Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Prodigal Daughter

I've been remiss in my posting lately. I think it might have something to do with the fantastic weather we've been having. And with daughter Alina's visit, post-finals and pre-summer camp job. And with our temporary border, Andrea, aka The Prodigal Daughter.

Andrea is the daughter of our friends Tom and Leila, who are living and working in Bangkok right now. Tom and Lloyd worked together in CA, and we've enjoyed adventures with them over the years. Work brought Tom, and sometimes Leila with him, to visit us in our various locations. But the last time we actually saw the girls was on a Disneyworld trip in 1997 after we'd been transferred to Louisiana. Andrea was in 6th grade. Now she's a SDSU nursing school graduate looking for her first job. After her December graduation, she spent 3 months traveling with a friend in Brazil rather than jump right into a job in San Diego. Hence her father's reference to The Prodigal Daughter.

She'd had enough of the beach, I guess, and needed a change of scenery (ie more green) so she decided Portland was a good place to start the next chapter of her life. She set out from CA with all her earthly goods packed into her Honda, her surfboard tied to the roof through the windows, heading for her friend Elise's apartment in Portland. After a few days' stop in the Bay Area, she drove all day to Portland. One hitch in the plan, Elise was gone on a trip home for Mother's Day. Modern communication is a wonderful thing. Her dad called her with some phone numbers of people who might be of some help. Ours was one of them, and we're delighted she used it!

Arriving at 11 pm after driving through the gorge in the rain, she exited her car via the driver's door window (remember, the surfboard tied on top?) and happily fell into a real bed, grateful she didn't have to sleep in her car.

She attacked her job and apartment search with great focus and purpose immediately the next morning. Entry nursing jobs are not easy to come by in these economic times, but she's been on several interviews and is casting a wide net...all the way to Anchorage, actually, which is a little further north than she bargained for, but is still on the plan B list.

We introduced her to some favorite hiking spots, and to Hooba's deck dining on a day when Mt. Adams was basking in blue sky. Alina loved getting reaquainted with someone she hadn't seen since she was in grade school. They had a great time rafting the White Salmon River one day last week on a Wet Planet trip. We had a relaxing afternoon watching kite boarders and wind surfers in Hood River. I think she's addicted to our hot tub. And, of course, Andrea enjoyed the crawfish boil with her usual gusto. Her friend Elise, back from Mom's, joined her and Alina for that adventure.

She's moving in to her new place this week, so we won't be seeing much of her any more. But we sure hope she calls again, whenever she needs to escape the city for some place a little more green.

Back to the Bayou

I thought my days of crawfish boils were gone forever. I was wrong. Who'd have thought anyone in Husum, Washington would know about crawfish boils?

Last summer there was a wedding at the winery. The happy couple live in southern California, but had a thing for Wind River Cellars and wanted to celebrate their nuptials there. The groom, being a Louisiana native, was thinking crawfish boil for the reception. A tradition was launched. Everyone had such a good time at this reception, apparently, that Joel felt it was worth having 250 pounds of mudbugs FedEx'd in from Cajun Country and inviting all the friends of Wind River Cellars to what promises to be an annual par-tay.

The crawfish were so excited to be dumped from those confining blue mesh bags, and they did provide entertainment to the younger kids in the crowd. There was at least one crawfish race witnessed. But they were all on the fast track to the 'hot tub', where they joined potatoes, corn, onions, andouille and lots of Zatarains spice pouches.

Alina was VERY excited that her visit coincided with the crawfish boil. Spending her formative years (8-12) in Louisiana gave her an appreciation of such fine cuisine. She hadn't lost her technique, and instructed Andrea and Elise in the fine art of crawfish consumption. Andrea impressed everyone with her stamina at the table.

Mr and Mrs Ragin Cajun came up from CA to officiate, and make sure everything was prepared and presented properly. It was, though the spice level was definitely geared to introductory level participants. The last batch was more 'normal', ie so hot your lips hurt!

A fine time was had by all and we will look forward to the second anniversary party. I'm willing to bet that Andrea will be back, now that she's moving to Portland. And just maybe it will entice Alina to make a return trip when she's done with finals next spring.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Field Trip: John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

A group of Oregon Nordic Club Columbia Gorge Chapter members decided to take a mid week excursion to John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, because we could. Actually, we've planned a number of hiking expeditions to tide us over until the next Nordic season begins. The website for the national monument, linked above, is pretty good for those who want more info. The National Monument is actually three separate units, about an hour's drive apart from each other. We planned to see one on Wednesday, one on Thursday, and if time permitted, one on the way home Friday.

Our band of 13 included Cindy and Tom in their Subaru, Jan and Skip in their pick up, Linda and Tom in their truck/fifth wheel, Jan and Fred in their campervan, Ray and Shelley in their Toyota camper, us with our pop-up tent camper and Ole in his Forester. We had quite a parade!

We took a leisurely route through The Dalles to Highway 19, south through Fossil and a number of very small towns, to our first main stop at the Sheep Rock Unit. There was a great visitor center with the usual educational displays, a rock lab where the technician was casting replicas of some fossils, and a video presentation that the ranger was delighted to show to the 13 of us, the most people she'd seen all week I think. We got our bearings, some of us headed out for some short hikes, a few others went fossil hunting in a public hunting area.

My first stop was the Thomas Condon Overlook Trail with Brindle, who had been waiting patiently for us to emerge from the Visitor Center. Lloyd and a few others were still immersing themselves in the geology and paleontology within. I took a few pictures, Brinnie got relief, and we made our way back down to the gang. The peak on the right is Sheep Rock.

We then rolled over to the Island in Time Trail into the Blue Basin. It was so pretty, the pictures don't do it justice. You will notice this picture has an ominous sky...on our way back to the car, with about a quarter mile to go, it began to rain and hail on us. For a minute there, I thought we'd gone through a time warp back to Texas. I believe it was my fault. I left my rain jacket in the car. Had I taken it along, I would not have needed it!

We made it to the Clyde Holliday campground, between Mt. Vernon and John Day. As we pulled in, it began to rain, hail, thunder and lightning. We waited for the deluge to pass before attempting to set up the tent. Several of our party rented the two teepees by the river rather than tent camp on soggy ground. For about $10 more a night than a camp site, you get a teepee, 4 sleeping cushions, a heater (key this time of year), and a load of firewood for the big campfire ring on the patio. And a huge picnic table. This was excellent, because we had a great gathering place for our communal dinners.

First night's dinner menu included happy hour cheese, crackers, pate, dips and chips, followed by spaghetti, sauce and meatballs, salad, garlic bread, ending up with assorted goodies for dessert. Also lots of wine and beer, of course.

We had a roaring campfire, Ole brought his guitar, and yes, I brought my ukelele. Having been fueled appropriately, I made it through my entire repertoire and then some, with Ole's help. The weather cooperated, the skies stayed clear and the moon was nearly full. We all sang our way to 'quiet time' at 10 pm, then moseyed back to our respective abodes to rest up for the next day.

After I made coffee and cleaned the dishes from the night before, we returned to the scene of the crime for breakfast. Jan made pancakes in the well ventilated teepee.

Jan Stewart brought bacon she'd cooked up in her van, others brought assorted fruits and I'd made several batches of muffins. We would not be starving on this trip.

Our agenda for Thursday included visiting the Painted Hill Unit. We condensed the group into four vehicles and hit the road. The views were spectacular.

We hiked the Painted Hills Overlook Trail

the Leaf Hill Trail, where thousands of leaf fossils have been found

and the Painted Cove, where a boardwalk allows you to get close up to the colorful claystone mounds.

Here is some nice contrast with the red and some sage.

The views were incredible, and colors changed with the light and passing clouds. In these next two pictures, look at how the greenish mound just left of center turns bright whe the cloud passes.

Everyone's cameras got good workouts! On the way out we saw antelope playing (no deer), so that called for a quick pull over!

Our last stop was the view area of Mascall Formation Overlook, and the Picture Gorge. Notice the road goes right into the gorge.

Before we knew it, we were back at the campground and hungry for dinner. We finished off the munchies, then dined on grilled chicken, sausages, salmon burgers, salad, beans, bread...Whatever everyone had left, basically. And the marshmallows I forgot to bring out the night before. I saved a bottle of Northshore Cellars Cherry Wine for the campfire, and let Ole have the solo stage with his fine guitar playing under a completely full moon. Didn't want to overdo the uke thing...

Even though the birds woke us up around 5 am Friday, our leisurely breakfast and pack up meant not enough time for us to hit the third unit, so we'll have to get that one next time. It would be a great place to bring a fishing pole and maybe go rafting as well...

Anyway, John Day Fossil Beds is a highly recommended destination. Go in the next month or so, before it gets too hot in the daytime, and while you can still see some pretty wildflowers along the way!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Stand By

I'm still alive, downloading over 100 pictures from the camping trip to John Day Fossil Beds. Stay tuned for a debriefing on that adventure!

It's too darn beautiful today to stay inside and play on the computer, so this chore will have to wait.