Fort Stevens State Park, Oregon

Wreck of the Peter Iredale
Wreck of the Peter Iredale

We drove through Astoria, Oregon, but having already visited the famous column on a previous trip, we decided the rest of the town was too busy for the relaxation we craved, and we drove back to Fort Stevens State Park, where we grabbed a great campsite for a few nights. We went to see the shipwreck before setting up camp and parked abuelo in the front seat where he could enjoy the view, while we went exploring. Apparently, the rusty skeleton of the ship Peter Iredale is quite popular, so we only got a few pictures before abandoning our treasure to the next group.

rv spot at Fort Stevens
rv spot at Fort Stevens

The campsites at Fort Stevens are large and sheltered by big trees. The rv loops have water and electric hookups (good, because our solar panels don’t seem to like to charge in Oregon). There is a community dump site, community trash/recycle area, hot showers, handicap accessible spaces and clean bathrooms. Several tent loops give tent campers ample space from the rvers (read that “generators”). Fire rings and picnic tables seem to be available at all sites.

Battery Russell
Battery Russell

We made good use of the hiking and biking trails, spending most of our second day wandering through big trees, meadows, past streams  and a lake, and viewing wildlife. Thankfully, lots of signs point lost hikers in the direction of the campgrounds. The boy and I took a trail from the back of our campsite up to the bike path and all the way to Battery Russell, on the Fort Stevens Ridge Trail, where there was a civil war reenactment going on. This was a nice distraction, as we had already walked much further than we had anticipated. We took our rest in the museum and watched a video that informed us that Fort Stevens had also been attacked by the Japanese during WWII. We refilled our water bottles and began the trek back to the campsite, grateful that 7 mile hikes did not come around every day.


Oregon state parks has a 3 level Jr. Ranger Program. The 1st level award is a badge; 2nd level, a pencil and decal; 3rd level, a certificate and patch. Ranger programs are available on wildlife, shipwrecks and more. Kayak and hiking programs are also popular offerings. Lewis and Clark National Park is also nearby. The entire area is steeped in history, with reenactments taking place all summer. The town of Hammond offers several restaurants, a laundromat, and St. Francis de Sales Catholic Mission for Saturday 4pm Mass.


Trail to Oregon

We are on our way to Oregon, taking our 90 year old grandpa to see his old haunts and several of his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. And to get out of the house. And the cold. Since we are in the RV this time, we not only have 2 big “house” batteries to give us lights, hot water, and water pump, we also have the solar panels and batteries connected to a big inverter, to charge our gadgets and run the occasional AC appliance, like a heater (our central heater’s motor keeps going out). Luckily, the weather has been warming up as we go, so we are needing the heat less and less.
Outside Moad, Utah
Our first night out, we camped totally off-grid, outside Moab, Utah. The scenery was breathtaking, the parking area quiet despite 4 other rigs parked there. The porta-potties still spotless. After a comfortable nights rest in real beds, we started the morning with coffee, admiring the sunrise streaming through our front windows and taking the chill off from the 45 degree night. After breakfast we took a walk in a dry wash, keeping an eye out for snakes. We saw a few trails, but no slithering creatures, which was good, as we were wearing sandals.
Having refreshed ourselves with colorful scenery and an invigorating walk, we continued down the road. We made a lunch stop at the Great Salt Lake and soaked our feet in the salty water. I had hoped to walk on water, but it was not to be. Abuelo enjoyed having Yak and Auntie push him on his walker. He told some stories about his travels through this area with Auntie and Dad’s mother, early in their marriage. Yak completed the Junior Ranger program and received his badge. We continued on towards the Idaho Border and a less exciting boondocking experience. Even so, we were away from traffic and the noise of big rigs parking for rest periods. We had our coffee and breakfast and stretched our legs. Then on to Oregon.
Great Salt Lake Marina, State Park, Utah
Driving through Idaho was very relaxing. Little traffic, lots of well-tended farms and interesting looking outbuildings in varying degrees of disrepair. It was hard to capture the heartwarming charm of it all as we were driving by. We crossed the Oregon border before nightfall, still quite a ways from our destination. The Oregon Trails West RV Park provided us with full hookups for $27 with our AAA discount. The showers were hot and clean, the park has lots of green grass, tall, shady trees, picnic tables, dog runs, tent spots and full laundry. The office smelled good! Maybe a vanilla candle or some other nice air freshener, along with snacks, fresh hot coffee and limited RV supplies. We were also able to fill up with gas and propane on site.
View from Trails West RV Park, Baker City, Oregon
Morning coffee preceded hot showers and a hot breakfast with a spectacular view of snow capped peaks. Little did we suspect that we were going to need this leisurely morning to fortify us for the long day ahead but more about that in my next post.

La Purisima Mission State Historic Park, Lompoc, California

mission la purisima ca roof detail

With vistas of rocky beaches, farms, sandy beaches, and ranches, the drive to La Purisima Mission State Historic Park from Los Angeles reminds me of everything I like about Southern California.  Entering the park itself is like stepping back in time.

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Sheep and goats fill the corrals, turkeys gobble, and horses graze.  We look around for an Indian shepherd, or a neophyte coming to gather the dried hides to be tanned, but apparently this is a non-living history day.  The pastoral quiet is soothing.

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Because it is a State Historic Park, La Purisima receives grant funding and has enjoyed massive restoration.  Beginning in 1935, the California Conservation Corps performed painstaking research. CCC completely restored the buildings using the original construction methods, adobe bricks, clay tiles, handmade furniture. 

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Many living history events are held here throughout the year. This gives visitors the opportunity to see first-hand what life was like when the mission was at its peak. Docents and reenactors demonstrate mission crafts and skills. From grinding corn and making tortillas, to spinning wool and soap and candle making, everything is produced by the mission. 

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mission la purisima ca tallow     mission la purisima ca tallow shed

The tallow vats above were used to melt animal fat in preparation for making soap and candles.  An abalone shell to hold holy water at the entrance to the church is representative of California’s coastal bounty.  The church itself is sparse, much as it must have been when the 11th Mission was founded and the faithful stood and knelt or sat on the bare floor.

mission la purisima ca abalone holy water

Extreme would be the word to describe the history of La Purisima. The mission was founded on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1797. In just one year, there were over 900 residents. Construction began on a new church but by 1804, the neophyte population had reached 1,520. 

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Scandal is nothing new to the Catholic Church. Accusations of mistreatment of the indians brought an investigation of the Franciscan padres and the military by the Spanish Governor.  The accusations proved unfounded.

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Extreme disaster followed extreme prosperity.  In 1804, death and disease began to claim the lives of the Indian converts.  The massive earthquake of 1812, followed by heavy rains, leveled the mission and its outbuildings.

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Due to the devastation of the original mission, the padres relocated the new mission to the north. The new construction marked a departure from the traditional quadrangle mission plan.  Laying the buildings out in a line worked better with the natural contours of the land. This allowed for a quick escape as well as preserving the farmland.  As a result, extreme prosperity returned.

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Because of the direction of Father Mariano Payeras, the mission continued to enjoy peace and prosperity.  Unfortunately, after his death in 1823, the Chumash began to revolt against the military. Finally, the Mexican government took control of the property in 1834.

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The government sold La Purisima at auction and as a result, the mission fell into ruin.

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Fortunes began to improve in 1903 when then owner Union Oil Company realized that the mission grounds were an important part of history. Remarkably, the company donated much of the land to the State of California and restoration began.

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Today, La Purisima Mission is building a new Visitor Center Complex. It will include a museum, exhibits and gift shop. The Mission offers many school programs and activities, as well as numerous living history events and an annual art show and sale.

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La Purisima Mission and State Historic Park

2295 Purisima Rd.

Lompoc, CA  93436