Friday, July 17, 2015

Chapter 26 - Smiling River Campground to Cascade Locks

Monday, July 13th:
This is already our third full day at the Smiling River Campground on the Metolius River near Camp Sherman, Oregon and we are again ready for a wonderful day of exploring the Cascade Mountains of Central Oregon. Today Joan has planned for us two major new experiences.  The first is a trip to the Dee Wright Observatory in the Willamette National Forest. The observatory is located at the McKenzie Pass on Hwy 242 about 15 miles southwest of Sisters at an elevation of 5,325 feet above sea level. Our second experience will be a visit to a McKenzie river falls known as the Sahalie Falls.

Before we do anything this morning however, Kathy wanted to visit the small general store at Camp Sherman located just a few miles from our own Smiling River Campground.  The store was charming and just loaded with all kinds of supplies that might be needed by campers like ourselves including souvenirs. Naturally, souvenirs were the objects of Kathy's quest into this store and it is not surprising that her quest was successful.  More stuff to return back with us to Florida.

Our drive down to the Dee Wright Observatory took us a little under one hour not so much because it was far from our campground but because the road, Hwy 242, up to the McKenzie Pass where it was located, was a narrow winding two lane road that from our campsite climbed about 2,300 feet.  As we neared the top, the landscape changed dramatically from evergreen covered mountain sides to barren volcanic rock.  It appeared almost as if someone had piled huge boulders of rock alongside the road.  This was a sight like nothing we had ever seen. What we find unbelievable about this road is that it basically followed an old Indian trail that by the late 1800s actually became a highway and as early as the 1850s, some of the Oregon Trail settlers tried to cross the mountain pass in an attempt to shortcut the route to the Willamette Valley.

The view from the Dee Wright Observatory is incredible with views of the Three Sister Mountains to the east and Mt Washington to the north. This photo of Kathy shows the Dee Observatory in the background with Kathy pointing at the vast landscaping of rocks and the mountains in the distance. Three items of note: the observatory was built of volcanic rock way back in 1934-35 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, Oregon Route 242 is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (understandably), and Route 242 is closed all winter long sometimes until July due to the normal heavy snows in the area.

We love this photograph of Kathy and I and of course Cabo with North Sister Mountain in the background.  One thing that naturally does not show in this photograph is the wind and the 60 degree temperature and while we loved our walk on the trail through the volcanic rocks at McKenzie Pass, we were also happy to get back in the car, warm up a bit, and head on to Sahalie Falls.

You may recall in one of our previous posts, that we mentioned that we followed the McKenzie River when we drove along Hwy 126 on the way to our Smiling River Campground. As it turns out we actually drove past the entrance to the falls parking area.  Sahalie Falls is a lovely sight with a torrent of water plunging 100 feet into the rapids below creating a rainbow that unfortunately we did not capture in this photograph of Kathy and I at the viewing point near the top of the falls.

This goofy selfie (my first ever) clearly shows besides a balding old man, the rapids at the base of the falls. The falls and the rapids was a beautiful sight on this sunny and cool day and a great way to end our tourist activities on this Monday afternoon, our last day here in Central Oregon.  Tomorrow will be another interesting experience as we head for Oregon's famous Columbia River gorge.

Tuesday, July 14th:
Today we head north on a drive of approximately 180 miles that should take us approximately four hours. The highlight of the drive is clearly our drive past Oregon's tallest mountain, Mt Hood, that rises to a height of around 11,200 feet.  At best we can determine the road that we follow north, Hwy 26, passes very close to the base of Mt Hood where we traverse a pass at an elevation of about 3,950 feet.  What we discovered as we traveled north was that we could see the top of Mt Hood for almost an hour before we actually passed it on our west side.  Kathy took this photo of Mt Hood from our car maybe 20 miles or so before we actually passed the mountain.  It was obviously the highlight of our drive north this morning.

Our campsite for the next four nights is called the Cascade Locks Marine Park Campground and we had no idea of what to expect other than the campground was small and in the city of Cascade Parks.  As it turned out the park was in an incredibly beautiful location right by the old historic Cascade Locks that sit directly alongside the Columbia River.  We were directly within the Columbia River Gorge with tall and very steep mountains rising above us to our front and to our rear.  Just downriver from us was the massive Bridge to the Gods that crosses from Oregon to Washington. Upstream from us was the docking area for one of the Columbia River's many paddleboat cruise ships. The campground was close to shopping and close to many of the famous gorge water falls and historic trails that Joan has planned for us to visit over the next few days.  It was a perfect setting as you will soon see. 

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