High lakes, low temperature

We studied historic weather patterns and tried (our hardest!) to choose locations with warm, sunny, and dry conditions. Bend is in Oregon’s high desert plateau, and the weather in May was supposed to be just what we like: 65 degrees F (18 degrees C) is the average daytime high and there’s only 0.9” (.023 m) rainfall.

A few days after we arrived, the weather took a disappointing turn for the worse – just in time for a planned day trip with the local Audubon group to see birds. We’d looked forward to driving up to the high lakes outside Bend, but, now, overcast skies and temperatures in the low 50’s were predicted. We donned extra layers. It wasn’t enough.

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We visited a number of reservoirs and lakes that day.

Few people were out on the lakes, but at each stop we did see a few more species of birds.

Few people were out on the lakes, but at each stop we did see a few more species of birds.

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What do you look for at the Brown Mountain burn area, a burned forest? We didn’t expect much but were surprised to see black-backed woodpeckers and Townsend’s Solitaires. Both were birds we’d never seen before.

The view of the lake was beautiful, but, for us, the view of birds while walking back down the road was better.

The view of the lake was beautiful, but, for us, the view of birds while walking back down the road was better.

Pine bark

Pine bark

We stopped at Crane Prairie Resevoir (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crane_Prairie_Reservoir) under snowy Mt. Bachelor in time to see a pair of Sandhill Cranes.

We stopped at Crane Prairie Reservoir under snowy Mt. Bachelor in time to see a pair of Sandhill Cranes.

As we returned to the car for the drive back, the temperature on the car dashboard read 41 degrees F (5 degrees C). By now we were chilled to the bone. The day had brought unexpected and wonderful sightings of birds and the good company of fellow bird watchers, but, also, way too cold weather for us.

 

May 2015

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The continuing drama on the river

Our walks along the river turned into a daytime drama. Every day a new aspect of the story unfolded, and it’s gotten to a point where we can’t wait to take our next walk to see what’s happened since we last tuned in.

ACT 1

The drama started when, as we have heard the story, a pair of great horned owls had taken over a raven’s nest two years before in Bend’s Drake Park. The owls came back again this year to their beautiful, large nest by the Deschutes River.

A few days after we heard that story, we walked by the river in Drake Park and saw a group of people, all gazing upwards with cameras and binoculars. They lined up behind a temporary orange fence. When we walked over to that area, friendly people in the group showed us where to look in the grove of tall fir trees.

A great-horned owlet stared down at us bystanders.

A great-horned owlet stared down at us bystanders.

A moment later its sibling appeared by its side.

A moment later its sibling appeared by its side.

We later read that a few weeks ago a third sibling had been pushed out of the nest by the two owlets we saw. Presumably there wasn’t room for all three in the nest. The owlet was taken from the lawn to a local rehab center.

ACT 2

As we walked a little further down the path, a huge bush hung over the path. A broken bird’s egg lay on the path – directly under the bush. We heard a commotion somewhere in that dense greenery.

A male brewer’s blackbird sat nearby, possibly deflecting attention, or maybe guarding the nest, sitting in the foliage right over the path.

A male brewer’s blackbird sat nearby, possibly deflecting attention, or maybe guarding the nest, sitting in the foliage right over the path.

We wished the brewer’s blackbirds good fortune with the remaining eggs in the nest.

Spring arrived with birds nesting and a lovely tree bordering a parking lot in full bloom. We had to stop and admire this one!

Spring arrived with birds nesting and a lovely tree bordering a parking lot in full bloom. We had to stop and admire this one!

ACT 3

The first day that we walked a path further down along the river, we came upon a heated confrontation. First, we heard squawking ahead, and, when we got closer, we saw a huge trumpeter swan (wing span 80”) chasing away a Canada goose (average wing span 51”), who obviously knew it could not win this fight, and, yet, the Canada goose wasn’t ready to give in so easily. The goose flew a short distance down the river and waited. The swan watched. They were in a standoff. Then the swan flew at the Canada goose, wings flapping and squawking loudly. This skirmish was repeated 4 or 5 times until the Canada goose fled a satisfactory distance, and the trumpeter swan drifted off.

When we returned an hour later, we saw the Canada goose guiding its 4 goslings through the reeds and grasses to a safer place. Apparently, the geese had strayed into what the swan perceived as its territory. Now, all would be well.

A few days later, we noticed a Canada goose back in the Trumpeter swan’s “territory”.

They faced off. Nothing happened for 5 minutes and then, with no warning, the swan lunged at the goose.

They faced off. Nothing happened for 5 minutes and then, with no warning, the swan lunged at the goose.

The goose flew back down the river, and calm returned to the river.

Just the other day we noticed this miniature “garden” on a rock by the path.

Just the other day we noticed this miniature “garden” on a rock by the path.

ENCORE

Very late that same afternoon we approached the path’s end at the bridge over the river. A very little mallard duckling frantically called and swam erratically at the water’s edge. The duckling was so small on the big river and no other bird was in sight. Was it calling for its mother? Had it become separated too early? Could it survive?

Three days later we came to the path’s end and that little mallard duckling swam by. The bird was now a little larger and swam confidently as it looked for food. So, it had made it thus far on its own!

Three days later we came to the path’s end and that little mallard duckling swam by. The bird was now a little larger and swam confidently as it looked for food. So, it had made it thus far on its own!

We’ll return to the path along the river tomorrow. We’re curious to see what’s happened. Will the owlets continue to do well? When will the brewer’s blackbird chicks hatch? Will there ever be peace on the river as long as the swan and goose live side-by-side? And, will the mallard duckling continue to do well on its own? The drama along the river continues…

 

May 2015

 

 

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pole pedal paddle

The relay race was on in Bend, Oregon! We missed the first three legs of the race, which started with a sprint up a hill, followed by participants donning skis and then skiing down LeeWay Run on Mt. Bachelor. That’s the pole part. Next was supposed to be an 8-km crosscountry ski leg, but, with too little snow, a run replaced the Nordic skiing. Then a 22-mile bike ride – the pedal part — followed, bringing the contestants to where we could see them.

We walked to the race course in time to join the other spectators along the course of the 4th leg, a 5-mile run.

The runners were on the sidewalk or park paths and almost looked like they were out for their daily jog (except for their race numbers).

The runners were on the sidewalk or park paths and almost looked like they were out for their daily jog (except for their race numbers).

Some participants dressed for the occasion.

Some participants dressed for the occasion.

The 5th leg was the paddle event.

The kayaks littered the field, awaiting the runners to arrive to claim their own, carry it a short distance to the Deschutes River, and set off paddling down the river.

The kayaks littered the field, awaiting the runners to arrive to claim their own, carry it a short distance to the Deschutes River, and set off paddling down the river.

Some competitors were solo and others competed as in pairs.

Some competitors were solo and others competed as in pairs.

Spectators on the several bridges had great views of the competition.

Spectators on the several bridges had great views of the competition.

The final leg was a sprint to the finish.

The final leg was a sprint to the finish.

Bend, Oregon must be one of the best places to live for anyone who loves the outdoors and especially for skiing, cycling, and paddling. Bend’s also an inclusive place as evidenced by the range of participants in the race which included highly competitive athletes, those competing for fun, teams, families, and adaptive participants (with disabilities).

Pole pedal paddle was the place to be in Bend, and we celebrated the race along with everyone else in town. Well done!

 

May 2015

 

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Your travel happiness depends on them

No matter how many travel arrangements we make on our own — we still rely on people we meet along the way to help us out. Our travel happiness depends on them.

For example, we stood helpless staring at the train ticket machine in Tokyo. We did not have a clue how to purchase tickets, and time was running out before we needed to catch the train to Kyoto. Panic set in. Then, a lovely young woman approached and offered assistance. Sheer panic turned instantly to joyous relief!

Other examples abound. We relied on a farmer at a market stand in Crete to dictate a step-by-step recipe to use local greens that we’d never tried before; local birdwatchers have taken us around the countryside in New Zealand, Australia (in three places), and Thailand to see well over 200 bird species (at no charge!).   We’ve shared drinks, meals, and numerous outings to see the sights with people in other countries whom we didn’t know before our trip.

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We met Cliff and Ruth through their travel blogs, Detours, and they invited us to join them at their place in Keri Keri when we were in New Zealand. Who knew we’d go out for a cruise on “Agnes”?

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We relied on the Hanoi Serene Hotel clerk in Hanoi, Vietnam to help us mail our absentee ballots back to the US.

To say all of these experiences have enhanced our trip would be an understatement.

We rarely pay for a guide but made a few exceptions on our round-the-world trip. For instance …

Maasai wilderness camp hike in late afternoon with everyone Huntington Gardens

The experience and knowledge of Chigamba (middle) and Mika (right) turned our Tanzania safari into one of our most trip memorable experiences. Where else could we have seen a Maasai spear throwing contest?

A high point of our trip to Morocco was hiking in the High Atlas Mountains with our thoughtful and knowledgeable guide, Rachid.

A high point of our trip to Morocco was hiking in the High Atlas Mountains with our thoughtful and knowledgeable guide, Rachid.

Those were good exceptions to our general rule, but, usually, we relied on the friendly help of others. Everywhere we went, the kindness of others was made evident to us.

Sometimes we found help when we didn’t even know we needed help. We often used the services of a tuk-tuk driver named Leo in Siem Reap, Cambodia. One day we asked him to take us through the west gate to Angkor Wat, a gate we’d not been through before. He looked at us, and with a wry smile, agreed. Little did we know that Leo took us on an adventure of exploring areas not often visited in Angkor Wat.

Leo, in a rare moment of seriousness, by his tuk tuk

Leo, in a rare moment of seriousness, by his tuk tuk

Oh, the stories we could tell of the kind people who stepped in and helped us with directions, suggestions, and translations. The kind people who have offered smiles and made us feel we that weren’t strangers.

We spent 14 months traveling around the world and were never threatened, pick-pocketed, or fearful.   We did take care to limit our vulnerability, and, yes, we know risks abound. Yet, we learned that our travel happiness depended on the strangers we would meet. Thanks to them, it was a trip that exceeded our expectations in every way!

 

May 2015

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Northwest forest

Volcanoes and forests greeted us as we crossed the state line from California into Oregon.

A fire tower sits on the rim of the spent volcano, Lava Butte. We walked the circular red cinder path around the rim taking in black lava fields and snowy mountains on the horizon. What a view!

A fire tower sits on the rim of the spent volcano, Lava Butte. We walked the circular red cinder path around the rim taking in black lava fields and snowy mountains on the horizon. What a view!

The past months we traveled the length of arid California. We got an immediate change of scenery as we drove into the Pacific Northwest forest.

When was the last time we walked through a pine forest, tripped over pine cones, and smelled that wonderful scent?

When was the last time we walked through a pine forest, tripped over pine cones, and smelled that wonderful scent?

As soon as we arrived in Bend, Oregon we drove up to Shevlin Park to hike for hours along the river.

Sign at the beginning of the trail.

Sign at the beginning of the trail.

Did we all grow up reading fairy tales about the dark forbidden forests? Every time we step into unknown woods for a walk we wonder (with some trepidation) what will we see or encounter?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden-mantled_ground_squirrel

A golden-mantled ground squirrel watched us from the safety of a high branch.

The wide and flat path was one of the easiest we’ve taken. We heard a number of birds calling, though we could identify very few from their calls. We did see a hairy woodpecker and our first Lewis’s woodpeckers.

We weren’t tired but just had to sit down on this bench overlooking the river to try it out.

We weren’t tired but just had to sit down on this bench overlooking the river to try it out.

New forest growth

The Northwest forest path was welcoming (quite “nice,” just as the sign indicated)… And not a bit scary.

 

May 2015

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This NWR is for the birds

We studied the map to discover places of interest for potential stops along our driving route. Large lakes right on the California-Oregon state line were both in National Wildlife Refuges (NWRs). Perfect! Are you wondering what’s a NWR? It’s land set aside for protection of fish, wildlife, and plants, and managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Lower Klamath NWR was the first waterfowl refuge in the US, designated by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. Nearby, Tule Lake NWR is a preserve for migrating waterfowl and endangered fish, established by President Calvin Coolidge in 1928.

We looked forward to just being outside on a day with perfect weather and bright blue sky; visiting beautiful lakes and marshes; seeing birds. As soon as we arrived we started checking off what we were seeing on our bird list (helpfully provided at the visitors’ center).

One of our favorite birds, the American Avocet

One of our favorite birds, the American Avocet

We took a walk toward Tule Lake and were surprised to see American white pelicans (center) flanked by American avocets (left) and Forster’s terns (right).

We took a walk toward Tule Lake and were surprised to see American white pelicans (center) flanked by American avocets (left) and Forster’s terns (right).

We took the self-driving route bordering the lakes and marshy areas. A killdeer stopped by the side of the road and glanced back at us.

We took the self-driving route bordering the lakes and marshy areas. A killdeer stopped by the side of the road and glanced back at us.

We turned around and saw a coyote walk around the bend in the road. We were so surprised by him that we almost missed getting the photo.

We turned around and saw a coyote walk around the bend in the road. We were so surprised by him that we almost missed getting the photo.

When the sun dropped in the sky, we knew the time had come to move on, but what was that flash of yellow? A bird we’d not see before: a yellow-headed blackbird. Got the picture. Well-done!

When the sun dropped in the sky, we knew the time had come to move on, but what was that flash of yellow? A bird we’d not see before: a yellow-headed blackbird. Got the picture. Well-done!

Thanks to the foresight of conservationists all those years ago for protecting the land, animals, fish, and birds. We, and many others, enjoy these sights today. It’s well worth a trip to a NWR. We saw thirty-six bird species that afternoon, and five of those were birds that were new to us. And don’t forget the coyote and deer, too.

 

May 2015

 

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The story of Weed

Snowy Mt Shasta dominated the horizon as we turned off the highway and crawled to a stop in Weed, California.

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Mount Shasta – 14,179 feet (4,322 m)

he first place we spotted as we pulled into town was the Weed Store, overflowing with souvenirs.

The first place we spotted as we pulled into town was the Weed Store, overflowing with souvenirs.

“What kind of town is this?” we thought, as we saw a truck pulling a trailer and on that trailer – an old, beat up utility van with goats inside – nervously looking out the windows. What a sight!

Maybe Weed is best summed up by two different views of its iconic totem pole.

The first view shows the totem pole under a rising moon with Mt Shasta in the background.

The first view shows the totem pole with Mt Shasta in the background.

If we turned around, pavement runs right up to the base of the totem pole, and we see that it sits in the middle of a Ray’s Super Market parking lot.

When we turned around, pavement runs right up to the base of the totem pole, and we see that it sits in the middle of Ray’s Super Market parking lot.

Two views of the totem pole: one iconic, the other pretty sad.

We took a short walk (because the town isn’t that large) to see Weed.

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We passed a few lovely houses.

In the center of town is a statue of Abner Weed, founder of the local lumber mill, who discovered that the high winds helped dry the lumber.

In the center of town is a statue of Abner Weed, founder of the local lumber mill, who discovered that the high winds helped dry the lumber.

Weed is like many other towns that thrived long ago and have been on the decline for many years.   There’s still life in Weed, though. The visitors center looked ready to greet one and all. We ate at a nice pizza place for dinner and had a good breakfast at the bakery the next morning.

A beautiful flowering dogwood tree in a front yard surprised us. So many dogwood trees around the U.S. have died from a fungus, and we know that their numbers have been dramatically declining. Maybe Weed is like that dogwood tree: a threatened species but still surviving and occasionally blossoming.

The lovely blooms of the dogwood

The lovely blooms of the dogwood

 

May 2015

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