Monday’s Meanders: From Sitka Sedge to Oceanside

It has been a week since I last posted coastal views, a time length unprecedented these days –unless I might be on a long vacation. How lovely that would be! But, no, it was less fun that that. I took it easy while my immune system responded to dose #2. I am raring to go again and glad to be at my desk once more.

During the latter part of our last coastal outing, we visited two favorites: Sitka Sedge State Natural Area and the village of Oceanside. Sitka Sedge is 357 acres of tidal marsh, mudflats, estuary and dunes. Sedge is a native wild grass both graceful and important to the ecological balance. There are forested wetlands and plenty of wildlife, including beaver, coyote, black bear and bobcat. It is a birders true heaven. We walked almost to the hidden beach and turned back; the hour was getting late. We wanted to start back north to another gorgeous beach. But there are 3.5 miles of trails we will get back to explore if we plan to start closer to this site.

Below, enjoy shots of Sitka Sedge. There were a few groups we passed; shortly it became deeply peaceful again.

We ended that meander and headed north to Oceanside. It lies a few miles west of the sprawling dairy farming community of Tillamook, where many of the best cheeses and other milk products in Oregon are made. I have visited Oceanside ever since I was 42 and first moved to OR. permanently with two of my teenaged children. My sister, Allanya, owned a weekend house with a chunk of land down the way on Whiskey Creek Rd. for many years, as well. (Some of us thought it haunted, but we stayed overnight often, anyway. The deer in the watering hole behind it were beautiful to discover.)

Oceanside can get very crowded anymore–but we still love it there. The landslide that occurred at its beach earlier this year was cleaned up. All seemed safe enough, for now. Below, part of the village on the hill. The clifftop motel is not far from the landslide point. I wonder if it will finally close. We stayed there decades ago–quite a view!

Here is a slideshow for better continuity as the late afternoon melded into evening.

Everyone seemed so happy to be in the salt sea air, basking in early spring sunlight and moving through sunset magic. I hope you can find a place to breathe deeply and explore nature more soon. Find the wonders of coming days and nights or, at the least, share kind exchanges, and I’ll see you Wednesday with a longform/creative nonfiction post.

Monday’s Meanders: North Pacific Coast/Oregon Pleasures

A viewpoint between Neskowin and Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

We made it to the sea–and more–once again! Such a relief to get out of the sprawl of the city and into mountains, then onto the beach.

It was a heavenly day trip when last Wednesday we travelled a swath of the north Oregon coast from morning until very late at night. There was no plan except to begin at Neskowin, a coastal village we enjoy with its weather-beaten houses, general store and restaurant; there is also a golf course. And the beach, which is 3 miles long. The off-season (or mid-week, fall through early spring) seems to draw fewer people than some spots. But it’s not all about the ocean at the coast, either–there are many landscapes to explore, including trails at nearby Cascade Head that I’ve yet to explore much.

Proposal Rock-named by a 19th century settler whose daughter became engaged there.

Then we thought we’d go to Oceanside, an old favorite I hadn’t seen since a significant landslide earlier in the year. It would entail a very photo-dense post to share even half of what was experienced. Today I’ll begin with Neskowin State Park, then follow with Nestucca Wildlife Preserve. (The rest will be duly shared in upcoming posts.)

Below, an easy access trail to the right of the water leads past the store and an inn and then to Neskowin Beach State Recreation Site.

Above and below, a calm inlet and part of Slab Creek, which empties into the sea.

Next, on towards Nestucca Bay area. We have driven past many times, so this trip we stopped.

We arrive at the Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge and marvel that we never stopped before. There is so much to experience along the Pacific Coast–never a dull trip! This refuge of coastal prairie, marshlands, forest and meadows is wonderful. Many species of shorebirds, songbirds, raptors and more–and supports the coastal wintering of Dusky Canada Geese.

Per the government website since it is so well said: “Nestucca Bay, at 1,202 acres, is the largest refuge within the Oregon Coastal Refuge Complex. Located where the Nestucca and Little Nestucca rivers converge and debouch into the Pacific, the refuge is managed to provide wintering habitat for six subspecies of Canada Geese, including Aleutian and Dusky Canada Geese. The refuge also hosts several species of dabbling ducks, shorebirds and raptors on at least seven distinct habitat types.

And, additionally: “In addition to the salt marshes, mudflats and labyrinthine tidal creeks characteristic of estuaries, Nestucca Bay NWR features an array of distinct habitat types, including pastures, grasslands, woodlands, freshwater bogs and forested wetlands.” 

Taking a short drive to a parking area, we then walked up a trail to the top of the overlook. Many raptors and songbirds delighted. The vista was wide and far, the air so clear and bright–and the sun shone surprisingly hot. We were the only ones at a viewing platform, and the feeling was one of freedom and peace.

We determined that we’d hike the long trail into more forested land next time–although I am a bit wary of bobcats showing up, I would love to see–or at the least see evidence of–Roosevelt Elk, black-tailed deer and coyotes, and also mink, river otters, beaver and more.

After a pause for lunch, it was time to keep travelling along the West Coast highway, 101, to first revisit Sitka Sedge and then Oceanside. More to come next week!

(PS Number two COVID-19 shot is this Wednesday. Number 1 was a quite alright experience. So I’ll write a creative nonfiction post if feeling fine. If I do need to rest, I hope to return for my usual “Friday’s Poem” post. If not, then see you next Monday. Enjoy the unfolding of spring, if that is your season now. Step outdoors, find big and little joys, pass along peace.)

Monday’s Meander: Almost Tulip Time!

At the Woodland Tulip Festival in Washington

I am feeling a bit impatient about tulips–how much longer…? It should be enough that there are vincus, cherry blossoms, daffodils, hyacinths, azaleas, rhoddies, camellias, magnolias, daphne, pansies and several more showing off their colorful designs. I even saw my first wild trilliums over the weekend, a small but distinctive joy I get every Pacific Northwest spring. But it’s tulips I start thinking of…perhaps because my mother told me as a child that tulips bloom in April, the month I was born–so it must be my flower.

Or maybe it’s because my sister, Marinell, liked them and I miss her–she died around my birthday a few years ago. Plus, a happy memory is how much we enjoyed a three-sisters trip to a tulip festival in Washington in 2013. From my oldest sister’s home in Issaquah, WA., it was an easy drive and we made a day outing of it. It was one of the last Sisters’ Trips that Allanya, Marinell, and I took. So, it is only natural that I think of her and spring rambles with pleasure.

I hold tulips in high regard. I appreciate their ubiquitousness, their commonness; they have few frills, less fragrance. Sturdy, with three petals and three sepals to make it seem as if six petals, the tulip is a brightly hued, rather humble bloom that nonetheless looks pleased with its elegant simplicity. They seem easy to grow. Tulips traditionally symbolize love and spring’s arrival–entirely apt, in my opinion. Apparently in the 1600s they were considered extremely valuable and cost a fortune. Another factoid: there are almost 150 various species, and over 3000 naturally derived and cultivated varieties in the world. And they are related to a flower I do consider more fancy while also attractive (but often smellier)–the lily.

But enough talk. Here are photos from our trip in 2013, a cloudy day that was bursting with color and smiles. This might hold me until they show themselves in my neighborhood!

At the gardens: Marinell and Allanya, two more of nature’s best

Monday’s Meander: Menucha’s Rustic Charms

I went to the Menucha Retreat and Conference Center during early spring, and the serenity of the grounds was strong enough to linger several years.

The land was homesteaded in 1874 by John Painter, an English sailor. Situated above the Columbia Gorge with its namesake river, the property was bought in 1914 by Julius Meier, a wealthy businessman (Meier and Frank department stores) who later was a Governor of Oregon. The estate became well known following the first family residence being built in 1927. The property was a country retreat for family and friends, and political figures visited, including Herbert Hoover and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The Meiers mostly took up residence in warmer months.

The home and land were originally reachable only by the river where Native American culture thrived (and salmon was abundant). Then the first Northwest highway was carved out of the Cascade Mountain Range in 1913. It runs 75 miles through the Columbia Gorge and past Menucha.

In 1950, the First Presbyterian Church of Portland purchased it with the family’s blessing. The estate was named by the Meiers, and since “Menucha” roughly means “still” or “peaceful” in Hebrew, the church kept it. The ecumenical center serves as retreat for about 400 Judeo-Christian groups (thought it serves not only these groups) per year. The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (though the original home was destroyed by carpenter ants). Not grand but more rustic, the structures are sturdily designed in the Pacific Northwest style developing during that time. The primary retreat center’s interior is attractive but it is the outdoors that draws me. The grounds are rolling and green and forests encircle it. And it’s well kept with a small front garden; the land is 700 feet above the river.

In early spring Marc and I wandered around the grounds following an Easter week dinner and other events. The wind blew fiercely at times but steady sunshine warmed us. We were pleased to have finally visited a place we had only ogled from the car for years. Though not now attending the church we did then, anyone can book a room for their individual restful retreat. Perhaps when the pandmeic is well addressed we’ll look into that. Weddings are also held there, as well as conferences for nonprofits, family reunions and arts workshops.

In addition to this great fireplace where meals can be made–and hot dogs and marshmallows roasted– and served at nearby tables, there is a well maintained pool overlooking the Gorge.

There is an old stone labyrinth that we walked.

Some of John Painter’s fruit trees live on.

It is a good spot for meditation and restoration, as its name indicates. We finally bade farewell to Menucha–until another day.

Monday’s Meander: A Biltmore Estate Visit

Let’s slip over to North Carolina awhile, in the Asheville area. Though mansions are not at the top of my list of things to see, I am about to showcase one. I need a break from the many water scenes that saturate (I know…sorry) my life: steady drumming of winter rain on roof, dripping off branches and leaves of bushes and my nose. The many river and ocean photos. I nearly reposted a blog piece from 2017, also about the trip to this place–it garnered 62 “likes”, to my surprise. But this time I want to focus on the palatial home rather than philosophize about beauty/art/nature and so on. Let the pictures speak…

Still, a little history. The American (of Dutch origin) Vanderbilts were industrial magnates, their wealth too much for most of us to fathom. Since visiting I sometimes muse over Anderson Cooper, television journalist and author, and his family history. I have respect for his work. Matriarchal grandparents, Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt and Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, had tremendous financial prowess rooted in shipping and railroad empires. Reginald was one of the wealthiest men in the world. Anderson Cooper’s mother, Gloria Vanderbilt (his father, the writer Wyatt Cooper, died at age 50) was an heiress but became a famous artist and fashion designer. (I’m certain to have worn her jeans in young adulthood–surprisingly somewhat affordable.) The descendants are many; several became famous in their chosen fields.

The Vanderbilts had a great many houses between various successful relatives. Most have been torn down or were finally turned into museums. The Biltmore Estate is the latter though still owned by descendants. Conceived by George Washington Vanderbilt, a country gentleman due to his inheritance, it was built between 1889-1895 in the grand French Revivalist style. He purchased 125,000 acres; the estate was self-sustaining with farming and animal husbandry. The house remains the largest privately owned home in the U.S. with 250 rooms–or, put another way per Wikipedia, 4 acres of floor space. On top of all this, Vanderbilt created nearby attractive Biltmore Village for his servants to live in, handy and one would think also generous.

All this is interesting historically but the estate was a peculiar, intriguing feast for the eyes as we wove through rooms–often in the middle of a large group and usually in shadow as it is not well lit. Trying to think of dinner in the dining room, billiards in the game room, music in the music room….and how did one figure out which of countless bedrooms to slumber within? The preserved furniture, valuable objects and decorative touches were curious to observe. Much of it was heavy, dark toned. The staiurc ases were beautiful. Finally we got to wander amid a garden or two.

Marc had not wanted to go. It was later in morning so our visit would be shorter than I’d hoped; there was a pricey entrance fee and rain threatened (but held off). I wanted to explore a place so unusual as this–then fell in love with the North Carolina and estate area landscape. I did admire certain details, features of the mansion, and was struck often by its immensity–the architectural engineering of such a behemoth. I cannot, however, imagine such an extreme sort of lifestyle…and preferred to think of wandering about the rolling land, writing poems, listening to birds….riding horseback here and there, though I am not too experienced!

Let’s start with a slide show.

Marc taking in the acreage

If interested in the original post, it is here: https://talesforlife.blog/2017/06/28/behold-what-the-eye-can-see/