House Sitting in Sisters, Oregon

snow-covered trees glistening

Our New World!

It was snow-covered, freezing, and exquisitely beautiful! It took us 20 minutes to traverse the snowy frozen driveway from hell (our Camry must have wondered what we were getting it into). But our reward was the grand house we’d be living in for the next two weeks. That looks like something we can manage, right! Wow! 20 acres on a hill with western views of the Three Sisters Mountains.

large house with snow everywhere

We met our hosts, a fine, friendly and generous couple, and their dog. After touring the massive house, and spending time getting to know our newest canine charge, they took us out to an excellent dinner in town and then departed early the next morning.

winter landscape

Let’s just say we spent a lot of time looking at this vista during our stay! In the morning during the sunrise, in the afternoon at sunset, and certainly out with the dog. What a great place, despite the cold, we loved it here!

trees, sun, and snow

When we arrived, we saw about three feet of snow on the ground, and the owners told us it had been there since October. That’s when we realized we probably wouldn’t be seeing bare earth anytime soon. 

As you can see in the photo below, the house had a great patio with tables and chairs. Oops, wait a minute – we can’t sit down – there’s a foot of snow covering everything.

patio furniture covered in two feet of snow

The Three Sisters Mountains

If you aren’t familiar with Oregon or don’t live here, you might not know about those three sisters. They are a prominent feature along the Cascade Mountain Range and were right out the back door of this house, what a spectacular view!

Three Sisters Mountains in the distance

These peaks dominate the area and were visible most days. We couldn’t see how to get up on them, or even close but had no interest anyway given the time of year. Except for a few cloud-covered nights, the stars were magnificent here!

Three Sisters Mountains in the distance

It’s Time to Go Inside!

This house was designed and built by the homeowners – their dream house – and that it was! Large but not ostentatious, more than we needed but comfortable and cozy, with everything we could ever need, including a fantastic kitchen that looked out onto the mountains. We loved it!

wonderful living room

We had a wing to ourselves upstairs which included a balcony looking towards the mountains. 

long hallway to a closed door

Since the host is an avid hunter, it was a taxidermists’ type of place with heads on all the walls. As you can see, there were exposed beams and stone floors, and a massive fireplace. It was a great home but not precious – meaning we didn’t need to keep the dog out of any of the spaces.

living room n huge house

Where’s the Dog?

I know, we keep talking about him and haven’t shown a photo yet. A friendly, smart, loving and rambunctious one-year-old Austrailian Labradoodle. What a great guy, we loved him at once. He was well-trained, full of energy and very talkative.

Austrailian Labrdoodle with a toy

He had many toys, and all of them were complicated snack delivery systems. It was the first time we’d seen this kind of dog toy. He had to work hard to get the reward we placed inside, that’s what he has in his mouth in these photos. It had small holes to hold the treat, and they were not easy to get out (or put inside!)! An all-day sucker for the dog? How smart.

Austrailian Labrdoodle with a toy

Now For the Walks

Jim did all the dog walking at this house. It was simply too cold for me to spend 30 minutes or more out there! On the warmest days (here “warm” is a misnomer – maybe 25 degrees) he could stay merely cold until they were almost back home and it was time to freeze. Those were around a mile, two miles sometimes. Numb from the toes up all the way.

On colder days, yikes, everything was numb before they even made the turn back home. It didn’t matter how many layers he put on, he was going to freeze, and that’s it.

dog on a snow bank

You have to search for the dog in the photo above. He’s perched on the snowbank along the driveway surveying the area. “What looks interesting today?” Something always did, and off he’d go.

When out in the backyard, this fellow loved to bury his ball or sticks and then dig for them. I think sometimes he was after other things as well. The video below shows him in action – he did this multiple times per day every day!


During the night, our friend slept in the laundry room. That’s also where he had to be when we left the house. He had a large enclosed pen outside, but that was only for summer as it was completely uninhabitable during our stay. 

We usually stay at home for the first two days of a new house sit, so the pets get to know us and don’t feel abandoned. However, at this house, even after several days, I didn’t want to leave and put the dog in his ‘room.’ Add in the winter cold and I’m pretty sure we only left three times.

temperature gauge reading 15 degrees

Yes, It Says 15 Degrees!

That was the reading most mornings. There were two or three days when the high got all the way to 40, but all the rest of the time it stayed around 20, I kid you not.

As directed by the homeowner, we put our Camry in the garage, and there it stayed as we were told to use their four-wheel drive. Our first journey out was to find food in the actual town of Sisters. 

It was the first four-wheel drive for me ever and for Jim the first in years, like 35 or so.  We loved how rugged it was while going down the driveway. Bouncing around yes, but just sturdy as can be. No question whether it would get through. Just point and hit the gas and off you go. No matter what’s underneath or ahead.

a hilly snow-filled driveway

Once we got past the driveway we found plowed roads and the driving was pretty easy. In town, we found a health food store, with quite a good selection. We also found snow seven feet high everywhere along the streets and in the parking lots.

parking lot with seven foot snow piles

What we’ve found during our time in Oregon is that many stores do not have the greatest selection of some food items. However, if you want hot sauce, that’s a different story. That whole display is hot sauce!

display of hot sauce in a store

A Freak Out

Jim didn’t think I should include the next photo in the post since it’s difficult to see what is truly happening. There were two furnace units outside, and one day as I was walking around the house I saw that they had ice everywhere. It was thick and stuck all around the bottom, and there was no way for me to remove it. 

I was worried because I knew I would die if this house lost heat! I sent a message to the homeowner with the photo asking if this was normal. They replied that it freaked them out the first winter too but that there was nothing to worry about, what a relief!

outside heater covered in ice

More About the Dog

Since the dog goes hunting with his owner and is in training as a retriever, they wanted us to be careful about letting him get any living thing in his mouth. Even sticks were a no-no. We had to encourage him to drop those and never take them in the house and it was no easy task.

He loved dragging sticks all over, burying them, digging them up, trotting them around. He assured us this stick, his newest find, was ok to bring in the house, “they wouldn’t mind.” He was funny that way, always trying to bring stuff in the house. No boy, thanks in the snow

We tried throwing the ball for him to chase. He loved that, but he would get it and then run off with it or bury it. So we didn’t do that much. Mostly let him run on his own. He would go back and forth, standing on the snow mounds by the road. Looking all around and listening for any sound. Then off he went out of sight before returning to show us his latest find.

The great thing was that he came running full blast when we called him, expecting a treat. One time he slipped on the icy driveway and ran right into Jim. Ouch. For both of them. How does he go so fast on ice? We have to watch every step just to stay on our feet.

close up of dog with ice on his muzzle

This is what can happen to you if you go outside and dig in the snow! Look at that face, what a cutie. The first couple of times he came in like that I wanted to help him, but once inside it all melted very quickly (all over the floor or us).

Just one more video – Our friend was a real talker, and the video is a small sample of the conversations we had.

Smith Rock State Park

At one point during our stay, we had a few warmer days and the last of the snow on the driveway melted. Well, until a day or two later when it snowed again.

We took the opportunity to get out of the house on this day and went to revisit Smith Rock State Park. We thought it would be great to see it in winter.

smith rock state park in winter

Honestly, it was so cold we didn’t stay long. Can a picture suggest how cold it is? Not really. Maybe this: we didn’t take many pictures as that required taking off our gloves and punching a little button. We didn’t want to do that too many times. 

smith rock state park in winter

Hands in gloves, stuffed in coat pockets. That’s how you make it on a walk without frostbite. Of course, that doesn’t help your toes stay warm. Those never did stay warm, despite new winter boots and woolen winter socks. Yikes.

We enjoyed seeing the hills and rocks in the winter, but we soon had enough and got back in the warm car. Home again, home again and into the warm house.

large house with snow everywhere

Back at the Ranch

We did get a few sunny days during our stay, enough sun to start melting the snow on the roof. It melted from underneath and created a stream of water down the spouts. But watch out. Big hunks of snow and ice would come crashing down without warning. We never got hit, but it was close a couple of times. The dog was always alarmed at the sound (us too!).

large house with snow everywhere

A Walk on the Snow

The owners had mentioned that we should try using their snowshoes and said we’d enjoy it. We didn’t think we would and consequently didn’t try it until our stay was nearly over. It’s strange getting them on and awkward when you first try to walk, but once we got the hang of it, we felt stupid for not trying it earlier.

snow-covered landscape

It was terrific to see the landscape up close and personal instead of just from the back porch. Taking photos was a bit of a challenge, but I couldn’t resist given the beauty around us.

snow-covered landscape

You can stay on top and avoid getting wet or too cold, for a while at least. And surprisingly not all that hard to learn the rhythm and move along pretty well.

woman on snowshoes

I cannot begin to tell you how many layers of clothing I had on, but I can tell you that I needed every single one!

woman on snowshoes with dog

Looks like fun, right! We loved it.

man on snowshoes

A couple more photos of the gorgeous scenery.

snow-covered landscape

After we got back to the porch, I realized my glasses were gone. I needed them for any close-up work, and I knew I had them on the walk, so Jim and our pal went back out to search for them.

snow-covered landscape

Can you lose your glasses on 20 acres and find them later? Turns out yes, even if it took some time. Retracing your steps in the snow is easy. Just keep looking, and there they are. They didn’t even get squished. That was lucky, in that ‘lucky it’s only trouble’ kind of way, not the disaster scenario. What if it snowed? Those glasses would be hidden until the spring thaw

man on snowshoes with a dog

We’ve Come to the End

Wow, this place was magical, and we both loved the dog, the house, nature surrounding us, and even the winter weather. I learned that I could do a house sit in the cold as long as I don’t need to be outside for more than 20 minutes! 

In fact, we developed a useful guideline: degrees equal minutes. If it’s 15 degrees we could stay out 15 minutes – max: 30 degrees = 30 minutes, etc. Anyway, it kept us from freezing.

snow-covered landscape

Since the homeowners returned late in the afternoon, we planned to drive south a couple of hours and stay with a friend. Farewell to Sisters, the 20 acres of snow, the dog, and home! Maybe we’ll get to stay again in warmer weather and get to see some bare earth! 

snow-covered landscape

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    • Amy on November 8, 2017 at 9:12 am
    • Reply

    Amazing how a story about the freezing cold can warm your heart! 🙂 ~ <3 ~ . Thank you so much for sharing, always. ~ <3 ~ 🙂

    1. Thanks Amy! Hey, we’ll be in Ojai for the month of January and would love to see you!!

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