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.


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.

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.

Whidbey Island in July

The family packed up and headed north to spend the 4th of July weekend with the Dunlaps. It had taken nearly 3 months to figure out a time to meet over the summer, but we managed to pick the perfect weekend. We stayed on Whidbey Island atop a bluff looking south over Puget Sound. It was fantastic, and we had a blast doing some proper relaxing with friends. We ate well, drank well, relaxed well, and roasted marshmallows well. I hesitate to say we slept well, but I hear you can do that when you’re dead.

I think one of the highlights for me was the excellent tide-pooling we did on Sunday morning on what was looking like a cloudy and rainy day. The tide was out quite far and with Stephanie as a guide, we got to see a lot of cool stuff lurking in basins and under rocks. She showed the girls (and me) that if you poke a geoduck, it will squirt water at you. The girls loved it (as did I).

We made a trip over to Langley, which is a quaint and fancy town on the east side of the island. We picked up lunch from the grocery in town and ate it while sampling beers at Olde World Ales & Lagers, then picked up ice cream. Finally, we headed home and swam for a bit with the girls. Ella discovered the joy of goggles and spent half her time underwater. MG isn’t yet appropriately respectful of the water and did her best to thrash out of everyone’s arms.

Meals were great, and not just because the view was so stellar. The first night we had smoked bratwurst from one of Scott’s coworkers and grilled corn. The second night we had Thai beef salad. The third night we had pork loin. Desert should have been the view, but we also did s’mores, which we discovered can be altered by switching out milk chocolate for peanut butter cups. I recommend trying sometime. All of it.

Eventually, the trip ended with a ferry ride back to the mainland and an all to brief stop at Lake Rosiger to catch up with other college friends and a tired car trip back to Portland. Three cheers for summer.