Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Campin' at Clear Lake

With Fourth of July weekend approaching, my hubby and I wanted to get away.  On the 4th, there's so many fireworks shot off (both legal and illegal), our neighborhood resembles little Beirut.  Tired of being in the middle of the blast zone (not to mention trying to calm our terrified dog), Roger and I decided to head for the mountains.

The lake

Time to explore a new place!  Our destination - Clear Lake, high in the Oregon Cascades, situated between Santiam and McKenzie Passes.  It came highly recommended by one of my co-workers, who'd recently camped there.

Our killer lakeside camping spot

Since we didn't have reservations, Roger and I both took vacation July 3rd to beat the holiday rush.  Leaving Portland early that morning, our plan worked like a charm.  Not only did we get one of the walk-up campsites, we scored a killer lakeside spot.

The reflections were nice

Clear Lake totally exceeded my expectations.  Such a gorgeous place!  Situated high in the Central Oregon Cascades, just west of Mount Washington, this body of water was created when an ancient lava flow dammed the McKenzie River.  The spring-fed water bubbling into this basin makes the lake so clear you can see all the way to the bottom (yes, this lake was very appropriatly named!)

The guys trying some fishing

Due to it's clarity, the lake's water was a fetching shade of blue-green.  The shores were ringed on three sides by lovely old-growth forests.  The fourth side was cleared due to the lava flow.  But the rough, black lava was quite interesting, and scenic in its own way.

A few tiger lilies hangin' out

After setting up our camp, and cooking brats over the campfire, I was ready for some exploration.  A few short steps from our tent got me to the shore of Clear Lake.  The banks here were very brushy, but a couple of clearings provided access.

Lovely evening water patterns

A 5.5 mile loop trail circled Clear Lake.  You know me, of course, I had to hike it!  Leaving Roger back at the campsite with our old dog, I headed 'round the lake counterclockwise.

Bratwurst roast

I started out in the campground, passing by other campers, all enjoying the forested shade on this hot summer day.  Approaching the boat dock, I observed a few kayakers and fisherman in rowboats.  Motorized boats are not allowed here, which I loved.  The motorboat ban attracts a totally different crowd, usually those who want a quiet, serene outdoor experience.

Trail around the lake

And then, I hit the lava beds.  The cool forests gave way to barren ground and direct sunlight.  Very hot direct sunlight.

Hiking through the lava fields

The dense, black lava rock didn't help matters.  It felt as though the rocks were absorbing the sun's heat and reflecting it right back at us poor hikers.

Green water and more lava

Yeah, it was a very hot trek through the lava fields.  Thankfully, the Forest Service had constructed a paved path so that hikers didn't have to traverse the rough lava rock.

The water was an unusual color

Even though this portion of my hike was toasty, the lack of trees made for some great views.  Around every corner was another gorgeous cove, with glittering aqua-blue water.  Lush green vegetation surrounded the shoreline, adding to the color palette.

Two of the Three Sisters mountains rise over Clear Lake

At the lake's northern end, I passed by the "Great Spring" a rushing 300-foot long river that miraculously emerges from under an old lava flow.  The water in this pool was the clearest I'd ever seen.  It was an eerie metallic blue color and very, very cold.  I later read that the water from this spring maintains a constant 38 degree F temperature year-round, which prevents the lake from freezing in winter months.

Shoreline flowers

Rounding the northern tip of Clear Lake, I continued to take in some very nice views of the opposite shore.  Then the small resort building came into view.  The county operates a tiny resort with a restaurant, cabins, and rowboat rentals.  Rising above the forested shoreline, the tips of two of the Three Sisters mountains revealed themselves.

Wonderful reflections at the lake's outlet

I continued around another long inlet creek, which seemed to take forever to traverse.  Seeing more and more people on the trail made me realize the resort, and civilization wasn't far.

Beautiful forest

After hiking in solitude for most of the way thus far, it was a shock when I finally made it to the first set of cabins.  From there, I wandered along a gravel road, dodging bikes and people until arriving at the resort restaurant/general store. 

Trees and sky

The store sold a very limited selection of food and drink.  But a large bottle of ice tea called my name.  It tasted mighty fine to this hot, sweaty hiker.  I guzzled that bottle in no time flat.

More of the lake's green water

Refreshed, I was ready to tackle the final two miles.  The trail dived back into thick woods.  The cool forest was a welcome relief.  I passed by some enormous old-growth Douglas Fir trees.  I tried to capture one with my camera, but the image just didn't do it justice.

Pretty flowers

Then I crossed a log footbridge over the lake's outlet creek.  The water's colors here were amazing shades of blue and green.  Surrounding trees and bushes reflected themselves perfectly in the colorful waters.

Time for dinner!

Rounding the south end of the lake, I traveled by some lovely little bays.  The late afternoon light illuminated the water's color to a brilliant aqua blue.  And there were more amazing reflections.  Simply beautiful!

Baby ducks play in the water

I ended up back at our campsite just as Roger was putting baked potatoes and steaks on the grill.  It all looked so good!  Hiking around the lake had given me an appetite.  We finished our meal roasting "adult" marshmallows dipped in Bailey's Irish cream.  Highly recommended!

Mama and babies on a floating log

After dinner, Roger and I sat around the fire, listening to some baby ducks splash and play in the water below.  The peeping they made sounded almost joyful.  When I went down later to photograph these cuties, I spotted a mama duck and two babies perched on a floating log.  (All together now.....awwwwwwww!!!)

Tomorrow, Roger and I planned to visit two waterfalls within hiking distance of our camp.  I also hoped to hike one of the trails at nearby McKenzie Pass.  But those adventures will be part of my next two blog posts, so come back and visit!

Sharing with:  Our World Tuesday and Wednesday Around the World.


  1. Oh wow what a beautiful place! You have made me want to see it. I love the clarity of the lake and that last pic of mamma and babies is precious. Your camping trip sounds like the perfect idea and going by what I think I know the 4th is all about (sorry Australian), very fitting.

  2. Lovely getaway. I enjoyed the photos as always. Am headed away from here for a day away,it was already planned before mom died, I truly need to get out of dodge now. Thanks for your kind comments u left on a post. I'm doing ok. Looking forward to your next posts with waterfalls.

  3. What a gorgeous lake. Loved the walk, the old growth and black lava, and of course mama and her babies.
    Fantastic post.. looking forward to seeing more!

  4. So many beautiful views of that lake and what a great spot to camp.

  5. The 4th around here sounds much the same as it is in your neighborhood (non city dwellers get their share of fireworks too). Great lake tour! I would definitely LOVE the forest, the lake and the springs:)

  6. What a great way to spend he 4th! I love the lake, your camping spot is perfect.. Thanks for taking me along on your hike, it was beautiful and the easiest hike I have ever done..The ducks are adorable.. Have a happy day!

  7. You photos always amaze me.

  8. This is absolutely gorgeous and what a perfect way to avoid the neighborhood noise. Wonder if any of it followed you to the campground! Maybe next posts will tell. I've enjoyed every one of your posts during my blogging absence. Thanks for coming back to mine!

  9. My kind of place, especially since no motor boats are allowed there.

  10. Hi,Linda. Your photos are very beautiful. I enjoyed your post very much. The dinner looks very delicious. Thanks for sharing. Wishing you a wonderful weekend.

  11. What a wonderful place!

  12. Oh my, words escape me trying to describe the beauty and in your own back yard.

    Amazing images. I'm going back and look at them now in lightbox. I wanted to read your dialogue first.

  13. I'm back.

    This is why I love the mountains of the west. SO GORGEOUS

    and you're right about they baby ducks and mama


  14. Linda, your post has made my day wonderful! Still having health issues and am currently unable to get out and enjoy nature at this time, taking my walks like I love to do. Thank you so much for bringing nature to me in only a way that you can do with your amazing photography!

  15. What a spectacular place. This is a fantastic way to spend a holiday that is otherwise quite erratic. So peaceful. And your images, as always, breathtaking!

  16. What an amazing place to camp - you make me think about starting to camp again.

  17. Can't beat that! Terrific photos. Out dog hates fireworks (as do we), the best fireworks are fireflies.

  18. Aren't lava beds the coolest? I almost backpacked the Three Sisters last weekend but I hit a travel snag coming back from another trip. It's definitely on my list for some time this year, your beautiful post just renewed my resolve to try and fit it in somewhere else.

  19. What a great escape. Don't you hate it when your camera can't capture what you're seeing? I find that problem often with trees. Sometimes no matter what I try I can't get the shot that tells the story. Not enough lenses, they need to make them lighter so we can tote them all.

  20. That is a killer campsite - one of the nicest I've ever seen. Love that blue/green water color too.

  21. Always excited to see what you are up to and this looks like a wonderful camping trip. What beautiful scenery. Nothing like camping in a spot like this.

  22. Wow Linda, this lake is breathtaking! Camping around here on the 4th is 'CRAZY'! Our local canyon has become so popular that there are people everywhere. Not my hubby's favorite. lol! The hike around the lake was well worth it. We have hardly hiked this summer. Where or where has the time gone. We are headed to Napa Valley for a vacay tomorrow. Hope to get some hiking in there. Can't wait t see the waterfalls and that dinner looked delish! Nothing like food in the great outdoors.

  23. A wonderfull lake, place with water is always pleasant.
    Greeting from Belgium,Tomorrow it is National Day in Belgium

  24. Linda,
    walking with you is a pleasure! I love people they are at home when they are somewhere out! Great shots of a beautiful landscape!
    All my best from Austria

  25. You didn't mention the underwater trees that have been preserved by the cold water for decades. Pretty cool.

  26. Don't know how I missed these camping posts. What a great spot! The marshmallows sound good, too.


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