USA here we come!
We arrived at Eastport, Idaho the border crossing into the USA from British Columbia. With all our meat, cheese and alcohol written out for the Custom’s Officials we forgot about the salad that we did not eat over the last couple days. So, without declaring them and having them found in our fridge on a secondary search we were charged with Not Declaring Unlawful Produce! So, having one bell pepper and less then a pint of cherry tomatoes, we were fined $300!!!!! This was annoying on a few points. Yes, we did not declare them but according to the US Immigration website these are allowed into the US because they were Canadian produce. Another annoying point is the 1.5 hours it took for the official to do the paperwork to fine us. He was not concerned about the 37 bottles of alcohol (mostly wine) on board and the duties that went with them. Anyway we were finally on our way again, $300 lighter AND he kept the $3 worth of produce! We will never travel with any fruit/vegetables across the border again! It definitely was a learning experience!
Today’s drive through the panhandle of Idaho was quite beautiful with lots of cliffs and wasteland but our end location was in Cheney, Washington southwest of Spokane. This was just a stop over on our way down to Fossil, Oregon, our location for the Eclipse weekend.
all the hype of Eclipse traffic and some postings on the internet of traffic backlogs into Prineville on Thursday (which they failed to say was due to a music festival the same weekend!) we were pleasantly surprised when we drove down to Fossil on Friday that traffic was almost nil! We pulled into Wilson Ranch Retreat mid afternoon shortly after Robert, Trina, Conrad and Kahren had arrived. They had wanted to run down to Painted Hills for a view of the hills as the sun dropped in the sky so June quickly changed and headed out with them. I stayed back and waited to find out where we would park the RV for the weekend and to welcome Alan and Ann who were also on their way. They arrived about 30 minutes later and we (the three of us) had a nice afternoon and barbeque for dinner as we waited for the explorers to come home. We were in for an action packed weekend with every day starting with a good hardy ranch breakfast and then off we went to explore. The Fossil area is home to the John Day Fossil Beds and three specific,
but different formations. The layering reds and tans of the Painted Hills, the towering formations of Clarno Units and the blues, greens and reds of the Sheep Rock Units. We hiked and explored them all! Throw in evening meals, a star night and horse back riding as well as “craft day” on the Sunday afternoon to make sure our solar filters and cameras were all set and
tuned to capture the Monday special event! We should have been, but did not have time to get tired as all of a sudden it was 5:30 AM on Monday. Game day! We loaded our gear, our breakfast and ourselves into the two rental cars and headed over to Jennifer and Earl’s for the main event. We left shortly after 6 to avoid traffic. We were not the only ones on the road but since we were in the middle of nowhere there was no traffic backlog. We arrived at Jennifer’s place 23 minutes after we left (as predicted by Google) and had some time to kill. She was kind enough to make a pot of coffee for us to enjoy as we waited. Then it was time to head to our private Eclipse viewing spot! Now the only traffic we had to deal with were cows! Such a civilized world. As we turned off the main road and headed into the hills we climbed, turned, opened gates and kept going higher and further into the middle of nowhere. Once or twice
Robert said to Jennifer that this location would be fine, she just said “Just you wait!” Wow, was she correct. We were on top of the world, looking out over the cliff at the John Day River basin which was about 600 metres below us. It was the eight of us, Jennifer and her three boys and about twenty of her friends and neighbours and the clear blue sky above us. Looks like a
perfect place. WHAT A SHOW!! It was perfect, the moon started to move in front of the sun. We even had an older gentleman in his tie dye t-shirt strumming his guitar and singing songs like Moon Shadow and Here Comes the Sun! The excitement built and the morning started to turn to dusk, the temperature dropped and finally the moon covered the sun. It was like sunset all around us, some of the brightest stars and planets became visible and the diamond ring appeared as the last of the sun disappeared behind the moon. Then we had two minutes of totality and the corona in all its glory. To finish the show the diamond appeared again as the moon moved away from the sun and it started to shine again! Everyone applauded and cheered, some even had tears in their eyes!! Now, it was time to pop the champagne corks and share Mimosas with everyone! What a fantastic weekend!!!
Part Two: Crater Lake National Park
So, after all the excitement on Monday, Tuesday morning came in a hurry and it was time to leave the Ranch outside Fossil and head towards Mazama Campground at Crater Lake National Park. Today we figured the commute was about five hours by the time we drove through the curvy hilly roads of the Fossil area and the John Day River Basin. We decided to make a quick detour into the Painted Hills so that I could see them as well. Alan, Ann, Robert and Trina were also headed south to Crater Lake area and were also stopping at the Painted Hills to show Alan and Ann the spectacular view. We arrived there basically at the same time and after about 1 hour we were on the road again. We hit the #97 at Redmond Oregon and here is where we hit the Eclipse and Music Festival traffic. This hour and half drive turned into a five hour drive which put us into the campground at around 9:30 PM. This caused a bit of stress as it was dark and even though we had a campsite reserved it just meant we had a “spot” reserved. What we had to do was drive around the campground, looking for a post that had a painted red stripe on it and if the spot was empty we could take it. This may not seem like a big deal. But, remember, our motorhome is almost 12 metres long and then we pull a trailer behind us. So, total length is a little longer then 17 metres. So, driving around in a National Park in the dark with a big rig trying to find an empty campsite was interesting to say the least. We finally found a spot to call home for four nights and it was perfect. It was quiet, it was big enough and we had a wonderful picnic table/campfire living space that was tree lined and private.
The next morning we had made plans to meet up with Robert, Trina, Alan & Ann at 10:30 AM at the campground office. We made some quick plans and headed to a hike along the crater rim. Wow, another spectacular place! Even though it was clouded with smoke from the forest fires burning in the area it was pretty awesome. We hiked up to Garfield Peak a nice hike that took us over two kilometres and up 300 metres to get to the peak and a very spectacular view as the smoke lifted a little. After hiking back down we drove around to another look out on the West Rim before heading back home for a chicken barbeque and one last dinner with the four of them. After a fun day it was time to say goodbye and we were on our own again. The next two days past very quickly. We hiked up to the highest point in the park, Mount Scott, a nice four kilometer walk up over 380 metres. It was a good day to do this hike because the peak was the only place in the park that was not covered in smoke. The next morning with ash lightly falling we got ready to hike one more peak, Crater Peak, not quite as high as Mount Scott but it was over five kilometres to get to the top. It was a very nice hike and as we got higher we could see more smoke pouring into the sky. We made it back down to the campground in time to squeeze in one more short hike. This time we went down to Ann Creek Canyon and a nice two kilometre walk. To cap off our stay we had made reservations for dinner up at the Crater Lake Lodge so back up we went one last time and got a view of the lake at sunset. (We found out later, that the day after we left the park the campground was put under an evacuation notice!)
After the excitement of the last eight days it was time to decompress. This started the next night as we drove north towards Washington State and spent one night boondocking north of Redmond Oregon. Our route north took us around Mount Hood where we found a sno-park parking lot that was big enough to pull in and take a break as we marveled at the beauty of the mountain. We then headed into Washington and stopped for a couple nights at Elk Meadows RV Resort. Unfortunately we missed seeing the Elk in the meadow, but, it was a pretty nice meadow with out the elk at the base of Mount Adams. We had one day to explore this area and we decided to do it on our bicycles. The campground host said that there was a nice waterfalls up the road in the one direction and then ice caves and natural bridges up the road in the other direction. We found out that when she said “up” she literally meant up. To get to the waterfall we actually had a twenty kilometre climb, it was a very intense bike ride but what an amazing feeling coming down. We then thought we would go to the ice caves and bridges in the other direction. This turned into a twelve kilometre ride up hill again. Once again, the ride home was a little more fun.
We then had one more stop in Washington State and it was outside of Leavenworth Washington. Here we basically had a down day. Some laundry, some window washing and some internet time to start catching up on news that we missed being disconnected for two weeks. We walked across the road to a very nice patio café and had a couple drinks. Once again we had a light snowfall of ashes from fires that we just can’t seem to escape.
Our drive back to Canada took us through the Columbia River valley that is a very spectacular drive. Our stop at the Canadian Customs was a lot more enjoyable then when we went into the US two weeks ago. We still had to pull over for a secondary inspection but once the Customs Official saw that there is French as well as recycling symbols on our liquor and wine bottles he knew we purchased them in Canada. After making a joke that it looks like we were bribing him with the big bottle of Vodka he was holding he told us to have a great day and we were on our way into the Okanogan Valley!