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Autumn Reflections: Day Trippers, yeah!

Posted Oct 29 2012 4:27pm
Mt. Lassen Peak as reflected in Manzanita Lake

Last Saturday’s forecast promising sunny fall weather in our area proved right on target. Relying on this prediction, my good friend and I decided to take a day trip so I could say goodbye to a family vacation lake house soon to be sold.

Before our trip up into this mountainous region best known for Mt. Lassen Peak, we stopped at the local coffee drive-thru to snag some Oregon Chai Latte, a black tea with vanilla and spices combined with 2% milk.  We wanted to be jazzed as we made our way up the twisting roadway.

On the way, we found a place to pull over so we could explore snow-fed Deer Creek. Climbing down to the water’s edge, we snapped photos of a small waterfall with a backdrop of yellow leaves dangling from tenuous branches. Big leaf maple abounded with its golden leaves, evidencing a decline in chlorophyll production.  Alder and some western dogwood displayed a pink-orange, while the poison oak has transitioned from pink to orange to brilliant red. It’s rare that I see pink in the fall, outside of pink-tober. What a welcome relief! I hope to paint from the photos we took.

A campsite sits on the opposite side of the road, so we crossed over to explore. At the peak of summer this locale must be packed with families eager to have running creek water for cooling off and for children’s play. If only these summer tourists could see the magic of this heavenly place in the autumn, with its vibrant colors and shifting shadows.

When we reached town we found a gift store where we could browse and window shop. We met some lovely women there, taking the time to chat, share stories, and marvel at the myriad of Christmas ornaments on display. I love the fact that we were not rushed in any way. Leaving this shoppe we headed for the realtor’s office so I could sign papers and get key access to the vacation home.

For lunch we chose Knotbumper, a homey restaurant located in town for over 20 years, one to which I’d never been despite all the summers I spent in this area. A wood-burning stove with a glowing belly graced the main dining room, providing atmosphere and charm. As we sat there, we noticed a marked influx in customers, undoubtedly including those who had gotten a late start up the mountain and were now just arriving to enjoy a hearty meal. From the eclectic menu I chose a lunch called Coyote Flats, consisting of a chile relleno casserole, a tasty navy bean soup and some refried beans and a tortilla.

It was the first meal I’ve finished in a long time.

Knotbumper Restaurant

Sample cuisine

We then ventured next door to a place called “Good Vibrations.” No, we didn’t see the Beach Boys. While we were minutes from a lake beach, we were five hours from any ocean. But we did find unique treasures that would make fabulous souvenirs. According to my friend, who lived in this area as a teen, the store’s building was once a restaurant, with an outdoor eating area overlooking a babbling brook. She remembered the history of many of these buildings in town, so she became a tour guide giving me a glimpse into the past.

When our desire for shopping abated, we made our way to the lake house. Having not been there for over two years, I didn’t know what to expect. But it was exactly the way I remembered it. The big river-rock stone fireplace still dominated the Great Room. Furniture stood where I remembered it to be. The decks still looked out on a lake and mountain scene partly obscured by pine trees. The afternoon was so warm and inviting that I was surprised there weren’t any boats out on the lake. But then again, boat rental season is over and homeowners have brought in their docks for the season. Snow still lingering on the ground reminded us of the significant snowfall they had had a week earlier. So while no boaters were enjoying the lake, this was the perfect day to come, before the weather turned again and the days shortened considerably.

After saying goodbye to the house and locking it up, I jumped into my friend’s vehicle and she drove around the peninsula on which the house sits. We noted how close the homes are to each other because land is so valuable. We passed countless bear and moose mailboxes. We passed the now-deserted beach and tennis courts. I marveled how restaurants had relocated even since I had been there two years ago. Changes of ownership and venue are common in this area where the economy depends mostly on summer tourists.

After leaving the peninsula my friend drove me to the area where her family used to live. She pointed out her old house and the school bus route and the school she used to attend. She actually got bored on the bus despite the beautiful mountain ranges appearing from the windshield every day. I can’t believe it would be boring, but when you are a teenager and the route leads to school, the scenery becomes routine fast.

Cascade mountain range seen from the bus

After we dropped off the house key at the realty office, we headed out of town before the melting snow could turn to ice on the road. We were armed with cookies to munch on as our snack. Our first stop was just out of town where we searched for the perfect sugar pinecones to take back. Ponderosa pines are prominent in the foothills near where we live, but the sugar pines with their enormous cones grow much further up into the mountains. What great decorations these will be for Christmas!

Once we got back on the road that followed Deer Creek we pulled over to get a closer glimpse of the Indian rhubarb growing there.  The big, fan-shaped leaves of this plant are beginning to blaze in red. For those unfamiliar with this water plant, it is a slowly-spreading perennial native to mountain streamsides in woodlands in the western United States (southwestern Oregon to northwestern California).  We had missed it on the way up and didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to zoom in on its once-a-year glory.

Indian rhubarb before the fall

When we returned to our home city, I gave my friend a huge hug of gratitude as we parted ways. I told her this trip was the best I had ever taken up to that area. No other mountain drive could compare to this one with a beautiful friend who cares and takes the time to stop along the way and live life in the slow lane.

You see, my cancer has likely returned. This was a perfect diversion, an incredible almost-ending to pink-tober, the month my beloved father died. My wish to all is that you would have good friends as I have in this woman willing to drive me to an autumn retreat while I am feeling reasonably well.

Have you a special autumn spot to which you return to enjoy fall colors?

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