Rocky Point, Oregon partly cloudy and 51 degrees F
I think anyone who travels knows about the “getting ready to leave” feeling. Energy is high, plans are coming together, dates filling in with routes, new roads are calling, or old roads are waiting. Since we don’t full-time travel, there is also the energy of “coming home”. Like a horse to the barn, I am, and that going home thing sometimes gets in the way of seeing all I might see on the route.
But not this time. On our way home from Magical Joseph, we took a long meandering route through parts of Oregon not yet traveled. Once back in Rocky Point, I caught up on the blog (almost), whipped up a quilt top for my sister, had a great visit with a fellow retired soil scientist, was treated to a fabulous dinner at Wes and Gayle’s next door, and then in only 10 days we were on the road again. And this time I didn’t even take a computer with me! Oh dear…thank goodness for the photos.
I guess it really IS a good thing that I am no longer employed, since I would have been off work anyway with the government shutdown, and who has time to work anyway.
But back to the beginning, the route home from Joseph. I am sitting here at my desk looking out on the dusky evening light, trying very hard to slip back in time so I can actually feel what I am writing about, because as often happens, on that last run home, I didn’t have a moment to even keep a note. I keep thinking of Erin, who is posting little teasers from her Greenland and Iceland adventures, and I just hope that she has time to write while traveling. How in the world can anyone keep track of such adventures?!
Then of course there is Sherry, who posts such beautifully illustrated stories of their hikes and kayak adventures, and like me, is usually posting about what happened a week or so in the past. And Nina, fabulous Nina of Wheeling It, who writes so eloquently about their travels, does superb campground reviews, and posts well researched blogs about all sorts of pertinent subjects.
So…what was I saying? Oh yes….back to the photos….and the map.
Leaving Joseph in early afternoon, with only a little over 80 miles to our next destination, we weren’t in any big hurry. Back near the interstate at La Grande, we found a WalMart for some groceries and were amazed at how hot it was at 5PM. Sure wouldn’t want to be boondocking in THAT parking lot, although it is a place where overnight parking is allowed.
Instead we traveled a few miles northwest on I-84 to Hilgard Junction State Park. We knew there would be no hookups, but the tall cottonwoods were shady and the evening was cooling off, so with the windows open and the fan going, everything was just perfect.
Covered wagons on the Oregon Trail were hoisted down the nearby hill, and there is a nice little kiosk at the park with stories of the pioneer travelers. It was a restful stop, with the Grande Ronde River flowing adjacent to the campground. The water wasn’t deep enough for Abby to even get over her knees, but she still enjoyed splashing around a bit. There are 18 primitive sites at the campground, right off the freeway, but the noise didn’t bother us much since the freeway is elevated and the sound didn’t come down much. It wouldn’t be a destination campsite for sure, but it was a great overnight for just 9 bucks.
We took our time the next morning, and continued west along highway 244, a very winding but lovely road with no traffic at all. Even after we intersected with Highway 395 the traffic was light, with truck length limits keeping the truck traffic level low. Not a problem for the MoHo at all, all the way to John Day and Clyde Holiday State Park where we thought we might spend the night. Just off 395 is a narrow side road to Ritter and the site of Ritter Hot Springs, but it was a bummer to find the springs closed for the “season” and a gate across the old road. We were just glad we had managed to find a place to turn the MoHo around at least.
When we reached Clyde Holiday, it was too early in the day to really want to stop, and with plenty of water and charged batteries we thought it would be better to boondock somewhere. Turning south from John Day, we visited the little town of Canyon City, another gold story of course, and then meandered up the hill to the west of Strawberry Mountain to the Starr National Forest Campground. (good thing the government wasn’t closed back then!)
Starr was interesting, with several sites and no one at all in the campground. You know how that is when there are too many choices, we drove around a bunch trying to decide which one before settling in to the most level spot. The campground is near the road, but road noise was again not a problem. I guess 395 isn’t too busy this time of year, at least on this section.
I have heard of the Strawberry Mountains for years, and looking at the map, we found a road that circled the wilderness. It was just long enough for a good drive in the baby car with views of the mountains, and the headwaters of the John Day River. We even found a beautiful campground that would be a nice place to stay to hike the wilderness and bike some very nice mountain biking trails nearby. So many places, so many hikes. I would love to go back someday and hike into the beautiful lakes in these mountains.
The next day we continued south along the 395 corridor, and discovered more little towns and one amazing huge ranch. The highway bisects the ranch, and once I had internet I had to look it up. What a story! The Silvies Valley was beautiful and reading about the history of the ranch, how it started with an old Oregon family more than 100 years ago, was lost to California developers and went bankrupt twice, and is now back in the loving care of an Oregon family made my heart sing. Check out the Silvies Valley Ranch website!
Once we passed Burns and turned south toward Lakeview, the landscape was oh so familiar. This is the part of 395 we both have traveled many times, separately and together, and still the desert views are incredibly gorgeous. Even with the overhanging clouds, briny Lake Abert was beautiful.
Then in Lakeview we did something almost unheard of. Just 2.5 hours from home, we decided to camp overnight. A bit north of town is the Hunter Hot Spring Resort, once home to the only active geyser in Oregon. Right next to the resort is the Hunters RV Park. Do NOT make the mistake of thinking the two places are related! If you call the resort they won’t even give the phone number of the RV park, saying instead, “I have a room I could rent for you”
I wasn’t interested in a room, but I did want to try out the springs. We settled in with the evening rain at the RV park with full hookups and cable tv while I walked across the field to the hot spring resort. For $8. you can relax in the pool, but as the RV park owner said to me, check it out first. Sometimes it is clean, other times not so much. It was clean enough for me, though, and while not a natural spring pool, at least there aren’t any chemicals in the water and it is refreshed often by the spring.
Nicest experience for me at the spring was enjoying the company of a young geologist working in the area and staying at the resort. We talked for a long time while soaking, and I learned of the problems with all the hot springs and pools in Lakeview, and about the threat to the springs from the proposed geothermal plants in the area. I know geothermal energy is supposed to be a good thing, but I have no idea how to resolve the environmental issues that come with the big geothermal plants.
It was a great idea to stop for the night and relax rather than rushing home. When we arrived late morning the next day we were rested and refreshed and ready to tackle the unloading and laundry chores that always seem to be a big part of coming home.
Next up: We go camping with friends AND I get to meet Nina at Harris Beach State Park!