Final Push to Oregon

Monday morning after Thanksgiving, following a nine-day stay at the in-laws’ home in Colorado, we hitched up our wagons and continued our westward journey. We had reservations in the Portland-area in 10-days and wanted to take our time for the final 1,200-miles. Besides short’ish travel days, we wanted to spend a few days exploring both Salt Lake City and Boise.

An Airstream and GMC Somewhere in Utah along I-70.

Somewhere in Utah along I-70.

After a night on the road at a KOA in Green River, Utah, we pulled into Ogden Utah’s Hill Air Force Base Family Camp in the mid-afternoon on Tuesday, the 28th of November. On our way into Salt Lake City, we stopped at Airstream of Utah to procure a new bathroom vent fan, as ours had finally died after a slow and agonizing downward death spiral that started somewhere in Illinois.

Airstream Bathroom Roof Vent Fan Replacement

I tried to find a replacement motor for our bathroom vent fan, but didn’t have any luck. I resorted to paying $70 for entire new vent fan assembly at Airstream of Utah. I later found out that a friend of mine had the gouge on new motors and I could have gotten one for about 1/3rd the cost of the new assembly…oh well! The replacement only took about an hour, including getting the ladder out of the truck, a quick trip to Lowes for a putty knife and caulk gun (I’m not sure where mine went?!?!), installation, and clean-up.

As it was our second visit to the Salt Lake area and we failed to do any exploring during our first stop, we had admirable plans to get out and do the tourist-thing. However, we were feeling road weary and ultimately ended up curtailing most of our plans. Owen’s homeschooling, replacing the vent fan, and running errands ended up consuming our first full day in Salt Lake City. Visiting the Golden Spike National Historic Site, Timpanogos Cave National Monument, and Spiral Jetty have been on our list for a while, but we couldn’t muster the motivation to make the drive to see them from our campsite in Ogden. However, we did venture to downtown Salt Lake and spent an afternoon at the Natural History Museum of Utah.

This has been our second visit to Salt Lake City and we finally managed to get downtown and explore. We spent the late-morning and early-afternoon digging around in the Natural History Museum of Utah. We thoroughly enjoyed this fantastic museum and Owen ranks it in his top 3—yes, Owen loves museums and ranks them?!?!

This has been our second visit to Salt Lake City and we finally managed to get downtown and explore. We spent the late-morning and early-afternoon digging around in the Natural History Museum of Utah. We thoroughly enjoyed this fantastic museum and Owen ranks it in his top 3—yes, Owen loves museums and ranks them?!?!

This is the Lythronax, or Gore King, and it is an extinct genus of the Tyrannosauridae family—meaning that it’s a long lost relative of the T. Rex and the oldest known tyrannosaurid. This Lythronax was discovered in 2009, when a BLM employee stumbled upon its nose sticking out of the ground at Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM). Lythronax is just one of the dozen or so newly discovered dinosaurs that paleontologists have found at GSENM since being designated a National Monument in 1996.

This is the Lythronax, or Gore King, and it is an extinct genus of the Tyrannosauridae family—meaning that it’s a long lost relative of the T. Rex and the oldest known tyrannosaurid. This Lythronax was discovered in 2009, when a BLM employee stumbled upon its nose sticking out of the ground at Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM). Lythronax is just one of the dozen or so newly discovered dinosaurs that paleontologists have found at GSENM since being designated a National Monument in 1996.

The Short-Faced Bear at the Natural History Museum of Utah.

The Short-Faced Bear at the Natural History Museum of Utah.

The Natural History Museum of Utah is located on the University of Utah's campus, amongst a park with miles of hiking trails into the surrounding foothills.

The Natural History Museum of Utah is located on the University of Utah’s campus, amongst a park with miles of hiking trails into the surrounding foothills.

On Saturday, December 2nd we drove north out of Utah and made our way to Boise, Idaho, a place that we’ve always wanted to visit. We stayed at Gowen Field Army National Guard Base, located just outside of town near the Boise International Airport.

The Idaho State Capitol in Boise.

The Idaho State Capitol in Boise.

While Gowen Field’s campground may be small and it may lack some of the amenities of larger parks, at $12 per night for off-season full hook-up sites, we couldn’t afford not to stay. We’ve traveled by so many times and we’ve always heard great things about Boise, we decided to give it a shot. We spent a very cold Sunday and Monday poking around Boise and, overall we liked what we found.

Boise's Freak Alley Gallery.

Boise’s Freak Alley Gallery.

On Sunday morning, I spent a couple of hours writing at Dawson Taylor Coffee Roasters, a funky downtown Boise coffee shop, while Anna and Owen worked on school back at the trailer. Afterwards, we visited the World Center for Birds of Prey, followed by a fantastic early dinner at the Bitter Creek Alehouse, and then a walk around the downtown Boise checking out the local shops’ window displays, before stumbling upon the Freak Alley Gallery.

We spent a couple hours visiting the Peregrine Funds’ The World Center for Birds of Prey, located just south of Boise. Founded in 1970, the Peregrine Fund successfully restored the population of Peregrine Falcons, resulting in its removal from the Endangered Species List in 1999. They have since expanded their focus and now work on conservation efforts for more than 100 species of raptors around the world.

Boise’s World Center for Birds of Prey

We spent a couple hours visiting the Peregrine Funds’ The World Center for Birds of Prey, located just south of Boise. Founded in 1970, the Peregrine Fund successfully restored the population of Peregrine Falcons, resulting in its removal from the Endangered Species List in 1999. They have since expanded their focus and now work on conservation efforts for more than 100 species of raptors around the world.

The World Center for Birds of Prey is currently operating a successful breeding and release program of the highly endangered California Condor. Their efforts have resulted in a growing flock of Condors in the Grand Canyon and southern Utah. Less than 22 condors remained alive in the 1980s. Their decline has been blamed on the use of lead bullets, which tend to break into many small pieces on impact. These tiny fragments can litter the ground and leach into the soil and water, where it works its way up the food chain. If the hunter doesn’t collect his kill, or cleans it in the field and leaves organs behind, scavengers ingest those lead fragments. Lead is poisonous. Condors only eat dead animals. Well…you get the point. Luckily, lead shotgun pellets have been banned for waterfowl use in most states. Unluckily, on their first day in office the Trump Administration revoked the lead ban in the 150 million-acres managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The World Center for Birds of Prey is currently operating a successful breeding and release program of the highly endangered California Condor. Their efforts have resulted in a growing flock of Condors in the Grand Canyon and southern Utah. Less than 22 condors remained alive in the 1980s. Their decline has been blamed on the use of lead bullets, which tend to break into many small pieces on impact. These tiny fragments can litter the ground and leach into the soil and water, where it works its way up the food chain. If the hunter doesn’t collect his kill, or cleans it in the field and leaves organs behind, scavengers ingest those lead fragments. Lead is poisonous. Condors only eat dead animals. Well…you get the point. Luckily, lead shotgun pellets have been banned for waterfowl use in most states. Unluckily, on their first day in office the Trump Administration revoked the lead ban in the 150 million-acres managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

On Monday, continued our explorations downtown goofing around at the very cool neighborhood park and playground—Camel’s Back Park—followed by Idaho’s only hands-on science center. The Discovery Center of Idaho is a small, but fun STEM-focused children’s science center with over 150-exhibits for budding scientists. And, it’s another ASTC.org reciprocal passport member! There were several other things we wanted to do and see, but with Portland reservations starting on Wednesday, we didn’t have the time to spare.

Anna and I took turns hiking to the top of the hill at Camel's Back Park while Owen played in the

Anna and I took turns hiking to the top of the hill at Camel’s Back Park while Owen played in the elaborate playground.

Young, funky, and eclectic, Boise is small, livable city that punches above its weight. Nestled between mountains and the agricultural plain, Boise boasts a clean dynamic and attractive downtown area, a low cost of living, and what appeared to be a robust cultural scene. Overall, Boise felt like a cleaner and less Hipster’esque Portland and we liked it a lot. It’s definitely somewhere we want to explore more deeply down the road.

Panoramic from the top of Camel's Back.

Panoramic from the top of Camel’s Back.

On Tuesday morning we said “Goodbye” to Idaho and “Hello” to Oregon. With about 450-miles to go, we planned to spend the night on the road. We zeroed in on the Pendleton, Oregon area as a good halfway stopping point. A little research revealed an Oregon State Park located just east of Pendleton, high in the Blue Mountains.

Welcome to Oregon

Welcome to Oregon

We left Boise fairly early (by our standards) and with plenty of time on our hands, we pulled off I-84 near Baker City, Oregon to get coffee. We did a driveby of the town and it looked like a neat place to poke around sometime, so we filed that away and went looking for coffee. With piping hot Starbucks in-hand, we headed back towards the Interstate and quickly noticed the sign for the BLM’s National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. We drove the six or so miles up into hills to unfortunately turn around—the Interpretive Center was closed and operating under their Winter Hours regime (Thurs-Sun only). Like the pioneers of old, we were undaunted by this setback and simply turned around and continued our journey up in to the Blue Mountains.

Airstream and GMC Winter Wonderland at Oregon's Emigrant Springs State Park.

Winter Wonderland at Oregon’s Emigrant Springs State Park.

As we climbed higher into Oregon’s Blue Mountains, we found ourselves leaving the high desert scrub and entering a winter wonderland. By the time we arrived at Emigrant Springs State Park, we were in full-on Frosty mode and spent a glorious (if not a bit loud due to the proximity to I-84) evening camped in a virtually empty state park, nestled amongst beautiful snow covered cedars trees. On Wednesday morning, once the sun was high enough to melt any ice on the secondary roads, we headed out towards the Columbia River and Portland.

Airstream and Mt Hood

Three months and 5,665-miles after we abruptly left Washington, we’re back in the Pacific Northwest.

We had an uneventful trip through the Columbia River gorge and arrived in Portland at Champoeg State Park by the early afternoon. A large state historical area, Champoeg State Park has a wonderful campground that is situated along the Willamette River and is at the front door of Oregon’s Willamette Valley winery area. The park itself is criss-crossed by numerous biking trails that lead the visitor center of historic sites. We spent a few really nice days getting situated and prepped for our extended winter stay in Portland.

Airstream Champoeg State Park

Oregon’s Champoeg State Park – It’s pronounced sham-poo-ey, by the way!

 

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