I have always been a traveler that makes decisions on the fly. I rarely make plans. I just go and figure it out. My wife is quite the opposite. She is organized and a detailed planner. She is content sitting in one spot all day and relaxing. I need to see as much as possible.
While our differing preferences occasionally lead to debate, it works out surprisingly well. My wife’s foresight and packing ability ensure that the many things I would never consider but would wind up needing are always present. My spontaneity, sometimes bordering on irresponsibility, usually leads to us discovering some fantastic places.
The Blue Pool in the Deschutes National Forest in Oregon seemed like it was going to be one of those places. It was undoubtedly blue. The hike, while a bit more technical, was easy enough for my young children to handle. My kids also hike regularly. They are rough and tumble. We carry band-aids with us everywhere we go. Scabs and bruises are a way of life for us.
In this day and age, usually, you can just rely on your phone. Cell Signal is sparse in the area, and both Apple and Google Maps steered us wrong. Apple Maps included the trail and the time it takes to hike to the spot itself and put us a few miles away from the parking lot. Google maps did not include the hiking time and also would have dropped us a mile or two from where you need to park. Luckily there are signs for the blue pool in the vicinity.
The hike to the blue pools is around 2.2 miles. It is mostly an easy incline up to the Blue Pool. If you just go to the overlook to look down and appreciate it. Pretty much anyone can do it. If you plan on going to the pool itself. You should be comfortable and healthy enough to climb over boulders and down steep inclines.
The trail begins well-groomed. About a mile in, there are a few stunningly beautiful spots. A little stream with flowers and fallen logs. A Curved wooden bridge. It really is a picturesque hike. As you continue onward past the bridge, the incline increases, and it gets rockier—nothing to be concerned about. If you have mobility issues, I would not recommend it. Otherwise, you will be fine. We passed hikers of all ages and physical conditions on our way there.
Once you arrive at the overlook of the blue pool, the trail begins to branch off sporadically—some towards the cliffside overlook. There are no barriers, so you should exercise caution.
If you want to adventure down to the pool. You need to walk around to the opposite side of the Blue Pool. During part of the year, melt off from the winter snow leads to Tamolitch falls being present at the site. I read that the fall’s used to be a permanent fixture, but now only occurs during part of the year. I am not sure you could make it to the area to climb down to the pool itself if the river and the falls were going.
Cross the dried riverbed. There are several ways to cross it, but all if it requires a bit of balance and dexterity. It is wasn’t much of an obstacle for us or our kids. It was kind of fun. About 100 yards past the riverbed, you will find the area to descend to the pool itself. The trail itself makes little sense. Just work your way in that general direction.
Scramble down the hill, using footholds and holding onto vines and various rocks.
When we were leaving, a Mother was heading down the steep slope towards the pools worried out loud to her daughter that she would not be able to make it down. My two and four-year-old girls climbed past her while her daughter exclaimed, “Mom if a three-year-old can do it, you can do it!”
Her mom’s concerns were valid. You do not need to be an expert mountain climber, but you should be careful and agile enough to make the descent and ascent.
At the bottom, the blue is not as visible as at the top. The water is frigid. People cheered on those brave enough to hop into the water. While my kids are great at climbing, they are not exactly good swimmers. There is not a place for children that is shallow enough to let them swim. There is a solid foot of shallow area you can stand in before a deep drop off.
At one point, I called my son over and said, “You see how the water keeps pouring out of this pool into the river? It’s a lot of water, right.”
He looked at me like, “yeah, so…”
“Where’s the water coming from the keeps the pool filled?”
He looked towards the blue pool with his mind blown, saying, “I don’t know!”
I told him the pool is the opening to an underground river. I pointed over to an area that looked like a small opening and said, “see the small cave over there.”
He immediately walked over to his mom, who had been listening, and tried to blow her mind too.
We were not aware of the popularity of the hike, which should not usually be a deterrent. The only reason we knew of its existence is I had googled something earlier in the day near to its location. Later, despite having zero signal, I opened my browser on my phone. Bad habit, I guess. I noticed my previous search and beneath that had nearby locations. The blue pool was one of those locations. We went with almost zero knowledge of it other than it was very blue water. That and the fact that we were pretty much alone for the entire trip outside of a few instances where it was easy to keep a comfortable distance.
The issue is that the remarkably blue water that drew us in also drew in the Instagrammer crowd. There are a lot of stories of Instagrammers ruining locations, like trampling farmers’ lavender fields of Valensole, France, or blooming poppies in southern California.
Natural places of beauty should be visited. They should be appreciated. They also should be respected and preserved for future generations. Part of that is leaving nature without trash and garbage, and part of that is respecting the other visitors.
One girl hurrying by on a busy trail pushed over my two-year-old daughter to get to her photographer friend. My daughter cried, and the girl’s response was simply noticing it and laughing about it to her friend. I was furious.
While by the pool itself, another girl dolled up in makeup and clothes not meant for hiking, loudly stated, not once, but twice. “That girl isn’t wearing shoes, that is so gross.” What kind of human says something like that about a two-year-old girl excited to dip her feet into the water? It is just disappointing.
Those were just two incidents of several. I had never honestly been on a hike where I had heard people being so rude. Hikers are generally very polite. It really soured our experience. I am sure that it could just be a fluke, just one of those days. But with a large number of hikers, with Covid-19 running rampant and with the sheer amount of less-trafficked equally stunning options in the area.
Perhaps we’re not much different. The blue water appealed to us for a variety of reasons. We certainly intended to share photos of it.
First, I think it’s important to acknowledge that everyone has the right to enjoy public land. Especially places as beautiful as the Blue Pool.
I think it’s important to promote these places and allow people to enjoy them and make their own determination. If you’re healthy, you should absolutely visit the Blue Pool. Each person’s experience is unique.
That being said, there is a distinct difference between promoting a place of beauty and promoting yourself.
That’s especially important to note when people have a tendency to prescribe monetary value to land and animals and treat them as a resource to be extracted. Prescribing a value to rhino horns only leads to people treating rhinos as a resource to be used. Rhinos do not exist because of money, and the Blue Pool doesn’t either. It simply exists.
It would exist with or without us and our money.
A powerful indicator of how you treat the environment is how you treat people who share the environment with you.
Please go to Blue Falls and take photos of yourself and post them on social media. Let your friends know this place exists. But be aware that there are people who would knock down a two-year-old on a rocky path and laugh about it or loudly mock them for not wearing shoes to get those photos. Those folks probably don’t have you or the Blue Pool’s best interests in mind. That is a dangerous personality trait to have during a worldwide pandemic.
This isn’t a generational thing either. There were plenty of old men who went to gawk at the women posing in bikinis. I have ears. I heard your comments as I walked by with my daughters. Just like the rhinos and the Blue Pool, those women do not exist solely for your pleasure and are equally deserving of respect. Maybe if you realized that back when you were a young man, you’d be hiking up with your wife and not with an equally sad friend simply to sneak a look at a girl in a bikini.
Be kind, and be safe.