Musings


The smoke in the sky had been relentless for weeks by the time I decided to try to run away from it; at least for the day. 

If you’ve been paying the slightest bit of attention, you know that a huge portion of the PNW is on fire. The atmosphere is oppressive, the heat punishing, and leaving the house a chore.

In an attempt to escape the smoke, and find some clear air to breathe, I decided to pack up the puppy and head to the coast. There’s usually a steady breeze, and the forecast was for 20 degrees cooler than here in town, so I was optimistic I might find respite there.

When trying to decide which part of the coast to visit, I decided on Astoria. My logic wasn’t so great, because Astoria is a good bit north of us, and the smoke was coming from British Columbia which is – as it happens – also north.

Head away from the smoke, not toward

By the time we arrived, the smoke in Astoria was markedly heavier than inland. I knew we’d have to go further south to try and find a place the smoke might have dissipated. Cannon Beach is always a favorite, but nothing compares to my favorite spot on the Oregon coast; Hug Point

Just us and the rocks

A popular spot, the park was sparsely populated on a weekday. The breeze was strong, and though there was smoke in the air, it was thin, mixed with a heavy mist, and overall much easier to breathe.

Secret Cove Selfie

Though the tide was coming in, I thought we could risk sneaking around the rocks to the waterfall cove. The water was up to my ankles, but Enzo hates getting wet, so I carried him.

We explored the cove and scampered over rocks. Coaxing him into posing in front of the waterfall – at this time of year, more a trickle – was a bit of a challenge, but eventually captured a good shot.

Glamour Shot Doggo

Digging in the sand featured heavily in the remainder of the beach time. Nothing quite like letting the puppy wear himself out.

I know China is down there somewhere!!

We continued south on the coast until we reached Tillamook. I kept hoping to encounter clear blue smokeless skies, but to no avail. We came inland and had burgers at Skyline Restaurant to console ourselves.

Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, I am more accustomed to a cooler range of temperatures. Where other people may be hothouse flowers, I am a forest fern.

Lots of people seem to prefer the weather here under the impact of climate change. It is undeniably the case there are fewer gray and rainy days on average than there used to be. Personally I miss them. Not only for their favorable impact on the flora, but the – forgive the pun – dampening effect on migration. But, before this devolves into a diatribe about how much I do not love what Portland has become, I will merely say that lately, it has been hot and miserable unto the likes of Hades.

The only upside, to my mind, is that this affords an opportunity to scamper down to the local waterway and plash about.

Riverside park on the Clackamas is an easy option for that very thing. Enzo and Hodie came along.

A rare sighting of the Tree-Dwelling Hodie

We found a nice shady spot close to the water, which would have been perfect, apart from the yellowjackets. They seem to be everywhere this summer…

Enzo isn’t too fond of water, but whenever Hodie went in, his concern for her overrode his fear and he waded in to “save” her.

I stand on dis rock and SABE you!

We had a nice time by the river, and on our way back to the car, we ran into our first ever other Shiba! They played a little bit – each with the signature Shiba vigor. It was nice to meet another Shiba owner who would understand they like to play really rough.

Sheebs Meets!

This was a nice relaxing week. The heat sucks the adventurelark right out of me. I think we’ll be doing something a little further afield for next Wednesday.

Having switched my schedule to only work four days a week has drawbacks and advantages to be sure. While those 10 hour days can get to a girl, I love having Wednesday off. Anywhere I might go is less crowded than it would be otherwise, and the day usually remains uncluttered by chores that can’t be avoided on the weekend. For every time the car goes to the mechanic for routine maintenance, there are trips to the beach, days at the river, and hikes in the forest.

Enzo’s First Beach Trip!

Whenever I’m evaluating a hike, I do an effort-to-reward ratio analysis. How hard is it to get to the payoff compared to how good the payoff is? This calculation will decide whether I think a particular hike is worthwhile on a given day.Horsetail falls is a perfect example of a low effort/high reward hike. You literally drive right up to it. You can get a completely clear view of the falls from inside of your car. Personally, that usually feels a little too  easy, for my taste.

Conversely, Dog Mountain remains the benchmark for me with high effort/low reward for me. Admittedly the day I went had unfavorable weather, which colors my evaluation. Thinking no hike of only 3 miles could defeat me, I had no idea those miles were more or less all vertical. Then approaching the top, coming into knee deep snow and cloud cover that obscured any view whatsoever. Even when I have seen photos of the vista at the top, it was no more spectacular than lots of other spots in the gorge where the only effort required is to pull over to the side of the road. Couple that with the Black Toenail of Doom I sustained on the descent, and this one gets no love from me.

This was the view

I recently downloaded the AllTrails  app and was looking for a likely jaunt. Living on the doorstep of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest means I’m spoilt for choice, but that it can be hard to narrow it down. I needed a trail that would be dog-friendly, as it would be Enzo’s first real hike, and one that wasn’t too long to expect him to keep up.

Falls Creek Falls popped up and is a perennial favorite. I’ve probably done it no less than a dozen times, but I have loved it each and every one. It has excellent effort/reward, so off we went.

I always seems to underestimate the amount of time it takes to get to the trailhead. North of Carson, the turnoff isn’t too far out of town. However, since the last mile or so of the journey is an unpaved – and DEEPLY rutted – gravel road, that last bit can be painstakingly slow.

The trail follows Falls Creek pretty closely right from the start. At no point on this hike do you lose the sound of water, which is lovely. Near the beginning of the hike, there is a small shore off trail to dip your toes, if so inclined. The footbridge is a little bouncy, so I thought Enzo might balk, but he scampered across without a pause.

Falls Creek

A gentle but steady ascent, the trail is well-maintained and compacted dirt. A second footbridge near the top is there to cross a small water flow that, at the height of summer, happened to be dry. Other times, I have seen a fairly substantial waterfall in this spot, so seasonal differences are definitely to be considered.

April 2017

Beyond the second crossing, in a few places, there has been rock fall that requires a brief scramble. These are easily navigable even to those with some mobility challenges; just take it slow.

Coming around the last corner where the falls come into view it always a delight. Walking through a shaded canopy for some time, barely able to see the sky overhead, you suddnely encounter a glorious double cascade quite unlike many others found in the area.

It is not only the size and formation of the falls, but the proximity that astonishes; close enough to feel the spray, one needs to crane the neck a bit to take in the full view.

The Eponymous Falls

Should one be so inclined, it is a steep, but fairly easy scramble to get down from the viewpoint to the shore of the basin pool. I didn’t make the effort myself, but Hodie said it was quite refreshing. Negative ions everywhere.

Enzo made it the entire 2.5 miles uphill, but was reluctant to walk on the way down. Hodie’s friendboy Nono volunteered to carry the puppy for a while. This worked out great, and when he started squirming to be let out of the backpack, we knew he was ready to walk the rest of the way down. Considering this is the same dog who will frequently just give up and lie down mid-neighborhood stroll, I was happy he was so cooperative.

Nono and Enzo

We booked it downhill since we were all starving and got back to the car in good time to make it to Backwoods Brewing for pizza. The patio was accommodating for the puppy under the table, and the pizza was top notch. As I always do, I eyeballed the “Real Women Drink Beer” t-shirt and considered it for inclusion in my closet. Didn’t pull the trigger, but maybe on the next trip to Falls Creek Falls, I’ll make it happen.

noun: an instance of something becoming popular, active, or important again.

Not entirely sure how important exactly… Nor due to lack of developments – meaningful and mundane – there has been a considerable gap between last post and this. 

Indeed, one might argue the last 3 years have been downright action packed! In said time I have:

  1. Finally been correctly diagnosed – not with Crohn’s – but with Endometriosis of the small bowel. What’s that you say? You didn’t think a condition typically associated with the uterus could OCCUR in the small bowel? You and me both. This also led to my having an Ileostomy for three months. Doo doo bags are a drag. I’ll just leave it at that.
  2. Undergone a complete hysterectomy – who needs estrogen when all it’s gonna do is poison you anyway?
  3. Moved away to Vancouver and discovered it is no further afield than any other suburb of Portland. 
  4. Discovered the joys of sales tax wherein the price isn’t really the price.
  5. Reconnected with my best friend from my first job whom I’d lost some 18 years earlier. 
  6. Built a house. Well, not myself, but I was definitely in charge of picking the paint colors.
  7. Witnessed the successful launch of my offspring into adulthood.
  8. Gotten engaged! This list is chronological, not in order of importance, okay?
  9. Orchestrated the transition of the employees in my job function to working remotely. This was a considerable personal triumph, and my reward is working in my jam jams.
  10. Gotten a puppy! 

More than 10 things have happened between now and then, but these are the highlights, anyway. A lot of these things are sagas in themselves; maybe if I run out of material, I’ll hit the bullet list…

In the meantime, I expect this to be yet another venue for puppy photos and updates. 

Could be worse…

A couple of months ago now I tried to ride the KRT with limited success. The trail surface was much more suited to a mountain bike than the hybrid Trek I was riding.

At the time I remembered thinking it might be a better spot for running than riding, and yesterday I set out to test that theory.

When I got to the trailhead, I noticed immediately how WINDY it was. No surprise in the gorge, I was delighted to see a group of kiteboarders out on the river. I scrambled down through the beach brambles and took a few shots of the action.

Let's Go Fly A Kite

Let’s Go Fly A Kite

I knew I wanted to get a 10 mile round trip in. My recent acquisition of a fitbit has me even more conscious than usual of making sure I get in a long haul over the weekends. I strapped on my daypack and camera and headed out the dusty trail.

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Not that it was really dusty. Mostly the trail is well maintained gravel, until it becomes rougher, rockier terrain. The weather was outstanding; mild, sunny, and just a tiny bit crisp. Perfect fall conditions.IMG_0848

And there were nice colors just starting to peek through here and there as well. The view back toward Hood was quite nice, once I got turned around that way.

The trail was only busy in areas where people were fishing and once a pair of cyclists; otherwise I had the place all to myself.

I moved slow on the way in, pausing frequently to take photos – most of which did not turn out that well due to the harsh light conditions – and listening to Catch-22 on audiobook. Once I’d gotten to my turnaround point, I was hungry enough my primary concern was getting back to the car quickly and feeding myself something tasty for all my efforts.IMG_0838

While it had taken about 2 hours to get the 5 miles in at a loping pace with frequent photo breaks, the return trip took just about an hour at a brisk cross-country jogging pace. I felt a little beat up pounding over the uneven surface, and nearly tripped a few times over particularly recalcitrant rocks, but kept my pace and my feet till the end.

 

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“The Trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let the dead things go.” Maya Elious

 

At the turning of the season, may the fading light be a reminder how precious it is. 

At the turning of the season let the cool of the night recollect the value of warmth.

At the turning of the season grant the ended span of life such that life may reemerge.

At the turning of the season yield to the changes that will create the world anew.

Do all this; and fall.

It’s been a rough couple weeks. Starting to get my equilibrium back and feel like things are on track. In the meantime, I finally invested in the DSLR I have been promising myself for years. I got a Canon EOS Rebel T3 and I am more or less delighted with McGavin.* As much – possibly more – functionality as I can possibly utilize given my skill level, and a body style which allows the addition of more or less any other components Canon makes with little more than the twist of the wrist.

So, that’s been filling my time of late. Toying with the idea of taking a photography class. It’d probably be worthwhile, since I know there are features and nuances I am not taking advantage of that I’d enjoy.

Meanwhile, some featured efforts…

IMG_0595-1

 

IMG_0746

Hood From Lolo Pass

IMG_0572

Salt Creek Falls in Willamette Pass

 

 

*Shooter. Eh? EH?! 

[hez-i-tey-shuh n]

noun

  1. The act of hesitating; a delay due to uncertainty of mind or fear: His hesitation cost him the championship.
  2. A state of doubt or uncertainty.
  3. A halting or faltering in speech.
Which Way When

Which Way When

I don’t generally suffer from indecision. Even if my choices aren’t always wise, I make them with gusto. It is remarkable then, when I feel unable to proceed apace with a clear notion of what my chosen course should be. It is remarkable, now.

I am feeling well. I have for days now. It has literally been more than half a year since that was true. When the character of my flares first changed from being a difficult few days each month to a near-constant circumstance of life, so did my attitude about my illness. Where once there had been an unwarranted assurance that I had rounded a corner and was surely free of a recurrence of such intense symptoms, there instead lingered a conviction that I would never again feel hale.

Post diagnosis I experienced a resurgence of optimism that having identified positively what was actually wrong it would be only a matter of taking appropriate action to make everything right.  Nearly two months later, no substantial change in my condition had begun to erode my confidence in that supposition.

About the middle of last week, I started to feel notably less unwell. By Saturday my guts had reached a degree of quiescence not experienced in months. It has persisted and is still the case. At this pass, I have no clear opinion about what might have provided me with this respite.

Notable is the addition of a new piece to my regimen at the beginning of last week based on some inductive reasoning and research about the mechanisms of my disease. It’s a minor change, easy to maintain along with other things I have been doing for a long time that while not curative, are certainly useful and help me feel better overall. Considering this, any effects should persist as long as I continue the routine.

It is also true that some of the medications I am taking for my condition take some time to reach critical mass in the system and achieve efficacy. It’s entirely possible they are finally asserting their influence and the results will also be ongoing as a result.

Yet I am also forced to acknowledge that occasionally, I just spontaneously feel better for no apparent reason. This is of course the most depressing possibility as I have no control over, ability to predict, or capacity to produce this result.

That realization has left me with a bit of an emotional hangover and an appreciable residue over any part of my life where might linger uncertainty. Instances in which I might not have all the information suddenly loom and cause disquiet. Circumstances that might otherwise barely capture my notice take on huge and ominous import.

It is as though the all the physical distress of the long lead up to now grew to occupy space suddenly come vacant. To fill the yawning void, in rush uncertainty, worry, and their fickle sister doubt. I think it is now my task to usher them out and introduce patience, faith, and assurance that whatever may pass I am capable of facing it bravely; even if I require a measured pause, before.

 

I’ve been fantasizing a lot lately about 2003. I haven’t been able to say precisely what it is about that year in particular that has been pulling at me, but it’s been going on long enough that I’ve become curious enough to indulge exploring potential reasons.

When I do, I realize 2003 was a temporal fulcrum of sorts in my life. I was emerging from circumstances where it felt like I’d just ended up, and was instead planning a future I intentionally crafted. I was living on my own and single for the first time in my adult life.

Apart from motherhood, which I did not view in terms of its limitations but rather its advantages, there were essentially no constraints on my choices. Laid before me was a landscape of boundless possibility. I was confident and assured that whatever I decided, it would be realized through dint of will and work, with no other outcome seriously weighed.

Just Cause You Feel It Doesn’t Mean It’s There

My visual memory of that year is limned in golden light; I am sitting on the balcony at the Brazen Bean with a lavender martini, dappled sunshine playing across my bare arm. I am driving Datsy to Seattle to see Radiohead with giant sunglasses firmly in place. My sister and I are tromping across the footbridge at Drift Creek Falls during a weekend of campfires and pirate jokes.

I have no doubt whatever that the truth of that year was much more variegated than memory serves. Romantically, I enjoy the version I’ve created in my head rather enough to prefer it over the pesky truth, anyhow.

I do know it was before I made what ended up being some fateful and less-than-completely-well-advised choices about my education. It was before I met the person who would change the course of my life such that unto the very day, most of my social circle is comprised of people met through his offices. It was before I lost the girl I still think of as occupying the role of “never to be replaced love of my life/best friend” It was before I had to reconcile myself to the notion I’d only have one child, may never remarry, and that ultimately my life would turn out looking a lot different than I expected.

I am happier, healthier, and far far wiser now, than I was in 2003. Though I think certain things would be easier if I had made different choices all those years ago; it’s really impossible to say. If I’d pursued a different course of study or attended a different university, how different things would be. Of course in that backcasting “If I knew then what I know now…” lament is something everyone falls prey to from time to time and while I’ll indulge up to a point, I also know it serves no purpose other than to entertain.

To that end, I’m setting aside the wondering and complied a playlist: Chutes Too Narrow, Fever To Tell, Dangerously In Love, Boy In Da Corner, More Parts Per Million, and Hail To The Thief. As far as entertainment goes, that’s been far more definite and much more rewarding.

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