Friday, September 18, 2015

Camping 2015: River Bend Campground

The Man, his parents, his brother, and I went camping for five days at River Bend County Park in Foster, Oregon, this week. We left on Sunday and returned on Thursday. We stayed in a cabin right on the South Santiam River. While we didn't actually do anything on or in the river, it was super peaceful and picturesque to have the river right there.

Despite the incredibly dry summer this year, the powers that be started allowing campfires in the fire pits only a couple weeks before we left. Camping without a campfire is just... not right.

The cabin was small at about 400 square feet, adequate for five adults, but probably most appropriate for four people. The bedroom had twin-sized bunk beds and a double bed. The living room had a futon couch that made another double bed. The Man and I slept on the futon. I shouldn't say "slept" as the first night we didn't sleep much at all, and the other nights were fitful at best. Without our additional foam pads and sleeping bags, I am not sure we would have slept at all. The cabin's front door had a quarter-inch gap at the bottom through which numerous spiders crawled while we stayed. I wasn't impressed. The cabins have electricity--a welcome treat for charging e-readers and using the provided microwave to make popcorn. They also have mini refrigerators, although ours smelled rotten, so we only used our big coolers.

Plumbing wasn't available, however, so every bathroom trip involved a 40-yard trek through the brush to the pit toilet or a 100-yard trek through the brush and up the parking lot to the flush toilets and, thankfully, hot showers. On one late night trip, my headlamp caught eyes staring back at me from the brush. I froze. The Man's brother also saw the eyes and started aping about, trying to scare the creature. We--he--finally determined that the animals were deer. Still, scary. We would have had to make many more trips from the cabin to the bathroom if I hadn't built a mobile handwashing station.

The cabin also had an outdoor picnic table on a concrete pad. The fire ring was on the edge of the pad, so once we moved the picnic table a little bit, we had plenty of room for five camp chairs around the fire. Though the forecast called for drizzles all week, it didn't really rain in earnest until our last night. The worst rain of the whole week was only Thursday morning when we were making repeated trips to haul supplies back to the car! Overall, I liked the cabin experience. It was very nice not having to pitch a tent or maintain an RV, and the cabin provided more security from the cougars and bears than a tent would. (Bears are rarely sighted in the area, but there was a cougar sighting at the beginning of September in the campground.)

House Rock (The Man for scale)
While we were camping, we went hiking on the old Santiam Wagon Road on both the House Rock and Fish Lake sections. Beautiful trails that weren't too difficult. The House Rock trail is wonderful and includes a side trail to a waterfall and easy access to the river. The Fish Lake section was longer than we expected, but the walk through the forest was incredible. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes--my barefoot trail shoes were just not thick enough through the gravelly sections. I have a special connection to the SWR as my great-great-great uncle, John "Jack" Settle, helped construct the trail. He's the guy that "found" Suttle Lake. (His brother, Bart Settle, married Jack's second wife, Julia. One of Bart and Julia's kids married one of Jack and Martha's kids, so there was a really weird first-cousin marriage that makes my account a mess, but I digress.)

We also took a day to go into Brownsville to the East Linn Museum. The museum has plenty of pioneer history and some "artifacts," although many of the items date back to the early 1900s, which isn't exactly pioneer days. I've been there before and enjoyed a second trip.

When we weren't hiking or learning at the museum, we took lots of time to read, to chat, to work on crafts and play games, and to enjoy the waning summer. We had wonderful food, lots of coffee/tea/hot chocolate, a few roasted marshmallows, and a couple of campfires that were a bit too big for their own good. All-in-all, it was a great experience.

Except for the spiders and ever-present wasps. Ick.

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