Roaming

So far this month I’ve been to the Tamastslikt Museum outside of Pendleton, Oregon at the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. Then over to Orofino, ID and the Dwarshak Fish Hatchery and Dam. Then I went to the St. Ignasius Mission on the Flathead Indian Reservation. After that, I took photographs of the area around Salmon Lake in Montana, and then I spent several days with my cousin and her husband.

It’s good to be home but most of my travels had to do with making my Spotted Pony Casino mysteries and Gabriel Hawke books better.

I was on a research trip. Though a few of the things I researched aren’t for the book in progress.

At Tamastslikt Museum, I wandered through the exhibits, reading and trying to connect myself to the characters I write who live on this reservation. I enjoyed the videos that played at some of the exhibits. The voices of the people and their thoughts helped me to understand a little more about the Umatilla people. I’m slowly making more and more contacts there and reaching out to be able to portray my characters in a realistic way.

A display at the Tamastslikt Museum

At Orofino, I spent the night with my brother and sister-in-law. My brother works for Dwarshak Fish Hatchery. They were getting ready for a ceremony at the hatchery that Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland attended. While there we took a walk up to the dam. I visited when there had been a lot of rain and the Clearwater River was running over its banks.

normally 1700 cubic ft of water per second comes out- this was 25,000 cubic ft per second

My sister-in-law (SIL) and I drove to Missoula, Montana where we had an Airbnb for two nights. The next day we drove north to check out the St. Ignasius Mission and the Flathead Reservation. While investigating the routes we would take, I noticed a gravel road that went from Highway 93 to Highway 83, near Salmon Lake that I also wanted to check out. At the church we asked the volunteer guide if she knew anything about the road. She said it was navigable and it would be a pretty drive.

She was correct! The drive was gorgeous through timber, brush, and many overflowing streams and waterfalls. The best part of the drive was seeing a black bear not thirty feet from the road. My SIL rolled down her window and talked to him while taking pictures.

By the time we reached Salmon Lake we had traveled through rain and snow and it was raining. We circled back on the highways to our Airbnb. The following morning we took the highway back to Salmon Lake and with overcast skies and no rain, I took photos of the Island Resort that will be a setting in my next Gabriel Hawke book. I had wanted to get on the island, but I couldn’t as only guests (and I couldn’t afford the price for a night) were allowed. I tried to talk to one of the staff who arrived at the boat house on the land side of the resort, but he blew me off. I took photos from the boat house and then a road up higher and more north on the highway to get as many angles of the island and the resort as I could. There was a smaller island not far from the resort island that may play into the story as well. I’m hoping the scenario I had in mind for the beginning of the book will work once I do a little more research.

Island Resort

Once I had all the photos I wanted, we continued north and spent two nights with a cousin in Lakeside, MT on the north end of Flathead Lake. Our second day there, our hosts took us to the National Bison Range. There we saw deer, elk, antelope, bison, and grizzly bears. We spent the most time watching a young sow grizzly grubbing. She was up a hill from the road where we had spotted her. She rolled a piece of log to get the bugs underneath and the hunk of wood that appeared to be about two feet around and three feet long tumbled down the hill, jumping and rolling! It was a fun thing to see. Up around a corner of the road we were on, there was an even younger grizzly, also grubbing, in a more hidden spot.

Young Grizzly sow

I would say my research trip was very successful. Now I need to get the Spotted Pony Casino book I’m writing finished so I can start on the Hawke book set in Montana!

Stay tuned as I will be going more in depth in several of the places we visited on this trip in future blog posts. I wanted to get something up as I am late this month with this post.

Fun with Fishes

At the end of March, I had two book signings which led me to Orofino, Idaho where my younger brother and his wife live. My brother works for the Dworshak Fish Hatchery.

He was on call for the weekend and asked us if we wanted to go with him on his evening rounds.  I’m always up for a visit to the large facility. There are so many interesting places a person could lurk should he or she have murder on their mind. 😉 And there are some interesting tools that would also make for an interesting murder method, but I digress…

Following my brother along, he told us what each building housed and why it was important to the whole hatchery process. You can go to this hatchery during the day and get a tour of the facilities. It is fascinating.

My brother had to check the temperature of the water in the egg hatching room. He pulled one of the trays out and I tried to get a photo of the hatching eggs.

Then we moved on and he checked the water in the tanks that held over 30,000 one-inch-long baby salmon in each tank. Moving by all of those tanks there were tanks with week-old salmon that would soon be put in the outside holding tanks to grow until they were old enough to be let loose to make their way to the ocean.

The startling thing is that my brother said only 1 percent of the hatchlings make it to the ocean because of predators. Cormorants and seagulls were already congregating along the Clearwater River in anticipation of the salmon being released in the next week or two.  And lower downriver on their journey, the seals and otters await their arrival into the ocean.

The money and knowledge that goes into hatching out so many fish seem futile when you learn that only 1 percent of them will even make it to the ocean. And then they have to make the trip back up the rivers to spawn and start the process all over again.

I guess it is nature’s way of saying, “Never give up.”

At One of my Favorite Places

I’m spending a week at Rockaway Beach to get a book planned out. Not so much to work on the book but to enjoy the beach. 😉

I like the lines the water made from the different directions it flowed.

It is one of my favorite places to come. I enjoy the sound of the ocean, the power of the water, and the brine in the air.

I always take photos of the jellyfish. The ones I saw this trip had bright colored insides.

My first full day here was gorgeous with sunshine, warm weather, and activities all over the town and beach.

There was a show of kites flying at the center of town beach. The synchronized kite flyers were also there practicing. I have a video of that but I can’t figure out how to get it from my phone to here.

Today, my second day started out rainy and foggy, but is turning into a beautiful evening. There were kites being flown today as well.

I love the Oregon coast and my bi-annual trips here to write and soak up the ambiance.

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.