Sunday, September 30, 2012

Good-bye to Oregon

Thursday morning we left Bully Creek early (for us!) and headed for Idaho. We made a quick stop at Camping World in Boise to pick up a vent cover to replace the one a branch scraped off back at  Crescent Creek, and found some great RV oriented  Christmas cards too! What a productive morning!

Idaho has a multitude of small and not-so-small wildfires burning, so the broad horizon is hazy, and though the sky is clear, there's not much of the usual bright blue.

The overnight stop for Thursday was Heyburn Riverside RV Park (I-84, Exit 211 then south 2 miles). The park is fairly new and right on the Snake River. It's so new in fact that if you are using a mapping program don't trust it's location advice. We followed posted signs which led us to the correct location. Our assumption is that Delorme program we use identified the planning office at city center as the location, so gave us incorrect directions.

The park has generously spaced sites that are all  full-service. The sites are graveled, with lots of grass in between, and there is ready access to a really nice trail along the river. (The park is closed Dec. 1- March 1)

Following the trail south just a short way leads to a quaint little park with a covered bridge over a little creek where it enters the river. Landscaped with benches and antique farm implements it makes an attractive place to sit and ponder the wide river at sunset.

Friday, we left Idaho about 9:30 and were crossing into Utah about an hour later. By noon we were cugging down hwy. 89, cutting north of Salt Lake City. The hills around the sides of the highway are splashed with swaths of trees clothed in autumn cherry-red and brilliant yellow, set off nicely by the soft gold of dry grasses. It's clear and sunny, but unfortunately the same smoky haze we've seen all week fills the sky here too. Smoke blown in from Idaho in addition to a few local fires is apparently to blame.  We're staying at Jordanelle State Park, near Park City, UT, while we visit family for a couple of days.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Creeping eastward, across the Great Basin

Time to head for home, but as usual, we aren't in a hurry. We'll be creeping our way eastward, hoping to arrive back in Texas before the end of October.

Here the route for the first three days:

View Creeping Eastward - Sept. 2012 in a larger map

Monday we left Armitage Park in a bit of a germ induced haze, I must admit. We probably would have stayed another day, but we were both thoroughly sick of being in such civilized quarters, so planned a very short hop over the mountain to a campground we've used as a staging ground before.

Cresent Creek is an unremarkable little BLM ground, administered by Hoodoo as are most of the federal campgrounds around the area. It's oddly laid out, with two pull-throughs (both rather sharp curves) and several short back-in spaces, and most seemingly "backwards" which is to say the tables and fire rings are on the driver's side. 'Fine for tent or auto camping but a little awkward for RVs. There's a hand pump for water, and a vault outhouse. It's near the highway too, so during the day there's road noise, but it usually dies down after dark. A signboard has information about all the bird varieties here.'Good to know, but any time an area brags about lots of birds it's a clue as to the bugs you can expect in the spring. The bug situation isn't bad this time of year, as it's getting down to the 30's at night. The creek runs right behind the campground, though with all the brush it's hard to get to it. A fly fisherman must have found a trail into the creek somewhere, as popped out of the bushes near camp and was greeted by Shiner's hearty WOOF! I don't know which of them was the most startled!

Slightly improved Tuesday morning we took our time getting on the road. Heading for Burns, in eastern Oregon, we traveled down hwy. 20 under a sunny but smoky sky. The fire near Sisters was still burning, though it's about 50% contained.

We'd heard the ads for Ken's Sporting Goods in Gilchrist on the radio so thought we'd stop in on the way through - what a great store!

This one truly fills the "beer, bait and ammo" bill. The store stocks a great selection of weapons and ammo,. There's a liquor department, and a few great souvenirs for the outdoor enthusiast.

The best part is the outdoor carvings ornamenting the entrance. Gilchrist has a history as a logging town,kk as that Paul Bunyan figure on top of the hotel sign on the left side of the photo suggests, so the chainsaw carvings are very appropriate.

Anybody need left-handed weapon? Ken also has special sections for women and youth, and several other specialized categories....and all the ammo you need for any model you can name.

And Ken has all the bases covered on the financial side: 
If you'r drinkin to forget please pay in advance

Tuesday night's stop was Chickahominy Reservoir. No kidding.... sounds like a casserole recipe doesn't it? Actually the reservoir is named for the nearby creek of the same name, but the Chickahominy tribe is in Virginia, and no one seems to know why the creek was so named, so as with many place names, it remains a mystery.

The area is wide open, with a few sites sporting shades over the picnic tables. There are several shoreline camping areas where one can just pull over willy-nilly and camp. We selected that type of area as it had the best view of the lake.
We had thought to let Shiner go swimming in the lake, but a quick look at the shore line canceled that idea.

Though the placid waters were dotted with ducks and geese, as heads-up from the folks on the Wheeling It blog made me pay attention to the blue streak of algae lining the shoreline.
blue algae on the shoreline

They nearly lost their dog Polly from the blue-green algae toxins, and we certainly didn't want to have the same experience.

Shiner seemed content to follow rodent trails in and around the boulders than line the road, and so didn't miss the swimming at all. In fact, the row of boulders turned out to be a favorite roosting place for more western bluebirds than I have ever seen at once. Shiner attempted to chase them too but wasn't particularly successful at that endeavor.

On the way to the reservoir we passed the Northern Gread Basin Research Center. We are definitely in the Great Basin here, as the land is flat, flat, flat, with only a few mountains silhouetted on the horizon. It's all the more striking to us as we've spent recent weeks under tall trees and in narrow, forested canyons.

The smoke from the Sisters' fire did lend a lovely rosy glow to the sunset, and we enjoyed it as we sat in the twilight listening to the ducks and geese chatter in the distance. The campground is very minimalistic, but easily met our requirements for a bit of scenery and wide open spaces.

Wednesday night, Bully Creek campground. Bully Creek is a Malheur County park, and a lovely one it is! After all the dry dusty gravel and dirt campsites, Shiner was ecstatic when we set up camp in this grassy, park-like campground. She even had a chance to swim in the lake. The reservoir is very low, due to the ongoing drought here, but there was enough water to wash off the trail dust.

Though the spaces in this campground tend to be on the short side, they are wide, and generously spaced, with wide grassy areas all around. There are a couple of shaded pavilions, and lots of trees creating filtered shade over most of the sites.

Many of the sites have a view of the lake, most have electricity, but the water situation is a little odd. Rather than connections right in each site there are occasional faucets out in the middle of the grassy areas. One faucet might serve more than one site, so a "y" connector is useful. Sites on the outside loop don't really have access to water. The restrooms have showers, though, so even tent campers can be comfortable here.

A note of caution for those with dogs or small children. There is a heavy infestation of goathead weeds in a few of the sites and gravel paths. The seeds of this low lying weed are wicked sharp, and will puncture the soles of flip-flops and tough dog feed, and they hitch-hike on the soles of rubber shoes, so the carpeting of an RV can quickly trap several. Then they lay in wait to stab your foot when you get up in the middle of the night! . . voice of experience here!!!

There is another wicked weed here too. The lake shore areas that were previously underwater but are now exposed support a healthy crop of  Cockleburs. They weren't quite dry/ripe during our visit, but will be wicked stickers when they are dry. These are round, held up on taller stems, so would mostly be a problem for long-haired dogs passing by.
(As with all of the photos, you can view a larger version by just clicking on the picture)

All things considered, this was a nice overnight stop, and a good deal at $15. 'A nice little out of the way campground, and we'd defininately stay here again.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Washburne State Park, Oregon

Tucked in between the third and fourth football games of the season we managed to tuck in a quick trip to the coast to meet up with a friend. Steve checked the reservation sites and everything was full, amazing this time of year! So, we decided on a no-reservation park, Washburne State Park, just north of Florence.

Before we reached the park we were met with a very strange site. Instead of a sparkling white lighthouse on Haceta Head, we saw a hulking black shape. We eventually found an explanation for the apparition.... they are doing major repairs and the whole lighthouse is enveloped in scaffolding and tarps. This pictorial article explains in detail all the work that is being done to restore the landmark.

Washburne State Park campground was fairly crowded when we arrived, but we were able to find a suitable full-service site, and after our four night stay we have dubbed it the friendliest campground in the state. We sat around a smoky campfire and chatted from folks from Wisconsin, California, in addition to the expected Oregonians. A musician/songwriter from Norman, Oklahoma serenaded the campground in the evenings, and he even gave us a CD of his music. Ferrel Droke as won Honorable Mention twice in the Woodie Guthrie songwriting contest. His music has a bit of an an Irish folk flare to it, worth listening to for sure!

The weatherman had promised sun. Humpf! There's a saying in Oregon, "Only fools and Californians believe the weatherman". We bit. He lied. So, in a deep, dark, forested park we sat under cloudy skies. That's the Oregon coast, unpredictable, but beautiful under any circumstance.

The beach is easily accessed from the campground via a half-mile trail that goes under the highway. The trail leads through a mossy carpeted, tangled bit of forest that seldom sees the sun.

The trees are covered with draped ferns and layer upon layer of moss, and the canopy overhead makes he floor of the forest so dark that even the multitudes of mushrooms have a powdery blue mold on them.
Surely there are Nomes living here!

The beach wasn't crowded, so very dog-friendly and Shiner enjoyed a good game of tug-a-war with our friend's German Shepherd, Heidi.

As we watched the dogs romp on the beach I glanced over to the surf and noticed a seal waddling up onto the shore.

As soon as it spied humans and dogs moving on the sand it slipped back into the waves. The Sea Lion Caves aren't farm from the park, and seals are common in all the harbors here, but it's still unusual to see one on the beach.

The campground and surrounding forest are beautiful, but thanks to all the lovely trees there isn't any satellite service. A cell phone connection is possible out on the highway, but not in the campground itself.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Short football season for us

We always look forward to Duck football season as it means good times visiting with friends we don't see all year long.

This year was extra-special as Skot, Kendra and Jaxen were in Oregon. They stayed with us in Armitage Park, so were able to visit with old friends at an afternoon BBQ on Friday, and come to the game with us on Saturday

They visited the Moshofsky Center and experienced all the hustle and bustle and pregame excitement.

Photo ops abound in the Center, and if you're quick enough you might even catch the Duck himself!

While we toured the Center and the Stadium grounds, Steve hung out at the tailgate with the dance team.

This was little Jax's first football game, and he really seemed to enjoy the crowd and the excitement, and he was exceptionally tolerant of his hearing protectors!

This year has been a shorter than usual football season for us. The Duck's first four games were all home games, with the last being a conference game, so we planned on attending all of those. By the time the last game rolled around we were both under the weather with a really bad cold. A 7:30 p.m. kickoff and drizzling rain didn't sound like a good place to be, so we watched the Ducks whip Arizona on TV, Kleenex box and cough syrup at the ready.

Simply wandering through the campground was almost as good as being at Autzen. So many of the campers at Armitage are Duck fans, there are flags, pompoms, and some amazing customized rigs.

We've see a lot of unique tailgate vehicles over the years. Some are built from scratch, some are conversions, reconstructions, whatever you want to call therm... some very clever people put their skills to work in creating these marvels. The latest we've come across was a shiny little trailer that passed our site as it pulled into the campground late one Friday night. We're accustomed to Airstreams and a few other makes being chrome finished, but never a model like this.

The young couple it belongs to, Dirk and Stacy, said they spent about a year and a half on the restoration. It was quite a wreck when they bought it. They intended to repaint the outside, but while standing in the auto-body shop looking at it a passer-by stopped and said he could help them rub it down to bare metal, so they took him up on the offer and this is the result. The interior wood is all original, and the graphic on side covers the outline of a portion of the paint that they weren't able to remove. Pretty classy little party rig!

There were a few other custom tailgate vehicles in the lot this year that we hadn't seen before, like this Autzen Fire Department truck.

And during pre-game and half-time we do enjoy a bit of  people-watching. Darth Duck is a regular, and there are always other Duckwear fashionistas to admire.

Somewhat recovered from the worst of our germs, we're creeping our way out of Oregon, heading for home, via Utah. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Susan Creek and Crater Lake

Between football games we went down to Susan Creek, on the Umpqua River, where we met up with our daughter, son-in-law and grandson. We camped alongside the creek, enjoying the deep shade, cool weather and the sound of the Umpqua River rushing by. The weather was a bit chilly, and the chill was enhanced by the deep shade, but no complaints from us. Susan Creek is one of our favorite campgrounds, and we've been there several times before.

We used to have our pick of sites, but as we've found with several other Oregon campgrounds this year, it was fairly crowded and we had to snag the first site that was long enough. We did have a nice view of the river from the back of the site, and our own path directly down the cliff to the river. The campground has nice showers, which worked well for us as handling shower schedules for four adults in an RV is a bit of a challenge. This was little Jax's first camping trip and he took right to it. Happily exploring every stick and leaf he could reach.
Susan Creek Falls

The trail to Susan Creek falls is so well maintained that we had no trouble navigating the trail to the falls with the stroller. In spite of the low water level in the creek the falls are still beautiful, and the water is amazingly clear in the pools at the bottom.

A big change from our previous visits here, the trail to the archeological site at the top of the mountain has been blocked.  All information related to the Indian Mound site has been removed, the trail has been covered with large fallen trees and brush, and the creek bridge has been extended to block access to the trail. Based on other experiences I've had with archeological sites in Oregon, I suspect the tribes and the Forest Service have agreed to limit public access only to supervised visits.

Susan Creek bridge
This site is rather difficult to supervise as it's so remote. During our last visit we observed trash thrown behind the fence protecting the site, and other indications of a complete lack of respect for what was a ceremonial location. I would suspect that the decision reflects a reaction to that kind of behavior. There are a few photos of the area, the old information sign, and the rock mound in the album from that 2008 trip.

After a day of lounging around camp we headed out for a day trip to Crater Lake. Skot had never been to Oregon before, and Crater Lake was on his " bucket list", so off we went. Taking Hwy. 138 (N. Umpqua Highway) we took time to stretch our legs at Clearwater Falls.

The pull-off to the viewing area for the falls is on the south side of the highway. It's a small parking area, so would be difficult for large rigs, though they do have a pull off at the entrance that would serve one large vehicle. We'd never stopped there before, and what a treat! Some of the most fascinating mosses flourish in the pools below the falls, fed by the beautifully crystal clear water just gushing out of the side of the mountain. Moss grows everywhere, on logs and the side of trees, and covers the ground giving an almost fairy tale like feel to the surrounding forest. We all scrambled around on the logs and paths to photograph the falls, though I'm sure photos alone just don't do the scene justice. The falls are by a cluster of springs about a mile away, so the flow is fairly consistent year round, averaging about 12-15 cubic feet a second. It's a site definitely worth a visit.

Crater Lake was beautiful, as always, but sadly when we arrived we found the beautiful blue it's so famous for was a bit dimmed by smoke from the several fires that have been burning around the area. It's hard to completely obscure the beauty of the lake though, and as the sun's angle changed the lighting improved and the delicate coloration around the shoreline became easier to see.

Over the years we lived in Oregon we had taken several family photos in the park, all in the area of the stone wall that runs along the path near the visitors' center. It was nice, with our now enlarged family, to continue the tradition.

Jax thoroughly enjoyed the chipmunks too. Those little critters have the tourists thoroughly trained, and they eat pretty well during the tourist season. If you aren't careful they'll actually jump onto your hand, which is a little creepy if you've ever looked at their very sharp little teeth.

Lunch in the lodge was a nice break and gave us a chance to admire the restoration work. The lodge originally opened in 1915 and been in a terrible state of disrepair until it was restored. It reopened in 1994.

A short drive part way around the southern shore of the lake for views of Vidae Falls and Phantom Ship formation completed the day, and we headed back to camp with a tired little boy still clutching his favorite forest stick.

On to Eugene the next day for another football game!!

There are a few additional shots of the trip here. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Armitage Park

Nestled in a small clump of cedar trees, a short basalt pillar supports a brass plaque that notes the property for this park was donated to the state for use as a park by Slyvanus Armitage in honor of his parents, in 1938. No wonder the park hosts such amazing old big-leaf maple trees! Many standing now are mammoth moss covered beasts, and there are amazingly huge stumps of those that have been cut or fallen down down. The park is truly a small forest, and with the McKenzie River running along side it's a very peaceful place to hang out for a few days. We're here for four weekends, and one solid week, as we attend Duck games and get a few appointments taken care of.

Armitage Park is so convenient, and the sites are so spacious, that it works well for having friends over for BBQ's and taking Shiner for walks. So we've done plenty of both!

We celebrated our return to Eugene with dinner out at the newly redesigned Sixth Street Grill. Its right across the street from the new basketball arena, Matt Court, and just oozes Duck history. We've been fans of the restaurant ever since it was really on Sixth Street, through their incarnation as the Villard Street Pub, back to their original name.

The beautiful metal art panels that were in the original restaurant have found a home here along with a variety of Eugene's historic memorabilia. The neon Lou & Ev's Chicken restaurant sign, the Romania scoreboard, murals, uniforms, everywhere you look there are historic items. It's a great way to start a visit to Eugene, and the food's great too!

We've always enjoyed Armitage park's many amenities, and though we never needed the dog park (Molly wasn't particularly interested in romping with other dogs) Shiner is another story all together. The McKenzie was a favorite playground this time. Swimming at the boat ramp, or splashing in the puddles at the side of the river kept her pretty busy.

The river is quite low this year, so we had more shore and less water than usual, but the river still makes that lovely rushing sound that can be heard all over the campground. Though it's late in the season there were still a few stray wildflowers hiding in the water worn rocks.
Shiner thoroughly enjoys visiting and playing with other dogs, and wasn't the least bit phased by the Great Dane we met this week in the campground dog park.

Last week she romped with the wolf-Malamute hybrid staying in the adjoining site. Suki (the wolf-dog) is three years old, and a beautifully mannered, very settled dog. They played and wrestled all day, took breaks to supervise the campground, and just sat around and visited for the three days her owners were here, and I think Shiner really misses her company.

Armitage Park has become a regular home-away-from-home for us during football season. This year we're in site 17 for all four weekends. We've tried several different sites and are still searching for the perfect combination of sun, shade, TV access (they do have cable but we like to use our own system, and we gotta catch those games!)

We are taking a break from Armitage to visit Crater Lake with our kids, who are flying in for a visit, and I'll cover that in another post. We took them to a game too..... little Jax's first football game! He tolerated his hearing protectors quite well, and seemed to enjoy the excitement.

Last year (see that entry for campground info) we just missed the folks who write the Wheeling It blog, this time they were parked right across from us. We had a great time sharing notes on places we have been and  swapping ideas for future travels. They do great campground reviews, so check out their blog.

Armitage Park, our rig on the right
We've had beautiful weather for most of our time here. It did rain one morning, but one should expect that as fall approaches, and the seasons are definitely changing. Every day there is at least one flock of geese overhead, drifting south, as we will be doing soon!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Canine Heroes

9/11, a day burned into the memories of Americans everywhere, happened a long time ago, as time goes for us all now in the electronic age. We're so used to instant reports, the event of the day, rewritten history, and sound bites instead of real news. Sometimes it's good to slow down and look behind us, take time to examine history in the fuller context.

We  continue to salute the military and contracted personnel who are serving overseas in the conflicts that began after 9/11, as well as the first reponders who gave everything they had to save others during that horrible day, but not so much attention has been given to the canine component. Nearly 100 dogs, many who had been retired for years, and their civilian handlers, came from all over the country to assist with the rescue and recovery work.

Ten years later, in 2011, just 12 of these heroic canines survived. They have been commemorated in a touching series of portraits entitled 'Retrieved'. View the complete article and photo of the four footed heroes here.

Michael Hingson was at work that day, with his guide dog, Roselle. In an article he commented, "I would not be alive today if it weren't for Roselle. On Sept. 11, 2001 Roselle and I were in our office on the 78th floor of Tower One of the World Trade Center when it was struck by American Airlines Flight 11, hijacked and under terrorist control. Our escape from that tower moments before its collapse is story that has been told around the world and is still an inspiration to many. This amazing story is the subject of my new book called “Thunder Dog” co-authored with Susy Flory." The book is available on his website and on Amazon.

The yellow lab calmly guided her blind charge 1,463 steps out of the building and, as debris fell and dust billowed, found a subway station and led them both underground to safety. Michael commented, "Roselle’s service on 9/11 was a testimony not only to the Sterns and the others who raised her, but to her trainer, Todd Jurek, the entire Guide Dogs for the Blind training staff, and all the people who make up that wonderful organization. Most of all, what Roselle did that day and in fact every day she and I were together is nothing less than the most powerful evidence I can provide of the enduring value of trust and teamwork.

Roselle died in June at the age 13, but her heroism lives on. At a star-studded red carpet event in L.A. last year the yellow lab was was honored posthumously as the American Hero Dog of the Year.

As time goes by our memory dims and we tend to forget the horror and tragedy of that day, but I think it is important that we remember. Only in remembering events such as 9/11 can we truly appreciate the valor displayed by all the rescuers, both human and canine. Only in remembering can we as a nation continue to work to prevent another such event.