When I started planning my trip I kept reading references to the San Rafael Swell. Slot canyons, historical mines, wild horses, pictographs, goblins, BLM land that will allow the dogs to run around, hikes, and lots of land for boondocking. It sounded like my kind of place and it didn’t disappoint me. I had allocated three days of my trip for exploring the area, I could have spent over a week and not seen everything.
Off I drove to Utah with my goal of camping at The Wedge that night. To get there I traveled south through the Salt Lake valley on Highway 15. It took me a couple of hours driving to get through the urban setting of a many-lane freeway, lots of traffic, and general unpleasantness. But I knew the results would be worth it and it was. I had read a lot about The Wedge. What I had read was that the canyon located anywhere other than Utah would probably be a national park, but in Utah with so many incredible sights it was just simply BLM land. I turned east off Highway 10 onto the Green River Cutoff at Castle Dale.
My trip plans were turned upside down with an early winter cold front coming through eastern Oregon. Low clouds and three days of rain in the valleys and snow at the top of the Steens. I saw a pickup truck with globs of mud everywhere, a warning to not travel on dirt (now muddy) roads. My planned backroad travels had to be canceled. Unsure of what to do; with choices of staying at the Page Spring Campground or traveling north, south, east or west; I went to eat breakfast at the Frenchglen Hotel. Not surprisingly the restaurant was full of people just like me, mulling over what to do. Swapping stories about where we had been, one couple sang the praise of the Owyhee River and the Lake Owyhee State Park campground. With paved roads the entire way, that was where I chose to go next and I was glad I did.Continue reading
I had heard that camping was allowed in this wildlife refuge. Since I was going to be in the area; south of Bend, Oregon, I put it on my itinerary. Yes, there were picnic tables and pit toilets (no water) like a camping site, but the place had a boondocking feeling. There are no defined camping sites, you just set up in one of three designated areas and make it your home. It couldn’t have been better. The two nights I stayed there I was the only one camping in the refuge. It was a treat to step out of my trailer in the morning and walk through the refuge viewing the birds with a cup of coffee in my hand.
East of Bend, Oregon is an observatory that is open to the public in the summer on Friday and Saturday nights. What is especially nice about this observatory is that you can camp across the road and simply stroll to the observatory when it gets dark. Volunteers are there explaining the constellations and aim the telescope at interesting items all in a friendly informal way that pleases.
I wanted to see the Palouse Falls in central Washington and the area around it. I was born and raised in western Washington and somehow I had never visited this area in eastern Washington. Planning my visit, I came across a reference to “camping” at the Little Goose Dam Road boat ramp parking lot. Not finding any other choices except for the Palouse Fall campground I drove to the parking lot. What I found exceeded all expectations. I had a spot next to the Snake River with a gorgeous view. I sat by a campfire that night visiting with the unofficial parking lot host. A truly enjoyable site for the night. I would return.
I had recently seen pictures of the canyon formed by the Grande Ronde River slicing through layers of Columbia River flood basalt. I was astonished. I was born and raised in Washington and had never heard of the canyon. I added seeing this wonder to my to-do list. So on this trip I was headed to the southeast corner of Washington to see the canyon. I wasn’t disappointed. Ribbons of basalt from the Columbia River flood basalt were shown in various color. To me the sight was breathtaking. Driving Washington Hwy 129 and Oregon Hwy 3 I drove twisting and turning to the bottom of the canyon pausing to look along the way, and then I drove up the other side. An elevation difference of about 3,000 feet.