Thursday, October 29, 2015

Vista House

Along the Columbia River

I can't tell you how thrilled I am that this iconic little jewel has been renovated to its original splendor.  Back in the 80's when I last saw it, it was boarded up--just a big blob of rock.  It was built in 1916 as a rest stop for travelers and an architectural gateway to the beauty of the Columbia River Gorge.  Its isolation, however, invited vandalism and predisposed it to neglect.

It sits 733 feet above the river on the summit of Crown Point on the Oregon side.  Its views of the gorge have always been breathtakingly beautiful and as the architect realized, this is the first overlook for many travelers along the historic Route 30.  Indeed, the Vista House graces many a poster, refrigerator magnet and travel brochure of the area.
Jump forward 100 years and it is once again a welcome rest stop for travelers.  Inside, you will find maps of the area, a coffee shop, a small museum, stairs leading to an observation deck,  clean restrooms(!) and a gift shop.  The architecture, however, is what I came for.  It truly is a jewel of a building with its stained glass windows that reflect the ripples of the water below and its simulated marble and bronze walls.  There are eight busts of Native Americans circling the rotunda.  It is a proper tribute to the region's history.

The exterior's gray sandstone mirrors the basalt cliffs of the gorge.  Telescopes are positioned outside for travelers to get their first magnified view of  the landscape, which in turn, will lure them further down the road.  And this is precisely what the architect envisioned.  Bravo, Oregon, for bringing this monument back to its original purpose and splendor.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Waterless Rimrock Lake

As we drove home from Mt. Rainier on Highway 12 last month, we came across this sign and pulled over. We walked through the trees and this is what we saw.
We were stunned.  We thought we had left dry lake beds and low reservoirs behind when we moved up here from California, but the drought has strangled eastern Oregon and Washington, as well.  Washington received only half of its normal rainfall last year.  The Yakima Basin has been hit hard.  Crops have suffered and tens of millions of dollars have been lost.

Rimrock Lake, which is located about 40 miles west of Yakima, was formed by construction of the Tieton Dam on the Tieton River.  It is one of five reservoirs that provide water to the area.  Streamflows on the river have reached record low numbers so dam officials have held back the water and this is the result.  Normally, tents and rv's would be lining the lake, but the campgrounds were empty and the motels and restaurants were boarded up.

As we neared the dam, the lake appeared, but so did tree stumps rising above the water and long sloping banks of pebbles.  We were looking at a quiet, eerie landscape.

As I write this post, it is raining outside and it is supposed to rain all week.  And you know what?  I don't mind a bit.

Dear Mother Nature,

Bring it on!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

On the Tom McCall Preserve

Not only is rain in the forecast for the entire week ahead, but this trail on the Tom McCall Preserve along the Columbia River, closes the first of November.  We barely got our two-mile hike in this morning before it started to pour.  Welcome to Oregon!

This beautiful sanctuary is located on Historic Route 30 on the Rowena Crest, just before you descend into The Dalles.  The geology is amazing.  The 200-acre area was formed by ancient lava flows, catastrophic floods and volcanic ash.  What makes it even more interesting, is that it borders the wet, forested area of the Gorge and the drier prairie to the east.  You may see scorpions and rattlesnakes, as well as elk and bald eagles.  It is a bifurcated environment that is a bit disorienting.

It is named after the late Oregon governor, Thomas Lawson McCall, who was an avid conservationist.  Local hikers tell me that April is absolutely mind blowing when the whole plateau is covered with wildflowers.  This is when the trail reopens.

And I'll be the first one through the gate!

Sharing with friends at Visible Monday.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Iron Spirits

"Is that a giraffe?"

I didn't have to say another word.  My travel buddy screeched to a stop and turned right into yet another whimsical playground of outsider art.  He knows me too well.  He also knows these sculpture gardens seem to find me no matter where we go.  It's truly uncanny.
This particular sculpture park is the brainchild of Dan Klennert, auto mechanic-turned-artist.
And let me tell you, the guy knows how to weld!  The massiveness of his creations is what sets him apart from other junkyard artists.  His beautiful four-acre property near Mt. Rainier National Park (on Route 706) is another big plus in the enchantment department.  I mean, really . . .   a snow covered mountain to the east.  A forest of trees to the north.  A giant spider to the west and a band of iron musicians to the south.  Can life get any more magical?
We gladly put our donation in the appropriate box.  (There was one for democrats and one for republicans.)  It was late in the day, close to cocktail hour, so we were the only ones poking around.  Didn't see hide nor hair of another warm-blooded creature--just the cold-blooded scrap metal kind with horse shoe necks and backhoe teeth.

After about an hour, we left happy and recharged.  To find such eccentricity and creativity among the golden arches, big box stores and strip malls that line every single city street in this nation, gives me hope that the Big Bad Corporate Wolf won't devour us after all.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

You Are Here

I am here.
She is there.

I am sitting in a wicker chair on the porch of a memory care facility in Kansas City.  My mother is inside.
I flew 1500 miles from Portland to Kansas City to get here.  I grabbed a window seat so I always knew where I was.  The plane flew over Washington, across the Badlands and Nebraska farms.  I spotted the Missouri River and knew we were about to land.
 I am here.
She is there.

"Where am I?" she asks me.  "Why am I here?"

"For better care, mother.  We do not want you to fall again."

She does not remember her four weeks in rehab this summer.  She does not remember being in the hospital for a sacroplasty.
I think about all those maps with the You Are Here flags.  They have helped me negotiate my way through city streets, subways and shopping malls.  The have kept me oriented.  And calm.
I go back inside.  My eyes are once again dry and clear.  I hold my mother's hand and we talk about the past.  She can remember names and events and conversations from fifty years ago, but she has no idea what day it is or even what year.  She cannot remember what she ate for breakfast or that we arranged flowers for the dining room tables only an hour ago.

Tomorrow I will leave and she will not remember I was even here.

Because she is there.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Trail of the Patriarchs

Mount Rainier National Park

Yesterday, I confessed I was just a tad jaded when it came to waterfalls.  Not so with ancient trees.  We saved this trail for our last day in the park.  The sun was beginning to lower and cast its final golden glow through the canopy.  That many of these Douglas Firs and Red Cedars are 1000 years old; that they kept growing through volcanic eruptions, blizzards, floods and fires, always leaves me with a sense of awe and wonder.

There are very few of these old growth forests left in the Pacific Northwest.  It is why our national park system is such a treasure.  The minute we drove into Mount Rainier National Park, it was apparent we had driven into a time warp.  The forest was dark and dense.  We immediately pulled over and got out of our van just to soak in the dampness, the beauty, the oxygen, and the fragrance.

The Grove of the Patriarchs trail is an easy 1.5 mile loop.  You walk across a swing bridge, over the crystal clear water of the Ohanapecosh River to an island where these 200 foot patriarchs are located.   It is this river that has provided the water and nutrients for these trees to grow and thrive.

Sadly, it was time to say good-bye, but I left craving more.  We immediately started making plans for two future trips:  To the Olympic Peninsula and to the Northern Cascades.

  I will never ever get tired of walking among ancient trees!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Narada Falls and Counting

Mount Rainier National Park

Walking to a waterfall is one of my most favorite things to do BUT after living in the Columbia River Gorge for four months, it is an activity that is becoming rather routine.  (Poor me, right?)   There are numerous waterfalls in Mt. Rainier National Park and we stopped at several BUT after getting home and looking at all my photographs, I can't distinguish one from the other EXCEPT for two.

I am happy to type out those BUTS and EXCEPTS.  I panicked for a moment.  Had I become jaded?   I've seen fellow travel junkies hit a wall.  "Nothing excites me anymore," a friend told me.  "Everything's starting to look the same."

In the future (in order to feel that wild all-consuming magic) I may need to book flights to see the biggies:  Iguazu.  Niagara.  Angel Falls. Victoria.  Oh, yes yes.   But for now, there are another two falls that are worthy of blogging about; that are worthy of making that Best Waterfalls of the World List that someday I intend to create.   One is in the park:  Narada.  The other is on the White Pass Scenic Byway (southwest of the park):  Clear Creek Falls.

Narada Falls

Clear Creek Falls

Aren't they beautiful?  Yeah, I'm not jaded, after all!!!