News from May 2005

Eagle Creek

Occurred May 01, 2005 (Permalink)

Early one Sunday morning, I met my friend Bonnie and her friend Jennifer for coffee at the Starbucks on SE 39th and Sandy. There was a gathering for "World Laughter Day" across the street, oddly enough. We headed east on I-84 towards the Columbia River Gorge for a quick morning hike at Eagle Creek. Eagle Creek is somewhere east of Multnomah Falls, stretching north from ... somewhere west of Mt. Hood ... to the Columbia Gorge. The particular trail that we were on goes quite far back--a sign marker indicated that the trail went at least 14 miles inland. We were only in the mood for an easy Sunday hike, so we followed the creek as far as Punchbowl Falls and turned around. Along the way, we saw a snail, a garden snake, a sappy tree (I tasted the sap; it was at first minty, then sweet, and finally bitter), and a slug. The pictures looked like the usual mountainous scenery, though there were parts of this trail where we were pretty far up, and we could see down the small gorge that the creek had cut over quite a long period of time. There's not a whole lot to say about this hike; the pictures are much more interesting. Though the "World Laughter Day" people were gone by the time we came back. Oh, and we had fried crepes in the shape of fish for lunch at No Fish! Go Fish! at SE 40th and Hawthorne.


Occurred May 06, 2005 (Permalink)

No, I did not move. My friend Seth (the Extreme Hiking in Wetsuits guy) lived in a basement in NE Portland and started renting an apartment just off Corbett near I-5. I cruised over to his place after work on Friday, and discovered several of Seth's friends and random MiPLers moving his stuff into a huge Budget truck. Seth used to live underneath an Old Portlander just a few blocks north of Burnside in the 20s. His roommates were a tad odd--one of them grows snails, but unfortunately I didn't see much of the rest of the place. Living in a basement is not the most thrilling experience, I surmise, since the place has very little natural lighting, and nothing close to what the upper floors got. The house itself appears to be a rental property--big, but perhaps a tad lacking in a few safety features, like electrical cable that's actually nailed to something. And stairs that are flat. :P

Once we'd stuffed all of Seth's loot into the back of the truck, we departed for his new place in SW overlooking the Willamette (and I-5). It's literally next to the interstate--one can stand on his balcony and throw things at the cars speeding by below. Fortunately, the apartment has double-paned windows all around, and it's marvelously quiet in there. We set his stuff down in a huge mess all over the floor; the other MiPLers departed, leaving Seth, myself, and two of Seth's classmates from PSU. The four of us headed downtown and I had a really good burrito at "Cha Cha Cha" at SW 6th and College. Let the evening festivities begin!

We headed in a funny squiggle all over PSU--Seth took me into the annals of Smith Hall (PSU Student Center) and showed me the booth for KPSU, the radio station where he used to spin records. We went to the downtown Safeway and picked up some supplies and drinks to bring back to Seth's apartment. On the way back to my car, we saw that there were fireworks going on at Tom McCall waterfront, so we had to stop and look at that for some time. That done, we took off back to his pad, and sat around chatting drunkenly while Seth set up his turntable and sound system. For the next several hours we had some rather strange conversations while Seth spun the discs. Finally, on the verge of collapse I took a longish nap, piled into my car, and drove home. Not bad for a hastily planned Friday night. :)


Occurred May 11, 2005 (Permalink)

Went on a walking tour of OHSU today. We met at SW Corbett and Curry (right in Seth's hood) and went up the hill. For those who have never been there, OHSU was started in the 1860s and moved into the hills in the 1920s. Apparently a railroad had bought the land for use as a rail yard, not realizing that the land was a big hill! Stupid. The railroad sold the land to OHSU for a dollar, and now OHSU sits high in the hills south of downtown. Nearly all of the university and related hospital are built into the side of a canyon that courses down the hillside; the buildings have many many stories and there are amazingly long bridges interconnecting the various parts of the hospital.

As one might expect, the view from OHSU is quite good--one can see most of SE Portland from the windows of the hospital and the long bridge that goes to the VA Hospital. A few of the skyscrapers and bridges across the Willamette are also visible, but the view is obscured by new construction. The university, of course, is expanding further down the hill by building a second campus on the banks of the Willamette River. Planned are new buildings, shops, condos, a huge parking lot, and a gondola to go up the hill to the old campus. I'm not so sure I want to be in that during a big earthquake, but the idea is probably one of the more immediately feasible ones.

On a side note, I met someone who went to UCSD! That's the first person from my alma mater that I've met in Portland.

Seth Spins Discs; I Visit a Lesbian Bar

Occurred May 12, 2005 (Permalink)

Seth was spinning records at Holocene (a bar at SE 10th and Morrison) tonight for happy hour. A bunch of MiPL people and I went out there to listen to him play; the bar has some really good chicken sandwiches. Apparently there's a splinter group (not Soiree) that is trying to attract younger audiences to the Schnitzer downtown for symphony concerts. One of the MiPLers is involved in this effort; perhaps this will lead to more visits to the symphony once their season starts up in August.

Happy hour ended around 9, so Seth left and the rest of us drifted up the road to a bar/restaurant called Crush at 14th and Morrison. The woman among us remarked, "I think this is a gay bar..." but we men ignored her and went in... to discover that it was indeed a lesbian bar. Crazy.


Occurred May 14, 2005 (Permalink)

Today denotes the resumption of sailing trips with Vernon Field. Hoo-ray!

The Wagon Chute at Laurel Hill

Occurred May 15, 2005 (Permalink)

Today's trek takes us east of the city on OR26 to a place called Laurel Hill. It's about 51 miles away from downtown, east of the curves overlooking an enormous ice-carved canyon, and along the old Mt. Hood Loop highway. In the 1800s, wagon trains used to come through here, only to discover a steep drop awaiting them; more about this later. Lara, Ana and David went along with me on today's misadventure.

We parked Lara's truck at the trailhead, only to discover that while the wagon chute was indeed past the trailhead, the actual trail was accessible only via the other side of the highway! Since I was in charge today, I dutifully gave the ladies lessons on how to run across a freeway--look for cars and run like hell. Safely reaching the other side, the four of us went up the trail to the ruins of the Old Mt. Hood Loop highway. Built in 1925, this road predates OR26 and ran from Hood River south of Hood to Portland to complement the Columbia River Highway. Today it's a badly decayed road with boulders placed in the middle and trees growing through the asphalt. As you can see from (a5150001), the roadway is sinking below an underpass arch. Lara questioned whether or not I had a clue as to where we could find Lower Zigzag Falls, so with hand outstretched I decried, "The falls shall be thataway!" and off we went.

The highway twisted back upon itself at the bottom of a canyon that had a creek running through it. In this canyon Dave pointed out the volcanic ash on one side and the layers upon layers of exposed lava floe on the other side. This served as a good reminder that we are in volcano country; indeed, as (a5150034) points out, Mt. Hood is very close. Lara attempted to climb up some ways; I decided to take pictures (a5150004-11). Continuing along my dictated path for one half mile, we reached the falls! They are depicted in (a5150012-19). The water was moving fairly rapidly down the rocks, though at that point the trail ended and we had to turn back to see the rest of the trail.

The rest of the trail, alas, was not as spectacular as the falls. Running roughly westward, I had thought that it would reveal gorgeous views of the glacier-smoothed canyon that OR26 runs along for a ways, but aside from one glimpse, we saw trees the entire way. There was a huge deep hole in the ground (a5150021) along the trail that didn't seem to have any express reason for being there. Anyway, pictures (a5150023-32) depict the forest and a random "Dogs Woof" shirt from Gap that some gal had left behind. I wonder why she did that--was she too warm, or had she been making out with some guy underneath the trees and forget?

Across the highway, the wagon chute beckoned. It turns out that the Old Mt. Hood loop road wound its way through this side of 26 as well; we followed it until the downed trees made passage impossible. At this point, a trail showed us up Laurel Hill along a series of switchbacks to the top of the wagon chute. In the old days, wagons following the Oregon trail would travel south of Mt. Hood along this road until the reached this spot. Now cursing their navigational instructions, the settlers would be forced to construct a system of winches, brakes and friction devices out of trees and rope. One of the historical markers (a5150041) shows a wagon with a tree for a brake. Sheesh! I stopped for pictures at the top of the chute: (a5150036-40).

We always have bad ideas. Today's was to descend the wagon chute like the settlers of old; I took numerous photos from various points in the decline; see (a5150042-51). There are a lot of rocks and the angle of descent was very close to sixty degrees. It was our fortune that we only had to go back to the Old Mt. Hood highway; the settlers would have had to drop all the way to the valley floor some 700 feet below where OR26 is today. We were, I think, at an elevation of ~3200 feet today.

After the hike, I met Eliza and her friends for trivia at the Basement pub. Didn't do very well at trivia this week, though Cheryl gave me a few ideas for some summer hikes. She mentioned some island a few miles south of Portland where the only way to get to it is to skip along a bunch of boulders in the river. That's going to be interesting...

Architectural Tour of Downtown

Occurred May 18, 2005 (Permalink)

Darren and Tom (of MiPL) hosted a two-hour tour of various buildings around downtown and their architectural significance. Apparently there are a lot of buildings with terra-cotta facades in the City of Roses.

Camping Trip: Elkhorn Ridge

Occurred May 21, 2005 (Permalink)

Dave, Lara and I went on our second camping trip together this weekend. This time, we ventured southeasterly towards Opal Lake in the vicinity of Mt. Jefferson to a place called Elkhorn Ridge. This trail turned out to be quite the arduous trek--it was about eight miles from the trailhead to the campsite, and involved climbing up and over three separate mountains. Quite a good way to condition myself for the attempt on Mt. Defiance on 2005-05-29.

We piled into Lara's truck and began cruisng down OR213 towards Silverton. Once there, we ran smack into the town's first wine festival...which meant that all the roads through town were closed! Eventually we found a detour, had breakfast in a roadside diner, and continued southward until we hit OR22 going east towards Detroit. Then, we turned off of it on some random forest road that went into the trees. Ten miles of that and five miles of bumpy, rocky road later, we saw Elkhorn Lake (a5210001 - 09), though we didn't stay long because there were sleeping campers nearby.

The trailhead was found to be just a tad further up the road from there, so we disemarked from the car, strapped on the backpacks, and headed up into the first mountain. There wasn't anything particularly impressive about this mountain; just a lot of switchbacks and the occasional good view. Lucky for us, the weather was cool but bright, which is good for those of us who don't deal well with heat. Pictures (a5210010 - 20) are some examples of the views that I got on Saturday morning--one could see mountain for miles on the south side, and the valley and opposing ridge of Opal Creek to the north.

Mountain the Second passed very similarly to the first. However, Dave pointed out that the wild unkemptness of the trail suggested that the trail crews had not yet been sent out to clear the debris from the area. There were a lot of downed trees across the path, streams that had washed away most common traces of a trail, and not a whole lot to go on except for the occasional bright orange ribbon tied to a tree branch. This, Dave explained, was the result of probably the Forest Service marking the trail to remind themselves of where it goes. Pictures (a5210021 - 28) were shot from this mountain.

By this time we were nearly halfway, so we stopped next to a big lake for lunch. There were a few tufts of snow nearby, a plethora of convenient boulders to sit upon, and even a friendly poisonous newt to watch us eat our lunches. The big goal for after lunch was to get to a place called Phantom Bridge to see ... well, a phantom bridge. However, there were a few disappointments along the way: A discouraging sign (a5210046) pointing out that both forks off our trail went nowhere, gnarled roots (a5210052) and some pretty views of trees.

Finally, we arrived! The Phantom Bridge is a big stone bridge overlooking a 500 foot drop into the forest below (a5210056 - 80). We climbed up onto the approaches to the bridge, photographed the wilderness beyond, and then went below the bridge to see how it managed to stay up. Probably water fissures that broke off the lower rocks, leaving a bridge behind. It was starting to get a bit late, so we clambered down the side of this third mountain towards a logging road below.

After the phantom bridge, our hike was mostly downhill into the valley that stretched below us. At one point, the trail fanned out into a clearing; a big 'X' (a5210086) pointed out the correct way to go. We reached a local maximum where the X was, and there were tiny little plants growing there! (a5210088, 89). I was getting tired, so after that I mostly stuck to walking downhill, until I reached a place where the ground turned into red gravel. (a5210092 - 95). The trail then plummeted into the valley, where it dead- ended into a gravel service road. The three of us followed the service through the valley for a ways until we decided that there was nowhere good to camp (some misguided twit told us that the lake was all flooded even though we later found out it wasn't) and so we pitched our tent up on a nearby hill. Picture (a5210098) was taken looking at Phantom Bridge from the valley.

That's where the trouble started. Once the sun went down, the wind began to blow in the fog. We discovered that the gas canister we brought didn't fit the burner, so the meat was unusable. It got dark really quickly, and we couldn't get a fire started with lighters. Then it began to pour and kept it up all night. We crammed into Dave's big tent which was somewhat dry and slept the whole night in crooked positions. No night photos were possible.

Weather the next day was far better. Much sunnier and a tad bit warmer, so I became adventurous enough to take some pictures for some panoramas. (a5210100 - 107) are a wraparound panorama from the campground, and (a5210125 - 28) were taken from the local maximum that we'd passed on Saturday afternoon. Alas, the only way out of this area was on the trail that we took in, so we headed back out on it at mid-morning. We did see some interesting sights on the way back up to the Phantom Brdge--yellow fungi on a log (a5220115 - 17), the place where we'd camped (from Phantom Bridge) (a5220129), the results of logging to the south of us (a5220133 - 35) and some awesome views that stretched for several miles.

Most of Sunday's hike consisted of marching, though I did pick up a few photos of things that I missed on the first day--waterfalls (a5220140 - 42), foliage (a5220144 - 48), Mt. Jefferson (a5220149 - 50), and a whole lot of mountain ranges to the south (pretty much every picture after that). While we were travelling north on OR213, I snapped some pictures of fluffy cloud formations that stretched for miles over the Oregon countryside (a5220164 - 67). Arriving back at Dave's place, we stumbled back to our cars and went home.

Three Days of Beer

Occurred May 26, 2005 (Permalink)

New record: Three consecutive days of going to pubs after work. Summer is indeed on its way in.

Hot Pot City Again

Occurred May 28, 2005 (Permalink)

Out of the blue, I got a call from Seth this morning. He was meeting some of his friends at Hot Pot City; did I want to come along? Well...sure. It's not often that I get to have hotpot. So I got up, moseyed on down to the local barbershop to get my hair cut (it'd look hot if I ever bothered to comb it) and went downtown to meet them for lunch. While we were eating, a tree trimming crew pulled up right in front of the restaurant and began paring the trees. We thought it was routine maintenance until we saw a big curtain of sawdust followed by a loud THUD as a big old piece of tree hit the ground just feet from the window. The gardeners kept going at larger and larger pieces of wood until finally a seriously large piece of wood came hurtling off the tree ... straight into their ladder, knocking it over. After we stopped laughing at them, they picked up their tools, got back in their truck and drove away.

Mt. Defiance

Occurred May 29, 2005 (Permalink)

I conquered Mt. Defiance over the Memorial Day weekend! Last week, one of the MiPL Jennifers asked around the site if anybody was interested in doing a medium to advanced hike up Mt. Defiance. This would be the last free weekend for hiking until the end of June, so I said yes. Jen, Jean and I met in Beaverton at the crack of dawn (7am) and headed eastward to get two more people (Cindy and Kevin) at Gateway TC before heading out to the Gorge.

Upon arriving, we discovered that nobody had actually brought any maps of the Mt. Defiance area. We walked east on the Old Columbia River highway, discovered nothing, went back to the picnic area, argued about where the trailhead might be, and sat on the curb until we attracted the attention of a hairy man named Vic. Vic was planning to hike Defiance that day too, and showed us a map of approximately where to go. The five of us wanted to try the steep trail up Starvation Ridge, but Vic was intending to use the less strenuous Mt. Defiance trail. We thanked him and parted ways, amazed that fellow hikers were so friendly!

The first part of Starvation Ridge is incredibly difficult to process. It's very steep, winds whipping down the Gorge threaten to knock you off the trail and down into the abyss below, the trail is very steep, and of all outrages, there are power lines that cross the path! However, the few places where we did manage to stop offered phenomenal views up and down the Gorge! Pictures (a5290001 - 12) were taken from a butte overlooking the Columbia River; (a5290001 - 03) look westward along the railroad track, (07 - 08) depict the scene to the east, and (09) shows Dog Mountain straight across the river in Washington. These twelve shots were all taken from approximately the same location; sadly, the trail then ventured southwards into the trees, building upwards towards a ridge.

At the top of the ridge (a5290013 - 18) there are very few trees. The place has been logged pretty thoroughly, though a sparse gathering of trees remain. It was fortunate that there are a lot of stumps where one can sit down to eat (which is what we did), though I wonder if some sort of disease swept through this area, necessitating the use of loggers to thin out the hoard, and the sparsely populated forest is all that's left? From here the trail heads westward roughly parallel to a utility road for nearly a mile until they part ways; the trail goes to Warren Lake and the road goes south towards Mt. Defiance itself.

Warren Lake is a tree-enshrouded lake at an altitude of perhaps 3,000 feet. The trail wanders up to the shoreline on north and east sides of the lake; to the south are a lot of rocks and boulders that lead up to the actual mountain. By this time, the two that we'd picked up at Gateway had long since split, leaving us to circumnavigate the lake, debate about where we were and where to go, where the trail was, etc. Finally, I decided that the rocks looked stable enough for a rock scramble, and up I went. I love rock scrambles. I swing everything around onto my back and use my arms and legs to seek out stable rocks that can support my weight. Up I go like a gecko, rapidly gaining altitude while not burning out too many muscles. People think it looks difficult, yet in practice it's really not all that difficult. Anyhow, pictures (a5290021 - 27) were taken from the top of the scramble, from where I had marvelous views of some pretty girls and some breathtaking vistas of the Gorge in the far distance. By this time there we had met two couples, a family with a grown daughter and dogs, and of course Vic, all heading in the same upward direction.

Having scrambled up the rocks, the three of us locked on to the trail that continues up to the summit of Mt. Defiance and continued the ascent. Coming up, I happened to notice something that Dave pointed out the previous weekend--on many trails, the Forest Service/Trail Crews/whatever will tie bright orange ribbons to trees along the way to mark approximately where the trail runs. The Defiance trail had two sorts of markers--the trees were spray-painted green in blotches (blended in well with the pine needles) and the familiar orange ribbons were tied to the branches. We ran into three young women who were backpacking their way up and down Defiance; we asked them if we could see their map, and I happened to mention the orange ribbons. One of the ladies quipped "Wow, I'm glad somebody is paying attention!" Err...right. About half an hour later, we met Cindy and Kevin on their way down from the summit; we exchanged strawberries and bade them farewell. We also met Vic on his way down. The man is _fast_.

At last, we made it to the top! I took a picture of the mountain's USGS badge (a5290028 - 29). Unfortunately, the fog spoiled the view from the top (a5290030), and the only photographable items were rocks, trees, and radio towers (a5290031 - 33). There was a gravel road leading up to the towers, and tell-tale beer bottles lying around, suggesting the presence of idiots. We also took the customary photos to prove that we were there, then started back down the mountain towards dinner.

When we last met Vic, he said that it was approximately an hour's journey down from where he was back to I-84. However, what he didn't tell us was that the Mt. Defiance trail, though less strenuous than the Starvation Ridge trail, consisted of miles and miles of switchbacks to make the 4,500 foot descent back to the river! I started by walking, got tired of my slow pace, and began to run down the path. Probably foolish, but hey, I've fallen down hills before and I'm not dead yet. After a solid _hour_ of running around in the trees having no idea where I was, I caught a glimpse of the freeway about 1,200, 900, 600, 400 and 200 feet below. It was quite agonizing to discover repeatedly that I still had quite a ways to go! However, I did get the chance to photograph a huge rockslide (a5290040 - 43), a funny rock formation (44), some wonderful eastern Gorge vistas (45 - 52), various flora that I saw along the way (54 - 62, 69 - 71), the western Gorge (63 - 65, 72 - 79), and lots of wildflowers that were growing along the trail! (60, 61, 66 - 68, 80, 82, 85). Even after we reached the highway, the natural sights kept on going: there are quite a few waterfalls within fifty feet of the highway that one would never notice in a car (a5290090 - 103). I wrapped up the photo set with a few shots of the interstate and the various places where I'd stopped for pictures in the morning. We clambered into my car and drove off to dinner.

Dinner was at a brewpub in Hood River. The burger was decent, but the chocolate cake was SINFUL. Even better than the 6th Ave. Bistro/Cafe. Service was a tad slow because it appeared to be locals' night, but after a long hard day I was too tired to care much, so long as I had a place to sit. We were not about to drive all the way back to Portland for food. I ordered an entire meal, from appetizer through the entree and clear into dinner; the (very) confused waitress asked if I meant to have it all at once. Silly! I was kind and left a larger-than-usual tip, hopped back to my car and sock-pedalled/cruise-control-drove home. Sixteen hours after departing, we'd come home and the day was over.

Site Improvements

Occurred May 30, 2005 (Permalink)

I have spent the last day of the Memorial Day weekend fixing various problems with this web site and adding new features! The biggest change of note is the addition of the photo gallery slideshow; have a look at the slideshow's very first use. Several other minor style flaws have been fixed up, and lastly, the listed picture sizes in the galleries are now correct.

New Digs

Occurred May 31, 2005 (Permalink)

I'm moving into a old Portlander way out on the east side of the city. Soon I will be within biking distance of most of my friends, walking distance of a big hilly park with lots of trees, a short bike trip/drive to pubs, restaurants and both the Hawthorne and Belmont shopping districts, and a mile from the MAX for the weekday commute. A new era has commenced!

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