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: Wapato Greenway Hike

We continue where we left off last week, still exploring Sauvie Island but now on trails in the Wapato Greenway (named for an arrowhead shaped leaf of a common tuber). This is part of an Oregon State Park on the western side of the river island and about 170 acres. Dense with old white oaks, willow, tall cottonwoods, maple, ash, dogwood, Douglas and grand firs–it is another tree lovers haven. And the hike is an easy one as it moves past thickets of those trees, wetland and open meadow, and lovely riverside acreage. The Multnomah Channel, below, flows from the confluence of the Columbia River and Willamette River.

What makes this trail different than many I have hiked? It is similar with an ancient feel of all that lives here. But perhaps it also feels a bit haunted, though it may be my imagination… but it persisted the whole hike even as we enjoyed ourselves. The giant old white oaks, as elsewhere in this area, always stir me. They are of that group that seems wholly imperturbable to me.

However, these were once lowlands of Native peoples, as most of the Pacific Northwest, of course, was. There were villages of Upper Chinook peoples in the “Wappato Valley” within major settlements inhabiting Sauvie Island, per Lewis and Clark’s accounts in early nineteenth century. They reported they had no tribal designation separate from the Upper Chinook people. They were red cedar canoe users, primarily fished salmon, and sturgeon, gathered abundant berries and many other plants, hunted elk–and lived communally in plank houses. But by the 1830s, 90% had been wiped out by malaria. The land harbors mosquitos, being wetlands and by the river; it is hard to ascertain whether or not any other mosquitos may have been brought by explorers. They could not combat the dissease and often dunked sik people in the infested waters to cool the fevers.

Even with this sobering loss in mind, the landscape remains filled with nature’s bounties. Two hundred-fifty species of birds thrive here, many mammals and amphibians. I heard far more than saw them, as is usual on our hikes. It was a warm but distinctly autumn day, the air bright and plants crispy after the long drought, yet scented with falling leaves and hinting at changes to come. (I believe this hike is a bit over 2 miles, though our whole venture ended up being 3.5-4 miles of hiking around places.)

Marc making his way with his found walking stick.

Not many people were about–a family here and there, a lone hiker. Mostly it was still excepting our footfalls and creatures scampering and their “talking” with one another.

At the footbridge was a cottonwood wetland with slim evidence of moisture–though it had rained off and on a couple of days the week before. Then we wove in and out of more wetlands, meadows, woods.

Lots of “woolies”–had to skirt around the little fuzzy caterpillars.

Soon–happily, as we were sweaty and needing a snack– we came to river waters. We arrived at Hadley’s Landing, where fishing and boating are good. Please click below to view the scenes.

We had our protein bars and more water, then took the trail loop back to the start of it, stopping at a wildlife viewing platform. All was shimmery warm, and stillness dominated, perhaps dozing in the heat. Finally, we drove along more quiet island roads, a stop here and there, then crossed the bridge for home. Another edifying outing.

A place to sit, dream, gaze at Racoon Point.
We drove down to a dead end and came across several older Asian men fishing, talking and laughing in the shade of the trees. Houseboat community on the channel. And then to our bridge back to the city.

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: 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: Yes to Dahlias, Darling!

For the second year Marc and I headed out to Swan Island Dahlias farm in Canby, Oregon to see what there was to see. A gorgeous sunny afternoon also seemed perfect to take my new compact SUV (replacing the sedan totaled in the accident a month ago) for a drive through undulating hills and fields. It was a relaxing, satisfying outing. (I do like the car pretty well, also–a Hyundai Kona in a cheery metallic red).

I love the big fluffy or intricate or delicate petal designs of the showy, hardy dahlia. And it’s a late summer/early fall flower, a change. Upon arrival, the farm overflowed with strolling folks. We noticed some areas were less burgeoning with dahlias where we walked (out of 40 acres, all open to the public). It seems likely the drought has impacted flower growers as well as other farmers. A great many also are cut for selling to businesses and visitors. But the fields were still striated with beautiful shapes and colors.

We whiled away more than an hour, though we sure got sweaty in the strong August sunshine. Some of the finest things in life are simplest pleasures, filling one with appreciation and peace. Flowering fields are one of those, to us.

This prolific business has been operating for 93 years, though it was bought in 1963 by the current successful farmers, the Gitts family. They grow over 370 varieties and introduce 5-15 new ones yearly.

Enjoy the shots taken as we moseyed about–may you, too, find flowers of joy.

I think my shirt has some dahlias on it…

We looked around the gift shop’s goods set up outdoors and people watched before buying three bunches of dahlias to take home.

Crazy Legs? Why not?–love it.

I got four bouquets from my three bunches and gave one to our youngest daughter, whose birthday was today. Altogether, a terrific day at the Swan Island Dahlias. They create the largest full color dahlia catalog in the US–and are proud to be family-owned after all this time. Give them a try!