Waldo’s Right Here: Make Your Day In Oregon’s Cascades
You thought you’d get pie first? Er, NO. Something way more special. And you’ve gotta work to earn that à la mode. It’s Waldo Lake. In Oregon.
Your day begins bright and early at one of the several National Forest campgrounds at Waldo in Oregon’s Willamette National Forest, off Highway 58, typical “high Cascades”. You planned on purpose to be there in August or early September, since Waldo Lake is made inaccessible by snow or mosquitoes any other time.
You’ve arrived at Waldo Lake
With at least 2/3 of a tank of gas, ice for your cooler, and foodstuff.
And you’ve noted the 1/2 price campground fees, seeing as you have your NPS Senior Pass at the ready. You probably have the pass number memorized by now.
Hang the NPS pass on your mirror now, lest you forget. Parking for today’s adventuring requires that it be displayed. Natch, the Feds provide guidelines for NPS passes in Northwest National Forests—including the Cascades—just in case you’re wondering.
Back to the all-important coffee, eggs, and bacon…
Your morning rituals. The layers of clothing you needed to cope with the early morning chill are gradually getting stripped away to a more manageable bulk. Prepare a sack lunch and verify your 10+ essentials are stashed in your day pack. Load up 2 liters of water. Although the trails are well-graded, you’ll need your boots and not sneakers, so you’ve got those on, yes?
By now, you’ve found a moment to take in Waldo’s spectacular water, right? Or maybe you arrived at dusk last evening, hustled to get your camp spot set up before darkness closed in, and didn’t get a chance to have a good look? Waldo Lake has some of the clearest water in the universe. For real. Come back to it later for a little sit, a stroll, or a kayak outing if you’re lucky enough to own a boat.
Oops, last thing: sign up for an extra night at Waldo Lake before we all get going, so you don’t have to rush through your day. You might be kinda tired by the end of this one.
Pile into your car, you’re going to
Hike the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail).
Shortish hike: Bobby Lake The trailhead is on the road to Waldo Lake, about 5.5 miles from Highway 58. Driving along this road the relevant parking lot is just a bit south of the turnoff down to Shadow Bay Campground. Park and locate the trailhead. You want Trail #3663 and the Bobby Lake trail map. The trail is well-marked and goes approximately 1.5 miles to the lake with an overlap of about 500 feet with the PCT.
If you aren’t quite up to the Bobby Lake trail, Betty Lake is your best bet. Trail #3664. The trailhead is on the opposite side of the road from Bobby Lake. It takes just a few minutes to reach Betty Lake.
Rosary Lakes for the heartier walkers. This one leads quite a bit further into the forest to a set of 3 smallish but spectacular lakes. 6 miles roundtrip, it follows the PCT all the way to the lakes, and will take perhaps 3 hours there and back, depending on how long you feel like lingering. Rosary Lakes are accessible starting in June, but check for snow conditions and relative bugginess. The best time to hike the trail is August-September.
It’s an easy-moderate hike, with plenty of views of Cascade peaks, an up-close moraine left by glacier activity, and places to sun yourself. Spend some time exploring, eating lunch, and paddling in the crystal clear water. If you have energy left, go beyond the first lake to the other two. All three lakes are gems.
You pick up the trailhead for Rosary Lakes slightly to the east of the ski area on the north side of the road behind a large gravel shed. Keep your eyes peeled for PCT signs.
Return to your car
From whatever hiking option you’ve chosen. Next up, drive east on Highway 58 until you see a sign on the right indicating Odell Lake Lodge. In fact, you want Odell Lake Lodge! Don’t be concerned that it calls itself a resort: this is not Cancun. In fact, it’s gloriously old-fashioned.
So far, you’ve had a freebie day, but now it’s time to spend a buck or two or three. Not much though, and it’s all for pleasure.
Pull into the parking lot and go in.
Have a piece of homemade pie
At Odell Lake Lodge. Yes, indeedee, as promised. Taste every morsel, warm, à la mode, whipped cream, apple, cherry, whatever strikes your fancy, while taking in the view of Odell Lake. You’ve earned every little bite.
But there’s “local color” at Odell Lake Lodge, and often a picture-perfect fire in the lounge fireplace. There are old-timers, folks who’ve been vacationing here for years, and others who just wander in, like the Muddy Bootsers. People get chatty and you can have your pie in story mode. And wait, can you talk fishing? So much the better. Odell Lake has a lot of big fish and a plenty gigantic ones that “got away”.
Oh, and if camping at Waldo has no appeal for you, try the rooms at Odell Lake Lodge.
From the pie, the log fire, and chit chat in the lounge, it’s time to get on the road again. Now, you’re heading west, past the Willamette Pass ski area, and down a mile or two past the turnoff for Waldo Lake. On the left, you’ll see signs for Salt Creek Falls.
Pull in to the parking lot and hang your NPS pass once again on your rearview mirror. Now you’re free to stroll along the trails and gawk from the viewpoints at water cascading into a gorge below.
Get your fill of the sights
And mosey back to your Waldo camp spot to fix some dinner.
Happy trails, sleep well.
Another adventure, slightly north:
Photo credits. Featured image, Staunton Cherry Pie à la mode: CC BY-ND 2.0 by Tom Feary via Flickr. Top photo, Waldo Lake: Public Domain by Coulee at English Wikipedia. PCT Sign: CC BY-SA 2.0 by Andy Price via Flickr. Rosary Lakes: Copyright, Volcanoguy, All rights reserved, used with permission. Odell Lake: CC BY 2.0 by Sally via Flickr. Salt Creek Falls: CC BY 2.0 by Andy Reago and Chrissy McClarren via Flickr.