Monday, July 23, 2018

Diamond Lake Redeux.

We were back on our old stomping grounds at Diamond Lake, OR and we had a fantastic time with friends and family. But first a quick recap of our trip down, since we hit two new (to us) campgrounds. We spent our first night on the road, Sunday, 7/8, at Memaloose State Park near Mosier, OR. The campground was nestled between I84 and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, so while there were beautiful views of the Columbia, there was no river access. (Sorry, Riley!)

You can look, but not touch!
Great views of the Columbia, but alas, no river access.

Our second night was spent at Oregon’s LaPine State Park. This place was a definite winner. A spacious, shady campground with easy access to the Deschutes River for AquaDog (yes, we have our own soggy superhero!), a novice-friendly mountain bike path that even I could manage, and a ton of interesting things to do in the area that we didn’t have time to explore. LaPine goes on our list for a longer return visit!

Deschutes River - we really want to spend more time here, preferably in the kayaks! :) 

Riley in superhero mode - AQUADOG! 

A mountain bike trail so easy even I could do it! 

Ahhhhh Diamond Lake. Lots of memories here. We pulled in on Tuesday, 7/10 and set up camp for 10 days of hiking, biking, kayaking, campfires, mosquito swatting, over-eating, relaxing, and general camping fun. My brother Tim, with his mastiff Brody and friend Mike are in the space next to us and friends Mikey and Glen with their boy, Prince, are setup just a short stroll away.

Tim, Mike, Glen and Mikey


Tell me that doesn't look like a bear in the tree! Lol.

Rog & Riley enjoying our new mosquito-proof screen room. 

Mikey makes chicken and dumplings the old fashioned way. Awesome!

My two favorite guys enjoying the sunset.

We managed to cram a lot into our stay, sometimes doing things together and other times splitting up for different activities. We did the paved bike trail around the lake twice – always a high point of the trip since we get beautiful views of Mt. Thielsen and stop at the resort for no-guilt ice cream (ok, reduced guilt 😊).

Working for that ice cream!

Mt. Thielsen and Silent Creek - two of my favorite views from the bike path.

The weather has been spectacular – usually high 80’s during the day, with just one day when a thunderstorm and rain moved through. The warm temps made for fun time on the water. We took the kayak out three times this week. Rog decided not to fish, so we just enjoyed paddling around. This was Mike’s first time in a kayak and I’m pretty sure we have a convert.

Rog relaxing on the water.

Perfect day on the lake!

Tim and Mike kayaking. It was Mike's first time out. 

Yes, I think Mike is a convert. 

I had hoped to get Riley in the kayak too, but that didn’t work out this trip. While we didn’t get him on the lake, he certainly spent enough time in the lake! We found a perfect swim beach for him and made nearly daily pilgrimages to “Riley’s Beach” where he has splashed and played and generally wore himself out…. AND he learned to SWIM!  Mastiffs don’t float very well and when they swim all you can see is the top of their head and a nose above the water. We call them Crocadogs. 😊 Watching that pure puppy joy was easily one of the highlights of the week.

Mastiff or Orca??

Fun in the water and the Crocadog learns to swim!

More puppy joy!

Such a handsome boy!

The floating squeaky toy kind of ruins the majesty of the moment. Lol. 

On Saturday, the six of us hiked to the top of Tipsoo Peak. It was a little over six miles, three straight up and then three back down. Mikey and Glen took Prince along, but we left Riley and Brody back at camp since they are not fond of hiking in the heat. Prince even had packs to carry his own water and snacks – we gotta get Riley outfitted to do that!

Prince is stylin'!

Mt. Thielsen on the left, Mt. Bailey on the right, and Diamond Lake in the middle.

Craggy awesomeness.

Happy Hikers!

Mike can't resist making a snow angel in July.
I was content to throw snowballs at my youngest sibling. (Got him too!)

One of the things we love about Diamond Lake is the sky at night. It is so dark and the stars are amazing. At dusk the bats are swooping all around and we encourage them to gobble up as many of the mosquitos as they can hold. What we don’t encourage are batty visitors in our RV, but sometimes you gotta go with the flow. About 4pm Rog pulled the bedroom shade down and out flies a bat! Our best guess is that he came in the open window the previous night and slept all day tucked up behind the window shade. Rog and I tried herding him out the open window, but he just flew in circles around the bedroom. Unhappy with his welcome, he decides to hide behind the bedroom slide out of reach of the screeching humans. We gave up and figured he’d come out when he’s ready… which he did a few hours later. This time Rog managed to show him the open door and convince him that dinner was outside. Quite the exciting visit!

Moonrise over Mt. Bailey. 

Our uninvited guest. 

Rog tackled 20 miles of the North Umpqua Trail on his mountain bike on Sunday. Specifically, the very aptly named section called “Dread and Terror.” He claimed he had a great time but managed to come home a tad scuffed and worse for the wear. I told him he is not the best PR person for this whole mountain biking thing! Lol. He did get to see some gorgeous scenery and fantastic waterfalls, but portions of the trail were just crazy – narrow with steep drop offs, slippery rocks, and in some places he was literally riding downhill in flowing water! Nope, nope, nope.

Rog sets off to tackle Dread and Terror.

The scenery is hard to beat along the trail.

Love the mossy streams and waterfalls.

So beautiful and yet to get here....

... you have to tackle this. It is not a stream, it is the trail!
Slippery rocks and running water on a steep downhill. Nope!

Rog spent some time soaking in the cold lake after his ride, so the next step for recovery was finding a place for a hot soak. And we had just the spot on our radar. About 30 minutes or so from Diamond Lake are the very popular Umpqua Hot Springs. In all the years we’ve been coming to Diamond Lake, we’ve never visited the hot springs. Time to remedy that!

The hike up to the hot springs is short, only .3 miles, but it is very steep. The hot springs are channeled into a series of seven pools terraced into the hillside above the Umpqua River. The largest pool has a shelter built over it that provides shade. Luckily, the shaded pool was available or we wouldn’t have lasted long sitting in 105˚ water in the direct sun on an 86˚ day. As it was, only a few folks came and went, it turns out midday wasn’t a bad choice to avoid the crowds. 

It was a staircase made out of tree roots. Do you see Rog up there?

You can see four of the seven pools on the hillside above the Umpqua River.

We spent most of our time in the pool under the shelter, thankful for the shade.

Rog checks out one of the sunny pools - too hot!

Two more pools, yes this is definitely worth a return trip!

It really is true time flies when you’re having fun and our days at Diamond Lake sped by. We left on Friday, 7/20 and took a different route home, skirting the forest fires along Hwy 97 and spending a night at Maryhill State Park on the Columbia gorge.

This time Riley did get to play in the Columbia River. I have a feeling his little wading pool at home is going to be a letdown after all the lake and river time he’s been getting. Maybe Riley can convince Daddy to put in a pond! Lol.  For our last night Tim & I emptied out our refrigerators and the main entrΓ©e was leftovers, we call it “Smorgasbord Night.” 😊 We also hit the local fruit stand and gorged on fresh peaches, cherries and corn on the cob. Yum!

Riley does the Columbia, he did not waste his last chance to play in the water.

We made it home Saturday afternoon and started the (not so) fun chore of unpacking and cleaning the RV and getting her ready for bed. We don’t have any more trips planned (yet!), but who knows what we’ll be up to next. We’ll keep you posted.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Last Stop for Biking, Brews and Then Home Again.

We were totally pumped to end our trip with a stop in Bend, OR. One of these days we really need to plan for a couple of weeks there – two days is just a tease. We arrived at Tumalo State Park, just four miles outside of Bend, on Memorial Day. The day use area of Tumalo is right on the Deschutes River and the combination of holiday and hot, sunny weather brought out the crowds. Happily, there are miles of River Trail to explore and we found plenty of little side trails that led to the water so Riley got in his aquatic play time.

Deschutes River.

Riley in the river.

One of the things Rog loves about Bend is the extensive system of first-rate mountain bike trails. Another is the equally impressive array of superb breweries. Crux is one of our favorites, and we enjoyed their Sundowner Hour Monday evening. Crux has a great dog-friendly outdoor area set up with games, food trucks, and the most amazing fire pit. Even with all the kids and chaos, Riley did great and was a total charmer and magnet for attention and pets. We returned on Tuesday evening, but it was decidedly cooler and Riley stayed home so we could sit inside.

Riley oversees the Crux Sundowner.

Daddy will share his snacks, but not his beer.

Mommy prefers a spot by the fire.

Isn't this the coolest fire pit?

On Tuesday, Rog rode 18 miles on the trails (up the Ben and down the Phil Trail – me, I prefer Ben & Jerry’s 😊). He had a blast. On the up side he totally enjoyed the well designed and maintained single track with lots of fast swoopy curves under the trees. On the down side he did not take a single picture! Since it’s more fun to ride than dig out the camera, he agreed to take pictures whenever he stopped (either to rest or after a crash). No Neosporin needed on this ride and since it was a relatively easy climb uphill and lots of fast, fun curves on the downhill we have no pictures to share. Sorry. Although we have no photographic evidence, I promise we did more than just hang out at Crux! Honest! Lol. 

We were in no hurry to leave on Wednesday and took time for another walk along the Deschutes River. We had the trail all to ourselves and Riley got some off-leash river time. We pulled out just before the 1pm check out time and overnighted at the French Prairie rest stop in Aurora, OR.

Look, it's an Otter Pup. :) 

Riley's water park. :)

We made it home Thursday afternoon on May 31st. Our daughter Rian was housesitting and had spent two days cleaning before we arrived. The house was spotless, and I really thought hard about not letting anyone through the front door. 😊 Sigh. It didn’t take long before the floor was drool spotted, dog hair was drifting in the air, and ten loads of laundry were piled in the hall. Ahhhhh. Home sweet home.

Home is where you park it (in more ways than one).

So, what where the stats for this trip? We were gone 78 days and traveled 3212 miles. We visited two National Parks (Pinnacles and Death Valley) and one National Monument (John Day Fossil Beds). We moochdocked with family for 12 nights and boondocked for 15 nights. The remainder of our time was spent in state parks, BLM and Forest Service campgrounds, county and private parks. It’s impossible to pick a favorite place because each one had its appeal and they were all different. We loved the national parks for the scenery and hiking (Death Valley is just incredible!), for relaxation the hot springs were amazing, and for camp time boondocking is a top contender.

We did have a few hiccups on the road – Riley’s emergency vet visit, my dead computer, the trashed RV tire, and my much-loved and well-used camera finally bit the dust. Luckily, all it took was time, liverwurst, and lots of cash to get everything back on track. 😊

Our next trip is already planned for July, back to Diamond Lake in Oregon for biking, kayaking, and campfires with family and friends. In the meantime, we have lots of yard work and home maintenance to catch up on. We want to spend time with Rian before she returns to Sacramento and we have Riley’s first birthday to celebrate! We’ll keep you posted!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Who was John Day anyway?

We are camped just outside the town of John Day at a state park along the John Day River and I’m super hyped about our visit to the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. Who was this guy anyway? I was thinking maybe an early explorer, statesman, or scientist. Must be somebody important, right? Actually, no. In fact, he’d probably rather not be so well known. 

In 1812, John Day was camped where the Mah-hah River meets the Columbia when he was robbed of all his belongings, including his clothes. He was rescued by a party of trappers headed to the trading post in Astoria, OR. John Day, and the story, became well known. Whenever someone would pass the site of the incident, they’d point out where John Day had been robbed. Soon the Mah-hah River became known as the John Day River. Which in turn gave its name to the town and the fossil beds. Go figure. There's your history lesson for today. :)

The John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is comprised of three units (Sheep Rock, Clarno, and the Painted Hills) that are a couple hours drive apart. From Clyde Holliday State Park outside of John Day (the town) we hit the Sheep Rock Unit, which is the largest of the three. Since this unit also has the visitors center and longest hiking trails (about 5 miles total) we left Riley to nap in air-conditioned comfort. We stopped first at the Mascall Overlook and then did the Blue Basin hike. The colors of the mud (very green!) and the rocks (blue, green, yellow and cream) were fascinating. Erosion has revealed the different colored layers, each representing distinct geological events and eras. It’s like a multi-hued layer cake millions of years in the making!

Mascall Overlook.

Blue Basin.

Facial anyone?
That green mud looks just like a clay face mask I once used. :)

This hill is really GREEN - the photos don't do it justice.

Love the layers.

Green hills in front, bright red behind.

Racing the rain. Thunderstorm heading our way.

Cathedral Rock.

Another interesting trip back into more recent history is the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site in the town of John Day. Chinese immigrants flocked to the area for work on the railroad and in the mines. In the 1880’s, John Day had the third largest population of Chinese immigrants in the country. In the face of tremendous racial bigotry, violence, and discrimination, two immigrants (Ing Hay and Lung On) established Kam Wah Chung & Co, a successful dry goods store, herbalist shop, and import business. When the mining boom ended, most of the immigrants moved on, but they stayed. They lived for 60 years in the same building and became respected members of the community.

Lung On died in 1940. In 1948, Ing Hay locked up the building for what was supposed to be a temporary stay in a nursing home, but he never returned. The building and all its contents remained frozen in time. Now a State Heritage Site, the treasure trove of artifacts, personal records, and letters includes one of the largest collections of Chinese herbal medicines in the US. Their records are still being translated from Cantonese and reveal a fascinating and challenging way of life. It was especially fun for me to see a whole building full of the period antiques I routinely buy and sell just as they were when Lung On locked the door in the 1940’s.

This unassuming little building is really a time machine!

It's like walking into the 1940's. So cool!

Coffee or tea?

The very interesting and popular apothecary specializing in Chinese herbal remedies.

Thursday was a Riley day and we took him to Magone Lake to play. With shaded trails and water to splash in, this was his idea of a fun outing!

Magone Lake.

Shade and water, Riley approves!

Busy Beavers!

What do you see, Riley?

Friday, 5/25, we moved to a boondocking site on Burnt Ranch Road outside of Mitchell, OR. That evening we had the whole area all to ourselves. Saturday it looked like Woodstock! There must have been at least 7 or 8 other campers set up. Then Sunday we were totally alone again. It was hilarious. Riley liked playing in the stream and we enjoyed the quiet and solitude – at least on two out of three nights. Lol.

Campfire buddies.

From our spot near Mitchell, we drove to the Clarno Unit. Since it was a couple hours each way and Riley was still being squirrely in the back of the CRV, we decided to try him in the back seat. He settled right down. He likes resting his chin on the center console between us; typical mastiff, if he’s outside of touching distance he’s not happy.

The Clarno Unit had a few short hiking trails and Riley got to come along. The trails were in the sun, steep, and there was no water anywhere. Riley wasn’t a fan.

Hike to the Palisades.

Clarno Arch.

On Sunday we finally made it to the Painted Hills. Actually we went three times. :) This area is one I was really looking forward to seeing. Fossils are cool, but I just fell in love with the vibrant colors and air-brushed look of the Painted Hills. It’s a small unit, so you can see everything in a couple hours. We took Riley in the morning and did the drive through and shorter hikes. Then we dropped him off at the coach and Rog and I returned to do the longer Carroll Rim Trail. It was only 1.6 miles, but Riley wouldn't have been happy. The trail was a lot like the Clarno Unit (hot, steep and dry) but the views were spectacular. Then I returned around sunset to see if the evening light made a difference. The light did bring out the colors a little more and the shadows highlighted the contours. Definitely worthwhile. The only downside – I now have about 150 pictures to show you! Lol.

Red Hill.

Check out the lavender at Painted Cove.

A lovely lake is just outside the park boundaries.

The Painted Hills.

Not all the awesome views are inside the park.
The hillside next to this field is a work of art.

Another roadside vista - basalt cliffs framed by colorful hills.

Back in the park, view from the Carroll Rim Trail.

Another shot looking down from the Rim Trail.

Third time's the charm. Let's see how it looks in the evening light.


Full moon above the hills.

Last one, I promise! :) 

Our next stop is Tumalo State Park outside of Bend, OR. We managed to snag reservations for Memorial Day and the day after. Rog is hyped about the mountain biking trails and visiting Crux, one of his favorite breweries. Should be fun!