From Huckleberries to Lighthouses: off leash wanderings

Warrior Rock lighthouse
It’s no secret that our newest little monster, Dory, has been both a delight and a challenge. Trying to keep up with a smart dog, it turns out, is a full time job.

Over the last year, I’ve been missing hiking, outdoor time in general, and spending more time with my husband, friends and animals. Turns out, I’m abysmal at the 8-5 grind. I’ve spent the last two weeks mostly Portland-bound due to weather (hello, ice storms?!), just unwinding and resettling as I transition to a new job in the near future.  

Turns out, sometimes unexpected weather is a blessing. Since I haven’t been able to get to the Gorge, I’ve been exploring little places close to Portland, places in all the time I’ve lived here I have somehow overlooked. Close to home stuff translates to some nice local hikes in Powell Butte (complete with coyotes and deer in the snow), Thousand Acres and our local biking paths. 

Most recently, I took some time on a drizzly Friday afternoon to explore Warrior Rock on Sauvie Island

first view of Warrior Rock, flood tide and rain
It isn’t a fancy hike, especially on a soggy, cold, viewless day, but honestly there is something about walking in the woods that is always therapeutic for me, especially when I am alone. I love being able to set my own pace, to be alone in my thoughts, to just wander and be. And dogs bridge that little gap somewhere between loneliness and human companionship. 

This was one of those walks where the exercise was good- a little over seven miles in 2.5 hours (gotta keep warm in the rain somehow!) and Warrior Rock was totally charming. One of those little oddities that you don’t think exists.  It also was a nice reminder of how far our little Dory had come in her training. 

Even in the rain, Portland manages to be charming

In the theme of catching up:

Our first summer backpack (one of only two this year, sob) was a strict reminder to me not to be too casual with a new dog. It takes time to dial them in.

Pepper, while a monster in many ways when we first got her, never had to be trained on recall. She parks herself behind your right foot and hikes that way. Itty bitty Velcro monster. I don’t know how, as I never taught her this, it’s just where she ended up. I’ve had friends take her on hikes and freak that they have lost her, only to find she’s hanging out just out of eyesight by their right ankle. She’s always been a funny little mongrel. 

Pepper is HOT if she is deigning to flop in the mud

She also learned to SWIM this summer (shock, surprise, wonders-never-cease, world-is-ending kind of stuff):

Apparently she will do ANYTHING, even swim, for cheese

Shenzi and Dory, crack-heading out in different ways at Thousand Acres

Yobo, also never had to be trained on recall. Maybe pug and pug-mixes are just pure Velcro.

Rocky was a train-wreck most of his life in most ways, but on trail was a super dog. Although horrifyingly dog aggressive (yeah, I have fun stories with that), I could put him in a “Stay” off trail, and he wouldn’t break it so long as someone didn’t get right up in his face.

Dory, on the other hand, has explorer tendencies.

On our first backpack she seemed so….good (initially) leash, until camp. Then BAM! “That other side of the lake looks really interesting, thanks for bringing me, have a nice time setting up camp, see ya!” Which leaves a very aggravated me, hoofing around a lakeside through fields of huckleberries and deadfall, hunting for my wandering Border collie mix.

Somehow, in the morning, I thought things would be different. Nope. Cue me, coffee in hand, trying to find Dory again. 

Serenity before the "Finding Dory" morning coffee incident

Lucky for us, on trail, she is decent. However, due to a wandering eye and intense prey drive, we have a long way to go before she gets dialed in to our standards. I despise little as much as poor dog ownership/stewardship/manners on the trail (or in general really); turns out, at Olallie, I was that person. {sigh}

Andy and Pepper both watching to see what she does now

On a funny note, about smart dogs: while tethered in camp, Dory was watching me pick huckleberries (loads of them, nom, nom, nom) and taught herself how to pull them off the bushes and eat them, like some kind of dog-bear. It was endlessly entertaining to watch and almost redeemed the wandering fiasco incident. 

OMG, happy place

Regarding the Olallie lake area- it was a perfect, low-key, reintroduction to backpacking for the (sadly) two weekend warriors that Andy and I were becoming at the time. Hours at the desk had taken over, and we both really needed the outdoor time. The plateau surrounding Olallie Lake is probably at its best in the fall- an explosion of color and blue sky and huckleberries- as it is largely viewless, heavy on forests and meadows and tiny, alpine lakes. Reminiscent, in many ways, of Indian Heaven. As a lover of the high alpine, these areas are more mood based for me than places I actively seek out, especially in the height of summer. Somehow, though, I fell in love with this area and would love to go back for future backpacks. 

Red Lake from camp
Fast forward five months, and we have major improvement. Albeit, it’s taken tons of training to get her here, from multiple classes at the Humane Society, private training and active, daily work/reinforcement on Andy and I’s part…however, I was able to hike mostly off leash with Dory across seven miles. I can actively call her off birds and possums and nutria and other dogs. I can recall her and keep her at my side or within six feet of me. Squirrels are another matter we are continuing to work on and, I suspect, may never fully proof. I will never trust her with cats.

That said, we adore her. Here’s to many hikes in 2017. Big and small. 
Taking in the view at Top Lake

The Prehistoric Coast

(*So, in the theme of trying to catch up. This was our only vacation of last year, but what a delightful trip it was.

And pre-Dory, the destroyer...)


Oregon Coast route 101 – Redwoods National Park
04/23/2016 - 04/30/2016

gazing up in Stout Grove

Earlier this year Andy and I took a trip down the 101 past Yachats, officially *completing* our trek down the Oregon Coast. Although tempted to stay there again, we continued south, this time heading for Bandon, a good five hours from Portland, and probably the beginning of what I would consider the official southern Oregon coast. We still stopped in at the Green Salmon for a mocha [GRIN]. All in all we took a little less than a week working our way down the 101 and back to Portland, reacquainting ourselves with old haunts and discovering charming oddities along the way. 

weirdest dog ever

Between a plethora of research, recommendations from friends, and little guidebooks, we ended up compiling a fantastic little adventure complete with oddities, beauty, secret spots, good food and lots of memories.

For instance, the Langlois Market makes a really good hotdog. It’s a blip on the 101 though, so if you blink, you’ll miss it.

The Prehistoric Gardens are a hoot, one of those places you aren’t quite sure how it exists. Andy visited forever ago when he was a young child, and spent most of the walk trying to recreate old family photos. 

A selfie I never dreamed I'd take

(I freaking LOVE this picture)

In a rewind from our college days, we hit up Redwood National Park and had one truly incredible hike there.

The Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor and Shore Acres were the highlight of the trip though.

We spent the first two nights in Bandon- which we really only chose because we could find something affordable last minute there- and it ended up being our new love on the coast (actually, a close second right behind Yachats). Complete with old lighthouses, excellent fish and chips and adorable plovers, Bandon ended up being a gem. Its old historic district is truly charming, with a city boardwalk complete with fishing pier, public eating places, and bay watching. Adorned with local artwork and situated near some truly phenomenal sea stacks…well, let’s just say we found the town of Bandon very, very charming. 

typical Oregon fashion- RAIN

…And I can take a thousand pictures of sunset among sea stacks and tide. We just didn’t have places like this where I grew up. 

(To get a really good feel for Bandon, check out this site: a fellow blogger does a wonderful write up of the same area- looks like she was down there when we were. J)

Andy’s true focus, however, this far south, was Shore Acres. He had seen it originally on an Oregon Field Guide episode. He remains obsessed.

It’s an area easy to pass over, because it is not directly on the 101. And, I imagine, during a storm, it is the thing biblical apocalypse stories are written about.

We ended up at Shore Acres on a picture perfect sunny day. It still didn’t disappoint. It was one of those days were you just sit, for hours, trying to follow the pattern of waves with your eyes. It’s an area of fantastic geology, evidence of earthquakes and Mother Nature, and it makes you feel very, very small. Zero of our pictures do it justice. I just could not get the shot. 

quintessential Shore Acres

Upon leaving Bandon, we took an entire day to drive our way to Crescent City, California, base camp for the Redwoods. We took an entire day because the 2ish hour drive between Bandon and Crescent City is simply spectacular.

The Samuel H. Boardman corridor, alone, is reason for the delay. We took numerous stops along waysides, photographing various sea stacks and pieces of coast line, seal heads bobbing in the surf. We stretched our legs along sandy beaches easily accessible from the road, and veered off road like crazy people for short, non-existent pullouts at mile markers that designated *secret* spots. Ate hot dogs before noon in Langlois. Filed away places, in the rolodex of our minds, places we would visit in the future. I refuse to say *if*.

Sisters Rock’s black sand beaches, like hidden pirate coves not visible from the 101. Secret Beach, not so secret but also not so easily accessible (nor well marked, which led to quite the fun traipse dropping down thru wooded cliffside trails with no signed destination). We arrived only to find the beach nearly swallowed, the soon-to-be high tide beating us out of the spot. Cape Blanco’s primitive north beach is much more beautiful and wild, in my opinion, than the lighthouse area. 

wild irises near Cape Blanco

Sisters Rock black sand
Secret Beach, or what's left of it

While Crescent City isn’t much to write home about, it does provide a good jumping off point for exploring most of the redwoods (both state and national parks) in Northern California. We last visited this area on an impromptu college trip (waaaay back in the day). This time, we focused more on the local State Parks as opposed to the National Park. Interestingly enough, many of the State Parks were set aside prior to the major logging of the redwoods, so some of the best old growth can be found in these areas.

Of note: there are some really phenomenal drives in the redwood area.

Bald Hills Road, with lots of long and short hikes right off the road. And it’s just…well…scenic.  

lupine on the Bald Hills Road (trailers NOT recommended)

Newton B. Drury Scenic Drive has many, many big trees including the Big Tree Wayside and the Corkscrew Tree. 

tiny husband for scale
The Cal-Barrel road, is located off the Newton B. Drury drive, and is lovely, scenic, unpaved walk (if the gate is open, for cars too).

(my favorite picture I took): Giants on the Cal-Barrel Road

Howland Hill Road was our favorite. It’s a long ten miles and quite narrow, so passing other cars is a bit of a squeezing game. From the Howland Hill road, however, we found ourselves wandering the very lovely Stout Grove located along the banks of the Smith River. Further up the road, we embarked on a positively surreal, 6 mile hike through old growth redwoods to the Boy Scout tree. search of the Boy Scout Tree. Can you find Andy?
It isn’t a hike you can say much about, just that the forest is huge and primordial. There is an otherworldly quality to it that left us with chills and a feeling of awe and silence.

Overall, the three days in the Redwoods was a perfect revisit for us. Enough time to experience areas we weren’t familiar with in the off-season and too little time for boredom. The highlight of the trip, however, was our southern Oregon coastline…it simply never ceases to amaze.

Pepper, summarizing "vacation"


Wandering close to home, at Powell Butte Park
Also close to home- Sandy River Delta Park, fondly referred to as Thousand Acres

I’ve heard a lot of people say that 2016 was a year they could do without. It's been a bad year for many people I know, but I think that’s often the case on a year to year basis. Regardless, years come and go, and hopefully, we grow from them, cliche and irritating as it may be to say. Even pain and loss can be enriching in what they teach us, horrifying as the experience frequently is (been there, done that too). I’ve been absent for a long while, a reflection of much overtime at work and too many hours behind a computer. While not monumental, I learned a lot about myself over the last year, including the importance of focusing on aspects of my life that I love, the people and hobbies that keep me grounded. It’s a lesson that keeps coming back to me over and over and over again.

Never one for New Year’s Resolutions, I simply try to focus on goals as they come, on changes in the pattern of my life. I’m refocusing on me time, as I simply become mentally unhinged without it, and this includes long hours alone in the woods, a place that centers me. It includes writing and volunteering and art and cooking and people. It includes professional goals, but ones that don’t crowd out all the other aspects of my life. If there is something that Spain and old family wounds taught me, it’s work to live, don’t live to work. 

One of several ice storms this winter

Here’s to the beauty of winter, rediscovery, walking, and homecoming. And some highlights from last year that I’m working to catch up on. 

slowly becoming friends

Divide Trail, no views

She's been a challenge, but delightful

my brother and I take the weirdest pictures... niece, on the other hand, is adorable
I <3 winter