Tuesday, August 08, 2006


The visit to Oregon was wonderful, busy, yet relaxing.

Getting to OR, however, was not so relaxing.

We left on the 25th via the Milwaukee airport. This involved driving there, dropping the car at a remote parking location, & taking a shuttle. All was well, the plane boarded on time, etc. Only complaint was crowdedness. The next leg of the journey was wretched. We boarded the plane in the midsummer heat, and, clever monkeys, they didn't/couldn't put on the air conditioning.

And then... (wait for it)

We didn't leave on time.

Shocking! (And yet not.)

Andrew & I found ourselves in the very back of the plane, positioned in the seating area between two (yes, two) sets of stinking box-toilets. Everything smelled like pee. When I bent to get stuff out of my bag, I could have sworn someone had peed on the wall at some point. Oh, and it was about 100 degrees, and there were about what, 200 people on the plane? And we sat there for an hour and a half. Oh yes, it smelled delightful.

The cause of the delay? One of the infamous "mechanical problems." You know, the type that mysteriously sets in after the previous problem-free flight, after everyone is already freaking boarded. The kind that equally mysteriously clears up after an hour or two of some supposed professionals staggering about somewhere out of view. Heaven forbid the plane be cleared of problems BEFORE loading hundreds of people on it. F*#% you, NW Airlines.

So. We did make it to Oregon. Found Mum & Mer waiting, hugs & stories relating the trip. Almost crying with laughing so hard. Ate on the way home.

Weds: Much activity. Scorching weather. Mer, Andrew, & I took a very long float down the canal -- walked to Aubert's bridge & floated to the end of Miller Road. Andrew wanted to try our smaller green floatie (easier to paddle about in), and we traded him for the larger River Rat tube. Andrew sat down in the green floatie, and immediately flipped over. One moment he was sitting down & getting settled, the next, somehow, his feet contrived to go up, as his head went under, and then the entire Andrew was lost into the canal -- rather like an accidental backwards somersault. Luckily, he came up laughing and with only one abrasion on his arm. I'm afraid I have no pictures.

Anyway, after our peaceful float, we had dinner, and then the fair. We waited in line forever (the Hood River fair of Odell was unexpectedly busy). Eventually, got in and saw the wild animals -- rather sadly caged. Amazing cats, including a rather playful bobcat. Awesome African porcupine. Large tortoise. Many unappealing snakes and spiders.

We had our share of fair fare. We split an elephant ear. Unlike other people, who walk while eating, we shuffled off to a corner and stuffed ourselves, getting greasy and sugary. Needed napkins -- so we got water & a snowcone, and the vendors gave me a single paper towel. Then Merrie bought cotton candy, and kindly shared. It was yummy.

We had a quick spin through the barns -- the sheep were baa-ing back and forth, and we got many a picture of one that had an old-man-goat voice.

Late night shopping trip to Rosauer's.

Thurs.: Busy day! Andrew made pesto from the basil bushes in Mom's garden. Then Mum, Mer, Andrew & I went up to Kingsley for a swim. We went the wrong way, so we had a scenic and bumpy detour. Almost stopped at the lower reservoir... perhaps should have stayed, but I rather wanted the real lake. Kind of windy, but I still wanted to swim. I ended up getting in, and once you do that, you're warmer in the water than out. So I paddled about, and eventually we all swam (even Merrie!) After, we went down the hill, and we took Mer's car to the wildlife rescue clinic in Mosier. I syringe-fed a baby bat, Andrew bottle-fed a fawn, and Mer fed a flicker (which died -- flighty little things). The young screech owl was my favorite. It bobbed about and dilated its pupils and I was rather worried it was going to attack me. I'll try to post a photo, because it was that cute. The eagles were hopping about, and the fawn frolicked a bit in the meadow.

Home -- pesto for dinner (ate outside w/ the mountain view), watched some America's Got Talent, and Scrabbled. Slept outside on the porch: many stars, some shooting.

Friday: Also super busy day. We made it up to Lost Lake, and took the trail around the lake. I waded a bit, and grazed on blueberries and huckleberries. Then we took the road to Wahtum Lake; along the way, we saw a mountain beaver on the side of the road. We stopped, and the mt. beaver went about its business as if there were no large jeep with five people idling next to him. He chomped off some brush, and proceeded to carry it under the jeep, and across the road. Somehow he managed to drop said brush, which Tim took as a memento. Very strange little rodent-fellow. The lake was windy and chilly. What is it, 254 stairs down to the lake? We took them, and ate our reward (cookies) by the lake. Explored around the shores -- salamanders and crawdads. After going back up the stairs, I was quite warmed up. For dinner: Feta/pasta/kale concoction. Slept out on the porch again.

Saturday: Family picnic! We took Tim's '56 Chevy, and arrived fashionably late. First time I'd seen so many cousins gathered in one place since Christmases of a decade ago or more. Very cool to see Janel (she's been in Turner's Fall, MA and doing poetry at Umass) & Mark (who's living in Santa Cruz). And I finally saw Debi's young children -- we ended up playing frisbee with Timmy for quite a while. Luckily, Andrew, who has camp counselor experience, tossed it back and forth with him -- and with Tim joining the game, I think Timmy was quite happy. Andrew became Timmy's favorite, although Delina favored me with a cup of "coffee." After sandwiches and wonderful cake (it had all the cousins' names on it -- I didn't eat my name, however, as I preferred a side piece with lots of frosting), we kids headed to Hood River. Went to Artifacts, and Andrew's Pizza for dinner. Dog River for coffee -- I had a nice Mexican chocolate frappe. And it was good.

Some errands after -- Wal-mart for sweatpants, etc...

Sunday: Portland day. We went to American Eagle (Mer was in need of staples, and the sales rack was as fruitful as I expected), Powell's books (got a stack of quals books, including the ever-elusive "Studies in Classic American Lit." by Lawrence), Everyday Music (my one selection was to share a Zombies hits CD w/ Mer), and Thai Orchid for dinner (sweet and sour stirfry w/ pineapple was OK but overly sweet; pad thai was pleasing as usual; Massaman curry which was my choice and, in my opinion, the yummiest). Quite a nice trip to the city.

Monday: Read in the morning (Wuthering Heights), and then went with Mum, Mer, & Andrew on a hike to Elk Meadows. Many legs to the journey: First a jaunt through the mild mountain forest -- quite level. Then crossing the river on a precarious bridge made up of various logs haphazardly thrown between the banks. This leads into the switch backs straight up a hill, which eventually get you to the levelness at the top. Then about a mile around the meadow (which was devoid of elk, and unfortunately clouds obscured what would have been a lovely view of the mountain). We stopped along this final loop to snack on potato chips, cookies, and apples... and were munching, when our snack-site was ransacked by camp robbers. Of the avian variety. Apparently they're also known by the slightly more dignified (but infinitely less accurate) description of grays jays. It was clear that these little beggars wanted food, and would do about anything to get it. So I had the bright idea of putting potato chip crumbles on my sweatshirted arm. They took the bait. I was quite nervous, God only knows what birds will do for food. Mer & Mum joined me, and we got some awesome photos & video. Voracious birds. Never had seen such things before. Right out of the Hitchcock movie. And since that soundtrack in entirely composed of bird noises/flapping of wings, the noises were reminiscent of the film as well. The birds were a highlight, and the chipmunks which seemed to perch in blueberry bushes and eat the litte unripe berries.

In the evening, we took a trip to Rosauer's & prepared for our camping trip. Tuesday morning we left -- it was awfully cold and windy at Lost Lake. Andrew set up the tent while me and Mer went to the general store for our camping pass, and then we set up camp a bit. I was cold, and went in the tent to read a bit. Shortly, I decided to nap. The others followed. We got up around 4 pm, snacked, and I urged everyone to at least do a bit of exploring before dinner. Went on what we assumed was the huckleberry trail. Ran into a scuzzy pond (but it did have redeeming water lilies). Mysterious combination of stand up grill, precariously leaning next to a tree, empty beer bottle, and discarded underwear. On the other side of the scuzzy pond, a condom wrapper. Andrew wisely observed: "I hope nothing bad happened here."

Ended up toward a trailhead into the Pacific Crest trail. Found a gravel road. Made Merrie and Andrew agree to take a drive out here after dinner in return for not hiking further. Had tofurkey dogs for dinner w/ canned corn. It was delicious. Everything made on a campfire is strangely good. Took our evening drive on Sentinel Rd... gravel road, leading to nothing. We got out, picked some huckleberries, and I killed many a mosquito (had to hit Andrew rather hard to kill some of them, but, what can you do?). We passed another mysteriously blocked off road, and I asked that we also explore that at some point when I had proper shoes on. Back at camp: S'MORES! We had a nice campfire, and warmed water for washing hands/ faces (it feels so luxurious when everything else is cold). S'mores are excellent. Slept quite well, and decided to sleep in.

Andrew made breakfast -- pancakes w/ huckleberries & chocolate chips. So good. We got ready pretty quickly, and made our way to the Lost Lake Butte trail. Switchbacked about 2.5 miles to the top, where we could see Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood intimately, and Mt. Jefferson hanging behind. Other hikers greeted us at the top. We made, I kid you not, tuna fish sandwiches w/ cans of tuna, a jar of relish, and the condiment packets we took from the store. And they were relished. Hung out for probably 30 minutes, listening to pikas beeping on rocks below the cliff, watching the little bits of clouds clear away from the mt., and taking pictures. Going down was much faster and easier.

I wanted to go swimming right away -- to feel clean and to make up for the hot hiking. Took our chairs and floaties to the lake, and claimed a little wooden dock. We read a bit, and then paddled about in the water: I alternately swam and clung to floaties. Mum arrived, and we had jambalaya (w/ leftover tofurky dogs, canned green beans, and squash), grilled squash, and salad Mum brought. Only problem: no forks! Andrew improvised with two spoons, and we washed old plastic forks. Then, as it was getting dusky, Mum headed home, and we headed up to Turner Rd. for a little exploring. This didn't go too far: We heard some sort of snoring/exhaling noise, definitely from a large animal. Mer and I predicted bear (Mer's prediction, however, was much more convincing). I quietly picked some berries, and eventually Andrew & I went to a nearby meadow-like area while Mer patiently listened. There, we had a view of the mountain against twilight, and the moon rising. Bats flitted. We heard their calls, but then we also heard one of the snorting sounds, frighteningly close (or so it seemed). I got rather freaked out, and we went back to find Mer. She came back with us, and we kept hearing the noises. Later, we got Tim's confirmation that we'd had a real bear experience! Probably two or three were ranging about, eating huckleberries and locating one another. We decided to come back in the morning, as Mer was shivering with cold and it was getting late. Back at the campsite, we had a roaring fire (Mum had brought more firewood), and we roasted many marshmallows and ate s'mores. Finally got to bed.

Thurs. we got up earlier, had more yummy pancakes thanks to Andrew, and set off to the Turner Rd. area again. We hiked along it quite a while, mainly due to my curiosity. It seemed we were in forested area -- saw an anthill -- but we eventually heard water & found that the road was emerging over a valley. Quite steep sides down, too. I kept urging us onwards, but Mer at some point turned back. I knew we'd get a view of the mountain soon, as we were rounding the bend... and we definitely got the payoff viewpoint. Picture perfect view of Mt. Hood, the sides of hills, and the valley beneath. Andrew & I took pictures. Headed back then, and caught up with Mer. Andrew & I took another exploring trip up a gravel road, stopped when it got overgrown and didn't seem to be going anywhere. I picked some more berries, and then we rounded up Mer and headed back to camp. We got out of our site right before 2 pm, as directed. And lucky, as another van-load of campers wanted to claim our place. So we took our tuna fish sandwich makings (round 2) over to the day use area, and claimed the lovely site with Mt. Hood over the lake, and flat rocks and a bench to sit on. Ended up floating a bit, and I swam. Deliciously cold. A pine squirrel tried to steal our cookies. Mer and I yelled from the water for Andrew to defend our baked goods. Andrew packed up the edibles, but the squirrel came foraging back. Incorrigible rodent.

Drove back home... We took turns taking showers. I sat on a blanket by the garden reading a bit, Andrew joined me. Then, we went to Crazy Pepper for dinner... Mer and I were quite strong against the chicken fajita burrito, and had the vegetarian version. Andrew alerted us to the yumminess of his chicken, and we were like, "we know." But I will relent and have a free range turkey when I come home for Thanksgiving. Somehow we all finished our dinners, and then staggered about Hood River trying (pretending) to work it off. Then another shopping trip, and home to watch V for Vendetta (which was awesome).

Friday we packed, and kept busy, as we were also leaving. Took a drive with Mum & Tim up to Umbrella Falls & Teacup Lake (Andrew was none too impressed with our scummy lake, but it was fun to visit the old berry picking grounds). Then Andrew, Mer & I went floating, from Hess Rd. down to our house. Quite cold! Showered, and dressed, we headed down to Hood River for First Friday. I purchased some lotion, soap, & face mask (pumpkin and apple, it smells so good I want to eat it). We went to Dog River once more, and I quickly finished my chai. Visited the new bookstore -- which had no Norton anthologies I could see. Listened to the homeschoolers' marimba band. Got a great view from the library park of the river w/ windsurfers. Ahh, Hood River.

Back home, we ate Santacroces pizza on the deck with the mountain view, and then listened to our Zombies CD while finishing up with packing.

Very sad to leave! And I didn't remember to properly say goodbye to the Prissy cat, who will undoubtedly remember and act even more haughty when I see her next.

Driving to the airport we had Strawberry Shortcake memories, and Andrew thought we were crazy.

The flights back were rather exhausting. Red eyes -- the first about 3.5 hours, with a break at what, to us, was 3:30 in the morning, followed by another short 1.5 hour or so flight. Very interrupted sleep. Who on earth books a red eye flight with a freaking BABY? Airlines should have a warning when you book a flight between the hours of 11 pm and 6 am: "WARNING: Children 3 and under not welcome on these flights. Consider other options if possible."

Southern WI is indeed the flatlands, after the mountainous NW.

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