It has been less than two weeks since we returned from our long trek to Alaska, but a short three day jaunt to a beautiful Oregon State Park seemed just so simple. We planned this trip for a couple of reasons: For one, we loved Silver Falls when we visited in the spring of 2010. The real reason for the trip, however, was to see the dahlias in full bloom during the Swan Island Dahlia Festival nearby in Canby.
I grew hundreds of dahlias at one time, selling cut flowers at a weekend farmers market along with my dried flower bouquets and fresh herbs. It was a good time in my life, but oh sooo much work. Here at Rocky Point, I don’t have much opportunity to grow dahlias, although I still plan to at least try. Mo and I plan to downsize by 2020 or so, and my one request is that we do so in a place where I can putter in a real garden with a real growing season and grow dahlias.
As we readied for the short trip, 255 miles total, everything seemed just incredibly simple. The MoHo was spotless and lovely, and I only needed clothes for three days and two nights. With the temperatures predicted for the area in the mid 80’s, shorts were in order, and I didn’t even bother with sweats or long pants. (Oops, we live in Oregon for pete’s sake!). Food was simple as well, just two dinners, a couple of breakfasts, and some hiking food for daytime. Gee. We were loaded and ready to go in no time. After the long preparations for the Alaska trip, this was such a delight.
We took our time getting on the road, enjoying the warm, sunny morning. Dressed in shorts and sleeveless tops, we were glad to have returned home to Oregon in August to enjoy what Laurie and Odel called the “elusive Oregon summer”. Yes, it IS elusive at times, but less so on the east side of the mountains where we live.
Fire is a given in the west, and as we crossed the Wood River Valley just north of home and the Upper Klamath NWR, there was smoke evident to the east and north from the many fires ignited in Central Oregon over the past couple of weeks. The route is familiar and a bit boring at times, especially north on Highway 97. The soils are deep pumice from the eruption of Crater Lake (Mt Mazama) more than 7,000 years ago, and the vegetation is dry lodgepole and ponderosa pine. Only after the route rises to Willamette Pass does the timber begin to thicken and darken to lush Oregon green.
The Willamette Valley is the heart of Oregon, even though the actual area is very small when compared to the entire state. Eugene is the largest city south of Portland in this valley, and as we entered Eugene we noticed the brown pall of smoke in the air from burning fields of blue grass, from dust rising from busy plows, and yes, from cars. I think that is actually smog, although being raised in Southern California I do know that real smog is a bit uglier than what we found on the Eugene skyline.
By the time we got to the park, it was evident that even on a Sunday afternoon, this was a very popular place. I am glad that we made a reservation back in April, since the park was completely filled for the entire week! It was warm and sunny, and we were glad for a shady site with power and water to enjoy the late afternoon. Jeremy was really anxious to get out of the rig and explore, and I put on his fancy city harness and he was out of the rig before I could get down the steps. He is funny, sitting quietly for the harness, and the minute the last snap is done he jumps down to the door knowing it it time! Even at 15 years old, I think he might want to explore farther than I would want, so I keep him harnessed when we are camping for safety.
As the evening progressed, we took the beautiful paved bike trail to the dog exercise area, a special treat in a state park because this one if for dogs off leash! To our surprise, on this warm Sunday evening, there were no dogs there. Families were everywhere, with children playing in the swimming area along the Silver River, bbq’s going at every picnic table, volleyball and soccer games in progress. The park is within easy driving distance of Salem, Albany, and even Portland, and from what we saw on this Sunday afternoon, it is a popular place to spend a Sunday.
The presence of huge, extended families with grandmas, grandpas, babies, aunts and uncles, all enjoying the afternoon together was heartening. Most of these families were speaking languages we didn’t know, but with the din of so many conversations that really didn’t matter. The language of a park on a Sunday afternoon is universal, after all. We had a great time letting Abby run uphill, hoping to wear her out. Later in the day, we expected to have to leave her in the rig while we hiked the waterfall trails where dogs are not allowed.
The Silver River was low at this time of year, and I was surprised to see just how lovely the falls looked even with less water. The stream slips over South Falls in a clear, wispy ribbon, much different from the crashing torrent we experienced in April last year. The trails were full of families, dads carrying babies in backpacks, grandpas with canes (me with my walking sticks!)
One more time I did a stupid crash, this time thank goodness without the camera in my hands! Stepping out of the MoHo I missed the step and bent the weak ankle one more time in a direction it doesn’t particularly like and went down. I know to hold on to the door handle, and had a good grip, so didn’t go all the way down. Mo laughed again, saying I must have bones of steel because with all these stupid falls I don’t seem to break anything. Who knows what that is about. This time again, it was a big divot I didn’t see because it was UNDER our entry rug. Sigh. Hold on tight and keep your eyes down, I guess.
We chose a camp on the A loop again, but it was more open than I might have liked. Our neighbors were right behind us, with their campfire so close to our back window that I had to close the night shade all the time so they couldn’t see inside. Our fire was far enough forward in the site that we could sit there without being in their back pocket, and we were glad that the folks directly on our other side seemed to be indoor types, so we had a bit of space to ourselves. I couldn’t believe how many kids were in that campground, and dogs, and bikes. It was some kind of biking heaven, I guess, with tiny little kids on trainers with helmets bigger than they were. The sound of screaming, laughing kids and barking dogs was almost deafening.
So often, in this lifestyle, we hang with retired folks in sedate RV campgrounds that are quiet and calm. We are retired ourselves, and live in a community that is composed mostly of retired folks or summer visitors. My grandkids are all teenagers now, and as I sat at our campfire watching all those kids, I realized just how insulated we can be from the din of family life. Have I used the word “din” a lot? Hmmm. Sunday afternoon at Silver Falls State Park was a lovely and noisy place.
Next: the dahlia show!
The rest of the photos are linked here