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It seems like five minutes ago I was recounting my reading group’s trek to the McKenzie River near Eugene, Oregon. But that was already a whole year ago. Our annual fall retreat is 20+ years in the making. This year, the six of us went to Welches, Oregon. We stayed in a lovely home on the Salmon River. When you live in the Pacific Northwest, you don’t have to travel far to enjoy Mother Nature’s bounty. Welches in the Mt. Hood Corridor, 45 miles west of Portland, between Zigzag and Wemme. That’s right, Wemmy.

Ever so often as you drive along Highway 26, a twist in the road puts Mt. Hood on full display. I’ve seen it a thousand times, and it’s still breathtaking. No this is not my photo. That would have taken advanced planning. But this accurately represents how it suddenly appears.

Mt. Hood. Photo by Theo.
Mt. Hood. Photo by Theo,

Isn’t everyone inspired by the ways of the woods? Not only is it beautiful, it’s perfect food for the soul. I love the sights, the sound, and the feel. Would that I could replicate Mother Nature’s exquisite layering–plant upon plant–in my own garden.

Moss in the woods.
Moss in the woods.

A giant tree stump covered in moss and lichen, with a few trees growing up top. How’s does nature manage to not look weedy?

Giant tree stump teaming with life.
Giant tree stump teeming with life.

Hold the presses: what do we have here?

Wait. What's that?
Wait. What?

This is going to require closer examination.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarf.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarf.

But of course, your regular forest sights. I’m guessing that’s Bashful behind the leaf. The nice homeowner invited us up from the road to show us how high the river has risen behind his house. His wife was inside preparing for a birthday party that evening. She came to the door and to ask if we wanted to come inside, and of course we did, but we respectfully declined. She was clearly busy.

The view from the nice people’s backyard. The river has at times come right up to the edge. That’d be a little nerve-wracking.

The Salmon River is right over there.
The Salmon River is right there.

Further down river was a bridge with no railings. It’s gotten taken out a few times by rising waters, leaving the residents over yonder stranded on their little island.

Wee bridge over the Salmon River.
Wee bridge over the Salmon River.

More fabulous layering every which way you look.

Ma Nature knows from layering.
Ma Nature knows from layering.

This was by the river. I don’t know why. But it was cool. Don’t tell me it’s plumbing related. Please.

We didn't try to look inside.
We did not look inside.

And there was wildlife, of the friendly adorable variety.

Mae Mae
Mae Mae

I knew it would be wrong to steal Mae Mae, but I was sorely tempted. Well, only for an instant. Because I don’t want to go straight to H.E. double hockey sticks. But if she’d been available, I’d have snapped her up. This sweet girl became trusty companion to our walk. We later learned her name from her dad who lived nearby. We ran into to him and a friend by the river in front of our house. Mae Mae’s dad held a gun upright over his shoulder, hand covering the muzzle. Book Babe Ms. Billie informed us afterward that it was a fishing gun. Say what?

I really shouldn’t digress here, but I’m sure you’re dying to understand what the what. Let me say upfront, no mayhem ensued. A friend of Mae Mae’s dad had gotten a new phone the previous day; the old one had petered out. Thusly, the two men had walked downstream to shoot the old phone. See, clears things right up. Orygun. Yup.

And there was more wildlife of the tame variety. Didn’t get this girl’s name.

Mae Mae and a friend.
Mae Mae and friend.

When one of the Book Babes reported that there was a horse outside, I thought they meant Mae Mae’s friend. I’d first encountered her on hind legs and peering at me over the fence–so a solid two feet over my head.

Great Dane behind closed gates--until she was not.
Great Dane behind closed gates–until she was not.

They subsequently let her out to play, and she came right over to our house. She was a little skittish though.

Whoa! Great Dane changing her mind.
Whoa, what was I thinking. Course correction.

Billie didn’t get to pet her and neither did I.

This is not a horse.
Close, but not a horse.

And then someone said, “No, a real horse.” I ran right through the forest floor, red mesh slippers and all.

Red Mesh Slipper aka forest shoes.
Red Mesh Slipper aka forest shoes.

It was an emergency. And to think, I’d almost not bothered to put down my glass of champagne.

Look! It's a horse.
Look! An actual horse.

Okay. Not exactly a wild forest animal here either, but still. We learned his name was Clipper and that he’s a Paso Fino. Clipper was getting 15 minutes of forage time. According to Wiki, Paso Finos are a breed  “prized for their smooth, natural, four-beat, lateral ambling gait.” Wish I’d had the opportunity to find out in person. Of course, now that I know I’m mortal, I’m a little less inclined to jump on every horse I see–including those in pasture, necessitating riding sans saddle and bridle. Mea Culpa.

Paso Fino prized for their smooth gait.
Paso Fino prized for a smooth gait. And beautiful.

We crossed paths with an actual forest denizen, of the smallest variety. The length of the stripes are supposed to tell us something about the coming winter. I don’t know whether the relative color is more or less than usual, so I’m not making any prediction. However, I would like to put in a request with the weather gods. If you can’t send us a few inches of decent snow, then don’t bother. Let’s go with a mild Zone 9 winter instead. Thank you very much.

Woolly Bear Caterpillar larval stage of Isabella Tiger Moth.
Woolly Bear Caterpillar larval stage of Isabella Tiger Moth.

Before I discovered a stash of split firewood in the garage, I’d been out in the dark getting logs from a giant tarp-covered woodpile. I was a little worried about encountering a bear or a cougar. It was dark out there. Somehow I’ve been tasked as the group fire-builder, and I’m happy to oblige. Next time though, it wouldn’t hurt for me to ask someone to come out and spot me. Guess I was thinking since it was right there next to the hot tub, how wild could it be–until I got out there all on my ownsome. Pretty wild, as it turns out.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep...
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep…

It was damp in the forest, but we had a lovely Saturday with no rain. We almost always get good weather, coast, mountains, or desert. Guess we live right.

More lovely woods.
More lovely woods.

We saw evidence of other residents.

Neither snow nor rain...
Neither snow nor rain…

This didn’t look like a going concern, but great yard art.

Giant yard art; it works in the woods.
Giant yard art; it works in the woods.

Lest you’re worried we had it too rough, the house kept us snug and warm.

Cozy cabin in the woods -- with 5 bedrooms.
Cozy cabin in the woods — with 5 bedrooms.

That’s Katy Muldoon on the front porch. Katy is the lucky and talented journalist who covered the Keiko story for the Oregonian. She actually got to pet Keiko. Pauvre Keiko.

So to recap. This is my gardening story for the week–and I’m sticking to it.