Activity: Prehistoric Gardens

We have stopped at the Prehistoric Gardens twice. We stopped here years DSC_3106ago when my son was 4 and then again this summer. He wasn’t overly excited about it back then, but I was thinking with him being a little older on this trip and the fact we were meeting up with one of his friends it would be be more fun for him. That didn’t appear to be the case.

I think kids who really like dinosaurs or people who want to check out some big beautiful plants in a DSC_3110rain forest setting, this will be a stop you should make. It can be expensive if your kid is basically using the path as a track and not taking in any of what they are trying to teach. If you want to stop for the leg-stretch there are less expensive options! I really wanted him to like it, but it just wasn’t happening.

It is a beautiful walk and if I had been on my own I would have spent more time having a look at signs and enjoying the environment. The life size dinosaur statues are incredible and the giant plants and the smell of the gardens was inspiring. The detail and care taken in creating the place is fantastic.

The little gift shop is a funny collection of all sorts of interesting things ranging from St. Christopher Medallions to books on dinosaurs and rain forests to crystals and incense.

They had baby triceroptops there too!  So cute!

 

Activity: Oregon Caves National Monument

It is really important to me that I show my son all of Oregon. There are a few places that I have wanted to visit, and one of my main goals this summer was to get to the Oregon Caves. 

During one of our camping trips this summer, as we toured the Southwestern part of our state, we hopped in the car, passed through Grants Pass and headed down the highway towards Cave Junction, cutting over from there to the Oregon Caves National Monument. If you are hauling a trailer or traveling in an RV, make sure you check the vehicle length allowed on the road up. We were under the limit, but the road is very narrow with very tight curves and there is nowhere for you to turn around if you can’t make it up. The parking spots at the Caves are not ideal for long vehicles or trailers either. My truck and trailer only just fit in the spot and you have to parallel park.

The Oregon Caves are amazing and did not disappoint in the slightest. When you first get there you will want to check in at the Ranger Office to get your tour time reserved and pay your fee. We got there around 8:00a, and had just missed the first tour, but got in on the 8:30 tour. They run them frequently but during the busy season (summer) the wait for a tour can be up to 2 hours. Kids have to be at least 42″ tall to go on the tour, and they are strict about this for safety reasons. There are lots of steps that will need to be climbed and the National Parks calls this a “moderately strenuous” walk due to that and the occasional “hunch walk” you have to do. My 8-year old had no trouble at all, and neither did I. Regardless of height, there are lots of things for kids of all ages to do in the area!

Legend has it that pioneer, Elijah Davidson, was out hunting in 1874 when his favorite dog Bruno ran off and into the the cave entrance (pictured right) in pursuit of a bear. Elijah followed his dog into the cave in an attempt to bring him home and save him from the bear they were chasing. Elijah had very few supplies with him and was not prepared to go into the cave for an extended period of time. He became lost and used all of the matches he had with him. He kept his wits about him and listened for the stream that flows through the cave, figuring out which way it was heading and thinking that would lead to the way out. Historians figure he was in there for 6-8 hours working his way back to the outside world and his dog was rescued too. The stream still flows through the cave and helps to create the environment you will pass through. After that several people visited the caves, and then tours went into operation. The Oregon Caves was deemed a National Monument by President Taft on 21 July 1909.

IMG_7481When you head into the cave make sure you have good shoes that will provide proper traction and bring a jacket. It is chilly in there, even in the summer time. Bags are not allowed, and they do their very best to protect the cave as much as possible. Most people don’t think of a cave as a living thing, but it really is. Humidity, moisture, and oils from our hair and skin along with the fibers from our clothes can completely change the environment of the cave. This is one of the most spectacular caves I have been in and I would hate to see it change due to human interaction, so please be respectful of the rules. We want to keep it wonderful for future generations to see! Also, please help us protect our bat population and be honest about whether you have been in caves in the Eastern part of the US. White-nose syndrome has not made it to Oregon yet, and we are trying to delay it’s arrival.

The tour is lead by a ranger and will cost $10 per person. The tour will take you on an 90-minute adventure through the caves and the various “rooms” where your Ranger Guide will explain the history and different formations you will see. The caves are made up of marble, which is very unique. You will also get to see fossils, learn that different animals in history used the cave (not just the bear from Elijah’s story, but they have also found jaguars), and you will learn how all of the stalactites and stalagmites form and how quickly (or slowly as the case may be!). It is a really awesome tour and Laddy wasn’t bored once! If kids are scared, there is a turn-back point 45-minutes into the tour and the Ranger will point that out.

Once the tour was done, we worked on the Junior Ranger booklet so the Lad could become a Junior Ranger at the Oregon Caves and then headed to the Chateau for a bite of lunch. The Chateau is an amazing and beautiful building, crafted with such care that when a land slide pushed it off it’s foundation in the 1960s, it was so structurally sound they were able to pick it up and put it back onto the same foundation with very few repairs. One thing I loved was being downstairs in the cafe and having lunch. It is like stepping back in time to an old soda fountain. The napkin holders are straight out of the 50s and they serve a really delicious milkshake and big burgers! There is another restaurant down there as well and a gift shop. It is one of Oregon’s historic landmarks and the employees are very friendly!

If you would like to stay at the Oregon Caves, reservations at the Chateau are available. As for camping, there are campgrounds at the start of the road up to the caves, but from what we saw, they get pretty packed and are on a first come/first serve basis. We decided to head over to the coast to get some fresh air (away from the fires) and cooler temperatures. We loaded up and drove to the coast for a night at Harris Beach State Park.

 

Campground: Jessie M. Honeyman State Park (Florence)

This summer we were exploring the southwestern corner of our state in our little teardrop. As a young girl I used to go to Girl Scout summer camp at Camp Cleawox, which is right next door to Honeyman State Park and the closest I could get my son to that camp. It held such amazing memories for me. We didn’t have time to play like I used to play here, taking snow disks to the dunes and sliding into the lake or going swimming. We got in around dinner time and there was only time for us to drop anchor, get things set up, made some dinner and hit the hay. We turned in early because we had plans to go on a dune buggy ride the next morning. There was time to play at the playground though. It seems there was no time to take pictures on this trip, so I will have to add those another time!

This State Park is a great one but it is big and has a lot of people. Everyone is packed in pretty tight. Our campsite was 277 and things were tight for us to get in, but it was a cozy little spot and we did fine with it. It has a big playground (we had a bully situation, but when the weaker kid’s mom showed up, the tough kids took off and peace was restored to the playground). It has many of the same facilities as our other state parks in flushing toilets, showers, trails and rangers.

For folks who don’t have a trailer or a tent, yurts are available for rent, but you will need to make your reservation well in advance of your trip to get in.

Swimming, hiking, biking and many other adventures are available for your with this state park and it is a great one and conveniently located just outside Florence, Oregon. We also enjoyed our dune buggy ride with Sandland Adventures, which is about a mile away from the park.

Activity: Sandland Adventure Sandrail Tour!

IMG_7544

I called up Sandland Adventures and booked our Dune Buggy tour before we set out on our trip. We were staying a mile down the road at Honeyman State Park, so this was super convenient to get to and there was parking for my truck and trailer while we were out on our ride.

We decided on the half hour Sandrail Tour, which was a really fast ride through the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. A section of the Recreation Area is protected from OHVs but there is land available for folks who want to go out and experience the land this way and that is where the tours take you. Our driver was an expert at driving the sandrail as well as our tour guide. He told us about the land we were going over and explained how things had changed. He constantly checked in with my son to make sure he wasn’t scare or bored. I really appreciated him giving him that extra attention since it wasn’t possible for me to sit with him. He ended up sitting in the front!

While we were underway it was like riding a roller coaster going up one side of a dune and down the other, wheel spins and crazy turns where theIMG_7548 back end broke loose. They have a tamer version of the tour where they take you out in the Giant Dune Buggy and it is a slower tour of the dunes with a few up and downs. We highly recommend checking these tours out! There was sand everywhere but this was such a fun way to end our camping adventure.

Activity: Wildlife Safari

 

DSC_4202This summer we made a journey south, making a stop in Winston, Oregon. Winston is just south of Roseburg and home toWildlife Safari. We used to visit when I was child and they continue to be a big draw for families from all over the world! They estimate more than 150,000 people come to the park to have a look at their inhabitants each year.

The park’s main focus is conversation of animals and education for all of us humans. It is the only drive through animal park in Oregon, and gives you an up close look at various animal species. This is such a special place where you can see elephants, lions, tigers, bears, and cheetahs roaming around their large enclosures. Wildlife Safari is home to one of the most successful cheetah breeding programs in the nation. You will get to see the baby cheetahs in the “day enclosure”. While we were there, we saw a baby cheetah and her best buddy. Usually cheetahs are born as sets of twins, but her twin didn’t make it so her best friend and companion is a puppy who is about the same age. The pup was similar in size and they have bonded and spend their days together. The only time they are separated is during feeding times.

Wildlife Safari also has a petting zoo portion where kids can learn about goats and cows. There are reptiles and birds, and a train to ride around as well. In the past they did Elephant rides, but that no longer happens and they now offer camel rides instead. There is also an education center where they teach folks about different animals and about conservation of those animals.  In addition they offer up close encounters with a few of the large animals for a fee. We went out and spent time with the elephants, which was an amazing experience. When I was a child I did an elephant ride and many of these elephants are the same as the ones who were there when I was a child.

Wildlife Safari is a really excellent day out and a lot of fun for kids of all ages. Parents really love it too, and we highly recommend checking it out! There is also a campgroundjust outside the park. When we get back down again, we might give that a go. We have dragged our little teardrop through the park twice now. I sure wish I could have a picture of that, but you are not allowed to get out of your car (for safety reasons).

Trip Itinerary: Southwestern Oregon

As we live in Portland, we spend a lot of time in the Northern part of our state. Oregon is a pretty big place and it takes some time to travel to other areas. You can figure, going from west to east starting at the Coast, will take you 6+ hours to get to our shared boarder with Idaho. If you were to start at the Oregon/Washington border and drove to the Oregon/California border, the fastest route would get you there in about 5.5 hours. It is really important to me that I show my son all of Oregon. Portland happens to be in Oregon, but Portland is Portland. The rest of Oregon is so, so different!

There are a few places that I have wanted to visit too, and one of my main goals this summer was to get to the Oregon Caves. That meant a tour of the Southwestern part of our great state!

Here is how our route went:

WILDLIFE SAFARI

DSC_4202We headed south on I-5. After a quick pit-stop in Eugene to visit my family, we continued our journey south, making a stop in Winston, Oregon. Winston is just south of Roseburg and home to Wildlife Safari. We used to visit when I was child and they continue to be a big draw for families from all over the world! They estimate more than 150,000 people come to the park to have a look at their inhabitants each year.

The parks main focus is conversation of animals and education for all of us humans. It is the only drive through animal park in Oregon, and gives you an up close look at various animal species. This is such a special place where you can see elephants, lions, tigers, bears, and cheetahs roaming around their large enclosures. Wildlife Safari is home to one of the most successful cheetah breeding programs in the nation. You will get to see the baby cheetahs in the “day enclosure”. While we were there, we saw a baby cheetah and her best buddy. Usually cheetahs are born as sets of twins, but her twin didn’t make it so her best friend and companion is a puppy who is about the same age. The pup was similar in size and they have bonded and spend their days together. The only time they are separated is during feeding times.

Wildlife Safari also has a petting zoo portion where kids can learn about goats and cows. There are reptiles and birds, and a train to ride around as well. In the past they did Elephant rides, but that no longer happens and they now offer camel rides instead. There is also an education center where they teach folks about different animals and about conservation of those animals.  In addition they offer up close encounters with a few of the large animals for a fee. We went out and spent time with the elephants, which was an amazing experience. When I was a child I did an elephant ride and many of these elephants are the same as the ones who were there when I was a child.

Wildlife Safari is a really excellent day out and a lot of fun for kids of all ages. Parents really love it too, and we highly recommend checking it out! There is also a campground just outside the park. When we get back down again, we might give that a go. We have dragged our little teardrop through the park twice now. I sure wish I could have a picture of that, but you are not allowed to get out of your car (for safety reasons).

After we spent a nice day here, we headed further south and stopped in at Valley of the Rogue State Park for the night. We have stayed here before, and while it isn’t our favorite State Park, it is very convenient and the hosts are great. The next day we got up early to head to the Oregon Caves. The night before the camp hosts gave us some info about the fires that were raging in the area we were heading towards, which was very helpful, as roads were closed the day we arrived. That had us a bit worried at first and we checked the roads before setting out.

OREGON CAVES NATIONAL MONUMENT

The next morning we learned the roads had reopened, and we could in fact go. We were relieved! We hopped in the car, passed through Grants Pass and headed down the highway towards Cave Junction, cutting over from there to the Oregon Caves National Monument. If you are hauling a trailer or traveling in an RV, make sure you check the vehicle length allowed on the road up. We were under the limit, but the road is very narrow with very tight curves and there is nowhere for you to turn around if you can’t make it up. The parking spots at the Caves are not ideal for long vehicles or trailers either. My truck and trailer only just fit in the spot and you have to parallel park.

All of that said, the Oregon Caves are completely amazing and did not disappoint in the slightest. When you first get there you will want to check in at the Ranger Office to get your tour time reserved and pay your fee. We got there around 8:00a, and had just missed the first tour, but got in on the 8:30 tour. They run them frequently but during the busy season (summer) the wait for a tour can be up to 2 hours. Kids have to be at least 42″ tall to go on the tour, and they are strict about this for safety reasons. There are lots of steps that will need to be climbed and the National Parks calls this a “moderately strenuous” walk due to that and the occasional “hunch walk” you have to do. My 8-year old had no trouble at all, and neither did I. Regardless of height, there are lots of things for kids of all ages to do in the area!

Legend has it that pioneer, Elijah Davidson, was out hunting in 1874 when his favorite dog Bruno ran off and into the the cave entrance (pictured right) in pursuit of a bear. Elijah followed his dog into the cave in an attempt to bring him home and save him from the bear they were chasing. Elijah had very few supplies with him and was not prepared to go into the cave for an extended period of time. He became lost and used all of the matches he had with him. He kept his wits about him and listened for the stream that flows through the cave, figuring out which way it was heading and thinking that would lead to the way out. Historians figure he was in there for 6-8 hours working his way back to the outside world and his dog was rescued too. The stream still flows through the cave and helps to create the environment you will pass through. After that several people visited the caves, and then tours went into operation. The Oregon Caves was deemed a National Monument by President Taft on 21 July 1909.

IMG_7481When you head into the cave make sure you have good shoes that will provide proper traction and bring a jacket. It is chilly in there, even in the summer time. Bags are not allowed, and they do their very best to protect the cave as much as possible. Most people don’t think of a cave as a living thing, but it really is. Humidity, moisture, and oils from our hair and skin along with the fibers from our clothes can completely change the environment of the cave. This is one of the most spectacular caves I have been in and I would hate to see it change due to human interaction, so please be respectful of the rules. We want to keep it wonderful for future generations to see! Also, please help us protect our bat population and be honest about whether you have been in caves in the Eastern part of the US. White-nose syndrome has not made it to Oregon yet, and we are trying to delay it’s arrival.

The tour is lead by a ranger and will cost $10 per person. The tour will take you on an 90-minute adventure through the caves and the various “rooms” where your Ranger Guide will explain the history and different formations you will see. The caves are made up of marble, which is very unique. You will also get to see fossils, learn that different animals in history used the cave (not just the bear from Elijah’s story, but they have also found jaguars), and you will learn how all of the stalactites and stalagmites form and how quickly (or slowly as the case may be!). It is a really awesome tour and Laddy wasn’t bored once! If kids are scared, there is a turn-back point 45-minutes into the tour and the Ranger will point that out.

Once the tour was done, we worked on the Junior Ranger booklet so the Lad could become a Junior Ranger at the Oregon Caves and then headed to the Chateau for a bite of lunch. The Chateau is an amazing and beautiful building, crafted with such care that when a land slide pushed it off it’s foundation in the 1960s, it was so structurally sound they were able to pick it up and put it back onto the same foundation with very few repairs. One thing I loved was being downstairs in the cafe and having lunch. It is like stepping back in time to an old soda fountain. The napkin holders are straight out of the 50s and they serve a really delicious milkshake and big burgers! There is another restaurant down there as well and a gift shop. It is one of Oregon’s historic landmarks and the employees are very friendly!

If you would like to stay at the Oregon Caves, reservations at the Chateau are available. As for camping, there are campgrounds at the start of the road up to the caves, but from what we saw, they get pretty packed and are on a first come/first serve basis. We decided to head over to the coast to get some fresh air (away from the fires) and cooler temperatures. With full bellies, we loaded up and drove the rest of the highway, into California through Jedediah Smith State Park and then back into Oregon for a night at Harris Beach State Park.

SOUTHERN OREGON COAST

IMG_7513We really like Harris Beach State Park and it is always a great place to say. This year it was more ideal as forest fires were an issue near Jedediah State Park. We saw base camps for fire fighters full of people and the air full of smoke. In the future, I want to stay there, but this was not a good year for it. There are amazing Redwoods in this area, and the river running through to the Pacific was gorgeous. Harris Beach was a good option for us to rest our lungs and to get the smell of smoke out of our hair. Plus, it was warm and the water cool, with a lovely breeze and it is such a great campground for kids. We had a relaxing evening here, before starting our journey north!

They had baby triceroptops there too!  So cute!

DSC_3110After a night relaxing at Harris Beach we loaded up and started our journey north. Our first stop on the way north was the Prehistoric Garden. We stopped here years ago when my son was 4. He wasn’t overly excited about it back then, but I was thinking with him being a little older on this trip and the fact we were meeting up with one of his friends it would be be more fun for him. It wasn’t. I think for kids who really like dinosaurs or people who want to check out some big beautiful plants in a rain forest setting, this might be a stop you should make. It can be expensive if your kid is basically using the path as a track and not taking in any of what they are trying to teach. I really wanted him to like it, but it just wasn’t happening. It is a beautiful walk though and if I had been on my own I would have spent more time having a look at signs and enjoying the environment. The life size dinosaur statues are incredible.

From there we drove north to Port Orford for lunch. We popped into a tiny little restaurant called Griff’s on the Dock. It is an amazing place to go for fresh seafood lunch. We had fish and chips and came away with full happy tummies. Their desserts are home made and after lunch we took a walk around the dock where boats were being launched or trailered. It was really interesting for the boys to watch this fishing dock in action.

After our fun with friends we continued our drive north and dropped anchor at Jessie M. Honeyman State Park in Florence. This part of the coast is near and dear to my heart. As a young Girl Scout I used to go to summer camp at the nearby Camp Cleawox and swam in the lake there. I wanted to show that to my son. Our camp site was small, but near the playground which was very nice and my son really liked it. It is a very busy campground and our spot was tiny, but worked just fine for us. We did not have any sort of hook ups there which worked fine for us. There is biking in the area as well as paddling (wish we had time to get out the paddle board and kayak), hiking, and a variety of other activities. The thing we were most excited about was going on a Dune Buggy ride the next morning!

IMG_7548

IMG_7544I called up Sandland Adventures and booked our Dune Buggy tour. We decided on the half hour Sandrail Tour, which was a really fast ride through the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. A section of the Recreation Area is protected from OHVs but there is land available for folks who want to go out and experience the land this way and that is where the tours take you. Our driver was an expert as well as a tour guide and told us about the land we were going over and explained how things had changed. While we were underway it was like riding a roller coaster going up one side of a dune and down the other, wheel spins and crazy turns where the back end broke loose. They do have a tamer version where the Giant Dune Buggy goes out and does a slower tour of the dunes with a few up and downs. We highly recommend checking these tours out! There was sand everywhere but this was such a fun way to end our camping adventure. From here we ventured back to the valley and home and started planning our next trip!

 

 

Hikes for Kids: Covel Creek River Trail (Cispus Environment Learning Center)

During our annual camp out with our teardrop group at Mossyrock, 6 of us decided to head out on a hike. Our summer was particularly dry this year and fires pretty much had us surrounded, which made finding open wild space to walk a bit tricky.

Hiking during forest fires (they were roughly 50 miles from us in Issaqua) is something I haven’t spent much time doing and there were a few things that I found quite interesting. The light is so different than what we are used to seeing. The sun was so red, making the forest have this orange tinge to it. You felt like you were walking at sunset for hours. Air quality is poor and I found my lungs to be heavy for a couple of days following. The risk might have been a little greater than first realized as during our walk the winds switched a little and started moving toward us. Luckily we were able to make it out with no problem, but it really could have been. Mother Nature will do as she wishes and it is all about calculated risk. We calculated well that day, but felt the effects of our decisions for a few days.

We popped into the local Forest Ranger Station after 2 failed attempts at getting to trail heads that were closed, and learned of some areas that were open for hikers. They gave us several suggestions and we chose to do the Covel Creek River Trail at the Cispus Environment Learning Center.

That isn't fog, it is smoke from a fire burning about 50 miles away.

That isn’t fog, it is smoke from a fire burning 50 miles away.

The website above says the hike is easy, but I would probably say it is a little bit harder than that. Make sure to pick up a trail map at the office of the Learning Center so you can get your bearings.

The hike starts off with a relatively small incline (this part is easy!) walking along the creek through a lush forest. Following the creek, you have a choice of which trail you want to take – there is one that goes up either side of the creek. Due to low water we were able to cross the creek with a small jump as we went up the trail on the left side. This could have been an issue if there had been a good amount of rain. We missed the cut off for the brand new, beautiful bridge, that would have been a nicer path, although it also involved crossing some large felled trees that can be slick, so watch your footing. You really get to chose your own adventure! There are also some other fun bridge crossings which our son found to be exciting.

Either way will take you to the first water fall, which is Covel Creek Falls. This is reminiscent of our walks at Silver Creek Falls because you get to walk behind the water fall! On a hot day, this can be quite refreshing! It doesn’t look very impressive in my picture, but this was taken in our drought year, in August, and we were just happy to see some water coming over the top! We weren’t sure if the waterfalls would be running at this point in the year. After you come through the waterfall is where the big incline starts, and continues for nearly a mile, switch-backing up the hill. This is the point I would say wasn’t “easy”. The trail is also quite narrow and it is a long drop if your footing isn’t secure, so our son was a little nervous but did fine. After you climb the big hill and descend a bit on the other side, you will have a choice of going left or right. We were a bit confused, but chose left, which kept us on our path. This will take you to your next reward, Angel Falls! Again, this water fall was running, but not as well as usual, but it was still beautiful.

It was in this area we saw a bit of wildlife, but you have to look closely. We came across one of our frogs! I am not an expert, but based on the research I did, I believe it to be one of our Cascade Frogs! Keep an eye out, because you might see one too! And also, you don’t want to step on our little forest friends who might just be hanging out! They blend in with the ground especially!

As we continued on, the smoke was getting thicker and we decided we needed to start hustling back to the car. The scenery along the way back didn’t disappoint. Around the rock faces, be careful of wasps nests. One of our friends was stung in that area.

IMG_7619The hike in all ended up being around 4.5 miles and took us about 1.5 hours or so. There are port-a-potties at the Learning Center and driving directions can be found here.

I would love to go back and explore more and see the falls with more volume. Plus that hill was tough on my fractured leg, so I would love to go an conquer it with confidence! This hike is one we recommend for sure!

Long Weekend: Joseph, Wallowa Lake State Park, Hells Canyon, and the Oregon Trail

I am trying to get back in the saddle. I needed to give myself a break over the summer as this summer has been a hard one for me. I have had loss, I have added a job working from home. I have had to deal with way more summer and heat than ever before (darn you climate change!!!). All of our water was low. And the fires. I had to make decisions about what I could handle this summer and what I wasn’t up for.

This summer I stayed closer to home. We camped less.

And while I love being out on the road, less was ok this year. It is what I needed. My heart needed it. My head needed it. We got out and I will be talking about a couple of amazing places we stayed and things we saw and places we hiked. For us, this year, it was wonderful and enough. Sometimes that is just what we need. Enough. Lesson learned universe!

IMG_7372IMG_7377One of our first trips this year was a long weekend in Joseph, Oregon. Joseph is an amazing little town in the very tip-top of the north-eastern part of our amazing state. It is about a 5.5 hour drive from Portland and it is a destination. It isn’t really on the way to anything, so going there is completely intentional and that is part of the charm. I love it here for so many reasons. The town itself is wonderful and welcoming and the people are salt of the earth and hard workers. They are friendly and make you feel like you belong. They have lovely little restaurants and shops owned by locals. There are art galleries with amazing work. There is no fast-food joints or mini-marts. They are surrounded by mountains and sit on the edge of a lake and it is just such an amazing place to kick back and enjoy the beauty. I did a trip over there years ago with my dad and fell hopelessly in love. I have been making plans to get back there since and this was the year!

IMG_7369Joseph is a historic town and you really feel that as you travel down their main street. Wonderful 2-story buildings from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s line the road, with a few newer buildings mixed in. Things are wide open. The town is named for the great Nez Perce Chief, Joseph. You can learn all about him and the Nez Perce people in several locations throughout Joseph, but the interpretative center is said to be amazing. We didn’t get a chance to check it out on this trip, but we did visit a photo exhibit set up in town that was incredible and gave us a glimpse at their daily lives and their hardships. Their native cemetery is on the out-skirts of town, next to Wallowa Lake, where people come from all over to pay respects to Chief Joseph at his grave site and his people.

IMG_7382While we were there, the town was hosting a celebration of their emergency services and we were invited on the street to come over, have breakfast and check out the ambulances, fire trucks, snow mobiles and the rest. It was awesome! We got to ask lots of questions, the lad got to push buttons and turn on lights and sirens and sit in the firefighters seats.  We had our blood pressure checked and they gave him a ride on the gurney, which involved a hydrolic lift to get him into the ambulance, which was pretty fun for him to experience. It was such a wonderful thing for the kids to be involved in and the adults enjoyed it too. We even saw a man come up to the paramedics and thank them for saving him a few weeks before. To be in such a close knit community and experience that shared web of life was really humbling.

IMG_7379

This area is so much more than just the town (although the town is pretty great). There are amazing outdoor activities and adventures that are available for visitors. We were only here for a few days and spent much of our time at the campground and at the lake, but hiking, mountain climbing and biking are very popular.

IMG_7394I mentioned the campground and we stayed at Wallowa Lake State Park. It is one of our newest State Parks and is a lovely campground nestled at the base of two mountains (Mt. Howard and Mt. Joseph), in a little valley, with the sparking blue Wallowa Lake to the north. This very scenic
setting has amazing acoustics which can lead to a lot of noise during the busy
summer season. That said, I would not avoid camping here, but if you are sensitive to noise or prefer a quieter setting either bring ear plugs or camp during spring or fall when things are less busy. Spots in the D loop, where we landed were tighter than in other loops. This campground fills up early in the summer so make sure you get reservations. I was late, and I would have picked a different spot but I got the very last spot available for my dates (I will make sure to book early next time!). Our loop had nice restrooms, but the showers got very busy and we wIMG_7386aited in line for 45 minutes one night to get a shower. That was the first time we have experienced that in one of our state parks. There is a small marina for boaters and fisherman. There is a nice playground where the kids hung out and you are close to town (just about 2 miles away) so if you wanted to head in for dinner, it is super easy! Just outside of the State Park there are other campgrounds and businesses selling food and lots and lots of mini-golf. Wildlife is present at all hours, so make sure you are practicing “clean campsite” and following the rules. Some neighbors left all of their food and drinks out and the deer, birds and squirrels had quite a party. The people were not at all happy.

IMG_7387We brought out little kayak and the paddle-board and decided to head out to the water. We were told by locals the water was a little bit warmer on the north end of the lake (it is all snow melt), so we headed up there for some water fun. The pebble beach reminded us of beaches in the Mediterranean and there is a great roped off swimming area. There were lots of families enjoying themselves there. It was really lovely and the water is amazingly clear! You could see all the way to the bottom even as it got deeper and deeper. We saw fish swimming by and had a dip in the water. It was wonderful!

IMG_7396After our time in and around Joseph, we opted to head out towards Hells Canyon in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. I had never been there and have always wanted to see it. Hells Canyon runs along the borders of northeastern Oregon and western Idaho, and is the deepest river gorge in North America – it is even deeper than the Grand Canyon! The vastness and beauty of the area may or may not have stirred a little something in me, bringing a tear to my eye. It is a pretty special place and continues to show how very different the regions of my beloved state are. This is an area a lot of people come to for various outdoor activities, from hiking to white water rafting. There are various outfits that can help you plan that sort of trip. We chose the driving variety and as we were on our way home, trucked on down the road towards Baker City after taking in some amazing panoramas.

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Baker City is home to the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. I come from a family of Pioneers who came across the Plains into Oregon between 1848 and 1853, and passed through this very area. This part of our family history is somethingIMG_7404 I wanted to share with the Lad, so he understands how our family got here. This is a great place to help teach that. He watched videos about having to leave family behind, usually never seeing them again, and how the decision was made. He learned how difficult it was to pack a covered wagon and what they needed. He also learned how homesteading happened and what kind of work in Pioneers could find. There is also an exhibit where he learned about Oregon’s first people and what the settlers diIMG_7405d to them. That is a hard, but important lesson and we are not hiding any of our history from him. I feel like the museum does a good job of showing how hard the life was as they walked for 4-6 months, across varying conditions with all of their worldly possessions, fighting for a better life. Temperatures were very hot then. The day we were there in July it was 105 degrees and we were there around the same time the families would be passing  through. We stayed in the center a bit longer, enjoying some A/C and working on the Junior Ranger program before venturing outside to have a look IMG_7407at the wagon ruts that are still visible. It is amazing to stand there, where my ancestors trekked, imagining what they must have gone through. That is impossible though. It was around this point that a decision would have to be made: to risk the mountain or the river. My family chose the mountain which lead them to the southern Willamette Valley where they home-steaded in Linn County. According to all accounts, people that came out on the trail were forever changed. People who were here and experienced the Pioneers coming in were forever changed too.

This was an amazing place to visit and will be great for anyone who is interested in Oregon history, like I am. We would recommend it. The heat started to get to us, so we loaded up the horses and hitched the wagon, and followed our own trail back to the Willamette Valley, thinking of those who came before us the whole way home.

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A week later we set off for Southern Oregon and the Oregon Caves. Keep an eye open for that post soon!

Hikes for kids: Falls Creek Falls (Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Carson)

Nitty Gritty:

  • Trail to the falls view-point (up and back round trip) is about 3.4 miles with roughly 650 feet of elevation gain. There is a longer loop that goes up to the top of the falls and around the back side to the parking area. We did not do this one, but nets a 6.3 mile loop with 1150 feet of elevation gain.
  • Lots of families hiking and kids of all ages making the trek. Great family area!
  • Trail is closed December-April, but amazing the rest of the year. From what we understand, the waterfall flows year round.
  • Best driving instructions on how to get there can be found here
  • 45.90935 N   -121.9127 W

 

This week my sister came over for dinner. My husband was away on business and I needed an adult to talk to and I really like her – she is great company and tolerates being constantly interrupted by the Lad. As we were chatting we all decided we should do a hike together since my husband was going to be away for the weekend. We pulled out my trusty and well-loved hiking guide (which I should really buy an update to since it is from 2006) and discussed possible trails to hike. It was kind of a Goldilocks’ situation where some hikes were too long, and some hikes too hard, but my son decided we should hike Falls Creek Falls, which turned out to be just right!

Just outside of Carson, Washington in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest lies some pretty amazing and scenic places to hike. You are a stones throw from Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and the Columbia Gorge. It really is the perfect Northwest Trifecta, if you are like us and into that sort of thing. Driving from Portland, it will take just shy of 1.5 hours to get to the trail head, unless you are like me, happily chatting away, completely missing the Bridge of the Gods exit 44 and making your way to Hood River and having to back track on Hwy 14 (oops!). That will take 2.5 hours. It was a bad navigational day to be sure, but is making for a good story and that is all part of the adventure, right? Right! You will need to pay a $1.00 toll each way to cross the Bridge of the Gods.

Once you make your way through Carson, up Wind River Road (which is also known as Hwy 30), turning onto Wind River Road for .6 miles, then turning onto USFSR 3620 and then on to USFSR 57, you will drive to the end of the road, you will come to the trail head (see link for more detailed directions in the nitty gritty section above). Roads and the trail are well marked. One interesting thing we saw on our drive in (along the gravel road) was a sign where road 3620 splits to 57. It talked about the trees on our right (or behind us if we were standing in front of the sign) being our native Ponderosa Pines, and the trees in front of us being a collection of various pines that had been collected from other parts of the country. This was an experiment done by the National Forest Service to see which types of pine tree grows best in our environment. Based on what they saw, our native Ponderosa’s grew bigger faster than the other pines proving native plants were best in this area. It was quite interesting especially since the study was started in the first half of the 20th Century.

This trail head currently does not require the Northwest Wilderness Pass for parking. It is free to park here. Once you get to the trail head you will find a composting toilet if you need it and a handy info board letting you know of some of the things to be looking for (like Steelhead Salmon, Hermit Warblers and Western Tanagers). At the trail head there is a really nice picnic table in case you brought lunch or a snack with you and want to sit and enjoy it before or after your hike. It is a good spot to lace up your boots (we like to bring shoes to change into after hikes, just for comfort and if we happen to be tromping through mud, it contains the mess…a little).

I have not been able to find a proper trail map online for this hike. William Sullivan has a trail map he has drawn in his book (the one pictured above). To give you an idea of what it looks like, the map here is from my GPS from the trail head, up to the falls view-point and back to the trail head. When you are there, the path is very straight forward and you would have a hard time getting lost.

This hike was also considered “not crowded” according to online descriptions, but I think the secret got out. There were quite a few people there. The parking lot was full when we left and we passed quite a few people on the trail. Even with the various people, it was still really pleasant and there were some very peaceful places.

The hike starts off as a very flat walk that gradually works into a slight incline. You come to this wonderfully shaded wooded area, with dappled sunshine streaking through, where the creek turns to the left and ripples over the rocks. We heard the Tanagers calling in this area and were looking for their yellow/red heads. We didn’t see them. This would also be a great place to look for salmon swimming up-stream (sadly we didn’t get to see them either). It was in contrast to the area just up ahead where the creek flows through a small canyon and you have to cross a very sturdy suspension bridge to get across. To be honest this was one of the main draws for the Lad. I think suspension bridges must be a favorite thing for most kids! We had a quick look up and down the canyon before continuing on. From here the trail really starts to have more of an elevation gain. The trail is mostly level, however there are some places that have been worn away by our wet weather and a little extra dexterity is required to walk at a bit of a slant. Kids should do just fine here, but the really littles might need mom or dad to hold their hand and help them.

We found the trails to be very well maintained and easy to walk. There are a few roots sticking up and some rocks you need to cross over, but if you are watching your step it is a very easy trail. You get to walk through a forest with large pines, cedars and firs. You are surrounded by native plants like ferns, Oregon Grape, Vine Maples and lots of salal. The salal berries were not quite ripe as last weekend, but they are getting close as were the Oregon Grapes. Both are edible, but make sure you know your plants before foraging to stay safe. Not everything is edible for humans.

As the walk continues, you get to cross a second bridge, which was an added bonus for our guy. This one goes over what was a dry creek bed while we were there, but from what I saw, it looks to be where a  good amount of water during certain times of year flow. The mossy boulders all stacked on top of each other in this area look positively cuddly, and it was fun to see which shapes we could see as we looked at them (sort of like seeing pictures in clouds). The moss layers added to the fun.

After about a 1.25 miles you will come to a “Y” in the trail. There is a trail that goes off to the left and is marked as the Falls Creek Trail. This trail will take you to the top of the waterfall (go up the trail and turn right at the junction for the top of the falls, then back track but go straight and follow the trail back to the parking area). If you stay to the right, after about a quarter of a mile, this will take you past a beautiful mossy cliff area to the view-point of the falls.

At the view-point there is a nice flat area to sit and have a snack and watch the water flow over the tiered-falls. I know some will argue this with me, but I find this waterfall more beautiful than Multnomah Falls. While Multnomah Falls is beautiful, this one gives us such a different look that what we are used to, you get to be closer to the power, and there are far fewer people to deal with to get a good view. You feel nestled into a beautiful section of forest and can feel the light spray of the water on your face. We risked it and make our way up to the first tier of the waterfall.  There is a rough trail that has been etched into the hill by people trying to get up there after scrambling up the boulders, but it is risky and tough and I don’t recommend it.

On the hike back to the car we stopped at this little spot along the creek to enjoy the cool shade.  Plus, it is fun to race small sticks down the water.  My son enjoyed plopping a few small stones in the creek as well.  The water is particularly cold, so we stayed out of it, but it was a nice place to take a small rest and cool off as the temperatures were going up.

This hike was really great and a welcome change from our hike the previous weekend through a very urban environment (read about our 4T Trail hike here). We already have plans to get back sooner than later so we can take my husband along. We will probably make that left turn at the Y junction and go to the top of the falls the next time though. We highly recommend this hike!

Great Hikes for Kids: Mary S. Young State Recreation Area (West Linn)

Nitty-gritty:

  • A great state park in the suburbs of Portland along the Willamette River
  • Hiking trails, off-leash dog park, picnic areas, fields for play and river access
  • The best trail map comes from the City of West Linn
  • Heron Loop Trail is just over 3 miles with very little elevation gain, Riverside Trail .75 miles with elevation gain (from the parking lot near the off-leash dog park area), Turkey Creek Trail .17 miles with elevation gain
  • 45°22’55.4″N 122°38’15.5″W

Last weekend my sister invited me and our pup along on a hike. She suggested we head to Mary S. Young State Park because it is very close to Portland and as temperatures were going to be in the 90s, the river was going to be a special treat for the end of the hike for humans and pups alike! I had never heard of this park, but was so pleasantly surprise when we arrived. It is such a beautiful gem that is so close to home!

This park allows you to pick your own adventure. There are various bark trails available for walking throughout the park. We started in the first parking lot you come to when you turn into the park. We took the .1 mile Railroad Trail that connected the parking lot with the Heron Loop Trail. We took a left and followed the trail up and around, crossing over the road into the park, turning right again and looping and zigzagging down to the Trillium Trail. From there we continued to the Riverside loop Trail and followed that down to the river where there is an off-leash area for the dogs and humans to splash around in the Willamette River or lay/roll on the sandy beach. The route we took netted us around 2.5 miles total. Following just the Heron Loop Trail will get you more mileage, but the beauty of this place is that there are so many places you can explore. One of the best things about this trail system is how shady it is and on a hot morning was nice and cool for everyone.

With the very even trails, no drop offs, and only slight elevation gains (I am guessing the gain is around 100 or so feet going to and from the river), these paths are ideal for people of all ages to get out and see nature. There were lots of walkers and families with children of all ages. The kids were enjoying the sandy/pebbly beaches of the river and splashing in the water.

The park is full of native plants and I saw butterflies sunning themselves on one of the beaches. There are lovely gullies where Turkey Creek and Mary S. Young Creek have cut away the hill-side to feed into the Willamette River. It is a beautiful and quiet place to walk. There are great places for kids to kick the ball around or throw frisbees very near the picnic shelters. Dogs have their own off-leash area to run and play in their own field . They even had kiddy pools for them to play in and water to refresh their bowls.

The river does have motor boats going past and we saw paddlers of all types in this area. The water is very calm here and is a great place for wading. A word of caution: the water in the early summer is quite cold and can cause hypothermia and eventual drowning. Please make sure you are wearing life jackets. We have already had several drownings this summer and are one of the top states in the nation for drownings due to water temperatures. We have a suggestion for a great life jacket for kids here, but any will do. I have also just bought my own PFD for paddleboarding. I went to one of our local paddle shops and found a great Stohlquist life jacket made for women that is super comfortable and will be great for days on the rivers or oceans. It is a great example for my kiddo too that everyone is our family practices water safety, no matter how well we all swim.

We highly recommend this park for all folks. We think you will have a great time!

Where are your favorite places to hike when it is hot? Tell us in the comments do we can try it out!