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: Pumpkin Farm Visit on Sauvie Island

What a glorious afternoon last Saturday on Sauvie Island, one of the largest river islands in the country and an fecund agricultural gem. Sitting at the confluence of the Willamette River and the Columbia River, there are 24,000 acres to ogle and appreciate. Many enjoy the sweeping landscape of prosperous farms, several beaches, abundant fishing, wildlife viewing, hiking. You can find many u-pick farms, gathering or purchasing delicious berries, apples, and the freshest vegetables.

Today’s post highlights our stop at Topaz Farm to see how the pumpkin crop was coming along. Afterward, we circled around the island as usual, stopping at Wapato Greenway for a hike in early fall’s sparkling sunshine.

Enjoy the photo tour with a first photo as we exit from the bridge, with a few of a large community of houseboats that dot the channel.

Though the farm wasn’t packed with people yet, those who came were enjoying themselves.

Why are pumpkins so pleasing to look over and touch? The shapes, colors, textures, likely–they are rotund and fill the hands and promise of good things to come.

On to the few fall flowers, which were U-Cut to take home. As much as I love flowers–marigolds grew so tall!–we were about to go on a long hike so I passed.

This interesting twig and branch structure captured my attention.

So happy the good earth shared her bounties despite the drought….

There will be many more chances to visit apples and pumpkin farms in October, perhaps even next week-end in the Columbia Gorge. So we headed to a state park on Sauvie Island, taking the circuitous way to see more lush agricultural country.

Thanks for reading today. Hope you can stop by next week when I take you on what ended up being about a 3.5 mile hike at Wapato Access of Willamette Greenway. It’s a good jaunt within the 170-acre Oregon state park at the western side of the island. We were surprised after rounding Virginia Lake (now a rather dry wetlands area until seasonal rains fill it) that we came to a spot along serenely resplendent Multnomah Channel.

A preview of Wapato via a wildlife viewing blind, below.

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: The Sea at Yachats

The Pacific Ocean was moody over that week-end, and it seemed prescient when looking back since our time was cut short by a significant car accident. And yet it always displays a vast array of weather, with the skies changing in a few moments, the sea reflecting wind and light with a mercurial response. I offer you a selection of photos that show you what I saw over the course of about 42 hours.

Some show the hike above Cape Perpetua before our happiness was suddenly taxed. Others were taken about Smelt Sands where tidepools and basalt rocks dominate and we like to climb and explore. And a few more exhibit views of where we stayed at Wayside Lodge, a few rooms and cottages. A favorite place to stay–attractive, homey lodgings with excellent customer care. Yachats is not represented here though it is a quaint village full of creative people. I have spent little time there over decades of visits– other than to grab a bite and a coffee at Green Salmon Coffee House, or to check out some art and books, at times. (Visit Earthworks Gallery outside of town, too– a great place for ceramics, glassworks, handmade wood furniture and jewelry.)

It is always about the ocean and beyond, wide sky above and forested peaks, the sandy beach and bluffs that I\we seek. The beauty and power and peace of it all.

Below, hanging out at Smelt Sands State Park. When the whales migrate, this is a good place from which to see them. The sea was pretty quiet then, and the tide, low. There is also a good trail to walk.

The hike is always good up on part of the larger Cape Perpetua Scenic Recreation Area. The headland that rises 800 feet above sea level is the highest point one can overlook the Pacific on OR. coast by car. We enjoy taking to s ome trails –there are 26 miles of them!–that wind around the headland, through temperate forested land. The views are spectacular of the Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve. You can see a horizon 40 miles out on a clear day. Enjoy a slide show of part of our exploration.

The next two photos were taken earlier in the morning as we sat on our little deck relaxing. We enjoyed coffees as we took in the scene. I tried to eat about a third of a pound or more blueberry lemon scone…I think Marc had a cheese croissant…delicious!

The final few pictures are of our last morning–sunny at last–as we awaited out daughter to come get us (my car is inoperable) and return us home in the Portland area. We are grateful to have had a day and a half in Yachats area before the accident. Though we are dealing with some ill effects, we take it day by day. This, too, shall pass… We’ll likely return to the beach before the rains come (we need rain now!), but we admire the coast and ocean in winter, too!