Monday’s Meander: To Hood River Fruit Loop for Apples

It was time to visit the Fruit Loop, a 35 mile trip that passes 29 member farms which offer produce stands. The orchards bear a variety of fruits, and acres of flowers or vegetables alongside wineries (tasty-looking wine, but we no longer drink) make up a cornucopia of delights. We go through the town of Hood River which sits on the Columbia River, and head out one Highway 35. The landscape is breathtaking; this fecund valley lies at the base of Mt. Hood in the Cascade Mountains. (One also sees Mt. Adams in places.) We were seeking apples and pears but the views alone are worth a leisurely drive–during any season, though I love the autumn weather and offerings.

We originally migrated from Michigan decades ago and still miss those big apple orchards, hayrides and up-close views of busy cider mills from our youth. Nothing quite as fine on a frosty day than a cup of steaming hot cider with a still-warm cinnamon sugared cake donut nearly melting in your mouth. This was (and is) a long tradition shared by untold numbers there, and when we grew up and later took our five kids, it was even more fun. There are not just the same offerings in Oregon, though close (apple strudel with ice cream and cider at Portland Nursery, for instance). But our fall outings make up for our Midwestern loss.

We’ll first stop by Drapers Girls Country Farm and U-Pick Orchards. We come here mostly because it has a quaint, almost worn feel and I find it inviting. A third generation farm now run by one family member and her three daughters, it offers ten different fruits. (The place below is a small rental house on the property.)

We wander about but purchase only a handful of apples here–we have a favorite orchard coming up next.

On we go, passing Oregon scenery I love so keep snapping pictures, even from the moving car.

Our destination is Kiyokawa Family Orchards, operating since 1911; their speciality is growing over 150 varieties of apples, pears, cherries, and stone fruit. And that means over one hundred varieties of apples, alone! We consistently find their operation clean, the staff knowledgeable and friendly, and the bounty exceptional.

We park amid a throng of cars; I try to avoid photographing people up too close. But there were a lot of visitors and apple tasters.

We wound our way back from viewing some of the orchards and, having decided to not pick our own but sample multitudes of choices, we found apple heaven as we expected. You pay $15 per bag, then fill them up with any type and as much as you want!
Below, our final indulgence, lugged to the hold of my car (a new compact SUV bought since our accident).

Happy with our many choices–whose names we have already forgotten–and munching on a couple different ones, our mouths watering with each satisfying bite, we start home.

Passed a old and empty, dilapidated country store that I had to stop and look over. It must have been humming with business once upon a time.

And we then followed the highway along the Columbia River within the Columbia River Gorge. Next week, I will take you back there for more.

Monday’s Meander: An Often Happy Small Mountain Life

The symbol for Mountain Park trails and a “No Smoking” warning.

Living on a forested (modest) mountaintop outside of Portland, OR. is in some ways a perfect fit for me–it is billed as “nature’s neighborhood”, and I greatly appreciate trees and other nature offerings. We left a densely populated if charming neighborhood in NE Portland two and a half years ago for what seems nearly like country in comparison. I am grateful we moved, now–the last few years have been trying, often sad. But here we daily can find increased health and serenity in the natural world.

Mountain Park offers 8 miles of well maintained trails throughout 200 acres of wooded, hilly landscape. I now and then have shared the trails in different seasons and weather. Today I set out to snap photos of greenery aglow with sunshine that will diminish as months of rain return, the daylight dimmed by repetitious cloud cover. Of course, the terrain remains greener than most places all year long… (We had the first true rainfall over the week-end after months of drought–a joy to hear, feel and smell early autumn rain.)

My hour walk today began at our higher elevation by entering a tunnel. It took me down steeper paved trails, though there are some dirt pathways. The neighborhood was designed in 1968 as a planned community amid woods, and there are typically modern NW-style houses that I like–sharp, clean angles of natural materials with large windows/skylights– ranging from good-sized but simpler homes to impressive ones, all blending in with muted woods and stone. They are half-hidden among foliage, often sequestered behind fences.

One of many tunnels in the neighborhood to avoid street crossings.

The paths are often steep and windy–great “interval training” for the body.

The footbridge is a favorite spot to pause–but the creek still has little water.

There are brighter areas along the way with open spaces to relax, where residents’ dogs can play.

The house hidden here is interesting in that it was built so close to two adjoining paths, its swimming pool and perhaps a gardening utility shed barely disguised by latticework and vines. I once saw a man reading poolside on a chaise lounge, but have never seen or heard anyone swimming. At night there are fairy lights aglow.

A favorite tree, below, lovely as it spreads its great limbs up and out. There are lots of mighty Douglas firs and other conifers, but also wonderful big leaf maples and madrone trees, among others.

In the midst of shadows are occasional play areas–and seven small parks. Often they’ve been empty since the pandemic has taken hold. I have brought my twin grandchildren to play a few times–outdoor play and fresh air are required for kids!

If you look closely you will glimpse foothills of Tualatin Mountains, part of the Coast Range.

Please click on the slideshow to view the end of today’s enjoyable meander. There are many more miles of trails to explore in beautiful Mountain Park; all I have to do is turn in another direction outside my front door and go forth. I am guaranteed great exercise and a peaceful spirit as I roam.

Rising from shady forest, I emerged into brilliant sunshine, breezy air warmed–not quite abandoning tail end of summer weather. But very soon. Chilly rains won’t stop me. There are always more trails to appreciate in the great outdoors, even in the city.

Monday’s Meander: Leach Botanical Garden

The lovely Leach Botanical Garden covers 9 acres in SE Portland and was for a long while owned by descendants of pioneers. John Leach, a pharmacist and his wife, Lilla, a science teacher and amateur botanist, who developed the acreage. I last attended a wedding there a two f decades ago when we all enjoyed a smaller, more rustic garden. It has since been redesigned to better showcase the land’s offerings. Marc and I recently spent a beautiful morning with the twins and their parents exploring. It is a family friendly garden (be aware masks are required for all but the youngest). A new feature is sculptural wood benches, some of which were tried out by the toddlers–climbing and sliding down them!

A spacious pavilion opens to a pleasant area with a fire pit area and an elevated walkway set among the towering trees, where the grandkids had snacks. Note the walkway behind which the toddlers enjoyed running across.

Moving on, the path took us down to the comfortable “manor house”, permanent residence of the Leach family until 1980. There is also a quaint cottage on the other side of the courtyard and, further on, a stone cottage the Leaches originally lived in during summers as their manor house was being built. The courtyard emphasizes a fairy tale feel to the property.

Of course, I would take the cottage without a second thought…a perfect spot for writing and Marc fit me right into the scene. The twins enjoyed a small pool in the courtyard.

One can understand why weddings and receptions are popular here!

We continued down the steps and paths to a river walkway, where we spotted the sturdy, cozy-looking stone cottage. I had hoped to explore inside but all buildings are closed due to Covid-19.

It was a beautiful morning, and we reluctantly took our leave–we will return soon!

Monday’s Meander on Tuesday: A Glimpse of a Strange Coast Trip

Looking down at Highway 101 from a trail above Cape Perpetua, OR.

The above shot–taken while hiking a narrow, winding, rough trail that was beautiful– is one of the last ocean views I saw. When on the way back to our lodgings, we were hit when tuning left by a fast moving, passing vehicle on the highway seen below. This is a famous highway in CA. and OR., often hugging the edge of cliffs as it runs the length of coast. And it can be very dangerous to drive.

I wanted to work on the photos today, then put up a full post. But I think it best to rest; it has only been two and a half days since the accident. Each day I am a bit more sore and tired. My car was totaled, unfortunately–but we are okay! I may write more for tomorrow’s Wednesday’s Words post.

But least Marc and I enjoyed this great hike before all that…Next week I will have a complete Monday’s Meanders post of the Yachats area readied and up.

Monday’s Meander: Sandy River Fun/Time Out

Today I had another great reprieve from difficult times. I enjoyed a couple of hours at the Sandy River with some family–two daughters, a son-in-law and the twins. The river is at the west end of the Columbia Gorge, near Portland, and it is very popular for recreational activities. The Sandy runs 56 miles and begins its journey in the high glaciers of Mt. Hood, and finally joins the Columbia River. Steelhead and trout are readily fished, folks enjoy floating the river, and any non-motorized boating is popular. Hiking along the river and picnicking and, of course, swimming, are among the activities people enjoy. Lush surroundings with woodlands plus wildlife abounds along the running water–I want to explore more of it. It was a quick trip for the little ones this time.

We found an easily accessed spot along the shore with a small bit of shade nearby. It wasn’t the most picturesque or the quietest stretch but we saw other families having a good time nearby. The water was shallower and calmer; the two year olds could safely enjoy a new experience. The water tended toward chilly but didn’t deter anyone–it hit around 98 degrees at one point today. I’d love to share the varied shots displaying all the fun we had (being protective of grandkids) but wanted to share a glimpse. And, to the twins’ delight, a train sped over the river very close to us. They waded a bit and went out further on their mom’s or dad’s hip; threw small stones, played with wet sand, worked at picking up and throwing heftier rocks. One of the girls, Alera, was hugely satisfied when she managed to do so a couple of times, her face suddenly splashed, her laughter peeling out. They had quite a nice adventure. As did we all.

Above, a couple with my oldest and youngest daughters (six years apart). One dark blond, one with dark curls, different but much the same, as well. The one in the wide brimmed hat is the oldest, Naomi. (I realized they aren’t great shots but so it is this time.)

Naomi did an amazing thing last week. She is staying in Colorado for the summer–she lives in S. Carolina. I was grocery shopping last Thursday when I got a peculiar text from her. It said: I was in the neighborhood and thought I’d stop by and say hi!

There was a picture of her standing at my front door.

I stopped in my tracks, then calmed down and thought, Well, Naomi does some quirky things, likes to play practical jokes. She knows I want to see her–but this photo must be from the last time she visited. I didn’t believe it and kept shopping. She had said she might not make it for a visit until next fall or winter as she was swamped with travelling, art work in progress, applying for tenure at her university. Yet there was a niggling thought…

There was not good reception in the store so I went outdoors in the garden area and texted her.

You don’t mean you are here, of course. That’s an old picture, right?

Nope.

What????

You are really at my door?

Yep!

Oh my gosh, no way!!

Yes!

And I about lost it right there among the pretty petunias and pansies, let out a squeal–and cried a little. (The plant guy stole a look at me, then nicely moved on.) I could hear tears in her voice, too. It has been one and a half years since I have seen her. It has been a trying year and a half with several losses. This daughter has called me twice a week or more faithfully, texted me every couple days, sent me little gifts. We are close in a special way, we can talk some foolishness or explore life intricately. This lovely creative person was once two and a half pounds born at six and a half months, a tiny preemie that was on the brink. She fooled everyone. I am always grateful to see her smile and hear her voice.

And there she was, waiting for me. I about skipped to the cashier, restraining myself as my grin widened, stuck across my face. Then I half-ran out of the store. Such a reunion! She had told her four siblings– they had kept her secret perfectly. Amazing to me, the whole beautiful thing.

She is due to move on this Friday. It will be hard to say “until next time”–as who knows when? But I shall be happy, content to have spent each day with her for a week as we shared time with others, too–we have had a few get togethers with her siblings.

In a couple of days, my one remaining brother and his wife–two professional photographers who have driven across the country with cameras in hand–are coming by. We will catch up. Just be together again.

This is what being vaccinated against Covid-19 allows us to do. It is such a gift to see all, to share meals and good talk–and, once more, hugs. As the long shadow of the pandemic wanes more and more, with the safety factors so greatly improved in Oregon and elsewhere, our lives are day by day resuming a more natural pace, and can include a myriad experiences. Not just sitting on my nice balcony, gazing at the woods and sky, listening to the birdsong, dreaming of better times. Not only taking long walks or hiking in drear or sunshine with faces masked, nodding cautiously at others, wondering what they are thinking, how they are doing. I have needed this hope, this improved living that allows expanded opportunities to reach out some, explore and breathe more freely. Everyone has needed a real turning of the corner, the possibility of more change for the good. Affirmation of life even in the middle of the tenacious precariousness of the world.

And because of all this, I am taking the rest of the week off from blogging. Some of us are headed to the beach soon, for one thing. So, until next time–and may blessings be upon each of you, be careful and caring. I can tell you after terrible loss recently that kindness truly heals and helps. Every one of us.