22 September 2008

Stepping into the story

More and more and with increasing fervor in the recent past, two what I will call battle cries have come to define the essence of a segment of American society: the phrase under God in the Pledge of Allegiance and the primacy of the Ten Commandments as core rules to guide private and public life. I don't have any problem with either of these well-known statements. Both contain something of the best of humanity, setting out pretty clearly who we want to be, setting a standard. I have found it interesting, however, that these two statements have kept coming to mind, to my mind, as I have watched over these months the financial crisis brew and finally boil over.

Seventy million dollars in annual compensation is hard for me to comprehend. That anyone, from a CEO who accepted it to a board of directors who proposed it to auditors who knew about it, that anyone thought such a sum was OK prickles the hair on the back of my neck. Whose daily labor, behind a desk or in a trench, is worth that?

Then there's the strong possibility, even as the country contemplates putting up seven hundred billion dollars to bail out the financial industry in order to save the globe's economic structure, the recipients of that incomprehensible sort of annual compensation are simply going to walk away. I don't want a public lashing; I'm not looking to humiliate or to demonize anyone. As a fifty-five year old woman sitting at her kitchen counter typing, I'm merely observing an inequity. Companies have been run into the ground. Essential institutions have been gutted. The American public -- not to mention the entire world -- has been harmed. And, no one is going to admit guilt or fault, no one is going to express any remorse. They're going to walk away -- with their packages.

I'm witnessing a disconnect between the Pledge of Allegiance's under God and the Ten Commandments' shalls and shall nots and our conduct. And, I used the word our on purpose. As we watch in disbelief as the horror unfolds and as we bristle at the seventy million per year, we are not, none of us, entirely blameless. Under God has come to mean God on our side. The notion that we have God so we can do anything. The very next phrase in the Pledge is with liberty and justice for all. How many of us take the liberty and justice pretty seriously for ourselves and let the "for all" descend into a mumble? The Ten Commandments offer a way for us to live with each other; they are about communal life. We are individualists pretty much, living out the attitude that when I have what I need, I cannot, don't want to, muster up any sympathy for those who don't. In the same way I suspect that someone making seventy million a year cannot understand my fears over the state of a stock account or the reliability of a future pension.

For society to work, or for that matter for religion to be worth anything, we must be able and willing to self examine and self regulate. Where you and I might fail at either or both of those in the lives we are leading day-in and day-out and convince ourselves that at our level it really doesn't matter very much, we can all see how very much it does matter when major financial institutions fail and their innards are splashed all over the landscape. The individuals leading those companies didn't think self-regulation, self-examination mattered either. It matters.

There's not much any of us can do about the political debate over deregulation vs increased regulation for our country's governmental and private institutions. The politics of that may be more than we want to or can tackle. But, truth is, we pretty much have all we can handle -- in ourselves. The story being played out on our national financial stage isn't foreign to us. It's a story very local and very personal. And, it's THAT story, only that story, over which we have direct control.

The questions I have to ask myself? What in the life I am leading might constitute my seventy million? How -- from whom, from what -- am I walking away? Who's suffering because of my actions and my attitudes?

Do you have questions of your own to ask?

21 September 2008

A change of season

Summer has come to an end. And what a summer it has been. Heatwaves. Drought. Travel. Visits with family. Home improvement ...

And, it's nearing completion, the latest in the home improvement realm. The gates went up Friday afternoon. The gate openers and wire connecting the brick pillars to the deer fence should installed this week.

It's been a fine fall day, cool and misty. The house has been open since we made coffee this morning and we'll sleep this night with the wondows open.

The weather and the date on the calendar have coincided. A rarity in my memory.

19 September 2008

Doing the usual

After lingering over one last breakfast with our Road Scholar group yesterday morning -- and linger we did, Tal and I travelled in a generally eastward direction all day, periodically setting our watches forward to catchup with the world. Flying Continental was again a pleasure with on time departures and even an early, by 20 minutes, arrival in Columbia shortly before 11:00 last night.

And, how good the house looked. All the determined cleaning before setting out on our adventure paid off instantly at the sight of the clean kitchen counter and the parallel vacuum marks in the bedroom carpet. Such good feeling, however, and even with my exhausted state, I slept not one wink once we crawled into bed. I am grateful that so good was the book I started reading in the Portland airport -- Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, curled up on the sofa I read happily until daylight dawned. By nightfall I'll be zombie-like, but the laundry will be done, the mail sorted, the grass cut.

It's good to be back to doing the usual. At least for a while.

18 September 2008

Three more McCullough bridges

The camera is out of sight, but the photographs are here in the computer. You only thought I'd be quiet for awhile.

Oregon bridges are a huge part of the memories Tal and I are taking away today as we return home. Our study leader has been great about pointing the historic bridges out to us, the first one being the day we moved from Mount Hood to Crater Lake. That was the day (due to operator error) that I overexposed every image I shot. The photographs of High Bridge over the Crooked River, near Terrabone, are way beyond salvagable. You can see what I mean if you look back to one of the posts on September 12th.

It's a lovely span, 300 feet above the basalt gorge. The new bridge (2000), called the Crooked River Bridge, was constructed to compliment the original (1926) and far enough away from the High Bridge to ensure those both bridges can be admired.

It's the coastal bridges, though, that stood out for me.

This is the Siuslaw River Bridge (1936) at Florence. We had a bit of free time with almost two hours for lunch, so Tal indulged a walk up to the bridge level (old Florence is below the bridge's approach).

The foggy evening we went to Heceta Head for that georgous dinner at the B&B in the lightkeepers house, our coach parked under the Cape Creek Bridge (1932) and a smaller coach took us in two groups up onto Heceta Head. Not wanting to be one of those irritating camera people almays making folks wait, I simply took my luck from inside the shuttle. Just driving over this span, way above the ground, one would never know how dramatic -- and Roman aqueduct-like -- it is.

Between Heceta Head and Newport we crossed four additional bridges, but alas, there was just enough time to acknowlegdge the fact. The giveaway in three cases was a small brown sign Historic Bridge. Not a whole lot of help, but kept me from noticing too late.

According to our study leader only one McCullough bridge has had to be removed, one of the four I counted as we drove north. At Alsea Bay the sand used for the concrete was local and may have contained too much salt, the concrete not holding up over the years. The new bridge (1988), generously, honors the earlier span with a similar, graceful profile.

But, then came the Yaquina Bay Bridge (1936) at Newport. What a winner! And, even better we crossed it three times and went under it twice on our boat ride into the ocean and the estuary. It's truly a work of art and boasts beautiful stairs for pedestrians at each end.

Two more between Newport and Lincoln City, marked by the familiar brown sign. They're both short and we passed over them quickly. Would I like to take a road trip to see every McCullough bridge on the coast -- and inland?

No need to ask. You know what I'd say.

17 September 2008

Putting the camera away

This day has been so pleasant. We ate lunch as a group in the front room of the Wildflower Grill in Lincoln City, visited a lovely gallery next door and then headed east across the Coast Range, through Salem and up I-5. Arriving in Portland between 2:30 and 3:00, we had and hour+ to settle in, setting out at 4:00 on a guided walking tour of Portland's downtown parks and public squares with the former program manager for Portland Parks & Recreation.

Parks were built into the city's development and new parks continue to be built, complete with all the usual problems associated with open urban spaces. Problems aside, they do help city-dwellers connect with nature in the heart of town and have been deemed worth it by Portland's leaders and, if today's numbers are reliable, the parks are in use.

The tour ended at the top of the Pearl District, near a brew pub that had been recommended to us by Tal's son. The group headed back to mid-town and we, map in hand, made our way to the Bridgeport. We indulged in a sip of their brew and ate sherry tomato dill soup with delicious artisan bread. It's a nifty place where the most sought after seats are on the loading dock!

Between the Bridgeport and the Vintage Plaza is Powell's Books, one of the country's largest bookstores and which specializes in used books. Tal bought a couple raggedy westerns for the flight home. I didn't dare visit the third floor photography section. We didn't linger though, as we were only generally sure of our way back to the hotel. Walking along looking lost after dark in an unfamiliar town just isn't worth it.

So, the camera's packed. Although our flight's not until noon tomorrow, we're focused on being ready for breakfast downstairs with the group, and 2500 miles east.

Last day together

After all the months of waiting for this Road Scholar trip and now on our ninth day with the group, here we are on the final morning and making preparations for our return to Portland. Breakfast was scheduled to be later than normal -- 8:00, since we have all day to get to the Hotel Vintage Plaza. Our coastal study leader, taking advantage of low tide, invited those who wanted to get up early to participate in a 7:00 field trip to the basalt outcroppings just outside the first floor of the hotel.

Her essential point was to help us notice the hierarchy of life on those rocks. Sea creatures work their way as high as they can onto the basalt -- and still survive the hours of low tide, all in an effort to get away from their predators, most particularly sea stars (formerly known as star fish). Never did I dream I'd be introduced to so many creatures I'd never seen before -- or at least gave a good look to -- in less than an hour.

A few photos ...

Anemone in an intertidal pool

Chiton (the little armored-looking thing in the center)
at the low-tide line

Acorn barnacle near the high-tide line

Sea stars among (and probably eating) mussels

The Inn at Spanish Head is an unusual hotel. Ten stories high, the restaurant is on the tenth floor and the lobby on the ninth -- at street level, street level being Highway 101. The first floor opens onto the beach. The entire structure is bolted to the basalt cliff. And, yes it is in the tsunami zone. This is a post-breakfast view to the south from our balcony on the 6th floor.

16 September 2008

Cape Perpetua and beyond

We checked out of the Driftwood Shores this morning, the fog still predominating the landscape, knowing it would be a long day. But, nothing on the agenda – at least speaking for myself – would we delete. So …

First stop: The Cape Perpetua Scenic Area where our guide took us on a walk through the temporal rain forest, where it did, indeed, rain. And, where, in spite of repeated storms wiping our signature trees over time, the trees we saw were magnificent. This photograph speaks better than I am able.

Second stop: Newport’s Yaquina Bay waterfront to embark on a Marine Discovery Tours boat bound (the well-publicized caveat being fog permitting) for the ocean and for certain the estuary. The fog lifted to the point that we did leave the harbor, seeing harbor seals and sea lions on sea walls and bouys, and several other boats. Larger life, like whales, were not visible. More interesting than the ocean, however, was the estuary where clams are being raised on floating platforms that look something like boardwalks, where bird life abounded and the sun actually shown.

Third stop: Oregon Coast Aquarium (also in Newport) to enjoy the aquarium itself and to eat lunch. The aquarium is stunning, made all the more so when one learns it received for its construction and receives still for its ongoing life no public funding. It’s a testament to a community wanting something very badly and making it happen. We chose four areas to visit during the limited time we had.

1. Passages of the Deep, a tunnel through an ocean exhibit with 360 degree views, overhead and underfoot. Wow.

2. An exhibit of Oregon coast photography by a local photographer (Scott Blackman), unique in his presentation on tile for some of his images (one shown here).

3. A temporary exhibit entitled Oddwater, featuring rather strange looking sea creatures in tanks along with much-celebrated locally blown glass. I know. You’d have to see it to come up with a mind’s-eye vision. Visible here is a fish, the name of which I failed to record, and its "matching" plate above, none of which is in very good focus.

4. The café where we really enjoyed a bowl of clam chowder with a nice chunk of artisan bread and Rogue Nation beer, brewed right across the street, an Oregon favorite.

Fourth stop: The Inn at Spanish Head (Lincoln City).


Supper's next.

15 September 2008

Heceta Head lighthouse

The fog persisted all day, much to my quiet disappointment. We weren't going to get a clear view of the lighthouse at Heceta Head on this visit. While it is the most photographed lighthouse on the Oregon coast, if not in North America, I'm not going to get my picture. But, what is is and I'm OK with it. Have to be. In the morning I'll pick up a postcard in the gift shop here at the hotel. And, here's a link to a lovely web site about the lighthouse if you'd like to take a look: http://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=131.

We did, however, go to Heceta Head for dinner at a B&B in what was the lightkeeper's house. An elegant five-course experience none of us will ever forget, prepared and served by the couple who run the inn (she's the chef and he's the presenter of the property history and serves). We enjoyed his talk during cocktails. (Appetizers, by the way, were Oregon apple purses, Oregon bay shrimp alliade and artichoke heart and parmesano reggiano spread served with Kramer Vineyards sparkling wine.) This photograph is of the centerpiece on the table at which Tal and I sat. Our host offered to move it once we were seated, but the twelve of us decided to talk around it, the hydrangeas and roses too beautiful to set out of view.

And, these two photographs were taken from inside the house -- one onto and beyond the front porch showing the fog between the house and the edge of the headland and the other a view of the raised beds behind the house. Neither image is as out of focus as it looks. The glass in the windowpanes is old and wavy.

Fact is, all disappointment aside -- without getting any photographs or having a tour of the lighthouse -- we saw the Heceta Head light at its most striking and at its most necessary. By the time dinner ended the fog was very heavy. Standing in the front yard of the inn we witnessed just how dramatically the Fresnel lens refracts the light, sending brilliant, piercing shards in all directions, the lighthouse silent on its headland, but resolute in its constant, consistent message.


Yesterday afternoon and evening was simply spectacular. And, when I opened our drapes at 5:45 this morning to see what my early morning walking weather was going to be like, I was instantly grateful that I'd stayed out until the sun was below the horizon and the ship had regained its prominence just off shore.

Was the ship still out there? No telling ... nothing but grey, damp, drifting fog right up to the hotel windows. There would be no walk. At breakfast we learned the truth about the ship. No spying going on. No intrigue. It was laying fiber cable from Alaska and down the west coast to Florence, our hotel being its most southern installation site.

As breakfast was ending, our instructor for the next two days arrived, a science professor (mostly geology and biology) at Kent County Community College and a woman passionate about the Pacific northwest. (She also taught at the University of Georgia at Savannah GA before moving to Oregon.) From the North American plate moving westward, the Juan de Fuca plate subducting under the North American plate and the Pacific plate sliding past NNW along the Juan de Fuca plate to the tusanimi zones along the Pacific coast and constant preparation for the earthquake that is coming, she lead us to understand a rather clear and fascinating truth: scenery is geology.

After the entertaining introduction to the area it was off to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. The volcanic basalt headlands running from Florence north prevented moving sand from accumulating. As the sand moved south it found haven at the end of the headlands between Florence and Coos Bay, and area about 40 miles long, forming dunes that go up to two miles inland. As the fog cleared ever so slightly we boarded a large dune buggy and toured some of the dunes (many -- not the ones we road -- nearly as high as some of the headlands). Not something I would ever have chosen to do on my own or to propose it to Tal, but it was fun, like riding a roller coaster on big, bouncy wheels.

The delicate balance and steady dance of the dunes is currently threatened by a European sea grass introduced in the early twentieth-century to hold the sand in place. It has a deep and spreading root system which is holding the sand too well, fostering development of a forest behind the front dunes and tapping the aquafer, and, like kudzu in the American south, impossible to irradicate. The buggies of all sizes that ride the dunes are the most effective limiter to the spread of the grass than anything else that has been tried.

Let the demystification continue!

14 September 2008

Passage to the coast: part two

Besides arriving on the Pacific coast on a sunny afternoon -- the first such afternoon in five days we learned from the desk clerk, today's highlight was lunch. After our rest stop on the Williamette where Tal gathered large leaf maple seeds, we finished our descent into the valley and found the King Estate winery just south of Eugene. The estate sits on 1000+ rolling acres which includes over 450 acres of organic vineyards and some 20 acres of fruit, flower and vegetable gardens, enjoying something of a Mediterranean climate.

Our lunch, consisting of salad, entree and dessert, also included tastes of four lovely wines. We had a wonderful time -- dining and strolling the ordered, golden grounds after the meal.

I battled sleep for the rest of our travel day, leaving the valley, traversing the Coast Range (which reminded me of the Appalachians a bit, from the terrain and the road grades to the poor communities and junked up hollows), approaching Florence and the coast along the Siuslaw River. We hardly paused in our rooms before congregating on the deck at the dunes to chat about the day and enjoy the combination of radiant sun and rather chilly sea air.

We crossed pretty much half of Oregon today and saw forest fires, mountain passes, rivers -- both dammed and running free, flat farm land, rolling vineyards, tidal estuaries and the Pacific Ocean. Oregon is nothing if not diverse. Each time we stepped from the coach was like entering another world. I liked them all.

This sunset got folks out of their rooms. Some guests at the hotel had been there for a week and had seen nothing but fog day after day. (The hotter it is in the valley, the more fog on the coast.) Color in the sky, not to mention the mystery of the lighted ship just off shore, was cause of conversation and some measure of collegiality.

Passage to the coast: part one

As I returned our key cards at the desk this morning, someone asked about the expected date for snow at Crater Lake. After the clerk advised us that they avoided using the "S" word, she said most certainly by the end of the month. Hard to believe, with the leaves not yet having turned and the shirt-sleeve warmth during yesterday's boat tour.

I was up early today, partly out of sadness at leaving this spot and partly because I wanted to try for an early morning photograph -- not so much the sunrise itself, but the effects of the sunrise. Once outside I was absolutely delighted to find Mount Thielson in dramatic silouette against the coloring sky. For the past two days it had been nearly invisible, lost in smoke and haze. Perhaps I don't have to confess that it took great discipline not to be late to breakfast.

The two forest fires stayed contained over night, but had grown more smoky, making our drive away from Crater Lake lacking in scenic views. We travelled through the Williamette Pass in the Cascades, stopping near Oakridge for a rest stop at a park on the Williamette River. Tal was taken by the large leafed maples and, ever optomistic, tucked a couple seeds in his pocket to plant in Edgefield.

13 September 2008

Adventure at Cleetwood Cove

And, what an adventure. 1.1 miles down and at least 11 up!

Today's major activity for those who were able was a boat tour of Crater Lake, which took the better part of the day. From the lodge getting to the parking lot and trail head for Cleetwood Cove involves a 16 mile drive on the Rim Road and it was with some trepidation that most of us boarded the coach, all of us having been warned about the trail -- a 1000 foot drop in 1.1 miles.

The hike on the very dusty trail down into the cove was not particularly difficult, other than having to pay attention to the rocky footing on the narrow, switch-backed footpath and being mindful to stop walking while looking at the lake. Much of the smoke had dissipated over night, so the air was more clear and the view very enticing. This is my first sight of the boat dock from near the top of the trail.

The tour involved two National Park Service employees: the boat captain and the ranger who offered excellent commentary. And, the vessel in which we road was an amazing craft, high-sided, the passengers (perhaps as many as 30) seated low, our shoulders coming just below the level of the sides. Photography was a bit of a challenge both from that position and coupled with the constant vibration of the engine. For a fast shutter speed to reduce shake and knowing I didn't have to worry about depth of field, I set an f-stop of 4 and zeroed out the meter. Not my finest effort, but acceptable. This image shows the layer of smoke we were fortunate enough to be under during our time on the water.

The two hour tour ended, then began the hard part, but we both made it. Slow and steady was our mantra. We weren't the first to arrive back at the Rim Road, but we weren't the last either. In the end we were away from the lodge for almost five hours. We rested a bit and attended a presentation by a summer intern on the restoration/rebuiding of the lodge and on her specific work inventorying and assessing the condition of all the stone masonry in the park. We opted out of a trip to Mazama Village for supper, instead indulging in a glass of wine and an appetizer by the fire in the Great Room and a sunset walk before retiring for the night -- before 8:00. Yes, we are pretty tuckered out!

Here's one last photograph, an artistic shot of the setting sun's light on the east rim cradled in a frame of tree roots and tree trunks.

Smoky conditions

By the time we arrived at Crater Lake, our afternoon having included a stop at Lava Lands -- part of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, I was too tired to write a word, but arrive we did. Two fires are raging in the vicinity -- one a controlled burn (signs along the Rim Road read "Natural Fire Do Not Report") and the other larger, more distant and more serious. In fact, Highway 138 is closed and will necessitate remapping our route toward the coast tomorrow. Although the smoky conditions didn't allow us that initial zing of blue when we caught sight of the lake, it was nonetheless a powerful moment, that first look.

The inn is splendid. This is a photograph I shot right after supper of the lodge and the almost full moon rising. (I still haven't learned to take a photo and get the moon right. To our eyes it was large and golden.)

Our room is on the second floor at the end of the building, not counting the stone basement/foundation level. (Our windows are the two to the right of the door-length window, our second window almost touched by the eave where the roof of the annex meets the main building. Now, how confusing was that explanation?) I still cannot believe we're actually getting to stay here in the lodge, able to see the lake from our room, able to step out of the Great Room onto the terrace and sit in a rocking chair, sipping a glass of wine with the lake below.

Even though it was only September 12th, we arrived to find fires in each of the main floor fireplaces -- in the lobby, the Great Room and the dining room. The lodge's season is short -- mid-May to mid-October -- and it feels like the place is beginning to shut down. A comparison between the Timberline Lodge and here would be unfair. Interestingly, however, there is a telling phrase describing the lodge found in the Fodor's guide to Oregon: "beautifully renovated (but half-heartedly tended)." Maybe I don't need to say any more. Other than that to restate that I'm thrilled to be here. And, to add one more photograph -- also shot after supper from the same location as the one of the lodge, just in the opposite direction: Wizard Island at sunset.

12 September 2008

Best sign

Today's trek across the high desert took us through land watered by the Deschutes River -- grain, alfalfa, garlic, cattle, horses, sheep. The route we travelled was bisected only occasionally by unpaved local roads. Just beyond the intersection on one road was this posted warning to drivers choosing to make that drive -- and constitutes the best sign I've seen since this trip began:

Cattle at Large

A bend in the Deschutes

Bend was our lunch stop today ... made all the better by a ladies room. The place Tal and I chose for a just-the-two-of-us lunch (yes, yet another meal) is shown here -- The Bend Brewing Company. The town has a burgeoning micro-brewery industry and if the High Desert Hefeweizen which I enjoyed with lunch is any indication of overall quality it's an industry that is going to last. Before reboarding the coach we strolled the park along the banks of the Deschutes, marveling at the city's summertime beauty.

We learned an anecdote about Bend today. It reveals something enticing about the human spirit, I think. The story goes that travelers west came to a bend in the Deschutes River, the easiest place to cross. Once safely on the western side they began the ascent out of the river valley. At one point in the trail, the last place the bend in the river was visible, they would turn around and issue a farewell. In the late 1800s, while settlers of what is now the city of Bend were negiotating from among several options what to name the town, the post office decided Farewell Bend was too long and shortened the winning name simply to Bend.

I know some would say that given the fate of Lot's wife, we ought never look back. Every time during my adult life that I've moved, I have taken a few minutes to walk back through the resident I was leaving -- including dorm rooms, remembering good and bad times. Each time I leave my parents' house, I look back to return their from-the-garage-door wave. Looking back doesn't necessarily entail getting stuck in the past or constitute some sort of failure. Sometimes it's a comfort and provides a way, the strength even, to get on with the journey at hand.

On the coach again

We spent the day on the coach, leaving the lush green of Mount Hood's southside, bound for Crater Lake. And again, like on Wednesday, our several stops were varied and quick.

It didn't take long to reach the high desert and for several hours we watched Mount Jefferson, the Three Sisters, Broken Back and Mount Bachelor grow larger and gain definition. The terrain in the region of the Warm Springs Reservation was dramatic -- stark and flat -- with high messas and deep gorges.

Of particular note was the location of our morning rest stop: the Peter Ogdon State Park at the 320-foot-deep Crooked River Canyon where three bridges cross the gorge -- the one in use; the historic one, designed by Conde B McCullough and too spectacular to remove; and the Oregon Trunk Railroad Bridge. With only 15 minutes at my disposal, I chose the bridges over the ladies room and was only slightly sorry during the drive to Bend.

This photograph, taken from under the railroad bridge, shows the other two, the McCullough bridge being the most prominent.

11 September 2008

Walking west

The coach was scheduled to take anyone who wanted back to Government Camp for supper in a local bar and grill, the evening meal today being “on your own.” We opted to skip that outing and to skip the eating all together, feeling a bit too well fed. Instead we headed west on the Pacific Coast Trail which crosses between the lodge and the Palmer Snow Field behind the lodge. There, at a point where we’d moved beyond the ski lifts and other signs of resort life and could see more west than south, we sat and watched the sun go down. I'd like to think that last layer of horizon is the Coast Range way off in the distance, but I suspect it's actually a cloud bank.

Down the mountain

I think I wrote earlier that free time for us “scholars” is in short supply. My low light photographic efforts in the lodge were cut short after lunch for a field trip to the Wildwood Recreation Site. Wildwood is a forest park in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains along the Salmon River. Our route from the lodge and down the mountain took us along US 26 through Government Camp, Zig Zag, around Laurel Mountain where wagons during the settlement of the west were lowered by ropes down the 60% grade -- with a lower percentage of success than that of the grade, I might add, past a replica of a toll gate on the less-than-successful Barlow Trail. Why less-than-successful you ask? By the time people reached mid-Oregon on their westward journey there wasn't any money to pay the toll.

Tal and I explored a little bit of two easy trails, but our attention was on the Salmon River which begins in the Palmer Snowfield behind and above Timberline Lodge and ends 33 miles later when it joins the Sandy River itself. It’s the only waterway in the lower 48 states where its free-flowing nature and resource values are protected for the entire length of the river. None of my photographs of the river itself warrant space here, but I really like this one of hinting of the impending arrival of autumn.

While the recreation area celebrates the flora and the fauna of the area, given the name of the river, salmon holds a special place. Near the shelter which serves as a welcome and information center and at the junction of the two main trails is a dramatic, low-to-the-ground stainless steel sculpture which I found very appealing.

Shame on me for not thinking to make an image of the plague giving the artist's name so I could give proper credit.

Timberline Lodge: headache and treasure

It’s not a routine thing to awaken in the wee hours of the morning -- 2:30ish or so, to behold Mount Hood awash in the white light of the moon. Not much these last days, however, has seemed routine. And, I’m reminded of a song: There’s no such thing as an ordinary day. (Anybody know its vintage and/or the identity of the artist?)

Our morning was taken up with two presentations, one by a US Forest Service employee whose primary task is to administer the special use permit for the operation of the lodge and the other by the historian charged with cataloguing the lodge’s vast collection (of art, furniture, weavings, wrought iron and the like). As in all times and places, controversy abounds where Timberline Lodge is concerned, from the proposed new temporary structure for winter access to the lodge (for years a Quonset hut has been moved into place before the first snows of the year) to the fact that the lodge was ever built in the first place.

Free time here at Mount Hood is at a premium for our group. I did, however, haul out the tripod just after lunch and focus awhile on some of the treasured collection -- here wall decoration/woodwork/wrought iron hinge in the Barlow Room and at the end of this post the signature Timberline Lodge rectangular arch (which has a name I cannot remember), appearing on chair backs and in wrought iron on the bedsteads.

Being here is anything but routine; I am constantly aware of how fortunate I am. Part of the overall controversy hinges on that very fact; government money (CCC and WPA) went into providing for an exclusive leisure sport for the upper class. What a testament this place is, though, to the dream of Emerson Griffith, head of the WPA in Oregon, who turned the building of the lodge into a broad-based project involving thousands, and the technical and artistic expertise of the craftsmen provided work during a dreadful time in US history and whose talents were given a time and a place for expression.

10 September 2008

Getting from there to here

As Tal and I settled into our room at Timberline Lodge late this afternoon (check out our view), we challenged each other to put the day in order. It turned out to be nearly an impossible task, without resorting to consulting my notes, the published schedule AND a map. Our going from point A (Portland) to point B (Mount Hood) was an involved process.

Twenty-six in number (23 “scholars,” our group leader and a driver, plus the guide for the day) we left Portland bound for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Though the early morning mist had not burned off and our view of the Columbia from the Portland Women’s Forum Park was limited, the riverside highway itself -- Highway 30, designed by Sam Hill and completed in 1916, is a work of art. By the time we reached the Crown Point Vista House, a very short drive from the Forum Park, there was plenty of river to see, not to mention the Vista House itself, an expensive, ornate, octagon-shaped highway rest stop built in 1918.

Our series of stops -- the ones Tal and I couldn’t get in order and which I’ll not list here -- included Multnomah Falls' spectacular 600+ foot drop, complete with an observation bridge partway up the falls, easily reached by a paved pathway. All the falls along the historic highway are inviting, and I understand that many Portlanders make a point of hiking to all of them.

Our onboard guide was great, especially in that he managed to hold in balance the always competing, oftentimes hostile, interests all vying for primacy in the Columbia River Gorge. He’s employed as a park ranger with the US Army Corps of Engineers based at the Bonneville Dam and is an active member of and volunteer with the Columbia Gorge Ecology Institute. Although he contributed to our discussions through the day, he was in his element during our afternoon stop at the dam, a visit way too short and limited to the fish ladders and the below-water level fish viewing area.

09 September 2008

Moving downtown

Today we moved from the Holiday Inn Express in the northwest part of Portland to the hotel, the Hotel Vintage Plaza, where we will meet our traveling companions at suppertime tonight. So we could take advantage of a 10:00AM walking tour of downtown Portland, we were up early and, having eaten breakfast and packed at a conscientious clip, we were ready for the desk clerk to summon a taxi before 8:00. Although our room was not ready at that early hour, the staff tagged and stored our luggage and we were off to locate the assigned rendezvous point for the tour.

Over an hour early we people-watched in Pioneer Square, a beautiful, welcoming, multi-leveled city block, which had been a parking lot until relatively recently. A song popular at some point during my growing up years had a line about taking out a park and putting in a parking lot. Happily, Portland did the opposite with Pioneer Square. This photograph looks toward SW Broadway and the very popular coffee shop, a Starbucks, that is a vital part of the square.

It turned out we were the only two takers for the Tuesday morning tour, which was fascinating, but which required I pay attention and participate in the conversation. My plan to hang back and take pictures was shot from the getgo! From remarkable public art to the lightrail and bus system to the dedication to parks and street vistas, Portland is a great city to visit. I wouldn't be at all opposed to coming back.

Anyway, two and half hours and one and a half miles later, we bid Herb an appreciative goodbye at the park along the west side of the Williamette River. From there we headed to the lunch spot he'd recommended, Mother's Bistro, where we enjoyed the soup/sandwich special featuring -- get this -- sweet potato and chipolte pepper soup. Yum. Believe me!

When we returned to the hotel, our room was ready ... a spacious room on the fifth floor overlooking SW Broadway. Luscious. And, now it's naptime.

08 September 2008

Two walks later

One in the morning and another in the afternoon. Both in this northwest corner of Portland.

Forest Park, at 7.5 miles long and 1.5 miles wide and taking up 5000+ acres, looms up several blocks to the west of our hotel and was our morning destination. Maps don't seem available and the large sign at the closest park entrance was weathered and damaged to the point of uninformative. So, we walked in for 45 minutes, planning to retrace our steps. At the ruins of a stone house and just about at the 45 minute point, the path became an intersection. We chose to turn about 30 degrees back to our right and ended up meeting walkers and runners and finding ourselves -- miraculously in that pre-decided second 45 minutes -- back on the street map Tal was carrying.

It was a great hour and a half. The forest is dense and dark, expect in places where an occasional tree has come down. We saw the largest Douglas fir in Portland, spotted (and heard, raucous as they are) Stellar jays, enjoyed the soft music of a steam's late-summer trickle along part of the path. Completely unmanicured and with some 70 miles of trail, it's easy to understand why the neighborhood near the park is the most densely populated one in the state. What a backyard.

This view through the forest was one precipitating simultaneous comment. We stood and simply looked for several moments. The glow of the maple leaves against both the dead tree immediately behind and the grey/blue of the far side of the deep V carved out over the centuries by the steam gave this walk its flavor.

In midafternoon, my having read about a series of stairways leading from the flatland into the hillside overlooking downtown Portland, we struck out to find a view. Miles and miles later we'd seem some pretty impressive real estate, but never found ourselves gazing down on Portland and at Mount Hood some 70 miles away. The houses are pretty much shoulder-to-shoulder, maximizing use of each lot. No spot for a tourist's view. Of course, in that neighhorhood, let's be serious, who would want to provide that? The comings and goings, the tire tracks in the lawn, the McDonald's bags. Get serious. We know now that Washington Park or even the tram at the southern end of the waterfront is the place to go to "take in" Portland. Maybe tomorrow.

This hazy long range view, taken from a switchback in the street, shows Mount Saint Helens with Mount Rainer, snowcovered, in the distance.