Tag: Merlin

Day Three of Tom and Chica’s walk

The journey continues!

I made a mental note to republish this wonderful story more often than hitherto.

Certainly, if I am do the story justice, and I do want to do that, then a couple of republications a week is needed.

So we are at Day Three.

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Day 3: Embalse de Almodovar to Los Barrios 20k

By Tom and Chica, 15th January, 2020

Written by Tom’s wife.

Silent sentinels

This was the first cold and cloudy morning we’ve had since we arrived in Tarifa – a bit of a shock! The lack of wind, which is a rarity here, meant that all the wind turbines were motionless – like silent sentinels guarding the the hills.

 

 

Silly Billy!

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Back on the stony track.

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Don’t run them over!

We reached the start point (What Three Words location: dashes.outlived. plums) at around 10.15. Frustratingly, the route is barred by an electronic gate and notices warn that vehicles are prohibited, although google maps shows it as a through route. This wasn’t a problem this morning but made for a long drive for the pick up later.

After yesterday’s day off both dog and man keen to get going and set a brisk pace to keep warm. The lizards referred to in the sign weren’t in evidence – it was definitely too cold. The same very stony track caused less problems for Tom today with medium rather than light weight boots. The route climbed steadily to a high open valley to Puerto de Ojen giving views of the Sierra del Nino to the north. There used to be a bar here offering refreshment to walkers but sadly only a rather angry little dog and a donkey there now but a brief lunch break was taken anyway.

Puerta de Ojen

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Paths of the prisoners.

This sign on the right (Ed. the last one above.) was a little further down the road. A brief translation tells us that, as a result of the Spanish civil war, prisons were overflowing so Franco decided to create disciplinary battalions, an organized group of political prisoners to perform forced labour. After the outbreak of WWII, he launched the Fortification Plan on the northern shore of the Strait of Gibraltar, with the aim of fortifying and defending the area from possible attacks from the coast. To do this, he built a network of roads in this coastal area of ​​southern Spain from Conil to the Guadiaro River and the path of the prisoners is part of this network of roads built by disciplinary battalion number 22 that was located between Venta de Ojén and Cerro del Rayo from 1940 to 1943.

Rustic bread oven

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Further along they came cross this old bread oven that is currently being restored. Tom is a builder specialising in stone work so was able to determine that it was a good example of modern stonework. He was unable to fully translate the sign but it said that bread was a very important part of the diet and this was oven was a vital resource used by many people.

All in all, an interesting and reasonably easy route. The weather had improved as the day went on and it reached 18 deg but after 20k both Tom and Chica were quite happy to see the car, I think.

Pooped!

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I am so grateful for being given permission by Tom’s wife to republish this amazing journey along the GR7 path.

I’m assuming that you all are enjoying this!

 

The continuing GR7 journey

Where does the time go!

It is now ten days since I last reported on Tom and Chica’s great walk; so much for my couple of postings a week!

But they continue to walk the GR7 path in Spain and I will continue to republish their posts of this great trip.

So now, so far as republishing goes, we are up to Day Two.

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Day 2: La Pena to Embalse de Almodovar 16k

By Tom and Chica, 13th January, 2020

Written by Tom’s wife.

Human breakfast!

All walking days will start with the full monty for Tom. He is a very practiced breakfast chef so I leave him to it. It did seems to take a while this morning so I think we may have to start getting up a bit earlier. For this week, at least, I will be dropping him off and picking him up so he doesn’t have to carry the full pack with the tent etc, giving him time to get some fitness back first after the flu virus.

The start

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So it was 10am before we got to the start at La Pena (What Three Words location: crafted.indecisive.barbecued.) and already a really glorious day; full sun and a gentle breeze. The route wound up into the hills giving wonderful views back down to the sea and across to the Moroccan coast. The path continued on a variety of surfaces, some tarmac, some sand and some stony tracks. The latter proved a bit uncomfortable and Tom now thinks that his more sturdy boots might be better, despite being a bit heavier. He has metal rods in both his feet, the result of a climbing accident about twenty years ago. So it’s extra important that his feet are well supported.

Goats on the move
Very spiny cactus with fruit – name anyone?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The landscape was quite rocky with olive and other hardy shrubs and trees, and lots of cacti too. Not much wildlife spotted but plenty of goats with their melodic bells. The route ended at a large lake on a inaccessible track so they walked back to the road where we met, conveniently close to a bar for a much appreciated cold beer (for Tom)and long drink of water (for Chica).

Meanwhile, back at the campsite, there was a minor crisis as a neighbour discovered a number of processionary caterpillars. These are nasty critters with highly irritant hairs that can cause a painful rash in humans but are even more dangerous for dogs. As the name suggests, the caterpillars form a chain when they move and, of course, most dogs want to investigate but if they ingest the hairs it can cause real problems. The nests can easily be spotted as dense webs on the tips of pine branches. The site maintenance staff were very prompt in coming along to remove the nests but we will remain vigilant. It was probably a bit daft to choose a plot under the pines and it’s a lesson learned for the future. One of many to come, no doubt.

 

 

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This is such an amazing trip. Words hardly express my admiration for what Tom.

And, as before, please do follow Tom and Chica directly.

The GR7 by Tom

Another republication of the Spanish walk by Tom and Chica.

There was such a wonderful response to the post on the 28th January that I decided to republish another one. This time I have started at the beginning.

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The GR7

The road less travelled…..

If you tell someone you’re planning a long walk in Spain, they will mostly assume you’re talking about the Camino de Santiago pilgrim trail across northern Spain. Tom being a bit of a misanthrope said he’d rather go somewhere less crowded.

We are familiar with a part of the GR7 as it runs through the Serrania de Ronda where we have spent a few recent winters. After more research it was decided that this would be the most interesting.

The GR7 starts on the south coast at Tarifa, near Gibraltar, and then runs up through the Los Alcornocales, a beautiful forest of cork oaks, then into the Grazalema National Park before reaching the city of Ronda. Dramatically perched above a deep gorge, Ronda is our favourite city.

From there the route turns eastwards towards Antequera and passes through the Parque Natural del Torcal whose bizarre rocky outcrops form one of the most impressive karst landscapes in Europe.

Shortly beyond, the route splits and Tom and Chica will be taking the southern variation through many small villages into Las Alpajarras. Then it heads up into the Sierra Nevada and there it may get tricky depending on the snow level. Chica isn’t keen on being belly deep in snow!

As the route heads north inland from the east coast, it is all new territory for us. There should be a couple of visits to both our charities near Alicante and Valencia and then due north to the border with Andorra. The final stop for recuperation will be with good friend, Kate, in the Pyrenees.

Day 1: Chica’s Challenge begins!!

Chica’s Challenge started today at Playa Chica.

At last, after a fair few hitches and glitches, Tom and Chica took their first steps on a journey that will take them right across Spain to Andorra on the GR7 route. The start is at the aptly (and purely coincidentally) named Playa Chica, which is the most southerly point of mainland Europe. From here, you have the Med to the east, the Atlantic to the west and Africa on the horizon. It’s an epic trip and one that only around five people complete every year. It should cover a variety of landscapes, starting today with the beautiful beaches of Tarifa and the surrounding area. As it’s a Saturday, with a good strong breeze, the kite surfers were out in force. It’s quite a sight!

Kite surfers at Valdavaqueros

Today was a short toddle, by comparison with what will follow – just 11k in about 2.5 hours. The route was almost entirely on the beach and Tom shed his shoes and walked barefoot. It might be the only time that will be possible.

Given that he is recovering from flu an easy start seemed a good plan – definitely so as it’s now raining! Chica, however, needs to understand that stopping to investigate every interesting smell would mean the walk would take several years.

We will be posting a blog every day of the walk, with information on the route, the scenery and the flora and fauna. Tom isn’t able to carry field guides – too much extra weight – so identification from any of our followers would be appreciated, starting with these shells found on the beach today. These pics will be posted on our instagram page too.

Shells found on the beach at Valdevaqueros

As well as posting our position, hopefully using Viewranger (we’re working on this) we will also give our position using What Three Words. Tonight’s are: tigress, asked, varies. This is fun and will be another way of ensuring that the back up team (me) can hook up with them.

Stay with us!

Just this far to go….

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This is an incredible journey and I’m so pleased that Tom is happy for me to share it with you.

And, please, do follow Tom and Chica directly.

This is a walk and a half!

An outstanding walk.

Tom came to Learning from Dogs a short while ago and signed up to follow the blog. As is usual, I went across to his blog in order to leave a thank-you note. I was flabbergasted at what I saw. Tom and his two dogs were walking across Spain. He called his blog Chica’s Challenge and this is what he wrote on his home page.

First, Tom decided he wanted to do a long walk.
Then he thought Spain would be nice as it has to be in winter.
And he’d like to take Chica, our podenco.
As an afterthought, he said, “Maybe we could raise some money?”
“Who for?” I asked.
“Well, as I’m taking Chica and it’s in Spain, I guess for Spanish podencos.”
“Great idea! I’ll write the blog!”

I wanted to follow his posts and did so.

Then I wanted to republish a post and asked Tom if I had his permission to so do.

“Of course”, came the reply.

So I am going to republish the post that was Day 7 of the walk.

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Chica’s Challenge

One dog and her man walking across Spain, raising money for their podenco friends.

Day 7: Jimena de la Frontera to Cerra de la Fantasia 20k

The last two days were non-walking days, one for bad weather and another to move base again. Now we have the luxury of being in a house for a while in Jimera de Libar, a village we know well.

So the day started with the drive back to Jimena and the weather looked reasonable. Again, Merlin refused to be left so the three of them set off up the path, climbing steadily for the first hour and a half.

Climbing path
Spanish Fir / Pinsapo (Abies Pinsapo) in the background

The path eventually levelled out and passed beneath the rocky outcrops of the Altos de Paneron and Cerro de Marin. After a bare rocky sections where the route was harder to determine, they went into dense forest of oak and Spanish fir (we love these and call them lollipop trees because of their shape). Both dogs in great form, but Tom was mean and moody :).

Dark clouds were gathering from all directions but the view to the coast was still impressive. However, it wasn’t long before the rain began and the temperature dropped.

Looking south – you can just see the sea

Fortunately the rest of the route was on a well-defined and signposted track, winding down through the cork oaks in the midst of the Los Alcornacales. It was here deep in the forest that I eventually picked them up. I had forgotten that smaller Spanish roads aren’t always roads as I know them and the last five and a half miles I was driving along a rough track with no mobile signal, not at all sure I was in the right place. Even though we have a 4×4, I made very slow progress and it was with considerable relief that I found them, damp but completely unconcerned.

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In the original some of the photographs were side-by-side but in copying them across I chose to enlarge them.

The start of Tom’s walk may be seen here and I thoroughly recommend that you read it in full.

I shall continue to follow Tom’s walk and may republish another post.

A treat!

A brilliant photograph!

On Saturday, our local pet food store, Lulu’s, held a free photography session. In that if we went along between noon and 4pm we could have our photographs taken of our dogs. I took my Nikon not really being sure if I could use it. We took Brandy and Pedy.

But Maria, the co-owner of the business together with her husband Rob, at one stage took my Nikon, I had set it to ‘auto’ rather than the usual RAW, and ran off some pictures.

Here’s one:

Enjoy!

Picture Parade Two Hundred and Thirty-Three

Closer to home!

In a reply to a post response left by fellow blogger Tails Around the Ranch I wrote:

Came up to Oregon for the rain, found a property that had been empty for years, Bank owned, put in a silly offer that was accepted, sold our Payson home and moved here, with 12 dogs and 6 cats, in October, 2012! Love the place. Will share some pictures of here next Sunday!

So today I am sharing a few pictures with you all. (All of them taken very recently.)

Mount Sexton just to the North-East of us. Take Feb. 24th.

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Another, more starker, Mt. Sexton taken two days later.

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Smoke from our neighbour’s wood fire mingles in the damp air of the trees in the corner of our property. Taken March 1st.

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Rain-laden clouds almost mask Mt. Sexton. Taken March 1st.

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The deer that we feed each morning have made their own trail. March 1st.

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The deer trail to the area by the stables where the food is put out each morning. March 1st.

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Young, dear Oliver playing in that deer trail. March 1st.

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The rain drops on these pine needles caught my eye. March 1st.

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Not just deer that coming feeding on our property. March 1st.

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Another scene that caught my eye. March 1st.

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Final picture showed how the storm deteriorated during that first day of March. Taken at 2pm.

So this is why Jeannie and me and all our dogs, not to mention the horses, love living here.

Don’t try this at home!

All it takes is a moment’s inattention.

The reason I am posting this is simply because it might help someone else out there.

I go bike riding three times a week; weather permitting. Usually with a group from close by: Jim; Richie; Pam; Dordie; Ken.

Two days ago there was a break in the wet weather and Jim rang round seeing who was up for a ride. It turned out that four of us could go riding: Jim, Richie, Dordie and myself.

We decided to ride down Hugo Road, turn left onto the Merlin-Galice Road, follow that right to the end of Galice Road, very close to Junction 61 on Highway I-5, then turn left along Monument Drive, left again down past Grants Pass airport then back on to the Galice Road this time heading west back through Merlin to meet up with the foot of Hugo Road and then home.

All had gone very well for all four of us and it was a great ride and already we had some 14 miles under our belts.

Coming back into Merlin there is a railway track that crosses Galice Road. It has quite a wide shoulder to stop us cyclists having to mix it with the road traffic. But the tracks across that shoulder are not the smoothest of rides for a cyclist.

I did my best to cross the tracks square on but didn’t manage it. My front tyre slipped on the wet, metal rail and in that instant I lost my balance. Tried to recover but just a few yards later went down falling heavily on my left side and knocking myself out.

Luckily I was not riding on my own (Lesson Number One) and Jim and the others were quick to check me out. Jim said later that many drivers stopped including an off-duty medic who quickly summoned the ambulance.

But I was still out!

Dordie had the presence of mind to capture what was going on and it is her photographs that are in today’s post.

I continued being unconscious and later Jim said that I was out for eight minutes.

I was placed in a gurney with a neck brace because the medics were concerned that I might have damaged my neck.

Then carried across to the ambulance.

 I only properly regained consciousness when the ambulance was speeding its way to Three Rivers Hospital in nearby Grants Pass.

The attendant caring for me in the ambulance remarked how lucky I was to have been wearing a safety helmet, for had I not been: “We wouldn’t be taking you to the accident ward!”

Plus, I realised that the other stroke of fortune is that I was riding with a group of friends. Had I been riding alone, something I have been doing, I might not have been helped in such a prompt and timely way.

So that’s my lesson for today! If you ride a bicycle don’t go out alone and never, ever ride without a safety helmet!

Oh, nearly forgot! Lesson Number Two: Don’t ride across wet railway tracks – Get off and walk!

UPDATE 14:20 Friday, 24th

In view of the many helpful ideas and suggestions I thought it would be good to present the follow information.

When I was discharged from the Emergency Department at our local Three Rivers Medical Center, I was given 4 pages of guidance and information. Page 3 of those notes included:

WHEN SHOULD I SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE?

You should get help right away if:

  • You have confusion or drowsiness.
  • You feel sick to your stomach (nauseous) or have continued, forceful vomiting.
  • You have dizziness or unsteadiness that is getting worse.
  • You have severe, continued headaches not relieved by medicine. Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, fever, or discomfort as directed by your health care provider.
  • You do not have normal function of the arms or legs or are unable to walk.
  • You notice changes in the black spots in the center of the colored part of your enemy (pupil).
  • You have a clear or bloody fluid coming from your nose or ears.
  • You have a loss of vision.

Thought it might be useful including those.

Plus when I saw the pharmacist at our local RiteAid, he took a look at the wounds on my left knee and recommended a transparent dressing; namely a product called Tegaderm. It is a product made by 3M and more details may be read about it here.

Thanks everyone for you caring responses!

In memory of Clyde!

This could be the most important lesson we learn from our dear dogs.

Reclining Clyde
Reclining Clyde

Our immediate neighbours to the South of us, Larry and Janell, lost one of their dogs last Saturday. Here’s the email that was sent out by Larry:

Bad day at the ranch

We lost Clyde today. A neighbor who is a veterinarian came by this morning and did the deed. He had cancer in his shoulder, we had a tumor removed a couple of months ago but there must have been some left because his left front became totally unusable and then his left rear started to go too. We tried everything that the vets could come up with but it was starting to eat him up.

He was born in central South Dakota at a cattle ranch where I got him in April 2004, a six week old black bundle of wrinkles. He learned his manners from Barney, who we lost a little over 2 years ago from cancer as well. Barney and Clyde, what a GREAT pair!!

We still have Baxter the Aussie, who has pretty well recovered from getting hit by a car and severely injured the beginning of last month and Bob the cat.

I will miss Clyde terribly, just like I have ALL my labs! They are wonderful dogs. Just thinking that I’ll probably never have another big floppy eared pal like that makes me want to just cry my eyes out!!

One of the fondest memories of my life is/was going bird hunting, especially ducks, and having a well mannered lab as my partner!! I’ve shared time and my lunch with some good ones!! I so very much wish/hope that there really is a “RAINBOW BRIDGE”!!

Jean and I obviously knew Clyde and can confirm that he was the most gentle, kind-hearted dog one could find.

I wanted to treasure the memory of Clyde, on behalf of all the dear dogs in the world, and asked Larry and Janell if they would be comfortable with me publishing the email. They replied without hesitation that it was fine and then sent me some photographs of Clyde to include in this post.

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So the easy course for this post would be to leave it at this and move on. (And, please, if you are not up for a degree of introspection from yours truly, then do stop reading at this point!)

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But when I awoke this morning (Tuesday), a little after 5am, Jean still asleep next to me, three dogs likewise across the bed, and knowing I would be writing about Clyde later on in the day, I started to reflect on life and death and was there a lesson for us humans in the death of our beloved dogs. When Jean awoke an hour later, I asked her how many of her dogs had died over the years. She replied that there had been at least twenty dogs that had died and that she could remember each and every one of them.

That then opened up a much deeper reflection on death and whether our dogs really can offer us a lesson in this regard. For I’m not ashamed to admit that at times I feel scared about the future. I’m 70-years-old, seeing the signs of what the medics call ‘cognitive ageing’, have a few minor challenges in the areas of prostate, blood pressure, thyroid, and know how terribly unprepared I am for the second of life’s two certainties: death.

Jean’s view was that dogs have the ability to live so perfectly in the present that, except in very rare occasions, they don’t grieve for the loss of a loved one. Clearly, a significant difference between dogs and us humans.

Then it was clear that we humans only grieve for the death of someone we knew. That within the family that rarely extended back beyond our grand-parents. That seemed to offer some philosophical help. For if it comes down to the memories that others will have of us, after we have died, then it behoves us to live the best life we can, doing our best at every stage in our lives. Accepting that it is impossible not to make mistakes and end up with regrets, yet so long as we try to be true to ourselves then that’s all that matters.

It was then a very small onward step to love and the potential for the greatest learning from our dogs. For dogs so frequently show us the magic of unconditional love.

Back to Clyde.

Here are two other photographs of dear Clyde, separated by the words in Larry’s covering email.

Clyde cleaning Pearl the lamb.
Clyde cleaning Pearl the lamb.

Paul, here are a few pictures of Clyde. Feel free to use what you like. We always said Clyde had a big heart, big stomach and no ambition as evidenced by these pictures! At one time we were nursing an orphan lamb in the house, Clyde adopted the lamb, Pearl, and looked after her, Larry.

Clyde and Pearl demonstrating such a dear friendship.
Clyde and Pearl demonstrating a dear friendship.

I know that when our Lilly dies, she is 17, Jean will weep many tears.

I know that when our Pharaoh dies, he is soon to be 12, I will weep many tears.

But those pictures of Clyde remind all of us that it is in life that it is important to love. Important, almost beyond words, to be kind to others, to offer and receive love, and to treasure the present.

So, yes, we must shed a few tears of the heart yet thereafter we must treasure the memories.

“For if we cry at losing the sun, our tears will hide the light of the stars.”

Thank you, Clyde!

Picture parade twenty-four.

The first of the New Year and dedicated to Sue of Sue Dreamwalker.

A week ago, Sue left a nice comment about our ‘backyard’ here in Oregon. Specifically with regard to the two photographs of deer feeding in front of the house.  I replied by saying that today I would offer a selection of views of our property.

First off, an aerial view with the property boundary line overlaid, taken from the sale particulars.  The right-hand, Eastern boundary follows the edge of Hugo Road. We are some four miles from Merlin in Southern Oregon.

Thirteen acres orientated West-East.
Thirteen acres orientated West-East.

The solid blue line is the course of Bummer Creek that flows from top to bottom of the image.  The thin, dotted blue line is the driveway that runs from Hugo Road up to the house, a distance of a 1/4 mile.  The house is close to the Western boundary almost hidden from sight in this picture by the trees.  There is a faint label ‘The House’ just below the building.

From left to right: Pharaoh, Sweeny, Cleo and Hazel.

The above photograph was taken from a point about half-way along the driveway, the house being behind the camera.  Ahead, the driveway dips down to cross the bridge over the Creek, as the following picture reveals.  Luckily the boundary fence is dog-proof!

P1140200

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Dogs and water!
Dogs and water!

Pharaoh in Bummer Creek just downstream of the bridge.

Looking farther downstream from the bridge.
Looking further downstream from the bridge.

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Looking upstream from the bridge.
Looking upstream from the bridge.

The barrier across the Creek seen in the upper half of the photograph is a flood irrigation dam installed many years ago, presumably for agricultural purposes before the plot was sold for house building prior to 1977. One installs an iron pole on a centre bolt embedded in the dam and then places a stout plank across the flow on top of the dam.  The plank can just be seen to the right of the dam, resting on the bank.  Never tried the dam but going to some day!

Looking to the West up towards the house.
Looking to the West up towards the house.

The above picture was taken close to where the previous one was shot.  Simply by swinging around to the left and looking back up.  The house is barely visible in the background behind the metal gate and wooden fence posts in the middle of the photograph.

Corinne's field visible through the trees and undergrowth.
Corinne’s field visible through the trees and undergrowth.

Again, the picture above is taken not far removed from where the previous two were taken.  If one looks at the aerial view of the property in the first picture, in the top-right corner there is a small area of grassland; what would have been an offshoot of our neighbour’s grassland in previous times.  After my sister, Corinne, died in the Summer of 2013 we named that area of grassland Corinne’s field.

A general view down over the main area of grass.
A general view down over the main area of grass.

So now we are back standing just outside the Eastern side of the house looking South-East out over the main area where the dogs are walked twice a day.  The picture was taken a little before noon and shows the low mist that has been with us for about two weeks.

Nature's beauty.
Nature’s beauty.

Above, another photograph picking up on the mist that has been with us for some days.  Until yesterday!

This is what I call a Winter day!
This is what I call a Winter day!

Yesterday dawned cold, clear and frosty. As this picture of one of our tall pine trees so vividly demonstrates.  (The tree edges our driveway, about half-way to the house.)

So will close today’s post with three more pictures of a frosty Saturday morning in Merlin, Oregon, USA.

A frosty yet sunny morning.
A frosty yet sunny morning.

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Frost on a bamboo tree.
Frost on a bamboo tree.

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It really is a beautiful world at times.
It really is a beautiful world at times.

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So there you are, Sue!

Needless to say, Jean and I are reminded almost daily how lucky we and all our animals are at finding such a beautiful place to live.  I can’t ever imagine taking it for granted.

The book! Chapter Twenty-Two.

Learning from Dogs

Chapter Twenty-Two

Philip drove himself, as quietly as he could manage it, back up to Lisa and Don’s house. It was a little after 4am.  The night air was cold and as he slipped into his bed the inside of the bodega felt just as cold as outside. The hours of love-making with Molly had been a new experience for him. Of extraordinarily different dimensions from any previous experience. Like every other aspect of their relationship, because now it was most definitely a relationship, the ways that he and Molly were relating to each other, how each was getting to know the other, was a new journey for him.  As with all new journeys in life, both the real, external ones and the inner, subjective ones, new journeys came with new experiences, new vistas and new horizons every step of the way.

As he slept on that next morning, Lisa had telephoned Molly and had asked her what the hell was going on.  She seemed very upset in a way that Molly couldn’t fully understand.  After Lisa had calmed down a little, Molly told her that she and Philip were now lovers.

Five days later, 2007 bid farewell forever and in came the New Year of 2008. Philip and Molly endeavoured to be together as much as possible for his remaining ten days. He was now effectively living at her house.  In those ten days any lingering cautions in their minds about either of them being hurt just vaporised. For the very simple, yet gigantic, reason that he wanted to be with her and she with him.  There was no doubt whatsoever that he would leave Devon and come to San Carlos with Pharaoh just as soon as it could be arranged.  In the interim, Molly would come to Devon in the Spring to meet his family and friends.  Then the plan was that in the early Autumn, he and Pharaoh would make the one-way trip to Mexico, routing via California.

Thus it came to pass that early one morning in September, Philip arrived at London Airport with two suitcases and one beloved dog: Pharaoh. They were flying one-way with British Airways, London to Los Angeles.  He had been informed that Pharaoh would need to be checked-in at the World Cargo centre. Philip parked outside said cargo centre and walked Pharaoh on his leash to the animal check-in desk. Fifteen minutes later, with his face staring out at Philip through the grill of his travel cage, Pharaoh disappeared from sight without even a bark; without even a whimper.  It was as if he sensed the new life that was ahead of him. Philip had asked as to where in the aircraft’s hold Pharaoh’s cage would be situated and had reserved a cabin seat more or less above that spot.  He was of no doubt that Pharaoh would know that he was sitting as close to him as possible.

As is the way of long international, non-stop flights, it was over in some sort of time-warped way, before he could really grasp it.

Molly had driven up from San Carlos to meet him and Pharaoh when they flew in to Los Angeles.  First she welcomed Philip with the world’s sweetest and dearest hug then they repositioned to another part of the terminal building to await Pharaoh’s arrival. In what seemed like no time at all they were all heading out from the airport complex, Pharaoh sitting on his haunches on the rear seat of Molly’s car unable to take his eyes off the strange world outside yet at the same time eagerly eating a bowl of dog biscuits being held under his chin by Philip.

So, it’s time for this story to take a pause. Well, maybe not a pause, more a drawing back from the intricacy and detail of the previous pages. For in so many ways the story has now been told.

Philip and Molly’s lives together were all, and more, of what they could have ever imagined.

He had been living in Mexico with Molly for about eighteen months when they were clear that they wanted to marry and find a new home in America. Because Molly had US citizenship through her marriage to Ben, it seemed sensible for Philip to apply for a US Fiancée Visa.  So it was decided that they would find a home in Arizona and sell the beach-side house in San Carlos.  They quickly found a comfortable home in Payson, a city of fifteen-thousand persons located at five-thousand feet, eighty miles North-East of Phoenix, Arizona. The subsequent move from Mexico to Payson went off remarkably well. Especially if one reflects that the move included fourteen dogs, seven cats and all their belongings. Their latest dog being a beautiful, black, half-Rottweiler female dog that was dumped in the street just outside the house barely ten days before they departed Mexico.  She was still in milk, frantically tearing back and forth along the dusty street, presumably looking for her puppies, crying out the pain of her loss.  Molly enticed her into the house, gave her water, for she was very thirsty, and within minutes the dog was showing her love and gratitude to Molly. They named her Hazel.

Then it was time for Philip to apply for that fiancée visa. There was no delaying that because his entrance to the USA, when they moved up from San Carlos, was on the basis of a ninety-day tourist visa.

Applying for that fiancée visa could only be done at the US Embassy back in his home country; England.  In the end, it involved several trips back to the UK and strange, interminable processes convincing the US Embassy in London that he was a fit and proper person to be admitted as a resident to the United States of America.

Nevertheless, on November 4th, 2010, he boarded Virgin Atlantic’s flight VS007 from London Heathrow to Phoenix, the possessor of a United States visa permitting him to marry a US Citizen; in this case a very special one.  Sixteen days later, on Saturday, November 20th, he and Molly were married.

This is where the story should have ended.  Molly and Philip and their animals living very happily in a comfortable home in Payson, Arizona. But the story has a twist.

It had been a night in the middle of June in 2012; the night of the 20th June as he recalled.  There was nothing about the previous day that could have had any bearing on his mind, as in any trigger for the dream, not that, as dreams go, it was a dream of any meaning; well not outwardly. He dreamt he had gone to the bathroom in the middle of the night and turned on the cold-water tap and found no water flowing from it. That was the dream; no more or no less. Bizarre!

Yet when he awoke in the morning, the dream was vividly present in his mind.  He said to Molly that he had had the most strangest of dreams and recounted the experience. As it happened, they had a neighbour call by later that morning and the conversation lead Philip to mention his dream.  To which the neighbour had simply remarked that if he was worried about water then they should go to Oregon.

While their property was sufficiently far out from Payson to require their own well and, as wells go, it was a deep one of nearly three-hundred feet, the water level had stayed pretty constant around sixty-feet down.  On the other hand, this part of Arizona had been receiving below-average rains for the last twenty years.

Then, almost as though it had been pre-ordained, a short while thereafter Molly met a woman who said that she would be delighted to house sit and look after all the pets if Molly and Philip ever wanted to go on a vacation. Molly had mentioned that they were thinking of visiting Oregon.  All of which came together and saw Molly and Philip setting off on July 11th on the start of a three-day, twelve-hundred mile drive to Southern Oregon.

On their arrival in Grants Pass, Oregon, yet another set of coincidences found them being introduced to an independent real-estate agent, Donna. Donna said she was happy to show them some properties for sale in this part of Southern Oregon. The second property that Donna showed them was a few miles North of the small community of Merlin, itself some nine miles North-West of Grants Pass.

Donna stopped at the entrance to the driveway, turned round and looked back at them.

“I have to be honest and tell you that I know very little about this property. There are not even listing particulars. It was for sale a few years back, rumours had it at well over a million dollars; possibly even million and a third.  Then it was lost to the bank and, for whatever reason, nobody has gone for it.  It’s been empty for at least two years.”

Donna drove in.  The driveway was surrounded either side by tall forest trees; oaks, pines and firs. It initially sloped down from the roadway and then went across a bridge over a sparkling creek of crystal-clear water flowing from right-to-left.  Donna paused the car as Philip asked a question.

“Any details about the creek, Donna?”

“It’s called Bummer Creek and it flows all-year. Not sure, will need to check on it, but I thought I had heard there were formal water extraction rights for the owners of the property.”

The driveway then made a gently climb along the right-hand edge of a large, multi-acre, grass paddock.  In what must have been nearly a quarter-of-a-mile later, they drove up to a large, wooden-clad, single-story home surrounded by more wonderful tall pines and firs.  It was stupendous.  A four-bedroomed property in thirteen acres of fenced land with stables, a garage and other outbuildings, and what did turn out to be water extraction rights from Bummer Creek.

It took Molly and Philip less than an hour to make up their minds that at the right price this could be their home of a lifetime for them and all their animals.

Donna came up to them as they stood outside the front of the property.

“What do you think, guys?”

Philip answered, “It’s an incredible property and I don’t doubt that at some point it would have been an expensive property to purchase.  Do you know the asking price?’

Donna answered, “I’ve just been calling to find out more details.  The bank that originally foreclosed on the property then sold it a while back to a company called Gorilla Capital.  Gorilla are just trying to flip the place for cash but, as with the bank, have had trouble finding a buyer.  The company have told me they are looking for three-hundred-and-eighty-thousand dollars.  I have to say that’s quite a low price for all that’s here even in these depressed times.  My guess is that many people would find it a bit too much to take on in terms of the acres.   Otherwise, I can’t see why it hasn’t sold a long time ago. Especially for the money being asked.”

Philip and Molly took another walk around the house. They ended up standing together on the wooden deck overlooking some eight or nine acres of grassland, dense forest sweeping up the flanks of the slopes in the near distance, and the mighty Mount Sexton visible four or five miles off to the North-East.

“What do you think, Molly?” he asked, putting his arm around her waist.

“It’s gorgeous, I just can’t believe what an incredible home it is.  How about you? What do you think, sweetheart?”

His reply was unequivocal. “I think we should put in a silly offer.”

“Such as?” Molly wondered aloud.

“Come with me.”

He took her hand and lead her around to the front of the house, to where Donna was waiting.

“Donna, we want to make an offer.  Tell Gorilla that we can’t go anywhere near their asking price just now. But if they want a deal today, we will offer two-hundred-and-fifty-thousand dollars. Cash on the nail as we say in my old country.”

Donna walked away to be out of earshot and rang Gorilla.  She was back in a couple of minutes.

“They say that’s too low.  Say there really looking for something a bit higher.”

Fifteen minutes later, Gorilla and Philip and Molly had settled on the figure of two-hundred-and-seventy-one-thousand dollars.

As they walked towards Donna’s car she said to them, “You do know, don’t you, that even in today’s depressed housing market, that’s one hell of a deal.”

So it came to pass that on the following day, Sunday, 15th July, over at Donna’s office, Philip and Molly signed the purchase contract.

They left to return to Payson the following day.

Upon their return to Payson, without exception, all the people they shared their news with were astounded at what they had purchased for such a modest sum of money.  Now came the challenge of getting their Payson house ready for sale, packing up their things and transporting what was by now eleven dogs and five cats, the twelve-hundred miles to Oregon.

Nevertheless, as is the way of things, piece by piece, little by little, it all came together resulting in the day of the ‘big move’ arriving: Tuesday, October 23rd to be exact.  Philip’s Jeep was towing a large covered U-Haul trailer and Molly was driving a U-Haul rental van towing another trailer carrying her Dodge van packed to the roof. They were off to Oregon.

Within less than forty-eight hours of arriving at their new home in Merlin, as Molly and Philip saw how the dogs reacted to their acres of land, the trees, the hollows and the borders, they knew that all of them, in the fullest sense of the phrase, had come home.

2,387 words. Copyright © 2013 Paul Handover