Archive for June, 2013

Its our last gasp in Oregon. We’re at a very nice campground east of Cottage Grove: Schwartz Campground at the foot of Dorena Dam. It’s a Corp of Engineers site so the rate is $8 per day with my Senior Park Pass. It’s a good take-off place for visiting some of the waterfalls in the mountains. We’ll camp here for 3 nights and then start the trek home. A ranger told us there are some bald eagle nests in the campground so we’re going to look for them.

No bald eagles, but we did struggle up and down a very large, steep embankment to see Dorena Lake – very pretty. On Tuesday, we loaded up the Rav and went in search of waterfalls. We had 2 sets of detailed instructions on navigating the maze of roads that run through the mountains, the Oregon Atlas and the Garmin. As it turned out, both the roads and trails are marked (Hurray for the Forest Service!). Our first location was Spirit Falls, a short 1/3-mile walk. The falls were really nice and we spent a pleasant hour there. When we returned to our car, two vans of elderly folk, kids and dogs were parking. We got out just in time.

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Our next destination was Moon Falls. This walk through lush forest was all of a ½-mile. It was another easy-to-photograph location, though the sun was starting to gleam on the water, creating hot spots and dark shadows. Both locations had picnic tables right by the falls, a nice amenity. As we headed back, we ran into the same large group we had seen earlier.

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So far, it had been mostly cloudy, with blue sky and sun appearing intermittently. We found our third waterfall, Parker Falls, and began more of an uphill trek, 0.8 mile. This trail had a few obstructions. One was a huge tree that was laying across the trail. The options were to lay across it and belly over it which Dave did. He started to slide down a little and I knew my option was to crawl under it through the very small space. Thoughts of spiders and ticks filled my mind but I grit my teeth and did it. Ten feet away was another huge trunk but it had a rough step hewn through most of the trunk. Then it was over and under some birch or aspen trunks. The remainder of the trail was in good repair. There is an upper and lower Parker Falls. We panted our way to the upper falls and Dave scrambled down to a better viewpoint, but I decided to skip it and go down to the lower falls. That trail ended in a narrow canyon that had huge trunks impeding access to the foot of the falls. Watching Dave balance his way across rotten tree trunks convinced me this was not the spot for me. Abandoning my beloved, I started the return to the car.

The weather had gotten grayer and it began to shower as I walked alone. It wasn’t exactly a dark and stormy night, but my imagination turned black rocks and tree stumps into bears and I hurried along. A serious shower began as I got close to end of the trail and I was pretty wet when I got in the car. One Oreo cookie later, I was snug and reading my book until Dave got back. I drove the 20-some miles back to camp and we listened to on-again, off-again showers the rest of the night. The recorded movie of choice was “Repo Man”, the old 1984 film about Repo Men trying to repossess an old Chevy Malibu that is apparently transporting dead aliens. Not as good as we remember it, but okay for a rainy night.

The next day we went back for more waterfalls. The first spot, Brice Creek, was a flat trail trailing along the Creek. Very pleasant.

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Dave and I split up for the next hike. I wasn’t ready to climb 1,000 feet, so I hiked to Trestle Falls while Dave went up to Upper Trestle Falls. He got the better photographic opportunity while I took an easier hike. It is a little scary for me hiking alone, but I clambered over a slippery log and butt-hiked over some slippery rocks. It’s easier when nobody watches you hitching yourself up in a most ungraceful manner. I got back to the car before Dave did and had coffee and cookies while watching it shower and reading my next book “A Windup Girl”. Sci-Fi at its best.

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That was it for the hikes. On Thursday, we started to drive south and spent a nice night in Crescent City at the same RV park we stayed at on the way north. We finished off our potato chips with Cuba Libres and chatted with our next-door neighbor while his Black Lab retrieved balls. Ah…It’s a good life.

On Friday, our 220-mile trip south was enlivened by two events. One was stopping at the Trees of Mystery to photograph a very large Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe. The exhibit was hilariously enhanced by the fact that Paul talked to the visitors. Kids could ask him questions and he would answer. Evidence that a real person was doing the talking was provided when Paul had to ask “Could you repeat that? I didn’t hear you.” The little kids were entranced. The teenagers were more engaged by the fact that Babe had retained his not-so-private parts. As one girl goofed around in a manner I will leave unrevealed, Paul said “You’re making Babe a very happy Ox” and “That’s not a piñata!”

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The other incident was when our Rav’s battery died. Luckily, we could pull over and Dave charged it off the Lazy Daze. We reached the Golden Rule RV Park around 4 p.m.

Naturally, with the biggest full moon of our lifetime, the campground was deep in a valley. No full moon for us. Instead, we drove into Willits and had Buster burgers.

Saturday, we sped the 120 miles back to San Francisco. After a couple of car fires, including a Volkswagon Beetle really blazing, we arrived home. This trip was done. We really enjoyed this one. We’ll be doing a different kind of trip in September: flying to New York for a week.

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Happy Fathers Day, everyone.

We headed to the Colombia River on Wednesday and settled into a pretty, expensive campsite in Maryhill State Park, right by the river. After a rest, we headed off to see a life-size recreation of Stonehenge, built by a Sam Hill. I loved it – an open yet enclosed space with columns and portals and views of the surrounding terrain. Move 5 feet and the view is completely different. I moved all over the place, seeing peeks of the Colombia River, peach and cherry orchards, windmills on ridges.

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We went to the Maryhill Museum, a large mansion built by Pacific Northwest entrepreneur Sam Hill to live in, but he never moved there so he dedicated it as a museum. It’s a weird collection: many Indian artifacts, a large Rodin collection, fancy stuff belonging to Queen Marie of Romania, a fashion doll collection, many strange and beautiful chess sets, memorabilia from dancer Loie Fuller and a few paintings, one of sugar heiress Alma de Bretteville Spreckels of San Francisco. There is a lot of lawn covered with sculpture and a spectacular view of the Colombia River with cumulous clouds in the distance. We spent a few hours there, ate lunch and moved on.

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There are many scenic bypass roads along the Colombia and we took OR-30 from Rowena to Mosier. The road spun like a dervish until we reached a high viewpoint. Wonderful, except that the wind was roaring at least 40 mph. Forget the little hike we could do. Heading down the other side, we found a gorgeous meadow covered with all kinds of wildflowers.

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Our next task was to figure out where we would stay over the weekend. We want someplace fairly quiet and cheap. We just don’t feel like we get our money’s worth at $32 per night. We finally decided to head down the east side of Mount Hood. That will definitely be quieter.

We checked out the town of The Dalles to see if the Safeway had gas and could accommodate the Lazy Daze. Yes on both accounts so that is where we will gas up on the way south. I have now become addicted to DeLorme’s state atlases, and found an Oregon bookstore that had the state atlases for New Mexico, North Dakota and Alaska but not Oregon. Go figure…

We ended up at the Wasco County Fairgrounds, near Tygh Valley. A nice site with everything we want. We took a short drive to White River Falls State Park. Another really nice wide waterfall with trees intruding on all sides and no way to get close. Oh well. We drove out to the Deschutes River and saw Indians perched on rickety platforms, fishing with nets, I think. There were lots of signs posted that this was Indian land and we felt uncomfortable stopping to photograph them. Oh well.

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Upon returning back to camp, we unearthed our bottle of limoncello (thank you, Jeff, for making it and thank you, Mary and Rick, for giving it to us.) A toast to you all (you too, Betty).  We watched people exercising horses and preparing for the rodeo. We saw cattle with strange headgear that looked like a retainer for the skull. Then we found out it actually was a Bible Camp training kids for rodeo events and the rodeo wasn’t till Tuesday. Shucks!


We’re getting a little antsy now. It is better for us to get home on a Friday because of parking restrictions on our block. But I’m not ready to go home! We’re going down to some area in the Willamette (I can never figure out the names for the general area) for a few days to look at waterfalls. We may or may not make it home on Friday.

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It’s beginning to feel like we’ve spent a whole lot of time here. Although we’re staying one more day, I’m ready to go. Today we went on a very long drive with D&D. The beginning of our backroad trips always start with lots of stops and enthusiasm. It seems like we traverse the roads quickly. Now that I have a detailed Washington Atlas, I can compare what it shows to what the Garmin shows. That makes for some complications, as some road names show up one place and not the other. We found the “best” barn of the trip (as all four of us agreed) and photographed that a lot.

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We had a late lunch at Rock Lake and saw one of the largest pelicans we have ever seen, although it was sitting by a lot of seagulls. I had planned for us to go further north but our energy flagged and I got us home as fast as I could. Naps were had by all and we ventured into the strong wind for cocktail hour. I’m glad to be sitting comfortably in a non-moving (for the moment) vehicle.

We didn’t move much during the a.m. hours of Saturday. We went into Colfax in the afternoon to avail ourselves of the Library’s WiFi and grocery and gas shop. When we returned to camp, there was a junior rodeo going on. We are camped at the Palouse Empire Fairgrounds, after all. The riders ranged from about three-to-twelve years old. Some rode small ponies, some big horses. Skills involved pulling a ribbon off a goat’s tail, flanking a goat (pulling it onto its back) and tying a goat’s legs so it couldn’t get up. Needless to say, the goats were very reluctant to participate, although the goat handlers kept them pretty calm. Although some of the children could hardly sit up straight on a horse, they were all game, although one little girl decided her hat that had fallen off was more important than getting the ribbon off the goat.

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We did our final evening drive along the southwestern area from Colfax. We started out on Highway 26, the main drag, and surprise, there was a long, narrow strip of our pot of gold – a Canola field in bloom.

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Nothing else quite measured up to the Canola and we missed the low light at our favorite spot because we dead-ended on one road at a local dump. Oh well, another good day.

Sunday we bid farewell to Colfax and headed for Palouse Falls State Park. We had a little trouble finding a place to camp. One campground was closed off and the only other obvious campgrounds was the Lyons Ferry KOA. KOA is not one of Don’s favorite organizations. We were further irritated by the insistence of the KOA grass nazi that we park with our nose to the precise front end of our campsite. It was so far up we couldn’t hook up our sewer hose to the sewer. Dave told him we would dump first and then line up with the other rigs. He thought about it hard before he agreed and checked us later to be sure we moved. I can see not rolling the motorhome wheels onto the grass but the rig couldn’t be anywhere near it.  We also had to park the Rav elsewhere because the rig took up the front of the site. Ridiculous.

The problem of where to stay after that one night was solved by visiting Palouse Falls State Park. The falls are large and spectacular and the view is looking down at them from a high point. But you can’t easily get close to them and it was hot. We took some pictures and bid farewell to the area.


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If we can’t photograph wonderful stuff, why not drink? After Dorothy and I did a little research, we drove to the Prosser area that is now home to many wineries and tasting rooms. We went to a close one the first afternoon that had some good reasonably-priced bottles. The next day, we drove to Wine Country Road around 10:30 in morning and spent a couple of hours tasting at three wineries. Lunch was at a local Mexican restaurant. Then I guided everyone to Chukar Cherries, a wonderful place that covers luscious cherries with cabernet-flavored chocolate and other wonderful flavors. And their chocolate-cherry sauce: tremendous.

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We had our final dinner with Don and Dorothy and bid a fond farewell on Wednesday morning. They headed west towards Portland and our destination was Maryhill, Washington, south of here. We got a really nice site at the Maryhill State Park Campground but it was $32 per night. We need to find some less pricey places to camp. Maybe in Oregon.

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The four of us moved to Moscow, Idaho on Sunday and are staying in two of five campsites on the edge of a beautiful green park with roses, birdies and a cottontail that visits us every evening at dusk. The only downside is a whole lot of mosquitoes that also come out at dusk. Can’t have it all, I guess.

Dave and I took off early Monday morning to drive the back roads and check out the neighborhood. Okay, not great. The best way I can describe it is that the hills around Colfax are “stacked” while the hills around Moscow are flat-chested. The drama isn’t there. The terrain may be different because there are mountains nearby, the closest being Moscow Mountain. We did get a nice image of pink-blossom trees. The other highlight of the morning was seeing a few Banded Galloway cows. As I’ve said before, we’re easily amused. The weather is finally warming up and we had a great dinner of Greek hot dogs, courtesy of Dorothy. Good stuff.

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The next day D&D did the driving. We headed west to the Snake River. There were lots of green fields, but little drew our attention. We reached the Snake and at my urging, picnicked in the shade near a Cougar’s rowing dock. It is hard to believe the total devotion that the entire Palouse has for Washington State University’s Pullman football team. There are Cougar emblems everywhere.


After lunch, we followed the Snake for a number of miles before heading east on pretty-well-maintained gravel road. As we were nearing the town of Colton, WA a cropduster began sweeping in big circles around us. Because of all the hills, we kept losing him until he turned around for another run.

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From Colton we headed north back to Pullman. My ulterior reason for wanting an early lunch was found on Ferdinand Lane in the middle of Washington State University. It’s the WSU Creamery where students learn how to farm really good cheese and ice cream. Oh the ice cream!!!!! They actually knew how to make a really great chocolate soda, the best I’ve had in 15 or 20 years. For all you young blog-readers, a chocolate soda is not a coke float with chocolate ice cream. It’s chocolate syrup mixed with seltzer into which a large scoop of ice cream is submerged. When made correctly (lots of chocolate syrup) it is lush and scrumptious, with more textural variety than a milk shake can provide. If you are anywhere near Pullman, WA I cannot recommend this ice cream parlor highly enough.

When Don and Dorothy decided it was laundry day, they decided to take Koko, their Lazy Daze with all their dirty laundry, my dirty laundry and me. (I was clean.) For the first time, I got to ride in a rig sitting at the kitchen table. Neat. Their 2007 rig is different from ours in minor ways. Their kitchen window looks bigger because it hasn’t got decorative soffits like we do.  The rear window shade is different: ours pulls down, theirs has a cord that drives Dorothy crazy. They also don’t have an exit stair that automatically extends. Dorothy probably saved my life when she stopped me from exiting before she manually put the stair out.

After laundry we lounged around, ate an early dinner and went to find Kamiak Butte. We wanted to hike it with low light and see how the views were. We ran into a knowledgeable German who told us that most of the unobstructed views were on the east side of the butte. We labored up the 4 switchbacks and got a great view of the surrounding country. The west side is almost totally obstructed by trees, but since they protected us from the sun, we appreciated them. We did a little back road touring as the sun got closer to the horizon, found a neat road to return to, and headed home. We got back at 9:30, but it was a worthwhile evening.

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On Thursday, we moved back up to our old stomping grounds near Colfax. We’re going to do a bit more back road exploring to the west. None of the farmlands we’ve seen compare, although the light in which we look has an enormous impact on our visual response. It’s hot now, around 86 degrees, but the campground has a pleasant breeze and we’re parked in the afternoon shade of the cottonwood trees. We had a light supper of wild salmon pita pockets with a horseradish sauce and took off on another drive. I purchased a detailed Washington state atlas and it helped enormously; I no longer have to depend on our undependable Garmin.  We returned to our favorite place on Almota Road just as the sun descended into its pre-sunset cloud. That gave us soft light. Then it popped out again to give us a golden glow on our chosen hills. That was followed by the best sunset of our trip so far. I was thinking of your Hawaii sunset images, Patti, as I shot away.

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We’ve been hearing about northern lights being visible in Spokane, 90 miles north of us, but haven’t been in a dark enough spot to see them even if they appeared. We don’t seem to have much luck with celestial events.

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It’s hard to keep the days straight out here. Every day involves driving. On Friday, we headed onto the southern roads in the area. Dave found a particular area he remembered from 2011. We saw a coyote loping across the wheat fields. Dave fumbled for his camera but it was gone. There’s no place to hide in this country which I guess is both good and bad for a coyote. I found a farmhouse tucked into a hollow that I remembered. It did not entrance me like it did in 2011. It’s a visual exercise when we’re driving, looking at the surroundings and deciding if they are image-worthy. Sometimes Dave calls a stop, sometimes I do. A red-and-white piece of machinery, a certain color in the fields, a tree at the top of a hill – any of them can say something to our eye. Sometimes Dave will make photographs for 15 minutes while I stay in the car and sip coffee or vice versa. We usually review the day’s collection together and marvel at how many identical compositions we’ve made as well as how many totally different images we’ve recorded. It’s endlessly fascinating to both of us.







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Back at camp, it was pleasant, so we sat outside with Dorothy and Don, enjoying the weather. There is a long line of tall Cottonwood trees along the west edge of the campground and the cotton is flying. At the slightest breeze, it looks like snow and we have to cover our drinks to keep it out. As we lounged, a huge furrow-maker (I don’t know the proper term) started furrowing on the hill next to us. One edge of it was spitting out pink balls. We figured that was so the driver would know where to pick up where he left off on the last go-round. Why he was doing it was a mystery to us because the field was already planted with growing wheat. A couple of cropdusters started buzzing by periodically. We hauled out the cameras and shot away.

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The weather look propitious for a Steptoe Butte so we hung out with Don and Dorothy for a while, ate an early dinner and headed north. Dave said we had time to take a back road on the way up so I fiddled with the Garmin. We headed off down a road and found it dead-ended. This was the second time that we’ve followed a road that has ceased to be. We took off on another road and began to climb past pines, looking down at basalt cliffs and the Palouse River. Suddenly, we were looking down at an oxbow, where the river makes a 180-degree turn. What a surprise. After that, it was getting late so I maneuvered us to the nearest highway that turned out to be about 1 mile away from our campground. Surprise!



Since it was still about 18 miles to Steptoe Butte, Dave stepped on it and we sped up there around 7:20. The lighting was marvelous; the wind non-existent. Perfect conditions. D&D had decided they would go as well in their Jeep and got there before we did. We met them coming down as we were stopping on our way up. As the road spiraled up, there were loads of photographers at each pullout. There was a photography workshop at one pullout. Don later recited some of the conversations he overheard: “Next time tighten your camera on the tripod.” “Do you know you’re shooting two stops under?” He said the instructor was providing commentary in a supportive manner.

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The shadows increased and lengthened on the vista below. We were surprised that the sun still hadn’t set by 8:30. I guess being at 3,618 feet and being farther north than usual makes sunset later than we expected. We stopped shooting and began descending. On the way back, in the deepening dusk, we could see white-tailed deer grazing in the wheat fields. It was a good day.

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On Saturday, we piled into our Rav with D&D and took off for the Rat Rod and barbeque in the town of Palouse. It was bigger than we expected and a lot of fun. There were ratty old cars and beautiful shiny old cars. There was a souped-up Volkswagon Beetle and a gorgeous pick-up truck with a canister of nitrous oxide attached in the bed (to help it laugh?)  And there was kid with “kid” on the back of his t-shirt. His mother said that’s what he chose to put there. A unique sense of humor at age 5.

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Every day in the Palouse has provided us with interesting weather. We got up at 5:15 a.m. on Wednesday and drove the 15 miles to Steptoe Butte. Don and Dorothy went in their own car. We reached the butte and started to corkscrew our way towards the top. The view and the light changed at each curve so we stopped a lot. D&D started out behind us, but reached the top long before we did and were headed down before we got to the top. They went back to camp to have breakfast. I was amazed at how different the landscape looked. What was gold and black in fall of 2011 was now mostly green. My “black flag” effect in 2011 was nowhere to be seen. There were modern windmills spewed out over hills in one area. We lasted a little longer in the blasting wind, but finally headed back down. On our way, we saw a porcupine ambling across the road and into the bushes.

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We decided to head north to Rosalia and check out that area. Nice, but the grey chilly weather was a little depressing photographically. We went through the tiny community of Oakesdale that didn’t even have a coffee shop. Rosalia did have a café, the same one we visited in 2011. It was notable because they make the most tasteless mocha latte I have ever had. Oh well. We headed home for naps and picture processing. Intermittent sun and showers kept us heading in and out of the rigs. I made chicken enchiladas and Dorothy made Baja Salad with Nopalito (cactus paddles). It was refreshing.

Thursday was a drive-and-stop kind of day. There were about 2 little clouds in the sky when we woke up, but there were plenty three hours later. The entire day featured lots of puffies scudding along everywhere. They were fine but I could have lived without the stiff wind that was blowing. We wanted a day of remote rural roads. We didn’t have a detailed map of the area so wandering around involves taking off in a general direction and then fooling the Garmin GPS into leading us back to a real road. It worked pretty well for us. We went a little northeast and found the semi-ghost town of Elberton.

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We ate lunch looking at Ladow Butte. Reached the town of Garfield and headed south to the town of Palouse. Found the unimpressive RV Park there but there are a few interesting sights in town. Went southeast, passed into Idaho and drove around there a little.

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After lunch, as usual, I got sleepy and would have been okay heading back to camp. Dave wanted to drive a little more so we found some roads south of Colfax and hit pay dirt. Whoever Pat O’Neill was, he has a great road named for him. The hills were really vari-colored and the sun was sweeping across wide swathes of land. It was lovely. We also found areas with a lot of red-orange poppies and other sweet-smelling wildflowers. We’ll be heading back to this spot if we can find it again.

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