Thu 15 Jan 2009
I don’t care if it’s where I grew up — I still say that the Mid-Willamette Valley has some of loveliest landscapes I know of. There are more staggering and breathtaking vistas all across the world, but there’s a lush comfort here that can’t be beat. Even the car-window view driving along one of the two-lane highways that leads out of Dallas is so pleasantly scenic that it frequently strikes me as over-generous.
My dad and I took a trip to Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge this afternoon. It’s a beautiful, serene place that I have many fond memories of and only a short drive from my parents’ house. Lots of migrating birds use it as a bed and breakfast, so no dogs are allowed, much to the sorrow of our lab Lucy.
The morning’s fog had mostly burned off, leaving us with a crisp January afternoon. Baskett Slough is mostly oak groves and savannas, lacking the evergreens the Northwest is famous for, which are indigenous only at higher altitudes. It’s more colorful and shady when the trees still have their leaves, but despite the sparser landscape, in winter the land holds a mossy, earthen beauty. Wet leaves ground underfoot will become nourishing soil for tomorrow’s trees, but meanwhile the land lays quiet, seeming to hover in this moment like the clouds our breath makes in the air.
The forest was battered by recent storms, littering the ground with many mossy boughs. My dad said it must have sounded like quite the racket when all the branches were crashing to the ground, and I refrained from making the obvious joke about whether anyone was around to hear them falling. Surely the sounds must have echoed through the valley, where families would have been huddled by candlelight in Christmas sweaters, waiting for the roads to unfreeze so that someone could turn their power back on. They could have not gone unheard.
I stopped to snap a lot of pictures, and often found myself lagging behind my dad. Once, as I was hustling to catch up, gravel crunching under my feet, he suddenly stopped and held up a hand signally me to stop. He stood still and quiet, and I slowly crept forward. I knew he had found something special and easily spooked. Rounding the bend, I saw it — a doe!
There were three deer there, munching on whatever it is that deer eat. We watched them for a while and they sort of watched us, nonplussed. These were the first deer I’d seen since returning from Australia, and it was hard not to be reminded of kangaroos. If we had startled them, they’d be gone just as quickly, bounding through the underbrush. As it was, we went slowly on our way, and they went right on eating whatever it is that deer eat.
We finished our walk before I was quite ready for it to be over, and then drove up to Van Duzer Vineyards, which has a beautiful view of the valley. Despite growing up here, I had never really been to a Willamette Valley winery, but my dad is apparently quite the expert. We chatted a bit with the winemaker, then got a bottle of chilled Pinot Gris.
Even in the recession, it seems there is a time to act like a yuppie. It was nice to chat with my dad — I think the last time just he and I had a drink together was my first beer, which I was unable to choke down. I had no problem with the wine, which was crisp and refreshing. Just like the day (awww).
Hope you all enjoyed the pictures!