Tamolitch Falls (Blue Pool) Hike, Oregon
The day after I find out that OR 20 is touted as the most dangerous highway in Oregon, we are cruising along its tight hairpin bends. Our destination is the mythical Blue Pool! I can’t help but remember that time in Himachal Pradesh, how I had my heart in my mouth as drove towards Raksham; one wrong manoeuvre and we would plummet hundreds of feet to our immediate deaths. Here, the roads are safer. Humongous conifers reach out to touch the sky. The mountainside is alive with wildflowers. The asphalt resembles a ribbon; on the rearview mirror, I see vehicles– almost toy-like in comparison to the gigantic softwoods towering over them– sliding up and down the smooth black surface.
Our destination is another two miles from the point where the GPS announces, “Your destination is on the left.” Parking is unavailable but thankfully someone is readying to leave. Five minutes later, we have stepped into the woods. The sound of the Mackenzie is echoing, booming through the trees.
Blue Pool Hike
The first half of the hike is easy. The trail is unpaved but fairly straight with little or no ascent. It meanders along the sweet blue waters of the Mackenzie. Soon we are at a viewpoint; the Mackenzie gushes down a series of rapids. Imagine watching this scene from a cliff:
The landscape is a symphony of coniferous green. Below you, a copper sulphate blue river breaks into a dance on the rocky riverbed. It foams and froths, the white dazzling against the clear, glassy blue, before calming into a pool of muddled blue, then hurrying down another series of rapids. Above you, the sky is azure and birds string music in the cool air.
Also read: Driving Over the Jalori Pass
Then the landscape starts to get wilder till we are walking on gnarly roots and rocks. I am not a pro-hiker and it gets more intimidating as we move deeper into the woods. Sometimes, the trails almost meld with the landscape. There are small puddles from the rain the previous night. You have to be extremely careful or else you might snag a foot under one of the thick braids of root matter and trip. We hike for another mile, chatting with bikers who are exploring this difficult terrain and finally we can hear squeals of joy.
We duck under sprangled branches and find our way through the underbrush to see a pool of iridescent topaz blue, the aptly though not very imaginatively named, Blue Pool. The water is crystal clear which means that the pool appears shallower than it is, tempting you to swim on a hot, sunny day. Don’t fall the deception for the water is up to 30 ft deep in spots! At one end is a demure waterfall. A group of teenagers are perched on boulders along the edge. We stop to rest on the rocky cliff-face. The trail continues to meander through the trees till it reaches to the bottom of the cliff, at the edge of the pool where a man is easing himself into a wet-suit. The water is icy and deep– the blue at the edge coalesces into a deeper sapphire towards the middle– and though it looks tempting, the Forest Department does not recommend a swim.
Also read: Field Notes: Silver Falls State Park, Oregon
We idle along the edge. Despite the waters of the Tamolitch Falls emptying into it and the fast-flowing Mackenzie exiting it, the waters of Blue Pool is surprisingly calm. On a still day, the surface would appear ripple-free like a sunlit sheet of blue glass. The area is beautiful. You would want to stay here longer but if you are travelling from Corvallis, we suggest you drive the stretch of OR 20 before dark and on the way, stop to admire two stunning waterfalls: Koosa and Sahalie Falls.
From Portland, take I5 South, then turn left on OR-22 E, then turn left on OR-126 E to reach the Blue Pool parking lot. Be warned that the parking lot is small and only parallel parking is allowed.
From Corvallis, take OR-34 E, OR-22 E, then turn left on OR-126 E to reach Blue Pool.