Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in Photos

Many of the other blogs I read do year-end "recap" posts.  I really enjoy reading them.  It's interesting to look back and remember places and faces from the past 12 months.  At the end of 2010, I wanted to do something like this, but didn't quite get it together.  This year I resolved not to lapse again.

This blog is many things.  It's a skiing blog, a hiking blog, sometimes a running blog, and also a place to showcase my family's activities.  But most of all, it's a photography blog (it is named "Linda's Lens" after all!).  With that in mind, I give you the year 2011 in photos - one representative image from each month of the year.  Some of these pictures were chosen not because they were my best work, but because I wanted to commemorate an event in 2011 that was special to me.

Skiin' the pow in Steamboat, CO

January - this month I was busy skiing, skiing, and more skiing.  Thursdays, I was riding the ski bus, and Sundays traveling up to Mt. Hood Meadows with my good buddy Kim.  But the highlight of the month was the trip I took to Steamboat, Colorado.  While there, the weather gods provided a dump of the finest Colorado powder, that hence forward would spoil me for skiing in Oregon.

Happy B-day to me!

February - February is my birthday month, and this year my kids surprised me with dinner and a homemade red velvet cake.  Not wanting a blaze of candles on my cake, Cody and Denise managed to advertise my age in a different and creative fashion.  What can I say?  My kids are the best!

I never tire of this spectacular view from Mt. Bachelor

March - Still more good skiing to be had.  But there was also the Shamrock Run (where Roger ran his first 5K).  However, the trip I made to Mt. Bachelor to ski with my brother Dale was memorable.  It was a beautiful, clear (but cold) day.  Perfect to showcase the spectacular views from the mountain! 

Cami and I celebrate our Eugene marathon finish

April - A transition month.  I began the month skiing and ended it hiking and running.  I cut my ski season short so I could concentrate on training for the Eugene marathon, which I completed with my best running friend Cami.

Punchbowl Falls

May - So many hikes, so difficult to pick just one photo.  With the higher country still snowed in, my explorations were limited to trails in the Columbia River Gorge.  A Friday visit to the Eagle Creek trail reminded me why this is one of Oregon's (and my) all-time favorites.  I had to wade into the creek to get this shot, but I think it was worth it.

Amazing display of Bachelor Buttons near Bald Butte

June - Again, many more hikes, with some family and running activities thrown in for variety.  But the best hike from this month had to be the trip I made up Bald Butte with my hiking buddy Chuck.  We hit the wildflower season just right and were rewarded with a fabulous display of every variety you could imagine.  I loved the Bachelor Buttons the best.  I've never seen such a large concentration of these flowers in the wild.

My parent's 50th anniversary celebration

July - More hiking.  Roger and I made our first backpacking trip since 2004 (and it was a success!).  The big event of the month was traveling back to South Dakota to celebrate my parent's 50th wedding anniversary.  The first time my entire family was together in many years, I commemorated the day with a photograph.

Smith Rock State Park

August - So much happened this month, it was really hard to pick just one image to represent.  There was the Haulin' Aspen half, the Styx concert, loads of zucchini, and -  you guessed it - lots of hikes.  However, I finally made it back to Smith Rock State Park, a place I've wanted hike again.  It was the day after I'd ran a half marathon, and hot weather to boot, but I had the most amazing time.  The views were phenomenal.  I got some great photographs (it's hard to take a bad photo here).

Wildflower paradise on Mt. Hood

September - Another action-packed month.  There was the Hood to Coast relay (hands down my most favorite running event of 2011), another great backpacking trip with my hubby, Oktoberfest with my folks, and - yes - more amazing hikes.  This month I hiked one of the best places of 2011, the Paradise Park Trail on Mt. Hood.  The lingering snow delayed the wildflower bloom, and I enjoyed a summer floral paradise in the middle of September. 

Mt. St. Helens from Norway Pass

October - A little bit of everything to blog about this month.  One more half marathon completed, Halloween, fall colors starting to show, OSU football games (and tailgating!) and, oh yes, a couple more hikes.  A trip to Norway Pass near Mt. St. Helens, made it onto the "best hikes of 2011" list.  This trail has been on my bucket list for years, and I finally got there.  This view of Mt. St. Helens was so worth all the time spent driving and hiking to reach it.

Fall colors at Multnomah Falls Lodge

November - Fall colors ruled the blog postings.  I tried to squeeze in as many hikes as possible before the bad weather hit.  The Gorge was the place to be in November, and I had many incredible fall foliage photos to choose from.  This image of the bright orange leaves against Multnomah Falls Lodge was the eventual winner.

The 2011-12 ski season has begun!

December - Transition back to ski season.  However, the weather wasn't very cooperative, so only two posts about skiing this month.  But there was another half marathon to recap, holiday goings-on, and a fun limo tour of the Oregon wine country.  The eventual photographic choice was this self-portrait of myself on the first day of ski season.  I was so happy to be back sliding on the snow, and it showed.

Lupine and St. Helens Lake

Before ending this post, I wanted to include a final photo from my number-one favorite hike of the year.  August's hike to Coldwater Peak near Mt. St. Helens takes top honors.  Not only were the flowers in full bloom, this hike included an amazing view of both Spirit Lake and the incredibly blue St. Helens Lake.  Visitors have a head-on look into the crater of Mt. St.Helens, which appears eerily close.  Hiking the desolate plains and forests flattened by the blast gives one an idea of the gravity of the devastation, and a new respect for the power of Mother Nature. 

I had the most difficult time choosing just one image to represent the hike, but finally settled on this shot of St. Helens Lake rimmed with dark purple lupine.

I hope you enjoyed reading and viewing this recap of 2011 as much as I had fun creating it.  Here's to an exciting, adventure-filled 2012, with hopefully lots more blog posts, and, of course, tons more photographs.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Merry Belated Christmas

Merry belated Christmas to my readers!  If you're a regular visitor, you probably know by now that I'm always several days behind in my postings.  This week is no exception.  Before the holidays drift too far into the past, I thought I'd share a few photos from my family's Christmas celebration.

So many presents...

Denise was done with school two weeks before Christmas.  Cody arrived a week before the holiday.  We got our tree the weekend Cody got home.  It was up and decorated while I was away wine tasting (see previous post).  Nice to have grown children that can take care of such things while mom's away!

I bribed my kids and got one good photo

I take lots of pictures, and have since my children were tiny babies.  However, Cody and Denise aren't very keen on my photography hobby.  When they see me getting out my camera, they run the other way.  But on Christmas Eve, I got them to cooperate, and even produced one nice photo of my kids.

Super-large gift for me!

We open our gifts on Christmas Eve, so after dinner my family gathered for the great unwrapping.  I'd noticed a large package stuffed under our tree, but hadn't thought much about it.  Turns out it was for me!  My kids pooled their money and got their mom a photo scanner.  What a great gift!  Ooooh I'll have some fun with this!

My die-hard Vikings fan

Roger has always been a huge Minnesota Vikings fan.  Even through the tough years (such as this current season), his loyalty hasn't wavered.  There's not much Vikings merchandise to be found in Oregon.  But this gives my folks (who live in S. Dakota, much closer to Minn.) something to get their son-in-law for Christmas.

Cody tries to guess what's inside

Not matter the age, it's always fun to watch your kids open their Christmas gifts.

Denise gets a bag of fake fish from her brother

Denise has a history of killing pet fish.  Cody gave her something to fill that empty fish bowl.  A variety of fish that won't die no matter what.  (What are brothers for?)

Cody checks out his new piano book

Cody loves to play our piano.  He wanted a new book of piano songs to practice.  Santa came through!

Denise hugs her stuffed "Benny Beaver"

Denise is easy to buy for.  Any type of Oregon State merchandise is always a winner.  I couldn't resist the OSU mascot pillow pet.  As you can see, Denise loved it.

I got some tea!  Or did I?

I unwrapped one small package from my mom.  It was a box of tea.  I love tea, so was happy to have a new flavor to try.  I put the box in the kitchen, and didn't think another thing about it.  The next morning, wanting a cup of tea with my breakfast, I decided to try my mom's gift.  Imagine my surprise when I opened the box and found no tea inside.  Instead, wrapped in tissue paper, was this cool skier ornament.

Nope - inside the tea box was this cool skier ornament

Christmas 2011 was wonderful.  I was happy with all of my gifts, but the best gift of all was to have my family together.  I'm thankful for my family's health, our home, that my kids are in school pursuing careers, and that Roger and I both have good jobs.  Christmas is a time to stop, reflect, and appreciate all the blessings we have.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Touring Wine Country - In Style!

There are many wonderful things to do in Oregon.  We have mountains, ocean beaches, the beautiful Columbia River Gorge, rivers, forests, and - we have our own wine country.  The Willamette River Valley is conducive to growing nearly everything.  And this includes grapes.  They grow in abundance throughout the state.  There are over a hundred wineries concentrated in the fertile farmlands between Portland and Salem.

Time for some wine

As much as I love wine, you'd think I'd be out touring wineries all the time, since they're practically outside my back door.  But no - I'm too busy with my other outdoor pursuits.  I haven't visited an Oregon winery in years.

My limo awaits

But last weekend I got my big chance.  Two friends invited me to join them on a chauffeured limo wine tour.  They'd gotten a good deal via a groupon special and needed six people to fill a limo.  I was more than willing to be their sixth person.

So this is how the 1 percent live!

We met our chariot and driver in the town of Sherwood.  Our group filed into the limo, and celebrated with a champagne toast en route to our first winery. 

Colorful labels at "Hip Chicks do Wine"

Our first stop - Hip Chicks do Wine, located in the beautiful town of Newberg.  The winery was right on the main street, and our driver impressed us with  his parallel parking skills, pulling the limo into a spot right outside their front door.  People on the sidewalk stared at our limo, making us feel like celebrities.  I almost expected to encounter the paparazzi as we exited our ride.


This place was great.  Our host was very knowledgeable about her product.  And the wines were wonderful. 

I need this glass!

They had great gifty items displayed throughout the shop.

Hip Chicks had great labels

I absolutely loved Hip Chick's bottle labels.  And they had some great names for their wines.  I especially liked the "Drop Dead Red" (and it was great wine too!)

DeeAnn and I mug for the camera

There was only one bad thing about Hip Chicks being first on our tour.  Since we had two more wineries yet to visit, my group was conservative and didn't buy much.  As it turned out, they had the best wines by far. After the day was over I was wishing I'd purchased more than one bottle of "Wine Bunny Blush."

Tasting room at Kason Vineyards

Our next stop - Kason Vineyards located in the lovely countryside near Yamhill, Oregon.  At least I think the scenery was lovely.  It was an extremely foggy day, so the views were nil.  But we had wine to taste and that made up for the lack of scenery.

Everyone smell the grapes

Kason Vineyards specializes in pinot noir.  We got to try several different varieties of their pinot.  It didn't take long and they all began to taste the same.  I'm not a huge pinot noir fan, but I have to say, Kason's product was better than most.

Showing the group where they press the grapes

Our wine steward was great.  She let us taste some of their newly pressed chardonnay (so new it hadn't yet been bottled).  She then took us down into the basement and showed us the winery's grape press.

Visiting the wine cellar

We were then led into the wine cellar.  It was so cool to see all of the barrels stacked inside!  Our guide took a glass tube and drew some chardonnay out of one barrel, for a lucky DeeAnn to sample.

The limo ladies

Since pinot noir is not my favorite wine, I didn't buy anything at Kason Vineyards.  But we still had one more place yet to visit, so after a quick photo session in front of our limo, it was back inside our plush ride.

Kerry and Ann enjoy a "winetini"

Our final stop was Mia Sonatina Cellars in the small town of Amity. This winery was run by a husband-wife team.  Vern, the husband, was our host.  He was a fun, personable guy and led us through tasting the different wines on their roster.


The girls and Vern

I liked some of the wines here.  There was a good variety and I even found myself liking a red port desert wine.  I'm usually a Merlot kind of gal, so this was a surprise.  Even more surprising - I ended up buying a bottle of the stuff!

I like this saying!

After a very fun time at Mia Sonatina, it was time to board our limo for the trip home.  But it was a merry atmosphere inside.  Warmed by wine and camaraderie we ladies enjoyed one final ride in the lap of luxury. 

What a great way to tour wine country!  The best part of all - we could sample all the wine our hearts desired and didn't have to worry about driving.  Definitely the way to go.  Too bad I can't afford to do this everyday.

So now that I've rediscovered Oregon's wineries, it's time to plan for trip number two.  Ladies - who's with me?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Holiday Half - Once Again!

Last August when I registered for this year's Holiday Half, it seemed like such a great idea.  I ran the Holiday Half last year on an unseasonably balmy December day and had a blast.   When registration opened for the 2011 race, memories of last year's nice weather clouded my judgement.   Fast forward to present day, a bone-chilling, foggy December morn, and I wondered what the heck I was thinking?  Run a half marathon in the icy pre-dawn?  All I wanted to do was hunker down in my warm bed.

My thoughts exactly!

So that explained part of my present bad attitude.  The other problem was that I didn't train near enough to tackle a race of this distance.  And I knew it.  I was afraid about mile 8, things were going to get ugly.

Runner invasion at the Adidas Campus

But I'd paid good money to run this race, and that was enough motivation to get me out of bed race day morning.  After forcing down a quick breakfast, and gathering up my gear, I pointed my car towards the Adidas headquarters in North Portland, starting line for the Holiday Half.

Maryalicia's cool costume

I lucked out and found a parking spot three blocks from the Adidas campus.  I walked to the starting area, and found the gear check and race expo crammed into a cold, dark parking garage.  The gear check line was so long, I gave up and ran back to my car to stow my coat.  With the unseasonable cold temps (hovering around the freezing mark, which is cold for Portland) I'd been fretting the previous day about what to wear for the race.  I knew I'd warm up running, but didn't want to shiver through the first couple of miles.  In the end, I layered two long sleeve tech t's and wore a santa hat over my cap.  But when my coat came off, boy was it chilly!

Maryallicia and I model our holiday attire

I ran into Maryalicia, a woman I'd met at the Haulin' Aspen half last August.  We'd run part of that race together, shared some photos, and become friends on facebook.  Maryalicia is quite a prolific runner.  She's finshed a large number of halfs this year (I think she told me 17), one pushing her daughter in a running stroller the entire distance!  She is quite the wonder woman.

Pre-race photo op

Maryalicia was dressed up in a wonderful Mrs. Claus costume.  She was bubbly, enthusiastic, and totally up for the race.  I loved her positive engergy and, hoping some of it would rub off on me, asked if I could run with her.

Shuffling towards the starting line

So I lined up at the starting line by Maryalicia's side, and patiently waited for the race to start.  While waiting for the horn to sound, we amused ourselves by checking out the participant's costumes.  Red and green clothing dominated the crowd.  There were elves, santas, reindeer antlers, crazy socks, and the free world supply of santa hats!

A few costumed runners at mile 3

Then came the countdown, and the mob of people shuffled towards the starting arch.  As we spread out into the street, Maryalicia and I picked up the pace.  The course first wound through residential neighborhoods surrounding the Adidas HQ.  There were quite a few small hills to climb, and by mile one, I was already warm and starting to sweat.  All my worry about being cold was for naught!

Some fast reindeer

Mile two popped us out onto Willamette Blvd, a road build on top of a steep bluff, that, on nicer days provides a great view of the Swan Island Industrial area and Willamette River.  Lovely older well-kept homes line this street.  Occasionally small groups of people stood beside the road, ringing cowbells and cheering the runners.

Here come the elves!

From the beginning, I struggled, and by mile 5 I was feeling tired already.  This was not good news, as there was still eight miles to go!  I grabbed a Gu from the next aid station (Peppermint flavor!  Very yummy!) and sucked it down, hoping for an energy boost.

I enjoyed the carolers

Maryalicia was so sweet.  She stayed by my side, even though she was capable of running a much faster pace than mine.  I appreciated the company.  That really helped pass the miles much quicker.  We amused ourselves by checking out all the runner's costumes.  By mile 5, we began to see the leaders returning (the course was an out-and-back). Maryalicia and I whooped and hollered for these super-fast athletes.  We ducked under the St. Johns Bridge and past a wonderful group of carolers.  The Christmas music really helped boost my sagging spirit.

Nearing the turnaround point

Despite buddying with an upbeat person, and being surrounded by hundreds of people in crazy costumes, my funk continued.  My head was just not into running this race.  After rounding the turnaround point, Maryalicia, sensing my lack of energy, suggested a quick walk break.  I'm usually not one to stop and walk in races, but this time I acquiesced.

Maryalicia ran the entire race - fast - in this costume

After a short walk (which felt good) I took off running again.  But my legs and feet felt like concrete.  Maryalicia began to get farther ahead.  I was amazed by her stamina.  It couldn't have been easy to run in a hot, bulky Mrs. Claus costume, but she was moving, and fast!

Finally around mile 9, I told Maryalicia to go ahead without me.  I felt guilty holding her back, and knew I wouldn't be able to keep up with her pace.  I watched her red, fuzzy suit vanish into the crowd ahead.

A Christmas star and tree

The last four miles were an exercise in mind games.  Legs and feet were starting to protest quite loudly.  My head tried to convince me to give in and walk.  Time seemed to move at a snail's pace.  But I told myself, the faster I ran, the quicker I would be done.  And there was a beer waiting for me at the finish line!

Finally, I passed the mile 13 marker.  I swear the last 0.1 of a mile was a lot longer (my Garmin actually said I ran 13.2 miles, so there might be something to that).  But I rounded the final corner, and there beyond the spectator-lined street was the finish!  Yahoo!  I crossed the line in 2:04:42.  Not one of my speedier times, but considering my lack of training, and poor attitude, I was satisfied.

I loved this sign!

I met Maryalicia at the finish line.  She'd stopped to adjust her costume and ended up finishing only two mintues ahead of me.  We walked over to the food tent, so I could get some hot soup and that beer I'd been dreaming about since mile 10.

So that's my tale of the 2011 Holiday Half.  Looking back, although it wasn't one of my better races this year, now that's it's in the past, I'm glad I didn't sleep in and totally miss out.  It was great to run with Maryalicia (couldn't of done it without her!) and being around lots of runners decked out in their Holiday best really put me in the mood for Christmas. 

And running 13.1 miles in the cold gave me a great excuse to pig out on Christmas cookies all afternoon - guilt free!