Thursday, September 12, 2013

Barbie’s Adventures: The Old McKenzie Highway

One of the most beautiful places in Oregon is the picturesque Old McKenzie Highway (OR 242) in the Cascade Mountains. This scenic byway is open in the warmer months from about July through October.  During the winter months it is closed to motor vehicles when the first snow accumulates, but can still be accessed by snowmobilers and snow shoeing enthusiasts, cross country skiers, and hardy snow campers.  This scenic highway is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  It starts just past the ranger station at the junction of highway 126 and 242, and ends at the quaint little town of Sisters, Oregon.


The Old McKenzie Highway (#242)

A few weeks ago Barbie made the trip.  She began her adventure driving the windy, narrow, evergreen canopied road.  At about the seven mile mark she made her first stop at Proxy Falls.  She couldn’t wait to hike the short (and easy) one and half mile loop trail which leads to both the upper and lower falls. 



After trekking about three quarters of a mile through giant old growth trees and lichen covered lava rock in the Three Sisters Wilderness area (within the Willamette National forest), she reached the stunning 226 foot high upper falls, nestled in a forest of tall evergreens. 


Sitting in front of Upper Falls

The water cascades over basalt columns which are covered with beautiful dark green moss.  The falls are fed by springs from the North Sister, which is the oldest of the Three Sisters peaks (North, Middle and South), and it is one of the largest in the Cascade Range.  It stands at over 10,000 feet high. 

Upper Proxy Falls




After Barbie took a few moments to enjoy all the beauty that was surrounding her, she was back on the trail hiking towards her next stop; the icy pool and lower Proxy Falls.  The upper falls is the most impressive, but certainly the lower falls is well worth the visit!
 

Lower Proxy Falls

Back at her car, her drive continued until she reached the awe inspiring Lava Beds and Dee Wright Observatory. You can’t help but marvel when you approach the basaltic lava which spreads in all directions for miles. 


The Lava Beds Stretch for miles

The observatory (or the castle as some refer to it), is a lava stone structure built in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corp.   There are viewing ports inside the building which aim at specific peaks and volcanic craters. 

Dee Wright Observatory

Barbie sitting in one of the viewing
ports. This one points to Mt. Washington


Large Open Window Inside the Observatory

At the top of the overlook, which is at an elevation of over 5300 feet, there is a 36 inch bronze 360 degree site locater.  It points to and shows the elevation of the major peaks in the Cascade Range; The Three Sisters, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, Black Butte, Belknap Crater, Mt Hood, and others.  It is quite the vista!


The Site Locater at the top of the Overlook
 
 
After leaving the old McKenzie Hwy, Barbie made one final stop on her journey; Sahalie Falls.  It is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the entire state of Oregon.  It’s located just off the road on highway 126 and it is a sight to be seen. 


Taking a break at breathtaking Sahalie Falls 

The volume of whitewater that runs over the falls year round is incredible! When it reaches the pool below and hurtles downstream, it becomes incredibly clear. 


Sahalie Falls (Highway 126)

There’s a trail that runs along the McKenzie River to another worthy waterfall, Koosah Falls, which if time permits is also quite a nice hike.  Unlike the Old McKenzie Hwy, OR 126 is open year round (except for occasional closures due to heavy snow).  The view of the falls when shrouded in ice is one you will not soon forget. 

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