Exploring Oregon – Part 2

Newberry National Volcanic Monument

We departed Bend on a Sunday after four amazing days exploring the town and its brew pubs/ breweries. One place of note that is very close to Bend but that we had avoided during our stay since I wanted to devote a day to it on the way out was Newberry National Volcanic Monument. This was one I’d never heard of but since it was so close and the map promised some interesting possibilities I wanted to make a day of it.

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I was up earlier than necessary, as always, and was on the road way to early. We stopped for some groceries at Walmart and then got fuel before heading south.

Our first stop, Lava River Cave, didn’t open until 10am and we were an hour early. I backtracked to the visitor center which was on limited hours since it was still the shoulder season (late April). I took a short hike up the on-site lava cone and followed the paved path through the lava fields. The great thing about these short walks are the many signs that explain everything you are seeing. I got great views of Mt Bachelor and the Three Sisters, and I stood in a lava valley where lava had once flowed through. It was pretty intense and very impressive to see that plants and animals can still make their homes in such a harsh and unforgiving environment.

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10am was fast approaching and I headed to the gate of the Lava River Cave. I arrived a few minutes before it opened. I tried to park in the shade as much as possible for the dogs, but as long as I pointed the nose of the truck into the sun’s direction they would always have shade under the tool box. I grabbed two flashlights and a warm jacket and headed to the orientation point.

The rangers emphasize the importance of not wearing any clothes into the cave that have been worn in any other cave system. The reason for this is the dreaded white-nose syndrome, a fungus that is wiping out bat populations across the US.

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After the orientation I confirmed that I had a pass and then rented a lantern (definitely recommended) before heading down into the cave. I was the second person in and I’m glad I was. I hiked alone, with only a high-intensity flashlight to help me see. As soon as I was in the lava tube the temperature dropped immediately and ice could be seen below the metal cat walk where daylight was still visible.

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The Lava River Cave is a lava tube, and in some places a double lava tube, that runs for more than a mile (although only a mile is accessible) more than 50ft below the surface. It has a constant temperature of about 42* and my hands were definitely feeling it after a while (I would certainly recommend gloves as well as a warm coat).

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About 10 minutes into the hike I turned off my light. I don’t think I have ever experienced such encompassing darkness. I was glad to have the light I rented ($5 at the entry kiosk) especially when I tried out my own flashlights…I would have missed a lot if I had relied on them alone…they just weren’t bright enough.

The cave was impressive and I constantly stopped to look around. Being one of the first into the tube I pretty much had the place to myself on the way in and I loved that…it was definitely worth being early for. The way out felt shorter and I ran into many groups coming down which definitely impinged on the feeling of the cave a lot.

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Climbing out of the cave I walked into the heat of the day and found an immediate need to remove many layers. I let the dogs out for a few minutes before heading out.

Our next stop was the Lava Cast Forest. What was supposedly a short drive on a gravel road ended up being a smoke-filled journey on one of the worst washboard roads I have ever had the misfortune of being on. There was a prescribed burn happening at the lower end of the road which wasn’t much of a problem and actually kind of interesting…the problem was the cheese-grater washboard road…absolutely miserable. However we did eventually reach the top in one piece…my chair sleeve was in tatters, however, since Cody hates roads like that and took it out on the sleeve. At least it wasn’t the chair!

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I left the dogs in the truck and did the mile-ish long walk through the lava field. I was expecting tall lava casts in tree shapes…what I saw was still interesting but not expected. Lava casts are where the lava enveloped and encased trees. As the trees decayed and rotted under the lava they left holes, casts of their trunks in the lava. Some casts were upright and looked like large pole holes and others were horizontal from trees that had already fallen before the lava covered them. It was worth the drive, despite the rough road.

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With the lava forest and cave done I was hoping to drive up to Newberry Crater, Oregon’s largest volcano but the road was closed for the winter. I made do with a quick stop at the South Ice Cave about 30 miles east of La Pine. I had seen other ice caves before and didn’t find this one any different, but worth a stop if you haven’t seen any others.

It was time to find a place to stop for the night and I located a decent spot on BLM land with good cell service.

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Driving south the next day I drove by Fort Rock, an old lava cone that used to be surrounded by an ancient lake. It is an Oregon State Park and looks like the fortress of something out of Morder; it looks slightly out of place in the rest of the flat landscape. I paused to take a couple of pictures but didn’t take the trail into the caldera where one side had been eroded away.

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The road continued south and I stopped to check if the road I wanted to take was open. Two state road construction employees confirmed that it was but warned that it wasn’t the smoothest road to take to get to Klamath Falls. I wasn’t in a hurry and wanted to take the scenic route. The map had the road shown as paved, and apparently this is what is classed as a paved road:

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A quick shower in Klamath Falls and we were off to find another campsite before heading to Ashland. Freecampsites.net had one listed along the lake nearby and we went to check it out but the mosquitoes were horrendous and it didn’t take me more than three minutes to decide it wasn’t for us…not to mention how busy the location was. We did find a gorgeous campsite in the pine trees not far up the road that had zero mosquitoes and much better cell service.

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The next day was a quick stop in Ashland, where I had planned to spend a couple of days but didn’t, and was followed by a pause in Medford to buy two new tires for the rear of my truck as they were almost bald and probably no longer legal. That put a hurt on the wallet! The rest of the day was a scenic drive, and a very long and frustrating one, to a gorgeous creekside campsite where someone had left some cut wood and plenty of fire-starter…so I had a really nice campfire, drank some beer and played in the creek with the dogs. No cell service but it was such a pretty place I found plenty to keep us occupied.

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I made a brief stop in Crater Lake National Park to see how it looked in early May compared to the last time I had visited it in mid July…definitely a different place with snow at the Rim Lodge still 10+ft high in places. It was cool to see but I didn’t stick around long and headed out. Before heading north again to look for a campsite we stopped at the Rogue River Gorge, a short but slightly-scary canyon where the Rogue River careens through a narrow cut in the rock. It was gorgeous but as always the overlooks made me slightly nervous when looking down into the cauldrons of boiling water beneath me.

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There were few options for campsites with cell service in the area and we ended up at one of the worst and least impressive sites I’ve ever had the misfortune of camping in. Of course in taking the dogs for a walk up the road I found a pretty nice large campsite in some trees but I was already set up and didn’t want to move…it was really only a place to sleep. We left early.

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Our last Oregon stop was at White River Falls State Park, a small recreation area with some interesting history in regards to harnessing hydro-electric power and some pretty waterfalls. It wasn’t a large place but it was a nice place to take a break before heading to a county fairground campground for $10 a night and taking a shower.

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The last couple of days were spent driving back through Washington as I returned to my friends’ place near Olympia to house-sit for two weeks while they were on vacation.

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Exploring Oregon – Bend

The first time I came “through” Bend was in 2015 after my friend’s wedding in Washington. I stopped at Walmart (obviously), didn’t see much beyond your standard large American town and kept driving towards Madras. Apparently this was a mistake…but a mistake made up for by giving me the chance to spend a few days in the town.

I follow a handful of vloggers on YouTube, and one of them “Keep Your Daydream” (well worth watching their videos, they are a lot of fun) raved about Bend when they visited last year. Apparently I had completely missed something on my last trip through.

So, with their love of the town and their raves reviews in my head I had decided to give Bend a few days all to itself on this trip. And I’m glad I did.

I arrived in Bend Wednesday morning after getting a shower in Redmond and immediately followed the signs to the downtown area. I was amazed that I had missed such an amazing place last time, even though I could not then have given it the time it deserved.

My first stop (a must) was to the visitor center where I was given pamphlets for all the off-leash locations around town for dogs, sheets for several recommended hikes and the Bend Ale Trail guide. So much to do, so little time.

Bend, Oregon is famous for its prevalence of great craft breweries and as such the tourism board has put together the Bend Ale Trail that highlights 16 of the microbreweries in the area. The aim is to visit each one and get them to stamp your Ale Trail guide in order to receive a prize at the end. You don’t have to drink at each one, but what is the point of doing an ale trail if you don’t sample the wares?

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I wandered downtown briefly with an armful of papers, sheets and pamphlets but not everything was open and I headed back to the truck. With my stomach grumbling and an hour left on my free 2-hour parking I decided I would pause for an early lunch at McMenamins Old St Francis School Restaurant and Brew Pub. A decent plate of ravioli and a really good red ale is what got me started on the Bend Ale Trail with my first stamp.

With my belly full I went to check out the Old Mill District which is now a large outdoor shopping mall along the Deschutes River. It still retains much of its character and reminded me more of English downtown shopping areas than a US mall. Of course, being me, I had to check out REI…always a bad move if you have a credit card…and I walked out with two dog bowls and some extra tent stakes. (I realized I had bought the same dog bowls already and returned them later). From there we headed to one of the recommended dog parks which was unfortunately closed…we still went in anyway so the dogs could relieve themselves.

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The day I arrived was also the first day of the summer’s Farmer’s Market and I wandered for a bit. It wasn’t large although I suspect it gets bigger as the summer goes on. I did find some raw frozen marrow bones for the dogs which were inexpensive and I got them one each.

By that time it was pretty warm and I did a little research online to find out which of the brew pubs on the ale trail had dog-friendly patios or gardens. So with a couple in mind, and bearing in mind where our chosen campsite for the night would be we checked out Crux Fermentation Project followed by 10 Barrel Brewing. Both beers were good but not as good as the red from the Old St Francis School.

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Bend’s city limits reach almost to the edge of the national forest so it isn’t much of a drive to find a decent camping location. I took a chance on the first right turn I came to and found a decent, albeit slightly busy parking spot that I would use for the rest of my time in Bend. It had limited cell service but with as busy as I had been on my first day in the city I knew it wouldn’t be an issue.

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I took the dogs for a long walk down to the creek where we ran into a few cyclists (Bend is very popular with mountain and road cyclists alike) and then headed back to the truck as dusk started to settle in.

My aim the following morning had been to hike Tumalo Falls, one of the recommended hikes I had been given, but I wasn’t loving the cold and most of the trails were closed to dogs…and the upper falls viewing platform was also closed due to a maintenance issue. So I enjoyed the view of the waterfall from the parking lot and then we headed back into town

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We headed for Walmart to get some groceries, killed more time at one of the dog parks until it reached a decent hour to check out any one of the numerous brew pubs I still had to check out.

I started at Sunriver Brewing Co with a red ale that was one of their award winners…and it was pretty damn good. There was enough shade for the dogs, and the wait staff provided water for the dogs. Sitting in the shade was slightly chilly with the breeze…but better to tolerate that than to overheat, or worse yet drink hot beer.

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From Sunriver I had no particular plan in mind but we paused at the river to let Kye and Cody have a little wander off-leash. Sadly it was pretty busy and I had to keep them close and under tight supervision. We didn’t stay long.

I had seen a used outdoor gear store earlier in the day and wanted to check it out. I pulled into the parking lot and inadvertently pulled into the same parking lot as another pub on the list, Immersion Brewing. It also had a patio and filled bowls of cold water for the dogs. I briefly checked out the outdoor gear store which didn’t have anything I needed, or wanted, and then grabbed the dogs to go have a beer. I loved that so many of these brew pubs were dog friendly.

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By this time it had been a tough decision about which beer to order since I was only trying one per brewery and I had started to ask about the award winners at each place…can’t go wrong if you order the beer that has won awards. At Immersion I ordered their Little Fawn and it was definitely the best tasting beer I had had in a LOOONG time. It truly was amazing. I chatted with an older guy who also had his dog with him and who recommended which places he liked and which places to steer clear from.

From Immersion I headed to Good Life Brewing Company. It had a beer garden very reminiscent of English pub gardens but I had to go inside, without the dogs, to order a beer. A very kind older gentleman offered to hold them for me while I went an got a brew. As always they got lots of compliments when I got back.

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I sat at one of the picnic tables while the dogs dozed and watched a game of cornhole being played by some middle-aged men. By this time a young kid had wandered over, with the normal inquisitiveness of a 2 year old, to pet the dogs. I nodded my consent to the worried parents and told them both Kye and Cody loved kids. It was a great evening spent chatting with the couple and watching the boy feed Kye and Cody with very bland Cheerio-wannabes (I asked the dad to check the ingredients for the dogs’ sake). It was a much needed social evening in the otherwise lonely life I lead on the road.

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Farewells were made, the last few sips of warm beer were downed and I headed back to camp.

The next couple of days were spent doing much the same thing. On Friday I started at Monkless Brewing, a brew pub that specializes in Belgian-style ales only, and enjoyed the company of a very cute 10 week old puppy by the name of Meg. The beer was decent but not as good as I had tried at Sunriver and Immersion. We went to the dog park again (it was open this time) and wandered the massive 14 acres which was huge for a dog park.

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A trip to Boneyard Beer was next although they only have a tasting room and serve only 4oz tasters. The first is free and they are a $ each after the first, or you can try all nine for $8. I tried four for $3. They were good but so far not the best, despite everyone telling me how good they were…maybe I just chose the wrong beer.

Boneyard was followed by Silver Moon Brewing who sadly had a cooling-system malfunction and the only beer available was one of two they had canned. The beer was good and the conversation with the very cute bartender was enjoyable, but sadly not my favorite place.

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I paused in at Deschutes Brewing to get a stamp but did not stop for a beer as I was already familiar with their offering. I had already picked up their mixed 12-pack in stores when I was looking for beer to take to camp (and good beer tastes better warm than other cheap beer). The last stop of the day was Bend Brewing Company where another beer garden played host to myself, the dogs…and their apparent appeal…and I spent the evening talking with four lovely ladies from San Francisco who had come up for the weekend. At this point I was feeling the slight effects from the beer and took a short walk before driving back to camp.

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The last day in Bend was spent buying a couple of pairs of new backpacking trail runners and returning the pair I had bought from REI. I like bright colors on my shoes and the REI pair just weren’t cutting it…too bland. I also checked out Dillon Falls, a rapids-like section of the Deshcutes River off the Cacades Lakes National Scenic Byway.

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I had finished the Bend Ale Trail the day before and headed to the visitor center to claim my prize; a silicone beer mug and Bend Ale Trail window sticker (now in my windshield).

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With not needing to fill the trail guide any more (I wouldn’t make the 16 for the “extra” prize) I decided to return to Immersion Brewing for another Little Fawn. Again it did not disappoint and I still think that it is one of my favorite beers of all time. I could have bought a case of the stuff. Another stop at another dog park and then onward to check out a couple of the breweries on the ale trail I hadn’t tried. I started at Worthy Brewing but wasn’t impressed; the beer was cold but nothing to rave about and the atmosphere just didn’t feel right for a craft brewery. The food looked decent though and they did permit dogs on the patio, and there were certainly a lot of them.

The last place I stopped was at the place that the guy with the dog at Immersion Brewing had said was “shit”. Well I’m glad I didn’t listen as the beer at Cacades Lakes Brewing Company was really good and I caved on my healthy-eating road-trip diet and ordered a fabulous cheeseburger. I also ordered a 6-pack of beer to go which sadly wasn’t as good as the beer I had ordered that was on tap.

And that, in all its alcoholic glory, is Bend. Beautiful scenery, wonderful and friendly people, great trails and outdoors possibilities, and most importantly SO MUCH GOOD BEER.

While the Bend Ale Trail was fun to follow there are many more craft brew pubs and micro breweries in Bend that I didn’t get the chance to check out, but several of the locals certainly recommended others in town that were better than those on the list. For atmosphere and beer gardens I loved Bend Brewing Company and Good Life Brewing the most. As far as beer went my preferences were for Immersion’s “Little Fawn”, Sunriver’s Award-Winning Red and Cascade Lakes IPA (of which I can’t remember the name).

There is so much more to Bend than beer of course but with only so much time and money to spare I made certain decisions about my priorities. I loved Bend and the people and it felt like a small town vs a large-ish city (90,000) since I focused on the downtown and Old Mill districts.

 

Exploring Oregon – Part 1

Compared to my last month-long trip into Canada and Washington and struggling to find things to fill my time I figured 18 days in Oregon would be easy to fill…and the first 10 days were.

I headed over the mountain on Highway 12, and south of Mt Rainier…the few clear views I had of the volcano were certainly impressive. The day had weather predictions of 60* and rain but once I got over the pass and onto the west side of the Cascades things quickly warmed up.

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We stopped for lunch and a walk, and in the warm sun it smelled like summer. What does summer smell like to you? To me it smells of two things, depending on where I am, but summer predominantly smells of sun-warmed pine trees…there is nothing like that smell to let you know that winter is done and that there are adventures ahead.

We stopped for gas and beer in Yakima before heading east to one of favorite campsites (cell service and solitude) near Vernita Bridge and The Hanford Reach, on the Columbia River. I started in the location I had camped twice before but the rapidly rising water (a millimeter a minute) forced me to move my truck twice before I felt comfortable. A millimeter a minute on a river the size of the Columbia is A LOT of water.

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I was in a hurry as I was trying to reach Walla Walla for a meet-and-great with Steven Amell (of The Green Arrow fame) but when I arrived at the location I discovered it was a VIP event and ticket-holders only…and very expensive tickets they were too. I was disappointed that while Steven Amell had mentioned the event on his personal FB page he had failed to mention it was a ticketed event.

With a failed celebrity encounter behind me I headed out of Walla Walla in search of a campsite. Sadly, while it was good National Forest land, most of the back roads were covered in snow and the air temperature was not conducive to wanting to camp (or at least be outside the truck, and there was no cell service). I eventually found a gorgeous campsite alongside a creek that made for a pleasant evening despite being damp.

La Grande was the next town along the road and finally being in Oregon (no sales tax) I got a much-needed oil change. I am very thorough with my vehicle and after reading some reviews on the place I double checked my oil level…two quarts high. I took my truck back and had them drain some of the excess oil until the level was reading correct. The guys were accommodating and courteous and made things right but an over-fill of two quarts can ruin an engine (as evidenced by a previous Google reviewer).

La Grande was a neat little town and I spent a few hours exploring the downtown area, including a pretty decent outdoor store, Blue Mountain Outfitters. With a six pack of good beer in the cooler I headed up to the free campsite above town and on a lake where I found a lovely gravel camping location along the lake shore. While pretty and free, the place is very popular and busy…and probably more so in the summer.

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I put La Grande in my rear view mirror and headed south and west once more, not quite sure where I would stop for the night. The road I followed, was absolutely stunning as we followed it through the Umatilla National Forest and past the Bridge Creek Wildlife Area. I didn’t see many signs for hiking trails but it would have been a great area for day hikes or even an overnight or two.

The views never disappointed as we turned south at Ukiah and then west again at Long Creek towards Kimberly, Service Creek and then on towards Mitchell. There were definitely some great camping spots alongside the river but unfortunately all of them were BLM pay-to-stay sites and I had run out of cold hard cash. I finally located a beautiful campsite at the mouth of the Black Canyon, just north of Mitchell, after guessing which road it was on from a very pixelated Google map (no service). And while the site had no service the view was stunning and we were surrounded by amazing red cliffs and canyons.

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A gorgeous night was followed by a chilly morning and all thoughts of hiking the canyon disappeared from my mind as we bundled up and hit the road early, heading west again towards Prineville. The views continued to be stunning and we stopped for lunch at Smith Rock.

Again the lack of cash was catching up with me as Smith Rock (well worth a visit, and about 45 minutes NE of Bend) required a $5 day use contribution. Still, I enjoyed lunch and took a few pictures while walking the dogs before we headed out to look for an early campsite.

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Freecampsites.net once again listed a great location just west of Terrabone with some fantastic views of the Three Sisters and Mt Bachelor, as well as the Deschutes River canyon. There were dozens of campsites to choose from, some with better views or better cell service than others…and all were sandy.

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We picked a remote site with decent cell service but no view since we arrived early in the day, and then went for a long walk around the access roads in the area. I dropped a Google pin that pinpointed the truck and set out…this turned out to be a great decision as it would have been very easy to get lost and disoriented with all the winding roads, and we almost did.

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The following day a quick, chilly but very cheap shower was found at the Cascade Swim Center before we headed south into Bend, Oregon…but Bend deserves its own dedicated post.

Washington and Canada – Exploring Washington

After crossing back into the US we headed for the town of Oroville to fill up with gas and head south. I had only spent 10 days in Canada and had crossed back into the US April 1st (there’s some great April Fool’s joke in there somewhere). I still had until April 19th before I would head back to my friend’s place near Tacoma…that was almost 3 weeks to fill and Washington isn’t that large.

We followed the Okanogan River south to Tonasket and then to Omak where we stopped for lunch and other groceries before heading through the Colville Confederated Tribes Reservation. This is somewhat barren desert land but to me it is still a more forgiving and prettier environment than Arizona (or at least the NW part of it) which I hated.

The highway through the reservation was pretty and we were soon surrounded by pines and spruce and small patches of snow. We paused briefly so the dogs could get a nice long walk before we headed down the pass towards Coulee Country, an area of central Washington well-known for it’s deep ravines with long lakes and sheer basalt cliffs. With the contrast of blue water and black rock the views were certainly stunning as I drove.

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I constantly use an app called freecampsites.net and have found it invaluable (I think I’ve mentioned it before and should probably get paid for advertising at this point), especially in the late winter/ early spring months to find free camping locations. I was relying on it this time also but the locations it pulled up left a lot to be desired in this area. Washington has a permit system that uses the Discovery Pass, a $30/year permit that allows free access to any state land, including camping (except RV parks in state campgrounds). The only decent place I could find to camp (with an iffy outhouse) was on one of these permitted sites…and knowing I would probably make use of it I drove up to the state park and bought an annual pass. (I have since made use of it more than a dozen times making the cost plenty worth it).

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With permit in hand I found a pretty albeit windy place to camp for the night on the north shore of Blue Lake. It was chilly but we had some protection as the location I had found was hidden between two rock pinnacles and was somewhat protected. The dogs and I made do and bundled up on the leeward side of the truck and in the sun and enjoyed the gorgeous views, not to mention that the location was quiet.

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The next few weeks were spent campsite hopping, with way too much driving in between. We saw Coulee Dam, a huge monstrosity at a half mile wide behind which were the beautiful blue waters of Banks Lake. We spent several days in and around Richland, Kennewick and the Hanford Reach (an old nuclear reactor involved in things similar to the Manhattan Project) and enjoyed walking in several of the off-leash wildlife areas.

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Campsites included a chilly and slightly public place in the midst of several man-made lakes near Quincy with some views that would rival the Grand Canyon, a couple of stays by Vernita Bridge across the Columbia River, a boat ramp on the Columbia River more than once (and once where we almost got blocked in) and at least one casino which was probably my least favorite (no surprise there).

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The trip involved way more driving than I intended and we covered a lot of miles but we also got to see some beautiful country. My favorite place to visit on the trip was Pendleton, Oregon where I did a tour of the famous wool factory and thoroughly enjoyed a tour of the Pendleton Underground.

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The Pendleton Underground tour covers an approximate single square block of the town although the original underground town (and it still exists) covered 16 square blocks. Many of the tunnels under the town have now been blocked off and filled in under the roads due to safety issues and collapsing roofs. There was a lot of history to be learned about the area including the involvement and importance (and harsh treatment) of Chinese workers. The non-profit organization that runs the tours has done an amazing job of recreating bath houses, laundry facilities, butcher cellars and ice cream freezers…it is well worth the $15 fee. Reservations are required and it is a popular tour. Follow the link here for more information and to book tours: Pendleton Underground Tours

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The other highlight of the month was the town of Chelan, famous for the long lake to its west. Chelan was small, not too touristy (at least for mid April) and quaint. I loved it. Sadly the weather wasn’t ideal and while we spent time in the state park and the city park (for the dogs), I enjoyed the brewery and the coffee house more. The stores were fun to poke around in and the museum was worth a couple of dollars in donation to explore; the history of Lake Chelan alone is worth a dollar or two.

My final hoorah of the trip was treating myself to a wine tasting at Tsillan (pronounced Chelan) Cellars which was then followed by dinner. The wine was sublime and I found myself (regrettably, or maybe not so much) buying a couple of bottles of the wine…it was extremely good. I justified the cost by knowing that I would have spent $10 on the tasting and another $15 for a couple of glasses of wine at dinner…so I really only paid for one bottle! (I have to keep telling myself that).

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Sorrento’s Restaurant is a beautiful Tuscan-inspired villa that is attached to the winery and part of the complex. I had made an early dinner reservation for myself and I chose a mushroom-based pasta dish, which was absolutely sublime and I enjoyed every single mouthful…slowly. I also enjoyed my wine. And then I had desert. I never have desert…but they had TIRAMISU…and it was AMAZING and I ate it ALL!!! I can’t describe in words how much I loved this place. They have a beautiful outdoor patio surrounded by trees and flowers and waterfalls that I enjoyed looking at but could only be enjoyed in warmer weather. I highly recommend this place as a treat if you are looking for one and the prices weren’t completely unreasonable; with wine already purchased from the winery I only paid $37 including tip for the meal.

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With the road trip winding down I headed for the last couple of campsites for the trip…the last one, sadly, infested with nasty, tiny deer ticks…two of which I found on me, two in my bed later, one on my driver’s seat and two on the dogs. (I can just about deal with dog ticks as they are larger and much easier to see. Deer ticks are about the size of a grain of rice and much more difficult to see, although not as tough to remove as the squishy soft-bodied tick).

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The second to last night was spent at a paid campground at the county fairgrounds in Monroe as I couldn’t find a decent place to spend the night for free (the only one anywhere close had some seemingly-sketchy people there and several dogs), but at least I got a shower. The second was in the aforementioned tick-infested Capitol State Forest…beautiful views but not the greatest choice of camping locations due to the ticks.

With a month of travel behind me I headed back to Yelm for a week to recoup, refresh and be a bum for a week while celebrating my friends’ kid’s birthday.