Camping: Lost Creek Lake, Crater Lake, and the Redwoods Part I

This July, the family loaded up in the camper for an epic journey to visit new parts of Oregon and to visit the legendary Redwoods. We’d been planning for 5 months, so we had a pretty good idea of our itinerary. We decided to shorten the initial drive by stopping off at Lost Creek Lake, where we stayed at the state park over the 4th of July weekend.

The reservoir was down considerably, and the campground wasn’t very close to the water. However, we did rent a pontoon one of the afternoons and ventured up-river to avoid the high-wake from water skiers and lake jerks. East of the bridge is a “no wake” zone, so we tried to quickly make our way to safety when a combination of large cross-wakes and a rather sudden deceleration plunged the bow, Michelle, and the girls briefly under water. It was a scary moment as the front of the boat briefly submerged. We recovered and sped to the safety of the no wake zone.

Once we reached the no wake zone, the girls jumped in and swam to a nearby sandy-looking shore. We tied the pontoon to a log and swam and played on the shore. The shore was an interesting mix of ash, pumice, and charcoal. It took a bit to realize that we were playing in an old volcanic eruption. How cool! After a while, we trolled up the lake, catching and releasing some trout, and pulled out again to light some sparklers (it was the 4th, after all), swam, had dinner, then headed back in as the sun was setting. It was a wonderful voyage.

Each morning, I would get up between 5am and 6am and drive down below the dam and fish hatchery to try my luck on the Rogue. It’s the 4th major Oregon river I’ve tried, and for once, there were lots of other people around angling for some early Summer run Chinook or late Spring steelhead. I didn’t have any luck besides an impressive strike where the fish leaped over a foot in to the air before ditching the spoon. But I didn’t see anyone else having luck either. And right below the hatcher, there were people standing shoulder-to-shoulder doing this odd jerking technique which I learned from a fly fisherman is called “flossing.” He shuns the practice, which is akin to just snagging fish. Odd.

On the 4th of July, there was also a kid-focused parade. The girls didn’t have bikes, but they loaded up their scooters with flags, garland, and tried to keep up with the bike parade for a while. How often do you get to follow a giant beaver around a campground?

On the 5th, we continued up the Rogue towards Crater Lake. We stopped at the Rogue River Gorge, a cool cut in the basalt near Farewell Bend CG. We learned more about the Mt. Mazama eruption that deposited all the pumice, ash, and charcoal that we’d been playing in the day before. Then we continued up to Crater Lake to take in the impressiveness of its blue. I insisted that we hike down to the lake, which was busy and dusty (who knew everyone else would be out on the holiday too?). We soaked our feet at the bottom for a bit, avoiding the inevitable climb back up until MG needed to pee. Michelle took her to the outhouses by the dock, but they were so incredibly dirty and gross that they just decided to hike up. Ella and I caught up with them less than two minutes later because Michelle had decided to hold MG over the edge of the trail so that she could pee down the cliff. It would have worked fine if she hadn’t lost her shoe, which fell about 15 feet down the steep slope. I was able to rescue the shoe, and then we hiked on, listening to MG complain about how much pain she was in for about half the climb. Finally, we picked her up and carried her. Ella was a champ though, and both girls spirits were reignited when we had early appetizers at the Crater Lake Lodge.

After the lodge, we hit up Lost Creek Lake for one last swim before journeying on to the Redwoods. Since the Redwoods are a primitive site, we filled up the tanks with water and took a last shower. On the way south, we stopped by the Oregon Vortex. It was … interesting. Wrapping up a few more details, we stopped at a Walmart in Grants Pass to get more mouth-numbing medicine for Ella (who was being a total trooper with her brand new braces), some groceries, and a half-rack of Sierra Nevada Torpedo (which we left on the camper battery and drove for a couple miles around Grants Pass). The road to the Redwoods was very dry, and we saw a dead black bear off the highway outside Cave Junction. The road gets very interesting as you cross the boarder in to California, but the last few miles were exciting as we wound our way down the Smith River.

Cliff Pool, Little North Fork of the Santiam River

There are just some days you don’t want to forget. Saturday, August 2nd 2014 is one of them.

After scheming on some ideas of how we could have a family meet up with the Eivas, Beth found Cliff Pool on the Oregon Swimming Holes App. The description was hard to pass on, though admittedly, the navigation was a little challenging. We agreed to meet there around 11am on Saturday. My crew rolled up a little before 11am, but the route down to the river seemed treacherous and the listed mileage in the instructions didn’t match. We drove around a bit more until we decided that we had probably been in the right place the first time. We waited a bit to see if our friends would arrive, but decided that given the complexity of the instructions, we might not ever see them. We packed up anyway, and wandered down the cliff of a trail, taking several trips to get all of the gear down. The trail at the very end is actually a cliff. There’s rope to help, but it’s very loose dirt and rocks fall frequently while you scale down. Ella ended up getting a cut on her leg from one of the bags careening by her as it fell (which resulted in a shattered snorkel mask), but we made it. The river was lovely, and while making the last trip, the Eivas arrived at the top. I helped shuttle the kids down and then it was time for a swim.

The scenery, as you can see, is amazing. We camped out just below a big pool in the river that was very clear and quite deep in the middle. There’s a lovely set of falls that carve out a nice bowl in the rocks, and the rocks provide some excellent diving opportunities. It’s no more than 10 feet, but still great. Above the falls, the river continues through a series of pools, boulder gardens, and is just a charming scene.

We took turns swimming, basking in the sun, snorkeling, floating, and snacking. The water was much warmer than I had expected, though after hours in the river, my core certainly chilled down. Great for a hot day. Beth and the kids also explored up the river, making the harrowing crossing several times and returning safely and triumphantly.

I want to specifically mention the snorkeling though. My daughters got to see baby native rainbow trout swimming around them and had a chance to view a different type of aquatic environment. The boulders, fish, rocks, and other swimmers made for quite a scene. The kids enjoyed it, but not nearly as much as Travis and I. At various parts in the falls, there were cutouts in the rocks where you could drop below the roil of the water and watch as fish danced around looking for food. In the upper falls, there were several large trout, including one beautiful native that must have been at least 18 inches long. Travis and I also walked up stream about 1/3 of a mile and snorkeled downstream. Bumping, bobbing, and sliding over rocks, we followed the current, moved between channels, and watched fish question our presence in the river. It was amazing how many fish, albeit small, there were throughout the short stretch of the river. At several points, we’d just look up at each other with a stupid grin and start laughing at how awesome it was to be drifting down the stream. We thought maybe we should try out some spear fishing and maybe start a new trend in Oregon.

We had some fishing gear with us, and Mirabess caught her first fish. It was a cute little trout that had to go back, but what an exciting first. After the kids were played out and the sun was falling behind the hills, we packed back up the treacherous cliff and headed back to Salem for a dinner and beers at Gilgamesh Brewing. The day was perfect. The weather couldn’t be better, and it all started with some uncertainty about the safety of the trip and the likelihood of actually finding our friends. Now I’m reflecting back at how awesome the day ways and how much fun we all had. Thank you friends, and thank you summer.


First campout of 2014 – Stub Stewart

We broke out the camper at the end of February (2/28/14 – 3/2/14) for our first “shake-down” cruise to see what we needed to get back in shape for the season. The camper faired well in storage and despite my forgetting the keys to the hitch lock, it came home without any events. Getting New Seasons shoppers out of the way was it’s own challenge (talk about an entitled bunch). But despite the comedy of errors, we managed to get ourselves there and back in one piece. We didn’t take many photos, but here’s a small set.

Since this was the 2014 maiden voyage, and since we had recently been away, we decided to leave after school on Friday. We arrived to find the upper (east) campground still closed and had to settle for the lower (west) campground. A few loops through, we settled on a spot that was fetching the most sun and was reasonably close to the bathrooms. The set-up went well, all the systems seemed to work, and the girls were off and playing in the underbrush. Once we got settled, we bushwhacked up to the upper campground where the playground was so that the girls could play. The sun felt wonderful and the girls ditched their shoes and coats. We conversed with the retired boilermaker who had set up his escape pod nearby for a bit and then headed back for dinner.

Michelle was undaunted by the “first trip” mentality and made some incredible french dip sandwiches with broccoli. Following that, we played some Uno, lit a fire, and roasted some s’mores. We used some apple wood that Doug had brought. It was so dense that the hatchet was ineffective at splitting it. So we ended up relying on kindling and the dryness of the wood to get the fire going. As the sun set and stars rose, we savored the incredible night sky.

Day two was slightly overcast, but after a great breakfast, we packed up the van and headed to Vernonia Pond (lake) to try some fishing. We didn’t have any luck, but that makes some sense since the lake wasn’t going to be stocked for another week. We did see a muskrat or otter frolicking in the lake, and when Ella and I were looking at the Nehalem River, a deer swam by. Right down the stream, as if it was just out for a walk.

Fishing was a bust, so Michelle left me to try for some steelhead and she took the girls to the playground in town. I continued to have no luck but managed to snap myself in the crotch with a lead weight when the line broke after getting snagged. Barley’s luck was about the same. He someone managed to get a lure stuck in his leg. Michelle initially thought it was just a piece of foil, but ended up taking him to the local vet, who got some needle nose pliers from a neighbor to remove the hook. He gave us back the lure in a small vet med bottle. We picked up a maul (wood splitter) in Vernonia, which allowed for much easier campfire building later.

The rest of the day was foggy, and we played some frisbee, read, and prepped for a dutch oven beef stew. The stew was on the fire for quite some time and turned out amazing. The girls were only so-so on it, but were glad to use the remaining coals to roast mallows again before bedding down.

During the night, the propane in tank 1 ran out so the furnace stopped working. I went out to try and fix it in the rain and intense mist and discovered that the acme connection would leak when the hose was bent to reach the second tank. So, no more furnace that night. I could have used one as cold water was running off the camper and down my back.

The next morning we risked explosion to hook up the gas for breakfast and hot water. The girls both skipped on the monte cristos and opted for french toast, which I hope doesn’t mean the end of that wonderful, delicious tradition. Soon though, time was up and we packed the now soaking camper back up, drove home, fought with new seasons shoppers to get in to our driveway (I’m getting pretty good at backing in to the garage now) and set up the camper in the garage with the fans and heater on. It took about 2 days to get completely dry.

The benefit of the first trip, besides the fun? Discovering all the little things that need fixed. The drain fitting has cracked, the acme hose for the gas leaks from the crimp, the step still needs a rivet, and so on. Now to make those repairs and plan for the next trip.

I’m incredibly proud of my family for getting out during February and hope we’ll keep it up throughout the season.

Camping at Jesse Honeyman State Park

We joined my parents and sister for a trip to Jesse Honeyman State Park, just outside Florence, OR over the last weekend. The campsite is well established and has some great amenities, including a monster of a playground with a dune-sand base. The girls were especially fond of the playground, but only MG ventured out to the dunes, first with Grandpa, then again with Grandpa and me.

My parents and the girls actually left Thursday to spend an extra day at the campground. They discovered the playground and the dunes, and it sounds like they had a lovely time exploring the giant dunes before the weekend arrived and OHVs descended on the place. OHV is short for Off-Highway Vehicles, btw. We couldn’t figure out why they used that instead of ORV like we were accustomed to.

Hilary, Michelle and I left Friday morning and drove down through Eugene, stopping at Cabela’s for a few small items. Michelle broke the tip of Ella’s fishing rod on the last trip, so I picked up a repair tip and glue. We ran in to one of the other students from my grad-school cohort who was also stopping through. Small-Freakin’-world when you stick to I-5. When we arrived, we quickly set up camp and put together dinner. We often split dinner nights and tonight was ours as we were celebrating my mom’s birthday, a few weeks late. Michelle decided to make things interesting and did a hot-smoked salmon filet over the campfire, scallops, and marinated prawns (also cooked over the campfire). Additionally, there was broccoli, asparagus (campfire grilled), and green beans. The whole meal came together nicely and was just excellent. I’m still full.

Saturday was somewhat gloomy. The clouds set in early, but that didn’t stop us. Michelle, Susi, Hilary and Ella went in to Florence while Greg, Madeline and I explored the dunes (Dooms, as MG called them) on foot. The weekend OHV crowd was busy, but we still got to explore the giant dunes in the misty, low-hanging clouds. The fog did lift enough that we briefly saw the coast on the horizon, but the gray skies and mist gave the dunes an eerie feel. We did our share of giant dune steps, then walked cross country through some woods back to the campground. MG and I found some gigantic banana slugs which I assume were somewhat isolated in their little forest island surrounded by sand. The walk was pretty long and I’m impressed that MG made it all on her own.

Later in the day we took the canoe and tried to fish on Cleawox Lake. The shore fishing was rather limited, partly by the shore access, and partly by the millfoil. We tried a few different locations but without much luck. My dad caught a rainbow, but that was the only action. Didn’t matter though, the boating and fishing was rather enjoyable on it’s own. Also, the excellent playground? MG decided that she was going to start doing monkey bars and in only three tries, managed to cross the whole span. She’s now officially a monkey.

Sunday was also mostly cloudy, and we tried going to swim in Cleawox Lake during a “sun break.” However, the wind was steady and the clouds came back. Still, the girls and I did get in the water and made a sand-bathtub like we made in Maui. It wasn’t as comfortable though. And sadly, Michelle, Hilary and I had to return home to get to work, so we left the girls and Grandma and Grandpa for the last night and headed out.

Camping at Lake Harriet

Lake Harriet signFeather tickleA dock, a lake, Mt. Hood, and cloudsBusy day at Timothy LakeThe crew checking out a "special" rockMG basks in Timothy Lake
Andy looks for crawdadsMt. Hood is almost visibleAndy finds an alder-borer beetleJumping jacksDancingSwimming in Timothy Lake
Gang hangs out on the golf-course grass on the shoreSnacks and crayonsJerry-rigged shelfIMG_5622
IMG_5618IMG_5615IMG_5614Ella climbing on the water pumpThis campground had a playground, too.

Camping at Lake Harriet, a set on Flickr.

Thursday night after work, we hooked up the camper and headed for Lake Harriet, about 45 minutes east of Estacada, OR. The lake is a small reservoir on the Clackamas River, and the campsite is only 11 spots. We arrived after a longish dinner at Fearless Brewing, just in time to meet Beth, MiraBess and Cedar.

It was our first dry-camping trip with the popup, and it went very well. We borrowed my parent’s canoe, and the Eiva’s brought theirs as well, so we had several boat trips around the lake, which was smaller and thus easier to paddle around. We also did some fishing on the lake, though there wasn’t much action. I managed to catch a 16″ rainbow that we cooked up once Travis arrived on Friday.

Saturday we spent the morning playing in the canoes, coloring, and eating. Then we drove up the road to Timothy Lake, which was much warmer and spent a couple hours swimming and relaxing, waiting for a glimpse of Mt. Hood, which never quite got out of the clouds.

Despite the extra day, Sunday arrived before we knew it, and we had to pack up and head home. Ella, like always, expressed her shared displeasure in having to go home.

A few other notables. The fishing wasn’t that great, but I managed to pull 10 great lures, 20+ lead weights, a cotton fish net and leash, and many feet of fishing line off the stumps on the lake bottom. I think this excited me as much as the fish, but the kids weren’t as amused.

Dry camping wasn’t too bad. We scrimped on the water and battery use, and only had to supplement some water on the last afternoon. There was no gray water disposal though, and had to pour it out in the vault toilet. (sorry to the mouse I kept seeing down amongst the filth)

Kids love camping, and they were always up for new adventures, coloring, canoeing, and s’mores. They stayed up rather late each night.

Also, note to self, relax a little, and remember to check out Hoodview campground on Timothy Lake.

Camping at Lake Simtustus

The family met up with Mimi & Papa (Grandpa Doug and Grandma Debbie) at Lake Simtustus this past weekend for a longer getaway. Mimi and Papa drove down with their camper and us over from Portland with ours on Thursday. Lake Simtustus RV Park was relatively quiet the whole weekend, but especially on Thursday night, where one of the most poignant sounds during the night was the sucking made by the sucker fish cleaning muck off the dock.
MG is a happy boater

We’re just getting our camp setup routine down and were able to help Doug & Debbie with theirs as well. Two very different experiences – and while their camper was far more comfortable – I’m glad I’m not the one who had to drive it down the narrow roads to the camp site. Once we got all set up however, the camp site was very cozy and offered a wonderful view of the lake and basal-column layered hills.

We rented a pontoon boat on both Friday and Saturday and combined some fishing, sailing, and splashing. Barley even got to swim a few laps around the boat before getting too tired. Doug and Michelle both caught some pike minnows on Friday, but only Ella came away with some delicious trout. Luck changed Saturday and I was the one who pulled in two fish. No one seemed too disappointed by not limiting out, partly because half the group got their fix by swimming in the somewhat chilly reservoir.

As usual, the food was excellent. Every meal provided for fun family time and no one finished the evening hungry. Especially after s’mores.

It’s hard to explain the beauty of central Oregon to folks who don’t get the desert. The plethora of birds, fish, deer, and the mingling of sage & pines nestled between the buttes of basalt might just be appealing to people who know the desert. Regardless, it was a wonderful weekend with family followed by a lethargic start to another work week. No one could agree on who wanted to stay camping the most.

Cape Lookout Campout in May

Last week, the 1st-3rd grade classes at Ella’s school did a field trip campout at Cape Lookout as a wrap-up to their habitat study. Michelle and I went as chaperones and Maddie tagged along as well. The campout was just an overnight trip, so we tacked on a couple extra days and stayed through the weekend. Best choice ever.

The school part was a lot of fun. As chaotic as you’d expect 30-ish 6-8 year olds to be, but fun. There was a scavenger hunt, lots of activity time, beach time, a boat sailing event (they made boats in class), and a lot of exploring. The kids seem to have had a blast, and Ella was particularly bummed when it was bedtime on Thursday night. A large group of students had devised a forest fort, set up guard posts, and worked to fend of other groups, spies (me), and do catch & release with prisoners (including me). But eventually, that group had to go home.

Which left us in a beautifully sunny, nearly empty campsite. The girls and I made several rounds about the campsite, peaking in to yurts, climbing nurse logs and stumps, and hitting things with sticks. Then, with no fanfare at all, Madeline started riding a bike without any training wheels. Once she got going, there was no stopping her. At first, she needed help getting started, but after a good half-dozen loops, Ella showed her how to start herself. The riding went on and on.

Then, our friends Eric, Erin and Remi arrived from Portland (beating back traffic and construction), just in time to see the sunset. We had a lovely fiesta meal and enjoyed some s’mores and beers by the fire before the kids needed to crash. The next morning, we headed to the beach after some pancakes and spent several hours in the sand. Digging, cross-word puzzling, and daring each other in to the cold Pacific. We returned later that evening to build a fire on the beach and make dinner over the fire. It was spectacular and no one got burned.

All told, it was a fantastic weekend. The coast was gorgeous (70-80F) and sunny with very little wind. We stopped by Tillamook and got some ice cream for the ride home. More camping to come.

New Orleans April 2013

Michelle joined me on a work trip to New Orleans April 2-5th. It was a very, very quick trip, but we walked around as much as we could and crammed what we had time for in to the evenings. Michelle took a swamp tour one of the days I was in conference, and we managed to find some good food, music, and intrigue after the conference let out for the evening.

Camper Arrives!

We took possession of the camper on Friday. We bought it used back in October but kept it stored with the dealer over the winter. After a few trips last summer with the family, we realized how precious the time with our kids is, and the joy of endless loops around the campground on bikes can’t be beat. The awesome folks at Apache RV center gave us an entire walk-thru, showing us how to operate every feature and critical function of our 2008 Fleetwood Sun Valley. They also installed a brake controller on the Honda, which made everyone a little more comfortable about stopping the trailer. Then, we hitched up the trailer and drove home cautiously. 82nd was interesting, with many abrupt stops. Stopping was a little interesting until we got the brake controller sensitivity dialed in.

We lucked out in that there were no cars parked in front of our house when we arrived. Finding parking will be an ongoing challenge with the steady stream of New Seasons shoppers. Especially when we return, exhausted, dirty, and surly on a Sunday afternoon.

Saturday we set up the camper on the street and started moving in. We’ve been staging with things like sleeping bags, silverware, cookware, towels, etc. in the girl’s room and garage. Finding a place for everything was actually quite fun. And the inside of this camper is, to be honest, huge. It was a little unnerving while parked on the street, but once we’re camping and it’s raining for the 36th hour in a row, the extra space will be what keeps us all sane.

We also sanitized the fresh water tank, checked out the plumbing, and entertained passers-by. The camper seemed to draw some really strange folks, which reminded me to lock down the propane tank, battery, and hitch. Parking on the street will be an interesting experiment. One neighbor was happy to share with us that despite the “no storing things on the street” ordinance, it hasn’t been enforced since 1988. We’ll see how long the neighbors are patient with us. Most seem to think the camper is better than the shoppers.

Now, we’re awaiting our maiden voyage trip. Something small, short, and easily recoverable from. What better time than March to try things out?

Binding breaks on first run. I struggled to get down the hill.

Hilary captured this last week while we were skiing at Mt. Hood Meadows. It was my first run on a pair of skis I picked up a swap just a few months earlier. Right binding explodes about halfway down the first run. Managed to get down without taking the other ski off, but it took a while. Luckily, I had my ’96 rossis in the car for backup.

The rest of the day was a blast. Great snow, not too many people, and great company. The rest of my gear worked great.