Photo of Middle Lewis River Falls located in Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Lewis River Lower Falls, A 5+ Star Campground!!

What Makes Lower Falls a 5 Star Campground?

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.

Trailer Access

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

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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

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.