My son Pathfinder told me that Oregon — at least the western part — is a place trees really like to grow. When I traveled north from his house the trees filled my vision and my heart. I didn’t have time to pull over at every turnout and go hug one of them, but that is what seemed the reasonable thing to do.
My days were full of trees, ocean, rivers — and weather. I walked on this beach, four days in a row, and listened to the rain clattering on the metal roof at night, and the wind howling.
My trusty raincoat was necessary attire, but while I was at the coast there were daily breaks in the rain long enough for a good outing. But the weather could change so fast! These next pictures were taken within a couple of minutes of each other:
As long as I was on the coast I didn’t feel the cold, and the weather was only exciting. I had worried just before setting out, about the prudence of traveling to a colder and wetter climate in this month of the year when one wants to start hibernating. But I never regretted going.
When I left the coast and drove inland it was to Corvallis, new-old home of my former housemate Kit, who had been with me the last two years. She took me to one of her favorite eateries in that college town, the Café Yumm!, where they make their signature Yumm! Sauce that I have come to love because of her sharing bottles brought to our refrigerator from this store.
And she showed me her favorite tree on the Oregon State campus, a beautiful and comforting sight out the window of one of her classes the first autumn she was a student there. You can see why she would love it:
My first night with Kit we slept at the farm where she had lived for several years before moving to California. Several generations and families live here in Philomath, and they all work at chores such as keeping the forest floor clean by burning downed wood and trimmings.
As the sun was already lowering when we arrived, Kit suggested we take a walk around the property to see the animals such as Soay sheep, and also down the road to Marys River and the covered bridge.
I was really glad for my other new coat, a warm winter parka, because now the temperature was near freezing, and the air damp from the daily rain. Our walk was brisk in every way, and the children among us bump-splashed their bicycles through a string of potholes filled with rainwater.
As the sky grew dimmer the burn piles shone brighter, and their wood smoke scented the wintry air. I remembered in my body the cold fog of my childhood winters, but this was a cheerier feeling, like being in a Little House book, or a Currier and Ives video…?
I was thoroughly charmed, as well as humbled and warmed by the farm family welcoming me so heartily — and feeding me heartily, and giving me a spacious and cozy bedroom all to myself.
In the morning this was our view, the clouds hanging out between the ridges and in the little valleys of the wooded hills. And we all — about eleven of us — drove into town for Divine Liturgy.
I spent another night with Kit and her parents in Eugene, where I was also treated royally. I began to wonder if all my hosts were conspiring to see how much fattening up of me they could accomplish in a mere two weeks. All in love, of course!
Most of my driving was not in the rain, until the last day, and then I drove in and out of clouds so frequently that I was captivated by the times when I emerged from a downpour to see the white drifts hanging out prettily nearby.
Then suddenly I was back in northern California…
…and in another day or so was home again. Just in time for Thanksgiving! I’m oh so grateful for a fun expedition and vacation, but even more glad to be in my own bed and kitchen. When I came in the front door it was to a bright wood fire that housemate Susan had got going, the most welcome sight.
Yes, another road trip! My first stop, as often works out best, was at Pippin’s. The children doted on me and I on them, and well, I like the parents a lot, too!
I drove through the rain the last couple of hours of my first day, up through the top center of California, and arrived in town just in time to catch the last ten minutes of Ivy’s ballet lesson. She is a beginner ballerina but was fun to watch.
Everyone was surprised that all three children and I could spend so much of the next morning coloring pictures I had brought, as we watched birds at the feeders. We colorers chatted about how it is way more fun to do coloring with other people, and we were proving the principle.
Between rain storms and frost the next two days we went on a couple of splendid nature walk expeditions, first to Lake Siskiyou where the Sacramento River comes into it.
Pippin remarked at this point, “From here we tend to make slow progress because there are so many rocks to look at.” Indeed. And to bring home!
On my second morning I stood at the kitchen window while eating my breakfast bowl, and watched four deer eating their breakfast of willow leaves off the back lawn.
And that afternoon found most of us along the Sacramento River Trail near Castle Crags. The last time I’d been here my husband was still feeling healthy and we were here together with Pippin’s family.
This time was lovely, too, nearly four years later, during fall instead of winter, with bigleaf maple leaves covering the paths, oaks and firs and Port Orford Cedars and more kinds of trees…. The children had a ball on the rocks jutting out into the river and Scout named one spot after me: Pearl Point, because I had told him the day before that Gretchen means little pearl.
Jamie was missing his nap but you would never know it by the way he marched along the trail and climbed cheerfully for hours up and down banks and over countless large river stones.
On our drive back home Scout’s mind was busy planning the evening’s activity and chattering about all his ideas. His mother and I were not enthusiastic about the first ambitious projects he came up with, so he said, “Well, then, Grandma, what would you like to do?” It shows a developmental leap, I think, that he was showing this willingness to consider what other people’s preferences might be.
I thought a bit, and answered, “I would like to do something that wouldn’t require thinking or talking, or being on my feet.”
“Is reading considered talking?”
“Well, then, would you like to read that book about Kit Carson that you gave me for my birthday?”
I surely would love that, and I read three chapters while dinner was being prepared by other people on their feet, and Scout colored another picture while he was listening.
Now I’ve moved on to Oregon, where Walt has found and started restoring the truck he was only dreaming about back in September when I was here.
Oregon trees and their knock-out gorgeous fall colors
are competing for my designation of Favorite.
So far I think I like the last one best.
I’m not halfway through this road trip. Before I get home I’ll have slept twelve nights not in my own bed. I’ll have seen five friends and ten family members, staying in five homes. It does feel like a little much for an old lady, but I’m enjoying myself and will try to check in at least once more to tell you more about my northern adventures.
Two new pieces of equipment helped immensely to make my Oregon road trip a joy: the first good raincoat I’ve ever had, and my new iPhone. The way they accomplished this was by helping me to relax so that I could be receptive to all the people, scenery, stories, and weather that came my way.
Not long ago I figured out how to use the maps feature on my cell phone, and now I engage the help of the eternally patient lady who tells me when and what direction to turn. She is the only navigator I’ve ever had who knows all the roads, and even if I miss my turn several times, she never gasps or raises her voice or shows the least bit of anxiety about the situation. She doesn’t shame me.
I’m really poor at orienting myself – I get turned around so easily and even after studying maps, I often go the opposite direction from what I intend. This makes me a unlikely road-tripper, because if I explore new places the threat of getting lost keeps an undercurrent of anxiety flowing. I wasn’t quite conscious of this feeling until it was gone.
Going north from home, I almost always stop at Pippin’s near the top of California, because it’s about five hours away, and that is certainly long enough to drive in one day. I get to see Scout, Ivy and Jamie, and often take a walk, hold a purring cat, and see some new flower or insect.
I smell the trees, which perhaps because of the density of the forest make their aromas intensely present. Getting out of my car in their driveway, I am handed a delicious and rejuvenating drink in those first whiffs of pine and cedar and fir.
Ivy showed me her Hole, the spot she has appropriated where the furniture does not come together the way her parents would like, but where a child can be glad of the wonkiness, and fit snugly.
This time, I continued to Pathfinder’s in southern Oregon where my third grandson in that family was graduating from high school. I wore my raincoat when we went to the ceremony, where the mist turned to drizzle turned to rain, and at one moment all of the graduates, who were sitting in the open, stood up and donned ponchos. We the audience had roofs over us, but we sat on metal bleachers and our legs and backs stiffened with the damp and cold. Our particular group was snacking on Peanut M&M’s and Red Vines during the whole evening, leftovers from an afternoon graduation party we’d enjoyed in the rain, under umbrellas and awnings. I felt a special camaraderie sharing the mildly uncomfortable local weather with my people. It was for a good cause.
My raincoat was a recent purchase that I think God must have prompted me to accomplish, because after trying in late winter to find a really good and proper raincoat, something I’ve never had, I had given up and decided to wait until the fall when there would be more selection. Then I got a 20% coupon for a store that was having a 40% off sale, and I couldn’t resist trying again, and succeeded. I put my beautiful rain gear in the closet for next fall, not having any idea at the time that I would soon be needing it.
Pathfinder and Iris took me on a Sunday afternoon outing that included a visit to Mill Creek Falls and Pearson Falls on the Rogue River. The rain seemed to have let up that afternoon, but the woods were very moist and lush. The Rogue River is a beauty!
When I left my family, I drove farther north visiting the Oregon Coast and the town of Astoria where I’d been with my late husband four years earlier. At that time we’d said we must come back for a more leisurely visit, and this was my chance to do just that.
I wanted to climb the Astoria Column again and stare at the misty rivers that were the waterways and/or neighborhood for Lewis and Clark, that winter that they spent on the Pacific Coast before returning cross country to make their report to President Thomas Jefferson. And I wanted to walk on Oregon beaches and collect more sand samples to add to my tiny collection.
I took all day getting up the state. I kept trying to take pictures of the oxeye daisies that were sprinkled everywhere and waving so cheerfully even in the rain. But the ones that are weeds in Pippin’s flowerbed are the prettiest.
I stopped at Manzanita Beach and walked with a friend – um, having forgotten my raincoat ! in my car, so I was exposed to the gentle and mild Oregon rain that fell that afternoon, and felt better for it. That’s how Oregonians do, anyway! A change of clothes was also waiting in my car.
My B&B was in the hilly part of town, above the Columbia River, and my room, “Little Hummers,” was up high enough that I had this view of the river the night I arrived late:
Another thing I liked about my lodging was that it was just a mile from the Column, so one morning when I woke hours before the scheduled breakfast, I set out on foot up the steep hill behind the hotel, and then climbed 163 or so steps to the top, where you open a heavy door and step onto a balcony in the round from which to view three rivers and the ocean. It was barely eight o’clock and I was the only one in the park. It was sublime.
If you cross over that bridge on the right, you land in the state of Washington.
When I returned to my hotel, I stopped on the sidewalk in front to dig in my bag for my key, and when I looked up this deer was calmly considering me. She had a young fawn hidden in the bushes; that evening I looked out my window to see them picking their way across the grass in the dusk.
This same day I visited Fort Clatsop, and while waiting for my friends to join me, I studied this map at length. In the car I had been listening to Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen Ambrose, without the aid of maps, of course, so this was my chance to imprint the picture into my mind.
I never get tired of hearing about Lewis & Clark and the many things they and their Corps of Discovery did and discovered, so it was fun to visit this park again. I spent the rest of the day in Astoria, and didn’t get showered with either rain or sunshine.
Back down the Oregon Coast I drove, to the town of Newport where the Sylvia Beach Hotel stands above Nye Beach (Sylvia Beach is the name of a person). I was so bushed from lack of sleep, and from hauling my bags up three flights of stairs, that I crashed on the bed for a quarter of an hour and enjoyed this view out my window, as the breeze flowed in:
This was the first day of my journey that the sun shone, and it was wonderful. I knew that rain was forecast for the next day, so I needed to take advantage of the afternoon. I went down to the beach and sat with my back against a log, and let the sun pour down on my face until it had gone away and down. I left my windows open all night and listened to the surf!
Yes, the next day was stormy. I tried walking on the beach in my raincoat anyway but the wind was blowing too hard, and sand stung my face. So I took a nap, and then enjoyed the howling of the wind and the rocking of the building the way the regulars at this hotel do, by sitting in the library reading, stoking the fire occasionally, and feeling cozy. The people I talked to said that rainy is their preferred weather for a sojourn here.
There is no TV, no wi-fi, but there are lots of books, and comfortable chairs and couches for settling into. It’s a hotel all about books, authors, and reading, and each of the many rooms – more than 20 – is themed after an author. I was in the Jane Austen Room, but other rooms are decorated to remind one of Dr. Suess, Agatha Christie, Shakespeare, Jules Verne, Tolkein… I very much enjoyed my time here, and was somewhat sorry that it was a sort of introductory stay, that is, too short.
I am moving right along in my tale of my expedition, because I know this is a too-long post, but my pace of travel was actually more relaxed than usual. I made sure I didn’t hurry – I was on vacation! The morning of my departure from my Jane Austen room and that rejuvenating place, the thought crossed my mind that I might skip breakfast and get on my way early. But why? I forced myself to browse the library, to eat the most civilized and hearty breakfast in the leisurely fashion it deserved, chatting with other lodgers.
Then I took a slightly longer route back toward home, so that I could stay on the coast as long as possible. I turned inland at Reedsport, not knowing – because my Oregon map had slipped off the seat and I couldn’t find it – that my road would wind along the Umpqua River from there, the most beautifully deep green waterway, a peaceful companion on this leg of my trip.
I must have added at least an hour to my journey, stopping many times to walk up and down the roadside and through deep wet grass, trying to get a good picture of the river through the thick stands of trees and shrubs and every kind of plant all tangled together. When I was able to frame a little bit of water in my viewfinder, it eventually dawned on me that under the clouds, the dark surface is reflecting so much of that green foliage, it’s often hard to see where the woods end and the river begins.
These were the last images of Oregon, and then my route took me back to California and familiar roads and scenes, and home again. This road trip was a bit of an experiment, to see how I liked it. Oregon is not too far, and it’s very diverse. This tour was mostly in the western parts, but I know from experience that I like the eastern parts, too. I hope more exploratory road trips are in my future, because this one was happy.
My granddaughter whom I call Annie had recently taken a photography class with a few other homeschooling girls. The first day of my visit with her family we would go to the exhibit and reception in the evening, but we had a whole day to do “whatever” before that, and in addition to sitting around chatting and eating some meals that her mother graciously prepared, we took several walks.
The first one suggested by Annie was to a nature trail on the other side of the small town they live in, and as the trailhead as it might be called was easily within walking distance, we set off on foot. It’s so scenic there in southern Oregon that we both found things to catch our attention within a block or two of their house.
For example, a lilac whose every petal is bi-colored, but seems to have reverted to all white on one branch. I looked it up online when I got home and think it might be called “Sensation.”
The sun was high in the sky, as it was mid-morning, so Annie showed me how to adjust the exposure on my camera to compensate. We talked about how it often happens that we take a picture of a beautiful flower and then when we get it home and see the enlargement on our computer screen, there is an ugly insect or a chewed-off flower petal spoiling the perfection. Occasionally I have found the bug to be cute, but only if he hasn’t already defaced the blossom or leaf.
The woodsy path was just shady enough to make our flower photography easy. We took care to avoid the poison oak just off to the side.
Annie will turn thirteen this month, and she had embarked on a project to take several photos of flowers each day to fill up an album for her birthday month. Her skill at composing her pictures was admirable, developed over six weekly sessions of three hours each, covering the techniques of portraiture, landscape, photo-journalism, macro, and animals. You can learn a lot in 18 solid hours.
Later in the day we took three more walks, twice to the library to return books, and once to the post office. How many people can live such a life? For years the family also walked to church every Sunday. I often think that this kind of town life conducive to and convenient for walking would be really nice when I get 15 or 20 years older; I will need the walking and will likely be a more dangerous driver than I am now.
The photography exhibit was enjoyable; the girls were all country-bred-sweet and I loved seeing their unique collections showing their skill and perspective on the world. I’m looking forward to more outings with Annie; it’s always great to explore with someone who thinks dawdling along the trail to frame pictures is the most normal thing.