Sunday, July 7, 2019

G-Pa and G-ma Summer Camp 2019

Childhood passes all too quickly. 

We have only two grandkids and we don't see them often enough. They are ages 9 and 6. We miss them. We love them. Knowing how years flash by and children disappear into adults, we decided we needed to do something while they're still kids.

We reside six hours from Reno, where they live. When we see them there, we're usually squeezed into a short weekend. 
Once we recover from how much they've grown since our previous visit, we've hardly had time to get reacquainted.

Short of relocating to Reno, we decided in 2018 to try hosting an annual five-day G-pa and G-ma Camp. 

Here they are at ages 2 and 5. We did not consider hosting a camp then. It wore us out just to watch them!

But in 2018, Noah, then 8, ventured north solo to assess conditions and entertainment at our first camp. We passed his test. Hadley, then 5, hung behind in Reno, not quite ready to leave her parents. 

This year she made a personal growth decision and joined the party. Yay Hadley! 

G-pa PK drove to their Reno home and returned with both kids on a Monday afternoon. Camp started during the drive.

En route, they listened to NPR's Wow in the World podcasts.  They snacked. They also stopped for an hour at Burney Falls not far from Mt. Shasta. Great stop for anyone. They snacked.

The moment they arrived at our home camp, it was  GO time! It was also snack time, which continued throughout their waking hours for the entire time they were with us. 

Here we are now. And we're hungryAlmond flour bread and homegrown blueberries on the table. Noah consumed about a pint of blueberries daily. The Almond bread is grain-free, protein-rich and delicious. Kids can't tell it's healthy. With a little maple syrup and strawberries, they loved it. Recipe here, thanks to Erin at Well Plated blog.

A to-do list for short list of grandparent camp activities ends this post.

Here's what we did this year.

Exploring our 3.5 acres of orchard,  garden, and pasture created some happy moments. They discovered a ping pong table, new since they were here last November. They visited the miniature horses across the road, and the rescued horses around the corner. They ate.

Noah climbed apple trees as his father did.

They played in the hot tub every night.

Noah reads to Hadley at bedtime. One child sleeps in the bed, the other on the floor. Taking turns. So sweet. They are great companions. Such a gift. We were so impressed by Noah's care for his little sister.

PK and I kept to our Tuesday schedule of classes (me) and machine workouts (him) at Club Northwest in Grants Pass and the kids spent two hours at the club's KidZone. 

The kids' KZ verdict: Fun!

We had lunch at Circle J in downtown Grants Pass, just a few steps from the Grants Pass Museum of Art where I'd signed them up for a kids' drawing workshop, the first of a summer series.

Two hours of drawing seems long, but both said they'd do it again. I wish they could! There's still time to sign kids up for additional classes.

Artist and museum employee, Kristen O'Neill, shows aspiring young artists paintings by master graphic artist M.C. Escher. Noah is all eyes and ears.

The class ended at 3 p.m. but one little student persisted.

We started the day at the Wildlife Images Rehabilitation and Education Center, a popular community and tourism fixture that has made numerous improvements since we last visited a couple decades ago. 

They scampered forth eager to see black and
grizzly bears, a cougar, wolves, birds of prey

and many other rescued animals, incapable of

living in the wild. 
Afterward, I took them up a mile of our rural road to visit a friend who'd invited us to frolic a bit with her baby goats.

Entertaining kids doesn't have to be complicated.

Every creature was happy.
Next, we visited the thrift shop at the Rogue River Community Center.  This was not on the entertainment roster, but Noah hadn't packed long pants and the next day we would be touring the Oregon Caves.

The caves are a constant 44 degrees Fahrenheit. The kid needed long pants. The community thrift shop is in an old one-story house staffed by volunteers. Prices are very good.  

The thrift shop quickly became "entertainment."

Noah and Hadley searched the entire space, ferreting out a cardboard box filled with small items. mostly toys, priced at 50 cents each, and another box priced at 25 cents.

After an hour or so, I spent $13.50 on items such as a vintage Barbie doll, a fishing tackle box, a pair of shoes for Hadley (the blue ones above), and various and sundry items. 

No pants. But we were able to borrow some from a neighbor. 

A thrift shop visit will be part of the itinerary next year as grandparents camp continues. 

We'll carry on as long as they want, and we have the energy

Another adorable bedtime story scenario. Hadley loses a tooth during this time. See the envelope in her hand? It's a note to the tooth fairy requesting $20. I could have cried "inflation!" But the tooth fairy came through with the cash.

THURSDAY - Best Day Ever!
In the morning, PK took the kids to tour the Oregon Vortex, AKA the World Famous House of Mystery, the "famous circular area with its unique phenomena." It is notable that the kid on the left is taller than Noah, on the right, by several inches. Many other optical illusions can be experienced.

Then it was on to It's a Burl!a not-to-be-missed-outrageous-local-color Southern Oregon art attraction. We were en route to mid-afternoon reservations to tour the Oregon Caves

Here they are at It's a Burl in Kerby, OR, an enchanting conglomeration of whimsical, fantastical wooden furniture and art pieces. Including four climbable treehouses. 
It's a Burl's outside tree houses are crack for kids, although they're as steep and rugged as they are irresistible, and adult supervision is recommended, especially for younger children.
PK keeps vigil below while I'm occupied above in
a tree house with Noah and Hadley.
I don't how many times over the decades we snubbed It's a Burl going to the Oregon coast and back. We dismissed it as a trashy tourist trap. We were so wrong!  If you're traveling Hwy. 99 between Grants Pass and the Oregon Coast, treat yourself to a visit. Kids love it as well as adults.

This is our Caves guide, Neil, a retired geologist who led a group of 11 on an educational and entertaining 90-minute tour of the Oregon Caves. Part scholar, part comedian he initiated selfies with everyone when the tour ended.

Noah loved the caves. Hadley was not as enthusiastic. She declined to be in the selfie.  I was unable to get any decent cave photos, but this site has em.

After the up-and-down caves tour, we took the somewhat longer route back to the parking lot that included an overlook of the Siskiyou Mountains and the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. 

Several trails start at the visitors'
center. Next time we'll plan more hiking.

The friendly Caves visitors' center offered coffee and hot chocolate, which we accepted with gratitude. Hot chocolate put the kids in the mood for a nap on the way home.

It was almost 7 p.m. when we got back to "camp." We took the easy way out for dinner and drove a mile to a super little Mexican restaurant, Taqueria La Guacamaya, in Rogue River. They list dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets and French fries on their Kid's Menu. Clean plates!

Their parents will arrive mid-afternoon, and we didn't plan any morning excursions. So we made stuff.

Brother and sister love art projects. G-ma made a still life arrangement and both were happy with what they created. Then they helped  G-pa with preparations for an early afternoon fishing float in the wooden driftboat G-Pa built years ago.
This fuzzy photo is G-pa with kids in his driftboat preparing to put-in at the boat ramp in Rogue River after the fishing trip. Noah even caught a fish! The photo is a screenshot from a video taken by the kids' mom, Heather. She and our son, Quinn, surprised them at the boat ramp.

With parents' arrival and camp officially over, we reveled in having both of our sons and their loved ones with us for the next couple days.
Heather shows Hadley how to make a friendship bracelet.
Noah doesn't need a lot of help putting together a motorcycle, but Dad (Quinn) is there for him. 

Playing with sand, water, rocks, and sticks at a safe beach along the Rogue River entertains them for hours.

A challenging log accumulation task for a young man with only one supervisor.
Hadley has her own project.

  • Noah and Hadley at the center of our family. Chris on the left with Chelsea, Quinn with Heather, G-ma and G-pa. 

*places we've been with g-kids

  • Hike Waters Creek Interpretive Trail - near Grants Pass
  • Hike to Rainie Falls - Along the Rogue River Trail from Grave Creek
  • Hike, hike, hike. Trails are endless.
  • Family Fun Center  - Central Point
  • Riverside Park Spray Park - Grants Pass
  • Mill Creek Falls hike with a stop for pie at Beckie's Cafe
  • Kerbyville Museum 
  • It's a Burl* - Selma/Kerby
  • Crater Rock Museum* Central Point
  • Grants Pass Museum of Art kids classes*
  • Hellgate Jetboat ride - Grants Pass
  • Touvelle Jetboat Ride
  • Oregon Caves* Cave Junction, closest town
  • Cole H.Rivers Fish Hatchery* - Prospect area
  • Oregon Vortex* - near Gold Hill
  • Science Works Museum - Ashland
  • Railroad Park - Medford
  • Cat Park - Cave Junction
  • Glass Forge - Grants Pass
  • Sanctuary One - animal rescue - Applegate Valley
  • Rooster Crow in Rogue River *- last weekend in June
  • Numerous community celebrations and festivals throughout the summer and fall.


Playing with sand, water, rocks, and sticks entertains children for hours. Clean water and sand just about anywhere will do. As would swimming pools, public spray parks, and other water-play features.
  • Arts and crafts such as tie-dying, rock painting, beading 
  • Scavenger hunts 
  • Cooking/baking with G-ma or G-pa 
  • Construction projects
  • Public library activities or just browsing
  • Fishing, hiking, swimming, bike riding
  • Visiting the Oregon Coast and/or Redwoods

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Middle Fork of the Salmon - River of No Return

It's been almost a year since one of my best-ever family and friends river trips. Why did I tarry so long to tell the tale?

Looking upstream from one of our camps on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. 

Truth. I am a slow and deliberate writer and easily distracted. Also, 
I've been busy, occupied with extensive travels and interests. If I don't die first, I have a few dozen posts in the works.

More to the point, I couldn't figure out how to describe this trip without dissolving into maternal pride and boasting. Warning: there will be maternal pride and boasting. 

I'll just get to it, finally, ...No more lame excuses.

About this time in 2018, PK and I along with six dear friends were feverishly prepping for a week-long adventure down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, AKA River of No Return, in Idaho's Frank Church Wilderness.

We launched on July 12, 2018, with the masses.
 It was a tense scene with commercial and private groups vying for position to descend the steep log slide to the river.

Ferron Mayfield, in his elfin persona, blew bubbles as tempers roiled at the put-in. He soon joined the work crews.

Having our son Chris join the trip at the VERY LAST MINUTE — like a half hour before we put on the river — was a momentous surprise. Without him, PK and I might still be stuck on rocks. And in my opinion, Chris' river and wilderness expertise and humble, gentle spirit enriched the experience for all. 

As a camp activity, Chris studied the Indonesian language and the cannibal activity and other oddities in Papua New Guinea. A few days following our trip he launched into a kayaking expedition on a wild Papua river. Along the way, he and his companions were "held" for four days by still primitive human beings. He has yet to tell the whole story.


The Middle Fork of the Salmon is rated the best wilderness whitewater river trip in the West. If not in the entire USA. Maybe the world. The Universe?  It deserves superlatives.

It's a permit-only experience. Would-be floaters apply for limited permits in January and in February learn whether they won the lottery. PK and I have NEVER gotten a permit, but have been involved in several trips because we own a raft, camping gear, and possess rowing expertise. That would be Paul. With me in back-up position. Plus we are kinda fun people. And nice.

Twenty or so boats are ready to roll on down the river at the Boundary Creek put-in. Most are commercial outfitters. We will add our four private rafts and a kayak to the mix. 

The river's crystalline water, natural hot springs, dramatic gorges, sandy beach camps, and pristine cutthroat trout habitat combine to create a slam-bam-for-the-whole-damn-fam wilderness experience. The river is part of the 2.3 million-acre Frank Church Wilderness area.

Except for the Boundary Creek put-in and a few historic ranches downstream, the river corridor is without electronic connectivity or roads. Hallelujah! 

The river descends 3000 feet in elevation through 100 miles of Class III-IV rapids and stunning scenery. It starts small - like a creek - through the alpine forest then gathers speed and power from tributaries before ripping through a rugged high desert to merge with the Main Salmon River. 

On Idaho's Middle Fork of the Salmon, July 2018. Chris Korbulic, Mary Korbulic, Paul Korbulic, Gail Frank, Jenna Stanke, Jerry Marmon (behind Jenna). Front, Sue Orris, John Jessup, Ferron Mayfield, Curry the Worried Dog.
Chris Korbulic, photo credit

Our group gathers to position one of our rafts for its launch down the steep log-slide to the river. Most of the weight is in the back.

Did I say steep? The camera angle distorts it,
but not by much. That's Ferron on the oars,
helping another group launch.

These boaters were with another private group.
The river level was on the edge of being too
shallow for rafts. Rocks are sticking out all
over the place, and dodging them with a fully
loaded boat requires skill and luck.

Paul is an experienced whitewater rafter; this was his eighth time rowing the MFS, but luck was not with him. Like others in our group, we got stuck a few times. I took this photo from the front of our raft as Chris plunged over the slippery uneven river bottom to pull us free.

Jenna and Jerry Marmon, on their first trip down the MFS, encountered exposed rock as we did. Chris is waiting on river right, but intervention was not required.

Downriver, John Jessup rows and Gail Frank assists. Their roles reversed from time to time. 

Ferron Mayfield and Sue Orris along with worried Curry enjoy rapid after rapid mile after mile.

Our first camp was idyllic. They all were. Campsites are reserved at the put-in with trip leaders negotiating for favorites sites. Reserved camping eases the pressure of getting down the river to score an extra special spot. 

In a later camp, Ferron Mayfield, a whitewater rafter for decades, relaxes with Curry, the worried dog. Curry is concerned about Ferron, I think. 

Our hot spring camp the first night. Ahhhh! It's the Sheepeater Hotspring and is about a five-minute walk from camp. Paul Korbulic, John Jessup and Chris Korbulic.

Back at camp, Gail Frank, a fantastic cook who planned the menu for the entire trip, grills planked salmon over charcoal. Every single night was gourmet. We took turns cooking, and everyone pitched in on cleanup. As usual. 

Had we launched a few days later, we may have
been forced to put in here, avoiding the by-
then impassable shallow rocky section we'd just scraped through. This launch area requires
flying in on bush planes. Expensive and scary!

             Every camp was ideal, but I favored this one.

Paul enjoyed the fishing, catching about a dozen cutthroats 
on dry flies during the trip.

Gail worked hard and caught a nice fish. Catch and release, of course. 
Cooking partners Jenna and Gail exult over a
sumptuous Dutch oven lasagne.

Sue Orris basks in Sunflower hot spring overlooking the river. However, the four or five pools above the river are scorching. We all ended up in the "shower" at river level. Sunflower is the most popular of numerous hot springs along the river.

Chris Korbulic  (AKA Charles Atlas) is in heaven with Sunflower hot springs massaging his shoulders. Ahhhh. We all had our turns. 

That's me in my unfashionable outfit reacting to HOT.

      Ferron and Paul enjoying a philosophical moment.

Casual relaxed interludes such as this rank high in defining private wilderness river trips. 

Mornings are usually early with lots of coffee and a hearty breakfast. Packing and reloading rafts become the routine.

There she goes again! Beans, rice, and chicken
with all the Mexican condiments to accompany.
Gail is amazing. Want to hire her for a trip? Sorry, 
she's busy building for Habitat for Humanity.

Perhaps you can tell that river trips, for me, are not as much about whitewater thrills as they are about the wilderness itself. After the put-in cluster, we saw few people but lots of wilderness wonders - and hours of in-the-water relaxing. 

Jenna and Jerry prep their raft for another day on the river. 

Accustomed to sleeping on rocks and rough surfaces, Chris snoozes on a log. Sleeping like a log came to mind.

Another hot spring, this one named Loon Creek for the snow-melt creek that runs alongside it. Where's Chris?
He's in the frigid snow-melt creek, more interested in cold therapy than hot. Curry is a fool for anybody who might toss water into his mouth. Life is strange. I kinda get it about the dog. But icy water with a natural hot spring nearby? No.

Later we stopped at one of the historic ranches, that now has a nifty convenience store with ice, beer, sunscreen, tee shirts, and toothbrushes. One of the horses along the trail appeared to be dining on tasty bird tidbits.

Chris relieved Paul at the oars when river action was quiet. 
A mule train carries supplies through our lunch stop en route to a historic ranch/lodge, a throwback to the days of yore. Wilderness transports visitors to a different time. The absence of Internet connectivity alone makes some fidget and yearn, and others move toward grateful acceptance of a semblance of what life might have been like 100 years ago.
Jenna relaxes after another day of thrilling rapids. We have only one more day on the river, which by this time has warmed for comfortable swimming. 

Sue and Ferron enjoy yet another tender moment.

Our final camp. Nobody is quite ready for the trip to end. 

Close to where the Middle Fork of the Salmon
merges with the Main Salmon, Paul checks his
watch. It is beer time? No. Because the gnarliest 
rapid of the trip is coming right up on the Main 
Salmon about a mile before takeout.
John Jessup flirts with a big flip hole while Gail
contemplates her last will and testament.
Jenna makes it look ho-hum. In a few minutes, we'll be scrambling to take out just as we struggled to put in.

It's sad how the mood changes when you're in a big rush and other boaters are awaiting their turns. Then we're in our vehicles transitioning back home, to jobs, and for us lucky ones, on to further travels.  

The river experience recedes, but the glow lingers as we. prepare for the next chapter of the summer of 2018.

No one is traveling to a more exotic (or dangerous) place than Chris, and maybe no one appreciated this trip as much as he did. Although we all loved our time together.

Upon his return from Papua New Guinea, Chris posted this photo of Paul and me on Instagram and warmed our loving grateful hearts.