Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Trail Review: Trail Bridge to Clear Lake on the Magnificent McKenzie River Trail

McKenzie River Trail has the bragging rights of being one of the best and most scenic trails in America.  I thank my lucky stars that this gem lies only an hour from my home.  On our way to Bend, I decided to hit the trails while my family hiked and explored the area.  After my last MRT fiasco, documented in Taking Rides from Strangers, I was a bit nervous.  I grilled my husband, looked at trail maps and carefully wrote all my turns on a napkin that I slipped in my water bottle holster.  I would start at Trail Bridge and run up the trail to Clear Lake.  My husband, who has run this trail many times, deemed this the prettiest section of the trail.

McKenzie River Trail always strikes me as a magical, beautiful and serene trail.  It is is nestled in a 300 year-old old-growth forest along the McKenzie River, a swiftly moving river with lots of white water, pretty river rocks and cascading waterfalls.  I was there late Friday morning/early afternoon on a warm summer's day.  One backpacker, three groups of hikers and three mountain bikers were the only people I saw on my eight mile long jaunt along the trail. 

While rooty and rocky, this trail doesn't have much in the way of long or steep hill climbs or descents.  I underestimated its level of difficulty.  Running over winding, rising and falling lava fields was more challenging that I thought.  My body got quite the workout running on this rather technical trail.  Nonetheless, it was a great run and one I highly recommend.  I hope to run portions of the trail until I've covered it in its entirety.  My dream 50K is the elusive McKenzie River Trail 50K.  Entries for this popular, well-run event are by lottery only.  I have yet to have the luck, injury-free body or freedom in my schedule to get in.  MRTR 2012 has a ring to it though!

From Eugene/Springfield, take highway 126 east 50 miles to the town of McKenzie Bridge.  There are lots of options for starting and finishing your run along this gorgeous twenty-five mile long McKenzie River Trail.  Lots of folks start at Clear Lake and run down the trail.  The run can be as short as you wish or you can run its entire length of 25 miles if you have a ride or can manage shuttling with your running buddies.

Why it's worth the trip:
It's absolutely stunning.  Waterfalls, a raging river, old-growth Cascade forest and diverse lakes are just a few sights that await you.  It's a great place to practice your technical trail running skills without throwing challenging hill climbs or altitude into the mix.  The lakes or  river, if you dare, are perfect for a quick post-run ice bath.  If you're going up there, I recommend making the most of this fabulous area.  There are lots of lovely places to picnic and explore before or afterwards.  You could throw it into all sorts of great day trips such as visiting Leaburg's dam, fish hatchery and lake, taking a guided raft trip down the McKenzie River, picking organic berries at The Blueberry Patch, spending the night in a cabin at the lovely Clear Lake Resort, floating around in one of the lakes or reservoirs, soaking in one of the hot springs, camping at one of the many great campgrounds, or even heading to the quaint town of Sisters or lunch and shopping.  I just love this area!

What to wear:
Trail shoes, gaiters to keep pebbles and pine needles out of your socks and shoes, a hydration pack so you can have your hands free during your run, Gu, Blocs or food to keep your energy up, layers since the temperature fluctuates depending on your proximity to the river and falls, a handkerchief for keeping your neck cool and wiping the trail dust off your face, sunscreen as you are running in and out of the tree cover, and a towel and change of clothes for post-run McKenzie River ice bath.  In the winter until spring, there can be snow on the ground.  It changes the scenery and dressing/packing requirements so plan accordingly.

Take a Peek!

Lots of log bridges to cross.  Here's my first crossing near Trail Bridge Campground. 
After a short, easy climb, I was greeted by this rhodie in full bloom
Blue Pool is exquisite.  Minerals color the water a gorgeous shade of blue and little waterfalls cascade into it.
After Blue Pool, the McKenzie River flows below the surface under the lava fields. This section of the trail is quiet and rather barren.  It demanded careful attention to the trail ahead of me and what my feet were doing.
I was pleasantly surprised to find my family at my half-way point. It was reassuring to know that I was still on track and they were having fun too.
By the time I reached Carmen Reservoir, I was tired and hot. I tried to get my family to let me end my run early.  They wouldn't let me.  Fortunately, their encouraging words and sights and sounds of water, revived me. 
Pretty forest full of Jacob's Ladder, ferns, moss, salal, Douglas Fir trees and rhododendron.
Koosah Falls. Wow!
Back on the trails.  Finally feeling like I'm getting into my groove.  One waterfall down, another to go!
Sahalie Falls
Met up with my crew at Clear Lake.  Whew! I'm beat!
Locals and destination trail runners alike are sure to enjoy this unique, scenic trail.  Be sure to add it to your list of places to run, hike or mountain bike!

Happy Trails!


1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful trail! That blue pool is unreal. I wish I had more water to view on my trail runs, just small creeks and stagnant looking ponds/lakes.