Metolius Preserve is beautiful for the whole family

Sep 24, 2014

Bend Bulletin

Metolius Preserve is beautiful for the whole family

Trees and streems abound in this protected area

By David Jasper

Let’s say you had an outing goal beyond the usual.

Instead of scaling a butte, paddling across a wide-open lake or gawking at a pretty waterfall, you have an agenda: making a couple of older family members want to give up the flat Midwest ghost and move to Bend already, where — hypothetically speaking — they could see their theoretical grandkids finish what remains of their childhoods in a fun, pretty place.

You’ll want to make sure their Bend visit takes place during a reliably nice month. You could luck out with a warm June, but be sure to introduce them to the mosquitoes. July and August are warm and sunny, but better hope they don’t mind the sight of hazy skies and smelly smoke.

You can’t go wrong with September. Sure, September is a little deceptive, in that a lot of other months can’t really compare to September, but what people don’t know won’t hurt them until later.

While they’re here, you’ll want to take them someplace so unspoiled, so soothingly beautiful, so achingly gorgeous, they pine for more of it. A rest-of-their-lifetime of it. Someplace with towering ponderosa pines and flowing streams surrounded by miles of uncrowded trails.

Why do I bring this up? Uh, no particular reason. But on Friday, ahem, I took my mother- and father-in-law, Carol and Jim Sgro, to Metolius Preserve.

After passing through the always pleasant town of Sisters, we continued west along U.S. Highway 20, keeping our eyes peeled for the Metolius Preserve turn, unmarked Forest Road 2064, located less than a mile after the turn to Camp Sherman. (As Metolius Preserve’s website helpfully notes, if you begin heading uphill where the highway widens, you know you’ve gone too far.)

Jim and Carol are among the easiest visitors to please. During the slow, 3-mile drive on forest roads to the trailhead for the Becky Johnson Interpretive Nature Trail, Jim noted you could probably make an outing out of just driving through the forest. I don’t think he was kidding.

Nonetheless, we did get out and hike. The first stop was the informational kiosk, which told of the preserve’s more than 80 species of birds, as well as the critical role of Lake Creek, which links the Metolius River to Suttle Lake, for spawning sockeye salmon and as habitat for spring chinook salmon, trout and other species of a fish.

We headed down the path to the Becky Johnson Trail, a loop of just over half a mile around South Fork Lake Creek, one of three forks of the creek that flow through the preserve.

Friday was a bluebird day, the temperature hovering within one degree of perfect, towering firs and pines and forest all doing their part to make it a fine, easy (and possibly agenda-making) outing.

Setting out, Carol remarked that such clear skies are rare back at home. (Take that, Midwest!)

We hadn’t been walking five minutes when she said, “Jim, why do we live in Illinois?” (Yes!)

Then she added, “There’s nothing wrong with Illinois.” (No!)

I hadn’t made my agenda known. I didn’t have to. I just let nature take its course, and the forest, creek and birds worked their intoxicating magic.

According to its website, Deschutes Land Trust procured and began protecting the 1,240-acre preserve back in 2003. As my companions observed, the terrain — meadows with towering pines and lush outbursts of firs and other growth around the creek — was very different from other destinations we’d taken my in-laws to or they’d visited on their own this monthlong trip, including Sparks, Todd and Crater lakes, as well as Benham Falls.

As if the Becky Johnson Trail weren’t short enough, it dead-ended at where the Land Trust and Upper Deschutes Watershed Council partnered to remove a culvert five years ago. Once the fish-impeding culvert was removed, 1,500 native plants were planted, but not the footbridge that would complete the loop. We decided to double back on the trail and take one of the preserve’s more than 10 miles of trails north for a bit.

Another option for visitors is the Lake Creek Trail, 4½ miles of beauty that connects Suttle Lake and Camp Sherman and passes through the upper portion of Metolius Preserve.

A few summers back, my wife and I took our three daughters on a guided butterfly hike here, just one of the organized hikes Deschutes Land Trust leads at its preserves. (Other Deschutes Land Trust preserves include Indian Ford Meadow and Camp Polk Meadow). Get ready to see brilliant golden larch needles during the Fall Colors Hike on Oct. 18 at Metolius Preserve. (For more events, visit

I always say this, but it usually comes true so I’ll say it again: I’ll be back for more.

And I’d be happy to take along whichever family members happen to be around. Present company included.

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