Grants Pass – Oregon

Our trip today took us up the Willamette Valley into the Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon to Grants Pass (how do you have a possessive noun without an apostrophe?). A town in the mountains . . . sounds wonderful doesn’t it? In Silverton yesterday, the highs were in the 80’s and the lows in the 50’s. As we set up camp, I glanced at the thermometer, and the temperature was 104°. Compare that with the high in Congress today, which was 93°. What’s wrong with this picture?

Our drive was pleasant as we  followed the Willamette River to its headwaters. South of Eugene, the rolling farm-land gave way to a low mountain range. We played tag with the trailer trucks, passing them on the up-grades and they’d return the favor on the down-hill runs. We had the cruise set at five miles over their speed limit, so they shouldn’t have been able to do that. For a moment I thought about calling the 800 number posted on the trailers and report their speeding, just for something to do, but that would have spoiled the drive. Besides, I would have had to wake Anne.

I noticed today that the great raptors circling in the sky are no longer eagles. They’re turkey buzzards, just like we have at home. They seem pinned to the sky, never moving their wings. I wonder why their arms don’t get tired.

We made the two hundred mile journey to Grants Pass in less than five hours. As I said, we were poking along, enjoying the ride. Because we got here during the heat of the day, we had to move all the new wine bottles out of Fritz and into The Ritz, where we could keep them air-conditioned. I’m afraid that will become a daily routine until we get home next week.

After the heat broke, we searched for a place to have dinner. We found a nice one called River’s Edge. It’s an upscale restaurant perched above a riffle on the Rouge River. The first thing you see in the entrance is a ginormous painting of a fly fisherman making an impossible cast. Still it was romantic in a River Runs Through It sort of way.

From the Deck at the River's Edge
I found it impossible to concentrate on dinner, when the river called to me.

We had a very good meal, but while we sat there, I wanted to go get my fly rod out of the truck. That river called to me. “Fish me! Fish me!” It was the haunting voice of the Goddess of Fly Fishing (maybe we should have a contest to give her a pseudo mythological name). Anne kept gushing on about how romantic it was, and I kept looking for steel-head in the riffle.

We left just after the bus came in. Two large tables were reserved for a group of octogenarian on the lowest deck. They walked through the door with canes and walkers. The restaurant didn’t have access ramps, so they struggled down the stairs clutching at the railing and each other. They certainly had the best seat in the house, and undoubtedly an excellent dinner, still . . .

Blue Bear in Grants Pass
A sculptor of a blue bear reading a fairy tale to its cub. Is that a Goldilocks tattoo on her chest? “Eat my porridge will you?”

On the way back to camp, we stopped in downtown so I could take some snaps. Bear sculptures decorate downtown Grants Pass. That surprised me, because after Alaska, how could there be any bears around this much civilization. All of California’s grizzlies were wiped out by 1855. The statues are artists interpretations as each was different. There weren’t any plaques explaining their existence or meaning, just the artist’s name.

Hotel Josephine
The Redwoods Hotel with a mural of the original Hotel Josephine painted on its wall. The five-story structure was an addition to the original which suffered a fire and was torn down. Now the original hotel lives on as a mural on the side of the addition.

Tomorrow we’ll take the Redwood Highway to Eureka, where we will spend a couple of days. We read that there is a walking tour of the Victorian Era homes available, so that has Anne excited. As you already know, I love to shoot old buildings, so I’m looking forward to it too. Maybe it will be cooler down by the Pacific.

Rogue Theater
The Rogue theater was converted from a movie theater to live performances. In addition to the bill on the marquee, Iris DeMent is coming in October.


Willamette Valley – Oregon

I want a job where my sole responsibility is visiting wineries and tasting the varietals they offer. I think I’d be good at it, and I promise I wouldn’t spit anything out. Who am I kidding? Like any job, it would be a drag after a while, but it would be fun until my liver gave out.

That’s how Queen Anne and I spent the afternoon, and ‘they learned us’ a thing or two about Oregon wines. Most of the wineries in the state are in the Willamette Valley, a broad river valley that stretches from Eugene to Portland. The west flank has a low coastal range of mountains and the Cascades separate the valley from the high deserts to the east.

View From Erath Vinyards
The four tasting rooms we visited were an area known as the Dundee Hills. Although we stuck to four, we could have easily worked the area for a week.

What grows well here is the Pinot Noir grape, because of the weather and the soils. When you visit a tasting room, you may sample one of these or one of those, but a half-dozen Pinots. Two of the four places we visited had two bottles of the same wine, but only the vine location or the year set them apart. Although they had the same general taste, their personalities were distinct. Choosing which to buy was a matter of personal preference, both were excellent bottles of wine.

Willamette Farm House
There are gobs of photogenic things to shoot in the Willamette Valley. In this case it was an abandoned farm-house along the back-road.

Another fun thing about visiting tasting rooms is the presentations. The large vintners have lavish gardens and a showroom full of ancillary things for sale. The smaller growers may only have a room at the back of the farm-house. Production size is not a good indicator of the quality. The better known labels do offer bottles not available in . . . say, Costco. They have labels marked ‘Reserve’ or ‘Private Reserve’ which are low volume hand crafted wines. Our experience has been that these bottles are substantially better than what you would buy off the shelf.

Pine Grove
Only in New Zealand have I seen crop forests planted as dense as here. It’s so dark inside the grove, I wouldn’t be able to shoot without a tripod.

So much for the fun part . . . back to work. Tomorrow we will be on the move again. This time to Grant’s Pass in southern Oregon. We’re only going to stop for a night and the next day we will head to the coast and Eureka, California. Anne and I never actually visited the town, although we stayed nearby. We’re excited to check it out.


Silverton – Oregon

Capital Theater
Sunday evening, we went to Yakima’s old town to find a place for dinner. As we sat at our table, I noticed this theater across the street and went outside to shoot it and particularly, the restored painted sign on its side. Since it was cloudy out, the shot came out OK, but bland. When we finished dinner, the sun dropped below the cloud’s edge and lit the place up, so I decided to re-shoot the scene. However this time there was a group of young women doing a photo shoot of their own, so I included them into my composition.

After a wonderful day of sampling Washington wines yesterday, we continued on our journey south this morning. Our route took us down the east side of the Cascades till we reached the Columbia River. After crossing the bridge into Oregon, we drove through the ever windy Columbia Gorge, where even on a Monday, there were plenty of wind surfers skimming the white-capped river. Then, just short of Portland we turned south through the Willamette Valley.

Hydro-Electrical Dam on the Columbia River.
There are several dams along the Columbia River that produce gobs of electricity. Although they cause their fair share of ecological problems, it was the power these dams generated that made it possible to produce aluminum on an industrial scale. Aircraft industry used that aluminum to build the planes that helped the allies win WWII.

We’ve stopped in Silverton, a place we’ve visited before more than a fifteen years ago. It’s a couple of miles north of the 45th Parallel; the halfway line between the north pole and the equator. When we were last here, Silverton’s downtown was a cluster of empty historic buildings waiting for re-purposing. Now, they’re filled with boutiques, restaurants, and antique shops. It was fun to walk the couple of blocks trying to find someplace for dinner, but it was Monday, and most of the businesses were closed.

Downtown Silverton
An example of the carefully restored buildings in Silverton.

We chose Silverton because it’s a convenient base for exploring the vineyards of the Willamette Valley, Oregon’s wine country. It’s going to be a rough day tomorrow, because we have to sit down and whittle the list of stops down to six. That seems a good number for us to taste without getting our taste buds confused.

Sllverton Mural
A new mural is being painted on a blank wall of a Silverton Building.

After we leave here on Wednesday, we’ll head toward south Oregon then make our way over to the Pacific Coast. We want to spend some time along the coast before we go through the Sonoma/Napa Valleys. As much as we’d like to add some of those bottles to our collection, they may be out of our budget. There’s no harm in finding out, is there?