Alpaca Farm Tour

While searching for things to keep a five-year-old entertained, I came across the Seven Stars Alpaca Ranch in Coeur d’Alene.  According to TripAdvisor, the alpaca farm tour is the number one thing to do in CDA.  The 90-minute tour is $10/adult and $5/child and very informative.  The owner, Sonia, started with a brief lecture about alpacas (there are 22 different colors of alpacas), and then her husband Andy took us on a tour of the 40-acre ranch.

Sonia giving her talk in the lecture hall (converted garage)

Malcolm got to see a variety of farm animals.  We started with miniature donkeys.  They are about the same size as Malcolm and he was a bit skeptical about petting them.

Oliver & Olivia, miniature donkeys

While everyone was oohing and ahhing over the cute mini donkeys, Andy called to the horses and they came galloping over the hill.  They have standard and miniature horses.

Next, it was off to see the headliners: the alpacas.  We were cautioned not to hug them or get in a stare down because they will spit.

Watering the lawn
Heading out to pasture for a day of grazing

We also got to see chickens, goats, sheep and a couple of llamas.

One old sheep pretending to be an alpaca

Andy and Sonia lived in Alaska for 30 years before relocating to CDA.  Out in the pasture, they built a small replica Alaskan cache.  They don’t store food in it, but their grandchildren enjoy using it as a playhouse.

After all that livestock petting, we had a trip through the handwashing station and were then invited to visit the gift shop.

It was a fun and informative tour and exposed Malcolm to some other animals not found on Papa & Grandma’s farm.

Gratuitous cute grandson photo

Camping at Big Hank on the CDA River

Our five-year-old grandson, Malcolm, is visiting from California for a couple weeks.  Entertaining an active five-year-old is a challenge, so we thought a camping trip would be fun.  It was also a good excuse to try out our new fly fishing rods.  We headed to the Big Hank Campground on the Coeur d’Alene River where I went fishing with my brother a few weeks ago.

Catching a few Pokemon in Coeur d’Alene before heading off the grid

One of the many perks of being retired is camping mid-week.  Big Hank has 30 campsites and only about half were occupied.  Our site backed up to the Coeur d’Alene River and was very private.

There’s no wasting water when you have to pump it yourself!

The first day, we explored the river and ended the day with marshmallow roasting by the campfire.

Malcolm got a bit wetter than planned
Malcolm on his new tripod seat

The second day, we woke up to rain, but that didn’t stop us from going out fishing.  Malcolm had been practicing his casting, and Shawn and I were itching to try out our new gear.

Checking out Grandma’s flies
Since Papa was wearing waders, he carried Malcolm out into the middle of the river to fish off a rock

We found a deep spot in the river where the trout were jumping, but we didn’t have any luck that afternoon.  While we chose to camp in an established campground, there is a lot of free camping space available.  We checked out a spot across the road in a meadow.  It involved crossing a creek.  Our camp host shared that it can get a bit wild out in the meadow, but he keeps the riffraff out of his campground.

The “road” to the free camping

The last morning we went back to the spot where the fish had been jumping.  There was already another fly fisherman there, but he invited us to join him.  He had caught the “big one” the night before.  I tried for a while, but still no luck.

Sporting my new ladies’ waders

After the other guy left, Shawn gave it a try.  It didn’t take long before he hooked a cutthroat trout.  It was about 8″.  Malcolm was not thrilled that he didn’t catch a fish, but when you’re grandparents don’t put a hook and bait on your line your chances for success are greatly diminished.

Strictly catch and release on the CDA

A very successful camping/fishing trip.

All that camping wears a guy out

Day 14 – The End is Near (a.k.a. Friday the 13th)

We woke up in Oregon, but we are going to sleep in California.

Emigrant Lake Campground

The change from Oregon to California seemed drastic on I-5. The pine trees turned to oak trees and scrubby bushes, the ground from green to brown, the sky from gray to blue, the temperature from cold and damp to warm and sunny, and the condition of the pavement from smooth to potholes. An hour into California we got great views of Mt. Shasta.

We decided to stay over in Red Bluff instead of driving all the way to Sacramento. We’re staying right off the highway in the Durango RV Resort. It is quite impressive with full amenities: community room, pool and hot tub, bocce ball, tetherball, horseshoes, laundry, curbside garbage pickup, and full hookups. I think the 3 RVs to our right are having a family reunion. It looks like they brought 20 extra folding chairs.

Steve is ready to hit the road and go home

Since the weather was warm, we relaxed outside at our picnic table and played board games. We ventured into downtown Red Bluff and had Mexican food for dinner. One more night in the super short RV bed and then we will be back home to our king size bed. Steve the Dinosaur misses his friend Malcolm.

It has been a fun trip. Oregon is beautiful and I can see us returning for more camping especially on the coast.

Daily Ratings
Los Mariachis in Red Bluff – 3.5 stars
Durango RV Resort – 4 stars
Oregon – 5 stars

Day 13 – Ashland

It was so cold when we woke up this morning. It was raining and the thermometer in the trailer said it was 44 degrees outside. Shawn donned his new rain gear to pack up the trailer and we left Yoncalla in search of drier climes. At some point in the two-hour drive, the trees changed from green pines to brown oaks and there was more fall color to see.

We’re staying at Emigrant Lake County Park outside Ashland. As we rounded a hill expecting to see a beautiful lake, we saw a puddle surrounded by dry shrubs and trees. Shawn said it looked greener on the website. Oh well, more reason to spend time in Ashland proper.

We started at Caldera Brewing to sample their beers. They had quite a selection, and we sampled a Hatch chili, grapefruit IPA, a couple more IPAs and a barrel aged stout. Our waitress was a fan of their IPAs and she said they are one of the few local breweries that make IPAs that are 100 IBU (hecka bitter). The long wooden bar had a live edge and was cut from an Oregon tree. The walls of the restaurant were lined with beer bottles.

In downtown Ashland, we walked around and looked at the shops. Of course we stopped in Sew Creative, the quilt shop. The ladies working in the shop were very friendly and told us they have the largest selection of aboriginal print fabrics from Australia in the US. A couple yards found their way into my shopping bag. I’m getting really used to not paying sales tax.

The next place to catch our eye was a bakery. We left with a couple loaves of bread: whole wheat sourdough (still on our quest for a good sourdough) and cranberry hazelnut. Yesterday we drove past lots of hazelnut orchards. I didn’t realize they grew hazelnuts in Oregon.

We took Steve the Dinosaur for a walk through Lithia Park. It is a large park in the middle of town and it was designed by John McLaren, one of the architects of Golden Gate Park. Ashland Creek runs through the middle of the park. Every town should have a park like this.

After all that walking, it was time for dinner. We went to Standing Stone Brewery and started with their beer sampler. They had a nice red ale, and for the first time, I found a sour that I liked. It reminded me of Fresca without the chemical taste. Aside from the brewery, they also have a farm where they raise beef and lamb using sustainable practices. The lamb burger with chimichurri sauce was very good. We thought we were done after dinner, but our waitress mentioned a couple of Shawn’s favorites for dessert so we had crème brûlée and Marionberry cobbler ala mode.

Walking back to the car it started raining again. Now we are tucked into the trailer for the night…huddled under blankets to keep warm.

Daily Ratings & Stats

Emigrant Lake County Park – 3 stars (I’m sure it’s lovely in the spring)
Caldera Brewing – 4 stars
Standing Stone Brewing & Restaurant – 4.5 stars
Lithia Park – 5 stars

Beers sampled – 14 (they are small samples and we share)
Steps taken – 6,665
Miles traveled – 139

Day 12 – A Change in Plans

Since it didn’t make sense to sit in the RV while it rained for another day, we decided to keep driving south. Our next planned stop is Ashland, but that is a 4 ½ hour drive from Silver Falls, so we broke it up by finding an RV campground south of Eugene. On the drive from Silver Falls, we passed lots of Christmas tree farms. We went through Linn County “World’s Largest Supplier of Grass Seed”. There were huge grass farms (not to be confused with weed farms). We tried to visit 2 Towns Cider house, but there was no RV parking. We had lunch at a truck stop in Coburg. Our waitress was super friendly, but the food was not worthy of a photograph.

One of many Christmas tree farms we passed

After we got the RV set up at Rice Hill RV Park, we went to a nearby winery. MarshAnne Landing is owned by a couple from Maryland. They moved to Oregon 17 years ago to open the winery. The owner is a former chemist, and they grow all their own grapes on about 11 acres and process and bottle the wine themselves. It was pouring rain when we arrived, and by the time we left the sun was shining over the vineyard. We left with bottles of Viognier, Pinot Noir, and Red Planet their signature blend.

MarshAnne Vineyards
Sunny skies over the RV park

We watched the news for the first time in 12 days and saw all the fires in northern California. Hopefully, all the rain we are seeing here will move south.

Day 11 – Trail of Waterfalls

We left Portland early because we wanted to get to Silver Falls State Park. The weather forecast indicated it would start raining at 2:00. We drove through more beautiful countryside. We arrived at the park at 11:30, had a quick lunch and hit the trail for a 3-mile hike.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, the Oregon state parks are wonderful. They are clean and well maintained. The trails are well marked and wide. We meandered down a trail along a creek to the first of many falls. A local was sitting looking up at the waterfall that was dripping down the rocks. He said it was much more impressive in the spring.

The next waterfall was Middle North with a height of 106 feet and it was gushing. The trail went behind the falls and to a shallow cave. It was beautiful!

We saw 6 of the 10 waterfalls along the trail. We were about 100 feet from the trailhead when it started raining. It was exactly 2:00. Weather technology is getting pretty accurate.


Steve the Dinosaur enjoyed the hike

We spent the rest of the day in the RV reading and listening to the rain. A week before our trip, I bought an Instant Pot 10-in-1 pressure cooker. Before the trip, I used it to make some stew and chili to freeze for meals on the road. Shawn suggested I also bring it along on the trip since we would have electricity at most sites. We’ve used it to defrost the frozen meals in 20 minutes and make steel cut oats for breakfast. It’s a handy appliance to have around.

We were planning to stay in the park for two nights, but the forecast of more rain had us changing our mind. This is also the first place that we stayed that didn’t have cellular service, so we were feeling a bit disconnected.

The view of our campsite from within the coziness of our RV

Daily Ratings & Stats

Silver Falls State Park – 5 stars
Steps hiked – 8,381
Photos of food – zero

Day 10 – Fabric, Donuts and Beer

Due to our adventures in gastronomy while traveling, we usually eat a light breakfast of yogurt, berries and granola.  Today was our first breakfast out.  Sean recommended Blue Star Donuts instead of the usual Voodoo Donuts.  At Blue Star, there was a selection of about 15 gourmet donuts.  We tried the Lemon Poppyseed, Meyer Lemon Key Lime Custard, and Blueberry Bourbon Basil.  While we were enjoying our selections, one of the employees pulled out a blow torch and started caramelizing the tops of donuts so we had to try the crème brûlée donut too.  It had a great crunch on top, but our favorite was the blueberry donut.  A hipster walked in and ordered a dozen assorted for a mere $39.50.

I have been shopping online at Fabric Depot for a few years.  It wasn’t until last week when we were planning our trip that I realized they were in Portland.  We arrived at 11 AM on a Monday and the parking lot was packed.  I walked into the converted auto dealership and was immediately overwhelmed by the selection.  The place is so big that they just added a café (they should really add a brewery for the husbands).  There were long lines at the cutting table and ladies had bolts of fabric stacked in shopping carts.  Turns out they were having a 40% off all fabric sale.  I felt compelled to shop quickly and get in line until I realized I could just take pictures of the fabric lines that I liked and order online.  No standing in lines!

We met Sean for lunch at 10 Barrel Brewing in the Pearl District (Portland is so big that they need to name all the trendy neighborhoods).  We enjoyed a sampler of their brews and a plate of steak & Gorgonzola nachos.  I liked the Double Squishy IPA and Shawn had the Nitro Apocalypse.

We woke up this morning and it was 46 degrees in the RV, but it was a clear sunny day with a high of 70.  While driving we were able to see both Mount Hood and Mount St. Helen.  Living in a city with two rivers, I have come to appreciate bridges.  Sacramento is skimpy when it comes to bridges, but Portland boasts 9 bridges over the Willamette in downtown alone.  Kudos Portland!

In the evening, we went to Sean’s house in Sandy on the outskirts of Portland.  It’s amazing what fifty foot pine trees can do to improve the look of a strip mall.  Sean and his wife live in a cute townhouse in a hilly neighborhood.  A nice mix of suburbia and nature.  We went to their local brewery Bunsenbrewer.  The menu is the periodic table of beers and all their beers are named after scientists.  I enjoyed a beaker of Bill Nye Rye PA.

Tomorrow we begin our travels south heading for Silver Falls state park.  Hopefully, we will find a break in the weather for some hiking at the falls.  We could use a little exercise after Portland.

Daily Ratings & Stats

Blue Star Donuts – 5 stars
10 Barrel Brewery – 4.5 stars
Bunsenbrewer – 3.5 stars
Fabric Depot – so huge it cannot be rated by mere stars

Steps taken – not nearly enough
Loads of laundry done – 3

Day 9 – Tasting Our Way Through Portland

We left the beautiful Oregon coastline and headed inland to Portland this morning.  Once again, the scenery along the way was gorgeous. Rolling hills with farms and a backdrop of mountain forests.  We crossed innumerable creeks, streams, and rivers.

We are staying at the Sandy Riverfront RV Resort in Troutdale (“Gateway to the Columbia Gorge”) east of Portland. Not a bad RV park, but the spots are much closer together than the last two state parks we’ve stayed in.  I’m just excited because they have a laundromat (it is day 9 after all).

After setting up camp (also known as plugging in the electricity and hooking up to water and sewer), we drove to the Alberta Arts District.  I was in search of Bolt, a modern fabric shop.  They had some fun patterns by up and coming national and local designers and a large selection of printed canvas.  While I was admiring the fabric, Shawn stood in line at Salt & Straw for ice cream.  It had to be good because the line was down the street.  They had some fun flavors like Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper, Pear & Blue Cheese, and a seasonal Dracula’s Blood Pudding (“a heady combination of warm spice and cream mixed into real blood pudding”).  I had to taste that.  The server felt compelled to warn me that the real blood pudding contained real pig’s blood. It tasted like a quality ice cream with an aftertaste of copper.

We did a little cider tasting at Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider (“The apple’s deepest purpose realized”).  Who knew they could make 12 ciders that are so distinctly different in taste?  In fact, I think only two actually tasted like apple.  There was sour cherry, ginger, pineapple, watermelon (yuck), hopricot, strawberry-lemongrass and something so hideous that I have blocked it from my recent memory.

Shawn’s friend Sean met us for dinner in Gresham.  He recommended a Lebanese restaurant that was fantastic.  They started us off with a 14” pita and a spicy dipping oil.  I had lamb shawarma over hummus and Shawn had spiced lamb over hummus.  I think this is the best meal we’ve had in Oregon.

On a side note, gas in Oregon is cheaper and they pump it for you!  Pumping your own gas is a $125 fine.

Daily Ratings & Stats

Bolt fabric shop – 3.5 stars
Salt & Straw ice cream – 3 stars (Shawn said it was delicious but the wait was entirely too long)
Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider – 3 stars
Nicholas Lebanese restaurant – 5 stars

Miles traveled – 111
Steps taken – not nearly enough for all the tasting today
Number of times I’ve used “beautiful” to describe Oregon – are you keeping track?


Day 8 – Oregon Rain

It rained all night. Boy, was I glad we weren’t tent camping! When the rain stopped this morning, we took the opportunity to walk along the dunes and the beach. The tide was out and the hard packed sand made it perfect for walking, running, biking, chasing kids and dogs, and horseback riding. There were people doing all these things while the weather was good.

Dunes separating the campground and the beach

Not us

After that, it started raining again so we headed into Manzanita for lunch. Manzanita is a ritzy little seaside town similar to Carmel. Lots of expensive realty, restaurants, coffee houses and gift shops. We had lunch at the Big Wave Café. Shawn had fresh halibut fish & chips and I had clam chowder and crab cakes with habanero aioli. We also enjoyed a bottle of Oregon Chardonnay from Westrey in Dundee Hills. We slipped into Bread & Ocean Bakery just as they were putting up the closed sign and grabbed their last loaf of sourdough. We are still on a quest for good sourdough. A final stop at Manzanita Espresso & News for a coffee and then back to camp.

The rest of the afternoon has been spent enjoying the fresh rain-filled air and reading. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday.

Daily Ratings & Stats
Nehalem Bay State Park – 4 stars
Big Wave Café – 4 stars
Bread & Ocean Bakery – holding out on a rating until dinner
Manzanita Espresso & News – 4 stars
Steps taken – 10,408 so far