Big Wheel Keep on Turnin’ – Relaxing on the River

Sometimes you just need a quick getaway. A respite from your work, your home and yard work, and even from your city. Bob and I took a long weekend break this summer to the McKenzie River, where I’m embarrassed to say, in 26 years of Oregon living, we’ve never explored. Boy were we impressed.

There are lots of amazing outdoor adventures and beautiful camping opportunities in Oregon, but I’ve decided that at 52, my days of sleeping on the ground and walking to a toilet in the cold, dark night are over. And I’m not ashamed to admit it. So to keep me happy, we instead booked a last minute cabin at the Cedarwood Lodge, a delightful spot in McKenzie Bridge, right on the McKenzie River. With seven cabins to choose from, the Cedarwood is the perfect blend of comfort and rustic all rolled into one, with the emphasis on the comfort. Mike Giorgio has owned the Lodge for 30 years, and he is incredibly welcoming and friendly. The grounds are superbly well kept, as are the cabins. Our one bedroom cabin, which was $145 a night, had a deck that looked directly at the river. We sat on it every morning and drank our coffee, and every evening with our cocktails, watching rafts and boats float by. With a fully equipped kitchen, it was easy to prepare delicious meals and concoct yummy drinks too.

There’s great hiking all along the McKenzie River, and we took full advantage of the fact that we could drive a short way to many different trail heads. A few of our favorites were the Waterfall Loop Trail, about 3 miles, the Tamolitch Blue Pool (4 miles), and the McKenzie River Trail itself, which we hiked on for about 5 miles. The River is extraordinary, and the trails that run right along it are beautiful. The Blue Pool trail, which is quite popular, was the busiest, but it was never too crowded. Other trails however, were almost completely free of other hikers. It was just us and nature much of the time.

We also golfed, yes, we golfed, at the Tokatee Golf Club in McKenzie Bridge. The golf club is just as beautiful as the rest of the McKenzie River area, with stunning views and vistas. I played nine holes, and didn’t keep my score. I’m certain this goes without saying, but I could give Phil Mickelson a serious run for his money.

We took a drive one afternoon up to the McKenzie Pass and the Dee Wright Observatory. The structure, built with lava stone, is right in the middle of a large lava flow, and it provides excellent viewing of many of Oregon’s biggest mountains. There’s a Lava River National Recreational Trail there, with excellent information about the lava flow and the growth that has somehow managed to sneak its way in to the lava. The difference in landscape between this area and the McKenzie River is unreal, they are like polar opposites, and yet they are just 26 miles apart.

Within walking distance of the Cedarwood Lodge is the McKenzie River General Store and Grill, where on weekend nights, local bands perform in the courtyard. It appears that many locals hang out here, although it’s hard to figure out where all these folks live, as the surrounding area seems rather unpopulated.

We had a great break from our usual life, and now that we know how lovely the McKenzie River area is, I think we’ll be taking a break a little more often.

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