a grand weekend out: the Willamette Valley

a grand weekend out: the Willamette Valley

Every time I take the drive south from Portland on Interstate 5, I’m reminded in living technicolor, that I really do live in the Willamette Valley. You see vast stretches of pastureland, mountains, sheep with requisite guard Llama–and a veritable menagerie of birds. Hawks perch on fence posts all along the highway, eagles soar overhead, egrets and all manner of flocking birds fill the open fields.

My book group of 24 years began making an annual fall retreat in 1993. Our first weekend away, we went to Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon. It quickly became apparent that we needed to get a house of our own. We had such a good time, but it’s a miracle we didn’t get thrown out. I kept expecting someone’s mother to appear at the door and threaten to call our parents if we didn’t settle down, “right this second!” We were not encouraged to make a repeat visit.

Of course, no weekend away is complete without a car problem right before heading out of town.

We keep our cars until they are stolen or irretrievably caput.

We keep our cars until they are stolen or irretrievably caput.

This year’s trip was to the McKenzie River–with the added bonus of it being just 30 miles down the road from Gossler Farms. Two for one. I love that kind of trip. We stayed in a fabulous house right on the river, and the rain held off until Sunday.

McKenzie River Retreat -- front porch and deck.

McKenzie River Retreat — front porch and deck.

Stairs from the deck.

Stairs from the deck, well above the river's edge.

Stairs from the deck, well above the river’s edge.

Hey look, Katy and Billie enjoying the bounty and beauty of nature right at the river’s edge.

book babes Katy & Billie on the McKenzie River

Book babes Katy & Billie on the McKenzie River.

Wait, upon closer inspection, it seems they were lifting a toast to the river.

Stairs make it easy to navigate with a glass of bubbly.

Stairs make it easy to navigate with a glass of bubbly.

We had to use regular wine glasses for our champagne, but that was the only real hardship. Here’s looking back up at the house from the river.

Splitting the cost 6 ways allows for a fancy house.

Splitting the cost 6 ways allows for a quite fancy house.

The Mckenzie River, my first visit there. Where have I been all my Oregonian life?

The McKenzie River running lovely.

The McKenzie River running lovely.

I bet it was cold in there, but imagine sitting on that rock in late August. Of course, getting to it might be a challenge.

River rock, literally.

River rock, literally.

Somewhere along the line, I became the official fire tender of the group. This house had the best wood stash ever.

All fireplaces are not created equal. This was way good.

All fireplaces are not created equal. This was way good.

The wood pile was clean, dry and plentiful–and no critters in there, that we saw.

Here’s the spectacular view from a place we stayed on another retreat–in Mosier, just east of Hood River. But there was no firewood at all. We walked around that little gorge town trying our best to pick up a lumberjack, but no luck on that front either.

Mosier House in the Columbia Gorge.

Mosier House in the Columbia Gorge.

Lots of hale and hardy plants around the McKenzie River house, both naturally occurring and planted.

Ferns & wild ginger all around.

Ferns & wild ginger in shiny happy abundance.

How is it that I’ve killed the wild gingers I’ve planted. I love them, and aren’t they supposed to be easy?

Why exactly can't I grow wild ginger?

Why exactly can’t I grow wild ginger?

And Sarcoccoa to die for. So glossy and gorgeous, but sadly, no scent yet. Too early in the fall season.

Sarcaccoca confussa ?  -- a shiny lush hedge skirted the house.

Sarcaccoca confussa ? — a shiny lush hedge skirted the house.

We sped by this covered bridge. There were cars behind us and rain and we were on a mission to get to Gossler Farms.

Covered bridge, what? I've see a couple in Oregon, but not very often.

Covered bridge, what? I’ve see a couple in Oregon, but not very often.

I used up all my reserve brain battery over my the weekend, which I understood was going to happen. I meant to make this a shorter post, with the primary focus on plants and Gossler Farms. In my defense, you cannot reason with a concussion–thus I’m having trouble whittling my story down to get where I want to go.

I’m reading a book, The Ghost in My Brain, wherein the author, Clark Elliott, struggled with his concussion for eight years before finding help. (His was far more severe than mine, but I recognized so much of what he speaks.) At only two years in, and already having found a crack team of smart docs and therapists, I’m feeling lucky to be a miserable and not a horrible.

I’ll get back to you next week and share more on the actual Gossler Farms part of this post. But here’s a peek.

team plant lust is crazy for this Quercus dentata 'Carl Ferris Miller'. If you have space, you NEED this tree.

team plant lust is crazy for this Quercus dentata ‘Carl Ferris Miller’. If you have space, you NEED this tree.

team plant lust is crazy for this Quercus dentata 'Carl Ferris Miller'. If you have space, you NEED this tree.

Quercus dentata ‘Carl Ferris Miller’ in splendid fall color.

I do thank you for your indulgence.

Cheers

 

  • Oh that wild ginger mingling with the ferns. I haven’t managed to sustain my wild ginger plantings either. But I’m willing to keep trying.

  • Looks like the internet ate my comment declaring my undying love and devotion to wild gingers, despite my past failures.

    • and then it gave your comment back. like my experience with wild ginger. I’m so happy I’m not the only one. it’s a glorious plant. definitely worth another try or six.

  • Ricki Grady

    Maybe wild ginger simply refuses to be tamed. I always read that it is slow growing but mine takes that to extremes. Your retreat sounds divine.

    • Maybe that’s it, Rickii, wild and not to be tamed.

      It was a fabulous weekend, one of our best retreats. But then, we say that about them all.

  • Cenepk10

    I planted wild ginger multiple times – close to where the voles have a virtual city on my property… Mr Kitty kills at least 1 a day. No wild ginger for me, either. One of these times- it’ll take. Thank you for taking me along on your trip to the river. I truly enjoyed it !!!! I could even taste the bubbly !!!!!

    • I’m so glad I’m not alone on the wild ginger front. It seems like it should be so easy. And I’m happy you enjoyed the trip. This crazy concussed brain thing–you’re sorta seeing how I work my way through where I trying to go. But I’m also a writer at heart, and Irish at that, so it’s impossible for me to say anything without telling a story. Not to mention, a little bubbly. Everything is better with that. Cheers.

  • Katy Muldoon

    Patricia Cunningham, photographer and blogger extraordinaire, perfectly captures the flavor of a McKenzie River autumn weekend … and I believe that flavor was Argyle vintage brut.

    • Couldn’t have done it without you. Cheers

  • Loree

    I want that fireplace and suddenly I’m gripped with the desire to spend a weekend at the Mosier House in the Columbia Gorge. Also re: space for the Quercus dentata ‘Carl Ferris Miller’ – isn’t that why god invented containers?

    • The Mosier house was pretty good–except not as a grand a fireplace. I saw my first quail scurrying on the ground. And I believe you’re correct on the container front. I have a couple big empty pots. Excellent.