Tag Archives: Oregon

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. 

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!

Southern (Oregon) Coast surprises

29 Mar
29 March 2019.
Where does one go for a break when one lives on the Oregon Coast? Another part of the coast, naturally.
When we lived in Portland, Cannon Beach was our coastal-town-of-choice. We usually enjoyed two, 3-or-4-night off-season stays each year, often with dog in tow. In fact, knowing we enjoyed Cannon Beach even in colder weather led us to decide to live on the coast.
However, in 30-odd years of living in Oregon, we had never ventured south of Florence! It was high time to go before the tourist season kicks in and Highway 101 becomes a convoy of gigantic RVs pulling tiny cars.
For one reason or another, we chose Bandon as our base and we were delighted with the decision.  It is less than four hours from home: far enough for a getaway but not so far as to require a driving marathon which neither of us enjoys.
Because the immediate post-Lewis and Clark history of the Oregon Coast is one of exploration and shipping, there are myriad lighthouses so in my mind I dubbed this The Lighthouse Tour, but there were other surprises awaiting us: among them, cranberries, sheep, and lakes.

Cranberries

I knew we grew cranberries in Oregon. I did not know they were grown so close to the ocean. Turns out Coos and Curry counties are the epicenter of the industry. The well-ordered, burgundy-hued fields would make Marie Kondo proud. There are many bogs and sloughs in the Bandon area but these fields, clearly visible from the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway (aka, Highway 101), were dry. Seems they are only flooded to harvest the berries. Wouldn’t that be fun to see?

We did not get a good shot of the cranberry fields, but they are not “bogs” at least at this time of year. They are fields rimmed with berms to allow flooding for harvest. Photo by KnightedAirs

Sheep

Who knew the southern Oregon coast was prime territory for sheep? As green as the area is, we felt transported to Scotland where sheep grazing within view of the ocean is commonplace. While sheep farms are not as common here as in the Willamette Valley or Central Oregon we also were not traveling on an Interstate so we traveled closer to the pastoral views. Something about sheep always makes me happy.

Sheep and cows graze with a view of the ocean, Cape Blanco,

Lakes

Oregon is not lake country. Rivers we have. The Pacific Ocean, of course. As I hail from “The Land of 10,000 Lakes,” Oregon has always seemed a little light on freshwater bodies. Driving along 101 south of Florence, there are a lot of lakes, some due to dams created by the famous Oregon dunes. It really is a peaceful drive from Florence to points south, unlike 101 near us. While the photo below is of a tiny lake, some are huge. Look up Siltcoos Lake or Tahkenitch Lake.

Lake Marie in Umpqua State Park, a stone’s throw from an ocean beach but fun — and safe — for kids and dogs.

The Trip

We spent four days exploring, mostly under clear skies. Bandon makes a nice base with some good restaurant choices, plenty of lodging options, and a choice of river or ocean views. We chose the Bandon Inn, on a hill overlooking the old town where one can walk to many restaurants.

Sunrise view of the Coquille River, Bandon, from the Bandon Inn.

Our travel day south afforded an opportunity for a few scenic stops between Newport and Coos Bay. One of our favorite coffee stops is in Yachats at the Green Salmon, with the best pour-over coffee we’ve found. Amazing pastries, too, and you could have a different sandwich every day for a month. They will lace any drink with CBD if you like. We never get past the pastries and coffee. Haven’t tried the CBD.
Bypassing Cape Perpetua, having visited there several times, we proceeded to the dramatic Oregon Dunes and the Umpqua Lighthouse in the eponymous state park.

The Umpqua Lighthouse still operates, now as a Private Aid to Navigation (PATON) as the personnel assigned to the Coast Guard station were relocated in 2008. It shines with a distinctive red and white Fresnel lens.

This is what people like to do at the Oregon Dunes. Only a few hardy souls out in March, but ATVs are available to rent at many locations nearby.

Arriving in Bandon about 16:00, we had time for a loop through the old town, where we discovered that night’s dining destination, Bandon Brewing Co., where pizza reigns! (Watch for a review over at Our Weekly Pizza very soon.)
Heading south the next day our focus was on Cape Blanco and Port Orford. Further south there were road closures and delays due to landslides last month, so we limited our wandering a bit. Cape Blanco turned out to be a delightful stop with an easy walk to the closed-until-April light. We were the only visitors on this warm and surprisingly wind-free morning. Imagine the hardships in living in this remote location when the light was built in 1869?

The Cape Blanco Lighthouse can be toured during limited hours, April-October.

From this viewpoint on Cape Blanco, it is easy to see how important the lighthouses were to ships navigating the Oregon Coast.

Port Orford is a dot on the map but Port Orford Heads State Park and a surprising ocean-front restaurant make it a perfect combination for outdoor fun and refreshment. Port Orford Heads offers a network of paths with remarkable views far out-to-sea made even more interesting by the unique rock formations. Here we saw one formation that looked like a whale and another resembling a henge sunk into the Pacific. We spotted our first whales of the season, beginning their northward migration to the feeding grounds in Alaska. It was shirtsleeve weather by late morning, convincing us that spring was at hand.

Lovely view of the entrance to Nellie’s Bay at Port Orford. From this bay, the Coast Guard used to launch their lifeboat. There is a museum dedicated to these brave “surfmen” as they were known.

Offshore islands at Port Orford Heads. This is a terrific whale watching viewpoint. See the “henge” far out to sea?

We could have spent the day on a handy bench overlooking the whales’ path, but growling stomachs called us to lunch at The Redfish. The cafe’s ocean view was surpassed only by the cuisine. Their fish tacos were the best I have eaten. Ever. Well-seasoned, grilled rockfish, encased in grilled tortillas (firmer for the grilling so they don’t fall apart) with a tasty, non-drippy slaw, and an underpinning of queso fresco plus salsa fresca. We passed on the fries and were rewarded with a large side salad dressed with a compelling citrus vinaigrette. I wish we lived closer. Or that they would move.

The Redfish Cafe at Battle Rock Wayside Park. best fish tacos ever.

Another day we passed in-and-near Coos Bay. First stop: Shore Acres State Park. Our promised sunny day started out with patchy fog and cleared to cold and windy near the ocean, far from the shirtsleeve weather of Port Orford. We were almost alone for an hour-long exploration that included the amazing formal gardens at Shore Acres, on the former estate of timber baron Louis Simpson.
From the website:
The initial holding was purchased from Louis J. and his wife, Lela G. Simpson, in 1942, and included the Simpsons’ oceanfront estate with its formal garden. Later additions were acquired from other owners between 1956 and 1980. The garden fell into disarray in the period 1942-1970 but it has been restored to perhaps an even grander scale than that achieved by Louis Simpson. “Shore Acres” was the name given by the Simpsons to their large estate on the spectacular Cape Arago sea coast. The house sat on a precipitous bluff overlooking the rocky ocean shore. The Simpson family was important in the development of the Coos Bay area, beginning with Captain Asa M. Simpson, who founded the town of North Bend after his arrival on Coos Bay in 1855. Simpson and his sons were leaders in shipping and the lumber industry. They owned land from Cape Arago to North Bend.

Almost alone at Shore Acres on a day of pounding surf and cold winds.

Dramatic surf at Shore Acres.

The former Louis Simpson Estate is now a state park, Shore Acres. I am told the current garden is more beautiful than the Simpson’s was. They have the best gift shop we’ve been in. Ever.

Found this tiny bunny having a snack at Shore Acres. We never see them in Lincoln City. He was so small, maybe 2 pounds.

Not far away, the lighthouse at Cape Arago once kept ships from harm. When you see the rocks all along this part of the coast, even far offshore, it is no wonder shipwrecks were common and lighthouses necessary.
Moving on, the aquarium at Charleston was closed (one of the perils of off-season travel is fewer days open and shorter hours) so we headed to Coos Bay. The heyday of lumber that built this port has passed but there is a tidy downtown core with a pleasant boardwalk and, surprisingly, a railroad museum whose open day our visit coincided with. Fish tacos from Sharkbites didn’t quite compare to the Redfish but they were of excellent quality.

Oregon Railway Museum. This outdoor museum is best savored on a dry day. You can walk through many cars, including some ancient cabooses. Limited hours.

There is a nice boardwalk along the waterfront of this calm natural harbor.

One can spend a nice morning just taking in the views from Bandon itself. When the sun is at your back, the Pacific shows itself best. Once again, we found ourselves virtually alone while we tromped around Coquille Point in Kronenberg County Park on a mild March morning. A lovely loop with vast views takes one along the cliffside to see the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge bursting with bird life. Table Rock, Cat & Kittens Rocks, and Face Rock are among the formations that capture the imagination.

Cosmo the puffin watches over the Coquille Point Nature Preserve. He is made of plastic pollution found in the ocean, part of a project called “Washed Ashore.”

Face Rock, one of the fanciful formations off the coast at Bandon.

While there are many dining options in Bandon — we tried several — the Bandon Brewing Co., Bandon Coffee Co., and Edgewaters were our favorites. Edgewaters was so impressive we dined there twice. Seafood Romesco (like a cioppino), a creative arugula salad, and a unique preparation of calamari caught our attention, as well as a decent local wine list. For the population, Bandon’s restaurant options far surpass those in Lincoln City.
I thought of this as The Lighthouse Tour as they are abundant on the coast. Between Lincoln City and Port Orford, we passed lights at Yaquina Head, Heceta Head, Umpqua, Coquille, Cape Blanco, and Cape Arago. But we found much more than lighthouses in our south coast break. Next stop: France in late April!
If you would like to know more about walks and hikes, head on over to Project Easy Hiker for a companion piece.

From Rome to Home 

25 Feb
25 February 2017. Moving is tough on every level. It’s non-stop labor, a constant stream of decisions to make, and an endless outpouring of money. After almost four months of transition, we have made the final move and are permanently installed in our new house in Lincoln City, Oregon (population about 8600). The kitchen is assembled, new flooring installed, walls are freshly painted, and we’ve slept here eight nights. The new shower is almost done. Maybe by Wednesday. We have a few boxes remaining and the office and guest room to organize plus artwork to hang.
Janie has settled in nicely.

Janie has settled in nicely.

Not surprisingly, we have some observations and musings about our move and new town.
Traffic Jam. Heavy traffic in Lincoln City in winter consists of more than three cars stopped at a red light. That will change when the tourists arrive in the summer, and traffic is a bit heavier on weekends even now, but what a pleasure it is to drive with virtually no traffic! We drive 28 miles to get to the “big town” of Newport (population 10,268) to shop at Fred Meyer, but considering it can take me an hour to go 10 miles from Beaverton to the East side of Portland to meet friends for dinner, the 40 minutes zipping along with a view of the Pacific Ocean makes me happy.
The shower in the master is not quite ready to use.

The shower in the master is not quite ready to use.

People are very trusting, Part I. There was no key to our mailbox in the development (14 households on our cul-de-sac), so we stopped by the Lincoln City Post Office and filed a request with the very friendly clerk. He said we’d get a call when the delivery person had changed the lock. No ID requested, no proof of residence. Huh. A week later we went back as we had not received a call. The key was there and another clerk simply handed it to us. No ID, no proof of residence required.
People are very trusting, Part II. We contacted a handyman service to get some help with furniture assembly (we cut a swath through IKEA to furnish the place), installing some fixtures, and getting the place cleaned after all the renovation work. A cleaning crew was dispatched and two strapping lads spent 3 days doing our punch list of tasks. The owner of the company simply emailed us an invoice. Never met us, never asked for a credit card nor a deposit. They did a great job.
The living room is waiting for a nice easy chair that will arrive in April.

The living room is waiting for a nice easy chair that will arrive in April.

Amazon and UPS instead of a moving van. On the occasion of my retirement in 2015, the government shipped back 1100 pounds of things we could not part with. It’s been sitting in storage in Portland. Artwork, precious family items, and model trains make a household complete, but you can’t sit on them nor eat off them. We also had a few boxes shipped from Italy at great expense; mostly clothes, some household items we cherished and could not replace.
The media room is missing a sofa, also arriving in April. Janie loves to sleep in the recliner, though.

The media room is missing a sofa, also arriving in April. Janie loves to sleep in the recliner, though.

Moving in we did not have the proverbial pot to pee in much less a bed to sleep in. (The house did come with two big screen TVs, however.) After the big IKEA sweep, I hit online shopping hard: Crate & Barrel, Wayfair, Potterybarn, Lands’ End, and especially Amazon. Most have free shipping if you buy enough stuff, or in the case of Amazon, have a Prime membership. We’ve always felt Prime was a good deal, but that $99 per year really paid off as FedEx, UPS, and the USPS dropped off a steady stream of Amazon boxes at our door. One single order was north of $2100.00 and the shipping charge was $1.00. I have not been able to figure out which product was the culprit as there were so many items in the order. We did not have to pack the stuff, we did not have to hire a moving van, but we had to unwrap a mountain of boxes. North Lincoln County Recycling has been very helpful moving that cardboard out.
The guys doing the flooring ran out of materials in our office so we had to wait a few extra days to finish setting it up.

The guys doing the flooring ran out of materials in our office so we had to wait a few extra days to finish setting it up.

Janie has adapted beautifully. She had been a bit of a pain-in-the-ass at Derek’s: very clingy, insisting on climbing on my pillow and sleeping on my head, waking me up with her twitching tail. We had to lock her out many nights just to get a few hours uninterrupted sleep. Upon arrival at the new house, she is back to her old sweet self. She fully explored the house her first day here and seems to understand this is her permanent place. She found cozy napping spots and has slept peacefully on the bed allowing us a full 8 hours or more each of the past few nights. And it is so quiet here! No motorini roaring past, not even barking dogs, and since our house has radiant in-floor heating, not even the gentle whoosh of a furnace. When it is clear, the stars look close enough to touch.
There is a lot of exploring to do. We’ve been non-stop on moving and settling in since February 8 and the weather has not been conducive to walks on the beach nor hikes in the woods. Today we finally had a chance to take a walk in the hills behind us and enjoy some sunshine and brisk (45F/7C) fresh air. It was our first real walk in three weeks.
We have come a long way from Rome, literally and figuratively, but we really feel at home here.
Now for a shameless plug: If you know of anyone traveling to Italy, please recommend they check out my book at Amazon. Walking in Italy’s Val Gardena is available worldwide in print and Kindle format.  I will be blogging more over at Project Easy Hiker if you would care to follow me.
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