At the end of summer in 2009, Evita and Jim, friends from Grand Junction, Colorado, called and suggested a trip to Bryce National Park in Utah.  We didn’t have to spend much time thinking about it, Bryce is the one of the most beautiful red rock canyons in the world.  Just tell us when you will be there and we’ll start loading up the 5th wheel.

We gathered some of our travel articles and decided to make this a longer trip and see Great Basin National Park in Utah and Lassen Volcanic National Park in California.  We might cruise up the coast of Oregon while we are there.

Lodge on the North Rim

Lodge on the North Rim

We stopped at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and spent a day touring the overlooks and enjoying the views from the porch at the lodge.  The lodge was built in 1927 on Bright Angel Point.   It is a beautiful rock building with long porches and a spectacular view of the canyon.  In the lobby is a large sculpture of Brighty, the burro in the 1953 book about Brighty and the Grand Canyon.   I knew about Brighty from our fourth grade study about Arizona.    This National Park is a little different, in that, the lodge houses facilities for the park but the guests stay in individual cabins.

Brighty

Brighty

Several of the scenic overlooks on the North Rim require a bit of walking to the overlook and since this is a National Park there are an abundance of ‘no dogs allowed signs’.  Zoe is still just a puppy so we take turns at the trail entry, one of us holds the leash  while the other one makes the trek to the overlook with the camera,  then we trade the dog for camera. Hummm, seems to take twice as long this way but hey, we’re retired. Speaking of retired, Evita is still a working gal and they have to head home after seeing Bryce, we on the other hand, have time to continue on.

We camped in one of the campgrounds on the North Rim and fell in love with the ghost squirrels that live here, the official name is Kaibab Squirrel but everyone called them ghost squirrels. We kind of figured ‘seen one squirrel you’ve seen them all’, but the ghost squirrel is  unique with their dark gray body and big white bushy tails. They actually look at bit like a skunk at first glance. These unusual squirrels only live in the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  They run all over the campground, Zoe wasn’t too impressed with the whole unique deal. They were just another one of those maddening squirrels that comes down the tree to taunt her and then runs around and around the tree before heading for the top.  Zoe runs around the tree a couple of times and then just dances there waiting for the squirrel to come down. Yeah, fat chance.

There is a large herd of bison on the North Rim also. They were grazing in a meadow near the road so we saw them several times.

Bison Herd

Bison Herd

We met up with Evita and Jim at the local RV park outside Bryce and got settled for a night but our camp spots are about two blocks apart.  We check the next day and found a great place in the National Park Campground for half the price and we are next door neighbors.   We oohed and aahed over the beautiful canyon, took several short hikes and rode the tour bus through the park to hear the driver share experiences and history of the park.  I believe this was the third time we have been here, we never get enough of this place.

Jim and Evita brought their Jack Russell Terrier on this trip. Scruffy has a mind of his own and wasn’t about to put up with any nonsense from  Zoe.  Bless her heart, Zoe just doesn’t get it, she is sure every dog we meet is her new best friend and wants to play. Scruffy set her straight.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Years ago, when the four of us were out rock hunting in the back country of Utah, we stumbled on an old mine shaft with a makeshift fence at the entrance. Scruffy immediately scurried around the fence and into the mine shaft.  The four of us just stood there shocked hollering  ‘No’.     Jim  started  calling  to  Scruffy  and  Evita started running the other way to encourage Scruffy to come chase her.  My gosh, no telling how deep the mine drops down or goes back into the hill or what might be living in there.  Scruffy finally just trotted out when he was ready, he didn’t seem any the worse for wear.

Jim and Evita headed back to Colorado and we moved on through Utah to Great Basin National Park. This park is one of the least visited parks partly because it is off the beaten path, not on the way to anywhere. The  park  doesn’t  have  the  beauty  of  either  Zion  or Bryce but it has some nice vistas.  One of the  draws for Great Basin is the excellent tour of Lehman Cave.  This is a very nice cave and the guides are entertaining and informative.   The visitor center is spacious with nice displays.

Bryce Canyon

Lassen Volcanic National Park was interesting.  The best and worst of the trip was here.   First we talked to the young lady at the desk in the visitor center to find out which of the several campground would be most likely to accommodate a rig our size.  We are driving the dually truck and pulling the 5th wheel so it is nice to have a heads up for a camping spot.  Unfortunately, the gal at the desk didn’t have a clue, even after we told her what we were driving, etc.  She was sure any one of the campgrounds would be perfect, just drive around until you find a spot and take it. The first campground we pulled into was apparently built  the same year as the park was established, 1916.  The roadway was plenty wide for a model T, not so much for us.  The trees were right on the edge of the roadway and the curves were tight.  We finally had to stop and I had to get out and guide Monty around a huge rock  that was right on the edge of the roadway. I really didn’t think we were going to make the turn.  Things like this make traveling so difficult, if the people at the information desk just had better information about the grounds it would be so much easier.  We ended up in the far upper campground that was wide open and perfect for bigger rigs. Duhhhhh.

Lighthouse on Oregon Coast

Lighthouse on Oregon Coast

The good thing that happened was chatting with the two European couples traveling on super sport motorcycles .  We were having lunch in the 5th wheel when these two guys drove their bikes right up next to us.   We called out the window to them suggesting that wasn’t a good place to park and they laughed and said they just wanted a picture of the comparison between their rented bikes and our big rig.     They had landed in LAX, rented the bikes were on their way to Death Valley. What fun, kids can do anything.

The Oregon coast is magnificent, no matter how many times we see it. Coos Bay, the largest city on the Oregon coast with a population of 15,000,  is a lovely place.  We found a nice park and enjoyed seeing the area, and we had lunch at an up scale restaurant on the water.  We stopped at a small maritime museum, displaying whale bones and stories about whale watching and the fish most likely to be found in the waters near here.

We stopped at several campgrounds on the way north, one of our favorites is on Harris Beach but it was full.  We settled for Humbug across the road but it was not nearly as nice as Harris.  We scoped out Cape Blanco and Sunset Bay campgrounds but both are older parks and the spaces are small with only a couple of spaces big enough for large rigs. I’m sure they are always full. The bay at Sunset is gorgeous though. A picture perfect setting, maybe we have to go back to tent camping, hummmm NOT.

Cranberry Festival

We stopped in Bandon for the Cranberry Festival. People from all the nearby small towns came to celebrate the cranberries, eat, and enjoy the arts and crafts fair.   They had quite a display of ‘hit or miss’ engines.  These are single stroke engines used mainly to power old farm equipment. We’ve seen similar displays and it is always fun to hear the engines getting started and then popping and banging along.

Depoe Bay was a very nice area and we found the Sand and Sea RV park right on the water.  It was a nice park and  Zoe  enjoyed  the  beach,  well  except  for  the  golden doodle she met who just wasn’t nice.  Of course Zoe wanted to be friends and play but he was much bigger and promptly threw her down in the sand.  We kept our distance from this silly looking dog with a pigs tail.  Don’t know what the deal was but he had a hairless tail like a corkscrew, no wonder he was cranky.    Getting a golden doodle or a labradoodle puppy is kinda like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.  We’ve seen a few that are beautiful and some that look like they were built by a committee.

Our last beach stop was Paradise Point State Park in Washington.  We met a whole group of people gathered at this park for crabbing.  They had huge pots boiling and a regular assembly line of workers.  We hung around until they offered us a taste, it was good and it looked like they were having fun.

We headed east on the north side of the Columbia River, the scenic Columbia Gorge is on the south side of the river.  We had taken that route previously and thought we’d take a look at this side.  Actually there wasn’t much to see so it was sort of disappointing.     In Spokane we thought we’d stay in the local state park but found it necessitated a trip right through the center of old town in order to get to the park.  The street was narrow with parking on both sides and maneuvering down it just didn’t seem worth the trouble.  We settled for an RV park.

We’ll have to see more of Spokane on another trip,  we headed for the small mining town of Wallace in Idaho.  Wallace is in the panhandle area of Idaho and in its heyday was the primary silver mining town in the Coeur d’Alene mining district.   Most of the buildings are deserted now but there are a few hardy souls still living there. The delightful lady at the visitor center had lived here since 1952.

We headed over to the West side of Yellowstone and stayed in a park outside Yellowstone,  but it was late in the season and totally empty. It was a little spooky being there all by ourselves. The weather is getting cooler, time to head for home.

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