The End of The Grand Canyon of The Tuolumne Backpacking Trip

The Last Day and Conclusion

We learn more about what is inside of ourselves when we push ourselves, or are pushed, out of our comfort zones.  I found out that washing socks in cold river water is not sufficient to get them really clean and that wearing ones that aren’t 100% clean results in bad blisters!  I also found out that I need people more than I knew and that I need to say so.

Julie woke everyone up about 4:30 with a gentle rise and shine around the camp.  I got up in a flash and took the tent down in record time.  I got myself ready and put the last few finishes on my pack more quickly than ever.  But not quickly enough.  Before I was quite ready I saw all the campers, except for “the sweep”, lined up in military formation in the dark and heading out behind Julie.  I was ‘gobsmacked’- dumbfounded.  Devastated. I had thought there would be a few leaving a little bit later.  I didn’t think I’d be the last one – again. And I had no idea whatsoever how much it would bother me.  I’m sure now that others had no idea either.

Feeling sucker-punched I somehow rebounded enough to finish packing and then drag the pack to a log of the right height in order to strap that ape on my back again.  I hesitated before doing so causing ’S’ to wonder if I needed help.  He was casually taking his tent down and in no hurry.  I reassured him that I was just catching my breath and waiting for it to get light enough as I, for one, didn’t want to hike in the dark.  The truth was that I didn’t really want him – or anyone at that moment – to know how I really felt.

Finally, with a heavy heart, I got my boots moving down the trail to the bridge over the Tuolumne near where I’d happily swam that day rest filled day before.  It was a gentle trail to begin with and I would have enjoyed it if I hadn’t been reeling from shock.  I felt like crying but wouldn’t because I thought that would make it all worse.  After I‘d gone on for 1/2 mile or so I stopped and put my iPod on.  The music both helped and hindered.

The trail gradually began going up away from the river getting steeper.  Eventually I gave voice in my thoughts to my feelings as the music ministered to me forcing unwelcome tears.  Like an infected sore it all had to come out – that anger, that senseless sense of abandonment and betrayal.  So much for community!  As Richard has spoken of in a discussion of community referring to Henri Nouwen’s book, Spiritual Direction, we need community for growth, but community is far from perfect and hurt is inevitable.  Our woundings, from our too often painfully imperfect childhoods, may be broken open again.  Abandonment was one of mine and that wound was screaming things about the group which weren’t really true, although they felt it then.  I said to myself I’d never sing again and certainly wouldn’t ever tell anyone how this early morning being left behind ‘alone’ was affecting me!

After a few miles S caught up with me.  It was good to see another familiar face despite the state I was in.  I had come to think of him affectionately as a faithful sheepdog making sure I didn’t stray.  He stayed reserved and let me go on alone after a brief rest and chat assuming, I suppose, that I wanted to hike alone.  He had no idea of the storm raging inside my heart and mind.

The positive aspect of those miles was that I did not feel abandoned by God.  My music was gently reminding me that Christ’s love is faithful even when we behave and/or feel wretched.  Human love fails. Christ’s love is perfect and He promises to “never leave us or forsake us”. We can only trust in Him 100% alone. I don’t doubt that many people would say that they have felt forsaken in dark moments, but later realized that they were not.  But I felt His comforting presence and also gradually began to realize how ridiculous I was being to think so badly of the others.  They were afraid of hiking those switchbacks in the hot sun and of not being able to do it.  They had chosen to be together.  I had not told anyone when I was leaving and only assumed that there would be a few others leaving at the same time.  Assuming things makes an ‘ass out of U and Me’ (ass u me).

It was probably only about 2 hours before I caught up with the last two of the group by which time God was whispering to my soul to stop being silly and walk with others as I realized I needed to do.  So, after passing them once, I stopped and waited for them to catch up.  Then I found out that one of them was having difficulties and the other was helping her.  I felt bad for not seeing this before and my sense of loyalty overcame my self-centered focus.

I stayed with them the rest of the journey.  Helping someone else, or at least wanting to, helped me.  We played 20 Questions as we walked and actually had a little fun!  My loneliness subsided and my soul became more balanced again.  The rest of the climb was still very hard, but there was beauty helping us too. We passed through a wet, sloped meadow of Quaking Aspens such as I’d never seen before.  The hard switchbacks were behind us and we hoped the hardest part had been overcome. Wild flowers were everywhere and the air was becoming cooler.  The higher elevation changed what we could see around us.  The sense of accomplishing this dreaded part of the trip buoyed me up.

The rest of that climb was still quite a challenge and we had to rest often, refill our water bags, take in snacks and deal with our infirmities.  Out troubled companion got help from S and John who carried some of her stuff.  We 5 became a group and I was grateful for that.

HardenPanoramaLjkeHarden Lake was a turning point for me when I sensed that we didn’t have so much farther to go and were already at quite a high elevation again.  As it turned out the last few miles were quite a slow slog along a gravel road that seemed to never end.

But finally there was Richard’s rich red truck welcoming us back to White Wolf.  UnknownOh the joy of that moment!  I’ll savor it always.  Getting into his truck and sitting on a comfy car seat again. Ahhh.  And he’d already been to the store, bought a burrito and saved a half for me!  I had been looking forward to ice cream but this somehow was even better.  Oh, and Julie had a few beers to share one of which I exultantly enjoyed.  My blisters still hurt but those first moments back in a little bit of ‘civilization’ were so special I could easily ignore the little bit of pain.

The rest of the evening was similarly special as we all enjoyed real showers and clean clothes along with food that wasn’t previously freeze-dried.  I slept in a big soft bed that merced05night with clean sheets and the sound washing over me of another friend, the Merced River, just outside the balcony door.  It was heavenly.

The next morning I realized how much I’d missed my Bible too and gave thanks for the Gideons.  Gideon Bibles are often still kept in motel nightstands and I hope they always will be.  The one I found spoke volumes to me as I welcomed familiar the passages jumping off the pages into my sore soul with The Spirit’s energy rejuvenating me.  More unexpected tears flowed which then I welcomed. I felt like my soul had been freeze-dried too and was now becoming full-bodied again, restored.  I had an unplanned mini-retreat right there.

The end of the group experience was a great breakfast at Julie’s comfy ‘Casa del Sol’ Cabin.  She graciously hosted us once again after leading us all week with such care.  After eating, still gathered around a real table seated on cushioned chairs, one of the group shared her essay on the book of Job and suffering.  Not exactly celebratory, but for this trip and my own experience it was quite fitting.  A lively discussion followed which I didn’t jump into.  But then I realized I needed to share something of what I’d gone through the day before as a way of ‘repenting’ my somewhat childish, emotional thinking and saying that I would never sing again!  Having been so enlivened in the motel room I felt The Spirit’s prompting to express my ‘take’ on suffering – it’s ‘purpose’ – at least as I could see it especially in my life from that somewhat traumatic trip coming then to closure.  So I shared of my pains throughout the week and what had happened the morning before as well as a little about a close friend’s Stage 4 cancer.  I quoted Romans 8:28 AND verse 29 as explanations for God’s purpose, which I see as: Conformity to the person of Christ – not Comfort.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”  Romans 8:28-29 (New International Version)

This seemed to be well-received and I was thankful that many prayed for my friend afterwards.  We also brought the table-time to an end with prayer.  This was a great way to conclude the trip.

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Backpacking Continued, Days 3- 4

Pate Valley, Wednesday Evening after a refreshing dinner. 

With our day of rest in question, we had a discussion about the pros and cons of staying at our campsite there and resting, as had been originally planned, or looking for another campsite in the morning and moving on at least a few miles in order to minimize the stress of the 3,500 foot in 5 miles challenge looming large on Friday.  Everyone who wanted to speak up did, it seemed, and eventually we reached a consensus to stay and rest.  It was also decided that Friday morning that anyone determined to would leave even before daybreak.  No one wanted to face the switchbacks in the later hot part of the day.

So Thursday was a day of taking it easy after all; swimming, exploring Pate Valley and playing cards.  Most of the group hiked to see the Native American Pictographs and other archeological remains of the people who once called Pate Valley their home.  There was also said to be a sacred burial ground nearby.  Julie had stories to tell of this which she may contribute later.

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Here is a link to more great photos by other backpackers of the past:

I decided to stay and rest my leg with the pulled muscle.  (I had no more trouble with it after that thankfully.)  It was great to sit in my chair by the river in the morning, to write, reflect and draw. I noticed how all of the granite river stones were worn round by being smooth-river-stones-wall-inkblueskytumbled against each other.  It made me think of how people who stay in community become like this with sharp edges worn off.

Later in the afternoon, when it was quite warm, I spent a good chunk of time in the swimming hole by the bridge which we would cross in the morning.


The swimming hole was just perfect. I love lazy summer days.  When I came back to camp I stayed chilled and it was fun playing cards with Richard, eating starters courtesy of Tamar again and then hor-derves as well before dinner!

After dinner we were surprised with delightfully hilarious entertainment from the young trail crew across the river who were celebrating halloween early!


They gave us a talent contest which was crazy and full of unexpected variety. We had to decide the winners and it was a tough call.  One of the them, my favorite, gave us the most well spoken rendition of this famous poem I have ever heard.

Jabberwocky, by Lewis Carrol

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun

The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand;

Long time the manxome foe he sought—

So rested he by the Tumtum tree

And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,

The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,

Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,

And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through

The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!

He left it dead, and with its head

He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?

Come to my arms, my beamish boy!

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”

He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

That evening we retired early and many slept out under the stars as it was quite warm at night there.  Almost everyone was fully ready to break camp before daybreak.  I thought I was ready to pack up and head out at least with a few of the other less super-hearty-campers at dawn.  But it was not to be.

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Through the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne continued…

Before going on with the story here is a photographic interlude courtesy of Richard and others who kindly shared photos…

This is from Tuolumne Meadows at the start when Julie was explaining about the high mountains and what grows at the various elevations we were to pass through.













Throughout the journey we were keeping our eyes open for one of these!







It was always welcoming to come upon one of these old signs, but we learned that the mileage was usually inaccurate.





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A few of us taking some time for thoughtful reflection including Laurie, ‘Gandalf’ and yours truly.



Stalwart Judy chilling at the ‘grotto’ on Wednesday.












Our Friend, the Tuolumne River

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The passes, our challenges


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‘The Kitchen’ in Pate Valley with Tamar making much appreciated hors d’oeuvres; Sylvan exhibiting the mushroom he’d found and some of ate and lived to tell the story (kind of slippery texture!); Julie and Sylvan making oatmeal or cream of wheat.

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tuolumnemapWednesday I got going a little more slowly than others and was feeling the weight of that pack along with struggling to fight off insects swarming my face.  I thought they were mosquitos and so I took time to stop and dig the hat net I’d borrowed out of my pack. But when I put it on I could hardly see.  So, I took it off again.  I later found out that the insects were only “eye flies’ which don’t sting. Putting on this net involved taking the pack off. I normally tried to do this by locating a boulder, tree stump or log at the right height so that I could put it on again without lifting it.  This process was one of the many ordeals which most of the women in our group struggled with.  I guess I should have done more weight lifting in preparation!  Asking each other for help was another strategy that underlined the group/community nature of the trip.  But often we became strung out along the trail so there wasn’t always someone there at the right moment to help.

56a2c66bec5a490849831f5fThe trail at that point went along very close to the river and I enjoyed it after the insects stopped annoying me. Except when I had duck under a tree branch at a tricky narrow part and had my hat knocked off.  I managed to get my hat gear back on but lost my sunglasses!  Patience and determination were greatly needed.  Julie came along at that point and we went back and found my sunglasses. Then we hiked together for a while enjoying edifying conversation. We passed many more waterfalls named Water Wheel Falls (below), Le Conte and California. waterwheel-falls-32

Later we came to a long, steep climb up away from the river, by which time I was hiking alone again.  I listened to my iPod and found my music to be hugely helpful.  Although the going was tough, I enjoyed much of it.  But I was aware at every boot-step or placement of a pole that if I put one wrong I could take a serious tumble and probably break something.  Somehow I managed to pull a muscle in my left leg and had some pain to cope with as I continued on. Even so, the views from the top of the mountain pass were astounding.  When I caught up with one of our group near the top we took a few photos.

Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne in Yosemite Backpacking Trips

Coming down again on my own having passed her, I stopped to take a break on the trail and enjoy the solitude.  This was the wilderness.  No tourists here.  Only serious hikers. The entire week we encountered only a small number of people coming the other way.  It did seem though that most people hike this trail the opposite way than we did.  At one point I was surprised to see a Park Ranger coming along who asked to check out my bear canister which was one of her official duties.  She just knocked on it to verify that it was in my pack.  None of us saw or heard any bears even though their scat was prevalent.  This indicates that the use of bear canisters has become effective in preventing bears from searching for food from humans in their camps or tents.

A long series of switchbacks eventually led down to more shaded forest and an amazingly beautiful ‘grotto’ with a wispy waterfall and a pool providing an oasis – the perfect place to take a break.  Most of the group was already chilling there and refueling water bottles using our shared pumps.  It was exhilarating removing my boots and plunging my cooked feet into the pool.  After all the group caught up and prepared to go on again we were getting into an even hotter part of the afternoon.

The grotto waterfall and creek from it was a tributary of the main river. This tributary soon joined it and when we saw the river gushing again far below us, the view was exciting and welcome.  Our ‘friend’ had been missed. However, the trail continued up and up away into hot baking sun and then down once more near it and a little refreshing shade.  At this point I was so overheated that I found a rock the right size to lean against to remove my pack and then I went over to the river to splash water on my face, soak my bandanas, wrap them around my neck and my head.  This helped me to keep cool for a while, but once the trail led up high again I began to feel that I was being roasted alive and wondered how much longer I could plod on.  Not long after this I looked down to the southeast and noticed the river again. Then I saw a crystalline, jade pool with members of our group already swimming in it and even sliding down the smooth granite formed by the cascade.  Ah, hope! I was going to make it. My pace picked up and I could hardly wait to get down there to wade in.  I had completed one of the hardest hikes of my life thus far.

We swam, played and chilled there for a couple of hours hesitant to leave.  We chatted with a father and daughter resting there too who had come from White Wolf.  They told us of rattle snakes and bears they had encountered.  They also said how horribly hard the switch backs coming down from White Wolf were.  It was reassuring to consider that our plan of going up on Friday really was a better idea than going down.

The last part of the trail that day was much more pleasant as we hiked on a level path through the river meadow with flowers on softer ground.  After an hour or so we arrived at the camp ground chosen by one of our guides and set up camp.  We were then in Pate Valley, which was to be our resting place for the next day.  134_IMG_0641xIt was a wide, flat area with the river to the south of our camp and the trail crew’s housing on the other side.  To the northwest there was a broad expanse of forest and large boulders.  050815-028-pate-campgroundWe pitched our tents on whatever soft ground we could find and formed a ‘kitchen area’ in the center.  I thought it would be great to rest that evening, to look forward to having a day to relax and not need to get up early to pack up.  I needed time to rest my sore leg and to regain some energy.  Some of the others felt the need of a rest as well, but a few wanted to move on and camp farther west so that the big challenge looming before us on Friday could be lessened.  It looked like our day of rest might not be complete after-all.

To be continued…

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This trip was not for sissies.  Each day of the 5 day journey I faced new challenges, but always in the back of my mind loomed the greatest of them all: 3500 feet in 5 miles uphill.

13891923_10207429512516855_5959517552069959853_nAfter a quick ‘before’ photo of our group of ten (photographer is no. 10), including three experienced leaders who were organizing our morning and evening meals, we started out from Tuolumne Meadows about 9:00 Monday morning on August 1st.  I was still trying to figure out how my water system would work, how to keep everything on my pack and how to keep my pack on my back!  It was at least 30 pounds and kept slipping as we walked.  These details niggled me for most of the trip.

We couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather and the trail was easy to begin with.  Julie Miller, our main leader and a nature park ranger stopped us at the Soda Springs where she explained that this was a historic spot SodaSpringsReduxespecially significant that this month we are celebrating 100 years of the National Parks.  And, “It was here, over a century ago, in Tuolumne Meadows, John Muir (1839-1914) introduced his friends to this mountain wilderness; it was here where conservationist Muir began the discussion that created Yosemite National Park 1890.”

Julie also pointed out the flora and fauna living at that high altitude of 8,600 feet.   She brought to our attention that hardly anything was living on the bare granite peaks towering above us not far away.  As we began our gradual descent into the canyon she pointed out trees, shrubs and flowering plants which thrived at the lower elevations.  I enjoyed learning the differences of Jeffery Pines, Lodge Pole Pines, Fir and Cedar Trees.

We enjoyed walking along the river and encountering the first of many 14021552_10207460237324956_8438315802412058223_ncascades.  As we were taking our time on that day we ‘lollygagged’ a bit along the way.  I put together my new camp chair (well worth the price and 1lb. weight to have something comfortable to sit on!) and spent some time gazing in awestruck wonder at hundreds of feet of abundant foamy water cascading over layers of rock which looked like a broad stairway.  The river was our friend and companion throughout this journey.  We drank from it, swam in it and washed in it.  It was our refreshment, delight and entertainment.

We hiked about 6 miles that first day which was challenging for me.  Eventually we arrived white-cascade-400wdown at Glen Aulin camp ground near another beautiful waterfall.


And it was also  wonderful to discover a real pit toilet!  I was so sore that all I wanted to do was to set up my tent, take some ibuprofen and lay down.  I cannot remember much about our meal except that it was good to eat, nor our conversation that first evening.  I think it was deep and meaningful, but I was too sleepy to take it in.

The second day we had a combination of steepish downhill, more delightful views of waterfalls and cascades along with some easier level walking.  I was still wondering what I’d got myself into, and did I really want to be there, when we became aware of a helicopter coming into the canyon to transport materials for trail work crews.  I wondered how much it might cost to be air-lifted out!

But I didn’t really mean it because of the beautiful devotion we’d been bathed in from one of our group that Tuesday morning.  First she read this classic poem by Robert Frost:

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.


She also read Psalm 29

Give unto the Lord, O you mighty ones,

Give unto the Lord glory and strength.

Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name;

Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;

The God of glory thunders;

The Lord is over many waters.

The voice of the Lord is powerful;

The voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

And then she sang a haunting black gospel melody with her sweet and gentle voice the chorus of which was: ‘Wash Over Me, wash over me, wash over me I pray, wash over me, wash over me, wash over me today.’  Well, that was it for me!   I was awash with the overwhelming cascade of emotions released by this beauty and caused by these physical challenges.  So I moved close to the river to pray and wail.  It felt good to get it all out and to be refreshed spiritually and emotionally.

The rest of that day was blessed by the river as we swam often.  I dove in two times and waded in once.  The first time was the best as we surprisingly came upon our leader, who had encouraged us to do a little more lallygagging, sunbathing by a clear granite pool.  I just had to stop and get in too.  Diving was the easiest way even if the shock was painful at first.  Wondrously invigorating it was.  The second time the whole pack of us went in farther down and it was fun to see each one managing their own way of getting in and out.  I followed the leader one more time and dove in from a higher height than I ever have dived before.  What a rush that was too! The third time was in the evening as the evening meal was being prepared and we still had time and light.  I went down the trail a bit to another swimming hole and enjoyed creeping in slowly and then sunning myself in the evening rays while sitting on a warm boulder.  That was a good day.

To be continued….

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Following on from Ashland/Oregon, my No. 10 Favorite City, here is a review of one of the plays enjoyed during my visit in June




One of the most popular plays being staged in Ashland this summer is the 1930s Hollywood version of 12th Night directed by Christopher Liam Moore being performed in the Angus Bowmer Theater.  It was certainly the favorite play of most of the group I was with.

The twists and turns of this comedy are well known to Shakespeare fans so I won’t detail the plot here, but you can follow this link if you’d like help remembering:

Setting the play in 1930s Hollywood ‘Ilyria Studios’ worked very well and added greatly to the continuity and success of the production with singing, dancing, costuming and set design blending together seamlessly.  Olivia was cast as a secluded and pampered movie star who came across as someone like Josephine Baker.


Entertainment, Personalities, pic: circa 1930, Josephine Baker, (1906-1975) American born dancer and singer Josephine Baker (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)

Stunning sequined hand-made gowns clung to her and in the final scene she was raised up on a dais as a princess of hollywood enthralling the audience.


The Oregon Shakespeare Festival. 2016. Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare. Directed by Christopher Liam Moore. Scenic Design: Christopher Acebo. Costume Design: Susan Tsu. Lighting Design: Robert Wierzel. Video: Shawn Duan. Composer and Sound Designer: David Reiffel. Choreographer: Jaclyn Miller. Photo: Jenny Graham.

Orsino was cast as a somewhat eccentric and humorously demanding, German film producer.  Viola and Sebastian were played by the same actress who did an amazing job, although this double role proved to be a bit problematic.  Sir Toby Belch, Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Malvolio were wonderfully cast in appropriate attire for the times as drunken leeches, and a serious butler type character respectively.



Maria, Olivia’s maid, did an excellent job connecting Olivia with the layabouts and the trickery they planned against Malvolio.  When Feste came on the stage as a character somewhat like Harold Nichols, he somewhat stole the show.(   Although his character was a little inscrutable thanks to the bard’s lines, the persona of Feste (Rodney Gardiner) as the wise fool gave the play gravitas.

For a short preview click on this link

The design elements – setting, props, costumes and choreography of the dance scenes and the singing were fun and brilliantly done with the action taking place by a pool, so it seemed.  Behind the pool a curved, broad stairway went up to Olivia’s apartments giving the stage depth, levels and the feeling of Olivia being away up there lost in her mourning when she wasn’t on stage.  The fencing scene playfully fought all over the stage, including the stairs, was especially delightful.

The acting, singing, dancing and fighting were all well done with a packed house fully engaged in response.  It was a near perfect production.  The problem alluded to earlier was that Viola and Sebastian were one person.  The young woman acting this out managed to make clear with her version of masculine and (disguised) feminine body language and a slight change of voice which one was which. (They were clothed the same.) The masculine came across, but the feminine was portrayed only by awkwardness and weakness. However, when they both needed to appear on the stage at the same time a screening device was used along with the help of another body so that they could appear to be conversing.  It was rather too complicated and ineffective though.  And at the very end there was only one person strolling arm in arm between Olivia and Orsino.  Viola’s femininity was missed along with the Bard’s original ending. This is why I’m giving the play only 4.5 Stars.  Nevertheless, it is well worth seeing and I would enjoy it again.


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Number 10 of 10 Favorite Cities! Ashland, Oregon


Top Ten Cities No 10: Ashland

Finally I have arrived at my Number 10 city.  There are many others out there which I considered writing about as they have captivated me such as Salzburg, Vienna, Krakow and Bath.  I would like to visit them again one day and perhaps I will write about them eventually.  But Ashland, being more recently delighted in, has been given the Number 10 spot here.  It is not so glamorous or famous, but what a great time we had and I am looking forward to returning again soon.

The criteria for my ‘Top Ten Cities’ includes:

~ Attractive location, lots of green spaces for people to enjoy and a water attraction

~ The central area can be enjoyed on foot

~ Activities include historical sights and outdoor entertainment

~ Lots of coffee shops, pubs and culturally interesting food

Ashland is conveniently located near the Interstate 5 just north of the Oregon border and Mount Ashland.  It is 2,000 feet above sea level in the Rogue River Valley of southwest Oregon.  The lovely Lithia Park is in the midst of the many theater buildings, restaurants, boutique shops and coffee shops.  Mount Ashland Creek runs through the park providing constant refreshening on hot summer days.  fall-2011_0072_a_lo

imagesOne of my precious memories of this first visit to Ashland was getting up early on Saturday morning and discovering trails on both sides of the full creek which were connected by many walking bridges.  location_11The creek, flanked on both sides by mature evergreens, runs north away from the mountain. As I hiked south I was going slightly uphill stopping frequently to enjoy the sound of the cascading creek from the top of many of these bridges.  The cool morning gradually warmed up into a perfect summer’s day as I came to the end of trails and turned around to return to our comfy yet spacious shared cottage for breakfast. (


Since Ashland is small, the central area can be reached and explored on foot.  We were happy to leave the car at the cottage most of the weekend and walk into the center for our various events.

The first event of the weekend was a ‘backstage tour’ culminating at the first and oldest of the many theaters there.  Each theater has a unique and intriguing history with varying advantages depending on its modernity. The many people working in the repertory have to consider such a huge number of variables. For my part, as a theater goer, I found the Angus Bowmer to be the most comfortable theater, but the oldest, the outdoor Elizabethan, to be the most interesting.


Going backstage there was fascinating. The stage hands were busy preparing for Hamlet, the play we were soon to see.  The tour guide showed us where the props were stored and where actors would change costumes.  She explained how costumes were created and the fact that most were uniquely designed for each play.  We were also given inside information about how actors knew when to come on stage using a system of lighting on top of stage panels.  Props and costume changes would be hidden behind these panels.  These changes, along with wigs, might also be hidden under the stage or in other special entrances.  Backstage crew members would assist with changes if needed. One of the most fun aspects of the tour was at the end to walk out from backstage onto the old Elizabethan stage and to imagine what it would be like to be in a play there.

The large theaters aren’t the only entertainment to be had at the OSF.  There are also free, pre-play ‘shows’ on the ‘green’ and free talks given by actors or directors.  We enjoyed both of these events throughout the weekend.  My favorite entertainment on the green was a troop of Morris dancers and especially one cute guy who never stopped grinning from ear to ear as he ‘galumphed about’ with the bells on his legs.

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The talk we attended, including questions and answers, was given by (Rodney Gardiner) who played Feste from 12th Night. (See review which follows.)  This was great and I wish I had a recording. We were surprised when told us that he had learned to tap dance just recently for his role as Feste.  He also provided us with insights as to how he interpreted his character as well as his feeling about being there at OSF.  To paraphrase that aspect, he greatly appreciates OSF because he can focus on his roles while there and not have to think too far ahead about the next gig in another city somewhere.  This is because, as a repertory theatre, actors are given roles in various plays keeping them fully employed.  In fact, one of the amazing things we discussed in our group, was how versatile the actors were and sometimes it was hard to believe that a character was played by the same actor we had seen playing another – so very different character – the night before.

We also enjoyed sharing meals out at two different restaurants.   One was the Greenleaf ( located in the central area where we dined in their patio alongside of the creek before the evening green show and Hamlet.  Everyone in our large group of about 15 enjoyed their meal. For breakfast place we went to popular The Morning Glory restaurant which was great fun and has excellent food.  It’s located along the main road to the east of the central area. (

Additionally there were two outdoor markets when we visited.  One was a local farmer’s market replete with samples of many delectable delights and young musicians busking. The other was of local artisan’s unique wares.  All the stalls were of high quality handmade items.  (

As you can imagine there are many other restaurants, coffee shops, tea houses, pubs and gift shops in the central area.  I did not have time to visit them all and so I must return one day!

Besides the main attractions of the theaters there are many outdoor pursuits nearby including walking, picnicking and playing tennis in Lithia Park.  I played a little tennis on Sunday afternoon until it became unbearably hot.  Then we went up to the Lithia Park Reservoir for a chilling swim and a rest on the lawn.

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As a final recommendation for a weekend visit to Ashland, if you are looking for some spiritual uplifting on Sundays, there are a number of places to worship.  We were glad to have found our way to the Christian Church of Ashland. (  We enjoyed a warm and lively time of singing and a challenging talk given by a humble guy speaking for one of the first times in his life.  The usual pastor was away.  I’m sure it would be a great place to return to any time.

I certainly am looking forward to returning to Ashland again next year!


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