Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Water, Water, Everywhere

It hadn't occurred to me until I was creating this post that all of our stops on this trip involved water. I like when a theme comes together without much effort.

This was our big yearly vacation, and we had a few different stops planned. [this will be a long post, accordingly, so get a beverage] Our first was an on-the-way stop that enabled me to check off one more state park.

Palouse Falls State Park

Me and the piggie enjoying the view and a leg-stretch.

A shady respite.

There were sunflowers everywhere. Eastern Washington feels more classically western than Western Washington. You follow?

I was just trying to get an up-close shot of a sunflower and never saw this wasp coming in for a landing.

Let's take one more look before we head out. The state park website says this is 198'. The guy who kayaked over it in 2009 says it's 186'. I say, "Foolhardy at any height!"

Our first camping site was Fields Spring State Park, a remote park in the very southeastern corner of the state. This is what remains of the actual spring. 

Although it's categorized as remote because it is 30 miles to amenities and there are no RV hookups, it is bordered by beautiful farmlands. 

You could rent one of two teepee sites if that's what you fancied. Since the area is known for lots of bears, we did not fancy that.


We took a sunset hike up Puffer Butte, so named for the Puffer pioneer family, not because of the huffing and puffing of climbing up. The story behind this picture is that I set the timer on the camera and took off running to get in the shot. Except that I didn't see the big rock right in front of me and went flying over it into the dirt. Fortunately, the dirt was quite soft and rather deep. Unfortunately, I fell out of range of the camera, and didn't get what was probably a hilarious shot of me taking a major digger.

There was a large woodstove-equipped warming shelter at the top, used more often during winter for the snow shoers and cross-country skiers. 

A Slouthe of Beerys lined up on the windowsill of the shelter. These were the only bears we saw.

 We matched the sunset hike with a sunrise hike up a different trail.

We started early, but should've started even earlier since we missed the sunrise proper.

The light was still beautiful, though.

Trail sign looking very much like a...grave marker. I wonder if there's a Puffer under there. Probably tripped on a big rock.

Top o' the butte to ya!

After our climb back down, it was time to pack up and head out. We really enjoyed this park -- so restful. Well, except for the mice. On the second day, I found two of Zuli's dog biscuits in one of the kitchen drawers and thought The Big Guy had put them there. But that night, we heard the critters moving biscuits around. We secured them better the next night. When we were packing up, we found two more biscuits hidden away in the back compartment. Crafty mouses! The lovely camp hostess told us about Fresh Cab, which we picked up enroute to our next location. No more meeses!

Wallowa Lake State Park, Oregon, our final destination. How do you pronounce Wallowa? We were saying wuh-LOW-uh. The camp hosts at Fields Spring said WAH-low-uh. The radio station near the park said wull-OW-uh. However you choose to say it, it is a much bigger park than we'd been to previously in the RV, still pretty packed for the time of year, although we reluctantly came to the realization that we have now joined the ranks of the "older" crowd. All of the people in RV's were mostly older than us; those in tents were younger, and there were far more RV's than tents. Very few children (which is why we take our big vacation in September each year.) Everyone has at least one dog.

It was still hot on the afternoon we arrived, and we took turns having a little swim in the lake. This lake is famous for being extraordinarily clear and clean, and until quite recently, it was the direct water source for the surrounding area -- unfiltered. It was also quite cold, and our first swim was our last swim since the weather turned much cooler after our arrival.

 It was warm enough the second day for some kayaking, though.

There were several floating platforms along the east side of the lake, and we paddled to the nearest one. Obviously, the birds had beaten us to it. 

There was, of course, lots of hiking in the area. We started with the Chief Joseph trail, just a little 2 miler (well, 4 since you have to count the walk up the main road to the trail head.)

 This was called the Iron Bridge although it was made of wood. I don't pretend to understand some things.

 I wasn't really tired.

 Looking down on the lake.

Where the trail ends, but if you look across the river, you can see the remains of the bridge that used to be. Had it still been, the trail would've connected to the campground.

 There was a wildfire in the canyon about 8 miles south of the park. Two days into our stay, the helicopters came, and we could walk down to the lake to watch them load up their buckets.


 This was an attempt to find the trail to the high south meadow. We basically climbed straight up a hillside for about an hour, which was really not much fun at all.

I liked this sitting part the best.

 We got good views of the 'copters, though.

 The other thing this park is famous for are the abundant deer that are, obviously, unafraid of humans. This was the biggest of a group of three bucks that were ever-present. He parked himself behind this RV in the sun. I guess those antlers were heavy.

One of his friends parked himself under the RV's awning. When the campers returned home, they had to step over him to get inside. He barely even looked at them. A little while later, he got up and wandered over to the neighbor's, where he helped himself to he contents of the dog food bowl.

 The wildfire left us only one other option for hiking, and that was a 13-mile round trip to Aneroid Lake. Isn't that a terrible name for a wilderness lake? It means "without water." For a lake.  Plus it just sounds ugly.

 The Big Guy paid a neighboring tent-camper, a nice feller named James, to give us a ride up to the trail head. It was cold when we started. Freezing temps, actually.

 But the steady climb warmed us up.

 2.2 miles in at the dam.

 We're on the right track!

 In the last mile to the lake, finally not climbing so much. The alpine meadows were so pretty.

I know I look lovely here, but it's the only picture of the lake** you're going to get.

Elk cow having a snack.
 One of a group of grouse. It may have been a covey, but I have no idea if it was a single family or not.

Down we go. It was much faster than up. Probably because there was a delicious milkshake waiting at the shake shack with my name on it.

**as it turns out, we missed Aneroid Lake by 1000' of flat walking. Where we stopped and lunched was actually Rogers Lake. We thought at the time that it wasn't very impressive-looking for such a hike destination, but it sure looked like the right place to sun on the rocks by some water. Google maps, once home, proved us wrong. My shin splints say I still did one hell of a hike and earned that shake.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Beacon Rock State Park

With a school break between quarters and some great weather in the forecast, it was time for our first outing in the Destiny, and we chose Beacon Rock S.P. for the honor.

 There are only 5 hookup sites at this park, and you can't reserve them, so we were taking our chances.

Zuzu checks out the road up to the RV campground. Will there be a space for us?

 There was a space! Three left, in fact, but it was good we got there early because by day's end, they were all spoken for. What you can't see in the this picture are the railroad tracks right behind us. I had read that the tracks were close; I had no idea that "close" meant about 25 feet. And the trains ran all the time, but at least they didn't blow their whistles right in the park, and it really wasn't as bad as it sounds, especially since we didn't hang out at the RV all day. This first trip was illuminating, seeing all the ways people camp and how much you learn about them in the quick conversations as you come and go. The ladies next door had been living in their RV for two years, following the sun up and down the west coast. There was the couple who arrived shortly after us, he planting the American flag minutes after arrival, then both setting up their lawn chairs and proceeding to sit outside with their cocktails for two days, no walking or exploring to be seen. Across the way was a disabled veteran lady (free State Park camping for life) who had two outdoor cats that miraculously stayed around her campsite, and who lives permanently in her camper, traveling around to her favorite parks. The cocktail couple was replaced after a few days by a monster RV with three slide-outs, two cars, and five people, who set up the most amazing outdoor camp that left us wondering what they could've possibly left at home. While it was fun to "spy" on the other campers, we had places to go and things to see!

 This park is divided into two sections. The RV sites, boat launch, and this 1.2 mile trail being in one. We walked this trail at least once every day.

 It was pretty and peaceful, and you could see Beacon Rock across the field.

It had interpretive signs and benches along the way, and here you see me performing a Tick Check on the pup. 

 Wonderful evening stroll.

 Early each morning, we would walk down to the dock with our coffee and tea.

 There were lots of things to see before most people were up, like this blue heron, and

 this Merganser momma with her brood. I like the one hitching a ride! The signs said to watch for harbor seals, and we watched and watched but never did get to see one. We did see a beaver on our last morning, and there were plenty of bald eagles, buzzards, ducks, and osprey -- a couple times we even saw them flying over with their seafood catch clutched in their talons.

On to the hiking, the mainstay of all our outings, and we began with the namesake. But first, a funny story.

Because the two sections of the park are divided and because we don't have a separate traveling vehicle, we had to hoof it to the main park about a mile away in order to access the hiking trails. This entailed a take-your-life-in-your-hands dash across a road bridge that had no shoulders on a curvy highway with cars, campers, and semi trucks. With a dog on a leash and backpacks too boot. The day before our first attempt, we "practiced" by running up an equivalent distance on the RV park road and timing ourselves and the traffic on the main road to see how long we had to make the dash. It was frighteningly hysterical. It was determined that we had 10 seconds. On the day of the first Mad Dash, The Big Guy walked down the road to the curve where he could signal me and the pup to start our dash, then he had to make the dash on his own while we waited and sweated and yelled, "Go, go, GO!!!" Obviously, we all made it. This may explain why some people don't leave the RV campground.

OK. Now about that hiking...

This is Beacon Rock. It is the very old core of a very old volcano. As with all tall things, someone at some point decided that getting to the top of it was crucial, and a trail was made.


 This is near the beginning of said trail.

It was a scary trail for someone like me who is terribly afraid of heights. I'm also terribly determined, so up, Fraidy Cat!

The trailblazers were considerate and made these nice walkways with railings. Fraidy-cats like these things.

They also added some whimsical touches.

I was told the view behind me was nice. I didn't see it until this picture.

 The Big Guy, who is not afraid. At least that's what he claims.

 Looking down on the boat launch and the field trail area.

 The mighty Columbia River.

 Enjoying the view. Looking at this makes me feel a little pukey. Dodging semis on the road was less frightening.

We made it! Going back down wasn't scary for me at all. I don't know why that is, but I was glad for it.

We weren't done hiking for the day, though, and we headed up to see the falls and the pool.

Hardy Falls was kind of a dud from the trail we took, but here it is anyway. The view of Rodney Falls from our trail wasn't much better, but...

Pool of the Winds was kind of amazing. Here I go -- slowly due to the terror of possibly losing my grip on the wet railing and sliding under and down the falls which are off to my right. But if you wanna see what's in there making all that mist, you have to venture out. I was too scared to try to get a picture, but when it was The Big Guy's turn, here's what was in there:

A very cool waterfall making a pool in the rocks! I couldn't help but wonder who the first person was to walk out on those rocks to look into that alcove. Or how in the world they built the railings. Thinking of those things also makes me feel a little pukey, so I don't ponder them too long.

Some rain moved in that night and early the next morning making our dock trek a bit gray and cool, but it made for a relaxing start to the day, and it burned off by late morning. 

 We stayed in the lower park all day, enjoying the views by the dock.

 and being warm in the sun

and relaxing at the campsite with a good book. 

We needed the rest because not only did we have to make the heart-stopping road-run again the next morning, we had a big hike planned again.

 This is taken from the field path, but if you notice the first peak from the left, that's where we were on this hike. Eventually. Once we got to the main park, we had to walk up the paved road for a couple miles to the trail head. Then we had to walk up to the equestrian camp. Then the actual trail continued up. Then up. Then around a corner.  Then up. Not steep, usually, just up. I don't like up, but I tried not to complain. It was hard.

 When we came upon this section, The Big Guy exclaimed, "It's like a fairy tale!" When I was done laughing, I took this picture. There were also a lot of wildflowers that (kind of) made it worthwhile. I never wanted a sugary soda pop so badly, and, of course, we didn't have any in the RV nor was there anywhere in the park to get such a thing. This made me crabby.

A view of Mt. Hood in Oregon from the top. Not too bad. I guess. 

Once we got back to the main park, we noticed the Ranger station was finally open. I think business was slow because no sooner had I stepped inside than a ranger sprang to the half-door of the office scaring the hell out of me by yelling, "HI!!!" Once I had recovered, we chatted a bit, and he told us about the trail between the RV park and the Rock that was scheduled to open in two more weeks, but hush-hush, we could use it now and avoid the possibility of becoming road-kill.


We had seen the entrance to this trail from the bottom of the road up to the RV park, but it was cordoned off, and being rule-abiding campers, we didn't dare to breech it. Following the rules shouldn't be more dangerous than breaking them. That's what I think. Then again, we wouldn't have the funny story of practicing to out-run traffic. 

When we got back to camp, we had new neighbors. We knew this for certain when one of the guys shouted to us from behind his big boat, "You got new neighbors while you were gone!" Then he asked if we had any extra paper plates. He offered me a beer in exchange. "Ohhhh," I said, sensing a miracle about to occur, "do you have a POP?!" 

He did, and also a side of smoked salmon. That was the best pop I ever had.

The next morning, we hobbled on sore legs to the dock, then back to pack up for the drive home. We stopped off at Paradise Point State Park on the way, hoping for a short walk to stretch our legs and check off another state park from the list. We needn't have bothered. The parking lot -- and really the whole park -- is directly under I-5, which means it's not Paradise at all. There was a lovely older couple scooting around in their golf cart serving as park hosts who had pockets-full of doggie food, so Zuli thought it was the best park ever, but there was really no good parking for day-users, so we left.

The baby was tired of walking anyhow.