Jason and I took the day off yesterday to celebrate his birthday with a hike in nearby Willamette National Forest in the Cascade Mountains. It’s about an hour or so east of Eugene and an easy – and pretty – drive. So we packed a lunch, put on our hiking shoes, and headed into the woods yesterday morning.
Our first stop was Koosah and Sahalie Falls, two waterfalls that are only about a mile from each other. (We didn’t make it all the way to the Blue Pool – that’ll be next.) The hike is a three mile loop, and it took us much longer than it should have because we stopped every five feet to snap photos of the next little portion of the river or trail. We learned that the names of the falls are Chinook. Sahalie (or “Heaven”) and Koosah (or “Sky”) are sort of jargon – part of the language that allowed these Native Americans to exchange news and goods with others in the area.
Onto the pics…
We then headed about a half mile up the road to Clear Lake. Clear Lake is the headwaters of the McKenzie River, one of the two main rivers that flow through Eugene. Reading from our little brochure: Around 3,000 BC, there was no lake, only densely forested drainage dissected by a river. Around 1,000 BC, nearby Sand Mountain erupted and lava flowed toward the river, burning forest as it moved until it struck cold water, where it stopped. The river quickly backed up behind the wall of lava, and Clear Lake was formed.
The lesson continues: The brilliant color of blue is caused by remains of generations of fresh-water plants called diatoms, which are mostly made of white silica and which cover the floor. The color comes from the light reflecting off the silica layer and back through the water. The water stays just above freezing all year long, and not many organisms (that usually make the water cloudy) can live in it.
Here endeth the lesson. Back to our little vacay-day…
There’s a great spot for picnicking at the trailhead with views of Mt. Washington, so we refueled then started off on the five-mile hike around the lake. The landscape changed as we made our around the lake from lush green forests on one side to a lava field baking in the sun on the other. We were glad to have made our way back around to the cool, shady forest on the way out.
We finished off the day with sake, sushi, and birthday cards, gifts and well-wishes from family and friends. A pretty great day.
Next year has a lot to live up to.