Three Sisters Wilderness Area
Elevation: 3,100 Feet
It was an afternoon car trip up the Old McKenzie Highway. For half the year, this highway is closed. Too much snow in the winter and not enough plows to work this stretch of windy, windy road. I had driven over it for the first time the weekend before and wanted to bring Tanis and Linda up to see some of the views.
We drove up from Sister's and hit the Dee Wright Observatory (5,200 Feet). The best part of this drive is you get to hit three different areas all on the same roadway. They are so vastly different in look and ecosystem that it feels you went to three different areas of the state. The Dee Wright Observatory is in the middle of a gigantic, old lava flow. The flow originated from the North Sister and just flowed...for a really long ways. This was tens of thousands of years ago and we had a difficult time explaining to Tanis he would be able to touch the lava rocks since they weren't hot anymore. He was extremely distrustful of our explanations, even to the point of refusing to sit on them until one of us did first.
The observatory itself is a mideval lookout tower built of basalt lava rock. Inside the observatory is a copper Peak Finder. We had seen many of these in Colorado, but this was the first I had ever seen in Oregon. From inside the observatory, there are small windows that look directly at some distant peak. You could see North and Middle Sister, the Husband, Mount Washington, Mount Jefferson, Cache Mountain, Bald Peter, Dugout Butte, Green Ridge, Black Butte, Black Crater, Little Brother, Four-In-One Cinder Cone, Condon Butte, Horsepasture Mountain, Scott Mountain, South Belknap Cone, Little Bleknap, Belknap Crater, and, way off in the distance was Mount Hood.
Tanis really loved playing around in the "castle." It was a beautiful late summer day with modest temperatures and clear blue skies. It would have been nice to hike out onto the lava flow and walk out to the Belknap Crater and cone. I had seen this every time I drove up to Hoodoo to teach snowboarding for two years and this was the closest I had ever been to it.
This is a picture of Mount Washington in all its glory. Mount Washington was another mountain I got to see driving to Hoodoo. I usually saw it from the other side and, at the observatory, had a difficult time telling it was Washington. Washington is one of those I would like to tick off in my lifetime, but I have heard it has a pretty technical climb to the top with choss rock from hell. There is a great article I read in a climbing magazine about two men stranded for three days with shattered ankles and legs from trying to climb it. I am not sure I will ever make it to the peak as I have laid down my own rule of no alpining. It's just too dangerous for me. I know there are those who would scoff at that statement, but everything, including your mental attitude, all centers around your comfort zone.
The other great view you get is of the Middle and North Sisters. I hadn't ever seen them from this direction before and they looked really close.
The next stop was going to be the Proxy Falls. We got this out of a great little book called "Bend, Overall." If you are going to come out to Bend and you like the outdoors, this is the book for you. The directions are really easy, the passages extremely informative and it has naked chicks in it. What could be wrong with that???
Driving over the top of the pass drops you from desert forest and lava fields into a lush, Willamette Valley forest. The road is extremely windy and very narrow. You don't get going much faster than 25 MPH for the rest of this section of the highway. Proxy Falls lies at the west entrance of the highway.