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 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.