One of the Meetup groups that I belong to organized a trip to Champoeg State Park for a “First Day Hike”. State parks all over the country host ranger-led informational hikes and many waive entrance fees for the first day of the new year. Once we signed up for this hike, John suggested we camp at the park for the night before an after, and celebrate the arrival of the new year with a last camping trip before he starts his new job.
We were already familiar with Champoeg, as we took a trial bike-touring ride to the park back in late August. Using our Bromptons, which are not exactly outfitted for touring, cycling the 40 miles from our RV park home base to the state park took all day and left us wiped out by the time we arrived, so we didn’t have a chance to learn about the historic site on that first visit. We did, however, manage to stop by the Butteville Store, Oregon’s oldest store (erected in 1863), for a morning ice cream treat before heading out on our return ride. We also enjoyed fruits off the old apple and plum trees left over from the site’s agrarian past as well as the wild blackberries, all near the hiker/biker campsite.
This winter visit did not offer the delicious treats we got in high summer, with the fruits long gone in the cold of winter and even the Butteville Store closed for the season, but we did pick up seeds of future treats. The Visitor Center maintains an 1860s kitchen garden as part of the historical education displays, and they sell seeds from the garden in the gift shop. We picked up a few packets in hopes that we will soon have a garden plot in which to plant them. Now that John will soon be employed and we know the general area of the city that we will live in long-term, I requested a plot in a community garden. Fingers crossed that we get a plot this year (some of the Park & Recs community gardens have quite long wait lists).
For New Year’s Eve we ate the traditional good luck foods of black-eyed peas, corn bread and kale (okay, it should be collards, but the store didn’t have collards, I like kale better, and I am not superstitious anyway), then reflected on 2014 and looked ahead to 2015, a much different adventure than the previous year. The bright moon, moist sky and proximity to urban centers did not allow for nearly as good star viewing as last year’s new year’s eve, but I did finally try out a star-gazing app that I downloaded a while ago, and it is great! With the help of this app (Sky Map) that locks into my GPS location and knows where I am pointing the iPad, I may finally learn the constellations.
Champoeg is regarded by some as the “Plymouth Rock” of the west for it’s role in the early settlement and seeding government in the area. On May 2, 1843, the settlers of Champoeg voted to establish a provisional government. Many of the settlers were French-Canadian fur trappers, and the vote was 52 to 50 to form the government with ties to the United States over Great Britain, which ruled Canada. The government was the first established west of the Rockies. It was moved to Oregon city in 1844, but Champoeg remained a transportation hub due to its position on the Willamette River. Unfortunately for the settlers, the shape and fertility of the land that made it so attractive for settlement was to be it’s downfall; Champoeg was built on a flood plain. In December 1861, a huge flood overcame the town and the buildings all floated away.
Today the park offers a plethora of recreation activities, including the historical displays, short hiking trails through landmark sites, a four mile bike path connecting the river day-use area to the Butteville Store, an 18-hole disc golf course (this course is quite popular with locals sporting huge bags of specialized discs), bird watching in all seasons, seasonal wild flowers and fruits trees, and year-round camping in tents, RVs, yurts or cabins. FYI, the name is pronounced sham-POO-ee, a corrupted amalgamation of the french word for “camp” and the native word for native wild carrots.
We had a wonderful time exploring this park, learning a little local history and participating in a Meetup activity where we got to meet new people. Camping here was a great way start the new year.
December 31, 2014 – January 2, 2015