Update 3: June 18, 2006

Lassen Volcanic National Park: May 15-18, 2006 (Location 8 on the Map)

Prior to leaving for Lassen Volcanic National Park, we knew the heart of the park was inaccessible due to snow. For that reason, plus the fact we happen to like having electricity and water hooked directly to the RV, we elected to stay in a KOA campground outside the park.

Upon arriving at the park, we initially drove as far as the Devastated Area via the northwest entrance where the road remained closed because of snow. We took a few pictures, and Justin built his first snowman. Unfortunately, the road closure meant many hiking trails were unavailable. We chose a simple hike around Manzanita Lake, which offered enviable views of Lassen Peak. After lunching beside the lake where a Stellar's Jay tried to beg Goldfish crackers from Justin (who, of course, did not comply), we ventured toward the south entrance as far as Little Hot Springs Area where, again, the road was closed. In the vein of the Grand Canyon visit in National Lampoon's Vacation, we briefly got out of the car, perused some thermal vents, then returned to camp.

Unfortunately, Justin was sick the following day. Feverish and sick to his stomach, he remained in bed the entire day. The only up side for him was he was able to watch quite a few Wiggles episodes without a complaint from Mom and Dad.

We only identified one new bird here: a male and female Bufflehead.

For photos from Lassen Volcanic National Park, Click Here
Redwood National Park: May 18-21, 2006 (Location 9 on the Map)

We've always liked this area, which is why it made our itinerary again on this trip. If it weren't for the million-dollar homes at Morro Bay, we'd consider moving here. Of course, it is still in California, so we probably wouldn't move here anyway.

We spent our time here riding bikes and hiking from Morro Bay State Park along the beach and out to Morro Rock. All of Morro Bay is considered a bird sanctuary, so Susan once again had binoculars and a bird book in her hand.

We wanted to climb on a couple of small formations nearby, but they turned out not to be suitable for having Justin there without someone else along to watch him. Plus, after a 15-minute jog up the trail to scope out one of them, Jeff returned with three ticks, which probably would have presented a problem if Justin would have been up there bush-whacking around while we climbed. We consoled ourselves with the fact that the rocks were only about 25-feet high anyway, and probably would not have been worth the effort.

New birds we spotted at Morro Bay: Black-Crowned Night Heron, Black Scoter, Willet, White-Crowned Sparrow, "Oregon" Junco.

For photos from Morro Bay, Click Here
Oregon: May 21 - June 12, 2006 (Locations 10-12 on the Map)

Supposedly, the Cascades in Oregon are beautiful. That’s what I remember from previous trips, anyway. Unfortunately, I was unable to verify it this time.

We started our Oregon visit with a stop at Crater Lake National Park. Like other parks in the Northwest, much of it was still closed due to a heavy winter snow pack. We were able to drive to the visitor’s center (we entered it through the alternate snow tunnel entrance), and the road was open up to one of the crater rim viewpoints. At the viewpoint, we had all of five minutes to squint through the fog and rain to see Crater Lake and Wizard Island before our view was completely obscured. As a result, we only have two photos from this stop in the photo gallery, because the few we have aren’t very good. Still, what little we saw was beautiful, and we were at least able to check off another National Park.

Next, we stopped for a few days at a KOA in Sisters, which is near Bend in Central Oregon. Sisters is a small tourist town with (normally) incredible views of the Three Sisters peaks, Mount Bachelor, Three-Fingered Jack, and other Cascade peaks. Because of the continuing rain, we were at most able to see the bottom third of any of these, and on some days we couldn’t see even that. Regardless, we spent some time outside at the campground with Justin, playing in the playground and walking around the lake. We took a nice hike in a light drizzle along the Metolius River, spent some time in Sisters and Bend, and generally had a relaxing time. I even got in a day of skiing at Mount Bachelor before it closed for the season.

During one of the nights at Sisters, I woke up to a strange noise. Because we often keep our three rooftop vents slightly open at night, and because we often park next to trees, and because trees often have squirrels, I’ve always wondered if those squirrels might smell something good inside the RV and decide to investigate sometime. As I lay in bed in the dark listening to this noise, I tried to picture what I was hearing. At first, I groggily tried to brush it off as tree limbs hitting the top of the RV. But that wasn’t quite right. Next, I pictured a squirrel fighting to open the plastic vent cover, only to have it spring back down and create the sound I was hearing. I listened for awhile, convinced that’s what was happening, then made myself get out of bed to get rid of the squirrel. As I passed the bathroom area on my way to one of the vents, I realized that the sound wasn’t coming from outside on the roof… it was coming from a bathroom drawer inside the RV! Sure enough, something was inside the top drawer, gnawing on our toothbrushes. The sound I was hearing was the plastic of the toothbrush hitting the side of the drawer as something rocked it back and forth. Great! Just what I need is to try to figure out how to catch some sort of animal inside the RV without it getting loose and running all over the place while Susan and Justin slept. Or worse yet, having it get ticked-off and attacking me! At this point, I was still thinking it was a squirrel, or probably a small chipmunk. I woke Susan up, had her listen to the noise, then pointed to where it was coming from. As she realized what was going on, her face got a screwed-up look of disgust on it. It was then she saw tuft of white fur through the crack where the drawer hadn’t quite closed all the way. It was a mouse. I hate mice. I’d rather have had a chipmunk. We formulated a plan. We closed off the accordion-style door to the bedroom and stuffed a towel underneath. Then we did the same to the bathroom door. Now at least it couldn’t escape into those rooms. Then I had Susan stand behind a blanket that she draped across the opening that led into the area where Justin was still asleep. Next, I opened the main entrance door so the mouse would be able to run outside when I opened the drawer. With everything and everyone in position, I slowly opened the drawer. Next to Justin’s toothbrush were a couple of telltale mouse droppings, but there was no mouse. Then I opened the other drawers. Still no mouse. Then I completely removed the drawers and looked behind them. No mouse. But as I looked around, I could see what had probably happened. There are tubes and pipes that lead from the sink, refrigerator and furnace down through holes in the floor and to places underneath the RV. These holes were never visible until I removed the drawers, and now I could see that there was more than enough room for the mouse to make its way comfortably in and out of the RV. I stuffed some rags in the openings, we emptied the drawers and disinfected them, and finally we threw away our toothbrushes. With that problem solved, we went back to sleep.

When we arrived at my parents’ house in John Day, we related this story to my parents and my brother Jason. As I thought back I realized something. What if the mouse had escaped into the walls, and when I closed off the openings leading out of the RV, I ended up trapping the mouse somewhere inside the RV? Fortunately, Jason had a couple of the old-style spring-activated mouse traps around, so I took one and smeared the bait area with peanut butter and put it under the bathroom drawers. Since we were staying inside the house during our stay in John Day, we didn’t get to hear the mouse’s demise, but the next day when I went to the RV to check, there was our culprit. As I disposed of it, I noticed that the peanut butter was completely gone. That’s quite a talented mouse to be able to crane his little head around on his little broken neck and be able to lick off the rest of the peanut butter while he was dying. Unless he had help. Maybe he had a buddy who came along later and, after seeing that his friend wasn’t going to eat anymore, helped himself to the rest. So, I set the trap again. We got another dead mouse, but this time there was peanut butter left over, and subsequent mousetrap settings have proven fruitless.

We did have one other mouse encounter in Oregon, when I startled one while opening the hood of the RV to check the oil before we left. He scurried around on the windshield before disappearing back into the engine compartment. I set another trap, and a couple of hours later saw it struggling in the grass a few feet outside of the RV, trying to get away, but finding it hard to do with his foot trapped. Jason’s pellet gun put an end to his struggle.

And then there was the deer.

There were a couple of things I wanted to get done to the RV prior to our trip that I didn’t get around to: adding a couple of coach batteries (to make it easier for us to dry camp without hookups), and getting some valve stem extensions for our rear tires. The batteries had been a problem, because they would not provide enough reserve charge to do what we needed them to without constantly running the generator to keep them charged. The lack of valve stem extensions meant some disassembly of the rear tire covers was in order to simply check air pressure. And since air pressure is extremely important in such a heavy vehicle, I was constantly getting filthy taking them apart to check pressure. Then when I had to fill them, there was an additional hassle associated with finding a gas station with the properly-shaped chuck to be able to reach the valve stems. All of that got solved with a 5-hour (each way) drive to Portland for a previously-scheduled appointment.

Justin had been sick again (we all were for at least a couple of days while in John Day), so Susan stayed behind with him and I drove the RV alone to Portland. As with most driving in Oregon, I encountered signs saying “ROCKS” everywhere I went. Oregon is a decidedly crumbly place, and instead of “ELK” or “DEER” signs like I was used to in the mountains of Arizona, they had “ROCKS” signs. These signs were necessary because the highway engineers built the roads just inches from the sides of sheer, crumbling cliffs, and drivers were undoubtedly getting pelted all the time with rocks from above. I even saw a place where a 6-foot retaining wall had been built so that rocks tumbling down the hill would have a place to stop before bouncing across the road. Except this wall had been completely filled by rocks, and the resulting pile of rocks behind now acted as a nice ramp which gave all the other rocks a straight shot down onto the road.

But this story isn’t about rocks, it’s about deer. And the point I’m taking so long to come to is that Oregon needs “DEER” signs probably more than it needs those “ROCKS” signs. The deer, it seems, is ubiquitous to Eastern (and maybe other areas of) Oregon, and you could barely turn around without seeing yet another deer. (A slight exaggeration, but there really are a lot of deer). But you usually know when they’ll be out, so if you’re driving in late afternoon or early evening, you keep an eye out for them running across the road in front of you. So imagine my surprise when at 1:00 on a sunny afternoon, while driving 65 mph and not paying too much attention, I hit a deer. “Hit” may be an understatement. When a 14,000 pound vehicle runs into a 100-pound animal, it pretty well ruins that animal’s day. I pulled over and walked back down the road to make sure it wasn’t still alive. Thankfully it wasn’t, because I don’t really know what I would have done if it was. I walked back to the RV and surveyed the damage. It didn’t look too bad, and I was thankful I wasn’t in Susan’s Saturn when I hit it. The damage wasn’t bad enough that I couldn’t drive, so I went on to Portland, got the batteries and valve stem extensions installed, and drove back to John Day the following day. I found a place in Burns, 70 miles away, that could handle the body work the following week, and after paying our $250 deductible on the $1400 bill, the RV was as good as new.

But now I’m tired of writing, and I’m sure you’re tired of reading, so I suppose I’ll cut this update a little short. Overall, we had a nice time with my family. Justin played with Jason’s dog Baxter, flew a kite for the first time, got to see some newly-hatched red-winged blackbird chicks in a nest we discovered, and got to play with some new toys and stay in an actual building at night. The first night we slept there, it had been five full weeks since we’d slept in anything other than the RV, so it was a nice change. Despite the conveniences, though, we were ready to move on at the end of those two weeks. I’m happy to report that after dutifully setting traps for the past few nights, we've run into no more mice.

And I've run into no more deer.

For photos from Oregon, Click Here

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