Two or three months into The Great Hunker, a forest escape was plotted. The Willamette National Forest a couple hours east of home called to us – and apparently many others, as the trail-head parking lot was crowded with other escapees. The goal was Sahalie Falls, one of the two points where groundwater surfaces to magestic effect, creating the headwaters of the McKenzie River on the western slope of the foothills of the Cascades. Snow melt on red and black lava fields and in Clear Lake filters downward, flowing in the subsurface for a couple years before surfacing at Sahalie Falls.
I might be wrong, but I think the water goes beneath again, surfacing at Tamolitch Pool, a blue gem of inviting clarity and deathly cold. Hikers are lured to their drowning deaths regularly, to the sadness of locals tired of the news stories of arduous rescues miles town trails packed hard with the footsteps of greenhorns marching to danger they don’t grock.
A stellar trail runs along the river here, making a loop – apparently. Eschewing my young companions’ pace and earnestness in the face of the steep hike, I quickly faded behind them under the ruse of taking photographs. I didn’t want to be alone at home, but I sure wanted some expansive, pine-scented alone-time in the forest!
Stepping off the footpath to powder my nose, I was thrilled to discover a graveled service road! Ha! From a hike to a ladylike stroll! The narrow road led to the Koosah Falls parking lot and restroom, which I would have totally missed from the riverside trail.
As if an easy path before me wasn’t enough, another discovery awaited – a spring forming at the foot of a basaltic slope across from the parking area! Skunk cabbage bloomed in the boggier places, and a light rain made the spring’s surface dance with splashy, momentary domes of wetness. The ponded springwater flowed, like everything else capable of any sort of fluidity, westward into the forest, rushing as if late for a date with the McKenzie River. Perhaps at this elevation the river is eager to increase her flow, her girth, the momentum of the unstoppable push to the ocean, and makes demands of tributaries to not dawdle?