Understand: except for one experience, my wife and I loved our recent visit to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
But that One Experience was so irritating, I jumped at the chance to complain about it when an emailed visitor satisfaction survey arrived in my inbox today.
I've done some Googling to see if anyone else who took a Safari Tour to see animals in the quasi-wild from the back of an open-sided truck had ever experienced the weird event we, and the other people on our Caravan Tour, did.
Didn't find anything.
So it may well be that our bureaucratic bummer was a rare event. Heck, maybe this is the only time Safari Park visitors spent 45 minutes of their 2-hour tour stuck for no good reason between two gates that linked several field enclosures.
All I can say is that one time was too many. Thus I feel completely justified in making the complaint that I did, and in sharing it below.
Now, I readily admit that I'm (1) a citizen activist who regularly gives the folks who run things at our Salem, Oregon City Hall an earful when I consider that they've screwed something up, and (2) someone who dislikes bureaucracies and rules that don't make sense.
I probably was the most-bothered person by what happened on our Caravan Safari tour.
However, judging from the comments of other people on our truck both during and after the Stuck Between Two Gates fiasco, I certainly wasn't the only one who felt this episode was handled badly.
After registering my complaint this morning, I did get a voicemail message on my cell phone from someone in the Customer Service department that was encouraging. Interestingly, it appears that this someone was one of the supervisors I roundly complained about in the complaint below.
He said that he'd like me to call back so he can discuss our bad experience and describe how they'll take steps to prevent something like this from happening again.
Yet I still feel like I need to publicize this bit of bureaucratic bungling, if nothing else than to have it serve as an example of how not to make an easily-solved problem into an exasperating experience for customers.
I didn't take a photo during the Stuck Between Two Gates 45 minutes. Here's a photo of a happier moment in the truck prior to that happening. As I say in my complaint, our guide (in blue shirt, leaning against rear railing) was great. It was her supervisors who messed up.
This was what I said in the Customer Satisfaction survey about our Safari Tour.
Our 2-hour tour actually was more like 75 minutes, because for about 45 minutes we were stuck in between two gates, absurdly waiting for Park supervisors to deal with a non-existent problem.
Which was, our truck was 3/4 though a gate when the metal gate closed and hit the side of the truck. The driver and other guy in the cab got out, inspected the truck and found no damage. Obviously none of us on the tour experienced any problem.
But we sat motionless in-between the two gates. When our guide asked the guys in the cab with the walkie-talkies what was going on, they said "We reported the incident. They [supervisors, I assume] want us to sit here until they get back to us."
Then we sat some more.
We'd been told that our 1:30 safari tour would be back in plenty of time to see the 3:30 Cheetah run. I began to worry that this wouldn't happen. Our guide asked several more times what was going on. Answer: nothing. At one point she told the guys in the cab, "We're going to get complaints." I said, "For sure." Which has come to pass.
It took about 40 minutes or so for the two supervisor types to show up in their pickup truck. They slowly got out of their truck, opened the gate, and looked at the truck with the two guys who had been talking with them.
"There's no damage to the truck," one supervisor guy said. I muttered to myself, "That's what you were repeatedly told."
"Anybody hurt? (or words to that effect, maybe it was "bothered) Obviously not. I think i said something like, "The only thing we're bothered about is sitting here for 45 minutes."
It was a ridiculous display of bureaucratic incompetence.
The three Safari Park staff with us on the tour knew there was no damage to the truck, and no harm to us visitors. The harm came from the supervisors not trusting the staff, and forcing those of us who had paid $111 each (if I recall correctly) to spend 45 minutes of a 2-hour tour sitting in a truck that was stuck for no reason in-between two gates, which prevented us from experiencing about 40% of our tour.
My wife and I live in Oregon. Other people on the tour were from Georgia and Michigan.
Several of the Georgia children were very interested in the animals and asked some excellent questions. I felt bad for them. This probably was their one and only chance to experience the Safari Park tour, but clueless Park supervisors made them unnecessarily sit between two gates for 45 minutes of a 2-hour tour.
I have nothing bad to say about our guides or the driver. The problem lay with the supervisors and the nonsensical Safari Park policy that required us to sit between the gates for 45 minutes so two supervisors could confirm for themselves the obvious: that there was no damage to the truck and the only harm to us paying customers was not being able to experience the tour that we had paid a bunch of money for.
I plan to post this complaint on Yelp and will be sharing it on my blog. We enjoyed the rest of our one-day visit to the Safari Park, but I haven't been shy about telling our friends about the ridiculous "stuck between the gates" episode. I'll continue to use it as an example of how incompetent bureaucracies operate.
Yes, I realize that we live in a litigious society, and it may well be that the Safari Park's attorneys have required this absurd over-reaction to an inconsequential incident. But that doesn't assuage the irritation I and others felt at not being able to experience the full 2-hour tour that we had paid for.
If the truck had broken down, or there was some other good reason for missing 45 minutes of the tour, I would have felt much differently. However, this was just a case of Supervisors Acting Badly, since they took 45 minutes to deal with a non-problem that could have been handled in a minute or so.
As in, the guys in the cab call in and say, "Hey, Joe, a gate closed and hit the side of our truck. There's no damage and nobody on the tour was harmed in the slightest. Our guests and us want to keep on with the tour. Are we good to go?"
A "Yes" was all that was needed. Instead, it took 45 minutes to get the "good to go." Absurd.
The abbreviated tour was the 1:30 outing on March 7. Again, our guide was great. She did her best to keep us entertained and informed during the lengthy wait between the gates. She deserves a promotion. The two supervisors deserve some retraining in customer service.
A few days ago, Laurel, the family canine (ZuZu), and I headed off to a place here in Oregon we'd never been to before -- Drift Creek Falls.
It's not far, about 90 minutes from Salem, where we live. And quite a bit of that time was spent going the 10 miles or so to the trailhead from Highway 18, mostly on a very curvy, narrow, yet (thankfully) paved Forest Service road with a few gravel areas.
Bring $5 with you for the vehicle fee at the trailhead, if you don't have a Recreation Pass.
The round trip from the trailhead to the falls and back is only 3 miles, 1.5 miles each way. It's an easy hike on a smooth well-traveled trail. We encountered all sorts of people -- all ages, all fitness levels, dogged and dog-free.
We picked a good day to go. Unusually warm and sunny for early April. Laurel and I aren't at all conventionally religious. But looking up, I felt a sense of natural secular sacredness.
Looking down, also. Western Oregon has been in a dry/warm spell, so the forest wasn't as moistly lush as it'd be in a more rainy period. Still, the ferns looked wonderfully fern'y.
A creek. Good place for the dog to get a drink.
Which required some leaping over a log. Well, actually it didn't. But ZuZu preferred the water on the other side of the log. Probably, from what I know of our dog's mind, because it was on the other side of the log.
A Zen-ish rock pile had been left in the water.
Between the creek and the falls, the trees become larger.
Ah, finally! The 240 feet long suspension bridge.
The bridge barely sways. Just enough to be interesting.
On the other side of the bridge, views of Drift Creek Falls beckon.
Continuing down the trail, you can get down to creek level. Spring or fall would be the best time to make this hike. The falls must be much smaller in the summer.
Through my magical powers, during our spring visit I was able to make the falls temporarily small enough to fill my water bottle. It didn't take long!
The coast is just a few miles away. So after the hike, we drove the short distance up Highway 101 to Neskowin. ZuZu made friends with the dog in the far background. Some racing around the beach left her in a tongue-hanging-out mood.
Then, ZuZu was in a sit down mood.
There's a lot to like about Oregon. Mountains, waterfall, ocean, beach -- all within a short distance. And Neskowin Beach was pleasingly uncrowded. (I think the small white dot on the right side of the photo is a person, though.)
Life feels sweet after narrowly escaping three dangerous genetic relatives of Tyrannosaurus rex, a.k.a. "chickens" in modern parlance, at Salem's Minto Brown Island Park today.
I'll share some photos of the attack, but these only reflect the objective state of the photons that made it into my iPhone's camera lens. My intuitive life-loving emotional mind saw these vicious animals differently.
As miniature Velociraptors.
After all, I had no idea if they'd gone completely feral, returning to the primitive instincts of their dinosaur ancestry.
In case other people who use the rural'ish Minto Brown trails come across these monsters, I'll describe the birds' method of attack.
I was riding my yellow Streetstrider outdoor elliptical bike along the paved trail that parallels Homestead Road. I'm pretty sure the chickens' plan was to hide in the brush on the right side of the trail, then jump (or fly?) out, surprising their human prey.
But at least one of them jumped the gun, and I was able to see the chickens before they had a chance to flutter up around my head and peck my eyeballs out.
Or whatever... I'm not an expert in chicken attacks, having only this single horrifying experience to inform my knowledge of how they go about their life-destroying business.
As you can see from the photo above, the chickens feigned innocence once I stopped my bike to figure out how I was going to live another day. Yes, they looked tame enough, but this is exactly how I would expect small feral killing machines to have adapted to existence in the wild.
Lull their intended victim into complacency -- Hey, we're just tame chickens who have wandered off from the roost, nothing to worry about here, bend down and give us a pat -- so they can peck their prey's freaking eyes out!
I wasn't about to fall for that ruse.
Especially after I saw one of them heading directly for my leg, undoubtedly planning to slice my achilles tendon in half with its beak, forestalling an escape on my bike, while the other two started walking around to my blind side in a classic maneuver I've seen wild wolf packs perform on National Geographic animal shows.
I decided it was best to keep my focus on the two chickens who seemed to pose the greatest threat. Remembering the advice of signs put up at Minto Brown when a cougar has been sighted in the area, I stood as tall as possible, tried to look confident, and raised my arms (easy, since they were holding my iPhone).
In the end, as should be obvious, since I'm alive to write this blog post, I survived.
I was able to pedal off -- well, my bike doesn't have pedals, so I ellipticaled my way off -- grateful as the fearsome clucking noises the beasts had been making receded into the distance.
Once I got what seemed to be a safe distance away, I realized that my mouth was dry from fear and trembling. I paused to eat some blackberries. Maybe it was the wind blowing a creaking tree branch, but I was sure I heard a nearby chicken screech.
Had they followed me? Was the feral chicken pack planning another attack? I can't be sure. All I know is that those blackberries tasted marvelously sweet.
A brush with death will do that -- make life seem much more vibrant.
Our dog finds a lot to like in how Camp Sherman, Oregon celebrates the Fourth of July -- without fireworks, since the unincorporated town (just a few hundred full time residents) is nestled in the midst of National Forest land where the demonic canine-scaring devices aren't allowed.
I also enjoy visiting Camp Sherman on Independence Day. Also, any day.
My wife and I have a quarter-share ownership in a forest service cabin on the banks of the Metolius River. So we usually come to Camp Sherman once a month from about May to October, shunning the coldest part of the year in central Oregon.
Back in 2005 we stumbled upon a super-charming "spontaneous" Camp Sherman Independence Day parade. I shared photos and commentary in a blog post. Here's how the post starts out.
My vote for the nation’s most charming Independence Day parade goes to Camp Sherman’s 2005 bike trail event. This small central Oregon town is full of zany characters and beautiful scenery, both of which were on full display yesterday.
Laurel and I were riding our bicycles back to our cabin after attending the annual meeting of the Metolius River Forest Homeowners Association. Near the Lake Creek Lodge we encountered some paraders heading to the Community Hall that we had just left. They yelled, “Come join us!” We did, not wanting to pass up a parade.
When we got to the Hall this woman stressed that the parade was completely spontaneous, notwithstanding the evident care with which many of the participants had festooned themselves and their bicycles. She explained that plans for an official street parade had fallen through because of bureaucratic nit-picking, such as requiring a permit and what-not, so the Camp Shermanites decided to plan an unplanned parade on the bike trail.
Lo and behold, lots of people just happened to show up at the same time on July 2—red, white, and blued—kazoos in hand, ready to “sing” (using that term in its most generous sense) “You’re a Grand Old Flag” at the parade staging area. An award for creativity goes to this woman’s use of blue Superman trunks as part of her patriotic outfit.
This year in Camp Sherman, I found the Independence Day atmosphere equally charming, albeit parade-less. Riding my bike to the Camp Sherman store to get a newspaper, I discovered that a "natural artisan gelato" stand awaited the hot and hungry.
The gelato was popular. My strawberry/vanilla'ish mixture went down easy. Newspaper. Gelato. Pleasant bicycle ride. Simple Camp Sherman pleasures.
I love taking photos of the vintage gas pumps in front of the store. In the 1950's and '60s I grew up in a similarly small central California mountain town, Three Rivers. Both the store and the pumps bring back memories. Good ones.
Bicycling back to the cabin, I saw that a scarecrow man sitting on some old farm equipment had donned appropriate clothing for today.
Sure, there are plenty of places that are much more exciting on the Fourth of July. But I much prefer the peace and quiet of Camp Sherman.
As many times as I've walked this stretch of the Metolius upriver of the Tract C bridge (a lot), I'm always blown away by the beauty -- especially in the setting sun.
Happy Independence Day!
Until I Googled the phrase just now, I didn't realize that "life is a beach" is viewed as a counterpoint to "life is a bitch."
Makes sense, I guess.
But having just spent eight days on Maui's Napili Bay beach (photo above), I never thought of that. Almost right away, my wife and I fell into that state of beach'y mind that, really, should be viewed as ordinary rather than unusual.
Beaches erase inhibitions. Adults act like kids. Why can't we do this all of the time? Or at least, all the times the boss isn't watching. More silly, more crazy, more no reason not to. That's a great gift of beaches.
Don't be afraid of being the only one. The more skilled I get at boogie boarding, the less I worry about being all alone in a wave-catching spot. Yes, sometimes there's a reason no one else is doing what you are. However, often other people either don't know how to catch the waves I can, or they don't want to. March to the beat of your own drummer, even if you're all by yourself.
During this visit to Napili Bay I was struck by the marvelous adults act like kids effect that beaches have. Maybe it was because every time I play in the Maui ocean, I'm older myself.
Also, my eight-year-old granddaughter and her family joined us for about half the time.
Before she arrived, I acted more like the experienced 66-year old boogie boarder that I am. I held out for waves breaking over the reefs in the bay, even though they were few and far between. I saw kids playing in the beach-breaking waves at the other end of the bay, but never joined them.
Until Evelyn arrived. Then I belatedly let my inner kid loose. She and I had a great time on our boogie boards, being thrown up onto the sloping beach as waves broke upon the sand.
Why didn't I do this before? I guess I failed to follow my own life lessons. More silly, more crazy. Don't be afraid of being the only one.
During the four days my granddaughter and I boogie boarded together, I don't recall seeing any adults other than me and Evelyn's father boogie'ing on the beach-crashing waves. No matter.
Like this kid whose family posted photos of him having fun on Napili Beach, I had an equally good time -- once my granddaughter helped me unleash my adult inhibitions.
Yeah, I got a lot of sand in my swim trunks (and other places). Yeah, mostly I was zooming along sand in several inches of foamy water. Yeah, almost all of my boogie boarding comrades were 1/6 my age or younger.
Like I said, no matter.
Just as other beachgoers felt. It was moving to see a white-haired elderly couple bobbing along in the ocean, she supported by a colorful beach inner tube, he pushing her along. Probably they were in their 80's. They were smiling like they were eight.
When they headed for shore, he helped her up onto the beach with wonderful care. She wasn't spry. It was difficult for her to walk out of the water. He lovingly supported her as she got her footing, keeping her upright step by very slow step.
Beaches turn almost everybody into who cares how I look kids again. I wish every place was a beach. Not literally, of course. In peoples' minds. Poet Mary Oliver asked:
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Look upon life as a beach is a pretty damn good answer.
There's a bit of irony in the title of this blog post -- the cheerful. Yes, I always enjoy chatting with Roger and Kathy White, the friendly owners of the oh-so-charming Camp Sherman store in central Oregon.
But today Kathy and I talked about some uncomfortable subjects -- impacts of the impending Big One earthquake and nasty effects of global warming -- after I finished paying for some essentials of life: wine, peanuts in the shell, newspaper, Camp Sherman t-shirt.
I'd asked her how the winter went in Camp Sherman. My wife and I hadn't visited our Forest Service cabin that we have a 1/4 ownership share in since last fall.
"It was really nice," Kathy told me. "Quite mild." "I can believe it," I said. "When we drove over the pass, it was amazing to see how little snow there was."
I then asked her if she'd ever wondered if the springs that feed the beautiful Metolius River might dry up partially if global warming continues to result in more Cascades precipitation falling as rain rather than snow.
"What if the unknown source of the springs is from snow melt that no longer exists? Couldn't that lead to the Metolius river flow dropping considerably?"
Kathy said that she and her husband had thought about this possibility. It'd be disturbing, for sure.
Here's a photo I took of the upper reaches of the Metolius, not far from the spring-fed headwaters. The river is quite shallow here, less than a foot deep in most places. The logs were put in the river to enhance salmon spawning habitat. Notice the vegetation growing on them now, thanks to the near-constant water level.
So that's one of many "unthinkable" possible consequences of global warming. What once seemed so unlikely as to be almost impossible now has a decent chance of occurring.
In a book I'm reading, "This Idea Must Die," I learned a new word: stationarity. Here's excerpts from the short essay by that name written by geographer Laurence C. Smith.
Stationarity -- the assumption that natural-world phenomena fluctuate with a fixed envelope of statistical uncertainty that doesn't change over time -- is a widely applied scientific concept ready to be retired.
...a growing body of research shows that stationarity is often the exception, not the norm. As new satellite technologies scan the Earth, as more geological records are drilled, and as the instrument records lengthen, they commonly reveal patterns and structures inconsistent with a fixed envelope of random noise.
Instead, there are transitions to various quasi-stable states, each characterized by a different set of physical conditions and associated statistical properties.
...And anthropogenic climate change, induced by our steady ramping-up of greenhouse-gas concentrations in the atmosphere, is by definition the opposite of a fixed, stationary process.
Thus climate change is going to bring us new definitions of normal. So-called "hundred-year floods" could start occurring every ten years. Ditto for hundred-year dry spells.
Not a cheery thought.
Neither was the subject Kathy and I also talked out: the Big One earthquake, something I've become more interested in after learning that City officials in Salem, where I live, seem to have lost interest in seismically strengthening our City Hall and Library so they won't fall down when, not if, a super-strong Cascadia subduction zone earthquake hits.
Kathy told me that she'd been to a meeting where earthquake experts talked about how the Redmond airport (fairly close to Camp Sherman) would be the prime place where emergency supplies would be flown into Oregon after a Big One earthquake.
Meaning, every large airport in Western Oregon would be unusable after the expected magnitude 8 or 9 earthquake. These occur every few hundred years in the Pacific Northwest. The last one happened in 1700.
We're due for another huge earthquake.
Could be tomorrow. Could be twenty years from now. But the Big One is coming, for sure. I said that I'd been to a talk where an emergency preparedness planner said that most bridges on i-5 would be unusable. Highways to the Oregon coast could be closed for a year or more, I recall the planner saying.
This isn't exactly akin to an end to stationarity, since Cascadia subduction zone earthquakes have been happening for thousands of years. It isn't like global warming, which is causing a major change in the likelihood of weather events.
But both the prospect of the Metolius River losing a large part of its water source, and Western Oregon being devastated by the Big One earthquake, are examples of catastrophes that seem to most people like they will never happen.
Hey, those things haven't happened in recent history, certainly not in the lifetime of anyone alive today, so what is the chance that they will happen soon? Seemingly... almost zero.
Not true. It isn't wise to base the future on the recent past. Science is our main way of seeing beyond our immediate personal experience to better learn what is coming next, and why.
I told Kathy, "Talking about global warming and the Big One earthquake makes me feel good about being 66, rather than 16, since there's a much better chance that, given my age, I'll die before bad things happen. I worry, though, about our children and grandchildren. What kind of world will they inherit?"
Hopefully one where people did everything they could to prepare for disasters that have been foretold.
Hiding our heads in the sand may make us feel better, but we owe it both to ourselves and future generations to face difficult truths as squarely as possible.
Thank you, global warming.
Though your effects mostly are going to be disastrous, today wife, dog, and I enjoyed an amazing late January afternoon on an Oregon beach, Neskowin, in mid-60's temperature, no wind, sunny.
Here's a photographic tour, courtesy of my iPhone.
Neskowin is a few miles north of Lincoln City. It's our favorite close-to-Salem beach. But often (well, usually) this stretch of the Oregon coast has something annoying going on when we arrive after walking from the parking lot to the water.
Too cold. Too cloudy. Too windy. Maybe all three. Today... perfection. And it was freaking January 25!
One of the reasons we headed to Neskowin after watching the great Oregon coast weather report on the evening news last night was guilt over being Bad Dog Parents. We adopted Zu Zu about three years ago, yet had never taken her to the beach.
Naturally Daddy Brian had to take a photo of her first look at the ocean. Zu Zu enjoys lakes and rivers, but we wondered how she'd react to the Pacific Ocean. A bit warily at first, understandably. It didn't take Zu Zu long, though, before she was happily retrieving sticks Mommy Laurel threw into the waves.
That was great.
Not-so-great was Zu Zu's habit of running up to me with the just-retrieved stick as I sat on the beach, snapping photos from what initially was a dry, non-sandy perch. After a few dog visits, dry and non-sandy were distant memories.
I was, however, able to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in semi-peace. During most of my lunch Laurel and Zu Zu were distant dots on the edge of the water. The warmth, sunshine, and calm air felt decidedly un-Oregon'ish. Especially for late January.
She played with lots of other dogs. Pleasingly, Zu Zu showed no sign of taking up the behavior of a previous dog of ours: digging holes ferociously, usually, it seemed, with the intention of spraying us with sand as we sat on the beach.
Aside from the cold water and temperature in the 60's, I could almost imagine that we were in Hawaii. Some youthful beachgoers were in shorts and shirtless (only guys, unfortunately). This girl was skimboarding, if I've got the term right.
We took an amazing number of photos of Our Baby's First Visit to the Ocean. Believe me, you're only seeing a few of them. Be thankful for that.
Walking just a ways up the beach, it didn't take long before we came to one of the most enjoyable things about the Oregon coast: often no people are in sight.
Leaving Neskowin in late afternoon, the sun was just setting behind the trees on the top of Proposal Rock. It was a beautiful way to end a beautiful day on the beach.
Here's an update, seven years later.
Yeah, just a little ways from the trailhead we're told this is wilderness. As in wild. As in Thoreau's famous saying, "In Wildness is the preservation of the world." It sure helps us feel better about the world to be away-from-it-all for a while.
Previously we'd never made the side .7 mile trip to Wasco Lake. This time we did. The trail to the lake starts off by crossing Canyon Creek via some large rocks. Our dog, ZuZu, made a lay down stop in the cool water (temperature was in the mid 80's during our hike).
Like I said in my previous post, there's a yin-yang beauty to the post-fire scenery. Death and life. Light and dark.
Don't stop at the lower meadows though. If you have the energy and the time, keep going toward Three Fingered Jack. You'll feel like a character in The Lord of the Rings approaching Mordor. (I think I've got the name right; been a long time since I read the trilogy.) Here's our faithful hobbit dog on the trail.
The sun was almost directly over Three Fingered Jack when we arrived at the upper meadow via a trail that took us up the side of a slope. Walking up Canyon Creek to the upper meadow is easier, but we missed an easy-to-miss side trail on the way up. Snow! In August!
Here I am in my much-beloved Salem Summit t-shirt (great downtown outdoor store) before descending into the upper meadow. Another snow field springs out of the left side of my head.
If you're looking for You Tube videos of someone tubing down central Oregon's Metolius River, look no farther than... me!
A few days ago I put up the World''s First You Tube Metolius River Tubing Video. That was shot by my wife from bankside.
Now -- behold! -- I reveal the World's First You Tube Go-Pro Point of View Metolius River Tubing Video.
This was taken via a chest mount on a solo tubing run that I made after daughter, granddaughter, son-in-law, and me had tubed down another stretch of the Metolius (video of that needs to be edited; coming soon).
I'm pretty damn proud of 64 year-old me. As I say in the video, hardly anybody tubes down the Metolius. In fact, hardly anybody floats down the upper reaches of the Metolius on any sort of device.
Hopefully this video will get more tubers into the admittedly cold water -- 48 degrees at the spring-fed source; I'm tubing close to the source, before any warmer-water creeks flow into the Metolius.
The river moves right along between the Tract C bridge and just before Lake Creek; there's enough riffles, curves, logs, islands, branches, and what-not to keep the tubing interesting (paddle highly recommended for maneuvering); the Metolius is super-beautiful, world-class beauty.
What's not to like, besides the cold water? I had a lot of fun. Watch me enjoying the Metolius.
Below is rare footage of people tubing down a stretch of the Metolius River in central Oregon, a river known for its beauty, cold water, great fly fishing, and...
Notable lack of people tubing down it.
I know this, because I've visited the Metolius regularly for over fifteen years. I've only seen a tube in the river once or twice, at most.
Like I said, the Metolius is cold. Spring-fed from snow melt in the upper reaches, where the video below was taken on an August, 2013 day. It also is a wild and scenic river, so when a tree falls into it (which is often), the tree stays where it is.
Thus scouting of the Metolius is essential before going down it in a tube, kayak, boat, or anything else. Once that is done, have fun!
The video shot by my wife shows me, my daughter, and son-in-law having a lot of fun going down a short stretch of the Metolius: just downstream from the Tract C bridge to just upstream of where Lake Creek joins the river.
(My six year old granddaughter tubed with her father, but I don't think footage of her made it into the video.)
I'm in an orange shirt. I'm seen both in a tube, and on the bank shouting directional advice to my daughter on her first trip down. We're using River Run tubes and tubing paddles, as described in a previous blog post.
So far as I can tell, this is the first Metolius River tubing video to appear on You Tube. I feel like Lewis & Clark, Magellan, Christopher Columbus, and the Vikings who sailed to Greenland. All combined.
This is adventuring at its finest. Well, at least at its tubest. In bathing suits, bare feet, and cold butts we braved a river that usually only fly fisherpeople in waders get in. Watch and marvel.
The Green Ridge fire near Camp Sherman in central Oregon is nearing 100% containment. Its been burning away for ten days after a lightning strike got it going on July 31.
Though the fire has been heading away from Camp Sherman and the Metolius river, naturally people in the area have been concerned about its spread -- now up to 1,500 acres, according to the latest official fire info.
Since my wife and I are part owners of a cabin on leased forest service land, Friday evening I decided to attend a fire status meeting for residents and visitors at the charming Camp Sherman Community Hall.
It was great to get a first-hand report on how the fire fighting efforts are going. In short, very well.
Personnel and equipment, such as helicopters, are being shifted to higher priority fires. There have only been two minor firefighter injuries, not counting lots of bee stings. The fire made a run to the east that was caused by wind-driven spot fires, but that is pretty much under control.
After the Fire Guy (didn't get a name) made his presentation, a Q & A session ensued. Several people wanted to know what "containment" meant. I'm glad they asked those questions.
I've had a vague idea about what it means when someone says, "The Whatever Fire is 30% contained," but I didn't really understand the notion of containment. I got educated some by the Fire Guy.
One questioner was confused by how it was possible for the Green Ridge fire to expand from 1,150 to 1,510 acres while the percent containment went from 50% to 75%. How could the burned area get bigger while so much progress was made on containing it?
The answer is that "containment" refers to the perimeter of a fire, not the area. If the perimeter is 10 miles, and containment lines are present on 7 miles, then the fire is 70% contained. But the fire still could be spreading via the uncontained 3 miles.
Fire Guy explained that containment lines can be established roads, natural barriers (like a river), or hand-constructed lines. I believe he said that the inside of the line has to be blackened, burned, before a line is considered a genuine containment line.
Also, mop-up operations have to be completed before a perimeter section is called "contained."
This includes watering-down hot spots near the line so embers can't be blown over it. Thus even though a line has been dug, it won't be considered part of the containment percentage until the mopping up adjacent to the line is complete.
Regarding how a fire is contained, Fire Guy stated the obvious: you don't want to be in front of a rapidly-spreading fire. So those fighting it start by anchoring the bottom of the area being burned, then work to contain the edges. Containment of the front of the fire comes last.
(Those who want to get into some geekiness of what "containment" means should read George Rebane's post, "Wildfire Containment Percentage: Say What??!!" Including the comments.)
You're a genius! I say that a lot to myself. Sadly, I don't hear it nearly as often from other people.
But during a recent visit to central Oregon's Metolius River, a place we come to regularly, a couple of fellow tubers noted how I'd made an addition to the River Run tube that they also had been using on the cold river (48 degrees at the spring-fed source; not a whole lot warmer downstream).
Genius, they told me. And I don't think it was just their beers-on-a-hot-day talking.
I've walked up and down the banks of the Metolius for many years, over fifteen for sure. During that time I've been surprised by how few people float down this National Wild and Scenic river.
Part of the reason is that wild and scenic rivers are, well, wild. When a tree falls across the Metolius, it stays there. No one cuts it up so boaters can get through. So scouting the river is a must before boating down it. Log jams can be really dangerous.
But another reason is that the water is freaking cold.
Realizing that, yet wanting to rediscover the joys of my childhood tubing on a swift mountain river (I grew up in Three Rivers, California, where the Kaweah River flows from snow melt in the Sierras), I pondered how to keep my 64-year old butt mostly out of the Metolius water.
Now, I'll admit that a friend suggested putting a smaller child-type tube in the middle of the large River Run tube. It was still my genius that recognized the wisdom of this suggestion.
And my VISA card that bought a Floatie swim ring, which plays nicely with the RIver Run. I made six runs down various stretches of the Metolius while I was there, during pleasingly (for an ex-Californian) 90 degree-plus hot weather.
My butt was mostly out of the water, though not entirely. Just enough to keep cool, not enough to, um, freeze my butt off.
The Floatie is well made. It can be easily blown up by mouth. It has two valves which don't let air escape when you stop blowing (need to squeeze the bottom of the valve to let air in). I like how the yellow Floatie matches the tubing paddle that I wisely decided to purchase along with the River Run.
Wisely, because the River Run is much larger than the inner tubes we Three Rivers kids used in the 50's and 60's. It is almost impossible to paddle with your hands or kick with your feet while sitting in the River Run.
So the paddle makes it possible to maneuver pretty well. I was able to alter course in the Metolius as needed, though an inner tube isn't a highly maneuverable water craft. Heck, much of the joy of tubing is being unable to control exactly where you're going.
I enjoyed bumping into a riverbank, spinning around, and then heading downstream again. I'd forgotten how much fun tubing down a wild mountain river can be. Old tubing feelings quickly returned while on the Metolius.
Note my blue life jacket. Never wore one as a kid, naturally.
Here in Oregon they aren't required for tubers, only for boaters. Which makes some sense. Also, some nonsense. A kayaker, who is required to have a life jacket or other flotation device, is going to be able to handle rapids and other swift currents better than a tuber.
Yet tubers don't have to wear a life jacket.
Explains why, every year, some tubers drown in Oregon. I wore one, in part because I've had someone who works for an area rafting company tell me that the Metolius is considered a more dangerous river than its rapids otherwise would class it as, because of the very cold water.
Turning to the River Run tube...I love it!
Handles make it easy to carry. On my run downstream from the Camp Sherman store to the stream gauge box upriver from the Allingham bridge (about 8/10 of a mile), I had no trouble carrying my inflated tube, paddle, and life jacket back up the riverside trail for another run.
Also: cup holders, back rest, rope around the outside. Sweet. Before buying my RIver Run i read some of the Amazon reviews. Almost all are highly positive. A few are hilarious. This is my favorite:
I HAD A GREAT TIME IN THIS TUBE
I was also admittedly drunk, but whatevs. The river was hella low, and i got stuck on some rocks several times, but this tube was like "AWW NAW HELL NAW" and i just scootched right over top of all them rocks and sticks and nonsense. The cupholders and handles were perfect for my can o' wine and my Nalgene o' Bootlegger. Not gonna lie, I threw up in the river, but I don't blame the tube. A few people had other brands of tubes, and their tubes popped, but luckily, i had brought an extra one of these already inflated. Ironically, these were the same people who were dissin on these vinyl tubes because "canvas wrapped is sooooo much better." WHERE IS YOUR CANVAS GOD NOW??
I don't know where the tubes are now, i think they might have gotten thrown into a bonfire, but if i ever feel like pukin in a river again, this will be my method of flotation. It inflated and deflated super fast, but it was bulky to carry back to the pick-up point.
Final word -- If you need a tube: BUY THIS JENK RIGHT HERE
UPDATE: May 20, 2013 --
I STILL STAND BY THIS WHOLE REVIEW.
Except for the Bootlegger. That was a mistake.
I still love these - I got another set of these same tubes after the first ones got burnt up and I will be pukin on the river again this summer.
Listen up, because this next bit is important: I didn't realize how truly amazing these Intex River Runs were until i went on an unplanned river day and had to BORROW a tube. It was one of those plain black jobbies. How pedestrian. AND IT WAS HORRIBLE (insert Grumpy Cat face). Those black tubes get sooooo hot. The backs of my thighs and elbows got burnt with the heat of a thousand suns everytime i shifted. I had no backrest so I actually had to HOLD MY OWN HEAD UP the entire trip.
That part might sound ridiculous, but compare it like this: lying on the couch vs sitting on one of those exercise ballsto watch TV. And the stupid nozzle groped me in inappropriate places. I don't know how many adult beverages I lost because i didn't have a cupholder or a mesh bottom. We had to hold onto each others shoes because we didn't have the ropes. Everytime we went through any kind of rapids i fell out of my tube because i had no handles. When I fell out one time, I scraped my b-hole on B-Hole Rock (nobody else calls it that, I started calling it that after i scraped my b-hole on it). It made me miss my Intex even more. My first river trip of the year is this coming weekend and I'M SO EXCITEDDDDD to use this tube again.
Intex River Run is still my Jam.
Stand up paddling (SUP) is the new hot thing on Maui's Napili Bay, where my wife and I vacation frequently.
This year on Maui, most days the waves weren't very big. So I spent a lot of time on the beach, boogieboard and fins sitting on the sand, wishing for larger waves. And watching the stand up paddlers do their thing.
It didn't look that difficult. I decided to give it a try.
So I perused a bunch of surfing/SUP brochures, each of which promised that in one lesson you'd be able to surf a wave or paddle your way around on a modified surfboard.
Figuring that my land paddling ability on wheels would translate into being able to stand up paddle on water, I confidently requested a private lesson from the Goofy Foot Surf School in Lahaina. I didn't want my progress to be held back by a bunch of aging tourists from the mainland.
(Thus spoke my 64 year old mind, residing at the time in a Maui condo while on vacation from Oregon.)
After meeting my instructor, we walked a short ways to the beach. The brochure had a photo of calm waters in the "lagoon" where SUP lessons happen, usually early in the morning.
But I'd asked for an afternoon lesson. While on Maui I'm not big on doing anything before mid-morning other than drink coffee, eat breakfast (papaya, yum!), and read the Honolulu newspaper.
Don't know what the water conditions were like earlier in the day.
I instantly could tell, though, that this was no calm lagoon. Fairly large waves were smashing into a breakwater and carrying over on a smaller scale. It also was pretty damn windy.
Plus, the instructor's dog was taking on the role of those aging mainland tourists who I worried were going to hold me back. Literally.
My wife was going to dog-sit this six-month pit bull during the lesson.
However, the puppy was so attached to its owner, it immediately ran into the water after him. The guy must have trained it to ride on his board, because the dog apparently figured that if he jumped on the back of mine, this would be a ticket to ride to his owner.
Unfortunately my wife didn't get a photo of that scene -- which transpired about ten seconds into my first attempt to stand up paddle in some sort of fashion.
I think I was on my knees, as shown in a later iPhone shot. While intently focused on keeping my balance while the waves rolled in, I felt the front of the board tip up as extra pit bull weight was added to the back.
Can't remember if I fell into the water.
But I clearly do remember many other falls. It didn't take me long to realize that even though I was pretty skilled at keeping my balance on a longboard, there's one big difference between land paddling and stand up paddling on water:
Water moves. Land doesn't.
So it took me 15 or 20 minutes before I began to get the hang of adjusting to the waves and wind. During that time it was stand up, take a few strokes, teeter, splash. Then repeat. My instructor gave me some good tips.
Relax. Keep your feet and legs limber. Stand straight. Eyes forward. Keep lead hand fixed in front of you. Rotate core rather than just using arms to paddle. Don't paddle beyond your body position on the board.
Which was good, given that at one point we made it all the way down to the end of the lagoon. The instructor led me out close to where a surfer was catching waves past the breakwater. "Don't fall in," he said, "the water is really shallow here."
Oh, great, I thought, looking down and seeing rocks not far under the surface.
Nothing like a little pressure to help one's balance. I did fine, not falling again until we were almost back to Laurel and the dog -- which had been tied up, preventing another dash onto my board.
I enjoyed the lesson. However, I didn't feel like renting a SUP board and honing my skills on Napili Bay. Stand up paddling on water was fun, but not exciting. Not like bodyboarding is, or like land paddling on a longboard is.
If I wasn't into bodyboarding and land paddling, I think stand up paddling would have appealed to me more. Propelling myself along with a paddle on water, no waves, downhills, or turning/carving involved, just seemed ho-hum.
Challenging for me, given the need to balance while waves and wind did their thing, yet not enticing. I never felt the Yes! rush that bodyboarding and land paddling give me. If I ever got good enough to SUP-surf on waves, I'm sure I'd get that same feeling.
Maybe another time. More visits to Maui likely await.
One day on our vacation I watched a guy who seemed to be a local use a paddle to surf waves marvelously skillfully. It looked like a lot of fun. He might have been on an actual surfboard, rather than a SUP board.
Never have had a surfing lesson. Never too old to learn, right?
lt's a tradition.
Every October, around the middle of the month, Laurel and I walk around central Oregon's Suttle Lake. We love the color of the vine maples, even if we don't always love the weather -- which can range from sunny and warm to rainy and cold.
This year it was cloudy and cool, moderate.
Guess it has to do with changing temperature, rainfall, and such at Suttle Lake. Or maybe the vine maples just get in unpredictable moods. This month the theme was more orange'y and lemon-green than vibrant red. Still beautiful.
This was Zu Zu's first visit to Suttle Lake. She's also known as Dog #2, to distinguish her from Dog #1, Serena, who, at twelve and a half, didn't make the walk. It would have taken us forever, or close to it, given Serena's stately senior-canine-citizen meandering speed.
Today Laurel and I made our annual pilgrimage to a 60's vibe (decade, not our ages) via the time machine of the marvelous Oregon Country Fair. It's held on beautifully wooded grounds near Veneta, outside of Eugene.
If you've never been, go! Wherever you live.
A few days ago Laurel flew home after visiting friends in Wisconsin. On the plane to Portland, she sat next to a woman from Iowa who was going to spend all weekend at the fair.
There's nothing like it anywhere in the United States, for sure.
Another large bird looked rather ominous. But I never saw it try to peck anyone. Love and gentleness prevail at the fair. Every time I bumped into someone, both of us said "Sorry." Politeness abounds.
Yes, there is security. But it's as wild and wacky as everything else at the fair. I'm sure some problems arise. However, we've never seen anyone even raise their voice in anger, much less act angry. Flower power!
Father Nature and his two female vixens had just finished posing more formally for another photographer. I caught them relaxing afterward. They picked a great background. When I first glanced at the photo, I thought the guy had disappeared somehow.
Yesterday I got back from a visit to Indiana. It was bizarre there.
Starting with the weather. On Saturday we were driving around in our (blessedly) air conditioned rental car. I glanced at the outside temperature display.
108 degrees. One...hundred...eight...degrees.
With high humidity. I felt like I was being waterboarded while standing straight up. At first it was difficult for my Oregon lungs to breathe. I kept thinking, "Is this air, or watery gruel I'm inhaling?"
Whenever the highly unusual heat wave came up in a conversation with locals, I'd mention global warming as often as I could. Indiana being rather (or a lot?) conservative, those two words seemed to pass through the brains of Indianans without leaving much of a trace.
I heard this year's corn crop is drying up. Maybe that will drive some climate change sense into midwest right-wing heads.
Bloomington, though, seemingly is the Indiana equivalent of Texas' Austin: an enclave of progressivism in a state that doesn't similarly lean leftward. We felt more at home in Bloomington, particularly at the Roots restaurant -- vegetarian and organic friendly.
But after we ate our lunch... coffee bizarreness ensued.
My wife, Laurel, wanted to get a cup of coffee and some sort of healthy muffin. How tough is that in Portland, Eugene, Corvallis, Ashland, Bend, or even here in less-cool Salem? Yes, we were in Indiana, not Oregon. Yet wouldn't liberal Bloomington have the same sort of caffeinated vibe?
We figured it would.
So after Laurel rejected the first coffee place we found after leaving the restaurant (it's muffins weren't organic, or whole grain, or something), we walked up the block in 104 degree weather, expecting that we'd soon run into another coffee house.
After all, downtown Salem has two Starbucks on opposite ends of the same downtown block. And across the street is the Beanery, another coffee house with healthy snacks. And a block or so away in one direction is the Governor's Cup, with the Clockworks Cafe a block away in the other direction.
Indiana, however, isn't nearly as coffee-addicted as Oregon is. My wife and I wandered on for several more blocks in the water-boarding'ish heat, looking for hot coffee, Oregonians that we are.
Laurel said, "Where's the nearest Starbucks?" I got out my iPhone and fired up the Starbucks app. Good god! None near downtown, where we were. I was starting to get freaked out. What kind of city doesn't have a Starbucks or other coffee house on every block?
A non-Oregon city, obviously. We ended up driving back to the resort where we were staying. Which, also bizarrely, daily supplied only one regular coffee packet and one decaf packet for the inroom coffee machine.
First thing we did after checking in was write a note for the maid service: "Please leave three packets of regular coffee, no decaf." That'd get us Oregonians through the morning. Barely.
Lastly, the chicken on a swing thing. I'd heard that tipping cows was a form of midwest entertainment, but putting chickens on swings? New to me. Here's video evidence that this is a hot Indiana trend.
If you're looking for a beautiful, easily accessible, moderately challenging, six mile round trip hike through a variety of riverside terrain in central Oregon, check out the recently opened Whychus Creek trail.
My wife and I learned about it through an informative article in the Sisters weekly newspaper, the Nugget. Craig F. Eisenbeis got us enthused about the trail in his "Experience the 'wild' at the edge of town."
After we took his advice, we were way more enthused. Here's some photos of what we saw.
The northern trailhead is reached from Highway 20 by driving 4.2 miles south on Elm Street, which soon turns into Highway 16. The small parking area is on the right. It's easy to miss, having no sign on the highway. Here's what it looks like as you drive by, preparing to turn around.
As Eisenbeis describes, the three mile hike (each way) features three sorts of scenery, each lasting for about a mile -- or roughly twenty minutes, at our hiking rate. Early on a protected pool offered me a chance to soak already-dusty sandals and give our new dog, Zu Zu, some stick chasing fun.
(Note: our old dog, Serena, is still alive and well. She's just, um, old. We left her at home, since she couldn't have handled this hike, given how slowly and sometimes unsteadily she walks.)
Whoever built the trail did a marvelous job. Kudos to them. Steep rocky spots are quite easily traversed with the aid of expertly placed stones. Still, the hike has to be classed "moderate." It requires some agility from both dogs and humans to navigate.
At first I wanted to take a photo of these rocks because of the color. Then, whenever I looked at the screen of my iPhone's camera I saw a face smiling wryly at me. When I gazed at the rocks camera-less, I couldn't see the image. My wife doesn't see the face in this photo. I sure do. Third eye in the forehead, nose, crinkled smile. A cliff sprite, I guess, speaking only to me (and maybe to you).
When the trail started to head away from the river, toward the southern trailhead next to Highway 16, we turned around. But not before spending a lot of time taking photos of Zu Zu patiently posing on a stump. Remains of the 2010 Rooster Rock Fire are in the background.
Believe me, Angelina Jolie has fewer photos snapped of her at a movie opening than Laurel and I took of Zu Zu on that stump. I can't tell whether Zu Zu was smiling at this point, or snarling "Get me off this goddamn stump or you'll feel the force of my mighty fangs!!"
Photos don't do justice to the falls at the end of the Whychus Creek trail. So I took a short iPhone video. After it was uploaded You Tube told me that it looked shaky and asked me if I wanted to fix it. Being a fan of cinema verite, I said "no." What you see is what me and my iPhone saw.
And what you'll see if you take this hike. Try it; you'll like it.
I greatly admire forest firefighters. Watching four or five large semis filled with equipment take a wrong turn in Camp Sherman, Oregon a few days ago doesn't lessen my admiration for them in the slightest.
It just shows that they're human.
(Maybe these guys hated to stop and ask someone for directions, like me; or the government needs to fork out a few bucks to get them a GPS app like Navigon for their iPhones, which I have -- and love.)
Tuesday my wife and I were at our co-owned forest service cabin in Tract C along the Metolius River, which is near a bridge over the river, a mile upstream from the Camp Sherman store.
That morning I'd ridden my bike to the store along the unpaved road to get a newspaper. Paying 75 cents for the Bend Bulletin I noticed a stack of flyers on the counter. It was a Shadow Lake Fire Update, describing the status of a forest fire in the Mt. Washington wilderness, which isn't too far away.
I picked up a flyer to show my wife. I read it quickly, noting these paragraphs with mild interest:
Due to fire location and complexity, Agency officials have made the decision to bring in a National Incident Management Organization (NIMO) and a Long Term Assessment Team to assess potential long term fire behavior and spread along with fire suppression organizational needs. The Incident Management Team from Central Oregon (Travis Moyer) will retain command of the fire, until further assessments have been finalized for longer term needs.
Incident Command Post (ICP) will be located at Allingham Guard Station; as a result there will be increased traffic along Forest Road 14. With Labor Day weekend approaching motorists are being asked to drive with caution.
That afternoon Laurel and I were sitting on the deck of the cabin, idly looking toward the little-used dirt road along the Metolius that leads to the Camp Sherman store.
Suddenly a convoy of impressive semi trucks -- silver, sleek, powerful -- zoomed up the road in a loud cloud of dust. We'd never seen any truck that large on the forest service road, much less several of them in a purposeful line.
I didn't get my iPhone out right away. But they looked the same leaving as coming.
There weren't any obvious markings on the trucks. The scene was kind of surreal, like a disaster movie where a peaceful pastoral landscape is transformed by the incursion of unmarked government vehicles out to combat an alien invasion.
I was sure that we'd be detained, never to be seen again, once one of the agents noticed that they were being observed from a nearby cabin.
However, I calmed down a bit when the convoy came to a stop as the lead truck reached the end of the one lane bridge over the Metolius River. I had a sense that the semi driver was trying to decide whether his truck could safely make it over the bridge (which probably was the case; see below).
This pause in the action spurred my wife and me to get our binoculars. I could barely make out lettering that said something like "Fire Management Team." This was reassuring, alien invasion-wise, yet disconcerting for another reason.
That word, "fire."
There weren't any in the immediate vicinity, so far as we knew. Yet five large semis filled with some sort of fire equipment were heading our way. What did they know that we didn't?
Actually, the truth was that we knew something that they didn't. Namely, that the Allingham Guard Station is reached by turning left on a paved road at the Camp Sherman store, not by turning right up an unpaved road that has a sign saying "no turnaround for campers."
The next morning I told a clerk in the store about how we watched the convoy of trucks pull up to the bridge, and how the lead truck went across, then parked, and eventually backed up into our cabin's dead end road to laboriously turn around, while the other semis also turned around with considerable difficulty on the other side of the bridge.
"One of those trucks went across the bridge!" she told me. "Wow. Even the school bus doesn't cross that bridge. It's not designed for large trucks. When we saw them going up that road, we wanted to run out and wave our hands, yelling wrong way, wrong way!"
The clerk said that the trucks were on their way to set up at the Allingham Guard Station, a campground downstream of the Camp Sherman store, but somehow made a wrong turn and headed upstream on the dirt forest service road.
I said to her, "You'd think that firefighting professionals traveling in five giant trucks would have a decent map with them, or at least good directions, plus a GPS device. After they got to the bridge I saw the drivers congregate, seemingly trying to figure out where they were and how they could get to where they needed to go."
At the time I briefly thought about walking over and asking them if they were lost. But knowing how much it irks me when my wife says, "I think you made a wrong turn" when I'm driving, I quickly dismissed that idea.
They figured things out on their own eventually. The trucks convoyed back down the road in a cloud of dust just as impressive as what they made going the other way.
Like I said at the start, what I learned is that firefighters are human. They can get lost. They can make mistakes. Just like everybody else. This made me feel closer to them. I felt a bond with them, watching them turn those big impressive trucks around on a narrow dirt road.
I just hope none of the drivers had his wife with him. I could picture her sitting in the passenger seat, telling him "I told you to turn left at the Camp Sherman store!"
My wife and I can't stand "nose to tail" trail rides where the horses are on automatic pilot and walking is the only equestrian gait we get to experience.
But Jahn and Sheila Hoover's Into the Wild Equine Adventures are, well, a whole other animal. They offer real horse rides in the Monument Peak trail system in the Santiam State Forest near Gates (a few miles north of Mill City), which is about an hour from our home in Salem, Oregon.
Today we took advantage of a Groupon deal and went on a 2 1/2 hour ride with two women who came down from Portland. The four of us, plus Jahn and his young wrangler Elijah, enjoyed walking, trotting, and cantering our way along some beautiful trails.
My on-the-horse photos from our first Into the WIld ride last year turned out better. Today either my iPhone's camera had the shakes, or my horse did (naturally the lack of focus wasn't my fault).
But at least you can get a feel for the lush western Oregon greenness.
I was on Molly, a large black Percheron who looked like she should be charging across a French battlefield -- which her ancestors actually did. We got along fine, once I was used to riding a horse with hooves the size of dinner plates (OK, a small dinner plate).
After the ride, Jahn kindly picked up Molly's leg, something I'd be reluctant to do, so I could take some photographic evidence of her massive hoofprint.
Below is Jahn with one of the Portland riders. This is my kind of horse riding: you drive up to the parking area, and your horse is already saddled. Then, after a brief lesson and some riding tips, you head off on a fun ride through an Oregon forest. When you're done, Jahn and Elijah handle all of the afterride chores.
Sure, it costs money. But so does owning a horse.
Jahn carts the horses around in what looked to me to be tbe world's longest horse trailer. I can't imagine what it'd be like to parallel park this thing.
Here's a photo of his dog, a Corgi,who stayed in the pickup while we rode. Kudos to Jahn for not having a stereotypical cattle dog (when he let the dog out after we got back to the parking area, one of the Portland women said "What happened to his legs!")
Laurel makes Molly look even larger. Her horse was a lot smaller, but also considerably faster. But all of the Into the WIld horses are pleasingly non-ploddy. They have no problem trotting or cantering at a pretty good clip up a decent slope for quite a while.
The extended trotting we did helped me practice a quasi-posting technique that I'm trying to master. I don't want to look too "English," so I don't want to try full blown posting on a Western horse. However, as an intermediate rider I'm feeling quite a bit more comfortable trotting now that I'm getting some up and down movement happening with my legs and thighs.
Laurel and I learned quite a bit about horses today, along with having a good time. Jahn is an excellent instructor -- relaxed and non-critical, yet not hesitant to point out how someone's riding style could be improved.
Today Jahn told us that we shouldn't allow a horse to forcefully nuzzle us with its head. I'm breaking that rule here, as it seemed sort of cute -- how Molly lowered her head and pushed it into my side. However, Jahn said that horses do this to establish dominance in the herd, so if people allow it they're heading down the equine pecking order.
I also learned that a horse should be touched more like a cat than a dog. Meaning, firm "pats" should be reserved for when you want a horse to move a certain way, or otherwise do something you desire. Praise and affection should be done by stroking, something else I didn't know before.
Live and learn. Also, live and have fun. Into the Wild Equine Adventures offers both, for sure.
Here's a You Tube video about Into the WIld that appeared on KGW, Portland's NBC affiliate.
Three Rivers had about 900 people back then. It was the sort of close-knit community where, during the winter when tourists weren't around, if someone unfamiliar was shopping in one of the two small grocery stores, locals would ask each other "Who was that?" when the person left.
It was more than just a gateway to Sequoia National Park. There were quite a few artists, drawn, I suppose, by the beautiful natural landscape: three forks of the Kaweah River, with the Middle Fork flowing down a canyon that offered views of the high Sierras.
During one of her visits, my grandmother hugely enjoyed the time she and the Three Rivers garbage collector got into a deep discussion about art when the guy -- an artist needing a regular job -- came onto our porch to collect the can.
"Where else," she'd say at family gatherings, "can you have a great conversation about art with the garbageman?"
Camp Sherman and Sisters, central Oregon towns about fifteen miles apart, make me feel right at home -- my childhood home. My wife and I own one-fourth of a Forest Service cabin on the Metolius River in Camp Sherman. That makes us about 10% of a full-time resident I guess, since we come to the cabin about a week a month for half the year.
Yesterday I attended the annual meeting of the Metolius River Forest Homeowners Association (MRFHA) at the Camp Sherman community hall. Most of the meeting was about as non-exciting as you'd expect an event like this to be. But when local sheriff Dave Blann stood up to give his report, my small-town soul immediately woke up.
He started off by saying there were no break-in's at any Forest Service cabins this winter, adding "I wish I could take credit for some great policing work, but I suspect the truth is that the bad guys can't afford $4 gallon gas to get up here."
Sheriff Dave checks out suspicious behavior, even when animal-caused. Some cabins have alarms that can be set off by intruders of less than human size.
"It really makes me glad that I chose police work," he told us, "when I'm sneaking around a cabin in the snow, my rifle at the ready, and a squirrel is looking at me thinking What the heck are you doing out here?
Dave said this year he responded to a first-time noise complaint: some campers at Riverside campground (near the head of the Metolius) were annoyed about all the noise people at a Tract C cabin across the river were making. This got a good laugh from the assembled cabin owners (some of whom may have been the culprits).
"Here's the lesson for you," Sheriff Dave said. "If you're having a party, invite your neighbors." Beautiful.
Near the end of his presentation a woman asked, "Do you have a regular routine?" She meant a patrol routine. But before he answered I instantly thought, Wow, maybe he has a comedy routine! Dave should. Really.
Along with Camp Sherman, Sisters was humming with visitors this Fourth of July weekend. Lots of motorcyclists were enjoying great two-wheeling weather and central Oregon scenery. Passers-by, including me, were drawn to one of the many outdoor events the town puts on during the summer, the aptly named Sisters Summer Faire.
Sisters, like Camp Sherman, feels wonderfully welcoming, natural, and unassuming. Almost universally residents are relaxed, polite, casual, friendly.
Simple shopping errands are more pleasant in these small towns. The Sisters Ace Hardware reminds me a bit of the hardware store in Three Rivers when my mother moved there in 1955. It was small, but somehow it had anything you needed. Not that you could find it yourself, the place was so crammed full. The owner knew where stuff was, though.
Without fail, I always stop at Paulina Springs Books when I visit Sisters. It's a terrific independent bookstore, an endangered business species. I'm more than a little ashamed to admit how many books I buy from Amazon. I'm also a frequent buyer at Paulina Springs Books, though.
There's nothing like walking into a bookstore and seeing a "staff favorites" table. Kneeling down and reading the staff reviews of favorite books makes me realize how important it is to be able to pick up a book, thumb through the pages, and see whether you agree with a glowing recommendation by a fellow book lover.
When it came to "Nowhere to Run" by C.J. Box, I sure did.
As soon as I finish this post, I'm going to get back to reading this engrossing paperback mystery. I'd never heard of Box's Joe Pickett (a Wyoming game warden) series before. Thanks to Paulina Springs Books, I'm probably hooked on C.J. Box now.
If you're ever in central Oregon, don't pass up Camp Sherman and Sisters. A visit to the Camp Sherman store (it's the only store in Camp Sherman) will take you back to a simpler time.
My childhood time.
When locals could have their purchases rung up, say "Put it on my account," and the clerk would turn to a bunch of alphabetized mini-ledgers behind the cash register, calling out your name and a "thank you" as you walked out the door.
A lot has changed since I was seven years old. I'm so glad that some towns haven't.
Who says you can't teach an old dog (or guy) new tricks? After sixty-two years of riding horses off and on throughout my life, somehow I'd never learned how to saddle up a horse.
Today, thanks to expert teacher Mike Myers (no, not the comedian), I demolished my false belief that putting on a saddle and bridle required some sort of mysterious skills. All it took was Mike showing me some tricks of the saddling trade in a simple, supportive fashion.
Mike is a wrangler/instructor for the FlySpur Ranch Equishare program that's run out of three locations in the Bend, Oregon area. My wife and I were attracted to this program three years ago after we'd become disenchanted with boring "nose to tail" trail rides, yet weren't inclined to become horse owners ourselves.
With Equishare, you pay a monthly fee that gets you a certain number of riding hours. The cost is quite a bit less per hour than a typical trail ride. Plus, a monthly lesson is included and the type of riding available is limited only by your horsemanship skills. No more trail rides where you plod along at the pace of the least experienced rider.
We'd taken a couple of years off from Equishare, but decided to get back into the FlySpur program this riding season.
Even though it isn't always necessary with Equishare to saddle up your own horse, I was eager to learn how. I'd been shown how to do this before, but the lesson hadn't sunk in. That bothered me -- riding felt kind of like only being able to drink coffee from a coffee house, not being able to brew my own.
This morning Mike got me off to a good start when he said, "I'm going to keep this simple. There's only four things you really need to keep in mind when saddling up a horse." Hey, I thought, I can remember four things. Good teaching technique.
I appreciated Mike offering up some tips about how to move a horse around. I feel pretty comfortable getting a horse to do what I want while I'm riding it. But on the ground, I've been kind of intimidated by how large they are.
Mike demonstrated his "knuckle in the ribs" technique, saying this works better than pushing on a horse with the flat of your hand. He was right. I didn't have any trouble getting Rebel (at least the horse wasn't called Widowmaker) to move into desired saddling stances.
Putting on the bridle was a major breakthrough for me. Again, somehow I'd gone my whole life without ever doing this. Either my horse had been saddled up by a trail guide or instructor, or I'd stood around looking helpless while a friend or relative got the saddle and bridle on.
Horses' mouths appear imposing to me. Putting my hand near a horse jaw in order to insert a nasty looking piece of metal hasn't been on my "Must Do" list. Mike, though, reassured me that my horse was well-trained and would cooperatively open its mouth to take the bit.
Well, sort of. I was met with a clenched teeth reaction that reminded me of how my infant daughter acted when I tried to spoon feed her something she didn't like very much.
Only difference is, I wasn't afraid to put my fingers near her mouth, whereas Mike's advice that "sometimes you have to stick a finger along the gumline" (or words to that effect) wasn't what I wanted to hear as I tried to coax Rebel to open up.
Finally he did, thankfully, leaving me after the horse lesson with all of the fingers that I started with.
After some arena riding and a trail ride, I was kind of disappointed to hear Mike tell us that other riders would be using our horses soon, so we didn't have to take the gear off. Next time hopefully we'll get the whole put-on and take-off experience.
I can see that if you had to saddle and unsaddle horses all day long, it'd get to seem like a chore. But once a month or so, it'll be an equestrian experience for me. I'm looking on this as being akin to a Japanese tea ceremony: the preparation is an integral part of the whole tea-drinking thing.
It felt different on the trail ride, knowing that my saddle had been put on by me -- and wonder of wonders, it wasn't slipping or falling off.
Returning to Rock Springs Ranch, one of the Equishare riding locations, Mike gave us a final tip about how to dismount. Both my wife and I always had embraced the "leap off" approach where we'd slip our right boot out of the stirrup, lift our right leg over the saddle, and then jump off of the horse while sliding the left boot out of the stirrup.
Which, Mike explained, runs the risk of having the left boot getting caught against the horse's belly, or otherwise stuck in the stirrup. Instead, he said, we should try leaving the tip of our left boot in the stirrup, then simply step down with our right leg onto the ground.
Whoa! That worked.
It'd never dawned on me before that if I'm flexible enough to stand on the ground and get my left boot in the stirrup when I'm getting on my horse, obviously I could reverse the process and leave my left boot in the stirrup while I put my right boot on the ground when I'm getting off the horse.
Yup, we're learning new tricks. Mike will show us a lot more, I'm sure, during our next FlySpur Ranch Equishare riding times.
On the first day of our Maui vacation my wife asked me if I was going snorkeling. This is her favorite ocean activity. I hate it.
"No," I said. "Snorkeling is a been there, done that thing for me. Water gets in my mask because I have a beard. The fish all look the same after a while. I'd rather sit on the beach and observe the varieties of humans. That's more interesting to me."
Here's the results of my enjoyable late April - early May research. (Click on photo to enlarge.)
Quasi-fit older male. Sitting on the beach for as long as I did, watching barely clad humanity pass by, I quickly realized that lots of people are sadly out of shape. It was good to see older guys who looked fairly fit, even if they had some extra pounds on them.
Beach "surfers." I'm someone who likes to use my boogie board on large waves breaking quite a ways offshore. But these girls had a lot of fun with waves right on the beach. Each to his own; that's the hang loose Hawaii philosophy.
Gaggle of girls. Teenage girls seemed more likely to form into groups than the guys did. Here's a foursome.
Heavy-laden beachgoer. The top example happens to be my wife, Laurel. Beach bag, snorkel gear, mat, umbrella. Umbrella was a mistake; it was on the patio of our condo but was found to be broken after Laurel carted it halfway down the beach.
Paddleboarding with kid. This was common. The kids seemed to enjoy the carefree ride. Even (or especially) if Mom or Dad dumped them in the ocean.
Color coordinated mother-daughter. The woman's other daughter wore purple also.
Paddle board fishingpeople. She was the only example I saw of this rare breed. She carried her gear and pole in a box on her board while the guy she was with used a kayak.
Off-shore boogie boarder. This could have been me, except I'd just come in from riding the waves and (obviously) was sitting on the beach with my camera. The boogie boarding was pretty blah this trip; no large waves, just some middling ones breaking over a reef area.
Colorful sea life. Some people go in for bright inflatable fun. I liked how they added dashes of color to the surface of the ocean, just as tropical fish do underneath.
Maxi-Americanus. This variety of over-stuffed human was much in evidence. The guy's shirt reads "Eat Crab." Dude, I think you've done enough of that, along with the butter sauce.
Mini female, maxi male. A variation of the above, which was quite a bit more common than the reverse -- maxi female, mini male. Go figure (if you're Donald Trump or otherwise wildly wealthy, that's often the answer -- a big-figured bank account).
Older lady clumping. This group was having a good time until a large wave impelled by a rising tide washed over them. The lady in the middle got dragged into the ocean and had a difficult time getting up until several people came to her rescue.
Fully sun-screened child. I saw this girl several times. Sometimes she wore shorts instead of the pants outfit. Nicely protected from the sun, perhaps for a medical reason.
Gray-haired bobber. Common variety of beach life. Hey, it describes me. But savvy photographer that I am, I never turned the camera on myself.
Fit not-so-young-anymore woman. A photographic surprise. My eye for curves spotted her and I fired up my telephoto lens. Then she turned around and I said to myself, "Whoa, she's old! And fit. And still damn good looking."
Extra large beached male. Yes, this specimen did manage to rise from its resting place of the sand. But it was touch and go for a while.
Locals chilling out. On the weekend and late in the afternoon some of the permanent residents would visit the beach. They were easy to distinguish from the touristas.
Guy tribe. Young dudes on the beach usually don't clump together and chat like the dudettes do. They often engage in mysterious behavior, like taking a photo of the beach while his buddy says, "What the fuck, man?! It's just fucking sand!"
Athletic wave player. This local girl could do some rad (is that still a "hip" word?) tricks with her boogie board on beach-breaking waves. Fun to watch. Even more fun to do, I assume.
The metal detector guy. Guess every beach has one. He came out early in the morning. I thought this was ridiculous... until I got home and heard that many people lose expensive rings in the ocean, sometimes right after they've gotten married on Maui.
Just married's on Maui. Speaking of which... I saw several beach weddings. What a great idea. No rental fee. No (or few) guests. No decorations other than nature. Honeymoon starts right after the wedding. This looked like a double wedding to me. Or maybe a renewal of vows for the older couple.
Rock crawlers. Some humans enjoy creeping around tide pools, looking at something or other. Me, I preferred to sit on the beach with a telephoto lens, looking at the rock crawlers.
Ocean dog. Since Hawaii has a lengthy waiting period to bring in a dog, only the locals could bring theirs to the beach. My wife would get all homesick for our family canine when she saw a dog playing in the water. This one wasn't wild about the ocean, but did its best to follow its owner.
Gray haired rock percher. Actually, this guy was quite fit and did a bunch of swimming. Apparently he was just taking a breather on a reef rock. (You're not supposed to touch them, but tourists do lots of things they're not supposed to do.)
Paddleboard walker. OK, she wasn't actually taking her paddleboard for a leash walk. I'm not sure what she was doing. Whatever it was, she looked good doing it.
Stylish non-swimmer. Occasionally I'd spot beachgoers who weren't dressed for the water. This girl was just dressed to look good.
Heavily tattooed macho man. There were quite a few of these on the beach. It seemed that if you were twenty to thirty-five, a tattoo of some sort was almost obligatory. This guy had an especially dramatic tattoo, though. When I saw it, I thought "Man, that's unusual." Then, like a minute later...
This guy walked by. That's what keeps me an avid observer of human beach life. You never know what variety will pop up next.
My wife and I have come to Maui almost every year for several decades. Being vegetarians (but not vegans), naturally the many seafood and steak restaurants don't interest us.
Good veggie food does, particularly if it is local and organic.
Since we always stay on Napili Bay, we're most familiar with vegetarian dining on the Lahaina side of Maui. Which, sadly, isn't as veggie-friendly as the funkier areas of the island such as Paia.
Here's some of our favorite places to eat vegetarian on Maui:
-- Whole Foods Market and Down to Earth Natural Foods, Kahalui. These are our first stops after we pick up our rental car at the airport. Whole Foods is new to Maui; Down to Earth is the long-time local natural food store. Each has a good selection of vegetarian take-out. Down to Earth is completely veggie with a more pleasing vibe. We buy a bunch of groceries at each before heading to our Napili condo
-- Mala Ocean Tavern, Lahaina. This usually is our first dinner eat-out spot. It's right on the ocean (but make a reservation if you want an outside table; Mala is busy around dinner time). We share a Farmer's Salad and the Hummus Quartet plate. The pita bread is excellent, along with the service. There aren't many other veggie options, but these two are worth a vegetarian's visit.
-- Lahaina Coolers, Lahaina. This restaurant and bar is just a few blocks from Front Street. It's open late, so we like to peruse the shops and art galleries early in the evening, then head to Lahaina Coolers for a meal. I love the Local Harvest Stirfry: green soba noodles, veggies, and fried tofu. My wife wasn't as wild about her Red Pepper Risotto; she liked the grilled veggie skewer and wanted more of it, with less risotto.
-- Hula Grill, Kaanapali Beach. One night during our stay we head to the Whaler's Village shopping center. After wandering around for a while the Hula Grill is our favorite dining choice. It's best to walk into the dining room, rather than the Barefoot Bar side of the restaurant. You can still eat outside by the beach, but you get a choice of three menus. We like to order a couple of veggie side dishes from the dining room menu, along with the $10 Tofu and Vegetable Stack. Healthy and relatively inexpensive dining in a great beachfront atmosphere.
-- Aina Gourmet Market, Lahaina. We've only been here once, as it recently opened. It's sort of hard to find, especially in the dark. The Market is mostly take-out, but the pleasant server/barista girl heated up some dishes for us in the microwave. We ate them at a small coffee bar, then took an oceanside stroll along the Honua Kai Resort grounds. The food is organic, local, and pretty spendy. Still cheaper, though, than eating at a regular restaurant.
-- Flatbread Company, Paia. There's quite a few good vegetarian eating options in funky Paia, on the other side of Maui from Lahaina. If you're in the mood for pizza, you can't go wrong at the Flatbread Company. I can't recall ever eating a better veggie pizza than the Vegan offering. We added some goat cheese and organic rosemary to it. My conclusion: every veggie pizza should have avocados and be cooked in a wood-fired oven.
-- Pita Paradise, Kihei. This is my favorite eating spot on the south side of Maui. If they had a Pita Paradise back in Salem, Oregon, I'd be ecstatic. What a great idea: to offer homemade tasting pita bread filled with all kinds of delectable options, some of which are vegetarian. This informal restaurant is next to a covered shopping bazaar, which adds to its "must eat here'ness" for us.
-- Thai Chef, Lahaina. Sometimes we stop by Thai Chef and get some takeout food for eating in our condo after putting in a calorie-depleting several hours of shopping on Front Street. I wouldn't say that this is the best Thai food I've ever tasted, but it's pretty darn good -- though I agree with some Trip Advisor reviews that the portions could be larger. Still, it's another good option for vegetarians, albeit with a shopping center atmosphere (which is why we usually get take-out and return to Napili Bay).
I don't remember a whole lot of specifics about "On Golden Pond." The basics of the movie remain with me, though: every year an aging couple returns to the same vacation spot, a house on a lake.
I understand the allure of going to different places. However, I'm more of an "On Golden Pond" guy. Nothing stays the same -- not us, not a place, nothing in the cosmos. So there's always plenty of differentness if we keep our eyes open for it.
Napili Bay changes a lot in a single day. Heck, in just a few minutes. The photo above isn't of lights from across the bay. It's the setting sun being reflected in windows.
Doing the same activities year after year, but for only a few days annually, offers me a free-of-charge Geezerhood Assessment -- not as scientific as a trip to the Mayo Clinic yet personally edifying. Also, satisfying, since so far I've been finding that age hasn't much altered how Napili Bay and I relate.
One day I'll just be an old guy. Not a highly enjoyable thought. Yet the photos above and below were of the sunset a few minutes older. I found these moments even more attractive, how the colors in the sky stood out when the brightness of the sun lessened.
Picking out a rental car at the National lot, a young woman staffing the exit booth asked if she could help me. I was staring at the offerings in the Emerald Club Aisle, where members can choose whichever car they want.
"My wife and I don't travel light," I told her. "Some people come to Maui with a backpack. We come with two giant suitcases, a duffel bag, and a boogie board. So I need a car with quite a bit of space." I heard her chuckle.
A few minutes later, when I pulled up to her booth in a trunk-spacious vehicle, she said, "I laughed when you mentioned people who come to Maui with just a backpack, because that's what I did. No job. No place to stay. I just came. And now I have this job."
"You're young," I told her. "That's what young people do: whatever. If it rains and you don't have a raincoat, you just get wet. No big deal. But my wife and I plan ahead, envisioning what kind of weather Maui might throw at us. So we end up bringing a lot of just in case stuff. Hence, the big suitcases."
I liked talking with the National Car Rental girl. She reminded me of how footloose we are when we're younger, and how, as the years go by, we become increasingly set in our ways.
Part of me envied this twenty-something who could fly off to Maui to live with just a backpack, while my wife and I come to visit with a whole lot more. But, hey, we're us -- three times twenty-something.
Age has its own rewards. LIke finding your Golden Pond, and returning to it year after year, always finding something new in something old.
We Oregonians enjoy putting down southern California: so crowded, the freeways!, smog, too many people. Etc, etc.
But whenever my wife and I visit my daughter and her family, who live at the bottom of the Hollywood Hills, I realize how much there is to like about this area. I wouldn't want to live there permanently, but for a weekend... delightful.
This time we were fortunate to be able to stay nearby in a cute, quirky, "bungalow" owned by friends of my daughter. They gave us a discount on the usual rental price, which was much appreciated.
So for a few days we got to experience what's it like to live on top of the Hollywood Hills.
The view is pretty spectacular, to put it mildly. I think that's downtown Los Angeles in the distance but wouldn't swear to it. The lower elevation Hollywood Dells, where my daughter lives, is in the near foreground.
Here's the view from the living room. At night the lights were mesmerizing.
We liked the eclectic creative interior design. It's an old concrete block house with a lot of character.
Laurel enjoyed browsing through the artsy coffee table books. One, "Alison Parker Confidential," had her believing that the photos of celebrities and other famous people in compromising positions were real. Eventually she read the intro, where Parker says that body doubles were used. Amazingly realistic.
Monkey and a martini. That's my idea of fine art.
Whenever we eat in the Hollywood area, I'm reminded of how crappy the vegetarian dining options are in Salem, Oregon (where we live) compared to the much more health conscious southern California restaurant scene. Here's the hummus plate with a tasty variety of bread that we got at Le Pain Quotidien. Loved it!
On our last night the setting sun cast a golden glow on a distant building. It was an L.A. moment. Flashy, large-scale, captivating.
Laurel and I had read in the Sisters Nugget weekly about the opening of a hike/bike/ride trail that goes from Camp Sherman to Suttle Lake. On Labor Day we decided to give it a try, starting from the Camp Sherman end.
Wisely. Also, necessarily, because we were staying at our co-owned forest service cabin along the Metolius River and didn't have an extra car for a shuttle.
I say "wisely" because on this trail we had to break our usual rule of mountain biking: namely, don't bike up any mountains. Or even steep hills. So it was good that we did our almost five miles of uphill riding when we were fresh rather than tired.
The Lake Creek trail is at least a 95% constant up-up-up grade from Camp Sherman. Which figures, since creeks always flow downhill (Lake Creek runs from Suttle Lake into the Metolius River and the trail mostly parallels it.)
But don't let this scare you off if, like us, you aren't an avid mountain biker. We only had to walk our bikes a few times on the way up; mostly the trail is easily pedalable.
I took my iPhone photos on the way back to Camp Sherman after we reached Suttle Lake. So here's how the Lake Creek trail looks on its downward path.
Just as with the Camp Sherman "Creeks and Coffee" trail which Laurel and I described and named, a great thing about riding the Lake Creek trail upward at first is being able to have a coffee and dessert break in a charming setting -- the Lodge at Suttle Lake's Boathouse Restaurant. Just turn left, then right, when the trail ends and you get to the paved road at Suttle Lake.
There are lots of trail signs. Horses are directed on one side, bikes on the other. Makes sense, for horse manure and horse hoof reasons. On the way to Suttle Lake, I noticed with some irritation that a horse had walked on the bike side, which made the soft dusty sections of the trail even softer and dustier.
This was the only place where we did some "where's the trail?" head scratching on the way up. You can see a sign post in the middle of the downward trail. Going up, head straight across the cleared area. The trail sign is out of sight for some reason, just around a corner.
Someone(s) with the Deschutes Land Trust seemingly labored at making a horse/bike divider along a fairly lengthy stretch of trail. Thanks, guys/gals. I enjoyed seeing almost all of the hoof marks clustered together, given how sandy this section of trail was.
Here's a close-up of early September dry ground in central Oregon. Not fun to bike through, especially going uphill. But manageable. In chatting with our youthful mountain biking waiter at the Boathouse Restaurant about the trail, he said that some recent rains had made it considerably less sandy. Geez, I'm glad we didn't bike it pre-rain.
This is the beginning of the trail in Camp Sherman. It's directly across from Sternberg Road. Watch for the Sternberg Road signpost on the right, a little ways past the Camp Sherman Community Hall (if you're coming from Highway 20).
We enjoyed our bike ride.
If I recall correctly, my iPhone's AccuTerra Unlimited GPS app said it was 4.7 miles, one way. It took us about 75 minutes to get to Suttle Lake, and 45 minutes to pedal mostly downhill to Camp Sherman -- including water and photography stops.
The trail would be more enjoyable earlier or later in the year when it shouldn't be as soft and dusty. But any time is a good time to head out on the Lake Creek trail.
My wife loves horses, but we don't have one. So she's always on the lookout for good trail rides. We've paid our money and taken our chances with quite a few stables in the Willamette Valley and central Oregon.
Almost always, we've been disappointed.
Laurel is a very good rider; I'm a decent rider. We don't enjoy plodding along with a rules-obsessed guide who is taking out a bunch of inexperienced riders, because if one person can't handle a trot or canter everybody is forced to walk their horse the whole time.
Yesterday we had a wonderfully different experience with Jahn Hoover, who runs Into the Wild Equine Adventures along with his wife, Sheila. Our ride started from a trailhead of the Monument Peak Trail System in Gates, Oregon, just a few miles from Highway 22.
Jahn and I have known each other for many years, but I assure you that this review of his trail ride is untainted by our friendship. Laurel and I didn't know what to expect when we set out for Gates, which is about an hour's drive from our home in south Salem.
We had no trouble finding the trailhead at the beginning of Monument Peak Road, where the pavement turns to gravel. Jahn was waiting for us, horses almost ready to go. He trailers them from his home in Mill City.
The horses were a big cut above the usual riding stable steeds. (Read all about them.) I got Shelby, a smooth-gaited Tennessee Walker. Laurel rode Venus, an Arabian mare. Jahn gave us some brief reining instruction, then we were good to go, seated on nifty Australian saddles with snacks and water in the saddle bags.
We were indeed immediately "into the wild." At least, it felt like it. Most of our two hour ride went through a beautiful mix of fir forest and deciduous trees such as vine maples. Our horses were energetic and had no trouble trotting their way up some fairly steep slopes.
Laurel chose to wear her riding helmet. I declined. Each to his or her own. As with every trail ride we've been on, Jahn had us sign a form in which we acknowledge the risk of accidents, disability, death, and other trifles. One part says that wearing a helmet makes a ride safer, which is true. I just like the feel of going helmetless.
We stopped at an overlook where I got Jahn to pose. He's a hair and make-up artist in his other professional life, so I guess it isn't surprising that he'd have the wild west look down. (Nice chaps, dude.)
Jahn gave us a nice mix of walking, trotting, and cantering. I suspect that this mix differs with every group he takes out, based on the skill level and desires of the riders. I hadn't ridden for a while, but it didn't take long to feel comfortable on Shelby.
Once I got back into the habit of keeping my heels down in the stirrups, aided by some tips from Jahn, I heartily enjoyed Shelby's spirited canters, which Laurel (who rode behind me) said were almost as fast as gallops. Shelby is only four years old, so I was riding a well-trained youngster with lots of energy.
Jahn has a nice relaxed view of horse training and horsemanship. Not undisciplined, for sure, just natural. He said it was OK to let the horses eat on the trail, so long as they kept moving. (The horses don't have bits.)
On our way back, Shelby picked up some dry grass and kept it in her mouth for a long time until we reached the horse trailer. She seemed to be saying, "Look how cool I am," kind of like our dog when she walks around with a stick in her mouth.
Since Laurel and I enjoy riding horses, but we don't like all the work and expense involved in owning them, it was great to arrive at the end of our ride, jump off Shelby and Venus, and watch Jahn handle all of the post-ride chores.
Yes, it cost us a fair amount to go on the two-hour ride. Yet it was a heck of a lot less than buying two horses and all of their gear, fencing part of our property, buying a trailer and large pickup to haul the horses around, and taking care of the animals every day.
Here they are, about to head for home.
After we said goodbye to Jahn and thanked him for a highly enjoyable ride, we stopped at Rosie's Mountain Coffee House in Mill City for lunch. Great choice, thanks to Jahn's recommendation. Good coffee and excellent vegetarian options.
In the title of this post I called "Into the Wild" the best trail ride in western Oregon. OK, I'll admit that we haven't experienced every trail ride in this area. But like I said, we've tried a lot of them, and we know what the usual stable offers.
Which is a lot less than what we got from Jahn: energetic well-trained horses, a beautiful setting, plus individualized attention and riding tips (along with tasty snacks). In our experience, you can find a cheaper trail ride, but you won't find a better trail ride.
Today Laurel and I, along with neighbors Tim and Jan, trekked up I-5 to Portland to pursue a dream. More accurately, six of them -- the new homes featured in the 2010 NW Natural Street of Dreams.
We enjoy looking at fancier houses than ours, as do many other people, judging from the crowded Street of Dreams parking lot, even on a Monday. This seems to be partly a lifestyles of the rich and famous sort of voyeurism, and partly a desire to get ideas for fulfilling homeowner desires.
(Guess that's why this is called a Street of Dreams.)
As you'll see from my photo comments below, Laurel gets turned on, architecturally speaking, by different stuff than I do. I'd forgotten that my camera was set on VGA mode, so the quality of the photos improves after I remembered to change the setting.
In house #1 we thought, "Man, it'd be great to be a kid again who sleeps and plays in this terrific piece of furniture." Bed is up the stairs. Play room and storage is through the "secret" door in the middle.
The master bathroom was about as big as an apartment I had in college.
Amazingly, this was the walk-in closet for the master bedroom. We thought the wood work was overdone. Why not have clothes out in the open where you can see them, rather than hidden away in drawers? (If you can afford this house, you're going to have nice clothes that deserve to be seen.)
What gets her blood pumping are walk-in closets, of which we have precisely zero in our 1973-era house. But she couldn't understand why the mirror only showed the mirroree from the waist down, basically.
In between houses #2 and #3 we couldn't resist taking a look at a maxi-motor home. Jan likes to camp. This is how you do it in style, complete with an outside TV in case the sunset isn't worth watching.
We liked the open layout of the house, which reminded us of our own home. But this is what divides the master bedroom (and hence, bed) from the living room and kitchen. When the kids are up watching TV, mommy and daddy need to be quiet in their intimate moments.
Great media room. But with two rows of seating, I felt that if I lived here and watched TV by myself, I'd be thinking "where are my friends?" (Of course, if I lived in this house, I have a feeling that suddenly I'd have lots of friends. Or at least, people who wanted to come over to my house and pretend they were my friends.)
Pretty classy exercise room for a private home.
I liked how the stones made this bathroom sink look. But brushing my teeth in it would seem so wrong. (Would I have to notify DEQ of an environmental pollution?)
Looking at the master bedroom, Laurel and I realized that our bed is way behind the architectural times.
Moving from a $1,700,000 house to the final stop on the Street of Dreams (actually several streets, as a van transported us around the Skyline neighborhood), a $148,000 modular house, not counting the lot and installation, restored some yin-yang balance to our tour. Laurel and Jan are admiring a simple water feature.
Well, after three previous photo posts of our Banff (Canada) trip you knew the big finale was coming -- a grizzly bear shot! I mean, a shot of a grizzly bear, not a photo of a grizzly bear that's been shot.
Laurel had been hoping to see a grizzly bear the six days we'd been in the Banff area prior to heading to the Lake Louise gondola on our last full vacation day. The gondola folks claim they offer the best grizzly bear viewing in the Canadian Rockies.
Bingo! Or rather, Bearo! However, this creature was a freaking long ways from the chair lift, uphill and on a slope to our right. It's a testimony to the powerful zoom on my Sony camera and its image stabilization feature that the bear looks as close as it does. But hey, it's a grizzly bear! If we hadn't been dozens of feet in the air and hundreds of feet away, we could have been eaten alive!
After descending on the gondola, without another bear sighting, we headed to Moraine Lake -- a short distance from Lake Louise. This being an August weekend, more than a few other people had the same idea. We were lucky to find a parking spot on the side of the road not too far from the official parking area.
The several mile long trail to Consolation Lakes started off with a grizzly bear alert. You're supposed to hike in groups of four or more. Note the bear spray on my right hip. Laurel was carrying a bear bell. We were prepared. It took us a couple of days after arriving in Banff to decide that bear spray was a wise purchase. After all, it only cost about $35, about the same as a meal. And it promised to lessen our chances of becoming a meal. Plus, I thought it looked cool on my belt.
At the start of the Consolation Lakes trail, at first there's no sign of water. Just a healthy rock fall. But there's snow melt running under the rocks, which we could hear as soon as we started making our way across.
Getting close to the lakes requires a lot of rock hopping. Our sixty-something bodies did pretty darn good at it. I only hit a few tippy rocks that made me think oops, bad stepping choice when I landed on them.
I encountered my own close-at-hand wildlife. This is a rare sighting of a chipmunk which, bizarrely, had specks on its head that looked exactly like the granola bar crumbs that I dumped from the wrapper onto a rock. Amazing coincidence.
I love wilderness hikes that end in a civilized fashion. We enjoyed some coffee and pastries before driving back to Lake Louise, where I left my bear spray, gratis, with the front desk folks at the hostel. I told them this was an act of random kindness from an Oregon guy, and that anyone who uses the canister can keep the giving going. Maybe someday I'll read about a Banff area hiker saved from a grizzly attack by donated bear spray.
(Bear spray can't be mailed and it can't be taken on an airplane, so leaving the spray was our only choice -- which I guess takes away a bit from the good karma of this act of kindness.)
OK, this is my third blog post in a row about our trip to Banff, Canada. But hey -- when my wife and I spend a bunch of money and time venturing out of Oregon to sightsee, I want to share my photo souvenirs as widely as possible.
These are of a hiking excursion at Sunshine Meadows, only twenty minutes or so from Banff. In the winter Sunshine Village Ski Resort worships the white stuff. In summer, flowers rule on the high mountain meadows.
After forking over $52 for two tickets, a bus took us from the lower reaches of the ski resort to a dropoff at the upper lodge that is three miles away and about 1,500 feet higher.
Given the word "meadows" in the excursion name, Laurel and I had pictured strolling right away through mostly horizontal land. Instead, we were met with a beautifully constructed and maintained trail system which, not so beautifully, began with about three-quarters of a mile of distinct upward slopingness.
Eating an apple on a bench overlooking the lake led to a bunch of furry friends wanting to make my acquaintance. Or rather, to get to know my apple better. Ignoring the cautions against feeding wildlife, I decided that a creature this cute and this tame couldn't be considered "wild." Plus, I gave it a healthy piece of apple.
We've been impressed with the neatness and cleanness of Canada. Things just seem better organized and better maintained than in U.S. parks. For example, the trail signs. They're all neatly lettered on metal. No rotting, fractured wood like you see in Oregon, often with something crucial missing -- like the direction arrow or distance. Canada rules when it comes to public services, from the admittedly little we've experienced.
This was taken from the Standish viewpoint, looking down on Rock Isle Lake and Laryx Lake. My heart and lungs asked, "how #$%!&! high have you made us climb?" I fired up Motion X's GPS iPhone app. Answer: we were at about 7,800 feet, while the spot where the bus left us off is at 7,150 feet. The weather was cool and drizzly, or my heart and lungs would have been complaining even more.
I loved the greens at Grizzly Lake. Also, the fact that there weren't any grizzlies. I did, though, have a $35 canister of bear spray attached to my pack. We decided to follow the better safe than sorry adage when we got to Banff, since we planned to take a hike or two in grizzly country. For the cost of a meal, it made sense to improve our chances of not becoming a meal.
Waiting for the bus to arrive, cup of coffee in hand, we saw the largest animal on our excursion. As we walked along Laurel had spent a lot of time looking through binoculars at rocky slopes for bears, mountain goats, or any other creature larger than a ground squirrel.
Naturally, soon after we got in our car and started to drive back to Banff, we saw a large herd of mountain goats browsing by the side of the road. Unscarable, I drove up next to them and took some photos from the car window.
It didn't take long for me to realize that most of the photos I was getting were butt shots. Laurel said she'd heard this is typical of mountain goat photography, since they usually are eating with their heads upslope. Live and learn.
As shown in my Day 1 report of our first-time visit to Banff, Canada, we rain-habituated Oregonians hit a semi-wet period north of the border -- which made us feel right at home.
Day 2 we headed to Johnston Canyon for a creekside hike, figuring that if we were going to get rained on it'd be better to be viewing close-in scenery rather than distant cloud-cloaked mountains.
Much of the 1.7 mile hike (one way) is along walkways that have been built along the stony sides of the canyon. Impressive construction feat. In grizzly bear country you're supposed to walk in groups of four. On this hike we often were in groups of dozens.
Suddenly she yelled, "I think I saw one!" I made a quick u-turn and stopped. Yes, there was a black bear eating berries (we assume) just a little ways off the road. A passing bicyclist and a large truck scared the bear off before we could get a better shot than this.
At the other end... even grander all-natural majesty. Craggy snow clad mountains. Glaciers. Definitely the most beautiful lake I've ever seen. We overheard a waitress at the Fairmont telling a customer that the lake can be frozen until June. "We love to see the green appear," she said.
As we approached the dock after our half hour was up, a guide was taking tourists out in a Canadian flag-bedecked canoe. I would have sung the national anthem if I'd known the words, and if this wouldn't have wrecked the serenity of Lake Louise, which it would have, for sure.
The next day we went back to Lake Louise to tackle the famous Lake Agnes hike. Laurel had woken me up before I was ready, all excited: "There's not a cloud in the sky! We've got to get going!"
So even after driving 45 minutes or so, it took a while for my body to get used to the idea of climbing 1,300 feet in 2.2 miles. This is a fairly mild slope at the beginning of the hike, which begins past the Fairmont, on the shore of Lake Louise. From here on, it's all uphill -- from about 5,700 feet to 7,000 feet.
The Lake Agnes teahouse. Geez, it's easy to love Canada. In the United States there'd be an ugly Starbucks franchise on the shores of Lake Agnes, not a teahouse where hikers pour tea and coffee from stainless steel decanters. Very civilized.
Sitting on a lakeshore rock, eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that we'd brought along, an incredibly cute forest creature begged for a bit of whole wheat bread. I answered his/her prayer, while my environmentalist wife kept saying, "You shouldn't feed them! It's unnatural!" Agreed. But I couldn't help myself.
Laurel decided to hike further up the trail than my tired legs felt like going. She saw a Marmot along the way, which stayed still long enough for her to fire up her iPhone camera.
Then I returned to the teahouse and ordered a pot of coffee while I waited for Laurel to return. I invited an English couple to share my table, the teahouse seating being limited. They taught me how to handle the French Press pot the coffee came in. Then we talked some politics.
The woman was particularly down on Labor/Labour, more than her husband seemingly, so was happy that the political tide had changed in Britain. I argued that we American progressives wished our country was more English-like, especially in regard to health care. In the end we agreed that if the United States was too suspicious of government, and Great Britain was too reliant on government, then Canada was just right.
Reaching Lake Louise, some purple flowers looked great against the green water. It also felt great to be walking horizontally again. But no regrets about the Lake Agnes hike. If you ever have a chance to do it, don't think twice.
(You'll have time to do that while on the way up, when my near-sea level acclimated lungs kept saying to me, "What the hell have you gotten us into, Brian?")
Our vacation in Banff (Alberta, Canada) went great after a rocky start checking in with United Airlines/Air Canada at the Portland airport.
Remember the good old days when, even though you were traveling in coach, you were checked in by a real live person who could deal with problems and questions on the spot?
Those days are gone if you're traveling United/Air Canada out of PDX.
We were forced to use an annoying electronic kiosk prior to checking our bags. It recognized my passport, but was clueless about my wife's reservation. The machine told her to pick up a phone and talk to someone.
Who, not surprisingly, had an Indian accent.
Eventually this incompetent bodiless voice told Laurel to talk to an agent. Only problem was, none of the people behind the counter were agents -- just worker bees whose sole job was to handle luggage after the kiosk check-in process was finished.
So we had to flag down the only real agent, a guy who was simultaneously directing a long line of people to open kiosks, and also deal with frantic passengers who, as their departure time approached, were getting understandably angry at the inability of the electronic kiosks to manage their check-in.
The guy took Laurel's passport, said he'd help her, then dashed around for another ten minutes or so before getting back to her.
The experience was deeply frustrating. It shows how airline passengers are getting screwed by cost-cutting moves, since error prone machines have now replaced competent humans at United/Air Canada (in Portland, Oregon, at least).
Having gotten that negativity off my chest, here's photos of our positive first day in Banff.
Walking from the Rundlestone Inn, where we stayed, to central Banff only took us about ten minutes. Just before we reached the shopping area we came across a charming memorial to pioneer travelers. They were lucky they didn't have to deal with United/Air Canada.
Turning the other way, down Banff Avenue, reveals another inspring view if you're into quality shopping, as both Laurel and I are (she more than me, but I'm an avid browser of t-shirt and outdoor stores, both of which abound in Banff).
Leaving downtown, we walked across the Bow River in a steady drizzle. As Oregonians used to dealing with rain, we were prepared. I wished I'd brought a breathable jacket, though, after walking a while in my cheapie Columbia Sportswear piece of plasticosity.
Leaving the hotel under sunnier skies, the Fairmont looked much less Jack Nicholson'ish.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Sometimes the morality of a situation is stunningly simple.
Only one word kept echoing in my head after I spotted some out-of-place debris as I was walking along the Metolius River in central Oregon, past the Riverside campground near the headwaters.
So this trash was out of place. Unusual. Unexpected. And wrong.
We usually come to the Metolius once a month from April through October, being 1/4 owners of a Forest Service cabin in between the Camp Sherman store and the headwaters.
Most evenings I take the dog for a walk upriver until we reach the private property just past the Riverside campground. I've done this for quite a few years. I'd never seen more than a discarded candy bar wrapper, or such, on the ground.
Staring at the scattered trash, I got some insight into how residents of the Gulf Coast must feel right now, with the BP oil spill despoiling the beaches and marshes. Like me, they're used to the land looking a certain way -- not fouled by human error and incompetence.
I took the dog back to the cabin, fed her, and faced a decision. I wanted to take a nap. But I could tell that I wasn't going to be able to relax until I did something about the debris lying in between the campground and the river.
I found some trash bags and gloves. Then I rode my mountain bike back to the scene of the environmental crime.
Inspecting the area for clues, I was surprised to find an unused black trash bag. There also was another bag with quite a few shredded holes. Probably some people ignored the "take out what you bring in" rule and left a bag full of garbage at their camp site, where a coyote, raccoon, or whatever dragged it away and then ripped it open.
It took me about twenty minutes to pick up the trash. I was meticulous. There were many tiny bits of plastic and paper scattered around. I'm pretty sure I found every one.
I felt like this was a small thing to do for the planet, for nature -- a sort of penance for all the environmental despoliation that I, and virtually every other American, create just by living the sort of lifestyles that we do.
I wanted to find a piece of paper with some sort of identifying information on it, so I could track the people down and tell them about the mess they caused by their carelessness. Wasn't able to.
Gulf Coast residents do know who caused their land, and wildlife, to be covered with oily crap. I can understand their anger, their desire to kick some butt, their insistence that BP had got to pay for what the company has done.
There's nothing funny about the BP disaster. But I enjoyed laughing as I watched this video, "BP spills coffee." Good acting. And utterly believable, in an unbelievable way.
I felt some trepidation when my wife and I saw this sign as we got to Camp Sherman (central Oregon) last weekend. We're part owners of a cabin along the Metolius River that sits on leased Forest Service land.
Forest fires are an ever-present danger.
Several have burnt large acreages in the Camp Sherman, Black Butte Ranch, and Sisters areas in recent years. Wildfires used to naturally control the density of vegetation, but now that humans control fires, the forests are way overgrown.
We know this.
But when we heard rumbling early Monday morning and went out to the edge of the road to see what was going on, our environmentalist hearts still beat a bit faster when we saw what was coming out of the land on the other side of the road from the cabins.
I waved to the driver of the truck as he went by. I felt good that the logging industry was getting some much-needed work in these lean economic times. It seems that stimulus dollars are responsible for the increased thinning in the Camp Sherman area, which is being done by Melcher Logging of Sweet Home.
Later in the day, Laurel and I went for a walk near and through the area being thinned. This section near Forest Service Road 1419 hasn't been touched yet. Or at least, not recently. There are lots of small trees -- good candidates for thinning.
A Sweet Home paper's article about Melcher Logging has a right-on quote from Scott Melcher's younger brother, Robbie (Scott runs the company).
Robbie Melcher said that working in the Camp Sherman area puts them “right in the middle of the environmentalists. It’s a pretty high-profile area.”
Yes, we're two of them Prius-driving, latte-sipping, Obama-voting greenies. By and large, Laurel and I are on board with thinning projects like this one. So is the environmental movement in general, as evidenced by an Oregonian story about a similar Melcher project near Sisters.
There's a clear demarcation where the thinning is supposed to stop. This tag faces into a butte that we like to climb for exercise and the view. It was good to see that it's off limits to tree-falling.
Transformer-like, it latches onto a tree with a fiendishly complicated "mouth," and bites it off. (The tree slanting to the right is its current victim.)
Then somehow the Timberjack also is able to strip the tree of its branches and cuts the trunk into suitable lengths. Way cool.
Further down the path I came across this machine, cleverly disguised as a big pile of branches.
The grabber thingie picks up branches that the Timberjack has cut and puts them on the back of the machine. Also way cool.
Then I came to a large pile of logs. How did they get there?
Here's the answer. Another machine that looks like it'd be a lot of fun to play with. It runs around the forest and picks up the stripped logs that the Timberjack has cut, then piles them neatly in this storage area.
What isn't so neat is the damage all this equipment is doing to the area, which used to have only some walking/biking/riding trails and some minimal traces of long-unused dirt roads. I hope the Forest Service requires Melcher Logging to smooth out and reseed these tracks.
Here's a giant pile of branches waiting to be retrieved by the Picker-Up Machine (I'm a bit vague on the technical names of the equipment).
Nearing the Forest Service road again, the benefit of the thinning to the cabins along the Metolius is evident. All of this vegetation now won't be fuel for a forest fire.
This Timberjack was being worked on when I walked by, so I could snap a good photo of it. We've got ten acres of largely wooded land in rural south Salem. I'd love to have one of these. I have no idea what I'd do with it, and my wife wouldn't let me drive it onto our natural property anyway, but it'd look great parked somewhere.
I've got to remember not to take LSD and then go for a walk in the woods while thinning work is being done in the area. (Here's a You Tube video of a Timberjack walking machine that is definitely something you don't want to encounter while on psychedelics.)
These stacks along the road show the basic thinning strategy: cut smallish trees and strip the branches, which leaves the trunks. I'm not sure what all this will be used for. Melcher says firewood and chips, among other things. Maybe some will be used as biomass fuel (a plant is being built in Eugene).
This felled tree was bothersome to us. It's a mature Ponderosa. My wife called the Forest Service office in Sisters to ask if it was supposed to be cut down. Hopefully it was.
The Sweet Home newspaper article mentions Ponderosa's with a diameter of 8 to 16 inches as being thinned in early projects. This one looks to be much larger.
[Update: Laurel called the Forest Service office again this morning. She was told that trees up to 25 inches in diameter can be cut down. Wow. That sure seems excessive. The staffer said that cut trees of that size might have diseases or other problems, but they could be healthy.]
[Further update: Steven Orange, the Forest Service guy overseeing the thinning, stopped by our cabin to answer our questions and address some concerns. I feel a lot better about the work now. Orange was impressively knowledgeable about forest health.
He assured us that Melcher is one of the best logging companies he's ever come across and is highly diligent about doing the thinning as the contract requires -- even going beyond the call of duty when an environmental issue demands it. We learned a lot during our 45 minute conversation with Orange.
I showed him a photo of the large cut Ponderosa that we were concerned about. He said that it likely was a "hazard" tree which needed to be downed with a chain saw. Orange clarified that only Ponderosas 16 inches and less across (four feet or so above the ground) are being thinned, unless a larger tree is unhealthy or a danger. Pines, I believe, could be cut up to 25 inches.
He pointed out that the Timberjack only can cut trees up to 24 inches in diameter, so this puts a limit on what gets removed. Laurel asked how the crews decide what trees to cut, and what trees are left. Orange told us that Melcher Logging is so skilled at thinning, and has done so many similar projects, they have a very good sense of how much wood should be left standing.
When Orange checks their work with a prism of some sort, he said that usually Melcher is better than 90% accurate. And when they err, it is on the conservative side. We talked about the fact that a logging company with a desirable long-term Forest Service contract isn't going to do anything controversial to jeopardize it. So all in all we're reassured that the Camp Sherman thinning project is being conducted correctly.
Orange showed us on a map where previous thinning projects around Camp Sherman have been conducted, so we could see how the area has recovered after a couple of years. Next visit, we'll do that.]
We were ready to head to central Oregon last weekend. But the weather report showed cold. And Laurel was getting a cold. The sunny, balmier Oregon coast seemed more appealing.
We had our peanut butter sandwich lunch at Neskowin, north of Lincoln City. The beach is a short walk from the parking area.
Walking toward the ocean, a large rock that's often surrounded by water looks like an island in the sand.
Damn! I hate the crowded Oregon beaches! Laurel and Serena can barely move without stepping on a...
Seagull. God, I love the powerful zoom lens and image stabilization on my new Sony camera.
Along with watching the waves crash onto the "island" rock.
Next stop up the coast was Cape Lookout State Park. We got there fairly late in the day, so weren't able to quite make it to the end of the Cape Trail, which starts out looking like a typical forest walk.
However, it doesn't take long before peek-a-boo views of the southern exposure start appearing through the trees.
Then the scenery really opens up.
The trail meanders back and forth between the south and north sides of Cape Lookout. Here's a photo looking north.
We were glad the ground was almost entirely firm and dry, rather than slippery and wet. In many places along the trail the dropoffs are attention-getting. And lacking guard rails.
Wet season walking is aided by boardwalks.
Our overnight stop was Cannon Beach. We got to the Hallmark Resort after dark. So the morning view of Haystack Rock from our room's balcony was an appealing surprise.
Things looked pretty nice in the other direction also.
Avid boogie boarder (in Hawaii) that I am, I lusted after the waves. But not the cold water.
I had a good time taking dogs-on-the-beach photos from our room with the zoom lens zoomed. These three canines had just met up and instantly started a play group.
Our own canine took advantage of a tennis ball thoughtfully provided by the dog-friendly Hallmark Resort. For $20 your dog can stay in the room with you, and gets a basket filled with doggie goodies.
Serena, however, spent much of her ball-throwing time ignoring the ball (unless Laurel bribed her with a treat). Here she is, engaged in a more entertaining activity which she never tires of: making some territory with pee. (Serena hit every abandoned sand castle she came to along the beach; keep this in mind next time you resurrect a used sand castle on the Oregon coast.)
Serena makes a friend. The other dog was quicker retrieving a stick, but Serena was hot on his/her heels.
When we were getting some coffee in Neskowin, Laurel pointed out some outrageously colored hoodie sweatshirts as a joke. She didn't think that I'd get one. Hey, I couldn't resist. This one made me think "far out!" Also, "on sale."
Laurel is a bit more conservatively dressed. Serena is licking her chops, recalling the cat that she almost caught on the beach earlier in the day.
This bright American flag against a misty backdrop of Cannon Beach mountains caught my eye on our beach walk.
Exciting news! Serena, our Shepherd-Lab mix, could be more mixed than we thought. We'd always wondered where her curly tail came from. Talking with the owners of this Malamute, it was agreed that the similar tails and coloring implied that Serena might have some sled dog genes in her.
Last Tuesday Laurel and I journeyed to northwest Portland to be part of September's daily swift watch -- when many thousands of Vaux's Swifts circle the large chimney at Chapman Elementary School before darting down it in a marvelous display of aerial avian acrobatics.
My You Tube video won't make it on the Discovery Channel, but I got some good shots of a couple of hawk attacks. Kind of sad, but part of the balance of nature.
In addition to the swifts, who naturally are the main attraction, I show the happy crowd of swift watchers perched on the grassy knoll above Chapman Elementary.
I also took some still photographs with my Sony DSC-HX1, which proved to be quite capable as a video camera (first time I'd taken video with it).
The vibe at the swift watch was wonderful. A real feeling of community: lots of laughter, hugs, sharing of food, dogs, children playing. Living out in the country as we do, I was reminded of the appeal of city living in a got-it-together place like northwest Portland.Their FAQs will tell you what you need to know.
An Oregon Public Broadcasting video supplies additional info about swifts. They can't perch, given how their claws are arranged, but they can cling. So when they aren't in chimneys (the modern replacement for hollow Douglas Fir snags), they're flying around.
OK, I admit it: I'm addicted to central Oregon's Metolius River basin. Can't get enough of this beautiful slice of Mother Earth. Have to share photos of my lovely every chance I can.
Looking upstream at Black Butte and toward the headwaters of the Metolius.
Stump carved into a double-sided "chair" on the bank across from the Riverside campground.
It got up to 103 degrees here in rural south Salem today, so this is a good time to dig out some photos I took recently at what was a much cooler spot in Oregon -- the Metolius River.
World's first digital camera with Sweep Panorama. Equipped with Sweep Panorama mode, the HX1 reaches beyond the limits of wide angle lenses and makes it easy to capture expansive, breathtaking panoramic shots. Simply press the shutter button and "sweep" the camera horizontally or vertically—and the camera assembles the shots into a single frame which can cover up to 224 degrees field of view.
Here's a shot of the Metolius not far from the spring-fed headwaters. You certainly get a better feel for the mood of the river with 224 degrees of camera vision.
When we're in Camp Sherman, Serena and I usually take our late afternoon dog walk upstream, then return to the cabin through the Riverside campground.
Small Ponderosas have been thinned out, so the campground is close to what a mature old growth Ponderosa forest probably looks like (large trees resist fire better than small ones, so I've read that before humans started controlling wildfires, central Oregon forests had larger and fewer Ponderosa pines, compared to today).
Along that line, I discovered that reducing the resolution of the image taken by the Sony to the smallest choice ("email"), the already powerful 20x zoom turns into a 108x zoom.
But, wow, the 108x zoom would be great for spying. Resting the camera on the bridge railing, combined with image stabilization, produced this image of the cabin barely visible in the non-zoomed photo above. Cool!
Ending on a cute note, this is "Bling," a dog I encountered at a street fair booth when we went to Sisters last Sunday. Laurel keeps telling me that I need a little white dog. I don't know about that. But I'm sure attracted to happy canine faces like this one. My nose got licked, big time.
Is it possible to get in touch with life's meaning, or the lack thereof, while getting some riding instruction in an outdoor arena? Absolutely.
I've been re-reading Albert Camus' "The Myth of Sisyphus." Here's some existential pondering that applies to a couple of hours of horse riding lessons Laurel and I experienced a few days ago.
Well, heck, actually those quotes apply to everything. But as Camus implies, some experiences lead us to be more conscious of existence. Such as...getting on a horse and trying to make it do what you intend.
Laurel has done a lot more riding that I have. She's had both English and Western lessons. I've had a few Western lessons, and done considerable trail riding. Not much in an arena, though.
So I didn't know what to expect when we headed off to the Emerald Ranch outside of Sisters (in central Oregon) and joined up with Jessica for some instruction in horse handling. It turned out that my scootering/motorcycling and Tai Chi experience fit right in with Jessica's main message.
Which was: feel what's going on. Stay balanced and centered on the horse (Laurel had to break some forward-leaning English habits). Use your whole body to control movement, not just your arms.
For example, on the first day Jessica had us focus on getting our horse going by raising our hips up and forward, lightening our seat. To stop or slow down, she had us settling back onto the saddle, loosening up "like spaghetti."
After a while, and once in a while, I could get a glimpse of what Jessica was leading us towards -- controlling the horse more with whole-bodied intention and less with pulling on the reins or nudging with our legs/feet (which had been my emphasis before).
She kept reminding us to be conscious of what we were feeling. How is the horse moving? When the horse steps in this fashion, what happens to our hips? How are we connected with the horse, and the horse connected with us?
I realized early on that there is a whole lot more to riding a horse than I thought. Jessica saw things, and could do things, that I'd been completely clueless about.
On the second day she had us pulling the reins in a certain way, the goal being to get our horse's head down and the rear settled, producing an arched posture that would make riding more comfortable and satisfying for both horse and rider.
All new to me and Laurel. Once in a while I'd manage to get Danny, my horse, into a semi-correct position and Jessica would yell, "Yes, yes, yes! That's it! Great, Brian!"
Then the moment would pass.
Danny and I would be back to our not-so-great walking, trotting, and cantering around the arena. But what I enjoyed throughout the lessons was the feeling of being present in the moment of whatever I was doing.
Nothing like driving a car.
No daydreaming. No listening to the radio. No going on automatic pilot. Laurel and I had to remain aware of a lot of nuances -- what our horse was doing, what we were doing, where we were in the arena, what Jessica was telling us to do.
So often, there's a screen between me and reality. Not so much physical (though that's what TV produces), but psychological.
I'm thinking about what I'm doing rather than simply doing it. My attention is divided between activities past, present, and future rather than zeroed in on what's happening right now.
For our final exercise, Jessica set up three barrels in the arena. "We're going to do some barrel racing," she told us. Well, not exactly racing, because we weren't competing with anyone but ourselves.
Still, it was cool. Growing up in California, I'd watched a lot of barrel racing at the annual Three Rivers rodeo. Those girls could fly on their horses.
Laurel and I didn't exactly fly.
But after a few practice runs we got some pretty good turns in around the first two barrels, and a satisfying quick canter back to what I imagined was the finish line -- where, in my own mind at least, I won the World Championship Barrel Racing trophy on Danny.
As Camus says, every experience contains all of existence within it. Riding a horse, doing the dishes, whatever. We just need to be aware.
[Update: I've gotten a quick, and much appreciated, email response from the President/CEO of Black Butte Ranch, Scott Huntsman. Great name for a guy who runs an outdoorsy outfit, by the way. I shared Scott's vegetarian-friendly message in the comments to the post. It's great to hear about plans to put some veggie options on the dinner menu. It'll be even greater to eat them.]
Long-time vegetarian that I am (forty of my sixty years), I clearly recognize the danger signs of ordering in a upper-scale restaurant that, for some inexplicable reason, has precisely zero dinner entrées that haven't walked or swum before appearing on a patron's plate.
My wife and I eat there regularly, since we are part owners of a forest service cabin in nearby Camp Sherman and visit the area monthly when the weather is nice (meaning, we skip late fall and winter).
Most recently -- yesterday -- our waitress (should I say "server" to be politically correct? nah) got a deer in the headlights look when she walked over to our table and I told her, "We're vegetarian and your menu isn't. But don't worry, we'll work something out with the chef, like we always do."
In 2006 I blogged about the same lack of vegetarian respect in "Black Butte Ranch Restaurant: We love you, but..." The love and the but were summarized in my first two paragraphs:
Sometimes tough love is needed. Straight talk. Telling it like it is. Black Butte Ranch Restaurant, my friend, you’ve got to get your serving-time act together. Plus, what you serve has got to include a decent vegetarian entrée.
Two “got to’s.” Not much to ask. You can handle it. Then we’ll keep coming back. We love looking out your floor to ceiling windows at snow-capped mountains, a meadow, grazing horses, geese on the pond. The atmosphere can’t be beat.
All still true: the view is wonderful; the vegetarian fare is sorely lacking. Come on, I realize that the Black Butte Ranch destination resort wants to convey a Western cowboy vibe.
But these days even cowboys (some of them at least) want a different dinner choice than "Grilled Cowboy Ribeye," "Herb Crusted Loin of Elk," "Smoked Pork Tenderloin," "Roasted Rack of Lamb," "Prime Rib of Beef," and the other choices that we skimmed over quickly before realizing that the menu looked to be as vegetarian-dismal as it was last time we ate there.
In the good old Black Butte Ranch restaurant days, circa 2003, I extolled the virtues of the Garden Plate:
Fresh off my palate, I can accurately describe the marvelous Garden Plate: soft tofu with a crisply breaded covering, nicely fried; a grilled portabello mushroom; asparagus; sweet tomato relish; yellow squash; zucchini—all immersed in a subtle sauce, accompanied by a just-right dipping sauce. As full as I am, it makes my mouth water to remember our meal of an hour ago.
The Garden Plate chef must be long gone. Because when the words "We're vegetarians" were uttered now in The Lodge Restaurant, the waitress responded with a blank stare.
Now, we have eaten in some pretty nice restaurants, a few of which have lacked a vegetarian entrée. Almost invariably the server tells us, "No problem. I'll ask the chef to make you something special."
Which, he or she usually does. Creatively. Deliciously.
In the West, as of 2000, about 4% of people are strict vegetarians. Not a lot. But not nothing. Does a restaurant want to eliminate 4% of the population from its potential clientele?
(In Oregon I bet the percentage of vegetarians is higher; it surely is in southern California, where my daughter lives, and where we've never gone out to eat without encountering a wonderful healthy veggie dish on the menu.)
I find it difficult to believe that The Lodge Restaurant never gets a request for a vegetarian dinner entrée. The servers and kitchen should be prepared to reply with the "No problem" that we've gotten at other high quality restaurants.
However, after we told the waitress that we didn't want to go the pasta and vegetables route that left us underwhelmed before, she left us to puzzle out our own dinner order by teasing out options from the side dishes on the menu.
On the positive side, we were charged $25 for our two "entrées" -- definitely the cheapest thing on the menu, if what we got had been on the menu.
I'll email a link to this blog post to the Black Butte Ranch manager, just as I've done with previous please, please, please entreaties to have at least one vegetarian option available at the restaurant.
I've never gotten a reply. Maybe this time will be different.
Mr. or Ms. Manager, as noted above our criticisms flow from love...of your entire destination resort, and of The Lodge Restaurant in particular.
We always enjoy visiting Black Butte Ranch. Along with other vegetarians, we'd just enjoy the resort more if you had a meatless entrée at the restaurant (how about bringing back the Garden Plate?).
After all, this is a destination resort.
It's seven miles to Camp Sherman, which has one restaurant (Kokanee Cafe) that also lacks a vegetarian dinner option. It's ten miles to Sisters, which has quite a few eating choices, but Black Butte Ranch is supposed to be a destination, not a place vegetarians have to flee from to eat dinner.
Have I convinced you to become more vegetarian friendly in The Lodge Restaurant, Mr. or Ms. Manager? I sure hope so.
Here's some photos that I took during a recent visit to our cabin on the beautiful Metolius River in Camp Sherman (central Oregon).
I usually use an Olympus Stylus, which can do all kinds of stuff: zoom, adjust for different photographic conditions, and whatnot.
All of these shots were taken with my iPhone's camera, which can do exactly one thing: take a photo.
When I first got my iPhone, I was frustrated with the lack of photo options. Now, I'm appreciating the Zen'ish simplicity of pulling it out, choosing the camera icon, pressing the "take photo" button, and seeing what happens.
What you get is what you get. No fretting about not choosing the right camera setting, because there aren't any to choose from.
If I want to "zoom," I walk closer. To get more stuff showing in the picture, I back up.
With these shots, mostly the iPhone underexposed. As taken, they were too dark. But my MacBook's iPhoto software did a pretty good job when I pushed the "enhance" button. Here's the results.
Here I am, arriving at the charming Camp Sherman store after a bike ride. The woman in teal offered to take a photo of both of us after Laurel snapped this shot. Don't think she realized how much she was in this photo. I put my bike in this position to avoid a bunch of people sitting by the store front door. As often happens, my plan went awry.
On a walk this afternoon, I tied the dog to a tree and calmly walked up to the fence surrounding the Johnson meadow, doing my best to look horse friendly. Must have worked. This guy came walking up after a minute or two, probably figuring I might have some food.
Returning to the cabin, which we co-own with three other couples, Serena always is excited to start stalking the chipmunks which live under a deck. Never catches any, but the chase is the thing. When we leave, we put nuts by their holes as a non-verbal, "Sorry for the stress our dog caused you. It's all clear now."
Sure, we've been on Maui for ten days, enjoying the great mid- 80's weather on Napili Bay while Portland, Oregon is 54 degrees and rainy today -- according to the Honolulu paper.
We check the mainland weather report daily, because our friends always lie about how nice it was back home while we were gone. "Oh, you missed some great weather. Sunny every day, didn't rain a bit."
Yeah, right, I think to myself, not wanting to let them know that I'm on to their Hawaii vacation envy.
But things are definitely not totally paradisaical here. We've accumulated some pretty serious gripes, which need to be aired before we leave.
Vegetarian eating. Yes, we realize fish live in the ocean, and people like to eat them while they're on Maui. Along with the usual meaty fare they're used to at home. Still, restaurateurs here need to throw us vegetarians a bone. Even better, tofu or tempe.
Laurel and I would have been happy to leave more dinner VISA charges in the pockets of Maui restaurant owners. However, there aren't very many that want vegetarian business. It's pathetic, the lack of non-fish and non-meat items on menus.
We ate twice at Mala Ocean Tavern.
Love the quartet of hummus, babaganoush, raita, and Greek feta (plus other stuff, including terrific grilled pita bread). Otherwise, it was Chinese and Thai take out for us, plus what we got at the natural food store in Kahalui after we got off the plane.
You can do better by us vegetarians, Maui. Hop to it, so we have more eating choices on our next visit.
T-shirt and trinket shops. Browsing up and down Lahaina's Front Street yesterday evening, we were struck by the sameness of so many of the shops. Most have the same t-shirts, the same cheap Hawaii trinkets, the same everything else.
It seems to us that some creative shops offering something different would be successful. Yet we noticed that the Gecko store in Lahaina is gone, as is the Endangered Species store at Whaler's Village.
These offered some different stuff. And they've gone out of business, apparently, while the same old, same old establishments carry on. Something is wrong here. Tourist tastes can't be that routine and predictable. Or, maybe they are.
Maui wowie. We've been to Maui many times. In the old days, every visit I'd hear a muttered "Want some buds?" or the like as my baby boomer, longish haired self trundled down a Lahaina sidewalk.
That always made me feel good -- part of the local drugscape, in a minimal fashion (very minimal, because I'd never respond). Recently, though, I've been ignored. Except for yesterday, when I heard a Maui wowie? as some local youths passed by.
Thanks, guys. But you need to do a more consistent job at making gray-haired flower children relive their 60's youth for a moment.
Screeching birds. Some people think that a Maui vacation is relaxing. Well, you should be in my bed (an appealing idea, depending on who you are) at 5:30 most mornings. That's when some annoying birds decide that it's vitally important to let every sleeping vacationer within earshot know that the sun is coming up.
I'd like to sleep another half hour or so. However, at 5:30 I'm too awake to go back to sleep, and too sleepy to get up. So I lie in bed for quite a while, mentally cursing the birds.
I don't understand how the Hawaii tourist industry allows those screeching S.O.B.s to stay on the islands. At the least, the birds need to be trained to stay quiet until at least 6:00 or 6:30.
Why the state legislature hasn't mandated that this be done is beyond me. And believe me, I've spent a lot of time the past ten days pondering this matter. Mostly shortly after 5:30 in the morning.
Ice cream on beach. Laurel has a special gripe of her own. When it's sunny, warm, and you've melted into your beach mat, the will power simply isn't there to get up and seek out ice cream.
We believe it can be purchased at a Napili Kai Resort snack bar that's a ways behind the beach. But Laurel never has had the energy to walk a couple of hundred feet when she's in her "melted mood" and find out.
So she sits on the sand and wishes that Maui had beach vendors, like those at a baseball game, but barefoot and dressed in tropical attire, who would appear whenever she wanted ice cream. And, naturally, give her some.
Well, those are the core gripes that we were able to come up with this afternoon while -- no big surprise!-- sitting on the beach.
To Maui's credit, it took us quite a while to come up with even a small number of gripes. Still, they're serious to us.
I can't believe that I called a post from three years ago, "Meaningless Maui musings." I'm rectifying this error now with a change from "less" to "ful" in the title.
Because sitting on Napili Beach -- the lovely crescent in the middle of the photo -- for several hours each day offers plenty of time for deeply important ponderings about life.
Some of which, I'm pleased to see, are the same as my 2006 musings. I say "pleased" because doing the same things is a big part of what I love about returning to Napili Bay almost every year.
I call this an On Golden Pond sort of vacation. In that marvelous movie an aging couple spend each summer at their home on a lake called Golden Pond.
"Aging couple" isn't a phrase I like to use in reference to Laurel and me. But we're getting older, that's for sure. (Who isn't?) And our vacation preferences favor repetition rather than variety.
We know what we like. We have a great time on every visit to Maui. Why mess with success?
My daughter and her family came along for part of our 2009 vacation. Lazing on the warm, sun-soaked beach a few days ago, she said: "Dad, I've always made fun of you for returning to the same place every year. Now I see why. It's beautiful!"
I enjoy doing the same thing on Napili Bay and seeing how different it feels each time.
Life is continuously refreshing itself. It isn't possible to step in the same experience river twice. So I don't get bored engaging in my daily 30-minute sidestroke practice back and forth across the bay.
Quite the opposite.
Every day the wind is different, the waves are different, the clouds are different. Most importantly, I'm different -- my energy level, mood, thoughts inside my head, and such.
The way I see it, boredom only arises when we stop paying attention.
Life always is living, so long as we are. Feeling the energies of existence pulse inside and outside of me, like the waves that never stop washing onto Napili Beach -- sometimes gently, sometimes crashingly -- it's always absorbingly interesting.
Example: a ponder that we also pondered in 2006.
Generously-sized people in skimpy bathing suits glorifying the body God and McDonalds gave them, good or bad? Jury is still out on this question. More research to be conducted on the beach in a few minutes. Tentative answer: depends on number of rolls of body fat.
I need many more visits to Maui to come close to a definitive answer. The response that seems to be evolving for me is Go for it, girl! (teeny bikinis are much more evident on the beach than small Speedos -- which seem to be a European thing)
Why not? Flaunt it if you've got it.
And we sure have seen some older plus-plus-plus sized women doing just that. I admire them for saying to the world via their swimsuit choice, "This is me, and I'm just fine with it."
Which is what I like about beach behavior.
Grown-ups acting like kids. Kids acting like kids. Having fun. Not caring how you look to other people. Embracing your inner just do it.
Like they say, life's a beach.
My wife and I enjoyed an October walk around central Oregon's Suttle Lake, reveling in the red-yellow vine maples, which, marvelously, had nothing to say about the financial meltdown that's been front page news.
Our dog, however, didn't look pleased when I asked her opinion about the "Dog Free Zone" sign prominently displayed at the Suttle Lake Resort.
Snap review: the Mino's stop/start record button is much more responsive; it's lighter, smaller, and cooler looking; the omni-directional microphone might be slightly better, but not terrific; overall, I like it better than the Ultra.
Regarding the Lodge at Suttle Lake's (a.k.a. Suttle Lake Resort) dogphobia, the number of signs disrespecting Canis familiaris is at odds with the "pet friendly" paw mark in the upper left corner of its home page.
They do claim to have pet friendly lodging, so you'd think dogs would be more welcome on the grounds. And a pet fee of $25 per animal seems a bit steep, notwithstanding the gift package offered for "your furry friend."
I just wonder, though, what a vacationing cat or ferret is going to think about opening its gift package and finding "2 doggie bowls, doggie bag, treats, and toys."
Only in Oregon … Aunt Mary's is a terrific vegan/vegetarian restaurant where you can also shop for porn and browse a vibrator museum.
We hadn't been to the coast for quite a while, so when some healthy-eating Indiana relatives came to visit last week I fired up Google. It didn't take long for me to realize that there was only one place we should eat in Lincoln City.
Some Happy Cow reviews sealed the deal. Such as:
This place is best described as eclectic with no boundaries. Kind of a cross between Grandma's house, and the creepy guy next door. Nestled among the small shops in Lincoln City near the beach is a vegetarian restaurant that you won't forget.
We are both vegans, and for some reason, everyone in Lincoln City seems to crinkle their nose when they say "vegan", and not a single store carries vegan soy cheese. This place was a pleasant surprise, and we really enjoyed our visit. Now the disclaimer - be ready to keep an open mind and walk in with a sense of humor.
Although you may find an occasional adult toy displayed amongst the embroidery and nun dolls, the "vibrator museum" is just another joke to keep things light. As long as you avoid the back room labeled "filthy", and leave your kids outside as you get take-out, you'll have a great time. We ordered the Mexi Wrap and a Taco Salad, and it was the best meal we've had during our entire vacation. The host/waiter/chef was very nice and washed his hands twice that we counted. Very clean, gracious, and fun.
Well, a couple of corrections are in order. "Occasional" doesn't do justice to the wonderfully vast array of sex toys and adult gag gifts. And don't avoid the back room – dash to it!
That's where Aunt Mary keeps her best stuff.
A fine collection of hand-blown glass pipes with an appropriate "don't ask" (what they're for, I assume) sign on top of the display case. A large collection of porn videos, helpfully categorized by sexual predilection and what turns you on. Leather wear, with enough studs and chains to spice up either the bedroom or your Harley Davidson.
Then there's the food. Excellent, though the service can be a bit slow.
We were the only diners in the place, arriving right at the noon opening time, and we still spent an hour ordering, waiting, and eating. Not a problem, given how much there is to ogle in Aunt Mary's, but if you're in a rush head to McDonalds and skip the porn.
Inspecting the menu, I was tempted to order a Fuck Me, That's Good but decided to forego the grilled cheese sandwich with pineapple for a humus wrap (yes, vegan porn proprietors can spell; I've always thought "hummus" was right, but both are correct).
My wrap was grilled to perfection and filled with crisp vegetables. Someone else got a Fuck Me, That's Good and said that the name was right on.
Philosophically, I find a lot to like about Aunt Mary's. Yesterday I mused on my other blog about how craziness can be a dose of sanity.
The older I get, the more appealing a little craziness appears to me. I'm not talking about whacked out psychosis, but something milder – in the immoral, illogical, illicit, or ill-understandable sphere of strangeness.
Stuff that soothes a person's far out! soul, while making others question why he or she is marching out of the beat of the ordinary.
I wasn't consciously thinking of Aunt Mary's when I wrote those words, but I'm sure last Friday's visit to this unique Oregon coast establishment helped put me in that frame of mind.
Back in the '70s, I remember when rentable porn videos were clearly visible behind the counter of a highly respectable downtown Salem store (Future Shop) that featured VCRs and other new-at-that-time technology. Nobody thought anything of it.
American society is a lot more uptight now, and I don't think we're the better for the change.
Though Oregon is laudably looser and quirkier than most of the rest of the country (a vegan strip club opened this year in Portland), we still tend to segregate "kinkiness," which really is just another flavor of normal, as what happens on the other side of town.
It's nice to be able to drive down the main drag of Lincoln City, park, and get your fill of both healthy vegetarian food and other sorts of earthy delights.
An Oregon Coast Today article has more info about Aunt Mary's. Being someone who orders a nonfat vanilla latte and then dumps half and half into it, I resonated with Mary's eating attitude:
She's also been perfecting her recipes for vegan baked goods like cakes and muffins; these, she says, shouldn't be central to a weight-loss regimen.
"They're not healthy at all. They're not low cal. But they're very delicious. I always say that they're best served warm with butter. There's no fat in them. That's what makes the butter so good," she said.
If you've never hiked along the Metolius River in central Oregon, you've missed out on a marvelous scenic experience.
In short, beautiful. (This description of the hike starts from the campground, not the hatchery, but covers the same stretch of the river.)
I mangle the name of the hatchery at the start of the video. For some reason I kept throwing in "creek." After that, my narration rolls along pretty smoothly.
Be sure to watch to the end. You don't want to miss the shot of a peanut butter sandwich eating dog. (Hollywood animal actor agents: Serena and I are available, and we work for, well, peanuts.)
Here's photographic proof – why the Metolius River dazzles the eye (and soul) in what passes for spring in central Oregon. Namely, the middling part of June.
Moving back to the Metolius, natural flower arrangements dot the river. It's constant spring-fed flow encourages growth that wouldn't be possible on up and down rivers. [Appreciate these shots: wading in the water I instantly recognized that it's damn cold – snow melt once removed.]
Decay and growth. Some days I feel like the stump, other days like the flower.
This is our sort of hiking adventure: one that begins and ends at a charming country store that serves expresso. Namely, the Camp Sherman store in central Oregon's beautiful Metolius River recreation area.
We've hiked most of the easily accessible stretches of the Metolius many times. They're all marvelous.
The two mile path downstream of the store (west side of the river) is enjoyable because it's level, passes by interesting cabins on forest service land, and is on a particularly attractive section of the Metolius (not that there's an unattractive section).
Plus, there's the latte thing. And public restrooms at miles 0, 1, 3, and 4 of the roundtrip four mile hike, a potential benefit if you energized yourself with a large quad expresso before you started off.
Here's a You Tube video of the hike we took a few days ago.
Proving that a man on a Maui vacation armed with a Flip Video and a You Tube account is an formidable cinemagraphic force, here are the final four videos in my 2008 Hawaiian Island oeuvre.
Serious students of Flip Videography (assuming there are any) may notice an evolution in my style during our ten days on Maui. Myself, I can't. But often an artist can't recognize his own genius.
In "Maui's Lahaina Stables sunset ride" I explore the island's yin and yang: marvelous natural beauty coupled with increasingly annoying over-development. On my horse I walk (and jerkily trot) up to the lower reaches of a mystical West Maui mountain valley, pondering what Shangri La lies beyond our two-hour ride's reaches.
Shifting gears, a lot, to "Maui shopping in Wailea," I document my humble husbandly shopping demeanor: five steps behind Laurel, who rules the store browsing roost. My camera lingers on a shapely black-clad shopper (or more likely, store employee) who I would have followed more closely if not for a fear of "Security! I'm being stalked!"
"Snorkeling on Maui" actually is my wife's video creation. It features no narration, mostly because it isn't possible to talk with a snorkel in your mouth. This was filmed with the Flip Video underwater case. Laurel used no artificial fish food aids in filming her snorkeling on Napili and Kapalua Bays. Hence, the natural number of fish.
My final video, "Maui's Banyan Tree and Napili Bay," melds a stroll under a notable Lahaina attraction and a view of one of Maui's most beautiful beaches. The viewer is treated to a massive display of bird chirping at dusk and a cogent explanation of how we have managed to do a lot of Maui moving while vacationing on the same beach for 20 years.