Quick Trip to Walla Walla…

And now it’s mid-September (blog time) and my son contacts me to let me know my daughter and her BF are going to be in Walla Walla where he lives so I should come up to visit. OK, it’s a one day trip from Narrows RV park on some roads on the east side of Oregon north of Narrows I’ve never been on so sounds like fun. Oh, sure, I’ve been to Pendleton (famous for many reasons, one is the Pendleton Woolen Mills – still active) and a few miles south of there, but not much further south than that. I have also done some hiking in the Blue Mountains outside and east of Pendleton in the Tollgate area so I’m not unfamiliar with the area. Still, the route I’ll take will be new to me…so, an adventure. Map shows it’ll take 5-6 hours to get there.

First leg of the trip is due north towards Burns, than cross US-20 onto the US-395. I’ve never been on US-395 before so this should be fun. It’s a 6 hour trip so I left fairly early in the morning. Clouds off in the distance the entire trip promised the occasional rain.

This is my nice 7″ GPS I found on eBay. Sits on top of the drivers cockpit and gauge cluster assembly cover. It’s cool, even has a ‘bus’ setting so I’m routed around low overpasses and away from tight streets. Pretty neat, but, it didn’t come with a sun hood like many of them do these days so I had to make one. But at only $49, I’m not complaining. Lifetime maps too. If I can figure out how to find them and download them from the website. It is not exactly intuitive but for right now the maps that are built in have been great.
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Back to Burns…

The eclipse was fun, but I wanted to get outta town. Not much in Vale. They do have three or so excellent restaurants but nothing much else. I did find a bar with some microbrews on tap  and good food, but the TVs were too small so watching games on my home TV was more fun. I enjoyed being able to ride my bike around town for the exercise…as long as I did it in the cool of the mornings. By 3 pm it was HOT. I took several jaunts in my car with the AC on but again, didn’t find much of interest in the area. Went over to Ontario for shopping one day. That’s about it. I did stop in at the local auto shop for an oil change. And than at the local Les Schwab tire store to have my tires balanced but eventually, my overpriced visit week at the Vale RV park was over and I wasn’t going to give them any more money. Time to head back to Burns. This time though, I headed straight to the Narrows RV Park. It’s a Passport America park so half price. Since I was unsure where I’d be going afterwards, I paid for 3 nights to start, just to check the place out. It’s 26 miles from Burns, and right on the main road to the Malheur Wildlife Refuge.

This is the onsite bar they have. Notice everything looks new. It’s about 10 years since the owners bought the place and refurbished all the buildings. And built some new. 2008 was the year the RV market crashed and many RV parks went out of business. Bad luck on the owners part. Or they were able to get it much reduced price because of that. Who knows. But in any event, there’s a ‘for sale’ sign on the park now. The land around here has a rich history as just a couple miles away right at the narrows was a grocery store and hotel which existed for many decades beginning in 1889. It was a travelers stop over between Burns and French Glen for decades and developed into a small town until a highway was built that bypassed it. Afterwards, the small town of Narrows slowly died. The area is remote so it’s a little strange finding all this new building of the RV park out here in the middle of nowhere. Hunting probably contributed to the Narrows Hotel and Grocery store’s long life, and that still helps this RV park. Also, many bird watchers like to come here to take pictures at the Narrows and then visit the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Yeah, that place where those armed terrorists occupied federal buildings for all those months in early 2016.

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On to the Solar Eclipse…

My first visit to Burns was only for a week. When I left, it was to head for Vale, Oregon where I had a reservation at the RV park there. Attraction was that the park would be in the path of totality. They were legally allowed to gouge for this once/twice in a lifetime event. I really wanted to see another eclipse, so I paid the outrageous $640/week they asked. They also had a non-refundable deposit that I’d paid months before to hold the spot. The parked looked like they were trying to put lipstick on a pig with the few ‘improvements’ the newer owners had made to the place. All the power towers were 30 amp and showed their age, as did the other connections. I had spent many hours searching for a decent place to stay for quite a while before I eventually settled on Vale, and though I wasn’t all that pleased paying that much for a 2nd class park, it had the shade trees I wanted and the Wifi was amazingly fast. More than 15 Mbps down! (That’s very good for a RV park).

It’s only a 2 hour drive for a car so 3 hours for my RV. Enjoyed this trip a lot because it’s country I’ve never been to even though I’ve lived in the area most of my life.

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Heading for Burns…

After that great visit to Crater Lake in my last post, it was time to head over to Burns, Oregon. The best route took me through Bend. What I’d planned is a week in Burns so I could evaluate the area as a possible anchor town for purposes of VA health care. I have been anchored in Portland for years because the hospital there has a very good reputation and I have friends in Portland, but it became such a hassle going there because of the over crowding, and the overpricing they can get away with in the Portland area. You might call it gouging. It happens with all rentals in that area for some reason. And RV spots are no exception. The final straw was the only economical RV park I would usually stay at, despite its many shortcomings, became a long term only park. So I could no longer stop there for just a week or two. I’d have to sign up for a month to month lease arrangement. And the last 3 times I’d gone to Portland for my yearly check up had all turned into a hassle finding accommodations as the RV parks are like partially booked solid for weeks in advance and I’d be lucky to find an open, and very expensive short term spot. Another economical park in Corbett nearby in the gorge turned out to be booked solid for 2 months around the time I wanted to visit. As was another overpriced park along the Sandy river. So I’d end up staying in the Walmart parking lot or on the street for days at a time. This had been steadily getting worse over the many years I have been coming here for my yearly VA checkup. The trip there in August of 2016 turned out to be a 1.5 month visit because I needed to get a colonoscopy and my yearly exam so it just took longer. I was able to stay at a fairly nice park…$640/month. Kinda spendy, fancy park though I had my bike ripped off there. They cut my wire cable to steal it even though there were at least 4 other nearby bikes with no cables or chains at all!

But, anyway, that’s why I was planning on scoping out Burns as a new anchor town, staying for a week at what looked like a pretty nice RV park there just a mile from downtown. After that week, plan was to head over to Vale, Oregon to watch the solar eclipse on August 21st, 2017. I actually planned ahead for this trip and had reservations in both Burns and Vale. Week at a time. But talk about gouging…both RV parks had bumped up their rates just for the eclipse crowds that may show up.

And something else I’m seeing lately. Both RV parks had changed ownership recently. The investors are back at it with buying RV parks, raising the rates, and doing hardly any improvements. This was going on back before the RV’ing crash of ’08, but it stopped during that period, now it’s starting up again. That’s mostly a bad thing for me, because I like it when the rates are low. Fancy facilities are secondary, or tertiary to me. All I want is a simple pull through, water, 50 amp electric, a way to dump, and WIFI that’s half way decent. Oh, and a view of the southern sky for my satellite. New owners mean higher prices. And they often don’t have the traffic to justify improving the infrastructure of the park, so you get a crappy park with high rates.

Well, anyway, enough of that…so I was scheduled to leave Crater Lake RV Resort the morning of the 4th day, here I’m stowing gear, but since my trip was going to be so short at just 4 hours I took a slightly longer hike around the edges of the park, near the water…

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Finally…a visit to Crater Lake…

For several decades, I’ve lived near to Crater Lake but never visited. There was always something else to do, or it would cost too much, etc. Than when I retired and started traveling full time I figured, hell, now I’ll be able to visit! So no hurry! And as it turned out, the best time of the year to visit Crater Lake is in the summer, but I’d usually head over to the coast to take advantage of the mild temperatures by the coast during summers. Over where you’d hang out before a visit to the lake it would be desert hot.

Well, the years flew by and before I knew it, 9 years had passed after my retirement and all my traveling and I’d not visited yet. So I shifted my northbound travel over to the east side of Oregon where the lake is best approached in order to increase the chance that I’ll be able to stop there one year. And for 3 years it seemed I either just missed the spring opening, or just missed the period before the winter closing. The weather there is unpredictable to say the least, they’ve even had snow in July!

This year (2017) I decided to actually plan a trip there so beginning in February while I was still in Mexico, that’s what I did. I wanted to combine several activities as I headed north. One was to volunteer at Lake Tahoe, another was to revisit the Ice Caves and visit Capt’n Jack’s Stronghold near Tulelake, California, another was to visit the Burns area in eastern Oregon and make a final decision about whether or not to make Burns my home base as far as VA health was concerned. See the Portland area has just become way too crowded in the RV parks during the best time of year to visit. Expensive too. They do have a really nice VA clinic in Fairview near Portland that I used, and the hospital in Portland is well known and well favored by patients, but the Portland area was just becoming to much of a hassle. No more zipping into town, visiting the clinic, leaving town within a few days. Now I have to make reservations, stay a month at a RV park to minimize expenses.

Well, as I drifted north starting back in February, I tried to take new to me travel routes in order to experience new scenery. I did most of what I planned on doing along the way, and eventually, it was an auspicious time to visit Crater Lake. To do that I head north from Merrill, Oregon…just a days drive from the road that takes you to Crater Lake. It was early August by that time and yes, I planned it that way. Had great fun along the route staying at out of the way places and visiting new RV parks for longer periods.

On August 8th it was time to head up to the Crater Lake RV Resort. It’s only a 2 hour drive from Merrill so I didn’t leave Merrill until 11 am and dawdled along the way.

Lots of farms along this route.

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Around and about…

After visiting the Lava Beds & Capt’n Jack’s StrongholdI didn’t have much more to do in Merrill except ride my bike around town and occasionally take a drive here or there. Also found a neat golf course outside of town. Nine holes for $13, which included a rental hand cart to drag my new found golf clubs around. If you remember, back when I was in San Felipe, Baja Mexico, early this year, I went to a thrift store looking for a camping chair, and found a full golf bag for $12. Quite the bargain, and the equipment was all top notch. So I’ve been carrying them around with me for 4 months and here in Merrill I found a convenient golf course to practice at.

 

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Capt’n Jacks Stronghold…

During the visit to the ice cavesI gathered info about touring Capt’n Jack’s Stronghold from the FS desk. Found that the ranger showed up there at 9 AM, I could meet him there, and get a guided tour. That sounded interesting so became my plan. Next morning, drove over to the national park main entrance once again, and took the left for the 8 mile drive to the stronghold. Got there about 15 minutes early and just hung out in the parking lot. There was already a Forest Service truck in the parking lot but I figured it was there for some other reason. At 9:15, I was getting a bit antsy and started to doubt that I’d heard the time right the previous day. Maybe she’d said 10 am?

Eventually decided to just hike the trail without the guide. A little disappointing but I guessed I’d see most everything even without a guide. And there’s the fact that I’d read at least 5 books about this whole story.

Off in that direction is Tulelake. So far away nowadays you can’t even see it. During Capt’n Jack’s time the shore would have been much closer. In fact the shoreline would have been where that road in the near distance is, just 100 feet behind my car.

There’s the forest service truck. A half hour of waiting was long enough for me, so I just started hiking along the trail for a self guided tour. There’s a brochure available for $1 at the beginning of the loop hike I was happy to find and I picked one up. At each point of interest noted in the brochure there’s a post with a number painted on it. Because of the very dry and hot summers, and the brutal winters, most of the numbers are illegible now. There’s 23 points of interest so too many site descriptions to republish here, you’ll just have to come visit the stronghold yourself.  Looks kind of remote doesn’t it? That dry area past the road is where the lake use to be. And was the only source of water for the Modoc during most of the battle over 5 months here. But there was rainwater and snow melt too. Just never enough for all the people. And here’s the start of the lava fields. From the parking lot, it’s about 50 feet up. Not very inviting up here. Rough terrain.  And the blacktop trail quickly changed to dirt and gravel. Still, much better than trying to walk on chunks of broken up lava. This trail, and most of the others I’ll trod today, are the actual trails the Modoc used during the fighting. Off in the distance, Mt. Shasta.

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Visit to the Lava Beds National Park…

First thing I planned on doing after arriving in Merrill was to visit the Lava Beds. So 2-3 days after I’d settled in Merrill, off I went. The park entrance I headed for is the Gillems Camp entrance (seasonal) as it was the shortest route from Merrill. It’s only 20 miles away from the town.

Stopped at the Tulelake overlook again but once again, didn’t see any wildlife. Wrong time of year maybe?

The road ‘T’s a short distance before the park entrance and I turned right. If I’d turned left, that would have sent me to Capt’n Jack’s Stronghold Historic Trail. I’ll do that some other day. I’ll be in Merrill a week or more so no hurry.

A short distance after making the turn is a NP style kiosk where you would pay if someone was there. It was shortly before 9 am so it was unoccupied and I continued to the Visitor Center around 8 miles on. The high desert topography is interesting so the trip through the area is interesting. Occasionally there are signs alongside the road with interesting facts so I’d stop and check them out.

Lots of lava around here…

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Visit to Merrill, Oregon…

Many decades ago, I visited the Tulelake region of Northern California. That visit was probably in the 1970’s and I probably went with the Outdoor Club I was involved with during my 2 years at Mt. Hood Community College over in Gresham, Oregon. We often went on hiking trips as a group to exchange backpacking ideas and methods. Anyway, so I’d visited Ice Caves and remembered them fondly, but my memories had faded enough that I only had the vaguest idea about where those caves might be.  I was pretty sure they were in Northern California just south of the Oregon border though. So, as I left Reno I just headed towards Tulelake. I knew Capt’n Jack’s Stronghold and ice caves were in that area. I have read several books about Capt’n Jack and his tribes standoff with the US Army and wanted to visit his stronghold too. It’s also a lava caves area but not as neat as the regular caves.

I chose the little town of Merrill nearby the lake to stay in. There’s two RV parks there, and one of them is a Passport America park so it would be half price. There’s a couple more parks further afield but I wanted to spend some time in a small town so maybe I’d be able to take care of some of the small projects I had in the ‘2do’ jar. Merrill is only 20 miles south of Klamath Falls with all it’s big box stores and whatever so I could always run up there to get things or shop if needed.

But first, needed to leave the Grand Sierra Resort RV Park in Reno. And after just a few minutes of driving, I’m in the outskirts of Reno. Heading for the hills and Oregon.

Starting to get some high desert evergreen trees. Note the road is 2-lane, older, and not traveled much. Suits me fine.

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Stopover in Reno…

I’ve neglected posting for a while, but it’s been a busy time. Had more than my share of trouble with the TV, Satellite, and DTV receiver. Than I needed to get the RV’s muffler tailpipe replaced and the tail tip installed to direct the diesel exhaust down and away from the front of my car as I tow it. All that and more conspired to delay this posting.

We’ll pick up at Stateline with a few pictures of the area around there. The day after Tom and I were hanging around, I wanted to take the gondola up to the ski area. So that’s where we’ll start…at this point, I still was parking at the RV park, and drove the car up to Stateline, a matter of only a couple-three miles.

Had trouble finding a parking place but eventually, ended up here for breakfast. I was pleased to see the gondolas running. But I didn’t see any people in them. Hmm.

So after b-fast, went over to the ticket office, and discover the gondolas are closed for maintenance. Doh! echoed off the mountainside. Crap. Went back to the RV, Tom and I decided there wasn’t any reason to stay another night, so he got his money back, and we both went our separate ways. Me heading to Reno, he and his family, somewhere else.

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