Oregon


The last part of my wonderful trip to Oregon took me to one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen—Crater Lake. I stayed in a very rustic cabin in the park area and then made my way to a mystery house which I’ll describe later.IMG_4838

As I made my way around the roads and up to the top edge of the caldera, my first view of the lake took my breath away. It lived up to the hype for sure. The deep blue, clear water is pristine and beyond the tree topped caldera is a scene of mountains and valleys.

IMG_4844Crater Lake was once a very large volcano reaching 12,000 feet—it was called Mount Mazama. Nearly 8,000 years ago a violent eruption caused a collapse of the volcano in on itself forming the crater. Over the millennia, snow and rain filled the crater and created the lake we see now. It’s the deepest lake in the U.S. and one of the purest in the world.

IMG_4833I drove around the west side up to the northern rim and got out a few times to take pictures. At one point I started on a hike and ended up walking over quite a bit of snow that was still on the trail. Finally I had to turn back when the hillside was covered ahead. The scenes of the lake changed as I went around and stopped at different areas to hike. All the views were spectacular and I saw some wildlife including deer and cute chipmunks, and marmots which looked kind of like ground hogs.

IMG_6071The visitor center had a nice video of the history and science of Crater Lake and the rangers were very helpful. Some of the roads were closed but I did get down a little south to see some pinnacles. These structures are called fossil fumaroles, and were formed when steam and gases were released. They became hard after a time and stand out from the softer ground around them.

After a few hikes and lots of photos I drove back to the cabin area. Since there was no cell service and no Internet, I went down the road for another hike in the woods to see a natural bridge over the beautiful River Gorge.IMG_6086

The Vortex

On my last day, I drove a bit south and west to Oregon’s Mystery House—a place where there is a vortex that causes physics to be questioned. Many years ago the Indians that lived here avoided the place because their horses would not travel through the vortex. Miners came later and their mules had the same reaction, but because there was gold in the creek there, the miners stayed and set up shop. IMG_6152They built an assay office but soon abandoned the building to storage since the balances they used to value the gold were “not quite right.” The building later fell down the hill in a storm and sits at a weird angle.

As we toured the area our guide had a number of us stand at one end of a balanced platform and then switch places. It seemed our heights changed as we switched places. When we were in the building, some of us had severe motion sickness. I stayed to see the experiments such as watching a little girl roll a bottle downhill and watch it come back to her and I balanced a broom on its own. I was surprised how many people showed up there—considering it was in the middle of nowhere. But well worth the visit.

Final ThoughtsIMG_5263

Our northwest states are stunning and I encourage everyone to visit and take in the pure nature and beauty of the area. The people of Oregon respect that beauty and take good care of it, using alternative energy and recycling. The air is clean and people are nice and I am very happy to put this visit on my completed bucket list. I had a wonderful time visiting my niece and while I miss her, I’m glad she is living in such a wonderful place that’s good for the soul. God’s beauty can be seen everywhere in Oregon.

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Drake park in Bend.

My Oregon vacation continues with several days in Bend. My reason for going to Oregon was to see my niece Zenia who moved out west over a year ago. It also was on my bucket list so this presented a great opportunity to hang out with one of my favorite people and see the beautiful Northwest U.S. Bend is in central Oregon and while there is a substantial population it has a small town feel of a kind or resort town. There is a mix of expensive boutique stores, outdoor sports enthusiasts, and new age hippies. With beautiful snow-capped mountains surrounding a cute pedestrian friendly downtown, residents enjoy hanging out in the expansive park along the Deschutes river and sitting outside in café’s and trendy restaurants serving local food.

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Archer meets a new friend.

My adventure in Bend began in the morning of July 4 when Zenia and McKenna came over and we walked from my rented condo apartment into downtown to check out the first of several parades that day. These parades actually rival the infamous Horton Bay parades up in Michigan. The first parade was for dogs and other creatures. Dogs small and large were dressed up and walked or carried down the road. I was amazed at the number of them and then even more so when I spotted other creatures—chickens and roosters, miniature ponies, goats, horses, and bringing up the rear some large snakes.

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Zenia feeds Archer during lunch on July 4.

We then headed down to Drake Park, a beautiful grassy area along the river filled with rows of retailers, artisans, and food tents. There were wonderful local businesses selling soaps (something Zenia loves and may start making some day), t-shirts, woodcarvings, dog products, recycled artwork, and much more. We gave McKenna her first taste of a delicious cheesesteak sandwich. It was the loveliest day and we enjoyed lunch on a blanket near the river in the shade of a warm sunny day.

The girls’ dog Archer was a fan favorite—about a hundred people asked what kind of dog he was—some of them insisting on his combination of breeds even though they were wrong. Archer is a funny looking and really cute guy—a lab, beagle mix. We took him over to the bank of the river to have a little swim. And he met many new friends, including a massive dog 10x his size.

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The endless bike parade. July 4 in Bend.

It was then time for the bike parade which basically was several hundred people on various bikes coming down the street cheering loudly—many drunk and/or stoned and in the most colorful outfits. The people of the town were very friendly and in spite of the revelry pretty much orderly and kind. We spent the afternoon swimming and resting before meeting for a delicious dinner and fireworks. We went to a school under the Butte in Bend where they set off the fireworks and evidently with the dry climate, they inevitably set fire to the place. Some geniuses near us set fire to some brush with some of their own stash.

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A view of nearby mountains from the river as we floated.

The next day we “floated the river.” The Deschutes river in Bend is very shallow (and cold) and it’s a daily activity for the residents to rent tubes (or many have their own) and enjoy the beauty of the surrounding area. We floated about an hour and passed by neat homes–some old and small and some newer and bigger. Many of them had cute decks and yards—one even had a bed. There were some rapids we bypassed and some random logs and such we sometimes missed and sometimes had to awkwardly maneuver around but the scenery was lovely the entire time—including some mountains, birds, and interesting people. We landed back at the park in town and caught a bus back. Our very fun day was topped off with another delicious dinner at Anthony’s—which had a wonderful view of the river. The food was mouthwatering and was made better by wonderful conversations and good company.

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The artwork around the restaurant was interesting. This sign was made up of silverware and railroad spikes.

My last day in Bend continued with another delicious meal—brunch at Chow—an interesting place with local artwork placed around the house, and a garden where they grow some of the herbs and vegetables they use in their meals. We all had tasty mimosas and yummy eggs and such. We sat outside because the weather was once again warm and sunny. Dogs were welcome and we had more wonderful conversations before heading out to Bachelor Mountain.

A short drive from Bend took us to the mountain where skiing is enjoyed in the winter and hiking and biking are prevalent in the summer. There was still a lot of snow on the ground so we couldn’t hike down, which was fine—we took the chair lift up and back and had wonderful views of the mountain ranges. The Cascades were in the distance and close by were the Three Sisters and The Broken Top Mountain. Little lakes dotted the valleys in between them. We took a little hike around the top after lunch throwing snowballs and taking in the views.

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McKenna and Zenia atop Bachelor Mountain. The Three Sister s in the background.

Zenia and I spent some time exploring the shops and bookstores in Bend before I left for the south. We met some interesting people in town—a guy who set up a table with his small paintings and a book he wrote—about traveling around the west with mules. I can’t say I would be comfortable with his lifestyle but I really admire free souls like that who embrace life and nature. One of the wonderful gifts of traveling is meeting people who have such a different outlook and lifestyle as you—it gives you a new perspective of the world around you and makes you appreciate people much more.

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Zenia and I on July 4 in the park in Bend.

This was the best few days I’ve spent in a long time. If I could live without working, I would rent a little place on the Deschutes River for a time each year and float on the river for some peace and rest.

Next stop and post, Crater Lake.

 

 

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McKenna, Zenia, and Archer in Drake park, Bend, OR. July 4

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Archer wants that stick!

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The view outside Anthony’s in Bend. We floated the river there earlier that day.

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The houses on the river had the cutest yards like this one.

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This house knows how to enjoy the comfort of the river with a bed under a canopy roof.

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A view of the river as we floated along.

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McKenna takes the rapids and ends up flipping over.

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Lots of geese hang out on the river, some seem to walk on water and others were swimming alongside us.

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I think this is Mt. Ranier with windmills turning from the heavy winds blowing across the fields.

On my second day in Oregon, I got up from the wonderful home where I was staying in Hood River and headed east along the Columbia River. The scene was gorgeous and soon I was starting to see more desert landscape. The scenery was magnificent and changed continuously as I drove east and south. At one point as I was driving through low rolling hills and endless fields with wind generators dotting the horizon, I looked in my rear view mirror and saw a huge snow-capped mountain. I pulled off the side of the road to get a good look and then scanned to the left and saw another mountain in the distance. I’m pretty sure the one was Mt. Rainier in Washington. I don’t think any other mountain that far away could have been as huge as the tallest peak in America. I saw it once from a plane and now viewed it from land.

While I normally dislike the journey and am more of a destination kind of person, I fully enjoyed the drive and stopped to take photos as the landscape called to me. Oregon has a natural history filled with geological turbulence and regrowth. Ice ages, volcanoes, water, weather patterns, storms, and more formed the beauty we see today. Fields and prairies, hills and low bushes, tall beautiful trees, mountains in the distance, and windy rivers all captured my attention and made me relaxed and happy.

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The stage coach station in the old west town of Shaniko.

I stopped at a ghost town called Shaniko. In the old west, it was a thriving place but when the railroad passed it by, it became desolate. So the locals now make some cash from selling antiques in the old stagecoach station and from people like me who stop off to see a little tiny old west town.

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The Clarno Unit of John Day Fossil Beds.

After my short visit, I continued on a somewhat deserted road that turned sharply up and down the hills of central Oregon toward one of the locations of John Day Fossil Beds Parks. There are three sites that make up this park. I first went to the Clarno Unit, where I hiked about a mile and a half through in the high sun and along rough paths through ancient rocks. The scene of the tall rock monuments changed as I wound my way around the paths. These rock cliffs were formed from volcanic mudflows that swept through the area 44 million years ago and preserved a diverse assortment of plants and animals that inhabited a near-tropical forest. My heart was palpitating when I got to the top of a 450 foot elevation on a small rough path ending under an arch and a fossil of a tree embedded in the cliff.

I was in want of ice cream when I finally made it back to my pickup truck—the so called “economy rental”, but alas, no civilization was nearby so I continued along the windy roads to the next park, the Painted Hills. These colorful hills were beautiful. Reds, yellows, and spots of black flowed through the rolling hills as a result of ancient volcanic flows.

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The Painted Hills

The Painted Hills is one of those places where the view keeps getting better and different as you move along the paths. The hills look like sand but when you see it up close, it’s more like very dry, crumbly rock that has been colored. As I was making my way down from the top of one path, I noticed many people with dogs—they are allowed on leashes. And then, my eye caught one woman walking her little goat. He was on a leash, so I guess that works! One of the cool things about traveling is seeing all kinds of people who make it interesting enough to write about.

IMG_5306With my Fitbit buzzing at 10,000 steps, I called it a day and drove the final leg down to Bend where I would get to see my niece, Zenia, and her friend McKenna. More mountains dotted the landscape as I reached hippie town, USA. Seriously, it is a lovely town, about to burst at the seams as more and more people (and students) add to the 80,000 population. More on Bend and my fun with “Grasshopper” on my next post, but once again, I will say I thoroughly enjoyed the drive through this gorgeous state with seemingly vast resources and open land.

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My 2016 trip was a domestic experience that has reminded me how unbelievably lucky I am to live in this gloriously beautiful country. I have now found a new favorite state—Oregon. The word WOW came out of my mouth often as I drove around the state and saw different landscapes, each just as wonderful as the other. And the people! They were so pleasant, friendly, and nice, it made my time there so relaxed. I met a number of people who had lived in my area of Washington, DC and each time I said, “And so now you moved to have your real life start out in paradise.”IMG_5185

But the best part of the trip was spending time with my niece Zenia and her girlfriend McKenna. The girls were perfect hosts, showing me their home town and entertaining me in wonderful ways. If it wasn’t so far from my roots, I think I would easily transplant to this wonderful state. Two thumbs up for Oregon and I can’t wait to go back during the winter to see it in its winter splendor.

IMG_5237The trip started out not so great with United having troubles with planes and crews timing out. After waiting for about five hours, the crew they finally gave us said they were going “illegal” and working overtime. Praise to those great FAs who delivered us to Portland that night instead of cancelling. I finally made it to my Airbnb rental in Hood River and hit the pillow at 5 a.m. ET. The place where I stayed was wonderful and the bed was SO soft and comfortable. They were close to the downtown but in quiet place. They had a horse and the friendliest three-legged cat I’ve ever met which gave me a good feeling of home.

Day One: Hood River CruiseIMG_4927

When I drove in, it was dark so as I woke up and drove to the Cascade Locks where the Sternwheeler cruise was located, I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. The river to my right was white-capped and surrounded on both sides by tall green trees covering towering mountains. I decided to take this paddle boat cruise up and down the Columbia River Gorge to see the sights from the water and a great decision that was. Not only was the boat fun, but we sailed up toward Hood River to see some windsurfers and the geological wonders that created the valley and then back down again under the Bridge of the Gods and past tons of docks along the river where the local Indian tribes people would fish. IMG_5086They throw out their nets and make a living from the river’s fish. And then we turned back at the Dam where several years ago, Lewis and Clarke took out their boats to go around the rapids that would have killed them if they kept on.

Bad Local Advice

After the cruise I grabbed a sandwich from a small local deli and listened to the owner chat away. It was nice to meet with so many people but unfortunately he convinced me to go way down the road to see some touristy places that ended up catching me in traffic that makes the DC commuter routes look like a walk in the park. So three hours later, after seeing a nice view from the top of the mountain (but not worth the traffic headache) I went back to what I wanted to do—just at a faster and condensed pace. IMG_4713I drove over the Bridge of the Gods because it looked cool and it was in that movie, Wild. And it took me into Washington—another state to check off the list! So I drove up the river coast on the Washington side getting cools views and then back over the bridge at Hood River where I got an incredible view of Mount Hood—so tall and snow covered.

Fruit Loop and Farms

I then sped on to a couple places listed on the Fruit Loop. First was an Alpaca farm where I thought there would be some cool things to buy. The cool things were super expensive so I just spent 25 cents on kibble and went to feed the funny looking guys in the barn. It was a quick stop and then I had time to stop at one fruit stand.IMG_4790 The jams looked yummy but I ended up just getting some peaches that I ate later on my trip—so much like candy! I decided to stop in town at an upscale pizza place that was packed. After walking the river path to see the last remnant of windsurfers (Hood River is the windsurfing capital) I then went to try out a glass of local wine and eat an overpriced personal pizza. But it was relaxing and nice way to end the day before heading to my rental place.

I had a wonderful relaxing evening on this mini farm, talking to my host, petting the horse and the kitty who meowed loudly at me as he crossed the paddock, and later gazing at the stars (no light noise makes the sky burn bright).

I could have stayed in Hood River longer but I got up early to head out for a long drive through the high desert and on to Bend, which I’ll discuss in the next post.IMG_5221

The Oregon Experience

Some things I saw a lot in Oregon were conservation efforts that put the rest of us to shame. They not just recycle but also compost, use solar and wind power, and act in lots of ways to protect our environment. I wish we could all make the effort they do to use natural resources but when you live in a swamp like D.C., it’s hard to see what you are protecting.

Also, in Oregon, drivers stop to let pedestrians pass everywhere—even in non-crossing places. In northern VA you are hard pressed to get cars to stop for people in walk ways. But you also get obnoxious pedestrians crossing against lights, so it’s lose-lose.

IMG_5296And then there were the marijuana dispensaries. It was interesting to see businesses that sold pot and to smell it around you, and it was all legal. But it really seemed to be a natural part of the culture in Oregon, which was pretty hippy but not in any weird or bad way—it all worked and seemed right.

Other observations to come, so read on if you want to hear about awesome Oregon!

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