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Fall Trip to Oregon -- November 2011

During November, I took three weeks and traveled to Oregon to visit Family. I hoped to make it a big birding trip, so I birded a few local spots and some northern Nevada sites on the way north, but snowstorms put an end to that. I arrived at Silver Falls State Park at the end of the third day. My mother volunteers and lives in the park for 10 weeks every fall, so I stayed and visited with her for 8 nights. I then went farther north to Portland and stayed with my dad for 5 nights. Catching a break in the storms, I blasted home, spending one night on the road.
Map of the trip.

November 16
Campsite near Silver Peak, NV

November 16. Home to Silver Peak, NV.

Drive from Las Vegas to Silver Peak, NV. Stops to watch birds at Corn Creek, Cactus Springs, and Torrance Ranch, plus a stop to watch drone aircraft (unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs) at Creech Air Force Base.

I drove north and camped in the desert near Silver Peak, NV, and the night was very dark and cold. It would have been a good night for a campfire, and it was a good warning about the temperatures to come.

November 17
Mason Valley Wildlife Management Area, NV

November 17. Silver Peak, NV, to Honey Lake, CA.

Drive from Silver Peak, NV, to Honey Lake Wildlife Management Area, CA.

I drove north to Walker Lake and made several birding stops, but over 90% of the birds were American Coots; a few ducks and grebes were present. I visited Mason Valley Wildlife Management Area (near Yerington), but the day was getting long, so I just looked around and headed north. I made it to Pyramid Lake at sunset, and finished the drive in the dark on dirt roads leading into California, stopping for the night in the campground at Honey Lake Wildlife Management Area.

November 18
Ice and snow on Highway 97, OR

November 18. Honey Lake, CA, to Silver Falls State Park, OR.

I poked around the edge of Honey Lake Wildlife Management Area in the morning, but the area is closed to birders during hunting season. When it started snowing, I headed north. I stopped at Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge (CA) for about an hour during a lull in the storm, but when it started snowing again, I headed for the paved highway. I passed Upper Klamath Lake in a near white-out, and from there to Eugene, OR, the road was icy, eventually getting so bad that I was forced to put on tire chains. As I crossed the mountains and dropped into Eugene, the snow turned to rain, and I was able to make it to Silver Falls State Park. I arrived at Mom's RV around 8 PM after a long day of hard driving for this dry-road-driving desert rat.

November 19-26
Silver Falls State Park, OR

November 19-26. Silver Falls State Park, OR.

The mountains above Salem, OR, are wet; in my notes, only on my last full day in the park do my notes read "partly sunny." I had hoped to spend my time hiking and taking photos, but the point of the trip was to visit with Mom, so we stayed indoors most days. During drier periods, I wandered out with the camera around South Falls, photographing the falls and what birds would sit still enough in the dark and damp woods. I did short loop trail on the "partly sunny" day, hiking a bit more than 2 miles in under an hour. Being inside was okay because I brought computer work to do, so I had reason to sit inside and enjoy the dry warmth of the fire and Mom's company.

November 26-December 1
Hiking in Forest Park with Dad and Joe, OR

November 26-December 1. Silver Falls State Park, OR, to Portland, OR.

Portland is wet too, but most days were partly sunny, or at least not always raining. I had a nice visit with Dad and Joe, and we were able to get out on two hikes: the Erikson trail in Forest Park, and the Banks-Vernonia Trail west of Portland. I also got out with my brother John and his wife. She has been taking singing lessons, and the class went for a field trip, which I was invite to join. It was an unusual evening for someone like me, but my sister-in-law put most of the others to shame.

December 1
Heading south (CA) with a blue sky and dry roads!

December 1. Portland, OR, to Tonopah, NV.

I got a break in the weather, so I headed south. The gray sky drizzled as I drove south on I-5, but shortly after turning east at Eugene, I got above the clouds and enjoyed a blue sky for the rest of the day. I encountered small patches of ice (like cow pies scattered along the road) on the east side of the mountains in shady places, but by the time I hit the crest of the range, the road was dry. There was heavy snow on the roadside all the way through the mountains, but by southern Oregon, there were only patches in shady places, although I also encountered roadside snow in the mountains north of Susanville, CA. It was a long day, and I put in 13 hours with only about 30 minutes down time for gas, food, and rest stops. I stopped for the night and camped at Miller's Rest Area, a great birding site just north of Tonopah, NV.

December 2

December 2. Tonopah, NV, to Las Vegas.

It was cold in Tonopah, so cold that the ice on my sleeping bag would never melt; it might have blown away, but it would not have melted. I checked around Miller's Rest Area for birds and saw a few trying to stay warm. I stopped at the cemetery on the edge of Tonopah because it is said to be a good birding place, but it was cold and windy. I drove home, stopping only at Creech Air Force Base because I could see 3-4 drones in the air at once. I got a few photos, but didn't stay too long, and headed for home. An hour or so after getting home, I got a call from the police inquiring about my stop at Creech; I think they were trying to send a chilling message.

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
© 2014 Jim Boone; Last updated 111212

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