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Getting a house sitter to care for 2 Mastiff/Lab dogs, plus indoor and outdoor cats is not always an easy task. This year also includes the responsibility of looking in on an elderly neighbor. Fortunately a dear person stepped up to the plate and I was able to go off grid for a few days, and it was well worth the effort!

Above Photo courtesy of Kira Tabor-Lewis.

The destination has been in the works for a year. A good friend and I have long wanted to explore Oregon’s Painted Hills and my daughter drove over from Idaho to meet up with us. My friend worked half a day Wednesday, and picked me up to head out over Mt. Hood to Prineville in late afternoon. There we grabbed a motel room and it didn’t take us long to search out some food. A mini Mexican deli was clearly the winner. The tiny 3 booth diner sat next door to a giant pink Mexican chain restaurant on Main Street, just before you get to the river. It wasn’t hard to choose the pint-sized local establishment. I couldn’t help but think that bright salmon/pink color looks better on Snapdragons in the garden! About $12.00 later we both were stuffed with excellent food and had finished off a round of imported beer. We discussed ideas for the next day, then window shopped before heading back to the motel to read and rinse off the last residue of Portland 2.5 hours behind us.

Morning found us eager to bust out of the motel and ready to expose tender skin that had been hiding under layers and layers of winter wool and fleeces. To think I had built a fire in the wood stove as I packed the night before! (I really must do this more often . . .)

Even before food and real coffee we returned to a promising store front window (found the night before) and were excited to find Wild Angel Antiques and Art was open and waiting to greet us.

It took us awhile to explore every inch of this treasure trove. I immediately found a large cattle skull for my daughter and son-in-law, but failed to remember to pick it up at the end of the hunt! My friend found some nostalgic vintage basket-weave cups for her daughter’s kitchen and I bought a piece of framed butterfly art for my girls collection. I also purchased myself a small framed piece of art – an artist named LERT created a wonderful bird painted on a bed of real leaves that had been decoupaged. (If you know anything about this artist, Lert, please let me know!)

After finding a great coffee cart on 3rd Street we headed for the Chamber of Commerce to get details of colorful detours to make as we continued our drive east on Highway 26 to the tiny town of Mitchell Oregon. We were fortunate to find the Chamber staffed that morning with a young woman who had been raised in Mitchell. Before long we were making notes and filling the white spaces of every paper sheet in our hands. Without her details we would have driven right past Steins Pillar (see photo 1 below) with its first blush of wild flowers bursting forth. Coming back out to Highway 26 we were treated to a large grouping of 11 or 12 bird species gathered along a shore. White Pelican’s always amaze me no matter where I find them! Without stopping at the Chamber we also would never have known of a gentle soul named Wally who tends an expensive gas pump in the heart of Mitchell where there once lived a caged bear. (I’ll tell you that story when I post Day 2 of this trip.)

The Painted Hills Cottage high above Mitchell Oregon’s “downtown” would be our charming home away from home for the next 3 nights. It is a true garden oasis created and tended by a charming artist mother-daughter team.  Next door is a smaller home and separate garden that they also rent out. I can still imagine the town’s deer wistfully peering in through the iron gates!

We set about preparing a birthday feast in the cottage’s buttercup kitchen and waited for my daughter to arrive! Eventually I claimed a comfy IKEA bed on the sunporch. Once tucked in under the high windows, it was magical to watch the Big Dipper brighten the night sky. It was slung very low over the ridge.  The stars reminded me of brilliant rhinestones. I finally closed my eyes and dreamed of running along the ridge and youthfully jumping up to touch each starry point as I darted along . . .