travel


Curious kids entertaining our train and hoping for some handouts.

The Peru and Galapagos trip continues with our final days in Peru. With my Fitbit registering a ton of steps and my knees sore, it was a relief to go by bus and train from Machu Picchu back to Cusco. The train had to stop a few times and we would see some locals asking for money. It’s always a reminder of how well off we are and how just a few dollars can make a difference to their day. We saw a local women who looked elderly and her back was bent pretty bad—probably from years of hard work.

So many of these people like to be self-employed. We met a few of them all over the Cusco/Machu Picchu region as they were friends of our tour guide. They called themselves names such as Diana Ross and George Washington. As a marketing professional, I can say I am impressed by this tactic.

Street vendor.

On the way and throughout the trip we would see kids and women in tourist areas with lamas, alpacas, and even baby sheep because they looked cute, dressed up to take pictures and collect money. We noticed the kids would get upset when they weren’t picked for the photo or didn’t get a U.S. dollar if another did. I got my photo taken with some kids who started singing a song. I asked our tour guide what the words meant and he said it was a drinking song. (See below for video of them singing.)

Coca leaves to chew on to help with the elevation were in a big bowl at the airport. I preferred the candy and tea versions.

Back in Cusco, the elevation was making me take deep breaths and hurt my lungs and head a bit. Our hotel was really interesting—it was an old monastery and each room had a lot of character. We took a tour around town to a cathedral and enjoyed a big party and parades going on around the main square. We saw military members walking with those old German type straight steps, guys dressed in cowboy outfits shaking beer and spraying it around, college groups dressed in black and white business clothes, and more. We were told there are so many “holidays” that get celebrated there were too many to count or know all of them.

We went to a lama/alpaca farm where they let us feed them. There were also demonstrations by locals who learned the tradition of weaving the wool and making the wonderful cloths they sell today. Baby alpaca is the first “shaving” of an animal and is softer, costing more. There were several breeds of both kinds of animals and all were fun to and interesting to see.

As we went through a beautiful church, we learned how the Peruvians really mixed their pagan traditions with Christianity. There is lots of that all over the world; however, I was somewhat shocked that they didn’t only observe old traditions, they still “worship” pagan symbols. At the risk of sounding judgmental—I’m surprised they can’t see the outright contradiction with the first commandment. For example, there was a stone from pagan religions that sits in a glass near the door. On Sundays, the people line up after service and put their hands on the stone and pray. The priests say “it’s just a door stop” but the people believe it’s more. There are other symbols including statues and paintings depicting Mary in clothes that are like triangles (mountain shaped and hiding her feet)—she symbolizes Mother Earth who they worship. And paintings of her pregnant that contradict the Catholic religion, but not Protestant. Throughout the trip we were told of many other pagan worship rituals that still happen. While a little disconcerting, it was a good lesson of their culture and I found their architecture and people to be quite beautiful.

Dad and I did our traditional shopping trip around town and then went back to rest before dinner and another very early morning wake up to catch the flight to Lima and then on to Guayaquil, Ecuador. We landed in Ecuador and took a short city bus tour. Our hotel rooms were big and we explored the main street around us—not really finding anything but banks, disease-welcoming restaurants, tiny mini markets, pharmacies, etc. Our next morning was brutally early and back again to the airport to catch a flight to San Christobal in the Galapagos.  Goodbye beautiful Peru and more on the islands to come!

 

 

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Two porters start out with huge packs on the Inca trail.

Our Peruvian adventure continued with a train ride through the countryside to Machu Picchu. Along the way we passed by the beginning of the Inca trail. This is the 28 mile trail people hike to Machu Picchu, but the entire “trail” is much longer and starts back near Cusco. In fact, the Incas actually created 24,000 miles of trails through South America. The people are more adapted to the elevation and can handle the hiking better than the rest of us. How they carried their stuff or walked on the uneven stones without hurting themselves is a mystery.

A few years ago, they had a contest to see how fast the porters who help hikers on the trail could hike it on their own. Usually it takes four days for hikers. The winner of the race got there in just over three hours. It’s hard to believe that considering how long it takes to run a marathon and this is up over mountain trails at eight or nine thousand feet. My dad and I were bragging/laughing that it was no big deal, because we hiked the Inca trail. (Okay, it was about 100 yards of a slight incline, but we were on it!)

The town of Machu Picchu Pueblo at the base of the mountain.

The ride along the river to the mountain was filled with gorgeous scenery and when we pulled into the town at the base of the mountain, I was amazed at the smells—good food cooking, all the hotels, buses, people, guys hauling drinks and supplies, and a market jammed with stalls of people selling lots of souvenirs. There’s not a lot of room in that valley and with so many more visitors showing up every year, it’s packed to the gills with entrepreneurs staking their claim.

A view of the winding road leading up to the mountain.

We got on one of the many buses making the loop up and down the mountain. I was glad the drivers were so experienced because the winding steep climb took my breath away. They had to be careful passing other buses and watching out for hikers who were walking up and down the mountain. Hardy young people for sure. Once there we checked into the one hotel with limited rooms located at the entrance of the park and then headed in for our first view of this magnificent archaeological find.

For some reason we had to show our passports to get into the park (but got another stamp)! Our guide Diego took us around the main part of the park and I was so glad to get views of the entire community. Most people only see the one “National Geographic” shot from the top. It’s amazing how big it is and how they were able to build out so many terraces down the side of the mountain. The people who lived here were the upper crust of the Incan society. Most likely the “court” of a King. In fact the people weren’t actually called Incas—only the King was the Inca. He had a house (a room that probably had a “bathroom” and a “bed” near the temple and his wives stayed in another house/room next to his.

A view of the community from the top.

The buildings had very deep foundations. They knew how to build solid structures to withstand earthquakes. And they built out the terraces instead of digging them out of the side of the mountain. There was an area with a number of loose boulders which was probably where they got all the stones to make all the buildings. On a hill in the community, they built what looked like a sun dial but was probably for ceremonies as sound traveled easily to the open plaza below where the people probably gathered.

A view of the terraces and the guard house.

After a nice evening with our tour group partners and some Alpaca steak for dinner, we got up early the next morning and hiked up to the guard house for that famous view. It was a brutal climb but worth it. We got a view of the sun gate, where the Inca trail hikers come through—at the very top of the mountain, and went on to see views of the surrounding mountains and the entire complex. Wow.

After stopping to pet an Alpaca, we went down some treacherous steps, where I twisted my ankle a bit, to the lower section of the community called the Temple of the Condor. They considered the condor part of their spiritual realm so this section was where they buried some people and also served as a dungeon for prisoners.

The guard house at the top of Machu Picchu.

There is a book written by Hiram Bingham, the explorer who with the aid of some locals was the modern discoverer of the ruins. The book was a bit dry, but the explanation of how he got to the site and some of the history of the Incas was very interesting. The fact that this site was hidden for so long is evidence of what a great defensive location it was during the Spanish conquest of Peru.

Upon leaving the park on a narrow path near the exit we hear some exclamations coming from behind us—look out—ahhh and hear a lot of running-type noises. When I turned around and saw everyone suddenly leaning into the mountain, I was more than a little surprised to see two Lamas stampeding down the path. I was even more shocked when the guard just up ahead at the exit stopped them and turned them back toward us. I got some video of them running back into the park (see below). Probably just as well, because all the stray dogs that hang out at the entrance (that I fed from the buffet in the hotel) might have been miffed at the intrusion. They were so laid back and would sleep right in the middle of the midst of thousands of people walking by.

Yay, bucket list check! Many years on the wish list, I waited until I was fit enough and glad I was since it was hard walking in high elevation. Also glad I did it now, as more restrictions are going into place. Now, back to Cusco and off to the land of Darwin.

The dogs hung out all over the hotel grounds and entrance to the park.

A lama at the guard house.

A Typical Inca door.

Ancient and modern stairs.

Ear itch.

Temple of the three windows.

A new across the plaza from the temple.

Across the plaza.

A view of the left side looking at Huayna Picchu beyond where a few hundred people a day climb the ruins.

Another view of the end of the plaza and residential area.

A view of the terraces and guard house.

At the base of the mountain.

Dad and I near the guard house at Machu Picchu.

The Inca trail that leads from the sun gate to Machu Picchu.

A view of our hotel from above. Our rooms are hidden by the trees.

A view of the main plaza.

A view of the gate house from below.

The storage houses.

Our first view of the park.

One of the stair cases leading down the mountain.

The trash cans looks like frogs.

A view along the river on the way to Machu Picchu.

The beginning of the Inca trail leading the Machu Picchu.

A Peruvian woman outside our train.

Some market stalls at the base of the mountain.

Me, mom, and dad.

View of Cusco.

Our Peru adventure continued with a very early flight to Cusco. At an elevation of 11,100 feet, the flight in was a bit scary. I could only see high snow-capped mountain tops out the window, which was disconcerting as we heard the sound of the wheels being lowered, meaning landing was imminent. A very steep banking curve brought us down to a strip that was completely surrounded by buildings. I was thankful when the plane came close to the end of the runway that there was a church there to break our stop if need be.

Bulls on the roof are a symbol of prosperity.

For the first few moments off the plane I felt really dizzy, but was able to adapt to the elevation a little bit better during the bus ride through a town crowded with houses half done and lots of wires between leaning telephone poles.  On our way up and out of town, we passed homes that had two small bulls and a cross on the roof. Evidently that is a symbol of prosperity. Many people take years to finish their houses. For one thing, they save up bit by bit for the parts and construct it over time. Also, once the house is done, they have to pay taxes, so there is little rush. They typically leave some rebars up to make new levels for kids when they grow up.

Our guides explained the culture a bit as we rode through the Sacred Valley. Peruvians have public schools but only some are lucky to attend the private schools that go all day. Others can only go half days—they accommodate everyone by having two shifts in the am and pm. Some of the universities are public but there aren’t a lot of openings. I always think of the USA as the melting pot, but all over the Americas we can see diverse populations and Peru is no exception. The original habitants have mixed with Spanish, African, Asians, Italians, and more.

Storehouses at Ollantaytambo.

Evidence of the vast agriculture can be seen all over the mountains. The Incas built terraces everywhere and stored up years’ worth of food in storehouses. There were ancient potatoes recently dug up that when treated and cooked were still edible. Some terraces are still in use as the Peruvians cultivate about 4,000 varieties of potatoes. The soil there is so varied and in fact some is similar to what is on Mars so they are doing some agricultural testing for the Mars missions.

Guinea Pig on a stick.

Some of the sights along the road through the small towns included rainbow flags—the ancients were rainbow worshippers, red flags on poles outside of some homes—which was a sign that they served Chicha or Corn Beer there, and painted advertisements on homes. The ads were mostly political signs for the recent elections. The people would consent to the painted signs because basically they needed their houses painted and could get it done for free. In random places on the road and on small fields, people were drying corn on blankets and they would store lots of corn cobs in chicken wire bins.

One town was famous for its Guinea Pigs. In many homes in Peru, they have a dozen or so pigs living in the house (which is usually just one stone room) and when dinner time comes, they pick the fattest one and cook it up. As we went through this town, outside a restaurant with Guinea Pig on the menu, there was a 6-ft. plastic statue of a pig and a woman holding a roasted Guinea Pig on a stick. I tried fried Guinea Pig at dinner that night. The closest I can describe it, would be like duck. It wasn’t too bad.

Ollantaytambo terraces.

Mom and I went on a tour to Ollantaytambo, a village near our hotel that was once the site of an Incan emperor and a stronghold for the Incas who were fighting during the Spanish conquest. As we started the tour, Mom got hurt on a step and cut her leg. Not to downplay her pain, but it was just a cut and the reaction from our group and the town officials, which was very kind and caring, was on par with a five car pile-up. Some police showed up and wanted to whisk her away to a local medical hospital of sorts. I thought maybe a bandage and some rest would be fine, so she hung out at a café and people-watched while we took a short tour. We saw how buildings had Incan foundations and doors, Spanish walls, and then modern materials toward the tops of the homes. The next day we all came back for a tour of the ruins.

The sun temple at Ollantaytambo.

The Incas built their sun temples high up on the hillsides. We took a long steep climb up the ancient stairs with lots of breathing breaks. The ruins were impressive as somehow they managed to get 50 ton boulders set in place with ancient earthquake-resistant building techniques. When the Christian Spaniards came, they made the locals toss some of the big boulders of the temple down the mountain and when they told the Incas to build a church there they said, “You should have told us that before the boulders were tossed.” So the church was built in the valley. The Incas had built their temples every 20 miles or so and once had a pyramid there that was bigger than the ones in Egypt.

Ekeko dances.

We ended the day with an interesting exhibition of dancing and storytelling. Peruvians tend to mix their Christianity with ancient pagan religions. One of the things we saw in the house and was also part of story/dance was this strange looking guy called an Ekeko which is the mythological god of abundance and prosperity. The people would place the statue in a prominent and comfortable place in the home and load it up with things like money and other symbols of what a person desires. These offerings are meant to bring wealth to the worshippers.

More about the deep rooted mixture of ancient pagan religions and Christian worship later after we return to Cusco from Machu Picchu!

Locals drying corn and potatoes.

Large Christ statue outside Cusco.

Looking down the terraces at Ollantaytambo.

Locals store corn.

Hillside outside Cusco.

Fried Guinea Pig

Guinea Pigs live in a local home.

A street in Ollantaytambo with a channel of water running in front of some homes. Stone steps act as mini bridges.

Menu highlights Guinea Pig and Alpaca which tastes like steak.

Siesta time on a local farm.

Guinea Pig is on the menu here.

Locals hanging out in front of a house painted with a political advertisement.

The Sacred Valley

 

 

 

Female police officers keep things moving at rush hour.

The Crowe family adventures continued in 2017 to a long-awaited (three years in the making) trip to Peru and Ecuador. Initial thoughts are it was beautiful, fun, interesting, exhausting, and worth the wait. I’ve never taken a Spanish course but found that all the Spanish we see in the States gave me enough to work with when needed. However, as usual, many people in the world know English at least a little.

So, day one we arrive after a very nice comfy flight into Lima. In the morning we grabbed a 30-minute cab ride into the center of town. It cost the three of us a whopping $6. I can only explain driving in Lima as a ride on the Tower of Terror. I was upfront for the action and took it on faith alone that we would arrive alive at our destination. Lane lines are merely suggestions and spaces between cars are measured in millimeters. Cars without dents are non-existent and cabbies have mad reflex skills. Good brakes and a horn are necessities. Also, the intersections were managed by female police officers. Evidently the ladies were less prone to corruption and don’t take crap from anyone, making them perfect for the job.

There is no metro in Lima—politics and infrastructure make it an impossibility. There are a lot of private busses and here’s the fun way it works. As the bus runs down the road, a guy on said bus yells out where he’s going and solicits prospective riders standing on the curbs. Then they pack the busses to the gills. They also have Uber there; however the low-cost cab ride didn’t incentivize me to look elsewhere for savings.

Church in Lima.

After touring through a cathedral and the central square, we visited the St. Franciscan Monastery and Catacombs. Since so many people needed to be buried in the limited consecrated ground (that they conveniently paid for), they would throw the bones from the older burials into pits to make room for new burials (we saw a lot of those bones and some mummies). There were hundreds of old/ancient books in the library. To our surprise they were left out in the open, unprotected to the elements. It was a beautiful place with hidden paintings under plaster and complex baroque-style artifacts.

For lunch, we walked around and found a Peruvian/Chinese place which we later discovered was very popular in Peru. A lot of Chinese immigrants had arrived there in the past and they would call people over to “come eat rice.” The Peruvians couldn’t understand them, they just heard the word “chifa” so the Chinese restaurants are now all called Chifa. We had potato/egg-like tortillas with chicken and meat. It was pretty good.

As we walked around the square, we saw a small protest going on. A number of police in their riot gear were there but it was peaceful and we saw them shaking hands with the protestors after. Evidently there is a lot of corruption going on with business and government leaders. Sounds familiar. We bought a few items from the locals and managed to negotiate a cab ride back to the hotel. The next day we started bright and early with a group tour to an interesting museum.

Some of the 45,000 artifacts at the Museo Larco.

The Museo Larco has 45,000 artifacts, dug up on an estate nearby by a private family. The objects were all from graves—funerary items to help the dead with all they need in the afterlife. They were a pretty advanced civilization and had beautiful pottery, textiles, and jewelry.

For lunch we went to a hacienda where they bred Spanish horses. We saw a little show and some dancing. The horses have a special gait—only one hoof touches the ground at a time. I got a little “pony ride” and then went on to have some pisco sours and munch on the buffet. I also tried Inca Cola, a yummy yellow soda and some Peruvian food, which is delicious.

A coffin carried through the streets of Lima.

Some sights we saw on our ride included communities that formed by squatters. In Peru, you can build a house on an empty lot (some of them had foundations built on old tires) and if no one tells you to leave after a few years (5 or 10), then you are good to go. After a while, neighbors form official communities. We laughed at a casino with a name that translated to “coin swallower.” And we also saw a coffin carried through a street, a couple of prisons right in the middle of the city, lots of car repair shops, and a lot of street entrepreneurs selling water, juice, and an assortment of crap to pedestrians and people in cars.

Dinner at one of the oldest homes in Lima.

After a tour through a gorgeous church and a walk through the town, we made our way to a one of the first homes built in Lima back in the 1500s. Descendants of the original family still own the home and it’s right next to the Governor’s Palace. The beautiful woodwork, very old furniture, and an open ceiling with a tree in the courtyard, were our backdrop for dinner. Our group heard a talk from a British ex patriot and a local Peruvian woman about their life and the local culture.

The adventure continues with a flight to Cusco, then on to Machu Picchu, and Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.

 

 

 

These wonderful dancers entertained us during lunch.

The Spanish horses at the Hacienda.

Chinese restaurant–Chifa!

The church in the central square of colonial Lima.

Siesta time in Lima.

Guys sell water, news, and more to drivers.

Groups of kids on a school outing at the museum.

the Museo Larco.

Mom and Dad at the beautiful museum.

Life in Lima.

A shop waiting to open.

The houses were build on arrid land by squatters.

A house gets built slowly in Peru and laundry is done on the roof.

Pisca Sours, a favorite drink in Peru. Yum.

Training one of the young horses at the Hacienda.

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.

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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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