Labor Day officially ends our time in Oregon, as our work volunteering for the state parks is complete. This summer has exceeded our wildest dreams! Coming in, we weren’t totally sure what to expect…we just knew it would be new and challenging. When we finished up as interpretive hosts at Heceta Head Lighthouse at the end of June, we headed east to Prineville Reservoir State Park and our two month stint as interpretive hosts here. We knew that they had an amplitheater, a big telescope, a lake, and that they were in a high desert climate. Looking at Google Maps failed to reveal the topography, but it did show a whole lot of brown. We had heard from others that the town of Prineville didn’t have much to offer, and that was going to be our anchor for food, gas, and the like. Redmond and Bend were farther away, but still close enough to get to on our days off…and they have every service imaginable. At the park, the manager who hired us was promoted and moved to a new location, so we weren’t clear as to what our position entailed. As you can see, there was a fair amount of uncertainty for us as to what we would find here in Central Oregon.
Once we crossed the Cascades and dropped into Sisters, the air dried out and the landscape changed. The area around Redmond was somewhat flat, and there were a fair amount of sagebrush and juniper trees. Heading into Prineville, we decided to stop at the Ochoco Wayside to use the facilities in our rig.
Wow! The town of Prineville spread out before us in a giant basin. We would later find out that the lowland is actually a giant 25 mile wide caldera from an long-extinct volcano. The town is home to Les Schwab Tire Centers, Facebook’s first data center, and a large Apple data center. Still, the town is a laid back western community, with the school mascot being the Cowboys. Beyond the city, the Ochoco Mountains stretched as far as the eye could see. Google Maps didn’t show that!
Driving 17 miles southeast of town, we came to Prineville Reservoir State Park. What we thought was going to be a dusty campground was actually quite green.
What a delightful campsite! Before too long, the park’s interpretive ranger, Mariah, came springing down the hill from her office and introduced herself. She was very enthusiastic and fun, and we were pretty sure by her greeting that this was going to be a good experience.
Well, the experience has been outstanding. 😊 Mariah is an absolute hoot…and not just because she thinks owls are “super cool”. We have learned a lot of new things from her about birds, trees, fish, mammals, snakes, rocks….the list goes on and on. That snake we were helping cross the road is a bull snake; non-venomous.
She’s brought in several guest speakers, representatives from Search & Rescue, Wildland Firefighters, Crooked River Watershed Council, and an astronomer from Oregon Observatory. As you can see, she’s always available to be example. 🙂
She even had the Redmond Smoke Jumpers visit a couple of times. Here she is in her gear, ready to jump! Take note of the fact that it was over 100 degrees when this photo was taken!
We had the pleasure of running the stargazing program, and using the park’s 16″ telescope. The campers really enjoyed seeing Saturn, Jupiter, the Moon, Andromeda Galaxy, and Ring Nebula…and we enjoyed hearing their reactions.
The new park manager, Mike, has been extremely supportive and helpful. The park staff, including our supervising ranger Nate, has been fantastic to work with. We are definitely going to miss them.
And what about Prineville itself? Well it tuned out to be just super. We used the library many times ($15 got us a three month membership!), we shopped at Ray’s Supermarket almost exclusively, fueled up at Union 76, ate at the Sandwich Factory and Crooked River Brewery several times, and visited the Bowman Museum…one of the coolest little community museums we’ve ever seen.
We found the brand new Express Eco Laundromat, which was amazing. Turns out they have them all over Oregon. Clean laundromats are hard to find; be sure to take note, fellow full time RVers.
We were also able to represent the state parks at the Crook County Fair, which allowed us to interact with the community even more. There are a lot of good, hard working people in Central Oregon, and it was fun to be a part of their neighborhood for a few months. 😊
We also had visits from Rick, Bob & Kathrun, and…
…we finally were able to meet up with John and Pam from Oh the Places They Go when our paths converged in Bend! 😊
Where does exploRVistas head next? Well, we are hooking up and heading east across the northern states towards Michigan to see family, friends, and our doctors. From there, we mosey south to winter in Florida. We plan on taking our time along the entire route, so be sure to follow us to see what we find along the way!
Smokejumper: A Memoir by One of America’s Most Select Airborne Firefighters and other cool stuff on our exploRVistas Amazon link by clicking HERE.