Flying M Ranch

17 09 2016

img_8495-1I love visiting Yamhill County, Oregon where picturesque farms, majestic vineyards, and quaint towns reside. Yamhill, one such homey town within this small county, nestles near the Coast Range between Interstate 5 and U.S. Highway 101. For decades, my destination to Yamhill has been the Flying M Ranch where I’ve camped, hiked, swam, ridden horses, and enjoyed quintessential ranch breakfasts. It also hosts a private airport and a popular wedding venue. Flying M Ranch is open all year, so pay them a visit and enjoy the county’s scenery along your way. Find them at 23029 NW Flying M Road, Yamhill, Oregon 97148, www.flying-m-ranch.com, flyingmranch71@gmail.com, or (503) 662-3222.

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Crescent Moon Ranch

9 09 2015

IMG_1655-copyAn Alpaca herd grazing along the highway caught my family’s attention while traveling through Central Oregon. The emerald pastures and quaint 1911 white farmhouse of Crescent Moon Ranch incited an impromptu visit. Crescent Moon Ranch gleams like a jewel among the high desert’s craggy lava rocks, Juniper trees, and tumbleweed. The Cascade Mountain Range’s Three Sisters and Mt. Jefferson, and Oregon’s beloved Smith Rock flank the ranch’s famous Alpacas.

Owners Scott and Debbie Miller welcome visitors at Crescent Moon Ranch and encourage guests to hand-feed the Alpacas, stroll along their pastures, and shop in The Alpaca Boutique, a former potato cellar. The Alpaca Boutique sells a variety of products including Alpaca clothing and home accessories, and other non-fleece mementos of a ranch visit. Shorn each spring, Alpacas produce 22 colors of fleece considered one of the softest and rarest natural fibers worldwide. Their fleece is even hypoallergenic.

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Crescent Moon Ranch set two world records when it separately bought and sold the most expensive Alpacas. The Millers’ championship breeding program includes breeding, raising, boarding, buying and selling Alpacas. Alpacas originated in mountainous regions of South America, providing warmth and revenue from their fleece, and as a food source. These herbivores are part of the camel family and cousins to llamas. Only two breeds of Alpacas exist. The common Huacaya breed’s crimped fleece resembles the classic Teddy Bear. The rare Suri breed’s fleece grows into long ropes similar to Dred Locks.

Experts describe Alpacas as gentle, intelligent, and shy. They reproduce one cria (baby Alpaca) per year during their lifespan of 15-20 years. The average adult weighs 125-175 pounds and measures 32-38 inches at its withers. The average cria weighs 15-20 pounds and nurses for six months, with mama already pregnant within a few weeks of each birth.

IMG_1701My family arrived at Crescent Moon Ranch in time to witness two simultaneous births in the pasture, from pregnancy to first wobbly steps. The newborn pictured is Ophelia’s handsome little guy. He was strong and determined to stand up despite the common interference of his curious herd. Crescent Moon Ranch and its visitors will enjoy seeing his personality develop!

Crescent Moon Ranch and the boutique are open for visitors daily from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at 7566 N Hwy. 97 in Terrebonne, Oregon. The mailing address is PO Box 600, Terrebonne, OR 97760. For information, go to crescentmoonranch.com or call (541) 923-2285.

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Fossils Found at Beverly Beach State Park

26 06 2015

IMG_9946Beverly Beach State Park inhabits the north end of Newport, Oregon on the iconic Highway 101. Pacific Northwesterners flock to Beverly Beach for its ideal camping and day-use facilities, to catch a glimpse of the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, and to regale on its picturesque beach. Two paths extending from the parking lot and nearest campground lead visitors under the highway bridge, over smooth cobblestone-like rocks, and onto an expanse of white sand dotted with piles of driftwood.

IMG_9949As if Beverly Beach State Park isn’t a find in itself, it conceals treasures unique to this Pacific Coast location. Poke around the driftwood and discover debris from Japan’s 2011 Tsunami tangled amid the ocean’s offerings. Please be respectful and mindful of the posted regulations regarding tsunami debris. Most beachcombers literally step over the most fascinating additions to collections: Fossils. Embedded among those rocks disrupting a clear path to the water’s edge lie thousands of ancient fossils etched into or forming stony figures. Even the most amateur paleontologists cannot miss these numerous fossils if they slow down and observe on the way to their coastal destination.

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The Stone House

25 02 2015

IMG_9243The Stone House in Portland, Oregon resembles the remains of a fairy tale cottage nestled in the woods along a creek. Ferns grow from its mossy, cobbled wall ending at steps leading to the upper level. Empty, stone-ledged windows accent the arched doorways and draw the eye toward a peaked roofline open to the sky. A lower-level entrance draws visitors inside a dark, windowless room coated in graffiti and condensation. The Stone House transports admirers to another era.

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) built this landmark in the mid-1930s during the Great Depression as a public restroom for hikers. The Stone House functioned as a beloved rest stop until the Columbus Day Storm of 1962. Irreversible storm damage along with continual vandalism forced the city to gut the interior and leave it in disrepair. Locals nicknamed it the Witch’s Castle. Its shell still stands in Forest Park. Forest Park encompasses over 5,000 acres and 80 miles of trails, making it the largest urban forest park in America. This seven-mile stretch of forest reserve lies west of downtown Portland in the Tualatin Mountains, also called the West Hills.

A brief stroll along the Upper Macleay Trail or the Lower Macleay Trail gets visitors to the Stone House in less than a mile either way. Committed hikers may access the house from the Wildwood Trail originating at Washington Park. The Upper Macleay Trailhead parking lot is next to the Audubon Society of Portland that merits its own visit. The Upper Macleay Trail switchbacks down a gulch, crosses over and follows Balch Creek.

Balch Creek is named after Danford Balch, the original landowner and the first man to be legally executed in Oregon. Mr. Balch hanged for shooting and murdering his new son-in-law on November 18, 1858 just 14 days after his eldest daughter rebelliously eloped with the family’s hired hand, Mortimer Stump. The property then changed owners many times until Donald Macleay gave a portion of it to the city of Portland in 1897 for a park to be enjoyed by all.

 

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Multnomah Falls in Winter

8 01 2015

IMG_8857Multnomah Falls, the most visited recreation site in the Pacific Northwest and Oregon’s most visited natural attraction, welcomes over 2 million people annually. It remains the tallest waterfall in Oregon throughout the year at 620 feet, being fed by underground springs from nearby Larch Mountain, melting snowpack from the Cascade Mountain Range, and plenty of rainfall. The majority of visitors flock to Multnomah Falls during warmer months even though it stays open all year, and each season provides its own charm, but my family also makes the trek every winter hoping to catch the falls clothed in ice. This glacial wonderland compels one to stare in awe.

Spray from the 542-foot upper and 69-foot lower falls freezes into crystal shards and frosty white sheets against jagged cliffs that flank the waterfall and bottom pool. Creeks that trickle from the sides form icy bubbles over mossy rocks, bare branches and sword ferns. The trailhead view satisfies enough, but meander the paved foot trail a quarter mile up to the 45-foot long 1914 Benson Footbridge that spans the lower falls. Peer down 105 feet to the lower falls or observe the upper falls intimately as its spray engulfs you in an arctic shower and inflicts a frigid blast. Be cautious of slippery concrete and continue on the path nearly an additional mile to a platform overlooking the falls in its entirety, a dizzying perspective of the drop along with an Eagle-eye panorama of the Columbia River and Gorge, the Union Pacific Railroad, and the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge built in 1925.

This path leading to the platform divides toward Multnomah Creek (one of my favorite spots to picnic) and adjoins trail systems throughout the Columbia River Gorge. Unless you are prepared for a lengthy winter hike, head back down to the day-Lodge area and warm up. You’ll find the Multnomah Falls Lodge Restaurant, a gift shop, espresso bar, snack bar, Interpretive Center, and public restrooms. You won’t leave hungry or empty-handed.

Multnomah Falls is located off I-84 between Troutdale and Cascade Locks or along the 1913 Historic Columbia River Highway, the first highway in America named a National Historic Landmark. Parking is plentiful and a Northwest Forest Pass is not required. Pets are welcome and the Leash Law applies.

Simon Benson, a philanthropist who left his mark on Oregon, donated land that encompasses Multnomah Falls, financed projects including his namesake bridge, and constructed the HCRH Scenic Byway that is a must-do if possible. The HCRH provides several features on the National Register of Historic Places such as unique bridges, viewpoints, recreation sites, rare plants and creatures, and numerous waterfalls. The road itself is a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. But enough of the titles, just go if you can!

 

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Horsethief Lake State Park

25 09 2014

I’ve heard of Horsethief Lake State Park for years, a place where my newlywed parents hunted Native American arrowheads along the Columbia River banks and viewed ancient petroglyphs (carvings) and pictographs (paintings) among the rocky terrain. The place intrigues me, so I took my adventurous family on a getaway to The Dalles, Oregon. No agenda. Just to explore. My youngest son’s main objective was spotting a rattlesnake. My daughter and I are the non-venomous snake catchers in the family, so that was fine with us. Even though this trip did not produce a rattler, my daughter did point out an American Porcupine scurrying away from our path.

Horsethief Lake State Park sits on the Washington state side of The Dalles Dam and Bridge in Dallesport, directly off SR 14 near milepost 86 about ninety miles east of the Portland/Vancouver Metro area. This National Historic Site hosted the Lewis and Clark Expedition in October 1805 and received a spot in their famous journals. The original site, called the Wishram Indian Village by Upper Chinook tribes, remains the largest prehistoric Chinook site. Wishram, Lishkam, and Cloud tribes camped there during fishing season. The Dalles Dam flooded the site in the 1950s, burying most of its history while creating a ninety-acre lake and state park named by workers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This desert area ripe with Native horse herds and flanked by rocky cliffs reminded them of classic horse thief hideouts.

IMG_7659Ancient Wanapum basalt flows created one such cliff called Horsethief Butte. It won my hiker’s heart and I am anxious to get back to its trailhead. This easy one-mile dirt trail overlooks Horsethief Lake and the park area, the Columbia River, The Dalles, and the Columbia River Gorge. It winds past crags, ravines, pictographs, petroglyphs, and rock climbing sites. Each season produces its own show of desert flora and fauna, and the constant danger of walking into the path of venomous snakes and poison oak. A split from the main trail presents a short but steep, rocky climb over the peak. I stepped over a small, loose rock marked with a petroglyph and hoped others would leave it just like I did. Kevin and the boys wanted to explore that area further, so my daughter and I descended back to the main trail and followed it above the river. Halfway out and entirely exposed at the top of the butte, thunder rumbled and large raindrops suddenly pelted us. We ran toward the parking lot that was a distance away. Gusts of wind turned into a steady force that drowned out our communication. We met the boys on our way back and together leaped and scrambled over the rocky path. Thunderstorms cut my hike short. I must return.

IMG_7576I also must return to Horsethief Lake State Park to join a guided tour of the petroglyphs and pictographs considered some of the oldest in the Pacific Northwest. The well-known face named “Tsagiglalal” or “She Who Watches” is both a painting and a carving and only can be viewed with a park ranger. Guided tours require reservations and take place at 10 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Call 1-509-767-1159 to reserve a free tour. Even though most stones were buried by the river changes, many are available for view along the self-guided Temani Pesh-wa Interpretive Trail adjacent to the parking lot. They were saved from vandals, moved and grouped along a short, paved path. Only a rudimentary wooden fence separates people from the petroglyphs and pictographs. It’s a photographer’s and historian’s dream. Really, if you can make it, don’t miss it.

The Dalles Mountain Ranch and Horsethief Lake State Park comprise part of the nearly 4000-acre Columbia Hills State Park where visitors camp, hike, swim, picnic, rock climb and more spring through autumn. The park is closed for winter. Day-use hours are 6:30 a.m. to dusk. A state park day-use permit costs $10 or the annual Discover Pass costs $30 per vehicle. For more information, go to http://www.discoverpass.wa.gov or http://www.stateparks.com. The 2014 Free State Park Days are September 27 and November 11.

 

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Happy Birthday, Oregon!

14 02 2014

IMG_3919On Valentine’s Day in 1859, 155 years ago, President James Buchanan signed the bill that officially made Oregon the 33rd state in the United States of America. Previous to state status, the government formed the Oregon Country in 1843 and then the Oregon Territory in 1848. The Oregon Country encompassed an area that is now Canada’s province of British Columbia, all of the current American states of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, and portions of Wyoming and Montana. Many countries tried claiming the Oregon Country as theirs, but in 1846, it was divided between the United States and Great Britain. The new Oregon Territory still included the previously mentioned states with the exception of British Columbia. When Oregon became an official state on February 14 of 1859, the remaining states became the new Washington Territory. Happy birthday, Oregon!

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