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View east

View east from Beacon Rock September 2013

Beacon Rock

Beacon Rock February 2013

Scene of the ruined trail this winter. Photo credit: Washington Trails Association.

Scene of the ruined trail this winter. Photo credit: Washington Trails Association.

Sunday I was scheduled for some mandatory overtime, so Saturday Arno and I took the opportunity to try Beacon Rock again. And the trail is open!

We had tried to climb to the top of the rock during the Winter, but a rock fall on January 25, 2013 had blocked the trail. We had a nice day hike anyhow.

On our way out of town, as I waited at a stop sign, still in my Montavilla neighborhood, we spied a tamale vendor on a bike across the street. We pulled over and bought some on a whim. $5 for six small tamales.

I decided to cross the Columbia River into Washington state, and take highway 14 out to Beacon Rock, rather than head east on the Oregon side, then cross Bridge of the Gods like we did in February. Highway 14 is so pretty, and I actively try to avoid the mental boundary that tries to form because of the river. Washington may as well be another country for as often as I go there, and I live about two miles from the border.

frogs in the bathroom

frogs in the bathroom

Portland was blanketed with stratus and damp with mizzle. (Misty drizzle. And yes, that is an official meteorological term.) About 30 minutes east brought us into full sunshine and warmth.

We arrived at Beacon Rock in late morning, and parked near the restrooms because I needed to use them. When I turned to go, I spotted these two handsomes in the stall with me. I started snapping photos and I wonder what the woman in the stall next to me thought I was taking pictures of!

This sign is placed for all the rock climbers and wannbes that leave the trail.

This sign is placed for all the rock climbers and wannbes that leave the trail.

We walked the short length to the base of the rock, and spent a little time looking at the cliffs. Arno spent a bit of energy trying to get me to say that I thought it would be fun to try to scale the face of it…but he didn’t get anywhere with that. (he never does, but he keeps trying ūüôā ) Instead, he admitted that the key point was that HE was excited about climbing the rock.

my rock climbing man

my rock climbing man

It’s about a mile to the top of this solitary rock standing in the valley. It is a basalt tower that formed inside the core of a volcano. As I wrote in my blog this winter, Henry Biddle built a trail to the top just because he wanted to, and I think that’s a wonderful reason. One climbs 850 feet, mainly on switchbacks. The trail is old, but in very good shape, paved and bounded with railings at all points. There are wooden bridges and steps and ramps. The views of the magnificent Columbia River Gorge never stop.

Biddle's trail

Biddle’s trail

An open door, where a locked door had been found on our first attempt.

An open door, where a locked door had been found on our first attempt.

Looking over the edge onto some of the switchbacks we traversed.

Looking over the edge onto some of the switchbacks we traversed.

From the top there is a reasonable 200 degree view of the river. I had been expecting 360 degrees, but to be disappointed would be ungrateful. Gorgeous day! Gorgeous gorge!

We read the information sign talking about how the gorge was carved by the famous Missoula floods, as they carried rocks and icebergs between the two states we now call Oregon and Washington. ¬†Ice dams in Montana burst periodically, 15,000 years ago, and sent catastrophic, otherworldly floods all the way across Idaho and Washington and into the Pacific Ocean. That’s a flood practically beyond comprehension.DSC_0131

Like with the tamales, I was still feeling spontaneous when we reached the bottom, and I suggested we go find some fish to buy.

The Indians in this region have been fishing since the first humans lived here. They have legal rights to continue to fish, and when they have too much, they sell it at little stands along the highway. I’ve been meaning to buy some fresh salmon for years, but I never seem to have the cash on me, or the time to stop. Today was my chance!

Only a few miles down the road, we found a sign “FRESH FISH,” and I pulled off the highway onto a little frontage road toward a long row of camp trailers and rickety wooden stands. I didn’t know how to choose where to go. We walked to one stand with a few people who looked up and greeted us as we arrived. We watched as the man behind the wooden stand expertly filleted a salmon for the two men standing there.

The man with the fish was named Frank, we found out later. Frank introduced his grandson, Benny, as a guy who was a lot of help around the place. So I asked 10 year old Benny, “What’s the difference between all these places selling fish?” I thought I was going to get an answer along the lines of different kinds of fish being sold, or different prices.

Benny deferred back to Frank, who went on for awhile about the trustworthiness of the sellers, the cleanliness of operations, and the reliability of the fish freshness. While he admitted that he was pretty sure he was related to every single seller out there, he couldn’t recommend any of them except one guy who wasn’t there that day. I suspected he was just trying to make a sale, till at one point in his animated stories, one of the guys buying the fish caught my eye and nodded his head at Frank and mouthed, “Buy your fish here.”

Frank with my $40 salmon

Frank with my $40 salmon. It looks small, but there was a lot of meat on it.

Choosing the fish, getting it gutted and filleted and packed with ice, all while Frank told his many stories, took some time. Arno said later that it reminded him of what Sherman Alexie had said when we went to see him in Portland. Alexie explained that you can’t hurry an Indian. Be patient and you’ll get what you want.

Chanterelles a few days old. What is left after I ate a bunch for supper.

Chanterelles

While we waited, the guy buying the fish asked me, “Hey, you want some Chanterelles?” Heck yeah! I followed him to his truck and in the back he had baskets filled with mushrooms he and the other guy had just picked. He scooped as many as I could carry into my hands, and scooped another huge handful for Frank, and we carried them back to the fish stand as the fillets were finally presented to the buyer.

Instead of focusing on me, Frank turned to watch a family that had just showed up. They all looked like they were of western Asian descent. Frank showed them the fish in the coolers while I went to grab a paper towel from the stand to wrap up my mushrooms. Arno told me that while I was gone, Frank had instructed Benny, “Remember, for brown skin, it’s $5 a pound.” I love that he heard that! What a delicious glimpse into the intricacies of commerce.

The brown family decided not to buy, and left. It was my turn to buy a fish. I was still a little suspicious about whether we were at the right place until Frank said, “There goes Green Toes,” as his earlier customers left. “That was his boyfriend with him. He was wearing shoes today, but when he’s in sandals, you can see his green toenail polish.” Frank went on talking about gay men and how uncomfortable he was to have them there, but glad for the business and the mushrooms. That sealed the deal for me. If this gay man was a regular customer despite the obvious problem Frank had with him, then it must be the best fish!

Benny with the dog

Benny with the dog

While Frank cut up my salmon, Benny’s mom Betty came out of the trailer and began talking with us. The dog came out from beneath another trailer. Frank explained that his son was gone fishing and that he was with a friend who had rights to net fishing. “The rest of us platform fish,” he explained. “Our family came in after the dam covered Celilo Falls, so we don’t get the net rights.” (Anyone who lives here soon learns that the sacred falls and fishing grounds were destroyed when The Dalles Dam was built.) I was learning so much standing there in the sun with the buzzing flies. Another Indian at a different stand turned on drum music from his truck stereo and Benny began dancing. They were a fun family.

Frank hadn’t weighed my fish, but suggested $35 and I agreed since Green Toes’ fish was about the same size and he had paid $40. When I pulled out my purse to pay for it, I found that I didn’t have change, and happily handed over $40. If we ate huge portions this was about five salmon dinners for Tara and me, the fish was probably less than 24 hours out of the water, and I had just had an hour of entertainment. It was totally worth the price!

Arno and I found a park by the water in Stevenson, and we ate our tamales and drank some Kokanee beer for lunch. Then we made our way back home and I began barbecuing salmon and zuchinni for supper, and fried up half the mushrooms in garlic and butter.

Diego walks along the nature path beside the Klickitat River, frequented by Bald Eagles.

Diego walks along the nature path beside the Klickitat River, frequented by Bald Eagles.

It’s always a pleasant surprise to me how easy it is to discover truly interesting and entertaining things in my world, if only I go outside and pay attention.

It also consistently surprises me that I forget my camera so frequently. No, worse, I think to myself Will I need my camera? Naaawwwww.  And then 20 minutes into the journey, I am kicking myself. This is what happened weekend before last when Arno, Diego, and I wandered into Klickitat County in southern Washington.

Our original intent for the entire day was to attempt to spot bald eagles, and practically as soon as we crossed the Columbia River, we began to see them. Where was my fabulous camera with zoom lens? Safe at home, intentionally left behind because I thought I wouldn’t need it. Luckily Arno had his little pocket camera, but the light in the sky was poor and the camera not powerful enough, so I can’t show you photos of eagles. They are huge. Really huge. And beautiful. Every time I see a bald eagle it makes me proud and patriotic. Thank goodness our national bird didn’t end up being a turkey.

We also saw a Golden Eagle and I was excited to spot a Kestrel. I became intimately familiar with a kestrel family when I lived in Nevada, and am glad that their voice is still recognizable to me.

Double bridges span the Klickitat River on the Washington side, but they are clearly visible from the Oregon side.

Double bridges span the Klickitat River on the Washington side, but they are clearly visible from the Oregon side.

We had parked beside a nature trail, so we went for a walk. I was very pleased to see the double bridges I had spotted many times from I-84, the Oregon side. Each time I see them I lament the lack of a place to pull over and take a photo of the remarkable arced bridges. Viola! Here I was at last with an excellent view of them, and not traveling on a freeway at 68 mph.

Not yet ready to head directly home, we followed highway 142 into the canyon. It was a stereotypically beautiful creek canyon for this area, and my hungry eyes gobbled up all I could see till I spotted something I had never seen before in real life. “Oh! They’re fishing platforms!” I said out loud. “Arno, pull over.” And he did, though he had not seen them.

I peered over the steep ledge and was more convinced that they must be fishing platforms built by local Indians. I had seen a photo or two of Indians standing on wooden platforms above rushing river water, waiting to spear fish, but I couldn’t remember when or where. Perhaps that famous photo of Celilo Falls was my resource. Arno and Diego, the climbers, instantly felt that we needed to go over the side and get down to the water.

Unstable but apparently effective fishing platforms

Unstable but apparently effective fishing platforms

You brought the camera!

You brought the camera!

At riverside, I suddenly wanted Arno’s camera, which I had – wait for it – decided to leave in the car thinking I wouldn’t need it. Arno clambered back up the steep cliff to retrieve it for me.

I was satisfied simply by looking at the platforms, but the boys spotted the rickety wooden bridge spanning the river, and needed to cross it. So I indulged them bemusedly and watched with anxiety as Arno bounced across the bridge over raging whitewater.

After returning to the car, we continued farther into the river canyon, which led higher in elevation to the source of  the Klickitat River. We went up, and up, and came out high above the rest of the world, on an incredible plateau so high that the mighty Columbia seemed only a mild trickle in the canyon below us.

Arno bounces across the handmade bridge. Yikes.

Arno bounces across the handmade bridge. Yikes.

We were understandably hungry by this time, and Diego was happy for the chance to play with his dad’s smart phone, even if it was only to use the map feature to find us a place to eat. He steered his dad directly into the parking lot of a Mexican restaurant in Goldendale, WA. Sated, we turned south onto highway 97.

Stonehenge replica made of concrete and perched on a ledge above the Columbia River.

Stonehenge replica made of concrete and perched on a ledge above the Columbia River.

I remarked that I had never seen the Stonehenge replica out there before, except at night, when I was a kid traveling through in the back of a big brown 1975 Ford Elite. There were lights on the structure, and all I remember is the circle of bulbs, and someone telling me it was Stonehenge, which was confusing, because I thought Stonehenge was far away, but I was a kid and often wrong about things at that point in my life.

So Arno turned east on highway 14 and announced that we were going to see Stonehenge. It wasn’t far, and soon we were standing beside it. I learned that it was built by Sam Hill to honor the fallen soldiers from Klickitat County in World War I. It was the first WWI monument built in the entire nation! The site now has other memorials, honoring the Klickitat military sacrifice in other wars, Vietnam, WWII, Afghanistan, and more.

Diego climbing

Diego climbing

View of Columbia

View of Columbia

My climbers couldn’t resist the walls of the life-sized replica, and were soon scaling them. I wandered through the inside, marveling at not only the original monument in England, easy for me to visualize with this replica surrounding me, but also marveling at the ambitious project of the man who built the Klickitat version. It was a cold, windy, horrid day, and we were all ready to leave that exposed point rather quickly. However, I will go back this summer in better weather, better light, and armed with my camera!

Inside the Stonehenge replica

Inside the Stonehenge replica

The water is so still it looks as though the boats are floating in the air.

The water is so still it looks as though the boats are floating in the air.

No story today. I am beginning to go through my photos to select those to be included in my Japan photobook. I took this shot near the beginning of my time in Japan, and it remained one of my favourites all year. I just thought I’d share it with you.

This is right next to the famous Kintai Bridge in Iwakuni. With this photo, you get no sense of the press of people or of what a tourist destination it is. The river is spectacularly clear, and filled with fish. There are locals fishing all day long every day. Many with a fishing pole, many with boats like these in the photo, and a few also employ an ancient fishing method using cormorants. Yes, the birds. Cormorants have a loop around their necks and are tethered to boats. When they catch a fish, they return to the boat, where fishermen tighten the loop and the bird gives up the fish. Every so often, the birds get to keep a fish, to maintain their cooperation.

flies I tied

Lookit what I did today! I tied my very first fly. And my second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth. Above are the flies I tied, and below are the flies they sent me home with.¬† My instructor, Bob, was 71 and was an awesome teacher! Bob gave me all the flies he tied, and Jay from DAV tossed me one, and so did Rob, a fly fishing guide. I started out clumsy and got better. I’m hoping that’s how the casting lesson goes on the 14th at Lake Margaret, south of Oregon City.

It’s a program for vets called Project Healing Waters. It’s designed for disabled veterans and active duty military members. They hold fly-tying workshops taught by volunteers and then sponsor fishing outings. The supplies are all donated and so are the expenses of the outings, so veterans do not have to spend money to find the peace they offer.

lots of chances to get tangled up in the bushes

I attended a workshop today at the Veterans Administration Vancouver campus, which is a really beautiful place. It poured rain all day long and I had not been in Vancouver since I was a kid (besides driving through on I-5), so I was rather nervous. But I made it up there just fine, and on time, and found the place without getting too soaked.

It did meet some of my expectations. As in: I was the only female to show up, and I was probably the only person under 65. But hey, that’s ok. I needed to shake my life up a bit to get my head out of my worries and focus on something else. So watching these old guys have a good time was fun.

I couldn’t help but think of my dad who is the only fly fisherman I know. Memories pulled me back in time, when I recalled standing out on the wide, rocky beaches, watching his line fly so far back and so far forward. Back and forth and back, and then dropping silently onto the surface of the river. For a few minutes I was in my homeland from far, far into my past.

I spent six years of my childhood living on the North Umpqua River. We were part of the now defunct Steamboat Ranger Station, across the river from the Steamboat Inn, and the lovely lovely owners and friends, Jim and Sharon VanLoan. Hard to believe it has taken me this long to learn to tie a fly, when I grew up on some of the most coveted Salmon fly fishing riverbanks in the world.

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