Tag Archive | Sunshine

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.


K talking about She Who Watches


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

Champoeg State Park. St. Paul, OR

When you and your sister both have an early summer Monday off, you have to go do something. But what? It was a weekday and a workday, notorious for being a day popular attractions are minimally populated. Opportunities abounded. We thought about going to Horsethief Lake in Washington, but decided that it was too far away for the day’s adventure. We considered going shopping at Washington Square mall, but I didn’t have anything I needed to buy. We contemplated the beach, but decided instead to go hiking around Champoeg State Park, just outside of St. Paul, OR.

The area now known as Champoeg (pronounced: sham-poo-ee) Park was once known as tchnampuick and inhabited by the Tualatin Kalapuya tribe until the early 1800s when French-Canadians from the Hudson’s Bay Company retired here.

Kitchen Garden & Visitor Center

After stopping in at the Visitor’s Center, buying the $5 parking pass, looking around at the free exhibits and meandering through the 1860’s-style kitchen garden, we drove to the east side of the Park. There we wandered around the Riverside day use area and along the easy Pavilion Trail.

Views of the river

Champoeg Park Pavilion and Monument Plaza is where farmers and trappers voted for a Provisional Government in Oregon on May 2, 1843 at a “meeting of the ‘inhabitants of the Willamette settlements’.” This vote formed “the first American government on the Pacific coast.” Later, in 1900 the land was purchased by the State for a public park, and to commemorate the vote the State erected a monument here.

 1843 Monument

Pioneer Memorial Building Pavilion & Monument

Pioneer Memorial Building Pavilion & Monument

With the breezes through the evergreens, sunlight penetrating the clearing like a monument spotlight and happy boater laugher floating off the river, just sitting on benches made for a relaxing summer afternoon. The back history told me I was not alone in enjoying this spot. This location has hosted many happy moments. Back in the day, Champoeg was called the “Plymouth Rock of the Pacific Coast,” and every May 2nd citizens would gather to celebrate. The Pioneer Memorial Building was built in 1918 and the attached covered area was added in 1920, providing a place for these annual celebration gatherings.

With the park open year round this is a great place to come and enjoy!

Sandy River Delta Park (AKA 1000 Acre Dog Park)

With a name like the 1,000 Acres Park, what can you expect? Happy dogs. You can expect to see happy dogs – like everywhere.


I think it was two dogs to a person…

This past Friday my friend invited me to go with her and her dog Sam to the 1,000 Acre Park, an amazing off-leash park in Troutdale, OR. Before we even arrived in the park, I knew it was a good place. As we pulled off the highway and drove into the park, Sam got really happy. Each time I’ve met up with them, he has always been good-natured, but as we approached the park his ears perked up, his eyes brightened and his tail began wagging. His excitement was contagious as he eagerly looked out the window!


Now, Friday is a weekday, right? It’s usually considered a workday, yes? The number of cars parked there seemed to indicate otherwise. The spots reserved for RVs and trailers each had two cars! As the lot was full, we ended up parking along the road outside the parking lot. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to find parking later during the weekend.


A beautiful sunny day, approaching 90 degrees, it was a good day to take a big loop around the park. I was pleased to discover that the park is as large as the name implies. Despite the crowed parking lot, the park itself was not crowded. We met up with clusters of people and dogs, especially along the soft sandy banks of the rivers, but there was plenty of space. Everyone and especially every dog we met seemed to be in good spirits and enjoying the day.


Cool water and soft sand

Located along the Sandy River delta, edges of the park meet both the Sandy River and the Columbia. The park has open spaces as well as forested areas, and the paths were mostly hard packed dirt. If you’re under time constraints or nervous about exploring the great outdoors, be aware that there weren’t many signs, and the routes and paths seem up for self-discovery.


With space to run and lots of other off-leash dogs to run with, Sam only paused long enough to either smell another dog or investigate an interesting smell. By time we got back to the car, he was still a very happy dog, but slowing down just a bit. I’ve decided that if I get really blue, I am coming straight to this park. There is no way you can watch so many happy dogs chasing each other, zooming through peoples’ legs and diving into rivers after sticks and not at least smile.


Okay. Glad I could finally share this location –  filing my 2015 taxes took precedent. Yes, I put it off until this week. Unlike this park, taxes don’t make me happy.

Depoe Bay, Oregon

Over the Easter weekend I stayed a few nights in Depoe Bay, Oregon with my family. While Depoe Bay does not have the lovely beaches of neighboring Lincoln City, the ocean front town and its piece of the coast is still beautiful. The ever-changing weather of the Oregon Coast made this a gorgeous experience. And naturally, I did make it over to Taft Beach in Lincoln City.

Saturday morning we rose to bright and beautiful! With bright blue skies and a blue ocean, my blues were far, far away.

Just look at those little harbor seals smiling for the camera!

By the afternoon, the World’s Smallest Harbor had a bit of chilling aura, with gray skies and good old Oregon drizzle.

Personally I wouldn’t want to go out on the ocean in weather like this, but then again, it would beat being baked…

Then the next day came around.

Easter Morning, with its rays of sunshine at Taft Beach, reminded me once again of the freshness and the new Life Easter stands for.

It was chilly, but held the promise of a nice day. I like people watching by the way. These three friends came out to run on the firm packed sand and stopped to watch the harbor seals bobbing in the water. I see friends shaking hands, saying ‘how do you do?’ – what they’re really saying is, ‘I love you‘…

Here is Depoe Bay. This is it. Well, most of it anyway. It is not a big town. The day was still nice at this point. Refreshed, we walked through the neighborhood and into town, noting every sign for the upcoming “Crab Feed” plastered on every light post and telephone pole.

It stormed. What. A. Surprise. Not. But when the sun came out – ooohhh….

A rainbow! And over our neighborhood too! Actually, if you look closely, you can see that it is a double rainbow! Not wanting to be sent into the cove with the elusive pot of gold, I didn’t get as close to the edge as I wanted to. If I could have gotten just a little more northwest, I could have captured more of the rainbow. The rainbow wasn’t just an arch – it was three-quarters of a circle!

Leaving Depoe Bay by way of Lincoln City, I got to stop at the little D-River, a contender for world’s smallest river. Here it is folks. That’s just about an entire river right there.

Lincoln City, Oregon

Have I said how much I enjoy the Oregon Coast in the winter? I really do. I especially enjoy these late winter, early spring-like days.  When the sun shines, warming you and the sand despite the cool ocean breeze with its fine salty mists, the day shines. It really does.

Lincoln City Beach

This last Monday, my day off, found my mom and me making the 2-hour jaunt to Lincoln City for a mini-vacation. Of course while there we searched for the elusive glass floats. We also picked up a bag of beach trash, and this time I got to the Cultural and Visitor’s Center in time to enter for the monthly drawing in exchange for it.  While filling out the entry, I also gleaned some tips* for finding a float.

Lincoln City Fisherman

Walking the beach, racing foaming waves, soaking up sun, snapping photos, colleting beach trash and treasures, admiring driftwood shacks, laughing at wet stick chasing dogs… there is always something to do at the beach. Sometimes I almost forget you can actually sit and rest at the beach. Even so, I eventually did pause to simply take it in. While relaxing in the warm sand, the driftwood cool against my back, I settled down to simply enjoy the day.

Oregon Coast Roar

Listening to the ocean started with merely hearing the background roar. The bright blues and teals of the ocean, the sparkling sand, the bright shine of the sun and the bright blue sky with a few puffy glowing white clouds and swooping sea gulls seemed to be right there. Then I began hearing it. I began hearing the oscillating pattern. With each approaching wave the roar would become imminently louder before resolving with a slap and then a fizz as it slid up the sand, and then some more fizz as it pulled back. But as one wave’s roar resolved, the next one behind it was already rumbling, gradually louder and louder, before it too resolved with a shattery slap and then a fizz. The rhythmically soothing pattern was in a way new. How can I not remember listening like this or hearing such a melody before? With five senses, it amazes me how sometimes one of the sense overshadows the others, and at other times, one sense picks up something I am not even aware of until I stop and consciously consider it.

Harbor Seals Taft Beach Oregon

As my stomach grumbled, my mind drifted to the peanut butter and honey sandwich sitting in my car along with the apple, travel mug of mint tea and homemade molasses cookie. With visions of lunch in my head, the rhythmic ocean faded again to the background. Grabbing the lunch sack, we ate on the beach while watching the harbor seals across the water. Someone had a fire going and wafts of smoke would mingle with the salty beach air. After enjoying the beach a little longer, we headed home singing a song.

Yes, singing a song.

Driftwood Forts Oregon

Give me two bottles of kombucha, I want one for each hand.
Let’s set sail with Captain Mom – though we’ll never leave dry land.
My troubles I’ve forgot them; I buried them in the sand.
So, give me two bottle of komucha, I’m your good-drivin’ gal

* I’ll post those tips in tomorrow’s entry! So that despite my lack of luck so far, you perhaps might better your odds!