Archive for the ‘Excursions’ Category

A Walk in the Woods

The Master Gardener Road Tour visited Bob & Joan Zumstein’s Tree Farm / Nature Preserve in Woodland, WA. With the clear skies the nighttime temps have been below freezing. We passed acres of tree farms being “watered” with overhead sprinklers — to create an ice shield to protect the seedlings.

At 9AM it was still frosty at the Zumstein’s.

First stop was the water wheel Bob had rigged up to catch fresh creek water for his cows — so they wouldn’t clomp down to the creek bed and wreck havoc on the fragile vegetation and creek bank.

Click on image to enlarge and see the ice-crusted spokes.

This was a wild-flower walk through the Zumstein’s 85 acre farm which includes a forested ravine. Creeks lace through the property. Here’s the high-spirited, ever-smiling 70 year old Joe pointing out ferns and other wild flowers.

At the edge of one forested trail we came upon a Thatching Ant (Formica spp) mound. Dr. Brun, the WSU faculty advisor for the Master Gardeners can be heard in the background. (more info)

It was nippy at the start — but proved to be a glorious spring day. We came out of the woods onto a high rolling meadow, where I lay down in the grass under pristine blue skies. Here the rest of the tour follows Joe to another destination.

On our way back to our cars we passed the junk and ‘spare parts’ section of the farm — something every gardener knows comes with the territory of working the land! Here’s a relic of former days.

I found these old objects visually satisfying.

Next stop was lunch in Kalama and Watershed Gardenworks in Longview.


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Out and Afield

We’ve been having spectacular pre-spring weather! I’m catching up on my vitamin D with all this sunshine. Morning temps have dropped to the mid-20’s.

The Master Gardeners do a monthly field trip to wholesale nurseries. We drove south of Portland to the Willsonville / Aurora area — a hot bed of specialty agriculture (tulips, roses, iris — you name it — it’s grown here).

Our first stop was the Little Prince nursery that specializes in ground covers. Seeing vast spreads of the same plant created a lush impression.

We were lead through the greenhouses where the growing and tending processes were explained to us.

The greenhouses themselves presented intriguing patterns.

The cacti were lovely in their intricacy and perfection of form.

We drove south to Hubbard where we toured a specialty wholesale conifer nursery. Both nurseries ship primarily to New York!

Now this is a lot of pots … and the shed was filled to the ceiling with even more!

The skies may have been blue, but the ground was still soggy.

These Alberta Spruce are trimmed into spirals once they’re six feet.

We dined at Luis’ Tacqueria in Woodburn — the best Mexican food I’ve had since my return from Baja. Excellent!! After lunch we had a shopping spree at GardenWorld in Hubbard. Wee-haw!

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Port of Call

Hello again! It’s taken me a while to get back in the saddle after being away for 2 weeks in the SF Bay Area and a 10 day trip to La Paz, Baja California. Came home sick as a dog. Yeah, yeah … life is rough.

OK, my latest venture was a tour of the Port of Vancouver. First off it’s “public” — that’s right state owned. Folks in Washington state¬† had their fill of “corporatocracy” (from the railroads) back in the 1911 and passed the Port District Act. That’s their logo … I thought it was so neat (doubles as bow of ship or mountain).

No photos were allowed on the tour … what with homeland security. The photo above was on the web so I suppose it’s legal to reproduce.

A few Vancouver port factoids (as I remember them):

  1. exclusive West coast port of entry for Subaru
  2. niche market for wind-energy turbines (they’re big and heavy!)
  3. 6 different types of wheat … mixed by formula at the port!

Wind energy is the biggie. It’s keeping the port afloat in this down economy. Just one blade is 160 feet long — but a mere 10 mph breeze will turn them. These will be shipped by rail throughout the mid-west.

This market was made possible by a pair of very large cranes — at one time the largest in the country. Ours are blue.

Do you have a port in your area? All I can say is, go visit it!

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The Van

I spent the last 10 days on a road trip / family visit in California. My sister, Nancy, converted a Chevy 350¬† “high-boy” cargo van into a travel van. I’ll catch up on our travels in subsequent posts, but wanted to show off our lodgings.

Nancy’s not a cook, so all she wanted was a place to sleep for herself, her dog and a friend. She refurbished the van herself — putting in a vinyl floor and building the bed frames. There’s ample storage for clothes, dog food, biking gear, books, etc.

That’s my bunk along the back door of the van (with curtains in closed position). The porta-potty is in the lower left corner — a marvelously odorless and effective device. Plastic suction-caddies store bedside books, glasses, etc.

Nancy’s bunk runs the length of the cabin. Two pull-out drawer units are just barely visible underneath. The wires are for the electric blankets (which I never used) — just in case. She also had a space heater, reading lamp and even HD TV (which we never watched). The parks provide electricity and cable hookup.

She loves her “naked men with mitts” poster!

RV parks are quiet, congenial, pet-friendly and affordable. The cost was typically $25/night — higher around big cities. That’s Nancy’s recumbent bike hanging off the bike rack (upside down).

Ever-efficient, my sister uses a “bathroom bucket” to schlep her toiletries to and from the van. The bathroom/shower facilities have all been clean, warm and very welcome!

I joined Nancy in Oakland. Our first stop together was the Carbonero Creek RV Park in Scott’s Valley. The staff made us feel very welcome. I walked to a Peet’s Coffee in the morning while Nancy slept in (as usual).

Our 2nd stay was in Pismo Beach at the Pismo Coast Village Resort. This was a terrific park. Each site had a fire ring (wood and kindling sold at park store) and the beach-side location was tops. However, it was driving rain during our visit.

Only the ducks were happy.

Our final destination was my brother Art’s place in Camarillo, CA. My sister and her dog slept in the van on their driveway. It was this sunny most of the visit. It has to be said that van-camping is a LOT more pleasant when it’s dry and warm!

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Forever Young hikers went up the gorge to hike the Herman Creek Pinnacles.

It was about 6 miles round trip with a 1,000 ft. elevation gain. It was another lovely hike with varied landscape with falls, rivers and views.

There was a substantial bridge over Herman Creek.

It provided a lovely river views.

We trekked across two large talus slopes.

The trail climbs immediately and then veers west along the side of the slopes — offering occasional views of Cascade Locks, the Columbia river and Washington.

We came across this striking Lobster mushroom

These “Rattlesnake Orchid” leaves poked through the leaves and mosses.

This climate is moss nirvana! I think we have an encyclopedic array of specimens. Just goes to show that every climate makes something happy! Those are baby Licorice Ferns poking through.

This was a really nice hike with just enough challenge to satisfy. We were all a little slap-happy on the drive home and sang along to the falsetto refrains of “Sherry Baby” … in an assortment of keys.

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Gorge-ious Playground

Hatchery02(blog)My de rigueur fist stop for every guest is the “mighty” Columbia gorge – which might include Crown Point, Beacon Rock, the Bridge of the Gods and/or the Bonneville dam and hatchery.

It never occurred to me that the dam would be so tranquil this time of year (end of summer … before winter rains … in a drought year). There was only mild overflow activity.

Take a look at these sand bars in the Columbia just off Cape Horn, WA. They’re a first for me!


We dallied awhile at the fish hatchery. These little fingerlings were being weighed and transferred from one pond to another through a tube of water.


This sculpture in front of the gift shop (see window inset above) nicely framed Mt. Hamilton on the Washington side of the river.


It was a lovely day to be a tourist.

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Playing Tourist

Inn01(blog)One of the nice things about having guests is that you get to do things you aren’t as likely to do by yourself. My sister (who was working) recommended a nearby inn that had been featured in “Twilight“.

It was a bright and brisk fall day. The large stone fireplace was welcome and inviting. While the decor was formal, the atmosphere was easy and casual.

The View Point Inn was a delight that I’m sure I will revisit.


The menu, like the inn as a whole, was both chic and casual. We had the most delicate crab cake appetizer I’ve ever tasted. On the other hand, the burger and slaw were tops! (awesome bun too)

True to its name, there were sweeping views to the West of the gorge. To make sure guests were comfy indoors and out, there was a basket of warm lap blankies.


Outdoors, there was a large lawn with chairs and a lovely herb border leading to a pond and small plaza. It was nice to rest and gaze after our ample repast.


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