Foster Lake, Sweet Home, Oregon

Sunnyside CampgroundSunnyside Campground
November 2-4, 2012

We don't normally camp in November, but when I saw a weekend weather report with temps in the upper 60s, I convinced Kate to go for it. And our friends, Anita and Hillary, were eager to join us with their new-to-them VW camper van.

Actually there are very few campgrounds in the valley that are open past mid-October. (It was raining on the coast, too cold in the mountains.) But Sunnyside County Park (map) was still open for this one last weekend.

river view

 

When it started pouring Friday afternoon, Kate thought I was crazy to stick with the plan. And it rained the whole drive up. But when we arrived, I was thrilled to see a park full of maple trees, bursting with color, and not a single other camper in the campground. It was warm, and the rain let up long enough for us to set up camp and cook dinner.

This weekend really put our new canopy to the test, and we were so grateful for it. It gave us shelter to cook under, and enough dry space on either side of the teardrop that we could have a little "porch" and sleep with the doors open through the warm rainy nights. There is nothing better than sleeping in a snug bed listening to a steady rain pattering on leaves and feeling a warm breeze on your face. Although I must admit that my side of the bed was quite wet from the drive up. Try as we might, we can't seem to get the door water-tight. But with two polar fleece throws, I barely noticed the soggy mattress and comforter.

 

 

maple trees

 

Saturday turned out to be beautiful. The rain stopped about 10:00, and the rest of the day was warm and comfortable. While Hillary graded papers (she teaches French at UO) and Kate caught up on reading, Anita and I walked all around the campground and enjoyed the explosion of fall color, everywhere we looked. Without even a camp host nearby (far side of the campground), we let Bailey run free the whole weekend, and she was in heaven.

 

Bailey

 

With more limited daylight, we had a mid-afternoon dinner, saving ourselves cleaning up in the dark. We saved dessert for that night's campfire, though. A new recipe Anita had found: brownies baked in scooped-out orange peels. It's a keeper!

We thoroughly enjoyed this late fall camping adventure, and we want to come back here every fall when the leaves are bright and the crowds have left. The water is very low this time of year, but the Foster Laker "fingers" are still navigable, and with a little more sun, we would have blown up the boats.

On our way home, we stopped for a break at McKercher Park -- a sweet roadside park east of Brownsville next to a beautiful series of low waterfalls on the Calapooia River.

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Sunnyside Campground
Sunnyside CampgroundMay 11-12, 2012

It was an unusually warm Mother's Day weekend, and I'd just completed refinishing the sides of the teardrop and was itching to get it out. We'd heard about Foster Lake, just 40 miles or so northeast of Eugene, but had never been there. We were surprised to find such a beautiful area so near to home that we had yet to explore.

Foster Lake is quite large, just past Sweet Home (which is not especially quaint, in spite of the name). We stayed at the nearest campground, Sunnyside, which is not on the lake itself, but has docks to a finger of the lake.

Sunnyside was a lovely manicured campground: large sites with green lawns and planted shade trees, playground, dog park, showers. So early in the year, there were few campers, and it was a perfect place to just hang out and enjoy the spring sun. But it's a huge park, and we could imagine how bustling it would be with summer crowds.

Canoeing in a Foster Lake fingerThe campground boat launch was on a "finger" of Foster Lake that reached all the way up to the dam of the next reservoir, Green Peter. The water was a good 10 feet lower than the usual summer depth, because they hadn't released water from the dam yet.

Motorboats were launching and heading right, toward Foster Lake. At the recommendation of the ranger, we canoed upstream toward Green Peter dam. The "finger" was more like a slow-moving river, and it goes for miles. We didn't make it as far as the dam, and only saw one other boat, a small fishing boat. It was so peaceful and beautiful. On the way back, we lay back in the canoe and drifted, soaking in the warm sun.

The next time, we'll go to the right and see the true Foster Lake, but this was a perfect lazy paddle for us.

Checkout time is 3:00, and we pushed it to 4:00, just relaxing at our site. We considered staying another night, but the next day was Mother's Day, and we knew Jesse was counting on a picnic with us.

After we packed up, we drove further up Quartzville Road to check out Green Peter Lake. Funny that Green Peter was so much bluer than the green Foster Lake. It was also much more forested and remote. We weren't impressed with the rustic Whitcomb Creek campground, and it was interesting to see people camping right Green Peter Lakealongside the road in what appeared to be official campsites. But the lake itself was much more beautiful than Foster Lake, I thought, with many fingers reaching into the mountains. It was also quite a bit cooler, being in the mountains.

I look forward to exploring this region more, and I love that it's less than an hour from home.

 

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