Monday’s Meanders: From Sitka Sedge to Oceanside

It has been a week since I last posted coastal views, a time length unprecedented these days –unless I might be on a long vacation. How lovely that would be! But, no, it was less fun that that. I took it easy while my immune system responded to dose #2. I am raring to go again and glad to be at my desk once more.

During the latter part of our last coastal outing, we visited two favorites: Sitka Sedge State Natural Area and the village of Oceanside. Sitka Sedge is 357 acres of tidal marsh, mudflats, estuary and dunes. Sedge is a native wild grass both graceful and important to the ecological balance. There are forested wetlands and plenty of wildlife, including beaver, coyote, black bear and bobcat. It is a birders true heaven. We walked almost to the hidden beach and turned back; the hour was getting late. We wanted to start back north to another gorgeous beach. But there are 3.5 miles of trails we will get back to explore if we plan to start closer to this site.

Below, enjoy shots of Sitka Sedge. There were a few groups we passed; shortly it became deeply peaceful again.

We ended that meander and headed north to Oceanside. It lies a few miles west of the sprawling dairy farming community of Tillamook, where many of the best cheeses and other milk products in Oregon are made. I have visited Oceanside ever since I was 42 and first moved to OR. permanently with two of my teenaged children. My sister, Allanya, owned a weekend house with a chunk of land down the way on Whiskey Creek Rd. for many years, as well. (Some of us thought it haunted, but we stayed overnight often, anyway. The deer in the watering hole behind it were beautiful to discover.)

Oceanside can get very crowded anymore–but we still love it there. The landslide that occurred at its beach earlier this year was cleaned up. All seemed safe enough, for now. Below, part of the village on the hill. The clifftop motel is not far from the landslide point. I wonder if it will finally close. We stayed there decades ago–quite a view!

Here is a slideshow for better continuity as the late afternoon melded into evening.

Everyone seemed so happy to be in the salt sea air, basking in early spring sunlight and moving through sunset magic. I hope you can find a place to breathe deeply and explore nature more soon. Find the wonders of coming days and nights or, at the least, share kind exchanges, and I’ll see you Wednesday with a longform/creative nonfiction post.

Monday’s Meanders: North Pacific Coast/Oregon Pleasures

A viewpoint between Neskowin and Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

We made it to the sea–and more–once again! Such a relief to get out of the sprawl of the city and into mountains, then onto the beach.

It was a heavenly day trip when last Wednesday we travelled a swath of the north Oregon coast from morning until very late at night. There was no plan except to begin at Neskowin, a coastal village we enjoy with its weather-beaten houses, general store and restaurant; there is also a golf course. And the beach, which is 3 miles long. The off-season (or mid-week, fall through early spring) seems to draw fewer people than some spots. But it’s not all about the ocean at the coast, either–there are many landscapes to explore, including trails at nearby Cascade Head that I’ve yet to explore much.

Proposal Rock-named by a 19th century settler whose daughter became engaged there.

Then we thought we’d go to Oceanside, an old favorite I hadn’t seen since a significant landslide earlier in the year. It would entail a very photo-dense post to share even half of what was experienced. Today I’ll begin with Neskowin State Park, then follow with Nestucca Wildlife Preserve. (The rest will be duly shared in upcoming posts.)

Below, an easy access trail to the right of the water leads past the store and an inn and then to Neskowin Beach State Recreation Site.

Above and below, a calm inlet and part of Slab Creek, which empties into the sea.

Next, on towards Nestucca Bay area. We have driven past many times, so this trip we stopped.

We arrive at the Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge and marvel that we never stopped before. There is so much to experience along the Pacific Coast–never a dull trip! This refuge of coastal prairie, marshlands, forest and meadows is wonderful. Many species of shorebirds, songbirds, raptors and more–and supports the coastal wintering of Dusky Canada Geese.

Per the government website since it is so well said: “Nestucca Bay, at 1,202 acres, is the largest refuge within the Oregon Coastal Refuge Complex. Located where the Nestucca and Little Nestucca rivers converge and debouch into the Pacific, the refuge is managed to provide wintering habitat for six subspecies of Canada Geese, including Aleutian and Dusky Canada Geese. The refuge also hosts several species of dabbling ducks, shorebirds and raptors on at least seven distinct habitat types.

And, additionally: “In addition to the salt marshes, mudflats and labyrinthine tidal creeks characteristic of estuaries, Nestucca Bay NWR features an array of distinct habitat types, including pastures, grasslands, woodlands, freshwater bogs and forested wetlands.” 

Taking a short drive to a parking area, we then walked up a trail to the top of the overlook. Many raptors and songbirds delighted. The vista was wide and far, the air so clear and bright–and the sun shone surprisingly hot. We were the only ones at a viewing platform, and the feeling was one of freedom and peace.

We determined that we’d hike the long trail into more forested land next time–although I am a bit wary of bobcats showing up, I would love to see–or at the least see evidence of–Roosevelt Elk, black-tailed deer and coyotes, and also mink, river otters, beaver and more.

After a pause for lunch, it was time to keep travelling along the West Coast highway, 101, to first revisit Sitka Sedge and then Oceanside. More to come next week!

(PS Number two COVID-19 shot is this Wednesday. Number 1 was a quite alright experience. So I’ll write a creative nonfiction post if feeling fine. If I do need to rest, I hope to return for my usual “Friday’s Poem” post. If not, then see you next Monday. Enjoy the unfolding of spring, if that is your season now. Step outdoors, find big and little joys, pass along peace.)

Monday’s Meander: Winter Solstice and a Crystal Springs Wintering

I won’t see the great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn tonight; the skies are cloudy, air is clogged with rain, and 15-20 mph winter winds howl. But the Winter Solstice with its longest night and shortest day of the year holds meaning for me. It is reminder to be quietly patient as we wait with the darkness for the coming of more light. Winter will give way to greater sunlight gradually and with it, rebirth. Such cycles of nature comfort and instruct. They deepen my sense of unity and wholeness both within and without.

That said, I once more turn to Mother Nature’s offerings. It has been too long since I wandered through one of my favorite local islands of peace and beauty, Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. The last visit was in late summer, but usually a family member or friend and I visit each season. Therein grow such lush flowering plants and trees–as well as omnipresent “rhoddies” and azaleas. And, as well, a pretty larger pond plus smaller one and a musical waterfall. There are ample nooks and crannies to sit and meditate. Waterfowl settled in there live quite cushy lives.

Every season has its attributes. It is attractive in winter, as well. These photos are ones taken years past; they were chosen for some good winter memories. There may be less variety of color, and more water from the heavy rains that dominate late fall to spring. The tones are soothing with a softer palette. Some were taken in November, others in January. Several kinds of flowers begin to bloom in later Dec. I’ll be glad to also share the garden in full splendor by spring and next summer.

May this coming week be kinder and strength of hope keep you; don’t forget to find solace in nature’s ways.

Monday’s Meanders: Walking an Aged (Suburban) Volcano/Giving Thanks

One view from Nansen Summit, Mt. Sylvania

Our travelling days are on pause, but we can walk daily into the embrace of nature within our neighborhood. If all trails were completed, we’d knock off a robust 8 miles. This is very hilly country with plenty of steeper ascents and descents. There are also several tributaries of creeks emptying into the Tualatin River and Willamette River and Oswego Lake. Walking carries us around/about an extinct volcano, our old-timer Mt. Sylvania. When we first moved out here, I was amazed every time out I discovered more paths that interconnected and took me pretty places. You can never get lost; the paths intertwine.

As a refresher for older readers and intro to new: Mountain Park is an award winning area of Lake Oswego, OR. designed in mid-to-late ’60s. It covers 200 acres of land–forest, riparian and wetland. And it culminates in the extinct volcano’s summit elevation at 975 ft. with panoramic views walking around the path. Well, that’s isn’t very high….but since Portland metro is in a valley, it is here. (Driving down to city center, my ears actually pop…a swift descent.)

I can’t take you to every park and greenspace today. But I’ve posted often about area trails. The photos here are recent–some taken today–and highlight parts of what I enjoy about living in this emerald paradise, on the volcano’s slopes. (Portland, FYI, has other volcanoes.) A majority of Mountain Park trails are paved and wide so it’s an easier time of it…especially appreciated during sodden winters with near-daily rains through spring–and handy for the mandate of social distancing, even outdoors. Let’s get walking.

I love the mossy rock walls along many paths.
This shot and the one below…show a part of
…the neighborhood’s largest greenspace, undergoing restoration and storm water management.
This view of another portion was taken a couple wks. ago–leaves were still hanging on more. Like taking a break here on a bench, wandering along the narrow tributary behind greenery.
Note the well-fed squirrel on the right of the wood pile. He looks…utterly stuffed.
The ubiquitous but pretty ivy…cannot keep it at bay for long.
A lovely park for dogs with their people. It is actually downhill to this fairly flat spot.
People leave painted rocks along the path for all to enjoy.
Glimpses of the Coast Mountains beyond foothills–1.5 hours from us is the Pacific Ocean.

Got to keep on moving! I pulled a leg muscle two weeks ago and it’s finally healing! It was tough to sit out the hiking I crave–state parks became more beloved this summer and fall. Now it doesn’t bother me to climb stairs and hills so I at least can relish faster, longer, more challenging walks again. Walking–and hiking– cures almost anything that ails me, keeps me wide awake to mysteries of this earth and the pleasures of movement. Marc caught me, below, as I crossed a favorite bridge.

We have several tunnels under streets for safe passage. Marc is making his way through one.
The other side–one for each direction.
I paused and considered this path. We like this climb up but it gets very muddy. Since it becomes quite steep, it is easy to slide back in spots . Waiting until it stops raining a couple days!
The view of the sunset beyond the living room window when we got back.

We were home in an hour, a common walk time. I hope you enjoyed a glimpse of our wintry neighborhood walks. It can seem overfamiliar at times, but I feel fortunate to have easy access to trails/pathways–I walk out our door, go uphill or downhill and take off. My long ago repaired heart has gotten even stronger since, according to my cardiologist, I am completing a kind of circuit training here–and longer, more arduous hikes in the country. Being 70 is pretty good–despite aches and twinges that come and go– as long as I can walk and hike nearly every day! It is that valued.

Looking forward: I hope to have time to write the post on Wednesday, as usual. But that depends on how my baking goes. Since we aren’t gathering our big family for Thanksgiving due to the state lockdown/risk of contracting the virus, I have baking plans to help make up for it. I’ll share the results with my adult children and grandkids on Thursday.

Well, be kind to one another, practice self care. Live in peace as much as possible. I am counting my blessings daily despite challenges. I know you will find yours, too. Despite losses and sorrows we must bear sooner or later, we keep on, kindle hope in any small way. It is better to live in good faith with gratitude–and I thank God for the breath to do it–than to give up and miss all the moments of splendor we can find or create.

PS I have an anniversary today: after ten years of WordPress posts, I still very much appreciate your presence. Thank you for being here, to partake of my life and to let me enjoy some of yours in return. I have gotten through many trying times and celebrated wonders and triumphs while creating and offering these stories of healing and hope. And I have had much fun participating in the blogging world! So many fascinating people living rich lives–and people overcoming huge odds and making the world a better place. From my heart to yours, do take good care. I sincerely hope you can feel the love for life and humanity that I mean to share with you.

Monday’s Meander: Elegance of Trees at Champoeg State Heritage Area

Champoeg State Heritage Area is 615 acres is chockfull of delights. Since we are more used to forays through more densely forested trails, we were immediately drawn into wide open fields, wetlands and forests that fan out from the Willamette River. Many paths were paved, also not as usual for hikes, and some of the area was spruced up, likely due to campground facilities nearby.

It is known for its 130 bird species, including the western bluebird, and is a historical site. In 1843 it became the site of Oregon’s first provisional government. A small town flourished there until swept away by flooding in 1861. Now, well favored campgrounds offer many tent campsites, yurts and cabins as well as space for RVs to set up. The campsites were full up.

Closed Visitors Center.

We set out on a portion of the 8.6 mile loop trail. many were doing the same walk, as it was the quintessential autumn day, cool and bright. I was enthralled with the many types of deciduous trees, being more used to pines–and the rich light that sifted through branches and washed over open land. The colors were rust, yellow and orange as well as our NW green. A banquet for the eyes. The air was fresh–it was healing just to breathe that air, as is generally the case when walking in nature. But this was an exceptionally beautiful day.

We left the trails and headed up to the Manson Barn and Farmstead, with garden, from the 1860s.

I will return to this lovely place even when it rains as the trails make it easy to walk a good distance in any weather.

See you next time!