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Olallie Scenic Area

October 21, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

A little late with this but it's been a busy fall...

After a crummy Fall Chinook season and wanting to spend some time in the mountains, we got a break in the tides and headed east to a place that holds a special spot in my life.  When I was kid, the Olallie Lake area was almost an annual pilgrimage.  I helped build or rehab all of the campgrounds in the area growing up as a Forest Service volunteer with the now defunct Washington County Chapter of the Isaac Walton League of America.  My old man and some close family friends were members and the group would spend a weekend to build (multiple weekends) or rehab campgrounds in the Mt. Hood National Forest. In exchange for our labor, we got to spend 4 days camping in a closed campground while 25 to 30 people worked on various maintenance projects in the campground our group was occupying.  This is probably where my love for the outdoors and camping was nurtured.  We spent the majority of the 20 some years we did this work in the Olallie Scenic Area.


I hadn't camped up here in about 12 years or so.  It's about 3.5 hours from home and since it was late September, the crowds should of lightened up a bit (it's busy in the summer).  I skipped out of work a little early so we could get there before dark.  We made it and took advantage of the last bits of light. 

Several years ago a wildfire came through the area and changed the landscape.  It's one reason why I haven't been back in a while but it's still a beautiful place.  With the fresh crisp air we were up early to see what the sunrise would look like....


(Mt. Jefferson in the background)

Even Kokanee was taking it all in...

Olallie Butte, the namesake of the area...

Peninsula Campground is where we stayed. There are a couple ADA accessible camp spots and a dock that's accessible.  In all of the years I've never seen a wheelchair up there but have watch some spectacular thunder storms there. The wildfire came through part of this campground so some spots have more shade than others if you're so inclined to check it out.

Then it was time for dinner... buffalo steaks, bread, and beans on the fire.

The next morning (Sunday) the wind had come up so there was to be no "mirror" images of the lake.  A breakfast melody was on tap and a chance to try out our new set of REI cookware.  The cookware worked great!

After breakfast it was time to head home but we were going to take the scenic route via Breitenbush Lake, my favorite place up here. 

A view point along the way...

While the road doesn't look too bad, there are parts that's slow going.  The road from Horseshoe Lake to Breitenbsuh is less traveled and a high clearance rig is recommended.  I believe it's only 8 miles but takes over an hour to make the trip.  I just drop into 4lo and creep along and enjoy the scenery. 

Breitenbush is located on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation so it's a bit unique that we can actually camp here. Normally camping would be prohibited but there has been an obscure agreement that leaves it open. However, over the years the situation has changed (there was always talk that the Tribe was going to close the campground) and not many people camp there any more due in part to the "rules". I understand it's Tribal land and respect that, it's just too bad a few of those rules pretty much rules out any sort of real camping trip.   

There is a bit of history at this lake.  It's at the entrance to the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness Area.  Most people access the PCT at the parking area a quarter mile down the road (People used to stay at the campground in years past).  This campground also benefited from projects built by the Civil Conservation Corps (CCC).  Our group rebuilt the shelters and the bridges many years ago in an effort to save the structures but time is taking it's toll.

I can remember when we set these logs to make the bridge using a FS backhoe.  The FS brough in an alaskan mill and that's how we made the decking.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  The pipe to the right is a spring and is some of the best natural cold water anywhere. 

Breitenbush Lake...

A pano...

There is a shorter route to Breitenbush off of FS46 if you're coming from Detroit.  It's 10 mile to the lake from the pavement and takes about an hour to get there (FS4220).  It's a slow and narrow road.  Here is one of the best spots...

We had a great trip and spent some time in a favorite place.  Most of the "old timers" of the Isaac Walton League have passed away but their memory and efforts live on in a couple of plaques that commemorates the volunteer group.  When the federal government decided concessionaires could do a better job, that was the nail in the coffin for the group and in my mind, an end of an era. 

I guess this is how I know I'm getting old, when I'm able to tell stories about better times, great people and mentors who have passed on, and I return to a place that's still special, but not quite the same.

Thanks for reading and letting me ramble a bit.




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