Luinil - Traveling with the Blue Star


September — RoFs in Oregon Sea Level to 7,200 Feet
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Copyright © 2017 Larrie Easterly

One of the couples on the Death Valley trip in March were Roger and Susan from Texas. Several months after that trip Roger and I connected on the Expedition Portal forum. He was interested in coming to Oregon and exploring the coast and Cascade Mountains. We decided to create a one week trip around the area and open it up to the entire Retired ol’ Farts group on the forum. Thus the RoFs in Oregon 0 to 7050 feet trip was born. The plan was to spend three days and nights on the coast and then turn inland and come back north along the spine of the Cascade Mountains.

Beverly Beach

Beverly Beach — Photo Galley

Planning the route down the coast was easy to work out. Start at Fort Stevens State Park at the northwestern most trip of Oregon and head south down U.S. 101 to the border. Crossing the coast range of mountains that far south in Oregon is problematic as there are no major roads across them. Researching forest service and county maps showed a road across that starts in Gold Beach and goes to Agness and then to Grants Pass. The plan for the rest of the route was straight forward. Go to Crater Lake and then north to the Columbia River on secondary or forest service roads.

Having never been on some of the backcountry roads we would be traveling I did a quick scouting run of the route in June. I was glad that I did. Forest road 23 from Agness to Grants Pass was closed for construction and the detour was a winding gravel track through the Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest. A road closure in the Deschutes National Forest west of Bend also forced a change in the plan.

Based on the information from the scouting trip the route got modified and campgrounds along the route were identified. We were all set to go. Then the one of the worst forest fire season in Oregon history happened. As the trip got closer more forest fires kept popping up along the proposed route forcing the development of multiple alternative routes and contingency plans. The internet became an extremely valuable resource allowing us to track the fires, closed roads and most importantly the smoke from the fires. See below for links to the web resources. In addition the My Radar Weather App allowed us to see realtime wind direction.

About a week before the trip the ridge of high pressure that had been stuck over Oregon began to break down allowing cooler moister air to move into the state. This helped cool the fires and reduce the smoke. The winds started shifting to the north northwest as well as keeping the smoke off the coast. With the weather getting better and the fires cooling down it was time to leave on the trip.

Four of our group Roger and Susan from Texas plus Chuck and Ann from Utah arrived at Fort Stevens State Park after dealing with the closure of Interstate 84 due to the Eagle Creek fire. Ann and myself as well as Tom from Oregon had no problems reaching the park. That evening we sat around a campfire and talked about our past travels and the plans for the rest of the week.

Peter Iredale

Peter Iredale — Photo Galley

Tuesday morning we visited the wreck of the Peter Iredale. The ship was washed ashore during a storm while trying to enter Columbia River in 1906. The wreck is within Fort Stevens S.P. and is easy to get to. Heading north we went to the northwestern most point in Oregon to see where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. Several of the group went wading in the river. From there we headed south along the coast highway.

We stopped at the overlook on Neahkahnie Mountain and wondered if there was really pirate treasure in the area. From the overlook we were able to see a large expanse of coastline south to Nehalem Bay. The view was spectacular. Lunch was at the Parkside Restaurant in Garibaldi. That night was spent at South Beach State Park just south of Newport.

Heceta Head

Heceta Head — Photo Galley

The next morning we continued south along the coast to Humbug Mountain State Park just south of Port Orford. On the way we stopped at Seal Rock to enjoy a walk on the beach and look for seals. There were no seals but the three dogs that were with us had a good time playing in the sand. Lunch was at the Drift Inn in Yachats. Continuing south we stopped and hiked up to Heceta Head Lighthouse. Unfortunately it is not possible to climb up inside the lighthouse. Later that day we passed the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area south of Florence.

Off topic: the author of Dune, Frank Herbert, came to Florence in 1953 to write an article for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA was planting beach grass on the dunes to stabilize them. This changed the ecology of the dunes. While working out on the dunes he got the idea for the novel. After 22 rejections Dune was published in 1965. The Florence Library has a room dedicated to his work with first editions and other memorabilia.

We worked our way through the towns of North Bend and Coos Bay with a stop at Walmart for supplies. Then it was on to Port Orford. Just before Highway 101 turns left in Port Orford you can see the words “Ocean View” painted on Oregon Street directly ahead of you. Instead of taking the left to 101 we went straight up the hill. The view is worth the three block detour.

You may be wondering why we were spending our nights in State parks. It turns out there is almost no beach camping in Oregon. If you want to camp close to the ocean it needs to be in an established camping area. Of the three state parks we stayed in we liked Humbug Mt. the best.

All the time we were on the coast we had clear and sunny sky’s. After we setup camp we checked several web sites to see the current and projected fire and smoke activity for the next day. We also looked at the web cams for Shady Cove, Grants Pass and Crater Lake. We had a choice to go east and then north through the Cascades or head back north through the coast range. The reports looked good so we chose to go east and cross the coast mountain range. Our route took us south on the coast highway to Gold Beach where we turned east and followed the the Rouge River towards Agness. When we got to Agness we found that a Forest Road 23 was open allowing us to bypass the very long, rough and winding detour that I took on the scouting trip.

The group of travelers

The group of travelers — Photo Galley

As we went further along road 23 we could see smoke from the Chetco Bar fire just above the tree line to the south. We stopped at a forest overlook to watch the smoke and have lunch. As we watched the smoke plume kept growing in height. It was very impressive. We were probably 5 to 10 miles as the crow flies from the fire.

Continuing on we crossed the Rogue River and hopped on Interstate 5 towards Grants Pass. Exiting at Gold Hill we worked our way north to Shady Cove and then to Rogue Elk County Park for the night. The park is right on the Rogue River amid tall pine trees.

That afternoon we checked the web cam at Crater Lake National Park and saw that it was very smoky. Checking the smoke report told us that the winds would be shifting overnight with predictions of less smoky conditions expected at the lake for the next few days. We discussed the next days plans around the campfire that night and decided, smoky or not, to go to Crater Lake.

Friday morning we woke to light smoke in the air. It was not thick but you could smell it. After breakfast it was north to Crater Lake. Highway 62 is lined by Douglas Fir trees for much of the way to the lake making for a beautiful drive. There were spots where we passed through thick smoke from the High Cascades Complex fire. When we reached the lake we were treated to a slightly smoky view and a sunny sky. By the time we were finished enjoying the view and visiting the gift shops it was time for lunch.

Huckleberry Pie

Huckleberry Pie — Photo Galley

Earlier in the week Susan said she was interested in having some huckleberry pie. On a tip from a park employee we backtracked to Becky’s Restaurant in Union Creek. We needed to backtrack anyway because the north entrance road to the park was closed due to the fire. The food at Becky’s was excellent and the huckleberry pie was outstanding.

From Union Creek we headed north to Diamond Lake. The original plan was to camp on the lake. It was already smoky there and the smoke report predicted more smoke as the day went on. It was time for plan B.

We got on US 95 heading north past Chemult to a gravel side road where we turned east to a secluded campground in the Fremont National Forest. The campground has dispersed sites tucked in among the trees. It was the quietest place we have been in a very long time. There were no animal, bird, or insect sounds. There was no wind and no airplanes going overhead. The only sounds were the ones we made. It was very restful and relaxing sitting around the propane fire that evening.

Saturday we headed north on a gravel track through the Deschutes National Forest. Lunch was at a wide spot in the road among tall pine trees. We stopped at South Ice Cave to use the facilities and look at the cave. The cave is actually a collapsed lave tube. From there we continued north to a Bureau of Land Management campground on the Prineville Reservoir. This was another quiet campground with the only noise coming from the late season water skiers on the lake.

While sitting around the propane fire that night we decided to cut the trip short by one day and forgo camping on the Columbia River. The smoke report predicted heavy smoke from the Eagle Creek Fire near where we were going to make our final camp the next day.

We woke to sunny sky’s on Sunday. After breakfast we said good by to Tom as he was heading home. The rest of us headed to Prineville for fuel. Once we got off the gravel we stopped to air up our tires. It was a good thing that we did as Roger saw that his dog ramp had bounced off his trailer between the campground and our stopping place. He headed back to look for it while Chuck and I headed to a very smoky Prineville. This time the smoke was coming from the Whitewater fire near Detroit. It did not take Roger long to find the wayward ramp and met us at our fuel stop. He arrived just as Chuck finished washing his rig at the adjacent car wash.

Once Roger had fueled up we headed Northwest to Mt. Hood. On the way we stopped at the Eagle Crossing Restaurant in Warm Springs Indian Reservation for lunch. This gave Susan a second chance to eat some excellent huckleberry pie.

At Timberline Lodge

At Timberline Lodge — Photo Galley

Our next stop was Timberline Lodge in Government Camp. The Lodge was built during the mid 1930’s by the Works Progress Administration. Local artisans were used to create unique one of a kind furnishings for the building. The view from the 5,960 foot elevation was non existent due to the cloud cover. At least there was no smoke.

After returning to Portland Roger and Susan headed north to Mt. Saint Hellens. Chuck and Ann also headed north to Seattle to visit a relative they had not seen for many years. Ann and I returned home after enjoying a great trip and getting to know some new friends.

Statistics
Total miles 1015
Total gallons 90.5
MPG average 11.2
Total dirt miles 150
Total pavement miles 865

References
Northwest Interagency Coordination Center for wild fire information.
Oregon Smoke Blog
Oregon Trip Check for road closures and traffic cameras. The traffic cameras allowed us to see the real time smoke conditions.
Oregon DEQ air quality page for real time air quality monitoring.
The "Alerts and Notices" page of the national forests that we traveled through showed what roads were closed due to the fires.

Past Travels
282 feet below sea level

282 feet below sea level

Summer Lake Hot Springs

Summer Lake Hot Springs

Twin Rocks

Twin Rocks