Big Bucks, a Strange Squirrel, the Fires, and the Oregon Coast… Update

The boys are now hanging out together. A situation that will change as their interest in the girls makes a quantum leap in the next couple of months. This buck’s antlers were still covered in velvet and growing when we left on our road trip in June. Now they are ready to do battle to win true love, or at least a quickie.

Since I am still working on my next post on the 1908 Great Race, I decided to throw in a quick update on life here on Oregon’s Upper Applegate River. First, fall has arrived. Leaves are beginning to turn and the white oaks have produced a bumper acorn crop— a fact that has the deer all but climbing the trees.

The big leaf maple trees growing down in our canyon are adding a splash of yellow.
The plump, white oak acorns here are delicious this year according to squirrels, deer, turkeys, woodpeckers and bears.
The deer start with the acorns that are easy to reach…
And then up they go, standing on their hind legs…
It’s quite a reach.
Meanwhile, the kids have been growing up. The spots are just about gone. This one is all legs.
The birdbath continues to serve as the local watering hole. It’s time to refill!
The bird feeder continues to attack the attention of various and assundry animals. It still hasn’t totally recovered from the time in June when the huge black bear used it for tether ball practice. BTW, we haven’t seen him since our neighbor threw firecrackers at him. He left us some scat, however. BIG scat. But what the heck is this animal? Is that a large mouth?
Turns out it was the hind foot on this fellow!
The forest fires continue to have a major impact on our area. The towns of Phoenix and Talent, which lost approximately 2500 home and businesses, were totally devastated and are still under evacuation orders. While our home was never under a direct threat, the air pollution has been some of the worst in the world. This is what it was like a week ago looking down toward the Applegate River in front of our property, a couple of hundred yards away. Rather than poison our lungs, we decided to escape to Florence on the Oregon coast.
The closer we got, the cleaner the air became. This is the Umqua River. My dad lived near here in the 70s. Rain clouds, not smoke! A welcome sight.
A creek along the way. Driving to and from the coast is almost as good as being there.
Even the elk seemed happy to be breathing clean air. This herd can almost always be found along Highway 38 near Reedsport.
Florence is one of our go-to places on the Oregon Coast. We like to stay at the Siuslaw Marina campground because it is an easy walk into its historic town. It was packed with RVs, a sign of the times. This is at the Marina where the Brandy was selling freshly caught tuna off the boat at $3.00 each. Fog was rolling in.
There are always seals to amuse us. This one was tracking through the water like an arrow shot from a bow. The old pilings from days gone-by add a touch of mystery.
Some of the pilings even came with character. Looks a bit like Wile-e-Coyote.
Possibly a giraffe with a furry tail.
Here the pilings provide foreground for Florence’s iconic bridge.
This one provides a convenient location for a cormorant to dry its wings. A sand dune provides the backdrop. Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area starts just south of Florence.
Florence has a considerable amount of art for a small town. Most of it reflects local sea life, like this octopus…
This great blue heron…
And this seal.
Peggy and I were impressed with the fact that most people, and this pirate, were wearing Covid-19 masks. (iPhone photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
The Marina has an attractive walkway complete with lamps and hanging baskets leading into the town. After five days of breathing clean air, it was time to head home and see what the smoke and fires were doing.
I’m happy to report that the smoke had cleared out. Some. Compare this picture looking down on the cottonwoods growing along the Applegate River to the same photo above.
A final view of our big leaf maples turning a fall-ish color. Looking beyond the maple, you can still see the smoke hanging in our valley. We aren’t out of the woods yet, so to speak.

NEXT POST: We will rejoin the Great Automobile Race of 1908 as it makes its way to San Francisco.

Massive Fires Near our Home, Plus Covid-19, Plus Really Weird Politics

I glanced out our window Wednesday and saw a massive plume of smoke looming over the mountains. If fire came over the ridge, Peggy and I were packing up and getting out. Fires can travel fast! (Photo from Peggy’s iPhone.)

It’s a bit hard to focus on my Great Race series. 

On Tuesday, our whole county was on a Level 1 fire alert, “Dangerous fires are lurking in the area.’ Level 2 is ‘Pack what you need and prepare to leave.’ Level 3 is ‘Get out now.’ The sheriff’s office called to urge everyone in the county to stay off the roads unless they were being evacuated. Portions of Ashland and Medford plus all of the communities of Talent and Phoenix were under a Level 3 alert. I-5, the major north-south freeway for the West Coast had been closed near Ashland. Truckers had abandoned their big rigs on the road.

We had started our morning with a power outage. Extreme winds were playing havoc with the power grid in Oregon as well as creating extreme fire danger. I walked up to where we park Quivera, our small RV, and brought her down to the house. At a minimum we could make coffee. At maximum we could power up the van’s generator and turn on the air conditioner.  Temperatures around here have been soaring over 100 degrees F. Fortunately, the power was back on around 10 AM. I quickly filled the bathtub so we would have an emergency supply of water. We have our own well and pump. No power, no water, no toilet. Quivera works in a pinch— and then there is the mountain side. Years of backpacking have trained us. Our shovel is handy…

At about two, we saw a huge plume of smoke southeast of our home boiling up above the mountains where Peggy and I had backpacked two years ago. We watched nervously and discussed putting together our emergency evacuation packet of necessities and a few treasures— like Bone and Eeyore (grin). If the flames topped the mountains we’d be out of here. Bye, bye. The fires can move at incredible speeds. Where we’d go was something of a question since so many areas in California and Oregon are burning. But with Quivera, at least we would have our vacation home with us.

The plume was back yesterday. I did a quick internet search and discovered it was the Slater Fire that had started in Northern California on Monday night. It has now crossed the border into Oregon and burned over 120,000 acres. Fortunately for us (not so much for others), it is not moving in our direction. So far. 

This is what the plume looked like on the other side of the ridge. A person took this photo near the Seiad Valley. Peggy and I backpacked into it on the PCT 2 years ago.

We are used to fire danger in our area since our home borders on national forest land. Four years ago, we had to evacuate under a level 3 alert. Towns and cities have always seemed safer. Not this time. Talent and Phoenix, which had been under the level 3 alert, were devastated on Tuesday night. Hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed, including possibly our doctor’s office. National news coverage showed footage of the fire. It looked like a war zone. 

Meanwhile, the pandemic hasn’t slowed down. Jackson County which started off with one of the lowest rates of Covid-19 in the state, now has one of the highest. We’ve been moving backwards in our reopening status. Our masks won’t be disappearing anytime soon.

A chart showing our local Coronavirus rate. And we didn’t even have Sturgis!

And then there is the incredibly weird political situation America finds itself in. I cringe each time I read the news. Each day there are new revelations on the national level. And then there is the local scene. Peggy and I were at the Bi-Mart in Medford on Monday doing our weekly shopping when a guy came in wearing a Trump mask. He asked the woman checking people in if the store carried ammunition for his assault rifle. Who knows what his motivations were, but we kept our distance. Have I mentioned that these are scary times? 

A halloween Trump mask very similar to the one the man was wearing in Bi-Mart as he looked for ammunition.

NEXT POST: I’ll get back to the Great Race— assuming the fires, Covid-19, and all of the scary people out there behave.