We got tickets in San Francisco to see Leonard Cohen over Easter weekend. Brian took a few days off and we drove down to explore.
The last few times I’ve driven to California, I took Hwy 101 along the coast, so I don’t think I’ve driven on I-5 on that stretch since I was a kid. It’s well worth it – you go from Portland, to Salem’s farmlands, to forests, to the mountains and up and down and up and down, to farmlands in California before bursting into San Francisco.
I drove Oregon, so I don’t have many pictures of that. We pulled over in Grants Pass to look at the monument to Oregon Cavemen. Here he is, in all his glory:
Continuing on, we hit the mountains near Ashland, and it was very beautiful. The rest of the drive until a good ways into California looked like this (click on it to make it larger, beautiful mountains):
As you cross the pass into California, you get a beautiful view of Mt Shasta, which was shrouded in clouds that day. Off in the distance, we saw Black Butte, which seems to sit at the bottom of Mt Shasta as if it’s waiting for you. Just at the point where you are convinced you will be driving over it, zoooom, the highway goes slightly to the right.
When we got into California, we saw signs that said that all vehicles must exit. Joking about the time Brian took a roadtrip into Canada and had to eat an apple every mile or toss them, we decided to finish off the strawberries quickly (mmmmmm so worth it). That’s the only reason I didn’t have to lie when the bored looking border guy asked, “Any fruit in your car?”
We got into San Francisco about 10:30 that night (yeah, we got a late start out of Portland) and walked around a little. We ended up eating at the restaurant attached to the Sir Francis Drake because of how late it was. The hostess there was so cool – she was older than us, but infinitely more elegant and cool than almost anyone I know.
Off to our room on the 7th floor, and to bed (more later, don’t want to type everything at once. You wouldn’t read it if I did).
I’ve been feeling really cooped up lately. In an effort to save money, I’ve been trying to focus on things at home. Which is fine in moderation, but I’m the sort of person who needs to get out and do new things and explore and hang out, so after a while, it turns into a pent-up restless cabin-fever.
So yesterday, in an effort to alleviate that, we decided to drive to Mt St Helens. It was interesting because I didn’t really care if we made it all the way there, and it was raining, and would likely be dark by the time we got to anywhere. Which is fine – it’s more that I needed to see new things. We took Highway 30 most of the way to avoid I-5.
The colors were beautiful. A number of times, I almost pulled of the road just to admire a particularly brilliant tree. We drove through small towns and talked about the good signs (vintage) and the bad (wow, one town was honestly nothing by chain stores as much as we could tell).
As we started the loop around the mountains, the rain turned into some pretty strong fog, and the temperature started dropping. I knew it was supposed to snow, and I don’t have chains for my car yet, so I kept a pretty close eye on the temperature.
Some of this drive is pretty disconcerting – when you are several thousand feet up, and as you approach a bridge, you realize how slender its supports look, and that this area is extremely prone to earthquakes. There’s rocks that crash down the side of the mountains into the roads, and you see them on the side of the road, smashed to bits. You can see the stress fractures in the roads from earthquakes and winter weather, and it makes you think about the brave people who put the roads there in the first place. This particular drive has the added oddness that all the trees are the exact same age which is very, very disconcerting to the eye. You feel like you are looking at lego trees, or that you are actually having that strange dream, you know, that one. The fog really didn’t help with that feeling.
At around 4000 feet, we realized it was definitely going to freeze in the next hour or so, and the clouds and fog were going to prevent us from seeing much more than we were seeing, and it was going to be dark in 20 minutes. So we took a few pictures, and basked in the complete silence of that lonely mountain road (we only saw one other car on it when we were heading up) and headed back. We saw the base of Mt St Helen’s, and its snowline, but that’s as close as we got.
A complete success as far as I’m concerned. We are going to go back on a clearer day to take better pictures, and go the visitors’ center for Mt St Helens, but what a great day to go for a wander. I’m feeling much better today.
We went to Powell Butte for the hike.
I saw my first mountain finder since I moved back here – I’m looking forward to the one on the way to John Day next month. Mountain finders are pointers in the ground that point at each mountain you can see and give you its name. In this case, it also gave you the elevation of the mountain and distance from Powell Butte. Since a storm was moving in, we “only” saw the various buttes, Mt. St. Helen’s, Mt. Jefferson, and Mt. Hood. Mt Adams wasn’t visable. Poor us, hehe. Nice to be back by the mountains. That was on the “Mountain View” part of the hike.
I also saw evidence of “spit bugs” which I haven’t really even thought of since I was a kid. I remember learning about them at one point or another, but their real name obviously hasn’t stuck with me. I do remember that you could gently feel around in the spit and eventually find the bug that did it. Brian was slightly disturbed when I pointed that out.
The Mountain View Hike was definitely not long enough for me to count it as that day’s exercise, so we went on the Meadowview trail and branched of on the Old Holgate Road trail. The Old Holgate Road was amazing, going into something old and deeply green and there was no way you felt like you were really in a city anymore (Powell Butte is ten minutes from where we live). It really felt like we were walking on our way to a fairy tale.
The fairy tale feeling was a little more pronounced when we saw various pre-teens jumping off the trail (if you saw what a long drop it was to ground level, you’d understand why we were startled and concerned) and that was followed by a bizarre experience with two men sitting on a pipe on the side of the trail. They were wearing dress pants, button up shirts and smoking. They were also talking very rapidly in what I think was russian, but I could also be talked into some of the eastern europe languages. And listening to angry techno music on some sort device. Okaaaay. It’s a bit of a hike to get to this point, and muddy, so that’s odd, but to each their own. A nod and a smile at them (they mostly just glowered politely) and we continued on.
Annnnnnnnd on the way back,they were still there. Smoking, listening to angry techno, talking rapidly in russian. Fine, fine.
A little way up, we decided to stop, eat an apple and drink some water (we’d been hiking for two or three hours by that point). And here come our techno friends, marching up the hill smoking, talking somberly, and of course, listening to angry techno.
Very strange. Would love to have known why they were hiking in dress clothes and what they were talking about. It really did make me feel like I was in a strange story.
Not that this is a surprise to anyone, but I love living here. When I think of all the stuff we have to look forward to doing, and all the places in Oregon I haven’t been to for at least a decade, I get so excited. I still gasp, literally, each time I come around a corner and see a mountain. It gets Brian every time – he says, concerned, “What?” and I have to say “Sorry, I saw a mountain.”
I’m working pretty hard again to get fit, and Oregon is definitely my motivation. So many hikes I want to take, and I can’t do them if I’m too out of breath.
Just wanted to note that before I head out for the day, that’s all. I’m pretty lucky, and I love my life.
(aside) As I type out the HTML to create these, I feel so old-school. That’s how I used to update my webpages, by hand, before I developed a database for them. And once blogging software was released, I eventually moved over to that, conceding that while I could write my own, I might as well be writing words than code for something like this and just use what is already there.
One sunny afternoon in May, my mother gathered my sister and I and led us into our backyard. Our backyard, you see, had a beautiful view of Mt. St. Helen’s. I can remember where we stood in the yard, and even what I was wearing. She wanted us to be able to watch a volcano erupt with our own eyes. I remember standing there, watching it, and thinking that it just looked like a large dark cloud had gone near the mountain. And I remember how it looked, as it grew and grew.
I remember people being afraid that they were going to damage their lungs, and going around in surgical masks. I remember days where you weren’t supposed to go outside because the ash blow was too bad. I collected ash with my mom from our driveway and sidewalks to put in jars to remember this. And after things quieted down (months and months), we traveled to see the damage, which was surreal. All that timber, and that was a river once? I have a great picture somewhere of my sister and I standing in front of ash-banks that look like a huge bank of dirty snow, only it’s ash from the eruption. It’s much taller than we are in the picture.
Moving back here, I’m surrounded by beautiful mountains again, and Mt St Helens is one of them. I can see it each time I drive along the Gorge, or when I go to the airport to pick up new visitors. It’s lovely, and interesting.
It’s also rebuilding itself. This is timelapse photography over the course of three years, and it’s very clear the mountain is coming back. Wow.