Entrance into the underground lava tube.

Entrance into the underground lava tube.

Highway 503 is a secondary approach to Mt. St. Helens, leaving the Interstate and heading south of the mountain and around the other side, so that one can view it from the East, rather than the north, as shown in my earlier posts. The stops along the way reveal some fascinating aspects of the volcano one can’t learn from the other, more popular highway.

I first explored Ape Cave, an apt name in this pocket of Bigfoot country. The name of the cave is related to the Sasquatch legend in a surprising way. There are multiple stories, so forgive me that I only include one version: In 1924 some Boy Scouts were goofing around in the area, screeching and acting like primates, picking up lightweight pumice rocks and hurling them into a canyon. They did not know that there was a cabin below. From out of that cabin burst astonished miners, squinting up at the ridge and believing they were under attack by apes, which is the story they reported when they got to town. This led people to speculate that the tall tales of ape men had finally been proven legitimate. Years later, a local youth group named themselves the St. Helens Apes after that legend. In 1951, when the youth group were among the first humans to explore a newly discovered cave, they dubbed it the Ape Cape, and the name stuck.

At the entrance to the Ape Cave, you can see the arched roof formed 1900 years ago. The rubble formed when parts of the roof caved in.

At the entrance to the Ape Cave, you can see the arched roof formed 2000 years ago. The rubble piled up when parts of the roof caved in.

Lava tubes are a special kind of cave, formed in a volcanic eruption. I explored one in Bend, Oregon in 2011. Only once in Mt. St. Helens’ history did she erupt with molten lava. This kind of eruption is rare in the Cascade Range because of our geology. Magma rising to the surface here has a high silica content, which results in the magma taking on a more solid form, trapping gases and resulting in an explosive eruption. Less silica allows a fluid eruption of molten lava, called basalt.

2000 years ago, Mt. St. Helens erupted with fluid lava. As it flowed in enormous, thick rivers, the outside of the river cooled and hardened while the inside remained hot and continued to flow. The lava melted the rock it was flowing across, carrying it away and deepening the channel. When the eruption finally stopped, the remaining liquid river flowed out the end of the tube, emptying it, and leaving a lava shell that eventually was covered by dirt and forest.

Ape Cave is 13,042 feet (2 1/2 miles) long, and I did not have time to explore much of it. I’ll come back another day.

Evidence of the changing season.

Evidence of the changing season.

Next I visited A Trail of Two Forests. On a Thursday morning in gorgeous weather there was not another soul and I had the trail entirely to myself. Sometimes that’s one of the best things about living in the West: hardly any people.

The trail is entirely on boardwalk, and makes a short loop through the forests. The two forests mentioned here are the one that exists today, and the one that disappeared in the lava flow that created Ape Cave. Hollow shells where trees used to be are well-preserved here. It takes hardly any imagination to visualize what was there when the lava struck, since the lava shells tell the story.

One hole from a tree that had been standing, and stretched from the top left toward the bottom right is the partial shell left from a tree that had been lying down when the lava hit.

One large hole from a tree that had been standing, a small standing tree on the right, and stretched from the top left toward the bottom center is the partial shell left from a tree that had been lying down when the lava hit.

What's left when lava hits a forest.

What’s left when lava hits a forest.

Looking into a shell created when lava cooled around a tree, and then the tree burned away.

Looking into a shell created when lava cooled around a tree, and then the tree burned away.

Molten lava oozed into the forest, surrounding huge logs and eventually cooling and hardening. In the meantime, the wood caught on fire and burned up. What’s left is big circular gaps in the forest floor marking the diameter of the trees that once were, and long tree-sized tunnels along the ground. There is a place where a couple of downed trees were beside standing trees, so the hollow tubes all connect. From the boardwalk you can climb down a ladder into one tree hole, and then climb into a horizontal tunnel, following the path where a tree once lay. Halfway through, you turn a corner into a hole left by a second tree lying down, and at the end, climb back out through the hole from another standing tree. (It also makes one a bit in awe of the size of trees…)

Humongous tree hole beside the trail

Large tree hole beside the trail. It’s more impressive in real life.

This is where one can climb down into the tunnels left by trees.

This is where one can climb down into the tunnels left by trees.

I found this video that has some great shots of the places I saw.

I continued on to St. Helens herself. As the Jeep climbed out of the river valleys and up into the ridgelines, the wind rose around me. My destination was Windy Ridge, but I had assumed the name referenced the natural buffeting one gets in exposed places. The wind during my drive seemed unusually high, particularly since I was still far from Windy Ridge.

Wind lifts volcanic ash from the crater.

Wind lifts volcanic ash from the crater.

It’s a beautiful drive and not as geared for tourists as Highway 504. No visitor centers and fewer informational signs at viewpoints. In fact, when I arrived at Windy Ridge, there was not even a visitor center there, though there was a park Ranger giving talks. He stood in a small outdoor amphitheater with a plexiglass wall that provided some protection from the wind while allowing us to see the crater of Mt. St. Helens while he talked. He confirmed that it was an unusually windy day.

We could see clouds of ash lifting from the crater and drifting off to the West. One woman asked the Ranger if it was steam, fearing the volcano was active on that very day. We were in no danger, but it was a fascinating sight to see. The valley I had photographed the day before was murky with airborne particles and I was grateful to be on the East side in all that wind.

The wind! It was tremendous! I didn’t feel safe near the edge of the bluff, and could hardly remain upright as I walked across the parking lot. I decided not to climb Windy Ridge for a better view of the mountain, and risk getting blown into the next county.

Our view behind the Ranger as he talked.

Our view behind the Ranger as he talked.

Spirit Lake in the foreground, and the ashy skies behind it.

Spirit Lake in the foreground, and the ashy skies behind it.

The Ranger’s talk that day was about the wildlife making a foothold in the valley before us. He didn’t bother using his posterboard media and rather we in the audience took turns chasing them down when the wind carried them away. In 34 years, much of the area’s natural wildlife has returned to the land and also to the lakes. He talked about how it began with small critters at first, who flourished and made an appealing smorgasbord for larger critters, who hunted them. Mice came, and other larger mammals, followed by coyotes. I had heard them the previous evening while I sat and waited for the clouds to clear from the mountain peak. Barks and cries of a dozen voices rose from the valley, their haunting songs thrilling me.

A chipmunk nibbles something tasty.

A chipmunk nibbles something tasty.

He also talked about the fish in Spirit Lake, planted without permission by anonymous citizens. Somebody had hiked down the steep, ashy, gravelly slope carrying buckets fish, one assumes. The lake was packed full of tasty things for fish to eat, so when the trout arrived they did what fish tend to do, and they ate to nearly bursting. The trout grew too much and were sickly, but gigantic. But the species survived. Today the ecosystem of Spirit Lake is balancing out, and the fish are healthier and smaller, but the Ranger says they are still much larger than typical trout ever get. He said no one has ever been spotted trying to fish the lake inside the National Monument, so the purpose of going to so much trouble to stock it remains unknown.

Spirit Lake today

Spirit Lake today

I was so interested in how the air was clear over me, but thick with dust over the ash-filled valley.

I was so interested in how the air was clear over me, but thick with dust over the ash-filled valley.

You've been wondering, "What's that silver stuff in the lake?" Here's a good look. That is a mat of decomposing trees that were blown into the lake 34 years ago.

You’ve been wondering, “What’s that silver stuff in the lake?” Here’s a good look. That is a mat of decomposing trees that were blown into the lake 34 years ago.

I made the return journey slowly, taking time to gaze out at Mt. Adams (the closest volcano), Mt. Hood, and Mt. Rainier from different spots along the highway. I walked a trail to tiny Meta Lake, recovering from the eruption beautifully. Beside the trail were huckleberry bushes loaded with fat, ripe berries, and I ate a bunch of them. To someone who grew up eating huckleberries, nothing can compare. There must be no bears here, or perhaps the berry bushes are loaded everywhere and the bears don’t need to come too close to humans to get food.

Another great thing about this trip was how close it is to home, and that’s where I headed next. I chose the trip for that reason, since my Great Aunt had passed away and I needed to be with family for the remainder of my vacation time. Nice to know that if I ever have a yearning to see some of America’s incredible sights, Mt. St. Helens is less than two hours away.

Mt. Adams

Mt. Adams

Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood

Meta Lake. Remnants of the destroyed forest are still visible while the new one regenerates, purely on Mother Nature's timeline.

Meta Lake. Remnants of the destroyed forest are still visible while the new one regenerates, purely on Mother Nature’s timeline.

Huckleberry deliciousness.

Huckleberry deliciousness.

Sunset on icefields on the west slopes.

Sunset on icefields on the west slopes.

I must have been in the camera groove when I went to Mt. St. Helens. I am merely trying to sort and organize my photos to upload them to flickr, but I keep impressing myself. Some of these are stunning. I cheat, because I was standing in gorgeous scenery. But still… wow.

Evening sun turns the silvery spikes of dead trees into copper.

Evening sun turns the silvery spikes of dead trees into copper. And do my eyes deceive me, or is that blue sky through an arch? You can click for a larger image.

This one makes me think of candy. No Photoshop here, just pure atmospheric luck.

This one makes me think of candy. No Photoshop here, just pure atmospheric luck.

This was so much more astonishing in person, but it's still nice here. The North Fork Toutle River sparkles as it flows West to the sea.

This was so much more astonishing in person, but it’s still nice here. The North Fork Toutle River sparkles as it flows West to the sea. All the particulate is…yes… volcanic dust kicked up in the wind.

Ash kicked into the air as high winds tornado into the crater.

Ash kicked into the air as high winds tornado into the crater.

I want to paint this with oils - all that blue shadow. These are the hummocks in the valley below the observatory.

I want to paint this with oils – all that blue shadow. These are the hummocks in the valley below the observatory.

Awww... ok, I threw this one in for cuteness.

Awww… ok, I threw this one in for cuteness.

Pow! What color!

Pow! What color!

I am about the world's biggest huckleberry fan. Imagine my delight when I found bushes just loaded with ripe berries beside a trail.

I am about the world’s biggest huckleberry fan. Imagine my delight when I found bushes just loaded with ripe berries beside a trail.

The contrast was just irresistible.

The contrast was just irresistible.

I am on the East side of St. Helens, and the wind is Easterly. So the air is clear over the forest, but in the places where the volcanic dust is still on the surface, the particles are raised high in the air. You can see the cloud moving off to the West.

I am on the East side of St. Helens, and the wind is Easterly. So the air is clear over the forest, but in the places where the volcanic dust is still on the surface, the particles are raised high in the air. You can see the cloud moving off to the West.

In case you want to see any more, here’s my flickr link.

…and a shout out to anyone who can tell me why sometimes my images are displayed in sharp focus and sometimes they look blurry, or grainy low quality, when displayed in WordPress. Is it just my computer that does this? Is it the template that I’m using?

Mt. St. Helens in the setting sun, from Johnston Ridge Observatory

Mt. St. Helens in the setting sun, from Johnston Ridge Observatory

Gary, this one’s for you.

When I was 10 years old, Mt. St. Helens erupted. Down south, in Steamboat, Oregon, fine powder fell for a couple days, noticeable only to those looking for it. We could drag a finger over the hood of a car and see a trail in the dust.

A plastic juice bottle filled with volcanic ash.

A plastic juice bottle filled with volcanic ash.

The sideways blast in the north slope of the mountain, coupled with prevailing West winds, blew much of the ash over to Idaho from Washington. I spent that summer with my mom in Sandpoint, Idaho, and I recall the drive up there because of seeing the devastating heaps of white-grey ash from the car windows during the trip. In the worst places, June 1980 still had many people wearing masks and shoveling the stuff with snow shovels. Like snow does in the winter, the weight of the ash had damaged roofs. Unlike snow, it would not melt away, and had to be removed by hand. I watched teams shoveling ash a foot deep off bridges, off business roofs in small towns, even plowing it with trucks.

Later in June, my family went on a picnic along a north Idaho river. The river held large smooth rocks that had collected ash in irregular bowls shaped into their surface from erosion. After I finished my juice, I rinsed the plastic bottle out in the water, and set it in the sun to dry. Then, I walked barefoot through the water from rock to rock, collecting the fine powder by brushing it with my fingers into the plastic juice container. I still have that container today; one of the very few mementos of my childhood that survived the many moves across more than a dozen states in my life.

I brought my very old plastic juice container to Mt. St. Helens with me last week. I had been determined to go to the mountain since I was 10 years old. Can you believe it took me 34 years to pull it off? One thing I will say about myself: Like the tortoise, I may be slow, but I do reach my goals in the end. (…says the woman who finally made it to University in her 30s…)

Hills of Noble Fir as seen from Highway 504 on the way to Johnston Ridge Observatory.

Hills of Noble Fir as seen from Highway 504 on the way to Johnston Ridge Observatory. A ranger called them “Lego trees,” cautioning us not to look at them too long or we’d go cross-eyed. The effect on your vision when you are right in front of them is pretty crazy.

Bare ridges betray a traumatic history.

Bare ridges betray a traumatic history.

It’s an easy drive on a good road from I-5, and I was within the National Volcanic Monument in an hour, passing thickly forested hills, the homogeneous stands of Noble Fir making it obvious that the trees had been planted by the land owner there, Weyerhauser Company. There were a few vista stops, but each time I stopped, the only thing I could see was a curious, moonlike valley, and clouds obscuring anything with elevation. That was frustrating, because much of the sky was cloudless blue, and only the highest peaks around St. Helens were obscured.

It wasn’t until I was in the immediate vicinity of the Johnston Ridge Observatory when I could tell this had been a place of devastation. Things today are lovely – truly lovely. However, not all the pieces in of the scene felt right. Humongous decaying logs laid about, on bare land with tiny trees just getting a foothold among kinnickinnick and lupine. The surrounding ridges were also mostly bare, with the silver remnants of tall trees. The wide valley had no forests, no brushy stands of willow, and the streams cut deep, sharp channels through what looked like very soft and crumbly soil. It does not look like any other place in the Pacific Northwest.

Closer to the mountain, more evidence of the volcanic eruption can be seen.

Closer to the mountain, more evidence of the volcanic eruption can be seen.

Remnants of towering trees still lie where the mountain's blast shoved them down, 34 years ago.

Remnants of towering trees still lie where the mountain’s blast shoved them down, 34 years ago.

Spirit Lake (seen in the distance) became famous after this eruption.

Spirit Lake (seen in the distance) became famous after this eruption.

As I explained in my previous post, the clouds finally cleared away from the volcano, and I was treated to stunning views of the huge gaping crater. If the mountain had blown it’s top vertically, we at the bottom would have less to see. Since the eruption took off the north slope of the mountain, we are able to look inside at the newly forming glaciers, and the new volcanic peak growing inside the crater. You know what that growing dome means, right? Yes, this remains an active volcano.

The largest post-1980 eruption was in 2004, when steam and ash again billowed forth. For the next four years, lava continued to extrude, filling the crater floor. Seven percent of the volume lost in 1980 has been replaced by subsequent eruptions.

Here I am, waiting for the clouds to clear.

Here I am, waiting for the clouds to clear.

A park ranger gives a talk on how expectations of what to expect when the eruption happened, didn't quite come to pass.

A park ranger gives a talk on how scientists’ expectations of what would happen during the eruption didn’t quite come to pass. Prior to the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, we had very little data on Plinean eruptions, or pyroclastic flows of hot gas and rock that roared down into the valley.

I listened to a great talk from one of the rangers there. He told the story of how exciting it was to be a vulcanologist in the time leading up to the eruption. The best data available at the time was of the Hawaiian lava flows, but they knew this would be different. The size of the resulting violent explosion took people by surprise. Luckily, scientists had convinced authorities to block access to the popular recreation area (despite loud criticism), and prevented many deaths. Sadly, 57 people died in the blast, most due to asphyxiation. The most interesting (to me) of those people was David Johnston, a geologist just crazy about volcanoes, who had observation duty that morning. He radioed headquarters, “Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!” and then died instantly. The people who heard the broadcast, and knew his voice, said what struck them about his message was that it wasn’t a voice of fear, but of something more like boyish excitement. I’d like to believe that David Johnston died the way he would have most wanted to go.

This is Mt. St. Helens when I arrived at the Observatory.

This is Mt. St. Helens when I arrived at the Observatory.

The ranger at Mt. St. Helens National Monument said, “Well, in answer to your question I’ll tell you about our 6:15 rule.” And he explained that the doors of the Johnston Observatory are closed and locked at 6:00 p.m. In a Murphy’s Law type fashion, the clouds typically clear up around 6:15 p.m. “From what I hear, you have a good chance of seeing the mountain sometime between 6 and 6:30,” he said.

So I waited. I waved goodbye to all the rangers as they left. From the top of an observation hill I watched the parking lot clear out. I found a nice comfortable railing to sit on, beside a trail, with nothing but volcano gorgeousness in front of me… and I waited.

And it paid off.

6:25 p.m. I knew it wouldn't clear by 6:30, but I could tell the clouds were clearing. So I stayed.

6:25 p.m. I knew it wouldn’t clear by 6:30, but I could tell the clouds were clearing. So I stayed.

6:48 p.m.

6:48 p.m.

7:05 p.m.

7:05 p.m.

7:16 p.m. Look at that! What an incredible view. Perfect light, perfect weather. I was rewarded well beyond expectation.

7:16 p.m. Look at that! What an incredible view. Perfect light, perfect weather. I was rewarded well beyond expectation.

The finish line is the row of red floats beneath the Hawthorne Bridge.

The finish line is the row of red floats almost beneath the Hawthorne Bridge.

Tara and I took her friend to the Dragon Boat Festival today. They wanted to go and cheer on another friend who would be on one of the Dragon Boat teams racing, the youth team of the Bridge City Paddling Club. Dragon boating is a team paddling sport that originated in China over 2000 years ago and transformed into an international sport in Hong Kong in 1976.

The Dragon Boat Festival is held in September, and presented by Dragon Sports USA. The boat races are the main event, in which typically 4 dragon boats race side by side for 500 meters in a straight line. Teams include 18 or 20 paddlers, 1 caller and 1 tiller. The teams make it a very fun event, by getting totally fired up in team spirit with temporary tattoos and haircolor to match their team colors, team mottos, and team banners. There was a man walking around selling dragon-boat themed socks.

Paddlers of the Pink Phoenix team - all breast cancer survivors!

Paddlers of the Pink Phoenix team – all breast cancer survivors!

The spectators gather at the finish line, since the boats are small and sit close to the water, making them hard to see at a distance. We can see the black specks on the water when they first line up, but can’t hear the starting horn. Soon enough, the specks grow larger as the boats get closer, paddlers going so fast that water flies everywhere. The caller is allowed to use their own voice or a drum to keep the paddling time, and the tiller keeps them on course.

These boats were different than the others I’ve seen, and have dragon heads about the size of a human head. Still, I love the dragon theme of the boats, with carved heads and tails, and scales painted along the sides.

Boats drawing closer, passing in front of our famous Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

Boats drawing closer, passing in front of our famous Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

Teams blast across the finish line.

Teams blast across the finish line.

When the boats turned, the light was finally right, and I could get a shot of the dragon boat details.

When the boats turned, the light was finally right, and I could get a shot of the dragon boat details. Unfortunately, rather far away for my zoom capability, but you can still sort of see it. (click any image for a larger version)

After the race in which the Bridge City team with their friend took second place (Yay!), the kids played around a little, we hung out at the fabulous Saturday Market, and then they went off to a birthday party. Ah the life of a teenager.

Friends in the water

Friends in the water

This handsome fellow strutted so intentionally in front of the camera, that I knew he was asking to have his photo published.

This handsome fellow strutted so intentionally in front of the camera, that I knew he was asking to have his photo published.

Seeing the different style of boats used in these races reminded me that I began a post last year and never finished it. Those were the Dragon Boat races held during the Portland Rose Festival. I decided to include some of that information to show you the other boats. That time we had gone in support of a friend on a Wilson High School team.

Portland has been racing dragon boats in the Rose Festival for 25 years. We partner with our sister city of Kaohsiung, Taiwan in this endeavor, and the race is hosted by the Portland-Kaohsiung Sister City Association (PKSCA). PKSCA owns eight Taiwan-style dragon boats; each boat accommodates 16 paddlers, 1 tiller, 1 caller, and 1 flag catcher required for each race heat.

These are photos from 2013:

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Tara last year, with her friend from the Wilson team

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My Tara as Princess Tutu

My Tara as Princess Tutu

Monday was the best day for both of us. Tara made some good contacts at the con and I am seeing the light at the end of a tunnel of many tiny tasks that needed to be completed.

I am finally, finally wrapping up the final touches on the Mt. Hood Cherokee newsletter I volunteered to edit. What a relief. I don’t think I’ll ever catch up on your blogs. Good heavens you all write a lot of posts. I love them all and I’ll just have to skim them, so sorry. I’ve been nominated for blogging awards and I’ll bet those lovely ladies think I didn’t even notice! But I *will* get to them, and thank you so very, very much for the love. I finally got things worked out with Oregon DMV and I’ll be getting my plates soon. They will say DRAGNS, isn’t that marvelous? I am so excited to christen the Dragon Wagon II with her new plates.

T got an invite to join a themed group of cosplayers next year. I won’t tell you what they have planned, and it will be a surprise. She hung out with a friend she hadn’t yet spent time with. She enjoyed the awesome weather.

My highlight of the day today? Inigo Montoya battling the Dread Pirate Roberts (cosplayed by Wesley).

"You seem a decent fellow... I hate to kill you. "

“You seem a decent fellow… I hate to kill you. ” “You seem a decent fellow…I hate to die.”

Steam Powered Giraffe!

Steam Powered Giraffe!

black fighter

black fighter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I took a dozen photos

I took a dozen photos, but she is so self-critical. “Ugh, my leg isn’t right. The other one is all wrong.” To her credit, she is on beat-up shoes and the concrete is on a slope. But to my novice eyes, it’s lovely.

Adorable

Adorable

Please see the source here.

Please see the source here. I think she did a great job on her cosplay, what do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can we take your picture?

Can we take your picture?

punishment

punishment

nice interpretation

nice interpretation

Cosplayers in conversation beside a giant fish in Esther Short Park in Vancouver, Washington

Cosplayers in conversation beside a giant fish in Esther Short Park in Vancouver, Washington

It’s that time of year again when Tara heads into Vancouver with thousands of other anime fans in their cosplays. They attend panels, shop for wares, mingle, play games, and delight onlookers.

Kumoricon has stretched to 4 days this year, up from the usual 3. One more day to exhaust all the young people before school starts. It’s one of the few activities we know of that opens up at 8:00 am. Like the others, it stays open till the wee hours of morning. How those kids keep going for so long is a mystery to me, but then… I’m no longer as young as I used to be.

posing for photos

posing for photos

Beetlejuice

Beetlejuice

lethal nail

lethal nail

Tara has two cosplays (costume+play) this year, but most years, and most people, come as a new character each day. I recognize some of the people this year from previous years. When a cosplay is particularly good, it’s saved and used again. I was able to call out to characters by name this year, asking for photos, which means I’m slowly learning this crowd. I don’t buy a pass to get in, but lurk around the outside (with many other photographers, I must note), and snap snap snap.

There is a game that seems to never stop running at one place in Esther Short park, beside the Hilton. Cosplayers stand in a circle, with a few in the center. Those in the center each toss an empty water bottle into the air and wait for it to land. Whomever the bottle points to gets a hug, and the cosplayers trade places so the hugged one gets to toss a bottle next. While this is going on, people take turns shouting, “Guess what?” the crowd answers “What?” And it’s repeated. “Guess what?” “What?” and the person who began it hollers something silly and fun, intended to delight them, such as “Kumoricon loves you!”

I had been standing on the fringes snapping photos. While looking through the viewfinder, I hadn’t noticed that the circle had expanded to include me. I was getting great shots of a cosplayer headed directly for me, and before I knew it, I got hugged by her! “How does it work?” I asked, since at that time I didn’t know. Once she explained, I slung my camera over my shoulder to head for a bottle in the center. After I had dispensed the obligatory hug, I took care to stand well back after that, ha ha.

There is one more day left of Kumoricon, but I’m impatient to show these photos to you.

Game of bottles and hugs and shouting.

Game of bottles and hugs and shouting.

Countries of Hetalia

Countries of Hetalia

Is that natural haircolour?

Is that natural haircolour?

troll

troll

pink & ruffles

pink & ruffles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A whole gang of Pokemon

A whole gang of Pokemon

My lovely Tara

My lovely Tara

I’m a mom. I’ve got to go on about my kid now and then. Can’t help myself.

Tara has been dancing for years and is not among those ballerinas who is fiercely focused and driven and denies herself the pleasures in life to get a landing just right. She dances because it makes her feel good, and because she gets to share in the dancing of her dear friends. At first, that frustrated me, because I am driven and competitive and aggressively pursue skill, as if it has something to do with how valuable I am.

Over the years I have learned from my kid: how to work at something for the love of it. Tara makes sacrifices to be at practices and endless rehearsals, missing out on parties and homework time and eating meals at reasonable hours. But it’s all for the pure joy of it, and in that way, she keeps ballet fun for herself. Years and years of practicing the same moves over and over, and yet the desire to get dressed and go do it again remains strong.

From the steps of the Rose Garden, looking down onto the Washington Park Amphitheatre

From the steps of the Rose Garden, looking down onto the Washington Park Amphitheatre

Tara, before the show. The shank is going out in her pointe shoes, so she is testing another pair to see if they are in better shape.

Tara, before the show. The shank is going out in her pointe shoes, so she is testing another pair to see if they are in better shape.

Saturday we went to Washington Park in Portland, at an outdoor amphitheatre just below the International Rose Test Gardens (did you know Portland is also called the Rose City?). Her studio is Portland Metro Arts, which hosts all kinds of artists including those who paint, who play piano, who Irish step dance, who sing, as well as those who ballet. Saturday’s performance was a showcase of different talents.

The dancers did short pieces from their recent full-length ballet, Alice In Wonderland, with additional classical ballet pieces, and some swing dance. Sadly, the sky was getting pretty dark by the time the swing dancing began. I was sitting far away from the stage and had my lens in full zoom. The exposure was longer because of the dark, and extra-sensitive to movement. This meant that all of the later shots were blurry, but they did make some pretty interesting images, so I included them anyway.

Earlier in the week there had been a threat of rain, and Tara worried about what rain on the stage would do to their ability to dance well. Instead, the weather was brilliant. It was sunny, dry, not windy, and warm. The steps of the amphitheatre filled with people of all ages and the murmurs of talk and laughter filled the green bowl we occupied.

Flowers from Alice. Tara in red in the center.

Flowers from Alice. Tara in red in the center.

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Alice scolds a weed in the back of the flower garden.

Alice scolds a weed in the back of the flower garden.

blurry swing dance

blurry swing dance

taekwondo maybe?

taekwondo maybe?

I am standing with Chief Baker as he presents the Cherokee Warrior Award.

I am standing with Chief Baker as he presents the Cherokee Warrior Award.

Who is this great warrior? Me!

Cherokee Warrior Award

Cherokee Warrior Award

I admit it is awkward and unusual to think of myself as an Indian warrior. But if the Cherokee Principal Chief is comfortable with it, then there is no reason for me to hesitate.

I was given the tremendous honor of being nominated by the board members of the Mt. Hood Cherokees. I am particularly grateful to our leader, David, who talked me into putting my name forward, when the idea of representing the group seemed like more of an honor than I deserved.

My Tara willingly gave up a dress rehearsal for her evening performance so that she could be there with me.

My Uncle Dwight and Aunt Joyce came up from Lebanon, Oregon and were able to see the ceremony.

Chief Bill John Baker presented me with a gorgeous framed certificate showing the Cherokee Warrior’s Memorial in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, as well as a medal he pinned to my blouse. Before I knew what was happening, he popped a microphone into my hand and said, “Do you want to speak?” Answering his question honestly, I answered, “No,” with a smile. “But since I have a microphone in my hand, I will.” And I thanked my Mt. Hood Cherokees for nominating me, and I said how much of an honor it was.

"No, in answer to your question, I do not want to speak to the crowd."

“No, in answer to your question, I do not want to speak to the crowd.”

Chief Baker said to me as I approached him, “Finally, a woman!” And I thanked him for saying that. It may be obvious by my own comment above that even *I* have fallen into accepting the incorrect social stereotype that a warrior is not a woman. And that an honored veteran is not a woman. My own At Large satellite group is sending a message that we aren’t trapped by stereotypes, and I am happy to be the face of that message.

It was a great day for a Cherokee picnic. Many of our Oklahoma Cherokees came out to share information about Indian education and student scholarships, basket-weaving, and voter registration. They were assigning photo ID cards for Cherokee citizens (which I never signed up for: too much going on that day!). We had music from two traditional flutists.

And storytelling.

Me, Robert, Tara

Me, Robert, Tara

Robert tells us a story about clever Jistu (Rabbit)

Robert tells us a story about clever Jistu (Rabbit)

I can’t say which was the best part of the picnic: receiving the warrior award, or seeing our storytelling friend, Robert, again. Both could have made my whole day on their own, together they just buoyed me beyond belief.

I’ve blogged about Robert Lewis in the past. His personal style of telling the tales of Cherokee history is to bring up audience members to tell the story with him. It’s engaging and funny and educational. Robert’s got a huge love of people and joyfulness, and his energy is irresistible. He’s an art teacher at Northeastern State University and has to miss the first day of school on Monday because of this trip to Portland and Seattle. I’m sure he’ll ease right into the school year with grace later on this week.

Then, we ran around and said goodbye to old friends and new friends and my Aunt & Uncle and off we went for the next big even of the day: Tara’s ballet performance at Washington Park! That post will come next.DSC_0884

Mt. Hood radiates the evening sun

Mt. Hood radiates the evening sun

Ok, so we were a night too early for the actual super moon of 2014, but it was still a pretty cool moon.

Tara had a break of enough hours between ballet rehearsals Saturday and Sunday that we were able to fit in a quick overnight camping trip. Portland has had a break from the heat, but was climbing toward 90 again. That made me think of a waterfall hike in the Columbia River Gorge, so I had the idea to camp in the Gorge and hike the cool waterfall glades…

While she was at ballet, I gathered camping gear. All the car-camping stuff this time, which is *so* much easier than packing for backpacking. For car camping, you just cram everything in, and if you bring too much… eh, no big deal. We were in the car and driving toward the Gorge by 2:30 pm.

The first campsite was full. But more than that, the whole area was swarming with people. Cars were parked everywhere it was even mildly safe to park. The heat must have been pulling everyone to the shady forests. The next campsite: totally full. I slowed down as we approached the camp Host, so I could hop out and get some intel. As I slowed, I saw a man waiting patiently behind another man, who was already talking to the camp Host. Good gravy. That was too much; we moved on. Next campground, closed. We started brainstorming, and Tara asked, “Isn’t there a place where we can just drive into the woods and put up our tent?”

Well, we could do that in a National Forest. The closest was Mt. Hood National Forest, and to get there involved some backtracking to get onto a different highway, no longer in the Gorge. No waterfalls, but maybe we would still get to camp. We went to a primitive area we’ve camped before and it was full, and the campground nearby was full. I could think of one more place, which was an absolutely beautiful campsite on this cliff above the Sandy River, with a wide-open view of Mt. Hood. We were hot, and discouraged, and it was 5:30 pm. I had been driving three hours and so far no luck.

Though we passed people camping in the woods every 50 yards along the entire road, and though the trailhead parking lot we parked in was jammed full…no one was camping in the beautiful campsite. It was a miracle.

Yes, that's my silhouette snapping a view of the campsite. Mt. Hood in front, Sandy river down below and to the left.

Yes, that’s my silhouette snapping a view of the campsite. Mt. Hood ahead, Sandy river down below and to the left.

Mossy bank with trail leading to the campsite.

Mossy bank with trail leading to the campsite.

Another Mt. Hood sunset shot.

Another Mt. Hood sunset shot.

The volcano soars above the Sandy River while the evening light lingers.

The volcano soars above the Sandy River while the evening light lingers.

How cool is this with all the orange spark trails!

How cool is this with all the orange spark trails!

As an extra bonus, it was almost the night of the supermoon. Because of the trajectory of the moon’s orbit, this will be the brightest and largest full moon of the year. Whee! The full moon is actually the following night on the 10th, so we saw an almost-full moon. I did not bring my tripod, so I held very still as I took the shots. I’m amazed I got anything out of that experiment.

Moon sparkles across the mountain and makes the river glow.

Moonlight sparkles across the mountain and makes the river glow.

I counted, and the exposure was nearly 5 seconds! I was holding the camera in my hands, so it may be a little blurry, but I think this is a great shot, considering.

Tara in the moonlight. I counted, and the exposure was nearly 5 seconds! I was holding the camera in my hands, so it may be a little blurry, but I think this is a great shot, considering.

Tara dismantles one of the multiple fire pits. (I agree with her. Three fire pits in the same spot is a bad idea.)

The next morning, Tara dismantled one of the multiple fire pits. (I agree with her. Three fire pits in the same spot is a bad idea.)

Keeping my coffee warm in the percolator.

Keeping my coffee warm in the percolator.

 

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