Thursday, October 18, 2012
McKenzie Pass connects Eugene on the west side of the Cascades to Bend and Sisters on the east. Leaving Eugene, the highway follows the McKenzie river through deep, lush forests past lovely campgrounds and boat launch sites. If you know how to fish it, the steelhead runs are excellent.
The road to the pass closes in the winter and then only opens once it can be cleared, sometimes as late as June. It winds sharply and slowly from 2000 feet to 5335 feet. This time of year, vibrant fall colors dominate until one reaches the lava flows at the top. Black lava spreads out, southwards to the Three Sisters peaks and northwards to Mt Washington. I have hiked the Pacific Crest Trail as it winds its way through these lava beds. The views are magnificent from the top. The trip is one of exceptional contrasts.