Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Packing for Bali

We have been planning this trip for months--as a reward for all the trauma of moving.  But now that I'm packing my carry on for real, I find myself more excited about the leaving; rather than the going.

I did not sleep last night after watching the first presidential debate.  I can't wait to get away from computers, tv's, newspapers and tablets--away from Hillary and Donald and the potential disaster our country may face.

I can't wait to get away from my husband's job.  Because he works remotely, I am privy to conference calls, difficult people and impossible deadlines.

I can't wait to leave behind certain family issues--issues that are beyond my control and that will never go away.

Except for a blissful three weeks.

For three blissful weeks, I only have to think about what fabulous things I am going to see that day.  Rice terraces.  Temples.  Monkeys.  Beautiful dancers.  Batik.  Lakes.  Volcanoes.  Tropical fish.

Then why do I feel so guilty?  Why do I feel like I'm running away?  Putting my problems on hold rather than facing them.

Then again, that is what travel is all about:  Escape.  And peace of mind.

For a blissful three weeks anyway.


Monday, September 26, 2016

Birdman's Abode

Roadside Double Takes

Not a ladder in sight.  You have to have wings to get up here!

Spotted on Washington Route 14, just east of Stevenson.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Finding Panther Creek Falls

A woman at the Visitor's Center in Stevenson told me about this hidden gem of a waterfall on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge so my travel buddy and I went in search of it last week.  Once we found the darn thing, it was an easy, delightful hike.  But finding it?  Oh, brother!

If it weren't for some thoughtful soul scrawling "FALLS" on the road, we would have driven right by.  Unlike Oregon, Washington keeps its waterfalls secret.  No signage.  But no crowds either.  I almost feel guilty writing about it.

 Well, okay, there was a sign!

Is this the trail?

Turns out it was.  Whew!  Anyway, to get you headed in the right direction, the falls is located about 13 miles from Carson, Washington.  Drive north through Carson on the Wind River Highway and turn right at the second (not the first!) entrance to Old State Road.  Then turn left on Panther Creek and go for about 7 miles (until you see the big FALLS on the road.)  Park across the street at a sort-of gravel parking lot and look for the trail heading down through a thick forest.

Good luck!

But, shh, don't tell anyone!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Lunch on the 30th Floor

Where to go for lunch?  Ah . . . that is the big question every traveler asks after a full morning of touring.  When you are alone, this question can weigh very heavy on your mind.  Although I like to travel solo at times, the dining alone always causes anxiety.  So I tend to grab a sandwich from a deli or a taco from a food truck and eat on a park bench.  Or skip lunch altogether.

But in the last couple of years, I have learned to quell this dread by eating at a restaurant with a view.  It's that awkward time between ordering and receiving a meal that causes the anxiety.  Where do I look?  Not at the other diners (always in pairs).  Cell phones.  Books.  Magazines.  These are my crutches, but I don't really enjoy these distractions.  Who am I kidding?

But a view . . . ah . . . a view.  When I have a beautiful view to look at, there are no awkward moments.  And so my choice became abundantly clear after touring the Lan Su Gardens in Portland, Oregon.  There it was:  The tall pink U.S. Bancorp Tower only a few blocks away with the Portland City Grill on its 30th floor.
I was seated by a window even though it was a table for four.  My waiter was attentive (and cute).  I spent the next hour soaking up the skyline of the city of Portland while dining slowly on a Caesar salad and the warm crab and shrimp BLT.

No worries.  No embarrassment.  Only bliss.  Only me.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A Chinese Garden in Portland

I took the 8 am Amtrak into Portland one day last week for my "city" fix.  But what did I do there?  I toured a garden.  I have to laugh at myself.  I did this last time I went into Portland, too.  I spent the day at the Rose Garden.  It seems like I can't get enough GREEN in my life.  It is wild and unpredictable outside my home.  Random seeds dropped by birds or flown in by the wind grow into massive pine trees or unwanted foreign plants.  So perhaps that is why I seek out these urban gardens.  They are controlled.  Every plant and every stone is placed with care.  There is beauty, yes, but there is also logic.  And Oriental gardens take this concept to a philosophical level.

Urban gardens are outdoor museums.  The Lan Su Chinese Garden in downtown Portland, Oregon, is a study in Chinese culture.  There is so much to see and to contemplate in this small one acre treasure, that my three hours there went by without my even being aware of its passage.
I spent the first hour walking the garden's paths and taking pictures.  But what was I looking at?  What did those designs mean?  When was this garden built?  So I backtracked to the entrance and waited for the next docent tour.  And even though there were twenty of us gawking, geeky tourists all walking shoulder to shoulder through the place, it was worth the discomfort.

The garden was inspired by the UNESCO World Heritage site gardens in Suzhou, which is a sister city of Portland.  It is considered the most authentic Suzhou-style garden outside China.  And indeed, most of the building materials came from there as well as the artisans who assembled the structures and planted the garden's specimens.

The docent explained that all five senses are engaged as you walk through the courtyards and the pavilions.  Pebbles can be felt through your feet as you walk.  Gardenias and other flowering plants fill the air with fragrance.  Waterfalls and chimes provide sound.  And taste?  There's a delightful teahouse to indulge this one!  The entire garden, of course, is a visual feast for the eyes.

Scholarship and reflection are also a big part of Lan Su Gardens.  Poetry is etched in stone.  Scrolls, paintings and photography are hung on the walls of the buildings.  An intellectual harmony is apparent around every corner and with each step you take.  Such peace is so important in our chaotic lives, and this is why such gardens are essential in large urban cities.

I remember having a panic attack in Chongqing, China, when I was there in 2005.  The tall buildings, neon lights, blaring traffic and millions upon millions of people caused my head to spin and my heart to beat so fast that I nearly fainted.  My travel buddy helped me back to the hotel where a dark air-conditioned room and a scotch on the rocks calmed my nerves.

Even in Portland, small in comparison to Chongqing, as soon as I stepped out of this serene oasis, I was bombarded with traffic and unease.  I had to walk through a homeless camp.  A young woman, obviously high on drugs, hissed at me and then shouted, "I'm going to destroy you."

It made me rethink my need to visit a city.  As I rode the Amtrak home that evening and left Portland behind, it suddenly occurred to me that I no longer enjoy these forays into urban chaos.  It seems a bit contradictory to visit a huge metropolitan area only to seek out a quiet garden.  Do I still need a yang to balance a yin?


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Against the Current

for A.

A Chinook swims against the current
and dodges the nets of the Yakima.

He leaps above the horizon
Before reaching the tranquility
of home.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Quest for Fall Florals

Like most travel junkies, I have a Bucket List of Destinations.  But lately, I have added another category to this list:  Clothes Worth Searching For.  And on that list is a "chiffon floral dress in autumn colors".

No pastels.  Nothing garish.  No big daisies (or little ones either).  No frou frou ruffles.  Is that asking too much?  Well . . . evidently.  Because I can't find one ANYWHERE.  I have found, however, a couple of tops and truth be told, these pretty fall floral tops fit into my traipsing-around-the-countryside lifestyle better than that oh so pretty flowy dress I covet.

So the dress remains on my list.  Much like Sri Lanka.

But someday . . . I vow . . .I will cross both of them off.

Sharing with Visible Monday.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Columbia River Gorge

The Most Beautiful Places on Earth

Of course it was only a matter of time before I put this amazing national scenic area on my Most Beautiful Places on Earth list.  In order to make this list my travel buddy has to drag me away screaming and kicking.  Well, he didn't have to do that this time because I LIVE HERE.

 I still wake up every morning, look out the window and gasp.  I can't imagine ever getting tired of the views.  I've seen the river, the canyon walls, the trees, and the wildlife in the spring, summer, winter and fall.  I've hiked to waterfalls and climbed to the top of peaks.  In blistering heat and in snowstorms.  Each season brings its unique appeal.

  The gorge borders the Columbia River for roughly 80 miles from The Dalles to the outskirts of Portland. Thick temperate forests mark the western end; dry grassy plateaus mark the east and a never-ending network of trails criss-cross the entire region.

There are waterfalls galore and I've only been to a fraction of them.  It's a hiker's paradise.  And, of course, the Columbia River is a huge draw for kiters and windsurfers.  The little town of Hood River swells in the summer with people coming from all over the world to ride the wind.

Its geologic origins go back millions of years when massive rivers of lava flowed through the area, but it was the icy floods from the last Ice Age that carved up the steep basalt cliffs, resulting in the dramatic landscape we see today.  

I love watching the paddlewheelers sailing down the river.  The bald eagles soaring above me.  The rainbows.  The sunsets. The salmon runs.  The Bridge of the Gods.  I love how happy people are here.  "The gorge is my gym," is a common expression.  Just last week I ran into an elderly man with his portable oxygen tank and walking stick, on an isolated trail high above the river.  I was stunned.  He told me he was from Virginia and had always wanted to see this place.  He had me take his picture.  "I can't wait to show my friends back home," he said.  "They're not going to believe it." 

It was then and there I decided to put the Columbia River Gorge on my list.  It is truly a bucket list destination.  It is truly one of the most beautiful places on earth.