Sunday, October 30, 2011

Something Spooky for Halloween

"Hold on, man.  We don't go anywhere with 'scary,' 'spooky,' 'haunted,' or 'forbidden' in the title."  - Shaggy from Scooby-Doo

Halloween is my favorite holiday. It is the only day of the year one can truly be what you want, whether it be a super hero, a practitioner of the black arts, or the walking dead. Not to mention the candy. I think there is no better way to honor this holiday than to present some black and white images captured at some spooky, and maybe a little creepy places.

Golden is a ghost town located in Josephine County, Oregon not far from the famous Wolf Creek Inn (which they say is haunted). Once a thriving mining town, the remaining buildings are now being restored as part of Golden State Heritage Site. The church, however, is not original and was actually built in 1950. That doesn't make it any less spooky.

 Generally, I only share pictures captured around the Pacific Northwest. I included this picture from my honeymoon in Mexico because nothing says spooky like an ancient Mayan temple in the jungle. Don't you think?

Oval Temple, Coba Archaeological Park, Yucatan, Mexico.

Okay, so ski lifts don't generally scream "scary". I will admit that. These were standing sentry at Timberline Lodge, waiting for ski season to arrive. Some of you may know that the exterior of the lodge played stand in for "The Overlook" in "The Shining", a movie that scared the you know what out of me as a child. Is the fact they were stuck on chair 13 a coincidence, or is something supernatural at work?

I'll be honest. There is nothing I like capturing images of more of than old rusted trucks. I wonder what great adventures someone took in them, before leaving them out to the elements for nature to reclaim. Ghosts of road trips past must linger in their cabs. I found this one sitting in a field near the ghost town of Shaniko, Oregon.

You may be sensing a theme here, but, yes, here is yet another ghost town picture. This cabin is located in Liberty, Washington. Last time I was here, there were still some home sites for sale. You could certainly get away from it all here. Plus, you never know. There might still be some gold in them thar hills.

Finally, a picture of Mount Hood because is there anything scarier than a volcano in your backyard that could erupt at any time?


Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Non-Invasive Species Invades the Northwest: Sarah and Wahclella Falls

"Toto, I have a feeling we are not in Kansas anymore" - Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz

You may remember my friend Sarah from North Carolina. Some of you have even had the pleasure of meeting her in person, or talk to her almost daily via the internet as I do. I have given her my blue ribbon tour of the Columbia River Gorge, and a round trip around Mount Hood on her visits out west. It's been a pleasure to view the beauty in my backyard through her eyes. I wanted you all to have that same experience, so I asked her to write a guest post for my blog on our trip to Wahclella Falls, one of my favorite hikes. I hope you enjoy seeing the Northwest from her point of view as much as I have!! 

Her words and pictures follow.

As an East-Coaster, I really know very little about the Pacific Northwest. On my recent trips out there, some of the most fun I’ve had has been the times that Cari has “kidnapped” me to show me the beauties of The Columbia River Gorge and Mount Hood. She always refuses to tell me where we are going (as though I would know where she was talking about anyway), throws me in the back seat of the car with one or both of her kids, and tells me that if I see anything I want to stop to take pictures of to let her know.

On our latest little adventure, we had a gorgeous, blue-skied Sunday morning that was perfect for opening the windows and roaming the world. Cari, her youngest—Odessa, and I hopped into the car and did just that. 

When Cari put the car in “Park” we were at Wahclella Falls Trail. I, of course, had never heard of this. But one of the things I’ve learned with Cari is that if she takes me there, it is worth seeing. We slathered on some sunblock, made sure we had full water bottles, slung our cameras over our shoulders, and headed up the trail. 

The trail featured some of my favorite things about the trails of the Pacific Northwest: rocky streams, moss-covered trees, and plenty of shade. No sooner had I framed a shot than Miss Odessa decided that this moss-covered rock was the perfect place to take a break. I think she improved my shot. What do you think?

Once we started back on the trail, it suddenly took a sharp “upward” turn. 

Okay, maybe not such a sharp turn for a regular hiker, but for this gal who usually only traipses around the Coastal Plain of North Carolina, which is decidedly flat, it was sharp. But between the shade and the little hillside “trickles” along the way, it was a pretty pleasant climb.

When we got to this little bridge with its nice little waterfall “trickle,” I thought Cari had found Heaven. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so relaxed and completely in her element. When I got closer, I realized why. To be this close to the rush of the waterfall is both exhilarating and hypnotic.

But alas, we had another, larger waterfall to see, so we headed upward. One of the cool things about hiking upward is that you get to look back downward as you climb. It’s really a cool feeling to look back down at the treetops. It gives you a completely different perspective on nature’s majesty and our place in it.

I’ll be honest. There was a point in the hike when I was praying, “Lord, if I don’t make it out of here, it’s been a nice life.” But about fifteen steps later, I saw the waterfall and realized that it had been worth every step. There’s just nothing like getting as close as you can to a waterfall, leaning back against a mossy rock, and feeling the spray in your face. This picture doesn’t begin to do it justice. I wish I could capture the symphony of hearing the waterfall crash into the creek below. For me, it was an almost religious experience. 

At this point, I think Cari could look at me and see that if I didn’t have a break, she was going to lose me on the trail back. We crawled down to a calmer section of stream and found some large, lumpy rocks to sit on. I peeled my socks and shoes off, dug my flip flops out of my bag, and waded in the F-R-I-G-I-D water for a few minutes. Now, Cari asked me not to divulge her secret for cooling down one’s water bottle after a long, hot, climb. But maybe I can slip in a picture…

While we sat on our rocks and rested our feet, Odessa decided to teach us some lessons about rocks. We told her that if she found some gold in that there stream, Miss Sarah could afford to move to the Pacific Northwest. (I’m writing from North Carolina. Does that tell you how that turned out?)

Happily, since the trip to Wahclella Falls was mostly uphill, the trip back to the car was mostly downhill. And though we were all worn out when we got back to the car, I think it was a good tired. Like we had done something special and worthwhile. I can definitely say that it’s a trip that I would suggest to other hikers and it’s definitely one I would make again.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Oregon Bounty: Harvest Time in Hood River County

"Earth here is so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest." - Douglas Jerrold

Autumn is harvest time, and I can think of nowhere that puts on a better show of Oregon's bounty than Hood River County.

At the Annual Harvest Festival held recently along the banks of the Columbia River, some of the gems of the valley were on display.

Orchard fresh apples...

...and pears straight from the tree.

Acorn squash..

 ...and I forgot what this was.

 Also some pretty juicy looking Italian plums.

Even some ornamental cabbage for your landscaping needs!

Of course, no harvest celebration would be complete without pumpkins!

Harvest Festival may be over, but farm stands all along the Fruit Loop offer a large variety of local produce. Soon they will be closing to the public until Spring. Do yourself a favor and go grab some Oregon Bounty while you still can!

Plan Your Visit:

Hood River County Fruit Loop

Hood River County Chamber of Commerce

Travel Oregon

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pumpkin Funland at Rasmussen Farms

The fall harvest is one of my favorite times of year to visit the Hood River area, and Rasmussen Farms is one of my favorite spots to celebrate the bounty of the season.

Located just off Highway 35 on the "Fruit Loop", Rasmussen's is a family owned farm that was established in 1945. Like many other proprietors in the Hood River Valley, they hold a variety of events every year to celebrate everything from the blossoms in the spring, to sunflowers in the summer, and the fruit harvest in the fall. However, the event they are probably best known for is Pumpkin Funland - one final party before closing the farm down for the winter.

One of the highlights was the different dioramas displayed, inspired by fairy tales and nursery rhymes. There were scenes from Cinderella, Robin Hood, and others made using pumpkins, gourds, and squash all grown on the farm.

Pumpkin Witch

I don't know for sure how long that old rusty tractor has sat there in that field, but I am pretty certain it hasn't moved in at least a few decades. It did, however, make the perfect spot for the girls to pose and imagine they were out zooming around the fields.

How fast does she think she is driving?
The big draw on this day, was of course, the pumpkin patch. As soon as my daughters saw the field dotted with orange, they were on a mission to find the perfect muse for a jack-o-lantern.

They carefully surveyed the field and searched until they found the perfect pumpkin.

Odessa's was a bit heavy, but, with a little help from her sister Sage...

...she managed to carry it herself.

From there it was a quick wagon ride (well, if you were the one riding and not pulling)....

Something about this seems a little unfair. have the pumpkins weighed.

Someone really fixed their little red wagon...

Of course, no trip to Rasmussen Farms would be complete without a stop in the farm store for anything that happened to catch our fancy. In my case, fancy happened to be almost 20 pounds of fresh Empire, Honey Crisp, Tokyo Rose and Spartan apples!

I can't recall ever having had a bad visit to Hood River. I always leave with a smile on my face. Today was no exception!!

The girls and my friend Amy after loading the car.

Note: If you are planning on making the trip to Pumpkin Funland yourself, it is open until November. As an added bonus for those traveling east from the Portland area, the Columbia River Gorge should be hitting peak color in another two weeks or so. Mother Nature does nothing exactly on schedule or to prediction.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Breaking in New Hiking Boots: Little ZigZag Falls

"You need special shoes for hiking - and a bit of a special soul as well." - Terri Guillemets

The opportunities to hike on Mount Hood without snowshoes is quickly fading away.In the past week, fresh snow had fallen in higher elevations across the state of Oregon. With a new pair of hiking boots that needed to be broken in, a sunny fall day was the perfect opportunity to get out and enjoy while the getting was good.

Little Zigzag Falls is a short, but beautiful hike along the Zigzag River in the Mount Hood National Forest. One of those hidden little gems, away from the crowds that seem to flock to more well known trailheads. In fact, we ended up here because there was no parking available at Mirror Lake, which was our intended destination.

We arrived and found an empty parking lot at the trailhead. The sun shone through the trees but a definite chill hung in the air, so we bundled up and headed out on the trail.

Not far up the trail, we were greeted by red huckleberry bushes covered in dew. They looked more like a piece of jewelry, encrusted with diamonds and they shimmered in the minimal sunlight.

Speaking of berries, we also ran across some smooth sumac, which had just started to change color.

About a quarter of a mile in, we were greeted by a waterfall that roared. The best part - we did not have to share it with another soul. My idea of heaven!

It was much less of a hike and more of a nature walk, we all enjoyed ourselves and left with a sense of peace. A great addition to any itinerary for exploring Mount Hood.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Saturday on Mount Hood: Billion Dollar Views (and Love on a Plate)

"Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life." - Rachel Carson

You may remember reading about my friend Sarah, from North Carolina. When she came to visit in February, my family and I gave her a grand tour of the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge. I love her visits. Not only do I get to catch up with a great friend, I can play tour guide and show off a few of the many things that make the Pacific Northwest so unique and beautiful.

Sarah returned in late August and I had yet another adventure planned for her. Yes, another trip through "The Gorge." This time, however, she was going to get up close and personal to one of Oregon's crown jewels - Mount Hood.

We started our journey, this time, on the Washington side of the Columbia River and traveled along Highway 14. While lacking the waterfalls that the Historic Columbia River Highway is known for, the northern route through the Gorge also offers many scenic vistas of its own. On a clear day, the view from Cape Horn rivals, if not surpasses, that of its cousin, Crown Point, across the river.

The view from Cape Horn

We crossed back to Oregon on the Bridge of the Gods and headed east on I-84 to Hood River, making a brief stop at Starvation Creek to take in the waterfall there.

Speaking of starving, our stomachs were rumbling and there is no greater place to stop for lunch in Hood River than Apple Valley Country Store on a "festival" weekend when they are serving barbeque. A feast of pork ribs, coleslaw with fresh pears, and apple cider beans. Or, as I refer to it, "Love on a Plate."

Love on a Plate

Since they were celebrating Gravenstein Apple Days, we also had freshly baked apple dumplings with vanilla ice cream. They were the perfect way to top off an incredible lunch.

 Once our bellies were completely full and satisfied, we took the drive up to Lost Lake Resort. On a beautiful and warm August weekend, this is one of the most popular spots in the Mount Hood National forest. Lost Lake offers rental cabins, a campground, a general store, boat rentals and an incredible view of Mount Hood.

Mount Hood from Lost Lake

We sat on a bench for a spell and took time to enjoy the view and sound of families who played in the lake. We then headed back toward the Hood River Valley below and continued our trip around the mountain along Highway 35.

There was a lot of construction along the "back side" of Mount Hood, as there is most summer months as the window for road work is so short. However, as we traveled on a Saturday, we were only stopped by one signal light as work had ground to a halt for the weekend.

We traveled a bit out of our way and made a stop at Little Crater Lake which is actually an artesian well with water so clear the bottom 45 feet down could be seen. It gleamed like a sapphire in the sun.

If you have seen a picture of Mount Hood with a lake in the foreground, it is probably one of two places: Lost Lake, which we had visited earlier in the afternoon, or Trillium Lake which was our next stop.

Mount Hood and Trillium Lake

I refer to Trillium Lake as one of the "Billion Dollar" views of Mount Hood. Sarah, my youngest daughter Odessa, and I took a short hike along the shore. Here we got a small taste of what I consider a wilderness delicacy - fresh mountain huckleberries. We picked small handfuls at a time and happily popped them in our mouths as we strolled along the trail.

We returned to the trailhead near the parking area at the dam. We sat and watched the alpenglow on the mountain as the sun set. It was a perfect end to a summer day drive on the loop around Mount Hood.

A great day with an even better friend!