Thursday, July 24, 2014

Beargrass and Mosquitoes

It's time to explore the McKenzie Highway!

Day three of our July 4th camping trip, I talked my hubby into making the short drive from our campsite at Clear Lake to a trail off the McKenzie Highway.

The beargrass is blooming!

The McKenzie Highway (aka Oregon State Hwy 242) is a steep mountain road that winds its way up through the Cascades until it reaches McKenzie Pass, elevation 5,325 feet.  Snowstorms make plowing difficult, so the highway is closed every winter.  I'd never before traveled this road, and heard it offered great views and lots of good hiking trails.  We were so close, it was a perfect opportunity to check things out.

Bear wants some bacon

But first Roger made a hearty camp breakfast - hashbrowns, eggs and bacon!  The smell of frying bacon held Bear's attention.  We did share a small bit with our doggy.

Benson lake trail

Then we piled into Roger's truck and headed towards the day's destination - Scott Lake Trailhead.  Once on the McKenzie Highway, I immediately realized why this road is closed every winter.  It was winding....and narrow.....and really, really steep!  The lanes were barely wide enough for Roger's big pickup.  Some of the sharp curves were so tight, it forced us to slow down to almost 15 mph.  It was a slow go.  And Roger was none too happy about driving through such tight switchbacks.

Tons of beargrass was blooming
But the scenery was wonderful!  Dense dark green woods lined the roadway.  As we climbed higher, I began to see the forest floor was covered with white poofy beargrass.  And it was thick!

Finally, I spotted the turnoff for Scott Lake Trailhead.  We bumped down a gravel road for a short distance until I spotted the sign for Benson Lake Trail.

Lodgepole pine

We made it!  I hopped out of the truck to put on my hiking boots and was immediately swarmed by a cloud of mosquitoes.  Apparently we'd timed our arrival for peak mosquito season in the high country.

While I laced up my boots, Roger slapped and swatted the pesky critters.  Finally, he could take it no longer.  Grabbing Bear's leash, Roger said he needed to start moving.  He offered to  hike up the trail a ways, and meet me at Benson Lake.

Beargrass valley

Today's hike of choice was a short 1.5 mile trek to tiny Benson Lake.  I secretly hoped Roger and Bear would be content with hanging around the lake, and I could continue on to the summit of nearby Scott Mountain.  But not only were the biting bugs thick today, temps were also heating up.

Lovely reflections in a nearby pond

The trail began in a forest of gnarly old lodgepole pine.  White fluffy beargrass plumes lined my path, making tempting photo subjects.  Last year had been such a good year for beargrass, I didn't expect to see such large amounts of it blooming once again.

Beargrass reflections

As long as I kept moving, the mosquitoes left me alone.  But once I stopped to say, take a photo, it was as if I'd rung the dinner bell.  Luckily I was wearing pants and a long sleeve shirt, and this helped shield most of my exposed skin.  Although the day was hot, I chose to keep myself covered up.

Benson Lake

The trail climbed all the way to Benson Lake.  The high elevation forest wasn't as thick as the forests on the west slopes of the Cascades, and bright sunlight beat down upon me.  Sweat poured out of my body, and dripped down my face.  If it wasn't for the lovely beargrass show along the way, hiking this trail wouldn't have been much fun.

Gnarled old tree

About a quarter mile from the lake, I ran into Roger and Bear heading back.  Roger said the mosquitoes were too bad for him to sit around the lakeshore.  He'd decided to return to the trailhead, and would meet me at the truck.

Yet more beargrass

I finally arrived at Benson Lake.  It was a pretty blue mountain pond, rimmed by cliffs on one side.  A couple of nearby small ponds had great reflections of the adjacent trees and plants in their waters.  I wandered around with my camera, recording some of the sights.  But the biting pests buzzing around my head wouldn't allow me to linger for too long.

Beargrass macro shot

Since Roger was already grumpy from having to drive that narrow windy road, and endure the heat and biting mosquitoes, I didn't want to make him wait too long for me.  So my time at Benson Lake got cut short, and continuing on to Scott Mountain was out of the question.  Back down the trail I traveled, stopping to snap an occasional shot of beargrass.

A relaxing afternoon at camp

After a harrowing drive back down the McKenzie Highway, I treated my hubby to an ice cream bar at the Clear Lake resort store.  Ice cream always makes everything better!

Despite the heat and annoying bugs, I enjoyed my short trip up McKenzie pass, and hope to return again soon.  Although the next day we had to pack up camp and return to the "big city," it was nice to spend a quiet 4th of July weekend exploring a new part of Oregon.

Sharing with:  Weekend Reflections and Weekly Top Shot


  1. The blooming beargrass is beautiful. LOvely photos of the lake and from your hike. Bear is a cutie! Great post, enjoy your weekend!

  2. Loved your post, gorgeous images. I hate mosquitos (okay, who doesn't). I carry Deep Woods Off.. a dry, non-sticky spray that really works.
    We need to explore that region more. Though a distance from here you've gone and enticed me.
    Great series, Linda!

  3. The scenery certainly was wonderful, Linda! Thank you so much for sharing.

  4. I do like the bear grass but the mosquitoes would have made me grumpy too!

  5. Seems every single one of my hiking/traveling blog friends have complained about the mosquitoes this year no matter what part of the US they are in. Makes me kind of glad to sit on my screened porch and wait until fall to hike!!

  6. looks like an interesting trek- Bear watching the food reminds me of Kelley cute picture

  7. On looking at all your lovely photos, it reminded me how very beautiful that part of the world is, mosquitoes aside. I remember a walk in Chincoteague south of us where the mosquitoes were so thick it drove us back to the car. I loved the Bear Grass! I have never seen it before. Now, I wonder if Bear would share some of that bacon. I guess I am a little hungry right now :) Have a great weekend Linda and thank you for sharing these gorgeous photographs.

  8. More gorgeous images. Sorry about the mosquitoes.

  9. The bear grass photos are stunning!

  10. I like the beargrass. Glad you had a good time. Not gone to the McKenzie River area for a trip...but I should. I hear it's nice. Mosquitos and me....not good!~ I think they like my blood for some reason! Take care!

  11. Such a beautiful nature...really lovely reflections in a pond...

  12. HI Linda Sounds like a great trip you had. wonderful scenery, flowers and reflections. Have a great weekend.

  13. Alas, there goes my dream of taking the McKenzie Highway to central Oregon. When 'No-Fear' Linda describes it as harrowing:):)LOL
    LOVED the photos of the lake and beargrass! But now I find myself intensely craving bacon so...

  14. Hi! The beargrass photos are very beautiful. I have never seen the flower yet. The reflection is also very beautiful. Thanks for sharing. Wishing you a wonderful weekend.

  15. The photo of the gnarled tree was my favorite.

    Looks like the damn mosquitos are being a pain for everyone right now.

  16. What a lovely day! Yes, the scenery is wonderful. Spending time away from the city and away from the fast pace of life is the best way to rejuvenate. Nothing like being surrounded by all the wonders that Mother Nature offers. Beautiful photographs! I especially loved the macro shot of the beargrass.

  17. That looks like such a beautiful hike and lake, but those mosquitoes would be annoying!

  18. I've never seen beargrass but it looks pretty!

  19. Oops - mosquitoes - my nemesis. I can't wear most bug sprays which contain formaldehyde (I'm terribly allergic to it). I would have been bundled head to toe! Thanks for taking me along on your hike - I didn't mind the bugs at all.

  20. What a great looking place - although mosquitoes are not my favourite animal!

    I think the smell of bacon in the morning is wonderful!

    Sorry about the much delayed reply - I've been in the UK for a month and I let the blog sit on the back burner - normal service will resume soon!

    Stewart M - Melbourne

  21. Lovely beargrass. Was not familiar with it...thanks for sharing your adventure♪

  22. What a nice trip on weekend...The scenery is fantastic and the reflection in a lake is stunning...
    Lovely photos of of the beargrass...

  23. It's a great year for beargrass here too (and mosquitoes).

  24. Your recounting of the mosquitoes sounds a lot like our daily strife all summer here at home. :)
    Out for a walk this evening, Mitch was wearing shorts.. he had a mosquito on every inch of his poor legs. (He was grumpy, too!) While we're used to our "state bird".. this year has been particularly terrible. Many people have been limited from gardening & being outdoors.
    I've never seen beargrass.. very cool! I love your camp setup - perfect way to spend an otherwise noisy holiday!

  25. oh I loved seeing this location; the pines and the beargrass - just fabulous! Carole, at

  26. How cute your boots are outside your tent!

  27. Beautiful, you are a great landscape photographer..


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