Saturday, August 11, 2007

Onward to Oregon

It's been a while since I've had the time to update our travel blog; we've been busy with visiting friends, doing volunteer work, and making our way to the Oregon coast. We arrived back at Lee Metcalf NWR feeling like we'd returned home. It was great to see the refuge staff again, and we were able to park the motorhome on our old pad from last year. This year we were next to another couple, Kirk and Pam, veteran full timers and volunteers whose travels we've followed on their web site, Our Great Adventure. We've emailed back and forth over the past year, and last year suggested that they try Metcalf NWR for a volunteer stint. We had a great time getting acquainted, and swapped many stories (some actually true) of our adventures. Bob, the outdoor planner, volunteer coordinator, and our good friend, put us both to work the minute we arrived ("Hey, it's great to see you, I've got a few projects for you!") and we enjoyed putting on our volunteer shirts and going to work. We spent ten days working, visiting, and having a wonderful time. The only downside was the heat and smoke from wildfires burning east of the Bitterroot Valley and in the mountains west of us in Idaho. The smoke from the fire to the east was often spectacular, and as of today is still only 5% contained. Still, we had a few days of blue skies and clear air, and the view of the refuge with the mountains in the background was beautiful. Thanks to everyone in the Lee Metcalf NWR for making our visit special! We left there with a promise to return next spring, crossed over Bitterroots at Lolo Pass , then drove along the Lochsa River down the mountains into Idaho to spend four days at Orofino and the Clearwater Crossing RV Park. The park is new and very well maintained, and our site backed up to the bank of the Clearwater River where we could watch the ducks and osprey. The area around Orofino was surprising to us; while the river valley was much the same as other mountain areas we've visited, climbing out of the valley we entered a huge area of wheat and barley fields. Sort of like putting Kansas on top of a big, flat mountain. There were farms and rolling fields in all directions, but in the distance the smoke plume from a distant wildfire looked like the cloud from a nuclear explosion. Since we were in the area, we visited the Wolf Education and Research Center, the home of the "Sawtooth Pack", featured in TV documentaries and made famous by the photographers Jim and Jamie Dutcher. We had always looked forward to seeing the wolves, but were disappointed with our visit to the center. Only three wolves from the original pack are still alive; those that we remembered from the shows and pictures are buried in a special area of "wolf meadow", and the remaining wolves were not visible due to the heat and midday sun keeping them hidden in their den. Taking their place to keep us entertained, a doe grazed in the meadow and her twin fawns watched us with curiosity. Later in the week, we visited the Dworshak Reservoir, a 54-mile long lake created by the huge dam just outside Orofino. It's a beautiful lake, with excellent campgrounds and boat marinas developed by the Corps of Engineers. We visited the dam and talked with the staff about future volunteer opportunities, then took a scenic drive across the lake and over a large suspension bridge. We enjoyed our stay in Idaho, but failing to break the bank at the local Indian casino, we packed up and headed west, following the Columbia River Gorge (and terrible headwinds - a 5.5 MPG day) to Woodburn, Oregon, about 40 miles south of Portland. We stayed here last year at the Portland-Woodburn RV Park on the way to Montana. It has everything we needed; on one side is an outlet mall, on the other, a very good Workhorse service center. We were able to get our motorhome's oil changed and stock up on clothes (no sales tax in Oregon!), and drove to McMinnville to see the "Spruce Goose", now housed at the Evergreen Aviation Museum. Having lived near the Air Force Museum Wright-Patterson AFB has spoiled us; while the Spruce Goose was interesting, the museum held little else noteworthy, and at $13 each we both felt it was overpriced. Still, it's an amazing aircraft and hard to believe that it was built and flown (sorta) almost 60 years ago. Maybe it was the trip to and from the museum that affected our visit; traffic here is horrible, reminiscent of Southern California. "The Five" as Interstate 5 is called by Californians, runs through here also and is always filled with bumper-to-bumper traffic. Not as many anorexic blond women in BMWs talking on cell phones as in Southern Cal, though. The weather here has been fantastic; highs in the 70s with very cool nights, but it's time to move on. We're off tomorrow on our trip to the coast, next stop Newport, then a stop at Bandon, then on to Harris Beach State Park. Stay tuned!

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