Monday’s Meander: Fun in the Fruit Loop

All photos copyright 2019 Cynthia Guenther Richardson

Just south of Hood River, Oregon is the Fruit Loop, a 35 mile winding back road that showcases much of the beauty and many edible/imbibe-able offerings of this area. It makes its way about fruit orchards, farmland, pleasant little towns, and surrounding forests. As seen above, Mt. Hood’s majestic 11, 240 ft. high peak dazzles in sunlight.

Twenty-nine farms dot the meandering roads. I learned that 39% of the USA’s pears are grown and harvested here. There are also seasonally grown berries, cherries, apples, peaches and pumpkins, among others. Kids love to visit to enjoy traditional family activities, including corn mazes and hayrides. The farm stores offer abundant choices of jam and baked goods, as well as seasonal gifts and decor. If you are a wine lover, this is a good place to visit, too. (Have to admit, wine would be what I’d drink if I could!)

I was after fresh batches of apples and pumpkins for food and pleasure. And hot cider and cinnamon sugar cake donuts. We’ve visited five farms so far. This visit we included 3; we always hang out in Hood River and it takes a few hours to see just a few. (But it was at a more local farm that I finally got my tasty, warm donuts during another outing yesterday. Delicious!)

First off was Pearl’s, a humble but pleasing stop.

I was delighted to see an alpaca…I think! We have many alpacas and llamas in Oregon but I get confused as they look similar to me from a distance. This lovely creature was observant and curious.

Packer Orchards was a great stop. I’ve bought their jams at farmers’ markets for years so was happy to visit–and pick up more ginger spice pear jam. Pumpkins galore at this stop!

The above 3 pictures of Foxtail Distillery and Cider Mill are of a brief stop, but we managed to leave with a dozen delicious, mostly different varieties of apples. Good plain cider!

It was getting later so off we went. This countryside thrills me as much as any other Oregon area. We continued on to a hidden spot, Tucker Park, to round out our day.

Tucker Park is on the actual tumbling and refreshing Hood River (as opposed to the town), where there are several campsites. It is at times quite fast-running and also cold. A very attractive spot; we will go back and poke around the banks and trail more.

I hope you enjoyed coming along with us on our Fruit Loop foray!

Friday’s Pick: Reluctant Traveler On a Breathtaking Adventure

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Photos by Cynthia Guenther Richardson

I meant to have an adventure or two in Colorado and so I did; I had little idea what was ahead.

I am chock-full of images absorbed, moments shared. The first motivation was a desire to visit my oldest daughter and her partner– in his element, a place she has been visiting awhile (she lives in S. Carolina). But close behind that was a fascination with one of our Rocky Mountains states. I hadn’t traveled there in decades and not to the same area. I always have loved mountains–anywhere, any sort–as they draw me with their magisterial presence carved from fierce wildness. Intrigued by geological history and flora and fauna that have claimed mountains as home, I am also just a sucker for beauty in its plethora of origins and designs.

I will let my photos show the way I first saw Colorado Springs, the Rockies surrounding it. I knew they would be there–I just didn’t know they would be that up close and personal. I was forever craning my neck, tilting my head to see even better, farther. And I adapted to the 6000+ ft. altitude in a couple of days–a small ache in my head, a little breathlessness at first. (I felt fairly confident since I have been to Banff in the Canadian Rockies, visiting Lake Louise at 5249 ft., as well as Crater Lake in OR. at over 6000 ft.) Fun to experience were the different architectural style of older neighborhoods and good downtown shopping, an impressive art museum and delicious meals– and a sweet evening visit to the famous Broadmoor Hotel. Artist Naomi also taught me a bit about Shibori indigo dying and we created squares of cotton prints together, a satisfying and fun afternoon.

But all that can wait for later posts. Instead, we will go on the short trip I felt quite ready to undertake by my 5th day. I was excited about it: an off-road trail exploration of mountains in a refurbished older Jeep with Naomi, with Adam at the wheel. He has lived in Colorado for over 25 years so knows all about the terrain and adventuring. This is a man who has climbed 14 of 52 mountain peaks 14,000 ft. or so–not just famous Pike’s Peak that can be seen in some of the photos below. A person of many enthusiasms, as is Naomi.

Come follow along to see what I saw and learn what I experienced that was entirely new in my 68 years of living, thus far… The highest peak seen in the last 4 photos is Pike’s Peak. (Sorry, these are not the best clarity, taken late afternoon/evening with  rain clouds gathering and some smokiness. One of many Western summer forest fires was burning not far away; wind carried the smoke in a bit the week I was there.) Naomi and Adam goofed off and posed here when I asked for a picture with mountains behind them downtown.

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Naomi and Adam

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I’m going to skip a few days to move on to the Pike National Forest off-road trail trip. Smoke wafted about as we drove through groups of people exploring a famous city park close by, Garden of the Gods with unusual sandstone formations. These are only a few views of the place as we didn’t stop; it was quite congested. People come from all over to hike, horseback ride, cycle and climb. As we left the worthy attraction and climbed up, the air cleared.

A slide show reveals gradual changes in terrain as we drive higher and  higher in the Rockies toward our destination. Upon arrival at Pike National Forest, amid lots of exclamations of astonishment at the mind-boggling panoramas, I noted a slight headache and the sun was searing in the sparkling air. But not to worry, I thought, we had plenty of water and I was ready to move on and embrace whatever was next!

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We continued on, looking for the off-road trails Adam had mapped. The air fairly crackled with dryness; it struck me how easily a devastating wilderness fire could flare and take immediate hold of the quite arid landscape. We passed also through private ranching country at times, yet for miles and miles there seemed to be nothing but mountains, scrubby plant life, scatterings of tree groupings. It is solitary land, and feels like verging on a great emptiness but for the immensity of sky and grandeur of the mountain range. I was aware of being separated from common civilization, felt the immediacy of the environment scoured by heat and clarity of air, and not uncomfortably jostled by the Jeep navigating rougher dirt roads. Elemental, intense, this territory is transfixing. And I felt a bit off-kilter from what I knew was decreased oxygen. It was a sudden sort of “high” not experienced before, a light-headedness not quite unpleasant as we bounced along. I snapped my pictures of this great American West, was made smaller, more humble by such immensity.

But in the back of my mind I wondered: how much higher. By the time we got a couple of miles down the rougher trails, I was burning up. My daughter switched seats with me so I had more shade and thoroughly wet a bandanna for my face and neck which cooled me nicely. I kept drinking water often as instructed. But I knew it was something else that underlay my body’s discomfort; I suspected it was the elevation and we had quite a way to go. I asked Adam if we were going to descend any time soon and he assured me we would. (I’m not sure how high we were then; I never asked.) I watched the land go by in a daze and finally we started to wind down the mountainous trails and then onto a road. We passed several others having fun on their ATVs. At Wilkerson Pass, amid miles of wide openness at 9504 feet, we got out to eat (I nibbled at half a sandwich) and stretch a bit. I took a “selfie” there, but can you tell I’m feeling a bit out-of-body and thinking: Hold on, Cynthia, you will be alright one way or the other…?

But I really wasn’t. I got blasted with altitude sickness in a couple of hours. Oxygen deprivation. I felt poorly enough that when we got into the city and stopped at a bookstore I had so wanted to visit, I just wanted to lie down. The headache had begun in earnest and I felt queasy. And then the headache got far worse and the nausea did not abate all day and night. It was as if my body had been hijacked; there was nothing to do but surrender to it. “Drink more,” I was urged. How on earth to drink on a bad stomach…but it was constant sips, all night long. I was lost in limbo, caught between the worst full body pain I had felt in a long while coupled with a peculiar disoriented state of mind. I moved awkwardly, feet and legs not working well, to bathroom and back from a living room couch–I never got to my bedroom– body resisting. No pain or stomach pills helped. Symptoms got worse, not better, as hours passed. In a distant way I heard Naomi ask if I needed more medical intervention, and once or twice considered the emergency room. But it seemed too hard to do. My heart felt, miraculously, as if it was beating decently. I could breathe well enough. I simply hung on in the faith it would only more time. A long time…but the damaging night passed into a hallelujah day.

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My daughter said I didn’t sleep until around 6 a.m (neither did she)–well over 15 hours since the beast got hold of me. Naomi was a Godsend watching over me; calm, efficient, kind, I would have been lost without her aid. When I awakened around noon the next day, the pain was receding and my stomach had settled. Not yet up to dancing speed, but I felt more safe and sane. My body felt wrung out as if it had been boondoggled, but there was gratitude that it had about run its course. Hunger was aroused. Not thirst; my very cells felt waterlogged from the constant imbibing of fluids. It seemed as if my flesh and bones had run a marathon through a bad alternate reality, a sort of trial by fire. But I have had those  trials before–different but also challenging.

The important thing was, all was ending up alright; there was a quiet giddiness underlying that. The human body vigorously fights for a renewed homeostasis so it can heal so I’d held on for the ride. Truth is, altitude sickness can strike anyone when above 8000 feet, no matter their fitness, health, age or expectations. Adam and Naomi felt badly it happened but so it goes, I pulled the short straw that time. Until I got up around 9000 ft., I had felt hearty and ready for anything. Honestly, it was at first more aggravating that I was waylaid: my first off-road Jeep trip in the Rockies at age 68–well, I wanted more!

I had to cancel that evening’s flight at a cost, but the next day I felt much more able to return home. I took a last congenial stroll in the lovely neighborhood with Naomi, then packed my bags. I was not glad to leave, only relieved to be recovering. Sad no time was left, to share laughter, conversation, jaunts and good meals with two lively, bright, caring people. I’d discovered joyous experiences plus instructive ones. I would sure go again. Just not likely above 8000 ft.

As my plane descended to Portland International Airport I was delighted to gaze upon our own mountains, the Cascades, as they showed off in a sunset. Mountains, the geography I always will love! Wild, breathtaking (in a true dual sense), daunting and mesmerizing, oddly elegant in their rough-hewn complexity. I am ever confounded by ancient beauties on/within our earth. Count me lucky to be alive another year, another day. The earth has many golden passages that open us to greater illuminations.

(As soon as I disembarked that last trace of headache vanished…at 30 ft. elevation.)

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An Alpine Jewel/Over and Out

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All photographs copyright Cynthia Guenther Richardson 2018

My oft-stated “reluctance to travel” stance (due to a flying aversion, partly) is beginning to seem at least a white lie since I’ve been elsewhere much of the last few months. And soon I am off to the “Rocky Mountain High” of Colorado to visit more family. This, despite my concern about the major altitude in general and its impact on coronary artery disease. But, no way out–the cardio nurse said there is no reason to not go for it (“yes, you’ll feel the altitude but just slow down and rest”), so go I will.

Before I fly into the great wild blue (or is it wide blue…), I wanted to share a more local fun adventure. Marc and I hit the road yesterday to see Trillium Lake by our own mountain– Mt. Hood, of the Cascades. I have been on the mountain, as we say, many times (another post was written about Mirror Lake, near Trillium Lake) but had never had the pleasure of experiencing our mountain lake from early afternoon til evening. I’m grateful we went. But next time I want on a kayak, paddle board or just a big donut “floatie.” We also did enjoy an easy 2 mile hike at 3700 feet.

I could elaborate at length about the grandeur of alpine forests and the towering majesty of Mt. Hood; undulating, gentle water; languid campers and picnickers and floaters (no motorboats allowed); and the drenched, ebullient dogs romping among freedom-crazed kids. It was all beautiful to witness. And oh the deeply quiet, redolent trails through forest and marsh circling the lake–perfect.

But it is best to just show you. There were so many great vistas and people to observe and record that it was hard to pick these few shots. Please enjoy Oregon’s Trillium Lake–named for my favorite wildflower–and ruggedly attractive Mt. Hood (which draws skiers from all over each winter).

The first look after we parked and paid our $5 fee:

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And that nature-infused happiness billowed–even as I noted more and more people around the curving edges of the lake (that crowded parking situation highlighted that immediately). No matter; it’s just awesome.

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Then a relaxing hike around the perimeter of the lake. There was much more forest we hiked but it is hard (for me) to get great interior forest pictures. That boardwalk through the marsh was caving in at spots and had been, we think, closed off. But someone had tossed the warning sign aside and we decided to proceed and safely managed it. The varieties of bird song was worth it as well as the views.

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Back at lakeside we decided to really relax, cool our dusty, dirty, black fly-nibbled, sweaty bodies and drink lots more water plus eat a snack. We settled into camp chairs in the piney shade. It was still in the mid-80s (F)–in Portland it was close to 100 degrees Sunday, hence this trip higher up–but we were blessed with swift breezes. Wonderful to sit among such trees and close to tranquil water. This is actually Marc smiling–a too-rare thing these days with his endless long work hours. From our perches we watched countless families, couples and friends play–and what a good time they all had.

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The light began to throw off its brilliant gold, sank behind the treeline bit by bit, and prepared to put on its magic silver character. I was mesmerized. (Please click on the smaller squares for better viewing.)

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The long drive back home past forests and moss-encrusted cabins and fine ski lodges was quiet. We were satiated, tired out in the way that is a deep comfort. Surely you, too, can find your own diversity of delights the coming week. Look about; it may not be Mt. Hood and Trillium Lake (plan to visit) but I guarantee that life-enhancing moments hide in plain sight.

Well, this is “over and out.” Be well, be kind. Catch you in a week or so (that is, before or after our annual summertime Oregon coast trip)!

Friday’s Quick Pick: San Diego’s Old Town (on My Possibly Jinxed Birthday)

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Way back on May 2nd when I started posting about a recent trip to San Diego (the 1st of three trip posts is here: Wednesday’s Word: An Odd and Beautiful Holiday Begins; the 2nd, here: Friday’s Quick Pick: Boat Cruise on San Diego’s Bay ; and the 3rd and most recent is here: Wednesday’s Words: Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala ) I noted that there were three unexpected occurrences that made the trip a bit odd. The first one was a happy surprise–a last minute upgrade (to put it mildly) of hotel rooms that made a great difference for Marc and me in comfort, view and mood.

A second unplanned but unappealing experience happened the night before my birthday. We’d had a pleasurable day at Balboa Park (those photos/narrative not yet posted) and returned to Liberty Market for a quick meal. The other meals had been excellent (Argentinian empanadas and a fresh pasta dish) but this time I chose just a simple deli turkey sandwich. I was unimpressed, even mildly unsure about it but was so hungry I ate most of it. The result, a few hours later: I got sick  and slept little that night. I groaned as brightness of dawn seeped into the room, thinking: What a way to spend another birthday. I have not had good fortune on birthdays a few years– my oldest sister’s funeral was even on one of them. Like a jinx, my own birthday, I thought in a daze.

But at 10 am after a little sleep I felt better and got ready for the day. I was not going to do nothing on my 68th. (As many who have read this blog, I was diagnosed with heart disease at 51 and have lived past the projected expiry date so I count every day–and year–as a gift.) Off we went to visit Old Town as we’d planned. I figured if I ate little to none, drank a lot of water and hoped for the best, it’d be a decent day–despite having to cancel our celebratory dinner plans (at a much finer restaurant).

I’m glad I charged ahead. This touristy but interesting settlement reflects the period of early to mid-1800s, both Mexican and early American. Historic buildings as well as a few replicas line narrow , pedestrian-only streets. Colorful items overflow booths and shops. There is a stable and a fine old hotel as well as other peeks into the past. It was good to think on it all, how it must have been to live those days.

I was satisfied by our visit. Although my appetite was still minimal, my mood became lighter  and it felt like another good day to be alive and (more or less) kicking. Enjoy the meander with me!

 

The attractive, simple house of the Estudillo family was fascinating with its preserved or restored rooms and central courtyard. Four generations lived and gradually thrived there from 1827-1887. I felt the imprints and ghosts of hard work, their unfolding dreams, the family engaged in everyday life as if it all lingered on.

We paused at a mineral and gem shop and then a stables.

The refurbished Cosmopolitan Hotel was rustic yet elegant.

We wandered another hour as that California sun beat down; we both got a bit pinker and tanner. I consumed a great deal of water and rested in the shade some so I wouldn’t keel over…and bought just one item at the market, a small slim, teal-colored leather purse. Marc bought me heavenly eucalyptus hand cream and soap–I recommend it, Eucalyptus by Thymes. I’ve used it almost daily as the scent evokes these good memories despite rougher beginnings on my San Diego birthday.

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All in all, a good time was had. I absorbed the city view from our comfortable balcony; distant, sweet-salty ocean bay breezes wafted up to us as daylight began to gently fade.

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