While our travels were limited because of the pandemic, we were still able to enjoy a trip to Oregon’s Willamette Valley this past September. We planned on taking 3 days getting there, from our home in NW Colorado, stay for a week, and then slowly make our way back home. We kind of stuck to our plan, but there were adjustments, many adjustments. We travelled with our travel-trailer, aka hotel on wheels; R-Pod 180. Opted for RV Parks or KOA’s overnight and made reservations at local State Parks for the longer stays.
On our second day, we stopped at a real nice campground just off of Interstate 84 – Anderson Camp RV Park, Eden, Idaho. Would recommend a stop if you are traveling through the Twin Falls area. Nice, clean, grassy and full of mature trees. While it is along the Interstate, the noise wasn’t that bad. Many attractions near by. The Snake River meanders through the area, offering great canyon views at several points. But no better view than at The Shoshone Falls; what a pleasant surprise. There is a $5 fee to get in or free to those that have the American the Beautiful annual pass. Beautiful photo opportunities at the park.
Quick stop overnight in Burns, OR on our way to Silver Falls State Park ( just outside of Salem). Drove through Bend, and followed the Santiam River on Hwy 22. Beautiful country. We had planned on staying four nights at Silver Falls State Park after reading about the park’s beautiful trails and falls. It didn’t hurt either that the park was just 30 minutes or so drive from Pinot Country! On our to do list, we had planned on exploring the Willamette Valley small towns, enjoy the Pinot and make it to the Oregon Coast beaches.
Unfortunately, our plans were changed by Mother Nature. At about 5am the following morning, we woke up with State Patrol driving through the campground and advising all campers to evacuate immediately. Overnight strong winds fanned a small fire, driving it over the ridge, towards the State Park area. The last time I had checked the fire status, it showed 564 acres down by the Santiam River. This fire grew to over 130,000+ acres, devastating the small towns along the river, west of Bend. We packed up and were out within 30 minutes. Drove out towards Newberg, dodging fallen trees and other debris. We were able to find another State Park in the Willamette Valley; just about 30 miles away. We were greeted with blues skies and friendly park rangers.
After our heart beats calmed down a bit, we headed to Dundee for lunch and check out the area. Our 1st choice for lunch was Trellis, but with the limited seating, they were not able to seat us. They did recommend the Dundee Bistro to us. We enjoyed a lovely lunch outside with a great bottle of wine from the owner’s vineyard. After lunch we were able to get reservations at two wineries in the area. We visited Knudsen Vineyards, were we met Page Knudsen Cowles. Ms. Cowles was very gracious and informative. We left knowing a bit more about the history of the area and about their wine production. We will be enjoying the Knudsen wines for years to come, via their wine club.
Just down the road from Knudsen Vineyards, we found another winery that was able to take our reservation for a tasting. Because of COVID, most vineyards were limited with the amount of tastings allowed. We enjoyed the Furioso Vineyards wines in a modern tasting room, with great views of the vineyard. Their Pinot was very good. We also hopped over to Newberg to meet up with a friend and visited two local wine shops. Cute town; we need more time for exploring.
Because of the fires, even if they were not an immediate danger to us, the air quality (500+ US AQI) was so bad that we cut our trip in Willamette Valley short. The next afternoon we left for Hood River. We had planned on that being our next stop anyway, we just went a few days earlier. Once settled at the Cascade Locks-KOA, along the Columbia River, we booked a round of golf and wine tastings at a couple of wineries in town.
We enjoyed a nice round of golf at Indian Creek Golf Course. Early in the morning as we started, we were able to see Mt. Hood from the tee box. Afterwards, enjoyed a nice relaxing lunch at their restaurant’s outside patio. Hopefully we get to return and stop in again. Everyone was very friendly. Enjoyed our morning. We followed golf with great wine tasting at Marchesi Vineyards and Cathedral Ridge Winery.
Marchesi wines are Italian, as is their winemaker and proprietor. It was actually a nice change from the Pinot we had been drinking. The tasting was set outside along the vineyard with beautiful rose bushes at the end of each row. We enjoyed their Barbera and the Nebbiolo. Brought both back with us.
A short ride away, we found Cathedral Ridge Winery overlooking the Columbia River Gorge and its mountain peeks. The winery takes advantage of the microclimates just across the river to duplicate four of the world’s greatest grape-growing regions; Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone and the Rhine. Couldn’t ask for a better setting to end our afternoon; enjoying some good wines and the sunshine. Who says it always rains in Oregon?
As we headed out of Oregon, mostly because of the air quality, we stop in Huntington, OR. The town claims to be the Catfish Capital, hosting annual Catfish Derbies. They are on the south bank of the Snake River and gateway to Hells Canyon. Nearby campground, Farewell Bend State Recreation Area, is a nice, quiet campground to relax for a couple of nights. I would recommend the Catfish Loop; more open and views of the river.
Our next overnight stop was at Craters of the Moon National Park, as we made our way towards Island Park, ID for some fly fishing adventures. First time at the park. The lava fields were very interesting.
Fly fishing the Henry’s Fork is a must for any enthusiast of the sport. This is the 3rd visit to the area. Found a great spot along the Warm River at a small FS campground. A mile away, the Henry’s Fork meets the Warm River, with some great fishing opportunities. Mesa Falls, just a short drive up NF-62, is worth seeing. There are two overlooks that offer amazing views of the falls.
We closed the 3,300-mile trip with a drive through the Grand Teton National Park, followed by a few days at the North Platte River in Wyoming; this section of the river is better known as the Miracle Mile. This area offers great fly fishing and free camping along this great stretch of the river.
Another wonderful trip comes to an end. It offered some challenges, adventures, some new and interesting areas visited, some of which we will revisit in the future.
Looking forward to amazing travels in 2021!! Cheers to the open road.