A little slice of heaven

On July 27th we left the house at 7:00 a.m. Destination? Yaak, Montana. Why? My husband wanted to return to the place where he’d spent the summer 49 years prior. What could possibly lure him back to the middle of no where, that many years later? Stay with me; it won’t disappoint.


Fast forward to this summer. We arranged to stay in Yaak–there are very few options–but we were not disappointed in our lodging. In fact, the area has quite the history. More on that; stay tuned (it won’t disappoint, either).

Day #1: Arrival at the Yaak River Lodge, 10 hours from home. After a snack we moseyed down to the river behind the lodge. This is the first sign I saw. Suddenly it was hard to swallow. That’s when I heard: “Be aware, Karen, not scared!” OK, “I can do this,” I thought. Wait…are those bullet holes in that sign?! “Don’t ask!” I heard. Breathe. And again….

Who said that?!

Yaak River Lodge_Yaak MTWe saw no bears, but it was breath-taking and serene and calming and quiet and amazing. It was still. I felt peace. It refreshed me and as I stood along the bank, I felt inwardly energized and uplifted. I am forever amazed how nature and all its creations can be so empowering (if not a little scary). I guess they know how tempting it is to stay right there in that spot; other than the ground, there was no place to sit.

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the captivating Yaak River

A short walk along the river, watching the deer dart away, standing in the cool breeze…it was the perfect treat to end a long day in the car.

bee on flower_Yaak riverbDay #2: We set out to find the Yaak River Falls and the Kootenai River Falls. It’s really hard to describe this area, to find accurately descriptive words. It was so still and serene that as I stood right here, below, the tears flowed. I was mesmerized. I didn’t want to move.

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Yaak River, on our way to the Falls

Here’s what it looked like in 1968 when my husband caught sight of mama moose and her calf:

What was fun was watching my husband take it all in, to see this wondrous place once again.

Bruce along the Yaak River Falls area

Yaak River Falls, then and now:

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Yaak River Falls_July 2017
He thinks we are standing in the same spot 49 years later

Up the road we found the Kootenai Falls. What we didn’t know was what we’d have to do in order to get there.

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Looks easy enough

The trail led to this walkway that crossed over train tracks below. As we approached, so did a train. I froze as it zoomed below. I could not bring myself to stand directly above a moving train; I stood to the side (I’m guessing that’s when my legs locked). We bounced to the rumble below, and I clung to the fence wall. Others stood directly above effortlessly taking photos. I stood aside, trying not to throw up. I blurted out, “This thing is bouncing!” and the lady next to me said, “Wait till you see the other one.

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My husband, taking the photos in the slide show

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Once the train passed and I could unlock my legs, we continued along the “trail.” Once over and down the other side, this is what we saw:

Kootenai River falls_swinging bridgeTake a look at those stairs. I heard, “Don’t look down!” Right. I just finished BoUnCiNg up there and they say ‘don’t look down’? Are they ballerinas? You can see the ground…not good for the weenies faint of heart. Oh, well; onward. At least I had the sense to wear good shoes. Sensible shoes. With my brand new inserts. As the mother of two Eagle Scouts and the wife of a former Scout Master, I was prepared. On second thought, for females (who have given birth) who dare cross, Burlington Northern should provide a box of Depends. There should be warning signs. I might have to write them a letter.

Finally, the Falls. We could go left, or left. Got it.

Kootenai River falls_swinging bridge (9)Huh? Left or left? Right. I mean left. We veered left.

And, what’s this about a Swinging Bridge? I just bounced and now they want me to swing? Someone around here has been smoking funny cigarettes. As one with a healthy fear of heights, I was feeling pretty darned proud of myself for having just crossed bounced over a moving train. I was beginning to feel a little bit invincible….

…until I saw the teenage boy who, on his way back, began jumping up and down, right in the middle. That’s him, below. I’d considered crossing until his antics blew that to H E  double match sticks (God BLESS you, young man!).

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wise lady waits until aerobics mid-bridge have stopped

Kootenai River falls_swinging bridgeBut, oh, what a view. I took this shot from 20 feet out. It took me 30 minutes to get there, but, whatev. I pivoted left and snapped a shot; I pivoted right and snapped another. I quickly turned and knocked over the lady behind me headed for the entrance.

Backtracking along the same trail (are you confused? You should be), we veered left (or was that right?) and found a better view of the Falls.

kootenai-river-falls_swinging-bridge-25Gorgeous, fabulous, peaceful, beautiful, amazing, breath-taking…none of which adequately describe this area. Maybe they all do. Either way, guests stood silent, watching, studying, taking it all in. It was a little slice of heaven.

Kootenai River falls_KarenGiven it was in the low 90s, we headed back to the trail head for a cool one:

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Huckleberry lemonade

And that was the end of our first full day in our little slice of heaven.

Next post I’ll show you our lodging, the “area” where we stayed for three nights, and share a bit of local history. There’s a reason they don’t tell you BEFORE you arrive…but, when in Rome…I mean, Yaak.

What do you think of the scenery?

Mystery Mary

It’s called Marys Peak, the name of the highest peak in Oregon’s coastal range. The trails surrounding her make for a beautiful day hike. But, who was Mary? How did this lovely place get its name? Marys with no apostrophe? Why wouldn’t she want to own this place?


We tagged along with our son and his wife Sunday to see the peak they’d heard much about but hadn’t yet seen. As the highest peak we hoped we’d see the coast from the top. I’ll get to that.

Marys Peak_1 (3)As we arrived and parked, my daughter-in-law and I scouted for THE most important part of any successful hike: a bathroom. The left side stall had TP.  Bless you, Mary.

While it’s not hard to figure out the trails–they are not clearly marked–each begin and start from the parking lot. You literally can’t get lost, not here, unless one slips and rolls down a hill. NOT saying I got lost. NOT saying I slipped. Just sayin’.

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Service road to the top

From Corvallis the prospect of clear skies was bleak, but once up the hill, it was gloriously clear.

There is nothing like being above the clouds. It does something for the soul. I’m not sure what, but it seems other worldly, out of body, maybe spiritual. My saggy skin soul could use a lift. I was in. I felt fabulous even before we hit the trail (although that could have been my elation to find toilet paper at the top). Life is good.

Marys Peak_1 (2)Heartened by clear skies and “sunshine on my shoulders,” we meandered to the top. (Uh, oh…now I can’t get that John Denver song out of my head. I’m not rewriting that line. It stays. Well, I did not include audio of my singing. You’re welcome).

Marys Peak_1 (9)And, well, about the view of the gorgeous Oregon coast? Not this day, not at this time. I don’t get to see my first born that often, so I’ll gladly settle for this view. Any day.

Dead center up top we found fenced off satellite and cell phone equipment. Beside the wonders of that, all the area above 3,000 feet is designated a botanical area, the trails sprinkled with old growth (like me).

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Looking toward a cloudy west coast

After hiking to the summit first, we hit the trail for our descent.

Marys Peak_1 (10)Old man winter took its toll, but, we begin again; yellow life hugs the hillside.

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Marys Peak_1 (15)The trail meandered through flower-filled meadows. Thoughts of must-come-back-and-see-soon began floating in my head (better than focusing on those funny glasses and hat up there on those old people).

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Much of the trail: dense with floral ground cover

While more threaten to bloom soon, several weren’t so shy:

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Marys Peak_2 (2)More so than the blooms greeting us along the way, this star gave me pause. Have you ever seen markings like this? Was I experiencing a lack of oxygen?

Marys Peak_2 (8)Mt. Hood sits to the left, Jefferson is right of center. Three Sisters (not in view) live to the right of Jefferson.

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The last leg of the trail

Seems that our Mary is a mystery. We don’t know why her name graces this lovely peak. Here’s what Wiki has to say:

“In October 1845, Joseph C. Avery arrived in Oregon from the east.[8] Avery took out a land claim at the mouth of Marys River where it flows into the Willamette River and in June 1846 took up residence there in a log cabin hastily constructed to hold what seemed a potentially lucrative claim.[8] Avery’s primitive 1846 dwelling was the first home within the boundaries of today’s Corvallis and his land claim included the southern section of the contemporary city.[9]

Avery was quickly joined by other settlers along the banks of the Willamette River, including a 640-acre claim directly to his north taken in September 1846 by William F. Dixon.[9] The discovery of gold in California in 1848 temporarily stalled development of a township, with Avery leaving his Oregon claim to try his hand at mining in the fall of that year.[9] His stay would prove to be brief and in January 1849 Avery returned to Oregon with a small stock of provisions with a view to opening a store.[9]

During the year 1849, Avery opened his store at the site, platted the land, and surveyed a town site on his land claim, naming the community Marysville.[10] It is possible that the city was named after early settler Mary Lloyd, but now the name is thought to be derived from French fur trappers’ naming of Marys Peak after the Virgin Mary.[11]” (According to Wiki https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corvallis,_Oregon).

She’s a mystery, our Mary. Seems sources vary about the origin of the name, even which Mary the area is named after. We still don’t know why the missing apostrophe. If this were named after me, I’d most certainly write it as Karen’s Peak. Oh, yeah. Marys Peak? This is just wrong. The grammar police along the trail had a fit. Regardless, it was a lovely hike, our second of the season, and we hope to head that way again when the earth is sprouting more color.

Still, Mary, about that missing apostrophe…


It really doesn’t matter as long as she keeps the bathroom fully stocked.

Be the change

“I’m convinced of this: Good done anywhere is good done everywhere. For a change, start by speaking to people rather than walking by them like they’re stones that don’t matter. As long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late to do some good.”

~ Maya Angelou


From my yard to yours:

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Pristine
spring flowers_may 2017 (11)
Pink Bloomers
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Lavender cascade
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For drying and holiday decorating
rhodie and the bee_may 2017
Hard at work, helping
spring foxglove
Speckled bells
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Burst of sunshine

And, some not from my yard:

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Lavender and coral beauties
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Feast for the eyes

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

~ Gandhi