Billy Chinook Overlook


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After the Black Butte hike, we arrived at the intersection of NFS 1110 and 1120, (the road up to Black Butte trailhead) intending to drive back through Sisters. We spotted a sign “Lake Billy Chinook- 20 miles” on FR11 and confirmed the route on a paper map, we turned the van toward home, going “the back way” to Madras. After a few short miles of very civilized pavement, the road turned to gravel. Washboard gravel. Teeth-loosening washboard gravel for the next 20 miles. What a great shake-down cruise for the van! We only lost one piece of aluminum channel trim. We finally spied a pullout that looked kind of promising for boondocking:

Lucky for us, it didn’t provide enough privacy or depth to be invisible from the main road. We continued our search and found this view a few miles later after turning left onto FS600, then right onto rocky FS360. David expertly negotiated the rock garden of a road, and one mile later here’s what unfolded before us:

Billy Chinook evening panorama.

Bonanza! Snowy Mt. Jefferson to the southwest, Mt. Hood (or was it Adams?) peaked through the clouds on the horizon to the north. A forest fire had swept through this area a few years ago. The serpentine Lake Billy Chinook curved right below us, the tiny motor boats wending their way through the water.

Overnight low was 45 degrees. We woke up in time for the sunrise at 6:30 am. to this stupendous view:


We left the next morning and drove down the valley towards the lake only to discover that our camping spot was a short three miles from the paved road. Next time we’ll take the “smooth way” from Madras. It felt strange driving past the official campgrounds that surround Lake Billy Chinook, seeing all the RVs, trailers and tents, packed cheek and jowl. It’s hard to imagine choosing to go that route again, unless we have no other options.



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