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|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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