In the summer, Oregon’s Willamette Valley becomes a massive producer of fresh fruit. One of my family’s favorite traditions is to go berry picking. We tend to focus on strawberries (I think we picked about 20 lbs from Daum’s Produce Farm), blueberries (about 40 lbs from Fordyce Farm), and blackberries (more than 5 lbs free from Minto Brown Island Park) but we sometimes get raspberries and others (see here for a complete listing).
I think there is nothing better than the sweetness of a sun-warmed and still slightly dusty blueberry eaten just picked out in the field. I highly recommend it! Plus, what can you do with the berries besides make jams, preserves, and pies (well, and eat them straight too of course)?
But if picking berries is too much work for you, or too warm, or for some reason you don’t like fresh fruit (which would be sad!), there is another option. Not too far away in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains is Silver Falls State Park. My favorite hike is the Trail of Ten Falls (only 8 miles round trip though there are ways to make it shorter), which is well worth it if you love water. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves!
There are so many beautiful places in Monterey Bay – this is only a quick snapshot of a few places that I love. Hopefully this inspires you to visit and explore each place on your own!
First – the Monterey Bay Aquarium. In addition to being a premier marine science research institution, this aquarium will amaze you with its variety and depth of exhibits. I have been there many times in my life (probably more than 30), and it still takes me three hours to feel like I’ve seen everything. Some of my favorite exhibits are the Outer Bay, and the Kelp Forest.
Second – Carmel Beach. Slightly south of Monterey is Carmel, a beautiful (but touristy!) town that has a very lively feel. The town is built in a hill and at the bottom is a perfect beach. The sand is soft and the waves curl in green-blue spirals and crash delightfully cool on your feet in contrast to the warmth of the California sun. If you are blessed, you might even see a pod of dolphins!
Third – Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. Take the famous California Highway 1 even further south of Carmel about 10 minutes and you will come to Point Lobos, which has been called "the greatest meeting of land and sea in the world" by Francis McComas, and I would hasten to add "of sky" as well. With trails that hug the coastline, this is a place not to be missed for all you hikers out there.
Just off highway 101 in Central California is a small dusty town surrounded by golden hills – San Juan Bautista.
It is easy to miss – but at the heart of this town is a piece of history, the Old Mission San Juan Bautista, begun in 1797 by Fr. Fermin de Lasuen, the successor to Junipero Serra. Not only is the mission a historic site, it is also a functioning Catholic parish. There is a state historic park in the town, and several of the old buildings are converted into museums.
Some of the mission has been converted into a museum commemorating the early mission days and the Native Americans living there. There are two beautiful chapels, gardens, and an old cemetery that looks over the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail that in past times used to connect San Juan Bautista to Salinas, CA.
In addition to visiting the mission, one of my family’s favorite traditions is to eat lunch at Jardines, a restaurant with delicious Hispanic food and beautiful gardens in the back.
If you are up for more adventures, consider driving up to the top of Fremont’s Peak, which is one of the higher peaks in the Gavilan Range that borders the Salinas Valley (made famous by John Steinbeck’s writings, who grew up there) where you’ll find good views out to Monterey Bay and inland to the San Benito Valley.
The most recent travels of the Eindhoven mug took it to the capitol of the USA. I find it fascinating to stand in history-seeped places that form part of the heart of the USA. I try to imagine all that has passed or is passing in these places and what they are memorializing, even though in some ways, the USA is a relatively young country compared to the rest of the world.
My time in the Capitol was short – too short to see everything there, but full (the pictures above were taken over the course of a few days). I still want to see Arlington Cemetery and spend more time in the Smithsonian Museums, while also wandering further away from the Capitol Mall. I suppose it means that someday I will have to return.
The Eindhoven wandering mug has a new caretaker! It was officially handed to me at the end of May at the top of Mt. Holyoke overlooking the Pioneer Valley in Massachusetts. `
The picture is looking north, and you can discern the Connecticut River to the left, the University of Massachusetts - Amherst in the far right, and Mt. Toby and Sugarloaf Mountain in the distance. In the other direction, there are more views of the Connecticut River and of Springfield.
Mt. Holyoke is assessable by car, or even better, by a quick and uphill hike. It offers some of the best views of the region through other peaks in the Holyoke Range, such as Bear Mountain and Norwottuck Mountain to the east have similar vantage points. As a native of the West Coast, it is hard for me to call a 1000 foot tall peak a mountain – it’s really a hill – but in this region, such a peak is one of the tallest. I’ve hiked Norwottuck Mountain a number of times; once I almost got lost at nightfall, and once I saw two beautiful barred owls. Mt. Sugarloaf is also assessable by car, though I have hiked it when it was covered in slippery snow/ice and saw a pair of peregrine falcons. Below is a view looking south from Mt. Sugarloaf of the Connecticut River and the Holyoke Range after the snow was gone.
The story of this handoff began more than a year ago. My friend and I were at a craft fair on the Amherst common, and came across a potter’s booth with two wandering mugs that needed to begin their journeys. We were both intrigued by the idea and made a deal with each other. Since I was planning to go to Africa in a year, she would be the first caretaker of the wandering mug and would hand it off to me. We chose the Eindhoven mug and the so the adventure began!
A year later, the mug has enjoyed Northeast apple cider, hot chocolate, and maple coffee, has said goodbye to the Pioneer Valley from the top of Mt. Holyoke, and is now preparing for travels across the U.S. before heading off to Burkina Faso. I’m looking forward to keeping you updated on its adventures!
I picked up my wandering mug at the Apple Festival in Amherst, MA on September 28, 2013. Fall is a wonderful time in the northeast. The blue skies, colorful foliage, and crisp air combine to create a beauty I find unparalleled by the other seasons.
And of course there’s the harvest season. It’s a time for corn mazes, farmers markets, harvest festivals…and apple picking!
“Eindhoven” accompanied me on a visit to central New York State (CNY) and the many apple orchards there. One of the most famous is Beak and Skiff Apple Orchards, in operation since 1911. This is one of CNY’s most popular destinations in the fall. While the apple orchards are a well-run operation unto themselves, there are other attractions.
I visited Beak and Skiff with four of my friends from college on a sunny fall day. We stopped first at the bakery for some hot apple cider and cider donuts.
Then on to picking apples…Empire and Macintosh varieties were ripe that day, and Empire apples are my favorite apple of all. I picked about 10 lbs of them myself.
Finally, we visited the tasting room. Beak and Skiff produces many beverages, including five types of hard cider, and we enjoyed the free tastings offered. I bought a bottle of my favorite, the Light & Crisp, to sip from this mug or another on some special occasion.
There are many local treasures such as Beak & Skiff scattered throughout New York State and the Northeast. Hopefully we will have a chance to experience a few more before this mug is released to wander farther afield.