The week started out really great with my discovery on Monday of this little fairy village one of the girl campers made. The intricacy was amazing and it was really large, so we all left it as is and just admired how pretty it was. A future camper may tear it down, but we all were impressed enough that no one wanted to touch it. Thought I would share a few pictures here since it was so cute.
Tuesday we went and saw Dunkirk for Lee’s birthday and on Wednesday Lee’s friend from high school, Kate, came to visit. Lee and Kate were really close, but she moved to Portland shortly after our first daughter was born and he hadn’t seen her in 27 years. He was really excited about spending time with her again and finally our schedules matched so she and her husband Harth (yes that’s spelled correctly) came out to visit.
Normally I like to cook for guests, but Kate and Harth are both on special diets so it seemed safest to just let them bring their own food. Kate had salmon, Lee and I had whitefish, and Harth had some vegetarian tacos. Really cool couple and hearing about the Portland area from folks who have lived here so long was very interesting. The conversation just flowed and Lee and Kate “rediscovered” each other and I really enjoyed getting to know her better as well. Finally it was time for them to leave, because she had to work in the morning and hopefully we can come see them at their house soon. They are in the middle of a bathroom renovation which has dragged on a little longer than expected, but we hope we can see their place in September.
After the visit we started our long weekend and it was one of the best best we have had since being here. No major bathroom incidences (hooray!!!) and we actually closed the gate a few minutes early Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Unprecedented! We don’t know if it was because sunset is coming sooner, the sheriff’s boat that was patrolling the reservoir (not a common occurrence), Lee’s birthday karma, or sheer dumb luck, but we were happy to enjoy it. Oh and I made a record $29.10 recycling. Score! It seems unfair to not go into more detail when things are going well, but there isn’t a lot to say and I want to move on to Jim and Diana’s visit.
Jim and Diana are volunteer interpretative hosting near Bend, Oregon and they brought their rig to the campground to see us. They arrived around 3pm on Monday and were settled in and down at our campsite by around 4:30pm. Jim has a pretty serious gluten allergy, so we had spent some time discussing menu options and finally settled on shish-ke-bob marinated in Wishbone Salad Dressing. As I was going through my recipe book trying to figure out what to make them, I was shocked by how many basic seasonings have gluten in them. Lipton’s onion soup, gravy mix, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, some tomato pastes and tomato sauces, and even Good Season’s Dry Italian seasoning mix are not gluten free. And as I learned later, some items that don’t have gluten in them themselves can’t be trusted because other items that do have gluten are manufactured on the same line. Take ice cream for example. Unless the label specifically says gluten-free it can’t be trusted because ice creams like cookies and cream do have gluten, and they are all manufactured on the same lines. Really surprising how tough it was and gave me a new appreciation for people who struggle with this. Thankfully they really liked the shish-ke-bob and since Diana brought brownies and apple crisp for Lee’s birthday I didn’t have to worry about a gluten free dessert!
Lee had also bought Jim Blue Latitudes, which is a book about Captain Cook’s adventures for his birthday that we just missed and I gave Diana a package that Rick had left for her. I haven’t mentioned it until this point because it was a surprise but Rick beaded a friendship bracelet for both Diana and I when he was here in Oregon. Fantastic job and they are his first ever bracelets, so Rick now the cat is out of the bag and you are going to have to do them for all of your RVer friends 🙂
The next morning we knew it was going to be hot so we tried to get an early start. Jim and Diana had been to Mount St. Helen’s in the 90’s but a whole new section has opened up since then so it was a new experience for them as well. One of the best parts of the park is it is absolutely free until you get to the very end and then it costs $8 to get in, or is free with the American the Beautiful Pass. At first I’ll admit I wasn’t that impressed. Initial views are of half a mountain that’s not very pretty and it wasn’t really awe inspiring. But we stopped at the Forest Learning Center (which is free and I highly recommend) which had a 5 minute video that included actual footage from the event in 1980 and I realized we were facing the non-explosion side. I left with a whole different perspective and when we finally got to the side where the mountain had exploded it was genuinely amazing. Let me just show you.
We drove a little farther in and there was a beautiful turnout where we could see the hole in the mountain and take pictures. This stop had places large enough for RV’s to park and was totally free. Since it was a popular spot I asked a family from Portland to take a group picture for us and Diana asked about what they remembered from the day. Their daughter was our age and in high school when it happened and the father talked about sitting on his porch and being able to see the 15 mile high plume of steam and ash. They also talked about how unsettling followup eruptions were and how they remembered 4 major ones that occurred after the initial blast. It was very interesting hearing their perspective and I was so glad Diana asked them about it.
The views were good from here but still not as close as we would like, so we drove all the way down to a new visitors center that is positioned dead center to the crater. This is the only part that requires payment and it is $8 as I mentioned, but worth it, and of course free if you have an America the Beautiful pass, which we both did. I recommend walking up to the viewpoint first and taking some pictures and then going into the visitors center and seeing the movie.
My favorite part of the movie was when it showed how nature reclaimed the land. The first mammal to return were the gophers who had survived the blasts under the soil and by coming to the surface brought much needed soil to mix with the ash. Many plants can’t grow in the ash but lupine’s love the nitrates in ash and they were the first plant to return covering the floor in a vibrant sea of purple. They then died providing areas that other plants could grow and the ground looks something like this.
After watching the movie it was really hot, but we walked up a paved path to get a 360 degree view. Although we were at 6000 feet, it was still in the 90’s and because of the clear sky the sun was really beating down. The path goes farther along for about a mile, but I wasn’t up for that so we saw the compass at the top and then headed back down the hill to visit Coldwater lake. The water wasn’t that cold, but there were lots of people there, trying to beat the record breaking temps.
Because of Jim’s gluten allergy he needs to be careful about local restaurants and usually makes his determination on whether it’s safe by looking at a menu and talking to the staff. If they don’t get a good feel they just leave, but like us they love local restaurants so they always try. The Fire Mountain Grill caught our eye on the way in and so we decided to stop and give it a try, with the understanding that if Jim felt uncomfortable we would move on to the next place. Luckily they had gluten-free buns on the menu and it was clear that they understood gluten allergies and could accommodate them.
After an early dinner we all headed back and ended up at the campsite around 7:30pm. It was a long day and a hot one, but really interesting, and the company of course was fantastic. Jim and Diana headed off the next morning and we spent the day running errands, cleaning house, job searches, and some relaxing to get ready for this week of work. Temperatures in Estacada have been in triple digits and come close to hit record highs of 105. Thankfully, unlike many people who live here, we do have air conditioning, and it’s going to see some use as we try to beat the heat.
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Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks You can preview the kindle version on Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes. It is also available in paperback.