Cowlitz Falls Lavender Company Brings Purple Fields to Randle

Harvest.jpg

Photo courtesy of Jason Claibourn

What do you do when lavender is the only plant your mom can’t kill? You buy property and start a lavender farm, of course.

Justin Claibourn laughs as he tells that his mom’s love of lavender – and her lack of a green thumb – were the basis for starting a lavender farm. She attended lavender festivals “religiously” according to Claibourn, so he and his wife, Jordann, and his parents, Debbie and Tim, thought, “What if we grew lavender?” They looked into it and that began Cowlitz Falls Lavender Company. [Read more at LewisTalk.com]

Categories: Business, Profile, Washington | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Jane Hodges Brings Mineral School Back to Life

Jane Hodges wanted an unusual place for artists to get away and concentrate on their work—to form what artists would call a “colony” or residency where they can get away and focus on their creativity. She found it in the old Mineral School. [see more at LewisTalk.com]

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Join the Homebrew Craze with Flood Valley Homebrew

It seems everyone is brewing something at home these days. Beer, wine, kombucha even hard cider is making a comeback. The first question you may ask is, “Why brew your own when your store-bought choices are endless?” Centralia native, Chris Rohr, owner of Flood Valley Homebrew was just like you, asking himself the same question. [read more on LewisTalk.com]

Categories: Business, Food, Wine, Cider, Profile, Washington | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Pearl Café – A Little Restaurant Makes a Big Entrance

“If you walk into The Pearl Café when they open for breakfast at 8:30 a.m. you’ll be treated to the enticing aroma of freshly baked desserts. You’ll second-guess your decision to have breakfast and actually think about just eating the goodies instead.” [read more on Lewis.Talk.com]

 

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Ride the Rails in Your Own Motorcar with NORCOA

1-IMG_8199Did you love trains as a child? Maybe still do? Do you know how you can ride the rails in your own vehicle? Check out NORCOA, North American Railcar Operators Association. Driving through Centralia on a recent I saw splashes of color out of the corner of my eye. As I passed over the railroad tracks on Main Street, I saw a row of colorful little “cars” stopped on the tracks. I quickly pulled over to find out what they heck they were.

1-IMG_8213Everyone was very friendly, willing to give information and let me look over their cars. NORCOA is a non-profit group of people who just love the old “railroad motorcars” (also known as “speeders”) that were used at one time to inspect railroad tracks for areas that needed repaired. Each car is privately owned. NORCOA arranges excursions around the country, renting lines from the owners. The trips can be as short as 10 miles or as long as several thousand miles, and run throughout both the U.S. as well as Canada.

NORCOA has about 1,700 members around the world. There is a cost to participate, from $10 up to nearly $2,000 for the very long excursions. Any member/owner can go on any excursion that they want, however, they do have to pass a certification test.

1-IMG_8197Owners trailer their cars to the beginning destination of the excursion. Each person is then responsible for their food and accommodations. Some stay in hotels, some go on excursions that take them near family or friends that they can stay with. Jerry and Karen Wagner of Eagle, Idaho, took this particular trip because they were both originally from Centralia and still have family in the area. They are very proud of the lovely hand-painted eagle on their car, created by local family member, Dale Harris.

Excursions are slow, leisurely events, stopping for sightseeing and food/restroom breaks. While the cars could go about 35 miles an hour, they typically only go 15-25 miles an hour. If you like traveling on Amtrak, this is an even better way to see different views of the countryside in an up-close and personal way.

NORCOA Rail Car

NORCOA Rail Cars

So if you ever see these little cars out and about, be sure to stop and talk to the owners. They are more than happy to share their story. And if you do decide to check out the NORCOA website, be careful when you start poking around on it – there are motorcars for sale! Before you know it, you may have a new hobby!

Categories: Historical, Outdoors | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Adorable Alpacas! Crescent Moon Ranch, Terrebonne, Oregon

Crescent Moon Ranch, Terrebonne, OR

Crescent Moon Ranch

On a recent girls’ weekend to Central Oregon, we thought visiting the farm looked like fun. Surely they would have a gift shop with tons of goodies made from soft, warm alpaca wool. As we pulled into the parking lot we noticed a baby alpaca, looking totally adorable in the field. It was still wobbly when it walked. We wondered how old it was.

Crescent Moon Ranch, Terrebonne, OR

Baby Alpaca!

Crescent Moon Ranch, Terrebonne, OR

Crescent Moon Ranch Gift Shop

Then we turned our attention to the gift shop, of course. Inside we were treated to multi-colored displays of gorgeous sweaters, hats, gloves, you name it! Yes, most of it was fairly expensive. But we noticed the sock display and had to check them out and ended up with some very soft ones that are making me look forward to the cold weather so I can enjoy them.

Crescent Moon Ranch, Terrebonne, OR

Alpaca goodies!

Crescent Moon Ranch, Terrebonne, OR

Adorable Gifts!

We headed out the door to go back to the car but noticed some people over in the barn with several animals. As we walked towards the barn, the alpacas started noticing us and slowly ambled towards us. Knowing that llamas can spit, I wondered if alpacas do the same thing – so I watched them trying to determine if I could tell. Would I see them making that face guys do when they get ready to spit?

Crescent Moon Ranch, Terrebonne, OR

Just hanging out.

My friend asked if we could watch and they were very welcoming, answering all of our questions as they got ready to shear one of the alpacas. It was a little uncomfortable for me to see the alpaca be stretched out for shearing, but it didn’t appear to be in any distress and was quite calm. They sheared off some of the wool and brought it over for us to feel. It was surprisingly soft because they said this animal was fairly old, so I guess I expected the wool to feel coarse.

Crescent Moon Ranch, Terrebonne, OR

Alpaca wool.

The whole time we were watching this and asking questions, there was one alpaca in particular that was quite interested in watching us as well. Thankfully – it never spit!

Crescent Moon Ranch, Terrebonne, OR

Watching us…

The Crescent Moon Alpaca Farm is located just south of Terrebonne, Oregon. It’s very easy to find, right on the main highway at 7566 N Hwy 97. You can’t miss it – you’ll see several adorable alpacas in their field, and signs indicating whether they are open or closed.

For more information, check them out at http://www.crescentmoonranch.com.

 

 

 

 

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Cruising the Columbia River

Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Is it a river boat? A paddlewheel boat? A paddle steamer? A sternwheeler? A boat operated by paddle wheels appears to be known by all of these names. But on the Columbia River, it’s referred to as a sternwheeler. I’ve always wanted to take a ride on one and finally we had a chance on the Columbia Gorge, based in Cascade Locks, Oregon. My mother-in-law’s birthday had been earlier in the month and since we prefer to give experiences rather than “stuff,” we wanted to take her on this cruise.

As we drove into town, traffic was bumper to bumper. Then we notice the sign on the side of the road – “Sternwheeler Days.” “Oh, no, I hope we’re not caught up in a parade!” I quickly pulled out my iPhone and looked up the celebration. Whew! The parade must have just ended. We crawled along for just a few blocks until we spied the well-marked sign to the turn-in for the boat, at the Cascade Locks Marine Park. We easily found a parking spot, and headed into a small building, the Visitor Center and Locks Cafe. Inside was the ticketing desk off to the left, a small food area to the right, and behind that was a gift shop.

Visitor Center and Locks Cafe, Columbia Gorge

Visitor Center and Locks Cafe

The whole building had fascinating old pictures and bookcases with antiques highlighting life years ago.

Old Items in the Visitor Center, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Old Items in the Visitor Center

We already had our tickets but stopped at the ticket desk to ask if we were OK wearing sandals (we were) and if it was OK to take the camera on the boat (yes we were, as a matter of fact it was highly encouraged!) Then we stepped outside on the deck to enjoy the view until the boat came back from its trip upriver. It runs about ½ hour downstream, turns around, comes back to the dock and lets some passenger off and others on, then goes upstream about ½ hour and again returns to the dock. So there are different lengths of cruises you can take, as well as dinner cruises. We were taking the two-hour cruise.

When the boat came back to the dock, it was moving pretty rapidly. David and Josh were debating between themselves if it was truly operated by the paddle wheels or if it had supplemental power. Later we would find out, yes, it was truly operated by the paddle wheels! And its name was – Columbia Gorge!

Paddles, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Paddles

Before getting on the ship, there was a sign that said for safety reasons everyone had to have their picture taken. We wondered if this was because we would be going close to the dam. Group pictures were allowed so we had ours all taken together. I did have to wonder later if it really was for safety reasons, because later, staff took all the pictures around to the guests and people could choose to buy one if they wanted. We had already planned and pre-paid for two pictures anyway, so we got ours.

Sue, Josh, Nancy, David. Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Sue, Josh, Nancy, David

Inside the Sternwheeler, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Inside the Sternwheeler

Inside the vessel was gorgeous, a combination of antique looking decor with modern amenities such as a restroom and snack bar. There was a lower dining area for the lunch dinner cruises, and seating upstairs where the snack bar was located.

Snack Bar, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Snack Bar

As we pulled away from the dock, looking north we were awestruck to see the scar on the land where a massive landslide happened hundreds of years ago. The captain, Michael Cain, explained how this landslide had completely blocked the river, backing it clear up to Idaho. Eventually the river broke through underneath, creating a natural land bridge, named, “The Bridge of the Gods” by local Native Americans. Crossing under the new steel Bridge of the Gods built to replace the natural bridge that eventually collapsed, we were taken back in time as we thought about how we were re-enacting a trip Native Americans might have taken under the natural bridge.

Josh and the Bridge of the Gods, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Josh and the Bridge of the Gods

Under the Bridge of the Gods, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Under the Bridge of the Gods

One fun unusual thing that happened – kayakers and paddleboarders would catch the waves from the boat and ride along on them!

Paddlboarder riding the wake, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Paddlboarder Riding the Wake

Kayakers and Boarder Riding the Wake

Kayakers and Boarders Riding the Wake

Strong winds blasting up the Columbia River were a welcome relief from the heat of the day, even though the sky was overcast. On both sides of the river were odd-looking docks. The captain explained that Native Americans used to fish the falls in the area before the dam, and now use these docks to fish.

Native American Fishing Docks, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Native American Fishing Docks

We continued on up near the dam, passing a rock that the captain told us was named, “Hermiston Rock.” Apparently rocks are named after the boats that crash on them! Yikes, let’s not have one named “Columbia Gorge Rock” OK?

Hermiston Rock, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Hermiston Rock

Bonneville Dam from the Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Bonneville Dam

We went as far as we could then turned around and headed back upriver. I overheard someone say, “Anyone can go in the wheelhouse” so of course, we headed in. Inside was the captain and two young men, crew members. The captain was more than happy to answer all of our questions, and then the dream of a lifetime – let Josh steer the boat! He was thrilled! He did it for quite a ways, until we got back closer to the bridge, then the captain took over. We finally left the wheelhouse but Josh just stayed in there, visiting and asking questions until we docked again.

Captain Michael Cain, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Captain Michael Cain

Wheelhouse, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Wheelhouse

Josh Steering the Sternwheeler. Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Josh Steering the Sternwheeler

We waited while the other passengers boarded, then headed upriver. By now the sun was coming out, the clouds were disappearing, and it wasn’t near as windy going east. The views along this route were more rural with lots of beautiful hills and trees. By the time we turned around and headed back, I think we were all relaxed as Jell-O. I didn’t want to get off the boat, I felt like all stress had drained away into the river, and all that was left was thoughts of the here-and-now.

Gorgeous Views, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Gorgeous Views

We highly recommend this little cruise. The price is extremely reasonable, with different rates for different lengths of trips. For prices, check out their website at http://portlandspirit.com/sternwheeler.php.

 

Categories: Boating/Kayaking, Historical, Oregon, Outdoors, Washington | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Living Up to Its Name: Great Hall, Sunriver, Oregon

Great Hall, Sunriver, Oregon

Sunriver’s Great Hall

We have a tendency to think of Sunriver Resort in Oregon as being an all newly-constructed development. But did you know that it has an old building with architecture reminiscent of the Old Faithful Inn? You may have attended a wedding, conference or other event in it, perhaps thinking it was simply built to look old and blend in with the rustic surroundings. But the Great Hall was actually built in 1944 by the Army Corps of Engineers on the land there that was once home to Camp Abbott. The hall was only used for about six months, as a cafeteria, then the war ended and the beautiful building constructed from local trees was abandoned and sadly fell into disrepair. At one point it was even used for a cattle barn. Fortunately for all of us, it was saved and has been totally restored and updated into a premier meeting space, while reminding us of the history of the area and the beauty of the natural resources used.

Plaque, Great Hall, Sunriver, Oregon

Plaque

Great Hall, Sunriver, Oregon

Great Hall

Outside the Great Hall, Sunriver, Oregon

Outside the Great Hall

The log building features high ceilings with exposed beams. A massive stone fireplace burns a cozy fire, and a balcony of limbs surrounds you like welcoming arms– all of which can’t help but make you think of the Old Faithful Inn.

Stone Fireplace, Sunriver, Oregon

Gorgeous Stone Fireplace!

Fireplace Sitting Area, Sunriver, Oregon

Fireplace Sitting Area

Welcoming Balcony, Sunriver, Oregon

Welcoming Balcony

Replica fixtures illuminate the interior in a soft warm glow. Hallways adorned with historical pictures and stories lead the way to modern and comfortable meeting facilities. There is space just to sit and relax where your eyes are drawn out the large windows to an open field and expansive sky. You’re sure to see some sort of woodland wildlife if you are patient.

Looking up!  Great Hall Lights, Sunriver, Oregon

Looking up!

Hallway to Meeting Rooms, Sunriver, Oregon

Hallway to Meeting Rooms

History on the Walls, Sunriver, Oregon

History on the Walls

Space to Relax, Sunriver, Oregon

Space to Relax

Events can be catered by Sunriver restaurants, as ours was this day at the Northwest Travel Writers Conference. The beauty and ambiance of this grand old building and the creativity of the dishes served and displayed made for a deliciously memorable experience.

Amazing Food!, Sunriver, Oregon

Amazing Food!

Amazing Food!, Sunriver, Oregon

Amazing Food!, Sunriver, Oregon

Amazing Food!, Sunriver, Oregon

Amazing Food!, Sunriver, OregonIf you are ever in the market for an event space, or simply want to stop in and pay respect to the history and architectural skill of the time, don’t pass up the chance to check out the Great Hall at Sunriver Resort.

For more information, see Sunriver-Resort.com.

Categories: Food, Wine, Cider, Historical, Oregon | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Urbanspoon Scores! Pour House Grill, Bend, Oregon

Appetizer, Pour House Grill, Bend, OR

Appetizer

We were hungry, but didn’t want any of the usual chains. But we were in a town (Bend, Oregon) that we didn’t know very well. We decided to get brave and I pulled out my i-Phone and tapped the Urbanspoon app hoping for at least a somewhat good idea. Up popped the Pour House Grill – with a 90% “Like” rate. We decided that was good enough to take a chance.

As we pulled up to the restaurant, we were worried we wouldn’t find any place to park, it was so busy. Another good sign! But we did find a spot, and headed inside. We were immediately greeted and seated by a very friendly waitress, who was also very helpful in answering our questions about the menu.

They had a nice variety of appetizers, burgers, and beer. They have some wines and even a few of my new love – hard cider.

We ordered appetizers and then our dinners. We were pleased with the portions, the prices, and the service. So much so that when we were looking for a place for dinner again a couple of nights later, we wound up back at the Pour House Grill to try some other menu items. Again, we weren’t disappointed with either the food or the service.

Bend’s Pour House Grill is definitely a go-back-to spot again next time we are in the area.

Do you use an app or review site to help you choose where to eat?

For more information, menu, and prices check out their website at http://www.thepourhousegrill.com/.

 

 

 

Categories: Food, Wine, Cider, Oregon | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The Astoria Column

The Astoria Column, Astoria, Oregon

The Astoria Column (photo by David Keaton)

It’s 125 feet tall. And you can climb up the inside of it on a metal spiral staircase. Your legs will burn, you will be very glad for each landing where you can stop and take a breather and rest your legs. But once at the top – you will have one of the best views on the Oregon coast. “It” is the Astoria Column, built in 1926 as a monument to the Lewis and Clark expedition.

The Story of the Astoria Column, Astoria, Oregon

The Story of the Astoria Column (Photo by David Keaton)

Typically, Astoria is usually a bit cloudy if not down-right rainy, so the view is hit-and-miss. This abnormally beautiful April day, the skies were completely clear, like nothing I have ever seen. We could even see Mt. St. Helens from the Astoria-Megler Bridge as we headed from the Washington side of the Columbia River to Astoria.

Mt. St. Helens from the Astoria-Megler Bridge

Mt. St. Helens from the Astoria-Megler Bridge

It’s fairly easy to find the column. You can easily see it and just head towards it and eventually you will see a white column icon on the roads that lead to the column. It’s a short winding drive up the hill, then there is plenty of parking, restrooms, and a small gift shop where you pay your $2.00 fee.

View to the south, Astoria Column, Astoria, Oregon

View to the south (photo by David Keaton)

Even without going in the column the view is beautiful. To the south you can see Saddle Mountain and it’s obvious why it was named that. You can look down and see the area where the replica of Fort Clatsop, Lewis and Clark’s home for a short time, is set. You can’t help but look at that beautiful river and want to take a kayak on a long, slow cruise.

Beautiful outside of column, Astoria Column, Astoria, Oregon

Beautiful outside of column (Photo by David Keaton)

Before you go into the column, notice the writings and the drawings depicting the expedition, on the outside, going all the way up. Then you enter the column through a door at the bottom and start your climb up. It’s a long climb, but there are landings every so many steps where you can step out of the way of others and rest your legs and catch your breath for a minute. Once you come out on top there is a 360 degree walkaround to take in every bit of the view.

Astoria Column Spiral Staircase, Astoria, Oregon

Astoria Column Spiral Staircase (photo by David Keaton)

Off to the north is the mighty Columbia River. Maybe you’ll catch sight of a container ship, so large it dwarfs the houses down below.

View to the north - Columbia River, from the Astoria Column, Astoria, Oregon

View to the north – Columbia River (photo by David Keaton)

To the northwest is the Astoria-Megler Bridge looking so long you think, “I came across that huge thing?!”

To the west - Astoria-Megler Bridge leading to Washington, Astoria Column, Astoria, Oregon

To the west – Astoria-Megler Bridge leading to Washington (Photo by David Keaton)

To the northwest and west, looking endless, is the magnificent Pacific Ocean. Looking south again is the even better view of Saddle Mountain.

Saddle Mountain, view from Astoria Column, Astoria, Oregon

Saddle Mountain (photo by David Keaton)

The eastern view will reveal the dense northwest forests that the area is known for.

Eastern View - Endless Northwest Forest from the Astoria Column, Astoria, Oregon

Eastern View – Endless Northwest Forest (photo by David Keaton)

The Astoria Column puts the beauty of the northwest Oregon coast on display for all who choose to visit. It really is a fitting tribute to the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Getting there (from http://astoriacolumn.org/visit/hours-fees-and-directions/): The Astoria Column is located at 1 Coxcomb Drive. Directional signs can be found on 14th and 16th Streets.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Historical, Oregon, Outdoors, Parks, Roadside Attraction | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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