Camping with Cats


I know, I said never travel with cats. Unfortunately, finding cat sitters would limit our travels so we have decided our cats need to learn how to camp. In April, we traded in our toy-hauler for a smaller, more comfortable fifth wheel. We’ve taken three short camping trips to local lakes since then, and the cats have accompanied us each time. Unlike the hellish 16-hour journey from California to Idaho, we no longer drug or confine the beasts. They ride in the backseat of the truck (mostly), but are free to roam and look out the windows. They seem to calm down after the first 15 minutes, and the remainder of the trip is much more enjoyable.

Priest Lake
Sophie perches between the front seats while Chuck cries in the back seat

Trip # 1 – Heyburn State Park

Can you really call it a trip if the destination is 25 minutes from your house? Our maiden voyage in the new RV was to Heyburn State Park. We stayed at the Hawley’s Landing Campground on Lake Chatcolet. Heyburn State Park is the oldest state park in the Pacific Northwest, created by an act of Congress in 1908. Heyburn includes approximately 5,800 acres of land and 2,300 acres of water. Much of the early construction was performed by Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s.

Lake Chatcolet
Lake Chatcolet

The Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes runs through the park. The Trail of the Coeur d’ Alenes is a 72-mile paved trail spanning the Idaho panhandle between Mullan and Plummer. It was created through a unique partnership between the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Union Pacific Railroad, the U. S. Government, and the State of Idaho. The trail begins in the historic Silver Valley, continues along the Coeur d’Alene River past scenic Lake Coeur d’Alene and through rolling farmlands to Plummer. We have hiked one mile of the trail…only 71 more to go.

Foot bridge over lake – part of the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes
Foot bridge over lake
Bird nests in bridge
Beaver Lodge?
Floating house on the lake

Trip #2 – Priest Lake State Park

Sure we live 15 minutes from the world renowned Lake Coeur d’Alene, but we chose to drive two hours north to Priest Lake for our next camping adventure. The cats were definitely more comfortable on this trip and were feeling pretty at-home in the RV.

Priest Lake
Sophie checking out the wildlife from the safety of the RV
Priest Lake
Chuck Norris assumed this bed was his (is that a huge cat or a small bed…yes to both)
Priest Lake
Sophie enjoying the new heated, massaging recliner (there is a perfectly good cat house to her left)

Just 30 miles from the Canadian Border, nestled deep below the crest of the Selkirk Mountains lies Priest Lake State Park. Surrounded by the natural beauty of Northern Idaho and mile-high mountains, Priest Lake State Park sits along the eastern shores of Priest Lake, a 19-mile, 300+ foot deep lake. Noted for its extremely clear water, fed by streams cascading from the high Selkirk peaks, the main body of Priest Lake extends north-south 19 miles and is connected by a 2 mile thoroughfare to the remote Upper Priest Lake, accessible only by foot or boat.

We hiked the View Point trail above the campground and were rewarded with a beautiful view of the lake. So far, I have been impressed with the Idaho campgrounds and the quality of their trails. There was also an interpretive trail that continued our tree identification education.

Priest Lake
View of Priest Lake
Priest Lake
View of Priest Lake
Priest Lake
Shawn enjoying the view
Priest Lake
Tree identification
Priest Lake
Pop quiz
Priest Lake
Priest Lake
Priest Lake
Beach and swimming area – the water is still a bit cold for that

Painted on the pavement entering the park is the phrase “Don’t be a Guberif.” We were stumped by that so Shawn asked the park attendant what it meant. He had no idea and said no one had ever asked him before. We Googled it. In 1946, Idaho launched the “Keep Idaho Green” campaign and looking for a way to help differentiate their forest fire prevention campaign from that of other states, Keep Idaho Green invented a new character. First introduced in 1950, the “Guberif” was defined as a creature that starts fires in Idaho’s forests through acts of carelessness. Guberif is fire bug spelled backwards. Read more about the Guberif.

Priest Lake
Don’t Be a Guberif

Trip #3 – Farragut State Park

When someone told me that Farragut State Park was a former Naval training base, I was skeptical. Submarines in Idaho? The park adjoins the deepwater Lake Pend Oreille, where the Navy maintains a submarine research center at Bayview, the Acoustic Research Detachment. The land was transferred to the state of Idaho in 1949 and became a state park in 1965. Ground was broken in March 1942, and by September the base had a population of 55,000, making it the largest city in Idaho. Liberty trains to Spokane ran three times daily. At the time Farragut was the second-largest naval training center in the world. During the 30 months the base was open, 293,381 sailors received basic training at Farragut. The last recruit graduated in March 1945 and the facility was decommissioned in June 1946. It was also used as a prisoner of war camp; nearly 900 Germans worked as gardeners and maintenance men.

Now, it’s just a beautiful park with miles of trails, 4 disc-golf courses and a museum. The Priest Lake campground also had a disc golf course, so we decided to get some discs and give it a try. It turns out you need special discs (driver, mid-range and putter), not your old Frisbee. We met a fellow with a backpack full of discs. He was playing numerous disc golf courses on his travels with his dog.

Disc Golf Rules
Warming up on the kiddie course
The fairway in the woods
A small snake wanted to play through

We hiked 4 miles on the well maintained trails that took us down along the shores of Lake Pend Oreille (pronounced ponder-ay). The wildflowers were in full bloom.

One of the wider trails
View of the lake through the trees
Lake Pend Oreille
Iris blooming along the shore
Poppy field bordering the camp site

We’ve visited three of Idaho’s state parks, and they have all been beautiful and well maintained (and they have super nice bathrooms and showers if you need that sort of thing). The camp hosts and volunteers have been friendly and helpful and we’ve met many fellow campers. I’m looking forward to exploring more of Idaho’s treasures, even if I have to take my cats.

Road to California

On December 16, we embarked on a 17-day journey from Northern Idaho to Central California and back in our fifth wheel.   The first obstacle to overcome was getting out of our driveway.  Shawn had to buy studded snow tires and chains for the truck.  Our neighbors, Rich and Kyle, did their best to help us out by plowing as much snow and ice as possible off of our downhill driveway.  When Shawn went to buy the snow tires and chains, Rich chained his truck to Shawn’s to prevent Shawn from sliding down the driveway.  It was a scary drive in the early morning darkness, but Shawn successfully navigated us down the driveway to the main road before removing the chains.

The next obstacle was the weather.  We ended up leaving a day earlier than planned in order to miss a storm.  We drove six hours to Portland the first day.  Eastern Washington is far from picturesque, especially in the winter.  We stayed at the Sandy Riverfront RV Park in Troutdale, Oregon.  Troutdale is a cute little town and their main street was decorated for Christmas.  We enjoyed dinner and martinis at Troutini.  Our waitress encouraged us to come back for New Year’s Eve on our return trip.

The Christmas lights in Troutdale

Martini with color changing ice fish at Troutini

The next stop was South Beach State Park in Newport, Oregon.  Once again we stayed at a park that we visited on our previous trip.  Living in landlocked Idaho, Shawn knew I needed my dose of ocean views.  We just beat the storm, and we were able to take a long walk on the beach.  That night, our trailer was shaking fiercely in the 35 mph wind and rain.

Winter driving conditions

South Beach, Oregon

You’ve gotta stop at Rogue Brewing when traveling along the Oregon coast

We stopped in Bandon, Oregon, home of Face Rock Creamery and the import store with all the dinosaurs.  Face Rock still makes the best mac & cheese in my book, and the clerk told us the recipe is available online.  We bought a frozen mac to go along with a healthy supply of Vampire Slayer garlic cheddar.  No additional dinosuars came home with us this trip.

A menagerie of metal animals past and present

In Gold Beach, we stayed at Turtle Rock RV Resort.  As you can see from the picture, winter RV’ing is not so popular in the Pacific North West, but the solitude makes it much easier to park!  We enjoyed an evening with Shawn’s niece and her family.

Now I know why it’s named Turtle Rock. I totally missed that last trip.

Our first stop in California was in Trinidad, a cute seaside town with an incredible smoked fish shop.  It was a beautiful, sunny day, so after lunch, we took a 2-mile hike before getting back in the truck to head to Garberville for the night.

The Cool Bus

That was the end of the relaxing, leisurely, sightseeing portion of our trip.  After that, our days were packed with visits with family and friends.  We spent the night at Cal Expo RV Park in Sacramento, had lunch with our daughter and the grandkids, and dinner with our friend Jerry.  Traffic and 5-lane freeways were a rude awakening.  The stress level instantly increased.

Then it was on to Fresno to visit our son and the Scharton clan.  Some of the highlights included sampling the local breweries, an introduction to mulcajetes, lots of good Mexican food that we don’t have in Idaho, a Zumba class led by my sister-in-law, and Christmas Eve dinner with family and old friends.  We parked in my brother’s driveway for the duration.  I’m sure the neighbors were thrilled when we packed up and left at 5:30 Christmas morning for a hair-raising drive through the tule fog back to Sacramento.

The molten goodness that is a mulcajete

Enjoying a beer by the fire at Tioga Sequoia Brewing

Gift exchange with the Schartons

We made it to Elk Grove in time to watch the grandkids open their presents Christmas morning.  Shawn’s brother hosted Christmas dinner.  Only in California can you serve Christmas dinner outside on the patio.  Sure, there was a heater and a fire pit, but we won’t be doing that in Idaho in December.

Gift exchange with the Echols

On Boxing Day, we drove to San Francisco to visit our youngest son.  We’ve always gone over the Bay Bridge, but this time we took the Golden Gate Bridge.  It was so much nicer; I may never use the Bay Bridge again.  It was a rare sunny day in San Francisco, so we enjoyed a long walk through Golden Gate Park and a Korean lunch of bi bim bab (not commonly found in Idaho).

It was fun seeing the kids decorate their trees with old family ornaments

The next two days were filled with lunches and dinners with old friends and co-workers.  So much to catch up on and to remind us how much we are enjoying retirement.  We spent four days in Sacramento before heading home to Idaho.  We picked up a cold along the way and just wanted to get home.  The return trip was only two stops compared to the five days we took on the way down.

Shawn’s nephew made some repairs on the RV while we were in town

Gratuitous granddaughter picture from Stephanie’s birthday lunch

I’d tell you which mountain this is, but I was taking a lot of cold medication at the time of the photograph

NYE back at Troutini, we just wanted to go to bed at 7PM

Kyle towing us up the driveway to our Home Sweet Home

We arrived home the afternoon of January 1st and our neighbor Kyle was waiting at the end of the driveway to tow us home.  The trip was fun, adventurous, and exhausting.  It was wonderful to see all of our California family and friends again.  Now it’s time to look through all the seed catalogs that were awaiting us on our return.  Spring is just around the corner…she says hopefully.

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