Usually we travel down 97 to Interstate 5 and take it south, however because of forest fires as well as the closure of I-5 we decide to take a more easterly route to Alturas on US 395 to Interstate 80. We had not traveled with Lola along US 395 in Northeastern California, so it was a new area to see.
Likely Place Golf and RV Resort is a great place to stay. Besides being a half way point in our travels south, it has an 18 hole golf course. It is in a pretty remote area in Northeastern California yet close to US 395 to make it a convenient stop.
There are 5 or 6 cement pads and a few more grassy areas all with power for telescope setups. With the dark skies and high elevation Likely Place Golf and RV Resort is perfect to do some stargazing. Since we are only here for one night, Jeff set up the tripod and camera to get some practice getting some Milky Way pictures. He focuses on Cassiopeia and Andromeda Galaxy and uses Deep Sky Stacker (DSS) to process the images.
Besides stargazing, the resort offers a host of other activities such as fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding, hiking and nearby places to ATV. California’s Lava Beds National Monument is close by and many other attractions to explore. Several scenic drives are listed on the Lively Place Golf and RV resort sure to keep any family busy while staying here. See more here.
Likely Place Golf and RV Resort is on our list of places to come back to – as a matter of fact we plan to revisit the resort next spring on our way north to Alaska.
Part 2: Exploring from Thousand Trails Bend-Sunriver Base Camp
We are at Thousand Trails Bend-Sunriver just south of Bend Oregon to wrap up our visit to the Newberry National Volcanic Monument (Newberry NVM) in central Oregon. The campground is very large with 2 pools and the Little Deschutes river running alongside the property. It is a perfect place for a base camp to explore more of the Newberry Volcano after spending over a week at Lake Paulina in the volcano caldera.
See Part 1 when we camped at Lake Paulina inside the cauldera here.
The campsites are large and spaced apart at Bend-Sunriver. There is an unfenced leash-free area for dogs along the river. There are also trails and a fire road for some great walking. I also took the telescope out to the dog area because it is surrounded by high bushes for less light interference.
There are 3 observatories in the area. I visited the Oregon Observatory at Sunriver where there were more than a dozen telescopes set up looking at the stars and planets. The University of Oregon also has an observatory at Pine Mountain (Pine Mountain Observatory) that is open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays during the warm months. Also, the Worthy Brewery in Bend has a “hopservatory” up on their roof. Plus there are lots of places east of Bend in the desert where you can find a dark spot and set up your telescope or break out the binoculars.
Here’s a few pictures taken out by the dog field using the camera.
The Lava Cast Forest in the Newberry Volcano area was created 6,000 years ago. As the lava flow wrapped around trees, it cooled and hardened, leaving the imprint of the trees and the trees burned and rotted away. Many used to be 5 to 10 feet tall, but scavengers broke up most of the larger examples. Even so, it is a fascinating walk peering down the holes where trees once stood thousands of years ago. You can see the imprint from the bark that was on the trees! Easy walk and you can bring your dogs as well.
The Lava River Cave is another cool place to visit at the Newberry Volcano. This is the longest lava tube in Oregon and is 80,000 years old. Just to put it into perspective – the oldest lava flow on Newberry Volcano is 400,000 years old, and the most recent is 1,300 years old. Scientists believe Newberry first erupted about 600,000 years ago. It is still an active shield shaped stratovolcano, with over 400 vents (the most of any volcano in the lower 48 states).
And, it’s DARK! At nearly a mile long with no lights along the path, did I say it is DARK? Of course I brought a flashlight. But Christine wanted to make sure we had light, so she rented one at the ranger station. And, it is a good thing she did since the batteries in my torch went out after a few hundred steps. We held hands after that so I didn’t get lost in the dark. A couple of times Christine turned her flashlight off just to see what it is like to be in the dark. I could have told her, since I spend a lot of time in the dark… ok just kidding (a little bit). At the point where you can no longer go any further, she turned off the light again. You suddenly starts thinking of all of the scary movies you ever watched and quickly turn the light back on. Easy walk with a few places that have rocks you walk around or over and two sections that if you are tall, need to duck because of low ceilings.
Lava Butte is part of the Newberry Volcano, and is a large cinder cone. During the summer a bus is provided because of the small parking lot at the top of the cone. We visited after Labor Day so we just had to wait 45 minutes until the next set of 10 or so cars were allowed up to the top. We picked a magnificent day that had less smoke haze from the forest fires so we got better views of the Cascade mountains and the Newberry Volcano. We heard that on a very clear day you could see Mt. Shasta.
The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway is a very pretty drive around Mount Bachelor just south of Bend and west of the Newberry Volcano. Poor Bachelor – always just a little ways away from the Three Sisters, 3 stratovolcanos just west of the Newberry Volcano. Lots of lakes and views of the mountains. It is an easy drive to make after a late breakfast since it is 66 miles long. We took the dogs and they swam at a couple of the lakes. Watch out though! Some of the lakes have toxic algae in them. We had to wipe the dogs down after they got near some of the algae.
We are camping at Lake Paulina National Forest campground in the caldera of the Newberry Volcano that is in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument just east of Bend Oregon. Newberry Volcano is the largest (by mass and area) Volcano in the Cascade mountain range that goes from southern Canada down through northern California. The mountain with it’s lava flows is roughly the size of the state of Rhode Island. We are staying at the campground for 9 days.
We did not know if there was water available for Lola, however once we called up to the Ranger Station, we were told that there was potable water next to the dump station. Once we got to our campground, the water spigot that was near our campsite indeed did have a threaded spigot, however several of the other water spigots are not threaded. The campground does offer a few gray water disposal sites and a bathroom with flush toilets and sinks with running water.
There is an observation site at the top of Paulina Peak – the highest point of the Newberry Volcano. On a clear day the views are magnificent, however it was smoky from the forest fires in southern Oregon and northern California. Nice day for a drive though, and we can see the two lakes in the caldera – Lake Paulina and East lake.
We drove through East Lake and notice that there are more nice campsites even though many are smaller than the Lake Paulina sites.
The big draw for the drive is a hike through the Big Obsidian Flow. There is an interpretive trail going through the Big Obsidian Flow in the Newberry Volcano caldera. The Big Obsidian Flow is the most recent geologic formation in the Newberry Volcano created 1,300 years ago, and like the name suggests… it is BIG! I always think of obsidian chunks that I can hold in my hand. This is a whole mountain of obsidian (pardon the pun).
One of the most interesting items is that obsidian was used for the first open heart surgeries done because obsidian blades are a lot sharper than any knife edge possible. Obsidian blades are sharpened to a width of one molecule. Now, that’s surprising!
There are two lakes in the Newberry Volcano caldera. Lake Paulina where we are camping, and East Lake. At one time there was one lake in the caldera then a fissure opened up and lava separated the two lakes. About 3,500 years ago another eruption created an obsidian flow by East Lake. The “Little Crater” is one of the craters between the two lakes and a nice hike. We didn’t take the dogs because it’s somewhat steep in sections and some places that just dropped off into a narrow valley.
It is a very nice day with great views of the lake and the obsidian flow, even though you could tell the smoke from the fires was starting to come back into the area.
The 8 mile hike around Lake Paulina is a pretty easy hike. There is some elevation change but mostly it is rated a moderate hike because of the length. Another hazy day for our walk around the lake, but the water is crystal clear and we spotted many aquatic birds, moss and flowers. We could just make out Paulina Peak when we are on the far side of the lake. We will return another time when there are no forest fires.
Using narrow National Forest Service roads we drove a loop from East Lake south then west around Paulina Peak and then north up to the entrance that is west of Paulina Lake Campground. During the whole drive we spotted one tent in a dispersed camping area but no other persons! In many places the road is very slow going, and our Honda Pilot just had enough clearance to drive the little used roads. We stopped several times to explore ancient fissures and old logging roads. The dogs had a blast getting off leash.
Our next stop is Chickahominy Recreationa Area. It is off of US highway 20, about 34 miles west of Burns Oregon, and about 100 miles east of Bend. It is a 5 day layover, dry camping at the BLM campsite. There is water at the fish cleaning station (with threaded spigot). The spaces are spread out with lots of privacy. No hookups at the campsites, and no reservations.
The campground is a short distance from US 20 and you don’t get a lot of road noise at night. With the senior discount at $7 a night we couldn’t complain.
The little reservoir is half full and is noted as a good fishing spot. There are only a few other campers braving the 100 degree weather. We get some fantastic sunsets due to the smoke from the fires in southern Oregon and northern California. As a result of the hot weather we run the generator for the AC most afternoons to cool things off, otherwise we are running on solar.
It seems like every time I thought about taking the drone “Eyes of Lola” out it was too windy, so no drone videos this post either.
On our clearer nights I set up the telescope. Due to the smoke haze we use the binoculars for most of the star watching. With the few campers around and the closest town 25 miles away this is a great dark site for looking at the skies at night. No photos, sorry! I was mainly practicing setting up the telescope.
Swimming and Kayaking at Chickahominy Lake
The dogs enjoyed cooling off swimming in the lake in the afternoon! We took the kayak out for a spin in the lake and got some great pictures of an American Pelican on the far shore. There are some good walking trails around the lake. One hike took us towards US 20 and we found lots of obsidian shards that are pure black and SHARP to cut into shoes and fingers.
Malheur National Forest and Delintment Lake
Road Trip! We loaded the dogs into the Pilot and drove to Riley to get gas. We then drove in a big loop north to tour the southern part of the Malheur National Forest. Once we got past a few large cattle ranches we drove up into the Blue Mountains covered with Ponderosa pine trees. This is a nice change of pace to the sage desert at the campground.
As we gained elevation in the southern end of the Blue Mountains and reach the tree line the temperature cooled considerably. We enjoy the drive and pass several National Forest campgrounds scattered here and there. Most campsites would not accommodate Lola being too small. Taking the route from Riley the roads have many sections that are dirt up to Delintment Lake. If you are driving up to Delintment Lake with a trailer or RV take the road from Burns because it is smooth blacktop.
Bruneau Dunes State Park in Idaho has the ‘highest single structured sand dune and a public observatory with a 25 inch Newtonian reflecting telescope. The park has two RV sections – almost empty during the heat of July. They also have an equestrian area and several day use sections. Christine decided to walk up one of the big dunes almost to the top before the heat set in and warmed up the sand. Several people were sand-boarding down the side of the smaller dune.
A short drive from Bruneau Dunes State Park is the Bruneau Canyon Overlook. It is managed by the BLM with input from the local Shoshone Indian tribes, ranchers and environmental groups to protect the area that has been used by the Native Americans for centuries. It is a remote and spectacular canyon well worth the drive. As a side note, you drive through a U. S. Airforce bombing range where… you guessed it… “objects may fall from aircraft”!
There are two Castle Rocks in Idaho – both have crazy rock formations. We visited the Castle Rocks on Castle Rocks Creek east of Mountain Home on Idaho highway 20. The other Castle Rocks is near the Utah border! Regardless – the Castle Rocks near Mountain Home is a fun drive and the early afternoon light on the rocks brought out some amazing natural erosion relief. Other than a couple of forest service guys, some cows and a few ranchers we are alone on this trip. The dogs enjoyed walking on the dusty road while Christine and Jeff take pictures.
Mountain Home is the largest city around. With Mountain Home Air Force base close by it is a busy town with most conveniences available. Jeff utilized the library and Walmart for picture and video uploads and we visited the grocery store too. Also went to the local farmers market which had some great fresh fruits and vegetables, but the best were the fresh farm eggs.
There is a winery (Cold Springs Winery) close by near Hammett, Idaho, which we visited. Even though the sign indicated it was closed, we had called and their message said they were open, so we drove up to the house / winery on the hill. The wine master was there wrapping up some things and opened the doors for us to do some wine tasting. Excellent wine, spent a few dollars on quite a few different varieties and you just couldn’t beat the views from the top of the hill. Spectacular! This winery is also a member of Harvest Hosts, which allows you to stay one to two days for free with no services, but you get to experience the place first hand.
Stars, Stargazing and an Observatory
Bruneau Dunes State Park is set up for the amateur astronomer in mind. It is considered a Dark Site. There is a limited amount of lighting around the campsites, and the two campgrounds are situated well away from the highway. The lights around the restrooms are red-lights. Mountain Home – the closest town is far enough away and blocked by hills that there is a limited amount of horizon light. Unfortunately there is a big fire north of Boise and some nights the sky was blocked by smoke and clouds. Fortunately, since we are staying here for 8 nights a number of nights were clear.
I am not using a very sophisticated astrophotography setup. A Canon 60D is great but I’m using lenses that I picked up for real estate and hobby photography. I have an f4.0 medium zoom (17mm wide open) for Milky Way pictures. And I used 1600 ISO which is probably too high. 800 or 1000 would have less noise. But I am learning and with practice hope to get better.
Here are some AstroPhotos! If you look closely at the center of the picture marked Cassiopeia you can even see a smudge for the Andromeda Galaxy.
For $5 anyone can view the stars using the big Newtonian Reflector telescope at Bruneau Dunes. It is one of the largest observatories that is set up for public use only. We also got a blue light flashlight so we could chase tiny scorpions busy during the night on the dunes.
We are camping at Massacre Rocks State Park for a week after attending the FMCA Rally in Gillette. We have water and electric at our campsite, but no sewer – no big deal as they had really great bathrooms with wonderful showers. There are gray water dump stations scattered around so no worries about dumping. Our new sensors come in handy to monitor the tanks.
We spent lots of time watching the stars – from ‘ol Sol’s sunrises and sunsets to the stars and Milky Way. Even with smoke from fires near Boise we had a few really nice nights where we watched the stars. We used the binoculars for most of the viewing, but Jeff also set up the telescope for some stargazing. No camera work this time though. Jeff is getting better setting up the German Equatorial Mount telescope and hopes a “Go-To” motorized telescope is in his future!
The name is a bit of a misnomer. There was no actual Massacre, although a few settlers (10 by some accounts) were killed by Native Americans who felt threatened by all the wagons coming through their land. It was actually named Massacre Rocks in the early 1900’s as a way to promote the area for tourism. The area did have a lot of Native Americans along this part of the Oregon Trail, and settlers were wary of meeting them, fearing Shoshone attacks.
As the glaciers were retreating from the last Ice Age melt-water formed a great lake called Lake Bonneville. The Great Salt Lake is the largest remnant of this ancient lake and this is where Bonneville Salt Flats gets its name from. At its largest the lake was bigger and deeper than Lake Michigan. About 14,500 years ago erosion ripped open part of the lake disgorging 1,000 cubic miles of water in the space of months. For a while it created a huge waterfall on the other side of the Snake River from Massacre Rocks State Park. The gorge from the waterfall is impressive to see.
This area of the Snake River provided Native Americans and pioneer settlers a natural route to travel east and west. The Shoshone Indians populated this area in the 1800’s when pioneers were heading west. Wagon ruts can still be seen around the area of Massacre Rocks – the interstate actually runs along the Oregon Trail here. Register Rock has many carved names of the pioneers that were heading west on the Oregon Trail.
Walking, Exploring, Relaxing at Massacre Rocks State Park
After a hectic week at the FMCA Rally in Gillette it was nice to enjoy the sites around American Falls and Massacre Rocks State Park. We took the dogs down to a boat ramp for an old-dog swim (they got wet, then back to shore). There are trails where we walked and biked, flew the drone and caught up on reading.
The park has lots of walking and biking trails along with Register Rock. It is close to Interstate 86, and we got a spot up on a hill overlooking the Snake River that is a little farther away from the freeway. The campsites are spread out, campground very clean and nice.
Next up – we are excited to go to another Idaho State Park – one that has an observatory! Happy Trails and see you on the road.
Driving over the rise between Helena and White Sandy Recreation Site where the Missouri River and Prickly Pear Creek meet we are struck by the beauty of the mountains and the river. It’s a small campground. There is a state campground to the left and on the right is the BLM campground on the river – both with a couple dozen campsites each. BLM is a first come first serve and we were lucky in hitting this mid week and only about 5 sites had been taken. Out site is right on the Prickly Pear Creek.
A planned two day lay-over turns into 13 days of pretty peaceful respite. We are working on a few blog and video segments in between exploring, sleeping and reading. On the 4th of July it gets busier on the river, with some fireworks and the ‘Eyes of Lola’ drone catches some of the action. As the fireworks are not that close by, it hasn’t affected the dogs as it has in the past.
White Sandy Recreation Site is located where the Prickly Pear creek meets the Missouri River. There are no hook-ups for water, electricity or sewer. There is water available, but it is a rusty brown from the iron in the water oxidizing. Since we originally only planned to stay for 2 days, we arrived at the campground with about 25 gallons of water. Now that we are staying longer than our original plans, we need more water than we came with. After talking to the camp hosts they advised either getting water at the state campground or a private campground nearby. We couldn’t find the water at the state campground, so called the Sinclair service station we passed at the exit from the interstate. They have potable water, so we ran down to the Sinclair service station and to get fresh water and propane. Fortunately it’s only a few miles away.
The Sinclair station has a nice grocery store with Montana Ham products! Sure smells good, but we restrained ourselves and only got some delicious bacon. The water is good – the same as they use for their popular drive-by coffee kiosk outside of the store. To get water, we block one side of the kiosk, but they are fine with that. No charge for the water fill-up, but we get coffee and give a nice tip. They also have a dump station for RV’s too; along with propane (which we also filled up) and good access for RV fill-ups.
With fresh water and our solar panels we are set! We did run the generator on the 2nd night because we need to run the generator a couple of hours at least once a month. Perfect timing because it is warm and it gave us an opportunity to cool the inside of Lola that evening. We ran the generator on night 12 also – again so we could run the A/C for an hour before turning in.
Solar – We Got Sun!
So how’s the solar working? In an environment where there is abundant sunshine, clear skies and long days the Solar and Lithium batteries work fantastic. We cooked using the oven, ran the inverter to work on our computers to edit videos and in general keep all the gadgets charged. We watched TV, some previously recorded shows and Blu-Ray each day as we vegged out. A few days that had some clouds, our batteries drained a bit more; but the next day we were busy exploring and the batteries recovered. <click here for our Solar Installation etc.>
White Sandy Video
Here’s our first White Sandy video using ‘Eyes of Lola’ our Mavic Drone.
Helena – Montana’s Capitol
After a week of snoozing and relaxing we hit the road in the toad and drive to Helena, the capitol of Montana. We head into the capitol building. It was pretty chilly out and windy, but made it into the building where it was nice and warm. Since it is summer recess, the hallowed halls of the legislature are quiet. Other than a few staff members it is like going into a church – we even looked for the mice! After lunch in downtown Helena, we head back to the dogs so they can swim in the Prickly Pear creek.
Next we drove up to Great Falls to check out The Falls at Great Falls on the Missouri River. The Missouri River is the longest river is the United States. Even this far northwest, it is wide and strong. It is a bit of a challenge to figure out exactly how to get to the falls themselves, but we manage. That itself is surprising because the town is named after the falls so you would expect better directions. The falls are not real high, but are wide and an impressive amount of water flows over the dam and then over the falls. A small parking log faces a small bridge going to a small island with picnic areas and 1950 era displays of modern electric kitchens! What a hoot. There is also historical markers for the Lewis and Clark expedition that made there way here in 1805. Besides the falls, the major feature here is the dam that is just a little upstream from the falls, and the power station there.
The nights are dark, with just a few lights around some of the RVs – perfect for getting the telescope out. We also got the camera out to get some pictures of the Milky Way. I forgot the techniques of getting Milky Way pictures and my star stacking program (Deep Sky Stacker) didn’t work; but still got some pretty good shots. Astrophotography It’s nice warm weather at night for star gazing.
Can’t believe it’s already Yellowstone Day Three! It is always exciting to see Bison. Today there is Bison in the fields and even one that wandered along the road. That was a treat in itself to see a Bison so close and not trying to view one while driving by. Traffic is at a stand still until a Park Ranger came to make sure there weren’t any people foolish enough to get out of their cars and scratch these ears!
Yesterday we walked along the trails of the Grand Prismatic Spring and Turquoise Pool. Because this is one of the most spectacular sites to visit we took a different route to view it. Today we took a hike on a hill above the basin that gives us a fantastic view of the colors. Our granddaughter was so excited about this, as this is what she talked about most of the trip. The colors were just incredible and you could see more of the spring because it was warmer outside which created less steam coming up from the hot water.
The spring run-off is in full swing in Yellowstone, and the rapids and falls on the Firehole River are breathtaking. We took several breaks along the river to take in the sights. According to the staff, this year has more rain than normal, so every river we either drove by or stopped at was overflowing and moving swiftly.