A Bend in our Route

When we originally made our plans to travel up the Pacific coast from San Diego to Seattle, we envisioned staying as close to the coast as possible by taking US-101 most of the way. We’ve heard from pretty much everyone that the Oregon coast is not to be missed. After reaching the northern end of California though, we decided to exercise our “we can go wherever we want” card and change our plans. It turns out the Pacific northwest coast is pretty chilly in the spring, and we’d had enough of cool weather and foggy/rainy days! So, instead of returning to the coast after our side-trip to Crater Lake, we continued inland toward Bend, Oregon. The park we’d hoped to stay at near Bend (Tumalo State Park) turned out to be closed for renovations, so we had to look elsewhere. We found a really great city park (Sisters Creekside Park) in the nearby town of Sisters.

Sisters Creekside Park

Rover at Sisters Creekside City Park

One of the reasons we really enjoyed our stay was we ended up in one of the best campsites in the park, with lots of space all around us, great for us and the dogs. The only downside was the huge clouds of yellow pollen dumped by the pine trees during our visit. At times it looked like yellow smoke blowing through the campground—apparently each tree dumps up to five pounds of the yellow pollen in a two-week period. Fortunately, it doesn’t cause allergies!

The city of Sisters is named for the “Three Sisters” mountains nearby (pictured at the top of this page). Since the park is right in town, we could easily walk the entire town right from the campground, which was a nice change from most places we camp. The town was cute, but in a somewhat touristy way. The population more than doubled (from 959 to to 2,038) from 2000 to 2010 but it still has plenty of charm.

Sisters OR

City of Sisters OR

While in the area we also did two hikes with Opie, while Max rested comfortably in Rover. Our first hike was Black Butte, a nearby volcanic cone. Bend and Sisters are far enough east to be on the more arid side of the mountains, so the hike was very hot and very dry, with dust billowing up from every footstep and little shade to be found once we made it through the initial forested section. It was our steepest hike yet (up 1,600 feet over two miles) and with the hot sun even Opie looked exhausted once we made it to the top to break for lunch.

Black Butte

Black Butte’s watchtower residence and Mt. Jefferson in the distance.

The 360º views were pretty amazing, with snow-capped mountains in every direction. Pictured above is the residence that was previously used as part of the wildfire watchtower duties, with snowy Mt. Jefferson in the distance. After lunch (which included visits by some chipmunks who obviously were accustomed to hikers bearing snacks) we started the trip back down the mountainside. On our way down the mountain, we crossed paths with a few trail runners coming up the path, then crossed paths with them coming back down the path 20 minutes laters. We were both impressed at their stamina since it’s a pretty steep trail. Oregon has some dedicated outdoor folks!

Black Butte

Making our return trip down Black Butte.

Our second hike was to the Sahalie and Koosah Falls. These are on the west side of the Cascades mountains, so instead of dry desert we were hiking through lush wet forests. It’s amazing what a contrast there is by driving an extra 30 miles! Pictured here is Sahalie Falls, just a short walk from the parking area:


Sahalie Falls

The falls were created by lava flows 3,000 years ago that dammed the nearby Clear Lake. During our hike we came across several fields of black volcanic stones, covered in moss.


Moss covered volcanic rocks along our hike.

Further along our hike we came to Koosah Falls. The trail passed right by the top of the falls and then wound around to the bottom where the river empties into a reservoir. Opie was happy to go for a quick swim in the reservoir to cool off.


Koosah Falls

Near the end of our hike we needed to cross back over the McKenzie river. While our first river crossing was a large bridge (part of a forest service road), our second crossing was a little different:

Tree bridge

Tree bridge.

The bridge turned out to be a tree across the river (I don’t know if it fell there or was placed there) with railings added for safety. It’s a little hard to tell from the photo above, but the bridge is a pretty good height above the river. Fortunately the log was cut flat on top and the crossing was easy and fun, if a little narrow:

Tree bridge

OK, here we go.

There were quite a few other things we wanted to do and places we wanted to explore in the Bend/Sisters area that we didn’t get to, so we’ve added this to our list of places we want to revisit and spend more time in. In many ways this trip around the country is our “sampler plate” since we generally only spend a week in each place. As we explore we realize there are some places we really like and want to spend a lot more time in, and other places where a week of sightseeing is enough.

Michael Fischer

After a high-tech career spanning software development and systems administration to leading hundreds of engineers across cities and continents, I'm now slowing things down a bit. Traveling full-time in an RV with my awesome wife Kathie and our two big dogs Max and Opie, I'm now pursuing smaller personal software projects while seeing North America up close.


  1. Julie Dahmer   •  

    I am finally taking another look at your fun blog. When we met you–and Opie!–at Crater Lake, we had just come from the Bend area, where we spent 4 days with our daughter who works on a farm west of Terrebonne. We climbed Black Butte on a cooler day, thank goodness. We had also hiked around Smith Rock the day before–very unusual geography there. I stopped into the quilt shop in Sisters while Doug was doing some laundry there and remember the campground where you stayed. Our subsequent travel down the coast to San Francisco, where our son lives, was beautiful and interesting but, yes, damp and chilly. Thanks for all the sightseeing tips!

    • Mike   •     Author

      We’re definitely looking forward to checking out Smith Rock next time we’re in the area, both to hike and watch the rock climbers. Glad your trip to SF went well! -Mike

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