20110928

Whoever has heard of Stub Stewart St Pk in Oregon?

Well, not many, I'm sure. This C/G is in Buxton, 11 miles south of Vernonia. Still not much help, is it? It's located in the NW corner of Oregon. Very nice park, nearly empty at this time of yr. We picked this place because of it's close proximity to Banks-Vernonia State Bike Trail, 21 miles (one way) of paved path thru forest and farmland. And Stub Stewart C/G is situated between Banks and Vernonia. We decided to break it up and pedal north to Vernonia on Tuesday 9/27, and south to Banks the next day. So, altogether, we rode 47 miles - the extra miles allow for exploring in the towns. Usually Rails-to-Trails bike paths are relatively flat, but this one wasn't. We pedaled uphill forever both days (ugh - slowly); when we turned around, tho, we flew down hill in a blink of an eye - prob averaged 15 mph for roughly five miles. Awesome! (First you have to pay the price.)

Tuesday started out kind of poopy with light rain, chilly temps and lots of clouds. We waited till the rain stopped and then took off. Our bikes and our clothes were covered with tiny needles from the conifers, kicked up from our tires on the wet trail. Perhaps because of the overcast, cool day, we met very few people on the trail. By the same token, the crisp, fresh air invigorated us... and we loved the clean, Christmas-like scent to the air... like being in an outdoor cathedral. In Vernonia, we stopped at a coffee shop to enjoy a cuppa and get warm. They had great soft rock music there too. Nice break.


This banana slug ain't pretty, but it was big! The old Fuel House - now roofless and with trees and ferns (and artistic graffiti but no litter) - of the Oregon-American Mill, which operated from the mid-1920's to 1957. Weird bldg now!



At the coffee shop! The Chinook are running here on Rock Creek. Jimmy near Vernonia on the trail.



In the forested section of the trail. Riding downhill in the reverse direction made me crazy with the strobe light effect from the sun/shade on the pavement.



Where the bike trail crosses Stub Stewart St Pk. And - lordy - this is a 5-qt container brimming with apples we picked along the Vernonia trail - no wonder that last uphill was so tough - we were each weighted down with 5-10 lbs of apples in our bags! We're always picking goodies!


Wednesday was a sunny, clear day - fine day to ride once the temperature rose to 50F. Lovely ride, no apples today, but inveterate pickers as we seem to be - we collected another four cups of blackberries. Yum - Life Is Good!







Portland OR, Saturday 9/24/11


In just a few days, we drove the relatively short distance from the Eastern arid and buggy parts of the Columbia River into delightfully lush and green west of The Dalles. Say goodbye to wind farms -- acres and acres of wind turbines up on the mesa above the river generating power to supplement the Columbia hydroelectric dams. You know big winds are common when you see so many giant three-bladed wind machines. 

We spent a couple of nites at Ainsworth State Park, tucked into a verdant site, cool and shady. During our stay in these parts, the days were calm, which was good for us ... after all the dry, windy conditions we've been in.  One day we toured the Columbia River Scenic Byway, stopping at several eye-catching waterfalls, and the Vista House @ Crown Point -- located atop a 733' sheer cliff overlooking the river, where the wind velocity has been measured at an amazing 120 mph!  It's a wonder the Vista House didn't blow into the Columbia!  This beautiful building was designed as a welcome center in 1918.  (no photo, sorry)

 

Clouds 'n glass, downtown.

On Saturday, we drove the 30 miles or so into Portland.  What a grand city!  As usual, we spent a couple of hours at Powell's City of Books, a fascinating bookstore occupying an entire city block.  We laid out a few dollars on books, too!  We found the House of Louie again and enjoyed lunch ... no dim sum for us this time. We actually stumbled up on the Saturday Market and walked thru it for an hour or two, looking at all the merchandise for sale, people-watching, and generally having a good time.  The market is celebrating its 36th season, and it attracts loads of people every week!


 Boats on the Willamette River come in all sizes.

 

Folks heading for Saturday's market.


Gorgeous fresh flowers are inexpensive for what you get.


Jimmy likes his chocolate ice cream!  A mime who was really good (the guy in silver, not Jimmy!).
Saturday Market is fun -- we had a blast!

20110924

LePage C/G (Columbia River), Oregon 9/20 - 9/23/11



We moved to LePage Campground, another COE (Corps of Engineers) C/G, located at the confluence of the John Day and Columbia Rivers. Lots of fishing going on here, lots of boats in the rivers! We are approx 115 mi east of Portland OR and only about 30 mi east of The Dalles OR. The last time we had our mail forwarded was in Livingston MT a long time ago, so we picked The Dalles as our mail drop. Spent the better part of a day in this nice city getting mail, going to the bank, laundry, groceries -- the necessities. We also visited the library to use their wifi. LePage is "in a hole" and we have no phone or wifi signal and no television. In fact, not much here! Except possibly serenity!


Our C/G is located in the dark green patch, center of photo where the river disappears.

 

 

Tho't we'd ride our bikes on the "ranch" road above the C/G, but we were disappointed after huffing and puffing our way up -- there was nothing to see except more of the same. We got off the bikes and walked on the dirt track for a while ... finally turning around at a locked gate and eventually rode like mad down the hill. Not much to the ride, but not every one is exciting.

 

Tergel is the RV visible on the right.


 Mt. Hood stands proudly in front of us on I-84. A sight to see!

We were able to accomplish quite a few things while parked at this campground -- Jimmy cleaned the outside of Tergel and Smartie (and whoa-boy, they needed it), so they look almost brand new. We didn't do any fishing, but in between doing "stuff," we read and plain ol' relaxed!

20110922

Plymouth Park WA 9/16 - 9/19/11


After a convoluted approx 100-mi drive (Hwys 243, 24, 240, I-82 and 14) from our Wanapum St Pk C/G south of Wenatchee, we arrived at a Corps of Engineers C/G on the Columbia River at McNary Dam. The area we drove thru is dry and devoid of trees or noticeable life, but I'm sure there must be critters galore hidden on these golden grassy hills.

 


Plymouth Park is small, and we snagged a nice shady site with hookups.  We decided to stay four nites, as the price is right for us Golden Agers! (Only $11.50/nite.) As always, there’s lots to see and do, and we packed in a lot.  We rode our bikes all around the area, and at the day use area we watched – in awe – two retriever dogs fetching “dummy” ducks.  The dogs only had eyes for their master and those “ducks,” which the guy threw WAY out in the harbor.  With whistles, the dogs knew which dog was to retrieve and which dog was to "stay." Fascinating to watch, even if the dogs didn't always obey the signal!

 

Bam! In he goes! 


Back to his master, after retrieving the dummy.

First thing Saturday morning, we drove across the river to Hermiston, OR, to their farmer’s market. Oh my, we’ll eat well this week ... with a pint of raspberries, eggplants, garlic, zucchini, peppers, fresh sweet corn and eggs. Yum!  After the market and back on the Washington side of McNary Dam, the fish ladder and viewing windows were open to the public. We saw an incredible number of fish, mostly BIG Chinook salmon and Steelhead trout swimming UP the mighty Columbia on their way to spawning streams. I wish one of those fishies would've jumped in my arms (uh huh)!

Jimmy, my love, drove to a convenience store early Sunday AM for a newspaper to go w/ our coffee. Later, we hiked the McNary Dam nature trails and wetlands – and spotted the biggest blackberry tangle of vines ever; we’ll be back with containers – and then we had a first-rate personalized tour of the powerhouse. Thanx, Shawn.

 



45 min south of the Columbia River is Pendleton OR, a western and woolly town. We’d never been before and wanted to see the Woolen Mill and go under the city on the 90-min Historic Underground Tour. Monday we did both. Good choices! No way we’d ever imagine so much infamous history in such a place – Pendleton was known as the entertainment capital of Eastern Oregon (we’re not talking movies, either)…. At one time, Pendleton had 18 bordellos and I forget how many bars. The town also sported a Chinese jail, an opium den, and a laundry named: Hop Sing’s! “Was that his real name?” I asked. “Yes,” replied the guide. Ha! – remember Bonanza? All of this, and more, underground. Our tour of the woolen mill was interesting, but way too noisy because of the clattering machinery. I love the colorful Pendleton Wool blankets. Long day, but great day.

 

Underground.


Vibrant colors for their woolen goods.

And, finally, you see we came back with our containers.  These blackberry bushes extend far beyond our camera's eye.  The thorns are formidable, which means a person can't get very far into the vines without major injury!  We did all right, using sticks to get to tender berries.  We picked lots more than four cups!

 


One small section of the giant berry patch - loaded with berries.

 


That evening we enjoyed a delicious blackberry cobbler.

 


Berries come to fruition!  Delicious!

20110918

Grand Coulee, Washington, 9/13 9/15



Our site at Steamboat Rock St Park (nice!). Buck mule deer out for an evening stroll (cool!).

See the little red arrow? It's pointing to Jimmy on his bike at the base of this huge basalt mesa. Gives perspective! Another gorgeous sunset.


Dry Falls, south of the dam and our campground. And the story about Dry Falls.

We wanted to visit Grand Coulee Dam on our way south. First we picked a site at Steamboat Rock St Park and it was a fine site, tho I doubt it was worth $36. Washington St Pks have become expensive... so we elected to only spend two nites here. We biked around the whole area a couple of times and hiked into "the bush" in search of ducks on Lake Thompson. As soon as they saw us, all the feathery critters flew to the far (inaccessible) side of the lake - phooey! We did spy California quail and lots of mule deer. Coyotes yip-yip-yipped that first nite, always an attention-getter. They left lots of tracks and scat, too. Jimmy grilled one of our last pkgs of Yellowstone River trout from the freezer that nite. Maybe coyotes can smell delicious dinner aromas when they trot past hours later?

The next day we visited Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River, run by the (Federal) Bureau of Reclamation, and joined a (free) tour, inc a trip across the top of the dam. Looking over the edge to the water below invites vertigo and a "good grief!" reaction! I took pictures, but the dam is SO big, it overwhelmed all my photos. You can look it up online if you want to learn more. I will say it's a gravity dam... and it's the big daddy dam on the Columbia River. Generates lots of watts. We returned to the Visitor Center that evening to watch a really interesting film about the creation of the coulee (see website below). At 8:30 pm, a laser light show followed on the dam, backlit by water released along a wide stretch of the dam. We had a great day here. Managed to get two wks worth of laundry done at a local laundromat, too!


A few miles south of our C/G is Dry Falls St Pk, and we stopped there when we left on the 15th. We now know a lot more about Glacial Lake Missoula than we did a few days earlier... all fascinating natural history stuff. As we drove on toward Potholes St Pk, where we hoped to stop for the nite, a haze seemed to hover about the hills and mtns... and when we arrived at Potholes that afternoon and opened the RV door, a heavy smoke odor smacked us between the eyes. We couldn't stay. We drove west, now into a fierce headwind, and later than we like to be "on the road," finally crossing 'ol Columbia River again to stay at Wanapum/Ginko St Pk (we were here last May). We sought refuge from the wind which howled all nite, glad to be settled. We spent a comfy nite in Tergel overlooking the beautiful Columbia.


20110917

9/11 - 9-13 Penticton, British Columbia


On our last night in Jasper, we looked at the atlas and realized that retracing our steps down the Icefields Pkwy and back into Montana didn't make a whole lot of sense when we're trying to get to the West Coast. That minute we decided to alter course and come down the west side of the Rockies out of Canada and into Washington, thus knocking about 400 miles off our overall journey! And, altho the Icefields Pkwy is one exceptionally scenic road, we don't like doubling back on ourselves.

 

View of Skaha Lake from our Camp-A-Long campsite.


A romantic full moon rising over Skaha Lake.

So, we set off on Rte 5, Yellowhead Hwy, into the heart of the Okanagan (oh-ka-NOG-an) Valley. I was sold on our new route when I read that irrigation transformed this sun-kissed valley into one of the most productive fruit- and vegetable-growing regions in North America. But, I was really surprised to learn the southern end of the valley is so arid it's considered the northernmost reach of the Sonoran Desert that extends all the way to Mexico! 

Another distinguishing feature of the valley is its chain of long, narrow lakes stretching from north to south, created by retreating glaciers. Well, we saw it with our own eyes: Put water on it and it grows! We saw orchards everywhere. Flowers grow prolifically. Lucky for us, we're here in prime growing season, tho too late for peaches and a bit early for apples. Espaliered apple trees are loaded with ripening fruit! This is big wine country with vineyards, heavy with grapes, marching up and down hillsides, and wine-tasting rooms every few miles. We bought some of the sweetest corn we've ever had at Thor's Viking Farms stand, along with pears, nectarines, plums and a couple of early apples. Really delicious produce!

 

Penticton has a showy flower garden!


Jimmy at 69-mile long Lake Okanagan.

While walking along Riverside Park and Lakeshore Drive, we spotted these two gems, and I couldn't resist taking pictures. Please note Barbie has her seat belt on!

 


Cute set-up!

We had a great stay in Penticton - our last stop in Canada. Next will be our US border crossing. That took 45 minutes while we waited for the "Ag Inspector" (Haha, I thought it was Egg Inspector!) to appear. All the motor homes, trailers and fifth wheels lined up like huge beasts of burden waiting their turn, and getting agitated by the wait. Our "inspector" was a young girl who wanted to know what we had in our fridge and freezer, and what portion of fruits and veggies came from the states (who knew?).  Then she came into our RV home, opened both the fridge and freezer and took my only tomato ... that was our Ag Inspection.  I asked her if they were going to pay me for the tomato. Jimmy is still laughing!  Hmmm, I wonder what they do with all the fruit they confiscate?

20110916

Clearwater, BC - 9/10/11


After eating that loaded Elks breakfast, we drove into Wells Gray Provincial Park to hike around and check out some of the famous waterfalls, as in this picture. A viewing platform on the rim of the canyon provided us panoramic views of the falls and the gorge below.  At 463' Helmcken Falls on the Murtle River is one of the most impressive we've seen. Jimmy said he wished he could see it in winter. Oh Yeah! Wear your woolies! If you'd like to read more about it, check the website below.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helmcken_Falls


What a beautiful cataract!

Clearwater, British Columbia, Canada 9/9 - 9/11


Continuing south on Rte 5 (Yellowhead Hwy) from Jasper, we soon "picked up" glacial, milky-turquoise-blue North Thompson River and traveled beside it all the way to the town of Clearwater. Really an outstanding 200-mile (approx) drive between snow-capped mountain ranges, velvety-looking meadows and that untamed river, with nary a single boat in it. We were ready to quit for the day when we got to Clearwater and the North Thompson River Campground. And when we pulled into a great site overlooking the water, we said, perfect, park it! As we got out to explore, we realized we were at the confluence of the Clearwater River and the Thompson. You can see the difference in the first photo below -- from our campsite, the milky Thompson is on the far side, with the Clearwater abutting it. The wide water closest to the camera lens is just a Clearwater slough. It'll prob take the two rivers a half mile or so to merge their waters into one "color."

 

In the picture below, I'm looking out (with binocs) on nearby Raft River, hardly more than a stream. We'd been told at the Visitor Centre that Sockeye salmon (the big bright-red ones) were coming in to spawn and we might be able to see them from a viewing platform. Well, that was something we did NOT want to miss and, by gum, we didn't! That shallow stream was alive with hundreds of salmon, all moving and jumping and swimming and spawning. Truly an awesome sight. 


The next two photos are close-ups of just a little of the action we saw. I bet we spent an hour or better watching the fish. Wish we could've brought a couple home for dinner....

 



Clearwater had a lot going on the Saturday we were there, including a farmer's market (bought apples and squash), and the local Elks Lodge was hosting their Saturday breakfast in the adjacent lot. 


At the market, the kid standing next to the pony's head was giving pony rides, but the kid was a good sport when I asked if I could take a picture of Jimmy sitting in the cart!  No ride, though!


We seldom eat breakfast out, but - what the heck - we were supporting a worthy cause and, why not? We cleaned our plates, too!