highways

Cross-Country: Adventures Alone Across America and Back

400T E cover

I am proud to announce the publication of my new book, a non-fiction travel narrative entitled  Cross-Country:  Adventures Alone Across America and Back:

After a childhood of summers spent in the back seat of a car, and four months before the turn of the millenium, M.M. Justus decided to follow in the footsteps of her heroes John Steinbeck and William Least-Heat Moon, not to mention Bill Bryson, and drive alone across America’s backroads for three months.  Like the bear going over the mountain, she wanted to see what she could see.

The places she visited ranged from the homely to the exotic, from the Little Town on the Prairie to Scotty’s Castle, from New York’s Twin Towers to an ‘alien’ landing site in Wyoming.  From snow in Vermont to the tropical heat of New Orleans. 

After over 14,000 miles, history both public and personal, and one life-changing event, she finally arrived back where she’d started from, only to discover it wasn’t the same place she’d left behind at all.
It is available in print through Amazon and CreateSpace, and through other retailers coming soon, and as digital editions through Amazon and Smashwords, with other retailers coming soon:

You can read the first chapter for free here:  http://mmjustus.com/fictionCrossCountry.html

Thank you for your time.

M.M. Justus
Categories: books, Cross-Country, exploring, highways, Long Trip, museums, national parks, outdoors, parks, philosophy, self-publishing, travel, writing | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

counting wildflower species

Can be quite the process on Mt. Rainier this time of year [g].  I spent the day up at Paradise (including a short jaunt down to Stevens Canyon) today, and counted 28 wildflower species that I could identify, and at least one that wasn’t in my book.  Not bad when you consider that there were still two and three-foot snowdrifts around and about at Paradise.  Instead of showing you the usual tourist pictures of the mountain for this trip, I thought I’d pull a Katrina (a birder friend who posts lists with accompanying photos) and show you some of what I saw.

Avalanche lilies -- if you time it just right, you can see literally fields of these at Paradise.  I did time it right this year.

Avalanche lilies — if you time it just right, you can see literally fields of these at Paradise. I did time it right this year.

One of the few I haven't been able to ID yet.  This was a woodland flower near where I stopped to photograph the Columbia tiger lily, between the Nisqually entrance and Longmire.

One of the few I haven’t been able to ID yet. This was a woodland flower near where I stopped to photograph the Columbia tiger lily, between the Nisqually entrance and Longmire.

I must have passed three or four clumps of these Columbia tiger lilies before I found one in a place safe to photograph without running the risk of getting hit by a car.  Thse were growing down near Longmire.

I must have passed three or four clumps of these Columbia tiger lilies before I found one in a place safe to photograph without running the risk of getting hit by a car. These were growing down near Longmire.

One of the two kinds of penstemons -- these are Davidson's penstemons, and I found them on the Stevens Canyon road.

One of the two kinds of penstemons — these are Davidson’s penstemons, and I found them on the Stevens Canyon road.

Rosy spirea.  This is all over the place at Paradise, and was just starting to bloom.

Rosy spirea. This is all over the place at Paradise, and was just starting to bloom.

Alpine phlox, my favorite wildflower, growing out of a crack in the rocks on the Paradise loop road.

Alpine phlox, my favorite wildflower, growing out of a crack in the rocks on the Paradise loop road.

Spring beauties on the trail to Myrtle Falls at Paradise.  They were growing some distance away on the hillside, but I did my best.

Spring beauties on the trail to Myrtle Falls at Paradise. They were growing some distance away on the hillside, but I did my best.

Jeffrey's shooting stars along the Stevens Canyon road at the Snow Lake trailhead.

Jeffrey’s shooting stars along the Stevens Canyon road at the Snow Lake trailhead.

Beargrass! on the Stevens Canyon Road.  I think this is the first time I've ever seen beargrass at Mt. Rainier.  I normally associate it with Glacier National Park.

Beargrass! on the Stevens Canyon Road. I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen beargrass at Mt. Rainier. I normally associate it with Glacier National Park.

Red heather along the steps down to the Myrtle Falls overlook.

Red heather along the steps down to the Myrtle Falls overlook.

A patch of glacier lilies (glacier lilies are yellow, avalanche liles are white, otherwise they're basically identical -- repeat until memorized [wry g].

A patch of glacier lilies (glacier lilies are yellow, avalanche liles are white, otherwise they’re basically identical — repeat until memorized [wry g].

Potentilla along the trail at Paradise.

Potentilla along the trail at Paradise.

Part of a huge patch of mertensia along the road almost to Paradise.

Part of a huge patch of mertensia along the road almost to Paradise.

I love summer, and mountain wildflowers are a big part of the reason why.

Oh, and here’s the list of everything I saw today that I could identify:

Goatsbeard

Mertensia

Potentilla

Avalanche lilies (white)

Glacier lilies (yellow)

Violets

Pasqueflowers

Spring beauties

Red heather

Mountain ash

Alpine phlox

Sitka valerian

Mountain bistort

Columbia red columbines

Beargrass

Serviceberry

Pink spirea

Jeffrey’s shooting stars

Two kinds of penstemon, Davidson’s and one not in my book

Lupine

Two kinds of paintbrush (magenta and scarlet)

Clover

Veronica

Columbia tiger lily

Cow parsnips

Ocean spray

Oh, and one more thing, or, rather, two.  I saw a dipper at Myrtle Falls (at least I think it was a dipper — it was too far away for a formal ID, but it was acting very much like a dipper, which is pretty distinctive, at least I’ve never seen any other kind of bird that dives into pools just above waterfalls).  And a pika skittered across the trail in front of me on my way back from Myrtle Falls.  He was too fast to get a photo.  But you can hear the pikas everywhere up there this time of year.  They sound very odd.

That’s it.  I think [g].  It was a gorgeous day in Paradise, what can I say?

Categories: animals, birds, exploring, highways, hiking, Mt. Rainier, national parks, outdoors, parks, plants, travel, weather | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Two weeks ago, Day 9

My last day on the road, alas.  I got up and out early, and drove north from Seaside to Astoria, where I had an appointment with the curator (the librarian was on vacation) of the Columbia River Maritime Museum.

But that wasn’t until later in the morning, and in the meantime I wanted to visit the Astoria Column.  I’d seen it in the distance any number of times on trips through Astoria, perched up there on its hilltop, but I hadn’t ever actually gone up there.  So Kestrel (my car) and I crept up the steep, narrow streets — Astoria is much smaller than San Francisco in every aspect but its hilliness — to the top of the highest – peak may be an overstatement, but you can certainly see forever from up there.

It was eight in the morning, clear as a bell, and the shadows were dramatic.  I’d had it in my mind that I was going to climb to the top of the tower, but I should have known better.  I always forget about my fear of manmade heights.  I don’t mind natural heights.  I’ve stood at Glacier Point in Yosemite, 3200 feet above Yosemite Valley, a direct drop below, without a hint of trepidation.  But when I visited Chicago I took one look at the then-Sears Tower and said, no way.  Absolutely no way.

Then there’s the whole claustrophobia thing, which I do not forget about.  I am very uncomfortable inside a plane if I’m not in a window seat, because I need to be able to see out, for instance, and I really do prefer my elevators to be glass, although I can manage regular ones if I have to.  But caves don’t bother me, so I guess it’s the manmade thing again.  Odd.  At any rate, the inside diameter of the Astoria Column is about eight feet across.  No windows. 164 steps to the top.  I took about ten steps up and could just feel it closing in about me.

So I came back down and decided I would a) be satisfied with the views from the hilltop, which really were spectacular, and b) take my pictures of the column from the outside, which was much more interesting, anyway, with its mural about exploration.

And here’s the photographic evidence.

The Astoria Column, backlit.

The Astoria Column, backlit.

Towards the northwest from the base of the column.  That's the Columbia River, and the Astoria-Megler Bridge, which I would cross later that day.

Towards the northwest from the base of the column. That’s the Columbia River, and the Astoria-Megler Bridge, which I would cross later that day.

A view of the column and its spiraling mural.

A view of the column and its spiraling mural.

To the southwest from the base of the column -- those clouds mark the coastline.

To the southwest from the base of the column — those clouds mark the coastline.

A close-up of the very top of the column.

A close-up of the very top of the column.

By the time I was done at the column, it was almost time for my appointment.  The Columbia River Maritime Museum is on the waterfront, appropriately enough.  It’s a fabulous museum, and I highly recommend it to anyone with even the faintest interest in western or maritime history or boats or lifesaving, or…  But today I was there to do research, so I headed back to the library, where I met with the curator.

He was a very nice man, and it was a very nice library, but the library was not his area of expertise.  He was persistent, though, and finally produced the main item I was there to see, a thesis written by a student of American Studies at, of all places, the University of Utah, on lighthouses and their keepers on the Oregon coast.  She’d done a lot of field work on the coast, and research, and interviews, and one of the three lighthouses she focused on just happened to be Heceta Head.  Gold mine.  Even though the museum’s copy turned out to be missing its bibliography.

The curator also found me a number of other interesting items, and I had a very productive morning.

But after a beer-battered scallops and chips lunch at the Wet Dog Café, a place I’d eaten at before and loved (and which, unlike Mo’s, more than lived up to my memories of it), it was time to head home.

It was only a three and a half hour drive.  But it started with being stopped near the very top of the Astoria-Megler Bridge by bridge repairs.  I did mention my fear of manmade heights, right?  Well, I managed to distract myself during the wait by taking photos from the car.  I bet I’ll never get any from this vantage point ever again.

Stuck at the top of the Astoria-Megler Bridge.

Stuck at the top of the Astoria-Megler Bridge.

The Columbia River and Washington shore from the top of the bridge.

The Columbia River and Washington shore from the top of the bridge.

Down, down, down we go, to Washington.

Down, down, down we go, to Washington.

The very oddly-named rest area near the Washington end of the bridge.  I suspect William Clark is the culprit, but there wasn't anything there to explain it.

The very oddly-named rest area near the Washington end of the bridge. I suspect William Clark is the original culprit, but there wasn’t anything there to explain the origin of the name.

When I arrived home, it was to find that the condo hadn’t burned down and that the cats were just fine, and that was the end of this year’s “long” trip.  While I had a good, and productive, time, here’s hoping next year’s holds more new territory and lasts longer.  Sigh.

Categories: cats, exploring, food, Ghost Light, highways, history, museums, outdoors, parks, research, travel, weather | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two weeks ago, Day 8

The beach just north of Lincoln City.

The beach just north of Lincoln City.

Two weeks ago today I drove from Lincoln City to Seaside, plus side trips.  The first one was down the Nestucca River National Backcountry Byway, as the brochure I picked up at the Yaquina Head Visitor Center the day before titled it.

This was the only real stretch of road on this trip that I hadn’t ever been on before, and I only drove sixteen miles of it.  But what I did see was lovely.  It started out very bucolic, with farms and cattle and crops.  Mostly dairy cattle — I wasn’t all that far from Tillamook and its famous cheese factory, after all.  Then it narrowed down to something of a real canyon, with twists and turns and a rapidly running river.  I came around one bend to find a deer at the side of the road staring at me about as avidly as I was staring at it.

I only went as far as the first campground, and I was happy to see that it, at least, had not been leased and/or ‘improved’ into an imitation private campground.  Tucking that away in my mental notes for the next time I came down here, I headed back to Hwy. 101.  Why is it that going in on a road like that always takes twice as long as coming back out?

My next stop was entirely serendipitous.  I saw a sign, out in the middle of nowhere along Hwy. 101, saying Quilt Shop.  Well, how could I not check that out?  I turned down a narrow little dirt road, and about half a mile in, came to the end at a house with a quilt shop underneath it (in a daylight basement).  I went in, and was amazed at what I saw out there in the middle of nowhere — lots and lots of fabric and notions, and samples pinned up wherever there was space.  I spent a little time in there prowling around, and came out with several fat quarters from a sale bin.  I suspect I’m going to regret that I didn’t get yardage of one of them — it was a really nifty tone-on-tone world map.

After that, I drove on to Tillamook, where I ate lunch and went to the cheese factory.  You can’t go to Tillamook without going to the cheese factory and getting ice cream.  Well, you can get cheese, too, but you have to get ice cream.  Tillamook Mudslide, by preference.  Chocolate ice cream with fudge ripple and chocolate chunks.  Yum.  They used to carry a really delicious lemon pudding ice cream, too, but apparently they’ve quit making it.  Their other flavors are lovely, but I adore the Mudslide.

The afternoon was spent tooling up the coast to Seaside, via Garibaldi, a little town on Tillamook Bay, where I visited their historical museum, which was mostly about Robert Gray and his ship Columbia.  He was the one who discovered and named the Columbia River.

Another view of Tillamook Bay.

Tillamook Bay near Garibaldi.

An unusual (most Oregon iris I've seen are lavender) roadside iris.

An unusual (most Oregon iris I’ve seen are lavender) roadside iris.

And via Cannon Beach, where I went to their historical museum.  It was like Lincoln City’s museum in some ways.  Cannon Beach (named after a ship’s cannon found not far from there) is an upscale tourist town, and has been one for most of its life.

I spent most of the rest of the afternoon walking the beach at Cannon Beach.  I started at Tolovana Beach State Wayside, on the south end of town and walked all the way to Haystack Rock and back.  Haystack Rock is another cool place to see tidepools, and here’s the evidence.

Haystack Rock from Tolovana Beach State Wayside.

Haystack Rock from Tolovana Beach State Wayside.

Kites flying at Cannon Beach.

Kites flying at Cannon Beach.

A closer view of Haystack Rock with tidepools at its base.

A closer view of Haystack Rock with tidepools at its base.

Artificially-looking green but real sea urchins.

Artificially-looking green but real sea anemones.

A sea star.

A sea star.

Whelks.

Whelks.

A hermit crab in a whelk shell.

A hermit crab in a whelk shell.

The view headed back from Haystack Rock with the wind at my back instead of my face.

The view headed back from Haystack Rock with the wind at my back instead of my face.

You can also see Tillamook Rock Lighthouse from here, just barely.

A seastack with Tillamook Rock Lighthouse in the distance.

A seastack with Tillamook Rock Lighthouse in the distance.

Another view of Terrible Tilly.

Another view of Terrible Tilly.

Tillamook Rock Lighthouse,  or Terrible Tilly as it was called, is one of the most remote, desolate lighthouses in the U.S., if not the world.  You can read about it at the link, but suffice to say it must have been one of the most dreaded postings in the lighthouse service.  It is awfully picturesque, though.  And then, at last, I drove up to Seaside and checked in at the Seaside Hostel.  I’ve stayed here before on several occasions.  It’s in an old motel, backing up to the river that flows through Seaside.  Comfortable, convenient, and relatively cheap, and that was all I really needed for my last night on the road.

Categories: animals, birds, exploring, highways, hiking, history, museums, outdoors, parks, plants, travel, weather | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Two weeks ago, Day 7

Some good things, and one disappointment.

I got a kind of late start this morning two weeks ago, and I woke up to overcast skies and a fair amount of wind.  In my experience, the Oregon coast is a very windy place, and I’d just been lucky the day before.

I stopped in Waldport at a visitor center commemorating the bridge over the Alsea River, which was interesting, especially since the bridge they were commemorating (built in the 1930s) had been replaced by a more modern one just a few years ago.

Then I stopped at an ocean view pullout and wrote for a while since I hadn’t the night before, before driving on to Newport, where I arrived about lunchtime, by design.  I’d been looking forward to going to Mo’s, which is sort of an institution on the Oregon coast, famous for, among other things, its clam chowder.  I’d eaten there before and enjoyed it, but not this time.  As I wrote in my journal, it was “an absolutely wretched lunch.  A crab melt, which was watery and flavorless, and, oh, the bread was burned, and a small cup of chowder, which tasted pretty much like Campbells out of a can.  I don’t know what’s happened to Mo’s, but I won’t ever be going there again.”

I then went to the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse (Yaquina is pronounced ya quinn’ a). I’d been there before, but I thought it might be interesting again, and it was.  The rooms are all decorated in period, and the lighthouse itself is in a state park.  I wish Heceta Head’s lighthouse and keepers’ quarters were the same building, because I suspect it would facilitate the plot, but I’ll manage.  Also, Yaquina Bay Light, which was only actually lit for three years (see the website for that story) is supposed to have a ghost, too.

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse

The view from the front stoop of the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse.  You can just see the Yaquina Head Lighthouse from here.

The view from the front stoop of the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. You can just see the Yaquina Head Lighthouse from here.

The kitchen in the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse.

The kitchen in the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse.

A closeup of a baby Fresnel lens.  Fresnel lenses, which concentrate the output of a small light into one direction, making it look much larger, are some of the most beautiful practical things in existence.

A closeup of a baby Fresnel lens. Fresnel lenses, which concentrate the output of a small light into one direction, making it look much larger and brighter, are some of the most beautiful practical things in existence.

A bedroom in the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse.

A bedroom in the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse.

The Hwy 101 bridge over Yaquina Bay.

The Hwy 101 bridge over Yaquina Bay.

After that I drove the short distance up the coast to the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area.  I thought I was going to get blown away, but other than that it was a terrific stop.  They have a very nice visitor center with lots of interesting historical exhibits and a short movie about the lighthouse, and then there’s the lighthouse itself, which is the tallest one in Oregon (not in the northwest, that would be the Gray’s Harbor Light, which is in Westport, one of my favorite day trips from home).  Once I was done in the visitor center, I drove on up to the headland, parked my car, and hung onto my hat (literally — my hair is thin on top of my head, and I always wear a hat outdoors to keep my scalp from getting sunburned).  The views were spectacular again, but the tidepools were terrific.  They were seven stories worth of stairs to reach from the lighthouse parking lot, but the basalt beach cobbles and the sea stars and crabs and sea anemones and other interesting critters were well worth the climb back up.

The Yaquina Head Lighthouse.

The Yaquina Head Lighthouse.

Birds covering a sea stack at Yaquina Head.

Birds covering a sea stack at Yaquina Head.

Gray basalt cobblestones on the beach below Yaquina Head.  Beautiful, but a bear to walk on.

Gray basalt cobblestones on the beach below Yaquina Head. Beautiful, but a bear to walk on.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse from the tidepools below.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse from the tidepools below.

A sea star.

A sea star.

The stairs leading down from Yaquina Head to the tidepools.  The equivalent of seven stories, in wind almost strong enough to lift you off your feet.

The stairs leading down from Yaquina Head to the tidepools. The equivalent of seven stories, in wind almost strong enough to lift you off your feet.

A really big, really gorgeous first order (the largest size) Fresnel lens at the top of Yaquina Head Lighthouse.

A really big, really gorgeous first order (the largest size) Fresnel lens at the top of Yaquina Head Lighthouse.

Then I headed north to Lincoln City, where I visited the North Lincoln County Historical Museum.  They’ve done a very good job there, telling the story of that part of the Oregon coast.  Lincoln City is basically five small beach tourist towns that banded together to provide basic services to their citizens.   Lincoln City today is basically miles and miles of motels and strip malls and beach houses, but the history of the place — I was especially enchanted with the exhibit that told about the gathering of redheaded people that happened there every year, apparently for decades — was much more than that.

And I found a good motel in Lincoln City, too.

Categories: animals, birds, exploring, food, Ghost Light, highways, hiking, history, museums, outdoors, parks, travel, weather | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Two weeks ago yesterday, Day 6

Sorry, yesterday got a bit out of hand.  I’ll do today later on today.

I woke up early this morning two weeks ago today.  I always do that when I’m camping.  In the summertime this far north the sun rises pretty darned early.  The day didn’t start out all that excitingly.  I needed to do laundry.  So I got up and out and headed back to Florence to a laundromat I’d noticed the day before, which opened early, fortunately.

With clean clothes neatly packed back in my suitcase, I headed back to the public library, where I finished going through their local history section and attempted to look at some microfilm of the local newspaper for a couple of particular dates, but was utterly stymied, first, by the fact that the young woman who responded when I asked for help did not know, and made it clear she did not want to know, how to run the microfilm machine.  The machine in question made me realize how long it had been since I last worked as a librarian, too, because it was a fancy, newfangled variety attached to a computer, and it took me some time to figure out how it worked.  Once I did, however, I discovered that the roll I wanted to look at had been wound onto the spindle so that it viewed upside down and mirror-imaged.  Totally useless.  It could be fixed, but not on that machine, not by me.  So I made note of the name of the paper, and resolved to interlibrary loan the microfilm when I got home, so I could use it at my local library, where the librarians are much more helpful.

By that time it was lunchtime, so I found some lunch, then headed north, where my day improved drastically.

I was headed for Heceta (he cee’ ta) Head Lighthouse, my favorite place on the Oregon coast, and the setting for the new book, which is going to be a complete rewrite of a story I wrote a number of years ago — it won’t be recognizeable as the same book by the time I’m done with it, I suspect.

Heceta Head is named after a Spanish explorer, Bruno de Heceta, whose real claim to fame was that he was looking for the great river of the West way back when, and totally missed the mouth of the Columbia.  But he did leave his name behind on the headland, and when the lighthouse was built there it, too, took his name.

That lighthouse and I go way back.  My association with it started when I lived in Eugene in the 1980s and went through my first divorce.  The lighthouse was only a little over an hour from where I lived, and was my favorite escape hatch when things were getting too messy at home.  The keepers’ quarters, which are in the Victorian cottage near the lighthouse, are supposed to be haunted, too.  I didn’t know this when I saw something in one of the windows of the then-unoccupied house on one of my many trips there.  As it turns out, what I saw might have been the result of a prank.  But then again it might not have been.  I’ll never know.

But that’s the basis for the story I’m going to write.

I spent most of the afternoon at Heceta Head, touring the keepers’ quarters, which are now a very expensive bed and breakfast, and visiting the lighthouse.  I was too early for the re-opening of the lighthouse itself to tours, after a two-year renovation, by a week, alas, but I did get to see what I needed to see.  And I also got to see lots of shorebirds on the seastack nearby, through a telescope set up by volunteers at the foot of the lighthouse.

Heceta Head Lighthouse and keepers' quarters, from a viewpoint on Hwy. 101.

Heceta Head Lighthouse and keepers’ quarters, from a viewpoint on Hwy. 101.

The lighthouse from the viewpoint, with the zoom.

The lighthouse from the viewpoint, with the zoom.

The keepers' quarters from the viewpoint, with the zoom.

The keepers’ quarters from the viewpoint, with the zoom.

One of two sea lions basking on the rocks below the viewpoint.

One of two sea lions basking on the rocks below the viewpoint.

The Cape Creek Bridge and the beach below Heceta Head.

The Cape Creek Bridge and the beach below Heceta Head.

The trail to the lighthouse.

The trail to the lighthouse.

A closer view of the keepers' quarters.

A closer view of the keepers’ quarters.

The lighthouse from the porch of the keepers' quarters.

The lighthouse from the porch of the keepers’ quarters.

The parlor in the keepers' quarters.

The parlor in the keepers’ quarters.

A closer view of the lighthouse itself.  You can't see the lens because the renovators are still working on it and keep it covered till they're done.

A closer view of the lighthouse itself. You can’t see the lens because the renovators are still working on it and keep it covered till they’re done.

Cormorants and seagulls through the telescope at the lighthouse.

Cormorants and common murres through the telescope at the lighthouse.

Westward, the next stop is Japan -- from the meadow at the base of the lighthouse.

Westward, the next stop is Japan — from the meadow at the base of the lighthouse.

And I spoke with the man who runs the bed and breakfast, who gave me some photocopies of some research he’d collected, and spent the better part of an hour with me, talking about his experiences there and the history he’d learned.  Which was extremely helpful.

After taking far too many photos (research, I tell you!), I walked back down to the beach, where I noticed that there are caves at the base of the headland.  Thinking they might end up in the book, I went and checked them out, too.  You never know…

It was getting on late in the afternoon by the time I left Heceta Head, but I had one more place I wanted to visit before I stopped for the night, Cape Perpetua (pronounced like perpetual without the L).   It’s one of the highest points on the Oregon coast, and there’s a winding, narrow road leading to a viewpoint at the top.  The view is one of those curvature of the earth things, where you’d swear that you were seeing more than 180 degrees from horizon to horizon.  I’d somehow managed never to go up there before, but I’m glad I did this time.

The southern view from Cape Perpetua.  The highway below is 101.

The southern view from Cape Perpetua. The highway below is 101.

The northern view from Cape Perpetua.

The northern view from Cape Perpetua.

By the time I got back down to Highway 101 it was getting late, and while I was only going as far as the tiny town of Yachats (ya’ hots, not yach’ ets as my father teased when we were here when I was a kid), it was time I got there and settled in.  To a nice little mom and pop motel, where I spent a very comfortable night.

Categories: animals, birds, exploring, Ghost Light, highways, hiking, history, museums, outdoors, parks, research, travel | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Two weeks ago today, Day 4

Two weeks ago today I think I finally saw enough gardens to satisfy me.  Maybe.  At least for a while.

The Willamette Valley near Salem is an amazing place.  The climate and soils are such that it’s an ideal place to grow nursery stock of all kinds.  It’s very odd to come around a bend in the road and see an entire field of some exotic evergreen or shrub, let alone entire fields of garden flowers.

A field of nursery stock plants.

A field of nursery stock plants.

I live just down the road from a commercial dahlia grower (which is something of a joke because I can’t grow dahlias in my own garden to save my life), and up north of Seattle is where a large part of the nation’s crop of daffodil and tulip bulbs are grown by the acre (spectacular in early April).  But the Willamette Valley is something special, even by my standards.

My first stop, about five miles back north of Salem on the west side of I-5, was somewhere I’d been before, Schreiner’s Iris Gardens.  I have some Schreiner’s iris in my own garden, as a matter of fact.  Bearded iris are my alltime favorite flowers.  They look like enormous butterflies, come in every color of the rainbow except for true red and true green (they come in shades of both, but not the true color), and many of them smell fantastic.  Sort of like fruit punch tastes.  Or grapes.  If they had a longer bloom season, they’d be the perfect flower.

Schreiner’s not only has iris fields by the acre, but they have a multi-acre display garden, too, with hundreds of varieties.  I hit the garden just after peak bloom, and it was spectacular.  I spent the entire morning there, and took way too many photos.  Here’s a sampling of them.

One of the entrances to Schreiners' Iris display gardens.

One of the entrances to Schreiners’ Iris display gardens.

Raindrops on an iris blossom.

Raindrops on an iris blossom.

A view of Schreiners' display gardens.

A view of Schreiners’ display gardens.

And another.  Those red spires are lupines.

And another. Those red spires are lupines.

Two of the many contrasting colors iris come in.

Two of the many contrasting colors iris come in.

Iris and Korean dogwood.

Iris and Korean dogwood.

After pizza for lunch in the little town of Keizer (kee’ zer), I drove a couple of miles on the other side of I-5 to a place called Adelman Peony Gardens.  I’d never been there before, and I don’t think they even existed the last time I was down in this neck of the woods over ten years ago.  While they’re not quite to the scale of Schreiner’s yet (although I suspect they’re on their way there), they, too, have beautiful display gardens, with a far greater variety of flower forms and colors than I ever expected from peonies.  Yes, they’re primarily red, pink, and white, but they also come in creamy yellow and rusty peach, and range from a single row of petals to flower heads that resemble a cheerleader’s pompoms.  I wish I had room for a peony or three in my tiny garden.  Maybe someday.  In the meantime, here’s some more photos.

A view of Adelman's Peony Gardens.

A view of Adelman’s Peony Gardens.

A traditional pink pom-pom peony.

A traditional pink pom-pom peony.

A single-flowered white peony.

A single-flowered white peony.

A peach-colored peony.  I'd never seen one this color before.

A peach-colored peony. I’d never seen one this color before.

My last garden stop for the day was at a place called Sebright Gardens.  Here the emphasis was on green, as they specialize in hostas, or dinosaur plants as my sister calls the three I have in the shady part of my garden.  Hostas are primarily foliage plants, although they do put up stalks of purple to white bell-shaped flowers in late summer.  I knew hostas came in a lot of shapes and sizes, and they do, from cereal-bowl-sized to five feet across, mostly with leaves proportional but sometimes not.  But they also come in shades of green from almost blue to almost yellow, almost white to almost black, sometimes several on the same plant or even the same leaf, and those leaves come in a wild assortment of shapes, as well.

The gardens here had more companion plants than the other two, and were spectacular.  But it was the hostas that were so amazing.  Green is my favorite color.  What can I say?

Hostas at Sebright Gardens.

Hostas at Sebright Gardens.

One of the shady hosta borders at Sebright Gardens.

One of the shady hosta borders at Sebright Gardens.

I had no idea hostas came in so many colors, sizes, and shapes.

I had no idea hostas came in so many colors, sizes, and shapes.

By that point it was getting late in the afternoon, and I’d planned to visit the Oregon Garden that day as well.  The Oregon Garden was built by the Oregon Nursery Association, and is an enormous display garden full of ideas for how to use all those lovely plants in the landscape.  I’d been there before when it was new, and it’s really nifty.  But by that point my feet hurt, and my eyes were so full of color I’m not sure they could have held any more.  It did seem a bit like overkill at that point.

So instead I decided to drive the hour or so on down to Eugene, where I had some trouble finding a motel, involving crossing town twice and getting stuck in rush hour traffic, but I finally did, and settled down to make plans for heading over to the coast.  And back to research, which, after all, was the main reason I was making this trip.

Categories: exploring, gardening, highways, outdoors, parks, plants, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two weeks ago today, day 3

And now we start having photographs.  Lots and lots of photographs.

I left the hostel fairly early in the morning, and drove up into the west hills of Portland to the Pittock Mansion, where I wandered around the gardens, then sat in the car and read for a while before the house itself opened up for the day.  The Pittock Mansion was built around the turn of the last century by the owner of the Oregonian, Portland’s newspaper which is still published today, who apparently had more money than he knew what to do with.  It’s perched on a site with views that reach clear to Mount Hood in good weather (which did not happen while I was there, alas, although I could still see almost all of Portland from up there), surrounded by beautiful gardens, and the house itself is incredibly elegant.  So he had taste as well as money.

Here are some photos, although I have to say the website does a much better job of it than I do.

The Pittock Mansion on a misty moisty day.

The Pittock Mansion on a misty moisty day.

The gardens behind the mansion.

The gardens behind the mansion.

The view from the back garden.

The view from the back garden.

The back of the mansion.

The back of the mansion.

The view from one of the windows.

The view from one of the windows.

The best view I got of the inside -- this is the entry and double staircase.

The best view I got of the inside — this is the entry and double staircase.

After I left the mansion I drove back down into town looking for an on-ramp to I-5 or I-405 southbound, and could not find one for love or money.  I ended up on U.S. 99E, down through Milwaukie and Clackamas County.  Which didn’t turn out to be such a bad thing, since I found lunch along the way.  I had originally intended to get on I-205 from there, but I discovered that staying on 99E was actually going to take me where I wanted to go, anyway.

That was the Aurora Colony, which I’d read about in the book Aurora: An American Experience in Quilt, Community, and Craft by Jane Kirkpatrick, who I met online through a writers’ organization I used to belong to.  I have to say I was disappointed in the Aurora Colony itself, which was mostly a bunch of antiques stores strewn along the highway.  Somehow, in spite of their website, that wasn’t what I was expecting.

So on I went.  Someone on the Hardy Plants email list had told me about a place called Heirloom Roses.  This place did live up to what I was expecting.  In spades.  Acres and acres of roses in full bloom, mostly heirloom and species and shrub and climbing roses, although they did have some floribundas and hybrid teas.  The whole place smelled like sweet tea tastes, which is the only time I like the way sweet tea tastes (despite having been born in the South, I prefer my tea with lemon and no sugar, thanks).  By this point the weather had cleared up again, too.  A perfect place to spend a perfect afternoon.

Anyway, here’s the pictorial proof of how gorgeous this place was.

Some of the roses at Heirloom Gardens.

Some of the roses at Heirloom Gardens.

A rose blossom.  I think it's one of the many kinds of Peace roses.

A rose blossom. I think it’s one of the many kinds of Peace roses.

A David Austen rose.  These are hybrids of old shrub roses.

A David Austen rose. These are hybrids of old shrub roses.

The miniature rose garden.  The roses were miniature, not the garden.

The miniature rose garden. The roses were miniature, not the garden.

A miniature climber.  I hadn't known there was such a thing.

A miniature climber. I hadn’t known there was such a thing.

And, on top of that, I heard a hawk crying over my head, and saw a California quail in the greenhouse, of all places.

The California quail in the sales greenhouse.

The California quail in the sales greenhouse.

After that, I stopped at Champoeg (pronounced sham poo’ ee) State Park, the site of some of Oregon’s earliest political efforts and a pretty riverside park.  I’d been thinking about camping there, but decided against it, so I drove on to Salem and ended up in a motel.  Which was fine, too.

Categories: birds, exploring, gardening, highways, museums, outdoors, parks, plants, travel, weather | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two weeks ago today

Was the beginning of my annual road trip.  This one wasn’t long, unfortunately, nor was I ever more than a day’s drive from home, so I wonder if it really even counts.  But I had my reasons, first of which was that I was doing research for the new novel, which is set on the Oregon coast, and second of which is that I’m sort of saving up for another long trip in a year or two, I hope, so this trip was shorter than normal.

The morning mostly consisted of a two-and-a-half-hour drive to Portland, Oregon, in the pouring rain.  This late in the spring downpours of that duration aren’t usual, but it could have been worse.  It could have been hailing (our hail is more properly called graupel — pea-sized blobs of slushy ice — not real solid-ice hail with rings if you slice it open), or it could have been booming and crashing.  Spring is, after all, when we get our rare thundershowers.  So my windshield wipers got a workout.  No big deal.  If I let the rain stop me from doing things in this part of the world, I wouldn’t do much, that’s for sure.

I arrived in Portland in the late morning and made my pilgrimage to Fabric Depot, which is one of Portland’s stores on steroids and the biggest fabric store in the U.S.  Over 1.5 acres, or so their website says (they’re housed in an old Fred Meyer, which is the local answer to Target or Walmart).  This was by no means my first visit there — I usually make a Portland run at least once a year to hit this store and Powells (the other store on steroids, about which more in a minute) — and I usually time it to hit one of their sales.  Which I did this time.   I won’t go on about it anymore lest I start sounding like a commercial, but I will say just two more words.  Quilter heaven.

In the afternoon I hit my other store on steroids, the above-mentioned Powells, which is another biggest-of-its-kind store in the country.  To say that Powells sells books is to say that Microsoft has this little operating system.  Their main location, in downtown Portland, is a full city block and four stories tall.  They hand you maps at the door, in lieu of breadcrumbs, I suppose.  The rooms are color-coded as well.  I wonder how many customers they lost before they started doing those two things.  They sell new and used books, side-by-side on the shelves.  I’ve never been to any other bookstore that does that, although I’m sure there are some out there.  At any rate, I spent most of the afternoon there.

I spent the night at the Hawthorne Hostel in southeast Portland.  I like hostels, although they’re few and far between in this neck of the woods.  This one is in an old Craftsman-style bungalow with a great many “green” updates.  Part of the roof, for instance, is covered with growing plants, and they have a cistern, which runs the non-drinking water water things like toilets.  A lot of hostels are run by what my father used to call “those hippies.”  I rather like it.  It makes for a nifty ambiance.  And it was right on a bus line that ran straight to downtown, so I didn’t have to fight traffic the next day.

I didn’t take any pictures this first day, nor did I two weeks ago tomorrow, which I mostly spent at the Oregon Historical Society Museum library, and exploring downtown Portland.  I promise you that starting with two weeks ago day after tomorrow, I took more than enough photos to make up for it.  Really.

Categories: books, exploring, highways, quilting, travel, weather | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Once upon a time on a trip to Alaska, day 45

Fullerton, California

Monday, July 30, 1973

HOME!!!”  Which is all that my diary says for that day.  And plenty.

Just out of curiosity, I put our itinerary into Google maps’ directions screen, and discovered that in 45 days, we went roughly 7600 miles, not counting side trips or out-and-backs.  That equals roughly 180 miles a day.  Which really doesn’t sound like much, until you think about it being the equivalent of 180 miles every single day for 45 days.

When I was forty years old, I made what I still refer to as my Long Trip (uppercase intentional).  I drove over 14,000 miles by myself in a little under three months.  I went from here near Seattle across the top of the U.S. to Vermont, down the east coast to Florida, then across the South and Southwest to California, where I rolled my car in the middle of the Mojave Desert.  I then managed to make my way to my sister’s home in the Bay Area and flew home from there.  A year ago I blogged that journey day by day.  Like our Alaska trip, this was another journey from which I still date events in my life.  It was one of the best things I ever did.  The really funny thing is, I drove an average of almost exactly 180 miles a day on that trip, too.  And I thought I was being leisurely about it.

I am hoping to make another Long Trip in a year or two, if I can afford the gas and figure out what to do with my two cats for the duration (for my last long trip, the pair I had at the time went to stay with a friend, but I don’t want to impose on her twice).  This time I want to drive across the middle of the U.S. and come back across Canada.  If I do, I hope to blog it in realtime, or as close as I can manage given where and when I can find wifi.

Anyway, for all of you who stuck with me through forty-five days of driving to Alaska and back, I hope you’ll stick around to see where I’m going in the future.

And I hope you will want to check out my novels:

Repeating History is the first of my Yellowstone stories, and is available from Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and iTunes.  It is about a young man, Chuck McManis, who, by virtue of being in absolutely the wrong place at the wrong time, is flung back in time from 1959 to 1877 in Yellowstone National Park, straight into the middle of an Indian war — the flight of the Nez Perce to Canada, pursued by the U.S. Army — and into his own family’s past.

True Gold  is the second in this series, and picks the story up in the next generation.  It is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.  It is the story of Karin Myre, a Norwegian immigrant teenager living in Seattle, who decides to escape a future of too much drudgery and no choices by running off to the Klondike Gold Rush in 1897.  Stowing away on one of the many overcrowded ships bound north, she finds herself trapped in the cargo hold with a crowd of second thoughts.  But her rescue from the captain and a fate worse than death by a determined young prospector from Wyoming and his photographer partner is only the beginning of her search for a future of her own making.

The third novel, tentatively titled Finding Home, picks up the story of the widowed father Chuck left behind in Repeating History, his search for his lost son, and what that search reveals to him about his own murky past.  It will be available for purchase in the spring of 2013.

Categories: Alaska trip, books, cats, exploring, Finding Home, highways, Long Trip, national parks, philosophy, Repeating History, self-publishing, travel, True Gold, writing, Yellowstone | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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