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In praise of Forest Service Campgrounds….

Early Fall 2021

On our recent sojourn over to the John Day area of Oregon we were able to stay at two excellent almost empty Forest service campgrounds. No electric or hookups but one of the great deals around, generally around $10. The first was Yellow Pine (seen above) in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. You reach it off HWY 26 romantically named the Journey Through Time Byway. It is a seasonal campground, only open through September which is the month we went. Our first night there were only two other campers, the second we were alone. The forest floor just glowed with fall colors so I had to set up and paint right there from the campsite.

Although a storm was predicted for the second night we were protected from much of it on this side of the mountains. There were trails through the forest that Jim and the dogs explored. I enjoyed taking closeup photos of bark and moss and berries all around. With Forest Service campgrounds one always has to check the size of sites - I was able to read reviews from others on and The Dyrt as well as other sites and for this I knew people with trailers up to 27’ had camped there. It turns out that there were 3 Sites fine for our 30’ trailer and like many Forest Service campgrounds the road in loops around so

no worries about getting out.

RH - We stayed in site 7 which had a large open area beyond and was next to a nature trail that connected to another site. There was no T-Mobile cell service but we did get NPR on the radio. That was good as there was a weather alert for damaging hail that went south of us. We enjoyed this peaceful site.

A - This was a great base for exploring Sumpter, John Day and the fascinating Kam Wah Chung Heritage Site. Jim got a book there called Massacre for Gold: The Chinese in Hell’s Canyon by R. Gregory Nokes that he devoured in about two nights reading.

Our other Forest Service campground on

this trip was on our way home. We decided to take 395 down to Burns and check out the Malheur Bird refuge. We drove through an immense ranch on a high mountain plateau called Silvie’s Valley Ranch. Turns out its a top notch dude ranch with it’s own airstrip. Check it out on the web- you can read about it - goat golf caddies and 4 season fun. We pulled into the Idyllwild Campground on the downslope of the mountain with plenty of afternoon left. That was good because there were lots of trails to explore. Apparently part of it is what’s regrowing after a controlled burn. There is a small park in the center of the campground dedicated to forest firefighters who’ve lost their lives and a bench inscribed to one. We were the only campers in sight as well.

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