June 20, 2016
When the weather was looking rainy here in western Washington, we decided to head for the drier climate of eastern Oregon. We started our trip by driving down I-5 to Salem and then cut east on Hwy 22, Santiam Pass. We really had no plans on where to stay, but when we came across Fishermen’s Bend BLM Campground, we pulled in for lunch and then decided to stay for the night. It was a lovely campground with lots of trails right along the river. We bought a nice load of fire wood for $10 that ended up lasting for 3 campfires.
The next morning we continued east to the Hwy 126 cut-off towards McKenzie Pass. We stopped at the Detroit Dam and then at a little pullout for Fish Lake for lunch. We found a historic Forest Service Pack Camp there and a work party working on the old buildings. What a stroke of luck to be able to peak inside and talk to some of the volunteers about the history of the area.
A little further along we stopped to walk down to Sahalie Falls, and then continued on up to the summit of McKenzie Pass. This pass is 5325 feet and is closed in winter. I’ve wanted to drive it for a number of years so was glad when we learned it was now open. What a great surprise to find the Dee Wright Observatory at the summit in the midst of a huge lava field. Mr. Wright built this completely out of lava and placed small windows inside that look directly out to the various summits that surround the area. We camped for the night just over the summit in a very primitive campground.
The next morning we drove back up to the summit to use the restrooms and found a beautiful sight as all the clouds had cleared from the peaks of the Sisters. After enjoying the view, we continued east to the town of Sisters for a coffee break and then drove to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. We had planned to camp at Page Springs just outside of Frenchglen, but the mosquitoes were so bad, we continued up the Steens Mountains to the Fish Lake Campground where we found a nice private spot with very few bugs.
We spent the next day exploring Malheur and looking for birds. We also visited the Pete French Round Barn near Burns. In the late 19th century this barn was constructed by cattle rancher Peter French; French trained horses there during the winter.
We spent the last night of our trip just west of Sisters in a National Forest Campground. We burned up the last of our firewood and headed for home the next morning.
To see more photos from our trip, here is a link to the full gallery.
Click on the first thumbnail to start a slideshow our you can use your arrow keys to click through the photos.