Oh Dear, Deer… They’re Still here

One of the does that hangs out on our property brought her baby by for a visit yesterday. The small Canon Powershot camera I am taking on my backpack trek makes a small ding noise when it focuses. The deer were trying to figure out what the noise was.

 

The deer know we are taking off on our thousand mile backpack trip. They have been checking in on us regularly here on our property on Oregon’s Applegate River. We’ll be sitting in our living room and a head will pop up in our window. It can be disconcerting until you get used to it. I think they are eager to reclaim their territory. “Haven’t you left yet?” Last time Peggy and I were gone for an extended period of time, we came back and found them living around our house, using it for shade. They had even settled in on our back porch. This year they will be in for a bit of a surprise, my brother Marshall will be house sitting for us. They like Marshall, however. He’s almost as wild as they are. He sits outside and talks to them, buys them apples, and keeps the bird bath full as a deer ‘watering hole.’

We are used to deer peering in our back window, but not our living room window. So, we were a little surprised when this gal started coming by to see whether we were home.

Yesterday, one of the does brought her week old baby by for a visit. I thought you might like some of the photos I took. Enjoy.

Hi there. I am your new neighbor.

Are you talking to me?

I’m all ears.

We both are, in fact.

Low bridge.

I think I’ll go prancing.

You won’t believe what i discovered, Mom. It has two legs.

It’s just the human, dear deer.

How about a bit of motherly love?

 

TUESDAY’S POST: Wrap up on preparation for the thousand mile trek.

FRIDAY’S POST: Wrap up of my MisAdventure series for now. It’s not smart to cuss out the chief of police of a town whose historical name is Hangtown.

Backpacking the Rogue River Trail… Conclusion

Peggy and I weren’t expecting to find beautiful waterfalls along the trail, but there were several. This is Flora Dell Falls. The pool of water really looked inviting. Peggy took off her shoes and soaked her feet.

 

It’s countdown time! My thousand mile backpack trek starts in two weeks. Our guest room is filled with gear. Peggy’s office is buried in food. Maps have taken over the library. Miscellaneous other stuff is found in every other room of our house! I have a to-do list that would send Superman flying off-planet. Theoretically, it is getting shorter. One way or the other, on June 17th, I am out of here…

Needless to say, there isn’t much time for blogging or reading blogs. My apologies. I do want to conclude the Rogue River series and put up one more post in the MisAdventure series. After that, I will try to get up one more post before hitting the trail. Then there will be a break until my first posts from along the route start arriving.

Given my time constraints, I am turning today’s post into a photo essay. Enjoy!

 

The Wild Rogue Wilderness started a few miles after we left the Rogue River Ranch featured in my last post. The trail snaked along the edge of the river providing great views. The narrow canyon here provides some exciting rides for rafters! There is even a whirlpool.

This gives you an idea of what the trail looks like. We hit this section in the afternoon and it was hot. The rocky cliffs sucked in the heat and threw it back at us.

We were looking forward to Inspiration Point, and we weren’t disappointed. Stair Creek Falls was just across the river. More inviting pools!

A close up of the falls.

We called it a day at Blossom Bar. (That’s a river bar, not one where you can find a cold beer. Darn! I really could have used one.) We didn’t find any blossoms but Peggy found this pool above the rocks. When I came over, she had waded in with her clothes on and the water was up to her waist. She was taking her soapless bath and washing her clothes at the same time. Of course, I had to join her. The water was icy!

The next day we hiked by the Brushy Bar Forest Service Station that is now run by volunteers in the summer. James and Cammie, a couple out of Southern California, had done a search for opportunities to volunteer on the Forest Service site and found this. (The PCT runs right by their house but it is in the desert section that I won’t be hiking.)

We took advantage of Cammie to have our photo taken! I’d say we were looking quite chipper. My beard caught the sun!

Tate Creek had another spectacular waterfall. We decided to photograph down it since getting to the base involved scrambling though poison oak!

In case you are wondering what poison oak looks like, Peggy is pointing some out. The three leaves are distinctive. As careful as we were, Peggy brought some home. Adding insult to injury, she spread her poison oak from her hands to some bug bites she was scratching.

The flowers along the trail continued to impress us. This is yet another variety of Iris.

And another. This time a Douglas Iris.

And more of another variety.

Another wild, white rose…

And wild lilacs. While they couldn’t match the roses in the heavenly smell category, the had a subtle, pleasant smell.

Finally. these cheerful members of the sunflower family.

Old mining equipment had been left beside the trail in a number of places to remind hikers of the area’s history.

The Flora Dell camp site, located down stream from the Flora Dell falls featured at the beginning of the post, provided us with another attractive river side location.

I really enjoyed the large rocks beside the river.

The next day had some challenges. (Grin) This is always fun with a loaded pack! My knees were having a discussion with me.

I had little difficulty picturing myself out on the deck of this lodge with a good book and a cold brew… but you had to have reservations. Sigh.

There weren’t a lot of big trees along the trail, so I had to take a photo when we found these.

And use Peggy as a model.

She also volunteered for this shot. No, she isn’t practicing her skiing technique. She is showing a switch back trail. The map showed our last few miles running along the river. Instead it headed up the mountain, not once but twice!

Somehow, at the very end, we managed to get off the trail and hike through a cow pasture that included this rather unusual cattle guard. Normally they are flat and don’t squish down as you walk across them!

The end. I hope you enjoyed our backpack trip down the Rogue River. The next adventure: My thousand mile backpack trek down the PCT. I’ll be posting as I go!

Hiking the Rogue River Trail… Part 2: From Horseshoe Bend to the Rogue River Ranch

A view of the Rogue River from our camp on Quail Creek.

 

Today marks the second of my three-part series on hiking down the Rogue River Trail. It’s a beautiful 40-mile hike, best done in the spring or the fall. Peggy and I made a leisurely six-day backpack trip out of it, both to enjoy the beauty and to condition our bodies for our summer of backpacking where I will be hiking 1000 miles from Mt. Ashland to Mt. Whitney. Peggy will be joining me for parts of it plus doing back-up, a true trail angel!

 

Dark skies were suggesting rain when we rolled out of our tent at six. ‘Rolling out’ is a good description. My sore muscles and creaky joints were complaining about our first two days of hiking down the Rogue River Trail. They refused to cheerfully jump up; they threatened to go on strike. I told them to behave or I would double the number of miles they had to travel and cut off their Ibuprofen. They whimpered— but the Ibuprofen got their attention.

I have yet to tell them that they are going on a thousand-mile backpack trip this summer. And I may not, at least until the first 500 miles are over.

Things began to morph. My down pillow of the night before became my down jacket. My Thermarest air mattress changed into a comfy breakfast chair. Fifty years of backpacking have taught me that anything that can serve multiple purposes is a good thing. Routine is also good. I had packed my sleeping bag, clothes and personal items before leaving the tent. Now they were waiting to be packed into my backpack. Right after I put my chair together, I went to gather our food.

It was dutifully waiting in the middle of the ranger-built, electric fence enclosure. No bears had made a feast of it. Either they hadn’t been by to visit or they truly don’t like being zapped. I suspect that a tender nose coming in contact with a live wire is not a pleasant experience. If I were a bear, I’d skedaddle out of there on all fours and look for a ranger to eat.

Breakfast was next; I’m the camp cook. My job description is to boil up two 32 ounce pots of water per day, one for breakfast and one for dinner. Takes about five minutes each. Peggy arrived from doing her chores about the time the pot began to boil. We sifted through our food bags and pulled out instant oatmeal, breakfast bars, Starbuck’s instant coffee, and dried apricots. The latter are to help keep us digging cat holes. “Meow.” Or maybe I should say, “Purr.’” Being regular out on the trail is important.

The literature had promised an outhouse at Horseshoe Bend, but it had been decommissioned, i.e. filled up. The same is happening with the other ‘bathrooms’ that the trail maps promote along the river. Be prepared. Rafters are expected to carry their own port-a-pots. Backpackers are left with digging cat holes. We are used to it. Watch out for the poison oak. (grin)

With breakfast over, we took down the tent and packed up. A few drops of rain encouraged us to put on our rain jackets and pack covers. It promised to be a cool day, which was welcome after the heat of the first two days.

The trail continued its ups and downs, starting with the very steep up we had hiked down the evening before. At times our route dropped almost to the river. The closer we got, the thicker the poison oak and blackberries grew.  Peggy and I stopped and laughed at one point. The blackberries were occupying a third of the trail and the poison oak the other, leaving only a few inches for passage. It was like the plants had an agreement to drive you toward one or the other. We chose the blackberries on the theory that it is much better to suffer a few scratches than be covered in an itchy rash.

We also crossed several recent slide areas where the trail was minimal, about a shoe wide. Careful attention was called for and looking down not recommended. On one slide area, a tree trunk was stretched across the trail, forcing us to balance precariously while climbing over. It was not for the faint-hearted, or for people with a fear of heights.

Beyond that the trail was quite pleasant; passing through woodlands, providing dramatic views of the river, and crossing over brooks and streams on attractive bridges. Once again, cheerful flowers kept us company.

We found that the bridges along the trail were well built and fit in with the environment. This is Meadow Creek Bridge.

Another view of the Meadow Creek bridge.

Peggy on the Kelsey Creek bridge looking down at the water. A rain cover is on her backpack. It never did rain.

Our views of the river ranged from raging rapids…

…to more tranquil scenes.

A number of flowers were found beside the trail, including this wild rose…

This Pretty Face brodiaea…

And a Columbine.

A snack at Ditch Creek provided this view of several small waterfalls tumbling down the hill. Zane Grey’s cabin was a mile or so down the trail.

We missed Zane Grey’s cabin. The trail to it wasn’t marked and we weren’t paying attention to our map. Too bad. I had been an avid fan of his cowboy books during the Western phase of my youth. Such classics as Riders of the Purple Sage had kept me glued to my seat as good triumphed over evil in the Old West of six-gun justice. Grey had used the cabin as a fishing lodge in the 1920s. He even wrote a book about the area, Rogue River Feud.

Our campsite that night on Quail Creek made up for missing the cabin. Located on the edge of the Rogue River, it provided the striking view that is featured in the photo at the beginning of this post. Geese, buzzards, rafters and lizards provided entertainment. The buzzards seemed to be following us. “Maybe they think we are old,” I suggested to Peggy, which elicited a snort. The lizards were just curious, checking out all of our gear and climbing up on convenient rocks to watch us.

Rafters waved at us from the Rogue as they passed our camp on Quail Creek.

And a pair of Canadian Geese kept their offspring in a careful line.

The morning part of our hike the next day took us in to the Rogue River Ranch, which is a gem. Now on the National Register of Historic Places and operated by the Bureau of Land Management, the ranch was established in the early 1900s by George and Sarah Billings, becoming a lodge for travelers, the post office, and a social center for a small but growing community. In 1927, Billings sold the house to Stanley Anderson, the builder and owner of the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles. The Andersons upgraded the property and used it to entertain their friends from Los Angeles and Hollywood up until 1970, when they sold it to the BLM.

An old barn on the Rogue River Ranch. One of the volunteer caretakers, Sally, can be seen raking up grass the old fashioned way. It went with the barn.

A close up of Sally.

Looking toward the river from the ranch.

Sally and Frank, the volunteer caretakers for the ranch, took a break from raking up grass and gave us an overview of its history. Peggy and I then visited the main house that had been turned into a museum. I was amused to find this description of the one room upstairs lodge provided by an early visitor:

When the place was full at night, it was a nightmare. There was almost continuous coughing, snoring, grinding of teeth, urinating in a can or out the window, and other night noises. There always seemed to be someone walking around the room or to the window or stairways, which shook the floor and building. Sound sleep for any length of time was impossible.

Not quite as fancy as the modern lodges that are found along the river today. But then again, three meals and a bed for the night could be had for a dollar, a far cry from the $150 plus per person charged today by the resorts.

A view of the main house at Rogue River Ranch. A single large room upstairs provided lodging for early travelers.

The ‘Tabernacle’ is located behind the house. This building served as a barn for horses and mules on the first floor and a meeting hall, dance floor, and church on the second floor. Today the building houses a number of artifacts.

Such as this old coffin…

A pot bellied stove…

And cooking stoves.

I’ll close today with a view of Mule Creek, which flows beside the Rogue River Ranch. The creek was named after a mule named John who wandered off and became lost. The story has a happy ending. Several years later his owner found him. I assume they lived happily ever after.

 

FRIDAY’S POST: What does a skunk have to do with my first date in high school. The MisAdventure series.

TUESDAY’S POST: I’ll wrap up my Rogue River series.

A Walk in a Snowy Woods of Southern Oregon… Join Us!

Snowing in the Upper Applegate Valley

Woohoo! Peggy and I looked outside and the snow was coming down. We haven’t seen much in our neck of the woods lately. The D word is making the rounds again. The D stands for DROUGHT. We try not to use the word in case we might invoke it!

Fresh snow in the Upper Applegate Valley

New snow means we have to go out for a walk. And you are invited. Please join us.  We have to go out soon. The snow normally doesn’t last long here— a few hours at most! This view is from our patio looking west.

View from Mekemson patio of snow in Southern Oregon.

We will start on our patio…

Snow gathering on railing showing perspective

We may have all of two inches! But beware, danger lurks…

Peggy Mekemson and snowball

Peggy simply cannot resist new snow…

Ceramic sculpture by Jeremy Criswell

Moving around the house the sun breaks out briefly. I’m not sure Cockle Doodle is as happy about the snow as we are…

Daffodils in snow

Nor are the daffodils who are about to burst out in bloom proclaiming it is spring.

Toyota pickup on Upper Applegate

Big Red was disgusted…

Quivera the Van

…that Quivera the Van was protected in our pole barn while he was forced to sit out in the open.

Douglas Fir on Applegate River dusted with snow.

The walk up our road takes us past this Douglas fir lightly dusted with snow…

Young Douglas fir covered with fresh snow

And past its cousins.

Rogue River National Forest

Soon, we have entered the Rogue River National Forest that backs up to our property.

Quartz in Rogue River National Forest

A piece of quartz has retained enough heat to reject the snow and reminds us that “Thar is gold in them thar hills!”

Old Essex car wreck in Rogue River National Forest

Several miners’ cabins once stood above our home. All that remains is a cave and this old auto body. Our son-in-law’s dad, Doug Cox— who knows about such things— says that this is likely a 1919/20 Essex.

Oak tree branch covered in snow, Rogue River National Forest

Gnarly oak limbs have a way of pulling me in to admire their beauty in fresh snow…

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Ponderosa pine in snowstorm, Rogue River National Forest

As did this Ponderosa pine reaching for the heavens.

Madrone lightly dusted with snow in Rogue River National Forest

A madrone showed off its unique bark by forming a V.

Black and white photo of trees in snow, Rogue River National Forest

I thought these trees deserved a black and white treatment.

Manzanita in snow, Rogue River National Forest, Upper Applegate River

Peggy insisted that I photograph this manzanita.

Manzanita covered in snow, Rogue River National Forest in Southern Oregon

Manzanita leaves decorated with snow.

Sanctuary animal home covered in snow, Upper Applegate Valley Southern Oregon

A slight detour gave us a view of the Upper Applegate Valley and Sanctuary 1, a home for farm animals that don’t have a home. Blackberries have a front-row seat.

Oregon Junco tracks in snow, Rogue River National Forest

Normally fresh snow provides a whole world of animal tracks for us. This time, all we found were a few bird tracks. These were made by an Oregon Junco. Peggy and I wondered if the local cougar was hanging out in our area again.

Rogue River National Forest on a snowy day

Blue skies suggested that our snow storm was about over.

Old oak tree in Rouge River National Forest with Curt Mekemson

Peggy insisted that I pose in front of an old oak. We call it the Hobbit Tree because it looks like it would fit right into Fanghorn Forest or the Shire.

Fanghorn Forest tree in Rogue River National Forest, Southern Oregon

It’s a tough old coot. Wait, was that why Peggy insisted on photographing me there.

Peggy Mekemson under snow covered Douglas fir limb

“Why don’t you let me take a photo of you under the Douglas fir limb, Sweetheart?”

Snow falls off limb onto Peggy Mekemson

Whoops! 🙂

Upper Applegate River area

Later, when it was time to go on our newspaper and mail walk, the snow around our house had pretty much melted but was hanging on in the surrounding hills and mountains…

Applegate River looking spring-like in February

While the Applegate River had returned to looking spring-like.

Applegate River in February

My last photo for the day. On Monday we return to our trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Thanks for joining us on our walk today!

 

 

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The History of the Bone… Fifty Years and Still Wandering

Bone has travelled twice to the base of Mt. Everest.

Since Bone played a prominent role in our raft trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, I decided to republish his history and an interview he did. This is mainly for the folks who follow my blog and aren’t familiar with his exploits. Many of you will have read today and tomorrow’s posts.

Sometime in the 1900s Bone started his life as part of a horse wandering through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The horse was allegedly eaten by a bear. Bone ended up in a high mountain meadow practicing Zen and being nibbled on by a miscreant rodent.

1977: He was ‘discovered’ by two lost backpackers (Curt Mekemson and Tom Lovering) on the Tahoe Yosemite Trail above Lake Tahoe and launched his career of wandering the world.

Normally, Bone likes to hang out in our library at home. His favorite section is travel.

He also has a fondness for George, the Bush Devil who is on the cover of my book, “The Bush Devil Ate Sam.” Here, the two of them share a laugh.

1980-81: Bone commenced his first World Tour with Tom.  He visited Asia including Japan, Hong Kong, Bombay, Delhi and Katmandu where he trekked to the base of Mt. Everest. He then wandered on to spend spring and summer in Europe stopping off in Greece, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Austria, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Germany, Belgium, England and Ireland. Getting cold, Bone headed south and hitched a ride in back of a truck through Algeria, Niger, Chad, Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Zaire, Sudan, Kenya (where he crossed the Equator), Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. He signed on with Tom as crew of a sailboat in Cape Town and headed north to Mallorca, stopping off on the islands of St. Helena, Ascension, Cape Verde and Madeira. Back in Europe he explored his possible Viking roots in Sweden, Norway and Finland.

1983-86: Bone assumed Cheechako status and moved to Alaska with Curt where he was stalked by a grizzly bear on the Kenai Peninsula, explored Prince William Sound by kayak, learned to winter camp in 30 degree below zero weather while listening to wolves howl, backpacked in the Brooks Range north of the Arctic Circle, and discussed the finer points of eating salmon with Great Brown Bears in Katmai National Park. He escaped briefly to the warmer climate of Hawaii and participated in New Orleans Mardi Gras.

One look at this fellow and Bone decided that he wanted to be elsewhere.

Alaska Brown Bear playing with moose bone.

The big guy was playing with a distant cousin of his.

1986: He backpacked the Western US for five months with Curt exploring the Grand Canyon, the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico, the Rockies, and the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming before returning to his beloved Sierras.

1989: Bone went on a six month 10,000-mile solo bike tour with Curt around North America visiting 18 states and 4 Canadian provinces. He ended his journey by meeting Peggy.

In the spring of 1989 I left Sacramento on my bike for a 10,000 mile solo trip around North America. Everything I would need to survive for six months on the road was packed on my bike, some 60 pounds of gear. It wasn’t totally solo. Bone was riding in my handle bar bag.

1990: The International Society of the BONE was formed at Senior Frogs in Mazatlan, Mexico, where Bone spent the afternoon being pickled in a pitcher of margaritas and being kissed by lovely senoritas.

1991-97: Various members of International Society accompanied Bone on numerous adventures. Highlights included a White House Press Conference with Bill Clinton, being blessed by the Pope in St. Peter’s Square, visiting with Michelangelo’s David, going deep-sea diving in the South Pacific and Caribbean, doing a Jane Austin tour of England, and exploring the Yucatan Peninsula. A group adopted him as a good luck charm and took him back to visit the base of Mt. Everest one year and to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro another.

Bone loves high places. Here he is on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro in East Africa. (He’s with MJ, fourth from right, standing.)

Bone went diving in the Pacific in 1997 with Jose and Barbara Kirchner, visiting a Japanese ship sunk during World War II and receiving his diving certificate.

1998-99: Bone embarked on 40,000-mile journey in the van, Xanadu, through the US, Canada and Mexico with Peggy and Curt, visiting over 30 National Parks, driving the Alaska and Baja Highways, checking out Smokey the Bear’s and Calamity Jane’s graves, kayaking in the Sea of Cortez, leaf peeping in Vermont, jetting to the Bahamas, pursuing flying saucers in Roswell, New Mexico, and completing his visits to all 50 states, etc. etc. etc.

Bone was quite impressed with the size of his ancient relatives. Here he rests on dinosaur toes at the Dinosaur National Monument Visitor Center.

2000-02: Bone journeys up the Amazon, returns to Europe, cruises to Belize, Cancun and the Cayman’s, and goes to New Zealand where a misguided customs agent tries to arrest and jail him as animal matter.

Peggy and I found this mudstone concretion in New Zealand on a South Island beach. Bone, who likes strange things, insisted on having his photo taken with it.

2003: Bone undertakes a 360-mile backpack trip in celebration of his discovery and Curt’s 60th birthday. They begin at Squaw Valley near Lake Tahoe and end by climbing Mt. Whitney. Various friends join them along the way.

Bone got a little high when he helped me celebrate my 60th birthday,  which isn’t surprising considering  he is a California bone.

2004: Bone visits Hemingway’s grave in Idaho, goes horseback riding with Australians and Bahamians in Montana, and makes his first pilgrimage to Burning Man in Nevada, a very Bone like type of place. He also jets off to Costa Rica.

Bone has a love for anything ancient. Here, he perches on a Mayan sculpture in Costa Rica.

2005-2007: Bone returns to Burning Man twice and revisits Europe twice including special stopovers in Portugal, France, Holland, Germany, and Belgium. He also revisits Mexico.

2008 – 2011: Bone commences another exploration of North America. This time he travels in the van, Quivera, along with Curt, Peggy, and Eeyore the Jackass. His journey takes him over 75,000 miles of American Roads. In May of 2010 he helps Curt initiate his blog, and rafts 280 miles down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

2012-2018: Bone goes into semi-retirement in Southern Oregon. Please note the semi, however. He continues the exploration of the West Coast ranging from Big Sur to Vancouver Island, where he kayaks for a week in search of Killer Whales. He wanders through England and Scotland helping Curt find his roots and spends a week traveling by Canal Boat. Later, he returns to Europe again, traveling through the Mediterranean visiting Turkey, Santorini and other Greek Islands, Dubrovnik, Venice, Rome, Pompeii, Florence, and Barcelona. He returns to Burning Man several times.  On one trip, he is married to the lovely Bonetta, who he met while exploring a swamp in Florida. Rumor has it that it was a shotgun wedding. This past year he traveled with Peggy and me on our 10,000 mile trip around North America retracing my bike route and with fellow blogger Crystal Truelove to visit with Native Americans of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma.

Burning Man is one of Bone’s all-time favorite activities.

Bone and Big Nose Bonetta are married at Burning Man 2013. Bone’s kilt was made for him by an 80-plus year old woman from Kansas. Bonetta is wearing a designer wedding dress with very expensive plastic jewelry to match.

Bone got a wee bit jealous when I snuggled up to this mammoth of a bone when Peggy and I were re-visiting by van my 1999 10,000-mile bike trip last year.

TOMORROW’S POST: You won’t want to miss the interview with Bone!

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Rudolph Left a Present…

 

Rudolph's kids

Who’s your daddy?

 

I always think that Christmas letters deserve a little humor. Here’s how I started out this year’s:

Santa Claus is threatening to stay at the North Pole this year. Apparently, we’ve been naughty. We’re not high on his brotherly love charts. But the jolly old elf is the forgiving type. He’s seen a lot during the last thousand or so years he’s been practicing his trade. The good times come and go. Regardless, I’m pretty sure he will be here at our house. Not that we’ve behaved so well (“Speak for yourself,” Peggy says), but his reindeer have developed a thing for the does that hang out on our property. Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen will be by— with or without Santa. And Rudolph will be here with or without any of them! He is particularly enamored with one of our beautiful brown-eyed girls. Apparently, it’s mutual. It will be interesting to see if any of next year’s kids can fly, or have shiny red noses.

Okay, okay. Peggy just pointed out I am being bad again and may very well end up with lumps of coal in my stockings. “Santa’s tolerance only goes so far,” she warns! To forego that possibility, I’ll leave you with some photos from our winter wonderland we’ve taken over the last few years.

Mekemson property on Upper Applegate.

This is the view from our front window when it snows.

The road to the Mekemson home in winter

The road down to our home.

Douglas fir at Mekemson home in snow storm

One of the Douglas Firs in a snow storm.

Two Ponderosa Pines in snow storm

Two of our Ponderosa Pines.

White oak limb in snowstorm at Mekemson home in Oregon

A white oak.

Manzanita in snowstorm

A manzanita bush.

Douglas fir and white oak in snow

The national forest that is in back of our property.

Applegate River in snow storm

And the Applegate River that runs in front.

WE WOULD LIKE TO WISH EACH OF YOU AND YOUR FAMILIES THE VERY BEST OF HOLIDAYS THIS YEAR AND A HAPPY AND HEALTHY NEW YEAR. 

Curt and Peggy

 

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A Cow Has Four Stomachs and Other Tales from the Pacific Northwest

Cow T-shirt at Tillamook Cheese Factory

Raising cattle to produce dairy products is big business in the Tillamook area. Peggy and I found this T-shirt at the Tillamook Cheese Factory.

 

I am going to get to the cows and their four stomachs, but first I want to cover our stay at Rockaway Beach, which is about 15 miles north of Tillamook on Highway 101. Our suite looked out on the ocean. We could watch the waves roll in and hear the continuous roar of the ocean. Wintry skies brought rain but the clouds were also great for beautiful sunsets. We headed out whenever there was a break in the weather, and even when there wasn’t. We walked the beach, visited local shops, and ate out at the town’s restaurants. Thanksgiving dinner was at Grumpy’s and Mrs. Grumpy hovered over us to make sure we ate our veggies. How much more down-home can you get? The complete meal, which included all of the Thanksgiving favorites, cost a whopping 12 bucks. “I want it to be affordable for everyone,” Mrs. Grumpy primly informed us.

Gentle waves roll in at Rockaway Beach, Or P

The ocean was shallow and produced a long line of waves that created a roar as opposed to the sound of single waves crashing.

Sunset over Rockaway Beach on the Oregon Coast near Tillamook.

We were treated to several beautiful sunsets looking out from our suite at Rockaway Beach. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Small shops had the usual touristy stuff found in coastal tourist shops everywhere. “Go to Flamingo Jims,” we were urged. As to why it was named Flamingo in an area where the tropical bird would freeze, I didn’t have a clue. But we went. And we weren’t disappointed; it was filled to the brim with cheap souvenirs. We wandered around and checked out T-shirts, mermaids and sea shells. We could have bought a sand dollar for a dollar, but Peggy prefers to find her own. I was reminded of this old tongue twister. Try saying it as fast as you can without a mistake.

She sells sea shells by the sea shore.
The shells she sells are surely seashells.
So if she sells shells on the seashore,
I’m sure she sells seashore shells.

Seashells for sell at Flamingo Jim's in Rockaway Beach, Oregon.

Any good tourist souvenir shop on the ocean has seashells to sell.

Mermaids for sell at Rockaway Beach in Oregon

And mermaids. A twist for the Northwest is Bigfoot(s), or is that Bigfeet? You can see some up in the righthand corner.

The beach seemed to go on forever. One end was dominated by the sea rocks that Rockaway Beach is famous for; the other by a forest covered mountain. If you look at the rocks from the right angle, they make an excellent sea dragon. Welcome to Oregon, Nessie! A creek divided the beach about halfway along. Sea gulls patrolled the waterfront, checking out both the ocean and tourists for possible food. A small boy threw out a couple of pieces of bread and was suddenly surrounded by 50 of the birds, in seconds! They seemed to materialize out of nowhere. How do they do that?

Rockaway Beach Oregon Beach

Looking north up the beach at Rockaway. Our suite was on the second floor of the building on the right. Our footprints lead down to where we took the photo. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

The rocks of Rockaway beach photographed by Curtis Mekemson.

The sole rocks of Rockaway Beach look very much like a sea serpent with its head under water searching for tasty fish. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

creek that divides Rockaway Beach, Oregon

A creek flowing across Rockaway Beach limited how far we could hike south.

A seagull steps out at Rockaway Beach, Or

A seagull steps out on his gull-friend at Rockaway Beach.

When we ran out of things to do in Rockaway, we drove 15-miles south to Tillamook. I’ve already done posts on Cape Meares, Munson Creek Falls, and some very wet alpacas. On our way, we decided to check out a small county park in Barview and found the Coast Guard practicing air to sea rescue missions by helicopter, which is what our son Tony does.

Seagull stops to watch Coast Guard practice rescues

And here, a seagull joins us in watching the Coast Guard practice rescue operations at Barview, just north of Tillamook.

Practice rescue mission by the Coast Guard

Part of this practice included dropping a man down on to a rocking boat to help in a rescue effort, which was a operation our son was involved with several times while flying  helicopters over rough Alaska waters.

In Tillamook, it is almost required that people stop off at Tillamook Cheese and Ice Cream factory. The cheese is good and can be found throughout the US, but the ice cream is to die for. Our refrigerator is always stocked with a half-gallon.  I should probably weigh 300 pounds but we limit our consumption to Date Night, which falls on Wednesday, as it has for the past 27 years.

Welcome to Tillamook Cheese Factory

The visitor’s center at the Tillamook Cheese Factory included a number of exhibits on the dairy industry, from beginning…

Rear view rear at Tillamook Cheese Factory

…To the end.

cow stomach

I was particularly interested to learn that a cow has four stomachs, which were two more than I was aware of. I also learned that when a cow chews its cud it’s know an ruminating, is case you ever wondered about where the word came from. So, next time you find yourself ruminating, you might want to break out some gum.

When we were out and about and lost, we also came on the Latimer Quilt and Textile Museum where I found the alpacas. Peggy’s love of quilting demanded a visit. We found numerous quilts, a doll collection, looms, and a lot of history.

Alpaca photo in Tillamook, Oregon by Curtis Mekemson.

You will probably remember the alpacas. Check out the blue eyelashes on this gal.

Quilts at Latimer Quilt and Textile Center

As might be expected, the Latimer Quilt and Textile Center was filled with quilts. The Center was preparing for a big sale. These are more traditional quilts.

Quilt at Latimer Quilt and Textile Center in Tillamook, Or

And this one a more modern version.

Interesting dress at Latimer Quilt and Textile Center

A number of other textile products were offered as well, including this dress. We assumed something would be worn under it, but possibly not at Burning Man.

Looms at Latimer Quilt and Textile Center

A number of looms were available for weaving.

Doll at quilt shop

There was even an extensive doll collection. I picked this one out for her reading material. 

Peggy Mekemson quilt

I’ll conclude today’s post with this gorgeous quilt that Peggy made for our bed using a vintage Singer Featherweight sewing machine that her grandmother bought in 1933.

 

WEDNESDAY’S PHOTO POST: Join Peggy and me as we explore the Greek island of Santorini.

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The Highest Waterfalls on the Oregon Coast: Munson Creek Falls

Munson Creek Falls near Tillamook, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

The upper section of Munson Creek Falls.

Peggy has been lobbying for a tour of Oregon waterfalls for quite a while. So, when I read that Munson Creek Falls was near Tillamook, I knew we would have to pay a visit on our recent trip to the coast. We drove over to Tillamook from Rockaway Beach where we were staying and then south for seven miles following Highway 101. Along the way, we passed the giant blimp hangar built during World War II that now serves as an air museum. I visited the hangar a couple of years ago when I was passing through the area. Close to the turnoff, we also passed the campground where I had stayed. At the time, I wasn’t aware of the falls— I’d been too busy counting rabbits.

A view of the blimp hangar during World War II. The blimps were used for spotting Japanese submarines off the coast. (Photo from Tillamook Air Museum.)

The Tillamook Air Museum shown here, served as a blimp hangar during World War II.

A photograph of the Air Museum I took on my previous visit. The airplane in front is known as a guppy. The house provides a perspective on size.

White rabbit near Tillamook, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

This lovely creature was one of over a hundred rabbits wandering around freely at Pleasant Valley Campground near the exit to Munson Creek Falls.

A sign along 101 told us to turn inland for the falls. We followed a narrow, pothole filled road that became narrower as we went, making it more difficult to dodge the potholes that were simultaneously becoming deeper and more numerous! The short three and a half miles felt like twenty. We finally reached the parking lot, however, and discovered that we had entered a rainforest. Trees covered in moss gave a magical feel to the area.  An easy, quarter of a mile trail led off toward the falls. More moss-covered trees and rocks, the dashing Munson Creek, brightly colored fallen leaves, mushrooms and ferns lined the trail.

Moos covered tree along path to Munson Creek Falls. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Moss covered trees gave a magical feeling to the path leading to the falls.

Hanging moss at Munson Creek Falls near Tillamook, Oregon.

A close up of the hanging moss. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Moss draped across branch along trail to Munson Creek Falls on the north coast of Oregon.

And another. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Fall leaves along trail to Munson Creek Falls near Tillamook, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

The damp conditions added to the colors of the leaves that had fallen along the trail.

Fallen leaves along trail to Munson Creek Falls near Tillamook, Oregon.

A close up. This is from a Big Leaf Maple tree. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Mushrooms along the trail to Munson Creek Falls off of Highway 101 in northern Oregon.

These reddish mushrooms caught my eye.

Munson Creek near Munson Creek Falls on north coast of Oregon.

Munson Creek dashed along beside the trail, keeping us company. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Moss covered rock in Munson Creek near Munson Creek Falls on north Oregon Coast. (Photo by Curtis Mekemson.)

A moss-covered rock decorated with fall leaves sat in the middle of the creek.

Moss, ferns and leaves on a tree near Munson Creek Falls near Tillamook, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Moss, ferns and fallen leaves on a tree had a Christmas look.

Trail to Munson Creek Falls near Tillamook, Oregon. (Photo by Curtis Mekemson.)

A view of the trail.

Our first view of the falls assured us that we had made the right decision to make the trip. Water shot out from the top and tumbled some 319 feet to the bottom, making Munson Creek Falls the highest on the Oregon coat. Halfway down a log jam gave testimony to the power of the stream. The rainforest provided a dramatic backdrop. We wandered around seeking various vantage points to appreciate the beauty, and finally, being satiated, hiked back to the parking lot. The drive out went much faster, or so it seemed.

Munson Creek falls in the coastal mountains near Tillamook, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

The 319 foot tall falls. The log jam with its large logs spoke to the power of the creek. I also like the moss-covered tree to the right.

Photo by Peggy Mekemson of Munson Creek Falls near Tillamook, Oregon.

A final look at the falls above the log jam. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

 

Photos: Most of the photos I use on this blog are taken by either Peggy or me. Photos without attribution are taken by me. I always note any other sources such as the Air Museum above.

NEXT POSTS: Almost everyone I know who tries to maintain a blog while writing books runs into a challenge with time. There isn’t enough. Solutions range from dropping out of the blogosphere for a while to limiting blogs. I am going to try something else for the next month. If it doesn’t work, I’ll have to a move to a more dramatic solution. Here’s what I am going to try: On Mondays I will do my usual travel blog; on Wednesdays I will put up photos from my collection of 76,000; on Fridays, I am going to blog my book on MisAdventures. The theory is that this will allow me most of the week to work on the book. We’ll see.

WEDNESDAY: We will drop down to the South Island of New Zealand and visit the beautiful Milford Sound.

 

 

 

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The Cape Meares Lighthouse, an Octopus Tree, and the Three Rock Arches of Oregon

Cape Meares Lighthouse

At 38-feet tall, the Cape Meares Lighthouse is the shortest lighthouse in Oregon. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Towering cliffs, abundant sea life, a lighthouse, massive rocks rising out of the ocean, the Octopus Tree, and an old-growth forest of Sitka Spruce… How could we resist? With the sun tentatively breaking through the clouds, Peggy and I grabbed our cameras, packed our raingear, and headed out to Cape Meares, which is located about 30 minutes away from Tillamook, Oregon.

But first, our stomachs demanded lunch, so we stopped at the Pelican Brewing Company in Tillamook for a hamburger and, of course, a beer. Peggy and I shared a pint of tasteful ale. The Northwest is noted for its great craft beers and Pelican has some dandies. Several have won national and international awards.

Pelican Brewing Company

Good things were brewing at the Pelican Brewing Company in Tillamook, Oregon.

Curt Mekemson enjoying a pint at Pelican Brewing Company in Tillamook, Oregon.

Cheers! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Having tamed our hunger and thirst, we headed out to the coast and were soon perched on an overlook admiring the Three Arch Rocks, so named because each one contains an arch. Of greater significance, the rocks are known for their large nesting colonies of Common Murres, Cormorants, Western Gulls, storm-petrels, auklets, Black Oystercatchers, Tufted Puffins, and Pigeon Guillemots. In 1907, Teddy Roosevelt declared the area a wildlife sanctuary, the first in the US west of the Mississippi. He did so on the recommendation of a pair of young conservationists, William Finley and Herman Bohlman, who had watched hunters decimate the sea lion population on the rocks, and even worse, observed local ‘sportsmen’ row out to the rocks on Sundays and use the birds for target practice, killing thousands.

 

Three Rock Arches near Cape Meares

Three Rock Arches as seen from an overlook just before the small town of Oceanside.

Three Rock Arches near Oceanside

Peggy used her telephoto to pull in the middle of the Three Arch Rocks. While you can’t see through the arch at this angle, you can see how big it is. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Three Rock Arches 1

A convenient pine provided a different perspective.

We drove on to the Cape Meares Lighthouse where a sign in the parking lot suggested a detour toward the Octopus Tree that sent our imaginations spiraling out of control. Was this a magic tree of fantasy lore? Would we be swept up in its tentacles? Naturally, we had to check it out. The tree turned out to be a Sitka Spruce with eight trunk-like limbs that once made it into Ripley’s Believe It or Not. The story behind its unique shape is that the local Tillamook Indians shaped it to grow that way, created a sacred site where elders could gather to make important decisions and Shamans would travel on their mystical journeys. A few yards away from the tree, a plunging cliff provided more views of the Three Arch Rocks, this time backlit by the sun. Peggy found a man operating a camera drone on the edge of the cliff, capturing pictures of the 200-foot drop off that we weren’t willing to lean out far enough to get.

Sitka Spruce forest at Cape Meares

We walked through a Sitka Spruce forest to get to the Octopus Tree.

Octopus Tree

The Octopus Tree is surrounded by a fence to keep it from eating people. Whoops, fake news. It’s surround by a fence to keep young and old kids from climbing on it.

Octopus Tree

The Tillamook Indians were said to place their canoes on the branches. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Three Rock Arches backlit

We were south of the cape looking north when we took the first photos of the Three Rock Arches. Here we were looking south with the rocks back lit by the sun. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Three Rock Arches backlit

This shot of the rocks gave the feeling of a lurking sea monster with the light showing through one of the arches serving as its eye.

Three Rock Arches

Two of the arches can be seen in this photo by Peggy. The rock on the left is the same one she took a close up of from the other direction.

Man with drone at Cape Meares.

The drone man who was capturing shots of the cliffs.

Walking back toward the lighthouse, we found more cliffs on the other side of the peninsula where the lighthouse sits. These featured a waterfall that tumbled down into the ocean. We also noticed white guano (bird poop) decorating the cliff sides, a sure sign that birds build their nests along the cliffs. Imagine being a young bird looking over the edge of your nest and pondering your fate.

Waterfalls 1

The waterfalls came tumbling down. The white spots on the opposite cliff show the sites of bird nests.

A sign at the site informed us that baby birds are either flyers or jumpers. Murrelet chicks, who are fliers, have been observed pacing back and forth in their nest for a couple of days, flapping their wings frantically, and nervously peering over the edge before they finally take the plunge. It’s worse for Common Murres. Their mom kicks them out of the nest when they are three weeks old… before they can fly! No Mom of the Year there.  They simply stand on the edge and jump, hoping that their stubby wings will guide them to them into the ocean instead of the rocks below. Dad patiently waits in the ocean where he will take over parenting responsibilities for a few weeks until the babies can fend for themselves. Meanwhile, a whole host of hungry predators are waiting below chanting “Crash! Crash! Crash!”

While I am on the subject of birds and food, I learned at Cape Meares that the Tufted Puffins have a barbed tongue that they use to spear fish. They can get three or so minnow-sized fish on their tongue at once. The first one is pushed up the tongue by the second and the second by the third. The barbs hold them in place until, I assume, baby birds wrest them free. I also found out that a pair of Peregrine Falcons were known to nest in the area. These birds are the fastest animals in the world. They fly high above their prey, fold their wings and literally fall, or dive, hitting speeds up to 250 miles per hour (402 KPH) before smacking into their dinner.

At 38-feet tall, The Cape Meares Lighthouse is known for being the shortest lighthouse in Oregon. Given that it stands on a 217-foot tall cliff, however, size probably doesn’t matter. The lighthouse was built on location but the first order Fresnel lens (pronounced ‘fraynel’) was wrestled up the cliff in 1899 using a wood crane built from local timber. The lens had been manufactured in France and shipped around Cape Horn and up the coast to Oregon. It was built with four primary lenses and four bull’s-eye lenses providing light that can be seen 21 miles out at sea.

Cape Meares

This T-Rex perspective of Cape Meares by the Fish and Wildlife Service provides a good view of the cliffs. The lighthouse is the white speck at the end of the lower ‘jaw.’ The Octopus Tree is on the upper end of the lower jaw. The waterfall was inside the lower jaw.

Cape Meares Lighthouse

The Trail down to the Cape Meares Lighthouse. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Fresnel Lens in Cape Meares Lighthouse

A close up of the Fresnel lens with its red bullseye.

Cape Meares Lighthouse 2

A final view of the Cape Meares Lighthouse.

 

NEXT POST: Peggy and I make our way through a rainforest to the highest waterfall on the Oregon Coast.

 

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The Last Laugh… Plus Three Final Scary Stories to Wrap up Halloween!

I looked out my window and saw our two pumpkins laughing at me. They were having a last laugh…

 

I looked out my window and caught Bad Kitty and Fire Face laughing their heads off, so to speak.

“We fooled you,” they roared. “You thought we were scary! We were wearing costumes.”

“I am actually a very friendly kitty,” claimed Bad Kitty. “My real name is Pumpkin Kitty. My teeth were false. It was fake news. He, he.”

“And I’m known as Oak Ball because I am shaped like one,” Fire Face chortled. “My mother was a pumpkin but my father was an oak tree. Linda was right! That’s why my eyes and mouth have an oak leaf look.”

“We are on our way back to the Great Pumpkin Patch in the sky, but we’ll be back again someday,” I heard them exclaim as they rolled off down into our canyon.

And thus the tale of two wandering pumpkins draws to a close. I did promise Christie I would reference other ghostly experiences I have had and blogged about before moving on, however. Here are the links and a brief description.

The Attack of the Graveyard Ghost: My sister, Nancy, is deathly afraid of ghosts, which was a serious problem when we lived next to the Graveyard. It was made worse by the fact that her boyfriend lived next-door but she had to walk past the Graveyard to see him. She was walking home alone one night when it happened. A ghost attacked her… http://wandering-through-time-and-place.me/2013/10/30/

The Ghosts of Fort Mifflin: Fort Mifflin, located next to Philadelphia, is supposed to be one of the most haunted sites in America. Peggy and I went there on one dark Halloween night with thoughts of reconnecting with my dead ancestors who had been killed there during the Revolutionary War. One had been cut in half by a cannon ball! We weren’t really expecting to find any ghosts, but then some weird things happened that had Peggy and I scrambling to find other people…  http://wandering-through-time-and-place.me/2016/10/30

The Disappearing Scottish Woman: Peggy and I were off in Scotland pursuing yet another dead ancestor, this time a Scottish martyr from the 1600s. I had walked over to a woman who was standing on a porch to ask permission to cross her property and she disappeared. Things don’t get much more spooky. Read on… http://wandering-through-time-and-place.me/2016/10/31/

Enjoy!

Next up: The petroglyphs of Lava Beds National Monument