Saturday, August 22, 2015

Waterfall Alley

We saved this particular road trip until my son could join us last week.  It's a stretch of the old Historic Route 30 from the Bonneville Dam to Troutdale, Oregon, along the Columbia River Gorge.   Trust me, a short ten-mile drive can take all day if you stop at all the waterfalls along the way.

I'm going to let my photographs tell the story this time 'round because now that I live here, I'll be back for more!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Naked Mt. Hood

To escape the heat and the smoky air collecting in the Gorge from the Mt. Adams fire, we drove south to Mt. Hood and were thrilled to breathe in the crisp fresh air.  Mt. Hood is one of the solitary cascades and a potentially active volcano.  It is located in northern Oregon.  At 11,000 feet, it is one of the most climbed glaciated peaks in North America.

My youngest son is visiting us from Long Beach, California, so a day playing in the snow seemed like a novel idea.  He remembers coming up here as a little boy for a summer vacation and sledding down the gentle slopes behind Timberline Lodge.

Man, were we in for a shock.  Snow?  What snow?
The ski lift was still running, but no one was taking it.  Mt. Hood is famous for its year round ski season, but it came to a full halt early this year.  In fact, even last winter, the slopes were often closed due to lack of snow.
I made my husband and son pack hiking boots and a jacket.  I'll never hear the end of that one!  We spent the afternoon in shorts and flip flops as we walked the Pacific Crest Trail for a bit.  It was close to ninety degrees up here, at 6,000 feet.  Instead of cocoa back at the lodge, we had ice cream bars.  But at least the air was clean!

I was told not to despair.  A Super El Nino is on its way, which means lots and lots of snow for the Cascades and lots and lots of rain for parched California.

Hmmm.  You know what they say:  Be careful what you wish for!!!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Mimi Goes Boho II

Everyone needs a Mimi in her life.  These separates are all disparate pieces that have been hanging in my closet unworn for YEARS.  Because the temps continue to be hot, I find myself reaching for the same old sleeveless sacks every day.

"Oh, for crying out loud.  Go shop your closet," she admonishes.  "There's some really COOL stuff in there."

As soon as I publish this post, I'm stripping her and putting this outfit on for a day of touring.  Believe me, she won't go naked for long.  Tonight when I come home, she will have raided my closet and come up with yet another whole new long forgotten ensemble.

Friday, August 14, 2015

A Bamboo Bird Cage

This is a story about a treasured souvenir.  It is a nostalgic story about seeing the world through the eyes of a toddler.  It is a reminder to me that sometimes I have actually gotten things right.

It all began in Singapore, way back in 1985.

On a Sunday morning I found my way to an area of Singapore near the old Chinatown.  Hundreds of local men had brought their beloved songbirds to share with the world.  They hung ornate bamboo cages up for everyone to see.  I'm not sure which was more beautiful, the cages or the birds within, but the audience was filled with admiration.  And anticipation.  Once the birds were settled, they broke into song.   One chorus after another erupted.  High notes with low melodious refrains.  Quick staccato chirps.  Warbles and whistles.  All creating a symphony of joyful sound.

 I write about this thirty years later because the moment is still so vivid.  It was a moment of utter and complete rapture.
Singapore was our last stop on a six-week trip through Southeast Asia.  My suitcases were already bursting at the seams with clothes, jewelry and colorful textiles from Thailand and Burma.  I coveted one of those small birdcages with the little porcelain feeding bowls, but I simply did not have the room.

Two years later, however, I found myself in a completely different venue--Bird Alley in Hong Kong.  And there they were again.
This time I had a 15-month old toddler by my side.  Keeping him seated in that stroller while we walked through that narrow street was a challenge, let me tell you.  That little boy was mesmerized by all the beautiful, singing birds.  His eyes widened.  He wiggled and squirmed and tried to crawl into one of those cages.  Finally, giving up, he simply broke into song.  "Caw, caw, caw," he bellowed.  Everyone, vendors and tourists alike, all started to laugh.

I bought my bird cage.
   Today, people returning from Singapore tell me that Bird Street is now gone and that this hobby is a dying one.  There are still clubs around, but their only members are old old men.  "You were so lucky to see it," they say.

That bird cage now swings from the railing of my canopy bed.  It has been a permanent fixture in my home ever since that trip to Hong Kong.   Today, in Oregon, I wake up every morning and it is the first thing I see.  Outside my window, I then watch ospreys, gulls and white pelicans fly over the river.

 Sometimes I actually get things right.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Towboats and Barges

I'm trying to look as nautical as possible in order to catch the eye of a passing barge.  Stick my thumb out and hitch a ride up the river.
My fascination with the Mighty Columbia continues as I watch the towboats and barges ply the waters all day long.  This river is truly an artery of commerce.  Semi trucks and freight trains line the roads and tracks on either side and barges rule the water.  They are carrying goods to a nation whose consumption knows no end.  The barges are an integral link in the transport system between our continent and Asia.  Goods arriving from Japan and China are offloaded to barges at the ports of Portland and Vancouver. They carry some nasty stuff though:  petroleum products, sulfur, fertilizer and industrial chemicals.  Okay, maybe I don't really want to hitch a ride, after all.
  I've always called this boat a "tugboat" but have been corrected.  When these boats push barges, they are called "towboats".  Tugboats guide large ships in and out of a harbor.   Anyway, tugboat.  towboat, whatever . . . these guys are robust, let me tell ya.  They can tow tens of thousands of tons and push boats that are 500 times bigger than they are.
Well, I think I'll skip that ride on the Tidewater and wait until I'm in France to experience life on a barge.  Cruising lazily down those canals.with nothing more toxic than french roast coffee on board . . . now you're talking!

Linking up with Happiness at Midlife

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Wreck of the Peter Iredale

"You should have been here ten years ago," the stranger commented as she watched me frame my photographs.  "The whole hull was visible then,"

Ah, yes.  Yet another Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda.

Even so, the wreckage of this grounded sailing vessel is hauntingly beautiful.  In October of 1906, the Peter Iredale met with a rising tide and a strong northwesterly squall as she neared the mouth of the Columbia River.  She was thrown ashore where she quickly sunk into the sand.
The ship was sailing from Mexico to Portland, Oregon.  She had a crew of 27 and two stowaways.  Everyone made it to shore safely.

No wonder this part of the coastline is called "The Graveyard of the Pacific."  Since 1792, 2,000 vessels have sunk as they approached the channel.  The combination of high seas, the strong current of the Columbia River and the shallow shifting of sand bars make this approach an especially treacherous one.

Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda.
I shoulda taken that job in Chicago.
I shoulda told that publisher to keep my novel "on consideration" as long as she wanted.
I shoulda gone to Egypt when I lived a stone's throw away.
I walk down the beach for miles and miles until the surf washes away my regrets.  I let the soft sand slide through my toes; the weepy fog coat my cheeks with spray.

I am here.
I am happy.
Bury the Shouldas.

My ship is still afloat.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Herman the Sturgeon

"Follow me," he said.  "I've got a surprise for you."

And so I did, camera in hand, clicking along as I followed a trail of fish.  We were at the Bonneville Fish Hatchery on the Columbia River, and I was tired.  It was the end of the day.  All I wanted was a glass of wine and a plushy chair to sit in.
His little boy exuberance, however, prevented me from complaining.  I love the fact that after all these years traveling hither and yon, he is still not jaded.

Evidently, neither am I.
"Holy crap," I said when we reached our destination.  "That is one big motherf#@!!er."  I didn't mean to voice my astonishment out loud.  After all, there were children present.  I quickly apologized to the two mothers behind me.  They laughed.  "Don't worry.  It's not like they haven't heard it before."

My travel buddy laughed the hardest.  My response surpassed his hope and expectation.
There's a lot of different statistics concerning this big guy, (And he's not the first Herman.) but it's safe to say he is about 500 lbs. and around 70 years old.  He is 11 ft. long.  He and his buddies are among the largest fresh water fish in North America.  What's more amazing, is that they are descendants of prehistoric fish that lived 200 million years ago.
Herman has a pretty posh life here at the hatchery.  A big pond and fish tank to swim in.  All the food he could ever want.  An adoring public.  He's going to have a long, happy life.

But I'm afraid it's a different story for his peers on the outside.  Sturgeon poaching is on the rise.  Their population is shrinking so the cost of caviar is rising.  Large female sturgeon can carry up to 100 pounds of eggs.  Caviar is now as high as $200/ounce.  Black marketeers are doing the math.

Our day ended on both a happy and a sad note.  We went to one of my favorite restaurants in Hood River, but I couldn't bring myself to order the fish of the day.  I had that glass of wine, though, and my travel buddy had a beer.  We clinked our glasses.  "To Herman," we toasted.  Then vowed to never eat caviar again.