Fun Early Voting Friday

October 31, 2008 at 2:33 pm

Happy Halloween everybody! Mark and I both completed voting early today, and hopefully this means the political calls will stop, finally. I got to vote in the middle of a huge Halloween bash in Old Town today. Today I learned that the reason nobody trick-or-treats here in Northern Colorado is because the kids all go to Old Town during the day, and get tons of great swag from the restaurants and shops in the square. And then they go vote with their parents! I wonder if Obama picks up more of the witch or pumpkin demographic? I wished I had my camera with me, to get a shot of the costumes people were wearing in the voting booths.

This is a nice little trick from TIME (ala PhotoShop Disasters). I spend a fair amount of time doing photo post-processing, and I am shocked and astounded that TIME would let a mistake like this end up on their cover. It should say a lot about the care with which they prepare each magazine.

Evidently, the #1 thing that could go wrong is that your voting machine might up and float away!

Oregon Vacation: Heading Home

October 25, 2008 at 1:53 pm

On Friday afternoon, we headed out of Portland and began the 1200 mile trip home.

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Unlike the trip to Bend, this drive was going to be on Interstates the whole way. We camped the first night at a quiet campground covered in dry fallen leaves on the banks of the Columbia river in Boardman, Or. We watched the sunset over the wide, calm river, made dinner on the camp stove and then slept soundly in the cool evening.

Dusk on the Columbia River

The next morning we stopped at the Tamatslikt Cultural Institute on the Umatilla Reservation. We were the first ones in that morning, and had the whole, big building to ourselves. I’ve been to a fair number of Native American museums, but I think this was one of the best. Not only did they cover tradition, and the history of the tribes in the region, but they covered recent events as well. Over half of the museum was dedicated to the time after the first waves of white immigrants entered the area. They talked about the confusion of Christian missionaries, the loss of land and eventually their horses, the forced boarding schools, and then the resurgence of the tribes after the 1960s. They had a great area dedicated to the future of the people, social and cultural projects, and the bright economic future of the tribe.

Looking over the Umatilla Res

Later in the afternoon, we had lunch at the Geiser Grand Hotel, once (and possibly still) the finest hotel between Salt Lake and Seattle. It was a focal point for travelers on the Oregon trail and during the western gold rush. It was another, more familiar, view of the same history we had seen earlier in the day. It’s amazing how many different ways there are to tell the same story.

We stayed at a hotel outside of Salt Lake City on Saturday night, and finished the trip home on Sunday. It was another long drive, but full of interesting sites, and a fine way to end a great vacation.

Oregon Vacation: The Portland Japanese Gardens

October 24, 2008 at 12:44 pm

We had one morning to explore Portland before heading back to Colorado. So, of course, we headed to the Japanese Gardens. After a week of traveling, adventures, and family time, it was nice to stop for a few hours, let our minds relax, and simply be.

Morning in the Zen Garden

The morning was chilly and foggy. Portland was so lush and green, it felt like we were walking through a jungle. Only a tiny bit of sun filtered down through the leaves covering the city like a thick green blanket.

A misty forest

The gardens sit on a hill above downtown Portland, and seem to follow a very traditional Japanese motif. There is a sign before the entrance stating that the gardens are meant to be experienced by all of your senses, and indeed, we did.

The big waterfall

The quiet sounds of running water and wind in the trees surrounded us. The smell of damp grass and old stone permeated the atmosphere. The taste of cyprus trees and foggy mornings sat on the air. We ran our hands over smooth stone carvings and bamboo stalks. And everywhere we looked there was beauty to behold.

Mark and the second sand garden

Calm water

The morning went by too fast. We made our way back to our car, with a quick stop to smell as many roses as we could at the neighboring rose gardens, grabbed lunch at a kabob cart down the hill, and then hit the road, heading east.

Oregon Vacation: Driving in to Portland

October 23, 2008 at 10:21 pm

Tired of pictures from Oregon yet? Great, me neither!! On Thursday, we took the whole day and drove the scenic route, through the Columbia River Gorge, into Portland.

There’s pictures in the gallery.

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Oregon Landscape

The day was sunny and beautiful, and we got great views of distant volcanoes and mountains before descending into the Columbia River Gorge, which we followed into Portland. We had lunch at a great diner at The Dalles (you have to say the “the”), and then meandered down the river, gawking at kite surfers and windsurfers for about an hour.

Kite surfing the Columbia River Gorge

Just before Portland, we pulled off the interstate and drove the scenic by-way for a while, stopping to check out a few waterfalls along the way.

Horsetail falls 3

We stopped at the classic Multnomah Falls also, which is advertised as being the second tallest year-round waterfall in the US. This fact, I’ve sense learned, is widely disputed. In any case, it’s near 600ft tall cascade through the dense, lush foliage of the Pacific Northwest rainforest was incredibly beautiful. Even the crowds weren’t too bad. Though, Bruce did spend an unfortunate (for him) amount of time bending over his camera in front of mine. :)

Multnomah Falls 1

We arrived at Mark’s aunt Mary and uncle Bill’s house right on time at 6:30p, had a great taco dinner, and then wandered over to my uncle Jerry and aunt Jean’s house for bed.

Meet Your Maker

October 22, 2008 at 8:12 pm

My favorite part of climbing has almost always been meeting other climbers. We are a group, a community, and it seems everybody who pursues the sport has an interesting story to share. On our second day of climbing at Smith Rock, we met a fun fellow climber named Menno.

I think I was getting tied in to climb and clean The Outsiders, when Menno, being a very nice helpful person, ran and grabbed my shoes for me. I’ve been climbing in Montrail Zealots for the last year or so, and when he brought them over, he asked how I liked them. I know Mark and I have been climbing a lot of trad in recent years, and these shoes are considered “aggressive” and best for sport or bouldering. But I love them. I buy them a bit too large, and they fit me great. They have flexible soles that work well on slabs, and tiny toes that work great for edging and thin cracks. I expounded on the virtues and wonderfulness of my shoes to Menno as I tied in.

“That’s great,” he said. “I owned the company that made them.”

That’s when I noticed that Menno was wearing a Montrail jacket, a Montrail hat, and Montrail shoes of his own. Menno is Menno van Wyk, the former CEO of Montrail. About a year ago, they sold the company to Columbia, and the climbing shoe line has since been discontinued.

“Oh,” I said. “Wow. So, that’s why I keep getting them on close-out for super cheep.”

He laughed. He told me the person who designed my shoes was from Oregon, and often climbed at Smith Rock. My shoes were designed with technical, edgy, routes like those at Smith Rock specifically in mind. It makes a lot of sense, and made me immensely happy to be climbing in the birthplace of my shoes.

Menno said he had quite a few pairs of shoes left over, and as he headed out for the day, he took Mark’s card, with the casual promise that if he had any more size 5 Zealots’s laying around, he’d get in touch with us and send them my way.

Great guy, that Menno. Too bad my shoes are discontinued.

Kate having fun on Easy Reader (5.6)

Oregon Vacation: Second Day at Smith Rocks

October 22, 2008 at 6:57 pm

Wednesday was our last full day in Bend, so we took advantage of some beautiful weather and headed north for Smith Rocks. This time, we left early in the morning, with the intention of getting in as many routes as possible on our last day to climb. The park was much less crowded, and we managed to get on some fantastic, classic routes. Definitely check out all the cool pics in the gallery.

Nice day for some rock climbing!

We started out the morning on Cinnamon Slab, a section of the Dihedrals. We had a very popular 2-pitch climb to our left, but nobody seemed interested in our fun, super-easy warm-ups.

A climber works his 5.11d proj above the river

We climbed Easy Reader (5.6), Right Slab Crack (5.6), and Lichen It (5.8) in the morning. While we were working on Lichen It, a fellow named Menno wandered up. His partner had enough climbing the day before, and he saw our group of three and wondered if anybody would be interested in partnering with him. We explained that, as Bruce is a newer climber, we couldn’t really break up the group, but offered him a climb on our TR. He graciously cleaned the route for us, and ended up climbing with our group for the rest of the day.

Mark Loves Huecos!

After our warm up, we wandered back over to Morning Glory Wall, and, miraculously, the most popular climb in the park was open! We tied a rope on Mark and tossed him up 5 Gallon Buckets (5.8).

This put us in line for the rest of the moderate routes on Morning Glory. After we all took a fun trip up the gi-normous pockets, pods and huecos on 5-Gallon, we got to enjoy them again when we climbed up the route 6 feet to the right, The Outsiders (5.9).

Mark’s parents came up to Smith Rock for a bit in the afternoon, and they enjoyed watching us climb up the hugely pocketed wall. Mark’s mom hiked up to the base of the wall and quizzed us on the climbing process, safety gear, and our techniques. She seemed satisfied that we weren’t going to die any time soon, and enjoyed watching everybody climbing.

Kate doing some BIG pocket pulling on 5 Gallon Buckets

At the end of the day, Menno offered to lead Light On The Path (5.10a). We got the first bolt stick-clipped, and he worked on that direct start for a good few minutes before figuring out a path. It was tricky. After all of that work, and the climbing all day, he was pretty tuckered out when the pockets ran out and the crimping started. He took a few good lead falls, and then lowered and decided to call it a day.

Mark pulled the tricky start with a high, possibly gratuitous, heal-hook and monkey’d up the bottom of the climb. He finished out leading thin top section in good style, leaving Bruce and I with the assurance that the climb wasn’t too hard. Bruce had a heck of a time with the start, but we got him on the route. He climbed to failure in the buckets and then lowered down. I took a few tries to figure out the bottom, myself, and then happily cruised the rest of the climb, stopping frequently to shake out my hands and arms. It was a great climb to end the day on, with huge pockets, mono pockets, pebble pinching, crimpy ledges, and even a soft-ball sized rock glued into the volcanic rock of the wall, which you can sit on to clean the anchors!

Dusk at Smith Rock State Park

We hiked out in the growing dark, happy with a day VERY well spent.

Oregon Vacation: Crater Lake NP

October 21, 2008 at 3:02 pm

On the day after the snow and the storms, we piled the family into the rented Cherokee, and headed south to check out Crater Lake National Park. I was really excited to finally be able to visit this park. For years, I’ve had an inherited poster on the wall of my office, that describes sonic mapping of the volcanic caldera where the lake is located. Now I would finally have a chance to see the lake for myself.

Crater Lake on a calm afternoon

The lake is almost 6 miles across, and at 1,943ft deep, it is the deepest lake in the US. The lake fills the volcanic caldera when Mt Mazama collapsed more than 7,000 years ago. This is the first time I’ve ever been to a place that a mountain used to be. Mt Mazama, once 12,000ft tall, is no longer in existence. Instead, a deep, lovely blue lake sits at 6,000ft. One of the most interesting things about this huge lake is that there are no inlets or outlets. It is filled with local rain and melted snow, and water does not overflow the caldera because of evaporation and seepage through the walls of the crater.

Looking down at Wizard Island

There are, of course, a bunch of photos in the gallery.

Sheer bluffs and blue water

Crater Lake national park is about three hours south of Bend, or Sunriver, OR. The park mostly consists of just the lake and the surrounding ridgeline. A road runs all the way around the crest of the crater, weaving in and out of the edge of the crater, and providing a myrid of beautiful spots to stop and view the lake.

Autumn Sun on the Ghost Ship

On our visit, the wind was blowing cold and bitterly over the edge of the crater. The lake below was rippled, blue, and beautiful. We arrived just before lunch, and took in several views before stopping to eat very tasty meatball subs and chilli dogs at the visiters’ center on the southern rim of the crater.

We spent the afternoon driving all the way around the lake, and stopping frequently to enjoy each new view. There were volcanic islands and rock features, old growth forests, waterfalls from ancient seeping springs, and amazing views in every direction. We all had a great day, and probably, as a family, took close to 1000 pictures in the course of the day.

Mark and his dad have identified a weather bouy in the lake

Every turn of the road revealed a new profile or secrete of the lake. And the most astounding part of the day: we were nearly alone in the park. Throughout the day, we saw only a few other cars and a hand-full of families at the visiters’ center. For a park that receives millions of visitors each summer, we were very lucky to be there on a beautiful, sunny day, when the crowds were completely gone.

Kate and Mark at Crater Lake

Oregon Trip: Sight-Seeing in Sunriver

October 20, 2008 at 4:28 pm

On Monday, the weather forecast looked awful. The skies were clear over our condo, but all of the weather sites promised that we were wrong, it was actually cold, raining and snowing outside. Mark and I relaxed for a while, but eventually we decided to get out for as long as we could. The rest of the family had arrived the previous Thursday, and had already done some local sight-seeing. Mark and I decided Monday was as good of a day as any to enjoy the local Oregon features.

Breezy fall day

I wandered around the resort at first, taking pictures of the lovely yellow aspens and the clear blue skies. There’s a lot of photos from the day in the gallery.

Paulina Lake in Newberry Nat. Volcanic Mon.

We then drove a few miles south to check out Newberry National Volcanic Monument. This area of mountains, forests, lakes and rivers contains a huge portion of the regions surrounding Sunriver, but we wanted to see some Oregonian waterfalls and the Big Obsidian flow.

A wild, and incredible landscape

The Obsidian flow was all it promised to be. A huge mountainside covered in sharp, glossy black obsidian and pumice rocks. The flow was a mere 1200 years old, and I wondered what it might have been like to be living in the area when this volcano erupted. The rocks were sharp, and beautiful. It looked like great stuff to make knifes and arrowheads out of, but none of the local museums and Indian stores carried obsidian replicas. Too bad.

Paulina Falls

On our hike off the flow, the sky darkened, and we started getting snowed on. Regardless, we hiked out to see the waterfalls at the mouth of the lake. The dark, overcast skies made for perfect waterfall shots, and I worked that camera until my fingers and face were numb.

And now, one more shot from the day. Mark caught this sign on the way into the monument. I couldn’t see anything wrong with it until Mark pointed it out to me. Looks like Oregon is getting good work from their inmates!

Mark thought this was hilarious!