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Mt. Hood rises above Mirror Lake

Mt. Hood rises above Mirror Lake

In December I hiked to Mirror Lake and Tom Dick and Harry Mountain for the first time. Though the whole region was sunny that day, there was a little microclimate engulfing our local volcano, Mt. Hood. Snow actually fell during the hike. At the summit of the mountain, I was told that it is typically one of the best views around. Instead of vistas, I entertained myself with close-range snow and fog shots as the weak sunlight made half-hearted attempts to break through and did not succeed. You can read that blog post here if you like.

I went back last week. And this time I found what I had been promised: incredible views!

Looking across the lake up to the summit of Tom Dick and Harry Mountain, my next destination.

Looking across the lake up to the summit of Tom Dick and Harry Mountain, my next destination.

Trying to capture the iceberg blue in the shadows, but it doesn't show up.

Trying to capture the iceberg blue in the shadows, but it doesn’t show up.

The snow at this point was easy to walk through.

The snow at this point was easy to walk through.

First I had to get there. While the trail was clear in December, this time it was snow-covered from beginning to end. The popularity of this particular trail helped me, since I was able to follow tracks all the way to the summit. My timing was excellent because of the old snow and the weather. I wore only my regular hiking boots that I’ve been wearing for a decade, but the snow was frozen enough that I was able to walk along the top of it.  The day was warm enough that the top inch of snow was soft, so I got some traction, and most of the time I wasn’t in danger of sliding down the mountain on the frozen snow. (did you notice how I used the word ‘most?’)

I walked all around the lovely Mirror Lake. I was glad I decided to hit the lake first and catch some sun. By the time I left the mountain, it was deep in shadow due to our short winter days.

Only a few inches deep at the trailhead, the snow on the trail above the lake was at least two feet deep, possibly three feet deep as it reached Tom Dick and Harry mountain. Others before me had used snow shoes, and I saw ski tracks beside the trail as well.

As I neared the summit, the trail was hard to find because wind had swept away most of the tracks. But I could see the rocks at the top, dry in the sunshine and calling me up. The snow was not as hard there, possibly because of the warmth of the day. My boots punched through and I sank above my knees every third step. Hiking in snow is a fabulous workout! I highly recommend it. You work your legs and your butt, you gulp in that fresh mountain air, your pay-off is an amazing view, and your cool down is to head back down the trail again.

After a last gasping (like I said: it’s a workout) push through the snow, I made it to the top!

The glorious sun had baked the rocks dry at the top.

The glorious sun had baked the rocks dry at the top.

The south side of Mt. Hood rises above Mirror Lake.

The south side of Mt. Hood rises above Mirror Lake.

I expected to see Mt. Hood, and there it was, right in front of me and gloriously snow-covered. The bright blue of that much snow is a sight that always stirs me. Reminiscent of the first blue glaciers I ever saw, the summer when I was 16 and went to live with my Aunt and Uncle in Soldotna, Alaska. Despite the fact that I’ve learned to expect that kind of blue, it is still a wonderful sight.

What I did not expect to see was a whole string of volcanoes. Mt. Jefferson to the south, and Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Adams. And since this day was spectacular for miles and miles, I could clearly see Mt. Rainier from all the way up in Seattle! That is a view of FIVE volcanoes from one spot. I think it’s my record.

I had no one to share my enthusiasm with, since it was a Wednesday afternoon and the trail was empty. But I had cell reception on top of Tom Dick and Harry, so I sent a few selfies to Tara and to my friends at work.

I had not hiked far. In the bottom left, you can see the curve of the highway. That spot is just a few feet from where I parked the Jeep.

I had not hiked far. In the bottom left, you can see the curve of the highway. That spot is just a few feet from where I parked the Jeep.

Here's the money shot! Click the image so you can see them all, left to right: Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood. (Picture me jumping up and down with glee)

Here’s the money shot! Click the image so you can see them all, left to right: Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood. (Picture me jumping up and down with glee)

I included a shot of this ridgeline in the December post. It looks different this time, with all the sunshine!

I included a shot of this ridgeline in the December post. Different this time, with all the sunshine!

Mt. Jefferson to the south, beyond hazy azure hills.

Mt. Jefferson to the south, beyond hazy indigo hills.

I passed the lake on the way back down, and caught the evening light.

I passed the lake on the way back down, and caught the evening light.

One last look back up at the mountain where I had stood in the sunshine. Then it was time to go Into The Woods, and head back to the Jeep.

One last look back up at the mountain where I had stood in the sunshine. Then it was time to go Into The Woods, and head back to the Jeep.

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.


Mt. Hood from I-84 in the Columbia Gorge

Mt. Hood from I-84 in the Columbia Gorge

For me, leaving something in the rear view mirror is more than symbolic. Or, perhaps I should say the symbolism effects actual emotional distance to match the increasing physical distance. In my past I have made a point to watch a place recede as I drove away, to reinforce for myself the fact that I was leaving it behind.  I was reminded of that Friday when I left Mt. Hood behind me as I drove east on I-84, heading for my dad’s house near Boise.

You’ll need some background before I can tell you what happened to me Friday. Then you’ll understand how it was cathartic watching the snow-capped volcano shrink into the distance, having less and less of an impact on me. Like my relationship with Arno.

Maybe a few of you have noticed my online activity has dropped. It’s because my heart is broken and I’ve been in too much pain to interact. In May, just shy of our 3-year anniversary, Arno and I broke up. It was a loving, mutual decision, but a tremendously sad one. I said previously and I’ll repeat it: he’s the best man I’ve ever loved. Still, we shouldn’t be dating, and breaking up was the right thing to do. We had some awesome things in common: lots of energy, positive enthusiasm, wildly in love with the outdoors, relentless drive and responsibility for our own achievements, interest in travel, open minds, a love of deep conversation about challenging topics.  We had planned to get married – even shopped for rings – and had made multiple trips through the Hood River valley to find the best locations for where we would buy our future home together. We built much of our relationship in sight of Mt. Hood, and we even hiked on the mountain together. It’s no wonder Mt. Hood pretty much symbolizes Arno for me.

But we had at least one fundamental difference, and that was how much togetherness we needed. Arno needs a lot of high-intensity interaction. Crystal needs long stretches of total isolation. Arno enjoys lots of little touches, little “Hi, I’m thinking of you, I’m here, I love you” touches, like 30 texts a day (down from about 200 a day in the beginning, thank the gods). Crystal figures if she expressed her love on Monday, then it should hold the other person over till at least Thursday before she should have to think about reassuring her partner again.

We figured this out about each other early on, and set right to work on compromising. Arno worked really hard to give me space and not take it as a personal rejection when I asked for a day without him. I worked really hard to spend more time with him, to learn how to send the touches that he needed since we lived so far apart, and to learn to engage in conversation during moments that I thought would be best honored by silence. Over the years we grew frustrated and exhausted from working so hard, even while appreciating each other even more for the obvious work we were putting into it.

A month after our breakup, the ache inside was beginning to fade, and I was feeling better again. I must have been in denial. Tuesday, less than two months after we broke up, Arno told me he was dating again. The blow knocked me flat.

I thought I had been hurting before, but that news killed me.

I won’t go into details. You’ve had your heart broken before, and …it was like that. All day long Tuesday I was in shock, and ever since then I’ve been miserable. There’s nothing like hearing the other person is dating again to make it very clear that things are O-VER. There is no chance of any last minute miracle idea that will be our solution to making this work. I think it finally became real to me Tuesday that I have no more Arno in my future.

If he’s over me and has moved on already, then *I* want to move on. The knowledge that I’m still wallowing around in the pond scum of loss and pain in the face of his new relationship is totally humiliating. His readiness to date again so quickly (He reassured me that he didn’t start looking till after we broke up. “Start looking?” He had time to recover and “start looking” already?) makes me feel like a fool and doubt what we had.

That’s the cycle of thoughts I’ve had to endure this week. Yuck.

Friday morning I headed east into the Columbia River Gorge with a huge amount of trepidation because it was the first time I would be driving through Hood River since the breakup. Driving down the highway I kept thinking, “I am tired of being miserable. I want to let him go.”

But when I got to exit 62, and then passed it instead of taking it, I couldn’t breathe. Slam! The pain hit me again, and I bawled and gasped for breath as I drove.

One can see Mt. Hood for many, many miles in a rear view mirror, heading through the Gorge. I’d glance at the rearview, see the mountain, and feel an icepick in my heart. Or a boot to my chest. Or one of those dramatic metaphors that work well in YA novels.

And then something amazing happened. As I drove the mountain got smaller. And as that happened, the pressure came off my chest and I began to think a little more clearly again.

I reminded myself that we broke up for good reasons. And even though it feels terrible right now, I will find my happy spirit again. And as much as I shudder to even think about it at the moment, I will love again. In the mirror in front of me I watched that fabulous volcano I love so much, shrinking and fading as I thought these things.

I could see Mt. Hood from the town of Boardman, 100 miles after I had passed exit 62. By that time there was only a hazy tip visible of the snow-covered peak. No overwhelming obstacle, that’s for sure. Just a little hint of a mountain in the distance.

So the cure to my pain is to just keep going.

A recent email from my boyfriend, Arno, was so entertaining I asked if I could make a blog post out of it. He gave his permission. Following is his email, unedited.

Arno at the stone hut on Cooper Spur, Mt. Hood Oregon

Arno at the stone hut on Cooper Spur, Mt. Hood Oregon

Driving up to the ski area (where the Tilly Jane trail head is) I turned off of Hwy 35 just after a northbound Toyota Landcruiser with Canadian plates. The Landcruiser was older (but not too old). It had a lift kit and oversize wheels, with more of a “go places trail worthy” look than the overbuilt penis compensating look. It also had a roof rack and an air intake snorkel. The easy guess was that the driver and passengers were young(ish) adventurers from up north, eh.

I followed it up the twisty road to Cooper Spur inn, and then it turned and ended up going all the way to the same Tilly Jane parking lot that I was going to. I pulled in and parked, and got out to start putting on my boots. The driver of the Landcruiser got out and wandered over to the trail head sign. Then he saw me and wandered over. It turned out that the rather capable looking Landcruiser was being piloted by a 72 year old retired engineer and co-piloted by his 65 year old wife. They were from Parksville BC which is on Vancouver Island (not to be confused with Vancouver the city) BC. They make an annual pilgrimage to Oregon to play around and their plan had been to drive up to the Cloud Cap parking lot eight miles further up the road. But the road is closed at Tilly Jane. That’s why the guy came over to talk to me, he wanted to know why the road was closed. I explained the Hazard Tree harvesting project this summer, and we talked briefly about forest fire management. He looked disappointed to have to hike up from so far down (I’d given him the data on how far it was to tree line). Then I asked if he and his wife had ever hiked Tamawanas falls. It turned out that they hadn’t, and it sounded a much better time to them than hiking up Tilly Jane. They thanked me and drove away.

It was not too cold (48F) and only mizzle when I started, so I warmed up quickly. I tried to hike slow enough to keep my rain shell on, but kept getting hot, so eventually I took off the shell and hiked in just my long sleeve thin icebreaker base layer shirt. The mizzle was light enough that I wasn’t getting too terribly wet (I kept my rain pants on cuz they were too much of a pain to change out of). The lower part of the trail, within the first half mile, has a couple of sections of soggy trail where people have put down logs. With all of the recent rain, the trail was a complete bog in places. Even the logs seemed soggy. Fortunately, my boots are exceedingly waterproof.

About a mile up the trail I caught a bit of brown motion in my peripheral vision and stopped. There were three doe black tail deer standing about 20 meters uphill from me, all three watching me intently. I stayed where I was and talked quietly, saying “hello my deer, how are you?” They didn’t answer back, but they didn’t take off running either. I keep talking gently, and started walking again. And they stayed where they were, I guess deciding that I was safe enough they didn’t have to run. Believe it or not this is the first time that I’ve seen deer on that trail. It struck me as odd at the time, but I guess it probably isn’t all that strange. It’s the time of year that deer move to lower elevations and this is the first time I’ve hiked that trail in late September.

About a half mile farther up the trail, more brown motion. This time, a solitary buck. When I saw him he was already in “cartoon” mode. He was moving from north to south, with that four footed jumping motion that deer can do. That casual, effortless looking spring into the air that says, “Hey, look at me you possible predator. I’m fast and springy and it’s really not even worth thinking about trying to chase me and eat me because I can spring away from you so fast it will make your head spin”. It was wonderful to watch him bound across the trail.

As I neared the Tilly Jane A-frame, patches of snow appeared on the ground, and the mizzle started to change over to sleet, then snain, and finally at the A-frame itself it was snowing, but only lightly. I stopped briefly to eat a ham sandwich that I’d packed. The only layer that I added for warmth was my rain shell, and that proved a little too light. I started to get chilled, but didn’t really want to dig out extra clothing, so instead I ate only half the sandwich, then packed up and started hiking again to generate heat, this time leaving my rain shell on for added warmth.

From the A-frame, the trail goes through woods for almost a mile before reaching the Timberline trail about a thousand feet higher up the mountain. As I gained altitude, the wind howled louder in the trees, and the snow both fell heavier and covered the trail more heavily. At first, there was only slush on the trail and spots of snow. By the time I was in the stunted growth trees, there was 6-8″ of snow on the trail. As I closed in on tree line, the snow was at least a foot deep. I paused to pull up my hood, contemplated getting out my ski goggles (it was obvious that once I cleared the trees the snow would be blowing sideways) and kept going.

It’s only a few hundred meters from the shelter of the trees to the shelter of the stone hut. The wind was spectacular. It was foggy, snowing, and blowing snow. I did a mental check to see if I remembered the compass heading back to the trail as I exited the trees. I could still see the trees, but if the clouds closed in only a little more, I could lose sight of the trees only 20 meters away. A compass is a useful tool. I didn’t want to get lost!  I go to the stone hut, took a picture, contemplated eating, then decided that the weather was worsening and opted to start back down instead. In the 20 minutes it took me to clear the tree line and get to the hut, and then start back, the wind and snow were strong enough that my tracks, punched through 18 inches of snow, were already almost covered over in places. The sky was noticeably darker, the wind stronger, the snow stinging. These were the kind of conditions that can get people who don’t know what they’re doing.

On my way down, back in the trees, mostly out of the wind. I was hiking along, making very good time descending, and was close enough to the A-frame that there wasn’t much snow on the trail. I came around a bend in the trail and almost ran into a guy in a yellow rain shell. He was more surprised than I was and actually let out a little shriek. We both stopped, and exchanged basic greetings. He was very surprised to see anyone else on the trail, and asked how much farther it was to the stone hut. I told him it was about half a mile and asked if he’d been up there before. He said that he had, but not by this trail. He’d always driven up before and taken the upper trail from the old Cloud Cap Inn, but with the road closed he’d been forced to hike. He then explained that his grandmother in-law had died the previous year, and they’d taken her ashes up to the moraine by the stone hut (he didn’t say moraine, he said the edge of the valley with the view, but he meant the moraine). Then he continued his story, saying that his grandfather in law had just passed away, and the family wanted his ashes spread at the same place. He was the one that got to do the extra-long hike to do the job.

He seemed reasonably well prepared based on his gear and how he was using it. I was a little concerned that he wouldn’t be prepared for the transition in weather above tree line (it really was like night and day with the wind and snow, vs where we were standing having a conversation). I actually contemplated asking if he wanted me to go up with him, but then decided against it. I told him how much farther he had to go, mentioned the wind and snow and how my tracks started to get covered up pretty quickly and asked in a left handed way if he had a compass with him (he did, in his pack, I almost suggested that he should take it out now before he hits the wind so that he would have it to take a bearing, but I stopped short of saying that. I just suggested that taking a compass bearing above treeline was a good idea.

And then I resumed my descent. I ate the other half of my sandwich at the A-frame on the way down. Marveled at the worsening weather (the mizzle was a very solid rain at the lower elevation), and didn’t see any more deer. Back at the truck I changed into dry layers and then headed home.

So, like I had texted you, a moderately eventful trip.

The retired folks with the mondo 4×4 were entertaining and unexpected. The guy carrying his grandfather in-law’s ashes reminded me of the closing scene in the movie “The Bucket List”. And also reminded me that I want someone to do that with my ashes. Maybe even haul my ashes up Cooper spur. Only it would have to be past the stone hut to at least the top of the pyramid at 8K feet. The view is better there.

-Your mountain geek.

St. Andrews Memory Care Center in Portland

St. Andrews Memory Care Center in Portland

Lots of things have been going on around here, as is typical in our lovely little life. They don’t seem enough to individually warrant a blog post, but they are worth mentioning for those of you who read to see what’s been going on in our household.

I recently took my camera up to Mt. Tabor to capture my favourite volcano, Mt. Hood, in the setting sun, and saw the church above, lit up in the late day sun. It’s a care center for patients with Alzheimer’s.

Mt. Hood in the setting sun, from Mt. Tabor

Mt. Hood in the setting sun, from Mt. Tabor. I live in those trees down there.

Miss Tara successfully completed her 10th grade year on Friday. We’ve had some challenges this year with academics, and it’s been good for both of us. I’ve learned better ways to recognize the work she does without honing in on places where I want her to do better, and she has had a good dose of what future school work is going to require from her. Tara encapsulated the biggest challenge for me the other day when she explained how 9th grade was a continuation of middle school, in which teachers constantly reminded students to get their work done, forgave late assignments, and invented plenty of extra-credit when all else failed.

“But this year,” she moaned, “I was just going along, doing the stuff I remembered, not really worrying because I know I’m a good student, and then I get zeros on homework and since I forgot a test was coming up, failed the test. I wish it wasn’t just ‘total help’ in 9th grade, then ‘no help’ in 10th grade. I wish they would make the change more gradual. I knew at some point I would have to be more responsible, but I didn’t see it coming.”

roses in Coke bottle

roses in Coke bottle

Good life lesson, yes? 🙂

Roses have passed their peak now, but different kinds of blossoms are coming into their own time. Plants are so fascinating for me to watch, as they morph through seasonal changes. I cut a couple of the deep red roses in my yard and put them into the green glass Coke bottle I dug out of the sand when I was stationed at Shemya AFB in Alaska. It’s the real thing. The number “44” in raised glass can be seen on the side of the bottle, for 1944. One of my favourite archaeological games is imagining the world in which an object had its heyday. A cold, wet, lonely soldier drank a coke during World War II, on a nasty little island in Alaska. What were his thoughts? Was it refreshing to drink the Coke? Comforting? Or just something to do out of boredom.

The sun gets up when I do now, and I can’t help but embrace the change in my circadian rhythms. My body is ready to rise, even without the alarm. I retain a tiny bit of hope and optimism each morning as the bold sunbeams dash through a pale blue sky. Though I have had enough of the city (and look forward to living in the country again), I still find such beauty and excitement in the architecture of a city.


This is what one sees at 6:30 am at Pioneer Courthouse Square, if one looks up.

Old kitty named Tux, who claimed our house as his own for a few days.

Old kitty named Tux, who claimed our house as his own for a few days.

Tux has been frequenting the house. From the tag on his collar, we discovered that he lives across the street. Perhaps he got locked out of the house accidentally, but he showed up bony and famished. We lavished him with attention and food, and after two days got more of him than we wanted. Tux (so states his collar) made himself comfortable in our home, climbing in through the window we leave open for our own cat, Racecar, and sleeping on the couch at night. This photo shows him on my bed. That was shortly before I went to sleep, and was awakened 10 minutes later when Racecar jumped onto the bed, found an uninvited guest, and asserted her territorial rights. A catfight on my belly! Thankfully his mom came home and he doesn’t come over so often anymore, except occasional requests for food and love.

German Beer

German Beer

Arno and I tried out a new place on Belmont Friday night. We decided Belmont is more Portlandy than Hawthorne now. Hawthorne Street is famous enough to draw tourists and people from outside the neighborhood, so it’s getting a bit snooty and trendy. People shop on purpose to look like hipsters there, while people on Belmont are naturally hip, since that’s what young people in Portland do. 😉

In any case, we went to the Pied Cow Coffeehouse, without knowing the name. We were looking for a restaurant, but found it’s a coffee house that also serves alcoholic drinks and hookahs. We ordered the Indian Style Curried Lentil Dip with yogurt and pita, and the Smoked Salmon Plate off the “savories” menu, and expected appetizer nibbles, but were served two heaping platters of food. It was plenty. Arno ordered a Swedish beer on tap and I asked for the German beer, Weihenstephaner hefeweissbier, just because I wanted to try and pronounce it. There were four tables that had ordered giant Arabic water pipes (they are about 3 feet tall) being enjoyed by patrons. The many tobacco flavours included rose, honeydew melon, orange, and mint. Non-tobacco substitute is also available.

We thought the appetizers were priced too high, till they brought these two platters of food!

We thought the appetizers were priced too high, till they brought these two platters of food!

Today a friend from long ago when I lived in Humboldt County, CA is in Portland. We are going to meet up at the Pride Parade. I like to go every year because The Uncles usually drive floats. I hope to see Eliot as well as The Uncles, whom, I sadly admit, I have not seen since before I went to Japan. Long overdue!

I wrapped up my second 10-hour overtime shift yesterday, so I have completed my obligation for the month of June. At the Department of Veterans Affairs we have been assigned 20 hours of mandatory overtime each month through the end of the fiscal year. It happens every summer. Sigh. But I’m finished for the moment, and get to enjoy the rest of my time off in June in someplace other than in the office. That is cause for celebration!

Arno captured me, capturing the mountain.

Arno captured me, capturing the mountain.

futzing with the lens

futzing with the lens

photographer photographed

photographer photographed

One of the best campsites ever. That’s my feet, a fire, the Sandy River below me, and Mt. Hood in the background.

Look. At. This. View. The peak of Mt. Hood is shrouded in clouds, but even seeing the lower slopes of the snowy mountain is pretty awesome.

That view didn’t come easy. Our weekend began a couple miles farther downstream. Arno and I put our tent out on the beach this Friday on the exact spot that Tara and I put our tent on the beach last Friday. Everything was perfect until a gaggle of annoying, self-absorbed, offensive teenagers brought their lightning-bright lights and huge stereo sound system in to the campsite directly across the river from us. The whole back end of someone’s car had been built into the bass speakers. The river valley shook for hours on end.

Boom Boom BaBoom Boom BaDaBoom Boom DaBoom….

It continued until 1:00 am. After getting up at 4:30am Friday morning, working a 10 hour day, then driving out to the wilderness and setting up camp, I was so devastatingly tired I was ready to ford the Sandy River and go strangle JoeBob, BettySue, AND Lady GaGa. Rah rah ah ah ah!


wild orchids

It’s my last weekend in the United States. Since I had my Tara weekend (in my last post), this is my Arno weekend to say goodbye. I am thrilled that he was as eager to go camping as I was. Saturday morning we went on a hike to Ramona Falls, on a trail Arno had found online after I described the location of our campsite.

trail to Ramona Falls

The trail was awesome! Well-worn, interesting, beautiful, and close to our camp. It was only 7 miles roundtrip, so a nice easy afternoon hike. Arno packed sandwiches and fresh strawberries for us to have a meal along the route. The trailhead was huge, and full, because the warm sun was encouraging many of us to seek the out of doors.

View of Mt. Hood in the Sandy River crossing along the trail

There were a number of people on the trail, but it wasn’t crowded, and it seemed to thin out as we got farther along the path. When we arrived at Ramona Falls, I was astonished. It was more incredible than I had imagined. Thank the National Forest System for putting a trail out there to get to it. A common rock formation around here are walls of columns packed together when lava cooled. The igneous rock formed into vertical rods that break off at different levels over time. Ramona Creek tumbles down the mountain 120 feet, splashing on hundreds of these columns, fanning out across a wide area by the time the water reaches the bottom. It’s so amazing I took a video and will place it at the bottom of this post.

Ramona Falls crashes down over moss-covered columnar basalt

Pacific Crest Trail {click to enlarge}

see the photographer, bottom center, for scale

Another very cool thing was that part of our trail followed the Pacific Crest Trail. Arno and I confessed to each other that we hope to hike the PCT one day. We agreed that the PCT holds more appeal than the Divide Trail or the Appalachian Trail. This is the third time I’ve stepped onto the PCT. We hiked about 1 1/2 miles of it, so that is the longest stretch I’ve done. Hardly preparation for the real thing, but exciting nonetheless!

We shared the trail with many older people, obese people, children, dogs, horses, families, couples, friends, and loners. It occurred to us that, despite the many things we might not have in common with the others (even the awful young people with their obscenely loud music), the one thing that binds us all is that we want to be in the forest on a beautiful day. It made us really like all those other people.

Arno and I crossing Ramona Creek

Back at the trailhead, I scoped the area out and saw that it looked like a nice place to camp, for someday in the future. The river was pretty close, it was dry, the forest was mossy and open.

Our next trip was up Lolo Pass, because I wanted to get a good look at Mt. Hood from there.  I know I rave about that volcanic peak all the time, but I can’t help myself. It’s a truly stunning mountain. Stunning. Inspiring. Humbling. We found a climbing spot, French’s Dome, and had to turn around at that point because Lolo Pass is still closed. Maybe for snow.

Mt. Hood from Lolo Pass. (I know you’re sick of shots of Mt. Hood. Sorry!)

Arno and Mt. Hood

We returned to camp and, from the road, a good 200 feet from the beach, and across the river from the dance club campers, we could hear the bass. From inside the truck, we heard the whump whump whump of the sound system on the other side of the river! That was it for me. I said to Arno I wanted to move camp and he agreed. Where? Well, I had just spotted something that looked promising at the Ramona Falls trailhead. We packed up camp to the thunderous soundtrack, and were gone in twenty minutes.

Our camp on the ledge

We wandered around from the trailhead parking area and found a brilliant spot. On a ledge above the river, we had a wide view up and down the river canyon, and best of all, Mt. Hood rose up above it all. Though we had been lucky to have great weather all weekend, by Saturday night, it was starting to cloud up. The clouds obscured the peak first thing and then spread out.

I’m the pyro, so I got the fire going, “swept” the campsite clear of debris so we had a good clear spot to place the tent (with a view of the mountain). Arno cooked us carbonara with bacon, pine nuts, and cheddar (because he forgot the Parmesan). We had a divinely peaceful night without another camper visible or heard. Sunday morning, after a leisurely breakfast of scrambled eggs with sauteed scallions, sausage and tortillas, we went back to civilization.

Sparkling, captivating, awe-inspiring, humbling Mount Hood

Mt. Hood on approach to Portland. This is looking southwest.

Despite having lived around mountains all my life, or perhaps because of that, I remain in awe of the awesome sweep of snowy mountain slopes that rise from valleys in the way that volcanoes do. I am simply not able to drive along our highways and not feel an emotional surge of admiration for volcanoes when I see them rising beyond billboards and 18-wheelers. In 2000 I traveled by bus through central Anatolia in Turkey, and felt the same inner gasp of appreciation when I spotted astonishingly high white peaks soaring above wheat fields, so I know it’s the volcanoes that capture my imagination and not just my love of the Pacific Northwest.

Tara snapped this shot as we drove into the Columbia Gorge Friday afternoon

I currently live within a stretch of landmark peaks called the Cascade Range. Mt. Hood is closest to me. Hood is the highest peak in Oregon and the fourth highest in the Cascade Range, which stretches north and south along the western United States from northern California to British Columbia. It is 11,240 feet high and hosts 12 glaciers and permanent snow fields.

Yesterday the weather was clear and sunny, though windy, and Tara and I decided to treck into the Columbia River Gorge. Unfortunately the winter sun rises and sets behind the steep high walls of the Oregon side of the Gorge, so the waterfalls remain in shadow all day. Still, it was worth the trip. Tara finished making her homemade shortbread, and we packed up individual containers of strawberries and homemade whipped cream on the shortbread for delicious snacks once we arrived at our destination.

A chilly Tara gazing up at the 611 foot sheer waterfall drop.

Multnomah Falls from the first viewing area beside the lodge.

We drove for half an hour to Multnomah Falls, our most famous and most remarkable falls in the Gorge. The hike up to the base of the falls is quick, so we were there in no time. It is thrilling to stand at the base of the 611-foot falls, where the booming thunder of the water hitting the pool makes it too loud to be heard without shouting to each other. Spray whips around in unpredictable bursts and spirals of wind that is generated from the falls. Our glasses and the camera lens were constantly mucked up, and we dug out inner layers of dry clothing to wipe the glass with our frozen fingers.

View of the first viewing area, from the bridge over the falls. The Washington state side of the Gorge is in sunshine.

My girl and me


I’ve mentioned before the appeal of historic stonework in Oregon’s parks, and Multnomah Falls includes two of the many gorgeous stone bridges in the Gorge. If you have seen a photo of Multnomah Falls, you have certainly seen one of the stone bridges that arcs above the lower section of the falls. Standing on the bridge allows you to stand directly in front of the most tumultuous part of the waterfall, allow yourself to drown in the roar, and get soaked if you stand there too long.

Tara heading down the steps near the lodge

Moon above the cliffs

The trail showcases more stonework under thick pads of moss, in the form of retaining walls, steps, and plazas, not to mention the fairytale-like Multnomah Lodge itself.

When we finished hiking the falls, we pushed through the wind and back to our car to eat strawberry shortcake and watch the glow of setting sun across the Columbia River on the Washington side. On the drive home, I spotted a pink and orange Mt. Hood in my rear view mirror.

Mt. Adams over a fence

So I decided that, rather than go directly home, Miss T and I would head up Mt. Tabor and see if we could find a good view of the mountain in the setting sun. Hey! I lied to you: the closest volcano to me is the Mt. Tabor cinder cone – within walking distance. (It escaped my recall there for a bit because, at about 400 feet above my house, it isn’t as remarkable as Mt. Hood.)

Anyhow, we stopped at one place that didn’t afford a decent view of Mt. Hood, but did provide a view of the less-easily-spotted Mt. Adams. Then we drove the steep neighborhood streets until we finally found an excellent place to take a photo. Unfortunately by then the coral glow on the snow had almost completely lifted. But it’s still a lovely shot of my neighborhood (Montavilla) at the base of the Mt. Tabor neighborhood, with Gresham in the background, and yes, that stunning peak on the horizon in the pink evening sky.

My neighborhood and my volcano

The stunning Mt. Hood in early December

Feeling the tug of a winterscape, my girl and I drove west to Mt. Hood; it’s brilliant white peak beckoning from Portland. We were blessed with a sunny, blue-sky day that set the mountain off to perfection.

Me and Terra in front of the mountain

We were nearly at the mountain before our landscape became a true wintry wonderland, but the trip was relatively short and oh, so worth it! At the base of the road to Timberline Lodge, we stopped to pick up two young snowboarders.

“What are you doing stranded out here at the bottom of the mountain with no ride?” I asked.

“There’s a place to ski all the way to the bottom,” they answered, “but there is no lift to take us back from here. So we hitch back up!”

The seven mile road to the lodge was solid snow pack, but well sanded, so my little Saturn dragon-wagon made it up with barely a slip. I took the chance with no chains (Saturns can’t use them), and no snow tires, but the gamble paid off. We let the boarders out, parked, and were up to our knees in snow in no time.



After the snow soaked through our clothes, and the mountain wind did it’s best at us, we went inside the lodge and found a roaring fire where we could brush the snow off onto the hearth. Timberline is one of the few old time lodges that, to me, are the only authentic ski lodges. Terra’s dad and I were unable to find lodges like this in Vermont when we lived there, which is sad.



The windows of the lodge look up the mountain as well as down, with panoramic views of Oregon and skiers in all directions. The second floor opens up to the third, which contains a restaurant where diners can look outside onto the snow or inside onto skiers taking a break on the sofas or reading books by the fire. Timberline has a three-story fireplace (don’t ask me how it’s done) in the center. The first floor has an old U.S. Forest Service museum of sorts, which brings back warm fuzzy childhood memories of growing up in a Forest Service family.



We explored all over the building, found an outdoor heated pool with heaps of snow melting over the edges, and many impressive wood carvings and details throughout. Once warm again, we trekked back outside and played in the snow a little more before heading back down. This time the sun was lower, causing ice to firm up on the road, and the dragon wagon did some sliding around on the way down. Yipes.

looking down the mountain

At the bottom of the hill, I looked, and sure enough I spotted the hill the snowboarders were talking about. I also spotted three more skiers hoping to hitch back up to the top!

This is a scene we like to see in December!

Next we drove out to our campsite from the summer, to see if the road was plowed to it, in case we wanted to do any winter camping. The plowed road stopped just short of the camp turn off. We parked and walked the remainder of the way, meeting others out walking dogs and cross-country skiing. I snapped some more photos of the stunning Mt. Hood in waning sunshine, and we made our happy way home.

One of my many guises

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