Monday, October 08, 2007

Watching for Clouds

Breakfast at the Cricketwood Inn is made to order and there is no shortage of food, from eggs and bacon to cinnamon roles and creme brulee french toast. We practically roll out of there, convinced we won't need to eat for days. The drive through the Sisters Wilderness area is strikingly beautiful and we head for Black Butte, to hike and work off our breakfast. The trailhead is at 4,900 ft. and rises quickly to 6,400 ft. in less than an hour. As we climb, we can see four main mountain peaks across the valley, white from the recent snowfall and mystically moving in and out of view from the passing clouds. At the higher elevations, the trees around us are shrouded in snow, providing a sharp contrast to the golden and crimson autumn leaves. Off in the distance, the landscape is white, with branches sparkling in the occasional sunshine. It is a beautiful sight and we consider ourselves fortunate that the recent cold snap and snowstorm has left this landscape for us; I suppose the cold weather was worth it after all. After our hike, we stop alongside the Metolius River, where Ray tries his hand at fly fishing while I take a pleasant walk on the river trail. The days are getting shorter and we reluctantly leave the area, on our way toward the coast. The weather becomes quite wet as we move through the mountain passes, past Eugene and into Florence, a small coastal town.

We arrive at the Edwin K Bed and Breakfast around 10pm. The innkeeper lets us in, tells us to be quiet, and turns out all the lights downstairs. I suppose that is a hint that we should go upstairs to bed. The notebook in the room has a list of many rules and we feel as if we have entered a boarding school. Lights out at 10, breakfast at 9am sharp, don't use the white towels to remove make-up, don't use the colored towels if you have bleach-like facial cleanser, no eating in the rooms, ......... Sigh!
However, in the morning, we come down to an elegantly set table, and are treated to a 5 course breakfast, all homemade. The innkeeper is a friendly fellow, quite a chef, and with service to match. He describes the 6 pots of homemade jams and salsas, and begins with strawberry and yogurt compote. He then serves each of us a plate of spinach souffle on a bed of ham with raspberry sauce, accompanied by yummy potatoes. This is followed by fresh fruit, fresh baked nut breads, and warm scones. While we eat, he entertains us with stories about Florence and the b&b. We learn that it was an original Sears Craftsmen house built in 1914. Sears had 4 models in their catalogue and were delivered with all the pieces-beams, beveled leaded glass windows, nails etc. Sears would send someone to put it all together. This original house was 1500 sq. ft.
Florence is a charming historic town on the wharf with the best ice cream parlor in Oregon. We walk the old downtown area then leave to travel south down the coast to Gold Beach.

Gold Beach feels like home as we have been there so often. Tomorrow, we will test our luck with Greg and hopefully bring home some salmon for the year. At 8am, it is windy and cold as we get on to the boat. Greg takes his boat out and we ride up and down the mouth of the river, waiting for a bite. 2 hours later, we are still riding up and down, no bite yet, and I am frozen. We take a bathroom break and I get a cup of tea, shivering in the cold. It would be a miserable day if we didn't get a single bite. I lose on off the line, Ray catches a wild silver which he cannot keep. He loses on off the line. We eat lunch, still no fish. We pass the same boats over and over again as we all cruise back and forth, up and down that section of the river.
On one boat, a boy sleeps for more than 4hrs. We see others catching big ones, little ones, not our luck. Finally, a fish on.
It is my line and I fight to keep it on-pull up, reel down as fast as I can, pull up..... All of a sudden, the line goes loose-did I lose it? Reel, reel, reel, says Greg, and I follow his instructions. Whew, it is still there. wow, it is a big one, more than 20 pounds. What a moment-the adrenaline flows! I don't think I have ever caught one this big.

Back to our seats and we go back and forth again, but we have a story to tell the others who pass. Greg's line dips down and he hands it to me. One more big fish-its a hatchery silver and we can keep it. 2 in the cooler now. Toward afternoon, Greg hands Ray his line and Ray brings in a monster of a fish- somewhere around 35 pounds of Chinook Salmon. Lots of pictures and so much excitement. It is time to call it a day. We take the fish up to the dock and Greg cleans them for us. He gives me the recipe for caviar and we pack up to leave for home. It has been a wonderful and productive day of fishing. "Greg always comes through for us", we say.

We begin our long drive and stop to sleep at Richardson State Park among the redwoods. In the morning we head for home.
It is time for a fish feast and a caviar making session. Robert, Julia and Jen join Ma and Pa as we prepare our feast of fish head soup and fresh salmon. We eat plenty of toasted baguettes with caviar. I like Greg's recipe the best-with a hint of sake, soy and mirin. the rest of the evening is spent fileting and vacuuming packing fish--it is like a cannery. Our annual Oregon trek has given us a freezer full of salmon, enough to last us the year!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Summer to Winter

We leave on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, full of adventure and excitement. Like usual, it takes us a long time to leave the house, making multiple trips back inside for items forgotten. After our usual long distance trip meal of In 'n Out Burger, we spend the night at Castle Crags State Park campground not far from Dunsmuir. It is dark, and we eat our chicken, then unsuccessfully try to light a fire. I think we needed some scouting skills as we tried the fire starter, then the gas stove, failing miserably at getting a flame. Finally we manage a meager fire over which I roast a few marshmallows before it dies.

The following day, Sunday, we take a long walk along the Upper Sacramento River where Ray had fished unsuccessfully with Jim, in the middle of summer. He tries his hand again. The area is very pretty, with craggy granite on the mountian tops; the area is popular with rock climbers. I think it would be a great place to backpack in the spring since rattlesnakes come out in the hot summer months. We stop at the Pizza Factory in Dunsmuir, Ray's favorite local place for Italian meatball sandwiches. Northward into Oregon, we stop and kayak on the canoe trail of the Klamath Lakes region, a wildlife refuge. (We thought of you, Gay-you would have loved it!) It is windy but beautiful, the glassy narrow channel edged by tall reeds, autumn colored brown and rust. We see herons, cranes, and many species of ducks, although need Gay to help us identify the many waterfowl on the banks. A single white crane staying just far enough ahead of us, swooping and landing, giving me lots of chances to take his picture. There is a definite feel of impending winter, as gray clouds roll in and a chill fills the late afternoon breeze. We can imagine birds and ducks flying off to warmer places.

As we roll in to Klamath Falls, it begins to shower and we quickly decide that the rain would make camping rather unpleasant, and begin to think about being wimpy and finding a motel room. A few calls alert us to the fact that motels in the area are rather aggressive in bringing down their rates, Quality Inn, in particular drops their rate from $94 to $71 in a matter of seconds. It feels good to take a hot shower and sleep in a warm bed!

Monday, we wake up to blue skies and puffy white clouds. Quality Inn has a wonderful waffle maker with fresh batter! Such a luxury. We feel like two young adults in our pre-kid years, driving north with no set schedule, watching the weather reports and traveling to avoid the rain showers. Could it be that 25 years have passed in between those times, our younger years? Arriving at Collier State Park, we find a beautiful campsite nestled in the pines. The campground is quiet, with only retired couples in their big RV's. Ray and I walk the trail along the Williamson River, he fishes, I go into the outdoor logging museum which is filled with old log cabins, and enormous machinery. It is such an interesting place-I see wagon wheels that are 8 feet in diameter and logging machines sitting on railroad tracks. Ray finds a "hole" and catches multiple large trout, which he can't keep but enjoys the thrill. I walk along the trail and around the river loop. The area is beautiful, surrounded by tall, white trunks of aspens and the deep rust colored grasses. It is a photographer's paradise. As evening approaches, the cool breezes start up again, and oh, it is chilly. We quickly eat our spaghetti, then try to light a fire again. This cigarette lighter we have just purchased must have been made in China! It certainly was not designed to light anything. We manage to get an acceptable fire lit and sit close, trying to warm ourselves. The Highlander feels warm and cozy compared to the below 40 degree temperature of the out of doors.

Ray spends much of Tuesday morning fishing-it is cold! We take the kayak out to a nearby lake and paddle out for several hours, the water is calm, the sky is blue and the autumn colors make a beautiful scene. On the way back, the winds pick up, oooh, the chilly fall air again. We go back to the campground and Ray goes back to his now favorite river and I walk out on the trail. The early evening sun is gorgeous and I regret not bringing the camera, so I walk back to get it, and continue on the trail. By then the light is dimming but I get some fabuous shots of the aspens and look forward to seeing them on the computer. It is very, very cold eating dinner when it is barely 40 degrees. We forego the fire and hide away in the car.

Early in the morning we awaken to the sound of raindrops. The showers clear into a blue sky, and everything shimmers in the sunlight. It was apparently quite cold last night-we must have been crazy to stay out there. Every other camper is inside a trailer. I discover that Dawn dishwashing detergent should definitely not be frozen. After spending time along the river, we drive north into the Deschutes National Forest. The road passes a large burned area with acres of gray and black trunks standing like ghosts in an empty forest. The blue lake in the background creates an eery scene. We stop at an osprey nesting ground, but alas, the ospreys and cormorants have left for the summer, migrating to the warmer waters of Mexico. There are several lakes along the scenic byway and we stop at each of them, with plans to kayak them in the future. Oregon's forests range from sparse pines in sandy soil, to lava beds and dense pine forests. From the lookout, we can see heavily forested valleys and mountains below. The road goes up to 6,000 feet and the showers turn in to snow flurries. As we reach the summit, the trees are covered with snow and there is a blanket of white on the ground. Winter has arrived! We are happy not to be camping up here. In the distance is Bend.

Bend is a charming city, along the Deschutes River. Cricketwood Bed and Breakfast is on the outskirts of Bend, a quiet place with a cozy atmosphere and plenty of snacks to keep Ray happy. Our room is the Enchanged Forest-in the bathroom is a large old clawfooted tub. The background is a painted jungle with apes hanging from the trees. The bed is hidden by a grayish green sheer curtain, decorated to resemble a tropical jungle, I assume. Jungle like plants hang from the ceiling and sit on planter stands. The manager shows us all the tricks of the room and gives us a large breakfast menu to put our selections. It is an interesting process. We go in to town to a "award winning" bbq joint, apparently Oprah's favorite-though I can't imagine why Oprah would have any reason to be in Bend. The waitress says it is not a franchise, and there is only one Baldy's, right here in Bend. Now why in the world would Oprah come out here for bbq is beside me. It is absolutely delicious though and Ray orders a full slab, to take half back for tomorrow's lunch. I think we will have to find an alternative for lunch as he leaves not a crumb. The onion rings are the best ever. Big flat sheets of sweet onions with a light crispy covering. We are ready to come back just for ribs and onion rings! Back at the B&B, Ray indulges in not one, but 2 chocolate ice cream sandwiches, then settles in by playing their acoustic guitar. It is late, and I have been at this computer for an hour now. One of the other guests has walked past me a dozen times already-she seems to be a busy one! We're hoping for clear weather tomorrow. If not, we'll follow whichever road takes us to sunshine!