Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Roger's B-Day

Roger's birthday was a couple of weeks ago.  Our celebration was a day late, as Denise had to work on the actual birthday date.  Denise wanted to be on hand to assist in decorating her dad's cake.  She has a special talent for candle placement!

Denise decided her dad's cake needed a candle for every year - not a couple of "symbolic" candles.  And she even found enough candles to do the job (we have a large stock of leftover birthday candles in my kitchen cupboard).  No, I won't divulge Roger's age - except to say that he is over 40!

Once every candle was placed (how she found room for them I don't know) the challenge was to get them all lit.  That in itself was good entertainment.  Roger and Denise each had a lighter and were maneuvering quickly around each other.  We didn't want the candles to burn too long and get wax all over the cake!

I had time to snap a couple of quick photos before Roger blew out the candles.  We didn't want the heat from all those candles to set off our smoke detector!  Roger took a deep breath and let 'er rip.  I don't recall if he blew them all out in one shot.  If he didn't, it was close.

Before we could eat, Roger and Denise had to take out all the candles, and pick the wax drippings off the cake.  We then had a cake with lots of holes in it.  But it still tasted good!

Mmmm......mighty tasty!  Bear sure would like a bite!

Happy 39th (again?) Roger!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Observation Peak Hike

Ahh - my first weekend back from South Dakota and I was hankering to go hiking.  I pulled out my Sullivan book.  It was time to try a new trail.  Observation Peak in the Trapper Creek Wilderness of Washington State.  I'd looked at that hike in my book many times.  It was time to go there.

This way to the top!

I had my choice of three trails to the top of Observation Peak; a long 13-mile 3200' elevation gain quad-buster, a reasonable 8-9 mile and 2000' elevation gain trail, or a relatively easy 6 miles with 1400' elevation gain.  I took my time getting ready that morning, trying to make up my mind.  I puttered around long enough that when I finally left the house it was 9 am.  I realized after driving to the trailhead, I'd only have enough time for the shortest hike.  So my decision was made!

The trail began in this beautiful old-growth forest

After first stopping by Freddy's for some 'skeeter repellent (I'd heard rumors they were out) I headed my car towards Carson, WA.  It was paved roads to the trailhead, except for the final 4 miles, which seemed to take forever (there was a few potholes to dodge!)

Avalanche lilies

I was only the second car at the trailhead.  Good!  I'd have the place mostly to myself!  I heard another vehicle pull up just as Bear and I began walking away.  I'd run into this person later on the summit.

My cute doggie

The trail began in this beautiful old-growth forest.  After a half mile or so we crossed a boggy area where the ground was covered with avalanche lilies.  As I stopped to take some photos, the 'skeeters decided to attack.  Time to break out that bug repellent.  I was so glad I thought to bring some!

Mt. Adams

After a mile, I reached a nice viewpoint.  I could see Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier.  The weather was great - clear and sunny - so the mountains stood out like gleaming white mounds of snow against the blue sky.

Bright pink flowers on the rocks

I stopped at a couple of viewpoints on the way to the top, to see the mountain vistas.  I could see Mt. Adams, Rainier and St. Helens on the horizon.  I spent lots of time taking photos of the fabulous views.

Mt. St. Helens rises over the surrounding hills

Just as I was making my final climb to the summit, I began hearing gunshots in the distance.  Someone was out in the woods target shooting.  Bear doesn't like loud booms, so the gunshots began to freak him out.  I coaxed him to the top and got out my lunch, thinking food would distract him.

Mt. Hood view from the top of Observation Peak

But poor Bear was not interested.  He heard some more rounds, and ran off into the woods.  I called and called for him, but he didn't come back.  I sat and ate my lunch for awhile, thinking maybe he'd return.  Then I began to get worried.  What if Bear had ran off and was lost?

Two summit view - Rainer and St. Helens

Just then a man and his dog appeared from the trail.  The man told me that Bear was lying in the bushes just below the summit.  I was relieved to know Bear was close by.  Bear then emerged from the bushes, curious about to meet the man's dog.  They sniffed each other for a moment, until another gunshot sent Bear running back to his hiding place.  I decided to let Bear stay where he felt safe, and began taking photos of the great mountain panoramas on the summit.

I am woman!

The views were wonderful.  I could see five Cascade peaks - St. Helens, Rainier, Adams, Hood and Jefferson.  It was a parade of blue sky and mountain peaks.

The man and I talked hiking for awhile, trading favorite hikes and me recommending gear and guidebooks (I tell everyone to buy Sullivan's book - I should get a commission!)  We then took photos of each other on the summit.  Through all of this Bear remained in hiding.  I finally decided it was time to leave and get my dog out of range of the gunshot sounds.

Roadside tiger lilies

The hike down was uneventful.  Even the 'skeeters weren't as bad.  I got back to my car and began the long drive home.  I remembered seeing a patch of beautiful tiger lilies on the side of the road on the way in.  Upon seeing them again, I decided to make a quick stop and take a few photos.  I was on a one-lane gravel road, but thought "no one's up here - what are the chances a car would drive by?"  Well - I had taken about three shots when two pickups came barrelling down the road.  They hit the brakes and I sheepishly ran to my car to move it out of the way.  After that, I took a few more quick shots and left!  But I did manage to get a couple of nice pictures of the flowers.

What a great way to spend a sunny Sunday.  There's nothing better than a trip in the woods to climb up a summit with awesome mountain views.  This is why I love hiking!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Chubby Chipmunk Experience

I've discovered a candy store in Deadwood, South Dakota that has truffles to die for!  It's called the "Chubby Chipmunk."  And you know me, if it's chocolate, I'll be there with bells on!

Me and Chubby Chipmunk

When in was in SD in early June, Susan and I traveled to Deadwood to get our race packets.  Susan mentioned the Chubby Chipmunk and told me all about their wonderful truffles.  Susan is such a regular customer, she has her own punch card!  We decided to stop by after packet pick-up.  (Didn't have to twist my arm too hard!)

Sign inside the shop - this is my new motto!

But, alas, when we arrived at the shop, it was closed for the day.  Bummer!  However, I discovered that the Chubby Chipmunk provides a truffle vending machine outside the store.  This way their customers are able to purchase truffles 24/7.  I have seen many types of vending machines, but never one that dispenses truffles!

The "Chub-o-Matic" vending machine

The vending machine sold the truffles for $2 each, and would only accept one dollar bills.  So we dug through our purses, and came up with four ones.  Enough for two truffles.  Better than nothing at all!

Purchasing my truffle

My niece Alisha bought the first truffle.  Then I inserted my bills into the machine.  I punched the number that corresponded to my truffle of choice.  But when I pulled open the door to grab my purchase, there was no truffle.  The machine had apparently run out of that particular flavor.  I didn't even notice that the shelf was empty before I input its number.  Denied!


So I ended up going home without any Chubby Chipmunk chocolate.  However, during the 4th of July weekend, I traveled back to SD.  First on my "to-do" list was visting the Chubby Chipmunk.  I told my sis we needed to make a return trip.  And so we did.  This time the shop was open for business.

Denise geta a vending machine treat

Not only was I able to purchase a box of their delicious (and very beautiful) truffles, I also made a successful purchase from the Chub-o-Matic vending machine.  And I made doubly sure there was a truffle waiting on the shelf before I punched in its number!

Aren't these the most beautiful truffles?

Their truffles were almost too pretty to eat - well, almost!  Above is a photo I took of our box of truffles, before they got devoured. (Notice the half truffle - someone got a head start on one of them!)

So I have now experienced the candy shop that is the Chubby Chipmunk.  And I think it will become a regular stop whenever I visit my hometown.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

4th of July

Denise and I spent the 4th of July in South Dakota visiting my family.  Yes, I know I was just there - but my brother Ron and his family were planning to visit, and Denise wanted to see her Grandparents.  Besides, my last visit was a pretty quick one.  So Denise, Bear and I hopped into the car for another trip halfway across the country - bound for my hometown!

Patriotic colored fireworks

It had been a couple of years since I'd experienced a "real" 4th of July celebration.  Last year, Roger was out of town, and Denise was working, so I spent the evening of the 4th in the house calming a terrified doggie (Bear does NOT like fireworks!)  The year before, Roger and I went backpacking and missed it all.  So I was ready for a traditional celebration of the 4th!

Kids love smoke bombs

My parents had a houseful for the evening cookout/celebration.  All my siblings and their families, (except for one brother), my aunt and her husband, my sister's in-laws, and Denise's roommate and her dad happened to be traveling though - and stopped by for the festivities.  Luckily, my parents have a huge, beautiful backyard that's perfect for an outdoor party.

The kids had fun blowing around the dry ice smoke

My sister had the great idea to make home-made root beer.  It's really easy - all you need is lots of sugar and water.  Then add root beer extract and - the best part of all - some dry ice.  When the dry ice is added to the mixture, it smokes like witches brew.  That was a big hit with all the kids.

A line up of kids by the root beer pot

All of the little kids gathered around the kettle of root beer, trying first to catch the smoke in their mouths (does it taste like root beer?) and then trying to blow the smoke around.  Of course, I had a great time trying to photograph the scene. 

Nicholas (I think!) having fun

Once the smoke died down we all got to try the root beer.  It was really good!

The grill crew

Of course, it wouldn't be the 4th of July without a big cookout.  And my folks did not disappoint!  We had all the good food - hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, and much, much more.

Time to chow down!

There was so much food, if you walked away hungry it was your own fault!

Time for sparklers

After we ate, it was getting dark enough to break out the sparklers.  My brother Brian bought tons of fireworks that he generously shared with all the little kids.

Uncle Brian is a very popular guy!

The kids had a blast.  We had seven kids running around with sparklers in hand.  Once a sparkler went out, they swarmed Brian for more.

Alisha helps the little boys

I think Brian had just as much fun as the little kids!

Julia shows me her sparkler

I tried to capture the scene best I could. But the light was getting low, and the activity high. It was hard to get shots that weren't blurry. But I did get a couple I liked.

Mark and my Dad trying to get the potato gun to fire

Then my brother Mark decided to fire off Dad's potato gun.  It had been awhile since the gun had been fired, so it took a little coaxing.  A crowd gathered to watch the show.

Bombs away!

My Dad, Mark, and Brian tried all kinds of things to get the gun to fire (some were really flammable!)  I was kind of worried we'd get a bad explosion.  Most of us lost interest and wandered back towards the food.  Then we heard a loud BANG!  Mark had one successful shot, and most of us missed it.

Who wants ice cream?

It's a tradition at my parents house to make home-made ice cream for the 4th of July.  There is nothing that tastes better!  My mom made these killer creme de menthe brownies to compliment the ice cream.  We all found a little more room in our tummies!

Mmmmm .... good!

After a good meal, ice cream, and brownies, I was stuffed.  Good thing I was running tomorrow, I had some calories to burn.

Green explosion

My hometown always has a great fireworks display in a local city park.  Once it was dark, we all packed up and drove down to the park to get a viewing spot.  I left Bear in the basement with my little twin nephews and their mom.  All the bangs and booms from the fireworks around the neighborhood had worked Bear into a frenzy, and he needed to hide out for awhile.


I brought my camera and tripod and thought I'd attempt to get some firework photos.  Last time I tried this, I was still shooting film.  I shot an entire roll of 36 exposures and got terrible results.  My problem was I did not use a slow enough shutter speed, so the fireworks looked like tiny dots of light.  Hoping to have learned from this experience, I was back to try again.  This time, with a digital camera, I could shoot away, and delete all my bad shots.  I love digital!

The grand finale

I had success!  There were at least half a dozen photos that were keepers.  And I had a lot of fun trying to catch the firework blasts.  The display was great - it must have gone on for at least 20 minutes. It was a beautiful show.  What a great way to end the day!

It was nice to celebrate the 4th in my hometown with my family.  It doesn't get any more traditional than that.  Happy 4th of July everybody!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Mystery of the Photographer Statue - Solved!

In a previous blog post, I told you of my quest to find out about a certain photographer statue.  I'd see this statue from the freeway every time I traveled on I-90 near Lake Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.  On a recent trip, I took the time to discover how to access the statue, but didn't gain any clues as to who it was supposed to commemorate, or why it was placed on the lakeshore.

Our mystery man

Because photography is one of my hobbies, I always wanted to get a picture of myself next to the statue.  When I finally discovered its location, I was by myself, so I wasn't able get any images of the statue that included me.

Picture time!

However, Denise and I traveled back to South Dakota over the 4th of July, and our route took us by Lake Coeur d'Alene. Being the good daughter that she is, Denise agreed to humor her mother and stop by the statue for a photo session.

So I was finally able to get the picture I coveted!  Here I am with my buddy - the mystery photographer.

Leopold, my new buddy

Back home, I was showing Roger my photos, and telling him that I didn't know anything about this statue.  Roger suggested googling "Lake Coeur d'Alene photograher statue" and see the results.  I discovered a webpage about the public art in the Coeur d'Alene area, and this is what they had to say:

"Finally, slightly out of the realm of our tour, but certainly worth venturing out for is the whimsical statue by David Clemons that sits out at the end of Lake Coeur d’Alene Drive at Higgins Point on the Centennial Trail. It’s an old time photographer nicknamed 'Leopold', his camera poised to capture the beauty of the lake all year round."

Mystery solved!  (Thanks to the internet)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

More Wine Labels I Love

I'm back from another trip to South Dakota.  And I found more great wine labels!  Here's two of my favorites:

Why I can't find fun wine like this in Oregon?  Maybe I'm not looking hard enough!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Table Rock Hike

It was the last weekend of June, and I wanted to get in a hike.  The following weekend I'd be busy and not able to hike due to an upcoming vacation.  The weather looked good for Sunday - clear skies and not too hot.  But where to go?

Pink trillium bloom

I whipped out my Sullivan book.  As I mentioned in a previous blog post, one of my long-time goals is to hike all of the 100 hikes featured in William L. Sullivan's book "100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington."  (This book is the Oregon hiker's bible!)  I've completed approximately 3/4 of the hikes in this book, and am always looking for an opportunity to bag another one. 

The trail winds along the side of Table Rock

So I leafed through my book looking for hikes I had not done. Hmmm.....Table Rock. This hike was located in a pocket wilderness near the town of Molalla (southeast of the Portland metro area). A place I'd never explored. I'm usually always hiking in the Gorge and Mt. Hood areas, so I was ready to expand my horizons. My choice was made - Table Rock it was!

Mt. Hood peeks out the of clouds

The drive to the trailhead turned out to be a lot longer than I expected. After passing through the town of Molalla, I wound along several long, narrow forest service roads that followed the Molalla River. The Molalla was a beautiful river, and lots of people were camped alongside it. The land around Molalla is mostly farmland, so it was surprising to find this beautiful river and forest tucked away.  I've lived in the Portland area over 20 years, and never realized this area existed.

 Three Sisters view from the top of Table Rock

Finally I reached the trailhead. Bear and I piled out of the car, ready to do some hiking.  We started out following an old road. After about a mile, the road turned into a trail, and we began climbing through the woods.

Fantastic view of Mt. Jefferson from Table Rock summit

Then I ran into a man standing on the side of the trail. He asked "Is this the way to Table Rock?" I told him it was, and that I had a map and gps guiding me. The man asked if he could tag along as he'd never hiked here before and wasn't sure of the trail. We got to talking and I found out that he also worked for the City of Portland. Small world!

Summit photo with Mt. Hood in the background

We climbed up and up, and finally reached the top of Table Rock. And oh what a glorious view! I could see a panorama of Cascade peaks. There was Mt. Hood, Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, the Three Sisters, and Mt. Washington. It was a fairly clear day so all the mountains were visible. My camera was busy capturing the terrific scenery.

Trail to the top of Table Rock

Bear and I hung out on top of Table Rock, eating our lunch and enjoying the view.  I then got to looking at my map from Sullivan's book.  The map described a route from Table Rock to another formation called Rooster Rock.  The trail was only an additional 2.5 miles round trip, and it was still early in the afternoon.  I decided to go for it.  The man that had been tagging along said he'd join me.

Table Rock as viewed from the trail

On our way down Table Rock, I ran into an older man.  We stopped and chatted and I mentioned I was going to hike over to Rooster Rock.  The man warned me that the trail was really, really steep.  He said it dived down into a valley and then climbed up to a saddle between Rooster Rock and an unnamed rock outcrop he called "Chicken Point."  The man recommended that I just follow the ridgeline instead.  Since this was my first time in the area (and not wanting to get myself on the evening news), I didn't heed his advice, and decided to just follow the trail.

Bear finds some snow

The trail started off great.  We followed the ridge accompanied by great mountain views.  But then, as we were warned, the trail took a nosedive into a valley.  As I stumbled down to the bottom I thought "Ugh!  I have to climb back up this!"

Beautiful wildflower fields on the saddle

After walking through the valley floor, I discovered the trail to the saddle.  It was super-steep!  My hiking companion decided not to attempt it, and said he'd wait at the bottom for me.  So up Bear and I trudged. 

Rooster Rock and Mt. Jefferson

The trail was murder!  I huffed and puffed and tried to stay upright.  Seemed like gravity wanted to pull me back down the hill.  I was also getting tired, which didn't help at all.  About halfway up, I was tempted to abort the climb and rejoin my partner at the bottom of the hill.  Bur curiosity got the best of me - I really wanted to see the view from the saddle.  So I soldiered on.

Panoramic view from "Chicken Point"

And boy was the climb worth it!  The saddle was a beautiful wildflower meadow.  The views were spectacular.  I climbed up the rock outcrop opposite Rooster Rock, which the man on the trail had dubbed "Chicken Point."  What a great view of rooster rock, and the surrounding mountains!

Late afternoon light illuminates Table Rock

I hung out at Chicken point and enjoyed the the great views - my reward for such a hard climb up.  But remembering my companion was waiting for me at the bottom, I didn't linger too long.  We reunited at the bottom, and I told him what he'd missed.  Then we headed back up the other side of the ridge.

It took a long time to hike back to the trailhead.  I was getting tired, and the time was getting late.  We finally made it back to our cars at 6:00.  Total stats for the day:  10 miles round trip, 2600 feet elevation gain.

It was great to get out and explore a new trail.  The weather was wonderful, and I had a good hiking companion.  What a beautiful place!  I'll definitely come back to this area again.

I can now check off hike # 89 in my Sullivan book!