Mattie in the high mountains on our day of exploring
Sometimes a month simply flies by because so much is happening. Other times a month merely slips by with everyday life, and I have to review calendars, photos, Google TimeLine, and anything else I can come up with to figure out, “What in the world did we do this month?” Mo and I are sitting at our desks in the office, drinking Sunday morning coffee and looking forward to daughter Deborah visiting later for omelets and conversation. It is raining. Hard. It has been raining for two full days now. I stepped outside at 6 and reveled in the dampness, the birds singing, everything wet and green the way outsiders picture the “real” Oregon. It is beautiful and so refreshing. After years of drought and the lower part of our non–irrigated property turning brown in early May, it is a wonder to still have green grass growing in early June.
When we both look back over May, what comes to mind most is mowing, weeding, raking, hauling, and more mowing. We brought up other activities as we were talking, but somehow the pleasure of the green yard and all the growing things seems to supersede anything else at the moment.
Yes, the deer are always trying to figure out how to eat whatever is growing on our property. Sometimes I can stay ahead of them with Deer-Out, other times they win.
We began our month with a rather exciting kerfuffle. Home from our most recent trip to Silver Falls, we parked the rig in the yard for a few days so Mo could wash it and I could get the interior cleaned up. Once it was clean, I did the typical backing maneuver we use to put the MoHo safely in her shed. Mo had the door open. I am backing watching her in the mirrors to get the rig lined up perfectly. I can’t see much in the camera at this moment. The inside of the RV shed is dark, and the sun usually reflects so that I can only see Mo in the mirrors. She carefully directs me in, just far enough to let me miss the mirrors and far enough right that I miss the kayaks hanging on the wall.
WTH happened? I holler, and Mo says it must be the air conditioner. We both look at the RV Shed door, raised as usual but just not as high as usual. Neither of us saw it. So much for the fancy double domed skylight over the shower. At least it wasn’t the air conditioner. So, in addition to mowing, Mo spent much of the month obtaining the replacement, removing the old skylight, and replacing it. The only good thing about the entire process is that the rig was in the shed with plenty of room for her to work in a sheltered space.
While Mo spent her days dealing with the skylight, I dinked around in the yard for a few hours each day. I do love dinking in the yard. We knew that getting the drip system that we installed last year up to speed again was a priority. But with the heavy rains we had all month, at least the gardens weren’t drying out with the usual spring desiccation that happens almost instantly as winter ends. We have fresh gravel to spread in the areas of the yard covered with decomposed granite to bury the red clay that would destroy everything if exposed. That rock pile has been around for a few weeks and is still waiting. We will get it done eventually. The DG gets thin over time, and with limited water, we need to have areas of the property that aren’t dirty but don’t require water.
Happily, the sprinklers are now working, almost 100 percent updated, and joy of all joys, the well seems to be recharging at a fantastic rate. I have a geology mindset that groundwater will recharge quickly with good rains, but our deep bedrock groundwater aquifer will take decades to recharge after a long drought cycle. With only 2.5 GPM, this matters. Hence the areas of our property are either unirrigated or covered with gravel. Yes, there is a lot of green in the good parts, and I have a postage stamp green lawn that my eco-conscious grandchild chides me about.
But back to May. Looking at the calendar, I suddenly remember Cinco de Mayo. A holiday that I have never really celebrated, and I have read that it isn’t even celebrated much in Mexico. But what better excuse to have friends over for Mexican food and margaritas?
Mother’s Day was simple and sweet. I received beautiful flowers from each of my daughters and Deborah treated Mo and I and her son Matthew to lunch at Red Robin. She asked if I wanted to go somewhere nicer, but no, I was in the mood for a fat blue cheese burger and no fancy crowds. It was a lovely afternoon.
Mo and I fiddled with my puzzle addiction and went to the Downton Abbey movie in between mowing and hauling debris. It was fun for me as an old DA fan who has watched the entire series. I could see how it would be utterly dull for someone who didn’t care about the people in the movie. Mo didn’t know any of them, and a lot of the film is spent with long stills of large groups of faces of people the fans know and love. It was a reunion of sorts. Mo slept through most of it.
Maryruth and I
went to the Farmer’s Market, thrilled by the gorgeous displays of early spring produce and coming home with huge fat radishes and fresh strawberries.
I enjoyed a great book group meeting in our founder’s front yard, complete with California poppies on the table. Sarah was so tickled that she could actually pick the poppies because, in California, where she lived before her move here, it was illegal to do so. The poppies are growing like crazy at our place after years of babying the one plant that made it through our home construction. They finally took over the rocky slope of fill that supports the RV shed.
Everything is later this year. Blooms are showing up at least 3 to 4 weeks later than usual, and I have lots of photos to remind me of that. Obsessively I cruise through my yard photos of the previous years, wondering when the roses will show or when the rhodies will bloom.
I decided that May truly is the best month here in Grants Pass. The rhodies are in full bloom, the magnificent iris are everywhere, the pink dogwoods are still blooming, and the leaves on the trees are still bright green without that dark olive color that takes over when the heat comes. I love May, and it is my favorite month. Mo says, “You said that about October last year too. You are fickle.” Maybe so.
Toward the end of the month, we actually did something unrelated to the yard. We loaded up the kayaks for a day trip to our old world near Rocky Point. Long-time readers have undoubtedly seen a bazillion photos of Recreation Creek and Malone Springs, but here we are again, kayaking in our favorite place to kayak. Even better than Florida. There isn’t as much wildlife compared to verdant, rich Florida, but there are no alligators, and we don’t have to drive 6,000 miles to kayak here.
We ended our lovely day of kayaking with a visit with good friends from our Rocky Point days. Mata and Jim Rust have lived there for decades and know all the ins and outs of that small, somewhat tightly knit community. It was wonderful to sit on the porch with a good glass of wine enjoying their magnificent view and great conversation. We hadn’t seen Mata and Jim since they visited us at our Rogue River boondock site a couple of years ago.
Memorial Day is a big deal in Grants Pass. For 62 years, a non-profit foundation has put on a huge celebration called “Boatnik.” The big draw is the boat races on the Rogue River, but the parade and the fireworks are also big draws. I had plans to go to the fireworks, but at ten at night, with cold weather and clouds, we decided to stay home for the Friday night festivities. Saturday morning, it dawned cold and rainy, and once again, we decided to skip the fun hometown Memorial Day parade. I just couldn’t get excited about sitting in the rain. A friend who went said it didn’t actually rain, but the parade was so long that after two hours, she finally gave up and took her kids to the carnival. Once again, we talked about going to the second night of fireworks on Sunday night. Instead, we listened to them from our balcony with tiny flashes of light over the river showing through the big, fully leafed oak trees to the north of the property. We are so lucky that Mattie could care less about fireworks and barely notices them.
Finally, on Monday, we decided that we really wanted to at least attend some of the festivities. The weather had turned nicely with some gorgeous blue skies and puffy whites. We drove to Riverside Park, and I reveled in the very best benefit of all from my disability. That blue parking tag gets us through all the gates and closed roads to the handicapped parking zone right at the park’s edge. From where we parked the car, it was about 100 yards to the midway and all the delightful carnival noises of happy kids. I celebrated with my favorite fair food, a giant, perfectly lightly crisped corn dog.
Walking to the river’s edge, we could barely hear the choir singing for the Memorial Day Ceremony. Still, I did manage to stand in a perfect place to take a video of the flag being unfurled over the Caveman Bridge as the Star-Spangled Banner sounded over the loudspeakers. I cried like I used to when I was a kid in school in the mornings before class when they played the anthem and raised the flag. Sometimes that old memory of patriotism and love for my country will surface. There were no politics to think about on that gorgeous Monday in the park.
The big event we came to see was the flyover of the fighter jets from Klamath Falls, doing their rounds over southern Oregon all the way to Gold Beach and back, flying low over the Rogue River here in Grants Pass. I stood in an area along the river, hoping for a great shot. There was a zoom, loud and instantaneous. Only one plane flew over, and it was much too fast for me to catch it, even in a video. A bit of a disappointment, actually. Others said there were two planes over Medford, and some said there were two over Grants Pass, but others said only one. Either way, it was fun to be there. Maybe next time, instead of being right in the park, we will attempt to be on a bridge. There are three that cross the river in this town.
That was the end of May, but we began the month of June with an exploration that we had talked about for a long time. Readers and friends know how much we love the Applegate Valley, filled with farms and wineries and gorgeous views. One of the views from the valley is of the magnificent mountains to the west and south, part of the Siskiyous. Few roads penetrate those mountains, but a few weeks ago, Mo said, “We need to explore the mountains above the Applegate.” Instead of simply saying, “We sure do!” I put it on the calendar, and June 1 was the day.
I did a bit of research, traveled the roads as best I could with google maps, and figured out a route for us to attempt to get to a high point in the range closest to the Applegate Valley .Our goal was the Whiskey Ridge Viewpoint, technically in California just south of the state line. Once we left the main road through the Applegate and headed up Thompson Creek, the road turned narrow and twisty. Turning onto FS Road 1035, we began our ascent to the high country. I was so happy that I had researched and downloaded our route and the maps for offline viewing. I printed a map, and we took the Oregon Gazetteer but would have needed an actual quad sheet to actually be able to navigate that road and all the side roads. With the offline google map, we had no trouble knowing exactly where we were and exactly which turn we needed to take to get to our destination.
It was a gorgeous day, with lots of sun and some clouds. We made it as far as the Whiskey Peak Trailhead, but just a few hundred yards beyond that point, we were stopped by snow deep enough that we didn’t feel like tackling it in the Tracker. Maybe another day. The wildflowers were beautiful at that elevation and I saw two that we had never seen before. The first photo is Calochortus tolmei, sometimes called white cats ears. The second is a flower familiar to many of my California friends, but not to me, Silene hookeri, Hooker’s Indian Pink, although a few of those friends had to guess at the exact variety. We all know it is impossible to key out a flower with a photo.
The fun part of this ride for me was the quiet. Mo drove much of the way, and I spent long moments in mental solitude reminiscing about all the wild mountain dirt roads I navigated as part of my work as a soil scientist in many backcountry mountains for soil survey. I had enough time to mentally attempt to figure out just how many dirt roads like this one I had driven over my career and came up with something like 300,000 miles over 30 years. As Mo drove down that mountain, it was like a crazy deja vu where every road I had traveled in every survey in four states rolled by in my mind. I remembered enjoyable times when I would tease my grandsons by driving as fast down those dirt roads backward as I could go forward.
As we continued back down the mountain, there were a few overlooks where it was possible to see Mt Shasta to the east and Mt McLoughlin to the north, both at the same time, with Applegate Lake, the source of the beautiful Applegate River, a tributary of the Rogue.
It was a precious day in the mountains, with gorgeous views into the Red Butte Wilderness just south of the Oregon border. Even though it was actually June, I still think of it as a fitting end to the play days of May.