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: More Spring to Bless the River

It’s been awhile since I took you along portions of the Willamette River– as well as the smaller Tualatin River, which flows east into the Willamette. I’ve trekked many a riverside mile the last year and more–but in early spring it gets a bit more interesting. It always gives me a lift to see spring flowers poking up from the ground, the unfurling tree leaves and buds on bushes. Here in Oregon we have had the usual cold rains and then a terrible ice storm–it has also been an often glum winter, as it has been for us all to one degree or another. I’ve lately heard many more birds, and think they sing out differently. Today there was a “varied thrush”, it’s clear and seemingly random notes startling and lovely. Many hummingbirds are out and eagles and hawks. And a noisy bee buzzed right over the top of my head, despite the temp lowering awhile to upper forties today. (We had a mix of rain and sleet on the way home for a few moments.)

Well, spring arrives in fits and starts– for human and all others.

These photos are taken around various parts of the rivers near home the last two weeks. We start at the Tualatin Greenway Trail along the Tualatin River. Wandering through woods, seeing the muddy, at times swift water flow, spotting opening blooms as well as people out and about was cheering. Plus, there is greater evidence of fishing and pleasure boats about, as well as a marina with a couple yachts rocking dockside. But much of the recent walks were peaceful and quiet along the treed, often steep river banks.

People playing golf across the river at the Tualatin Country Club.
Wetlands by the Tualatin–spotting a white egret.

BELOW: On to the Willamette in an area we frequent often. Form a bridge, I noticed a grandfather and a grandson, I think, having a nice time offering food to the ducks. A fishing boat with two, maybe three, fishermen waiting wth rods in the water quietly beyond trees and bushes. (In MIchigan when I sort of fished with my first husband on a lake, we called it “trolling.”)

So many more trees have fallen or are being cut for reuse since the ice storm we had over a month ago.Below, someone is grilling or about to!
A surprisingly large hummingbird perched a few moments-then dashed off right in front of me.
A not-surprising number of people flocked to the river shores to kayak and wade in the water or just hang out with family or friends–but still cautiously, overall. Hearing children laugh and dogs playfully bark was a wonder.

Spring is coming, we can count on that happening in all its curious, beautiful ways.

As an aside, this Wednesday I’m supposed to get my first vaccination, so may not be writing a short story, as I do twice a month. Still… I may be writing like mad to get the story done before midnight, as usual. In any case, hope you find some spring –and see you soon!

Wednesday’s Words/Nonfiction: Muddling Through Winter Toward Spring

I was right here today, glory be! Out in fresh air warmed by copious and democratic sunshine, it’s illumination awakening all.

I pride myself on not being prone to emotional changes due to weather’s fluctuations, and am alright with the rainfall we get half the year, mostly. But after our historic ice and snow storm over a week ago, and 2021 still unfolding within a tenacious pandemic–well, the weather finally got to me. There has been such damage all about us. I keep taking pictures, as if daily documentation will help to accept it. I know broken, splintered and fallen trees and bushes will heal, come back–or they will not and decompose as nature intends. Still, I got good and tired of it all and by the looks on people’s faces the last couple weeks, I was not the only one. Even diehards out there in the elements get to that point where they start to hunger for greater sunlight, sans wintery cold edged with constant damp that defies outdoor comfort– until the blood gets moving good and fast. I walk every single day at a fast clip, an hour at least, unless physically unable. But that doesn’t mean I am thrilled every minute during winter drear.

Then, today: the sky cleared of clouds and bloomed fully with light. Today it was as if sunshine brought forth the beauty hiding out in us, as well as the landscape. People actually spoke to one another in passing, not only a nod of the head or, as I experience in my immediate neighborhood, a raised hand held two seconds at chest level like a circumspect salute. This time: “hi” and smiles–I could see past masks that energy called happiness sparking their eyes. One woman and her family paused when I spotted a dandelion, and then gawked, too, and noted how cheery a thing, a sign of spring, how wonderful to see it. I had to agree.

We know it’s only a brief reprieve. It’s February in Oregon so we’re going to have lots more daily rainfall and chilly temps a couple more months. Or more rain with a warming up. More teasers with brilliant blue skies, softer breezes. Today it was 52 degrees Fahrenheit, perhaps a tad more as the afternoon wore on, but you’d think it was 68 degrees. People kept arriving as if we were going to a giant picnic or an outdoor concert again. Some were wearing shorts or were jacket-less. (This is a typical Oregon thing for younger ones when the sun comes out. I almost expected to see sandals.) People were skateboarding, playing volleyball and tennis, running, walking overjoyed dogs. We visited the community garden–there are many in Portland metro areas–and a couple gardeners were looking things over, ascertaining the state of things after the Big Freeze, and planning what was next.

It was like my entire body experienced a long, easy sigh of relief. Not to mention mind and spirit. It wasn’t just the blue sky. It was being around others as they played, talked, joked around. Seeing children having fun, hearing their whoops and wild shouts was a joy. It felt close to a normal day even though most wore masks, or stepped away and off the path respectfully if they were not. We all wanted to just be for awhile…to breathe, smile, look about, live in the present without fear or sadness or numbing boredom. If we can’t replenish ourselves, how can we keep our heads and hopes up? It may be as simple as noting small wonders and giving over to the moment. Sharing greetings with passing strangers, persons who are also just looking for refreshment and peace. Good will. We can get through a great deal if we keep finding ways to refill our souls and kindly care for our bodies each day.

It was a perfect afternoon in a place I love to visit. Gabriel Park is large with good trails and meandering sidewalks, encompassing woodlands as well as green rolling hills. I realized I long to see and hear a baseball game sometime before too long…just the sound and appearance of lots more people living in the open may make me cry–this, from a person who is content with plenty of solitude. But one can overdo that, too, as we have found out.

Here is some of what I saw today. I hope you enjoy my photos. The first set is in slideshow mode. (Forgive small spots on a couple shots–I haven’t found a safe way to fully clean my lens…)

Edge of community garden area–and there’s a dog run park behind this if you look closely.
Things lie in wait….

Below: what sort of tree grows like this…from that stumpy center, with so many elegant branches? Haven’t a clue, yet.

The cedar, below, is one of several at the park that are enormous. I offer a comparison to my height…wow. I love these old trees. In the next shot, the interior. Kids go into the trunk area to hide and play– and I have seen a few grown ups go in–some were smooching, of course!

Back through the woods.

All the plants soaked up that sun.

Before too long, new leaves will be opening along graceful and strong branches, and flowers other than early rising crocus, snowdrops and a few “daffies” will be opening up to show their faces. We will get out there again.

Monday’s Meander: Historic Ice Storm (and a Cheery Walk)

It has been four days of snow and ice until, blessedly, last night around 3 or 4 am it began to simply rain at 34 degrees fahrenheit. I don’t have statistics for this post, but it is considered an historic event, and Oregon isn’t the only state so impacted. I’ll learn more about damage, hear some difficult stories here. We lost power twice for varying time frames. It got very cold so fast–within 3 hours– in our townhome apartment. Last night was the worst, lying in bed and hearing greatly amplified pop, crackle, creak and snap and such explosive noises as weighted trees groaned then fell, and transformers ceased to work. Branches broke off, skidded across roofs and ice chunks rapidly followed, crashing onto buildings, balconies, patios, cars. I worried about the grove of pines on a small hill across from our place. We moved downstairs to the living room. But bangs and thuds continued just past our widows from the many pines and alders lining a steeper hill below us–many branches overhang homes.

Still, I wasn’t prepared for the amount of damage when we finally went outdoors this afternoon: countless trees had fallen, branches were strewn in odd places, a few cars had been bashed. And mine, included. Turns out I had a good reason to worry about the trees last night–but it wasn’t pines, afterall. It was a weakened alder tree way past my car that crashed, hit first one vehicle’s hood then my trunk.

Below, an end of our balcony overlooking thickets of trees that cover a steep descent–and this is before the thick ice layers.

I grew up in Michigan; snow was nothing much to be concerned about, even days of thick swirling snowfall. It go down to zero degrees often. But I haven’t lived in MI. for decades and snow in this Oregon Valley isn’t usual–and rarely with snow, ice pellets then sleety rain and more snow falling for days. This area is simply not prepared for events of this scope, nor for for so long. And we live on a steep side of an extinct volcano. So we were trapped with others who live in these SW hills. We did have candles and flashlights and lots of blankets–we had cheese and crackers and bread and peanut butter when all else failed!

Below: a corner of our power-less living room; other views just beyond LR windows. The branch to the left was displaced-due to icy weight-by about ten feet, but it didn’t break yet, surprisingly!

We had to empty the refrigerator and freezer of unsafe food but we can b uy more tomorrow. My car is driveable; the trunk can wait for repair (insurance will likely not cover it–it’s an act of God/weather disaster). It could be worse, yes. But it has been quite enough. We had frightening wildfires in the fall that kept us on edge, were locked indoors due to smoke and threat of fire. And my husband’s sudden job loss. And the virus which seems to be ever with us even as we hope for at least containment (no vaccinations for our age group yet).

It takes alot for me to get bone tired and out of emotional steam. I have a history of persevering despite many roadblocks, as many do. We are resilient creatures. But I write this with such weariness. I need sleep, and to take a pause mentally and spiritually. Life will keep happening, bitter and sweet. We weep, we gripe. We clean up and then go on. And this morning before our power came back again and even rainfall ceased, Marc heated water on the gas grill on the balcony to make tea. I was so grateful for that; my chai was so delicious with a bowl of cereal. I felt rejuvenated with that mug in hand.

Off we go.

Several folks were out chatting a couple blocks away with mug or beer in hand—like an impromptu storm party!

Most pictures posted were taken a day before the worst of it, so it was still not so hard to walk carefully. We admired iced bushes and trees and snow-softened landscape, enjoyed families out playing. Great exercise! I’m glad I have these to look at in the future, the Oregon snow and ice storm of 2021, even if it pales in some ways to the old Michigan blizzards.

I did not see the guy or gal who was to be shoveling…
Awestruck kids and mom–I like the bear ears on her hat.
Above, Marc captured me in a picture. More families at play–and typical heavy, low-hanging boughs.I found the grass lovely.

The pictures above are of my paisley Velvety Gloves (yes, they’re have a name…a story told before in posts), displaying more crystalline twigs and needles.

A glimpse of how steep our neighborhood is in many places.
Dog walkers coaxed most dogs along.
Marc is patiently waiting for me. The road seemed another walking option, as very few cars came by, and slowly.
Next time we pass by, perhaps the crocus and snowdrop blossoms will be bobbing in a gentler breeze again.