Monday’s Meander on Tuesday: Stunning Red Rock State Park (Plus, My Surprise)

As you can see, I am leading with a blurry but happy photo of me taken when visiting Red Rock State Park, the last part of our trip to Central Oregon. Not because I think the picture is special. Rather, because my admitted self-image does not currently match up with X-rays and MRIs. I must have thought I could bypass various aspects of this qging body; I might have had rose colored glasses on too often.

Sitting on the fence that day three weeks ago, I didn’t feel like someone with a major knee issue. I was a little tired and very thirsty–that sun was nearly scorching my skin. But I wasn’t fending off bothersome pain after a nice walkabout. Those who’ve read my blog are aware I had a medial tear of a meniscus (right knee) in January and have been working with that ever since. To little avail, though a cortisone shot diminished the worst pain after two months’ physical therapy. Which I had to quit as it was the wrong thing to pursue, it turns out. I managed increasingly better after the injection (but it made my face and neck beet red and was itchy several days). I have from the start kept up with daily walks if possible –but after that they were faster and farther and even on hilly terrain with just a tad lingering soreness.

I know this sort of injury is common for lots of active people and so wasn’t that concerned; I had another tear 4 years ago and it healed up. But then came further consults with orthopedic surgeons about that jagged tear. I had the second one yesterday. The first doctor did not inform enough or clarify a timeline for a plan so I sought another’s opinion. I learned I have some degenerative arthritis on part of the knee in addition to a difficult-to-fix tear at the root of the injured meniscus. Bottom line is I will– this year, likely– need a partial knee replacement. I so appreciate the second surgeon being clear and frank about things. And we will talk again in awhile unless things go south faster than hoped.

But–what? Hang on a minute– I didn’t even know I had any, much less significant, arthritis! Sure, a crunch here and there, sometimes a sudden pain. But nothing impossible. I push to override discomfort, anyway, then go my merry way, whether that’s good or not. So this was a shocking reveal. (I still don’t know what will happen with the irregular tear–that procedure didn’t sound so nice/simple. Partial knee replacement with that repair may occur at same time.)

Ok, maybe a little discomfort in the semi-lame knee….enough walking for one day. (And where’s the iced tea? Just snap the pic, will ya?)

I can’t quite sort out or elucidate feelings about it; this isn’t a creative nonfiction piece, and I have to sit with the information awhile. I ponder this: I felt strong and well before this last injury. I have dealt with pain alright, overall, tried to take care of myself and looked forward to an effective treatment plan. Well, reality is what it is. And any fix that will help me stay active outdoors and for longer is the better news. I am grateful for what all I do not have and am counting on more healing, in time.

On to the good stuff: Smith Rock State Park, which spreads out at 3200 feet above sea level. (We met our granddaughter and friend and also her mother there for a last visit.) It is renowned for sport rock climbing of all sorts and levels. Made of volcanic rock–basalt and tuff– the peaks are intriguing colors and shapes. Hard to imagine the upheaval and profound alterations that occurred with the eruption(s).

I regret I wasn’t able to descend into Crooked River valley to hike those miles of trails, nor climb among rocky abuttments this time. You can spot in the distance a few rock climbers and hikers. Paths wind all about below, which I plan to revisit–it’s an exhilarating hike!

The trail you see above travels up and then down and around the river’s length. I am zoomed in here. The shot below gives more perspective on the descent, as well as height of pinnacles. If you look closely, you can see one person walking at far left on the trail by the river; there are a few others barely visible on far right end of trail that are mere specks.

Below, there is a rock climber inside a crevasse farther at right side of the rocks. Look for a white shirt half in shadow. Hard to spot–I did have a telephoto lens–in the car!…

Fanily insert shows Granddaughter Avery, Marc and me; Avery and her friend on an upper trail; people at right looking down toward river valley, left of shot.

I love the textures, shapes, colors of the high desert. And the sweet-sharp fragrances everywhere.

The afternoon began to melt away in the heat and beauty. We had four hours to drive. After saying a fond farewell to our Avery we started back home. Here are a few parting shots from along the road.

We passed through Warm Springs Reservation on the way to the Cascades. Whenever I do, I think of the clients I counselled while working in addictions/mental health treatment. I was once employed by a Native American organization and it was an experience that changed me, meeting people from multiple tribes, witnessing the palpable suffering and learning about their survival; learning a few of many traditions, hearing their music, and feeling their great desire for wholeness. I still have some beadwork sliped into my hands by some women clients who completed treatment succesfully. I was given a beautiful painting by a well known Native artist…but couselors shoould not take such gifts. The director decided to keep it since I wasn’t American Indian, anyway– and it was valuable. That hurt a bit, but I wonder how the male artist fared once back home.

This rugged land–and all the rest– was once theirs. The lossses were and are grave; the Native peoples are traumatized and it carries forward generationally. I ponder it even now–our country too often seems to not consider the impact of all this. And we cannot forget.

This trip–about which I have posted for four weeks– was only three days but stuffed with interesting experiences and fun hours. Marc and I will be getting away more this summer. Actually, we are off to the beach on Sun. so I won’t be posting next “Monday’s Meander.” But the following week: some choice Pacific Ocean stories and shots!

Monday’s Meander: High Desert Museum

A major observation that one makes about high desert– besides hopscotch carpets of sagebrush and such pungent scents– is the sharp dryness of things. All seems to crackle underfoot; air is stripped of moisture for the most part. In a short time, my skin and hair feel the effects—skin parchment-like, hair becoming flyaway. Brittleness reigns. Yet, there is something attractive about this landscape. It’s aridity and semi- monochromatic austerity lend a spareness best seen in open range, but also is notable where the western juniper, ponderosa pine, larch grow. But as small things are discovered, another world is revealed.

The High Desert Museum is a good place to experience this. Opened in 1982, it exits to encourage people to consider the history of this high desert area–part of the Columbia Plateau– and how people have interacted with it.

We hurried through indoor exhibits– we’d visited before and had limited time. The outdoor exhibits have been improved and I had to be outdoors–it was a lovely day.

Follow in my footsteps as we head outdoors during a slideshow, below. You’ll note there is evidence of a riparian part of high desert–so crucial to this land– with small creeks. (There’s an exhibit with deeper water for two river otters, not an uncommon critter in Oregon.) But everywhere are reminders of high fire danger–it was well posted–and I thought how those trees and shrubs could be immediate fire timber and kindling. Evidence of fire as we crossed the Cascade Range came to mind, as well as wildfires near our home once.

You’ll note, at the end of the slideshow, a replica of a sheepherder’s wagon in the 1880s; it is reminsicent of wagons in which pioneers crossed the continent to settle the West. Or, rather, resettle, since Native Americans lived and worked here for so very long….

The draw for us this visit was the Miller Family Ranch and Sawmill. Though a fictional family, the reconstructed settlement is typical of a ranch for white homesteaders who claimed and worked land in Central Oregon in the1880s. The climate is not very hospitable; life was difficult. We moved between a barn, cabin, corral, bunkhouse, root cellar, and sawmill. There would have been cattle tended and horses on open range; we noted chickens and a chicken house. During summer months there are reenactments of the lives lived in such a homestead then.

For current residents of this part of Oregon, ranching is still a primary part of the culture and economy.

By this time, indigenous land had already been explored and occupied by people such as trappers, missionaries, and surveyors. Native people were forced to sign treaties or removed– or dealt with violently. Native rights retained did allow descendants to still hunt, gather and fish in areas they used to inhabit so freely. Visiting the ranch reconsturction brought up conflicting issues and feelings, with much to consider, as usual, when I revisit American history. (Every country has its painful history but it doesn’t help much to think on that, either–especially these days.)

It was a good day well used and we were ready for a meal and a restful evening. For next week’s blog I’ll take you to Smith Rock, one of the more impressive sights I’ve seen in Central Oregon. The land opens up as you drive from Bend, and mountain vistas are clear on a sunny day. Then jagged and often reddish rocks and pinnacles of the State Park are revealed. A very small teaser is below.

Monday’s Meander: Bend, Central Oregon Gem

We left quaint Sisters and moved further into high desert country, east of the beautiful Cascade Range. We arrived at Bend in late afternoon, happy with our views from the hotel on the Deschutes River, alongside which Bend, population of about 100,000, sprang up. It was one of the few crossing points along the river and was established as a logging town in early 1900s. Later it became a gateway for many year- around outdoor sports. The weather, typical of this elevation of 3623 ft. and semi-arid climate, tends towards cool nights and sunshine-filled days. Winter brings some snow; summer averages 65 degrees F. It was perfect when we were there, in the upper 50s to upper 60s.

Part of a view from our room.

It is easy to see why the population has increased the past 20 years and why a main business is tourism. Also, folks with some money can retire well here–we’d thought of it, but it got pricier. We got to know this area better 15 years ago when my son and his then-wife moved their family to La Pine, a smaller more rural town 30 minutes away. I liked the climate and different nature offerings. The clarity and freshness of air is, for one, pretty phenomenal; junipers, lodgepole pine, and sagebrush lend a pungent fragrance. And the mountains offer a view that never tire me. Mt. Bachelor is a favorite for skiing and more but there are several snow-capped peaks. Black Butte (noted last week, not well seen here) is another interesting peak. (I’d like to spend time at Black Butte Ranch.)

Below, views as evening fell around the Hilton Garden Inn in the Old Mill District. The stacks you see rising into the lovely sky are attached to a building that was originally the power station for the mill at this site. (It is now an REI outdoor store.) They nudged my eyes upward even in day, but then back to open sky and mountains.

The next day we walked along the winding and excellent waterfront path, noting birds and scenery. There is a somewhat upscale shopping district here, so I also browsed and purchased a few things. Marc found a local coffee shop that sold the Sisters Coffee brand and said it was great.

It was a good day out and about the area as well as meeting our 20 y.o. granddaughter, enjoying a a fish and chips lunch at her work place, basking in hot sunshine at a table outside. (It always feels hotter when the sun is out in high desert…) Avery has lived there with her mother and our 15 y.o. grandson for many years, and it’s a pleasure to visit with them whenever we can, in Bend or here.

I should note that the Hilton Garden Inn served a very good breakfast. Later we’d hoped to eat outdoors at an Italian restaurant by the water–but when night arrived it was quite cold for us. High desert temperatures change a great deal at night and again in the day. We got a few microwaveable items and “roughed it” in our cozy room, a fire going in the fireplace. But that’s skipping ahead!

A few of the day’s views below.

Above, in a shot from the hotel balcony: I watched marathon runners crossing a bridge and rushing down the paths. Mt. Bachelor is in the distance. You might note the two colors of the many bridge flags are in support of war-ravaged Ukraine. The wind at this spot is, incidentally, very strong at times.

We soon were off to explore the High Desert Museum for the afternoon. It has excellent informative indoor exhibits but we looked forward to seeing new developments outdoors. We last visited perhaps 10 years ago, during which time we saw rescued (from those who had caught and caged them) wolves up close. I also spotted a cougar paw print on a hike and have to admit I was not at ease tha rest of that trail…they are so sly.

It was an educational, pleasant meander there. A quick peek into a scene from museum grounds, below–I’ll post many more shots next Monday, so see you then!

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…

Friday’s Passing Fancy: East of Cascade Mountains, Smith Rock

On a brief road trip we still find extraordinary views even though we have become more familiar with it over the decades.

High desert country called in the midst of our new twin baby tending here. I have had little time to devote to writing or photography (except for pictures of the infant girls my daughter and husband are lovingly watching over –as are we, so very frequently). But now and then we engage in other matters of interest.

We enjoyed a quick two day trip over the Cascades for another granddaughter’s high school graduation. (Hooray for my son’s daughter, Avery! Early graduation at barely 17; on to college in the fall!) And I remain fascinated by that area, though doubt I’d trade rain forests, valleys and mountain foothills of my home topography for eastern Oregon’s high desert and ranch lands. Though I am yet drawn to the power of those, as well as our mountain ranges.

We always stop at Smith Rock near Redmond, Oregon if we can. I find it breathtaking, shifting scenes that are ever mesmerizing to explore as we trudge over winding, dusty paths. Here are several shots from our sweaty hike touched by awestruck moments. I saw a river otter for the first time, also, though shots did not come out well.

Be on the lookout for rock climbers here and there.

Looking down at a route we will soon begin.

Please click on the series below for a slide show.