Thursday, August 17, 2017

Rifle Gap State Park, Colorado

Monday, August 14
From our campsite at Greens Lake, Utah, it was a beautiful three and a half hour  (182 miles)  drive to Rifle Gap State Park, in Colorado.  The drive to the park, and the park itself, provided another opportunity to view the beautiful geology of this area of the state.

Rifle Gap Dam
The park includes Rifle Gap Reservoir, an earth dam structure that impounds both East and West Rifle Gap Creeks. They really like that name around here and have used it wherever they can!

The park campground consists of five small, separate campgrounds, some with only a few spaces. There are also day use areas and a swim beach.

The RV sites are mostly paved with immaculate graveled pads, fire rings and tables with shade covers. The tent sites aren't paved, but tucked artfully in among the sagebrush. They also have the tables with shelter roofs and gravel pads.

Our site was at the highest point of the highest loop, so we had a nice view all around, including a view of The Gap. Behind us was a log fence, and BLM property behind the fence.

At first glance the park didn't seem very "dog friendly" and the first time we asked about dogs swimming we got a negative answer, but each person we talked to gave us a bit more information and we soon got the feel of the "system".  We could take the dogs out into the BLM property for walks (but beware of the cactus!) and they can swim in the lake, just not in the human swim areas, which is pretty standard.

To say the park is well maintained would be an understatement, and they have to work hard at keeping it so tidy. We saw park employees hard at work scooping up copious amounts of mud that invaded roadside and campsites alike in a recent down pour.

The lake provides boating, fishing and swimming opportunities, as well as hosting wildlife. There's an accessible nature trail near the office, as well as several day use fishing areas.


Time to stock up on vittles, so we headed in to the town of Rifle. Rifle is an old ranching town, founded in 1882 and functioned as the center of cattle ranching in the area for many years. The town is named for the nearby creek, which got it's name, so the story goes, from a surveyor who left his rifle near the creek while working. The oil industry has provided a lot of jobs in past years, but that has dropped off recently, and some of the ranching still continues.

Rifle is working hard at pleasing the traveler.  Beautifully cared for old buildings line the streets, along with some interesting shops and many really well done murals. Unfortunately, parking and traffic being what they were, I couldn't get many photographs that did them justice. The residents take obvious pride in their history and their community. The town's population now is around 9,000, so most any service you need is available.

More interesting facts about the town  on the Chamber of Commerce web site.

After stashing the groceries and a quick lunch we headed up the road to Rifle Falls State Park. The campground area there is small, but still has nice size sites, and the area is beautiful, much more dense forest than where we are camped. The sites at the falls are not paved, but are fairly level, and they have electricity but no water hookups. Water is available however.

The falls are beautiful, and it's an easy walk from the parking lot to a good viewing location. From the base of the falls you can follow a short trail to explore small but interesting limestone caves and other unique rock formations.

And you never know what else you'll see - a doe nearly ran over some of us while we were walking up the path. On our way back to the truck a chipmunk ran out on a nearby rock and tempted the dogs. I think we were in the path back to her nest as she seemed pretty anxious to get past us.

Back to our own camp to pack up. We are heading out Wednesday morning. A last note, we found cell service at Rifle Gap rather dismal. Though the park isn't far from town, it's in a basin, surrounded by rather tall mountains. Make plans accordingly!

More photos in the album.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Flaming Gorge Recreation Area, Utah

Friday, August 11
We had black storm clouds chasing us as we arrived at Green's Lake Camp Ground, where we had reservations for our three days at the gorge.

We arrived just about lunch time, but no time to eat!  We flew through our fastest set up ever and piled into the trailer just as the icy raindrops started falling. It's funny, the dogs love swimming but just hit them with a cold raindrop and you'd think their tails were on fire!

By the time we finished lunch the storm had moved on so we took a short drive to the nearby Red Canyon Visitor Center. Wow, what views of the lake and the canyon from the rim of the gorge!

Even with the clouds dimming the light, the rock formations are impressive. The visitor's center is small, but does a nice job of touching on human history as well as the geology and natural history of the area. We talked with the volunteers and gathered up tour info for the next day.

Our site was wonderful - really deep and wide so there was lots of space to spread out, or at least, not have the other campers too close. There are a couple of trails close to the entrance to the campground for walks with the dogs, or for enjoying the flora and fauna.

The campground is one of many in the Red Canyon area of the reservoir, and we also had our own little lake, and a trail immediately out from our site (#4) goes directly to it. It's only a short walking distance around the edge of Green's Lake to Red Canyon Lodge, which offers cabin rentals, horseback rides, a restaurant, and many other amenities.

Unfortunately the weather was too chilly and the rocky beach too steep for the pups to be able to swim. They had to make do with playing ball among the many pine cones and chunks of sandstone that surround us.

The forest here is largely Ponderosa pine, Douglas Fir and Mountain Cedar, with some stands of poplar thrown in for variety. There are chipmunks and marmots aplenty to annoy and tease the dogs with all their chirping and squeaking. It's a little like dog TV as far as entertainment value goes.

When the majority of campers moved out each morning the magpies moved in, checking to see what morsels had been left behind and plucking the berries from the shrubs.

Bright and early we headed out for the Sheep Creek Scenic Geology Loop, which wanders through a variety of really scenic formations, along a creek and through ranch land and then veers north to the town of Manila.

We had picked up a small brochure in the visitor center that provided geologic details for each of the well labeled stops in the 10-mile tour through Sheep Creek Canyon.

We began the tour with a short trip down a spur road for a brief stop at the  Ute Mountain Fire Lookout Tower.

The tower is one of many build by the CCC in the 1930's, and has been restored to look as it would if it were in daily use.

It is fully functional, but is no longer used for the original purpose, serving as a point of living history for visitors, and offering exceptional views of the surrounding territory.

The volunteer stationed at the tower was well versed in the details of its history as well as the restoration and we really enjoyed talking with him - he even took our photo!

Leaving the lookout tower we continued on, following the little guide book and the informative signs along the way. There are frequent pull-outs for photography or for just admiring the amazing geology.

The formations in this area are of such varied ages, some so old that they contain some of the oldest rock and fossils in North America. The colors and textures of the stone are fascinating, and change with the light and cloud cover. The views are so vast it's hard to convey it all in photos, no matter how wide-angle the lens. A few of the most striking views are included in the album.

Looking toward the Wyoming shore of the lake
At the north edge of Manila we caught the western-most edge of the lake, and dipped our toe just across the Utah/Wyoming state line. The character of the landscape is very different in this area.

A beautiful sunny  morning beckoned, so we harnessed up the dogs and started out down one of the trails at the edge of camp. We hadn't gone far when we came upon a huge Ponderosa that appeared to have exploded.

We poked around the still fresh-looking branches and determined it had probably been hit by lightening during the storm on Friday. 'Sure glad we weren't parked next to it!

When we returned to the visitor center in the afternoon we saw a tree with a sign stating it had been struck by lightening, so we compared the features and determined our conclusion was correct.

After lunch we headed out, hoping for a dam tour, but the dam elevator was broken. Besides that, the afternoon storm - complete with lightening, had moved in, so tours were cancelled.

We made do with a driving tour around the dam and through the little burg of Dutch John, and took a few more photos. One striking feature is the Cart Creek Bridge. It stands out like a work of art against the red cliffs.

Cart Creek Bridge, near the Flaming Gorge Dam
Back to camp through the rain. There's a lot of history and beautiful scenery here that we didn't have time to touch on, but it's time to begin packing up as we head out Monday for Colorado.

About Flaming Gorge Recreation Area  
The Flaming Gorge Recreation Area is within the Ashley National Forest,  under the management of the U.S. Forest Service. A great deal of information about the area can be found on the Forest Service's web site. Flaming Gorge Reservoir is the result of the Flaming Gorge dam, in Utah, containing the waters of the Green River, which flows south from Wyoming. A large part of the reservoir is in Wyoming, but the widest part, near the dam itself, is in Utah. The Green River eventually flows into Lake Powell, which is another really beautiful area. We haven't visited there in many years but still remember the vivid red sandstone cliffs against the blue sky and water.

There's additional information attached to many of the photos in the album. If the information panel doesn't display just click the circle with the "i" in it at the top right to display the panel. This album is fairly large, so if you're loading the album view please give it time.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Park City, UT - Jordanelle State Park

We've stayed at Jordanelle State Park three times in the past (the 2013 post includes links to the other two visits), as it's a convenient base to visit family in Park City. The lake looks quite different this year than it did during our last visit in 2013 - there's water in it now! Well, it wasn't totally dry before, but really low, and it's really up to reasonable levels now.

You can tell by all the sailboats and paddle boards (out there in the distance) that everyone is really enjoying it too. They tie up in the evenings close to shore, but during the day they are all way out on the water.

It's a busy park and reservations are definately recommended. . . but don't choose site 98 (Hailstone Campground, Wasatch Loop), as we did, unless you are up for imitating a mountain goat.

The park is basically situated on sloping ground and we decided this is probably the most un-level site in the park!

The good thing about the site location is that it's right across the road from the "day use" area, where dogs are allowed off-leash, and in the water. Most of the shoreline is off limits for the canine set.

We've had beautiful weather here. It was a bit smokey when we arrived, but after a brief shower the first evening the air cleared.

The lake is surrounded by hills and the view is very pretty. The huge thunderheads that build in the afternoon really add to the view. They sometimes evolve into thunderstorms but there's not been enough rain to cause a problem.

One of our first chores upon arrival was to get the truck checked out for an error message that cropped up pulling the grade into park city (Karl Malone Dodge dealership in Heber City was great!)

We had a really nice 3-day visit with sister Diana. Here we're getting ready to tuck into plates full of Steve's world famous BBQ'd meat loaf.

And.... surprise! I even found time to visit a quilt shop! The woman who owns Davidene's Quilt Shop is very fond of moose as an overall theme, and she's designed several quilt patterns featuring the lovable but lumpy creatures.

The canine portion of our group got to swim in the lake twice, so I'm sure they count it as a successful stay too.

Now, we're heading to Flaming Gorge!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

We Say Farewell to Oregon

August 4 - Farewell Bend State Recreation area

I guess you could say we're following the Oregon Trail in reverse, as this is where the pioneers said "farewell" to the Snake River. The entrance to the park is marked by two antique covered wagons, which make great backdrops for photos.

Farewell Bend campsite
We arrived around lunch time and set up quickly. The temperature was already climbing and we wanted to start cooling off the inside of the trailer.

The trees in the park aren't looking so healthy, in fact, several are marked for removal, so shade is at a premium.

We were here only one week later in 2011 and remembered things as being much greener. Harsh weather over the winter, and current drought, have taken their toll on the trees and other landscaping in the area, but with ready access to water from the river I've no doubt it will bounce back soon.

Another "small world" experience. . . our camp host is from Fredricksburg, TX, just up the road from where we live. He and his wife own a restaurant there. They're in the process of selling it to their chef, while they look for a new place to settle, or a new challenge. So far it seems they like camp hosting.

Our last visit was in 2011. In that post I commented on all the night hawks. We didn't notice any night hawks this time, but we didn't notice many bugs either, so they've probably moved to another area.

In addition to the Oregon Trail history here, there's fishing, birds and other wildlife to watch. A road from the campground leads down to the river, but the campground is on higher ground which actually affords a better view of the landscape and the river itself.

August 5
Thick smoke covered the sky this morning. The news said 3 mile visibility in nearby Boise, and it's certainly no better here. We broke camp by 9 AM and headed for civilization looking for a part for a repair. After several dead ends and chasing our tails all over Boise (well, it felt that way) we finally ended up at Nelson's RVs repair shop,  where they were nice enough to look up the part in a local auto parts store. If we ever need service in the Boise area we will definately go to Nelson's!

In spite of the detours we made it to Three Island Crossing State Park by 1 PM.
Our site  is really wide and wide open at the back with a long-distance view of the river. The smoke drove us indoors for most of the day, so we just enjoyed the views through the windows.

After a quick lunch we toured the nearby Oregon Trail History and Education Center. 

The displays in the center are informative and very kid-friendly. The center makes for a nice family activity on hot afternoons.

For a short time Three Island Crossing was the most important and difficult river crossing in Idaho. Later, other routes were developed and preferred as less dangerous. 

The ferry system, which provided the town here with the name Glenns Ferry, operated for many years and an example of the ferry used can be seen near the education center, down by the river bank. 

We chatted with the woman at the reception counter and discovered her son and daughter in law live in San Marcos. We run into Texans everywhere we go!

Outside, the smoke is getting worse. It seems much of northern Idaho is on fire.

August 6 - Sunday

Heyburn RV Riverside Park is also right on the Snake River.

Steve thought something seemed vaguely familiar about this place.

When I was walking the dogs I came. upon a nice little covered bridge with benches, and an antique farm implement next to it. At about the same time we both came to the conclusion we'd been here before!

I guess we've been in too many campgrounds and RV parks to remember them all. And in our own defense, a lot has happened since we were last here, in 2012.

In that blog post we also described smoke in the air, so that hasn't changed, but the landscaping has.

The trees are much larger, the grass greener, and the riverwalk now has an arboretum along one area and has been heavily planted with wildflowers.

The sites are still spacious, and we're on the end closest to the dog walk area, with a nice lawn for the pups to lay on, so life is good. . . even if it is a bit dim from the smoke!

Now we're heading on to Park City, Utah. . . . . .     Time for a nap!

There are a few more photos in the album.

Friday, August 4, 2017

LaGrande and Wallowa State Park

June 29-30  La Grande, Oregon

A prosperous looking little town, La Grande has a long history. The first permanent settler was in 1861. There's been a lot of history here since then. The influence of cattle ranching is seen in the really wide streets - nice if you're towing or driving a big RV!

Grande Hot Springs RV park is home base - a new name for the park we stayed in last time. They've added a few new features since we were here last, including an additional laundry facility.
Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area is right across the road, and there's a canal running across the back side of the RV park, so it's a good location for bird watchers.

This is another of those quick stops, laundry, shopping, any needed repairs, and then on to four days at Wallowa State Park.

I could only identify one quilt shop in town, so paid them a brief visit when we ran a couple of errands. The shop in is the older downtown part of LaGrand, and while we weren't really in the market for shopping or browsing at the moment, there are a lot of attractive little specialty shops in the area. The La Grande Quilt Shop has a nice range of fabrics, but my space is limited so I only picked up a few interesting fat quarters.

We visited LaGrande in 2011 for trailer a trailer repair, as the Arctic Fox factory is here. We had no major repairs needed this time, but did develop a problem.

One afternoon we noticed we had no water on the hot water side of all the faucets. A bit of research and a lot of crawling around in tight spaces revealed the problem. It was Sunday, of course, so no parts were available, but as it turns out, we don't really need to replaced the valve. It's unnecessary unless you are planning to use antifreeze in winterizing the water system, which we never do. Problem solved!

Not much has changed in the area since our last visit except the name changes. Our comments on the interesting features of the hotel (now called Hot Springs Lake B&B) and the RV park (now called Grande Hot Springs RV Park) at that came are in this post.

July 31- August 3    Wallowa Lake State Park

They call the Wallowa Mountains the Little Alps, and you can see why.

First views of the mountain range from the highway are breathtaking, and in spite of the hot weather there are still little patches of snow here and there on the mountain peaks.

Steve has had Wallowa Lake State Park on his bucket list for a long time, and we finally made it! . . and it was a close call! When making reservations months ago he found it was already booked up, but put his name on the wait list. A short time before we left Texas he received an email message saying they'd had a cancellation, so he snapped it up.

Considering we had no choice in the matter, we got lucky and really have a great site. It's on an end, so our sitting area is much more spacious than most, and we are only a few steps from the entrance to the nature trail, which is handy for the dogs.

This park is huge ( 209 sites) , and very densely populated ..... the complete opposite of Clyde Holiday.

They've done a great job of working in around huge fir trees though, so there's a lot of shade.

We've never seen such a busy campground! All day and into the evening people there are wandering around, adults talking in groups, kids riding bikes (we've seen some pretty amazing bike helmets), young parents chasing their toddlers, people walking dogs (it seems everyone has at least one dog) and two enterprising young men made several firewood deliveries, pushing the little firewood carts while riding their skateboards. Now THAT was entertaining!

The park has a small but adequate off-leash dog area down by the marina, and it works well for the evening ball games. We also went swimming at one of the day use boat ramp areas. Otherwise, life is fairly restricted for the canine set.

Views of this beautiful lake can be had from the highway and the shore, but the campground isn't really situated in a way to afford that kind of scenery. This is where a boat would be handy, but we've given up hauling our canoes. We enjoyed several short excursions around the park to explore the little trails and views of the lake, and to play ball with the pups of course!

The little town of Joseph is just north of the state park, and the closest place for groceries and other services. Joseph is a beautiful town with a long history. It was established as far back as 1883. Originally a ranching and logging community, the town has now evolved into an art colony and tourism center. Summer visitors come for the beautiful views, fall visitors for the hunting, and winter for the snow sports. If you want to shop the galleries gift shops and eateries, you can do that year round too. And of course, there's a quilt shop!

Cattle Country Quilts didn't disappoint. They have some wonderful fabrics that really fit with the themes of the area. I couldn't resist a winter themed piece, and a license plate of course!

We stopped in to the local museum and chatted with their docents who are well versed in the history and family names. They can fill you in on all the artifacts displayed there, as well as Nez Perce tribe history, and anything else you want to know about the area.

Main street is an art walk every day, featuring several bronzes from local artists, cast in the city's foundry. We had lunch in an outdoor restaurant and really enjoyed the views.
The photo album includes larger versions of each sculpture
We also stopped at Old Chief Joseph's cemetery on the way back to camp. There's so much to do and explore here it's hard to fit it all in.

Wednesday we took the Wallowa Mountain Loop to the Hells Canyon Overlook

Photos of these huge mountains and steep valleys covered with trees just wouldn't convey the real message, so I didn't even try. What we did notice as unusual was the extremely tall snags standing far above the obviously younger, and very dense, fir trees.

Checking later I found this is the result of the Canal Fire, where a lightning-caused fire burned 23,000 acres in 1989. The younger trees (28 years since the fire) are so dense that they really need to be thinned, and there are discussions about how to go about that now.

We really enjoyed the drive to Hells Canyon Overlook. It's another one of those amazing, overwhelming scenic views. It's so large it's difficult to convey, a little like the Grand Canyon, and the smoke from forest fires was beginning to creep in.

We really enjoyed the drive, stopping along the way to admire several of the creeks that crisscross the road, visiting the fish weir, and stopping for lunch at a small fishing pond. The dogs seem to enjoy the scenery from the truck as well as getting out to explore each time we stop.

On our last day we drove north to the town of Wallowa to visit the Nez Perce Homeland Interpretive Center. The project office is in an unpretentious little building directly across from the post office, and we almost missed it. The displays aren't extensive, but there are some beautiful artifacts, excellent maps and explanatory displays, and the office is staffed by an enthusiastic and very knowledgeable young woman. The office will provide you with a brochure that includes a map to the nearby Homelands project, where you can walk a trail with interpretive markers along the Wallowa River, visit the dance arbor and longhouse, and enjoy some very special views of the Nez Perce homelands.

We've followed the Nez Perce trail in bits and pieces, starting at the end and now, we've worked our way to the beginning, so we've completed the route. If you are interested in Native American history this is a worthwhile side trip.

On the way back to camp we stopped in to take a look at Wallowa Lake Lodge, which is located right before the entrance to the campground. The lodge was built in 1923, and was really thriving when our daughter's choir performed there (many years ago!) but apparently was about to go under when a small group of investors gathered together to rescue it in 2015. It would have been so sad to see the lodge close. It's a wonderful example of the classic lodge style, beautifully maintained, and exemplifies the gracious feel of the older park lodges throughout the west.
Reception area and main lounge
I said at the beginning the views of the mountains here are amazing, and they really are. Unfortunately, fires in the area began pushing smoke in, and by our third day the mountains were barely visible. I'm glad I didn't wait to take photos. This was taken the morning of the third day, and the smoke got progressively worse. 

Smoke over Wallowa Lake

We really enjoyed our time here, but now we're packing up and heading for a few days in Utah!

Photo Album here 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Meet John Day and Clyde Holiday

"We're heading over to John Day", is something you might hear in these parts. The question then would be, do you mean the town? or the National Monument? Or the river?

The John Day River originates in the mountains of Grant and Harney counties. The various branches join to form the third longest free-flowing (no dams) river in the United States. It eventually flows into the Columbia.

The river was named for John Day, a trapper who was a member of the Pacific Fur Company's overland expedition to the mouth of the Columbia River in 1810.

John Day hailed from the same part of Kentucky as Daniel Boone, and he was an equally hearty soul. So much so that historic reports note his death at least four times. It's fairly agreed upon that he actually died in 1819 or 1820. His story is a fascinating one, and here are a couple of versions.... Wikipedia and  the City of John Day website.

That leaves only the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument to explain. The John Day River flows right down the middle of the canyon where the visitor center and the majority of the fossil finds are located, so it's an obvious choice for the name of the monument. The visitor center is great, and a super place to take kids as the displays are very kid friendly and thoroughly explain about the fossils and the animals that lived eons ago. The scenery is fascinating, and makes for great photographs, but go early or late in the day for the best shadows and cooler temperatures.

This is a sparsely populated area of the state, though there are a few campgrounds, small hotels and private RV parks. We definately recommend Clyde Holiday State Recreation Site.

It's a great place to settle while you are investigating some of the John Day related areas. The park doesn't take reservations, so arriving early in the day is recommended. Just a few miles west of the town of John Day, the park is probably the most spacious and beautiful of any we have visited.  Our site, #13, was on a curve, so we had an exceptionally large area to call our own, but all the sites are far more spacious than usual.

So who was Clyde Holiday? and why is the park named after him?
Clyde Holliday was a hard working logger of the old style. He and his wife married when they were 17 and 16, and soon moved from Arizona to Oregon. After a time they shifted from logging to cattle ranching., The Hollidays ranched for many years, and in their later years gifted and sold various parcels of their land to the state.  The final combined area totals 20 acres and is now the Clyde Holliday State Recreation Site.

There's a fascinating biography of  of Clyde Holliday here.  There's another version here. He passed away in 2008. Clyde's wife, Earlene Holliday, died in 2016, at the age of 90, and her story reads like a historic novel. I suspect many young people today would never believe someone would work so hard, and love any minute of it.

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Clyde Holliday State Park. It's like an oasis in the middle of the autumn gold of golden hills. Hedges of spring flowering shrubs mark the sides of the sites, and as they have access to river water there are sprinklers going somewhere all the time.

In the heat of summer all the lush green is especially welcome, but do be prepared for a few mosquitoes.

The John Day River runs along side the park, offering not only the relaxing sound of gentle riffles, but beautiful reflections of the riverbanks and the beautiful clouds that build up most afternoons.

We had a brief thunderstorm one afternoon, brought on, I'm quite sure, by the fact that I had just gotten my sewing machine set up on the picnic table and had settled down to  work on my current project.

The park is so thoroughly groomed you'd think you were in a city park. The trail along the river is packed, flat gravel. It's pretty accessible for most anyone, and there are benches and picnic tables placed strategically along the trail so anyone who needs to rest often has the opportunity.

There's also an ADA fishing platform at the little fishing pond, which is a nice walk away from the campground.

We took the trail often to get the dogs their exercise, and took the opportunity each time to check on the osprey mother and baby that reside near the fishing pond.

Osprey are funny birds, nesting so high up, fully exposed to the elements, and keeping their young in the nest until they are nearly as large as their parents. This young one did flap his wings a few times, but he seemed a long way from taking flight.

The park has several unexpected amenities, among them are the  two teepees available for rent.
These can be reserved online at the park's Reserve America site. They are side by side, with each lot separated by a pole fence. The realistically constructed teepees are positioned right on the bank of the river, where you can hear the water flow by and the bullfrogs sing. What fun this would be for a family with kids!

More photos of Clyde Holliday are here

The town of John Day is just a few miles east. One of the highlights of the town is the Kam Wah Chung State Historic Site.  The visitor center and historic building are a short distance apart in the  park, which is right in the middle of the city of John Day. This site provides visitors with the very human side of a brief era in western history that few are aware of. The large numbers of Chinese who emigrated to America for work in the mines, on the railroad and in the logging camps helped to build the west. Most returned home after a time, but a few stayed and became permanent members of the community. Such was the case with Ing Hay and Lung On, who built a thriving business that became an integral part of the community. Their shop has been preserved and free tickets for the tour can be picked up at the interpretive center. Kam Wah Chung is such a fascinating story that OPB created a   program about it. 

A bit further east is the town of Prairie City. The folks there are doing a great job of spicing up main street with western style shops and restaurants. They have a quilt shop too - I stopped in but came away empty handed this time!

There are several places around Grant County that are worth a day trip, and this park makes a great home base. Follow the link to the Grant County Chamber of Commerce for more ideas.

Now, we're on to La Grande!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Tailgate Training Camp 2017

From Goose Lake it's about three hours north to LaPine State Park. LaPine is a good staging ground before departing for the woods. We stayed two nights in the north loop, where the spaces are slightly larger than in the other two loops.  Access to the trail along the river is easy, and there's a large fenced dog park not too far away, so it's easy to take the pups for an outing. The dogs are constantly on high alert in this park, as the chipmunks are numerous, and they love to taunt the dogs. One ran directly at Watch, and then froze for a moment before he ran up a tree. Watch and Shiner spent the next hour staring at him on his very safe branch high above them. We caught up on internet work, picked up a few groceries, then moved over to North Davis Creek Campground.

North Davis Creek Campground is one of our favorite out of the way places. We've been trying out each of the sites along the creek on the north side, this time we stayed in site #10.   The campground turned out not to be so "out of the way" this time, as almost every site was occupied by the weekend.

We chatted with many of the other campers as we walked the dogs and the most popular topic of conversation was, "I've never seen so many mosquitoes here!" They were bad, which really was no surprise considering the wet spring. It gave us a good chance to try out our new screen room - Coleman "instant" screen room. It's not exactly instant! but much easier than any other we've used, and we really enjoyed the bug free lounging (so did the dogs!)

They also very much enjoyed the higher water level in the lake, as it's a great place to swim and fetch logs. They never get enough of that activity, but since the water is very cold we have to make sure they don't spend too long swimming.

North Davis Creek flows into the northwest arm of  Wikiup Reservoir, which provides a great opportunity for small boats and fishing, when there's enough water in it. After the wet spring this year the levels were way up and we saw several boats where none could go for the past several years.

A reservation system is coming soon to North Davis Creek, which is managed  by the Hoodoo recreation company. The link is to the Hoodoo site where there's more information. The map on their site is inaccurate, but does show which sites will be available for reservation. Most of the  sites on the outside of the loop either back up to a creek or have a view of the lake, the map doesn't reflect that.

The North Davis Creek album is here.

We spent four relaxing days here, then hopped back to LaPine State Park to do the final prep before we headed for the Ochocos. This time we were situated in a nice pull-through in the south loop. The spaces are a bit tighter in this loop, but the pull-through made setting up easy.

We caught up on last minute shopping and other chores (like scrubbing all the bugs off the front of the trailer!!), met some friends from California for dinner, then headed out to Ochoco Forest Camp for the annual gathering we call Tailgate Training Camp. (It's either the 14th or 15th, it's hard to keep track.)
The Team

We do manage to keep ourselves entertained while at camp. In addition to managing the 9 dogs (and one cat) in residence there are several things to do in the area.

Dave and John had a successful day fishing up at Walton Lake, several folks went hiking on the Steins Pillar Trail, and a few of us sewed on projects we'd brought along.

Some of us also took a short day trip over to the Visitor Center in the Sheep Rock unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. It's only about an hour and a half drive and is worth a trip over if you've never been there before. The monument is situated in a rather isolated part of the state and many people don't even know it exists, but it's fascinating, and so different from most of the Oregon scenery you wouldn't know you are in the same state!

We all love to cook almost as much as we love to eat, so we had plenty of great food. Trading recipes and sharing in the meal prep is part of the fun.

We had beautiful weather, and the little creek had plenty of water for the puppies to splash in, and lots of good conversation.

You can't beat a campfire and colorful sunset to finish off the day, and a perfect camp experience.

Follow the link to the Tailgate Training Camp album

At the end of camp we departed for a one night stop at the Crook County RV Park in Prineville to regroup. We made a quick stop at  The Quilt Shack, picked up a few groceries, and then had dinner at El Ranchero. Their food never disappoints and the service is always quick. The location is really convenient as the fairgrounds next door and the park across the road provide plenty of opportunity for the dogs to romp.

The RV park is in the process of adding laundry facilities. It's still under construction but the facility so far is a nice looking building that should hold several machines. We look forward to that the next time we pass this way.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Goose Lake, Oregon

Saturday, July 7
We're working our way north, and decided to stop at a campground we haven't visited for many years.

Goose Lake State Recreation Area has a very nice campground, with large spaces and a lot of open area. On our first trip around the campground, browsing the sites, he host recommended we find a shady one, as the day time temperatures are in the high 80's-90's. We settled on site #27, under a huge willow tree. I think we did alright in the shade department!

The site is deep, so we set up our new screen room at the back. There are a few mosquitoes here, so we thought it a good chance to practice, as we'd never assembled it before. Piece of cake! Storing it was just as easy.

Behind our site, and off to one side, is a huge plot of lupine, surrounding a bat house! We only saw a few bats, but almost every evening a mule deer came to feed on the grasses that are mixed in with the flowers. The flowers give of a lovely soft fragrance, and attracted butterflies and dragon flies all day long.
The pups enjoyed the shade - bat house and lupine in the background.
On the map, and in some of the campground literature, Goose Lake is described as a "dry lake", and we have been here in the past when there was little but mud. Not so this year! It's clearly a real lake now. The campground hostess said it had been four years without any water in it, and this spring turned the drought around.

The grasses and wildflowers around the lake are lush, and the birds are thriving on the seeds. Every morning and evening the air is filled with birds zig zagging across the water, or soaring through the air catching bugs.
Cow parsnip, squirrel tail grass, a purple flowering grass
I've never seen before, and lupine at the base of the bat house

In the evening we take the dogs down by the lake to play, and watch the flocks of double crested cormorants soar over the water. They are such funny looking birds - like someone modeled them of playdough, then stretched their necks and beaks out. During the day the quail families dart across the roads, all their little puffy children scurrying along behind them.

The campground is only a few miles south of Lakeview, so we  went to town on Monday for a few groceries. Lakeview is a small town, and very western in flavor. A huge cowboy adorns the Safeway sign, and there is ranching and farming equipment everywhere you look. While shopping for groceries we got the feeling that everyone it the store knew each other. And when I said out loud to Steve, "I need to find the relish", two people instantly pointed me in the right direction. Such friendly folks!

Before heading home we took a short side trip to see the Old Perpetual Geyser. It seems it's only sort of perpetual.

Due to the drought that dried up the lake and nearby geothermal development it had quit spouting, but it started up again in 2016 and with all the water this spring it seems to be back in business. It's not a natural geyser. It's the result of a well drilled into a geothermal layer, but it's fun to watch anyway! It's right next to a hot springs resort, but can be seen from Geyser View Road. Here's the Wikipedia article on the springs and the geyser.

The dogs had a great time here, and it's a very dog-friendly park. There's a large mowed area set aside as an off-leash dog park, so every evening after dinner they had a good run chasing the ball and then playing in the watery reeds at the edge of the lake.

The trails around the edge of camp are badly overgrown, but they are working to clear them out. We did find a few sections that made good short walks during the day. One very inviting section section, close to camp, runs alongside a creek, and you can step down to the creek, right by the railroad overpass.

All in all this was a very nice three days.

We'll head further north, to La Pine State Park for a couple of days, then move to North Davis Creek campground, one of our all time favorite spots.