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Me, standing in front of a mural near where Tara works in Corvallis.

I took Will on some big adventures while he visited the Pacific Northwest, but we also went on a bunch of tiny adventures.

Revolving case of donuts at VooDoo Donuts.

We explored a lot around Portland. There is so much fun stuff to see and do in the city, as I am sure is true for any city. Portland has a great vibe and prides itself on being tolerant. The amount of kindness shown by strangers on the street in Portland far outshines any city I’ve ever lived in, and though we (like everyone) definitely need to improve our appreciation for people who are different, the effort that is made is noticeable. It’s a great small city.

We parked by a giant bronze elephant statue, visited the giant Powell’s bookstore, then walked to VooDoo Donuts, a famous portland donut shop that everyone wants to visit. Their pink and eclectic shop is entertaining while you wait (there is always a line) for a donut. We sat outside to eat our donuts and Will liked his so much that when he finished he let out a whoop and did a fist pump. A passing homeless man laughed and said it must have been a pretty good donut. 🙂

The woman is wondering if the guy at the counter is contemplating the deformed chandelier, or the giant donut on the ceiling (not shown in the photograph).

I pointed out wall art when we saw it. Portland has some great street art and murals.

Next we walked to Mill Ends Park, in the Guinness Book of World Records for world’s smallest city park, at 452.16 square inches. I thought for sure I had told the back story of Mill Ends Park in a previous blog about it, but I did not. Dick Fagan was a journalist whose office window looked onto the spot where a utility hole was prepared, but no pole ever erected. He imagined a park there, named it after the pieces cut off timber in a mill, and began writing about it in the paper. His dream came to life. This post will be long, so I’ll skip the full story to save space. The park has a sign now, but I liked it better without the sign because that made it feel more like a scavenger hunt to find it.

At Waterfront Park, beside the tiny park, we walked over and gazed at the Willamette River in the setting sun and I pointed out my favourite Portland bridge: the Hawthorne Bridge. Opened in 1910, it is the oldest vertical lift bridge in operation in the country, and on the US National Register of Historic Places.

Cyclist rides past Mill Ends Park. Vegetation is replaced periodically in the little park, to keep it looking fresh.

“Pose for a picture, eh?”

Crows were amassed in the tops of every tree near the Hawthorne Bridge, and the cries from a thousand crows were cacawphanous.

Waterfront buildings in Portland, beneath colourful skies filled with crows.

On another trip to the city, I took Will up to the Pittock Mansion grounds. We did not buy tickets to go into the mansion, but instead walked across the grounds to an overlook point across the city of Portland toward Mt. Hood in the distance. It felt like our own version of Seattle’s Kerry Park, as I mentioned in a recent post.

The view of Portland and Mt. Hood from Pittock Mansion.

The view reminded Will of the tram, so we returned to downtown to ride the tram. The tram takes people up to Pill Hill, so called because on the top of the hills of west Portland is a collection of medical facilities, including the very large Veterans Hospital and even larger Oregon Health & Science University, a teaching hospital (OHSU). The hilltop is so crowded with facilities that there isn’t much room left for parking. To encourage people to park at the bottom instead, a tram was installed. I have never used it to attend a doctor’s appointment, but I’ve taken it several times just for fun.

“Go by tram.” Sponsored by OHSU, teaching hospital.

Bicycle parking and tram heading into the station.

View of Mt. Hood and South Portland apartment towers from the tram station on top of the hill.

I want to see this sign on every single trail.

Bonfire erasing the signs of winter floods.

On another day, we went to see the much-visited Beaver Creek Falls, that I often take friends to because it’s close to home and because it’s the same creek that runs through my property. Will also helped me do some cleanup work on the property. My blogger people will know that I had some flooding over the winter. This dragged a bunch of sticks and logs and branches onto the grass. That stuff has to be cleaned up so I can mow without damaging the blades when the grass starts growing. We hauled brush and then had a bonfire.

Will at Beaver Creek Falls.

OSU Beaver

We took a short road-trip along the coast (separate blog post coming soon!) and returned through Corvallis so we could visit Tara and their partner. Tara’s a Junior at Oregon State University and working toward a degree in geology. While walking through campus, Will asked if the trees ahead of us were redwoods. “Oh yeah, probably,” Tara and I answered, and began discussing identifying features such as the way the needles fan out and the grooves in the bark.  Will then asked if I would take a picture of him beside the trees. “Huh?” I thought. Then I realized newcomers are excited about redwood trees not for the needles or the bark, but for their size!! ha ha ha ha. To Tara and I, having lived in the redwood forests of Northern California, these particular trees are not remarkable, and we hadn’t noticed their size at all.  After Tara’s tour of the OSU campus and then a look at the waterfront and downtown area of Corvallis, we went home. Will made dinner for everyone, and since it was St. Patrick’s Day, Tara made their famous St. Patrick’s Day chocolate cupcakes, that call for Guiness, Irish whiskey, AND Irish creme in the recipe.

Women’s Building on OSU campus is a beautiful building.

Inside one of the campus buildings, I noticed the light at the elevator was the Beaver logo. OSU is home of the Beavers.

Will gazes up at the redwood trees.

On another quick excursion, we went for an up-close look at Mt. Hood, featured in so many vistas of his trip so far. The mountain remains beautiful, even when you are standing on its slopes.

The least interesting city in Oregon

On the way there, we detoured into Boring, Oregon (sister cities are Dull, Scotland and Bland, Australia). Will really wanted to buy a T-shirt that said Boring. “It’s the only thing they’ve got going,” he reasoned. “Someone will be selling a Boring T-shirt.” But no!! We stopped and walked, and explored a convenience store, and looked for a gift shop that apparently no longer exists. No one was selling a Boring T-shirt. Entreprenuers, take note.

Deep snow at Timberline Lodge completely covers this window. That’s a hand-carved newel post cap in the foreground.

One of the best things about Mt. Hood is Timberline Lodge. The building is big, beautiful, and welcoming. There are historical displays all around, so it’s partly like a small museum, and almost all the windows open onto a spectacular view (unless they’re blocked by snow). It’s three stories high with a giant fireplace that rises up through those stories. There are two restaurants and a bar inside! The food and drinks are top notch. You can see shots of Timberline Lodge and the mountain in my blog post from last June. We did get neat photos of snow piled up against a window – something I did not see in June!

The first thing we did at Timberline Lodge was get a bite to eat. We sat at a table with this view of Mt. Jefferson to the south.

The view on the other side of the lodge, up toward the peak of Mt. Hood. The ski lift wasn’t running on this slope for some reason, but all the other lifts were busy.

I’ve been posting a lot this week because I have so many stories to tell, and also because I have several more stories coming up and I want to keep my posts somewhat in order and not get too far behind. There’s more on Will’s visit to the Pacific Northwest ahead. Then I’ll probably post about the Broadway show Aladdin that I’m seeing this week with Tara and their partner Brynnen. After that I’m going to a play with a girlfriend and former co-worker. And then I’m going to Ireland with T for a week. We are so excited!!! (also, super-psyched to travel in a country where I know the language…ha ha) Anyone who remembers Bone (the horse bone) will see him (or her) again because Bone is coming with us. 🙂

Paul Bunyan and his big blue ox, Babe at Trees of Mystery in northern California

Paul Bunyan and his big blue ox, Babe at Trees of Mystery in northern California

Arno and I take the opportunity every other holiday to have grown-up time, since every other holiday the kids are gone. His boys were with their mother, and Miss Tara was scheduled to be with her dad, so we planned to have Christmas at a Bed & Breakfast on the Oregon coast. Since it was somewhat close to Tara’s dad on the North Coast of California, we decided to take her south and then sightsee up the coast to our B&B.

Sunset over highway 199 between Grants Pass and Crescent City

Sunset over highway 199 between Grants Pass and Crescent City

It’s a beautiful drive and we were treated with views of Christmas lights all the way. Mother Nature didn’t want to be outdone and gave us a gorgeous sunset to drive through.

Fishing boats lit up off the northern California coast, called "the North Coast" by locals.

Fishing boats lit up off the northern California coast, called “the North Coast” and “the Lost Coast” by locals.

I couldn’t resist a vista stop once we reached the coast at Crescent City, and I was able to get a shot of the busy sea, filled with fishermen.

We delivered Tara safely to her dad’s house and found a hotel. The next morning we visited with my lovely friend Margaret, who met us for breakfast in Arcata. Then we took Highway 101 north and began our coast vacation.

Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center

Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center

Roosevelt Elk in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Roosevelt Elk in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

elk pose

elk pose

Yes, the elk might be at somewhat of a disadvantage if hunting were allowed here beside highway 101

Yes, the elk might be at somewhat of a disadvantage if hunting were allowed here beside highway 101

At Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center in Orick, CA, we talked with a Ranger and learned about a back road through  Jedediah Smith State Park. We realized that by taking scenic routes, we could get up close and personal with the trees, but not spend too much time hiking through the woods and make ourselves late for check in at the B&B. Before we reached the redwoods, however, we were distracted by a group of Roosevelt Elk grazing near the highway.

My Arno, the climber

My Arno, the climber, clambers up Big Tree. Well-named, this Coast Redwood is 304 feet tall and 21 feet in diameter.

First we took the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, which is a portion of the old highway 101. We wandered a few trails and were aptly humbled by the immense redwood trees. The Coast Redwoods are narrower and a little taller than the Giant Sequoias found in the Sierra Nevada mountains on the California-Nevada border.

The trails allow visitors to experience this spectacular old-growth rainforest from the inside. Yes, rainforest! Some of these areas have an average of 100-150 inches of rain in a season. As you can see from the photos, even sunny days do not penetrate to the surface very well. Green growth carpets and drapes all things in the forest. We spotted mossy shelves hosting ferns and small huckleberry shrubs as much as twenty feet up the trunks of some of these trees. The trail is spongy from the layers below it. Step off the trail, and one sinks into the moss and lichens and fungus and – I must assume – millions of tiny insects. When a tree falls, or is burned by fire, the tree is not dead. Rather, it becomes the host of new trees. We saw many “smaller” trees growing from the enormous hulks of past giants. Smaller was in quotes, because the baby growth are often trees that would seem huge in my back yard, and only seem small because the others in the redwood forest are much larger.

The trail winds through old growth redwood rain forest

The trail winds through old growth redwood rain forest

Coast Redwoods soar up above the green forest floor

Coast Redwoods soar up above the green forest floor

We found our way next to Howland Hill Road. It is a narrow dirt road through the center of another section of old growth redwood forest. The trees growing snug up against the road bank dwarfed the Volvo wagon.

Itty bitty car in the trees along Howland Hill Road

Itty bitty car in the trees along Howland Hill Road

Arno inside the cut trunk of a tree beside the road.

Arno inside the cut trunk of a tree beside the road.

Once we left the forest it was time to stop dawdling. We were still in California, and our bed that evening was half way up the Oregon coast. So we focused on heading north, even though we took the time to stop at a few more beaches and breathe the sea air. Finally, the sky turned black, and it began to rain, and that was very helpful in keeping us inside the car, and traveling north. We checked in on time and were so tired we skipped dinner and went to bed.

Read about our adventures on Day two here.

This attractive gentleman stayed close, with the hopes that I would share my lunch with him.

This attractive gentleman stayed close, with the hopes that I would share my lunch with him.

Wind filled the air with mist and gave a dreamy quality to the seaside sunset

Wind filled the air with mist and gave a dreamy quality to the seaside sunset

did I mention that he likes to climb?

did I mention that he likes to climb?

Arno on top of a rock at a southern Oregon beach

Arno on top of a rock at a southern Oregon beach

Arno and I playing in the Pacific

Arno and I playing in the Pacific

Somehow Arno’s boys and my girl are on the same visitation schedule with seeing their other respective parent. It’s lovely to have that convenience, since we can get all the kids together during the holidays we have them, and then they all leave at the same time too, so Arno and I get our grown up time together. This week, for example, the boys left PDX airport Sunday morning, we all piled into the car to head south to drop Tara off with her dad in Humboldt County, and the rest of the week would be ours. Blessed stress-free, kid-free week of camping in the desert.

Burst of daffodil yellow in the median strip.

Burst of daffodil yellow in the median strip.

Two years ago I took a solo Spring Break trip south and noticed the daffodils. They caught my eye again this year. It is really a delight to see them splashed in the freeway median and beside the road. I was reminded that there are few freeways that are as scenic as these parts of I-5 through Oregon. From around Salem through Roseburg, I am often impressed by the view. I can think of I-89 in Vermont that is a gorgeous freeway, but nothing else. Leave a note in comments if you have your own favourite beautiful stretch of freeway in the U.S.

Our first glimpse of sea as we moved south of Crescent City.

Our first glimpse of sea as we moved south of Crescent City.

For Tara and I, the thrill of Sunday’s drive was arriving first in the redwood groves and then at the coast. I lived in Humboldt for over 7 years and Miss T has been coming back to see her dad her whole life. So the redwoods and the northern Pacific are home to us. She ran barefoot down the beach and splashed in the waves, getting wet sand all over everything (as is proper at the beach). I put my fingers into the cold water and tasted the salt. The salt in my mouth makes me think of the days when I was surfing a couple days a week with my friend Chad, back when we were students at College of the Redwoods.

Me in the driver's seat, goofing with Tara as we waited at a stop light.

Me in the driver’s seat, goofing with Tara as we waited at a stop light.

We dropped Miss T with her dad and step-sister, and then hit the highway south again for Fortuna. My dear and long time friend Margaret had welcomed us to stay at her place for the night. Her partner was there too, and they served us a fabulous dinner. We drank entirely too much wine, but we all got to know each other, since we ladies had not met each other’s men. Finally, though, we were fast asleep.

Miss Tara splashes through the waves in a skirt.

Miss Tara splashes through the waves in a skirt.

Me and my Arno

Me and my Arno

We got a late start Monday morning because Margaret and I were still catching up. We hadn’t seen each other for two years. Once we did get on the road, I probably annoyed the hell out of Arno for the next few hours with my incessant stories triggered by memories of living there. I was reminded of a hundred excellent days, like the Avenue of the Gods 10K (through the redwoods; my first serious race), the world’s largest Reggae festival in Piercy, outdoor Shakespeare at Benbow (no longer an annual summer event), the organic sandwich shop in Garberville, Ren Faires in Willits (terrible review), and the remarkable wines I discovered, quite by accident, stopping in at wineries that caught my eye in my many wanderings through the northern California countryside.

Sadly, all the beauty of northern Cali must eventually come to an end, and we hit the end once highway 20 took us back onto I-5 in the central valley of California. Yuck and yuck. I feel sorry for people who have to live there. We ended the night in Santa Nella and got to try a bowl of Pea Soup Andersen’s split pea soup before sleep grabbed us again.

So, from 1:30am to 3:30am, I chatted with M in her kitchen, eating delicious home made cheese-and-nut morsels and some Chardonnay. She also pulled out marinated prawns and rosemary crackers.

Drunk friends are fun.

View of the King Range, Fortuna, and the Pacific Ocean from M's deck

She was up before me though, and I heard water boiling for coffee and the TV spewing out news, so I showered and joined her. She baked me an awesome spinach soufflé for breakfast and delicious pressed coffee. Finally I was on the road at 10am.

A trail through the redwoods

My eensy beensy car

The rain was relentless. I had intended to stop in the redwoods on this trip. I didn’t yesterday because the rain was coming down in sheets. But today looked to be more of the same. Finally I pulled over in Weott and walked through the rain to get a few snapshots of the trees. After that, snow fell instead of rain.

North of Ukiah the snow turned back to rain, and I turned onto Highway 20 past Mendocino Lake and cut over to I-5 for some hardcore driving. Because of M, I was groggy by mid-morning, but I still intended to kick out as much of California as possible.

Another reason the rain was stressing me out is because my poor Dragon-Wagon is 14 years old and the windshield wipers are temperamental. For no discernible reason, they choose to run when I turn them off, or stop when I want them to go faster. Since it rained all day long, it was occasionally stressful fighting with my wipers.

California is a mighty large state. The Central Valley is about as uninspiring as scenery can be. Wow. Stunningly flat and at times, ghastly-smelling of liquid cow-poo. My god, what is that smell? I drove and drove and drove through pouring pouring rain all damned day long. I finally gave it up in Coalinga.

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