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Wednesday, (June 23): Another beautiful sunny morning in Prineville and my last day in Oregon. I got an earlier start than usual and got moving before 10:00 AM.
I was considering making a push and doing the whole distance to the Lassen area in one day. The idea fizzled when I learned that no camping spots were available at the location of the A-frame Rally, the Merrill Campground at Eagle Lake. I stayed committed to my original plan: to stop near the halfway point and spend the night. I had seen some camping options at the Tulelake/Butte Fairgrounds, just south of the Oregon border. I was able to acquire a full hookup spot upon arrival.
The RV Park is located on the fairgrounds property, near the back corner. The fairgrounds are small yet attractive. I can imagine this place during the annual fair, with the crowded livestock barns, food vendors and musical entertainment. I noticed a destruction derby is planned during this year’s fair in September.
The town of Tulelake is a rural town center. One edge of town hugs the main highway (139) and a bright white water tower boldly announces the town name. Many of the buildings along the main streets are boarded up, most of them appear to have been closed for many years (not just Covid-related). A couple of markets are open, as well as a burger place.
Tule Lanes appears to be a former bowling alley – oh, what I would give to be allowed to enter that building with my camera! (Assuming some of the old bowling alley equipment is still present.) Remnants of The Dude!
I didn’t take any photos of the RV park, it appears that many of the patrons are long term residents and I would feel a little too conspicuous snapping photos. Let’s just say we’ll all agree to leave each other in peace.
Tomorrow I’ll make the second leg of this travel stint and should arrive at the A-frame Rally in the early afternoon. It looks like there are some lane-closures on my route, so it might take a little longer than normal. Whatever “normal” is around here.
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EDIT: after publishing this post, I stepped outside and saw this last light of the day. This photo is taken in the RV park after all.
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Tuesday (June 22): The Smith Rock State Park is located about 20 miles from Prineville. The park reopened less than a month ago after being closed for more than a year due to Covid.
I spent a couple hours at Smith Rock hiking the trails this morning. After last night’s thunderstorm and balmy night, it felt good to walk in the cooler air. Not only was the air cool, it was absolutely still. Occasionally, I would stop hiking to take a photo and notice the silence. It was so quiet that I felt conspicuous when I restarted hiking because my shoes were making noise.
This area has stunning rock spires that stretch vertically from the canyon floor. The Crooked River wiggles through the spaces between the rock faces. In the 80’s this park was a huge draw for rock climbers. Now, in addition to the continued focus on rock climbing, miles of trails beckon hikers and bikers to explore the area. I hiked trails in both directions along the river’s path.
After returning to my starting point, I got the notion to take the Misery Ridge Trail. Somebody had a sense of humor when they named this trail. It immediately transitions into switchbacks as the hiker climbs from the trailhead at the bridge.
I climbed about half the vertical height of this trail before stopping. I was rather proud of myself for not being intimidated by the sheer height of the trail, as well as its close proximity to the steep edge. When I began to hike back down, all that changed. When hiking down it was hard to not see the height and precariousness of the trail.
By the time I reached the bottom I was pretty tired. I still needed to cross the bridge and climb out of the canyon one more time. Slow and steady was my mantra (when I could breathe). The cool air had warmed up by late morning, and the humidity seemed to have increased, too.
I drove into nearby Redmond and met up with a former co-worker/current friend for lunch. Jerry and I share a strong interest in photography and we often send emails back and forth discussing the latest photo gear and techniques. He had recommended I visit Smith Rock SP and gave me good advice to get there early before it got too busy.
We had a terrific lunch of tacos from a food truck parked at a taphouse. It was fun to catch up with him and he had more suggestions of places to check out in the area.
I spent the remainder of the afternoon buying groceries and supplies for the last week (sniff, sniff) of my trip. When I was leaving Safeway in Redmond, the lightning and thunder had started. I drove back to Prineville and outran the storm by a couple hours. When the storm did arrive, it was not nearly as powerful as the previous night’s fracas. In addition to another stunning sunset, I was treated to a full rainbow at the RV park. One end of the rainbow burrowed into the roof of my trailer. I think I should name my trailer “Pot of Gold.”
Tomorrow is the first of another two-day travel leg. When I stop for the night tomorrow, I’ll be back in California.
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Monday (June 21): Normally, Travel Days are not very eventful. They are more of a utility day, a necessary chunk of time spent moving from one area to another. However, this Travel Day was a little more interesting than others.
I left the campground near The Hood River around 11:00AM and headed south on the nearby highway. My route for the day would be on two-lane highways exclusively. I had received a photo tip from a friend from my home neighborhood about a great spot to see Mt Hood with a lake (Trillium Lake) in the foreground. When I looked up that location, I realized my travel route would pass very close to it. Perfect!
The road out of the area passed closely to Mt. Hood. I noticed how the shape changed as I viewed it from the east, then later from the south.
I reached Trillium Lake and drove into the day use area. The ranger at the gate cautioned me that the parking lot was jammed full and I would not be able to park in the lot. He did say I could try to park in some gravel areas along the main road if they were open. I thanked him as I handed him my $10 entrance fee and drove in.
The ranger was not joking, the parking lot, the roads and the trails were packed with people. I saw an open area in the gravel that was big enough for my car + trailer, IF I could back it in. As in, parallel park with a trailer. I was determined and it was not very difficult to do. As I walked away from the car, I glanced back and laughed. I had no idea how I was going to turn around when I left.
The walk to the edge of the lake was less than a quarter mile and made everything worthwhile. The deep blue water with the snow-covered Mt. Hood rising above was a great way to say Good Bye to this majestic peak. I gathered some images with my camera and found my way back to the car.
I had noticed that the road ahead would cross over a small dam; I was not interested in trying that route. About 50 yards behind my parking job was an intersection. I pulled out of my space, then backed up the 50 yards and back-turned into the intersection. Spun the wheel around and headed for the open road.
The rest of the drive went smoothly. Highway 26 was very busy and I took several opportunities to pull off to the side of the road and let the train of cars behind me pass. It’s a bit strange, I notice the drivers in Oregon don’t speed very much. Whenever I reach a passing lane, I move directly to the right lane so the cars behind can take advantage of the extra lane. Yet, when I look back, most of them are also behind me in the right lane. If someone does pass me, they are moving only slightly faster than I’m going. When I think of passing lanes in California, I think of Mad Max.
I reached the Crook County RV Park in Prineville in the mid afternoon. It’s a clean large RV park with plenty of full-hookup spaces. The restrooms and showers (no tokens) are modern and a nice laundry facility is on the premises, too. I noticed the heat when I arrived, it was 93 degrees. This might be the warmest day I’ve experienced since I left Lincoln 28 days ago. After setting up the trailer, I took a well-deserved shower and did two loads of laundry. For dinner I decided to try out a BBQ place I spotted as I drove through town earlier.
The Crossroads BBQ Pit & Pub was open and lightly occupied. I had a very tasty dinner of a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich and the cook’s special beans. They were delicious. As I looked out the window at the intersection in front, I wondered if anything exciting ever happens in Prineville. I did see a county fairground, so that’s something.
About 15 minutes later, my question was answered. A powerful lightning storm had barged into town and it was putting on a show. The trees along the main street were swaying in multiple directions at once, and I wondered how my trailer was handling these strong winds. Then the rain started and several distinct bolts of lightning flashed across the sky, followed quickly by the companion thunder claps. I love thunderstorms – they remind me of the midwest and their intensity is humbling.
I drove back to the RV park as the storm was getting stronger, louder and brighter. Soon, it was directly overhead and the rain was pounding on the roof of my trailer. I looked up at the inside roof and watched the two panels shift about, heaving under the pressure of the wind. I was thankful that I had affixed the DIY rope/wind kit to my roof when I set up earlier, even though at that time it was sunny, warm and clear. All I could do now was trust that it would hold together.
And also take some photos. And video.
After about 20 minutes, the storm stopped. Like a Hollywood set, it just stopped. No wind. No rain (no winter’s cold…) Shortly, the colors in the sky reappeared and a beautiful sunset took center stage in the western sky.
I was thankful for the beauty of the sunset as it seemed to gently guide the day to a close.
I sure hope I can sleep tonight.
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