Real Talk

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Sheryl Vieira shares thoughts on the community, good deeds and important things, big AND small.
These days, catastrophe seems to be striking more and more, igniting compassion and the spirit to help others. The walls within us come down whether or not the physical walls of our homes take the brunt of a hurricane or a forest fire. Neighbors reach out to help other neighbors. Strangers stop what they’re doing to help other strangers. A fire or a hurricane just can’t break the spirit of an individual or alter one’s foundation. We stay rooted in knowing that the sacred things in life just can’t be touched.


In a final attempt to wring out the last moments of summer, I took a trip to the west coast of Oregon, where my travel companions and I were greeted with forest fires, and upon our return to Sarasota, we were welcomed by Hurricane Irma, which at that point was the largest hurricane on record. From coast to coast, catastrophe was striking, so we dug in and made the best of it.
The main focus of my trip west was to take part in a white-water rafting adventure. No, this was not on my bucket list, nor have I ever really wanted to personally experience this type of activity. The itinerary built around the white-water rafting turned my initial pass into an acceptance and made this intense getaway a trip of pure wonder, as it aligned on so many levels, thanks to a bit of luck and a hat trick. It’s a trip that may not be able to be duplicated, as we personally experienced the viewing of the Great American total eclipse, the Northern Lights and the Milky Way from various lighthouses along the Pacific Coast and the Rogue River.


We arrived in Portland, Oregon and headed to a delicious dinner at the ultra-trendy Doug Fir Lounge. We headed south early the next morning to take in the sights of the Oregon coastline and pretend we were cast members from The Goonies. We followed size fives as we stopped for some beach hikes at Lincoln City and at “Thar be whales” in Depoe Bay where we saw approximately half a dozen gray whales as they spouted their excess water. The temperatures were pretty cool when that ocean wind blew so we jumped back in our rental and continued on our path south. A sign for Newport peaked my interest only because it happens to be the street name of my childhood home. We learned that Newport was home to Oregon’s largest commercial fleet and an abundance of barking sea lions. Fishing crews in the 1860s found oyster beds at the upper end of Yaquina Bay and turned this friendly village into what it is today. We stopped for lunch and lucked out getting an outdoor table in the warm sun with views of the wharf at the Local Ocean Seafoods restaurant. This is a must if you’re ever in the area!oregon
Our next stop was at the Heceta Head Lighthouse B&B. The Heceta Head Lighthouse, built in 1894, is a 56’ lighthouse that shines a beam visible for 21 nautical miles, making it the strongest light on the Oregon Coast. We enjoyed sitting on the house-length porch for a joyful happy hour, despite the brisk winds and smoke from the ongoing forest fires. Another guest sang a maritime poem called “Sea-Fever” by a British poet named John Masefield. We followed this with an evening stroll up to the lighthouse for a clear view of the good old Milky Way. Sometimes you’re just in the right place at the right time!
A special event was taking place on the porch the next morning as the Amateur Radio Communicators of the Central Coast of Oregon gathered at their annual portable lighthouse stations to make contact with each other. In 1998, August 7th was declared National Lighthouse Day by the United States Congress to encourage lighthouse managers, keepers and owners to open their lighthouse or light station and related visitor centers to the public with a view to heighten the profile of lighthouses, light vessels and other navigational aids, and preserving our maritime heritage. This particular group was there to generally communicate with other lighthouses.


Leaving a seven-course breakfast and the lighthouse behind, inland country roads led us to a wine tasting at Bradley Vineyards in Elkton. The owner, Bonnie, gave us a tasting and mentioned that her friend was there helping tend her garden until her son could come and help. She has nearly 30 acres of gorgeous varietals including Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Baco Noir. She and her late husband, John, planted the vineyard back in 1983, making it the longest-standing family-owned vineyard in Elkton. The ride was immensely enjoyable for this country girl. The back roads are always my preferred way to travel because it gives me the feeling of being lost without a care in the world! As we departed Elkton, we drove along to Tyee where an historic covered bridge unveiled itself to us. We were happy to spot it, but surprised that it was named the “Rochester” bridge in Douglas county since I’m from Rochester and there are only 50 historic covered bridges within the state of Oregon. Another photo shoot and we were off again.oregon

From the Pacific coast to the Rogue River, we joined Western River Expeditions for a three-day lodge-to-lodge white water rafting adventure. I’ve never wanted to white water raft, but love Oregon since my first visit about five years ago. The safety orientation scared me to death, so I immediately opted for the safety boat they called the “Princess Boat.” I silently called shotgun and made sure it was my designated safe spot for the next three days. I wished to ease into this white-water rafting expedition and I did. We traveled down several moderate Class II, III and IV rapids. My knuckles were a little white the first day, but I settled in.
I was secretly happy to arrive to our first lodge and desperately desired a hot shower and to get out of my cold, wet clothes and water shoes. The cabins were rustic and very comfortable. My hot shower felt incredibly good after being in the cold rapids all day. After dinner we walked down to the Rogue River and sat in quiet. As the sky turned to evening and we were getting up to turn back, we noticed a large black bear walking along the opposite river bank in search of berries.



When we booked this trip in January, we hadn’t realized the Great American Eclipse that started in Oregon was going to be such a draw for people to this state. I was thankful we were on the river bank without having to deal with the traffic and the throngs of people visiting. By the way, should you still happen to have your eclipse glasses, you can mail them to Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) as they’re collecting used solar eclipse glasses to send to schools in South America and Asia, where partial eclipses will be visible next year.

Mailing address is Explore Scientific, 101 S. 48th St., Springdale, AZ 72762. If you aren’t hoarding them for the 2024 eclipse, this is a very good use for them.

After our eclipse experience we were back out on the Rogue to ride Horseshoe Bend Rapids, Meadowcreek Rapid, Upper Dulog Rapids, and Quail Creek. Our second evening was spent at Marial Lodge with hummingbirds and deer aplenty. On our last day, the guides brought us inflatable kayak and we rode through Class IV rapids Staircreek Falls, Blossom Bar Rapids, and Devil’s Staircase Rapids. We passed Paradise Lodge and continued through two more rapids, and ended our trip at Foster Bar. We stopped a few times along the way to jump off boulders into the frigid waters and hike to various waterfalls.
We decided to rough it one more evening and booked an actual teepee in Gold Hill via Airbnb and ended up taking a cold outdoor shower that evening – a first for me. The teepee was quite comfortable and located on a busier road, but the host went out of her way to make her guests very comfortable.
Onward to Union Creek for breakfast (best pancakes ever!) and pie at Beckie’s Café. Huckleberries are in season, so yes, huckleberry pie with vanilla ice cream for BREAKFAST!


Our next stop was Crater Lake for some hiking, sightseeing, swimming, dinner and lodging at the Crater Lake Lodge. After a fantastic dinner, we took a walk and witnessed the magic of the Northern Lights and a shooting star. The night sky was as deep and dark as I’ve ever seen. We said a sad goodbye the next day and headed north to Bend, then onto Portland where we stayed in a tiny house and rode bikes to the farmers market. We left a bottle of Bradley Vineyards Pinot Noir with a thank you note that I shaped into an airplane to thank our Airbnb host for their incredible hospitality and made our way back to the PDX airport for our return flights home.

What a trip of wonder! Three bears, one almost total eclipse, 50+ class II-IV rapids, two lodges, new friends, lots of photographs and a new bucket-list checked!
My thoughts and prayers to those impacted by the devastation of Hurricane Irma and Maria. Until next month!

To read about more of Sheryl’s escapades, click here.

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