Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Kids Are Home!

The kids both came home from college last week. Denise finished her first year of college and moved back home for the summer. We now have her stuff spread out all over the house! Roger and I wondered - how could all of this stuff have come out of one small dorm room?

Cody got a summer job in Ashland, so he temporarily moved from Missoula, and stopped by last weekend. It was good to see him, and we're glad he has a job in his field.

Bear was very happy to see his best buddy, Denise.

Cody and Denise missed teasing each other the most!

It was great for Roger, because he had both kids home for Father's day. What more could a dad want? Well, maybe to go fishing and catch a big fish.....

Happy Father's Day to Roger, my Dad, and all the dads out there!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Nick Eaton Ridge Hike

Last Sunday I took a hike up to Nick Eaton Ridge, which is located near the town of Cascade Locks, in the Columbia River Gorge. My good friends Debbie and Barry accompanied me on the hike, as well as my dog Bear.

The first flowers we saw on the trail were these beautiful tiger lillies. I could not resist taking out my camera to capture their vivid orange colors.

Bear and I take a quick rest break from the endless climbing. This trail gains almost 1900' of elevation in two miles. A good cardio workout, especially if you're carrying a heavy backpack! Of course Bear scampered up the trail like it was nothing - having four legs helps, I think. I need to get Bear one of those doggy backpacks, so he can carry his own food and water (and poop bags!)

Debbie and Barry humor me and pose for a photo while taking a water and snack break.

This is the view we had from near the top of the ridge. We could see the Columbia River, the Bonneville Dam, and the Bridge of the Gods. And this is on a cloudy day. I'm sure the view is even better with clear skies and sunshine.

This is Bear, my super-cute doggy, striking a pose amidst the wildflowers. Bear loves to hike just as much as I do. He's a great trail companion.

The funny story from this hike - Debbie, Barry and I were at a trail junction, ready to head back down. Debbie had to answer the call of nature. She said "I'll go over down this trail, there's nobody around here, no one will see me." She walked away, and a minute later, Barry and I heard her talking to someone! After a couple of minutes of hearing a conversation, down the trail walks Cloudy - someone we know and have hiked with. After hardly seeing a soul all day, we run into someone we know! Cloudy joined us for the hike back down and then we all headed to McMenamin's Edgefield for some burgers and beer.
All in all, a great hike. Total elevation gain - about 3000 feet. Total mileage - about 10 miles. I was tired that evening, but it was a good kind of tired!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wind Farm Tour

I have always loved windmills. Growing up in South Dakota, there were many old farms that had windmills as part of their operation. Driving across the state, I spotted lots of them - a very scenic part of the landscape. Whenever I could convince whoever was driving to pull over, I'd photograph the old windmills.

When I had an opportunity to tour a modern wind farm, I jumped on the chance. Our local APWA chapter (American Public Works Association) sponsored a trip to a large wind farm in the eastern end of the Columbia River Gorge. The tour even fell on my flex Friday off - so I knew it was meant to be!

The wind farm is managed by Portland General Electric (PGE), our local electric utility company. PGE has been building windmills in the eastern end of the Gorge for several years. On my frequent trips to Missoula, Montana over the last four years, I've noticed more and more windmills popping up in north-central Oregon. Just this spring when my family was driving east on I-84, we discovered there were lots more windmills dotting the hillsides than we'd ever seen before.

It is truly amazing how many windmills there are south of Biggs, Oregon. The farmer's fields are dotted with windmills as far as the eye can see! There were hundreds, no, probably thousands, of these elegant turbines spinning in the wind.

So last Friday morning, I found myself on a bus with about 20 other APWA members on our way to Bigelow Canyon Wind Farm. After winding our way on the local roads east of Biggs and Wasco, Oregon we arrived at our destination. Steve Higgins, PGE's project Manager for the wind farm was our host. Steve patiently answered our group's many questions, toured us around the site, and showed us the maintenance facilities. But the highlight of the tour came when we actually got to walk underneath a live operating windmill!
Here's my attempt at a photograph of the windmill, looking up from near the base. It's very hard to fit it all in a camera lens. Made me wish I'd brought my wider-angle lens! It was funny to watch the other folks in our group try and photograph the windmill from this angle. I must admit, I tipped my head back so far trying to capture the windmill, that my hard hat fell off my head!

This photo shows several windmills under construction. You can see the crane used to lift the parts of the windmill into place. There were dozens of windmills under various stages of construction at this location. The interesting thing about this photo is that you can almost make out Mt. Hood through the clouds. This would be a great photo op on a clear day.

While we were hanging out at the maintenance facility, eating our lunch, a large truck arrived delivering a part of a windmill tower. The sheer size of these windmill components is much more apparent when you are standing right next to them.

At the maintenance facility PGE had erected an old windmill. It was a beauty! I think this photo is great, because it shows both old and new windmill technology.

Here's our whole group gathered under one of the windmill towers. It gives you a good perspective of the size of these wind turbines. We were told the tower itself is 80 meters tall. The blade at its lowest point is about 45 meters off of the ground.

What a great way to spend a day! I learned a lot about windmills, saw a different part of Oregon that I didn't know existed and took lots of photos. It was exciting to experience something that not everyone gets to see. Thanks to Steve from PGE and Nanci from APWA for making this tour possible.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Dog Mountain Hike

Last Sunday I did my yearly hike up Dog Mountain. Dog Mountain is located on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge, and it is known for its beautiful wildflower meadows. The flowers are usually at their peak by the end of May. I try to make it up to the top of Dog Mountain every year to see the flowers.

The weather forecast was for a hot day, so I got up early and arrived at the trailhead by 7 am. It was great! Only 5 other cars in the parking lot. I was mostly by myself as I climbed up the steep, steep trail. (Two of the trails that will lead you to the top are signed "difficult" and "more difficult.")

I stopped for a photo break at "puppy point" which is about half way up to the summit. Above is my view from this vantage. You can see the yellow-tinged hills above - that yellow is all flowers.

After huffing and puffing my way up the trail (it gets murderously steep in parts!) I arrived at the wildflower meadows of the Dog Mtn. summit. I pulled out my camera, and went to work!
The photo to the right is Wind Mtn. and the Columbia River as viewed from near Dog Mtn. summit.

The most common flower up here is the balsamroot. This flower looks a lot like a sunflower, but smaller. They grow like crazy in the gorge, and especially on Dog Mtn. Dog Mountain's upper slopes are mostly treeless, which provides lots of sun - perfect for the flowers! The meadows look like someone took a yellow paintbrush to them, but it all balsamroot flowers.

Here's a couple of flower pals that caught my eye (and my camera lens!)

Balsamroot are not the only flowers that bloom in Dog Mtn's meadows. There is also Indian Paintbrush, Lupine, Phlox, and many other flowers that I don't know the name of. It's times like these that I wish I had Cody with me - he could name them all! This variety of flowers makes for a beautiful riot of color.

I discovered the largest Indian Paintbrush bloom that I have ever seen (see orange flower in the above photo). It must have been as big as a golf ball.

After taking lots of photos and enjoying the views and great weather, it was time to head back down. I encountered lots of people heading up the trail on my way down, and was glad I started my hike as early as I did. When I arrived back at the parking lot, it was overflowing with cars! There were parked cars lining the road in both directions. A warm, sunny day in early June brings the crowds to Dog Mountain. But with such natural beauty, who can blame them?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Memorial Day Camping Trip

Over Memorial Day weekend, Roger, Bear and I met my brother Dale and his family at the Cove Palisades State Park in Central Oregon for a long weekend of camping. This is turning into an annual event - this was our third year in row that we've camped at this state park during Memorial Day weekend. We've been lucky and have been able to reserve the same camping spot all three times.

Dale's boys, Max and JJ, love camping and had great fun toasting marshmallows for s'mores every night. They also had fun climbing on the rocks around our campsite, and doing a little fishing.

Dale's dog Domino licks JJ's face to clean up the s'more leftovers!

Roger the Lumberjack!

Roger shows off his catch of the day.

We played lots of bocci games - this is also a Memorial Day weekend tradition!

Cap'n Roger at the helm of his boat!

Roger and I went for a long boat ride on Lake Billy Chinook. This lake is set in deep, scenic canyons. Springtime is especially beautiful because everything is green and the flowers are blooming.

We couldn't have asked for better weather. It was clear, sunny and warm all weekend. That doesn't happen often on Memorial Day weekend in Oregon!

Lake Billy Chinook view from the top of the Tam-a-Lau hiking trail.

Nancy and the boys joined me for a hike to the top of the mesa on the Tam-a-Lau trail. From the top of the mesa, you see a panorama of Cascade mountain peaks. It is a wonderful sight.
Nancy, Max, JJ, and T-Bone with Mt. Jefferson in the background.

Hiking back down the trail with two of the Three Sisters mountains in view.

Beautiful Balsamroot flower found blooming on the side of the trail.

We had a great time. It was good to spend time with Dale and his family. Roger caught lots of fish (but no photographic evidence!) I got to take a couple of hikes up the mesa, and took tons of photos. The boys fished and rock climbed. We all brushed up on our bocci skills. The dogs got lots of play time, and Bear slept all the way back home.
We're already planning for the fourth annual Memorial Day campout next year!