Hiking Cascade Head & Loving the Coast!

The trailhead is at Knight’s Park at the end of Three Rocks Road in Otis, by the Salmon River. A relatively open area, the trail begins at the edge of Cascade Head Ranch, a privately held, environmentally-conscious residential community. Within the “Ranch” area is the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, established in 1970 by the Neskowin Coast Foundation, and home to many interesting artistic events and scientific efforts.
The greater Cascade Head Recreational area is comprised of lands acquired for conservation and study beginning as early as 1934. This is an ecologically rich locale that has been the subject of public interest for decades.

Road's End
Last year, Nature Conservancy celebrated the 50-year anniversary of their Cascade Head Preserve acquisition. In the 1960’s, a volunteer effort to save the area enabled The Conservancy to purchase land that was slated for commercial development. Their action added important habitats, such as the prairie headland and old growth forest to this oasis of unspoiled coastal habitat.
The Salmon River estuary, a rare and pristine saltwater marsh, empties the waters of the Salmon River into the Pacific Ocean at the Head. The trail rises gently from the Salmon River through old growth forest to the coastal meadows that once were a ranch cited for development. The meadow provides a view of the estuary, the spit, Road’s End rocks and the vast Pacific Ocean.
The entire protected area was designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1980. These unspoiled ecosystems are used to establish the ‘ideal’ for evaluating the restoration needs of degraded habitats in other areas of the Coast. I am standing in an area that is home to more than 350 species of wildlife including four federally listed endangered species.

Sitka Spruces
I am walking with a friend. It’s a sunny Sunday afternoon in February. The colors are muted. The sky is overcast with occasional bursts of sunshine. Today is the second day without rain. Still, there are muddy spots and I’m glad that I wore hiking boots.
Numerous places along the hillside dribble water from springs gently overflowing through the low growth, moss, grass and ferns. In a few months, the area will be drier. Now, the creeks that we cross are full of rushing, bubbly water. Standing on the bridge, I’m tempted to toss a leaf from one side and wait for it to appear downstream.
Continuing to amble uphill, we encounter steps cut in to the dirt path and braced with timbers. The wet ground would be too slippery to navigate otherwise, but it is not a difficult walk. The outdoors is best enjoyed at a slow pace anyway.
Everyone we encounter is friendly. Sometimes a few words are exchanged about the beauty of the day and the trail. Like us, most are in pairs, conversing as they walk. All ages are represented. Some are outfitted with the latest hiking and running gear while others are in standard casual clothing. A family on a day trip from Portland has their young children with them. Mostly, we wander along contentedly with just the low hums and chirps of the forest.

We comment on the stands of old Sitka Spruces and long-standing Hemlock trees draped with vegetation. The mosses hanging in their boughs have been so heavily watered by recent Winter storms that they resemble huge over-fed cats lying lazily on the branches. Some are basking in the sunlight. As I enjoy the mosses, my eye focuses on a round shape. It is a beautifully built bird’s nest, cleverly lined with the stuff.
My companion tells me about ‘nurse trees’ that provide a growing medium to so many other species of plant by hosting them in their branches, just like these trees. The ground is completely carpeted with moss in some places in the forest.
Light filters down gently. Where a tree has fallen, pockets of pure sunshine create otherworldly gardens surrounded by the darker patches of forest. Mushrooms and lichens adorn rotting stumps. As we bask in the lavish scene of ecology that surrounds us, we notice the clean, white skeleton of a coastal deer on the ground.
A Berwick’s wren calls repeatedly and we stop to try and see this little bird. Our eyes pick up motion in the underbrush. He’s busily kicking up moss and fallen leaves. The little bird moves rapidly, pecking the ground after each foot-scratch.
Suddenly, we find ourselves in open grassland. The sea is ahead of us and the estuary is to our left. The path levels out and we pause, taking in the new surroundings. One of the signs provided by the Nature Conservancy states that this meadow is home to a multitude of rare plants and insects.

Trail 9
The endangered Oregon Silverspot butterfly is found here and in only 5 other locations in the world. The Hairy Checkermallow is a rare flowering plant that lives on this hilltop and 99% of the world’s population of the Cascade Head CatchFly is up here with me, too.
I don’t know if I got near to a Hairy Checkermallow or any other kind. I’ll bring a field guide with me next time and maybe I’ll know one when I see one. We did see a beautiful bald eagle flying high above us. The view from the meadow just gets more and more impressive as we walk towards the headland.
We have arrived at the headland. It juts out over steep cliffs, far above bays and beaches. Some of our fellow hikers are having picnics by the trail. The air is calm and high clouds create beautiful swooping patterns in the sky above.
I notice that many of us are simply standing quietly and enjoying the openness, the view and the joy of being immersed in nature. Without conscious choreography, we find ourselves standing in small groups along the path, facing the same direction, taking in the immense grandeur of it all.

Salmon River Estruary
Like this vast area of pristine ecosystems, we have come from the road to the trail and from the river to the sea. We have traveled, in only a couple of hours, through ancient forest to an astonishing headland prairie.
My friend and I made a journey too, from the noise of life in the modern day to the rhythm of the Oregon Coast as it has been for thousands of years. Thanks to those who began this effort and those who continue it, this pristine Coastal experience will be here for generations to come.

I’m Loving The Coast! – Sarah

Posted in About Real Estate, Lincoln City Community Interest | Leave a comment

About Appraisals

Whether you are looking to sell your home, or in the process of buying a new one, the sale of property with the assistance of a bank loan almost always requires the servicese of an appraiser. An appraiser is essentially a home inspector who uses the information they gather about the home in very specific ways, as dictated by their code of ethics and professional standards. In fact, the appraisal is one of the keys that allows or prevents a loan from funding.

Once the home is inspected, inside and out, the appraiser will use the information to analyze the value of the property as-is. This analysis is based upon a multitude of comparisons against other properties that have already sold, the cost of re-building the structure and/or the availability of other properties in competition with the subject property. The condition of a property will either allow the property to meet the asking price or not.

The second analysis to be done by the appraiser is to look for safety violations in the home that the bank’s lending guidelines have on a list. These items, if not up to the lending program’s stated guidelines, will prevent funding.

In the case of the property falling short of the value mark, if the property could be valued higher if certain repairs were to be performed, the appraiser will usually give a value to those repairs in the report and suggest they be completed.

In the case of a listed safety issue, the appraiser will list the items that the bank will require to be changed in the appraisal report as well. Those items are special guidelines given to him or her by the bank as to what would disqualify the property. They are not mysterious to most contractors; they follow the standards in building, such as railing measurements and the depth of steps.

Of course, there exist the special attributes that a homeowner has no control over, such as location, view, and amount of land that goes with the house. However, there are many items that can make or break an appraisal.

The roof, siding and foundation are key to the value of a home, but the interior of the home is very important a well, when assessing value. Additionally, the overall appearance of the home is important. Before the appraisal, it is important for the homeowner to clear out any leftover building materials and items that have no use. Neat and clean goes a long way to the overall impression of the property. Unsightly or damaged items should be removed.

Here is a list of items that will be analyzed as part of any appraisal:

  • Foundation (Materials used, installation, condition)
  • Roof (Materials used, installation, amount of usable life left)
  • Siding (Materials used, installation, condition)
  • Decks (Materials used, measurements of railings, balusters, steps & decking/supports analysis)
  • Windows (Condition of Glass, Insulated? Metal -vs- Vinyl Frames, overall condition)
  • Ceilings (Materials used, installation, condition)
  • Doors (Materials used, installation, amount of usable life left)
  • Floors (Condition of floor & Flooring materials used, installation, amount of usable life left)
  • Walls (Building materials, installation and paint)
  • Plumbing (Pipe materials, Leaks, Drain effectiveness, hot water heater evaluation)
  • Electrical (Power box, outlets, proper wiring, safety check)
  • Interior / Exterior Paint (coverage, amount of usable life left)
  • Appliances (Age and condition) Insulation (Age and condition)
  • Pest Activity (Active Pest Activity)
  • Driveways / Walkways (Condition, Slope, Materials used)
  • Stairs / Steps (Railings, Spacing of Steps & Balusters, Condition, Materials)
  • Exterior Landscaping (Lawns mowed, overgrown bushes trimmed, unsightly junk removed, etc… as nice as possible)

This list is not a complete list, but does give the major items that will be scrutinized.

© Sarah Johnson, Broker


Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Loving The Coast

I recently spoke with a client who was calling in from another state.  She was inquiring about properties here in Lincoln City and we were setting up a tour of a few homes to take place during her upcoming visit.  At that moment, our discussion had turned to the area, which she had driven through on a vacation a number of years before. “Well”, she said, “We are really just looking for something near the beach and not too far from really good hiking in the woods.  I like going on nature hikes and, oh, my husband likes to fish so we need to be close enough to the Siletz and the Salmon Rivers.  Are there places nearby where we could maybe do some ocean fishing? I’d like to be within easy walking distance of beaches and maybe even tidepools.  I heard that there are some wetlands locally situated where a herd of elk live, that’s really nice.  We were amazed at all the birds along the shore… we saw a bald eagle and egrets and great blue herons; The outlet mall was good, I remember that, but we would have to be within 30 minutes or so of some big chain stores for office supplies and other household necessities.  Maybe we could look for homes near the lake, as long as we would be near the beach, too. It seems like a great place for boating and water-skiing.  We are looking for something not too big, but don’t want to live in a matchbox, either. Do you think you can find us a place that can provide all that?”

My answer “Yes!” I Love The Coast!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Cats of Spanish Head

I’ve now represented numerous clients in the purchase of units at the Inn at Spanish Head in Lincoln City. Today, I’m here for another reason — to get the story of the Cats of Spanish Head.

It’s a warm afternoon in late May at the Coast. The sun is out and the air is calm. A black and white cat is sunning itself on an upholstered chair by the window in the lobby of the Inn at Spanish Head in Lincoln City.

Mama Cat lies there with her eyes closed, moving the end of her tail ever-so slowly, sometimes flicking an ear. Another cat, Ringo, also black and white but a bit larger, is peeking out of the hedge that lines the formal walkway that composes the main entrance to the lobby.

mama and ringo

“Mama and Daddy Cat came to us about 12 years ago, after we found Mama by the dumpster with a litter of 3 or 4 kittens.” Marc Rini, bellman at the Inn at Spanish Head, informs me and smiles at the memory.

Marc has been with the Inn at Spanish Head for 21 years. He has a ready smile, close cropped hair and kind eyes. As we stand and chat about the cats, Marc interacts with guests coming from the elevator into the lobby. He knows most of them by name and asks each one if he might be of assistance. It’s apparent that he loves his work and takes pride in offering a professional service. Their response to his offers reveals a reciprocated respect and affection.

Then a guest is seen arriving from the outside. Mama opens both eyes, stands up and lowers herself to the floor. Marc takes his place at the entrance doors. Mama reaches his side just before the guest enters. For a moment, Bellman and Inn Cat stand together, dressed in their requisite black and white, consumed with the importance of a professional welcome.

Marc and Mama Cat are perfectly representing the friendly, refined service that this beautiful condominium hotel has provided to guests since 1969.

“They were all very feral,” Marc continues, “We found Mama Cat with the kittens when we went to toss out some boxes. She was taking good care of her kittens. I didn’t think twice, I just went to the store right away and bought her some cat food. Then it became a habit to feed her.” Still, it took years for Mama to venture into the hotel lobby.

marc petting mama

The building, like the management style, is innovative without compromising the venerable traditions of the hospitality industry. Instead of erecting an eyesore of a skyscraper on our unspoiled coastline, the hotel was built into the cliff face from the beach up. Only the top two stories of the hotel are visible from street level; the 9th floor of this 10-story building is the lobby. The top floor restaurant combines an impeccable menu and service with a truly spectacular view. The 1st floor is on the beach.

Donald Richardson, of Salem, was the architect. Construction up a cliff meant that engineers had to find new methods. 7,100 cubic yards of concrete and 408 tons of steel were used.

Another feat of engineering was the placement of a drive-through tunnel under the highway, facilitating parking. Big Daddy was the first cat to use the tunnel and slowly the rest of the family followed suit.

“Mama Cat was in love with Daddy; you could tell when you saw her with him.” Marc knew that the big tom was the father because the kittens would rub heads with him. That litter was the first of three, after which they had Mama spayed.

marc and mama greet guests

“Big Daddy is the reason that Mama and the kittens made the Inn their home. He was the first one to come into the lobby and be social.” Marc says. Though it took years for Mama to be comfortable in the lobby, she now has a made a place for herself here as an official greeter, ambassador and all around charismatic personality.

A few years ago, Big Daddy began leaving to roam outdoors for days on end. At some point, staff and guests stopped waiting for him to come home. Over time, most of the kittens were adopted by people who took them away from the Inn.

Now only Mama Cat and her grown kitten, Ringo, remain. They spend their days in the lobby and front garden. They are following a long-time tradition of cats in Inns. Many distinguished Inns across the world have resident cats. Their job is to provide guests with heartwarming hospitality, in the way that cats are best known for – slightly aloof, never needy or chatty, extremely dignified and, on occasion, very playful.

marc and mama

Mama and Ringo are restricted to the grounds and the lobby. However, The Anderson House Hotel in Wabasha, MN used to provide cats in their rooms. Reservations had to be made for a cat, as demand far exceeded supply. This was the inspiration behind the wildly popular children’s story, Blumpoe the Grumpoe Meets Arnold the Cat.

There are many other examples of hospitality cats. Marmalade is a huge orange tabby living at The Griswold Inn, the oldest Inn in America. Their manager, Chuck Baxter, stated that “Every Inn has to have a kitty.” The Algonquin Hotel in New York has an employee position of “cat wrangler” to take care of their resident cat, Matilda.

Like them, both Mama and Ringo are valued members of the staff. Lisa White, Inn manager, is very supportive of the cats. Recently, Mama Cat received an employee award for her work and their care is now an official duty of the bellmen.

The magnitude of the service provided by the cats is best summed up by Norma Zantello, who works at the front desk. She confided that many guests ask after the cats before they ask her about checking in. “Who am I?”, she says with a very good-natured and sparkly smile, noting that even though it is the front desk who gives guests access to their rooms, “They sure don’t rub me on the head!”. — I’m loving the Coast!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

See You at the Bijou! – Lincoln City

If you have ever used a pay phone, a record player, or a jukebox… or wish you had, the Bijou Theater is for you. The vintage marquee overlooks Highway 101, proclaiming its presence in large letters: “BIJOU” and advertising the current Oscar ® nominees available for viewing. The antiseptic modernity of the movie posters presents a stark contrast to the well-worn, vintage setting in which they are to be enjoyed.
I parked across the street, in front of Maxwell’s Restaurant. A few people pass by on the sidewalk. At about 4 o’clock on a stormy grey Tuesday afternoon in February, it’s generally quiet outdoors, anywhere around here.
A gust of wind grabs my coat and moves me closer to the theater entrance, past the ticket window, and, although I’ve never been here before, I step directly into my movie-going past. My eyes adjust to the low light surrounding the bright concessions counter. The calm interior is quite different from the stormy weather outside.
I am in a quiet and comfortably warm popcorn-scented lobby. The décor comes to me in masses of recognition. Here are the standard heavy, dark red velvet curtains and rope dividers. There is some seating provided along the sides of the room. Heavily patterned carpet stretches across the floor. Glass blocks are used in an exterior wall, allowing in filtered light.
Concession Counter 2An eclectic mix of movie posters is everywhere. A bright mecca of mounded popcorn, neatly stacked sugary treats and fizzy fountain drinks beckon joyfully from the concessions counter. Little lights strung along the edges of the ceiling and around the counter provide a festive air. The curtains at the doorway to the theater seating area are closed now; a matinee is playing.
About 80 years ago, the Bijou was called The Lakeside Theater, in the what was then called Oceanlake. Cue the sci-fi music and our time machine stops in 1937, the year the Bijou was built by the McKevitt family. The people we mingle with are wondering what happened to Amelia Earhart, whose plane has just disappeared. We overhear animated conversations about the marvel of the grand opening of the Golden Gate Bridge, noting that we truly live in a modern age.
It was only the year before that the bridges across the Umpqua, Siuslaw, Alsea and Yaquina Rivers were finally completed. How beautiful they were! What engineering! We were suddenly able to move along the coast by car as we had not been able to do previously. Reedsport, Florence, Waldport, Newport, Lincoln City and Tillamook were linked by highway.
The big blockbuster in the first year of the theater’s grand opening was “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”. Walt Disney’s studio had utilized cutting-edge technology to create the first full-length, technicolor animated English language feature film.
Unlike the process of producing digital animation like that used to produce today’s “Frozen” and “Finding Dory”, “Snow White” was the product of over one and a half million hand-painted frames!
Marquee 5The Bijou is now owned by Keith and Betsy Altomare, who moved to Lincoln City from Los Angeles and purchased the theater in 1996. They purchased it from the second owner, Judy Mace, who had owned the theater since 1981. Her interest and significant efforts brought the theater, which had been shuttered since 1979, back to life for her grateful neighbors.
One of the many upgrades that Judy installed in the theater is the vintage popcorn machine, which continues to be religiously cleaned after each use by the Altomares to keep the taste of the popcorn fresh. It is delicious. I’ve been told that people sometimes come in just for the popcorn, if they don’t have plans to watch the movie that’s playing.
Judy’s plans for retirement gave the Altomares the perfect opportunity to relocate to a place away from the issues of living and working in a big city. They were taken with the romance of the vintage theater and committed to raising their young daughter, Molly in a more stable atmosphere.
Molly is well-remembered by long-time patrons, first for charming them from her stroller and a bit later as a youngster dancing around in front of the movie screen during the ending credits. For years, there was a tip jar at the concession stand that said “Tips Accepted for Molly’s Higher Education”. Molly is now a senior at OSU, so the tips went to good use.
In 2012, the Altomares and the Bijou ran into an unexpected threat stemming from the studios’ turn to digital media from 35mm film. The Bijou’s movie projection system could not accommodate the digital format that the studios were using to produce films. The choice before them was stark: replace all the equipment or don’t show contemporary movies.
The amount of investment required to turn digital was well outside of the amount that the 170-seat neighborhood theater could produce. Here, we see what a community can do for a valued historic resource. A local fundraising effort used crowd-funding to raise more than $51,000 to save the venue.
Now, the theater boasts a new screen as well as digital sound and picture. A tribute to major contributors adorns the wall in the theater and some stars in the sidewalk at the entrance door commemorating the gifts of other donors. The theater gives back, too. Fundraisers have raised assistance for locals in need with excellent results.
Voted Small Business of the Year in 2016, the Bijou works closely with other patrons of the arts, to bring current blockbusters to Lincoln City as well as independent films, classics and extremely affordable, fun matinees featuring well-loved movies chosen for family enjoyment.
Keith and Betsy have a history of supporting the efforts of the Cultural Center, Newport Performing Arts Center, and other local businesses. Christmas brings showings of holiday specials and Halloween brings a hugely popular run of the Rocky Horror Picture Show with Portland’s Clinton Street Theater performers to lead the audience-participation cult feature.
The Bijou has gone through quite a few upgrades and retro-grades through the years. There was a ladies’ powder room upstairs and a baby-cry room that have both been phased out. It’s a sign of the Altomares’ understanding of the importance of their custodianship of the theater’s history that the graffiti wall from the ladies’ room is being preserved.
Another piece of Bijou living history not to be missed is the beautiful playing of the antique theater organ.
The Bijou has the air of another generation, staying in shape and keeping up with current events, but moving a bit more slowly. One filled with a wisdom that can’t be learned quickly and certainly not trying to impress with superficial looks.
The world around the Bijou has changed significantly, but the building still stands and the theater continues to play movies to captivated audiences. The Bijou welcomes you in like an old friend whom you don’t need to impress, who loves you already, as you are.

I love the Coast!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment