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!

 

 

 





Sparks Lake and Hosmer Lake, Oregon

1 08 2013

IMG_0659Just returned from a kayak camping trip to Sparks Lake and Hosmer Lake, Oregon with my friends Jessie and Laura! These two lakes are located right on the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway in Bend, Oregon. Wow! These are two of the most scenic lakes in the Pacific NW.

Bathed in fantastic clear blue skies and looked upon by 10,450 ft South Sister, Broken Top and Mount Bachelor, these crown jewels are worth paddling. Everyone visiting Oregon ought to come and ply these waters.

On the water you’ve got a 200-degree view of glaciated peaks above. The lakes are easy to explore, their waters typically calm and not too deep.

Sparks Lake and Hosmer Lake have different personalities. Sparks Lake is dominated by flows of a’a lava flows, so sharp they pierced one of my dry bags. These flows make for isolated channels and difficult boat landings. Yet, we found a beautiful camping site with a jaw-dropping view of South Sister!

Breakfast!

Breakfast!

Out on the lake I’m overwhelmed with the views before me. In every direction there is an otherworldly view – each one magnificent all in of itself, yet here there are THREE!

IMG_0640I feel justifiably spoiled.

We have perfect weather, impeccable views, and I have two women with me.

For dinner, we have fresh shrimp and veggie skewers, plus rice. After a laborious preparation involving ginger, garlic etc. the meal perks my taste buds!

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Mount Bachelor provides a backdrop…

Evening is quiet. I have to disclose Sparks Lake is a tourist hot spot. During the day kayaks, canoes, inflatable rafts, everything is out enjoying the view. But we put out on the lake with our camping gear and found a quiet spot, so once dusk came all became quiet. One bright light in the SW sky we determined was Saturn.

After dawn and a breakfast of oats, nuts and fruit, washed down with Sumatran coffee, we packed up the kayaks on the 2013 Ford Escape and headed 20 minutes down the Cascades Lakes Scenic Byway to Hosmer Lake.

Hosmer Lake is characterized by lakelets connected by lillypad clusters, rushes, and channels filled with rainbow and brook trout that would make a fly fisherman blush. It’s a different vibe than Sparks Lake. It’s just as busy though. So, on the channels connecting the lakelets, you have a parade of stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, canoes, etc., and oar powered fishing boats. Everyone is looking down at the fish! Although the whole time, you are surrounded by the mountains!

IMG_0646 It was another impeccable day, with different scenery as a backdrop.

IMG_0645With mountains above, lillies on the water’s surface, and beautiful trout below, it’s hard to beat Hosmer Lake.

IMG_0652Parts of the lake feature Caribbean Blue waters where your boat’s shadow can be seen underneath!

We follow a channel up one end of the lake in search of a waterfall everyone told us about. The water temperature drops precipitously, an indicator we’ve found the source. The width of paddle-able water narrows to two yards – in some places, two feet. Then we glimpse some beached kayaks.

Here, we haul out and make lunch. Just above, there is a to-die-for waterfall beautiful enough to make Laura cry!

That is enough for me. Such a perfect day. We head back to our camp at Sparks Lake for another fabulous meal. Tomorrow we head home, full of memories.