Friday, May 15, 2009
Wild Flowers of the High Mountains
Last week this time I was loading our truck for a much needed road trip to Eastern Orygon. Dan had a teaching engagement out in Baker City. He was also revisiting old haunts, places and re-connecting with freinds. Lucky me, wifey, got to tag along for the adventure.
We headed up the Columbia River Gorge, also called the Rhine of the West. More on that amazing place later. We drove for an eternity, along the mighty Columbia River, past Beacon Rock, Hood River, it's apple orchards filled with blooms, bees buzzing. The Dalles, on and on we drove..Until we turned right and began to climb into ponderosa pine covered forests.
The Elkhorn Mountains( Hunting horns blow loudly, Valkyrie's fly out of the clouds)
Behold the Elkhorns. New mountains, high , and dramatic they teem with Elk, deer, Mountain lions, and Wolves. Golden Eagles soar their craggy heights, and I stood in awe of their
beauty. During the day snow squalls dusted them, at night the full moon glinted off their peaks like silver.We we're headed for Dan's friend's ranch,
"Rancho Costa-plenty". Nestled at the feet of the mountains, they own 40 acres of land, three horses, two dogs, 2 cats and several little brown bats. They build their house together, and are some of the best people on Earth.
The Rancho, horse pasture, Washington Gulch, looking down off the ranch house deck.
Coffee and yoga on the deck every morning dahling, then a brisk jog down the road. Late breakfast, hiking all day..watching the eagles soar. Thanks to Devon and Rachael's hospitality I felt like I was at some sort of spa.
The Hills dotted with junipers..
Devon on his big , huge, trail horse.
This is the man you want on your side. Excellent horseman, carpenter, husband, and friend. Oh and funny...very funny..tells stories that will curl yer hair..tells jokes that make you groan..
We discussed politics and stories of life in the outback..
Me and Rachel and her paint, Flint Stone..
It was so damn great to hang out with another strong minded, type A, talkative, mountain woman who loves the land and is deeply connected to it. Italian and Irish, fair as a flower, feisty as a bobcat. Not just a fabulous horse woman, but an engineer/auto mechanic who worked her ass off to get what she has, Rides the trails with Her handsome Devon. We had such a great time laughing , blabbing, and getting to know one another. She made me feel so welcome, I didn't want to leave.
She was off to dressage class with her horse when we took that shot.
Here's the ritual:
I hide below the rock wall. YOU, the human get a stick. Then you throw the stick. I chase it and
laugh, and then return. No I do not fetch the stick, you have to get a new one.
Copper the red dog waiting for YOU to throw a stick.
Throw it already!
No! Don't go inside! Were having a game!!!
Okay, Iam still here..Throw the stick.
Repeat until you go mad.
Copper the red dog is still a puppy, she has enough energy to light up a small city.
She loves to run, run run. Oh and steal your shoes..try to find your boot on 40 acres..so you have to out them up high, or else Surprise!
Misha, from her website, I like an idiot forgot my camera, again!!!
We also had a great time visiting and meeting our new freinds Misha, Michael, and the lovely Starr, of Cove. The little town is nestled against the foot of the blue mountains, and frankly it is as gorgeous as can be there. The own and operate Shota Fjords, where they raise and train the amazing Fjord ponies, horse of the Vikings. Misha and I met a few years back, online, when i was hunting down a Fjord horse to ride in my wedding ceremony. Yes, you heard right, I rode a horse into my wedding, and looked damn swell doing it thanks. Well Misha connected me to her friend who lived closer to us., and since then I have tried to get over for a visit, but life gets in the way.
We finally got our butts over to Eastern Oregon and so we went to their amazing ranch to finally meet! Misha, Michael and their good freind Starr treated us to a wonderful dinner, with the best homebaked bread I have ever had. There was tons of yummy food, so much it would not all fit on the tabel!! After some plate juggling we all settled in for a feast.
We brought mead to share, and after dinner Dan taught everyone how to make fire using a flint and steel..We laughed, told stories and had such a great time no one wanted it to end.
This is a household of creative, talented and wise folks, both Michael and Misha are artists, writers and music is Michaels special passion. He is also very funny. Starr just rocks!
Misha's book Magpies and Tigers resonated with me, as a woman of the Earth and Sky in ways I can't express here.
Misha, wolverine sister who I am honored to count as freind, buddy and teacher thank you for opening up your Hof and home to us. Hail to your Ancestors, and Hail to the Spirits that keep you well!
After a good visit, it got later and we had to go. We drove away wishing there had been more time to stay, talk, and share more of our thoughts, tales, and silly jokes. That we were lucky to have met kindred souls.
After a great time visiting, and Dan's triumphant teaching was a happy memory..at the Baker City Interpretive Center ...We had, alas, to come back home to rainy Portlandia, but on the way we had some stops.
I am unfortunately not into snapping pics at everything, I missed a lot of shots due to my non-alertness..oh well, here's some I did get.
Outside the carriage repair shop.
Wagon wheels, don't get any westerner than that!
The tackiness that only Western Americana yard sculpture can convey..Each cast in steel..
I have to confess to liking the buffalo alot.
"No." said my husband. "Just no!"
So we headed out, and around john Day we encountered something pretty damn cool.
Here they come!
"Oh you're gonna love this." says my darling husband.."It's a cattle drive!"
The truck winds down to a stop.
Wiry cowboys mounted up on bay horses come riding ahead of the herd. The bawling and bugling of cattle can be heard echoing down the canyon..Cattle dogs , squinty eyes and speckled like granite trot along beside the horsemen..The herd, a red, black, white and cream colored mass it moves with a slow, chaotic intent towards us. Iam so excited I can hardly contain myself.
This is something I have only seen in movies...or read about in books..
"Paula," I say out loud, "Is gonna dig this..."
I grab the camera.
Spilling up the side of the road.
Headed straight for us, 50 some odd head of cattle..The rancher is moving them down the way, to another pasture, or range. But all along the roadside is new, tasty green grass to eat, and so the herd is reluctant to move along. The herd is mixed beef cattle. Angus, Hereford, Charolais..
On the move
Spilling up the roadside...calves squeezing through fences, cows bawling after them, cowboys flanking them..chasing them back down onto the highway..
It's like a giant mooing amoeba...
Ca-boy on the hillside
Here they come!
The mooing and squalling of calves and cows is deafening. In the pitch of the mass the calves will get separated from their mothers, and their mothers are not happy. They holler and holler, looking for their babies..the babies squeal and squeal looking for their moms..All the time the cowboys move everything along..
We roll forward...into the mass of bovines..
Cute little calf.
Momma would not be happy if you tried to get too close.
The swirling herd, the loud bawling , the mooing, the smells, the big bodies inches from my truck, okay leaning on my truck..How do I convey to you what it was like? Being on a ship in stormy sea? While Nelson fires cannons over your head? The Cowboys yelling "Hyup! Ho! Heeyah!" as they use their coiled lariats to nudge the slow along, they canter by on the hillsides containing the mass of moo..
I sit astonished as the big, well muscled Hereford bull saunters past the front bumper of our truck. I fumble for the camera, and manage to snap a pick of his rump..We are rolling along forward, the herd spilling away from us like water on a ships prow.
Mister Bull hustles over to the embankment to get in on the dee-licious grass his ladies have discovered, and sets to browsing.
Out of the past
It all felt like we had stepped back in time. The handsome cowboys, oh and they were handsome. Dressed in their work gear, they sported mustaches and suntans. Tall in the saddle, lean of limb, and confident in the saddle. Sparkling eyes like sunlight on a mountain stream...Wolf Woman I know you would have leaped from the truck and onto their horse!
The romantic image of the cowboy intertwined with the real thing.
Dressed in clothes straight out of the 19Th century, the blonde cowboy came riding up alongside the truck. I could only stare wide eyed as he sat on his horse, watching the straggling cows go by. Then I locked eyes with him. Sigh. Oh Wolf Woman, you would lose your heart to this one..Why if I wasn't a sensible married woman with a wonderful, handsome husband already...
I smiled and nodded to him..the truck jerked forward, and I tried to snap a picture without seeming a tourist..
He leaned forward in the saddle, tipped his hat and winked at I me.
I could not get a good picture, he was moving fast, and we were rolling.
It couldn't have been nerves..
"Oh gawd," says the Hubbinator.." Women and cowboys!"...
The Hubbinator rolled his eyes..and off we went..
I have to admit I did turn and look back.
NEXT: Picture Gorge