The Bits Between
Oregon Coast, Crater Lake, Three Sisters Wilderness and Mount Hood.
Four wonderful places to visit and hike but a fair bit of travelling between with unexpected, unplanned surprises between as we discovered Oregon’s Scenic Byways.
From Portland we headed to the Willamette valley. Lunched, sipped, swirled and sampled wines made by French viticulturists moved west. Oregon’s Pacific coast changes from rocks to dunes. Watched whales basking in sheltered waters round Depoe Bay.
South of Florence rocks worn down to sand. Meandering rivers merge into gentle marsh, sheltering deer, waders and the rare snow plover.
Crater Lake was next. Five hours away. My dread of an M6 drive couldn’t have been further from the truth. From Reedsport we headed east on what we later learned was one of many ‘Scenic Byways’ in Oregon.
The North Umpqua and Little River ‘colide’
The route follows the winding trail of the Umpqua River inland and south towards Roseburg. By chance the direction we were heading. A road as scenic as any could be. Out from the Willamette wineries rainfall lessens and dirt ridden grass grazed sheep on hillsides. Along the Umpqua river thick forest thrives on bustling rivers fed from inland mountain ranges.
Tokeete Falls – another stop on the journey
Elk grazed round, yes, the town of Elkton. After Roseburg the North Umpqua bends east again. Through thickly forested gorges, past peering basalt towers. Don’t expect many towns. Steamboat, marked on the map, is now a bridge, a sign, an odd house or three and a hikers’ trail head.
Wizard Island in Crater Lake with smoke from the forest fire
Crater Lake more than warranted its two night stay and hike up Scott and Garfield but if you haven’t time views from the 33 mile rim give a taste of further drama. Added to while we were there, by a forest fire in the west of the park.
From Crater Lake we headed North with a brief stop at the Newbury Volcanic area and I began to realise why scientists are waiting for the ‘big one’. The remains of intense volcanic activity scatter through the mountains. Vast areas of lava flow still remain. Little life amongst them bar hardy pines and lichens.
Overnight in Bend and west again through the mountains and rugged landscapes of the Three Sisters Wilderness area. A road which passes through five ecosystems in its 66 miles. At its highest point of the McMenzie Pass miles of black lava stretch around with the snow peaks of Jefferson, Washington and the closer Three Sisters. A hikers paradise the Obsidian trail in this wilderness area was one of the most inspiring 12 mile walks I have ever taken.
Three Sisters from the PCT
Back to the wine areas of Eugene and a laconic lunch sipping a soft white in umbrella shade of the Kings EstatenWinery before heading north to a brief tour of SilverFalls Sate Parks cascades.
South Falls, Silver Falls State Park
An evening in Downtown Portland and a ‘dining experience’ at Le Chon before dropping friends off a the airport and putting my boots back on for the weekend.
Mount Hood and the surrounding area is one of the recreational highlights of Oregon. Surrounding forests house tumbling streams and deep reflective lakes. I took a walk on the deeply forested Boulder Trail from Wildwind trailhead. More of a workout than a walk, steeply rising over 2700ft to a ridge view of Mt Hood.
Fungi on the Boulder Trail
Staying for a couple of nights at an idyllic hideaway in the aptly named Rhododendron village where humming birds graced the flower baskets and bobcats stalked though the grounds I met with a local friend, whom I’d met last year down a cave in Vietnam, to hike up Mt Hood. Not to the top. At over 11000 ft it retains snow all the year round, but to a ridge over 8000ft where we traced the line of a glacier until the snow and mist defeated our resolve.
Mount Hood from Cooper Trail
And that was it! A wonderful week of hiking and travelling, with the promise of more.