advice, COVID-19, full-time RVing, Travel, VanLife

On the Road to Eastern Oregon

We are back on the road, yeah!  As Oregon and much of the USA is starting to re-open and even in some places in phase 3 of 4 phases of re-opening, it seemed we would be okay to head back out. Plus, Newport allowed vacation rentals to begin hosting guests again, so our beach house has been rented and we need to move on before guests arrived.  Before hitting the road, we called several BLM, Forest Service and state park offices and they all said YES, WE ARE OPEN, so we headed back out on June 8th.  We decided it was time to explore Eastern Oregon, being Oregonians most of our lives it is a shame we haven’t explored it more, so here we go. We like to limit our daily driving to less than 125 miles, so we took our time heading toward Eastern Oregon.

As we left the coast, we stopped first at a nice boondocking spot on Highway 20 after Sweet Home by the Willamette National Forest sign, past Cascadia Campground but there was zero cell coverage and we needed to make sure our guests got in okay.  After dinner we headed back up Highway 20 east past Tombstone Pass where there is a nice snow park (Lava Lake) with cell reception that we boondocked for the night.  The next morning after breakfast we headed to Bend where we took a friend’s advice to boondock on BLM lands near Pine Mountain Observatory.  It is very secluded, pretty much just sage brush, cows and miles of pretty rough dirt roads (we call is moon dust because it is fine and just gets into everything).  If you like seclusion you will like this area, we got a little tired after driving 10 miles on rough dirt roads before we could find a good pull off stop.  We’d suggest boondocking at the big flat parking lot by the Badlands instead, as its super easy and not far off Highway 20.  We saw several RVs stopped there and the Badlands is a great place to hike with your four-legged friend.

The next day, we stopped at Chickahominy Reservoir which is a great BLM camp spot for only $8 a night/ $4 for Golden and Access Pass holders.  There are several waterfront sites (28 total sites), they are spacious and dispersed a good distance between each other that you feel you almost have the lake to yourself.  It is stocked twice a year with rainbow trout and there were several anglers fishing the banks and in boats.  The location has a fish cleaning station, picnic tables, fire-rings, drinking water, trash cans, vault restrooms and a boat ramp.  We enjoyed this spot for a couple of days and did bike rides and runs around the reservoir.

We then ventured to Chukar Park near Juntura, Oregon another BLM camp spot which was only $5 a night/ $2.50 Golden and Access Pass holders.  It was more primitive, with just picnic tables, fire rings, vault toilets and the water wasn’t turned on yet when we were there.  It is set next to the Malheur River but its very overgrown so you can’t see the River, there are nice full sun and shade sites depending on your interests.

Next, we boondocked about ¾ mile past Snively Hot Springs in the Owyhee Wilderness on Snively Gulch Road.  It is a fairly even and flat gravel area along the Owyhee River that leads to the Owyhee Reservoir.  We stayed there a couple of days and only ventured to the Hot Springs once, as it rained so much that the water was really muddy and not to appealing.  The hot springs felt great and there are two pools one quite hot and the other more luke warm.  We decided to head up to the state park and check out the main campground by the dam.  There are many boondocking spots along the river all the way to the dam, the road gets very narrow and up against steep cliffs with a lot of rock falls (we saw a rock fall on the vehicle ahead of us).  It gets a bit stressful as there are a lot of large trucks hauling boats and 5th wheels and barely enough room to pass each other in many spots.  The state park campground is nice with 67 campsites at McCormick Campground and then Indian Creek Campground around the bend both  having full electrical hook ups and tent primitive sites, with showers, bathrooms, trash, fresh water, dump station, fire rings and picnic tables.

We had a lot of wind and rain for June so we decided to head to some sun and heat in Idaho and ventured to Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey Conservation Area outside of Boise, Idaho.  Do not take the short route on Google Maps that goes directly to the boondocking spots it takes you to private property and you cannot take the road through.  You need to go through Kuna and down Swan Falls Road, a much better route.  Idaho Power actually maintains 18 campsites even with trash cans with picnic tables and fire rings, we saw an employee every morning going to and cleaning out camp spots. Please be a conscientious camper and don’t dispose of trash that does not burn or cans in firepits as there are dumpsters just up the road at the dam and boat ramp. After the 18 they maintain then it turns to BLM camp spots that are not very well maintained and are more primitive.  The road is a mixture of hard dirt and gravel, there are parts that are very rutted out.  I would recommend 4X4 Class B and C and smaller truck trailer RVs.  We were surprised to see a Class A size 5th wheel make it down the road and into one of the sites, I wouldn’t recommend it though unless you are very confident about your driving skill and rig.

You may stay here free for 14 days, it’s a beautiful spot on the Snake River and amazing wildlife to view. We saw so many birds of prey (falcons, hawks, eagles, osprey, pelican), coyotes, lizards, a rattlesnake or bull snake, jumping bass and deer, the wind is super strong here.  There are rattlesnakes so watch out!  We ran into a baby snake in our camp, ground squirrels and there are ground hog like looking animals everywhere.  It is also a popular place for locals to rock climb, fish and play in the river.  Watch out for some fast vehicles going down the dirt road if you are biking or running.  We hope you may enjoy visiting these spots.  Below are hyperlinks to the descriptions and GPS coordinates from freecampsites.net.  Next week, we will tell you about our stay in the McCall, Idaho area and our request from our subscribers to help us plan the rest of our Summer and Fall travels.

  1. Tombstone Snow park
  2. Badlands by Bend, OR
  3. Chickahominy Reservoir
  4. Chukar Park
  5. Snively Gulch Road
  6. McCormick Campground
  7. Snake River
  8. Check out our video of this trip!

 

 

advice, COVID-19, full-time RVing, Travel, Uncategorized, VanLife

Manzanar Virtual Tour and boondocking in Alabama Hills & Death Valley

As you head to Death Valley from Alabama Hills Recreation Area you will drive past Manzanar National Historic Site on highway 395 in California.  First off, you must stop by Alabama Hills it is an outdoors person and rock climbers dream!  So many amazing rock formations, places to climb and hike and all for free.  The best boondocking ever!  We can also recommend free camping at WildRose in Death Valley.  It is a very long drive to this campground, skinny road and very windy (we would not recommend any rigs bigger than 30 feet to attempt) that only has picnic tables, fire rings, a vault toilet and potable water but it is on your way to seeing the WildRose Charcoal Kilns, (the road is gravel and pretty rough) which are pretty cool and a nice hike to Wildrose Peak that is about 8 miles roundtrip.  We went in winter time/early spring so it was quite cool (temperature that is). If you can get in, we’d rather recommend staying at Texas Spring Campground it is a good central location, much warmer, prettier and better facilities but costs $16/night.  Now back to Manzanar…

Being an Asian American, I had to stop and visit the WW2 relocation center and I highly recommend stopping for a self-guided tour.  It is very well done and reminds us of the atrocities we faced in this country during fears of war and people who looked different and had a different cultural background.  In 1942, the United States government ordered more than 100,000 men, women, and children to leave their homes and detained them in remote, military-style camps like the Manzanar War Relocation Center which was one of ten camps where Japanese American citizens were incarcerated during World War II.  People of Japanese decent who were US citizens from across this country lost all their possessions, dignity and were forced into these Relocation Centers. 

A little history course for folks who may not be aware.  Relocation isn’t new in the history of Manzanar and the Owens Valley. We can’t forget that the Paiute and early settlers as well as Japanese Americans all were uprooted from their homes. American Indians began utilizing the valley almost 10,000 years ago. About 1,500 years ago the Owens Valley Paiute established settlements here. They hunted, fished, collected pine nuts, and practiced a form of irrigated agriculture.  Miners and ranchers moved into the valley in the early 1860s and homesteaded Paiute lands raising cattle, sheep, fruit, wheat, and other crops. The military were called in and forcibly relocated nearly 1,000 Owens Valley Paiute to Fort Tejon in 1863. Many Paiute returned to the Owens valley and worked on the local ranches.

The town of Manzanar—the Spanish word for “apple orchard”—developed as an agricultural settlement beginning in 1910. Farmers grew apples, pears, peaches, potatoes, and alfalfa on several thousand acres surrounding the town. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power began acquiring water rights in the valley in 1905 and completed the Los Angeles Aqueduct in 1913. Land buyouts continued in the 1920s, and by 1929 Los Angeles owned all of Manzanar’s land and water rights. Within five years, the town was abandoned. In the 1930s local residents pinned their economic hopes on tourism. With the onset of World War II tourism diminished.  Then in 1942 the U.S. Army leased 6,200 acres at Manzanar from Los Angeles to hold Japanese Americans during World War II. Though some valley residents opposed the construction of the internment camp, others helped build it and worked there.

First, we walked through the mini museum that is very well done and tells the stories of the families that lived here during the WW2 internment.  There is a 3.2-mile self-guided auto tour where you can see the original sentry posts, Block 14 buildings, mess hall, women’s latrine and barracks, the cemetery monument, remnants of the administrative complex, rock gardens, parks, orchards, the hospital grounds, the uncovered foundations of the Children’s Village  which was the only orphanage of the ten War Relocation Centers in the US.  In the museum, you will find images Ansel Adams took in late 1943 where he acknowledges the prejudices and fears that led the U.S. government to confine American citizens and legal immigrants of Japanese ethnicity behind barbed wire.

From the website, I wanted to provide you more details on what is still on the property and what you will encounter in the video.

Mess Hall: The US Army constructed this mess hall at Bishop Air Base in 1942. The National Park Service moved it to Manzanar in 2002 and eventually restored it. It is identical to the 36 mess halls that together produced over 28 million meals here from 1942 to 1945. Walk through the kitchen, sit at the picnic benches, and learn about the logistics and politics of food in Manzanar.

Women’s Latrine: The women’s latrine was reconstructed in 2017. The communal shower and rows of toilets depict some of the harsh realities of living at Manzanar. Overcrowding led to long lines, unpleasant odors, and an extreme lack of privacy.

Barracks Buildings: The two barracks buildings were rebuilt in 2015 with exhibits being added in the following years. The four barracks exhibits will tell you about arrival to Manzanar, the importance of the Block Manager’s Office, the loyalty questionnaire, school at Manzanar, and more.

Cemetery: In 1943 the people in Manzanar decided to erect a monument to honor their dead and skilled stonemason Ryozo Kado was recruited to supervise the work. The cemetery serves as a poignant reminder that some of the 10,000 Japanese Americans incarcerated at Manzanar never saw freedom again. Over 145 Japanese Americans died while confined in Manzanar during World War II. Many were cremated, in the Buddhist tradition, and some were sent to their home towns for burial. Fifteen people were buried in a small plot of land just outside the camp’s security fence. When Manzanar War Relocation Center closed, the families of nine of the deceased removed the remains of their loved ones for reburial elsewhere. In 1999, NPS archeologists confirmed that five burials remain at the site. The three characters on the front (east side) of the cemetery monument literally translate as “soul consoling tower” ( I REI TO ). The inscriptions were written by a Manzanar Buddhist priest, Shinjo Nagatomi.

Merritt Park: The people incarcerated at Manzanar left a lasting legacy by creating more than 100 Japanese gardens. The largest of the gardens was Merritt Park, named for the camp director, Ralph P. Merritt. Merritt Park served as community refuge from the hardships of camp. After Manzanar closed in 1945, many of the gardens disappeared as debris from demolished barracks, sand, and vegetation covered them. Recent archeological excavations have uncovered and stabilized some of these gardens including Merritt Park. Today you can view what’s left of this symbol of beauty and the resilience of the human spirit.

Japanese Garden Tour: Private and community gardens covered much of the Manzanar landscape. For many people, these rock gardens and pools served as a source of peace and an escape from their incarceration experience. Today, eleven of the over 100 Japanese gardens have been uncovered and stabilized.

The location was beautiful but also a sad reminder about how we treated fellow Americans.  It makes you sad to see how people were forced to live and were ripped from all their loved ones and their belongings because of a war.   How our fears caused us to overlook people who were citizens and part of our community and treated them like they were enemies because of their former homeland that they had left for a new life in the USA.  Perhaps, it is a reminder about how we can do better in the present and future generations of immigrant people.  We hope you enjoy watching our virtual tour.