Friday, August 31, 2007

Fair Photos Coming Soon!

This is just a lick and a promise in advance of the event. Ked and I went to the Oregon State Fair today--something we do every year--and had a ball. We always see cool and interesting things and critters, talk to informative and friendly people, and wear ourselves out, which is why the official Fair post will be another day in coming. This is the first year we've taken a camera on our annual jaunt, and it was very fun seeing the Fair through the eye of the lens, capturing the moments and memories, a few of which I'll be passing on to you. I'm pretty tired now, so I'll just leave you with this foreshadowing thought: Goats and llamas can be totally adorable when they are in friendly mode.

Friday, August 24, 2007

A Day In The Columbia Gorge

Note to get us started: Blogger is being a PAIN, and has all the spacing for this post and its pictures completely whacked out. It is after one in the morning right now, and I do not have the patience, nor the mental capacity to argue with Blogger about its deficiencies, so whacked out is how this post will stay, at least for the time being. I apologize if it makes any of you persnickety types crazy--normally I would be among you--but it's been a long and tiring day (as this post will demonstrate) and I just can't bring myself to care enough to try to massage it into a presentable form. We must all cope the best we can.
Today was fun. Ked took it off work, and we spent the day running hither and yon, preparing for a backpacking trip we have planned, and getting in a little preparatory fitness training by tackling one of our favorite hikes in the Columbia Gorge. The Multnomah to Wahkeena Falls loop is 5.4 miles of waterfall heaven. The two main falls are just the tip of the iceberg, and trudging up the steep 1,700 foot climb is made infinitely more bearable by the numerous and irresistible calls to stop a while and wonder at the beauty of it all, as another switchback brings another tumultuous cascade, or a panoramic view of the Columbia River far, far below. Hikes like this one make me just about as happy as a Kat can get. There are several waterfalls at each stage of the loop. You get them coming and going, and one tumbles after another in such rapid succession that by the end of the hike we found ourselves just casually passing by scenes of surpassing beauty--that at the beginning of our trek would have stopped us cold--merely because we'd seen so many lovely sights they had become almost commonplace. Then we had to laugh at ourselves, because it was a good reminder of how jaded human beings can become when we get too much of a good thing.
Needless to say, all those pauses to soak in the spectacle, and take as many pictures as our Canon EOS 30D would hold, had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that parts of the climb had us puffing like a freight train. (We've not gotten to hike as much this year as we would have liked, and we're just the tiniest bit out of shape.) If I did occasionally pause just a tad longer than the view really warranted, I'll never admit it. However, it did make me vow to put in more time on the treadmill when we can't make it out on proper trails. I'm going to be taking some hikes soon that will involve having a heavy pack on my back, and I do not want to be reduced to turtle status when that happens. I suspect if I was wise I'd strap that pack on when treadmilling (and start filling it up with canned goods to build up my endurance), but then I do have the excuse that there's not that much camping time left here in the land of rain, and this year it would be perfectly reasonable to keep the goals limited and simple. A trip to the coast to start, maybe another back out to Mirror Lake for an overnight, and then we'll see what we're up for from there.
We came back from today's outing with a few more pictures to send your way. It's hard to capture the total effect on a computer screen, or in photographic images at all, but we gave it out best shot, so here goes...

This is the view that everyone comes to see. Multnomah Falls is probably Oregon's biggest tourist attraction. According to the sign proudly proclaiming Multnomah's glories, at 542 feet, it is the second tallest year-round waterfall in the country. I've seen it before when the falls were a cascade of ice in winter. It's very impressive no matter what time of year you manage to make it out here.

As you climb, other falls follow hard on Multnomah's heels.

By now we've done a fair amount of climbing. That smile on my face is sheer joy at having something on which to lean my tired frame. Plus, having another lovely waterfall right there behind me, its gentle roar cheerfully trumpeting its presence, is making it hard for me not to smile.

The trail is full of switchbacks like this one, that follow one another in a seemingly endless procession, and I suppose, since this is a loop we are talking about, the succession of switchbacks really could be endless for someone with the sanity deficiency necessary to make them circle it in perpetuity.

Sometimes the trail leads toward the cliff edge, and the Columbia River spreads out below. I'm not sure how well the picture conveys the height here, but we're quite a ways above where we started.

All that climbing gets a person pretty hungry, and it's amazing how much sustenance you can find hidden among the trees. (Note to the gullible: eeeww)

We love these deep woodsy places, with the sound of the water and the cool of the shade. When we're not listening to the life of the forest, or chattering away like magpies (well, that would be me, not so much my husband), we have a weakness for turning on the iPod and listening to Sarah Brightman serenade us along the path. We love how light opera soars with the terrain, and makes everything around us a little more inspiring, helping us forget weary feet in the transcendence of it all.

The sun will sometimes burst through the forest shadows, reminding us insistently that light conquers darkness.
And the water tumbles ever downward.
The mist from these fairy falls offers cooling relief to the tired trekker.
We got the chance to survey Washington from the heights one last time before the trail descended.
As the hike comes to a close, the trail offers one (or I should say two) more magnificent cascades before the weary traveller comes to rest.
We got a final look at the Mighty Columbia as we drove home for a well earned dinner and some much needed rest. Our hike would serve as a pretty good metaphor for life--lots of hard work and climbing, but many rewards and beauties to make the journey worthwhile. May your travels be as pleasant as ours were today.

Monday, August 13, 2007

How I'm Spending My Summer Vacation

Hello again, World (she says pretentiously, since The World in general is quite unaware of her existence.) I thought it was time I checked in to tell you how the Meow hiatus is going, and share some pictures from Ked's and my latest adventure. I'll get to the pictures soon, since they're the good part, and just give you a brief summary of the summer thus far.

Ked and I have been getting a lot of project work done, although not as much as we would like, of course. (I'm not sure that "as much as we'd like" is even remotely possible, since I can construct some pretty long and detailed project lists.) Our master closet is almost finished. The flagstone patio is just a few stones short of a barbeque, and the gutters are still hanging over our heads, as is fitting for gutters to do. We've got several things that have to get done before the weather shifts toward the perpetually rainy here in Oregon, including finishing the outdoor painting we started last year, but we're making good progress in general, so I have high hopes that we'll get the crucial stuff done before the Oregon soggies render such outdoor accomplishments obsolete.

After the summer projects get put to bed, I think I'll be coming back to the Meow with some fresh zeal. We won't be taking on many home improvement projects for a while after the ones on our current list get done, because we have a project of an entirely different kind to tackle. The exciting news-of-the-moment, is that the musical version of The Screwtape Letters that Su, Ked and I, with the help of a couple of friends, wrote has been approved by C.S. Lewis' estate, so we can begin working on that production soon. That's a GIANT project, that will involve lots and lots of to-do list-making, but for now lets just leave ourselves at the joyous "Hurray, we've been approved" stage, and I'll fill you in on the production progress once things get rolling. No use letting the cheerful glow wear off before the work can actually begin. I won't be able to rope Ked into remodelling my sewing room, putting in a new bathroom, building a gazebo, or probably even changing a light bulb for quite some time, since he will be busily composing accompaniment tracks for the many songs with which we have crammed our musical. I'm sure I've mentioned before that Su is a complete genius, and the songs she's written deserve lavish attention from my wonderfully gifted husband. He'll be happy to give them such attention since he loves that kind of work--much more than building closets and adding bathrooms.

Okay, now on to the pretty portion of our post. Ked and I took a brief break from our labors yesterday to head up to Mirror Lake, on Mount Hood, about 50 miles from Portland. Hiking in about 1 1/2 miles from the highway, through a lovely forest, you come to the lake, and a spectacular view of Mt. Hood. If there's one thing we love here in the Pacific Northwest, it's our mountain and ocean views, and the scenery at Mirror Lake is one of our local treasures. On calm days, when the lake is at peace, the mountain is perfectly reflected in the still waters (thus the name), and the sight is so worth the drive and the climb to get to it that you ask yourself why it's been so long since the last time you were here--even if the last time you were here was last week.

Even before you get to the lake, the views start to lure you onward.

Of course, you do have to work a bit to earn the reward. (Not really that hard. This was just a photo op kind of scene.)

The reward is ample, though, wouldn't you agree?

You also have that whole self-satisfied "I did it" thing to go along with the view.

Not being satisfied with "I did it," Ked and I had to tackle Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain, which adds about 3 miles round trip and 1,500 feet higher in the air to the hike. We knew that more wonderful views awaited us up top, and so we started on our way up the ridge.

We had to stop along the way to take lots of pictures. It had nothing to do with needing to breathe. Really, I just love the way the clouds dapple the forested foothills.

Getting to the top, we had to pause for a He-Man, Masters of the Universe moment.

Kedley being Kedley, he also stopped to put on a jacket. Global warming, indeed. (If you look closely, you can see Mirror Lake, looking like a little puddle there to Ked's left.)

By contrast, I'm still perfectly comfortable in my tank top and shorts. Alas, temperature is the only topic upon which my Kedley and I cannot come to a near complete agreement. It is the tragedy of our life. Don't you feel terribly sorry for us? Nah, me neither.

Mount Hood isn't the only beauty up there. Besides wildflowers in abundance, there are plenty of other mountain views, and forests rolling on forever. We saw what we assumed were Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Adams, and if it had been a clearer day, we suspected we'd be able to see what's left of Saint Helens as well.

Behind Ked is the ridge we climbed. Aren't you impressed?

I mentioned beach views, so I thought I'd toss you this bonus photo from a trip we took on a Sunday jaunt a few months ago. That's Boiler Bay behind me. The Oregon coast is just chock full of the picturesque and charming. I highly recommend a visit.

Well, there you have it. How I'm Spending My Summer Vacation: Work and play. I'm getting in plenty of reading (I don't think I'll ever take a vacation from reading--such is the life of an information addict), sewing, movies, long walks and a few good hikes. I hope your summer is going well, and I'll see you again sometime soon. Head on up to Mirror Lake if you're in the neighborhood. It really is lovely this time of year.

Note: I'm very frustrated with the spacing of the photos and captions, but Blogger is being maddeningly uncooperative and won't let me fix them. Maybe it will let me later, but for now this'll have to do. BAD Blogger!