Strawberry Mountain Wilderness
“The terrain in Eastern Oregon is completely different from Oregon west of the Cascade Mountains. Words used to describe it are desert, cattle ranches, wheat ranches, pine forests, wilderness, remote, sparsely populated to unpopulated, and in parts extremely rugged. You can drive for miles in some areas and not see another car, human being, or house.”
The description above is appropriate for Eastern Oregon where I recently spent time hiking, enjoying the scenery, and visiting friendly communities along the way. Mountain ranges in the area include the Elkhorn, Strawberry, Wallowa, and Blue Mountains. The area is popular with hikers, backpackers, cyclists, campers, and fishermen. The scenery has rich history and abundant wildlife and vegetation. My favorite – mountain lakes, streams, and waterfalls – are nature’s special jewels.
Eastern Oregon covers almost 40 percent of the State. Tourists enjoy big skies and unspoiled natural beauty in a peaceful environment which produces a never-ending feast for the eyes. Wildflowers include Buttercups, Mariposa Lily, Shooting Star, Indian Paint Brush, and Yarrow. Wild berries, including Huckleberry, Gooseberry, and Thimble Berry, are abundant.
Meadow Near Enterprise
Wallowa Copper Butterfly
Obsidian Summer Camp was about a 300 mile drive and we passed through Bend, Prineville, Mitchell, Dayville, and John Day. This year camp was at Logan Valley in the Malheur National Forest which is part of the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness. We took our time on the way stopping for lunch in Bend, visiting the colorful John Day Fossil Beds, and hiking trails of the spectacular Painted Hills.
The Strawberry Mountain Wilderness supports a native population of elk, mule deer, antelope, black bear, sheep, coyotes, cougar, pine marten, beaver, and other wildlife. Almost 400 kinds of birds are found there, including ruffed and blue grouse, woodpeckers, nutcrackers, eagles, hawks, and many more. August isn’t an ideal month for bird watching but the birders in our group spotted many birds and butterflies.
Hikers on the higher more strenuous hikes saw mountain sheep and goats. Curious California Big Horns surrounded one hiking group when they stopped to eat their lunch. The close-and-personal encounter delighted them and is a rare experience! One hiker saw a bear and many spotted deer, coyote, marmots, and chipmunks.
Hikers Taking a Break
High Desert Landscape
Lostine Corridor Creek
The weather was warm but pleasant with afternoon thunderstorms often accompanied by lightning. The days began with breakfast at 7:30 a.m. followed by hikes of varying difficulty. Accessing some of the remote trail heads involved driving on rugged mountain back roads. Because of the heat and altitude, I picked moderate hikes of around 6 – 7 miles. My favorite was to Strawberry Lake and Falls – both breathtakingly!
Indian Paint Brush
Several of us spent a day exploring nearby towns and historical sites like the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site in John Day. Most evenings we sat around a large campfire and listened to reports summarizing hikes completed that day. The gatherings included lots of laughter, making s’mores, and sharing incredible sunsets followed by clear skies and moonlight.
We just missed the phenomenal super moon that appeared on August 10th. According to astronomers it was the second of three consecutive super moons this summer. The first was on July 12 and the final show will be September 9. Super moons appear bigger and brighter and take place when the moon becomes full at the same time it’s closest to us in its orbit around Earth. A big, clear mountain sky is one of the best places to admire the moon.
After summer camp some of us continued on to the Wallowa Mountains and Eagle Cap Wilderness area near the Idaho border. We passed through small towns including Prairie City, Baker City, Joseph, Enterprise, Lostine, and Wallowa. The Wallowa tramway lifted us to the summit where we hiked the rim admiring Wallowa Lake and magnificent views of the surrounding mountains.
We missed the Wallowa County Fair in Enterprise and the Joseph Blues & Brews Festival but enjoyed outdoor markets and several live performances in local parks, restaurants, and pubs. Terminal Gravity Brewery & Pub in Enterprise is fantastic. During summer their outside seating in a grove of Aspen trees is a wonderful euphoric atmosphere.
View from Wallowa Tramway
Hikers Posing at Monument Rock
Active wildfires in the area were the only negative aspect of the trip. We planned to visit Imnaha and Hat Point in Hell’s Canyon overlooking the Snake River but wildfire danger forced the Oregon Forest Service (FS) to close access to the area. A river hike in the Strawberry Wilderness and one outside Wallowa were also diverted when the FS closed several hiking trails and roads leading to trail heads. On the bright side, the smoky skies created extremely colorful, dramatic sunrises and sunsets!
Vltava River Czech Republic
Inspired by Ailsa’s rivers theme it was fun revisiting a recent trip through the beautiful Czech Republic to contemplate time spent along the Vltava!
Rivers were a spectacular part of a six month trip through Eastern Europe last year. It was a pleasure admiring them and learning about their vast history and the role they played in each country’s development. One river that became dear to me is the Vltava, the longest river in the Czech Republic.
Confluence Malše & Vltava Rivers
As I made my way through Bohemia experiencing České Budějovice, Český Krumlov, and Prague, the Vltava was an ever-present feature of the landscape and culture. Czech composer Bedřich Smetana celebrated the well-loved river in a cycle of beautiful symphonic poems titled Má vlast (My Country).
Přemysl Otakar II Square České Budějovice
The medieval city of České Budějovice is in the Vltava’s middle basin. It was my home for a month while exploring the Bohemian countryside. My apartment was near the river and Přemysl Otakar II Square with its medieval buildings and towers. The Vltava’s middle basin has dramatic gorges, rapids, and reservoirs with hydropower dams built along many larger lakes.
Vltava River Kayakers
Hluboká Castle Hluboká nad Vltavou
In 1265 Bohemian King Přemysl Otakar II chose the confluence of the Vltava and Malše Rivers to found České Budějovice. The city flourished during the 14th to 16th centuries and was an important landmark in the Kingdom of Bohemia. During the 19th century the Vltava and Malše Rivers increased the speed of transportation between European cities and enabled the city to make revolutionary technical progress. The river helped boost the silver mining, beer brewing, fish farming, and salt trade industries as they grew and prospered.
Bicycling or hiking along the Vltava is a perfect way to explore Czech cities and the lush countryside. One path outside České Budějovice leads you through breath-taking scenery and swimming holes to beautiful Hluboká Castle in the town of Hluboká nad Vltavou. Hluboká Castle with its fragrant English gardens and surrounding Kompozice Park is a Czech National Cultural Monument.
Black Tower, a 16th century belfry tower, was near my apartment and its ancient black stone and beautiful sounding bell became my most familiar landmark in České Budějovice. The reward for climbing the steep winding stairway to the viewing deck is a sweeping panoramic view of the surrounding countryside, red rooftops of České Budějovice, and of course the ever-present Vltava River.
Lipno nad Vltavou
The village of Lipno nad Vltavou is a popular Czech destination in Southern Bohemian near the Šumava Mountains. Its history dates back to the 16th century when the settlement was involved in the timber industry and most inhabitants made their living rafting timber on the Vltava River. The village is a 1.5 hour train ride from České Budějovice. From the train station it’s a two-mile walk on a pleasant trail that wraps around Lipno Lake, the largest lake in the Czech Republic and known as the “Czech Sea”.
The medieval town of Český Krumlov is about a 30 minute drive from České Budějovice and one of the first places in the Czech Republic listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s positioned in a lush valley surrounded by the Vltava River with the Blansko Forest to the north and Šumava National Park to the south.
The area is popular with sports enthusiasts for camping, river rafting, hiking, biking, kayaking, and cross-country skiing. A stunning mix of spectacular Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles Český Krumlov is famous for the architecture of its medieval castle complex. I climbed the castle tower to enjoy sweeping panoramic views of the town and the Vltava River.
Vltava River Prague
After several weeks in smaller Czech towns and villages a month of exploring the lovely city of Prague was a welcome change. Surrounded by the Vltava River Prague is the center of Bohemia and the heart of the Czech Republic. One of the oldest and most beautiful cities in the world, it’s known as the “Golden City of 100 Spires”. Its eclectic variety of architectural styles includes Gothic, Medieval Romanesque, 19th century Neo-Baroque, Art Nouveau, 20th century Art Deco, and Cubist. The city is divided into quarters and districts and my apartment was on the cusp of Stare Mesto (Old Town) and Nove Mesto (New Town) in District 1 – a great location in a busy, exciting part of the city.
Vltava from Vyšehrad Castle
I arrived in August 2013 and two months earlier torrential rain had drenched Central Europe turning rivers into raging torrents that claimed lives and destroyed homes and buildings across the Czech Republic, southern Germany, and Austria. Volunteers and Prague’s fire brigade erected metal flood barriers and sandbag walls to keep the Vltava at bay. Tranquilized tigers at Prague’s Zoo were moved to the safety of higher, dryer ground. Schools were closed, much of the transport system shut down, and the famous Charles Bridge spanning the Vltava and usually teeming with tourists closed.
Musicians Charles Bridge
One of the first Prague treasures I visited was Museum Kampa near Charles Bridge on the left bank of the Vltava. The museum suffered severe damage during the June flooding. Kampa Park constructed an outside gallery of large, impressive photos documenting the 2013 flood and showing how the residents of Prague worked together to recover and save their city.
Prague’s Dancing House
The Nationale-Nederlanden building – known as Prague’s “Dancing House” – is another treasure situated along the Vltava near Jirásek Bridge. It’s a spectacular modern glass building built in the mid-1990s in New Town. Its “daring, curvy outlines” standout amidst Prague’s historic Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture. Architects Vlado Milunc and Frank O Gehry initially named it the ‘Astaire and Rogers Building’ after the legendary dance duo Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers”.
Petřín Hill, a large wooded park near the Vltava in the middle of the city, is another favorite place. Much of the stone used to build Prague’s major sites was quarried from Petřín’s peaceful hillside. Now it’s a popular urban recreational area covered with grass, gardens, and trees. Midway to the top of the hill you can stop at a small outdoor café to enjoy views of the Castle Complex and a cup of excellent espresso. From Petřín Hill Observation Tower views of Prague and the Vltava are unforgettable.
Automobiles aren’t allowed on Prague’s famous Charles Bridge but it’s always interesting to walk across marveling at the view and enjoying lively activities in progress, local musicians and artists, and quality crafts. Finished in 1402, Charles Bridge was commissioned by Czech King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. The second bridge built over the Vltava was the chain bridge built by the Hapsburg’s Franz Josef I – Emperor of Austria, King of Bohemia, and King of Hungary.
A favorite café near Charles Bridge on the right bank of the Vltava is School Restaurant. The funny, entertaining waiters are friendly and the food is delicious and reasonably priced. The river bank is a perfect spot to admire Prague’s atmosphere and watch the eclectic crowds streaming by the banks of the Vltava.
Czech National Theatre
Holešovice is in Prague’s northern suburbs in District 7 along the Vltava River. I went there to visit the Prague Zoo and nearby botanical gardens. Getting to Holešovice from Old Town involved taking two different trams and a bus. I got off at the wrong stop and wasn’t sure which direction to go. A friendly Czech man who spoke some English passed by and pointed me in the right direction. It was a pleasant two-mile walk along the Vltava to the zoo. Motorized vehicles are not allowed in the area, only runners, skaters, and bicyclists.
Czechs are kayaking enthusiasts and they often set up competition courses along the river bank to prepare for a competition or practice maneuvering through a challenging man-made obstacle course. On the way to the zoo, I passed a kayak competition in progress complete with loudspeakers and a sports commentator.
The Rudolfinum is one of Prague’s most beautiful neo-renaissance buildings. It’s in Jan Palach Square in Old Town along the banks of the Vltava. I attended a classical concert there performed by Prague’s Parnas Ensemble. The ensemble’s performance was outstanding!
Vyšehrad Castle, a 10th century hillside fortress overlooking the city, is a very special place and accessible from many directions. I got there by climbing the old stone steps along the Vltava River. It’s not a difficult climb and the lush parks leading to the castle give the area a magical and eerie aura which is clearly felt by visitors. Vyšehrad Castle has many myths, some dating back to the 8th century. One entrance passes through Leopold Gate, a part of the castle’s 17th century defenses. Like each building in Vyšehrad, Leopold Gate has its legend. In 1741 the French army occupied Vyšehrad, and it’s said that at the full moon the ghosts of the French soldiers who died there keep appearing. A cobbled walkway passes by a Romanesque church and leads to the spectacular 11th century neo-Gothic Basilica of Saint Peter and Paul with fifteen bells and an underground crypt. Vyšehrad has an elaborate graveyard with ornate tombs where many Bohemian heroes and great Czech personalities are buried. It’s a spectacular place to visit!
Czech National Theatre, known as “Prague’s Golden Chapel”, was a stronghold of Czech culture within the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. The prestigious theatre is an icon of Czech national and cultural identity. It’s located on the right bank of the Vltava River in Old Town next to Legions Bridge which connects with Malá Strana. The National Theatre has a characteristic golden roof making it stand out even from a distance. The interior ceiling is decorated with eight painted female figures representing the different art forms. It’s a spectacular sight!
Another must see is the Kafka Museum on the Malá Strana bank of the Vltava. The City of K. Franz Kafka and Prague exhibit opened in Prague eight years ago. The “symbiosis” between Prague and Kafka’s life and work is well-known. He wasn’t Czech and wrote in German, but he was born in Prague in 1883 and lived there most of his short life.
At Charles Bridge
The Prague Castle Complex is one of Prague’s most popular attractions. The magnificent buildings have mysterious legends and folktales dating back to the 9th century. The complex hosts concerts, exhibitions, and a constant flux of tourists from all over the world. Within the complex, the stunning St. Vitus Cathedral has “overlooked the roofs of Prague and the Vltava River for eleven centuries”!
The rivers of Czech Republic are an amazing moving part of this special country. I cherish my memories of the Vltava, feel enriched by the experience, and hope to visit its banks again.
Crater Lake on a Sunny Day
Just returned from Crater Lake in Oregon’s Rogue River National Forest – one of the deepest and bluest lakes in the world! Our group of 16 spent time snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, hiking, and enjoying the lake’s extraordinary beauty.
The weather was stormy so views of the lake were rare and brief but the conditions were good and it was a fantastic and much-needed respite. We booked the rustic Union Creek Resort lodge and ended each day with food and conversation by a fire in the parlor.
Union Creek Lodge
During my last visit the trails were icy. This time conditions were better but my cross-country skills weren’t…. I turned back from the group ski early and spent the morning skiing easier trails along the rim. That afternoon I joined a fun and informative snowshoe group led by a local ranger.
On our departure day the sun came out and several of us decided to hike along the Rogue River. At this time of year the river is teeming with white water and the hiking trail was incredibly lush and beautiful!
The Pacific Crest trail passes through Crater Lake National Park and there are 90 miles of hiking paths and a variety of cross-country ski trails of various difficulties.
Loved by the Klamath Indians Crater Lake was discovered by gold prospectors in 1853. Thirty-five years later humans introduced trout and salmon into the water.
Inhabitants of the area include ravens, jays, nutcrackers, deer, ground squirrels, voles, and chipmunks. Elk, black bear, foxes, porcupines, pine martens, and pikas are among the other more reclusive animals living in the park.
Without a doubt Crater Lake is a natural wonder and one of Oregon’s loveliest attractions. The short trip was a refreshing mini escape.
Ailey II Group
Ailey II appeared at the Hult Center last night and it was an electric performance! The group of twelve dancers performed four dances choreographed by Alvin Ailey, Robert Battle, and Benoit-Swan Pouffer. Each dancer has been with the company for one to two years and competed with thousands to win their positions.
Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble started forty years ago and I first saw them perform at Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco. Their amazing talent continues to wow audiences worldwide!
“Ailey II is renowned for merging the spirit and energy of the country’s best young dance talent with the passion and creative vision of outstanding emerging choreographers.”
Ailey II Dancers
Mr. Ailey selected Sylvia Waters as Artistic Director and she led the company for thirty-eight years. When she retired in 2012 she named Troy Powell as her successor.”
Alvin Ailey established an extended cultural environment providing dance performances, training, and special community programs. His American Dance Theater first performed in March 1958 at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. The young African-American dancers went on to change the world’s perception of modern dance.
“Before his untimely death in 1989, Alvin Ailey designated renowned dancer and choreographer Judith Jamison as his successor.” She served for 21 years and the Company flourished under her leadership. In 2011 Ms. Jamison selected Robert Battle to succeed her as Artistic Advisor. Since then his energy and talent have brought new life to the company!
The evening’s grand finale was Revelations, a special piece choreographed by Mr. Ailey and one of my favorites! It’s a suite of touching, lively dances set to traditional spirituals and blues music including Wade in the Water, Sinner Man, and Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham. Their performance received a standing ovation!
During their 2013-2014 tour the modern dance company will perform in 30 cities throughout the US and abroad.
Eugene Symphony Orchestra
The Eugene Symphony Orchestra’s performance last night was sweet! Local weather has been foggy and cold but the symphony’s music cheered and warmed the audience. Since retiring in Eugene I’ve attended most of their performances at the Hult Center and look forward to each season.
Soprano Mary Wilson
The orchestra performed Benjamin Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from the opera Peter Grimes – Dawn, Sunday Morning, Moonlight, and Storm. They followed with several pieces from Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute, and Johannes Brahms Symphony No. 3 in F Major.
Guest soprano, Rachele Gilmore, could not attend the performance. Her substitute, Mary Wilson, stole the show with an amazing voice and fantastic stage presence. The audience went wild!
Alvin Ailey Dancers
In February the symphony performs Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring with guest violinist Fumiaki Miura and the Hult Center hosts the amazing Alvin Ailey dancers on the 26th. I’m looking forward to both performances!
Saturday morning I jumped a 6:00 a.m. ski bus to Mt. Bachelor for a day of downhill skiing! In the winter, local buses haul eclectic groups of skiers up the mountain to play in the snow. During the three-hour ride to Bend you can enjoy the scenery or take a snooze.
Skiing companions are sparse these days as most of my 60+ friends gave up downhill years ago. Instead, their winter adventures include exploring the back country on snowshoes or cross-country skis. Seeing the deep woods layered in fresh-fallen snow is a spectacular experience but I can’t rid myself of longing for the thrill of a downhill plunge – nothing like it! If you’re lucky enough to experience a day when your body, mind, and skis are in sync, it’s exhilarating fun!
Graceful Powder Skiers
So far this year ski conditions in the Cascades have been dicey but a series of storms last week added several feet to the base and brought a dusting of fresh powder. The ski report called for wind and more snow but I hoped for good conditions. Morning skiing was fine but wind and severe whiteout conditions enveloped the mountain in the afternoon. Several chair lifts closed.
Except for the most enthusiastic, brave skiers it definitely put a damper on the day’s activities. I’m a fair-weather skier who avoids areas that intersect raucous snowboarding haunts and sticks to long leisurely intermediate runs. Zero visibility is way too scary for me, so I stopped skiing around noon – disappointed but not willing to risk an accident or serious injury.
Berg’s Ski & Snowboard Shop
I began skiing in California in my 20s mostly at Lake Tahoe and Bear Valley. Back then we expected to wait in lift lines and paid $10 for tickets. Things have changed with $80+ tickets, speedy quad lifts, and e-gads helmets!!
Mt. Hood Meadows
Oregon’s Cascade snow is very different from conditions in the Sierras. The powder skiing is phenomenal. I’ve learned to respect Mt. Bachelor and the challenging conditions it can present
Berg’s is starting a new bus to Mt. Hood next week and I’m looking forward to skiing there. Other ski resorts in the area include Willamette Pass and Hoodoo.
After a short delay, the bus departed the lodge around 4:00 p.m. Ski stories – told by exhausted skiers soothed by an overdose of endorphins – were the main topic of conversation. There were two buses yesterday. One got caught in a snow bank and had to be rescued. My bus made it safely home through the harrowing blizzard but the trip took two hours longer than usual. After a long day of adventure, the main question weighing on everyone’s mind was what was for dinner….