Brian's Photo Blog — Article 159
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A Photo Outing to the McKenzie Pass Area
Sunday 2 September 2012   —   Category: Outings

In mid-August I headed up to a nearby part of the Cascades to which I had never been before: McKenzie Pass. It is reached by Oregon Route 242, which is generally closed between November 1 and July 1 due to the heavy snow which blocks the unplowed road.

The map I consulted indicated that the Dee Wright Observatory is situated at the top of the pass. I had imaged that it was an astronomical observatory, similar to the ones I had seen on Pine Mountain. But when I arrived after a three-hour drive (including my usual breakfast at McDonalds), I was surprised to find it was a circular lava-stone structure built on top of a huge pile of more lava stones. It for sure didn’t seem like it was housing a telescope!

After following the path to the building, I took the stairs to the rooftop, where I was treated to a wonderful 360-degree vista of the surrounding peaks of the high Cascades: Going back down the stairs to the ground level, I was amazed by the incredible views from inside the observatory. A number of openings had been made in the wall, giving gorgeous glimpses of the landscape, framed by the volcanic rock “windows.” In addition, there were a handful of smaller openings — less than one foot square — which were positioned in such a way as to give an isolated view of each of the major surrounding peaks.

I was quite enthralled, never having seen anything like it. I was so delighted that I ended up taking 90 pictures from here, even though it was just a stop on the way to my final destination! After 70 minutes of shutter-pressing, I finally pulled myself away so I could eventually start my hike. I wasn’t planning on making two separate albums from this day’s outing, but I got so many nice pictures at the observatory that I decided to put the resulting 36 images into their own McKenzie Pass 2012 photo album.

After leaving the observatory, I drove on for less than a mile to Lava Camp Lake for the second, and main, part of my mid-August outing. Packing up my camera gear, food, water, and other supplies, I set forth on a five-to-six-mile, six-hour hike to South Matthieu Lake and back, the majority of which was along the Pacific Crest Trail.

Unfortunately, I hit the trail at the exact same moment as a group of rowdy, loud-mouthed teenagers, who didn’t know how to shut the [bleep] up long enough to even realized they were out in nature. That’s a wonderful way to ruin the great outdoors for everyone else! In order to put some distance between me and them, I walked along the Pacific Crest Trail in the opposite direction for a little while and took some photos. After a bit of time had passed, I continued on my way. Mercifully, I never saw or heard them again for the rest of my hike!

For much of the hike the weather was cool and breezy, for which I was very grateful since I get hot and sweaty very easily. It was nice just to take my time, and stop often for photos. A lot of the path was through forest, which also helped keep me cool, even though there is about a 700-foot gain in elevation between the parking area and Scott Pass, just south of South Matthieu Lake, where I turned around to head back.

As I was enjoying the solitude and silence of the trail hour after hour, it did seem like I was having some sort of communion with nature (or the God of nature), with peace and a sense of well-being slowly seeping into my soul. Imagine all what those teens were missing out on with their horseplay and incessant, mindless babble!

All in all it was a very pleasant hike, not too long or difficult, with gorgeous scenery, and views of various majestic peaks of the central Oregon Cascades. I took 273 pictures during the hike, the best 56 of which made it into the Matthieu Lakes 2012 photo album — including four panoramas.
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 159
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