Saturday, June 22, 2013

Exploring Our World


We are beginning to realize our time here at Sarah Helmick State Park is coming to an end in the very near future – less than 2 weeks now.  We leave here on Sunday, June 30th for LL Stub Stewart, near Vernonia, where the next adventure awaits us.  Now is the time we begin to evaluate how this job worked out for us, whether we might want to come here again in the future, what time of year would be best if we did, etc.  We also have a chance to look at ourselves and our “evolution” as we continue to live out our lives as full-time “RVers”.  I guess you could say we are our own lab rats! 

As far as working at Sarah Helmick, there have been a number of things we have truly enjoyed, and only a couple things that were a bit less than perfect from our perspective (everyone is different in that respect!).  Having this park as our “front yard” was incredible!  We love walking around the park.  We enjoy seeing the beauty of this area and visible fruits of our labor.  The local people here, from Monmouth and the surrounding area, seem to us to be just plain old good people – very friendly and warm – both at the park, and in town.  There’s a small town feel we have grown to love.  We notice a difference in how strangers relate to us in the various parts of Oregon we’ve lived in: some don’t meet our eyes – perhaps a cultural thing; others welcome us easily.  It was really great here.  Case in point – as I was writing this very sentence, Steve returned from work with a pint of fresh Oregon strawberries in his hand.  A local man visiting the park gave him a box to thank us for the work we’ve done here.  How can we not love these people when we are often the recipients of their kindness?  We enjoy these people.  As park hosts, we think the amount of litter we pick up says something about the people also.  We rarely pick up anything of any consequence here.  I’m just saying... 

We have learned we can survive on 30 amp electrical service, but that we’d really rather have 50 amps to live fully in this coach of ours.  Remembering to turn one thing off before turning on another was a bit annoying at first, but got better as we grew accustomed to it.  Still, in warmer weather we would require 50 amps to run the a/c when the sun hits the coach.  We heat up quickly in here when the sun is on us.  We’ve been able to run one unit on the warmer days, but wouldn’t be happy here in the summer months.  We refer to our power here as a “flakey 30 amps”. 

The work here was a lot more physical than we generally have experienced when park hosting.  It’s been fun to take on some new challenges.  We’ve enjoyed seeing the results of some pretty hard labor, and have appreciated our increase in muscle mass as well!  However, we realize that doing this much work for the long term would be tough on our aging bodies.  Bless you, park maintenance people!  We will never take you for granted again! 

We’ve enjoyed our independence, being the sole residents at this park, and have enjoyed being trusted with more responsibility here, including being allowed to use large tractor-mowers, gas powered tools, and even park vehicles when necessary to ease the responsibilities of our ranger.  We haven’t always appreciated needing to be up and dressed to unlock the gate at 7:00 each morning, though.  We aren’t so much morning people these days.  However, after needing to be up at Honeyman State Park, it wasn’t as tough as it might have been otherwise.

Ranger Steve DeGoey & Merilou
at Luckiamute Landing
We’ve enjoyed ranger, Steve DeGoey, and we truly have enjoyed working at this park .  We would definitely consider returning to this or one of the other host positions in this management unit at some point if it makes sense for us in the future.

We, as people, are changing as we continue in this new lifestyle.  One of the many changes we have seen slowly, over time, is a desire to see more of the area around where we are living.  We've never considered ourselves as "tourists".  Other friends and family seem to always be going somewhere, exploring new places, always looking for where to go next.  We, on the other hand, are self-proclaimed "home bodies".  We've sometimes felt bad about ourselves for being this way.  We definitely see the contrast between us and others around us.  We've occasionally gone so far as to try to forcibly plan some outings, thinking we'd look better to those other people.  Most of those attempts failed miserably.  We never got away from the coach.  Either we'd decide it was too much trouble, the risk was too great, or perhaps we were just too tired that day...  We are B-O-R-I-N-G!  Any increase in exploring activity would be an improvement, right?

During our hosting time at Wallowa Lake last Fall, as we saw our dear new friends, the Schaffer's, head out of camp on BOTH their days off, exploring roads to nowhere, eating burgers at restaurants in cities we'd never heard of, we had an epiphany of sorts.  I'd expressed our dismay to Sharon about how boring we were, and how we truly felt we should strive to be more like the Schaffer’se Schaffer's, are changing as we continue in this new lifestyle.  turning to this, or one of the other positions in this.  Sharon, a true friend, told me it was absolutely okay if we didn't become just like them.  We are not the Schaffer’s – we are the “Kronschmeiers” (Sharon’s first attempt at remembering our last name has continued to be a teasing point as we continually try to make up new names for ourselves, experimenting with the spelling, etc.  Sharon has spoiled things now by remembering our name correctly, and even being able to spell it, but we continue to enjoy using different names for our own, and her enjoyment.)  Our good friends like us just the way we are.  It is true we are not all the same.  Whew!  We are relaxing our expectations a bit.

Advance ahead in time 6 months or so.  It seems we are naturally evolving into being just a bit more curious about the world around us!  We’ve begun leaving the coach more often, sometimes even taking the cat with us.  Perhaps we're changing because we’re focusing more outside the coach, with the frequent change of scenery.  Perhaps it's because we can make each other crazy if we just sit in the coach all the time.  Perhaps it's because we're discovering this whole other world, right here at home in Oregon, which we never even knew existed?  I mean, who ever heard of Sarah Helmick State Park, let alone the Luckiamute River, or Luckiamute State Park?  We are certainly glad our friend Brian Ingoldsby shared his knowledge of this park with us. 

We have since learned that Sarah Helmick is in fact Oregon’s first State Park!  We had previously never stayed or visited anywhere in this area to our knowledge, though Steve had a daughter attend college in Corvallis.  Trips down this direction were just to see the daughter and perhaps grab a quick lunch.  Visits to state parks were not a part of those trips.  Yet, we are only about an hour and a half drive from where we used to live in our “stick homes” in both Hillsboro and Beaverton for the first 19 years of our marriage, and many years previous.  You might say we are looking at things now through different eyes.

Partly due to realizing that hosting at day-use parks is now attractive to us, we’ve made a point of seeing some of the other parks in within a reasonable distance for a nice drive.  Because our ranger, Steve DeGoey, is also responsible for Luckiamute State Park with its multiple sites, and we have helped him by working at Luckiamute, we learned of two more hosting possibilities within 10 miles of Sarah Helmick.  We decided we also wanted to check out Fort Yamhill State Park, near Willamina.  It’s a gorgeous day-use park focusing on the history of an actual military fort that was on that land from 1856 – 1866 as a buffer between the settlers and the Indians, who had been pushed out of the land as it was settled.  There’s a lovely half mile walk with informational signs along the way, giving insight into the lives of the military, the settlers, and the Indians.


We visited Willamette Mission State Park during May.  That park is head of the management unit which includes both Luckiamute and Sarah Helmick State Parks.  It’s a huge park – something like 1500 acres – with equestrian accommodations and lots of room for picnicking, bicycling and hiking.  It is part of the restoration work being done to return some of the land in Oregon to its native vegetation.  On our visit there, I have to admit I wasn’t sure what it was about…  It’s such a vast area of land and is still being developed.


On our way back from Willamette Mission, we got to see Maude Williams State Park as well – another day use park we’d never heard of previously.  Another set of hosts who were leaving Luckiamute moved to Maude Williams.  We’ve heard they ended up being rather bored with the contrast in work opportunities.


Thompson Mills State Park
We drove to Thompson Mills State Park, near Junction City and Shedd (who’s heard of Shedd?!).  We are so glad we made the effort to visit this park.  It’s an actual flour mill that was operated for something like 125 years on that site, during the world wars and beyond, though for a time it processed animal feed.  The actual silos and mill, with its wooden gears and leather pulley system, along with the owners’ home, still stands.  Guided tours are available.  We had a private tour by host volunteer Pamela Dean, who we learned we will see again when we work at Champoeg State Park this winter.  Pamela took us all over the mill, turned on some of the equipment which had been converted to electric, and even opened the waterway so we could see the turbines operate.  It’s a true historical picture of what life was like back in the 1800’s and early 1900’s.  The mill wasn’t actually closed until 2002, we learned.  The park system purchased the land, and sold back the water rights.  I just had to buy a souvenir apron with one of the flour mill bag’s picture/logo on it.  Flour bags were often turned into clothing back then, and are works of art in their own right.

While down near Junction City, we looked up a couple Oregon State Park waysides as well – Alderwood and Washburne.  While nice, they are simple waysides for a picnic or a quick rest stop.  Still, we made the effort!  We are changing!

Wheatland Ferry
Buena Vista Ferry
Another one of the fun things we did while residing at Sarah Helmick was check out a couple of local ferries which barge vehicles across the Willamette River.  As we returned from visiting Willamette Mission State Park, we crossed the Willamette on the Wheatland Ferry – a $2 toll.  We were surprised to see the amount of cars waiting to cross the river by ferry!  I can’t remember the last time we took a ferry.  We also learned of, and went to see, the Buena Vista Ferry, not far from Luckiamute State Park.  I knew of the Canby Ferry, as my sister and her family lived in Canby for many years.  Prior even to that, my Grandfather took me for a ride in his VW Karmann Ghia across the Canby Ferry.  I had no idea there were still other ferries on the Willamette!

We have become very proficient at spotting the dreaded, yet beautiful, Cow Parsnip, which we cleared from pathways here at Sarah Helmick as one of our first tasks.  It can cause blistering on human skin, after it is exposed to ultra violet light from the sun, and other problems, so we remove it where people might come into contact with it.  We see it along the roads all the time now in more natural areas and ditches.  We’ll never look at that foliage the same.

We’ve gained a curiosity about what farmers are growing out here in the vast farmland in the Willamette Valley.  What is field mustard grown for?  We had a beautiful crop of yellow flowers on leased-out park land next to us.  I looked it up and have learned it’s a cover crop used in-between other plantings to nourish and keep the soil in place.  There are several bee hives located in the corner of the field mustard field, so obviously the bees like it also!  We’ve seen fields of clover, always with bee hives.  We see fields of field mustard, corn, mint, winter wheat, Christmas trees, and vast fields of unknown white flowering plants, probably another cover crop.  We’ve decided they should all have signs so we can learn as we drive.

We are definitely still broadening our horizons with each adventure, which makes each assignment a new opportunity.  We truly wish we could bring all our friends and family along on this adventure.  We’d enjoy “having it all” that way!  What a great opportunity this is, for those who are led to it!




No comments:

Post a Comment