Schools Out VanSlam

Palouse Falls

Palouse Falls

Holy cow, where do I even start.  As many of you will know, heading out for an extended camping trip on the last day of school has become a bit of a family tradition.  This year that tradition continued, although with a little less advanced planning than in past years.

After grabbing the Dudes from school we rolled out eastbound towards a beautiful little lake in the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge.  Soda Lake has been a favorite camp site of mine for many years… Imagine my disappointment when we arrived to new rules.  No camping signs slapped me in the face and forced us to call an audible play.  Potholes State Park provided us with an alternative, albeit  dusty, home for the night.

The next morning found us bouncing though the NWR to view the Drumheller Channel Scablands and continuing down into the Palouse country.  I was a bit overwhelmed by the crowds at Palouse Falls… Apparently rolling in on my motorbike, for a visit mid-week in April is different then a sunny, summer Saturday.  (Thanks Susan for pointing this out to me).

Touchet River

Touchet River

That evening found us camping at Lewis & Clark Trail State Park near the town of Dayton.  The Touchet River provided the afternoon entertainment for the Dudes and we began to fall into a peaceful routine – drive, camp, play, eat, sleep, repeat.

The next day was the beginning of the coolest bit of VanSlam adventuring that any one of us can remember.

KLR on the prairie - June 2010

KLR on the prairie – June 2010

I first explored the Zumwalt Prairie on my motorbike back in June of 2010.  Ever since that trip I knew I needed to return with the VanSlam crew for some further exploration.

The Zumwalt Prairie is a 330,000 acre native grassland ranging between 3,000 to 5,ooo feet elevation. It is located in NE Oregon at the edge of Hell’s Canyon.

We followed a dusty gravel road for over 33 miles, up to a dot on the map called Buckhorn Camp.  Along the way we enjoyed some of the most amazing views of the grasslands, and we topped it all off with an evening hike to Buckhorn Lookout, where we had spectacular views of Hell’s Canyon.

Buckhorn Camp

Buckhorn Camp

Archery Lessons

Archery Lessons

Still hanging in there... Time will eventually get this old barn

Still hanging in there… Time will eventually get this old barn

Hell's Canyon

Hell’s Canyon

We camped at about 5,000 and had a few sprinkles of rain, but it was a marvelous night in the wilderness.

The NRS store

The NRS store

The next day we headed north into Idaho. Since we were passing through the town of Moscow, I thought it would be interesting to visit the Northwest River Supply store.  NRS had been supplying my family’s sea kayaking gear for decades.  I think I’m on my 3rd or 4th NRS wetsuit, and they all just keep getting better and better.

It was kind of a pilgrimage really.

The days rolled in together at some point.  Hepburn State Park near Plummer ID, Steamboat State Park, near Coulee City, WA …

Steamboat State Park

Steamboat State Park

The Dudes playing Story Discs

The Dudes playing Story Discs

We had an aborted hike up into Northup Canyon.  The mosquitoes were ravenous, and sent us scampering for the relieve of the triple digit temperatures of the vans.

With the wind blowing at Steamboat State Park the mosquitoes didn’t interrupt our session of story discs.

I just love to listen to the Dudes’s imaginations as they concoct a tale of danger and adventure based on the random selection of wooden discs with symbols and words drawn in them.

Speaking of concocting stories, this might be a good place for me to insert my video highlight reel:

Photo by Kingston

Photo by Kingston

I’ll tell you what, it won’t be too long before all the Dudes, and especially Kingston take over the photo and video tasks for many of our Adventure Journal stories.

I’ll be left to just dressing like an unmade bed and waving to the camera.

I guess before I go I’ll share one more image from the fabulous Zumwalt Prairie.  And for my motorbike pals reading this, I know you’ll see the similarity between my photo and an iconic image that first sparked my interest in motorcycles many decades ago.

The Zumwalt Prairie

The Zumwalt Prairie

Iconic Steve McQueen image from the Great Escape - 1963

Iconic Steve McQueen image from the Great Escape – 1963

Thanks for following along on our adventures.  Come join us next time.


About Jeff Katzer

Welcome friends. I'm a cyclist, hiker, motorbike rider, kayaker, photographer, videographer, ukulele player, snowshoer, XC skier, and BEST of all - a grandpa. Somewhere in that list above you'll find the theme of the Adventure Journal.
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