Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Three Sisters on the Road
Ah, family. You love ‘em one minute and the next you’re ready to leave them by the side of the road and drive off. At least that’s what happened to me. My two sisters came to visit and to celebrate, we went to Three Sisters, Oregon. For those of you not from the Northwest, it’s part of the Cascade Mountain Range.
We had a few vague ideas of what we wanted to do in Sisters, but the big one was the “scenic drive loop.” My sister Mary had it all mapped out, with especially promising scenics highlighted and circled. Hike at Proxy Falls, lunch at Suttle Lake, and a sunset stop at the Three Sisters viewpoint.
Sandwiches and trail mix packed, we stopped at the ranger station on the way out of town to see if there was a hiking map we hadn’t yet picked up. That’s when we found out part of the road was closed. No scenic loop drive! We were devastated. I wanted to pack it all up and head right home, but Mary, glass half-full kind of girl that she is, insisted we could drive as far as the road closed sign and turn around and come back the same way.
I agreed, but ate my sandwich early to suppress my feelings of disappointment. Things were going along great. Beautiful views, great music on the stereo and wide open roads. We hiked at the falls, met a cute couple at Suttle Lake and even snuck into the hot springs resort and put or feet in the warm, healing waters. But then the road ended. The only thing that was missing from our day was that perfect viewpoint of the Three Sisters Mountains, where we could pose for the photo to send our parents.
Dejected, we headed back the same way we came and ate mediocre burgers at Bronco Billy’s. (They promised the best in Oregon, but obviously the voters have never eaten at Higgin’s bar in Portland.) Over dinner, we pulled the maps out, trying to determine the best place to for our photo. As Mary and I poured over the topographical map and played with her GPS system, Laura announced that she had found it. The road to the lookout point.
Early the next morning we headed out, carefully following the directions Laura dictated from the back seat. Out Route 20, left at the post office and keep driving. And driving and driving. As we first headed down the road, the mountains came into view. We felt assured a pull-off would appear and we’d hop out, snap our photo and continue on our merry way.
But 20 miles down the road, as we headed deeper and deeper into the forest, with no turn-out in sight and the mountains obscured by the thickening woods, I finally asked Laura to let me see the map.
The map she handed me wasn’t a real map at all. It was one of those free things you pick up in the grocery store of tourist towns, with ads all along the border and a few restaurants and art galleries drawn in. “Where’s the lookout?” I asked her. She pointed to a line on the map. A line that meandered toward a cartoonish drawing of the mountains and just ended. “Where’s the lookout?” I repeated, not seeing it on the “map.” “I just assumed if we went to the end of this road, there’d be a good viewpoint,” she said. Obviously my sister has little experience on forest service mountain roads and map reading. Mary and I just groaned, I turned the car around as Mary tried to explain to my older sister that a line ending on a free tourist map doesn’t necessarily mean the road ends and even if it does, doesn’t mean the mountains will appear unobstructed in front of us like they appear on the “map.”
The day wasn’t a total disaster, though. As we headed east toward Bend, back 20 miles to where we started and just a few miles down the road, we saw it. A beautiful view of the Three Sisters Mountains. I pulled to the shoulder of the road and we snapped this picture. And I didn’t even leave my sister by the side of the road.