Wrapping up the "best of 2016" series with a photo from Oregon. Sparks Lake is likely one of the most photographed places in Oregon. Since I started exploring [online] different places I wanted to visit in the northwest, I have seen many photos of Sparks Lake. Prior to moving to Oregon, I have been to Bend a few times, but always in the winter, so I was never aware this place even existed.
This past summer was my first trip to Bend during the warmer summer months. It's a lovely city - it very much reminded me of Colorado: people are outside enjoying the fresh mountain air whether it's hiking, biking, fishing in the Deschutes or just having a lazy day floating down the river.
On this particular day we loaded our drive down from Portland with a bunch of stops to see some of central Oregon's stunning waterfalls. We first made our stop at Proxy Falls. The hike through the lava feels to get here is stunning in itself, but then you arrive at the waterfall and it's even more beautiful in person than any photo I have seen. Sadly, the sunlight was very harsh and directly overhead, so I wasn't happy with my photos from Proxy - just a reason to go back, right?
Our next stop was at Sahalie and Koosah falls. Both of these waterfalls are magnificent, but what truly mesmerized me was the color of the water. It's so blue! The water is so inviting you just want to jump in and drink it, but you can't nor should you, for that matter. The waterfalls were equally beautiful, but from a photographer's standpoint, Sahalie is just a tiny bit better since it's easier to find a vantage point to take photos of.
From the falls we made our way into Bend to grab some food. Antonia is vegan, I on the other hand, am not. She had read about a vegan burger place in Bend called Next Level Burger - wonderful news for her, me...ehhh...I was a skeptic. We went anyway. My idea of a burger is, well, a burger, so with each bite my brain kept feeling fooled because this tasted like hamburger, but it wasn't hamburger because I knew it contained no meat - perplexing to say the least. The mind tricks aside, it was actually rather good. They also had milkshakes, which just like the burger, was a new idea to me since a milkshake, to me, contains [cow's] milk. My tastebuds had definitely entered the twilight zone, but in a pleasantly pleased way. If you do find yourself in Bend and you're either vegetarian, vegan or just want to try something different, I would highly recommend giving Next Level Burger a try.
After we finished up with dinner we made our way out to Sparks Lake. Sparks Lake is located out near Mt Bachelor and the Broken Top/Three Sisters wilderness area - roughly a 40 minute drive from Bend. I have driven to Mt Bachelor, but never beyond as the road has always been buried in snow. The views of Broken Top and South Sister were remarkable as we drove down the Cascade Lakes Highway towards Sparks Lake.
When we arrived at the lake, I was rather surprised to see that there weren't all that many people around. Considering it's relatively close proximity to Bend and the sheer beauty, I had expected it to be flooded with people, but it wasn't. There were a few people next to us on paddle boards and a canoe out on the water, that was about it.
The lake is gorgeous - the shores are sand with porous lava rocks scattered throughout. I'm a bit nerdy in the sense that I truly find volcanos fascinating, so to be standing on a beach with lava rock made me cheery inside. Looking across the lake you are greeted with a spectacular view of Broken Top to the right and South Sister on the left. On this particular day, we were also treated to a fantastic display of lenticular clouds forming over the Three Sisters. Those clouds are what really made this photo - a dancing display of one of nature's wonders over some beautiful volcanos.
It was a wonderful sunset and easily one of my favorites in Oregon.