Friday, November 29, 2013

Giving Thanks

I was out for my afternoon walk on Wednesday when I encountered one of our local homeless men sitting in front of the book store.  We have become acquainted over the years as he hangs out in the local coffee shop I frequent in the early morning.  As I greeted him, he interrupted me and blurted out, “I hope that you have a happy Thanksgiving!”

As I continued my walk, I reflected on how blessed my life has become.  Despite that fact that there are things I want on a daily basis, there is nothing that I truly need.  It doesn’t get much better than that my friends. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Fall Celebration


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As a kid, the month of October was always one of my favorite months.  The trees in New England would be ablaze with color, the lawns were encrusted with frost, and Halloween candy was abundant!

Last week I captured some of the fall colors that I found while walking around Astoria.  Not exactly the range or intensity of colors you might see in New England but they were still cause for a celebration.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Road Trip 2013

I have never been considered a spontaneous person; by nature I am a planner who appreciates order and purpose.  So it came as a surprise to my lovely wife when I recently announced that I was going to make a road trip while the weather was still agreeable. It has be a long held desire to visit the historic sites along the Lewis and Clark trail that passes through Idaho and Montana.  So in the predawn hours of September 3rd, I departed home with my traveling bag, camera, and a road map and headed east.

I had decided that this trip would not be destination driven; I was going to enjoy the journey as it unfolded.  As I passed east of Portland, I decided to travel up the Columbia River and through the Gorge on the Washington side traveling state highway 14.  I knew this would be a slower route but time was not a concern; a different route seemed like a good choice.

My first stop was just west of what was once known as Cascade Rapids.  At this point, Lewis and Clark and the Corp of Discovery portaged their canoes around the last section of white water on the Columbia River.  It was also at point that the river’s waters began to be influenced by the tidal effects of the Pacific Ocean.  Lewis described this portion of the river in his journal entry dated November 2nd 1805:  “At this place the first tide-water commences, and the river is consequence widened immediately below the rapid…. and at some distance from the hills, stands a high perpendicular rock, about eight hundred feet high and four hundred yards round the base; this we called the Beacon rock.”

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The Columbia River with Beacon Rock in the distance

Leaving the Columbia River and turning northeast, I continued across the Columbia Plateau as I passed through the southeast corner of Washington State.  Just before sunset, I arrived in Lewiston, Idaho which sits at the junction of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers.   Lewis and Clark canoed down both rivers on their way to the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean in 1805.

From Lewiston, I traveled Highway 12 which parallels the Lochsa River.  The river is designated as a National Wild and Scenic River and has remained much as it was when the Corp of Discovery passed by in 1805.  In the late spring, the river’s flow is swelled by the runoff from the melting snowpack creating incredible conditions for white water rafting.

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The Locsus River near Powell Ranger Station

On their journey to the Pacific Ocean, the Corp of Discovery was led across the Bitterroot Mountains by a member of the of the Shoshone tribe.  Following the trail used by Native Americans for centuries, they slowly moved westward.  Lewis describes the trail on September 12th as follows:  “The road had been very bad during the first part of the day, but the passage of the mountain … was very painful to the horses, as we were obligated to go over steep stony sides of hills and along the hollows and ravines, rendered more disagreeable by the fallen timber…“

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Lolo Pass looking north

Lolo Pass is the highest point on the trail the Corp of Discovery used to cross the Bitterroot Mountains.  The day they crossed the pass, they were assailed by rain, hail, and snow.  The afternoon I crossed, the skies were clear and the temperature hovered near eighty degrees.

Descending east from Lolo Pass, you enter the great State of Montana, aka as Big Sky Country.  Montana is the fourth largest state in the union so it’s not just the sky that’s big.  My ultimate destination was Helena, the state’s capital and the Missouri River. 

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Looking north from the outskirts of Helena, MT

The Corp of Discovery spent the winter of 1805-1805 encamped along the Missouri River at Fort Mandan which is in present day North Dakota.  Continuing their upriver journey in early April, over three months would pass before they encountered the Great Falls of the Missouri River near present day Great Fall, MT.  In total, a series of five waterfall makes up the Great Falls of the Missouri and each one required the Corp to portage their boats and equipment in order to gain passage.  With the Great Falls behind them, Clark set out on foot in search of the Shoshones people in order to purchase horses for the trip over the Rocky Mountains. Lewis continued by boat up the Missouri River.

On the evening of July 19th, Lewis and his party encounter a canyon that appeared to have forced it way through the immense body of solid of rock for a distance of five and three-quarters miles.  Lewis comments as follows:  “… from the singular appearance of this place I called it the gates of the rocky mountains.”

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The Gates of the Rocky Mountains as seen from the Missouri River looking south

Lewis went on to describe this portion of the river as follows:  “… these clifts rise from the waters edge to the hight of 1200 feet. every object here wears a dark and gloomy aspect. the towering and projection rocks in many places seem ready to tumble on us…”

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The limestone cliffs continue to tower high above the river

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When Lewis passed through, he spent much of his time attempting to find a flat spot along the river’s edge large enough to camp out for the night.  I on the other hand spent a leisurely hour and a half floating the river while be totally amazed by the surrounding beauty.

After five days and nearly a thousand miles traveled, I returned home with hundreds of photos and a new appreciation for the hardships faced by Lewis and Clark and the Corp of Discovery.  I am also looking forward to my next road trip!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Clearing Skies



Clearing Skies

Since Friday, the north coast of Oregon has been pounded by three powerful Pacific storms which produced record setting rainfall and wind gusts that exceeded fifty miles per hour.  Needless to say, we were not wanting for fresh air.  It was also wet, my rain gauge recorded nearly eight inches during the storm’s.

It was with great joy that I found clearing skies while visiting the beach this morning to check out the surf.  Hopefully we will see more of the sun as the week progresses.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Storm Light



Beards Hollow

Today could best described as blustery.  One minute the wind was blowing the rain sideways, then thirty minutes later it was calm with patches of sunshine.  During one of the calm periods, I made a trip to Beards Hollow, which is located on the Washington coast.  I spent an hour photographing the wetlands and the bluffs overlooking the ocean with little success.  As the sky off to the west began to threaten rain, I began the mile hike back to my truck.  As I turned to leave, I noticed the last of the sunshine as it lit up the dunes and beach grass.  Despite getting wet, the adventure was well worth it!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Approaching Storm



I made a mad dash to the beach yesterday in an attempt to catch the last of the summer as the first storm of the season rolled on shore.  As I arrived at the South Jetty, the skies opened into a down pour but I got a quick glimpse of the last of summer to the south.  Sometimes you get lucky and that only adds joy to the journey!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

My Wife’s Vacation

My lovely wife typically takes her vacation during the first week of August and her request for this year was to go to someplace that would not be hot.  Finding a cool destination during the summer months is somewhat of a challenge and whereas we visited Alaska last summer, that option was off the table.  After a little discussion, we finally decided that a trip down the Oregon coast would fulfill all of her vacation objectives.  We have both lived in Oregon more than thirty years and both of us have traveled the length of the coast once, so we knew that had to be at least a few hidden gems left unexplored.

Our first stop was in Tillamook which is known as the “land of cheese, trees, and ocean breeze'”.  The area is home to several large scale dairy operations that supply the milk used to produce Tillamook cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and butter.  If you have never tried the cheese or yogurt, I envy you because you still have something to look forward to in life.

Our first undiscovered gem was a visit to the Tillamook Air Museum which houses one of this country’s top privately held collections of World War II aircraft.  Even more impressive is the building that houses the air craft.  During World War II, the it housed blimps that were part of the costal defense system.


Tillamook Naval Air Station Blimp Hangar B 

The building is massive; it is believed to be the world’s largest wooden, free standing, clear-span buildings.  It measures in at 1,072 feet in length, 296 feet in width, and looms over15 stories in height.  To give you some sense of scale, the structure covers an area approximately equal to three football field end to end.


The building was capable of housing eight blimps AKA known as air ships that were nearly 200 feet in length

While in Tillamook, we also visited the Cape Meares Light which is also known as Oregon’s shortest lighthouse.  Measuring a mere 28 feet in height, the light was one of twelve lighthouses that once safely guided ships as the navigated the Oregon coast.


Cape Meares Light


My lovely wife at Cape Meares searching for sea birds that inhabit the rocky cliffs

Continuing our drive south, we arrived at Newport which is the largest community on the coast of Oregon.  Newport is home to the Oregon Coast Aquarium which is a world class aquarium and frequently ranked as one of the top ten aquariums in North America.  The Passages of the Deep exhibit allows you to immerse yourself in the ocean without getting wet. A series of underground walkways pass through the center of the three massive tanks; while you pass through, sharks and other species of fish glide by and literally surround you.  Several of the exhibits have a “hands on component” which furthers the visitor’s experience.  If you are ever in the vicinity of Newport, do not miss the aquarium. 

One of the most recognizable sights in Newport is the Yaquina Bay Bridge.  Completed in 1936, it was the last of the eleven bridges necessary to complete the 363 Oregon Coast Highway.


The Yaquina Bay Bridge just before sunset as the fog rolled in from the ocean


Newport is the homeport to the majority of Oregon’s commercial fishing fleet

Nothing describes the Oregon coast in the summer better than the word foggy.  It often begins to roll off of the cool ocean waters in the early afternoon and frequently shrouds the coastline until late morning.


The fog beginning its evening journey from the ocean to land



Jackets are a near constant companion for those visiting the coast during the summer months

Overall, we had a great trip despite the lack of sunshine and the near constant fog.  On the other hand, I never once heard my lovely wife once comment that it was too hot.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Our Old House




The painting shown above will not be found hanging on the wall of any museum or gallery.  Instead, it has hung proudly on our living room wall for nearly twenty-seven years.  It was a gift given to me by my lovely wife to commemorate our first anniversary.  After all these years, it continues to be among our most cherished possessions.

I still remember unwrapping it and marveling at how the artist had captured the essence of our humble home.  We also found it interesting that the homes of neighbors’ she included belonged to people with whom we were well aquatinted.  Each one of those individuals was special to us in some way so the story begins.

The white house directly to the right was once owned by Gary and Jan.  It had been vacant for at least three years so it came as a surprise when they pulled into the driveway one winter day.  To say that they were noisy would be an understatement.  With two vehicles, three dogs, two cats, and two teenagers, I feared that we would have little in common.  Over the years, they became the closest members of our neighborhood family.  I spent many a summer evening sitting on Gary and Jan’s front porch visiting while drinking coffee.  Sadly, Jan died from cancer way before her time leaving behind a big hole in the neighborhood.  Since then, summer evenings have never been quite the same.

The red townhouses direct above Gary and Jan’s were owned by Ruth and Leona, both of whom were longtime residents of Astoria.  We first met Ruth while visiting the Methodist church; she was a retired nurse and never without a smile or a word of encouragement.  Leona was just the opposite; the word curmudgeon would best describe her personality.  I will never forget the day she announced that she would no longer walk by our house because she didn’t like the color of green we had recently painted it.  I just smiled and told her okay!

The pale green house behind and to the left of our house was owned by a man named Frank.  He was a man of few words but when he did speak it was always something good.  His yard and garden were among the best kept in the neighborhood.  Frank was also the first to decorate his house for Christmas; try as I might, I never was able to get our Christmas lights hung before first.

The big brown house directly behind Frank’s was once owned by Sylvia T.  Sylvia could best be described as a senior member of the “flower power generation”.  She played a vital role in the formation of our neighborhood association. She was also a hoot to be around and I would often stop by her bookstore just to visit.

The big green house behind Silvia’s was owned by a charming senior citizen named Virginia who also a long time resident of Astoria.  Virginia was a very sweet lady who could best be described as a talker.  Anytime I saw her walking down the sidewalk, I knew that she would have my ear for at least fifteen minutes.  Most of what I know of local history I learned from Virginia.  When the winter rains begin in late October, I have little reason to be working in the yard so it was not unusual to not see Virginia for months.  One summer day it occurred to me that I should have seen her by now and remarked the same to her neighbor.  Sadly I learned that she had died quietly during the winter, apparently her family didn’t hold a memorial service to honor her life. 

Except for Sylvia and Gary, all of the others passed away years ago and their former residences have been bought and sold at least twice.  Apparently long term home ownership is a thing of the past.  Sylvia left town many years ago to be closer to her family and we lost touch.  Gary retired last year and has moved to western Washington to live closer to his new wife’s family.  As I write this post, Gary’s former house finally sold after being empty for nearly two years.  I can’t wait to become acquainted with our newest neighbors.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Waiting At Anchor



The freighter Ultra Esterhazy waits patiently at anchor on a recent cool and foggy morning.  The ship is massive, its overall length is nearly as long as two football fields placed end to end.  To get a sense of its size, click on the photo for a larger image and you will see crewmen standing near the rail midship.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Sunrise Through The Fog



A tranquil Sunday morning on the Columbia River as the sun rose through the low clouds and fog.  Mornings do not get much better than this!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

July 4th At The Coast



It was a gray, low contrast sort of day on the Oregon coast just south of Cannon Beach this morning.  At the time that the photo was taken, the winds were calm and the temperature was not quite sixty degrees.  It may be a bit cool, but it sure beats the heat of the southwest or the humidity of the east coast!  Have a great July 4th.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Early Morning On The River



A river, though has so many things to say that it is hard to know what it says to each of us.  Norman Maclean


I took a drive to the Twilight Creek Eagle Sanctuary just after sunrise this morning.  The sanctuary is part of the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuse just east of Astoria.  The early morning air was warm and filled by the sounds of the songbirds.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Memorial Day and Giving Thanks




Giving thanks for those who served and remembering the many who never returned.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Thoughts On The Forest

The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except for those that sang the best ..... Henry Van Dyke