Saturday, September 22, 2012

Morrison Creek Camp, Mt. Adams, Sept. 01, 2012

   Labor Day, falling in the week where it always does and as that day related to my regular days off meant I now had a four day weekend.  Although it was pretty short notice I had been given that the bike shop would be closed in recognition of the National holiday, Eli and I both knew it would be foolish to waste an opportunity to go back into the woods for an extended stay, even if it were a national event to head out to the woods and knowing the campsites would be full-up with city riff-raff, RV’s, trampolines, whatnot. 
It would be a challenge to find a place where we could be away from the humans.  So I directed us to a little rough hewn camp on the ankles of Mt. Adams, Morrison Creek.
   The roads were 3-6” deep with powdery ash and dust in the campgrounds.  Descriptions of nearby hikes attributed the fine powder to the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens to the Northeast.  Clouds of the dust trailed behind us when we first drove around the grounds. 
   Only one site was occupied on the creek that first evening, a boisterous couple of fellas around a campfire.  We picked a spot on the opposite side, a short walk to the pit toilet, nestled off the road.  The forest around the campgrounds is mixed timber, much of it newer growth as the area has been recovering from forest fires.  The Forest Service had done some work taking down dead wood and piling up dead branches and debris in an attempt to reduce the risk of a forest fire spreading I suppose.  But there was plenty of fuel all around.

Camp at Morrison Creek

   We made our modest fires in the small stone circle pit from this wood debris surrounding us.  Recognizing the risk for fires we were more diligent than I think we had been on past camp adventures, using our filtered camp water to smother coals at the conclusion of our evenings. 
   Day one we opted to explore Trail #16, Shorthorn.  The trail is used by people and horse traffic.  Starting off at the northern corner of the camp site the trail goes into more elegant and established forest on a deep rutted path through more ash and lush grasses.  Along the way were pretty meadows that were still showing abundant wildflower color even this late in the summer!  But the real site was along Morrison Creek further up the trail, where the grasses and wildflowers had found a perfect place to grow and were in full perfect beautiful color, a narrow string of paradise through the otherwise dry, dusty forest.

Shorthorn Creek    (Photo: Eli Thompson)

   Many creek crossings  later as we ascended the left leg of Mt. Adams, we came to a deep cut strewn with boulders, probably a mud slide from an ancient eruption.  The trail took us across and on the other side, took a sharp right turn seemingly straight up the mountain.  About 200 yards we continued like this, on rocky trail, then small switchbacks, until we suddenly climbed out onto another trail with another trailhead sign.  We had made it to Trail #9, Round The Mountain.  Mt. Adams was right there, within reach.  We stopped for a snack, wandered a few hundred yards down the trail before heading back down to camp.  That approach was about 5 1/2 miles total; a good warm up.

Trail #9 Round The Mountain, Mt. Adams Summit   (Photo: Eli Thompson)

   The next morning we awoke to the sound of many hooves stomping across the ground through our campsite, elk stampede just outside the tent.  We apparently were camped out beside an elk highway, the large hoof marks unmistakable in the dusty road all around the grounds.
   It was early and the outside air was frigid.  But it was good to be up as the sun was just coming through the trees.  I got up first and unloaded the van with coffee and breakfast preparation apparatus.  I prepared a small fire in the pit to warm our hands over until the Sun could take over.  Coffee first, our insulated french press from home usually accompanies on the car camping trips.  I handed a cup to Eli through the tent flap and got to the task of breakfast; scrambled eggs, potatoes, fried toast with ghee.  I was fortifying us for an EPIC day. 
   At breakfast we were once again visited by the famous gray jays who are bold and demanding when it comes to sharing the food.  Eli and I were admiring their bravery and entertained watching their movements as they landed on the picnic table and approached our plates.  The cute factor faded quickly as a gray jay came in quick and nabbed a piece of fried egg right out of my plate. That’s when we realized we were going to have to employ a plan for dealing with these pesky albeit entertaining birds.  The approach was to A) guard our food, and B) offer some bird appropriate food at a nearby spot where we could keep an eye on them.  This arrangement seemed to work out well for everyone.
   As an experiment, Eli tore a piece of bread off and placed it in her hand and then held her and out fully extended to her side.  The birds studied this and were no doubt calculating risk as they eyed that giant piece of sourdough bread.  After a minute one flew to her hand, hovering for one hesitant second before landing on her hand to nab at the bread.  Eli did this a few times and we were thoroughly entertained.  It seemed the bread was well earned by the talents and bravery of the birds. 
   Once breakfast was consumed, dishes scrubbed, stove and dishes, food put up, we prepared ourselves for epic; water bladder filled, food packed, boots laced tight. 
   Eli and I walked out of the campsite and on to FS# 050 eastward toward Cold Springs Campground and the trailhead for #183, Mt. Adams Southern Approach.  
   It was three miles up the road gaining elevation the whole way.  At Cold Springs cars were parked wherever they could pull in off the dust and gravel road.  Tents were tucked in between groves of trees, between parked cars, wherever there was space.  Apparently it was a popular weekend to climb the mountain and this was the most accessible way to reach the Mt. Adams summit.  We were not prepared to take on such an effort.  But we were going to see just how far we could get before having to consider dealing with glacier crossings. 
   Up the dusty rocky trail we went, through meadows and small clumps of scrubby pines.  Eli and I were feeling pretty good and making rather good time it seemed.  Again the wild flowers were stunning and we couldn’t seem to take it all in sufficiently.  And then turn around and see the world laid out, south across shorter mountain tops to the Colombia River gorge somewhere down there, and Mt. Hood presiding over it all further down.  We were on the side of one of the giants, something I’d imagined and thought about for years.  This did not seem possible, access to the higher reaches of the house of gods, as if we were trespassing and yet we seemed to go unnoticed.  We were also not without company of other trespassers.  Nobody passed us on our ascent.  But plenty of folks were coming down from up there.  One hiker had a pair of telemark skis strapped to his backpack.  There was a sight that posed some questions for me.

Alpine Flora   (Photo: Eli Thompson)

   It wasn’t long before we had again reached the intersection with Trail #9 Round The Mountain, about 2 1/2 miles (supposedly) from where we had reached it the previous day on Shorthorn.  After a moment to weigh the options we continued our ascent on #183, pulled ever upward by the lure of the glacier capped giant.  The terrain was getting rockier and the trees were fewer.  Up we continued until our first patch of snow, or frozen mini-glacier we would cross.  Shortly thereafter we began seeing the tent sites, colorful blobs among the small trees and large boulders.  A rest was in order to add some calories to the tanks and give feet a break.

Eli On The Trail, Mt. Hood Behind

   There was more to go before reaching the real glaciers, Crescent still laying ahead.  The trail got rockier and soon we were following a narrow gravel path through the boulder field from on cairn to the next.  How much farther should we go?  I didn’t feel able to stop. I had to get further up the mountain.  The view looking out at this point was unreal, looking over Southern Washington, Oregon, way down to distant mountain ranges in the eastern half of Oregon.

Cairn   (Photo: Eli Thompson)

   Just below a ridge line that obscured the bottom lip of the Crescent glacier, we stopped and explored some camp spots in a rocky area shaded by a few trees.  THe sites had been leveled and stone walls to block wind erected seemingly long ago.  A rest, water, food, Eli and I took some photos.  I think we were starting to feel as if we had really gotten somewhere, onto the mountain in a real sense.  We could begin our descent and feel satisfied.  But as we readied to head back I looked up again and saw that ridge, only about 20 yards above us, and felt the need to see the scene from on top of it.  So we climbed, just a little more, to see the Crescent Glacier in entirety. We watched climbers navigate the glaciers.  It seemed as if crowds of people were coming down off the mountain now.  The time was shortly after 1 pm.

Crescent Glacier, False Summit Above, True Summit to Left   (Photo: Eli Thompson)

   It really was time to drop back down to the Round The Mountian trail.  We had only gotten about half way on our EPIC journey for the day.  The descent went quicker as we dropped through the rock piles down the trail past the cairns past the tents, over the mini glacier into the flowering meadows and finally back to the intersection.  Whether to retrace our steps entirely or follow the Round The Mountain trail back to Shorthorn and back to camp was a short discussion.  We wanted more and were not yet fully satiated.  So westward on Round The Mountain we headed.  Along the trail the flowering meadows became almost dream like, as if created for a fantasy movie, something too amazing to actually exist anywhere on Earth.  It matched my images of the Swiss Alps rendered from movie scenes.  The miles rolled on and that 2 1/2 mile distance between #183 and #16 seemed doubtful.  It felt like at least another mile as we trudged along, wearing down but still enraptured by the world we were passing through. 
   “Not a bad back yard to have” I told Eli.

West on the Round The Mountian Trail   (Photo: Eli Thompson)

The trail occasionally would take us across a glacial waterfall where all the various wildflowers would congregate together and the grass was lush and vibrant green.  Round every corner we expected to see the rocky scar left from prehistoric eruption that we had seen on our short exploration the previous day.  Each time we would find another, smaller waterfall.  As we made our way west along the parameter of the mountain it was wild to experience how the vegetation changed from one area to the next.  There was a large section of huckleberry bushes, berries not quite ripe yet, and a lush section of taller shrubs packed tightly together.  We didn’t run into any other hikers for this entire length of trail until finally we did come to the rocky scar and just on the other side was a scattering of camp sites occupied with a handful of tents.  And camp chairs.  These backpackers had carried their camp chairs up the mountain to lounge in car camping comfort, way up on the mountain.

Amazing Flower Display   (Photo: Eli Thompson)

   Eli and I pulled over and broke out the last of our quesadillas and boiled eggs.  Our water was gone at this point.  A man came and asked us if there were any camp sites we had seen nearby and if there was any water sources down the trail from where we had come.  We told him what we had seen and he retreated down the path.  We saw him again with a young woman and an older couple, right at the intersection with our trail #16 Shorthorn.  What a relief!  Eli and I were beat.  The sun’s rays were stretching long and the light becoming more orange hued.  Down we went on the trail of rocks and switchbacks we had visited the previous day.  I became uncommunicative.  I began to obsess on options for dinner, beer, and water awaiting us at our camp.  I thought about my poor feet and the tender care I wanted to bestow on them as soon as I could take my boots off and prop them up. 
   It was 6:30 when we got back to our camp at Morrison Creek.  We had been on the trail for 8 1/2 hours.  We calculated we had covered around 13 miles and climbed up to 7500 or 8000’.  I made short work of unpacking cooking apparatus to get dinner going.  Pasta with peppers and zucchini, onions and cheese.  It wasn’t complex but we ate it and loved it as did we the still cold Tacate that washed it down.  That night we slept like angels in our microfiber fort beneath the stars.  At some late time in the middle of the night I awoke aware of a visitor on the other side of the thin cloth walls.  I could hear breathing, deep, vast lungs of a large mammal.  I sat up on my air mattress, fully alert, to get a better ear on the matter.  I did my best not to make a sound.  The nose of our visitor came down to ground level, and gave some deep sniffing sounds at the edge of the tent.  In my head a mantra rang out:  bear or elk.  bear or elk.  bear or elk.  bear or elk.  I started weighing out the odds that the nose belonged to a Roosevelt elk or to a black bear.  I was pretty sure it was more likely to be an elk, but couldn’t be certain.  So I stayed like that for some time, fighting off exhaustion, listening, wondering if anything would happen next.  I think it was Eli who rolled over in her sleep unaware of my watch, who made a soft rustling sound doing so and scared away the beast, whose hooves on the ground as it quickly retreated sounded much more elk like than the heavy paws of a giant bear. 
   The next day after breakfast it was time to break down camp and say goodbye.  One last visit with the gray jays while we ate.  One last walk around the campgrounds, a glimpse through the trees at the mountain top, remembering how just the day before, we had been way up there. 
   I had plans to write the tales of our summer adventures in order of which they took place.  But over these past few days I had begun to notice something in the air here in Portland, a certain familiar haze that I couldn’t quite place at first.  After two days of the city being blanketed in this orange tinged thick smog, I realized it was probably smoke from forest fires. That night I looked up Northwest forest fires and found out there were a bunch of fires burning in Oregon and Washington over the past few weeks.  But the one that got my attention immediately and has not let go, is the Cascade Creek fire, Gifford Pinchot National Forest.  All the area we had been just weeks ago is within the fire boundary, right up the mountain side to the Round The Mountain Trail.  I’ve been going to the InciWeb site for updates at least once a day.  Fire is nearly 50% contained as of September 21, 2012.  over 600 firefighters working on quelling the fire, six helicopters.  10,700 acres burned.
   I balance the weight of sadness for the beauty we visited being consumed in fires and the gratitude we had the chance to see it before this fire.  Equal parts sadness for the loss of such amazing landscape and the realization that this is a natural part of the life of the forest, that the forest needs to burn to get rid of disease and the insects that ravish the trees.  This one began from lightening cast down from a storm head that started over 200 fires across Washington state on September 8th. I've included an RSS feed from the InciWeb site with updates regarding the Cascade Fire to the right of this column. 
   As much as I can’t stand when good things have to go and change, I want to embrace all parts of the natural cycle.  It is, after all, the nature, in all it’s wild, beautiful, terrifying, and peaceful attributes, unchanged by the misguided hands of humans, that I have come to love.

 As of October 7th the Cascade Fire has been listed as "inactive".  Personnel tasked with containing the fire have been reduced to 600+ to around 150.  The fire is 75% contained and not expected to spread any further.  The fire lasted a month and affected 20,296 acres south and west of Mt. Adams.  Because of this status change, there are no more updates via the site, and so I have removed the RSS feed.

Monday, September 10, 2012

June 1-4, 2012: Birthday On The Metolious

  We drove over Mt. Jefferson’s toes to the Metolious River that rises from beneath the ground at Black Butte’s feet on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountain Range.
Around 4 pm we parked at Candle Creek campground back to the very site I occupied for four days back in 2006.

Through the charred remains of a once proud forest to the foot of Jefferson Wilderness where giant 25 foot diameter Cedars grow right out of the Mountain’s socks, we rode through these various settings trying to take it all in.  The scenery is truly bordering on the unreal.

  We rode nearly in silence, the pumice gravel crackling beneath our tires, staring off either side of this road, trying to take in the oddly beautiful scenery.  And then suddenly as if one piece of a discarded puzzle still remained, the forest engulfed us, lush and tall, saturated. Then we came to the trail head for Jefferson Wilderness.  Bikes rested on the entrance sign we stepped in, just a few yards, far enough to encounter a couple of old giants rising out of the ancient lava flow.

On day two rolling on our treaded tires we traced the river on it’s eastern side, over rutted dirt and rocky roads watching it meander through the forest and listening to it’s voice change.

The following  day after birthday breakfast Eli brought out carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.  After opening a few presents we rode our city bicycles over the red pumice roads through desolate ghost forest stripped in fires.  That night it began to rain.  We fed the fire and tried to hold our ground in its glow.  But eventually we were just cold and wet.  In the tent I opened birthday presents by flashlight glow.

The next day it rained some more.  It became gentle towards noon and we broke down camp.  On our way out we stopped at Abbot Creek campground to check out another spring fed creek trail.  Beautiful flowers and exotic Tangiers and King Fishers greeted us. The trail was gorgeous.  Along the way a spring gushed out of the rocky creek wall, a visual oddity to behold.  It was difficult to decide to turn back and finally conclude our trip.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

More On The Way

It's been too long since I've posted and I can say that we've been busy, either working myself in my new role at the bike shop, or exploring the wilderness the Northwest has to offer.  Eli and I have explored numerous trails around the Colombia Gorge, Mt. Hood, and more recently our attention has turned to Gifford Pinchot National Forest, which is a true treasure of this country.  Last week we hiked two days in a row, using Morrison Creek Campground as our base camp on the southern slopes of Mt. Adams.  The second day I think we would agree, has been our favorite hike yet: 13 miles roughly, taking us up to about 8,000 feet, just at the base of Mt. Adams glaciers on Trail #183, South Approach.  The wild flowers are in full effect up there, with plenty of indian paint brush in deep red, blue lupines, bluish wild daisy looking flowers and thousands of two different species of butterflies.   Eli has taken so many beautiful photographs of our adventures.  When we get enough time and patience to sit at the computer and compile our words and images, we will share with interested parties.  So stay tuned for our presentation of OUR SUMMER VACATION. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Saddle Mountain on a Perfect Day in June

   Back in June 2012 Eli and I were looking to do a hike on a Friday, somewhere other than the Gorge where we had been hiking most weekends prior.  A friend at work had suggested Saddle Mountain near the coast.
   Nearly to Hwy. 101, a quick right turn off of Hwy. 26 and up an old paved road for a few miles, surrounded by lush forest with views of the clear cut devastation just beyond the trees.  Up to the large parking lot lined with campsites.  It was a Friday around noon and the lot was full with maybe 40 cars.
   On the trail we found beautiful lilies in bloom near the parking lot and the forest floor carpeted with green Oxalis.  The path began rather gentle, heading east and then rounding the corner.  At mile 1 I heard what I now think is a male grouse seeking a mate.  We had heard the sound a few other times in various forest locales around Northern Oregon and spent some time trying to research it's source.  When we had first heard that low grunting sound we though perhaps it to derive from a territorial Elk who was close but well camouflaged.   I had brought my field recorder along and was able to capture a decent recording of this strange forest sound.
   Nearly 3/4 of a mile later after winding up the hillside some more, the trail began to get steeper with sections of exposed rocky areas.  In sections the trail was outfitted with wire mesh for traction and to slow erosion.  The views of the surrounding hills were getting more incredible as we ascended.  Finally down out of the last section of forest, over a spine, the "saddle", and up the winding way on the other side, we had made it to the top of the Coast Range. We found few other hikers that were resting and taking in the amazing view.  Pacific ocean to the West, Cascade peaks, Ranier, St. Helens, Adams, Hood, and just barely present, Jefferson were all there.
   After about 15 minutes everybody else had left and Eli and I were there alone, in the sun, no clouds, barely a wind, stillness.  We stayed at least another 45 minutes, unable to move. We barely talked as we took in the world laid out around us for one hundred miles in each direction. The stillness was breathtaking.  We watched a raven fly about just below the top, circling our perch, occasionally landing on a twig of a tree, clinging to the rock and shallow dirt around the summit.  That raven appeared to be the only motion, the only sound in that moment. It shared the stage with no other thing and we were the captive audience, properly entertained.
   Eventually it was time to relinquish the moment to the next group of
   We haven't returned to Saddle Mountian since.  Perhaps because I can't imagine we could ever recapture the magic of that first ascent, no future visit could possibly measure up.   So maybe it's worth holding onto that single memory of it and the perfect day in June, a day to remember forever. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012


   Thursday was the first of three consecutive days off, the first three day weekend I'd had in a few weeks.  The sun was bright and there wasn't a cloud I could find.  I suited up and headed out for the West Hills on my road bike.  Willamette Boulivard into St. Johns, over the St. John's Bridge, down the hill to Hwy. 30.  As I rode I began to question my choice of routes.  I hadn't ridden any significant hills aside from the 640' Mt. Agamenticus in years.  I wondered if my legs, lungs, and heart were up for such an undertaking.  Maybe I should work up to it I thought.  Then across the highway I saw the street sign for McNamie Road and I knew what I had to do.  I crossed the road and pointed the front wheel up and began the climb. 
   At first I felt pretty good.  But quickly realized I was going to need to pace a bit slower to make the entirety of this climb.  I had forgotten how the road climbed and then dipped, dropping off elevation I'd worked so hard to gain.  This continued for some time with false tops dropping again only to reinstate the climb.  Finally a speedy descent culminated in a stop sign at Skyline Boulivard.  I had made it once again.  I felt as if I was revisiting an old friend.  I turned left and rode along at a steady pace that was easy to maintain.  The views were incredible looking out over the valley that contained Beaverton and other suburban communities out there then farms, all framed in the coast range and the Colombia River range. 
   It wasn't long before I reached the next challenge; descending Gemantown Road.  I stopped at the intersection and checked my tires.  Germantown is no joke.  I thought about what it was going to take to safely descend the next few fleeting minutes.  And then I dropped in.  The road winds down the hillside with the sun breaking through the canopy occasionally.  I was more conservative than I would have been in previous times, not having the same bike handling skills I once had and having just been reunited with the road after so long.  Towards the bottom just after the speed bumps I did catch up with a few cars which meant something was going right.  You can see the route HERE:::
   Back home I showered and changed, got on a different bike to ride down to the bike shop in downtown.  It is rare that I would elect to go into work on such a beautiful day off.  But this was a special occasion.  I had told the store manager I would accept the position as Service Manager that morning and had to go down and formally meet to discuss details.  We talked for at least a half hour about what was to come and training opportunities.  When we were done I walked out to the shop.  "Well, how did it go?" one of my coworkers asked.  I told him the news and he smiled.  "Thanks" he told me.  I think I've done the right thing by stepping up to fill the role, if not for myself, for the overall health of this department I have chosen to work in.  But I still have a lot of roots to grow to fill this new pot.  

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hardy Ridge Trail, Washington

   Last Wednesday I decided that a work week like that deserved to be punctuated by a weekend out of town.  But with the rain still rolling through from the Southwest and the "new" van needing work done on the brakes, it was evident we weren't getting far.  Saturday was supposed to be a break in the descending wet and so we planned our escape out to the Gorge to see what there was to see.
   Eli and I picked a trail on the Washington side, not too far a drive from home.  It was an equestrian trail system with some horse back riding options including equestrian campsites just off the parking lot.  We had chosen the trail partially because it didn't require the Washington State Forest pass which we did not yet have.  So it was lucky that when we got to the trail parking lot we were only about 2 miles above the State Parks Ranger Station where we could purchase one.
   At the trailhead the sky was patchy clouds occasionally letting the sun poke through.  The trail climbed an old forestry road for a few miles.  The directions I'd written down didn't quite match up to the signage but I think we followed the intended route.  Eventually the road ended and the foot path continued on into the forest and gaining more elevation.  The trail would climb through a patch of forest and then straighten out through a meadow.  Once we both stopped and listened, sure we had heard a creature meandering through the underbrush, breaking sticks.  And then on ahead.  We passed by a few other hikers but were mostly alone.  The trail began to switch back as it climbed steeper up the side of the mountain.
Trout Lillys along Hardy Ridge

The Ridge

All these beautiful photos were taken by Eli Thompson

The Ridge

Break in the Clouds
   And then suddenly it opened up, we had made it to the ridge.  Up at the top the wind was howling over the west side and rain was coming down.  We sensed that if it were not for the dense clouds surrounding us we could probably see clear to the ocean.  As the directions suggested, we hung a right to follow the ridge to a summit.  The top was mostly alpine meadow-esque with plenty of trout lillys, pink, white and a varigated trilliums, Indian Paintbrush, moss and ferns.  Through a patch of tall shrubs and back into the narrow meadow.  Over a rock pile and back to the moss.  Finally we reached the peak marked by a rock pile.  It was cold up there and we hunkered behind a stand of shrubs for shelter against the wind.  Awed by the beautiful meadow ridge and occasional view allowed by a break in the clouds we ate what we had for staples before turning back to the main trail. 
Indian Paintbrush

   The wind gave in and the sun even seemed to peek out a bit more soon after beginning our descent back down the other side of the ridge.  More switchbacks through different flora than we had seen on the eastern side.  We found what smelled like balsam boughs along the trail although neither of us had though of balsam as a western growing pine.  We passed huge stumps that remembered the giant timbers that they had once held high into the clouds and made me wonder if this area had been logged 100 years before.  At one point I thought I heard an eagle call it's meek high whine whistle above us but we never heard it again.
   Eventually the single track met back up with the old road used now by horseback riders.  We couldn't decide which way my directions wanted us to turn so we settled on the downhill option and made our way.  At some point we began to notice large prints that appeared to be from a large cat like creature.  Further down we found a bit of scat that might have been left by just such a creature.
   Past more huge stumps and birds singing crazy songs, small brooks and waterfalls until we finally reached the road we had originally come in on.  We continued to see the paw prints and similar prints but smaller beside the big ones.
   Eventually we did get back to the parking lot about five hours after we had departed.  We were pretty hungry.  I was glad we had more water, one more orange, and a couple of beers waiting at Eli's truck.  Walking back to the truck from the bathrooms I wandered by the check in kiosk to look at the map.  Below the map was posted a xeroxed notice.  "Hikers beware.  Cougars have been sighted in the area.  If you come into contact with a cougar, do not run.  Make noise.  Make yourself appear big, use a jacket if possible. 
   After the beers we continued on HWY 14 towards White Salmon.  We were bound for the Double Mountain brewery in Hood River where we had enjoyed a great meal and beers when the ice storm had prohibited our Westward progression just 60 miles from Portland back in January.  It turns out the kitchen at Double Mountain was closed for a week which was the worst timing for us.  But we just headed over to the brewpub at Full Sail and had our dinner and beers after all. 
   As Eli drove us into Portland with the sun setting low in front of us I reminded her that we still had to return to Richies Tire Factory in Vancouver, Washington to retrieve my van with it's new master brake cylinder and wheel cylinders.  I think we rolled into the drive about 9pm.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Wind Mountain Ascent

   I now own a black 1992 Dodge B250 van with tinted windows; a diamond in the rough.  With this van Eli and I drove to Northwest Portland to pick up her friend John who was in town for business and wanted to see us and more of the area.  That first day I took us up to Leif Erickson hiking road/trail at Germantown Road.  Picture walking on a bed of damp leaf compost over asphalt through an emerald forest that rose up 200' above your head.  Everything green covered with moss.  The sun came and went behind clouds.  We saw hummingbirds and wrens.  Then we went to lunch. 
   After lunch we drove up to the Japanese Garden at Washington Park.  It was chilly up there and a similar scene of beauty I remembered from other visits around this time of year when things are just about to burst into full color.  Rhododendrons budding, cherry blossoms wide open and dropping their white pedals on the moss the clouds shrouding Mt. Hood from view.  John is a naturalist and between he and Eli the names of nearly anything were revealed as well as growing habits and what climates they may thrive in and their medicinal benefits of what part of the plant.  I like knowing these sort of detail and I only wish I could retain the information. 
   Back at the van we again sipped on coffee still warm from the morning's press and ate a few bites of snacks we brought along.   Minutes later the rain and hail came down beating on the metal top of the van.  We drove out of the park and down the hill to drop John off for the evening.
   The following day we again drove over the river and picked up John.  The three of us picked out some sandwiches and fruit, chocolate at a market before heading off for the day's adventure.  I had looked up hikes in the Gorge on the Washington side and found a short but beautiful sounding trail about an hour from Portland.  Eli had also gotten directions from a friend of ours for another hike further out.  I thought we could do the short hike and if we needed more, continue on to the next. 
   We found the Wind Mountain trailhead no problem.  The van parked and the three of us drank one last sip of water and up to the road we went.  The start of the trail was marked with road cones.  Without them we may have not found it.  It turns out the area had been severely affected by the ice storms in January.  Many old trees had come down the mountain, pulling more trees with them.  Younger Douglas Firs were broken off at the top.  The trail had been severely obstructed and at places took a lot of climbing over or under, around, scramble to move along.  The forest was still beautiful despite the loss of trees along the way.  But the description of the hike being 'moderate' no longer applied.  The work was worth the view at the top which had me feeling as if I was standing on a stack of rocks overlooking the world from thousands of feet above.  The winding Columbia River was directly below and you could see it wind through the Gorge all the way to Troutdale.  We looked directly across at other mountain sides that looked so tall with snow dusting the trees.  I was frozen for a few minutes looking out, a little afraid to look as it was so very far and looked like a sheer drop to the bottom. 
   As with anything the return to the bottom was much quicker.  We had made our pauses for discovery on the ascent.  I made a few recordings of sounds that interested me along the way, always with the powerful river gorge winds blowing through the pine bows.
   That hike had given us everything.  We needed nothing else from the world that day.  At the van we finished up the last of our sandwiches and snacks and started talking about where we might go for dinner.  The sun was filtering through the trees casting long shadows on the road.  I took us across Bridge of the Gods to Cascade Locks into Oregon where we picked up the Historic Rte. 30 Highway.  We stopped to visit a few of the falls along the way ending up at the Vista House for one last view along the span of the Colombia. 

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dead Air

   I do apologize about the lack of input here lately.  Life has been working, riding to work, riding home, going on weekend adventures, hikes, errands, etc.  I have been documenting some of our recent adventures like last week's attempt to find Lost Lake only to find the trail buried under two feet of snow.  Or yesterdays hike through the industrial lost land of Swan Island between our neighborhood and the river.  On the return to the neighborhood we spotted three white tailed deer nibbling on grass in a back yard above the street.  Even in the most urbanized industrial parts of the modern city, nature finds a way.
   Today we wandered along some forgotten wasteland owned by the Port Authority alongside the Colombia River where the trains and planes pass overhead, the birds try to colonize, and the Port Authority dumps it's toxic Colombia River dredging sludge.  It'll take me at least a week to edit some field recordings I've done in some of these places but you'll find them here soon enough.  So if you don't have a quality set of headphones you have a week to beg borrow or steal a pair.  You'll also find some photography from Eli when the time comes. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

To The End of the Road

   We've been here for five weeks or so, long enough that it's getting hard to keep track.  I have been working nearly full time for three or four weeks.  The house isn't quite organized still.  But it is livable an we've started to relax rather than shuffle furniture around and dump out boxes of books or clothes or records.  It seemed like time to get out of this daily reality, even for just a day. 
   Our plan was to head out to the coast, complete the journey and touch the Pacific ocean's frigid waters.  Saturday we were warned early by a friend visiting in town from Portsmouth, that there would be snow in the Coast Range passes and the roads were slick.  That gave us pause but only for a moment.  We needed to get to the Pacific Ocean. 
   Late breakfast and a little morning scrambling put us on the road around noon.  There was sun shining but the gray clouds were not far away.  Through the city center, the tunnel through the west hills and out the other side in a down pour we drove west.  At Burns we cut off onto Highway 6 bound for Tillamook.  Weather alternated between bouts of rain and bright sunshine.  All in all things seemed promising.
   Ascending into the coast range the rain did get thick until we were being pelted with slush and then snow until we were crawling along at 35 mph along twisting mountain passes.  The mountains were beautiful under a layer of snow hanging heavy on the boughs of the Douglas Firs.
   The snow-phobic pick up didn't slip once and with some patience we got through it.  Down the other side carefully and eventually the snow was behind us.  Such rich colors all shades of green reflected back at us from trees, grasses, ferns, and moss.  It all looked familiar and yet new to me, like seeing the face of a long lost friend who looked the same and yet has changed.
   The road eventually straightened out and became flat as we entered the farmed flood plains east of Tillamook.  Once into town we got out and walked around getting a feel for the town which appeared to be holding on if just barely after all these years.  Eli and I made the usual stop into the Tillamook cheese factory north of town to watch through the windows as the cheese maker people in their lab coats and hair and beard nets, formed and bagged, weighed and checked the blocks of orange cheese.  These people were probably lucky to have such a job in a place like Tillamook, mundane as the work is.  Many of the jobs had been automated and the remaining employees seemed to mostly be working at quality check.
   Some postcards and ice cream cones later we were on the road again headed up to Nehalem Bay State Park to see if we could secure a yurt for the night.  We drove into the park and up to the check in kiosk only to read a sign that stated "No Yurts Available".  So we headed north, ending up next in Manzanita in search of dinner.  The sun dropped into the drink until we were sipping the last drops of light when we walked into El Mariachi Loco.
   After dining it was time to explore the town a little to see if we couldn't find a room in our budget.  I was skeptical judging from the number of spas and acupuncture clinics, yoga centers, and the like, packed into this small village.  One motel quoted $70 and we should have taken it, rather than getting back in the truck to drive north past Cannon Beach, through Seaside, before finding an available room for $60 in a dilapidated weekly rate joint in Ghiribaldi.  Turns out our chosen weekend to visit the coast coincided with the Seacoast Jazz Festival, a highschool basketball tournament and the Fisher Poets gathering.  The inns were booked.
   We backtracked the following morning to Seaside to dine at the Pig N' Pancake before back pedaling further to visit Oswald West, my favorite spot on the Oregon Coast.  The beach is at least a 1/2 mile hike through the state park campgrounds.  Through the mossy forest walking beside the giant Douglas Firs until the forest gives way to a long stretch of sandy beach tucked in a cove and punctuated by large cliffs on either end.  A gigantic pile of drifted trees lies at the bottom of the trail on the beach as if piled for a fire by creatures of enormous size.
   To one end of the beach and back we walked, getting closer looks at some details like the many waterfalls that end a river's path, or the beautiful rocks, the cliffs themselves, all of it almost too beautiful to be real.  The sun was out and only occasionally did a rain cloud pass to remind us it was in fact, still February. Even those were never a surprise as we could see them coming from a mile out to sea and plan accordingly.  It is these moments where I realize what a special memory this will be.  I try to pay close attention to the smells, how the sun and the breeze feel, the sound of Eli's voice mingling with the crashing waves and  the breeze through the pines.  I try to capture every sense of the present in hopes I will someday be able to return here in memory, when I am physically far away.
ELI, Northwest
      Back to the truck and north bound we headed for Astoria, the Crown Jewel of the Oregon Coastal towns, still a working fishery with visible reflections of the Norwegians, Swedes, and Finns that came to settle there long ago.  A stop at a thrift store and a small grocery for dinner were all we had time for.  The sky was darkening and we still had 95 miles to go.  Eli drove us home on Highway 30 along the Colombia River and landed us back at the house by 7:30.  Not bad for a first approach.  Next time we'll plot our time out a bit better and perhaps keep our feet in the sand a little longer. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Portland Is Still Portland

   Portland is known to be an attractive place for eccentric people to not only fly their freak flag, but to post it through the city with neon lights.  This is true to the point where coming upon a transgendered person with 5 day stubble and having a drawn out conversation about whatever seems just common place, just another person living their unique life here.
   The very first day I went to work at my old shop, who should be outside to greet me but Extreamo The Clown.  OK, he wasn't there to greet me.  In fact he was conversing on his phone.  And he wasn't actually done up as a clown.  He was in his work clothes.  Extreamo lives his life unincumbered by societal restriction by earning his wages as the best window advertisement painter in the city.  His work is perfect and can be easily picked out throughout the cities retail spots.  It's always nice to see him not just to be reminded that there is an Extreamo The Clown living among us, but because wherever Extreamo is, his crazy sculpture art car is not far away.  And parked infront of the otherwise asthetically conservative Bike Gallery shop it is even more beautiful to behold.   Painted on the side of this latest rolling creation is the assurance, "Don't worry, God knows it's on the road".  What a perfect welcome back sight to see.

   Upon getting to work the other day, this is the scene I came upon.  Not in clown attire, and not painting, but Extreamo dressed up as Spiderman, busting wild dance moves as disco blares from his crazy sculpture/minivan.  Not far away, is the very conservative I.T. person for the Bike Gallery company, the very person I would find out later, who first hired Extreamo 8 years ago.  The look on his face, pure frightened horror at this insane Spiderman, completely confused as to who the nut is and why does he have Extreamo's car.  Brilliant.  Welcome back to Portland.  Thank you Extreamo.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Work And Stuff

   Suddenly I realize it's already February 9th and I haven't posted in some time.  What can I say, we've been busy.   My service has been requested at two locations of the Bike Gallery, both by friends who are the service managers at the two stores.  My commitment was to Pete at the shop I had worked at from 2001 until I moved in October 2007.  But Pete being the sweet friend that he is, suggested I try both on part time for a few weeks and decide where I want to settle in for the season.
   The first couple of days at the old shop were strange.  A blend of familiar friends and new personalities are now working there.  I did my best to remember names or fudging it as needed.  Working with Pete is really fun.  He's upbeat and positive, but can crack and get cranky, reminding the world he is human and has limits.  Those first two days there wasn't much for me to do.  I checked over a bike being purchased, tried to refamiliarize myself with the employee handbook,  and propped up a bench until I left early.  The following day I got going on an overhaul which can be a pretty big undertaking.  I worked all day on this one bike that wasn't in the worst shape.  I stopped a few times to help customers at the counter.  And then the day was over, overhaul mostly done, but not test ridden.  So I had to leave it for Ben to check out the following day.
   The following day was Friday February 3rd.  Nate met me at 5804 N. Montana and we rode through North Portland down to the Broadway Bridge and downtown to the shop.  It was my first bike ride since getting to town.  The entire store was in a state of confusion resulting from the store manager being laid off the previous day.  In her place was James, a long time BG employee and manager of another location.  We had some repairs in the board to do but otherwise it was a pretty relaxed shift.  I got into a overhaul of a 30 year old Trek road bike that took some doing.  For lunch I walked down the street to a parking lot that housed about 6 food carts all selling different foods.  I decided on Yakisoba from the Korean place.  Greasy but delicious.  By the time I had gotten back to the shop and eaten, it was an hour later.  The overhaul took the rest of the day and I had to leave it to be finished the following day.
   The following day was Saturday.  Nate and I were the only people scheduled in the shop.  And the customers were coming in.  Coming back to the Service Department for brake pads, to schedule overhauls, flat tire repairs, purchasing brake pads, and the like.  New bikes were coming at us to be checked over prior to test rides, prior to purchasing with accessories to install.  I continued to work on that overhaul from yesterday until it was dark outside.  I test rode it in a parking lot under streetlights.
   The weather was sunny with occasional rain for the first 10 days and now we have rain with occasional sun; more appropriate for the season, anyhow. 
   We have acquired our Oregon driver's licenses and continue to go forth daily in search of the missing pieces that make up this modern life we are given.

Friday, January 27, 2012


  Earlier this week this is how things looked.  But progress is rapid and we're converting this space to home a little more every day. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Jets Cooling In The Rain

   Today is day five we've been in Portland.  I realize I left this story unfinished.  Maybe there is no end.  This is life, after all.  Our home is with out internet access for the time being which makes keeping up with the updates a little more complicated.  Compounded with the fact that the greater part of this adventure is behind us, spread across the 3,231 miles of highway that tethers our past to the present, I will be writing less frequently here; perhaps weekly. 
   Eli and I are working on settling into our house which means daily lists of errands that have us criss-crossing the city in search of all the pieces of modern domestic life.  We have purchased a futon mattress.  Check.  We got some groceries and dishwasher detergent.  Check  We still need a dish drying rack, spice organizer, curtains, among other items.  Right now we are in The Red E cafe near our house, utilizing the coffee and internet and counter space.  Eli fills out an application for work at a nursery.  I've been researching home made bed frame designs.  Yes, we're building the bed.  This will be the 5th bed I've built.  My beds used to be six feet off the ground requiring a ladder to access to make the most out of cramped living spaces.  In the last five years I have preferred a bed I can easily fall into rather than risk serious injury falling out of. 
   We left Bob the landlord at the house to paint the second of two bedrooms.  Their standards as landlords are high in description.  But upon touring the house for the first time, a week after paying the first month's rent, after ten days of driving, left us wondering why the dingy bedroom walls hadn't been painted in the month the house has been vacant.  Closer inspection while unpacking and putting away revealed cobwebs in corners and previous inhabitants' grit in the higher elevations.  We do like our landlords though.  They remind me of our parents' crowd, like they would have fun going on vacation together in foreign countries.  Easy to get along with.  They have so far been pretty accommodating and definitely friendly.  Our second night in town we walked the 4 blocks to Matt and Elizabeth's house for dinner.  We met friends' of theirs who had lived in our house years before.  And upon talking more with Matt and a friend at the downtown Bike Gallery I found out that in my ordained ministerial role I conducted a wedding in 2007 and our landlords were in attendance. 
   I will be writing more about The Bike Gallery and the options that are opening up for us later.  For now I will just say that The Bike Gallery is where I worked from 2000 until 2007 when I moved to Maine, and the employer who generously offered me a position to return as a full time year-round mechanic.  Tomorrow I meet with my friend and manager Pete and will learn more about what my professional future holds.  Until then, just know that it is looking pretty good. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Last Road

   Friday January twentieth: 
   I awoke this morning at 7am at the Sunset Motel in Hood River.  I had a headache and all together wasn’t feeling so good.  So I decided to prepare a pot of the in room coffee provided for guests.  There’s a little drip coffee pot and a tray of regular and decaf pouches, packets of dehydrated creamers and sweeteners.  In a few minutes we had two cups of thin hot water without much resemblance of coffee.  I consumed a cup and within a half hour was feeling quite sick.  I laid in bed trying to will my stomach to a state of calm but finally had to give in.  On and off through the morning this was more or less my condition.  Eli went to the store and returned with some bottled water and bananas.  I ate half the banana and drank about a cup of water.  Then it was time to get in the truck and go. 

   We spent some time scraping the mirrors with credit cards.  We had a few ice scrapers with us.  But they were in the back of the truck and wouldn’t you know it, the lock was frozen.  Carefully we navigated the truck out of the parking lot and onto the road headed for the freeway.  I 84 east of us had been completely shut down the night before, sometime after we had made our way across to Hood River.  As we crossed over I could see the trucks on the eastbound lanes pulling over to the side.  The overpass was totally iced over and even making the turn onto the on ramp was a slow process. 
   On the road Eli kept a moderate pace and we proceeded to make our way towards the final destination.  So much had happened in the last 48 hours that really impacted our energy levels for the final day of the drive.  Eli managed to navigate the inner city cross town freeways to the end of I 84 where it meets up with I 5 then north on I 5 to the Lombard East exit, up to the light, left, down 5 blocks and park right outside of Mary and Bob’s house.  Mary and Bob are our new land lords and they seem like good people.  Their house is massive and open, spacious oak interior filled with artwork and artifacts no doubt from their world travels they talked about enjoying.  Soon they’re off to France for an extended visit. 

   We spent an hour reviewing and signing paperwork in their upstairs office.  It’s a good thing my stomach had finally decided to cooperate because I wouldn’t have been able to function and do what needed to be done a few hours prior. 
   With the papers signed, dated, initialed, etc, we all got in our cars and we followed Mary and Bob over to the new house.  We pulled up and there it was, our new house.  We’d only seen a few photos before today. 
   The beat up storm door opened and then the main door on the side of the house.  We stepped in and were greeted by the tired, sad smell of mildew.  I immediately was concerned about the basement and leaking water.  On up the stairs into the kitchen, tastefully painted yellow with lots of cabinets and drawers, a kitchen nook with built in leaded glass display shelves and drawers.  Through the kitchen into the living room we marveled at huge picture window, fireplace with built in book shelves on either side, beveled mirror above the mantle.  The bedrooms are large, built ins in the hallway.  Really the house is beautiful and feels like more room than I expected.  The basement looks to be leak free.  It’s huge with built in raised work benches on two walls and washer and dryer.  We’ve gone from our dusty cramped studio by the beach to a real house a block away from the Interstate. 
   We moved some things into the house and then drove Eli’s pick up off the trailer.  Now with a satellite vehicle we went over to our local grocery and got some food to eat.  We were fried but could not stop yet.  The trailer would need to be dealt with before we would be able to pull down the loading ramp to unload the truck.  So we drove over to Columbia Blvd to the truck rental place where we were finally relieved of the trailer.  From there we drove the Big Yeller over to the near by Fred Meyer to get some domestic house stuff.  A set of sheets, bath mat.  We wandered the store like zombies, trying to find stuff to check off our list.  Even after inspecting every corner of the massive everything you need for modern life store, we could not find a plain old broom. 
   Back at the house we moved a few things in, clothes and a box or two.  I set up our air mattress with our new sheet set and blanket; things we bought knowing ours were buried deep in the cavernous yellow rolling box.

   Meanwhile my brother Andrew was in a van with his band mates on the same interstate somewhere in California on their way here.  They would arrive sometime after 11.  I don’t think they anticipated the road conditions around Mt. Shasta and then later the pass at Mt. Ashland.  Ultimately they found other accommodations and arrived sometime after 2 am. 
   We finally sacked out around 11 pm.  I don’t remember anything after pulling the sheets over me. 
   The next morning we got up and brushed ourselves off.  Eli made a plan with her friend Willoughby to meet for breakfast down the street at Beaterville.  This was our pre unpacking the truck breakfast and it was on us.  I don’t think Willoughby knew what he was in for.  With food and coffee consumed, it was time to get to it.  Soon after we had the truck opened and started unpacking, Doug pulled up with another recruit, his roomate Dave.  It turns out that not only did Doug recruit him just after he had awoken that morning but Dave had helped another friend move his recording studio two days prior.
   We made quick work of emptying the truck.  And then there it was, our entire material life packed in boxes piled all over this new unfamiliar house.  Now we'll unpack the boxes, trying to find spaces to hide away our every piece of our fragmented lives.  It is familiar and yet foreign to be here.  Friends have come to find us and bring us around to their home for dinner or to a favorite restaurant for a visit.  We haven't yet had enough time to be in the house, to make a meal there, to unpack a box, or to even really talk about what just happened.  Everything for the last two weeks has moved so fast we have hardly had a moment to really take in the immensity of what we were undertaking.  We are in effect, still in shock.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Roller Coaster Road

   Let's see, where should I start?  Eli and I awoke at the Silver Spur in Burns just before 8 as we have most days on this trip.  I had already been awake at 4:32 AND 5:17 with wicked heartburn; thanks El Toreo. 
   I made a press of coffee with the hot water from the in room drip pot.  We were drinking on that, Eli was in the bathroom when I decided to see what the world wanted from me on Facebook.  So I found out about Dara.  That's Dara Greenwald, one of my first friends at boarding school.  Funny smiley big breasted Dara who made people laugh and joked about how unfunctional huge breasts were.  I had heard from a friend that she was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago.  There were online fund raisers, art auctions, and a list to join to get updates about how she was doing.  Somehow I didn't get on the list.  I tried, a few times.  I hadn't heard anything in almost a year.  And then this morning, on Facebook, I find out she passed away on Saturday.  I don't know what to do with this.  I mean, here we are, 8 days into a cross country life blender, about to land on the moon to build our colony there.  During this process, everything else is supposed to remain in suspended animation, to carry on in a holding pattern until we can safely land the space ship and boldly step where no man has walked before.  When I moved to Maine in 2007 I had only been on the East Coast for a few days before finding out that my friend Brett had been crushed beneath a garbage truck in Portland.  Why?  How?  Why then?  Why now?
   Now I'm just confused.  This day was to be our final, our arrival day, the grand finale.  How can I carry that knowing that Dara has left this world and I didn't even know until I checked my Facebook messages?  Hours later I caught myself texting a mutual friend about Dara's passing to ask if he was considering flying out for the memorial.  Then I realized how crass that was, a text message.  What if he didn't know yet?  Since when has Facebook become an acceptable platform for communicating such news?  Why didn't I know that Hospice had been involved for the last month?

   We were departing Burns by 11am.  Eli drove.  I was, as I say, confused.  The landscape in that part of Oregon is stunning, high desert scrubby sage and golden grasses spotted by occasional cattle and a tree here and there.  Or maybe just there.  We were amazed by the number of robins we saw.  Whole packs of robbins, sometimes dozens all congregated beside or in the road. What was drawing them to the road?  They would sit there until we were upon them in the Yellow Menace and they would scatter, just barely avoiding collision.
   Eli pulled the train over on top of a climb and we switched seats.  She needed to be able to see the world out there.  I'd seen it before, already knew how breath taking it was.
   In Bend I took a few wrong turns and we got a little lost which is stressful in the Golden Locomotive.  After about an hour we righted ourselves and eventually found our way.  Up I 97 bound for The Dalles.
   We were climbing up epic mountain sides and snaking our way down the other side.  The landscape continued to unfold in more magnificent views to the point of making me question if any place in the solid foundation of human reality could possibly be so beautiful.

   For a little time we were on top of a small world and then we descended into a dense cloud and everything further than 50 feet disappeared into white.  Down into the river gorge to cross over the Deschutes River and up the other side.  Past Dufur and on.  About 50 miles from The Dalles, we ascended a snowy mountain side and the snow would line the gray road the rest of the way to the mighty Columbia.  The road became slick.  Icicles were hanging like fringe off of the road signs.
   We crept along, up and down, around the side of mountains.  Plow trucks were navigating ahead of us at 20 mph.  10 miles out of The Dalles, we came upon two patrol cars on the side of the highway.  It appeared that a car had vanished off the edge of the road and down the embankment who knows how far down.
   Through The Dalles and onto the freeway where the road wasn't much more reliable than it had been up above the gorge.  We continued along at our 40 mph pace, slowly making our way.  Rain turned to frozen rain.  We pushed on.  Again we came upon two patrol cars, a tow truck, and a paramedic truck.  A man was lowering himself down the embankment from the guard rail towards the edge of the Columbia River below, presumably in an attempt to rescue somebody whose car flipped the rail.

   We pulled off 15 miles down the road in Hood River.  I was vaguely familiar with Hood RIver from visiting our friend Damon when he lived there.  For instance, I knew just where to go and park to be within two blocks of the Full Sail brewery.  I pulled the Yellow Menace over and we stepped out into the street, trying to access the condition of the roads.  All of the trees and power lines were coated in ice.  In fact a layer of ice coated every surface.  The streets were filled with dense slush at least 6" deep.  The pub at the brewery had closed early because of the weather.  So it was decided we would wait the night in Hood River before making the final 60 mile drive to our new home.  Eli asked some people where to go for dinner and a beer.  Another local brewery around the corner was recommended; Double Mountain.  The place was packed.  Apparently most of the downtown restaurants were without power.   We ordered pints and sat on the couch to await a table.  It wasn't long before we were sharing a salad that Eli could have designed herself.  That with pizza and we were taken care of.
   Damon had suggested a motel to us named the Lone Pine.  The selling pitch was that it had always been a dive but he knew that someone had gone in and done a bunch of work on it.  So that's where we headed.
   We rang the buzzer and were greeted by a nice enough fellow.  The lobby had a mold issue.  What was hidden from sight could not evade the nose.   The story was that this guy was watching the place for his friend who had to go to Minnesota.  I made sure to pay in cash.  I was given a receipt that had no information about the place on it.  So I wrote the name and address on the receipt.  Then we went to see the room.  Super creepy.  Crusty linoleum floors decorated with cigarette burns.  The room was freezing.  I consider my standards pretty low, especially after reading a lot of motel room reviews.  But this place was too much.  I suppose if it had cost $25/night it might have made sense.  But we had been getting pretty nice rooms for the price of this dive up to now.  I suggested we walk across the street to other motel.  For an additional $20 we got a real sweet room with coffee service, fridge, etc.  So we went back to the dive to get our money back. Now here we sit, dazed, confused, snowed in in a strange place. So close to the end, and yet, not there yet. 
  BIRD of the DAY:  Robin
  State:  Oregon
  IN MEMORY OF:  Dara Greenwald
  DETAIL:  Sage, rainbows, quail

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Welcome To Oregon:::

   We did awake before 8 am this morning.  But somehow between having the front desk clerk at the Thunderbird Motel heat up water for our french press coffee, walking down the street for bagels, and packing up to leave, we didn't make it on the road until 11:30.  Perhaps that is a key reason that all this driving has felt like a vacation.  It occurs to us that we should leave early from our previous day's destination, to drive in daylight and avoid inclimate weather.  But really what's the hurry?
   A short ways West of Pocatello we drove beside a field of elegantly turning wind turbines.  I recalled a friend of ours in Boston had mentioned traveling to Idaho to discuss his wind turbine software with the project managers.  Sure enough, these were Andrew's turbines we were seeing.  How cool is that?  
   There was a dusting of snow this morning at 8 and the sky was gray.  But the foul weather we'd heard about hadn't really started yet.  But within the first half hour on I 86, the snow started.  Visibility became an issue and the sky and fields were becoming the same color.  Further down the road we saw the first jackknifed semi in the center median.  The going was slow.  For the most part we stayed in single file behind the line of semis and cars.  I didn't think the snow would freeze up on the road because it was 34 degrees out.  But it did.  The road was becoming caked with uneven sections of ice.
Join us in the truck through some of the worst snow roads of the trip.  Play the video above. Skip to the 2 minute marker to get a hint of the action we avoided!!

Eli at the wheel she handled the trying driving conditions superbly.  There was really nothing to do but be patient and take it easy, try to avoid some of the less experienced drivers.  In all we counted 3 jackknifed semis, and 5 cars off the road.  We were not one of them.  The snow was intermittent and sometimes we were only dealing with some rain and the roads were clear.  Then a little ways down the road we'd be back in the white holding steady in the right lane. 
   Eli pulled the yellow circus off the road in Boise to refuel and get some sandwiches.  By the time we were getting back on the road I think it was about 4pm. It was about 5:30 when we saw the sign welcoming us into Oregon.  Mixed feelings as the realization that our journey was nearly complete. 
   It was too bad we were driving Rte. 20 in the dark.  At first the two lane highway was fine, no snow, light rain.  The landscape was beautiful but disappearing into the darkness.  The snow picked up after a while making some higher elevation passes tricky.  We crawled along and kept upright, patiently making our way.
   By the time we got into Burns and spotted the Silver Spur Motel on Broadway I couldn't wait to get out of the truck.  Our 7 1/2 hour driving day turned into a 9 1/2 hour day as the weather dictated it be so. 
   In the lobby we were greeted by the front desk clerks and their dog Dexter.  Dexter was a little black poodle looking thing.  Very sweet dog they found in the parking lot 6 months prior. 
   Into room 107 we moved our regular nightly inventory of necessities;  each of our back packs of clothes and hygiene necessities, french press and coffee grounds, crate of house plants, brief case with the computer and various chargers.  Then we headed off on foot in search of food and libation.
   Burns was soaked and over flowing with brown slush that settled in deep puddles at every corner  curb.  The Wagon Wheel Thai restaurant was recommended but we found it closed early.  So it was down to El Toreo for dinner.  That's the day's recap.  Can't believe we're in Oregon today, Colorado yesterday, Maine just over a week ago. 
   BIRD of the DAY:  Magpie
   RIVER:  Snake
   STATES:  Idaho, Oregon

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wind? What Wind?

   Today started at Sarah's house on the Poudre River in Fort Collins.  Cups of coffee and then out with Napo the dog for a walk along the river.  The few inches of snow that had fallen the day before was still crunchy beneath our feet.  Eli spotted the first bald eagle in flight, soon followed by a juvenile.  They landed atop a tree followed by what we thought were magpies that were not happy with their visitors.  But the eagles did not budge.
   We went into town to the Little Bird cafe to drink the best coffee so far on the trip and check the weather online.  It turns out that where we are headed is getting a winter storm with feet of snow predicted in some places.  Also on the menu were those 60 mph winds across Wyoming starting Tuesday night.
   Back to Sarah's and bid adieu with hugs and got back on board the yellow cannon ball. 
   Down the road from Sarah's house was the cheapest gas of the trip so far, $2.82/gal.  Thinking we'd beat that insane wind, we headed up to 287 towards Laramie.  The drive was beautiful, winding towards the front range and then it started to climb.  Climb we did and the wind picked up.  We continued to climb and eventually the wind was howling across the road.  The truck crawled against the steep grade and strong winds.  All the while we listened on to KCSU 90.5 Colorado State University independent radio.
   What seemed like a long drive was probably just over an hour before we drove into Laramie.  Under the Interstate 80 freeway and into town, I pulled the truck over on a side street near some restaurants I'd spotted.  We took time to walk around the block and then to a taqueria for burritos.  By this time I'm anxious about time, knowing we'll go through the worst of the snow through mountain passes if we don't make Pocatello by the end of the day. 
   Back on the road the wind continued to howl across the road.  We creeped along with the hammer down, struggling to stay in the lane.  There were plenty of semis on the road which was comforting.  It wasn't bad enough to keep the truckers parked at the Flying J, it couldn't be all that bad.
Hi Planes photo by Eli

   Out the window we watched the landscape go by; snow drift fences, herds of antelope, wild horses, hillsides covered with huge spinning wind turbines, the softly rounded and jagged mountains, long trains moving along.  I couldn't remember the last time I'd made that drive, I 80 between Cheyenne and Salt Lake City.  
   At 4pm we crossed the Continental Divide for the first time.  The driving got a little better until the road grade increased again and we were back to climbing and fighting the wind.  Then we crossed the Continental Divide again.  Then we were rewarded with some declination.  
   At 5:30 we pulled into Little America.  Little America is a ridiculous truck stop.  It's huge with multiple gas islands, motel accommodations, gift shop, restaurant and bar.  Big enough to get a spot on the map.  Eli and I went to the restaurant to eat more salty road grub and make a final route and weather check before deciding which way to go.  Who knew tomato soup could hide chunks of ham?  The grilled cheese and fries were alright.  And when the waiter saw we didn't touch the soup, he took it off the bill.  Nice.

   According to the storm map we would be in the zone of heavy snow if we were still over here in 24 hours.  It appeared that whether we headed for Pocatello or crossed into Utah and then up to Idaho, we were going to find ourselves in the storm.  I decided on Pocatello for at least it was far enough to get through the worst of it but still close enough to get there at a decent hour.  Back on the road we exited onto Hwy 30 a mile later.  Suddenly we were leaving the 4 lane ribbon of I 80, heading into the dark following a two lane over hill and dale.  I got up behind a semi holding between 50 and 60 mph.  Without being able to see more than 1/2 mile ahead along the road, I resisted my urge to pass and we just tucked in for the drive.
   Eventually we were passing over the State Line into Idaho.  Now we were officially in the Northwest.  Rte 30 meandered along rolling around and up and down.  Town after town went by out the window as we made our way.  There must have been 50 "Historical Site"s along the route.
   Finally we were rolling down the off ramp at exit 67 into Pocatello.  The Thunderbird Motel was easy to find.  The room is great.  It looks as if it was decorated in 1974 but everything still looks new.  Super comfortable with character.
   The weather channel on the TV doesn't seem to agree about the quantity of snow accumulation in store for tomorrow.  So it's likely we'll get on the road for I 84 with the goal of making it to Burns, OR.  Pictures of Portland show plenty of snow.  If the snow does look bad, maybe we'll stick it out here.  Who knows?  Stay tuned to find out...
   BIRD of the DAY:  Bald Eagle
   CROP of the DAY:  Wind Mills
   HERD of the DAY:  Antelope