Friday, August 23, 2013

Shining on Portland and Mr. Hood

Beginning of August 2013

Leaving the Oregon coast, the woods and the mountain trails behind me I ventured back towards civilization. Vectoring myself into Lake Oswego outside of Portland, Oregon I edged my way towards a reunion with an old girlfriend. Actually, I think she was my first girlfriend! Laura and I were the focus of so many rumors back in the day and as anyone with hindsight on those teen years can appreciate, they were mostly bullshit! But I digress.

One of Oregon's innumerable rivers
Actually, amidst those early teens years, when you have no real idea what you are feeling, what you are doing, or for that matter what a "girl" really is, I'm not sure the term "girlfriend" accurately applies. But you get the point and in any case it doesn't diminish that special bond you have with your first "puppy love". 

We ushered each other into the world of the "other sex" and so it was with no surprise that our reunion was met with big smiles and hugs! As well as with the question, "Where the hell do we begin to catch up after some 20+ years since seeing each other last?". Well, that question was never answered, it wasn't necessary. Where 20 years ago there was nervousness and insecurity, today there was simply a comfortable familiarity even after so many years. 
So much so that we began our reunion with a night in Portland at the long standing "Dante's Sinferno" which I leave to your imagination and googling prowess and ended a few days later with a leisurely afternoon lazy tube ride floating down the Clikackas River with her lovely daughter (No, no relation to me!) 

Mt. Hood
Not far from Portland is Mt. Hood off to the East. It's hard for me to resist venturing towards anything as majestic as a 2 mile high peak with snow on it during the summer, so off I went. So through the small mountain town of Government Camp I drove and then made a stop at the historic Timberline Resort. If you remember the movie "The Shining" you'll appreciate that this lodge was an inspiration for its location and also used for some of the movie's external shots where Jack Nicholson worked too hard and became a "dull boy".  The lodge itself seemed to me a historical wonder of old craftsmanship and I could imagine that if subjected to some fireside ghost talk one could definitely be led into some neck-hair raising experiences! It certainly had that spooky almost claustrophobic vibe to it!
Timberline Lodge- inspiration for "The Shining"

Unfortunately the weather and perspectives I was privy to at the time amounted to some considerably  less dramatic photographic opportunities of Mt. Hood. I got a few shots that may be worthy of sharing, but in any case,  there will be other extinct volcanoes to photograph in the future. Hell, if I'm lucky, there will be some non extinct volcanoes too!

For Photos and Videos please check out the following links:
Facebook     (A sampling before eventually posting to my Photography website)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Oregon Coast or Bust!

Just another Oregon Beach Sunset!

Beginning of August

Not able to wait out the fires blanketing the area in smoke I decided to cut my losses and carry on westward through Oregon. Exiting Crater Lake Park I cruised by Diamond Lake where I considered going for a mountain bike ride. However, having recently quit smoking I didn't wish to start again by inhaling all that wild fire smoke. So I drove on.....

I have to admit, that after being in the high and dry altitudes for some time, I was yearning again for a little of that somewhat damp and salty air I'm more accustomed to. Not to mention the more luxurious oxygen levels I was looking forward to as I started slowly descending from the high altitudes of the great plains towards the pacific coast and sea level. There haven't been many periods of time in my life when I haven't been within "smell shot" of an ocean and after battling dry sinuses and crusty cake like boogies I was ready for some coastal exploration, especially in a scenic environment such as Oregon. 

Oregon Coast Lamp
For you "East Coast Folk" I-5 is the equivalent to I-95. For all you "non-coastal folk", both aforementioned interstates run the length of their respective coasts from north to south. Or south to north for those of you who are dyslexic. So when you start to see signs for I-5 you know you've made it back to the west coast. Additionally, the "Pacific Coast Highway" or "101" snugly hugs the coast and parallels the I-5. So when you hit the "101" you "Really Know" you are back on the west coast. Or at least you had better "recognize!", because if you don't you'll quickly find yourself swimming in the Pacific Ocean. That is if you survive your plunge into the ocean!

All kidding aside, driving the "101" is one of those routes you really should try to complete in this lifetime if you have the opportunity. There are many scenic mountain routes which are arguably as pleasant and  impressive, but you'll be hard pressed to find a more impressive coastal route on this planet. I'll even go out on a limb and say any other planet, at least any you'll have access to anytime soon! If you do decide to take the drive allow me to offer a little advice: try not to be the one driving. It's difficult to take in and appreciate all the scenery while driving and even more difficult to explain why you drove off the cliff while taking it all in!

My first night on the pacific northwest coast hit me with a nostalgic wave of deja-vu. The smell of the forest, the dampness of the air, the eerie feeling of wild eyes in the distance gazing upon me, all gave me the sense that I was back in Dharamsala, India during the monsoon season. It was a pleasant feeling, all the more so since there are fewer venomous snakes and temperamental monkeys here on this continent!

Bigger isn't always better and in this case it was completely coincidental that I made my way to Siltcoos Lake which at 3,500 acres happens to be the largest freshwater lake on the Oregon Coast. There I did a Mountain Bike ride which comprised of a 1.5 mile out and back trail along with a 2.5 mile loop which was so fun that I did it twice. Note to riders: If it's damp, I suggest not trying to corner the first bridge and recommend walking it instead! Just like I did, right after I picked myself up after having my wheels yanked out from under me faster and harder than a horny pubescent school boy discovering the wonders of his anatomy. Other than that caution it is an easy and highly enjoyable fast ride through old growth Sitka Spruce, Douglas Fir, Cedar and Hemlock. Secondary note: enjoy the Hemlock, but don't ingest it!

I spent my second night on the coast near Waldport, Oregon to be prepared to do the "Burnt Timber" ride the next day, which according to the mountain biking websites, is mainly a climb, but is worthwhile since it ends in a great 3 mile descent along Bear Creek. Both google maps and the forest service maps showed "you can't get there from here!", but since the bike websites highly recommended it I figured all was good.  Well after doing all of the climb I couldn't locate the trail to descend on. I was only able to find trail #3487 which, although was also not on google maps, looked like from the GPS that it would run parallel, if not run into the trail I was hoping to be on. Well, to cut to the chase, it didn't. In fact, it looked like it hadn't been used by a living soul in at least ten years! For some reason this didn't faze me. The fact that it started out as overgrown double track and then got completely overgrown with tall grass also didn't faze me. That the occasional thorn bush would reach out and grab and arm or leg..... well... that started to faze me, but I was determined. Abruptly discovering the slippery branches dastardly hidden in the tall grass and lying parallel to the trail which is a sure recipe for losing the bike out from underneath of you really started to faze me, but I ushered on. 

Following the rafters towards the coast
It was at about 1/2 a mile from the main road that I was trying to get back to that things shut down. Large downed trees blocked the trail every few feet which after climbing over all of them only led to a dead end. I was faced with nothing but a thick jungle of dense thorn bushes. The GPS showed I was only 1/4 mile from the main road, but try as I might, unashamedly thrashing my bike out in front of me in lieu of a machete and trying three different directions while only making it about 30 feet in each, I gave up and backtracked. Later in the van, as dots of blood along my arms and legs oozed out as evidence of the evil thorn bushes encountered, I realized that it would have been a really bad idea to try and hike it out through the thorn bushes even if I could have somehow managed to fight my way through them. Even if I did wind up making it close to the road, making it down to the road would have meant sliding down a 40 foot nearly vertical drop. It was that steep all along the road! Needless to say, I have lost all faith in and who suggested this ride! In the future if google maps and the Forest Service maps (neither of which are very reliable) don't show a viable route, I'm Not Doing It!!!

So my planned 10 mile ride turned into a 20 mile ride. Other than the extra calories being burned which I won't miss, the day did provide some perspectives. Actually three:  Firstly, in a visual sense by looking up at the immense towering Douglas Firs reaching high into the sky. Secondly, in a historical sense by realizing how long those and other stately trees have been alive  to witness their local history, if only a narrow view of it. Thirdly, in a survival sense by realizing how damn easy it is to get yourself lost and helpless even if you can manage to get within a few feet of where you want to be!

So close, yet so far.....    Oh well, another day older and little wiser.....I hope!