Tuesday, July 7, 2009


JoAnn and Doug come to visit us.

Yes, we have neighbors, our friends JoAnn and Doug and their famous poodle Fillmore.  We’ve been looking forward to their arrival for several days, and I am watching them set up their home as I type. 

After they picked out their spot on our “estate”, our first order of business was to finalize a dinner plan.   JoAnn and Doug love southern food and had read our accounts of Dixie’s Southern Grub on our blog – it took no persuading to come to agreement on our destination.  We’ll take them on a little drive around Hood River, pointing out the scenic spots, the downtown, and the grocery stores, then sit down over crayfish cakes, catfish, fried chicken, greens and grits and catch up on their travels along the coast.  It is always fun to have friends come by!

Homestead at the Conboy Lake NWR Since yesterday was a day off, we hopped out of bed, grabbed a map, and decided to drive the Mt. Adams Scenic Loop drive, across the river in Washington.  Mt. Adams is 1,000 feet or so taller than Mt. Hood, and we frequently see its snow covered peak to the north when we are out and about in Hood River. Yesterday, though, we weren’t destined to get any good photos.

It was a very cool and blustery day when we started out, with low clouds hanging over the gorge and the western mountain peaks.  No sign of either Mt. Hood or Mt. Adams.  We crossed the Hood River bridge to Bingen, Washington, and headed north directly towards Mt. Adams.  All we could see was its base, with patches of snow on the low flanks.

Cattails and water plants along a small watercourse.

Even with the low clouds, the drive was beautiful, bisecting the length of a narrow agricultural valley checkered with orchards and farms.  Where the valley ended and the road began a climb to the flanks of Mt. Adams, the scenic tour loop turned to the east, heading towards the dryer ground east of the Cascades. 

By the time we reached Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge, we were in sunshine.  We ate our lunch in the car, out of the wind, then set off on the only hike in the NWR, an easy two mile loop.  An occasional view of Mt. Adams emerging from the clouds had to compete with nearer sights of interest: an old homestead built of hand-hewn logs, a cattail choked creek with colorful birds flitting in all directions, sunshine filtering through the forest to the tiny wildflowers blooming there.

Willard Springs, end of the trail

Our hike ended at Willard Springs, burbling out from under a small pile of rocks buried in green shrubs and water plants – much more easily heard than seen.  Here we met the only two hikers we saw the entire day, an older couple who lives in the area and hikes to the springs frequently.  They were sitting on a mat of long, dry, brown leaves that they identified as daffodil leaves, the only sign left of a long-gone homestead.

The area bordering the spring was cleared of trees; it was easy to picture an early homesteader choosing and clearing a home site between the spring and the forest.  We sat for awhile in the sunshine, listening to the spring, the birds, and the wind in the treetops.  It seemed idyllic to me – and a far cry from the life of a homesteader!

Looking west into the Gorge from the Hood River bridge.

The rest of our loop passed large ranches and tiny towns, travelled down, up, and down again through canyons cut by rivers from dark basalt.  The last several miles paralleled the Klickitat River, running full and fast to its junction with the Columbia.  At Lyle, we were back in the Gorge, where we turned west to Hood River.  I took this photo as we crossed the Hood River bridge back to Oregon.

Our “weekends” as volunteers seem rather similar to our weekends back in our working days: one day for fun – a car trip, a long hike, sightseeing and relaxation – and another day to catch up on all that other stuff that needs doing: laundry (did it this morning), meal planning and grocery shopping (this morning), catching up on email and writing a blog post (my afternoon), comparing insurance quotes for the coming year (Odel’s afternoon).  Some sweeping, dusting, and shaking of rugs thrown in, too.  Even the smallest of homes and least structured of lives need standard maintenance!

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