September 9-22, 2019
Last Days at Home
Our final week and a half at home was filled with teary eyed family goodbyes and packing…and packing…and more packing. I had pages of items I didn’t want to forget. Then organizing everything into a 28’ long box was no easy task. Everything fit and everything has its place, but NO we do not have room for anything else! A couple days before departure, we moved ourselves and the boys into the RV. I wanted them to have a couple days to readjust to RV life and it also allowed us to clean the house without the fluffy butts dropping fur faster than we could vacuum it up. A few house winterization projects and we were finally ready to hit the road.
During that last week at home, we did break away to spend three days camped with some of our dearest friends. We usually go in October, but everyone graciously agreed to move the date to accommodate our travel schedule. Getting to spend a few days relaxing with good friends before hitting the road for seven months was priceless.
Day 1: Home to Hilgard Junction State Park (La Grande, Oregon)
Departure day finally arrived. I was filled with a whole lot of excitement and sadness as we had our final breakfast in the family home. What will the next seven months bring? What difficulties will we face? Will we have good health? Will our families back home have good health? It was one of the more bittersweet days of my life.
On day one, we made our way from home through the farmlands of Eastern Washington to Hilgard Junction State Park in the Blue Mountains just north of La Grande, Oregon. Hilgard is a lovely 18 site campground along the banks of the Grande Ronde River. The site was a popular camp with emigrants on the Oregon Trail. Honore-Timothee Lempfrit on September 9, 1848 wrote, “today we had an excellent camping spot, a very nice situation completely surrounded by tall fir-trees. Right beside us flowed a river abounding in fish and in the shallow parts of the river one could scoop up quantities of crayfish.” But the descent to the campsite was extremely dangerous. Abigail Jane Scott, 1852 emigrant, described the descent to Hilgard as “down the most dangerous looking place we had yet came down.” In fact, the Blue Mountains of NE Oregon, were considered by most overlanders to be “rough…much more so than the Rocky Mountains.”
We enjoyed our stay at Hilgard and are likely to stay there again due to its proximity to home. The park is situated directly below the freeway and has a near constant hum of vehicles, but it wasn’t loud enough to bother us. Here we met our first snow birders of the trip, Bob and Claudia from Portland. They’ve been snow birding for many years and provided us with great encouragement and inspiration for our travels ahead.
Amenities at Hilgard include: paved sites, camp host, water spigots, garbage, flush toilets, garbage, large grassy sites, picnic tables, fire pits, Oregon Trail information center, and day use area for just $10 per night. We had 2-3 bars of Verizon and slow LTE.
Day 2: Hilgard Junction State Park to Spring Recreation Site (Huntington, Oregon)
Day two was a short 100 mile day through a barren stretch of Eastern Oregon to a BLM campground just a few miles from Huntington, Oregon. Spring Recreation Site offers camping and a boat launch on Brownlee Reservoir. The reservoir was formed in 1958 with the completion of Brownlee Dam, an earth dam along the upper Snake River. The reservoir is popular with anglers targeting catfish, crappie, and bass fishing.
Arriving on a Friday afternoon, the area was pretty quiet. We were greeted by the world’s friendliest camp hosts from Florida. We selected an end spot overlooking the boat launch in the lower camping lot. Our only neighbors were the hosts at the far end. We had lovely river views including a front row seat when someone across the river got their SUV too close to the river’s edge and ended up having their rig slide part way into the river. Hours later, a county sheriff and tow truck extricated the vehicle and everyone appeared to have escaped without injury.
The boys have been settling in just fine. I can’t say they enjoy the ride, but they don’t look super stressed out and they don’t cry at all. Once at camp, they are happy as can be.
Amenities at Spring Recreation Site include: picnic table, fire pit, water, dumpsters, pit toilets, boat launch, and fish cleaning station for just $5 per night. We had 3-4 bars of Verizon with LTE.
Day 3: Spring Recreation Site to Rome Launch (Rome, Oregon)
Day 3 was a 146 mile drive that took us from Eastern Oregon, into Idaho, and back into extreme Southeastern Oregon. Much of the drive was through wide open country with no civilization as far as the eye could see.
Our camp for the night was Rome Launch, a free BLM site just outside the tiny town of Rome, Oregon. It is a popular put in spot for rafters on the Owyhee River, but this time of year it is pretty quiet. We shared the launch with two other parties- a lovely couple from Northern California who arrived in a 5th wheel right behind us and a group of friendly hikers and adventurers from the Oregon Coast in tents.
After setting up camp and relaxing alongside the river for a while, we noticed our California neighbors sitting outside so we went over and introduced ourselves. We made fast friends with Greg and Toni and I think it was at least a couple hours before we made it back to our RV! They are avid travelers with their two dogs and Scooter, the 35 year old Australian red shouldered parrot. They also founded and operate a charity group in Uganda that is doing some really wonderful things. We’ve been meeting such wonderful people on the road, but Greg and Toni definitely top the list!
We ended the day watching a herd of 18 mule deer grazing across the river and being serenaded to sleep by yipping coyotes at close range. The next morning our alarm clock was 100+ red-winged blackbirds and we later saw four sandhill crane which was most unexpected. This was a really peaceful location and we’d definitely stay here again.
Amenities at Rome Launch include: picnic tables, fire pits, pit toilets, drinking water, raft launch, and small camping area. I only got 1 bar of Verizon but fairly consistent LTE.
Day 4: Rome Launch to New Pioneer RV Park (Winnemucca, Nevada).
We enjoyed a walk along the Owyhee River before hitting the road for the fourth day in a row. We had planned to dry camp at Water Canyon outside of Winnemucca, Nevada, but decided we were ready for some luxury camping with really easy freeway access. We were debating which Winnemucca RV park to stay at when our new friends Greg and Toni said they had also changed their plans are were heading to the New Pioneer RV Park in Winnemucca. New Pioneer had been at the top of my list and that decided it.
After a 142 mile drive, we arrived at New Pioneer RV Park just a few minutes before Greg and Toni. The woman checking us in saw us talking and assumed we were together. She put us side by side which was just fine by us. This was our first private RV park experience and we enjoyed it much more than we expected. The sites were large and immaculately kept as were the showers. Best of all, we got more time to visit with our new friends.
New Frontier RV Park amenities include: spacious sites and wide streets, paved pads, picnic tables, full hookups, laundry room, large and very clean showers with abundant hot water, cable TV, fax and copy service, dog park, and Wifi. We also got to use our brand new Good Sam Club membership for a 10% savings!