I Came to Yosemite Because I Had To

The following post is excerpted from a journal I wrote while on a trip to Yosemite in April of 2013. The photos were taken then as well. I hope the writing conveys the incredible beauty and power of the spot.

I came to Yosemite because I had to; I was dying inside—I needed to visit my mother, Sierra Madre.

She did not disappoint. I thanked God when I entered his country in the rolling cow pastures of Route 140 E leading to the mountains.

red-buds-by-river

At every turn, as we passed the cows and quaint, decaying barns, my spirit orgasmed anew at each unfolding landscape. The thrusting force of spirits too grand but to respect, striating a wall of multi-colored mosaic rectangles—often forming facades that look like elaborate entryways to posh buildings … And then as we fronted the river, I was awed over and over by the ebullient profusion of “Red Buds,” the deep magenta blossoms of the trees that I had never before observed in bloom. I breathed in deeply, trying to contain my bounding spirit within my body. This was BLISS.

All of this as an accompaniment to the white-capped, gray, and very swift Merced River, the breadth of its imminent stateliness unignorable …

bridalveil-falls-1

I love being up here. It’s away from everything. We discovered that our cell phones don’t even work here! After a great day in Yosemite Valley, we came back to our room in the late afternoon and tried the outdoor pool and Jacuzzi. The pool was COLD (as in unheated). I and a couple of kids 7 or under were the only ones who could stay in longer than 30 seconds (that was just about their limit). I did a good number of laps and then went into the burning hot spa. Then I went back into the pool to do more laps, and then back to the spa again. I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to swim in the beautiful mountain air, with the sound of a very full Merced River roaring close at hand.

bridalveil-falls-2

After breakfast at the lodge, we left for the Valley at about 9:00 a.m. As the weather report had predicted, it started to rain a few, big drops at the lodge before we left for our day’s adventures. Approaching the park, I tried to limit my landscape-gawking and picture-taking stops to 2 or 3. Even in the rain, I stuck my Canon Power Shot out the window, braving the raindrops on the lens, to try and capture just a hint of the glory of the Merced coursing its thunderous yet graceful path, white-tipped, past rocks and boulders in the gorge below.

fallen-log-w-forest-backgrd

Every feature of the surrounding roadside gave me spiritual ecstasy. I would say that I was on overload, but that would describe a state of excess or toxicity; this was more like bliss—like being reunited with everything I love, like coming home to the warm, loving bosom of my Sierra Madre, whose love is rapture, and who opens the souls and spirit to join with her beauty. Who heals above every other healer; whose truth, just in its very existence, is proof of the Great Spirit.

We arrived at Bridal Veil Falls at about 9:30 a.m. There was only one other vehicle in the parking lot near the glorified outhouses: a red sports car. The gently, yet persistent rain pelted us tenderly with wet, clammy kisses. I couldn’t help taking compulsive film clips of the water tumbling down from its 300-foot summit. With every few feet closer I approached, I felt the roar more loudly, and saw the mist shooting up more clearly as it smashed against the rocks below and vaporized.

Never had I seen the falls like this. The spring snowmelt is the most turgid and elemental event in the mountains.

Beauty here—reminding me of a spiritual experience I had at Multnomah Falls in Oregon’s Columbia River Valley on a walkabout I had made in my early 30s. Captivating, gentle, cultivated; a home for wood-nymphs and Native American girls with long, braided tresses, singing in the burbles of the stream. I felt their presence, though their voices melded with the soothing shushing of the water.

moss-by-river

We felt enclosed in a green sanctuary, safe, and invited to experience the beingness of the spot. The spirit sees as it feels, and the mind stops for a moment, as it hears that which does not speak. Wooed by the essence of love, every little drop, leaf, and branch became an expression of divinity.

We were the only ones approaching the crashing water. Even the ethereal mist that evolved from the chute seemed to speed downhill, caught up in the general thrust of the ponderous column’s momentum. We got as close to the base of the fall as we could, sprayed with heavy, wild mist that pelted harder than the rain. Looking up, I could see the gray and white rock-face, scarred on two sides of the fall with features cut into its surface. I saw two eyes, equally spaced around the waterfall: the great spirit of the falls had a face! New respect for its power was instilled in my soul.

leaf-on-ground close-up-of-bark

Newport’s Nye Beach: A Cultural Hub on Oregon’s Coast

Panini Bakery

 

OK, all you Oregon Coast fans: I promised I would follow up my August 9th post, Newport Harbor: Whales, Crabs and Good Seafood with a post about the Newport’s Nye Beach district.

A trendy and culture-forward enclave on the Oregon Coast, Nye Beach retains a human scale while offering the best in food, art, music, and nature. I’ve just published a post about it on HubPages. Please click on this link to read Nye Beach, Oregon: Newport’s Culture Coast. I look forward to hearing your responses on HubPages as well as here on this post.

You can also read my travel post on Oregon’s Coos Bay on HubPages.

Don’t worry, I’m not giving up on WordPress. I love it here and will continue to blog on WriteWireless. You can now also follow me on http://annecreed.hubpages.com

Enjoy, and thanks for your loyal readership and support!

Whales Have Been Here Forever

We made them endangered

“Whales have been here forever. Their flesh has fed the people and been the occasion for celebration and feasting. Their bones have been made into tools and objects of status and ceremonial importance. The sighting of a whale still thrills all who see it.
May it always be so!”

Robert Kentta,
Cultural Resources Director
Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians

Whales have been here

“We made them endangered. Now we must discover their needs and change our behavior to assure their survival.”

Bruce Mate
OSU Whale Biologist

Newport Harbor: Whales, Crabs, and Good Seafood

Close up Crab
I took a spontaneous solo trip up the California & Oregon coasts, all the way to the Olympic National Forest in Washington state, making inland ventures to visit friends, family, and natural phenomena. But that was more than 20 years ago. My recollections of Newport were hazy at best. They didn’t include the Oregon Coast Aquarium (which opened one year later), nor the touristy fisherman’s wharf area. I remember natural seascapes with real working towns and real fishermen in little buildings behind mounds of oyster shells. Things have obviously grown up a bit since then. For all of its 10,000 inhabitants, this seaside community really holds its own, maintaining charm, natural beauty, and culture. There is something for everyone here, from family style tourist to hard-core naturalist to artsy bohemian to yuppie culture vulture.

While I used to grab a pair of shoes and a backpack and just go when I wanted to travel, I now have a family where things must be planned in advance. So for this trip to the Oregon coast, we checked the tour books, researched the websites, and booked our hotels and activities. One thing I was glad to have reserved was seats on the Marine Discovery Tours boat in Newport. It’s an educational vessel that goes on tours to see marine life: specifically, hopefully, whales.

A slight nip in the 9 a.m. air sent us off under a gray sky. Our seasoned captain gave facts about the history the Yaquina River and Harbor, as well as the impressive Yaquina Bridge and Bay. Our young naturalist guide (a University of Oregon student) pointed out the NOAA research facility and ships, as well as the Hatfield Marine Science Center, operated by the University of Oregon. We went “over the bar” into the ocean, where the dip and roll of the waves necessitated rail-grasping for those brave enough to ride the bow. The sky was overcast, but the slight chill would soften to a muggy warmth within an hour. Our captain, a retired seafaring policeman named Bob, was kind, about 5 feet tall, with an easy smile and an outgoing manner. He invited all the children on deck to take turns “driving the boat.”  Our naturalist student showed the young people how to bait and set out crab pots off the stern of the boat.


Continue reading “Newport Harbor: Whales, Crabs, and Good Seafood”

Huffin’ and Puffin (8 Things You Should Know About Auks)

I’ve been doing some important research this past week. Here are some things that everyone should know about puffins:

1. There are two types that live in the North Pacific Ocean: horned puffins and tufted puffins.
2. Puffins are auks. They are not penguins. Auks live north of the equator, and penguins live south of the equator. They are not related.
3. Puffins, like all auks, can both fly in the air and swim underwater (cool!)
4. Puffins are damned cute.
5. The ones at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, Oregon like to splash-land, showering the spectators in the aviary. They think it is great fun. They are right.
6. The puffins mentioned in #5 also enjoy swimming very close to people and doing crazy, frenetic dances in the water.
7. They like to be watched and photographed.
8. They love life.

9. (Bonus fact) I think I’d like to come back as an auk in my next life.

Moss Beach Distillery

View from Moss Beeach Distillery Dining Room
View from Moss Beach Distillery Dining Room

My Rating: 3 Stars

In my July 8th post, “Of Pelicans, Seals, and Ghosts,” I blogged about the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Moss Beach, California, and mentioned the Moss Beach Distillery, a historic restaurant with a special story. Apart from having been a speakeasy in the late 1920s, it boasts a ghost, who purportedly appears occasionally to visitors, and sometimes makes strange, inexplicable things happen. I had the opportunity to dine there last night, and I emerge from the experience with mixed reviews.

The ever-changing view of the Pacific Ocean, dotted with fishing boats and changing light and cloud patterns, is gorgeous. The large windows on the upper floor are positioned to take full advantage of nature’s grandeur, as is the outdoor patio below. Dogs are welcome here (outside) and they even offer a doggy menu.

Couples on Distillery Terrace DIstillery Sunset Sky

The decor is interesting: the stained-glass front windows seem to be original, while the bar sports a mixture of various tiffany-style lamps. The stamped-metal ceiling in the upstairs dining room gives an Old Spanish feeling. The large windows dominate, however, drawing your attention to the view.

The ambience is relaxing and the bartenders and waitstaff are jovial and attentive. The food quality is somewhat spotty, and the menu selection a bit unusual. For example, I ordered oyster shooters with vodka as an appetizer. You can only buy them by the piece (a lot of seafood places will also offer a six-pack). The oysters themselves were rather miniscule, and for $5 a piece ($7 with vodka), one would expect something a bit more substantial. The glasses in which they were served seemed too big for the oysters, and there was definitely too much tomatoey booze for my taste. Also, you can’t get a traditional crab cocktail or a crab louie here.

Distillery Stain Glass Dancers 2 Distillery Stain Glass Dancer 1

They served delicious, fresh, hot sourdough rolls with butter, and refilled our basket three times. Three people in our party of four ordered salads with their dinner. They were substantial in size and could easily serve two, each. I was able to sample two of them. The Caesar Salad had crisp, fresh lettuce and an irresistible creamy dressing. The Beet and Mandarin Salad was delightful, with fresh “designer” lettuce, freshly cooked beets, tasty mandarin slices, and delicious candied walnuts.

The meal unraveled, however, when it came to the entrées. One person in my party ordered the Crab Quesadillas, which were “good.” Another ordered the Pesto Salmon ($32) which she reported was way overcooked. Two of us ordered “Coquille de Mare” (also $32), which was described as a casserole of rock crab, prawns, and crimini mushrooms baked in jack, swiss, and parmesan cheese. I expected to find pieces of seafood in the casserole portion, but all I could find were mushrooms, and while it was flavorful, it was also quite heavy and greasy. The brown rice and vegetables that it was served with, however, were excellent.

I was too full to order dessert, but had a taste of my friend’s Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake, which was really excellent.
Distillery Ocean Terrace View 1 Blue Candle Cup at Distillery

Upon returning home, I researched the story of the ghost (the “Blue Lady”). She apparently had been the lover of the piano player at the Distillery, which she frequented in the 1920s. Unfortunately, her husband discovered her affair, and murdered her on the beach below the speakeasy, attempting to kill her lover as well. Her ghost is said to enjoy the company of the living, and she is reportedly seen from time to time at the bar.

Wikipedia reveals that some of the “sightings” of the Blue Lady were deliberate hoaxes by restaurant personnel, who admitted to placing images of the Blue Lady in the mirror of the women’s restroom (I did notice that the mirror seemed like one-way glass), piping in the sound of a woman’s laughter, and making lamps sway in the bar. The establishment is proud of its ghost, displaying her glowing head and bust in its entryway, and including her story as an insert in their menu. I also overheard our waitress telling another guest about some unexplained incidents that she had experienced in the restaurant: things being moved, and unexplained messages on the intercom.

This place has a lot of charm, history, and cachet, not to mention location. As some reviewers on Yelp pointed out, the restaurant can get by on these things alone, and tourists will continue to come here. If you want to get a drink and some appetizers, enjoy the view, and maybe catch a Giants’ game on TV, this is a very acceptable place. If you come here for fine dining, however, as the pricing on the dinner menu would lead you to expect, you will probably be less than satisfied. Not enough attention is paid to the finer points of food preparation, especially of the dinner entrées. I give Moss Beach Distilley three stars out of five.