Oregon

Oregon Coast foraging: the search for creatures that can't move and don't bite

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When a razor clam senses danger, it doesn't hang around to see what's going to happen, it gets the hell out. With limited resources at its disposal — no claws, teeth... limbs — this means digging with its body, and digging fast.

The Oregon Coast is bursting with edibles this time of year. And while harvesting is a chase in the case of the clam, for most creatures, it's simply a matter of showing up and looking around.

To experience "living off the land" without the trauma of killing something furry, Donnie and I spent a recent weekend hunting things that couldn't move, didn't bite and weren't going to wrack me with sorrow as I plucked them from their habitats and carried them off to the kitchen — i.e. clams, mushrooms and mussels.

We were surprisingly successful, given neither of us has a ton of experience, which was fortunate for our dinner menu.

RAZOR CLAMS Equipped with $7 shellfish permits from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, rubber gardening gloves and knee-high galoshes, we waded through low tide south of Cannon Beach, pounding the sand with the handles of our shovels to incite the clams to action.

When we glimpsed a "show," or the dimple or doughnut shape that appears on the surface of the sand when a clam retracts its neck and starts to dig, we flipped our shovels blade-down and tried to intercept it before it escaped.

Though my technique needs some refining, Donnie has it down. Within a split second of seeing the sign, he'd sink his shovel into the sand, lever it to open the earth, then plunge his entire arm into the hole to keep digging with his hand. Even after he overtook the creatures, blocking their escape route a couple feet beneath the earth, they'd try to slip through his fingers and escape.

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Donnie vs. the clam: DONNIE WINS! 

Donnie caught five clams. I got distracted by the sunset.

Layers: yellow, blue, yellow

The catch

Admittedly, clams do not look appetizing in the kitchen sink. But they do taste amazing once you blanch them, remove their shells, batter them and fry them up.

MUSHROOMS

We stalked chanterelle mushrooms near a 55-foot waterfall over a jagged basalt cliff in Tillamook State Forest. The pale orange trumpet-shaped mushrooms, which have long ridges on the undersides of their caps, thrive on north-facing hills in second-growth forests near old stumps and fallen trees (they're particular). They tend to show up in abundance a couple days after a good rain and, we decided, are most plentiful on Thursdays, after they've had time to regenerate from weekend foraging excursions.

Fern creature

We hiked a mile or so from the trailhead — not far — before scrambling up a fern-covered hillside, keeping a lookout for orange bursts amidst the browns and greens. Once we spotted the delicate forms, we plucked them from the ground, sliced off their bases and added them to our bag o' goodies. Since they often grow in colonies, we learned that when you see one, you look for more.

  Chanterelle in its natural habitat

Chanterelle in its natural habitat

We resolved to stop harvesting once we'd gathered as many as we could eat in one or two meals, but we found resisting the beautifully formed fungi incredibly difficult. Just one more. And this one too! Oh, and that one over there; it's the most perfect of all — GAH!!

Back at our cabin in Arch Cape, we brushed the chanterelles clean, then sautéed them in butter, baked them in the oven and served them with pork, spinach and garlic over orzo. The next morning, we added them to an egg scramble for breakfast. Yum.

MUSSELS

As the setting sun cast Nehalem Bay in pinks and purples, we clambered down the rocks buttressing the jetty to find Dinner Ingredient Numéro Trois. Out in plain sight and incapable of moving, the mussels didn't have a chance; harvesting them was easy as picking cherry tomatoes from our prolific plant at home. We cracked the creatures from the rocks, targeting those larger than our thumbs and with the fewest barnacles attached. (You've gotta be careful though: since mussels filter whatever comes their way, no matter how toxic, they can be dangerous to eat during certain times of the year. You can check their status by calling the state's shellfish safety hotline before you hit the rocks.)

Afloat by the jetty

We prepared the mussels the simplest way possible, using only their natural salty flavor as seasoning. We boiled them in a frying pan until their shells popped open, then scooped them out and ate them up.

OTHER  SWEET FINDS

Oh and also: we harvested cups of coffee and a growler of Ankle-Buster Ale from Lincoln City's Pelican Brewery, where both the food and drink are worth the trip.

Me with my coffee score. Weekend complete.

On tour: The Old West Scenic Bikeway

Riding the range

Donnie and I biked three and a half days through the John Day area of Eastern Oregon, along the 184-mile Old West Scenic Bikeway loop. I'll be writing more about the trip later so I won't give too much away — but I wanted to share a few pictures in the meantime.

touring rigs

 Bikes loaded with the essentials: tent, sleeping bags and pads, warm clothes, bars and goos, coffee.

Morning coffee

Morning brew at Bates State Park as the sprinklers whirred and hummed.

Scenic bikeway

The signs we followed.

Picture Gorge bike

On this trip, I finally learned how to snap photos WHILE STILL RIDING MY BIKE. This is a huge development; in the past, I've had to stop and firmly plant my feet before pressing the shutter.

Not what you think

Donnie demonstrates how to stay cool while riding in high temps (for those still unclear: by soaking your shirt with water).

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Another principle of happy, healthy riding: apply chamois cream to below-the-belt hot spots! 

Freezie

 Trail treats: Bud Light and Freezie.

water for riders

Finding water is difficult on several long stretches of road. We always carried extra in our paniers. Heavy, but a good safeguard.

Big Bend hello

Under the juniper tree at the BLM's Big Bend campground. Several hours later, sitting on the ground by the camp stove, I looked down in the dark to see A SCORPION 6 INCHES FROM MY LEG. I backed away in time and developed a new paranoia.

hill

Hiiiiiiiiillllllllll.

J Dot RanchAlong the way: ranches, barns, cows, fields of hay.

cant ranch

Cathedral Rock

Oh and crazy geologic formations.

John Day Fossil beds rider

John Day Fossil

Bald eagle

Watched by a bald eagle.

Forest fire

When we rode by this wildfire in the morning, it was tiny. When we looked back hours later (and took this picture), its smoke had taken over the sky.

Rainstorm

Despite what our instincts told us, we rode INTO this lightning storm in an attempt to get to our campsite by dark. When the strikes got too close for comfort, we ducked into barns on the side of the road and waited.

thunderstorm cover

The following day, we got caught in ANOTHER lightning storm. Seconds before the sheet of rain drenched us, we hunkered down under our tent fly on the side of the road and watched as everything around us got soaked. 

Out of the rain

We survived.

Rider on the crest

 

Life on stilts: Oregon's Pickett Butte Fire Lookout Tower

DSC_0114 "Do we have to stay on guard the entire weekend, or are we allowed to take breaks?" Donnie and I wanted to ask the ranger at the Tiller Ranger Station when we stopped in to inquire about the area. We'd rented the Pickett Butte Fire Lookout Tower, a 12x12 cabin on 40-foot stilts a few miles up the road in the midst of the Umpqua National Forest in Southwest Oregon, and we wanted to clarify our responsibilities as the tower's weekend occupants.

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When they're not in use, the Forest Service in Washington and Oregon rents out about 70 houses and fire towers that the Civilian Conservation Corps built in the 1930s for the “smoke chasers” who patrolled the forests for fires. For $35 to $90 a night, campers interested in hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, horseback riding, fishing and hunting on the surrounding forest land have a small base to call home. (Friends and I stayed in another of these cabins, the Ditch Creek Guard Station, last winter. The story here.)

Built on a hilltop named for William T. Pickett, the homesteader who claimed it in 1898, the Pickett Butte Fire Lookout offers a single bed; a wall heater, stove, mini-fridge, and lanterns all powered by propane; and wall-to-wall windows providing expansive views of the Jackson Creek Drainage area and distant higher peaks. We used the rickety plastic egg-crate pulley to lug up the necessities (i.e. sleeping bags, warm clothes, coffee, boxed wine, and cheese) and settled in. Lucky for us rain-weary Portlanders, we enjoyed clear, sunny, 60-degree days, and T-shirts — in February!

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 Donnie, acclimating to life on stilts. In his favorite shirt.

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The cabin's interior.

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Our mapping tool, on a wooden stand in the center of the cabin, would have allowed us to pinpoint the exact location of any smoke we saw in the distance. We spent hours practicing just in case.

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 The privy, while handy on special occasions, was extremely inconvenient for regular use, being four precarious flights of stairs below. Not to worry: we figured out a workable system.

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Physics at work: we used water in the bottom of a translucent bottle to magnify a headlamp's light and an upturned bowl to up the volume on the music. (Cush camping, admittedly.)

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 Veggie egg cheese scrambles + french press coffee = the breakfast of champions

When you're living up in the air (in an area without many hiking trails at least), the activities of the sky outside play a pretty central role in your life. The sunset colored the sky deep pinks and purples and cast a warm glow over everything in the cabin.

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And when we woke up the next morning, the clouds that had rolled in overnight still filled the valleys below us.

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A random pretty: a waterproof leaf in the gravel road leading up to the cabin.

On Day Two, we took a two-hour road trip to Crater Lake for some cross country skiing, entering a white winter setting that was a stark contrast to our sun-drenched paradise. From the south entrance, we headed clockwise along the snow-covered road that circles the lake, meandering off trail a few times across the meadows sloping down from the rim.

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Donnie and Wizard Island, the cinder cone at the west end of the lake.

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Mount McLoughlin in the distance

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Cutting the cheese (more literally than usual).

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Oh, just stretching. Or something.

The dining options near Crater Lake in winter are limited, but upon a recommendation we picked up on the road, we stopped on our way back to base camp at José's Mexican Restaurant, an unassuming hole-in-the-wall spot six miles past the town of Prospect. The family-run establishment serves up fajitas and enchiladas made with fresh ingredients and scratch-made tortillas. Delicious. Because the place was empty and we didn't want to feel lonely, we ate in the adjoining Gorge Lounge bar, where a group of mustachioed locals chatted with the bartender while drinking Budweiser and Coors and half watching an obstacle course TV show involving rotating foam arms and whipped cream. One of the men started sputtering and snorting in a dramatic fake coughing fit before realizing we were behind him eating. He apologized, saying he didn't realize the place "had company."

After lowering out stuff our of the fire lookout on Day Three to head back to Portland, we made another stop. I wasn't aware before, but the Umpqua National Forest boasts an extremely impressive feature: the world's largest sugar pine. We had to pay homage.

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The 400-year-old tree, measured in February 2012 at 255 feet, towers over its companions. The base of this tree has a giant chainsaw-induced wound from its run-in with vandals in 2000. (Who DOES that?!)

A day in The Dalles

Many adventures begin in The Dalles, the end-point of the main Oregon Trail, a small city on the banks of the Columbia 85 miles east of Portland. The wide open roads just outside of town, sparsely trafficked and surrounded by rolling farmland, make for some excellent cycling. dalles

When it's pouring in Portland, you can usually find sun in The Dalles.

While I'd used The Dalles (rhymes with "pals") as a departure point many times, I'd never actually stopped to get to know the town. And so Donnie and I decided to visit without bikes in tow. Rather than clipping on our helmets and pedaling off as soon as we arrived, we lingered for an afternoon, wandering  up and down the streets, observing the details we never noticed when we were on our way somewhere else.

We discovered a working-class city struggling for a comeback from the long-ago collapse of the aluminum industry — and succeeding in quite a few instances. We encountered a thorough mix of elaborate and gritty: ornate, turn-of-the-century properties sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with plain, uninhabited storefronts with "for lease" signs in the windows; a fancy French bakery, a brewpub in the old brick courthouse building, and recently renovated Moorish-style theater down the street from an empty car dealership, a cheap steakhouse, and a shop selling bedazzled tangerine-colored prom dresses.

The city is certainly trying: an urban renewal agency has invested in the port district, a snazzy underpass that connects the city with the river (formerly separated by Interstate 84), and various buildings downtown, including an historic hotel, a flour mill, and a Masonic lodge. (In 2005, Google established a server farm in town as well, but not much as changed as a result, because the company keeps its operation top secret.)

Here are a few of the sights we came across during our ramble:

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Sunshine Mill, a 130+-year-old wheat mill, which still contains the old flour milling equipment — and apparently now a wine bar, bocce ball court, and performance venue as well

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A functioning-since-1905 blacksmithing shop, with a particularly cool sign.

Recreation

No better recreation than bowling and prime rib. Amiright??

The ticket booth for the old, Moorish-style Granada Theater, which, built in 1929, was the first place west of the Mississippi to show movies with sound. It reopened in the last few years as a live performance venue. (Historic pics here.)

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One of many vacant properties downtown seeking tenants. (You'd get jazzy windows!)

White and wires

A back alley

A shadow and its fire escape.

window lines

Oh, you know: air conditioners!

Steaks, burgers, beer

Down by the river-side train tracks.

While I'm sure we'll still frequently breeze through The Dalles on our way to the open road, we're also likely to hang around longer after we return — for coffee, pastries, beer, or a quick round at the bowling alley.

My story about an old-school book scout — with The New Yorker

Exciting news on the freelance front: Last week, The New Yorker published my story, "An Old-School Book Scout," about Wayne Pernu, a Portland book scout who makes his living buying books for cheap at yard, estate and library sales and reselling them at Powell's Books. Relying on his knowledge and intuition (rather than a barcode scanner) and reselling almost exclusively to the brick-and-mortar establishment (rather than on eBay or Amazon.com), Pernu is a rarity in his profession, and one of the last of his kind.

Check it out! http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2012/03/the-book-whisperer.html

Home, home on the range: Ditch Creek Guard Station in winter

Five friends and I snowshoed through the dark to the Forest Service cabin in Oregon's Umatilla National Forest, aware only of what fell within the narrow beams of our headlamps — snow, mostly, and the dark silhouettes of trees. It wasn't until we woke up in the morning and stepped outside that we really knew what surrounded us: snow and trees, yes, but also a pole fence and horse corral, a meandering, half-frozen stream, and multiple pairs of fresh animal tracks — sometimes parallel, sometimes crossing — evidence of the nighttime dramas we'd missed.

The Ditch Creek Guard Station is one of about 70 houses and fire towers that the Civilian Conservation Corps built in Washington and Oregon in the 1930s for the "smoke chasers" who patrolled the forests for fires. The Forest Service now rents the structures out for $35 to $90 a night to campers interested in hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, horseback riding, fishing and hunting on the surrounding forest land.

Our cabin consisted of a kitchen stocked with pots and pans, a living room with a futon, table and chairs and a bedroom with two sets of sturdy bunk beds. While there were a propane-powered fridge, stove, and freestanding heater, the water was turned off for winter, so we scooped up a pot of snow from the yard and melted it on the stove whenever we got thirsty or wanted to flush the toilet (this happened once, at the end of our stay; we called it The Big Flush and all gathered 'round).

My friend James and three pots of melted snow

The Forest Service has excellent taste in art.

On Saturday, we snowshoed to Penland Lake, which, this time of year, is completely frozen over. Cyclones of snow periodically lifted up and spiraled over the lake before setting themselves down again.

On the way:

Jake, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever/Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever mix (introductions were never short), during one of the times he WASN'T wearing his fur-lined moccasins.

Lots of running happened

Also, lots of resting

The coolest cabin ever.

Me, Stasia, Laura

Ditch Creek flowing through its valley, south toward the north fork of the John Day River

Moustache vs. Moustache, and why a person should even bother

Packing the Crystal Ballroom in Portland on Saturday, whiskery men pitted their facial hair one against another at the 2012 West Coast Beard and Mustache Championships. They competed in categories that included natural mustache, chops-style mustache, freestyle mustache, full natural beard and partial beard.

In honor of the competition, which the "Portlandia" blog covered here, I've talked with a few men across the country about the moustachioed way of life. Nashville web developer Michael Eades, creator of Moustache May, a month-long competition in which participants grow a 'stache and post its picture to a website every day for a month, encourages everyone with the potential to grow a 'stache to at least try. Not doing so, he says, "is like having a pair of wings and never bothering to try and fly."

Here's what Eades and a few other 'stache wearers have to say about the upper lip accoutrement:

Name: Casey Paquet Age: 33 Location: St. Petersburg, FL Occupation: Director of Web Services for a private liberal arts college Favorite kind of moustache: Handlebar, “because it seems to be a lost art.” Most common reaction: “I am shocked at how many people want to touch it. A lot of folks actually swoop in to take hold of it without asking, which is rather awkward.” Grooming regimen: “I am REALLY bad about grooming. I often say I wish I could find a moustache mentor — some old dude that could teach me the proper method of grooming.” Why should someone grow a moustache: “For the most part, the gentleman wearing the non-ironic moustache displays an air of confidence, a willingness to take the risk that a bare chin and cookie duster poses.”

Name: Michael Eades Age: 31 Location: Nashville, TN Occupation: Web developer Favorite kind of moustache: “The Handlebar ‘stache style is absolutely my favorite. There's a regalness to it that no other `stache configuration seems to be able to embrace.” Hardest food to eat: “Most food isn't that hard to eat with a properly groomed ‘stache but occasionally a good beer will find its foamy way into the trouble zone.” Grooming regimen: “I trim the ‘stache up every few weeks to keep it free of stray hairs and to keep its overall shape. I usually apply a tiny bit of wax to it each day as well, so give it the proper curl.” Most common reaction: “I do occasionally get hollered at by at a group of drunken frat guys who tell me it's a ‘bitchin' moustache.’ I take this as a compliment.”

Name: Johnny Mayer Age: 24 Location: Portland, Oregon Employer: Rocco’s Bar Grill and Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade Why he has a moustache: “I enjoy it. I have a good facial shape for it.” Moustache realization: It’s not a cure-all. When I was 16 or 17, I worked at Safeway. Everyone in the produce department and upper management had a moustache. I thought if I grew one, I could advance up the ranks. But I later found out I didn’t work hard enough.” Hardest food to eat: “Anything with sauce.” Grooming regimen: “I trim it every once in a while when it gets scary. I don’t really take care of it. I wear it; it doesn’t wear me.”

Name: Adam Orcutt Age: 37 Location: Northwest Indiana Favorite kind of moustache: “I have always been inspired by the wild west, so I decided to grow a Hungarian/wild west style moustache. That is what I currently have and I think I am sticking with it for the long haul.” What a ‘stache says about a person: “I think having a moustache tells the world the you have confidence and you take pride in how you look. I find most people that wear moustaches to be honest, outgoing, and usually up for most anything.”

Name: Jay Wiggins Age: 39 Location: Phoenix, Arizona The psychology of moustache wearing: “You begin with the moustache wearing you, and then you start wearing the moustache. There’s an acceptance that happens psychologically. There’s a point at which it becomes part of you.” Most common reaction: “At baseball games and things like that, people always want to give me a high five. I enjoy that part of it.” Hardest food to eat: “Pretty much all foods are annoying.” Grooming regimen: “In the morning, I put a little bit of hair wax to curl it up and out. I’ll trim the lip portion.” Why ‘staches are great: “There’s a whimsy and novelty about it.”

Name: Aaron Aninos Age: 26 Location: Concord, North Carolina Occupation: Graphic Design student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Why he enjoys having a moustache: “It keeps my upper lip warm during the winter, and it also serves as a ‘flavor savor’ when I'm drinking a nice frothy beer, preferably a Fat Tire.” Hardest food to eat: “Anything with a thick and heavy sauce. Which sucks, because I'm half Italian.” Why someone should grow a moustache: “I see growing a moustache to show that you have confidence in yourself and dedication, extraordinary managerial qualities, and in most cases you probably are a huge fan of Tom Selleck.”

The Q&A was compiled in 2010.

Chimney swift slumber party

It's a chimney swift slumber party every night in September at Chapman Elementary School in Portland. Since the late 1980s, Vaux's Swifts have used the school's smokestack as a roosting spot during their fall migration to southern Central America. As many as 35,000 of the small black birds circle the chimney each evening around sunset and then pack in to spend the night. IMG_3840

Chapman Elementary, at the intersection of NE Pettygrove Street and NE 26th Avenue in Portland

Some friends and I wanted to see it all go down. We arrived by bike around 6:45 p.m. and positioned ourselves among many others on the grassy hillside overlooking the school. Members of the Audubon Society of Portland stood by to loan out binoculars and answer all swift-related questions, and a neighborhood boy sold his mom's chocolate chip cookies at a stand across the street.

Munching, we waited for the spectacle to start.

The birds arrived one or two at a time at first, but after a while, they came in droves and filled the sky. They swooped and rose, dipped and dove and eventually took up a counter-clockwise direction, circling again and again above the smokestack. Then, as if on command, a segment of the flock began spiraling into the chimney like coffee grounds in a draining sink.

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The birds continued funneling into the chimney on and off for about half an hour, majorly interrupted only once when a hawk swept in and picked one off. (Is fishing in a barrel really fair?)

Eventually, only a few dozen birds remained outside. The group tried diving into the chimney once, twice, three times, but without success. It was full. After a few more attempts, the birds gave up and flew west toward Forest Park to fend for themselves.

The audience applauded, and the show was over. Until the next day.

By the way: Byways Café

If you’ve never been humbled by a plate of French toast, it’s time you make a trip to Byways Café, a 1950s diner at 1212 N.W. Glisan Street, right in the heart of Portland's ritzy Pearl District. The down-home café serves a killer plate of Amaretto French Toast — four thick, fluffy pieces of brioche served with honey pecan butter and maple syrup — piled so high you’ll have to take a moment to admire before you dig in. Mmmm

Good thing we split a plate between the three of us. Trying to tackle servings solo would have done us in.

The walls and glass cases above the booths in the café are filled with the type of travel kitsch your grandmother would bring you home from summer vacation — snow globes, porcelain bells, commemorative plates. The decor gives the place a comfortable, retro feel.

The counter, during a rare moment when it'd cleared out

The wait staff was friendly enough that I forgave them for not bringing me a cup of coffee until the third time I asked (once it arrived, it was good).

Also on the breakfast menu: blue corn pancakes, biscuits and gravy, all sorts of scrambles and hash. Lunch is apparently available sometimes too, and on that menu, you'll find burgers, corned beef sandwiches, fried egg sandwiches and BLTs. Portions are hearty.

To know what's going on at Byways RIGHT NOW, find them on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bywayscafe.

While I was out

I'm terribly sorry to have disappeared since, well... April 12. I got caught up in my job reporting for The Times (serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, Ore.) and funneled most of my writing energy into covering a rabbit hoarder arrested for breaking her restraining order against rabbits, a police investigation of a hobo hit by a train, the rise of a rapper from suburbia, the school district's firing and rehiring of its teaching force and other stuff involving the city of Tigard, 10 miles south of Portland, and its 15 schools. I loved my job at The Times, but, alas, Friday was my last day. I'm headed for the creative nonfiction graduate writing program at Portland State University, which starts Sept. 28. I'm looking forward to dedicating the next two years of my life to learning everything I can about the craft of writing and stretching myself into new territory. I'll also be teaching undergraduate composition classes as part of an assistantship, which will be an adventure in itself.

In an attempt to make up for my months away from Out to See and offer a glimpse into the summertime scene in Portland, I'll post a few photos from the last few months.

Bikey fun

Portland celebrated Pedapalooza 2009 from June 11 - 27. The two-week bike festival featured a naked ride through the downtown streets, rides in which all participants dressed up as pirates, cowboys and zombies, a couples-only Bike Kiss-In during which riders smooched at intersections, and an urban homestead ride where participants visited three expert veggie gardens in the Portland area. Above, unicycle jousting at the culminating event, a bike fest in Colonel Summers Park. It got ugly.

Oops

My sister Laura and I went backpacking in the Elwha River Valley in Olympic National Park in late July. Unfortunately, we didn't take a good look at each other before we left town and realized on the way — after several sets of strangers commented — that we were wearing the EXACT same outfit: blue shorts, gray shirts, hiking boots. Unfortunately, neither of us had brought a change of clothes, and we had to put up with the comment "I'm seeing DOUBLE!" from multiple people we passed on the trail.

Morning light on ferns — the view from our tent.

The peeling bark of the evergreen Madrona tree.

Full of hot air

I went up in a hot air balloon for a story I wrote about Tigard's annual balloon festival for The Times. I took this shot from the basket just as the pilot released that black piece of fabric from the top to lower us. The story I wrote about the experience is here.

A rock in a haystack

When our parents visited, we took a field trip to Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach. Then we ate Shrimp Louie at a nearby restaurant.

Lots of pots

Laura has continued her study of pottery at the Oregon College of Art and Craft. I've continued my study of breakfast, out of pretty bowls.

The Decemberists in July

Unlike most of Portland, I wasn't a huge Decemberists fan before I saw them play with Blind Pilot and Andrew Bird at the McMenamins venue outside the historic Edgefield Manor near Troutdale, Ore. But after seeing the band perform its rock opera "Hazards of Love" live, my mind changed. They were incredible.

Opal Creek

We could hear rushing water all during our night hike into the Opal Creek Wilderness on the west slope of the Cascades (the beams of our headlamps picked up a a frog, a newt and two scorpions — ack!). In the morning, we realized we'd been walking beside a crystal clear creek full of deep, wide swimming holes. They were freezing, but the sun was out, and we jumped in.

The broken windshield of a rusted car we encountered along the trail on the way out.

Soapbox Derby

A giant rodent, miniature ice cream truck and normal-sized coffin roared down the road winding around Mount Tabor during the 9th-annual Adult Soapbox Derby on Aug. 22. The event required them to get down the mountain in a car powered soley by gravity in the quickest time possible.

Among the rules:

  • Each car must be piloted by a driver that will remain sober until the car is no longer racing
  • The car must have functional brakes
  • The car must have a horn
  • The car may not weigh more than 500 pounds
  • Teams may not spend more than $300 on their vehicles

We watched from a grassy spot along the road — and pretty much avoided getting wet from the competitors who opted to douse spectators on their way down the track.

Team Lego Maniacs hydrates for the competition

They might look like they'd go fast, but team Twin Barrels Burning crept and swerved unsteadily down the mountain

That would be team Pigs in Space (note the pig ears and noses on the participants).

OK, well that's pretty much all I have in my "things I should have blogged about" file. I hope to be more attentive to this site during my next venture.