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My favourite volcano of them all was back home in Oregon. Here, Mt. Hood rises from the clouds as we approach Portland.

My favourite volcano of them all was back home in Oregon. Here, Mt. Hood rises from the clouds as we approach Portland.

Margaret and I got up early with intent to blast out of the Barn and Puerto Varas by 7am. Vicki had insisted she would be up to wave goodbye, and sure enough she greeted me on my last scramble down the stairs. Hugs and kisses (Chileans kiss once, on the right cheek) and I found Margaret waiting in the rental car with the motor already running.

It had been a stressful night for her. For some unexplained reason, her phone access to Internet had stopped working. This was bad news for a person who was planning to be in South America for another month. She has an Android, and I don’t know how those work, so I was no help at all. Everything looked fine. It just wasn’t connecting to the Internet. So, while there was the initial stress of trying to get M to the bus on time (the next bus would leave 12 hours later, so we really had to make the right bus), there was the pervasive stress of how to communicate during the remainder of the trip.

We had poured over maps the night before, and also asked directions of Vicki, because in Chile our phone GPS was not working. Roads looked easy to identify on the map, and intersections looked distinct. As we zoomed through the countryside past a little green sign with a “590” and an arrow, a quiet voice in me said that was our road. Bless Margaret for being able to have faith in her navigator. She was already turning around by the time I located the road directions I had jotted down and confirmed that 590 was the road I wanted. The way we remembered directions was different, and this time we were in such a hurry that it made us doubt ourselves. But viola! Out we popped right at the aeropuerto.

Bust of O'Higgins I couldn't resist because his is the most popular and wholly unexpected name we saw during our trip in Chile.

Bust of O’Higgins: the most popular and wholly unexpected name we saw during our trip in Chile.

A Toyota auto parts store made me think of my brother, who visited me in Japan, mostly to see the cars.

A Toyota auto parts store made me think of my brother, who visited me in Japan, mostly to see the cars.

We dropped the keys at the car rental counter at 7:30am, this time more used to the circadian rhythms of Chileans, so we didn’t expect that a car rental employee would even show up for two more hours. We then looked for a taxi, and realized…it’s 7:30 am in Chile. There are no taxis, even at the airport. I went to check my bag at the LATAM counter while Margaret summoned a taxi. My plan was to go play in Puerto Montt until my flight left, 7 hours later. By the time I got my boarding passes, Margaret and the driver were waiting for me.

We had a hard time explaining where we wanted to go. “bus estación” was apparently not enough information. We tried and tried to get the message through, and finally Margaret said she was trying to get to Chiloé. The taxi driver immediately brightened up. “Ah, Chiloé?!” With total confidence he drove us half an hour into Puerto Montt, and out to a remote, industrial part of town. The minutes were ticking to get Margaret into place in her itinerary, and I was relieved to see a row of busses parked at this interesting and very very quiet building. We stopped, and the taxi driver checked in with us one more time “Vas a Chiloé?” and we replied yes. So he proudly gestured to the building. We paid and went inside, and our transportation drove away. Inside was quiet, and clean, and attendants stood in uniforms. What kind of bus station was this? We stood in line and watched the clock inch ahead. Margaret eventually absorbed enough visual cues to become convinced there was a problem. She showed her already-purchased bus ticket to one of the uniformed attendants, and he assured her that all was well and to get back in line. When we finally reached the counter, the woman looked at the ticket and said, “No, no, no. You have a ticket for the municipal bus line. This is a tour company.”

A wooden church in Puerto Montt.

A wooden church in Puerto Montt.

The empty morning streets of Puerto Montt.

The empty morning streets of Puerto Montt.

A home I would readily expect to find in Portland.

A home I would readily expect to find in Portland.

While M frantically tried to ask the woman to place a call for a taxi for us (the woman had to ask a co-worker for a number, and the first number didn’t work, and…), I glanced outside and saw a miracle: a lone taxi was pulling up to the tour building. I went outside, armed with the proper words this time “estación de bus municipal?” Si, he answered, and I grabbed M and jumped in. She managed to express that we were in a hurry, and the sweet man understood immediately and got us to the right bus station pronto. M checked in and had her ticket confirmed and we were pointed to the right bus. We went outside of the (disheveled, loud, busy, confusing…i.e. a proper) bus station, found the driver of our bus and loaded M’s bag. Success! With 14 minutes to spare.

The view of the sea from the municipal bus station in Puerto Montt.

The view of the sea from the municipal bus station in Puerto Montt.

“Should we just wait here?” I asked her. “No, I saw a phone store,” she answered, heading back into the building.

Get a load of that woman! In all the craziness, of taxis and hauling our bags and running through the madness of the municipal bus station, Margaret had another part of her brain still working on the broken phone problem. We found the phone store, and an employee that spoke English! (angels singing) He poked around with the phone for 5 minutes and said, “It’s fine. There’s no problem.” M tried a few things, sent and received some email, and confirmed that her phone was indeed working perfectly. We don’t know if the man fixed it, or if it fixed itself, but it didn’t matter.

We shared hugs and kisses and many thanks to each other for the companionship of the past 10 days, and M boarded the bus and off she went.

Birds roost on the pilings beneath a restaurant on the water.

Birds roost on the pilings beneath a restaurant on the water.

Looking downhill to the sea. Nope, nothing interesting up here either.

Looking downhill to the sea. Nope, nothing interesting up here either. But check out the bike-and-pedestrian friendly paths.

The municipal bus station in Puerto Montt is in the city, and not in some remote warehouse industrial area, like the tourist office. It’s right on the shores of a bay in the Pacific Ocean, so my hopes were high for a lovely diversion until it was time to go back to the airport. Instead, the skies were grey, and it was cold and windy. So cold my fingers were frozen. I walked up and down the streets briskly – partly to try and get warm, partly to look for something interesting – and found very little that captured my attention compared to the wonderful places I have been in Chile. I had to keep my head bowed to avoid the blasts of wind, even along the backstreets away from the waterfront. I did take photos on my phone (the broken camera was packed in my luggage), and those are what you see in this post. Tip for travelers: spend as little time as possible in Puerto Montt.

A memorial in Puerto Montt recognizing the German families welcomed to settle by the Chileans in this area.

A memorial in Puerto Montt recognizing the German families welcomed to settle by the Chileans in this area. I see two interesting things: the dog is obviously patted more than any other part of it, and the height of the people is proportionate: Margaret and I have found ourselves distinctly taller than most of the people here.

It was still too early in the morning for commerce or activity, but I chanced upon a bakery with the lights on, and bought the best cheese empanada outside of the fish market in Santiago. It was warm and flaky and perfect, and gone too fast. I threw in the towel, went back to the bus station, and bought a ticket back to the airport. I paid $23 to get onto an earlier flight to Santiago. In two hours, I was sweating in Santiago. What a difference!

I found the same bus Margaret and I used on November 30th, paid for a ticket, and hopped on. We had been on the red line subway so many times, I was pretty sure I would remember the name of the stop. I watched out the windows, and easily got off at the right place, where the bus station is co-located with the metro. I went underground, bought a subway pass (using up handfuls of 10 peso coins, in an effort to get rid of them), and popped up above ground again in downtown Santiago at the stop for Universidad Católica. I was warm and knew my way around. It had been the correct decision to leave Puerto Montt.

A week earlier I had left my book at Angelo’s place, and used that as an excuse to come back into town on my long layover. I arrived at the apartment building and was buzzed through the gate into the reception area on the ground floor. Though Margaret and I had seen the same attendant every single time we passed through the foyer, for three days straight, wouldn’t you know it that a totally new person would be there this time, ensuring that her building was safe. I had such a poor grasp of Spanish I knew there was no possible way for me to explain the situation. This does not come up in English-Spanish phrase books: Hi, I’m an American, yes, but I do know Angelo and Evelyn on the 22nd floor, and they know me. I’m here to pick up my book, that I left here last week. I’ll be gone soon and I do not pose a threat to the tenants.

I opted for confidence. I waved “Hola!” at the desk attendant and headed for the elevators. The woman asked me something I didn’t understand, and even stood up behind the counter, trying to get me to come back and engage. “Ventidós,” Twenty-two, I said with a comfortable smile, and pointed at the elevator, “Es bueno.” She said something else to me, and again I pretended all was well. The elevator opened and I stepped on, punched a button and waved at her, saying once more, “Es bueno!” I watched out for security in the halls when I stepped out, but apparently my ploy had worked and there were no carabineros waiting there to take me down.

Evelyn let me into the apartment with a gracious smile and hugs and kisses and she made me feel genuinely welcomed. Oh how I wish I had this skill of grace and hospitality that comes naturally to some nations. She asked me to sit down and poured me a drink of water right away because I was parched. Imagine that, after a morning of frozen, shaking fingers numbly pawing at an empanada to get at its warmth. I offered to leave a couple times, but Evelyn seemed confused, and again I admired her hospitality. In the US, so many of us would be eager to extricate ourselves from a meeting with an AirBnb client who spoke another language and only stopped by to get her book. I know that some of us are able to genuinely put strangers at ease, but many of us would be looking forward to the end of it. What a lovely lovely human being she is. I stayed for an hour. Neither of us speaking the other’s language, but knowing a few words and supplementing with pantomime.

I pulled up photos of Tara to show off, and she showed me her sister and parents. Evelyn pulled up a translator app and we were able to ask each other more complicated questions. I asked if there were tensions with Indigenous people, as there are in the US. She said yes, especially in the south (as I had noticed) “they fight for their land.” Wow. It really is the same story all over the world. I thought it would be a good time to talk about the recent success of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe – with the help of so many other Nations – in preventing the oil pipeline crossing their land. But that was too many words, and I kept it to myself.

I tried to leave as graciously as I could, and I hope I didn’t cause offense. Evelyn insisted that I wish a happy journey to Margaret and I said I would, and completely forgot to do the same for Angelo. (Evelyn, if you’re reading this: tell Angelo I send my love and hugs and thanks!!) ❤

One of my many tickets to get somewhere today.

One of my many tickets to get somewhere today.

Right below the apartment is a supermarket, and I went in for some miel (honey). I had counted and recounted my pesos, and had enough to get gifts for someone back home. In the store I found a jar of the exact same miel I had tried on the day of the rafting trip! I was very excited and spent all my surplus pesos to get it. Thus, I could not do any more shopping. I walked across the street to the base of Castillo Hidalgo (mentioned in a previous post, and one of my favourite places in Santiago already). The park is landscaped with both grass for lounging, and with flowers and bushes to appease my love of plants. The stone walls and arches are pleasing, there is lots of shade, and benches. Though an afternoon on a Thursday, there were many people in the park, skateboarding through, smoking on the grass, napping, talking and laughing. I stripped off my outer layers of clothing (it was so warm!), and laid on the grass with my head on my backpack for an hour and a half reading my newly-retrieved book, and most of the people there when I arrived were still there when I left. It was a comforting and happy atmosphere.

I walked back to the metro, bought another ticket to the bus station. At the bus station, bought another ticket to the aeropuerto. (You may be wondering, with all these tickets I was buying, traveling back and forth all over the place, how much I was spending. I spent about $6 total in all my trips for the day, with the exception of the flight and the $23 changed ticket fee. Tip for travelers: use public transportation.)

Many uncomfortable hours in a coach seat in a couple of airplanes later, I emerged from my vacation world to a startlingly snowy Portland.

On the way to the park. Chile is a stunningly beautiful country.

On the way to the park. Chile is a stunningly beautiful country.

Margaret and I took advantage of our buffet breakfast (included with the room) to collect enough extra goodies for a picnic lunch. The breakfast was awesome, I might add. One table held sliced meats, smoked salmon, and cheeses; the next table was heaped with fresh pineapple, oranges, pears, etc. There was muesli and a whole table filled with different kinds of breads. There were preserves and juices (juice choices were: pineapple, apple cream, and raspberry…uh, ok), coffee and teas. Eggs cooked to order and toasted croissants with ham and cheese. There was another table filled with desserts. FYI, raspberry juice is delicious.

We have been calling the common Chilean bread “hockey pucks” because they are of an equal size and density. Ok, maybe a bit of an exaggeration. I will say I’m not a fan of Chilean bread. I wasn’t a fan of Japanese bread either. Maybe I’m just picky about my bread. Anyway, we each nabbed a hockey puck, sliced and spread it with butter and cream cheese, and layered ham, turkey and cheese, then tucked our little sandwiches away into M’s purse, along with a collection of cookies. Viola! Lunch.

Driving to Pucón this morning was easy-peasy since we did it yesterday and knew the way. The tourist office man had said to follow the signs to Caburgua, and we did. We missed our turn, and ended up at Lago Caburgua. This area was windy and had kicked up a dust storm as the wind raged across the beaches. I did manage to snap a shot in between dust clouds.

Lago Caburgua, in between dust clouds. It's a tiny, nondescript town, and this beautifully built lakeshore was unexpected.

Lago Caburgua, in between dust clouds. Caburgua is a tiny, nondescript town, and this beautifully built lakeshore wall and walking path was unexpected.

Neither of us has working cell phone service in this country, until we get to WiFi, which – blessedly! – has been daily. Ahh, modern life. My phone for some crazy reason, keeps connecting to some kind of service called “moviestar” and I get that when I’m in a city. When moviestar is engaged, I get GPS, but out in the country I have diddly squat. Since I have no idea why I’m getting limited service in Chile, I’m worried that I’m paying for it. Margaret and I both turn our phones to airplane mode as soon as we leave the WiFi areas.

Thus we relied entirely on the tourist map we received, and eventually found our way onto a gravel road. Margaret drove us up, up, up into the mountains, dodging potholes and other motorists. There is much wood used in construction here. In so many places, a common construction material is concrete blocks: cheap and quick. Here in Chile, south of Santiago, wealth is displayed in wood. Gorgeous wooden homes and businesses are everywhere, with generous wood decks and wooden arches over driveways and wood carvings and wooden accents.

We spotted this great horse, patiently waiting for its master.

We spotted this great horse, patiently waiting for its master.

These birds filled the fields, using those awesome beaks to dig for some kind of yumminess in the grass. They have a very loud call that sounds like ducks.

These birds filled the fields, using those awesome beaks to dig for some kind of yumminess in the grass. They have a very loud call that sounds like ducks.

This darling little boy was hopeful that we would drop some cookie crumbs.

This darling little boy was hopeful that we would drop some cookie crumbs.

Finally we arrived at the park entrance. Fees were posted outside, and since I had my purse handy, I went inside and Margaret found a place to park the car. I studied Spanish for two semesters at Brandeis, and then immediately forgot everything. So…while I have had a bit of an introduction to the language, it’s most accurate to say I am not at all fluent in Espanol. But after a few days, I’m beginning to get the gist of things. So, I was proud of myself to complete the transaction solo. The Park official asked if we were hiking, and when I agreed, he explained that it’s moderately difficult and it’s 7 kilometers. He explained how much elevation gain and that it typically took 3.5 hours to reach the three lakes. He kept checking in with me “Do you understand? Is that good?” I think he was just making sure we knew what we were getting into. I understood him (entiendo) and asked about the fee, explained that there were two adults, and paid in exact change. He wished us a good hike, gave us a receipt, and we were good to go. The entire conversation was in Spanish.

Off we went, and I admit I was giddy with happiness. On vacation in another country AND hiking AND good company. Margaret and I seem to never run out of things to talk about, and we’re both so open to taking on whatever adventure presents itself. So we hit the trail at about 10:30 am at about 2300 feet in elevation. We walked along the shores of Tinquilco Lake and I could never quite get a decent shot because we were in the trees. Both of us remarked on how we did not anticipate seeing so much bamboo. We loved the huge fuchsias growing wild and taller than we are. We liked a tree that had needles like a Yew, and bark that peeled off in puzzle piece shapes. The sun continued to shine and light up the lake (I could see it through the trees), and I crossed my fingers that there would still be sun when we finally broke out of the trees.

Interestingly, the trail took us back to a gravel road after a half mile walk, and we were soon strolling past grazing sheep and cute little homes and fenced fields. Scotch broom is in bloom, wild roses, pussywillow, purple and yellow lupine, and foxglove. It’s late spring in Chile and it’s just wonderful. So imagine the most idyllic pastoral scenes: clipped grass slopes with sheep or cattle, eucalyptus trees fluttering in the breeze, little wooden cabins with lovingly attended landscaping. We crossed a creek on a wooden bridge, and finally struck out on the trail in earnest.

This is typical of the scenes we saw while walking along the gravel road part of the trail.

This is typical of the scenes we saw while walking along the gravel road part of the trail.

A river near Lago Tinquilco

A river near Lago Tinquilco

The sheep had recently been shorn and I could see the marks from the clippers in their wool.

The sheep had recently been shorn and I could see the marks from the clippers in their wool.

Bamboo was one of the primary trees in the forest, to our surprise.

Bamboo was one of the primary trees in the forest, to our surprise.

Baby bamboo sprout. Isn't it remarkable?

Baby bamboo sprout. Isn’t it remarkable?

The climb was rather steep, and our breath was coming faster early in the hike. We made several switchbacks and were treated to multiple views of Lago Tinquilco as we climbed. Then, it began to rain. Lightly at first, and gradually, as the day progressed, it got colder and the rain became more insistent. We added all our layers of clothing and continued to climb.

A trail to the side was marked, and we decided to head over to see the first Cascada (waterfall). It was an impressive waterfall, and this is coming from a woman who lives in the Columbia River Gorge.

The trail included many little wooden structures to help us out, like bridges and ramps.

The trail included many little wooden structures to help us out, like bridges and ramps.

A bridge over a river early along the trail.

A bridge over a river early along the trail.

I took a photo of the map at the beginning of the trail, to help us navigate once we got up there.

I took a photo of the map at the beginning of the trail, to help us navigate once we got up there.

Cascada Eyrie, about 1/3 of the way to the three lakes.

Cascada Eyrie, about 1/3 of the way to the three lakes.

Just before the first lake we saw, the trail crested at about 4000 feet. At Lago Chico we bumped into other tourists. These were from New Zealand. Soon after, we were passed by people speaking French, and later in the day, by a couple of guys speaking in a European language we couldn’t identify. At the waterfall earlier, we had too much fun jumping around the logs and taking photos of each other with a Chilean couple: none of us understanding a word that each other spoke, but still communicating just fine. Yesterday at the volcano we were taking photos with Japanese people who had also rented a car. Margaret said how much it felt like we were doing what traveling people do: since so many nations collided with our trip. We had obviously made the same choice that many others make, and it’s kind of fun to discover that doing the Three Lakes Hike out of Pucón is a thing people do.

As we spoke to the Kiwis, the wind started to pick up and the rain really began coming down. We were all getting pretty wet, and broke off talking in order to get along the trail. We ducked our heads against the worst blasts and made our way through the forest past Lago Chico. And we toughed it out as the rain lashed and the wind kicked up whitecaps on the lake. We arrived at Laguna Del Toro and wiped the water out of our eyes to see the cliffs across the lake, and saw that it was beautiful, and then we ducked our heads again, and hitched the sopping wet backpack a little higher.

Lago Chico was very beautiful, and the weather almost added to the beauty of the view.

Lago Chico was very beautiful, and the weather almost added to the beauty of the view.

The bridge between Lago Chico and Laguna El Toro.

The bridge between Lago Chico and Laguna El Toro.

Forest on the way to Laguna Del Toro. These are Monkey Tail (Araucaria) trees growing wild!

Forest on the way to Laguna Del Toro. These are Monkey Tail (Araucaria) trees growing wild!

Laguna Del Toro in the pouring rain.

Laguna Del Toro in the pouring rain.

At the junction for the third lake, we took 10 steps and then decided to bag it. I mean, really, what’s one more grey lake in the fog at this point? So we turned around and began slipping and sliding our way down the steep steep trail back to the car. Ok, yes, fine I’ll admit it, I did slip and fall and got red clay mud all over one sleeve of my jacket.

Passing Lago Chico once more, watching the wind whip up little waves on the surface.

Passing Lago Chico once more, watching the wind whip up little waves on the surface.

I love that aqua green/blue colour of the water.

I love that aqua green/blue colour of the water.

“Oh! Oh my gosh!” Yelped Margaret. “Look at that, look!” But I was behind her and couldn’t see what she was pointing at, on the trail. I peeped around her and saw the biggest, hairiest spider I have ever seen in the wild.

I'd say this spider is sufficiently large. I wasn't quiiittte brave enough to put my hand on the ground right next to it, so it's slightly bigger than what it appears.

I’d say this spider is sufficiently large. I wasn’t quiiittte brave enough to put my hand on the ground right next to it, so it’s slightly bigger than what it appears.

On our way back we took another side trail to Cascada Trufulco. You may be able to tell from the photo that I'm soaked to the core. If you can't tell, just take my word for it.

On our way back we took another side trail to Cascada Trufulco. You may be able to tell from the photo that I’m soaked to the core. If you can’t tell, just take my word for it.

We were cold and hungry and tired. Our morning’s plan had been to make our hike last till suppertime, and to stop in Pucon that evening for dinner at a restaurant. We had a new plan: run in to the supermarcado at the edge of town, grab a bottle of wine, some water crackers and brie, and head for the hotel swimming pool. And that is exactly what we did.

The heated pool was even more of a delight when afternoon rain turned into evening thunderstorms, and crackled and boomed while we swam and then ate cheese and crackers and enjoyed our wine.

The heated pool was even more of a delight when afternoon rain turned into evening thunderstorms, and crackled and boomed while we swam and then ate cheese and crackers and enjoyed our wine.

{P.S. Count them: five lakes in one day. Villarrica, Caburgua, Tinquilco, Chico, Del Toro.}

My lawnmower broke a second time this year, and while I was unable to mow, the daisies took over! What a delicious silver lining.

My lawnmower broke a second time this year, and while I was unable to mow, the daisies took over! What a delicious silver lining.

I couldn't get enough of the daisies. I never did mow them because I didn't have the heart. Just let them die and then pulled them up.

I couldn’t get enough of the daisies. I never did mow them because I didn’t have the heart. Just let them die and then pulled them up.

I am reluctant to say goodbye this year. Last summer was dry and hot for so long. That’s the way I like it. First, because I am crazy for dry & hot weather (don’t ask me why I live on the Columbia River, 45 miles from the ocean). Second, because when you have full-on summer, it makes you hungry for Autumn. This summer was cool and wet. Bleh. And while the crisp mornings and short sunny days and October colours are my favourite season… this year I’m still yearning for summer. Just when will summer start anyway? I think I was warm enough to wear sandals without socks on about six days in total, and those weren’t in a row! I look at the calendar and see I may as well give up hope and start looking forward to summer 2017.

Here’s a goodbye to my summer. As you can see, the sun did shine now and then, and I ran outside with my camera!

First I am excited to show off some new birds I have spotted this year, as well as some I’ve seen before. I just learned that the Eurasian Collared-Dove first arrived in the contiguous 48 US states in 1980, in Florida. And look! Happy and healthy over here on the West coast already.

Western Tanager

Western Tanager

Western Tanager

Western Tanager

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

This was Thomas, while I was taking photos of the Yellow Throated Warbler.

This was Thomas while I photographed the Common Yellowthroat Warbler.

You talking to me?

You talking to me?

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Beneath the bird feeder I've collected two Juncos, a Black-headed Grosbeak, and a chipmunk.

Beneath the bird feeder I’ve collected two Juncos, a Black-headed Grosbeak, and a chipmunk.

How cool is this?!

How cool is this?!

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee

Even though I see them on a nearly daily basis, I still love the deer that show up. There have been two regulars all summer, both small does, but one is noticeably smaller than the other, so I have wondered if they are mother and daughter. The smaller one loves to play, and prances, and bows, and sprints in circles trying to get the bigger one to play. The bigger one twitches her ears and reaches down for another mouthful of grass. I love getting up in the morning to see them sleeping beneath the apple tree.

The littler, spunky one that loves to play.

The littler, spunky one that loves to play.

The mellow deer, eating from my garden.

The mellow deer, eating from my garden.

Waiting for the apples to ripen.

Waiting for the apples to ripen.

Thomas and Chaplin love it here, but there are continued problems. They fight with my Racecar and with each other. Do you know anyone in Oregon who wants to adopt?

Chaplin is named for his mustache, and because he's in black and white!

Chaplin is named for his mustache, and because he’s in black and white!

Thomas is wary of the freshly escaped chickens. (Don't worry, they are back in their pen.)

Thomas is wary of escaped chickens. (Don’t worry, they are back in their pen.)

Bullfrog enjoying a rare sunny day.

Bullfrog enjoying a rare sunny day.

My pond is evaporating again and it’s distressing. I really need to find a way to keep that thing filled. I can’t count on another humongous flood this winter like last year, to fill it up again. I have enlisted the input from my neighbors. There are three homes in a row here, and no one else in sight. And it’s nice that I can only see forest and fields in all directions except one, but why cram all three houses together with all this land? I just don’t get what people are thinking sometimes. So anyway, I’ve talked to the neighbors farthest away, because their back deck looks down onto my pond and they are always worried about it. They have lived here 22 years and know exactly how to take care of it. Their ideas are great, and their offers to help are great, so now we just wait on the spare change to collect so I can purchase the needed equipment. Stay tuned…

In fact, rain and lack of funds is keeping me from my annual 5-day solo backpacking trip this year. It’s such a sad thing. I toyed with the idea of driving down to New Mexico or Utah, to get some sun, but then there is also the problem of taking care of the animals. I’ve opted for a couple overnights locally. Hopefully it is just as fun, if not as epic, to stay one night somewhere nearby, and do it again a few days later.

Columbine in the Goat Rocks Wilderness

Columbine in the Goat Rocks Wilderness

Second big hike in a row with no mountain goat sightings. Do you think it’s me?

I hiked into the Goat Rocks Wilderness for three days and two nights with my boyfriend. Our timing was uncanny, and we were up there during the only three rainy days in between sunny weeks either side. Though I went up into the mountains seeking profound vistas, thankfully I was able to see the beauty in front of me when the vistas were obscured by fog.

We began at the Snowgrass Flats Trailhead and hiked to a bypass trail to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). At the trailhead it was pleasantly warm (in the 60s) and there was a beam or two of sunshine. I photographed a lake and crammed my mouth full of ripe huckleberries that loaded the bushes on both sides of the trail.

I am standing at the junction of Snowgrass Flats Trail and the Bypass Trail.

I am standing at the junction of Snowgrass Flats Trail and the Bypass Trail.

Reflections in a tiny pond near the trailhead.

Reflections in a small pond near the trailhead.

Candy!

Candy!

Several spectacular falls are near the trail as it switchbacks up the mountainside.

Several spectacular falls are near the trail as it switchbacks up the mountainside.

We were treated to a couple of sunbeams on day one.

We were treated to a couple of sunbeams on day one.

The trail climbed about 2000 feet to the place we chose for our campsite. The rain set in as soon as we unloaded our gear, and it gradually picked up as the night went on. Since everything was wet, we were comfortable starting a fire. We hovered over the warmth that night and during the next couple days. Temperatures cooled to near 32 at night (0 Celcius) and warmed to the middle 40s during the day.

As is my tradition, I brought the fixins for delicious meals and was so delighted to have a climbing partner to share the weight. It’s amazing how much of a difference that makes! It was so light, my pack barely caught my attention. The first night we had Salmon Curry Couscous, a new meal I tried out that turned out great and was a snap to put together. We set down our dishes and within minutes a mouse arrived to investigate. The mouse left right away: not a fan of curry, I suppose.

For breakfast we had hard boiled eggs, bananas and homemade oatmeal cranberry cookies. Another meal was Bacon Carbonara (with angel hair so it cooks quickly), we had Margaret’s famous baked brie in brown sugar and red wine with dried apricots, and on the final day we had burritos that I had designed as a cold meal to eat on the way out, but since we were so cold I cooked the refried beans and D toasted the tortillas. Tortillas are packed flat against the back of the pack to keep them in one piece on the trail. We enjoyed fresh avocado of course! The trick to bringing produce is to bring it unripened. The firmness protects the fruit and after a couple days it’s ready to eat!

Preparing the pasta

Preparing the pasta

Mouse finds the entrance

Mouse finds the entrance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Campsite the first night

Campsite the first night

Bear grass was everywhere!

Bear grass (Xerophylum tenax) was everywhere!

A lightening of the sky reveals a meadow and pond.

A lightening of the sky reveals a meadow and pond.

The second day we climbed north on the PCT toward Old Snowy Mountain, which I climbed a few years ago. However, the rain and cold slowed us down and there were no views to be had. I couldn’t even tell which direction to look for Old Snowy; it was likely right above us. I was discouraged. The last time I was on this trail, the weather was much more cooperative, and no matter where I hiked or which direction I faced, the views of mountains blew me away. It was the most impressive thing about being here. So on my return trip, I sort of had it locked into my brain that unless I saw a view, I was not really at Goat Rocks. Often our visibility ranged from 20 to 100 feet, and I remained disappointed until the splendid and rare scenes in front of my face got through and slapped me around a little bit: LOOK! Look at this!

Indian Paintbrush, Lupine, and Bear Grass blossom profusely.

Indian Paintbrush, Lupine, and Bear Grass blossom profusely.

We wandered through meadows and found scene after scene of astonishingly beautiful wildflowers in full view despite the fog. We discovered a huge spring where water literally bubbled up like a fountain, and in other places poured out of cracks in the earth. At the trail there was no creek, but twenty feet down the hill was a creek bigger than the one on my property. That’s how much water burst from the lush green hillside.

It was fun to talk to the through hikers. Those are the ones who stay on the PCT for months, doing sections and sometimes the entire length of it. We met several of them, as August is a good time of year to travel through this section: recently cleared of snow. You could spot the through hikers because they were dirty and seemed weary. Or, maybe, not as thrilled with the wildflowers as I was, having probably seen them for a month already. They were consistently humble, the ones I met, downplaying their feat of endurance, insisting that they had “only” been on the trail six weeks, or that they were “only” hiking the Oregon and Washington sections.

Foggy blue and green meadow.

Foggy blue and green meadow.

Looking down the PCT as it climbs north toward Old Snowy Mountain.

Looking down the PCT as it climbs north toward Old Snowy Mountain.

The shale rock here allows for some of the most astonishing cairns I have ever seen. They look like ancient human ruins.

The shale rock here allows for some of the most astonishing cairns I have ever seen. They look like ancient human ruins.

In enjoyed this phenomena very much: the leaves of Lupine collect water.

In enjoyed this phenomenon very much: the leaves of Lupine collect water.

The fog lends an otherworldly quality to each scene.

Here, spring water simply gushes from the hill. Fog lends an otherworldly quality to the horizon scene.

We didn’t stay out long, and were tempted to go back to camp where we could have a fire and get warm again. Upon our return, we found that other campers had vacated a great spot on the edge of a cliff. If we were there, even if the clouds only lifted for 2 minutes, I would get a little bit of a view. Hee hee. We moved our camp and had a new fire roaring in no time. Typically I try to avoid fires in the mountains in August. As you all know, wildfires are nothing to mess around with and I never want to tempt fate. But on this occasion, everything was soaked and I was supremely confident that the forest would not burn due to a flying ember.

That evening a troop of Boy Scouts came in and were considering a camp site right next to ours. We promptly and “helpfully” directed them to the campsite we had vacated the night before, which is up the hill and completely out of sight from where we were. “And it has a stream!” added my boyfriend, trying to sell it while he had the chance. They took the bait and moved on. The Scouts brought a mule named Sadie, and we spent a lot of time talking with Sadie and her elderly master, Bob, who had been hiking this mountain for 30 or 40 years. It was interesting to hear him talk about changes that had occurred. He referred to the trails by their old names, and I had to mentally scramble to keep up with which trails he was talking about.

Our new camp site on a ledge, and D getting the fire going.

Our new camp site on a ledge, and D getting the fire going.

Sadie poses for a photo in the meadow.

Sadie poses for a photo in the meadow.

Bob took Sadie out to the meadow next to us to let her graze, and right then the sun came out. Such a lovely gift for the evening. (Isn’t it a sign, when I can clearly remember each time the sun came out?) We went out to pat the mule and let the old man talk. He was a heck of a talker. In among the words though, he mentioned a nearby waterfall that sounded impressive. We got directions (south on the PCT, instead of north, as we had traveled that day) and decided to hike there in the morning.

The theory was (well, at least this is the Pollyanna spin I was giving myself) that a waterfall is going to be entertaining in the fog. Sparkling, loud, exciting, wet, interesting…waterfalls are always a win. So in the light morning rain we packed our day hike gear again and traveled and chatted and made our way through the fog. My boyfriend is almost obsessed with Trump news, and we enjoy sharing our theories on what in the world is going on here in the states. How does Trump come up with the crazy stuff he says? How can so many Republicans say “Yes, his comments are often out of line and intolerable, but I’m going to vote for him anyway.” D can’t stand Hillary, like much of the country, and I harbor bitter thoughts that America is misogynistic as hell, and suspect that as racist as some of us can be, even a black man is a better choice than a woman. But I don’t say that out loud.

And before we know it, there’s the waterfall! And it was just what I had hoped for: large, loud, exiting, beautiful.

Large and lovely waterfall splashes over the Pacific Crest Trail.

Large and lovely waterfall splashes over the Pacific Crest Trail.

We climbed around on the rocks and talked to through hikers for a half an hour or so, and suddenly the skies opened up. I gasped out loud “Oh!” And we spent another hour there, watching the clouds lift up and sink down, revealing a different piece of paradise each time. I found myself thinking of the story of Heidi, who goes to live with her grandpa in the mountains. This was a final and perfect gift from the Wilderness, before it was time to hike back down the hill.

The headwaters of the Cispis River. The PCT arcs around the entire valley, then crosses a saddle to the other side of those mountains.

The headwaters of the Cispus River. The PCT arcs around the entire valley, then crosses a saddle to the other side of those mountains.

You can spot D heading down the trail.

You can spot D heading down the trail.

Looking back the way we had come, down the Cispus River Valley.

Looking back the way we had come, down the Cispus River Valley.

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.

 

Snow coming down at my place

Snow coming down at my place

Longtime friends of mine recently returned to their Spokane home from a New Year’s vacation in Australia and remarked on leaving the greenery down under and arriving at the whitery at home. I have shamelessly adopted their humor as my own. 🙂

chicken in snow

chicken in snow

I live in a valley that is about 500 feet in elevation. That’s not really worth raising an eyebrow at in the Pacific NW, but it does mean a bit more snow than if I were at sea level. The cold air sinks to the bottom of my valley and means the snow lingers a little longer too. I like it. I’ve lived in places most my life where winter was a serious situation: Vermont, Colorado, northern Nevada, Illinois, Washington, Massachusetts, and the worst winters of all in Idaho. It’s luxury not to have to shovel snow for months, but I also miss having the white stuff around. I only need enough to make it feel like winter is here for real.

In the past six weeks we’ve had enough snow to warrant some photos and a post.

Looking at the tiny hen house from the deck.

Looking at the tiny hen house from the deck.

Chicken hussies were not phased by their first snow, and treated it as they do everything: tasting it. Snow proved edible, and they spent all morning eating it.

Chicken hussies were not phased by their first snow, and treated it as they do everything: tasting it. Snow proved edible, and they spent all morning eating it.

This is Jamie. I can tell her from her twin by the patterns on her back.

This is Jamie. I can tell her from her twin by the patterns on her back.

What's up? Chicken butt!

What’s up? Chicken butt!

Looking up at the house. Even in the winter I am pretty sure I need a couple of trees hanging over that deck. Guess I'll be planting this spring.

Looking up at the house. Even in the winter I am pretty sure I need a couple of trees hanging over that deck. Guess I’ll be planting this spring.

The pond froze over, so the wild ducks went off to find a more accommodating home.

The pond froze over, so the wild ducks went off to find a more accommodating home.

So remember when I blogged about the flooding here? The creek water was so high that it eroded the banks and turned everything that was left to mud. A couple days later there was an enormous downburst in this area, and that blasted high winds into the trees in Rainier. Mature trees were snapped off everywhere, at about 30 feet up from the ground, blocking many roads. Many more were torn right out of the soggy ground, and laid flat. This was the case on my property, where most of the trees down were those whose roots were exposed and loosened due to the flooding. Fresh snow on the downed trees makes it easier to see them on a dark winter day.

Alder in the creek. In total, I have eight trees down. Six are in the creek.

Alder in the creek. In total, I have eight trees down. Six are in the creek.

The log resting horizontally here shows high water level back when the creek flooded.

The log resting horizontally in the air was dropped there when the creek flooded.

Tara and I made a trip up to Moyie Springs, Idaho to visit my stepdad. Our timing was not so great, as we encountered a storm in Hood River, Oregon (about an hour out of Portland), and the snow and slick roads continued all the way through Kennewick, Washington through Spokane and Coer d’Alene, and finally stopped coming down in Sandpoint (about an hour from our destination). It was a 12-hour day, but the Dragon Wagon (my Jeep) did a great job and we were safe all day long. We arrived at Jim’s house to dry ground, but by morning the storm had caught up with us.

View from the Hood River Starbucks as we got some fuel for the road.

View from the Hood River Starbucks as we got some fuel for the road.

View from Jim's cabin in Moyie Springs the morning after we arrived.

View from Jim’s cabin in Moyie Springs the morning after we arrived.

Jim loves antique cars, and so I'm going to assume these are here intentionally, waiting under the snow for some future TLC.

Jim loves antique cars, and so I’m going to assume these are here intentionally, waiting under the snow for some future TLC.

Now these are clearly well loved cars. Tara and I have been for a ride in the one in the center.

Now these are clearly well loved cars. Tara and I have been for a ride in the one in the center.

What do you do when it snows? You shovel, of course.

What do you do when it snows? You shovel, of course.

Now granted, these photos don’t show the worst of what winter can be. Snow only piled up about two inches deep here, and after four days it melted. We’ve had a few more snow falls since, and as you see from the photos, it is just enough to cover the ground. The temps were low in Moyie Springs, down around 18 degrees Fahrenheit overnight. Here in Rainier it dropped into the 20s for a few days, but now it’s up into the nice toasty 40s again and all the whitery is gone.

So I’m satisfied. My Winter check box has been checked, and I’m ready for Spring now.

My sweet ride. This was the real deal and when I slid into the seat, I could *smell* my childhood.

My sweet ride. This was the real deal and when I slid into the seat, I could *smell* my childhood.

First of all I’ll tell you about my night. I was not very hungry after eating gouda cubes and smoked salmon on crackers with complimentary Chardonnay, so I picked a place called Wet Dog Cafe & Brewery (there are a lot of breweries in Oregon), hoping for a tasty dessert. I arranged for a chauffer to take me there in one of the hotel’s three restored antique cars. I think he told me it’s a 1958 Chevrolet. My driver was a great guy who had been driving for the hotel for many years and probably would have been fun to ride around all night with, but in minutes he let me off. Once inside the Wet Dog, I was tempted by the marionberry cheesecake and since I was at a brewery, I had a pint of Bitter Bitch, because, who could resist with a name like that?

snacks

snacks

Bitter Bitch

Bitter Bitch

dessert

dessert

While I sat there I was watching the Bengals-Steelers game and saw Martavis Bryant pull off an astonishing forward somersault through the end zone to maintain control of the football. Did you see that? Wow. I was so impressed I had to tell the ladies sitting next to me. Before I knew it, we found out we were

my server

my server

chandelier

chandelier

practically neighbors, and had made plans to move on to the place across the street, the very cool and chandelier-filled Inferno Lounge. My chauffer came back at the end of the night to get me safely home in that beautiful car.

The Cannery Pier Hotel & Spa at the end of a pier into the Columbia River.

The Cannery Pier Hotel & Spa at the end of a pier into the Columbia River.

I ran out of space yesterday to tell you about the post-worthy Cannery Pier Hotel & Spa. It’s more than you’d want to spend if you’re just traveling through, but highly highly worth it for a splurge. The photos will have to convey the beauty and quality and uniqueness of this place. It could get an entire blog post itself, but instead you’ll just have to suffer with a dozen photos.

These cars are for the guests

These cars are for the guests

Love this tub!

Love this tub!

View from my balcony

View from my balcony

Windowseat, fireplace, wow

Windowseat, fireplace, wow

Lobby area on the first floor

Lobby area on the first floor

Lounge area second floor

Lounge area second floor

Conference room

Conference room

West side of the building

West side of the building

Car below the bridge

Car below the bridge

Boat out front

Boat out front

History on the walls

History on the walls

Early days of the cannery

Early days of the cannery

The Lewis & Clark Bridge that I drive every day is almost the last bridge across the huge river. The Astoria-Megler Bridge is the last one, and it’s a doozy. At 4.1 miles long, it is the longest continuous truss bridge (the load-bearing structure is made of connected pieces forming triangles) in the United States. The whole hotel is on a pier out in the river, and my room was almost beneath the bridge.

Saturday evening was rather cloudy, but Sunday morning dawned spectacularly, and that made for some brilliant scenes for me to capture.

The Astoria-Megler Bridge from the balcony of my room in the morning sunshine.

The Astoria-Megler Bridge from the balcony of my room in the morning sunshine.

The Navajo getting an early start.

The Soujourn getting an early start.

Sojourn makes her way East up the river.

Sojourn makes her way East up the river.

On the land side of the pier, I spotted big ships glowing in the sun.

On the land side of the pier, I spotted distant ships glowing in the sun.

Here they are, at max zoom on my Nikon.

Here they are, at max zoom on my Nikon.

Later in the morning this tug came by, tugging.

Later in the morning this tug came by, tugging.

Close up of the tug

Close up of the tug Navajo.

I had a complimentary breakfast with fresh fruit and Greek yogurt and juice. The attendant even fetched me a larger plate when she saw I was having a waffle. I carried it all upstairs so I could continue to watch the view from my window seat. Finally I couldn’t lollygag in the gorgeous room anymore, so I packed up and headed out. With a day this beautiful, I had no choice but to head back to the Astoria Column that Mads and I visited in March on the first day of our road trip. I stopped first to take a photo of the Flavel House, which wasn’t open yet. Astoria is jam-packed with Victorian style homes and this one is one of the best. Built in 1884, it is now a museum, and something I’ll have to add to my next visit here.

Captain George Flavel House

Captain George Flavel House. It’s surrounded by trees, so hard to get a better shot.

Detail of the column. The closer you stand, the more remarkable it is.

Detail of the column. The closer you stand, the more remarkable it is.

The eye-catching Astoria Column.

The eye-catching Astoria Column stands on top of the hill.

It was still chilly, and on top of the hill the wind could get pretty brisk, but the sun was irresistible and plenty of others had the same idea as me. Soon kids were running to the gift store to purchase little balsa wood airplanes to launch from the top of the Astoria Column. I parked at a lower spot on the hill, and hiked up the grass to get a little exercise on my way up (parking at the top is $5 for the year if you don’t want to hike). Once I arrived at the column, I got even more exercise because there are 164 steps to the top.

The column is 125 feet tall with a spiral staircase inside that leads to an observation deck at the top. It was built with financing by the Great Northern Railroad and Vincent Astor, and was dedicated in 1926. It’s steel and concrete, and the outside is an unbroken spiral history of this area, told in pictures. I was interested in how the murals were made, so I looked it up. “The artwork was created using a technique called sgraffito (“skrah-fee-toh”), an Italian Renaissance art form,” says the column website.

I stayed at the top a good long while, though it was windy as heck and somewhat cramped. Adults and children alike launched their tiny planes, and we cheered them on as they often soared to unexpected distances and for great lengths of time before gliding silently to a stop. Anytime a plane landed nearby, someone at the bottom would scoop it up to try their own launch. The original owners didn’t care, because no one was about to make that climb a second time.

After that I decided to head back home. I stopped at Coffee Girl on Pier 39 on my way out of town. Named after the original coffee girl who sold coffee to the cannery workers at the Bumble Bee Seafood pier, the coffee was handed to me across the original coffee counter. Pretty cool.

A view of the city of Astoria from the column.

A view of the city of Astoria from the column. Columbia River on the right, Youngs Bay Bridge across Youngs Bay to the left, and the Pacific Ocean in the distance.

Youngs Bay

Youngs Bay and Warrenton, Oregon across the bridge.

Mt. Rainier off to the northeast (because I had to include a volcano!)

Mt. Rainier off to the northeast (because I had to include a volcano!)

Me, squinting in the sun.

Me, squinting in the sun.

An Indian boat display at the far end of the parking lot.

An Indian boat display at the far end of the parking lot.

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Frosty pond on Thanksgiving Day.

After rain and clouds and fog and darkness, we’ve had a week of sunshine. Sun in November means there is no protective blanket of clouds and the ground is exposed to the frigid atmosphere. Lows in Rainier have been in the 20s (below zero Celsius) at night and warm up to around the freeze/ melt point during the day (most people saying “freezing point,” but meteorologist say “melting point”). Despite the cold, the sun makes me happy. And when it’s cold day after day, and you walk in the air and breathe deeply while chasing chickens or chopping wood, you get used to it in no time.

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I am no longer worried about the pond being too warm for the fish to stay healthy. Interestingly, I have no concerns about the effects of a frozen pond on the fish inside.

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Frost is adornment for the leaves and grasses and branches. When the sun hits them, the land sparkles.

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My friends told me this plant looks like kale. I’m pretty sure it is not kale, but I haven’t identified this random weed growing on my property. I do agree that it’s as pretty as kale.

The chicken hussies (so-called because of their stubborn insistence on misbehaving) are periodically in their pen. I capture them, and I force visitors to help me wrangle chickens, so on occasion all four are inside. But they lose their patience and fly out within days. Or hours. They used to be content to scratch the dirt and eat the grass within feet of the house, but in the past month have decided that no distance is too far to roam. I usually have no idea where they are.  Thanksgiving morning I walked down to the chicken pen to visit the only chicken in there at the time.

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Tawny examines a crust from leftover key lime pie.

After chatting with Tawny, dumping out the solid block of ice and refilling her water dish with liquid water, I noticed something white that looked like paper trash down by the creek. It was not trash but the most amazing ice sculpture! I’m guessing that the cold temperatures froze the moisture inside the sticks, and when the ice swelled, it was forced to squeeze out of the sticks. Anyway, what do you think happened?

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I brought the two branches up from the creek to the deck, so I could photograph the ice better.

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It was very difficult to get my camera to show what I saw: delicate feather-like wisps of ice that clumped together in a chilly pillow.

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As soon as I touched these mounds of ice, they crushed and melted beneath my fingertips.

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I was totally captivated by the ice.

I have been worn out with my commute. I spend three hours a day in traffic, sometimes four. I can’t stand driving to begin with, so it really takes a toll on my spirit and my ability to get stuff done at home since I’ve been deprived of all that time. But the upside is, I am slowly learning my new job and gaining a tiny bit of confidence. In a few months I will probably be released to go back to working at home.

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My view every single day when I leave work and begin the long trip home. Well, usually it’s raining.

Hair care I find to be a menace, and once I have a hairdresser that suits me, I stick with that person till something drastic pulls us apart. When I lived in Boston, I continued to schedule haircuts for when I flew back to California, ha ha. Well, I have moved from Portland to way out in the country, and only recently made it back into the city to get my hair cut. I like it long in summer, so I can pull it back into a ponytail. I like it short in winter.

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Short hair is a good way to show off enormous earrings!

I was asked out on a date a few weeks ago, and he and I hit it off, which is CRAZY because this guy is proud to call himself a conservative Christian Republican. I may be nuts. I am proud to call myself a liberal atheist who refuses to align with any political party. In my Thanksgiving phone call to my Pa, he laughed and said, “Well, I’ll bet you two have some rousing conversations!” So… it could make for some future rants in my blog that could offer some real entertainment. Stay tuned. 😉

Tara has been home the last two weekends and I am *so* happy to have my kid at home. I didn’t realize how much of a hole there was until it was filled and I felt the peace of it.

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Last weekend, Tara came home because there was a performance by the dancers at their old studio.

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It is like family being there, even for me. I love these girls and have watched them grow into stunning young women athletes.

Tara got their first tattoo yesterday. It was an event. Tara has wanted a tattoo for years, but I would not give consent. The kid is now 18 and I relinquished my right to say “no.” If the plan had been to get a tattoo on the face or neck, or someone’s name, I would have protested, but instead Tara wanted a honeybee on their thigh. I can totally live with that. I think the tattoo is beautiful. While I was there I showed the artist my sadly distorted faery on my abdomen (who looked lovely until I got pregnant), and she had some ideas for how to make her pretty again. I may soon go under the needle myself.

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From this photo you can’t tell how much pain my kid is in.

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honeybee

It’s the season for giving thanks, and I am so grateful. For having a perfect child and an open mind, for having a father I can call, and a stepfather who calls me. For the reminder that I am a woman that a man could love. I am grateful that it’s so cold I think about the weather, and grateful that I have chickens to worry about. I am grateful for a troupe of gorgeous dancers and their parents and siblings who hug me every time I show up. I feel lucky to have a job many miles away, and I know I am lucky to have a home that fills up when my Tara and my Racecar kitty are here with me. I am so grateful that I turned out to be a person who never ceases to be fascinated with investigating the world around me.

The top of Oneonta Falls as it crashes down into the narrow gorge and pool below.

The top of Oneonta Falls as it crashes down into the narrow gorge and pool below.

My friend G had the idea to go for a hike, and I remembered the Oneonta Gorge “trail” that I have been wanting to see since I moved here. It’s the way to the beautiful Oneonta Falls. No trail is possible, since it’s through a narrow creek canyon, so people access the falls by walking in the creek. I was warned ahead of time that the water is cold and the canyon is shaded and can be chilly, so save the trip for a hot day.

Well, we have certainly had some hot days!

We planned the trip on Wednesday, assuming that the weekday would decrease the number of people joining us. The weather overruled that idea: the place was packed. But just imagine how much worse it could be on the weekend.

The recently opened Oneonta Tunnel is a great photo op for adventurous people who want to climb to the top. This old tunnel was built for the original Columbia River Highway around 1920.

The recently opened Oneonta Tunnel is a great photo op for adventurous people who want to climb to the top. This old tunnel was built for the original Columbia River Highway around 1920.

The trailhead is just off the I-84 east of Portland, only 40 minutes from G’s house (and the Blue House where Tara and I used to live). We found parking along the Historic Columbia River Highway, in the shade! It was a short walk past multiple trailheads that leave from the Oneonta Gorge area. There are no signs alerting us to the beginning of the Oneonta Falls trail, but we are clever people and realized that since the trail is the creek, we would just walk into the creek and head upstream.

Also, we could just follow the people.

Dozens of people make their careful way across a log jam and rock in the middle of the creek.

Dozens of people make their careful way across a log jam and rock in the middle of the creek.

The first challenge was to clamber over a large log jam of trees that pile up every spring against an enormous rock in the middle of the creek. In some places there was only one good route, so all the people had to wait behind whomever was in front. When someone had unsteady legs, or was carrying a toddler, it brought movement to a halt. We also had to stop our forward progress for the people who were making their way out and had to use the same route.

Most of the walk was in water ankle deep or calf deep, and the deepest part of all was up to the bottom of our ribcages. Now that was cold! We were walking on the wobbly rocks underwater, while balanced on our tippie toes, trying to keep our tops out of the water. It’s amazing no one fell.

Tara and G wait for me while I gasp at the views and take photos.

Tara and G wait for me while I gasp at the views and take photos.

Creative people built about 15 towering cairns in one section of the creek.

Creative people built about 15 towering cairns in one section of the creek.

We stopped periodically to gaze in awe and admiration at the sheer cliff walls covered in moss and ferns, and topped with trees. The light was incredibly bright at the top of the gorge, and rather dark at the bottom, so I struggled to get decent photos that showed it all. I don’t have the camera skills to pull that off.

At the end, there is an inviting pool at the base of the falls. While Tara and G swam and climbed and jumped into the water, I stood waist-deep in the pool and took photos. The spray was blasting throughout the hollowed out spot, so I did not get very many photos in focus.

When we were all cold and thoroughly delighted, we turned around and headed back out.

Visiting on a weekday did not give us any privacy. Oh well.

Visiting on a weekday did not give us any privacy. Oh well.

Tara and G bravely head deeper into the cold pool.

Tara and G bravely head deeper into the cold pool.

Playing in the water.

Playing in the water.

They decided to try and swim beneath the falls.

They decided to try and swim beneath the falls.

Posing under the falls

Posing under the falls

The views on the way out. We literally had a light at the end of the tunnel.

The views on the way out. We literally had a light at the end of the tunnel.

Tara walks toward the deeper water, beneath trees soaring from the tops of the cliffs.

Tara walks toward the deeper water, beneath trees soaring from the tops of the cliffs.

A and Tara pose for me at the Japanese garden

A and Tara pose for me at the Japanese garden

This post can be a complement to my post from several years ago, Japanese garden in the rain. Both times I forgot to bring my camera, so the photos from both posts are taken by phones. In comparing the two, the advances in cell phone camera technology are evident.

Tara met an Italian exchange student at their school, two weeks before school was out. The visiting student had not yet had a chance to see many sights of Portland, and it was almost time to return to Italy. Tara was dismayed. I got a text while I was at work, “Will you please take us to the Japanese garden this weekend? She has to see more of Portland!”

It was a very sunny and hot day and we looked forward to the shady glades of the Japanese garden.

“Designed by Professor Takuma Tono in 1963, it encompasses 5.5 acres with 5 separate garden styles, and includes an authentic Japanese Tea House, meandering streams, intimate walkways, and a spectacular view of Mt. Hood.” ~from the brochure we received at the garden.

Sun filters through branches, colouring everything green and magical.

Sun filters through branches, colouring everything green and magical.

The Flat Garden (hira niwa) is a central focus of the garden, beside the pavillion.

The Flat Garden (hira niwa) is a central focus of the garden, beside the pavillion.

On the other side of the pavilion is this view of Mt. Hood, reminding many of Mt. Fuji because of its symmetrical shape.

On the other side of the pavilion is this view of Portland and Mt. Hood, reminding many of Mt. Fuji because of its symmetrical shape.

Inside the pavilion, events are held. It was a bonsai exhibit in my

Inside the pavilion, events are held. It was a bonsai exhibit in my “rainy” post. This time a pottery exhibit. Most of the pottery displays were traditional, but this artist was fanciful.

A look inside the pavilion

A look inside the pavilion

The Flat Garden

The Flat Garden

I was pleased with the fine touches in the garden, such as the gracefully curved railings.

I was pleased with the fine touches in the garden, such as the gracefully curved railings.

Irises grew from the water beside a wooden walking path that kept our feet dry.

Irises grew from the water beside a wooden walking path that kept our feet dry.

It was past peak spring colour, but these azaleas still added a spark to the shady greenery.

It was past peak spring colour, but these azaleas still added a spark to the shady greenery.

The Strolling Pond Garden

The Strolling Pond Garden

Shady stone path

Shady stone path

After our time in the shade, we crossed the road to another famous Portland garden: The International Rose Test Garden, named for its mission of testing new rose varieties. Built in 1917, this garden holds over 7000 rose plants of 550 varieties. It was in full sunlight and roasting. Despite the heat, it was a gorgeous Sunday afternoon and was filled with visitors. The roses were spectacular, and the scents intoxicating. Our new friend A kept a brochure to send home to her family. We had done our small part in encouraging good international relations. 🙂

Looking down onto the Rose Test Garden.

Looking down onto the Rose Test Garden.

Aisles of fragrance and colour.

Aisles of fragrance and colour.

Most of the roses were as tall as we were, and the blossoms were nose-height: perfect.

Many of the roses were as tall as we were, and the blossoms were nose-height: perfect.

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