Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Fish, Fires and Free Stuff

When we first moved to Bend, we kept our kitties in the master bedroom/bathroom for a day, to get them accustomed to the new space. Over the next week, they slowly spread out to the hallway, living room, kitchen, and closets, until they'd explored the whole house. Now they like to sit in the windows and peek out the front door. 

Just like them, we've finally gotten accustomed to our neighborhood and the downtown area of Bend, and are spreading our wings a bit. We decided to explore further down the Deschutes River Trail, towards the south side of town. Cue Moby's "Southside." 

All along the trail are informative signs about the native plants and wildlife. I love it - it's like we're at a museum.

Mike found this sign particularly amusing. Beaver. Ha.

Canadian Geese
There are tons of ducks and Canadian geese everywhere in Bend. It's illegal to feed them, which in my opinion, is a pretty good rule. This way there's no huge areas of poop everywhere, and honestly, geese can be pretty scary if they're chasing you. They're as aggressive as monkeys!

A fallen nest

Mike on a rock in the middle of the rapids
I'm not into selfies so I never get pictures of myself...and here's the best I got off of Mike's phone. 

Me, hanging out with the trolls under the bridge.
We only went a couple miles and it was about 4000 steps on my pedometer. I've been trying to hit 10,000 every day and I've only done that once, and we even walk to the grocery store! When I had an office job, I would have to have had a treadmill desk to be able to hit 10,000 steps every day. Or a serious commitment to exercise. Which anyone who knew me, knew I did not have. This fact makes me even more dedicated to figuring out a non-sedentary lifestyle for myself, so I can be old and fit and happy. 

Hiking aside for a minute, our other area of concentration is our furry children and their happiness. We've been trying to find a bunny support network here in Oregon, and unfortunately, everyone raises bunnies for meat (not love) here. So bunny vets are few and far between, and bunny food is available only in bulk - like, you have to buy hay in bales, which is how much hay our bunny eats in a YEAR. On the flip side, a bale is only $10.00.

Our bunny, SJP (Sarah Jessica Parker), in her self-remodeled cardboard house.

Long story short, we discovered, through Craigslist, a bunny meat lady who would sell us just a little portion of a bale for $5.00. Win for her, win for us (the portion of hay we got from her would have cost us $21.00 in Los Angeles). We politely declined to see her bunnies as we probably would have cried and tried to take them all home. We are going to be super unsuccessful homesteaders.

Through more digging on Craigslist, I also found a lady - in Tumalo, the town just north of Bend - who was giving away free applewood branches for bunnies! The catch: you had to trim them off the tree yourself. Therefore, I got a crash course on trimming fruit trees and "suckles" or "suckers," which are the young branches that only sprout leaves, not fruit. They steal all the water from the fruit, so you have to remove them to maximize your fruit production. Yay for homesteading skills! We'll be good at plants, at least.

SJP's cage with the freshly trimmed apple tree branches.

SJP loved the branches, and we have a steady supply, as we were invited back anytime we need more. And now I know a lady who lives in a double wide.

Inspired by our successful and interesting journeys outside of Bend, I planned our next hike on the Metolius River, in Sisters, Oregon. Sisters has a population of about 2,000 and is a cowboy and biking town.

From left to right, places called "The Hitchin' Post," "Stitchin' Post" and "Twigs."

The hike started at the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery, where they raise all sorts of trout and salmon to stock certain lakes and ponds. In those areas, you're allowed to fish and keep the fish. The rivers where there are Redband trout, however, it's only catch and release, and they're doing a fabulous job of keeping the native population healthy. It's amazing how supportive a population is of environmental regulations, when they live right in the middle of it. I think that's the key - keep more areas green and public, and people will want to protect it, because nature is awesome when you get to enjoy it.

One of the holding tanks for Rainbow Trout

Hundreds of baby Atlantic salmon

For 25 cents, you could get a handful of fish food to throw into the holding tanks or the ponds. It takes the fish at least 1.5 years to get to legal catchable size, so they're residents of the hatchery for quite some time. They put on a show, going for the food, and jump out of the water. There are also no bugs at the hatchery, presumably because the fish will eat anything that lands on the water. Major plus in my book!

Fully grown Steelhead trout jumping for food

We finally got around to the hike along the Metolius River, which provides many opportunities for perfect postcard pictures!

The view of the river from the trailhead. The water is freezing cold and turquoise.

Mike is always a faster hiker than me!

Being in a pine forest is super peaceful and the air is so fresh.

For some reason, Mike was determined to get IN the river. I wish I had recorded it, so you could hear his narration, "AHHHH! Needles! Needles! I think my legs are gonna fall off!" The river water is from snowmelt, so needless to say, it's pretty damn cold.

Mike, preparing his legs for amputation.

A pic of myself with appropriate sun protection. 

On the way home, we saw a huge cloud of smoke. It turned out to be the Two Bulls Fire, which ended up causing evacuations in Bend, just blocks from our house. We were lucky we did the hike on Saturday morning, because the rest of the weekend we stayed inside - the air quality was at hazardous levels. It turns out the fires were lit (they believe purposefully) by humans. It just makes me sick. 

The Two Bulls Fire, around 2pm, just an hour after the fire lookout sighted it.

On a positive note, the wonderful fire crews here were able to contain it within a few days, and we, personally, didn't end up having to evacuate. I have to say the people of Bend are super organized and helpful during a crisis. They had livestock and pet evacuation stations set up within hours, and there were fire representatives available at various locations around town, to answer your questions in person. How's that for service?

The fire has burned about 6,800 acres of forest land. I feel really sad for the wildlife that has been killed or displaced, and what we as humans destroy, just to get attention. There is nothing so damaging to the planet as the human ego. Things like this are a constant reminder to Mike and I to get out there and see the world, before it's all gone.