Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Exploring Oregon

I thought I'd throw up a few pictures from a couple of recent pleasure outings Ked and I have taken here in beautiful Oregon. We've had absolutely lovely weather of late, and knowing this could, and likely will, change very soon (Portland being the soggy city that it is), we have been scraping together what little spare time we can muster to indulge our enjoyment of the "local" winter landscapes, on both the hiking trails and the snow. (Anything within 60 miles or so is local, if you ask me--so to my mind, Mount Hood counts!) I won't jabber at you much. The pictures have much more worthwhile things to say than I do. :-)

Here's one of Portland's more famous tourist attractions. Pittock Mansion was built a long time ago, by rich people, and today, tourists can wander through its fancy rooms and see all the amenities which were on the cutting edge of modernity back in 1914. (Did I mention that when I said "a long time ago," what I really meant was "a long time ago by Pacific Northwestern, non-Native American standards," and not really a long time ago? I can hear the Europeans and Chinese laughing uncontrollably in the background.) Anyway, Henry and Georgiana Pittock made their money in newspaper publishing, and this truly lovely residence is the fruit of that labor.

Here's the view to the east from the mansion's lawn. Portland spreads out below you, with Mt. Hood gracing the background. Hood is not the only mountain viewable from this much-to-be-coveted location. If I remember correctly, you can see something like five different mountains from the top of this hill--when the weather cooperates, that is.

Here's a closer look at some of the architectural detailing of the building. There are all sorts of stonework and concrete accents, leaded glass and graceful roof-lines. It's about a six mile hike, round trip, from where my husband and I usually start out to come up to Pittock, and worth every step. No matter how many times we trudge up this hill, I never get there so tired and out of breath that this home doesn't manage to take a little more of my breath away.

Moving on to a completely different outing, last Sunday Ked and I took another snow jaunt out around to the east side of Mt. Hood. We had intended to hit one of the snow-park trails we know, but we never made it that far. As we crossed a bridge and passed by this spot, we saw this little river cutting its way through the snow and just had to stop to explore and take a picture or two. The open terrain kept calling us a little further, until finally we decided that this would be our trek for the day.

This little river was rushing madly through the snowfield. Despite the cloudy evidence to the contrary, it was a warm enough day for us to start taking off gloves and other bits of weather-protective clothing, and I suspect all that warmth was giving the water level a little added oomph, and the flow a little extra zip.

On the way back to the bridge which led us to this snow extravaganza, the path is looking pretty lonesome, isn't it? It did seem as though we should feel like the only two people in the world, but don't be fooled by this picture. Yes, it was an isolated spot, but we weren't the only Oregonians out looking to commune with nature on this day. We saw at least a couple dozen other people, and no less than five or six dogs frolicking in the snow! Most of the folks were equipped with appropriate clothing, and the sleds, snowmobiles, or snowshoes to take full advantage of the wintry scene, but there were a few exceptions. We ran into one family in jeans, sweats and tennis shoes who were having a ball, but you could tell had very little experience with the frozen white stuff (or with the English language for that matter). They had the cutest brown-eyed little girls, watching with delight as their mom tried to climb down an icy bank without resorting to sliding on her backside. I so wished I had a basket of snow gear in the back of our car, so that we could introduce them properly to the snow. The combination of little girls and snow simply cries out for boots, mittens, sleds and a great big hill. Oh well, maybe they saw everyone else at play and they'll want to come back again, but this time better prepared for winter fun.

Well, that's it for this time. Blessings on your head (wherever your head happens to be).

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Chasing Snow

Sometimes I just long for snow. I love it best when it's right outside my door, and I will gladly sit at my window for hours, with a cup of cocoa and a blanky, to watch those beautiful crystals fall from the sky. We're not often blessed with snow here in Portland, though, so those afternoons at the window are few and far between. We've actually gotten snow in town a few times this winter, but never enough to trudge through, and play in, and claim as our own. It has melted away too quickly to warrant any of the giddy excitement that snow usually triggers in my normally calm and mellow little life. So today, when the snow longing could go unfulfilled no longer, Ked and I took the only logical course of action open to us--we went snow chasing on Mt. Hood. I've taken to using the Meow as our photo journal, so here's what we saw through the eye of the camera. Neat discovery alert: The last couple of times we took the camera out in the snow, the batteries died lickety-split from the freezing temperatures. This time we got one of those little chemical hand warmer packets that skiers use, and stuck it in the pocket with the camera. Worked like a charm. The camera stayed toasty and the batteries stayed fresh. Thus I am able to show you these:

As we drove east from town, we thought it likely that we'd be caught in a snowstorm when we hit the mountain. The western side of Hood was extremely grey and damp, and once we reached the magic elevation, all that moisture turned to a fine haze of flakes mixed with fog. I would have been happy to tramp around in the falling snow, but I was just as happy to see that once we crossed to the east, toward Mt. Hood Meadows, the weather opened up remarkably. We spent our afternoon in the clear and windless calm of a sunny afternoon. Lovely doesn't begin to describe it.

You can see how the clouds have piled up to the west, and yet it's all radiant blue here on the leeward side.

I think I'll title this picture "Blue Man." I don't know why the snow looks like it fell from a celestial swimming pool, but I think it's kind of cool.

One of my favorite things about these mountain treks is the way the sun glows through the tall, tall trees... and the way the wind talks, and the soft flakes fall, and the snow drifts glisten. Oh, heck--I love it all.

This trek at Bennett Snow Park was a fairly mild workout, but we made of it what we could. It's hard to work up a sweat, though, when you are constantly stopping to take pictures! We're hoping to do some skiing in a week or two, and we'll leave the camera at home if we do. Since that will be our first ski outing of the season, and we're not in the best shape this year, I suspect it will be a bit more of a challenge.

If you look closely you can see the icy Moon there above the trees.

Our eyes were often drawn heavenwards. This time they came upon some solid evidence that winter days are not always so benign here on the eastern side of Mountain Hood.

Our eyes weren't always looking up. This hill behind me had us looking down with some childish enthusiasm. It looked so inviting, we wanted to plop right down and go for a slide. Alas, we brought the wrong equipment, and sledding will have to wait till some other time when the mountain calls.

I hope it calls again soon. Snow is good for the soul.