Saturday, October 13, 2018

Sahalie and Koosah Falls

With eyes bleary and ears still ringing after the previous night's concert by The Deer, Jay and I slid out of the car and began lacing up our boots at Carmen Reservoir. Early morning drives to trailheads preceded by late nights of loud music, followed in turn by the labor and toil of hiking: this being semi-retired sure is hard work!

"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower."
- Albert Camus -
On the McKenzie River Highway are a couple of parking lots that allow the car crowd to take a short walk to overlooks of spectacular Sahalie and Koosah Falls. The parking lots are way too small to handle the thundering hordes of visitors and cars parked along the highway are an all too common sight, especially on a nice day. However, if one (or two, in this case) were to hike the McKenzie River Trail on the opposite side of the river, one (or two) can take in the views of the thundering cascades and still retain the illusion of having the place to one's self (or two's selves?). As an added bonus, several miles of beautiful McKenzie River can be enjoyed on a genuine dirt path (the trails on opposite side of the river are paved). As an added added bonus, fall is an incredible time to hike on the McKenzie River Trail, due to the colorful show put on by the vine maples growing rampantly by the river. 

"No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace
as I have seen in one autumnal face."
- John Donne -
Overhead was a clear blue sky as we set foot on the trail, yet the temperature was mild and just perfect for hiking. Sunlight filtered through the forest, illuminating the maple leaves which were colored somewhere between yellow and green. Songbirds chirped musically in the branches and my soul was filled with general all-around happiness. And all this from the first step onto the path! It's nice to appreciate one's (or two's) surroundings but one (or two) needs to get moving if any distance is to be covered.

“And the sun took a step back, the leaves lulled
themselves to sleep and autumn was awakened.”
- Raquel Franco -

Once in the forest, Jay and I were soon busy taking photographs of every colorful leaf, or so it seemed. Obviously, our pace was going to be quite slow as each photograph had be shown to the other hiker and much bragging about cameras commenced. Jay's camera could take awesome panoramic photos but I could take those exquisitely slow shots of the river. While the subject was vigorously debated, this is my blog so I say I had the better camera and took the better photographs. 

Koosah Falls thunder next to the trail
In less than a half-mile or so, a loud roar permeated through the forest, our first clue that we were about to reach Koosah Falls, still thunderingly impressive despite the relatively low water volume in the river after a dry summer. We scrambled off-trail down to a viewpoint atop a cliff with a dizzying view straight down to the splash pool. Mist from the falls filled up the canyon below, and the walls were covered with green moss thriving in the perpetual damp.

The clarity of the McKenzie River was amazing
The source of the McKenzie River is the Great Spring above Clear Lake. At the spring, the McKenzie bubbles up out of the ground, filtered and purified by miles of lava soil as the river emerges after its underground journey. We were just several miles downstream of the McKenzie's fount, and we had ample opportunity to observe the stunning clarity of the water. There were a number of pools, each tinted a dark sapphire blue with green moss growing at the edges. Did I mention already that our pace was slow due to the near constant photography going on?

Somewhere over the rainbow
A short hike from Koosah Falls brought us to Sahalie Falls, equally impressive. In fact, Sahalie Falls might get the nod for Most Beautiful Waterfall of the Day, if only for the fact that a rainbow was glowing brightly in the mist in the splash basin. Again, we bushwhacked down to a precarious overlook and admired the falls while taking photographs thereof.

"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it,
and if I were a bird I would fly about the Earth
seeking the successive autumns."
- George Eliot -
Now that there were no more falls to hike to, we focused our attention on the more subtle aspects of the McKenzie River Trail. Actually, the subtle aspects were not all that subtle as every colorful leaf called out to both of us "Hey, take my picture!" We obliged and as previously stated, our progress was slower than that of a slug with a limp.

Nature's bubble bath
Lest we get bored with the autumn finery on the vine maples (and we weren't), the McKenzie River also commanded our attention. The trail ran above a number of pools and rapids where the river leaped and bounded over large boulders and drop-offs. One pool was fed by a photogenic cascade and was well aerated with bubbles from the splashing cascade. We didn't opt for a quick bubble bath though, it was sufficient enough just to sit for a couple of minutes and contemplate the beauty in the river.

"The trees are about to show us how
lovely it is to let the dead things go."
- Unknown -
After a couple of miles, the trail crossed over the river on a stout wooden bridge and then the McKenzie was temporarily left behind as the route crossed the McKenzie Highway and headed overland to Clear Lake. The woods were pleasant as the shadows lengthened in the afternoon sun. When we reached scenic Clear Lake, we also began ro run into a lot of fellow hikers, as the crystalline lake is a fairly popular weekend destination.

Watercolor painting
At Clear Lake Resort, it was decision time. We wanted to continue hiking around the lake for an 11'ish mile hike but it was getting late in the day. We did the math and figured out that we'd be returning in the dark so our choice was pretty much made for us: we'd head back the way we came, for a respectable eight-miler of a hike.

- Richard O'Neill -
For variety, we returned on the well used trails on the highway side of the river. Ah, the feel of asphalt under our boots! Yes, the trail was paved in places and the river viewpoints were fenced and railed to discourage off-trail exploration of the falls. Jay and I bushwhacked anyway to the top of Sahalie Falls for a look-see. Yeeh, the view was dizzying as the falls thundered very close and one errant misstep would deliver hikers to the splash basin in a hurry. While we were there, a couple came by for a look and the dude got on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend. She said "yes" in case anybody was wondering, you  just can't say "no" at the top of Sahalie Falls.

The McKenzie River, as the daylight faded
When we had hiked earlier on the McKenzie River Trail, the day had been nice and sunny. But now, the sun had slid behind the canyon walls and it was getting to be both dark and cold. But that's what ISO settings on the camera are for and we still continued to bushwhack down to the river for shots of the turbulent white water where the river careened down the canyon. Oh, and there were those two waterfall thingies too; we availed ourselves of the strategically sited (and railed too, darn it) viewpoints to admire and photograph the roaring cascades of Sahalie and Koosah Falls.

Cascade on the McKenzie 
We returned to the trailhead at Carmen Reservoir at pretty much sunset, fully sated from a scenic hike on a perfect day. For more photographs of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

1 comment :

  1. It's one of my favorite fall hikes! I was there in early October (blog post to come - I'm really behind!)