Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend

Now that my kids are away at college, I really look forward to holidays.  It's about the only way I get 'em both home at the same time.  So, as you can probably guess, I was eagerly counting down the days until Thanksgiving. 

But finally the long-awaited week arrived. Cody came home Tuesday night, and Denise rolled in between rainstorms late Wednesday.

Picking the last of the apples

With the kids here, we kept our activities close to home.  Thanksgiving day, Roger put them to work picking the last of the apples from our tree.

Roger going for the really high ones

We have a Granny Smith apple tree in our backyard.  This season was a banner year for apples, and we had a bumper crop.  We've had our tree for several years now, and it's grown rather tall.  And of course the best apples were the ones on the highest branches, out of our ladder's reach.

Time to make some pies!

Roger picked all the apples he could get to with his ladder.  Then he resorted to shaking the tree to get the others down.  When that didn't work, he and the kids began throwing the bad apples up into the tree, trying to knock the high apples down.  It was funny to watch - every once and awhile a throw would connect, and several apples came raining down.  I should've captured it on video!

Nice looking apples

Cody decided he'd make some apple pies.  The rest got cut up and frozen for later.

Thanksgiving table

I, of course, was busy on Thanksgiving day too.  First, I got up early and ran in a Turkey Trot with my friend Cami.  It was a 4-mile race, down a huge hill and then back up it again.  Cami joked that we burned enough calories running up that hill, we should be able to eat our turkey and pie guilt-free.

Dinner is served!

Then I came home and cooked up a turkey dinner for my family.  It wasn't too hard, though.  Turkey is pretty easy to cook - just put it in the oven!  And Roger helped quite a bit.

I'm thankful for my kids

The smell of roasting turkey soon permeated the house.  By the time the food was ready, everyone was really hungry!  It was great to have everyone together around the table again.

Cleanup crew

After dinner, I had lots of help with the cleanup.  My kids are good about pitching in (and so is Roger!)

Family photo - outtake one

Every year, I try to get a family photo for our Christmas card.  With my kids in school, it's hard to get all of us together for pictures.  Since everyone happened to be home Thanksgiving weekend, I suggested a quick family photography session.  Well, my kids aren't the most willing subjects.  They really hate posing for pictures.  But before everyone took off on Sunday, I gathered (bribed) the troops and posed us on the couch.  At the last minute, I decided to include Bear in the photo.  I grabbed my dog and placed him in my lap.  As you can see by my first take, Bear wasn't too thrilled with this!

Outtake two

I tempted Bear with dog treats and we tried again.  This time, just as the shutter clicked, Bear decided to lick his nose.  Aaugh!!

Third time's the charm!

Take three - Bear calmed down, but wasn't looking at the camera.  I though "oh great, another dud!"  But just before the camera flashed, Bear perked his ears and looked up.  Success!  I finally got my Christmas card shot.  And hopefully it wasn't too painful for my family.

The weekend passed by way too quickly, and before I knew it, the kids were both packing up to head back to their respective colleges.  But it was great to have everyone together again.  Thanksgiving reminds me to appreciate the important things in life - my husband and kids.  I'm so thankful for such a great family.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sunny Sunday

After several weeks of less-than-stellar weekend weather, Sunday's forecast finally promised clear skies.  I wasn't going to pass up a sunny dry weekend day - probably the last for a long time.  I emailed my friend John and asked him if he was interested in a hike.  John, always up for a romp in the woods, responded with an enthusiastic yes.

What a beautiful trail sign!

Where to go?  The higher elevations were all snowed in, restricting us to somewhere in the Gorge.  Then I remembered hearing about the Cape Horn trail.  It's a relatively new trail on the Washington side of the Gorge.  Rumor had it this route promised spectacular Gorge views from a recently constructed overlook.  It was a path I'd yet to hike, so I convinced John to make Cape Horn our destination.

My companions hit the snow

Cape Horn is a prominent bluff that towers high above the Columbia River. US Highway 14 climbs over Cape Horn, and clings to the side of its rocky cliffs. The great thing about this place is it's very close to the Portland Metro area.  A thirty minute drive places you at the trailhead.

The mountains have white flocking

Sunday dawned clear and sunny, as promised, but cold!  After braving intermittently icy roads, our group arrived at the Cape Horn trailhead. In addition to myself, John had rounded up three of his friends (Steve, Barry and Kelly) to accompany us. I, of course, had brought my dog Bear. There was no way he was letting me go without him!

Mushrooms growing out of a tree

The trail entered the woods and immediately began to climb, heading for the bluff's summit. Our group wound through the mostly-barren maple tree forest until we hit patches of snow. Although we'd bundled up against the cold, it wasn't long before everyone, warmed by the uphill trek, began to shed layers.

Makin' tracks through the snow

As we trudged up to the top of Cape Horn, small gaps in the trees gave teaser glimpses of nearby snow-flocked mountains.

My party enjoys a sunny moment

And then suddenly my group reached the top of the bluff and the first of three clifftop viewpoints.  The grand panorama of the Columbia River Gorge spread out far below us.  Wow!  It was an incredible sight!  I was so glad to be visiting on a clear day - it would be a shame to climb this far and not be able to take in such a view.

New Cape Horn overlook

My hiking group (aka "John and friends") followed the trail as it skimmed along the top of the bluff, pausing at each of the viewpoints to take in more breathtaking vistas and Kodak moments. 

What a view!

After leaving the summit of Cape Horn, and following a series of trails and abandoned roads, the trail led us to the newly-constructed Cape Horn overlook.  The viewpoint consists of two circular rock walls atop a clearing.  The overlook was constructed to honor Nancy Russell, the founder of the Friends of the Columbia Gorge.  Nancy fought to save this beautiful area from development, and was able to preserve Cape Horn in its natural state for all to enjoy.

A cold windy lunch

Standing atop this overlook, gazing out over the Columbia River, I was grateful for Nancy's hard work and determination.

John braces himself against the wind

Our hiking group took advantage of the rock wall seating areas for a snack break.  Although the sky was sunny, the temperature was anything but warm.  And away from the forest's protection, the wind was howling mightily.  It was a cold place to rest, but you couldn't beat the scenery!

Incredible Gorge panorama

If it wasn't for that pesky wind, my group probably would've stayed at the overlook all day.  But the roaring gales forced a retreat back into the woods. 

Barry and I pause from our photographic duties (photo by John)

From the overlook, the Cape Horn Trail descended quickly through a forest of large, moss-clad trees.  Before we knew it, our group arrived at the junction with Hwy 14.  The trail continued on the opposite side of the highway, necessitating a wait for a gap in traffic, and then a speedy scramble across!

My happy pup

The best part was yet to come.  The second, lower loop of the trail wandered along the portion of the bluff below the highway.  It followed spectacular cliffs lining the Columbia River.  There were more great viewpoints, impressive talus slopes, and even a waterfall or two.

Cigar Rock (Can you guess how it got it's name?)

But, oh was the wind strong down here!  At every clearing, we had to steady ourselves against the buffeting gusts to get photographs.  I tried to gain some stability by leaning against a nearby tree, but the tree was blowing around so much it was no help.  To steady our cameras, John and I finally ended up leaning against each other.

The last of the fall leaves

But despite the wind and cold, the viewpoints down here were incredible!  The eastern Gorge spread out before us, with sights all the way to Beacon Rock.  The mighty Columbia sparkled a pretty blue, punctuated by frothy whitecaps.  The basalt cliffs of the Gorge rose up from both sides of the river, the upper elevations wearing a frosty cap of snow. The mid-afternoon sun lit up the scene nicely.  It was worth battling the chilly gusts for some photographs.

Wispy waterfall

After climbing up and down the cliffside path, our group came upon a thin, wispy waterfall.  It was spraying over a tall basalt cliff.  What a beautiful sight!

Can you see the rainbows?

A point in the trail provided a nice overlook of the falls.  And the sunlight was at the perfect angle to create not one, but two rainbows.  This isn't the greatest photograph, but I was pleased the rainbows showed up.  Can you spot both of them?

Barry and Bear walk under the falls

And then the trail led you right underneath the fall's drizzly cascade.  Super cool!

US Hwy 14 perched high on the cliff

One final amazing sight awaited us.  The last leg of our hike was a one-mile walk up a paved road.  Following asphalt is not how I usually want to end a trip, but we passed a clearing with a fantastic view up the side of Cape Horn's rocky cliffs.  You could see the underside of Highway 14 perched precariously mid-slope.  This was a view of the road most people don't get to see.  It must've been a tremendous engineering feat to construct the elevated bridge and retaining walls that hold up the highway.

Sun-streaked leaves

A few yellow fall leaves still clung to the trees here, creating a narrow tunnel around the road.  Although we weren't walking on a trail, the final mile was a pleasant enough end to this spectacular hike.

Back at the trailhead John told me "Thanks, Linda for the suggestion to come here."  John said he's fallen in love with this new trail.  It's become one of my favorites too.  A great hike for a sunny fall day!

Happy trails!


Saturday, November 19, 2011

My Own Backyard

These past weeks, I've been traveling all over the Gorge in search of fall colors.  But last weekend I discovered there's nice sights to behold right in town.  Even in my own backyard!

Our maple tree has lovely red leaves

We have a small maple tree in our yard.  In autumn it has the most vibrant red leaves.  Roger raked up all the fallen leaves, except the ones directly under this tree.  My dear hubby said the leaves were so nice, he left them in place for me to photograph.

Raindrop-spangled leaf

Since Roger had gone to the trouble not to disturb the maple leaves, I had to get out there with my camera. 

Cool orange/red leaves

One of the bushes in our backyard had colorful orange/red leaves.  Not sure of the exact name of the bush, but it was sure fun to photograph.

Amazing colors at the Rec Center

Later that day, I took Bear for a walk.  My home is close to the neighborhood recreational complex.  It's a great place for an afternoon stroll.  Between the baseball and soccer fields are dozens of beautiful trees, all wearing their autumn best.

Fall leaves close-up

This time, I thought to bring along my pocket point-and-shoot camera.  The fall scenery was so outstanding, I was glad I did.

Fallen leaves make an orange carpet on the ground

The local fall colors were at their peak last weekend.  It was definitely a good time for a walk/photo session.

Leaves of many hues

Some of you may be getting tired of seeing so many blog posts featuring autumn leaves.

Nature's red carpet

But the fall colors are so fleeting, I want to capture as much as I can before winter's dreary months set in.  After the leaves have all fallen, there won't be much for color until March.

No more picnics 'till spring

I'm fortunate to live somewhere that has such a beautiful fall.  All I have to do is walk outside my home.  I can find all sorts of lovely sights right in my own backyard.

Bear just wants to play Frisbee

And because he's so cute, I have to end with a photograph of my pup.  Bear waited patiently through my photo session, and then was rewarded with a game of Frisbee!


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fall Gorge Tour 2011

Every year when the fall colors are at their peak, I take a photography tour of the Columbia River Gorge.  Autumn in the Gorge can be best described as having an artist take a paintbrush and apply brightly colored hues to the trees.  Pair this with steep basalt cliffs and numerous waterfalls, and you get scenery that is simply stunning.  After last week's hike, I knew I had to get back there soon before the leaves started to drop.

Bright colored leaves at Multnomah Falls

Last Friday, I had the day off of work.  The weather, although cloudy and cold, wasn't spitting moisture from the sky.  Time to pack up the camera and head to the Gorge!

Multnomah Falls bridge

Since I didn't bring my tripod on last week's hike, and regretted it, I made sure it was in my car this time.  But on the drive out I realized I'd forgotten something just as important.  My camera attaches to the tripod with a small metal plate.  Guess what got left at home?  D'OH!! 

Bright orange leaves at Multnomah Falls Lodge

I wasn't about to turn around and drive back through traffic to get said plate.  However, my goal had been to photograph lots of waterfalls.  Now that my tripod had been rendered useless, I had to switch gears and formulate plan B.

Classic Multnomah Falls photo

It was quite early in the day, so for my first stop, I swung by Multnomah Falls.  Early mornings are great for getting photos of the falls void of people.  The trees surrounding the old stone lodge were decorated with the most amazing colors!  I was successful in capturing many images of the lodge, sans humans.  (And was able to do so even without my tripod.)

Beautiful trees adorn the Multnomah Falls Lodge

It was a cold, foggy morning, but the fog just added a bit of mood to the scene.

Leafy staircase

After a extended photo session at Multnomah Falls, (even though I'd just been there last week, it was so stunning and uncrowded I stayed much longer than planned!) I drove a short distance up the road to check out Horsetail Falls.  But most of the leaves had either already fallen, or weren't very colorful, so I took a couple of shots and continued on.

Oneonta Tunnel

I originally hadn't planned on it, but when I drove by Oneonta Gorge, and saw the restored Historic Highway tunnel, I just had to stop.  Like the Mosier Twin Tunnels farther east, this tunnel was part of the old Historic Columbia River Highway.  It was recently uncovered and restored for walkers and bikers to enjoy.

Fancy stone railing

The Historic Highway's old stone guardrail was still intact.  It is such a beautiful piece of railing, with its graceful curved crossbars and decorative post tops. What wonderful workmanship!  I'm so glad some of these amenities from the past have been preserved.

Lovely red leaves

And Oneonta Gorge is a simply beautiful place.  A small creek dances merrily through the rocky bottom.  Leaves swirl in its waters.  The banks are decorated with a kaleidoscope of colorful leaves.  The rocky walls of the Gorge rise up near-vertical from the creek bed.  All the surrounding trees were in full autumn hues.

Bridal Veil Falls

After drinking in the beauty of Oneonta Gorge, I continued my travels westward on the Historic Highway.  I came upon Bridal Veil State Park, home of Bridal Veil Falls.  I've been all over the Gorge, and hiked most of its trails, but Bridal Veil Falls was one place I'd yet to visit.  Today was the day!

Beautiful cascade of Bridal Veil

A very short hike takes visitors to a nice viewing platform with a front-and-center view of Bridal Veil Falls.  And, oh what an amazing waterfall!  It was a elegant, lacy two-tier beauty that fanned out over a mossy-rocked cliff.  How had I visited the Gorge so many times and not ever stopped here?  Now I was really wishing for my tripod.

Forest fall scene

I did the best that I could steadying my camera on the viewing platform's railing.  I managed to get a couple pics of the falls to turn out nicely.

Columbia River view

Above the falls, Bridal Veil State Park had another trail that led visitors along the top edge of the Gorge's rocky walls.  A couple of viewpoint areas split off from the main trail gave fantastic views up and down the Columbia River.  One especially great vantage perched you out over the railroad tracks and practically on top of I-84.  Although the sky above was a drab, washed out gray, the trees below made up for the sky's lack of color.

Gorge view from Crown Point

I ended my tour climbing the winding road up to Crown Point, hoping to catch the grandest views of them all. But by the time I reached the famous viewpoint, the skies were filling with heavy clouds, and the light was terrible.  The above photo was the best I could do.  You can't blame a girl for trying (especially without her tripod!)

The Columbia River Gorge is such a special area.  It's my most favorite place in all of Oregon.  It is jaw-droppingly, stunningly beautiful.  Every season is a good season to visit the Gorge, but fall is by far my number one time for photographic exploration.  Despite forgetting a vital piece of gear, I was still able to produce some great images.  Take a look and judge for yourself. 

And if you've never been to the Gorge - come visit!

P.S.   Linda's Note:  The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area celebrated it's 25th anniversary today!