Monday’s Meander: Blueberry Picking Day!

Mt Adams stands majestic over “Fruit Loop” farms and vineyards. (All photos by Cynthia Guenther Richardson, copyright 2020.)

Saturday we eagerly left Portland metro–first time in months–to visit a favorite area, the rolling, fecund acreage in Hood River Valley. We drove an hour through the Columbia Gorge along the muscular river that gives it the name. It was a vibrant, burnished day that grew sunnier each mile as rugged landscape showed off its beauty.

Our goal: find blueberry perfection! We always enjoy the Fruit Loop, a 35 mile meander about its fertile land which supports our state’s most productive orchards. There are about 26 farms/orchards/wineries one may visit each season. We were pleased to try a new place, Kennedy Farms, in operation since 1901, and the attractive Dutch Colonial style Gorge White House. We went just in time to pick three pounds of sun ripened blueberries. We needed to test them as we worked at a leisurely pace.

Marc at work, sampling as he picks
Raspberries were not quite ready,

There were groups gathered on grass or at picnic/other tables around the orchards. The Kennedy Farm also produces wine and many were tasting several, as well as enjoying lunch for sale that was prepared there. They seemed a bit casual about virus potential, but many seemed to be with household members, and perhaps half or more wore masks–but it is hard to eat and drink with those on. Marc and I kept clear of others, enjoying more open areas.

Gorgeous dahlias and other flowers to cut–but we were focused on the berries this time!

This craggy, snowy wonder is Mt. Hood.

Having picked enough to share and freeze, we were thirsty and ready to get on the road again. We stopped, as is our habit, at Hood River, famous for wind and kite surfing due to strong Columbia Gorge winds. After admiring athletes’ river activities and soaking up peace by river’s swift current amid mountains, we completed the happy day.

Monday’s Meanders: Remembering Kah-Nee-Ta in the High Desert

I’m not a great lover of very hot weather unless there is a cooling breeze or and shade trees under which to take refuge (or perhaps a swimming pool nearby). I have visited the Southwest several times and even camped in the desert. Yet I preferred to move along to the next stop after a short time, the intense dry heat and empty landscape seeming forbidding.

Then I moved to Oregon at age 42 and not long after discovered it’s high desert. It felt like another experience altogether, magnetic and beautiful. It is the severity of sand swept, bare earth coupled with a variety of life that thrives; it is the everlasting sky into which thrust ancient rocky prominences; it is a wind that sears and sings and a sun that tolerates no weakness, foolishness. It immediately enthralled me. Central Oregon’s high desert remains a favorite place to visit.

In June of 2013, Marc and I visited the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon when we stayed a week-end at the tribal-owned Kah-Nee-Ta Resort. Little did we imagine that in 2018, it would be closed due to financial difficulties. I’m happy we had the chance to stay and explore the area some (also had fun during an attempt at kayaking together in one kayak on a short trip on Warm Springs River…but perhaps not again). Today I am revisiting those good moments.

A partial view of Kah-Nee-Ta Resort

We had gone for a work event with a new employer, but what I recall is a deep quietude of the land, air, sky. Stillness and then swift wind, silence and sounds I can’t well describe. It felt saturated with ancient time, people, sufferings, wonders.

Mt. Jefferson of the Cascade Range

As evening fell, the scenarios were even more captivating, perhaps, than daytime when our skin easily burned and vision seemed dimmed by the brilliant light even with sunglasses on–though each held unique pleasures. After dinnertime each night we sat on the room’s balcony, watched the orb of sun lower over the ridges, captivated–and then suddenly fierce, still-heat-burnished winds rushed around and over all.

And finally a deep mystery of indigo sky to dwarf us…

Monday’s Meander: Roving Along the Columbia River

Seen from the WA. side: Columbia River and OR.’s, Mt Hood
Steigerwald Wildlife Nature Preserve was sadly closed.

We started on the west side of the Columbia River in Washington State one hot afternoon. We had headed to a nature preserve but found it closed, so when we went on, seeking a different area. We found a small parking lot that with access to a walkway by the river. Since we’d not been on this southern part of the the river walk, we checked it out.

There is a reason why we hadn’t intended to stop there. The Captain William Clark Park (of Corps of Discovery, 1806–though we know Native Americans resided there…) is by a small city, Camas, so lots of people traverse that part of a very long, winding walkway. And we enjoy nature with far less people. But any river calls to me–I’ll stop at small or big ones, with or without parks or any path. Columbia River is one I deeply admire, am fascinated by–no matter how many times I visit it. At 1240 miles, starting in British Columbia and emptying into Pacific Ocean after flowing through seven U.S. states… mammoth. It also holds one third of our potential hydropower, so what a resource.

The photos attempt to share its softer nature that afternoon, and how people were enjoying it. We came to Cottonwood Beach which I did not photograph much; it was packed, to our surprise in this pandemic, and we avoided huge groups of friend and family gatherings–but they were having a pleasant time in the unusually warm sunshine.

It is hard to describe how big and deep and restless this river is. The often strong winds were were rather still; the water surface fairly calm. But when I see the boats out there with fisher persons, I wonder if they ever feel intimidated by the mighty currents that occur, the breadth and width and depth of it. It is one of the biggest rivers in the U.S. flowing by Portland as well as Vancouver, WA. metro. There has been. alas, flooding occasionally…

I leave you with a truer perspectives below, displaying both Oregon and Washington sides of the Columbia River Gorge as it rumbles, winds and sweeps toward the vaster Pacific. It was a relaxing afternoon on the WA. walk– but we do hope to hike in the Gorge soon again!

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: Woodsy Walk in Carmel-by-the Sea

During the visit to mid-northern coast of California, daughter Alexandra and I walked quiet, narrow streets of Carmel-by-the Sea during her lunch break from work at Sunset Center. I so wanted pictures of the quaint but splendid, substantial homes (even much smaller ones) but this is a place where there are no numbers on houses or mailboxes–only names. It was clear a “cottage” here is not like a the cottages where, as a youth in northern Michigan, I frolicked about woods and lakes. I mean, Doris Day But in 2020, deceased…she owned the Cypress Inn Hotel) and Clint Eastwood lived somewhere around there. And the place felt like a movie set…So, not the time to point and shoot away. ( I sneaked a very fast shot above; though too exposed you can see a house in the back ground…)

The sunshine began to diminish as we walked along and the thicket of trees grew. We followed a pretty pathway through an opening. The light became more diffuse, soft as heat lessened, and the silence– save for bird songs or rustlings in branches–hung in crackling dry, fragrant air. Eucalyptus is ubiquitous; its sharp, pungent scent intoxicated me.

The flowers that appeared were lovely, and perhaps the best were lilies…

…though this was a marvel. Captivating.

Back to town, and a few days later, back to Oregon after our lovely California respite.