Where The Sky Is Blue -Southern Oregon: Part 1

After a jam-packed summer this year, I wanted to end the summer with a trip down to Southern Oregon. On the last week of August I head down with family to have one last vacation before college started up again, and a much needed break after working hard all summer. On a Saturday morning I headed straight down I-5 towards the California-Oregon border and didn’t look back at the heat wave coming towards Seattle.

{On the trip down to Rogue Valley Oregon I went from 90°F (~70% humidity) sweating buckets in Seattle to stepping into an oven of 104°F of dry heat within eight hours. And this heat lasted all week with upper 90s and lower 100°! If the people of Seattle thought they were dying, I was shriveling up every-time I walked out the door from the moisture being sucked out of every pour on my body!}

Day 1

Since the weather called for 101°F sunny day, I headed out as early as possible to beat the heat. First stop was to the Eagle Point National Cemetery to visit both my Grandad and Grandpa who are buried there. While there I was treated to beautiful bells playing out the hour over the cemetery. In the last two years since I have been here, the place has been filling up quite fast.

On my way to Trail, I stopped by where the old Butte Creek Mill was in Eagle Point. Last Christmas the mill burned down in early hours of Christmas morning, and now all that remains of this historical landmark is a burned out shell of a historical structure. The signs say the mill will be rebuilt again, but who knows when this will happen. Sad for this small town since this was their only tourist attraction and no more pancake mix.

After a quick stop at the Mill, I headed up to Trail to the old pioneer cemetery with the family where my grandma and a few of my family are buried. The “town” is really a ghost town with a post office (strange!) outside of Shady Cove. The cemetery is down a dirt road up in the pine brush. Dad wanted to leave an old fishing pole at my grandma’s grave site since she loved fishing. As we were all leaving, I noticed how very dry it was up in these parts. Seemed there was so much dry kindling to start a fire. Well this happened a day later when a wildfire broke out in the remote part of the forest around Trail and Shady Cove. I was glad we all did this adventure before, or we would not be able to later.

Day 2

The morning was spent picking blackberries up on the irrigation ditch. Blackberries are one of those crops that is never easy to pick! I think at one point I ended up in the irrigation ditch just trying to get to the really good branches of berries. After two hours of picking, and having scratches all over myself, I decide to call it a day to have lunch.

In-N-Out Burger…..does it need anymore explanation? Apparently it does. I didn’t have to go all the way to California to have an In-N-Out burger because there is one in Medford Oregon and I was stoked to finally try it after hearing how wonderful the burgers are. So I tried it out, and was……a complete disappointed. Yep you read that correctly. The burger (regular hamburger) was good just like Dick’s in Seattle, but the fries were stale, under cooked, too starchy, and wimpy as heck. Mc. Donald’s has better fries than In-N-Out fries we had. I just hope this was just a one off, because if not, the fries are not worth it.

When in the area I always want to stop at the Harry and David Country store to stock up on all the yummy goodies. In the past I have taken the tour around the facility that makes all the mail order stuff you see in their catalog. A major must have is Moose Munch in any form. Another favorite is the BBQ sauce, the truffles in many flavors, pears from the orchard, and just about anything chocolate.

Just down the street is the Rogue Creamery where the famous Caveman Blue and Echo Mountain Blue cheese is made. When it is cheese making day you can watch how they make their cheese through a viewing window in the store. The one cheese I was not particularly fond of was the Lavender cheese (LaDiDa Lavender). I just cannot wrap my brain around the flavor in anything dairy, especially in ice cream. My favorite cheese by them is the Mt. Mazama Cheddar, and it is one of the best cheddar I have eaten. I did pick up some cheese curds while there along with a homemade grilled cheese sandwich that is very much like the ones at Beecher’s in Seattle.

What is great with cheese? Chocolate! Just a few feet from Rogue Creamery is the  Lillie Bell Farms Chocolates. Here I found chocolate covered fortune cookies and those fancy chocolate covered roasted almonds. Bought one of each for those moments when….aw heck I had them before I left Oregon. I could not save them for a rainy day…OH WELL.

After a culinary tour, we all headed back to Ashland to sit in the backyard and digest all this yummy-ness. Later in the evening I “waddled” back up the hill to the irrigation ditch to pick more blackberries.

Part 2 ( Day 3-5) in the next few days!

More Info:
Rogue CreameryLillie Bell Farms Chocolates
Harry and David Country Store
Butte Creek Mill (*NOTE: Does not sell product at this time)
Shady Cove & Trail

Where the sky is…..

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Sweaty Hike Through Saint Edwards State Park

Seminary Building

Boy was it hot on the day I decided to go take an urban hike through Saint Edwards State Park! This solo adventure started off with me asking myself is this worth getting sweaty? Yes!

I started out towards the beach (Lake Washington) for a glimpse of the lake from a different angle. I started off on the Perimeter trail, but somehow found myself on the Seminary trail which lead to the beach. The beach was peaceful with the water lapping at the shore, and a few people where swimming in the lake as Kenmore Air float planes came flying overhead.

Peek of Lake Washington

After taking in the view of the lake I headed towards the Orchard Loop. The trail that connects to Orchard Loop trail ended up being the part of the hike that felt like it was going to kill me! South Canyon trail ended up being one of those challenging trails because I had to hike it all uphill!! Here I was huffing, puffing, and sweating all the way to the connection for the loop trail. I now know for future hikes to go down this trail instead of up it. Once on the Orchard Loop trail, it was all easy, and I regained my breath. Unfortunately the “orchard” was nowhere to be found, or I miss something along the trail.  I must have because there was not an orchard to be found as I made the whole loop again. Very disappointed after huffing and puffing my way to it.

After finding my way back to where the seminary buildings are, I decided to find the famous Grotto seen in wedding pictures. Ha! I ended up reading the map wrong! I thought the Grotto trail lead to the Grotto, but nope. Apparently it by passes it from the bottom of the hill instead (palm to face). I hiked all the way back down to the lake, and then had to take Seminary trail back up!

Stone Steps On Trail

Eventually I found a map with the “you are here” circle to finally be steered in the correct direction for the Grotto. Dear reader, I made it harder than it should have been. The Perimeter trail going towards the playground in a corner of the field is where the entrance to the trail leading to the Grotto starts.

Behind Look of The Grotto

Once there I really found it peaceful and secluded. A little slice of magic in the middle of the woods. I joked on Instagram I had found the place where I was getting married….when the time comes….when I find someone first…..ok then.

Selfie with The Grotto

The structure is a small stone altar with stone steps and a path leading up to it. Stone walls border around the area to make it look like small outdoor church/sanctuary. A very beautiful spot for a small intimate wedding.

The Grotto
Leading Up To The Grotto

After hiking lost all around the area, I decided it was time to head back home and get out of the heat. While walking back to the car, I decided to check out around the Seminary building.

Seminary Building From The Lawn
Entrance To The Seminary Building

There is something about old church buildings and how they speak volumes without making a sound. Lots of stories being told in these hollow halls of this building, and judging by the land action notice sign, it seems the place will have a few more to share in the coming years.

Overall I hiked a total of 5.5 miles. Not bad for an urban hike.

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Discovery Park Hiking Adventure

What to do on a nice warm sunny day in Seattle? Go on a mini hike through Discovery Park. On a warm sunny day Nana and I decided to go explore Discovery Park in the Magnolia neighborhood. It has been a while since I last was here, and some memories came back-mostly at Fort Lawton’s Historical District.

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First I started off on the discovery trail loop toward the West Point Lighthouse at the tip of the park. Being at warm sunny day in the middle of the week, I saw a few trail runners, dog walkers, joggers and a few other day hikers along the trail. Along the North Beach trail, there were a few paddle boarders, sail and fishing boats in the bay, but a the beach was pretty much deserted. A beach to one’s self is rare moment to be treasured!

At the West Point Lighthouse there was hardly anyone around on the beach and a very peaceful quiet setting with a marvelous view of the Olympic Mountains across the bay. Here is where I ate my lunch in a shade of a tree in the backyard of the lighthouse keeper’s cottages. Two lighthouse keeper’s cottages look to be in sad disrepair compare to how the lighthouse looked. The lighthouse is not open to the public to tour because of automotive equipment takes up all the space in the small lighthouse. *note* be careful of lead paint around the lighthouse. After looking around I headed up the trail towards the Historical Fort Lawton area. One area I had to pass was the West Point Sewage Treatment Plant within the park. I forgot how nasty it is to walk pass this place on a hot summer day! I almost lost my lunch to putrid smell of untreated sewage waffling off the large tanks near the trail.

Next stop on the hike was the Fort Lawton Historical District. Up until 2011 this part of the park was an Army base. There are a few structures left to signify the remains of an active military post.The last time I was here in 2014, most of the buildings looked very dilapidated. Now they look all cleaned up and restored to blend in with the renovated officer’s houses going on the market. Twenty two of the remaining base houses have been converted into privet residences for the public to buy at an asking price of $799,000 to over 1.2 million. Base on the Zillow photos, these are not the base housing you would be assigned in the military. Few people were about in this part of the park, and came across a few people sitting in the shade of the buildings enjoying the quietness of a hot summer day. On top of the hill is the church where a stunning view of the snow cap peaks of the Olympic Mountain range can be seen.

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On the way back to the car, I came upon the old Fort Lawton Military Cemetery with bone white head stones in neat rows. The cemetery is small compared to the national ones I have been to. A quiet secluded place of rest for the living and those who have passed on. One of the headstones I came across dated back to the 1908 era when a family (Robinson’s) were laid to rest after fighting in the American Civil, Spanish-American and Mexican wars. This like many others in the small section had Civil War to World War Two as the wars represented by those laid to rest here. For a few moments I sat and reflected in this peaceful place under the flag pole.

The hike in total was five miles all around the park. I am very glad to have seen all of the sights with relative peace and quiet. I have come to a point where it is getting too crowed in Seattle area, and having less crowds to enjoy the park was well worth the sweat.

Riding The Ducks Through Seattle

I understand there is still morning of loss after a year ago a terrible crash involving a Ride the Ducks vehicle resulted in serious injuries and a few lost their lives when one crashed into the side of a tour bus on the Aurora Bridge. I respect those who remember this terrible tragedy, and in no way being insensitive by riding this vehicle. I was in the area when the crashed happened and remember those who put their lives in danger to help those injured. Below is an account of riding the ducks after major changes to how the tour operates and the route. All I asks dear reader is to not post any mean-spirited comments below. Thank you, and continue prayers for those who were affected by this tragedy.

I will admit it has been a while since I have been down town at the Seattle Center. I was a little nervous in not being able to find a parking spot, but alas there was a grange not even full! *cue happy dance music* I believe this made my day more than riding the ducks.

We started the tour on the Duck when the sun was out and ended with the sun starting to go behind the clouds. Thank goodness the rain was kept at bay for the whole ride. I had a wonderful time riding around down town Seattle and cruising Lake Union in a strange vehicle.

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About to ride the duck

The tour started from Seattle Center, down to the waterfront to drive under the US most dangerous elevated highway (Viaduct), past Pike Place Market, Pioneer Square, shopping district, Westlake, Fremont, boat around in Lake Union, and then back to Seattle Center. All this while partying like a bachelorette party minus the inappropriate behavior and dancers.

In downtown Seattle we cruised through the old and new parts of town, with silly music blaring. Random people on the streets did play along with our crazy antics. One guy even started dancing to the music on the street corner to the embarrassment of his girlfriend. Another decided to engage us all in a sign that told us to smile more. In SLU it was hard to get the “Blue Badges” of Amazon people to look up from their phones at the stop light. Oh well! I guess we all cannot be fun all the time.

While aboard I saw a condense version of the sights in Seattle and listening to the tour guide tell funny jokes and stories about the history of the city. Being from the area I enjoyed seeing how the locals reacted to the crazy tourists on a boat with wheels. As I said above, the whole thing can be down right comical.

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Two ducks taking a selfie

Cruising Lake Union in the Duck was by far the best part. One minute you are driving on the pavement, and then next you are floating on the water without sinking. I have never been boating on Lake Union, so this was what I was looking forward to. Sights seen on the lake were the original Sleepless In Seattle house boat which when seen looks just like an ordinary house boat, Gas Works Park and the Seattle skyline from South Lake Union,  from the comfort of a steel military boat.

Gas Works Park

 

Since taking a spin on the Ducks I will be more willing to go along with the crazy when a Duck pulls up at a light. After all it makes the day go a lot smoother when you can have some fun. After the ride Nana and I went to the Center House to have lunch and then up to Kerry Park for some Space Needle ogling.

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The Fremont Troll Love’s Chocolate

The Fremont Troll loves’ chocolate. Apparently if you give him a Theo chocolate bar (dark chocolate one) he will let you pass over the bridge and not crush your Volkswagen Beetle.

I met the troll at last on a hot sunny day in Fremont. But before I adventure up the hill to see him I went for a tour of Theo’s Chocolate Factory for some much needed chocolate (and a bar for the troll).

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Theo Chocolates was the first stop in my adventure in Fremont. The tour is around an hour long explaining how cocoa beans are grown to the making of the chocolate bar. Since Theo is a fair trade company in the chocolate industry, part of the tour is talking about how the chocolate industry is run. The eye opening part was how in some places where cocoa beans are grown the industry mirrors the blood diamonds of the diamond mines in Africa. Sad truth, but at least there are companies out there giving a fair wage to the farmers of cocoa plants.

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Our tour guide was very passionate about chocolate and even worked on a cocoa tree farm in South America. While listening to the talk, I sampled an array of chocolate samples (Dark 85% chocolates, 70% dark with sea salt, Milk chocolate, and 70% dark raspberry) and found I do not like 85% dark chocolate. Still taste very bitter to me no matter how long I let the piece sit on my tongue.

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View of the factory and how the process of refining the cocoa beans to liquid gold (chocolate) started in an air-conditioned viewing room of the production floor. From here you can see how the raw cocoa beans are roasted like coffee beans and then processed into liquid chocolate. We did get to go on to the processing floor in sweltering heat registering little over 100° F. Dear goodness it was hard to breath at first, and then you realize how amazing the body can adapt to breathing in hot chocolate flavored air. Next was a tour in the kitchen where the chocolate ganache and other delicacy like chocolate marshmallows are made. If I worked at Theo this would be my job. We could not see where they wrap the chocolates because the heat from the production floor coming in the room would cause problems for the bars. Bummer since I wanted to see how this was done. In the store I picked up a few chocolates: dark chocolate coconut, dark chocolate ginger, moon-pie and you guessed it milk chocolate.

After all those chocolate samples, Nana and I decided to take a walk through Fremont to burn off the chocolate (and the calories). We walked over the Fremont Bridge and admired the view of Lake Union and the canal. Have you noticed the towers on the bridge look like London Police Boxes from Dr. Who?  I didn’t until Nana pointed it out to me. While walking back to the car we witness the bridge open for a sail boat. Amazing how graceful this bridge opens and closes at an average of twenty times a day!

Fremont Troll love’s chocolate, and that is what he likes when you visit. I finally after living in Seattle all these years have finally visited the troll. This 18 foot tall troll sculpture which has roots in the Norwegian folktale Three Billy Goats Gruff is crushing in one hand a California Volkswagen beetle. Apparently the troll dislikes Californian cars. Getting to the troll was a test of my Seattle driving skills in may ways. I admit I ran over a low level traffic circle (who puts a traffic circle in a middle of a narrow street/intersection?) and parked illegally on the street since the space was big enough to park my “normal” size car (I have no shame really!). At one point I tried and failed to park between two cars because who ever just vacated it was a Smart car instead of a normal size car. But at last I finally met the troll and he let me pass over the Aurora Bridge.

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Fremont, the center of the universe, and the only place where you can buy a $500,000 Stalin statue to display is really a fun neighborhood to explore. If possible, check out Theo Chocolate factory tour while in the neighborhood (I recommend this to anyone who is a huge chocolate fan). This is one quirky neighborhood to explore on a warm sunny day and a place you will never forget.

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