A week of frivolity

A view of the Columbia from up high, taken on our failed hike

I didn’t post last week because I was in the midst of a week of frivolity, entertaining my friend Ray, who came to visit from Denver. The week before, I didn’t do much except clean the house and take my weekly hike with my neighbor. She suggested we go out to Beacon Rock State Park, which is on the Washington side of the Gorge. We didn’t go up the rock but up a hiking path across from it. The hike was supposed to be a short one, a little over two miles round-trip, but I was unable to do it. The path went straight up with no leveling out or going down so that I could catch my breath. Our goal was a waterfall, but after seeming hours of trying to get up the hill, I had to give up. It turned out we had hiked a very short distance, because it only took about 10 minutes to go down. I guess I’m just not ready for so much up. The scenery was beautiful at times, though. Either we were in dense forests or we saw views of the Gorge.

The tae kwon do demo team. My great-niece is the tall redhead in the front row of kids dressed in red.

The Saturday before last, I went to a parade. My great-niece was chosen to perform in the demo team for her tae kwon do class. Of course, I dressed wrong. It was cold in the house, but it was hot down in Hockinson, where the parade was. My niece made the same mistake, and my poor great-niece had two layers of clothes on. Boy, was she hot when she got finished. The kids did a great job, of course. They had to stop periodically and go through a routine. My niece’s husband, whom the red hair came from, walked with the parents behind the team. He came back with a sunburned neck!

My friend Ray arrived last Monday. The first night, all we did was go to the movies, but that is unusual enough. The only movie we could agree on, it being summer and therefore time for movies for 14-year-old boys, was Ready Player One, also for 14-year-old boys, but at least witty. After that we went out to eat at a 24-hour diner. My diet was shot from then on, so I didn’t really try that hard. The damage has yet to be assessed.

My friend Ray on the bridge over Moulton Falls. They’re not really falls, just some rapids, and in this picture, you can’t really see them.

Our hike was moved to Tuesday morning because we were going to the beach on Wednesday, so my neighbor decided not to go. Ray and I went over to Moulton Falls. It was a beautiful day, and we walked about three miles on an easy trail.

Here’s a really bad picture of James Taylor. To give you an idea of how bad it is, he’s the man sitting down on the far right who seems to be dressed in white. In actuality, he was dressed in black. Of course, you can’t see his face at all in this picture. As you can see, though, we had very good seats.

That night was one of the highlights of Ray’s visit. My sister had invited me months ago to attend a James Taylor concert with her. When I realized that Ray’s visit coincided with our concert, I checked to see if tickets were still available and then called Ray and had him buy one. The three of us went out to dinner in Portland and then went to the concert. It was great! I was astonished that his voice seems just as good as it always did. We were disappointed to miss Bonnie Raitt, who was supposed to perform with him but had to cancel. However, the concert was excellent with all the old favorites plus some songs we weren’t familiar with. We got home after midnight for the second night in a row.

On Wednesday, we left for a three-day trip to the Oregon coast. We tried hard to talk my husband into coming, but he decided not to (no surprise there). It seemed contrary to Ray, but we traveled north on I-5 and then cut over to Astoria, where we stopped to go up to the tower and eat lunch, and then drove along the coast most of the way down. Once we got in the Tillamook area, we were inland, and the views were more pastoral. We ended up in Lincoln City. There, Ray had found a great hotel. It is called the Shearwater Inn. Because we thought there were going to be three of us, he got us the Grand Suite, a two-bedroom suite. It was really nice, and a great deal. This entire suite, which was about the size of three normal hotel rooms, cost less than my motel room in Ashland last spring. The hotel was clean and elegant. My bedroom and bathroom alone were the size of a regular room. Then we had a living room with a fireplace and a full kitchen, another bathroom, and a smaller but still nice-sized bedroom with windows on two sides. Our suite had two balconies, although we really only used the one off the living room. The other one was off my bedroom. We felt like we were in the lap of luxury. It didn’t do my diet any good that they filled up a small bowl of salt water taffy every day. I love salt water taffy.

We went for a long walk on the beach, which was a mere 50 feet or so from the door of the hotel. Then we ate dinner at a very good seafood restaurant that was just across the parking lot from our hotel.

The next day we were booked for a whale watch in the afternoon, so we spent the morning driving south from Lincoln City along the coast. We saw some spectacular scenery. The weather was a bit blustery, and we were supposed to have confirmation on the trip by 9:30, but they didn’t really confirm until about noon, and then they wanted us there by 1 instead of 2. So, we had to jump in the car and drive back up to Depoe Bay. I was surprised to find we were going in a very small boat, a rubber launch that only held six passengers. Before, I had gone whale watching on large boats. We were able to go very fast, but I think being lower in the water made it harder to see the whales. We saw one and followed it along for a while, but our captain claimed to see another one that we never saw. One thing that happened on that boat that I never saw on the larger ones was that both of the other women in the boat got seasick. One of them spent the entire trip kneeling over the side. We were supposed to see a movie before the trip, but that was moved to afterwards. However, by the time we got back, Ray and I were so hungry that we skipped the movie and went straight for lunch. Then we spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening exploring the coast.

I took this picture of a bridge and the beautiful rugged coastline when we were down below near the Spouting Horn. It was too difficult to get a picture of the Horn when it was spouting, so I didn’t try.

The most interesting sights we saw that day were along Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. There, the sea comes in on a rocky coastline, creating some really interesting phenomena. One is called the Spouting Horn. The sea comes in a channel called Cooks’ Chasm that has a cave at the end. If the water hits the cave just right, the water shoots a spout way up from a hole at the top of the rock. Another feature is called Thor’s Well. It’s a hole in the rocky shoreline. Every wave that comes in, water bubbles up in a huge bubble that comes up several feet above the edge of the rock and then gets sucked back down the hole when the wave goes out. We were told to view these an hour before high tide, and we stayed there an hour watching them. These sights are spectacular but can be dangerous, because people can be sucked by the waves back out into the ocean.

The next morning was the only little glitch of our stay in our hotel. I woke up really early that morning. We had had an interrupted sleep, because the city electric department was working all night outside our windows. Ray said he got up in the middle of the night to watch them for a while, they were making so much noise. In fact, they cut the power to our hotel from 11 PM to early morning. I would have thought I would sleep in after that, but instead I woke up shortly after 5 AM with the idea of taking a last walk on the beach before we left that morning. Once I had the idea in my head, I couldn’t let go of it, so I went out and walked on the beach for about 40 minutes. It was perfectly peaceful. I only saw another woman with two dogs and a lot of sea birds. I would have stayed out longer, but I was afraid Ray would wake up early and wonder where I was.

However, when I got back to the hotel, my badge had stopped working. This small hotel doesn’t man the desk all night. Instead, the desk doesn’t open until 7:30. There I was with no money and no phone outside at 6:15 wondering if I had to stay out there another hour. Of course, I hadn’t been able to decide whether to stay out longer, but since I couldn’t get in, I was determined to get in. Luckily for me, a maintenance man was there right in the lobby when I went to the main door. He had been checking the hotel systems ever since the power went back on at 4:30 AM, so he let me back into the hotel and into my room.

That day we had tickets booked on the Oregon Coast Scenic Railway in the afternoon. Before our train trip, we explored the coast north of Lincoln City. This drive we took was supposed to have the most spectacular scenery, but what we saw was a little disappointing. Of course, we didn’t make it all the way around the top of the cape to Pacific City, because we had to make our train trip. It was raining all day, so it was nice to just sit on the train, but otherwise, this trip was a little disappointing as well. It went from one seaside town to another, Garibaldi to Rockaway Beach, but in between, we mostly saw the backs of houses. Rockaway Beach seemed like kind of a sad little beach town with a muddy beach and mostly tiny cottages. However, they have a great bakery right across from the railroad depot. We went across and had a treat and coffee then got back on the train.

After that, it was time to drive home, which we did in pouring rain. This was the first time to use my GPS, which gave us such a wacky route home that we ended up using Ray’s phone. The entire way home it was pouring, and we didn’t get home until about 7 PM. My neighbor and I had concluded that the preferences for the GPS were set strangely, so we had several times tried to figure out how to get to them. As a test on Friday, when we were sitting patiently in Portland next to the I-5 ramp (which would take us almost straight home), we told the GPS to Go Home, and it said, “Cannot go there with your preferences.” We then made a plan to go out to the garage before our next road trip (to Mt. St. Helens) to check the preferences when the car was stationary. Sure enough, we were discussing this plan the next morning when my husband, who had just said he didn’t change the preferences, said “I know how to do that,” and left for two minutes to change them. Since I didn’t know how to change them, it was clear who had done it in the first place and who had listened to me complaining that I couldn’t use the GPS on numerous occasions because it had routed me so strangely, and yet had said nothing. I don’t remember if I told you that the morning my friend and I went to Ashland, it tried to send me four hours out of the way to pick her up. She lives an hour away. The GPS had a Highways check box, and apparently, my husband had unchecked it, so it was trying to route us without using major highways.

The mask is open to show the other mask inside, but the side parts, when closed, make the beak of a bird that juts out maybe five feet in front of the dancer’s face.

But that’s neither here nor there, there is more frivolity to relate. The next night we did one of the most interesting things of the trip. We went to a summer ceremony at the Lelooska Foundation. The Lelooska family created the foundation to preserve the arts of the native people of North America. The ceremony takes place in a long house and consists of stories, dances, and the display of the masks representing the characters to which the Lelooska family has earned the rights and privileges, as he explained. These masks are extraordinary, and the ceremony and stories are interesting and funny. Chief Lelooska explained the meaning of what they were doing first and then told the story while the characters came out and danced. The masks are fantastic. We were not allowed to take pictures, so my picture is from a card that I bought in their gallery. This mask is one of a bird, and you can see that the person wearing it (most likely a woman, as almost the entire family was made up of women) has huge claws on her feet. This picture shows the mask opened up to show another mask underneath, but when the mask is closed, the beak projects about five feet in front of the wearer. It is truly spectacular, and then she makes a snapping movement, and it opens up.

Our final outing was on Sunday, when we drove up to Mt. St. Helens with my sister and my great-niece. It was a rainy day, and when we got to the mountain top, the mountain was covered by a cloud, so we never got to see it up close. However, my great-niece was delighted, because she said she had never been in a cloud before. The movies they have at the Johnson Observatory are great whether you can see the glaciers and the caldera of the volcano or not. I was delighted to find that I could easily tackle some hills that I had not been able to go up last October when my friend visited. It was cold and sleeting at the top of the hill across from the mountain, and we had a wet drive home.

My friend left on Monday afternoon, and after we returned from the airport, I fell asleep for three hours!

By the way, my painting is finally finished. I forgot to take a picture of it, but I’ll post a picture of it next week.

 

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Peas, mushy and otherwise

This morning I went out to water my garden and saw that my peas are coming up. Yippee! However, I think I made a mistake with the peas as well as with the large vegetables. The packet said to plant them in a row and then thin the plants to two inches. Instructions on the internet said to plant them at two inches apart. I had a bunch of peas in the packet and not much space, so I went ahead and followed the instructions on the packet, just made a little trough at a half inch deep and rolled them all in. I thought that instead of throwing out the thinned plants, I could give them to my niece and sister to plant in their much larger garden. (Theirs takes up probably close to an acre.)

Those little green things behind the onions are my pea sprouts.

However, my sister tells me peas can’t be easily transplanted. I think I would have done better to plant them spaced two inches apart and keep the rest of the peas in their packet for next year. I’m doing this sort of blind, I guess. I had gardens years ago in Michigan, but all I ever planted were tomatoes and beans from seed. One year I tried zucchini and eggplant but my zuccini rolled right over my eggplant. In any case, I had lots of yummy beans and tomatoes out of that garden, but it wasn’t diverse or hard to take care of.

Our last day of nice weather was Thursday last week, a day that got very hot. I had been inside and was not aware of how hot it was, so I suggested to my husband that we put together the bench kit that he bought to go next to the pond. We loaded the parts and tools into the car, and I drove down to the orchard and backed in there next to the pond while my husband strung electrical cord down to the pond. However, once there, I realized just how hot it was. It was almost 90! We were working in an area with no shade, and once we carted all the pieces down to the pond and I helped him get started, I realized I was going to have to go back into the house. He said he could do the rest himself, but he must have been too hot, too, because he didn’t finish. Everything is still down there partially put together. But after several days of cold, dark weather with rain expected but not much materializing, we are back today to cool and sunny days, so I expect he’ll finish putting the bench together soon, and I can help him.

Another of his projects didn’t go so well, though. He took down all the things on one side of the garage, and a week or so ago, he put up aluminum shelves with a wooden top, waist high to be a work table. His intention is to hang pegboard along the wall for his tools and to hang a light. It all looked very nice.

The last few days he’s been working on the light, which perhaps he should have done first. I say this because yesterday I heard a terrific crash out there and went out to see what had happened. He had been using his new shelving to stand on the edge and work on the light. He moved his foot over from the corner, and the aluminum couldn’t support his weight. He crashed through, ruining one of his shelving units. Luckily, he wasn’t injured. He got hurt much worse by the pond by getting into some stinging nettle. He didn’t say anything about it at the time, and I was gone that evening, so he told me about it when I got back. He had tried to treat it with antibiotics instead of washing it off and smearing it with a paste made from baking soda and water. I did that and it helped, but it would have helped a lot more if he’d told me about it right after he did it.

Last week, my hike with my neighbor was a comedy of errors. I don’t know what I was thinking. I had thought before we left that if we decided to return to Battle Ground Lake and hike the outer trail, I would remind Maja that she bought an annual pass to the park last time we went. We did decide to go there, but I forgot about the pass, so we ended up having to pay for a day pass. That was $10 when the annual pass was $30, ridiculous! To compare, the pass for the National Wildlife Refuge that we went to the week before was $3.

To make it worse, once out of our neighborhood, I started to drive the wrong way and had to turn around. Then, when we got to the park, I drove right past it and had to turn around again! When I passed it, we discussed going to Lewis River Park again, but we were right next to Battle Ground Lake, so we didn’t. My head must have been in the clouds that day.

The All Trails app said the outer trail loop was about three miles, but my Fitbit said it was 1.7 miles, one of our shortest hikes but more than half of which was uphill. I think the longer distance must be in hiking both the inner and outer loop, but we could see no explanation of that anywhere on the trails app, and by the time we finished with the outer loop, we were ready to stop. We have started going to lunch afterwards, and that makes our expedition take up a good portion of the day. My neighbor said she had gotten so that she didn’t do anything after she got home. That’s about right for me, too.

Our friend Ray is coming for a visit in June from Denver and we talked a little more about what we were going to do during his trip. We ended up making some hotel reservations on the beach for a couple of days, and we will do day trips from there. I don’t know if my husband will decide to come or not. Right now, he seems mildly interested in the idea of taking the Oregon Coast Pacific Railway, which is one of the things we want to do. But who knows what he’ll decide to do when the time comes. If I knew for sure he was going to cop out, I might think about inviting my sister to come along. The problem is knowing what he’ll decide to do. Oh well, Ray and I have done plenty of travelling by ourselves over the years. We also talked about doing the Tillamook cheese factory tour. If it was their ice cream factory, my husband would be more likely to come.

In art class, I have painted all of the background to my picture and the sea, and the foliage in the foreground. I spent most of this week’s class doing waves. All that is left is to paint the trees in the foreground and perhaps do some more touches to the foliage. A woman and her daughter in the class told me they don’t want me to paint the trees, because they like my picture the way it is. Unfortunately, there are some aspects to the picture that aren’t quite right that the teacher and I didn’t worry about because the trees were going to block them out. In particular, the sea is slanting in just a little bit, so that it looks like a tidal wave is about to wash away the town of Cannon Beach. That won’t be as obvious when the tree is in the way.

Finally, on Friday during the cold and gloomy weather, I took the train into Portland to attend the Oregon Potters Association Ceramic Show for the second year in a row. We decided to go on Friday because we thought it might not be as crowded, but we were wrong. It was even more crowded than it was last year. I like looking at the pottery, but once too many people get in one place, I start to feel uncomfortable. We saw all the pottery, and I bought a few pieces for gifts, but we didn’t stay long, only about an hour and a half.

Then we went to eat at the food carts, particularly to the Frying Scotsman to try their fish and chips, or in my case, fish and mushy peas. Very good. My husband is always in search of good fish and chips, so I will have to try to get him down there. He will not like, however, the fact that there is no place to sit to eat. In Austin, food carts are very popular as well, but almost all of them have a group of picnic tables to sit at. The ones in downtown Portland do not. I think that most people take their food back to their offices, but the food carts are popular with tourists, too. We found a low wall to sit on a block or so away. I saw lots of people buying food but not many people standing around eating it, so I’m not sure what they do.

It was a shorter than usual day. After lunch, we bopped around town a little bit, saw some things in Chinatown. But then I took the train back and got home around three. Usually after these expeditions I don’t get home until about six. The sky looked very foreboding as I was leaving, but it didn’t rain.

 

 

A winter journey

Last week revolved around a weekend trip to Leavenworth, Washington, where they have a Christmas festival every weekend in December. My niece planned this trip almost a year ago. Seven of us went, my sister, my husband and I, my niece and her family. Leavenworth is located on the east of the Cascades in central Washington, so we had to drive over the mountains to get there.

My great niece and great nephew with a bear outside a store in Leavenworth

We drove up on Friday, arriving around 3:30. Leavenworth is a little German town that looks like the residents transplanted a chunk of Bavaria. There are murals painted on the walls of the buildings and they are well lit up for Christmas. My goodness, does it get filled up for the Christmas festival.

The town schedules events all weekend in a gazebo in the center of town. If they don’t have someone performing then they pipe Christmas music. We arrived in town in time to witness the arrival of St. Nicholas. The town was all lit up with Christmas lights and fairly packed for the arrival. St. Nicholas drove up in a horse-drawn carriage and then proceeded to give an uncharismatic and tedious lecture on the history of St. Nicholas. All the adults in my party had to laugh. Here they designed an event for kids and then bored them. Our favorite line—“And then I died.” I’m sure the children were confused, if they were paying attention at all. Finally, St. Nicholas handed out pears wrapped in gold foil to all the children. I never saw so many orchards as I did in the immediate area when we were driving in to town.

Our trusty steeds awaiting the arrival of us. Our horses were the ones on the left. You can just barely see the mountains behind everything.

On Saturday, we had scheduled a sleigh ride through the country. This turned out to be a wagon ride, as there was not enough snow. It began snowing on Saturday morning, though, and continued to snow all day. As the day went on, the town, nestled in the mountains, became more and more beautiful. The horses were percherons, massive draft horses but seemingly placid in disposition. That was fun. Our driver was a hoot.

I had to take a picture of the people with presents on their heads. You can see it’s just beginning to snow.

But when we went back into town, it was so packed! We thought it had been full Friday night, but we were wrong! They closed off the main street for the weekend, which meant that people could walk in the street. That relieved the congestion on the sidewalks but eliminated a lot of the parking. The lack of parking continued to be a problem all weekend, because my husband was unable to walk from the hotel to the town. We arrived in time for a charmingly short parade down main street. First came people with presents for hats, then people dressed like elves and Christmas trees, and finally Santa’s sleigh. The parade lasted about two minutes.

My great niece and niece at the parade

We were lucky in finding a restaurant for lunch that was not only good but apparently unknown to the tourists. After we arrived, the entire parade showed up except the Christmas trees. The town was so full that after we attempted to do some shopping, in tiny stores stuffed with people, we all decided to go back to our hotel so that the kids could play in the game room. We were unable to find a restaurant that had room for us all for dinner, so my husband and I ended up going to the overpriced German buffet at the hotel. By then, I had had all I ever wanted of mediocre German food.

Leavenworth lit up at night. This was one of the few times when it wasn’t packed with people, after the lighting ceremony on Sunday. Everyone left immediately to go home except us.

By Sunday, everything was covered in snow and gorgeous. The sun was shining, too! All the women in our party walked downtown, and so many people had gone home by then that we could easily go from shop to shop. We saw all we wanted of the stores, which were fairly typical in a tourist town. I bought some cheese in the cheese store. We had a nice lunch at an outdoor sausage place. More sausage, but at least it was good. Then in mid-afternoon we went back to the hotel for a few hours’ rest. My niece’s husband had the forethought to book us a table at a nice restaurant for dinner.

When we went back to town, my husband and I found probably the last parking place there, for $20! It was just in time for the lighting ceremony and right before our dinner reservation. The lighting ceremony seemed interminable to me, with every person who helped in the festival taking his or her turn to talk, so finally my husband and I went to the restaurant to make sure they held our reservation. Apparently, it was quite touching when they finally lit up, not just the Christmas trees, but the whole town. It was a beautiful night with a full moon. The restaurant was delicious. I had fish instead of sausage. So, a nice night.

We drove home on Monday through the mountain passes that were now spectacular, having been snowed on for an entire day. All the limbs of the trees were thick with snow. But because of sun the day before, the roads were quite clear. So, we had a nice journey home from our Christmas adventure.

A week of sightseeing

I spent this week entertaining my guest from Houston and boy, am I tired! Yesterday, we dropped her at the airport at 6:15 AM, and after doing a few chores around the house, I lay down and fell asleep for four hours.

My friends on one of the many bridges across the Williamette River in Portland. The bridge we were standing on is a new one that is just for walking, biking, and mass transit.

The first day of our visit was cold and rainy, and we again took the North Clark County Scenic Drive. Of course, it began raining when we got to the waterfalls, so we ended up skipping the one that we so far have always skipped for one reason or another. We were happy to return early for a pot of tea and a seat before the wood stove.

On Friday, we had a few rain gusts, but it eventually became sunny. We met my Portland friend in Portland for a visit to the Pompeii exhibit at OMSI. After we saw the exhibit, we walked around downtown Portland and of course visited Powell’s books. By the time we got there, I was just ready to sit in the coffee room, but I did buy a book by John McPhee about Alaska called Coming into the Country.

Cannon Beach, with its famous monolith

Saturday we went to the beach. We drove out to Astoria, went up to the tower above the city, and then drove down the coast as far as Cannon Beach. We got to see what each of the small beach communities was like. I confess that I still prefer Gearhart, where we were this summer, because it is quiet. The beach at Cannon Beach is very nice, though. Seaside is crowded and full of arcades for the children.

At a viewpoint on the way up to the mountain. It was a gorgeous day.

My husband went along with us only on our Sunday expedition, back to Mt. St. Helens. He only went because I asked him to, as I was already very tired and wanted him to drive. As usual, he was not much help when it comes to entertaining visitors. It was a beautiful day, so we got some nicer pictures of the mountains and had the opportunity to listen to an interesting presentation by a ranger.

Monday started out with a doctor’s appointment, but then my friend and I continued out along the Gorge. Normally, I would want to take a visitor to the old highway between Vista House and the falls, including Multnomah Falls, but all of these sights are closed because of the Eagle Creek fire. So, instead, I decided that it might be a good time to investigate the Maryhill Museum of Art, which is way down the Gorge. My original plan was to drive there on the north side of the Gorge, on highway 14, and back on the freeway on the south side of the Gorge, but our GPS kept trying to force us to go to the freeway, and so we had no idea how long it would take us to drive out on highway 14. Finally, we decided to cross over at Bridge of the Gods, because who could resist driving across that bridge? It is really spectacular, an old, narrow bridge that people can both drive and walk across.

Maryhill Museum of Art

Maryhill museum is small but packed with interesting exhibits. It was originally the house of railroader and highway advocate, Sam Hill, who was trying to establish an agricultural community out there. But he bought property just a little too far out on the dry side of the mountains, and the community failed before he finished building his house. Eventually, he decided to make a museum out of it and got contributions from his friends in European royalty.

The museum has rooms with Russian icons, Grecian urns, gilt furniture and other artifacts donated by the Queen of Bohemia, chess sets, an entire room of Rodin sculptures, and what interested my friend most, the Théâtre de la Mode, which is a display of 24-inch wire mannequins dressed in beautiful gowns that the Parisian designers used after World War II to present their creations to women in the United States. The collection was believed lost, but the mannequins were salvaged from a store basement in San Francisco and their elaborate settings restored. It’s a very interesting little museum and well worth the visit, even though the trip is long and there is nothing else out there except a winery.

My friend left early yesterday morning, and now I am just trying to get back to normal. We had a beautiful week, but yesterday it started raining again. Art class today!

 

Visitors and Mt. St. Helens

Our visit with my husband’s brother and his wife passed off nicely. They only stayed one night and were not interested in more driving, as they had driven down highway 97 to the Gorge and come down the Gorge and back up here. We found that an odd route, considering there were forest fires on both sides of the Gorge, past which they had to drive. They said they didn’t see any fire, just smoke. We showed them the house, did a lot of talking, found a restaurant to take them to dinner, and all had a sauna, and that was about it. When they left, they were planning to go back along the Gorge to Hood River, which would put them even closer to the fire in Oregon.

Last we heard, the fire on the Washington side was well contained, but they were saying that the Eagle Creek fire may never be fully contained because of the rugged terrain. However, starting Sunday, it is supposed to rain here for three or four days in a row, so maybe that will put both fires out. It is supposed to be the first substantial rain we have had all summer.

Our guide in his favorite place in the park

On Saturday, we had an outing with my friend from Portland to Mt. St. Helens. Her neighbor works as a part-time ranger there a couple weekends a month, and she was able to arrange a personal tour with him. He was quite a garrulous guy, but he had lots of interesting stories to tell about the eruption and about the park in general. He himself had a close call. He was at Spirit Lake helping remove some equipment from a boy scout camp, and he and the other people with him had decided to spend the night to finish the job even though the governor was not allowing anyone to stay overnight in the area. But a law enforcement officer came by and asked them to leave. The next morning was the eruption, and they would have been killed if they hadn’t gone home as requested.

Mt. St. Helens on a misty day, but it cleared up just for our visit. The eruption busted through the side of the mountain, removing the top and making that huge crater.

I have to admit that Mt. St. Helens wouldn’t have been my first choice of a place to visit, but it was fascinating. It was amazing to think that it only took three minutes for all the debris and gas from the eruption to go miles across the valley and up the other side, to where I was standing when I took the picture above. The before and after pictures are devastating, and the movies in the visitor center were informative and moving. This was a really interesting visit, and I recommend it to anyone who is in the area.

We almost cancelled our expedition because of smoke from the fires, but it cleared up the day before. However, the day we went it was misty. But the mist cleared for our visit, and it started raining just as we were leaving. Because of the fires, there were not many people at the monument that day.

At home, I have spent the last two days listing teapots on my Etsy store. The whole Etsy experience has been a lesson learned. I started out with some harlequin dolls from a collection I made in the 1980’s. I had offered the dolls to the little girls, but they find them creepy and always put them out in the hall when they sleep in the kids’ guest room. So, a few months ago, I looked at Etsy to see what it would take to list them.

I was just investigating opening a store, and before I knew it, I was actually opening one. They don’t really have a primer that tells you all the steps ahead of time, which was what I was looking for. I ran into trouble when it got to the shipping part. I could have just saved my listings and investigated the shipping later, but instead (don’t ever do this yourself), I guessed about the shipping. The program says “Let us estimate your shipping costs,” and I thought (duh!) that when it asked for the weight of the item, it meant the item itself, not the item with shipping materials. I stupidly thought they had a way of estimating the weight from the size of the box and the weight of the item. Of course, I had no boxes and I didn’t have the dolls packed, so I just weighed the dolls! Boy, was that dumb. I figured if I was off, I would only have to add a few dollars.

The error came out when I sold my first item, last week. It was my best doll, and I had it under-priced to begin with, I think (although I couldn’t find any as nice to compare it with). I packed it up in the only box I could find (the one containing my Indonesian puppets, whose bases I can’t find yet), printed the postage label, and took it to the post office. There I found that I owed $8 more on the postage. So, I made hardly any money on that doll. I also have a problem that to get boxes the correct size to ship the dolls, I have to order 25 of them! I only have a few more dolls to ship, so I hope that my husband will be able to make boxes for me out of other boxes. Oh, for the box store I used to go to in Austin, where you could get one of any size of box.

I have always planned to sell my teapot collection that I put together in the 1990’s, and that sale got me going again. So, the past few days, I got the right-sized box from Walmart and have been weighing each teapot with the packing materials on them, adding the weight of the box, unwrapping them and taking their pictures, and listing them. Some of the teapots are unusual enough that I wasn’t able to find comparisons, so I hope I have them priced right.

It has started to turn cooler here. The last two days have been cool and sunny, and finally the smoke has cleared out completely. Right now it is only 46 degrees out, and the high today will be 62. It will get warmer again next week, but I think fall is coming!

Oh dear. My niece just invited us a costume party for my great-nephew’s fourth birthday just before Halloween. I’m going to have to do some thinking. I haven’t dressed up for Halloween in about 20 years!

Fire, incoming guests, and an outing

The last few days we’ve been keeping an eye on the progress of a nearby forest fire. It started at Eagle Creek in Oregon, near the Columbia River Gorge, apparently by a 15-year-old shooting off illegal fireworks in the forest. It has displaced quite a few people in Oregon, although last I heard, no one had died and no structures have burned. But yesterday, it jumped the river into Washington. It is over in the next county, although I don’t think it is nearly as bad here as in Oregon. But they are evacuating some people on our side of the Gorge.

Our skies are so smoky this morning that we can barely see the sun, even though normally it would be a clear day.

Our skies have been really smoky as a result, and outside it smells like smoke. The air quality is very bad, and we have been avoiding doing work outside, although I had to go whack down the weeds in front of our address sign yesterday, because we are having guests who have never been here before and I realized you couldn’t read the number. There is ash all over our deck. I hope this is the worst we get from the fire and that everyone else’s houses are okay.

This is ash on the deck as of yesterday. Today it is worse.

At midnight the wind was supposed to change and the sky was supposed to clear out, but I could see no evidence of that when I got up. It was still hot out, too, and it was supposed to get cooler. But about an hour ago, I went outside and it was cooler, so I suppose the wind has finally shifted and the smoke will move out of the area. But since the wind is shifting from east winds to south winds, it will be blowing the ashes from the fire straight up into Washington, although not toward us anymore (we are northwest of the fire).

Just last Friday we saw some of the smoke on a little outing we took, although then it was not very bad, because the fire was still just on the Oregon side. We started out just going to the post office. But it was a nice day, although hot, and my husband decided we would take a little drive. First we headed straight east out of Yacolt, but after a while each of the roads we took ended up as private roads. One of the oddities of this area is that there are hundreds of private roads and roads that start out public often become private. It cramps your style when you are blindly exploring, as we like to do. So then, we decided to take Sunset Falls Road, which ends up in the Gifford National Forest, but only out as far as Dole Valley Road and then see what is on that road. Our ex-tenants live somewhere out on that road (they are my niece’s in-laws), so we wanted to see what the territory looked like.

It is much more remote than where we are. The road heads south, and we wound our way through mountains and a beautiful valley, presumably the Dole Valley, for hours. We thought we ended up in the Gifford National Forest, but looking at the map when we got home, I realized that it was the Yacolt State Forest. At some point in the forest, the road became just a narrow gravel road, and then it changed its name to L-1000. We passed a prison. It surprised us that there was a prison in what we thought was the national forest (but wasn’t).

Eventually, we got to a four-way intersection marked by signs on wooden stakes. One direction sounded like it pointed out destinations in the park. One sign said “Henderson,” and I had no idea where that was. It wasn’t even on our county map (which, since it was a map for bikers, helpfully had a huge legend covering the area of the county where we were) or the state map. The other sign said “Camas.” I knew where Camas was, on the Columbia River, because my sister and I visited it after art class one Wednesday. So, we decided to go to Camas, but it was still quite a drive to that nice little town. Camas has a scenic old town with lots of interesting shops, restaurants, and art galleries, so we stopped there for lunch at a Louisiana-style restaurant. The food was pretty good. There was some sort of art competition going on, because at just about every corner, there were artists working on canvasses. I know that there is a yearly art competition centered around areas of the Gorge, so maybe that was it. Finally, we drove home on the more normal route. When we got home, we found out we had been driving for about four hours.

Now, we are preparing for tomorrow’s arrival of my husband’s youngest brother and his wife. He was the brother who helped us drive our stuff up here from Texas. They are coming from British Columbia, where they live about an hour outside Vancouver (the more famous Vancouver). Although he was not eating a special diet when we moved last year, I find we need to locate somewhere where he can eat on a vegan, low-carb diet. That should be interesting.

For those who were worried about my brother, he is at home now. He did not have some of the more dangerous conditions they tested for, but he had to have his heart started twice to try to get it beating more regularly. Now, he will have to take medication every day and keep nitro glycerin pills near him at all times for the rest of his life. This is better than the alternative, I guess, but he is such an active guy who likes camping and kayaking and is in good physical health in other ways. He now has some blockage that makes him tire easily. Unfortunately, a bum ticker is part of our family heritage. My father died of a massive heart attack on the tennis court when he was 54, and his father died at the same age from the same thing (although not while playing tennis). My uncle was surprised that he made it to his 80’s. I guess this legacy has now made it down to one of my brothers.

 

Things that are different

We have a few things to worry about this week. My younger brother is in the hospital with cardiac problems, so we are thinking about him and hoping his procedure today comes out okay. Also, we have been thinking about our friends in Texas, in particular, Houston. Our friends in Austin report that it isn’t bad there. They just got more rain than normal. But Houston is a low lying city with a high water table and no high areas. We called one friend on Sunday, and at that point she said she was okay, although she was worried that water might come in the house. She said when the rain stopped, the water drained off immediately, so she was just hoping for breaks in the rain often enough to keep her house from flooding. We are assuming she is okay. As far as I know, she doesn’t live near any of the reservoirs that they opened up.

I don’t have much news this week, so I thought I’d write a little post about some of the things we’ve found different about living here in Washington, versus Texas, where I lived for 30 years.

Weather. Well, I’ve written a lot about the weather. We absolutely love it here. At this time of year in Austin, it would still be really hot, with highs in the 90’s or even 100’s and no relief until October or even November. We got so tired of six-month summers, and really hot ones at that. This week, it has been hot here in southern Washington, by which I mean in the 80’s and 90’s but cooling off into the 60’s at night. We have only had one day that we had the air conditioning on all day, versus most of the time in Texas. Most of our days are sunny. In fact, this year, we are having less rain than usual. I understand that most years it is sunny in the summer most of the time but rains every three weeks or so. This summer we have only had one rainy day. Still, it is nice and green here. We have loved all of the seasons, and we are moving toward the end of our first year here.

Degrees north. Since we are so much farther north, one thing we’ve had difficulty adjusting to is the earliness of the mornings. In Texas, morning comes about 6 AM in the summer and 7 in the winter, and evening at about 8:30 PM in the summer and 6 in the winter. At the height of this summer, it was getting daylight about 4 AM and stayed light until after 9. My memories of living in Michigan are that it was dark in the winter until about 7 AM, but here it is definitely daylight in the winter earlier than that. That might be because of the time zones.

We have had difficulty adjusting to having light come into our windows so early in the morning. Unfortunately, our bedroom faces east, and the sun blasts in even before it is over the treetops. In fact, if we didn’t have a line of huge conifers behind the house, it would be much worse. We have black-out curtains everywhere except across the sliding glass door, because I couldn’t find the right size. My husband bought a blind to put outside that door, but he hasn’t hung it yet, partly because I think he bought one that is too large. It will cover the sliding glass door and both windows, and I don’t want to cover the windows, which have black-out curtains on them, because I want to be able to get air into the room at night. So, we still have the sun blasting through the curtains on the sliding glass door every morning.

Scenery. Austin, with its hills, creeks, trees, and river, was pretty enough, but it is gorgeous here. We are surrounded by huge trees, with views of mountains on clear days. We’re up on a hill with a view of our pond and woods. We can barely see our neighbors. And this is just from our house. Every drive we take we discover more to look at.

Traffic and driving. In Texas, people drive fast, probably because the state is so big it takes forever to get across it. Here, some people drive fast but lots don’t. After all, we’re in the country, and comparatively speaking, there is no traffic. I also have to keep reminding myself that I don’t have anywhere to get in a hurry. I’ve been consciously slowing myself down. (My husband has had less success in this regard.) However, I have noticed some little driving idiosyncrasies here. The main highway on our way home is four lanes in Battle Ground, then it is down to two lanes, and after about a mile it has an extra passing lane. Then it is back down to two lanes. I keep getting behind people who drive very slowly, like at least 10 miles an hour under the speed limit, on the two-lane road, but then when the passing lane comes up so that I can pass them, they speed up so that I can’t. Then as soon as we are back to two lanes, they slow down again. That is frustrating.

But the odder thing, the thing I can’t figure out at all, is what I call the white stripers. These are the people who drive up the highway with their right two wheels straddling the white line so that their wheels are actually on the shoulder. I have seen this time and again, and I haven’t seen it anywhere else. I have no idea what they think they are doing or why they would drive like that.

But traffic? No, there isn’t any really, except for the double dump trucks that are busy disassembling the mountain nearby. We don’t like them.

Logging. A sad thing about this area is that if a property changes hands, in most cases the first thing that happens is all the trees are logged. I mean all the trees. I mean utter destruction and devastation, with piles of trash lying around on the ground for months afterwards. It is horrible to see and so bad for the environment. But the people around here are loggers. See a tree, cut it down. Although some of them will plant a few trees on the property after they build their house, many of them won’t. In fact, they really like to decorate with rocks. And I am sure that many of them need the money from the trees in order to afford the house that they put up. Still, many lots in our area that were wooded when we moved here are now scenes of total destruction. This is really a contrast for me. I remember that when we were kids, our family bought a wooded lot, and our parents went around with the builders and marked every single tree that the builders were allowed to cut down to build the house. I’m sure it was difficult for the builders, but we didn’t want to end up with a treeless lot.

Religion. Here’s the biggest oddity of this area. Unknowingly, we have moved into the hotbed of a sect of a sect, that is, Old Apostolic Lutheranism. I did some reading after we got here, and this county has the highest concentration of members of this church in the country. I tried reading about their beliefs, but I don’t really understand what the Wikipedia page is talking about. Their practices are another thing—in particular, that they take really seriously the “be fruitful and multiply” part of the bible. I think we have at least three apostolic families in our neighborhood. Our neighbors across the road are one of them, and they have 17 children. I was really surprised when I met them to find that they are only in their 40’s. They get married really young, and then they have children every year. Those neighbors’ kids, in particular, are considered the scourge of the neighborhood. They are always making a lot of noise. Lately, they’ve been shooting guns all day every day. We’re talking eight-year-olds, here.

Basically, most of the boys go straight out of high school into a trade. In fact, they’ve all been working really hard before they get official jobs. I think I mentioned that the kids across the street are the ones who cut and sold us our firewood. This means we have lots of very capable and hard-working people around here, especially in the building trades. I am fairly sure that our contractors are from that religion, although we never talked about it. The girls get married and become mothers. I don’t think very many people in our county go to college.

These people are descendants of the original settlers of this area, who were from Scandinavia. Old Apostolic Lutheranism came out of Sweden, but we also have a lot of Finns in the area that belong to the church as well. Our contractors are of Finnish descent. Finns are good wood workers, which is one reason they constituted a large portion of the population of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where long ago they engineered the copper mines. (I lived there for a year long ago.) My understanding is that a lot of the people up there are also Old Apostolic Lutherans.

I think this is all very interesting, and so far the only down side is that the schools around here are known for bullying by the OAL kids toward the other kids. My niece heard about that before her kids started school. In fact, standing in line at the post office, an OAL mother told her not to send her quirky red-headed daughter to the Yacolt school or she would be bullied. So, she is home-schooled part-time and goes to school two days a week in Battle Ground. Next week, my little great-nephew is starting preschool on the same schedule.

Anyway, it is odd to me, coming from a city, where the largest churches are usually Catholic, Methodist, and in the south, Baptist, to find that what I consider the more usual religions have very small churches out here, whereas there are three really big (for the country) Old Apostolic Lutheran churches in the immediate area, and their parking lots are packed on Sundays and some other days, sometimes at rather odd times, like last Friday at 10 AM.

So, you can see that there are some things here that are very different for us.