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… https://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…  https://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… https://wandering-through-time-and-place.me/2016/10/31/

Enjoy!

Next up: The petroglyphs of Lava Beds National Monument

Bad Kitty Snuffs Out Fire Face… The Verdict Is In: Halloween 2017

Bad Kitty and Fire Face

It was a dark and spooky night, indeed! Looking out our window on Halloween, we found the spirits of Bad Kitty and Fire Face staring back at us.

 

The polls are closed; the ballot box stuffed; the votes counted.  Bad Kitty is the winner! “I think you knew that most of your followers were cat lovers,” Peggy sniffed. “It’s going to be Indian food,” I crowed, already tasting hot lamb curry.

But Fire Face had his fans. And lest you feel too much sympathy for my highly competitive, ever-lovely wife, let me note that she has beaten me far more frequently than I have beaten her over our years of pumpkin carving competition! She’ll be back next year and “Watch out, Curt!”

Pumpkins look in house during day

Bad Kitty and Fire Face outside on our patio table.

Here’s what some of you had to say…

Animal Couriers: “Oh, you know us, it has to be pumpkin number 2! They are both fab.”

Dave Ply: “As for my choice, both are excellent, it’s a tough call, but as I’m a cat guy I have to go with scary kitty. (I always used to have black cats)”

Linda: “Despite the fact that I live with a creature I currently refer to as the Devil Cat, I’m going to have to go with Number 1 — with this caveat. I don’t see the carving as fire, but as autumn leaves.”

Christie: “I would vote with Bad Kitty, and only because this looks like a reminiscence of Demon” 

Andrew: “My favourite pumpkin carving has to be no. 2 – but only by a whisker!”

Dave Kingsbury: “Fire Face made me feel uneasy but I was even more discomforted by Bad Kitty’s expression so the latter gets my vote. But well done both!”

Phil: “Fire Face is very cross-quarter day, but the artistry of Bad Kitty is hard to resist.”

Rebel Girl: “Fire Face all the way!”

Alison: “With trepidation, not wanting to offend either of you, I choose Bad Kitty!”

You can see what Peggy meant by cat lovers. (grin) Take Animal Couriers, for example, they make their living by transporting cats and dogs throughout Europe!

Peggy and I thank you for your participation. We had a lot of fun with the carving and the competition. And, as part of my Halloween series, I was pleased to bring you a glimpse of the incredible Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular of Providence, Rhode Island.

Correction: One of my friends pointed out that it is Linus not Charlie Brown that believes in the Great Pumpkin, which I incorrectly stated in my last post. Thanks!

LATE BREAKING NEWS: Scary Cat Becomes Scaredy Cat; Ground Squirrel De-fangs Bad Kitty

It was inevitable, or make that, highly edible. It was simply a matter of time before the wildlife around our area decided that the scariness of our pumpkins was outweighed by their resemblance to lunch. Deer have stopped by several times to stare at the pumpkins and warily circle them. They are endlessly curious about new things and have a written in stone philosophy:  If it tastes good eat it. The fierce way the pumpkins glared at them, however, made our hoofed friends reluctant to take the first bite.

A ground squirrel had no such trepidation. It had already discovered that pumpkin was good-by meticulously picking out all of the seeds from the mishmash of pumpkin innards that Peggy had left outside for woodland creatures. It only required a leap of the imagination to hop up on our patio table and start chowing down on Bad Kitty’s teeth. I couldn’t catch the culprit in action, but when I questioned her later, she had pumpkin on her breath. There is a photo of the results below the curious deer.

Doe checks out pumpkins

All attention, a black tail doe stares at the pumpkins while trying to decide whether she will brave their stares and try a nibble, or stick with the thorny rose bushes beside her. She stuck with the rose bushes.

Toothless pumpkin

Alas, Bad Kitty, looking a bit worse for wear, has had his teeth pulled by a rapacious ground squirrel.

 

Where to next: Peggy and I will soon be heading for the north coast of Oregon and the south coast of Washington to celebrate our 25th Anniversary. There will be lots to share ranging from wintry ocean scenes, to colorful coastal towns, to a bridge that a young Kurt Cobain hid out under, to the land where vampires and werewolves wandered in the Twilight series. But that’s a couple of weeks off. In the meantime, I’ll slip in more of my petroglyph series, starting with Lava Beds National Monument in north-eastern California.

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Happy Halloween 2017… The Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular: You Are the Judge

The Great Pumpkin arises out of his pumpkin patch and is greeted by his adoring followers at the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence , Rhode Island. Could it be that Charlie Brown was right?

 

Today marks the end of my seven-day tribute to Halloween where I have featured the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence, Rhode Island. Peggy and I have returned home to Oregon where we square off against each other in our annual pumpkin carving contest.

The day has arrived. The Great Pumpkin has risen out of his pumpkin patch and is flying across the sky, delivering candy and other goodies to girls and boys around the world. At least Charlie Brown believes he has, even if he can’t persuade his sidekicks and Snoopy that he exists. There are no lack of children out here in the real world who are willing to pay homage to the Great Pumpkin, however, especially if it involves dressing up in costumes and filling bags with candy. I remember my own childhood when my brother and I would pillage far and wide to load our gunny sacks. Then we would come home to admire our booty and stuff ourselves. On the scary side of things, we would hide out in the Graveyard next to our home and jump out to scare other children when they came knocking at doors in our neighborhood. (Little kids can really run fast.) It was all in good fun, one of the greatest days in the year— at least from our perspective.

While it was all about kids back then, adults have adopted the holiday as well today. Millions don costumes as they head off to work and to party.

Pumpkin carving has been an integral part of my Halloween since I first met up with Peggy. For many years we even had a pumpkin carving contest with other members of my family. That finally ended after a quarter of a century, but Peggy and I still look forward to out annual carving activities. And, we are pleased to note, our children and grandchildren have followed suit! Our two pumpkins from this year are displayed below. Using pumpkins from the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular for inspiration, Peggy and I are having our own contest! And you are the judges. Please note the one you like. I’ll report on the winner  and who carved the pumpkin in my next post. Whoever wins get the dinner out of his or her choice. In other words, there is no loser.

Let the contest begin. Pumpkins have been chosen, tools gathered, and the proper Halloween setting chosen.

The Masked Carver has issued her challenge.

It is important to get in touch with your inner pumpkin before carving.

 

It takes guts to carve a pumpkin.

The ever so spooky Fire Face: Pumpkin Number 1

And the very scary Bad Kitty: Pumpkin Number 2

 

Thanks for choosing! And Happy Halloween from Peggy and Curt.

 

 

The Fall Colors of Southern Oregon… Who Needs New England?

Having just returned from Connecticut where fall colors were yet to make an appearance in mid-October, I found this Big Leaf Maple all decked out in my back yard on the Applegate River in Southern Oregon.

 

Peggy and I have been in Connecticut for the past couple of weeks. We went back to visit with our son, daughter-in-law, and grandkids, but I also hoped to get in some serious leaf-peeping. New England is world-famous for its fall colors and we had once spent a month in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire during the height of the season. We wanted more!

It wasn’t to be. It had been a warm fall in Connecticut and the leaves were being stubborn. Just as we were preparing to leave, a few trees had started to turn, but it was nothing in comparison to what we had experienced. Maybe the states north of Connecticut were having better luck. We packed our bags, took Amtrak to Boston, and flew back home to Oregon.

As we dropped into Medford from Portland, I glanced down at the ground and was greeted with bursts of yellow and red. Apparently, our trees had decided to show us that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence, that the trees in New England aren’t always more colorful than the trees out West.

The drive home through Jacksonville and up and over into the Applegate Valley was spectacular. I thought to myself, “Who needs New England?” And I vowed that my camera and I would be up early the next morning to capture some of the color. I started with our yard and then took the Upper Applegate River road to Highway 238 and down into Jacksonville, stopping at the McKee Covered Bridge, Valley View Winery, and a favorite hiking trail. I finished off in Jacksonville, which was simply riotous with color.

Fall morning, Applegate Valley, Oregon

I considered this sunrise on Thursday morning a good omen that I would catch lots of fall color in the Applegate River Valley and in Jacksonville, Oregon.

White oak leaf in Applegate Valley, Oregon

This white oak leaf greeted me as I walked up our road. It was past its prime and looking a bit beat up, but I promised it a place in my blog.

Big Leaf Maple in Jacksonville, Oregon

The Big Leaf Maples of Oregon never disappoint when it comes to fall. They consider it a responsibility to decorate our yard.

Big leaf maple in Southern Oregon

And a close up.

McKee Bridge on Applegate River, Southern Oregon

Hopping in our truck, I drove over to the McKee Bridge, about four miles away. Peggy and I attended the bridge’s hundredth anniversary this summer.

Applegate River in fall, Southern Oregon

I took this photo of the Applegate River from the bridge.

Fall tree near McKee Bridge on Applegate River, Oregon

And found another maple on the other side.

Valley View Winery in Applegate Valley, Oregon

Driving on, I stopped at the Valley View Winery to capture some grape leaves that were turning.

Fall colors along Jacksonville Trail in Oregon

This hiking trail is part of a system of trails around the town of Jacksonville.

Light and shadows in fall leaves, Jacksonville, Oregon

Shooting up through the leaves I caught this photo with its contrast of shadows and light.

Jacksonville Oregon Church in fall

You certainly might think this photo was taken in New England with its village church and fall look, but it was in Jacksonville.

Fall trees and Church in Jacksonville, Oregon

Another perspective.

Orange fall leaves in Jacksonville, Oregon

I’d put this tree up against any tree in the country for sheer, glowing color.

Red fall colors in Jacksonville, Oregon

Jacksonville, is filled with riotous colors. I wanted to capture them before the big storms that were coming in did.

Fall leaves on sidewalk in Jacksonville, Oregon

Leaving the beautiful leaves on the ground…

Fall leaves on grass in Jacksonville, Oregon

Or in the grass.

Black walnut tree in fall, Jacksonville, Oregon

A black walnut tree added a dash of yellow…

Fall tree in Jacksonville, Oregon

I didn’t know what this fellow with its long pods was, but I liked its exotic look.

Fall colors in Jacksonville, Oregon

Another stranger to me, but it belonged on my post.

Street lamp and fall cors in Jacksonville, Oregon

Convenient lamps always make fun props.

Halloween Bed and Breakfast in Jacksonville, Oregon

And finally, I’d be remiss not to add this reminder of the season. A Jacksonville Bed and Breakfast was having fun with the rapidly approaching Halloween.

 

NEXT POST: Our kids took us to the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence, Rhode Island while we were visiting and spectacular it was with over 5.000 pumpkins ranging from traditional to art carving. Starting on Wednesday, I will do a daily countdown up until Halloween featuring some or our favorites. You will want to check this out.

 

Burning Man or Burning House… When Forest Fire Threatens

 

Heavy smoke from local forest fires fills southern Oregon’s Upper Applegate Valley where we live.

 

I left our home on the way to Burning Man with the heavy smoke of the surrounding forest fires filling the air in Applegate Valley like an evil fog. Once again we had an inversion; there was nowhere for the smoke to go so it was hanging around and hassling our lungs.

The forest service folks said there wasn’t much to worry about. We might have bad smoke, but the fires were good. They were the type that make their way along the ground, clean out the dead wood, and leave the forest feeling healthy. Naturally, there was an if attached. The wind could change; the heat could skyrocket; the fire could cease its peaceful ramble through the woods and become a raging inferno. Conditions were extreme.

Trusting a fire to behave is something like trusting a tropical depression in the Gulf to behave. Sometimes the depression simply goes away; but occasionally, it morphs into a horrendous hurricane with devastating floods. Hello Harvey. Our thoughts are with our friends and all the other people in southeast Texas who are suffering from the torrential downpour.

The forest service people in our area also told us that they didn’t have enough personnel to seriously tackle the fires creeping through our woods, even if they wanted to. The Chetco Fire over near the coast, some 50 miles away, had been declared the worst fire in the nation, at least for now. Even the local firefighters had headed for the coast. The town of Brookings was being threatened, and firefighters go where the threats are the greatest.

I was happy to escape. I drove down through the Rogue Valley. Smoky. I drove up and across the Cascade Mountains. Smoky. I drove down into the Klamath Basin, past Klamath Lake, past Klamath Falls. Smoky. Finally, down around Tule Lake across the border in northern California, down where Japanese-American citizens were once corralled behind barbed wire fences like cattle, the smoke begin to clear. I breathed a sigh of relief. I breathed fresh air.

A sign outside of Tule Lake told me there were no services for the next 70 miles. Not many of California’s 39 million people live in the remote northeastern part of the state. I checked my gas gauge. Not a problem; I made it to Alturas with a quarter tank left. Gas prices had shot up, however— partly because of the towns remote location, partly to make money off of the increased traffic to Burning Man, and partly because of Harvey’s romp through the Gulf and along the Gulf Coast. I am sure that you have noticed that gas prices shoot up within hours when the oil industry has a problem. It takes months for them to creep back down.  Or is this just my imagination?

I bought gas. I also bought apples, oranges and salad mix at the Holiday Market. (California won’t let you bring fresh fruit and vegetables into the state.) My destination for the day was Cedarville, a mere 26 miles away up and over the Warner Mountains from Alturas. I like the small town. It perches on the very edge of California. Off to the east are the vast open spaces of the Nevada’s Black Rock Desert where lonely ranches, windmills, sagebrush, jack rabbits and rattlesnakes rule.  Cedarville likes Burning Man. The majority of the Northwest’s large population of Burners pass through the town. A couple of years ago, a local gas station owner told me he pumps as much gas during the week of Burning Man as he does the whole rest of the year.

My normal routine is to spend the night in the town and then drive the 90 plus miles to Burning Man early the next morning. I checked out the fairgrounds where I was going to camp and then headed for the Country Hearth Restaurant. It’s a small-town kind of eatery that moves at its own slow pace but serves excellent food. I had my traditional last meal before heading into the desert and then went out to the van for a final call to Peggy. Phone service is non-existent to highly unlikely in Black Rock City. A large brindle dog offered me a wag or two, sat on the sidewalk, and watched me make the call.

Peggy greeted me with her usual chirpy welcome and then told me that the sheriff had just been by our house. “We are under a Level 1 fire alert!” Our endless days of smoke were threatening to turn into something much more serious. Level 1 is a warning. Be aware, the fire is threatening to come your way. Level 2 is you should be packed up. Leaving is highly recommended. Level 3 is get out now. You may be too late.

“I’m coming home,” was my immediate response.

“No, Curt,” Peggy replied. “I have everything under control. You need to head on into Burning Man.” She knows how much I look forward to the event. And I had no doubt that Peggy had things under control. She’s cool under pressure and highly organized. Plus, we have great neighbors. But that wasn’t the issue. Having to abandon our home and possibly lose it to fire wasn’t something she should face alone. She was insistent, however.

“Let me think about it,” I concluded. I went back to the fairgrounds and broke out a beer. It didn’t take much thinking. I was not going to leave Peggy home by herself. I called her back.

“No, no, no, Curt,” she made one final plea. But I reaffirmed I wasn’t going to leave her alone. I also said I wanted to say goodbye to our home if it was in danger of burning down. And finally, I told her I would head back to Burning Man if the situation improved. I think it was the latter that convinced her.

………

It’s a strange feeling to walk through your home and figure out what to take and what to leave behind when a forest fire threatens. In ways, it’s a walk down memory lane. There’s so much history. Some things are easy: medical and financial records. Others are more complicated. I love our books, for example, but there is no way we are going to pack up a couple of thousand. Maybe I’ll pull a dozen. A few family albums from our childhood, some art work with meaning, original materials from Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement, my genealogical files, Peggy’s quilts, some clothes— whatever we take has to fit in our pickup.The digital age helps. Much is on-line.

Peggy and I spent time outside yesterday, prepping the house. Most was already done. We live in an area prone to forest fires, so we have ‘defensible space.’ Plants, except for lavender, which is fire resistant, are away from our walls. Lower limbs have been cut away from trees. I’ve weed whacked most of the weeds near our house, but now wish I had done more. Too late. Plus, the fire people have a ban on all gas-powered tools. I did some hoe work and Peggy raked, The heat and the smoke made things much worse. Three hours was our max. We drank lots of water. A cold shower afterwards felt good.

We’ve decided on an action plan. There is really nothing else we can do here. Hanging out and manning a garden hose during a Level 3 situation is not an option for us. We will pack the truck today. There is a community meeting hosted by the forest service that we will attend tonight. Tomorrow Peggy will head for Sacramento to escape the smoke and I will resume my trip to Burning Man. We are pretty sure our property is safe. If not…

Peggy smiles. “Maybe it’s time to buy another small RV and hit the open road again.”

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No-see-um Camp, a Sacred Grove, and Cougar Poop

No-see-um camp, which we expected to be bug infested, turned out to be nestled among trees that made me think of a sacred grove.

Part II of our hike up Cook and Green Creek to the Pacific Crest Trail through the Rogue River National Forest.

Our goal for the day was No-see-um Camp, which seems like a very poor place to set up your tent. If you have spent much time outdoors, you will recognize no-see-ums as particularly nasty little bugs. I first encountered them when backpacking on the Appalachian Trail in Maine. It had rained for a solid week and every biting bug in existence had considered us fair game. While mosquitoes had treated our bug repellant as an hors d’oeuvre, no-see-ums had come after us with knives and forks. Later, I watched a moose in Alaska dash wildly about and roll in a snow bank to escape the tiny, nefarious fiends. Fortunately, we didn’t find any no-see-ums in No-see-um camp. It was quite the opposite. I decided we had arrived in a sacred grove.

Sacred groves go almost as far back as humanity. Think of the Druids and their oaks. In West Africa, where I served in the Peace Corps, huge cottonwoods were thought to contain living spirits and I often found offerings at their bases. It’s important to keep the forest spirits happy.

No-see-um camp had more species of trees than I have ever found in a single location, many of them were giants. From our camp, I could see Douglas fir, sugar pine, white fir, blue spruce, chinquapin, big leaf maple, and yew. Just up the trail I found a ponderosa pine. Cook and Green Creek with its cool, refreshing water bubbled and burbled and roared its way down the canyon just behind our tent. I figured it was an excellent place to commune with nature spirits and Peggy found a camp guardian up in the trees, which I thought was quite pagan of her.

Another view looking up from our campsite on Cook and Green Creek. This one features big leaf maples.

There is a reason for their name!

We also had chinquapin growing in the grove. This prickly thing covers the trees nuts, which are said to be tasty.

Giant sugar pines with their large cones and giant Douglas firs with their small cones surrounded us.

I found a large ponderosa pine near by. Do you know what made the line of holes? It was a sapsucker, a kind of woodpecker. It will return to eat any insects that have entered the holes.

Cook and Green Creek flowed just behind our tent. It was burbling here.

Small waterfalls added a slight roar.

And I found the way the water flowed over a rock to be intriguing.

The downed tree next to our tent provided a good perspective on the size of the larger trees.

This odd tree growth just above our site served as Peggy’s camp guardian. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

The Guardian’s tree was also impressive.

We used our layover day as an opportunity to do a nine mile hike up to the pass and back. Going up, we entertained ourselves by enjoying flowers and other plant life while looking for signs of wildlife. And yes, I have more animal poop, scat, to share with you. I’ll bet you’re excited.

A shelf fungus.

Any idea what is happening here? Carpenter ants were making their nest. They are a fairly large ant that literally cut off small, sawdust-size chunks of wood and then bring it out to the edge where they dump it on to the sawdust pile at the bottom of the photo.

Peggy poses beside a fallen tree.

Which happened to feature another wood sculpture that Peggy determined was a dragon.

We found these unusual cones that actually grow directly on the limbs of the trunks and limbs of the knob cone pine.

Okay, I put up pretty, or at least I hope interesting photos, and then I put up poop. Why? Half the fun of wilderness travel is knowing what you are seeing around you. Scat (poop) is one way of telling what animals are using the trail you are on. This happens to be cougar, or mountain lion scat. The twisted piece on the end is fairly definitive of the cat family. Size suggests cougar. It was dry, so we were in little danger of an immediate encounter.

Since we are on animal signs, any idea of what made this? Odds are it was a porcupine. They chew off the outer bark to get to the nutritious, inner bark.

This attractive small waterfall, provided cool water to drink with our  lunch. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

After lunch on our way up to the pass, we found this attractive Blue Spruce…

And a flower, which is known as Ranger’s buttons.

On top, we met Rambo, Dogondo, and Double D: three PCT through hikers. Their names are their trail names. They had started at the Mexican border and been backpacking since April, covering close to 1000 miles. They were skinny and ever so eager to reach Oregon, which was just up the trail. One of them told me that Sasquatch (Big Foot) had been rooting around outside his tent the night before.

Rambo, a PCT through hiker from Riverside, California.

Dogondo, a PCT through hiker from Chicago.

Double D, a PCT through hiker from Kansas City.

We raced on our way back down from the pass. I was careful to keep Peggy behind me. She thinks that she is a greyhound when she gets out in front going down a hill. I once sprained my ankle trying to keep up with her coming off of Muir Pass on the John Muir Trail and had to hobble another 80 miles before we finally climbed up and over Mt. Whitney and out. Taught me.

Peggy, all set to go, wearing one of her favorite T-shirts.

The Cook and Green Trail and Some Really Weird Trees… Part I

The way madrone trees shed their bark is strange enough without having a pair of eyes staring out at you. We found this specimen along the lower end of the Cook and Green Trail.

 

Today’s post will take you along with Peggy and me on our latest backpacking adventure. This time, the trailhead was a mere 30 minutes from our house! The Cook and Green Trail follows Cook and Green Creek up to Cook and Green Pass where it connects into the Pacific Crest Trail, the PCT. (That’s a lot of Cook and Green; they were gold miners who worked the area in the 1870s and 80s.) Starting at the pass, we could have made a right turn and hiked to Mexico or a left turn and hiked to Canada. Another time. (grin)

Peggy points out a PCT marker showing the trail south. Had we followed it, we could have been to Mexico in a thousand miles.

We were greeted by a pair of signs at the Cook and Green trailhead, which I found amusing. Both were products of the US Forest Service. I don’t think the hand on the first poster is that of America’s preeminent spokesperson for fire prevention, Smokey the Bear; I think it belongs to Bigfoot! The second sign warned us about bears. Serious stuff.

Did this sign use Bigfoot to emphasize fire prevention? Or is it a clawless Smokey? It’s puzzling.

It’s smart to be aware of bears when backpacking, but you should not let them keep you out of the woods.

I am a veteran of the backcountry of Yosemite, where the bears actually run a school on how to steal backpacker’s food. (Fake news, but just barely.) So I wasn’t too worried about the bears of the Rogue River and Klamath National Forests. Still, the poster is worth reviewing. Avoid confrontation: That’s always sage advice when you are dealing with a grumpy animal that can outrun you, outweighs you, and comes with long claws and sharp teeth. You don’t want to surprise them and you don’t want to get between a mother and her cubs. That having been said, bears aren’t particularly interested in eating people.  If they were, they would move into towns where there are lots of people to eat. Mainly, they prefer to avoid humans, like most sensible wild animals.

Your food? Well, that’s a horse of a different color, or at least a bear that has hung out around careless people. When I see bear poop that includes bits and pieces of the plastic used to package  freeze-dried backpackers’ food, I know to be on the lookout. BTW, a Yosemite bear would laugh at the advice to hang your food high in a tree. Guess what, bears climb trees. And if mama bear can’t climb a tree in Yosemite to retrieve your chow, she sends her babies up. The advice in Yosemite used to be that your food bag had to be at least nine feet off of the ground and nine feet away from the trunk, with no ropes hanging down! I’ve watched bears play tether ball with food that wasn’t hung high enough. Now the park rangers want you to carry plastic bear-proof barrels. I’ve never worried much about bears when away from Yosemite. Still, care is called for.

It’s good advice about dogs. Way back in history, I was out backpacking with my first father-in-law’s Springer Spaniel, Sparky, and came across a bear. Sparky jumped behind me and then stuck her head out between my legs and started barking vociferously. The bear stopped and growled before ambling on. I told Sparky that if the bear had charged I would have picked her up and tossed her out in front of me.

The Cook Green Trail begins its journey through a burned-out area. In 2012, we watched from our home as huge billows of smoke climbed above the forest and a fleet of helicopters used large buckets to dip water out of Applegate Reservoir, one mile above our home, to fight the Fort Complex fire. It was only a few miles away, and we watched nervously. Today, new growth is returning to the area as nature performs one of her miracles.

This photo captures the area where the Fort Complex Fire stopped burning along the Cook and Green Trail. It’s a good example of burned and non burned forest. On the burned side, the green near the ground shows where the forest is beginning to recover.

While the hike through the burned-out area was interesting, our fun began on the other side. Peggy came across a mile marker that she felt needed to be decorated, a madrone tree featured eyes peering out from its strange, peeling bark, several oak trees were dressed in moss, tree roots created weird sculptures, and the Mother of All Roots stood higher than me.

Someone, probably the forest service, had placed mile markers along the first section of the Cook and Green Trail. Peggy decided to decorate the marker by adding sugar pine cones beside the marker and rocks in front.

I thought these moss-covered live oaks were quite unique.

This is a close up of the tree moss.

We also found this interesting growth. At first I thought it was stag horn moss but it may be a lichen.

Tree roots can create fun sculptures. I’m not sure I would want to meet up with this one on a dark night!

More ordinary, but still interesting, this root had taken a detour around a rock and captured it.

And here we have the Mother of All Roots!

I stood next to it just before the root connected to the trunk to provide perspective. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

NEXT BLOG: We hike on to No-see-um camp, which turns out to be closer to a sacred grove than a bug infested swamp, and hike up to Cook Green Pass where we find PCT through hikers and mountain lion sign.