If You Gotta Play a Garden Party Again . . .

Every year I swear it’s the last, but here I am again, playing at the annual Samaritan House Secret Garden Tour. I’m stationed in Mariann Hyland’s delightful “jewel box” garden in Neskowin.

I was definitely quitting this year after I wound up on “Scenic Old 101” driving mile after mile of winding, barely paved road. As the minutes ticked by, I knew I was going to be late due to misleading signs and not having paid enough attention to the map. I was tempted to get back on the freeway, buy myself an expensive lunch at some beachside restaurant and let the flowers do without music.

It wasn’t just me. A friend wandered the same direction, and she was using a GPS. So we were both late and both never volunteering for this thing again. Eventually, nearly two hours after leaving home, we turned around, found garden tour headquarters, got directions to our respective gardens and calmed down. The weather was perfect, the flowers were blooming, plant-loving friends were having fun together, and music filled the air. Also wine, cheese, chocolate and salt water taffy.

Neskowin is located a few miles north of Lincoln City, just into Tillamook County. My garden in the Neskowin Village snuggled in the midst of several cottages with their own spectacular gardens. As I alternated between keyboard and guitars, visitors admired the custom-made glass fence panels, the downspouts shaped like fish and turtles and the glorious array of sea air-loving plants. I disrupted the array a bit with all my gear, but at least, as you can see, I dressed in the floral theme.

You might wonder about the black armband. I wasn’t mourning anything. I’ve been suffering with an elbow problem called medial epicondylitis or golfter’s elbow for over a year now. It’s a repetitive stress thing exacerbated by playing the piano. Physical therapy has made it considerably less painful, but it’s still there and probably always will be. The brace helps, but I’m thinking the braces ought to come in colors to match our clothes. I’m going to work on that. 

Playing at the tour is always wonderful because I get to see so many great people, and so many people get to hear me. Also I get to play whatever I want. But there are challenges, too. The guitar-playing guy across the street, who knew every song the Beatles ever recorded, was distractingly loud. People frequently interrupted my music to ask questions like “Is this your garden?” and “What is the name of that plant?” There were cameras everywhere, some of them snapping pictures of me. This year, I saw quite a few people taking pictures with their iPads, too. But in the end, it’s a fun day, and it raises a lot of money for our local homeless shelter.

I came away with grooves in my fret fingers and a rasp in my throat, but ask me again if I’ll do the garden tour next year.


I Lost My Way in San Francisco

It was late afternoon as I trudged up and down the hills of San Francisco yesterday, testing out the route from the Hotel Tomo to Kaiser Hospital, where my father is having heart surgery today. I thought it was just up the road, but somehow . . . it wasn’t. My heart pounded as I climbed uphill and down. I passed drunks, crazy people, and homeless guys picking stuff out of the garbage. A pretty blonde girl walking with her friend lit up a marijuana cigarette behind me. I Inhaled the smoke in happy amazement. I saw 50 sushi shops, a dozen liquor stores, four giant churches, and a lot of street signs, but I did not see Kaiser hospital.  Feeling like a stupid tourist, I kept checking the map I’d gotten at the hotel, but it didn’t help much. It was getting dark. I was not about to walk back in the dark in my cute purple hat and big old steal-able purse.
I had to face the fact: Kaiser Hospital was not here. It must have moved. Or something. Nervously clutching my purse against my side, I decided I couldn’t walk any farther. I crossed the street and took a bus back to Japantown and my hotel. Luckily, a gigantic Japanese sculpture marked my way. Back in my room, I looked at the more detailed map I had brought from home. Oh Lord. I was walking in the wrong direction. Kaiser was the other way!
This is not the first—or the 20th time this has happened to me. If I added up all the hours I have spent trying to find something that wasn’t where I thought it was, it would probably equal several years. I’m good at some things, but finding my way around isn’t one of them. It’s a good thing I now live in a town where it’s almost impossible to get lost. Everything is off of Highway 101 with ocean on one side and forest on the other. And yes, I have a GPS, but I didn’t think I needed it. Silly me.
One guy who didn’t get lost was the driver of the ride-share shuttle I took from the airport. The driver spoke minimal English and drove like a maniac. He raced all over San Francisco so fast I can’t believe he didn’t mow down a couple dozen pedestrians. At one point, he stopped on the street where I knew my hotel was, so I prepared to get out. This guy in Victorian costume welcomed us to the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, and then this guy in the back seat got out. I pretended I wasn’t halfway out the door. A half hour and a hundred streets later, we were back on Sutter and landed at the Hotel Tomo.
I still don’t have my bearings. The view outside my hotel room window is fabulous. Don’t know what I’m seeing but it’s the big city, and the lights are like one big Christmas display to me. I took a taxi to the hospital this morning. The talkative Iranian driver gabbed about divorce customs in his country and how his wife rags on him to eat healthy, and he wished my father well. $6.50 and worth every penny. I arrived one minute before the rest of the family got here from San Jose.
Somehow they didn’t get lost. Maybe my brother’s right. Maybe I am adopted. Nah.
My father is in surgery right now. I’m waiting with my brother. Please send up a prayer that Dad comes out of this all right.

Not quite the walk we’d planned

What started as a brief after-work dog walk and research trip turned into an ordeal someone my age should know better than to get herself into.
It was a warm sunny day, one of those glorious autumn gifts we experience here on the Oregon coast. Annie and I drove to the Beaver Creek Natural Area, a relatively new state park threaded with trails, most of which we had never tried or even found. I figured we’d park near the visitor’s center, walk enough to exercise the dog then drive around taking pictures for a writing project I’m working on. That’s not quite how it turned out.
We started on the marsh trail, one we’ve done before, never getting too far because the dirt turned to mud, then muck, then water. Because the last couple months have been so dry, we were able to keep going, even after Annie pulled me into a patch of gooey mud that coated my “dress tennies.” We walked and walked across this vast land of yellow rushes and wide open spaces, birds our only companions.
Suddenly the path ended at a bridge high above the creek. We crossed it. Then I saw the sign that would prove our undoing: Beaver Creek Loop Trail. Arrows pointed both right and left. I thought, hey, let’s take this. It will be a drier and possibly shorter path back to the visitor’s center.
It was a lovely trail through the trees, along the creek, past skunk cabbage and ferns. But there wasn’t a soul around. We stepped over bear, cougar and deer droppings. Annie, who can’t resist a pond or a puddle, decided to cool herself in the muddy stream beside the road and emerged black from the belly down, as if she had stepped in paint. “Come on!” I urged. The sun, barely visible over the trees, dropped toward the horizon and shifted from in front of us to the side as we gradually left the creek behind. As we walked uphill and down, I started to worry. It was already 6:00. The sun would set in an hour. Where was the end of this trail? What if a bear came out of the trees? I started praying.
Finally, the trail curved and I saw buildings. Safe, I thought. But it wasn’t the visitor’s center. It appeared to be equipment storage sheds. No people, just a Port-a-Potty. The trail continued on. Now I could hear cars in the distance. There was road up there somewhere, but which road?

More bear droppings. I tugged on Annie’s leash. No time to explore. We were losing daylight and I didn’t want to meet Yogi. Or even Boo Boo. We were definitely lost. I considered calling 911, but I couldn’t tell them where I was. We weren’t hurt or trapped like that “elderly” 65-year-old I had just read about who spent the night caught in blackberry bushes near Rose Lodge. Blackberries lined this trail, too. Delicious. But we weren’t leaving the trail for anything.

At last I saw a metal gate up ahead. A road! It should be Beaver Creek Road, I assumed as we eased around the gate and stopped, looking right and left. Nothing seemed familiar. Were we above or below the visitor’s center? The sun had dropped to a yellow glow above the trees. I saw a milepost marker, Mile 1, to the right. The center wasn’t that far, was it? We went left.  
This didn’t look right either. We came to a house plastered with no-trespassing signs. It looked deserted, but I was about to climb the steep driveway when I noticed the metal grating across the road, like an oversized cattle guard. Annie couldn’t walk over that. Next house, nobody home. Then way up ahead, I saw two horses, palominos, and a guy grooming one of them. “Come on, Annie.”
Afraid of the horses, Annie pulled back, her face scrunched against her collar, her eyes full of terror. “Come on. It’s okay,” I said, dragging her along until I got close enough to holler to the guy. “Is this Beaver Creek Road?”
He looked at me like I was the stupidest person he’d ever seen. I regretted leaving the house in my ugliest pants and no makeup. If you’re going to get lost, look good. “Yeah, it’s South Beaver Creek Road. There’s a north and a south. Which one do you want?”
I had no idea. “I’m trying to get back to the visitor center for the natural area.”
He pointed back the way we had come. “Walk a mile that way. You’ll come to a fork in the road. Go to the right another quarter mile or so.”
I wanted to cry. By now we had already walked for almost two hours. My shoes were pinching my toes. Annie was limping. I wished somebody would offer us a ride, although nobody would want my mud-painted dog in their vehicle. I felt old and foolish. “Thank you!” I called, and we got back on the road.
They don’t allow much space between the white line and the bushes. Cars occasionally passed, us, pickups, SUVs, two PT Cruisers, all moving fast. Annie poked her nose into berry bushes and weeds as I kept urging her along. If it weren’t getting dark, there’d be no hurry, but it was. We passed the milepost marker and kept going. Annie plodded along in front of me, her legs black to the hips. “Hey girl,” I said. “If something tries to eat me, you’ll protect me, right? I’ll do the same for you.” She just kept walking.
We crossed Beaver Creek, saw a couple fishermen in a boat. Waved as if we weren’t lost or exhausted.
At last we came to the fork in the road. A stop sign. Green road signs. South Beaver Creek and North Beaver Creek. On NORTH Beaver Creek, a sign pointed us to the visitor’s center a quarter mile ahead. Somehow we had missed where the “loop trail” looped back to civilization and wound up on the road to Waldport. We turned, passed the center, now closed with a metal gate blocking the parking lot. Luckily I had parked a little farther up the road. My Honda waited for us. We collapsed into the seats and drove to the highway, turning onto 101 just as the sun was sliding into the horizon. It was the reddest sun I have ever seen.
We were alive. We were safe. We were sore.
The moral of this story is this: If you are not prepared for a long walk—alone with no map, compass, water, food, flashlight, or sleeping bag—go back on the trail you came in on, lest you wind up in the newspaper in your ugly pants and no makeup, being described as an “elderly” hiker who got lost in the woods.
For a map of the Beaver Creek State Natural Area and its beautiful trails, visit the website at http://www.oregonstateparks.org/park_261.php. Don’t count on signs on the actual trails.

Story and photo copyright 2012 Sue Fagalde Lick

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