"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Miracles on the McKenzie River

Let me start this epic narrative by just saying that we aren't in the desert anymore, Toto.  I was just admiring the change in the color pallet of my photographs as I loaded them down for the post. We're in the blues and greens of the Cascades now as we venture west from our base in Bend, Oregon. Bend is right on the dividing line between desert and temperate mountains. It makes for some pretty interesting and varied scenery.

The adventure of the day was the "McKenzie-Santiam Tour Route," a scenic loop west out of Bend, through Sisters and into the mountains on Highways 20, 126 and finally 242.  The big event happened about halfway through the loop, but bear with me as I take you through a few early highlights of the trip. 

We start with a view of the Three Sisters mountains (from R to L): Faith, Hope and Charity.

We stop and take a peek at green, glacial Suttle Lake with Black Butte in the background.

Then an overlook of Mt. Washington, 
with the damage from the "B&B Complex Fire" in the foreground.

A glimpse at Blue Lake, aptly named, through the burnt trees of the same fire.

A pit stop at glorious Clear Lake, also aptly named.

We've seen a lot of clear lakes, but I have never seen water like this before.

By now we're deep into the mountains and the tall ponderosas, 
firs and spruces so typical of the northwest. 

We stop and hike up a short section of the McKenzie River Trail to see Sahalie Falls.  The hike is deep and dark, but we can see the sun on the mist from the falls as we approach the overlook.

The falls are immense, and from up near the top, where we are, it's impossible to get the whole thing in the photo frame. I can just get the corner:

But we have a great view of the moss covered lava rocks below. 

But wait….what's that guy doing down there?

He's put down a kayak paddle and seems to be checking out the water and the rocks - looking for something? Looking for a way in? Is he going to put a kayak in there

Here comes his buddy with a kayak.  
We hurry back down to the base of the falls to get a closer look at what these guys are going to do.

 While watching them standing around a lot, we are just about to hike on, when we notice another guy standing up at the TOP of the falls, just to the left of the water.  Now what the heck is he doing? (These fools look an awful lot like the Power Rangers. Remember them?)

He seems to be poking around, looking into the falls, and gesturing to the two guys at the bottom. He doesn't seem to have a kayak up there. He gets right up close to the gazillions of gushing gallons, and finally gives a big thumbs up to the guys watching below, and they gesture back with fists in the air. 

OMG is he going to jump?????

We can tell from the hustling of the guys below that something is about to happen.  We're getting our cameras ready, waiting to record what we hope is not the stupidest thing this yellow clad superhero has ever done.

And here he comes! The superhero in the yellow kayak is coming straight down the 120 foot drop of Sahalie Falls. 

Until he is just a blur in the white water...

We lose sight of him and his Power Ranger buddies who seem to have leaped into the water at the bottom. We run further down the river to see if we can see any of them come up or out. Sure enough, we see through the trees that the yellow Ranger has emerged, and his blue back up Rangers are also safely down river.  

It seems that the yellow Ranger's paddle broke during the super dive, and his blue rescue Ranger has to pick up the pieces. (Thank God it wasn't pieces of the superhero.) Blue maneuvers the river like it's nothing, parks his kayak on the shear mossy bank, and edges his way along the riverside to retrieve it.

The blue rescuer is back in his kayak, pushes off and uses his superpowers to effortlessly cross the river to meet up with the rest of the team.

All safe and sound. We couldn't believe what we had just witnessed. In a somewhat elated and stunned state, we walked on down the river to Koosah Falls, with our eyes peeled on the water, ready for anything. But there were no more superheroes jumping off the falls that day.

Even if somewhat anti-climatic, the river was still gorgeous all along the way. I'd say the hike from Sahalie to Koosah Falls (and back again) is one of the prettiest I've ever taken.

When we got back up to Sahalie Falls, there was absolutely no evidence of the miracle we had chanced upon earlier. It was like it had all been a super dream.


  1. I'm speechless....first the photos and area are beautiful and second.....OMG, those guys are crazy. Great captures :-)

  2. Crazy, for sure, yet I sure ended up admiring their courage and skill. They really knew what they were doing, even if I didn't know what they were going to do!

  3. I live in Oregon and have gone down the McKenzie rapids in a drift boat a few times but I think those guys were nuts to do that. Good grief! They're foolish to do it but some people love adrenalin rushes and taking chances. At least it wasn't Niagara Falls in a barrel.

    1. No kidding! I found myself wondering if they do it over and over, or just one time. We only saw it once. Is once enough for them? The McKenzie in a drift boat must be incredibly fun and beautiful. What a magnificent river!

  4. OMG! What an amazing sight to see! We sure enjoyed that drive last September. Proxy Falls, along hwy 242, was very pretty.

    1. We actually didn't get through on 242 - still closed for the "winter." We hope to drive it before we leave the area - and see Proxy Falls.


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