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Don Davis

Stories by Don

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Top of the Gap

Spectacular views are found on a geocaching hike to the summit of the Wallula Gap.

I vastly enjoyed last week’s pursuit of a geocache atop the west side of Wallula Gap with Bret Rankin and Nora the Schnauzer.

The Big Sink

A hike to the geologic anomaly is a mix of beautiful scenery, a variety of wildlife and some mysterious feelings.

I got the message when I lurched nose-first into a sticky spider web on the shade-darkened Sinks Trail:Perk up, dagnabbit!When I pulled at the gluey filament, a long-legged gray spider bustled across the back of my hand and fell from view like Batman swin

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Animals galore found along Mill Creek

Tuesday of last week sizzled. Nora the Schnauzer and I left home at 6:17 p.m. for her daily outing. It usually takes an hour. Or two. This one took longer. Way longer.

OUTDOORS - Animals galore found along Mill Creek

Tuesday of last week sizzled. Nora the Schnauzer and I left home at 6:17 p.m. for her daily outing.It usually takes an hour. Or two.This one took longer.Way longer.Let me set the scene.Normally in such heat we motor 10 minutes to Mill Creek, near Walla Wa

A 600-foot climb leads to stupendous views

WHEELER, Ore. — I won't pretend that Darlene and I actually planned a strategy for our visit to the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument during the two hours that we spent driving from Burns to John Day.We accepted some limitations, however.We could vis

It's a Fowl time

among the lakes, ponds and swamps along roads south of Burns, Ore.

Fowls by the dozens dipped up tasty tidbits in the grassy lakes, ponds and swamps along roadsides south of Burns, Ore.We saw ibises, avocets, black-necked stilts, curlews, grebes, egrets, herons and pelicans.And diving Caspian terns and swallows nipped bu

Jaw dropping

Views of Palouse Falls are awesome after high volumns of water cause a spectacle.

As March slipped into April, an unusually high volume of water plummeted 185 feet at Palouse Falls.Its roar and clouds of mist caught my fancy.So much so that after Nora the Schnauzer and I saw it on a Wednesday, we inveigled Darlene into going with us on

Spirits up — and down — on the Oregon Coast

Stormy weather causes differing emotions on the Oregon Coast.

The visit took place March 11-18.That Storm Watch beachcombing stint at Newport, Ore., on Tuesday (March 13) spiked my spirits up.Way up.The rains and the blustery winds that dominated Tuesday night, Wednesday all day and all night, Thursday off and on an

A Respite

from the March Storm Watch follows a power failure in Newport, Ore.

So, all normal motel sounds ceased at 8:21 p.m. on the second evening of our March Storm Watch stay at Newport, Ore.'s Hallmark Inn.No lights buzzing; no television yapping; no heater droning.And neither Darlene, Nora the Schnauzer nor I muttered a sound

Storm Watch turns out to be apt promo for trip to Newport

Near the end of February we received a Hallmark Inn at Newport email promo for March: Storm Watch.It's one of our favorite places, and a little wind and rain certainly would NOT be unusual on the Oregon Coast in March. And Nora the Schnauzer loves that be

Early case of Spring Fever

Blue skies and sunshine brings on a bout of Spring Fever in early March.

On Sunday, the fourth day of March, 2012, blue skies and sunshine warmed the cockles of my heart.Actually, I looked up that saying a few years ago. Google found it in a 2002 edition of 'World Wide Words," a free weekly e-magazine written by Michael Quinio

Searching for spring migrants

We entered Cheney on the Spangle-Cheney Road for an early lunch. I stopped at the main drag and looked both ways.Then, I remembered the nearby Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.'If you're not really hungry, we could hold lunch and visit the refuge," I sai

Wind and Waders

A serious trout fishing trip to the Deschutes River is skunked by even more serious wind.

Late on Sunday of last week, I clicked 'Fishing Report" on the website of the Deschutes Angler Fly Shop in Maupin, Ore ( read the first sentence of the latest entry (Feb. 14): The Deschutes is in prime shape ... with strong BWO

Eagles and Coots highlight of trip

Among the abundance of birds found at area wildlife areas, Don Davis' favorites are still eagles and coots.

I like the American coot.It's a white-billed, red-eyed dark bird that muddles in wetlands and open waters of the Columbia Basin.A bit frumpy looking, it seldom attracts bird lovers by the score.Anyway, I'm a coot fan.I also like bald eagles along with oth

Hideous turkeys? Nope

Jakes — rather than jennys — make for beautiful turkeys

Perhaps the golden-hour light of dusk enhanced the vivid shades and hues of the turkeys' feathers. They strutted in the rosy sunshine beneath yellow pines near The Last Resort RV Park on the Tucannon River Road.Perhaps, as jakes rather than jennys, they w

Birds aplenty...

but elk are harder to find on an icy trip to the McKay Creek area.

A few days ago, when a storm bearing snow and freezing rain belted Blue Mountain Country, I figured elk would stream down from the high country.As they did last winter.An estimated 3,500 of the big browsers migrated onto winter wheat fields in the McKay C

A Desert Refuge

Frogs and flowers are absent, but there are other attractions on a venture to the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge near Othello.

We visited Frog Lake on the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, about 14 miles out of Othello, on a warm mid-January day.We didn't see or hear any frogs for a couple of reasons. We visited the lake in January, and, well, the lake had no water.By the way, '

Palouse Falls frozen?

Surely not, but they do come to a stop through the magic of a camera's fisheye lens.

An irksome rumor circulated in my domestic circle during the final freezing days of 2011. It claimed that Palouse Falls had frozen solid.Imagine.I scoffed, of course. Yet, my conduit insisted her source had seen a photo of the frozen falls.Ha!Ooops!A patr

A filtered view

of a sunset comes through a new neutral-density filter delivered for Christmas.

A secretive Santa's elf slipped a gray, graduated neutral-density filter into my stocking where I found it on Christmas morning.It screws onto the end of a camera's lens.The dark half of it, normally turned to the top, resembles sunglasses.With this filte

South Fork Walla Walla River Trail leads painful fall


Judging from the wet spot on my jacket's left sleeve and the damp chill on my left buttock, I had hit the frozen ground on my side.It happened on an uphill two-track 20 yards past the crumbling Demaris Cabin on the South Fork Walla Walla River Trail.I hit

A Little Luck

leads to a clear picture of a ruby-crowned kinglet on a recent frosty December walk along Mill Creek.

The temperature may have reached into the 20s around noon on a recent mid-December weekday.An extended period of air stagnation, with its freezing fog and light snow, had decorated the flora along Mill Creek with dazzling designs, especially between Tausi

Muskrat Love

What are thought to be beavers turn out to be muskrats in an algae-covered pond off Frog Hollow Road while tooling around the Valley.

I slowed, stopped and idled the truck backward.'Beavers?” I asked.'Yes,” Darlene said.'Well, maybe,” she added, a tad less sure about 'two beavers” swimming in an algae-covered pond beside Frog Hollow Road. I stopped parallel to the pond and leaned to pee

Winter in Wallowa

Snow, buffalo, deer, bronze statues, delicious food and beautiful sights fill a trip to Wallowa Lake.

We started out before noon to check snow conditions on Weston Mountain at Morning Creek, Woodland Campground, Andies Prairie and Summit Road.We ended up at Wallowa Lake as the sun sank behind Chief Joseph Mountain.Then we dined at Heavenly's Restaurant an

Hiking the Lewis and Clark Commemorative Trail

Snow geese by the hundreds go completely unnoticed by Nora the Schnauzer while exploring the Lewis and Clark Commemorative Trail.

I heard geese honking.Nora the Schnauzer and I had trekked west from Government Beach on the Lewis and Clark Commemorative Trail for about five minutes.The geese honked in jarring, wrap-around sound.I surveyed the sky. Clear, icy blue.A perfect penultimat

Strolls along Mill Creek this time of year turn into a staredown with Little Unit

At dusk on Monday of last week, the Great Blue Heron that I call 'Little Unit,” and that I have been watching along Mill Creek for a few weeks, had something caught in his throat.He (or she?) gagged as if he needed a solid back slap.Or two.He gagged for 1

Fly fishing follies

A day at the mouth of the Deschutes nets little but an empty stomach.

A week ago Tuesday, the Deschutes Canyon Fly Shop's web site revealed 'fish throughout” the river system.I suggested to Darlene and Nora the Schnauzer that we motor to the confluence of the Deschutes and the Columbia rivers near Biggs Junction to hunt ste

OUTDOORS: Fish watching at the Oregon State Aquarium

NEWPORT, Ore. — Weekdays in early October apparently don't draw crowds at the Oregon State Aquarium like they do in the spring.Two years ago, in April, yellow buses crowded the aquarium parking areas. Some bore names of schools in Minnesota.Inside, I knoc

Preening pelicans are aplenty, along with sunning sea lions, on the Oregon Coast

Editor's Note: Part one of a visit to the Oregon Coast appeared here last Wednesday.

When Darlene, Nora the Schnauzer and I sat in the pickup, high above Newport's Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area tide pools, dozens of brown pelicans sailed overhead.

It's a dog's life

A possible death mars a trip to the Oregon Coast.

A small, yellow dog fell out of a pickup as we merged with the crowded, three-lane traffic on Interstate 5 at Vancouver. 'A dog fell out of that truck,” I gasped and jerked at the steering wheel.Darlene braced both arms against the dashboard. Her expressi

OUTDOORS - Turtles, dragonflies and herons

A day without plans leads from Rooks Park to the Whitman Mission, and to the McNary and Umatilla wildlife refuges as birds and animals of all kinds are discovered.

We fetched 16-ounce cups of Pike Place coffee from Starbucks on a bright, crisp Thursday morning last week.I snared a blueberry scone for me and a Very Berry Coffee Cake for Darlene.'Lots of calories,” I said. 'Keep us strong. Alert.”'And plump,” Darlene

OUTDOORS - Taking the Blitzen River Valley Auto Tour Route

The Blitzen River Valley Auto Tour Route makes 19 stops around Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Since we had visited the Malheur Lake Overlook in the spring, I turned right instead of left at the Malheur National Wildlife headquarters.Yet, the interpretive guide for the Blitzen River Valley Auto Tour Route lists the overlook as the first of the tour

OUTDOORS - Steens Mountain views are jaw-dropping

Amazing views are afforded from Steens Mountain despite smoke from recent wildfires

The day after Labor Day, smoke from Central Oregon wildfires limited the view from the East Rim of Steens Mountain.Yet, my jaw dropped.So did Darlene's.'Wow!” she said, although she remained several feet from the precipice.Nora, with toenails overhanging

It's a round-about road to Paradise

On the way to fish the Naches River west of Yakima last week, I suggested we take the opportunity to visit Paradise.That's Paradise as in Mount Rainier National Park.Some suggestion, but we had not done so since the 1970s or '80s.Anyway, Darlene agreed.'W

Whitman Mission goes to the Birds

Raptors from Blue Mountain Wildlife are on hand to educate about the mighty predators.

Blue Mountain Wildlife director Lynn Tompkins saved Ula, a golden eagle, for last at the recent raptor presentation beneath Whitman Mission shade trees.The regal bird of prey drew the expected expressions of awe and admiration from the 50 or so children a

Hoofin' it to Hoffer Lakes

A trip to Hoffer Lakes on the west side of Anthony Lake provides cooler weather for a pleasant hike with Nora the Schnauzer.

Four-year-old Nora the Schnauzer cavorted like an excited puppy in spring time during our late July hike to the Hoffer Lakes.Her antics made me smile. I enjoyed seeing her have fun.Nora, like many (most?) dogs, tends toward sluggishness or lethargy, if no

Taking the Zumwalt Prairie tour

Three access points allow pedestrians to enter the Zumwalt Prairie throughout the year.

The Zumwalt Prairie Auto Tour takes all day, especially during the spring when fields of green, patches of wildflowers, and duets of song birds divert your attention.As you tool north along Zumwalt/Buckhorn Road, calendar-like scenes of the craggy, snow-c

Late snow means a high-range rescue in the Blues

A trio of Good Samaritans stops to help Don, Darlene and Nora the Schnuazer after their rig is stuck in a snow field on the way to Table Rock.

Propped on both elbows under the pickup, I paused to huff-and-puff. My grip relaxed on the near useless, short-handled shovel.I backed into the sunlight and stood on the slippery, slanted, hard-packed drift.'It's high-centered,” I called ominously to Darl

Davis: A trip to Tollgate includes a visit with regional prep athletes

More than 100 high school athletes participate in a summer cross country camp at Tollgate hosted by Wa-Hi.

As a rule, four-footed critter tracks indent the dusty back roads in the Tollgate area: squirrels and deer, a scattering of opossums, raccoons, skunks and turkeys.The occasional cluster of elk. The rare black bear.And so on.During the fourth annual Tollga

Busy on the South Fork Walla Walla River Trail

An unusual number of hikers are encountered along the South Fork Walla Walla River Trail.

Usually I expect to see one or two people on a weekday hike along the South Fork Walla Walla River Trail.

Birds of a Feather...

We turned onto the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area at Pierce Road, near La Grande, Ore.Two minutes later, an antelope toting thick horns strutted across the road in front of the rig. A small group of females followed. I counted six, and none of them appeared con

Anglers need good lures, not luck, at Rocky Ford Creek

But even lures and prodigious skill yield no fish at Rocky Ford Creek.

The newly repaired Sage fly rod shined like burnished bronze in the bright sunlight at Rocky Ford Creek.You may recall that last month I walked on its tip section and crunched the graphite flat after, like a dufus, I lay the rod on the ground while photog

Buzzards abound at Malheur Wildlife Refuge

BURNS, Ore. — We rose early and hustled out of town without breakfast.We had P-Ranch buzzards on the day's menu.Actually, Darlene and I snacked on cups of orange juice and mini-bagels smeared with cream cheese in our motel room.Nora the Schnauzer ate kibb

Rabbits make quick distraction in Malheur Wildlife Refuge

Editor's Note: This is Part 2 of a three-part series from the Malheur Wildlife Refuge and other sites in Harney County, Ore. Part 3 will appear here on June 8.BURNS, Ore. — Darlene saw the jackrabbit at the Buena Vista Overlook turnoff and pointed.As I sw

It's a trip for the birds in Burns, Ore.

Don Davis and Nora the Schnauzer make a trip south to Burns, Ore.

BURNS, Ore. — After tooling into town at 11 minutes past 2 p.m. and locating the motel, we continued westward through Hines to the Bureau of Land Management office.A knowledgeable and pleasant woman there suggested two maps and six pamphlets to help me fi

Luck on a trip to Maupin, Ore., yields fishing pliers — and a broken rod

A gleaming pair of fisherman's pliers, for removing hooks and crimping barbs, lay in the grass on the Deschutes River bank.'Some poor dufus lost his pliers,” I tut-tutted to Nora the Schnauzer as she nosed around a few feet away.I picked them up and faste

Befuddled! Baffled! Perplexed!

But ultimately, a lost tool is found after it goes missing while on a hike in the Juniper Dunes Wilderness.

Befuddled! Baffled!And perplexed! The high-tech Brunton ADC Summit (used to tell time, altitude, barometric pressure, wind speed, etc.) had unknotted from the camera bag.Gone!Lost, in the Juniper Dunes Wilderness, possibly to join the long-ago-lost car ke

Tillamook Head's Clatsop Loop Trail a walk near William Clark's footsteps

Editor's Note: Part 2 of this report from the Oregon Coast appeared in this section last week.CANNON BEACH, Ore. — Nora the Schnauzer and I angled northward on a level stretch of the Clatsop Loop Trail, a few yards from the summit of Tillamook Head at Eco

A stormy Oregon Coast provides colorful tide pools

CANNON BEACH — After a full day and night of black clouds and torrential rain, a faint morning light seeped through the window of the inn.The clock said 6:42 a.m.I hustled into the clothes and rain gear. I hooked a camera over a shoulder and snapped Nora

Occasional squalls at Cannon Beach have visitors seeking shelter

Editor's Note: Part 2 of this rainy foray to the Oregon Coast will appear in this spot next Wednesday.CANNON BEACH, Ore. — A gray sky, a cold wind and a misty curtain failed to quell Nora the Schnauzer's enthusiasm for the wide expanse of sand.I unsnapped

The Yak ran high

on a recent angling adventure in the Ellensburg Canyon.

The Yak ran high, but it had leveled off and its color had improved.That's what the lad at Red's Fly Shop in Ellensburg Canyon said.OK.I stopped there to renew my fishing license because it would be convenient, although half-a-dozen days remained in March