Oktoberfest in Mt. Angel, Oregon USA – World’s Largest Hairball Spit Up By a …..

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The nation’s largest Glockenspiel, it is a four-story clock tower that tells the story of the town’s history through hand-carved figures.  They spin and the music plays four times a day.

It always strikes me as odd that we seldom take advantage of the wonders of the world right in our neighborhood.  Okay, in my case, the state of Oregon, but unless we have company coming, there always seems to be reasons not to get out and check out some pretty awesome stuff nearby.

Mt. Angel, an hour south of Portland, is home to the World Famous Oktoberfest.  They might not have invented it, but it is easily one of the largest in the United States.  The town has 3,500 permanent residents, and most own lederhosen or dirndls..  Every September, the city roars to life and 350,000 people descend on the tiny town.  The town may be small, but it boasts more giant beer halls than you can imagine.  Huge, permanent structures, they each have bands, dance floors, and rows and rows of tables.  All of which, of course, can hold gallons of beer.

We attended years ago, when we had six small kids.  My memories are of corn on the cob, dipped in butter, and trying not to lose the children.  People packed shoulder to shoulder is a great place to misplace short family members, and that’s all I can recall.  This time, we came as two old farts, looking for a good time.  And found it!

My Bucket List of Life is eclectic.  I know most people want to visit Machu Picchu, but ever since I found out that the Mt. Angel Abbey houses the World’s Largest Hairball Ever Spit Up by a Pig, I knew I had to make a pilgrimage to see this baby.  And now…….here we were!img_4324

There was a Volkswalking event at Mt Angel, so off we went.  Me?  Excited!  George?  Not so much, but he is definitely the faithful husband.  Despite the fact it was raining.

George is a giant sucker for a fund-raiser breakfast, because they always have pancakes.  This was no exception.  I had to run to use the Porta-Potty and when I came back, he was waving breakfast tickets at me.  No self-respecting German breakfast can’t have sausage.  George was in heaven.  When I mentioned to the lady tossing meat on our plates that I was vegetarian, she stopped cold.  In a low, compassionate voice, she said “I’m so sorry.  Are you able to eat eggs?”  Her voice held the same sympathetic note as if I told her I had terminal cancer.  img_4320I assured her that eggs were fine and she visibly brightened.  This really is a German town, I received much the same response in Berlin.

They bagged my meat for George to take home (wouldn’t want to waste good sausage) and everyone was happy.

Our volkswalking map in hand, we headed on our route through town and then up the hill to the Mt. Angel Abbey.  A Benedictine monastery, it was founded by a group of monks from Switzerland in 1882.  The town had just named itself Roy, but within two years it was changed to Mt. Angel, which was the English translation of the Swiss monastery.  The abbey sits on the hill above town, and with the views from the top – you really think it is closer to Heaven.

It is a pleasant hike (on a sunny day) up the hill to the abbey, and kudos to George for doing it.  There was a tempting festival shuttle bus running groups up the hill, but he refused and said he would walk.  By the we reached the top, he was ready to ditch viewing the abbey and take the bus back.  I finally convinced him that he would regret not seeing the largest hairball ever, and it would be a defining bonding moment for the two of us.  Resignedly, he plodded onward with me.

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A view from a bench at the Abbey. It was gorgeous on a rainy day; just imagine this scene with blue skies and the green fields of spring.

There are several beautiful buildings, including a chapel with a giant pipe organ.  Their library houses gorgeous handcrafted bibles from the Middle Ages.  Sadly, the library was closed while we were there, so no pictures.  But the museum was open – and the hairball awaited!

There were young, helpful monks running around, and we stopped to ask for directions to the hairball.  One young man expressed surprise that I knew about it, and not the fact that they are now brewing their own beer.  Geesh, is that boy out of touch!  Must be the monastic life, of course I was there to see the hairball!

This is one of the best curio type museums I have ever seen.  You just have to check this place out!  It is all of the gifts given to the abbey since 1882.   There isn’t any order to the exhibits, except perhaps for most of the taxidermy.  Somebody had a serious collection of dead, stuffed stuff.  img_4412Not only do they have a room filled with stuff like a full-sized buffalo (with a distinct smile on his face), deer, cougars, birds, etc., but there is enough left over to have a stuffed racoon hanging near the 1840’s porcelain commode set.

In one memorable case there is a 19th century French naval hat, like the one worn by Napoleon, alongside an elderly stuffed great blue heron – who could really use a few new feathers.

The best case, of course, held the my object d’art – the World’s Largest Hairball Ever Spit Up By a Pig.  No idea if this is in the Guinness Book of Records, but are you going to call a bunch of monks liars?  Here it is:

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Apparently, a pig can digest just about anything (even bones); but they can’t digest hair.  It turns into a ball, eventually being coated with a waxy-type surface.  Periodically, just like their barnyard feline friends, they cough it up.  I don’t want to know what this pig ate to get this much hair.  Some things are better left to the imagination.

They also had a couple of stuffed calves that had been conjoined twins, where the second twin didn’t develop.  If you want to see a calf with two hind ends and the front legs coming out of the back, this is the place for you.

George took one look at the hairball and decided he wanted to take the shuttle back to town right away.  I had to chase him down to find out he was on his way to the shuttle.  Guess it was a bit too much for him.  I waved goodbye and finished the museum.  The monks have a gift/coffee shop called The Press, where they formerly did printing.  I had a great cup of coffee and admired all the different rosaries for sale.  I bought a great souvenir coffee mug and bought an incredible looking pretzel roll to be savored later.  Packing them carefully, I walked back down the hill.

Fall is definitely in the air and the flora and fauna are waning.  There were still a few beauties to be found:

 

Back in town, I found George enjoying a snack.  We watched the Glockenspiel showing, enjoyed a roasted ear of corn (sans butter) along with a dog who loved even more than me.

We walked the town, enjoying the sights and sounds.  An Oompah Band played in the city gazebo, while a man led a group of kids dancing to the music.  Adults and kids of all ages wore their Bavarian costumes like they were daily wear.  It was absolutely terrific.  I had a veggie burrito that ended up being a tortilla stuffed with shredded lettuce.  Oh well, it was all veggie.

A special day deserves a special treat and I wanted a big old fresh made pretzel.  As we were leaving, I spied a fresh made pretzel sign at Mt. Angel Sausage Company.  I jumped in line and waited for my pretzel.  To my horror, they took this beautifully baked pretzel and dumped it in the deep fat fryer.  Don’t add any calories to this treat…..!  Yes, I should have tossed it, but I didn’t.  One bite won’t hurt…..oh….my…..god……this was the best pretzel I have ever eaten.  Deep fried bread with salt.  What’s not to love.  No matter that it had to be 7,000 WW points.

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At one point, I handed George my pretzel to hold for a couple of seconds.  I glanced away and then back.  He was guiltily chewing a bite of my pretzel.  I snatched it back and yelled “If I am going to eat a 7,000 point treat, I am going to enjoy every flipping bite – go buy your own!”  There are just some things a person doesn’t share.

It was an incredible day.  Except for George eating my pretzel, it was perfect.  Okay, some sunshine would have also been nice.  We drove back home, wondering how it would be to live in a little bit of pretend Bavarian heaven in Oregon.

The next day, I needed my wallet – and discovered it was missing.  I had lost it during the Oktoberfest day.  After a fruitless day of calling the Mt. Angel police, city hall, Chamber of Commerce, Mt. Angel Sausage Company and every vendor whose name I could recall – no wallet.  It takes two seconds to lose a wallet and all day to unsuccessfully find it.  At 4:45 pm, I got a call from my bank – somebody had turned it into a branch of my bank!  It was too late to pick it up, and I worried all night that parts of it would be gone.  I drove to the bank the next morning, and there it was – all intact.  Nothing missing.  Am I lucky, or what?

Truly, it was a special day.  Air Canada had found a bag that we left on the plane from our last trip, and mailed it to me.  How many people get their wallet back, their airline bag returned AND see the World’s Largest Hairball Ever Spit Up By a Pig?  I am one lucky grandma!

 

Mt Hood – Huckleberry Hiking

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A nice hiker stopped and took a photo of us with a view of the top of Mt Hood. This is actually a ski run that George used to ski on in his teen years. He blanched when he figured out how many decades ago this was…..

My new passion is Volkswalking – something done around the world.  What a wonderful way to get out and enjoy the outdoors and good company – without pressure, and at very little cost.  Cheap fun is the BEST!  Especially when recovering from the cost of a trip to Europe…

Walkoregon.org has a great listing of local walks throughout Oregon and southern Washington.  We live on Mt Hood, and I was excited to see a walk that was only a few miles down the road.  We drive an hour to get anywhere, and here was fun right in the neighborhood.

George works hard during the week and his natural state of grace is to be a couch potato on the weekends.  Get his feet up in the recliner and place a remote in his hand – well, it has to be something like a fire or volcano erupting to get him up.  As Mt. Hood is considered active, and wears the dubious title of Most Likely to Erupt in Oregon, one day we might have to test whether it could blast George out of his Lazy Boy.

I was really excited when he agreed to go on the Mt Hood walk.  Before he could sit down, I had him dressed and in the car, clutching a pancake in one hand and coffee in the other.  Up the mountain we drove to Government Camp and to the Mt Hood Cultural Center at the east end of the community.  If you haven’t ever been there, it is a fun little museum and well worth the time to go through it.  They also have a great gift shop filled with locally made goods.  I’m a sucker for a good gift shop.

The great thing about Volkswalking is the lack of pressure.  Portland has a 5K/10K/Marathon every weekend.  Rain or shine, there are spandex clad bodies, trendy water bottles, fitness apps, phones clamped on their arms, with tattoos spouting fitness philosophy across their chests.  They bounce and stamp at the starting line, waiting for the gun.  It can be intimidating to the older, less fit crowd.  I don’t have a tattoo, but if you looked closely (and please don’t) I’m sure my cellulite spells out something across my backside.  Something motivating like “Need Port-a-Potty.”

The Volkswalking folks are wonderful.  Nice little folding table, donation jar set out, and they want your name and phone number so they can check on you when you don’t come staggering back home.  How caring is that?  There might not be a commercial vendor handing out free cappuccinos and energy bars, but there is nice little bowl with free hard candy in it.

Starting time is a range – like 9:00 am to Noon.  Sweet, no need to get your Depends in an twist – there is plenty of time to get there, smile, chat and then off for a walk.  It’s fun for all ages, and it’s sweet to see little kids walking with Grandpa.

The Mt. Hood walk was level 3C – which meant it had some elevation and paths that might have some difficult terrain.  If we had had to walk with a fast-paced group, George wouldn’t have been able to keep up.  It was terrific to take our time and navigate the mapped out walk.  As George’s feet have lost that Lovin’ Feeling, we opted for the 5K walk.

The first part of the walk was through the mountain cabins, which range in size from tiny cabins to four story chalets staffed with snow bunnies to serve hot wine.  Back in the 1930’s there was a builder named Steiner who handcrafted fairy tale log cabins on Mt Hood.  Door knobs were made of gnarled wood and doors, stairways and furniture fashioned with unique pieces of wood, which he roamed the forest to find.  He died in his 80’s, wandering the mountain while looking for a good piece of wood.  He built around 100 cabins, 85 of which have been identified.  They are prized possessions, as each cabin is a unique piece of art.  Every year in August there is a tour of select cabins for the public.  And we spotted two, built side by side!

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Trails criss-cross the mountain and we were given a detailed map to show us our chosen path.  We were among the early participants, but were soon left in the dust.  I’m a fairly fast walker, and moving slowly with George is a challenge for me.  Ever the martyr, I decided I would suck it up and make the best of it.  It wouldn’t kill me to go slowly, and if a slug happened to pass us, well, I would yell enthusiastically – “Way to go, Mr. Slug!”

You know, sometimes it really pays to get over ourselves.  Rather than fussing and fuming (my usual modus operandi), the beautiful day seized me.  The weather was terrific, not too hot or cool.  The forest has an earthy perfume that fills the senses and, if you let it, calms the soul.  It was the perfect place to breathe deep and enjoy the beauty around us.

The huckleberries were ripe and abundant.  I don’t remember if I have ever seen so many.  Huckleberries are tiny little blueberry like things that grow on low-growing shrubs in the forest.  And it takes a very long time to fill a bucket.  It takes a very long time to fill a baggie.  Personally, I have never found them worth the effort, but George loves them with the single-minded devotion of a native Oregonian.  The last time I saw someone selling them, it was for $45 a gallon, which works out to be about fifteen cents an hour in hard labor.

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Look carefully and you will see the little blue huckleberries. Even right on the trails there were tons of the little buggers – just ripe for the picking.

It worked out great.  While George carefully picked his way along the trail, I stopped and picked him huckleberries.  It was like holding out a carrot in front of the old donkey – it kept him coming.  As soon as he reached me, he stuck out his hand and I filled it with a bit of berries.  It was peaceful standing in the forest, picking berries, while listening to the birds and wildlife.  Way better than Xanax for relaxing!

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Nature creates crazy wonders, including this tree which grew in a unique shape. I can’t begin to figure why it decided to grow this way, but it made a nice seat to take a break on.

At one point we turned onto a trail that ran cross-wise across the mountain.  It also turned out to be an active mountain biking trail, which changed our peaceful meandering journey.  These guys are serious about quickly getting down the hill.  Fortunately, George was wearing a bright red shirt, so the bikers could see him up ahead.  They were unfailingly polite, but it was a bit disconcerting to suddenly find yourself leaping up a bank to get out of their way.  I wanted to get a good picture of them, but by the time I had leaped to the side and tried to whirl around to snap a picture – they were past us.IMG_4247

In my new found Peace in the Forest personality, I began to feel sorry for these hurly-burly macho types whizzing down the mountainside.  Here we were, contentedly munching berries, admiring the sun shining through the trees, conversing with the slugs on the path.  The bikers were bouncing crazily, heads snapping, arms locked as they careened wildly.  We all seek our levels of fun and adventure, but overall, I think I had more fun.

With our breakneck pace, the organizer of the walk found us while picking up her signs to go home.  She was totally gracious with our tardiness, and very encouraging to us both.  As we were talking to her, I realized George and I both had tell-tale purple stains on our lips from the huckleberries.  Not hard to figure what caused our delay.

I’m proud to say that George made it almost the whole 5K.  We eventually came out onto the Government Camp Loop, which runs through “town.”  It was also near a tavern George loves that has good hamburgers.  We stopped and had lunch, and then I hiked to the other end of the loop to get the car.

 

The Mt Hood Brewery offers their own microbrews and the Impossible Burger – which is vegetarian.  Much better than the typical garden burger.   It normally comes with fries, but I ordered a salad.  I would have skipped the cheese, but forgot!  With the cheese I computed it at 11 points.  This was more than I wanted to use, so I skipped the bun, bringing it to six points.  The tomato was vine ripened and super good.  And the cheese was real cheese, so I was happy to exchange it for the bread.

George decided to sit on their veranda and sip a microbrew while I walked to get the car.  Apparently, he thought it would take me a lot longer.  When I got back, he was happily tucked into a giant brownie with ice cream, along with the beer.  He looked like the kid caught with his fingers in the cookie jar.

While I was walking along the road, I saw an active ant colony.  As long as they aren’t in my house, I find them to be fascinating creatures.  One little guy caught my eye, hauling a load as big as himself.  Others would rush up to him and then away.  I bent down and realized he was carrying a dead ant, the same size as himself.  Determinedly, he would haul it for a bit, and then stop to rest.  It made me wonder what the story was for them both, and felt a bit sad.  For all I know he was taking it home to eat, but I prefer to think there was another reason.  That’s the nice thing about walking; there is time to ponder and create stories to go with them.img_4262

If you have never checked out the trails of Mt Hood, right from Government Camp, don’t delay!  The September weather is beautiful and the mountain is surprisingly green and lush, despite the summer dry spell.  Enjoy!

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Walk With Me at Powell Butte

Powell Butte Nature Park, Portland OR

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You’re Off to Great Places, Today is Your Day!  Your Mountain is Waiting, so…. Get on Your Way! ~ Dr. Suess

Greetings!

Ever determined to put some muscle into my flabby hind end, I decided to heed the advice of a lovely member of one of my groups.  Reggie is an inspiration to everyone she meets.  She has been walking with the Volkswalking group for 28 years.  It’s interesting all the little worlds out there that we don’t know anything about.  There are 14 Volkswalking clubs in Portland, with many more around the state and literally thousands around the world.  They offer the amazing opportunity to get out and walk – at your own pace.  Do it alone, in pairs, in groups…..whatever works for you and your tootsies.  Best of all, the walks cover a range of time.  You don’t have to be there at dawn, shivering in your shorts with 600 other strangers (all looking better in spandex than me), clutching a water bottle in one hand and a Starbucks coffee in the other.  I love the casual, yet organized, atmosphere of these folks!  The easiest way to find out all about their walks (and others) is to visit http://walkoregon.org/

For months Reggie has talked about Volkswalking.  Deciding to get off the couch and onto the path is a big step for some of us.  It can take days, weeks, even years to turn off the television and go for a walk.  It’s no problem to get up, drive to the store, buy ice cream and return to the couch; but go for a walk?  Now that takes so much effort!

 

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Reggie’s giant smile and gentle persuasion finally got to me, and out loud I committed to the walk at Powell Butte.  Granddaughter Ellie was enthusiastic to accompany me and husband George rolled his eyes, released the lever on his recliner, and agreed to go.

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The club sponsoring the walk had a tent set up in the parking lot of a nearby church.  The walk was free, but donations were gladly accepted.  We filled out a registration form, the copy to be returned when we completed the walk.  This was reassuring; if we got lost or had a mishap, they could report us missing.  I had heard that a cougar had been recently spotted in the park.  If I am honest, facing down a full grown mountain lion in his own neighborhood, does make me a bit nervous.  Okay, I made sure to have a Poise panty liner, in case it happened.  Part of me wanted to clutch the club ladies legs and make her swear it wouldn’t get us, but my granddaughter was there and I didn’t want to scare her.  So, I casually mentioned that I had heard about it.  A volunteer laughed and said with all the people on the trial today, we probably wouldn’t be lucky enough to see it.  Lucky….?  Laughing, I replied “What a great way to put it” I replied.  Inside, I was thinking it was easy for her to say, sitting at the base of our extinct volcano park, far away from the cougar’s lunch location.

George’s feet were bothering him, so we opted to do the 6K walk, over the 10K.  A free shuttle drove us up the side of the old volcano to the Welcome Center.  There is a great display of the history of the area.  It is still used as a underground water storage (what do you do with an old volcano?  Fill it up with water for the city, of course!).  There was also a nice warning sign:

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But enough of the fear factor!  The chances of being eaten by a deranged sample lady at Costco are way higher than being attacked by a cougar.  At least I hope so!

The trials were wonderful, packed gravel and very well-maintained.  This was the weekend, and there were a lot of folks, but the expanse is large and we never felt crowded.  In fact, I took comfort in being able to view fellow walkers in the distance, it decreased the opportunity to see a mountain lion.

George’s feet betrayed him, and he made it as far as the first resting bench.  Fortunately, it was shaded and he had his beloved cell phone with him.  We had forgot his book in the car, but this is a man who is never happier than checking out Facebook and keeping current on the latest governmental shenanigans.  Ellie and I hiked on, ready to enjoy the stupendous views.

At the top of the butte, there is a lovely spot called Mountain Finder Circle.  From this vantage point you can see five snow topped mountains in the distance, including Mt St Helens and Mt Hood.

Ellie, aged 14, is an enthusiastic hiker/jogger, who kept encouraging me to jog with her.  My winter couch potato legs were not in shape to jog more than 50 yards at a stretch, but she stifled her disappointment, and cheerfully walked at a more sedate pace.  I call it “Spirited Senior Stride.”  She probably calls it “Old Fart Amble,” but she is too sweet to say it out loud.  She contented herself by taking amazing photos of the park.

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It was warm, but not hot.  Despite it’s urban location, it felt like we were miles away from the city.  This park covers an entire volcano – we aren’t talking a small neighborhood park.  The air was fresh and filled our lungs with the scent of flowers, grass and pine trees.  The terrain was easy to walk on and very well maintained.  Trails are well marked, and easy to navigate.  It was impossible not to stop and admire the blooming wildflowers.

 

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There are a lot of trails in the park, and we were following the Volkswalking route, using a printed sheet.  At one point, we misread the directions and took off down the wrong trail.  Up to this point, our route had been mostly out in the open and not down secluded trails.  Suddenly, our path started downhill, into the trees.  It became darker, and more private.  The sounds changed from meadow sounds to those of the forest.  It was lovely, and I was breathing deep the smell of the trees, when it dawned on me that this might not be the right path.  And we were very much alone.  Up to now, I had forgotten Mr. Cougar, out for his Saturday lunch buffet.

We stopped, looked at our map and wondered out loud if we had wandered off the route.  It’s funny how you can feel so relaxed at one moment and then nervous the next.  Having my granddaughter there made my old maternal hormones rise up from their wrinkled crevices, and they said “Turn around and walk out of there!”

As we walked back, I casually mentioned what to do in case we met Mr. Cougar.  I know it is extremely rare that a cougar will attack, but as a I showed Ellie how you can grab the ends of a sweater and pull it up over back of the head to appear large and menacing.  Easy for me, because I had a  sweater on.  She was wearing a t-shirt.  Ellie stopped dead, turned to me and laughingly said “I am not lifting up my shirt and have my stomach show!”  I explained it might not be the time to be worrying about making a fashion statement, and we just needed to appear large.  Later, I realized that she may have meant she didn’t want to expose her tender tummy to something with large teeth.  Need to ask her about that!

After a discussion about the probability of poking an eye out of a cougar who is actively  trying to make you lunch (see the Fight Back section in the poster), we decided we would just quickly walk back to where we had turned off. Even though “Lions, and Tigers, and Bears, oh my” from the Wizard of Oz that kept dancing in my head, we still were having fun.  Nothing like the little threat of danger to make the outing exciting…  We soon we were back in the open and happily enjoying the mountain views, once again.

We wound our way back down the friendly old volcano, gathered George up and headed back to our Volkwalking booth.  We checked in and thanked them for setting up the event and making it so easy.  This is a great organization!  Remember, you can check them out at walkoregon.org

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Pleased that we could now contemplate eating lunch, as opposed to being a lunch, we headed off for a culinary adventure.  Ellie has a pretty adventurous palate, so I suggested we try a new Somalian restaurant, called Salama International Bazaar.  It features East African cuisine and hosts a Somalian mini mart and restaurant.  English is not their first language, but the gents who run the place are friendly and the food is amazing.  Check them out at salamainternationalbazaar.com . It is located in a strip mall on the northeast corner of 122nd and Glisan, Portland Oregon.

Not only can you get Shaqlan (Calooley), which is goat stomach sauteed with garlic, onions, peppers, and Somali spices, you can get a hamburger.  Now that is international!  George had a chicken dish with spaghetti (an Italian/African fusion plate), Ellie had a tasty lamb shank, and I had salmon.  No takers on the goat stomach.  I kind of regretted this, when I ate meat I really loved a Mexican dish made from pork stomach, but I don’t think there is a vegan version readily available….

The prices are reasonable, their rice is amazing – and they definitely have large portions.  This made the consumption of rice difficult for me.  There was probably at least a three cup serving on the plate, and this did not make it easy to eat the 1/2 cup portion that works best for me.  I cannot tell a lie, I did not eat all of the rice on my plate…only half.  And I didn’t stop to calculate if I had earned enough activity points to cover the rice points!  Dipping into those weekly bonus points, I know!

I waddled slowly back to our car, feeling contented with our day.  Just as I reached a car, three men came rushing out of the restaurant.  They said “Wallet” over and over.  I knew we had paid the bill, and wondered if George forgot to tip.  I smiled, seriously wishing I knew one word of Somali.  Finally, one of the pointed to the door and said again, “Wallet.”  As I walked back to the door, it dawned on me that I had left my purse hanging on the chair at our table.  I grabbed it and we all looked relieved.  What nice guys!

On the way home we stopped and bought a flat of fresh Hood strawberries.  My granddaughter thought they looked over-ripe.  I pointed out that this was what a REAL strawberry looked like when picked ripe.  She tasted one and declared it delicious.  She is used to seeing them in the grocery store, and there isn’t any similarity.  We finished the evening with fresh strawberries sprinkled with cinnamon, almond slices and a bits of angel food cake mixed in.  A tasty end to a lovely day.

 

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