Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Hurricane Creek Campground, Wallowa Lake and Hells Canyon

When we moved to Oregon it took us five+ days to drive from Chicago Land to our new home in Newberg. By the time we entered Oregon from the Idaho border we were OVER the road trip.  And then we saw the Wallowa Mountain range in the distance.  I was instantly captivated and made a mental note to come back "soon" to explore them.

"Soon" was eight years, but last weekend we packed six people, two dogs, and camping gear into the Sequoia (with no trailer) for five days in Enterprise, Oregon.  The car was so packed out it was ridiculous, but we all had enough space to breathe and not suffocate, so it was all good.

We spent the first two nights at the Wilderness Inn in Enterprise while Curt worked an all day meeting.  The Wilderness Inn was clean with all the basic amenities, let us bring our dogs, and had a very friendly and helpful staff.  I'd stay there again.

We camped at Hurricane Creek campground the last two nights.  It cost a whopping $6 per night, but didn't have any potable water and no place for trailers to turn around.  (Good thing we didn't bring the trailer!).  We snagged Campsite #1 - the best of the thirteen campsites in my opinion.  It was in the farthest corner of the campground, right on the creek with woods surrounding it. We couldn't see or hear our neighbors and we got to fall asleep to the sound of the creek rushing by and towering pines surrounding our tent.  It was our own piece of paradise.

I was playing Toy Blast on my phone and Grant busted me with this photo.

The great thing about Hurricane Creek campground is that it feels very remote but it's only a handful of miles in each direction to get to Enterprise or Joseph.  We went into town each day to refill our giant water jug and buy junk food. Talk about the best of both worlds.

The Hurricane Creek trailhead is 2.2 miles from the campground.  The kids and I did a short hike to Falls Creek waterfall one day and played in the creek.  The following day we took the whole family back to the trailhead and hiked out to the Slick Rock area.  Total hiking mileage including the trip out to the waterfall was just a little over six miles.  It was one of the most beautiful hiking trails I've ever been on.

The trail was very steep in parts

The official Joseph Oregon website has this to say about the trail.

"The trailhead at Hurricane Creek offers a fairly gradual way into the Eagle Cap and has majestic mountain views within the first mile that only get better the farther you hike.  It follows along the creek to open meadows where mountain goats are often spotted along the ridges above.  After two meadows, the canyon narrows and climbs high over Hurricane Creek along cliffs that overlook pools and waterfalls (keep a leash handy for your dog and watch your kids). " 

One night we got invited to a BBQ and barn dance at the Big Blue Barn in the farmland outside of Joseph.  We ate at tables set up in the field and then went to the second floor of the barn where a live band and a square dance caller provided entertainment for the evening.  The instructor used Grant as her partner for one of the song.  According to him, "it was the most awkward 15 minutes of my life." LOL! The girls LOVED the dancing and giggled their way through several dances.  People not dancing sat on hay bales to watch.  It was a truly unique experience.

Wallowa Lake did not disappoint.  I had heard about how awesome it is for years so I was prepared to be underwhelmed, but it was magnificent.  One day we swam at the Wallowa State Park beach.  The following day we swam on the other side of the lake at Wallowa Lake County Park.  It was refreshing way to cool off on a hot day.

We wanted to see Hells Canyon so we took one day to drive to the Buckhorn Lookout.  Buckhorn Lookout is in the absolute middle of nowhere.  We drove THIRTY miles on a gravel road to get there and in those thirty miles we might have seen a handful of ranches, a few weathered barns, and miles and miles and miles of the Zumwalt Prairie.  The vast openness and lack of human presence was hard to wrap our heads around.

Buckhorn Lookout has such a clear panoramic view of Hells Canyon that the lookout shelter didn't have to be elevated.  It sits right on the ground, but is no longer in use.  We ate lunch at the lone picnic table and of course snapped a ton of photos.  The girls, dogs and Curt didn't want to hike, so Grant and I took the Sequoia 1.5 miles to the hiking trailhead.  We descended into the canyon 2.6 miles to an overlook with the first glimpse of the Snake River.  There was no sign of human life anywhere.  Not a single hiker on the trail aside from the two of us, and there is no cell coverage.  It was very isolating, but it in a peaceful way.  We ran down to our turnaround and then labored up the very steep ascent back to the car.  It was an epic adventure with my son who is turning into a man before my eyes.

In all authenticity, there were parts of this trip that were awful.  Six people and two dogs crammed into tiny spaces with no room to escape from each other can be a nightmare.  But six people and two dogs crammed into tiny spaces with no room to escape from each other can also be one of life's greatest gifts.  In spite of some low moments, we all came home feeling so grateful to be a part of this imperfect, messy, beautiful family.  Thank you Jesus for this life.

I can't wait to come back and explore more the next time Curt has business in this area.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Opal Creek Hike

Our family chose Memorial Day to go on our first family hike of the season.  Kudos to Oregonians.  They like to get outside and play on their day off.  It was CROWDED. I definitely would NOT go on this hike again on a holiday, or even a weekend, but I would try it mid-week.

Opal Creek has been on my Bucket List of hikes for years because I've heard so much about it. Pristine green pools, waterfalls, old growth forest, an abandoned mining town, and remnants of a sawmill that burned to the ground in the 1940's are all part of the 7.1 mile round trip hike.  The Opal Creek Wilderness was also the center of a huge conservation controversy in the 90's. National TV crews visited and it became world famous as efforts were made to save this old growth forest from being logged.  (Read more about this hike in 60 Hikes within 60 Miles by Paul Gerald).

LENGTH: 7.1 miles (round trip) to Opal Pools
SCENERY: Old growth forest. A beautiful creek. Pristine, green, clear swimming pools. Waterfalls. An abandoned mining town. Remnants of a sawmill.
DRIVING TIME FROM NEWBERG: about 2 hours, give or take. The last handful of miles are on a gravel road with some car-swallowing potholes, so be prepared for that section to take a while.

Overall this was one of the best hiking experiences our family has ever had, primarily because all six of the Stilp's maintained positive attitudes with minimal whining, complaining and bickering.  Can I just say this makes ALL the difference in how a hike feels?   Team Stilp for the win.

I will say I was underwhelmed by part of this hike.  It was CROWDED.  The trailhead was remote, but cars were parked single file on the edge of the gravel road to the trailhead a full mile from where we actually started hiking.  Because we arrived later in the afternoon we lucked out and got a parking spot right by the trailhead, something we were all grateful for at the end of the hike when we were over hiking and ready for the car.

I also didn't love that the majority of this hike is actually on a gravel road and not on a single track trail.  My preference is always remote, always single track.  The positive benefit of so much hiking on a level road is that it is a safe option for people with mobility issues who can't do single track trails.

This hike is easy.  The trail is level with very little climbing. The only thing difficult was the distance.  We opted to hike to the Opal Pools - a 7.1 mile hike, according to the Forest Service sign at the trailhead. My Garmin registered 7.6 total miles (including our little side trips) and most of the Stilp Family tapped out around 6.5 miles.  The last mile felt L-O-N-G and boring and we slogged along toward our car.

There are a ton of route options, most of the out and back.  However you can make this a balloon and that's the route we chose. Out and back on the first/last portion, with a loop in the middle.  Two miles into the hike is an area with the remains of the sawmill that burned in the 1940's. Our kids had fun climbing on the machinery.

Behind one of the buildings is a side trail that leads to Jawbone Falls and some swimming holes.  The water was ICE cold, snow melt but it didn't stop Grant from jumping off a cliff into the pools below.  He's crazy.
Jawbone Falls - copyright Jodi Stilp Photography LLC
Opal Creek - copyright Jodi Stilp Photography LLC

pools by Jawbone Falls

Not too far past the waterfall we turned right and crossed a bridge that took us onto the official Opal Creek Trail, the only single track portion of the hike.  We hiked through the old growth forest to the beautiful Opal Pools.  The trail is narrow with some drop-offs making it a little cumbersome to pass people coming in the opposite direction. At one point an English woman, using her delightful English accent, told her toddler son, "Don't tread on the woofers" as she pointed at our dogs.  LOL!

Opal Creek roars and rumbles over the rocks, creating impressive and small waterfalls.  The water is crystal-clear and incredible beautiful.  We all loved this spot, in spite of sharing it with at least fifty other hikers. Once we were done playing at the creek, we finished our hike.

Tiny Paige.  Big trees.
Movement. copyright Jodi Stilp Photography LLC
Opal Creek - copyright Jodi Stilp Photography LLC

Can you find Grant?
We crossed a bridge over Opal Creek and followed the trail into Jawbone Flats, what's left of a mining town.  There are cabins that can be rented in Jawbone Flats and a bunch of old, rusted out cars and equipment. We hiked the main road back to the trailhead.

I had to keep my run streak alive, so I ran down the gravel road while the family was packing up post-hike and they picked me 2.5 miles later.  I absolutely loved running that mountain road in the cool of the early evening and wished I had time to run it all the way back to the pavement.

Overall this was a fun hike and definitely worth seeing and doing. Happy hiking.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

My Summer - circa 1981: guest post by Jodi Klippenes

Recently Alli and Grant spent the night at my Mom and Terry's house to celebrate their spring birthdays.  Mom cooked a giant meal and added up their collective ages (15 +12) and put the number 27 into their birthday pie.  They played cards, watched a movie, ate a giant breakfast, and went to the skate park to watch Grant work on tricks.
Alli (12 years) and Grant (15 years) = 27

Mom and Alli also went through old photo albums and memorabilia.  Alli had a riot taking photos of awful Growing Up photos of me and texting them to me.  "Just came across these pictures mom. ))); Makes me laugh.  I love it so much. It's hilarious.  I bet you were great at basketball."

She even came home with some samples of creative writing that I did in 2nd grade.  I had very neat penmanship, really bad spelling, and was exclamation point happy.  Why use a period or a question mark if you can exclaim it?

My essay on a summer memory told about a camping trip.  While on that trip we took a hike that went terribly wrong.  We got lost and ended up hiking ten miles, a big part of it through a creek.  My brother and I both hated it and spent a ton of time crying our eyes out because we were tired, hungry, and our legs hurt. I remember scrambling up the cliff out of the canyon and crying so much that my Dad had to carry me for a while.  This did not make him happy, but it stopped my crying. Apparently my six year old self forgot about the hiking misery much quicker, because I chose this camping trip as my "favorite days of the summer."  LOL!  

I remember this hike EVERY.SINGLE.TIME my own kids start crying and lamenting that they just might die when we're hiking. And then I tell them the story about how we got lost and I had to hike ten miles when I was six and how lucky they are to have a backpack with water and food and emergency supplies, etc.
I think this photo shows Shane and I around the ages we were when we took this hike

We're a little older in this photo, but look at Shane rocking those shorts.

Here we are on a hike - much older than 7 and 9 years old and definitely in the awkward stage.  #forthelove

Normally by this time in the spring I've been hiking a least a handful of times, but this year I haven't had the chance yet, until the last couple of days.  I thought I'd kick off hiking season with a guest post from my seven-year-old self, spelling purposely not corrected.  For your reading pleasure, here is... 

My Summer
by Jodi Klippenes  
7 years old

My favorite days of the summer were when we went camping!  We went to Backbone State Park.  We used the Hammonds traler.  We picked out 76. It was butaful!! We hiked 10 miles! It was hard, but fun.  We saw Muskrat tracks. We waded for a hour and a half.  And got no were! We climed a real real real high cliff.  When we waded we saw a real baby crab!  The water was fresing! It wasn't realy wading because when we went in the shalois part it went real high, so we went over.  My pants were sopt!  I fell onece.  We went swiming too.  It was fun! We rosted marsmellows. It was fun! Then we went to sleep!  Redy for the next day! The next day is when we did all the fun!  We saw a waterfall.  We had picnic lunch! that was fun.  W also went to see a new born baby.  It was 5 ponds.  It went down to 4 somethig. It was the first baby and let us hold it. 

Don't you want to go hiking now?  Or hold a newborn baby?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Exposure to a Billionaire by Ann Menke - Reserve your Copy Now

My friends are smart and talented.  Three of my Sistas have written books in the past year.  You don't want to miss them.

Diane Comer - He Speaks in the Silence is Diane's personal story of going completely deaf in her mid-twenties and how through this tragedy she learned to really hear God's voice speaking to her in the silence. 

Melanie Dobson - Melanie cranks out novels at such a fast pace that you would expect them to be totally lame, but each one is better than the last.  Her latest novel, Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, set in England does not disappoint.  

And then there's Ann Menke.  When we were initially building our friendship she kept blowing me away with stories from her life in corporate aviation.  "You did what?!?!" frequently marked our conversations.  Ann decided to take these crazy stories and weave them into a fictional novel.  It was fun to watch her pour herself into the writing process, help with editing, and cheer her on to completion. Last week she placed a finished copy of her book, Exposure to a Billionaire, in my hands.  What a thrill to see all her hard work compiled in a beautifully presented book.  Way to go Ann! 

The book doesn't release until June 7th of this year, but you can pre-order on Amazon.  I just finished reading it and wanted to share my review to pique your interest.  And NO!  You can not borrow my copy.  

Exposure to a Billionaire 
by Ann Menke

Travel to exotic locations, indulge in a glamorous lifestyle, and step into the world of the rich and famous without leaving the comfort of your own home.  Ann Menke, in her debut novel, relies on her 25+ years in corporate aviation to paint a detailed and accurate picture of what life is really like for the world's wealthiest residents.  You won't believe the opulence and extravagance!  Ann's vibrant descriptions of food, gifts, exotic locations and life onboard a private jet take you deep into a world of wealth, love, greed, beauty, and new beginnigs.  Fasten your seatbelt and enjoy the ride.  Bon voyage!