Sunday morning dawned beautifully, with clear skies and wonderfully fresh air. On the previous evening, we noticed a lot more activity on the trails and decided that it would be nicer to wait until Monday for our waterfall hikes. After a big happy breakfast of bacon, eggs and potatoes (the favorite for camping weekends) we dressed in clothes appropriate for a town visit and headed north on HWY 214 to explore Silverton.
Silverton was listed as one of the ten “coolest” small towns in America in a CBS News poll in 2009. The criteria was that the population be less than 10,000 and included requirements that you be able to get a good cup of coffee and that there are more galleries than country stores. Silverton fits that picture very well, although we saw a lot more restaurants than galleries, and the number of quaint little shops seemed a bit limited. One of my favorites was “The Purl District”. Being a knitter, I love to find local yarn shops and visit with the creative people there. The Purl District didn’t disappoint, although a chat with the proprietor indicated that like other small knit shops in other rural towns, she is hanging on by a thread. Just a little aside here, please buy your yarn from local shops if you can.
We walked around town, looking in the restaurants, and checking out the few galleries. Silverton’s Chinatown was different, and consisted of one shop and one restaurant. There was also a Thai restaurant that tempted me with great fragrances as I watched something wonderful being delivered to a patron. After that big breakfast it didn’t seem appropriate to eat again just two hours later! Another surprise as we explored the town was a great grocery store, Roth’s Fresh Market. With a little research, I found that this locally owned chain of markets was first established right here in Silverton. It was a bit like a small and local combination of Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, with a fine bakery, fresh flowers, and 4 long double rows of really good wine. I bought a bottle of organic “Our Daily Red” from the Orleans Hill Winery in Nevada City for under $9.00. It was truly good, and no sulfites! I hope I can find this wine again without having to drive north to a Roth’s market!
Silverton is only a short drive from Salem, and only an hour from Portland. Even though it is growing, it has retained some of the great character that made it a favorite. Especially beautiful is the gorgeous Silver Creek that flows through town and the myriad blooming dogwoods, azaleas and other flowers. Driving the streets revealed great historic bungalows, some neighborhoods with wide streets and manicured yards, others narrow and less appealing. The best part of the town is how dog-friendly it is. With 9,500 people and a dog population of more than 1,500, many restaurants in town have patio dining spots that allow your dog to sit at your feet, and an annual pet parade in honor of Bobbie, a collie who found his way home to Silverton from Indiana in 1924. Parking is still metered on the street, and the meters still take pennies: twelve minutes for once cent, although on Sunday we didn’t have to pay.
After exploring the local streets, we branched out to amble along country roads around town, enjoying the beautiful nursery fields filled with young Japanese maples and dogwoods. Farther afield, as we headed back to camp, the bluegrass fields stretched across rolling hills into the distance, emerald green and lush. The sun was warm and the sky punctuated by billowy white clouds. It couldn’t have been a more perfect drive.
Back in camp, we were met by my daughter, Deborah, who drove the hour from Portland where she lives. I was delighted to have some time with Deb, and glad that she came to spend the night and hike the waterfalls. Deb also brought along a great bottle of wine, a Pinot Noir from Oak Knoll, an Oregon winery. I guess I have to search for this one as well! A bottle of Barefoot is fine, but now and then a treat is definitely in order. We let the cat, Jeremy, out to play in the forest and he had a wonderful time scratching trees and running up and down the pathways.
We visited a bit before Deb and I hopped on the bikes to explore some of the great bike trails in the park. It was a wonderful ride, just hilly enough to be challenging, paved and smooth, and punctuated by long stretches of downhill glides. Deborah hails from one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country, but she still appreciated a bike trail that wasn’t next to a road. When we returned to camp, Mo started up the evening fire and we cooked a great steak supper over the coals. I even baked a campfire potato for the three of us to share. Guess I had better work on that a bit more because it was very black and crusty on the outside without much left on the inside! I am spoiled with a quick microwave baked potato while traveling, but this time I didn’t want to turn on the generator for 5 minutes of potato baking!
The evening ended perfectly with wine and conversation and roasting the marshmallows that Deb brought for us. So many times as I sit looking at the coals of our great campfires I think about marshmallows. I don’t even like them that much, but roasting them is so much fun. Of course, some caught fire, and we had a competition for the most perfectly roasted mallow. The MoHo has a nice sofa, and Deb was cozy and comfortable just as it was without making it out into a bed. It was the first time we have had guests overnight in the MoHo.
On Monday morning, we cooked another weekend breakfast for Deborah, with the excuse of a good long hike planned for the day. Mo and I went for another bike ride around the campground with Abby on her leash, with the hope that she would be then content to rest in the car while we hiked the “no dogs allowed” Canyon Trail. What a great way to exercise the dog! She eventually wears out before we do! The skies were again dark and cloudy, but the rain held off most of the day. The Trail of Ten Falls extends almost 9 miles, but has several trailheads and various options for hiking a shorter distance. We hiked part of the Canyon Trail and returned via the Maple Ridge Trail. I had seen photos of the waterfalls, but somehow in my research on the park I never realized that the trail goes behind many of the falls. Standing behind a crashing stream of water as it cascades over cliff and rock is an energizing experience. The trail is beautiful, and even the very steep, stone stairs that lead to the Lower South Falls are well maintained, and even have a railing. It was so much fun having time to hike with my daughter, something we haven’t had a chance to do for a long time.
After Deb left, Mo and I drove to the north end of the park to hike the trails to the Upper North Falls and North Falls. It was raining fairly hard on the Upper North Falls trail and we had most of the walk to ourselves. Upper North Falls was lovely, but the trail ends at the lower pool. Heading back west on the trail, we hiked down another bank of steep, slippery steps to North Falls. This waterfall is visible from the Rim Trail and the main road at a distance, but nothing prepared either of us for the intensity of hiking into the dark, dry cave behind this waterfall. Mo sat for a time on the bench just enjoying the falls while I walked around trying to take videos. I knew that a photo wouldn’t come close to capturing what it felt like to be there. This entire experience really whetted my appetite for our visit to Niagara Falls coming up in the fall.
By Sunday evening many campers were leaving, and on this Monday night we had all of Loop A to ourselves, with only a few folks left over in the B loop. This park is definitely a place that becomes very quiet during the week, so another great benefit of retirement will be the ability to return and camp during weekdays. Supper was another salad and some soup while we enjoyed another huge fire in the pouring rain. This was the first time we could actually sit by the fire and still be under the MoHo awning and stay dry. I roasted some more marshmallows and finished the wine! We had to angle the awning to keep the water from pooling. The rain continued all night, pounding and drumming on the roof while we stayed warm and dry. Tuesday morning it was still raining, but let up just enough for us to pack up camp and drive the two miles back to the free RV dump site on the north side of the park. As we drove down the highway back toward home, the skies darkened, then opened, then darkened again. Predictions for Klamath and all the passes leading to the east side of the mountains were for snow, so with a bit of apprehension we chose to return via Interstate 5 through Medford. The choice was a good one, and at the summit of the pass near Lake of the Woods, the temperature stayed at a steady 34 degrees, in spite of the snow all around us and falling. We arrived home in time to beat the heaviest snows, even though by Wednesday morning the MoHo sitting in the driveway for final unloading was covered in three inches! Isn’t it just a few days until May?
We woke up Wednesday morning to fog and clouds on the coast, making it perfect for our return trip to the warmer side. The drive back east along HWY 42 was uneventful except for deer on the highway. I still imagine that she was just stunned, and ran off into the woods. I felt bad for the driver of the little honda who tried to help her. Just a reminder again that even in broad daylight, wild animals are everywhere on these roads and you need to be wary. The drive from Coos Bay to Roseburg is only about 2.5 hours and is beautiful.
Arriving in Roseburg around mid-day, suddenly the business and traffic of I-5 again assaulted us, but taking a small side road into town and out again on the North Umpqua Highway was the perfect detour. Roseburg itself seems a little worse for wear, with the recession obvious with many closed businesses and a tattered appearance in the downtown portion. Sorry, Roseburg, I know you are trying.
Up the highway through Glide on to what is called Colliding Rivers and the Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway truly begins. Temperatures were perfect, warmer than the coast by 20 degrees at least, and clear skies. Campground choices on the map looked plentiful, and Mo’s AAA book only listed a few of them. One especially seemed to call us so we set Susan Creek Campground as our destination. Arriving at the campground, we found it very nearly full, with just two sites open, one that appeared to have been very recently vacated. Since it was the Thursday right before the July 4th weekend, we took it without question.
Fresh water nearby but no hookups at this BLM campground, but a nice wide site, protected by huge trees and shrubs all around us, and a level paved parking area. Right next to our site was a short trail, 100 yards or so, to the North Umpqua River and a memorial bench perfect for watching the swift, deep green water.
One of the things I love most about the North Umpqua is the incredible variety of its flow. It is a wild and scenic river for most of its length, with class 5 rapids. But in some areas it is wide and lazy, with deep green pools, big boulders for sunning, and swimming holes. Other areas are perfect for tubing with riffles and class 2 rapids. The river guide at the website I linked to above gives a stretch by stretch description of the river, where the big rapids are, where it is necessary to portage, and where an inner tube is still safe. I saw many people sunning on the rocks, swimming in the holes, and a few inner tubing some of the lesser ripples. Something wonderful about a green sunny 80 plus degree day in Oregon.
The only drawback about this area is the poison oak. It is everywhere, thick, lush and green. It’s difficult to walk a dog because the leaves hang out in the trails. If you are susceptible to poison oak as I am, it’s not much fun. We took Abby on a lot of walks, but sadly had to leave her home for a couple of them.
We set up camp, then decided to drive upriver a bit to check out other campgrounds. There were actually some open sites here and there, but in one riverside camp an strange old gentleman waved us down and warned us about robberies and wild parties that happen in some of those campgrounds. Susan Creek was populated and had two camp hosts. It seems that the sites with camp hosts are more safe, so we were glad that we were there. After checking out all the other campgrounds, it was also apparent that Susan Creek had the biggest trees, and the nicest understory plants. Maybe not as wild, but certainly more beautiful than any of the others. We were happy to be there.
Had a great evening, playing cards and dominos, great supper and campfire, and time with the kitties outside which they always enjoy. Jeremy seems to like it better then Teddy, who wants to go back inside fairly quickly. Looking forward to sleeping in the forest tonight and planning a day of hiking waterfalls tomorrow. Perfect
Transcribed in April 2011 from our old leather journal
This is a record of the first year that Mo and I knew each other and started traveling together
October 19, 2003
Sometimes even a short weekend can be fun. I love it when Mo says, “Hey, let’s go on a road trip”. This time we decided to travel down the Klamath River from Klamath Falls, through Yreka and to Happy Camp and across the 299 highway to Eureka. The trip took most of the day on Saturday, with lots of stops along the magnificent rivers, and a visit to a wonderful rock shop in Happy Camp where I bought a truly beautiful piece of California jade, or serpentine, with a polished surface on one side.
As we traveled across the pass toward the coast, we saw a medium sized black animal crossing the road and leaping up the slope above us. We couldn’t figure out what it was, too small for a bear but too big for anything we recognized. A bit of research later revealed images of a fisher, a rare animal in this part of the world that we were privileged to see.
We didn’t arrive in Eureka until quite late, but after settling in to the Motel, we decided to try to find a beach somewhere. Mo drove us out on a spit of land near Arcata and in the dark I ran out on the sand to smell and listen to the ocean in the dark foggy night. It was magical. On Sunday morning we went to downtown Eureka for breakfast at a great little Mexican fast food place on the wharf, with lovely fresh breakfast burritos. We walked around the wharf a bit, taking photos of the famous Victorian and then got back on the road toward home.
On the way back, we stopped along the Trinity River to watch some kayakers going down the rapids and thought of my friend Jeanne who does this kind of kayaking. Not for me, that’s for sure! We watched a couple of boaters make it and then saw one of them flip and have to swim the rapids. The sun was gorgeous, and the weekend was just the respite I needed before going back to another week of soil survey in Klamath Falls.