Home again

walla walla
Walla Walla vineyards

After our week in Eastern Oregon, we spent another two-and-a-half weeks on the road, traveling from Walla Walla, Washington to Central Oregon (Bend/Sisters), and returned home last week. The Casita has been cleaned, inside and out, and now sits in its resting place for a few weeks, while we tend to some local things and figure out where we’re off to next.

We loved staying in Walla Walla, and bunked down at a clean, well-lit (in all senses of the phrase) RV park that was close enough to downtown for us to walk. We found a few good wineries that we had never heard of (and stopped at a few we were familiar with), and had a great time overall. We stumbled upon one producer that we really liked: Mansion Creek Cellars. Mansion Creek’s proprietress is Julia, an elegant Spanish lady who loves what she does, which is creating Washington wines in the Spanish and Portuguese tradition. She isn’t the winemaker—she says her talent is in the blending—but she is clearly in charge of the entire process. There wasn’t a wine of Julia’s that we didn’t like: her dry Riesling and White Blend were spectacular whites, as was her Moscato (which blew us away, and we are so not Moscato people), and all of the reds were wonderful, and quite different from many of the other Walla Walla wines we tasted. There were plenty of other wineries that we enjoyed, and we ended up with a couple of cases of Washington wine in the Casita’s “wine cellar” (i.e. under the bed, which turns out to be surprisingly cool).

I could go on and on about how cool Walla Walla was. The town had a great vibe, good coffee joints, and wonderful food (Walla Walla Gourmet, Olive, and Bacon & Eggs were standouts, if you’re heading that way). One of the things that Susan and I are looking at throughout our travels is a town/city with livability for us, and Walla Walla was definitely one where both Susan and I were saying, “we could live here.” Not that we will, but it had that comfort level for us.1

We had figured that three nights in the city would be enough, and had reserved a few nights in a state park northeast of Walla Walla. Surprisingly, this turned out to be our worst park experience in all our travels this year (I would have expected an RV park to hold that distinction). The park, Lewis & Clark Trail State Park, turned out to be a small, overgrown patch of forest along a river–which you could hear, but couldn’t see from any of the campsites. It really felt as though no one was paying attention to the park: the garbage cans hadn’t been emptied in quite a while, the campsites were dirty and unkempt, and we only saw a ranger on the last day we were there. Overall, there was a dingy aura to the place, and we couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to camp there. We certainly won’t again. (Get it together, Washington!)

We hightailed it out of that place a day earlier than we had planned, and headed towards Bend. After another nice drive, we found a fantastic place to camp on the Lower Crooked River, just outside of Prineville. The campground was on BLM land, and we had a beautiful site right on the river; it was the perfect antidote to the previous park. If we didn’t have paid reservations at another park, we probably would have spent a few nights there, but its definitely on our “return” list for the future.

Camping on the Crooked River
Camping on the Crooked River

We were in the Bend area for a week, to explore and to see a bunch of folks from our barn competing in a local horse show. My horse Calynda was showing, with the young girl who’s leasing her this year, and it was a blast to see everyone. We stayed a couple of nights on the show grounds, which was just ok, and ended up at a gem of a park outside of Sisters called Cold Springs Campground. Even though it was Memorial Day weekend, the park was quiet, and it was a glorious way for us to end our second trip this year.

Calynda and Phoebe jumping
Calynda and Phoebe jumping

We’re in town for a month or so; some of Susan’s family is coming to visit Oregon for a bit, and we’ve been trying to figure out our summer travel plans. It’s looking like we’re going to head up to Canada for August, and then off to Waldo Lake, the Alford Desert, and northern California for the fall.

I have another post I’ve been working on that I hope to get up in a week or so, going over some stats about our travels this year, and some things that we’ve learned along the way, but I did want to give folks a wrap-up on this last jaunt.

In the woods at Cold Springs Campground
In the woods at Cold Springs Campground
  1. We are heading back to Walla Walla in December, for Mansion Creek’s formal winter party at Julia’s mansion downtown. Susan is already thinking about her dress, and I’ll have to dig out the black tie—it should be a blast, and we’ll see what Walla Walla is like in the winter. (The Casita won’t be attending on this trip, though.)

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