Tag Archives: Oregon

May 28: Volcanoes and Stonehenge and fossils, oh, my

Having fallen asleep before most children’s bedtime last night, I woke up with the birds this morning. And ended up driving a bit further than I thought I would for one day, but that’s okay.

Odd landscape just before Yakima.
Odd landscape just before Yakima.

Down U.S. 12 to Yakima, where I drove five miles of I-82 before I could escape onto U.S. 97, about 60 miles down to the Columbia River. 97 crosses the Yakama (yes, that’s spelled right) Nation Indian Reservation, and for some reason I’d been expecting high desert. What I got was beautiful foothills, and peekaboo glimpses of Mt. Hood, until I got to the little town of Goldendale, where I had gorgeous views of both Hood and Mt. Adams to its north. And a farmers’ market on this Saturday morning, where I bought some strawberries.

Mt. Adams from Goldendale.
Mt. Hood from Goldendale.
Mt. Hood from Goldendale.  Sorry about the foreground...
Mt. Adams from Goldendale. Sorry about the foreground…

Then I went to Stonehenge <g>. No, not that Stonehenge, but the replica built back after WWII as a war memorial, perched over the Columbia River. It’s made of concrete and is seriously surreal.

The Stonehenge replica along the Columbia River.
The Stonehenge replica along the Columbia River.

Then across the wide Columbia River and my first state line of the trip, into Oregon, and on south through miles of wide open countryside, over at least one pass and past several hundred wind turbines (more than I’ve ever seen anywhere including Washington state’s Palouse country, which is saying a lot), along the John Day River, and through some cute towns.

Wasco, where someone’s got a weird sense of humor, and Condon, which I’m really glad isn’t a typo, and Fossil, where I ate lunch in the middle of a motorcycle rally. Well, in a café in the middle of a motorcycle rally, anyway.

Amusement in Wasco, Oregon.
Amusement in Wasco, Oregon.
In front of City Hall, Fossil, Oregon, with peonies.
In front of City Hall, Fossil, Oregon, with peonies.

I was headed towards John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, which I’d been wanting to visit for a long time. The landscape there reminds me in some ways of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. Lots of multicolored rock layers. The history was interesting, too. John Day (whose namesake was a fur trapper) was sheep farming country before the fossils were discovered, and the park service has preserved one of the farms, with well-done interpretation.

Cathedral Rock, John Day Fossil Beds NM.  I love the stripes.
Cathedral Rock, John Day Fossil Beds NM. I love the stripes.
A sheepshearing shed at the history exhibit at John Day Fossil Beds.
A sheepshearing shed at the history exhibit at John Day Fossil Beds.

But the best part was the John Condon Paleontological Center (John Condon was one of the first people to discover the fossils). They don’t do dinosaurs at John Day. They do ancient mammals. The Cenozoic period, to be precise. Fascinating stuff. I spent a good chunk of my afternoon there.

One of the exhibits at the paleontology center.  That horned thing was supposed  to be sort of like a horse, and sort of like a giraffe.
One of the exhibits at the paleontology center. That horned thing was supposed to be sort of like a horse, and sort of like a giraffe.

But it was time to find a place to stay for the night. I’m in another forest service campground (I figure on finding a motel or hostel or whatever about every third night), up in the forest above the high desert. It’s nice and cool, and there are wildflowers, and I got the last campsite <g>. Can’t ask for much more than that!

Prairie starflower at the Barnhouse Campground.
Prairie starflower at the Barnhouse Campground.

Two weeks ago today, Day 1

Two weeks ago today I headed out for parts unknown. Well, at least some parts, and at least some of them were unknown to me. And I didn’t know I was going anywhere until four days before I left.   Things happen that way sometimes, especially when my feet get itchy.

I have raced across Idaho on my way to Yellowstone a fair number of times in the last fifteen years, straight across the narrowest part just south of Canada on I-90, less than 80 miles between Washington state and Montana. So this time I decided to take the long way around, and explore Idaho, part of Wyoming, and even a little bit of Utah along the way.

But first I had to get across Washington. Normally that’s another I-90 buzz across to Spokane, a five hour drive to the Idaho state line, but I wanted to do things a little differently. This time I went south and east, skirting the eastern edge of Mt. Rainier National Park and heading over Chinook Pass on U.S. 410. The pass was clear and dry, but it’s obvious that it’s only been open a few weeks judging from the amount of snow still lying about on the mountainsides. I left that behind quickly, though, and, with one stop at a fruit stand for a bag full of Rainier (of course) cherries the size of small plums, I was through Yakima and on I-82 to I-84, across the Columbia River, and into Oregon.

Most of the interstate through eastern Washington is through the high desert where it isn’t being irritated, as my father used to say, by those huge sprinkler farms. But less than an hour after I crossed my first state line of the trip, I started climbing again, and when I reached a rest area in the pines at the summit, it was to find an exhibit about how this was the last pass the pioneers on the Oregon Trail had to surmount. It was about twenty degrees cooler than the 90s down in the valley and the view went on pretty much forever. I also saw my first wildflowers of the trip, gaillardia and cow parsnips.

Gaillardia at Emigrant Springs wayside
Gaillardia at Emigrant Springs wayside
Blue Mountains and Oregon high desert
Blue Mountains and Oregon high desert

My first planned stop of the trip was near the town of Baker City, Oregon, almost all the way to Idaho a couple of hours further on. A lady on my online quilting list had mentioned stopping at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, and, history buff that I am it sounded interesting.

The center is five miles off the interstate, back in the high desert of far northeastern Oregon, and way up on a hilltop overlooking the valley and the Blue Mountains and, not incidentally, the still-visible wagon tracks from the 1840s, which were quite amazing. The building itself looked new, and the exhibits, says the freelance curator, were top-notch.

Entrance to the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Baker City, Oregon.
Entrance to the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Baker City, Oregon.
One of the exhibits at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.
One of the exhibits at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.
Panel pointing out landmarks, including the wagon tracks, at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.
Panel pointing out landmarks, including the wagon tracks, second from left, at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.

I know my western history fairly well, but I still learned things I didn’t know about the Oregon Trail. And I ran across an old friend, so to speak, when I saw a panel on Ezra Meeker, whose mansion is in Puyallup, where I did my internship. Ezra came out to Washington on the Oregon Trail in 1851, and spearheaded the campaign to save and preserve the trail back in 1906-08 by retracing his steps along it all the way to the other Washington, where he met with President Theodore Roosevelt about it.

It was getting on in the afternoon by the time I pried myself away from the center, and I only drove one more hour, to Ontario, Oregon, on the Idaho border, crossing over into the Mountain Time Zone in the process.

And that was my first day, two weeks ago today!

The trouble with geography is that you can’t take it with you

I hated the Midwest the entire six years I lived there — and, no, hated is not too strong a word — but now that I’ve been back in the Pacific Northwest for over twenty years, I can admit there are some things that I miss about the landscape there. Spring wildflowers carpeting the ground under the bare-limbed woods. The colors of fall (but not trees after the leaves fall, which then proceed to look dead for the ensuing six months). And the wide-open spaces. I even took a vacation to North Dakota summer before last, and reveled in a sky that looked like it took up more than 180 degrees horizon to horizon.

It’s not that I want to move anywhere else, you understand, but there are aspects of all the places I’ve lived that I wish I could have brought with me.  Well, except for Louisiana, but we left there when I was three and it didn’t make much of an impression.

  • Southern California gave me a need for color all year round.  My father used to prune the roses in our yard there back every January, not because they’d gone dormant, but because if he didn’t, the bushes would grow so tall that the flowers would bloom six feet over our heads, where we couldn’t appreciate them.
  • Colorado showed me what seasons are like.  I still remember my mother waking me up before dawn the first day it snowed in our yard, so that I could see the flakes falling.  And living so close to real mountains is very different from just visiting them from time to time.
  • Northern California isn’t at all like southern California.  Not desert, but fertile farmland.  I’d never been to a place where I could pick my own produce before.  And while neither were in my backyard anymore, both the ocean and real mountains were only a day trip away.
  • The Willamette Valley of Oregon is so, so green and lush.  More fertile farmland, but the mountains wrap around the valley like a hug.  I was back in the land of seasons, too.  They were called About to Rain, Rain, Showers, and Road Construction <wry g>.
  • And then somehow I left that glory and moved to the Midwest, first Indiana then Ohio, which turned out to be a colossal mistake.
  • When I finally escaped back West, I took a job in Montana.  Not the wide-open spaces of eastern Montana, but to a small town in a claustrophobically steep-sided river valley in the far northwest corner of the state.  Evergreens as far as the eye could see.  I wasn’t there long enough to experience a winter, but I suspect claustrophobic wouldn’t have begun to describe it.
  • And then here, in western Washington, where I have volcanoes, an inland sea, an ocean two hours away, and, you’d think, just about anything a person could want.  Except those wide-open spaces and early spring wildflowers.

Go figure.

So, do you have geography from places you’ve lived that you wish you could have brought with you to where you live now?

Two weeks ago, Day 9

My last day on the road, alas.  I got up and out early, and drove north from Seaside to Astoria, where I had an appointment with the curator (the librarian was on vacation) of the Columbia River Maritime Museum.

But that wasn’t until later in the morning, and in the meantime I wanted to visit the Astoria Column.  I’d seen it in the distance any number of times on trips through Astoria, perched up there on its hilltop, but I hadn’t ever actually gone up there.  So Kestrel (my car) and I crept up the steep, narrow streets — Astoria is much smaller than San Francisco in every aspect but its hilliness — to the top of the highest – peak may be an overstatement, but you can certainly see forever from up there.

It was eight in the morning, clear as a bell, and the shadows were dramatic.  I’d had it in my mind that I was going to climb to the top of the tower, but I should have known better.  I always forget about my fear of manmade heights.  I don’t mind natural heights.  I’ve stood at Glacier Point in Yosemite, 3200 feet above Yosemite Valley, a direct drop below, without a hint of trepidation.  But when I visited Chicago I took one look at the then-Sears Tower and said, no way.  Absolutely no way.

Then there’s the whole claustrophobia thing, which I do not forget about.  I am very uncomfortable inside a plane if I’m not in a window seat, because I need to be able to see out, for instance, and I really do prefer my elevators to be glass, although I can manage regular ones if I have to.  But caves don’t bother me, so I guess it’s the manmade thing again.  Odd.  At any rate, the inside diameter of the Astoria Column is about eight feet across.  No windows. 164 steps to the top.  I took about ten steps up and could just feel it closing in about me.

So I came back down and decided I would a) be satisfied with the views from the hilltop, which really were spectacular, and b) take my pictures of the column from the outside, which was much more interesting, anyway, with its mural about exploration.

And here’s the photographic evidence.

The Astoria Column, backlit.
The Astoria Column, backlit.
Towards the northwest from the base of the column.  That's the Columbia River, and the Astoria-Megler Bridge, which I would cross later that day.
Towards the northwest from the base of the column. That’s the Columbia River, and the Astoria-Megler Bridge, which I would cross later that day.
A view of the column and its spiraling mural.
A view of the column and its spiraling mural.
To the southwest from the base of the column -- those clouds mark the coastline.
To the southwest from the base of the column — those clouds mark the coastline.
A close-up of the very top of the column.
A close-up of the very top of the column.

By the time I was done at the column, it was almost time for my appointment.  The Columbia River Maritime Museum is on the waterfront, appropriately enough.  It’s a fabulous museum, and I highly recommend it to anyone with even the faintest interest in western or maritime history or boats or lifesaving, or…  But today I was there to do research, so I headed back to the library, where I met with the curator.

He was a very nice man, and it was a very nice library, but the library was not his area of expertise.  He was persistent, though, and finally produced the main item I was there to see, a thesis written by a student of American Studies at, of all places, the University of Utah, on lighthouses and their keepers on the Oregon coast.  She’d done a lot of field work on the coast, and research, and interviews, and one of the three lighthouses she focused on just happened to be Heceta Head.  Gold mine.  Even though the museum’s copy turned out to be missing its bibliography.

The curator also found me a number of other interesting items, and I had a very productive morning.

But after a beer-battered scallops and chips lunch at the Wet Dog Café, a place I’d eaten at before and loved (and which, unlike Mo’s, more than lived up to my memories of it), it was time to head home.

It was only a three and a half hour drive.  But it started with being stopped near the very top of the Astoria-Megler Bridge by bridge repairs.  I did mention my fear of manmade heights, right?  Well, I managed to distract myself during the wait by taking photos from the car.  I bet I’ll never get any from this vantage point ever again.

Stuck at the top of the Astoria-Megler Bridge.
Stuck at the top of the Astoria-Megler Bridge.
The Columbia River and Washington shore from the top of the bridge.
The Columbia River and Washington shore from the top of the bridge.
Down, down, down we go, to Washington.
Down, down, down we go, to Washington.
The very oddly-named rest area near the Washington end of the bridge.  I suspect William Clark is the culprit, but there wasn't anything there to explain it.
The very oddly-named rest area near the Washington end of the bridge. I suspect William Clark is the original culprit, but there wasn’t anything there to explain the origin of the name.

When I arrived home, it was to find that the condo hadn’t burned down and that the cats were just fine, and that was the end of this year’s “long” trip.  While I had a good, and productive, time, here’s hoping next year’s holds more new territory and lasts longer.  Sigh.

Two weeks ago, Day 8

The beach just north of Lincoln City.
The beach just north of Lincoln City.

Two weeks ago today I drove from Lincoln City to Seaside, plus side trips.  The first one was down the Nestucca River National Backcountry Byway, as the brochure I picked up at the Yaquina Head Visitor Center the day before titled it.

This was the only real stretch of road on this trip that I hadn’t ever been on before, and I only drove sixteen miles of it.  But what I did see was lovely.  It started out very bucolic, with farms and cattle and crops.  Mostly dairy cattle — I wasn’t all that far from Tillamook and its famous cheese factory, after all.  Then it narrowed down to something of a real canyon, with twists and turns and a rapidly running river.  I came around one bend to find a deer at the side of the road staring at me about as avidly as I was staring at it.

I only went as far as the first campground, and I was happy to see that it, at least, had not been leased and/or ‘improved’ into an imitation private campground.  Tucking that away in my mental notes for the next time I came down here, I headed back to Hwy. 101.  Why is it that going in on a road like that always takes twice as long as coming back out?

My next stop was entirely serendipitous.  I saw a sign, out in the middle of nowhere along Hwy. 101, saying Quilt Shop.  Well, how could I not check that out?  I turned down a narrow little dirt road, and about half a mile in, came to the end at a house with a quilt shop underneath it (in a daylight basement).  I went in, and was amazed at what I saw out there in the middle of nowhere — lots and lots of fabric and notions, and samples pinned up wherever there was space.  I spent a little time in there prowling around, and came out with several fat quarters from a sale bin.  I suspect I’m going to regret that I didn’t get yardage of one of them — it was a really nifty tone-on-tone world map.

After that, I drove on to Tillamook, where I ate lunch and went to the cheese factory.  You can’t go to Tillamook without going to the cheese factory and getting ice cream.  Well, you can get cheese, too, but you have to get ice cream.  Tillamook Mudslide, by preference.  Chocolate ice cream with fudge ripple and chocolate chunks.  Yum.  They used to carry a really delicious lemon pudding ice cream, too, but apparently they’ve quit making it.  Their other flavors are lovely, but I adore the Mudslide.

The afternoon was spent tooling up the coast to Seaside, via Garibaldi, a little town on Tillamook Bay, where I visited their historical museum, which was mostly about Robert Gray and his ship Columbia.  He was the one who discovered and named the Columbia River.

Another view of Tillamook Bay.
Tillamook Bay near Garibaldi.
An unusual (most Oregon iris I've seen are lavender) roadside iris.
An unusual (most Oregon iris I’ve seen are lavender) roadside iris.

And via Cannon Beach, where I went to their historical museum.  It was like Lincoln City’s museum in some ways.  Cannon Beach (named after a ship’s cannon found not far from there) is an upscale tourist town, and has been one for most of its life.

I spent most of the rest of the afternoon walking the beach at Cannon Beach.  I started at Tolovana Beach State Wayside, on the south end of town and walked all the way to Haystack Rock and back.  Haystack Rock is another cool place to see tidepools, and here’s the evidence.

Haystack Rock from Tolovana Beach State Wayside.
Haystack Rock from Tolovana Beach State Wayside.
Kites flying at Cannon Beach.
Kites flying at Cannon Beach.
A closer view of Haystack Rock with tidepools at its base.
A closer view of Haystack Rock with tidepools at its base.
Artificially-looking green but real sea urchins.
Artificially-looking green but real sea anemones.
A sea star.
A sea star.
Whelks.
Whelks.
A hermit crab in a whelk shell.
A hermit crab in a whelk shell.
The view headed back from Haystack Rock with the wind at my back instead of my face.
The view headed back from Haystack Rock with the wind at my back instead of my face.

You can also see Tillamook Rock Lighthouse from here, just barely.

A seastack with Tillamook Rock Lighthouse in the distance.
A seastack with Tillamook Rock Lighthouse in the distance.
Another view of Terrible Tilly.
Another view of Terrible Tilly.

Tillamook Rock Lighthouse,  or Terrible Tilly as it was called, is one of the most remote, desolate lighthouses in the U.S., if not the world.  You can read about it at the link, but suffice to say it must have been one of the most dreaded postings in the lighthouse service.  It is awfully picturesque, though.  And then, at last, I drove up to Seaside and checked in at the Seaside Hostel.  I’ve stayed here before on several occasions.  It’s in an old motel, backing up to the river that flows through Seaside.  Comfortable, convenient, and relatively cheap, and that was all I really needed for my last night on the road.

Two weeks ago, Day 7

Some good things, and one disappointment.

I got a kind of late start this morning two weeks ago, and I woke up to overcast skies and a fair amount of wind.  In my experience, the Oregon coast is a very windy place, and I’d just been lucky the day before.

I stopped in Waldport at a visitor center commemorating the bridge over the Alsea River, which was interesting, especially since the bridge they were commemorating (built in the 1930s) had been replaced by a more modern one just a few years ago.

Then I stopped at an ocean view pullout and wrote for a while since I hadn’t the night before, before driving on to Newport, where I arrived about lunchtime, by design.  I’d been looking forward to going to Mo’s, which is sort of an institution on the Oregon coast, famous for, among other things, its clam chowder.  I’d eaten there before and enjoyed it, but not this time.  As I wrote in my journal, it was “an absolutely wretched lunch.  A crab melt, which was watery and flavorless, and, oh, the bread was burned, and a small cup of chowder, which tasted pretty much like Campbells out of a can.  I don’t know what’s happened to Mo’s, but I won’t ever be going there again.”

I then went to the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse (Yaquina is pronounced ya quinn’ a). I’d been there before, but I thought it might be interesting again, and it was.  The rooms are all decorated in period, and the lighthouse itself is in a state park.  I wish Heceta Head’s lighthouse and keepers’ quarters were the same building, because I suspect it would facilitate the plot, but I’ll manage.  Also, Yaquina Bay Light, which was only actually lit for three years (see the website for that story) is supposed to have a ghost, too.

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse
Yaquina Bay Lighthouse
The view from the front stoop of the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse.  You can just see the Yaquina Head Lighthouse from here.
The view from the front stoop of the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. You can just see the Yaquina Head Lighthouse from here.
The kitchen in the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse.
The kitchen in the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse.
A closeup of a baby Fresnel lens.  Fresnel lenses, which concentrate the output of a small light into one direction, making it look much larger, are some of the most beautiful practical things in existence.
A closeup of a baby Fresnel lens. Fresnel lenses, which concentrate the output of a small light into one direction, making it look much larger and brighter, are some of the most beautiful practical things in existence.
A bedroom in the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse.
A bedroom in the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse.
The Hwy 101 bridge over Yaquina Bay.
The Hwy 101 bridge over Yaquina Bay.

After that I drove the short distance up the coast to the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area.  I thought I was going to get blown away, but other than that it was a terrific stop.  They have a very nice visitor center with lots of interesting historical exhibits and a short movie about the lighthouse, and then there’s the lighthouse itself, which is the tallest one in Oregon (not in the northwest, that would be the Gray’s Harbor Light, which is in Westport, one of my favorite day trips from home).  Once I was done in the visitor center, I drove on up to the headland, parked my car, and hung onto my hat (literally — my hair is thin on top of my head, and I always wear a hat outdoors to keep my scalp from getting sunburned).  The views were spectacular again, but the tidepools were terrific.  They were seven stories worth of stairs to reach from the lighthouse parking lot, but the basalt beach cobbles and the sea stars and crabs and sea anemones and other interesting critters were well worth the climb back up.

The Yaquina Head Lighthouse.
The Yaquina Head Lighthouse.
Birds covering a sea stack at Yaquina Head.
Birds covering a sea stack at Yaquina Head.
Gray basalt cobblestones on the beach below Yaquina Head.  Beautiful, but a bear to walk on.
Gray basalt cobblestones on the beach below Yaquina Head. Beautiful, but a bear to walk on.
Yaquina Head Lighthouse from the tidepools below.
Yaquina Head Lighthouse from the tidepools below.
A sea star.
A sea star.
The stairs leading down from Yaquina Head to the tidepools.  The equivalent of seven stories, in wind almost strong enough to lift you off your feet.
The stairs leading down from Yaquina Head to the tidepools. The equivalent of seven stories, in wind almost strong enough to lift you off your feet.
A really big, really gorgeous first order (the largest size) Fresnel lens at the top of Yaquina Head Lighthouse.
A really big, really gorgeous first order (the largest size) Fresnel lens at the top of Yaquina Head Lighthouse.

Then I headed north to Lincoln City, where I visited the North Lincoln County Historical Museum.  They’ve done a very good job there, telling the story of that part of the Oregon coast.  Lincoln City is basically five small beach tourist towns that banded together to provide basic services to their citizens.   Lincoln City today is basically miles and miles of motels and strip malls and beach houses, but the history of the place — I was especially enchanted with the exhibit that told about the gathering of redheaded people that happened there every year, apparently for decades — was much more than that.

And I found a good motel in Lincoln City, too.

Two weeks ago yesterday, Day 6

Sorry, yesterday got a bit out of hand.  I’ll do today later on today.

I woke up early this morning two weeks ago today.  I always do that when I’m camping.  In the summertime this far north the sun rises pretty darned early.  The day didn’t start out all that excitingly.  I needed to do laundry.  So I got up and out and headed back to Florence to a laundromat I’d noticed the day before, which opened early, fortunately.

With clean clothes neatly packed back in my suitcase, I headed back to the public library, where I finished going through their local history section and attempted to look at some microfilm of the local newspaper for a couple of particular dates, but was utterly stymied, first, by the fact that the young woman who responded when I asked for help did not know, and made it clear she did not want to know, how to run the microfilm machine.  The machine in question made me realize how long it had been since I last worked as a librarian, too, because it was a fancy, newfangled variety attached to a computer, and it took me some time to figure out how it worked.  Once I did, however, I discovered that the roll I wanted to look at had been wound onto the spindle so that it viewed upside down and mirror-imaged.  Totally useless.  It could be fixed, but not on that machine, not by me.  So I made note of the name of the paper, and resolved to interlibrary loan the microfilm when I got home, so I could use it at my local library, where the librarians are much more helpful.

By that time it was lunchtime, so I found some lunch, then headed north, where my day improved drastically.

I was headed for Heceta (he cee’ ta) Head Lighthouse, my favorite place on the Oregon coast, and the setting for the new book, which is going to be a complete rewrite of a story I wrote a number of years ago — it won’t be recognizeable as the same book by the time I’m done with it, I suspect.

Heceta Head is named after a Spanish explorer, Bruno de Heceta, whose real claim to fame was that he was looking for the great river of the West way back when, and totally missed the mouth of the Columbia.  But he did leave his name behind on the headland, and when the lighthouse was built there it, too, took his name.

That lighthouse and I go way back.  My association with it started when I lived in Eugene in the 1980s and went through my first divorce.  The lighthouse was only a little over an hour from where I lived, and was my favorite escape hatch when things were getting too messy at home.  The keepers’ quarters, which are in the Victorian cottage near the lighthouse, are supposed to be haunted, too.  I didn’t know this when I saw something in one of the windows of the then-unoccupied house on one of my many trips there.  As it turns out, what I saw might have been the result of a prank.  But then again it might not have been.  I’ll never know.

But that’s the basis for the story I’m going to write.

I spent most of the afternoon at Heceta Head, touring the keepers’ quarters, which are now a very expensive bed and breakfast, and visiting the lighthouse.  I was too early for the re-opening of the lighthouse itself to tours, after a two-year renovation, by a week, alas, but I did get to see what I needed to see.  And I also got to see lots of shorebirds on the seastack nearby, through a telescope set up by volunteers at the foot of the lighthouse.

Heceta Head Lighthouse and keepers' quarters, from a viewpoint on Hwy. 101.
Heceta Head Lighthouse and keepers’ quarters, from a viewpoint on Hwy. 101.
The lighthouse from the viewpoint, with the zoom.
The lighthouse from the viewpoint, with the zoom.
The keepers' quarters from the viewpoint, with the zoom.
The keepers’ quarters from the viewpoint, with the zoom.
One of two sea lions basking on the rocks below the viewpoint.
One of two sea lions basking on the rocks below the viewpoint.
The Cape Creek Bridge and the beach below Heceta Head.
The Cape Creek Bridge and the beach below Heceta Head.
The trail to the lighthouse.
The trail to the lighthouse.
A closer view of the keepers' quarters.
A closer view of the keepers’ quarters.
The lighthouse from the porch of the keepers' quarters.
The lighthouse from the porch of the keepers’ quarters.
The parlor in the keepers' quarters.
The parlor in the keepers’ quarters.
A closer view of the lighthouse itself.  You can't see the lens because the renovators are still working on it and keep it covered till they're done.
A closer view of the lighthouse itself. You can’t see the lens because the renovators are still working on it and keep it covered till they’re done.
Cormorants and seagulls through the telescope at the lighthouse.
Cormorants and common murres through the telescope at the lighthouse.
Westward, the next stop is Japan -- from the meadow at the base of the lighthouse.
Westward, the next stop is Japan — from the meadow at the base of the lighthouse.

And I spoke with the man who runs the bed and breakfast, who gave me some photocopies of some research he’d collected, and spent the better part of an hour with me, talking about his experiences there and the history he’d learned.  Which was extremely helpful.

After taking far too many photos (research, I tell you!), I walked back down to the beach, where I noticed that there are caves at the base of the headland.  Thinking they might end up in the book, I went and checked them out, too.  You never know…

It was getting on late in the afternoon by the time I left Heceta Head, but I had one more place I wanted to visit before I stopped for the night, Cape Perpetua (pronounced like perpetual without the L).   It’s one of the highest points on the Oregon coast, and there’s a winding, narrow road leading to a viewpoint at the top.  The view is one of those curvature of the earth things, where you’d swear that you were seeing more than 180 degrees from horizon to horizon.  I’d somehow managed never to go up there before, but I’m glad I did this time.

The southern view from Cape Perpetua.  The highway below is 101.
The southern view from Cape Perpetua. The highway below is 101.
The northern view from Cape Perpetua.
The northern view from Cape Perpetua.

By the time I got back down to Highway 101 it was getting late, and while I was only going as far as the tiny town of Yachats (ya’ hots, not yach’ ets as my father teased when we were here when I was a kid), it was time I got there and settled in.  To a nice little mom and pop motel, where I spent a very comfortable night.

Two weeks ago, Day 5

It’s very odd to go back to a place where you used to live thirty years before.  Or maybe it isn’t for most folks, but it is for me.  The three years I lived in Eugene, Oregon, were extremely tumultuous for me personally.  Perhaps that’s why I always feel odd when I go back there.

At any rate, this time I wanted to go back to a particular place, Mt. Pisgah Arboretum, which is in the hills east of Eugene and south of its twin city on the other side of the freeway, Springfield (yes, That Springfield for you Simpsons fans, according to Groening himself).

But I digress.  Mt. Pisgah isn’t an arboretum in the strictest sense of the term, or at least it’s not what I think of when I think of an arboretum, where lots of different kinds of trees and shrubs are planted and labeled.  It’s more just a park.  A really nice, wild park, with quite a few wildflowers in late spring.

I strolled the trails for a couple of miles, under the oak trees and through the meadows.  I always forget how much this part of Oregon looks like parts of California.  And what those big oak trees are like.  I love them.  I also saw a few critters, and even got photos of a couple of them.

Here’s what it looks like, and a sampling of the flowers.

Columbia columbines at Mt. Pisgah Arboretum
Columbia columbines at Mt. Pisgah Arboretum
I think these are some kind of penstemon.  Or perhaps some sort of corydalis.
I think these are some kind of penstemon. Or perhaps some sort of corydalis.
Meadow and oak trees at Mt. Pisgah.
Meadow and oak trees at Mt. Pisgah.
The Willamette River at Mt. Pisgah.
The Willamette River at Mt. Pisgah.
I don't know what these are, and I couldn't find them in my flower ID books.  Which is just wrong, but they're still pretty.
I don’t know what these are, and I couldn’t find them in my flower ID books. Which is just wrong, but they’re still pretty.
A red squirrel.
A red squirrel.
I don't know what kind of bird this is.
I don’t know what kind of bird this is.

After that, I went looking for some of my old stomping grounds in Eugene, mostly the apartment (since converted to condos) I lived in with my first husband, which was way up in the hills on the south end of town with a spectacular view down the valley.  I didn’t take any pictures of it this time because I didn’t want anyone accosting me asking me what I was doing that for.  I left my first husband in Eugene, and I met my second one there, too, probably way too soon for my own good.  I also went looking for the apartment my second husband and I lived in for a brief time before we left the Northwest, which was one of the dumbest things I ever did (leaving the Northwest, that is), and found it, too.

Then, after a fast food lunch, filling the gas tank (I will never get used to not pumping my own gas, but they don’t let you do that in Oregon), and getting some cash, I headed west towards the coast.

It’s only an hour’s drive from Eugene to Florence, which is situated at the mouth of the Siuslaw (sigh’ oo slaw) River just about halfway down the Oregon coast.  I visited the Old Town section, right on the harbor, then found the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum.  After perusing their exhibits, I went to their library, which was staffed by a nice volunteer in her eighties who had recently taken the collection over from her predecessor who’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  She was still trying to deal with the results.  But she helped me find some good things, and make copies, and it was several hours well spent.

I also spent some time in the local history section of the public library, and found more good stuff.

Then I went looking for a campground, and discovered something disgusting.  I am normally a fan of forest service campgrounds.  They’re usually cheaper, nice, and in quiet locations.  Not this time.  Most of the forest service campgrounds along the Oregon coast have been leased to private companies for management, and they might as well be privately owned for all their price and ambiance.  I was appalled.  $22 for a plain site (as opposed to one with hookups) is absolutely ridiculous.  Camping in Yellowstone National Park costs less than that.

But I didn’t have a whole lot of choice.  The three campgrounds I checked (one private, one state park, and the forest service one) were all the same price and the others were even worse for ambiance.  So I paid my money, and I still may write my congresscritters about it.  That was just Wrong.

There was a nice trail at the campground with a sign that said “to the beach” at the beginning of it, though.  So I decided to walk it.  I never did get to the beach — I checked the next morning, and it was several miles one way — but I did have a very nice walk.  At one point, the trees arched overhead looking like that scene in The Fellowship of the Ring where the Black Riders are after Frodo.  And flowers — mostly false lily of the valley and rhododendrons.  Florence has a festival every spring celebrating the rhododendrons, which I’d just missed (which was fine).

Native coastal rhododendrons.
Native coastal rhododendrons.
Where are the hobbits?  Or the black riders?
Where are the hobbits? Or the black riders?
False lily-of-the-valley.
False lily-of-the-valley.

After my walk, I fixed supper and settled in for the night.  And that was my only night camping on this trip.

Two weeks ago today, Day 4

Two weeks ago today I think I finally saw enough gardens to satisfy me.  Maybe.  At least for a while.

The Willamette Valley near Salem is an amazing place.  The climate and soils are such that it’s an ideal place to grow nursery stock of all kinds.  It’s very odd to come around a bend in the road and see an entire field of some exotic evergreen or shrub, let alone entire fields of garden flowers.

A field of nursery stock plants.
A field of nursery stock plants.

I live just down the road from a commercial dahlia grower (which is something of a joke because I can’t grow dahlias in my own garden to save my life), and up north of Seattle is where a large part of the nation’s crop of daffodil and tulip bulbs are grown by the acre (spectacular in early April).  But the Willamette Valley is something special, even by my standards.

My first stop, about five miles back north of Salem on the west side of I-5, was somewhere I’d been before, Schreiner’s Iris Gardens.  I have some Schreiner’s iris in my own garden, as a matter of fact.  Bearded iris are my alltime favorite flowers.  They look like enormous butterflies, come in every color of the rainbow except for true red and true green (they come in shades of both, but not the true color), and many of them smell fantastic.  Sort of like fruit punch tastes.  Or grapes.  If they had a longer bloom season, they’d be the perfect flower.

Schreiner’s not only has iris fields by the acre, but they have a multi-acre display garden, too, with hundreds of varieties.  I hit the garden just after peak bloom, and it was spectacular.  I spent the entire morning there, and took way too many photos.  Here’s a sampling of them.

One of the entrances to Schreiners' Iris display gardens.
One of the entrances to Schreiners’ Iris display gardens.
Raindrops on an iris blossom.
Raindrops on an iris blossom.
A view of Schreiners' display gardens.
A view of Schreiners’ display gardens.
And another.  Those red spires are lupines.
And another. Those red spires are lupines.
Two of the many contrasting colors iris come in.
Two of the many contrasting colors iris come in.
Iris and Korean dogwood.
Iris and Korean dogwood.

After pizza for lunch in the little town of Keizer (kee’ zer), I drove a couple of miles on the other side of I-5 to a place called Adelman Peony Gardens.  I’d never been there before, and I don’t think they even existed the last time I was down in this neck of the woods over ten years ago.  While they’re not quite to the scale of Schreiner’s yet (although I suspect they’re on their way there), they, too, have beautiful display gardens, with a far greater variety of flower forms and colors than I ever expected from peonies.  Yes, they’re primarily red, pink, and white, but they also come in creamy yellow and rusty peach, and range from a single row of petals to flower heads that resemble a cheerleader’s pompoms.  I wish I had room for a peony or three in my tiny garden.  Maybe someday.  In the meantime, here’s some more photos.

A view of Adelman's Peony Gardens.
A view of Adelman’s Peony Gardens.
A traditional pink pom-pom peony.
A traditional pink pom-pom peony.
A single-flowered white peony.
A single-flowered white peony.
A peach-colored peony.  I'd never seen one this color before.
A peach-colored peony. I’d never seen one this color before.

My last garden stop for the day was at a place called Sebright Gardens.  Here the emphasis was on green, as they specialize in hostas, or dinosaur plants as my sister calls the three I have in the shady part of my garden.  Hostas are primarily foliage plants, although they do put up stalks of purple to white bell-shaped flowers in late summer.  I knew hostas came in a lot of shapes and sizes, and they do, from cereal-bowl-sized to five feet across, mostly with leaves proportional but sometimes not.  But they also come in shades of green from almost blue to almost yellow, almost white to almost black, sometimes several on the same plant or even the same leaf, and those leaves come in a wild assortment of shapes, as well.

The gardens here had more companion plants than the other two, and were spectacular.  But it was the hostas that were so amazing.  Green is my favorite color.  What can I say?

Hostas at Sebright Gardens.
Hostas at Sebright Gardens.
One of the shady hosta borders at Sebright Gardens.
One of the shady hosta borders at Sebright Gardens.
I had no idea hostas came in so many colors, sizes, and shapes.
I had no idea hostas came in so many colors, sizes, and shapes.

By that point it was getting late in the afternoon, and I’d planned to visit the Oregon Garden that day as well.  The Oregon Garden was built by the Oregon Nursery Association, and is an enormous display garden full of ideas for how to use all those lovely plants in the landscape.  I’d been there before when it was new, and it’s really nifty.  But by that point my feet hurt, and my eyes were so full of color I’m not sure they could have held any more.  It did seem a bit like overkill at that point.

So instead I decided to drive the hour or so on down to Eugene, where I had some trouble finding a motel, involving crossing town twice and getting stuck in rush hour traffic, but I finally did, and settled down to make plans for heading over to the coast.  And back to research, which, after all, was the main reason I was making this trip.

Two weeks ago today, day 3

And now we start having photographs.  Lots and lots of photographs.

I left the hostel fairly early in the morning, and drove up into the west hills of Portland to the Pittock Mansion, where I wandered around the gardens, then sat in the car and read for a while before the house itself opened up for the day.  The Pittock Mansion was built around the turn of the last century by the owner of the Oregonian, Portland’s newspaper which is still published today, who apparently had more money than he knew what to do with.  It’s perched on a site with views that reach clear to Mount Hood in good weather (which did not happen while I was there, alas, although I could still see almost all of Portland from up there), surrounded by beautiful gardens, and the house itself is incredibly elegant.  So he had taste as well as money.

Here are some photos, although I have to say the website does a much better job of it than I do.

The Pittock Mansion on a misty moisty day.
The Pittock Mansion on a misty moisty day.
The gardens behind the mansion.
The gardens behind the mansion.
The view from the back garden.
The view from the back garden.
The back of the mansion.
The back of the mansion.
The view from one of the windows.
The view from one of the windows.
The best view I got of the inside -- this is the entry and double staircase.
The best view I got of the inside — this is the entry and double staircase.

After I left the mansion I drove back down into town looking for an on-ramp to I-5 or I-405 southbound, and could not find one for love or money.  I ended up on U.S. 99E, down through Milwaukie and Clackamas County.  Which didn’t turn out to be such a bad thing, since I found lunch along the way.  I had originally intended to get on I-205 from there, but I discovered that staying on 99E was actually going to take me where I wanted to go, anyway.

That was the Aurora Colony, which I’d read about in the book Aurora: An American Experience in Quilt, Community, and Craft by Jane Kirkpatrick, who I met online through a writers’ organization I used to belong to.  I have to say I was disappointed in the Aurora Colony itself, which was mostly a bunch of antiques stores strewn along the highway.  Somehow, in spite of their website, that wasn’t what I was expecting.

So on I went.  Someone on the Hardy Plants email list had told me about a place called Heirloom Roses.  This place did live up to what I was expecting.  In spades.  Acres and acres of roses in full bloom, mostly heirloom and species and shrub and climbing roses, although they did have some floribundas and hybrid teas.  The whole place smelled like sweet tea tastes, which is the only time I like the way sweet tea tastes (despite having been born in the South, I prefer my tea with lemon and no sugar, thanks).  By this point the weather had cleared up again, too.  A perfect place to spend a perfect afternoon.

Anyway, here’s the pictorial proof of how gorgeous this place was.

Some of the roses at Heirloom Gardens.
Some of the roses at Heirloom Gardens.
A rose blossom.  I think it's one of the many kinds of Peace roses.
A rose blossom. I think it’s one of the many kinds of Peace roses.
A David Austen rose.  These are hybrids of old shrub roses.
A David Austen rose. These are hybrids of old shrub roses.
The miniature rose garden.  The roses were miniature, not the garden.
The miniature rose garden. The roses were miniature, not the garden.
A miniature climber.  I hadn't known there was such a thing.
A miniature climber. I hadn’t known there was such a thing.

And, on top of that, I heard a hawk crying over my head, and saw a California quail in the greenhouse, of all places.

The California quail in the sales greenhouse.
The California quail in the sales greenhouse.

After that, I stopped at Champoeg (pronounced sham poo’ ee) State Park, the site of some of Oregon’s earliest political efforts and a pretty riverside park.  I’d been thinking about camping there, but decided against it, so I drove on to Salem and ended up in a motel.  Which was fine, too.