camping, fiberglass trailer, Miss Trilly, road trip, trailer travel, Trillium trailer, vintage trailer
October 6— We had been on the go since o’dark hundred, having awakened before five a.m., even before the iPod alarm sounded. There were last-minute details to wrap up before we locked our boat’s companionway drop-boards for the final time until next spring. The Washington State Ferry departs from Friday Harbor each day at 8:05 and we wanted to be on that sailing. Clark and I had spent the previous nine days preparing our trimaran, Rikki-tikki-tavi, for his long winter sleep at the dock. The weather had become enjoyably mild after the first two days of blustery wetness following our re-entry from British Columbia on September 27th, which allowed us to take care of decommissioning chores in good order.
Between the 27th of September and October 5th, Clark borrowed a hooka, dove under the hulls, cleaned the metal parts and replaced the prop shaft sacrificial anode. We stowed gear, dried out the mainsail and removed it from the boom. I packed the sailcover to take back to California as a pattern for constructing a new version, which will also be of the sort that catches the sail as it is lowered. We also demounted our wind generator to take with us as the Rutland had developed a noise in its bearings. We removed the covers off the settee seat cushions and the complete back cushions for cleaning and revamping. We managed to get in a few visits with friends during those frenzied days, too. By the time we were ready to leave, the Trooper was packed very, very full. Confident that we had not missed anything of great importance, we drove away from the marina toward the ferry landing on the other side of the island.
On the road, enjoying yet another sunny day, we stopped at the Costco in Clackamas, Oregon, to buy a battery for Miss Trilly and a couple of rotisserie chickens for dinner with family in Estacada. Finally, in the fading afternoon light, we had returned to our sweetheart Trillium trailer. We greeted family and sat down for some conversation to catch up on things. Because rain was to arrive overnight, the decision was made to hitch our lovely lady to her tow vehicle, Zuzu, before dinner and move her to the driveway. She followed the Trooper obediently, leaving the protection of her Summer Palace. Dan and Clark took the vinyl off The Palace for dry storage over the coming winter months.
Clark and I had been excitedly looking forward to the places we’d see during our first real land adventure with Miss Trilly. There was just a tiny problem… all the federal lands were closed to visitors. This meant no Yellowstone, no Grand Teton or Glacier to visit, no BLM lands or forest service campgrounds to stay in. Choices for sightseeing and camping would be limited to county parks and state parks. Our budget and our proclivities for more out-of-the-way places did not include private campgrounds. So, we sat down with the maps and brochures family had so thoughtfully collected and deliberated on the possibilities for routes and campsites. Miss Trilly was ready. We were ready to see some new territory. Where should we go?
We spend the majority of our time on the water, exploring the inner coast of British Columbia. We see a lot of saltwater, barnacled rocks, and green trees. After a while, it all starts to look much same. Clark and I were hunting for some scenery done up in colorful earth tones, so we chose a route through the rugged, arid center of Oregon. We would travel north and east past Mount Hood to the eastern side of the Cascade Range. Our drive would take us to the valley of the Deschutes River, which is contained entirely within Oregon, emerging from Little Lava Lake near La Pine. It flows north, passing through Bend, then onward to its confluence with the Columbia River a few miles southwest of Biggs Junction. Near the town of Madras at Billy Chinook Lake, the Deschutes is about 300 feet below the surrounding plateau. Established there is a state park named The Cove Palisades. The photos in the brochures showed interesting basaltic geology, so we chose that campground as our first stop.
Mount Hood in the distance–The Cove Palisades State Park.
The campground had been whittled down to one loop, all with full hookups. The camp host informed me that we must pay the $21 hookup price even if we chose not to use it. All the tent sites for $16 had been blocked off, so we plugged in. In the photo above, we are parked along the road that descends to reservoir level from the campground perched on the basalt cliffs above. This part of the Deschutes River is an interesting area, but we were glad to be there in the uncrowded shoulder season. Observing the launch ramps, mini marinas, and large parking lots, it was evident that the lake was heavily used during the summer. As you can see below, there was no activity on Billy Chinook Lake during our visit.
Next morning, we drove to Bend to fuel up and make a quick stop at Trader Joe’s for provisions. Our goal was another state park down Highway 97 called Collier Memorial. I had used our iPad to research the Oregon State Parks website, making sure that the parks were open for camping. Because prices were posted on the Collier camping rate page for the time period of October 1 to April 30, stating that a tent site was $14 and that full hookup was $17, I assumed that we would be able to stay there on October 7. We made the left turn off 97 and were stunned to encounter a gate across the campground entrance. A sign read “Closed for Winter.” Now what? The casino parking lot eight miles farther along? That option sounded dreadful to us.
We were on a Forest Service road and our 3G service on the iPad was working, barely. An app we use extensively, AllStays, indicated there was a Forest Service campground just down the road a short way. It was closed, right? We had already turned around and were about to head back to the highway when a pickup truck turned in. A young man with a dog pulled alongside to ask if we needed assistance. He told us that the USFS campground was open, though the water was turned off. He noted, however, that the toilets were not locked and that he would be heading there shortly. So… we turned around yet again and drove down the gravel road to Williamson River campground.
The campsites were completely vacant. The fee box was covered with a plastic bag and there was a very small “Closed due to government shutdown” sign on the information board. We parked in a pull-through site, leveled the trailer, turned on the propane, lit the fridge, then had something to eat while coffee trickled through its filter. Outside, there was a faint whiff of propane reaching my nose. I tracked it down to the new regulator Clark had installed in April. The leak seemed to be very minor, but it seemed quite odd. (Note: The problem that prompted the replacement of the regulator turned out to be a clog in the fuel line leading to the trailer. We had not needed that new regulator after all.)
Over our afternoon ritual drink, we discussed whether to stay and risk being asked to move long or move along and risk not being able to find another camp spot. How comfortable did we feel with each choice? There was another state park a bit up the Crater Lake highway, a primitive campground with only ten sites, that was open through October 31. We could either drive there or stay put. It was very quiet at Williamson River Campground–a bit too quiet, perhaps. If something were to happen, there was no way we could call for assistance or alert someone nearby. We decided to leave.
On the road out, we crossed tracks with a couple in a VW Westfalia. They passed us, but Clark stopped. The Westie stopped too and backed up to meet us. We asked about the USFS camping. The couple said they had stayed in the campground the previous night and they would stay again that night. We then felt more comfortable–someone would be nearby in case of need. The problem then became that of turning Zuzu and Miss Trilly around yet again on the narrow gravel road. Clark managed the task with aplomb, with only two or three attempts. We chose a spot within sight of the VW, but far enough away as not to intrude on their privacy. Later on, two other campers arrived to share this “closed” area for the night.
Tell us where to go next!
Settling into our new spot, we turned on the propane again and tried to light the fridge, but it simply refused to fire. The 34-year-old Dometic failed to work on 12volt setting too. Darn! Clark had tested it for a couple of days back in Estacada. What had gone wrong? Not having the fridge was very inconvenient. Another concern, besides losing our frozen food, was finding places to camp. Along routes south into California and/or Nevada, most sites are federal. What to do? Commiserating, Clark and I decided to turn westward toward the coast. For the time being, we had finished with earth tones. Decision made, we enjoyed the Ponderosa pines and the peacefulness of the area. No fumes or generators, perfectly quiet. We slept like babies, serenaded many times by choruses of coyotes.
Last to leave the following morning, we stopped at the casino for fuel, then headed up the Crater Lake Highway. Knowing we were prohibited from stopping at the National Park was a huge downer. We resolved to come back at another time and settled back to enjoy the scenery along Highway 92. The traffic was extremely light, which made the driving that much more pleasurable, though it was distressing to see so many “Closed” signs along the way.
Just shy of Medford, we stayed at another Oregon State Park–Joseph H. Stewart Recreation Area. Situated on another reservoir, we found the campground a bit crowded with motorhomes and fifth-wheels, but most folks were quiet. We stretched our legs, enjoying the balmy late afternoon light. Clark and I couldn’t help but notice the humongous nature of the vehicles people camp in these days. There was only one other small fiberglass trailer, a Casita, and the gent who traveled in it with his wife came by to spend some time with us. He was chock full of information! The restrooms, though, left something to be desired. One would think that a Camp Host’s duties includes more than just dumping the trash and sweeping the center of the floors.
Next day, we stopped in Medford for fuel at Costco and a new 2014 Rand McNally Road Atlas at WalMart (only because WM was convenient) AND some ice! Clark transferred frozen food to a cooler and we continued onward. Our route toward to coast took us on The Redwood Highway, Highway 199, which runs 80 miles from Grants Pass OR to Crescent City CA. Again, it was a road worth driving simply for its beauty. I enjoyed all the hairpin turns and curves, though negotiating them was tiring for Clark.
We chose a Del Norte county park in which to spend the night–Florence Keller Regional. It was a dark and wet little area located off Elk Valley Cross Road at the intersection of Highways 99 and 101. We parked in #3 in this small section of second-growth redwoods. Redwood forests just smell good, which was a relief since the restroom in this park was horrible! Country Western music was playing somewhere in the back of the very rundown building and the facilities were not what we could call sanitary. I asked Clark to accompany my visits even though the Camp Host was just a few yards across the narrow road. The host’s site, with its mobile trailer, was crammed with what appeared to be many years’ worth of collected “stuff”–a veritable junkyard. It left us wondering where our cash camp fee would end up.
Florence Keller Regional Park in Del Norte County.
As Zuzu carried us through Crescent City the following morning, we spotted at least a dozen very spiffy classic cars taking part in a car rally. Very fun! We aimed for another county park on the Samoa Peninsula, which is a coastal bar that once separated Humboldt Bay from the Pacific Ocean. It is across from the city of Eureka where we had overnighted Rikki-tikki-tavi in the Woodley Island Marina on our “sail” up the coast in June of 2005. This time, towing Miss Trilly and traveling on the land, we stopped at one of our favorite places, the precious town of Trinidad, to wander down the pier. We bypassed several lovely North Coast California State Parks–specifically Prairie Creek Redwoods and Patrick’s Point–because of the high camping fees. This region of California is one of our very favorite environments, but we simply cannot accept paying $35 to $45 per night to camp. Samoa Humboldt County Park Campground is much less expensive, but it is an unsightly gravel parking lot. There were flush toilets and free showers, but we won’t stop there again.
An expanse of Humboldt Bay outside, Clark studies our new road atlas.
Continuing south from Eureka, we made a side trip to Ferndale, with its Victorian Village and small-town atmosphere. The ornate buildings are pridefully kept and we strolled up and down both sides of the main street. This very quiet town (at least when we were there) is very pleasantly surrounded by pastoral country.
Ferndale, The Victorian Village
Driving on, we left Highway 101 to meander along the Avenue of the Giants, which is a 31-mile portion of old Highway 101. Next trip, Clark and I will get out and hike. I am recuperating from a broken toe and torn ligament in a knee. It is a shame that we weren’t able to get deep into the stately and beautiful groves of tremendous Sequoia sempervirens. We were forced back onto 101 due to road construction. At Leggett, we bailed off the freeway to pick up the coast road, the famous Highway 1.
Avenue of the Giants
There were only state park and private campgrounds within reach. Would we want to pay $35 at MacKerricher SP or $25 at Westport-Union Landing SB? MacKerricher is a very nice park. We have visited many times in the past before the prices went crazy. Ten dollars buys a bit more than a couple of gallons of gas, so we stopped at the roadside primitive (pit toilets) site of Westport-Union, just north of Howard Creek. We discovered that seniors get a generous (?) $2 discount, so I wrote a check for $23 to park on the bluff above the waves. The weather could not have been more beautiful. We met a couple who were camping in a new R-Pod with slide-outs. Larry told us the trailer had two big-screen TVs and a pet iguana that had to be kept at 90˚ constantly.
Miss Trilly’s spot at Westport-Union Landing SB.
The waters of the Pacific Ocean were mesmerizing and, well, pacific. We could envision our trimaran sailing past this coast in weather such as this. We would be motoring, of course, as there was no wind to ruffle the sea or propel a sailboat. In 2005, rounding Cape Mendocino from our overnight anchorage in Shelter Cove, which was within sight, the sea was as flat as glass. We could peer into deep blue of the Mattole Canyon! We sighted many sunfish and thousands of by-the-wind sailors, even a couple of puffins. From our current vantage point above the soft surf, we enjoyed our afternoon java, then watched the sun slowly “sink” into the horizon, the golden light reflecting off the washed sand below. Sublime.
In the page headers, you will see a view of the Trinidad pier with fishermen, another of the line-up of campers at Westport-Union (Miss Trilly is visible if you look for her), and one of our Zuzu and Miss Trilly parked on Little Lake Street in Mendocino. Of course, we spent a few hours wandering around the lovely town of Mendocino, enjoying the art galleries and bookstores. Then, we stopped for fuel in Fort Bragg and a driving tour down to the harbor of Noyo, where we had spent eleven days in June of 2005. Such excitement we had back then–a USCG inspection, frightening sea lion encounters, a tsunami alert scramble, hiking across the bridge into Fort Bragg against a gale wind. Happy memories include a steak dinner and rock jam session with a new friend, many fun and inexpensive bus rides to Mendocino, and meeting the delivery crew of a motor yacht who introduced us to Saint André cheese (OMG!).
We thought we might overnight at the Navarro River Redwoods State Park, but we did not want to park in another gravel lot like we found at Navarro Beach, so we drove to $25 Paul Dimmick Campground–and found it CLOSED! Phooey. Hendy Woods SP eight miles northwest of Boonville is an outrageous $40 a night, so we continued to tiny Indian Creek County Park in the tiny town of Philo. We are fans of community public radio (our favorite is KVMR in Nevada City). Philo is home to KZYX and we tuned in. Indian Creek has only ten sites, but the place was empty. A bobcat came strolling down the road soon after Clark got the trailer leveled, but it spotted our movement and trotted off in the other direction. There were no pay envelopes and nobody came to collect–another free night to offset the more costly stops. The smell of propane emanating from the new regulator was getting stronger, so Clark replaced it with the old original unit. Hooray, no more odor!
Driving east on Highway 128 next day, we were astonished to see how many vineyards have been “installed” on the hills in the Anderson Valley since our last visit in 1987. Incredible. Do we really need to plaster the planet with wine grapes? In Calistoga, we parked at Pioneer Park and took a jaunt down the main street. I ambled around a consignment shop while Clark checked out a gourmet kitchen store. We briefly contemplated getting spa treatments at famous Doc Wilkinson’s, which we had experienced many years ago. Best massage I’ve ever had! We had visited Harbin Hot Springs on our honeymoon and enjoyed it very much too, so I checked on their offerings using my iPad. Because the weather was so perfect, it was very tempting to stop for another day or two, dragging our feet. The rates and facilities at Harbin were quite inviting. In the end, we chose to continue driving east to Sacramento. We enjoyed cruising the back roads past Lake Berryessa. Miss Trilly and Zuzu were parked in front of the house before three in the afternoon. Time for coffee!
Until our next adventure, happy travels!
9ah & Clark
Addendum to fridge problem: Clark discovered a missing pin in the connector between the control selector knob on the face of the fridge with the actual fuel selector inside the unit. A bent-on wire served as a quick and free repair. Clark later became suspicious of the accuracy of the thermostat, especially the propane side, as he monitored the temperature on different cold settings. Subsequently, we installed a new one. That cost $100. I have no complaints. Clark is the cook. Enough said.
It’s a delight to read your blog! In May, 2013, my partner and I retired, packed up our place in B.C. and headed out across Canada and beyond (for up to 2 years). We camped all our lives and wanted a trailer, instead of a tent. As neophytes, we thought that we’d need a trailer with a
1. big kitchen (we like to cook)
2. queen size bed
And so, we bought a 30 foot 1997 trailer weighing 4900 lbs and took off. Since making it to Newfoundland, we’re spending part of winter in Quebec (learning French), and will go to Asia in February till spring. But…. I’ve said that I hated pulling the trailer! It limited where we could go and stay, plus was just painful to haul.
Next year we will slowly return to B.C. via the Southern States of the US of A. And, instead of dragging a giant loaf of wonder-bread, we’ll have something small, waterproof, and light (Trillium, most likely). Your blog has reinforced what we thought as we slowly went across Canada. Small trailers allow one to be comfortable when cold, but also allow one to camp in places closer to nature.
Absolutely enjoyed reading your blog. Thank you for posting it.
Ian and Denis
Chad Reynvaan said:
Great read! Inspires me to go Scamping.