Organ Pipe National Park

Organ Pipe National Park

About Me

I purchased "Sadie''s House On Wheels "in late 2007 and loved traveling in a motor home so much that I went on the road full time in late 2008. I started writing this blog to help me remember all the wonder places I have been and it allows me to share those places with my family and friends. Summer of 2013 I decided to hang up the keys for a while and moved back into my stick house. After nearly two years, I am on the road again.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Wallowa State Recreation State Park, August 23-28

Lake Wallowa Recreation State Park is located about six miles from the quaint, artsy town of Joseph. It  is an extremely busy park...during normal summer seasons.  Reservations are generally a "must" and sites are assigned and many have full hookups. However, due to the forest fires and smoke the park is not as busy.  The check-in process is very orderly and smooth.  We pulled into our site and set up and headed out on the bikes to explore.

Joel being a vet and Oregon resident can stay at Oregon state parks for 10 days  in a thirty day period for free. The catch is that he can only stay for five sequential days and then has to leave for a day.  When the reservations were made there were no sites available for five days so we have to move after three days to another site to make the five days. The ranger had told us a new fire had just started several drainage away and thus, the smoke.  The fires are really bad this year all over. I am so thankful that my two sons are no longer working for the Forest Service as Fire Fighters.

The Lake has a resort atmosphere with lots of attractions.  One attraction is the Tram which scales Howard Mountain.  Hopefully the smoke will clear some  so we can take it  up the mountain and explore some of the trails on top.

The next day we set up the Zodiac  and headed out in the water.  The lake is like glass but visibility was poor.  Lots of smoke. The lake looking north:
 Tara loves the boat. I have to keep a  PFD on her because if she sees a stick in the water she will jump out. The PFD gives me something to grab onto and pull her back in the boat.

One side of the lake has private residences with private docks. The park side has floating docks which are great.  There are no beaches on the state side of the park, so the floating docks are a welcome and we took advantage of them.  they are a great place to have a picnic and just relax.

The lake front homes reminded me of those found on Donner Lake, in Truckee where I used to live.

I did get the Kayak out and paddled on the lake, but Tara kept jumping out of the Zodiac  trying to follow me. She would reach the Kayak and try to climb on the Kayak but I was afraid she would tip me over.  At one point she was successfully on getting up on the kayak and it tipped  and she fell off.  Well, I guess I'll have to work on her balancing skills. LOL.

On Wednesday, the day we were suppose to move,  we checked  in with the ranger and because there had been so many cancellations due to the smoke, it turned out we could stay in the same site and not move.  Yeah!.  Since we didn't have to move, decided to explore the area and look for some dry camping close by when our 5 days was up.  We took a drive down Lostine River Canyon where there are several Forest Service Campgrounds but decided they would be too far.  The Lostine River is a wild and scenic river and well worth the drive. We Also checked out the Lion's Park in Wallowa which is free but 20 miles away...too far.

Lostine River Canyon:

Thursday we headed over towards Hells Canyon Overlook.  It was very smokey at the lake but the sun poked through along part of the drive to Hells Canyon Overlook.  The Overlook was smokey and hazy, but it was better than expected.

 On the way back we explored  Forest Service Road 3950 where there were several Forest Service Campgrounds and long the Imnaha River which is another wild and scenic river. The campgrounds were really nice but not suitable for big rigs. Most were empty, probably due to smokey conditions.  I would love to come back and explore more someday.

Friday I decided I wanted to hike part of the Chief Joseph trail which leaves from the park and climbs to the summit of Chief Joseph Mountain.  I had attended a ranger talk on the hike and had a sketch of the trail.  The trail is extremely steep the first 3/4 of miles and then there are several switch back to high meadows and then more steep climbing to the summit.  Well, with the altitude, steepness, and me being out of shape, I didn't make to the High Meadow or the summit, but the vistas were worth the distance I did hike, even though it was overcast.  The smoke had dissipated somewhat.

The trail is pretty rugged
 and steep.  Note the foliage is already turning and very, very, dry.  The locals tell me that Fall is six weeks ahead of schedule this year.
Some of the views from the trail.

 Mt Howard, where the tram goes, with Wallowa Village at the base.

When I got off the trail, Joel had the beaver ready to move.  Internet and cell coverage is awful at the park and  Joel is having TV and Internet withdrawals so decided to dry camp near Joseph where there  good internet and clear satellite view as well as several free hotspots.  LOL. Joseph is known for it's foundries and brass sculptures and there is much to see and do in Joseph for a few days.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Moving on, August 20, Minam State Recreation Area

Next stop Minam State Recreation area. On the way a huge cloud of smoke warned of more wild fires. This time is was the bear complex fires.  

The smoke wasn't too bad, and the campground was quiet and located along the  the Minam River.  The river was to low to float due to the dry summer.  The whole area is showing stress due to the lack of rain.  The only down side was there was no internet or cell coverage.

One of our neighboring campers suggested we take a drive to Walla Walla and the Melton-Freeman area where Walla Walla sweet onions are grown.  The drive was beautiful, although smokey.  Lots of wheat is also grown in this area.  We stopped at Frog Hollow Farms and picked up some onion and fresh produce.  We also toured the town of Walla Walla which is a college town, so there are lots of eateries and boutique shops and the like.

 These are not onions, but a unique way of growing zucchini.

A few quiet relaxing days were spent  at Minam before heading to Lake Wallowa State Park for a couple of weeks.  Lake Wallowa is at the end of the road sort of speak and a very busy state park and adjacent to the Eagle Cap Wilderness.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

More on 'The John Day Fossil Bed National Monument, The Sheep Rock Trails Section and Blue Basin, August 19

The John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is made up of several units, The Painted Hills Unit, The Sheep Rock Trails Unit, and the Clarno Unit. The Sheep Rock Trails Unit is fairly close to Dayville which is where we headed next. There was not any dispersed camping in the area so we ended up staying in the Fish House Inn RV park. It's a nice park with a grassy park like setting with only seven  RV spots. It is way more than the $ or $$ we generally pay if anything.  We splurged at having full hookups. water, sewer, and power, and fast wifi.  Wow! What luxury!

Once we got set up we headed out to the the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center, the National Park Service research facility which is solely dedicated to the the Fossil Beds, and located in the Sheep Rock Trails Unit. If you are into fossils and paleontology this is the place to be.  There are over 45,000 specimens in the museum. We toured the facility which is state of the art and is also a "green building" powdered by solar power and windmill generators. The Sheep Rock Unit offers several trails including two in the Blue Basin area.

The next day we hit the road and were on the Island In Time Trail by 8:30.  The temperatures were suppose to get into the high 90's and air quality due to the fires 50 miles away near Canyon City was bad so we needed to get an early start. The Island in Time Trail is a fairly level trail , one mile or so round trip, which brings you to the bottom of the basin and a box canyon.   We walked up to the end of trail and were surrounded by beautiful blueish hills and numerous fossil replicas.

Sheep Rock from the visitor center

Vistas of the Sheep Rock Trails Unit
 Blueish formations along the Island In Time Trail
 Looking back to Sheep Rock from the Island In Time Trail

Joel decided he did not want to hike the Blue Basin Overlook Trail  which included 760 feet of elevation gain, so he stayed behind and I forged on.  The elevation gain is all at the beginning (or end depending whether you are going clock wise or counter clockwise). The switch backs for the 760 feet were gruesome, but I made it to the overlook  and the views were worth it. Once the initial elevation gain is over the rest of the trail was  pretty level. At one point I was going to turn back because I did not have my hiking poles with me and I'm not very  good at going down  steep hills without them.  As it turned out the the part of the trail that continued past the overlook back to the parking lot was a  gentle 500 foot decent.  I hiked the trail counter clockwise and I would recommend most hike it clockwise unless they are adverse to descending steep switch backs. There is less elevation gain and switch backs initially going clockwise.

On the way to the overlook
I made to the over look

And the views were worth it

 This is part of the trail up
 The blue Basin as seen from the top.  You can see some of the trail on the left in the middle of the burned area

 I'm not sure when the burn occurred but it was fairly recent.
 The trail back down for me was pretty mellow. 1.5 hours up and 45 minutes down!.

 Interesting contrast with the burn and the blue rock formations.

It was early enough in the morning that I didn't see any other hikers, except when I was almost back to the parking lot. At that point two young men in their late 20's or 30's were coming up the trail and I had to take a double take. One of the men was buck naked.  No kidding! The other man said good morning as I hurried past. )The naked man wasn't even good looking LOL).  My next stop was back to the visitor center to report them.  Joel had seen them get out of their car while he was waiting for me and pointed out their car. The ranger now has their license plate and make of car.

The fire in Canyon City is continuing to burn and the smoke is very, very thick.  One other area I wanted to photograph was Picture Gorge. The highway goes through the  short section of the gorge but there are are no pull outs.    It was so smokey I don't think the gorge would show up in a photo anyway.  Next time.

Ochoco Divide Campground, Painted Hills, John Day Country, August 17

Sunday morning we prepared to leave the Bend Elks Club but got a little later start.  Joel hooked up the truck but my job is to put it in neutral and apply the auxiliary brake and I was having difficulty getting the transfer case to disengage to neutral.  The owner's manual is very explicit in the steps to put the truck in neutral for towing.  It turned out you have to follow the sequence exactly as set forth in the manual, i.e. step on the parking brake then the brake not the other way around.  Finally, we were on our way towards Oregon's scenic by way "Journey into the Past "  aka known as the John Day Highway.  Our plan was to stop at one of the snow parks on the Ochoco Divide. One snow park was a rest area and one snow park seemed OK but was merely a pull off on a logging road and the other snow park was locked up.  (We later determined it was in the middle of a heavy burn and tree cutting area).

We headed to the Ochoco Divide Forest Service Campground. Our literature stated there was a RV limit of 24' but we checked it out and there were several site suitable for the Beaver.  We set up and headed out to explore. The John Day Fossil Bed  National Monument, Painted Hills section is a few miles down the canyon. It was later in the day, but I wanted to go later in the day to catch good light for photos.  I've been to the Painted Desert in Arizona and was expecting similar geography. The Painted Hills are different in that they are smaller and smoother in construction in appearance.  There are several short trails to explore in order to see the hills and we managed to explore all be one.  It was really hard to chose just a few photos for the blog.  The sky was very hazy due to  forest fires and it was difficult to pull out the blue ski so some of the photos are a little off. 

 There are frequent signs reminding folks to please not walk on the fragile hills. However it looks like some people can't read.  Note the trail behind the sign.

The Cove

Red Hill 

The hills are very close and touchable.  The soil looks like popcorn.  We spent another day at the campground, but the sites were not good for solar and had to move one.  Nice quiet campground, though. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Smith Rock and the Bend Brew Fest, August 14

 Our  stay limit was up at Thousand Trails so we left Sun River Thousand Trails and headed over to the Bend Elks Club for a few days. We had the Elks parking lot all to ourselves when we arrived but by the evening is was dry camping only.  

Thursday evening Julie and her husband Dick, had us over for dinner. We gorged ourselves on old fashioned Bar-B-Q hamburgers with all of the trimmings, veggies, potato salad, and homemade apple pie.  Ymmm.  Julie and I were neighbors growing up.  She only lived a few doors up from me and we both graduated form the same high school and the same year.  What a treat to catch up with an old friend.  She and her husband have lived in the area for over 30 years and have a darling house on the river.  It was soooo good to see her and catch up.

The next morning got an early start and headed over to Smith Rock to work off some of the past evenings guilt.   Smith Rock is an impressive rock formation and a popular spot for rock climbers.  Since we got an early start the crowds were not too bad and there were still some climbers on the walls.  Generally, the climbers get a very early start because the walls get too hot to climb.

The first glimpse of the trail was a little intimidating.  The trail zig zags up the side of the mountain and continues up and over to make a loop.  Well...Joel really doesn't like hills and I decided I would like to get off the trail before dark, so we took the lower Canyon Trail as an out and back, which was just as beautiful.  Also, the sky was extremely hazy and I couldn't see any of the surrounding mountains or vistas on our drive over. The whole point of gaining all that elevation would be to be rewarded with the beautiful vistas,  right?  So without the promise of  vistas we decided to take the Canyon Trail. The  Canyon Trail  follows the Deschutes river and eventually connects with the original "Misery" trail near Monkey Face.

 You can see the switch back towards the bottom left of the photo.

We took the lower trail which follows the river, which was very peaceful and fairly flat.

These climbers were really pushing the time factor.  It was pretty warm on the trail, so I image the walls were getting pretty hot.
Can you see Monkey Face.? The Misery trail joins the river tail at this point, which was the turn around point for us.
The river is very low as evidenced by the water marks on the rocks.
Sure hope no one has to use these.

We did get to the Elks club in time to clean up and head over to the Bend Brew Fest.  Look at all those Port A Potties! The event was held in the amphitheater across from the Old Mill District.

 I think there were suppose to be over 77 craft brewers represented.
 Although there were lots of folks enjoying the craft beers, everyone was polite and the lines moved quickly.  The beer was good too.  Different varieties of hard cider were also available. Hard cider is becoming very popular and is found in most breweries in Bend as an alternative for those that can't drink beer.

Whew.  What a busy day!

Saturday we made our Costco and grocery runs as we will be heading out towards North East Oregon on Sunday.