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Archive for May, 2013

After pretty easy driving, we reached Walla Walla, Washington. We stayed at a fancy $35 per night RV park. The great part of the décor there were larger-than-life chickens, smaller-than-life elephants and various other decorative sculpture strewn about the grounds. They also had a difficult jigsaw puzzle going on in the laundry room. That and its closeness to a Walmart, provided us with much-needed entertainment. I also found the first good cherries of the season.

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The next day we drove to Colfax, the heart of the Palouse area. We were happy to begin seeing the green hilly fields and the Snake River area.

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After settling into our usual campground at the Paulouse Empire County Fairgrounds, the four of us drove into Colfax. D&D needed to see the Codger Pole. After exploring downtown a little, we drove off down some road and ran into the cemetery. There were a whole lot of flags flying, 250 of them as we found out. Being Tuesday, a group of people were taking most of them down, but what a wonderful sight.

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After our Lazy Daze Northwest confab, we were a little stuck. We had forgotten this weekend was Memorial Day and most campgrounds were full of long weekenders. With Don and Dorothy, we decided to 16 miles west and see if we could get into Union Creek Campground. They had both reserved and first-come first-served sites. If we didn’t get in there we would be looking for dry campsites. So we filled up with groceries, water, propane and gas in Baker City and westward ho’d. Luckily, we got two nice sites with water and electricity. Having electric heat and lights is nice when there isn’t a lot of sun for the solar panels. After settling in, we went for a walk on the trail along the Phillips Lake. Nice clouds. Then drinks and dinner with Don and Dorothy. I must say that among us, we make pretty good vittels.

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We tried a drive on Friday. The goal was to see Whitney Ghost Town, right off Highway 7 and then do a small loop. We didn’t find Whitney and proceeded south on our loop. The weather was – wait for it – cloudy. There were lots of trees. ‘Nuff said. We stopped for lunch at Unity Lake State Park. What astounds me is the beautiful grass, both tended and wild, that is everywhere. This state is green. The ranger there told us we could easily traverse a gravel road back north directly to Whitney, so we ditched the remainder of the loop and headed up the road. Some nice ranches and lots of trees. We realized we had hit Whitney when we hit Highway 7. It’s not much of a ghost town. The old, abondoned houses are pretty similar to the houses with cars out front.

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Saturday was dedicated to the Sumpter Flea Market, a big deal locally. As we had been warned that traffic would be congested, we set out early. The flea market, although spread throughout the entire town, was like most flea markets. This one differed in that there was quite a bit of ammo for sale and rocks and geodes galore. Don noticed that the event was more of a dog show. At least half the groups walking around had dogs. There was a Great Dane, a breed I haven’t seen in many years. Also saw a beautiful Weimaraner (the beautiful gray dogs), a boxer, dachshounds, Corgis and a few very cute puppies. We tired out quickly and returned home for a nap. Took another walk around Phillips Lake the other way.

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Sunday broke cloudy. We sat around, had a late breakfast and headed out to Baker City around 1 p.m. We were looking for the Powder River Interpretive Trail, but found another trail along the River and followed that for a while. Nice.

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As we returned to the car from our little walk, it began to rain seriously. As we headed towards Baker City, the rain turned torrential with a complement of thunder and lightening. We dashed into the Baker Heritage Museum, recommended by Don because of its wonderful rock collection. Wonderful indeed! We were wowed. They even had a darkroom to display fluorescent rocks just the Academy of Science did when I was a kid. Cool. All in all, a satisfactory afternoon.

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Memorial Day Holiday Monday was departure day for us because we figure we could now get a campground anywhere. We woke up to fog at 6 a.m. and jumped into our clothes. It was already dissipating from the campground but Phillips Lake still had billows, mushrooms, tufts and whiteouts of fog. We spent about an hour there and then took off for the Palouse in Washington.

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On another gray, cloudy day, we headed to Baker City for the Lazy Daze Northwest get-together. The primary thing of interest that we saw was a vista point with a big covered wagon that contained travel info.

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We got ourselves to the Mt. View RV Park, a very nice park with some great views. I didn’t realize we’d have mountain ranges on 3 sides of town. I then picked up groceries for the next 3 days of sybaritic pot-luck dinners. These people can cook!

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On Monday, our friends Don and Dorothy Malpas hadn’t yet appeared, so we took off on a journey to see the Sumpter Dredge, a very large machine that dredged up a lot of gold. When we got to the town of Sumpter, we had to pull over to take a look at the Cracker Creek Museum of Mining, an open-air collection of very old rusty tools and machines. It reminded of our outing to the Western New York Gas and Steam Engine Association event that our friend, Michael D”Ambrosio, took us to several years back. This place looked neglected. There were several information signs in front of machines, but the verbiage was no longer in evidence. But all of the symmetrical machine parts were a relief after a month of nature.

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After picking around there for a while, we moved onto the dredge. It is huge. It is the remainder of three dredges that were operational from 1912 to 1954. Although they pulled about $11 million worth of gold, they were never profitable.

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We continued up the road to Granite, an almost ghost town with some old buildings and some new ones.

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The highlight of our drive back was seeing a couple of Sandhill cranes and a nesting osprey.

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Don and Dorothy had arrived when we returned, so we caught up with them and then headed over to the meeting room for a pot-luck dinner. Yum! We had a great time over the next few days. There were two great breakfasts where Don and Dorothy, Yaeko and Len served as wonderful, short-order cooks. They deserve medals because the second morning was really chilly. The weather turned from humid and warm to very chilly with snow flurries. (Dave acted as an event photographer so all the people pictures below are his.)

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There were three pot-luck dinners, my favorite meals of the trip so far except for Café Beaujolais. The only sad thing was I won’t get the recipes for some of my favorites because I don’t know who made them. I did find out who made one wonderful beef dish – Costco. It was tangerine beef from Costco. There is a Costco in the next city we go to and I’m going shopping there. Desserts included chocolate-dipped maraschino cherries (I’m thinking of your reaction, Sage – never mix fruit and chocolate!), lime jello cake, banana cream pie, several apple crisps and some great cookies.

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After dinner each night, Pete Reed, wagonmaster of the event, did his traditional auction of goods great and small, serious and silly. Unlike 2011, there were no Idaho potatoes up for sale, but I did pick up a nice, low-legged beach chair for $5. Pete’s wife, Diane, knits during the auctions and several of her dishrags found new homes in the Lazy Daze community. There was also a book exchange where I said goodbye to some old ones and picked up a few new ones.

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Many of the Lazy Dazers have dogs and we had a great time playing with them (leaving the walking of them to the owners). Two of my favorite couples were Lorelei (human) and Libby (Labradoodle) and Jim (human) and Chica (Chihuahua).

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On Wednesday, the weather was very chilly, so we headed out with Don and Dorothy to the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, a little east of Baker City. It’s goal is to give visitors a feel for what the pioneer emigrants went through to reach a new home in the west and it succeeds admirably. Although I giggled a little at the maniquins dressed up like pioneers and Indians at the beginning of the large exhibit, the remainder of large exhibit was excellent, with pictures, artifacts and short films about the experience. They have a scale model of a Conestoga wagon (they are pretty darn small!) and you have to decide what to squeeze into it for your cross-country trip. Water? A keg of whiskey? A cast iron stove? Salt? Guess wrong and you might be at a severe disadvantage during your trip (as in dead). At one point, we ran into a female re-enactor, rocking and knitting in front of a facsimile of a wagon train campsite. After a while, she told us that the person she was playing was actually one of her ancestors and the family stories were all true. Due to the inclement weather, we spent little time outside and headed back to town for a good lunch at the Geiser Grand Hotel. That’s when some snow flurries began. This area sure has changeable weather.

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Once again we headed east, this time to Mitchell, our stopping place to access the John Day Fossil Beds Painted Hills National Monument. Mitchell is a quintessential small town with most of the businesses out of. There is a hotel, a café and a general mercantile open. But there is a campground with 3 sites and two 30 amp electrical hookups. Good enough for us. We hooked up and headed for the National Monument. With all the clouds, the light was even and low, but it worked for us. 

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That night it started to sprinkle and we woke up early on Friday morning to the sound of rain. Darn! We managed to lounge around all morning, had soup for lunch and waited for it to clear up. It did not, but we gathered together coffee, cookies and various types of entertainment and drove back to Painted Hills. It was starting to break up but small showers were intermittent. The wet gravel road was in pretty good shape but when we pulled over to the shoulder to photograph, our feet would sink into the tarry, wet  bentonite. Soon, however, glorious cumu-luscious clouds were speeding along, lighting up the scenery like a 60’s disco ball. We loved it. 

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We talked to a ranger for a while. The sequestration seriously is hurting the national parks. They can’t afford to hire seasonal employees for the summer months, and people visiting the parks are not going to see many ranger walks or talks. Every park we’ve been in, national and state, posts lists of all the reductions in service they must implement. And forget deferred maintenance that was already years behind. You know what it’s like when you let your garden go for 6 months? How about ten or twenty years? What a waste of our natural treasures. It also hurts the surrounding communities. C’mon Ken Burns, can’t you do something about that? As for all of us who love these parks and monuments, write Congress and let them know you’re displeased.

Anyway, our rainy day turned into a spectacular afternoon. Dave actually made more images than I did, 176 to 141. Luckily, they don’t all end up in the blog.

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We thought about going back early on Saturday, but the weather was gray and plain again. We moved 30 miles east to Dayville and thought we would go out to the Sheep Rock Unit of John Day National Monument, but kept sitting around as it sprinkled and was dull. We finally roused ourselves around 3:30 to drive out there and take a walk. It was nice but nothing compared to the Painted Hills Unit. 

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Once a week or so, a chore day must be established. Wednesday was that day. Had to do a large grocery shop as Bend is the largest, cheapest city we will be in for quite a while. Also had to find a Laundromat. That sounds easy, right? Not so. The city of Bend is bendy with traffic-filled streets going off in all directions, but there’s only a few places where you can cross the Deschutes River that runs through town. As we drove through the downtown area, we saw something that reminded us of home. At first glance, it was a large woman playing banjo on a corner. At second glance, it was a man in a backless dress with a very deep voice. The Garmin showed nothing for laundromats. We found a couple of dry cleaners and one of them gave us an accurate location for a Laundromat. She must have seen the frustration on my face because the Laundromat she sent us to was attached to a bar. Promptly at eleven a.m. the double doors between the washers, dryers and the tavern were unlocked and we were free to imbibe as we laundered. Alas, I had to go grocery shopping. Somehow, Dave managed to resist having an early beer. Another guy doing his laundry was banned from the bar. Apparently, he kept sneaking his own beer into the cool, dark tavern.

After all that, it was early afternoon, and after unloading everything and a short rest, we headed off to walk a trail along the Deschutes River, a little south of town. Right after we turned off the highway, we saw our first coyote of the trip, a healthy-looking specimen. We weren’t expecting much, but it was a lovely, verdant, tree-heavy area on our side of the river. The other side consisted of dark, jagged lava. The river varied from very calm to very turbulent. The Big Eddy was a really bumpy area of water. Always liking the various moods of water, we had a great time.

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Thursday, we went to a place recommended by the Visitor Center, Smith Rock State Park. (It’s amazing how you can get such good help from some Visitor Centers. I told the lady we were interested in waterfalls and hiking, and she gave us some great leads.) When you arrive and go to a lookout, you stare down at the Crooked River and up at Smith Rock which is a huge jagged formation, reminiscent of Pinnacles or Garden of the Gods. The weather report mentioned clouds and possible sprinkles but it was sunny and warm when we started the hike on the Misery Trail. Too bad, because we descended steeply down to the river, crossed the bridge and immediately began to climb 700 feet of switchbacks and stairs. The payoff came with a great lookout that allowed us to view about 180 degrees of the surrounding countryside for at least 30 miles.

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We crossed over to the west side of the ridge and there were the snow-topped Cascades in all their majesty, looking dark and moody in heavy cloud cover. From there it was all downhill on a steep, slide-y, gravelly trail. We eventually got down to river level again and meandered along, looking at Canadian Geese, red-winged blackbirds and rock climbers. Smith Rock is a climber’s paradise and we saw about 30 people on or at the base of the steep cliffs.

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We got ourselves back up from the river to the car, ate our Dare chocolate cookies with lukewarm coffee and moved on. My next planned stop was Petersen’s Rock Garden in Redmond. It’s described as “…4 acres of intricately detailed miniature castles, towers and bridges made of agate, jasper, obsidian, etc….There are free-roaming peacocks.” We found the place…..closed. Open only on weekends. Damn! There was an area where I could see the grounds and we forlornly took a few pictures and went back to camp.

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We sped northward on the coast to Florence, Oregon. We found an acceptable, not great, campground. It did have one redeeming factor, an enormous sand hill directly behind the campground. But I was feeling tired and out of it, so Dave went for a walk up it and I did not.

On Saturday morning, we went on our designated drive to Sweet Creek Falls Trail. It was not as cloudy as we had hoped, but it still was one of the best hiking trails we have done. Almost completely flat, covered in evergreen duff with view after view of the descending creek. I was going along, taking my usual large number of photographs. I took a movie of the attractive creek when the dreaded symbol appeared on my screen – low battery! In my many years of photographing, I have never seen this symbol before. I had gone too long without recharging my battery. After moaning a little, I put my camera away and spent time enjoying the scenery without photographing it. We moved on and when I found an overwhelmingly attractive scene, I waited for Dave to finish with it and put my memory chip into his camera and clicked away. (Sounds a little SyFy, doesn’t it?) I took a few more on my camera and made it through the day. I love the vivid spring green color that the water reflects in some of the images.

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That was our one stop in Florence. On Sunday we took our first 180-mile drive across the Cascades to Bend, OR. As we tooled along our relatively empty side of the highway, we watched the line of cars traversing in the other direction. We stayed in a campground we stayed at before: Tumalo State Park Campground, a little north of Bend. It was very hot when we arrived, so after settling in, we turned on the air conditioner for the first time this trip, and after dinner, finished our wine outside in the balmy evening.

We hit a couple of places on Monday. The first was Tumalo Falls that surprisingly, is about 15 miles south of Tumalo State Park. After a long drive down a gravel road, we ended up at a roaring falls, one of the easiest to photograph that we have seen in a while.

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After lunch, we headed south to Newberry National Volcanic Monument, south of Bend. We hit the Visitor Center right when a busload of 14-year-olds was milling about, so that was a short visit. We drove up to the top of Lava Butte, a huge cinder cone and got a 360-degree view of the surrounding country and mountains.

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We continued southeast to Paulina Lake. We wanted to reprise the Obsidian Flow hike that we took in 2011 up an incredible hill of obsidian lava debris, some of it shiny and reflective, most of it just interesting jumbles of lava rock. But at 6,000+ feet, there was still snow all over. We tiptoed over small snow fields, using our tripods as hiking sticks, but the trail petered off into a large snow field. We regretfully turned around and drove the 40-miles back to camp.

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This time we went all of 41 miles to reach Crescent City, our last California destination for a while. We found the pretty little Village Camper Inn RV Park, did chores and had a quiet evening. Tuesday was my birthday and I celebrated it by taking a hike. We drove up a dirt road about 4 miles into Jedediah Smith State Park and headed down the Boy Scout Trail. 2.6 miles in, 2.6 miles out. Doesn’t sound like much does it? We were pretty tired when we got back.

But we rallied and I selected the Chart House for dinner, recommended by our RV Park manager. Alas, it was closed, so we settled for the Fisherman’s Restaurant and had very good fish and chips.

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153DG1728edediahSmithBoyScoutTrailBirthday over, the next beach stop was Bullards Beach in Oregon, near Bandon. A nice parky campground near a wonderful beach. The Coquille Lighthouse is a small marker on the junction between the Coquille River and the Pacific. Combing the beach, we found a delicate sand dollar, a barnacle, beach glass, a nice composite rock and delicately-colored pieces of shell. We’re gathering shells while we may; soon we’ll be heading inland.

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159MG4475BullardsBeachThe Cape Arago Highway runs south of Coos Bay and has a lot of variety: wide beaches strewn with driftwood, small coves, many sea stacks, a lighthouse and the spectacular Shore Acres State Park. Built by a rich man for his wife, natch, two mansions on the edge of a bluff burnt down but the formal gardens remain, tended by a volley of volunteers. We visited at the right time – the gardens are thick with rhododendrons at their height right now. We spent an hour marveling at the extravagant Rhodies. We also found a Monkey Puzzle Tree fun to photograph. Since it was chilly, we ate lunch in the observation shelter overlooking the sea. Having had our fill of peanut butter and ham (not together!!) we walked along the edge of the bluff and studied the strange formations that grew on the rocks below. Then we studied the strange habits of young men who were standing at the edge of a sea cave, apparently daring each other to go deeper in. Yes the tide was fairly low, but still…..

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190MG4569ShoreAcresSPWe returned to the car and headed further south. At Simpson Reef Wildlife Viewpoint, all kinds of seals were visible and audible, hauled out on the rocks to take a rest. They were too far away for us to tell what type of seals they were. Finally, we went to the end of the road at Cape Arago. We were too tired to hike down the steep trail to the beach, and began the return north. We did stop at a viewpoint of the Cape Arago Lighthouse but we were ready to book. That didn’t happen. To reach the Cape Arago Highway, the Garmin, our bipolar GPS system, had led us on a gravel, roller-coaster road for about 6 miles. I know there was a better way, but we didn’t have any local maps to get to a direct road. Returning home, the Garmin wanted to take us on the same road we had come in on. I continued north on the Cape Arago Highway, figuring we’d find a turnoff to take us to US-101. Nope. We drove about 8 miles north to Coos Bay before we turned south and drove 21 miles back to our campground. Bad signage!

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