Monday’s Meanders: More Summer Hikes and Rambles

Willamette River, Oregon

I know–more rivers and woods, what’s the deal? Since travel is limited and close to home, that’s what I see most often in Oregon. (I promise to dig into photo archives if there’s nothing more noteworthy to share next time!) Over the week-end we did a lot, though–a visit to the more urban Willamette Park along our trusty Willamette River (which flows through the center of Portland); a good work out hiking trails at Tryon Creek State Natural Area; and a long peaceful meander through Tualatin Hills Nature Park. All of it was a pleasure, a fun prescriptive action that always fills and calms us.

First off: another park by the river. Lots of people enjoying the spot (looks sparse but I seldom photograph strangers) while reading, eating, visiting with friends or family, snoozing and, always, kayaking or other boating.

Note the houseboats along the far shore–we have many on our rivers.

After a short look around the smallish park, we headed to a favorite–Tryon Creek State natural Area.

This state park offers a 650-acre-plus area with second growth forests, located between Portland and city of Lake Oswego. Many creatures live here, not the least of which are cougars that sometimes wander into our nearby city. It is a 15 minute drive to this wonderland for me. There is much to enjoy with 8 miles of hiking trails, plus 3.5 miles of horse trails and a 3-mile paved bicycle trail. Additionally, there are easy access trails with viewing platforms for those who may require smoother paths, or use wheelchairs. There are lots of huge Douglas firs, Western red cedar and hemlock, Ponderosa pines, etc. , ferns, mosses and lichens galore–and often we find wildflowers. Never enough time to try to identify such wealth of nature.

This land belonged to several Native tribes/bands, including Clackamas Chinook, the Wasco-Wishram, the Willamette Tumwater, the Multnomah, and other Chinookan peoples and more of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers.

We took an ascendant winding horse trail and before long I realized I’d chosen one of the steepest paths back to our starting point. Horses were not to be seen this time–though they had left plenty of evidence of their passage–and it felt wilder as we kept on. It looked more lush than when I was last there. I carried dwindling water and my shirt grew damp; the forest was permeated by late day heat. I trudged on with knowledge that this was a great exercise, and the air released its sweet and loamy fragrances of forest. We hiked two hours altogether and were fine–only tired and sweaty.

The horse trail we climbed and climbed from a deep valley.

The next day we chose a milder outing, labor-wise, and walked a couple hours in Tualatin Hills Nature Park, a half hour or more from our place. It is a stone’s throw for bustling southwest Portland suburbia. There was something extraordinary about the honeyed light making those trees golden and bright. Perhaps it’s because there are more deciduous trees than I am used to, and sunlight suffused the acreage with larger patches of sky glimpsed.

There were a number of families so we zigzagged along side paths. There are wetlands, forests and streams with 5 miles of mostly flat trails on 222 acres. Plenty to observe and enjoy. We were especially taken with the many spiders at work–did not get a good enough shot this time. (I tried to capture one in a smaller gallery picture, below, showing branches curving in an arch–a web is faintly seen as a shimmery spot mid-picture.)

Since there are extensive wetlands with boardwalks in various places–handy, and protects a lot.

Pretty lily pondso full pf the broad leaves, could not see much water!

We circled back to the nature center which has resources and staff to answer questions in healthy times. It was a bit sad to see the nature center closed up tight, as it is with other such centers due to COVID-19, as well as severely decreased staff. Otherwise, it would be a lively scene with people attending any pictures, examining various specimens, sitting and chatting outdoors. But it is what it is.

We did try out a lens that produced a kaleidoscopic effect so we could gawk at tiny succulents and lichen rather psychedelically transformed.

Behind shuttered buildings was a peaceful spot, it being uncharacteristically empty of human activity. But the breezes were refreshing, the heat more gentle in the shadiness, and birds kept singing and chattering. There are some things still right and good in this world…

Marc took several photos of me–the light was good, setting perfect. It’s a bit odd to have two here but I thought I’d use one for an updated photo of this blog’s “About” page. If you have an opinion, please note below! I prefer outdoors shots of all people–and certainly it is my favorite place to be, year after year.

Back to an ordinary suburban life with all its clamor and the anxious squash of humanity–for now. I will be outdoors tomorrow, God willing! Every day I have is a day of more mystery and beauty, a day of learning, a day of gratitude. I sure hope you find your own natural haven and absorb all the good energy and interest it offers. We need such a sanctuary even more during these hard times.

Blessings on all.

Monday’s Meander: Elk Rock Garden of Bishop’s Close

Once or twice a year I post about this graceful, fully accessible garden spread over 13 acres. It changes wonderfully over seasons and displays a fascinating mix of botanical life. The house was built in 1914 by a Scottish businessman, Peter Kerr, to resemble a Scottish manor. It was built along the Willamette River to also give a good view of Mt. Hood in the distance. At his death in 1957, his daughters decided to give it to the Episcopal Bishop of Oregon, with a provisory clause that the garden be open to visitors.

Wandering there gives rise to deep peace. Join Marc and me as we stroll about on a recent visit.

Outdoor altar for the Holy Eucharist, for staff at the Diocese ; it is covered in kiwi vine.

Monday’s Meander: To the Seaside We Go!

Finally. It has been ten months since we visited the Pacific Ocean, despite it being barely an hour and a half away. You know how it was back then–there was work, family obligations, trails to traverse in any direction, activities of all sorts to jump in and enjoy. But being outdoors is now perhaps the best way to engage with many bountiful offerings. And we have waited for opportunities to partake of the pleasures–i.e., the fewer knots of people (sadly), the better. The time felt right; off we went.

Neskowin

Marc and I met up with a daughter and her family at ocean’s edge for starters in Neskowin, a village of 170. Neskowin Beach State Recreation Site features a long lovely beach and Cascade headland with good hiking trails. Our goal this time was to breathe the salt sea air, walk beaches for miles, casually rock hunt, enjoy surfer activity and admire the might of ubiquitous waves rolling in. And enjoy the twin toddler grandchildren’s first real experience of the Pacific Ocean. (Only indirect photos of them–safety first.) You can see pleased Grandpa Marc in the red enjoying them; the other two are the protective, loving parents. (We wore masks around family, an abundance of caution–later we did not with few people near us.)

I was amazed that one ran laughing into the water often and tried a couple sand snacks, while her sister more enjoyed squeezing the fine sand between her toes and toddling about. But they sure were happy, as were we all.

A few more shots of Neskowin Beach before moving on below. First up is Proposal Rock, well known in Oregon. A hotel on this beach capitalizes on the theme.

There are always reminders to beware of sneaker waves; never turn your back to the sea, never let your kids go out unsupervised.

After the twins and parents had enough fun, Marc and I moved north up the central coast. We had seen only smatterings of people on the beach thus far, but Pacific City/Cape Kiwanda was another story. You will note swimmers and surfers, while the actual beach was nearly crowded. We stepped out for only a few moments then headed for Oceanside, a favorite place.

We arrived about 6 pm and availed ourselves of Oceanside’s fine beaches as the sun began to sink bit by bit. Dramatic, thickening clouds bunched together–no rain while on the beach, a miracle, but it became windy and chillier. And broodingly mesmerizing, which I love about the sea.

That’s right, get a shot of the photographer/writer, too.

Marc searches for rocks around/inside shallow caves as they are often left behind as the tide recedes. We used to find an abundance of amber or clear agates on this section of beach but not in a long while.

A couple bird-watching.

Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge is a bout a half mile off the shore of Oceanside. Many seabirds live there. Birds include cormorants, Western gulls, storm petrels, tufted puffins, and pigeon guillemots and in the past, tufted puffins and common murres. But Bald Eagles’ comeback has caused them to swoop in and disturb their habitat and prey upon the colonies and many have moved on. Numerous stellar sea lions make this their northernmost breeding site around the huge rocks. (We saw none this time.)

Below a few shots of seabird havens. Graceful cormorants are lovely to see in action.

We always hate to leave Oceanside and as it was we didn’t depart until 8 pm. We lingered and bid farewell–until next time.

Monday’s Meander: Sauvie Island Time

Beautifully green Sauvie island: this was the place on Mother’s Day I wanted to enjoy a few choice hours. It was a great change from my usual mid-May visits to ocean beaches or Columbia Gorge, (both closed due to coronavirus). Here one can enjoy several bodies of water; smaller Tualatin Mountains west of island as well as three major peaks and Cascades in the distance; meadows and farms; and birds and other creatures all in one fell swoop.

Only about 20 miles from our home, this large river island is situated between the muscular Columbia River on the east, narrow Multnomah Channel on the west and the good-sized Willamette River at the south (which passes through Portland and close to our current habitat). The island is one of the largest of its type in the US, comprised of rolling grasslands, scattered woods and lush farmland over 24,000 acres. There are also 7 lakes I counted on a map; I only saw a couple when once in search of an uncrowded public beach.

The whole island can only be described as fecund and bucolic.

L., Mt St. Helens which famously blew its top in 1980 and R., Mt. Adams–both in WA. state. One can occasionally see three at once–the two above plus Oregon’s Mt. Hood.

Temperature was upper 70 degrees Fahrenheit; breezes were tender on the skin, grasses rustled and danced; birds vocalized their near- symphonic offerings. Horses, sheep, cows all grazed contentedly. We drove around and feasted our eyes; we normally stop at several sites within the large Sauvie Island Wildlife Area but some were closed off. This time we visited Raccoon Point. There were very few people there. We waded through sweeping areas of tall grasses but there was one beaten pathway to follow.

We saw red-tailed hawks and American kestrels while gazing into the treetops and water into near-blinding sunshine, but in prior visits have spotted sandpipers, herons and egrets there, as well as bald eagles.

Moving along via car, we enjoyed more countryside and then the channel, where dozens of houseboats are anchored, along with boats.

As the afternoon ended, I thought briefly how this time of year I am mindful of three family members who passed away so very close to Mother’s Day. It was for once a perfect day: to think of them with love and affection, to have gratitude for their lives as well as my own and more. We were both satisfied by varieties of sensory offerings and tantalizing though familiar scenes. All in all, I felt fulfilled on Mother’s Day, and this was on top of wonderful earlier visits–if rather distanced–with our adult children and a few grandchildren.

I hope you enjoyed our mid-May meander!

Monday’s Meander: Come with Me Down to the River Again, the Good River

I could make up a song about all the rivers I love! Once more to the Willamette River, a safe place to walk about during these times and partake of a good variety of beauties. This is the Foothills park area. It is a quieter river southwest of Portland without the big ships, though we have seen seals swim up here.

I became, to my surprise, 70 over the week-end! Despite not being able to go to a favorite beach cottage in Yachats (OR.) or Cannon Beach as we often have this time of year, we enjoyed our meanders nearby. I do miss traveling, however, modest. Next week’s post I will share Yachats as it truly is awesome there. Meanwhile, I hope you can feel Spring’s peaceful breezes off the water if only in your imagination. And one day perhaps you can visit Portland area and find our many great rivers for yourselves. One reason I love it here are the various bodies of water. Enjoy.