Friday, July 27, 2012

Hike the waterfall trail at Silver Falls State Park

Silver Falls (
Oregon’s largest state park, Silver Falls, is 24 miles east of Salem and boasts the beautiful Canyon Trail/Trail of Ten Falls. This connected series of trails covers 22 miles, with multiple short sections leading to footbridges, fern-and-pine shaded waterfalls, and pools. One of the most popular and easily accessible is South Falls, which drops 177 feet; you can even walk behind the cascade. Middle North Falls is considered the most picturesque.

The Civilian Conservation Corps hand built the picnic shelters, a main lodge, and other structures now on the National Historic Register. In addition to the Canyon Trail, there are about 25 miles of pet-friendly trails that lace through this magnificent park. The 131-site campground has 52 RV sites (maximum 60 feet) with electricity. For reservations, call (800) 452-5687.

To learn more about the park and each individual waterfall, visit:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Wenatchee Youth Circus to appear at two Washington 1000 Trails parks

“The Biggest Little Circus in the World” comes to town in August and September to celebrate 60 years of performances. Thousand Trails’ Chehalis and Mount Vernon campgrounds are proud to host the troupe performances for two weekends this year.

Local Wenatchee, talent, as well as international circus acts, delight audiences of all ages with aerial acrobatics, clowns, tight-wire walking, juggling and more. The young entertainers range in age from three to 18, and travel to more than 25 towns and cities during their 50 performances.

Chehalis Thousand Trails Campground: August 4 & 5
Show Times: 1 p.m. & 5 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. Sunday
For Information and tickets: (360) 262-9489

Mount Vernon Thousand Trails Campground: September 1 & 2
Show Times: 2 p.m. & 5 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday
For information and tickets: (360) 724-4811

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Artist Point at Mt. Baker opens

The Washington State Department of Transportation opened the spectacular Artist Point road today, July 24, for its brief season. The last 2.7 miles of the Mt. Baker Highway (SR 542) is at 5,000 feet; it’s usually covered in 20-30 feet of snow and closed from October through June (last winter, 2011, it wasn’t open at all). Don’t miss this brief seasonal window to make the trek, but do it on a crystal clear day for the full “show.”

Once you reach the end of the road, which at this point is a series of narrow hairpin turns, park your vehicle (your tow-vehicle or smaller RV only), grab your fleece jacket and wander up the trail a bit. You don’t have to go far before you’re rewarded with some of the most breathtaking mountain views in the entire U.S. West. Mt. Shuksan, Mt. Baker, and a dozen or more snow-capped Cascade peaks make you feel as if you’re on the roof of the world! 

Silver Fir is the closest campground to Artist Point; 48 miles up SR 542. It’s open until Sept. 16. Here’s the link:

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Bruneau Dunes: Idaho’s “Star Attraction”

Bruneau Dunes Observatory
Bruneau Dunes State Park encompasses a 470-foot-high sand dune, a serene lake, prairie terrain, and marshland. It’s a stunning slice of sagebrush desert, quiet (non-motorized dune vehicles and boats only), and a favorite park for stargazers. Because of its fine warm weather, it also offers one of the longest camping seasons in the state – usually from March through October. 

At the edge of the small lake sits Idaho’s largest public astronomical observatory. Every Friday and Saturday evening park visitors are welcome to enjoy an orientation program, followed by a look at the heavens through one of the telescopes. In the clear, balmy evening air, it’s a memorable experience for all ages.  

RVers can choose from 82 campsites with water and electricity ($22/night plus tax), or 31 standard sites ($16/night plus tax). Maximum campsite space is 65 feet. There are showers, flush toilets, and a dump station. For campsite reservations call (888) 922-6743, or register/reserve online:

• Bruneau Dunes State Park is located 18 miles southwest of Mountain Home. 
• Park day-use fees (non-campers): $5 per vehicle.
• The observatory is open Friday and Saturday evenings through October 13th. The viewing fee is $3 (under 6 free).

Friday, July 20, 2012

Crystal Mountain: Rainier’s Summer Secret

Head over to Crystal Mountain and experience another side of Mt. Rainier this summer. In winter it’s a skiers paradise, but now, during these long days of summer, the slopes are covered in wildflowers and often visited by deer. 

For RVers, Crystal Mountain’s “B” Lot offers 40 sites with electrical hookups ($30, first-come, first-served) and many more without ($20). Evergreen forest, lakes, and mountain creeks make for a classic Northwest camping experience. 

Take the Mt. Rainier Gondola (wheelchair accessible) to the summit; the 360-views are spectacular. At the top, you can hike the alpine trails, enjoy an interpretive ranger talk, or simply ogle the vistas from the platform. For a real treat, have lunch or dinner at the Summit House – at 6,872 feet, it’s the highest restaurant in Washington!

Crystal Mountain is located in the northeast corner of Mt. Rainier National Park, off Highway 410. For more information, visit:

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Point No Point lighthouse changes hands.

Jan Tik on
Lighthouse lovers in the Northwest here's a flash: The Point No Point lighthouse on Puget Sound has been formally transferred to Kitsap County government, and off the federal books. Under the agreement, the county has guarantees to both preserve the light station and to continue to make it available for public use. 

The Point No Point Light Station is the oldest lighthouse on Puget Sound, and several of its original buildings are still intact. It features a square light tower, fog signal building, oil house and nearby keeper’s quarters.

With strong interest in the light station, Kitsap County formed a partnership with the United States Lighthouse Society to maintain and interpret the site. The light station was recently rehabilitated with a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express. The station has been on the National Register of Historic Places since. 1978. That's far less time than the lighthouse has been up and running--that rolls back to its completion in 1879.

Since the station is no longer needed as an aid to navigation, visitors can rent out the keeper's cottage and spend their time prowling the beach or catching up on the views. They might find themselves having to share the property with other guests, including bald eagles, seals, and other bird life.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dock at Agate Beach State Park to be removed late this month

A crew from Ballard Diving and Salvage of Vancouver, Wash., will begin removing the derelict dock at Oregon's Agate Beach starting the morning of Tuesday, July 31. The beach near Newport will remain open during the work except for a closed safety zone around the dock demolition site. The project will take three to seven days to complete.

The 66 by 19 foot dock washed ashore June 5 and is believed to weigh 130-165 tons. It originated from the Japanese port city of Misawa and was carried out to sea during the March 2011 tsunami.

Ballard was awarded a contract for $84,155 to complete the work. The company plans to cut the dock into several large pieces, place them on a heavy-haul truck at the main Agate Beach access road and transport them to a Portland-area facility for final demolition and recycling. Portions of the beach may be temporarily closed during the removal.

Residents and visitors can expect congestion in and around Agate Beach State Park, Highway 101 and NW Oceanview Drive, during the project. The main Agate Beach parking lot will be open, but the smaller, roadside parking area will be closed for the duration of the work starting Monday, July 30.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department is responsible for maintaining the beach in as natural a state as possible. When boats and structures wash ashore -- and they do every year -- they are removed. Park staff and thousands of volunteers also put in tens of thousands of hours of effort to remove smaller pieces of debris to preserve Oregon's beautiful beaches. Individuals or groups interested in volunteering for future beach cleanups can visit A list of upcoming beach cleanups (and other events) is online at

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Sequim Lavender Fair

Rows and rows of fragrant purple haze draw visitors to the most popular Lavender Fair in the U.S. Situated in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, Sequim, Washington has just the right blend of sun and soil to produce hundreds of acres of this multi-use flowering plant (more than 200,000 plants!). The area is nicknamed “America’s Provence,” after the famous lavender region in the south of France. 

During the festival weekend, which runs from Friday, July 20 through Sunday, July 22, you can tour the seven lavender fields on the Heritage Lavender Farm Tour, each with its own unique setting and backdrop. There are workshops and demonstrations and you can photograph, pick, and purchase fresh or dried bouquets, along with an amazing array of products, from fine soaps to oils and culinary flower buds. 

The Carrie Blake Park is festival central and where you’ll find more than 100 lavender-related booths; a wide variety of food from area restaurants (including crab, salmon, BBQ); a wine and beer garden showcasing local brews and vintages, including lavender wine; music by the 133rd Army Band; and lots of fun activities. For dessert? Why lavender ice cream, of course!

Logistics: There is plenty of parking at the individual farms (even for RVs), but the easiest way to enjoy the events and farm tours is to park at Carrie Blake Park and hop on a Farm Tour Shuttle Bus. The Heritage Farm Tour pass is $15, which includes the shuttle (children under 12 are free). There is no admission charge to the festivities in the park.

For a list of nearby campgrounds and RV parks, visit:

Friday, July 13, 2012

Explore Oregon’s “Fruit Loop”

Ah, sweet, ripe summertime! The Northwest is mighty generous in its bounty of fresh produce and fruit and those of us lucky to be rambling around the scenic countryside in our RVs can easily stop to pick our own, or buy local from one of the many farms we drive by.

If you’re in northern Oregon, don’t miss the incredibly scenic Highway 35—the drive known as the Hood River Fruit Loop. Pick it up about an hour east of Portland in the Columbia River Gorge area. Did you know that this region produces more pears than anywhere else in the U.S.? You’ll also find cherry orchards (July is the perfect time to enjoy this Northwest fruit), lavender, and a variety of winemakers where you can sample delicious fruit wines. Art and locally made crafts, bakeries, and alpaca farms are part of the Loop experience. For a map of the area and its farms, orchards, and vineyards, visit:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Wild Horses Race Above the Columbia

Wild horses charge across a ridge high above the Columbia River in central Washington – a dramatic sculpture that has caught the eye of travelers heading along I-90 for the past 25 years.

The 200-foot-line of weathered metal stands in silhouette against the sapphire skies of this inland region, reminding us that wild horses once roamed the area. Commissioned for Washington State’s Centennial in 1989, artist David Govedare, from Chewelah, Washington, titled his creation “Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies” in honor of the legend of the Great Spirit who released the wild horses into this stark, sage-scented landscape above the Columbia’s Wanapum Lake. 

A quarter-mile exit (eastbound) leads to a plaque and a great vantage point for photos, as well as excellent hiking trails and sweeping views of the mighty Columbia below. If you’re heading west, it’s a 10-mile loop to turn around at the east end of the Vantage Bridge.

CAMPING:  We highly recommend Gingko Petrified Forest State Park, a fascinating fossil-discovery area with fantastic views. There are 50 utility sites with full hook-ups and a dump station. For reservations between May 15 and September 15, call 888-226-7688.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Camping Under the Volcano

From southern Oregon to central Idaho, and running the length of Washington State, volcanoes have played an active role in shaping the landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. They give us incredible geological formations to explore and nourish the soil to promote the lush growth that creates our beautiful environment. 

There’s something both magical and mysterious, too, about camping in the shadow of a “living” volcano. The night skies seem close enough to touch, the sight of an open crater gives us a chance to feel the power of awe, and the determination of nature to return after a cataclysmic eruption such as Mt. Saint Helen’s puts things in a more balanced perspective. 

Here’s a short list of some of our favorite RV-friendly campgrounds that can give you the chance to get up-close and personal with some of the most majestic landscapes in the Northwest:

•Craters of the Moon
Lava Flow campground is nestled behind a cinder cone. Of the 51 sites, there are a few good sites for larger RVs on a first-come, first-served basis. No hookups. 

•Crater Lake
Forested Mazama Campground, located about seven miles from Rim Village (Crater Lake viewing spot), has nearly 200 sites, a few with hookups. There is running water, flush toilets, and fire rings. Reservations: 888-774-2728

•Mount Hood
Oregon’s highest peak is located east of Portland. Tollbridge Park, bordered on one side by the Hood River, offers 85 gorgeous campsites (20 with full hookups) and 100 acres of natural beauty. Reservations: 541-352-5522

•Mount St. Helens 
Lewis & Clark Campground is s special 600-acre area – one of Washington’s last remaining old growth forests. The nine utility sites (60-foot maximum length site) are available only a first-come, first-served basis.

•Mount Baker
Silver Lake Park (in Sumas, about 45-minutes east of Bellingham) is close to everything Mount Baker offers. Situated on a lake that offers rowboat rentals and great fishing, as well as horseback riding stables, the scenic park has more than 60 RV sites with hookups and is one of the few open year-round. For reservations: 360-599-2776

•Mount Rainier
White River Campground, at the grand dame of Northwest Volcanoes, sits in the somewhat less-visited northeast corner of the park near the stunning meadows of Sunrise. It’s also at 4,200 feet, which means an alpine feel and even the chance to spot mountain goats. There are restrooms, but no power and no showers (at any Mt. Rainier campgrounds). RV length max is 32 feet. Reservations: 877-444-6777.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Walla Walla Sweet Onion Festival

Come celebrate the delicious, nutritious – and very fun to say – Walla Walla sweet onion at the annual festival on July 14-15. Try your hand at onion bowling. Sink your teeth into a caramel-covered onion. Vote on your favorite onion soup, or help the judges decide which onion salsa takes the prize. And, on Saturday evening, dance the night away in the town streets to the tunes of three great bands.

The name Walla Walla derives from the Indian language and means “many waters.” The fertile region was home to Cayuse and Walla Walla tribes, and the Nez Perce Indian trail ran through what is now the center of town. In the early 1800s fur traders settled the area and, with the discovery of gold in the 1860s, the town sprouted quickly. The sweet onion arrived here in the late 1800s, brought by a French soldier who discovered the sweet tasting root vegetable on the island of Corsica. Since then, the local farmers have carefully cultivated this big, round, sweet onion, a beloved ingredient in regional Northwest cuisine – and clearly worthy of its very own festival.

There are numerous private RV parks in the area (check out, or you can enjoy the scenic beauty of the Umatilla Valley and Umatilla National Forest, which encompasses 30 parks, including the Lewis & Clark Trail State Park.