March 20, 2006


What a beautiful day. Temps in the low 50's and nothing but sunny skies for miles. we hit the road early and headed to Vancouver, WA to check out the Vancouver Farmer's Market. vancouver sits on the northern side of the Columbia River. Portland sits on the sourthern side. We missed our exit for the market and were immediately ushered across the bridge into Portland where we turn right around and got back on the highway for less than five minutes so we could get to the market.

The 2006 season for the outdoor market just opened on Saturday. I'm not sure how big the market is during the season's peak but it was understandably tiny on Saturday. It sits just outside of the Indoor Market @ The Commons. It's a market with a small food court housed under a condo/apt complex. After the three hour drive we were hungry. Mel Brook's Fish and Chips rustles up a fabulous egg sandwich. Expensive but good. That was the day's splurge (aside from filling the gas tank).

After the grub we headed back north about 14 miles through some beautiful backroads. J is an excellent navigator. Our destination - Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. It's actually a complex of wildlife refuges. We explored the Ridgefield refuge first. There is a 2 mile trail that winds through several types of wetlands and vegetation. Waterfowl abounds. Great Blue Herons are sometimes the stars of the refuge but red-tailed hawks are major players too. Both species live in the refuge year-round.

The first thing you see when you begin the trail is a full-scale replica of a Cathalpotle (Cath-la-poo-tuhl or Cath-la-poe-tuhl) plankhouse. Lewis & Clark met the Cathalpotle tribe on their way to the Pacific Ocean on November 5, 1805. From the Cathalpotle Plankhouse Project website: "They counted 14 cedar plankhouses belonging to the people of the "Quathlapotle nation" and estimated some 900 inhabitants. From the shore, seven canoes of Indians from the village paddled out to inspect the strangers and trade with them. Returning in March 1806, Lewis and Clark stopped again at Cathlapotle for several hours." The cedar logs used to construct this house are gigantic and the smell is fantastic. Inside are replicas of tools used by the Cathlapotle, some carvings and some animal skins. Take a look.

The weather was great, if a little chilly. We surprised a few snakes who were trying to get warm in the sun. We heard more birds than we could distinguish. Crickets and frogs too. And along the way we spotted interesting plants. Even a nest that was no longer occupied.

One of the best scenes we spied was while taking the 4 mile driving tour of the refuge. You are not allowed outof your car in this part of the rfuge. it's like a waterfowl safari. You drive very slowly and spy all sorts of critters. While J was looking one way, I glanced up before accelerating again and there, in the middle of the road, about 25 yards ahead, was a giant great blue heron with a long garder snake in its bill. The heron would toss the snake, whip it around, drop it then pick it up again. Finally, it swallowed it up and it took a while for it to go down to the heron's liking. A small traffic jam had formed behind me so I inched the car forward at a snail's pace until the bird took off, it's huge wingspan lifting it slowly off the ground and over the water. I snapped what photos I could with my digital and without getting out of the car in order to let the bird enjoy its snack.

The ride home was long because of traffic but we're glad we spent a good portion of the day outside and seeinf things we just can't see in the city.

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