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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.