Greetings to all,
Here's hoping your summer is going well. We completed our research of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest in the first days of the month. Then, we moved on to a couple of national forests more to the center of Oregon, the Malheur and Ochoco, and ended the month in the Mt. Hood National Forest, east of Portland.
Malheur National Forest surrounds "bustling" John Day and "bucolic" Prairie City, Oregon (combined population around 2,600). Malheur is so small it took us only a week to complete our research. The most striking feature of this Forest was its personnel – they were so enthusiastic and helpful. While in the Malheur, we took time to visit the Sheep Rock Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. Although it was hotter outside than the backdoor to Hades (even the lizards were looking for shade), we enjoyed the Monument's visitor center with its exhibits and air conditioning. There we met a Geology instructor from OSU (Oregon State University) who spends his summers doing interpretive presentations at national monuments and parks. Doesn't that sound like a fun job?
Getting to our next forest, the Ochoco, may have been our greatest adventure for July. We picked up US Rt 20 in Burns (refers to a person, not the temperature) and headed due west. It was about 75 miles along the John Day River, across plains of sagebrush and hayfields, and around walls of flood lava. One might say it was desolate but it is just plain old empty. After a few hours we stopped for a break and lunch in Hampton, a town of one building serving as a café, gas station, convenience store, and city hall, and an assortment of single-wide trailers - population 7. The café's cook was also the gas station attendant and public works staff. (In Oregon, self-service at gas stations is against the law.)
As much fun as lunch was, the real "fun" started when we turned north just outside of Brothers (bigger than Hampton by a rest area) onto County Rt.27. The first half mile was paved but that changed to gravel and then to what is referred to as "improved native" surface. The improvement is they pulled the sagebrush out and banked the turns. Although not as harrowing as our Ophir, CO adventure, this one was memorable. For more than an hour, we traveled at about 15 mph over washboards, potholes, cattle guards, and through dust. And this stuff wasn't your-hid-the-shine-on-the-piano-city dust. This stuff clung to everything and piled up on what was left. We pulled into Prineville billowing a cloud of dust behind us. The campground manager remarked, "I never meet no one brought an RV up that road." And we know why!
Ochoco National Forest is even smaller than Malhuer. It stretches from Prineville to a village named Parkdale, Oregon and took us a total of four days to complete! You have heard it said "Good things come in small packages." Ochoco illustrates this statement. We really enjoyed our time researching this Forest of rolling green mountains and enormous lush meadows. And was especially delighted to discover Sugar Creek campground, a little campground snuggled up against the clear flowing Sugar Creek with sites tucked under some of the prettiest Ponderosa pine you will ever see. It isn't fancy, just your standard national forest campground, but it represented exemplary care by the Forest Service. After surveying some 2,100 campgrounds, it was really nice to find Sugar Creek.
After almost two weeks of enjoying small national forests we began our work on the behemoth Mt. Hood National Forest from a Forest Service campground named Lost Lake. Actually, we think the name comes from the fact the road to the campground is so long and winding it makes you think YOU are the one lost. Lost Lake is on the east side of that magnificent dormant volcano known as Mt. Hood. After the near desert-like environment for the past four weeks, we looked at the lush vegetation and marveled at the green. Everywhere we went in the Forest, Mt. Hood looked down at us. (In August, Suzi wants to do a photo album of the many looks Mt. Hood presented.)
After a week on the east side of the mountain, we moved onto the south side. In the "big" community of Government Camp we were delighted to find a Wifi hotspot but depressed by the price of gas. Although Government Camp is primarily a ski town, it didn't seem to recognize the time of year. Every afternoon the streets fill with "tweens" wearing baggy pants and socking caps pulled down to their eyebrows, and carrying snowboards or skateboards. It seems Mt. Hood, with its numerous glaciers, has enough snow year-round for "performance" camps. These are camps that help the young people improve or perfect their skills at getting down a snowy mountain with style for a rather substantial fee.
Oh my, once again we have reached our self-imposed writing limit but have made no mention of: our day on the historic Sumpter Valley Railroad and Sumpter Valley Dredge (www.forestcamping/dow/gallery/sumpter/sumpter.html); Historic Clackamas Ranger Station/CCC Camp; meeting a circle of spinners from the Columbia Fiber Guild at a campground; the 50/50 Ultra-marathon race where folks actually think it is fun to run from Timothy Lake to Timberline Lodge on Mt Hood and back - IN ONE DAY!); delicious peaches growing in the shadow of Mt. Hood; or, that we have had enough wild huckleberries to last us for a long while. And what about our day in Portland?
August will see us complete Mt Hood National Forest and move on to the Willamette and restart the Deschutes. The price of gas continues to be painful but we are happy to report this is our best season for book sales and the website is holding at over 125,000 hits per day. The "kids", Ralf and Dani, enjoy the freedom of being in the forest, however, their "parents" are ready for some of the pleasures of civilization like long showers and reading by electric rather than candle light. Have we mentioned lately the sacrifices we make for our work.
Thinking of you deep in the forests of Oregon.
Suzi and Fred