Snow capped mountains and warm hearted people- Oregon

IMG_6080This year we hatched a plan for New Years rather late, as it was around thanksgiving that we skyped with our friends from Oregon, whom we had met in our Trinidad and Tobago trip. We had kept in touch and Peggy., who lives in Portland was visiting Kris, who lives in central Oregon in a town called Sisters. We were all so excited to see each other after a few months interval and they asked us to visit ‘anytime we wanted’ even for thanksgiving or for New years. Since I had to travel for work on Nov 26th, I thought that New Year’s sounded like a good plan, it being over the weekend, unlike Christmas.

At that time, my eyes were doing okay and I had not really given it much thought. However, as December progressed I had serious difficulty in reading anything and I still do, especially on a computer screen. But even road signs and signs at the airport. The doctor said that it was because my eyes were really dry. Not being able to see too well sort of puts off the mood to travel and sight see, especially since we were likely to look for birds. I almost cancelled the trip, several times, but in the mean while Kris wrote a lovely email saying how she was looking forward to our visit and of the things we could do in Portland of which she named restaurants and music and at the coast apparently there had been reports of snowy owls who had come over for the winter. I was obviously moved and infused with her enthusiasm. Not to mention inspired, as I know she has a form of macular degeneration which cannot be treated. Yet, i have never seen her complain about it.

Peggy had been surprisingly quiet for a little while, until a week before we left and she started emailing and making all the plans to take us everywhere. Apparently she had had a very bad ear infection and was not hearing too well. She said, and I quote ‘Oh we will be a pair Ishita, your eyes and my ears. But we will still have a lot of fun!.’

After that my excitement could not be contained even by the unnaturally early awakening at 3:30 am to catch yet another super early flight. We reached Oregon in time for a late breakfast and had that at Gustave’s restaurant in the airport itself. It was a big breakfast and the potatoes they serve are really something to visit the place for. Everything else is some type of sausage and brat? It was too early to try the beer, it seemed like a really elaborate list for an airport grill and bar, but as Peggy later told me, Portland has the maximum number of microbreweries in the country and I saw they even had organic beer.

We made it to our motel in the complimentary shuttle provided by them and it was everything a motel needed to me no less, and certainly no more. But it had a refrigerator and microwave. Peggy said she would come to meet us around 2 pm and take us over to the friends place where she was dog sitting for the duration of our stay. And bang on time she was too.. I can’t remember if I have been that happy to see anyone I had seen only a few months before and for the first time then too! I literally ran to greet her. She had told us about the dog- Ella who travels in the car and prefers that and the kennel she travels in, rather than staying at home. Her friend Judy’s house was quite close and we reached in under 10 minutes. Its a beautiful house with a lovely view of the mountains. Even more lovely and beautiful is their super friendly dog- Ella. Who is genetically deaf because of her breeding pedigree. She welcomed us to her house and ran ahead and inside wanted to play with throw ‘monkey’ with us as she slid across the wooden floor in a definite exaggerated attempt to catch the monkey. She can even swing on your leg with her legs wrapped around it like I used to when I was a kid. Not to mention her soccer skills with the head.

My eyes even were doing better in joy!! Peggy took us to a magnificent waterfall- Multnomah, quite close to the city and it was beautiful with the mossy hills and trees! The wooden cafe there was built during the great depression of 1930s by the WPA. It was raining slightly, and I found out that it is raining most of the time in Portland. Ella posed beautifully for some shots .Ella IMG_5621 IMG_5641 IMG_5645 IMG_5657 IMG_5664We had a nice dinner at an Indian place called Bombay cricket club and had an interesting version of the Indian Samosas (in taste and shape) and shrimp coconut curry and lamb.

The next day Peggy drove us over beautiful streets sidelined with douglas furs laden in snow and pavements with snow upto about a foot, to the Timberline Lodge at Mt.Hood. The lodge was also made by the WPA in the 1930-40s and is where the first few shots of ‘The Shining’ were shot. Its a beautiful lodge with a nice bar/restaurant that made the best apple cider ever. Also a great skiing spot with a good view of the top of the mountain, when it is not too cloudy. I personally liked the ‘veiled’ view of the mountain top, common, though, it may be. Mt.HoodIMG_5747We had lunch at Peggy’s favorite restaurant The Rendezvous grill.I had a very unique bean burger that was very tasty and I have not had or seen it anywhere else.. IMG_5810 Glazed On our way back we stopped at Tony’s place, who is a enthusiastic potter. He showed us his garden filled with art him or his friends had made in a kiln. He is working on a replica of he tiles found in some church in Venice that he reproduced from seeing its picture in a post card. Ella gleefully ran all over it. He showed us his plants and what he had planted and wasn’t showing itself yet. I loved that visit, and not just because I had never seen a potter’s wheel and a kiln before in my life! We also met Ginny, Peggy’s daughter at Tony’s and returned to share a cup of tea in front of the wonderful fire at Judy’s place.

Kris and Ashley ( who we were meeting for the first time) came down on the 30th from central Oregon. But we weren’t there to greet them at Judy’s because we were at one of the best book stores I have ever been to- Powell’s in down town Portland. I bought several books on sale or used. In my mind I am always preparing my next move and new books sort of tie you down to them.. Old books do that better so you can’t get yourself to toss them making the whole process more streamlined.

We met up with the two at Judy’s and Ella greeted my like I was an old friend. I miss that dog. Peggy made us some sandwiches and off we were to the Ridgefield Natural wildlife refuge to see some waterfowl and swans! And we did see them. Hundreds of Tundra swans, slightly further away than I would have liked, but just sitting around like they were not swans but coots. Kris also said she had never seen so many together before! We saw the aforementioned coots, bufflehead male and female, northern shoveler, canada gees, mallards, northern harrier, red tailed hawks yellowlegs and long billed dowitches and TWO peregrine falcons in flight. Also two coyote trying to plan an attach on the canada geese but they got stage fright and didn’t really attack anything. Some of these birds were life-birds for me. As far as I know. I did see a peregrine falcon in India.

Yellow legs and dowitches IMG_5928We had dinner that day at a lovely Thai restaurant- I cannot recall the name but the food was really good and we had Black rice and really fresh vegetables.
Next day was a trip to the coast beginning with where the snowy owls had been seen then on to the canon beach. It is amazing how I am always inappropriately dressed for birding, too hot or too cold, especially that day I was really cold. Or maybe I just complain too much. We spent several minutes, probably 15 or so looking for them from the lookout. I mean Peggy, Kris and Ashley did. I was just hanging out and then hanging out with Ella. No sign. Despite me having worn my ‘talisman; – a horned owl pendant. We went to some other spots that might have had them, saw a couple of bald eagles, but no snowy owls. Then Moniraj and Kris thought we should head back to the original spot one last time, just in case. So head back we did, yet no sign. They are big birds, generally close to the ground if not on it, looking for rodents. We saw a woman looking in a direction, further out in the marsh like land who stood there for a long time, but as far as we could tell she also didn’t see anything. So we decided that too many people had spooked them, and were about to return, when the woman, returning to the parking lot, saw us and said, ‘Oh, can you see it from here?’ we were like. No. Can you? She is like, yeah, its further out over the small hump, don’t go too close. And off we ran! Or some did. I was trying to be careful on the marsh until it swallowed in my shoes and sent in icy wter to my feet to welcome me! What was it about the right attire? yes, I never have it.
But, the most amazing sight awaited me and as Peggy had pointed out, it will all be worth it. It was not. It was worth several days of this!! A beautiful and HUGE white owl stood there and looked at us periodically, obviously trying to catch something. We even saw it fly. Dweaamy I tell you.

Well worth the laryngitis I think I got because of the wet woolen socks, that I am still nursing. Okay, next we went to a restaurant called Mo’s at the Canon beach and had a nice lunch, avocado stuffed with crab for me. Then onwards to the beach as the sun was about to set. It looked lovely, with many people and dogs running around. Trying to get you to play fetch. Those rock outcrops in the ocean just KILL me. I love them.
Best New Year’s eve ever.

Then a long drive back home to Peggy’s, delicious Pizza and champagne for dinner!!

The next was our last day in Oregon, but did we spend it fruitfully or what! Peggy took us to a small park called crystal springs and I waited with bated breath to see my most favorite duck of all time- the wood duck- in the wild! Ashley also really likes ducks. There is no duck like the wood duck I say, even as a kid I thought they were unearthly beautiful. They still are.. We also saw a stellar jay and a spotted towhee, gadwalls, scaups, pied grebes and American widgeons. We also went to an island looking for sandhill cranes ( we heard them but it was too foggy to see). I spotted a great horned owl, with its ears just like horns, as promised, in real life in the wild!! Made my day..

IMG_6158 IMG_6217

All three came to drop us to the airport, but not before I made them say that we will have another birding trip together. I can’t wait.

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