Hoppin’ In Washington

Hops Panarama

We’re on the road after our summer at Farragut State Park.  Our original plan was to head over to Missoula and the Bitterroot Valley to visit friends, then head south over Lost Trail Pass back into Idaho.  But winter arrived early, and faced with snow and temperatures in the low 20s, we decided instead to head south and spend a week in the Tri-Cities (Richland, Pasco, and Kennewick).  This is Washington’s wine country, and the landscape is covered with vineyards.  Signs for wineries, all with exotic names, are at every interstate exit.

We decided to visit Toppinish, a small town that actually sits in the Yakima Indian Reservation (and of course has a casino).  The town is a bit haggard, but the buildings are covered with beautiful murals depicting the history of the area.  Driving through town is like touring an art museum – some of the murals are quite impressive:Toppinish Murals

What makes this area unique are the “hopfields”, endless rows of poles, now bare, that Hop Frames1support the wire structure that the hop vines (“Bines”) climb on before spilling down.   This area produces more hops than any other area in the world; the 300 days of sun, moderate climate, and rich soil make it perfect for hops.  And with over 5300 breweries in the U.S. alone, the fields are expanding each year.  An interesting article can be found here.

Throughout the valley Mount Adams, far away in the Cascades, dominates the skyline with a ghostly snow-covered look:Mt Adams

Pendleton ViewFrom the Tri-Cities, we headed south along the interstate to Pendleton where we stayed at an RV Resort at a…..casino.  Starting to see a pattern here?  Pendleton looked interesting from a distance, but was a bit disappointing when we drove Pendleton Rodeo Arenathe main streets.  Sometimes “historic” means old, although some streets downtown were filled with restaurants and shops.  It’s also the home of Pendleton Mills, but we didn’t take the tour since the cost of a Pendleton Blanket approaches our annual income.  We did drive past the rodeo grounds, home of the famous Pendleton Rodeo, quiet this time of year.

A place we’ve always wanted to visit but never had the opportunity is the area around Wallowa (“wal-OW-ah”) lake.  Described as the “Swiss Alps of Oregon”, it’s location in the far Northeastern corner of the state, with only a couple of secondary roads leading to it, keeps it from being overrun by tourists.  Mostly.  It was a 110 mile trip from Pendleton over the Blue Mountains into Joseph at the head of the lake, but oh my, was it worth it.

Farm and Blue MountainsAs we drove the valley toward Joseph, the snow-covered Wallowa Mountains provided a beautiful background to the farms along the road.  The clouds were obscuring much of the mountain, but even still, it was a beautiful view.Clouds and Mountains

Joseph turned out to be a picture-perfect little town.  Lots of shops and restaurants, tree lined streets, and mountains in the distance.Joseph Main StreetCowboy Sculpture

Driving through town brought us to the lake and this beautiful view:

Wallowa Lake

Following the road around the east side of the lake brought us to the edge of the state park and this overlook:

Wallowa Lake Shore

The state park is large and has full hookup sites, so we’re planning on a stay sometime in the future.  While exploring the park, we crossed a rushing stream filled with bright red Kokanee Salmon, getting ready to spawn:

Kokanee Salmon

We’ve crossed the Trail of the Nez Perce since our first stay in Montana 13 years ago.  From the Clearwater Basin, the White Bird battlefield, Fort “Fizzle”, The Battle of the Big Hole”, and the Bear Paw battlefield.  So we were interested and surprised to find the grave site of Chief Joseph here overlooking the lake.  Chief Joseph was an inspiring and eloquent leader; his speech of “I will fight no more forever” was a sad ending to a proud people’s last attempt at freedom.Chief Joseph Grave

We’re currently spending a week in Boise at one of our favorite stops, Gowen Field National Guard Base campground.   From here we’ll head back into Oregon for our slow trip back to the Bandon on the Oregon coast.  Until then, we’ll be exploring along the way do check back and see what we’ve been up to!

 

 

A Tour de Park

We started this blog fourteen years ago as a travel diary; the trouble is that we haven’t done much traveling in the last two months. But it’s also served as an aide to help us remember what we’ve done since we’ve been on the road so long we can’t always remember. So with that in mind, and in the hope of educating others on just what it means to volunteer at a state park as an interpretive host, here’s what we’ve been doing this summer:

This is our second consecutive year here, something we’ve never done at another location. Why? The best host site ever, a great location, and an interesting job working for an amazing volunteer coordinator. But first, the park:

We started this blog fourteen years ago as a travel diary; the trouble is that we haven’t done much traveling in the last two months. But it’s also served as an aide to help us remember what we’ve done since we’ve been on the road so long we can’t always remember. So with that in mind, and in the hope of educating others on just what it means to volunteer at a state park as an interpretive host, here’s what we’ve been doing this summer:

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Pot Luck

A park this size requires a large staff – and there are lots of folks involved. Besides a ranger, maintenance, and administrative staff, the park has over 50 resident volunteers. There are camp hosts in each campground, museum hosts, kiosk hosts, special project and maintenance hosts, hosts for the disk golf courses, and more. Unlike other parks we’ve been at, many volunteers return year after year – once couple has returned this year for the 18th year! The big benefit from having all these people is of course the potlucks! We typically have four tables of food plus two more for desserts!

Our job is to develop and put on the weekend evening programs and hold a Junior Ranger class

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Saturday at the Amphitheater

on Saturday. We decide what our subjects will be, develop and print the program flyers, and post them at 17 locations throughout the park. On program nights we set up our equipment at the amphitheater and provide visitors with a mixture of interactive activities and nature and historical videos; everything from “Bill Nye the Science Guy” to teaching the principals of “Leave No Trace”. We truly enjoy meeting families from all over the country and entertaining them and and especially their children.

On Saturday we have a 3 hour class for Junior Rangers at the museum, where kids can “feel” the furs of Northern Idaho Predators and make a craft, usually corresponding to the night’s movie. One Saturday we made “Moose” hats for over 60 children – the kids looked so cute!

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We enjoy Monday mornings when we print and distribute our program flyers. It gives us the opportunity to cruise the park and chat with the hosts. We check out a truck from the shop, visit the visitor center to print flyers for the counter display, host distribution, and kiosks, then hit the road, visiting the park facilities and campgrounds.

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We start at the main entrance where the “Camps Full” sign has been up since mid-June. Prior to the visitor center, there’s a welcome kiosk where the hosts welcome visitors, issue day passes, and direct RVs to parking for registration.

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Paul and Doris at the entry kiosk

This year the park expanded one of the loops with 30 full-hookup sites, and created a berm along the road to shield the sites. Wildflowers were planted, and quickly bloomed into a dazzling display of color:

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We drop off flyers at the Brig Museum, one of the only remaining buildings of the 776 that were built here during WWII. The museum is housed in two of the four cell blocks, and has a number of interesting exhibits. On one wall is the sign-in book for any of the over 290,000 recruits that trained here. It’s sad to look at the books and see how each year the signatures are fewer than the year before. The park once held an annual reunion, but the number of WWII vets has dwindled to the point that it’s no longer feasible.

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It’s always interesting when driving through the campgrounds to see what type of RVs or tents are being used. The park has four campgrounds and they’re all different. Whitetale, the oldest, is a no-hookup campground in the woods. Snowberry, the next oldest, has 30A electric and water. Waldren is newer with paved sites and 50A and water and has four loops. Gilmour, the newest, has loops of both 50A and water and full-hookup sites. The one thing all the sites have in common is space – all of the sites are widely separated and have some shade; an uncommon benefit in an age where spaces are crammed together to make more money.

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The camp host sites are all large and full-hookup. One of the features of this park is that everyone, including camp hosts, rangers, and visitor center, have a radio. Any problems or complaints with campers are quickly radioed in and handled by one of the on-patrol rangers, who work late into the night.

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One of the most popular places in the park during the summer is Beaver Bay Beach. Years ago, the park sculpted a small bay out of the lake and covered it with sand. Since it’s shallow the water temperature warms up; on the lake side of the beach the water is 800′ deep (and cold)! There’s a nice bathhouse and parking for 160 vehicles – which is often full.

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Driving around the park gives us a chance to view some of the wildlife that lives here. There are numerous deer, flocks of wild turkey, badger, coyote, and bobcat. With over 4000 acres, much of it wildlife management area, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a black bear or mountain lion, and we even had a few moose sightings earlier this year. On a recent drive, we came across this coyote pup – such a beautiful pup!

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We’ll be here until mid-September, which gives us the chance to organize and prepare our programs for next year. After that, we’re planning on slow travel through Montana, Idaho’s Sawtooth Valley, and up into eastern Oregon. So check back with us, we’re looking forward to new territory and….new restaurants!

Farragut State Park

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We’re at our summer home in Northern Idaho at Farragut State Park. Parked under tall pines next to beautiful Lake Pend Oreille, we’re looking forward to a busy season leading hikes, teaching children, and conducting evening programs.

We’ve never returned to the same park in consecutive years, but this park and our role as interpretive hosts are so enjoyable that we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to return. At a bit over 4000 acres, this large park has 45 miles of trails, over 270 campsites, some with full hookups, 4 disc golf courses, group camps, day use areas, beach, museum, boat launch, and the “Tree to Tree Adventure“. With a large staff of volunteers, what makes this place special is the ranger in charge of volunteers and interpretive programs. She manages to keep all of us grumpy senior citizens happy and is a joy to work with.

We had a great trip here from the Oregon Coast. We traveled over the Coastal Range to the Willamette Valley, then over the Siskiyou Mountains to Redmond where we spent a few days exploring Bend and the surrounding area. We stayed at the Redmond Fairgrounds, a great park with long concrete pads and full hookups. From there we drove up to the Mount Bachelor ski area, which in late April still had lots of snow, especially in the parking lots. It surprised us that the parking lots were full on a midweek day, but then Bend is a place where outdoor activities are a priority; everywhere we drove in Bend there were hikers, bikers, and walkers and almost every one had a dog. We had planned to take the scenic loop around Mt Bachelor, but quickly realized that even with all wheel drive the 8′ drifts might be a bit difficult to navigate. So instead we visited the High Desert Museum, a world-class facility located in the forest. The exhibits are all well developed and interesting, there’s a number of outside exhibits including a sawmill, and for the ladies, a large gift shop.

We traveled leisurely along the Columbia River, then north through the Tri-Cities of Pasco, Richland, and Kennewick north to Spokane. From there it was a short ride to the park. One of the reasons we enjoy volunteering here is the great RV sites. We’re in a area separate from the campgrounds, a row of six large sites, tree covered and landscaped. It’s nice to be in a area where we don’t have to put up with campfire smoke and the busy traffic of vehicles and people. We’re lucky to have fairly good Verizon cell and data here, and with a 200′ cable I was able to find a clear spot for our TV satellite.

Our Site

We took a day trip to Sandpoint for lunch at our favorite restaurant MickDuff’s Brew Pub then drove up Schweitzer Mountain to see the view of Sandpoint and the lake below.

Lake Pend Orielle from Schweitzer Mountain

It was just a few days after our arrival that the school field trips began. We’d meet the buses and teachers at the visitor center and discuss our “game plan”, normally dividing the children into two groups; I’d take one group on a hike while Brenda would use our supply of animal furs to teach the kids about local wildlife. If we had older kids (4th grade and above) we’d take them to the Brig Museum for a tour. Although it was a bit demanding, the 1st and 2nd graders were fun – excited, energetic, and eager to learn. Along the trail, we planted gold-painted pine cone “treasure”, led the kids to the ruins of a WWII anti-aircraft training site, and taught them how to hoot like a Barred Owl. The 4th graders were a bit more challenging – every one had a cell phone that they were focused on and didn’t seem particularly interested in nature.

Sailor hats for Memorial Day

On Saturday mornings, we set up our furs of local animals and a craft for the smaller kids at the Brig museum. Parents and children are surprisingly eager to “pet” the furs, and we’ve had a number of adults ask if they could do the draft “for their grandchildren” (wink wink). Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night we host programs at the park amphitheater. We each the audience the “Leave No Trace” philosophy and hand movements, followed by nature movies. We’ve found from feedback that the adults prefer a movie to a hands-on program, as it serves as a chance for the kids to start winding down after a busy day. We’re grateful that Errin, the interpretive ranger, has given us the latitude to develop our programs and schedule. She’s an amazing woman, has become a good friend, and is the main reason we returned again this year.

So that’s it for now – we’ll be here until after Labor Day, so if you’re in the neighborhood stop in and see us!

A Blog From the Past – January 2009

We’re still hanging out in Bandon, and in the absence of anything new, I thought I’d share some of my favorite posts from years past. Here’s the story of Fido, the Campground Cat:

Every once in a while you come across a story that bears repeating. This is one of them:
10 years ago Alton and his wife, retired farmers from East Texas, began volunteering during the winter at Blanco State Park as campground hosts. It wasn’t long before a small, beautifully marked little cat began hanging around their RV, and Alton (a pushover for a hungry animal), put out some cat food. It was obviously a feral cat and wouldn’t let Alton near it….for the first year. The next year Alton returned to volunteer, and there was the cat waiting for him. More food was offered, and by the end of the year, the cat would let him softly pet her while eating.

Year three….more food and more petting, and by the end of the year the cat was following him everywhere. Alton says that since the cat followed him everywhere like a puppy, he decided to name her “Fido”. Year four; more petting, and then came year five and the big breakthrough, when Fido climbed into his lap and allowed him to pet her. Each year since then, Fido has been waiting for Alton to return to the park, and now when he arrives she quickly becomes his “lap dog”….er, cat. In her tenth year since adopting Alton, she stays at the park by herself each summer because she’s still feral enough that she occasionally needs her space and wants to roam. But when Alton’s here, you can bet that if you walk by his RV and he’s outside reading a book he’ll have a lap full of a sleeping Fido. Alton doesn’t know how old Fido is or how many more years she’ll be here to greet him when he arrives, but he hopes it’s for a long time. So do we.

JANUARY 2010

Last January I told the story of Alton, the campground host, and Fido, the feral cat who adopted him. For ten years, Fido (named because she followed Alton around like a puppy), would be waiting at Blanco State Park each year when Alton and his wife returned, and where you saw Alton, you saw Fido – usually in his lap. Sadly, Fido won’t be there next year.

As Alton tells it, Fido came down with a runny nose and had trouble keeping food down. An antibiotic from the Vet helped the runny nose, but Fido still couldn’t eat and grew weaker. After more trips to the vet, it became clear that Fido wasn’t going to get any better; after all, 10 years is a long time for a feral cat to survive. Alton says that on the final trip to the vet’s office, Fido, who usually fussed when riding in the truck, sat calmly, and at one point stretched her paw out to Alton’s arm and looked up at him as if to say she understood where they were going. Alton was with Fido at the end, and if she could talk she’d tell you that in adopting Alton she had a pretty good deal. But Alton would tell you he got the better of it.

Alton & Cat2

Fido rests with other pets in a field not far from the park, and another camper crafted a simple marker, varnished nicely with her name on it. But cats are supposed to have nine lives, and maybe she’s back in another, younger body, because another feral cat, that a ranger told me no one could get near to, has adopted Alton.

This young cat, nicknamed “Crazy” for now because of her antics, also follows Alton around, and like Fido, has discovered that sitting in his lap keeps him in one place and closer to the food supply. If you’re ever in the Blanco, Texas area, stop by the state park and say hello to Alton and his new friend…..just make sure you bring a cat treat!

Alton & Cat

Images of the Oregon Coast

We’re back on the Oregon Coast for a while, and over the years we’ve made a number of posts to describe the beauty here. This time around, we ran out of any new things to post, and so for those of you who haven’t read or don’t remember our old posts, I’ve selected a few of our favorites to share with you.

On our first trip to Oregon, we crossed the Columbia from Washington into Astoria, an interesting town with lots of Lewis and Clark history. We’ve always been interested in their travels, and made a visit to Cape Disappointment and the spot where they first stepped foot into the Pacific Ocean. It was a gloomy day, but even so the view was impressive.

Lewis and Clark Historic Site, Cape Disappointment OR

Traveling down the coast we came to the little town of Yahchats (Yah-hots) where we chuckled at the site of this clever landscaping in front of a motel.

A rare sighting – the little known and very rare Burrowing Lawn Whale

A bit south of Yachats and near Newport is the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, a BLM site that offers an amazing visitor center, beautifully restored lighthouse, and large area of tide pools. Brenda and I later spent a late summer volunteering as visitor center hosts and tide pool guides.

Yaquina Head – the tide pools were located below the viewing overlook on the right

In Bandon is a wayside that overlooks Face Rock, named for the legend of an indian princess that while swimming was stolen from her tribe by an evil spirit but who refuses to remain under the sea. Looking at the rock, it’s easy to see her upturned face.

Face Rock

During a raging winter storm, I caught this image of the waves – look closely….the princess appears in the largest wave! Maybe it’s not a legend after all!

The Princess in the Wave

And finally, a look back at my time as a tide pool “guide”. Being able to spend time on the tide pools with the crashing waves and screaming gulls, surrounded by rugged basalt rock “sea stacks” was an amazing experience. Here’s my favorite image, complete with a Harbor Seal pup in the middle to give it perspective.

Stegosaurus Rock on Cobble Beach, Yaquina Head

We’ll see how this looks on our new blog and look forward to reading your comments. We’ll be leaving the coast for Idaho in a few weeks to spend the summer in Northern Idaho. If your plans include a visit to Farragut State Park or Coeur d’Alene this summer, look us up!

A NEW LOOK

We’ve been using Blogger since we started in 2005, but changes to Google support has made it difficult to use photos and so – it’s time for a new look (and a whole lot of frustration as I try to figure out how to use this). So please be patient and stay with us!
Along the top of the page, you’ll see menu items which will take you to our old blog’s RV Reviews, Volunteer Adventures, and our old blog spanning 14 years. I’ll be adding more menu items as time goes on….please be patient.