From Willow, CA to Corvallis, OR. and back to Lodi, CA.

Snowy Mountains

I’m at a hotel in Lodi, CA, which is a truck stop south of Sacramento.  I’m halfway home, but, I get ahead of myself.  Let me tell you about the second part of the trip to Corvallis…only two days ago!

Grain silos

After spending the night at Willow (North of where I am now), we headed up past San Francisco.  We could see the city from the freeway.  In the surrounding areas were miles of farmland and many immense grain silos.   

Sacramento; photo Miranda Kennedy

Then the land became more beautiful, if less productive, as we passed Red Bluff, Redding, and the Mount Shasta area.  Only we didn’t get to see Mount Shasta because it was covered with clouds.  It was snowing. 

Snowplows (photo Miranda Kennedy)

 I haven’t driven in snow before, but it wasn’t blinding and the twisty mountain two-lane highway loaded with trucks wasn’t icy.  The most trouble I had was avoiding being blinded by the spray from the semi’s wheels.  We were surrounded by very beautiful pine forests loaded with snow.  Then we hit the next mountain range of Ashland in Oregon and it began to snow in earnest.  The road was very wet and ice was on the sides.  Big fluffy flakes were circling around.  We pulled over to a lodge to use the restroom and through the dining room windows the snow swirled as if made for a movie, and juncos were eating at bird feeders on the porch.  We would have loved to have stayed to enjoy the sight, but my daughter and I were both afraid of the roads becoming more hazardous.  I certainly didn’t have snow tires on the Prius.  There were snow plows and whatever the red stuff that they use instead of salt on the roads. 

Lodge

We carefully edged back on the highway, and I now drove behind the trucks, keeping my wheels in their tracks figuring their weight and heat would have de-iced as they went.  It was a bit tense heading down the hill.  Why are there always people who have to speed, even in bad conditions?  Once we were off the mountain the snow vanished and we had rain showers, especially once over the Oregon border where it rained almost solidly.  After coming off that icy truck-filled narrow mountain path, rain wasn’t even an issue.  We made it to Corvallis at about 3:30; a 1,014 mile drive from home. 

Old House

Corvallis tries hard to be a cute town, and it mostly succeeds.  It has historical interest and lies in the beautiful Willamette Valley.  Corvallis is on the agenda for those touring wineries, but more to our interest is that it is very attractive for migratory birds.  There are preserves and parks all over with wonderful birding hides, walking paths and hiking. 

Tree-lined streets

Since school started the next day (today), birding sadly wasn’t in the books for us this visit, even if the rain let up.  However we did see magpies as we drove through Sacramento on the way up, which was a first on our lifetime birding lists for both of us.  Corvallis is surrounded by farming areas, growing blueberries, grains, corn, and feed.  This time of year there are thousands of bright yellow daffodils along the roads and in front of homes.  Another welcome splash of color in the usually dark grey sky is from forsythia bushes which are in full gloriously yellow bloom.  It rains a lot here.  This school year, in fact, it stopped raining only to snow a bit, with occasional glimpses of blue sky as a tease between rain storms.  Moss and lichens are very happy here, as are Canada geese.  Berry bushes and wild apple and pear trees fill the preserves, but being wet and cold is the price for the fecundity of the landscape.

On the way back today I was anticipating heavier snow and ice storms, but to my delight the weather was clear and sunny the whole way. 

Snowy mountains

 The mountains were covered with snow and beautiful.  Mount Shasta’s volcanic shape draped in white suggested a more aggressive personality than the rounder surrounding mountains. 

Mt. Shasta

What beautiful rivers, pine forests and mountains.  A couple of young elk were grazing by the side of the highway, and startled by a semi, ran back into the woods.   I have a real love for this kind of scenery, perhaps born from my New Jersey birth, or cultivated from my first vacations with my parents and sister to Yosemite and Oregon, staying in rustic lodges, smelling pine resin and woodsmoke and listening to quiet.

  Once I passed Red Bluff and Redding, then the scenery became more humanized and flat.  Lots of buildings, old vehicles, signage… the poetry was gone from the view.  And here I am in Lodi, CA, which may owe it’s interesting name to Chief Lodi.  In fact, I compiled a list of the names of places I passed that were delightful to me: Tangent, Calpooia, Umpqua, Drain, Yoncalla, Edenbower, Riddle, Azalea, Jumpoff Joe Creek, Louse Creek, Merlin, Indian Mary Park, Valley of the Rogue State Park, Talent, Weed, Yreka, Hilt, Siskiyou, Jelly’s Ferry, and Yuba.

Tonight I dined at Rocky’s, which most certainly doesn’t have a veggie burger option, but does give you the ketchup right away with your food, knowing you’ll need it.  Apparently I just missed the migration of thousands of starlings which cover the area through the winter, dining on the bugs in the surrounding fields.  There are still hundreds left, and if you look closely you’ll see them on the sign in the following photo, taken from my motel window.  To the lullaby of the traffic of Hwy 5, I bid you so-long.  Tomorrow back to Fallbrook, and lots of walking!

Rocky's Cafe

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