Waterfall Showcase Showdown!
Exploration of the McKenzie River Trail yields watery surprises this year.
Maybe I'm putting the cart before the horse here, by writing about this weekend's Oregon Wild hike on the McKenzie River Trail before the hike, but my adventure scoping out the hike yesterday got me way too excited to wait.
Did it sound like Erik had a nice day in the field in the last blog post? That was nothing!
I wasn't planning on scoping out the McKenzie Hike - I've done the hike backwards and forwards several times. But I realized that the trail might not be in the best of shape what with the amount of snow and subsequent melt this year. So I headed off to Sahalie Falls to hike down the McKenzie River trail as planned for this weekend.
I've seen Sahalie Falls about a hundred times, but never like this! What water! As I hiked downstream through pockets of snow and past the also swollen Koosah Falls, the volume - of both water and sound - of the McKenzie blew me away.
The trail downstream of Carmen Reservoir was hard to follow in places where large patches of snow remained. Down trees led to detours off trail, and the normally "dewatered" portion of the river was flooded over the trail in places. All of this is surmountable by an intrepid hiker of course. But then I came to an impassable obstacle - a 100-foot stretch of trail covered in 3 feet of water extending to both sides. No way around but through, and I wasn't going for it. Guess I won't be bringing the hike this way on Saturday...
I drove down to the bottom of the hike section, at Trailbridge Reservoir, to start the hike from there. Up past last year's blown-down trees (that the Forest Service plans to log soon - despite loud opposition from Oregon Wild and many trail users), through classic old-growth groves with blooming Calypso orchids, over lava rock, and finally... a few of Tamolitch Falls!
Some of you who might have been to Tamolitch Pool (aka Blue Pool, pictured at left in the summer months) on this trail before might be wondering why it's also called Tamolitch Falls. There are no falls. There's no river above the pool. The river just magically appears in the pool and heads downstream... Fooled you! This is only true most of the time.
Before EWEB started diverting water for hydropower up at Carmen Reservoir in the 1960s, the currently "dewatered" channel upstream of Tamolitch Pool used to have water pretty frequently, and a waterfall into the Pool was common in the winter and spring. Now, this is a rare event. And though I was expecting some water to be flowing, I did NOT expect this. Wow!
I passed several groups of people on this hike - a lot for a Wednesday afternoon I thought - but somehow got the timing just right so that I had the raging falls and swollen pool all to myself for about a half hour. A truly blissful experience I may never have again.
Let this be a lessen: A familiar trail can always offer something new if you pay attention and try it at different times of the year. Don't take old-standbys for granted!
You can see photos and video of the swollen river and falls here. Or see for yourself by joining me on this hike on Saturday.