Year End Wrap Up

After Settling In and building some storage in November, I took a break from house projects in December to focus on designing and finding materials for our shed structure which will house a washer, dryer, shower and electrical sub-panel. After bringing the materials to site and determining the desired location for the structure, we realized that we needed to move the travel trailer farther forward toward the street which would give us space to build between my house and the future tiny house at the front of the lot.
With limited space between the tongue of the trailer and the fence, we borrowed a power mover from some other tiny housers who have used it to move their homes. This is a homemade piece of equipment with small, fat wheels, a motor and pieces of steel that clamp onto the trailer tongue via bolts. One issue in using the power mover was that the travel trailer's tongue was of larger dimension tube steel than the bolt system was capable of so we had to connect it with other removable clamps. That worked as an ok connection but was one we had to keep an eye on and re-clamp multiple times after things shifted during the move. The other issue was, once again, the soft garden ground in rainy December. The trailer was too heavy for the wheels to gain traction on the ground, on plywood and even on gravel. After several attempts, we realized that the only way to move the trailer was to make it lighter which meant deconstructing it.
So we planned a d-con party which of course ended up being on a very soggy wet day. The day before was dry so Eric and I started removing some of the interior components. The day of, a couple of Eric's friends stopped by to help and together, they went to town with sawsalls, hammers, crowbars, shovels and the like to strip the travel trailer down to the frame. Eric had bought the trailer cheap with the intention of doing this eventually because he wanted to use the sturdy frame to build a tiny house on and also to possibly salvage some of the appliances. I played the role of fire master most of the day since having more than 2-3 people demoing it was dangerous and I didn't want to hurt myself since I would soon have 1 1/2 weeks off of work for a vacation (see below for more about that).
Once the trailer was stripped down to the bare frame, we called it a day and resumed trying to move it the following day. The power mover kind of worked but we again ran out of space so Eric grabbed the tongue and Johnny, one of his friends, and I pushed down and forward with the rear end. It still was really heavy but we got it moved out of the way to build the shed! We will be working on putting the structure together this month and getting things set up so we can run electrical out into the yard from the shop building. I am thinking that the site electrical and then my own house's electrical system will be a project for next month.
After moving the trailer on the weekend, I had a couple of days left of work for the year and then headed out on another desert adventure. It was my first time to the desert in the winter if you don't count the short trip I took to the John Day Fossil Beds over the long Thanksgiving weekend. It was a bit of a challenging trip since the weather wasn't quite what I had expected it to be, though I learned from some locals that it was colder and snowier than usual for this time of the year. 
I spent Christmas eve in Christmas Valley exploring some of the geologic features there; I wandered around the lost forest and sand dunes Christmas morning before heading to Hart Mountain where I had the hot springs and campground to myself until the following late morning. Then I headed over to the Steens Mountain and hot spring on the east side in the Alvord Desert. It saddened me to see that the spring has been more developed since the last time I was there. Now you have to pay $5 but it is on private property and apparently the alternative was bulldozing the existing structure. And, I did get to meet this guy Joe who is getting paid to manage the site while living out of a tiny home he built himself. You can read more about his story in Unlikely Lives
From there, I hiked at Borax hot springs and then stopped at Field's Station for a giant, delicious cheeseburger and fries before heading to Willow Hot Springs. The following day, I checked out the Pillars of Rome before attempting to get to Three Forks for the third time. The other two times, summer and fall wildfires prevented access and this time snow and an overflown creek from previous rains stopped me 11 miles down the road. One of these days I hope to get there to see that part of the Owyhee Canyon and check out the warm springs. 
After being cautioned to not attempt to get to Leslie Gulch (25-40 miles of gravel roads depending on route) due to the recent rains, I decided to try anyway since the ground seemed pretty hard from the cold temps. I did learn to be wary of puddles of unfrozen water under the snow and thin layers of ice but it wasn't really all that much different than winter driving in Minnesota, where I grew up. I really don't like the cold and the snow which is a significant part of the reason I moved to Portland in the first place. So while I felt I could travel in those conditions, I had hoped for warmer days and less snow. 
Anyway, I made it to Leslie Gulch and hiked some trails (including the one to my favorite known place in SE OR) on the way to the campground at the end where the gulch meets the Owyhee Canyon. I slept the night there (in my car as I did for most of the trip since it was usually too cold and windy in my opinion to set up a tent). I had noticed that the river level was really low so I decided to try hiking to Echo Rock hot spring a little over four miles in the canyon (You can only get to it during low water unless traveling by raft at higher water). The trail to the spring is a road best suited for ATV's or Jeeps, maybe some pickups but not really for Subaru's. I was glad to be on foot anyway since the weather was ok and I could enjoy the scenery and silence more. The hot spring was a little tricky to find since the small pool is left empty to avoid algae buildup. Once I found the constructed tub and the drain plug, I opened the fill valve and let the water fill the space while I wandered around a bit. 
It was really interesting to experience so many different developed and undeveloped hot springs during the trip. I soaked for a couple of hours until the wind picked up and it started snowing, then headed back to my car before dark. Not knowing what snowstorms are like in the desert, I decided to try to drive closer to a town so I wouldn't be completely alone 30+ miles away from anything. In the fading light and decreasing visibility due to the blowing snow, I drove to Succor Creek Campground and decided to take my chances and stay there for the night since I didn't feel safe to continue on 15 more miles of icy snow gravel roads with about 12 feet of visibility.
It snowed more that night but luckily not that much and I was able to drive to Snively hot springs near Lake Owyhee for a morning soak followed by a walk out onto what is usually the middle of the lake during normal water times. The day was one of the few sunny blue sky days of the trip so I took time to sit and bask in the sun on a rock usually many feet under water.
Then, I headed west to the Beulah Reservoir to spend the night and try to locate the last hot spring of the trip. After the coldest night yet and two hours driving around the next morning, I eventually did find the spring which was supposed to have been developed with a shed and bathtub, but it was in ruins. Disappointed, I left and headed into Burns to treat myself to hot coffee and a warm breakfast sandwhich before heading John Day for New Year's. I splurged and stayed at the Dreamer's Lodge there since I really needed a shower and wanted a warm place to spend the night since temps would likely go below zero again. I explored town a little and checked out the brewery before heading in for the night. 
The next morning, I found a free library (so Portland) before getting a pumpkin latte (one of my favorites) and driving on to Pendleton. The only other time I have visited Pendleton was during the round-up in September when the town is packed with crowds of people. This time it was just the opposite with many quiet shops and few people walking the streets. I decided to jump on the freeway to head west since it would be faster. Kind of last minute, I connected with a friend in Mosier who let me stay in his strawbale house that night which was a real treat since I want to build a strawbale home someday and it had been at least a couple of years since I had stayed there last. It was also great to reconnect with a fellow builder. The next day I wandered the streets of Hood River before heading back to Portland via a quick semi-frozen waterfall gorge hike on the way. It felt so good to come home to my little house!