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I spotted the Golden Gate Bridge beneath my plane’s window, as we approached San Francisco for a landing.

In early February I took a trip to Nevada to visit my cousin Debbie. She is one of my favourite people in the whole world and we had not seen each other for years. Several snowstorms were rolling through the region during that time and I became afraid that if I made the two-day journey by car, I would get trapped in one of those storms. Instead I made the one-day journey by plane for less than the cost of gas!

I arrived just before a storm hit. On our way home from the airport it started to get bad and we even had to re-route due to an accident on the highway. By the next morning, their neighborhood was a winter wonderland.

These hills are right outside my cousin’s neighborhood and I decided to hike up to them.

I had brought winter gear with me, so I bundled up and walked out the front door with my camera. We had not yet had any snow at home in Rainier, so this snow was the first snow of the winter for me!

I walked through the sagebrush and juniper and spotted a dozen rabbits bouncing through the fresh snow, leaving their tracks everywhere. I wanted so badly to capture them in photo, but as I tried in vain, I remembered the expression quick like a bunny.

My views of snow, sagebrush, rabbit tracks, and mountains as I plowed through the snow up the gradual slope.

Here I found a rabbit highway.

Sagebrush has a beautiful smell that rose up around me as I tromped through. I picked a few branches to take home with me.

I don’t know what this bush is, but it is also pretty.

Every now and then the sun would break through and light up the landscape.

We had been checking the road conditions online all morning, waiting to see if a particular pass would open up so we could head up to stay the night in a cabin we had reserved in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. The overnight snowstorm had closed highways all over the place. Lines of trucks showed up on the traffic cameras, one line waiting to go East, and the other waiting to go West. Everything stopped in the middle due to 4-8 feet of freshly fallen snow.

We had decided earlier that if the roads weren’t open by 2pm, we would have to give up on the trip because we would need a couple hours of daylight to safely drive up as far as we could go, then snowshoe into the cabin, hauling our gear for the night, and dig the cabin door out of the snow so we could get in. It would not be a good idea to take any chances in this kind of adventure when temperatures drop quickly after dark and we would be in snow depths over our heads. I checked the time and saw that it was time to head back to make sure I was there by 2pm.

When I turned around, I saw the neighborhood at the bottom of the hill.

Snow can make even a mud puddle look pretty.

Highway 88 remained closed all day. The next morning Debbie and I were getting restless. We packed up for a road trip up there anyway, just to see all the snow. We brought our cameras, but it was hard to get many good photos. It was still snowing in the mountains, even though there was blue sky and sunshine in the valleys. We quickly crossed the Nevada/California border and spent most of the trip in the California Sierra. Roads were open as far as Kirkwood Mountain Resort, but just after the entrance into the parking lot, we could see the gate across Highway 88, where no traffic was allowed because the plows had not yet been able to clear the roads sufficiently.

At Kirkwood Mountain Ski Resort, the snow was absolutely appropriate.

Parking lots were packed with people excited to get onto the slopes buried in several feet of new snow.

This car had obviously been parked here yesterday, before the storm began. I had to chuckle that the owner was thoughtful enough to raise the wipers, but apparently had not planned on 4 feet of snow!!

Looking across the creek that runs through the center of the Kirkwood resort. You can see the ski slopes behind the buildings.

When we were done looking around at the ski resort, we then looked for places to take photos. That was a challenge because plows had only time to clear a path for cars, but not enough time for luxuries like clearing extra space on the side of the road to pull over, out of traffic. Deb and I could not find many safe places to stop.

Here is the wall of snow at one of the plowed pull-outs that we found.

A ray of light burst through snow showers.

In this one I was trying to highlight the icicle in the branches.

And then the sun blinked out and it was back to snow.

Down in the valley again, there was less snow but more sun.

My cousin Debbie is an accomplished photographer.

The road trip into the snow kept us from feeling the disappointment of not being able to stay in the cabin overnight. The next morning we all woke up early and Debbie took me back to the airport in Reno. My flight left on time, just ahead of another snow storm.

A lovely shot of the rental car dashboard.

A lovely shot of the rental car dashboard.

Yesterday afternoon – no doubt related to the wet weather – my camera went on the fritz. It stopped working completely by evening, to my dismay. The next morning, it worked again, but sporadically. For every 20 times I press the shutter button, it may actually work once. Now there is a blinking green light on the front of the body of the camera that apparently indicates there is a problem, but not the nature of the problem. The blinking green light drains a full charge on the battery in two hours, but at least the camera takes a shot now and then. I’ve decided to leave the battery out until I want to take a photo.

What this means for you, dear reader, is fewer photos. Instead of 200 to choose from like usual, this time I had 24 (that’s including the shots of the car dashboard and the gravel road, and other dumb stuff when I got impatient and just kept pressing the shutter button but stopped aiming the camera). Time for the Nikon doctor when I get home, wouldn’t you think?

Dessert cookie

Dessert cookie

We woke up in our Villarrica hotel, got another fabulous breakfast and pinched some more hockey pucks with meat and cheese, and more of those positively sinful cookies. They’re like a whole dessert in a cookie and it’s enough sweetness to last a whole day. I think it’s layers of cookies, frosting, caramel and cream, and coated in a vanilla shell with a walnut on top. Margaret’s preference is the same type of cookie, only chocolate. Anyhow, in that way we secured another picnic lunch.

We hit the highways with a map we had picked up in Pucón a couple days earlier. I navigated and Margaret drove, and we cut through the gorgeous countryside from Villarrica and connected to the Pan American Highway, down here called Ruta 5, at Los Lagos. We drove for about 4 hours total, and reached our hostel in Puerto Varas at 1:30pm. Along the way we pulled over and got out lunch, and continued driving as we ate. We had an appointment at 2:30, and until we found our room were not comfortable taking a food break. We stopped in Los Lagos for petrol, which was a fun stop for me because a man working there spoke English and said he had become fluent when he spent some time at West Point Military Academy in New York. I told him I was also a veteran, and we talked military shop while Margaret stressed about getting the attendant to pump gas and then pay him (she had to break into my conversation to solicit for pesos). It was a bit of an abandonment of my traveling companion, so I tried to balance it out by pumping the man for ideas of what to see and do in the region, and he was happy to comply.

I tried to get shots along the way and my camera hardly ever complied. There were a lot of scenes like this.

I tried to get shots along the way and my camera hardly ever cooperated. There were a lot of scenes like this.

I can't get over what a beautiful country Chile is.

I can’t get over what a beautiful country Chile is.

The rivers and forests and mountains make for stunning scenery.

The rivers and forests and mountains make for stunning scenery.

We saw a lot of this today, but even Ruta 5 is beautiful in its way.

We saw a lot of this today, but even Ruta 5 is beautiful in its way. Margaret was impressed by the mostly empty highway, which made for low-stress driving.

We found our hostel in Puerto Varas with very little trouble, as the Air BnB hostess gave great directions from Ruta 5. We are staying at Galpon Aire Puro, a refurbished ginormous potato barn. It’s four stories, with shops in the first level, offices on the second level, the hostesses’ living quarters and guest rooms on the third level, and another guest room at the top. It is gorgeous. Our hostess is Vicki Johnson, a sparking, popping burst of positive energy. She showed us to our rooms, gave us tons of information about getting around town and where to find good food, then whirled out the door to meet a friend. We then had 30 minutes to wait for our scheduled pick up from the river rafting company.

The common room at our hostel.

The common room at our hostel looks out over the town of Puerto Varas.

Looking through the common room to the kitchen. Guest rooms above, and on all sides of the common room.

Looking through the common room to the kitchen. Guest rooms above, and on all sides of the common room.

The stairwell between all the floors of our hostel.

The stairwell between all the floors of our hostel.

The rafting company is Ko’Kayak, based in Ensenada. They sent a van to pick up rafters Jaime, Daniella, and Alicia and us. Daniella was doing the rafting trip as a birthday gift for Alicia who had just turned 15. Jaime was a Santiago transplant who came to live in Puerto Varas after visiting and falling in love with his novia (girlfriend). We met Michelle, our guide from Australia, who chatted with us during our hour-long drive to Ensenada and put us all at ease as much as we could be prior to a rafting trip. Margaret and Jamie had done this before, the rest of us never had and were somewhat nervous, not knowing what to expect.

The rain had been falling all day, from the moment we awoke, and we were wondering if the rafting trip would be canceled. But rafting in the rain turns out to be a great idea since you get soaked anyway. Michelle ran us through the safety speech, and then taught us how to paddle and which commands would be used. Then we changed into wetsuits, got fitted for helmets, and climbed into the van again for the ride to the river.

The rafting headquarters.

The rafting headquarters.

Getting ready for our safety briefing.

Getting ready for our safety briefing.

Margaret, me, and Jaime in our attractive rafting uniforms.

Margaret, me, and Jaime in our attractive rafting uniforms.

It was a small group and we all fit into one raft. Our first order of business was to get another safety lecture, this time from the man who introduced himself to us as our Angel. He was in a kayak and explained that if anyone went into the river, he would be the rescue crew. He explained what we had to do if we found ourselves outside the raft and floating down the river. Then we all climbed into the raft and practiced paddling. Michelle is fluent in Spanish and English, and switched back and forth with ease, giving instructions in both so everyone could understand. In fact, the command “forward!” got a little lost in the river noise, and I found it easier to listen to “adelante!” after a few minutes. (I think, for the next few years, any time I see the word “adelante,” I’m going to hear it in Michelle’s voice, shouted over wave noise.)

Before we knew it, we were in the Petrohué River in the Vicente Perez Rosales National Park and our first rapids were right in front of us. It’s apparently a category 3 river, but I am ignorant of category definitions. I can tell you what it means though: giant waves that smash you in the face! It was terrifying at first. I’m a bit of a shy person in new situations and with new people, so I hadn’t said much to anyone since the van pick up. M and I were placed in the front of the raft, and right out of the gate we were rocketing down cliffs of water and facing huge walls of waves that just came right at us. I had the presence of mind to notice the aqua colour, the triangle shapes of the waves, the way the water was so clear we could see the black rocks below, causing all the commotion, even though we were separated from the rocks by a lot of water. The only time I have ever experienced waves like this was surfing, so I noticed how nice it is to get a faceful of fresh water vs. sea water. And likewise, how lovely that the water was warmer than the Humboldt Coast ocean I have known. The Pacific Ocean off Trinidad California is around 52 degrees in the winter when the best waves are available. The Petrohué River was much warmer – maybe 65 degrees – but that’s a guess.

Anyhow, despite my shy quietness up to that point, and despite my ability to find the good in the experience, at first I was scared out of my mind and let fly some expletives. At one point I actually yelled at Margaret, “I can’t believe you got me into this!” I hollered, as I flailed with the paddle while the nose of the raft was airborne, and then squeezed my eyes shut as the next wave smashed into my face. I said to Margaret, “Yeah, I think I change my mind about going rafting,” and she thought I was serious. But…I had realized I was going to live after all, and I was just kidding. After two sets of rapids, I found that it’s pretty easy to stay in the boat. Also, Jaime was sitting right behind me and laughing his head off. I relaxed and began having a marvelous time.

My camera was not working anyway, so I had left it behind and thus I cannot show you the absolutely stunning scenery we saw from the river. Stunningly beautiful. The river was wide and warm (well relatively warm), there were birds and plants to identify. I decided to leave my glasses behind too, but was still the first person to spot a kingfisher. We had a long discussion about the hillsides covered in Nalca (Gunnera tinctoria), that apparently is delicious. {postscript: M and I tasted some later, and it does taste much like rhubarb. Though another name for this plant is “giant rhubarb,” it is not actually related. The plant has been introduced all over the world and in New Zealand and Ireland has created a weed problem.} I could not stop thinking of how the scenery at the river looks like Japan, with the steep lush mountains rising out of the river.

Our Angel circled the raft in his kayak, played in the rapids, and stationed himself off to the side to watch out for us every time we went through rapids, but there were no accidents and everyone had a great time. Eventually Michelle suggested that we could get out and float in the river (buoyed by our wetsuits), and Alicia, Jaime, and I did. Margaret used the rescuing skills that we were taught, and hauled us back into the raft when we were done swimming.

After only about an hour of rafting, we rowed to the beach and the crew waiting for us hauled in the equipment while we went to the van. During the long ride back, we all got pretty chilled in our soaked suits. We changed back into dry clothes with lightning speed, and met up again to share hot coffee and tea and empanadas. I had heard about Chilean honey, and thought that honey was honey. But Jaime insisted that I try Miel, and it turned out to be amazing! I wish I had the means to buy twenty jars of it as gifts for all of you, but my luggage was already full. Jamie explained that the flavor came from a particular tree that the bees flocked to. I shopped for the honey later and couldn’t tell how to ensure that a particular jar contained honey from the tree I wanted…since I imagine bees to be reluctant to take commands from beekeepers. After empanadas and miel on crackers and coffee in our bellies, we were all good friends despite the language barrier.

Ko’Kayak took us all home and M and I turned in for the night. Though we wanted to explore Puerto Varas, it had truly been a long day.

A silver and orange moon floats just outside a gas cloud in the galaxy

A silver and orange moon floats just outside a gas cloud in a galaxy far, far away.

A friend of mine had a booth at the gem and mineral show this weekend, and invited me to stop by.

I parked and walked toward the Hillsboro Fairgrounds building, and passed several nerds with big grins, clutching recent aquisitions. It was then I knew I was going to be among my people!

My reason for going to was to visit my friend Joe whom I had only seen twice before, and then only for 5 minutes each time. Once at a Mt. Hood Cherokees monthly meeting, and once at our summer Cherokee Event. Through a telephone interview and several emails over the past year, we knew instinctively we’d have things to talk about, but until now the planets had not aligned to put us into each others’ path. Interestingly, that morning I told him I probably couldn’t make it because I was going to a picnic at a park in town, and was hoping to play Cherokee marbles in the rain with other Indians from our group. I walked around the park in the rain, watching children on the jungle gym and middle school girls play some pretty impressive soccer, but no one I knew showed up. Finally I discovered (via facebook on my phone – just love technology) that the picnic had been canceled and viola! The planets had aligned for once, and there was time enough to visit.

(Since there would be no potluck, I brought the fresh baked walnut-apple crisp home for myself. Score!)

Gem Show - perfect choice for a wet day!

Gem Show – perfect choice for a wet day!

These were the shiny jewelry-looking pieces, but I preferred the regular rocks.

These were the shiny jewelry-looking pieces, but I preferred the regular rocks.

My best friend just bought a house and I am convinced she needs this remarkable switch plate. How clever and beautiful it is!

My best friend just bought a house and I am convinced she needs this remarkable switch plate. How clever and beautiful it is!

We had a great visit, and things were slow enough that my friend took a break from his booth at one point to walk through all the booths with me. This was bad news. I am smitten with lovely things. And I do think rocks are lovely. Soon I was clutching several irresistible slices of stone. My friend selected an agate from the table of a lovely woman from Oklahoma (who, yes, also turned out to be Cherokee), and she handed me a tool I had never used before.

“You’ll need a loupe for that,” she said.

“A whatsit?”

The professional rock hound taught me how to use it, and I gasped with astonishment at the magnified Moroccan berber agate in my hand. I gasped in exactly that way the first time I looked through a telescope powerful enough to show me Saturn’s butter-coloured rings.

“There’s a cluster of stars here,” I told them excitedly, pointing at the rock. “And this is a whole galaxy! With a cloud nebula off on this side, see it?”

Joe chuckled and took the stone from me and said he was going to photograph it.

That’s why he was there at the show: to exhibit his art. This guy has fixed a magnifying piece to his beautiful old lens that he used to capture east Asia after he fought in the Vietnam war. The lens has served him well, and now it has a new life. At his booth he had a 17-inch computer screen set up for visitors, and his camera, screen, lights and computer in the back. For most people he explained what they were looking at, and how he made the images, but for some who eagerly handed over their treasures, he photographed their rocks.

The results are magical.

Two of the pieces I bought. The piece on the right came from McDermitt, Nevada. The piece on the left is my agate from Morocco.

Two of the pieces I bought. The piece on the right came from McDermitt, Nevada. The piece on the left is my agate from Morocco.

This is only one magical outcome of the rocks my friend photographs. Can you find this portion in my photo of the same stone above?

This is only one magical outcome of the rocks my friend photographs. Can you find this portion in my photo of the same stone above?

A different perspective at the same place on the stone.

A different perspective at the same place on the stone.

I sent a text to another friend and mentioned that the gem and mineral show was near his house. The next day I got a text back. He and his wife had gone to the gem show, and he bought a rock too!

Smoky crystals on my friend's rock.

Smoky crystals on my friend’s rock.

I am still curious about the Cherokee connection, right? The punch line doesn’t seem to include any Indians, but they were all over the story in the beginning. My friend who went the next day is from east Asia, and his wife is not indigenous American as far as I know.

I found the connection in an old email in which Joe talked about his upcoming residency at the Crow’s Shadow Institute on the Umatilla Reservation outside Pendleton, Oregon. He told me that in his art the Cherokee component is necessary. In his work he tries, in the Cherokee tradition, to see clearly and understand what is around us right now, and in that way make links to what has happened over time. One example of that is when he showed me photos of petrified wood, and I could see the cells! Cells in rock. Fascinating, don’t you think?

Whenever I open myself up to what’s out there in the world, I have the best adventures. Joe gave me permission to share more of his images, so I’ll leave you with them. Click to enlarge. Look for unexpected landscapes.

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There's my little home town of Rainier in the foreground, on the Oregon side, and Longview across the river on the Washington side. In the center is the Lewis & Clark Bridge across the Columbia River, that helps me get to work (and more importantly: home) each day.

There’s my little home town of Rainier in the foreground, on the Oregon side, and Longview across the river on the Washington side. In the center is the Lewis & Clark Bridge across the Columbia River, that helps me get to work (and more importantly: home) each day.

Saturday I turned 46 and went down the road apiece to Astoria, Oregon. I stopped right away at a viewpoint and looked down on our rural valley, about an hour drive north of Portland, Oregon. From there I could see the industrial mechanisms of the local economy, in the form of lumber and pulp mills, and the Port of Longview.

The next thing that caught my attention was a sign that pointed the way to a toll ferry. I did not need to go wherever the ferry would take me, except that I have been randomly discovering quite a few small ferry crossings on the many Oregon rivers, and it’s become a new interest of mine. Sadly, I did not ride a ferry that day.

Ferry was closed for repairs, but now that I know it's there, I'll go back and try again.

Ferry was closed for repairs, but now that I know it’s there, I’ll go back and try again.

The water beside the ferry launch was picturesque.

The water beside the ferry launch was picturesque.

In no time I was in Astoria, the city built at the mouth of the Columbia as it pours into the Pacific Ocean. I took a few photos near the mouth of the river, which is filled with sea faring ships, of course, since it’s a safe harbour when the ships are not en route. Then I stopped for lunch at the Rogue Brewery on Pier 39. I drove on the pier to get there!

Ships appear to be moving along a track in this photo. But they are in the distance, and a man is walking his dog along the path.

Ships appear to be moving along an earthen track in this photo. But they are in the distance, and a man is walking his dog along the path that follows the narrow piece of land.

The "road" to the brewery. One will also find shops, a museum, a law office, and the original cannery building for Bumble Bee Tuna.

The “road” to the brewery. One will also find a coffe shop, a dive store, a museum, and a law office.

Bumble Bee Seafood Company started right here. Can you sing the tune with me? "Bum Bum Bumble Bee, Bumble Bee Tuna."

Bumble Bee Seafood Company started right here. Can you sing the tune with me? “Bum Bum Bumble Bee, Bumble Bee Tuna.”

At the Rogue Brewery I veered away from the “Dead Guy Ale,” and the “Yellow Snow IPA,” and tried the “8 Hop IPA” and some homemade clam chowder (fresh clams, obviously). I somewhat recklessly agreed to become a citizen of the Rogue Nation and raised my right hand and took the pledge. I got a card that entitles me to a free pitcher of beer on my next birthday, but not this one. I talked with another woman traveling solo who is from Idaho like me, and has been roaming the West Coast since November, she said, trying to decide whether or not to retire. When she left, I talked with the couple on the other side of me, who were having a great day because the grandparents had the baby and they were free for awhile. They were both Air Force veterans like me and I quickly gave my VA-is-the-best-thing-ever spiel, and answered some questions and gave them my contact information.

Next I went to check in at the Cannery Pier Hotel & Spa. This place looked great online, and is *so* much better in reality. The service was personal and genuine. They learned my name in the first greeting, and from then on never asked again what room I was in. I told them it was my birthday and they wished me a happy birthday every time I passed the front desk (and even checked in with me the next day at breakfast, to see if I had enjoyed my birthday. I had.) I took a dozen photos, and I’ll share them with you in my next post.

The Cannery Pier Hotel & Spa at the end of a pier into the Columbia River.

The Cannery Pier Hotel & Spa at the end of a pier into the Columbia River.

There were about two hours of daylight left, so I left the place and went to find the sea.

First I got distracted by this garage covered in scavenged buoys. The woman who owned the home there said the garage was built at the same time as her grandmother’s home, which had been where we were standing before she tore it down to build her new home. “But Grandma loved her garage and it reminds me of her, and I just can’t bring myself to take it down yet,” she said. “We had a pile of these buoys that we had found, and one day we hung them up. Now people drop them off and we keep hanging them up.”

Grandma's garage covered in buoys

Grandma’s garage covered in buoys

Then I was distracted again by a sign giving directions to the Army Cemetery. The road passed through what had clearly been an Army outpost years ago. Though it is entirely civilian now, one can’t ever erase the stamp of the federal government. It had the feel of a military base still. At the end of the road I found the humble Fort Stevens Post Cemetery, founded in 1868, according to an informational sign, when the first burial was Private August Stahlberger, who fell in the river and drowned while under the influence. It was also closed for repair.

The road to the cemetery.

The road to the cemetery.

Past the guardhouse

Past the guardhouse

U.S. Army Cemetery, Fort Stevens

U.S. Army Cemetery, Fort Stevens

Doing repairs carefully

Doing repairs carefully

Finally I found the beach. I honestly tried to pick out just the good photos, but… I fell in love with them all. It was an exquisite view in the January afternoon, as the sun shed her last rays on us ocean-loving humans.DSC_0191DSC_0189DSC_0198DSC_0195DSC_0194

On the way back to the hotel for their 5 pm wine, cheese, salmon and crackers, I had to stop again for photos. These reflections were still discernible in the very last vestiges of light at about 4:40 pm.

Branches stretch across a swampy bay.

Branches stretch across a swampy bay.

My camera makes it look rather light still, but it was pretty dark at this point. Still, the reflections were worth stopping for.

My camera makes it look rather light still, but it was pretty dark at this point. Still, the reflections were worth stopping for.

I went up to my room and changed into my new Christmas dress that I had only worn once so far. I enjoyed the treats downstairs, then came back to my room to try out a new whiskey that I received as a birthday gift. Have I mentioned that I’m a whiskey drinker? A co-worker has been lauding this Japanese scotch for the longest time. I was skeptical that such a good whiskey could be from Japan. I am no longer skeptical. Then, since I wanted to get a photo of my dress for Tara, I took about 75 photos in the bathroom mirror and failed them all. By the time this one was taken, I was totally cracking up at my own ineptness. But at least I got a fuzzy picture of my dress. It’s a sweater dress, so fuzzy is appropriate.

Auchentoshan pours out like syrup

Auchentoshan Three Wood pours out like syrup

Cracking myself up while failing at a selfie.

Cracking myself up while failing at a selfie.

 

Impressive double wings on this beauty by the water.

Impressive double wings on this beauty by the water.

I’ve been sneaking quick strolls around the property when I get a break. On one such occasion I got excited about all the dragon flies in a sunny patch of the pond. I was barefoot, and couldn’t get right up close, because the sticks and reeds at the edge of the water were poking my feet. So I relied on the zoom lens.

I credit Colin at A Farm, A Forest, and Fizz for training my eye toward the buzzing, flying things more than usual over the past year. Colin focuses his fabulous macro lens on the teeniest inhabitants, including wildflowers and fungi, as well as insects and arachnids. I want to stay in the habit of noticing all the tiny things that live around me.

A crimson dragon for you

A crimson dragon for you

It is interesting to me how they rest with their wings pulled forward. I wonder why?

It is interesting to me how they rest with their wings pulled forward. I wonder why?

Not a dragon fly. But interesting  nonetheless.

Not a dragon fly. But interesting nonetheless.

The view north from Cape Lookout State Park, near Tillamook, Oregon

The view north from Cape Lookout State Park, near Tillamook, Oregon. This was the first moment we spotted the Pacific Ocean on our trip. We plan to hug the sea and go north until we run out of time.

#PDXcarpet

#PDXcarpet

My college friend M flew out last night and I picked him up at PDX airport. Was very excited for a chance to get what will certainly be one of my last chances to take a selfie of my feet on the Portland Airport Carpet. The famous teal carpet is being torn up amidst the gnashing of teeth. Beloved by Portlanders, this carpet has a line of merchandise, a facebook page, and a twitter feed. And it’s going to be the Grand Marshall at our upcoming Starlight Parade. Yes, we are a bit wonky in Portland.

This morning we took off on our coast road trip. I have challenged myself to post each night, because I promise I will not post 7 days’ worth of photos in a timely manner once I get home and go back to my busy life. It has to be done now or not at all. Wish me luck.

Thus, I am going to go heavy on the photos w/captions, and light on the talk. Please enjoy.

Driving past this marshy area, I was drawn to these flowers. Aren't they interesting from a distance? I knew it would be worth the trouble to get a close up, so we pulled over.

Driving past this marshy area, I was drawn to these flowers. Aren’t they interesting from a distance? I knew it would be worth the trouble to get a close up, so we pulled over.

What a fabulous flower.

What a fabulous flower.

We left the house and came through the center of Portland so I could show a little of the city to M on our way West. We explored the outdoor amphitheater in the center of the volcanic cone of Mt. Tabor, then we spotted clusters of food carts, went down Hawthorne Street, and crossed the Willamette River. Purely by coincidence, we ended up downtown next to a classic Portland must-see spot, on my way to Chinatown. So we pulled over and waited in line 25 minutes to get into Voodoo Doughnut. Check out the link: craziest doughnuts you’ve ever seen. As M said, “Take that Dunkin Donuts!”

Portland is such a lovely small city that in minutes we were out of town and heading toward the coast. The sky kept things interesting all day: alternating drizzle to rain to mist and then one actual downpour with hail. We did get some breaks of sun that sometimes corresponded with our stops.

We toured the Tillamook Cheese Factory, and ate some of their fabulous ice cream. That was just too much sugar for one day, but neither of us is entirely sorry. We toured the cheese making operations, and purchased giant slabs of extra sharp white cheddar. We ended the day in Astoria, and now I need to rest up for tomorrow. (spoiler: Goonies!)

Tillamook Cheese Factory

Tillamook Cheese Factory

The factory floor.

The factory floor.

A view along the coast.

A view along the coast.

I am in love with the sharp dramatic cliffs of the Pacific Northwest coast. Reminds me of the scenes in Japanese traditional art.

I am in love with the sharp dramatic cliffs of the Pacific Northwest coast.

See how the highway cuts a slice right through the rock?

See how the highway cuts a slice right through the rock?

Enormous slabs of cheese! They must be 20-lb blocks or so.

Enormous slabs of cheese! They must be 20-lb blocks or so.

I may know how that raccoon sticker got on that sign.

I may know how that raccoon sticker got on that sign.

My friend M is as addicted to photo as myself, thank goodness.

My friend M is as addicted to photo as myself, thank goodness.

Another vista point. They are all stunning. How grateful I am for the bursts of sun right when I need them.

Another vista point. This one of Haystack Rock. They are all stunning. How grateful I am for the bursts of sun right when I need them.

The Astoria Column is remarkable and I must look up the story of this structure. In the meantime, this is what it looks like.

The Astoria Column is remarkable and I must look up the story of this structure. In the meantime, this is what it looks like.

And this is the view from the top. That's the Astoria Megler Bridge connecting Oregon to Washington, across the mouth of the Columbia River.

And this is the view from the top. That’s the Astoria Megler Bridge connecting Oregon to Washington, across the mouth of the Columbia River.

Here's the view of M from the column.

Here’s the view of M from the column.

We chose seafood for supper and then had to run out of the restaurant before the food came because sunset was happening. You get that, right? It was impossible for photo addicts to let this one go.

We chose seafood for supper and then had to run out of the restaurant before the food came because sunset was happening. You get that, right? It was impossible for photo addicts to let this one go.

Seagull on an old boiler from the seaside fish processing days.

Seagull on an old boiler from the seaside fish processing days.

What a beautiful boiler.

What a beautiful boiler.

I caught this one and then it was time to head back in for halibut.

I caught this one and then it was time to head back in for halibut.

Nothing says "Spring" like newly opening flowers.

Nothing says “Spring” like newly opening flowers.

Tara and I visited Laurelhurst Park a couple weeks ago to take advantage of glorious February sunshine. The park was lovely, as always, though not as advanced into signs of Springtime as we had hoped. I took plenty of shots, in my typical fashion, and nothing grabbed my heart until…these.

Reaching up hopefully to a weak Spring sun.

Reaching up hopefully to a weak Spring sun.

A tiny package of delight, reaching out to me.

A tiny package of delight, reaching out to me.

The light behind these buds and flowers is inspiring!

Has that ever happened to you? You are walking along, looking around, taking all things in as more or less equal contributors into your environment, and then BLAM! An incredible snapshot is framed ahead of you. Terrible when you see it without a camera nearby. But what a treasure when the Nikon is slung around your neck at that moment. Carefully pull the strap over your head without breaking eye contact with that amazing view, switching it on as part of the fluid swish of motion, since – for heaven’s sakes the “on switch” is programmed into subconscious memory by now.

And the greatest treasure of all: when the photos look as wonderful on your laptop as they did in the tiny viewfinder.

I couldn't get enough of the fuzzy flower buds. Tara was getting chilly, hopping from one foot to the other, while I was not aware of temperature at all.

I couldn’t get enough of the fuzzy flower buds. Tara was getting chilly, hopping from one foot to the other, while I was not aware of temperature at all.

Obviously, all the light and dark made me think of black and white.

Obviously, all the light and dark made me think of black and white.

Tara hams it up for the first part of the shoot at Laurelhurst Park

Tara hams it up for the first part of the shoot at Laurelhurst Park

Snowberries at the park

Snowberries at the park

Tara and I found a photographer with some great photo ideas for senior photos. We spent one Saturday at several locations, and ended up in a place so well-suited for photos that we stayed until there was almost no light at all. It was a super productive day and I am grateful for whatever photography luck gods were helping us out when we found Cambrae. I am dying to see her finished photos!

Snake mural. You can see T on the right side in the sun.

Snake mural. You can see T on the right side in the sun.

I brought my camera along and found limitless reasons to click the shutter. We started at Laurelhurst Park, a beautiful park in town that has hosted many key memories from our years in Portland, from an Easter egg hunt our first year here, to sledding the year it snowed two feet at Christmas. Then Cambrae suggested a stop at a huge mural of a black snake on a white building. Our favourite was the old burnt out building downtown that is covered in graffiti.

As the sun went down, we both tried to capture what we could of the setting, the fabulous clouds, and the many-coloured walls, and the senior.

Cambrae and Tara in the background.

Cambrae and Tara in the background.

A little senior sass! People comment about the "failed artist" and "the locals" on the wall. The words were merely what was there when we arrived, and not specifically chosen to mean anything in the photo, but it's still pretty funny. :)

A little senior sass! People comment about the “failed artist” and “the locals” on the wall. The words were merely what was there when we arrived, and not specifically chosen to mean anything in the photo, but it’s still pretty funny. 🙂

I wandered around and entertained myself by taking photos of all the tremendously interesting stuff in the building.

I wandered around and entertained myself by taking photos of all the tremendously interesting stuff in the building.

He almost blends right in. Then when you see him, he's obvious.

He almost blends right in. Then when you see him, he’s obvious.

Sunset was especially good that night with those clouds.

Sunset was especially good that night with those clouds.

Reflections made everything more exciting.

Reflections made everything more exciting.

Iron bars provide stability for the walls till someone can raze the place.

Iron bars provide stability for the walls till someone can raze the place.

An artist did a little work while we were there.

Another artist did a little work while we were there.

T brought pointe shoes to make some shot more dynamic!

T brought pointe shoes to make some shots more dynamic!

The photographer and her subject.

The photographer and her subject.

Sunset on icefields on the west slopes.

Sunset on icefields on the west slopes.

I must have been in the camera groove when I went to Mt. St. Helens. I am merely trying to sort and organize my photos to upload them to flickr, but I keep impressing myself. Some of these are stunning. I cheat, because I was standing in gorgeous scenery. But still… wow.

Evening sun turns the silvery spikes of dead trees into copper.

Evening sun turns the silvery spikes of dead trees into copper. And do my eyes deceive me, or is that blue sky through an arch? You can click for a larger image.

This one makes me think of candy. No Photoshop here, just pure atmospheric luck.

This one makes me think of candy. No Photoshop here, just pure atmospheric luck.

This was so much more astonishing in person, but it's still nice here. The North Fork Toutle River sparkles as it flows West to the sea.

This was so much more astonishing in person, but it’s still nice here. The North Fork Toutle River sparkles as it flows West to the sea. All the particulate is…yes… volcanic dust kicked up in the wind.

Ash kicked into the air as high winds tornado into the crater.

Ash kicked into the air as high winds tornado into the crater.

I want to paint this with oils - all that blue shadow. These are the hummocks in the valley below the observatory.

I want to paint this with oils – all that blue shadow. These are the hummocks in the valley below the observatory.

Awww... ok, I threw this one in for cuteness.

Awww… ok, I threw this one in for cuteness.

Pow! What color!

Pow! What color!

I am about the world's biggest huckleberry fan. Imagine my delight when I found bushes just loaded with ripe berries beside a trail.

I am about the world’s biggest huckleberry fan. Imagine my delight when I found bushes just loaded with ripe berries beside a trail.

The contrast was just irresistible.

The contrast was just irresistible.

I am on the East side of St. Helens, and the wind is Easterly. So the air is clear over the forest, but in the places where the volcanic dust is still on the surface, the particles are raised high in the air. You can see the cloud moving off to the West.

I am on the East side of St. Helens, and the wind is Easterly. So the air is clear over the forest, but in the places where the volcanic dust is still on the surface, the particles are raised high in the air. You can see the cloud moving off to the West.

In case you want to see any more, here’s my flickr link.

…and a shout out to anyone who can tell me why sometimes my images are displayed in sharp focus and sometimes they look blurry, or grainy low quality, when displayed in WordPress. Is it just my computer that does this? Is it the template that I’m using?

This is Mt. St. Helens when I arrived at the Observatory.

This is Mt. St. Helens when I arrived at the Observatory.

The ranger at Mt. St. Helens National Monument said, “Well, in answer to your question I’ll tell you about our 6:15 rule.” And he explained that the doors of the Johnston Observatory are closed and locked at 6:00 p.m. In a Murphy’s Law type fashion, the clouds typically clear up around 6:15 p.m. “From what I hear, you have a good chance of seeing the mountain sometime between 6 and 6:30,” he said.

So I waited. I waved goodbye to all the rangers as they left. From the top of an observation hill I watched the parking lot clear out. I found a nice comfortable railing to sit on, beside a trail, with nothing but volcano gorgeousness in front of me… and I waited.

And it paid off.

6:25 p.m. I knew it wouldn't clear by 6:30, but I could tell the clouds were clearing. So I stayed.

6:25 p.m. I knew it wouldn’t clear by 6:30, but I could tell the clouds were clearing. So I stayed.

6:48 p.m.

6:48 p.m.

7:05 p.m.

7:05 p.m.

7:16 p.m. Look at that! What an incredible view. Perfect light, perfect weather. I was rewarded well beyond expectation.

7:16 p.m. Look at that! What an incredible view. Perfect light, perfect weather. I was rewarded well beyond expectation.

One of my many guises

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