Exploring The Dry Side

After 13,000 miles and 7 months of wandering the back roads of 17 different States and 6 Canadian Provinces, we finally turn north towards our home in Alaska. 

Northbound Again

Off and on we had also spent over 3 months camped in my mom’s backyard hanging with her and helping with needed maintenance around her home.

Once departing SoCal we were like horses heading back to the barn, our migration instincts kicked in and our pace quickened or so it felt.

Road Conditions In Canada During Our Drive North In 2015

As we closely monitored the weather situation in Canada and Alaska it looked as though we would need to slow down and spend a little more time in the Northwest before crossing the Canadian border.

A late spring was producing persistent snow storms, icy roads and well below freezing temperatures continued to keep the northern latitudes gripped in winter.

Luckily our only planned northbound diversion was to stop in Eastern Oregon and hang with our goods friends the Motsko’s.

The Countryside Near Bend With The Cascades In The Distance

They graciously allowed us to spend almost two weeks parked inside the perimeter of the  Fort Motsko compound. This was a very welcome respite for us and the pups with 5 well maintained acres to call home.

During our visit Denise and the pups housesat while Mark and Phyllis spent several days on the Oregon coast with our other good friends the Habecker’s.

At that same time I flew to Chicago to look at a possible overland truck chassis to purchase. That trip report is for another upcoming post.

The Pups Enjoy Fort Motsko

Most evenings found the six of us consuming Mark’s tasty grilled and smoked meats, drinking excellent locally brewed IPA’s and reminiscing about past adventures while working for the National Park Service, it was all very enjoyable.

Day trips included fishing with Mark along the beautiful Metolius River which is nestled up close to the base of the Cascades.

I photographed while Mark expertly offered his line to the fish while wading in gin clear water.

Mark’s Rainbow On The Metolius River

The headwaters of this Wild and Scenic River erupt from deep underground at just one location,  Metolius Springs near the base of Black Butte.

Some Of The First Flowers Of Spring Along The Metolius River


Hiking At Smith Rocks State Park

In the meantime Denise, Donna and Phyllis hiked for miles in Smith Rocks State Park following the beautiful Crooked River.

Smith Rocks Tree Bark
Along The Crooked River

Eventually weather conditions improved up north and again it was time to continue our migration home.

Regretfully we departed Oregon and our friends and wander into Washington where we find the dramatic landscapes of the Columbia River drainage and views of snow capped volcanoes.

Looking for a spot to have lunch we pull off interstate 90 and stumble onto one of Washington’s premier winter rock climbing destinations, known as Vantage or Frenchman’s Coulee.

Located along Washington’s Historic Sunset Highway it is a very scenic drive.

Campsite Near Frenchman’s Coulee

We find a spectacular site situated along the edge of a 300′ basalt escarpment and decide to stay the night. This was not a spot where we allowed the dogs to run free. 

Parked on the edge of the cliff we enjoy fantastic views of the Columbia River gorge, the distant Cascade Range and glorious sunsets. We end up spending three nights.

Evening Light Along The Edge

It was easily one of the most dramatic campsites we had recently come across. 

We arrived midweek and there were only a few day climbers around and the area was quiet.

But by Friday evening we were surrounded by tents, vans and car campers. Many of these folks had come all the way from the wet, rainy western side of the range for the weekend.

The dry side of the range has become the place to hike and climb during the winter months, we could certainly relate to that concept.

Our first evening on the edge was not much fun as it blew all night at a steady 30-40 mph and gusted to 55 mph.

When one is parked on the edge of a 300 ft. cliff during an extreme wind event it is very hard to get a good nights sleep.  Eventually the wind calmed allowing as to explore this unique area.  

LuLu Wanders Up The Trail To Frenchman’s Falls

We hiked down canyon to the base of Frenchman’s waterfall where the pups ran freely across the desert while we scrutinized the stunning rock formations.

Scree Slope Near The Base of The Falls

Hiking up to the Feathers, a formation of columnar basalt pillars, we found climbers on dozens of 100ft off width cracks.

Climbing On The Feathers

Watching the young climbers we reminisced about our own days of climbing in the 70’s and 80’s in places like Yosemite, the Eastern Sierra and Joshua Tree NP. Those were the days! 

Rock Climbing In Joshua Tree NP In The Late 1980’s

Finding it had to leave we again head north towards the Okanogan Valley in Canada. This spectacular valley produces some of Canada’s best wines and is where wine tasting is more than just a pastime.

Local Vegetation Blooming near Frenchman’s Coulee

As we spend more time along the eastern side of the Cascades the more it seems we find what makes us happy.

Open spaces, dramatic landscapes, friendly people, excellent beer and good friends can make for very enjoyable environments.

Sunset Frenchman’s Coulee

Upon entering Canada we encounter snow in the higher elevations but daytime temperatures were warming up nicely.

We focused on managing a daily driving schedule that didn’t overwhelm us as we completed the final 2500 mile segment of this fantastic winter adventure.

Don’t miss our latest video ” Exploring The Dry Side”.  Watch it in HD with the stereo cranked up for best results.


Next we drive the Alcan home to Denali, stay tuned.

North Up The Alcan In 1975

Keep you posted!






15 thoughts on “Exploring The Dry Side

  1. Sounds like a wonderful trip. I wish we would have been there when you were in Oregon. Eventually, we will meet somewhere. Hope you are enjoying your summer at home.


  2. That is gorgeous country. We’ve not yet been to Frenchmen’s Coulee, but it’s been on our list. I think I might put our rig just a little bit further away from the edge. 🙂 Love the photo of you two rock climbing in Joshua Tree!


  3. Well, once again you have visited my old, and current I guess beings we still have a house in Bend, stomping grounds. I think I have touched every single climbing crag in Smith Rocks (not every route though of course). Still time left.
    Love the JT picture, but where are the Lycra pants?


    1. we wore ruby shirts and stand up shorts in those days! You are lucky to live on the dry side what a great place. Smith Rocks is exceptional! Thanks for following the big dogs..


  4. The 13,000 miles the Dog’s did on this trip is more miles than we have on our rig. You two are amazing…hence many 🥩🍷🥃 just to catch up. Your photos are stunning, the video is awesome and that “footprint” overlooking the gorge is a bomb. Very fortunate you owned it for a few days. Seeing Tuks and Lulu having a great time brings us big smiles. Continue to love those vintage prints…badass climbers for sure. We continue to hang loose, on call and ready for action…just not our favorite action. But you know the drill.


    1. Actually it was another 2500 miles to home 🙂 you guys would love the coulee area, we must rendezvous there someday camped on the edge. I am at the airport now in Anchorage headed back to the SoCal to see mom. Thanks for the inspiring comments, hang in there.


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