Photo of Butte Creek Upper Falls in Oregon

Butte Creek Falls, Oregon

Road to the Falls

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.

 

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!

Woman kayaking on the Columbia River

Kayaking on the Columbia

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?

Photo Shoot

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.

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.

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.

Map collage of Oregon’s South Coast

Oregon’s South Coast

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.

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.

Beaches

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!

Memorial Day Weekend 2017

Photo sailboats in Coos Bay, Oregon taken with a Sigma 35 Art lens.
Sailboats in Coos Bay, Oregon

Tugman State Park

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.

Winchester Bay

Sunset photo of sailboats on Winchester Bay, Oregon using a Lensbaby
Sailboats on the bay using a Lensbaby.

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

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.

Elk

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.

Coos Bay

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.

Millersylvania State Park, WA

rvrow
RV Sites

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.

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.

campsites
Tent Sites

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.

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.

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.

 

Maryhill State Park, WA

Maryhill State Park Site 49
The Beach House in Site 49

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.

Horsethief Lake

Karman loving kayaking!
Karman loved kayaking!  She got me sopping wet with her paddle, but had a blast and then beat her mom in a race to the shore!

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.

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!

Sutton Campground – Siuslaw National Forest, OR

Tucked safely into the campsite.
Tucked safely into the campsite.

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!

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.

 

 

 

 

My Iowa Adventure

I-84 Rest Area
The beach house at the last rest area on I-84 about an hour from Portland where I stayed overnight. The highway sign says it’s a rest area, but the signs in the parking lot say it’s a day use area managed by Oregon State Parks.

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.

Misty’s Steakhouse
We saw this chain of restaurants in Lincoln, Nebraska, and for obvious reasons had to try it out. We had delicious prime rib covered with melted blue cheese!

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.

Misty-Jade
Misty-Jade. Iowa is hosting the NCAA regional championships and counting down the days until the meet.

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.

Tessa watching Misty-Jade walk away as we dropped her off at the hotel before returning home.
Tessa watching Misty-Jade walk away as we dropped her off at the hotel before returning home.

 

Ft. Stevens State Park, OR

Amber and I went to Ft. Stevens this past weekend with the intent of getting some more work done on the beach house before taking it to Iowa to visit Misty-Jade over  spring break.  My goal was to sanitize the water system and repack the storage area.  The water system got finished, but due to rain we didn’t get the storage areas done.  We took some time to explore the park a bit while the sun was out, thus the real reason for the storage areas not being repacked.  The last time we went to Ft. Stevens in July a couple years ago we got caught in a downpour and were sopping wet, so we thought spending time exploring while the sun was out was a better idea.

The shipwreck appears to have deteriorated over the years and gotten smaller.  Obviously that’s what happens, but I seem to remember it being much larger when I moved back to Oregon in 1985.

I didn’t know vehicles were allowed on the beach, but we had to try it out!  Tessa road in the back and loved it.

On one of our many trips to the store for supplies we were treated to this sight!  It reminded me of the moose that would come into our yard when we lived in Alaska.

Elk in Warrantor, OR
Elk in Warrenton, OR
Just too cute!
Just too cute!

We tried to go Kayaking at Coffenbury Lake, but just as we were setting up the rain started again.  We’re planning another trip here later this year and will bring the bikes as well as the kayaks.

The Newest Beach House!

After much research and planning I purchased the newest Beach House!  I love our Somerset pop-up, but want to do some traveling across the country and the pop-up isn’t very convenient for that.  Amber and I picked up our new Arctic Fox 27-5L on February 6 and took it to Sandy Riverfront RV Resort in Troutdale, OR where we transferred the camping supplies from the pop-up to the 5th wheel.  The following weekend we went camping at Beverly Beach.  The rained poured and flooded the campground, but we had fun and still walked out on the beach.

Arctic Fox 27-5L Front Side
Arctic Fox 27-5L Front Side
Arctic Fox 27-5L Back Side
Arctic Fox 27-5L Back Side