Freezeout Trip

The latest Gabriel Hawke book I’m writing starts at Freezeout Trailhead in the Hells Canyon Wilderness on the Oregon side of the Snake River. An abandoned vehicle is found there by my character State Trooper Gabriel Hawke.

one side of the Imnaha store

While most of this series is set in Wallowa County where I grew up, I didn’t travel around the county as much as my brothers did. I tended to stay home and read, while they were out fishing, hunting, hiking, skiing, and other out door activities.

When I start a book, I look at the maps of the area, and use google earth to discover how or where I want the murder to happen. Then I use the maps, google earth, and hiking books to help me get a feel for the terrain. But it never fails, I always need to make a trip to the area to see it for myself.

That’s what my husband and I did a few weeks ago. We drove to Imnaha. It had been a long time since I’d been to the store and area. We went inside, visited a bit with the owner and I took a couple photos. Then we took the upper Imnaha road to Freezeout Trailhead.

Imnaha River

I was so good we made the trip. The area at the trailhead didn’t look a think like what I’d envisioned from the photos and google earth. It wasn’t as flat nor as large as I’d thought. When I returned home, I had to change up some scenes to accommodate the location and size.

loading ramp at the trailhead

Traveling up the road, alongside the river, we saw some nice farms and wildlife. Some of the farm ground would have been thrilling to try and farm back in the day they used horses. I would have been a bit leery of using modern equipment on some of the side hill fields.

Doe and fawns cooling their feet in the river.

We stopped at a Hells Canyon viewpoint, but it was so smoky from fires all over the Pacific Northwest that we didn’t see much.

Hells Canyon overlook

We could see how families would have lived off the land and enjoyed the solitary life at the bottom of the canyon along the Imnaha River. Since we were headed back to SE Oregon, we continued on up the river and on over to Halfway, Oregon. It had been years since we’d been to this town. Neither one of us remembered it being as populated. We remembered only a couple of buildings. Unless we had mistook another small town for Halfway. We’re still puzzling that. We are excited to go back there again and check it out more.

From Halfway we headed to Baker City and then on home. It was an 850+ mile round trip that weekend, but it was worth it for me to see the area I was writing about.

I love research trips!

Second Favorite Place

A large portion of my family tagged along on my annual birthday trek up on the Steens Mountain. I would have to say that it is my second favorite place to visit. My first, of course, being the Oregon Coast.

Rockaway Beach

The mountain is never the same. Some years when we go up the end of June on my birthday, we are met by blankets of wildflowers. Other years, not so many. And one year we couldn’t even get up on the mountain until July because of so much snow.

snow pack

This year there was still some snowpack. The 77 degrees was welcome since it was one of the hottest weeks we’ve ever had in June. The temperature wavered around 100. The wildflowers weren’t as tall and easy to see as they had been in years past. Many of the colorful blooms were hidden in the sagebrush. The aspen trees were green and lush. Fish Lake was blue and inviting. The grandchildren who went with us all took a swim in the lake while the adults watched.

Fish Lake

Standing on the top of the Steens, looking down at the green circles of irrigations pivots around the dry Alvord Lake bed you get a feeling of the vastness and contrast that is SE Oregon.

Looking down at Alvord Lake bed

The abundance of wildflowers either hiding in the sage or hanging precariously on a rock thousands of feet from the valley floor, is one of the unique things I enjoy about the mountains.

Kiger Canyon

I can find beauty in all the outdoors but I do believe nothing is better for my soul than the Oregon Coast and the Steens Mountains. Although, staring at the Wallowa Mountains, also stirs me and brings me peace. Hmmm… I need to spend some time there soon.

It’s June! My birthday month!

There are so many things I love about this month. This month is usually when the weather starts getting warmer, deer have their babies, and the flowers start blooming. It means longer days, with breathtaking evenings and bright cheery sunrises.

I always think of myself as a person who loves fall. I love the colors, the briskness of the days, and the holidays. But I think, truly, I’m a summer lover. The smell of freshly mowed grass or alfalfa. The scent of a sweaty horse after a long ride. Even the earthy scent of hay makes me smile.

Last month, hubby brought now a new to me horse trailer. We’ve been without one for several years now. It wasn’t too bad when I didn’t have anyone to ride horses with, but now that I have a granddaughter down the road who is ready to ride whenever I am, it’s nice to have a way to haul my horse over. I had expected him to pick up a smaller stock trailer, because he has always been partial to having a trailer with a dual purpose. To my surprise, he brought home a “real” horse trailer. It has a tack room in front and bars to hang sweaty saddle blankets. I was shocked when I saw it. But I love it! I’ve made a couple trips with my horses in it and it pulls like a dream. They were a little unsure of it at first., It’s all enclosed and looks short because of the angle on the tack room in front, but once they rode in it, I think they liked it!

My roses are blooming! Love roses. And all my other flowers. I would have masses of flowers if I could keep them alive! I do not have my mother’s green thumb. I water and beg Mother Nature to keep my plants alive. LOL

We made a quick overnight trip to the coast at the beginning of the month. I love the coast. The smell, the energy of the water…. I wish I could have stayed three for a week. Hopefully in the fall, I can get ack over there for a writing retreat. WE lucked out. The weather was gorgeous for both my evening and morning strolls. There were very few shells or ocean life on the beach., When I go in the spring and fall, I find all kinds of cool things to take photos of.

If you would like to celebrate my birthday month, the best way would be to purchase Stolen Butterfly, book 7 in the Gabriel Hawke novels. Proceeds from the sale of this book will be going to the MMIW/MMIP movement. I talked about it in my last blog. If you would like an autographed print copy, just drop info for me to contact you in the comments.

Book 7

The Rest of the Trip

I can’t believe how time got away from me! Here is how the return trip from Wisconsin went. I’ve had the photos downloaded to my computer since I arrived home and have been so busy with Christmas and writing things that I didn’t realize I’d missed writing about it. I really need to put the days I plan to blog here on my phone so it reminds me.

We picked up the 5 piglets. 4 gilts and one little boar. My daughter was excited because they all came from the original lines that started the whole IPP (Idaho Pasture Pig) breed.

On the way back we buzzed through Wisconsin but not before stopping at a small store and purchasing cheese curds. We’d heard so much about Wisconsin cheese we had to see if it stacked up to our beloved Tillmook cheese. While we enjoyed snacking on the cheese curds as we drove, I have to say, it is really hard to beat Tillamook medium cheddar cheese.

When also buzzed back through Minnesota stopping that night in Fargo, N.D. We woke up the following more to frosted inside windows. All the little piggies in the back of the van had made so much moisture that we had to scrape the inside of the windows before we could take off driving.

North Dakota was flat and would have been a blip if we hadn’t spotted Salem Sue. She was a very large cow on a hill outside of New Salem, North Dakota. We took a short break from sitting in the van to check her out.

Traveling through North Dakota we saw this unique and interesting metal sculpture alongside the road.

Pushing that second day, we made it to Butte, Montana. We crossed the Rockies in the dark so we didn’t get to see them very good, but enjoyed the drive through Montana. It has different terrains and vegetation. My daughter and I were both surprised at the size of Butte. I don’t know why I thought it would be smaller. And it sits down in a hole of sorts surrounded by mountains.

The third day we took off out of Butte, crossed Idaho, and returned home in eastern Oregon by 7 pm.

It was a quick trip which helped me check North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin off the list of states I’ve seen.

How about you? How many of the U.S. states have you been to?

Headed to Wisconsin

I have always said, my bucket list is seeing all 50 states. When my youngest daughter asked if I wanted to accompany her to Wisconsin to pick up pigs, I jumped at the opportunity.

First, I’ve not been to North Dakota, Minnesota, or Wisconsin. Three of the states we would drive through. Second, I didn’t want my daughter and her 16 month-old traveling that far by themselves.

We left home early Wednesday morning, traveling out of Oregon, into Idaho, across the potato state and into Montana. I’d traveled through this part of Idaho and into Montana several times before with my husband. It wasn’t new to me, but it was the first time I’d been there at this time of the year. We spent night number one at Bozeman. We had only a few slightly slick roads the closer we traveled to Bozeman. Of course, this was after dark, making the drive a bit slower. And, it was country that would have been pretty, if it hadn’t been dark. But the Freeway was clear.

Driving out of Bozeman

Thursday morning we were on the road by seven and drove across Montana and all the way across North Dakota. What we saw of eastern Montana was unique rock formations and rolling hills. North Dakota was flat, herds of antelope, and well derricks. The unfortunate thing… all the places I really wanted to see each day, we drove through after dark. Going from west to east, we lost an hour each day in time zones and the darkness descended early. We spent the second night in Fargo, North Dakota. It was larger than I’d thought.

We saw many silos in Minnesota

Friday, I was excited. I was to meet up with a writer I’d known online for 14 years but had never met in person. We had lunch with Lauri Robinson, a Harlequin author, at her home. It was fun to see she was just like I had envisioned she’d be. She made us a wonderful chicken and wild rice soup and bread for lunch. We visited a couple of hours and then moved on to Wisconsin. We spent the night in Crandon, Wisconsin about 10 miles before where we would pick up the pigs.

One of the lakes in Minnesota.

I’ll tell that tale next week. 😉

My #2 Happy Place

While I am a HUGE homebody and love being at home more than anything else, I love going to the Oregon Coast. In fact, I try to go a couple times a year for week long writing retreats.

This week I am at Rockaway Beach trying to get at least half of the next Shandra Higheagle book written. I’m getting close!

The week started out with wicked waves and wind. The trees were practically leaning sideways and the old log home that I stay in creaked, moaned, and screeched as tree limbs scraped across the windows.

The waves were not only the largest I’ve ever seen here, they were rolling north rather than straight at the shore. The water level, even at low tide was washing clear up to the edge of the embankment. I didn’t feel safe to walk the beach on those days.

water lapping at the steps to walk onto the beach

Then the wind calmed and the water went back to normal and I was able to take a couple of walks each day. The walks are my reward for getting so many words written in a session.

This photo shows the end of rainbow out in the distance after a night of pouring rain, thunder, and lightning.

This next photo looked like a petrified seagull digging its way out of the sand. What do you think?

The other photos were a bit of color and I always see beached jellyfish. I can see a story in just about anything I look at. I haven’t decided if it’s a blessing or a curse. LOL

I don’t know where the colorful leaf came from but I like the colors. The Jellyfish seemed to me to be looking for a hiding place in the kelp.

Down the road in one of my mystery books, a story that came to me while I was walking on the beach another trip, will be used as the premise/plot in a mystery book.

I need to get back to my writing. I have 8,000 more words to write today so I can go home tomorrow with the number of words I wanted to get done on this trip.

Here is a parting photo:

Fall Trip to the Steens Mountains

Our granddaughter had this past Thursday off from school for the end of the 9 week period. I told her we were going to the Steens to take photos of the trees changing.

We were about a month too late from the looks of the naked trees. The good thing is Aspen trees are pretty even when they don’t have any leaves.

Aspen trees at Fish Lake

Our first stop was the Peter French Round Barn near Diamond, Oregon. It was built in the late 1880’s by Peter French a cattle baron of the time and area. They used it to continue to train horses to ride and drive wagons during the winter months. Because I had been there several times before the only thing I took photos of were the pair of barn owls roosting on the main center pole of the building.

From there we continued to the mountain.

At Fish Lake, we stopped an took photos of the water, the trees, and the ambiance. It was a peaceful and a beautiful day.

Fish Lake

The canyon where we usually stop to take photos of the golds, yellows, and reds on the aspen trees was a barren sight. The trees had already lost their leaves.

Alas, we were too late. This canyon is usually filled with color.

Traveling on, we stopped and took photos at Kiger Canyon. It’s named for the wild Kiger mustangs that were found in the area in the early 1900s.

Kiger Canyon

Then on up to the top. Here we looked over the edge at the Alvord desert below, some irrigated fields, and the road on the SE side of the mountains. Here while our granddaughter tried capturing photos of a small bird, I found a rock with half a dozen ladybugs wandering around on it.

View from the top.
Lady bugs on the rock

Moseying on, and heading down the south entrance road, we stopped at one of my favorite spots about halfway down a canyon. There is a small trail and some interesting rocks and vegetation.

I liked this dead looking tree.

And to cap off our day of traveling the loop on the Steens, we must have seen nearly a hundred wild horses. It is the most I’ve ever seen on a trip up to the mountain. They were scattered all along the ridges and gathered near watering holes.

Wil horses on one of the hills.
Granddaughter taking a photo

I need to get our granddaughter’s photos put on the computer so I can see what kind of photos she took. She tends to like to take photos from ground level or of interesting things, I wouldn’t think to photograph.

She would squat down and get certain plants in the photos or rocks. She would also hold the camera near the ground. She has made some awesome photos on other occasions.

It was a fun day. I hope you enjoyed my little photo collection of a Fall trip on the Steens Mountain Loop.

Photos to Covers

I find the best feature on my cell phone is the camera. I usually have the phone with me every time I step outside or go on trips.

That means I always have a camera. I enjoy taking photographs of nature. A billowy cloud can have so many colors and textures in it that I want a photo. The blue of the sky can capture my attention. The way the grass is leaning in the wind. Dust swirling or hiding the hill across the valley. A lizard, snake, horse, cat, bird.

Taken at the Oregon Coast

I can find many things to photograph. Buildings, rocks, hills, fence posts. If I see something unique, I want to capture it.

When I go places to research settings for my books, I take a ton of pictures hoping one will work for a cover of the book. When I am researching, I also take along the camera featured at the beginning of the post. Using the photo I pick, my cover designer then places the added elements the story needs.

Waterfall in Maui

I used a photo I took while in Kauai, Hawaii for the cover of Abstract Casualty. We, my cover designer and I, are currently working on the cover for Capricious Demise. I’ve scanned through all my photos and have found a couple that might work and have given her some ideas of some that can be purchased.

My photo with bird added

On the Gabriel Hawke novel covers, we add the animal that is in the title of the book. And maybe take liberty of adding a trail sign that wasn’t in the photo but adds to the “story” the cover tells. This was Murder of Ravens. The cover for Mouse Trail Ends the cover designer took a photo of mouse prints in the dirt and added a backpack and mouse. Rattlesnake Brother is produced from two photos I purchased. The steps of a courthouse and a rattlesnake. My jet boat trip on the Snake River doing research for Chattering Blue Jay gave me many photos to choose from. Once I decided which one, my cover designer add a blue jay to the photo in a realistic way. And Fox Goes Hunting, the cover photo is a photo I took while in Iceland. It is of the Krysuvik boiling pools. I purchased a photo of an Arctic Fox that my cover designer inserted in the photo.

Sometimes finding the right cover art can be as much work as writing the book. Don’t be me started on coming up with a good title!

June Adventure

After visiting my dad on Father’s Day at the Senior Living Center in Wallowa County, (where my Gabriel Hawke Novels are set) I headed to the setting of the next Hawke book.

While riding with a State Police Trooper also working Fish and Wildlife when I had the Hawke novels in their conceptual stage, the trooper pointed out a site that had been deemed an accidental death, but he thought otherwise. After he explained the whole thing to me and I saw the spot, I agreed with him.

Griz Flat Camp area

Ever since that ride-along, I’ve known that would be the scene of one of the murders that Hawke would help solve.

So, on the sunny June Sunday, I made a 93 mile loop to get photos of the area and acquaint myself with the roads and area.

The drive from Enterprise, Oregon in the NE corner of the state is pretty just about any time of year, but this time of year… the greens, the wildflowers, the fields, it is a visual delight!

Flora, Oregon

From Enterprise, I went north and turned west onto the Flora Highway. Flora is a small community that was a town at one time. The remnants of businesses, the school, and houses can be seen among the buildings still in use.

After Flora, I traveled through farm land and started down the steep winding Redmond grade to reach the Grande Ronde River. I crossed the river and continued into Troy, OR. The small community has houses, a motel, store and other conveniences for fishermen and rafters. Troy is set at at the crook of the Grande Ronde and Wenaha Rivers.

A photo from Griz Flat road toward Troy.

After taking photos of the campground where the murder will take place, I headed back on another route that followed the Grand Ronde River for several miles. I took a photo of a group rafting. The colorful rafts caught my eye.

Rafts on the Grand Ronde River

Along the way I had to stop and wait for cattle to move off the road. I thought it was a funny coincidence that when I came upon the cattle with white and black faces a song by Sia, the singer who wears a white and black wig, was playing on my radio. That’s why I took the photos of the cattle. LOL

It was a great day. I captured the photos I needed for the book cover and saw what I needed to see to write the book. Now to sit down and make my suspect chart and start pushing around ideas for a title. On the way home I toyed with Fire Ant Bites- but I’m not completely sold on it. I’ll have to play some more with ideas.

The drive was 90% gravel roads, which didn’t matter, I’m used to driving those. I went slow and enjoyed the tall green grass, the wheat and hay fields and even some cattle on the road.

Sunday Drives

Since moving to SE Oregon, hubby and I tend to do more Sunday drives than before. Usually our Sunday drives are because it’s a holiday and we want to get away.

Mother’s Day happened to fall two days before our anniversary this year. Hubby asked me what I wanted to do for our anniversary. I said I wanted to travel a road I hadn’t been on before.

So Mother’s Day on Sunday, we packed up a picnic lunch, water for the dogs, loaded the dogs in the pickup and headed south.

Looking back the way we’d come.

Hubby had discovered a road that runs through BLM (Bureau of Land Management) which is public land from the end of the road that passes our property all the way through some hills and tail end of Steens Mountain to the road to Fields, Oregon.

We traveled that 25 miles in three and a half hours. The road was rough in places, but dry. Except where a creek crossed the road in one spot.

The first stop was to check out a canyon and bushes that were growing along it. There were cattle and Mikey decided to roll in a cow pie. We had to use up some of the wipes we had with us to clean him up in order to stand him being in the pickup.

The road continued up at a gradual climb. The juniper trees became thicker and thicker and a small creek ran alongside the road. We stopped at two springs just feet from the road to look. Hubby is fascinated by springs and wants to try and get one started on our hill where there seems to be more moisture in the ground.

Winding through the thick trees I noticed many of the trees, bigger junipers than I’ve seen before, were growing right out of what appeared to be solid rock. The hills on both sides of the road were solid rock and rock slides. Any vegetation had to find water in the cracks and crevices to survive.

One side of the rocky peaks we drove between.

Emerging from the trees there was a fair-sized meadow which we skirted and found green grass and a creek. Backtracking we went the other direction and came out along what had once been a huge lake. It was now dry with patches of grass and weeds growing in it. You could see that when the snow melted around the rim the water settled in the basin. The dirt was cracked. I couldn’t believe how large it was and that it was so high in elevation. Was it a volcanic crater at one time? How did it become a lake here, at the top of the hills?

the big dried up lake in front of us.

From the lake we headed to the top of a road that traveled down, down, down. Before heading down, we stopped and had our picnic lunch. The sun was warm, the bees were enjoying the lupines, and the dogs lay in shade of the pickup.

Harlie and Mikey .

Starting down, the sides of the road and up and down the hill were covered in wildflowers. Various yellows and first white, then yellow, and finally purple lupine. Hubby said he could smell them. I think my nose was stuffed up from the junipers…

Lupines

At the bottom we came out on the Fields road and headed to Hwy 78 and home.

Hubby laughed at me because several times as we drove toward home I said, “Best day ever!” Which it was a great day. But I remember saying the same thing when he took me up on the Steens Mountain to see the wildflowers one spring and then I believe I said it when we traveled up on the Steens for the fall colors, and when we saw some wild horses on one of our drives.

Yes, I have Best Day Ever, quite often! Do you like Sunday drives?