Monday, September 23, 2019

It's a Wrap!

Where did summer go?

Ronald Reagan closed many mental health institutions in 1980 with the intention that the mentally ill would be better off living with their families and less costly for the federal government moving the responsibility to the states. When that didn't work out, many mental ill became homeless or incarcerated, housing was provided in cities like Salem. People began fighting and leaving that situation for the streets once again. The downtown and roadsides in Salem have people living under blue tarps draped over shopping carts. I wasn't sure how safe we would feel in a day use area and wouldn't have a problem leaving if needed. Ten miles from the city in the middle of farms was a good buffer.

Each evening we walk the trails, watch the mink swim in Mission Lake and settle in to watch the rangers make their rounds, escorting the last stragglers out before closing and locking the gates (we have a code to get out). As the sun sets, the bats start their job of clearing the insects. We hear the owls hooting and wait for them to start catching rodents in the field across from us. On moonless or cloudy nights, it is very dark.

Bike riding in the Willamette Valley can be dangerous. Our stop at a fruit and veggie stand  is really a bakery incognito. We walked in the door to fresh cider or marionberry donut samples and many more treats were waiting in the wings.
Yeah right! Tricky, tricky.

There are still a lot of produce and grains being grown. But many farms have converted from produce to hops, hemp and wineries.

Acres and acres of hops being harvested.

Hemp for CBD oil has become a billion dollar industry in Oregon.

Bike riding wasn't our only outing even though we were in a farming community. We avoided Portland since we had lived downtown while I worked at OHSU for three months and had seen most of the attractions and enjoyed the theater a block from our apartment.

Mt. Angel

In the mid 1800s, German Catholic families and a group of Benedictine monks and sisters settled in the small town of Mt Angel. Of course, they have a brewery now.

We visited Mt Angel as they were preparing for Octoberfest. The oom-pah music was playing on the speakers on the streets as we walked through the Bavarian inspired town. With 350,000 people expected in the small town, we took a pass on the festival.
Everyone we passed looked at us with a big smile and said a big "Hello" as we walked through town.

The Glockenspiel, a four story clock tower plays four times a day telling the story of the town's history.
Rocking the Lederhosen.

Silver Falls State Park

The Trail of Ten Falls is a 7.2 mile loop in Silver Falls State Park. The rain had stopped and sun came out as we arrived for a hike and viewed some of the curtain of falls from behind.
In the early 1800s, the native people out numbered the whites in this area. When the white people arrived native populations declined due to European diseases. By the 1850s, the few natives that were left had been displaced from western Oregon and moved to reservations.


.Silverton is a cute historic town on the way to Silver Falls State Park or the Oregon Garden east of Salem.

Silverton artists have added 15 historical murals in the downtown as in many tourist driven towns have done. 

We took the ferry to the other side of the Willamette River for a bike ride on flat roads with a few rolling hills.
Before heading home, a stop at the creamery was a treat.
We passed by a group of cyclists that were riding with Backroads Bike Tours and have seen them in the past in different locations. We had done a bike tour with VBT in Italy several years ago and know how spendy they can be. When we got home, I looked online that they are paying $3500/person for a week of touring. Ouch! I am so glad that we can do it as we go in our little trailer.
The park is mainly used by locals for riding horses, disc golf or parties in the shelters and the occasional bike camper for an overnight or two.
The horse people start arriving early each morning. Mike uses a rake to knock down apples out of the tree as a treat for the horses when they return from their ride.
Oregonians don't change their plans for rain. Most just change their attire. We often see people playing disc golf in their cotton hoodies. Fortunately, the rain often lasts a short time or is just a mist.

Taking care of the Day Use area at Willamette Mission turned out to be the most physical with trail maintenance and keeping the blackberry bushes under control.
The frequent rain has caused the river to rise only 1 1/2 feet, well below flood stage and not requiring us to evacuate.

After six months in Oregon, it is time to move on in a week. It was a treat spending time in the mountains, high desert and beaches and the people we met along the way were a bonus. We volunteered in several different positions and the work was satisfying and tiring at times. Now it is time to continue our never ending search for what is around the next corner.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Willamette Mission State Park

Our Last Oregon Park

We are all settled in at Willamette Mission State Park which was Mike's choice for our last hosting stop in Oregon. We cycled the scenic bikeway last year and wanted to ride a few more routes before we leave Oregon once again.
 Willamette Mission was the first agricultural community established in the Willamette Valley by settlers in 1834.  

The State Park has more than 1,600 acres of woodlands, wetlands, rolling meadows, and working farmland. We find new trails to walk or ride everyday.
Each morning, the horse people arrive pulling their horse trailers. After their rides, they hose down their horses, then the horses often proceed to roll in the dirt or at least stir up some dust. They are powerful and fun to watch but seem more restless when the weather changes.
The old Willamette Mission flooded and the settlers moved to Salem. Now a ghost structure stands and can be seen across the river.

When Ranger Noah offered us this host position, he couldn't be sure of the end date. During our orientation, I asked him again about our end date. It turns out that we are parked in a flood plain. If the river gets too high, we have to leave. Hmmm... Right now it is running at 6 feet. If it goes to 12 the park floods. Rain is in the forecast for the next
week. Hmmm...

The Wheatland Ferry is a cable ferry on the edge of the park, crossing the Willamette River approximately 580 feet and is supported by two steel cables, one under water on the downriver side, and one overhead on the upriver side. The ferry also uses the overhead cable for steering.

The ferry carries 286,000 cars and trucks across the Willamette River each year 9 at a time. The ferry started service in the 1850s. 
We took our bikes across the river on the Wheatland Ferry for a visit to Arcane Winery celebrating Labor Day with Blues and BBQ. The round trip was $1 per bike each way, people are free. The was enough for me with 90 degree temps and humidity. But the music and food were good.

Salem, OR

 We made a visit to the state capitol and state park in Salem with a self guided walking tour.
Oregon has a state park for every occasion. 

We like to learn about the history and interesting fact of places we visit.

 In 1843 a vote was held by settlers and trappers to decide if Oregon Country (not yet a state) would side with the US or Britain in WWI. The vote was 52-50 to align with the US.
Dome of the capitol.

We drove by the old State Mental Hospital which is now a museum and was where "One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest was filmed. I had no desire to tour the place. It just had a strange vibe to me. I didn't even want to take a picture.  Call me "crazy"?
 The sunsets can be stunning and a nice prelude to the owls singing at night.
I am pleasantly surprised at how much we are liking this hosting position and location.
We will keep an eye on the river.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Port Townsend, WA

Forts and lighthouses

We were taking a chance on finding a place to stay without advanced reservations the last weeks of August into Labor Day weekend. After scoring three days at Gilgal RV resort in Sequim, the only place with openings was the fairgrounds in Port Townsend, another first come first serve place. We hoped for electric and water, but would be fine dry camping for a while. After an early start, we pulled into the fairgrounds and grabbed an electric site, dragging our power cord across the field to a building with several other RVs hooked up in a spiderweb. The people around us looked pretty hung over.  There had been a music festival billed as  "Woodstock 50 Years Later" at Fort Worden over the weekend with 4000 tickets sold each day. We decided to pay for one day and take some time to figure out a plan. We took a walk through the campground to see what else was out there, careful to avoid the empty wine bottles laying on the ground. 

We scored one full hookup site in an area that looked pretty docile. I stood guard ready to defend our site while Mike gathered our truck and trailer. By 1pm most people had cleared out, the trash had been cleared and the fields were now empty. We extended our stay to 4 nights in our little slot at $25/night.
A favorite thing to do while visiting Puget Sound is taking a Washington Ferry anywhere. The ferry from Port Townsend is a 45 minute ride to Whidbey Island. Rather than drive on, which
requires a reservation and charged by the foot. We paid $4.40 each way and walked on with our bikes for a ride on the island to Coupeville and Oak Harbor. Some cyclists had ridden the short 3 mile route to Coupeville for lunch or breakfast before heading back. We prefer to ride more miles but it can be pretty hilly in places. Starting at sea level, the only place to go is up.

Walking on and securing our bikes.

Port Townsend from the bay.

The first day was bright and sunny as we crossed. We watched a seal catching breakfast and an otter swimming along the ferry. The second day was foggy. But the fog cleared as we rode giving
us a chance to have fish tacos on the pier as we watched the boats tie up and the loud navy jets flying overhead.

Ring the bell if you see a whale.
We happened upon a Navy gentleman swearing in on the front of the ferry.
 Extending our time in Port Townsend gave us another chance to ride a different route on Whidbey Island to Ebey Landing on Hill Road and on to Fort Ebey.

Set on the western side of Whidbey Island, Fort Ebey was constructed as a coastal defense fort during the Second World War. Its battery was dug into a high bluff overlooking Admiralty Inlet. The park's concrete gun emplacements and underground rooms are great for exploration. A flashlight would have been handy.

On the shore of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, you can walk a fine sandy beach between high bluffs to reach the Point Wilson Lighthouse at Fort Worden State Park. 

Views are wonderful of Mt. Baker, Vancouver Island, the San Juan Islands, and the Cascades behind them.
Our stop at the post office that was built on a bluff overlooking Port Townsend in 1895 was worth a visit even though we had only planned to mail some things.
The postal employee encouraged us to walk around and check out the views.

Fall is in the air.
A stop at Horsetail Falls in the Columbia River Gorge on our way to Willamette Mission in Oregon.

It was a fun return to a place we had previously enjoyed while working in Bremerton and Seattle.

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