Tag Archive | friends

Willapa Hills Trail – Chehalis, WA

As this summer has been busy, this adventure is from a few weeks back, but it started months ago with some planning this past spring. When my friend took me on the rails to trails trail back in May she mentioned that the blackberries along the trail were amazing. Since I love the taste of fresh, sun warmed, wild blackberries, we planned a blackberry foraging adventure for when they got ripe, which ended up being about the middle of August.

This time on the trail, she took me to a different section, about mile post 1 1/5. We picked up the Willapa Hills Trail (I now know its name!) off Tune Road in Chehalis. Not walking too far, we crossed train tracks (which are currently in use) and found patches of blackberries full of wonderfully plump and sweet berries! It was a good thing we weren’t in competition because she beat me and picked at least double the berries I gathered! In my defense though, I spotted a plum tree nestled behind the berries. The purple fruit looked ripe and, if I could only get through the berry thorns, within arm’s reach. There in the farmlands of western Washington, we had a good time getting sweaty, scratched and eating delicious fruit.

When I got home, and with a little internet searching, I discovered that the Willapa Hills Trail starts in Chehalis and ends about 56 miles away west in South Bend at Highway 101 (the historic Coastal Highway connecting the West Coast from Los Angeles, CA to Port Angeles, WA). The trail is a mix of paved and gravel, but consistently easy the whole way. As I was told, it used to be a train track and is relatively flat the entire distance.

Btw – I blame White Collar TV show for my lack of a blog post in August. Thank you, my berry picking pal, for recommending! It’s hilarious!

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Oregon Summer – Tillamook Forest & Neskowin Beach

                                      Blazing hot.

That’s what it has been here in this part of Oregon lately.

Last week we saw temperatures of over 105 degrees Fahrenheit here in Washington County. On top of that we were seeing our air pollution levels rise from smoke coming down from the wild fires 350+ miles north in British Columbia. It made for a hot, muggy, hazy and rather bleak couple of days. While the heat wave and the hazy air are still here, it has cooled and cleared considerably.

Because this part of Oregon does not usually see such temperatures, many homes do not have air conditioning nor are people ready or accustomed to such elements. I have a friend who moved here from Texas a few years ago who was shocked to discover that many cars do not have air conditioning here in Oregon!

Last Thursday, to escape the heat, I went and joined my mom and family friends out in the Tillamook State Forest. Our family friends were camping out there at Gale’s Creek Campgrounds.

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A small rustic campground about 15 miles from Banks and Highway 26, it is a no reservation and low amenity (it has trash pick up and out-houses, but no showers) campground. It is first come, first served, and once the 23 campsites are filled, they are filled. Our friends got lucky and got a site right on Gale’s Creek.

The creek isn’t very large, but in places people have dug out rocks and have hand built rock and log dams to make for small, but deeper “swimming” holes. My young friends (ages 6 & 7 ½) think they are the best!

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As we sat on boulders in the creek, the younger kids swimming while the older kids threw rocks and Frisbees, we could see the haze above the cedars and pines. Thankfully the air in the forest, especially by the water, was cool and clear.
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Portland, Oregon – Part Two

Late in the afternoon Tina and I again made our way into Portland. Just as we entered Multnomah County, we made our first stop – Cornell Farm and Cafe. Here we enjoyed hot drinks (despite the warmth of the day) among the pots of plants and flowers for sale. The chamomile and lavender tea pleased me and the Monk’s Coffee latte apparently pleased Tina just as well.

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Refreshed, we proceeded into Portland. Tina and I never run out of things to talk about, which is good thing because traffic into Portland seemed especially backed up this particular weekday afternoon. After creeping along for several miles and getting to point where we joked about climbing the rocks and cliffs along the road during the long minutes we waited for our turn to creep up a few feet, we came upon the reason for decreased speed – a downed power line. The police were there with flares and soon after passing the spot, the flow of traffic picked right up.

Once in Portland, we hit a couple shops – the World Market and Zupan’s. Eating our Digestives from the World Market, we walked up Burnside Street a short distance and caught a couple shots of Mt. Hood. Yesterday we passed up all three of these things because our driver had been determined to go straight to Wailua Shave Ice.

 

Then we visited Powell’s just long enough to find the spot in the Pink room where we once ate Voodoo Doughnuts (also the second and last time I ate them because I dislike them, despite their fame). That last visit together to Powell’s, we figured happened seven years ago.

We also found the foreign language section. I became really excited when I found Enid Blyton books. Fond and slightly forgotten memories of reading her Famous Five and Secret Seven books (which most likely – but subconsciously – inspired our self-titled Fabulous Five moniker) came back immediately. Originally written and published in Great Britain, these particular books had been translated into German. Tina found a childhood favorite, a Dr. Seuss book, translated into a Middle Eastern language. The scripted font, so different from the alphabet we’re used to, and the right to left layout of the book made it seem like new book. After hanging out in Powell’s, we had one more stop to make.

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Unable to go off to a foreign country, we thought visiting an embassy might be the next best thing. However, Portland doesn’t have any foreign embassies. A handful of foreign consulates reside here however. Through Google, we found the address for the Royal Norwegian Consult, but we didn’t know if it was an office or home address. After turning right too soon twice, driving by the building twice and accidentally running a red light, we finally found the building complex, one with a mix of business and residential units. As late in the evening as it was, the shops had closed for the day, and we still don’t know if we were creepy and wandering around the base of someone’s home or simply weird, walking by an office.

We stumbled on a lovely walk along the Willamette River though. The Cottonwood Bay Trail, as the name implies, has many Cottonwoods. Recently released fluffy seeds paved the trail white. After pausing to take in the River, we headed home.

Portland, Oregon – Part One

I love traveling. I love finding new places, experiencing new tastes, sounds and sights, and learning new things. Generally I find these things are even better when I experience them with friends who appreciate the traveling experiences as well. Some of my best friends are those who see each day as an opportunity to explore – to go down new side streets, never fearing “getting lost”, to eat at new restaurants and find new favorite dishes, to stop to take a photo or to drive down a country back road, eager to see where it leads. Unless you are a hard-core solo traveler, I hope you have found a few travel friends as well!

One group of my friends in particular really enjoys traveling and exploring. The five of us jokingly refer to ourselves as “the Fabulous Five.” These are friends with whom I have shared in person many of the adventures I’ve shared here on this blog. Seattle, Columbia Hills State Park, and the Saint Paul Rodeo are just a few of the adventures we’ve taken together.

Well, the cookie crumbled and two of the Fabulous Five split off for the summer. One traveled up into Canada for a summer semester studying linguistics, while the other journeyed to the Czech Republic teaching English. Honestly, I’m a little jealous. The remaining three of us, balancing work and other responsibilities, are facing a summer of local adventuring. We determined we would enjoy it anyway.

We three decided and planned to “do something together“. We had ideas, but nothing set. Over a homemade lunch we tossed around ideas and finally decided to drive into Portland, try Wailua Shave Ice and visit Powell’s City of Books – something new and something old.

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Wailua Shave Ice is located in a small pedestrian only mall, Union Way, across West Burnside Street from Powell’s City of Books bookstore. Among the handful of small neighboring shops, Wailua was definitely the most popular spot. We joined close to 20 people in line and tried to decide which delicious sounding shave ice to buy. Eventually I decided on the Almond Joy.

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As we slowly shifted down the line, I got a bit bored, so leaving Anna as a delegate in line, Tina and I set out down the corridor and out the other end of the mall. We made our way around the block and across the street to Powell’s. I sure love that store! Living outside of Portland, I dread going in to the city, but I’ll go if we’re going to Powell’s. The huge bookstore with its warm charm, mixed shelves of new and used books, concrete split-level floors, color-coded rooms, coffee infused air and absolutely necessary information desk, always offers an enjoyable experience.

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Planning on coming back after eating the shave ice, we made our way in one entrance, skipped through one level and up to another and out a different exit. We then made our way back to Wailua where we discovered our held place in line had not made as much of an advancement as we had hoped. Even so, everyone seemed in good spirits and the three of us speculated about the treat we would soon try.

Once we got to the counter and ordered, I saw why they call it “shave ice” and not simply “snow cones”. The light fine ice base reminded me of powder snow; it was not the pebbly ice of your typical snow cone. The drizzled full flavored coconut syrup left no question of its good quality; it was not the typical snow cone cheap sugary artificial color and flavor. It turned out to be one of those treats you can justify and feel good about indulging. The Nutella, toasted coconuts and almonds popped with the coconut ice and fully justified the $6.

By the time we got the shave ice, our paid time for parking was almost up. We decided to forgo Powell’s to instead stop at Scrap PDX. The shop, resembling a thrift store and a discount store merged into one, sells only goods geared for art projects. In a rather over whelming fashion, bins of yarn, cloth and sewing filled one corner, chests and drawers full of beads filled another, along with poster board, plastic of random shapes and colors, paints and all sorts of other things filling in the middle. It made me think of my aunt, an elementary school art teacher of 40 years, and her house. Materials to make all kinds of fun art projects along with half finished demos of the projects lie strewn all over her house. This store was like that. I could see this store as being a go-to spot to find random material you may need for this or that project, but then again, you might just want to go with an open mind…

With dinner and evening time constraints, about this time we headed home. However – we didn’t quite make to a few places, and Tina and I decided to extend the adventure to the next afternoon after work.

Centralia & Chehalis, Washington

Two hours and fifteen minutes– that’s it!
 That’s all it was? Wow!
Yep – not far, huh?
No – not far at all!

Now you have a mini recap of the conversation I had with myself as I pulled up behind my old friend’s car in front of the house where she has been living for over a year now. With her extended family living relatively close to me, over the past year or two we had been occasionally meeting up when she came by to visit them. This time, my sister and I were visiting her!

With a couple 5 to 10 mile stretches of pouring rain, the trip seemed longer than the actual time it took. Oregon speed limit on I-5 caps at 65 miles an hour. In Washington it increases to 70 miles an hour. Even though I tend to push the speed limit, with the pouring rain, unfamiliar road and 5 mile an hour increase, at times the short trip north was a bit stressful.

I don’t think I’ve ever stopped in either Chehalis or Centralia beyond briefly stopping for hot chocolate (Dutch Bros or Fiddler’s) or to eat a couple of times (Country Cousins) on the way up to Bellingham. These two towns are very close and together had more than I expected or ever noticed from I-5.

After chatting a bit, my friend took us to her favorite area lunch place – Once Upon A Thyme. It was a quaint restaurant with down-home, antique charm. The kitschy covered high walls balanced the large open eating space with a warm country home appeal. I totally recommend the pesto and olive pizza! Thickly spread with pesto and generously covered with greens, feta, dried tomatoes and olives, on soft multi-grain crust, the slice made quite an impression on me!

After lunch we headed off to the Rails to Trails. I was told it is a fifty mile paved trail that runs where train tracks once ran, and it runs all the way to the coast. Apparently it is a favorite trail for bicyclists, walkers, dogs and their people, and blackberry pickers in the summer. Sadly, we had not gone far before the weather decided to shift from being merely overcast to down pouring with both rain and hail. As we hurried back to the car, we laughed about how quickly our Pacific Northwest spring weather can change. It’ll probably pass in a few minutes and be sunny the rest of the day we speculated, and we surmised correctly.

We went back to our friend’s house and enjoyed her homemade coffee cake and tea. As we warmed up, so did the weather. Even though we did not walk in it, it made for a nice, relaxed drive home for dinner. I should have stopped to photograph some of the bright green hills, blue sky and warm sunshine, but they will have to live on in my memory.

The road to a friend’s house is never long!
Danish Proverb

Maps

The other day I visited my local AAA branch office and picked up some old school paper maps! With my triple-A membership, I get them free!*

I love paper maps.

Sure, it takes more work to estimate the travel time, distance and route with paper maps than with online maps, but I don’t usually use them for that. I use them for the perspective and sense of place I get from spreading them out and seeing the big solid picture. That grounding element makes them worthwhile to me. I also use sticky note tabs to mark points of interest and get a visual that doesn’t disappear if I happen to jostle it and hit the back button too many times or accidentally unplug it. I use Google maps or Mapquest or TripTik to figure out the best way to get somewhere – the shortest distance, the quickest time, the one avoiding highways or with some other filter – and for turn-by-turn directions. Using paper maps in conjunction with online maps, I always feel better prepared. When I feel prepared, then I feel excited.

As you can see, I am preparing for travel up North – two trips potentially. The first one is a pretty definite weekend trip with a group of friends to Seattle; we’ve been talking about it for the better half of a year. I pass through Seattle several times each year, but rarely stop to enjoy the sights, so I am looking forward to spending some time there. A second trip could be a day trip to southwest Washington to visit a long time friend and possibly go explore Tacoma with her. However, if my dad drives to the Carolinas, the second trip will likely be postponed, as I would jump at the chance to drive cross-country again. And the Wenatchee and British Columbia/Alberta maps? They’re for travel dreaming purposes.

* Honestly just a pleased, not paid, satisfied member statement.

Willamette Falls & Oregon City, Oregon

Oregon City, Oregon. I don’t know about you, but to me it has a ring to it (like New York, New York).  Despite the name, it’s more of a hamlet of hub-Portland than a hub itself. When a friend of mine came to town a couple weeks back and invited me on an adventure, we decided on visiting Oregon City. Why? Because of the Willamette Falls on the Willamette River. In my own travels I’ve paused to gaze at the Falls numerous times, but my friend hadn’t. Ever.

Once in Oregon City, I was unsure of the best place to view the Falls and figured we could explore or ask a local. Before we found anyone to ask, we spotted the Oregon Municipal Elevator – an outdoor elevator. While I’d seen it before, I’d never taken it; so what’d we do? We parked, fed the parking meter a silver Washington and dashed across the street to the hallway leading to the elevator. A trippy hallway with 10 or 12 frames on each wall, each frame held three images that changed as you shifted position. The pictures documented the elevator’s construction and history. Fascinating, but our goal of going up and down the elevator and on to the Falls overshadowed it. When we got in the elevator, we discovered a nice public employee running it. That same public employee turned out to be our nice local who directed us to the best viewing spot.

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Municipal Elevator

Once we stepped out of the elevator on the viewing deck, she directed us to our left and down the McLoughlin Promenade, a 7.8-acre park on the bluff overlooking the Willamette River. Dedicated in 1851, the park benefited from the Work Progress Administration with a stone walled concrete pathway built in 1938 and benefited from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which funded the restoration of the Promenade in 2010.

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A short easy walk brought us to truly the best spot I’ve found to view the Falls. Now if you’re like my friend and thinking “vertical” falls, you, like she, may be a little disappointed. The Willamette Falls, as you can see in the photos, flow more “horizontal,” with a short drop amongst an industrial setup. Also, the industrial buildings (power, mills and the like) mashed right up into the Falls appear rather weathered and decrepit. After viewing for a short while, we proceeded down the Promenade and walked the footbridge over 99E, a Blue Star Memorial Highway, and along and then under the train tracks, looping back to my car. The trek took us a grand 24 minutes.

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Oregon City, Oregon

Deciding on the Molalla State Park as our next destination, we headed out of town on 99E, but before completely leaving, I pulled the car over at the scenic area and historical marker. I’d viewed the Falls here many times. Here as we read the informational signs, the Falls’s value, with all its industry evidenced there, began to increase.

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Willamette Falls

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Willamette Falls

With basically a 40-foot drop, we learned that the “Willamette Falls is the second most powerful waterfall in North America.”  While some of the buildings at the Falls sit empty, some of them actually still see use and from the informational sign we learned what many of them are.  For example, one of the buildings is the T.W. Sullivan Powerhouse, built in 1893 and rebuilt in 1953, and is one of the oldest continuously operated power plants in the United States. The Museum, which I have to return to explore, has more information about the significance of the river and the Falls.

After properly admiring the Willamette Falls, my friend and I headed on to the Molalla State Park, took a soggy walk around and wrapped up our adventure by dinning at MOD Pizza. It’s amazing how hungry a person can get while adventuring!

Why Travel?

Day-in, day-out, I travel the same dustless hard gray asphalt roads and frequent the same places in the same silver gray Chevy. The same old job with its route rhythms, the same chain grocery stores with such minor discrepancies in prices it’s hardly worth changing them up and the same town with only so many variations for my commute to work, all tempt me to simply shift to cruise control.

Living in the same house with its set layout, with senior cats who demand the same food, water and turn out daily, along with the same food and water needs of my own, not to mention the laundry, the plants, the bills and the family with needs of their own, creates humdrum. Monotony. I mean, the same white ceiling stares down as I drift to sleep and continues staring as I roust from slumber, day after day. Night. After. Night.

The vistas, textures, odors, flavors and noises absorb not into my senses, but rather fade in the background of life. Each morning brings a new day, but dang, with routine and to-do-lists its newness sure evades notice.

Traveling refreshes senses and an awareness of the world around. As cliche as it is to even say, my childhood gave me a slower pace and more vivid life experience. I see this perception change as due to how present I was then verses how present I am now. As a kid, I was very present and my thoughts of the future formed differently*. So many things were new, and I zoned in intensely. I took them not for granted. Traveling in new environments offers the opportunity to practice being present and more aware.

Oregon Travel

Columbia Hills State Park Art Walk

During my mini-vacation to Horsethief Lake, I had no pressures of going to work that day and put it out of mind. Though unable to just stare out the window with unhurried thoughts as I did when a kid, with the car in cruise control, my thoughts relaxed. I consciously noticed the changing landscape and weather the further east we drove. We left the tall green leafy trees and overcast sky of home as we entered the winding gorge with denser green leafy and tall evergreen trees, but still cloudy sky, and by the time we reached the State Park, a few wispy trees and shrubs sprinkled the landscape and the sky sparkled clear, bright blue and sunny. The air smelled differently too –more like dry baked forage than the earthy fresh mown smell of damp green grass.

Traveling simply takes me to new places and helps me stay present, reminding me that I can still discover flavors, feels, scenes, sounds and scents.

*There is a legit reason for this – it has to do with the frontal lobe. That is the section of the brain that finishes developing last, in a person’s 20’s. It is the part of the brain that thinks abstractly about the future, gauging and weighing out possible outcomes, along with tempering impulse behaviors.

Columbia Hills State Park & Horsethief Lake. WA

Bright and early the Saturday after the 4th of July, my sister and our two good friends left on a Columbia River Gorge adventure. Despite the other three being good and abstaining from sweets and caffeine, this driver decided that she needed her Dutch Bros hot cocoa. (*To set the record straight, I was reminded that my passengers succumbed to my bad influence and shared a hot cocoa…) With hot cocoa in the driver’s hand, we drove out I-84E to Hood River, Oregon where we crossed over the Hood River Bridge. Following WA-14E we buzzed along east for about 18 miles.

Ranger Warner, who confirmed our art walk reservations, didn’t tell me that there are a number of areas (…like 3) encompassed by the Columbia Hills Historical State Park, nor did he tell me where to meet the tour. Unfortunately I didn’t think to ask. We took the first exit north off WA-14E that said something about the State Park – I think it said to “Columbia Hills State Park – something ranch.” That was not the right road. The gravel to the Dalles Mountain Ranch made for rough riding. After about 5 or so minutes of rattling and shaking, while crawling along at less than 10mph, we decided to turn around and see if there was another entrance to the Park. Clattering and rumbling back we made our way in low gear to WA-14. My poor little Malibu was bing-binging and flashing “Power Steering” by the time we reached level ground. Well, our hunch was right; there was another entrance. This time off to the south toward the Columbia River a large grand sign welcomed us to “Columbia Hills State Park and Horsethief Lake.” The asphalt road led us smoothly to a gravel parking lot a stone’s throw from the train tracks and the river. It was there that we paid our ten bucks for an Adventure Pass (a day parking pass) and met up with the tour group.

We lucked out. The free tours are lead Fridays and Saturdays at 10 a.m. by volunteer guides. This morning three guides showed up. The art walk is about mile and takes a little over an hour. Due to vandalism the art walk is closed except for these April through October State Park sponsored pictograph and petroglyph tours. They suggest reserving your spot two to three weeks out, but lucky me got four spots just four days out. The number given to reserve your spot is: 509-439-9032. When Ranger Warner called confirming our art walk reservation he left this number: 360-773-7712.

According to our guides, the area now known as the Columbia River Gorge has been the most continuously inhabited location in North America. Some of those inhabitants included the Chinook, a loose conglomeration of tribes that extended from the Pacific Ocean east through the Gorge and the surrounding areas. Much trading and traffic of different Indian peoples has happened here. These Indians are the ones who left their marks on the land and rocks. The artwork, both pictographs (rock paintings) and petroglyphs (carved rock art), are evidence of these peoples. Though thought to be very religious (from other evidence and tradition), our guides admitted that we don’t know for sure what the artwork represents. The various diseases and hardships that overcame many of those people in the last two hundred years means there is no definitive voice interpreting the remains today.

The Indians consider this area a sacred place and even today bring offerings of worship here. Walking along this art trail was like visiting the remnants of an old Catholic cathedral or Buddhist monastery. We were seeing Native American artwork that could be likened to stained glass windows or chubby little Budas. The trail had about five stops where the guides pointed out artwork and talked about what were seeing. With the smells of wild berry bushes, grasses and dust in the dry heat air, we took in the artwork. I was glad the guides had leaflets showing exactly what we were looking for in the rocks. Some of the work was difficult to see, and the guides said this was because the sun was so bright. Apparently if there had been a bit of cloud cover or been overcast, the artwork would have been seen better.

While guide “J” kept his interpretations palatable, our two other guides affirmed the sacredness of the area every chance they got. I appreciated J’s constant reminder that we really don’t know what these works of art represent or for what purpose they served; every member of the tour’s guess was just as valid as any of the opinions of the guides’. Personally I think at least some of the artwork was made simply for art’s sake and some of the specimens were practice sketches. I doubt it is all sacred.

 

“White. White paint represented death, didn’t it?” The older blonde lady-guide piped up.*
“Um. I’ve never heard that before,” said J hesitantly.
“I thought I read that somewhere – that artwork in different colors had different meanings,” she persisted.
“Maybe. I think they just used what they had,” said J.

A few minutes later, as we preceded single-file down the sun baked and sneaker trodden path, the guides are talking among themselves again.

“I think I read that colors signify different meanings,” repeated Blondie, this time to guide “K”.
“Yeah – you could be right,” he says.
“I think white represents death,” she says again.
“Really? That’s new to me, but it could be. Their artwork was full of significance that we don’t even understand,” he affirms her with genuine interest in his voice.

When at the beginning of the tour our three volunteer guides discovered that they had unexpected co-guides, I didn’t expect their consensus that they’d learn from one another to amount to much. Nevertheless, they kept talking among themselves and comparing notes. They all had their own angle. Blondie was definitely death focused. K was especially attuned to the spirit side of things, with a touchy-feely edge. J was a textbook guide; he had a script and followed it.

The art walk is a destination walk with “She Who Watches” being the final viewed specimen. The piece was created using both paint and rock carving. A large piece, it looked to me like a bear with very Native American features. There are various traditional tales associated with this artwork. All of them include a woman chief, the wolf and a being put in stone to watch over the chief’s people. Some of the traditions say that the wolf promised her he would watch over them, and he put himself in the stone, while others say he put her in stone, so she could always watch over her people. Anyway, it was a neat piece to see. I was impressed at the symmetry of the eyes and ears.

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K talking about She Who Watches

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She Who Watches – Pictograph & Petroglyph

One thing that was not made very clear on the art walk was how many, or which of the specimens exactly, were rescued and strategically placed. Apparently at least some of them were salvaged before the dam was put in about a mile up river and the area flooded.

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The Columbia River

Even at the end of the art trail our guides were still talking among themselves and comparing notes.

“Didn’t owls signify death in Indian depictions?” Again the topic of death, and again, brought up by Blondie.
“Yeah – sometimes animals did depict life events and situations,” affirmed K.
“I know I was just reading about how owls signify death. And my spirit animal is an owl,” she relates to him.

Uhhh… and you’re broadcasting this why? I thought to myself as I moved on, looking for my sister, relieved that that part of the art walk was over.

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Horsethief Lake

After the tour we ate our picnic lunch in the day area by the lake. With many picnic tables in the shady grassy area, we had no problem finding a nice spot by the water’s edge. The following swim in Horsethief Lake, with rocky Horsethief Butte looming above and the sun shinning down, refreshed our sun-chapped skin. Yes, blue sky, sparkling warm water and good friends – what a lovely day.

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Horsethief Lake with Horsethief Butte – Photo credit: someone other than me

On the drive home, we veered off a little so to take in the Historic Columbia River Highway, which turns 100 years old this year. Stopping at Crown Point and the Vista House, we took in the view.

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View from the Vista House at Crown Point in the Columbia River Gorge – Oregon

*Quotes and dialogue – not precisely accurate as I am quoting them as I thought back to what they said.

St. Paul Rodeo. St. Paul, OR

What better way to celebrate our nation’s birthday than a few miles from where Oregon was voted into America? As I shared in my last post, it was at a spot right in Champoeg Park in 1843 that settlers voted 52 -50 to come under the provisional government of the United States. Just a few miles down the road from that historic spot you’ll find the little western town of St. Paul, Oregon.

For the last 81 years St. Paul has turned out a family friendly PBR and PRCA rodeo over the 4th of July weekend. For many this is an annual tradition. For me, it had been about 15 years since I’d last attended. A number of the people I went with this year on July 2nd had never been to a rodeo, so to see it with someone seeing rodeo for the first time was an experience. I think they enjoyed themselves…at this thing they call rodeo.

Afterwards the group was comparing their favorite parts of the rodeo. Despite thinking long and hard, I am not sure which part of rodeo is my favorite.

I really enjoy watching team roping. While one rider ropes the head, the other ropes the heels of the steer – that takes skill and teamwork.

Then again, I really enjoy barrel racing. It takes guts to ride your horse at top speed and whip around those barrels. Ride, ride, ride!

The clown hits my list though too. He’s got to provide entertainment for the crowds, while also providing some distractive presence between the cowboys and the animals.

The DJ impressed me at this rodeo. My friend Anna and I agreed it would be fun to job-shadow a rodeo DJ. Though having a play-list and knowing generally what to play when, with the clown, the announcer, the mood of the crowds…etc. he could be called to play just about anything and the music needs to fit the moment.

The often forgotten and unnoticed pick-up men in blue hit my list as well. Man, when they do their job right, it is impressive to watch. When they do it well, you hardly notice unless you’re paying attention. They come alongside the bucking animals, pull the bucking strap off and rescue the rider. They’re the ones that actually put roping skills to work at a rodeo. Sure, there are the roping competitions, but those pick-up men better have some mad roping skills to catch stray animals. In a funny sort of way, they exemplify the cowboy at the rodeo more so than the competitors, who might not even be real working cowboys. They’re doing the actual job and not just competing.

It’s boots and chaps
It’s cowboy hats
It’s spurs and latigo
It’s the ropes and the reins
And the joy and the pain
And they call the thing rodeo
~Garth Brooks