Monday, May 22, 2017

Forbidden Catherine Creek Arch

Exploring the Pacific Northwest

There is a sign at the top of the hill:

Throughout time, remarkable geologic features such as mountains, rock formations and waterfalls have held special legendary, cultural or sacred meaning to people.

Catherine Creek Arch is one of those features.  Be respectful and remain outside of the fenced area.

Six years ago, this basalt arch was still accessible and hikers could walk across its span and down underneath its opening.  Now you can only glimpse it (just barely) from below.  It is completely fenced off.
I cannot find any information as to why it is so sacred to Native Americans, but I did find something from the Forest Service about the instability of the rock,  Looking up at the talus and scree, I don't doubt their concern.  This past week, those concerns hit home.  A massive landslide of rocks came tumbling down a hillside on my beloved Historic Highway 30 just east of Mosier, Oregon, where I live.  It was on the Rowena Crest Loop, one of the most beautiful and interesting sections of this highway.  The slide completely covered the road with 500 cubic yards of rock.  One was eight feet wide!  Fortunately, no one was beneath it.


The geology of the Columbia River Gorge is what brings thousands upon thousands of tourists here from all over the world.  I get out and hike among these basalt cliffs on a daily basis, and I confess there are times when I look up at the towering pillars and a wave of anxiety hits.  I'm always able to shake it off and trudge forward.

Nature is beautiful, but nature can turn on you.  Often without warning.  You just hope and pray you are not in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I'm in a pensive mood this morning.  My travel buddy is planning a summit of one of the Cascade Mountains this summer ( and that scares me).  We are also going to Olympic National Park for a week of exploration.  Now that he is retired, our agenda is filling with more and more adventure.  I can't let fear paralyze me from living the kind of life I want to live.

He wanted to go see the Rowena rockslide this week.  I refused.

Fear isn't necessarily a bad thing.  It makes you cautious.

But facing it head on?  No thanks.  Not if I'm going to keep on truckin'.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Cathedral Park

Exploring Portland

Portland, Oregon, is a city of bridges.  The St. Johns Bridge in the northern part of the city is the most beautiful, and the fact that there is a bucolic park underneath its Gothic arches makes it one of the most relaxing places to go when visiting here.  Yesterday, my travel buddy and I did just that.  Tired after running around doing errands, we grabbed a coffee at the local Starbucks in the St. Johns neighborhood and took it to the park for a much needed break.
Turns out this place has a lot of history to it.  For one thing, the Lewis and Clark expedition camped here way back in 1806.  Then in the mid 1800's a trapper named James John ran a ferry across the Willamette River from here to the fishing town of Linnton.  The neighborhood and bridge were named after him.

This gorgeous steel suspension bridge was designed by David Steinman of New York City in the late 1920's and completed in 1931.  Its central span of 1,207 feet rises 205 feet above the river.
Because construction began only a month before the Stock Market Crash of 1929, it provided many locals with continued employment during the Great Depression.

The park was not added until the 1980's and what an ingenious plan.  Walking underneath those cathedral-like spans is pure magic.  Many people were out yesterday.  Walking dogs.  Pushing baby strollers or sitting on a bench like us, soaking up the sunshine.

An amazing structure.

An amazing day.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Chocolate or Checkered?

Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest

Identifying wildflowers can be a tricky business.  The above beauty is a case in point.  Many people on the Memaloose Hills trail were calling it a "chocolate lily" and we were all excited about it, but when I got home and looked it up my Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest field guide, I started to have doubts.  It looked more like a Checkered Lily (aka Mission Bell) than the darker chocolate one.  It was more mottled than solid brown.  The range wasn't quite right either.  Turner and Gustafson had the chocolate one growing further north in Washington and British Columbia.

And yet?  It did have a putrid odor like the chocolate lily.  And that's what everyone was calling it. So which one was it?

My travel buddy walked right by this clump of chocolate-colored lilies because their blah color didn't stand out among the brighter yellow, orange and purple flowers surrounding them.  I pointed them out and he was astounded.

To us, they were gorgeous.  And rare.  We met other hikers later on who were equally ecstatic.  "Did you see the chocolate lilies back there?"  they all asked.

And really . . . it is that excitement such beautiful flowers create that is important.  We could all agree they were lilies.  But were they Fritillaria affinis or Fritillaria camschatcensis?  I'm poking fun at myself as I write this.  I'm not a botanist.  And I suspect, neither were they.  I can't remember scientific names no matter how hard I try, so why bother?

The chocolate lily is more of a common name for this lovely flower, no matter what it is.  A mission bell?  A spotted mountain bell?  Or the real deal?  I shouldn't get too picky about the appropriate genus and species.

The chocolate lily is a name I can remember.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Flower Choked Memaloose Hills

Exploring the Pacific Northwest

While walking through these vast fields of yellow balsamroot and purple lupine, that scene from the Wizard of Oz kept popping into my mind--where Dorothy and the Gang have to walk through a field of poppies before getting to the Emerald City.  All of a sudden the wildflowers in the Columbia River Gorge are so abundant it seems unreal.  I am living inside a movie set.  I've never seen anything like it in all my long long life.
The Memaloose Hills Trail can be found opposite the Memaloose Overlook on Old Route 30 between Mosier and The Dalles, Oregon.  Because of its popularity this time of year, I recommend going early on a weekday because there aren't very many parking spaces.  A 3-mile loop will take you up and down some gentle slopes, making this hike an easy one.  I loved that I ran into a man on crutches.  A broken leg was not going to stop him from experiencing this Springtime Extravaganza.  I also had to step over many other photographer hobbyists who were sprawled across the path trying to get that gorgeous National Geographic macro shot.

An easy task to accomplish in this movie set landscape.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Dinner at Edgefield's

Favorite Pit Stops

How to describe Edgefield's?  That is the challenge.  A hotel UNTO ITSELF perhaps.  Once you're lucky enough to actually get a reservation, there is no need to go anywhere else for a day or two or what the heck . . . three.  There are several restaurants, a winery, a distillery, a movie theater, spa and hot soaking pools, gardens with picnic tables, lots of art and often live music.  But since we live so close to this Troutdale, Oregon phenomenon, we've never spent the night there but we have stopped for dinner on our way back from Portland many times. We don't bother with a reservation.  We head straight to the Black Rabbit and plop down at a cozy table in the bar.  I always order the anti-pasta plate, loaded with a variety of meat and cheese.  Paired with one of the local red wines . . . yum , , , doesn't get much better.

Before driving the rest of the way home, we take a stroll through this bizarre amusement park of a place for adults.  ( How's that for a description?)  We let the alcohol wear off as we go in search of the details.  Because it's the details, those hidden funny little quirks, that make this place so much fun.  (Yeah, yeah . . . and the booze.)
The McMenamin Brothers saw the potential in this old massive brick structure which was originally the Multnomah County Poor Farm back in the early part of the 20th century.  It then became a nursing home, but was closed down in 1982 and destined for demolition.  These guys have transformed many of these doomed properties into amazing hotels throughout the Pacific Northwest, so if you ever have a chance to stay in one  . . . don't hesitate .  Simply put:  They are cool, man, very cool.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Ballhead Waterleaf

Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest

An odd wildflower with an even odder name, these little orbs of fluff remind me of the dried seed heads of a dandelion.  On the trail up to Tom McCall Point, they were clustered among prettier and showier flowers, but their oddity stopped me in my tracks.  I started to admire their robustness and their singular determination to stand out.

The Ballhead Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum capitutum) is another native wildflower of Oregon and grows on the moist slopes of the Columbia River Gorge.  The color of the flower ranges from pale blue to lilac.

The diversity and abundance of wildflowers continues to keep me entranced throughout this spring season. (And on a side note:  Because I'm out hiking every single day in search of these little wonders, I'm losing weight.  Hmm..  The Wildflower Diet.  I might be onto something here. )