Bird Watching, Kayaking, and Relaxing at Blueberry Garden Cottage
The inside of the cottage was the color of blueberries and sunshine with country french accents and a mix of American vintage. A cloud of cozy white blankets covered a queen bed. An ebony clock with a curved base swept into an elongated neck and attached to a rounded face with two tiny hands. My best friend, Trish, and I had just arrived on a girl’s weekend near Independence, Oregon, and was exploring our rental, Blueberry Garden Cottage.
I pulled on a small knob at the clock's base. “Hey, Trish! Look!" I said. "The clock opens.” Books with yellowed pages and a collection of various CDs sat on small shelves. I spotted a Celtic mix and noted it for later.
“Ann Marie used to have a Swedish clock (Mora Clock) like that,” Trish said, remembering a mutual friend. “I always wished I could have it. The clock was given to her daughter after Ann Marie passed away.”
“She was a good woman,” I said, as I explored a mini kitchenette and its cabinets. My mind wandered to a time when Trish and I ate Swedish meatballs at Ikea with Ann Marie. I made my way to a decorated window and looked outside. Rows of blueberry bushes filled the front yard. A rabbit nibbled on one of the branches. I thought, Ah, it’s Peter Rabbit, and turned to make myself a cup of tea.
Trish and I pulled on our shoes and began to walk down a long, gravel lane away from the cottage. The fresh air of a recent rain shower brushed across my face. A rolling landscape of vineyards and evergreens encircled us with deep serene. A bird flitted. Trish suddenly called out the name of the bird and startled me. Years before she used to be into birding, now she was more of a bird-watcher. Traveling with Trish almost always included the identification of birds.
I pulled out my phone and pushed a recording app with my finger. I lifted the phone to her face. “Repeat it,” I said.
“What? The name of the bird?” She asked.
“So, the bird you just saw, that’s a Purple Martin," Trish said as the ground crunched under our footfalls. She pointed to another bird. “We have a Robin right in front of us. We’ve also seen a Downy Woodpecker, Brewer’s Blackbird, and a Northern Flicker."
“Why are you recording us?” she said and motioned to my phone.
“I’m going to write about our story," I said, overlooking Christmas trees planted in a perfect grid. "I’m going to blog about this experience."
“Our story goes back over a decade," she said. "I remember recording our story in a few spots. I remember being on the airplane waiting to head to San Francisco. We were journaling that one, too.” She stopped speaking, leaned in, and lowered her voice. “Look. There’s a Grouse."
A few moments later, we spotted a Hawk, and the conversation turned to random things, like chopping down Minecraft Oak Trees with your hand.
Trish's Birding Tips:
Look with 'soft eyes.' Relax your vision and catch a glimpse of movement. From there, use your binoculars.
Walk quietly or quietly sit and listen. You will hear twice as many birds as you see.
Binoculars are helpful, but not required. The best ones tend to be heavy. Nautical supply shops have a great selection.
Learn to identify birds by their silhouette. Most bird family groups (wrens, swallows, etc.) have a unique shape. Often, a bird will be backlit, so the outline may be the only thing you have.
Don't try to recall the whole bird. Look for distinguishing marks: stripes on the head, wing bars, beak shape or color, and size. For example, almost all sparrows are small and brown. They can be distinguished by the color and number of stripes on their head or wing bars.
A short history of independence, oregon:
On the west bank of the Willamette River, sits the City of Independence, Oregon. Twelve miles southwest of Salem, it was once known as the “Hop Capital of the World” from the late 1890’s to the 1940’s. The first settlers set out on wagon trains to the Oregon Trail, loaded onto boats at the Columbia River, then met up with the Oregon Trail again until arriving in Independence in June of 1845.
The new settlement was initially named, Missouri town of Independence. Being next to the Willamette River, Independence flourished until a significant flood in1861. Businesses were destroyed. After, the residents rallied and rebuilt a new town on higher, flatter ground. During the following decades, the city flourished, and you can still shop in the original buildings today.
After this burst of activity, Independence settled into a quiet existence until an explosion of the hop industry. By 1946, Independence’s hop industry had grown to such enormous proportions, that it became “the center of the most concentrated hop district in the world.” Each hop harvesting season brought about 40,000 to 50,000 hop pickers. Eventually, the hop market slowed down, and Independence quieted back into a daily bustle of small-town charm.
When visiting Independence, you can follow a walking tour of the 30-block Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. The area still retains much of the early character and architecture from the 1880’s to the 1920’s.
-Works cited and source found here.
five things to do:
After Trish and I visited Independence, I returned with Dave. Below is a recap of our weekend and things to do.
Kayak the Willamette River. I recently kayaked the Willamette River with my husband, Dave. If you want to follow our route, launch your kayak at Buena Vista Park and ride down to the banks of Independence. The section of river we kayaked, was almost all natural with little commercialization and lots of wildlife. Depending on your pace, the trip will take three to five hours. The river’s current runs about five miles per hour with a mix of flatwater and light rapids. If you like to kayak-camp, study the Willamette River Water Trail. There are several areas for you to set up camp along the shore. One campground is at Riverview Park in Independence. Also, if you have time, you can ride the local Buena Vista Ferry that crosses the river near Buena Vista Park.
Eat at Independence Grill and Bar. After kayaking, we ate at Independence Grill and Bar. Both of us had fresh burgers made with quality ingredients. When you bite into them, the beef, toppings, and condiments slightly ooze over your fingers. I’d say the burgers were a close contestant to Calamity Jane’s in Sandy, Oregon. We rarely eat beef at home, or when going out, but these burgers were worth the exception.
Take a self-guided walking tour of the Independence Downtown Historic District. Your tour begins at the plaza of Riverview Park. Initially, we were a little confused on where to go for the tour, but eventually discovered historic photos with captions inside the downtown’s shop windows. There were also historical markers posted in the plaza at Riverview Park.
Check out Independence’s festival calendar. We finished our kayaking adventure with a deluge of rain, and accidentally stumbled upon Independence’s Hops and Heritage Festival in the historic district. We were too tired and wet to check out any of the activities, but the next day we found hops remnants on the streets (see photo below). Independence has several festivals throughout the year.
Spend the day at Riverview Park. We walked hand in hand in the park. But beyond a leisurely walk, a plethora of activities happen at the park and amphitheater. You can watch a movie during River's Edge summer movie and concert series, run or walk a 5k soft-surface path that loops north along the Willamette River or play a game of disc golf. If you are a biker or boater, you can make it a weekend and stay at the Independence Biker/Boater Campground.
The day after Dave and I kayaked the Willamette River, we found hops remnants downtown from the Hops and Heritage Festival in Independence, Oregon.
A girl at Riverview Park entertains children with face painting and bubbles.
Behind Blueberry Garden Cottage sits a small wildlife habitat. These berries caught my eye.
When Trish and I stayed at Blueberry Garden Cottage, we found a feather on our walk and left it inside the cottage. When Dave and I returned, there were several feathers stuck in the fence near the cottage’s entrance.
Early one morning, I grabbed my camera, tiptoed out of the cottage, and ventured down the dirt and gravel road.
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Until next time - Cheers!