A Metolius Retreat
Central Oregon is a top destination for most Oregonians. People living in the Willamette Valley head there to find sunshine during the dark days of winter for sun and skiing in the high-desert air. Summertime means outdoor recreation, too, with plenty of hiking, kayaking, rafting, canoeing and cycling to add to the activity menu.
A favorite spot in this area includes the Metolius River. Located not too far from the delightful Western town of Sisters, the Metolius River Recreation area is tucked back against the eastern flanks of the Cascade Mountains. Various vacation lodges and campgrounds dot this area marked by tall Ponderosa and juniper trees, green grass and icy blue water.
The Metolius River is actually a geological spectacle itself. Springing full-force from the nearby base of 6,400-foot Black Butte, the rushing waters are fed by melting snow and glaciers. And let me tell you, the temperature FEELS like it! Leave it to say that this isn’t exactly a swimming opportunity at 48 degrees F!
What attracts people to this verdant area are the views of nearby snowcapped peaks such as Mount Jefferson, the terrain and the solitude this area offers. Oh, and the fishing! Avid anglers and fly fishermen(people) flock to the area to try their luck with rainbow trout and sockeye salmon.
Brad grew up in Oregon and as a child, vacationed here with his family. So we decided to go camping along the river for old times’ sake and to go for a hike, too.
Upon setting up camp down a remote track past all of the developed campgrounds, I started wandering around. Then I noticed that in the thick layer of dust on the spur road, there was an abnormal track. I came a little closer, wondering why someone was walking barefoot out here. Then it struck me. This wasn’t someone going barefoot. It was a BEAR’s foot!
Hooting and hollering for Brad to come over, we both huddled over the tracks and took some pictures. Indeed, those were the tracks of a brown bear, so we took extra precautions with our food, even though we were car-camping.
That night, while enjoying the late evening warmth around the campfire, the dogs seemed pretty agitated. They kept looking behind us beyond the fire’s glow and whining. Finally, Brad shined his flashlight back to see what was going on.
“Oh my gosh! There’s something back there watching us,” he said. Since Brad is ever the prankster, I didn’t take him seriously. He insisted he was serious, so I turned and looked. Reflecting back at us was the glow coming from two eyes. Just about chest-height, not very far away. It seemed to be too high to be coming from a deer head, and suddenly, the hair on my arms began to rise.
“What do we do?,” I whispered. “Make noise,” Brad replied. What followed next was something that in retrospect, probably looked like a scene that took place millions of years ago when humanoid ancestors roamed the earth. Jumping up and down like monkeys, we threw rocks towards the eyes and started yelling at the top of our lungs. I was amazed at how this basic instinct took over. The eyes didn’t budge. It wasn’t until the dogs took up full battle cry (our dog Buddy is a Plott hound, and the blood coursing through his veins has been bred to hunt bears) that the orbs slowly ambled away.
We were a bit shaken from this experience, and needless to say, not much sleep was had by the humans that night. The next morning, I scouted around for any tracks but found nothing, not even deer. Our visitor remained a mystery.That day, a little groggy as a result of a sleepless night, we decided to hike along the Metolius River Trail, and our spirits were uplifted by the beauty of the surrounding scenery. Ospreys chirruped overhead, and we flushed out a number of grazing deer as we passed. The trail itself is easy, meandering along the banks of the swiftly-flowing river, but maintaining the same elevation for the most part.
Near Wizard Falls, there’s a fish hatchery, but we found to be one of the most amazing features was a rock formation under the river. The water is forced up and apparently it is very deep, and the result is an amazingly rich sapphire color in the stream. It was almost dazzling. Here at Wizard Falls, you can cross the bridge and walk along the river on the opposite bank and enjoy the cool air coming off of the water. Wildflowers dotted the banks and as we followed the path, many flyfisherman and women were lined along the banks.
One person said I could take her photo but not reveal her secret spot along the river, and then proceeded to walk out on a downed tree extending into a large eddy. I sat down on the log’s edge on land, and quietly watched her concentration as she expertly maneuvered her line. After awhile, it was clear that the fish weren’t biting, so I moved to get out of her way, but she smiled, then popped down into the water until it came up to her arms. Thank heavens she had waders on- but the frigid waters must’ve still made her legs numb!
As we hiked along the trail, the serenity of the landscape, sense of place with such a beautiful and pure river flowing through it, and all the animals we saw reinforced my feeling that the Metolius is a special treasure. Even the only real retail outlet in the area is worthy of a stop to enjoy. The Camp Sherman Store, built over a 100 years ago, houses an authentic and historic-style market, but is complete with all of the modern-day necessities for today’s hikers, campers and fisherman. And on a hot day, it too becomes an oasis with a nice ice cream treat to cool a person down.
This area is truly a retreat to relax and enjoy some of the best things that Central Oregon has to offer.
For more information on visiting the Metolius River, check out our Central Oregon section.
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