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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!

Week Two draws to a close

27 Mar

27 March 2020.

Pity the journalists reporting today. By the time they write something the situation has changed. I feel the same way. I was going to blog about our Maui trip, but it seemed misplaced as we returned to the hockey-stick upswing in COVID-19. Now that trip seems like a distant memory and we just returned to Lincoln City two weeks ago today.

Green sea turtle on “our” beach.

We are lucky we were not forced to shelter-in-place in Hawaii. It may seem heavenly, but we all longed for our beds and at $299 plus taxes, fees per night for a condo, high food costs, and car rental, mannaggia! (Italian expletive you can decipher yourself) we could not afford to stay there longer!

Quarantine, self-isolation, social-distancing, whatever you call it (yes, I know there are differences but permit me), even those of us whose religion is Practicing Introvert are finding this challenging and I know it is not going to get easier. Following news from my friends in Europe tells me we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Lincoln City is rather removed from the mainstream. We don’t have a rush hour, except when tourists flock here for spring break. Then we get traffic jams in the afternoon. Spring Break had a non-commital start and canceled lodging reservations were a top story on March 16. That changed when the housebound Valley People decided to take advantage of the good weather and escape to the beach and other rural areas. March 21st saw our county overwhelmed with claustrophobic city people thinking they could social-distance themselves here at the beach. Not good for the elderly population of our town that only has two industries: tourism and retirement. Our 24-bed hospital is not going to handle an onslaught. Weekends, where our <9,000 population surges to 40,000 people, are bad enough, and that usually brings cases of sunburn, sprains, and broken bones. Now the governor, our mayor, and the county commission have decreed no short-term rentals. All beach parking is closed as are the parks and open spaces. No hiking in State Parks.

Empty Outlet Mall, spring break under quarantine.

Speaking of the elderly, I do not identify with my age group. I am energetic, technologically savvy (mostly), in decent shape, and deplore talk about aches and pains and insurance plans. Yet here I am avoiding the gym, going to the grocery store at odd hours, standing 10 feet away from neighbors to chat. Thank God the weather has been (mostly) good so Ric and I can walk in the woods (mostly) alone.

Even the Chinook Winds Casino closed. Never before.

Some days I ask myself,” Coronavirus or Allergies?” I started with weepy eyes and stuffy head in February and after a few days reluctantly started self-medicating with Zyrtec and Flonase. In Hawaii even that combo could not overcome everything that assaulted my senses. Of course while we were there the COVID-19 was ramping up outside of China, Italy went on lockdown, and I started to wonder if I was Connie Corona. Happy to report that it is allergies and I will live this way until December, if 2019 is any indication.

While far from bored, I find myself reacting much as I would during a snow siege. Oregon doesn’t do snow well and we have been cooped up for as long as a week by weather. (Portlanders, remember Christmas 2008? My car was frozen to the driveway for 8 days.) On those occasions I obsessed about weather news, looked for any opportunity to safely leave the house, and focused entirely too much on what we were going to eat next.

This siege is not that different except my focus is on the overwhelmingly depressing news and I realize it is not going away as fast as snow and ice.

Homemade PPE available in Patriotic, Sterile White, and Rainbow Dots.

Like anywhere else, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is in short supply in Lincoln County. The call went out for homemade masks to augment the various medical masks in use. I think these will be used in hospice, nursing homes, and so on to free up masks for hazardous use. My sewing machine at the ready, I sought out supplies so I could help. There is no suitable elastic available but scads of fabric. I scrounged up yards of trim to make ties for the masks and managed to turn out 18. This took waaayyyyy longer than I expected. A seamstress in a factory could probably turn one out in 60 seconds. Me? About an hour-per-mask what with measuring, cutting, pinning, sewing, turning, pleating, and top-stitching. With the cost of what I used for ties, even a government contract couldn’t pay the per unit price. Luckily, it’s a donation.

I will make more if they are needed. Maybe sew my own bias ties, which is an ugly chore.

We are trying not to stress eat. In the words of Private Benjamin: “I want to go out to lunch!” How remote that simple pleasure now seems!

I am overly watchful of our food supplies. I stuffed the freezer with homemade soups before we traveled but suddenly it was gone. We are not “stockpiling” but we had some challenges getting that two-week supply in the house instead of going to the store daily as was our habit.

The big gastronomic treats recently: homemade black bean breakfast burritos, a shared raspberry scone last week from our favorite coffee shop that has now closed, Alexa Sweet Potato Fries alongside our turkey meatloaf, and Papa Murphy’s Pizza with beer for Ric’s birthday. We have not started day-drinking (yet).

Yesterday we loaded up on some produce to freeze. My God, what a chore that is! Chopping, blanching, chilling, drying, freezing in pieces before you can finally put it in a storage bag. We have time but that is not how I expected to while away an afternoon.

My two post-Maui projects were to be ancestry research and actually studying Italian as my grammar is getting pretty lax. I dabbled in each until the mask project took me away this week.

My paternal genealogy is a bit of a mystery due to adoptions and divorces. Of course it is too late to ask anyone who might have been keeping a secret so I am starting down the path of researching public records. My father was adopted by his mother’s second husband when he was about 14. This is family knowledge. But I cannot get his actual birth certificate until 100 years after the date of the adoption which is still about 15 years in the future. I am using Ancestry.com to try and determine some details. No doubt I will have stories of this journey to tell one day. Now that the masks are made, I might make some progress.

We are not binge-watching any more than usual. We usually have a series going and recently landed on the dark-but-funny “Fargo” TV series. How I love that Minnesota accent! We are always behind the curve on TV as so much was released while we were living in Italy and we had no idea about series streaming here. Catching up has left us with an endless list so as long as Internet service continues to be robust we won’t run out of entertainment.

Maybe my favorite meme so far. Working from the office vs. work-at-home. Have you seen the movie “The Two Popes?”

Studying Italian at the dining room table will take a lot more discipline than I seem to have at the moment. If the Internet fails, there’s always studying or more sewing.

How are things going for you? What activities are keeping you going?

Maui super moon from our lanai.

These clothes won’t see the light of day again for a few months.

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