W and R left for school last week, and B went this week. We’ll miss having them at preschool, but I’m sure they’re ready for the next adventures waiting for them. Although, since W’s sister is still in preschool, we might get to see W occasionally. Before leaving for Kindergarten the girls had a final photo session and a Peter Rabbit party.
Here are some snapshots of the party.
Ready for a Party
Party Table for B
Peter Rabbit Party Tables
Serving Table with Peter Rabbit
Peter Rabbit Serving Table
Their final photo session.
In the Tree
W All Grown Up
Morning Photo Session with W
W Ready to Conquer the World
Wow! Just too Grown Up
R’s Morning Photo Session
Umbrella Photo Session
Off to Kindergarten
B in the Tree
All the teachers wish the girls the best of luck in their educational journey!
Everything!!! I’m a member of Campendium, a site where parks are reviewed and rated on a 1-5 star basis. My goal is to eventually go full-time RVing, and I’ve found their site to be quite helpful. A few posts back I lamented that my beach house doesn’t fit into the tent section at Millersylvania State Park. Lower Falls Campground is the answer! The campground has everything I could have asked for! Well, except for a lake to go kayaking on, but I’ll take this park any day. It is a gorgeous, green, lush campground that RVs can fit into. The sites are huge and spaced far apart giving families the privacy they seek in a camping experience. Campers actually feel like they’re out in the woods. Children have plenty of space to play and won’t be quite as tempted to cross into other’s sites. The trails are easily accessible from the campground and hikers can be down at the river to view the beautiful waterfalls in a short time.
National Forest Map
The Beach House
The Beach House and Tow Vehicle
Site 22 Driveway
Cooking over the Fire
Lower Falls Campground
Campsite at Lower Falls
Lower Falls Campsite
Lower Falls Campsite
Campground Loop Road
The campground was easy to drive to, however, the National Forest Service website does warn that it might be difficult for trailers to get through a short section of gravel road and that you drive at your own risk. I called the forest service the day before to confirm the warning was still in effect and to determine whether or not we should go. The lady I spoke to said it should be okay if we drive slow. The mile long section of road is passible, but slow going is definitely the key. Fortunately I drove it very late at night and couldn’t see what I was driving over. It didn’t look so bad then! Driving out I put the truck in 4 wheel drive; probably didn’t need it, but it made me feel better. The other obstacle while towing a trailer is dodging the overgrown trees, even on the paved roads. I hit a few branches on the way in, but didn’t damage anything. On the way out I drove down the center of the road as much as possible to avoid them.
The road doesn’t look so bad in the video, but Amber’s having a difficult time holding the camera still due to the road conditions.
Trails & Waterfalls
Sign at the Trailhead
Lower Falls River Access Trail
Lewis River Lower Falls Trail
Stairs on the Lower Falls Trail
Lower Lewis Falls
Lewis River Lower Falls Trail
Red Warning Sign
Lower Lewis Falls Trail
Falls Viewing Point
On the Trail
Lower Lewis River Falls
The crown jewels of this park are the waterfalls! They are photographic heaven!! The only thing I didn’t bring were the right shoes to stand in the middle of the river to photograph the lower falls. It wasn’t possible to stand in the river at the middle falls, and I didn’t see a way, other than swimming, to get across the river to put myself at a better angle for those images. There must be some other way across, but that will have to wait for another day. Most of the trails we hiked were easily accessible with great views of the falls and several points to stop and enjoy the surrounding areas.
I’ve been wanting to get out and practice using the neutral density filters more so decided to visit Butte Creek Falls. Last year I purchased “Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon” written by Adam Sawyer at Costco. It’s a great reference for finding falls within a reasonable distance for a day outing. We checked the directions and other information in the book against some internet sites. Obviously some directions were better than others, but it was easy to find and we were able to drive directly to the falls. The last 4 to 5 miles is a gravel/washboard road, however most vehicles will make it just fine. The washboard is fairly minor compared to others I’ve experienced. There is a section of one lane road that feels more perilous than it actually is from the driver’s perspective as it winds around and overlooks the hill.
The Trail and Falls
The hike is on a beautiful .9 mile, easy loop trail, with a couple hills, and the lush green foliage and shade were much appreciated on a hot July day. The straight part of the trail leads to the lower falls, but we weren’t able to get to its base. We saw some people go down the side of the rocky hill to get there, but we chose not to do that with our camera equipment. Another family came along and opted not to go down as well. Those who are more adventurous have the falls and pool all to themselves!
Then we took the loop trail to the upper falls which were easily accessible, and several families were playing in the water. It wasn’t as crowded as other falls tend to be, and we were able to get the photos we wanted. On the way out of the loop trail I saw another view of the upper falls I didn’t see going in. I’ll have to go back and photograph it with the neutral density filter.
Butte Creek Upper Falls
Butte Creek Falls Trail in July
Log Bridge on Butte Creek Falls Trail
Rock Steps in the Trail
Butte Creek Upper Falls from the Trail
Visiting Butte Creek Falls is well worth the scenic drive through farm country and the gravel roads. It’s about an hour from Portland depending on your starting point. On the way out we stopped at a farm stand and purchased fresh picked blackberries and strawberries and then finished our day with strawberry shortcake for desert!
We’ve been on vacation for a couple weeks and didn’t have access to internet for much of that time, so I haven’t posted in a while. I’ll begin with our weekend in Irrigon and follow up with some posts about our California trip.
Boondocking on Farmland
We experienced the most awesome weekend in Irrigon visiting with my cousin Laurie and her family! Irrigon, as with most of the surrounding area, is largely farmland, and the beach house was parked just outside Laurie’s property with a view of horses out our front door. Country noises of farm animals and frogs were a welcome change to the city’s sirens and constant traffic. I think we saw only a couple cars drive by the entire weekend! What more could anyone ask for in a boondocking spot?
Hiking at Hat Rock State Park
Boondocking in Irrigon, OR
Shadow of Truck and Trailer
Info about Lewis and Clark
Hat Rock in Oregon
The main purpose of our excursion was to deliver a Nikon D7000 that I helped Laurie purchase for her daughter’s birthday. We did two photo shoots with Tresa’s six beautiful children who were absolutely a joy to work with! The morning shoot was done at Hat Rock State Park. The sunlight was beautiful, and we were able to get some great photos of the kids in tall grass, in the trees and on some logs. The kids also wanted to take photos on a bridge that worked out perfectly. After a potluck dinner we took the kids to a beach near a wildlife refuge for a sunset photo shoot. We captured some 4th of July photos as well as shots of the kids playing in the water. Unfortunately, the filter on my lens had marks on it and resulted in sun spots on many of the photos. I’ll have to go back and do that photo shoot again.
Kids at Sunset on the Columbia River
A at Hat Rock State Park
Sisters at Hat Rock State Park
Siblings at Hat Rock State Park
Sisters at Hat Rock State Park
Photographing the Kids
R in the Grass
Kayaking on the Columbia River
The plan for Sunday was to go kayaking, and I let Laurie know that since our kayaks are inflatables, I prefer to kayak on calm water such as lakes and ponds. Tresa suggested Warehouse Beach, so off we went to Wallula Lake. Little did we know that this “lake” is part of the Columbia River! It doesn’t actually meet the formal definition, but resembles more of an inlet or bay. At that point I couldn’t back out so went for it. The lake’s configuration resulted in rougher waters with waves that crashed over the top of my kayak before I was able to get me or the dog in. Amber, on the other hand managed to stay dry getting into her kayak. And then Laurie in all her cousinly love thought to catch my plight on her phone and post to Facebook! Oh well, it was fun and the water with the cool breeze felt wonderful in the 100 degree weather.
Amber Kayaking on the Columbia River
Cocker Spaniel enjoying the Water
Kayaking on the Columbia River
I had not previously kayaked or done anything else on the Columbia River, but it was very peaceful and the serenity of the river and birds was much appreciated. I like to imagine people’s lives in earlier times and could see Lewis and Clark paddling down the Columbia to the Pacific Ocean. I’m sure it was much rougher and more challenging when they made the journey. While I was hesitant to take an inflatable kayak onto the river, I would highly recommend paddling on the Columbia if you have the opportunity.
During Memorial Day weekend we visited Shore Acres State Park, the Umpqua Lighthouse, Sunset Beach, and Heceta Head Lighthouse Scenic Viewpoint.
Shore Acres State Park
I’ve visited Shore Acres on a few occasions and always enjoy photographing the flowers. There are several gardens to wander through and a trail to Simpson Beach. Another trail leads to the estate’s former tennis court located on a sandy, rocky cliff overlooking the ocean. We found tadpoles in the fresh water that must have been left by all the rain we’ve had.
Shore Acres Signage
Red Flower Captured with a Lensbaby
Pagoda Overlooking a Serene Pond
Pond on a Rocky Ocean Cliff
Umpqua Light House
Amber and I enjoyed the very informative tour and museum at the Umpqua Lighthouse that is a current US Coast Guard station. It’s also the only lighthouse in Oregon that visitors may climb up into the light to view the beautiful prisms.
Brief Info about the Lighthouse
Tour Guide at Umpqua Lighthouse
Climbing into the Light
Red and White Prisms
Red Prisms inside the Lighthouse
Umpqua Lighthouse Museum and US Coast Guard Boat
Original Umpqua Lighthouse
I spent some time experimenting with the Lensbaby Composer Pro with the Sweet 35 optic and Breakthrough Photography’s X4 10 stop neutral density filter. I’ll have to go back to the beach to get some more experience and take their tutorials with me. The neutral density filter could be addicting!
Foggy Sunset Beach
Cape Creek at Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint
This year Amber and I decided to go camping at a park we had never been to for Memorial Day weekend and ultimately chose Tugman State Park. Reservations were made in January, but neither of us can remember why we chose this park, except that it has a lake and maybe we thought we would go kayaking there. I believed the campground was near the beach; it’s not. Driving is necessary if a beach outing is in the plans. In any case the park is very small and was quiet. It was easy backing the 5th wheel into our very spacious site. And as with all Oregon State parks, the campground is clean and well maintained. The only drawback is the proximity to highway 101. However, it wasn’t too bad as most of the time we blocked out the noise.
We had a wonderful weekend exploring Coos Bay and the surrounding areas in more depth than we have in the past when we only had time to make short stops on our way to other destinations.
Thursday I decided to use only the Lensbaby Composer Pro with the Sweet 35 optic. I’ve had the lens for a few years, but was frustrated with it so never used it much. I watched a couple videos before going camping and decided it was time to figure it out. Actually I came away with some great images. I took photos at Shore Acres State Park and Sunset Beach as well as the one above of the sailboats at Winchester Bay. Next time I get to take sailboat photos I’ll try a smaller aperture.
Sea Lions at Simpson Reef on the Oregon Coast
Sea Lions at Simpson Reef on the Oregon Coast.
Sea Lions at Simpson Reef on the Oregon Coast
I visited Simpson Reef on Friday, but the weather was overcast and the sea lions weren’t visible. Amber and I went back the next day and were able to observe hundreds or thousands of them. They are a ways back, so binoculars are needed. Last summer before visiting the Tetons I bought Zeiss Terra ED 10 x 42 binoculars at Cabela’s. Those were greatly appreciated many times and were perfect for watching the sea lions as well. While in the Tetons I realized I didn’t have the right lens to get photos of the wildlife, and I was drooling over the lenses I saw other visitors using. One very nice gentleman from England let me hold and try out his long lens. When I arrived home I did some research and found some affordable consumer zoom lenses. It didn’t take me long to purchase the Sigma 150-600mm lens! The lens is perfect for catching sea lions! I believe Nikon, Canon and Tamron also make this or a similar lens.
As I was zooming in to edit the third photo I noticed one of the sea lions was branded with a number. So I did some research and found that some animals are being branded to be studied and eventually to prevent some of them from consuming the salmon that are swimming upstream. You can read more about this at OPB and at The Spokesman Review.
Dean Creek Sign
Hinsdale Interpretive Center Sign
Closeup of Elk Facial Profile
Elk Interpretive Sign
Elk at the Dean Creek Viewing Area
Lush Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area
When I went to pick up Amber on Friday afternoon hundreds of elk were grazing at the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area! Another opportunity to practice using my 150-600mm lens! The elk were just gorgeous in the setting sun. The Hinsdale Interpretive Center is also located at the viewing area and provides several educational plaques about the elk and other wildlife in the area.
Fishermen’s Seafood Market in Coos Bay
Fish & Chips Lunch on the Coos Bay Boardwalk
The Koos No 2 Tugboat in Coos Bay
Koos No 2 Sign
Sailboats in Coos Bay, Oregon
Amber and I spent a morning exploring Coos Bay. While there we shopped in antique stores looking for items that could be used in a cupcakes and cookies photo shoot we want to do with the children at Little Pandas Playschool. We found a cute hand cranked beater for mixing whipped cream and cake batters. I’m pretty sure my grandmother owned these when I was growing up. Then one of the stores was selling the same desk used at my first elementary school. I had to keep reminding Amber that if the store was selling something I’ve used in my lifetime, it’s not an antique! It might be vintage, but certainly not antique.
We ate butter clams and fish for lunch, from the Fisherman’s Seafood Market, on the boardwalk. I highly recommend stopping in for a meal. After lunch we explored the tugboat display on the boardwalk and took pictures of the sailboats captured with my favorite lens; the Sigma 35 Art.
Over the weekend Amber and I also visited Shore Acres State Park, Sunset Beach, the Umpqua Lighthouse and the beach near Heceta Head Lighthouse. However, those images will have to wait for another post.
The girls and I went camping at Millersylvania State Park near Olympia, Washington last weekend. It’s a beautiful campground that hasn’t lost its charm due to modern updating. The campsites in the tenting area look like they’re in the original condition; although I’m sure there have been changes over the years. The sites are heavily wooded and the roads narrow, so RVs can’t get into that section. There is an RV loop in an open field that is not very desirable. However, there are two rows for RVs that are under the trees. The campground was very peaceful, and our trailer was squeezed in between the trees in site 205. All the sites in these two rows are pull-throughs, although I would be cautious about taking my 5th wheel through some of them.
Our Steak and Veggie Dinner
Fresh Strawberry Lemonade
Misty-Jade make breakfast burritos for us on Saturday. Then we had the most delicious steak covered with smoked blue cheese and grilled veggies along with freshly squeezed strawberry lemonade for dinner.
I’m envious of the tenters who were able to camp in the loop pictured below. The park also has some glamping tents in this loop available for rent.
I discovered this trail early Saturday morning while the girls were still sleeping. I loved the romantic bridge and boardwalk section of the trail. The boardwalk would make a great background for a photo shoot.
Hiking Trail at Millersylvania
While kayaking on Deep Lake we saw an eagle and a crane as well as a few other critters. We were able to get up close to the crane, but unfortunately I only had an iPhone with me. There were several people fishing off the dock near the boat launch.
Kayaking on Deep Lake at Millersylvania State Park
Blue Heron on Deep Lake
We all loved the park and have put it on our list of go-to campgrounds when we need something at the last minute for a weekend get-away.
This past weekend we took a friend and her daughter, who had never been camping, to Maryhill State Park on the Columbia River. We rarely camp on the eastern side of the state, but had a great time exploring the area and will return again.
We went Kayaking at Horsethief Lake in Columbia Hills State Park. It was a bit windy, but the lake was perfect for people who had never been paddling in a canoe or kayak. Petroglyphs can also be seen at this park. We plan to go back and do the ranger tour.
After lunch we toured the Maryhill Museum of Art. The museum had many wonderful exhibits that wouldn’t be expected in the middle of nowhere! It’s very well worth the time to visit. The international chess sets and the Marie, Queen of Romania exhibits were most fascinating. I also enjoyed the history exhibit of the Columbia Gorge roads.
Theatre de la Mode
Shao with Amber
Later in the day we visited the Stonehenge replica overlooking the Columbia River.
Maryhilll State Park is very clean and well maintained. The quiet, peaceful setting was greatly appreciated. Considering that the park sits on the Columbia River between two highways and two train tracks, the noise level was quite low. Watching the traffic roll by and the boats floating down the river are part of the ambience of the area.
Shao and Karman had a great time, and now want to try camping on their own!
Amber and I went to Sutton Campground near Florence, Oregon last weekend. It was our first attempt at taking the fifth-wheel to a national forest campground, and it was well worth the 3 hour drive. The campground roads and sites are tight, but we were able to get into our pull-through, site A13. Sutton Campground is beautiful and well maintained. Most of the sites are surrounded by foliage providing campers with a great sense of privacy. While we were in a pull-through site and close to the road we couldn’t see other campsites beyond ours when we stepped outside our door. As typical of NF campgrounds there is a lot of space between sites, so even though we were close to the road we didn’t feel like we were trailer on top of trailer.
We decided to take out the dutch ovens and try the new dutch oven table we found at Sportsman’s Warehouse on a discount night. Then we got a further discount because it was the last one left and didn’t have a box. Amber’s the dutch oven fire starter and loved her new toy. The baking powder biscuits, sausage gravy, eggs, and maple sausages were yummy!
The best baking powder biscuits made with butter and cream of tartar.
The new dutch oven table and baking biscuits.
We’ve always camped on the coast, but usually stay at Honeyman when we’re near Florence. This last weekend we wanted to stay at a NF park, go kayaking and explore other places in the area. It ended up being too windy and cold for kayaking, but we found three lakes we want to try next time we visit. Mercer Lake, Sutton Lake and Alder Lake were all close by. Then Cleowox Lake is at Honeyman State Park just a few miles south of Florence. We went out to North Jetty, but the wind was making the sand sting as it hit us, so we didn’t stay long. Instead we found Harbor Vista Campground that appeared be a quiet place for camping. It’s a small park that I believe is operated by Lane County.
While walking through the campground we found the Darlingtonia Walkway.
Before going home on Sunday we practiced backing the 5th wheel into some other sites. I also took several pictures of the campground and some sites we might be able to use for our next visit.
I returned home a couple days ago after visiting Misty-Jade during her spring break. Towing the new beach house out to Iowa and back to Oregon was an adventure. I had my doubts on the way out and worried about the weather, but I’m glad I did it. In the future I would probably wait until April to tow a trailer in the northern states. The weather was great driving to Iowa, even if it was a bit cold. I had expected the weather to get better on the return trip, but I ran into light snow in Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon! And the wind was tough.
I had a wonderful visit with Misty-Jade and saw her compete vault at the Big 10 Gymnastics Championships held in Lincoln, Nebraska. I’m very proud of her scoring 9.85 and placing 6th! Her team will compete at the regional championships next week and try to qualify for nationals to be held in Texas in mid April. I’m going to fly out and watch the Gymhawks compete next weekend.
I’ve towed our previous travel trailer across the country in the past, but never with the intent of possibly full timing. I’ve read many RV blogs over the past couple years getting ideas about this new adventure. This trip to Iowa was different in that I made many mental notes of how I would do something if I were full timing. My time was limited on this trip, so I drove trucker miles to get across country. Obviously I wouldn’t do that full timing; maybe a couple hundred miles per day max and stay places for longer lengths of time. I did take the time to do some sight-seeing on this trip. I’ll write about some of my experiences and thoughts about the trip in the next few blog posts including Lincoln, Nebraska, the Nebraska State Capitol, rest areas, gas stations, RV parks, and the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument.