Blue Pool and Proxy Falls

Saturday, October 6, 2018

After a warm night in our rustic cabin at Clear Lake, we had breakfast then headed out for some hiking. Blue Pool is a beautiful spot along the McKenzie River National Scenic Trail. It is only two miles from the nearest trailhead and it is horrendously crowded in summer (it has actually become quite a problem). I had never seen it and a rainy October day seemed like the perfect time to check it out.

The fall colors were quite lovely:

McKenzie River Trail

McKenzie River Trail

This is a very mossy forest:

McKenzie River Trail

A crew had been out here the week before working on the trail, which is so overused. You could tell the spots they hadn’t hit yet:

Trail puddles

Trail puddles

And the spots that they had:

Trail Work

Trail Work

I loved this footbridge!

McKenzie River Trail

McKenzie River Trail

More vine maple in color:

McKenzie River Trail

McKenzie River Trail

McKenzie River Trail

McKenzie River Trail

McKenzie River Trail

McKenzie River Trail

At one point we got a view down over the McKenzie River:

McKenzie River Trail

Then we arrived at the pool, which is not as blue as it is on a summer day, but still very pretty:

Blue Pool

Blue Pool

Blue Pool

This is where the water flows out of the pool and downstream:

Blue Pool

The pool appears to have no inlet. Sometimes water flows over the ledge into the pool (this is Tamolitch Falls), but usually that waterfall is dry. This is from the Forest Service website:

A lava flow from Belknap Crater 1,600 years ago buried a 3 mile (4.8 km) stretch of the McKenzie River between Carmen Reservoir and Tamolitch Falls. The river resurfaces at Tamolitch Pool at the base of dry Tamolitch Falls, seeping up to the surface through the porous lava, creating a pristine turquoise blue colored pool. The water, a chilly 37 degrees Fahrenheit (2.8 C) on average, reflects the surrounding cliffs covered with alder and evergreen trees. While the falls are dry the majority of the time, during wet winters the river can flood over the lava bed and Tamolitch Falls will flow.

In addition to the lava, the water upstream is diverted. From the Northwest Waterfall Survey:

Were it allowed to flow unchecked, the falls would still flow naturally for at least 5-6 months of the year, though greatly reduced involume from what flows over Koosah Falls. However just downstream from Koosah Falls the Carmen Reservoir diverts the majority of the river into the Smith-Carmen Hydroelectric system which effectively removes the portion of the river which would naturally flow over Tamolitch Falls during the spring and early summer months. Only when the river exceeds the capacity of the Smith-Carmen diversion will the falls potentially flow.

On the hike out we encountered a whole lot of people hiking in. I was surprised how many people were doing this trail on a cold drizzly day, and I was glad we had gotten an early start.

After that we headed up Highway 242 to the Proxy Falls trailhead. The drive was absolutely gorgeous, with lots of beautiful color along the highway:

Vine maple

Highway 242

We hiked to Upper Proxy Falls first, which is by far the more beautiful of the two falls:

Lower Proxy Falls

Then we visited Lower Proxy Falls:

Upper Proxy Falls

Back at the lake the weather was starting to clear up a bit. Greg rested in the cabin while I wandered the lakeshore taking photos:

Clear Lake

Clear Lake

I was astonished to see this heron land in a tree!

Heron

Then he took off across the lake:

Clear Lake

I saw some stand-up paddle boarders. I was amused to see a dog on the board with them:

Clear Lake

That night I went down to the lake to see if the skies were clear enough for star photography. I was very pleased to see thousands of stars overhead.

Starry skies over Clear Lake

Starry skies over Clear Lake

Starry skies over Clear Lake

While I was enjoying the stars I heard an owl hooting nearby. So cool! A perfect way to end the day.

Fall Larch Hike in the Badger Creek Wilderness

Sunday, October 21, 2018

In the fall larch trees turn a brilliant golden color and it’s quite a sight. Unfortunately larches aren’t common in the Oregon Cascades. There are some, however, on the east side of the Mt. Hood National Forest in and around the Badger Creek Wilderness. So on this gorgeous fall day Greg and I drove over there do a hike along the Fret Creek Trail and Divide Trail with Flag Point as our destination. It was a spectacular drive with beautiful fall color along the road including the larches we had come to see:

Larches

We parked on road 2730 near the Fifteenmile Campground and started up the Fret Creek Trail:

Fret Creek Trail

Many of the huckleberries had already dropped their leaves, but not all:

Fall color
After a steep 2.1 mile climb we hit the Divide Trail and turned left heading east. We got a view of Lookout Mountain to the west (if we had turned right on the Divide Trail we would eventually end up there):

Lookout Mountain

Soon we got our first view of Flag Point and its 41′ lookout tower:

Flag Point

We continued on the Divide Trail:

Meadow

The larches against the blue sky looked beautiful:

Larches

Larches

The trail began descending:

Larches

After 3.7 miles the trail reached Road 200, the access road for the lookout, and turned right. Yes, you can drive this road, which we have done before, but it’s very rough. Much nicer to hike. We reached the gate that keeps people from driving all the way to the lookout and hiked past:

Flag Point gate

More beautiful larches:

Larches

Sunlit larches

At 12:45, after 4.4 miles, we reached the lookout:

Flag Point Lookout

Flag Point Lookout

The lookout was unstaffed which meant that the hatch to access the catwalk was locked. But we were able to sit on the stairs below the catwalk and enjoy the spectacular view of Mt. Hood with the golden larches peppered throughout the forest below us:

Mt. Hood View

Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood

We could also see Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams, although haze prevented a clear view of them:

View from Flag Point

And we could see east to the dry side of the mountains:

View from Flag Point

View from Flag Point

We had the place almost entirely to ourselves. A man and woman hiked up from some point down the road where they had parked. Some cyclists also stopped by and said that friends had come here yesterday and reported that the lookout was staffed and the guy fed them pancakes! It must have been his last day.

The temperature was perfect with just the right amount of warmth. The view was amazing. After spending nearly two hours sitting there soaking it all up we finally tore ourselves away at 2:30 and started heading back. After climbing up the Divide Trail regaining the elevation we had lost, we stopped and turned around for a last view of the lookout:

Flag Point

Our total for the day: 8.8 miles, 1700′ elevation gain. This is definitely now one of my all-time favorite autumn hikes. Even though there is some road-hiking involved and even though there is elevation to gain in both directions, the larches in their fall splendor is a sight to behold. Getting views from the lookout on a clear day is icing on the cake. Gorgeous!

FlagPointTrack

Boulder Lake and Bonney Butte

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Because I had to work on Saturday I had today off and it fortunately turned out to be a beautiful day for a hike. So I headed up to the Boulder Lake Trailhead to do the Boulder Lake loop with a side trip to Bonney Butte.

I set off up the trail and quickly passed Spinning Lake:

Spinning Lake

Then I reached Boulder Lake, which is a very popular place to camp, but which was nice and quiet today:

Boulder Lake

I turned south and soon passed Little Boulder Lake:

Little Boulder Lake

After Little Boulder Lake a bit of road-walking on Road 123 is required. I saw some very nice fall color:

Fall color

Fall color

Fall color

Fall color

Fall color

I even saw a few larches, which aren’t that common around here:

Fall color

Fall color

I picked up the Forest Creek Trail and headed north:

Forest Creek Trail

There’s a spot where you can looking down on Boulder Lake. That’s Grasshopper Point beyond:

Boulder Lake

There were a few larches down there turning color:

Larches

Further along is another viewpoint called Echo Point. That’s Badger Butte, right of center:

Badger Butte

Then I reached Bonney Meadows where I had a view of the top of Mt. Hood:

Mt. Hood

I walked through Bonney Meadows Campground:

Bonney Meadows Campground

Then I turned north on Road 4891 until I reached the old gated spur road up to Bonney Butte and turned left. (People can, and do, drive 4891 but it’s unmaintained and ROUGH.) Just before reaching the summit I got a view of Mt. Jefferson to the south:

Mt. Jefferson

From the top there are great views of Mt. Hood:

Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood

Fall color down along the White River:

White River

Every fall HawkWatch International has people stationed up here during the raptor migration to count and band birds. They have a board where you can see what they’ve done so far this year:

Raptor count

After lingering on the summit for awhile I hiked back down. View of Bonney Meadows:

Bonney Meadows

I retraced my steps back to the campground and picked up the Boulder Lake Trail, which descends in a loop back down to Boulder Lake. More fall color:

Boulder Lake Trail

Back at Boulder Lake:

Boulder Lake

This tree along road 4880 near the trailhead looked brilliant!

Fall color

This turned out to be a really awesome fall hike. I had hiked here before, but that was in summer. Total for the day: 9.1 miles, 1300′ elevation gain.

Belknap Hot Springs

Friday, October 6, 2018

Several months ago Greg and I booked a three-day-weekend fall getaway at the Clear Lake Resort in the Willamette National Forest. Unfortunately Friday, the first day of our weekend, was extremely rainy. It was far too wet to do any hiking, so we decided to visit Belknap Hot Springs.

Belknap Hot Springs

The soaking pool is behind the lodge, not too far from the river:

Belknap Hot Springs

For a short while we had the pool all to ourselves:

Belknap Hot Springs

That didn’t last long, however, and soon we had plenty of company. They weren’t the problem, however. At some point in the past hot springs management made the unfortunate decision to add an RV park to the grounds and one of the spots is right on the other side of the fence from the pool. Someone with a huge RV arrived, backed into the spot, and then idled their engine for 30 MINUTES while they moved forward and backward over and over to level the trailer. Finally the noise pollution was more than I could take and I went over the fence and yelled over to the guy. He couldn’t hear me at first because of his loud pickup. When I asked him to please turn off his truck he made no apologies for the noise and said he would turn it off when he was done getting set up. Great. Thanks for nothing, buddy.

After we were done soaking Greg stayed inside while I did a bit of exploring, crossing the footbridge over the McKenzie River:

Belknap Hot Springs

Belknap Hot Springs

On the other side of the bridge is the source of the hot springs (it’s piped across to the pool):

Belknap Hot Springs

After our soak we headed to Clear Lake to check in. We knew our cabin would be rustic and it was:

Clear Lake Resort

Clear Lake

Clear Lake

There are rowboats for rent here. It was not great weather for being out on the lake, but that didn’t stop some people:

Clear lake

Clear Lake

Clear Lake

The cold damp weather kept us inside for the rest of the afternoon and evening. We were glad for the stove in the cabin to keep us warm.