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Hiking McKenzie River Middle Santiam Old Cascades Oregon Throwback Thursday Trip report

Throwback Thursday – Browder Ridge and Sahalie & Koosah Falls

This week we are revisiting a pair of hikes we took on 9/8/12. A pair of Heather’s running buddies were going to be running the McKenzie River 50k that day and we wanted to be a the finish line to greet them so we found a hike in the area that we thought would make that possible. The 8.5 mile up Browder Ridge seemed to be a perfect fit.

We started at the Gate Creek Trailhead just 4.5 miles off of Highway 20 via Hackleman Creek Road and Road 1598.
Gate Creek Trail sign at the trailhead

The trail never really got close to Gate Creek as it climbed through forest and fern filled meadows.
Gate Creek Trail

Meadow along the Gate Creek Trail

Just over a mile and a half from the trailhead we arrived at a viewpoint which provided views of the Cascade Mountains from Mt. Jefferson south to the Three Sisters. It was an unfortunately hazy view due to the sun still rising in the east and the presence of smoke from the Pole Creek Fire.
Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered JackMt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack

Mt. Washington, Black Crater, Belknap Crater and the Three SistersMt. Washington and the Three Sisters

We continued on climbing gradually for another 1.5 miles to a junction. White pearly everlasting and pink fireweed could be seen along the trail. More hazy mountain views greeted us along the way with Diamond Peak joining the line of Cascade peaks.
Pearly everlasting

Gate Creek Trail

View from the Gate Creek Trail

We also had a nice view of our ultimate goal – Browder Ridge.
Browder Ridge

At the junction we turned right onto the Heart Lake Trail.
Sign for the Heart Lake Trail

This trail passed below the rocky cliffs of Browder Ridge passing through the remains of an early summer wildflower meadow before reentering the forest.
Rock outcrop on Browder Ridge

Paintbrush

Aster

Heart Lake Trail

As the trail reentered the trees we left the Heart Lake Trail turning uphill along the rocky ridge.
Browder Ridge

A .2 mile scramble along the ridge brought us to the 5760′ summit of Browder Ridge.
Black Butte, Mt. Washington, Black Crater, and Belknap Crater from Browder Ridge

Despite the haze from the Pole Creek Fire the views were pretty good.
View from Browder Ridge

View from Browder Ridge

Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack

Mt. Jefferson

Black Crater, Belknap Crater, the Three Sisters, Mt. Bachelor and The Husband

View from Browder Ridge

After enjoying the view we headed back down to the trailhead. Butterflies had begun to come out as we made our way back.
Some sort of Skipper butterfly

Pine white butterfly on pearly everlasting

Orange sulpher butterfly on Pearly Everlasting

We got back to the car with time to spare before the end of the race so we made a second stop on the way to the finish line. We drove east on Highway 20 to its junction with Highway 126 where we turned right for 5.2 miles to the Sahalie Falls Trailhead.

A half mile segment of the Waterfalls Loop Trail runs between Sahalie and Koosah Falls along the McKenzie River here. It’s possible to complete a 2.6 mile loop incorporating the McKenzie River Trail, but we wanted to make sure we didn’t miss the end of the race so we did an out and back past Sahalie Falls to Koosah Falls.

Sahalie Falls was not far at all from the parking area.
Sahalie Falls

Sahalie Falls

We headed downstream following the beautifully blue McKenzie River to Koosah Falls.
McKenzie River

McKenzie River

Koosah Falls

Koosah Falls

We returned the way we’d come but instead of returning to the car we had just enough time to visit the top of Sahalie Falls.
Sahalie Falls

These are two really nice and easily accessed waterfalls. We returned to Koosah Falls in 2013 along the McKenzie River Trail but have yet to be back to Sahalie Falls.

We made it to the finish line of the race in plenty of time to see Heather’s friends finish their 50k making it a successful day.

We are planning on heading back to Browder Ridge this year to see what the meadows look like earlier in the Summer. If all goes well we will be coming from the other end of the Browder Ridge Trail and may even make an attempt to reach Heart Lake along an unmaintained portion of the Heart Lake Trail. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Browder Ridge and Sahalie & Koosah Falls

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Hiking McKenzie River Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Tamolitch Pool

Amazing! That is a good start in describing Tamolitch Pool which was the highlight of our most recent hike. Beautiful, gorgeous, and spectacular would also be fitting. We were looking for a good rainy day hike and decided on a section of the McKenzie River Trail in the Willamette National Forest. We had hiked a different section of the trail in September that passed Sahalie & Koosah Falls. This time we would start further down the McKenzie River with Koosah Falls being our turn around point.

We arrived armed with our rain gear and set off through a lush, damp forest. The trail quickly descended to the river, crossed two creeks on bridges, and traveled next to the McKenzie for awhile. It then climbed above the river as it crossed an old lava flow with moss covered rocks and numerous views to the roaring river below.
McKeznie River

Our first view of Tamolitch Pool came just after the 2 mile mark. It was one of those “take your breath away” moments. The pool sits in a small bowl below a dry waterfall. The crystal clear water offers a view to the bottom and is a blue that is truly stunning.
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We spent some time exploring the rim of the bowl watching the McKenzie River flow full speed ahead from this still pool’s outlet.
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After a snack we continued up the trail following the now dry riverbed toward Koosah Falls. Somewhere below us the McKenzie River flowed underground, buried by a lava flow, on it’s way to Tamolitch Pool. The forest along this portion of the trail changed often as we crossed the old riverbed on a series of log bridges. After another 3 miles we reached Carmen Reservoir (and most importantly bathrooms) where the McKenzie was once again visible above ground. Another 0.4 mile stretch brought us to Koosah Falls and our turn around point.

On our way back we stopped again at the pool which was just as stunning now as it was in the morning. Round trip to the pool from the trail head at Trailbridge is only 4.2 miles. Koosah Falls is a little over 11 but can be visited from the nearby Sahalie Falls parking area on a 2 mile loop. The McKenzie River Trail runs a total distance of 26.5 miles with numerous access points making it easy to do the entire trail in shorter sections. Until next time – Happy Trails 🙂

Photos from the hike on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10201255605619366.1073741832.1448521051&type=3
Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157633751250296/