With Birdy being the ‘resident parent’ we have precious few weekends with the kids this summer, and this was one of them. We didn’t have much time, so I took off at noon on Friday, when the kids got off school for the summer. They exchanged their school bags for ‘go’ bags, and we set off for Sumpter!
With loading, shopping, and travel time, we got there about dinner time. We setup chairs and accessories, and gave kids some instruction as I lit the fire with my fero rod. We roasted hot dogs, relaxed after our journey, and enjoyed the gorgeous sunset. Birdy went for a walk with LilPill to go ‘skip’ rocks at the lake (Phillips Reservoir). I threw my line in the water, but only had a chance to try one bait, no bites. We ended the day with a came of Settlers of Catan.
The next morning I got up early, and let the rest sleep in. I ate my overnight oats, loaded my empty propane tanks (oops), and ran to town first thing for a fill up at the Stage Stop. (They were open by 8am.) Our fridge was back in working order, but we no longer felt the raw meats were positively safe for consumption.
Our first adventure of the day was the train ride. We arrived early, and boarded at McEwen without issue. They have a family pass for 4. Since LilPill was under 5, she was free, but I had to add another ticket for TBear. The sum came to $69 for a round trip. It isn’t an insignificant sum, but think of what it costs to take a family of 6 out to dinner and a movie!
Princess got selected by the conductor to give the signal to start the train. Boy was she thrilled! The ride was 30-45 minutes, and the volunteers pointed out several attractions along the way, whilst telling us valuable bits of history. They even showed us some local celebrities like ‘Lefty’ and “Rocky.” Toward the end of the trip, bandits set upon the train. The marshals fired back valiantly, repelling them for a spell, but decided to stop the train in the end. The bandits searched the train, and made off with the gold.
We pulled into the Sumpter depot with an hour to sight see. (Unless we wanted to wait for the afternoon train.) After picking up some souvenirs, we mingled with the bandits, and rode their horse. TBear coaxed another spent cartridge from the bandit he charmed 6 years ago. Next, we speed-walked over to the Sumpter Valley Dredge site, ran by the State Parks. The kids weren’t as enthusiastic this time, and we didn’t have time for gold-panning, so we’ll visit that next time.
Our return trip was uneventful, and the thrill was all done by the time we arrived back at the McEwen depot. After another potty break, we headed back to camp. We were hot, tired, and ready for our lunch of PB&J’s with sides. TBear wanted to go swimming, but we all decided that was best done AFTER geocaching.
Our first cache was “The Dump Station” because it was close, quick, and I knew where it was already. This helped get the kids back in the swing of things, and allowed me to get my GPS ready too. All the planned caches were regular/large/easy (for kids to find and trade). Next was “Powder River Trails” followed by “Powder River Rec Area.” Those are only 1/2 mile apart on the same trail, so you don’t need to move your vehicle. Lastly, we tried the “Dam Overlook,” but couldn’t find it. Maybe if 1/3 of us weren’t in desperate need of a toilet, we could have succeeded…
Next, we headed back to Sumpter, where we enjoyed ice cream & public restrooms at the park. They had a neat merry-go-round there, and TBear started a game of depositing/retrieving objects while in motion. We took a walk and checked out some sights on main street before getting groceries.
We headed for camp and the cool water of Phillips Lake. Unlike Wallowa Lake, you didn’t have to get numb to enjoy it, but there was some mild discomfort. We spent the evening swimming, BBQ’ing and throwing tomahawks & knives at a stump someone had left for us. Another gorgeous sunset manifest right after some thunder clouds, and we roasted marshmallows before retiring to the sound of frogs & crickets.
Our last day dawned, and I woke TBear to go fishing early. After many kinds of baits and lures, I’m thinking that the location wasn’t the best. I rarely go fishing to acquire fish anyway, it was more about getting alone time with a kid. We came back and I woke the rest to the smell of bacon, blueberry pancakes, and coffee. We had some time before TBear was to be picked up by his mother, so we took a walk along the trail that extends the length of the lake.
On our way home, we stopped in Baker City for lunch and found Charley’s, a cute delicatessen. We took a back highway on the way home. I wanted a slower route than the interstate, which proved wise as a thunder storm brought in some decent winds to contend with.
After taking our second trip of the season in early June, I was feeling pretty good about the investment in the new trailer. Our campsite cost us $28 for the weekend, and it was right on the water. However, you can’t reserve the South Shore and Miller’s Lane campgrounds. For that certainty (or hookups) stay across the lake at Union Creek.
We learned a few more lessons, and made note of things we still needed. (Ever grill corn on the cob without tongs?) However, we also learned that we need to come back to see the rest, and enjoy the lake some more, as this continues to be one of my favorite places to camp. Hope you enjoyed the post!