We’ve covered a lot of ground since our last post, both in travel experiences and distance, making this entry somewhat long. In fact, it made Lysette yawn repeatedly while I read it to her in its entirety, but admittedly, it was late.
All in, we saw amazing stuff, had wonderful experiences, but both of us have yearned for the remoteness and beauty we found in the earlier days traveling Idaho. From our entry and exit out of Lewiston, crowds got bigger, spaces smaller, and the feel of being connected to nature more difficult to find. Some of this as a result of summer getting busier, more people choosing to travel to local camps for family fun during the pandemic, and some being in more densely populated places. It doesn’t help matters that Idaho provided results in terms of its raw beauty and how the state National Forest systems support the freedom of the outdoors with infrastructure and vast areas. But we moved on and trust me, this isn’t complaining. Life is good and the journey, great! It is simply a new chapter.
Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend – or a meaningful day. Dalai LamaDalai Lama
Finding Travel Memories in 2 Different Events
This section is cut from two separate events that occurred over a 12 hour period, two separate calendar days that will be referenced in the daily summary. These are experiences that occurred along this stage of the journey that drew out emotions, made us laugh, and will be stories to last, to tell family and friends and to simply enjoy as life memories. They point to the sudden and unplanned, the simplicity of life, humility of self, to the prize won when taking a chance on just being in the moment. We hope you enjoy them as much as we enjoy telling them.
I’ve just changed my underwear from creek water soaked technical grey, to dry cotton teal blue Fruit Of The Loom. I have pulled over my light cotton t-shirt warmed on the rock by the afternoon sun. I am sitting on a dry towel placed in my camp chair covering the wet seat left from the creek water after lying down in it to wash off the heat from the long hot day of traveling. My faux straw cowboy hat, tilted forward to keep the sun off my face, allows me to relax deeper into the chair. A 3/4 empty can of Coors Banquet loosely hangs from the relaxed grip of my hand dangling off the end of the chair arm. My legs are crossed and eyes are closed. Sitting next to me on a small rock to my left are my pants that I shedded just before Toohey and I entered the small creek. My coordinates are between the creek, about 3 meters in front of me and the truck and home, about 20 meters up the hill behind me.
The creek is more a stream, much smaller than the raging ones we’ve been camping next to and a bit warmer, giving the realization that we are much farther from the melting high mountain snow that we just left. This gentle flow of water and its components are like a staged backyard garden, something my mom could have created with her magical green touch and understanding of how nature perfectly places things to make them appear pleasing to the minds eye.
The setting provides a sound of water gently lapping over and flowing around rocks, rocks covered in tall green grasses, and those beneath the clear water, each perfectly placed so that those taking the time to sit and appreciate them will see their placement as splendid. The wildflowers around me are, some unique to our journey, providing just the right splatter of color against the tall, green creekside grasses, bringing the area to life. The grasses, tall and topped with a wheat-like bud, highlighted with the late afternoon sun, bend and flow with gentle breezes that come and go, allowing temperate, not cool, air to flow over my now warming body. A variety of dragonflies land, pause, and move on, sometimes even stopping on my knee for no other reason than to allow me to enjoy the magnificent blue color patterns on their wings or stripped long torso of their bodies.
While I sit here, eyes, closed now, relaxed with slow breaths on the verge of dozing off, listening, smelling, sensing all that is around me in the moment, dreaming up all the words I will eventually use to describe the moment; my lovely wife is capturing this slice of eden with her camera. Equally as engrossed in the details of this small patch of our journey that bring her lens to life to share the wonders we are experiencing. Toohey is lying in the grass making sure we are each within eye sight of him, wondering what all the fuss is about, but mostly appreciating the fact that he has an endless supply of clean water to drink and tall grasses to roll in while being warmed by the brilliant sun.
These are the moments that make this trip so great. Us just being, taking in the little things that make life so grand. This campsite was a roadside fluke, something neither of us were excited about at first glance, simply a place to sleep for the night. The moment, the site, turned into a magical few hours that we will both enjoy as memories for years to come.
For those of you who know us know the story of our first truck camping weekend in the Tacoma about 3 years ago. We stopped by a liquor store for a last minute campfire bottle of whisky and ice before taking the truck up an 8-mile, bumpy road to a place called Billings Lake. The ride was slow, rolling us around, up and down, working the 20 year old truck suspension with every inch, but we stuck to it hoping for the best camp spot ever. When we got to the top it was pure camping nirvana, surrounded by high rocky mountain views and a lake with no one else around, we had found it. Lysette hopped out of the truck to help back me into the spot. She came back to the window and said, “did you know the tailgate was down?” I jumped out, hurried back there and said with the conviction of the eternal optimist that I am, “Oh, it looks like we just lost some firewood, no worries.” A few minutes later after starting to remove camp gear from the truck and getting chilly, I reached for my clothes bag but it was gone. Crap, I must have lost some firewood and my clothes bag so I made the suggestion to drive out a mile to get it, as it surely fell out within the last mile. As we left, we found a few pieces of firewood, a frying pan, but no clothes. A truck approached the narrow one lane road while Lysette was tossing something of ours we found in the back, bumping her head against the truck bed light, and I asked, “have you seen a duffle bag with clothes?” The guy, with wide eyes and a smile said, “dude, there is stuff scattered all down the road.” Humbled and at this point, laughing, we drove down, following our stuff and were able to get everything back, including the unbroken bottle of Crown Royal, the last thing we stowed before not properly securing the tailgate and which had fallen on the rocky road, of which we touted great success… until now.
Our trip today, the day following the perfect camp spot, started in the beautiful place discussed in memorable Event 1 and headed up and down a few mountain passes, along some canyons, farms, small towns. We stopped in the town of John Day to see the information on Kam Wah Chung and the men from China who created a small Chinatown here during the hydraulic drilling boom in the 1800’s. We then stopped by two sites of the John Day Fossil Bed National Monument. The first was the Blue Basin, the second site was 20 miles or so down the road, called the Painted Hills. While at the Blue Basin, we disposed of a small trash bag and egg carton in the trash can. We then drove to the Painted Hills a mile up a dirt hill, got out, took photos, got Toohey some water from the back seat and drove out. While driving out, down the dirt road, I looked over and saw a single Croc on the side of the road and commented to Lysette, “look, some poor soul lost a Croc that looks just like mine.” For remainder of the 63 mile drive this image would enter my mind of the poor guy who gets to his camp and only has one Croc.
Tired from the day’s trip and ready to stop, we pulled into a gas station in Prineville, OR, had the attendant pump gas (which is a thing here), paid him, then pulled forward to sit and use the internet to find land for our home. Hungry, not having lunch, I jumped out to get a Lara Bar from the food bin in the back of the truck while Lysette researched locations. The tailgate was down and my lone remaining Croc, the one owned by the poor soul, was sitting there, beneath the step ladder, having survived the entire trip from the Blue Basin where we’d removed the trash. Success in 63 miles was only one Croc gone, and a wonderful story to share and laugh about.
The contrast in these stories is in the setting and details, but the outcome is the stories will forever bring a smile and a laugh as we repeat them many times, a memory not planned but that simply happened, is what makes them great.
Lewiston, Idaho & Hells Gate State Park
After spending some wonderful time along US Highway 12, we arrived in Lewiston, ID, drove over the Snake River to Clarkston, WA, tried unsuccessfully to get sites at several RV parks there before finding land at Hells Gate State Park, No. 40, Lewiston ID. This was a small sacrifice in no laundry and limited shower arrangements, but big on space and trees. We also have beach access for swimming in the Snake River known here as Granite Lake. We set up camp, checked in with the world and made the decision to grab bathing suits and search for a swimming hole for Toohey.
We walked by the main beach with its “No Pets” sign even though we counted five dogs along the beach. We kept walking along the park following the banks of the Snake River past the public swim area until we saw an opening. We marched across the grasses in the fairway of a frisbee golf course, through the opening along the river banks, and onto a small secluded beach. The banks of the Snake appear muddier than the other Idaho rivers we’ve been on. There are few rocks seemingly buried in the mud and silt making you wonder what is beneath all that. Was it similar to the grand rivers we’d witnessed along the way that are free flowing with amazing rapids?
The river is wider and from what we’ve seen, deeper, with no rapids where we sit. Toohey immediately went in, even before tossing him a stick. We threw sticks and he went deeper and farther. I then removed valuables from my pockets and followed suit by walking out into the water without needing a stick to balance against moving water or slick rocks. The areas closest to the rivers edge were muddy, grabbing the bottom of my Chaco’s as I waded out. About thigh level the bottom hardened up with sporadic small stones beneath the surface. I sat in, dunked myself and Toohey came swimming after me as if I were one of his sticks. The water was not as cold as earlier rivers and the air much warmer. We stayed on our personal little dog beach for about an hour, sending Toohey to the water for a stick \. Afterwards he’d roll happily in the beach sand. Lysette continued to debate the need to swim versus the yuckiness of sinking into mud, the yuckiness won out in the end. We marched back to camp, showered off using the outside shower followed by the decision to go grab some groceries and in for an early night.
Hells Gate State Park campground is nice with large sites surrounded by lots of trees and grass. The tables were clean and the gravel around them freshly raked. Our site, No. 40 in loop B, of A,B,C, is along the backside, away from the river. There is a small street about 50 yards behind us used more for bike and foot traffic than cars. The street separates us from the open space hills providing miles of trails. The inner camp loop sites across from us are for those pull through RV’s needing the sewer system. Each one faces the inner part of the large loop giving the appearance of a city park. The grass is cared for and surrounds the bathroom facilities sitting in the middle. On the river side and running along A,B, and C, is a walkway that separates the campers from the Snake River. There are few views of the river along the path despite all the foliage that has grown up. The walk reaches the day use beaches where it opens to a grass hill down to the sandy beach and water.
The camp sites are mostly full but without feeling crowded due to the space provided to each site. We frequently saw deer wandering behind us along the open space, hawks, and while standing outside at dusk, witnessed a large owl circling as a black cat jetted for the bushes. We have had three squirrels in the trees above us working all day, just doing their squirrel thing, and birds are everywhere. Background noise includes jet boats motoring up the river and the highway across and along the river, in Washington.
After a morning of catching up on the blog and taking care of some personal business, we took the bikes out to exercise the chain and sprocket while Toohey protected the assets. It was a good day for it based on cooler temperatures. We tried to ride the trails behind the state park which turned out to be really sandy so we opted for the bike path along the river which lead us to downtown Lewiston. We dismounted and walked our bikes slowly down the main business street of historic Lewiston. It is a cute street with lots of old store fronts, twwo old movie theaters and several open and somewhat active restaurants with outside dining. After our walk, we hopped back on our rubber tired trusty steeds and made our way back to camp. From there, we ran some errands and rode around a few neighborhoods to see what the real estate market looked like. All in, a good, productive day. Lewiston is a nice small town that will serve us well over the next couple of days until we decide to move on. Where to move to is still the center of the discussion.
The state park has a trail system that runs behind the park, on the side oppose the river. The foliage resembles South Table Mesa in Golden with much sandier, less rocky trails. We did a short run up and along these trails this morning capping it off with Toohey going for a quick swim on the “No Pets” allowed beach. Afterwards we ate a big ole breakfast and took off for more errands.
That evening I cooked Lysette her birthday dinner, we drank wine, and shared some time walking the campground with our neighbor to the north of us. We never spoke to her husband, but she has been quite friendly. A native of Lewiston, she now comes from Arizona. Her husband had accepted a job overseas but for travel restrictions can’t go. So during the transition, they are traveling around the US in their 5th wheel, ~30 foot trailer while he works remotely from anywhere as long as he can get on an airplane and video call. They have two rescue dogs joining them, one a Carolina Dog, and the other a mix breed she rescued from an Indian Reservation. She is delightful, shares lots of meaningful information and stories, has a warm smile, and is quick to laugh. We enjoyed our short time getting acquainted with her and find her as someone interesting who would be fun to know more about.
We met our other neighbors on our first day. A nice couple from the Olympic Peninsula area of Washington, eager to move this way, out of the big city noise, ditching the clouds and rain for the banana belt of Idaho. They are traveling with their French Bulldog and have been socializing responsibly with some friends who are also camping here. We’ve enjoyed our short conversations with them and they’ve offered us a place to stop and set up if needed, in the field behind their shed while passing through the are along our journey. Another nice, interesting neighbor who we enjoyed getting to know for a short time.
The Mule Train to Joseph, Oregon and the Wallowa National Forest
Today is Lysette’s birthday and a move day. What a better gift than to set off to find some new place we’ve never seen before. A drive with cool stuff around every corner. Our destination at the moment is Joseph, OR, the Wallowa Mountains and Eagle Cap Wilderness Area just outside of Joseph, OR. This was an area mentioned to us by a Travel Angel and we are excited to check it out as neither of us has ever heard of the place.
The drive delivered. First, a short 5 miles south along the Snake River to the small town of Asotin where we hucked a right up a winding road for about 5 miles. This road had wide open views of the Snake River and Lewiston. It topped off in rolling wheat fields and large farms. We saw some really cool barns along the way which Lysette tried to capture out the truck window while motoring down the road. This scenery lasted for a bit before coming into a more mountainous terrain equipped with large amounts of tall healthy pine trees. Then, and as suddenly as we passed through the last topographical zone, we were on a long, steep, treacherous decent along a canyon called Rattle Snake Canyon. Slow, sharp with switch backs, tight curves, and spectacular views over a severe drop off, at least according to Lysette, as my job wasn’t to look, but to drive, slowly, keeping my eyes on the road and for goodness sake, two hands on the steering wheel.
The canyon drive went on for a good 10 miles before reaching the bottom where we crossed Rattlesnake Creek and then passed over Grande Ronde River. Another magnificent river that, according to the atlas, feeds into the Snake. From there, we started back up the other side with more slow, sharp curves, steep grades that made for more spectacular driving and scenery according to Lysette, as my job wasn’t to look, but to drive, slowly, keeping my eyes on the road and for goodness sake, two hands on the steering wheel. Along this ascent we passed into Oregon where we stopped to photograph the sign and for me to look. Next, we would top off and cross into, yet another topographically diverse area now adding firs to the pine and lush mountain views.
Soon the huge Wallowa Mountain range came into view. The drive was everything our travel angels had described: beautiful and scenic, an eye candy birthday gift to Lysette from Mother Nature.
Once in the valley, we passed through the small town of Enterprise, then another 6 miles into the canyon, Joseph. Both are zero traffic light towns, cute main streets, with Joseph being the tourist hub based on proximity to the lake and state park. Outside of Joseph, directly into the canyon we travelled past Wallowa lake, keeping it to the right with gorgeous views of the mountains as a back drop. The road ends just past the lake where the state park, campground, and a complete tourist event begins. Cabin rentals, horseback riding, ice cream and all the stuff needed to bring in the crowds to this little corner canyon of heaven. And, for all the COVID watchers, it was busy and bustling. We got to the end of the road, circled back, and got out of there to find some space to camp!
We drove back into Joseph, where we stopped by the National Forest office to find a nice human who provided a great map and suggestions for camping. We chose the first, Hurricane Creek Campground on Hurricane Creek Road, alongside Hurricane Creek, near Hurricane Creek Trail. We drove in, found a spot, one of the last, right at the front, along Hurricane Creek. We unhitched the rig, fueled our systems, gave Toohey his num nums before setting out on a short hike up the road to check it all out. We walked a little over a mile to where some snow capped summits appeared in front of us giving us great joy. The river below us was raging from all the snow melting. About then the rain started. It would pretty much rain for the remainder of the night, even providing a great thunderstorm event during the night, which is always a favorite sleeping event of mine.
The next morning, we did a run/hike up Fall River trail which was advertised as steep and steep is what we got. We also got wet. As we ran through the low foliage, wet from the night rain, we were soaked from thighs down to shoes within minutes. The advantage of a wet rainy night is the low fog and the potential for some fun weather photos. While heading up the steep trail we quickly realized we weren’t going to have the views we hoped for at the top so we changed our plans midway, hung back, and watched. What we got was an amazing display of fog moving through the valley as the sun heated up the surface. Time-lapse was the way to capture this:
After the run, we returned to camp for a breakfast then to explore some other areas of the valley. We chose Lostine River Road. This road heads up the valley from the small town of Lostine located 10 miles to the north of Enterprise and has many National Forest Camps and trails throughout the Eagle Cap Wilderness. We drove 20 miles in, to the end of the gravel road and did a short hike on a trail. The trail system goes on for seemingly endless miles, eventually reaching above the trees into high mountain terrain. We both agreed this would be a great multi-day back pack trip for another time.
This area is beautiful and wild with tall rock snow capped mountains with lush fir and pine forest, similar to what we saw and described along the Lochsa River. The tourist herd is located at the south end of the lake for viewing and is active most warm days, if that’s your thing. If not, there is plenty of space to separate from this and enjoy the wilderness areas surrounding Joseph.
We didn’t spend any time floating on the lake but there are access points along the shore drive and we would have SUP’d with Toohey if we had spent another day here. As for winter, one local said there isn’t much other than snow mobiles that occurs during the winter months but there sure are lots of trails and roads to play on, so I would imagine some winter fun here. Other areas we didn’t explore but would have with more time would include the Hells Canyon Wilderness and possibly an access to the Hells Canyon itself from Hats Point.
Tomorrow is a move day, and one for which we are both ready. We tried to think back on a place we only stayed two nights and both were RV parks for transition days. This doesn’t speak negatively to this place as we both think it is an amazing and raw wilderness area worthy of any time spent. It would be best served with big backcountry hikes, especially overnight stuff, which we aren’t prepared to do at the moment. So moving is the best option for us and we really want to see what else Oregon has to offer.
One last thought on Native Americans
During our initial drive into the area, we stopped at a historical marker and overlook of the valley we had just driven through. The marker discussed how this was rich hunting land for the Nez Perce. When settlers moved in, the Nez Perce couldn’t understand why they chose to stay here for the winters. As more settlers moved in the friction increased. The US government started forcing the Nez Perce out even destroying critical food sources the army found stashed in a cave. It sounds so horrible that “civilized” humans would treat others this way. However, in modern times, we label them “terrorist” and everyone is on board to destroy their way of life and assume their land.
WITH HEAVY HEARTS, WE LEFT WALLOWA.
WE LEFT THE PART OF THE EARTH WHERE THE CREATOR PUT US.
GENERAL HOWARD SAID, WHEN HE SHOWED US THE GUN, “YOU CAN LEAVE BY YOUR OWN CHOICE OR BY THE BULLETS AND BAYONETS OF MY SOLDIERS.”
FORCED TO LEAVE WE LEFT THE BONES OF OUR ANCESTORS.
FORCED TO LEAVE, WE LEFT OUR WALLOWA HOME.Chief Joseph
This place, his comments, are reminders that we haven’t learned much as history is still repeating. During the Cold War, if we wanted popular opinions to sway against people of a different culture, we’d call them communists. Once the power of that word diminished, we call those we opposed to our way of life as terrorist, again, giving us the power to kill, remove, by making people fear them. The injustice to the Nez Perce and all tribes were just that, a terrible injustice. We labeled them salvages, portrayed them as less than our equals, making it easy to chase them off the land they had for generations, well before Lewis and Clark’s amazing expedition crossed paths with them. The town of Joseph does a good job memorializing Chief Joseph as a man, a leader, with dignity and respect. But the best way to honor him is to stop being a barbaric civilization, using our power of words and political gain to push out the different cultures that we don’t understand or where we value what they have. Mic Drop.
A Slice Through the Center of Oregon
At the moment, our tentative plan is to travel through the next two days stopping only to spend the night. John Day was listed as a must see place on the “1000 Things You Have to do Before You Die” book, so maybe there. We estimate around 350 miles to the Crater Lake area from here so we can split those into multiple days, stops, without killing ourselves, with constant driving.
Our trip “west” started with a drive east to Imnaha, a small three building community with road choices of straight, right, or back. We were told by a resident of Joseph that the right turn was paved all the way to Half Way, OR. After the 30 mile drive down the canyon to Imnaha, I went into the mercantile, restaurant, and tourist information booth. I asked two locals who were waiting for the store clerk, bartender, cook, server, post master, etc., what they thought of the right turn. I learned that, in fact, the choices are, straight which is straight up and crazy scary, or right, which was not a good choice unless you have really good tires due to the sharp rocks and all day to drive, or back. Based on his advice and her facial expressions, we chose conservative option 3, pulled a brodie and headed back, west. They did confirm that Road 39, just this side of Joseph and that we past earlier, was a scenic by-way and paved the entire way to Half Way. So after a 50 mile side trip up and down, east then west on a curvy, yet beautiful canyon, we turned left on to Road 39, 64 miles to Half Way, now headed slightly south.
This road was a slow grind, curvy, some places edgy, and mostly a beautiful choice. We were treated with wonderful road side wild flowers along the way, passed a few campgrounds and several summits. Exiting the canyon, the quick drive through Half Way, the ground became hot and arid, flowing through hills of a small canyon with spots of green farm land. This was a long climb over a tree-less passes and into the valley approaching another mountain range. At the top of the pass is a big Oregon Trail history exhibit, and if not for the long hot day we’d already driven, would have stopped in for some factoids. This dropped us into Baker City where we fueled up and Toohey and I walked the city park while Lysette went in for an Oregon atlas hunt at a local “we have it all” shop. The town was clean and seemingly a nice place, with a nice downtown Main Street.
After a quick look at the map, we decided to find a camp somewhere along the route through the Blue Mountains which is still a part of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. The drive was nice with rolling hills of pines, nothing extraordinary, for about 50 miles. Lysette found some information on a Road 20 where there were three campgrounds and some dispersed sites. We focused in there. Camp 1 was wide open with no trees but toilets and whatnots. The read on it was that it has a pond but advice was not to swim in it because of leaches. Nuff said. We motored down to the next one, along a river, but appeared over-active with humans, so we motored by. We passed a couple of boondocking options just off the road to the left along the river, then drove through the 3rd campground. After stopping at one site, we decided to move back up Rd 20 to look at some of the spots we passed. We opted on the free boondocking site. After walking in before turning in, (something you do when pulling a trailer), I decided that with a few moves, I could get the trailer turned and facing out, towards the road again. We did, and it worked.
The camp at first sight, was nothing spectacular. A small, somewhat flat spot, surrounded by small pine trees, sunny, stuck between views of Road 20 (Upper Middle Fork RD) and an equal distance down to the small creek, the Middle Fork of the John Day River. This little patch of life along the creek would turn out to one an amazing few hours of life that we’d both enjoy and remember on this trip. My meandering essay, event 1, about me in my underwear at the beginning of the blog was from this little spot of heaven so refer back to there if you want to revisit it. We certainly do frequently.
Sleep was excellent followed by a little exploration run the next morning. Lysette, Toohey, and I set off up a gravel road across the street. We went a click or two back before turning around and out. The run along the gravel forest road was a gentle up hill through young pines and a forest floor that appeared to have a control burn within the last few years. This based on new growth and scarring up the trees, but surviving trees. In fact, the entire forest appears to be pretty well mitigated against forest fires as everything low has been removed and branched on most tress trimmed up about 10 feet. Good on them.
On the way out, and downhill, was more of the same, exactly the same. We came back to camp, Toohey drank water from the creek, we ate breakfast and planned the rest of the days travels.
We packed up and left our little corner of heaven for the jaunt into Prineville. Refer back up to my meandering essay, event 2 for the details on the 63 miles and only 1 lost croc story for the rest of this phase. We certainly do frequently.
After closing, securing the tailgate, we tried to locate several RV parks, a KOA, and all were full or closed, we opted for the County RV park in Prineville, where they had one back-in spot, No. 8, available. We decided, tired and needing a break, and down one croc, to take it. At first pass, the place has updated infrastructure, buildings and well kept, The camp sites were tight, small, and the place was full. The tent camping area was crammed in next to the community building with one huge family and as the camp host said, some unruly kids.
The spot immediately behind us had one of those guys, a guy who started the conversation before ever making eye contact. He’d just appear out of thin air, making no noise on his approach, began talking to you about whatever was on his mind. Kind of like an uncontrollable loud extended burp. Reflecting on him, he is probably like me in wanting conversation and how similar to how I treat my neighbors in Golden while they try to work in their yards. But at the moment, we just wanted peace and quiet. He was friendly and liked to give helpful advice. Others in the park would stop by and were extremely friendly, but after the long day, losing my Croc, we just weren’t in that place.
That night, while lying in bed, all the curtains pulled tight confining us to our 12 feet of real estate, thinking about the long walk to the restrooms, showers with puddles of water from the masses using them, we knew what had to be done. We bolted out of there first thing in the morning, making a break for the mountains.
Deschutes National Forest, Spark Lake
We headed to Bend, OR, through Bend OR, and up the Cascade Lake Highway, in search of some fresh air and natures noise. We found it at the end of a dusty, bumpy, gravel road along Spark Lake. We turned in to check available camp sites at the small camp ground just off the highway, which were all reserved. We then decided to drive the road up to the boat ramp about a mile long, in along the road. Along the way we past several spots to pull out for some free boondocking across the street from the lake. Mostly these are tent size spots but we were able to navigate the 12 foot home perfectly into one. We unhitched the rig and decided on a quick walk down to check out the lake and let Toohey chase sticks into the water and roll in the sand. He was in dog heaven.
The lake and road dead ends at a trail and boat ramp. It is a busy little place with many seeming to come here with kayaks, SUP’s and to sit, swim and cool off in the mountain lake. The road, just a few feet from the home is dusty and the traffic pretty frequent for a small mountain road, but based on the payoff, I can understand why.
Our camp sits just off the road in a small dirt, rocky patch among small pine trees. The trees all have a coat of dust blanketing them from all the passing traffic. From our front dinette inside our home, we can watch all the cars, most with some type of lake paddle boat, pass to and from the parking lot at the end of the road. Some stay and camp, and mostly for just one night.
The lake and camp sit between Mt Bachelor, the South Sister (of the Three Sisters Mountains), and Broken Top Mountain. These mountains are different than others we’ve spent time in as they are high peak volcanoes, still lots of snow, with a fluffy blanket of flowing pine and fir forest low and all along the bases. There are lakes at every turn (Cascades Lakes Highway). The wild flowers are in bloom and the rivers we’ve passed seem fresh, clean, and ready for my fly. I have purchased my Oregon Fishing License online alerting all the Oregon fish that they are safe as I likely won’t toss my poorly knotted tippet and wrong fly anywhere near them.
We found a magical little path just across the road from our camp that winds through the woods down to a small beach. We spent the evening sitting on the beach with a few beers and glasses of wine. Another few humans with their dogs were on the beaches around the lake shore to our right and left, fishing and tossing a ball for their dogs to chase into the water, which was really fascinating to Toohey. Before the sun set, we retired to our camp, cooked a quick meal, played a few hands of gin before turning in with great optimism for the next day’s event.
After our short break, we needed to run back to town do the provision dance. Bend is now in our backyard, about 30 miles back down the mountain. So we headed that way with the confidence of a great new camp spot set, the thrill of having mountain fun at our back door, and just a great frame of mind. We did the provision shuffle, Fred Meyers for groceries, prescription refill, Natural Grocers, and best of all new Crocs! We fueled up the Taco and headed back to our little camp closer to the sky.
We woke up morning 2, did our morning thing then decided on a short run around a trail at the end of the road next to the boat ramp called the Ray Atkeson Memorial Trail. It starts about a 1/4 mile from camp and is a short loop through pines, firs and most interesting, rock formations created by lava flow way back in the day. At the pinnacle of the run, there is a view of all three mountains which was beautiful. We finished the loop, checked out the boat ramp, and returned to camp.
Following breakfast we decided on a quick bike ride cut even shorter and made insignificant by the low tire pressure in my rear tire and the need to get back to Toohey, our asset protecting hound relaxing in the Tacoma.
Something unusual and unexpected occurred upon our return to camp. We made plans. Yep, we sat down, took out calendar, atlas, and KOA Kamp Katalog and planned our trip up the Oregon Coast.
Our trepidation about Oregon and Washington has been not knowing how well we’ll be received in the state, what camping options will exist, and the ease of overall travel. It will be tough to beat the simplicity of our experience in Idaho with the availability of remote wilderness, freedom from people, availability of boondocking, and access to fresh drinking water. We have noticed an up tick in parks getting more crowded, fully booked, and wonder what will this look like the closer we get to larger metropolitan areas and farther from National Forests. I think we are willing to dip our toes in that water with the knowledge that you never know what remarkable opportunities lie on the other side of the beautiful bridge built over a raging river. (Note how I rolled one metaphor into my metaphor on the bridge from the last post). However, the Oregon Coast, with little National Forest showing on the Atlas, and packed RV parks led us to plan, and plan we did.
We are now scheduled to be on the koast of Oregon on Sunday, 7/19, at the Port Orford KOA for 2 nights, then Newport KOA for 2 nights, and finally, Astoria KOA for 2 nights, before krossing into Washington, heading up the Olympic Peninsula of western Washington and a ferry ride into the driveway of a friend on Whidbey Island on the 25th or 26th. Now that’s a plan.
The remainder of the day was spent relaxing on the beach, SUPing with Toohey, and swimming. We took off around 4 for a short drive down the Cascade Lakes Highway to see what all the fuss is about. There are definitely lakes, one after another and inserted reservoirs where lakes don’t naturally exist. We drove along the Deschutes River, fished for a bit on the Deschutes River, and checked out lakes. There are forest of healthy, old, and large pines with a more red tent to the bark. The drive was pretty but more low, pine treed roads not quite the mountain experience we have been enjoying.
Today was an easy, low key start with the decision after breakfast to hike/run Green Lakes which was recommended as beautiful but busy, popular trail, and just up the road. We parked along the Cascade Lakes Highway which is used as over flow to the trail head parking and walked into the trail head because the parking lot was full. Some trails you have to work into the beauty but this one delivered great nature treats from the first to last mile. It followed Soda Creek along many water displays from entry to our turn around at mile 4.5 and the first lake. As a final treat, we were provided eye-candy with the spectacular views of the South Sister and Broken Rock peaks.
I started thinking along the run out about the variety of trails, those most popular to those not so popular. The obvious heaviest used are those in National Parks that are actually designed for the least capable citizen to use so they too can have access to marvelous offerings of things in nature. A National Forest trail, such as this, is provided at no cost and seemingly managed more to prevent heavy damage to the trail system based on the amount of humans accessing it. This was one of those trails.
My mind began to dig into this heavy use a bit deeper, recognizing all the small obstacles, roots, rock, undulations in the trails, elevation changes. Soda Creek provides the basic direction, cascading both to your right, then your left, and back to your right as you cross the flowing water on bridges made of fallen mountain hemlocks. The steam at the beginning provide an easy flow through beautiful green bushes, wild flowers, and colorful wildflowers that hug the bank, containing the the flowing clear water. As it progresses in the middle, you witness hyper-extraordinary water displays of cascading water falls, rivers turning through amazing water gardens with the richest red Indian Paint Brushes, almost deep rose colored, I have ever seen, to small stream crossing the trail further feeding the appetite of the main river.
The trail, wide at the beginning, provides for three humans to walk side by side, the trail base, hard pressed to the earth below. Tree roots, smoothed by the friction of the steady flow up and down of human’s artificial soles, the once jagged rocks with scuff marks on the sharp, now smooth edges, and the fallen trees sawed to perfect cuts providing nice entry into the next section of trail. River crossings early on are made easier using large fallen hemlocks as bridges with the surface cut flat for easy walking, some bridges with human made hand rails. Later bridges reduced to no handrails, then down to rocks perfectly placed for stepping through water, to ultimately, water crossing where wet and turning back are the only options.
All along, the trail follows the path provided by the science of water and gravity as it cascades down in the opposite direction, leaving its mark on trees that were unfortunate to get too close during high water, to newly formed paths cutting into the earth, some creating islands of wild flowers that provide more enticement for humans to come. Towards the end, the human herds thin with only the fittest remaining on the trails. Those who have earned the right to be there enjoy the primitiveness that nature has provided. For the few who seek the opportunity to step over fallen trees, jagged rocks, tree roots, commit to getting through any water crossing, even if it mean getting shoes and socks wet. Some trails, those catering to the masses, typically end where the fun and beauty begin, where shoes get wet, where roots look natural and rocks retain their natural form.
We spent three nights, four days at this little camp and enjoyed things like the run on the Ray Atkeson Memorial Trail, bike rides, hikes, a drive to scout out stuff and a few fishing opportunities. Mostly, this spot was good for relaxing on the small lake beach, staying cool and refreshed on the hot days, and recharging the batteries from a few days and short camps. Of course Toohey enjoyed the SUP and rolling in the sand after a good swim. We were treated the last night to a party, which is one of the risks of boondocking on public lands. The party entertainment was an amateur high pitched human voice which way overwhelmed the sounds of the water birds that are the pleasant natural sound. We also had the pleasure of increased traffic moving back and forth all night. All of this set the stage for leaving.
The camp’s location brings some city noise in the form of vehicles and humans and the small things ignorant humans leave after enjoying the land nature provided them for free. All of this is certainly based on the proximity to Bend. But the location is way better than staying in an RV park or city park and brings the fresh mountain air, cool water, and pleasing mountain views, making it all worth while.
Move day came today with lots of busy energy to get out and away from the party that occurred the night before. Actually, move days have a special energy of their own. Moving brings the knowledge that we will see more of the unseen, new things wait around each turn.
We hitched up the wagon and moved on, following the Cascade Lake Highway south to the Diamond Lake area. Here we found options of remote camping for free at the Sno-Parks or the fee spots National Forest Campgrounds located along the lake shores. We were lucky to find a campsite at the Mt. Thielson Campground, C-2. They were otherwise full with open camp sites available on cancellations only. Ours was a two night cancellation which worked perfectly for us.
The campground had asphalt roads and sites, fire rings, picnic tables, and pit toilets. The lake is a short walk from our site and the view across the lake of the mountain is spectacular. The lake sits between Mt Thielson and Mt. Bailey. The lake is large and full of sun seekers on the water, fisherman, and has both motorized and non motorized boats. The only thing in greater numbers than those occupying camps along the lake are the mosquitos. This place is pretty active with mozzies (Australian for mosquitoes) which was a bit annoying.
We set up camp, showered outside the home and relaxed a bit before making the decision on a later afternoon drive around Crater Lake. Crater Lake was magnificent to see. The National Park is basically the lake with a few side trails and can be easily done in a day. The rim road is around 30 miles and provides overlooks of the lake from various view points. The one pleasant stop we did was the Castle Crest Wildflower hike. The wild flowers were hyper-ordinary and beyond belief that someone didn’t stage this garden. There were small streams flowing through green moss, amazing colors, pollinating insects galore, and water features. Simply brilliant.
The lake and the water is also beyond belief. The blue you see is what the color of water should be. Deep blue, similar to the Colorado sky on the clearest, bluest sunny days. The rock features are rugged and the perfect backdrop to the water. The information on the volcano and its destruction is fascinating.
My middle son asked me about the high and low points of Crater Lake. The high is definitely the visual aspect of the park. It is amazing to see. The low is the lack of activities to engage within the park. Beyond driving the loop and some short hikes, there isn’t much camping and there are few opportunities to interact with the water, especially with a dog. This is actually a good thing as humans in mass would do harm. So we appreciated the drive and visuals and we moved on.
We returned to camp, had a drink, dinner, and bed. Sleep was no problem as the party ended just in time for my time.
Our final day at Diamond Lake was filled with a bike ride around the lake, a swim in the lake, and preparation for another move day. All in, this place is worth the stop. The forest is healthy, beautiful, and the lake with the mountain back drops stunning. Toss in the hype-extraordinary trip around Crater Lake and you have a great stop on the journey.
We left our home at Diamond Lake for the drive along Highway 138 that cuts west through Oregon, Roseburg, then Highway 42 to the coast. We spotted several water fall stops along the way and hoped for some fly fishing in the Umpqua River. In the end, we saw two of the amazing water falls and only dipped our toes and Toohey’s tongue in the river. The drive was gorgeous and the water healthy and clear as most rivers have been out west.
We stopped in Roseburg, picked up salads for lunch at a Safeway and motored out of town following Looking Glass Road to the Abecela Winery. This area of Oregon is known for its vineyards and somewhere along the way we heard of this place. We pulled into the winery with all the splendor of Jethro and Ellie May Clampet of the Beverly Hills show. Got out, leaving Toohey to protect the assets, and headed in. We weren’t greeted as if we were well know sommelier’s, which was okay given my ten days from the last formal shower. But they were extremely hospitable sitting us outside at a nice table for two in the shade, and in retrospect, downwind from the rest.
The place was awesome, the wine tasty, and our server, a young man with interest in soil and growing things, pleasant, and helpful. After learning of our journey and direction of travel, he provided us a handwritten sticky note of places to camp and things to see.
We purchased a bottle of Granche Rose and Temperillo, which is a nice red. We stowed the snoot and moved west. After passing several BLM roads that seem to go directly up, drove down small country roads chasing non existing camps, we decided to call the KOA in Brandon to see if they have anything for the night, a night early. They said AOK and we were off. The remainder of the drive through the Oregon farm country was simply delightful. We pulled into Brandon and the maps turned us south for another 17 miles.
Helpful note about KOA’s. The slash (/) between two cities doesn’t neccesssarily mean they are in one of the two. This slash indicated 17 miles south of one and 9 miles north of the other. Langlois, Oregon is actually more accurate and the Langlois Market is home the world famous hot dog. Obviously this wasn’t a good enough marketing scheme do the dash between two cities.
Arriving at the KOA was AOK, it was full but the place has been left to resemble the Pacific North West with tall fir and pine trees, and the lushness of the area. The smell and moisture from the ocean just west is present bringing good thoughts of things to kome. We set up kamp, shower, and are in for the night.
Moving to this area is a complete change of pace. It allows me to recognize how much I enjoy the coast, the mountains, and those benefits of each, like fresh seafood. The smells, moisture, and rain forest topography are pleasing to all my senses triggering lots of good memories. The change in living from being remote, with the silence and time to sit and enjoy nature is gone for now and that delivers a huge change for us. One that was bound to happen but something we hadn’t thought much about. The change allows us to reflect on the great memories we’ve already created during the first 2 months, while building new ones in another different, but pretty cool place.