A Couple Relaxing Days in Deschutes National Forest
We left Walla Walla after our 2 weeks of Habitat building a bit tired and ready to get out of the heat. We made it as far as Redmond, Oregon by afternoon and decided, after some mild exploring and dog walking, to get a pint or two at the Public House run by Cascade Lakes Brewing Company. Sampling their beer was a real delight; each one was carefully crafted and balanced – and all were delicious. My favorites were the citrusy Mosaic IPA and the subtle-but-rich Paddleboard Porter while Tom wavered between the light, flavorful Bombshell Blonde and the porter. Ultimately, both of us enjoyed the porter so much that we ordered that for our pint despite the temperatures being in the 80s on the patio.
Refreshed the next morning we continued on to Deschutes National Forest making a quick stop at the ranger station where we picked up a map and some recommendations. Because we were starting a hike midday we began with the Canyon Creek Meadow Trail. Initially we were disappointed. The first miles wound through a charred landscape burned by the 2003 B and B Fire which was a bit depressing but the real issue was that a current fire to the south caused a significant decrease in visibility. There was so much smoke in the air at one point that my throat and chest actually began to hurt despite the easiness of the trail. We had already resigned ourselves to the hike being less than great when suddenly we exited the burned area and crossed into a pleasant wooded section. And then, as we emerged into open space at Canyon Creek Meadow, we noticed the smoke had blown out. Things were looking up. Within a minute however we reached a junction with a spur trail from which we caught a beautiful vista of Three-Fingered Jack – and that’s when things really began to improve. We started off on the spur towards the mountain and quickly crossed paths with a couple hikers who we queried about the length of the trail; they told us that not only was it only about 2 miles but that the trail actually ended at a glacier! Sold.
From here the trail was exponentially more scenic and we really began enjoying our hike. We followed the creek and crossed an open meadow as we slowly gained elevation but it wasn’t until after we had ascended the last few hundred feet up the steep moraine that we were rewarded with views of the glacier at eye level across the small pond nestled in the depression at the base of the mountain. Because we had to stand on the narrow ridge to see the glacier and pond I wasn’t able to get enough of a distance to get a shot of the whole thing in one picture, but it as pretty spectacular sight. Added to the mountain and glacier were 8 or 9 mountain goats wandering around in the shadows!
The next morning was cloudy and visibility around the mountains looked poor again so we decided to start with a look at the Metolius River which was only about 5 miles from where we had camped. The road we took ended up at campground – and a trailhead for the West Metolius River Trail. A pretty river in front of us with banks full of ponderosa trees and no one around was all the encouragement we needed; we looked at each other and nodded in agreement. And so we came to hike the West Metolius River Trail.
The Metolius River is a melding of deep blue and inky black waters with incredible clarity. The colors are fantastic and most definitely unique, but it is the stunning transparency of the deep hues that makes it special. Less than a half mile from the trailhead we came across springs pouring out of the hillside which was amazing since we hadn’t been aware of them; it was only on our return a few hours later we discovered they are quite well-known since there were now no less than 5 groups of people were there admiring them. We followed the trail for 2.4 miles from the trailhead to it’s crossing with the dirt road at Wizard Falls; here we discovered a fish hatchery with grounds open to the public. We wandered around passing multiple raceways filled with chinook salmon and rainbow trout, had a snack sitting at one of the picnic tables, and read informational signs scattered about the buildings. Definitely an unusual intermission on a hike.
After our hike we returned to Suttle Lake, a pretty beach we had found the previous afternoon when we were in search of a lake shower. This visit however we came prepared with beer and chips in addition to some lawn chairs. Other than two young girls launching some kayaks we had the place to ourselves which made for a perfect late afternoon happy hour.