I spent Labor Day weekend through Wednesday at a cabin on the McKenzie River with my dad. We’d been planning a father-son trip for a few months, and settled on the McKenzie because it was a relatively short drive away from Bend and had a ton of options for hiking and kayaking.
Sunday, Day 1
We loaded up the kayaks and left Bend around 11 am, arriving at the cabin just after 12:30 pm. We’d rented an AirBnB owned by McKenzie River Mountain Resort, located in the small town of Vida. We were very impressed with the cabin. It was spacious (we could’ve easily fit at least four additional people there comfortably), had a fridge, stove, dishwasher, dishes, laundry machines, garage, fireplace, comfortable couches for reading, and even an outdoor fire pit. The resort itself is a former Forest Service site.
The air was smokey from the Terwilliger Fire which was burning about 5 miles away on the other side of the ridge. We were told by one of the workers at the resort that it the smoke would likely clear out in the afternoon as the wind made its usual shift east, and this proved correct.
We grabbed a late lunch at Obsidian Grill, located about 10 minutes up the road from our place. I’d picked it because Yelpers liked it, and it lived up to its reputation. There were a bunch of menu items available, pre-made sandwiches you could grab to go for a day on the trails, a huge selection of beers and wines, and some great outdoor seating (on days when the air is breathable, that is). They even have live music on Tuesdays and Thursdays, apparently. I ended up sampling several of the items on the menu over the course of our stay, and my favorites were the burrito and the club sandwich.
Around 4, we headed up the road to Sahalie and Koosah Falls. The smoke was clearer there both due to the wind shift and putting more miles between ourselves and the fire. The falls are beautiful. We hiked the 5-mile loop from Sahalie to Koosah, then back up on the other side of the river.
It was starting to get dark by the time we got back to the car, so we headed back to the cabin and read for awhile. Always good to be on a trip with someone who reads as much as I do, haha. On this trip, I read a mix of:
- The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
- Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
- 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari
- Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio
- Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
- Bitwise, a Life in Code by David Auerbach
- And, a technical book, Building Data-Intensive Applications by Martin Kleppman
Monday, Day 2
Upon waking, we realized that the power was out. We hung out until around 8:30 to see if it would come back so we could make oatmeal, but no such luck. We drove to the Obsidian Grill only to discover that their power was out, too. Someone mentioned that the power was out as far away as Thurston, which was a ways away, near Eugene. It was unclear what caused the outage, but someone else mentioned that it had started around 2 am. I grabbed a breakfast burrito out of the fridge that was still semi-cold, and paid cash for it, silently praying to the food-poisoning gods to spare me on this one. We drove to another store to get bananas for my dad, but alas, they couldn’t sell us bananas because the scale required power. We’d fortunately stocked up on some produce and snacks before the trip, so we made a quick trip back to the cabin before departing for the day’s adventures.
We spent the rest of the morning hiking to the famous Blue Pool. Out and back, the hike is about 6 miles. It’s pretty heavily trafficked with both hikers and mountain bikers, but wide enough that there’s always room to let people pass. The pool is astonishingly blue, and astonishingly cold to those who jump in. I made the jump once, from down below, the previous time I’d been here in 2012. It was like jumping into a bucket of ice. This time, I was content to take pictures.
By the time we finished hiking, Obsidian Grill had power restored and we grabbed a couple burritos.
We spent the evening kayaking at Clear Lake. There’s a $5 fee to load your boat from the dock at the lodge, but it’s totally worth it for the convenience. The other dock is steep and difficult to get to, plus this fee allows you parking at the lodge. We got on the lake around 6, so the sun was setting and most of the crowds had left. It was a very peaceful evening, and the lake was placid and mirrorlike. Osprey circled overhead and occasionally swooped down to catch fish.
Clear Lake has an interesting history. 3,000 years ago, lava flows from the High Cascades dammed the McKenzie River, and the ensuant flooding formed the lake. This also petrified a number of trees. To this day, ancient trees are visible jutting just beneath the surface.
As we pulled up to the dock, we were greeted by a friendly cat, presumably a resident of the lodge.
Tuesday, Day 3
We spent the day at Clear Lake. In the morning, we hiked the loop. We grabbed lunch at the lodge, and then got our kayaks out on the water again for a few hours. The tourists from Labor Day weekend had mostly departed, so we had the lake largely to ourselves. The water was even clearer than it had been the previous evening and it was cool to see the ancient trees poking up here and there.
All in all, it was an excellent trip. It was great to spend some quality time with my dad, explore more parts of the McKenzie that I hadn’t previously seen, and to get a lot of good reading done. I hope to be back here again soon.