A Welcome Forest
~Monday, August 17, 2020~
Day 64 (Travel Day)
We really enjoyed our time here in Joseph, near Wallowa Lake. Wish we could have gotten in more hiking and sightseeing, but it was important that we spent time researching our next travel points. Today was another day of lessons learned. When you’re moving, you should always keep in mind what day of the week it is. Monday thru Thursday you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a spot without a reservation. Friday thru Sunday, not so much, especially during the summer. And things are not normal right now with many schools closed due to the pandemic, so people are still doing their family travel adventures. Anyway, in the end we spent time and money we didn’t need to today, all for the sake of having a plan B. The backup was a place called Copperfield Campground in Halfway, OR which is part of a hydro-electric facility on a section of the Snake River. The cost is $15.00/night w/hookups except sewer and there were 5 openings. We took 3 nights. The reviews were great and even Scott said it was a great place to stay. It always feels good to have a plan B in place.
Hell’s Canyon is about 1-½ hours southeast of Joseph. The weather cooperated as we packed things up. Scott was working on his lawn once again, which I made sure to compliment him on. Backing up and hitching took longer than normal as it was just one of those days. And as I pulled out, Jeff was double checking the hitch connection and said it didn’t look right. Second guessing himself, we hitched and unhitched maybe 4 times taking an extra hour. Finally, I pulled out the training video we had taken at Richardson’s when we originally picked up the trailer. I filmed the instructions that day for situations exactly like this. After all the doubt, Jeff had connected it right after all. Ugh!! Have you ever done things repeatedly, a certain way, only to suddenly question the way you’ve done it all along, then find out you had no reason to second guess yourself in the first place? I had a few laughs throughout the day thinking about it, Jeff not so much. It was my turn at the wheel to back up the trailer to get us in the correct direction to the dump station. Jeff had already filled up our 45 gallon fresh water tank and our (4) 5-gallon collapsible water cubes for our “dry camping” spot.
Thirty minutes into our drive we both decided to check out the Ollokot National Forest Campground first, even though we had the other reservation already paid for. Ollokot is only $8.00/night. We really need the practice of being 100% self-sufficient, no navigation systems, no internet, etc. If there were no spots, we’d drive another 15 or 20 minutes to go to Copperfields. The drive was a little hairy as we took windy, hilly and sometimes narrow Wallowa Mountain Road to get there. I had to pull over twice to let others pass.
When we finally arrived around 2:30, we were greeted by a “mayor” of the forest. I say mayor because he looks and talks with pleasant and comforting authority. I’d say he’s in his early 70’s, and he and his wife are from the Enterprise area where we had just stayed. He pretty much told us the lay of the land since the campground loop was a little nondescript. There are about 15 sites here, most of which are on the Ollokot River. The “mayor” was in the first site properly situated to come to anyone’s aid. Jeff walked ahead while I waited to see the best route for me to take, then hand signaled me to go around the far loop and meet him on the other end. So I went around moving cautiously, not knowing what was really ahead only to find out that loop did not meet up with Jeff’s loop. Who was there to greet me at the end of the small loop, Mr. “mayor” himself. He said if I went down where Jeff was, it eventually would loop round to the other sites and back out. We finally ended up at site #4 on the river. We do have neighbors but far enough apart you feel total privacy.
As everyone knows, I’d much rather have a few fellow campers than zero. There also doesn’t seem to be a presence of bears here, since there were no warnings posted. This was a perfect spot for us and well worth the crazy travel day. We set up the trailer, put the awnings out then took a drive to find cell service so we could cancel our Copperfield’s reservation. Per the “mayor’s” suggestion we went about 15 minutes to the gravel area at the top of a hill to get service, but to no avail. The truck was not happy with all of the steep and windy turns. It would be perfect if we had the Miata with us on this trip for short, quick trips. We saw signs for the Hell’s Canyon overlook and again, nothing. But we did see amazing views and an explanation of how the canyon was formed. It is the deepest canyon in North America when all along, we thought the Grand Canyon was the deepest. Hell’s Canyon averages 1 mile deep and 7 miles wide. It was a nice side trip, even though we never found a cell service. Anyway, lesson learned. Don’t pay for backup reservations on a Monday thru Thursday, because you will likely get in to your walk-in spot. And since many walk-in spots are pretty isolated, you likely won’t have cell service to cancel them. So we sacrificed our reservation $ + cancellation fees. In the end for our 3 nights at Ollokot, this stay is costing us $20.00/night instead of $8.00 for the mistake. Still a great deal.
When we got back we set up our chairs, overlooking the Ollokot River enjoying the forest beauty when all of the sudden the wind came out of nowhere picking up dust, blowing around pine needles and dropping old branches (one narrowly missing Sadie). Then came the thunder, the sky darkened, the wind stopped, and the rain came. Our guess is there are afternoon showers nearly everyday in these mountains. It was really cool to have our first real rain in our trailer, where the sound is 10x magnified. I can’t imagine what the future storms will sound like. After the rains stopped, we thought the coast was clear to make a nice fire before our 3rd night of a penne pasta dinner. But the rains came back which prevented us from eating outside and enjoying our fire. Oh well. Will try again tomorrow. What an exhausting day, but a fun adventure.