Metolius River, OR in October

28 01 2020
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Picture perfect from my campsite.

In late October 2019, two things converged: A couple of midweek days off, and a forecast of 70-degree sunny days for the Metolius River area. The Metolius River campgrounds stay open until mid December. With such a terrific forecast and time off, I scrambled to pack up one last time and get some more camping and river watching in!

The Metolius River valley and its Camp Sherman zip code are one of Oregon’s jewels. The river is super clean as it emerges as a fully grown river from a lava tube at the head of the valley. The valley is populated by orange-red barked Ponderosa Pine. And the Forest Service conducts regular “controlled burns” so that the underbrush never grows too high. The valley road winds along the river but also climbs to vistas of nearby Cascade peaks such as the Three Sisters, Mount Washington, Three Fingered Jack, and Mount Jefferson. This means that a drive to the campground immerses you in a lush, peaceful forest with a blue ribbon trout stream populated by hopeful fly fishers, punctuated by blue skies and snowy peaks.

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10,450 ft Mount Jefferson

70 degree days in late October in the Metolius area are not the norm, but they do occur often enough that it’s worth keeping an eye on the weather in case they pop up. The area sits in a rain shadow just east of the Cascade crest. It’s guaranteed the campgrounds will be 50% empty. No reason for a reservation.

I found one of those picture perfect, lots-of-real-estate campsites with a magnificent view of the river. And not far from the rest room either!

Just behind my site, on the other side of the road, was somebody camping with some kind of tiny Airstream trailer. I set up my tent, put the pad, sleeping pad and pillows inside.

Then, I proceeded to set up the camp kitchen and the fire pit that is always a “reason to come camping.”

The valley sits in a north-south position. With a low ridge to the west and a higher, 800ft ridge on the east side.

 

I sat by the river and read my New York Times as the warmth set in. But as it was late October, I started to realize that the lower level of the sun meant an early sunset here.

 

The forecast for this area said nighttime low temperatures would be in the low 40’s. That was no problem for me. So, I brought my 32-degree down bag. This Mountain Hardwear 800-fill down bag has been terrific. It’s been warm even down to the mid 30’s.

With the sun setting and chill creeping in, I lit a campfire and hastily set about making dinner. By 7:30 p.m. it was mighty chilly and time to crawl into the sleeping bag.

With my sleeping bag zipped up, ski hat on my head and gloves, plus my two pillows, I was actually just fine sleeping through the night. In fact, I was quite surprised how comfy I felt. I looked forward to the 70-degree day following.

The next part isn’t so rosy. I went to bed at 7:30, so my 6:30 a.m. I was DONE with sleeping and very much wanted to get up and start the day. What I wasn’t expecting was while although it was light outside, the sun had not come up over the eastern side of the valley. And much of what was liquid last night was now frozen. The pump on the camp stove barely moved. It groaned and squeaked, as did I. The temperature was clearly below freezing and not the mid 40’s predicted. While I was fine tucked into my sleeping bag, outside I was in the discomfort zone, and the sun wasn’t anywhere near rising above the valley wall anytime soon! Worse, I could hear the radio coming from the tiny Airstream trailer just accoss the way. This is when I knew that for late season camping a trailer does have it merits!

I managed to pump up my stove and get a nice few cups of coffee going. Then, the fire. Still, I was a bit put off by the weather forecast. As the morning progressed, it wasn’t until 9:30 by the time the sun came up over the hill, warming everything up. So, I realized the actual maximum temperature was only a few fleeting hours today. Whilst beautiful, I decided to just head back home rather than endure another long morning! It wasn’t the night, it was the long cold morning that got to me. Nevertheless, the Metolius area is beautiful even in late fall. Perhaps a hotel night would do the trick!

 

 

 





I Love Camping and Hiking in the Metolius River Region

7 01 2015
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The Metolius River from our campsite!

Bubbling up from the ground fully-formed, the Metolius River, at Camp Sherman, Oregon, is one of the state’s most magical outdoor gems. The Metolius River Valley stretches 13 miles from the mouth. Because it lies just to the east of Santiam Pass, it is solidly in the Central Oregon ecosystem. Blessed in a rain shadow, the valley is dry most of the year – and dry-climate-friendly Ponderosa Pines dominate the forest.

There is a lot going on in the Metolius River Valley – but it’s subtle. It’s not widely advertised. First and foremost, it’s all about the river. At the head of the valley the Metolius emerges from the ground as a fully formed river. It’s not a little spring. It is urgently rushing out at its headwaters. The water is glacier snow melt coming directly from glaciers in the Three Sisters, where it disappears underground and flows for many miles in underground lava tubes, only to emerge in the Metolius River Valley. That means it’s extremely cold and pure.

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Fly fisherman on the Metolius

This river, wending its way through snags and bends, is perfect habitat for trout and salmon. The Metolius River is a national blue ribbon trout fishing stream. When visiting the area you always glimpse fly fishermen trying their luck along its banks.

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Nothing like a multistory fire!

There are several campgrounds sprinkled along the Metolius River, plus there are lodging opportunities in Camp Sherman. My personal favorite is Allen Springs Campground because it sits along a U-shaped bend in the river. There are three walk-in campsites on the U-shaped peninsula. If you score the campsite at the end of the peninsula, you have guaranteed privacy and simulated back country camping. You just need to walk your gear to it. This guarantees no RVs parked next door. No generators grumbling during the night. All you hear is the glorious burbling of the Metolius!

Forget to bring everything? Fear not. You can get what you need at the Camp Sherman General Store. Even better, the store has delectable made to order sandwiches! It’s worth not bothering to pack your lunch because you can get a scrumptious fresh hand made sandwich at the store! If you order a club sandwich they’ll be cooking the bacon right in front of you.

There’s much more. There is a hiking trail running for at least 10 miles – down one side of the river and back up the other. A visit to the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery is well worth the stopover. For swimming and boating, Suttle Lake is just a few miles west of the exit for Camp Sherman off the highway. And in July, if you are up for an alpine hike through spectacular wildflowers, Three Finger Jack beckons.

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Rod pauses in front of Three Fingered Jack

On this trip my old college buddy Tully accompanied. For dinner, we used the tried-and-true Wok cooking method. Wokking is a great alternative to traditional camping meals. First and foremost it’s delicious! And fresh. It’s great for group cooking because the ingredients are all laid out and then each camper cooks their own. Some may be intimidated at first, but it’s virtually impossible to screw up a Wok meal!

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But prior to dinner there is the obligatory post-hike and pre-dinner happy hour. That requires a campfire. We violated all dietary guidelines by having a bag of Fritos. A camping secret is that Fritos and Doritos are excellent fire starters!

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Fritos are super fire starters!

No kindling??? No problem, IF you have a bag of Frito-Lay products on hand. The next thing is music. Tully provided plenty of songs from The Grateful Dead, The Eagles, and Eric Clapton. All good blended with the burbling of the Metolius River.

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Tully pickin’ on the guitar

Next day we glimpsed an unusual sight walking along the river. Turkeys!

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Turkeys!

There were 8 – 10 of them. Who knew! During a lunchtime visit to Camp Sherman we learned there are a lot of turkeys in the valley and they are a nuisance to some homeowners! The ones we saw looked innocent enough.

If you are in Central Oregon you should consider a visit to the Metolius Region!





Three Fingered Jack

21 10 2012

One of Central Oregon’s crown jewels is 7,844ft Three Fingered Jack. It is the core of an extinct volcano. Three Fingered Jack lies in between Mt Washington and Mt Jefferson and sits on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Jessie, Joel, Laura and I paid a visit there recently – camping at nearby Metolius River. We arrived mid afternoon Friday and got skunked at our favorite campsite on the peninsula at Allen Springs Campground. Figuring we had the luxury of time to search for a choice spot, we hunted around the local campgrounds. How naive we were! When we circled back one campground after another posted the “FULL” sign! We wound up with the very last site in the valley. No matter we made do and promised to try for a more choice spot that might get vacated in the morning!

Jessie, Joel and Laura by Canyon Creek

Though full the campground’s campers are gregarious but mellow. Nobody has trouble sleeping! Morning finds me fixing traditional bacon, eggs, and home made hash browns. All fueled up we head up to the trailhead at Jack Lake.

The three mile trail winds past a burned out area, then through shaded forest, then into wildflower-packed Canyon Creek Meadows and then into the basin underneath Three Fingered Jack. I’ve backpacked into the area and remember the view from the basin: You look straight up at the internal workings of a volcano! Spectacular.

And, this is not an ultimate challenge hike. It is a big payoff for easy effort hike! While we sweat on the trail, the climb is easy enough that we have no problem holding casual conversation on the way.

For the first three quarters of a mile of the trail passes through what was left after the B and B Complex fire, which burned 91,000 acres in 2003. It is a testimony to the catastrophic effects of climate change. Winters are warmer, allowing insects like the bark beetle to have longer reproductive cycles, leading to a population explosion. Normally lower temperature helps control the breeding season. With more beetles, the trees upon which they feed don’t stand a chance. The beetles feed on wood just below the bark – and when they complete a circle around the tree, the tree becomes “girdled,” and slowly dies. The only defense the tree has is to produce extra sap. In bark beetle-infested forests, mile upon mile of trees stand with the lower bark falling off to the ground, and the trees eventually dry out. They become the perfect fuel waiting for the moment of ignition = a forest fire in waiting.

Then it takes us through a section untouched by fire. It’s as it was. Mountain Douglas Firs and Cedars. Shady. A patch of snow here and there. A pond. No bugs. Then the it opens up into meadows carpeted with withering wildflowers, and the mountain dominates the view ahead.

Our goal is to reach the basin beneath the caldera, where we will take in the view and picnic.

We climb a forested moraine and descend into the basin. Wow! Above our heads lies exposed the plumbing of a volcano. Clearly visible are layers of lava but injected into the layers are volcanic dikes, which are like pipes through which lava flows to the top of a volcano. Cool!

I love this spot!

And all around us a sea of wildflowers.

Here, I glimpse a wildflower I’ve never noticed before, which is a kind of wild petunia. Beautiful!

We pause to drink in the view and warmth.

Laura makes the best picnic of all. Very European with fruit, cheese, and even some wine to accompany!

We love wildflowers. And there are plenty to see! But they won’t last forever.

It won’t be long before they fade and winter returns to these parts.

But for now we are happy to enjoy the moment!





Metolius River, Oregon and Wok Cooking at the Campsite!

28 05 2012

May 12-13 we headed to our favorite campsite down on the Metolius River! There is something about the Metolius River Valley. The river is so bubbly, urgently moving down the valley, so clear. Fly fisherman walk up and down the river casting their flies. Red Ponderosa Pines line the banks, and the meadows below are green, the river blue. The air is dry and the temperature is in the low 80’s. It can’t get any better than this!

We feasted! Saturday morning we do a blueberry pancake breakfast, with bacon, and strawberries and blackberries.

There’s nothing like that smell of bacon cooking at the campsite!

Rod & Lisa make blueberry pancakes & bacon!

Saturday, we grab fantastic sandwiches prepared by the Camp Sherman Store and then do a four-mile hike around Suttle Lake. During lunch a lone slalom water skier gives us a show.

The hike around the lake is relaxed. High rewards and low effort. Perfect!

From the trail, you can see down into the clear waters. Today it’s not breezy. Most times I’ve visited Suttle Lake, the mountain breeze kicks in, and it can blow beachside sun shelters off.

Laura, Lisa, Kent kick back!

Saturday evening we put together a stir fry bar! Lining the picnic table were little bowls filled with water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, peanuts, broccoli, onion, chicken, shrimp, carrot, pineapple, fresh green beans, with at least a dozen Asian sauces to go with them. WOW! YUM! And super easy.

Then it was time for entertainment…primitive weapons competition. We had blow dart guns, throwing axes and knives!

Check back. I have to get the weapons competition video from Lisa! I successfully threw the hatchet several times.

April Obern joined us for Saturday evening dinner and a Sunday hike on the river.

It was another perfect day. It is always SO hard to leave this slice of heaven!

I will return to the Metolius for many years to come.





Metolius River Never Disappoints!

22 06 2011

Right now, I’m working at Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe, and that means weekends working. Sooo, to get away during Oregon’s dry season, I gotta just take off midweek. Sometimes it’s alone.

At home at the walk-in sites at Allen Springs Campground

A reliable choice is the Metolius River area – and this time it turned out perfect.

Weatherwise, that is. However, my favorite spot, Allen Springs Campground, had been taken over by the RV crowd. Nevertheless, thankfully it’s got walk-in campsites away from that scene. I found peace and was invisible from the other sites.

I had a sunny, warm spot to hang out and read!

My Keen Targhee II shoes, ready for anything!Ahh, nice, warm crackling campfire!And a windy paddle on Suttle Lake to round things out!

It was so pretty and comfy.

And simple. I just read some overdue reading material, and had a nice time with the campfire and then was lulled to sleep by the sounds of the river.

 

Recommended! Get a hand-crafted sandwich at Camp Sherman Store! I had a turkey sandwich piled HIGH with 2″ of turkey! WOW! And they cooked the bacon for it right then and there!

After a perfect night under the stars, I enjoyed a morning campfire.

Took a walk along the river in my Keen Targhee II shoes!

Following that, packed up and headed to Suttle Lake, off Oregon’s Hwy 20 with its Cascade views.

The highlight was the 30 mph winds, which were a lot of fun to play in!

The burbling Metolius is a perfect place for quality time with the kiddos!





My B-Day @ Metolius River!

18 06 2010

Love the ever relaxing Metolius

Spanking GREAT weather broke for my birthday weekend on the Metolius River June 12-13 2010.

We had planned a trip there in late April with a great forecast. But NO, in typical 2010 fashion, the weather turned ugly exactly 8 hours before departure and we canceled. This rescheduled weekend was – picture perfect. Clear, no wind, no humidity, temps 75 – 80 – just perfect for humans to enjoy. AND – no bugs, no skeeters.

I’ve got a special place in my heart for the Metolius, and in particular for the walk in campsites at Allen Springs Campground. There, the river bends around the campsites in a perfect U, so you get stereo burbling all day/night. It’s just wonderful! Magical, actually.

Metolius = magic for a number of reasons. The river comes out of the ground fully formed at the south end of the valley. It never changes levels. Same all year. It’s busy – flowing fast – but few rapids. The trees are orange bark Ponderosa Pines, a very cool contrast to the verdant green, low vegetation below, and the blue sky above. In  between, fly fishermen present their caddis flies to finicky salmonids.

Planning strategically, I headed down early Friday afternoon and scored a campsite on the peninsula. Not my first choice campsite, mind you, but a site good enough for our group of six. It had views of both sides of the peninsula, and plenty of space to the adjoining site. All was good because we scored, and the campground subsequently filled up.

I was to be joined by Kent, and then Jessie and her brother Joel. Later, after dark, Christian and Katie arrived. Saturday morning we breakfasted on French Toast topped with walnut and sliced pears, with bacon on the side. Yum!

Our plan called for hiking two miles down to the Lower Bridge and then back up the west side to Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery. What a nice hike it was. Filled with views from “A River Runs Through It” the whole way. Each bend brings more photogenic views into play. One would think they had polarized eyes.

Along the way we witnessed two fishermen, on either side of the river, bringing in fish. They were casually talking as they reeled in their quarry when one guy’s rod just about broke. He said, “Holy Cracker! A 20-pound bull trout just ate my fish!” We all stopped to view the spectacle.

He was not far from netting his burden when the bull trout let go – leaving this mauled, dead trout on the hook. I was really disappointed! I wanted to see that!

Later Saturday we packed up the boats and headed over to Suttle Lake for a sunny paddle. The lake was not really busy – only one jet skier – but it seemed a bit busy for the group compared to our campsite. Little did they know how it can be later on. Anyway it was pretty because Mt Washington is visible, all snow covered.

We did a shared Mexican meal Saturday evening. Soft tacos with green peppers, onion, salsa, cheese, jalapenos, beans, rice – all good stuff on there. Darn hungry we were. Then it’s time for my birthday treat – a cherry pie! Following the food fulfillment was a nice talk to the campfire. I also used my Android phone to use Google Sky Map to check out the constellations above!

Hey! Wake Up!

Sunday was an oatmeal feed with fruit, honey, nuts, butter, cream, brown sugar, all the good stuff.

I knew of a place high up on Green Ridge, which forms the east side of the valley, with amazing vews. So with hot beverage in hand, we headed up there. Wow!

You can see at seeminly eye level from Mt. Hood to Diamond Peak. That’s Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, Three Sisters, etc.

Then we kinda lazily packed it all up. Had to end sometime!