Writer’s Block

Current Location: Rocky Point, Oregon: nice evening after a gorgeous day

I really didn’t want to fall into the trap of trying to explain why I haven’t written.  Kind of like writing in your diary, “Dear Diary…sorry I haven’t written”.  Diary doesn’t care, I am sure.  Every one of us who write these open ended online journals run into writer’s block now and then.  This time it hit me half way home from our last trip.  If you don’t know me from elsewhere, you might think that we are still lost somewhere along the California coast.  If I were to return to my blog a year from now, trying to figure out where we were in April, I might be rather disappointed to see that we possibly beamed ourselves, Star Trek Style, from Eureka to Rocky Point.Trinity Scenic Byway (2 of 36)

There is so much going on at the moment in our lives that travel memories have taken a bit of a back seat, but that is another story.  Maybe I’ll get to it eventually, but not right now.

Trinity Scenic Byway (6 of 36) In actuality, the last two days of our short little vacation were spent ambling along at a snail’s pace.  We decided that Highway 299 would be a good route back toward home, over the beautiful Trinity Mountains and following along the gorgeous Trinity River. Called the Trinity Scenic Byway, the route is the main road that connects the upper Sacramento Valley to the California coast.

Trinity Scenic Byway (7 of 36) When we left Eureka, the fog was still hanging in over Humboldt Bay, but by the time we reached Berry Summit the fog was just a wisp in the wind shrouding the mountain but not obscuring the beautiful views. The day was brilliant, the skies gorgeous, the traffic minimal.  Redbuds were in bloom and the hills were Ireland green.  That springtime green thing in the coast range can be so incredibly vivid.  Like no other green I have ever seen anywhere.

Trinity Scenic Byway (12 of 36) We had a destination in mind, a mere 100 miles over the mountain to the little town of Weaverville, where I had scoped out a small RV park.  We were in no hurry, and stopped along the river for photos and views.  A few miles west of Weaverville, we found a forest service campground and pulled in to check it out. 

Trinity Scenic Byway (15 of 36)Trinity Scenic Byway (33 of 36) Not a soul in sight, and the camp host site was empty, but there were no gates to keep us out and after walking around a bit, listening to the river, we said, “Why not?!”  Our tanks were empty, we had plenty of water and no need for power so we pulled into the sweet little spot, opened up the door to the sunshine and the river and settled in for a lovely evening.  Three bucks with our senior pass.  Much better than that 35 bucks it would have cost in Weaverville.

Trinity Scenic Byway (31 of 36) The next morning we rose at our leisure and ambled on down the road to the sweet little gold rush town of Weaverville.  It was charming in the way that California gold towns can be, with interesting store fronts and historical signs on the buildings. 

Weaverville and Trinity Lake (8 of 33) We visited the Joss House museum visitor center, enjoying the well done displays of the Chinese culture that thrived in Weaverville during the gold rush.  Neither of us felt like waiting around for a tour, so we skipped the inside of the Chinese Temple. 

Weaverville and Trinity Lake (7 of 33) Once again, we were reminded of the great contribution made by the Chinese to the development of the American West.

Weaverville and Trinity Lake (14 of 33) With no desire to continue east to a boring interstate, we turned north on Highway 3, following the western shore of Trinity Lake.  The road was narrow and steep in places, but not unmanageable.  We stopped to view the nearly empty lake and read the non existent signs.  Weaverville and Trinity Lake (27 of 33) Sign vandalism is just stupid.  Although perhaps not as stupid as damming a river and backing up a lake over miles and miles of placer mine tailings. 

Weaverville and Trinity Lake (23 of 33) Now that the California drought has exposed the land drowned by the reservoir, I wonder if people who are users of the millions of gallons delivered annually to the California water project are at all worried about the lead and mercury left in those tailings.  I still can’t figure out the mindset of certain news pundits who say the California water problem is due to the environmentalists stopping the building of more reservoirs.  The ones already there have no water in them!  Talk about a waste of money!  Let’s build more dams so we can have more empty reservoirs?  This drought is long term, and not going to end next week.

Weaverville and Trinity Lake (32 of 33) We did see several warning signs stating that in 42 miles or so, the road would be unsuitable for trailers.  No problem.  We have driven those kinds of roads many times in the past.  After passing the little community of Coffee Creek, where we found nothing at all, we continued north toward Scott Mountain Pass.

Weaverville and Trinity Lake (30 of 33) We ignored the sign that said no trailers once again, and within a mile knew that had been a mistake.  Picture a hairpin turn with a 15 percent grade.  MoHo groaned up the hill and we managed to find a turnout on the very narrow road to unhook the baby car.  Next time we will pay attention.  This is not an easy climb, and definitely not a place to be towing. And no, there are no photos of these few challenging moments.

Mo drove on ahead with the MoHo while I followed along in the Tracker, enjoying the gorgeous views and the beautiful wild landscape of the Trinities.  Descending into the Scott Valley is a treat, with a landscape of ranching and river that is the heart of the old west.

Our evening destination, a mere 80 miles north of Weaverville, was the tiny community of Etna, California.  Just 20 miles south of Eureka, Etna is charming and quiet, and boasts a great little RV park, Mountain Village.  A Passport America park, there were level sites, full hookups, and grassy spaces between rigs.  With the park nearly empty, we enjoyed the late afternoon thoroughly.  For a mere $16.00, we spent our last night before returning to the cottage at Grants Pass the next day.

That leaning oak on the left will have to go when the house is built.  That is where the western wall will extend It has been just over three weeks since that day.  In that short time we spent a few days working at the cottage.  Mo managed to get the 30 amp to the MoHo shed and we mowed the acre that is greening up and growing fast.  My scheduled surgery required a few visits to Eugene and those overnight trips are always more delightful with the MoHo.  The one time we stayed in a hotel we decided, never again.   taking a break from electrical work in the RV shed

After Eugene, it was time to bring the MoHo back over the mountain to her berth in Grants Pass.  We missed having her at home and with winter behind us, it was time.  Of course, the only winter we had this year showed up on Easter Sunday with 1/2 an inch of snow and then again on April 14 with another half inch.  Crazy.

old fort road middleIn the last couple of months, we have made some big decisions about the future, moving toward a final goal of building a “forever”  home on the cottage property.  I also decided that it was time to sell the little house I bought in Klamath Falls back in 2002.  Daughter Melody decided that as a now single mom, she needed a bit less house to manage.  She has lived in the Klamath house since 2008. 

Melody and my granddaughter Axel each now have an apartment at the small complex that Mo has on the edge of town in Klamath Falls.  working at the apartments (10 of 12)Mo and I put some time in refurbishing those apartments, painting and cleaning, getting carpets and flooring installed so they are all nice and fresh.  It was hard work but also a fun project, nice to see the apartments all pretty again.  Renters are not often much fun, and don’t seem to care about how they live.  I am glad that we no longer have to deal with crummy renters who trash the place.

Painter progress (1 of 7) With Melody out of the Klamath house, it was time to spruce it up for sale.  I had renters in there during the time I lived in California for my final working years, and it needed fresh paint when Melody moved in back in 2008!  Again, Mo and I have been busy painting, fixing, repairing and getting the house ready for market.  I am really hoping that the time is right, and that she will sell quickly.

working on Painter (16 of 19) It is a great little historic bungalow in an historic neighborhood in a nice part of Klamath Falls. 

finished13 Early on during this three week process, I got a phone call from the two surgeons who will be working on me, saying that the surgery had to be rescheduled from April 13 to May 4, so I gained an extra three weeks to actually get the Klamath Falls house project done.  At least hopefully.

Mo and I feel like we are working again.  We leave the house every morning to go to one town or another, work all day, and drive home late all tired and worn out.  After surgery I am not supposed to lift anything over five pounds for 3 months!  Crazy.  So everything has to be done NOW or it won’t get done, at least not by me. 

So, writer’s block?  Yeah.  I think I have a reasonable excuse.

 

September 13 Hells Canyon

Currently in Rocky Point, Oregon Partly Cloudy and 45 degrees F

Hells Canyon Overlook Funny, as crowded as the state park campground was, at night it was quiet and dark and I slept great.  We decided that there was no need to go to Imnaha on this trip.  Mo had been there before, and after reading Laurie and Odel’s very funny account about their trip there, we figured fried gizzards weren’t a big enough draw to get us to take the back way north to Imnaha.  Another time.

Instead, we followed the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway on the northern loop from Joseph, east and then south to Hells Canyon Overlook.  The scenic byway is worth the drive if only to stand high above the layers and layers of ridges and imagine the Snake River far below.  Of course, you can’t see the river from the Overlook, you have to go to Inmaha to actually see the river from above.  You could do as the women we found out there who had traveled from Portland to camp on the Imnaha River and then bike to the overlook.  Not me!  It was a lot of very steep uphill, and we saw one of the women walking her bike about 3 miles short of the top.

You could decide as we did to take the byway all the way to the mighty and magical Snake River and then turn north and drive the 20 plus winding miles to Hells Canyon Dam. In addition to the magnificent drive and the river that flows north through the deepest canyon in North America, we had a destination, a river trip.Seven Devils

We had a great time at the overlook, me trying to discern which ridge I camped on back in the 80’s when we were mapping the canyons.  Then of course we had to try out the delay shutter feature on my camera, but it was too far down for me to get in the picture quickly enough.  Made for some good laughs until the women on their bikes offered to take a photo of us together.

Hells Canyon Overlook

Northeastern Ore_092 Hells Canyon Adventures does several different versions of a jet boat ride on the river, and we chose to just get a little taste with the 2 hour tour. We had called a few days in advance to be sure they were still running, and as luck would have it, we got a reservation for the 2PM run.  River trip06

I have rafted a few rivers, and even did the Colorado River in a paddle boat a few years back.  Six days from Moab to Hite Crossing, and a lifetime of memories.  That is me in the purple hat, back in 1993, getting ready to paddle through “Five”, the one that dumped us.  But that is another story. Being on the river in a jet boat isn’t quite the same, of course, but it was still a river, and still an amazing canyon.  

Approaching the dam from the south, the road follows the eastern shoreline of Oxbow Reservoir, with several launch sites and a couple of small campgrounds.  The campground at Oxbow was full, but farther up the lake there was plenty of space at another camp about midway to the dam, again with hookups and nice access to the water.   The Original Hells Canyon Adventure Tour, South Entrance, leaves from the river just below the dam and downhill from the Hells Canyon Dam visitor center at the end of the road.Driving to Hells Canyon Dam

It was pretty hot, and shorts were the perfect choice for the day.  I also brought along the Pelican Case to carry the camera, just in case something happened and we went down.  Jet boat accidents are extremely rare, but I still didn’t want to lose my camera to that river.  I needn’t have worried.  There was only one Class 4 rapid to get through and our captain was an expert at negotiating the big rocks and holes trying to suck us up.

Driving to Hells Canyon Dam Hells Canyon is almost a mile and a half deep from highest wall to the river, deeper than the Grand Canyon, although the canyon walls are actually stepped and farther apart, so it doesn’t seem as deep when you are down in it.  Still, no matter how I tried, it was impossible to get photos that depicted the immensity of the towering walls above us. Hells Canyon Dam

Our guide explained the rapid level rating system, talked about the building of the dam, and the fact that salmon don’t get past this dam.  Built in the mid sixties, the dam has no fish ladders, and the salmon are stopped here.  This entire issue of salmon and steelhead on the Snake River is controversial and if you are interested in reading about the complexities of the 3 Hells Canyon dams on the Snake River, this link is fascinating. The permits for these dams will expire shortly, and Oregon is still not on board for re-licensing because of the lack of fish passage. 9-12-2013 Hells Canyon Scenic Adventure

The run through the rapid was fun, but not at all scary in the high powered jet boat.  Three big Cummins diesel  engines are underneath the deck, and when one of the engines had an electrical problem, we still had two working well enough to get us back home.

hiking to the pictographs in Hells CanyonWe heard stories about settlers trying to make a life on the high benches along the canyon and above the river, and saw evidence of some abandoned homesteads.  At the farthest point on the tour, we disembarked and hiked along the river to some pictographs that were supposedly created by the Nez Perce.  Again, the pre-history of these images is a bit controversial, and there are several different stories about the people who made them and the time frame when they were done.  I only heard what the guide said, “The Nez Perce did them more than 1,000 years ago”.  Were the Nez Perce even a tribe 1,000 years ago?  hiking to the pictographs in Hells Canyon

The Nez Perce say their ancestors have been here for 15,000 years.  Unlike some of the larger pictographs on the Columbia River near The Dalles, I couldn’t find much information on these images.  Still, it was delightful to walk along the river and find them.  Of course, once again I had on the Oofos instead of decent hiking sandals.  Sheesh!  I was planning a river trip and didn’t know it included a hike!

We didn’t see any bighorn sheep or mountain goats on this shorter tour, but we did see two different bear sows, one with a single cub and one with twins.  Watching the young cubs frolic and jump around on the rocks was fascinating.  As usual, there was one bigger cub who was more adventurous, and a smaller one who lagged behind.

Because of the time we spent watching the bears, and the bit of engine trouble, our trip lasted half an hour longer than the two hours allotted.  That was fine by me, except we knew that we had that long climb back up the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway to our waiting motorhome.   9-12-2013 Hells Canyon Scenic Adventure1

Forgot to mention what we did with Abby on this tour day!  Another reason for giving ourselves an extra day in Joseph before we went on the boat trip was that we needed to find a dog sitter.  A bit of searching and a call to the vet in Enterprise yielded good recommendations for the Lin Lee Kennels in Joseph.  They are only open in the morning and evening, but when we picked Abby up the next day she seemed completely happy.  The owner said Abby just followed her around the entire time she was there.  IF you are in the area and want to do something that isn’t dog friendly, this is the perfect solution.On the Wild and Scenic Snake River in Hells Canyon    

Since it was getting late, we decided to stop at the one open establishment that was between the canyon and Joseph on our route.  Hells Canyon Inn is anything but fancy, but we landed on the Thursday taco night so dinner was OK and the price was bearable.  When we pulled into Joseph in the dark at nearly 9PM we were glad we didn’t have to try to find dinner in Joseph or cook something up at home.

More photos of our Hells Canyon Adventure are on google linked here

Tomorrow: the Wallowa Lake Tram

 

 

September 5 Mackenzie Pass Magic

Cloudy and 58 degrees

We are probably 42, but what the heck, we have done worse roads I am sureI woke up on this cloudy morning wondering what happened to all the stars I saw during the night, but it was still warm enough we didn’t need any heat in the rig to be comfortable.  My back felt great!  We took our time with a simple breakfast and turned on the generator.  No worries, not another soul in the campground to be disturbed by us, even at 7 AM! 

Our planned route for the day was over Highway 126, toward the Historic Mackenzie Pass Road, and into the sunny eastern part of Oregon at Fossil.  Daughter Deanna and her husband Keith took a break from truck driving recently to take the Harleys out of storage and do a road trip from Tri-Cities to Eugene.  They traveled over Mackenzie Pass and Deanna warned me that there was a 35 foot total limit on rigs going over that road.

AWe weren't expecting the flashing lights as we passed.  They aren't fooling around here and we set off all the alarmsI thought, no problem, we have been over this route before.  I was wrong, however.  We haven’t been on this road in the MoHo.  Nothing seemed familiar.  Sure enough, as we turned onto the historic road 242, more signs warned of the 35 foot limit. We are just over 44 feet total from bumper to bumper with the Tracker hooked up, but we thought, “No problem, we have been on far worse roads, I am sure”

guess it is time to unhookWell, so much for that!  As we continued up the road, we came to another open gate and a very large sign with very bright blinking lights that notified us, “OVERLENGTH VEHICLE DETECTED!!”  Capitals intentional, that sign was doing everything but yelling.  Okay then.  We thought maybe it might be a good idea to unhook before continuing over the Mackenzie Pass Highway.  This is one of the reasons that we chose a motorhome instead of a truck and fiver, we can unhook and BOTH parts of our setup can be driven in tight situations.  Has worked out in the past for us, and it worked out again today.

It was a gorgeous drive, deep and dark under the overcast skies, with forest thick and lush as any you might find in the rain forest.  The pavement was surprisingly perfect, with brand new yellow lines, but of course, no shoulders.  Our dual tires just fit between the center line and the edge of the road, and yes, there were a few places where the Tracker may have been a bit too much.  But I still think we would have made it OK.  Monitor Pass from California down to 395 was much more difficult, and we didn’t encounter any over-length signs on that road at all.  Still, it is good to follow the rules most of the time at least.Mackenzie Pass historic road

Once near the summit, we encountered huge lava flows and distant view of Belknap Crater across the black expanse. Since I was driving the baby car, I stayed behind to take photos while Mo continued to the summit.  Mackenzie Pass historic road Belknap Crater in the distance

Another huge surprise on this road that we never drove before was the Dee Wright mountain observatory built by the CCC in the 30’s.  I’ll let the photos tell the story. 

mountain ash growing out of the lava flowThe observatory is beautiful, and even on the slightly overcast day, we could see most of the mountains through the labeled portals inside the observatory.  I think that the legacy of what the CCC created is one of our greatest treasures.  It saddens me that today we can’t manage to do anything of this magnitude with our tax money. 

another amazing CCC accomplishment

the CCC built mountain observatory at the summit of Mackenzie Passthe CCC built mountain observatory at the summit of Mackenzie PassSue and Mo at the CCC built mountain observatory at the summit of Mackenzie PassThe Observatory is right at the summit of the pass, and the narrow road continues down and east toward Sisters.  I followed along in the Tracker, waiting for an opportune moment to hook back up, and was surprised that it was a very short time before we were actually in Sisters, where we pulled over and hooked up the car to continue east toward Redmond.  Hi again, Loree!  Once again we are in Redmond and you are still traveling back home from your journey east.  Eventually we are going to get together! not time to hook up yet

Next post: Highway 126 to 97 to 293 to 218 to Fossil Oregon and the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument