Exploring

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Gray’s Butte

Posted at a rest stop on Highway 395, pretty fabulous!

The tiny specks are birds!

Lake Abert

This awesome side car was made by its owner. How cool is that?! He and his wife were traveling with another couple from Iowa for eighteen days around the West and seemed to be having the time of their lives. Isn’t it marvelous to have friends!

The kindly side car passenger took our picture. Thanks!

Our home away from home at Summer Lake Hot Springs, the Paisley. The building is new construction and eco-friendly, with a lot of old and found pieces, very cozy and fine.

The Barn…

…and the pool it houses. Rustic, but much sturdier than it looks. The pool is 104 degrees of heaven, a slippery silica and sulfur-rich water that had us glowing, body and soul.

The barn glowing of its own accord at sunset. Your eyes have not gone googly, either, my tripod must have moved a smidge. I couldn’t bear not to share it.

We stayed two nights, and each morning, I got up before sunrise to watch this bit of magic on the front porch. It was well worth being hassled by insidious deer flies!

Summer Lake Hot Springs, back when I first heard about it, was camp sites and a collection of Airstream trailers. They still have them for rent, if that’s your pleasure.

Like Diamond and the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, there are a lot of birds to be found, and we spent much of our time gazing and listening. I’m pretty sure that’s a Says Phoebe. The egg is from a Barn Swallow. The hubster found it floating in the pool, rejected by its parents after the other babies fledged, ostensibly. Amazing how tiny nascent life can be.

The hubster, reading.

Soak. Eat. Sleep. Read. Repeat.

Do it and be glad!

Ross’s Geese, maybe, happily enjoying the pond. Until…

a mean old Coot (literally!) went Jaws on them. Not cool!

Nighthawk

I don’t know that I have ever been so enchanted by the sky. It dazzled at every hour: sun, whispers of clouds, thunderheads, orange, yellow, red, pink, indigo, full moon, and stars!

Late, for a very important date!

Saving the best for last:

Bald Eagle with prey

Great Horned Owl

Oh, Creation, you astound me at every turn!

 

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Baker City:

What a gem of a town, with an abundance of fine architecture under baby blue skies. We breakfasted at the Lone Pine. It felt like it was plucked out of Portland, with finely executed, yet simple fare, and impeccable service with a dazzling smile. A hush of Stevie Wonder singing on the hi-fi and lights dimmed to ward off the impending heat made for perfection.

The Strawberry Mountain Range and the hubster yukking it up for my amusement. I could not ask for a finer companion! Which reminds me, TODAY is his birthday. Send him happy thoughts, won’t ya?

Pelican and White Faced Ibis at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. So VERY many birds! I’ll update this later with all that we saw. Updated!

American Coot . American White Pelican . Barn Swallow . Black-Billed Magpie . Bullock’s Oriole . California Quail . Cormorant . Dusky Flycatcher . Eastern Kingbird . Golden Eagle . Great Blue Heron . Great Egret (or maybe Snowy) . Killdeer . Mallard . Mourning Dove . Northern Harrier . Red-Winged Blackbird . Sandhill Crane . Turkey Vulture . Western Grebe . Wilson’s Phalarope . Yellow-Headed Blackbird

Diamond, Oregon, population five. What a truly special place. A friend waxed poetic about the Hotel Diamond probably thirteen years ago, beautiful and remote, with one of the best meals of his life. We did not forget. Run by a father and daughter, with a mere nine rooms, it is quaint and comfortable with beautiful paintings and historical photographs lining the walls, an old timey screen porch to stave off hungry flies and wicked mosquitoes, and fine and hearty fare (this is ranch country, after all), served family style, every evening at 6:30. Book early and come hungry! And forget about television, phone, and internet, this is truly the back of beyond. A good book, the company of a dear friend (or new ones – Hello Diane, Manfred, and Paulina!), and the sublime scenery will be enough and more.

lupine

Our picnic in a grove of aspen trees at Lily Lake. There is something magical about being alone among wildlife. Everything humming and acutely alive, the pulse of the earth seen and felt and heard, I feel how small I am, how fleeting this moment, this breath, this life IS, and inhale ever more deeply to take it all in.

yellow indian paintbrush

desert buckwheat

 a tiny alpine penstemon, I think

indian paintbrush

desert buckwheat

wild onion

Steens Mountain and the Alvord Desert down and beyond. It’s a study in contrasts, with lush green, cool, crisp air, and a myriad of wildflowers flanking a desert that receives a scant six inches of moisture a year.  The wildflowers were magical, and I was positively giddy at the abundance and variety. Heavenly! If you know them, please help me identify what I do not know and correct me where I am wrong. I’d be most grateful!

We took the Steens Mountain loop road, the highest in the state of Oregon, which is 66 miles of, at the moment, very nicely graded gravel. We heard horrible tales of it in previous incarnations and were most grateful that it was Mini Cooper navigable, though the desert side is N O T for the faint of heart. A single narrow lane, with nary a guard rail and hundred-plus foot drop offs, the hubster and I white-knuckled it much of the way.

I don’t believe there could have been a finer end to the day and this leg of our journey.

Stay tuned for Summer Lake!

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And so it begins…

Breakfast in Pendleton:

Home of the Round-Up

Cabbage Hill View Point

Wallowa

Kombucha break in Lostine

Gazing upon the Wallowas

Toward Hell’s Canyon

Zumwalt Prairie:

Some fourteen miles of winding gravel wound us in and around one of the largest intact bunch grass prairies in the world. Vast, my friends, with us and the animals the only life for miles upon miles. I watched the hawk, a red-tail, I think, swoop down to seize it’s prey and carry it to the utility pole, the snake writhing and coiling some thirty feet from the ground. My heart quickened at the wonder and privilege of it all.

Filthy prairie feet

Wallowa Lake:

Our wee cabin was called the Fawn, and we loved it!

The baby robin was terribly sweet and let us get quite close before her unsteady wings carried her off.

I bought two books and some deliciously scented soaps at this gem of a shop!

Enterprise:

A sweet town full of kindly and hospitable strangers.

Arrowhead Chocolates

They gave us spoons dipped in chocolate while we waited for our treats. The hubster was in heaven!

Joseph:

Named for Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce (that last sculpture is his likeness), Joseph is a prince of a town. With a world famous foundry, beautiful landscape, friendly people, and Stein’s top notch distillery, it’s easy to find a reason to stay.

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Picnic

Howdy from a spectacular vacation picnic! The hubster and I took a most fabulous and restorative road trip around Oregon, twelve days and thousands of miles to nearly every place we’ve had an itch to visit these past sixteen years.

Oregon is home. The word resonates even more now.

I’m currently sorting through photos and recovering from a silly injury that, were it filmed by some bystander, would surely win a prize or go viral. Two minutes (I kid you not!) after starting to play tennis this morning my feet tangled, the racket flew, and I crashed. My palms, knee, and shoulder made swift and grievous contact with the court, while the hubster looked on in wide-eyed disbelief. It hurt like the dickens, and we got a marvelous laugh, but the marks it left are ugly!

A reminder to…? Laugh, surely. Be careful. Dust yourself off and begin again.

See you soon!

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Imagine this is your largest serving bowl, the one you use for a crowd (maybe just your kids!), requiring your giant pot for the water that takes ages and ages to boil. B I G. This is that bowl, and I filled it with cherries! Truth be told, it actually had more in it, another cereal bowl’s worth, but who in their right mind waits to dive in before taking a photo? Not me, peeps, no way, no how. Cherry bliss! I picked these myself, too, just down the street. How is that for local and organic? My neighbor’s tree was positively loaded with the ruby jewels. I wish I could say the same about mine, but, it did make great strides in the production department this year, with probably two dozen mouth watering cherries. Baby steps!

All of this stirs a memory, six weeks in France, one summer, eons ago. I studied in Amiens (World War I buffs will know this name well), a quaint town in the north, complete with canals and a grand cathedral (of course). After my studies were over, I headed south, to Paris, Bordeaux, Angouleme, Avignon, and Saintes Maries de la Mer. It was the first time I had ever been completely alone, and while this was fine the majority of the time, so busy with learning and exploring and eagerly filling my head with all things French, there were lonesome pockets. The hubster was thousands of miles away, and the void, of our enlaced hands and eager voices describing the essential and mundane details of our separate days, positively wrecked me at times.

But, like much of life, there are moments that enfeeble our dark hours with glorious beams of light. Mine came as surprises, like the man at breakfast in my tiny hotel in Angouleme. We exchanged pleasantries in swift French, and he was utterly shocked to learn that I was an American. “Except for Jodie Foster (on whom he had a serious crush) they do not speak good French. Your parents are from France? Your grandmere?” I assured him that my parentage was wholly American and positively beamed at relaying that my accent and vocabulaire were no coincidence but the product of diligence and a bit of love.

Another surprise came early in my voyage, when out walking in Amiens, I stumbled upon a concert at the Cathedral. I sat near the back on a wobbly folding chair, not expecting much. Then the music began, with the sound of string instruments performing fantastic acrobatics one moment and soulful pirouettes the next. Coupled with the dazzling summer light, the soft hues of stained glass, it was wholly transcendent, with me embodying every vibrant and luminous molecule in the space.

Then there were the cherries, the first of the season. I spied them from a distance, walking through an open air market. Cherries of my happiness, favorite fruit in the world! Salvation and balm in one, I bought a bag, one whole kilo (two pounds, three ounces just in case you don’t know), and ate them in one sitting. I have no memory of being too full or wishing I hadn’t, only the distinct pleasure of doing exactly what I wanted when I wanted and enjoying every minute. In hearty celebration, the very next day, I did it again.

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