Summer in Oregon


My first thought spending summer in Oregon will always be berries, berries, berries! From July we have picked almost everywhere we’ve visited. Fish always, and now berries – D.A. is calling us Subsistence RVers. Way to go!

Last winter near Lake Havasu we had the conversation about the probability that we were not getting any younger or healthier, and what was still on the list for us. For me it was seeing Costa Rica and Alaska. For D.A. it was Peacock Bass Fishing in the Amazon. We decided to see those places… soon.

In past summers we have volunteered at state parks, Corps of Engineers parks, National Wildlife Refuges and Habitat for Humanity. We had the idea it would be great to let an employer help us with our upcoming travel expenses. We were already aware of camphosting jobs at Portland General Electric campgrounds through our Workamper membership, so I sent off an email asking them to put us on the list for the summer.

I won’t bore you with the details, the story is here, and while the relationship only lasted three months, we had the opportunity to see a lot of Oregon — Mount Hood, Timberline Lodge, Hood River, the Columbia River  Discovery Center. Where we were – near Madras – was great too, just east of the Cascades in the high desert. We spent days off at the Museum at Warm Springs, and in Bend, and all the gorgeous places surrounding it: Sisters, Camp Sherman and the headwaters of the Metolius River, Cascades Lakes Highway, McKenzie Pass and the Dee Wright Observatory.

We were awaiting new eyeglasses at Costco in Bend when we decided to leave PGE, so we needed to stay in the Bend area a short time to take delivery on the glasses. I found a campground through our Coast to Coast membership, and it turned out to be quite an interesting experience. Sundance Meadows is about six miles from Bend. Our stay was free with our C2C membership, and I’m not sure we would have stayed if not for that fact. There was electricity and water to the sites, but no sewer. The sites for visitors (as compared to “owners”) were quite unlevel. As full-timers, our RV is our home, and just like “home” we like full hook-up, level sites. Nonetheless, once I went wandering the property, rustic as it was, I fell in love with the great opportunities for walking. The property was originally developed in the 1970s as a ranch and year-round vacation spot for families.

From there we moved south to Timber Valley SKP, an Escapee park, in Sutherlin, OR. Having been members of Escapees almost since our RVing departure from Tucson, this is the first SKP park we’ve visited.

The Escapee parking system provides a very comprehensive resource with 18 Escapee parks from Washington State to Florida plus a partnership with over 800 commercial RV parks that offer a 15 to 50 percent discount.

I’ve only heard great things about Escapee parks, now I have experienced one. I agree. This would be a lovely place to live (or even spend your summers, though lots of residents stay year around). Timber Valley SKP is a co-op. When owners leave for whatever reason, they can leave their spots empty for casual visitors (like us) to use. In return, the rental pot is split at some point and the owners get a proportional reduction on their annual fees. There is a waiting list to own a lot – about five to eight years. You give them a deposit and they save your space on the list.

For Boondockers looking for a lovely place to park, Timber Valley let’s you park along the boundary of the property – all well-marked spots (about 15 of them), that you can have for $5 a night! What a bargain!! I assume this happens at other Escapee parks also – it wouldn’t take long to recoup your membership cost.

We stayed a month for about $400, made the trip to Astoria and another to Lopez Island in the San Juan Islands with friends from Seattle. D.A. found a great place to fish, Cooper Creek Reservoir, which just happened to have a great hiking path for you know who.

We had two goals coming to Oregon. D.A. wanted to fish for salmon on the Columbia, and I wanted to visit Crater Lake NP. While at PGE, I made reservations for two nights at the end of August at Crater Lake National Park.

As everybody in the West knows, there have been a lot of fires this summer.  Everywhere we went we had smoke to contend with – never terrible but always present. When we joined our friends from Seattle for a few days on Lopez Island in the San Juans, it was really smokey. We kept hoping for minimum smoke for our trip to Crater Lake.

We took that gorgeous Umpqua River Road with all the waterfalls and visited a few each way. It was a glorious day and a friend had suggested we see Diamond Lake. It turned out Diamond Lake would be a perfect lunch spot, but, sadly, by the time we arrived, there was a lot of smoke. The waiter said it was simply a fact of life at the lake in the summer now…

Our first view of Crater Lake was smokey yet FANTASTIC! We had two very full days including the boat tour that comes with a hike described by the ranger on our boat, “One mile down, ten back up.” On the third morning, we awoke, had breakfast, walked to the rim and no smoke! Post card perfect viewing for our rim tour.

Thank you, Oregon. Another summer has passed and just like we felt leaving Maryland, Maine, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin (and a few others). We could spend every summer here!



“On the Road Again” Year 2


Early in February, Jude and I were reviewing our summer nomad options, thinking where we wished to travel in our second summer of nomad travels.  We agreed that our previous summer of two weeks here and two weeks there across 15 states was an absolute adventure, but left us without a feeling of community.

We would meet interesting people and a day later they would leave or we would travel on.  We choose this summer to travel less often, stay longer in places with hopes of obtaining a deeper sense of the area’s character, and experience the rich diverseness of the people who live there.  All that remained was to put that plan into action.  Within minutes we were checking out and websites – the best places we knew to start a search.

We acknowledged that in order to accomplish our new focus, we would seek out volunteer positions within state parks, wildlife refuges, national parks, etc.  We began the process of selection, inquiry and elimination.

Our first thoughts were of the wildlife refuge we discovered late in our previous summer’s travels in Minnesota. Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge was an absolutely beautiful (pristine and water-wealthy) wilderness in central Minnesota.  We picked up the phone…

Great News!  They were accepting volunteer applications for just one couple. Wow, we rushed off our application focusing on our skills and the thousands of community and organizational volunteer hours that we have contributed to so many organizations while we were in Tucson.   We were exhilarated and confident.

Later that month came the news.  While the Volunteer Coordinator found us very attractive, she chose another couple that had experience working in a state park.  I was crushed when I learned that their experience of cleaning toilets, fire pits and campsites trumped our vast volunteer efforts to help humanity. In order to obtain the best most desirable volunteer positions, we needed experience at that level! We began a new search focused on obtaining a new level of volunteer experience.

Jude is masterful when it comes to discovering options.  Within weeks, our plans were set.  We accepted a camp host position in Maryland for April, May, and June. The park had a couple cancel and had an immediate opening. Greenbrier State Park was nestled in the rolling hills north of Washington, DC.  Its close proximity to our nation’s capital was just perfect for exploration and immersion!

Because of our commitment ends in June, we set out to discover any options in Maine. Neither of us have ever been to that area and it just seemed that since we were in such close proximity, it was just natural to seek similar opportunities within the Maine State Parks system.

Soon, we received a call from the State of Maine.  They were looking for a couple to mow, clean and maintain a new day area on Branch Lake.  It was a new boat ramp that supplied public access to this popular fishing lake.

Whoa, you want me to clean around a day area that is on a lake in Maine?  Where I can go fishing and Jude can go kayaking anytime we desire?  Then they wanted to give us a free place to stay on top of that.  Never mind that it is practically next door to Acadia National Park. The accepting  “YES” stumbled over our tongues we were trying to get it out so fast!

Our summer was set!  We were going to stay longer, explore more, and have a sense of the community around where we were going to stay.  These early nomad travels are for the most part historical with our immersion into all that encompasses Washington DC with the Smithsonian, monuments, and the Capitol building!  Then just for good measure, be in such close proximity to all the National Battlefields of the Civil War! Then finish the summer on a lake in Maine!  I felt so lucky that I immediately went out and bought a lotto ticket!