Post Fire

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A view of the Wanapum Recreation Area in the Gingko Petrified Forest State Park and the Columbia River. The green area in the right center of the photo is the campground. The entire surrounding area was burned. The campground is watered regularly.

August 2, 2018

We found out that there were 3 fires in the area within the last two months that have burned an extensive part of this area.  (Here is a link that shows pictures of one of the fires.  Click here.) One fire started at the rest stop that is about 10 miles up the road.  There is almost no vegetation at this time.  It looks very desolate and it is hard to believe that any animals can survive in this environment.  But, some do.

Yesterday, we found several Bighorn ship by the river at the north part of the State Park.  There is some vegetation along the river, so it is not surprising the sheep would be there.  There are a few babies.  Once you get a few feet away from the river, there is no vegetation except for the grassy area around the State Park visitor center and parking lot.  This area is regularly watered and the sheep hang out here because of it.

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Bighorn Sheep in Gingko Petrified Forest State Park by the Columbia River. Mom spotted us and is heading to safety with her baby.
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Bighorn Sheep mom and her baby in Gingko Petrified Forest State Park.
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Bighorn Sheep in Gingko Petrified Forest State Park.
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Bighorn sheep baby in Gingko Petrified Forest State Park.

Regis went hiking for about six miles in this desolate landscape.  He found a couple seeps/springs where there is a bit of greenery among the barren landscape.  He found a few places where the plant life is beginning to come back.

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The little bit of greenery is this burned landscape shows where there is some water in Gingko Petrified Forest State Park. 
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Life trying to return after the fire in Gingko Petrified Forest State Park.

He noticed several animal skeletons.  At least some of them are charred, so the bones were there before the fire.  With the vegetation gone, it is easy to see all the “hard” stuff left behind.

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Animal skeleton in Gingko Petrified Forest State Park.
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Burned fence post in Gingko Petrified Forest State Park.

We learned that in 2016, only one person died in the U.S. from a rattlesnake bite and that person had an underlying health condition.  Twelve thousand people died from stairs that same year.  Even the vet told me that rattlesnakes are not that big of a concern here.  He thinks there is more concern about alligators in Florida.  The snakes aren’t interested in being around you.  But, like anything, be aware of your surroundings.  We also learned that a relocated rattlesnake is a dead rattlesnake.  Rattlesnakes spend the winter communally in a specific place.  They learn where that place is in their first year and if they are relocated will search endlessly for that place.  As a result, they die of starvation and/or exposure because they will not eat while searching for that place.

It is about 10 degrees cooler today, so it is much more bearable.

 

Bee Sting and Wicked Wind

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View across the Columbia River from our campsite.

August 1, 2018

Yesterday, we had to take Dart to the vet.  The nearest vet is 34 miles away.  Dart’s been having digestive issues and yesterday was going on day 3.  We’ve been down this path many times, so I knew he needed some professional help.  Dart was diagnosed with colitis and the vet prescribed Metronidazole which always helps.  Dart has been having bouts of colitis for the last 2 1/2 years.

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View across the Columbia River from our campground.

It went up to 104 degrees yesterday, so we didn’t spend much time outside.  We decided in the early evening to set up the screened canopy which we purchased on last year’s trip to Canada.  We purchased it for the Canadian trip to give us relief from the mosquitoes.  By the time we bought it, we didn’t have to use it.  We wanted to set it up here to give relief from the bees.  While I was focused on helping Regis put up the canopy, a dag gone bee stung me.  Ouch! It hurt, but at least not as bad as a yellow jacket sting.

The canopy was VERY HARD to set up.  I had a canopy that I used for dog agility trials that I had no problem putting up and down by myself.  This screened canopy was extremely difficult for two people to put up.

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Dart, Coco, and Regis in the screened canopy we set up to give us relief from the bees.

Once we sat inside, we realized that what little breeze was outside was blocked by the screen.  As hot as it was outside, it was intolerable to sit under the canopy.  We gave up and went inside the motor home and fed the dogs and ourselves.  Around the time we finished dinner, the wind picked up so much we had to take down the canopy or it would have blown down the hill into the Columbia River.  So, all that effort and it was only up for two hours and we couldn’t use it.

The wind picked up considerably as the evening wore on and by the time we went to bed, it was howling out there.  That is the most wind we have experienced in the motor home.  In fact, it is probably the windiest situation I have been in outside of Hurricane Irma and perhaps a few tropical storms.  While I was laying there trying to get to sleep, the feeling I had was like when you are in an airplane taking off on the runway and the wheels haven’t lifted off the ground yet.  The plane is shaking and rumbling until the plane gets into the air.  The motor home was shaking and rumbling and I was hoping that it wasn’t going to take off.  Without wings, it wouldn’t have worked well.

A significant portion of the land around us for many miles has been burned not long ago.  I wonder if you tinted the land red, if this is what it would look like to be on Mars.

 

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This is what the land looks like around us for miles and miles and miles.

Columbia River and Mount Hood

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Mount Hood in Oregon.

Dart was on the north side of the Columbia River and that is Mount Hood in the background.  If you drive on the south side of the river which is in Oregon, you drive on an interstate.  There are a few places to stop, but you are on a high speed road.  On the north side of the river which is in Washington, there is little traffic and more opportunities to pull over and enjoy the view.  We like the north side better but were not able to travel it the whole way.  There are several tunnels with height restrictions and we couldn’t go through some of them.  We went through a few and it was very close.  I was cringing waiting to hear a scraping sound.  Regis tried to drive through the middle of the tunnel where the clearance is higher but traffic coming from the other direction kept making that difficult.  We eventually had to cross into Oregon and drive on the interstate.

Following is a bunch of pictures along the river.  Once you get past the Dalles Dam (heading west) and all the kite and wind surfers, the vegetation becomes increasingly lush.  By the time you get to Portland, the flowers are amazing.   Once we crossed the river, it was VERY difficult to take pictures so I am unable at this time to show you the lush vegetation.

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Columbia River.
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Columbia River.
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Columbia River.
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John Day Dam on the Columbia River.
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Columbia River.

We have a few goals over the next couple days:  clean the RV, clean the car, clean the dog, go to Powell’s book store, get Blue Star donuts (top priority), and take the RV in to see if it can be fitted with a sway bar.  For those interested in the technical details about why Regis wants to do that and whether it will work for us, I’ll let him post after he meets with the shop on Tuesday.  Amazingly, this campground will let you wash your vehicles which is highly unusual.  That means we can clean the car and RV ourselves.  I found a local place that let’s you self wash the dog, so I’m planning on taking Dart there while Regis is in the shop.  After traveling 3,669 miles across country, almost everything is due for a thorough cleaning.

We are all very happy to stay in one spot for several days.  Our next location is only 147 miles away.  That’s nothing.  Dart is going to love the next several months.  No long distance driving required!!

Just as a note, we drove 1,207 miles from Rapid City to Portland.  Because of our car issues, we had to drive without stopping more than 1 night.  We haven’t done that many miles without a break since we started traveling 4 years ago.  I can tell you that all three of us need a driving break.

Bonus Points:  Regis says he’ll give bonus points to anyone who can figure out what city is below Dart in the Where’s Dart picture in our last post.