The Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway

Mileage Today: 149 miles Total mileage 2,798 miles

We had a good breakfast at the Westfir Lodge and met and chatted to the owner. It really is a lovely place, heaven for mountain bikers.

Today our route was taking us mainly along the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway to Bend, our stop for the next couple of nights. It’s another one of these great off-the-main-track routes that have been developed to showcase areas of special interest and/or beauty.

We set off about 9am and picked up our route along Rt. 58 heading east. Our first stop was at Salt Creek Waterfall. It’s Oregon’s 2nd highest single drop – 286 feet – and easy to see, only about 50 yards from the parking lot to the upper viewing platform Absolutely stunning. The average flow per minute is 50,000 gallons….. There is a lower viewing platform too but that involved descending over 200 steps….. and of course ascending them again. We were quite happy to see it from the top!!!!! I must say this was the best waterfall we’ve seen so far…. and we’ve seen a few.

We kept travelling east and just beyond the Falls we took the forest road (paved) detour up to Waldo Lake. Perhaps 8 miles each way. Waldo Lake is one of the cleanest bodies of water in Oregon – 100 feet visibility – and justly popular for water activities. We parked up in the Shelter Cove day use carpark which was just a few yards from the beach entry. There were camping sites in the woods surrounding the lake. We got talking to the father of a large family who come there on holiday a lot. They had multiple sites and were enjoying themselves on paddle boards and floats. It was nice to see such a multi generational group playing together. He told us that there was a forest fire over a ridge to the north but that it was being contained and we saw the helicopter and the fixed wing aircraft flying back and forth and dropping water in that direction. No sign of smoke from the lake though.

I got in and had a bit of a dip. It was pretty chilly so the shoulders didn’t get under but it was nice. Very clear water. Pretty lake. We stayed a while and then travelled back to Rt 58 and onwards east.

Shortly after rejoining 58, we went through the Willamette Pass, the narrow high pass in the Cascade mountains. Fantastic views from up there. It must be grim in the winter. They get feet and feet of snow here every year once you get above 3000 feet.

The Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway is a forest paved road that runs from Rt. 58 north to Bend. It passes through a volcanic zone and runs beside very many lakes east along one of the branches of the DesChutes River. The evidence of volcanic activity is everywhere, from the many peaks, small and huge that run in a chain stretching all the way to Canada; and the great lava flows that run for miles. Long lines of dark rocks piled high, like fingers running out…… Some of the peaks have their tops blown off in some ancient eruption thousands of years ago. The Newberry National monument, just south of Bend is an ancient volcano, the size of the state of Rhode Island. The caldera is 500 miles across; lava lakes……

We stopped at any number of viewpoints, small lakes and huge reservoirs. We had lunch at Lava Lake, which is the headwaters of the Deschutes river. It seems unbelievable that this small lake births the mighty Deschutes that flows all the way through Oregon, irrigating farms, until it joins the Columbia to flow to the Pacific.

We reached Elk Lake and it was in the high 80sF by then so a swim was definitely in order. We drove down a pretty bumpy road to the Sunset View beach. It was paved all but the last mile when it changed to gravel. But it was worth it when we got down there. A nice golden sandy beach and a sand bottomed clear lake. There were quite a few people down there paddle boarding, canoeing, floating, swimming or just enjoying the sun. We got into the lake as soon as we could and this time the shoulders went under! We then sat on a log in the shallow water and baked till it was time to go in again. Had some nice chats to people…. It was a good couple of hours.

Extraordinary mountain views by now behind and around the lakes of Mt. Bachelor, Broken Mountain and the most southerly of the 3 Sisters. There was still a bit of snow on the tops of them. A stunning landscape to see, these great peaks rising out of dense green forest.

Finally the road turned east towards Bend. A sizeable town , very modern and trendy from a first view. We drove right past the ski village for Mt. Bachelor and we saw the ski lift which we might take tomorrow. The DesChutes river runs right through Bend and it is reasonably gentle in terms of current there. We saw lots of people on floats of all sorts from rings, to rafts to floating unicorns, out on the water, gently drifting in the sun. It looked like a lot of fun, but a bit unexpected to see in the centre of town.

So we did enjoy the byway. It was an excellent, easy drive with lots and lots to see.

Checked into the Springhill Suites and then ran out and did some errands, filled up with petrol, got a few Walmart supplies. Found a nail bar to get a manicure tomorrow. All very important things eh?

Quiet evening in our studio. Cooked some lovely fresh salmon.