August 12, 2007

The Middle Fork of the Willamette River

Our final vacation stop finds us parked with another spectacular view, a duplicate to the view we had days prior to our crossing into Oregon...a beautiful river, rushing whitewater. greetings from Ospreys overhead and Hannah parked only yards from the rocky shores.

Casey's Riverside RV Park in Westfir is located right on the banks of the Middle Fork of the Willamette River. The largest membership rv club in the nation, Good Sam, rates this park in their top 10. Although not the same size river in volume or width that flows through the Willamette Valley, this upper section of the Willamette mirrors the look of most renowned blue ribbon trout streams in the West, fast, deep and blue.

The historical Office Covered Bridge in Wesfir is the longest covered bridge in the state, as well as our starting point for a beautiful country drive...

A drive on Highway 19, the Aufderheide Scenic Byway, proved to us that it's reputation as one of the prettiest roads in Oregon, is not just a tourist marketing ad by the state and if anything, very underrated. This road is one of the nations first Fifty National Scenic Byways. The spectacular scenery goes on for 58 miles, an up close and personal view of rivers and lush ancient forests...and the fact is... we actually whispered..."lets keep this a secret" we are already sounding Oregonian. The road meanders along the North Fork of the Willamette River on the West side and the Roaring River on the East side...and we won't discount the 30 or so creeks we crossed. And even though it is such a beautiful, peaceful and renowned byway, it is truly gas stations, no homes, no stores, no cellular, no people...we only saw a handful of cars (4) in a 31 mile stretch...all during summer vacation time!

The Mckenzie River...WOW! This river is beautiful, perfect in every way and crystal joke...the river is so clear, every single rock on the river bottom could be seen...magnificent.

Zigzagging its way from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) boasts the greatest elevation changes of any of America's National Scenic Trails, allowing it to pass through six out of seven of North America's ecozones including high and low desert, old-growth forest and artic-alpine country. Indeed, the PCT is a trail of diversity and extremes. From scorching desert valleys in Southern California to rain forests in the Pacific Northwest, the PCT offers hikers a unique, varied and challenging experience. The Oregon section of the PCT is not only the shortest, 441 miles, but the easiest to hike. Strong long-distance hikers will cover 30 miles or more per day!

Well, a portion of this legendary trail is located here in the Willamette National Forest, so we decided to add some extra adventure and discovery to our day by going on a short 3 mile (6 miles round trip) day hike to three pristine mountain lakes known as the Rosary Lakes via the PCT.
This was an easy wilderness trail to navigate, well groomed and shaded by a thick canopy of trees. With a steady climb through a
formidable stand of old-growth Douglas fir, the trail gained 600 feet in the last 2.2 miles to a ridge overlooking heart-shaped Lower Rosary Lake. Pulpit Rock towers above, reflecting in the lake’s clear water. Arrived just in time for lunch.

Nestled in an old growth forest is Waldo Lake. This lake is Oregon's second-largest natural body of water and dwells in a basis scooped out by ancient glaciers. The lake is famed as one of the purest lakes left in the world...pure and clean enough to qualify as distilled water. The astonishing visibility enables one to see down 100 feet to the bottom.

Salt Creek Falls is a gem of complete magnificence. Regarded as the second highest falls in Oregon, a perfectly placed observation platform offered us a prime view of its spectacular drop to the bottom of the canyon.

The early morning on the river is calm and quiet, with nothing but the sounds of nature and the ratcheting of my reel breaking the serene silence. The air is thin and crisp, with the faint smell of fir and river moss. The beautiful mountain canyon embraces me with its canopy of trees. It’s cold, yet the skies are so blue, the sun so bright. My fingers are already numb. The river is clear and pure, the water so frigid. The pools are deep blue and mysterious. Although the river moves fast, the clarity gives off an illusion of it having a lazy, peaceful pace. You see the trout, facing upstream, so wary, so confident, and so beautiful. It’s time! A hatch of mayflies is on, and I am ready to match the hatch. Casting upstream over rifts and pools, I wait for the first strike. I imagine, I dream, and then believe that this is all that is required to experience a moment of life, that this is truly Being.

But on the other hand...depending on the day, place and weather.... this is truly Being...

We now must bid so long to the Willamette National Forest, a natural wonderland, with so many wonders to see, visit and experience...a return stay will surely be necessary. So on this, just our 2nd rainy day in Oregon, we are off to Junction City for Hannah's "day spa" appointment at Country Coach. From there we return to our long term stay at Olde Stone Village in McMinnville for the start of the school year and "normal" everyday living.....
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