When we left on this adventure, at the very top of our list were the Utah parks. Two years later we’ve finally made it to our first one and I have to admit I’m having a hard time writing this post because we have so many awesome pictures, yet they don’t quite capture the wonder of Capitol Reef.
Capitol Reef National Park is one of the lesser known Utah parks. It straddles the highway so most folks just drive through on their way from Zion and Bryce up to Arches and Canyonlands but boy are they missing out. With it’s campground set among the orchards and the spectacular geology all around, Capitol Reef is an amazing park! It may well turn out to be my favorite in Utah, but I guess I should reserve judgement until I’ve seen the other four. 🙂 Continue reading “To Utah!”
There you are driving through Idaho’s hills and green fields with snow capped peaks in the distance and then suddenly you end up in this strange land.
Craters of the Moon National Monument has been on our list since the start of this adventure. Since it wasn’t too far off our route to Utah we decided to spend a few days there.
Boy did we luck out. Without knowing it we hit prime wildflower bloom. The Monkeyflower’s entire life cycle (sprout, bloom, seed, wither and die) takes only 3 weeks and we were here for the bloom! Those tiny, pink flowersadded a beautiful contrast to the dark volcanic rock.
This place is really strange, especially for being in the middle of Idaho. It feels more like Hawaii, and in fact all the signs explaining the different types of rock had pictures of lava from Hawaii. Mostly this place reminded us of the lava flow we visited in New Mexico, Valley of Fires, especially on our first night when we walked from the campground to the Trail of Lava.
The next day we drove to the wilderness trail parking area. There were two trails, one to the tree molds which are impressions of trees laying flat in the lava. The other trail said it went to Lava Trees, described as an upright version. I thought this sounded interesting so off we went. The trail started out through some awesome lava rocks, then came into more of a meadow with small cinders, almost like lava rock gravel. The wildflowers seem to love these areas.
Finally we saw the sign for the lava trees. It wasn’t what I expected, but it was cool. The lava surrounded the tree and as the tree burned the steam cooled the lava enough to harden it into an impression of the tree leaving tree shaped voids.
On our last day we drove the short loop again, this time stopping at several other areas. We skipped the very popular Inferno Cone where lots of visitor’s were hiking up the barren cone and instead stopped at the nearby Spatter Cones area.
After a quick look into the spatter cones we hiked up the steep trail to Big Crater. We had been joking that there were no craters at Craters of the Moon, but after the short steep climb we found the craters! And great views around as well.
It’s a hike that wasn’t really at the top of the ranger recommendations, but was definitely worth it! Our last stop on the loop was Devil’s Orchard, another great area to view wildflowers.
Overall Craters of the Moon was a great stop with much more variety in the lava formations than we had seen at Valley of Fires, plus the wildflowers were gorgeous!
Our solar installation was one of our favorite things about our old trailer. We liked the freedom of being able to camp in places without hookups and still use our induction cooktop, blow dryer, iron, tv, even a few hours of A/C. We knew we wanted solar on our new trailer too but we couldn’t snag an appointment until the last week in May so until then we had to find places to stay with electric hookups. Hoping we’d get less rain and more sun by staying east of the mountains we searched Campendium, our favorite campground app, for places with hook-ups in Eastern Oregon.
That brought us to Hell’s Canyon and Copperfield Park on the Snake River. This park is run by Idaho Power (yes even though it’s in Oregon) and sits between a couple of their dams on the Snake River.
It was nice to be back in nature after our stint at the KOA in Boise, but other than fishing, there wasn’t much to do in the area. It was a little too cold to take out the kayak and I hadn’t found a good hike. The park is on the Hell’s Canyon Scenic Byway so we decided to drive the 22 mile road out to the visitor center.
There were a bunch, like hundreds, of koi just sitting near the surface. Perhaps someone released some pet fish and they multiplied?! I could have scooped them up with a net. Of course then I’d have to do something with them like clean them. No thanks.
We had no cell service, but could access the slow campground internet if we walked down near the bathrooms. Mostly we just relaxed, read, and had a Star Trek marathon as we watched the pollen rain down. Seriously, the pollen seems crazy this year!
The big bummer was our first flat tire. Our site was not level and even with the leveling blocks we ended up a little off to one side, but it seemed to be getting worse. I told myself it was just my imagination, but after our second night we could tell there was definitely a problem.Sure enough one of our tires had gone flat. Our session on how to change an Airstream tire at Alumapalooza last June sure came in handy!
Next we headed to Wallowa Lake near Joseph Oregon.
I had read about all the great things to do in the area like a rail bike you ride on the tracks, a tram to the top of a mountain with great hiking and views, and a farmer’s market in town. Unfortunately the season begins Memorial Day weekend and it was mid-May so all of this was closed.
One day was supposed to be sunny so we walked through town with it’s old buildings, cute shops and bronze statues all with the gorgeous peaks in the background.
We also made a quick stop into Les Schwab. Man those guys are awesome! No charge and a short while later our tire was as good as new. Turns out it was a broken piece of snow chain. Our neighbors got a good show as we reinstalled the tire. 🙂
Next we headed to the Columbia River and spent a few nights at Maryhill State Park enjoying the nice weather and a trip to the winery.
Then we hung out for a few days at Deschutes River State Park on the Oregon side.
The highlight was riding along the Deschutes River trail that leaves right from the campground.
Then we dropped off our trailer at the solar place and headed north to Bothell for a week at McMenamin’s Anderson School.
With doctor’s appointments and visits with family and friends the time went fast, but not fast enough. It’s a pretty cool little hotel but after a couple of nights we were tired of eating out and craving our own bed. So when we got the call that our trailer was ready we checked out early and hit the road.
We picked up the trailer and boondocked a few nights at Rufus Landing with great views of the John Day dam, Mt. Hood, and the kite surfers.
Then spent another night at Maryhill and happened upon a vintage trailer rally and a T@B trailer rally. Lots of cool trailers surrounding us!
We’re headed toward Utah for the summer so we traced our path back across Oregon. We stopped this time outside LaGrande Oregon at a nice little park on the Grand Ronde River, Hilgard Junction. The views out our window were awesome. It made a nice relaxing stopover.
Then back to Boise where we stopped in at the Airstream Dealer in Caldwell for a few minor warranty issues. They have camping spots right there which made it easy.
Plus we got to see two more of my Dad’s softball games.
While we were in Palm Creek we spent a lot of time thinking about our trailer. It is easy to get RV envy when you’re in a park filled with all kinds of fancy motorhomes…
and after a year and a half on the road we had a few wishes. One, for a comfortable seating option. Our “sofa” is little more than foam cushions on plywood and after a while your butt is hurting and you can’t get comfortable. Also our propane furnace, like most RVs, uses forced air which is not very consistent. Either you’re hot while it’s blasting or you’re cold when it cycles off and it’s noisy. So we started looking at other options with the same quality we were used to in our Airstream. We even drove up to Phoenix to check out several motorhomes, but in the end we decided that none of them gave us the feel of our Airstream. Plus we knew a Class A would fundamentally change the way we travel and we didn’t want that. So we opted for another Airstream, a 30’ Classic.
This one, a step up for our current model, has a real couch with recliners and even the dinette has real furniture with springs in the cushions. The biggie is that it has a radiant heating system that makes no noise but keeps the trailer at a consistent temperature. After a couple of visits to Airstream of Scottsdale, we settled on the model and color scheme we wanted, but they didn’t have it in stock. Alas, a quick internet search revealed that our old friends Airstream Adventures NW had the exact trailer we wanted.
So this meant that once again we headed north in wet, cold April (why do we do this to ourselves?!!). Since this trip was about making time I made it easy for us and booked our stops in advance, making sure that the sites were long enough to stay hitched up.
First stop outside Barstow made for a long driving day, nearly 8 hours.
After another long day we arrived outside Sacramento to find a bunch of Airstreams at the RV park in Lodi. Turns out there was an Airstream rally starting the next day. In true Airstreamer fashion we were invited to join them and given a lovely jar of homemade jam. Yum!
I made sure our driving days progressively got shorter figuring we would grow weary of the long travel days. We stopped on the California-Oregon border and were the only ones in the campground.
Outside Salem Oregon we stayed at Champoeg State Park, a nice change of pace from the RV parks we’d been in.Last stop was Kanaskat-Palmer State Park, 20 miles from our final destination. We arrived to sunshine and nearly 70 degrees so I took a walk down by the Green River to enjoy it. Good thing because the next day it started raining. Not just a little rain, a huge dumping. Welcome to Seattle!
Thankfully Airstream Adventures put us under their awning so we could move our belongings without getting wet. They lined us up old door to new door which made it easy to move our belongings. While I was moving things, Chuck was working on the huge task of moving our ProPride (Hensley style) hitch. It took hours.
We spent our first night in the new trailer under the canopy. While we didn’t have to listen to the rain pounding down on the trailer we did have the freeway sounds and the lights. Thank goodness for those new blackout shades.
After getting everything moved we headed to Lake Pleasant RV Park. With not many camping options close to Seattle this one is very convenient, being about a mile from our old house.
As we worked on organizing the trailer, we crammed in lots of visits with friends and family but again we couldn’t believe we used to put up with all this grey, cold, wet weather not to mention the traffic and sheer number of people.
Next up we headed to Boise for sunshine and a visit with my sister and parents. We taught them Wizard, the game Bob and Mona hooked us on at Palm Creek, and soon they were hooked too. My mom couldn’t wait to play after dinner every evening. We enjoyed my Dad’s garden and fresh picked radishes.
We even extended our stay a few days when I learned that my dad’s first softball game was coming up. At 80 years young he decided to join the senior softball league, playing on not just one but two teams. Go Flying Squirrels!
It was fun to watch my dad play after all those years of him watching his kids and grandkids play and a nice ending to our time with friends and family!
Chuck read a blog by a couple who are are full-timing while looking for a RV casita to use as a winter base. One of the places they checked out was Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort in Casa Grande, just south of Phoenix. After reading their blog Chuck was itching to try it out and since we were feeling road weary we decided to book a whole month at Palm Creek. While it’s a more expensive option than we normally pick, we figured we wouldn’t be driving so our fuel savings would offset the more expensive camping fee, not that you can call this place camping. One night as a golf cart parade passed by our site we waved and the lady laughed and yelled out, “Our kids think we’re camping!” Yeah, there is no camping here.
The best way to describe Palm Creek is a big summer camp for active retirees (albeit in the winter). Here you find folks happily engaging in every kind of activity you can imagine. There is golf, swimming, tennis, water volleyball, shuffleboard, lawn bowling and pickleball. Then there are the indoor activities like quilting, pottery, lapidary, silversmithing, stained glass, woodworking and more. Plus yoga, water aerobics, line dancing, cards, and a bunch of social clubs. They have dances and concerts and community parties in the park, like a car show and a hot air balloon glow.
Unlike other retiree parks we’ve stayed at, this one felt vibrant, even for us folks a bit under the average age. 🙂 Plus we got hooked on pickleball.
Pickleball, what is that you say? Well, it in no way involves pickles. It’s kinda a mash-up of ping pong and tennis using a solid paddle, a plastic ball with holes (like a whiffle ball) and a smaller version of a tennis court. We arrived on Tuesday, took a beginner’s lesson on Thursday, started playing in organized round robins nearly every day and after two weeks we were down in the office extending our stay for an additional month. Seems that happens a lot around here.
Our days pretty much looked like: get up, eat breakfast, lather up with sunscreen, go play pickleball, come back, eat lunch, shower, drink lots of water, and try to recoup before making dinner or joining friends for cocktails. People would ask “Have you been to see any of the sights?” and I’d respond “We’ve been to the grocery store.” Pretty much all we did was play, eat, sleep, and do laundry. But it was a nice change from our usual sightseeing and hiking and moving all the time. Who knew when we set out on this journey we would take up a new sport, the only one we’ve ever played together in our nearly 20 years, and have so much fun with it.
After playing pickleball for only a month we played in the club’s members only tournament. My women’s partner was Mona, a 70 year young Canadian who is an inspiration to stay active. She and her husband, Bob, had more energy than either of us! We enjoyed getting to know them and hanging out together. They’re both a hoot and she races dragon boats!
One other great thing about Palm Creek is that they have forged a connection with the local elementary school. This meant that I could, after waiting several weeks for my background check to clear, volunteer. Soon I was enjoying 2 days a week helping 6 year olds learn their ABCs (right up my alley since I taught K and 1st). It was exciting to be in a classroom again using my skills, but also eye opening. I realized how lucky I had been to teach in a highly regarded and supportive district and what a great job I’d done in my classroom even though I always felt like I should be doing more. Teaching is my calling but all the time and effort required definitely takes it’s toll and I don’t miss that. I was glad that I could enjoy the fun parts, like working with the kids, without all the other responsibilities of managing a classroom.
In the end we stayed at Palm Creek for a full 3 months, January – March. This is by far the longest we’ve been in one spot since we left and it’s allowed us to make some deep social connections. Being introverts we aren’t great at socializing, but here it’s been easy. Part of that is because we’ve met people through a common activity, pickleball. It’s built in that you will see them several times a week if not daily and soon they invite you over for cocktails and then you’re inviting them over, and then they’re teaching you a new card game (try out Wizard if you haven’t). My daughter joked that my social life was busier than hers! All too soon we found it was the end of March and our friends were starting to head home and we were going to miss them. So guess what? We signed up to come back next year for more pickleball camp and fun times with friends!