Tag Archives: McKenzie River

Castle Rock

We continue to have to swap out our originally scheduled hikes due to the above normal snow levels and late melt this year. Our most recent hike to Castle Rock was the result of one such switch. Castle Rock it the site of a former lookout tower atop a 3808′ rocky outcrop. Castle Rock is located near the McKenzie River off Highway 126 approximately 5 miles beyond Blue River. There are several possible trailheads that can be used to reach the lookout site including an option at the end of Road 480 that would make the hike less than three miles. For our visit we chose to begin at the King Castle Trailhead. A map at this trailhead showed the entire O’Leary Trail Complex.
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The trails in the area are open to mountain bikes and we did see a handful of riders but not until we were well into our descent. The King Castle Trail was in excellent shape as it passed through the forest.
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There were lots of woodland flowers in bloom.
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Star flower and queen’s cup

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Anemone

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2017-06-03 12.25.06 Wintergreen

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Striped coralroot

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Spotted coralroot

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Rhododendron

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Wild rose

The trail climbed approximately 1500′ in almost 4 miles to a crossing of Road 480.
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The trail continued on the far side of the road where it climbed for a bit before dropping slightly to a junction with the Castle Rock Trail.
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A dogwood tree was in full bloom near this junction.
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We turned right onto the Castle Rock Trail which climbed for another half mile to a junction with a trail from the upper trailhead along Road 480.
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None of the climb had seemed particularly steep considering we knew we had a total of 2600′ to gain from the trailhead. We were expecting the final mile to seem quite a bit steeper but the trail made great use of switchbacks leaving the final 700′ to feel only slightly harder than the earlier 1900′. The flowers along the final mile had changed from those we had seen at the lower elevations. Here fairy slippers and vanilla leaf were still blooming.
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It had been an overcast morning and now we were climbing up into the clouds.
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It was cool but not cold. Although, for a rubber boa, that we spotted next to a tree along the trail, it was way to chilly.
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The trail switchbacked up to a meadow near some rocky cliffs where we found a surprisingly nice display of wildflowers.
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Bindweed

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A saxifrage

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2017-06-03 10.40.16Annual agoseris

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IMG_1585 Ookow getting ready to bloom

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At the top of the meadow there was a viewpoint to the NE (with no view today) where several other flowers stood out.
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Larkspur

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The trail then climbed past some black oaks, chinkapin trees and a madrone to the old lookout site.
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With the clouds surrounding us we weren’t going to be getting a view of the Three Sisters so we explored the rocks looking for more wildflowers before taking a break at the lookout site.
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After resting and eating lunch, we headed back down through the little meadow. Here we noticed that there were little beetles on one particular type of plant.
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Neither of us had noticed them on the way up but they were on every one of those plants. It’s amazing how much we miss even when we think we are paying close attention. 🙂

Another example of that were the many candy sticks we noticed on the way back to the car. We had seen one a little ways off the trail on our way up to Castle Rock, but on the return trip we noticed at least a dozen others popping up along the trail.
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The sun came out near the end of our hike leaving us to wonder if there would be a view at the top in the afternoon. One of the few drawbacks of starting first thing in the morning is that we often reach viewpoints before the morning clouds have burned off.
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Even without the view though this had been a really nice 12.2 mile hike. It’s certainly one that we’d do again, especially since we didn’t get the view, and given it’s relatively low elevation it’s a good option when there is still snow higher up.
Happy Trails!

Flickr: Castle Rock

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Clear Lake

We wanted to get one last hike in on the way home from Central Oregon. Originally we’d planned on hiking up to the summit of the Middle Pyramid on the Three Pyramids Trail, but we were greeted with clouds and rain as we came to Santiam Pass. Knowing there wouldn’t be any views we changed our plans and headed to Clear Lake 10 miles south of the Santiam Jct. on Highway 126.

The McKenzie River begins at Clear Lake where old lava flows created the lake by covering and damming the river. On a clear day The Three Sisters and Mt. Washington can be seen from various points around the lake but with the clouds we would be content with the clear, colorful water of the lake.

We began our counter-clockwise loop at a picnic area near the Clear Lake Resort.
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The trail passed through a nice Douglass Fir forest with glimpses of the lake to our left where we spotted our first on trail beargrass of the year.
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At about the one mile mark on an arm of the lake which feeds the McKenzie we got our first taste of the draw of Clear Lake.
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A footbridge led us over the outlet of the McKenzie River to the eastern shore of Clear Lake.
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The trail on the eastern side spent more time in the open and closer to the lake as it crossed over several lava flows. Here we spotted several birds, ducks, and colorful wildflowers.
Ouzel
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Penstemon
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Tiger Lily
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Merganser and her ducklings
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Wild Rose
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Stellars Jay
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Barrow’s Goldeneye
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Washington Lily
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Another family of ducks
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The water in the lake became more colorful as we arrived across the lake from the resort.
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Shortly after passing the resort on the far shore we came to the Great Springs which feed the lake with 38 degree water allowing the lake to remain unfrozen all year. They emptied into a beautiful small pool reminiscent of the Tamolitch Pool which lies further down the McKenzie.
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After the Great Springs the trail crosses Fish Lake Creek on a footbridge. This creek only flows during the Spring snow melt.
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Finally we swung out around an arm of the lake where Ikenick Creek flows into the lake.
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Back on the west side of the lake we were again in the fir forest where many white woodland flowers were in bloom.
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We quickly reached the resort area which was busy with campers. The picnic area was just on the other side and before we knew it our Central Oregon hiking tour was over (for now). Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157644778548280/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/deryl.yunck/media_set?set=a.10204239083124439.1073741887.1448521051&type=1

Tamolitch Pool

Amazing! That is a good start in describing Tamolitch Pool which was the highlight of our most recent hike. Beautiful, gorgeous, and spectacular would also be fitting. We were looking for a good rainy day hike and decided on a section of the McKenzie River Trail in the Willamette National Forest. We had hiked a different section of the trail in September that passed Sahalie & Koosah Falls. This time we would start further down the McKenzie River with Koosah Falls being our turn around point.

We arrived armed with our rain gear and set off through a lush, damp forest. The trail quickly descended to the river, crossed two creeks on bridges, and traveled next to the McKenzie for awhile. It then climbed above the river as it crossed an old lava flow with moss covered rocks and numerous views to the roaring river below.
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Our first view of Tamolitch Pool came just after the 2 mile mark. It was one of those “take your breath away” moments. The pool sits in a small bowl below a dry waterfall. The crystal clear water offers a view to the bottom and is a blue that is truly stunning.
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We spent some time exploring the rim of the bowl watching the McKenzie River flow full speed ahead from this still pool’s outlet.
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After a snack we continued up the trail following the now dry riverbed toward Koosah Falls. Somewhere below us the McKenzie River flowed underground, buried by a lava flow, on it’s way to Tamolitch Pool. The forest along this portion of the trail changed often as we crossed the old riverbed on a series of log bridges. After another 3 miles we reached Carmen Reservoir (and most importantly bathrooms) where the McKenzie was once again visible above ground. Another 0.4 mile stretch brought us to Koosah Falls and our turn around point.

On our way back we stopped again at the pool which was just as stunning now as it was in the morning. Round trip to the pool from the trail head at Trailbridge is only 4.2 miles. Koosah Falls is a little over 11 but can be visited from the nearby Sahalie Falls parking area on a 2 mile loop. The McKenzie River Trail runs a total distance of 26.5 miles with numerous access points making it easy to do the entire trail in shorter sections. Until next time – Happy Trails 🙂

Photos from the hike on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10201255605619366.1073741832.1448521051&type=3
Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157633751250296/