It had been about 25 years since I stayed at Yellow Pine Campground. Unfortunately, my memories did not match today's reality. Yellow Pine is a large campground that sits close to Highway 26. Today it looks like it is not often used. There was a lot of undergrowth that would have made setting up a tent difficult. As I drove through the empty campground, I came upon the campground host's site. Their "stuff" was spread out over a few campsites. I must confess, their presence did not instill confidence in me. In fact, it seemed kinda creepy. Sooo…even though the sun had begun to set. I made a speedy exit in search of a pleasant and safe campground.
I was lured to Strawberry Campground by it's accessibility to the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness. I'd been planning my trip for months! But, the drive to Strawberry Campground proved a bit difficult. It started with approximately 6 miles of gravel road…no problem. Then the road became a forest road…no problem. Then it began raining. It looked as though the area had experienced rain recently. The road was slick. The ruts and holes in the road began to increase. When I was about 2 miles away from Strawberry Campground, I turned around. I just didn't trust my Mazda 3 to make it without bottoming out or getting a flat tire. If I had been with someone, I might have tried to make it; but, as a solo camper, it didn't seem worth the risk.
Would I go again? Yes…but, only in a high clearance vehicle.
The drive from Salem to John Day took about 6.5 hours. Then I spent the afternoon and early evening looking for a campground (my first campground fell through when my Mazda 3 couldn’t climb the last few miles…a story for another day). Before long, the storm clouds began to gather, lightening began to flash, and the occasional BIG drop of rain would hit my windshield. I needed to find a campground FAST! Bates State Park was close by, so I decided I would hang my hat there for the night.
Bates State Park has a little growing up to do. It has lush green grass and lots of trees. Unfortunately, the trees are 4-5 feet tall, so they provide no shade. The campsites are close together and there is no privacy…which wasn’t a problem since there were just four RVs using the campground. I was the only tent camper. Bates is considered a primitive campground, because there is no water or electricity at the campsites. But, there are water spigots throughout the campground and the pit toilets are the nicest/cleanest that I have every used…serious!
Bates State Park has an interesting history. It was the site of the Bates Lumber Mill company town. At one time it boasted 400 residents. All that remains are a few trees, a lilac bush, and the mill pond. You can reach the mill pond via one of the many trails throughout the 130+ acres.
Would I stay again? Probably not. However, it is a perfect stop for a quick overnight. It is also a very accessible place for RVs to park.
How was my visit? HOT, HOT, HOT! Temperatures exceeded 90 degrees - so staying cool was a bit of a challenge. Eagle Creek Campground is full of lovely trees and shade; but, my campsite was sunny from morning till late afternoon. I must admit that the secluded feeling of my campsite more than made up for too much sun! Eagle Creek Campground is situated above I-84, so there is a lot of road noise and noise from the occasional train. There is a campground host and plenty of other campers…so this solo tent camper felt safe and secure!
The campground has ready access to the Eagle Creek Trail #440 that accesses the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness. The trail was VERY popular during my stay; so, instead of hiking the Eagle Creek Trail, I took in other sights: the Bonneville Dam; Multnomah and Horsetail Falls; the History Museum of Hood River; the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Musuem; a hike to Wahtum Lake; and, a "cool" visit to Starvation Creek (the perfect place to soak your feet on a hot day).