Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

Sue and Mo at Harris Beach
Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

04-27-2010 Silver Falls State Park Day 3 and 4

Sunday morning dawned beautifully, with clear skies and wonderfully fresh air.  On the previous evening, we noticed a lot more activity on the trails and decided that it would be nicer to wait until Monday for our waterfall hikes.  After a big happy breakfast of bacon, eggs and potatoes (the favorite for camping weekends) we dressed in clothes appropriate for a town visit and headed north on HWY 214 to explore Silverton.

Silverton was listed as one of the ten “coolest” small towns in America in a CBS News poll in 2009. The criteria was that the population be less than 10,000 and included requirements that you be able to get a good cup of coffee and that there are more galleries than country stores.  Silverton fits that picture very well, although we saw a lot more restaurants than galleries, and the number of quaint little shops seemed a bit limited.  One of my favorites was “The Purl District”.  Being a knitter, I love to find local yarn shops and visit with the creative people there.  The Purl District didn’t disappoint, although a chat with the proprietor indicated that like other small knit shops in other rural towns, she is hanging on by a thread.  Just a little aside here, please buy your yarn from local shops if you can.

We walked around town, looking in the restaurants, and checking out the few galleries.  Silverton’s Chinatown was different, and consisted of one shop and one restaurant.  There was also a Thai restaurant that tempted me with great fragrances as I watched something wonderful being delivered to a patron.  After that big breakfast it didn’t seem appropriate to eat again just two hours later! Another surprise as we explored the town was a great grocery store, Roth’s Fresh Market. With a little research, I found that this locally owned chain of markets was first established right here in Silverton.  It was a bit like a small and local combination of Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, with a fine bakery, fresh flowers, and 4 long double rows of really good wine.  I bought a bottle of organic “Our Daily Red” from the Orleans Hill Winery in Nevada City for under $9.00. It was truly good, and no sulfites! I hope I can find this wine again without having to drive north to a Roth’s market!

Silverton is only a short drive from Salem, and only an hour from Portland.  Even though it is growing, it has retained some of the great character that made it a favorite. Especially beautiful is the gorgeous Silver Creek that flows through town and the myriad blooming dogwoods, azaleas and other flowers.  Driving the streets revealed great historic bungalows, some neighborhoods with wide streets and manicured yards, others narrow and less appealing. The best part of the town is how dog-friendly it is.  With 9,500 people and a dog population of more than 1,500, many restaurants in town have patio dining spots that allow your dog to sit at your feet, and an annual pet parade in honor of Bobbie, a collie who found his way home to Silverton from Indiana in 1924. Parking is still metered on the street, and the meters still take pennies: twelve minutes for once cent, although on Sunday we didn’t have to pay.

After exploring the local streets, we branched out to amble along country roads around town, enjoying the beautiful nursery fields filled with young Japanese maples and dogwoods.  Farther afield, as we headed back to camp, the bluegrass fields stretched across rolling hills into the distance, emerald green and lush.  The sun was warm and the sky punctuated by billowy white clouds.  It couldn’t have been a more perfect drive.

Back in camp, we were met by my daughter, Deborah, who drove the hour from Portland where she lives.  I was delighted to have some time with Deb, and glad that she came to spend the night and hike the waterfalls.  Deb also brought along a great bottle of wine, a Pinot Noir from Oak Knoll, an Oregon winery.  I guess I have to search for this one as well!  A bottle of Barefoot is fine, but now and then a treat is definitely in order.

We let the cat, Jeremy, out to play in the forest and he had a wonderful time scratching trees and running up and down the pathways.

We visited a bit before Deb and I hopped on the bikes to explore some of the great bike trails in the park.  It was a wonderful ride, just hilly enough to be challenging, paved and smooth, and punctuated by long stretches of downhill glides.  Deborah hails from one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country, but she still appreciated a bike trail that wasn’t next to a road. 

When we returned to camp, Mo started up the evening fire and we cooked a great steak supper over the coals.  I even baked a campfire potato for the three of us to share.  Guess I had better work on that a bit more because it was very black and crusty on the outside without much left on the inside!  I am spoiled with a quick microwave baked potato while traveling, but this time I didn’t want to turn on the generator for 5 minutes of potato baking! 

The evening ended perfectly with wine and conversation and roasting the marshmallows that Deb brought for us.  So many times as I sit looking at the coals of our great campfires I think about marshmallows.  I don’t even like them that much, but roasting them is so much fun.  Of course, some caught fire, and we had a competition for the most perfectly roasted mallow.  The MoHo has a nice sofa, and Deb was cozy and comfortable just as it was without making it out into a bed.  It was the first time we have had guests overnight in the MoHo.

On Monday morning, we cooked another weekend breakfast for Deborah, with the excuse of a good long hike planned for the day.  Mo and I went for another bike ride around the campground with Abby on her leash, with the hope that she would be then content to rest in the car while we hiked the “no dogs allowed” Canyon Trail.  What a great way to exercise the dog!  She eventually wears out before we do! The skies were again dark and cloudy, but the rain held off most of the day. 

The Trail of Ten Falls extends almost 9 miles, but has several trailheads and various options for hiking a shorter distance.  We hiked part of the Canyon Trail and returned via the Maple Ridge Trail.  I had seen photos of the waterfalls, but somehow in my research on the park I never realized that the trail goes behind many of the falls.  Standing behind a crashing stream of water as it cascades over cliff and rock is an energizing experience.  The trail is beautiful, and even the very steep, stone stairs that lead to the Lower South Falls are well maintained, and even have a railing.  It was so much fun having time to hike with my daughter, something we haven’t had a chance to do for a long time.

After Deb left, Mo and I drove to the north end of the park to hike the trails to the Upper North Falls and North Falls.  It was raining fairly hard on the Upper North Falls trail and we had most of the walk to ourselves.  Upper North Falls was lovely, but the trail ends at the lower pool.  Heading back west on the trail, we hiked down another bank of steep, slippery steps to North Falls. 

This waterfall is visible from the Rim Trail and the main road at a distance, but nothing prepared either of us for the intensity of hiking into the dark, dry cave behind this waterfall.  Mo sat for a time on the bench just enjoying the falls while I walked around trying to take videos.  I knew that a photo wouldn’t come close to capturing what it felt like to be there.  This entire experience really whetted my appetite for our visit to Niagara Falls coming up in the fall.

By Sunday evening many campers were leaving, and on this Monday night we had all of Loop A to ourselves, with only a few folks left over in the B loop.  This park is definitely a place that becomes very quiet during the week, so another great benefit of retirement will be the ability to return and camp during weekdays. Supper was another salad and some soup while we enjoyed another huge fire in the pouring rain.  This was the first time we could actually sit by the fire and still be under the MoHo awning and stay dry. 

I roasted some more marshmallows and finished the wine! We had to angle the awning to  keep the water from pooling.  The rain continued all night, pounding and drumming on the roof while we stayed warm and dry.  Tuesday morning it was still raining, but let up just enough for us to pack up camp and drive the two miles back to the free RV dump site on the north side of the park. As we drove down the highway back toward home, the skies darkened, then opened, then darkened again.  Predictions for Klamath and all the passes leading to the east side of the mountains were for snow, so with a bit of apprehension we chose to return via Interstate 5 through Medford.  The choice was a good one, and at the summit of the pass near Lake of the Woods, the temperature stayed at a steady 34 degrees, in spite of the snow all around us and falling.  We arrived home in time to beat the heaviest snows, even though by Wednesday morning the MoHo sitting in the driveway for final unloading was covered in three inches!  Isn’t it just a few days until May? 


Saturday, April 24, 2010

04-24-2010 Silver Falls State Park Day 1 and Day 2

Oregon is all about water.  Currently on the east side, where we live, there is a drought.  The Klamath Basin has been at the center of the water conflict in the west for several years now.  Even with all the extra April snows, we are still facing a serious drought this summer.  The west side of the state is also about water.  Lots of it.  Oregon is famous for it’s rain and verdant green mountains and valleys.  Oregon is also famous for its waterfalls, and we spent a long weekend enjoying one of the prime spots in the state for enjoying some of those waterfalls.

Silver Falls State Park is the largest state park in Oregon, with almost 9,000 acres of magnificent temperate rain forest. Towering Douglas-fir and western hemlocks dominate the park, with a vast array of moist woodland plants, meadows, creeks and wildlife.  In addition, there are more than 25 miles of lovely trails. The highlight of these trails is the “Trail of Ten Falls” that meanders around the North and South Forks of Silver Creek and connects to the park’s ten main waterfalls.  For us, another highlight of this park is the fact that a large portion of these trails are multi-use trails that are dog friendly.  Another delight and destination for us was the town of Silverton, home to the Oregon Garden and the Oregon Garden Brewfest, just 15 short miles north of the park.  I had heard about this park, even knew some friends who were married there, and yet this was my first time to visit.  


When we left Rocky Point on Friday morning, the skies were clear and the air was warm.  It’s been awhile since I have been in such brilliant sunshine and blue skies and it felt wonderful to be finally on the road again in the MoHo.  Even though February was sunny and lovely, April brought a lot of snow and cold, cloudy days to us, so this was a delight.  Traveling the route that we often take to the north, we drove north on the West Side Road along the base of the Cascades, crossed the gorgeous Wood River Valley to Highway 97, and crossed the mountains over Willamette Pass.  Thinking a side route would be interesting, we left Interstate 5 just north of Albany to wander across the broad eastern portion of the Willamette Valley before beginning the surprising climb to the park.     

Western Oregon is magnificent at this time of year, with dogwoods, azaleas, and rhododendrons coming into full bloom at the lower elevations.  Once at the park, however, spring was just beginning, and the maples had only the tiniest of leaves on the tips of their branches.  Our crystal clear skies also gave way to the predicted clouds as we set up our camp in space 58 in the A loop.  We managed to plan our trip for the weekend when a convention of “fiberglass trailers” had taken over most of the park.  We made reservations a couple of months ago and were still unable to snag a site with hookups.  We knew it would be so, and were prepared with plenty of gas in the MoHo, and a full tank of propane and fresh water.       

Once settled in, we took a walk around the campground, admiring all the cute little Casita’s, Burro’s, and other unnamed tiny little homes, all hooked up to power.  Some of them looked barely long enough to stretch out full length in bed, but they were really delightful for folks with small cars who just wanted to get up off the ground, and camp in comfort.  A nice step up from a tent, especially in rainy Oregon!  As with almost everything else nowadays, there seems to be a culture and club for these trailers, and people were standing around in groups visiting and sharing and showing off their homes. 

The printed maps for the park are a bit vague and it took awhile to get good bearings.  Abby enjoyed her walk along the trail to the dog area, a huge grassy unfenced open meadow where dogs are allowed to run free off leash.  On this cloudy Friday evening there were very few people around and we had the trail almost completely to ourselves.  We were rewarded at the northern part of the paved trail with a magnificent view of South Falls, something that surprised me since I thought miles of hiking was required for actual falls views. It was a great walk, and then back to camp for a delicious favorite soup brought from home and a great campfire. The rain held off until bedtime, with the patter on the roof gentle and soft.  I so appreciate the MoHo in weather like this.  I love being cozy and warm and DRY!

On Saturday morning we woke to a gray and misty sky and after a light breakfast took Abby for another long walk.  This time we parked at the Winter Falls Trailhead, where dogs aren’t allowed on the trail, but the adjacent Rim Trail parallels the canyon and is dog friendly.  The trail is well maintained, winding through the mossy forest.         

Our focus on this day was the Oregon Garden Brewfest, held at the 80 acre site of the Oregon Gardens, just four miles west of Silverton. The skies again were a mix of brilliant sunshine and very dark clouds, with rain coming and going throughout the day. Once at the gardens, we found the pavilion for the brewfest, and walked in to a very surprising display of brewers and people already enjoying finely crafted beers.  With our 2010 Tasters Guide in hand, we wandered around a bit before settling in to find just the taste we wanted among the many descriptions of available brews.  My favorite was the Calapoolia Brewing Co. from Albany where my daughter often played with her band  when she lived in Albany.  A good friend of mine, Chris Savastio from Sonora, told me once about a fabulous chili beer he tasted in New Mexico.  So of course, I had to try the chili beer.  It ruined me for the rest of the show because the Calapoolia version of chili beer was so good I didn’t want to waste my tickets on anything else!  However, I did break away once and tried the Block 15 Nebula, Naked Oat Stout.  The description from the guide hooked me: “A contemplative brew with notes of fresh coffee, dark chocolate, and caramel with a velvety brown head.  Golden naked oats provide a sweet-nut flavor and a smooth satiny finish” .  Beer?  really??  It was fabulous actually.  Mo stuck to pale ales and wrinkled her nose at my chili and chocolate beers.  Mo likes good simple food and wants things to taste like what they actually are, aka, beer should taste like beer not chocolate!

We took a break in the outdoor garden, trying to avoid the rain, and then walked around the gardens.  We got rained on just a bit, and then the sun would burst forth in brilliant light, illuminating the blossoms and sparkling on the raindrops.  The gardens are amazing, with more than 20 different theme gardens overlooking the Willamette Valley.  The conifer garden is the jewel of the park, and is listed as the premier conifer garden for the Western United States for the American Conifer Society.  The garden is maintained by a volunteer who was very informative, making sure that I knew that it was a “conifer” garden and not an “evergreen” garden, stating emphatically that the garden contained 5 species of conifers that were deciduous.

Dwarf conifers are an amazing group of plants, with many varieties that are not often included in everyday landscaping.  Another bonus to the Oregon Gardens is that they are also dog-friendly.  They encourage you to bring your leashed dog and to enjoy the paths and especially the special “pet garden” that displays how to create a pet friendly place and what plants are safe for your pet.  After our stroll, we returned to enjoy more tastings and good food.  Mo had a bratwurst with onions and sauerkraut on a nice roll and I had a truly excellent salmon burger, dressed with coleslaw on a sourdough bun.  Yum!        
Once back home at camp, we took another walk on a park trail through old growth firs, meadows, and a meandering creek. It was a delightful day, capped off again by a huge campfire and a great supper of spaghetti and garlic bread.  Yum.  Early evening at the campsite brought out the sun for a bit and the night was clear and cool without being too cold.