03-08-2023 The Last Leg and More Adjustments

Morning at Bayport RV Park

When the morning arrived for our departure from Bayport RV Park on Scappoose Bay in Warren, Oregon, the skies were threatening, but there was no snow predicted for the route we chose.

Cornelius Pass is a decent route that passes by the main urban area of Portland to the west, crossing a low mountain as it approaches Highway 26 and continues south toward the upper portion of the Willamette Valley where we planned to spend two days in Dayton.

Google suggested route from Bayport to Dayton

I checked the webcams, read the Facebook Group for Cornelius Pass, and declared that we could take that route and avoid returning south via Highway 30 and Interstate 5. Even though Mo was driving, the roads required navigating to the extent that I didn’t have the opportunity to open the phone camera for photos. So I have no record of this trip.

The density of housing in parts of Aloha is surprising

We crossed Highway 26, the main route to the coast from the city. We were aghast at the wall-to-wall row houses and apartments that seemed to extend for miles around Hillsboro and Aloha on the western perimeter of the city of Portland.

Google is notorious for sometimes routing over impassable roads, and when I saw an extremely curvy road on the projected route I said, “No No! Keep going straight, that road is too curvy”. The alternate route I chose seemed to be a bit less curvy and hopefully, we could navigate a way to Dayton that would be a bit less challenging. All was well until we saw a sign for an 18 percent grade ahead. Eighteen Percent??!! I think the steepest sign we have ever seen was 16 percent on the road into Calistoga in California.

We kept on going, and climbed a narrow road into some steep hills (which felt like mountains) to an elevation of 2,000 feet or so, with fairly deep snow on either side of the road. In one short section, within a distance of no more than 2 miles, we saw 4 newish SUV-type vehicles smashed into trees and telephone poles, some appeared to be climbing the poles. So much for avoiding the curvy roads. And no, I don’t have a single photo of this experience. Somehow I had no clue that the Willamette VALLEY had steep curvy snowy mountains here and there on the perimeter.

Looking south toward Dayton from the hills

We breathed a sigh of relief as we entered the actual valley toward the community of Dayton and our reservations at the Dayton RV Park. Searching Google again for the actual address of the park, I was redirected to several other RV parks, but no Dayton RV Park. I dug out the reservation papers, which also had no address for the park, then went to the park website and discovered that there was no address listed there either. Finally in the small print somewhere I found the phone number of the RV park and called.

A sweet lady answered the phone and gladly offered the address, yada yada yada…Dayton, Nevada. NEVADA?

It seems we somehow made a reservation in Dayton, Nevada instead of Dayton, Oregon. I would expect that an RVr who has traveled for any length of time has had a similar experience. Now what?

I started calling around, and after a few parks with no openings, found one for 80 bucks a night, with this caveat, “Oh, by the way, we have some construction going on but the framers don’t get loud until after 9am.”. Thanks anyway, but no thanks. This kind lady pointed me to the nearby state park suggesting they might have an opening on a rainy, out of season, Monday night.

We found Champoeg (pronounced Shampooey) State Park on the map and headed east, hoping for an opening, or at least a spot in a handicap site. That little blue card has saved us more than once in full parks at the last minute.

Arriving at Champoeg, we saw the dreaded “Campground Full” sign, but continued in, hoping for a cancellation or an ADA site. Found a ranger who checked and then sadly confirmed that there was no available space anywhere in the park for us, but said we could stay awhile until we could search for an alternative.

Mo and I settled in for lunch, and about 20 minutes later the ranger returned, saying her boss ranger had found us a site and had to wait a few minutes to be sure that the cancellation was real. Sure enough, it was, and we were directed to a full hookup site 34 in the B Loop, with the added benefit of that site being open for us for the two nights we hoped to stay.  

Site 34 B in Champoeg State Park

Champoeg State Park was a perfect location for a home base as we visited the area around Dayton.  During her research, Mo learned that the Dayton area was well known for a large number of excellent wineries.  We thought it might be fun to sample the famous Pinot Noir grapes of this part of the Willamette Valley much as we dove into sampling the Old Vine Zinfandels in Lodi, California.   

Mo also discovered a well-known four-star restaurant located in Dayton that we thought might be a fitting end to her birthday trip.  As we settled in for the rest of the afternoon, I took advantage of the very slow internet signal on the phone to research a few wineries and the famous Joel Palmer House restaurant.  There were so many wineries to choose from but most of them required a reservation or wouldn’t be open when we were planning to visit.  We settled on a plan to visit the Stoller Family Estate, open for tastings on Tuesdays without a reservation.

We then checked for possible reservations at the Joel Palmer House and when we saw that dinner there was fixed at $375 per person, decided we didn’t need to visit this 4-star restaurant, no matter how good it was.

Bike Trail adjacent to Champoeg State Park and the Willamette River

We spent some of the rest of the afternoon enjoying a walk along the beautiful bike trail adjacent to the Willamette River which borders the park.  With the cloudy chill outside it was nice to return to the MoHo for the evening.  It had been a crazy kind of day that ended quite well.

loop A still closed for the season

The next morning dawned beautifully, with sunshine and puffy white clouds in the sky.  We took Mattie for another long walk through the park and along the river.  The bike trail continues for a few miles in either direction, with the destination toward the east about two miles being Butteville General Store

We decided that it would be best to leave Mattie settled in at home while we drove to explore the surrounding area before traveling to the winery.  

Lots of informative signs around the park

Champoeg State Park is beautiful, but I was most impressed with the Visitor Center.  Meandering through the stunning exhibits taught us about the history of the town of Champoeg, completely flooded and destroyed in 1861, rebuilt and flooded again in the late 1800s.  

Inside the beautiful visitor center at Champoeg State Park

The exhibits taught not only the history of the area, but also the history of Oregon statehood, and the people who supported it and who were against it. I learned much that I didn’t know about Oregon as we walked through the center.

Surprised at how little I knew of Oregon state hisotry

In addition to human history, there was much on the natural history of the area, including the plants, the geology, and the animals that make the park their home.  

There were sound recordings that accompanied this map

Native American history was covered as well, with an especially interesting map of the various dialects of languages that were used throughout Oregon.  So much to learn.  I think we spent at least an hour exploring the Visitor Center.  There is a museum nearby that has more exhibits about the pioneer history of the area, but it wasn’t open yet for the season.

Save this for a warmer day and the famous ice cream

After visiting the center, we drove a couple of miles east to check out the Butteville Country Store.  We originally thought maybe ice cream was in order, but it was early in the day and it was chilly so we weren’t tempted. I took a photo of the store from the outside, thinking maybe a hot summer day would make it more inviting.

Family owned since 1943 and a vineyard since 1993

Continuing toward Dayton, we found the Stoller Estate Winery on beautiful hills overlooking the valley.  The tasting room was gorgeous, and the proprietor was informative and welcoming.  There were only a few people who came and went while we were there, so it was uncrowded.

Beautiful view from the tasting room at Stoller Vineyard

We chose a wine flight for me, a glass of red blend for Mo, and a lovely sandwich for two.  The sandwich was delightful, with ham and turkey, arugula lettuce, gouda cheese, and a yummy aioli on perfectly baked bread. 

Best known for the Pinot Noir Rosé

The wines ranged from some lighter rosé to some lovely Pinot Noir wines.  The rosé made from their pinot grapes was the driest rosé I have ever tried, but delicious.  We settled on a bottle of Pinot to take home, deciding that we needed something to commemorate our visit.

Lovely farm adjacent to the vineyard

The vineyard was beautiful, with spectacular views in all directions, and made for some lovely photo opportunities with the huge puffy clouds that signaled rain to come.

Historic Joel Palmer House restaurant

On the way home, we stopped for an outside visit to the famous restaurant in Dayton.  I walked up to the imposing door, and the people inside were gracious and let me look inside.  What kind of restaurant is really worth $375 a plate?  It was beautiful and historic, and the chef was really kinda cute. 

Chef/Owner: Christopher Czarnecki

I doubt if we would ever return to eat there, especially since they are famous for using all kinds of locally sourced mushrooms in the dishes.  Mo isn’t a fan of mushrooms.

Heavy rain accompanied our late afternoon return to the MoHo, and we were treated to a few rainbows as well.  Mattie was happy to see us, and Mo braved the rain to take her for another walk.

rain and rainbows on the way back to the MoHo

We planned to return home on Wednesday morning, via Interstate 5 to Grants Pass.  I checked weather cams, weather apps, road cams, and everything I could to attempt to find a window of opportunity to get from this part of the state to our home a couple of hundred miles south in Southern Oregon.  I saw that snow was predicted for our campsite, and before going to bed we put in the slide to avoid any possible snow accumulation on the slide cover.

Snow at Champoeg SP on March 8

Sure enough, when we woke on Wednesday, it was snowing, with a bit of accumulation on the grass, but the roads were merely wet.  I checked the weather and road conditions again, and we had a short travel window opening up on Interstate 5 between Roseburg and Grants Pass during the early afternoon.  

Timing our departure in a way that would allow for a stopover at daughter Melody’s home in Brownsville near the interstate, we left by 10 AM.  On days like this one, we are exceptionally glad that we have an RV sewer dump at home.  There was no need to get out in the snow and use the sewer connection we had at our site. 

The trip home was surprisingly uneventful.  Mattie adores Melody, and as usual, as we approached Melody’s home, she started yipping and singing and wiggling ecstatically.  Our visit was short but sweet, and I loved seeing some of the home projects that Melody and Robert have been doing with their 110-year-old house.

By the time we reached the four highest passes between Roseburg and Grants Pass, the road was clear, with no ice, no snow, and no rain.  We pulled into the driveway at 4:30 PM with a sigh of relief. Home looked great, and the house was warm and welcoming thanks to the ability to program the heater for the end of vacation mode earlier in the day.

Sue and Mo happy walking the trail on the last day of the trip

Despite the challenges, the weather, and the shifting plans, Mo’s birthday trip turned out to be a complete success.  

03-03-2023 Visiting Columbia City and St Helens Oregon

This amazing kayak entry system was at the Scappoose Bay Marina. 

When Mo planned our trip, she originally set us up with three days at Reeder Beach on Sauvie Island, 2 days at Bayport RV Park in Warren, 2 days at Anderson RV Park in Vernonia, Oregon, with two final days at the Dayton RV Park in Dayton, Oregon. 

We loved our time at Reeder Beach, although if you read the previous post, you saw that we were only there for one night.  On Thursday we stayed at Reeder Beach until the last possible minute for checking out since our next park was less than 24 miles away and we were not supposed to check in until 1PM. 

The day was pleasant enough, with clouds and rain, but no snow and no real wind to speak of.  The Bayport RV Park is located at the Scappoose Bay Marina on Scappoose Bay in Warren, Oregon.  The park is clean and pleasant, with electric and water at some sites, and an excellent dump that we decided was worth every penny of the $15.00 fee.  At $30 per night, the fee was more reasonable than many we have visited lately.  Did I mention that our previous site at Reeder Beach was $50 per night?

Site 11 at Bayport RV Park

A web image of Bayport RV Park with our site circled in red

We settled in for the afternoon, and decided that an afternoon trip to our next reserved RV park might be a good idea.  We had read about the little mountain town of Vernonia previously on Nickie’s blog.  Anderson Park, owned by the city, sounded lovely and I made a reservation for two nights. 

There are several ways to approach Vernonia.  From the south, the road north from Highway 26 between Portland and the Oregon coast is narrow and winding, but not very long.  From the north, the route we originally planned, Highway 47 looked winding and long.  From our location, near Scappoose, the Scappose-Vernonia Road looked winding and narrow but it was only 20 miles or so to reach Highway 47 just north of Vernonia.

Traveling in the Tracker, we had no problem with snow or narrow roads, but even so the curves and drop-offs with no shoulder weren’t fun in the passenger seat.  The more we drove, the deeper we saw the snow on the side of the road, the more we decided that, nope, this wasn’t a route we would be comfortable driving in the MoHo.

Once we reached the Vernonia and found Anderson RV Park, we were less than thrilled with our reservation.  Unlike Nickie’s experience, the park was jam packed with big rigs, big dually pickups, and what looked to be permanent residents.  Our reserved site 11 was very tight and hemmed in on both sides by 40 foot fifth wheel rigs.  It wasn’t a place where we would want to sit outside much.  With the predicted snow, we realized that our two days in Vernonia would be spent in the MoHo.  We explored the town a bit and noticed several cute coffee shops and the murals that Nickie photographed, but with the cold weather walking the town wasn’t at all inviting.

Highway 47 north of Vernonia on a stormy afternoon

We decided to return home on the northern route via Highway 47, thinking that might be a little bit less stressful. Within minutes a storm blew through, with hail, rain, and high winds.  Trees were bending and breaking, and I said, “Gee, I hope a tree doesn’t fall on us.” The words were barely out off my mouth when we were stopped by a tree in the road, and a Direct TV guy working to remove it.  We thanked him and continued north through the forest.

Highway 47 from Vernonia is a bit less narrow than the Vernonia-Scappoose Highway, but no less curvy.  It also climbs over a high ridge at more than 1500 feet.  The prediction for snow was anything above 500 feet elevation. 

By the time we reached Clatskanie and the Columbia River, sun was slanting through the rain, creating a magnificent rainbow.  After a day trip that was daunting even in the Tracker, we decided that we needed to cancel our reservations in Vernonia.

I called the park the next morning, and the friendly person who answered the phone was delightful.  She totally understood our unwillingness to travel any of the roads to Vernonia in the snow and refunded both nights, even though we were technically outside the 48 hour window for full refund of our reservation.

Whew.  Now.  What to do about the next two days?  Looking around at our pleasant RV Park, we decided that the best bet was to simply stay put right where we were if possible.  The Marina office wasn’t open, and we rarely saw any kind of park employees around but I finally did get through on the phone to speak with someone.  She was also delightful, checking to see if our site was open for two more days and telling us we could go online to the website and add the additional days without paying any extra fees.

Apologetically fuzzy photo of swans nearby on Scappoose Bay showing how close the snow was to us at Bayport RV Park

With all the decisions handled, we finally relaxed a bit mentally, and then headed out in the Tracker to explore Columbia City and St Helens. It was a short three mile trip traveling the two-lane Old Portland Road between Warren and St Helens.

These two small towns are located along Highway 30 which paralells the Columbia River north from Portland to Astoria.  Mo was born in North Dakota but by the time she was a year old her family moved to St Helens to be near Mo’s maternal grandparents.

Houses in St Helens built by Mo’s grandfather

We meandered around a bit and eventually found the houses that Mo’s grandfather built. The blue house was built first and the gray one at a later date.

This house on 17th Street where Mo and her family lived, was located just behind the above two houses her grandfather built.

Sentinal Mist Building in St Helens

Mo had me photograph the old Sentinal Mist newspaper building where she worked during high school. The Sentinal Mist was also a printing establishment where Mo’s boss, Don Bemis, was the manager. Don’s wife, Sybil, was the manager in the front office.  Mo worked for both of these people while attending high school in St Helens.

When the Sentinal Mist was sold, Don Bemis established the Bemis Printing business in downtown St Helens and operated it until his death. Seeing the Bemis name on this building brought back fond memories for Mo.

Beautiful Columbia County Courthouse in St Helens

We then parked near the city square where we learned that the town of St Helens is also known as HalloweenTown.  We also discovered that there is a large annual celebration in the town during the Halloween season. 

There are pumpkins everywhere, and even a pumpkin themed totem pole currently residing in the waterfront park.  The pole is moved to the town square during the Halloween celebration.

The quirkiest thing we found was a vending machine selling St Helens Halloween memorabilia in  front of a closed gift shop. Many of the gift shops in town were closed during the off season, but there were a few interesting coffee establishments and some restaurants that were open.

Waterfront Park along the Columbia River and the Lewis and Clark Trail

We found a Thai restaurant, and after checking out the reviews decided that we would return to St Helens that evening for and early dinner.

Historic buildings along Strand Street near the waterfront

The theater on First Street where Mo saw her first movie, “So Dear to My Heart”

We still had much to explore, however, and after meandering around St Helens a bit we got back in the car to drive north toward Columbia City, where Mo’s family moved before she was three. 

Historic L Street Bridge in Columbia City

Imagine sledding down this road on a snowy day in the 50’s

Our first site after we drove into town was the beautiful stone bridge on L Street.  This bridge is special to Mo.  She and her siblings would sled from the bridge down L Street on snowy days. The city closed L street sometimes so kids could sled safely.

Mo’s childhood home today

Mo’s family home in the 50’s

Just a block from the L Street Bridge, located at 4th and M Street, is the Columbia City house where Mo lived until she graduated from Oregon State University in 1962.

One of Mo’s old photos of a ship on the Columbia River

The home overlooked the Columbia River and Mo often speaks of the huge ships that navigated the river all the way to Portland.  Empty ships made a thumping noise that rattled the front room windows of the house. Her stories of growing up in Columbia City and playing with her younger brothers on the river are wonderful.  When the family gets together there is a lot of laughter when these stories come up about river adventures.

Columbia City has several small and charming parks along the river.

We enjoyed meandering both towns and talking about Mo’s life when she lived there.  We went back to the RV park for an aternoon rest before returning later to St Helens and the Lotus of Bangkok restaurant for supper.  The service was excellent and the food was delicious.

We sat by a window and before long an older couple sat down at a table beside us.  The gentleman has lived in the St Helens area since he was sixteen, and he and Mo shared some stories.  It was interesting to listen to his description of how the towns have changed over the years. 

Paved paths at the Scappoose Marina wetland area

When we extended our stay at Bayport RV Park, we decided that a rainy Saturday was a perfect day to relax in the MoHo.  I wrote and processed photos, Mo read, and we went for a couple of walks on the paths that are adjacent to the marina.

My camera couldn’t capture the immensity of this old white oak

The ancient Oregon white oaks, quercus garryana, are huge, with their canopies spreading wide in open areas of the landscape. 

As the rain lessened on Sunday, we again drove to Sauvie Island to explore the western part of the island.  We then returned to the Vernonia-Scappoose Highway to find the Bonnie Creek Waterfall.

Bonnie Creek Falls

I read about the falls, and discovered that the Bonnie Creek Trail that is about a quarter of a mile up the road from the actual waterfall isn’t the best place to view the falls.  The falls are on the left side of the road at a narrow turnout.

We mistakenly passed the turnout initially, but turned around at the Crown-Zellerbach trailhead for Bonnie Creek Trail.  The rain was beginning to come down again, but the small waterfall was still quite lovely.  It isn’t easy to get down to the base of the falls, with slippery moss and crumbling rocks surrounding the fall. 

The rock cliff on the opposite side of Bonnie Creek was dramatic.

We were happy to return home to the cozy MoHo, and very  happy that our jello plans all worked out perfectly for this portion of Mo’s birthday trip

03-02-2023 Sauvie Island on the Columbia River in Oregon

I am going to add a quick list here before I lose track.  Of the more than 275 species of birds that call Sauvie Island home, we saw bald eagles, Canada geese, white front geese, lesser snow geese, tundra swans, sandhill cranes, several species of unidentified ducks, redwing blackbirds, and many many robins: some of the birds we saw on this rainy day exploring Sauvie Island. 

When we woke this morning, the skies were seriously overcast, with rain threatening in all directions we could see.  The weather apps gave us a few very short windows without predicted rain, and Mo and I loaded up Mattie in her warm coat, put on our own warm weather coats and pants, and were in the car by shortly after 9 am ready to explore what we could of the eastern portion of Sauvie Island that borders on the Columbia River. 

Before I continue with the story of our day, I want to cite the website where I found much of the information I am sharing.  When you see words in quotes, in italics, I have lifted them directly from this website:  Sauvie Island.org, with much of the historical information provided by the author and Sauvie Island resident, Donna Matrazzo.  I find it nearly impossible to share so much information that I have learned recently without resorting to what I have read, and yet I want to share it in detail.  Sauvie Island was a complete surprise to me and is definitely a place worth visiting.

From the Sauvie Island Visitor Guide, a brief history of the refuge:  “Sauvie Island Wildlife Area was established in 1947 with the primary objectives of protecting and improving waterfowl habitat and providing a public hunting area. The initial purchase of five acres in 1940 and subsequent purchases through 2012 have brought the wildlife area to its present size of 11,643 acres, of which 8,153 acres are under fee title to the department and 3,490 acres are managed through a cooperative agreement with the Oregon Department of State Lands. Currently, the wildlife area supports a biologically diverse association of wildlife which includes at least 275 species of birds, 37 species of mammals, 12 species of reptiles and amphibians, and numerous species of fish and plants.”

Although many roads leading into the deeper recesses of the wildlife areas are closed until April 15 to protect nesting birds, we had plenty of roads to explore that were open to us.

We had no more than exited the park and rounded the first corner in the road when we were thrilled to see hundreds of snow geese interspersed with Canada geese foraging in the stubble left behind after the harvest from last season.  I took a few photos of the geese, a bit sad that I hadn’t brought my Lumix camera on this trip.  The Samsung S22 Plus is a great phone and takes great photos, but it does have trouble in low light with high-contrast images. 

Snow white snow geese against a darker background are especially challenging, as you will see in the photos in this blog post.  Still, I am including the less-than-perfect photos because they show just how many birds we saw throughout our day exploring the island.

The first side route along Reeder Beach road led us down a muddy track toward Willow Beach, where the signs stated emphatically, no camping was allowed. The signs throughout the island also state “No alcohol allowed” between the dates of April and September. 

Despite the signs, we saw what appeared to be campers in old trucks with a wobbly rain shelter parked on the north end of the beach.  The view of the river was lovely, even in the gray light, but it was too chilly to do much walking and we returned to the main road.

Not far north of Willow Bar was the main viewing platform for the refuge, with long ramps leading to the deck, and railings on all sides with views of the distant wildlife area.  We saw a few birds in the distance, but most impressive were the interpretive signs on the platform with excellent information about the refuge.  Mo and Mattie stayed in the car while I braved the intensifying rain to take some photos.

Continuing north along the road, we reached the more well-known Reeder Beach, but without climbing the steps that scaled the steep dike along the river, it was impossible to see the beach.  When I once again got out of the car to take a photo or two, I was greeted by the unmistakable cacophony of sandhill cranes.  I was astounded to see literally hundreds of gangly brown birds not far from the road to the west in another grassy meadow. 

The cranes from a distance look ever so much like gangly two-legged deer until you look a bit closer.  They are a sandy brown color, with a touch of red that doesn’t show up very well in photos, especially with the phone.  Still, I have to share these photos just to show you how many cranes we saw throughout the day as we drove Reeder Beach Road as far north as we were allowed at this time of year.

A bit north of Reeder Beach is the infamous Collins Beach, known for its clothing-optional status.  On this cold rainy day, I couldn’t quite imagine clothing being considered optional, but I suppose on a hot summer day the views might be a bit more than we would want to see.

I am quite certain that in the warm summertime, Sauvie Island will be filled to bursting with city folk escaping from Portland and Vancouver to enjoy the water, the wildlife, the trails, and the beaches.

At the far northern end of Reeder Beach Road, there is a trailhead to the Warrior Rock Lighthouse. “Warrior Rock lighthouse helps guide river traffic on the Columbia River. It once contained the Pacific Northwest’s oldest fog bell. It is Oregon’s smallest lighthouse, and one of only two Oregon lighthouses still operating which are not on the Pacific Ocean.”

Snow geese and Canada geese near the Lighthouse trailhead

The trail is six miles round trip and not accessible by road.  On this cold rainy day, or any other for that matter, I wouldn’t be up to a six-mile trip, so we had to settle for reading about the history of the lighthouse and seeing photos online.  Another option is a day trip on a private boat tour for $80.00 that goes to the site. Never mind.

We returned a mile or so to a road leading west to the Gilbert River boat ramp, enjoying more sightings of geese and sandhill cranes in the meadows and wetlands on the west side of the road.  The dirt road out to the boat ramp was a one-way route, with a large parking area at the ramp on the banks of the Gilbert River. 

We discovered another possible kayak launch site leading to Little McNary Lake and the slightly bigger McNary Lake toward the south.  It was a bit muddy but would be an easy launch on a warmer day when I wouldn’t mind rolling into the water to exit my kayak.  With so many signs saying the areas were closed between November and mid-April, I might question whether kayaking is allowed in these areas at this time of year. 

Still, you can see from the image that the complexity of waterways between the Gilbert River and the Columbia River is a kayaker’s dream.

We meandered back toward camp driving on a few of the roads that were open to us and found many more sandhill cranes, ducks, Canada geese, and a beautiful bald eagle perched high on a tree overlooking the wetland. 

We once again passed the large field where we saw so many snow geese on our way out.  I asked Mo to stop, and she said, “Maybe you can get the sound of the geese”.  Great idea…and I turned on the video camera to capture the sound.  Imagine my delight when the geese decided to fly.  This sight of snow geese flying like huge sheets billowing in the wind is one of my favorite things. Be sure to turn up the sound to hear the beautiful noise.

After our day exploring the island, I wanted to know about the history of the place and found the website I referred to earlier in this post.  Here are a few excerpts:

“Sauvie Island was formed beginning more than a million years ago in the Pleistocene era, from mountain sediments washing downriver, stopped by a ledge of large rocks. Over eons, the soil accumulated and the ledge became the island’s northern end, today known as Warrior Rock. Annual freshets layered mud and sand to a depth of 30 to 50 feet, shaped eventually into soft, rolling contours, speckled with dozens of lakes and ponds. The result became an island landscape unique in the West.”

“The original inhabitants of the island were the Multnomah tribe of the Chinook Indians. There were 15 Multnomah villages on the island, and the 2,000 islanders lived in cedar log houses 30 yards long and a dozen yards wide. Each family would have its own entrance and fire pit within. They hunted, fished, and gathered plants year-round. The Multnomahs were flathead Indians. Babies were tied to a flat board, with another piece of wood fixed across the baby’s brow, pressuring the skull to flatten in a continuous line from crown to nose, resulting in a look respected for distinction and superiority.

Women wore a mantle of animal skins and a fringed skirt of cedar bark, anointed their hair with fish oil, and wore ornaments of white shells called hiaqua. Wapato, the arrowhead-leafed wild potato, was a major food source. The women would go out in a lake or pond with a canoe and harvest the bulbs by digging into the mud with their feet. Wapato was roasted and eaten, dried, stored, and traded to other tribes.”

As I read more about the history of the island, I learned about the first white explorers who landed on the island in 1792 and then about the landings by the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1805 and again in 1806 on their return upriver.  There is a bit of a gap in the history of the island between 1806 and 1835 when the following paragraph says much about the history of the indigenous tribes of our country.

During the next decades, the Native Americans weathered outbreaks of smallpox, syphilis, measles, and tuberculosis. Then in 1829 a horrifying epidemic of a fever known as the ague swept across the land. Within two years, the natives were nearly extinct. Less than a decade later the Hudson Bay Company, with its Fort Vancouver just across the Columbia, sent a French dairyman, Laurent Sauvé, to establish a dairy. Around 400 cattle swum across the river from the fort. Sauvé was to produce butter for the Russian settlements in Alaska with whom Hudson Bay had a contract. The island came to take his name.

Sauvie Island, once the home of the great Multnomah tribe including chief Multnomah himself, is now named for the Frenchman who started a dairy there. I am surprised that there hasn’t been a movement to rename the island after its original inhabitants.

I read more about the history of the island, and the early settlers who came after Laurent Sauve began his dairy.  Not long after Sauvé began the dairy, in 1845, a party from the Savannah Oregon Immigration Society set out from Missouri across the Oregon Trail. Four of the 64 wagons carried Robert E. Miller, his wife Sara Ferguson, eight of their 11 children, and their families. They arrived on Sauvé’s island and settled near each other. The land where Howell Territorial park sits today was claimed by Miller’s daughter Julia Ann and her husband, James Francis Bybee. Bybee later headed, as did many pioneers, to the great California gold rush. He found gold and returned with enough money to build the nine-room classical Greek Revival house that stands restored on the property today.

The Bybee-Howell House on Sauvie Island

Mo and I decided to return to the island on another day to explore the west side of the island along the Multnomah Channel, a tributary of the Columbia River which separates the island from the mainland to the west.  We wanted to see the historic house that we somehow missed as we drove toward Reeder Beach.  The house is a museum but seems to be open only rarely, but it is fascinating to see such a solid, lovely house, built in the mid-1800s still standing so proudly.

Continuing north from the Territorial Park along the channel, we enjoyed many views of houseboats lining the riverbank and a marina with many moored boats.  I had to read about how houseboats deal with wastewater and discovered that floating houses in the Portland area are connected to water and sewage systems.  Wastewater is collected in holding tanks and then pumped into the system as needed to be disposed of in the same way that sewers operate on a land-based system.  I am glad no one is dumping gray water into the rivers, much less sewage.

Houseboats on the west bank of the Multnomah Channel near Scappoose

On the west side of the island, we saw old houses, historic farms, herds of black Angus grazing on the hills, and many small farms.  This island is a completely different place as summer comes and people come from many miles distant to fish, kayak, hike, and pick fresh fruits and vegetables.  There are many farms with all kinds of berries, including the famous Oregon Marionberries, a blackberry developed by Oregon State University in 1956 and my most favorite berry of all.

Sauvie Island was a surprise to me, and even though Mo picked green beans on the island in the early 50s, she learned much about it on this trip as well.  With the island located only 43 miles from Mo’s brother’s home in Beavercreek, I am hoping that maybe the four of us can meet for a camping trip here later in the season when we can kayak and hike and have a campfire on the river.  I can imagine that Dan might even enjoy a side trip to his childhood home in Columbia City as much as we have enjoyed our time here.

03-01-2023 A Birthday Celebration

MoHo and Tracker patiently waiting in the driveway for the snow to melt

As my friend Maryruth said recently, Mo is an incredible hostess, making company feel welcome and cared for.  Intimate times with family and friends are something she enjoys, but parties?? Forget it.  I think Mo will do whatever she can to avoid any kind of party in her honor, especially birthday parties.  So early in February, when she mentioned what she would like to do for her birthday this year, I completely understood.

Mo wanted to travel in the MoHo, one of her favorite things, and this time she chose to travel to the town of her childhood, Columbia City, Oregon.  Much of the time I am the trip planner, but this time Mo handled everything except the actual phone calls.  My only job was to make the reservations and fill in the calendar.

Often early March is a delightful time of year in Grants Pass.  Daffodils are beginning to bloom, the grass is growing and in need of mowing, and trees are budding.  We didn’t worry much about the weather as we planned the trip for the last two days in February, with our plans putting us near Columbia City by March 1, Mo’s birthday. 

This year, however, was a bit of a surprise.  Sure, we sometimes get light snows in March and even in April, but this year it has been snowing at Rogue Valley floor elevations for much of February.  A bit of sunshine in between let Mo outside a bit to rake leaves and mow the pasture once, but most of the time I huddled in the house, attempting to appear useful while Mo worked outside.  It was cold, with very little sunshine.  All of February felt like winter, real winter, even in Southern Oregon. 

Waking early on Feb 27 wasn’t encouraging for a MoHo trip

Plans made, reservation papers in an orderly folder, we watched the weather apps and the Oregon Department of Transportation website with trip check cameras and road conditions.  On February 27th, our planned departure date, it snowed.  We called the first park where we planned to stay and they were kind and said no problem, no extra charge to change the arrival date and the length of our stay.

Another snowy morning on Feb 28

On February 28th, we woke again to snow, with the MoHo parked in the driveway and Tracker hooked up and ready to go, once again we called the park.  Sure, we could adjust our arrival day and our length of stay to just one night instead of two or three.  We watched the snow slowly melt throughout the rest of the day.  I tracked the road cameras obsessively and checked every possible weather app for some signs of encouragement.

We read that the snow on the morning of March 1 would be light, and the sun might appear by mid-morning.  We timed our departure for 11AM, but sitting around in the house with everything ready to go isn’t much fun.  We were on the road at 10:30 AM on the morning of Mo’s birthday.  The mail came in time for her to receive birthday cards that so many people mailed in time and for Mo to get a few birthday calls from her friends, brothers, and sister.  It was a pleasant morning.

There are four passes on the winding portion of Interstate 5 between Grants Pass and Roseburg, and then two smaller passes between Roseburg and Eugene before we enter the Willamette Valley and the end of the mountain passes on the way to Portland. The day before our departure, the interstate was closed in both directions for more than 30 miles for almost 12 hours.  It was a great reason to give to our camp hosts for our delay.

I-5 north of Grants Pass

I-5 after the first four passes north of Grants Pass

I-5 north of Roseburg

On the day we drove north, the roads were clear and the pavement was mostly dry and free of ice.  Our trip north to Portland was completely uneventful, even though I did breathe a sigh of relief as we crossed the last pass at Rice Hill.  The trip was so very easy.  The only other hurdle to navigate was Portland freeway traffic as we crossed the downtown area of the city toward Highway 30.  We hit heavy traffic just a few miles south of downtown.  I think our time in heavy slow traffic lasted all of ten minutes, and we managed to navigate the proper turn lanes together without any moments of stress. 

Surprising how close to Portland the wide open spaces of Sauvie Island are located

It was just a little after 4 when we reached the turn toward Sauvie Island, and we were at our campsite at exactly 4:30 PM.  Once again I had nailed it, saying we would be parked by 4:30.  Sometimes we are so very lucky and I don’t think we have had a trip any easier than this one.

Mo wanted to visit Sauvie Island for a couple of reasons.  For one thing, it is an open and lovely place that isn’t very well known.  There is a wildlife refuge and a couple of campgrounds that are along the banks of the Columbia River.  When Mo planned our trip originally, she thought we would take the kayaks and enjoy the many small lakes and streams that are located adjacent to the main Columbia.  Needless to say, with snow, rain, and temperatures in the ’30s predicted for the area, we decided to skip bringing the kayaks.

The other reason Mo wanted to visit was to enjoy her memories of picking green beans on the island as a young girl when she lived nearby in Columbia City.  A fun memory that Mo shared with the camp host at the island was how important it was to fluff the beans up in the bucket because you were paid by the bucket, not by the weight, and fluffed-up beans filled the bucket faster. He seemed to know exactly what she was talking about since he laughed with her at the story.  Maybe he picked beans as a kid as well.

We are in Site 11 at Reeder Beach RV Park

The skies were dark and cloudy when we arrived, but the rains held off until we were completely settled into our spot overlooking the mighty Columbia River.  I took Mattie for a walk and watched for the big ships that sometimes navigate this portion of the river. 

We saw a few barges, and one rather fancy tour boat but no big ships came our way on this first evening of our visit.  Settling in for a supper of green chile enchiladas and a salad, we were warm and cozy when the rain began to tap on the roof of the MoHo.

Our campground was Reeder Beach RV Park, and we received a couple of pages of rules when we arrived.  The park is well maintained, and the rules are designed to prevent long-term squatters from taking over the park.  The fees were $50 per night for a site like ours overlooking the river and $40 per night for back-row sites.  The power and water were operational with snow coats covering the power posts to protect them from the recent freezing weather.  The site itself was graveled but was most certainly not even close to level.  I was so glad that Mo had worked on our hydraulic jacks and they worked perfectly.

Happy Birthday, Mo!

We spent a pleasant evening watching a favorite Hulu series cast on the TV.  Even with just 1 or 2 bars of 5G reception on the phone, the internet connection worked perfectly.  The only noise during the night was an occasional jet flying low over the island as they circled coming or going from the Portland International Airport. 

Weather reports for the next day were encouraging, and we made plans to explore Sauvie Island and possibly find a few birds.  A few?  Wait until you see my next post!

01-17-2023 Desert Days

When I first started writing this post yesterday our little corner of desert in the Northwest corner of the Coachella Valley was engulfed in low black clouds.  The rain came in bursts, carried on the strong winds that have battered the valley during the last couple of days.  By the time I got back to finishing this present tense paragraph, the clouds broke, the winds died down, and brilliant sunshine broke through the darkness.  By the time I begin the next paragraph, the skies may go dark again.  That is how quickly it happens in the desert. 

Unlike rain at home during the winter which comes and stays, here we get breaks now and then.  We have experienced many types of weather traveling in the desert, but long-lasting, socked-in dark gray doesn’t happen very often.  Another little benefit of desert rain is that it is usually a little bit warmer than Oregon rain.  Maybe, as it is this morning, only 10 degrees warmer, but that ten degrees can raise to 30 degrees, and here we go again, the brilliant sun is breaking through the sky again, blinding me a bit as it reflects off the windows of the MoHo.  It makes it a bit hard to write as I usually do, writing in the present, describing the present moment before I step back into the past to talk about our time here.  The present moment just keeps changing.

This is our last day at Catalina Spa and RV Resort at Desert Hot Springs.  It has been a full week now, with one extra day as a gift for our early arrival last week.  I went down to the office this morning to book two full weeks for next January.  One week isn’t nearly enough.  Eight mornings that start with a leisurely swim in a warm pool under the moonlight that turns to sunrise aren’t nearly enough.

There is much to do in this desert valley.  There are literally dozens of amazing hikes in the Coachella Valley. In the past, much of our entertainment included many of these hikes at various locations throughout the area.  We are still walking, but partly because of the cool rainy windy weather the hikes this year took a back seat to swimming, and daily walks in our local desert spot right behind the park.  This little piece of the desert can be delightful for Mattie, where she often can run off leash when there aren’t many other dogs around.  It is a favorite spot for dog walking for park residents, and sometimes dog owners aren’t particularly careful to leash their dogs when another dog is nearby.  The walks are fun for us, and for Mattie, but require a bit of diligence to avoid confrontations.  Dogs get territorial when on a leash and Mattie is no exception.

Something that adds to our desert visit this time is sharing much of it with friends Jimmy and Nickie Wilkinson.  Without any planning on the part of either of us, we managed to book our time at Catalina for an overlapping week.  Their rig is just a few doors south of ours, which makes for easy running back and forth for incidentals, and yet Nickie and I still text each other to keep track of what is happening and when.  Nickie and Jimmy have e-bikes, and I was excited to see them, knowing full well that my leg strength and balancing abilities wouldn’t let me even think about mounting one of them.  It was fun to watch Nickie ride around though, and hear their stories.

The pool is warm and lovely even on cloudy mornings

In the midst of writing this blog, I will head over to the lower clubhouse for a game of hand and foot with them, a game the three of us love and Mo had no interest in doing.  On Tuesday, Mo and I decided to go to the theater in Cathedral Valley that we love, but the only thing of interest that was playing was the Avatar sequel, a movie that Mo doesn’t care to see.  I drove alone with Nickie and Jimmy following me across the desert to the southern side where my favorite movie theater of all time exists.  We saw the Avatar movie, which Jimmy loved.  By the time I got out of the theater, I was bug-eyed with color and flashing images of wondrous stuff.  My ears were bleeding with the shouts of battles and wars and a ton of other stuff.  The movie was long, and I was ready for it to be over.  The animation was incredibly creative and wondrous, but the movie somehow didn’t move me the way the first one did.  I was glad Mo didn’t go because she would have given up before it ran for fifteen minutes. 

Our favorite theater is Mary Pickford is d’Place, a gorgeous venue with many screens, very huge, very comfortable recliners, a screen at least twice as big as our theater at home, and wine, beer and food available in addition to the typical popcorn and sodas.  Mo didn’t completely miss out because we found a good movie later in the week.

Sue and Mo in our favorite theater.  Check out the relaxed lady behind us

Yesterday in the rain Mo and I traveled once again across the valley to the theater to see Tom Hanks in “A Man Called Otto”.  We had barely settled into our comfy seat in the front row when Jimmy and Nickie arrived to settle in as well.  A great choice for a rainy day and truly a very enjoyable movie that all four of us loved.

On Thursday, the four of us crossed the valley to Palm Springs for the weekly Palm Springs Street Festival.  Lovers of tradition, Mo and I shared our favorite streetside Mexican restaurant with our friends for a delightful dinner.  I think the food is good, but the company and watching the happy people on the streets make it seem even more wonderful.

After dinner we walked the streets a bit, enjoying the art and creativity that a fair like this brings out in people.  I saw another favorite shop/gallery that I love, filled with gorgeous expensive stuff and also gorgeous inexpensive stuff.  I bought a painted gecko for an exterior wall at home and Nickie fell in love with something equally colorful for their walls. A photo of my gecko will have to wait until we return home and I find a place to hang her and take her photo.

Mo and I planned to read sitting in our outside chairs, and the second day we were here, with the sun shining we optimistically put out the awning and added the colorful chili pepper lights that we bought in 2007 in Bourne Texas when we first bought the MoHo.  They still worked, almost.  Mo had to fiddle with one of the strings to get it going again, but after 15 years I would say that is pretty darn good.

The sun and rain came and went, but it was never really warm enough to actually sit outside in our chairs to read, but we did manage a few minutes enjoying the views of the snow on the mountains before returning to the cozy MoHo.

I have a hard time remembering how we passed the time, with only a few highlights coming through the simple pleasures of morning swims and daily walks with the dog, evening suppers in the MoHo with home-cooked food except for that one night, and long nights of sleep sometimes as much as 9 full uninterrupted hours.

The nearly block-long G Scale model train near the entrance of the Living Desert is delightful

Last Wednesday, after we were here just a couple of days, the weather was predicted to be sunny and almost warm, with a high of 65 here in Desert Hot Springs and a truly remarkable 70F across the valley in Palm Desert.  The wonderful Living Desert Zoo and Gardens are located in Palm Desert.  We first visited in 2015 right after the birth of a baby giraffe.  This zoo is much more than a zoo, and as one of the docents explained to us, in the last few years they have moved from an entertainment venue toward a true conservation effort.

There are fewer “shows” and more space for habitats for breeding pairs of animals to live and help maintain populations that are dwindling in the wild.  I know some people despise zoos, but all zoos are not created equal and the work of this particular zoo, in addition to the San Diego Zoo and others is stellar.

Sue, Mo, Jimmy, and Nickie enjoying the Living Desert

We went with our friends, traveling in two cars because they have a Smart Car and the Tracker is our traveling extra space, not easy to empty enough for two more passengers.  The zoo wasn’t crowded when we arrived around 10:30 and the entry fee for seniors of $27.95 was perfectly worth every penny.

Nia the black rhino is quite photogenic

Mo and I headed immediately toward the giraffes, but along the way we enjoyed a new habitat created for a young pair of black rhinos, an endangered species mainly due to poaching in their native continent of Africa.  The young female was very photogenic, posing for portraits.  The male, Jaali, wasn’t as visible but we did see him climbing a hill in the enclosure before we were entranced by the visible female.  The docent said they will eventually have “many dating opportunities” and they hope for some offspring to help with the worldwide population of these animals.

Naked mole rats snuggling together in their complex tunnel system

We laughed as we watched her crunch on branches and twigs, but she also gets squash and watermelon, her favorite.  The habitat is created in such a way that it is shared with waterbucks, springboks, pelicans, and many other birds in addition to some very strange naked mole rats.  This way the habitat approaches something closer to what the rhinos might experience in the wild.

Continuing along the paved pathways we, at last, came to the savannah which is the home for the giraffes.  They are very popular here with a feeding station where people can buy lettuce and feed the curious and always hungry for treats giraffes.  I think that giraffe faces are one of the most endearing in the world of animals and have so many photos of those faces that it is hard to choose which ones to share here. 

Our favorite photos have always been the ones in 2015 when the giraffes were on the other side of the hills with only their tall necks and faces showing.  Makes me smile every time I look at them.  I can only imagine what it must be like to see these magnificent, graceful animals in the wild.  Another species that is threatened more by loss of habitat than by poaching, but the loss is every bit as tragic.

Just beyond the giraffe savannah is another habitat for the warthogs.  There are seven girls with their mom and dad in this group of warthogs.  Such strange-looking creatures, and yet as we watched the caregivers attempting to vaccinate them in a chute and then petting their very bumpy noses, it was easy to see that they were also kinda sweet.  They loved the scratching.

Next to the warthogs was a breeding pair of leopards.  Huge and muscled, these great cats are impressive hunters, with warthogs being one of their main prey animals.  The keeper said they liked to watch “warthog tv” through the windows of their enclosure next to the warthogs.  Really? The warthogs were perfectly calm, no doubt knowing they had no threat from the nearby leopard.

We continued wandering the park through the African Continent section to our most favorite of all, the meerkats.  They remind us so much of Mattie, with similar faces, and their ability to stand upright and look all around.  Mattie does this all the time, balancing on her bottom on just about any surface without a bit of trouble.  We love to watch the meerkats and laugh.  They are so adorable.

The three cheetah sisters were sleeping in the sun, faces obscured by the grasses that made their bed. 

They weren’t as active as they were on our last visit where the keepers showed us how fast they could run, encouraged by food treats.  As the docent said, no more “shows’’, and more emphasis on species protection and restoration.

I loved the African Painted Dogs, great hunters who work in groups and have up to 90 percent success when they hunt.  I thought they were beautiful, Nickie not so much.

Beyond the African Continent toward the north end of the park is the North American Continent section, with animals that we are familiar with in a different way.  We watched the Bighorn Sheep gracefully tiptoe over the steep rocky slopes in their habitat and saw pronghorn antelope.  I noticed that both the sheep and the antelope were subspecies that are localized to Southern California and Mexico, but they looked very similar to the animals that we find in the desert mountains of Eastern Oregon and Nevada.

We walked the paths from eagles and snakes and the big American cats, including a lovely puma/couger/mountain lion/catamount depending on which part of the country you are from.  All the same animal.  Wolves and coyotes were lazing in the sun, and defied any sort of deccent photograph. 

Returning toward the entry gate the habitat gardens are filled with plants from the different deserts of the Americas, and the cactus gardens are spectacular.  Down a deeply shaded pathway is the enclosure for one of the most incredible cats in all the world, the jaguar. 

At first I didn’t see her walking along the high ridge inside her enclosure, but I watched in awe as the great muscled cat meandered down the rocks and toward us at the thick glass window.  These cats even swim the Amazon River.  Maybe you will see one in the wild on your Amazon trip, Nickie?!

After four hours of meandering, the four of us were ready for a bit to eat, and Jimmy and Nickie found a table at the Kooabora Restaurant near the exit of the park.  Lunch was surprisingly yummy, with thick sub-type sandwiches and a chocolate muffin.

Me with the only coyote that wasn’t sleeping

Following a Lamborghini and who knows what else on Date Palm Drive

As we drove home back across the valley we laughed at all the fancy cars that surrounded our twenty year old Tracker. 

Another end to another wonderful day.  Clouds make for great sunsets.

I am finishing this blog post a day after I began, and once again the skies are a brilliant blue.  It is still quite chilly, and the high winds make the 50F temps feel a lot colder than it is.  We slept well again last night, and woke to the strong winds and a clear sky.  Another morning swim, our last of the season was accompanied by breezes that almost pushed us across the pool.  It was a chilly damp walk back to the MoHo when we finished.

Twilight at the main office of Catalina Spa and RV Resort

Next year we will stay for two weeks, and yesterday I made the reservation.  Georgia in the office was very helpful with choosing the best sites.  While the park retains the prerogative of moving you from your first choice, if you pick a few favorites they will do everything they can to accommodate you. Georgia warned me from a site I had chosen and pointed me to one more level and closer to the pool.  Nice.  After three years away we had forgotten how quickly a week in the desert can go by.  Two weeks may not be enough next January, but it will definitely be better than a single week with the morning swims in the perfect pool.

Today we will travel just 90 minutes or so toward the east and a bit south to Anza Borrego State Park.  We met Kathie three years ago on a day trip to the park and I texted her to inquire if there were spaces available.  Due to the bad weather in California, we were lucky to reserve a nice full hookup space in the state park campground. 

I am looking forward to our time there.  The weather may be chilly and the winds still strong, but the skies are blue and Kathie said there are a few flowers already blooming.  It has been a great week in a park we love with friends we care about and plenty to keep busy enough and happy.  Such a treasure, such a life, so lucky we are to be able to travel like this.  Onward.