Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fort Stevens, Oregon

Yeah! Sunshine at last! And a perfect day to tour Fort Stevens, where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean.
In general this is an area most well known for the historic explorations of Lewis and Clark and the development of the fur trade. A fact our history classes never emphasized is that it was also a strategic location for the defense of the United States, preventing access to the Columbia River by foreign invaders and thus protecting the northwestern portion of the United States. Most folks are surprised to learn that Fort Stevens saw active duty as far back as the Civil War, as well as World War I and World War II.

The visitors' center (museum) housed in the original war games building brings history alive with videos, historic displays of uniforms and other period memorabilia, and very knowledgeable volunteers who are available for tours and to answer questions.There is also clear signage for for those interested in guiding their own tour. The excellent Trail Guide has a map of the fort, detail maps of the surrounding area, and information about each building or site as it functioned throughout the years.

Standing on the ridge that is the remains of the Civil War era earthwork, looking out to the river, it's easy to imagine scene in 1863 when President Lincoln first ordered it's construction 1863 to protect the United States from British. and Confederate sea raiders. It would be wonderful to visit the fort on Labor Day when the Civil War reenactment is held, but unfortunately we missed the event this year. Reconstruction of the earthworks is a project being undertaken by the Friends of Old Fort Stevens in cooperation with several other groups.

Moving around the fort you can stand in the foundations remaining from the WWII barracks, examine large caliber weapons from WWI and WWII, walk through the rooms of batteries from both WWI and WWII, experience the view from the commander's stations, explore the steam plant, and tour the guardhouse. You can also see an example of the mines placed at the mouth of the river during WWI, and a large caliber gun that is being restored through volunteer efforts and will be fully functional when the project is complete.

The Pacific Northwest actually came under attack in WWII, which comes as a surprise to most people. A Japanese submarine fired on the fort, though we did not fire back, and there are varying explanations given as to why that was so. More amazing is the multitude of balloon bombs the Japanese sent out over the country, some traveling as far east as Iowa and south to Texas, though most of then landed in the northwest.The public was never told about them at the time, to avoid causing panic.

The visitors' center has detailed exhibits on these events and much more, including a scale model of the fort during it's most active period.

The fort is well cared for, and undoubtedly much of the credit going to the very active volunteer group. Restoration of weapons, painting of metal work, guided tours, all would  not happen if it weren't for the volunteers. Their Friends of Fort Stevens website has a great deal more information on the history of the fort and the various projects they support.

Reaching even further back in time, there's also a Native American longhouse, reconstructed on the spot near the earthworks where one was indicated on maps of the Lewis and Clark era.

After touring the fort we went back to camp for lunch, then decided to do a bit more exploring on the other side of the park.

The campground is so large that it offers several different environments, and plenty of walking and biking trails. We didn't have time to drop the canoe in the water, but Coffenbury Lake, in the southern part of the park, looks like it would be fun to explore. On the ocean side of the park the wreck of the Peter Iredale calls to mind the era of pirate ships.(more info on the wreck here).
For more photos of the fort and environs check out the album.

We could spend more time here, as there is plenty to do in the park, and to explore in the surrounding communities, but we have a game back in Eugene, so we'll drift back south for a few days.

By the way, here's a little quickie side trip of you are heading south of Portland. Take a few minutes to stop at the Baldock rest area. It's about 20 miles south of downtown Portland on Interstate 5. Its one of the larger rest stops, so there's usually plenty of parking. This southbound exit (milepost 281.6) is known for its short loop walk through the Grove of the States. The grove, located near the entrance to the parking area and to the right of the restrooms, was dedicated Aug. 29, 1967, when trees were planted to represent the 50 states and island territories. Not all of the trees have survived the years, and some states have changed the officially designated "state tree" since the planting, but it's still a refreshing and restful experience to wander through such a variety of trees.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Astoria, Oregon

On Monday we rolled north 37 miles to Fort Stevens State Park, and were all set up by early afternoon yesterday. The weather had turned semi-sunny, so we thought we sit and soak up the rays as we hadn't seen the sun for several days and were feeling a bit mossy. The campground here is huge, over 400 spaces, but you'd never know it. The loops and sites are well spaced, and the park personnel have smooth systems in place. The Oregon parks have all gone to a new registration system that requires you to register as you come into the park, not after you've selected a space, though some will let you drive through and then come back to the office and register. No self registration makes it not only awkward, but means more staff time is being used. We'll see how long it lasts. We do like this park as a home base for exploring the area, as there's so much to do. Nearby Astoria has a multitude of museum, restaurants, shops and vistas to explore. Then there's Fort Clatsop, and the salt works, and the Columbia River Maritime Museum, not to mention all the pubs and restaurants that have live music in the evenings, and the art galleries, and, . . .  well you get the idea, there's a lot to do here.

Tuesday we woke up to rain, again, so decided it would be a good time to explore Astoria and leave the fort until tomorrow when the whether is predicted to be nicer. Astoria is the oldest American settlement on this side of the Rockies so there are a number of historic and scenic sites to explore right in the middle of town. Many of the beautiful Victoria homes are now doing duty as bed and breakfasts, offices, restaurants or business. Most are in very good shape and make for some great photo opportunities. The city and the smaller surrounding towns have done a great job of marketing their offerings, and there are brochures available at the park and all the hotels to point people to the seasonal festivals and special events, in addition to the permanent displays and historic sites.

We started at the top of town and worked our way down....
It's a steep drive up to the column from the middle of town, but worth it for the view and the information available on the many plaques around the parking area. Built in 1926, the column it is 125 feet tall, and is covered with scenes depicting the settlement of the northwest. Other historic markers are arranged around the viewing area, which offers views of the river as well as the ocean.

After leaving the column we stopped at the Clatsop County Heritage Museum, housed in a beautiful building that was originally city hall, built in1904. There are some strong points here but also some deficits. There's a lot of information - newspaper articles, quotes from journals, etc. . . . very informative, but a LOT of reading. The Native America displays were also long on reading and short on artifacts, so a little overwhelming after awhile. At least the 4$ entry fee wasn't exorbitant.

Next we visited the film museum Oregon Film Museum, housed in the old county jail. Over 300 movies have been filmed in Oregon, many in this area. In June the city of Astoria hosted the 25th anniversary of the filming of the movie The Goonies, and launched the museum. Unfortunately for those of us who were doing other things when The Goonies came out in 1985 the film museum doesn't pay much attention to any of the other movies, like Kindergarten Cop, Free Willy, Short Circuit, and others. The admission here was also $4, which we thought was a bit excessive considering the minimal offerings of the museum. If you are a collector of old jails that aspect is fun too - but it's really small, and there wasn't any attention given to any particular interesting fact related to to the jail building or it's former residents. Mark this one as "disappointing".

On the way back to our campsite we had what Steve described as "the best quilt shopping experience" he's ever had. That might be because the Wet Dog, home of the Astoria Brewing Co., was right around the corner from Homespun Quilt, where I bought a new part for my machine and a bit of fabric. It's a nice shop, especially if you are looking for nautical-themed fabric. After completing my purchases I joined him at the Wet Dog for a brew and some crab cakes. Good stuff all the way around, and the sauce served with the crab cakes was great! As soon as we figure out how to duplicate it we'll have that posted to our recipe site.

Astoria is an important port, and welcomes both commercial and cruise ships. Today we had a chance to see the  cruise ship Oosterdam. The ship is huge, carrying over 1900 passengers, and is quite striking when docked in the harbor near all the smaller craft. Here you can compare it not only to the private craft in the foreground, but the large fishing boat passing behind it, on the right.

Back in camp Molly and I took a short walk, then we all  relaxed and watched the sun set. Tomorrow we'll visit the fort.  There are a few more photos here.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Nehalem Bay, Oregon

Wow, after several drippy days the sun finally popped out on Friday. We took a nice walk along the beach, which Mollie loved, and enjoyed the balmy weather. You just can't beat the Oregon coast on a sunny day. The beach here isn't great for "beach combers" - I've never seen so much sand with so few shells and stones. The driftwood is pretty interesting however. There are some massive trees, leading one to speculate about the force of a storm that brought them up to the shore.

We're still at Nehalem Bay* with friends. Saturday was FOOTBALL for the guys - we had the satellite set up so they could take in all the games up to and including the duck game in the evening. The rain had returned, so there wasn't much doing in the hiking department. The ladies opted for a smaller dose of athletics, and instead explored some of the surrounding area.

Further north, only about 10 miles from the campground, is Cannon Beach. This little town is a treasure for great restaurants, art galleries and other shopping opportunities. I headed straight for the Center Diamond quilt shop, with all my buddies in tow. The selection there is great and even non-sewers were so inspired by the gorgeous fabrics to come home with a project - there's something for everyone there, including some gorgeous Asian fabrics. Then we went to the Icefire glass gallery right next door and watched the glassblower at work for awhile - beautiful work they do there!

The drive along the coast was beautiful, fog and all. Haystack rock, a local landmark, stands out clearly in the pearl gray light.

Later in the day we assembled back at camp to cheer on the Ducks! There were a lot of other Duck fans in the campground and by the end of the first quarter many of them were hovering around our TV so we had quite a cheering section - and it worked! The Ducks won again..... Yeah!!! It was our first conference game of the season, so we've got a great record so far! With a camp mascot like our friend Guinness how cold they lose?

The Nehalem Bay campground has nice access to the beach, but we're also protected from the ocean wind by a sand dune, which has been nice since the rain has been pretty heavy at times. It's a good thing we all have awnings of some kind. We arranged a canopy over the picnic table and had plenty of room for chairs and tables so we were comfy in spite of the weather. A nice campfire at night always helps too!

Sunday we went into the nearby town of Nehalem and found a laundromat - the daily chores don't quit just because you're on the road. It seemed like an appropriate activity for a rainy day.

The weather forecast for the area for the next few days looks pretty wet, but we're going to head north toward Astoria and see what we can find.

By the way, if you like the area there's property for sale looks like a quiet neighborhood!

Go to the album for a few more photos.

*  The town of Nehalem, and the state park, are named for the Nehalem Indians - also called the Tillamook. They are a Native American tribe from Oregon of the Salish linguistic group. The name Tillamook is a Chinook term meaning "people of Nekelim (or Nehalem)".

Friday, September 24, 2010

North to the coast

We took our time leaving Eugene on Thursday as we didn't have far to go. We spent the night at Spirit Mountain Casino, in Grand Ronde. We don't gamble but it was a chance for a nice dinner out and a free campsite - can't beat that combination!

Friday we traveled north, up 101, over the worst road we've seen in a long time. Don't know what they're doing with highway funds around the state but they aren't spending it here! We fully expected to be greeted by a jumbled mess in the back of the trailer when we finally stopped, but thanks to all our "systems" it wasn't a problem at all. The tension rods inside the refrigerator do a great job of keeping things on the shelves, and the various cabinet latches we added keep things from flying out of the cupboards. The edging on the book cabinet is very effective at keeping the magazines and other items in their place, so there wasn't much that suffered from the swerving, bouncing and vibration the road had caused.

It was raining when we got up and continued to rained off and on all day. We met friends at Nehalem Bay State Park where a stiff wind joined the rain - more like camping in the winter than the fall, but that's the way the Oregon summer has gone this year.
As I peered out the trailer window while setting up a young forked horn browsed in the shrubbery, completely at home in the campground. Our neighbors say he's been going into campsites begging for handouts - not a good thing as people usually feed them foods that aren't normal for a deer. The last person we saw hand feeding a deer was giving it pretzels!

We have more friends arriving today, in the sun is peeking through, so it should be a nice weekend. We just hope they can find a spot near us. This section of the park is first-come basis, not reservation, and it was pretty full yesterday. Surprising this time of year, and in this weather, but it does seem more people are out camping than ever.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Eugene, Oregon - and Willie in the Rain

We're back in Eugene for a Duck game - and rain. This must be the northwest.

The final score was Ducks 69- Portland State 0 - another blow-out. The scores will undoubtedly be more balanced once we start the conference games, so we aren't getting over confident. It rained most of the day so by the time we got back to camp we were somewhat waterlogged.

We got our gear dried out just in time to leave for the Willie Nelson concert at the Cuthbert - an outdoor theater here in Eugene. It rained all day again, and though the clouds started to break up in the afternoon they got productive again as we arrived at the amphitheater. Happily shrouded in our ponchos and sipping a micro brew we enjoyed the opportunity to people-watch before the show. Comparing notes later we couldn't decide who was the most interesting - the guy with the all tye-dyed outfit, or the one with the blue beard to match his blue granny glasses, or the lady with waist length dread locks, or..... well, you get the idea. This is Eugene after all! Folks here do dress a bit differenly than in Austin. We saw about three real Cowboy hats, the rest were the drugstore type, but at least they were trying to get in the mood. Toby Keith describes Willie as the "original herbal American", and that's the aspect most folks here identify with.
As show time approached we settled in to our seats, the rain had slowed to a gentle mist, so we weren't getting soaked, and it wasn't especially cold. Judging by the cloud of pot smoke hovering over the crowd there were a lot of people not too concerned about the weather anyway (this is Eugene after all!)

The warm-up act was Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses. When we left Texas Bingham was the talk of the town. Here's the music video of the number they were playing at the time: The Weary Kind (There is an ad first but it's worth the wait, it's the best version online.) The song is the theme from the movie Crazy Heart. Ryan had a large role in the movie, and co-wrote the  song with T-bone Burnett. The song won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe, so he's definitely a "name" in the business now.... but I got the feeling from the tepid response from the audience that a lot of folks didn't know who he was. I'm sure the rain didn't help the mood either. We haven't listened to a lot of his music, and I have to say that after hearing The Weary Kind so often, the loud rock style of his Dead Horses band wasn't easy to listen to. The music totally drowned out his voice, which is soft and a bit gravely but has some very nice tones. Perhaps as his style evolves he'll learn that "less is more". We could see that with Willie Nelson's band.

Willie and the band put on one heck of a show - singing non-stop for over an hour, sometimes combining multiple favorites into a medley so there's no break at all. He plays lead guitar too, which we never realized. For all the years we've listed to his music, we can't remember ever seeing him on stage. He is a master with the strings, and has very minimal back up otherwise. The band consists of "Little Sister" on the piano, a snare drum, a base guitar, and then there's the harmonica.
Willie's harmonica player Mickey Raphael is outstanding - he can push tones out of that small instrument that you'd never imagine. The richness suggests a sax, a flute, an accordion, you can't put your finger on it, but - - - no it's just the harmonica. All the pieces ebb and flow, each has an opportunity to shine in the spotlight, and then when Willie sings, they fade to the background. Quite a contrast to the Dead Horses style that pretty much drowned out Bingham's vocals. We don't have any great photos from the event - that's what happens when you "follow directions". The Cuthbert's guidelines clearly state "no cameras" ... so all we had is a cell phone ... uh.... guess they forgot to tell that to all the folks that were hovering around the stage snaping pics. No prob - to tell the truth, Willie sings great but he isn't that photogenic! He is a great performer however, who appreciates his fans. He tossed several of his famous red bandannas into the audience, briefly wore most of the hats that were tossed on stage, and stayed for a long time after the conclusion of the concert signing people's hats and bandannas, or whatever they handed over to him.

Home base while we're here in Eugene is Armitage Park. This was a day-use county park for years, and our friends who grew up here reminisce about the time the Sheriff chased them out when they tried to stay past dusk when the park closed. Now it's a fully developed area with 37 spacious full-service campsites and other amenities, including a dog park and free wi-fi. Many of the sites are nice and open others have really old trees for shade. It makes for a nice mix.

We had friends over for dinner and there was plenty of room for them to park two cars in our space, avoiding the "day use" charge. It's nice to be able to entertain friends even while "on the road".

Fall has arrived in the northwest, and since the park is right on the river it is a fly way for geese as they start to move south. I just love to hear them honky as they fly over, but it means summer is over - too quickly!

We'll be here a couple of days to catch up on some business matters, then wander over to the coast to camp with friends for a few days.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mt. Saint Helens, Washington

We're back online! We haven't added an update for awhile - we were visiting friends near Port Angeles, Washington, for a few days, and then relocated to Seaquest State Park, so we could spend a little time touring around Mt. Saint Helens. Seaquest State Park has a variety of campsites. Some of the sites very open, others nestled among towering trees. It's very well maintained and we had a wonderful host on our loop.  Unfortunately, we had no Internet access there, so there's a lot to catch up.

Mt. Saint Helens erupted in 1980, only a short time after we moved to Oregon, so we remember vividly the impact it had on everyone in the northwest. We visited the Windy Ridge side of the volcano a few years after the eruption and marveled then at how quickly the wildflowers and other plant life was reestablishing itself in the ash from that eruption. Now, on the 30th anniversary of the event, it's even more amazing to see the video and still photographs of the eruption and compare the impact then to the area as it appears today.

The parks service has done a marvelous job of creating educational displays and presentations for all age groups. The visitors center near Castle Rock is older and getting a bit faded, but still has a lot of wonderful hands-on displays especially good for teaching young children, or anyone with no geology background. It's definitely worth a stop.

The drive up to Johnston Ridge, even in the gray drizzly weather we had, is picturesque. There are lots of opportunities to view the areas of forest that have been replanted, and the cliffs where downed trees are still visible. We stopped for a light lunch at the Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitor Center, which is actually more of a lodge. There's not a lot there in the way of displays, but they do have a nice gift shop and restaurant, and a collection of original newspapers reporting the eruption, which is fun to browse. There's also a sense of deja vu, as the topics of the day then were Iran, finance reform, and the unemployment rate. We had a  window seat in the restaurant with a clear view of the whole Toutle River valley. The original river bed was buried by up to 600 feet of ash mud flow during the eruption, and now the river wanders through that ash in a little silver stream, cutting a new path as it wanders between the hummocks and logs that were left behind embedded in the mud.

 After lunch we continued on to visit the newer center, at Johnston Ridge. The ridge is named for David Johnston, the geologist who was killed during the eruption. One of the features of this center is a video that has actual footage of the eruption. The quality of their video is a testament to new technology and video restoration techniques. Nothing from very close to the eruption survived the blast, so they must have worked with footage taken from quite a distance. However they did it, it's very impressive

The center also has presentations by rangers scheduled throughout the day, and a really nice glass enclosed viewing area - much appreciated as it was very cold and windy that day! The center is situated such that you have a clear view of the portion of the peak that was blown away during the eruption. The stark stumps of trees that were torn apart by the blast adorn the ashy slopes around the center. It's a sharp reminder of nature's power.
There is another visitors center at Coldwater Ridge, but it was closed, apparently for some remodeling, so we weren't able to visit it. Additional photos of the area are in this album.

On the road again, we are headed for Eugene, to get settled in and ready for the next Duck game.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Dosewallips State Park, Washington

As I write this update I am completely surrounded by a herd of elk....I'm not kidding!  In fact, one just passed the trailer and she was so close all I could see was her ears!

We went for a walk down by the river this morning after breakfast and when we arrived back at the campsite there was a herd of elk across the road. Since then they've moved into the campground and seem to have decided they like our little meadow in particular.  They've been grazing around us for about four hours, and have now decided it's time to lie down for their evening siesta.

The herd consists of about 60 elk - two full grown bulls, several young bucks and cows, and at least ten of this year's calves. Though they occasionally respond slightly to automobiles or other loud noises they are really quite tame and very much used to people....though I wouldn't want to be standing in front of one if it decides to move too quickly. We've puttered around our campsite, taking photos in between doing other things and they seem to feel safe in this area. They've moved back and forth around the campground but when they get startled they seem always to come back to our meadow. It's been a real treat to be able to observe them from such a close range, and we're lucky we're taking digital photos and not film - it would break the bank! Take a look at the album for a few more photos of the elk. Click "slide show" at top left for the best viewing.

We selected Dosewallips State Park as a stop primarily because it's "on the way" and only a short distance from the friends we will be visiting over the weekend. It has turned out to be a good choice! The biggest challenge in staying here is learning how to pronounce the name: "Dos-wail-opsh" or "doh'-si-wall-ips" are the two versions we've found. It's the name of a Twana Indian who, legend says, was turned into a mountain, forming the source of the Dosewallips River.

The park is well known for its shellfish beds (someone knocked on the door last night and offered us some of the clams they had harvested) and large campground, but it offers some nice hiking too.
The 3.5 mile Steam Donkey Loop Trail is an especially good choice in spring, with lots of small creeks and views of the Dosewallips River. There's no fishing to protect the salmon that run here, and there are lots of signs around with information about the salmon and their spawning behaviors. The park has a nice open feel, with most of the campsites arranged around a series of small circular meadows. It's an unusual layout but one that seems to work nicely here.

The property for the park was purchased by the state in 1950, so there are none of the lovely old CCC buildings here that we have found in other, older parks. There is a rather nice art feature however. One wall of the pedestrian walk under the freeway on the way to the river trail has The property for the park was purchased by the state in 1950, so there are none of the lovely old CCC buildings here that we have found in other, older parks. There is an "art" feature however. The pedestrian walk under the freeway on the way to the river trail ha a nice brass mural/sculpture depicting the life cycle of the salmon.

Fall has definitely come to the northwest. Ripening berries, rose apples and grasses all signify the end of summer, but make for very nice scenery. Fall can be a very colorful time of year, even in the northwest. Tomorrow morning we pack up and travel a short distance to Port Angeles where we'll be visiting friends for a few days.

Millersylvania State Park, Washington

It's a mouth-full..... Originally called "Miller's Glade", the "Millersylvania" was named for the Miller family who were early settlers here. The name was later changed, replacing glade with "sylvania" which means "wooded land," or forest glade".

Millersylvania State Park is about 10 miles south of Olympia, and wooded it is. Fortunately you have a choice of camp sites. Many of the sites are in the deepest part of the woods which have some old growth and rather old second growth, or a loop with very open sites. We chose the open area, as the skies were gray and rain threatened, and we like all the light we can get. There are ferns everywhere, giving the park a fairy dell feeling.

It did rain during the night, so everything had a freshly washed look in the morning. Fortunately the rain had stopped by the time we finished breakfast. We only scheduled one night here, but the next scheduled stop is close, so we took time in the morning to walk over to Deep Lake, a centerpiece of the park.
It's 17 feet deep according to the park website. Small enough to look inviting for canoeing, it does have a boat ramp and a wooden dock. During the season there is a concession that rents small boats, but it's closed now (seems up here everything closes after Labor Day.) There are swimming areas marked off too, so in warmer weather families must really enjoy all the options.

The Miller family gave the property to the state in 1920, and in 1935 the CCC built many of the buildings still in use - restrooms and shower house, and several large outdoor kitchen/group picnic shelters.
These buildings have the beautiful large log and stone work and wrought iron hardware that are trademarks of the CCC's work. It's nice to see they've been so well cared for.

On the road again! - heading for Dosewallips State Park.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

McMinnville, Oregon

We are staying for a few days with friends, on their farm up in the hills between Amity and McMinnville. Their view of the valley below is breathtaking, and we've spent hours setting by their pond, under giant fir trees, just watching the world go by.
Sopwith Camel in front of the Spruce Goose

Friday we saddled up and meandered through the beautiful Oregon farmlands to the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville. This museum is home to the world famous "Spruce Goose" - Howard Hughes' "flying boat". Its first (and last) flight was in 1947.  Completely built of wood, it is an amazing feat of engineering.

We visited the 'Goose years ago, when it lived in Long Beach, California. Then, when we lived here in Oregon, we watched in 1993 as they moved it north to its current home. That move was an extremely challenging task. Here's a photo of the pieces of the ship as it traveled north from California. It took a few years to reassemble and restore it, and it's now the centerpiece of one of the wonderful collections at this museum. The brainchild of Michael King Smith, who passed away in  1995  in an auto accident, the project was pursued by his father, Delford Smith, who founded Evergreen Aviation.
Curtiss P-40N Warhawk

The facility is actually two museums and an IMAX theater, and the collection is worth more than one visit. There are aircraft outside of the buildings, two nice gift shops, two cafes, a playground for the kiddies, and that's just the stuff you don't have to pay admission for!

Inside, the collection is divided into two sections - space, and the history of flying. Both worth the time, and very knowledgeable docents are available to conduct tours, or to answer specific questions any time.  There's something for everyone here, whether you are interested in the engineering aspect, space exploration, the history of aircraft, or just history in general. There's artwork too - paintings, sketches and photographs are interspersed throughout the displays.
Guardians of the Realm
There are also original manuscripts and newspapers along with uniforms from historic flights. These are all carefully displayed behind decorative screens to protect them from damaging sunlight. This is a beautifully designed space, very visitor friendly and comfortable to spend the time it takes to view it all. Commercial airliner seats are scattered about so you can sit and rest or contemplate the many videos placed throughout the displays, and in spite of the open arrangement and all the video and audio displays, it's not particularly noisy. We spent four hours and really could have taken longer, but we didn't want to leave Molly in the trailer for too long, and we had to get ready for an early departure for the game on Saturday. More photos from the museum here.

Saturday was first University of Oregon Ducks football game, against University of New Mexico Lobos.

We met our friends in Eugene and then went in to the tailgating area. As usual we had a great time, but the score was a bit lopsided...  Ducks 72 - Lobos 0. Ouch! It's apparently the most lop-sided game in Autzen history. Traditionally our Duck has to do pushups equal to our points scored after every touchdown - with touchdowns plus field goals he did a final total of 506. By late in the game he was (very dramatically) crawling off the field and plopping down on the sidelines with his big orange feet stuck up in the air. The television broadcast had a little fun with it too. Here's a videoclip, watch the lower left for Duck action (speeded up just a bit!).

We'll be here another day or two, then move north to Washington to visit friends there.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Milo McIver State Park, Oregon

We're settled here at Milo McIver State Park, on the Clackamas River, for several days. I'm not quite sure what part of Middle Earth we've landed in, but it's very densely forested, and as we walk down some of the trails I really expect Frodo to pop out from behind a bush! If we were having a heat wave we'd probably be really appreciative of the shade, but as it is, it's raining so the cloud cover plus the trees make for a pretty dark interior in the ol' RV.

The location provides convenient access to the Portland airport so Steve could pick me up when I returned from Texas. The park is just outside the town of Estacada, so we have easy access to a grocery store and other services. We stopped there for dinner at the Cazadero Inn on the way home from the airport. We had a window table overlooking the Clackamas River, and great food. . . what a wonderful welcome back to the state of Oregon! Estacada has a variety of large murals and other art work that give the town a nice personality. It's worth a drive around town to check them out.

On Tuesday we drove around all the park loops and investigated the equestrian facilities, the Frisbee golf course, the boat ramps, and the bat trail. This park is home to about 6 different bat species, and the brochure available at the trail head has nice pictures of all of them. There's an old barn on the trail that has the distinction of being one of few nursery colonies in Oregon used by the female Townsend's Big-eared bats (Corynorhinus (Plecotus) townsendii). The mothers and their pups stay here until fall until they are strong enough to fly to their winter roost.

Milo McIver is a large park, and there are some meadows, but the campground is deep forest. We have broadband access, but thanks to the dense trees the satellite dish reception is hopeless. Even the antenna TV reception for local stations comes and goes. Here's the park brochure.

Wednesday we went "up river", south, and checked out a number of other campgrounds. 'Good thing we weren't towing the trailer at the time. Most of them have primarily small spaces, fairly narrow roads, some with curbs that would make navigation difficult, and all were very dense forest. All of the campgrounds are managed by Thousand Trails, so they are reservable and judging by the tags it's going to be a very busy Labor Day weekend. Also, all of the campgrounds in this area will be closed at the end of the holiday weekend, which seems a shame as there's usually plenty of good camping weather through September and October.

While we were browsing campgrounds we also made a quick stop to look at Austin Hot Springs, one of two hot springs in the area. It's on private land and is not open to the public, though it seems the "no trespassing" signs are frequently ignored. The water is really hot, and several people have been injured so it's not really something to take lightly. It is an unusual sight to see the steam rising up out of the river. Judging by the trash left around it's apparent it gets a lot of visitors.

Bagby Hot Spring is a little further south and requires about a mile and a half hike in. It's on public land and has tubs available for those who wish to enjoy the hot water. The original bathhouse burned in 1979, but volunteers helped rebuild. On a not-so-busy weekday, soakers can have their pick of two big plank tubs or one of many hollowed-out cedar logs. You have your choice between tubs on the deck overlooking the forest or private rooms..

In the afternoon we took a short walk to the lake here, where folks were having pretty good luck with the fish. Then it was time to pack up. We're heading for McMinnville, where we will stay with friends for a few days.
Lots more photos of the park and the murals here.