Wyoming Adventure, Day 2

We thought we were waking up early on day 2, but thanks to the time zone change and the incredibly effective curtains, it was actually 7:45am. We had planned to be on the road by then. So we woke the kids, took a quick shower, and hoped in the lines for the continental breakfast. It was… better than nothing. It turns out that if you wait until that late to eat, you’ll be joining everyone else at the hotel.

The van smelled horrible (like slaughter facility bad) and we picked up more dry ice to ensure that the cooler would remain cold. We tossed the cilantro because it froze and was very stinky. We did get on the road by 9:30am, but that delay meant that Kathy & Dave went from 50 miles behind us to 80 miles ahead of us, even though they were on the high route through Arco. Our route was uneventful, but it was fun to wind back & forth across the Snake River while Michelle read Percy Jackson. Good road trip reading.

We stopped in Twin Falls, ID for lunch at the Fred Meyer. We all picked out our own meals and the girls miraculously picked a rainbow of colors of mostly plant material. Everyone was full and happy as we left Twin Falls and drove across rolling hills of barley, wheat, and potatoes towards the back side of the Tetons. We decided to take the Pine Creek road. May have been a bad choice.

We were stuck behind a motorhome from Florida on a windy, small road, but the route was gorgeous. Eventually we passed the RV and had an unrestricted view of the valley as we climbed an ever steeper road towards Teton pass. Things started to warm up and we shut off all accessories, including unplugging all the phone chargers. The oil temperature light came on just as we were peaking at the pass, and the van really struggled to climb the last mile. I think we never got above 15 MPH during the last stretch, and Michelle and I were both very nervous and started to regret the scenic route. At times, we’d look up the valley and think “that can’t be the road. That’s way to high/steep!”
Wyoming Adventure
We stopped at the pass to let the van cool down and to take in the amazing view of the valley and Wilson below. The girls bravely stood on rocks high above the valley while Michelle tried her best not to scream. It made me proud.

Wyoming Adventure

As soon as we started driving down the steep grade, the cool air was able to bring relief to the car’s temperature. But once the oil started to cool, the brakes started to warm. We kept the van low gear most of the trip down, but the air was full of hot brake smell, and we had no way to tell if it was us or the cars and trucks ahead of us. We finally made it down to the bottom and the van was back to normal. Once we were in the valley bottom, we made our way through Wilson, navigating between all the revelers on the Snake River, and made our way in to Jackson Hole. Kathy had said the town was busy, but neither of us was prepared for what a circus the town was.
Welcome to Jackson

I dropped the ladies off in Jackson so they could enjoy the town and I would set up camp and come back in for a 4th of July dinner. As I left town and rounded the corner and climbed on to the plateau, my heart nearly burst with joy as the Tetons came in to view. Seven months later I still get goose bumps as I write this thinking about the view. The mountains were certainly beautiful, but the sage, the aspen, the river, the grass, the sky all opened up some long dormant memories and I felt a feeling of belonging I did not expect. But this is why I wanted to come back to Wyoming. I took a picture, but as you can see, it does not do it quite the justice it deserves.
Wyoming Adventure
The drive was amazing, and I was the first to get to see antelope, buffalo, etc, and texted back and forth with Michelle about what license plates we saw. I was greeted at the RV park by hosts from Oklahoma and Texas who were awaiting my arrival since Kathy and Dave had already arrived. Our site was in the L row near the bathroom. I set the camper up and moved the food in to Kathy & Dave’s trailer, and put the cooler in Dave’s truck. The food was still well frozen.

As we drove back towards Jackson to meet the ladies, the alternator sounded like it was working hard. 10 miles out of town, the battery light came on. We turned the AC off to Kathy’s dismay, and limped in to town. Right as we enter the town, the car died. I was able to restart it and pull in to a parking lot, where it died again. The battery and the alternator were toast, and it was the 4th of July and the next day was Sunday. AAA offered that they could tow us somewhere, but no one was open until Monday. Talk about SOL.

Michelle, thanks to the marvel of smart phones, was able to find and rent a minivan in less than 15 minutes. So while I was still swirling in despair, Michelle’s quick thinking meant that we weren’t stranded an hour away from the campers and stuck on a weekend. Crisis (mostly) averted.

We wandered around town and ended up going to a fancy Mexican restaurant that Kathy & Dave thought they’d seen on a Food Network show, but given that the show was supposedly about dives, this place must not have been it. The food was freakin’ delicious. I had carnitas tacos and two AC Golden lagers. The meal and beers helped me come down off a borderline nervous breakdown, but so did knowing that we at least had a car to keep us moving for the weekend.
Hatch dinner
After dinner, we made our way back to the campground, which kind of stunk. Someone’s sewer connection must have been loose. It was a little warm, but we opened up the windows and crashed.

Enjoying the hell out of a weekend – May edition

When the weather is great, we sometimes question why we aren’t capitalizing on the time to get some camping in. However, this weekend we have no regrets about staying home and getting the most out of the weekend.

Friday afternoon

Grabbed a beer in the sun with my sweetheart while she finished reviewing a document and kept Kona entertained. Then we picked up the girls and their friend and enjoyed the sun for a bit until it was time to pick up the race packets for Michelle and Ella’s Cinco de Mayo 10k. We grabbed dinner afterwards and the kids continued to play until 8, when we headed over to Miguel’s to jam in the basement. The girls hung out with his twins and Brian, Miguel and I fumbled through several songs over the course of the next couple hours. It was a blast, and it felt great to play the bass. Brian is far better (even rusty) than either of us.


We started the morning with Ella’s last soccer game of the spring season. It was at Chapman Elementary’s awesome turf field. The other dads and I enjoyed playing on it and took turns taking shots on goal until the game started. Ella played forward for much of the first half and tried to stay on ball but never got in to a scoring position (you have to go to where the ball should go). But in the second half, she did some excellent defending and the girls managed to win 5 to 1 against a richie-rich NW Portland team. Not bad for a bunch of girls from NoPo.

After that, we crammed some wings at Fire on the Mountain before heading home to do some extensive weeding and yard work in the front yard. We all griped, but we did a great job, and topped it all off with some deep hemlock mulch that looks and smells great. The girls powered up for the race with a dinner of pasta, sauteed vegetables and fried eggs. Michelle and I watched the Timbers game (So close!) before crashing.


MG and I dropped Michelle and Ella off at the starting line for the Cinco de Mayo 10k, then headed to Washington Park to play on the spectacular playground. No one was around (amazing for an area with over 1M people), so we let Kona wander. She was not happy about a dog fresco on the side of a building and barked at it for a good 3 minutes. I captured the second half where we got close to the picture.)

After the park, I showed MG the Vista bridge and we wound through some fancy Goose Hollow neighborhoods. We grabbed some coffee and hot cocoa then got back to the finish line in time to watch Ella and Michelle cross it. Amazing work Ella! We partied at Pioneer Courthouse Square for a bit, then grabbed brunch at the Bad Habit Room (delicious) before heading back home to relax for a bit. Michelle volunteered at Potluck at the Park and the girls and I went back to Washington Park to play until the start of the Timbers 2 (T2) game. We were able to get tickets in the Key Bank section in the second row and watched the warm up just feet from the players, including several Timbers players like Will Johnson, Gaston Fernandez, Jeanderson, and Norberto Paparatto. The game was great to watch from that close venue. Being away from the Timbers Army, we could actually hear the sound of the ball on cleats and the players talking to each other. Hell, we were only feet from them.

After half time (and down 0-2), we discovered that Diego Valeri, Maxi Urruti, and Jorge Villafana were a few rows behind us taking in the game. We couldn’t resist and took the girls up to meet the players. We felt intrusive and did’t ask for a picture until after the game when we got one of the girls with Urutti. After that, I chased the girls around while Michelle finished talking with the other attorney we brought and nearly ran in to Villafana. I said hi and complimented him on his play this season. Then we headed home to seriously crash from the long weekend.

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

After a warm visit to Lost Creek Lake, we ventured south of the (Oregon) border to the Redwoods. Specifically, Jedediah Smith State Park. We ended up in Site 2, with a towering giant of a tree right in the campground. It was humbling to see how the trees dwarfed even some of the larger campers, but our trailer certainly seemed smaller than it had just the day before (and hauling it over the mountain passes).

I admit that I was somewhat nervous about taking the girls. You never know what might interest them, and even though they are giant trees, would they capture the girls attention? Imagination? I had been to the Redwoods about 18 years ago, and while they impressed upon me, you never know how other people will experience things. So I cheated a little by having the girls watch Return of the Jedi prior to our visit. The Endor scenes were filmed right where we were staying, so I figured the Star Wars connection might interest the girls. It was a risky ploy though – what if they were disappointed when no Ewoks were to be found?

Luckily, I worried needlessly. Both Michelle and the girls enjoyed the giants. I think the wandering (and playing) in Stout Grove captured the girls attention. We were able to scramble on some of the fallen trees, hopping from log (understatement) to log. Everyone else wandering through the grove shared the same awe, craning their necks to each tree. I don’t think the girls took away a sense of the scale, but they certainly got from it the kind of excitement and enchantment I had hoped for.

Now, the trip itself. We arrived on a Sunday evening, set up camp, and checked out the ranger station to get a sense of the park. The girls picked up their junior ranger study guide and we some firewood. S’mores, yo. We helped the girls with some of the misc. ranger guide activities (locating certain species of plants, etc.) The girls got very good at identifying poison oak, which was everywhere in the park. Amazingly, there is both shrub-like poison oak, and climbing-vine poison oak. So even Ewoks in their trees had to deal with some of the vines, climbing up 50 or more feet in to the air.

The first morning, we ventured over to Stout Grove, crossing the seasonal foot bridge. Oddly enough, a band of orange suited correctional rehabilitates were working on the bridge. They seemed to genuinely be enjoying the work and the coolness of the Smith River. MG probably still doesn’t quite understand the idea between prison, rehabilitation, and work crews. But not for lack of asking about it.

As I alluded to, Stout Grove is amazing. While it can get busy, it’s also very quiet, and with the exception of a few girls joyous shrieks, it’s a shrine to these amazing creatures.

Later that afternoon, things had warmed up and we needed to cool down. We headed up the Smith River to a place called Myrtle Beach, where two of the Smith River forks rejoin. I don’t think you could have designed a cooler swimming hole. We camped out at a pool below a bridge with steep rocks on both sides. Someone had set up a rope swing from the bridge, and people were swinging and plunging in to the deep, clear pool. I had to try, and try again, and again. It was a blast. The swimming was fantastic too. The girls and I played in the cool water, following young cutthroat trout around, chasing a loose shoe downstream, and just generally savoring summer. I’m certain this place will remain in my memory as an idyllic summer day. The kind we hope for when we go camping with the kids. But even our hopes fell short for how wonderful the day was.

On day two, we ventured in to Crescent City for some food, cell coverage, and hopefully, some beach time. There was not beach time to be had with the cold cloud cover and wind. So we headed south to see the mouth of the Klamath and visit a drive-thru tree. Hokey, yes, but we managed to thread the minivan through the still-living giant.

It was certainly more of a success than visiting the Kalamath, which was also socked in. Still, we tried to instill in the girls how important this river was to the politics of the region and to understanding how we as a society can try to live with both nature and the myriad of competing human needs. I don’t think they get it yet, but in a couple years, when we’re listening to the radio, we can remind them that they stood on a Yurok dock at the mouth. And, as she seems to without fail, MG got sick. We stopped back in Crescent City for meds, ran up to USA Liquor near the border for a haul of booze, and headed back to the campground. MG’s illness cleared up so we played in the Smith River at the campground for a few hours then we ended up back in Crescent City for dinner at a Mexican restaurant on the strip. After dinner, we hit up the pier where we watched people catching crab, and then spent probably no where near enough time at the playground. But, you know, it was getting dark and we still had to get back to camp. For S’mores. And packing.

On the morning of our departure, Michelle and I assumed our roles. I’m not entirely sure how it happened, but Michelle tends to prep the camper for storage while I “run” the girls. It seems to work well because it allows us to arrive home without the need to unpack the trailer, and it’s ready to leave for the next trip. So while she was hand-mopping the camper floor, I took the girls back to Stout Grove and we ran, climbed, and fake light-saber fought amongst the giants. The girls spent more time looking for fairy houses while I took pictures and developed a crook in my neck from gawking up. After about 45 minutes of activity, we headed back to camp to help collapse the camper, pick up the site (keep it crumb clean), and set off on the long marathon drive back to Portland.

We stopped for lunch in Grants Pass, where the temperature was in the 90s. The drive between there and Roseburg was hilly and challenged the van to keep speed and A/C, but we managed to make it all the way to Albany listening to the Splendid Table podcasts where we had to stop for dinner. We stopped at Block 15 and pulled off a pretty spectacular parallel parking job with the camper. Refreshed, we made the last leg of the journey in to Portland, sweaty, tired, and not entirely eager to return to work. It was an epic drive, but gave us ample time to plan for the next odyssey, Yellowstone in 2015.

The whole photo gallery from our Redwoods trip is online at Flickr.

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.