Posted tagged ‘PNW beauty’

This Is My (New) Country

June 14, 2016

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I needed to get away. The news of the Orlando massacre was more than I could bear, and I was bone-weary after finishing my first year of school. I planned a little overnight getaway for myself, just me, up in Joseph, Oregon. Everyone said it was so beautiful, and that the journey was almost better than the destination.

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I headed out of town and up into the Blue Mountains, Very low mountains, but still.

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Normally it’s about two hours from Walla Walla to Joseph, but I dawdled along, stopping to take pictures. For example, the Blue Mountains are sometimes red,

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sometimes green.

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This was my first glimpse of the Wallowa River far below,

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and as soon as I could get right down to it I did.

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It’s no wonder that it was way past lunchtime when I pulled into the town of Enterprise, Oregon, and up to the Red Rooster Cafe. Which, if you’re ever in Enterprise, is a great place to stop, with food that really exceeded my expectations for freshness and imagination. And there’s also a Napa Auto Parts store, which saved my butt on my return trip by providing me with the new windshield wipers I’d been procrastinating about for the past few months.

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Pulling in to Joseph, with its lovely backdrop of the Wallowa Mountains, I discovered that every street corner displays bronzes from local foundries, to very good effect.

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This is Nez Perce country, and Chief Joseph presides over his former dominion.

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But I was staying at the Wallowa Lake Lodge, so after a thorough walkabout on the main street of Joseph, I went just a few miles out of town to the lake. The lobby is everything you would want in a lodge.

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And even the hallway was picturesque. It’s old-fangled, no TVs, no phones in the rooms, but, surprisingly, reliable wi-fi.

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The lodge isn’t actually on the lake; instead it borders the Wallowa River which flows to the lake in the very near distance.

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And here’s where the magic and the surprise entered the picture. My friends and classmates Kelly and JJ, by the purest coincidence, happened to be camping in the state park just next to the lodge. So they were able to walk over and sit on the lawn overlooking the river with me, and a really nice bottle of wine,

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before we had a pretty decent dinner in the lodge’s dining room. That was followed by a sleep with all the windows open to hear the tree frogs singing. Little did I know that what they were singing about was the fact that it was about to rain for the next five days. So in the morning all was sodden, but what is a lodge lobby for, if not sitting cozily and reading?

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I had planned a morning trip to the town’s foundry, which gives one guided tour each day, and then the rain convinced Kelly and JJ to delay at least some of their hiking plans and join me on the foundry visit, so what I had envisioned as a solitary trip was something entirely better.

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They make a lot of amazing things in that foundry, but we weren’t allowed to take pictures until the very end, in the Life Size room. This is a firefighter in progress, I think for a memorial. And indeed, he looks deathly.

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And remember that stunning eagle up top? Here he’s posing with Kelly and JJ, showing off his mighty size.

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Since it was raining, and Minou was home alone, I decided to call it a trip. But wait, I forgot to mention the distillery, right near the foundry. They give tastes, and those tastes are very convincing. So’s their story, since the distiller is a grain farmer who decided to turn his rye, corn, and barley into some really nice spirits.

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On the way home, just outside the little town of Lostine, was this perfect time capsule.

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The weather was still unsettled when I dropped into the valley, which was looking absolutely at its best. And then I was home, heart full of beauty and camaraderie, completely transported into another mind-scape after being away only 30 hours.

And I can report that Minou didn’t approve of being left home alone one little bit, and is still talking to me about it.

 

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Across The Divide

March 29, 2016

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If you don’t live in Washington you might not realize that it’s two, two, two states in one. Yesterday I crossed the great divide from the dry side to the wet side, from the Red side to the Blue side, from my new life to my old, sort of.

I left Walla Walla on a cool day and drove across the eastern part of the state where the wind was whipping hard enough to make gripping the steering wheel tightly a necessity. Then I crossed the pass over the Cascades, where the snow was piled high, but the roads were clear and dry. Descending towards the west, there was a little rain, until I arrived in Seattle where the sky was blue. It was a big transition, a some-of-everything sort of day, and it gave me time to think about how I was traveling back in time from my new home to my old, and what I might find there.

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The ferry gods smiled on me, and my car got the coveted front spot. I was dumbstruck by the beauty, and wondered how I could ever have left all this to move clear across the state to such a different life.

I came back to the island because of death, yet again. A dear friend died a couple of weeks ago, and I wanted to keep her husband company, and cook for him, stock up his freezer, and do anything I could. They were both 81, married for 56 years, and I knew he’d be lost without her, especially in the kitchen. I began cooking for him practically the moment I arrived, wanting him to gain back the fourteen pounds he’d lost in the three weeks since she died. I so much do not want him to disappear too.

As a wholly unanticipated bonus, the sweet guy who’s been renting my house offered to let me stay for a couple of nights, while he’s out of town. So now I sit in my old home, which feels half-unknown. His shared-custody teenagers’ stuff is everywhere, homework, school books, sports jerseys. Some furniture has been rearranged to make for easier TV watching as a family. My stuff is all still here, but now it’s intermingled with heaps of other people’s belongings, in a way that I find quite jarring. A welcome bottle of wine that I left for them seven months ago sits on the counter, unopened. Credit cards and checks (wow, he really trusts me) sit on a glass tray that I made last summer. The fridge is pretty bare, as mine never would be. The heat is on but the windows are open. But still, he put clean sheets on the bed for me. My bed, nominally, although now I hesitate to sleep in it.

The weirdest thing is that the island feels so beloved, so familiar, but the house itself feels alien. It’s about 2000 square feet bigger than my little Walla Walla home, it feels huge, although it never used to. It’s so quiet here, no sound at night but the ferries plying the waters in front of the house. My wine cellar hums away, cooling the hundred or more bottles I left behind. Men’s clothes hang in my closet, but they’re not Shel’s. My apron and knives are still in the kitchen. The cat door is closed. The plants by the front door need watering. Are they mine to tend?

Over The Rainbow

March 20, 2016

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Yesterday was a luxuriously warm, dry day in the country, until it wasn’t. To celebrate the first day of spring break, I drove through miles of emerald green winter wheat, and dusty dry-land wheat fields waiting for seed, and went to the stunning Palouse Falls, with these guys.

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Eric and Jessica are intrepid climbers and hikers, and we all wanted to get to the bottom of it all. But it’s a really, really long way down.

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See the teeny tiny colored dots in the bottom of the photo, like just a bit of scattered confetti? Those are hikers. Really brave and stalwart hikers, because there’s virtually no way to get down there, for a normal person.

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People had also managed to get themselves here, passing all understanding and numerous bright red warning signs,

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that cautioned that all evacuations of injured persons would be at the idiot’s own expense. I wanted to be there, on the edge of all that violently streaming water,

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and even more I wanted to swim in the undoubtedly frigid waters at the base of the falls. The descending terrain, through, was not my style, and the ascent, should one survive the downhill climb, was sure to have been brutal.

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This guy could have done it in a heartbeat, but even he was staying up where we were, on the sunny and dry plateau, not too close to the perilous edge.

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It’s a treasure, this place. A castle built by time and floods, breath-taking even if you don’t brave the climb,

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refreshment for the hot and dusty traveler. Because yes, on the day before the first day of spring, there we were in shirtsleeves, drinking rosé and picnicking on assorted fresh green foods, right on the edge of what the Missoula floods of 12,000 years ago had wrought. And it was very good.