Saturday, May 31, 2014

Day 11 - Coast Ho with a kinky cable!

Miles Driven - 146
Total Miles - 975
Silver Falls Sate Park to Nehalem Bay State Park on Oregon Coast

The adventure continues.  Did you know that, in California, we used to get our Christmas trees from this area in Oregon.  We drove through miles and miles of farms like this en route to Silverton, Oregon.
We had just left 8 months of being in dry, desert like conditions, to now feeling the soft, moist, soothing air caressing our skin.  mmmmmmm.
Christmas Tree Farms
Upon arriving at David Gortner's home yesterday, in Silverton, we noticed our Jeep brakes were smoking hot.  What is happening here.  We were parked on a downgrade so could not disconnect.  Had been noticing the brake lights remain on the jeep when we stopped earlier and have been doing this for a while. Something is not quite right.

We had our coffee and visit.  Was fun to catch up with David, but the brake issue was in the back of my mind. Just to let you know that we were able to disconnect down on the bottom of his street before driving onto public roads.  Sraddha set up to follow me in Mr. Toad.
The culprit- a kinky cable.  Please excuse the desert dust.  
We then headed to South Salem to shop at Trader Joe's and refuel at a Safeway gas station.  I got on my cell phone, did some research, ended up speaking with the tech support guy for the braking system installed in our rig and did some troubleshooting.  Turns out not an electronic problem. Whew. However, the cable that runs from under the drivers seat to the brake peddle appears to have a little kink in it, so consequently it is sticking a little bit when the actuator initiates during braking of RV and doesn't allow the cable to completely release.  We hope our brake drums are not destroyed.  Will take in for check in Portland.

Sraddha drove the jeep independently without issue all the way to the coast and will drive it back to Laurelwood next week where we will take it into a brake specialist to examine the brake system and fix as needed.
Short Coastal Pine trees lined the drive into the park
I have an appointment in two weeks down in Salem with a dealer who will install a new cable which, hopefully will fix the issue.
our campsite for the weekend.
We will be in Laurelwood for next 5 weeks before heading inland and wanted to be on the beach for a few days so we headed to the coast. By the end of the day, when we arrived, we were ready to be done with the daily adventure.
I did manage to capture the last sun of the day on the beach with iPhone.
May not blog too much over the weekend.  We will see.  Stay tuned!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Day 10 North - A Water fall

We stayed our first night on west side of Cascades at Silver Falls State Park east of Salem.
North Falls from Overlook

This park is known for its 10 waterfalls spread out through the largest state park in Oregon.  
North Falls from other side down the trail
You can hike along the 9 mile trail to see all 10 falls if you have the time.  I hope to return someday to do that.
I got up early in the morning and, after morning tea, drove over to North falls trailhead. The trail leads down UNDER the falls and all around to the other side.
Underneath with mist
I should have brought my earplugs as the roar of the falls was echoed throughout the underside.
Sitting in the back of the cave like area looking out under the fall.
Hiking back up I noticed some beautiful trees with moss growing on limbs.  A true rain forest.
Nearby in the campground, behind our site I walked amidst deep vegetation. We left Silver Falls State Park vowing to return for a longer stay and hikes its trails.  We drove to Silverton through Christmas Tree Farms, to see and former colleague from Ananda Village, David Gortner who lives in the area with his author wife, Lennie Martin.

Then we decided to drive to the coast.  Which is another adventure story.  Stay tuned

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Day 9 - Mountains, Rain, the DMV and my first Geocache.

Miles Driven - 176
Total Miles - 829
Ochoco Pass to Silver Falls Sate Park, Oregon

The DMV.  I wish this word didn't send shivers down my spine. Would prefer sending good energy up my spine. That said we have had an interesting saga in our move up to Oregon.

We just discovered two weeks ago that the registration for our Subaru which was left in Oregon, still does not have the license plates.  We had submitted the registration paperwork over 3 months ago, when Sraddha visited Laurelwood.  Come to find out the bank info was left off the form and another co-owner, not named Sraddha or Kent is on the registration.

What the heck is happening here? They also misplaced the file and another name is on the registration in process.  A phone call to DMV and now a visit to Prineville DMV has moved along the process. We now have temporary (60 day) permit to drive the Subaru when we return next week, however not the registration which could take another 4-6 weeks.  Not good since we want to sell the Subaru.  Arghh.

This also makes us gun-shy to transfer the RV registration now which we need to initiate upon return next week.

Rainforest outside our back door here in Silver Falls State Park
Anyway we continued west from Prineville over the Cascades through a driving rainstorm.  The mountains were socked in so no good photos.

North falls from overlook
Overnight we move from camping in deserts for past 8 months to camping in a rain forest. What a difference a day makes!
Trees to the left of North Falls overlook.
We settled into Silver Falls State Park east of Salem, unhooking in pouring rain. Can you say "wet in 30 seconds"?  Later in day we drove to Silverton to see the Gordon House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built after his death.  It was recently moved, yes torn down and moved to its present location.
Gordon House in Silverton, OR
Kent finding his first geocache
Amazing design and color fit so well with greenery around it. While walking around through the tall grass to get a good photo (the one above). I stumbled onto my first Geocache. "What is this?"  It was an old ammo box just like I had read about.  Like a little kid at Christmas, I opened it up to see what was inside.  Having just read about geocaching in  fun book about maps, I was curious about the whole phenomenon.

 Apparently someone hides a, hopefully, watertight container, often a tupperware type, somewhere which contains a small notebook or log and sometimes trinkets or various things.  They then record and publish its GPS location, then others look for it.  Seems a bit strange but I already can see the allure.  So I recorded my "handle" which I made up on the spot, in the log, then downloaded the app and created my account to then record the "find".  Actually fun and Sraddha was laughing the whole time.

Sraddha twisted her knee yesterday on the hike in Blue Basin so we didn't hike the falls trail this afternoon.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Day 8 - Travel through Time in the John Day Fossil Beds

Miles  Driven - 101
Total Miles -     653
Clyde Holliday State park to Ochoco Pass NF Campground

We began the day driving west down the John Day River valley.  Being May, it is still green.  Never having driven this section of Oregon before, it was pretty neat.  My main impression of central Oregon had been over by Bend, and also along the basalt bluffs of Columbia River where it is dry desert sage brush.  Amazed at the ranches, pine forests, and beauty.

In eastern Oregon lies one of the most complete natural history of the past 60 million years.  The John Day Fossil Beds National Monument occupies 3 main units in eastern Oregon.  We visited 2 units.  Driving west from John Day, Oregon we follow the river through the narrow Picture Gorge where we see 17 different volcanic layers each representing over 8,000 years of time.
Picture Gorge.  17 volcanic layers averaging 8,000 yrs each.
This is an amazing place.  Essentially, there are layers of volcanic ash dating back 40 + million years ago in which fossils the whole Mammal Age can be found.

The monument was inaugurated in 1975 with 3 distinct units.  We first visited the Visitor Center on the John Day River, spending 3 hours touring one of the best educational displays we have ever seen, which covers each era of which there about 8-10.
Amazing displays at Visitor Center
We then drove further north to the first unit, the Blue Basin and pulled into the parking lot trusting there would be room to turn around.
John Day River Valley near Blue Basin
 We were assured by the ranger that we could turn around in the parking lots so we headed in.  There was room.  Whew.  Ya never know.
Backside of blue Basin Overlook Trail looking north
Two hikes were recommended. We set off on the Overlook trail first  which took us around the backside then steep switchbacks up about 800 feet to the overlook.

Overlook of the Blue Basin
We hiked about a mile along the rim before descending via switchbacks to the center of the canyon.

Most of our photos were shot with the iPhone, however I did manage to shoot a couple with the big Canon.  They will be on my Flickr page.
Is it really that blue down there?
 The second hike took us down into the center of the canyon.
Blue and Green Volcanic Tuff with many layers on top
The blues and greens are volcanic Tuff layed down 30+million years ago. Over time, many layers heaped on top caused compression and metamorphosis of the tuff turning it these fascinating colors
Yep, it's blue all right
 All during the hike, CharLi and Mr. Toad waited faithfully in the parking lot.  Just barely fitting in.
Charli and Mr. Toad waited in the parking lot, waaaayyy down there.
Our second visit was to the Painted hills unit about an hours drive west.  It was after 5 PM when we departed back to the main highway, over a mountain pass, down into another river valley, north 6 miles just hoping we arrive in time before the sun pops behind clouds for rest of night.

Painted hills.  Also Volcanic Tuff like blue basin.  Just different color
We were not disappointed.  In fact the clouds accommodated us quite nicely, darkening the distant hills and accentuating the painted hills.  Photos do not really depict how incredible the beauty really is.
Love the 10 second delay on the big camera.
We didn't want to leave but had to head out at almost 8 PM because we didn't know where we would camp this night and still had, maybe an hour of useable light left to park.  After all, there are no Walmarts around here.
Shooting the Painted hills.  I only had about 20 minutes of good light.
We drove back out to the main road.  Along the way we did see one possible BLM dry site, however, with the fading light, was not sure we could make it in there and didn't know about rain overnight leaving the road muddy and stranding us.  Such wusses we are.  Plus we did know of a Forest Service campground up on Ochoco Pass (4723' elevation) which we thought would have space for us.  

Turns out we found a sweet pull through and cost us only $6 to camp in the tamarack and pine forest.  We pulled in around 8:45, dropped the levelers and out go the slides.  Sraddha had started some Posole early in the morning which just needed to be reheated and seasoned.  We ate, listening to the wind rustling in the trees and slept soundly, quite satisfied of a full day or hiking, learning, and being in some incredible natural beauty we had not even imagined a few days before.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Day 6 - Change in Plans, Trip through Mountains

Miles Traveled - 108
Total Miles - 552
Departed - Narrows at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge
Arrived - Clyde Holliday State Park, east of John Day, Oregon

Due to a really good deal we actually had save $20 by booking the Narrows RV park for 4 nights. We spent another fun morning birding at Park HQ with Turtle and Hawk at Headquarters we saw numerous small birds and a few in flight.  We had met Bob and Bettina down in Patagonia Lake last winter.  Good birders!
3 great birders and one clueless shooter
We returned to the RV late morning for a nice salad brunch (not normal eating around here, let me tell you). As we were finishing up, I asked the question:

Me - So what do you want to do for the rest of the day.

Her - Oh, I am trying to figure out what birding to do..Do I want to go look for those burrowing owls?

Me - I have an idea. (uh oh)  It's still early in the day and the day is long.  Let's head out of here up north, refuel in Burns and check out that pesky Jeep tire with slow leak, then see if we want to spend the night at Idlywild campground up in the mountain forest?  If not then keep going.  Whaddya think?

Her - Hmm.  Yeah, I am ready to move on.

And just like that we began to pack up.  I still had the blog post to finish with XXX rated bird photos
so she began packing up.  When I finished, we then completed the packing (about 20 minutes), dumped waste, hooked up and off we go.

We stopped at Idlewild campground about 17 miles north of Burns around 2:30.  Nice forest service campground with 3 pull throughs in which we would have fit.  We walked around for about an hour looking for the Black Backed Wooedpecker whom our friends, Turtle and Hawk, had seen last week. Would have been a new bird sighting for Sraddha, however we just weren't' feeling it.

This is the great thing about not having a fixed schedule we really like.  We looked at each other and agreed that is was, again, time to move on.  I love flexibility and spontaneity.  Very different from even 6 months ago.

Long story short, we drove another 70 miles to John Day, then west 8 miles to Clyde Holliday State Park.  Now this park is on the John Day river and absolutely beautiful.  Yet right near highway.  AND they don't take reservations.  We gambled that, since it was the end of Memorial Day weekend, there might just be a couple sites open, which there were.  Not the prime sites, but we managed to select a decent site, unhooked, drove down the reverse direction so we could back in easily and settled in for the night.

Instead of departing Malheur Refuge with 140 miles to drive to the John Day Fossil Beds, we are not less than 30 miles to go this morning.  Good decision.
our campsite at Clyde Holliday State Park

Days 4 and 5 - Birds of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge - XXX rated post ;)

No RV miles.  Whew

Driving around Malheur 

The Refuge we are visiting.
What an amazing place at this time of the year.  Thousands of visitors come here, especially over Memorial Day weekend. We stayed at the Narrows RV park just a few miles from park HQ.

We spent 2 mornings with our friends Bob and Bettina, and also toured the south end Central Patrol Road down by Frenchglen where we saw a Trumpeter Swan family with chicks.  This is where i get out the big super telephoto lens.
Trumpeter Swan Family
A new bird was the Bobolink.  Very rare in west, they do breed in this section of the Malheur.  Late May and early June are the times to see the males in their plumage so we were here at the right time.
Another treat was to witness a pair of mating Avocets.  As we were watching other birds in same area, I noticed this one avocet with its head down for the longest time.  If finally dawned on me that they were courting.  Suddenly the courtship got real serious and he jumped on top of her, then they danced and parted.  Here is a short series of this scene.
Hey Good Lookin!  Wanna Dance?
Oh, yes.  That was just great! 
Is this a lifetime commitment?
Let's try the Polka
You can view these photos and many others in high resolution over at the Birds of Malheur Refuge as a slide show over on my photo website and some on flickr too.

We pressed our luck one evening when we drove out west on a dirt road looking for Burrowing owls. We had been told they were out on this road but we drove almost 20 miles in one direction before giving up and turning around.  On way back we had to negotiate with a herd of horses and mules blocking the road.  Sweethearts all.
Is there a toll here?  no sugar.

All in all, it was a real fun time.  We are heading out and hope to be back someday.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Days 3 - DUST, DUST, DUST Hart Mountain to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon

Todays Miles - RV- 84; Jeep 64

Total Miles - RV - 444; Jeep 64

Departed - Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge

Arrived - Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

You might say we are, ahem, "Refugee's".....
The Route

Our route takes us across a 40 mile gravel road.  Recently we drove 20 miles over gravel to Chaco Canyon so we weren't worried.  It was good road and the views were incredible. We did see some antelope too.  Too far away for photos tho.
The Long, Long Gravel Road (40 miles)
We made the blacktop north towards Frenchglen which is south end of Malheur.  Just before Frenchglen we faced a 3 mile, 14% downhill grade.  Thankful for towhaul feature which downshifts to lower gears thereby saving our brakes.
Down a 14% grade  Yikes
We then drove 30 miles north to Narrows where we find an RV park. We thought to stay only 3 days but the price for 4 days was significanly cheaper so we are staying 4 nights.  You know who, the birder, is pleased.
This 70 miles of gravel road was rather dusty
The bad news is we discovered dust in all compartments and coating the whole RV.  Inside and outside the jeep.  We drive into Burns (30 miles north) to buy some fresh produce pick up a package at the Post Office (see bottom) and also to wash, vacuum and clean the jeep inside and out.  We took everything out of the jeep. As we cleaned, a major thunderstorm approached blowing all the little stuff everywhere.  Yikes.
First things first,  we wash and clean Mr. Toad
We managed to clean the jeep despite blowing gusts up to 40 mph. Later in the evening back at the RV we witnessed a wonderful sunset then the rain started.  after about an hour, before it was totally dark, we put on our rain jackets, went outside, and wiped down CharLi the RV.  Woo Hoo.  Clean and saved $40 cleaning fees.
Sunset before the rain at Malheur
This is an amazing place. Major stopover for the Pacific Flyway.  It is amazing the number of bird species we are seeing here.  Have seen Trumperter Swans, mating Avocets, Terns, small birds and many more. I have over 20 good photos already at my photo site and will post some shots on flickr.
We initially came here to meet our new birding freinds, Turtle and Hawk (aka "Point and Shoot").  They are full timers recently retired who sold their home in Ashland and now travel around volunteering to help on various bird surveys.
Intriguing bicycle.  Love the Faux Fur!
We drove back down to Frenchglen then back up the Central Patrol Road.
Bensen Lake where Trumpeter Swans are
Next post will be about some of these birds.
Our morning coffee system
Oh, yes,  We just received some incredible coffee from Peets, via General Delivery. We have discovered that, while traveling, we can have packages shipped to General Delivery Post Office Zip Code.  They will hold for 30 days.  We get things from Amazon, mail shipped from Ananda Village and Ananda Laurelwood and also Peets Coffee which we received at Burns P.O.  A special roast, we tried yesterday and today.  Yum.  We are ordering more.  It makes the mornings so great!