07-17-2021 Fun times in Early July

Early July began with record breaking temperatures for Southern Oregon, and for much of the west.  For us, the 116 degree temperatures moderated a bit to a livable 100 degrees.  Amazing how good that feels even when the thermometer hits 100 several days in a row.  So far, a couple of weeks into the month we haven’t experienced those awful 100 teens plus days since that first week.  I hope we don’t get them again.  In addition, in spite of the seriously hot weather and afternoon winds, we don’t have any fires locally.  The biggest fire in the country right now is the Bootleg Fire, northeast of Kamath Falls, but the smoke is heading east and here in Grants Pass the skies are a gorgeous clear blue.

Going to the Lavender Festival inspired me and on the first day of the month I decided I should cut the lavender.  The bees weren’t happy with me. They seem to love lavender more than just about anything in the yard, except for the bird bath which they have taken over completely as their very own summer water fountain.  I try to be sure it is full every day.  Bees need water and these are very sweet friendly honey bees that buzz around like crazy but never bother me.

A photo from my little shop in Wallace, Idaho

I decided it was time to make a wreath.  I used to make so many of them when I was making a living growing and selling crafted dried flowers on the show circuit and in my little shop in Wallace, Idaho.  After I let that business go to once again make my living digging holes in the dirt, I never made another wreath until now.  I tried a small wreath of lavender.  It took four full large bushes of fully blooming lavender to finish that wreath.  Hanging it on the door, I delighted in the fragrance, if not the tiny little lavender flowers that shed all over the porch every time I open and close the front door.  Who knows how long it will last or how long it will keep shedding.

July 4th this year was a treat.  Especially after our nothing celebration last year because of Covid and everyone feeling much safer just staying at home.  This year I asked Daughter Melody if we could come to her house for the day.  She was thrilled, and even gave up the annual Fourth of July party that she traditionally shares with her Albany friends.  Daughter Deb was going too, and decided to drive her own car since we had a bunch of “stuff” in our car.  Grandson Matthew was going to go but at the last minute he had to opt out due to concerns with the couple that he helps to caretake.  He had no one at the house to help and couldn’t leave Karen alone with the blood pressure and heart rate issues she was having.  Next year we will celebrate minus Melody, but with a local picnic maybe Matthew will be able to participate.  So hard to get everyone in the same place anymore.

The drive north on the Fourth was easy, just 3 hours to Melody’s house in the car.  We opted to leave the MoHo at home since there really isn’t any place to park it at Melody’s house.  Daughter Melody and Robert did a great job fixing up the guest bedroom with a cooling gel mattress pad, new comfy sheets and pillows, and a big fan in the window.  Such a nice retreat it was for us.

By the time we arrived just after 11, Deborah was already there helping Melody lay out the huge feast of goodies she had prepared for the family.  Somehow the giant tray of veggies and dip went by the wayside as we all gobbled up Robert’s traditional deviled eggs.  No longer just for Easter, Robert’s eggs are a tradition whenever we all get together.  Deborah made a delicious guacamole which kept me quite happy. 

Grandkids,  Axel and Xavier, with Axel’s sweetie, Pi, showed up by early afternoon. Axel and Pi are “new” even though they have known each other for over two years.  At 28 years old, it is a good thing that Axel now at last has a solid, good relationship to enjoy.

My grandson Xavier was looking wonderful as well, putting on some weight and working at a job he loves. He is working in telephone sales for Cricket.  Indoors, air conditioning, no heavy lifting, and plenty of percs and benefits.  He likes it a LOT better than working in the produce department at Fred Meyer, which was the job he had before COVID required that he not work in that unsafe environment.  Type 1 Diabetes is nothing to fool with, and he couldn’t risk being exposed to COVID. The entire family is fully vaccinated now and it is such a relief to worry a bit less about exposure to the virus at last.

The day was simple and easy with lots of talking and visiting.  Melody and the kids and I walked the two blocks to the city park and the river.  Pioneer Park is a popular place on the fourth and many families were camping and enjoying picnics at the big tables in the shade.  Mattie went completely crazy with all the excitement of the river, the kids, and all the people. I did not manage to take a single photo of the excitement.  It was hot and we were all quite happy to return to the cool living room for the rest of the afternoon.

Somehow we didn’t manage time for games, and by 3:30 Robert fired up the grill for supper by 5.  It was amazing watching him manage all the different requests from each guest.  Robert cooked filet mignon steaks, hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken legs, and four racks of ribs.  Everything turned out perfectly, well almost.  Some of us thought the ribs were a bit too done, but the kids loved them and took all the leftovers home.  Not a thing went to waste….then again I am sure much went to our waists!

After dinner we visited some more. The kids left around 7 since they didn’t want to drive back to Albany after dark.  It’s only a 20 minute drive or so for them, but with holiday crazies running around on the highway between Brownsville and Albany they thought it would be better to lay low in their own apartment for the evening.

The five of us ate some more goodies and waited until about 9 to gather up our chairs and walk down to the park once again for the fireworks.

The show was put on by the Brownsville Fire Department and they did a spectacular job.  I have seen shows in much bigger cities that weren’t as wonderful as this show.  It was also good to know that the fire department was making sure that everyone was safe and no stray sparks were unattended.  I loved every minute of it.

The next morning we had a wonderful breakfast with bagels and Deborah’s egg bake casserole and more visiting before Deborah left for home and Mo and I headed south toward our next adventure.

July 5 Visiting Wildlife Safari in Winston

I think I went to Wildlife Safari a very long time ago, when Melody lived in Medford.  All I remember is being with Melody and her mother-in-law, Donna, and Axel who was just a little one.  I remember the cheetahs behind the fence and how much Axel loved cheetahs.  Mo had never been to the Wildlife Safari.  It isn’t far from Grants Pass, maybe 80 miles or so, and is a popular place to take out of town guests.  Crater Lake, the Coast, Wildlife Safari, and the Hellgate Jetboats on the Rogue are the go to activities for company. Pretty sure Crater Lake and the Coast win hands down.  We have talked about going the Safari a few times, and yesterday when I mentioned it again, Mo said, why not tomorrow on our way home from Brownsville.

In spite of the mid day hour, the heat, and the holiday, we decided to give it a try.  We were happy to learn that even though dogs are not allowed in your car when traveling through the park, there are nice kennels provided for them to be safely housed during your visit.  The kennels are free if you bring your own lock, but they will provide a padlock that you can keep for $5.  Not bad to keep Mattie cool and safe while we explored.  We decided to do the walkable portion of the park first.  The area isn’t too big to walk in a short time and the gardens and shade trees are lovely.  Most of the animals were lounging in the shade, too hot to move around much, and often hidden in their dark lairs so we weren’t able to see all of them.  The tortoise was slowly meandering around his enclosure with a leaf in his mouth.  Such fascinating creatures!  The lions were pacing near the feeding area, but too far from the viewing platform to see them very well.  The wolves from South America were completely zonked in the heat, very little movement from them.

The rest of the area is geared to families and kids, with a couple of eating establishments for snack food, and some exhibits geared to kids enjoyment.  I think we stayed maybe an hour at most before getting in line for the slow meander in our car around the wild animal area where most animals roam freely and humans must remain in their cars. 

Some of the animals from Africa, who seemed to be immune to the intense heat, were roaming about.  Several were eating in the shade shelters which made photography a bit difficult, but as we rounded a curve to the area where feeding cups could be purchased, the emus, rheas, and several varieties of young deer were milling about begging for food from people in their cars.  A lovely rhea poked his head in our window and looked rather disgusted that we had no food for him.

As we approached the cheetah area, there wasn’t a cheetah in sight, but there was a big jam up of cars.  People were instructed at the beginning of the tour to stay to the right to let people pass if they wished, but many folks had no clue about how to do that.  Drivers of cars full of young kids parked in the middle of the road, with no room on either side for passing. 

We finally meandered along with the rest, but not without a few impatient exclamations from Mo and from me now and then.  It was hot and many of the animals were not to be seen.  We missed the rhino, the cheetahs, the yaks, and the hippos.  Actually, we didn’t miss the hippos completely because as we passed I am pretty sure that two large gray rocks were actually hippos.

We enjoyed the Safari somewhat, but I think the most excitement came from Mattie when I picked her up from the kennel.

07-08 Driving up to Recreation Creek and Malone Springs.

With the heat in triple digits for days on end, Mo and I wondered when we might have a chance to get our butts in the boats again.  We scheduled a day trip to Rocky Point for a nice early morning kayak after I looked at the temperatures and decided Thursday was the only day that it was to be less than 100 degrees in the Basin.  We planned to leave early, and I packed a tuna sandwich lunch for us and we were in the truck by 7.  When we travel, the kayaks are lifted on top of the Tracker and tied down.  Requires quite a bit of effort, climbing up and down on a step to reach the straps, and getting all safely balanced and secured.  We decided that for a simple day trip we could take the pickup.  Loading the kayaks is considerably easier with the pickup.  They still have to be lifted, but not nearly as high, and strapping them down is much simpler.

The route to Malone Springs, a few miles north of Rocky Point, is easy, and requires traveling from Grants Pass toward Medford, turning east near Central Point and traveling Highway 140 over the High Lakes Pass toward the east slope of the Cascades.  Malone Springs is about half way between the Rocky Point boat launch and the northern terminus of Crystal Creek at Crystal Springs.  We have kayaked the entire length of the canoe trail from end to end and through the marsh many times.  This time, however, we decided to put in at Malone Springs and kayak south toward Rocky Point.  We haven’t been in the kayaks since last year, and both of us were just a little bit apprehensive about our ability to get back out of the kayaks at the end of our paddle.  We decided on paddling south for just and hour before turning around to be sure we didn’t do more than we could manage.

I was worried about my left shoulder which has been acting up lately with either arthritis or bursitis, legs with muscle atrophy which may or may not hold up when I try to rise from the boat, and now a silly trigger thumb that has been giving me a bit of trouble.  Mo had been dealing with knee and ankle issues.  It was time to get back in practice and see just how much we could manage.  We also wanted to paddle in a place that didn’t have too many people around to witness our attempts at exiting our kayaks.

Nothing to worry about in the least.  I was thrilled to be on the water again after so long.  The morning was marred a bit by smoky skies from a large fire to the east of the Klamath Basin.  Our views were up close, with the distant mountains of Crater Lake and Harriman Peak completely obscured by the smoke.  Still, the wocus were blooming, although this late in the season there were only a few blossoms.  The creek level was quite low, but not so much that we had any difficulty paddling, and the section of the creek that we followed wasn’t terribly weedy. 

The water was clear and we were completely alone for the entire route, up and back.  We turned around after an hour and 15 minutes to paddle upstream.  As often happens on Recreation Creek, a slight breeze from the south made paddling against the gently current nearly effortless and the return trip was a bit shorter than the trip downriver.  The views were limited by smoke and in the distance where we usually see the rim of Crater Lake to the north and Mt. Harriman to the south, we only saw murky skies.  Birds were few and far between as well, except for the red winged blackbirds, many little brown twittery birds, a kingfisher and one great blue heron. 

The canoe trail sign is very high above the water, indicating how low the water level is this year already.  Often those signs are only a foot or two above the water level.

After all that time alone, I was exclaiming to Mo how lucky we were to have the creek to ourselves on this gorgeous summer day when suddenly ten kayaks rounded a curve and entered the Malone Springs area.  We looked at each other, wondering if they planned to lunch there, and wondered when we would have the nerve to try to get out of the kayaks with ten people observing!  The young woman who was guiding the group said they were leaving, and began loading all their kayaks onto a big trailer.  Whew.  Mo and I paddled around a bit in the spring waiting for everyone to leave.  Along comes another kayaker, with a young lab puppy, and she kindly agreed to wait until we could get Mattie out of the boat.

We had nothing to worry about.  I decided to exit my boat on the side opposite the shoreline in knee deep water.  It was perfect.  I didn’t even have to roll into the water as I did last summer to get out of the boat.  The knee deep water did a great job of giving me the extra boost I need to rise from a sitting position.  Mo tried the same maneuver and did just fine.  We are now much more comfortable with our planned kayak day with family during the first week in August. No matter how understanding folks might be about our ungainly attempts to exit the kayaks, it is much nicer to not have to look silly in front of everyone.

After loading up the boats we settled in to the nearby picnic table for our packed picnic lunch.  Malone Springs is known for having hordes of mosquitoes and yet with the heat and drought this year there were very few around to bother us.

We returned to Grants Pass, happy that we could do a simple day trip to find good kayak waters.  Of course, being in the outdoors triggered the need to check for possible reservations available at any of the many campgrounds in the Cascades, or even perhaps farther east.  We try to be sure to get at least one trip away in the MoHo each month and July was passing quickly.  Lo and Behold…everything was blocked out and reserved every place I looked, except suddenly an opening appeared at a campground we have visited in the past and loved.  The reservation was open for three days beginning on the 12th, giving us just two days to make the decision to go.

But that is for the next story….

Out the Back Door Kayaking Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge

Current location: Rocky Point, Oregon Sunny and 50F at 6am, predicted high today 79F

launching at Malone Springs Ah yes, finally.  We managed to walk away from yard and house chores for a day and loaded up the kayaks.  I was appalled when I realized that the last time we had the boats in the water was back in Florida in March.  Sheesh.  As I wrote in the title, some of the very best kayaking in the country is right out our back door.  The Rocky Point boat launch is just a mile from our house, but yesterday we decided to travel a few miles north on Westside Road to launch at Malone Springs.  Crystal Spring_082

Yes, some of you know my last name is Malone, but no, the springs were named long before I arrived in the Klamath Basin in 2002.

Crystal Spring_081 We were on the water by 9:40 AM, and a big surprise was the lack of mosquitoes at Malone Springs.  The Forest Service boat launch site has two free campsites, but the mosquitoes can often be daunting during the early summer.  In fact, most of the east side of the Cascade range in Oregon is plagued with a heavy mosquito population, including some of the more lovely lakeside campgrounds.  Maybe not as bad as Minnesota or Alaska, but definitely something that requires planning.  Don’t forget the mosquito spray for shoreline activities!  However, once out on the water, mosquitoes and bugs are almost never a problem.

Crystal Spring_008 Skies were perfect and the temperature was cool enough that we wouldn’t get overheated out on the water.  Winds were light, coming from the north, so we had a bit of a breeze and a very little bit of current to paddle against on our way north to Crystal Spring.

native sedges in the marsh One of the great pleasures of working soil survey in the Klamath Basin was the opportunity to map the soils in the Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge.  With more than 14,000 acres of organic soils supporting wetland plants, the marsh is directly adjacent to the forested lands of the Cascades.  The complex vegetation patterns provided endless riddles of soil and vegetation patterns to decipher.  Crystal Spring_032

Looking north as we paddle along the creek, we are treated to a view of the Crater Lake Caldera, still covered in snow. 

Unlike the spring runs in Florida, the waterway we travel here is fed by hundreds of springs that come from the pumice soils all along the eastern slope of the Cascades.  The water is cold, and there are a few large springs that are named, but many others feed the creek that flows through the marsh, as well as the thousands of acres of natural wetlands that are on the northern side of Klamath Lake.

famous for fly fishing for trout

The refuge canoe trail is famous for fly fishing.  These 3 guys were the only folks we saw on this day on the refuge.

Different kinds of soils support different kinds of vegetation, and this is true of subaqueous organic soils as well. One of my major accomplishments mapping these wetlands was figuring out the complex relationships between different types of organic soil and vegetation patterns.

Crystal Spring_015 Remember that old saying, “out in the toolies”?  These are the real tules, bigstem bulrush, that dominate the marsh.

They provide amazing cover for the many birds that we heard but did not see as we paddled along,  When the tules get tall, they hide the sandhill cranes, great egrets, and blue herons that we heard calling throughout our paddle.

sedgesOther major native plants that occur in the marsh are several species of sedge (carex). 

The sedges seem to like the organic soils that are less weathered, more fibrous, and the willows occur in areas where the fibers are the least weathered, soils that are peaty rather than mucky.  You have no idea how many holes I bored in this marsh to finally figure this out.  As they say “What difference does it make?”  Maybe none to the casual kayaker, but for the refuge managers it is helpful to know how to manage the refuge, and soil information has a big influence on refuge management decisions.

Crystal Spring_016 Other plants have colonized in some parts of the refuge, such as cattails and Canary Reedgrass, beautiful to look at, but not natural to the environment and detrimental to the existing plant communities.

several beaver dams along the way Beaver dams are plentiful along the route.

Crystal Spring_033 No houses along the route except for this vacation property where our fishermen were staying.

Crystal Spring_037 Just a bit more than 4 miles of paddling brings us to beautiful Crystal Springs. 

Traveling along Westside Road by car will lead to a roadside rest area with a trail down to the spring, but launching from this spot would be a bit of a pain.

Crystal Spring_040Crystal Spring_046 North of Crystal Spring is a well known bed and breakfast called Crystalwood Lodge, visible from the channel north of the spring that I am reasonably certain was dredged for spring access.

Crystal Spring_049 We turn around for the paddle down the creek, with current in our favor and no southern wind coming toward us from the lake.  The winds often come up about 2 in the afternoon and on this day we beat them.

Crystal Spring_050 There aren’t many places along the route that are conducive to landing, but back at the area where we saw the teepee, there is a rocky point that provides a place to get out of the boats and give both Abby and Mo and me a bit of a break before we continue back along the meandering route to return to Malone Springs.

Crystal Spring_053The snow is still deep on Pelican Butte.  Our home is at the base of that long slope below the mountain at the left side of the photo. The reflections on the return route are always mesmerizing to me, and I can’t tell you how many photos I have from this spot.

Crystal Spring_062 I paddle slowly, sometimes simply drifting along with the current, taking time to photograph the beautiful wocus, sacred and important plant to the local tribes for centuries.Crystal Spring_061We slide into Malone Spring once again, still quiet with no other campers or paddlers around on this Wednesday afternoon.  It has been a perfect paddle.  Crystal Spring_074

Crystal Spring_075 With the marsh vegetation providing great cover, the birds that we actually saw were a redtail hawk,  redwing  and yellow head blackbirds, and as Carol Herr would say, lots of ‘little brown birds”.  Later in the day I did have one great blue heron fly gracefully across the creek right in front of me, but the camera was in the dry bag by that time so no photo. I made a sound recording of a bird call I didn’t recognize at all, and hopefully I can get Judy or Carol to tell me what the bird might be.  I know the sounds of the herons and the cranes, but this one was completely new to me.  No snakes, turtles, or alligators are in these waters, and I found myself missing them a bit.

June 4 kayak I mapped our route with the Motion GPX app on my phone, just over 4 miles each way.

OR7-Area-of-Known-Wolf-Activity Here is another map that is related only peripherally to the kayak trip.

The black line on this map refers to the known wolf activity zone in the Cascades for OR7 or Journey, as he was named by Oregon schoolchildren.  If you haven’t read about him yet, here is the story.  There are many newspaper articles out there for this event, but I chose to share this one because it was written by the son of a good friend.

I call Journey “my wolf’, not because I have actually seen him, but because one night back in 2011, when he first began his journey to southern Oregon and California, while he was traveling through the Wood River Valley, Mo and I heard his howls during our evening time in the hot tub.  Liz Parrish, owner of the Crystalwood Lodge actually saw him near her place, no doubt interested in her pack of sled dogs.  Crystalwood is probably the most dog friendly lodge I know of!

140604pups-in-log640 “My” wolf is a daddy. 

For the first time in nearly a century pups have been born in the Oregon Cascades.  I believe we need to live in a world that includes predators for balance.  Some of my local Rocky Point friends are all up in arms over this wolf near us.  They are cattlemen, and ranchers, concerned for their livestock.  Journey and his mate are hidden high in the mountains, and in all his travels he has never approached any domestic animal.  I support the right of the wolf to live in Oregon, in this part of Oregon.  There are great ranchers who have figured out how to live with wolves, and I pray that here in the Wood River Valley they don’t ever lose an animal to a wolf.  I pray for Journey’s safety and I celebrate his new family.