After burning up in Hells Canyon, we drove west towards Ketchum to meet up with our good friends Dan and Eleanor. Along the way we stopped for a couple of nights at Ponderosa State Park in McCall, ID –a cute little resort town located along the shore of Payette Lake. We appreciated the opportunity to charge our devices, play on the beach, and escape the triple digit temperatures of Eastern Oregon.
From McCall, we continued southeast towards Ketchum, passing first through Boise National Forest where we camped for a couple of nights at Pine Flat campground. In addition to being located in a mature pine forest along the Payette River, it also boasts a natural hot spring hidden down a ¼ mile trail from the campground. The pool was nestled in the hill giving it an infinity-style view over the river below – we felt pretty special to discover it. It was a nice way to cap off the evening after a day of hiking. While the hikes in the area weren’t particularly glamorous, on one of our hikes we found several animal remains including an intact jaw bone which Liam thought was pretty cool. We found so many skeletal remains that Liam dubbed it the “Boneyard Trail.”
From there we headed to Stanley, Idaho and camped in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. The Sawtooth Mountain range was aptly named for their jagged, saw-like peaks. Dan and Eleanor tagged up with us for a night on their way to Ketchum. We enjoyed a family paddle down the Salmon River to our campsite where the kids played together, and the grownups had a chance to catch up. Also, while in the Sawtooths, we enjoyed several day hikes through wildflower meadows and beautiful sub-alpine lakes. Despite all the natural beauty of the area, Maggie would argue that the most notable portion of our stay in Stanley was the discovery of Huckleberry ice cream, which she claims is the best ice cream she’s ever had (if you know Maggie that’s saying something).
From Stanley we made the short jaunt to Ketchum, a posh resort town surrounded by the Sawtooths. We found a campsite in the national forest that was biking distance to town. Dan and Eleanor had rented a house nearby with the rest of Eleanor’s family and were kind enough to invite us over for dinner and drinks a couple of times. We also got to explore the area with them, including a trip to the top of Bald Mountain (9150ft!) and a paddle on Silver Creek Preserve which was teeming with trout.
After many months away from friends, a chance to spend time with the Macken family buoyed our spirits. Liam even made a new friend in Eleanor’s mom, Mary. He barely left her side on the hikes and when he found out she was an avid bird watcher he brought over his collection of bird literature to read with her. We sincerely appreciated Eleanor’s family letting us mooch off their rental house’s amenities (cocktails in the hot tub!) and generally crash their family vacation.
Excited at the prospect of seeing some familiar faces (our friends The Mackens), we started making a beeline for Idaho. Along the way we stopped at a few places in Eastern Oregon, that had it not been for the heat, we might have enjoyed.
First up was Bend, Oregon. We’d heard good things about the town so decided to stop by. It didn’t disappoint, it was definitely a cute little city, saturated with breweries and limitless outdoor opportunities. Rick lived out his vagabond dreams to the max — we boondocked in a Boy’s and Girl’s Club parking lot for the weekend. During our squatter’s stay we checked out “Lego Day” at the local library, hit up the local artists market, stopped by the Deschutes Brewery, and explored some of the city parks. We also ventured outside the city to one of the Cascade lakes near the Three Sisters mountains where we spent the day paddling. Following the weekend, we thought the fuzz might be on to us, so we moved to a more reputable and established RV park in Redmond, the neighboring town. There we gave Rick a free pass to hike Misery Ridge and several other trails in Smith Rock State Park, while the kids and I visited an alpaca farm…I’ll let you decide who had the better day. While in Redmond we also visited the rodeo that was in town, which was a fun time for all. I’m fairly certain Rick is going to be training the kids for “mutton busting” when we return (a rodeo event for kids where they try to ride a bucking sheep). The trip wouldn’t be complete without propping up the local economy, we dropped a pretty penny on new tires for both the SUV and trailer, so depending on how you look at it, Rick’s squatting in various parking lots paid off.
Kids taking the canoe for a spin
Celebrating Rick’s birthday with a paddle
The kids loved feeding the alpacas
Everyone had fresh haircuts at the farm
Liam watching the rodeo
After Bend/Redmond, we headed further east to visit the John Day Fossil Beds. Liam is obsessed with prehistoric animals so, with the prospect of saber tooth cats and wooly mammoths, we hit the road. Temperatures continued to increase, and the scenery became more barren, but we found a cheap camping spot on the John Day River where we had the place to ourselves. When we weren’t digging for fossils or visiting the museum, we were on the river. Either canoeing or swimming, being near the water was a must. With no one around for miles and the temperature in the upper 90s we enjoyed skinny dipping at our private beach and catching crayfish in the shallows.
Taking a dip!
View from our campsite of the John Day
This heat is making us CRAZY
Clothing optional dinners
We found several fossils at the fossil beds!
Eastern Oregon’s high desert is a unique beauty
Gluttons for punishment, we headed next to Hells Canyon…often mentioned in the tourist literature for it’s beauty and outdoor potential we thought we’d give it a shot…although we were curious why it had been dubbed “Hells Canyon.” Upon arriving we quickly found out – it’s hotter than Hades. We sweated through three days of 100 degree temperatures that never got below the 80s. I think Rick was holding out because we found a free camping spot on the Snake River, but without electricity to run the AC, I finally revolted and convinced Rick it was time to move on. The only highlight from that miserably hot stint that I can think of, was me catching a fish on the Snake.