“Sisters, sisters . . .

There were never such devoted sisters/never had to have a chaperone, no sir/I’m here to keep an eye on her.”

Oh, my gosh! What has happened? I sat down to write a brief post about our time in Sisters, Oregon, and, instead, I find myself in the middle of a Bing Crosby movie!  I must try to concentrate more. Focus, Virginia, focus.


Welcome to Sisters. It isn’t quite this quiet; this is a side street.

Thursday, June 20, was a day of leisure; and, a day off for our driver. We wandered the streets of this high desert, western themed town, popping into one shop after another, seeing what was on offer.  We discovered beautiful scarves hand woven by the lovely shop’s equally lovely proprietor, weavin’ Stephen.  We found that items called antiques and collectibles in one store with prices to match might also be found in a charity shop with bargain basement prices. We admired gorgeous quilts at a large, bright, welcoming fabric store and cringed at a store called “Antler Art,” two words that should NEVER be placed together. I bought a bunch of 50 cent children’s books perfect for my little free library.

The only sour note on our perambulations was our luncheon choice: Bowls of soup at a little café that were permeated with a charred flavor. Perhaps the cook was of the “a watched pot never boils” school.  She or he should have taken a few classes from the “an unstirred pot of a cream based soup always burns” school.  However, the beauty of the mountains surrounding Sisters and the incredible freshness of its air soon drove away this minor luncheon misstep.

Afternoon spend in individual pursuits: Reading, resting, ruminating and cruising.

More happy hour in the lodge, dinner at the Sister’s Saloon (ribs for one, salads for others) and a pleasant stroll home over the petite, covered bridge, through the pines, past the massive recreational vehicles in the campground capped a lovely day.

Thanks to Heather and Judy for letting me use some of their photos.




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I haven’t written a really good plumbing post for quite a while . . . and this isn’t going to be it. But really, who thought this was a good idea?


Won’t the hot water be cold by the time it finally splashes down?

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Moving Day


H, M and J huddled for warmth at Timberline

Yesterday, Wednesday, June 19th, we struck our tents at Edgefield and headed off for new adventures.  Our driver has been doing brilliantly on this trip and the fact that he made a wrong turn as we left the Edgefield driveway did nothing to shake our confidence in his abilities.

Our final destination for the day was Sisters in central Oregon but our midway stop (at Heather’s specific request and to everyones’ general delight) was Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood.*

Timberline Lodge was constructed during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Construction began in 1935 and was completed in 1938. The work was done by three of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal organizations: The Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and the Federal Art Project (FAP). Wherever one comes down politically on the New Deal public works projects or the current political divide, one has to admit that we are richer for having this incredible building on this magnificent mountain.

Built of local materials by out-of-work laborers and artists, it is splendid. The design, art and furnishings were inspired by three major themes: Native Americans, the pioneers, and Cascadia. Many of the materials were recycled: Enormous utility poles became newel posts anchoring the stairways with their mass and decorating them with their whimsical carvings; railroad rails were forged into andirons with curled ends inspired by rams’ horns; surplus World War I uniforms worn by the workers were cleaned, cut, dyed and hooked into the rugs that warmed the floors of the rooms; old linoleum was used as the canvas for painted murals.

We had the good fortune to stumble onto the beginning of a tour when we arrived. Without that serendipity, the two paragraphs above would not have been possible. We had a great guide.

We also had a very good lunch with a view. When we drove up the mountain to the lodge, the sky, which had been cloud covered at Edgefield and for much of our drive, cleared and gave us a glorious view of Mt. Hood.  During lunch, thin layers of cloud drifted across the mountain and then away allowing us to play peek-a-boo with the view.

After bidding good bye to Mt. Hood, we continued southish on Highways 26 and 97 going through many different landscapes as well as the Warm Springs Reservation before ending up in Sisters at Five Pine Lodge.  H and J in the Allen cabin, M and V in the Willitts, happy hour in the lodge, burgers in the roadhouse.

*Mt. Hood is the name given the mountain in 1792 by a member of the Vancouver exploration party. Hood being the name of some British Admiral who fought against us in the Revolutionary War. The Native American name given by the Multnomah people is Wy’east.  I think we should reclaim the original name.

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Roll On, Columbia or Into the Gorge


Another fabulous day and a half!

Departure from Kingston yesterday about 11 a.m. and shooting down I-5 had us arriving at McMenamins Edgefield in Troutdale, Oregon around 3:30 p.m.  We checked into our king suites* (H and J in the Doris Baker room, M and V in the Crown Point room, which is a ground floor corner room with oodles of natural light) in plenty of time to wander the grounds before settling in at the Winery for refreshment.

Michael and I hadn’t been to Edgefield since we were last here with Heather . . . 2011.  I’d forgotten just how quirky and wonderful the place is.  It’s a delight to just wander the grounds enjoying the gardens and the halls enjoying the artwork. The details are fascinating and the overall vision it took to bring this place to life is unbelievable.

I don’t know how many little bars, grills, etc., are tucked into the various out buildings and into the nooks and crannies of the manor but it is significant. Money spending opportunities abound and money is being spent in all of them. There is something very pleasant about seeing people (young people, people with young families, old people) enjoying themselves in all the different venues.  I like it here.

Tonight Ziggy Marley and Michael Franti are in concert on the lawn and major preparations are underway.  Heard a sound check a bit ago and we will be able to enjoy (if that proves to be the correct word) the music without paying the price of admission. I thought we would be able to get high from the weed smoke wafting over the grounds but have been told that no dope smoking is allowed. Oh, well, one out of two isn’t bad.

Had a delicious dinner at the Black Rabbit Restaurant last night and anticipate the same result tonight.

This morning we drove up the gorge to Multnomah Falls to admire the cascades and then hooked onto US 30, the Historic Columbia River Highway, and headed back west to Crown Point. Along the way, we arbitrarily stopped at Latourell Falls, which turned out to be a brilliant stroke of luck.  Not only are these falls much less crowded than Multnomah Falls, they are situated on a gorgeous basalt formation.  It might not be of the size of the Giants’ Causeway in Northern Ireland but it is beautiful.

Our day began with some high clouds but by the time we got to Crown Point and Vista House, we had blue skies and sunshine. What a way to admire the views from that promontory.

Finally, back to Edgefield for a shared lunch and a historical tour of the manor.  The four of us will rendezvous at 6:30 in the Winery for preprandial sipping.

As I said at the beginning, a most excellent day and a half.

*There comes a point in one’s life when one doesn’t want to have to wander the halls in search of a toilet when one has to wee at 2 a.m. No extra cost is too much to pay for the convenience of en suite accommodations.



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The Gang’s All Here


Aren’t we a good looking group?

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Pacific NW Road Trip


Along the Point No Point Lighthouse beach

The only thing that’s better than having a great trip in foreign lands is having a great trip at home.

Saturday, June 15, Michael and I drove up to Seattle to pick up two very good friends who were arriving from their home in Hove, England.  They have hosted us many times and have shown us many incredible things (geographical, historical, cultural) in their very rich part of England.

We are delighted to finally have an opportunity to reciprocate and show them some of the wonders the Pacific Northwest has to offer.  We may not have the fields on which the Battle of Hastings took place in 1066 but we do have the fort (or a facsimile thereof) where Lewis and Clark spent the winter of 1805-1806.  We may not have the glorious chalk cliff walks of the Seven Sisters but we do have the beaches of Puget Sound (two bald eagles sighted within first moments of walk), the mountains of the Columbia River Gorge and the waterfalls of Silver Falls State Park.  No cozy village pubs?  Not to worry; we have a multitude of McMenamins and vineyards beyond number. In other words, we are ready to take on the old world!

Our first two nights have been spent in a nice water front (Appletree Cove) AirB&B in Kingston, Washington.  Perfect location for visiting with sister Cathy and family, which we spent yesterday doing.  Margaret and family came over from Seattle and we had a great day catching up on family news and seeing how much the boys (5 and 3) have grown and developed since our last visit one year ago.

Over two evenings, Cathy and Ed treated us to an array of delicious Alaskan fishes (all lovingly caught by either Ed or Bessie): Gorgeous smoked salmon, a wonderful, creamy salmon spread, and an incredible fresh halibut dinner. Onions, white wine, cream, mayonnaise were all involved in its preparation and it was wonderful.  Fresh blueberry pie rounded things out (mostly me).

A most excellent beginning to a fortnight of fun and exploration


Judy, Heather, Cathy, Virginia, Michael

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Musings While Waiting for a Delayed Flight

I have been thinking about my clothing choices for this trip. My thoughts are that they worked out fairly well. Good town clothes, good hiking clothes, good après-hiking clothes (i.e. the town clothes), etc.

I have been laboring under the impression that, if not exactly stylish, a level to which I have never aspired, I have presented a respectable face (and behind) to the world as we have traveled through Ireland.  However, as the end of our time in the emerald isle approached, my options became increasingly narrow.  In fact, the clothes that I wore to our final dinner on Sunday were the clothes I had to wear Monday on the train from Killarney to Dublin and then, hopefully, today on the plane from Dublin to San Francisco.  After all, it’s not like I was going to work up a sweat or anything. And one more day of wrinkles on my linen would just add charm. right?

When disrobing for bed last night, I noticed that the back of my white pants had acquired a LARGE tea colored stain all across the backside. Retroactive mortification set in.

I have to assume that the stain was the result from some external factor: Beer spilled on a chair I sat on, tea dribbled onto a bench I chose to perch upon. If not from some external factor, I need to revisit that decision not to pack adult diapers when I travel.



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Sunday: Magnificent and Miserable


All of us. Thanks to Megan for this photo.

Sunday, June 2nd, was our last full day with our Wilderness Travel group.  It is now Tuesday, June 4th, and, as always happens with me, the adrenaline rush of being engaged in an intense, shared experience is beginning to ebb and I am feeling a trifle melancholy.  So, I must get this almost-last post done before complete collapse occurs.

Sunday was phenomenal!!  I cannot stress enough the necessity of doing a trip like ours with guides like ours.  At every turn, we have been treated to “bonus” events arranged only through the connections our guides have with the people of this area.

Sunday morning began with us driving to the Gallarus Oratory on the far western end of the Dingle Peninsula where Con had arranged to have an incredible musician, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, sing and play for us in this tiny, ancient, stone building. The seventeen of us filled the small space and, when she sang, her voice accompanied only by the sound of the wind outside, it was breathtaking. The song was in Gaelic and I didn’t understand a word but the emotion was clear and strong.  Tunes on wooden flute and tin whistle followed; it was a perfect beginning for our last day.

Our final hike was out on Brandon Head and it was a corker (no pun intended). We dressed in full battle gear and headed up a small farm path that gradually deteriorated into a track into the wind and rain.  We passed a pasture with Gypsy (Vanner) horses and saw a foal that had been born just that morning.  Then up into the most spectacular scenery of the trip: Waterfalls everywhere, sometimes seeming to flow backwards when the force of the wind sent great plumes of spray skyward.  The wind was strong and the rain was constant with vast sheets of it dancing magically across the mountain sides.  The force of Irish weather combined with the landscape created a feeling of being . . . being in exactly the right place at precisely the right time. Soaking wet, it didn’t matter; you just had to grab the moment with both hands and hold on tight.

Every time we began to turn a corner into another gulley, climbing ever upward, I thought “oh, shoot, we are losing that waterfall.” And, then, two steps onwards, another cascade would appear. Just typing these words gives me a bit of a thrill. At the top is a saddle . . . a great, boggy expanse of a saddle. Imagine the force of the wind against your body, the sharp peppering of rain on your face, the sloppy, sucking sounds your boots make as they land on and pull out of this muddy, mucky, grassy area, nothing but beauty all around, air so fresh it shocks your lungs, and a heart full to brimming with joy. Do you have that in your head? If so, you have a beginning of what it felt like to be there.  I wish I were there still instead of sitting here in the British Air Lounge at Dublin Airport.

Suffice it to say, that final hike couldn’t have been been more perfect.

Back at the hotel, after a chance to wring out our clothes and hair, a few of us went with Con on a drive along another part of the coastline. The light on the clouds and water was beautiful. We heard more of Con’s musings on the Irish diaspora and its continuing effect on the Irish and the world.

It was a magnificent and miserable day: Magnificent for all the reasons I’ve mentioned above plus many that I have not mentioned; miserable because it was the last day.  But I choose to hold onto the magnificent.

No photos of that last hike. Camera stayed firmly nestled in pack. Only images are in my mind where they will be forever treasured.


Gypsy horses


Ann, Con and Killian


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Mount Brandon


Both groups at break on saddle

Saturday, June1: Today offered three options for walking. All slightly modified to account for the weather, which, although less than perfect, turned out to be excellent hiking weather: moderate temperature, little wind, some sun,  some clouds and no precipitation until just after we finished up.

Michael chose to walk along the beach as did Colin and Megan (6.2 flat miles); I chose to hike up to a saddle on Mount Brandon (about 7 up up up and down down down miles); a couple of people chose the same Mount Brandon hike but with a longer up up up part . . . maybe up up up up.

As with every hike on this trip, this one offered something just a little bit different: beautiful, long views over fields to the ocean and bays of the coastline with craggy, steep mountain sides and softly uplifted green pastures.

I’m finally getting my walking legs. Nothing was too tired by the end of the morning. We walked for about three hours and then had the afternoon and evening on our own to do a little exploration in Dingle.

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Up the Road to Dingle


Group in front of “Ryan’s Daughter” schoolhouse

Friday, May 31: Another day of moving base but managing to fit in a couple of nice walks, as well.

The day brought with it a blanket of clouds pulled firmly down over the tops of the mountains. Even some of the little islands on Loch Lein, also spelled Lough Leane, were snuggled down under fluffy duvets. Nonetheless, most of us were game for the morning’s walk to Muckross Abbey and then through the gardens of Muckross House.

Killian took us on this walk and it was fun learning the history of the places along with a commentary on what the gardens had meant to him as a boy growing up just a short bike ride away.  The grounds were part of his extended backyard and his love of the place shone through with each of his words.

Actually, I think that is the main thing that I will take away from these days in Ireland: Each of our guides has such a deep connection, respect and love for the landscapes they are leading us through. It infuses everything they tell us with a depth of emotion that is difficult to describe. And, it must be said, with a joy in the sharing of their stories that is contagious. Beauty surrounds us at every turn but the true beauty does, indeed, lie within the people.

A humble but nourishing lunch at a small, local café, local to where I’m not exactly certain because we drove for quite a while past Dingle,  was a preamble to our afternoon’s ramble.

Weather was still casting a bit of a pall over the countryside and the mountains were still completely obscured by clouds. So, the first plan for the afternoon was abandoned and two alternatives suggested.  One was a longer walk around and about and out to a headland; the other was a shorter walk back near Dingle out to a lighthouse. Michael and I took one of each: I did the longer walk; he the shorter.

Those of us in the longer walk party, guided by Ann, donned full rain gear and headed out onto wet but gorgeous cliff side fields.  Although we did get thoroughly wetted, the sky cleared after twenty or thirty minutes and we stripped down and enjoyed a beautiful rest of the walk.  Lots of lushly green fields, textured with stones and sheep. Apparently, the locals call this walk the “Ryan’s Daughter” walk because that movie was filmed there.

Incredible dinner at a Michelin restaurant was followed by pub (or pubs, plural in Michael’s case), whiskey, beer and music.  Unfortunately, for me, at least, that was followed by a somewhat unsettled night.


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