Sahalee Falls, McKenzie Pass, Crater Lake Nt. Park
A wonderful day driving through the heart of Oregon, scenery spectacular with amazing variety. From Portland to the state capital of Salem we’re reminded of how productive the Willamette Valley is – vineyards, Christmas tree farms, berry patches, nurseries, gardens, vegetables. We share memories to previous visits to tulip farms in March, peony and iris farms in June and the botanical treasure of Oregon Gardens.
As we climb into the Cascade range autumn-hued ground covers and shrubbery color the landscape in contrast to the deep, deep greens of the western slope coniferous forest. After 2 1/2 hours of drive time we take a break at the Sahalee Falls Viewpoint. Fifteen minutes out of the car for the short walk to see the falls does the body and mind a world of good. Sahalee is only one of a series of falls along the McKenzie River.
I’ve read and seen pictures of the McKenzie Pass road for years, today is the day to see it for ourselves. Vehicle width and length restrictions are enforced on 22 miles of the scenic byway. We soon understand the limits, the road is very narrow and winding with sharp turns. This isn’t the route for travelers in a hurry, it’s slow going but worth the time required. Atop the pass a 65-square mile lava flow creates an other worldly landscape; trees pushing their way upward from the volcanic debris and twisted dead trunks bleached nearly white.
A slight detour takes us to Crater Lake National Park. We’ve been here two times before. The first was more than 20 years ago in late March. There was 27-feet of snow on the ground; we literally walked trough a snow tunnel to a viewing platform on the edge to see into the lake. In 2001 we had reservations for two nights; our first morning was 9/11. At that time there were no televisions in the park and radio reception was spotty. We spent the day driving around the lake finding high spots where we could listen to the awful news.
Todays visit was perfect, although too short. Sky and lake were blue, blue, blue and windless; creating incredible perfect reflections of the steep caldera sides in the calm waters. Truly a priceless gift to see the park on such a day of amazing scenery.