Sunday, May 27, 2012

Week 5 - Hard Work and Fine Dining

Week 5 was a real mixed bag; couple of days with light rain, one day when we got soaked and felt like drowned rats and a couple of days with temps in the low 60's and plenty of sunshine. About once a week Joan and I have occasion to travel into Estacada about 10 miles north on 224. Each time we return home we are amazed at the view. About 3 miles outside of town we top a hill that begins a 2-3 mile 7% grade down into the valley along the Clackamas River and our RV.

As we top the hill the entire valley comes into view; and it seems  each time the view changes. Some days at dusk the skies are dark shades of blue and mountains are dark shapes on the horizon. Other days the sun hasn't risen high enough to have cleared off the hundreds of wisps of clouds rising out of the trees as far as the eye can see. And on the clear days thousands of shades of green can be seen; changing daily as new leaves appear on the trees and the grasses grow in the fields and along the roadways.

Last Sunday we took a long drive across country to see if we could get a better view of the eclipse (northern Oregon got a partial view while southern Oregon got the full affect of the Ring of Fire). We traveled through Mt Angel, Silverton and took the long way around Silver Falls to Salem before heading back home.

Silver Falls is not just a waterfall; rather it is an area encompassing 10 different falls. There is an 8.7 mile trail for hikers that takes in all 10 falls; however it is considered a medium to strenuous hike and that wasn't really in our plans for this weekend. At North Falls the trail allows hikers to walk behind the waterfall for a unique perspective.

The scenery on the way home was fantastic. Pictures don't do it justice. Around every corner was an ever changing view; entire fields of yellow, dark red and/or white blossoms. We were really never sure what we would see next.

The skies were overcast and I think that allowed us a better view of the eclipse throughout the afternoon. We were able to look directly at the sun (through the clouds) and actually see the dark shadow of the moon covering about 2/3's of its surface at one point. On the way home we were feeling a little hungry and started looking for somewhere to eat. We passed through a small town and failed to see anything appealing. Realizing that this was the last place to find anything for another 30-45 miles we pulled into a gas station and ask a young woman filling up her minivan if there were any places we might try for supper. She named a pizza joint and Chinese restaurant we had already by-passed, but then caveat-ed her recommendations by stating "actually the bowling alley has really good food."

With that we were off in search of the bowling alley. The bowling alley had it all, including some really good milkshakes. Fine Dining? I don't think so. But it worked in a jam.

After we ate we kept our heads on straight and decided to head home before we were tempted to do something drastic. At my age I can't afford to lose any more brain cells.

The workweek started out with our attending a 2-day camphost orientation called Mini-Grizz. Then it was back to tree clearing and campsite preparations. One evening we ran into town for a quick bite to eat to a place called Old Mill Saloon. You have to watch out for these Oregonians, they are a tough breed. Check out the door hardware

All the hard work the last few weeks paid off and we opened all of the campgrounds along the Clackamas River on schedule in time for the holiday weekend. Now the adventure begins for the 30-odd CG's still unopened on the Mt Hood side. It appears we've got the OK to begin felling hazard trees in 9 more CGs, so I suspect Joan and I will be headed to the east side next week.

Happy Holiday everyone. Stayed tuned. More to come.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Week 4 - More Trees, Fisticuffs and Flying Kayaks

Week 4 is done and Whew!!!! What a week. The weather has been perfect; morning temps in the 40's with highs just above 70; not a drop of rain for 15 days in a row - a record for consecutive days without rain in May for the Portland area. With the weather improving and Memorial Day holiday around the corner there is a real push to get as many campgrounds open as possible. There are still several that are in higher elevations with snow blocking the roads to the parks. And there are many with hazard trees that have to be removed before campers will be allowed in.

Sunday was our day off but we got a call from the camphost at the CG across the street...."Was the site manager around?" (site manager = our boss). He wasn't and I asked if I could help. "No, just wanted to let him know I've told two campers they must leave. Father and son camping together were just standing in the street in front of my RV throwing punches." I decided I would drive over anyway just as a precaution until the campers left. Who says you can't find quality entertainment camping in the woods. This was better than Jerry Springer. 

Joan and I worked felling and bucking trees 4 of our 5 workdays this week. On Wednesday a professional came in to take down 12 trees that were either too large or too precariously located for our company to risk a miscalculation. The largest saw we have has a 48" blade; some of the hazard trees measured in excess of 60" in diameter. 

Thursday night we got a call to meet the Maintenance Supervisor at one of the remote CGs to help him fell trees. What we didn't know until we got there was the number of trees........52. Yep, Mel, Joan and I were asked to sweep through the CG and fell 52 trees; anywhere from 4" - 33" in diameter; many of them well over 100' tall. We worked all day and managed to get them all. However there was a small took us 4 chainsaws to get the job done. The first chainsaw to go was mine. I had notched the tree and was attempting to cut and wedge it to force it a certain direction. But the tree had other ideas and promptly leaned back onto my blade. Mel and I checked the tree looking for options and began an attempt to drop the tree while freeing the chainsaw. Again the tree had other ideas.....and when it fell it took the saw with it. In fact it dropped the saw and then decided to jump directly on top of it. Final result; cheaper to buy a new one than replace the broken parts on the damaged one. Later we had several large trees completely surrounded by tall trees leaving us no clear path to drop them. 4 trees in a row fell into other trees rather than falling to the ground. During our attempt to clear these leaners one of them grabbed another chainsaw we were using and bent the blade. Our largest saw just got too tired and wouldn't start. We finished the day using a small 22" saw.

During lunch the 'Queen' assumed her throne for a little break

Finally Saturday rolled around....the day of the 2012 White Water Fest. Over 3,000 attendees were descending upon a small stretch of the Clackamas River separating 2 of the CGs we manage. What a blast. Lots of drift boats, various types of rafts and of course kayaks. We had noticed a crew working on building what we thought was a staircase down the bank to the river. Must be for the judges to get right down on top of the action when everyone is going through the course. Earlier in the day we bumped into one of the race starters near the loading area. "Make sure you're down at the gates at 3 o'clock. That's when they do the 'Big Air'." That's no staircase, that's a ramp for the kayaks to see how high they can jump. Did you know kayaks can fly? Believe me, they can!

That's it for this week. Stay Tuned. More to Follow.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Week 3 and We've Found Oregon's Answer to the Armadillo

Week 3 has come and gone and we've learned a lot more about workamping. This week our jobs have included:
- scraping buildings in preparation for painting
- replacing broken and deteriorated picnic tables
- reopen a campground water system
- falling and bucking hazard trees
- delivering water to camphosts
- cleaning/prepping restrooms in unopened CGs

Not the most glamorous, but at least it hasn't been boring.

This 15,000 gallon water tank had set dormant for almost 2 years as the campground it supported was closed last year due to hazard trees. A portion of the CG will be opened this year so we needed to treat and flush the entire water system. The tank is located about 100' above the CG in the forest and required a hike up a trail with a 30 degree incline toting the ladder and treatment supplies (2 trips to get it all to the top).

After treating the tank we opened every faucet in the CG to allow the system to flush. Once all the water had drained, we closed all the faucets and opened the pump to allow the system to refill. Water samples were taken over the weekend and we'll know the results this week.

After hazard trees have been identified and approved for removal by the Forest Service we will break out the chain saws and start cutting. Bucking trees is the process of cutting up the fallen/felled trees into smaller pieces so they can be removed. Joan and I spent almost 8 hours Friday bucking trees in 3 separate CGs. Now that's tough work. Joan made the comment that she's never worked so hard at manual labor. We both slept well that night.

Steve, Jerry, Sharon, Michael & Anna

We also had our first campfire of the season, inviting over some of the other workampers we work with...

After a tough week we had a day or two to play.

Clackamas River & Hwy 224
About 2 miles from our RV

Timberline Lodge at Mt Hood
63 in the Sunshine....We're Both Wearing Shorts
One of Many Rafters on the Clackamas This Weekend

Mt Hood Reflection in Trillium Lake
Yes, That's Ice Still in the Lake
Now you may be asking what is Oregon's answer to the let me explain. Being from Florida Joan and I are used to seeing a different variety of wildlife. We've been in Oregon for a little over 4 weeks and we've been really surprised that we haven't seen a lot more wildlife. If you've traveled the roads in Florida you've probably seen possum, raccoon, squirrel and the ever present armadillo.....unfortunately as roadkill. What we have seen in Oregon so far is skunk. Not only seen, but smelled as well. You might smell roadkill in Florida if it's been out in the sun for a few days. Not so with skunk. You smell it as soon as you see it! And then some. It's horrible, and the smell gets sucked up into your car's AC system and becomes the gift that keeps on giving. And no one... I mean no one is going to stop, scoop it up and get rid of it.

We travel up and down the highway along the Clackamas River several times each day as we work in the 16 different campgrounds we're responsible for. So far during the last 3 weeks working we've encountered 5 skunks; 4 as roadkill and 1 that Joan barely managed to dodge as it crossed the road in front of her. Believe me when I say a little skunk goes a long way. Maybe we should contact the state of Oregon and see if we can petition for Skunk Crossings; you know those tunnels under the road they established in Florida for the bears to use to avoid traffic. In the meantime we'll just designate the skunk as Oregon's replacement for the armadillo.

Stayed Tuned....More to Come!

Monday, May 7, 2012

New to Us This Week.......Cow Pies and Butt Rot

Joan and I have finished Week 2 of our workamping gig and we've learned a lot of new stuff about our jobs and Mt Hood National Forest. Tuesday and Wednesday started out with Hazard Tree Training offered by the Forest Service for their concessionaires and workampers. 1 day in the classroom and 1 day in the forest. On Thursday Joan got to utilize her new-found knowledge by assisting one of our site managers inspect one of the unopened campgrounds for trees that would need removal prior to the CG opening. Unfortunately it was raining with temps in the low 40's. She came home wet and cold, took a hot shower and warmed up with a little Irish Cream and coffee.

On Friday we traveled to the east side of Mt Hood to help prepare some of the CG's for campers. We cleared  fallen limbs, cleaned fire pits and raked campsites; all of this in the rain.....with a little ice mixed in. On Saturday we got word that the primary work center on the east side was ready for occupancy; so the 'extra' RV's that have been staying in our work center began preparations to leave. About 10am a convoy left headed east....1 5th wheel, 2 MH pulling toads, me driving the dually work truck loaded with tools and equipment pulling a 20' trailer carrying one of the golf carts, Joan driving one of the work trucks loaded with office supplies and 2 other work trucks loaded with various campground supplies. Here's what we ran into as we passed Mt Hood.....
Rain & Snow at 38 Degrees
Once we were on the east side the sun came out, the sky was blue and it was really pleasant. I hope I don't end up jealous as they expect lots of sun and very little rain going forward. We still have a month or two before our weather dries out on the west side. Friday night we left the rig about 10:30 and drove up to the pass entering the valley where we're located. Friday night was the night during which the moon was its closest to the earth this year. Joan snapped a few pics, experimenting with some of the settings of her new camera.

Sunday was our first of two days off and it turned out to be gorgeous; blue skies with no clouds and temps in the high 60's. Now that the extra campers have left the workcenter, we used most of the day moving and setting up our RV in its seasonal site. 
Lazy Bend Work Center
Our RV on the Right

This is the backdrop of our site. We're also started work on adding some personal touches to the space between our rig and the workcenter building including a fire pit, picnic table, hummingbird feeder, wind chimes, bird feeder, tomato and herb bed and flower garden.

We had a hard time raking some of these rocks.    They kept flying away!

When we got too close they turned into blue butterflies 

Well it's getting late and I'm pretty tired from all of the 'home' work we did today. So I'll just say 'Good Nigh..." Wait a minute... I think I may have forgotten something....What is it?... Let me read back through the blog.....Oh Yeah, I know......

Cow Pies and Butt Rot. It's not what you think. It's not from cattle or from riding the motorcycle too long on a hot summer day! In Oregon, according to the Forest Service, cow pies and butt rot are signs of a diseased tree. Schweinitzii is the formal name of the infection commonly called butt rot and is found in Douglas fir trees. When a tree suffers from schweinitzii the wood of the tree heart will deteriorate and break into little brown cubes. Cow pies are another sign of butt rot and grow near the base/root of diseased tree. They look very similar to the cow pies you find left over after a herd of cattle has been in the area.

So there you have it. No matter what you know, you can always learn a little more. Joan and I are having a great time. In fact Sunday is our anniversary....6 years since we started our new life as a couple. We can't believe how much we've done since we got together. And how much fun we've had. Our current workamping adventure is just one example. 

Stayed Tuned....More to Come!