Three days in La Grande, Oregon…
Why we came…
Grande Hot Springs RV Resort is great. All of the sites are long, mostly level, gravel pull-throughs with decent space between neighbors. We had full hook-ups and no problem getting satellite TV. The Verizon cell phone was a steady and reliable 2-3 bar LTE. Wi-fi was usually decent but slowed considerably with heavy usage. There is a small pool and hot tub that are very pleasant. There are two laundry rooms with 2-3 washers and dryers that cost $1.50 each. The facilities were well maintained and kept clean. Though a few trains cruised nearby a few times a day, they never tooted. Otherwise, it was quite peaceful. We liked the location and were comfortable. We’d gladly return!
It’s fall in the Grande Ronde Valley / Enjoying a hot soak at the RV park
La Grande, population roughly 13,000 and elevation 2,785 feet, is just the right size for us. It has a super Walmart and a nice Safeway. There is also a good selection of restaurants. The people were friendly and we felt welcomed. The setting in the Grande Ronde Valley is also very pretty. It’s wedged between the Blue Mountains to the west and Wallowa Mountains to the east. There are miles of trails, great fishing in streams and lakes, great hunting, and a couple of small ski areas. The area is an outdoors paradise!
The similar sized towns of Pendleton, 60 miles to the northwest, and Baker City, 40 miles to the south, offer similar services, stores, and restaurants.
We took our truck to Integrity Motors for in issue we had in June. Mike, Tara, and Sean had taken very good care of us despite a complicated situation. So when our truck flashed a “check engine” light with some engine hesitation, we were thankful they could fit us into their schedule.
We juggled our schedule so we could return to La Grande. Coincidently, it was on our way from Joseph to Rufus.
We dropped the truck off first thing Monday morning. This provided Arleen and I with an adventure opportunity. We unloaded the bikes at the auto shop and bundled up for a chilly ride back to the campground.
The temperature was in the low 40s with patchy fog. Thankfully, the winds were calm.
We stopped at the airport to warm up and to capture a couple of cool pictures. Then we had to wait on a freight train. They rumble through this area regularly.
The next day, I rode my bike back to the auto shop to get the truck. It was a slow, energy sapping ride into a head wind.
It was an opportunity to get us into cold weather riding shape. We hope to do some of that on the Olympia Peninsula this winter.
Bike route from Integrity Auto to the RV park / Northwood: Where our trailer was made!
Morning fog on the runway. It was chilly.
We had read on the Oregon mycological society web page that they were finding chanterelle mushrooms in the La Pine area. Hmmm…
The Blue Mountains west of La Grande received 3-4 inches of precipitation in the last few weeks. Since we were detoured to La Grande for a few days, we took advantage of the situation to go on a mushroom hunt in the nearby mountains.
We drove up Highway I-84 on a rain showery day. We parked on one of the forest service roads and started walking up an old logging road.
We were surrounded by some spruce and larch but it was primarily lodge pole. We don’t like mushroom hunting in lodge pole forests. It’s not a pretty tree and it grows so thick it’s a pain to walk through. Plus, we have never found our edible mushrooms growing amongst them.
Still it felt good to be back in the woods with a purpose. We walked around for an hour covering a few miles. Our calves and boots got soaked from walking through the drenched underbrush.
Sadly, we did not even see an LBM (little brown mushroom). The area looked great with moss everywhere. Maybe, we were too early? Maybe, the summer was just too dry and there would not be a flush this year? Or maybe we were just in the wrong spot? It’s hard to pin point the theories unless you live in an area for several years.
Soon we will be on the Oregon coast where we are confident we will find some edible treasures!
Mushroom hunting route in the Blue Mountains near La Grande / We like the moss on the ponderosas
Keeping an eye on the ground for edible mushrooms. Didn’t find any.
Three days in Le Page Park near Rufus, Oregon…
Why we came…
To kayak and fish the John Day River and explore the area.
Le Page Park is very nice. It sits at the confluence of the John Day and Columbia Rivers. It has a selection of back-in sites and pull-throughs. The pull-throughs parallel the John Day River and provide great views. The views from the back-ins aren’t as good, but they are more peaceful because highway and train noise is muted. The sites are all paved and fairly level. Each site has water and electric. There is a dump station at the campground entrance. There is no wi-fi and just a very weak and unreliable Verizon cell phone signal. The cell signal improved at the north end of the campground towards the highway.
Le Page Park includes a good boat ramp, nice park, and a swim beach. The area is popular when the salmon are running. It’s another great facility run by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Lewis and Clark passed through here on 21 Oct 1805 / Our view of the John Day River
The view from the river / Nice camp sites
Rufus, population 249 and elevation 235 feet, is the closest town, just five miles to the southwest. There isn’t much to it.
The Dalles, population 13,620 and 109 feet, is the largest supply and service center in the area and is 30 miles to the southwest.
The Le Page Campground location begged us to launch our kayaks. We drove a few yards over to the day park side and did just that immediately after setting up.
This was Arleen’s first time in a kayak in six months. She was so happy to be back in the water.
She launched into the John Day River and immediately paddled over into the mighty Columbia! She jokingly said she was just going to float all the way to Fort Stevens.
The area at the confluence of the John Day and the Columbia looks a lot different now than it did during the days of Lewis and Clark in 1805. Clark noted at the time, “passed a verry bad rapid at 2 miles, this rapid is Crouded with Islands of bad rocks dificuelt & crooked passage”.
Since then the John Day Dam was built from 1958 to 1971. Now, the Columbia is more like a lake with only a slow current.
I fished along the rocky bank of the Columbia. Then we worked up the west, weedy shore of the John Day. Though I failed to tempt any fish, we enjoyed watching geese and Great Blue Herons.
Arleen and I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon together out on the river.
Kayak route on the John Day and Columbia Rivers / Fishing the John Day River in front of our home
Headed under the highway bridge and out to the Columbia River
On the Columbia River and looking towards the train and highway bridges that cross the John Day River
Looking downstream towards the John Day Dam and Mount Hood
Fishing the mighty Columbia River. Didn’t get any bites.
Posing near the railroad bridge
Oregon Trail Monument…
We like to walk in the footsteps of early pioneers. Reading firsthand accounts gives us such an appreciation for our modern day luxuries.
We drove across the plateau above the Columbia River Gorge. The only things up there were vast fields of cut wheat, large wind generators twisting slowly in the breeze, and isolated farm houses. Some of the views were extensive. Mount Hood and Mount Adams often loomed in distance.
We dropped down the Grass Valley Canyon to McDonald. There, on the west bank of the John Day River, is an Oregon Trail Memorial.
“1843- OLD OREGON TRAIL FORD-1863
Emigrants on the old Oregon Trail Forded the John Day River near this spot from 1943 to 1863.
Thomas Scott established a ferry near here in 1858.
Daniel G Leonard built a bridge near here in 1866.
Thousands of settlers passed this way until completion of the railroad in 1884.”
On the west bank, pioneers had a choice to make a left and go to The Dalles. But as one pioneer noted, “Our train separated here. The rest are going to down to The Dalles, where they can ship down the Columbia and avoid rough mountains, but they will pay dear for their ride.” S.B. Eakin, Jr.
A lot of the pioneers took one of two routes to climb the plateau there. It was not easy, “We ascended one of the most difficult hills we have met on the while weary journey across the plains. One huge rock after another blocked the road, rendering it almost impassable.” Esther Belle McMillan Hanna
After a quick stop at the trail crossing marker, we continued on to the main destination of the day.
Oregon Trail Monument at the John Day crossing. Mile 1,755 on the trail…almost there!
Hike in Cottonwood Canyon State Park…
We were going to stay at Cottonwood Canyon State Park. However, the park does not have any hookups and we were afraid that some folks would be using loud generators.
We have solar panels that power everything except the microwave and air conditioner. We like to boon dock in areas that do not allow generators. It makes for a more peaceful experience.
Cottonwood is remote. It is 25 miles from the closest town. We took the winding Wasco-Heppner Highway to get there. The park consists of 8,000 acres along the John Day River.
The area had been the Murtha Ranch since the 1930s. In 2008, the Western Rivers Conservancy bought the land. In 2013, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department purchased the land, for the same price, to create the state’s second largest state park.
Hiking, camping, fishing, and river rafting are some of the activities in the park. There is a campground with 21 primitive sites and 7 sites for hikers and bikers.
We were greeted by the old ranch barn as we pulled into the park. We could see about 10 cars parked across the river near the horse trailhead.
We parked near the campground at the Pinnacles trailhead. We were surprised not to hear any generators. Now we had some regrets about not staying at this scenic isolated location.
Tall basalt cliffs border the river on both sides. The trail runs along the south shore of the river on an old road bed.
We had a perfect view down into the river and spotted smallmouth bass and carp. Salmon, steelhead, and catfish also swim in the river.
We spotted cliff swallow nests under an overhang. Their “gourd-shaped structures” are built bit by bit with mud and lined with feathers by the small birds.
We had a good 6 mile hike along the river. It is just one of many hikes in the area.
Hike route on the Pinnacles Trail along the John Day River in Cottonwood Canyon SP / Beginning our trek
The Murtha Ranch was established here in the 1930s
A nice trail with dramatic scenery
Some vibrant fall colors along the river
Cliff swallow homes / Taking a peaceful break
Where we got our mail
Rufus, Oregon Post Office
We are camped in South Beach State Park near Newport, Oregon. Our next stops are Winchester Bay OR, Yachats OR, Nehalem OR, and Fort Stevens OR. It will be a fun six weeks on the spectacular Oregon Coast!
Fall colors in La Grande / A great blue heron looking for a snack along the John Day River
Sunrise on the John Day River