Discovering the “Alps of Oregon ” prt. 2 – Wallowa County, OR

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This is the second of a 2-part series covering our fabulous week in Wallowa County, OR.  You can check out part 1 here.

Day 4- Mountain High on the Wallowa Lake Tram

During our six+ years of travel, we’ve always tried to partake in activities that give us a unique perspective on the area we’re visiting.  One of those activities is riding trams to mountaintops where we can experience the majesty of the surrounding area.  We had an opportunity to do just that here in Joseph, as we rode the Wallowa Lake Tramway up to the 8,000′ peak of Mt. Howard.  It was a fourteen-minute trip up in what the operators claim is the steepest four-person gondola ride in North America.

Once at the top we followed all of the available hiking trails. It added up to only 3.5 miles, but a couple of them led us to fantastic views of the valley below, mountains flanked by glacial cirques, canyons, the Eagle Cap Wilderness and the Seven Devils Mountains in Idaho.

This cute little greeter at the summit came up hoping for a treat!

Looking down at the town of Joseph

Wallowa Lake is a textbook example of a glacial lake, with its perfect 900′ lateral and terminal moraines

Hurwal Divide

One trail led to Hurwal Divide (in the foreground)

At Royal Purple Overlook with the Wallowas as the background

Joseph, OR

Patches of farms and ranches in the valley

Day 5- Hiking Hurricane Creek Trail

Hurricane Creek Trail takes hikers deep into the Eagle Cap Wilderness.  It’s popular and heavily trafficked by people who just want to hike in a ways and turn around.  That’s what we did, going about 3.5 miles before turning back, and enjoying the sounds from the roaring creek as we wandered along.  The trail twisted through forest before entering wildflower-filled meadows and mountain peaks.

Should I jump on the end of the log?

Tall pine trees lined the trail

Sacajawea Peak is Wallowa’s highest peak at 9,839′

Hurricane Creek

After 3 miles and 760′ of elevation gain, we found Dead Man Falls surrounded by beautiful mountains at the edge of a meadow

Spreckled along the trail were these vibrant wildflowers.

Excellent background music during lunch!

A cold brew is always welcome after a long hike – especially at Terminal Gravity

Day 6 – From Canyons to Prairie

Another must do here, especially during the wildflower bloom, is a drive to Zumwalt Prairie Preserve.  It encompasses 33,000 acres and is part of the largest remaining intact Pacific Northwest Bunchgrass prairie in North America.  Luckily we came at the right time, as the hills were carpeted with all kinds and hues of wildflowers.

Yellow was the dominant color on the prairie, but these beauties added some contrast and begged to be photographed:

I don’t think the ticks can get me up here!

The Wallowas gleamed in the sun as we headed home

Day 7 – Nez Perce Homeland Hike

At Wallowa River RV Park, Betsy faced an open field and basalt ridges.  We had noticed a switchback trail leading up the ridges to grassy upland at the top, and we vowed to hike it before moving on.  Finally on our last day we put the boots back on and headed out from our site.

Purple Vetch

Purple Vetch carpeted the hillside

It was during this trek that we discovered we were hiking on a 320-acre piece of Nez Perce Wallowa Homeland.  The 4-mile trail led to a summit called Tick Hill, which inspired us to stomp our feet and check our clothes even more often than usual  😉

One of several bronze interpretive plaques placed along the trail

Once on top, we soaked up the views of Wallowa Valley and our RV Park at the end of town below.  As we followed the trail we learned that the Nez Perce name for this place is “Tamkaliks”, meaning “From where you can see the mountains.”  The natural vistas were quite impressive!

Looking down at our RV Park, we saw Betsy in the middle of the front row

Goodbye, Wallowa!

We were glad we’d gotten this hike in before leaving.  The trail was moderate, and a great way to see the blooming wildflowers up close.  We didn’t find any ticks on ourselves when we got home, but to be sure we wasted no time in shaking out the backpacks and shedding our clothes before immediate showers.

Map of Wallowa County (courtesy of Wallowalogy)

And that wraps up our exhilarating week at Wallowa County.  The map above shows how encompassing the county is, with so many activities available.  As usual, we had to prioritize things we wanted to do, leaving some for another time.  We enjoyed every minute of our stay, despite the daily “commute” to most destinations.

A picture-perfect farm scene

Breathtaking vistas, off-the-beaten-path gems and friendly laid back rural folks filled our days with a wonderful northeastern Oregon experience.  Whether or not we ever make it to the Swiss Alps, we had a great time at the Alps of Oregon.  The Wallowas is definitely one of the most scenic areas in the northwest we’ve set eyes on!

 

Next up:  Revisiting a slice of Montana



 

 

 

 

Discovering the “Alps of Oregon”, prt. 1 – Wallowa County,OR

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From Idaho we crossed into the far northeast corner of Oregon, with our sights set on the towns of Wallowa County – Joseph, Enterprise, Lostine, and Wallowa.  When making our reservations in January we wanted to stay in the small town of Joseph, about which we’d heard great things.  But apparently a lot of other folks had heard great things before we had, so with everything booked up there we ended up at Wallowa River RV Park in the little town of Wallowa.

Although it meant we had to drive at least 25 miles to enjoy most activities in the area, our “commute” included Wallowa Valley, beautiful farmland, cool barns and wide-open skies – all against the backdrop of the jagged Wallowa Mountains.

The Wallowa Range has been dubbed the “Swiss Alps of Oregon”.  Although we haven’t made it to Switzerland yet, we’ve seen pictures and could understand the comparison while driving along I-82.  The range resides in the Nez Perce region (meaning “land of running waters”), and is home to 17 mountains that eclipse 9,000′.  The Eagle Cap Wilderness features almost 360,000 acres of alpine peaks, meadows and lakes in the heart of what’s known as the Oregon Alps.

The Wallowa Mountain Range stretches 40 miles

Charming old and new barns dot the valleys

With so many things to see and do, our one-week visit had us on the move every day.  That prompted me to divide our stay into two parts, sharing what we did each day of our stay.  Besides, I took more than enough pictures to fill several posts!

If Betsy had a “windshield cam” this is what it would show from our site

Day 1 – A look at Joseph

When we arrive at a new destination, we usually just chill out and research what we’re going to do during our stay.  But here we already had lots of ideas from Wheelingit‘s 4-part series and Raven and Chickadee‘s post, so we were already off to a good start.  Minutes after completing our setup we drove to Joseph to discover what the allure of this little town nestled at the base of the Wallowa Mountains was all about.

OK, we like this place already!

The town of Joseph is named after elder Chief Joseph, who was an esteemed leader of a band of the Nez Perce Tribe.  We strolled through downtown in just a few minutes – it’s that small.  So many things captured our eyes; life-size bronze sculptures, hanging flower baskets lining the streets and art studios all around.  Although full of tourists, the vibe we got was simply of a small-town with many activities available nearby.

Chief Joseph stood smack in the center of town with his namesake mountain towering beyond

After ogling the many bronze statues adorning town, my body was gravitationally pulled through the front door of Arrowhead Chocolates – resistance was futile!  Steve enjoyed a cup of delicious spicy Mexican Coffee, while I drooled over a decadent spicy Mexican Mocha…heaven!

Day 2 – Maxwell Lake, or not!

We quickly learned that most trails in the Wallowas are long and steep, and access to them is via dusty gravel roads.  On our second day we opted to tackle the Maxwell Lake trail, nestled in a bowl of granite mountains.  It began with a series of switchbacks for about three miles, then abruptly turned into a steep incline.  The trail lead into fairly deep snow, and we eventually figured out that the lack of prior footprints meant we were done for the day.  So we didn’t actually make it to the alpine lake, but we did get an excellent workout on a beautiful 9-mile roundtrip trek with a 2,500′ elevation gain.

Day 3 – Hell ain’t a bad place to be

Getting up super-early, we packed lunch, topped off our fuel, and headed toward the long dusty road to hell.  Hell’s Canyon, that is!

Hat Point Overlook

Our destination was Hat Point Lookout

The first 30 miles were on asphalt, Hwy 350 from Joseph to the tiny town of Imnaha.  The fantastic hillsides along the way did not disappoint:

The unique layered canyon walls along Hwy 350

The gravel road began at “downtown” Imnaha, and we followed the steep (up to 16% grade) and sometimes single-lane road for about 6 miles.  This was the most challenging section, but definitely do-able with a standard-height 2-wheel drive vehicle.  After that it was a fairly easy jaunt on a well-maintained forest gravel road for the next 18 miles to Hat Point Overlook.  The views along the entire drive were stunning, with wildflowers coloring the hillsides as a bonus!

Hat Point Drive

This section was the most challenging part of the trip, slow and steady did the trick

Hat Point Drive

At Five-mile Overlook – Imnaha Canyon drainage

Wallow Mountain

The Wallowas seemed to be floating

Imnaha Canyon

Imnaha Canyon as seen from Granny Viewpoint is northeastern Oregon’s second largest Canyon

The hillsides were alive with colorful flowers, my camera was in overdrive!

So hard to pick where to stop for lunch!

At Hat Point Overlook we saw a vast swath of Oregon and Idaho at the deepest river-carved gorge in the U.S.  Created by the Snake River, Hells Canyon plunges more than a mile below Oregon’s west rim, and 8,000′ below snowcapped He Devil Peak of Idaho’s Seven Devils Mountains.

Illustration showing how Hells Canyon is deeper than Grand Canyon

And what a view!  The Seven Devils Mountains across the Snake River in Idaho rise to 9,300′, making the depth of the gorge nearly 8,000′.  According to the NFS, the canyon was created from uplifting deep in the earth’s core that formed the Seven Devils and Eagle Cap Mountains, a process that continues today. The canyon itself is a result of both uplifting and erosion by the river.

Seven Devils Mountains in Idaho

The Snake River marks the state line between Idaho and Oregon.  There’s no way to convey the vastness this picture shows – you must be here!

The layered canyon walls are striking

Hat Point Lookout

We climbed the 82′ tall Fire Tower for more views from the top.  Can you see me?

Now this is lunch with a view!

It was a long day of driving and gawking at the incredible canyons and wildflowers, and the effort was definitely well worth it.  If you ever visit Joseph or this part of northeastern Oregon it would be a shame to miss it.

One final look at hell?  We don’t think so!

 

Next up:  A Fabulous Week, pt 2



 

Maintenance and a quick visit with Raven and Chickadee

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Ginko Biloba

Rain continued to accompany us on our travel days as we headed down to Grants Pass, Oregon.

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This was our third visit here.  It’s where Henderson’s Line-up is located, the place we go for repairs and upgrades on Betsy’s chassis suspension.  On our way to Alaska in 2012 we had several upgrades performed, including the installation of Koni shocks, a Supersteer Bell Crank, a Safe-T-Plus steering unit and Motion Control Units for our air suspension.  This time through we just wanted to have everything checked out and get another 4-corner weigh performed.  Betsy passed with flying colors – yay!

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Betsy enters the operating room on yet another rainy morning

The next day we continued south to Ashland, our final stop in Oregon.  This cool town is Eric and Laurel’s hometown, and we were excited to see them after two years.  Both of them are nature lovers and avid birders – as indicated by the name of their blog site – “Raven and Chickadee”.  Among other things, we all enjoy the same outdoor activities like biking, hiking and especially birding.  Eric knows his birds, and I learned a lot from him during our birding extravaganza on Dauphin Island, Alabama.

Raven and Chickadee

Welcome to Ashland dinner

We were looking forward to doing some hiking and/or birding during this visit, but the weather was not cooperating.  Instead, they gave us a walking tour around town and through Lithia Park, one of Eric’s “offices” during his working years.  This park is the largest and most centrally-located in Ashland, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Ashland, Oregon

Main street, Ashland

Eric confirmed we came at the perfect time, as the fall foliage at the Japanese Garden was at its peak.  We were so busy enjoying the colors and good conversation during our walk that we didn’t even realize we’d covered four miles!

Raven and Chickadee

Eric and Steve

Raven and Chickadee

The girls share a laugh at the entrance

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Steve with Raven and Chickadee, aka Eric and Laurel

The air was crisp and cool as we ambled past stunning vegetation along the trail:

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The Japanese Garden was amazing, and Eric helped build this awesome place!

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Ginkgo biloba

Fan-shaped Ginkgo Blob leaves turn yellow in the fall

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Lowes Travels

Enjoying the colors with Laurel

Eric and Laurel were terrific hosts, and as always we enjoyed spending the short time we had with them.  Their love of nature, outdoor fun and music (Laurel plays the guitar) mesh well with our interests, and we always have a good time together.

Eric and Laurel

Thank you Eric and Laurel for the guided tour.  Though our visit was too short we had a blast!

Our reservation at Emigration Lake (Steve’s review here) was originally for five nights, but we had to cut it short due to sad news in California.  We high-tailed it back to the Bay Area and didn’t get to say the kind of goodbye’s we wanted to, but sometimes that’s the way things go and we’re hoping to cross paths with our friends down the road.

Emigration Lake

Our site overlooked Emigration Lake

As of this writing we’re in California, bonding with family and visiting old friends until the end of the year.  Blogging will have to take a backseat for a while, so we’ll take this opportunity to wish all of you a Happy Holidays!

 

Next up:  Coming full circle



 

In and around charming Bend, Oregon

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Mt Bachelor Compass

So much has been blogged about how beautiful and charming the city of Bend is.  We scheduled a five-day stop to experience what the buzz was all about.  During our short visit, we saw why some folks we’ve met have gushed about it and considered moving here.

We learned that Bend offers a good balance of beautiful scenery surrounded by several majestic peaks of the Cascade Mountains.  And we loved the laid-back lifestyle and diversity of outdoor activities.  Although our late October arrival date made us subject to some chilly and rainy weather, we really enjoyed this place.

Old Mill District, bend

The iconic Old Mill District’s three gleaming smokestacks can be seen from almost anywhere in Bend

One thing we immediately noticed while driving around town was the heavy use of roundabouts here.  There are 30 of them, and we traversed more than half of them during our stay.  But these roundabouts aren’t just boring traffic circles, for each is beautifully landscaped and holds a unique display of art.  The city made it easy and fun for art lovers to see these public displays by just following the Roundabout Art Route map.

Mt Bachelor Compass

On Century Drive this letter “S”, called the Mount Bachelor Compass, welcomes folks to Bend

We arrived when fall foliage was in full display.  Endless rows of brightly colored trees ranging from red to yellow to orange to green draped the city in autumn glory.  Whether we were driving around town, following trails or taking a leisurely walk along the Deschutes River, the vibrant burst of colors made us smile.  Of course I had to capture the beauty!

Deschutes River

Leafy trees lining the banks of the Deschutes cast their reflections on the water

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Bend is known for its many outdoor activities, including our favorite – hiking!  With many trails to choose from, we lined up the ones we would tackle on several chilly mornings.

On a sunny Saturday we chose Smith Rock State Park, about 26 miles north of Bend, for our long moderate hike.  Unfortunately, many other folks had the same idea.  Not only was it a weekend day (we should know better), but it was also the first beautiful day after a storm passed through.  And we didn’t start early enough – shame on us!

Smith Rock State Park

We followed the Canyon and Homestead trails to avoid the hoards of hikers and rock climbers on the more popular trails

Homestead Trail

Taking a break under a huge Ponderosa tree before climbing to the ridge on the Homestead Trail

Crooked River at Smith Rock State Park

Smith Rock State Park- a major destination for rock climbers

Smith Rock State Park

Climbers were here by the dozens

Smith Rock State Park

By mid morning, a few had already made it to the top

Crooked River

Crooked River

Newberry National Volcanic MonumentNine miles south of Bend, the Newberry National Volcanic Monument teems with ancient lava flows, cinder cones, caves, obsidian flows, lakes, rivers, forests, and mountains.  Steve wanted to explore the lava tube, but it was closed for the winter. Instead we wandered around Oregon’s largest volcano, which sits between the Oregon Cascades to the west and the high desert to the east.

Lava Butte

A view of Lava Butte while standing on its flow

Lava Ness

Resembling the Loch Ness Monster, this twisted tree is called “Lava Ness”

Mount Bachelor

Mount Bachelor

Lava Butte

Looking at the lava flow where astronauts trained for moon missions in the 1960’s

After walking the Trail of the Molten Land, we drove up to the summit of Lava Butte and hiked the Lava Butte Rim Trail.  From there we had awesome views of the Oregon Cascade Range, which is part of a much greater grouping of volcanoes and mountains around the Pacific Ocean known as the Ring of Fire.  It extends 775 miles from California to Canada and contains more than 3,400 volcanoes, including the more than 450 volcanic vents on the flanks of Newberry.

Sisters Mountains

Left to right – South Sister, Broken Top, Middle Sister and North Sister mountains

Mount Jefferson

Mount Jefferson, the second highest volcanic peak in Oregon

We continued on and drove 25 miles south to the Newberry Caldera.  There we hiked up the one-mile loop interpretative trail which covers just one corner of the flow.  The Big Obsidian Flow is Oregon’s youngest lava flow, where more than 170 million cubic yards of obsidian and pumice erupted from a vent in the caldera.

Obsidian Flow

Yeah, it was chilly up here!

Obsidian Flow

The entire flow surface is glass – a liquid that cooled without crystallizing.  Here, 10% is obsidian and 90% is pumice

Obsidian Rock

Obsidian is solid volcanic glass with no bubbles, formed as a result of fast cooling lava

Obsidian

A tiny iron oxide gives obsidian its black tint.  Steve shaved hair off his arm with this razor-sharp piece!

Obsidian Flow

The obsidian flow extends a mile and covers 1.1 square miles

Leaving the obsidian flow behind, we headed toward Paulina Falls, which can be accessed from above and below.  The side-by-side falls drop up to 80′ over volcanic cliffs.

Paulina Falls

Paulina Falls viewed from above the cliffs…

Paulina Falls

…and from below

Pine trees covered by lichen

Moss-covered pine trees along the trail

The Deschutes River Trail is right in Bend, and it meanders more than 12 miles through the heart of the city.  We followed it on two separate days, walking along the river for which it’s named.

The northern half was more of a nature experience, as the trail passed through areas lined with pine and juniper trees.

Farewell Bend Park

Farewell Bend Park was one of the access points for the trail

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Breakfast Club

Duck butts

Our second journey on the southern end of the trail passed through the popular Old Mill District and several urban parks.

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Synching his watch

Harmon Park

Harmon Park

Des chutes River Trail

McKay Park

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On our last day we drove the scenic road that wound up and around the cone of Pilot Butte. It rises nearly 500′ above the surrounding plains, and from the top we saw the entire city of Bend, as well as several major Cascade peaks.

Mount Washington

Mount Washington

Sisters Mountain

Middle and North Sisters mountains

Mount Bachelor

Another view of Mount Bachelor

Bend Oregon

View of Bend looking east

Farewell Bend

Farewell, Bend!

The major drawbacks that would stop us from settling in Bend are the growing population and associated heavy traffic.  Other than that, Bend has most of the criteria we are looking for and deserves another visit during another season.  For now we enjoyed our stay in this charming and busy city.

 

Next up:  A quick visit with Raven and Chickadee!



 

Our Top 7 Favorite Biking Trails-1st Anniversary Post Part 2

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Tools of the Trade

Why 7?  Because we just couldn’t fit all of our favorites in a Top 5!

When we’re at an RV park or near a place with good biking trails, we try to take advantage of them as much as we can (weather permitting).  As Steve keeps reminding me, If we have to lug these bikes around let’s use them.  Okay, lets do it!

Tools of the Trade

Our tools of the trade

Our parameters for favorite biking trails are similar to those for hiking trails, but with the emphasis on visual treats.  We don’t take many tough mountain bike trails, instead preferring to meander along and enjoy the fresh air and beauty of the surroundings. Click on the red links to take you to our detailed posts.

Here we go!

7. Quartzsite, AZ – This was fun for there were no established trails – just head off the road into the desert and make your own!  We first followed Dome Rock Road and then went off the beaten path.  This was where we encountered a natural golf course in the desert amidst the cacti – very interesting.

Quartzsite

6. Talkeetna, AK – We began our trek at the Talkeetna river for a rare view of Mt McKinley, which happened to be visible that morning.  We rode 15 miles of bike trails along the road to Talkeetna, laden with beautiful wildflowers.

Talkeetna

Rare view of Mt Mckinley

5. Sacramento River Trail – Redding, CA – A nice 9 mile ride along the banks of the beautiful Sacramento River.  We passed on the west end Keswick dam, cross over the Stress Ribbon Bridge across the river and around the highlight of this trail: the Sundial Bridge.

Sacramento River Trail

Stress Ribbon Bridge

4.  Riverfront Trail at The Dalles, OR – The paved trail winds along the southern bank of the Columbia River for ten miles.  Beautiful views of the gorge on this one.

Riverfront Trail

3. San Juan Islands, WA – By far the longest and toughest ride we have undertaken, 28 miles around the island and will not do it again!  Why?  I don’t like biking along narrow roads with no space for bikers.  We also encountered some really big hills on this one.  But it was beautiful, and if you’re a serious cyclist you would love it.

Part of the strenuous ride on San Juan Island

Part of the strenuous ride on San Juan Island

2. Fort Stevens State Park – Astoria, OR : When the path is packed with yellow wildflowers, how can you not enjoy your ride?  This excellent paved path took us through forests to the beach and a lake.

Ft Stevens State Park

1. Historic Columbia River Trail – Columbia River Gorge, OR : This was the coolest, greenest ride we have taken.  The path is a section of  restored portion of the  historic highway that curves through the forest over gentle hills.  One end terminates at the Cascade Locks, where we were able to enjoy a small farmer’s market when we were there.

Historic Columbia River State Trail

How about you – do you have a favorite biking trail?  We we’d love to hear about it so we can give it a shot when we’re in that area.

Our Top 10 Favorite Hikes – 1st Anniversary Post

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A year ago today (March 1st, 2012), Steve and I made the final move into our RV and began our adventures on the road.  Wow, how time flies!  One of our goals is to continue to be active and exericse whenever we can.  As you might guess, in this lifestyle it can be easy to just sit, blog, eat, blog, read, blog and fail to get our blood flowing and pumping.  To commemorate our first year of full timing, we thought it would be fun to share our favorite hiking and biking trails.  Who knows, you might find yourself in the neighborhood of one of these locales and decide give it a try.

This review covers the states we’ve visited during the past year (CA, AK, WA, OR, NV, AZ, NM, TX, LA), and includes 40 hikes and 19 bike rides.  Of course, we did a lot of additional walking, but we consider these hikes to be more like mini-adventures.  Each hike had a unique characteristic that we enjoyed, but after debating all of them we agreed that the ones below are our favorites so far.  We chose them based on enjoyment of the scenery, level of effort and the reward we received on each heart pumping journey. Click on the red links for more details about each place.

Drum roll please….here it goes:

10. Cliffs/Mesa/Slot Trails – China Ranch,  Tecopa, CA  : We ended up hiking 7 miles of  overlapping trails because, well, ok – we got lost 🙂   But it turned out to be a pleasant surprise and we enjoyed the diversity of the landscape, from rock formations to colorful mountains and we also learned of the area’s historical railroad and mining significance.  As a bonus, we found a waterfall in the middle of the desert!

China Ranch

9. Lizard Peak Trail – Lake Havasu, AZ : A strenuous 4 mile hike with climbing, long steep slopes (600 ft. elevation change) to the top, ending with a beautiful 360-degree view of Lake Havasu and the surrounding area.

Lizard Peek Trail

8. Eagle Creek Trail – Columbia River Gorge, OR : A moderate 4.2 mile trek along the Columbia River, recognized as one of Oregon’s most spectacular paths.  We traced the line of Eagle Creek through the forest and along paths carved into basalt cliffs.  On this hike we saw two waterfalls along the way, Metlako Falls and Punch Bowl.

Eagle Creek Trail

7. Lower Trailhead on Mt Whitney – Lone Pine, CA : A 4 mile climb that begins at the west end of Lone Pine Campground, starting at elevation 5,640′ and ending at over 7000′.  Beautiful views of Mt Whitney, Alabama Hills and Owens Valley along the way.

Mount Whitney

6. Romero Pools – Catalina State Park, AZ : A 5.6 mile hike beginning on the flat desert floor, this one winds steeply up into the mountains amid rock formations.  It then drops down into an idyllic area of trees, pools and waterfalls at the bottom of a canyon where we took a break and enjoyed a quick lunch near the flowing water.

Romero Pools

5. Echo Canyon Loop – Chiricahua Mountains, AZ  : A 3.3 mile loop that follows a rocky ridge past many huge eroded boulders and balanced rocks and hoodos. This place rocks!

Chiricahua Mountains

4. Alpine Trail – Denali National Park, AK : A short (just over 1 mile) but strenuous hike that rises more than 1,000 to the top of Thorofare Ridge.  The path was dotted with beautiful wildflowers and the reward was a spectacular vista of mountain ranges, although Mt Mckinley was hidden by the clouds that day.

Alpine Trail, Denali National Park

Denali National Park

3. Picacho Peak – Picacho, AZ : The first time we hiked here was the most difficult we have done, for it involved very steep sections with steel cables to assist.  We began with the Sunset View Trail to the summit, then climbed back down via Hunters Trail.  This became a 7 mile hike due to the additional 2 mile walk back to our car which was parked at the Sunset View trailhead.  We loved this one so much that we came back again to try out the remaining trails!

Then a few more...

Just a few more cables to go…

2. Mt. Healy Overlook – Denali National Park, AK : A strenuous 5-mile round trip hike starts at the visitors center and rises 1,700 feet to the summit of Mount Healy, a small ridge that offers sweeping views of the surrounding area.  During our descent we were excited to come across a moose grazing near the path, our closest encounter with a moose.

Mt Healy overlook

Mt Healy overlook

Moose

Moose Sightings

And finally, our top favorite…

1. Portage Pass Trail – Whittier, AK : We began the hike from the town of Whittier, near the tunnel that allows vehicle and train access to the port.  The trail climbs steadily and fairly steeply along the flank of the mountain.  Up, up you go for just over a mile, finishing at an elevation of 750′ that offers views of Portage Glacier, Passage Canal to the east, and the surrounding mountains.  Spectacular!

Passage Canal, Whittier, AK

View of Passage Canal near Whittier, Alaska

Portage Glacier

Admiring Portage Glacier

How about you – do you have a favorite hike to share?  We’re not talking about summiting McKinley or Everest here, just an enjoyable moderate trek.  We’d like to hear your suggestions and try to take it on when we’re in the area.

Next: Our Top 7 biking trails.

Health Checks for Betsy at Harrisburg and Grants Pass, Oregon

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Besides the previously-reported interior modifications we had done to our coach at Dave and LJ’s Interior Design, some other mundane mechanical issues needed to be addressed as well.  Southern Oregon seems to be a mecca for quality RV maintenance and repair shops, perhaps because it’s an area where several RV manufacturers reside.  We took a tour of the Marathon Coach factory in Eugene, which is where “high-end” coaches are built at $1,000,000+ per unit.  But some other manufacturers either used to or continue to build coaches here.  The result is that there are several shops around with highly-qualified mechanics to perform engine, chassis and coach repairs.

Elite Repair and Remodel

We stopped in Harrisburg specifically to have Elite Repair and Remodel take a look at our vexing air bag problem.  Our air suspension is supposed to deflate when we level the coach, which lowers it several inches before the hydraulic jacks extend.  Ours has NEVER worked, and the dealer did not even report to us that there was a problem when we took the coach in for a related repair.  Marty at Elite tracked down the issue to a wiring harness that was never plugged in when the coach was built.  As we’ve been told before by our friends at Wheeling It, these guys are GOOD.  Marty fixed the air bags and checked out our slides in less three hours – highly  recommended!

Henderson’s Line-Up

Next, we returned to Henderson’s Line-Up in Grants Pass to have Betsy’s alignment and suspension checked following the grueling drive on Canada’s and Alaska’s worst roads.  The upgrades they made in April held up fine and everything checked out.  Henderson’s Line-Up – another quality business here in southern Oregon.

While in Grant’s Pass, we stayed 3 nights in one of Steve’s favorite RV Parks, the River Park RV Resort along the Rogue River.  Nice and quiet with lots of big trees.  We took a 6.5 mile walk along the river by following the Rogue River Greenway Trail where blackberries abound.  At the trailhead was the Depot Street Bridge where for the first time we saw a bench actually on the bridge for looking out to the river.  Maybe there are no jumpers at Rogue River.  We also got in some quality reading time and the fall weather was fantastic!

Next – heading down to check out the Lava Beds National Monument…

A whirlwind week!

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After our week at the Columbia Gorge, it  was time to take care of some “business” stuff.  This allowed us to be in three states and two countries in just a week – South Dakota, Oregon, Washington and back to BC, Canada!

When we embarked on our full-time RV lifestyle, we had the opportunity to choose any state to call “home.”   Of course, we cannot escape the realities of paying taxes and other financial matters.  In our research we found that South Dakota is an RV-friendly state where vehicle registration and taxes are not sky-high like California where we resided previously.  So, after dropping Betsy off at Dave and LJ’s RV Interior Design in Woodland, WA to have the modifications installed that we measured with them in May (new recliners and a mini-office for the blogmaster), we caught a flight out of Portland to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This was for the sole purpose of getting our SD driver’s licenses and finalizing our residency there.  Our CA licenses would have expired in February, but we sure as heck didn’t want to go to SD in the middle of winter.  By 8:00am the next morning we had our new licenses, and after a late breakfast we were able to catch early flights back to Portland and made it before sunset.  Mission accomplished!

Sioux Falls Airport

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Portland, OR

Portland,OR with Mt Hood as the backdrop

We picked Betsy up the next day, thrilled with our new recliners and beautiful woodwork installed by LJ.  We drove to a nearby RV park (Columbia River Front RV Park) and went to bed early so we could get up at 3:30am for our drive to Seattle.  You see, we were bummed that we had not had a chance to visit Victoria, BC on our trip through Vancouver in June, so Steve threw together a 2-day trip up there via the fast-ferry out of Seattle.  We will talk about our trip there in a future blog, but suffice to say it is a beautiful city and we had a great time there and enjoyed fantastic weather!

Dave and LJ's RV Interior Design

Dave and LJs in Woodland, WA

Dave and LJ's RV Interior Design

BEFORE

Dave and LJ's RV Interior Design

AFTER

So that was the Lowe’s jet-set week.  Next we move on to Harrisburg, OR for a repair of the RV’s pneumatic system and then to Grants Pass for a check of the suspension upgrades to make sure everything is OK after our rough drive over the Canadian and Alaskan roads.

Invigorating Outdoor Fun -Columbia River Gorge part 3

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Interspersed with our scenic drives were outdoor activities that we like to do when available in areas we visited. Indeed there are an abundance of recreation opportunities at the gorgeous Gorge that should not be missed. The Gorge is the playground for windsurfers, white-water rafters and hikers from all over the world. It also happens to be one of the nation’s premier road biking destinations. We got it made!  We are so thrilled that we can do our favorite outdoor activities with sunny days and awesome weather to boot.  So what did we do?  We hiked, we biked, we went wine and beer touring. How about that!

Historic Columbia River State Trail

We learned that every trail in the Gorge offers the opportunity to view stunning scenery, so our first bike ride on our wedding anniversary was to take the Historic Columbia River State Trail (West end). This trail is the restored portion of the  historic highway meant for  bikes and pedestrian usage only. We began at Exit 40 and after 2 miles encountered to our surprise, stairs ! (We realized on our ride back that the stairway has a narrow groove specially designed for pushing bikes smoothly up or down the stairs). This trail took us to the Eagle Creek Recreation area and across the Eagle Creek Bridge (the only stone-masonry faced concrete bridge on the Highway), and a tunnel.  As we pedaled along, we observed how the  narrow highway was carved out of sheer cliffs, and the guardrails and beautifully arched rock masonry wall. History played a role on this trail as the Ford Model T in the early 1900’s also rolled through here during that time.

Historic Columbia River State Trail

Guard Rails covered with moss

Historic Columbia River State Trail

Historic Columbia River State Trail

Pose at the tunnel

Historic Columbia River State Trail

Eagle Creek Bridge

We viewed a few late spawning salmon at the creek at Eagle Creek Bridge

The Riverfront Trail at The Dalles (East end) winds along the southern bank of the Columbia River for ten miles between The Discovery Center to the northwest and The Dalles Dam Visitor Center at the eastern terminus.  On this trail, blackberries and ligonberries were abundant.  It was much drier in this region.

Riverfront Trail at The Dalles

Riverfront Trail at The Dalles

Riverfront Trail at The Dalles

Riverfront Trail at The Dalles

Riverfront Trail at The Dalles

Riverfront Trail at The Dalles

The hike to the popular Eagle Creek Trail is the quintessential trail in the Columbia River Gorge, where we saw two waterfalls – Metlako Falls and Punch Bowl waterfalls.  As we mentioned in part 1, tall basalt cliffs, ubiquitous talus slopes, and the lush temperate rain forests that so characterize the Pacific Northwest were present here. This was our favorite hiking trail in the Gorge.

 Eagle Creek Trail

 Eagle Creek Trail

 Eagle Creek Trail

 Eagle Creek Trail

Our final hike was at the Klickitat Trail  (WA side), which is an easy trail that follows the nationally designated Wild & Scenic Klickitat River. As expected, the trip was beautiful with stunning river views and carved canyons, birds, wildflowers and blackberries. Fall colors were starting to show on the trees on the hillsides.

 Klickitat Trail

 Klickitat Trail

 Klickitat Trail

I enjoyed the blackberries (Steve wondered if they contained some kind of stimulants).

 Klickitat Trail

A fishing contraption

 Klickitat Trail

 Klickitat Trail

 Klickitat Trail

 Klickitat Trail

gorgeous Gorge

Lunch at the gorgeous Gorge, after a long hike

Beer lovers may know Hood River is home to Full Sail Brewing Company, one of the early microbrewery pioneers.  Since we like beer, we went for a tour and some samples.

Full Sail Brewing Company

Full Sail Brewing Company

Lastly, vineyards are plentiful and with that knowledge we also went wine tasting. We visited several wineries – Cor Cellars and Syncline Winery on the Washington side; Wy East Vineyards and Mt Hood Winery on the Oregon Side. The eastern vineyards we visited are characterized by a continental high desert climate with just 10″ of annual rainfall but plentiful sunshine to ripen the Zins and the Cabs that we tasted.

Cor Cellars

Cor Cellars

Syncline Winery

Syncline Winery

And so at the end of the seventh day we were ready to slow down and relax after all these fun and invigorating activities.

In case you want more of the Pacific Northwest sceneries, two ladies have write up about their adventures, click here to see what they have done.

Gorgeous Gorge – Columbia River Gorge part 2

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Traveling through and around the Gorge is easy, and to really experience the Gorge is to drive  from east to west or vice versa depending on where you originate from.  It should also be driven following State Route 14 on the Washington side and the busier highway 84 on the Oregon side, or much will be missed.  The breathtaking beauty of the Gorge and surrounding areas are full of remarkable views depending on your direction, time of day and weather.  State Route 14 (a.k.a Lewis and Clark highway ) and I-84 are both scenic highways, and driving them completes the Gorge Loop and one must stop along the way to take in the various sights and towns.

We arrived at the Gorge from the east, Washington side on State Route 14, and what we saw from there were sweeping views of the Gorge, gigantic rock formations, quaint towns, vineyards and Mt Hood.

Rock Formation, Columbia Gorge

Rock formations and vineyard

Columbia River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge

The Dalles Bridge

The Dalles Bridge connects Murdock, WA to The Dalles OR on the eastern side of the Gorge

The Historical Columbia River Highway (Oregon) is another option to travel back in time circa 1913,  a winding road amidst lush green trees and stonework construction.  On the east end we took the 9 mile scenic route paralleling I-84, climbing to the Rowena Plateau and stopping at the Rowena Crest Overlook which is the eastern companion to the Crown Point Overlook on the west.  The dramatic views of the Rowena Loops and the dry eastern landscape are not to be missed.

Columbia River Gorge

Rowena Crest Overlook

View from the Rowena Crest Overlook

Historic Columbia River Highway

The Historic Columbia River Highway towards the Rowena Crest

Rowena Loops, Columbia River Gorge

Rowena Loops

On the west end of the Historical Columbia River Highway, our drive took us to the many beautiful cascading waterfalls and lush greenery that we described in part 1 of this post.  We began the drive  at Chanticleer Point which has astounding views of the river and the Gorge that can be seen from the tops of cliffs.

Highway Columbia River Highway

Lushier Highway Columbia River Highway on the westside

Chanticleer Point, Columbia River Gorge

View from Chanticleer Point with Vista House on the foreground

Continuing down the Byway, we arrived at the Vista House at Crown Point, one of the most photographed sites along the Historic Columbia River Highway.  In 1913 Samuel Lancaster, the highway’s chief engineer, believed that this outcropping of land located atop a 733-foot sheer cliff overlooking the Columbia River was one of the most spectacular vistas in the world.  We agreed.  It was a view to behold.

Columbia River Gorge

The Gorge looking east

Columbia River Gorge

The Gorge looking west

Vista House, Crown Point

Vista House, Crown Point

Tunnel on Highway 14, Columbia River Gorge

One of the many tunnels on State Route 14, the lowest height was 12’9″

On another day we drove the Mt Hood Scenic Byway (approx. 145 miles) and the entire trip is picturesque with Mt Hood as the focal point.  At 11,245 feet, Mt. Hood is the highest point in Oregon, the fourth highest peak in the Cascade Range and one of the state’s most recognizable landmarks.  Starting from the west we came into  the timberline and this byway lead us through classic Oregon scenery.  At the end of this drive we made several stops in the Hood River Fruit Loop, a scenic driving route that takes you around to several local farms where you can pay a small amount for U-pick fruits and other goodies.

Bridge of the Gods,Cascade Locks

Bridge of the Gods, connects OR and WA at the west end of Cascade Locks

Mt Hood, OR

Background of the fruit loop

Lavender Farm, Columbia River Gorge

Lavender Farm

Hood River Bridge,White Salmon, WA to Hood River, OR

Hood River Bridge, connecting White Salmon, WA to Hood River, OR

We took a quick detour from SR 14 (WA) and drove up Old Highway 8 where we enjoyed more outstanding views of the Gorge and some good wines at the local wineries.  Oh yeah, we bought a few bottles too!

SR 14, Columbia River Gorge

Looking down at SR 14

Garnier Vineyards, Columbia River Gorge

Garnier Vineyards in the morning haze

We were advised that this area is beset by mountain fires this time of the year.

fires at the Columbia River Gorge

This fire covered the gorge with smoke for several days.

So have we covered and seen everything?  Despite a week stay here, there are still nooks and crannies in the gorgeous Gorge to be explored.