Some days I have to pinch myself because I live in beautiful places. Here on the banks of the Columbia River, I marvel at my view and sit in wonder. I never tire of the water and mountains, the golden color, the beautiful and varied trees, and even the sounds of birds, boats, and freight trains. I’ve got a couple weeks left of camp hosting at Memaloose State Park in Oregon in the Columbia River Gorge.
The Gorge is a phenomenal place. Many people are familiar with the Portland side – where the National Scenic Area starts just past Troutdale and extends to Hood River. I’m just on the eastern side of the Scenic Area between The Dalles and Hood River. Hood River is a wind surfing paradise and The Dalles is the site of the end of the Oregon Trail where wagons got loaded on rafts to head west to the coast.
While the western area is heavily treed with evergreens and more cliffs – including the famous Multnomah Falls (and several other famous falls on the old Highway 30), the area I’m in has its own beauty.
The river is an amazing geologic phenomenon having cut its way to the Pacific Ocean for eons, leaving sharp angles in its wake. The eastern area is arider than the western area and is considered a desert, that stretches up into central Washington. We’ve had a fire ban for most of the summer and early fall. We just started allowing campfires a week ago, much to the delight of our camping guests! As I’ve chronicled in other posts, I-84 runs the length of the river between Oregon and Washington and provides amazing views. Being within the campground, between the Interstate and the River is a treat. Yes, there is highway noise, but the peacefulness within the trees is amazing. I tune out the noise and focus on the tugboats, the sport fishing boats, and the trains. There is a very active freight rail line that runs along the river, sitting about 100 feet below the campground. There’s another just like it on the Washington side of the river. Having grown up on the rail line in Chicago, I love the sound of the train, though sometimes when it rumbles it makes me think it’s an earthquake.
The other interesting feature of this park is the squirrels. These are California Ground Squirrels that burrow in the ground instead of climbing trees. What? I had to Google these creatures that have a distinctive silver V on their collar to their back. There are burrow holes all over the campground which requires me to be present when I’m walking in grassy areas. They dart in and out of the holes and are often chased by numerous bluejays and bluebirds that squawk loudly. Sadly, these squirrels are quite aggressive looking for people’s food. People feed them and thus, they want more. They have been known to invade tents and ransack the contents in their search when a camper foolishly leaves food out. One day I was sitting outside with my feet propped up on my footstool and I felt a gentle tap on my foot. I looked down and it was a squirrel trying to get my attention. I admit I freaked out a little, but have since gotten used to these close encounters.
I enjoy talking to the folks who stay in the park. The most frequent question I get is why do you do this? I tell them to look around. Wouldn’t you enjoy living in a beautiful place in exchange for doing a little work and meeting people? They nod in agreement. Some days I’m less enthusiastic. Cleaning stuff up that people leave behind is not always pleasant. Doing physical labor is good for me, even on days I really don’t wanna. I walk at least two miles a day in my “job” and have a Gator 4×4 to ride in. I intentionally walk the park daily and walk as much between sites as is feasible, depending on the amount of stuff to carry. I have time every day to write, have fun, relax, and do whatever I want. I have two days off to go to the city and run errands. It is a great location. I’ve been to far more isolated places.
Because we are situated next to the highway at a rest stop, we have a bit of light pollution. I can see stars, but not as many as I would like. We just had great views of Hunter’s full moon and it was brilliant. We have not gotten too cloudy yet (it’s coming), so the fall has been warm with mostly clear night skies. I wish I had a camera that could do it justice, but here is a night shot and a day shot of the moonrise.
This has been a wonderful two-month stay and I’m glad I came. I’ll take a few days off at the beginning of November and visit family in Washington. Then I head south for a four-month stint at adjoining state parks on the coast in California. It will be beautiful but the downside is I will not have cell or internet service at the first park for two months except when I leave the park on my days off. It will be a grand adventure. I will have Sirius satellite radio, so I will be able to know what’s going on in the world. Jack Kerouac spent time in this location and wrote a book on it. I’m following in his footsteps – geographically. I promise I’m not becoming a raging paranoid alcoholic. I’m very happy and in control of my faculties, lol. I’ll be sure to check in while I’m there over the end-of-year holidays.
As always, you can follow me on Instagram @robyneontheroad. And if you want to support us (me and Inky), feel free to drop a quarter in our snack jar https://coast2coast.blog/about-2/ Here’s Inky watching the squirrels! This cat is notoriously tough to capture in a pic, lol.