I told our friends that May was the best month to visit Oregon. Not early summer when the tourists show up in droves. Not late summer when the wildfires in the western forests fill the days with murky smoke. They listened and began their trek north to Washington State at just the right moment. Lucky us, their route brought them close to us. We had four Magical May Days with them.
I am enamored with the progression of Spring this year. I have watched the progression for a bit more than a month now, with changes every single day. Every trip to the grocery store or to town or to the Grange to buy annuals or Bi-Mart to buy mulch is rewarded with another evolution. I don’t think I have actually noticed before that the flowering trees come and go in a beautiful sequence, slow motion waves of color beginning with that first blush of pinky pink on the flowering plums. The leaves aren’t out yet at that stage, but the pinks are everywhere, and some whites as well, with the early flowering pears sprinkling snowdrifts of white blooms against the skies.
In just days, the plums begin to fade and the cherries begin their ballerina pink show, fluffy big flowers that up close look exactly like tutus. I noticed this year that Grants Pass must be a perfect climate for the cherries, especially the magnificent Kwanzan cherries, with some trees covering half a parking lot with their pinkness and solid trunks the size of oak trees.
About this time all the yellows begin, with daffodils everywhere, especially along the roadsides where they seem to have naturalized on their own. I can’t imagine anyone could actually plant that many daffodils. In our own yard, where I planted a few dozen when we first got the property, they seem like a small dab of yellow compared to those huge drifts I see along the roadway. I kept wanting to figure out a way to park and take photos of some of those drifts, but with narrow roads and fast traffic I never quite figured it out.
The cherries must have lasted three weeks, with a world dominated by pink and yellow but still very few leaves. As the cherry flowers began to mature, the rhodies burst into their brilliant reds, pinks and purples, and right about that same time was the magical “leaf day”, the moment when suddenly a backlit tree in the late afternoon sun is glowing with fluorescent green. It is an amazing moment, with willows showing first and then the birches and aspens, the maples, and finally in a crazy wild burst of incredible magic, the oak leaves unfurl from their pale reddish curls into full green magnificence. Suddenly the world is somehow completely different. The oak leaves leave shadow traces against the house and make sunlight flicker through the living room windows. This time of year, the green is still new, still lime colored and shades of chartreuse, unsullied by dust and hot summer winds.
The cherry blossoms are giving way to leaves as they begin to fall, but just as that pink fades, the brighter coral pinks of the dogwoods have burst into bloom and other white dogwoods light the skies with their clouds of happy flowers. The daffodils have faded but in their place the irises are opening. We are a mere 300 feet in elevation above the main part of town, but the irises bloomed there a full week before mine opened up. Now we are in full on iris season as the brilliant flowers of the rhodies begin to fade and fall. Other shrubs are beginning to bloom and the colors shift from pastel pinks and yellows to brighter shades of late spring and the lime green leaves turn a darker green with every passing day. The roses and peonies are now covered with fat buds, waiting for their turn. I have a lovely pink oriental poppy that is opening in the afternoon sun today, one flower at a time, joining in the noisy wild joy of spring.
Erin and Mui arrived Monday, after a long 300 mile day driving north from Reno, landing at Valley of the Rogue State Park late in the afternoon after a bit of a scary moment on the highway. I’ll let Erin tell you about that one in her own blog. (Erin writes one of my favorite travel blogs of all time, with amazing photography and wondrous detail. Don’t miss it!).
I put together an early summer supper of Copper River Salmon on the grill with pineapple-mango salsa, an “interesting” side dish of quinoa, lentils, and pine nuts that they were kind enough to enjoy, but Mo said maybe don’t make that one again. Ha! Plated Greek salads with reduced balsamic drizzled over the feta dressing were a hit, though, and kept us all entertained while the fish cooked.
Crème Brule for dessert, a choice of vanilla or latte flavors were fun. The only glitch in the day was the failure of the culinary torch to fill with butane. I panicked, drove wildly to the kitchen store, bought another torch and another canister of butane, only to get home and have it not work, again. More panic, the brule’s were sitting on the counter with the raw sugar waiting for the fire! A quick internet search and a You Tube video informed me that I was holding the canister right side up instead of upside down. What in the world did we do without online videos?!
Even though we have not actually visited with Erin and Mui in person since our trip through Texas in 2014, it was as though no time had passed at all. Erin and Mui are so incredibly delightful and easy to be around. We sat on the porch of Sunset House long into the evening, and confirmed sight seeing plans for the upcoming week before they returned to the Phaeton at Valley of the Rogue. Sad to say, even though we have a sewer hookup and 30 amp, our drive cannot accommodate a 40 foot rig.
Mo missed out on our first day sight seeing due to a required follow-up visit with her doctor. She was just a week out from an emergency appendectomy and needed to be sure everything was OK. We have been to Crater Lake often, so it was an OK day to miss, although we all really missed having her with us.
I picked Erin and Mui up at the park and we headed up the highway, over the hills, crossing the Rogue River several times before we arrived at the mandatory Natural Bridge Viewpoint where the Rogue roars in and out of lava caves and tunnels through a gorgeous wild canyon. Erin and I share a love of photography, and I enjoyed following her around and watching how she framed shots so carefully.
Continuing up the mountain toward the lake, we saw the green leaves of springtime give way to the more somber greenish black of conifers at an elevation where spring is still to come. Mui wasn’t yet 62 when the price of the Senior Lifetime Pass went from $10 to $80, but with that birthday behind him, he was happy to go into the visitor center and purchase his new pass. Even at $80, that pass is a fabulous deal for visiting national parks for free for the rest of your life, among other benefits, including half price camping at federal facilities.
I was excited to see my home country through new eyes. Somehow showing people our beautiful part of Oregon who are seeing for the first time, reminds me to really look at my surroundings in a different way. Approaching the Rim View area is always thrilling, but this time not quite so much because the snow banks were so high that we couldn’t yet see the lake. We drove toward the beautiful historic lodge, which was closed until May 18, and finally found a snowbank we could climb to at last get that first view of Crater Lake.
So gorgeous, and the blue really IS that blue. Somehow the surrounding snow on the cliffs and mountains added to the drama, and the ribbons of cloud in the sky make the lake reflections even more interesting.
I had planned a picnic, thinking we might find a table, but all the tables were deeply buried under the snowbanks, so we opened the tailgate and had a picnic right there in the parking lot. As we were finishing up our lunch, I mentioned that during the winter the Park Service has free snow shoe trips around the trails and even provides the snow shoes. Within minutes after I spoke, a big long line of kids appeared over the ridge, clomping on the snow shoes as they reached the parking lot. I had no idea they did the tours this late in the year, but we decided it must have been a special school tour of some sort.
The road around the lake was still closed with deep snows, and we were only able to drive up the west side road for an additional mile to Discovery Point for a few more amazing photos. With a twinge of sadness, we left the lake behind and traveled east and down the hill into the beautiful Wood River Valley, not far from our old Rocky Point home. We took a side trip to the Headwaters of the Wood River, but by the time we got there the skies were gray and threatening, and the mosquitos were out, so we were quite happy that we had already had our picnic. Still, I think Erin got some photos of the gorgeous blues of the spring where the Wood River emerges almost fully formed. I didn’t even take out my camera this time!
Continuing back toward Rocky Point I showed them our previous home in the woods. It looks very different now, since the new owners have yet to live there full time and the gardens and lawns are unkept. I felt no sadness as we drove past the house, our new life and our new home is wonderful and while we have great memories, I am so happy to live in the sunlight and openness of Sunset House.
For our next day, we had originally planned to do a shorter trip through the Applegate Valley, viewing some of the wineries, maybe picnicking somewhere along the way, visiting Jacksonville and then home. A nice short day for people who have been on the road a LOT lately. That all changed as we checked out the weather and Mo and I started talking about maybe going to the coast instead. I wrote a note to Erin suggesting a change of plans and they were right on board.
Neither of them have seen the Oregon Coast, or the Redwoods, and with Brookings just a short 2 hours away, they were up for another long day of sight seeing with a great destination. Once again, I loved driving 199 with guests so I could appreciate the drama of the Smith River below the winding road, and savor the ferns and waterfalls along the way.
Mattie even got to go with us on this day, with Erin and Mui being great sports about sharing the back seat with her. Mattie loves company, and made another set of good friends who enjoyed her almost as much as she enjoyed them.
We got to the coast in early afternoon, just in time to find a perfect picnic table at Macklyn Cove Beach where we once again brought out the goodies for lunch. Mo and I love this little beach because Mattie can run free here in the off leash area, unlike Harris Beach State Park where leashes are required.
After lunch we decided to hike the Chetco Point Trail, a perfect little jaunt to a beautiful spot overlooking the ocean, the town, and the beach below.
A short drive north after our hike led us to Harris Beach, but along the way we found a small 55 plus community that had the biggest rhododendrons I have ever seen in my life. It was like something out of a dream, with these huge pink trees completely covered in blossoms dwarfing the small modest homes beneath them. Amazing.
Another walk down the South Beach Trail took us to the water once again. Mattie had a great time running and playing ( beyond the state park boundary) and Mui did his favorite thing of walking right along the water. It was a bit early for sea stars but the weather was incredible, with warm temperatures, full sunshine, and no wind. What an amazing lucky treat for a quickie day on the Oregon Coast.
The trip home along Highway 199 gave us a chance to stop in for a drive through Jedediah Smith State Park to let Erin and Mui experience the huge redwoods for the first time. We had great fun trying to get the phones and cameras to do the proper vertical panoramas to capture the incredible height of these ancient trees.
By the time we arrived back in Grants Pass it was almost 7, and everyone was tired and ready to retire to their own space. Mo and I talked about how we live here most of all because it is so accessible to everything we love. We can do the beach in a day, do the high Cascades in a day, can kayak our favorite creeks in a day, and can even get to the high desert in just a day if we choose.
Erin and Mui are thinking about the long term future, where they might want to settle down someday. Mui asked me specifically what I DIDN”T like about living in Oregon. I spent three days trying to come up with something and all I could think of was that what I like least are the late summer fires and smoke season. Maybe a bit more fog in the winter than I might like, or a bit more heat in the summer, but nothing at all that would convince me to live anywhere else. Ever.
The next day was to be a quiet one, with Mui preparing for our luncheon feast. Mui brought Erin to the store where I picked her up so she and I could play around in Grants Pass with our cameras and I could show her a bit more of our charming small town. We wandered about taking photos of the murals and the town bears that are brought out every summer to grace the street corners.
Wonderful to have a great photographer around to take really good pictures. Thank you, Erin
Back home, we picked up Mo and Mattie at the house and drove again to the State Park where Mui greeted us in his fabulous Harrod’s apron. I learned that Harrod’s is NOT Harrah’s. The first being a very classy high end place in London and the second a big casino in Reno and Vegas.
Ha! Mui definitely earned his apron stripes with the lunch he has prepared for us, including homemade hummus with olive oil and paprika, Turkish ‘cacik’ cold yogurt soup, grilled beef and lamb kofte (Turkish meat patties) that were moist and tender, a delicious ancient grain dish that was exponentially better than my attempt, and home made brownies and ice cream for dessert. I love Mui’s cooking, and he loves doing it as well.
We visited the rest of the afternoon. laughing and sharing stories, talking about future plans and upcoming adventures. We talked about ‘friends’ and ‘acquaintances’, and agreed that we are truly friends. It was a bit sad when we left, wondering when we might cross paths again. I am sure we will, and in the mean time, we will share blogs, and photos, and emails, and facebook posts, and private messages about whatever. It’s what friends do. And when we get together again it will be as though no time has passed.