Chapter 5 -- Northern Oregon

Sept 5, 1997

I got up and went for a noontime soak at Umpqua. George the bicyclist and a couple were there. After soaking, I headed toward Cougar Reservoir along a gravel forest service road. But after going about 10 miles, I found that the road was closed four miles ahead. It was slow going, steep and twisty during the miles that I did go. I turned around and headed back, then went along a highway toward the interstate. I ran in to a 20 minute construction delay, and finally made it to another dirt road that led me up toward Oakridge, where I bought gas, groceries, and mailed postcards to my nieces. Finally, I made it up to Cougar Reservoir along some forest service roads. Just before the reservoir, I passed some hitchhikers. I felt guilty about not picking them up, but they were some Gen-X hippie types who didn't look terribly clean. I got to the hot springs about an hour before sunset, and there are big signs saying the area is closed from sunset to sunrise.

I wanted to go for a soak, but I got on the wrong trail. I didn't realize it, but I was headed for some beautiful waterfalls, instead of the hot springs. The path was very steep and treacherous. Many sections were a hands-and-knees scramble. Pepper didn't like it at all, and I was getting annoyed with the fact that she was getting in the way. Although she's generally a better scrambler than I am, there were sections where she was too scared (or too wise) to go, or where the vertical distance between handholds (pawholds) was too great for her, so I had to carry her along a few stretches. I realized I had missed the trail, but I hoped there was a better way out. There wasn't. I was tired, and working up a sweat from the scramble, even though it was reasoably cool, and getting dark. I finally got back to the van, read my guidebook, figured out where the real trail to the hot springs was, and went for a record-time quick soak, mostly to wash the sweat off of me. The place was empty, and it was pretty dark on the walk back. The real trail was very wide, smooth, and flat, especially compared to the scramble toward the waterfall.

I camped on a forest service road. I was dead tired, making the quickest dinner I could, a pasta dish where you just empty the package into water and boil.

There's not a lot of radio reception here. Nothing on the AM dial at all during the day. At night, I can get AM stations from Spokane, plus KGO from San Francisco (can't get KCBS), and a couple of Oregon stations. Anyway, I listened a bit at night, and heard that Mother Teresa had died. Of course, everyone is making comparisons between Mother Teresa and Princess Di, whose funeral is today (Saturday).

Sept 6, 1997

Today I went back to Terwilliger Hot Springs for another soak. Met a nice trio of girls, two from Australia, and one from Wisconsin. The Australians were on their last 10 days of a six month holiday. They had flown to San Francisco, bought a junker car, and drove across the country, to New York, Florida, Montana, Vancouver, the Grand Canyon, and who knows where else in between.

I didn't wear a watch today, for the first time in I don't know how many years.

I'm sore from last night's scramble. My legs are a little sore, but my arms are very sore, since I was using them as much or more than my legs. The hot springs help somewhat, I guess.

I'm camping tonight within a few hundred yards of where I camped last night. This is a better, more level spot, which I didn't see in last night's darkness.

Sept 7, 1997

This morning had a fun beginning... I was camped high up on a forest service road, away from everyone, when I thought I heard loud footsteps very close by. The sun was up, but I wasn't. No car had driven close, so I looked out to see what was going on, expecting to see someone hiking by. It turns out a squirrel was pulling pinecones out of the tops of the trees and throwing them down to the ground. These trees were tall (at least 5 stories) and the cones were falling pretty hard. Only a couple hit the van, but they made quite a sound when they did. Pepper was upset. She later got a chance to tree the squirrel when it tried to come down. I'm not sure why the squirrel was doing that, whether he was intentionally trying to bomb us, or what. But he was plucking off all the green pine cones, and letting them drop on us.

Got a leisurely start this morning, I even took time to check the tire pressure and boosted it a bit on all four tires. About 11, I went toward Terwilliger hot springs, but the parking lot was so crowded, I just drove on by. I went to Bigelow hot springs instead. It was empty when I got there, but I was soon joined by four guys.

Drove across McKenzie pass. It was pretty spectacular, with views of the three sisters mountains, and mount Jefferson, but the neatest part is that near the summit, it goes across a recent lava flow. They think the flow is 2700 years old, and it looks much more recent than that to me. I walked across a little bit of it, but it was very treacherous. The rocks were big and sharp, with large crevasses between them. There was no soil to speak of. Not much vegetation, either. Pretty spectacular. Here's Pepper doing her "GQ" modelling pose on the lava bed.

Pepper on the Lava

Here's a picture of the Sisters mountains, taken from near the top of the pass.

Sisters Mountains

And here's another view from near the top of McKenzie Pass. This shows where the lava flowed between two hills, forming "islands".

Islands in the Lava Flow
After crossing the pass, I came out at Sisters, Oregon. This is a very pretty town, obviously with an active Chamber of Commerce and zoning board. The place is immaculate, and quaint beyond belief. It's very touristy, sort of like Aspen or Breckenridge, but smaller. I stopped at the drugstore for some toothpaste, and found there's a wine tasting counter there, where they're pouring locally produced wines.

I then turned north, and headed toward Bagby Hot springs. I arrived near sundown, and hiked in for a really quick soak. It's a long (1.5 mile) hike from the trailhead to the springs. It was pretty dark by the time I got back to the van, and I drove to the closest forest service campground (Kingfisher). One other party is in the campground, at the far end.

September 8, 1997

Went for a morning soak at Bagby Hot springs. It's got the most elaborate construction and plumbing of any natural hot springs I've seen. It sort of reminds me of something out of Gilligan's Island. There are narrow, hollowed-out logs, shaped like rain gutters or aquaducts, which carry the hot water from the springs to the soaking tubs. The tubs themselves are large hollowed-out logs, with a tennis ball for a drain plug. At each tub, there's a way to divert hot water from the aquaduct into the tub, as well as a cold water faucet. Very nice!

The water is nice, too, very hot, but pretty much odorless.

From Bagby, I passed the approprately named Hoodview Campground, and snapped this shot of Mt. Hood.

Mount Hood
I drove in the shadow of Mt. Hood until I got to the outskirts of Portland, bought gas and food, checked phone messages, and then headed out west through the Columbia River Gorge. I stopped here at Pasco, Washington after sunset.

This is a boring desert town on the interstate and the Columbia River. I'm in a Motel 6, and I can't get that stupid song out of my head.

About a month before my vacation, I flew from San Francisco to Calgary, Alberta on business. This town of Pasco, Washington was the last place I positively identified before they asked us to close the windows for the movie. I had been following along with a map. I remember seeing Mount Shasta and Mount Hood from the plane. The Columbia River has a large turn here at Pasco, making it easy to identify from 30,000 feet.

Heard on the news that BART is in the second day of a strike, and the Bay Area commute is awful. I even caught a bit of a traffic report on KGO-810 early this morning, describing the awful backups. Oh well, it doesn't concern me...

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©1997 Richard Cochran
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