Monday, June 29, 2015

Little White Salmon Hatchery

As a travel writer, I have always loved the life cycle story of the salmon.  Their journey from hatchery or spawning grounds to the ocean and then back again is an astounding one.  These fish were born to travel and they do so out of an instinct that scientists have yet to adequately explain.

My travel buddy and I toured three different hatcheries last weekend but the Little White Salmon hatchery on the Washington side of the Columbia River was, by far, the most beautiful.  Established in 1896, this hatchery is the oldest working one in the area.  Two kinds of salmon are raised here:  The Spring Chinooks, which are still visible, and the bigger Fall Chinooks.  Both are commonly known as "King Salmon."

If it weren't for these hatcheries, we would not be eating salmon today.  The salmon population declined at an alarming rate in the late 1800's due to over harvesting and loss of habitat.  Dams along the Columbia thwarted the salmons' efforts to return back to spawn.  Today, numbers are slowly recovering, but it will never reach that multiple million peak of years gone by.

It will be fascinating to come back to the Little White Salmon Hatchery in the fall to witness their return--thousands upon thousands of chinook all stacked up at this barrier dam.  In the ponds above, they began their life.  And here, they will end it.

When they were released from the hatchery they swam down the Little White Salmon River, across Drano Lake and then down the Columbia to the mouth.  Here they stayed a couple of weeks to get used to the salty water before continuing their journey to British Columbia or Alaska.  After one to five years at sea, they then begin the harrowing trip back home, upstream this time, dodging fishermen, bears, birds and navigating waterfalls and dams.  Fish ladders aid them in their climb back home.  Even so, only a small percentage make it back.

There's a visitor center at the hatchery filled with informative exhibits, as well as a a basement viewing area where you can watch the salmon swimming in the holding tank.  Outside is a viewing platform overlooking the fish ladder and barrier dam.  The hatchery is open daily from 7:30 am to 4 pm.  

It was a fun place to begin my own journey:  To follow the salmon from the Columbia River all the way up to Alaska.  (And dare I add;  To catch a few along the way.  Yum!!)


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Afternoon at the Maryhill Museum

Offbeat Museums

All afternoon while roaming around this little art museum, I kept muttering, "Are you kidding me?"  I just couldn't believe I was seeing such beautiful works of art in the middle of nowhere.  Well, okay . . . somewhere.  Like high above the Columbia River on the Washington side.  The above walking man, for instance, looks out on vast emptiness.

The story behind this museum is as interesting as the art it beholds.  Back in 1914, the colorful Sam Hill built this mansion intending it to be his home.  In fact he tried his hardest to make Maryhill, Washington, into a utopian society.  But unlike most of Washington, this area is high and dry.  Farmers struggled.  People left.  And a mansion remained unfinished.

Until that is . . . one of his equally colorful friends, the famous dancer Loie Fuller, encouraged him to turn his unfinished house into an art museum.  She had many Rodins she was willing to sell him.  He could start with those.
Another colorful friend, Queen Marie of Romania, ventured all the way to this place in the wild, wild west to inaugurate it when it was finished in 1926.  There are many pieces of furniture, clothes, art, books and jewelry from her family's home on view in the museum.  In addition, there are paintings from the Boston School and an entire wing devoted to Native American art, especially from this region.  There's a wonderful collection of chess sets and rotating exhibits from contemporary artists.

The Maryhill Museum of Art is small, eclectic and thoroughly delightful.  Much like Sam Hill must have been, himself.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Summer Solstice at Stonehenge

Well . . . sorta

"I've always wanted to go to Stonehenge on the Summer Solstice," a fellow traveler commented, and this was the beginning of many poor jokes from those of us who ventured to this remote site on the Columbia River.  Frankly, I was a bit disappointed there weren't scantily-clad pagans dancing around the pillars, but nope . . . just us pudgy fully-dressed tourists who had to satisfy our curiosity and make bad puns.

But really . . . how could I resist?  Maryhill was just across the river on the Washington side.  This I could do.  England was a bit too far.  And although I was too late to see the sun rise above the Heel Stone on the outside of the circle, the stone is accurately placed, as are all the pillars and archways of this full-sized replica.

This Stonehenge is the brainchild of Samuel Hill, a prosperous businessman who fell in love with the Pacific Northwest in the early 1900's and who made his fortune building roads.  Because giant stones weren't available, he used the material he was now familiar with--reinforced concrete.  He had visited the original site during the first years of World War I and was told that it was used for human sacrifice.  We now know better, but that erroneous statement planted an idea in his mind:  To build a monument honoring the men who were "still being sacrificed to the god of war."

The jokes stopped.

As we walked around the inner circle and read the names and dates of the men of Klickitat County, Washington, who lost their lives during the war, we were struck by how young they were.  Almost all of them were in their early twenties.   Having two sons that age, I realize how lucky I am that they have been spared the horror of fighting in a war.  A newer monument has been erected down the road and more names have been added; the war in Afghanistan being the latest to claim a young local's life.

Suddenly this fake Stonehenge took on a more somber meaning.  It no longer seemed silly.  It seemed quite profound.  The lyrics of that familiar folk song kept popping into my head:  When will we ever learn?  When will we ever learn?

As a War Memorial, Sam Hill got it right.  The site sits high on a plateau overlooking the beautiful Columbia River.  The original Stonehenge was built almost 5,000 years ago by the ancients who wanted to measure time and mark the seasons of the year.  It was a place of reflection.

And so is this one.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Dressing for the Wind

As I write this post, my travel buddy is already on the water riding the wind on his Mistral.  The wind gods, which lured him here in the first place, are out in full force.  The Columbia River Gorge must be their earthly home.

I explore the shoreline, holding onto my hat the entire time.  My gauzy jacket billows in the wind like one of his sails.  I am eager to hit the stores in Hood River and Portland for new summer clothes.  They must be breezy, baggy, lightweight.  Because I, too, want to sail away. . . sail away . . .  sail away . . .

Sharing with Happiness at Mid-Life

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Mount Shasta Retreat

"When I first saw it, all my blood turned to wine,"
                                                        John Muir

When we pulled up to the Shasta Mountain Retreat and Spa, the owner immediately recognized he had two bone-weary guests on his hands.  We could barely make it up the stairs.  He showed us our room with the view of Mt. Shasta and gave us a very quick tour.  "Now, I suggest you get naked, put on those plushy bathrobes and have a soak," he said.

I cannot remember when I have been so pampered.  We did as instructed and after soaking in the hot tub and opening up a bottle of wine on the deck, we started to feel better.  We managed to walk into town for dinner, but then went to bed early.  We laughed when he told us breakfast would not be until nine a.m. (No early birds allowed here!)  "However, if you need to hit the road, I can make yours at 8:30."

We needed to slow down.  We needed to sleep.  Unwind.  Feel the magic that had disappeared from our lives.  And here we felt it once again.
Mt. Shasta symbolizes a new beginning in our lives.  For the next two years we will be living in the Cascade Mountains and Mt. Shasta is located at the southern end of this mountain range.  It looms above the surrounding area, alone and awesome.  It is the second highest Cascade peak, at 14,179 ft.  (Mt. Rainier, in Washington, is the highest.)

Potentially active, it will one day erupt like its sister in Oregon.  My travel buddy and I didn't speak much the night we stayed at this bed and breakfast.  With a view like this, no entertainment is needed.  We slept for ten solid hours.

I told the owner the next morning that his little Victorian farmhouse was better than any hospital for healing a broken spirit.  He continued to pamper us with a huge breakfast of blueberry pancakes, eggs, granola, yogurt and fruit.  There were only three other people staying there--a man from Scotland and a young couple from Oregon.  We sat and talked for an hour until one of us realized we had things to do and places to go.  Sigh.  I could have stayed here another two days!

Thank you, David.  You have a gem of a place!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Strawberry Fields Forever

I put on my big red strawberry hat and take one last stroll through the Riviera.  The van is packed and ready to go.  Moving Day is finally here.

We will drive north stopping at all the summer fruit stands along the way.  "It's strawberry daiquiris tonight, Babe," my travel buddy reminds me.  He sees the tears well up in my eyes.   "And peaches.  And brie.  And dark chocolate."

I know what he's trying to do.  Snap me out of it.  I want to go.  I want a new adventure.  I really do. And yet . . . and yet . . . .

I take one last look at this beautiful fountain.    Four tiny Ninja Turtles dive in and swim away.  Like my boys have done.  Like I am about to do.  Nothing lasts forever.

Except Strawberry Fields.

Good-Bye Santa Barbara!

Sharing with my tribe at Hat Attack.