Friday, August 31, 2012

Crescent Junction RV Park

'Seems strange to have all the lights on. For the past three weeks we've been boondocking. With the exception of two nights at La Pine State Park we've relied totally of the solar/battery system for power and it's done very nicely. We've had computer time, TV if we wanted it, and I've been sewing whenever I wanted. We do have to be economical with the electricity use though, so after being careful for so long it's a real luxury to have the heater and the electric coffee pot all running at the same time.

We stopped for two nights at the Crescent Junction RV Park, a tough 20 mile commute from our last stop. From North Davis Lake Campground we drove south on the Cascade Lakes Highway, then northwest on Hwy. 58. We wanted to get the rig and the wardrobe civilized before we move to Eugene for the first Duck game of the year.

Crescent Junction RV park is on the west side of Hwy. 58, across from Manley's Tavern. The park has a nice 3-machine laundry room, in the same building with the showers. It's the cutest little laundry room I've ever seen.... well, maybe cute is the wrong word.  It's paneled with knotty pine, and has an old-time cabin-in-the-woods feel to it. The main thing is, all the machines work! The park is open to the woods at the back, so it's convenient to take Shiner for a run - she requires lots of space so open forest is a good place to let her romp.

The RV park is right behind the Odell Sportsman Center - a genuine, old time "general mercantile". The store has a few touristy clothing items, food, shovels, fishing gear, old fashioned hard candy, general groceries, ice cream treats, puzzles, and more (but no dirty books as far as I could see). The place instantly sent me thinking of a song we hear frequently on the radio at home, Kevin Fowler's Beer, Bait, and Ammo..... We bought greeting cards and milk, and of course, beer!

The camp host, Eric Johnson (aka "Stickman")  carves wood spirits and walking sticks. They sell them in the Sportsman Center, but Eric had a few displayed in his camp site, so I went shopping and I fell in love with this smiling fellow, so he's been adopted into the family.

Eric does all the carving by hand, and the sticks are red alder, a sturdy, fine grained wood. He also does wood spirit carvings suitable for wall hanging. Unfortunately our RV has very little wall space or I would have adopted one of them too. As a wood carver myself I can really appreciate the detailing in his carving style and the personality he gives each individual piece. (Eric takes orders, and can be reached at P.O. Box 1032 Crescent Lake, OR, 97733; 541-512-6010)

Fully restored to semi-civilized status (that's about as close as we ever get) we'll be heading for Eugene, and Armitage Park, in the morning.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Stuck on Wednesday

One morning the Trailmaster asked, "What day is it?" A common enough question, especially for those of us who are retired and don't have to pay to much attention to what day it is.

According to the Day Clock it was Wednesday. but after checking the date/time on the computer we deduced it had been Wednesday for the last three days. 

Obviously we hadn't been too concerned! It is a slightly strange feeling, though, to discover you've not paid any attention at all to what day of the week it is for three days running. I guess we're finally getting into the retirement groove.

A fresh battery to the rescue! Now we're on track again.

The Day Clock really is a handy gadget, and one of the best retirement gifts either of us ever received. Most of the time we really don't care what time it is, but we do (obviously) tend to lose track of what day it is, so the clock keeps us oriented and on schedule. Can't miss our next reservation date you know!

It was rather ironic that the same day we discovered the clock was "stuck on Wednesday" one of our favorite bloggers had some thoughts on Hump Day himself. Check out Nick's blog post.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

North Davis Creek Campground

The day we drove around exploring (and ended up with a flat tire) we checked out several areas and campgrounds, and discovered North Davis Creek Campground. After Training Camp we decided it would be a nice, quiet place to hang out for a week or so. With a full larder and water tank we headed for the campground, our friends Bill and Grayce joining us for the first two days. The campground is admittedly a bit dusty, as are all the high Cascade lake campgrounds, but the dust is a small price to pay for all the benefits.

The North Davis Creek campground is located right on North Davis Creek, which flows into the western arm of Wickiup Lake. On the map below, the creek is the top of three that lead from the highway east to the main channel.

View Larger Map

The lake itself is actually a reservoir, and the largest of the Cascade lakes. The little arm feels more like a small lake and is perfect for canoeing or fishing without the commotion of the motorized boats that frequent the larger area. Upon driving through the small campground one might assume it to be a boring dry camp, with only one site exposed to the water. Not so! Exploration on foot revealed a wealth of stunning views.

View from our site
We moved in to site 7, the best lake exposure, but the least flat of all the sites so we've spent the week adjusting and readjusting our chairs so we don't creep downhill.

All of the sites on the outside of the loop have exposure to either the lake (sites 3,5 and 7), or one of the creeks, or the spring.

North Davis Creek
All are beautiful views, and most are fairly flat. Wildflowers are still blooming around the creeks, even this late in the year.
The gentle sound of the rushing creeks can be heard from all of the sites. North Davis Creek is fairly large and flows through a broad log and moss covered bed past several of the sites (12 is especially nice) then tumbles loudly over a rocky slope just as it enters the lake.

First canoe lesson
We had no trouble launching our canoe from the beach, and decided this is the perfect place for Shiner to learn how to be a canoe dog. She wasn't to sure about the whole procedure at first, and we were afraid that her enthusiasm for swimming would cause her to jump out, but she learned quickly with a little encouragement and a few short lessons.

The little lake-like fingers of Wickiup are perfect for canoeing, and exploring the margins where the crystal clear blue water laps against the reeds is a pleasant afternoon amusement. There are a few other kayaks and canoes around, but the population is nothing like we encountered at Hosmer.

This is definitely the place to go to avoid crowds. Though several trucks and cars cruised the campground as though looking for a site, as of Friday night, out of 14 camp sites only four were occupied, on Saturday there were eight occupied, but all but three of us had cleared out by Sunday morning. Two of us are here for a week or more.

We've had the beach pretty much to ourselves, to canoe, play on the sand, toss a stick for Shiner to retrieve in the water, and watch the wildlife. The margins of Wickiup have several areas that allow "dispersed camping", meaning no organized campground. Park and what you see is what you get. Those campers often come here to launch their kayaks or canoes, but there were never enough vehicles to cause a problem in camp. 

One afternoon we saw an osprey sail over the lake and fly off with a small fish, while later in twilight a young mule deer wandered out of the woods on the opposite shore and grazed awhile, then turned and went back into the woods, leaving us free to watch the blue heron fishing on the bank.

Our site is somewhat elevated above the shore, so we have a perfect vantage point for watching the changing reflections as the wind and currents shift.

Source for North Davis Creek
A walk along the north side of the campground, along the trail behind the campsites, has wonderful views of the creek, complete with little rushing falls and wildflowers. Behind site 10 there's a log bridge over the water. The other side is pretty dense with threes, but Shiner and I were determined so we wended our way through the dense shrubbery and ended up at a pile of lava rock that appears to be the source for the creek.

I would guess that actually the drainage from Davis Lake goes underground and seeps out under the rocks, perhaps joined by other springs. It's quite surprising to see all the clear, sparkling water gush out from under a pile of boulders!

The view of fog on the lake in the early morning is stunning, but it quickly dissipates as the day warms up. This definitely beats watching plastic boats and a parking lot full of people!

We can tell autumn is fast approaching. Though the elevation is only a bit over 4,000 feet, the nights are chilly. 30 degrees is a common overnight temp, though the days usually reach mid 70's to 80's. The contrast in temperatures makes for some beautiful early morning views, with fog drifting among the reeds, and between the layers of trees.

There is a boat ramp of sorts in the campground, but it's not well maintained and is fairly steep. There is also drinking water available in the campground, but you have to work a bit to get it.

Vault restrooms and trash containers complete the amenities, but the scenery more than makes up for the lack of services.

Some of the 14 sites are specifically designed for tents, but we had no difficulty finding several that would accommodate our 30 foot trailer. The road in is gravel, but adequately maintained.

Every evening we watch as the clouds drift by and the setting sun casts it's glow - cotton candy clouds some nights, on other nights the sky is as clear as can be, and then we know we can count on a colder morning. It's been down to 30 on several mornings, though the days are in the high 70's to low 80's. 'Can't beat that for perfect weather.

Finally, after a week of pure relaxation, it's time to pack up and head for "civilization". We'll be staying at Crescent Junction RV Park for two nights as we get caught up on laundry and housekeeping before we settle in to Armitage, a Lane County RV park, in preparation for the first Duck game of the season.  

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Tailgate Training Camp 2012

A two night stop at LaPine State Park gave us time to get groceries on board, laundry done, and get ourselves ready for some serious tailgate training. Our campsite backed up to the trail that follows the Dechutes River, so we took several walks, and played ball with Shiner when there weren't any other hikers about. Once we were re-provisioned and organized we loaded up and headed out for Training Camp.

The annual Tailgate Training Camp event, held at Ochoco Forest Camp for the seventh year in a row, is an event we all look forward to all year. The group camp site is perfect for us as we are a small group so we can really spread out, and the shelter is perfect for containing all our cooking gear. There's quite a lot of it, as the three+ days consist of a tight schedule of eating...

 . . . visiting . . .

. . . playing games, and talking Duck football.

We spend lots of time supervising each other's cooking. . .

. . .taking walks, and watching the dogs play. . .

. . .a rough life I must say! The little stream that runs along side the camp didn't have much water in it this year, just enough to make a pleasant rippling sound as it trickled past.

This year's camp was uneventful - no fires, no thunderstorms, and an agreement all around that it will be a great year for Duck football!


Previous Training Camp posts have additional information on Ochoco Forest Camp and environs.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hosmer Lake and the Cascade Lakes Highway

Our campsite view
A week at Hosmer Lake, one of our favorite haunts in the Oregon Cascades - what at treat! It's apparently become a favorite of more than a few other people too, judging by the traffic down at the boat launch. A favorite for generations with fly fishermen and canoeists, it's rapidly becoming too busy for the peaceful sort of fly fishing I envision. The little plastic kayaks seem to have taken over, on the weekends at any rate. We've counted 10-15 automobiles in the boat launch parking lot every time we've gone down, and on weekends they stack up and have to park clear out on the access road.

Weekends seem to be filled with groups meeting up here. We had quite a bit of entertainment watching campers pull in, set up, change their minds and walk fully assembled tents down to another site. This game of "musical campsites" lasted most of Thursday and Friday, and by Saturday everyone seemed to have settled in to the serious work of having fun in the water.

Shiner taking her daily swim at the boat ramp
Weekdays seem fairly quiet though there's still plenty of activity down at the launch site, and as we have planned for several days here we have ample opportunity to soak up the gorgeous views, enjoy the birds and other wildlife, dip the canoe in the lake, and take a few scenic drives.

Hosmer is one of several lakes along the Cascades Lakes Highway (a designated Scenic Byway), also known as Century Drive (because it's about 100 miles round-trip from Bend to Elk Lake). Originally paved with red cinders, it was also known at one time as the Red Road. Many side spurs are still paved with the red cinders, obtained locally, but the highway is standard asphalt now. Not as picturesque, but much more durable.
An interactive version of this map is available here

There are many opportunities in the area for day trips, so we tucked a few into our heavy schedule of resting and relaxing.

Elk Lake Guard Station
I was happy to be able to add the Elk Lake Guard Station to my collection of "Uncle Sam's Cabins". The volunteer guide on duty gave us a tour and told us about the history of the site. She'd been living in the station for her 2 week stint, and was about to go back home. The volunteers for this site work in two week blocks, a shorter commitment than most volunteer positions require. (Volunteers are provided through the Passport in Time program

The guard station was built in 1929 to provide services to the increasing number of tourists visiting Elk Lake. It was restored between 1997 and 2001, and is in beautiful condition. It's smaller than many we've visited, and has some unique construction features. Historically staff came to the station in the spring and one of their responsibilities was repairing winter damage to the old wire telephone lines that were strung from tree to tree. There's an example of a "telephone tree" on the porch, and the original phone still hangs on the wall inside.

Elk Lake is clearly still popular with visitors. While out on a drive on Saturday we had thought to go into the resort to check out their little store and see what else was there, but after looking at the road in to the resort we changed our minds.

We went back on Tuesday and found things much more to our liking, so stopped in to browse the lodge and environs.

Elk Lake Resort
The Elk Lake Resort has both summer water sports equipment and winter snow sports equipment available for rent. The lodge has a full service restaurant and bar, and a great selection of local microbrews for those who are so inclined. The schedule inscribed on a blackboard suggests a full schedule of live music all summer, too. A cool place to visit, especially for the younger set.

Shiner has really enjoyed her daily routine of playing fetch at the edge of Hosmer Lake. She's still a bit too impulsive to take out in the canoe, but she's learning about all the equipment and sounds down at the boat ramp, so next year she'll be ready for a trip herself.

We walk down almost every morning and visit with folks as they launch their kayaks, canoes and float tubes. The crystal clear water sparkles in the early morning light, and there are always a few ducks meandering around.

By Tuesday morning it was a different story, however. Possibly because the weather had been so warm for the last few days, the surface of the water was covered with what appeared to be a slimy light green algae. In some places it even made little clumps, and early morning boaters came in complaining that it was all over the lake. One woman admonished her Husky for getting herself all covered with the green algae when she went swimming. I don't really think the dog understood the difference!
Daph and Shiner at Little Lava Lake

We avoided the situation by taking a short trip to explore a few area campgrounds, and stopped at Little Lava lake, right next to Lava Lake, so Shiner could have her daily swim there. She's getting quite good at retrieving large chunks of wood, and seems quite proud of herself when she's gotten her "rescue" back to shore.

We had a brief moment of panic one afternoon when the sky over the lake began to fill with smoke. After checking multiple news sits and asking around we determined the wind had sifted and blown in smoke from a fire up on Willamette Pass, several miles away. It soon cleared out, but as fire is a constant danger in the mountains this time of year we have to pay constant attention to smoke, especially if there's been a recent lightening storm.

Situated in deep forest, it's hard sometimes to remember that these lakes are in volcanic country. The rocking cliff to the right of the Hosmer boat ramp is Red Crater, a very precisely shaped volcanic cone. Seen clearly on this satellite map, just at the south edge of the lake. A larger view of the area shows numerous cones and flow ridges. When seen from the road, all covered with fir trees, the ground looks looks like it rolls gently, but if you strike out among the trees to hike it soon becomes rough going. I always marvel at early explorers who managed to make their way across all this to the coast. Until the wagon roads were established it must have been tough going.

There's a forest thinning operation going on in the area around Hosmer, so some of the many lava ridges are now exposed, revealing just how much of the area is covered by rough lava flows.
Click for larger view of logging pics
The thinning operation is actually good to see, after the many horrible wildfires and bug infestations the area has endured. The top photo to the right shows just how dense and tangled the seedlings become if they don't have adequate light and space.

The thinning will allow the remaining trees to grow stronger and more disease resistant, and will slow the progress of ground fires. Once the area is opened up so sunlight can reach the forest floor the shrubs, grasses and wildflowers will fill in providing food for the deer. The middle photo at the right shows the recently thinned area. In spring the wildflowers and shrubs will start filling in.

Eventually of course there will be ground fires, which will clear areas where tree seedlings will sprout. Some of them will become deer food too while young, then others will grow, again becoming too crowded to remain healthy and strong, so either fire or thinning will bring back a balance. All the logs collected during this thinning project are tagged as "biomass" meaning they'll either be chipped for use as chipboard, heating pellets, and other similar products. The bottom photo shows the log deck, waiting to be picked up and taken to a mill for processing.

All the agencies connected to forest management have been jointly working on plans for the best utilization of forest products that may result from damaging events such as storms.

Wednesday morning we pulled up stakes and headed for LaPine. Another chance to do laundry, shop for groceries and get civilized before our annual Tailgate Training Camp in Ochoco Forest Camp. 

More pics of the area in the Cascade Lakes album.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Lava Lake Resort Campground

Lava Lake is a favorite stop for us if we’re up on the Cascade Highway and need full service. After six days at Smiling River we were ready to do laundry and get caught up on household chores, like vacuuming up the pummy dust! We also needed to fill up the water tank, as we planned several days at Hosmer Lake, a dry camp just a few miles away.

View from Lava Lake Lodge
Mysterious waves in the lake!
Lava Lake has a fantastic view of Mount Bachelor, though the famous mountain is less showy than usual as it has far less snow on it this year than I have ever seen before. All the lakes and streams around here look like they're well fed, but with the little snow pack remaining we're anticipating a dry fall in the mountains.

Lava Lake is great for small boats and fishing. We usually just hike around it and enjoy the view. Shiner enjoyed hopping over the many logs that have fallen over the trail, sniffing in the crevices, and watching the birds but she's still not too sure about all that moving water. The evening breezes kick up some pretty sizable waves and the noise they made slapping the shore startled her a bit.

There is a Forest Service campground here as well as the resort. The resort has a small shop with necessities and gifts, and is managed by some really friendly folks.

Shiner was again tempted by multitudes of chipmunks, and at this stop you can add deer to the list of temptations. They pretty much run the place, and wander at will through all the campsites. In the photo below the white spot in the dark shadow between the trees is the back end of a white-tail deer. Shiner wanted very much to go say "Hello" but unfortunately we wouldn't let her socialize this time.
Picture of a disgruntled dog and his owner

The deer in this camp have been hand-fed by campers for generations so they routinely walk around begging, just like dogs. Unfortunately, many people feed them whatever they have at hand which is usually NOT what deer should eat – potato chips and bread for instance!

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife urges people not to feed deer and elk at all. (brochure) I suppose it’s too much to hope that people would resist the chance to hand feed a wild deer, but at least they could feed them something healthy, like a small bit of carrot or apple. Many people feed corn, which in the winter can cause an imbalance in the deer's digestive system and make them sick. Deer are designed to eat grass, brush and twigs, not donuts and potato chips. Their digestive systems just can't handle "people food". (OK, I'll get down off my soap box now)

While at Lava Lake we thought we'd do a bit of exploring and see if we could find the boondocking site where we stayed about 15 years ago. We headed out, exploring this logging road and then that one. Every possible site was "occupied", their little paper plate signs said. So, no luck, but, we did have a souvenir of the trip.

Compliments of the outing, we have a brand new tire, obtained a mere 45 minutes away in Bend.

We stayed at Lava Lake only one night. We'll move on to Hosmer Lake, one of our favorite camping areas along Century Drive in Oregon's Cascade Mountains.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Smiling River

North on Hwy 97 from Chiloquin, into Bend, then northwest on hwy.126 toward Black Butte, then north on Camp Sherman/Metolius River Rd. We planned meet-up with friends at Smiling River Campground, on the Metolius River. They had made reservations, we hadn't, so the strategy we always use is to pull in mid-week and see what we can get before the weekenders get there.

This is a really popular area. Close to Sisters, and not too far from Bend, which has grown in population over the years. The Metolius River is a premier fly fishing area, also famous for kayaking, hiking, and photography. Back when Bend was only a few thousand people these campgrounds were never full. It’s a different story now!
It's up there on the top branch, darn!

We did locate a great spot, fairly private so we could play with Shiner and not disturb the other campers. We planned to resettle in a different spot later, when our friends arrive. Again, the rodents tempt poor Shiner, I’ll swear they do it on purpose, and she can’t chase them. Such frustration for a puppy!

I wish she’d been there to chase the visitor who checked out the shorts I washed and laid on the table to dry overnight. At least the critter didn’t stomp it’s muddy feet on my shorts, only on the towel.
Raccoon feet!

The soil in this part of Oregon is largely “pummy dust”, to use the local term. It’s finely ground pumice and volcanic ash, as the mountains around us are all lava flows. The dust is talcum powder fine, and gets into everything. It also drains quickly, which is nice if you get caught in a rain storm.

We checked reservation tags, chatted with the host, and hovered around a choice spot as the occupants were pulling out – BINGO! We were able to move to the spot right next to our friends. Sites 14 and 15 are perfect if you are camping with friends. (campground map) If you are camping solo and end up with one of these, prepare to make new friends as you are right in each other’s hip pockets.

Upside. . . the sites are right on the river, downside. . . the trail goes through the edge of your camp and you have fishermen wandering along morning and evening. It worked well for us though, as we had kids in the group who pretty much wanted to be in the water all the time.

 It’s pure relaxation to sit and watch the Metolius flow by. It’s such a beautiful river, and the quaint cabins and lodges scattered along the river’s edge and in the little villages, such as Camp Sherman, evoke the slow paced days when there were no phones and not TV to interrupt one’s outdoor experience. Speaking of phones, there still aren’t any here, well, no cell service anyway. A drive of a few miles will put you in range, and there’s a phone at the store in Camp Sherman.

Our friends arrived on schedule and we had a very efficient camp set up when the weather moved in. ‘Large thunder and lightning storm+small awning=evening’s entertainment. Well, the awning wasn’t that small, it just seemed that way with six adults and two teenagers all tucked underneath and all trying to get the best view of the lightening show. The storm did a good job of settling the dust, and the next day was beautiful, with only a few clouds and the usual mild temperatures the Cascades are known for.

Shiner joined the girls in the river and got pretty comfortable there. So much so that after every walk or ball chasing session she headed straight for her little swimming hole to cool off.

Between tubing and paddling sessions the kids broke out the bean bag game they had made, appropriately Duck themed!

We've got a ways to go before we can claim to be pros in this sport. Grayce outscored us all with her trademark underhand-slide pitch.

We took one afternoon off from playing in the river to go target shooting.

There are several little-used logging roads that wander around in the forest so it’s easy to find a safe location.

Everyone had a chance to plink away at targets and pine cones, and Shiner seems not to get upset by the sounds of shooting, a good trait for a dog that lives in the country in Texas!

All too soon it was time to break camp. Our friends all went back to Portland, we headed for Lava Lake. More on that in the next post.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Chiloquin, Oregon and Collier State Park

Chiloquin is a small logging town, population under 800, and home to the Klamath Tribes. There are a few businesses, a hotel, the Forestry Service office, and not much else. A few years ago the Klamaths built a casino there. We aren’t much on gambling, so have never stopped but it looks like a nice establishment.

As we drove north on Hwy 97 we reminisced about our days living in Chiloquin, back in the early ‘80’s. At that time Steve was a resident deputy for the Klamath County Sheriff’s Dept. We lived in the forestry compound in a tidy little frame house (they have since pulled out all the houses) and entertained ourselves all winter long by feeding massive amounts of firewood into the little wood stove. In spite of all the wood we fed it we often had ice on the inside of the windows in the bedrooms. Winter is a long season on this side of the Cascades, and it comes complete with lots of snow and ice. In the summer you can’t beat the weather though. Aside from a few mosquitoes now and then, it’s mild and comfortable.

Shiner by the Williamson River and Susan Creek
Just a few miles north of Chiloquin is Collier Memorial State Park, the perfect place for an overnight stop to get caught up on a few things before heading for another rustic (no services) campground. Collier is full-service, and has a nice little laundry facility in the same building with the showers. All are well maintained and very convenient. The campsites are generously spaced, with some right along the Williamson River, though the bank is fairly steep so you can’t just walk back and put your toes in the water.

One feature of this area that hasn’t changed a bit since we lived here – chipmunks! Well, ok, they’re really golden mantle squirrels but whatever you want to call them, they are everywhere and they drove poor Shiner crazy as we wouldn’t let her chase them. That’s the price of civilization!

On the opposite side of Hwy. 97 sits the Collier Logging Museum. The museum has been here for years and was one of our favorite picnic sites when we lived here.

The museum houses a huge collection of logging equipment, both large and small items, along with a wealth of information regarding the industry. There are also wonderful old log and frame buildings that have been moved in from other location. These are a treat to browse. Examining the building techniques and thinking about living in a space that small (all winter, with children!) has always fascinated me.
The buildings look as they would have in a settlement, surrounded by wild currant bushes and other shrubs.
Many are filled with old-time household furnishings, a few also have lights inside, so wandering among them is like a trip back in time. 'It's a great experience for anyone but especially for children studying American history.

Steve is more absorbed in the huge collection of logging equipment. The collection has expanded over the years, and each piece has a story of its own to tell. The chainsaw collection is a small example, and a fascinating reminder of how things evolve in every industry.

The museum has planned activities, docents that give tours, and a nice gift shop with Oregon and logging related items. If you’re heading this way plan at least two hours for a visit, and a picnic at the day use area which is right on the Williamson River.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A week of contrasts

"This has really been a week of contrasts". . .

click on the photos for a larger version
Steve made the comment as we were packing up to leave Nevada and head for Oregon. We'd camped in the high Sierras, driven through the desert, attended a surprise party in Reno, a 1940's style wedding at a horse ranch that looked like an "Italian villa," and an afternoon BBQ. That's more social activity than we usually have in a month!

The wedding was a real treat! Many of the guests dressed in 40's style clothing, and we enjoyed dinner and dancing, all set against the beautiful Sierra Mountains.

We needed a few days to recharge our batteries before we arrived in Oregon for Tailgate Training Camp, so we planned a few days camping in rustic campgrounds along the way. The first was Ramhorn, north east of Susanville, CA

How dry and dusty - a far cry from the wildflower filled canyon we've visited several times in the past. The usual thunderheads and rainbows were missing too. We are a few weeks later than our usual time to visit this area, but the general drought that California is suffering is the primary cause. All the lush green watering holes along the creek are barely mud, though the many hoof prints are proof they are visited regularly by deer, wild horses, and cattle.

Ramhorn Campground is named for the spring of the same name. The spring itself is not all that picturesque now, as it's contained in a small concrete tank, with a padlocked lid inclosing it, up against the lava cliff. 'The only way it could be protected from vandals, I think.

The water fills the tank, then flows through a pipe across the driveway down to the stream bed that runs along the road. There is a small pipe by one of the entrances to the campground that usually gushes with clear, cold water. We were sad to see it dry too, but cheered up promptly on our second day there when a BLM truck showed up with a young man who had keys to the tank and let us peek in - beautiful blue, crystal clear water.... and a lizard lounging in the shade of the walls.

He promptly unclogged the line (he said he has to do this frequently) and soon the water was gushing again, which Shiner very much enjoyed. It quickly worked its way through the culvert and on down the creek bed. I was trying to get a shot of the sparkly water as it moved through the pine needles and I'm afraid my "situational awareness" dimmed a bit. That charming green plant growing down in the creek bed, that looks just like one at home that doesn't sting, is stinging nettles. I paid a price for my photo op when I brushed against the leaves with my arm and knee. It still burned several hours later, even after dosing with ever anti-itch and anti-sting medicine I could find in the cabinet. Oh well, it's sometimes the price of enjoying the out of doors!

This remote and uninhabited (except for us) campground was pure joy for Shiner. Chipmunks, bunnies and lizards to chase, horse and cow scent to figure out, a muddy creek to slurp in, and no leash! What more could any dog want? She's getting good on the recall, so I let her hike off leash in circumstances like this. It's 90+ during the day, so she's happy to lounge on the mat by the trailer when we are both in camp.

From Ram Horn we'll be heading north, to Oregon. Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Heading for Nevada

Our next stop on the way to Gardnerville, NV, was the campground at Sonora Bridge. It's an unassuming little campground. Just the basics, but really nice views of the Walker River canyon. The spaces are fairly widely situated, and the tall pines provide spotty shade for most of the day, provided by what I think are Ponderosa pines. Their big, beautiful cones covered the ground, along with a nice bed of long needles. Shiner liked to lay on them in the sun. Very comfortable, but now she's complaining as I work to get the pine sap knots out of her fur. I think they'll be with us for awhile, so she looks like she has spots!
Sonora Bridge Campground
The entertainment for the afternoon was provided by the Marine Corp Mountain Warfare Training Center, located just over the hill in Pickel Meadow. We had jets and helicopters of several types flying overhead as the left and returned to the base. It kept us pretty busy trying to determine exactly what each aircraft was, especially since the jets fly at such a high altitude.

The Mountain Warfare Training Center is one of the Corps most remote and isolated posts. The Center was established in 1951 to provide cold weather training for military personnel bound for Korea. It has been the source for mountain training for every generation since. Now, the MWTC provides pre-deployment training in support of the war in Afghanistan.

Flight training over the Sierras, Lone Pine, CA
We ran in to some of these folks a couple of years ago when we were camped in the Alabama Hills, down near Lone Pine, CA. They were flying exercises over the peaks of the Sierras, and over our campsite, then too.

They use this part of the Sierra Mountains extensively for combat training as it's so similar to the mountain regions in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This area where the training center is located, just south of Lake Tahoe, is well over 6,000 feet, so the winters are harsh and the air thin. Maybe not quite as severe as conditions in the middle east, but a good training ground none the less.

One night was sufficient at Sonora Bridge, so we loaded up and pulled in to our host's home in Gardnerville by lunch time. They have a heavy social schedule planned for us, so we needed to take the afternoon off to rest up!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Escape from Orange County

Like a rabbit out of the chute with the hounds in hot pursuit we loaded up the rig and headed east, then north, toward the back side of the Sierras.

'Seems like we've spent more time in Southern California this year than at home or on the road, and we are anxious to get back in the traveling mode. We spent a week helping Steve's mother and visiting family, so now the traveling begins.

If it seems we've been "away" for awhile - from the blog that is, we have. First with the commitments in California, and then my computer decided to go toes-up and Steve's spent the last week trying to get it back in working order. 'My own stupid fault that I lost some data, nothing too critical thank heavens, but it was a major inconvenience. The fact that we travel with three computers may seem a little odd to some, but they all have their purpose, and keeping them up and running is a major part of the Trailmaster's job. Things always seem to break when you are out in the boonies too. It's a law! At any rate, we'll try to get caught up on our travels, so the posts will be a bit longer than usual.  

From Southern California we headed for Gardnerville, Nevada, which necessitates a long stretch through the desert, so where to stop that's both comfortable and picturesque? Our first thought was the Alabama Hills, near Lone Pine, as it's right on the way and one of our favorite places. The area was the filming location for many of the old cowboy movies, and is very picturesque. The temp was 104 when we arrived there however, and so we kept on going, up, as altitude usually equals degrees cooler.

We landed at Gray's Meadow campground, on Independence Creek, just outside Independence on Hwy.395. On the map below you can trace the creek as it flows from the mountains down into Independence.

View Larger Map

The campground has two sections, upper and lower, and the lower one looks a bit cramped for our equipment, so we took an outside space in the upper campground. Though the campground description says a 22 ft. maximum we unhitched so fit quite nicely.

The campground wasn't at all crowded, and what a gorgeous view! What looks on the satellite map (above) like a soft sandy surface around the creek is actually the steep gravel and boulder strewn foothills of the Sierras.

The steep, craggy Sierras tower at the back, while the valley stretches wide and slopes up on the far side to the White and Inyo Mountain ranges.

Toss in a few billowy thunderheads, A few pine and cottonwoods around the creek, and you have a vista to remember! The creek bubbling along the side of the campground made a lovely cooling sound too. We liked it so well we stayed two nights, enough to recharge our mental batteries a bit.

Shiner enjoyed her first real taste of sagebrush country, and appreciated the opportunity to dig around the bushes and sniff around the creek. She's done very little camping so far, so has no idea of what awaits her on down the road. This trip will be a real education for her!