Thursday, December 30, 2010

National Park Service

Backroads Information- National Park Service

Everybody has a rich uncle with money, nice digs, and just an air of superiority around him.  Among the Federal land management agencies that rich uncle is the National Park Service.

The National Park Service (NPS) was founded in 1916.  It had only a few National Parks at that time, but over the years has grown to 394 units of which 58 are designated National Parks.  The NPS has National Monuments, Historical and Battlefield sites, National Recreation Areas, as well as other designations like National Seashores and Parkways.  National Park Service Web Site

The NPS has over 84 million acres under its jurisdiction.  There are 22 thousand Park Service employees who spend almost 3 billion dollars a year managing the system.  Compared to the BLM or FS, the Park Service has much less land to manage but more visitors with visitation being over 270 million visits a year.   This compares with 173 million for the Forest Service.

The NPS is part of the National Recreation Fee program and they pocket admission and other revenues to the tune of 346 million dollars a year.

The NPS is run by a Director that is appointed by the President and confirmed by Congress.  There are seven regions each with a Regional Director who supervises all the Park Superintendents and other line managers in the NPS.  There are also Service Centers scattered throughout the country doing much of the design and planning work for the agency.

The Park Service is a VERY politically savy organization.  Probably the best among the Federal land management agencies.  They do not make very many mistakes or get into hot water politically.  They have an ardent group of supportors that funnel corporate and individual donations into the park system.  Seems like those rich uncles get all the breaks.

I did work for the Park Service in a planning position in the late 1970's.  I picked up film to document my study and got a stern lecture on mis-use of government film.  So I asked, "well how can you tell if I am mis-using the government film? "  The answer was if we see "pictures of people we assume it is an inappropriate use of film."  Since my study was a recreational carrying capacity determination for a large recreation area if I had pictures of flowers and mountains THAT was a misuse of film.

I came to see the Park Service is more focused on the Park than the visitors.  This is the reason for all the regulations.

The National Parks are expensive to visit.  Save your pennies.  There are admission fees, trail fees, camping fees, and even mountaineering fees.   The only way to minimize the fees is to get a Golden Eagle or an Inter-Agency Pass.  This gets you free admission to the Parks and a discount on camping fees outside their RV campgrounds.

The National Parks are famous for their rules and regulations.  In many ways the Park Service is the agency of NO.   The best mindset for visiting the National Parks is to think of them not as wildlands, but as a museum.   A very pretty and large natural history museum in most cases.  Walk carefully between the lines, speak softly, and do not use flash and you will be all right.

The National Park Service manages museum's known as historical sites, natural areas known as National Parks, and places called National Recreation Area's.  These are the best bets for boondocking and a more "normal" experience than you can find at the Parks.  Some, like Lake Meade even allow boondocking.  Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Bugaboo hates the National Parks.

He growls whenever we approach an entrance station.  There are no dogs allowed on trails.  And he must always be on a six foot lease.

Dispersed camping or boondocking is banned except for a few units in the Park system.  Most campgrounds are far too small for RV's, so if you have even a moderate length RV you will probably be staying outside the area.

Here is one of the few campgrounds that can accomodate larger RV's.  Katherines Landing at Lake Mohave within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Now that we are finally eligible for our Golden card we stop at all the National Park areas.  They are well worth the visit if you can afford them.  The good news is that most of them are surrounded by BLM or Forest Service lands and you can camp there and drive into the Parks on a daily basis.

One tip.  Check the admission stub when you visit the Park.  Many times they are good for seven days and sometimes for even more than one unit in the area.  You can save some money by reading the admission stub.

If you are new to the outdoors the Parks are wonderful places for you.  The rules and regulations will keep you from getting in trouble.  The Park Service is always there to make SURE you do the right thing.  Go to the interpretive walks and presentations and you will learn a lot about natural history.  At some point you will outgrow the hand holding, and be ready to explore the Forest Service and BLM lands.

Somebody once said that the National Park's were America's best idea.  Well, I would tend to put the Constitution and the Bill of Rights ahead of the Parks.  I would even put the Forest Service and BLM lands ahead of the Parks as an idea.  Ok, so we will make them America's best fourth IDEA.

Visit YOUR National Parks.  It might be only America's best fourth IDEA, but they are much more than just a pile of rocks!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Forest Service

Backroads Information-Forest Service

The Forest Service was created in 1905.  It was in the forefront of the conservation movement in the early 1900's.   The timber, mining, and grazing interests fought the Forest Service tooth, so much so, that the agency's survival was in doubt during the early years.  The Forest Service was the first agency to use SERVICE in its name.  The emphasis on public service helped to insure the survival of the agency.  Of course, the word does not mean as much after the IRS hijacked the word!

The Forest Service is responsible for managing 193 million acres of public land.  Its budget is 5.5 billion dollars with almost 35,000 employees.   The agency can no longer brag that it returns more money to the Federal Treasury than is appropriated by Congress.   Their current returns to the Federal Treasury is in the neighborhood of 130 million dollars and the Forest Service retains 320 million for its operations.  Currently, over 40% of the Forest Service budget goes to firefighting.

The Forest Service has a national office in Washington, D.C. and regional offices that span several state boundaires.  The local management is through National Forest Supervisor"s Offices in larger towns and at the grass roots level, the Ranger Districts in the smaller towns within the forest's boundaries.

The Forest Service takes pride in being a professional agency lead by a career employee.  Except these days the incoming administration appoints the Chief soon after taking office.  So far they have been career employees but those days appear to be numbered.  As in the BLM resource professionals make up the bulk of employees.  The Forest Service also has a research arm that employs 500 scientists that until recently has been a showcase scientific organization.

The slogan for the Forest Service is "Caring for the land and serving people".  However, it is better known for the statement by its first Chief that the mission of the Forest Service was to provide for the"greatest good of the greatest number in the long run.".  Now all my forest economics professors always said that this was an impossible to measure.  However, one of those professors came up with the term "net public benefit" to describe the same concept in the early 1980's.  So it seems that poetry has gone out of our public lives.  I miss Gifford Pinchot and his vision of the Forest Service.  For more on the term see this link:  Greatest Good.

The Forest Service is also well know for the concept of multiple-use.  Though very popular in the 1960's the concept has gone out of favor as special interest groups have carved out special designations and areas in the late 20th century.  It is a sign that public land is now valuable enough to fight over!

For years the Forest Service used the revenues from timber harvest to provide recreation facilities and more importantly cover the costs of overhead for offices, radios and computers.  With the collapse of the timber program the Forest Service ended up with recreation facilities that it could no longer afford!  The Forest Service has 375,000 miles of road, 143,346 miles of recreation trails, and more than 14,000 recreation sites.

In response, the Service tried Recreation Fees, concessionaire management of campgrounds and private/public partnerships to maintain the facilities.  That created its own backlash and controversy.  Forest Service campgrounds are more expensive and in poorer condition than those managed by other Federal agencies.  It has attempted to close facilities but this has met resistance both internally and externally.

The Forest Service was the first federal agency to recognize boondocking as a valid recreation opportunity.  In fact, in the early 1980's it became the centerpiece of their recreation program.  However, dispersed camping as the Forest Service prefers to call it appears to be rapidly coming to a close.  Here is our blog entry on this topic:  Boondocking of Forest Service land.

The Forest Service is entering a period of rapid change as all those employees hired during the boom decades of 1960 and 1970 retire.  The rapid turnover is bringing a new employee to the agency and its will be interesting to see what changes this will bring to public use of these lands.

Currently the agency is like a bull elk brought down by the wolves.  The timber, mining, and grazing interests have begun to fade, but new special interests like oil and gas companies, ski areas, cellular companies, communications, concessionaires, and a host of others have influenced Congress to provide "more direction" to the Forest Service.  I guess the Forest Service managed lands are just too valuable these days to be managed for the "greatest good of the greatest number in the long run".

In 2005, for its Centennial the Forest Service prepared a film on the Greatest Good.   It is a honest look at 100 years of the Forest Service.  It has played on PBS stations, but to see it now you have to buy it from the Forest Service or Amazon.  The Greatest Good: A Forest Service Centennial Film

We have a copy at our vacation rental home and it consistently gets more play than those Hollywood productions.  Where else can you hear Eddy Arnold singing Smokey THE Bear?  You even get to see Lassie and the Forest Service.  You will enjoy watching the scenes of early Forest Service stations and the controversies of the 1970's forward. 

If you camp on National Forest land you will get a better appreciation for Forest Service and the land they manage for YOU.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bureau of Land Managment

Backroads Information-Bureau of Land Management

We will review the major land management agencies in detail starting with the largest public land agency in the United States.  The Bureau of Land Managment was founded with the merging of the General Land Office and the US Grazing Service in 1946.   However, Congress did not pass their Organic Act until 1976 with the passage of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.  Even the BLM Organic Act included lots of Congressional direction for their big brother the Forest Service.

I transfered from the Forest Service to the BLM in 1980.   The Forest Service has the Forest Manual and Handbook System.  A set of written policies and procedures to insure that Forest Service employees tend to ALL do the SAME thing across the country.  They literally cover the entire office wall in most Forest Service offices.   The first day a BLM employee asked me about working for the Forest Service and I said it seems similar to BLM. For example I pointed to RED as opposed to GREEN manual system that BLM had in the office.   Well, it is different he replied and then started opening the RED BLM manuals.  They were all empty.
I don't know if BLM finally filled those books with paper, but it did enjoy working for a government agency where you did NOT have to first consult several hundred pages!!

The BLM manages 253 million acres of Federal land.  That is equivalent to a land area equivalent to two and a half California's.  That is a lot of land.  BLM has 10,000 employees and a budget of nearly a billion dollars.  They return 6.2 billion dollars in revenue to the Federal treasury primarily from oil and gas leasing of BLM managed lands.

BLM has a national office in Washington DC, State offices in those states with significant BLM acreage, District offices in the larger towns, and Area offices which are sometimes found in the same building as the District office or detached area offices in towns closer to the public lands.

BLM is more political than the Forest Service.  Sometimes their  Director will be a political appointment, while with other administrations it can be a career BLM employee.  Some administrations have also appointed political friends into the State Director position.  The natural resource professional positions make up the majority of the BLM workforce.

Each BLM state offices tend to be oriented towards the major issues in those states.  For example, in Montana and Wyoming oil and gas leasing is probably the most important BLM managment program.  In Idaho, it is primarily grazing.  Oregon is Forestry west of the Cascades and grazing east of the mountains.  The primary recreation focus is in southern California and western Arizona.

Recreation has never been a primary program for BLM.  However, they have done a good job with the money they have been given by Congress.  The BLM recreation program is managed by Outdoor Recreation Planners at the District and Area offices.  This is who you should ask to speak to when you need more information than the front desk can provide.  I always appreciated the "interruptions" when I was working.  I gave me a chance to talk to the people I was working for and make sure that we were providing a service that the American people wanted.

I did work for BLM in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho in 1980 and 1981.   I got to build a campground without spending any Congressional dollars.  Those BLM folks always knew how to get things done.

This is Huckleberry Campground on the St. Joe River in Idaho.  In 1980, the Federal Highway Administration was rebuilding that highway above the campground and wanted to put four feet of fill material into the flat.  I quickly sold 30 cottonwood trees to a logger from St. Maries for thirty dollars, since they were probably going to die with that much fill on their roots.  One day I went down with my assistant and we laid in the road and the spurs with the unheard of length of 55 to 65 feet!  I then asked the Highway Administration to put down a rock base between my markers and make me a little loop road with those funny little spurs.  

So for a couple days work and a thirty dollar profit for the trees we built a campground.  I have noticed that the BLM has invested more money into the campground over the years by paving the little loop road and adding electricity to the sites.   Here is the link:  Huckleberry Campground.

Hopefully, soon I will be able to return to camp there and remember those wonderful days of being a field Forester.

The BLM  manages the Long-Term Visitor Areas in California and Arizona.  Here is additional information and the location of the LTVA's:  Long-Term Visitor Areas.  This was BLM's response to the increasing snowbird use in the southwest deserts.  The agency deserves credit for protecting the desert environment while at the same time providing for public use and enjoyment.  The LTVA's are an example of pretty creative thinking.

Recreation is part of BLM's multiple use mandate from Congress.  They do a pretty good job, given the limited funds and emphasis from Congress.  Oh well, those oil and gas leases, timber sales, and grazing leases are more important to Congress, but recreation is what people really appreciate about BLM.

Explore the BLM lands through the web.  Here is the national office site from this you can jump to local areas:  BLM Recreation WebSite.  I am always surprised by the "new" areas that I discover just by cruising the net.  Then go out there and visit YOUR PUBLIC LANDS.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Long-Distance AM Radio's

Backroads Information-Long Distance AM Radios

Nighttime AM radio had a magic hold on Americans until FM became the radio medium of choice in the 1970's.  Throughout the 1930's through the 1960's nighttime AM radio broadcasts brought blues music from the south into northern Minnesota and Wisconsin.  The country music of Texas and Oklahoma was heard in the mid-west and the east coast.  The FCC for a long time protected the signal of clear channel stations at night so rural areas without radio service could hear radio broadcasts.

Here is a link to the history of clear channel stations in North America:  History of Clear Channel AM Stations.

I have lived in rather remote areas of the American West and have listened to clear channels at night for news of the outside world.  It was at that time the only connection we had to the rest of the country.  The diverse programming of AM radio has been basically taken over by talk radio.  And thanks to Art Bell, with syndication you can now listen to Coast to Coast all over the AM dial.  The good news is AM radio is slowly dying so much so that Clear Channel Corporation has donated six stations to local communities.  Maybe in the future AM radio will again have unique programming that will be worth staying up all night.

Today there are some clear channels with local programming.   But where AM radio shines is in emergency situations.  The Emergency Broadcast System has as it core an AM radio station since it is easy to keep up in an emergency.

When the 1989 earthquake hit the Bay Area I could not contact my parents since all phone lines were jammed.  I tuned my radio to KNBR 680 the official Emergency Broadcast Station and KGO 810 which also stayed on the air.  From the reports on the radio I could determine that they were probably fine since there were no reports of damage coming from their area.

In 1992,  I took the family on one of my business trips to Sacramento.  We drove over for dinner in Santa Rosa with an old friend of Susie's.  As we were returning on the backroads the radio informed us that riots had broken out throughout the urban areas of California.  Believe me it always seems worse when the road is dark and rainy.  I then remembered that KFBK 1510 was the clear channel out of Sacramento so we tuned the car radio to the frequency.  We learned that Sacramento was quiet and peaceful and we returned to downtown Sacramento.

Incident Management Teams managing natural and man-made disasters are using communications to better inform the public.  In the past, they teams have merely passed on information to the media.  They are starting to take a more active role to make sure the public receives the needed information.  Yes, this summer the management of the oil spill was a disaster itself, but I can tell you that the Coast Guard, BP, and many politicians will be learning how the Incident Command System works this winter!! 

So there are reasons for getting a good AM radio besides just the entertainment value.  First step is to get a tuned loop antenna.  Here is the article on a tuned loop antenna published a couple of weeks ago.  Tuned Loop Antenna's.  Get the antenna first.  A good antenna is more important than a good radio.  These tuned loop antenna's really work they will boost a scratchy and static ridden signal into a clear signal that sounds like next door.

If you listen to AM radio you need one of these antenna's!!

The radio is also important.  But the antenna is more important than the radio.  Just get one of these antenna's.

At one time there were lots of good AM radios.  Some of the best were the old AM radios in cars, but those days are long gone.  The better shortwave radios always had good AM reception.  I have owned dozens of radio's over the years.  The best radio's allow you to tune just to the left or right of the channel.  This way you can avoid interference from adjacent radio stations. 

I have the GE Super Radio.  That model has been replaced by the RCA RP7887.   Read the Amazon reviews.  It appears to also have been discontinued.  The Super Radio has great sound, great reception on both AM and FM, and runs forever a D cell batteries.

This radio has NO digital stuff or any other fluff.  This is a radio.  Period.  Without that that stuff it gets better reception than other radios, but is harder to tune.  If you tend to listen to one station rather than hop around the dial this is the radio for you.

Well, if you can find it for sale.

I do not own this radio, but the reviews have been great on AM reception.  It looks like a good radio particularly given its antenna.  Price is pretty good.

Here are some used radio's that I have owned that are great.  The Sony 7600GR shortwave radio.  Great portable shortwave and AM radio.  Mine died an untimely death.  Other than that probably my favorite radio.  However, difficult to find and expensive at $190.

Panasonic RF-2900 from the early 1980's.  Radio's from that time period were good.  If you can find them used or in garage sales snap them up.

The C Crane Company from Fortuna, California sells AM radio's made to their specifications.  They are into AM radio reception so their radio's are pretty good.  This is my current AM radio.

Lots of controls for making sure the AM signal is the best you can receive.  It will also charge the batteries inside the radio without need for an external charger.  It will run on AA batteries or D cell batteries.  My observation is that it comes a very close second to the GE Super Radio but is much easier to use.

There you are.  Lots of good AM radios to chose from.  And maybe with AM radio stations becoming less valuable we might be entering the golden age of AM radio once again with local programming taking center stage.

These are great radios, but make sure you get the antenna.  Remember the antenna is much more important than the radio.  Out on the backroads there is no substitute for a good AM radio and antenna.

Here is the view from Wenatchee as we wait for the end of the month.  I was hoping for good duck and pheasant hunting weather and instead we got skiing weather.  The low at Camas Meadows in late November was minus 12.8F.  We are looking forward to hitching up the 5th wheel and heading as quickly as possible to the southwest!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Armitage County Park, Eugene, Oregon

We woke up to a grey rainy day at Maryhill.  Just a couple hundred feet above camp is was a grey, snowy day.  Our plan was to head south to Eugene, Oregon.  Now we previously wrote about re-supply towns and Eugene was on that list.

Eugene has some great characteristics for a resupply town.  A great campground close to town.  We will post more information on that shortly.  All the shopping that you can possibly want and NO sales tax.  We also noticed prices significantly lower than in Wenatchee due to the practice of locality pricing.  The same LCD TV at the same warehouse store was $228 in Wenatchee and $178 in Eugene. 

Great bookstores, good hospitals, and most important for us a storage location for the Cameo outside of the snow and freezing temperatures.

There are lots of things to do in Eugene from the Saturday market to the wineries and covered bridges in the county.  But for us this was a trip to supply the Cameo, park it and  head back to Wenatchee.

We camped at Armitage County Park.  A beautiful campground on the McKenzie River and close to town.  The campground has pull throughs and back in spurs that can fit almost any size RV.

The campground has 37 units with full hook-ups.  It also has a off-leash dog park at one end.  So this is one of those campgrounds that your dog will enjoy as much as you will.

Western Oregon is not well known for its blue skies.
This scene out of the rear window of the Cameo shows a more typical day.

Thankfully, Lane County has wireless internet in the campground.  The first day there, the download speed was 13 MBPS and upload at 8 MBPS.  The following day the speeds had come down significantly with only 8.76 MBPS download and 3.54 MBPS upload!!

Of course, this is Eugene.  And camping in Eugene would be incomplete without a magic bus complete with a woodstove sticking out the window.

While we were there the campground only had four or five campers a day.   In summer time and football weekends I suspect the campground fills up.  A great place to camp for $25 dollars a night for full hookups and high speed internet.  Here is the county web site for Armitage County Park.

Thanks to one of our readers we found a perfect storage area for the Cameo just a few miles from the campground.   We winterized the Cameo when we read the weather forecast for the next week.  Seems there it an cold, cold front coming down from Canada.

Whoops what an ugly picture to end the blog entry!  Here is a picture of the river next to the campground.

So we left Eugene in a pouring rain to head back to Wenatchee.  East of the Cascades the rain stopped and we had cloudy skies just short of the Kittitas Valley.  From there it was snow showers with snow covered roads back to Wenatchee.  Just a few short weeks and we will be Arizona bound with views of snow-capped peaks from the desert floor.

Traveling in rural areas is pretty easy without a GPS.  Once, you get into an urban area like Eugene a GPS unit is essential for driving.  Yes, it minimizes the "lost" driving around at slow speeds trying to figure out your next move. 

We would not be without ours.  Prices are dropping.  This is the unit we have and we paid almost $200 less than two years ago.  Basic features for driving.  The only thing we would add is lane assist in current models,  but this GPS does give you plenty of warning.

Here is the link to the complete review posted last spring:  GPS and Backroads.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Maryhill State Park, Goldendale, Washington

I have heard the expression "Where in the Sam Hill?" for years.   The answer is Maryhill in eastern Washington, where railroad magnet Sam Hill built a castle for his daughter Mary along with a replica of Stonehenge, an ancient druid monument found in the countryside of England.  Now the expression "What in the Sam Hill" clearly refers to a slang expression for hell.

I like my version better.  Maryhill was the end of the world in the early 1900's, but by the late 20th century it was my travel route from Wenatchee to Portland where the Forest Service Regional Office is located.  I  drove this road at least six or more times a year during my working life.

It is unfortunate that the Columbia Gorge Scenic Area stops at the Dalles just before the most scenic part of the Columbia River makes its appearance.  Come now to explore this beautiful, unique part of America before it gets covered in a carpet of ugly windmills.

The Maryhill Mansion became the Maryhill Museum of Art with an odd collection of art objects for this location.  For example, there are statues by Rodin,  a collection of chess sets, an exhibit on Loie Fuller a modern dancer in the 1920's, the crown jewels of the queen of Romania,and icons from the Orthodox faith.  It is an odd collection in a odd location, that becomes clearer when you read the history of Sam Hill.

As an Orthodox alter boy in my youth, it was definitely a surprise to find the icons in Maryhill.  Orthodox alter boys always prepared the wine and bread for communion.  I believe it was where I developed my taste for wine.

It is a disjointed museum that makes perfect sense once you know its history.  Maryhill Museum of Art is my type of place.  Visit the Maryhill website.  It has great information on the area.  It is closed from the middle of November until March 15th.

Sam Hill also built a memorial to the American soldiers that died in World War 1.  He went ahead and built out of concrete the "completed" Stonehenge Monument.  Since you can no longer walk among the ruins at Stonehenge in England the monument at Maryhill will have to suffice.

There is more in this odd little corner of Washington state!  The total solar eclipse in 1918 and also in 1979 went right through Goldendale.  Lick Observatory from the University of California at Berkeley set up the observing station in Goldendale.  Their observing notes indicate a successful expedition.   There is now a State Park complete with an observatory overlooking town.

Well, maybe in the early 20th century this place was NOT the ends of the earth!

Goldendale is a charming small town.   We stopped for lunch in Goldendale at the Glass Onion.  Well, worth the visit, but check their hours and days they are open.  Great food.  If you are towing park on the street just south of the concrete silo's and walk to the Glass Onion.  Small town food is no longer chicken fried steak!  Susie had the tuna steak perfectly cooked.  Great menu for the adventurous eater.  You cannot go wrong here!

Another place for lunch is several miles north of Goldendale along Highway 97.  It is a Orthodox convent named St. John's Monastery.  For those of you not familar with the Orthodox faith it is the first Christian church founded by the lord Jesus Christ.  In 1054 the Roman part of the church broke away and founded the Catholic Church.  The Orthodox church has remained true to its Christian roots.

No matter what your views on religion and the "Great Schism" of 1054 stop by the convent for expresso and tasty Greek food.   It has become quite the local hang out for those tasty Greek pastries.  It was a favorite stop of mine on those business trips to Portland.  Besides the expresso and great food you can also purchase an icon or two and one of those incense burners used during Orthodox services.  Yes, I was very confused at all those parties in Berkeley during the late 1960's.  Incense at a party??

We went to the Maryhill Winery which is just west of the Maryhill Art Museum.  This time of year it was not very busy.  The wine tasting in Washington is much better than it Napa.  No tasting fees, no hype.  Unfortunately, all of this is coming to an end.  Soon it will be just like the Napa Valley and that is unfortunate.   We remember wine tasting at fruit stands in the Yakima Valley in the 1980's.  Well, the fruit stands with wine tasting are gone.  Wine has gone upscale in Washington so go now.

Wineries have gone into the concert business and Maryhill has followed the trend.  Lyle Lovett was there last year and around tax time they publish their concert schedule.  Here is the concert site.

You can camp at Brooks Memorial State Park, however it is closed during the winter months or at Maryhill State Park  (at a location different than the museum).   We are camped at Maryhill State Park.  If you do not like wind or noise, Brooks is probably the better choice.    Maryhill is between train tracks and two major highways.  But they are rather cramped camping spots and are only open in spring and summer..  There are boondock locations throughout the area, but we decided to pay for the hookups at the State Park.

We drove into Oregon to check out Deschutes River Park.  Short spurs and it appears electric only hookups for $16 during the winter season.  The advantage to this campground is the bicycle and hiking trail that leaves right from the campground and the Deschutes River just before it enters the Columbia.

At Celico Falls you can boondock for free for fourteen days in the parking lot.  No services, but there is a toilet.  I suspect there is water somewhere in the site.  The site is close to the freeway so I suspect you will hear some noise from the freeway.

The site is also a tribal fishing area.  No salmon for sale while we were there, but you might be luckier than us.

Well, where else can you find Orthodox icons and a convent, Stonehenge, Rodin, observatories, and good food in the middle of somewhere?  Oh, and here is the obligatory black and white photograph.

If you enjoy reading this blog you can help support by ordering products from the Amazon links.  I have reviewed and posted links to interesting products for backroads travel.  I own and have used all the products mentioned.  Thanks for your support.  Here is the LINK to the summary of products recommended.

So enter the Amazon site using USBACKROADS as the portal for your Christmas shopping.  Thanks.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Listening to the Outside World

Backwoods Product--AM Antennas and Radio's

Today's usbackroads posting is brought to you by the letter Q. 

Well, actually it is all about that primitive medium known as AM radio.

Yes, before cable TV, satellite TV, internet, and satellite radio there was nighttime AM radio.  It was the only way to listen to broadcasts from far, far away.  Now Forest Service employees were always into nighttime AM and shortwave radio.  Miles and miles from broadcasting stations AM radio was the only connection with the "outside" world.  It also had the advantage of being able to track thunderstorms moving onto the National Forest through the static the lighting strikes generated.

Radio became my contact with the outside world.  SW radio was great while AFRTS (American Forces Radio and Television Service) was on the shortwave bands.  It was great to listen to ball games, the Sunday morning shows, and NPR and CNN without commercials.  Well, they did have commercials but they were about security and other issues dear to the heart of the Armed Forces.

Unfortunately, in response to pressure from other governments the broadcasts were moved off AM shortwave into satellite broadcasts.  Shortwave radio is just not the same.

To listen to AM radio at nighttime or daytime you need to look to the letter Q above.  That is a tuned loop AM antenna.  If you like listen to AM radio you need one of these.  These will improve the reception of any AM radio.  Even the poorest AM radio will start functioning much, much better.

Here is the current version of a tuned loop antenna.  All of mine were originally made by Radio Shack and when they were discontinued I drove to every Radio Shack dealer and bought the last three in the Wenatchee Valley.  Thankfully, Terk still makes the antenna.

The difference in reception is amazing.  While at University of California Forestry summer program the cook used a tune loop to listen to KNBR from San Francisco 200 miles away DURING the day.  At nighttime the reception extends throughout the entire west coast.  The difference is amazing.  Try one if you listen to AM radio.

A good radio that is easily tuned will make your reception better, but these tuned loops will work with any AM radio and they will make the ANY radio work like one of those expensive ones.

If you want to build one yourself here is a link for plans and an explanation of how the antenna works:  Loop Antennas.  I did build one of wire and wood and it worked fine.  Not as good as the Terk, but an interesting project.

Every time I use a tuned loop antenna it takes me back to the summer of 1972 and working out of wall tent in the Gravey Creek area of the Clearwater National Forest.  Bears and elk all summer long and we never saw another human being that summer.  Our only contact was a Forest Service radio for work and an AM/shortwave radio for the outside world. 

When I boondock these days I do have a satellite radio setup, but more often than not I bring out my AM Radio and the tuned loop antenna.  There is just something about the static of lightning strikes.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Little Goose Dam, Starbuck, Washington

Backroads Destination-Little Goose Dam

This is the destination for our annual fishing and hunting trip along the Snake River.  It is just up the road from the Texas Rapids Boat Launch along the Snake River previously discussed in this blog.  It is a popular fishing spot in a pretty eastern Washington setting.  The only downside to the area is you can hear the hum of the generators at Little Goose Dam.  It would be nice if those generators would quit running at bedtime, however, the lights would go out in Seattle!  If your into total quiet stay downstream at Texas Rapids.  Texas Rapids Boat Launch

The 5th wheel is off-limits for the annual hunting trip.  But with the tent trailer and add-a-room it is comfortable set-up even with the unusual rains during the hunting trip.  Is it suppose to rain in the desert?  The add-a-room did hold up in the wind unlike last year.  The Wilson antenna on the top of the tent trailer did provide cell service.

The fishing rod on the bank was suppose to provide either catfish and steelhead for dinner, but in ten days not even a strike.   We tried fishing off the rocks to see if our luck would change.   It did.  We caught one small 14 inch steelhead smolt.  The fish ladder counts showed thousands of fish heading for Idaho, but ALL of them decided to pass on our lures.

The Snake River has steelhead, salmon, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, largemouth bass, sturgeon, crappie, and largemouth bass.  The Snake River even has a fish that you can fish for money.  Yes, the Federal Bonneville Power Administration will PAY YOU to fish for the pike minnow.  You can be an independent contractor for the Federal Government fishing for a living.  If you are interested in the job here is the link:  Fishing for Money!

Oh, we did not catch a pike minnow, either.

However, it was not the fish that drew us to the Snake River, but upland bird hunting.  We were trying to lower the population of invasive non-native birds in the Snake River ecosystem.  Primarily pheasants, but chukers and hungarian partridges were also on the list as well as the "native" California quail.  Of course, we needed a lean mean hunting machine known as a German Longhair Pointer to help with the task.

This was Bugaboo prior to the hunt days.  Well, after ten days in the field that flowing tail was reduced to a rat tail as shaving was the only way to get the burrs out.  There were seeds in the tail and every other part of the body.  Nature has a way of using long-hair hunting dogs for seed dispersal.  He also got some ugly cuts from barb wire fences.  He had a couple of close calls jumping over barb wire fences, but we are happy to report that portion of his anatomy remains attached and he still has the capability to pass on his DNA.  But it was close a couple of times!

As mentioned earlier we had plenty of rain this year.  Clouds and rain are most unusual in eastern Washington and it made hunting a very wet experience.  So we hunkered down with a very bad internet connection and looked to the National Weather Service to provide planning information for our hunts.

With the forecasts we were able to plan our hunts around the rain storms and kept fairly dry.  The hunting was great, the shooting fair.  Bugaboo did great in his second year.  He returned the pheasants I shot to my hand without my having to resort to the good citizenship collar.  The birds Terry shot were also returned to me.  However, one time he caught a pheasant without us shooting it.  He promptly started sneaking off with the bird.  I guess he is willing to share IF we shoot them, however, the ones he gets on his own are ALL HIS in his mind. 

Bugaboo went on a classic point and I was torn between pulling out my camera or keeping with the shotgun.  Terry walked in and flushed the pheasant and it fell from the sky when he pulled the trigger.  I missed the photo, but will always have the memory of that classic point by Bugaboo.  Thanks to Bugaboo and his friends the pheasant dish on the last night was outstanding with that fine eastern Washington wine!

The hills of the Snake River have a beauty all of their own.  Great for wandering around with a gun or a camera.  The landscape is just as beautiful as it was two centuries ago when Lewis and Clark passed through the area.  Of course, all those pesky pheasants, chukars, and huns were not around!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Carriage Cameo 5th Wheel

The camping at Confluence State Park has come to a close and we made the long, difficult trip of one mile to our driveway.  I was dreading the trip.  There is a tight turn into the parking area.  It was tight with the tent trailer and with a 31 foot 5th wheel and it was going to be an adventure.

I asked a friend with a 5th wheel to help guide me into the spot.  I did not want to try it with Susie.  Divorce is expensive.  Well, 45 minutes after arriving at home it was parked more or less. 

What we did learn from our camping trip was that most everything on trailer worked.  We did learn how to hook-up and disconnect and most important how to dump!  We are still unsure of a few things, but I finally did find the TV amplifier and both TV's work.

We are providing plenty of business to the local RV dealer.  All Seasons RV.  We had everything, but everytime we go down we find we need something else or this would work better.  It is handy having them less than a mile away.

They did tow the 5th wheel to their business and raised the axles to get the minimum six inch clearance between the bed rails and the bottom on the 5th wheel.  It sure looks like a small gap.  I still have the option of doing an axle flip to get an additional 5 inches.  We will go with the six inches for now and see how it works this winter.   It sits almost 13 feet high and that does get my attention every time I look at the trailer.
We are pleased with the layout of the trailer as it is fully accessible with both slides in.  Look out Wal-Mart here we come!

We took out the two recliners in the rear.   I replaced my chair with my precious LaFuma recliner.  I also bought a 4X2 foot table for use as a computer table and fly tying desk.   There could be a nice view out the back and there is good light for the fly tying.

Susie replaced her recliner kicking and screaming with a chair and footstool from IKEA.  The good thing is everything fits nicely in the space with the slides pulled in.  Susie's chair is even available for sitting in that position.  My LaFuma is accessible, but a little more difficult. 

Hmm, do we really need a couch?  Looks like the perfect spot for a LaFuma.  The dinning table has a nice extension.

On the outside we were pleased to discover a hand fill water inlet for the fresh water tank.  The Cameo seemed to be more oriented towards full hook-ups rather boondocking.  That 31 foot length will make it interesting on some of our backroads.  And that 13 foot height will give me a new perspective on tree height.  Hmm, when I was cruising timber the first log was always 16 feet high.   Why shouldn't the Forest Service clear ALL branches to one log height??  We will skip discussion of campground barriers for now.

The kitchen has plenty of room and is totally accessible.  It does have a nifty little extension to the cabinet.  The freezer and fridge is huge.  It is as big as the one at our cabin.  There is plenty of storage.

The freshwater tank carries 70 gallons including the hot water heater.  The black and gray tanks are only 55 gallons, but after the tent trailer that should be no problem.

The truck and trailer combination is 48 feet long.  This compares to 37 feet for the tent trailer and truck.

Those eleven feet sure do make a difference!  There is a nice closet in the bedroom that will fit our solar panel.  Someday we will get that up on the roof, but for now it will have to be taken and put away each time.  It is a 125 watt panel, which should keep our batteries charged since they will be used primarily for the furnace fan and lights.

Well the plan is to move the 5th wheel to Eugene in about two weeks.  After pheasant opener and those annual doctors appointments.  I have scheduled my five year appointment so that it coincides with the pumping of the septic systems.  It is easier to remember them.  My mother had colon cancer so I highly recommend the five year plan.

Hopefully parking it in Eugene will protect it from freezing weather and will allow us to avoid snowy roads when we leave Wenatchee in late December or early January.  Any advise on storage locations will be greatly appreciated.

We plan on still getting as far back as possible. Here is how we are going to do it.  Complete link is here: Backroads Information Blog Summary.  Go to the bottom on the post, for the complete series. 

Here is the link to that all important LaFuma Recliner.  Don't leave home without it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Winchester Wasteway, Moses Lake, Washington

Backroads Information-Winchester Wasteway, Moses Lake, Washington

Saturday was the opening of duck season.  Unfortunately, I forgot to set my alarm and therefore ended up at the blind at 9:00 am.  Well, there were no ducks flying and Bugaboo got a little bored. 

Now Bugaboo does not like sharing quail, chukar, or pheasants with me.  I have to show him the good citizen collar control to get him to release the birds to me.  However, hunting dogs hate the smell of ducks and are more than willing to share ducks with you.  So I was hoping to work on the concept of sharing birds with Bugaboo.  Fortunately, I had my chair blind with me and it was a comfortable sit.

If you want to do wildlife photography look into these chair blinds.  It can be a camera pointing out of that blind!!  For fishing from shore in fowl weather it will provide a water and wind proof comfortable hide out.  Well after an hour of so we folded the blind and started out looking for places to camp.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife access points allow camping in most cases.  You can find the complete list here: Access Sites.  Under each site it tells you if camping is allowed.  These sites are posted with public fishing and public hunting signs.

The signs lead you to simple camping area.  Generally, a flat parking area with a SST Toilet.  No water, no tables, and other than the $14 yearly permit (free with fishing or hunting license) no fees.  This is what they look like.  And for Linda H. notice the lack of overhanging branches.

This guy got a pretty nice campsite on the opening of duck season.  Usually there is nobody camped in this lot and it is just a couple miles south of I-90.   I previously posted the information on the permit, but here it is again.  Parking Permit.

But this area is more than just duck hunting.  In the spring it is a great bird watching and fishing.  The Winchester Wasteway is a great canoe trip in the spring. Canoe Trip Video.

Of course, camping there in the fall you get to share your campground with those high class duck hunters.

The parking areas are generally empty most of the year except for a couple of weeks in October during duck season.  Hey, this is one campsite where no one will give you grief about your gun OR dog!  Well, just make sure your dog looks like a hunting dog.

I did see one mud-covered Crocker Spaniel drag itself back to the parking area.  It looked like a drowned muskrat on its last legs.  The owner, however, assured that after the hunt it will get a warm bath and a bow it its hair.  Don't think that would work with Bugaboo.

Pheasant opener this Saturday.  So many things to do, so little time.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sun Lakes State Park, Soap Lake, Washington

Sun Lakes State Park, Soap Lake, Washington

It is fishing and hunting season.  October is the perfect month for everything.  Even the night skies are usually clear and transparent for astronomy.  So this time of year is a busy month with all the outdoor activities.  We are thinking of visiting New Zealand, Australia, Chile and Argentina is future years so we can have TWO Octobers each year!!

Sun Lakes State Park is a busy park during the spring and summer months as Seattle area residents flee over the Cascades to escape the relentless grey skies and rain.  So if you plan on staying here from late April through Labor Day we recommend reservations.  The best times to visit is early April and September and October.

Now this is my reason for visiting Sun Lakes State Park.  Within the park boundaries is Dry Falls Lake which is a selective fishery lake for rainbows, browns, and even some tiger trout.  On this trip is was just rainbows.  The scenery is outstanding.

If fishing is not your "thing".  How about golf?  Sun Lakes State Park has a dandy little golf course with nine holes.  It is a narrow and long course that is much more difficult than it appears at first glance.  On warm days, check all sticks laying on the golf course to make sure they are not rattlesnakes. 

The park has three campgrounds.  A concessionaire campground near the entrance, the crowded old middle campground, and a new campground which is accessed by driving through the old campground. 

Here is the official link to the Sun Lakes State Park.  Now you are in the neighborhood of Banks Lake and Grand Coulee Dam.  Here is the link to Steamboat Rock State Park which is just north of Sun Lakes.  Be warned that it is just as popular in the summer time as Sun Lakes.  For those interested in boondocking the State Fish and Wildlife sites allow some boondocking in the area, but look carefully they are limited in size and many are closed to camping.

This is a great video showing the areas affected by the great floods of 10,000 years ago.  Ice Age Flood Video.  It opens with a view a rainbow over Dry Falls Lake.  As noted in my blog earlier my home "ecosystem" is that area affected by the Great Floods.  For those outside the area it will give places that you will want to further explore after you see the photos.  So write down those names and google them!  For those that live in the area the photos will give you a great perspective on the landscape. 

Dry Falls Lake is considered by many the heart of the Great Flood region. 

This is Bugaboo's second year of bird hunting.  He is a awesome hunting dog as they say.  However, as we all know it is those goof ball antics that make them YOUR dog.  This photo was taken about ten miles northwest of Sun Lakes State Park.  

This weekend is duck opener and then the following weekend is the annual trip to the Snake River for steelhead and pheasant.  There is a reason that for Lewis and Clark the Snake River was one of their favorite parts of the journey.