A new adventure

31 Aug

31 August 2020.

When the pandemic began, we immediately thought – as many people did – of adding a new pet to our family. It had been nearly two years since Janie passed and perhaps now was the time. However, we held out hope that our annual fall trip to Europe would go forth as planned. After all, in March, April, and even in May, we thought we could put COVID-19 behind us as a country.

In fact, today is the day we should be winging our way to Germany to start our two-month trip. <Sigh.>

In July, we pulled the plug on everything we could cancel and decided the next adventure would be bonding with new kitties. Having only adopted kittens in the past, we set our sights on a pair of adult cats, bonded to one another, and started the online search of local humane societies.

two cats in a bed

Frankie and Esther cuddled up in their bed-under-the-bed,

The Oregon Coast Humane Society in Florence had a match for us: Esther and Frankie. A middle-aged pair at 7 years, they came into our lives on August 21. They are not sure about us nor are we sure about exactly what our relationship will be with them. What is clear: they are deeply bonded. Esther is particularly skittish, and only last night did she present herself for a drive-by petting. Mostly she runs to shelter when she sees us coming. Frankie has been allowing some petting and does vocalize a bit. They play with toys but not interactively with us. They love their cozy beds and wet cat food is relished. No one is losing any weight. They are sizable.

Living outside of the cat condo at the shelter seems to agree with them.

cat on a shelf

When we came to fetch them, in Florence, OR, at the Humane Society, Esther headed to a high shelf and had to be coaxed down.

Perhaps our perspective on cat size is skewed by Janie who weighed a hair over five pounds at her death (age 23!) and never topped more than 11 pounds. These two are solid.

This is a duo that has never had a forever home. Esther was once feral and both have been strays that only had one known permanent home – together –  for two years. Surrendered yet again to the shelter last May, they need stability and patient humans.

gray tabby cat

Frankie’s shelter photo. Handsome boy!

It is going to take time for them to adapt to us and time is something we have plenty of. They are ours.

Cat in a covered bed

Frankie thinks he is hiding in the hooded cat bed.

 

A coastal prairie and a peninsula ramble: Nestucca Bay NWR

12 Aug Deer

12 August 2020. 

A discreet brown and white sign points the way to the Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge from Highway 101. Although we have traveled this highway dozens of times in the past three years, we had never noticed the turn-off until clued into this new sanctuary by an article in Oregon Coast magazine.

A pre-hike stop in Pacific City was a bit out of our way but allowed us to fortify ourselves with an Americano and a fine sweet scone from Stimulus Coffee. A few hundred people were already hitting the beach, many carrying surfboards even at 9:15 AM. Not our scene.

Haystack Rock, beach, and ocean

Pacific City’s Haystack Rock, one of many along the Oregon Coast.

We backtracked a few miles to the sanctuary. The first pullout gives a view over grazing lands that provide important habitat where geese gather during migration and also over-winter. We will be back if only for that scene several times this fall. Moving on to the trailhead, we found a genuinely nice parking lot, newly paved and striped, with a convenient – and clean! – chemical toilet. The solitary car there at our 10:00 AM arrival was just departing.

One feels rather far from the ocean but even from the parking lot, the sound of the surf crashing is unmistakable. We made the first leg of our walk the Pacific View Trail, an all-access paved path that leads to a large deck with a magnificent view to the West encompassing the ocean, a haystack rock, and even distant Pacific City.

Haystack rock and ocean

Haystack Rock at Pacific City is viewed from afar at the NWR.

The Pacific View Trail traverses a rare coastal prairie, alive at this time of year with many flowering plants. Prairie habitat was once extensive along our coastline, but development has brought a loss of habitat and with it the decline of species such as the Oregon silverspot butterfly. Approximately 21 of the 35 acres of prairie habitat have been reestablished with native species and restoration work is ongoing.

Meadow and ocean

The Pacific Ocean viewed across the coastal prairie.

Birds Only sign

Stay on the path and no dogs allowed!

Sign

There is a fair amount of interpretive signage in the refuge.

The refuge is a study in contrasts. After the .63 mile out-and-back on the Pacific View Trail, we took the highly forested Two Rivers Trail to the confluence of the Nestucca River and the Little Nestucca River. The trail has modest elevation change and varies from gravel to dirt to grass. The only sound we heard was birdsong. One doe silently sought out tender shoots in an open spot. The trail ends with a view of the estuary where we found many waterfowl lounging on the spit and several splashing in the water.

Click on any picture for a better view.

We encountered no one until we were within sight of the parking lot after 11:30 AM. Apparently, most people start later than we do!

Having amortized the morning scones, we headed to The Riverhouse Nestucca, arriving just as they opened their doors at noon. It had been almost six months since we last visited thanks to COVID closures and restrictions. This day, we were the only indoor lunch customers (they have picnic tables in full sun) and we relished those Howard burgers and rosemary fries.

man and hamburger

Ric is ready to dive in to his burger.

hAMBURGER AND FRENCH FRIES

The Howard Burger at the Riverhouse Nestucca. Best burger within driving distance of our house.

My Fitbit clocked in at just under four miles and 90 minutes for both trails and a side trip to the picnic spot. This is a hike we will take again and again, especially with a favorite restaurant nearby. Sadly, no dogs allowed.

Woman and flowers

Laurel with the late summer daisies near the picnic area.

 

Escape to the Abbey

30 Jul

30 July 2020.

Summer in Oregon begins on the 5th of July is a trope oft-quoted in the Western part of the state. Following a “June-u-ary,” (not uncommon) even American Independence Day can be chilly. But soon the Willamette Valley (referred to locally as simply The Valley) gets its heat on.

Here on the Oregon Coast, our idea of summer is anything over 60 degrees Fahrenheit and when it on rare occasion reaches 72 we think we are going to die. It’s the number one reason Ric and I chose to live here; it does not get hot in the summer. We hesitate to journey into The Valley in July and August.

Last Friday we were looking for a day trip so we could vacate the house while our housekeeper came. The irony of needing to leave home for four hours so someone else can clean it is not lost on us; however, we choose locations where we can be physically distant from others. A hike is always a good plan and if we can follow a hike with a meal anywhere but at home, so much the better. It was cool in The Valley on July 24th so we dared to venture to the Trappist Abbey and explore the peaceful forest.

The Abbey advertises the Guadalupe Loop at 3.5 miles. Our Fitbits clocked in at almost 5 miles, accounting for a couple of spurs we took and the distance to-and-from parking. A good workout of 2 hours. While not a difficult hike, it isn’t “easy” in the Easy-Hiker sense. My knees wished I had taken my trekking sticks for the downhill portion and there were also some rugged sections on the backside of the hike where I was happy to be wearing hiking shoes.

This day was overcast and pleasant. We only encountered 15 people in two hours. Not sure I would venture here on a weekend or when it is hot or wet.

I’ll let our pictures do the talking but a few points of advice from our trek:

    • Take the loop in a clockwise fashion as we did.
    • In the rainy season, go back the way you came from the viewpoint. The section from the shrine and along the southern part of the trail would be very muddy when it has rained.
    • Trail junctions are marked counter-intuitively. Keep left except for the viewpoint, unless you want to take one of the “passes.”
    • The viewpoint is not well-marked. After making the left turn at an obvious point, make the first right you come to.
    • Take your hiking sticks if you have bad knees.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey’s peaceful courtyard.

 

Signage and map with history and rules. Put your cellphone on airplane mode.

 

The trail varies from wide “highways” to narrow, rocky, packed clay.

 

A family group was among the few people we saw. They pushed a stroller up 800 feet!

 

“The woods are lovely dark and deep…”

 

The view from the top is of Oregon vineyards.

 

Reflection in the pond.

 

Still smiling after an 800-foot climb.

Some of you sharp-eyed readers will notice a new link in the navigation bar, Masks to Benefit Food Pantry. I am making lovely, effective masks and selling them as a fund-raiser. I like to sew and after outfitting family and friends and still having a vast supply of nice fabrics,  I thought perhaps I could do some good by supporting our local food pantry while keeping myself occupied. LMK if you see anything you like and I’ll figure out shipping. 

Travel in the time of COVID-19: An Oregon Coast Adventure

13 Jul

13 July 2020.

Like everything else in the Time of COVID-19, our spring and early summer travel plans were completely upended. The original plan was Bandon in May to see the Shore Acres gardens in gaudy display, then an early July hiking and wine tasting adventure with Rick & Jane. Poof! Blown to pieces!

What could we do knowing Europe was building walls to keep out COVID-laden Americans while visiting friends and relatives domestically is unwise? Airports seem a little scary right now so flying is out.

Escaping to a different part of the Oregon Coast seemed a reasonable choice: just the two of us, with plans to minimize the risks by managing our approach to the situations we might encounter. From Lincoln City, we traveled to Coos Bay and Bandon-by-the-Sea. Outdoor activities, keeping to ourselves, and eating something we did not have to cook ourselves were on the agenda.

A reminder that masks are required!

The Southern Oregon Coast has not been hit hard by the virus. While that is really good news, we worried that the Governor’s orders and CDC guidelines might be poo-pooed. Happily, we found most businesses and travelers following guidelines. Several businesses tried to put some fun into the restrictions through creative displays. Some accosted customers at the door with a stern admonition to wear a mask. That made us feel good about how committed they were to protecting their employees as well as guests

High praise is due to Bandon Coffee Company and Edgewaters Restaurant in Bandon, The Pancake Mill in Coos Bay, Bridgewaters and the Coffee Roastery in Florence, and the Red Fish in Port Orford for showing they cared about both staff and customers by enforcing the guidelines. We made reservations where feasible and given limited seating we were happy we did! We ate a number of outdoor lunches and most places had doors or windows open so fresh air could break up those COVID-carrying droplets.

I don’t think I ever heard anyone cough or sneeze in our vicinity. (Except for me and my allergy-caused sneezes could raise the dead! I sneezed only when we were alone in our room or on a trail.)

I could watch sandpipers on the beach for hours.

A few places made us uncomfortable and we had to “walk” a couple of times. In a mom-owned diner with a high rating for breakfast, I was told by the owner/waitress that she could not wear a mask for medical reasons. That is outside of our comfort zone, so we moved on to our number two choice. At a busy brewpub/pizzeria there was strong signage for customers to mask up but three employees (cashier, pizza cook, and a kitchen worker) were maskless. Again, not to our standards so we moved on and this night we had a little trouble finding a place to eat as the town is small with limited options. Lesson learned: do not go out to dine without a second choice.

One restaurant added, “sorry for the inconvenience” to the sign on the door requiring masks, to me an indication they were not in compliance willingly. However, at the same place, which is in Brookings, Oregon, the hostess admonished people entering without masks that they were not able to enter unless they donned said protection. Some were aghast they had to wear a mask to cross the dining room. Good for her for being insistent!

Some servers we saw had mask-slippage problems leaving their noses hanging out. I wish I had traveled with a few of my homemade, secure-fitting masks to give out. I think I’ll pack some along on future outings.

Lodging services are, of course, minimal. I normally enjoy a few nights reprieve from bed-making but not so this trip. We made our own bed every morning and exchanged trash and towels at the door a couple of times.

Ric and friend on the riverfront in Florence.

There is beautiful scenery on the Southern Oregon Coast. South of Florence, we found far less traffic and far fewer tourists than we get on the Central Coast. There were longer hikes and shorter walks but we encountered almost no one. When we did encounter others, everyone was polite, stepped off the trail, and tried to be as far away as possible in passing. One little boy of about six had been well-schooled by his parents. As their party of four and the two of us each squeezed right on a boardwalk to give what distance we could, he loudly exclaimed “I don’t have to wear a mask because I’m a kid.” (For the record, we did not wear masks when hiking!)

All-in-all it was terrific to be somewhere different. After months of relative seclusion and hiding from our fellow human beings, different was good! We still avoided people, enjoyed the outdoors in very good weather, indulged in many good meals, and remembered why we don’t like long driving trips. Give me a train any day!

Here are a few photo highlights of the area. There is amazing food to be had, too: fresh as can be seasonal seafood from Oregon waters. Click on any image for a slideshow.

Bat stories

22 Jun

22 June 2020.

As physical wandering (girovaga means wanderer in Italian) is limited for now, our adventures are at home. A recent discovery led my mind to wander to one of our stories from Rome as yet untold in this blog.

It involved a bat.

Rome’s mosquitoes created huge itchy welts that lasted for days.

Window screens are a rarity in Italian homes, something I had difficulty understanding since Rome had vicious mosquitoes — Asian Tiger mosquitoes —  that make the Minnesota bloodsuckers I grew up with look benign. The site of a bite would swell up and itch furiously for days. But I digress.

Our Embassy-provided apartment had A/C and we used it liberally to aid in our sleep during steamy, mosquito-ridden summers. In shoulder season the fine weather was inviting enough — and mostly bug-free — to fling wide the windows and sleep with the ceiling fan caressing our bodies.

One fine night we awoke in the wee hours to see the cats engaged in apparently watching a tennis match: eyes right – eyes left – eyes right – eyes left, the distinct movement of following potential prey. “This can’t be good,” we said simultaneously and flicked on a light. What caught the girls’ attention was a bat flitting back and forth across the room! Ric ran out and to fetch a broom while the cats continued their eyes left/eyes right routine.

My hero took a swipe at the pipistrello (this incident improved my Italian vocabulary) with the broom, the bat dodged, made direct contact with the ceiling fan, hitting the blade which knocked it into a wastebasket in the corner. Nothing but net! I grabbed the wastebasket and flung the contents (only the bat as luck would have it, no dirty tissues) into the street four floors below, then slammed the window shut.

Not much sleep for any of us the rest of that short night.

This tale came to mind last week when we had some HVAC maintenance done and the technician reported signs of mice in the attic. I made a quick call to a pest control specialist who opined it was bats, that “everybody in your area has bat problems.” Great, His field visit indeed revealed bats in the attic, and way more than one, hanging from the rafters wiggling in their sleep. And lots of guano.

This is most likely the squatter in our attic. Not really dangerous to humans, it weighs 1/2 ounce but has a 6″-9″ wingspan!

Luckily for us, the attic is shut off from the house and only accessible through a panel in the ceiling of the garage. (Also accessible through some pin-dot of a hole as bats can get in through a quarter-inch opening.) Unluckily we cannot do a damn thing about them until September. They are protected under Oregon Law and must not be disturbed during the summer maternity season. They may never be killed. Big fine for poisoning or trapping.

A bat extraction specialist will need to be hired in September when the holes can be closed and a one-way, exit-only, no return valve can be placed so these insect-eating marvels can go out to feed but not return to roost.

We are exploring putting up a bat house so they can continue to live in our area, but far enough away from us that the guano won’t be a problem.

More bat stories later this year, no doubt!

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