Day 32 – Winding down, winding up – and a special dinner

We had no plans for today beyond shopping for Thai chicken salad ingredients and new joggers for Roy – and of course cooking up the salad itself!

I cooked up the remaining mushrooms for breakfast to complement Lynn’s delicious scrambled eggs, so it was a bit of a feast. We relaxed and read the paper for a bit, and I did some work on the blog, then Lynnette and I went out to do our shopping first, while Roy had some Roy-time to himself. We made a good start, by going to the Asian Food Market near the supermarket Lynn usually goes to – but unfortunately it was closed until August 31 (the day after tomorrow, when we fly out from Portland).

So… our options were to switch on my data roaming and do a search (which would cost $ and take time) OR use Lynnette’s data (which would cost $ and maybe use up her data allowance – she wasn’t sure) OR go back home (only 5mins away) and use the home wifi. Lynnette was most comfortable with the latter, so we went back and disturbed Roy’s peace and quiet and found two more Asian supermarkets to try. The one that was furthest away seemed to have the best selection so we set out again to check it out.

It was, indeed, an excellent choice of Asian grocer – I could have bought EVERYTHING and cooked for weeks! There was pretty much every variety of SE Asian sauce, condiment, fruit (but not durian) vegetable, spice, rice. noodle, fungus, dried thing (whatever…) that you’d need to cook Chinese, Thai. Malaysian, Indonesian, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese…. Certainly all the special ingredients I needed for the Thai chicken salad – no substitutions would be needed! Hurrah!

We dropped in to another supermarket where Lynn buys wine, and I found some cider that I thought Roy would like, then went to the usual supermarket where I picked up the remainder of the ingredients I needed. All set for the Thai chicken salad extravaganza!

Then it was Roy’s turn to shop, so he and Lynnette headed off to search for shoes. I had a lovely shower and washed my hair, and had the chicken sliced and in the marinade before they came back. The search involved a couple of shops, but Roy had what he wanted, so that was another mission accomplished.

We had some lunch and then sat around reading the paper, chatting and watching for birds. It was nice to just relax and hang out. I kicked off the food preparation (the salad involves a lot of cutting-stuff-up) from about 3.30pm, and we were sitting down together to eat right on the traditional Rankin dinner time (RDT) of 6pm. It made me feel really good to create and share this meal – we all really enjoyed it.

Although we’d intended to have an early night, it seemed that there was still so much we wanted to say, and so much still to talk about. By 11 though, we had to face the need to ensure we’d have enough engy in the tank to get us to Portland (and for Lynnette to get back safely) the next day. Off we went to bed, with organising and packing to be done in the morning!

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Day 31 – A trip to the Oregon coast

 

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Funny hat, Roy!

Last time we were here, we took highway 101 south from Florence, on the Oregon coast (we actually went via Eugene back then, but we didn’t stop here). Lynnette thought it would be a good idea to turn right instead of left at Florence and show us a bit of the coast north of Florence.

IMG_6818The trip to Florence is quite pretty, lots of hills and forest, and then the road follows the Siuslaw River towards the coast.

IMG_6822You can see how smoky the air is in the photos – but at least it gives a perception of depth and distance, as green hills fade to first dark then progressively paler grey.

IMG_6823I’m hoping that once we reach the coast there will at least be a slightly fresher onshore breeze. The smoke has affected my breathing a bit and over the last couple of days I’ve used Ventolin for the first time on the trip.

IMG_6826At Florence we turned onto the 101, heading north, initially with high sand dunes to our left. Even after five weeks here, more than three of them spent on the west coast, I still get confused about which way I’m heading. I have to keep forcing myself to picture the map – if the ocean’s on my left, I’m heading north!

IMG_6829Our first stop was the Darlingtonia Wayside Botanical Garden. There is a short, level trail under tall trees.  It leads to a magnificent display of Darlingtonia Californica – carnivorous cobra lilies.

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IMG_6834They are quite amazing plants (they really do look like cobras from some angles!) – and there are so many of them here! They grow in swampy areas in northern California and south-west Oregon – there must be a plentiful supply of insects in this spot because they’re both abundant and huge! Very impressive.

There were lots of other interesting shrubs, ferns and mosses along the trail too:

Back to the car to continue our drive along the coast (I love Route 101).

IMG_6851The water is grey under the hazy sky and the road tracks along the steep clifftops and rocky headlands – the remains of ancient underwater magma flows that crashed into the coast as the Juan de Fuca Plate moved inexorably east. (I know a lot more about this now, thanks to Dennis at the Oregon University museum.)

IMG_6854Some of the sedimentary rock that had settled above the volcanic eruptions was then eroded by the wind and waves, leaving the basalt exposed all along the coast. The dark coastal rocks are a striking sight for someone who comes from a place where the seaside cliffs tend to be golden sandstone! (It would probably look quite ordinary to a New Zealander!)

IMG_6863Next stop was the magnificent Heceta Head Lighthouse, one of the forty or so lighthouses that line the West Coast, from Washington State through Oregon and Northern California, where the water is wild and cold and the coastline and ocean floor rocky and treacherous for shipping.

IMG_6865Each light has a unique signature (Heceta Head is an amber flash every ten seconds) and these were formerly used for navigating – in fact they still are, especially by sailors of smaller boats, which don’t have the advanced technology of large commercial vessels.

IMG_6867The lighthouse stands high on the northern headland of a small bay, with two rocky islands jutting out into the bay and sheltering a sandy beach. It’s a beautiful sunny day (despite the smoke haze, which has persisted a bit, even here) but no-one is in the water. I’ll find out why soon enough.
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But first we decide to take the trail up past the old assistant lighthouse-keeper’s house (which is now an expensive B&B) to the lighthouse.

IMG_6877Sadly, the head lighthouse-keeper’s house was sold in the early 1900’s for $10 (with removal to be at the purchaser’s expense!) It was dismantled, moved and repurposed as a restaurant in Florence (Oregon), apparently! During WWII, there were army barracks on the site – these too have since been dismantled and taken away, leaving just the original assistant’s house with a fabulous outlook over the cove, the beach and the ocean.

IMG_6879The trail itself is pretty – a mix of cool winding pathway under tall mossy trees, and open trails along the side of the headland, following the old concrete path from the keepers’ houses up the light, with what we’d probably call coastal heathland on either side.

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There were colourful flowers as well as blackberry bushes with some ripe fruit, which Roy sampled as we walked.

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IMG_6885The lighthouse tower is relatively small as lighthouses go, but the light itself is powerful. You can see why it needs to be, when you look out to the wild ocean, with its tricky currents and channels.

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It uses the largest English-made Fresnel lens in the US.

IMG_6888All of the lights down the coast have a reach of about 21 miles, and they’re about 20 miles apart, to ensure some overlap for navigation.

IMG_6889We stayed to hear the guide’s talk about the light and its keepers over the years before automation. It would have been a rough life tending the light in those days before Route 101! The wagons bringing supplies often had to race the tide around the headlands, and the storms would have been quite terrifying, I’d imagine. The pay was good for its time, reflecting both the importance of the lights in saving lives and the isolated conditions of the keepers and their families.

I can also imagine, though, that despite the isolation and physical challenges of the job, the sense of doing something really important and the closeness to the forest, the ocean and the weather would bring a sort of peace and satisfaction to the life of the keepers, provided they were temperamentally well-suited for the role. I can understand the attraction to it… “Sometimes, I need a lighthouse of my own…”

We walked a little further up the trail (that goes for miles on up the coast), until we were level with the light itself, and watched it going around and around, catching the light as it turned. Lovely. On the way back down, I spent a bit of time (and money) in the little gift-shop, which had some high quality merchandise, including locally-made wood carvings and crafts. Unfortunately (or fortunately, for my finances) we simply don’t have the room to take much back with us. The usual fridge magnets will have to suffice!

IMG_6857We ate our picnic lunch at a shady table not too far from where we’d parked the car, and in view of the graceful bridge that crosses the creek between the headlands on each side of the bay. There are several of these bridges up and down the coast – I really like them. Simple, solid and elegant.

IMG_6858The sun was out by now but the onshore breeze was quite cool. The idea of swimming was not looming quite so large in my mind at this stage – but I thought that I should at least go down for a paddle, a token touching of this side of the Pacific 🙂

We walked down onto the beach – firstly over the river stones piled up near the mouth of the creek, then (after I removed my shoes) onto the crusty sand, a little courser than the sand of our Sydney beaches, and finally I stepped into the very shallow wash zone.

IMG_0019It was just past low tide and the beach is very flat here, so there was quite a wide section where the waves were just ripples, really, and the water that was only 2-5 cm deep. It was COLD! But not too bad, so I ventured further out to the next section, also quite wide, where the waves had a little more volume and the water was over my ankles.

IMG_0014OMFG!!!!! It was like wading into an ice bath! I walked in a little further – O Jaysus, it was SO cold it actually HURT. I stood there for a perfectly respectable 10 seconds or so and then turned to make my way out. Roy called out “stop, stop!” – Lynnette was taking a photo – oh please, please take it, be quick, please, before my feet FALL OFF….

It was a relief to get back to the very shallow water, which felt like a warm bath in comparison. I marvelled that anyone who fell overboard or even fell off the shore into waist-deep water could survive. It was just paralysingly cold. The shock of immersion alone would probably do me in! So. That’s why no-one swims in the ocean on the Oregon coast. 😛

IMG_6911Back to the car, with feet pretty much thawed out and reclad in warm socks and shoes, we headed further north to Yachats, to check out one of Lynn’s favourite coast walks, near a hotel that she and Barbara regularly go to for short breaks.

IMG_6912The walk is fantastic – right along the top of the rock platforms that line the shore here. The surf is fairly calm today – but I can imagine it being terrifying in rough weather!

IMG_6913They have king tides and storm tides that come right up over the path at times – the waves would be wild indeed.

IMG_6910The huge driftwood logs that have washed up on the shore are testament to the power of the angry sea.

 

IMG_6915There is a memorial to two young men who drowned here when swept by a “sneaker wave” (what we’d call a freak wave – the kind that claims rock fishers in Australia) into a fissure between the rocks. The signs along the shore are a constant reminder of the danger. I suspect the bidding to “Enjoy your walk” is American politeness, rather than black irony.

IMG_6927I shudder at the thought of such a terrible end, especially with my newfound respect for Oregon seawater. (I’ve always respected the ocean and its risks, having been brought up with it – but even at its coldest, the surf of the NSW coast is nowhere near the numbing harshness of what I felt today.)

IMG_6916In one spot, the rock has eroded to form a channel with an arch over it, turning into a “blowhole”. The thump of the water as it works up to a big “blow” reminds me of the one at Kiama, which (on a good day) you can hear from the nearby camping ground – it rolls and crashes like thunder. Watching this one gives the same sense of anticipation (will the next blow be a good one?), awe (at the power of the relentlessly moving water) and vague unease (it’s so wild and unpredictable). We watch it for a while – I did my best to get a shot of a decent “blow”, but the tide is probably still a bit low for the full effect.

Back on the road, we drove a bit further up the coast to a much bigger inlet called the Devil’s Churn. This is much deeper, longer and narrower than the first one, and lies between two steep headlands. It gives a very clear illustration of the power of moving water to beat its way through any weakness it finds in the rocks on its shore, pushing deeper and further into the gaps between the higher ground on each side. It’s probably a glimpse of what the first one will look like in a few more thousand years!

I think Lynn was a bit disappointed in the fact that it was a relatively calm day and so this particular attraction wasn’t performing to its full potential. Never mind – I still found it incredibly impressive to watch the heave and churn of the water along the whole length of the chasm, and noting the pools of water above it that show just how high the spouts can go when there is more volume and movement behind them!

IMG_6955Across another bridge to our northern-most stop: the Spouting Horn. This was amazing for two reasons. One, the Spouting Horn itself, which is another blowhole, but unlike those we’ve seen today, it “blows” through a hole in the rock platform, under which the water has eroded a cave. The “blow” can be a spout of actual water spray, but more frequently takes the form of spray so fine it appears as water vapour, reminiscent of the “blow” of a whale! It’s pretty awesome!

We followed the trail down to the next viewing spot, but we were all getting tired and decided not to venture further down to the rock platform.

IMG_6963There were several people down there, though (way too close to the edge for my liking), some with cameras on tripods. There is another formation at the edge of the rock platform that causes interesting water flow patterns.

IMG_6967Lynnette assumed that they were watching and photographing that, but Roy wondered why they seemed to be looking out to sea. He started looking out there too, and sure enough, there was the second amazing sight: a whale!

IMG_6968Unfortunately it was a bit too far away for iPad photography. We saw it blow several times, and caught glimpses of its head and back as it swam close to the surface. Then it dived and disappeared for a while, but popped up again a little closer to the shore and swam around near the surface again for a few minutes. Fantastic! Again, a few great plumes from its blowhole and then another dive… we watched it repeat the whole sequence four or five times before heading back to the top of the trail, as it was getting late and Lynn wanted to be home before dark. What a wonderful way to finish our mini-tour of the Oregon coast!

We returned to the car and started the drive home, very satisfied with the day’s adventures and sights. I have all sorts of plans for our *next* trip, including camping and road tripping Routes 101 and 1, all the way between Washington (State) and Southern California…

There were plenty of leftovers from last night for dinner when we arrived home, supplemented with a few bits and pieces we picked up at the supermarket on the way back. It was a wonderful day, but we were very conscious of our time together coming to an end soon, so we stayed up quite late talking and just keeping company together. I will be so sad to leave here, and I’m fighting off the signs of the “going home” anxiety – going back to the same old stuff, going back to work, going back to the confined spaces of a house in Gladesville. I am looking forward to seeing Lou and the family though, and our choir friends. There are good things ahead too!

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Day 30 – A family day, and a night out!

We decided that today would be a “rest day”. We all have some home-based things to do – washing, writing (I’m always a couple of days behind with these blog posts) and paperwork. Lynnette also wanted to interview Roy to record his major life events as part of the Rankin/Hoch family story. As it turned out, it was a good day to stay home – the smoke from the fires had blown our way and it was very, very hazy outside. I could smell the smoke as soon as I woke up in the morning – Roy closed the bedroom window when he got up but it was still noticeable in the room during the day.

Of course, once we started talking about family memories, a whole lot of other questions came up – like what happened when (which year?) and in what order, and where the holidays were in each year, and why Lynnette was missing from one of the Christmas photo series! Obviously I didn’t have much to contribute, except to say that I was sure that something-or-other definitely happened in 1958, I remember it well because it was exactly four years before I was born!! 😀 But seriously, it was fascinating to listen to them talking and working things out, comparing memories and perspectives on their own and other family members’ likes, dislikes, characters and motives.

IMG_6801Some of the disagreements over dates were settled through an appeal to the photo record. I mentioned that I hadn’t seen any pictures of Roy as an adult without a beard. Lynn didn’t have many, but there were a couple from her wedding day (unfortunately he had his eyes closed in the formal one!).

IMG_6791There is a very handsome chap lurking beneath that beard! At least now there’s a chance I’d recognise him if he ever shaves it off, as unlikely as that might be, since he’s had it for over 40 years now! I commented in an earlier post about some of the photos of Roy as a child, and his lovely open face and smile. Now I know that he took that look with him into adulthood. Thanks Lynn!

 

Lynnette and I went out and did a bit of shopping in the afternoon. We drifted around looking for something “easy” for dinner – she wasn’t feeling much like cooking.

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Are they serious? People EAT this stuff?

I offered to throw something together for the evening meal – we didn’t want anything too heavy because this was the night we’d planned to go dancing with a local international Folk Dance group, Veselo. We picked up some mushrooms, eggplant, red capsicum, onions and tomato paste so I could make a pasta sauce. We decided NOT to go for the extreme decorated cake option!

IMG_0457After dinner we took off in the gloom of what should have been sunset (the smoke had turned the sun to a pink disc low in the evening sky) and soon arrived at the dance venue – a gym by day but a good venue for dancing by night, a nice timber dance floor and plenty of room. We were greeted by Sally and her husband Alan, who were setting up for the evening, and soon met Janet, who had responded to the email I sent a few days ago. They and the other people we met were very welcoming and friendly – the folk dance community is pretty cool!!

IMG_6808They did a few slowish warm-up dances, some of which Roy knew. I did a couple with them, and I think picked them up not too badly! (These are difficult times…)

IMG_6809Then Janet taught a couple of new (to the group) Macedonian dances – the first one I could possibly have done with practice but it did have a bit of jumping in it and I thought it was best not to try it with the music in case it was a bit fast (it would have been). My fused left ankle doesn’t flex of course, so I’m a bit wary of putting too much strain on that foot – it can’t really make up for the lack of “spring” in the ankle, and you need that for jumping.

IMG_6810From 8-9.30pm they do requested dances. Sally was running this tonight and went out of her way to ensure that our requests were included on the dance list for the evening – we really appreciated this, and it made us feel very welcome!

IMG_6811Roy actually led a couple of dances, which was good, and he knew quite a few of the others they did, even though they do some of the steps a bit differently. One that he led has a lot of fancy footwork in it – you’ll have to find the video on Facebook when I get around to posting it! I danced just a few of the slower ones – I requested Cobankat of course, which is my favourite. 🙂

They invited us to join them for supper afterwards at a nearby restaurant, but we were getting a bit tired, and Lynnette usually goes to bed around 9 or 9.30pm – and besides, we have planned a big day tomorrow with a trip to the coast. So we gave our apologies, invited them to visit Sedenka if they’re ever in Sydney, thanked them for having us and headed home.

Day 29 – Markets, lunch, some Eugene sights and a haircut

 

The Saturday markets are a Eugene institution. Arts and crafts, farmers’ market, entertainment and street food – it’s all happening! We had a quick breakfast and headed off with our carry-bags – just in case!!

IMG_6665They really are terrific markets – so much there to look at and to agonise over whether I can fit it in my luggage or not!

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I did buy a few little presents and a couple of things for myself.

IMG_6668OK, four things. I know, I know, but they were hand-dyed and will make beautiful shawls. Shut up.

The fresh produce is terrific – I love the displays, they just make me want to buy it all and take it home and cook for a week. And some of the cheeses… To.Die.For. Have you ever tried lavender cheese-of-goat?!? O.M.G. I wish I could bring some back but it would never survive the flight, let alone the trip through customs. And the chili condiments!!!! Gaaaaaaaahhhhh…..

There is a whole section of the market that I dubbed “the stoner quarter” – the air thick with the smell of burning weed (it’s legal here) and African drumming. There were a dozen or so stalls and stands selling brightly coloured smoking implements, themed jewelry and trippy artworks. Feeling considerably lighter in the head, we crossed the road and listened to the band that was playing while I did a bit more browsing. It’s very hard NOT to buy stuff – but there is just no way I can carry very much home with me.

After we’d done our circuit of the stalls, we were pretty hungry. All the food vans had queues and there were no seats free at the tables nearby, so we decided we’d walk a couple of blocks down the road, where Lynn knows that there are a few cafes and restaurants. We strolled around, admiring the brilliance of the street plantings – it reminded me of Germany a bit, with hanging baskets overflowing with petunias in extravagant full bloom and colourful flower beds at street level. Sculptures and street art add to the mix – sometimes with some embellishment from the locals. 😉

We checked out the menu at the First National Taphouse – a (mainly) beer bar with a few good counter lunch options.

IMG_6691The waitress was very friendly and we chatted to her for a bit, as the bar wasn’t busy. She gave us some advice about the various beers on offer – I’d never heard of most of the brands! Lynnette had a couple of tasting pours of pale ales before making a decision, and Roy tried a couple of ciders, choosing one with (I think) a blackberry blend (OMG!! THATS NOT CIDER!!!!) over another that was so dry it barely wet his throat on the way down 😉 I had a rather good stout, that was rich, smooth, a little bit creamy and not too muddy, and SERVED COLD!

IMG_6688The fact that I was drinking stout almost put me off my first preference for lunch – pesto and vegetable linguine – because they didn’t really seem to go together. IMG_6684

But I overcame that and ordered the pesto anyway, and I’m glad I did – it was delicious. Look, I’m Australian, I can drink beer with anything. And anyway, I’d drunk most of it before the food arrived. Lynn had a very substantial sandwich and Roy had shepherd’s pie (which would have gone better with the stout than with that bloody ribena he was drinking) 😀

IMG_6700After lunch, we drove down to the Willamette River where there is a trail that follows the river and a very popular bike path. Keeping off the path as much as possible is kind of desirable, because of the high level of bike traffic, so we ducked down to the river trail and followed that a little way.

IMG_6701Although it was lovely to walk near the river, the constant growl of traffic from the Interstate highway on the other side of the river detracted a bit from its charm.

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Lynn suggested that we go back to the car and drive a little further downstream, where it’s a bit more peaceful. We wound our way back via the riverside park, stopping along the way for me to capture in pixels some of the small things I noticed along the way.

Lynnette also wanted to show us the view of Eugene from one of the highest points around the city – the lookout at Skinner’s Butte – so we stopped there on the way to the river again. It certainly has a great view of Eugene, although it was a little hazy today. The presence of trees throughout the city is striking – and the result of a conscious effort by the city and its people to maintain and expand its “green lungs”.

Just near the lookout there is a rock formation that is strikingly reminiscent of the Devil’s Postpile, which we visited last time we were in the US. It is, indeed, a formation with very similar provenance: huge crystals of slowly-cooled basalt as a result of a magma eruption from the earth’s mantle far below. In this case, however, the locals have actually graded the various columns and routes across them for climbing! A number of local groups learn and practice climbing techniques on the columns – the diagram shows the classifications of the different “climbs” and their degrees of difficulty! Amazing!

We moved on, back to the river but a little further upstream, where there is a lovely rose garden and park, with a little beach where people were swimming and paddling. There was a wedding going on in the rose garden – a beautiful setting for their celebration, and a gorgeous sunny day for it. People were paddling kayaks and inflatable boats up and down the river, which seemed to be flowing fairly quickly in places – the boats tended to stick close to the banks rather than the middle where the current looked quite strong.

I walked along the beach to have a closer look at the large numbers of ducks and Canadian geese that were hanging around not far from the swimmers. There was some sort of altercation going on between the geese, they were making a great racket, honking and flapping their wings and chasing each other.

We strolled back to the car, past what looked like a community garden and composting station. Rows of sunflowers grew tall within the boundary of the garden – they looked so joyful, unflinchingly turning their yellow faces to the sun.

We walked back through the rose garden and headed home to unload the shopping and prepare dinner. On the way I snapped a few more shots of typical Eugene suburban architecture. One thing I do really like about the houses is that they’re painted in all different colours. I think I really like blue houses, in particular.

Only two more interesting things to report:

1. My much esteemed and valued hairdresser gave me a long-awaited haircut,

and

2. We had a visit from a deer, a buck with reasonable-sized antlers. Lynnette spied it when she took the garbage out to the bin late in the afternoon. It was nonchalantly chomping on the neighbour’s shrubs just across the road. She called us out to see it and we watched as it casually strolled across to Lynn’s driveway and disappeared down the side of the house. We went out to the balcony and saw it walk right on into the backyard, and settle itself down there. Who knows why? The next-door neighbours have a deer-proof fence – maybe it was casing the joint for a raid on their flower garden.

(It was gone in the morning.)

We’re planning a pretty quiet day tomorrow – family catch-ups, some recording of details for Lynn’s genealogy projects, and a bit of shopping. We need a rest after all these days of activity!

Day 28 – Trees and river – and cousins reunited :-)

It was cool this morning when we woke and it looked like an ideal day for a bit of a walk. Lynnette suggested the Mount Pisgah Arboretum. She and her cousin Barbara often walk up Mount Pisgah together but she hadn’t been to the Arboretum for a long time, so that sounded like a good option to try (especially since I’m not great with the steep uphill thing!)

We had brekky (I’m loving these eggs that Lynn cooks!), grabbed sunscreen and hats and off we went. Mount Pisgah is about 20min drive east of Lynn’s place, although it’s quite rural. IMG_6544The houses here are mostly timber – not so much because of shaky ground (although that does happen) and building regulations (although I’m sure they have them) but because in Oregon, timber has traditionally been both plentiful and cheap as building material (ever heard of Oregon pine? – well, it’s called Douglas fir here – and it’s not a true fir either. But I digress…)  I like this contrast of traditional older country house with the modern addition of a satellite dish for TV reception!

The countryside is quite dry, but the deep green of the pines, firs and cedars makes it seem less so. The Mt Pisgah Arboretum trails cover the area between the Coast Fork of the Willamette River and the summit of Mt Pisgah. There are lots of trails with grades suitable for a range of abilities. The Coast Fork meets the Middle Fork in a kind of wetland area a bit further north, to form the Willamette River proper, which also flows through Salem and up to Portland – it’s a tributary of the Columbia River that forms part of the border between Oregon and Washington. The map below shows the trails, with the ones we walked marked (roughly!!)

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We walked along the river first, which was lovely, although the environment is quite disturbed with what look like invasive species, I’d say weeds although Roy was more circumspect. It needs a good bushcare/regen group to go through it! But it was still really pleasant along the water with tall trees above.

The trees have a lot of moss and hanging lichen on them – quite spectacular in some places.

The river water is very clear and runs quite strongly, with gentle rapids in some places. We could see some tiny fish in the shallows.

The day was heating up but it was cool by the water – so tempting to have a little paddle (I always want to get into the water when I’m near it) – but we kept moving, because there were some arboretum exhibits we wanted to see before we got too hot and hungry! The first of these was the wetland display. The wetland area is currently pretty dry and overgrown, although there is a remnant swampy watercourse keeping the natural vegetation going.

As we stepped onto the track branching off too it, I saw something moving on the ground just in front of me – I’m pretty sure it was a snake! It disappeared pretty quickly into the undergrowth by the side of the track, but I what I saw was a long tail far too long to be a lizard, I would think. It was mostly black, with a pale stripe (probably yellow or cream) along its side. I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo. Looking it up afterwards, I think the most likely is the Western Terrestrial Garter Snake (Thamnophis elegans), probably the Mountain Garter Snake subspecies (T. e. elegans), which is common in the Willamette Valley. Although it could also have been one of the varieties of Common Garter Snake (T. sirtalis) – wish I’d managed to get a better look at it!

IMG_6588Donors have raised money to commemorate people who contributed to the arboretum – the wetlands exhibit includes a couple of these memorial structures.

IMG_6589The first we came to is a lovely woven-stick “tunnel” leading to a similarly constructed dome “hide” with observation windows and information about various fauna and flora, and a little observation deck.

IMG_6591When the water is flowing well, it must be really lovely spot for observing but at the moment it’s quite overgrown.

IMG_6597Still, it was good to sit and watch for insects and birds, to read the information and to imagine what this might look like in springtime when the water runs higher.

The second memorial structure is a beautiful little wooden bridge across the remaining swamp area.

IMG_6602We stood on the bridge for a long while, hoping to see something – anything – as we’d been a bit disappointed at the lack of typical wetland creatures at the earlier dome and observation point.

IMG_6604Nothing moved in the swamp below, although the occasional turkey vulture cruised overhead, and a crow called somewhere near us.

IMG_6603There was just one bright yellow lily flower in the pond, contrasting with the lime green of the tiny plants or mosses covering the surface.

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I couldn’t really get a good shot with the iPad but it was a very interesting flower – we had the binoculars with us so I did get a good look at it. It was one that had been described on the info boards back in the dome.

IMG_6606Then suddenly Roy spotted a frog, mostly submerged in the water (or mud), keeping nice and cool in the now-quite-hot sun, just below where we were standing on the bridge. You could see its head and snout, and a bit of its back, and a rough outline of its body and legs just below the surface.

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Play spot-the-frog!

Of course, once you’ve seen one and you know what you’re looking for, you start to spot lots of them – and lots there were, sitting on sticks protruding from the swamp, lying in mud under lilypads, covered in moss and swimming in the shade of the lily fronds… so exciting! They were quite big – probably about 10-12cm long including the legs. We managed to observe them close-up through the binoculars.

A group of children came down the trail with their teacher (or maybe camp leader – I think it’s still holidays here) – we made “shhhhh” motions and then told her that there were frogs – she in turn shushed the children and we all pointed out what we could see in the pond – the kids were really good, dead keen to see frogs of course! They were probably a bit disappointed with their lack of movement though, which is understandable. They moved on pretty quickly, and we stayed a bit longer trying to get a look at the turkey vultures through the binoculars. I think I put my neck out a bit trying to spot them in the patch of sky right above us!

Next we headed for the incense cedar exhibit – this is a grove of magnificent trees that provides a wonderful environment for all sorts of little creatures – insects, birds, lizards and snakes among them – and shelter for beautiful orchids in the springtime – unfortunately we’re a bit late to see those! There were many amazing tall trees with interesting shapes and markings – woodpeckers have been busy on many of them, although alas we didn’t see (or hear) any of them today.

IMG_6632The “Octopus Tree” is now roped off – it’s been loved to death by people wanting photos sitting in and around it, resulting in compacted soil and damaged boughs – but it’s still possible to get pics of this very full-of-character gnarled old man.

IMG_6638And then there are the young ones of course…

 

 

But lots of these trees are big – not at giant sequoia level, but a decent size compared to… say…. humans.

Along the trails they have installed some beautiful benches made of the timber from fallen trees – again, many are donated by and/or dedicated to members of the Arboretum, who have spent time there and contributed to its care. They’re great spots to take a breather, especially on a hot day.

The cedar trail leads back to the white oak savannah (meadow) above the river trail.

This is not a “natural” environment, in that it was created originally by Indigenous people undertaking controlled burning that kept the conifers back and encouraged the grass to grow with just a few oaks dotted here and there. The graziers who came later did pretty much the same job with cattle rather than fire – now they mow it. If left to itself, the grassland would gradually be reclaimed by conifer forest. Interesting.

IMG_6641There are some beautiful old oak trees in the meadow, as well as some new saplings coming through along its edge and on the other side of the trail. One young tree had hundreds of weird globules of different sizes on it, some on the leaves and others attached to branches and twigs.

IMG_6649They were easy to pull off the leaves, almost as if they were stuck on with light velcro. We had no idea what they were – the smaller ones were yellowish-grey but the larger ones were pale yellow with reddish spots. Quite intriguing! A bit further down the trail, we found the explanation.

By now we were getting pretty hungry – and it was time to head home anyway, because we had an afternoon visit and dinner date with Roy and Lynnette’s cousin Barbara, and we needed to have time for lunch, showers and getting ready for that. Barbara and Roy have not seen each other since Roy was about 10 or 11, as far as Lynnette can work out, so we’re all looking forward to this visit! Barbara is also the sister of Lois and Catherine, whom we visited earlier in the trip, in San Diego and Modesto respectively.

***

We arrived at Barbara’s place around 3pm. It was great to meet her, and lovely to be there to see her and Roy greet each other as long-missed cousins! Over iced water, iced tea and fruit juice we sat around and talked, with the cousins reminiscing and trying to work out dates, seasons and places for all the many rites of passage, holidays and other events that they’ve experienced over the last seven or eight decades, whether together or apart. Again there is that pang of sadness at the passing of time, the company missed and the scars of tragedy… But at the same time, great joy at the family connections, the shared good times and the celebrations of achievement across the extended family.

IMG_6654We were fascinated to find a wooden “stereoscope” on display at a side table. Roy remembered his Aunt Catherine having one – and this is the very same one!!

IMG_6651This is not all that surprising, since Aunt Catherine was Barbara’s mother – but amazing to find it here when Roy can’t have seen it since he was a little boy!

UPDATE: After reading this, Roy has corrected my account. He last saw the stereoscope at his Grandma Hoch‘s place! – That is, at Aunt Catherine’s mother‘s place. So that takes it back another generation to Barbara’s (and Roy’s and Lynnette’s) grandmother. Roy would have been no more than ten years old when he last saw this beautiful obect. These cousins are now around the age their grandmother was when she owned this – just thinking about that fills me with awe.

IMG_6652Barbara also has a full box of pictures for viewing with it – and she was happy for us to try it out. It was amazing – such a simple thing and yet so effective at creating a very realistic 3-D picture. What a gorgeous thing to have!

Of course the conversation turned to politics – we are back in our West Coast liberal/progressive bubble again – and again I see a determination to resist, to keep up the protests and the counter-narrative to Trump and the right-wing extremists he’s enabling with his inept and shambolic approach to the Presidency.

But also no real sense of where this will go – the vision of what the USA will be like in a year’s time is just not really there (whether good or bad). So people are overwhelmed – and older people not only afraid for their children and grandchildren, but dismayed at the thought of them having to fight again for the things they (and especially women) fought for in the 60s and 70s especially, but throughout the nation’s history.

We had to take a break from politics to order dinner from the local Thai restaurant – this took ages as we were all being ultra-polite in negotiation of menu choices, the balance of appetiser and entree (which we would call entree and main course – this is SO confusing!), quantity, spiciness… It was all good fun though, and we made very satisfactory choices in the end – spring rolls, rice paper rolls, a tom yum soup (guess who chose that! – but Barbara was also keen to try it), pad thai with beef and teriyaki chicken (I know, I know, not Thai but it was on the menu…)

More talk through dinner and over wine, about family, politics, education, environment, travel (Barbara is incredibly well-travelled and has been just about everywhere except Australia, China and Africa – so many great stories!) and anything else we could think of! It was lively, intelligent conversation and incredibly interesting.

All too soon it was time to take some final photos of the cousins together and say goodbye – it was past the bedtime of the young ladies of the group!!

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What a wonderful, entertaining and enjoyable evening – again, I find myself feeling incredibly privileged, and grateful for the opportunity to spend time with the fantastic women of Roy’s family and to hear their stories, insights and wisdom gained from their years on the planet. Thank you so much, Roy!

Day 27 – Another museum! Hurrah!

We slept in a bit, unsurprisingly! Lynnette cooked us a yummy breakfast of toast and scrambled eggs with zucchini, squash, tomatoes and ham. A great start to the day!

We had a conversation about Things To Do in Eugene. Given the extent of the fires, there seemed little point in planning any trips to the east of here. Lynnette would like to take us to the coast one day – when we were here last time we travelled south down the Oregon coast but didn’t see anything north of Florence. The bit of the Oregon coast that I HAVE seen is spectacular, so that idea sounded good to me! We will also be catching up with Roy and Lynnette’s cousin Barbara, who lives here in Eugene. And there are markets to visit on Saturday.

At Eugene Airport, I had seen a poster advertising a Museum of Natural and Cultural Sciences. It looked interesting, so I asked Lynnette about it. She looked it up and found that it’s on the University of Oregon campus, and opens at 11. We decided we’d check it out today. Another thing that came up was triggered by a newspaper article on a local international folk dancing group. They dance every Sunday night, not too far from Lynnette’s place. I emailed them and asked if it’s possible for casual visitors to attend – it would be nice for Roy to make an international connection with another dance group! They replied promptly saying that it would be great if we could come along – so that’s Sunday evening sorted out, too.

IMG_6542We got organised and headed off to check out the museum.

IMG_6543It’s only fairly small, but it was really, really good – excellent (if somewhat eclectic) exhibits and very informative interpretation of objects, natural phenomena and the interaction of human beings with the planet.

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Naughtylegs!

There was an engaging mix of passive displays, hands-on exhibits and good quality videos on various topics.

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There were so many things that I really like to look at – skeletons, fossils, rocks – and some terrific info on geology, climate change and the natural environment in Oregon.

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Ground sloth (NOT minced sloth!)

One of the corral fossils looked quite similar in shape to the things embedded in the limestone in Tennessee – I wonder if they are the same type of critter, or if it’s just coincidence that those crystallised shapes appeared in the rock?

At 2pm, there was an excellent talk on Oregon’s geology, which is both complex and fascinating, telling a story that involves everything from volcanoes and layering of the ocean floor to switching magnetic poles and continental drift. Soooo interesting, and I learned a lot about the continental drift theory, the formation of mountain ranges, how the different types of rock (igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic) are related and of course how all this applies to Oregon, and in particular to the parts of it that I’ve been to! Just great! Big thanks to Dennis, our volunteer guide and teacher!

By this time we were getting pretty hungry, so we had a quick look through the rooms we hadn’t seen yet so that we could get home and have some lunch.

IMG_6529One of these rooms was devoted to an exhibit about wolves, the role they play in ecosystems, and the controversy over whether they should be reintroduced to parts of Oregon, in the hope of bringing about a similar regeneration of the natural environment as was achieved in Yellowstone National Park (there is a good video about this, which I am happy to recommend now that I’ve seen it in a proper university science museum and not just on YouTube).

IMG_6225This exhibit also helped me solve another mystery – it included examples of scats, and I reckon the one I saw at Reelfoot Lake matched the coyote pretty well. But apart from an unlabelled photo on the Reelfoot Lake State Park website, I can’t find any confirmation that there ARE actually coyotes there.

 

We left the museum around 3pm because we were not only hungry but kind of saturated with information and learning! It was a good feeling – for a small museum it certainly packed a lot of punch! We decided that we’d go home to eat before going shopping (having learned the lesson well NOT to shop on an empty stomach!) We had a light, late lunch and then Lynn and I went to the shops to replenish our tea supply and get some extra salad supplies so that we could have leftovers and a big fresh salad for dinner.

After dinner we had a wide-ranging and very moving discussion about life, loss, parenting, kids and the hard work of avoiding despair in a grim world. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to get to know Roy’s family and to be able to visit them. And especially to hear the reflections and stories of the older generations of the family – they are are smart, tough and have lived full and interesting lives. There are happy memories, challenges, tragedies and celebrations, borne with the benefit of a thoughtful, analytical and compassionate view of the world, a belief in justice and the value of looking critically at experience and learning from it. It’s such a privilege to be allowed into their worlds and to glimpse the richness of all these lives well lived.

Thank you Roy, for sharing all of this with me. xxx

Day 26 – Back to the West

 

Another early start to get to our check-in at Nashville Airport. This time we’re flying United – we don’t particularly like them but it was the best choice this time on both price and timing. It was a bit confusing at the check-in desk because the electronic check-in terminal was right AT the bag check counter, which kind of held things up as people struggled with getting through the electronic screens. Or would have, if an attendant hadn’t come over and clicked everything through for us without even looking at us. So much for security and asking us whether we had anything dangerous in our checked luggage – not that we did, but she did the declaration on our behalf without so much as reading the screen.

$50 for our checked luggage eats away at the “cheap flight” promise, but we expected that and had factored it in. We went through security and Roy’s carry-on bag was checked, probably because we had food in it – sandwiches and cheese and stuff (because we know that United is shit and charges for food). Just as well we did bring food with us because they announced just before we boarded that there wouldn’t be any meals for sale on the flight (despite it being a five-hour trip). They hand out snacks (like highly-salted pretzels, or a thin wafer biscuit) and soft drinks but that’s about it. Oh, and you have to pay for in-flight entertainment, too. On a five-hour flight. FFS. The fares weren’t that damn cheap.

Anyway, we settled into our seats and at least were away more or less on time. We had some cloud but mostly in rippling or dappled formations riding just below us – quite enchanting to look at, really. There was no sign of the grey storm-clouds of the night before, and the ride was very smooth.

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The freeways criss-crossing Nashville soon slipped behind us.

IMG_6462And after a while, the lush green of Tennessee and Missouri gave way to still-fertile but more tamed landscapes: flat, agricultural land carved into fields and farms.

Then mountains, ravines and what could have been craters or calderas – hard to tell where, because you had to pay to get detailed flight info as well. And what looked like an open-cut copper mine – the bright blue area in the lower middle pic below. Then a mix of patches of agricultural activity surrounded by wide sweeps of red and brown desert, with harsh, dry ridges and mesas and areas that looked like they might be ancient lava flows.

There was, as it turned out, an approximation of the flight path and our progress accessible on the internal wifi link (which Roy only found once we were over Utah, about 3/4 of the way there) but it was pretty crude. United is shit.

The Sierra Nevada were unmistakable though – high, craggy, with quite a lot of snow still on the tops of the mountains. Spectacular, even from the air and partly obscured by clouds.

We could see a huge plume of smoke from a forest fire on the western side of the mountains, with the smoke sitting in the valleys all around, like great grey pools. Then across the Central Valley, where we drove only a couple of weeks ago, with its crop fields and orchards – it seems so long ago, and yet the time has gone so quickly. Soon back to desert and mountains again…

 

IMG_6493And suddenly, there was the Bay, the Dumbarton Bridge, San Mateo Bridge and the Bay Bridge in the distance,

IMG_6494and we were coming in to land and taxi-ing to the gate, only a little bit later than expected.

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We were sitting quite close to the front of the plane (Row 12) so were able to disembark with plenty of time to get to our gate for the connecting flight to Eugene.

 

 

We were on a small plane for the next flight, and in the rushed check-in at Nashville we hadn’t noticed that we were not going to be seated together on this flight. Never mind – it was only and hour and a half to Eugene! Back on California time (2 hours behind Tn), we were starting to get hungry, so we split our food up in preparation for the trip. Confusion reigned at the gate because there were four flights scheduled to leave from there around the same time – two of them had been delayed from much earlier so people were getting a bit antsy about waiting around for a couple of hours. The inquiry desk had one person on it and a massive line.

We spotted a group of people who looked like pilots and flight attendants, and I asked them where they were headed – it turned out that they were the Eugene flight crew, so I said we’d stick with them – after all, we’d be going nowhere without them! That was a good plan, but then they were called through to prepare for the flight, so we were back to the confusion of muffled announcements, cranky people and inadequate information on the screens.

They called the flight to Ontario first (it was running REALLY late) and then ours – hoorah!! We were running a bit late, but not too much – and I think they factor the waiting around into the flight time at these busy airports. We queued for a while before getting clearance to take off, but then the flight was pretty quick after that. We arrived only a few minutes behind schedule in Eugene – a tiny airport in comparison to SFO and LAX – small planes and a guy in a fluoro shirt on the tarmac waving us in to the gate. 🙂

And there was Lynette waiting for us as we walked through the barrier towards the baggage claim area! SO GOOD TO SEE HER!!!! I’ve been looking forward to this for such a long time! We picked up our luggage and loaded up the car, full of news and chat and stories. Roy and I weren’t particularly tired, despite being up since 4.15am Oregon time and it now being well after lunchtime.

Lynnette has only recently moved to Eugene after many years in Salem, where we visited her last time. Eugene is about an hour’s drive south of Salem, and is a similar size although quite different in character, I’m told. The first thing I noticed about it was how green it is – lots of large street trees and green grass verges, despite the dry weather. Lynn said that they could do wit some rain – it’s been a dry summer and there are lots of fires around. The smoke is making it very hazy – Lynn’s plans to take us to some lookouts are on hold, partly because the views will be so diminished by smoke, and in some cases because of road closures due to fire.

We arrived at Lynnette’s new home – a duplex in a hilly area, set among tall trees. There are other houses around, but they are well-spaced and it doesn’t feel at all crowded. There are birds and squirrels in the trees, and occasionally you can hear the rattle and warning horns of trains in the distance. It’s lovely!

We spent the rest of the evening eating, drinking wine, catching up on each other’s lives and stories and canvassing possible activities for the next few days – which we’ll finish doing tomorrow morning! It’s so good to be here and to be with Lynn again. We’re going to have a lovely final week in the US!