After our lovely trek through the Wallowas and a little work side-trip in Idaho, we headed to Eastern Oregon to visit our friends Joni and Philippa at their cabin in Spray. It’s a truly gorgeous area near the Painted Hills (which is another of the 7 Wonders of Oregon per Travel Oregon). On our way to the cabin, we spotted a sign for a fire lookout, of course we had to check that out! The Tamarack Fire Lookout is about 9 miles off Highway 207. The road starts off smooth and straight, but by the last mile is steep and rough. As usual, we weren’t actually sure we were headed the right way as the road got rougher and rougher, but finally we arrived to a rather epic sight. The lookout is the tallest (by far) we have visited and took some serious pep talks to climb to the top on a windy and chilly day (the wobbly first section of steps didn’t help). The 96 foot metal tower was built in 1933 with a small lookout room on top. There’s a cabin near the foot of the tower that is available for rent during the off-season. We are really looking forward to revisiting the Tamarack Lookout and meeting the hardy soul that is going to be staffing it!
We decided to head off the grid for a little New Year’s retreat to kick off 2016. For the past two Christmases, Bill took the Airstream to the Crooked River in Central Oregon, near Prineville, while I headed to Michigan to see my family. After an unusually balmy Michigan Christmas, I wanted to see some snow and finally check out Bill’s bachelor pad camping spot. It did not disappoint. We stayed at Chimney Rock Campground, a BLM campground right on the river. While not exactly a hot-spot for winter camping, we had the place to ourselves (aside from a couple of fisherman, our neighbor heron, a bunch of deer and a few beavers). The views are stunning, incredibly quiet and peaceful, and it is FREE during the winter months. We tested out the new solar panel, which soaked up the fabulous central Oregon sun. Eventually all the ice we collected on the drive over melted, but our Airstream definitely is due for a bath. Between the solar panel and our generator, we stayed toasty warm with temps down to 7 degrees at night. (Although as I write this, we are trying to thaw out our pipes which froze overnight).
Our first day we did a sunset hike up to Chimney Rock (the trailhead is directly across from our campground) – lightly dusted with snow and a bit icy but gorgeous views from all directions. On New Year’s Eve day, Bill did a little fly fishing on the river, then we tested out our new snowshoes near the Steins Pillar. Last but not least, we hit up the local Prineville brewpub Ochoco Brewing Company and a dive bar for some New Year’s Eve drinks. New Year’s Day was wonderfully mellow including– Bloody Marys, black-eyed peas, a campfire, setting plans and intentions for the next year of adventures, naps and finishing off with a viewing of Star Wars at the local old-school movie theater in Prineville.
We originally planned to head back Sunday but luckily, we checked the weather on our way through town to more snowshoeing adventures. It looked like Sunday would be dicey so we packed up (in record time!) and hit the road Saturday afternoon. The snow found us around Maupin but luckily it was pretty minor. We rolled in to Roamer’s Rest and were settled back in by 10 pm. Just in time for the snow and ice storm on Sunday and Monday!