Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Deep Freeze

The past week it's been a bit on the cold side in these parts. In the words of the weather service, the region has been under the influence of arctic air. If this is what it feels like at the north pole, I will not be booking a trip there anytime soon! The night time temperatures have been in the low twenties; during the daylight hours the mercury has also failed to climb above freezing.
On Tuesday afternoon, I decided to make a trip to the beach to photograph the ice that had formed along the banks of the Columbia River. Needless to say, I had the area to my self as even the birds seemed to have found protection from the elements. Despite the cold, I was rewarded with some incredible sights. Hopefully, the images will convey some of my day's experience on the ice.

The frozen banks of the Columbia River

Note to self, be careful where you walk because you never know when the ice might give way, let alone what might be below!

As the water rises and recedes along the banks, it creates all sorts of interesting edges

The leaf of a black cotton wood tree trapped in the ice. Who knows, this leaf may have floated downstream from Idaho or possible as far away as the Columbia River's headwaters in Canada

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Time To Give Thanks

With Thanksgiving only hours away, the idea of how to give thanks has been knocking around in my head. Pamela, at The Dust Will Wait , made an outstanding list of reasons for which she is thankful.

I especially liked the following quote: "What if God decided to take away the things you forgot to thank him for? I sit here and gaze a 360 around the room and see so many blessings."

Pamela's words have provided me with a real jump start.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Calm Before The Storm

The past couple of weeks has seen just about every type of "ugly weather" November has to offer the north coast of Oregon. To say that it's been wet would be an understatement. I was however a bit taken back to learn that my rain gauge has measured just over fifteen inches of precipitation during the month. Yikes, now wonder the basement sump pumps where doing their magic last Tuesday!

Sunday afternoon we had a brief respite from the storms so I took a quick trip to my favorite part of the beach. The light that preceded the storm was sweet; within two minutes of clicking the shutter I was jogging back to the truck in a cold driving rain. It was fun while it lasted!

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Great Disturbance In The Force

"I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened." Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi Master

Recently, I have been gathering once a month with group of friends and former colleagues for an informal lunch. The gathering was the brain child of our former administrative assistance; when she proposed the idea a few years ago before retiring, I was at best sceptical. I assumed that after thirty years of near daily interaction with many of these folks, perhaps my appetite for additional social interaction would be more nonexistent upon retirement. To my surprise, I anxiously await each month's gathering.

As you might expect, the luncheon provides ampule opportunities for everyone to share the latest on grand children, recent adventures, and the current status of their aliments. The time together also offers opportunities to reminisce about the "good old days at work"; in my opinion some of my friends have way too much regard for the past.

Since the majority of my colleagues were foresters, the annual hunt for deer and elk has always been a big part of their lives. I use to joke that for our engineering staff in particular, there were only three seasons in a year. If it was not hunting season, then it was either pre-hunting or post-hunting season. During the pre-hunt season, conversations focused on the endless details of the impending hunt. As you might expect, post-hunting talk centered on the most recent kill or the multitude of reasons as to why the "big one" got away.

During Thursday's lunch, I asked one of the former engineers about his recent deer hunting expedition. His response sent Obi-Wan's words screaming in the depths of my brain. He told me that he doesn't actually care all that much about hunting any more. He explained that his eye sight and hearing are not what they once were and crawling in the brush just makes his body hurt. For him now, hunting has become a time to go camping with a few friends and to leave the hunting and shooting to someone else. I wonder what disturbance in the force will be detected at next month's luncheon?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A River, One Log, and Leverage

At one time, Astoria was known as the salmon canning capital of the world and the city was home to countless canneries over the river on wooded pilings. Today, few of the original structures remain and if they do, they are mostly remnants of the once great buildings.

The first image is of the floor of a long forgotten cannery taken on a sunny day in December of 2008. At this point in time, the remaining structure was disconnected from the shore and served primarily as a landing zone for tossed rocks. Surprisingly, given it's age, the majority of the wood is in very good condition.

The second image was taken in April of 2009 following several winter storms. During one of the storms, a large log floated down river and became lodged between the pilings. As you might expect, the water level of the river rises during the winter months so the log acted as a demolition battering ram.

During a recent walk I noticed that the log is still wedged between the pilings. I wonder how much of the structure will remain in April of 2010?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Look Up, Look Down, Look Around

As a forester and wild land fire fighter, I was well versed in the near endless training programs designed to increase fire fighter safety. In my opinion, one of the best was titled Look Up, Look Down, Look Around. Its goal was to get the fire fighter to stop and take a minute to size up his environment, access the hazards, then to find way to manage the risks. In a fire situation, the thing that might injure or kill you is not the fire burning directly in front of you. Often far greater danger exist in the tops of trees burning above your head or from objects that might roll down the hill and hit you. In order to make it to another day, you need to always keep looking. I have attempted to use the same principle when out making photographs; just keep looking because the best image is often not in front of you.

The first Sunday in November was a very nice day in Astoria, weather wise, so I make a late afternoon trip to the beach. My original goal was to find a new location to catch the sun set but I began my journey a little too late in the afternoon. By the time I arrived, sun had disappeared into the clouds and from my location it was impossible to find an unobstructed view. At this point I decided to bag it for the day and head home when I looked over my shoulder and noticed the light reflecting off of the south jetty viewing platform. The platform was crowded with people who had come to catch the sunset and perhaps grab a quick picture. In the end, the multitudes departed the viewing platform with pretty much the same image. Despite the fact that I was in a less traditional location for photographing the setting sun, hopefully my image captures a bit more of the spirit and beauty of the evening.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Veteran's Day 2009

Last November, my wife and I traveled to Washington, DC for a week of exploration. One of the joys for me was our visit to the World War II Memorial which is located on the mall adjacent to the Washington Monument. Even by the standards of Washington, DC memorials, it's huge! My photo only shows one side, I am not sure that you could get the entire monument in one photo without resorting to stitching.

My dad was a veteran of WWII but he seldom mentioned his time in the service. If my memory is correct, I remember him making only two off-handed comments that revealed little of that part of his life. To this day, I still wonder why.

Several years ago, I created a page on the World War II Registry in an attempt to honor his contribution to the war effort. If you would like to honor someone or spend a little time browsing, the National WWII Memorial's web site can be found here.

Tomorrow we will once again celebrate Veteran's Day with parades, prayers, and quiet contemplation. If you happen to see a Veteran, take a moment and thank them for their service.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

One Angry Sky

I was returning from a photographic outing to the beach late Friday when I spotted the above scene. The skies were quickly turning angry as a storm cell approach the coast of Washington. I was intrigued by light; the distant hills appeared nearly black despite light filtering through the advancing clouds.

Given the conditions, I knew that the scene would not last long so my challenge was to find a vantage point free of obstructions. Within several seconds of making the image, the sky was lit by lighting which was immediately followed by a deafening clap of thunder. Within thirty seconds of the thunder, the entire coast line was shrouded by the clouds.

It suddenly occurred to me how close I was to the storm and at the moment, I was the highest point in the immediate vicinity. This is clearly something to avoid being during a thunder storm!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Dawn On Halloween Morning

During the twilight hours of Halloween, I made a visit to the city's cemetery. It's not a place I normally frequent but it provides access to one of my favorite wetlands. My original plan was to see how the waters would appear in the early morning light but instead I spotted this "spooky" scene and just could not resist!

It may not have been the best image from this outing but it definitely was the most laughable.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Everything Is Bad For You

I was cleaning one of the shelves in our home library the other day and ran across the classic work by David French titled Everything Is Bad For You, An A to Z Guide To What You Never Knew Could Kill You.

I offer the following excerpt taken from page 18 for your consideration.

Carpenter, Being A -- Save a carpenter: buy plastic furniture. The dust produced while making furniture, cabinets, and other wood products can lead to cancer of the nasal cavities and sinuses.

I wonder what became of the carpenter who hand crafted the door shown in my photo? In the days that the cabin was build, he likely took few considerations for personal safety.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Touch of Fall

The past few weeks, as fellow bloggers have posted the most incredible fall foliage images, has been a joy for me! Having been raised in New England, fall was always my favorite season as the maples turned multiple shades of red, orange, and yellow.

Fall is still a wonderful time in northwest Oregon, but the forests are somewhat lacking in the range of color. Last week I decided to take a drive inland, about twenty miles from the coast, in an attempt to see what this fall had to offer. Unfortunately, the fog persisted most of the afternoon so the color of the big leaf maples were a bit muted. OK, so I cheated a little by adding a little "punch" via Lightroom.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

How Quaint

The arrival of fall means that we once again begin hosting groups of school kids at the museum. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of offering a tour to a group of Boy Scouts who were interested in all things nautical. Since time was not of the essence, it allowed us to explore areas of the museum often left untouched by a typical school group.

I have learned that when giving tours to kids, it often helps to have objects available that they can touch. To me, this "hands on learning" really helps me bring home a point. This is especially important when sharing on events that occurred before the student's birth.

Yesterday, I decided to end my tour in the Navel History gallery; this gallery presents a challenge to even our most experienced docents. Displayed within the gallery's walls are artifacts representing two-hundred plus years of history. The question is always what do you share in the remaining seven minutes of your tour?

Keeping with my "hands on learning" approach, I decided to share a little on what life was like on board a ship during World War II. Proudly displayed in the gallery is the bridge of USS Knapp, a destroyer that saw service in both WWII and the Korean War. It never ceases to amaze me how intrigued the students become when they enter the confined space of the bridge. They are truly fascinated by the dizzying array of switches, levers, and dials along with the Captain's chair and the ship's wheel.

As I was watching and listening to the kids, one of them turned to me and inquired as to what was this contraption hanging from the ship's wall. As I drew closer, I realized that he was asking about the rotary style phone. It was one of those times that you realize how old you have become in relation to the rest of world! You have undoubtedly guessed his next question, "How does it work?" I then proceeded to give a quick demonstration; my only regret was that I did not have a camera to record the look of wonder on their faces!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

To The Top of Beacon Rock

Last week, the long awaited hike to the top of Beacon Rock finally happened. My buddy Dale and I had big plans to do lots of hiking and bike riding this summer, but as the saying goes, "life is what happens when you make plans". In early July, Dale took a temporary job with our previous employer and I got heavily involved with house painting so the summit of Beacon Rock sat on hold. What the heck, the rock is the remains of an ancient volcano so it's not like it was going to move any time soon.

Since we both spent a good deal of our working lives working outside in nasty weather, it's a prime requirement that any out door outing during retirement be planned around good weather. Last Tuesday, we hit pay dirt as the skies were generally clear and the temperature was in the low sixties, perfect conditions for a hike.

Beacon Rock is located at the west end of the Columbia River gorge and is accessible from the Washington side of the river. I have always thought of it as Washington's answer to the Matterhorn in terms of its profile, but measuring a mere 848 feet in elevation, it is far from a technical climb. As a matter of fact, the trail is carved into the basalt slopes and connected by a series of steel grates and small bridges. The view is to die for but without a doubt it would not be a place to be hiking when the trail is covered in snow and ice!

The view from half way up looking west down the Columbia River

An old growth Doug-fir surrounded by fall colors

Dale surveying the trail

A close up of the trail and connecting bridges

If you are ever in the area, this is a must do hike! Even if you take your time a hike to the top takes less than an hour; it's only about 3/4 of a mile to the top. This leads me to believe that when Dale and I get together it's not so much about hiking or biking but more about friendship and socialization.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sunset Over The Pacific

Fall has finally arrived and in my opinion, it is the best time to visit the beach. The days generally tend to be warm and sunny and the evenings are cool and crisp! My kind of weather!

The same conditions make for outstanding sunset photographic opportunities. Those conditions would be that the beach is generally deserted and the sun sets by 6:45 PM so I can make it home before my normal bed time. Does life get any better!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Frazzled Rubeckia

I have been in the mist of painting the house for the past two weeks and feel as frazzled as the rubeckia in the above image. It probably was not the wisest idea to undertake such a project in the middle of September but my plan was to only do two sides, so what did I have to lose!

Typical of any project, the plan has been beset with set back and a steady stream of challenges. The sides I am attempting to paint face the south and west and thus receive direct sun light throughout much of the day. This coupled with the fact that the fiber-cement siding warms very quickly, it sometimes feels like I am attempting to push mud with a stick instead of spreading paint with a brush.

To overcome the hot siding and quick drying paint, I have been painting in the predawn hours on the few mornings that have been fog free. Fortunately, there is a street light just across the street so illumination is available. My wife even offered use of her head lamp; thanks dear!

I now have a better appreciation for why it took Michelangelo so long to paint the Sistine Chapel.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Early Life On The Fire Line

Yesterday, Earl Moore over at Meandering Passages posted an awesome image of storm clouds. He said that they reminded him of the massive columns of smoke rising above the fires burning in the Los Angels area. His comments got me to reminiscing about my days as a forester who also doubled as a wildland fire fighter. My reminiscing sent me to search my photo archives for an image or two of how fires were fought in the "good old" days. I found these beauties, but first this disclaimer: all photos predate the use of the digital camera and all were taken as snap shots while performing some fire related duty.

The first image shows what life on the fire line was like circa 1777; oh how things have changed! The crew is obviously taking a well deserved break and likely eating lunch. In those days, the noon time meal consisted of a baloney sandwich, an apple or an orange and maybe a Hostess Twinkies or two. Yea, believe or not, we actually ate baloney and Twinkies! It's a time honored tradition to complain about fire lunches and being served baloney for several day in a row did little to break the cycle.

Today's fire fighter still complains about the lunches, but believe me, they are now light years past baloney. Meals are now planned to provide sufficient caloric intake to match the physical demands of the job. At most fires, vegetarians will also be provided with a meal suitable for their dietary requirements.

You might also notice how the old school fire fighters once dressed. In times gone by, we wore only cotton shirts and pants along with leather boots. Today, no fire fighter would venture into the burning forest without totally fire resistant clothing, AKA nomax, and a fire shelter that you pray will never be needed!

I took the above photo in August of 1990 while assigned to the Awbury Hall fire which destroyed twenty-two homes west of Bend, OR. The next photo shows a sight all too often seen; the charred skeletal remains of someone's dream home. Prior to 1990, all of the fires I worked actually brunt deep in the forest and when we lost a structure, it was an old mining cabin or a barn. The sight of this many homes consumed in less than twelve hours was something that took me by surprise. Unfortunately over the next ten years of my career, the sight would be repeated many times.

My final image is of every fire fighter's friend, the portable out-house. Now you have appreciate the fact that much of eastern Oregon is very rural and if a community exists, the resident population might not exceed a few hundred. When a fire erupts in the nearby forest, hundreds of fire fighters descend and require the most basic of services. During my career, I worked fires that had fifty or more of the portable "comfort palaces" on site. The man who serviced these necessities was among the busiest individuals one any fire. We were always glade to see him, especially on a hot day!!

The last time I worked the fire lines was the summer of 2003; I can say that for the most part, it was fun while it lasted, but I honestly do not miss it!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Morning Sun

On my early morning bike rides, I frequently pass this long abandoned dock. On more than one occasion, I swear that I've heard Ottis Reddin calling ..........

Sittin' in the morning sun
I'll be sittin there when evening comes
Watching the ships roll in
And then I watch 'em roll away again, yeah

I'm sittin' on the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
Ooo, I'm just sittin' on the dock of the bay
Wastin' time

Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay
by Ottis Reddin and Steve Cropper

OK, so there are a few things that don't exactly jive with the song. First, the dock actually sits on the Columbia River, but it's still a water side location. Then there is the fence and the razor wire; not exactly inviting you sit and ponder life unless you are a seagull!

On the other hand, the photo was taken during the "mornin' sun". The dock however faces due north so seeing the rising sun is not an option unless a celestrial event of unknown magnitude occurs.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Sunday AM Walk

Sunday morning I rose early with the intention of taking a bike ride along the beach but when I to get my bike, the weather changed my mind. During the night, the skies had turned to liquid as a heavy drizzle fell from the sky. As my bike does not have fenders, rides accompanied by any form of precipitation are less than enjoyable.

I changed plans and instead headed to Fort Stevens State Park for a hike along the banks of the Columbia River; just for the fun of it, I brought along the camera. Since it was just after sunrise and the drizzle was on and off, I had relatively low expectations for a photographic outing.

Despite the fact that it was a "low contrast" sort of day, photographically speaking, I was struck by the beauty before my eyes! The peace and quiet was also astounding as I had the entire beach to myself. This seldom happens during the month of August.

Looking east up river towards Astoria

There was an added bonus, the recent high tide had redistributed the sand so my foot prints were the first of the day.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Gardening Update

The above photo shows my vegetable garden as seen just before sunset a few evenings ago. Needless to say, the corn is unlikely to make it before the first frost unless I construct a mini-green house over the plot. I have come to the conclusion that the north Oregon coast is pretty poor country in which to grow corn.

In an attempt to increase my odds, I even planted an early variety call Early Sun Glow which is claims to produce within 63 days of planting. If my memory is correct, I sowed the corn around June 15th, so as of today it's been in the soil for a total of 54 days. Given that, it will take a miracle of unknown proportions in order to be harvesting corn in nine days. If by some chance it actually does, I will not have to hire help to harvest the crop!

Oh well, the radishes, lettuces, and peas that were planted in early June turned out just fine so this vegetable garden thing hasn't been a total waste!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

History or Junk

Last week while greeting visitors at the maritime museum, I had one gentleman ask me why the government doesn't require the removal of the old piling from the river. My first thought went something like this, "why don't people ask questions for which I have a ready answer!" After pausing for a few seconds, I explained that many of these pilings were driven down to a depth of at least twenty feet through the river's sand in order reach bed rock. I went on further to explain that given the presence of endangered salmon species in the river, the work period for such a project would be so restrict and thus quickly become cost prohibitive. He was unimpressed and returned to his original question.

As our conversation continued, I told him that as a thirty-plus year resident of coastal Oregon,
I hardly even noticed them. To me, the old pilings are as much a part of the river as the water and the rocks. I could tell that he was still unimpressed.

Finally, I explained that many of these piling date back to the 1870 and once supported one of the thirty-nine canneries that once lined the lower Columbia River. I further explained that in large measure, they were a large part of the local history and surely he was not advocating the removal of local history. At this point, he smiled and thanked me for my time.

My photo depicts how the"bones" of the Samuel Elmore Cannery appeared on a warm and hazy morning in July of 2009. The concrete structure that dominates the image once housed the oil storage tank which kept the cannery's massive boiler operating. Is it history or junk, you decide.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

From The Earth - To The Moon

Like many youngsters of the 1960s, I was fascinated by anything related to the exploration of outer space. Many a youthful night was spent gazing at the stars and dreaming of the possibilities. I remember vividly President Kennedy's 1961 speech challenging the United States to land a man on the moon and to safely return him to earth. I watched the launch of every project Mercury astronaut beginning with Alan Shepard in 1961 and ending with Gordo Cooper in the spring of 1963.

The anticipation built again in early 1965 when NASA began project Gemini. Over the course of the next twenty months, man returned to space ten times accomplishing feats barley dreamed of in the early 1960s. Can you imagine the thrill astronaut Ed White experienced when he open the capsule door in June of 1965 and became the first human to float into the vastness of outer space!

Finally on July 20th 1969, man reached the surface of the moon and in a sense, the dream ended as the mission was accomplished. Unfortunately, I missed the live television coverage of the historic landing and walk; at the time I was camping with the Boy Scouts in the wilds of northern Idaho. By the end of 1972, man returned to the moon six more times but no visit was more exciting than the first!

I began college in the fall of 1972 and left the dream of outer space behind; instead I choose to pursue a career in forestry. Trust me, that's about a far from the moon as it gets. Like all good dreams, the story doesn't end there. In the fall of 1985, I visited the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. While there, I stood before a capsule from project Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo and for a moment, I was able to relive the dream!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Don't Wait Until It's Too Late

While riding my bike last summer, I passed a local fish cannery and my eye was drawn to their plastic storage bins wrapped in plastic. I returned later in the day and made a number of images; I found the contrasting lines interesting. As the bins had just been placed on the pier, the plastic wrap was neat and tight. I made a mental note to return following several months of weathering to see if the image would improve.

This past Monday, I rode by the cannery once again and was pleased to see that the wrap had become more interesting with several months of weathering. Since the sun barely lite the eastern sky, photography was not an option at the moment. My plan was to return later in the week at a convenient time and to document the change. Alas, I waited too long because when I returned Tuesday, the bins were gone because the cannery had commenced their summer production schedule.

The moral of the story is simple, if you see a subject that is of interest to you, jump on it now because tomorrow may be too late!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

In The Land Of Shadows

As I have said before, the shadow an object cast is often more interesting to me than the thing its self. Early one sunny morning, a rare event here, I noticed the magic created by a huge tulip popular on an office wall. I was busy with another mission that day so was unable to return with the camera. Finally, on May 5th everything came together and I spent nearly an hour capturing the shadows.

Now that summer is here, the tree is fully leafed-out and the finely detailed shadows are lost. Rest assured, they will return next spring!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

How To Aviod The Sixty-Four Dollar Tomato

In the early years of my youth, I always looked forward to the arrival of spring and the Burpbee's seed catalog. I would read the catalog from cover to cover and dream of growing all the latest varieties of fruits and vegetables. My gardening routine was always the same; late June the soil was prepared, the seeds were planted at the proper depth, followed by periodic applications of life sustaining water.

If you have ever grown a garden, then you know that seldom does the crop you harvest look anything like the pictures you saw in the seed catalog. Even the produce I purchase in my mega-monster grocery store fails to compare. The producers of seed catalogs must employ some sort of trick photography.
Today's photo shows what my garden looked like the third week in June. I obviously will not be feeding a starving planet with my extra produce! As of today, the corn plant are about six inches in height; far short of the Iowa standard of "knee high by the forth of July". This year, I planted a high yield variety of sweet corn that matures in sixty days. It won't have to yield much to beat last year's crop of six stubby-malformed ears. When I cut the corn from the ears, it hardly filled a cup!
So why do I continue to garden year after year? I suppose partly because it's a fun activity and maybe because I believe that this year will be better than the last. Who knows, maybe it will!
If you want learn how gardening went from a hobby, to a passion and then ended as an obsession, check out William Alexander's The $64 Tomato. Trust me, you laugh until you cry.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Home Improvement?

If only home improvement project were as fun or easy as they appear to be in the near endless array of home and garden shows available on any cable network. One way or another, all of my projects go through the following stages:
  1. The early excitement of planning
  2. Joy and exuberance as the project begins
  3. Set backs early on day number one
  4. The arrival of reality on day two; what was I thinking!
  5. Acceptance on day three; now you started it, you have to finish it!

And so it goes with my plan to wall paper and paint the bedroom, living room, and the dining room before summer's end.

Actually, the wall paper peeled from the wall without too much difficulty. The paper's backing and the glue's residue were another story. I spent about ten hours scrapping off the old glue; as you might have guessed, I nicked the wall in several places. The next step will be patching and sanding each of the nicks and gouges before even opening a can of paint.

Oh how the joys of home ownership are never ending!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


It is often said that gratitude is an attitude, but I wonder if we actually live our lives believing that it's true. A few weeks ago while visiting the east coast, I had the opportunity to spend the evening with an old high school friend . The past eighteen months have been difficult for he and his wife; she has waged an ongoing battle with cancer. As I write, it appears that the battle has been successful, but the unintended consequences of chemotherapy and radiation linger.

During dinner, I asked Cheryl how she was doing and she responded as follows: "Today is a good day, but you know, every day is a good day." What an attitude!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

School’s Out

Today is the last official day for the school year here in Astoria; it will likely be a noisy ride on the school bus this afternoon! I still remember fondly the summers of my youth; I always had a near endless list of activities to carry me through the months of June, July and August. If memory serves me, the list included lots of the following:
  • Early morning swimming lessons in the ice cold waters of the town pool
  • Afternoons spent in the same icy waters swimming
  • Bike rides into town to buy popsicles
  • Pitching a tent and camping out in the back yard while the mosquitoes feasted on us
  • Waiting until the last minute to begin the summer reading
  • Attending Boy Scout camp in August on Cape Cod

So what’s on tap for me this summer? At the moment, much of the summer will be absorbed painting the bed room, living room, and the dining room. Boy, how I miss the summers of old!!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

You Can Never Go Home

I have no idea where this adage originated but without question, it is true! I recently returned from a trip to Massachusetts, the land of my childhood. Every trip home reminds me of how much my life has changed since high school graduation in 1972. It also causes me to wonder where I might be if I had not moved west to attend Washington State University and study forestry. I never have to ponder the question too long to know that I made a good move in 1972!

The reason for my visit home was for the celebration of my mother’s eighty-fifth birthday. As the longevity gene dominates her side of the family, it will not be too long before we gather for her ninetieth! I did however note that as life’s milestones become larger, the corresponding celebrations become smaller. The unfortunate part of longevity is that each year, your list of contemporaries decreases.

During this trip east, I also had a chance to visit the site where I fought my first forest fire in the spring of 1971. I couldn’t help but chuckle when I remembered how unprepared we were to be working on a fire line. I also recalled that for supper that evening, the fire department treated us to bologna on white bread. Thankfully, the food served on the fire lines has improved greatly in the past thirty plus years.

After seven days of clear skies and comfortable temperatures, I boarded the plane and headed to south Florida for a quick visit with my aunt. When I planned this trip about eight weeks ago, my hope was that I might arrive early enough to avoid “the season of heat and humidity”. Alas, my hopes were quickly washed away as the flight approached West Palm Beach during a violent thunder storm. After circling the airport for twenty-five minutes, the captain announced that we needed to divert to Fort Lauderdale for fuel. After maybe another fifteen minutes of flight, the captain announced that the weather in Fort Lauderdale was adverse for landing so our next stop would be Miami. As I looked out the window, I saw a nearly endless wall of towering storm clouds. I couldn’t help but wonder what plan D would be if a decent into Miami failed. A quick check of the map confirmed that there were no airports south of Miami, unless you consider Havana, Cuba to be a viable option. Fortunately, the storm abated for a time and we quickly descended into Miami International for fuel and a safe haven to wait out the storm. After ninety minutes, we once again headed north and arrived in West Palm Beach, three hours late, but in one piece!

I spent a couple of days reminiscing with my aunt before once again boarding a plane for Oregon. Over the years I have made several visits to Florida but my visits were during the months of November or March, definitely at times when the heat and humidity is more tolerable!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Earl Returns To Strum Creek

In November of 1977, both my friend Earl Rivers and I became the latest hires by the Dept. of Forestry in Astoria. Although more than a few years have passed, I still remember our early days as “new out of the box” foresters. To say that we were filled with wonder and awe for the job would be putting it politely. In those days, everything was new and exciting and we could not wait for the next experience offered by the job. Do you remember those days?

At any rate, Earl stopped by the house yesterday and wanted to take a ride to woods and see some forest tracts in which we worked during the early 1980s. For some reason he was especially interested in finding a track known as Strum Creek No. 3 and asked if I might remember where it is. Oh sure, no problem; the district on which we once worked is about 68 square miles in size and the area of his inquiry might be the size of a K-Mart parking lot. Since Earl left our work unit in 1985 and moved to eastern Oregon, I figured that his recall of the area might be somewhat fuzzy. If I got him close, that might be good enough for this trip down memory lane.

Not two minutes after leaving the highway, Earl commented that this part of the forest sure looked different than we he last saw it in 1985. I reminded him that over the past 24 years the trees have had a chance to put on a little growth; even an old forester has to be reminded that the forest is dynamic. As we rounded a sharp bend in the road, I reminded Earl of a time that he and I had spent a day measuring trees in this very spot. Sadly, he failed to remember, time is funny that way.

After twenty minutes of travel through the “forest of our youth” I stop the truck on a ridge high above Strum Creek. At this point, Earl got out of the truck and said that he remembered the access point being not from a ridge but adjacent to a creek bottom. He was saddened to learn that the access road he remembered had been closed or in forestry speak, put to bed, 15 years ago. In order to make it a total experience, I offered to drive back down to the highway and wait while he walked down hill through the tract. He showed little interest in my suggestion when I reminded him that he would be traveling 2.5 miles before meeting me at the highway. Somehow, the forest of our youth seems to have become a whole lot bigger with time!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

An Easter Tradition

Since the early 1940s, the local Pioneer Church has adorned their front lawn with a cross made from the clipped daffodils blooms. The cross announces the arrival of Easter and serves as a reminder to all who drive by of Christ's death and resurrection. It is also one awesome sight, especially when you consider that a hand full of people spent a day cutting and arranging the blooms. The church’s web site claims that the display requires 50,000 blooms; I honestly didn’t take the time to count but as the cross is over thirty feet in length, the estimate is certainly plausible.

Directly behind the church is the pioneer cemetery, the earliest burial dates back to 1850. Time has certainly weather the site and many of the graves are now unmarked because the original wooden markers rotted away long ago.

There are however several stone markers like the one shown in the picture. I have always been fascinated by this particular marker, it has stood the test of time and continues to reach for the sky.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Terse Message Indeed

In the early hours of January 7th, the steamer Rosecrans transmitted the following message: “We are breaking to pieces on the bar – send assistance – ship breaking up fast – can stay at my station no longer - goodbye.” This quick message announced the end for one of the unluckiest ships to ever set sail.

To fully understanding the story, perhaps more detail would be helpful. The steamer Rosecrans was a tanker owned by the Associated Oil Company, loaded with 19,000 barrels of oil, bound for Portland, Oregon. As the ship approached the entrance to the Columbia River with gale force winds driving a blinding sleet, the ship’s second officer made a small but fatal navigational error. The year was 1913; radar and GPS were yet to come, navigation depended solely on charts and the reference points provided by the light from lighthouses. In the stormy darkness, the officer mistook the light of the North Head lighthouse for that of the Lightship Columbia. His error placed the ship on a course that was less than two miles off shore. The standard course for entering the river is to approach no less than five miles from shore and then turn east into the river. His mistaken course directed the ship to steam head long into the south jetty (the massive rock wall in the picture) and as it rode up and over the jetty, the hull was torn to pieces. The ship quickly sunk sending thirty-three crewmen into a watery grave.

So why was the Rosecrans consider to be so unlucky? During its life, the ship was reincarnated several times before finally sinking. Originally launched in Glasgow, Scotland in 1833 as the Methven Castle, she served as a mail carrier until 1898. Later that year, the United States purchased her to serve as a troop transport during the Spanish-American war. Following the war’s end, she was sold as surplus and acquired by the Associated Oil Company who converted her into a tanker, renamed the Rosecrans.

In the early 1900s, while sailing along the California coast, she was driven onto the beach during a fierce storm. Following the grounding, insurance listed her as a total loss; however Associated Oil decided to rebuild the ship. Shortly thereafter while loading oil while tied to a pier, the ship caught fire. Once again the ship was rebuilt and placed back into service. On the night of January 7, 1913, the final bell tolled as the steamer quietly sunk into the grave yard of the Pacific.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Color Of Spring

A quick glance at the calendar tells me that spring is nearly one week old. Well, as of today, I still can not see it in the sky or feel it in the air. I did however find an ornamental cherry tree beginning to sport it's colors. Maybe that's the best we can do for the last week of March 2009!

Oh how I envy you folks who live in the southeast and have been posting photos of beautiful spring flowers. My envy will end abruptly when your temperature reaches eighty degrees; then you are on your own!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spring Begins On Friday?

Boy, as I look out the window, it's difficult to believe that spring actually begins tomorrow! At the present moment, the skies are dark and it looks as if a torrent of rain will be unleash at any moment. The temperature is also a balmy 45 degrees.

A sure sign of spring will be when my neighbor's rose bush begins to produce foliage. A few weeks ago when I made this image of a gigantic rose hip's shadow, the new buds were begin to swell. Sadly, when the foliage finally appears, the wall of the house will be obliterated and so goes my opportunities for shadows. On the other hand, as long as the sun shines, there will always be another shadow somewhere!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Saint Patrick’s Day On The Coast

Not being Irish, I never really understood St. Patrick’s day and all things green, but why let a little thing like understanding ruin your day. So in honor of St. Patrick, I decided to see if I could find something green to photograph in honor of the patron saint. As it turned out, today was not the day for color of any sort because the skies were shrouded in deep overcast. At times, the overcast was broken by periods of intense showers which even included hail. A great day for photography!

The photo was taken from the banks of the Columbia River about thirteen miles east of Astoria. I seriously doubt the patron saint ever wander in these parts. If he did, it’s unlikely that he saw much in the way of green during mid-March.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Happy Pi Day

Just in case you are looking for a reason to celebrate, be sure to mark Saturday, March 14th on your calendar. In the world of mathematics, it's known as international pi day.

Pi, not to be confused with a delicious desert, instead it is one of the most important mathematical constants known; countless formulas are dependent upon its value. Simply stated, pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. For you non-math types such as myself, pi is a number which is equal to 3.14.

My first introduction to pi was not in a math class but surprisingly at Boy Scout camp in the summer 1966. We were camped at Butler Beach on Cape Cod and while huddled around the camp fire, someone noticed a blinking light in the evening sky. Immediately a couple of the older scouts proceeded to the beach to scan the sky, free of the campfire’s light. After a while my curiosity got the better of me and I proceeded to the beach to see what all the fuss was about. Alpin C. and a few of the other senior scouts had decided that the light was most definitely a UFO and they were discussing signaling the space craft using Morse code via a flash light. As I listen to the discussion, the consensus of opinion was that the message must be a series of numbers. So without missing a beat, Alpin grabbed a flashlight and began signaling deep space or as deep as the light from a flashlight might reach! Out of curiosity, I interrupted Alpin and asked what he was saying. He turned to me and announced that he was sending pi; my next question was what the heck is pi. When he finished signaling, he politely explained more than I ever wanted to know about pi. I suppose it goes without saying that Alpin was brilliant and graduated high school at the top of his class. He later attended both Brown University and MIT majoring in mathematics and computer science. I have to admit, the man certainly knew his pi!

But now back to 1966, Butler Beach, and the UFO. Even at that point in my life I had little appreciation for anything extraterrestrial. I walked away wondering why pi was the message chosen on that August night. While taking modern math in junior high a few years later, I came to learn that mathematics is considered to be the “universal language”. OK, so maybe if the blinking light actually was a UFO, presumably they would have understood the message. Years later, I still think that maybe a more neighborly message might have been to simply say hello or to invite our intergalactic friends to stop by our camp for a meal. The food as I recall was very good and we even had pie and ice cream most evenings. Surely such a treat would be fit for an intergalactic traveler!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Spring Is On The Horizon?

January and February were always two of the gloomiest months when I worked in the woods to earn my living. By that time of the year, all of the annual vegetation such as the pearly everlasting or the thistles had long since died and turned brown. Frequently, the conifer trees would also begin to exhibit their displeasure with winter. Their foliage would begin to show the signs of damage from the desiccating force of the winds. Limbs, that had been ripped free of the tree’s trunk would also be scattered about the forest floor. All this would bear witness to the destructive forces of multiple winter storms along the north Oregon coast.

Pearly Everlasting

Thistle, it may be dead but it still bites!

In just a few hours we will “spring forward” into daylight savings time, assuming I can successfully reset the clock on the microwave. Oh that it would be as quick of a transition from winter into spring!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Stuck In The Shadows

I frequently find the shadow of an object more interesting than the thing its self. I was recently fascinated by the shadows cast by an overgrown rose bush onto the side of a house. I made a number of images as the sun's light progressed along the house but I found these two to be the strongest of the bunch.

Many thanks to my neighbor for providing the rose bush and the side of his house for use as a photographic project. He is also aware that the siding is in desperate of a paint job!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The “Local” Moai

I have always been fascinated with rocks of any kind. Being raised in New England, huge boulders deposited by retreating glaciers are a common sight. Our back yard had several that were larger than a VW Bug; we frequently used them for hiding places while playing hid and seek. So in every sense of the word, I was raised among the rocks.

So you might wonder why I became a forester as opposed to say a stone mason. Well, I also loved trees and fire; as a forester I was able to work with both. Fortunately, a career in forestry also gave me the opportunity to hike and climb on rocks of monstrous proportions, so in a sense I had the best of both worlds.

If I had a bucket list, it certainly would include a trip to the Easter Islands to hike among the giant Moai. The pictures I have seen of them are absolutely breathtaking but a picture only goes so far; there is no substitute for being there!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More Hidden Treasures

These images are a few more "hidden treasures" from my abandoned Pullman rail car project . The more I review the entire collection, it makes me wonder if I should offer them to the local psychologists as an alternative for ink blots. Maybe I could derive a few dollars to reinvest at our local Starbucks.

The eye of the bat

The walking bat

The old warrior