Oregon Travel – Willamette Valley
With Oregon travel reports coming in of peak color in Willamett National Forest, we decided to take a drive in the direction of Sisters, Oregon which is on the eastern edge of the Willamett Forest.
Our route took us from Eugene, east on Hwy 126, over Santiam pass on Hwy 20/126 to Sisters. After driving around Sisters, and of course, stopping at a quilt shop, we looped around to Hwy 242 and returned by way of McKenzie Pass to Hwy 126, and back toward Eugene.
The October day was bright and sunny, with a blue sky, and a few high Cirrus clouds in places.
The first peak color we noticed was near the junction of Hwy 126 and Hwy 20. The contrast of the colorful yellows, oranges, and reds against a backdrop of evergreens was awesome. The drive up toward Santiam Pass was spectacular. Throw in a few waterfalls, small lakes, and towering distant mountains, and it get’s hard to take a bad photo. Good mountain views of Three Fingered Jack, Broken Top Mountain, and Mount Washington were frequent.
Oregon Travel – Santiam Pass
Along the Santiam Pass leg of the loop we made stops at Sahalie and Koosa Falls, beautiful water falls worth the short walks to view. Clear Lake was lined with colorful foliage with kayaks matching the colors of the leaves. A side road to Hoodoo ski area and Big lake gave us great views of Mount Washington.
Camp Sherman with it’s popular general store was worth our brief stop. The nearby headwaters of the Metolius River, with it’s waters bubbling up from the ground, and it’s view of Mt Jefferson looming in the background, was reached by a nice short walk on a paved path between rustic fences.
The town of Sisters, with it’s art galleries, antiuqe stores, and boutiques is popular and quaint.
It is home to a well known rodeo, an incredible outdoor quilt show, and a popular folk music festival at other times of the year. The three sisters peaks, (Faith, Hope, and Charity) tower above the town. Actually those names from the early settlers didn’t stick. They are now known as North Sister, Middle Sister, and South Sister.
Oregon Travel – McKenzie Pass
Picking up Hwy 242, we started the second leg of our drive over McKenzie Pass. The road is narrow and winding with good views of forest and vistas. Windy Point turnout gave us our first view of the 65 square mile lava fields. I was not prepared to see lava fields, and turning the corner and seeing it for the first time made me feel as if I had landed on another planet. Miles of jumbled rock as far as you can see was a stark contrast to the forest, lakes, and streams we had just been through. The summit of McKenzie Pass puts you right in the middle of the lava fields. There is piled up lava rock literally in every direction. A short climb to the Dee Wright Observatory, built in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corp, gives you an incredible “other world” view with six lofty mountain peaks ringing the lava fields.
Our drive down McKenzie pass gave us views of the best fall color of the trip. Every turn (and there were many) along the winding descent opened up the beautiful contrasts between the autumn colors and the dark green pine forests.
The last miles along the McKenzie River was a perfect finish to a perfect day. This was one of our best Oregon travel day-trips. (more Photos – See our blog.)