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Will and me partway up Beacon Rock, on the Washington side of the Columbia River.

Will came to visit from Rhode Island for two weeks. Prior to this visit he had never stepped foot into Washington or Oregon. I was delighted to be able to show his virgin eyes my favourite part of the world. On our first day back home after Seattle, the day dawned sunny once more, and that meant we had to get outside and explore!

Beacon Rock beside the Columbia River. Photo by Jen Thomas.

This time we went out into the Columbia Gorge on the Washington side because Will was interested in climbing Beacon Rock. The rock is not only remarkable to see, standing alone like a sentinel as it does, but it also has interesting stories behind its formation and its use as a viewpoint.

The rock is a remnant of a volcano that erupted 57,000 years ago – recently, in geologic time. When the eruption was finished, lava that had filled the core cooled and hardened. Between 15 and 13 thousand years ago, a massive event known as the Missoula Floods sent wave after wave of incredibly high floodwaters crashing to the sea, carving and shaping the gorge that I love today. The water eventually eroded the mountain, leaving only the hard lava core.

In 1805, William Clark described and drew the rock in his journals, and in 1806 his traveling companion Meriwether Lewis gave it the name it still holds today.

They were obviously not the first people to note the rock. American Indians used it as a landmark to identify the last dangerous rapids to negotiate – if traveling by boat – before reaching the sea. The Bonneville Dam is visible from the trail as one climbs the rock.

View from the top, looking east toward Bonneville Dam. For a larger image so you can see the dam, just click!

In 1814, Nicholas Biddle edited the journals of Lewis and Clark for publication. Almost exactly 100 years later, his descendent Henry J. Biddle purchased the rock for $1 and began building a trail. He finished it in 1918. Biddle’s children gave the rock to the state of Washington in 1935 so that it could be made into a state park.

My purpose in acquiring the property was simply and wholly that I might build a trail to the summit.   ~H. Biddle

The trail remains today and is one mile long with 53 switchbacks. There is a small viewing place at the top, 848 feet up. There are great views all the way up, so you don’t have to reach the top for a reward. However, if you do press on (and if you skate over the icy patches we found on the shady west side), you have a 360-degree view from the top.

It looks scarier than it is. But yes, it’s basically a path on the side of a rock.

The view west toward Portland/Vancouver.

There are many many switchbacks that make you gasp for breath.

The solution for gasping is to take photos along the way.

Will climbs a rock staircase onto the viewing platform at the top.

At the bottom of the hill, we next crossed the Bridge of the Gods, which gets its name from an American Indian legend that talks about another Bridge of the Gods found in this same place in the river. If you read the book, or saw the movie “Wild,” with Reese Witherspoon, the character chooses the bridge as her final destination before quitting the Pacific Crest Trail.

On the other side of the river is the state of Oregon. We hit Interstate 84 and turned west toward Portland again. But we had to make another stop. Will’s virgin eyes needed to see the astonishing waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge. I pulled off the highway exit to Multnomah Falls, one of the most visited tourist attractions in the state of Oregon. It is named after one of the gods in the bridge story I mentioned above.

Multnomah Falls is a familiar sight, but I never tire of it.

Looking from the bridge out to the tourists below and the Columbia Gorge out there in the sunshine.

Sometimes the best view of the falls is from the parking lot, where you can see the whole thing. On this day, the snow and ice confused the view. The Blue Star Highway sign honors US Armed Forces.

We walked up to the base of the falls and Will was duly impressed with the 620 foot falls. “Just like in Rhode Island!” he joked. We hiked up the trail to the bridge you can see in the photo.

By then we were starving, and it was time to indulge in the fare at the Multnomah Falls Lodge. The lodge is gorgeous outside and inside, featuring walls of glass panes so that we could look at the falls while we ate. The lodge theme is maintained inside the restaurant, with rustic and historic decor, and a massive fireplace. The food is always high quality.

Adventuring spirits and bellies sated, we made the long drive back home to Rainier.

Only Multnomah Lodge can make a burger and a gyro sandwich look so good.

Winding highway drops down into the valley in Eastern Oregon.

Most of our mini road trips will be day trips. But there is one place we wanted to go that was so far away we had to do an overnighter. We decided to do this one early in the road trip series. So day two we headed east and then dropped south from the Columbia River Gorge to explore the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. I found a road I had not traveled before (my rule is to take a different road whenever possible), and as we came through the dry, exposed plains, we noticed over and over the gorgeous views.

The Palisades at the Clarno Unit.

The Palisades are a long string of cliffs along the highway. We hiked along them for awhile, then hiked up to the base.

The landscape in this part of Oregon has it’s own kind of beauty.

The National Monument is in three pieces separated by quite a distance. Our route to our hotel passed one of the areas, called the Clarno Unit. We arrived in the afternoon and had time to park and explore the trails at The Palisades. The Palisades are interesting and beautiful crags that tower above the highway. They were formed 45 million years ago after a volcanic eruption that filled the valley with mudflows called lahars. There were multiple flows filled with rocks, ash, and other debris that settled in layers. Over the millennia, erosion has formed magnificent towers.

The lahars also trapped living things like plants, trees, and animals. It is a treasure trove for fossil hunters. The Clarno Unit is protected as part of the National Monument, so the only time these fossils are disturbed or collected is for scientific study. Near the trail we spotted leaf fossils trapped here from when the environment was wet, lush, and near-tropical.

Fossilized leaves trapped in stone.

Embedded in stone are two petrified logs: one horizontal and one vertical.

An exposed stone that tumbled from the cliffs above shows clearly that the lahars were a mixture of foreign debris. Vlad described it as “concrete, basically.”

The time of day we arrived put most of the cliffs in shadow, but the views were stunning nonetheless.

The first trail we walked had information signs that explained how the landscape changed over time. The second trail took us up the mountain to an arch.

Vlad takes a closer look at the base of The Palisades.

The arch from a distance.

The arch up close.

After the second hike we were hungry and ready to stop traveling. In an hour we reached our hotel in the town of Condon.

I was in this area (and blogged about it) not too long ago when I came over to view the Eclipse in 2017. When I made my way toward the path of totality in August 2017, I passed through the darling little town of Condon, Oregon. I recalled that Condon was the last place I still had cell service before heading farther into the vast emptiness of this part of the state, and for me that is as good a reason as any to choose a home base. Earlier in the week we made reservations at a place called the Hotel Condon that looked interesting online.

It is indeed an interesting place, built in 1920 and restored to a fine state. As one might hope in a place like this, there are rumors of a ghost. I talked with a resident who suspects he has seen evidence of the ghost. The man has stayed here almost 4 months, he said, while doing an electrical project nearby. When the place is mostly empty of guests, he has heard footsteps in the hall and has seen doors opening and closing. Now that is cool.

Hotel Condon (image from

The lobby of the Hotel Condon.

Dining Room

Entrance to the National Park.

Entrance to the National Park.

Can you believe I got lucky enough to find a volcano during my trip to Chile? Of course you probably already thought of it, but I was delighted to face Volcán Villarrica all day today.

Our day started on the overnight sleeper bus. Our sleep was fitful. Margaret heard the bus hit something metal, and go over it, and began worrying about a crash. I just couldn’t get comfortable. And ugh…I hate trying to sleep on a moving vehicle. Some people are lulled to sleep…but I am irritated into neverending wakefulness.

We got off the bus at the wrong stop at 6am and luckily the bus driver knew me well enough by then to correct the error. “This is not Temuco,” he said, and wouldn’t take my bag ticket. We laughed at ourselves and got back on the bus, to find that a hopeful woman had settled into our seats up front instead of her seat in the very back. Apologies all around and we settled in again for 20 more minutes of bus ride. We were met outside the bus station by a taxi driver who took us a very long way to the airport on a $46 cab ride. Wow! It was a half-hour ride, but I still think that was too much.

Margaret negotiates with the rental car employee.

Margaret negotiates with the rental car employee.

We were the only people in the airport at 7:30am. We had to kill a lot of time before the car rental window opened up at 9:15. I find that picking up a rental is never a smooth process, and this time, though Margaret had purchased trip insurance, and the fee showed, the insurance wasn’t added to the account. The people at the counter didn’t want to release us without a purchase of some kind, so we went around and around for an hour before Margert finally paid an additional deposit, and we finally picked up our car and were able to get on our way.

There we were in Chile, Margaret re-learning to drive a stick shift and in a new country. It ended up being a very easy trip though, and with sunny skies and great roads we arrived at our hotel in no time. Too early for a room, but they held our bags and we went down to the lakefront to share a bottle of wine, apples, cheese and crackers. Once our room was ready, we showered and changed and headed into Pucón. It’s a lovely little tourist town that was setting up for a Friday night concert on the main street. We visited a tourist information office to get a map for hikes the next day.

Heading down route 199 in Chile.

Heading down route 199 in Chile.

Sights of the volcano along the entire trip.

Sights of the volcano along the entire trip.

Our fabulous hotel on the shores of Lake Villarica.

Our fabulous hotel on the shores of Lake Villarica.

Every room in the hotel has views of Lago Villarrica.

Every room in the hotel has views of Lago Villarrica.

Mt. Villarrica from Pucón

Mt. Villarrica from Pucón

Lago Villarrica

Lago Villarrica

We asked at the tourist office where to take a good photo of the mountain, and he suggested that we go to the lake.

We asked at the tourist office where to take a good photo of the mountain, and he suggested that we go to the lake.

There are a couple of flower stands in Pucón that sell these astounding, huge bouquets of flowers that are painted to look out of this world.

There are a couple of flower stands in Pucón that sell these astounding, huge bouquets of flowers that are painted to look out of this world.

One of the things the man at the tourist office suggested was a drive to the base of Mt. Villarrica. So we left town and went 14 kilometers to see it. We didn’t go all the way (and it looks like there is a ski resort there), but we got close.

The road to the mountain was mostly paved, but included a few sketchy spots.

The road to the mountain was mostly paved, but included a few sketchy spots.

Near the base of the mountain.

Near the base of the mountain.

The area is surrounded by high mountains that aren't all volcanoes. But you know, it can't be all volcanoes.

The area is surrounded by high mountains that aren’t all volcanoes. But you know, it can’t be all volcanoes.

We kept seeing these clouds form and roll off the very top of the volcano. It was hard not to think it was steam.

We kept seeing these clouds form and roll off the very top of the volcano. We found out a couple days later that it *is* steam from the still hot volano!

We left the volcano and drove back to Pucón. It’s a small town but large enough that we didn’t get a chance to see it all. We browsed the shops and found a place for dinner. Then we wandered back to the main street to watch musicians doing a sound check for the concert. We didn’t stay for the concert, but we did enjoy the few songs we heard as they got ready.

This place sold preserves and cheese. We are surprized to find that Chile sells a lot of good cheese.

This place sold preserves, famous Chilean honey, and cheese. We are surprized to find that Chile sells a lot of good cheese.

The band was having a great time and people were already settled on both sides of the street to get good seats, even though the concert hadn't really started yet.

The band was having a great time and people were already settled on both sides of the street to get good seats, even though the concert hadn’t really started yet.

The sound check ended and we wandered into a supermarcado and purchased a few items for lunch the next day and headed back to the hotel and called it a night.

The sound check ended and we wandered into a supermarcado and purchased a few items for lunch the next day and headed back to the hotel and called it a night.

{Update! Two days later in a different part of Chile, we were informed that a year and a half ago, two volcanoes became active again. The one further south erupted, and Volcán Villarrica began spewing dust and ash and steam. So all those times when we stood there looking at the top of the mountain, remarking that it seemed as though there was steam billowing from the crater…well…. that’s exactly what it was! ha ha! Even better. 😉 }

Me, gazing at the rolling waves of clouds breaking over the ridge of Mt. Jefferson.

Me, gazing at the rolling waves of clouds breaking over the ridge of Mt. Jefferson. In case you were wondering, yes, this is yet another fabulous Oregon volcano!

{Read my post from Day One here.}

Arno hung a thermometer in the tent and when we checked it in the morning, it read 30 degrees. Below freezing inside the tent.

The morning was cloudy and windy, which made us reluctant to get moving. But my knight left me snug in my down sleeping bag, and got up to make coffee. I had been mostly warm during the night. In our rush to pack, we had accidentally brought the summer tent, made primarily of mesh to encourage a brisk airflow. Though I had the extra-luxurious air mattress, it was not enough to block the freezing temperature of the snow from chilling any part of me touching the ground. One nice thing was that I had thought to bring my wet jacket into the bag with me and by morning it was dry. Voila!

We drank the first press pot (yes, coffee snobs must use a French press even while backpacking) and ate breakfast in our bags. While Arno was making the second pot, I finally emerged from the tent to see that the clouds were burning off and the sun was out! What a difference the sun makes when it’s so cold.

To our surprise, another backpacker came through camp around 9am on snowshoes. He had camped at Russell Lake, and was now exploring. Our plan for the day was to go exploring up toward Russell Lake. For the rest of the day, we saw his snow shoe tracks all over the place and I was glad we had met him, so I knew who to imagine when I spotted the wandering tracks.

Arno breaks trail where the snow shoes had only scuffed the surface.

Arno breaks trail where the snow shoes had only scuffed the surface.

We returned to the Pacific Crest Trail, and soon left behind the footprints of Saturday’s day hikers. For much of the day, we were breaking new trail, watching for the little triangle brand mounted on trees to mark the PCT.  I liked the idea that we might be helping a future hiker, so we tried to stay on the trail. Breaking the trail was hard work, but welcome effort, because it kept us warm. We took turns being in front, since the one following had an easier time of it.

Our earlier hiking was easier because the snow was more frozen and we didn’t sink in very far. As the day warmed the snow, we sunk deeper and deeper.  We passed lots of lakes. So many that they aren’t all named. Some frozen over, and the larger ones liquid and sparkling in the sunshine.

Around mid-day we found a snow-free zone beneath some trees, and we stopped for lunch. We had to carry our down coats and thickest gloves and hats for the stops, so that we didn’t freeze when we stopped plowing the snow. I was grateful that Arno thought of this ahead of time, and that way I stayed warm all day.

Arno pumping water at a tiny lake beneath Mt. Jefferson

Arno pumping water at a tiny lake beneath Mt. Jefferson

After lunch we punched a hole in a lake and pumped some water to fill our bladders and a spare Nalgene bottle, then went back to camp. Not quite ready to stop for the day, we continued past camp and circled around Scout Lake to the other side, and discovered some truly stunning views of the mountain across the lake.

Looking back across Scout Lake toward our camp, and the volcano behind.

Looking back across Scout Lake toward our camp, and the volcano behind.

The sun had dried some duff on the north side of the lake, and we went to the place to sit and rest in the failing daylight. It was obviously a campsite, cleared of nearly all human traces. Except for one sandwich-sized ziplock bag of a thick brown substance. “Looks like a bag of poo!” I said, in my delicate ladylike way. Now why would someone leave this? WHAT is this? Eew. I could just imagine the conversation of the people leaving camp.

One says to the other, “Don’t forget the bag of poo. I’m not carrying it.”

“I don’t want to carry the poo! Let’s bury it.”

“You can’t bury that, it’s plastic! Why did you put poo in the bag in the first place?”

Fall colours still visible in the snow

Fall colours reaching  up through the snow

DSC_0117 -1

We found a spot to sit and read the map, eat some trail mix, and talk about stuff. Arno and I can talk a blue streak. I complain sometimes that he talks too much, but I’m a total jabberbox too. We talked and stretched and took photos and laughed in the sun till there was almost no more sun. The moment the sunbeams left us, it got cold quick. It was time to go back.

But… there was still something that had to be dealt with. Arno shook the last of the trailmix into his mouth. “Hand me that bag,” I said. “I’ll put the poo in here.” And I did. And I carried it out. Bleh. People.

We spotted our trail down the steep hill from our camp to the lake

On the way back we spotted our trail down the steep hill from our camp to the lake

The hike back went pretty quickly and it was still early evening when we unloaded our gear at camp. We crawled into our bags in the tent and played a game of Yahtzee. Then ate sausage jambalaya for dinner. Yummy and filling.

Evening sun sets on Park Butte, where we had been sitting for the past couple hours.

Evening sun sets on Park Butte. The far shore is near where we had been sitting for the past couple of hours.

DSC_0178 -1Monday morning dawned brilliantly! Clear blue skies and sun, sun, sun. Diamonds sparkled across the snow and in the branches of the trees. We had our coffee outside, and ate orange cranberry muffins. We finally caved to the begging Whiskey Jacks and shared our crumbs. They were obviously used to people and came very close to us. One even hopped onto Arno’s boot, so we got out the camera and took a bunch of bird photos.

Look at this bold little guy

Look at this bold little guy

I'm sitting with the birds. (Look! It's so warm I'm not even wearing gloves!)

I’m sitting with the birds. (Look! It’s so warm I’m not even wearing gloves!)

The hike out was amazingly beautiful. So warm I took off my snow pants and just hiked in leggings. We counted people heading up and passed 16 of them! Only two had full packs, so the rest were just day hikers. I was doubly glad we had stomped the trail for them.

Sun through leaves near the trailhead

Sun through leaves near the trailhead

Sparkling, captivating, awe-inspiring, humbling Mount Hood

Mt. Hood on approach to Portland. This is looking southwest.

Despite having lived around mountains all my life, or perhaps because of that, I remain in awe of the awesome sweep of snowy mountain slopes that rise from valleys in the way that volcanoes do. I am simply not able to drive along our highways and not feel an emotional surge of admiration for volcanoes when I see them rising beyond billboards and 18-wheelers. In 2000 I traveled by bus through central Anatolia in Turkey, and felt the same inner gasp of appreciation when I spotted astonishingly high white peaks soaring above wheat fields, so I know it’s the volcanoes that capture my imagination and not just my love of the Pacific Northwest.

Tara snapped this shot as we drove into the Columbia Gorge Friday afternoon

I currently live within a stretch of landmark peaks called the Cascade Range. Mt. Hood is closest to me. Hood is the highest peak in Oregon and the fourth highest in the Cascade Range, which stretches north and south along the western United States from northern California to British Columbia. It is 11,240 feet high and hosts 12 glaciers and permanent snow fields.

Yesterday the weather was clear and sunny, though windy, and Tara and I decided to treck into the Columbia River Gorge. Unfortunately the winter sun rises and sets behind the steep high walls of the Oregon side of the Gorge, so the waterfalls remain in shadow all day. Still, it was worth the trip. Tara finished making her homemade shortbread, and we packed up individual containers of strawberries and homemade whipped cream on the shortbread for delicious snacks once we arrived at our destination.

A chilly Tara gazing up at the 611 foot sheer waterfall drop.

Multnomah Falls from the first viewing area beside the lodge.

We drove for half an hour to Multnomah Falls, our most famous and most remarkable falls in the Gorge. The hike up to the base of the falls is quick, so we were there in no time. It is thrilling to stand at the base of the 611-foot falls, where the booming thunder of the water hitting the pool makes it too loud to be heard without shouting to each other. Spray whips around in unpredictable bursts and spirals of wind that is generated from the falls. Our glasses and the camera lens were constantly mucked up, and we dug out inner layers of dry clothing to wipe the glass with our frozen fingers.

View of the first viewing area, from the bridge over the falls. The Washington state side of the Gorge is in sunshine.

My girl and me


I’ve mentioned before the appeal of historic stonework in Oregon’s parks, and Multnomah Falls includes two of the many gorgeous stone bridges in the Gorge. If you have seen a photo of Multnomah Falls, you have certainly seen one of the stone bridges that arcs above the lower section of the falls. Standing on the bridge allows you to stand directly in front of the most tumultuous part of the waterfall, allow yourself to drown in the roar, and get soaked if you stand there too long.

Tara heading down the steps near the lodge

Moon above the cliffs

The trail showcases more stonework under thick pads of moss, in the form of retaining walls, steps, and plazas, not to mention the fairytale-like Multnomah Lodge itself.

When we finished hiking the falls, we pushed through the wind and back to our car to eat strawberry shortcake and watch the glow of setting sun across the Columbia River on the Washington side. On the drive home, I spotted a pink and orange Mt. Hood in my rear view mirror.

Mt. Adams over a fence

So I decided that, rather than go directly home, Miss T and I would head up Mt. Tabor and see if we could find a good view of the mountain in the setting sun. Hey! I lied to you: the closest volcano to me is the Mt. Tabor cinder cone – within walking distance. (It escaped my recall there for a bit because, at about 400 feet above my house, it isn’t as remarkable as Mt. Hood.)

Anyhow, we stopped at one place that didn’t afford a decent view of Mt. Hood, but did provide a view of the less-easily-spotted Mt. Adams. Then we drove the steep neighborhood streets until we finally found an excellent place to take a photo. Unfortunately by then the coral glow on the snow had almost completely lifted. But it’s still a lovely shot of my neighborhood (Montavilla) at the base of the Mt. Tabor neighborhood, with Gresham in the background, and yes, that stunning peak on the horizon in the pink evening sky.

My neighborhood and my volcano

Looking west across the volcanic landscape topped with lenticular clouds.

This is a continuation of my Christmas vacation blog, begun in Part I.

Monday we went to Boyd Cave, a lava tube. We took highway 97 to China Hat Road and went out into the dry valley and had a stupendous view of altocumulus lenticularis over the string of dormant volcanoes along the horizon. We took the truck up the side of one of the tiny ash cones to get a better view. At the bottom side near the road, many locals were using the granular constitution of the cone to practice shooting their various weapons into. So, though Arno and I were at the top, and on the other side of the cone, while we took photos, our soundtrack was a cacophony of shotgun and rifle blasts. Hard to stay relaxed the whole time, ha ha. But we did get some neat photos of the clouds.

Arno looks into the maw of the Earth

Not an encouraging expression.

Prior to coming out to Boyd Cave, we had looked out across the valley at this vast landscape the day before, and saw the remnants of a lava flow. A deep river of lava poured through the valley following a volcanic eruption around 100,000 years ago. The flow lasted so long that as it flowed the outer edges and top of the river cooled and hardened. The outer crust kept the interior very hot so the remaining lava continued to flow, emptying the shell. The hot stuff inside the tube kind of oozed down the sides a little, and began to drip from the ceiling, but cooled quickly and remained in tube form till today. THAT is what we hiked inside.

It's simply a hole in the ground, with a fence around it. And a ladder.

You drive out into the desert, park on the side of a dirt road, and begin walking out through the sagebrush until you come to a fence with a little U.S. Forest Service sign tacked to the fence, next to a ladder that disappears into the earth. No staff, no buildings. Just you and a hole in the ground.

Moving through the inside was surprizingly easy.

A portion of the roof caved in, so we had to climb over.

solidified magma drips

In the intervening millennia, typical erosion and dust deposits have covered the land above the lava tube, so it is not detectable, but the hollow tube remains below ground. The floor of the tube is surprisingly flat and smooth, except for spots where the ceiling caved in and we had to crawl over boulders. We attempted to go the length of the cave, which the U.S. Forest Service estimates at 1,880 feet long. We got close enough to see the end, maybe 1,865 feet into the tube, but the last little bit was at the end of a small hole and we had already crawled through a couple of those.

Wriggling my way through one of the tight squeezes.

It was pitch black inside, so we wore headlamps and carried a flashlight too. It was cold, but quiet and still inside there. We think we saw a bat, but… you know, bats are dark and hard to spot inside of midnight. I only had one little bit of claustrophobia, crawling through the first tunnel. Two are so low I had to get on my belly and wiggle through like a sand worm. That means I belly-wiggled four times total before I got out. The first time I stopped inside while I let my heartbeat relax a little, and had the courage to go all the way through. After that, no problem at all.

We got back to Lara House just in time for wine and cheese, and that’s when I met Peter and Lynda’s granddaughter and showed her photos from inside the cave. She told us about hiking at Smith Rock, and we said we would be going there the next day. Still believing ourselves to be stuffed from Christmas dinner, the Monday wine & cheese was sufficient to take the edge off, and we went out for our walk in Drake Park and then turned in for the evening.

The stunning landforms in Smith Rock State Park. {click to see it larger}

White chalk tracks up the rock face like alien footprints.

Tuesday, after a final scrumptious breakfast from Peter and Lynda, and hearty goodbyes, we hit the road while it was still morning. We went north along 97 to Smith Rock State Park, a striking outcropping of rock that bursts above Crooked River, the same river we saw on Saturday at Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint. Skies were cloudy, it was cold and windy, but there was no precipitation at all, so it was almost good weather, considering the date.

Me, rocks, Crooked River below

Arno in silhouette

Though Arno notes that Smith Rock is known as the birthplace of American sport climbing, I am not interested in rock climbing, only hiking. Luckily, there are lovely trails to hike. I did not muster the cojones to scramble over Asterisk Pass, and instead we walked along the river, around the peninsula of land. This gave us more time on the trail, and a chance for me to photograph Mallards. On the last leg of the hike, we spotted rock climbers, finally braving the air that had thawed enough to make a climb fun.

Mallard ducks and drakes

At long last we had used up our vacation time. We arrived in Hood River in the midst of a snowstorm in the dark. I transferred my gear to the Saturn Dragon Wagon and traveled the last hour home alone through the Gorge.

Entrance to the 'Iolani Palace in Honolulu

We got up nice and early, and headed directly for the 9am opening of the ‘Iolani Palace, the only actual Royal Palace on U.S. soil. The building was beautiful inside and out. I snapped photos all around our waiting space on the front porch area. As part of the welcome address and rules, they informed me that the camera would be strictly off limits from then on.

detail of a door at Iolani Palace

ceiling detail

Inside the palace is a wonderfully restored museum of what it was probably like at the time Queen Iolani lived there. Woodwork, books, photos, clocks, furniture, and even the rugs and drapes were collected, restored and/or created with utmost care. We even saw one of the original copies of Don Quixote (in two volumes!) in the office. Our tour guide told us several stories about how things “want to return to the palace,” as evidenced by the furniture and other items that had been auctioned off by the royal family many years ago… somehow were returned.

Ridgeline road up Mt. Tantalus

Our next plan was to hike up Mt. Tantalus. We drove up another one of those narrow, winding roads into the jungle. Because of low clouds the view was more mysteriously compelling than usual. The views were usually obscured, but not completely, and we had the chance to spot fabulous lush steep cliffs fading into and out of view through the fog. We hiked up a dreadfully muddy trail and soon it began to rain. As we got closer to the mountain peak, the rain became steadier and heavier.

Tara hiking the muddy trail ahead of me.

Inside the bamboo forest. The forest seemed young, as the bamboo wasn't any larger than my fist.

Along the trail we made our way into a real bamboo forest. It was fascinating, otherworldly, beautiful. When the wind blew, the bamboo stalks clacked and knocked against each other. (I’ll add a video of it at the end.) We climbed higher and higher along the trail and were soaked through in the warm rain by the time we found the peak. We watched sheets of rain pound through the tops of the bamboo forest. As we stood at the peak of Mt. Tantalus and watched, there was a break in the clouds, and the sun illuminated a rainbow for us. Perfectly Hawai’i.

rain-soaked Tara, hiking ahead of me

V gazing at a twisted tree within the bamboo forest

We backtracked a little and moved along a ridge toward a lower peak. V knew just where to turn despite the narrow trail that wound through the bamboo. We dropped down a steep slope and in a short while came into the wooded bowl of a dormant cone of a cold volcano. There was a pond in the center (since the rain had no outlet), with marshes and forest spreading out from it.

Rainbow from the peak of Mt. Tantalus

Pond, marsh meadow, and forest inside the dormant cone

Honolulu from the trail, on the way back down

Red-crowned Amazons

It was lovely not to be so uncomfortably hot for a few hours. So much so that we really didn’t mind the rain. All of us managed to slip on the steep slopes of clay mud in the rain, at one point or another. The clouds had lifted somewhat, by the time we had views of Honolulu again. We stopped to admire the sun across the city, and then hiked to the car again and spent a good bit of time de-mudding before we climbed in! On the way home we stopped briefly at the Keaiwa Heiau State Park where I was able to walk through the ruins of a sacred site, and take some photos of Red Crowned Amazon parrots!

image by Jeff Widener, China, 1989

I am astounded to be reminded that the tragedy of Tiananmen Square was twenty years ago. That long?

Mt. St. Helens, Washington, 1980

Ok, Ok, I am finally coming to terms with the fact that the Mt. St. Helens eruption is ancient history, though I can still remember the daily drama of facemasks and shoveling ash off bridges and roofs before they collapsed.

I have even begun to relax a little bit since the reunification of Germany. As I blogged about not too long ago, I am still trying to resolve my thoughts about walls.

Tiananmen was the same year as when the wall came down? Crazy. The pain and dread of young, beautiful, unarmed people standing up to an army is still so present in my consciousness. I can’t believe it is yet another one of those stories that is history.

Astonishing that the Chinese government won’t address it. They refuse to even allow dialogue. Really? Just like people believe there was no Holocaust, some people believe there was no Tiananmen? But, but, but… I still carry the pain of it! It was real! And I’m among The Ugly Americans, which normally causes us to forget. But this we remember…

And that image.

Thank you Jeff Widener for what you were able to give us. I recalled so clearly that there was a lone man standing with his hand up. But when I looked for the image, it is even more compelling: a man holding grocery bags. A symbol worthy of any activist’s respect. You can’t get more grass roots than: “I was on my way home from the market and saw the tanks and, well, something had to be done.” Mr. Widener said about his composition that he thinks it’s best not to know the identity of the man. Without knowing his name, he’s one of us, and that makes him so symbolically powerful.

I asked my partner if he remembers “that image” from the Tiananmen Square massacre? In answer, he raised his arm to stop the tanks in the exact way I remember it. He, too, has remembered the message the way I did. Isn’t that interesting?

One of my many guises

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