Unless something goes wrong, today is our last full day in Bend, OR. We did the laundry (well, mostly Peggy did the laundry), picked up our chairs and strapped them to the trailer, filled the on-board trailer water tank and did all the other stuff in preparation for departure.
We have had a good time here but were disappointed that most federal facilities were closed only to be scheduled for opening after our departure. The weather has been pretty good so we are at a loss to explain why clear roads are closed, geographical features are closed and parks are shuttered. Not a single federal campground we passed was open despite the good camping weather. Perhaps our government is spending too much on trade and war instead of providing access to America by citizens. We are six weeks into spring but I guess only summer camping is possible in the government’s opinion. Some bean counters have apparently determined that money can be saved by not funding things the government should do instead choosing to squander the tax money we have generously given them on wars that go on forever. It is sort of tragic.
Our activity for today was exploration. We left our campground near Sunriver and headed west on NFS Road 42 which sort of parallels the Deschutes River from Sunriver to the Wickiup Reservoir. It is a very nice road with great scenery of snow-capped mountains and volcanic buttes, dense Ponderosa pine forests, absolutely clear waters in rivers and creeks and some spectacular lakes.
After about 20 miles going west we turned north on NFS 46 northbound, also known as the Cascades Lakes Loop. After a couple miles, we pulled up next to a little finger of the Crane Prairie Reservoir because we spotted some big, white birds fooling around in the water. We identified the birds as American White Pelicans which we had no idea lived around here and we also did not know they frequented lakes at 4500′ elevation.
We continued north for another 15 miles or so before coming to a steel gate across the road which sort of turned the Cascades Loop into the Cascades dead end. Although the weather around here is good with temperatures substantially above freezing, all the federal stuff seems to be closed. Some of the stuff we have come here to see will open for use in May. That is only 2 days after we will leave the area.
We turned off NFS 46 for a short side trip to Lava Lake. The road was plowed for the mile or two to the lake and we pulled right up next to the water for some bird watching. We were rewarded with glimpses of some type of grebes, a few mallards and four ospreys who were feasting on the fish. The ospreys pull off amazing aerobatic stunts you don’t typically see from birds. Today we saw them hover without flapping their wings, stalling and snatching formerly happy fish from the surface of the lake.
On the way back to our camping spot we tried to take a shortcut by driving down NFS 40 which would have shortened our drive by about ten miles. Where we started going southeast down the road, we were at about 4500′ elevation. At about 4600′ elevation, numerous pine saplings could be found across the road which we drove over. At about 4800′ elevation the downed saplings became pretty good sized trees which we dodged and/or ran over. At 4900′ the downed trees got to be pretty ubiquitous and the snow blocked the road so we chickened out and ended up returning to our campsite the way we came.
We took a couple of pictures you can see if you click here
Our activity for today was scheduled as a visit to Costco in Bend for stocking the trailer before we depart eastward into the land of scanty shopping venues, revolutionary farmers and widely scattered small towns, otherwise known as eastern Oregon. Recently, some ranchers who figured they should be able to graze their livestock on federal land without paying for the privilege got in a heated dispute with our always-dutiful federal government, in this case the Bureau of Land Management. The ranchers elected to occupy the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns and to engage in a standoff with the feds. After only one death when a zealot was shot dead by the FBI, the standoff sort of fizzled out but the criminal trials are just beginning. Keep tuned to CNN to find out the fate of the deadbeats.
Fortunately for me, Jake’s Diner is next door to the Bend Costco so I got to enjoy another vessel-clogging chicken fried steak with gravy, eggs and hash browns before waddling out and heading for Costco. After a while in Costco, we emerged with many containers filled with groceries but no liquor because of Oregon’s weird liquor laws. We returned to our camp spot with our pyramid of loot. On the way home, we spotted a large cloud of smoke coming from the forest about 4 miles from our campground. After dropping the groceries off, we went back out in the truck to see if we could get in the way of the fire fighters. Unfortunately, the smoke was coming from a controlled burn that remained controlled and by the time we found out we could not get near the fire, the spoilsport firemen put it out.
Today we awakened at a leisurely 8:30, drank some fortified coffee, had breakfast and then got to work getting the trailer ready to move. Normally this activity would be performed when we are departing from an area but in today’s case, it was to take the trailer to La Pine for new tires.
We were pretty slow starters so it was 11:15 before we dropped the trailer off at the Les Schwab Tire Center in La Pine. I chatted a bit with the service writer before cutting our truck loose from the trailer and driving up the road to Bend to visit a Lowe’s store and the local Oregon liquor store. Oregon has bizarre and archaic liquor laws that require ordinary drinkers and drunks to get their manna at OLCC stores only. Their prices are high, but not as high as the exorbitant prices in Washington. Washington used to have state liquor stores but they privatized liquor sales without removing the cost for running the stores resulting in prices high enough to make drunks quit drinking. A 1.75 liter bottle of Jack Daniels is $30 in California, $45 in Oregon and $65 in Washington.
By the time we made it back south to Sunriver, where our camping spot is, the tire store called and told us the new tires were installed on the Barbarian Invader. We kept right on driving to La Pine where we re-acquired our trailer and drove it back to the same spot we have been using in Bend / Sunriver RV Resort. Les Schwab’s guys did a great job, charging us only $775 for four new tires, spin balancing and new steel fill valves. I had budgeted $1000 so I was delighted.
It has been below freezing the last few nights and it looks like that trend will continue for the next few nights. I have been filling the on-board water tanks in the afternoon so we can disconnect all the hoses outside and empty them. I thought I had most of the water out of the hoses I stored outside but this morning there was a big icicle hanging from the end of our water supply hose. It was neat.
Not too much on the agenda today.
I got to watch the NASCAR race from Richmond and it snowed in the campground for a bit but almost nothing else of interest happened.
Our efforts to go to attractions like Lava Butte, Newberry Crater and Paulina Lakes have been foiled by the US Forest Service not opening anything up to visitors. When we were here in September 2014, everything was open but our efforts this year have been soundly defeated.
We awoke to pretty chilly temperatures from last night which we spent in the trailer and Peg’s siblings spent in a local hotel. They popped in this morning and I cooked up a big ham, cheese and bacon scramble for breakfast. Nobody complained, at least where I could hear them. There was some family chatting for a while before John and Kathy left to cross the Cascades and on to their homes near Eugene and Coos Bay.
John is an equipment operator and truck driver at the family rock quarry operation and that is very fortunate because his sharp eye picked up a defective tire on the Barbarian Invader while he was outside having a smoke. After his departure, Peggy and I hopped into Charlotte and drove south to the town of La Pine where there is a Les Schwab Tires outlet and I investigated options for losing the funky tire on the trailer. In a very short time I was on the way back north with a quite reasonable price to replace all the trailer tires since I bought them all together and if one is gunnybag I worry about the rest. Fifth wheel trailers are built with light materials and explosive tire failures frequently involve destruction of the adjacent flimsy trailer components making repairs cost as much as 10 times the cost of a new set of tires. I have an appointment in La Pine to get tires Monday.
Having already spent too much of the day to embark on any big expeditions, we went to the Bend Trader Joe’s and stocked up on all of our favorite food since soon we will be going east where the are no Costcos, Trader Joe’s or, sometimes, people. The cart was pretty full before we reached the checkout counter. After tire replacement on Monday, we will hit the Costco and our ample stockpiles will be complete.
Peggy’s brother, John, and sister, Kathy, arrived last night and stayed in a local hotel but popped in to visit us early this morning. Their arrival was timely because we got to take them along with us to my favorite breakfast restaurant, Jake’s, in Bend. This place serves a big, thick, very tasty piece of chicken fried steak covered with sausage gravy along with eggs and hash browns supplemented with an English Muffin for about $13 and it is superb. Faithful readers, if any, will remember that I have been on a pointless personal crusade to find the best chicken fried steak in the country and, despite searching in 42 states, we have found no restaurant which surpasses Jake’s. Dean’s in Clackamas is a close second and between these two diners, all others are left in the dust in the chicken fried steak arena.
Leaving Jake’s we went south to the High Desert Museum, one of our favorites. We spent a few hours wandering around this place but, unfortunately for us, our favorite exhibit of river otters was not open this early in the year. We did get to check out the great exhibits in the main building and the golden and bald eagles and owls in the flight center. They also have a pioneer homestead, old sawmill and, strangely, a sculpture of a sitting man made entirely of cast glass.
From the museum we tried to drive up the Lava Butte in Newberry Crater National Monument but it too was closed for some reason. We did drive through the lava field around the butte and did a drive-by viewing of the Deschutes River before heading back to the Barbarian Invader for some hobnobbing with Peggy’s brother and sister and watching Little Big Man, a great movie from the ’70s.
You can see some museum pix if you click here
We made a quick stop at the dump station and then left Cove Palisades SP this morning. From this great state park near Madras we took a short drive south through Bend, OR, and continued on to just south of the community of Sunriver where we turned into Bend / Sunriver RV Campground, a Thousand Trails facility. This part of Oregon is one of our favorites but not because of park amenities. Wi-fi is only available in the lodge. There is a pretty good park store but the pool is empty, maybe because the temperature is just above freezing at night and not real toasty in the daytime unless the skies are clear. The spaces are large with numerous pine trees between them but there is no honey wagon service this early in the year nor sewer hookups so we have to break down the trailer and tow it to the dump station every four days. The electrical and water hookups are good.
It took us about an hour to drive here today but we still elected to hang around the trailer for the rest of the afternoon instead of going exploring. Bend / Sunriver RV Campground is located in a pine forest and we were quite happy just sitting outside and quaffing our dwindling supply of porter. Fortunately, there are numerous breweries, a Trader Joe’s and a Costco in Bend and we will quickly address the shortage.
Today we headed down into the place we are staying; Cove Palisades State Park. This is probably one of the most remarkable places we have visited in the last two years. As a matter of fact, this is the second time we have been here in the last 18 months and we don’t really do repeats in most places except TT campgrounds. This park is located a bit south of Madras, OR, and if there weren’t signs telling them where to go, most folks would miss it even passing within 500 yards. The park consists of three enormous gorges coming together where their rivers (Metolius, Crooked and Deschutes) reach a confluence in Lake Billy Chinook.
Our spin for today took us from the park’s Crooked River Campground down an enormous switchback to the east shore of the Deschutes. According to my Garmin, the lake is some 500 feet below our campground up on the edge of the gorge. The road continues along the edge of the water beneath tall cliffs composed of basalt postpiles mixed with thick layers of volcanic ash that have big chunks of lava protruding from the surfaces. A small suspension bridge takes you across to a part of the park called “The Island” which is actually the peninsula between the Crooked and Deschutes River. After some more switchbacks, the park’s Deschutes campground and 10 mph roads, another even smaller suspension bridges takes the courageous across to the peninsula between the Deschutes and Metolius River watersheds. This is truly a great drive for low speed because of the roads and the scenery.
Amazing and bizarre rock formations mixed with pine and juniper forests make for a spectacular drive. We spotted deer, two very large bald eagles, many hawks and a variety of other birds. The geology of this area is probably not similar to any other spot in the world. The vistas are spectacular and change with the lighting which changed rapidly during our drive from merely cloudy to light rain to heavy rain mixed with lightning and thunder before it started to drop soft, gooey hail and then going back to merely cloudy. It was pretty spectacular.
Our two stays here have been when the kids were in school and so we can’t comment on the conditions when the park is full but both times we have visited this place we noted the scrupulously clean restrooms with family showers available, grass camping areas with paved RV spots, 50 amp electrical hookups, gorgeous grounds with fruit and lilac trees flowering, a $28 per night fee and, strangely, the best designed and operating dump stations we have seen. Your receipt from this park can be used to avoid paying the fee at nearby Smith Rock saving another $5.
We liked this park the first time when we accidentally stumbled on it 2014 and eagerly awaited our return. Now we have been here twice, it has moved pretty far up our favorite places to go and quietly enjoy nature. This place is a keeper.
Some pix can be seen by clicking here
Today we left our trailer at Cove Palisades and drove Charlotte over to a nearby state park called Smith Rock. It is only about a 15 or 20 mile drive and we were rewarded with some gorgeous examples of the effects of lava, basalt and layers of volcanic ash coupled with the always-present ravages of erosion. In this place 15 million years ago, liquid basalt flows and layers of volcanic ash up to a half mile deep have been vertically exposed through the effects of erosion and the abrasive action of the Crooked River sawing at the bottom of the formations.
This place offers extraordinary views of massive basalt and lava pillars extending from the valley floor where the Crooked River is meandering across the landscape. Almost all the rock formations are vertical in orientation such that many rock climbers could be spotted ascending the sides of the canyon. There are numerous trails throughout the park but all of them are accessible only by descending first to the bottom of the canyon and then taking any number of paths from there. One trail leads up a circuitous path and through many switchbacks to the top of the rocks on the other side of the park from the parking areas.
Peggy and I descended a very short way down our side of the canyon before deciding we were unprepared for a long walk further down, up one of the trails and then back down before the steep trudge up to where we started. Instead, we found a wonderful shady spot where we could see the entire park and watch the very fit drop into the gorge and scamper up the trails on the other side. From our vantage point we could watch as the athletic and sturdy types bailed over the edge and then ascended up trails on the other side of the park. One girl with skinny legs passed by us on the way down, was sighted part way up the other side of the canyon in about 10 minutes and was visible cresting the other side in about 25 minutes. On steep uphill sections we could see her almost trotting up the 20% grades. I was in pretty good shape back in the day but I do not think I could ever have matched her exhibition of power and stamina. The girl was back in the parking lot before we departed. Amazing.
The rock in the park comes in numerous textures and colors in this magic place. I’m not advocating breaking the unreasonable vice laws of this country but this place would be almost magical on acid. The colors, patterns and textures at this place are extraordinary and even old farts without the benefits of psychedelic drugs should find it amazing.
Some pix can be seen by clicking here