August 30, 2015

Rufus Landing Recreational Area

"The progress of rivers to the ocean is not so rapid as that of man to error."

During our 8-week adventure we wanted to use every resource available in locating campsites. We visited State Parks, private RV parks, Passport America member parks, US Forest Service Campgrounds and now an Army Corps of Engineers site.

Rufus Landing Recreational Area at the John Day Dam is well known among the RV community as a favorite FREE boondocking site. Located along Interstate 84 just off exit 109, it is an easy camping option for stays up to 14 days. Although Rufus is renowned for it’s wind and wind-surfing, during our 2 nights here we saw only boaters and kayakers on the river and experienced just a light breeze. But thank goodness we had the breeze, for it kept the smoke from the many fires contained to the east.

We were all alone on our football field length gravel site right on the bank of the Columbia, with a view of the dam and the State of Washington. It was quite beautiful and very relaxing...come on…how stressful is it to watch pelicans gliding over the water, counting sea gulls or catching the “tail” end of a salmon hitting the water? Granted the passing trains in front and back of us, were a little distracting, but they too were interesting to watch. Workers going in early to work at the dam and returning home were actually the main highway noise and even that proved tolerable.

We also were able to secure a few pounds of fresh caught King Salmon, filets and smoked, from a local net fisherman who was more than willing to sell his fresh caught inventory for a fantastic price. Finding his campsite by flashlight at 9:00 at night, a ¼ mile from our campsite, proved to be the adventure of our stay.

At Waypoint 45º42’14.04N-120º43’13.19W

August 26, 2015

A Taste of the Eagle Cap Wilderness

“Hear me my chiefs! I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. 
From where the sun now stands, I will fight nowhere forever”
Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt (Chief Joseph)

Our unexpected detour to Thunder RV gave us the perfect opportunity to explore the Wallowas, a place that has been on Imkelina’s radar since our first stint in Oregon years ago. 

Because it is still the height of summer vacation here in Oregon (school does not start until after Labor Day) we knew we would not be going to the state park at Wallowa Lake. We also knew it was forecasted to be HOT and that there was smoke in the air from wildfires south of the mountains, so we opted to stay in a small RV park on the river in the Wallowa valley, The Wallowa River RV Park. The first two days were toasty as expected, but we did not expect the skies to be so dark, gloomy and thick with ash. It made everything look as though it was a sepia photograph… No verdant meadows, lush forests or alpine peaks to be seen. It was a fitting setting for what we learned about the native history of this beautiful land.  

It was in this valley that the Nimiipul people (Nez Perce) lived peacefully for years and it was from here that they were driven. Their exodus through dangerous mountain passes in the Bitteroots and Rockies and ultimate surrender to the US Army just 40 miles from the freedom of Canada is often remembered as a dark chapter in the history of this land. The town of Joseph honors his legacy not only by it's name, but with a beautiful bronze sculpture.

But not being able to see those Wallowas was not an option for us. We headed up Lake Wallowa to check out the state park and campground. As we anticipated, the park was full, a “playground” of kids, bikes, dogs and more kids. We did get a chance to hike around the beautiful lake, but those pristine views were lost due to the heavy smoke. 

Next, we drove up through Lostine Canyon to explore some US Forest Service Campgrounds on the Lostine River, which is reputed to offer some pretty good trout fishing if you have the right touch with a fly rod. This is such a beautiful area, with dense forests, a stunning river and the backdrop to die for. We located Williamson Campground and knew that our next visit to Eastern Oregon would be explored from this base camp. Access to the campground was via miles of gravel road and then hidden along the river…a recipe for the perfect forest hideaway.    

Finally, on the third day, those mountains did peak out from behind the veil of smoke and invited us in for an amazing hike!! The Hurricane Crik (Creek) hike leads hikers and backpackers deep into the Eagle Cap Wilderness. We hiked 7 miles along this beautiful creek, challenging us to some hard climbs up the canyon for some great views of the peaks surrounding us.

We left the Wallowas with one last taste of the Eagle Cap Wilderness. A stop at Stein Distillery for some local distilled spirits was a fitting end to our brief overview of this fantastic area. Their blended whiskey is a gold medal winner...very smoooooth and the huckleberry cordial went down way too easy. Good muscle relaxers after our many hikes! We plan on returning another time, when it is less busy, and spend some time fishing and hiking on the rivers. We found a perfect Forest Service Campground to use as our base as we scout out the wildnerness. Until then….

Oh one last thing...although I tried,my "dis" overcame me. Almost two weeks traveling in ash filled valleys, driving hard on gravel roads and weathering a brief thunder shower, I had to hose down the rig. It wasn't my preferred choice and it probably did not do much real "cleaning", but it did put my mind in a restful state...temporarily anyway.

At Waypoint 45.31118°-117.30721°

August 22, 2015

Back To Where It All Began...La Grande, Oregon

"I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; 
I have begun to listen to the teaching my blood whispers to me" 
Hermann Hesse

Our brief visit with Melinda and Dick came to an end and it was time to move on toward La Grande and Thunder RV. While enroute, our love for Oregon State Parks guided us to Clyde Holliday State Park.

This state park turned out to be a little oasis decorated with thick carpets of vibrant and healthy green lawns (Sydney loved the feel of them), trash free walkways, paved roads and pads, immaculate restrooms and showers and an easy in/out dump station. Our back-in site was over 50’ deep, so we had plenty of room to “stretch” out. Water and electric were at site. A quiet nature trail that skirted along the John Day River, lower than normal due to the drought, offered us some outdoor exploring and exercise for the afternoon. We highly recommend this waypoint for a brief rest stop to recharge and relax or as a base if you decide to explore John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, which is definitely a place we want to visit in depth on another trip.

Prior to arriving in La Grande, we made a slight detour to acquaint ourselves with more Oregon history. The National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center is a 12,000 square foot interpretive center that will transport you on the 2,000 mile Oregon Trail. The center features exhibits, living history demonstrations, interpretive programs and multi-media presentations. There are also over 4 miles of interpretive trails. The "Prairie Schooner" was home to settlers for up to 6 months, an early day RV that was also capable of floating across many rivers. A very impressive facility and worth making the time for…free admission with my awesome Senior Pass.

Four and a half months to the day, we returned to Eagles Hot Lake RV Park for the evening, as the next day we had an early appointment at Thunder RV for some minor warranty work. As each site is a level pull through, stopping for the night was a snap. There was no rain, wind or freezing temperatures this visit, but the bald eagles are still here, calling to the wind, as they soared over the valley.

Thunder RV is truly the best dealer we have ever had the pleasure of dealing with. Wayne was expecting us and started working on our rig before our scheduled appointment. He also offered to check everything else on the rig to make sure all is well for our extended travel. And Mike made sure we had all the information needed to be entertained while Wayne serviced our trailer. Directions, eateries, hot spots…etc. Even offered his car to use around town and a parking spot at his ranch to spend the night if needed. They are the best! The work was completed by noontime, we bid our farewells and headed east to the land of the Wallowas.

At Waypoint 45.245714°-117.969070°

August 15, 2015

Smith Rock State Park - Terrebonne, Oregon

"We cannot cooperate with the spirit of the universe until our true self 
becomes a pure observing consciousness of the whole"
Dick Rauscher

We left the Wiliamson River and headed for a brief visit with our dear friends, Dick and Melinda, in Redmond, Oregon. We were already scheduled to meet them in Washington, but with our change in plans to head to La Grande, an opportunity for a special visit arose. We were able to catch up and check out all the cool upgrades they had done to their beautiful home and try out one of their favorite micro breweries ...Wild Ride Brew.

One of their favorite places to hike is Smith Rock State Park, generally considered the birthplace of modern American sport climbing. It's sheer cliffs of tuff and basalt is ideal for rock climbing of all difficulty levels. We did encounter a few of these amazing athletes as they scaled the cliffs. The beautiful Crooked River has cut its way through the layers of rock to create this geographic wonder. A rock formation known as "Monkey Face" overlooks a bend in the river and proves to be a worthy sentinel for this park.

We took a short 5.3 mile river hike to provide us a more complete overview of the park and were rewarded with some magical snapshots of the local fauna, waterfalls and awesome climbing pinnacles. Trout swam lazily in and out of clear pools, families of river otters played in the shallows, while Great Blue Herons cast shadows over the rippling waters with their magnificent wingspan as they glided silently over the river. We highly recommend a visit to this wonderful park if you are ever near Terrebonne, Oregon.

Another super cool gadget and a must for the RVer, backpacker, tent camper, picnicker or home deck king, Dick and Melinda gifted me a Luci Inflatable Solar Lantern. How cool is this light? First, no batteries, solar and uses LED lighting. Second, it is portable and folds down flat. Third, it is lightweight (4 oz) and waterproof. It features 3 settings, bright, super bright and flashing and has a 10' lighting area lasting 12 hours. If this awesome light fits your needs...and budget, please be so kind and click the above link to make your purchase. Thanks in advance. 

At Waypoint 44.3693°N, -121.1384° W

August 11, 2015

Williamson River Campground - Fremont-Winema National Forest

"Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

As we traveled up the highway, I stare in wonderment at the endless miles of forest. My thoughts are of all the beautiful individuals who have found peace and contentment without the need to venture. That "protective cage" of a community providing the comforts of a home, familiar surroundings and neighbors and predictability... i.e. no surprises and no unknowns. And than I visualize myself...and realized how feral I have been for most of my life. Many of my most joyous moments have come when I am hiking in a wilderness, driving the backroads and always looking to see over the next rise. One address being my tether, a rut in the making. I am wild, yearn to explore, experience and seek out more adventure. My own addiction. My belief is that each one of us is created with that feral instinct, just observe our children, but time, fear, ego or generation expectations has tamed a most natural behavior.

We left Los Molinos with one certainty in mind...we would be in Oregon this day. We only wanted to drive around 200 miles and we had researched some camping spots for the night. Smoke from the Northern California fires was prevalent up to and beyond the state line, in fact it only started breaking up at Klamath Falls. We were thankful our plans changed as we thought we would be snug as a bug in Lassen Volcanic National Park for 4-5 days, but the heavy smoke would have made it unbearable. 

As we passed Klamath Falls Lake, we were entertained by the aerial wonders of Bald Eagles and Osprey...just an added reminder of why we love Oregon so much.

We considered spending the night at Kla-Mo-Ya Casino, located 32 miles north of Klamath Falls, because it offered free camping, a $5.99 BBQ rib dinner and a $1.97 breakfast. Tempting, close...but no thanks. We decided to drive a few more miles north until we found "clean air."

Less than 20 miles down the highway the smoke dissipated and clear, smokeless skies appeared. We came upon Collier State Park in Chiloquin, Oregon and briefly discussed about stopping, but Oregon State Parks are pretty busy on weekends and we were looking for some isolation. 

Imke, doing what she does best, found a US Forest Service campground a little over a mile down a dirt road. She deducted that most people stay to the safety of paved roads, big signs, patrolling rangers and well known campgrounds but pass on uncertainty. Think about many people do you know that go in search of the Wizard of Oz? Plus any drive on a dirt road takes longer and warrants a post drive car wash. So for those reasons, we chose it...Williamson River Campground.

Although you need only to drive 1 1/2 miles on a dirt washboard road from Hwy 97, this beautiful US Forest Campground is pretty isolated. There are only 20 campsites and most of them were empty, Sites are huge and can accommodate a large diesel pusher or fifth wheel. The Fremont-Winema National Forest offers a setting of classic western beauty derived from the land's volcanic legacy. With over 2.3 million acres of forests, this wild place proves a safe haven for any "wild beast."

The campground, situated in one big loop, is heavily wooded and each site offers something not normally found in a public campground...solitude and privacy. And because I am now an "old fart", our night was only $5.00 with my National Parks Senior Pass...a 50% savings...I love that pass! Close by is the Williamson River and miles of isolated hiking trails.

And since feral animals are not vegetarians, what better lair to eat your kill.

At Waypoint 42.660207°, -121.85396°