2010 Keep it short, right? hahahahahaha Part 1

familyMo and I have an inside joke.  I worry things to death and she thinks in a very straightforward way.  I have 12 thoughts to every one of hers.  Her thoughts are usually practical and help get things done.  My thoughts are usually all over the place and don’t accomplish a lot.  Last night as the evening settled in to a close along with the year, I thought a lot about what I learned this year.  This morning at 4am I woke up thinking about all the things we did this past year, all the changes, trying to decide what and how much to write.  Lots of the stuff I thought about wasn’t the least bit blog worthy, and other stuff was probably not blog appropriate. Somehow, in the early morning in the dark, I realized how important the family times were this year.  This great group includes Mo’s siblings and their offspring, my four kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, friends that are so dear they count as extended family.  We managed wonderful visits this year with lots of people who are important to each of us, and who are scattered all across the country.

I was delighted this morning when I opened the “Travels with Emma” blog and found lovely collages of the previous year.  Ahh.  Perfect.  With kudos to Judy for her idea, I decided that would be the simplest way to try to share and summarize the year just past.  If it gets too long, you can just click that little x on the upper right corner of your screen and ‘poof’ I’m gone. With that in mind, I decided to write exactly what I wanted to, with pictures! I did figure out some of the things I learned this year, but that is fairly boring, so I won’t elaborate too much.  For instance, I learned that I don’t have to spend a lot of money, and I learned that I could actually wait to get something I think I desperately want.  See what I mean?  Silly stuff for someone just turned 65.

January 2010January was momentous for me.  I retired from 30 plus years as a soil scientist with the USDA-NRCS and celebrated with a 14 day cruise through the Panama Canal.  Mo and I spent many sea days actually relaxing and the five port days were perfect.

Our cruise with Celebrity on the Solstice was wonderful, and we spent days in Cartagena, Colombia, in Costa Rica, and three ports in Mexico. 

We came home to the manufactured home where I lived in California and put it up for sale for the last time before returning to Rocky Point and a reasonably mild winter.

February 2010In February, we took a short trip to McMenniman’s Brewery at Edgefield in Troutdale (about 300 miles north of Rocky Point east of Portland) and enjoyed a day trying out finely crafted beer and walking the gardens.  The day was fabulous for me, since I spent a couple of hours in the Ruby Spa getting a facial with all sorts of amazing aromatic oils and soft lights.  It was an easy trip since Mo was already in the area house and dog sitting for her brother away in Hawaii.  When we returned home to Rocky Point, the winter was already fading and we actually started raking pine needles that month.

We moved most of my furniture out of the mobile in California to Rocky Point and  I spent much of the month fixing up my part of the house, painting my bathroom, doing all those little things that feed my nesting spirit.  It was my first winter back in Klamath since I left in 2006 for California and I was so grateful to be home again, with my daughter and grandkids just a few miles away in town. Just so you don’t get confused; Rocky Point is part of the Klamath Basin, which I refer to as Klamath, although I may call Klamath Falls (city) Klamath as well.  It doesn’t help much that there is a “Klamath” in California, both the river and the town, and the national forest.  Just to be clear. 

March 2010Since March in this part of the country can be incredibly tiresome, we planned a trip to the warmest place in the US that we could think of, Key West.  It wasn’t THAT warm, however, with the coldest March on record, but we still wore shorts and enjoyed the velvet balmy air.  I learned that Key West wasn’t the least bit tacky if you looked in the right places.  I loved it.  We spent time on the water, exploring the Dry Tortugas for a day, kayaking the lagoons on the bay side of the keys and eating.  Lots of amazing seafood, key lime crepes for breakfast, and still brilliant in my memory is a crab stuffed shrimp with key lime hollandaise.  We walked everywhere in Key West, and the rental car developed a thick layer of dust while we explored the side streets and took photos of conch cottages and turquoise water.  We flew to Miami and rented a car for this trip, but cruised through the gorgeous state parks dreaming of the winter when we will take the MoHo south and spend it in Florida.


April 2010Winter showed up again at Easter in Rocky Point, but by April we were able to slip out of the MoHo barn and travel north to Silver Falls State Park near the town of Silverton, Oregon.  We spent a nearly week camping in the rain, hiking the falls, and enjoying a visit from my daughter, Deborah who lives in Portland. Silver Falls is the largest state park in Oregon, and certainly one of the most beautiful.  We camped without hookups, since the electric sites were all reserved by a flotilla of baby fiberglass rv’s, but it wasn’t a problem at all.  We stayed warm and comfortable and had a wonderful time.  We visited the Oregon gardens, reveling in all the brilliant early spring blooms, toured the town of Silverton, and spent a day trying out more finely crafted beers from 100 or so breweries at the Oregon Garden Beer Festival. I learned that I could actually drink a full, entire beer if it was really good.

That’s part one of my year summary, with two more to follow.  It’s a great pastime for a snowy New Year’s Day at home. I love going back over the memories, looking at the pictures, reading my own blog and trying to sum it up.

September 11 Watkins Glen, New York

The rest of the photos for this day are linked here.

Watkins_Glen (1) It is a delightful feeling to wake to sunshine pouring into the windows on a Saturday.  Especially when our day ahead included some hiking, some wine tasting, and a bit of actual relaxation. A bit of fog drifted around us from the pond outside our doors and breakfast tasted wonderful with the time to eat slowly and savor it.

I took a little time to actually finish writing blog posts for the last few days, process photos, and check email.  The internet connection here is too slow to upload anything, but at least I could get on the internet long enough to make sure all is well at home.

After breakfast we took a little time to walk around the pond and then left for town and Watkins Glen State park.  Even though the races are over, the area is crawling with vintage sports cars and traffic is heavy.  We paid the fee to park at the main gate, (with Abby safely at home in her crate for the duration) and walked into the park.

Watkins_Glen (6) The Gorge Trail follows the Glen River through a steep canyon cut dramatically into the slate layers creating 19 waterfalls and many more smaller cascades throughout the length of the hike.  Tunnels have been cut into the gorge by hand and more than 880 stone steps follow the path of the river to the top of the gorge in just a mile and a half of almost steady climbing.

This is evidently a very popular place and many people were hiking the stairs and everywhere camera flashes were popping in an attempt to capture the light and shadow in the very dim canyon.  We walked to the end of the trail where there is another state park entrance, a gift shop, and a shuttle to take people back down if they can’t manage the stairs.  We chose to take a different route along Indian Trail back down rather than negotiate the very steep steps.  I can hike up but the downs are pretty hard on the knees so the trail, while steep in some places, was still easier than all those stairs, and we got to see a different view.

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Like everyone else in this canyon, I took way too many photos, trying to capture the light and shadows and the beautiful cascades.

Afterward, we drove north on Highway 14, the Seneca Wine Trail, along Seneca Lake for a bit of sightseeing.  Seneca Lake is one of the eleven Finger Lakes. and the climate is moderated a bit by the lakes, and the low rolling hills adjacent to the lake valleys are perfect for growing Rieslings, Pinot Gris, and other white wine grapes.  There are more than 50 wineries within a few miles of the lake in this area, and it is the highest concentration of wineries anywhere in the US except for the Napa Valley. We didn’t really want to spend the day wine tasting in the area, but did think at least one stop was called for.  The winery we chose was unassuming, in an antique weathered old barn, and the tasting fee was only $2.00 for 5 tastings.  The wines were just OK, except for a delightful Pinot Noir that I bought more to commemorate our visit, and a truly yummy black raspberry dessert wine served with chocolate.  I am a newcomer to dessert wines, but this was definitely worth having.

Watkins_Glen (33) The town was still very busy, and that made it less than appealing, so we went shopping for some incidentals, and drove home to have yummy leftovers for supper and visit with our neighbors. They were from the Netherlands, had traveled to Nova Scotia on a freighter, rented an RV in Halifax, drove south to New York, planning to return the RV in Toronto, then take the train to Manitoba where they will rent a car and drive to Minnesota to meet friends they met on the freighter.  Wow!  One of the gentlemen was a rose breeder who had worked in the US, and the other one told a very funny story about some adventure they had in Texas.  You haven’t heard anything till you have heard someone from the Netherlands trying to do a Texas accent!

Tomorrow we will try to find the Grand Canyon of the East in Pennsylvania on our way to Ohio.  By Monday, we will be in Casstown visiting friends for a couple of days.  It’s hard to imagine that this trip is on the downhill side as we turn around and head back west.


September 10 back home to the States

The rest of the photos for this day of travels are here

Niagara_to_WiltonGlen (4) The morning was cloudy and damp in Ontario and the day seemed gloomier yet with our need to find a place to repair the Tracker.  Our plan was to cross the border, and then stop to see if we could find some kind of repair shop to check out the transmission.  Without a phone or internet access, it’s so difficult to function reasonably.  Garmin Girl proved so dependable taking us through complex freeway systems that we didn’t hesitate to try it again today.  I drove the MoHo with Mo following behind in the Tracker while we set the address for some unknown place in West Seneca, New York.

Niagara_to_WiltonGlen (10) The border crossing was uneventful, without even a request for our animal papers.  Understandable in the MoHo perhaps because the cat was safely tucked away in his carrier.  In the Tracker, though, Abby was clearly visible, and the agent didn’t say a word or ask for anything but passports.  In a matter of minutes we were in Buffalo, on US soil, with miles again instead of kilometers.  I pulled into a large parking lot in West Seneca, and Mo pulled in behind me.  She hollered joyously when the Tracker slipped into neutral effortlessly.  Who knows.  But finally we could hook up the car again and be on our way through New York to our next destination.

The sweet little neighbors in Toronto told us about Watkins Glen, in the Finger Lakes District, and after reviewing the maps and checking mileage, we decided it was a much more relaxing destination than Blue Mountain Lake in the Adirondacks.  Especially when we realized that we could actually stay two nights and have time to enjoy the trails and waterfalls. With my iPhone once again operational, I checked out campgrounds while Mo drove through the winding, gorgeous landscape of this part of New York.  The hardwood forests are thick, lush, and green, with only a touch here and there of brilliant orange or red tips on the trees.

Niagara_to_WiltonGlen (13)  The KOA campground seemed the most likely choice from what I could see on the phone, and when I called they said they were nearly booked due to the Vintage Road Race being held today in Watkins Glen.  She found a nook for us, though, and we took it.  Expensive as heck, but it is Friday and we had no clue where we might land.  The state park was our first choice, but it was also booked except for the dry camps that were first come first served.  We opted for the KOA and shortly were settled in to a somewhat bumpy, marginal site near the pond.  This KOA has an indoor swimming pool and spa which hopefully we will have time to try out tomorrow. The rest of the amenities aren’t that great, and our site doesn’t have sewer, cable hasn’t been installed out here yet, and the wireless internet connection is as slow as dialup. Ah well.  We are camped and settled at least.

After reviewing the excellent brochures provided, we opted to spend the afternoon traveling towards Ithaca and the waterfalls and trails at the state parks in that area.  I kept trying to remember why Ithaca was so familiar to me, but of course, Cornell University is there.  And the Moosewood Restaurant, home of the vegetarian cookbooks that were my cooking bible back in the early 80’s.  Geez. 

Niagara_to_WiltonGlen (23) By the time we were back on the road, the skies had cleared except for huge white puffy clouds punctuating the brilliant blue.  Ahh. blue and white and green again.  The tiny town of Watkins Glen, however, was completely off limits because of the races and the closing of the main streets in town.  In dead stop bumper to bumper traffic, we asked the policeman how to get where we were going.  The only route was nearly 50 miles out of the way.  Pretty stupid for them not to have some kind of detour set up for travelers trying to get around in the area.  Back to the iPhone which allows me to see the actual aerial photo and maps and try to come up with a route.  The GPS has no idea about closings and routes and only wants an address.  Once again, I sit in the passenger seat, two fisted navigating, phone in one hand, GPS in the other, and a map on my lap trying to get us through the crazy back roads to Taughannock State Park

Niagara_to_WiltonGlen (25) Eventually we were successful, and the falls were delicate but lovely, and at 215 feet, the highest falls in the northeast.  The trail around the rim of the canyon and the upper falls was well marked, fenced for safety from the extreme cliffs, and dog friendly.  It was a great walk and felt good to be again in a place less populated than we have been recently.

After our hike, we were ready for supper, and I searched the reliable iPhone again for a good restaurant in Ithaca.  There were dozens, but we decided on the BoatYard.  The evening was cool, with a nice breeze, so we left Abby in the car with the windows a bit open to wait for us while we enjoyed our dinner.  The restaurant was great, the service excellent, and we had steaks for the first time in a very long time, with a glass of California old vine zinfandel.  Ahh, delightful!  Until half way through dinner the hostess came looking for us to report that the police were waiting for us because someone had reported animal abuse because Abby was in the car.  Mo stepped out to talk with them, and it was all OK, but it was definitely a bit disconcerting.  Our relaxing, somewhat spendy dinner cut short, we packed up what was left and headed out to see Cornell University and the rest of Ithaca.

The town had seemed so peaceful, but once we entered the Collegetown area it became obvious just how big Ithaca really is, especially with all the students in town.  It was crazy traffic, and students everywhere, steep, winding streets, and no clue as to where we were trying to go.  Even with my two fisted navigation, it was a mess.  After a quick look at the main part of Cornell, we wound our way back through town and south to try to find our little KOA home.  Again, with the roads closed in Watkins Glen until after nine, I had to find an alternative.  This time we routed some very back roads, and over a very steep hill we hooked up with 414 south, just a few miles north of the KOA. 

Whew!  Home!  Out came the leftovers, and we settled in to our evening at home with plans for more waterfall hiking tomorrow.

September 9 Our day at Niagara Falls

The rest of the photos for this day are linked here>

Niagara (37)Gee, think I look tired here?  LOL  Guess all this fun is hard work! 

This day marked the “big day” of our Northern Tour, the visit to Niagara Falls.  While lovely, dramatic, and a sight not to be missed, I am not so sure that other parts of the trip may qualify as “big days” as well. We knew that getting through Toronto during morning rush hour was something to avoid, so set the alarm for 5am and did everything we could the night before except actually hooking up the Tracker.

Everything went well, quick morning tea in the microwave, pull in the slide, lower the levelers, start the engines, dump the tanks on the way out, and line up for hooking up the towed.  UhOh.  For some unknown reason, the four wheel drive transfer case for the Tracker refused to budge and Mo couldn’t get it into neutral.  We tried everything for a time, but with the clock ticking and traffic vibrating on the nearby 401, we decided to just go.

I drove the MoHo and Mo followed in the Tracker.  Of course, our phones were not turned on, and we hoped to keep track of each other on the highway until we were back in the United States. I must say, Garmin Girl earned every single cent of her price this morning. I negotiated the many “collectors” adjacent to the expressway, together consisting off 10 lanes of traffic, all the way through Toronto.  Even at 6am, the cars were thick, filling every lane and going close to 100km per hour.  I couldn’t see Mo very well in the backup camera since it was still dark, but sometimes she would show up in the side mirror, negotiating a lane change for me.  We traveled through town, through Burlington, following Garmin Girl as if she knew what she was doing, and thank goodness she did!

Niagara_to_WiltonGlen (4)  In just a couple of hours we were in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and found the King Waldorf RV Park on Stanley Road.  Setup was uneventful in the nearly empty park, and are reserved space was expensive but only five miles or so from the falls.  Many of the parks in this area run up to $75.00 a day, so we were happy to pay only $45.00.

What can I say about Niagara that hasn’t already been said.  The falls are truly a world wonder, and much like another world wonder, the Grand Canyon, seem a bit less so viewed from above.  Only after we took the Maid of the Mist tour to the base of the falls did I feel the true majesty of the mighty Niagara River, draining 4 of the 5 Great Lakes over these rocky cliffs. It was a thrilling moment.

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Maid of the Mist was the highlight of visiting Niagara


Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side is the more dramatic fall


Much of the Niagara experience is a calculated money making endeavor, with ticket times and lines, and people movers, a bit like Disneyland.  The Maid of the Mist, tourist attraction though it may be, is worth every bit of tourism kitsch endured.  We also saw the Niagara Fury Omnifilm, a nice effort, and toured “Behind the Falls’”, which from the Canadian side was a bit of a let down.  The rest of the day we spent walking on our own through the gardens along the canyon walls, admiring the water and watching the “Maids” make their journeys. 

Silver Falls State Park Day 3 and 4

Photos for the entire trip are here.

Silver_Falls (60) Sunday morning dawned beautifully, with clear skies and wonderfully fresh air.  On the previous evening, we noticed a lot more activity on the trails and decided that it would be nicer to wait until Monday for our waterfall hikes.  After a big happy breakfast of bacon, eggs and potatoes (the favorite for camping weekends) we dressed in clothes appropriate for a town visit and headed north on HWY 214 to explore Silverton.

Silverton was listed as one of the ten “coolest” small towns in America in a CBS News poll in 2009. The criteria was that the population be less than 10,000 and included requirements that you be able to get a good cup of coffee and that there are more galleries than country stores.  Silverton fits that picture very well, although we saw a lot more restaurants than galleries, and the number of quaint little shops seemed a bit limited.  One of my favorites was “The Purl District”.  Being a knitter, I love to find local yarn shops and visit with the creative people there.  The Purl District didn’t disappoint, although a chat with the proprietor indicated that like other small knit shops in other rural towns, she is hanging on by a thread.  Just a little aside here, please buy your yarn from local shops if you can.

Silver_Falls (64) We walked around town, looking in the restaurants, and checking out the few galleries.  Silverton’s Chinatown was different, and consisted of one shop and one restaurant.  There was also a Thai restaurant that tempted me with great fragrances as I watched something wonderful being delivered to a patron.  After that big breakfast it didn’t seem appropriate to eat again just two hours later! Another surprise as we explored the town was a great grocery store, Roth’s Fresh Market. With a little research, I found that this locally owned chain of markets was first established right here in Silverton.  It was a bit like a small and local combination of Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, with a fine bakery, fresh flowers, and 4 long double rows of really good wine.  I bought a bottle of organic “Our Daily Red” from the Orleans Hill Winery in Nevada City for under $9.00. It was truly good, and no sulfites! I hope I can find this wine again without having to drive north to a Roth’s market!

Silverton is only a short drive from Salem, and only an hour from Portland.  Even though it is growing, it has retained some of the great character that made it a favorite. Especially beautiful is the gorgeous Silver Creek that flows through town and the myriad blooming dogwoods, azaleas and other flowers.  Driving the streets revealed great historic bungalows, some neighborhoods with wide streets and manicured yards, others narrow and less appealing. The best part of the town is how dog-friendly it is.  With 9,500 people and a dog population of more than 1,500, many restaurants in town have patio dining spots that allow your dog to sit at your feet, and an annual pet parade in honor of Bobbie, a collie who found his way home to Silverton from Indiana in 1924. Parking is still metered on the street, and the meters still take pennies: twelve minutes for once cent, although on Sunday we didn’t have to pay.

After exploring the local streets, we branched out to amble along country roads around town, enjoying the beautiful nursery fields filled with young Japanese maples and dogwoods.  Farther afield, as we headed back to camp, the bluegrass fields stretched across rolling hills into the distance, emerald green and lush.  The sun was warm and the sky punctuated by billowy white clouds.  It couldn’t have been a more perfect drive.

Silver_Falls (69) Back in camp, we were met by my daughter, Deborah, who drove the hour from Portland where she lives.  I was delighted to have some time with Deb, and glad that she came to spend the night and hike the waterfalls.  Deb also brought along a great bottle of wine, a Pinot Noir from Oak Knoll, an Oregon winery.  I guess I have to search for this one as well!  A bottle of Barefoot is fine, but now and then a treat is definitely in order. We let the cat, Jeremy, out to play in the forest and he had a wonderful time scratching trees and running up and down the pathways.

We visited a bit before Deb and I hopped on the bikes to explore some of the great bike trails in the park.  It was a wonderful ride, just hilly enough to be challenging, paved and smooth, and punctuated by long stretches of downhill glides.  Deborah hails from one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country, but she still appreciated a bike trail that wasn’t next to a road.  When we returned to camp, Mo started up the evening fire and we cooked a great steak supper over the coals.  I even baked a campfire potato for the three of us to share.  Guess I had better work on that a bit more because it was very black and crusty on the outside without much left on the inside!  I am spoiled with a quick microwave baked potato while traveling, but this time I didn’t want to turn on the generator for 5 minutes of potato baking! 

Silver_Falls (71) The evening ended perfectly with wine and conversation and roasting the marshmallows that Deb brought for us.  So many times as I sit looking at the coals of our great campfires I think about marshmallows.  I don’t even like them that much, but roasting them is so much fun.  Of course, some caught fire, and we had a competition for the most perfectly roasted mallow.  The MoHo has a nice sofa, and Deb was cozy and comfortable just as it was without making it out into a bed.  It was the first time we have had guests overnight in the MoHo.



Silver_Falls (76)Silver_Falls (78)  On Monday morning, we cooked another weekend breakfast for Deborah, with the excuse of a good long hike planned for the day.  Mo and I went for another bike ride around the campground with Abby on her leash, with the hope that she would be then content to rest in the car while we hiked the “no dogs allowed” Canyon Trail.  What a great way to exercise the dog!  She eventually wears out before we do! The skies were again dark and cloudy, but the rain held off most of the day.  The Trail of Ten Falls extends almost 9 miles, but has several trailheads and various options for hiking a shorter distance.  We hiked part of the Canyon Trail and returned via the Maple Ridge Trail.  I had seen photos of the waterfalls, but somehow in my research on the park I never realized that the trail goes behind many of the falls.  Standing behind a crashing stream of water as it cascades over cliff and rock is an energizing experience.  The trail is beautiful, and even the very steep, stone stairs that lead to the Lower South Falls are well maintained, and even have a railing.  It was so much fun having time to hike with my daughter, something we haven’t had a chance to do for a long time.

After Deb left, Mo and I drove to the north end of the park to hike the trails to the Upper North Falls and North Falls.  It was raining fairly hard on the Upper North Falls trail and we had most of the walk to ourselves.  Upper North Falls was lovely, but the trail ends at the lower pool.  Heading back west on the trail, we hiked down another bank of steep, slippery steps to North Falls.  This waterfall is visible from the Rim Trail and the main road at a distance, but nothing prepared either of us for the intensity of hiking into the dark, dry cave behind this waterfall.  Mo sat for a time on the bench just enjoying the falls while I walked around trying to take videos.  I knew that a photo wouldn’t come close to capturing what it felt like to be there.  This entire experience really whetted my appetite for our visit to Niagara Falls coming up in the fall.

Silver_Falls (151)By Sunday evening many campers were leaving, and on this Monday night we had all of Loop A to ourselves, with only a few folks left over in the B loop.  This park is definitely a place that becomes very quiet during the week, so another great benefit of retirement will be the ability to return and camp during weekdays. Supper was another salad and some soup while we enjoyed another huge fire in the pouring rain.  This was the first time we could actually sit by the fire and still be under the MoHo awning and stay dry.  I roasted some more marshmallows and finished the wine! We had to angle the awning to  keep the water from pooling.  The rain continued all night, pounding and drumming on the roof while we stayed warm and dry.  Tuesday morning it was still raining, but let up just enough for us to pack up camp and drive the two miles back to the free RV dump site on the north side of the park. As we drove down the highway back toward home, the skies darkened, then opened, then darkened again.  Predictions for Klamath and all the passes leading to the east side of the mountains were for snow, so with a bit of apprehension we chose to return via Interstate 5 through Medford.  The choice was a good one, and at the summit of the pass near Lake of the Woods, the temperature stayed at a steady 34 degrees, in spite of the snow all around us and falling.  We arrived home in time to beat the heaviest snows, even though by Wednesday morning the MoHo sitting in the driveway for final unloading was covered in three inches!  Isn’t it just a few days until May?