Yes, I know, I have yet to write part 1 about April, but when the writer’s block sets in, the only way for me to get started is to begin here and now. This time it isn’t even here and now. It has been more than a week since we returned from our late April foray in the MoHo. I decided last week that instead of trying to remember the entire month of April, I would just write about our most recent trip. Beautiful April memories are lost in a mental mist of rain, sun, snow, and home stuff. I will catch up eventually, but maybe not just yet. It is always easier to write about travels that are different from everyday life.
Our April MoHo trip happened quite late in the month. For a time now, I have tried to get reservations at Silver Falls State Park to no avail. Everything has been booked solid for weeks, and I often checked for cancellations and finally gave up. Mo is the one that will usually follow through on the commitment for a MoHo trip every month, and one morning she said to me, “How about if we go to Silverton and stay at that RV Park that we visited a few years ago?”. Great idea, Mo. She comes up with the ideas, and I follow through with the maps, plans, and reservations.
We have visited Silverton in the past, but searching the memory banks of photos and blog posts, I discovered that it has been ten years since we camped at Silver Spur RV Park. The website was well done, and I made reservations quickly for three nights at the end of the month. Mo did her research and came up with several things for us to do while in the area. We knew that it might be raining for a couple of days, but we could do most of what we wanted to do despite the rainy weather.
Leaving mid-morning on Monday so that we wouldn’t arrive before the 2PM check-in time was a bit challenging. We are used to getting out early, and both of us were at a bit of a loss about how to kill time until our ten AM departure. Almost everything is ready to go pretty quickly with the MoHo loaded and ready the day before.
Even with the accompanying rain, the short 200-mile drive to Silverton was easy. When we arrived, I barely recognized the RV park. It has grown considerably in the last ten years. The park owner was training a new person when we arrived, so check-in was slow. When we drove to our site, there was no place to park the car, and it was in between two other rigs, with no apparent picnic table. I went back to the office to try to figure out why. The neighbors had parked their car in our spot. The site seemed quite crowded, and there were several completely empty rows in the park. I asked for a change. When I asked to be moved, the owner said nothing was available because he was booked solid. I also asked about the advertised fire pits and was told they were only in the “premium site.” Surprisingly, he did have a premium site available for an additional $5 per night. We were happy to pay the difference and moved to the new site. The owner couldn’t print a bill for me, so he sent me an email for an extra $35. Um….what?? When I called him, we had a somewhat convoluted conversation about how 5 bucks a night turned into $35 bucks, with him insisting that is what the computer spit out. Eventually, it was settled, and I only paid $15 extra to park in a lovely spot.
When I asked about other premium sites, the designation was somewhat arbitrary, with some having different configurations of amenities, and fire pits aren’t part of all of them. When I asked if he could clarify this on the booking site online, he said that was impossible. He also said we paid less by booking online. Really? So the only way to secure a premium site with a firepit is to call directly and then pay more for the site? It was all quite convoluted, and when we return, I will make a phone call and try to get things clarified before booking my location. Word to the Wise here if you plan to travel to Silverton. Silver Spur RV Park is the only RV park nearby.
We love Silverton. The town has a colorful history with beautifully preserved historic buildings, a medley of boutique galleries, antique shops, creekside restaurants and cafes, and plenty of places to sample craft beer and regional wines. Since 1992, the Silverton Mural Society has added an extra splash of art with 27 murals gracing the town.
Silver Falls is nearby, just 15 miles south on a decent two-lane highway. Even though we couldn’t camp at Silver Falls, staying in Silverton was terrific because there was so much to see and do nearby.
Our first night in camp was rainy, and a fire was out of the question. The night was dark and quiet, and the road and train noise that I remembered from our previous visit was no longer an issue. We were in a different section last time, closer to the highway, and the train tracks appear to be no longer in use.
The following morning we made our plans for the day based on Mo’s list of to-do’s. First on the agenda was a visit to the local Information Center, and I finally found the center, located at the Oregon Garden. We had visited the gardens before and didn’t plan to do so this time around. The $10 per person fee is OK, but neither of us cared to walk in the rain to view the gardens again, especially since there wasn’t a great deal in bloom. When we arrived, we discovered that the Visitor Center I had found on Google was only for the Oregon Garden, not the town of Silverton. We were pointed in the right direction toward downtown Silverton by the friendly people at the gardens.
The Visitor Center was a delight, with a lovely volunteer who knew a great deal about the town’s history and was very helpful. The second item on our agenda was to visit the local Railroad Museum. However, our friendly visitor center lady told us it was only open at the end of the week. Except she said the volunteers were at the building today and might let us in if asked. That didn’t sound like something we wanted to do, so instead, we were happy simply taking photos of the building.
Third on the agenda was a visit to the local historic park, Coolidge-McLain City Park. When we walked back to the car to pull out google maps to navigate to the park, I looked across the lot to discover it was right behind the visitor center! We walked toward the pathways at the exact moment that a large van deposited a rather large group of 3 and 4-year-olds with their caretakers. The little kids were all excited, yelling and playing and jumping all over the place. We thought that might be a bit much for Mattie and took an alternate path along Silver Creek to get to the park.
The rhododendrons and azaleas were in bloom, the grass was green, and the Silver River rushed over the low cement dam. We walked the trails a bit, found a lovely memorial fountain, and I thought about how nice it would be to picnic in that park on a hot summer day.
Next on our agenda was to find Silver Reservoir. The reservoir is just a mile or so south of town, with a lovely day-use area for fishing and picnicking. We discovered a perfect kayak launch and decided it would be an excellent short-day kayak destination with nooks and crannies that made an attractive, complex shoreline.
By this time, I was ready for a good coffee. On our way through town, I noticed the Main Street Bistro and decided it was an excellent place to try. We parked right in front of the historic Wolf Building, which housed the bistro on the first floor. The weather shifted every moment, with clouds and rain and sunshine viewed through the old windows as we enjoyed our mid-day snack.
I had a coffee that couldn’t technically be called coffee and looked more like dessert. Mo had a delicious champagne cocktail that was not too sweet. We decided we could have a bit of lunch, and the clam chowder was as good as any we have enjoyed on the coast, and the gourmet grilled cheese sandwich was the best I ever ate, hands down. I have no idea why except it was perfect.
After lunch, we walked around a bit, checking out a mural and some of the old buildings. I especially loved the shop called “Apples and Oranges.” I have no idea what the name meant because it specialized in tea, yarn, and puzzles. What a delight. I found my favorite Malabrigo yarn and couldn’t resist buying three full hanks of the yummy stuff. Maybe that will inspire me to knit again, Janna!
The day was moving along perfectly. We returned to the MoHo for a bit of a rest before leaving to search for the Gallon House Covered Bridge, just north of town. Mo had this one on her to-do list before we realized that we had visited this same bridge on our extended MoHo covered bridge tour in 2012. Just a few minutes north of town, it was on a side route that led to our next destination, Mt Angel.
We had traveled through and beyond Mt Angel many times in this area but somehow never took the time to actually see Mt Angel. Just four miles north of Silverton, nestled among the hazelnut and hop fields, Mt Angel celebrates its roots with Bavarian thematic architecture and authentic German cuisine. The Mt Angel Oktoberfest held every year is a four-day celebration that is one of the biggest festivals in Oregon. Our friends Wes and Gayle, who now live in Arizona, told us we definitely need to visit this great festival.
We wanted to be in town for the tolling of the hour at the Glockenspiel. Mount Angel’s Glockenspiel celebrates the German-Swiss-Bavarian heritage of the village. The Glockenspiel plays at 11 a.m., and at 1, 4 and 7 p.m. daily. The clock is large and clearly visible; the bells are sharp and precise in their sound. However, the animated figures are the real traffic stoppers.
The rain came and went, and we took shelter underneath the awning of a building across the street to wait for the chimes. The best part was when a mother with her two young children came to stand underneath the clock so that her little boy could delight in the moving figures that danced in and out of the windows in time to the music. She told us they lived in Silverton but were close by when her little one begged to come and watch the clock.
Mt Angel is also the home of the Mount Angel Abbey and the Benedictine Monastery, where the church tower bells chime for the call to prayer several times a day. We knew that the library and museum would be closed by the time we got to the grounds, but we still thought it would be lovely to walk the abbey pathways. As would be expected, all was very quiet and serene, with only a few men walking in pairs and conversing quietly. I did find a young man in black secular clothing to ask whether we could walk with the dog on the grounds, and he was very accommodating.
Another man in black robes explained to us that there were monks, priests, and seminarians all reside at the Abbey. I did a bit of research and finally figured out the difference. At Mt Angel Abbey, all the members are monks, but only some are ordained priests. A brother-monk is called “Brother,” and a priest-monk is called “Father.” Priests administer to the community, and monks who are not ordained do not. Totally confusing to me, but I have a better idea now than I did before we visited.
We sat on iron benches to the sanctuary’s west to wait for the 5:15 bells. The eight bells in the Abbey are cast in bronze, weighing between 407 to over 8,000 pounds, and are tuned to different scale notes in honor of various saints. As we waited for the bells to ring, we looked into the sanctuary where the monks would gather for vespers. The church was simple but lovely as the sun shone in the southern windows illuminating a small side chapel.
The bells began to ring just as the sun broke through the western sky, lighting up the warm colored stone against the dark storm clouds to the east of the bluff where the Abbey is located. It was a dramatic moment and definitely worth the wait.
We drove back to the RV park and settled in for a quiet evening. I was a bit overwhelmed at all we had seen in just one day. The rain stayed away long enough that Mo built a fire for us, and we sat outside after supper. I was glad that we managed to use that premium fire pit! As you can see in the above photo, there are a considerable number of sites in this park that are used for long term extended stays. I read recently that many RV parks are becoming de facto mobile home parks. Adequate and available housing seems to be an issue everywhere.
Our next day was much easier but no less beautiful. We waited until the rain clouds cleared a bit before heading back into Silverton to explore some of the murals. There are maps available at the visitor center, but some aren’t particularly easy to understand, with exploding lines going in all directions. Our visitor center volunteer told us about the Red Sox mural in a part of town that isn’t easily seen from the main roads. We found the Red Sox mural and marveled at the character shown in the faces of the ballplayers. Johnny Pesky, whose Boston Red Sox career spanned nearly 60 years, was from Silverton. The Silverton Red Sox team was sponsored by the Silver Falls Timber Company during the 1930s. The mill was owned by Tom Yawkey, who also owned the Boston Red Sox. Pesky stuck with the Red Sox for life.
Our friendly volunteer also told us about the remarkable mural in town for Bobbie, one of the most famous citizens of Silverton. We walked by the mural the previous day and somehow missed it. Instead of being painted on a building, it is a long, low mural painted on a wall parallel to the sidewalk. Bobbie, The Wonder Dog, belonged to the Brazier of Silverton. On vacation to Indiana, where Bobbie was riding on the back of their car, he was attacked by some “curs” and ran off. After many hours, his owners finally gave up the search, sick at heart. Six months later, Bobbie appeared in Silverton after traveling more than 2,800 miles to find his beloved home and family. It was impossible to stitch together the dozen photos I took to capture the full length of this mural.
We had other plans for the rest of the day. We drove 15 miles south to Silver Falls State Park for our next item on Mo’s list. The Trail of Ten Falls is beautiful and has more than 8 miles of up and down hiking. We have hiked those trails in the past, but this time our goal was to take the short path down to the base of South Falls, where it meanders under the cliffs and behind the falls. On this trip, I was content for a single hike thanks to wonderful memories of a previous trip to Silver Falls State Park in 2010.
Visiting Silver Falls State Park Here is a link to our trip when we camped in the park and hiked to all the waterfalls. Even I had fun looking back at this blog post with tons of photos of waterfalls and hiking with my daughter, and oh my, my days when I was still a redhead!
When we began our walk, the parking lot wasn’t terribly full. Not surprising on this rainy, cloudy mid-week day. It was cool enough to safely leave Mattie in the car while we hiked since dogs aren’t allowed on the trails.
By the time we reached that area behind the falls, there were quite a few hikers laughing and ducking and getting wet from the overspray from the waterfall. It isn’t a challenging hike but a bit slippery and somewhat steep in places.
It was a test for me, and I passed. 2 years since the diagnosis of IBM for me, and so far, I am still managing to get around, and progression is slow enough that I can barely notice much difference over the months in my mobility. Silver Falls made me cry. It was so beautiful, and I was so incredibly grateful that I managed to hike the trail once more, even though it was a short one.
We only spent an hour on the trail, but by the time we got back to the top, we were wet and chilled from the dampness and overspray.
The South Falls Lodge at Silver Falls State Park was built in 1940 and 1941 and is a stunning example of magnificent craftsmanship by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The restaurant and dining room were open, and with only one other small family inside, we had the big Mission style leather sofa and chair in front of the hot crackling fireplace all to ourselves. Once again, we had good coffees and shared a delicious pastry. It was a perfect way to take off the chill and rest our bones.
We left the lodge area and drove down to the campground to check and see how full it was. Driving through the loop, only one site was available, an ADA site, for one night only. Everything else was either full or reserved. As we continued around the loop, it became clear why there was so little available. There is only one loop open in the campground, with all the others closed until after Memorial Day. Now I get it. As we left the park, we talked about how camping at Silver Falls State Park is a pleasant experience, but recreation in the park is limited to hiking the waterfall trails or biking the back trails. We have done both in the past but probably wouldn’t want to spend a lot of time at the park again if we can’t actually do all that hiking and biking. I think some of the trails would accommodate electric bikes, but they aren’t allowed on all the trails. For us, visiting Silver Falls State Park on a day trip from our site near Silverton was perfect.
We returned to the RV park again for a bit of a rest before driving north from Silverton to get a quick view of the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm. We knew that the tulips were still blooming but didn’t want to brave the crowds to go on the property again to walk among the tulips, and I hoped we could see them from the road. We visited the farm during full bloom on a previous trip to Silverton and knew how beautiful it could be. Here is a link to a LOT of my photos from that trip. Magnificent Tulips at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival
Sure enough, by the time we got there, the lines of cars were quite long, even an hour before it was set to close. I caught a couple of photos, and we continued north toward Molalla for the last item on our list.
Mo’s brother and wife, Chere, live just 20 minutes or so from Molalla, less than half an hour north of Silverton. It was a perfect spot for us to get together for supper at Don Taco’s Mexican restaurant. I somehow completely forgot to take photos of our time together, which shows how much fun we had visiting and eating a delicious meal.
By the time we got back to the park, we both were impressed with ourselves for all we had managed to do in just two days. Still, there was plenty of firewood left for another fire, and the rain had dissipated for the evening. We ended our little mini-vacation with another big campfire. I would imagine all those folks in the non-premium sites might have been a little bit jealous.
Here is a map of our meanderings for our time near Silverton.