Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Whitman Mission National Historic Site

     Marcus and Narcissa Whitman and Henry and Eliza Splading, Protestant missionaries who came to Oregon territory in 1836 to bring Christianity to the Native Americans, were the first American families to cross the continent overland. The Whitmans established a mission at Waiilatpu, near present day Walla Walla, and were well received by the Cayuse Indians at first but the Cayuse were not willing to give up their own religion or embrace a life of settled farming as Henry Whitman wished. The good intentions of the Whitmans were not enough to combat the misunderstandings and cultural conflicts which resulted in tragedy 11 years later.
   The mission was located along the Oregon Trail and a growing number of immigrants brought diseases that the Cayuse had little immunity to. In the fall of 1847 a measles epidemic killed half of the tribe while the white people recovered which convinced the Cayuse that Whitman’s medicine was poisoning them. On November 29 a group of Cayuse attacked the mission and killed the Whitmans and 11 other people and took 50 people captive. This tragedy ended the Protestant missions in Oregon territory and started a war against the Cayuse which ended 1855 when they were all relocated to the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

     The site has a visitor center, a paved path through the mission grounds, a paved path to the mass grave, and a paved path to a hilltop monument.

  The visitor center is accessible. A .36 mile, paved, flat accessible path loops through the mission grounds which has interpretive signs and outlines of the buildings. The path to the mass grave has a steep section and is accessible with assistance. The path to the hilltop monument may be accessible because it’s paved but it’s also very steep. We skipped it because of the summer heat. There also a section of the Oregon Trail that is lumpy grass and not accessible.

  The parking lot has long bus/RV spaces.
Mission     46.04206, -118.46484

Roosevelt Park Campground

   The Corp of Engineers manages this site along the Columbia River. There are four sections – a gravel lot where we camped ( pictured above); a day use picnic area that has grass, trees, tables and restrooms; a Native American fishing treaty camp area which is surrounded by a fence; and a large asphalt lot with a boat ramp.

  Camping is allowed for 14 days. We weren’t sure where we were supposed to camp but choose the gravel lot for the view and the cool breeze coming off of the water. There’s some noise from the interstate on the opposite side of the river and from trains on both sides of the river but overall it’s a peaceful campsite.
Campground    45.73304, -120.22049

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Contest Powwow & Spirit Mountain Casino

  It’s always interesting to watch the dancing at contest powwows so we were excited to see that one was being held near the Spirit Mountain Casino. Contest powwows usually have three dances for the men; three dances for the women; separate dances for the elders, teenagers and children; and drumming contests. Everything has a meaning and most of it goes back for generations. Dances may have originated from seasonal rituals, religious ceremonies, or social gatherings. The dances are opened to the general public although the audiences at the ones that we’ve attended have been predominately Native American.

  The regalia is very elaborate and colorful especially for the fancy dances.


   Powwows are usually held on weekends with the contests spread out over two or three days so there is always something happening. Check the powwow calender and read the powwow etiquette sheet if you’re planning on going to one.

  The parking area at the Grand Ronde Powwow arena is large enough for RVs. The area is grass and the paths are gravel so try to park close for easy access. The seating area is concrete with bleachers and chairs provided.

  RVs may be parked in the Spirit Mountain Casino for three days. Pick a parking spot, note the number, get a players card if you don’t have one, and register with security who will issue a hang tag. To stay longer you must run $200.00 a day through the machines or table games. The lot is large and flat. A free dump station and potable water is located at the rear of the parking lot.

  The path to the casino is flat and the sidewalk and curb cuts are in good condition. The casino is fairly accessible,
Casino     45.05866, -123.5783

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Connie Hansen Garden Conservancy

 Botanist Connie Hansen worked on this garden for twenty years, turning her backyard of grass and trees into a wonderland of flowering plants, bushes and ornamental trees. Volunteers have been doing a great job of maintaining the garden since Hansen’s death in 1993. The garden is very small but seems much larger due to the number and variety of plants and the twists and turns of the paths that meander through it.

The garden is accessible with assistance but some of the paths are very narrow and will not accommodate scooters or wide wheelchairs.

     Small RVs will fit in the parking lot. Larger RVs can be parked on the street.
Garden    44.98947, -124.00754

Chinook Winds Casino Resort

   Miles of beautiful sandy beach just steps from the casino makes this RV parking lot a very popular place. Overnight parking was free for years then in 2015 it was banned only to be reinstated a few months later although now it’s no longer completely free (unless you get lucky!)To get a parking pass, which is good for three days, you must have a player’s card and accumulate at least 40 points. This is pretty easy to do. Update 2021 - must get 50 points a day and may stay seven days
                                              Click to read

  RV parking is in the top lot. The lot slants in two directions so leveling is necessary. The sites are numbered and there are a limited amount. Once they’re filled, that’s it. RVs are not allowed to be parked anywhere else. We were there when an usual heat wave hit Portland sending everyone streaming to the coast. The parking lot filled early and with RVs circling like sharks we decided to stay put and walk/roll everywhere so that we didn’t lose our spot.

  The casino is accessible but a number of the machines have card and money slots that are too high to easily reach. There isn’t an accessible path to the beach.

Casino    44.99563, -124.00851

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Tillamook County Pioneer Museum

  We saw very little of this local history museum because it isn’t wheelchair accessible. A ramp at the rear of the building bypasses one set of stairs but there’s another set right inside the door. A stair climber lift which involves a transfer accesses the first floor. The second floor and the basement are accessed by stairs only. A video of the second floor and basement exhibits is available.

  The first floor exhibits include tools and furniture brought across the plains by the first settlers. The walls of one room are covered with photographs of the early residents, along with their family stories. Another room features changing exhibits.

A long “RVs Only” space is located on the street across from the main entrance of the museum.
Museum     45.45714, -123.84275

Blue Heron French Cheese Company-Harvest Host

  One advantage of staying at Harvest Hosts sites is that they are usually not far off of major routes. This one is right on US 101, south of the Tillamook Cheese Factory and north of  the little town of Tillamook, so although it looks very rural in the photograph it’s a busy little place. By evening four more RVs had rolled in and at lunch time the next day the main parking lot was full.

Update 2023 This is still a Harvest Hosts but there have been a few changes. The parking area is now a large grassy field which can accommodate many RVs so in the summer time it's pretty busy. They also allow anyone with a self contained RV to stay, not just Harvest Hosts guests. The stay limit is one night but people do stay longer without a problem. We were told check out whenever we wanted. Since the field was almost empty we stayed the entire Memorial day weekend. 

The store sells cheese, wine, jelly, candy, and many specialty items. The deli menu features soup, salads, and sandwiches. There are farm animals to pet and feed plus an assortment of old farm equipment and unusual vehicles for photo opportunities.

 The store is accessible. The parking lot is hard packed dirt and gravel so rolling around is easy.   Update 2023 The parking lot has large loose gravel - very difficult to push through. The Harvest Hosts parking is a good distance away and the field is lumpy. People with mobility issues may wish to park close to the store to check in before going to the overnight parking.
Factory    45.46724, -123.84297

Monday, August 22, 2016

Tillamook Cheese Factory Visitor's Center

  The first settlers arrived in the Tillamook Valley in 1851 and soon discovered that the wet, cool climate was not good for raising crops but it was great for pasture land. It wasn’t long before they had more cheese and butter than they could consume but no way to get it to the markets so they built a ship to deliver products to Portland and Astoria. This is a community that really works together! By 1909 the creameries had formed a co-op which is still in existence today with 110 member farms, mostly within Tillamook County.

  The factory is so large and so popular that a full factory tour is not possible. Instead visitors can look over the factory floor where blocks of cheese are weighed and packaged. Interpretive signs and videos tell the history of Tillamook and explain the cheese making process. Free cheese samples are available but most people come for the ice cream. It’s crowded, chaotic, and noisy so if you want ice cream go upstairs where the lines are shorter.  Update 2023 - a new visitor center was opened in 2018 but everything is basically the same. The restaurant has an expanded menu and ice cream is sold on the first floor only. Cheese samples consist of two individually wrapped pieces of cheddar cheese.

  The visitor center is accessible and it’s easy to view the factory floor. One small section has steps and is not accessible.

  This place is crazy busy and the parking lot is huge. The RV parking area is at the far end of a gravel lot. There isn’t a sidewalk so wheelchair users may wish to be dropped off at the visitor center entrance.
Visitor Center    45.48452, -123.84298

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Tillamook Air Museum & Port of Tillamook Bay RV Park

   The exhibits in the air museum are a bit sparse because half of the planes formerly on display were on loan from a private owner who decided to move them to a newer facility. Hopefully this will not have too much of an impact on the air museum which is housed in an amazingly huge wooden hanger that was built in 1943 as a shelter for eight K-Class airships. Seventeen of these hangers were built during the WWII years but only seven still exist.

  The airships or blimps were filled with helium and had a range of 2,000 miles and could stay aloft for three days. They escorted merchant ship convoys and searched for German submarines.
  The museum has a film about the hanger and the blimps; a gallery with displays and historic information; and an odd assortment of planes, helicopters, fire engines and even a locomotive. The main attraction for us was the hanger itself and the historic information about the blimps.
  The museum is accessible. Some of the planes can be boarded but none of them are accessible including the large plane which is located outside.

  RV parking is near the large plane.

  The Port of Tillamook Bay RV Park is a very convenient place to camp if you’re visiting Tillamook. The air museum is actually within walking distance but the airport runway blocks access so driving to it is the best option.

   The campground features large, open sites with narrow, gravel parking pads which are not ideal for deploying a wheelchair lift. The sites have tables but no other amenities. There’s a restroom and fresh water but no dump station. There are plans to upgrade the park.

   We were fortunate enough to be on a path that intersected with our friends Dave and Marcia of  Going RV Way who had just entered the US after spending 3 months exploring Canada and Alaska. Read about it here. We had a great time visiting with them. Safe and happy travels Dave and Marcia!
Museum      45.42183, -123.80259   Campground   45.41853, -123.82091

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Tillamook Forest Center

   Until the 1930s most of the 364,000 acres of the Tillammok State Forest was owned by timber companies but a series of forest fires starting in 1933 reduced it to a burned out wasteland. Oregon state became the land owner and it was thought that damage from the intense heat would prevent a forest from growing again. Oregonians, however, were determined to try. The forest was replanted from 1949 to 1973 in the largest reforestation project of its kind involving everything from a million trees hand planted by school children to seeds dropped from helicopters. 72 million trees were planted and there are no signs of the devastation today.
  The forest center has a very good film about the fire and audio programs featuring interviews with people involved in fighting the fire and later planting the trees. There are also exhibits about homesteaders, loggers, forest management, and Native Americans. A small network of trail is located in the forest behind the center with longer trails branching off from it. The center is free and definitely worth a stop if you’re driving through the forest.
  The center is accessible. The network of trails is partly accessible. There are some steps which necessitates backtracking. The trails are surfaced with hard packed dirt and finely crushed stone.
  Long RV parking spaces are available.
Center    45.58569, -123.56052