|Travels With Mimi www.avita.us|
BACK ROADS OF OREGON &
May 15 2023
Our initial plan was to go to Banff & Jasper, then head west to British Columbia.
But when we added up the mileage given we really wanted only a two week trip, it meant nothing but driving. Then we omitted the Canadian park as conditions were questionable anyway and after that we deleted Canada altogether. In it's place we added the Olympic National Park as it was most like some of the rugged Canadian parks we would miss plotting a more or less direct route with attractions along the way to get it down to about a maximum of 2-3 hours of driving per day. The camper was ready to go except I thought I smelled propane, then dismissed it due to having just turned it on.
Our first stop was Fowlers, a Forest Service campground just south of Mt. Shasta. After a few stops along the way like the Sacramento River Discovery Center where an enthusiastic lady followed us all around to make sure we didn't miss a thing. As we got to close to our destination we joked about seeing a 'Campground Full' sign which was highly unlikely as they just opened up and it was off season and mid week. Sure enough, the gate was locked with that very sign in front. In disbelief we pulled over and started making plans for one of our alternate campgrounds when a Forest Service lady pulled up. She explained that due to unusually heavy snow, all the local campgrounds were closed, and that the sign was generic. This could last for some days or weeks she said. Luckily we spotted an RV park we're usually loathed to stop at a few miles back. They not only had space, and it was relatively cheap, but it had a park like setting being one of the nicest we've ever stayed at.We backtracked to Fowlers for a few hikes and then retired to our RV park.
The rushing McCloud river near the same named town.
An old 'tiled' car at the entrance of the High Desert Museum. One of the many attractions.
The second day we headed up north to the town of Klamath Falls for the short but interesting Link River Trail with some of the most riparian birds per square mile we have ever seen along this rushing river. Our next stop was suppose to be Benham Falls that Alltrails rated as an excellent hike. Unfortunately Ms. Garmin (our gps in a female voice - we try to be gender sensitive of course) was confused about the directions or thought we had sold the camper and bought dirt bikes as her cross country route was clearly not doable for us. After sending us miles out of our way we gave up and headed for a rendezvous with some dear old hiking friends in Sun River to not only be treated to a great meal but have a spot to stay overnight.
Our next campground was Frog Lake about three hours north to another forest service site we hoped was open. Our first stop out of Sun River was the amazing High Desert Museum, a roughly 10 acre preserve housing a large in and outdoor museum having cultural, flora, fauna and natural history displays. It had grown quite a bit since our last visit over 20 years ago and we happily spent over two hours there. Then on to the Skene Overlook and this deep volcanic river canyon spanned by an old railroad bridge with the old highway crossing it now used as a footpath. After a bite to eat there we headed to our campground near the base of Mt. Hood. On the way we drove over a 4000 foot pass and encountered a brief but violent rain storm with hints of sleet all the while noting snow patches in the forest. With some trepidation we took our turn off to find the gate not only locked, but several feet of snow on the whole road leading to the campground.
Dismayed we continued on hoping to get to lower elevations as our camper does not like freezing temperatures. While heading towards Hood River Mimi spotted Sherwood Campground out of the corner of her eye. While very small and somewhat primitive, it was charming and we found a spot we just barely fit into. After settling in we walked down the road to the Tamanawas Falls trail and took this forested path for a mile or so rather than break camp. About midnight we heard a knocking on our door. Half asleep I answered it and a park official said our neighbor reported he smelled propane coming from our camper. We knew at this point we had a real problem.
Skene Overlook about 20 miles north of Redmond, Or.
The outskirts of Parkland with it's views of Mt. Hood.
The following morning I looked into the leak as much as possible. I was hoping it was one of our small 1 lb propane canisters but they were all ok. We had considered canceling the trip, which was a month in the making, but decided to keep things aired out and continue on as our propane wasn't going down rapidly. We headed to the Columbia River with our first stop bring the Punchbowl Falls. On the way we went through some scenic farmland and the quaint little town of Parkdale. Punchbowl didn't look like much from the road, but once we approached the canyon we were amazed at the columnar volcanic stones that lined this deep vertical walled Hood River canyon in it's lush surroundings. Another surprise was the town of Hood River. It could have been an old European village with it's stately historic buildings in a hilly tree lined setting. At any moment I expected cobble stone streets. On to Cascade Locks which looked interesting, but they wanted money to park with all ways to pay not working, so we moved on to the Wahclella Falls.
Here parking had another problem - all spots were full. But as we were about to leave one spot opened up and we managed to squeeze into it... mostly. Paying for our spot was the same problems as before. They asked you to use an envelope, but all were gone. You could phone, but no one answered it and there was no service. Or you could use the QR code but again, with out a cell connection it was mute. Luckily another friendly older person said they accepted the Senior Pass and just put it on your dash. We changed and took off for another wonderful falls hike.
As parking might be a problem we took off very early and found we were only the second car there. But as there was smashed glass from breakins in several spots, we opted to take another hike with a few more cars around for safety. So off to Horsetail Falls which was an amazing hike in that it had a huge cavern so you could walk behind the falls. Next back to Triple Falls where there were now more cars. Another great hike, at least at first. The upper part had burned and it made for a steep hot sweaty hike in full sun that wasn't so scenic, so we soon turned around. Next was the Bonneville Dam where we first visited the interesting fish hatchery. It was not as much the hatchery, but the whole area was in a park like setting full of giant blooming rhododendrons such as we never see in California. On to the dam we had seen years ago but now had a few new exhibits as well as a torrent of water due to heavy winter rains.
Triple Falls Trail overlooking the Columbia River.
Horsetail Falls. There was heavy mist, but if you didn't dally you pretty much stayed dry.
Bonneville Fish Hatchery and it's park like setting.
These generators feed enough power for almost a million customers.
Off to the Wahkeena Falls with the same parking problems but luckily some one just pulled out and we grabbed the spot. Another great lush fall hike with three people now waiting for a parking spot on our return. Then on to the Leach Botanical Garden, mostly for Mimi, but I too enjoy these serene park like sites filled with unique flowers and plants. This one also had sculptures and a picturesque woodsy cottage area used for weddings etc. After that we headed to Olympia to see Aunt Marion who is shortly going to be 102. She's still delightful and feisty as ever. Sadly she's the only one left of our parents age and was very grateful for some company. Then to Pe Ell where Mimi's has a lot of relatives. Two of them generously spent quite a bit of time trying to help me find our propane leak but to no avail. After a pleasant get together and barbecue we plugged in and spent the night there on a grassy lawn mowed just for us.
Part of the Leach Botanical Garden, a 16 acre jewel in the suburbs.
Our first stop was the Watershed Park Trail in the middle of Olympia's suburbs. We didn't expect much but this was one of the best hikes yet being almost jungle like and full of old growth Doug Firs, Alders and Red Cedars. Next was the Evergreen Farm Loop near a college. While nice it paled in comparison to our last hike. Then off to the Hood Canal where we enjoyed looking at the verdant scenery punctuated by views of the canal and unique vacation homes nestled on the beach cliffs. The ranger said our Dosewallips campground should have plenty of space so we were shocked when the sign said 'Campground Full' again! We had some backup campgrounds but I asked Mimi to go in any ways and unsurprisingly the ranger said "Oh, we have plenty of space, someone just forgot to take down the sign" in a caviler manner.
Watershed Park Trail
We got quite a bit or rain during the night and thought it might be a rainy day, but luckily it stopped just at sunrise. Our destination for today was the Kalaloch campground on the Pacific. We stopped at a number of small sites after the park and then as we were leaving Port Angeles I thought I spotted an RV repair place. It was a huge gamble that they would be able to repair our leak but I took the trouble of going another mile before being able to turn around. The receptionists said they were three weeks out for repairs, which wasn't encouraging, but we could wait for the service man if we wished. After a bit of a wait the tight lipped no nonsense foreman came out to look at it. A few minutes later he asked for the keys... I assumed to move it away from his buildings in case of an explosion. But he drove it into the shop. An hour later he had the leak fixed!. It was a faulty regulator and only cost us an hours labor and $70 for the part. We were ecstatic! On to the Moments of Time Trail on the shore of the Crescent Lake.This too was an amazing hike through a dense forests with old mature trees and views of the pristine emerald lake poking through from time to time. Just before our campground we took the short but densely forested Kalaloch Big Cedar trail which has remnants of some of the biggest ancient red cedars in the world. Our Kalaloch campground had plenty of space but again a problem paying as there was no cell service. Afterward settling in we enjoyed a leisurely walk along the log strewn beach
Kalaloch Cedar Trail
Quinalt Rain Forest trail
In the morning we took the Kalaloch Creek Nature trail right out of our campground. Another wonderful cedar forested trail. Our next stop was to Quinalt for the Quinalt Rain Forest trail. Another short but equally stunning hike featuring different trees, deeper canyons and a more developed trail with informative placards. Then a bit of a drive to Lake Swano Trail in Aberdeen. Not only was parking a challenge, and the trail muddy, but the lake was scenically challenged and the trail was not listed on any of my GPS apps. We winged it around this almost putrid looking lake and then headed for Fort Canby State Park where we had reservations. Then another beach hike after settling in which was pleasant.
The Quinalt Rain forest trail is just west of the same named town.
There is a reason this trail is so popular.
We had a 5.5 hour drive ahead of us, which really meant 6 hours as we could seldom keep up the posted speed around curvy roads or up hills. Plus the stops for gas, lunch and hikes makes for a more or less 8 hour day. After stopping at the Cape Disappointment Jetty with it's car size boulders we took off for Astoria, then down highways 101 to 26 to the Steam Donkey Hike. Again we didn't expect much being right out of a rest stop, but Alltrails gave it a good rating and with some justification. It was a Foresty, tranquil and well maintained trail, with the only caveat being it was close to a burn area in one spot. After that another short hike and lunch in Wilsonville. As we approached our Susan campground the forest looked more and more burned and we expected the worst, but luckily our campground was untouched. A forested oasis among hills of charred timber.
Steam Donkey Trail on Highway 26.
Lithia Loop Trail did have some nice parts as seen here.
Our first hike of the day was the Lithia Park loop which sounded good on paper. But I failed to realize it was in the middle of Ashland, a tourist destination with tight streets and limited parking. It was a mob scene with bumper to bumper traffic among construction, but to our amazement I managed to find a just vacated spot and one of the very few big enough to fit into. After a short and crowded hike we headed out of town to the Elisa Rupp trail close to Mt. Shasta. It a small dirt parking lot but unfortunately the only other car was a homeless man and a young lady running around in socks which made us feel uneasy about leaving our camper alone. But we finally took the trail looking back when we could and tried to enjoy this pleasant stream and forest hike. When we got back one police officer was talking to the homeless person but everyone was polite and nothing came of it. We had intended on staying at the McCloud RV park we had before that Mimi liked, but on a whim I wanted to see if Fowlers was open. Sure enough it was! Mimi agreed to camp here and we paid our $7.50 for seniors, our record low price to date.
Got going fairly early, probably around 7:30. Gassed up at the local Valero, then got on highway 5 for the long grind home. We enjoyed the scenery, at least though the mountainous areas. Our only stop besides a few rest stops and to change drivers was the Redding Botanical Garden. Luckily it was open and we got a nice shaded spot close to the entry... all planned of course as it's amazing what you can do with Google Satellite and gps coordinates. Traffic was heavy on 80 as usual, but kept moving, at least on our side heading west.
We were soooool grateful to have gotten our propane leak fixed and for so little! Gas prices were about 50 cents lower once you left the Bay Area. Oregon & Washington prices were about another 50 cents lower. Weather was near perfect ranging from the mid 50's to the mid 60's for the most part. In a few spots it ranged into the mid 70's to low 80's for a few hours. Our little Sprinter ran perfectly averaging about 17mpg, and the only problem (aside from the leak) was a broken drawer latch. We only had to go to the grocery store once for some salad fixings mostly (and a couple of bakery items which somehow fell into our cart).
Great trip overall
Someone enjoying the cool of McCloud Middle falls in the late afternoon.