Oregon Pilgrim

writings on nature and travel

Huckleberry Picking

Some of the Harris family went huckleberry picking with some friends to a secret place which will remain unnamed.


Greta picked and picked. IMG_1116


Then, Greta realized she was the only one picking.


Some of the pickers had eaten so many huckleberries they were suffering from huckleberry coma!



And Cash too!


She stood up from her spot and wondered what to do. Should she rouse them from their slumber and get them picking again?



“Camping” in Summer Lake


If this is camping …


I could do it forever. Summer Lake might be in the middle of nowhere, but …IMG_0995

it has more than enough compensationsIMG_0972

When Greta saw our digs …


she did a little celebration dance. IMG_0965

Yeah, it was pretty tough, camping with the ladies,


but we managed.IMG_0985

We birded on the way home. Could it be possible that we got a glossy ibis? We’re hoping an expert would confirm our find. We startled an American Bittern from the reeds. This shy bird is a pleasure to see. Also on our list: Black-necked Stilt, American Coot, American Pelican, Pied-billed Grebe, Eared Grebe, Northern Harrier, Bank Swallow, Barn Swallow, Red-winged Blackbird, Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, Ruddy Duck, and Golden-crowned Sparrow. We ate cookies for every new species.

Wow. I shouldn’t have mentioned that.

Summer Lake was a delightful. I can’t wait to visit again.

Lake Shastina

The plan was to meet at Lake Shasta for a cousins reunion.


But, Lake Shasta had warnings about a toxic bloom, so we detoured to Lake Shastina. Cousin reunions are so much fun because there’s catching up to do, lots of laughter, and hanging out is a requirement. We wished all the cousins could have come!


We decided to catch the sunset,


but Ingrid wouldn’t leave the slack line.


Time for silly pics.


After dark, I went for a walk down the quiet road and the bats kept the bugs at bay above my head. These solitary moments give me the space or time to feel alive, to feel my existence in this wide world.

Blue Pool


Yep, it’s really that blue. That’s it — no filters. The downside is it’s a well-known destination. You have to navigate mountain bikers, lines of hikers, dogs, and people taking selfies as they jump into it.IMG_0742

Still, it’s worth it. The hike is shady most of the time, yet, the arrival yields that sense of accomplishment one always seeks on a journey.IMG_0747IMG_0743

We added a Pacific wren to our bird list to sweeten the deal. Lunched a la fresca. And said goodbye with a last, lingering look.IMG_0740IMG_0739

Goodbye, Blue Pool. You are beautiful to behold. I’m glad I saw. I’m glad I felt.




Exploring the Cascades

Bend has its slogans: Living at its best or My life is your vacation. Still, these slogans are only cool if you’re actually fulfilling them. Sometimes, I forget to get out into the wild places in my own backyard.

The broad strokes of the landscape are formed by volcanic activity, but the finishing touches are made by fire.

Ghosts of trees that did not survive fire jut from the forest floor with white sepulcher arms.


The woodpeckers are the grave robbers, making their living from the dead. And they are as unabashed and boisterous about it as Jerry in Tale of Two Cities. 


In our Cascade mountains, the Ponderosa pines tower over the dry needle beds. You can tell a Ponderosa by the club-like arrangement of the spindles. These Ponderosas surrounding the evergreen tree are just saplings.


The forest floor delivers sweet surprises if you stop to look.


Listen. A yellow-rumped warbler trills its cascading call and another answers. It has a spiritual essence as if the trees themselves are singing to one another.


Then, the moment is broken with the rattling and scolding of a squirrel.


There is no silence here. The wind moving through the upper echelons of the forest make a constant roar and the river rushes with its watery hum.

In the wash of green in a forest, color lurks on the ground. Tiny wildflowers bloom their quiet praise waiting patiently for love to find them in the form of a butterfly or bee.IMG_0477


The Cascade mountain range is one of the most unique ranges I have encountered. The highest  volcanoes of the Cascades dominate their surroundings and so they have a specific name and, often, a legend.


I love the legends. I feel we must once again animate our forests with poetry before the scientists crush the wonder from us. We sink beneath facts, numbers, and findings. I want to feel the stories again.


There was a time when our forests and stars held stories and mysteries because we had a relationship with them.

If we remain behind our walls of distraction and feed upon the facts fed to us through our devices, what will become of our stories? What will become of us?

The Superbloom in Death Valley

We arrived in Death Valley as the famed superbloom subsided. .
IMG_0321Still, a few steps off the road, life surprised us everywhere we looked.


IMG_0330Seeds lie dormant for years, waiting for the perfect conditions to erupt.

Then, they bloom violently.

Desert flowers are angelic warriors, prying prisons of rock open and rendering the barren sands fertile.

Certainly, I am a fortunate one to see these wayside wanderers, but there must be thousands of blooms out there which a human eye will never see. And yet, they bloom.


There are eyes with sight and there are eyes that see. (We saw a black-throated sparrow.)


God grant me eyes that see.




Birding in Death Valley

It was Elsa’s birthday and Elsa wanted to go birding so … we awoke earlyIMG_0314

breakfastedIMG_0311and searched for birds. IMG_0308There’s not a lot of easy-to-see wildlife in Death Valley. We decided to seek out birds where there was water. There was water at the golf course.

Elsa’s notebook records seeing: Great-tailed Grackle, a Turkey Vulture Roost among the date trees, Common Raven, Starling, House Sparrow, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Song Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, American Robin, Ruddy Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Greater Yellowlegs, Black Phoebe, Say’s Phoebe, Cassin’s Vireo, American Coot, Cinnamon Teal, Tree Swallow and a Norther Flicker.

None of these were new birds for us but it was a pleasure seeing them anyway. We were seeing old friends in a new place.


I don’t know how birding becomes a spiritual experience. Perhaps it is because it requires quiet and waiting, something that is difficult to do in our modernized society. We are very far removed from those desert fathers who sought God in the distant, empty places of the world. I try to meditate at home and find it a difficult discipline. I don’t even know if I’ve ever truly accomplished a breakthrough. But birding brings me closer to a place where my soul can drink. It carves a path for meditation. IMG_0304

Happy birthday, Elsa. I think it’s awesome this is how you want to spend your birthday. I remember when you’d flip the pages of the bird guide with your little chubby hands while Daddy carried you in the backpack. You identified a Bullock’s Oriole from that perch. Love you, girl!

Badwater Basin

This is what I always imagined when I thought of Death Valley — these salt flats which held the bragging rights for years of being the lowest place in the western hemisphere (until Laguna del Carbon was discovered). Standing there, you can look high up into the cliffs and see the marker for sea level.

IMG_0286Once there, we kind of stood around and nodded at each other. Perhaps the vast emptiness, lack of water, and loneliness got to our heads.

Yep. Things were getting desperate. We started hallucinating and swatting at the air.


When Paul and I were dating, he wrote me a letter. He said that, without me, he was like a loafer without its mate cast aside in the middle of a vast desert. He drew me a picture of it — the immense desert and a tiny, accurately portrayed penny loafer — alone.

I took a picture of this rock because it reminded me of that sketch Paul drew for me over twenty years ago.


Here we were, in the desert, not alone. Together. With our girls.


Thankful. Happy. Content.


Artist’s Palette in Death Valley

This sweet little five-spot greeted us from the rocks. Isn’t it so delicate and sweet among the rocks — so fresh and new among the billion-year time pieces?


Even these leathery desert blooms caused me to stop and admire.

IMG_0261Artist’s Palette is a wonder. From a distance, a wide range of colors look like the cascading strokes of a painter’s brush across a canvas.


It also looks like different flavors of ice cream melting, which is an unfortunate metaphor when it’s hot.


Close up, you can’t see where all the color went. It disappears into the background. You might as well be chasing a rainbow.


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