"Of all the paths you take in life make sure a few of them are dirt" US Forest Sevice

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Tualatin Valley and Saddle Mountain

A quick month at LL Stubb Stewart

Our nomadic life is constantly changing along with our address. As a traveling nurse, we would choose three month travel contracts based on the areas we wanted to spend time. My first was contract in Connecticut. We would take the train to NYC or drive to Cape Cod on my 4 days
off, returning in time for my 3 days at the hospital which can get pretty tiring. But what an opportunity to see the country. As we reached San Francisco, we slowed down, learning to explore closer to home and enjoy the immediate area, finding ourselves dancing to the music in the park near our apartment or riding our bikes along the bay.

 The past 4 years, we would travel 6 months, returning to Arizona for 6 months to work and refuel after the excitement of new places and constant moving. After several years of returning to the same place, it was time to mix it up once again. This time the opportunity of staying a month in these wonderful state parks and feeling like we are contributing is a real treat. Also, not having to find a place to stay over holiday weekends is a bonus.

Relief Camp Host is something we would do again in the future.  

Tualatin Valley Trails

Along the Wine and Quilt Trail, 60 quilt panels have been installed at local area farms and agriculture related businesses. Each quilt tells the story of the property owners and their relation to quilting. 


One draw for us was the 51 mile Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway that includes the 21 mile Banks-Vernonia Bikeway, which passes through quiet rolling hills and 
 farm country roads with little traffic. Many people from Portland ride the 30 miles along the bikeway to camp at Stubb Stewart's hike/bike camp, one of our favorite places in the park.

Mt St Helen in the background

Mt Hood in the back

The county has put a lot of effort and money into its smooth roads for cyclists. 

Trail from Banks 



Saddle Mountain Recreation Area


Saddle Mountain Trail, halfway between Fort Stevens State Park and LL Stubb Stewart, had been on our radar for a while. Our window to hike it was closing as our time to leave and head back to the ocean was fast arriving. 

Even though it was raining on our last days off, we put on our rain gear and headed up the trail.




If the trail’s natural beauty and wildflowers weren’t enough to entice us to the top, the panoramic view from the summit did.  We hear on a clear day you can see the sweep of the Columbia River as it enters the sea, miles of Pacific shoreline and on the eastern horizon, the Cascade Mountains in Oregon and Washington. We plan to return on a clear day to check it out.



I was thankful for the hiking poles on the slick wire holding the trail together.
The trail is steep and difficult in spots, with a 1,640 foot rise in elevation over 2.5 miles.
The first and last half miles were the steepest. We felt each step in our thighs on the way up. On the way down our knees were thankful for the poles to hold us from sliding.

We  hear there is a view.


We didn't get to see the views on our hike or enjoy the harvest from the farms we rode our bikes by this month. We plan to return in August to be interpretive hosts at Stubb Stewart so we can remedy that. But that is a whole other story.

 The berry Mike brought to me as a gift wasn't quite ripe. It wasn't so much a gift but more of a chance to find out how ripe it was without testing it himself.  Needless to say, this did not get him any cudos.
Salmon Berries
 I occasionally wonder why we can't be content living in the same place with occasional trips. But realize that we could and are appreciative of the opportunity we have to travel, meet new people and
see new place as we attempt to find balance in our lives while we still can.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Oregon's Coast Range

Green on green


Everywhere you look in the Pacific Northwest is a new shade of green. It rains some days for a while making sunny days a reason to celebrate. 

 I am not able to add a header picture so the blue will have to do. For some reason, I can stream movies but uploading pictures from our hotspot isn't so great. While having lunch in Vernonia, we stopped at the library so I could upload these pictures. If the pictures below are blank click on the little box to see them. Just the price we have to pay for living in the toolies. 
We love Sunday afternoons. The weekend crowd has cleared out and we have our peaceful place to ourselves with a few campers scattered around. I chose our last hosting location in Oregon. Mike chose LL Stub Stewart State Park for our next month as relief camp hosts. A couple of small towns are within 10 miles, hiking trails and places to ride our bikes met all of the criteria that we felt we needed while spending a month in one location. 

During our interview, Sophie, our coordinator, made it clear that leaving during our 4 hour "work" days was not a problem. Some hosting positions on federal land require hosts to be available all of the time except on their days off. One more criteria met and we were in.

Mike deciding which trail to take next.


View from Hilltop Days Use
Just 33 miles west of Portland, Stub Stewart has over 20 miles of beautiful natural trails within the park for hikers mountain bikers and equestrians to roam. It has a really cool disc golf course and Discovery Depot are on site for kids and us to learn about the area. At night, the Hilltop Day Use area fills up with astronomy buffs as the mountain bikers head out. The star gazers glad to give us a glimpse of the stars and moon and explain what we are seeing.

Highest point in the park. Unfit Settlement Trail

I wasn't sure about being a campground host when we first talked about volunteering. I thought it might be too restrictive and didn't want to deal with problem campers. We have found that it has been a good fit for us. The rangers take care of any problems, which really haven't occurred for us. They are the law and we are their eyes and ears.

We also give people assistance and notify the rangers if there is an issue. A couple was getting ready to leave on their trip from Arizona to Seattle for work when the brakes on their new huge 5th wheel toy hauler locked up. We radioed the Ranger on Duty. Even though it was a sold out weekend, a site was kept open in the event something like this arose. The poor fellow had never backed the fifth wheel up before and was pretty uncomfortable. I instructed him to put his hand on the bottom of the steering wheel and turn the direction he wanted the rear of the trailer to go. He managed to do just fine with some reassurance.

We like to check out the trials to be able to let the campers and guests know which trails to take.

As relief camp hosts, we cover for the other hosts in the three loops on their days off and enjoy our ride or walk around the park as we change the signs and tidy up sites as we visit with visitors and are available to sell ice or wood a couple of evenings a week. We like riding the gator the 1/4 mile out to the hike/bike in camp which is beautiful and hike around to make sure every thing is tidy. We often like to double check and make a second round.

We prefer weekdays off to avoid the crowds while sightseeing, this time we are off on Friday and Saturdays. Going to Fred Meyers or Costco can be trying on those days. There are a few more people on the trails but it is only a month.

One couple asked us to trade days and be on duty on a Friday (a much busier day) and have a Wednesday off. Our Wednesday 2 in and 2 out, taking us 1/2 hour to complete, went to 30 in and 12 out which also meant much more wood and ice sales. Maybe weekends off aren't so bad. The days do fly. Sundays every one clears out and we spend the morning helping the other hosts clear out the place. 

It isn't "work" and feels good to be contributing.

Tiny raccoon footprints.


A great disc golf course.

Oregon State Parks allows Disabled Veterans to stay in its state parks 10 days a month for free. One morning an ambulance arrived at our neighbor's trailer, a DAV. His wife had been sick for quite a while and refused to see a doctor. Finally, he called the ambulance. He later returned teary eyed saying she would not be returning home. It really does bring home how things can change at any time. 
The mountain biking is on the top of the hill from our campsite which means a lot of up before we hit the cross country trails which gets the ole heart beating.  The morning after one ride, the ranger on duty woke us with a knock on the door as he was dropping off our daily list of campers. It was 8 am and we were still sawing logs.

On our "on" days if we want to take a ride or go out to lunch, we put up our out for a while sign and let everyone know we are off radio.
There is a great Horse Camp.

The paved 21 mile Banks-Vernonia State Trail, a multi-use trail over an old train bed, takes us across 13 old bridges and wooden trestles through glades and across streams, with wildflowers.

Banks Trailhead
We were excited to ride our bikes the 11 miles to Vernonia, a tiny two block town with some pretty good restaurants that is kept busy with visitors on the Banks-Vernonia Trail. 

The opposite direction from Stubb Stewart is Banks. The trail travels across a train trestle. Riding up hill on rails to trails makes me think about the old trains chugging up the pass. Then I realized it is my heavy breathing making the chugging sounds. There are hosts who's job is to keep the trail clear and in good condition.




Almost to Vernonia


The Black Iron Grill with outdoor seating is frequented by the bike riders once they reach Vernonia. On our first ride, a cyclist flagged us down as we entered town and recommend the place and invited us to share his table for an enjoyable lunch before starting back home.



On the other end is Banks and the Hop Cycle Brewing Co. It is best to avoid the weekends. The folks from Portland love this place, not only for the trail but the quiet country roads making for a very nice ride.


Vernonia Lake.


Fixing a flat.
We often take our gator for a "drive" up the hill to visit the hosts in the other loops and get a chance to know them at the midweek get togethers. Some have been hosting for many years and are giving us the inside scoop. One couple has been at it for 21 years. We plan to give it most of this year and see how things unfold. So far so good.

There is no TV reception except in a few sites with a dish. We don't watch enough TV to justify carrying around a receiver and dish. The Verizon is great for listen to podcasts, streaming Netflix and TV shows when we want.

We have one more week here before heading out to the ocean again.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Answering a few questions

Leaving the coast

We are going to try and answer a few questions people had about our experience so far as camp hosts.
 Oregon has many types of hosts including visitors center, lighthouse tour guide, kayak guides, and the list goes on, requiring only a month long commitment. Every state park has different expectations for each position. For us, the hours we work are more important to us than actual job. We prefer morning or evening work so we can have a bigger chunk of time off to hike, bike ride or sightsee. Some people prefer being inside a visitors center or lighthouse but 10am to 2 just cuts into our fun time and is a deal breaker.
 We haven't seen much of a down side to the hosting experience so far. Our orientation consisted of  handing us a set of keys and a binder to figure it out on our own. We are bright and figured out our own game plan. There are always people who complain because they did it differently somewhere else or know a better way to do things. When the negativity starts, we just nod, say "have a nice day" and move on. Sure, we were frustrated when we ran out of wood. We just put the "Out of Wood" sign up and went home. Nights could get cold in the wood shed. We put out our "see host in site 1" sign and went inside to read a book. If they wanted wood, they knocked on our door. As you can see, the signs are very important. Most things in life really aren't worth stressing over. If it is too stressful, move on.
Trail along the Columbia River in Warrenton.

The rhododendrons in bloom early
We had signed up to work a 2 hour shift at Astoria's Crab, Seafood and Wine Festival allowing us to avoid paying the $15 each entry fee. Standing in line to taste wine and eat in a crowded hall isn't our thing even if a band is playing. Another volunteer was so happy when we passed it on to her. Astoria had school bus shuttles to the campgrounds since the parking in town is limited and the 500 campsites were full along with all of the other campgrounds in town. We would hear the people whooping and singing while returning with their purchases as they walked back to their campsites. Then they would get quiet as they settled into their wine laden slumber by their fire. Everyone was home by 10pm. The extra security the park paid for was not needed.
Staying in a beautiful place and saving over $1000 per month in fees was worth the little time we spent "working" four hours a day, five days a week. Keeping our cash inflow greater than our outflow.  Allowing us time to take in the area.  Also, moving every 5-7 days can get wearing over a period of time.
The volunteer appreciation potluck was nice. We passed on the gifts. No place to put them. We don't see ourselves returning to Fort Stevens even though Marlo, host coordinator, invited us back. We loved the area. Been there, done that. Too many places to see.

Our drive into Oregon's Coastal Mountains was only 67 miles after we washed the pollen and sap off the truck and trailer in Seaside.

We pulled into Camp 18 restaurant and logging museum, the most popular stop on the way to and from the Oregon Coast between Portland and Cannon Beach. We lucked out and didn't have to wait for a table. As we were leaving, the Sunday morning crowd was lining up.


Our  next stop was LL Stubb Stewart State Park in the coastal mountains to be relief hosts for the hosts of the east and west campgrounds. We will take care of the sites once the campers leave and change the post markers for the incoming people.  We post our "see host in site 55" sign on the wood shed door as we are available to sell wood and ice two evenings a week. It isn't physical at all and frees us up in the early afternoons for a few hours. We will see if we like this job as the month goes on but so far, so good.  
We are in a great place to ride our bikes and hike while we get our toes wet.