Photo excursion up Beaver Creek

beaver-creek-122116mI have been scouting with my cameras for covers for my upcoming novel currently titled “Up Beaver Creek.” I’m not sure I’ve got the right shot yet–next time I should avoid shooting in early afternoon on a rare sunny day–but in this week between the holidays, I thought I’d share a few pictures with you.

beaver-creek-122116fThere are numerous Beaver creeks in Oregon and in other states. This one is just north of Seal Rock about the middle of the Oregon Coast. From Ona Beach, it travels east through marshes, farms, and hills. Sometimes it’s a wide river, and sometimes it divides up into trickling fingers that meet again later.

beaver-creek-122116bbMore on the book to come.



All images copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2016



Pelicans and swimming dogs

Annie led me through an opening in the bushes at Ona Beach and we discovered a vast stretch of white sand. Looking west, we saw a shallow lake covered with birds. Most were gulls, but a half dozen pelicans stood among them, tall and long-beaked. “Annie, look!” I shouted, astonished to see these giant birds standing still. I usually see them flying in a line over the ocean or diving for fish. We moved slowly toward the water, Annie wagging her tail, me chanting, “Oh my gosh, pelicans, oh my gosh.” They let us get within 10 yards before the birds rose up in a whoosh and flew toward the surf, gulls squawking, pelicans majestically flapping their wings.

The dog strained at the leash. On impulse, I let her go, the first time I have ever done that at the beach. I didn’t see any other dogs or people, and I really wanted to see how well she could swim.

Oh, what a happy dog. She flew across that belly-deep water, barely touching the sand below. The lake narrowed into a river heading toward the ocean. Her eyes glowed with joy as she rousted the birds again.

As she got farther away, I called her name. She chose not to hear me. Shedding my shoes, I plunged my bare feet into the river. It felt so good, even as wetness creeped past my knees and the rolling tide made me dizzy. It had been a hard day, but Annie’s joy was contagious.

She flew past me, spraying my glasses and my shirt with water. She paused to drink while I warned it was probably salty. She started toward the waves.

That’s when I began to pray. Annie didn’t know anything about waves, rip tides, and outgoing waves that might drown her. She scared the birds into flight again, stopped, wheeled around and ran toward a family of three just coming onto the beach. What if she jumped on them? I was too far away to do anything except shout a useless “off!” They pet her and she ran back toward me, crossed the water and bounded away in the other direction, so far I could barely see her. Her tan fur blended in with the sand.

“Annie!” I called, starting toward her. But I have been with dogs long enough to know that if you run toward them, they’ll keep going, thinking this is a game. So I turned back, running across spongy quilted surf sand, through the river and toward the entrance.

Annie sped toward me, but veered off at the last minute toward Beaver Creek, beyond the river, beyond the lake, where the water was deep. I dropped my sweatshirt and shoes by a log and hurried over to find her nose plunged deep into the beach grass, butt in the air, hunting some enchanting smell. Aha. I clicked the leash on and pulled her toward the water. Now we would see.

The sand gave way beneath my toes as I walked my dog into the river. As soon as the water grew too deep to walk, Annie started to swim. It was the most beautiful, most natural thing. Her paws stroked smoothly through the green water, her chin resting on the surface, no effort at all. “You’re swimming! I shouted, hugging her wet fur. She licked my cheek

When we came out, we sprawled by the log, both of us soaked and covered with sand. Sitting there on a warm fall day under a blue sky etched with white clouds, I felt young, strong and blessed. Anything seemed possible.


A break in the rain. A touch of blue through the clouds. Instead of sleeping by the pellet stove, my dog Annie paces by the door. Something rouses her from her winter hibernation. I feel it, too. Must go out. Though I try to do my indoor chores, the beach across the highway beckons.

Then comes a frustrating phone call. I am still trying to find a home for Annie’s brother Chico. My last resort was the no-kill shelter an hour away from here. I had called to make an appointment to “surrender” him next week. The girl who called me back this morning said they have their quota of “bully” dogs and cannot take him right now. I can call next week to see about getting him on a waiting list. Meanwhile, I may have to bring him home. I took him to a kennel because I could not contain him. Even a six-foot fence wouldn’t hold him. Neighbors were starting to complain.

Annie and I have had a good time together, truly bonding. I have faced the truth that I can only handle one dog, and Chico has made the choice which one by his need to run away. But I love him and don’t want him to be euthanized. Apparently being a little bit pit bull is like being a little bit black in the slavery days. People don’t want you if you’re a “bully dog,” even though they are not necessarily killer dogs. In fact, they’re naturally sweet, loving and eager to please.

So Chico might be coming back to the house next week. Meanwhile, Annie and I must take advantage of our time together. We even tried sleeping together, but she has this need to be very very close and sticks her feet straight out, her nails digging into my face, my arm, my chest. It was nice, but I sent her back to her own bed.

Back to today. Instinct called us outside, led us to the beach. It’s a balmy 50-something degrees, hazy, a little drippy, but tolerable. We went to Ona Beach, a couple miles south, with a long wooded trail to the sand. We skirted big mud puddles and sloshed across soaked grass. Annie darted here and there, sniffing, pouncing, trotting, her tail wagging, her eyes bright.

Across the bridge over Beaver Creek, we reached the sand. So many smells. Seaweed. Poop. Dead murres. Crab shells. Fish slime. We walked and ran south, Annie darting up and down the wet rock cliffs, throwing herself into the sand to rub on something smelly, pulling me to where the waves shot their frilly underskirts toward our feet.

At my age and with so many past foot and ankle injuries, I’m delighted that the dogs have taught me to run again. The little girl in me sent my feet skimming across the sand behind my dog, and all my worries dropped away. When we got tired, we found a sheltered spot under some trees. It was like our private fort. Sitting on pine needles and moss, we snuggled and watched a group of teenagers go by, one girl in a Santa hat.

Rested, we trotted north around the bend, skirting the edge of the creek. Suddenly Annie ran and jumped into the creek. The backwash soaked my shoes and socks, but I was too busy laughing to care. She took a big drink, jumped out and jumped back in. She went deeper, and I saw my dog discover for the first time that she could swim. Instinct. She and Chico are half lab. The dog paddle is like running in the water. Now she wanted more and more of it.

But it was time to go home and dry off. On the short ride home, she stared out the window, smiling, and so did I.

I don’t know what’s going to happen next week. All I know is that when nature calls you out, get away from the computer and go.

Watch out for those beavers and ducks

Last Saturday on my way to and from Beaverton, OR, where I joined other authors for a reading at Borders, I ran into the Beaver hordes in Corvallis. Orange shirts everywhere. Somehow my morning trip matched up perfectly with those about to attend the Oregon State football game. And then when I got onto I-5, the cars heading south wore a blend of Beaver orange and black and Ducks yellow and green. Flags waved from the cars as if they were all part of a presidential motorcade. Apparently the University of Oregon also had a game that day. I don’t follow Oregon college football so I had no idea. However, being married to a football fanatic from Southern California, I could tell you when USC was playing.

I came back through Corvallis right after the Beavers game ended. Picture cars lined up for miles, the exit to the coast blocked with orange cones, men in orange vests directing traffic through the intersections. I thought I’d never get home. The last lap is a dark, two-lane road along the Yaquina River. I had headlights in my rear-view mirror all the way to the coast from beer-fueled, truck-driving Beaver fans anxious to continue the celebration in Newport.

People around here are crazy for the Beavers and the Ducks. In two weeks, they play each other in the game known as the Civil War. I’m not going anywhere near the stadium that day.

One has to wonder about teams named for ducks and beavers. What happened to fierce animals and wild warriors? A duck? I always thought I’d like to be a duck. Not only are many pretty, but they can swim, walk and fly. But they just eat bugs, right?

As for beavers, I recently learned that they are rodents. What makes them rodents is that their teeth keep growing. They chew wood to keep them from getting too long. They make elaborate dams, live there a while, then move on. Like Californians.

Both teams have the ugliest uniforms. I guess you can only do so much with orange and black and green and yellow. Of course my college team, the San Jose State University Spartans, has beautiful blue and gold uniforms but are not usually big winners.

We have some interesting logos here. The Oregon State Beavers have a vicious-looking beaver with gigantic teeth, wild eyes and long hair blowing backwards. They also have an O linked with an S. The University of Oregon goes by just a stylized green O. That’s it; an O. Now of course both universities ignore the fact that other colleges exist whose names also start with an O. In Oregon, it’s Ducks and Beavers. Period.

It seems ironic that I was headed to Beaverton the day I got caught in the Beaver football traffic. I even heard a commercial talking about the Church of the Beaver. Say what?

Oregon is known as the Beaver State. I have never seen a live beaver, but the word is certainly everywhere. In fact, we have a Beaver Creek down the road from us. My husband Fred and I kayaked down it a couple years ago in driving rain. In August. Become one with the water, our guide said. Yeah, right. But that’s another story.

I’m going to have to do some research on why this state is so beaverlicious. I’m thinking it has something to do with the hunters who made their livings collecting the beavers’ lush pelts. Stay tuned.

And check the football schedule before you drive through Corvallis or Eugene on a Saturday in November.

I welcome your comments, corrections and education for this California transplant who still doesn’t get all the nuances of being an Oregonian. Enlighten me, please.

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