Travels with Heather, Part 2

June 10th, 2012

Still with me?  Onward!  (Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, today’s post is guaranteed 100% potty-free…)

The last of my trio of recent trips was a local one.  Well, sort of local.  Long-distance local.  Because PIES & PREJUDICE was nominated for an Oregon Book Award this year (my friend Emily Whitman’s wonderful book WILDWING was the winner), I was invited by Literary Arts, the organization that sponsors the awards, to go on a mini-book tour.  I jumped at the chance! For one thing, it’s an honor to be asked, and for another, it’s just plain fun.

So I packed my suitcase, and off I went to a stretch of the Oregon coastline I’ve never seen before:  North Bend and Coos Bay.

I have to admit it’s cool to blow into town and see your “wanted” poster plastered everywhere. Here’s one on the window of Ciccarelli’s, the restaurant where we ate the first night.  (Yum!)  One of the best things about these tours is the chance to get to know some other Oregon writers.  I was incredibly fortunate to tag along with two delightful and incredibly talented people — George Estreich, whose book The Shape of the Eye, a moving, heartfelt memoir about raising a daughter with Down Syndrome, won the award for creative nonfiction; and Geri Doran, a poet whose lovely collection Sanderlings was a finalist in the poetry category.

Our fearless guide for the tour was Susan Denning from Literary Arts.  She’s a peach.

And she was a willing partner-in-crime, too, when I suggested we skive off and do a little sight-seeing.  We made a beeline for the ocean, of course, and landed in a great spot called Shore Acres State Park.  Can you believe this view?

There used to be a fancy mansion perched on this cliff, the home of pioneer lumberman and shipbuilder Louis Simpson, but it’s long gone.   Too bad.  Like Emma Hawthorne, I’m a sucker for old houses, and I would love to have seen it…

All that remains are pictures, alas.  Oh, and the estate’s formal gardens.  Which brought Susan and me to our first dilemma of the morning — which to visit first, the gardens or the beach?

We opted for the gardens.  All I can say is, wow!

I want a fountain like this one in my garden:

And rhododendrons like these:

And a Japanese pond like this one, please:

That’s not too much to ask, is it?

There was a greenhouse, too, where we admired a variety of beautiful flowers …

… and gawked at a VERY odd plant that looked like a pussywillow wearing a feather boa:

Does anyone know what this is?  I’m clueless.

When we were done touring the garden, it was time to hit Simpson’s Beach.  Oh joy!  We were the only ones there!

Is this gorgeous or what?!

Such a stunning setting definitely called for kicking back, relaxing, and soaking up a few of those rare Oregon rays …


It’s times like this that I’m convinced I have the best job in the world.

I could have lingered in this beautiful spot all day, but there were workshops and readings and school visits ahead, so Susan and I reluctantly pried ourselves away and headed back to civilization. I taught a writing workshop that afternoon, followed by a group signing at the lovely North Bend Public Library, then the following day I visited a couple of schools, including North Bend Middle School, where I hobnobbed with the fabulous librarians from there and from North Bay Elementary School:

Oops, there’s that purple shirt again!  Where’s Megan when I need her?  I really have to go shopping…

The students gave me a fantastic welcome, as you can see.

They’d all read my SPY MICE books, and I had a blast talking to them about my path to becoming an author, and about books and writing.  And then we brainstormed some fractured fairy tales together, which was great fun.

The kids also made some beautiful notes and letters and artwork for me, too, which totally bowled me over:

You can’t tell from the picture, but this one below is 3-D!  Glory’s (the mouse’s) nose and ears have a sort of sandy texture added to them.  Really cute!

An entire class collaborated on that one, and on this amazing collage below.  I’m planning on getting it framed to hang on my office wall:

See why I’m convinced I have the best job in the world?

Weekend update

April 25th, 2012

I won’t keep you in suspense any longer:  I didn’t win anything Monday night at the Oregon Book Awards.  But a wonderful book DID win — WILDWING by the lovely and talented Emily Whitman.  I highly recommend it!

On to my “fishing” trip.  I spent the weekend with three dear friends in one of the prettiest spots in the world:  Camp Sherman, Oregon.  It’s situated along the banks of the Metolius River in the Deschutes National Forest, a few hours from where I live.

Isn’t it gorgeous?  Here’s that same view taken with Hipstamatic, a cool new app that I’m trying out on my iPhone:

It’s supposed to make photos look kind of vintage, like they were taken in the 1960s with a Polaroid camera.  Awesome, huh?  I’ve decided that my iPhone is going to be my only camera, since it’s so convenient and since I always have it with me, so I’m trying to become an expert.  Not there yet by a long shot, but I’m having fun learning as I go…

One of my girlfriends has a family cabin, and that’s where we stayed.  It’s like something out of a fairy tale.

My favorite feature, apart from the amazing deck out back overlooking the river, is the big stone fireplace.  It’s a real beauty.

It looks even better at night, don’t you think?

We sat in front of it for hours every evening, talking and laughing over endless cups of tea and a ‘smore or two.  There’s nothing like hanging out with friends!  I learned to play a new card game called “Poohead” (hey, I’m not the one who invented it!).  There are no winners, only one loser who’s the poohead until the game is played again.  Guess who earned that title? Yeah, that would be me!

Every morning I got up early to go for a walk.  I love to walk, and I do some of my best “fishing” (for ideas) that way.  I always stopped at the Camp Sherman General Store on the way back.  Stepping inside is like stepping into the past.

It reminds me of every camping trip I ever took when I was growing up.  Inside is an irresistible jumble of souvenirs, T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, food, camping equipment, fishing rods and doo-dads (the Metolius is legendary for its fly fishing), and would you believe espresso?  (OK, so that didn’t remind me of our Vogel family camping trips, I have to admit–they didn’t even have espresso back then!)  There were even decaf soy lattes, my favorite.  (Mrs. Wong would definitely approve.)  And don’t you love the big carved bear totem guarding the front door?

This part of Oregon is much drier and sunnier than Portland, where I live.  We had a blast soaking up the sun every day on hikes and bike rides.

Two of my friends pretending to be awed by the sight of the sun, which is a real treat for us Portlanders this time of year!

One afternoon we biked to the Head of the Metolius, the place where the river bubbles out of the ground.  Its source is a bit of a mystery–nobody’s ever been able to figure out for sure exactly where it starts.

The Head of the Metolius

See how the water just suddenly appears out of the hillside?  (That’s another Hipstamatic shot, by the way.)  It gushes out at a rate of some 50,000 gallons per minute, and just a few yards downstream it’s already a full-blown river.  The Metolius is one of the largest spring-fed rivers in the United States.  Clear and cold–a steady 48 degrees near the source (brrrrr)–it’s picture perfect. I’m serious!  Check it out:

(That’s another Hipstamatic shot that I tinkered with in Photoshop Express, where I found this fun frame.)  And here’s me, not picture perfect but having a great time anyway.

Another outing over the weekend was to Black Butte Ranch at sunset, where we explored the Big Meadow and made some new friends…

… including a red-wing blackbird, who perched on a fence pole watching us.  I got ridiculously excited when I spotted him (her?).  I grew up in New England, where they’re a dime a dozen, but I haven’t seen many since moving to Portland 20 years ago and they’re one of my favorite birds.

I also got ridiculously excited fiddling with my camera/iPhone. So excited, in fact, that at one point I somehow managed to accidentally take a picture of myself …

What a dork!

The absolute best thing about walking the Big Meadow trail at Black Butte is the panoramic view of some of the Cascade Mountains, including Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, and Three Fingered Jack.  I’ll let the rest of the pictures speak for themselves, but can you see why I love living in this part of the world?  Oregon is breathtakingly beautiful!

 

 

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