Jambulance Blog 3 – The Painted Hills

The second road trip I took the Jambulance on was to central Oregon, the Painted Hills, and Kah-Nee-Ta Resort.  For Christmas 2013 Erika and I decided that instead of buying presents we would plan getaway weekends and host adventures during the summer for each other.  My weekend was on May 2nd-5th 2014.

We spent Friday night in Portland having a relaxed evening and packing for any adventure possible, partly because Erika didn’t know where we were going.  We wanted to wake up early Saturday and get on the road because I knew we had a fairly long drive ahead of us.  We drove through the Gorge, past The Dalles (our first Jambulance adventure destination), and turned off Highway 84 onto the “Journey Through Time Oregon Scenic Byway”.  There were several other routes to get to the Painted Hills, but how could we pass up a byway with such an intriguing name?

The drive turned out to be gorgeous!  We passed a few small towns and miles of open rolling fields.  The sun was bright and the sky was blue.  We took my dog Ember along with us this time to test out how he would do in the Jambulance and he seemed to love it.

There is plenty of space on the ground in between the two captain seats so Ember slept there peacefully most of the way until we would pull over for supplies or a viewpoint.  Ember loved the open fields we would stop in, and I must admit that it felt very freeing to be in such wide-open spaces.

As we were getting close to the official Painted Hills site, some of the surrounding hills started to take on the distinctive colors of burnt red and brown layers.  Erika asked me if we were going to the Painted Hills and I tried to play it off as casually as possible when I told her that it would be fun to visit them some time.  As we rolled up to the state park boarder the hills began to rise out of the horizon.  This was my second time ever visiting the Painted Hills and I must say; they provide a beautiful site.

We spent the entire afternoon hiking and wondering around the various viewpoints.  Ember loved the bigger hike we took up a hill adjacent to the major section and Erika and I had a fun photo shoot.

Once it was time to go we decided to just drive through the Ochoco National Forest towards a campsite we found on the map, but be open to stops or other destinations along the way.    We didn’t make it too far into the forest before we saw a friendly deer on the side of the highway by an unmarked gravel road.  We quickly decided to turn around and check out what was down the path and it turned out to be one of the best discoveries of the trip!

The path ended in a trailhead and fairly flat and open grassy space by a fire pit.  We decided that it was the perfect spot to set up camp, which included taking two camping chairs out of the back and turning on the stereo.  One of the BEST things about camping in the Jambulance is the ability to have all your supplies including your bed ready to go at a moment’s notice.  No worries about getting to a site before dark to set up or packing up in the rain; everything is just always there and ready.  We started a small fire, cooked dinner, and had an extremely tranquil evening.  We even heard an owl coo at us several times throughout the night lulling us to sleep.

In the morning we continued on our way through a few more small towns until we landed at Kah-Nee_Ta Resort.

I reserved us an RV site right by their mineral hot springs pool.  We got there just in time to hang out at camp for a bit then catch the last few hours of swimming for the day.  It was so nice to float in the warm water and shoot down their 184-foot water slides.  We went on a short walk down a river trail then spent the rest of the evening juggling and hanging out at camp.

Monday we had to return back to Portland, but luckily neither of us were in a rush.  We went swimming for several hours in the first half of the day, and then wondered over to their horse corral to inquire about going riding.  Unfortunately the corral was closed, so we just pet a few of the horses and went back to camp to pack up and head home.

As we drove up the hillside and back towards Highway 26 we came to a plateau with a big grassy field.  To our amazement there was a team of wild horses grazing lazily right by the side of the small road.  Erika shrieked with joy as I excitedly pulled the Jambulance over.  Erika grabbed an apple from our food supply and jumped out as quickly as possible to start slowly creeping towards the horses.

With arm and apple extended, Erika made her way within about ten feet of the giant wild beasts before they all turned their heads in unison to stair at her.  From that point on for every step she took forward they took one back.  This went on in a slow motion dance for a few minutes until a second team of wild horses galloped over the horizon on the opposite side of the road back towards the direction we came from.

The second team followed a distinct leader and trotted after him as they all crossed the road to the same field as the first group.  The two teams got within 20 feet of each other, and then stopped.  None of the horses were grazing, just silently watching each other and Erika as she continued to offer the apple out with a Cheshire Cat grin.  This went on for several minutes until the second team of horses turned and started walking towards the woods in the distance beyond the field.

Erika was enamored with the opportunity to get so close to them and I relished in the moment.  I hadn’t seen wild horses since I was very young traveling through the same part of Oregon with my parents.  The experience was a perfect culmination of our trip and we drove the rest of the way back to Portland glowing.

Another Jambulance success.