September 10 to 12 Baker City to Wallowa Lake State Park

Currently in Rocky Point, Oregon, partly cloudy at 55 degrees F, predicted high of 64F

Don’t forget to click on the photos if you want a bigger version

Baker to Wallowa Lake Sometimes when we are traveling, our tendency is to go fairly long distances between locations.  This time, however, we took our own sweet time getting from place to place, and then settled in to really enjoy the countryside.  After the morning in Baker City, we thought it might be fun to wander off on some back roads instead of sticking to the Interstate.  We could see the curvy road ambling northeast rising on the southern foothills of the Wallowa Mountains.

How bad could it be anyway?!  Sure, the road was narrow, there were curves, but no real spooky drop-offs like the ones back in John Day Country, and we were rewarded with beautiful vistas of the Wallowas and the Eagle Cap Wilderness shining in the late summer sunlight. 

long route through Union and Cove It is amazing to me how many tiny little towns are scattered across this part of Oregon.  Of course I knew of Baker City, La Grande, Pendleton, Joseph, and Enterprise.  I do actually live in this state.  But I had never heard of Cove, or Union, or Medical Springs, and as we continued our travels for the rest of the trip, many little towns appeared that were just blips on the map, and a blink of the eye. 

long route through Union and Cove People lived in these little towns, there were city halls, and fire departments, police stations, antique stores advertising “used antiques”.  Hmmm.  There were old barns, and beautiful ranches, and miles and miles of open space.  It was lovely to wander through the countryside and imagine what it must be like to be born and raised in places like these, or to live there now.  Did these people grow up here or did they somehow choose to come to a tiny town in the far reaches of Northeastern Oregon.  Lots of fodder for the imagination as I rode along, for sure.

As you can see from the map, there is really no way to get to Joseph without skirting the amazing Wallowa Mountains.  Home to the Eagle Cap Wilderness, these mountains are sometimes called the “Little Alps of Oregon” with good reason.  Formed dominantly from granite from the Wallowa Batholith, the peaks are glaciated and dotted more than 50 apline glacial lakes.  They reminded me a bit of the Sierras, only a bit more open like the Big Horns.  The Wallowas are one of the premier backpacking destinations in Oregon, not nearly so well known as the Cascades with their volcanoes, but much more enticing to me.

Lostine Creek Scenic Byway The meandering route gave us just a taste of what was to come in the far corner of our home state.  Somehow I was reminded a lot more of the Idaho I lived in for more than 30 years than the Oregon that is now my home.  Everything felt so familiar, the forests even smelled different, familiar somehow.  I recognized the plants, the geology, all of it was like coming home somehow. 

Just like a lot of other folks, I thought, “I could easily live in this place”.  The winters are long, the population of Wallowa County is a mere 7,500 or so, and shopping is far away in La Grande or Pendleton.  But the towns are lovely, well cared for, the vistas are magnificent, the land open and spacious.  Beautiful. 

Wallowa Lake State Park When we arrived at the Wallowa lake State Park in early afternoon, we were a day early for our reservation, but in spite of the crowded park, there was a site open for us until our space was ready the next day.  We originally planned to stay longer in Baker City, but continuing to the lake and taking our chances for a spot was a good plan.  When we first planned this trip, I didn’t think we would need reservations, but checking the State Park website was a good hunch, since we just barely snagged a spot for the four nights we wanted to stay.

Wallowa Lake is home to one of the best examples of glacial topography in the West, and images of the huge lateral moraines are used often in textbooks on geology and geomorphology.  The lake is deep and blue and incredibly clear.  Often the mountains still have a bit of snow in late summer, but none was left this year, a low snow year for the entire area.  The lake was really quite low as well, surprising since it is a natural lake and not a reservoir, but I guess drought is drought, and lake levels will go down.

Lostine Creek Scenic Byway After settling into our one night spot, we took the Tracker for a visit to the Forest Service Information Center on the edge of the little town of Joseph.  The woman at the desk was incredibly helpful, and there were a ton of brochures about the area.  She suggested we try the Lostine Creek Scenic Route, maybe hike up Hurricane Creek, or go check out the Zumwalt Prairie to look for wildlife.  All good ideas, but we settled on Lostine Creek, a deep glacially cut valley that climbed back into the Eagle Cap Wilderness.

We hoped for some close-up views of the mountains, but the creek is so deep in the canyon that it is hard to see much without actually doing some of the 12 mile hikes into the back country that boast elevation rises of 3 to 5 thousand feet.  Maybe not today.  Let’s go back to the campground and check out the local nature trail and let Abby swim in the lake. 

Wallowa Lake State Park It was good to be settled in and to know that we had at least one day of doing not much of anything.  Mo had surprised me with the idea of a special birthday treat, and in a couple of days we were going to drive the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway to Hells Canyon Dam and a big adventure on the Snake River in the wild and scenic part of Hells Canyon. 

After a great sleep, we took our time enjoying the campground, went to town to do some laundry and actually check in on the internet for a bit, and were back in camp in time to move to our more permanent site for the next few days.  This is a very popular park, even in late September, and on this Wednesday morning as we tucked into a rather short space, I was again really glad I had made reservations the previous month before everything was completely gone.

Wallowa Lake State Park As I picked up the new tag for the new site number, I overheard a very sad RV driver complaining to the park ranger in the kiosk, “I NEVER make reservations this time of year! What do you mean there is NOTHING?!” Blue lake, big mountains, cute town….a very popular place.

Finally in late afternoon we wet out on the lake in the kayaks to enjoy that gorgeous clear water.  The mountains are so high that the sun disappears fairly quickly on the tucked away part of the lake, but it was still beautiful.  There are lakeside homes all along the western shore, most of them very big and spendy looking, and only a few of them with folks hanging around on the decks and porches.  Even so, the lake was reasonably quiet, and the kayak time was nice. 

We never did see a lot of birds around.  I suppose the shoreline is too rocky, the lake is too low, and the water too clear for bird food in any quantity.  As lovely as the lake was, and even with that gorgeous clear water, I think I would rather meander around in an estuary somewhere that has a bit more complexity.  Don’t get me wrong, it was a beautiful kayak and it felt great to finally get our boats out on the water.  We originally planned to try doing some kayaking on the John Day River, but the drought wasn’t about to let that happen.  I hate it when we haul the boats for miles and miles and never get them on the water!  evening kayak on Wallowa Lake

Mo had packed up a good amount of wood for the trip, so we had another huge campfire after supper and enjoyed all the activity of a very busy campground with kids on bikes, lots of dogs (well behave and leashed) and giving Jeremy a chance to play around outside unhindered.  We even put up the chili pepper lights on the MoHo awning, something we haven’t done in a very long time. There are some more photos of the state park linked here

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Camping in a Caldera

Monday July 16 at East Lake in the Newberry Caldera east of Lapine, southeast of Bend, Oregon

Temperature at 9am 66 degrees F, last night low T 55 degrees F, might get to 79 today, or not.

Something about being in the mountains by a beautiful reflective lake makes time completely irrelevant.  I know that it is morning.  There are a few high puffy clouds coming in from the west that hint that there may be a shift in the weather on the way, but I have no way to predict what could happen except my own personal weather savvy from looking at the sky and feeling the air.  beach at East Lake campground

We have been here at East Lake, the smaller and quieter of two lovely lakes at Newberry Crater for a few days now.  Not sure how many, maybe three?  I vaguely remember going to the Sisters Quilt Show last Saturday, but it has already become a bit of a memory filled in and muted by hours and hours of images of reflected water and sky.  I’ll have to blog about the quilt show eventually, maybe when I get back home and get out of this lazy lake mode.

Yesterday early in the morning we kayaked east and found the hot springs that I knew were tucked in along the shoreline, small pools hand dug in the pumice sands to moderate the hottest temperatures coming from the bubbling springs.  A mayfly hatch made for interesting reflections on the perfectly still water, frustrating all the fishermen with their various catch methods.  Those big black-backed trout were very happy filling up on mayflies. Seems as though someone dumped chubs in this lake and instead of poisoning the lake with rotenone as was done on Diamond Lake, they imported some non native Canadian Black Backed trout, or maybe they are European.  Supposedly they are strong predators of chubs and the native trout can recuperate.  Reminds me a bit of rabbits in Australia.beach camping at East Lake

I was glad that those bugs weren’t very interested in landing on me and didn’t seem to bite.  We heard that they only hatched yesterday, but a few non biting mayflies are nothing compared to mosquitoes and gnats, neither of which seem to have found this perfect little lake in the mountains.there is our site from the water

There are incredible geologic stories of the Newberry Caldera, recent volcanism, obsidian flows, there is even a nice visitor center not far from the entrance to the national whatever area that this is.  I don’t know.  I don’t have internet  or even a cell signal to look up and research every little thing, I just have my memories and much like the weather, I can only share what is already tucked away in my mind. I am completely disconnected from the outside world.  All I have is water, pumice sand beaches, blue blue skies, clean clear water, and yes, an absolutely to die for, perfect campsite right on the beach. 

Roger and Nancy provided a couple of nights of easy camping in their driveway in Lapine with hookups and a great dinner of bbq chicken on one night and we all shared a yummy treat dinner at McMennimen’s in Bend the night of the quilt show.  On Sunday we packed up the rigs and headed east just an hour or so to Paulina and East Lake in the Newberry Crater area.  We thought that by Sunday afternoon the campgrounds should have quieted enough that we could get a campsite without much trouble.East Lake reflections

Surprise!  East Lake is a very popular little fishing lake for the locals, and we only managed to snag a good beach front site by walking the park, checking the exit dates on all the tags, and finally asking one camper when he planned to leave.  He was very accommodating, and said if we paid now, we could take possession of his site when he pulled out in a couple of hours.  I guess that is the way it is done here.  We got here about two hours before the 2PM exit time, and it wasn’t a bit too early since other folks were checking tags after us and any later than we were wouldn’t have been so lucky.

Even on a Sunday night, all the front row water sites were taken, but by Monday the park did have a very few unoccupied sites toward the back row of the park.  We are camped  at East Lake Campground, the best one in our opinion because of its easy access to the water, although there are bigger campgrounds in the area, and this one only has 24 sites.  There is a boat launch and a large parking area for boat trailers.the fish are jumping at East Lake

Seems as though fishing is the most popular pastime here, and the first night we saw a young family pull in with a nice big string of trout for dinner.  After the mayfly hatch, however, the catch went way down.  The lake has a 10 mph limit so that makes it wonderful for kayakers like us.  I haven’t yet learned how to paddle at 10 mph.

Nancy and Sue making s'mores with less (no crackers) I really have lost track of time, a nice thing.  We have been out in the boats paddling in several directions, found little bays and inlets, and of course, the hot springs.  We have cooked suppers to share at the picnic table, and in Roger’s rig when the evening winds were a bit too much.  We have had campfires with the great juniper wood Mo loaded up from home, and learned to make S’mor’s with Less, a new favorite of mine.  S’mores are just too dry for me, but if you slip a perfect little square of chocolate inside a perfectly done marshmallow, the chocolate melts and ohmy!!  Even Roger who refuses to eat marshmallows decided it looked too good to pass up and he loved the one that he tried.

campfire time at East LakeLast night brought a bit of a downer for us, though, when we decided to go for a walk and Nancy discovered they had locked themselves out of their rig.  No spare key anywhere.  She also thought their car was locked, and of course we don’t have a car with us either.  There is no cell phone service here, so we walked down to the camp host who offered a hangar and if needed a ride over to Paulina Lake and his boss who had a land line.  Nancy’s wallet, everything, was in the rig, so she didn’t even have phone numbers of Good Sam, or any information to try to call.  It was already getting dark and Mo and I were thinking we might need to break out the sofa bed (not ever used) and picturing a night in our rig with 4 adults, 2 dogs, and an elderly cat was interesting.

Lo and behold, when Roger checked their Honda, it wasn’t locked!  Still no wallet or rig keys, but at least one little Honda key in the glove box, something called a “valet key” that started the car.  They decided the best option would be to drive back home (just an hour from here) where they could make the needed phone calls, have access to their information, and sleep in their own bed.  We are hoping they will show up here sometime this morning with someone to open up the rig and all will be well. 

Tuesday July 17 Sherry, this one is for you!

East Lake Hot Spring is a magical little spring that emerges right along the shoreline of the caldera lake bubbling up through the pumice sands.  People have scooped out the sand into a couple of small pools, and edged them with rocks and logs to keep the hot water contained.  The pumice is lightweight and a bit crunchy, but you can scoop it out deeper if you want a deeper pool, and the temperature can be controlled by sweeping more cool water from the lake into your little handmade pool of choice.steamy springs in the morning on East Lake

The momentary drama of last evening was solved easily when Roger and Nancy spent the night at home, calling first thing in the morning to the dealer where they bought their rig.  It was a 2012 model, without electronic keys, so they got a replacement key for just $7.00, and before noon they were back here in the mountains with us, rig opened up, and everything just fine. 

Nancy and I decided to kayak over to the springs while Mo and Roger took the spring hike trail up over the hill.  They found us in the pools, from a high spot overlooking the spring, but certainly not any kind of path I would want to climb down to get there.  Kayaks are the only way to go.  Mo and I had boated over there earlier in the morning for a soak and there already were some kayakers there enjoying the lovely little spring, but they called out saying they would be leaving within ten minutes or so, and I waited my turn.  I had the springs to myself for a long time while Mo paddled east to the East Lake Resort in the distance.

East Lake shoreline hot springsSo my afternoon soak with Nancy was the second of the day for me.  What an amazing treat!  After paddling back to the campground, we all settled in on the beach with the dogs and balls, and Nancy and I even braved the chilly waters for some swimming.  A bit later I thought it might be interesting to see how Jeremy was in the kayak and that turned out great.  He did really well, but finally decided that he wanted to leap back to shore.  It is said that Turkish Angora kitties love to swim and Jeremy may have not loved it, but he definitely was a great swimmer.  He kept his head above water and just swam into shore.  He may have been a bit indignant, and he was definitely a bag of bones with all that wet fur, but he didn’t seem to mind that much.  I took him in a couple more times and he proved his swimming abilities quite well.Jeremy goes kayaking while the doge play

We were treated to a nice clean fluffy cat when he finished drying himself off.  The sun was brilliant and the pumice sands were warm and he liked being there, at least I think he liked it.  He at least didn’t run away.kitty swim

We all settled in on the beach and I kept looking at the dark cliffs on the opposite shore of the lake.  The wind wasn’t too strong and I decided to jump in the boat one more time for an pre-supper paddle. It was only about a mile and a half across the lake, but I paddled hard for a good 45 minutes before I finally approached the cliffs.  No matter how much I paddled, they always seemed as though they were close, but I kept paddling and they didn’t seem to get any closer.  In the shadow of the cliffs, the water was calm, and I could hear it lapping inside the eroded rhyolite volcanic rock caves.  The water was very deep and clear and the cliffs had much more complexity that it appeared from a distance.  In fact, they were almost scary. 

There was a deep spiritual silence there, and the closer I got to the rock, the more I felt as though I needed to ask permission to be there.  I looked up and said a little prayer before I paddled close and touched those dark rocks.  Yeah, it was spooky, for no reason I can name.  A powerful spot.  I turned away after a time and paddled straight back across the lake without much trouble.  I had purposely left the camera behind so I wouldn’t have to worry about it, and as I was silently cruising around those rocks I thought it was properly fitting that I didn’t photograph the moment.rougher than it looks!

The next morning Mo and I woke to glassy waters and decided that it would be fun to cross the lake once again, returning by way of the springs.  Within minutes of launching, a big lake wind came up making for a very rough crossing. This time I did have the camera, but the I took very few photos, since I was paddling hard against the wind and current. We reached the cliffs, which seemed less spooky and actually more dangerous with the rough water.  I could see how a storm could bash you right up against those dark rocks.  We didn’t linger, and decided that it would be safer and easier to skirt the shoreline along the northeast side of the lake along the Cinder Hill campground and around past the East Lake Resort to the hot springs.

By the time we reached the springs, we had been on the lake longer than planned so a dip wasn’t in the cards, but it was good to be there at least one more time.  Roger and Nancy had already left early that morning and we needed to be in Lapine by mid afternoon.  We packed up in a nice breeze but I was still sorry to leave that beautiful, warm and sunny beach. East Lake reflections

On the way out I thought it would be good to stop at the visitor center, but the parking was extremely limited, with only 15 minutes on the south side of the road and no parking signs everywhere else.  I figured it wasn’t worth it, but hopefully next time I go to East Lake I can stop in to read about the monument and the geology.  The Newberry area is “hot”, and there is some controversy brewing about companies planning to inject water under high pressure deep into the fissures in the lava to generate steam power.  Ahh, let’s mess with nature just a little bit more.  But since I am still writing this without the benefit of the internet, you will just have to search it out yourself!

 

 

Let there be light

Rocky Point Oregon clear and 59 degrees F  Today’s low 42 high 75

blooming in june (15) It is mid June already.  Solstice is less than a week away and the skies are still light late into the evening.  I know there is rhythm to the patterns of the seasons, but it always seems to me that the longest day of the year should come in mid summer and not while I am still trying to feel summer is coming.  Even in our forest, where sunrises and sunsets are obscured by the huge firs that surround us, the light lingers.  I remember my days living in North Idaho, when the skies would be light after ten pm and I would rise with the sun and the birds at 4:30 in the morning.  Sometimes I miss that, those incredibly long days, but I really don’t miss the winter dark at all.

skylights (25) Speaking of light, we have honored the solstice month of June with light.  As mentioned before, we live in the forest, and in addition, the house has long wide porches.  I love the porches, but they do limit the light coming into the house.  We started the project last year, ordering special heavy snow load, no leak skylights, but by the time they were delivered, the weather had turned and our contractor thought better of opening up the roof to the skies during winter.  I was getting impatient with the wait.  Somehow as spring progresses and the sun moves higher into the sky, we get even less light in the house than in winter when it is low on the horizon.  In winter, we also get reflection from the snow that makes the house brighter.  As spring progressed, everything just seemed to get darker and darker. 

Let there be light Until finally, Peter showed up with the windows and his happy crew to install our skylights.  Peter is one crazy guy.  I know contractors can be an eccentric bunch, but Peter was especially so.  Still, he did a great job, got it done on time, and kept us entertained in the process.  He was the proud poppa of a new baby and wasn’t getting much sleep.  The nice thing about Peter was that he actually worked right alongside his crew throughout the project.  It is wonderful to have light in the house, somehow it just changes everything.  Jeremy loves to sleep on the carpet in the brilliant beams.  That warm sunlight is good for his achy old bones, I am sure.

skylights (26) Of course, with all that gorgeous light, it became obvious that we needed a good carpet cleaning.  I called some company called Blue Heron in Klamath that uses a dry cleaning method involving organic materials made from corncobs.  He did a great job, with barely any dampness to the carpet at all, so now everything feels really fresh and nice. 

We were looking around today and talking about just how incredibly busy we have been.  I guess June is always like that, and if you throw in a second house to think about, it just gets a little bit crazy.  We spent some time at the cottage, after Mo had an arborist take down the two most dangerous trees that were hanging over the roof.  I am sure some of those oaks must be at least 100 years old.  The madrones are probably not as old, but they seem to lose their tops with age, so I suppose more tree work is in our future. I counted more than 20 trees on that .89 acre Grants Pass property.  Love that shade, though.

skylights (29) Right after we got back from our camping excursion, Dan and Chere (Mo’s brother and his wife) brought their motor home to the cottage for a long weekend visit.  Mo and Dan spent the entire time working with wiring, eliminating some of the most glaring problems, and figuring out what was what with the breakers.  It IS an old house, and for some reason almost everything was hooked up to just one circuit.  Dan and Mo are a great working team, and Chere and I spent a lot of time watching them run back and forth with a mission.  Then part of the time Chere and I just went to town to check out the Old Town section of Grants Pass, buy goodies at the Saturday Farmer’s Market, and do a little shopping.  I found a pair of Oofos, and after reading Sherry’s rave about them, decided to get a pair.  What luxury.  It is kind of like falling into one of those Memory Foam beds, only for your feet.  Luscious.

trees gone from the cottage After all the hard work, we went to dinner at the wonderful Taprock Grill and watched the beautiful Rogue River sliding by on what felt like a very summery evening.  Of course, we had picnic lunches out under the trees, and big breakfasts to share.  It was a nice time spent with family and we got a lot done.  I spent a long time dealing with a weed in the field that is on the noxious weed list for Oregon.  We will see how that goes.  I took some hand quilting and knitting with me, but I haven’t had my sewing machine out for more than six weeks now.  Mo thinks summer isn’t quilting time.

Gardening has been big on the list as well, at both places.  After being in Grants Pass with our limited water, I love so much coming home to Rocky Point and our deep, cold, fabulous well with unlimited water.  Here I can hose down driveways and run sprinklers as long as I want to.  Funny though, I keep catching myself thinking I need to turn off the hose.  Oops, nope, I am not in Grants Pass where I have to make sure the hose trickles at 2.0 gallons per minute.  I test it with a bucket, and that way I can run the hose all day to water the fruit trees and shrubs without running the well dry. 

oak overhanging the cottage is out nowThen of course, there is kayaking.  I am sad to say that today was the first time we have had our boats out this year.  But oh what a perfect day it was.  We were on the water by 9am, early enough that it was still cool and the birds were out in force.  We decided to go south into Pelican Bay, and then back north through the marsh on Crystal Creek, crossing the Wocus Cut back to Recreation Creek and back south to the Rocky Point boat launch.  Crystal Creek was thick with birds today, especially the terns, which must have been breeding with the black tipped orange bills and all the ruckus they made as we passed.  It was fun to watch them dive for fish.

Crystal Creek Kayak (33) I saw a beautiful great egret, a couple of blue herons, American white pelicans, some kind of hawk, and even a turkey buzzard, a bird I don’t often see soaring over the lake.  Red wing blackbirds were everywhere, and I am pretty sure I saw a tri-color blackbird as well.  The surprise was a night heron flying right in front of my boat, low over the water to disappear in the tules.  The weather was perfect, and the stiff breeze coming from the south made paddling against the current in Crystal Creek a bit easier, and wasn’t hard enough to slow us down when we were traveling with the current on Recreation Creek.

Crossing the Wocus Cut is always beautiful, and this time of year the water was deep enough to make the crossing easy.  There are canoe trail signs to mark the route, because it is easy to get lost in the refuge when the tules are high.  On the northern horizon are the peaks of the Crater Lake Rim, to the west is Mt McLoughlin, to the east, the expanse of Klamath Lake, and to the south the beautiful, still snow covered Mountain Lakes Wilderness. 

Great Egret shaking it up We have been just so busy this spring, and when the weather would break, it seems we were always doing something else.  Out there on the water I was reminded of why I should just drop whatever I am doing and get out in the boat more often.  What a treasure we have right here in our back yard.  Of course, I took my camera with me.  I do have a Pelican waterproof case, but I usually hang the camera around my neck while paddling so I can get photos of the birds.  I also had my cell phone with me so I could play with the MotionGPS app that tracks our route.  Coming into the landing, I decided to put the camera back in the case and took off my life vest (where the cell phone was located) before exiting the kayak.

Does anyone remember my little video from last year about how easy it is to exit a kayak?  Well I am glad I wasn’t taking a video today, and I am especially glad that I had taken off my vest and stowed the camera.  Today I managed to dump myself right into the lake as I was trying to get out of the kayak.  The very cold lake!  Luckily we live less than a mile from the launch, and when we got home I dumped my very shivering self right into the hot tub in the bright afternoon sunshine!  I was warmed up in no time!

Crystal Creek Kayak (60) Speaking of back yard, we are planning some summer camping trips to take advantage of our choice to stay around home this season.  After the fourth of July we will go camping at our favorite little lake just south of the state line, Medicine Lake.  I think the last time we were there was in 2009 before I moved back here from California.  A short trip to Lapine and the famous Sisters quilt show will be extended by camping up at East Paulina Lake south of Bend.  In August we hope to get back over to the beautiful Oregon Coast and try out a new campground that we always drive past and never actually camp.  Harris Beach is so wonderful, but it is time to give some of the other coastal campgrounds a try.  Then right after Labor Day when the heat dissipates a bit, we will head for John Day country, Joseph, and Wallowa Lake. 

Crystal Creek Kayak (67) I spent some time fiddling around with the blog, attempting to use a new template.  It seems that my old template (borrowed from Laurie of Semi-True Tales) is out of date and won’t allow me to add the Google plus buttons at the bottom of a post.  I thought it would be nice to have that, since I do use Google Plus, but some long time honored readers didn’t think much of my new plan.  No one else said much, but if one person was disturbed, I suppose others might have been as well.  Besides, it was really bugging me that I no longer had that nifty “stretch” feature I inherited from Laurie, and that I couldn’t get the header photo to be in the center of the page.  I backed up the old blog template before changing, and it was a simple matter to just reload the old template.  So no Google plus buttons. 

common tern I also tried to shift to the new Google plus comments, but that was a fiasco as well, since anyone who isn’t a member of Google plus could no longer comment.  Like Erin, I dumped that one as well.  Hopefully with all the Google changes, everything will still work.  I do really enjoy reading Rick’s updates on what Google is doing, and how to deal with the little stuff that comes up now and then.  Every single time I have asked Rick a question, he has responded almost immediately and unselfishly with help and advice.  They charge big bucks for that, you know, and Rick just pops in and answers detailed complicated questions for so many of us. 

In my spare time, (yeah right!) I decided to get down to the real planning for our winter trip.  As usual, after Christmas this year, we will travel south to our favorite little desert haunts, Joshua Tree, Desert Hot Springs, and Anza Borrego.  This time, however, we are just going to keep going and travel east and south for at least three months.  I am having to plan a bit more in advance than I might like because we will be in Florida in February, busiest time for some of the places we want to go.  It is hard to try to figure out exactly where we will be on an exact date in order to make some kind of reservations.  But I am trying.  I have been pinning and saving all sorts of campground, kayaking, and sightseeing information from some of my favorite southern bloggers including Sherry and David, Karen and Al, Randy and Pam, TravelBug Susan, and lots of other blogs.

Capture No, we didn’t start in the middle of the creek, that is just when I turned on the MotionGPX app.

We hope to be in Big Bend National Park in Texas by mid January.  Although I read several blogs that talked about visiting Big Bend, I didn’t keep track of who was there when.  If you happen to read this blog, and you happened to have posted about your visit to Big Bend, could you drop a note or comment and let me know where to look for those posts on your blog?  I have tons of stuff of everything from South Padre Island east to Key West and back north into Georgia.  We have traveled south to Tucson and Bisbee and east to Las Cruces, so those are knowns.  I even traveled across I-10 with my daughter last year, and Mo and I looked longingly south toward Big Bend on our very first trip in the MoHo after we bought her in New Braunfels.  But Big Bend?  Nada.  You know who you are, send me a note, please?

Oh yeah, in the midst of lying around eating bonbons, I decided that I needed to refinish my dining table.  I am just doing the top, thank goodness, because the rest is fine.  Sometimes I can be really stupid, and last year when learning to quilt, I used some spray fabric adhesive without protecting the table properly.  Wouldn’t you know it, it took the finish right off!  Ugly and yes, very stupid.  So I bought a can of Formby’s, some steel wool, some oak stain, and some polyurethane and tackled that project this week.  By the time company arrives on the 24th, I’ll have a very smooth, very shiny, very new looking table top.  It is actually kind of fun  seeing the transformation, and so far it is looking really good.

Crystal Creek Kayak (58) Stuff comes in threes, and my third stupid move for the week was freaking out with Jeremy.  Now Jeremy is very old, 17 years, and he has been a perfect cat for all those years.  Until recently.  Now sometimes he gets confused and forgets where his box is.  Gah.  Thank goodness at least he doesn’t spray or urinate.  But still, I saw him in a familiar pose on the newly cleaned carpet and picked him up and put him out on the porch.  Jeremy is an indoor cat, and he is also very arthritic.  Within minutes he was gone like a shot, and we had no clue where he was hiding.  I felt really bad, and Mo and I walked the area for a couple of hours calling him.

0009 Finally, just as it was getting dark, he came up to the porch.  He was pretty quiet and very slow, and was completely saturated with dark brown heavy dirt.  Who knows what hole he found to hide in.  The rest of the evening he was quiet and stayed under the bed.  I woke up at 5 this morning thinking I had probably killed my cat and was scared to look under the bed for him since he never came up to sleep with me as usual.  But no, my very dirty cat was in the living room waiting for Mo to build a fire.  The mornings are still cold enough for a fire here, and once the hearth was heated I dunked Jeremy in a warm bath and tried to get the worst of the dirt out of his fur.

My gorgeous, sleek, 13 pound perfect cat has become a very skinny crippled up 7 pound old man.  He can still see and still hear, although not as well as before, but his life most of the time seems good.  Most of the time he is happy, but sometimes when he gets quiet and sleeps all day and doesn’t move around a lot, and when I see him stumble when his back end doesn’t work properly my heart knows that he won’t be around for long.  Like so many of us, I may have to make that choice someday if I see he is hurting too much, or if his eyes tell me it is time.  I certainly don’t want him to disappear into the forest and get eaten by a coyote because I have put him out on the porch in a fit of frustration!  Geez!

February This n That

Home in Rocky Point, Oregon Sunshine and 49 degrees, low tonight 27
Valentines Day Decor (10)
Valentines Day Decor (5)We returned home from our January travels just in time to get the last of the Christmas lights down and the Valentine decorations up.  I know, I am a little bit crazy that way.  I love to do seasonal decorations. 
Besides, it gave me a chance to get out my first little quilt table topper
that I made last year as a very tentative, brand new quilter.  Funny how the imperfections become a bit endearing after a bit of time has passed.  No one really cares but me anyway, and it is fun to see my progress. 






Leaving sunny California behind, we drove once again into another cloudy inversion over the Rogue Valley.  The little cottage was waiting, all proud and excited to show off her brand new hat.  The roofing job was completed with just a few glitches and a little bit over bid, but Mo is happy with it.  There was a lot of repair involved, and several layers of roofing, dating all the way back to 1926 had to be removed.  Someone asked me to show a photo of the cottage, so here it is again, with the new roof of course.
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cottage roof (4)cottage roof (2)
We put the MoHo to bed and traveled back over the pass to Rocky Point, relieved that there wasn’t much new snow since we left in mid January.  Everything was in good order, with the driveway accessible, the house warmed to a balmy 55 degrees by the backup electric heaters, and everything in good shape.




It is good to be home, but February is really my least favorite month of winter, and if I didn’t have to be working for a couple of weeks, I think we would have just gone back over the mountain and right on over to the coast!  Ah well, that will come next month when I return from Florida in early March. 
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winter ice around home (10)
winter ice around home (1)In the mean time, the sun has been shining daily and the nights are cold.  The snow is still very deep and the driveway is completely frozen into a sheet of solid ice.  I can’t stand up on it, and when I tried to move the truck it just slid sideways for a bit before deciding to go forward.  The only way to get outside and enjoy the sunshine is in the mid afternoon, when I put on the snow pac’s and trudge up an old side road by our place that isn’t completely iced over.  I leave it to Mo to get the mail, which entails walking down the glare ice driveway to the sheet ice road to get to Rocky Point Road, completely bare and dry.


Speaking of mail…it doesn’t seem like there is ever anything in there at all except advertising.  Not sure I would miss it if I didn’t have it at all, but I know I won’t miss Saturday mail. We don’t put anything in the box that is worrisome, mailing from town if we need to, and we don’t get anything troubling either, choosing instead to receive almost everything electronically.  Packages are usually delivered via FedEx or UPS. Lots safer that way, I guess, unless of course everything gets hacked.  UhOh.  I hear the mood of February sifting into this journal.  I have no right to complain at all, I am sitting here with the glare of brilliant sunshine on snow coming through my window and lighting up this room.

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bin mouse damage (2)
bin mouse damage (1)Lots of RV’rs have been talking about mice lately, so I thought I would add my little story to the conversation.  I store bird seed in a big, strong, heavy plastic garbage can.  We seem to only have ground feeders around in the winter, so I thought that maybe they would appreciate a bit of seed scattered over the snow.  Opened the bin to find several very fat, very dead mice in the bottom of the container.  Seems as though they figured out how to chew through the plastic, but then couldn’t get back out of the bin.  ugh.  I don’t do dead things, so whined for Mo to come and fix it.  I would hate to live alone at moments like this. I guess we will have to find something stronger to hold the bird seed when those little guys are winter hungry.



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photo
Within a few days of arriving home, I got a call from Heart to Heart Quilters in Merrill letting me know that my first big project, a queen sized quilt, was ready for pick-up. My daughter Melody had the day off, so I picked her up and we drove the half hour south to Merrill together.  In addition to picking up the quilt, which was quilted beautifully, we spent a long time in the quilt shop looking at fabric and patterns and day dreaming about the day when I will again tackle a big project and make a bed quilt for her.  She let me know that a lap quilt would be nice…but gee Mom, I would really love a big one.  I told her she would be lucky to get it in the next ten years.  This last big one only took me a few months to finish, and in all fairness, I certainly wasn’t working on it all the time.
alison baby quilt (1)
I also managed to finish the quilting and binding on the baby quilt for Alison’s newborn little boy.  Alison is the wonderful soil scientist who worked for me in California who moved to Florida.  I am tickled about the chance to visit her next week while I am in Ocala with my friend Bel, and to deliver the quilt in person. I thought frogs and bugs and blue and green would be a great theme for a little boy who lives in Florida, right?
Jeremy at the fire (6)

I will manage to get in a good 80 hours of work before I leave next Thursday for the Sunshine State.  Of course, the weather there has been fabulous, with temperatures in the 80’s, and as soon as I get there the highs will be 60 or something.  I have no idea why that happens to me when I go to Florida, probably it is because I just don’t get to stay long enough.  Mo and I are still having the conversation about next year and my wish for a Florida winter.  We will see.  In the mean time, we are going to focus this year on getting the cottage in shape and keeping our getaways fairly close to home.
Just thought I would throw in a shot of Jeremy enjoying the lovely new wool hearth rug in front of the fire.  I know he is completely sure that I bought it just for him.  He is getting so skinny, and of course it shows in the photo.  At his prime he was 13 pounds of long limbed lithe beauty and now he is down to less than 8 pounds.  He is on special vet food, limited ingredient diet, with a bit of tuna and fresh meat now and then.  He is such a sweetie, so personable and loving.  At nearly 17, though, it seems that he gets a touch of kitty Alzheimer’s now and then.  I read recently about some of the challenges involved with having an “elderly” cat, kind of a bit like an elderly human, I guess.  He gets anxious if he can’t see us and they say that is because old cats lose their vision and hearing and that makes them more fearful.
He still loves nothing more than riding on the dash in the MoHo, and waking me up  at 4:30 am with a loud purr and that sneaky cat claw chin slap that most cat owners will recognize.
I am excited about my upcoming trip, looking forward to seeing how Bel is doing in person, and most of all looking forward to seeing my daughter Deborah in San Antonio on the way home!  I booked a jump flight so I could do both at once, just couldn’t stand the idea of flying over Texas and not getting to see my girl!








         








































































The Last of Wyoming

August 6 and 7 Falls Campground on Highway 26 west of Dubois, breezy, in the low 70’s

view from loop B in Falls CampgroundIt’s breezy at the moment, and the vertical mountain cliffs north of the campground are a bit clearer than they were when we woke this morning.  Smoke from the fires in Montana and Idaho are finding their way toward us again and dimming the brilliance of the sunshine. I am sitting in the shade by the unlit campfire while Mo splits kindling for tonight.  Tee shirt and shorts are the order of the day.  The sun is warm but the breeze is just chilly enough that the shade feels wonderful. 

Day 16 (54)When planning this trip, I hoped to find something along the way between Thermopolis and the tourist busy part of the highway around Jackson Hole.  Streets and Trips led to this Shoshone FS campground and we took our chances without a reservation.  Then I read RV Sue’s account of her time both here, and at the Brooks Lake campgrounds five miles north, and I knew the choice would be a good one.

It has been a peaceful stop, even with the daytime sound of traffic moving west toward Yellowstone and the Tetons.  The rally at Sturgis is now in progress, so the roar of motorcycles has dimmed to just an occasional rumble.  After our hot evening in Thermopolis, (yes, I still have to write about Thermopolis, the Bighorn Mountains, the Medicine Wheel, Buffalo, and the Little Bighorn Battleground!) even the A loop seems uncrowded to us.  The plans were adjusted a bit yesterday so that we could stay here two nights and have a full day to enjoy the last of the Wyoming mountains.

Map Thermopolis to Falls CampgroundYesterday was a short trip, only 155 miles or so between Thermopolis and this park, with a Wal-Mart stop at Riverton in between.  Some parts of Wyoming are simply breathtaking, but other parts seem like long stretches of a landscape only a geologist could love.  When we reached Dubois, the mountains again lifted to the west.  This part of the west gives full meaning to what John McPhee described so well in “Basin and Range”.

west of Dubois, WyomingI thought of RV Sue in the laundromat, telling her great stories at the only place where you can get any kind of internet.  We haven’t had a decent signal in several days now.  We don’t even have a cell phone signal here and in the park in Thermopolis, the phones wouldn’t work at all and the MiFi struggled along with a single bar. 

settling into the electric loop A at Falls CampgroundWe decided that even though loop B was completely empty yesterday, we wanted electricity, and so entered loop A hoping for two sites together.  Two sites appeared, and just in time, since the two rigs following us were hoping as well.  I think this loop filled up last night, but when we went walking in loop B it was still empty.

brother and sisterNancy and Roger and Mo and I are still enjoying or tandem travels. This is new for us, since we usually travel alone, but it has been working out just perfectly.  Mo and I are somewhat the tour guides, with the responsibility of planning the routes, looking for gas, choosing the overnights, deciding how far we can go in a day.  Whenever I ask Nancy or Roger if they have a preference, their answer is invariably, “Whatever you two want is fine with us”.  Talk about easy!!

campfire at Falls CampgroundWe have been sharing our evening meals, with most of them a joint effort, and now and then we do the big camp breakfast complete with hash browns and toast.  Tonight is steak night, and I’ll bring the salad, Nancy does the Texas toast and we each cook our steaks.  Roger even has a pair of titanium sticks for cooking marshmallows.  They don’t get hot at all over the fire and I have some of those huge camp marshmallows left over from who knows when.  I don’t even like marshmallows, but still love to do the campfire thing.  

dogs playing in the Big Horn River at Falls CampgroundWe walked around the campground last night, took pictures of the waterfall, and spent a lot of time laughing at the dogs while they played in the Wind River that winds through the campground.  Jeremy really enjoyed this spot as well, since it was open and spacious enough that I could let him run around outside on his own.  He is really so good about it, but every once in awhile he decides that he is NOT ready to go in and will go under the rig and laugh at me.

Brooks Lake on a smoky dayToday we decided  to take a leisurely drive (five miles of very washboard road) up to Brooks Lake for some kayaking and hopefully to hear more stories about the mama grizzly and her two cubs that have been hanging out there.  Mama is gone it seems, at least the camp host Richard hasn’t seen them in a couple of weeks.  We also discovered to our dismay that in order to launch our kayaks in Wyoming, we are required to have a Wyoming boat sticker and an additional invasive species sticker for each boat.  A bit too expensive for one afternoon of kayaking. 

Brooks Lake on a smoky dayInstead we parked at the boat launch area and wandered off toward Jade Lakes and enjoyed the part of the trail that borders Brooks Lake. We thought better of hiking the four miles round trip to the top since we were in our kayak sandals with the dogs and  had no bear spray and no water. It was a pretty walk, and at the time we didn’t know that mama bear wasn’t around, so we were a little nervous now and then as we approached buffalo berry thickets. 

campfire at Falls Campground the perfect marshmallowIt feels great to slow down a bit, and this will be our last day in cool, timbered mountains.  Mo built great campfires, surprising that they are allowed in this kind of fire season, but the fire circles at this campground are especially nice, with strong iron grates, and a space beneath the fire box to store kindling.

Jake and Jeremy really like each otherIt  has been wonderful to have enough space to let Jeremy outside to explore the campsite and play with Jackson, his new found best buddy.  Jackson loves the kitty and will lick Jeremy’s ears and follow him everywhere he goes.  Abby isn’t as affectionate with Jeremy, and since Jeremy grew up with dogs, he misses that interaction.  He often snuggles up to Abby and she looks at us saying, “really?!” 

Tomorrow we will again have internet access, television, and probably traffic.  Twin Falls is next on the list.

Jeremy loves it when he can explore camp