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.

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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!