September 5 Mackenzie Pass Magic

Cloudy and 58 degrees

We are probably 42, but what the heck, we have done worse roads I am sureI woke up on this cloudy morning wondering what happened to all the stars I saw during the night, but it was still warm enough we didn’t need any heat in the rig to be comfortable.  My back felt great!  We took our time with a simple breakfast and turned on the generator.  No worries, not another soul in the campground to be disturbed by us, even at 7 AM! 

Our planned route for the day was over Highway 126, toward the Historic Mackenzie Pass Road, and into the sunny eastern part of Oregon at Fossil.  Daughter Deanna and her husband Keith took a break from truck driving recently to take the Harleys out of storage and do a road trip from Tri-Cities to Eugene.  They traveled over Mackenzie Pass and Deanna warned me that there was a 35 foot total limit on rigs going over that road.

AWe weren't expecting the flashing lights as we passed.  They aren't fooling around here and we set off all the alarmsI thought, no problem, we have been over this route before.  I was wrong, however.  We haven’t been on this road in the MoHo.  Nothing seemed familiar.  Sure enough, as we turned onto the historic road 242, more signs warned of the 35 foot limit. We are just over 44 feet total from bumper to bumper with the Tracker hooked up, but we thought, “No problem, we have been on far worse roads, I am sure”

guess it is time to unhookWell, so much for that!  As we continued up the road, we came to another open gate and a very large sign with very bright blinking lights that notified us, “OVERLENGTH VEHICLE DETECTED!!”  Capitals intentional, that sign was doing everything but yelling.  Okay then.  We thought maybe it might be a good idea to unhook before continuing over the Mackenzie Pass Highway.  This is one of the reasons that we chose a motorhome instead of a truck and fiver, we can unhook and BOTH parts of our setup can be driven in tight situations.  Has worked out in the past for us, and it worked out again today.

It was a gorgeous drive, deep and dark under the overcast skies, with forest thick and lush as any you might find in the rain forest.  The pavement was surprisingly perfect, with brand new yellow lines, but of course, no shoulders.  Our dual tires just fit between the center line and the edge of the road, and yes, there were a few places where the Tracker may have been a bit too much.  But I still think we would have made it OK.  Monitor Pass from California down to 395 was much more difficult, and we didn’t encounter any over-length signs on that road at all.  Still, it is good to follow the rules most of the time at least.Mackenzie Pass historic road

Once near the summit, we encountered huge lava flows and distant view of Belknap Crater across the black expanse. Since I was driving the baby car, I stayed behind to take photos while Mo continued to the summit.  Mackenzie Pass historic road Belknap Crater in the distance

Another huge surprise on this road that we never drove before was the Dee Wright mountain observatory built by the CCC in the 30’s.  I’ll let the photos tell the story. 

mountain ash growing out of the lava flowThe observatory is beautiful, and even on the slightly overcast day, we could see most of the mountains through the labeled portals inside the observatory.  I think that the legacy of what the CCC created is one of our greatest treasures.  It saddens me that today we can’t manage to do anything of this magnitude with our tax money. 

another amazing CCC accomplishment

the CCC built mountain observatory at the summit of Mackenzie Passthe CCC built mountain observatory at the summit of Mackenzie PassSue and Mo at the CCC built mountain observatory at the summit of Mackenzie PassThe Observatory is right at the summit of the pass, and the narrow road continues down and east toward Sisters.  I followed along in the Tracker, waiting for an opportune moment to hook back up, and was surprised that it was a very short time before we were actually in Sisters, where we pulled over and hooked up the car to continue east toward Redmond.  Hi again, Loree!  Once again we are in Redmond and you are still traveling back home from your journey east.  Eventually we are going to get together! not time to hook up yet

Next post: Highway 126 to 97 to 293 to 218 to Fossil Oregon and the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument


Author: kyotesue

Soil scientist/mapper working for 35 years in the wild lands of the West. I am now retired, enjoying my freedom to travel, to hike without a shovel and a pack, to knit and quilt and play, to play with photography and write stories about all of it.

7 thoughts on “September 5 Mackenzie Pass Magic”

  1. I have been on that pass a few times and it was even scary in the van!! Love the observatory and it sure is a short cut to Sisters, but I think I'll stay on the Santiam Pass. You guys are way braver than I am.


  2. When you started your trip I just KNEW you would be going through Redmond, and darn I am NOT there.. again!!!! There will be the day I am sure.. have a GREAT time in my area of the state!!


  3. Love, love, love McKenzie Pass and the Dee Wright Mountain Observatory. That's a very special place. You just have to go there in summer because they close it when it gets too cold out.


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