Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: photographic memories

Since I was a kid, taking photographs interested me. I received my very own first camera, a Polaroid Swinger (popular in the 1960’s), when I was 12 years old. With it, I could tell within a few minutes, as the photo developed in front of my eyes, whether the picture was good or not.

As an adult, I graduated onto fully automatic 35 mm film cameras. The film, of course, had to be developed, so it took longer to ascertain whether the shots I captured were worthwhile. That’s why I now enjoy my digital single lens reflex camera so much. I know immediately whether the photo is a keeper or not.

But back in the 1990’s, film cameras were only available, and that’s how I captured photos. Point and shoot and hope for the best. When it came to photographing the Pacific Ocean off the coast of our newly acquired altered state back then, I hoped often and was rewarded with nice photos most of the time.

Today on my Tuesday Tour, I’m chronicling jaunts our family made to the northwest corner of Oregon and into Washington state.  

On two occasions, our family of five spent weekends in Long Beach, Washington, located on a peninsula of the same name and noted as the longest (28 miles) contiguous beach in the United States.

The little town of Long Beach was founded in 1880 as a tourist camp for Portland, Oregon residents who would travel there by stern wheeler on the Columbia River since roads to the Washington and Oregon coast did not exist yet.

During our visits to Long Beach, we loved the fact that often we were the only ones on the beach, and we could easily fly our kite, play in the sand, investigate tide pools, build driftwood sculptures and forts, and just enjoy nature.

Keep in mind, often the Washington and Oregon beaches aren’t necessarily lay-on-the-sand and suntan kind of places, especially when the weather is still a bit chilly and the water is frigid, which it was both years we were in Long Beach during Memorial Day weekend trips.   

Seafood is, of course, most plentiful on Long Beach Peninsula, especially oysters. We remember observing tons of oyster shells everywhere and I recall our children got their first taste of clams and crab legs there. Another first for us was spotting and visiting North Head Lighthouse on that Washington state coast.

To arrive in Long Beach, we first traveled from our home in suburban Portland to Astoria, Oregon. This city, where numerous movies have been filmed including The Goonies, Free Willy, and Kindergarten Cop to name a couple, sits along the Columbia River and not far from the Pacific Ocean.

Astoria is considered the oldest American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains. On its highest hilltop, we visited the Astoria Column, a 125-foot-tall structure erected in 1926, where we viewed the Columbia River, Young’s Bay, and the Pacific Ocean as well as huge evergreen trees.  

To cross the Columbia River from Astoria to Long Beach, we drove across the Astoria Bridge stretching 4.1 miles across the river and connecting Oregon and Washington on US Route 101. Again, I believe crossing that bridge was the first time any of us had been on a bridge that long.

I recall thinking it was a bit scary and I surmise that’s why I wasn’t keen on holding a camera in front of my face while we were driving along, since I don’t have photos of the bridge other than the one below taken from the Astoria Column.

The Pacific Coast became one of my favorite places to photograph and on a subsequent Tuesday Tour, I’ll take you along on a journey we took southward on the Oregon Coast Highway, US Route 101.

Capturing many pictures, even if they weren’t always the best, on our travels during the time we lived in the Pacific Northwest was a pleasurable experience because that coastline mesmerized me with its unique beauty. And those photos provide lots of wonderful memories for me.

“Photography is thus brought within reach of every human being who desires to preserve a record of what he sees … and enables the fortunate possessor to go back by the light of his own fireside to scenes which would otherwise fade from memory and be lost.” ~ George Eastman

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in Life, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: in the back yard

Sometimes you should search for treasures in your own back yard.

After almost a decade living in the Midwestern United States, our family of five relocated to a Pacific Northwest altered state (to us) in the early 1990’s.

It didn’t take long to settle into a routine of work, school, church, and a myriad of activities that accompanied those aspects of our lives. But we still found time to scope out our horizons and realize travel far from our home wasn’t necessary to see sights worth seeing and experience excursions our children would enjoy while making memories for years to come.

I chronicled much of those with my point and shoot 35 mm film camera, but now 25 years later, I find my photos featured more of our family (and rightly so) in those places instead of just capturing scenic spots (except for the many pictures I captured of the Pacific Ocean coast which seemed to cast a magic spell on me).

Those first couple years in our new abode, we searched in our “own backyard” for new places to visit and we found plenty of opportunities to do so, whether it was watching wind surfers on the Columbia River near a town named Hood River, a well-known top spot for that sport; visiting the Oregon Zoo; attending festivals; spying all kinds of wildlife in a drive-through animal park called Wildlife Safari; or just enjoying walks through the farmer’s market buying fresh produce and baked goods.

Today’s Tuesday Tour highlights a few experiences we enjoyed when we traveled not far from our suburban Portland, Oregon home.

Papa has long been a history buff and, as a military veteran, he’s especially keen on Civil War battles, so when he learned that a Civil War Reenactment was scheduled at a state park not too far from Portland, our family of five jumped in our station wagon and headed out for a day trip.

The event took place in Silver Falls State Park located south of the city and east of Salem. The park itself contains more than 35 miles of trails for hiking, biking, or horseback riding and campground areas suitable for tents and RVs as well as cabin rentals.

We visited the South Falls day use area there, with wide, clear spaces and picnic areas, where the re-enactment took place over a July weekend. Authentic-looking Civil War era camps enticed our curiosity.

Imagine seeing our 16th President Abraham Lincoln in conversations with visitors, watching Confederate troops with rebel yells charging Union troops and reenacting a battle right in front of our eyes. History presented itself live-time and it wasn’t just Papa that was fascinated.  

On other occasions closer to home, we visited Portland’s International Rose Test Garden several times. The site of more than 10,000 roses, it is the oldest continuously operating public rose test garden in the country. From its location in one of the oldest city parks, Washington Park, the Rose Garden is composed of smaller areas known as the Royal Rosarian Garden, the Shakespeare Garden, and the Miniature Rose Garden. 

Views of downtown Portland and also Mount Hood can be seen from the Rose Garden, which is open daily and offers free admission. The best times of the year to visit are May through September when the myriad of roses of every kind and name are blooming prolifically providing a feast for the eyes and aromatic scents for the nose.

Tucked away in the city’s west hills and near the Rose Garden is another beautiful spot we found, the Portland Japanese Garden. A visit there, named as “one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan,” provided a calm, tranquil, and relaxed experience, even for our children.

This 5 ½ acre garden was developed in 1963 as a symbol of healing between the United States and Japan, countries who warred against one another during World War 2. For an admission charge, visitors can observe Mount Hood from the Japanese Garden and venture along walking paths into several different areas: the Tea Garden, the Strolling Pond Garden, the Natural Garden, the Sand and Stone Garden, and the Flat Garden.

Because Portland is blessed with ideal weather for growing roses, it’s dubbed the “City of Roses.” Every year for over a century, the Portland Rose Festival is held beginning in late May and continuing through the second weekend of June. The festival includes parades, a carnival, art shows, live music, food booths, and many other events.

Occurring simultaneously with the festival is Fleet Week. Since 1907, the Rose Festival has been a port of call for the United States Navy, United States Coast Guard, and Royal Canadian Navy.

Huge naval ships and even submarines make their way to Portland’s Waterfront Park offering chances for the public to take ship tours onboard, meet and converse with sailors, and hear their stories. In addition, numerous pleasure crafts cruise along the Willamette River during the festival. (As pictured at the beginning of this post.)

We found the Rose Festival a fun, entertaining event for our young family. Papa, who’s always been interested in all things naval, appreciated seeing the various ships and our children’s eyes widened in awe since they had never seen immense sea-going vessels in person before.

During our six years of living in Oregon, we never ran out of memorable experiences, many of them so close by they were just day trips, and because of the mild, temperate weather year-round, we could enjoy the great outdoors. Eventually, we spread out a little farther from our suburban home and ventured into Washington state, California, and other areas of the altered state in which we lived.

Tuesday Tour will continue as I dig out more film photos, scan them, and highlight some of those memorable experiences we’ve encountered, and eventually I’ll share a recent trip Papa and were blessed to take this summer. Spoiler alert: There will be lighthouses!

Although travel may still be somewhat hindered where you live during this difficult time we continue to endure, there just might be a hidden gem, a treasure, in your own back yard that you may be able to visit.

“Sometimes you have to travel a long way to find what is near.” ~ Paulo Coelho

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in Life, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: to the sea

Take a land-locked country girl and show her a mighty ocean and she becomes mesmerized.

That girl was me. I was born and raised in a northeastern state that did not have a coastline, except for a bit along one of the Great Lakes.

My neck of the woods was rural, outside a small town, farther out from a big city. Sure, creeks, ponds, some lakes within driving distance existed there, and we crossed over rivers daily, but nothing compared to getting a glimpse of the sea.

My husband showed me the ocean – the Atlantic – for the first time before we said our I do’s. We showed our young daughters the ocean – again the Atlantic – for the first time several years later.

When we moved from the land-locked Midwest to the Pacific Northwest, we reveled in the fact that we lived about an hour from the massive Pacific Ocean, where our last-born, our son, caught his first ocean view.  

After settling in our new altered state (“Oregon, Things Look Different Here” – once a state slogan from the Oregon Department of Tourism) in the 1990’s, we were drawn back time and time again to that state’s Pacific coast.

The coast – not called the shore or the beach as we named oceanside in the east – became one of the places we always took those who came to visit us, from two sets of Midwestern friends to Papa’s mother and aunt who flew across the country to see us in our new home to my parents and sister who drove a very long way to see the west and us.  

And each time I couldn’t get enough of viewing the ebb and flow of those Pacific Ocean waves along the rugged coast and capturing as many photographs as possible with my trusty point and shoot 35 mm film camera.

Our first few ocean-side visits took place in summer or early fall months, and native Oregonians advised us to experience the Pacific in winter when it was often stormy, the waves violently slammed into the rocks, and when you might catch sight of southward migrating whales.

So that’s what we did. During our first year of residence there, we traveled to the coast shortly after Christmas to spend a few days. Our destination was a snug little cabin in a quaint harbor town called Depoe Bay, located on US Route 101. This town’s claim to fame is being known as the “world’s smallest navigable harbor.”

The late December weather was rainy and chilly, but it didn’t deter our mission.  We braved the elements to embark on a whale-watching cruise, but the only thing we encountered was a couple cases of seasickness, no whales in sight.

On another day, we watched diligently from the Depoe Bay Whale Watching Center, a state parks-staffed visitor center which stands next to the harbor entrance, to catch sight of the migrating whales, but still came up empty.

But our sightseeing certainly did not prove devoid and involved some first-time experiences for us. And I took plenty of photos to prove it.

Driving along the Oregon Coast on Highway 101 is breathtaking. The rocky coastline with Pacific waves crashing upon it does not disappoint viewers and travelers will find themselves stopping at every spot they can just to see the view.

One of the fascinating sights we observed while driving from Depoe Bay to Newport, Oregon, was located within a state natural area called the Devil’s Punch Bowl, a piece of land that protrudes into the ocean. This amazing place is actually a hollow rock formation shaped just like a gigantic punch bowl.

I imagine the devil got added to it because during stormy winter weather, waves slam into this bowl-like formation swirling, churning, and foaming away as if the brew inside is downright wicked. Speculation is this formation might have been created when a roof collapsed over two sea caves and subsequently was shaped by waves over time.

Shortly after we ate lunch at a picnic area near the Devil’s Punch Bowl, we experienced our first visit to a lighthouse. The Yaquina Head Lighthouse, located north of Newport, also fascinated us. For more information about this Oregon lighthouse, read my blog post here.

In Newport, we visited the Oregon Coast Aquarium, newly opened in 1992, for the first time. What a delightful place it proved to be for our young family as we enjoyed both indoor and outdoor exhibits.

Situated along Yaquina Bay, this aquarium, open daily from 10 am – 6 pm, is now considered world-class and ranked among the top 10 aquariums in North America.

Check out the aquarium’s live camera (sharks, sea birds, or otters) here.

The Oregon Coast Aquarium became well-known in the years 1996-1998 when an orca whale named Keiko, star of the movie Free Willy, called it home before he was released to the ocean once more in Iceland.

Our trip down a portion of the Oregon Coast wasn’t our last because this area of the Pacific Ocean continued to compel us to visit.

During the years we resided in the Pacific Northwest, we traveled the length of the Oregon coastline through the southern part of the state and into northern California, but I’ll highlight that in yet another Tuesday Tour blog post.

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” ~Jacques Cousteau

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: mountain high, valley low

We lived in the valley.

When we moved from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest in the early 1990’s, we found a home in the valley – the Willamette Valley, between the Oregon Coast Range Mountains and the Cascade Mountain Range.

When a mountain presents itself, you should go explore it and that is what our young family of five set out to accomplish. Today’s Tuesday Tour gives you just a glimpse at some of the mountain peaks we viewed and I captured with my simple point and shoot 35 mm film camera, during our years of living in Oregon.

The easiest mountain to view from the Portland area is Mount Hood, a usually snow-covered dormant volcano and Oregon’s highest mountain (pictured above), about an hour’s drive from the city.

Snowboarders and skiers abound on this mountain which boasts six ski areas and nature enthusiasts enjoy camping, biking, climbing, and hiking in the Mount Hood National Forest with over 1,200 miles of trails.

The Mount Hood area can be a treacherous place though where hikers get lost and over 100 people have lost their lives in climbing accidents.

At an elevation of over 11,200 feet, Mount Hood is easily seen from Portland and on clear days, we could spot it to the east of us from a street bordering our suburban housing subdivision.

Shortly after moving into our new home in this altered state so different from where we’d previously lived, we ventured off to check out this mountain, which has been touted as Oregon’s most likely volcano to erupt in the future.  

One of the interesting spots on Mount Hood we often took visiting family and friends to was Timberline Lodge, not only a ski resort, which has the longest ski season in the country open year-round, but a major tourist attraction as well. Built during the Depression years of the 1930’s by WPA, the lodge is a National Historic Landmark.

Visitors can drive to the lodge, located at an elevation of nearly 6,000 feet, via the Mount Hood Scenic Byway. Inside the lodge, one can view the furnishings provided by local artisans and craftsmen.

I regret that I don’t have a good photo of the lodge itself, but I distinctly remembered we climbed up the mountain a little at the lodge with our young children on a hot, summer’s day when there was very little snow.

Not long after our trek to Mount Hood, we ventured northeastward into Washington state to Mount Saint Helens, the famous volcano that blew off its top in 1980 when its eruption made world-wide news. The devastation that day in May killed 57 people, destroyed 200 homes, many bridges, railways, and 185 miles of highway.

Even though we visited Mt. St. Helens over a decade after the event, we could still see the destruction it had caused, particularly in an area called Lava Canyon.

That landscape, which had once been green and forested, looked like a barren wasteland. But amidst the scars, a little beacon of hope that the land might be replenished stood out to me when I captured this wildflower blooming.

In addition to those two famous mountains, we traveled to a scenic overlook called Bald Peak Scenic Viewpoint. Located in the Chehalem Mountains west of Portland, Bald Peak stands at an elevation of over 1,600 feet and if the weather cooperates and is clear, visitors can view five mountain peaks – Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, and Mount Saint Helens in Washington and Mount Hood and Mount Jefferson in Oregon – from the lookout point in this small state park.

The following photos aren’t the best because they were taken with a point and shoot camera and no telephoto lens, but it gives you an idea how amazing this vista truly is. Not only can you spy the mountains, but you can observe a panoramic scenic view of the Tualatin and Yamhill valleys, part of the Willamette Valley.

Mountains and valleys. We would not only observe those terrains during our years of residence in Oregon, but we would experience mountains and valleys in our personal lives as well.

Some years we encountered mountain top experiences, amazing times and sights we will never forget. Other times, we found ourselves in low valleys, facing challenging circumstances and decisions to be made.

But we wouldn’t change one thing about our time living there, a time that provided so many adventures, so many memories to keep, as well as long-lasting friendships that we still maintain today over 25 years later.  

And above all else, our six years spent in the Pacific Northwest caused us to grow spiritually and deepened our faith in God.

“You have to go through those mountains and valleys – because that’s what life is: soul growth.” ~ Wayne Newton

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in Life, photography, Summer

Words for Wednesday: a berry good summer

If it’s summertime at our house, you can be sure of a number of aspects.

The front porch swing is prepared for visitors to enjoy a nice, breezy summer day.

The perennial flower bed and various pots of brightly colored blooms, including porch boxes, paint some brilliance among the green expanse of yard.

The vegetable garden flourishes with summer squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, zucchini, green peppers, and sometimes peas and pumpkins.

The fence is to keep the deer from eating our veggies!

And there will be blueberries. If the weather cooperates, the Japanese beetles don’t attack, and our structured enclosure with netting prevents the birds from feasting, scads of blueberries await picking.  

We are in the throes of filling our pails with tasty blueberries right now. They commence ripening around the fourth of July every year often coinciding with our grown-up kids flying “home” to roost for an Independence Day celebration.

Last year, because of the you know what, Papa and I picked our berries mostly by ourselves with a little help from nearby daughter and grandchild, who loves blueberries. When she was just a toddler, she called them “blueies” and gobbled them up as quickly as she could pick them (and still does!).

This past Independence Day, our oldest daughter and son-in-love traveled northeast from their home to ours to celebrate with us for the first time since Christmas 2019.

Unfortunately, our son, daughter-in-love and two other grandchildren from the state next door were not able to make the journey this time and we missed having our entire family together again, which hasn’t happened since our all-family beach trip in August 2020. But we have high hopes for an all-family get-together soon.

In between gorging on picnic food, playing tons of games indoor and outside, catching fireflies, and watching our own little version of fireworks in our back yard, we enjoyed some blueberry picking over the July 4th weekend.

It was hot and it was a bit sweaty, but the labor was worth the prize.

Fresh blueberries for breakfast on your cereal or in your pancakes, waffles, or muffins are delicious. Anything with blueberries is berry good just like this summer has been at our country home.

 “You’ll never regret eating blueberries or working up a sweat.” ~  Jacquelyn Mitchard

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: soaring west

You might say we followed Horace Greeley’s advice when he wrote this in 1837: “Fly, scatter through the country — go to the Great West.”

Our family adventure westward occurred 150-some years later in the 1990’s when we moved from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest. We traveled the Oregon Trail, but we did it the easy way, we flew from Kansas to Oregon.

As soon as we unpacked, we hit more trails in our newly acquired territory, but this time we traveled by car to explore our surroundings so different from those we had become accustomed to. I’m sharing some of those adventures on today’s Tuesday Tour.

As if to reinforce the reality of “We’re not in Kansas anymore,” one morning as we were preparing for the school day, something exciting happened.

Hot air balloons soared over our neighborhood subdivision. Our kids were thrilled to watch them while waiting for the school bus. And Mama had to snap a few photos with my trusty point and shoot 35 mm film camera.

Those balloons weren’t the only sights we would see soaring high in the sky. When the weekend rolled around, we were off to sightsee, driving west for one purpose – to get our first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean.

Our youngest child had never seen an ocean. Our two oldest had been oceanside on the Atlantic coast, but that was when they were too young to truly remember. Papa viewed the Pacific Ocean from the air when he flew overseas for military duty, but this Mama had never experienced the Pacific either.

Our first sight captivated us. The Oregon coast was like nothing we had seen before. Papa and I were used to mostly flat, wide, sandy and warm Atlantic beaches as far as the eye can see, but what Oregon’s Pacific coast offered were more rocky beaches, steep cliffs, forested areas, huge sand dunes, and ice-cold ocean water.

Our formerly landlocked, Midwestern-raised kids were enthralled with our first steps onto the sandy beach at Seaside, Oregon, a popular spot. They couldn’t wait to slip out of their shoes and play in the sand and even though the water was frigid, they dabbled their feet in it with shrieks of delight.

We traveled to the next enticing spot along the coast – Cannon Beach, a trendy area with shops and art galleries, but most famous for its Haystack Rock, mammoth in size.  

As we continued south, we entered another coastal town called Rockaway Beach, where we found several miles of uninterrupted shoreline. But a fun discovery there was a kite-flying festival in session. We spent the rest of our day there watching amazing kites flying high over the ocean, enjoying a little train ride, and devouring some tasty treats.

Even though we previously lived in the windy Midwest, we never had much luck flying kites. But right then and there at that Oregon coast kite festival, we resolved to purchase a kite at a gift shop. Observing how high our kite could soar on the Pacific coast became a fun, family activity.

We thoroughly relished our first trip westward to the Pacific Ocean, but it certainly would not be our last. Eventually, we would explore the entire Oregon coast marveling along the way, but that will be fodder for another Tuesday Tour.

“Sometimes just being on a beach with my loved ones is all the adventure I need.” ~ Guy Laliberte

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in life changes, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: the adventure begins

We hit the ground running. Eager to explore our new locale after our move from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest back in the early 1990’s, we settled into our brand-new house as quickly as possible.

Even though I wasn’t crazy about making a move farther away from our families back east — okay, I’ll be honest…in my mind I was kicking and screaming about going because as one friend remarked we couldn’t get any farther away from our home state without falling into the ocean — but I was determined not to show my hesitation and angst to our young children.

So, dredging up a positive attitude and plastering it on my face and in my speech, I focused on painting a picture of our new home in that altered state as an exciting adventure for our family. We bade goodbye to our friends, our neighbors, our home, church, and comfortable way of life and set off westward on the Oregon Trail, so to speak.

Excitement commenced immediately since we journeyed via airplane to our new home. Our children, then aged 10, almost 7, and 4 had not experienced flying before, so exhilaration was high. Add to that, a fancy hotel stay for a few days, until our household goods and our family car caught up to us, was definitely out of the norm.

When the movers arrived at our new house with all our belongings, it was unseasonably hot. Not only were we surprised by that, but we were also a little miffed that folks told us we would not need central air conditioning. However, humidity proved low and evenings cooled off significantly. Eventually we did upgrade to A/C but didn’t utilize it that often.

Because a few weeks of school remained at our children’s new public school, we enrolled the two oldest and I located a wonderful preschool for our youngest to attend in the fall.

Our wise principal at our former Midwest school (where I had served as PTA President) recommended it would be easier for our girls to be the ‘new kids’ during the school year than at the beginning of the year when all the students in a classroom were new to the teacher.

He was right! Our girls settled in nicely with their new surroundings, teachers, and classmates and were welcomed with enthusiasm. Each morning, Papa headed out to work, the girls rode the bus to our neighborhood school, and our youngest “helped” me put our home in order.

But every weekend, we jaunted off to discover more about our new residence in this state so diverse from the one we had just left. Our first excursion was along the Columbia River, the largest river in the Pacific Northwest.

Columbia River Gorge on Oregon side

Beautiful scenery can be viewed along this waterway that serves as a border between Oregon and Washington. Eventually, the Columbia, which originates in British Columbia, Canada, winds its way westward through the Cascade Mountain range and empties into the Pacific Ocean.

Driving east along this massive river, we got a taste of the Columbia River Gorge, a 4,000-foot-deep gorge, the largest national scenic area in the United States. The western part of the gorge is home to three dormant volcanoes, including Oregon’s highest point, Mount Hood, old growth forests, and waterfalls galore – over 40 of them.

We stopped at scenic spots along the Historic Columbia River Highway on the Oregon side of the river, then crossed it and came back home along the Washington side after visiting Bonneville Dam.

Columbia River Gorge on Washington side

The famous and often photographed Multnomah Falls was our first stop. This amazing sight is 620 feet tall, split into two falls basically, and is the tallest waterfall in Oregon.

Multnomah Falls

A paved path takes visitors to a footbridge where one can get a better view of the upper part of the falls. There are also trails to the top of Multnomah as well for more serious hikers.

Multnomah Falls is an extremely popular tourist attraction and busy with visitors year-round. After that, we opted for a quieter spot – Horsetail Falls – where there were a lot less people and our children could climb and scramble among the rocks.

Horsetail Falls
Horsetail Falls
Horsetail Falls

In the years to come, we would explore the Columbia River Gorge several times, including the vastly different terrain and climate of the eastern part, a high desert.

We experienced a great kick-start to our adventure quest in the Pacific Northwest. Yet so much more waited on the horizon for us.

“One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure.” ~ William Feather

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in Life, photography

Words for Wednesday: come walk with me

“Walk through this world with me, go where I go…” (lyrics written by Sandy Seamons and Kaye Savage and recorded by George Jones, country singer)

Today I’m asking you to take a walk with me.

Come walk with me

In my neck of the woods,

To spot what wonders

We are likely to see.

Embrace the coolness of the morning

After the sun awakens the day.

Wind down the path listening

As feathered friends greet us on our way.

It might be surprising, never knowing

What we may hear or may see,

Perhaps a shy rabbit, a scampering lizard,

Or a blossoming tree.

Breathe in and breathe out

Fresh air that abounds.

We’ll pause just a moment

To listen to some sounds.

The ponds covered in lily pads

Provide a lovely sight,

While bull frogs bellow

With all of their might.

Come walk with me

In my country air;

For just a moment,

Find God’s beauty there.

“An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in Life, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: an altered state

A distinct change of scenery. A pronounced change of life. Even a distinguishable change of climate.

That’s what awaited our family in the early 1990’s. After close to a decade living in the Midwest, we moved across the country to the Pacific Northwest, a place truly diverse from our usual surroundings.

Due to Papa’s promotion/job transfer, we packed our household goods and watched movers load everything we owned, including our family vehicle, onto a trailer truck and drive away for a long haul west.

All we had left in our possession was one piece of luggage per person and our carry-on bags. We then boarded an airplane and landed in what felt like a different country or at least an altered state.

Moving from the flat lands and rolling small hills of the Great Plains, where there were four discernable seasons with hot, humid, and often dry summers and frigid, windy, snowy winters, to a mountainous, heavily forested location just an hour or so away from the Pacific Ocean with a mild climate and abundant rainfall astounded us all.

Today’s Tuesday Tour will highlight some of the first photos taken on my initial glimpse of that altered state and serve as an introduction for the next few posts of amazing places we visited in our six years of living in the Pacific Northwest.

Scenic spots we experienced inspired me to capture scads of scenic photos. My pictures back then were limited by my not-so-great photography skills and using an inexpensive film point and shoot camera, but I still managed to get some nice shots.

Prior to our big move, Papa had already acclimated to those new surroundings for a few months while this Mama and our three young children stayed in our Midwest suburb to get our house there sold.

Papa accomplished one dream he harbored when he accepted an invitation from some of his sales customers to go sailing in the San Juan Islands area of Washington. Living in a location so near the ocean and two major rivers would prove to be an extraordinary experience for us all.

Papa living the dream — sailing in the San Juan Islands, Washington

Before the move, I flew out for a few days to Portland, Oregon to join Papa in our quest for a suburban residence there while my parents came from their Northeast home to care for our children.

After landing at Portland International Airport, I could not stop exclaiming over the remarkably different environment right in front of my eyes.

The first thing that caught my eye and boggled my mind were the gigantic Douglas Fir trees…everywhere! Compared to the woods in the Kansas City area, those trees were massively tall. And I just could not get over it.

Even though it was early spring, grass was green, many of the deciduous trees already had leaves, and flowers were abundantly blooming. The majority of my first visit to the Portland area was spent searching for a place to live, but Papa and I managed a little bit of sightseeing as well.

What fun it was to stroll through the Portland Saturday Market, an open-air handmade arts and crafts market with local vendors, food kiosks, and live music.  Open on Saturdays and Sundays from March through December, this must-visit place, which opened in 1974, is known as the largest continuously operating market of its kind in the United States.

During the years we lived in the Portland area, the market was located near the Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood under the Burnside Bridge. Now the market is situated in the Tom McCall Waterfront Park along the Willamette (pronounced Will-LAM-ette) River.

We still own a lovely hand-made pottery pitcher we purchased there, and I remember listening and enjoying the steel drum (or steelpan) music provided under a large canopy. Now the Portland Saturday Market is more permanent and folks can even purchase the unique merchandise from the artisans online. For those interested, click here.

We ambled along the waterfront park catching glimpses of RiverPlace Marina and the Portland Convention Center and just viewing the Willamette River. Soon we would call this unique (to us) place in the valley between mountains and ocean our home. And exploring beautiful new sights would begin.  

“Beauty is thus an altered state of consciousness, an extraordinary moment of poetry and grace.” ~ Leonard Koren

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in Life, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: million dollar highway

I bet you’ve heard it many times – life is a highway. Possibly a song queues up in your brain’s juke box like it does in mine.

That song, Life is a Highway, immediately starts playing in my head and lyrics blast from my mouth. Originally written and sung by Tom Cochrane in the early 1990’s, the song was made popular by Rascal Flatts as the theme song for the Disney animated movie, Cars.

Traveling by car on a spectacular highway is today’s focus on my Tuesday Tour as I continue to share Papa’s and my 1979 autumn trip to the San Juan Mountains (part of the Rockies) in southwestern Colorado.

“All roads are tough, but you have to choose the one you know you’ll never be sorry for taking.” ~ Chris Burkmenn

One of the roads we traveled during our week-long stay was definitely a spectacular scenic drive, yet also a nail biter, but one we weren’t sorry we took. Dubbed the Million Dollar Highway, this two-lane road tests your driving skills as you maneuver through Mineral Creek Valley and encounter sharp grades, hairpin turns, and cross over three mountain passes.

There are varying theories on why this scenic highway is named thusly. Some say constructing the highway in the 1920’s cost over $1 million per mile. Other folks think the highway’s name came from the awe-inspiring views. And yet another claim is that literally the dirt used to fill in the road contained a million dollars’ worth of gold ore.

Whatever the truth may be, it is one highway visitors won’t soon forget. One stretch of road that traverses travelers from the Red Mountain Pass, with an elevation of over 11,000 feet, through the Uncompahgre Gorge is one that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

I have to surmise that this drive was so scary that I stayed busy ascertaining that Papa didn’t drive us over the side of the mountain and that’s why I don’t have many photos taken with my 35 mm film camera from way back then.

Million Dollar Highway consists of narrow lanes of traffic overlooking very steep cliffs and there are no guardrails. You read that correctly, no guard rails! And apparently, it remains the same now as it did in 1979 when we drove on it.

A co-worker recommended this drive as a “must see” for us and we learned she was right. We started out on the Million Dollar Highway (US Route 550) from the mining town of Silverton, where we previously visited via the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway. The drive eventually took us to a lookout point, where we could view another tiny town of just 0.8 square miles, Ouray.

Nestled in the mountains, Ouray’s nickname is “Switzerland of America.” Its history began in 1876 when the town became incorporated, not long after Colorado became a US state. Ouray also calls itself the “Outdoor Recreation Capital of Colorado,” with many outdoor activities available.

One of the well-visited sites on our itinerary to see in Ouray was Box Canyon Falls. The falls, an 85-foot torrent of water, is located inside a park of the same name. Canyon Creek narrows and shoots through boulders there gushing thousands of gallons of water a minute.

Quite a sight to behold and I recall how loud is was as the falls thundered down into a 100-foot walled canyon of quartzite. My old film photos and not-so-great photography skills truly don’t show how dramatic and astonishing it is, but you can tell how dark it was at the bottom of the falls where the creek continued on by the photo below.

All too soon, it was time for us to leave the mountains and the forest and head back to the prairie – the plains of Oklahoma where duty and work called our names.

On our way back, we traveled through Wolf Creek Pass, a high and very steep mountain pass on the Continental Divide. We stopped at the summit (elevation 11.904 feet) in hopes of seeing some snow but all we found was one little patch.  

One memorable sight and decent photograph I captured was a copse of aspen trees just beginning to turn their lovely lemon-yellow color as we traveled through the San Juan Mountains. Our mountain getaway was one we’ll not forget.

As I look back on the many highways we’ve traveled during our 40+ years of marriage, some roads we traveled in life turned out great, some were difficult and trying, but all were blessings in some way. I’m grateful for them and hopeful for more roadways of life to capture on my Tuesday Tour.

“They say life is a highway and we all travel our own roads, some good, some bad, yet each is a blessing of its own.” ~ Jess “Chief” Brynjulson

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021