First Time Almost Getting Killed By A Failing Jack

Because this incident happened to Lee, I asked him to write this post.  He says it’s because I am a slacker, but I refuse to accept that premise 🙂  Enjoy!

For quite some time we’ve been having some trouble with our jacks. We have the Lippert Ground Control 3 system, and they’re electric, not hydraulic. The system has a pretty “picky” voltage requirement, so if voltage drops below the threshold, either from a low battery, or high amperage draw, it will cause an error message on that jack, and you have to clear the code to do anything at all. I consider this a pretty serious design flaw, because once you get an error code, you can’t see any information on the screen other than “ERROR” and whichever jack is causing the error. There are lots of things that can cause errors, and you can generally still run jacks up and down, you just can’t see information on anything at all. The clearing process is pretty simple, you lower all of the jacks at least 6 inches from their full up position, and then retract them all by pushing the retract button and holding it until they are all retracting. Again, not a big deal, except that once you’ve done that, you’re back to square one, trying to drop the landing gear, and take the weight off the hitch, and unhitch, then level. If you get an error code again, then you have to go through the process all over again. It can be maddening. And for us, there was no rhyme or reason as to which jack would “error out”. Over time I noticed it was the front left more than any other. More and more lately, during the clearing process, the front left jack would just stop moving after an inch or so of travel, and I would have to raise or lower it by repeatedly pushing the buttons while it traveled that inch or so.

At our current location, we’re on a very unlevel site. The front of the site is VERY low, and so in order to get level I had to raise the front of the rig up A LOT.

Here’s an idea of how much:

And since raising the nose is when most of this stuff happens, when we got here we were only able to get within about 2° of level. It would just extend the jack a few millimeters and then stop. 2° might not seem like much, but that’s a fair amount of unlevel, and takes some getting used to. After a month or so I started to get concerned that it might interfere with adequately draining the black tank, so I set out on a bright and fine morning to attempt to get it to go up a few more inches. I encountered the same problem, so I decided to start from scratch by lowering it, hitching up, and trying again. This time it was much worse. I was well beyond 4° when it stopped running. It would run a few millimeters and then quite. I called Lippert and after much discussion they decided it was a low voltage problem, and recommended changing my batteries. I have 4 AGM batteries that are in excellent shape, and my gut told me it was something else, but they insisted it was the batteries, so I let it go. Since I wasn’t about to buy new batteries, I asked them if there was a way to over-ride the error code to get the jacks to go up just a few more inches. They instructed me to pop off a rubber cap on the bottom of the jack motor and use a socket and a cordless drill to manually raise and lower the jacks. I was’t looking forward to that, because it involves either running two drills at the same time or moving it just a little and then going to the other side, and moving that one, back and forth, otherwise you can put too much torque on the rig. I lowered the tailgate and then opened the front generator compartment to get to the jacks, and put the drill on. It didn’t budge, so I turned up the torque a little on the drill. It rotated in my hand a little, so I turned up the torque a little more, and planted my feet, and wedged myself in really good and braced myself so the drill wouldn’t spin my wrist, and would transfer the torque to the jack motor. (Safety tip, when you’re using a high torque drill, and you think it might spin on you, be careful. You can break a bone with one of those things. And if you’re working in really close quarters, the lower half of that drill can spin right around and that big fat battery can smack you right in the face, hard. Ask me how I know.)

When I was ready for it, I squeezed the trigger very slowly and ramped up the speed. It fought a little, then I felt it spin freely, and thought everything was working as advertised, until I glanced at the jack and could it wasn’t moving at all. I was all half folded over and cramped, and getting frustrated so I decided to pull out, and stand up straight, and set down the drill so I could do some serious industrial grade swearing and maybe have a cigarette and think this over some more. The instant I was clear and stood upright the entire fifth wheel wheel dropped and fell the six inches between the hitch and the kingpin. If you’ve ever wondered how good your truck suspension is, drop a fifth wheel on it from six inches. The only thing that kept the front of the rig from hitting the ground was that I had left the truck under the kingpin because I just wasn’t entirely comfortable, and so I just rolled the truck forward enough to clear the locking jaws on hitch, so when it fell, it landed perfectly in the hole, right behind the jaws. But since the gate was down, and I was between the gate and the front of the rig, I would’ve been pretty seriously hurt when that thing came down because I was occupying the space the rig entered, and since you can’t have two things in the same place at the same time, and I’m significantly squishier than the rig….

So, after my heart started beating again, I double and triple checked that the pin was where it needed to be, and slowly backed the truck up so the jaws locked. Once it was secure, I was able to pull the spring pin on the front gear extensions and raise them up. I could get the right jack to come up under power, but the left one wouldn’t budge. I poked around inside to get a feel for how difficult it would be to remove the jack (not at all, it turns out) and had the jack out and on a bench within about 10 minutes. I removed the foot, and spring pin, and the inner sleeve extension, and pulled the motor off. I was left with just the outer tube and the outer sleeve, and once I removed the cotter pin holding them together, I had the screw, and the collar it threads into on the inner sleeve. The way these work is that the motor turns the gearbox, which turns a small ring which is attached the the end of the screw. As the screw turns in the collar, it pushes down on the sleeve and lifts or lowers. I put the screw and sleeve on a workbench and popped a screwdriver through the cotter pin hole to turn it. It turned pretty smoothly and when it got the end, out fell a bunch of little bits of metal, which turned out to be pieces of the collar thread.

So at some point there was some binding or something that caused the screw to cut about half of the threads from the collar, and that allowed the screw, with all of the weight of the front of the rig, to slip through the remaining threads. It is truly amazing to me that this is all there is there to this system, and that there’s no real safety feature to prevent this.

Installing the new jack was relatively simple. The replacements come with the motor, the outer tube, the inner sleeve, the extension, and the foot. The spring loaded pin bracket is sold separately, as is the pin that holds the foot to the extension.

The hardest part was getting it at the right angle to slide through the hole and then lifting it up into position. The jacks are really heavy, and they just barely fit, so the motor has to be removed to get the jack into position, then the motor has to be reattached, with the two rotating parts lined up so they slot together. This is the part of the motor that rotates:

and this is the part on the outer tube that it fits into.

They’re both shaped so they only fit together when they’re lined up correctly. When the jack is in place, there’s no way to see the ring, so I just used my phone to take a picture of the position the jack ring was in so I could rotate the motor spindle to that position.

Once the motor was reattached I could lift the jack up and bolt it in. It’s held in place just by the friction of two brackets, which, again, is amazing to me.

Once everything was put back together and tightened down and the wiring harnesses were reconnected, it all worked just like it’s supposed to, with 100% less falling down. It still bothers me how high the front of the rig has to be in order for us to be level at this location, but there’s nothing we can do about it this year, maybe next year.

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Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

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 available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

June 2018 Budget

This month was really good with less than $3K in expenses!!!  $1,024 of that was for an emergency replacement of our front jacks so we really only spent $2,318 for the month, which is right up there with one of our best financial months ever.  Part of that is that we are working so hard we haven’t done much of anything, and the other part is the things we have done were mostly free.  As always for more details please see below.

 

Groceries – We went over again by over $200.  Going to local more expensive grocery stores, buying lots of pre-made food instead of cooking meals because of our schedule, and another Costco run are the culprit. On the other hand, we should be able to keep July much lower because now we’re pretty well stocked up. We’ll see. Pie is expensive.

Truck Fuel – This was really low because we aren’t really going anywhere.  Lee runs into town on our days off, but we haven’t taken any trips.  Again, good numbers because of crazy work schedule.

New Equipment – We had a catastrophic failure of our front jacks/landing gear (Lee is writing about it in the next post) and because our rig had to stay hitched with the nose down over 4° while we waited for the replacement jacks, Lee paid $200 for next day shipping, otherwise we would have been tilted down that far for a week or more instead of just two days. 4° is a lot of forward tilt to live with. These things happen, but it was a bummer, because we really wanted to put that money back into our bank account. But at least now we have brand new front jacks.

So, how do you hardly spend any money?  Work long 10+ hour days, 5-6 days a week, and don’t go anywhere! Just like we dreamed! Seriously, though, it’s beautiful here, the weather is spectacular, and we were lucky enough to have friends come and visit us, so we don’t feel like the month was a total waste, but it would be nice to have the time and energy to do more with our free time. Maybe it will start to get a little better after the middle of the season. Even if it doesn’t, by the time we get to the end of the season we will have been able to set aside enough to take a nice 4-6 week break before we start gate guarding for the winter. That’s progress over previous years for sure!


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

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 available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

This Rarely Happens Here

One thing about this job is that every day is different.  If I had a dollar for every time someone said, “That rarely happens up here,” I wouldn’t be rich, but I definitely would have enough for a nice dinner and a movie.  It’s part of the job, and one I generally enjoy, because the variety keeps it interesting, but there are times when I do long for a really boring day.  Friday started off OK.  Generally in the morning I make the rounds checking in with people before the long weekend, and while I was driving to the campsites I came across an adorable little dog standing in the road.  This was definitely a “city dog,” tiny and coiffed, and the poor thing was shaking because it had no idea where to go.  I stopped the truck and scooped her up and then took her down to the nearest campground, where luckily we were able to reunite her with the owner.  Maggie was really glad to be back with her people, and I felt really good because it’s such a big area I just felt lucky we got her before she wandered into the larger woods, which would have been very bad for a dog her size.

After the reunion, I headed towards the next campground and learned that we had an incident with some drunken raccoons.  Yep, you read that right.  We have recycling stations in all of the campgrounds and several camp hosts have noticed slits in the bottom of the bags and cans strewn about.  At first we thought it was kids or maybe can thieves (at 10 cents a can yes that is a thing up here), but one of my hosts saw a very unstable raccoon wobbling away from the bag area.  Turns out that the leftover soda (and beer) is pretty tempting to them, and we think they are drinking the beer leftovers and getting drunk.  When this problem was presented to me, I’ll be honest I absolutely drew a blank.  Drunken raccoons is outside of my area of expertise, so I told the camp host I would have to get back with them on a solution.  It was funny, don’t get me wrong, but raccoons are wild animals and it’s definitely something we will need to keep an eye on.  Plus it was one more oddball thing to had to the list of “we’ve never seen that before.”

Those two incidents ended up OK, and will make for nice stories to tell around a campfire, but the third one was not.  I was hesitant about even writing about it here, but I am up at 3:30am, and those of you who have read this blog know that that’s what happens when I have a story I simply need to tell.  So here goes.

After lunch I received a call on the radio that a horse had fallen into a ravine on a trail about a half a mile from one of our campgrounds.  Since we are in a remote location, with spotty cell coverage, many people will come to our location when there is an incident because they know we have landlines.  In this case, the incident happened in a spot in the forest where there was no cell coverage at all, but we have a radio system that reaches the spot so Lee and another employee immediately went to the scene and then hiked up the trail to see if they could help. What he came upon was pretty incredible, and since there is simply no way to adequately describe it I am going to include a picture.

In the first picture, you can see how far down they are from the ridge, and how difficult the boulder field is to maneuver in.


In this second picture, you can see how tight the fit was in the hole. There’s a little room on the left in the rear, but not enough to actually do anything.

 

What I learned later was that two riders were on the upper edge of the ridge, and one of them was spraying bug spray, and got some into her eyes. She dismounted to deal with that, and while she was cleaning her eyes a hiker came along and the horse got a little spooked. It started stepping backwards, and took one step too many and went over the edge of the ridge, rolling down into a boulder field about 30-40′ below. The horse miraculously landed, mostly unharmed apart from a few abrasions, a hole deep enough that the surrounding boulders were a little higher than it’s back. It was surrounded by boulders bigger than itself, and although it probably could have climbed or scrambled out of the hole, there was literally nowhere for it to go.  There was no clear way up to the bank and no way down to the water, so it was stuck on a ledge of rocks and wedged in this hole.  The owner (who was unhurt thankfully) was with the horse trying to keep it calm, and one of the full-time company employees who happened to be in the area hiked up to the scene.  It became clear pretty quickly that the only way to get the horse out was to lift it out with a helicopter, and a ton of radio traffic ensued as we tried to find the right organization who could help.

We called the sheriff’s office, who passed it to a volunteer rescue group, but because it was the Friday of Independence Day weekend around 2pm by this time, it was hard getting through to people. I was back in the office making these calls and relaying the information, when one of our other full time employees who had experience with helicopter logging came into the office and starting calling people he knew.  The owner had the means to pay for a helicopter, but finding one that could handle a 1,000+ pound horse and had the rigging to do it was difficult.  At this point I went up to the scene and left someone in the office to help field calls.  Once I arrived, I saw that there was no easy solution.  The horse was completely jammed in, and was getting more upset by the moment.  They had some oral tranquilizers on hand which helped keep her calm, but it was difficult, and on a couple of occasions the horse was rearing up trying to get out, which could lead to a broken leg.  After witnessing this a couple of times, I started to be concerned about the employees in the area.  I gathered as much information as I could, got the names and number of several people I could contact for the owner, and then cleared as many people from the scene as I could. It was absolutely heartbreaking, and I knew there was no way we could leave her there with no support.

Once I got back to the office, things started happening pretty quickly.  They had found a helicopter pilot who was willing to come, and I learned that for search and rescue missions we needed to block off the road to the dam so the helicopter would have a place to land.  We actually had to secure three separate areas of the facility.  The area the pilot would land, the area where the horse was, and the area where they planned on lowering the horse once it was airlifted out.  All of this required coordination and a ton of people, but luckily I had lots of volunteers from the campground staff, and within 20 minutes we had a plan and people in place to execute it.  The former logger (who had rigging experience) was taking the lead on coordinating the lift itself and our team provided the ground support they needed.

As much as I was worried about the horse, my primary responsibility are the people who work for me.  We issued safety vests and hard hats to people, and every step of the way we talked about how we could handle this as safely as possible.  During this time period, a full time employee never left the horse, and several people worked at the office making phone calls, relaying information from a veterinarian who was on the phone (several more doses of tranquilizer were administered by the owner), and coordinating with the humane society, forest service, and sheriff’s department. My biggest concern, other than landing a helicopter on the road across the dam, was the area the horse would be lowered. We had no idea what condition the horse would be in when it landed, and I didn’t want any of our people anywhere near it.  Lee went to the campground a few miles away where the riders had started from, an equestrian campground, and got a friend of the horse owner to bring her truck and trailer to the “drop zone” so it could be trailered quickly. We also sent one of our camphosts to the equestrian campground to bring back some experienced horse people to take control of the horse, and remove the rigging and handle it as it landed.  We also cordoned off the area, notified all the nearby campers, and had several people posted on the perimeter to keep the crowds away from the drop spot in the event the horse got loose.

Landed right in the center

When the helicopter pilot landed safely, I felt much better.  The pilot was experienced at heavy lifts and rescues and put together a solid plan before getting into the air.  At this point it was around 5:30pm and the horse was getting tired.  Still the pilot made sure we understood the plan step-by-step and we set up three main areas with lead personnel at each scene.  I took the area where the horse would be dropped off, because I thought that had the highest chance that someone might get hurt and worked out that the horse would not be released from the harness until he was secured on the ground.  It was a long shot, but my thought was if the horse starting running wild through the campground someone could get really hurt and the safety of the campers and staff had to be my primary concern.

Finally the plan was in place and the pilot took off to the location with the employee who would be doing the rigging for a recon. After that he dropped off the rigger at the dam who then drove to the drop zone and from there hiked up to the horse. Once he had relayed the plan to the others at the horse’s location and rigged up the harness, the helicopter took off again and flew to the scene to hover while they connected the harness to a 100′ drop line from the helicopter. After 10 minutes or so of attempting to lift it, they decided to abort and re-rig the harness so the helicopter flew back to the dam. After re-rigging they tried again. From all accounts the pilot did an outstanding job, hovering in a gap in the trees while they tried to get the horse connected into its makeshift harness.  The problem was the horse at this point was sitting on its haunches and they couldn’t get the netting completely underneath her.  The second time they tried to lift the horse enough to adjust the harness while she was hanging, but again they were unsuccessful.  At this point the pilot was worried about light and fuel, and said he could only make one more attempt.

I would love to tell you here that the third time it worked and the horse was carried to safety.  I would love to say that everyone’s hard work and dedication and prayers worked and the horse survived. (Twenty-plus people who worked hard at this for nearly nine hours for someone none of them had ever met) But I can’t tell you that.  I will say that everyone worked as hard as they could and the outcome was absolutely devastating for all involved.  Ultimately the decision was made by the owner to put the horse down and it was done quickly and humanely. If this was a movie I would have some wonderful video to share with you of the horse being airlifted to safety.  It wasn’t a movie though, it was real life, and as proud as I am of all the people who tried to help, I hope to God that nothing like this ever happens again.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

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 available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

First Time at Little Crater Lake

The next morning Linda still wasn’t feeling well, she’s been fighting a nasty cold the entire visit, so Howard, Lee and I took the planned hike to Little Crater.  We had been hearing about the “mini crater lake” that was a short hike away.  There are multiple points to hike from, but I wanted Howard to see North Arm campground, so we drove up that way and parked and started out on a 1-1/2 mile hike to the site.  Once again we had beautiful weather and the trail was my favorite kind.  It was level, with minimal roots or obstructions, and the absolute best part was the carpet of pine needles which made the ground give a little.  Absolutely perfect!  It was also incredibly peaceful along the trail as we only saw four other people the entire hike.

 

Hiking with Howard (and Linda) is a ton of fun, because they are very educated on plants and birds.  Plus they are more than willing to tailor their speed to the people they are walking with and tailor their conversation as well.  Usually I treat hikes a little bit like I treat church, with quieter voices and conversations that are relevant to where we are.  We see people all the time walking in nature who seem oblivious to what is around them and are talking about all kinds of things, and frankly I don’t get it.  For me it’s less about the exercise and more about communing with nature and thankfully, Howard is a like minded guy.

I was excited when we got to walk a section of the Pacific Crest Trail..a first for me.

 

Howard pointed out these Trillium Flowers which have the same name as the lake we paddled the day before. I honestly never made that connection 🙂

 

No horses are allowed on the PCT but this hitching post gave trail riders a place to hitch up before going to Little Crater

 

The walk was very pleasant and it didn’t take us long to hit a meadow with lots of flowers and butterflies.  It was really pretty and we all took lots of pictures before turning a corner and arriving at little crater.

Path through the meadow

 

 

Howard said these butterflies rarely pose like this. I was able to get several pictures

 

 

Lee’s pic…it’s a beauty

 

Lee’s pic

 

Little Crater

The crater was much smaller than I expected (it’s actually an artesian spring), but it was very photogenic and we had the place completely to ourselves.  We spent some time taking pictures and hanging out until another couple arrived and we headed back.  The location didn’t have the grand scale of many other things we have seen, but the hike was pleasant and the company was great and I really enjoyed being out in nature.

It was amazing how clear the water was and how deep. These are full size huge trees in the spring.

 

Glad to see this posted, although I am not sure how much it is honored when it gets hotter, because the water stays cool all year.

 

Howard on the little platform

 

Lee and Howard taking a look at the one duck hanging out.

 

This sign explained how the “lake” was created

 

It was fun trying to get pictures of the reflections from the trees. I wish I could have gotten the entire tree and its reflection.. Howard came close with his camera.

 

We also saw this newt which it turns out is one of the most toxic animals on the planet. Who knew??

 

It really was pretty

 

After hiking out, we all went back to see Linda, who was feeling much better.  She made Kelly’s pot roast recipe in the instant pot and we had a wonderful dinner and some great conversation.  I love those campfire chats that go beyond the superficial and delve deep into emotions and feelings and this night absolutely qualified. It was a great way to cap off their visit, and I am so grateful that they managed to squeeze us into their hectic schedule.  I can’t wait to read about their adventures this summer in Washington State and Iceland, and if the timing works out we might get to see them again at the end of the season.  Love you guys and thanks for being great friends!

Lee is excited about the pot roast!

 

Howard and Linda

 

Lee, Linda, and Howard

 

 


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

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 available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

First Time at Timberline Lodge

Before I get started I wanted to share a picture of the view right outside Howard an Linda’s campsite.  Once they walk through the trees down by the lake this is what they see.  Pretty cool!

 

Ok back to the story.  I left off with us finishing paddling Trillium Lake, and we all decided to head to Timberline Lodge for lunch.  Several people had recommended the lodge for fine dining, and since we all love a good meal we decided to splurge and try it out.  We decided to hedge our bets though and go for lunch since the prices were crazy expensive and at least they had a lunch buffet with a fixed price.  Since we have been disappointed numerous times in the last several years with dining out, I told H&L it was totally up to them if they wanted to stay and eat there.  Linda wanted to check the lodge out anyways since the exteriors for the movie The Shining were shot there, so we all decided to decide once we were on site.

The drive up was pretty, and the temperatures dropped from 81 degrees to 67 degrees with the relatively short 6 mile drive.  I was surprised by how much activity was going on up there on a Wednesday, but since there was still some snow, several people were skiing or snowboarding.  That was an interesting change going from paddling in barefoot to seeing people in full snow outfits, and that’s part of the fun of living out here in Oregon.

Timberline Lodge

Ski area with some shops

The view from up top..the pic really doesn’t do it justice. It’s worth the drive for the view alone

Close up of the mountain top right behind the lodge

I have never seen The Shining (I am not a scary movie person), so the outside didn’t do much for me, but I did like the fact that it was an historic hotel and the circular, multiple story fireplace inside and some of the carved wooden banisters were pretty cool.  We wandered our way through the hotel and eventually found the Cascade Dining Room which had a lunch buffet.  As soon as we walked in we noticed that the windows all had plastic sheeting on them and men were actively working on the facade outside.  We all kind of looked at each other and briefly talked about whether we should leave, but since we were really hungry we decided to stay.

Loved this fireplace, couldn’t take a picture that did it justice

The Cascade Dining room is actually really small. We asked if there was outside seating but there was none.  Our table was right behind the woman with the blonde hair on the right.

 

And this was right next to us.

The construction didn’t really bother me that much, I understand they have a limited season to work on this kind of stuff, but right after we sat down the banging started.  This wasn’t just painting or screwing things in, but sawing and hammering that was so loud we frequently had to stop our conversation.  Towards the end there was sustained drilling noise that reminded me of being at the dentist and I actually put my hands over my ears.  It was pretty ridiculous, but don’t take my word for it, Lee shot some video to share with you.

 

 

We all laughed though about the “ghostly figures”and random banging noises though and honestly if the food had been great we probably would have been fine.  Unfortunately that was not the case and not only was the food mediocre in some cases it was downright inedible.  Howard and I split a brownie, for instance, and we both took a bite and spit it out.  Linda asked, “How do you screw up a brownie,” which was an excellent point and gives you an idea of how the menu was.  There was a very small selection and only a few items were any good at all.  I liked the roasted carrots and the yukon garlic potatoes, but the roast beef was super bland and the “salads” they provided were all pretty unappetizing.

Salads…they tasted about as good as they looked which tells you something.

Charcutterie…I had some cheddar cheese cubes I think.

More ghostly figures

Later we saw the guys working from the outside.

 

And just to be clear here, it’s not that I didn’t “get” the food.  We have all eaten in many high end restaurants and it wasn’t that it was too fancy, it just didn’t taste good.  The best thing on the bar was a waffle iron to make your own waffles.  They tasted pretty good, but the only toppings provided were butter and syrup.  My biggest disappointment was the desert section. Of the 7 different mini deserts I tried, I only liked one.  I think the thing that bother us all the most was that the buffet cost $25 dollars a person.  Lee had a soda which was $3.50 and my ice tea (which was quite good) was an additional $4.  At the end of the meal, Howard asked for an ambiance discount and amazingly the waitress gave us $5 off.  It never hurts to ask for that sort of thing, although I rarely do, and we all felt a little better when we got a discount.  Still I think this was all important enough to focus an entire blog post on it, because several people I work with are talking about going their for anniversaries, etc.  From all accounts you can easily drop $100 on dinner for two at the lodge, and I want to make sure people are coming close to getting what they are paying for.

The only good thing that came from the experience, is we all laughed quite a bit and we will forever have a story to share.  hopefully we will all meet up in our 80’s someday and talk about that time we ate at that god awful haunted restaurant! Next up is back to nature, with a hike to Little Crater.  That was much more fun and cost us exactly $0, which tells you something.  In the last four years, nature has rarely disappointed us and generally costs very little.  Restaurants almost always disappoint and are pretty expensive.  we really should just stick to nature!


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

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 available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

First Paddle at Trillium Lake

When we are spending the summer working in a place, we let our friends and family know and hope that travel plans intersect so that we can still see people even though we are less mobile than others.  We’ve been pretty lucky with this over the years, and our friends have gone to some trouble to change their routes and come and see us.  this year though we are in a pretty remote location and a person has to really want to see us to make the trip.  So when I got an email from Howard & Linda that they had carved out 4 days to spend with us, I was really happy. Not only are they the people who inspired us to become full-timers, but they are also our friends and a lot of fun to hang out with.  I’m sure if you’ve been reading my blog you know who they are, but just in case you are new to this blog and have never heard of theirs, they have a website called RV-Dreams and in my opinion it is the single best resource on the web for people who are considering becoming full time RVers. And more importantly, they and our other friends we met through RV dreams rally are family now.

Part of our family tradition is to cook for people on their travel days so they don’t have to cook at the end of a long driving day. When they arrive on Monday Lee pulled out all the stops.  He made one pound rib-eye steaks, baked potatoes, and corn on the cob and Linda brought a bottle of wine, which she and I thoroughly enjoyed.  We ate, and talked, and laughed and had a really great time, and even though she was fighting a nasty cold stayed by the fire until 9pm. We had a lot to talk about, because after 13 years of full timing in a fifth wheel, Linda and Howard had recently switched to a much smaller Class C. The transition is really interesting to hear about and I love seeing all the mods she made on the inside to accommodate the “downsize.”

Howard and Linda’s new C Class RV

 

They stayed at Gone Creek Site 17 which actually has Verizon service. Hardly any of the sites up here have it and I was thrilled when we discovered this was one of them.  Plus right through those trees is a beautiful view of Mount Hood.

 

Lee trying to clean the corn

 

Mmmm steaks!

 

Linda and I “crushed” that bottle of wine. It was the best rose I have ever had.

Tuesday we had to work, so Linda took it easy trying to recover from the cold, but found time to finish a latch hook project I had started at the reunion rally and never had time to finish.  When I came to see her after work, it was completely done, which was lovely since it probably would have taken me weeks to finish it.  I’m just not very crafty.  Howard took advantage of the time and hiked the 13 mile trail around Timothy Lake.  I was really glad to hear that he thought the trail was in good condition and I could tell he really enjoyed himself from the big smile on his face when we walked back.  I was on call Tuesday night, so we hung out at their site and had a cheese plate that Linda put together, then we all called it an early night with plans to paddle Trillium Lake early the next morning.

Linda working on my trivet

 

Look how pretty!!

 

Howard coming back from his hike

 

I am not a huge fan of dates, but these were really good. The combination of dates and babybel cheese was yummy.

There is so much to do in this area, I had thought long and hard about what activities to pick for our days off and finally settled on a paddle at Trillium Lake.  We have had an inflatable boat from the very beginning, and we purchased it after watching a demo at our first RV-Dreams rally.  We don’t get to use it much, but we are always glad we have it, and were especially glad we had similar boats when we discovered we were missing our pump adaptor, but no worries, we could use Howard and Linda’s.  We drove the 16 miles to the lake and Howard turned to me with a grin and said, “Nice view.”

Setting up our boats at the lake

 

Like Howard said, nice view

 

I know crazy right, but that is exactly what it looks like

 

Howard and Linda on the water

Linda likes to travel the lakes edge, especially because she is participating in a trash pickup challenge.  So we took our time going around the lake and Linda ended up with a pretty decent haul of trash.  Don’t get the wrong idea, the lake was actually pretty clean, but it is very popular and she was vigilant so she ended up with a nice pile by the end.  The weather was a gorgeous 81 degrees, and in the morning we had clear skies with poofy clouds.  It was perfect for pictures, so let me share some with you to hopefully give you a feel for the day.

Linda picking up trash with her sticks

 

Quite the haul we were laughing about the one shoe

Close to noon the clouds started rolling in, which obscured the mountain, plus the lake was getting crowded.  It is a popular place for family picnicking, so, if you are looking for a quiet paddle I definitely recommend going very early in the morning.  We took a few more pictures, I loved the cloud reflection on the water, and then packed up our boats and headed out.  We had one more adventure that day, which I will share in the next post., but I will leave you with one more thought.  At one point when we were out on the lake, Linda said, “What would you have been doing in your old life on a Wednesday?” I laughed and said, “Certainly not this,” but her comment really stuck with me.  We’ve been living the full time lifestyle long enough now that it has become our new normal.  There is nothing wrong with that, but it’s important once in awhile to take a moment and really appreciate how extraordinary this life is.  No, it isn’t perfect, but there are some incredibly special moments and we are really grateful that we were able to spend this one with our friends.

 

 


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

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 available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

First Time at Silver Falls State Park

I like the concept of hiking.  Being in nature, seeing flowers, trees, and the occasional animal is wonderful and I am a huge fan, but I am not such a fan of the hard work it often takes to get there.  Uneven trails where you have to watch your feet more than the view. and steep climbs and descents are not fun for me, and I know enough about myself now to understand that I will never be a person who hikes for the sake of hiking.  For me, it’s all about getting to the place to see the pretty thing, and knowing that about myself I am careful about which hikes I choose, and always judge them in the end on whether or not it was worth it.  I should also mention that because I don’t feel I can really trust most online reviews (my level of difficulty scale is usually much higher than others), I mainly stick with shorter hikes and Lee lets me plan the hikes because his physical limits are greater than mine.

This year I feel a little differently.  After tracking our steps at Amazon over the holidays and consistently walking 10 miles in a 10 hour shift, I thought I felt like I could tackle some longer ones.  I was a little disheartened in Utah because walking on uneven ground is NOT the same as walking on a concrete floor.  Still, when I heard about an 8 mile loop that contained numerous waterfalls I knew I had to go and try.  After looking at the map, and reading about the trails online, I thought the best bet would be to tent camp in the state park and split the loop into two separate days.  Not only would this allow us to see all of the falls, it also gave us an opportunity to leave the Timothy Lake area and get some much needed job separation.

Lee was pretty great about the whole thing.  The burden of prepping all the gear fell on him and since he only had a couple of days to get that done, he worked on it late into the evening.  I was left with figuring out what we would eat, but since we have access to free ice up here, I was able to use a cooler to give us more variety.  So Monday night we were packed up and ready to go and then on Tuesday we left work early and headed towards Silver Falls State Park.  It was a beautiful drive and a bright and sunny day and ultimately we arrived at the campground at 2pm.  Since our site was open, we went ahead and set up our tent and then went up to the kiosk at 3pm for formal check-in.

The view from our site

 

Our Tent

I was a little disappointed that the campground wasn’t near any of the waterfalls, but I will say that it was incredibly neat and the bathrooms were super clean.   The sites had nice separation with foliage and trees, and even though it was completely full while we were there it never felt crowded.  We were in the tent area which is $19 a night, but the campground also has numerous large RV sites with electric for $29, which is a huge bargain.  The best part is the camping fees also included Day Use, so we didn’t have to pay the additional $5 to go explore.  Since it was only 4pm when we were all set up, we jumped in the car and drove across the street to the South Falls Day Use area.  This is by far the largest day use I have ever seen and shows the popularity of the park.

Just one of the many large picnic/group areas

The South Falls Day Use has restrooms, a cafe, a lodge, and nature store.  It also has beautifully paved paths that lead to views of the South Falls, which are wheelchair and dog friendly. We walked along a relatively short path checking out the buildings, and then we got our first views of a waterfall.

My favorite part of walking the paths was although they were level and clear, the surrounding vegetation was dense, green and quite beautiful.  And the trees were HUGE!

 

The Nature Store was really nice. Original buildings have been maintained as much as possible

 

Plus they carried PooPoo Paper made of recycled poo so that’s fun

 

Once again we learned that a state park was the vision of one person. Every time we run into a place like this we are incredibly grateful for that person’s foresight. The Federal government wasn’t interested in this land, so he bought a chunk of land with his own money and eventually talked the state into making a state park

 

This was a neat sign showing wing span. The bird at the top was a condor and Lee didn’t come close.

 

Finally we turned a corner and saw our first peek of South Falls

 

Really beautiful and I was instantly excited and couldn’t wait for our hike the next day.

After seeing the falls from the overlook we went back to our campsite and made some hamburgers and ate some potato salad.  Then we had a nice campfire and snuggled in for the night.  As soon as the sun went down it started getting pretty cold, but we hoped it would be OK, even though our sleeping bags aren’t rated for extremely cold weather.  It was pretty chilly though (I learned later it got down to 44 degrees), and at 3am I was wide awake and very cold.  I went outside as quietly as I could and managed to start a good fire in the dark, and as I was thinking about whether I should make coffee or not, I heard some animals fighting in the bushes behind us.  I turned on my flashlight and walked around a bit and saw a potato salad container on the ground that had been eaten.  When I flashed the light at our cooler, and saw that our piece of wood was still on it, I immediately thought “Who was the idiot that left food out.”  Then I flashed the light under the picnic table and saw a HUGE raccoon, just staring at me.  I whispered “Git!” to it a couple of times and it nonchalantly wandered off, but he made it clear that I was not the boss of him.  When I started hearing more rustling in the woods, I thought “Screw this,” and went back inside the tent and tried to go back to sleep.

The next morning we were both up pretty early and it was cold!  We started a fire, but this one seemed to take forever to generate any warmth and while we were waiting I told Lee about the potato salad container.  He looked in the cooler (which still had the wood on it) and said, “Yup that was ours.”  I immediately felt bad, because I know better than to leave an accessible cooler out and felt even worse because I was the idiot!  We secured the cooler and then decided we might as well get up and start hiking because it would start the blood flowing, so by 8:30 am we were parked at the North Arm trailhead.  This trailhead has a much smaller parking lot, but I wanted to start there because that half of the loop had more waterfalls than the southern half.  Plus I was hoping we would avoid the crowds by starting at a less crowded place, and that is exactly what happened.  We only saw two other couples for the first half of our hike and had the place all to ourselves.  I really can’t adequately describe how magical it was, so let me show you with a picture tour.

There were multiple small, unnamed waterfalls along the route and we walked out onto this one

 

The walk was along the river and then climbed along the edge of the canyon where I was glad we had the fencing.  You can see how close it was to the outcroppings.  We had to duck under in several places.

 

And then back down again

 

It was absolutely gorgeous

We then went into the cave behind the falls

 

For scale you can see the tiny bench in the middle right of the picture. It was completely empty the entire time we were there, which was really romantic.

 

It was hard top take pictures from the inside because of the difference in lighting but it was wonderful.  The rushing water sounds echoed in the cave and you really felt like you were inside the water, without getting wet of course!

Those of you who have been reading for awhile, know I am a self-proclaimed waterfall junkie.  So it definitely means something, when I tell you that North Falls is my new favorite waterfall.  I have seen bigger ones, and wider ones, but I have never experienced anything quite like this fall.  I absolutely loved it and because the path continues through the cave and out the other side, we got to take pictures from all angles.

 

We descended once again down to the river level and walked along the path until we came to this tree. It was a beauty and I just had to sit on it.

 

We also saw another great small waterfall and Lee walked out to get some video

 

The water was so clear

 

The flowers were also in bloom

 

Lee’s pic

 

And we even saw some berry bushes, which of course made Lee wonder about bears

 

There are a few smaller named falls along the way, but the Twin Falls were hard to see because the overlook was roped off. I think the smaller falls are actually more dangerous because people feel braver around them.

 

We ended up going down a steep side trail and I used my long lens to get this picture

 

One of the many school groups we ran into, gives you a feeling for what the crowds would be like on the weekends or in season.

 

Around the time we got to the sign for Middle North Falls, we started seeing people along the trails walking in the opposite direction.  There were several school groups on the trails, but thankfully most of those we passed quickly.  We also starting seeing smaller groups of people who we ran into later in the day.  Everyone was extremely friendly and helpful, which was a good thing, because my one complaint about the hike was the signs were a bit confusing.  Thankfully I had my paper map with me and I referred to it often.  A couple of times I even had to ask people coming the other direction for assistance, which was kind of strange since it is just one big loop.  Well really it’s not so much a loop as more like a figure 8 and in a couple of spots two different trails ran close together and we weren’t sure which path to take.  But like I said people were super friendly and we enjoyed meeting people throughout the day.  Generally we don’t talk to people much when we are hiking, but the waterfall stops really encouraged people to talk to one another. Plus lots of us were willing to take pictures for each other.

 

We were able to walk behind Middle North Falls as well. Most of the waterfalls you could walk behind which is what makes this place so special

 

It’s almost impossible (for me at least) to capture what looking through a waterfall is like. If you have never experienced it, you should definitely put it on your bucket list!

 

Maybe the smile on my face does help capture the experience

 

Middle Falls side view

 

Lee walked down a pretty muddy path with another hiker so he could get some video at the base. He was getting sprayed with lots of wind and water and loved it.

 

In the same small area there were three of the smaller falls, and although the views were less spectacular it was still neat that so many were together.  At this point we had a decision.  We could turn around and walk back to North Arm, leaving the rest of the loop for the next day or we could continue.  Since it was still pretty early (around 10:30am I think), we decided to press on and then stop at the cafe at South Falls before heading back.  My major concern was that the other loop had several long sections with no waterfalls, but since the morning had gone so well, I was game and we kept going.

Double Falls with Lee for scale.  We met a guy here with a Grove City, PA shirt on and since I grew up in Grove City, Ohio I actually knew exactly where that was.  They had come to Oregon on vacation and we had a nice chat.

 

Drake Falls was wide but only 27 feet tall

 

Lower North Falls was another wide one, but again couldn’t get a good picture. That was a bit disappointing.

 

At this point we had about 1.2 miles to get to Lower South Falls and although the walk was pretty it was getting much hotter and the trail was much more crowded

 

It was worth it though because the Lower South Falls were my second favorite of the day

 

Lee shooting some video

 

 

Looking up was spectacular

 

After the Lower South Falls though there was a series of very steep steps.  Those were a killer, especially because we still had a ways to go, but we took our time and I made it up them.  Then we had another half mile or so to reach the South Falls we had seen the day before.  This time we walked behind them and then walked up the hill to the upper level.

View of the bridge from the falls to give you an idea of how far up we had to walk at the end

 

 

Then from the falls we had to walk the trail winding along the hill to the very top.

At this point we were both very tired, but when I saw a sign to Frenchie Falls I had to check it out.  I had read that the most marriage proposals in the park happened at this location and since it was only a tenth of a mile away I headed down the trail.  Lee wasn’t crazy about the idea but he humored me, and we were both disappointed when we saw the falls had been blocked off and we couldn’t see them at all.  At that point he said “lunch!”, and I really needed to go to the bathroom (there are none along the trails) so we headed to the cafe and ended up having a pretty good lunch.  Lee got a pannini and I had a chicken Caesar Salad. We had gone 5.2 miles at this point and it was great to just sit down inside and rest for a minute.

 

This is where the trail stopped. We could hear the waterfall but couldn’t see it.

After lunch we headed out, really dreading the 2 mile hike along the Rim Trail back to the car.  I was hopeful that we would see at least one waterfall along the way, but the hike down to the Winter Falls was extremely steep and neither of us had that in us.  The Rim Trail was extremely well-maintained, but dogs were allowed and since the bike trail ran in parallel occasionally bikers were on the trail as well.  Plus despite having been told it was a level trail, we found the ups and downs a bit exhausting.  A big part of that was how tired we were, but it definitely wasn’t flat.  It was lush though and when we got near the parking lot we caught a glimpse of the North Falls which cheered me up.  By the end of the hike we had gone 8.3 miles, which was by far the longest hike we have ever taken.

The path, at least it was mostly shaded.

 

Love these little flowers

 

Glimpse of North Falls…still my favorite!

 

Hooray the parking lot!!

 

We did it or at least most of it.  We skipped the half mile connector between the canyon and rim trails.

At this point it was only 3:15pm, and we started talking about what to do with the rest of the day.  We could spend another cold night and then hike the Upper North Falls and Winter Falls the next day or we could strike the tent and head to Eugene and have dinner with our friends.  We had last seen Jim and Georgia in Campbellsville, KY as they were headed out on their own adventure.  They had decided that they wanted to live on the West Coast and had quit their jobs and headed that way.  After some traveling, they ultimately landed jobs in Eugene, Oregon managing a very nice 55+ community.  They had been there about two months and we hadn’t had a chance to see them yet, and since we were more than halfway there, decided to check with them and see if they could meet us spur of the moment.  Georgia said , “Of course!” (she’s awesome like that) and we had a great time seeing their place and then going to dinner.  Their job has a lot of similarities to running a campground, and we spent some time talking about what it is like to live where you work.

 

Georgia and Jim

 

Lee, me, Georgia and Jim

 

It was a great day and even though we got home at 11pm, we were glad to have done everything we did.  And as an added bonus we told the park ranger that we were leaving so they were free to rent out the site and we ended up getting a refund for the second night.  We certainly didn’t expect that, and she must have done it manually, and it was extremely nice of her.  It was a perfect cap to a wonderful stay and makes Silver Falls State Park the best state park we have ever stayed in.

 


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

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 available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.