside of Leavenworth, Icicle Creek plunges through a spectacular gorge cut into the Chiwaukum Schist. There’s a lovely loop trail that winds around and into the gorge, crosses two bridges, and presents a lot of interesting variety along the way. You get creek views, mountain views, forests, bogs, and all sorts of things! There’s even maclargehuge Ponderosa pines, which makes this former Flagstaff, AZ girl happy.

Image shows me leaning against the trunk of an incredibly tall Ponderosa pine. Its orange-barked trunk, bare of branches, rises many tens of feet above my head before its needly-green branches fluff out for tens of feet more.
Moi with one of the tallest Ponderosas in the gorge.

We’d mis-remembered the length of the trail, so it took us a lot longer than we expected. The loop is four miles. Keep that in mind if you ever go. They’re four easy miles, but four miles nonetheless, and if you go there expecting a brisk walk before lunch, you’ll end wishing you’d at least had a snack first!

But oh, the fall. The color. So worth it!

Image shows a large gravel bar in Icicle Creek, covered in bright-yellow trees of many sizes. Conifers and mountains rise behind them.
Fall on the gravel bar.

The creek is quite low right now, too, so there are lots of delicious views of the lovely rock. Most of it’s schist, but there’s also plenty of gneiss, and I think some regular ol’ granitic stuff. I didn’t get down to really get my nose in the cobbles because we were there for three things: walkies, views, and some garnet mica schist for this season’s Holy Schist haul. We’ll have plenty on hand for your holiday gifting needs! It’s just unholy schist at the moment.

We took the trail counterclockwise this time. It took us a while to progress because I kept finding garnet-bearing rocks in the trail, and some of them were lovely, and I had to get my nose all in them, and well. But when I did look up, the views were magnificent.

Looking over Icicle Creek at fall foliage on the opposite bank. There is a snag on the right and a tall Ponderosa with a short conifer beside it on the left. The water is shallow, broad, and mirror-smooth. On the far bank, lots of orange-brown and yellow-leafed trees and shrubs make the scene colorful. The shoulder of a mountain can be seen in the distance.
Serene alpen scene.

Even down in the water, autumn leaves left a splash of color. Here the rushing stream has plastered yellow and red ones to a submerged stick. It didn’t look natural at first!

Image shows the creek pouring over a stick, with some of the water pushed up in ripples and white froth. Yellow and red leaves are plastered to the stick underwater.
Nature paints with leaves and water.

And the leaves also ended up artfully draped over the rocks. Seeing as how we’re in to rocks here, I took you a picture.

Image shows dark gray schist carved into rough shapes by the water, and sprinkled with yellow and brown leaves, patches of moss, and tiny pools of still water.
Nature decorates with colorful leaves and mosses.

Love that wee waterfall, too!

As we came up the trail on the opposite bank, we could look across and see the trees that love getting their feet wet changing color. Here’s two that have gone in for some pretty wild kinks and curves in their trunks.

Image shows two trees with pale gray trunks and brilliant yellow fall foliage. They're fairly straight until about halfway up, when they begin to undulate and twist.
Dancing trees.

It wasn’t just trees turning. Here are some lovely little plants blazing red on the down-low.

Image shows six-leafed ground cover draped over two logs fallen in a stream. They are together with some still-green plants, and look like a fall arrangement.
Fall arrangement.

And no, you really shouldn’t ask me what anything is. I have no idea.

On the other side, you pass through a bit where a lot of trees have blown down, but it’s still very enclosed under the canopy, and these little delights fan out all over the place.

Image shows a lot of leaves with seven or more serrated lobes. They are a delicate, pale yellow.
Yellow spray.

I’m relatively sure they’re a maple of some sort. Just gorgeous.

We at last reached the bridge, where there is schist to die for but not much fall color, and lingered there a bit before returning to the parking lot, where there’s this amazing vista:

Image looks over evergreen slopes dotted with yellow, to jagged mountains and blue sky in the distance.
Majestic Cascades.

Do you see how amazing that day was? We’ve never been there on such a lovely day. It was like magic.

And then, driving back, we kept stopping to get even moar fall colors, even though we were starved. There was no cloud cover, no snow on the peaks, and they stood out in all their jagged glory, with streams of yellow nestled in their flanks.

Image shows a jagged mountain ridge in various shades of gray. Some green conifers straggle up the rocky slopes. Yellow-leafed trees descend in streams and pools down the ravines.
Golden Cascades!

Oh, yes, that is definitely the schist!

We finally made it into Leavenworth, where it took us forever to find a place to eat because the downtown restaurant we wanted to go to was inaccessible due to endless mobs of festival-goers. We finally ended up having pizza on the outskirts of town. Rudloof’s Pizza und Brats provided us our last bit of fall color:

Image shows a mural painted on a red wall, framed by wall sconces. It's a panoramic picture of the mountains, with a line of conifers and trees in yellow fall foliage in front of them. They're reflected in a pond. Underneath is a banner saying "Pizza und Brats - das ist gut ja?" Above the mountains, slices of pizza make a separate set of mountain peaks.
Rudloof’s mural.

If you’ve not had enough fall color yet, there’s plenty more at my Flickr page. Yes, I went a little wild out there. Mostly for you, my darlings!

Brilliant Fall Colors at Icicle Gorge – Come Enjoy!
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9 thoughts on “Brilliant Fall Colors at Icicle Gorge – Come Enjoy!

  1. rq

    I love how the deep, bright yellow just pops out of all the greys and dark greens in the scenery shots. Wonderful emphasis.
    So I was ready to go on the record and be all The Yellow Spray isn’t a maple!, but I have done a quick image-type search, and it may in fact be a vine maple (several baby ones, in fact) and that is actually pretty awesome. Pictures seem to show it with more brilliant reds and yellows, but if it’s down in the undergrowth, it might just be a little more toned down in the shade. That’s my guess.
    The red stuff is probably Parthenocissus quinquefolia or something related, we have something like it here, too, and it is the most BRILLIANT red in the autumn, I love it.

  2. 3

    OMG, there are CHEMTRAILS in a couple of those shots. Your hive-mind is being controlled by THEM!

    All quite lovely, of course. I agree on the vine maple. We’ve got one in our front yard that we have to keep cutting back so it doesn’t spoil the view.

  3. 5

    Looks like an amazing day trip, and these photos are incredible! “Fall on the gravel bar” is really stunning.

    I’m not familiar with vine maple, but I agree with RQ’s identification of the red plant in “fall arrangement” as virginia creeper.

    I’m in the tropics for research this year, and I’m a little sad that I’ll be missing the autumn colours back home. For some reason I don’t get much sympathy for this…

  4. 6

    Oh, you want some fall color? In Arizona, even? Here’s a photo I took at A-1 Lake, at 9000 ft, between Greer and Pinetop.

    A-1 Lake Hwy 260 AZ.jpg

    Hmmm. Is that going to work? How do I put a pic in here? Let’s give it a try and see what happens (or not).


    I did a preview and the pic didn’t show up, so now I don’t know what to do. I know; I’ll go post on FB at your post there. Anybody who wants to see it can go to Dana’s post there. And maybe somebody will tell me how to post a photo on FtB.

  5. rq

    It has to be made into an internet link, i.e. uploaded somewhere like Flickr or imgur or FB (publicly), then you can link to it.
    Or at least, that’s the only method that I know of; perhaps there is a direct-link way to do it. I haven’t discovered it yet, though.

  6. 8

    Leavenwoth? Is that the town with the “alpine theme”, meaning that even the supermarket has these folksy designs painted on the glass? My mother and I camped near there once. Couldn’t stop giggling. There is or was a very nice bakery just outside town with an oven made by a genuine European oven-builder or such. We got English muffin bread there. We went through Cashmere, too, where you can tour the Aplets and Cotlets factory (seriously tiny!), where at the time – they may still; this was twenty years ago – they put out sample trays of candy constantly.
    There was a place in Leavenworth called the Heidel Burger Inn. Seriously, could not stop giggling until we left the place.

  7. 9

    You’ve probably got that right, except it’s more of Bavarian theme. It’s turned into big business. The town was on the verge of dying some 50 years ago when the rail yard closed. A little roadhouse around 15 miles east called The Squirrel Tree redecorated itself in Bavarian style and the rest, as they say, is history.
    Aplets and Cotlets are the worst things ever to come out of this state.

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