Tag Archives: state park

A park run by a state government, usually much smaller than national parks or a wildlife refuge.

Scablands with a Side of Phish

I like to camp with the family and couple friends we know as often as I can. Recently Amanda put together a trip to the Scablands and invited us all along. The trip being scheduled at the end of August so the weather was a crap shoot but it ended up being a perfect weekend. That perfect weather was put to good use with all the activities in the area. The cherry on top for me with seeing Phish at the Gorge Amphitheatre to close out a three night run.

Because I was seeing Phish on Sunday I drove myself. As typical for me when on vacation I got a lazy start to the day. By the time I had things packed and ready to go is already noon. I stopped at H Mart for some last-minute provisions and set out on the long drive to Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park in central Washington. On purpose I took the longer route to get there as I would be taking a different way home from the Gorge. I unfortunately got caught behind in a wreck and two construction zones. It was not until 7pm that I arrived at the park.

Halfway through my setup everyone else arrived at camp. One reason I drove myself was to setup my tent without distraction. Unfortunately I got a lot of hellos while setting up my campsite. I had to tell people to hold off till I was done. Just as the sun was starting to set I finished setting up camp. It was time to sit, relax, and say hello. After a long day of driving and the setup I could now relax and just enjoy central Washington. See what sort of display nature was going to put on tonight. It wasn’t long before we all turned in for the night to get some much deserved sleep.

Sleeping that night was rough but waking up the next morning in camp more than made up for the rough nights sleep. One thing I love most when camping is fresh ground coffee on a chilly morning as the sun rises. That crisp feeling to the air with the smell of fresh coffee just can’t be beat. Camp slowly roused but for the briefest of moments the world almost appeared to stand still.

The ancient river dredged a serious scare into the land.

First full day in camp and we got motivated. We started just a few miles away at the Dry Falls visitor center which has a really great view of the……..dry falls. These falls and the surrounding area are an ice age relic of Earth’s history. As the ice age ended and the glacial ice melted this created huge reservoirs of water blocked by seasonal ice dams. Eventually those dams broke in a rush of water scarred the land of wash of eastern Washington. Something like that. Some of this landscape scaring was the dry falls in front of us. The huge coulees at the base and the sheer size of the cliffs. Seeing this in the late morning sun with a speckled cloud cover, it’s pretty amazing.

From here we headed south for a hike at Lake Lenore Caves Trail. I had seen the sign for this on my way into the park and it was definitely on my radar. A very poorly marked trail starts in the parking lot which is right off the road. I figure it’s a little over a mile round-trip. As you ascend up the trail it cuts into the mountain side you soon come upon several caves used by humans long ago. At the end of the trail is you get a pretty good view of the small lake below and the cliffs on the other side of the road.

A large boulder pushed down river by the water. Must have been immense to push it this far down river.

One of the things you see a lot of is rocks. We were next headed to see the largest rock around. The size of the rock is not necessarily impressive. When you think about the amount of water and force needed to push it down to its final resting spot, that is what is amazing to think about. In fact when we turn off onto the dirt road we totally drove past it the first time. Its literally just a giant rock in an open field. We soon realized our mistake and turn around. Again, what is impressive is the amount of force need it to move it. Its just a rock.

Last item on today’s agenda was Summer Falls Day Use Area. This is a park at the base of a waterfall that is visible in the summertime as the name indicates. This park is run by the Bureau of Reclamation instead of the state. In the summer for a reason I do not know Reclamation bleeds off the reservoir and creates the falls that we see. The turn off is rough and unpaved but if you can manage the road its a great park to hang out at.

Saturday was the beach day. A day just hanging out doing whatever we wanted and I was excited about that. I like the water but I often just like being around it. Today was no different. Throughout the day everyone got into the water doing whatever. I spent my time onshore lounging and having my own fun. Smoked a cigar with Bobby, played some corn hole and did lots of people watching. As the afternoon went on and people cycle in and out of the water I had long conversations with the kids which was fun. They are inquisitive and I love knowing where their head is at.

Before heading to the Gorge I stopped back at Summer Falls to hang out, enjoy the beautiful weather and get some writing done.

Late in the afternoon we headed back to came to clean up. The shower was cold as shit but it felt so good. Third day so it felt good for so many reasons to cleanup. We were headed to Grand Coulee Dam. Tracy found they have a nightly laser show and that was interesting to all of us.

Steamboat Rock State Park Crown Point overlooks the dam and town which we thought would be a great spot to see the show. When we got there we explored a little and then Bobby, Tyson and I headed to a nice outcropping of rocks. Here we smoked a cigar and just hung out, really relaxing stuff. Since we were camping we brought gear to make chili dogs that night for dinner. Cigar, sunset, beautiful scene, a colorful sky, conversation and then food.

As night feel we got dinner going and waited for the show to start. We found the radio station for the audio but it was to weak for us to pick up. Tracy did some quick thinking and found a recording on YouTube. After a couple false starts she synced things up so we heard the last 2/3 of the half hour presentation. Really cool stuff. Goes through the history of the land and how it was turned into a dam to regulate flooding, generate power, and used for irrigation.

This spot in the park has a fantastic view of the dam and city. Just look at that sky as the sunset. Beautiful!

Almost as soon as things started it was time to go home. Another lazy Sunday morning getting up and getting out. Everyone else was headed home but I was headed to the Gorge Amphitheatre for the last night of a three night Phish run. I was so excited. Initially I decided against the show. I couldn’t make all three nights and it would mean burning another vacation day. As the camping trip got closer it became more important to me to see them and fuck the rest. A $250 camping ticket and another day off of work was worth seeing the show that night.

I had plenty of time before showtime so I headed back to Summer Falls Day Use to relax and get some writing done. It was another beautiful day and worth being outside as much as possible. The park has some covered picnic tables so I posted up and got to work. Had a good spot overlooking the small reservoir and water fall. It was a busy day at the park. Saw a multi-generational family come up and do some fishing for several hours, that was cool.

After a long time at the park I started making my way to the Gorge for my last hurrah before home. This was a great trip with friends and family. I love camping, I just don’t do it enough. Weather was pretty good and the Scablands is a great area to explore with lots of natural beauty. We spent three days there and I could do a week for sure.

First Concert Since February 2020

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

This pandemic can suck it. One thing I will never forget is the last concert I attend, moe. at Revolution Hall in late February 2020. By that point the public started to realize this was more than a simple flu. By March 16th Portland shutdown and that meant no more concerts. All these months later things are finally starting to open and concerts are being schedule again.

Not long ago I got an email from Washington State Parks about a summer concert series they are starting up again at Cape Disappointment State Park. I have been to this park several times and it is a good one. So a free concert and being able to camp I was all in. Unfortunately I waited to long to secure a camp site and when I checked they were completely booked. Not being able to camp didn’t deter me from going. It just altered my plans a little and turned it into a long day. It was going to be an adventure.

Day started off relaxing as it usually does over the weekend. Some new vinyl, coffee and reading to start the day off. Eventually I got my act in gear and gathered the supplies I would need. Not camping sure made this part easy. Giving myself plenty of time to enjoy the drive I headed out 26 and up 202. There is a particular section of 202 that I just love driving. The highway was a little busy out to Astoria but most drivers where respectful. The drive was broken up regularly but a good drive nonetheless.

The last stretch of road greeted me with weather that had changed considerably from when I left Portland. From the Astoria-Megler Bridge I could see dark, stormy clouds. Thick and menacing, they swirled around in the wind which was gusting constantly and pretty heavy. The temperature was easily 15-20 degrees colder here on the coast which was a welcome relief.

Neftalí Rivera and Grupo Borikuas

I didn’t have loads of time before the show but enough for a quick hike to Fort Canby and the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center. Another fort at the mouth of the Columbia designed to protect the waterway from enemies. Depending on the decade the fort was either well staffed, barely anyone and more recently simply abandoned and turned into an educational site. It’s crazy walking around the ruins. You get a sense of how cramped it would have been for those working and living here. Far from civilization and miserable at times, especially in winter.

Interpretive center itself is still closed due to Covid-19. Also closed is the trail that leads to Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. The trail has been closed by the Coast Guard for I’m sure security reasons so don’t bother trying to get there or Dead Mans Cove. There is a viewing area in front of the center with a panoramic view of the mouth of the Columbia. This is the best view you can now get of the lighthouse. Still picturesque even if it is old and falling apart. Shine on you crazy diamond.

A quick hike and then off to the amphitheater at Waikiki Beach. The main lot was already full but plenty of open spaces in the spill over lot a short walk from the amphitheater. I noticed no one close to the stage so I took a spot near but not blocking anyone’s view and settled in. I had my chair, water and a few snacks. By now the weather had cooled off significantly and it felt good. I buttoned my flannel and curled up to the warm sounds of Neftalí Rivera and Grupo Borikuas as my blanket.

A good band and vibe. Neftalí Rivera has been doing this since he arrived in Portland some 30 or more years ago. Crazy how long it has been. They went through a good set of music from their home Puerto Rico, Cuban and other Caribbean nations. The diversity of music from the region is pretty amazing. Each influencing the other and shaping the direction in a cycle of growth.

When the show was over I packed up and headed back to my car. I decided that it was worth a detour to catch the sunset since I was already here. It would delay getting home but worth it. I grab the flannel jacket from my car and hurried towards the beach. Eventually the road is blocked and I was at a crossroads. Go straight or turn right. A quick view of Maps said straight was a shorter way and I was in a time crunch. Nature was not going to wait on me.

The road ends and a sand covered path lead to a final spot and then a single file trail towards the beach. All afternoon the clouds obscured the sun. Only on brief occasions did they thin out enough that we could tell the sun was shinning. I wanted to make it to the beach before sunset at 8:55pm but I wasn’t hopeful I would be able to get there in time.

To my delight as I crested the last dune I got the fading glimpse of the sun just before it dipped below the horizon, not to be seen till the next day. The sky was dark grey and dreary but far out on the horizon not a cloud covered up the sun and its last rays of sunshine for the day. The spectacle of nature deserved time to pounder the beauty and all the amazing things mother nature can accomplish.

The drive home was going to take a while so I settled in. This late, tired and with no moon driving back on 202 was not a good idea so I headed south on 101 towards Seaside and then across on 26. I knew there would be plenty of people and the road is generally safe as long as you pay attention. I needed to find some junk food and luckily a Fred Myers outside Warrenton was still open. I got some soda, munchies and chocolate.

With the supply run accomplished it was three hours before I rolled into my garage and could lay my head down. It was a great day of adventure and I took comfort in knowing tomorrow was another day of rest. The band was great. This really reminded me why I love concerts. The music, the people, the jam, vibes, energy. Plus don’t forget all the adventure around the actual concert itself. This is when life happens. Those unplanned moments between the regiment sometimes called life.

High Into the Mountains

It was yet another nice Saturday. The weather was cloudy early which allowed me to catch up on a few things and enjoy some coffee. By late morning the skies had cleared and it was going to stay like this the rest of the afternoon. Hard to pass up the opportunity for nice weather so I decided to head to the Tillamook State Forest for a high along Elk Ridge up into the mountains.

Not far along the Elk Creek Trail there is a small footbridge crossing the creek. This is the Wilson River Trail and leads to the Idiot Creek Loop Road near the summit of the mountain. I have been past this a few times but never had any interest till this afternoon. I didn’t know what I would find but I was excited to find out.

I think I ran into one person who was coming down rather close to the trailhead and that was it. It was a very quite trail this late in the afternoon which was really nice. Not long after the bridge the trail quickly starts to climb. The switchbacks are numerous as the trail snakes its way up the mountain. Most of the hike was in the shade and it was getting cold outside with the slow sun on the horizon. Near the top as I got closer to the ridge line sun was finally peaking over, making an appearance. One last switchback and into full sun.

Neared the top of the trail I found an small opening in the trees. I followed it for a few feet as it bursts through the last of the brush to an amazing view looking across the valley. This late in the evening I was treated to a spectacular view of the sun as it slowly set in the west. There was no foliage on these rocks so a perfect place to site and watch nature. I was awe struck by what was in front of me. After the long hike to get here I welcomed this break.

I took off my gear and settled in for some writing and drawing as the sunset. I could have spent hours on this perch but as it got into early evening the sun would be completely behind the mountains and I didn’t want to get caught out on the trail in the dark. While I had plenty of day light from on top of the mountain that would quickly change long before last light.

It was time to leave so I gathered my stuff and started my way down the mountain. I didn’t feel tired after that long rest and relaxation period. This was great as I kept a good pace down the mountain trying to bet the light. By the time I got to the creek crossing it was 6 with a decent amount of light left. From here it wasn’t much further to my car. One thing I did after this trip was put my headlamp in my day pack so it is always with me.

I just couldn’t believe my luck taking the Wilson River Trail and finding this rock ledge. Just the most amazing sight and really easy to get to all things considering. The only gotcha is the trail has a limited season. The park service takes down the footbridge at the end of October. Not sure when it goes back up but I have a feeling sometime in late spring. I honestly can’t wait for the trail to open.

Spring is Coming to Silver Falls

Spring is starting to bloom around Portland and the weather was good over the weekend so I wanted to get out for a hike. I went to Silver Falls State Park and do some drawing and writing. This park has a lot of waterfalls that are close to the parking lot so you don’t have to walk far if you don’t want to. I often spend most of my time hiking and not drawing so this time around I wanted to reverse that order.

The only rain on Saturday was early in the morning and close to the city. This caused a flood of people to head outside and I totally understood why. Due to covid-19 restrictions the park has limited capacity so with the nice weather the park was smashed. Coming in from the north I passed several parking lots to trail heads but none of them had any free spots.

It was so busy in the park that none of the lots had available parking. There where just way more people than spots allowed. I wanted to get outside because I’m tired of the pandemic and so was everyone else that day it seemed. Thankfully I found a parking lot in the south west with some spots open right next to a trail head, 214 Trail.

This parking lot is right at the edge of the park. That day it was windy and cold along the ridge but thankfully no rain. It was also sad to see that right next to the parking lots is giant plot of land just on the other side of the park completely deforested, devoid of life actually. This is the only time you see this jarring image as the trail head is on the other side of the lot and you head into the forest.

214 Trail

This part of the forest has some larger loops, a skills challenge for mountain bikes and if you go far enough you will end up at the convention center which is currently closed. While there is not a waterfall anywhere along this trail it is still very peaceful and relaxing walking through the forest. You can head north and eventually get to a fall or take the long loop and enjoy nature.

As I headed down the 214 Trail I think I ran into…..two groups of maybe 3-4 people in total. It was nice not having a crowded trail. I knew if I parked in the main lot I would have run into a ton of people often along the trail. This day I really wanted to get out and just have some peace and quite so finding this lot and trail really worked out.

You start the hike at the ridge line and work your way down into the valley. I eventually got to the convention center and just kept going. From here the trail starts up the hills on the other side of the valley. I kept looking for a nice spot with a good view but never found what I was looking for. I really wanted to get some writing done and color some van Gogh post cards but I could never find right spot. I totally lucked out when I found the cliff on the Wilson River Trail a while back. That was a great view and awesome spot to recharge at.

Finally just sat under a huge tree and smoke while soaking up nature.

Eventually I just found a bend in the trail and sat underneath a huge tree. The picture I took “upside down” on the tree trunk was my spot. I sat here for a long while just soaking up nature. I would look way up into the trees watching them sway back and forth with the wind. Hearing the wind rustle through the top of the trees. And the smell. Just a hint of pine in the air reminding me I’m outside in nature. I couldn’t get enough of it to be honest. I never did do any writing or drawing but it didn’t matter. It was still a great time.

After just sitting there for a long time I eventually continued my journey down the trail. After another mile or so I realized that the trail I was following would loop back but I had MANY miles to go before I would even start my way back to the lot. Instead of plowing ahead I turned back and went the way I came. It was already after 3pm and I was loosing light fast.

What a great hike in the forest. Not what I was expecting but then sometimes the unexpected is what is the most fun. When things loosen up and the park is more open I might head down later in the year. I would love to go back to one of the waterfalls, sit at its base and do some drawing.

New Day, New Year; 2021 Edition

I’m happy to see 2020 is finally over. Honestly not much will change in 2021, at least for the foreseeable future, but its a new year. New year means getting out into nature with Jenny!

Some artwork we found while walking in the park. Not sure who made it or the title.

With everything going on and the weather not playing in our favor this year we kept it simple. No trip out to a remote forest or up into the hills after some fresh snow. We went to Washington Park which is super close for both of us.

Early in the morning and on a holiday the park was pretty quite. I could see zoo staff driving around and doing their jobs. The animals in their care don’t care its a holiday. They still need to be tended to. We had our choice of lots so picked one further north and just started wondering around the many park trails.

I knew we couldn’t get lost but I should have taken the picture of the trail map BEFORE we started and not after the fact. It was only a mild drizzle and once we got into tree cover a lot of the rain disappeared as well. It turned into a great hike around the forest. There was an early morning chill in the air that caused a nice layer of fog to appear in the tree tops which contrasted nicely with the rather clear forest floor. The weird winter weather of Portland was simply doing its thing again.


We didn’t run into many people and those we did were mostly runners enjoying the early morning start to the day and the year. Once we wondered back to the car we opened a bottle of champagne I had to celebrate. I realize now we never actually toasted anything that I can remember. As soon as I unscrewed the metal wire securing the cork the pressure immediately shot that cork off. The bottle then proceeded to vomit a good portion of perfectly fine champagne for its homies.

What a great way to start the new year after a shit year we had in 2020. I know just flipping the year wont change much but mentally its a fresh start which is good. I hope Jenny and I can continue to celebrate life’s little joys throughout this year with friends and family.