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Looking toward Portland along the Columbia River on a typical April day.

Ok, to be honest, it’s mostly still raining. But that’s what the weather does around here: it rains. The trick is to look at the other details.

The sun actually does peek out every so often, and it’s a warm, invigorating sun this time of year. A sun that means business.

One trick to avoid letting the rain get you down: take photos when the sun comes out, however briefly.

The temperatures average in the 50s now, instead of the 30s or 40s. Warmer temperatures bring calm to me. (Maybe it’s simply because I’ve stopped shivering!)

Things are sprouting. Buds are opening. Daffodils are blooming. I thought for sure I’d have a photo of some of the exciting new growth, but alas. I dug through all my recent photos and I see nothing. But the growth is there and it fills me with smiles.

Hummingbirds are back! They are sucking through the sugar water like they’re starving to death! It got me to thinking the other day: how can that be good for them? I’ve always made hummingbird juice by boiling sugar water into a light syrup. But…is that truly what they survive on? There’s no vitamin value in it. I think I will do some research. The hummingbirds have so far been too hard for me to catch with my camera, so have some ducks instead.

Ducks in the pond. This was only a few weeks ago, but already it is much much greener on the banks.

Reflections

I’ve been lucky enough to catch a couple of videos of the critters around here. I hope it isn’t boring to you that I always post new photos of the animals I see. I find unending joy in them. These big beautiful animals so wild and different…and so close to me!

I had been seeing elk sign out there, but finally got to see the magnificent beasts themselves one morning.

Tara came home over Spring Break. It’s always fun and calming to have my kiddo home again. That side of the house gets opened up, and the heaters come on and there is music blasting and the shower running, and ahhh…. all is right in the world.

My college sophomore. Tara has dyed their hair dark green this time (can you tell?). I can never predict what will happen next with that hair!

They kicked my butt at Scrabble, due in part to their word skills, but maybe possibly also due to these rotten tiles? And yes, I posted this photo on facebook and got a dozen great suggestions for what to do with my hand. But it is TOO LATE you people!

I took my friend Vlad into the Gorge and we played in waterfalls in the rain. And why not? Since viewing waterfalls, one tends to get wet anyway. A rainy day is a perfect day to go the Gorge.

Bridal Veil Falls is just one of many astounding waterfalls along the Old Columbia Gorge Highway.

I liked this crooked old mossy tree branch as much as the arched bridge behind it.

The dramatic cliffs around here are, of course, the reason for the amazing waterfalls.

One of my favouritest, most beautiful, inspiring friends was diagnosed with cancer in January. She is another mom with a huge heart and an open mind and an honest gaze upon the world, that I put effort into keeping in my life because she’s the kind of woman I want to be when I grow up. Susie has been through chemo and radiation and is right now waiting to see what the next step is. She lives in Boston and I am so very far away when I want to be there to drive the kids to practice, and pick up some groceries, and mop the floor for her. I can’t do any of that. But I can send her messages of love and messages that don’t say anything about cancer, so maybe for 2 minutes, there will be no cancer on her mind. But I can be a forgetful, scatterbrained friend, no matter how much I love her. So I got the idea to dye my hair pink to remind me to send a note to Suz. It’s temporary dye, so I have to re-dye once a week, and I’ve been doing it since January. And I am proud to report that I have, indeed, remembered to send cards and notes.

Pink! And green! Look at that springtime hue behind me: woo hoo!

One of my many fires on the back of the property.

I’ve been cleaning up the land. Branches down everywhere, accumulated during the winter snows and rains and wind. I’ve been hauling them into piles and setting them alight. It’s a tricky thing to slog through the mud to a pile of wet wood in the rain and set it all ablaze, and I have gradually begun to perfect the art. And…very little chance of wildfire… so there’s that! 🙂

I hope you are enjoying the change in the season, finding your sources of joy, and making a way to connect to the people you love.

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This is panoramic view from my phone shows Lake Todos los Santos with pumice gravel in the foreground from a 2015 eruption.

This is panoramic view from my phone shows Lake Todos los Santos with pumice gravel in the foreground from a 2015 eruption. Click to get a better image.

At long last the rain dried up and the clouds parted. I woke up feeling great despite having food poisoning the previous afternoon. We were on our way around the south side of Lake Llanquihue by 8:30am. Our first foray off the main road was in search of Vicki’s other farmhouse. She had described the location and thought it might be fun for us to try to find it. Her farmhouse is on the slopes below volcano Calbuco. That one erupted April 22, 2015 and is responsible for all the pumice gravel and sand that we had been seeing in the area. Locals enthusiastically described how the area looked like a moonscape just after the eruption, and are amazed at how green and lush everything is already. We got very close, but the place we finally decided was probably hers, turned out not to be hers in the end. We did see some of the clearest evidence of the recent eruption, with wide swaths covered in volcanic gravel. We also saw fenceposts buried about two feet in the gravel, and we could see where snowplows had plowed the gravel off roads, and today the red and black pumice rock berms remain.

Volcano Calbuco behind flourishing foxglove.

Volcano Calbuco behind flourishing foxglove.

Volcano Orsorno from the foothills of volcano Calbuco.

Volcano Orsorno and volcano Puntiagudo from the foothills of volcano Calbuco.

We drove through Ensenada and closer to volcano Orsorno, which we could finally see in its full glory now that the clouds had cleared. From multiple angles the peak is close to symmetrical, and rises to 8,730 feet. We made our first real stop at the waterfalls called Saltos del Petrohué. These falls are on the very river that we rafted on two days before! So look at the lovely aqua colour and you can imagine what a pleasure it was to have that water smash you in the face. 😉

This view of the waterfalls is truly beautiful. After I posted on facebook, a friend asked me "Are you in Eden?!"

This view of the waterfalls is truly beautiful. After I posted on facebook, a friend asked me “Are you in Eden?!”

In the video, you can see Margaret with her black coat draped over her shoulders, in front of volcano Osorno. Behind the falls is Cerro la Picada. Cerro means “hill,” but in this case it’s a 4100 foot hill.

On the short walking trail we found a tiny lake where we stopped for a picnic lunch. There were trout in the lake, which connects to the river. I took tons of what should have been great photos, but… more camera problems. Everything from the moment when we entered the park – and for the rest of the day – is dreadfully overexposed. I must have accidentally changed the settings to make all the photos totally washed out to almost uselessness. The photos I have posted are a result of drastic photo editing. I just don’t know what happened and I’m really disappointed, because it was so great to have a sunny day again and all the photo advantages that come of that. Drat.

Me in front of volcanoes and waterfalls.

Me in front of volcanoes and waterfalls.

Cascadas (waterfalls) on the Rio Petrohue

Cascadas (waterfalls) on the Rio Petrohué

Small pond near the waterfalls where we ate our picnic lunch.

Small pond near the waterfalls where we ate our picnic lunch. On the ridge are Coihue trees, the most common found in Chile.

Our destination was Lagos Todos los Santos, which the previous day I had read on two different websites is purported to be the most lovely lake in all of Chile. I thought it had to be at least pretty nice, considering all the lakes in the running. We had not witnessed an unlovely Chilean lake yet.

One arrives at the town of Petrohué on the lake in something of a madhouse, with tour busses clogging up every artery and troops of tour employees standing in lanes and parking areas, directing every single vehicle where to park without taking the time to figure out what your intentions are. An attendant waved us to a spot, and as we were about to pull in, another attendant frantically waved us to his area, so we continued on, shrugging apology to the first guy. It didn’t dawn on us till later that the attendants belong to competing tour companies, and want us to park close to their company so they can have the first crack at selling us a ticket to a boat tour. Margaret and I were as yet oblivious, however, and happily continued along the sandy lane, focused first on avoiding the gigantic double-decker tour busses, and second on finding a place to park now that we had left the attendants in our rear view mirror. First other vehicles followed us, then we followed them, all in search of elusive parking, but the trick was to go all the way to beach for copious free parking (estacionamiento gratis). We hailed a bus attendant and asked where “trekking” was (Strangely, this is the word the park officials have been using, so I did too.  Possibly another German holdover, since I am pretty sure trekking is not a Spanish word), and were pointed to the trailhead we sought.

At the trailhead we saw that Desolación Trail (named desolation for the effects left in the wake of volcanic eruptions in the past, so it was particularly apt after 2015) had two routes at the beginning: one along the lakeshore, and one that was inland. The two routes meet up at a single trail partway up the mountain. We liked the idea of the no-elevation-gain beach route, and struck out that way.

Walking along the beach at Todos los Santos.

Walking along the beach at Todos los Santos.

Todos los Santos with Cerro Tronador in the distance.

Todos los Santos with Cerro Tronador in the distance.

Pumice rocks on the beach.

Pumice rocks on the beach.

Scotch broom bursting in bloom at the lakeshore.

Scotch broom bursting in bloom at the lakeshore.

Volcano Puntiagudo

Volcano Puntiagudo

We went along the west shore until we could see that soon we would have to turn along the north shore, and with the map in our mind’s eye, we knew that would not connect us to the trail. We had not seen the trail since we hit the beach, but we had seen enough of the beach. We turned around and decided to go back to town and hire a kayak. In town, the only place that rented kayaks was down to one, and said if we came back in two hours he would have another one for us. In that tiny town there really was nothing else to do but go back to the trail and take the inland route.

It was a tough slog because the trail was entirely deep, soft, sand. Every step was work. But Margaret and I are determined women and we kept a good pace and trudged a couple of miles. Trudge, trudge, trudge and had gained about 20 feet in elevation after two hours. We were in the midst of a conversation about whether to keep going when we ran into some other Americans sitting in the shade of a tree having the same discussion. After we talked to them we went ahead on the trail for another half an hour and then gave up. The trail is 11.5 kilometers and we were hoping to get some elevation and get a view, at the very least, but it was not happening any time soon. After all that hiking, I took a final panoramic shot that is at the top of this post. We gave up and went back to Petrohué. By this time I was fully sunburnt, and our hamstrings and quadriceps were hollering complaints about the sandy trail. We did not go back to the kayak place, but headed back to Puerto Varas.

A final look at the volcano before we turned around on the trail and headed back.

A final look at the volcano before we turned around on the trail and headed back.

This time it was Margaret’s turn to relax. I still had energy (possibly due to sleeping an extra three hours the day before), and took off to explore the town for the first time while M stayed at the hostel and rested. I was in search of something woven from alpaca or llama, but it was late in the day and I had a hard time finding anything open. I decided instead to just explore the town, and struck out for the top of a hill across from our hostel. On the way up, a happy stray dog bounded my way and took up my pace, right at my heels. I walked and walked, and the dog stayed with me. As I climbed the hill, I realized that I could not get down to the lakefront again because there was a cliff between it and me, and no egress. I would have to go back the way I came, or go forward far enough for the ground to slope back toward the shore again. Forward it was, and with my trusting companion, I hoofed it through Puerto Varas. I must have walked three miles, and at a really quick pace because I was trying to get back to my room eventually. The dog finally ditched me in a park once I made it downtown again, and I climbed a long long set of stairs up a pedestrian path back to the Galpon Aire Puro, and bed.

My blogger friend LB takes a lot of B&W photos. So when I saw this fence along the highway, I instantly thought of her.

My blogger friend LB at Life on the Bike and Other Fab Things takes a lot of B&W photos. So when I saw this fence along the highway, I instantly thought of her.

I was told that there was a falls on Beaver Creek. That’s MY creek! Of course, I am only one property owner living along this pretty creek, but that hasn’t stopped my claiming ownership of the whole darn thing.

My friend G is living in Seattle, so pretty close. He wanted to come by for a visit and see my new place. G and I used to work together, forecasting the weather for the National Weather Service in Eureka, California. G has the actual atmospheric sciences degree, I came about that career from the Air Force, and thus can’t flaunt the same impressive qualifications. Still, that work put me into the path of some fun, interesting, and super smart people, and my friend G is one of them.

I thought that finding the trail to the falls would be a good plan for us. G has hiked a lot of trails, and in fact, recommended a trail to Red Cap Lake in northern California that was my very first solo hike of my life, back in the 1990s when I got bit by the backpacking bug. I knew he would be game, so when I suggested it, I was already going for my boots and jacket in the few seconds it took him to say, “Yes!”

The town of Rainier is on Highway 30 in Oregon, which follows the Columbia River Gorge east to west. It’s the road I took recently to celebrate my birthday in Astoria. This time we just went a couple of miles toward the coast, and turned off. We followed Beaver Creek Road several more miles, and Beaver Creek kept curving around, back and forth, beneath the road. It was big, and deep, and it was so exciting to think that this rushing body of water was the same creek that flows past the henhouse.

Before we got to the creek, there was a pull out on the road, where we pulled out and went to the water’s edge to watch the water roaring over a couple of short falls. The sun had broken through the morning fog and lit up a white fence along the highway, and I took the shot at the top of this post. Then I went over the bank and stood there soaking it up. A rainbow lit up the spray to my right. Huge basalt columns formed the banks of the river to my left. We climbed around and guessed at the height of the water during the December floods, as thick mosses on the tree branches above us caught fire in the sunlight.

You can sort of make out the geometric shapes of the basalt columns that poke through the earth here.

You can sort of make out the hexagonal tops of basalt columns that poke through the earth here.

Trees form a natural cathedral over the water above the falls.

Trees form a natural cathedral over the water above the falls.

Farther down the road we pulled out again and parked near the trailhead sign for Beaver Creek Falls. It is 9 miles from my house.

This time of year, it’s best to plan on mud, and we got some. It wasn’t too bad though. The trail was rocky, so we didn’t sink in, but the smallish rocks weren’t held together well in the wet soil and we had to take care not to slide down the steep hill.

G leads the way through the trees.

G leads the way through the trees, watching for washed out trail.

Beaver Falls from the road, through a protective chain link fence.

Beaver Falls from the road, through a protective chain link fence.

It was fun chatting with my friend as we walked, who has been working for the National Weather Service for 26 years, I think he said. Wow, has it been that long since we were young and new at that game? He caught me up on the latest intel he had on people I used to work with. Who moved, who got a promotion, who is still there, doing the same work for the great little community in Humboldt County.

After not too long, we heard the roar, and knew we were close.

The falls is surprisingly huge and beautiful. “It’s symmetrical,” G said, obviously the scientist.

Approaching the falls.

Approaching the falls.

 A small but dizzyingly high falls squirts out from beneath the road we came in on.

It’s hard to see this small but dizzyingly high falls that squirts out from beneath the road we came in on.

Beaver Creek scours out a bowl to fill.

Beaver Creek scours out a bowl to fill.

It is rather symmetrical. Practically square.

It is rather symmetrical. Practically square.

This last photo is for laughs. The sign, drenched in a waterfall and nailed to a tree with its roots in the water, warns NO CAMPFIRES! Darn it, I was just looking for my matches...

This last photo is for laughs. The sign, drenched in a waterfall and nailed to a tree with its roots in the water, warns NO CAMPFIRES! Darn it, I was just looking for my matches…

The trail is totally washed out near the bottom. It’s possible the flood waters came that high, and ground the trail to nothing. I’m surprised we didn’t think to investigate that while we were there. Feet from other winter hikers had eeked out a bit of a passage beyond the washed out part, and I took the chance and went about 20 feet beyond where there was clearly no more trail. But even I had to stop without getting to the bottom.

The falls has ground out a big bowl there, making the steep cliffs more than vertical, but undercut. It must be a fabulous place too cool off on hot days. I’ll bet the water’s edges are packed in the summer. Maybe I wouldn’t want to be here then. But a January hike into the bowl and having this view all to ourselves was pretty sweet.

 

This is me at the summit of Larch Mountain.

This is me at the summit of Larch Mountain. Volcanoes are in the background, trust me. No really, they are.

I managed to get out with my hiking group again on Sunday. Saturdays are sooo busy (this one was my Mt. Hood Cherokees meeting), and the option for Sunday hikes is appreciated.

My hike the previous weekend to Poo Poo Point gave me a chance to prepare my body a little, because this hike was 6.8 miles to the summit from the trailhead. It was .2 miles from the car, totaling 14 miles hiked and over 4000 foot elevation gain in one day. Believe me, my legs are still having a conversation with me about what took place…

One fun thing about the trail is that it begins at Multnomah Falls. You will be amazed to hear that I did not take a single shot of the stunning falls while I was in the viewing area with all the tourists. I have hundreds of photos of Multnomah Falls and was trying to practice restraint, ha ha! But if you want a reminder of which falls I mean, check out one of my posts on it from winter 2013  or from winter 2012.

One mile of paved trail leads you to the viewing platform at the top of the falls: 611 feet above the pool at the bottom.

Looking over the edge of Multnomah Falls, down to the parking lot and I-5 below. Doesn't this perspective mess with your equilibrium?

Looking over the edge of Multnomah Falls, down to the parking lot and I-5 below. Doesn’t this perspective mess with your equilibrium?

The trail after that is not paved, but is in great shape and there are so many more remarkable waterfalls I lost track. I included several photos of my hiking companions on the trail, to help with perspective, and add a contrast to the extravagant opulence of all the green. The ground was wet from a lot of run off and creeks crossing the trails, but we found solid purchase for our feet for the first five miles. We crossed five bridges, if my memory is correct, and each one of those was an adventure in itself. The first over Multnomah Falls, then a Troll Bridge, one that warned us it was falling apart, and two very sturdy bridges built from a single log with the top flattened for us to walk on, and a railing attached to one side. So clever.

Let me explain one aspect of my photos before I get too far. A friend who looked at my photos pointed out – correctly – that if I was in front of the group and turned back, I could get photos of all the lovely faces of the ladies I hiked with. This is absolutely true and it’s a loss that you won’t see them here. However, I am sensitive to the fact that when they registered for this hike, none of them signed up to have their faces on the Internet via my blog. I got permission to post butts (ha ha), but I promised not to show faces or names.

Our trail followed Multnomah Creek for quite a while.

Our trail followed Multnomah Creek for quite a while.

So many waterfalls, it was hard to keep track of them.

So many waterfalls, it was hard to keep track of them.

Troll bridge in the sunshine.

Troll bridge in the sunshine.

Part of the trail ducked under cliffs that had been carved out for us. See the waterfall in the distance here?

Part of the trail ducked under cliffs and is called Dutchman tunnel. See the waterfall in the distance here?

This is me in front of the waterfall in the shot right above.

This is me in front of the waterfall in the shot right above.

To our surprise, about 1.5 miles from the top, we walked into snow. It started off so beautifully: a lovely layer of white to change our forest views. We were very excited, taking photos and giving some accessories to a tiny snowman that someone else built along the trail.

The snow never got very deep, but it did make for some terrible trail conditions. First, the several inches of snow on the dirt trail ensured that it was a mud trail, particularly in the afternoon return home, when many many boots had tromped the slush into a dreadful slippery mess. Second, the snow on the branches of the trees above us slowly melted throughout the day, causing “tree rain” sufficient to soak us through despite the sky teasing us with copious blue that we spotted up through the trees. Luckily we all had jackets for protection, but it was impossible to stay entirely dry at that point.

At 1:00 pm were tired and discouraged and still walking uphill through the mud and tree rain. But occasional bursts of sunshine and the persistent blue above the trees were a tease that we couldn’t resist. Besides, we had come too far to give up.

Walking past yet another waterfall.

Walking past Ecola Falls.

Switchbacks. We became rather familiar with them.

Switchbacks. We became rather familiar with them.

You go first!

You go first!

Snow! It was so exciting that we took photos of it at first.

Snow! It was so exciting that we took photos of it at first.

Someone else built this snowman, but we added the character.

Someone else built this snowman, but we added the character.

Isn't this just lovely?

Isn’t this just lovely?

The summit was worth it! A lovely little rest spot has been built right at the top of the mountain, with benches and a fence to keep us from tumbling over the side. We gathered with other tenacious hikers and ate lunch. The sun had melted the snow off the tops of the benches, where we were able to sit. There was very little wind to speak of, but it did get a bit chilly when we stopped moving.

Sadly, the clouds had been gathering all morning, so by the time we arrived, all the volcanoes were obscured. Remember my view from Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain? On a clear day, the same views can be seen from Larch Mountain. Though the volcanoes (St. Helens, Rainier, Adams, Hood, and Jefferson) were hidden, we had a great view of the valleys around us, including the Columbia River.

The journey back down was somewhat lighter, since downhill is so much less of a struggle. Typically downhill is my challenge – not uphill – but my bad knee only hollered at me a couple of times, and I was able to get to the bottom without the help of any curse words!

It was somewhat surreal to finish the hike at a popular tourist destination, and I felt distinctly out of place, with my coat and pack and mud splashed up my legs and bleached blonde hairs frizzing out in all directions. The lovely people around me had perfect hair and clean clothes and some wore sandals (and heels! good gracious). But I could still smile to myself because I had just seen things that they would not. 🙂

There it is! We made it!

There it is! We made it to Sherrard Point!

Islands in the Columbia

Islands in the Columbia

Icicles caught my eye

Icicles caught my eye

Lunch at the top in the snow.

Lunch at the top in the snow.

Snowy peaks in the distance.

Snowy peaks in the distance.

Mt. Jefferson not visible, but how lovely are the trees with natural flocking?

Mt. Jefferson not visible, but how lovely are the trees with natural flocking?

Punchbowl Falls along Eagle Creek trail

Punchbowl Falls along Eagle Creek trail

I need to be outside to feel completely right. Breathing fresh air brings me peace. I wish I could live outside – except for the dirt, ha! During the warm months I open up half the windows in the house, and they stay open -morning, noon and night- till November when I am forced to shut up the house again.

So it follows that in winter I tend to go a little stir crazy when the weather keeps me indoors too long.

Lucky for me, I do not live in New England right now, and going outside is pretty much a breeze. Wednesday the temps were in the 50s with fog and only a slight chance of drizzle. I picked a show-stopper of a trail to add some Zing! to my winter, and off I went. Well, I had a late start because first thing that morning I toured a home for sale in Estacada. I liked it so much I made an offer, and then heard it had sold 15 minutes earlier. Dang!

The beginning of the trail follows the creek before climbing high above it.

The beginning of the trail follows the creek before climbing high above it.

The Eagle Creek Trail is one of the most popular in the Columbia River Gorge because the trailhead is an easy 45 minutes from Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington, and also because it packs a lot of scenic beauty into a few short miles on a super easy trail. For these reasons, in warmer months the parking spaces at the trailhead are typically jammed, and cars line the sides of the road all the way out to the Interstate. I thought perhaps the middle of the day Wednesday, in February, would mean an empty trail but I was wrong. There were about 25 vehicles parked when we arrived.

Guidebooks caution that it’s not a good trail for children and dogs, and that everyone should use care. Much of the trail was actually blasted out of the side of a cliff above sheer drops into the creek. In 2009, two people died on this trail, one due to a 100-foot fall.

The trail was dynamited out of the side of a cliff.

The trail was dynamited out of the side of a cliff. The cable is there to hold on to.

Metlako Falls, the first big falls you can see from the trail.

Metlako Falls, the first big falls you can see from the trail.

My philosophy is that there is potential danger all around us at all times, and that a trail is actually safer than a sidewalk. As long as I dress right, bring extra gear, water, food, etc., and in this particular case if I stay on the trail, I am confident that it will be a safe hike. Using our smarts will keep many of us alive. You’d think that would mean after 7 million years of natural selection our human population would be filled with only brilliant individuals, but somehow…that is not the case. 🙂

From the trailhead, it’s a 12-mile hike to Tunnel Falls, which I have never seen because I have never hiked that far. There are spectacular sights along the entire trail, but so far I have only hiked in 2 miles to Punchbowl Falls and then returned. There is so much to see in such a short distance that I use the trail for day hikes when I don’t have much time to invest.

People ahead of us on the trail walk behind a waterfall.

People ahead of us on the trail walk behind a waterfall.

Trail is visible on the right, with Eagle Creek below on the left.

Trail is visible on the right, with Eagle Creek below on the left.

In the winter, there are waterfalls. And waterfalls, and waterfalls! They are astonishingly high, crashing down on both sides of the creek every few hundred feet or so. In some places you have no choice but to get wet because the trail hugs the cliff, and the falls spill down the cliffs. At one point near the beginning of the trail, a waterfall arcs over the top of the trail and you walk beneath it. (By the way, this is why Tunnel Falls has it’s name) The falls are so common that despite many of them being remarkable enough to warrant a postcard if they were solitary waterfalls in some other place…HERE most of them are not even named.

Lower Punchbowl Falls is a fun place to play in the water in the summer, and one can walk out into the creek and get a great view of the big falls. On this trip, it was too chilly to even consider going into the water for a view. It was lovely, and we watched others play around with each other and with their dogs. Despite the dog and child warnings, many people brought their dogs and children – and I’m glad. This is a place that really should be experienced by all.

The area above Lower Punchbowl Falls has a rocky beach area that can hold a lot of people who want to enjoy the shade and cool breezes in the summer. In February, there's just a guy taking pictures of his girl. :-)

The area above Lower Punchbowl Falls has a rocky beach area that can hold a lot of people who want to enjoy the shade and cool breezes in the summer. In February, there’s just a guy taking pictures of his girl. 🙂

This is me, bouncing down the hill to get a better look at the falls. So much for staying on the trail...

This is me, bouncing down the hill to get a better look at the falls. So much for staying on the trail…

Look at the falls! Are you looking? (My view from where I'm standing is the one at the top of this post - jaw-droppingly gorgeous.)

Look at the falls! Are you looking? (My view from where I’m standing is the one at the top of this post –  the jaw-droppingly gorgeous Punchbowl Falls.)

Heading back to the trailhead along these truly remarkable and beautiful cliffs.

The rocks, trees, and cliffs are adorned with luscious moss.

Rainy paths through the grounds of Kiyomizu Temple

Me posing at the base of the West gate, below the three-storied pagoda.

I pity Yuji, our poor tour guide who tries to keep us collected in a group. In particular, Yuji must deal with me always turning up late for his scheduled deaprtures. It’s not my fault: Japan is too beautiful and amazing to take a quick look then scurry back to the bus.

This morning we loaded all our luggage onto the bus because after touring we would be heading back to Iwakuni. We had escaped the rain the first two days, but today it poured. I bought an umbrella for 300 yen (about $3.75) and was good to go.

The famous Kiyomizu stage (balcony), atop 40-foot pillars assembled without nails.

Our first stop was the Kiyomizu Temple, set in an indescribable magical atmosphere in the rain. The temple is perched in the mountains around Kyoto. Rain pulled shreds of grey stratofractus down into the valleys, while the tops of the mountains remained obscured. Since Kuomizu Temple perches above treetops, and the horizons disappeared into clouds, it looked as though the temple was floating over the forest.

Ancient, massive cypress columns crowned with stained glass and metal lanterns.

Wood and metal are found throughout the temple

iron sandals

Kiyomizu, founded in 778, is yet another UNESCO world heritage site in Kyoto. This famous Japanese temple is dedicated to the 11-headed and thousand-armed Kannon Bodhisattva, the goddess of mercy. It is well known for its impressive wooden structure and for its waterfalls. Coming here from the Pacific Northwest, even I was struck by the *huge*

dragon fountain

wooden columns and *huge* wooden timbers making up the temple’s architecture. During our visit, we were not able to go in, but we walked on the balconies surrounding it, and were able to look in and absorb its rich interior design and adornments.

Built on Otawa Mountain, Otawa falls is incorporated into the temple site, and split into three different streams. Drinking from a stream will give you luck in school, in love, or in long life, depending upon which stream you choose.

Tourists queue at the Otawa Waterfall. With long-handled cups, they collect water to sip for luck.

It was easy to see that this is a famous Japanese site because even on such a wet day, there were throngs of people. I am not a fan of crowds, so my eye is usually drawn to things off the beaten path. Wandering alone past stone lanterns on cobbled, mossy paths, and crossing trickling streams through luxurious dripping forests is a very good way to lose track of time and forget there is a bus waiting.

Toro (lanterns) beside a twisting path through the forest

I looked over the edge of a bamboo fence and saw this path. Resistance was futile.

Eventually I tore myself away from the temple and back down the long narrow streets of vendors. I tried some cinnamon bean paste sweets – yum! – and bought grilled sweet potato on a stick, simply because I couldn’t resist the golden buttery smells. At the bottom of a long flight of stone steps I saw an historic street with more thatched roofs, but I had no time to investigate. Alas! The Bus Awaits.

Next we saw the most amazing sight! In the Sanjusangen-do Temple are 1000 life-sized golden statues, and one waaay larger-than-life statue of Kannon! They are all made of cypress, and date to the 12th and 13th centuries. In addition, there are 28 life-sized statues of guardian deities, plus the Thunder god and Wind god placed all around the Kannon statues.

Some of the 1031 statues inside Sanjusangen-do. Please click image for source.

The experience was enough to make me speechless. I cannot even explain how tremendous it is to see 1001 huge golden buddhist statues all housed together. We were cautioned many times not to take a photo, and were told that if caught, security would make us erase our images to their satisfaction. So I did not succumb to temptation, but provided you with someone else’s image.

Our last stop was Kyoto Station and mall, across from the Kyoto Tower. We were there to eat lunch. I was tempted by the 11th floor, which was entirely ramen noodle restaurants! But instead, I followed a tip from women at an information booth, who said I could get Internet at the Starbucks at the base of the Tower. I ran (safely) across the intersection and sent virtual kisses and hugs to my family, who had not heard from me in 3 days. Then we all settled in for the long journey back to base.

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!

trillium

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.

pressed leaves under glass

I’m listening to the voices of parents and children getting closer to my house as they make their trick-or-treating way down the street. They get started late and continue late here in my neighborhood. It’s 7:30 and little ones are still coming. The big kids will continue on after 9pm. (it got dark at 6pm). I’ll just slip off and hand out candy when the bell rings, and you will never know!

My girlie took off for her friends house so they could begin their treating sojourn together. What an excellent time to check in with my life and update my blog.

I downloaded some photos from my camera today and was reminded of two things. 1) I have been snapping shots of wall art in Portland, so if you like wall art you should check out my flickr set. 2) Omigosh! I went to see the Vaux’s swifts again, at Chapman school, and totally forgot to blog it. So, if the treaters continue long enough tonight, I’ll get started on a very late post about birds.

First for fun, I’ll show off my little creative art project at the top. I am incorrigible for making the most of my time, so when Arno shows up for a visit, I make him do my chores with me. We recently met for dinner. We walked to the restaurant, and I brought one of those little Chico bags (my Mom adores them and gave a couple to me). On the walk back home we collected beautiful Autumn leaves. I had picked up a cheap frame at Jo-Ann fabrics for $3.99. Lay down the prettiest leaves, press the glass over the top and viola! Gorgeous seasonal wall hanging.

Here, kitty kitty

T and I were very late carving our pumpkins, but we did manage to get that done this weekend, with success! They turned out great. Of course the barfing pumpkin appeals to a 14-year-old. I stole my design from an image I saw online, but the ears are my idea.

Arno and I have been so busy lately that we barely ever have time to see each other. It’s very frustrating but also a relief that he lives 60 miles away (I’ll let you fill in the blanks). I have a feeling that having kids in school is largely why we don’t see enough of each other now. Anyway, I had just dropped off Miss T at Powell’s to meet friends (how cool are friends that meet at Powell’s?!!) and we had the spontaneous idea Sunday to meet halfway through the Gorge.

Imma sucker for foliage. Love these trees over the streets.

It makes sense to split the distance, right? We’ve talked about it, but not put it into practice yet. He suggested Multnomah Falls Lodge, since it was the only public place we could think of that was indoors. I was hoping for coffee. It was raining buckets in the gorge and I passed a couple of cars in compromising positions alongside the freeway, with the accompanying blue flashing lights. Unfortunately, he ran into the same situation and it stopped traffic.

<realtime>Oh seriously, the kids are really hitting the streets now, and it’s 8:14. What’s the deal with Portland? The last little zombie to trick-or-treat here was about 8 years old. <another knock>Oh! Oh! Twin Little Red Riding Hoods and they were, like, 5 years old!</another knock></realtime>

Multnomah Falls, evening, pouring rain

So anyhow, I reached Multnomah Falls first and hung out in the parking lot in the downpour in my warm and toasty car and waited for Arno. I replaced a bandaid from where I cut myself using one of Natalie’s Amazing Knives to carve my pumpkin. Then I couldn’t stand it anymore and climbed out into the rain and took a photo of the magnificent falls right in front of me. Multnomah Falls blows me away. I can’t believe more people don’t wreck on the interstate right here, cuz this place is too stunning to drive past without a double-take.

I’m out there, hiding under the Info booth taking photos ‘cause it has a roof, and Arno runs up! Yay! So we made a sprint for the Lodge. I had heard somewhere that there was a restaurant at the Lodge, but neither of us had been there. So we poked around, found a staircase, and climbed to the top. Wow! It was magical!

Inside is a real, honest to goodness, park lodge. For dining we could sit in either the fireplace room or the vista room. I chose the vista room and we were seated. This place is stunning; I can’t wait to go back. We didn’t really have time to eat dinner, and we were both driving so we didn’t order from the extensive wine list. Instead we had coffee and stuffed mushrooms and talked as the wet dripped from us. Such a gorgeous setting. Even the dishes were beautiful: antique china with a dogwood pattern. The cups, plates, saucers, all matched in dogwood blooms. The walls were stone and mortar, and in the vista room: glass glass glass. So we could look out at the stunning cliffs that hold the falls. Too much foliage: couldn’t actually see the falls. We will come back in winter.

My girl is back home for the night. She had a good time collecting her loot. “No junk gifts this year!” she crowed. “Last year I got a pencil, and coupons, and a stupid bag of uncooked popcorn. This year it’s all good. Well, except the Jesus book.”

“The huh?”

“This booklet called the Four Spiritual Laws.” She handed it to me, “From this guy. But he wasn’t bad. There was this lady at another house that was like all, ‘I want you to know that Jesus loves you. I have had so many miracles in my life since I chose to believe. He does so much good for us all.’ We were all, ‘um, ok, thank you,’ and backing away. But she just kept talking. ‘He loves you!’ We said, ‘thanks’ and mumbled a little. We were trying to make her feel good, you know, like she was making a difference, but we kept backing away. Finally she closed the door.” Aww, my girl is so sweet.

She had a lot of stories tonight. The Chinese couple. “The lady was surprised to see us. ‘oh! You tricker treat?’ and we all nodded. So she counts us, and leaves, and comes back in a little while with five mints. One for each of us. ‘Tricker treat!’ she says. And then, this man was in the yard, and he came around a bush, and was also surprised to see us. Then his face broke into a big smile and he said, ‘ahh! Tricker treat!’ and he looked at his wife and she smiled and nodded. So they were smiling and nodding and bowing and saying ‘tricker treat!’ till we left.”

At one house, a lady opened the door and held two bowls. “‘You can take either two candies, or one dinosaur,’ she said. We were all like, DINOSAUR!!”

Anyhow, we’re both suffering from colds. (I didn’t go to work today – blehhhh) It’s time to go to bed for my way-too-early 4:30am wake up. I’ll turn out the lights and discourage any other treaters, and then my co-workers will get the spoils! Yes guys, you’re welcome.

Holy cow. Seriously? 9:25 and I hear a little girl’s voice outside…there goes the bell.

The aptly named Vista House, overlooking the Columbia River Gorge, with snowy peaks of southern Washington in the distance

Locally, we have been breaking the kinds of records that are no fun to break. Climatology has been kept at the Portland airport since 1940 and the Spring of 2011 is trying to be the coolest spring since records have been kept. It was the 5th coolest April, with an average temp of 47.9 degrees. The March/April rainfall total is 11.47 inches (normal 6.35), making it the wettest spring on record (and wettest April on record). I got all this handy info from the National Weather Service’s latest Record Report, dated May 1, 2011.

The gorgeous gorge, and the Vista House on a cliff

Inside the lovingly restored Vista House with stained glass windows

When the seasonal affective disorder symptoms were about to make us want to gouge out our eyes with forks, Mother Nature blessed us with ONE gorgeous day before the rain and cool temps rolled back in. On the phone that morning, my mom told me to forget the laundry, let the shower remain unscrubbed, and go outside, I realized she was probably right. I gathered my kid and we hit the Gorge.

The last time we were at the Vista House, the winds were fierce and frightening. I know you won’t believe me, so I’ll just say this for my own entertainment: as we watched, a man took hold of the railing at the steps with both hands. He carefully lifted his legs out behind him, one at a time, and the wind HELD him in the air! Tara and I climbed out of the car, and crawled along the pavement, but were too chicken to cross, unprotected, the two lanes of the road to reach the other side where there was another short wall to hide behind. So we crawled back to the car and inched down the cliff again.

Miss Tara on the balcony

So Vista House was our destination on May Day. The winds were practically gentle, compared to the last visit!

We went to Shepperds Dell Falls, a falls we had not seen yet. There are so many along the Historic Columbia River Highway that parallels Interstate 84 that we usually only stop at two or three each time. This means that there are still falls we have not seen. We will undertake a couple of longer hikes this year, so that we can get to more of the falls off the highway. Each one is a worthy destination on its own, so we are sure to never be disappointed in the trail we choose.

The wide Columbia River and the southern Washington border

stone wall beside trail to Shepperds Dell Falls

Despite the record-breaking slow start to spring, Persephone has still returned to us. The Gorge was filled with pale green and splashes of white and pink blossoms in the trees. Rivers are running high, making the falls crash dramatically for our entertainment. Shepperds Dell Falls is at the end of a short paved path, bound by the inevitable moss-covered stone wall. These stone walls are everywhere along the Old Highway, adding an unmistakable Oregonian charm to every yard of highway and park in these parts.

bridge over Shepperds Dell

typical gorge bridge

Then it was time for lunch, and we found a lovely (only slightly damp) meadow to spread out our picnic. We lounged in the beating sunshine in lush grass amidst zillions of dandelions and tiny daisies, which looked perfectly landscaped here, though in my back yard they would be a catastrophe of weeds. Tummies full, it was time to walk to Bridal Veil Falls.

The trail is in excellent shape for this time of year, when often small landslides can make the path treacherous before Park employees come and sweep up and rebuild retaining walls. I wandered well off the path, snapping close-ups of flowers. That was self-indulgence, and mainly because my camera is still new and it’s a thrill to be able to photograph close-ups in focus! Notices warn to STAY on the trail because of poison ivy, but I’m a plant girl and I could easily identify them. I did not see any poison ivy. I did see plenty of nettles, however. I hopped deftly about but still managed to catch a leaf across my knee on my way back to the trail. (The burning went away by evening…)

the creek below Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls met and exceeded expectations. The only down-side being that the lovely warm dry day had brought many of us out to the trails. This popular falls was packed with people. I play games with the camera to see how cleverly I can crop the image to make it look like no one is there, but I can’t always keep the brightly coloured tourists out of the shots.

In true Crystal form, I moseyed and dawdled and all those other lovely means of travel on a sunny day in the forest. Finally we climbed back into the Dragon-Wagon and moved on once more.

We had originally intended to stop at Multnomah Falls – easily among the most tourist-mobbed stops in all of Oregon. But the masses of parked cars along the sides of the road – miles before we got to the parking lot – were too much. We live here; we can go another day. Instead we made our way back home. My girl ran off to play frisbee with the neighbor kids, and I had time for a couple of loads of laundry.

Bridal Veil Falls

Shepperds Dell Falls

Oneonta Creek

my pretty girl

Oh yes! Two whole days in a row of sunshine, and my soul is returning to peace.

This morning we decided to go on a short hike in the Columbia River Gorge. Since it is a rare burst of sun and warmth, we opted to avoid Multnomah Falls completely, and explore trails of the less famous falls nearby. We parked near Oneonta Creek and walked down the Historic Columbia River Highway (updated but not replaced by I-84) until we came to the Horsetail Falls trailhead.

Restored tunnel in Oneonta Gorge

Our consistent girl whined with the predictable nature of an almost-13-year-old that she does not like to go on hikes, and we didn’t bring enough food or drink, and—about that time she was off like a forest-dwelling gazelle. She unbound her braid to take in the delicious warm breeze (how sweet is that?) and was off to a strong start on the trail that went up, up, up onto the awesome cliffs that border the great Columbia River.

Oh, Oregon is beautiful. It is SO beautiful here. How lucky I feel when we leave our neighborhood and wander outside city limits.

We first walked through the Oneonta tunnel, restored a year ago to its present beautiful condition. It was built in 1914 for the highway, in order to provide views of the Oneonta Gorge and Horsetail Falls to travelers along the historic highway. Now only foot traffic moves through.

at the base of Horsetail Falls

Next Horsetail Falls marked the beginning of the trailhead we intended to take. Stones providing low safety walls and lining paths and stairs were taken from an old jail. It’s a common sight in public areas around here to find stunning stonework framing the gorgeous displays of nature. (get it? Gorge-ous)

We hiked about a mile up the cliffs on a trail in great shape from years of use, but not yet cleared of winter rock falls. At the top we were treated to stunning views of our beautiful Columbia River. When the river was the highway to the Pacific Ocean all those years ago, I wonder if the travelers stopped at these falls. They must have known they were here: some cascade hundreds of feet down onto the shores of the river. Multnomah itself is 620 feet high! (We had passed it on our way, and it was JAMMED with people, as we had suspected) I wonder if pioneers had the luxury of admiring waterfalls in their difficult journeys.

Though entirely shaded, we were warmed by our exercise and we girls especially, because of all the jumping about from here to there, spotting tiger lilies and columbine and new views at every turn in the trail. We wandered away onto paths off the trail and lost Mark a couple of times, but then we would ruuuuuun down the trail and reconnect.

Looking west toward Portland from the trail

Ponytail Falls was a delight! It’s frothy tumult leaps from the cliff top and out into the air before it crashes below. Our path led beneath the falls, through a deep and dry cave that we imagined could be a good shelter for any of the aforementioned pioneers, if they didn’t mind the roar. Tara and I played behind the falls, getting as close as the trail allowed, and continuously sprayed with water. The misting was refreshing and we dashed up, up, up the cliffs again.

Tara and me beneath Ponytail Falls

...enjoying the great outdoors in the 21st century

Finally the angle turned down toward the highway again, and the going was easier on our legs. In no time we wrapped up our little hike and were ready to head back home and start our day. Mark caught up on some job applications (though he’s employed, he’s always on the lookout for something more directly in his field), and some AA administrative business. Tara must pack for her summer with her dad. I was determined to work hard in my yard in the sun because it’s the closest thing to meditative bliss I can find in my daily life.

While I work outside, I listen to the news from around the world on my iPod. Yesterday I worked so long I used up all my news, so today I returned to Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper. (P.S. loving my new audible.com addiction)   I clipped the grass, cut down the spent irises, and mowed. Ahh, my grounds are again in order after weeks of relentless rain.

One of my many guises

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