Friday, December 2, 2016

My Rowena Plateau

Exploring the Pacific Northwest

I know.  I know.  It's not really my Rowena Plateau, but this time of year it feels that way.   The eastern portion of the Columbia River Gorge does not get the traffic that her wetter, more forested sister gets to the west.  The parking lot at Multnomah Falls is still packed, but my car is the only one at Rowena Crest.
The plateau is cold and raw and windy this time of year.  The wildflowers are gone, but the grass is green and Mt. Hood's top hat is covered in snow.

The trail out to the Columbia River is one I walk on a weekly basis.  It's fairly level and only a little over two miles out and back, but it never fails to lift my spirits.  The basalt cliffs, the scrub oaks, the rock formations and the mighty river are all components of a breathtaking landscape.
The plateau is located off old scenic highway 30 between Mosier and The Dalles, Oregon.  It is part of the Tom McCall Nature Preserve and is owned by the Nature Conservancy, a non-profit organization that buys ecologically sensitive land for the benefit of us all.

So . . . okay . . . it's our Rowena Plateau, not mine.  Even though, at times, it feels that way.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Giant Mushrooms

Art in Public Places

Hundreds of wild mushrooms are sprouting through the damp earth this time of year, but so, too, are these giant wooden kind.  I did a double take when I first saw them in a small roadside park in Mosier, Oregon, because they blend in so well with the scenery.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Winter Wonderland Reflections

The pouring rain almost caused us to cancel our trip to Portland's Winter Wonderland light show Sunday night, but if we let a little rain stop us, we're in deep trouble here in the Pacific Northwest.

As it turns out, the rain added an extra dimension to the lights.  As we drove slowly around the race track, the colorful sets were reflected in pools of water.  It was so magical, I knew I wanted to write about it for my blog.

And that led me to the subject of reflection.
My two sons helped me to redesign my blog over the Thanksgiving weekend.  Much to Mimi's alarm, my "search for beautiful clothes" was deleted in my blog's description, but my "search for magical moments" remained.  But those words, too, caused me to pause.  Is this really why I travel?  To find magic?

Shouldn't I, as a travel writer, focus on more serious stories?  Shouldn't I write more about the muck and the mire underneath the magic?
I sometimes feel that my "search for magical moments" is causing me to walk through life with blinders.  But then again, magic has a more weighty meaning.  It can be a synonym for something wonderful and exciting, but it also means influencing a course of events through mystery, supernatural forces or illusion.

So as we drove around the racetrack in the pouring rain, I reflected on magic and the course of my blog.  There's nothing wrong with continuing my search, but the truth is, such magical moments can often pop up in the most unexpected places.  I found such a moment Sunday night at Winter Wonderland.  Not so much in the lights themselves, but their reflections in muddy pools of water.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Watch Out for Velociraptors

Exploring the Pacific Northwest

Laughter is the best medicine.  And if that laughter comes with a big dose of sunshine and beautiful scenery, all the woes of the world disappear.  

  This unusual hiking trail on top of an old pipeline just outside Hood River, Oregon, is guaranteed to do just that.   The pipeline used to transport water from the Powerdale Dam to a powerhouse down river that once generated electricity for 3,000 homes.  The dam was demolished in 2010, but rather than carting away the pipes, PacifiCorp left them to the Columbia Land Trust and Hood River County along with 400 acres of land.  The metal catwalk makes a perfect hiking trail (and an unusual one).

The power company's crew used the catwalk for making repairs to the pipes.  Although we were a little hesitant at first, we found it to be very sturdy.  It was the "DANGER  VELOCIRAPTOR ON PREMISES  KEEP GATE CLOSED" that stopped us in our tracks.  Then had us shaking with laughter.  

 . . .then had us creeped out!  After all, we were the only ones out here.  Did the locals know something we didn't?  Were there really nasty man-eating creatures beyond?

There are parking spaces at the abandoned powerhouse, located just beyond the China Gorge restaurant in Hood River on Oregon Highway 35.  After parking, just follow the train tracks to the left.  Walk along the pipeline and then the path along the river until you get to the catwalk.  It's a 1.5 mile hike out to the end.  The scenery is indeed gorgeous.  If it's a clear day, you get a glimpse of Mt. Hood.

  The Hood River is wild and free, now that the dam is gone.  Salmon, steel head and trout can now make it all the way to the Columbia.  We saw lots of elk and deer tracks and a couple of bald eagles flying above us.  It is the intention of the land trust to conserve and enhance the habitat for wildlife. 

But proceed at your own risk!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Breakfast at Cousins

Favorite Pit Stops

By the time the shock wave hit the west coast, it had reached an intensity of 8.9 on the Richter scale.  We were more than rattled; we were shaken to the core.  The Donald had won.

I needed starch.

I needed Cousins.
Cousins, a restaurant in The Dalles, Oregon, is all about comfort food.  I discovered this place a year ago.  The monster cinnamon rolls, big slabs of meatloaf, homemade pie and buttermilk biscuits all took me back to my roots--that red red state of Kansas.  Cozy tables and booths surround a full-size green Deere tractor.

My son pointed out the irony.  "And this place is making you feel better why?"
But you know, there's something about comfort food . . . it really does help.  I ate my bacon, eggs, potatoes and biscuits like I hadn't eaten in days.  My grief diminished a bit.  At least, I was no longer numb.  Or hungry!

Now I'm just depressed.  I fear it's going to take a lot more meals at Cousins before I reach that next step: Acceptance.

 . . . if ever.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Black Sand Medewi Beach

Exploring Bali

I fell in love with this isolated beach in west Bali almost immediately.  For one thing, the locals couldn't place our accent.  "Are you Canadian?" we got asked a lot.  They were shocked when we told them we were American.  "But Americans never come here," they said.


 Most of the guests staying at Pura Dajuma were from Australia, although Germany was a close second.  Many of them travel here on a regular basis.  It's one of those off-the-beaten track places where you recharge.  You swim.  Paddle board.  Surf.  Eat.  Drink.  Watch the sunset.  Get a massage.  Heal.

 After three weeks on this island,  I finally got it.  You come to Bali to heal.

The gentle waves of the Indian Ocean lap against the black sand and large flat stones.  At low tide, we watch locals walk out and scoop fish straight out of the cracks in the rocks.  At high tide, we watch them cast their nets into the sea.  

The volcanic black sand puts me off at first.  I lived in Santa Barbara for nearly 30 years and when the sand turned black it meant tar and oil oozing up from underneath.  But this sand consists of clean basalt pebbles.  It's clean,  It slides through your toes and brushes off easily.

Still . . . it's not white.  Is that why American's don't come here?

Like the other travelers who migrated to this lovely eco-resort, we fell into a slow and joyful rhythm.
We ate breakfast on the lawn with the roosters.  Then swam in the pool, read, or played in the ocean.  In the afternoon we slept and then swam again.  Around five, it was time for cocktails and the sunset.  Dinner and then bed.  It sounds boring, doesn't it?

But this is why you come to this remote, isolated part of Bali.

To do nothing.

But heal.