This trip came about because: (1) We had a window of ten days open on our calendar. (2) It's a good time of year to travel over the Cascades and visit Central & Eastern Oregon. (3) Jeanette has long had a dream of a trip made up short 50 mile days. Many of you know that our dog Buster, has developed a travel anxiety in his old age, so short travel days will hopefully work the best for us all. With all these factors in mind we set out from home yesterday morning in our Roadtrek Zion on our adventure, with a plan of combining relief stops for Buster with birding stops for us.
Lyons City Park
Our first stop based on Buster's level of anxiety was Lyons City Park. An old faviote of ours, but yesterday morning we saw it through a new lens of the season. Many of our visits to this park have been in fall and winter when the ponds of full of wintering water fowl. On this morning the woods were full of bird song, and the mix of sunshine, trails, and wildlife worked its magic on all three of us. For out bird list with photos click here.
Western Pond Turtle at Lyons City Park
Jouneying on we took the back road through Fox Valley to Mill City where we stopped for lunch at Subway. From there we were back on Highway 22 to Detriot Lake for our next stop at Detroit Flats. For our bird list with photos at Detroit Flats, which include a rare sighting of a Horned Grebe, click here.
By the time we had finished birding we were baking in the hot sun with temps approcing 80 degrees, so we went in search for shade and a camping site. We hit the jackpot at our first stop, Hoover Campground, a Willamette National Forest Campground on Blow-out Road on the South shore of Detroit Lake. Circling through the campground we found site numer 4, the perfect site for shade and also cell coverage, which we where suprised and delighted. 36 site here of which we had 30 to pick from. Cost 24 a night, put only 12 for us Seniors. Swainson's Thrushes serenaded from the towering firs, an occasional Stellar's Jay warned of our presence. On the shaded picnic bench I set up my laptop to process the photos and bird lists from the day. Life is good.
A week ago we met up with our friends Gary and Judy Dinsmore at the Keizer Elks where they had stopped on their way back to Oregon from their winter in Texas. We spent the morning birding at the Keizer Rapids City Park, and over lunch Judy asked Jeanette what we were doing next weekend. That led to a plan for this weekend to meet and camp together at Anderson Park in Vernonia. We met the Dinsmores years ago in Arizona, when Gary showed up for one of my bird walks at Lake Havasu State Park. We quickly discovered that we had quite a few things in common besides RVing and birds. Both couples had a long history of bicycling. But by the time we met them our cycling days had ceased. That changed this weekend. Jeanette and I got back on the bikes and rediscovered our love of cycling.
getting ready to ride from our campsites
We started our morning with a birding on our bikes around Vernonia Lake. This was a first for all four of us, and it worked out great. We would ride along until we saw something and then stop and all get a look and maybe some photos.
our crew at Vernonia Lake
After our birding trip around the lake and a short break, we left the camera and binoculars in camp and took off to explore more of the Banks-Vernonia State Trail. It was great to find ourselves immersed in the cycling experience again. Back to Vernonia we stopped in for lunch at The Black Iron Grill.
The Black Iron Grill
Our afternoon included for me working on bird lists and photos, and we all got in some resting as well as planning our next rendezvous. Jeanette and I are committed to continue including biking on our RV escapades. Thank you Gary and Judy for getting us pedaling again.
Look closely at this photo of a female Red-winged Blackbird and you can see that she is gathering cattail fuzz for nesting material. We had an outstanding time birding at Huddleston Fish Pond in Willamina this morning. It was overcast and threatening rain, and the pond looked devoid of all life when arrived. Quite a contrast from our last trip here a little over a month ago when we saw a dozen different species of water-fowl on the pond. There is a saying in the bird world, "bird every bird", meaning don't assume when you see a flock of birds that they are all the same species. A new concept struck me today, "go ahead and bird every location". Meaning, in spite of the fact that it looked like there were no birds in the area when we arrived, it's important to look anyway. By the time we left the pond 45 minutes later, we had identified 26 different species including a very rare sighting of three Caspian Terns. When we started making our loop of the pond, the first thing we noticed was there were a lot of noisy Red-winged Blackbirds, in fact we counted of 20, and in fact there were probably more than that. The above photo provided a clue to all the activity of the Red-wings, they are busy nesting. The next time we find ourselves stopping to bird at a location that doesn't look so promising, I'm hoping we take the time to look a little closer.
This is the sunrise this morning from our over-night parking spot at K-Mart in The Dalles. It was a great send-off for us for leaving to drive home this morning. K-Mart was a great place for us to night park, which we did for two nights. Unfortunately for K-Mart, business is slow, but that makes for a large quiet parking lot. Kentucky Fried Chicken is just across the street, so dinning needs are covered. Cell service is good, so the Internet works well, and there is TV coverage if we park in this direction. Originally we didn't know how many days we would be gone, but we arranged our schedule so that we could be gone for eight days. But yesterday looking at the weather forecast with the promise of rain, we decided we would take advantage of the last dry morning and head for home, hopefully ahead of the rain. We made it by an hour.
All in all we had a pretty good trip. We birded in a number of different counties, Clark, Skamania, and Klickitat in Washington, and Wasco County in Oregon. We spent four nights out and never spent a penny on campground fees. Actually it's not just about the money, it's our preference. We love the freedom of parking lots and rest areas, and in fact they are in general much quieter than campgrounds and no reservations needed. Perhaps our biggest joy was retracing our Honeymoon bicycle trip in May of 1993. We were self contained in those days too, with our tent, sleeping bags, cloths and cooking gear on our bikes. On this trip we could only marvel at the miles we peddled then. The days of youth are oh so fleeting.
Yesterday we decided to stay put in The Dalles, enjoy the best weather of the week, and bird the Riverfront Trail of The Dalles. I picked the section at Chenoweth Creek, and we walked almost three and a half miles, taking the trail north in the morning as far as Taylor Lake, and then a section south after lunch. Lunch was hot dogs grilled on the George Forman gill, oh the joy's of solar and lithium that provide electricity for all our needs. Osprey provided most of the entertainment in the bird world.
A pair of Osprey where busy laying claim to a nest site and fending off a loaner bird who kept circling the area. This is the female coming in for a landing.
This is the male, possibly a young one, his chest pure white as the driven snow.
This female caught her own fish, a little unusual in that the male usually would be bringing her a fish. The fish looks to be a Rainbow Trout, which I would speculate is a planter for fishermen from near-by Taylor Lake.
Sunshine final found us yesterday afternoon. The motivation for this RV trip in the Columbia Gorge was to escape the rain in the Willamette Valley. The weather forecast supported that idea originally, but then the weather deteriorated to the point that rain was everywhere. We left Salem on Tuesday in the rain, traveling to Washuagal. We spent Wednesday traveling East in the Columbia Gorge in the rain. Thursday became dry, but cloudy until afternoon when the sun broke out while we were taking a break at the Chamberlain Lake Overlook.
We started this 3rd day of our Columbia Gorge Tour with a stop at Rowland Lake Rest Area. Not much was going on so we moved on to Catherine Creek where we hiked the 1 mile loop Universal Access Trail. Birds were scarce, but wildflowers are the main act here.
Driving on our next stop was the Balfour-Klickitat Trailhead just before the town of Lyle. Here we had our best bird walk of the trip so far. Our most interesting bird here was this Lewis's Woodpecker. You can see our bird list here.
After lunch in Lyle, we backtracked to the Chamberlain Lake Overlook Rest Area (shown at the top of this post). It's possible to park for up to 8 hours here, and we considered staying, but after a nap and some down time we were a little bored so moved on to Horsethief Lake Campground. In the end we just could not see us staying there and paying 35 dollars to be uncomfortably close to neighbors. So, we moved across the river to The Dalles and our regular free parking spot at K-Mart.
Day two of our Columbia Gorge Tour began at Cotton Wood Beach in the Captain William Clark Regional Park in Washougal. This is the location that the Corps of Discovery led by Lewis & Clark camped in March of 1806 for 6 days gathering supplies for their return journey up the Columbia River. The dugout canoe in the foreground was their form of transportation, in the background is a huge double barge and tugboat, one of our modern forms of transportation used to transport goods up the very same route. Who could have possibly guessed the astounding changes that have occurred in the past 213 years.
We journeyed on East up the Columbia River on Hwy 14 on our own little trip of discovery, driving over Cape Horn in a rain storm. Buster's driving anxiety windshield wiper reflex forced us to make a stop at Beacon Rock State Park for a break. To park here we were supposed to have a Washington State Discover Pass, which we did not have, nor could we see any place to purchase. Moving on we next made a stop at a boat launch at the mouth of the Wind River. The rain had let up momentarily and we got out of the van and made up a bird list. Our next stop, which I was hoping would be our overnight parking destination was Spring Creek Hatchery Road. I had noticed while looking at Google Maps that a large number of vans park there, probably to wind surf. When we arrived again we saw the notice of the need for a Discover Pass. However, the sign also said the pass could be purchased on line or by phone. Jeanette called and we got a pass and a code to post in our windshield. We were set, the rain had ceased, and we were parked out of the wind, so we set out on foot to explore. Although we were looking for birds ( you can see our list here), one of the first things I saw were some Grass Widows, one of our long time favorites, and the flower that best signals the start of spring flowers in the Columbia River Gorge.
Jeanette points out an Osprey
Overnight parking spot
We loved our little discovery. Although this recreation area is probably most used by wind surfers, we enjoyed the river side trails, flowers, and birds, and will be back. Note for the future: cell service was good. TV service only worked when the antenna was able to see West.