One of the best parts of living in Arizona is the different climate zones for outdoor activities that are all close enough to be in whatever type of hiking you desire. So one weekend we can be in a cooler mountain area and the next we can be wandering around the desert. I’ve read of many that do these 52 hike challenges in a year and living in Arizona that is relatively easy to accomplish. Carolyn and I haven’t even tried but we have averaged over 50 a year for the last three years.
In mid October, we head to Payson for some kicking back and R&R at our “cabin”. I laugh about it being our “cabin” since Carolyn and I have raised both of daughters K-12 in our quaint little home and have owned it since 1994. Now that we often stay at our condo in Phoenix, our acquaintances and coworkers often ask if we are going to our “cabin” in Payson. That’s it our cabin. When in Payson and with weather permitting we always try for a day of being outdoors on a walkabout so we decided to hike up the Horton Creek Trail by Kohl’s Ranch.
For a Sunday, not many hikers out on the trail and it is me and my girls, Carolyn, Caitlin, and Jordyn, plus Jordyn’s husband James. It’s a cloudy day but a beautiful day for a hike. Carolyn and I have hiked this trail multiple times over the years since it is easy to access and close to our “cabin”. It was a great time being with family especially having our daughters with us on this one.
We even found some color on the leaves along the way. The trail is well marked with easy access to the creek for relaxing and listening to the water flow. Elevation gains are gradual and the trail is appropriate for all levels of hikers. Dogs are often present and it is always appreciated to find friendly ones and ones that are on a leash. Just saying.
A weekend later, Carolyn and I went to Estrella Mountain Regional Park, a Maricopa County Park. The park has multiple areas for picnics and a great visitors’ center plus areas for camping and even has horse back riding vendor if that is your thing. This park is south of Goodyear in the SW part of the Valley. Easy to get to and a very nice park.
It was quite warm for our Halloween hike in the desert but once again there was absolutely nobody on the trails. Close to the city but yet we were all alone. We ended up hiking over 6.25 miles on the Rainbow Valley/Toothaker Loop. Our total elevation gain was 600+ feet so a good workout in the heat. Usually I would add some photos but I can’t since I deleted them all by user error with me being the user. This trail is used by mountain bikers and is moderate and easy to follow. Quite social distanced and easy to get to. I enjoy the loneliness of the desert and hiking and reflecting on all things. The desert is very Biblical when you think about it. That wilderness that Jesus roamed for 40 days was a desert where He fasted and was tempted by the “Devil” before returning to begin His ministry. I’m obviously no Jesus but there is something spiritual about hiking in the desert.
While on our sojourn in the desert, Carolyn and I have worked up a thirst, Carolyn and I decided to try a new to us brewery located in Goodyear, Saddle Mountain Brewing Company. Very cool place and they have a great patio to social distance for a beer and food.
November is here so more hikes are on the horizon.
It was another warm Saturday in Phoenix when Carolyn tells me that we should go for a hike at the Cave Creek Regional Park, a Maricopa County Park.
A 30 minute drive from our condo and we find ourselves in the park with absolutely nobody around. We have visited the park several times hiking the Go John Trail Loop that is a nice hike. The Maricopa Trail is accessible from this area as well.
Our journey today is the Slate Trail to Military Trail across Flat Rock Trail to QuartzTrail and back on Slate to the Trailhead. Our loop ended up being 5.25 miles with some elevation gains of over 500 feet on a nice, smooth, well maintained trail. Even though it was warm, it was great to be out in the desert with nobody around.
The park has a visitors center and it does cost $7 to get in but Maricopa Parks are well maintained and have many areas for picnics and when fire dangers are lower, they even have grills to bbq. Great park close to the city but far enough to be socially distanced. Today’s hike was really socially distanced. I’ve always enjoyed socially distanced hikes long before socially distanced became a thing. No masks on the trail. The park is almost an island surrounded to the east and west and south by private land with houses but they are hidden in the landscape. Northern boundaries still are quite desolate. For a quick getaway from the urban areas, I highly recommend this park.
No hike would be complete without a stop on the way home at a local brewery in Cave Creek. Normally we would stop by the Cave Creek Beer Company but Covid 19 has taken its toll on one of our favorite stops. So what to do?
We decide to stop by the Elysian Desert Distillery in Cave Creek. What a great place. The bartender was a gem. He actually could talk anything bourbon related and he made us a couple fabulous cocktails using their Carefree Bourbon. He made a special one for Carolyn on the fly and not only was it good but it was good looking. He also is responsible for hand crafting the different bitters. The tasting room is currently open on Friday and Saturday 2 to 7. Not cheap but a nice splurge.
The following weekend, Carolyn and I returned to Payson to take her mother to the Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff to ride the chairlift and take in some fall colors in the area. Beautiful day to go and upon arrival there were many out on a Friday. The lift wasn’t to busy and our trip up and back was cold but we liked it so much we rode again.
After our rides, we decided to do some walking in the area and we did the Aspen Loop Trail, a 2+ mile hike that was really nice and not difficult in any way. We were pleasantly surprised that there were few people on this specific trail and the Aspens still had color. It was very pleasant with plenty of sunshine.
It was rainy season and we expected to get some rain and we did on several of the days but we always had sunshine as well. The Casa Marina is a fairly old complex but lots of action going on with several beach weddings on Saturday. It has the flavor of the Caribbean. The sister property to the Casa Marina, The Reach had breakfast every day, a nice happy hour and some good food so we would walk over there and have a nice relaxing time just watching the waves come in. The employees at both properties were great, friendly and accommodating.
Several days we just hung out relaxing and for me reading. Nothing better then beach-side reading times. It was so relaxing. Once again, Carolyn and I did not rent a car. For what we had planned a car was just an added expense that we could avoid. Lyft to and from the airport, cruiser bikes, and walking, that’s our style. Our times at the beach are fun and relaxing. I finished several books, beach type reading, an Allison Brennan “Lucy Kincaid” novel Nothing To Hide, and a mystery that takes place in Florida by Rick Mofina, The Lying House. Easy, beach style reading. Of course, every beach deserves several good beers and Key West has some excellent choices.
Hotel Beach Walk
Beach and Beer
Storm off the coast
Carolyn enjoying Key West
We learned that the best way to get around was renting cruiser bikes for several days. We could get plenty of exercise, yet get to where we wanted to be fairly fast. We rode many miles around the island and into town checking out the various places. Duval Street is the party street area and Covid may have slowed it down some but it was hard to tell. Most places have some outdoor seating areas and most have happy hours and most have seafood options. I’m not certain what I ate but sure enjoyed it all.
As an avid reader, I had to visit the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. You can take a self guided tour or have one of the guided tours. I did a combination of both. Hemingway was an interesting individual who died relatively young just short of his 62nd birthday. Married many times, he died by his own hand whether intentional or accidental is debatable.
His house in Florida looks just like it did when he resided there. We rode our bikes by the Truman Little White House but we ran out of time to visit. It is very historical and I guess it will be the next time. I love history and was a bit disappointed that I didn’t find the time to visit.
Carolyn and I visited Fort Zachary Taylor Historical State Park several times during our stay. It is a beautiful beach area with plenty of picnic tables, grills, sand, bike paths, and an actual fort that you can visit. Very cool and once again very historical as it was a working fort for many years. We walked around (no masks) during the hot humid times of day. The beach times were fun even though there were storms way off the coast and the water was rougher then normal. Still a great place to hang out. Our bike rides along the beach were epic.
Our time at Key West had to come to end and once again we flew on Silver Airways back to Fort Lauderdale. Carolyn’s cousin Lauranye Croke picked us up at the airport so we could visit with her and her husband Kevin Croke in Jupiter. Uncle Frank and Lorraine Cerar came down to visit and we went out to walk on the beaches and it was great to be able to visit with all. We even got to hang out at one of Kevin’s favorite places The Dive Bar and Restaurant. Good food, good drinks, but even greater company.
Carolyn and I decided to change our flight and overnight plans and we ended up staying in West Palm Beach at a beautiful Hilton only three miles from the airport. Southwest currently only has one flight a day leaving West Palm Beach to Baltimore and we were nervous about whether or not we were going to make our flights due to limited seats available. No problem as we made it to Baltimore and immediately left for Phoenix arriving in the middle of the day.
Key West has many venues that host musicians and music seems to be a big part of the scene. I’ll leave you with this Key West classic by a gentleman that has performed there for years, Gerd Rube with the Florida Keys Song. This guy reminds me of a Payson local legend, John Carpino. It is magical.
About a year ago, Carolyn had suggested that we should try to get a room in Key West, Florida if and when any came available using my employee rates. We eventually were able to book five nights for our birthdays in October. We were excited that we would be able to discover some new places and have a relaxing beach vacation in a state we had been to only once before. Along came Covid putting our planned vacation in jeopardy. As we approached my birthday to fly October 1, our anxieties were in full bloom since flight schedules and number of seats available became less and less but we decided to give it a shot. We are glad we did.
We managed to get to Fort Lauderdale via Southwest Airlines with a stop in Denver. We land in the early evening to discover that Broward County had some tight restrictions in place. Our stay was at a Hampton Inn close to the airport and the Three Sons Brewery. We grab a Lyft and head over to Three Sons only to find out that the kitchen had closed. We still grabbed us a brew and discovered that there was a place to order food from just a short walk away the Historic Dockers Restaurant and Pub. The bartender let us know that the restrictions include Broward County checking their sales slips to make sure all food is ordered before a specific time (I believe 10:00 pm). He let us eat our beer battered Mahi fingers that we had ordered to go. They were so tasty. Unknown to us, there was a group next to us that were on our flight from Denver who gave us an impromptu happy birthday song.
Thursday has become Friday and we are flying standby on Silver Airways to Key West. What a great flight on a jet propeller plane that was as smooth a flight as I had ever had. It was beautiful looking out on the ocean as we traveled down the coastline.
Arriving in Key West, the airport has the charm of other Caribbean airports where you walk across the tarmac into the terminal. We grab a Lyft to our hotel the Casa Marina. In a Covid world we are masked up and check in to our upgraded room thanks to Kevin and Laurayne Croke. They just happen to know people. Never knew that was coming. Blessed beyond measure, this trip is looking good so far.
After a quick bite to eat at the beach side restaurant, we decide to get some exercise and walk into downtown Key West. On our walk we pass the southern most point in the USA and head to a quaint, cozy brewery, First Flight, the southernmost brewery in the USA. Filled with history, (the origination of Pan Am Airways) this is a must see stop and place to have a drink. The ambiance is special and the light rain falling makes for a nice quiet romantic spot on our walk.
On this Friday evening, Key West is packed. We walk on down to the Waterfront Brewery to enjoy the Crazy Lady Honey Blonde Ale. What a great craft beer. Light with a taste of honey. Not many better then this.
We avoid the stops that are loaded with people as it appears all the workers have masks on but few of the patrons. Social distancing could be an issue but we loved walking down by the water listening to the vibe from the tourists. Our first day is in the books and it is a great start to our R & R vacation spot.
As we walk down the famous Duval Street we are amazed or maybe astonished at how many people are packed in the various bars and restaurants. We chose not to do any of those but we sure enjoyed the vibe of the area and all the people watching as we walked back to the Casa Marina.
Down In The Florida Keys
This Paradise Seems Made For You And Me
Down In The Florida Keys
The Land Of Love Is Down Here In The Keys by Gerd Rube
It’s a beautiful Saturday morning in Bucyrus on this mid September day, albeit a cool one for this time of year. Every day starts off with coffee and once again we skip the free breakfast at the Holiday Inn and decide to go to another coffee shop in Bucyrus. In asking Yelp for help, we find such things as Speedway, McDonalds, Tim Hortens, etc but little in the way of local shops. Down the list is a mention of Flour & Whisk Bakery and we decide on that one. We head on in and it has no seating but the owner is there and what a pleasant person. He is very friendly and we strike up a long conversation while drinking our coffee and we discover that he has a strong local following as his regulars come in and he greets them by name. It is a small shop that has a strong local following.
With coffee in hand, we visit some places that held memories for me. Our first stop is where we first lived when I was in 2nd and 3rd grade at 201 Songer Street. My father was a minister for the Wesleyan Methodist church and this address was the parsonage we lived in. It contains some mixed memories for me but I had to see it. The church no longer exists and a business has taken over the building. From there we drive down the roads that I once walked to Lincoln Elementary School. The school is now closed but serves as an administrative building for Bucyrus Public Schools. The factories that bordered the school have all been boarded up and that was a shock to the system as they were going full bore back in the 60’s and 70’s.
No visit to Bucyrus is complete without a stop at Carle’s Bratwurst. It is the home of real bratwurst and has a huge following. When we arrive, it is packed but we get some brats to go with some other items for a picnic at Aumiller Park. I spent many hours at Aumiller and the park is as charming as it was 45 years ago. There is a baseball tournament going on and it is very busy. We eat our great brats and take a walk through the park and along the Sandusky River.
Carolyn wants to walk around the downtown area where Bucyrus has some great murals in the town square area. The town square has been turned into something special. Great place to visit and just hang out.
From the town square, I take Carolyn down Stetzer Road to view the local reservoirs. Many memories for me at the reservoirs including Riley Reservoir. We get out and hike the Outhwaite Reservoir loop and it really is a different type of pretty. We can see the farm country and it so peaceful being out by ourselves. Our time has come to get around for the Colonel Crawford Class of 1975 Reunion.
The reunion theme is the 70’s and Carolyn and I have prepared ourselves with some vintage finds. I’m throwing on some flares with a vintage Bob Seger Concert tee and jacket from his “Stranger in Town” tour. I thought it most appropriate since I am now feeling like a stranger in town. Carolyn has got the bells and vintage look with the AZ touch of some turquoise and no matter what she wears she looks great. Dressed and ready, we head out to Cranberry Hills for dinner and drinks and my anxiety is peaking. I have not seen most of my classmates since 1975 and I’m nervous.
All that anxiety is for naught. Greeted by old neighborhood friend Jeff Dummitt, who leads me straight to the bar. What a grand evening. Carolyn and I had a ball. It was so much fun reconnecting with those who ventured out as Covid 19 definitely kept the numbers down and of course that was disappointing. By my count there was 16 of us and the evening was filled with memories. The following were in attendance: Jim Davis, Andy Dotson, Jeff Dummitt, Jeff Foreman, Carol Fortney Shumate, me, Jeanne Gerhart Thompson, Reed Hiltner, Dave Lauthers, Patti Long Garrett, Mike Kocher, Karen Markley Schmidt, Dave Parker, Gary Trash, Cheryl Yaussy Wagner, and Brant Zucker.
These type of events take lots of work so a big thank you to Jeff D., Jeanne, Reed, Karen, and Dave L. Great stuff. Dave, our class president did a fantastic job emceeing telling many stories and adding some great humor. Brant and I were able to spend some time as he and I were friends from Whetstone Elementary. Getting to visit with the others was fun but to reconnect with Jeff Dummitt was extra special. I’d have to write an entire blog about his story. I think Jeff and I can stay connected moving forward. It was very emotional for me to reconnect with Jeff as we were neighbors and friends from 4th grade through high school. I’ve really missed that connection. Now to get him to Arizona. I’ll be working on that.
The evening winds down for all of us old folks and I was so glad we made this trip. Carolyn was made to feel welcomed and she had a grand time meeting those who helped shape my high school years. Reconnecting was great and as we headed back to Bucyrus, we had some sadness knowing we were headed out in the morning to Columbus.
Is it the scenery or my selective memory Or just a simple fact that I gotta realize My friends have gone and their lives have moved on And I guess that’s just the way it is If this town has grown beyond my home I guess it all comes down to this (by Blues Traveler)
Most who read my blog understand that I write mainly about various outdoor hiking adventures. This is a bit different as I return to my hometown after 44 years of being away.
Rise and shine, it is Friday morning in Bucyrus and it is somewhat unseasonably cool for a mid September day. My hometown from the mid ’60’s to the mid ’70’s doesn’t have many coffee shops listed but there a couple so we go to the Pelican Coffee House located in the Square area. Located inside of the Amish Vault, a gift and furniture store, business is steady. We grab our coffees and head to Findlay, Ohio.
My father graduated from Findlay High School, and I actually lived and went to kindergarten and first grade at Howard Elementary School. After graduating high school, I attended my freshman year of college at Findlay College. (University of Findlay) There are some strong memories in Findlay.
When we arrive, Carolyn loves the Findlay downtown area. A town of approximately 45,000 that appears to be very vibrant. It looks like the area has a great vibe to it with multiple eating and drinking places and appears to be pedestrian friendly. We spend some time over by college where I searched for my childhood home on Frazier Street. I believe that I find my old house but can’t verify since nobody can remember the address for certain.
Howard Elementary School, located on the corner of Morey an Davis, close to Findlay College and the first school I attended, was torn down in 1985. It was a great old school that was built in 1910 and appears that it is now a parking lot. That childhood memory has been erased. In my head, I believe that I lived at 323 Frazer St but things have changed. Our house was a two-story house that now looks it is the home to two separate homes and since it is so close to the university, I would guess that the neighborhood is now home to many students. I do know that I would walk about 1/4 mile from the house to the school and home each day. For an image of what the school looked like back in the day: Howard Elementary.
Continuing on our drive, we passed Findlay High School and drove through the university campus area where I had attended. Since I haven’t been in this area for over 44 years, the memories come floating back of my times spent in Findlay. I’m done and ready to move on and Carolyn just happens to find a local brewery for lunch, Findlay Brewing Co. Great place with a patio and plenty of social distanced eating. We order in Findlay, OH, an antelope burger. Unbelievable and it is good. Antelope Burger, Yes, it’s really Texan antelope! White cheddar, caramelized onion, baby spinach & honey mustard. How that happens, I don’t know but it is great. They have over 15 of their own brews on tap and we go with the Brilliant Blonde, Blonde Ale that is good.
Back on the road, Carolyn and I are Bucyrus bound and ready to view Robinhood Drive, the best neighborhood to live as a child. First stop, is to visit with an old neighborhood friend, Dave Matthews. Dave and I grew up as avid baseball and football card collectors and I had spent many an afternoon playing with our cards in his house. We meet up with Dave at the house his parents have lived in for well over 50 years. Carolyn and I visit with Dave and his brother plus his parents and wow, what a time. All are doing well and to still be in the neighborhood all these years later really shows the strength of the area. To be able to reminisce about our years is enjoyable. It was a great visit for stop number one.
Stop Number two, is right next door to my old address of 1180 Robinhood Dr and a visit with a classmate, Andy Dotson. His father recently passed but his mother is still living in their house, once again, well over 50 years. Carolyn and I meet Andy out front and we head inside. Mrs. Dotson immediately comes racing from the kitchen with this big smile and greets me, “How’s my favorite brat?” What a hoot. We had a great time visiting and reminiscing about our days running the streets and backyards. It really was fun to spend time with Andy, his wife, mom, and sister, and while I was there, David Shealy and his wife stopped by the Dotsons and that was another blast from the past. 44+ years later and not missing a beat.
The weeping willow trees that my father had planted in the front yard and backyard have been removed so it my old house looks the same minus the lack of trees. The fence was still standing but they turned our garage, that we used for neighborhood basketball games, into another room. That was disappointing to see but otherwise the neighborhood looked the same.
Carolyn and I drove around and I played tour guide showing her some of the areas that I used to roam. We stop at the local Krogers and pick up the Bucyrus Telegraph Forum that just so happens to have my father’s obituary in the Friday edition. I had submitted am Ohio version since he had worked for about 10 years in the Bucyrus area. Darel’s Obit. We head back to the Holiday Inn and get around and decide to walk to a mile plus to our next destination. Next stop will be drinks with another Robinhood Heights alum, Don Hardesty. Don was a few years younger and lived a few doors down from 1180 Robinhood Dr. He was often involved in our backyard wiffle ball games and one of my connections to the Hood through Facebook.
Carolyn and I meet Don and his wife Melissa at Norman’s Niche. What a cool place for a beer or a glass of wine. Very cozy with an outdoor patio and great, friendly staff. Carolyn and I had a ball with Don and wife sitting around relaxing and reconnecting. Don had lived in Florida before returning to Bucyrus, met Melissa and reestablished himself as a Bucyrus legend. The lady that was working was a graduate of Colonel Crawford and she had attended Whetstone Elementary, the same school that all of us on Robinhood Dr. had attended. We get to talking and she pulls out a class photo of when she was in kindergarten and lo and behold a picture of my father as the principal is right on top. That was something wild. All of my old hangouts may be gone, but this place was a great one for this old guy. It was a great end to a great day.
There was a time when it was easy to find A hangout that you knew was yours by name And mine or not I could find the same spot But it’s never gonna be the same I’ve been away and I’ve seen too much Looks like I’ve been moving on as well And when I started to not really belong I suppose I was unable to tell But I ain’t sad and no it isn’t bad It’s just one more thing I’m coming to know If you’re alive you didn’t finish the ride No telling where it’s going to go by Blues Traveler
Tomorrow is a big day as Carolyn and I will be spending a whole day in Bucyrus before heading to my class reunion. I’m somewhat nervous yet I’m excited for my journey home.
In August of 1976, my life was in shambles, living on my own in a studio apartment in my small hometown of Bucyrus, Ohio. Not counting a couple days that I did a quick visit in August, 2007, I had never returned until this September. Why now? It was to be my “reunion tour”. My graduating class of about 98 was having its 45th class reunion and I had made up my mind last fall that I was going to go and bring Carolyn so she could see the area that shaped my life. With my father passing in August, my journey back was part of my healing process since I have many mixed (both good and bad) memories of my years spent in Bucyrus, Ohio.
Carolyn and I flew into Columbus utilizing our standby status with American Airlines and we made our flight with out a hitch. Upon arrival, we picked up our rental and headed towards Cleveland where the plan was to visit the Cuyahoga Valley National Park a park that I did not know existed. It had become a park in 1974 but as a teenager, I was unaware. Most trips for us include brewery stops. It has become part our our total experience when traveling.
I had booked a stay at the Hilton Garden Inn in Twinsburg, a short distance from the park entrance. Since we arrived early, we drove to Cleveland to visit a couple of breweries that I was familiar with. The first stop was the Great Lakes Brewing Company. Their September special release was the 73 Kolsch brewed in collaboration with the great Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas #73.
We ate a nice dinner outside on a patio (socially distanced) with a 73 Kolsch and enjoyed the atmosphere on a nice cool Wednesday evening. After dinner, we walked over to the Market Garden Brewery, another very cool place with a great atmosphere in repurposed buildings. Cleveland is getting it done with these type of businesses.
We returned to our hotel for a night of rest before venturing into Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Our morning starts off with a light rain and we had decided on several waterfall related hikes on streams that run into the Cuyahoga River. The Cuyahoga gained some unwanted notoriety for catching on fire several times in the 1960’s due to its polluted condition. The river was home to many industries and polluting the river was just a normal activity. Nobody would dare go into the river due to the excessive pollution. The 1969 river fire became a symbol for an environmental movement and awareness of how America was destroying its waterways. The transformation is amazing. The National Park really is something special as it interacts with urban areas, rivers, hills, woods, farms, lakes, and animals.
Our first hike is the Brandywine Falls Loop with some added on distances. The falls were not running very hard but it was a nice hike through completely wooded areas that contain trees you don’t see out west. Very few people on the trails and the solitude was enjoyable. Running water is not an every day occurrence with such frequency in Arizona so seeing all the water, streams, rivers is very special.
Next stop is Boston Mill Visitor Center. The area is located along a railroad that had a train that before Covid, would transport visitors from one end to the other end of the park traveling along the CuyahogaRiver. Our second hike is the Blue Hen Falls Trail that includes some elevation climbs. Once again, very few on the trail and it was nice to take a trip through the woods down to a small waterfall.
On this trip, we cover about 3 miles and upon return we decide to hike some of the 19 mile Towpath Trail that is very popular with cyclists. The towpath was part of the Erie Canal and hauling boats up and down the river from the Akron to Cleveland area. The manufacturing history in the area is very interesting. After a few miles, we return and head off to meet up with a former student of mine, Jason Nichols, for lunch.
We meet Jason and his daughter at the On Tap Grille & Bar in Medina and order fish and chips since it the fish is Lake Erie perch and it is fabulous. I don’t think I have had perch since I left Ohio in 1976. We had a great time and visit with Jason. Jason had moved from Ohio to Pine, AZ as a freshman and graduated from Payson High School and returned to Ohio after graduation.
It is time to head to Bucyrus and get around to meet up with classmates that I haven’t seen for over four decades. We make a quick drive through Bucyrus, check in at the Holiday Inn, get changed, and off to Galion to the 1803 Brewery & Taproom. Not many there but those that were, well we had fun. Carolyn fit right in and thank goodness nobody told any old embarrassing stories about me. Galion is a short distance from Bucyrus and on our way there, I took Carolyn by Colonel Crawford High School which in someways hadn’t changed that much since I graduated in 1975. We hung out with Reed and Susanne Hiltner, Jim and Jeanne (Gerhart) Thompson, Bob and Karen (Markley) Schmidt, and the President himself Dave and Cheryle Lauthers. What a great way to end our day with some lively conversation and good beer. Forty five years seems like a very long time but we picked up like it had only been yesterday.
On our way back to the hotel, we stopped by Baker’s Pizza Sports Shack but due to the Ohio Covid restrictions we could only get a pizza and wings to go. Still good though. Day One and Day Two of my “reunion tour” are in the books. Lots accomplished but Carolyn and I would love to return to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and do some more exploring. That will have to wait for another trip.
On Friday, we were to attend a Colonel Crawford football game tailgate event but that’s a no go due to restrictions on who can attend the football games. So off to Findlay, Ohio to chase down some old memories of where I lived for several years including kindergarten and first grade.
It’s been a while since I’ve left home But I’m coming on back today Kinda funny but I picture it only Exactly as it was back in the day
Our last full day in Oregon has arrived so Carolyn and I get up early by my standards, pack up the car and head out of Bend towards Mt. Hood through Redding and up Route 97 to 26 through Warm Springs Reservation to the Mt. Hood National Forest. The drive through the country side is beautiful with plenty of farms and seeing some of that grass fed beef grazing as well. The road takes us past state parks, the Deschutes River and the views of the various peaks are special even though there is plenty of smoke from fires around Mt. Jefferson. The Mt. Hood National Forest is beautiful with running water and magnificent trees everywhere.
We arrive at the Timberline Lodge area and are stunned at the number of vehicles that are already there to hit the mountain biking trails. The area is popular for skiing and in the summer becomes a haven for mountain bikers and hikers who wish to hike on the Pacific Crest Trailthat crosses through the Mount Hood area. There are multiple courses for the bikers and the lodge has a full service bike shop on site with plenty of workers.
Today is my rest day but I join Carolyn for several miles of hiking before she sets off for added miles.
The views are spectacular and I enjoy my short time on the trail with Carolyn before heading back.
While Carolyn is out on her adventure and before lounging with a beer and a book, I explore the historic Timberline Lodge best known for being filmed as part of The Shining starring Jack Nicholson. The movie has become a cult classic and I remember sitting in the old Payson Theater watching it with my brother Thomas in 1980. I liked it then, and I like it now. It was fun pretending to roam the halls as Jack Torrance. After my self, socially distanced tour, I head to the patio attached on the north side of Timberline Lodge for a local craft beer, a chair, a book The Poet by Michael Connelly, (a classic from 1996 and a reread for me) and time outdoors reading and enjoying the sunshine.
Upon Carolyn’s return, we head down the mountain to the original Mt. Hood Brewing Company located at Government Camp for a late lunch on the patio with some great beer. The Highland Meadow Blonde Ale and the Dichotomy Farmhouse Ale are both winners. It is an awesome brewery. Once lunch is finished we enjoy the scenic drive towards Portland/Vancouver arriving at the Hampton Inn located in Vancouver. No trip is ever complete without a stop at Costco and there happens to be one a few miles from our hotel. So off I go to roam the aisles just browsing.
For dinner, Carolyn and I go to a brewery close to the hotel, HopworksUrban Brewery (HUB) where we socially distance ourselves following all the state of Washington guidelines. It ends up a being the perfect place to end the evening before bed.
On Friday, Carolyn and I head towards the Portland Airport for breakfast at a place that our daughter Caitlin highly recommended, Pine State Biscuits on Alberta St. The restaurants and bars in Portland are quite strict on social distancing requirements and how they do business. We enjoy some of their chicken and biscuits on the patio and it does not disappoint.
After returning our rental car, we head to the Portland Airport and roam around waiting for our return to Phoenix. The retail shops and restaurant/bars in the airport have the same pricing as their regular stores in Oregon. They are not allowed to jack up their prices to gouge the travelers. I like that.
Our first visit to Oregon has been great with one beautiful day after another or our journey. Some things I learned about Oregon, don’t judge the state based on the riots in Portland. The state is very rural and outdoors friendly. The state is also tourist friendly as you don’t pay sales tax on anything you buy including food and drink. That also includes any liquor purchases, plus retail items. That alone makes the trip less expensive. You do pay an added tax on hotel rooms but no more then any other location. Pricing at the Portland airport on all things is the same as regular retail and that is a great add for travelers. They take COVID 19 very serious with the wearing of masks essential and social distancing required. They had limited number of cases reported but have managed to open restaurants and bars with strict requirements. Carolyn and I felt they the precautions added some safety to our week long visit.
Originally, Carolyn and I had planned on staying in downtown Portland but due to the chaos, Portland lost out on our dollars. We would love to return to Oregon and visit more of a beautiful state and yes we did fall in love with the Bend area. Not certain that I could take the winters but the summers are spectacular. Downtown area is something that we look for in the cities we visit and it’s just a cool place to be.
Our next excursion takes us to Ohio for my reunion tour and a visit to a long ago time for me. A trip that includes some hikes.
Still in Bend, Carolyn and I decide that we will hang out by the Deschutes River for most of the day. We drive over to the Old Mill District where the lumber mills used to be in full swing. What a great project that incorporated history with some imagination and made it into a destination spot. Looking at all the smoke in the air these days, I’m wondering if maybe they need to start up a few more mills. Oh well, what Bend did with the Sawmill district is something special. REI came in and built a signature store in one of the old mill buildings and other retail and food and beverage spots are all in the area. The DeschutesRiver is hopping with people floating in the river, biking along the paths, joggers, and others just out for a walk. Bend even has a spot in the Old Mill District where you can surf in the river using a water chute that was built in the river. Quite creative and even though Covid restrictions are in force, the place is buzzing.
Carolyn and I head south on our river walk and what a great urban trail. Relaxing but still we get our aerobic exercise in by completing a 6+ mile walk. We manage to escape people and our time is extra special as we enjoy discussing all sorts of topics from my father’s passing to where do we go next. I simply love these times with Carolyn. They are extra special and just being with your soul mate to discuss one’s fears and anxieties, and past experiences, and what’s next. These special alone times touch my very being. Just walking by running water brings about a peace that is indescribable for me.
We stop on our journey and grab a drink at a spot in the Old Mill District, Anthony’s. Anthony’s is a bit upscale and has a nice setting to sit outdoors distanced from everybody but ourselves. We head back to the car and head to the Deschutes Brewery Tasting Room. This place is a monster building that is relatively new and we were scheduled for a tour but Covid said we couldn’t. So we just had to do socially distanced craft beers in the warehouse.
Our afternoon winds down and we head back to the Doubletree cleanup and walk downtown. Our first stop is McMenamins Old St. Francis School. This literally was an old school turned into multiple restaurant/bar/brewery themed property. It is very cool and is part of a Northwest group that repurpose old historic type building into entertainment/dining/hotel type properties. They are very cool and fun spots. We grab a couple of their drafts on the patio and enjoy the atmosphere.
From McMenamins we walk to the Bend Brewing Company for what they advertise as the best fish and chips in Bend. We obtain outdoor seat close to the river and dig in. The meal is good but I would argue that the fish and chips from Sunriver Brewing Company is the best but still good eats.
Our last night is Bend is great and tomorrow’s journey will take us to Mount Hood.
After a good night of rest, it is time to get back out in the forest and see some of the things that we don’t often see in Arizona. Our plan was to do a shorter hike along the TumaloCreek and see some waterfalls. The day starts out with some clouds and some smoke that has settled in around Bend. The temperature is great and off we go.
I think there are quite a few vehicles around the trailhead but nothing compared to what we will see when we return from our hike. The hike starts with a less then a mile hike up the trail to a viewpoint to see what most people come to see; Tumalo Falls, the highest one in Central Oregon. It is evident that many stop here and turn around but we also want to see what is known as double falls on Tumalo Creek. This area seems like the second most popular place to turn around.
I’m feeling pretty well so Carolyn and I agree to continue on the trail, and there are few hikers out today. We only encounter a couple of mountain bikers, and maybe 4 or 5 hikers on the trek towards Happy Valley. I was so glad we ventured onward as we encountered multiple falls along the trail. Now these falls weren’t small ones but actually each one had long water drops and were amazing to see.
Once again, we had the good fortune of being by ourselves and able to enjoy this beautiful out and back hike with hardly another person to be found. It was another beautiful day to spend with each other in the great outdoors enjoying each other’s company. The series of trails in the area can get one on all the way to Mount Bachelor. We stop in the Happy Valley area where another creek runs through and the grassy area is a great place to relax and just enjoy life.
According to All Trails Hiking App, we hiked a total of 8.1 miles with an elevation gain of 1224 feet at a pace of 23:52. Not bad for this old guy. The trail is really smooth and is not rocky so it was easy on the body. Walking down, I told Carolyn that we were going to try 10 Barrel and see if we would get better service this time around. I felt it was something that I needed to show a bit of grace and make the attempt to forgive and move forward.
Carolyn and I returned to cell service around 12:30 and I immediately received texts from my daughter Caitlin and my sister Kathryn informing me that my father had passed while in Hospice care in Phoenix. It wasn’t a surprise but yet it sort of caught me by surprise. Our topic of discussion rapidly changed and we called Caitlin knowing that she would be very upset since she was probably closer to my father then almost anybody. They had had a very special relationship during her elementary school years in Payson and she spent a large amount of time with her grandfather. We talked on our way back into Bend and lunch at 10 Barrel Brewing Co.
I had just visited my father the day before we left on our Oregon trip and he was not in a good place with his dementia related symptoms but all of his vitals were good per the Hospice person. It was the worst that I had seen him and all the other times he was able to discuss special things and remember who we were and so on. The last time, he had thought that he was lying on the floor, and he referred to me as the young, strong guy who should be picking him up off the floor. In reality he was lying in his bed and upset and wanted to go “home” to be with his wife. My mother was in a rehab facility for a shoulder replacement and they were not allowed to leave or receive visitors due to Covid.
Carolyn and I stopped at 10 Barrel and had us a beer and sat outdoors discussing all things Darel. It was a totally different experience and we were able to enjoy, relax, and reminisce. We ordered the STEAK & GORGONZOLA NACHOS and it was a home run. I couldn’t even tell you what beers we had but they were good and the service was completely different from the previous evening. It all seemed right.
Done with hiking for the day, we headed back to Bend and went to Costco. Yes, Costco. I love visiting Costco around the country. Each one is a bit different so for me it is part of my adventure. Carolyn thinks I’m a bit off for wanting to visit Costco but she tolerates that obsession. After our stops, we head to the hotel to freshen up and continue our brewery journey with dinner and craft beers at the original Deschutes Brewery. Deschutes is always busy and we had made a reservation for this evening knowing that we wouldn’t be able to eat without one. Fun times sitting in one of my favorite breweries since it was the one that I most wanted to visit.
Prior to dinner, we stopped in Crater Lake Spirits Tasting Room. Great place to try some of their products and their special was something like six samples for $5. So I got to try different whiskeys that they produced. Don’t get to do that very often but it was a cool venue next door to Deschutes.
Our day comes to end and we have decided that we are going to stay around Bend and hike along the river and just hang out with little driving tomorrow.
It was a most interesting day for us, with my father passing but yet being able to find peace in the outdoors and able to discuss life and the uncertainty of our tomorrows. Spending time with Carolyn and having that special person to unburden your thoughts is part of finding an internal peace. I’m most thankful.
It’s a beautiful day The sun is shining I feel good And no-one’s gonna stop me now, oh yeah
It’s a beautiful day I feel good, I feel right And no-one, no-one’s gonna stop me now MamaSometimes I feel so sad, so sad, so bad But no-one’s gonna stop me now, no-one It’s hopeless, so hopeless to even try