We put up a Christmas tree with John and Harriet last night. Played a few tunes and said good-bye. Now we’ll be back Sunday night for the Son Volt concert. Tickets are only $15. Where do you get a deal like that anymore? Yesterday we visited Skinner Butte and got a real experience in urban park exploration. Every trail we headed down had furtive young men dealing drugs or worse. I was feeling bad for interrupting all of them. I just wanted to go for a walk with Burt and Elvis. We finally headed straight down a mud-slicked trail not for the faint of heart and hit the entrance road and wound around to the Columns. The columns are, there’s no other word for it, a cute climbing area. Tiny 45′ high dihedrals littered with top ropes and climbers of all types. It was fun watching a newby try and learn to belay. Just couldn’t quite get the hang of it. We headed up top without incident and got the heck out of there.
We’ve been camped for free at the Valley River Center mall right next to the Willamette River. There is a large swath of public park and trails right here. We, stupid Montanans, let Elvis off leash for a minute and instantly he almost caused a bike wreck. Black dog running loose in the park after dark with bikes whizzing by. And yes I was the one that let him off. Stupid. But Lordy, where are all these people coming from?
We are off to Portland and more old friends and a party.
Today is Tuesday (I think) and we are in Eugene, OR visiting old friends from college. I have been on more near disastrous trips with John than anyone else to date. Burt and I will try to keep it that way. John think the most dangerous was our misbegotten trip down Section III of the Chattooga when we all nearly drowned. I happen to prefer our New Zealand mountaineering trip on Mount Aspiring. I impaled myself on my crampon and tripped head first into a crevasse. Those on the outside might think our trip in the Bugaboos where I fell into another crevasse and then John was hit by rockfall and flown out in a helicopter might have been the worst. Harriet wisely abstained from each of these trips. I am now firmly committed to only going on trips that Harriet participates in. Unless, of course, we head for the Grand Teton. She’s the only mountain still getting my goat (or if your a climber, my rat).
We spent a night around Mount St. Helens. No pictures due to clouds. We watched the hilariously dramatically narrated 13 minute film at the visitors center. The next morning we enjoyed a cool moist walk in the forest at Seaquest State Park. The mushrooms were diverse in structure and colors. The first set we saw had creamy white smooth caps on slender stems. They were about 4″ across and 4″ high. Burt bent over to unshroud one cloaked in a wet oak leaf when Elvis barreled through and knocked both mushrooms flat. So much for quietly appreciating our surroundings.
On the road to Eugene we were ambushed by a camerman and news reporter at the Vancouver rest area. They were polling truckers and tourists about a proposal to fund a new bridge over the Columbia with a toll for only truckers and tourists. The report asked a pretty straightforward question and I naturally paused to contemplate my answer. Years with EPA can’t be erased that easily. In the space of my pause the cameraman started to goad me to get a more dramatic response. He started in with, “Isn’t that crazy? Don’t you think that’s unfair?” I had never seen that trick before, but Montana is a whole lot politer. I didn’t react and gave a bland answer about how we all need to pay for the things we use and blah blah blah. Burt was in the bathroom during the encounter. When he came out he got the same treatment and gave an answer that was more along the lines of what they were looking for although not what they expected. He said he was a local at heart and thought it was great that the locals wanted to gouge the travelers. That was fine with him. They continued to film us as we piled in the truck laughing our heads off and drove away. Maybe it will be our big break.
Burt turned the trailer around in a tight spot and we went back to the where we saw the sign for fresh salmon. There was an assortment of lean-tos and trailers on the banks of the Columbia River with sketchy homemade docks jutting out into the current. One proprietor looked like he had made his gold teeth himself from an obsolete wedding ring. Everyone was very friendly and let me take pictures. Since we don’t have reliable refrigeration we were looking for some smoked fish. One guy had stuff that was commercially packaged. Another guys (the guy of the golden teeth) had some stuff he had made right there. He said the recent rains had made the smoker unreliable. What wasn’t moldy was stiff as jerky. We went back and bought a huge fillet for $5 from the van with a sign that read he would not trade for alcohol or drugs. Made me wonder if it was implied that everyone else would. We had a super fresh BBQed fillet of salmon with baked brown rice and roasted asparagus for dinner. YUMMY.
We had a fun visit to the McElligot Family ranch near Ione, OR. We especially enjoyed homemade pizza and conversation. The cross generational fascination with Sonny and Cher and Meatloaf was informative. I am not fully satisfied that we finished exploring the various perspectives on whether Sonny was using Cher or vice versa. I am leaning towards Sonny being the brains but perhaps my inner misogynist is showing. I learned that Burt is unfamiliar with Meatloaf’s Paradise by the Dashboard Lights. Rest assured all you Meatloaf fans we will rectify the situation soon. Burt helped enhance our reputation as Gypsies by taking down the whole family in a seemingly endless game of hearts. I learned there are other people in the world that take the spoken explanation of the rules literally with no room for further explanation.
The next day we enjoyed two lengthy walks around the property. We saw pheasants, California quail, golden eagles, hawks and coyotes. The quail sounded like coyotes yipping. My favorite moment was when I had just found a roosting tree and I was creeping through the brushy creek bottom and I felt something move above me. I looked up to see a ghostly white owl head off not 4 feet from my head. As I watched it another owl came out. Then in rapid succession 2 more owls came out. All less than 10′ away. I was so flustered as each one emerged I could scarsely say that I saw any of them. They moved silently up Nine Mile Creek. I yelled for Burt and we walked together for a tiny bit and startled them all over again. Beautiful.
Later in the afternoon we hiked up one of the surrounding hills and caught a glimpse of Mounts Adams and Hood just as the sun was setting.
We beat it out of the Owyhee Canyon this AM ahead of schedule. It was too darn cold. Now we are planning to camp in the area of the John Day Fossil beds. The Owyhee is out of the way but worth a visit. Spectacular scenery and I found a geode. My first. You can see the Nash from a cave we visited. Burt is standing below a lumpy wall of geodes.
So much going on that I forgot to mention that we attended the nearly spontaneous nuptials of our great friends, John and Claire. Claire looked HOT HOT HOT in a red dress. She was daring and beautiful. John looked hopelessly in love. You can see more pictures on Facebook.
Now we are headed down Leslie Gulch on the Owyhee River. There are some unusual rock formations down there and several hot springs. No cell service so no T-day call to the family and no facebook or webpage updates until we get out.
Today Burt and I learned that I need more time to just contemplate what we are doing before we launch out of town. We had so many errands to run. Burt needed to sign the title of his truck over to John. I had a ton of wedding pics to get onto a CD to mail. The logistics of finding my blank cds and mailers are pretty minor, but the inertia to just get them is difficult to overcome. I think there is an effect from the sheer momentum of driving that makes it more difficult to do the sedentary things. I just needed a moment to take stock of email and bills before we head into the wilds. It’s easy to let everything slide. So far we’ve managed to brush and floss everyday, twice a day. Off we go, into the wilds.
We’ve been on the loose since Saturday night. It is now Tuesday afternoon. We have used the GPS to find a Wal-Mart in ugly, icy weather. We side tracked to a lovely state park (Bruneau Sand Dunes). Mimi the cat is eating and drinking and otherwise “functioning.”
Yesterday we made it to Boise and so have enjoyed Dori and Andy’s hospitality. Elvis is playing with his dog friend Hank. I got a wireless card today and can now update this page more reliably and most importantly track our finances on demand.
We are winding down at the house. Our trailer and truck are nearly packed. Thanks to so many people for all the support and love. Here is a random list of things I am grateful about today: Sue took us to On Broadway last night. The IR ran a great photo and story about our trip. Will Harmon is a very informative and fun fiddle teacher. I learned a ton in 3 weeks and gained confidence. John and Claire are getting hitched this afternoon and we get to be there. The WMDs were a great band to play music with. All of Burt’s clients. The EPA and all my co-workers there. Our great house and its cool new tenant. Jen Acacia. I don’t know where to start or end…Tom Harpole’s editorial advice. Casey on the web and all computer snafus. Linda and Paul and Emma for nice dinner party. The Downey/Hedges clan. Jay for the meds. I’m sorry if I forgot you…I really am overwhelmed right now.
Elvis and Mimi are anxious. Elvis has it all figured out. He’d rather be in the trailer than the house now. Mimi is in denial.
Our last gig with the WMDs tomorrow night 6 PM at the Staggering Ox.