Today was our last full day near Eugene. It is very smoky outside. The air quality is terrible; breathing deeply is almost painful and will certainly generate spasms of geezer coughing if done regularly. It is not quite what we expected for Eugene – stifling temperatures, air like mud and tubercular gasping for air.
We did pop into Eugene this morning for a re-supply trip to Trader Joe’s, one of our favorite shopping spots. A bit less than $180 later, we headed back to Dexter Shores, stopping for fuel on the way. We will go west to the Oregon coast tomorrow in an attempt to escape the crummy hot weather and poisonous smoke in the air. Visibility is down to less than a mile. Sunlight making it to the ground appears to be orange, even at midday. The air smells like my dirty clothes after a long camping trip. We gotta get outta here. Stink.
About a thousand years ago I married my delightful Peggy and she has been suffering ever since. Today we went to the wedding of Peggy’s nephew to a great girl named Veronica. Peg has lots of relatives in Oregon and quite a few of them showed up, as well. It was about 85 degrees today and fires northeast of us are channelling their smoke into Eugene so visibility was not too famous but the outdoor reception in a nice garden today was alright.
I was clever enough to limit my participation in the festivities to a tiny bit of prep work at the reception site, making two trips to the groom’s house to pick up forgotten necessary items and selecting a seat in the back. Organization was a bit shaky since the folks who knew where to set everything up were not at the reception venue, the designated shopper forgot to get coffee or chips or sugar or soda pop or sherbet or forks or drinking cups or booze but the same person did get an almost adequate supply of tablecloths. Unfortunately, they had neither the same shape or the right size to cover the tables. Weddings can be funny that way.
After about four hours of sweetness, I was able to get Peggy to depart, leaving her family behind for this trip (I hope). It is getting very smoky around here. I hope our trailer isn’t on fire.
We were happy to do a little exploring today. We got a slow start, eating a late breakfast and hanging around the trailer until early afternoon but we finally got our ducks in a row and headed toward OR-58 that goes east over the Willamette Pass in the Cascades.
Peggy, before we even made it the 200 yards to the highway, allowed us to become distracted and we started out turning up a local road with the tantalizing name of Lost Creek. It was a gorgeous drive through bottom land with dense forest separating the grass areas. We had barely started when we noted that the first farm we drove by had a high-lead yarder spar and a concrete boat in his front yard; hardly farming implements. The road crosses the creek a few times and it is a great drive but it is only a few miles before the road crapped out and we were forced to backtrack back to OR-58.
During our drive east on 58, Peggy kept it pretty close to the speed limit until we made it to Willamette Pass, one of a few passes crossing the Cascades in Oregon. The elevation at the pass is a bit more than 5100′. Some more pesky forest fires have been ignited in the last few days and up in the pass the smoke shortened up the view. We took a bit of a side trip to Odell Lake and it was very nice but our big hit for today was Salt Creek Falls where we pulled in on our trip back west out of the pass.
The pullout off the highway is not very impressive at Salt Creek Falls but, if you hop out of your rig and take a short walk, you can see this spectacular site. There are some modest interpretive signs that detail how the Falls were formed geologically and the result is gorgeous. The creek above the Falls runs down some rocky rapids before taking a gigantic plunge off a basalt cliff into a steaming pool some 285 feet below. And the fun doesn’t end there – there are some jagged cascades below the Falls as Salt Creek makes its way to the Willamette River. It is rare that we have encountered such stunning sights so close to vehicle access and with such a great walking path to the roar audible from the parking lot.
We hung out for quite a while at the Falls but finally had to head down out of the pass, driving along the shore of Salt Creek until it dumped into the Willamette River. The River really isn’t a river here but actually a series of reservoirs backed up behind large earthen dams. The drop between reservoir elevations is pretty small so I think the dams are mostly for domestic and irrigation purposes because even the larger dams had puny powerhouses and puny transmission lines leaving them.
We fooled around a bit more before heading home to Dexter Shores RV. We noted as we passed through the nearby intersection of Lowell that the state had set up an incident camp across the lake from our RV park. There were many camp tents (apparently, firefighters do not even get to rest when off duty because they are sleeping on the grass at Lowell State Park), food prep facilities and numerous portable outhouses. We hope these guys get a rest soon. It has been a nasty fire year in the Pacific Northwest.
We took a few pix along the way and you can see some of them if you click here
Today was a moving day. We left Silver Spur RV in Silverton, turned west on OR-213 to Salem, hung a left onto I-5 south to Eugene and then took the ramp onto south OR-58 for a short run into Dexter. There we initially flew right past our scheduled stop because it was not actually on the road the Garmin said it was on. We saw the park and the road that led to the park out the passenger side window as we passed nearby. It was only a few miles further up the road that we found a place where it was possible to turn an enormous Ford truck attached to a 34′ trailer. Our second pass by the park worked out a bit better.
We pulled into the Dexter Shores RV Park and I sent Peg in to register. While I was waiting, I noted that Dexter Shores RV Park could probably be called the Dexter Lake Is Across the Highway RV Park. After registration, we were directed to follow an extremely grumpy man in a truck to our RV space. The space has full hookups but the space itself is very narrow. Peggy gets the Vigilance Award because she cleverly dodged the pile of dogshit left in our space such that it was placed directly outside her truck door. Fortunately, we drew a space that has a sliver view of the lake and a good view of the mature Douglas Fir trees in and near the park.
As of this writing, we know the cable TV here is caca but the wifi mostly works. We have had the air conditioner running so we don’t hear a bit of traffic noise from adjacent OR-58. The surrounding country looks extremely pretty and we will head out on a mission of exploration tomorrow.
Salem is the capital of Oregon and it is quite close to Silver Spur RV where we are currently holed up. Coincidentally, one of Peggy’s relatives is in a hospital in Salem so we drove over there for Peggy to do her thing. I did not go into the hospital because I’m currently gimpy and also because there are lots of sick people in there and I don’t want what they have.
After a corkscrew foray through downtown Silverton, a short stop at the florist and the hospital, we thought we were free to spend the rest of the day exploring but reality quickly set in. Therefore, we drove to the local ScabMart and, again, Peggy went in and did the dirty work. Normally it takes both of us quite a while to shop in places like WalMart or Costco; I push the cart and look bored and Peggy hides the list so I can’t see what’s on it. It seemed to me to be the best method we could come up with.
It appears now that I was entirely full of doodoo because Peggy went in, visited all the far-flung but necessary departments, checked out and was out of the store in substantially less time than it takes both of us using my efficient but faulty strategy. Unfortunately, while I was able to avoid unnecessary exposure to contagion at the hospital, Peggy noted that it seemed like multitudes of the folks in WalMart were sneezing and coughing and blowing their noses and hacking, all while in close proximity to my beloved spouse. Both of my anti-sickness policies are in tatters.
We made it back to our trailer and re-stocked the grocery cabinets. We are out of here tomorrow.
This morning we finished up stowing the gear we had put outside our trailer during our long stay at Paradise Campground and hitched the trailer to the truck. We departed from the campground, turned west on WA-12 and headed for I-5. When we got to the freeway, we turned south and settled in for the drive out of Washington, across the Columbia River and into Portland. We have been in Portland before and the traffic was always dreadful so we skirted downtown and headed south on I-205, the truck route that runs on the east side of the city.
The traffic was still moderately horrible but we were fortunate enough to be southbound because the northbound traffic was stopped in orderly rows of idling vehicles for miles. We didn’t see any traffic accidents on the northbound side although there was some abandoned road construction sites limiting lengthy portions of available lanes. According to the news, the horrible northbound traffic all over the Portland area consisted of eclipse viewers slowly making the exodus back to regions where there was not a total eclipse. I have no idea what excuse they give drivers for the miserable traffic on all the other days of the year.
We continued south after joining up with I-5 again south of the Portland metro area which seems to get a lot bigger each time we pass through. Urban sprawl is happening in Multnomah County to the extent that it now involves Multnomah and all the surrounding counties, too.
Near Salem, we turned off the interstate and wandered vaguely eastward to our next destination, Silverton, OR. We really did not have any reasons to visit Silverton other than Peggy has a niece that lives here and the Silver Spur RV Park where we are staying is about halfway between Eugene and Paradise. I am currently under attack from a fat geezer affliction of my left heel and life is temporarily uncomfortable to the extent that I don’t want to exceed more than about 3 hours of discomfort at a time while driving. Peggy has been extraordinarily nice to me during my misery. She is pretty terrifc the rest of the time and I can truly appreciate her taking pity on her old, decrepit spouse and taking over some of the duties, mostly those requiring walking or standing.
Silver Spur is a nice park with maybe 150 spaces that have full utility hookups. The wifi is very good but the cable TV they alleged they have does not work in our space. Fortunately, we have a satellite antenna and a space with an ample southern exposure, required to watch too much TV since one of us is temporarily gimpy and nearly immobile.
The last two days we have spent in Paradise were filled with almost no productive labor because we chose to do the laundry and watch the birds so I won’t bore any readers with detailed descriptions of the nothing we did. But today was our last full day in the Thousand Trails Paradise Campground so we had to do a little. It was also the day of the first total eclipse in the U.S. in more than 30 years. Here in Paradise, we only got to witness a 92% eclipse. Down south in Oregon, there was a big swath across the state where the eclipse was total and that had a detrimental effect on our ability to get reservations anywhere in the state. Small municipal airports, large pastures and county fairgrounds under the swath were filled with camping eclipse devotees. I wonder how many of them got hammered last night and slept through the big event this morning.
Paradise Campground is sort of located in the boonies so we were too disinterested in driving to a store where we could pay too much for approved eclipse viewing glasses. Instead, we poked a hole in a in an Irish Cream cardboard box and watched the progress of the eclipse with a pinhole camera. The images in the pinhole camera were not nearly as colorful or spectacular as the images we were able to see on the idiot box.
We are old so we may not have seen everything but we did notice that it got a lot darker and about 6 or 8 degrees cooler during this showy astronomical event. The birds around the campground seemed to think it was nighttime so they all went home and dummied up.
We were seated right outside the trailer watching the little image in the box when some other full-time RVers named Greg and Rowena accompanied by their large malemute named Sky Bear strolled by our viewing area and we struck up a conversation. These folks ended up staying around for a few hours and beers and glasses of wine. They were only about the third couple we have met in 37 months on the road that were seemingly completely compatible with us. Both of our RVs are headed basically south so maybe we’ll see them again.
After the excitement of the eclipse, we started our chores involving picking up all our stuff and stowing it, dumping the waste tanks, filling the water tank and making it look like we were never here. Peggy zinged through her fun chart pretty quickly which was great because I have been having a run-in with Plantar Fasciitis, a medieval disease afflicting old fat guys and maybe others, and Peggy generously jumped in to help on my chores. I imagine she got tired of my limping around and, because she is a sweetheart, she took the part of the load off this old geezer.
Tomorrow we will pull in the satellite antenna, disconnect the power umbilical, hook the Barbarian Invader to Charlotte’s fifth wheel hitch and bugger off. We are headed to Oregon tomorrow (where there are now ample camping opportunities) for Peg’s nephew’s wedding next weekend.
After a few days of considerable cloudy AM weather, we decided to make a stab at a trip around Mount Rainier to a place called Sunrise. Sunrise is located at 6400’+ on the northeast side of the massive volcano and is only accessible from the east side of the park. Our RV spot is located on the southwest side of the park.
Our route took us up the Cowlitz River on WA-12 until we got to Morton where we turned north on WA-7 to Elbe. In Elbe, we were temporarily detained at a railroad crossing for the mountain version of a steam train ride very similar to the steam train ride we took a few days ago. The ride from Elbe, however, passes through more mountainous terrain. As we drove east from Elbe, we could hear the steam train’s amply loud whistle scaring anything off the tracks.
On our way out of town, we ran across an artist’s sculpture park called Recycled Spirits of Iron. There some artist has re-purposed weighty pieces of iron into a variety of animal and whimsical artworks and it is remarkable how creative the guy is. Not too much further up the road (WA-706), we started the climb into Mount Rainier National Park. It is a spectacular drive through a series of river valleys, old-growth forests and stark, almost black volcanic rock. There are many small and a few large waterfalls visible from the highway.
On today’s trip, we passed by the Paradise area and continued on 706 to WA-123 where we turned north. We drove through some stunning territory (although the roads are extremely lumpy) until we turned off and continued a bit further north on WA-410. Soon, we found the road where we could follow west to Sunrise and hooked a left. The east end of WA-410 from 123 was closed due to forest fires between the junction and Yakima over in central Washington.
The road from WA-410 to Sunrise crosses the White River before angling sharply up. The road is quite narrow, has an abundance of curves, some tunnels, gigantic rock formations hanging over the road and very low speed limits. It also passes through stunning old-growth subalpine forests until it emerges above the treeline into a land of clouds, jagged rock, glaciers and the 8,000 feet taller Mount Rainier. The weather cooperated and cleared up as the day continued and our trip to this highest point one can drive to was terrific. Anyone wishing to go further up Rainier from Sunrise would need to go on foot and it is a long hike.
The sun on the glaciers generated colorful wisps of clouds that were blown sideways in the breeze. The views from Sunrise of all the lower Cascades are great. Above 6,000 feet, there are very few trees but there is a colorful riot of wilflowers. The terrain is very forbidding with volcanism as the culprit. At least 3 glaciers on the north face of Rainier are visible from Sunrise and abundant snowmelt runs down the slopes in jaw-dropping waterfalls and ash-colored streams.
Some 10,000 people try to climb Rainier each year and around half make it to the 14,411 foot summit. Extremely challenging rock climbing followed by lengthy steep trudges across city-sized glaciers and their nasty crevasses is required. The temperature at the top hovers around freezing. Winds can be treacherous and weather changes are extremely rapid. It looks like a place where one would want excellent gear if dying wasn’t on the agenda.
After spending quite a bit of time ogling and having a picnic, we started back down the mountain. We didn’t realize how far we were from home and it took two hours for us to negotiate the squiggly roads, sunken grades, long downslopes and ample scenery as we headed back to our RV park in Silver Creek. We spotted a couple of very tubby elk dining in roadside pastures. We also got passed on the terribly serpentine roads by some of the impatient who were only exceeding the park speed limit of 35 by about 25 mph. They were passing on curves on very narrow roads and we were surprised there was not a setback, like a lane-filling oncoming truck, to kill them. We didn’t get home until dark which is pretty late for geezers like us.
Despite the challenging roads, several prolonged road construction delays and the long distances involved, we can heartily recommend travelling all the roads in this awe-inspiring, majestic place. Assume wherever you go will take all day and you will be fine. Those without a federal access or geezer pass will need to cough up $25 per car for entry. There is very little camping or RV camping in the park. The best bet is to probably stay outside the park and drive in. It would be downright foolish for us to take our 34′ trailer in due to the roads, the climbs and the lack of RV spaces available in this national park.
We shot some pictures and you can see some of the good ones if you click here
I am afraid we were slugs again today and, therefore, I have little to report. Peggy did some sewing with her new 1951 sewing machine and I dumped the waste tanks. The weather has been very cloudy in the mornings for the last few days so we have been reluctant to head into the mountains to see white clouds and little else.
Our next exploring destination will be a trip up Mount Rainier to Sunrise but, with the weather being uncooperative, we have been obliged to do stuff like reading. It’s not too bad. I kinda like it.
We had nothing on the schedule and we completed everything. There was a tough morning with coffee and breakfast in front of Perry Mason on the TV. Peggy and I got the trailer battery out of side cubbyhole and checked the electrolyte level which sounds much more difficult than it is.
In the nearby community of Salkum there is a very nice library with free wifi which works very well. The wifi here at TT Paradise Campground is lousy although free. Since we intended to do a little interweb stuff, we chose to pop over to the library. There we found a wooden picnic table under a big sun shade and we did our blog sending or interfacing or whatever the proper names are. The wifi at the library was very steady and very fast. Ten pictures go up to Google Photos in about 15 seconds. I have not been able to get the Paradise Campground wifi to load one picture in any amount of time.
Our intertube stuff completed, we decided to make a stop at the local Salkum Market where some Haagen Daz ice cream bars somehow found their way into our groceries. I can’t explain it but I bet Peggy can. Our nothing for today completed, we headed back to Paradise Campground where we were treated to another view of the three volcanoes east of us. They are spectacular snow-capped giants in the eastern view.