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Ho Rain Forest 2020

Ho Rain Forest 2020

Took an overnight trip October 20-21 to Ho Rain Forest. Drove up Tuesday morning and did a little exploring close to the ranger station. Spent the night in Forks Motel and got an early start so I could hike a little way along the Ho River. Drove back in the afternoon and evening. Takes a little over 5 hours each way. A little drizzle every now and then but overall pretty nice weather. Temps in the 40’s and 50’s – good shirtsleeve weather so I can keep dry. Really need to spend 2 nights so I have the full day for enjoying the woods and can get further up the valley. Hip slowed me down some.

Used the Garmin InReach to keep SJ updated via satellite texting.

Here are the pictures. You should maximize the slide viewer (in the top left corner) to properly appreciate them. These were taken with a Nikon D5300 and a OnePlus 5 phone. Last picture shows my circular light attachment I use with the phone camera. I also have a bracket that can attach it to the Nikon. The power supply is a standard 5V backup pack I can also use to recharge the phone or GPS.

A little video of Mineral Creek Falls about 4 miles in:

Latourell Falls

Latourell Falls

On the first Sunday in March, Orion and I ignored all chores, to-do lists, and all other clamorings for attention, and headed out for a drive along the Historic Columbia River Highway. Starting at the Stark Street bridge, we headed east through some small towns.

Chanticleer Point was our first stop. This provided a nice view eastward along the Columbia River, with snow-topped mountains in the distance. We also got a view of Vista House, a popular site in the gorge. There was a stiff wind and temperature was right at freezing.

I got out at Vista House to take a few pictures and had to lean into the wind to avoid being toppled. My face become numb quite quickly.

Then on to Latourell Falls. This is a pair of falls, with the lower one visible from the parking area. The upper falls are about a mile in. At this time of year there are lots of icicles around the falls. There was plenty of ice wherever the spray from the falls hit the trail. A trekking pole would have come in handy, but since it was only a short walk, I left them in the car. Crampons would have been better. I’ll be better prepared next time.

I wandered on to Bridal Veil Park which also has some nice views. I didn’t go to the falls, saving that for next time.

Here are the pictures. You should maximize the slide viewer (in the top left corner) to properly appreciate them. Most pictures were taken with Nikon D5300 and some with my OnePlus 5 phone. The pictures are in high resolution and take a few seconds to load. You can click on the “+” in the top left corner to zoom in.

Salmon River Wanderings

Salmon River Wanderings

Sometimes I just wander about without any specific destination. I wanted to explore around the Salmon Butte trailhead and today I did that. I scheduled this outing and it was going to happen, rain or shine. They day turned out to be somewhere in between, somewhat misty, and more water dripping off trees than from the sky. Temperature was in the 40’s, a bit warmer than my previous visit. All the fancy ice crystals were gone. I did bring my new gloves and they kept my hands nice and toasty. I didn’t really need them and wore the glove liners most of the time.

First I headed up the South Fork of the Salmon River, to see how far I could go. Close to the bridge there is a huge boulder that has several large trees growing on it. The path goes through large ferns and moss-covered trees. The path runs out pretty quickly where a cliff face comes all the way to the river.

Next I followed the South Fork downstream to see where it meets the main course. Water temperature is a chilly 42 F. Again, lots of ferns and moss-covered trees. I also found some interesting fungi. I wonder, does the mycelium (root network) of the fungi on the trees go to the ground and interconnect?

After running out of exploring options along the river, I followed the old roadway to where the trail branches off. I detoured onto the trail as far as the two camp sites. The first one had a trail leading away from it. This is also an old road, heavily overgrown, and you can still make out the center ridge. I followed only a little way. I suspect the camp sites were gravel depots. Orion and I have come across other large open spots, with gravel under the moss and grass, along other logging roads.

I continued on the roadway past the trail turnoff. It was filled with saplings. In the spring and summer it will be difficult to go along here because you won’t be able to see where you’re going. A few people have come this way since fall as evidenced by flattened leaves and ferns. The first portion is a thick layer of packed gravel, crossed by streams. After a while the gravel runs out and the road is just a graded way through the forest. Orion and I have passed along similar tracks elsewhere.

I passed two hikers with packs and trekking poles striding along. I also passed two runners puffing up hill at a good pace. Some postings on AllTrails claim to make the round trip to the top in a bit over three hours!

I sometimes just stand, or sit, by the trail, just to be there. In the distance is the tumbling of a large river. Closer by is the burbling of a stream crossing the path. One ear hears the uphill portion as the water comes toward me, and the other ear hears the downhill portion that’s making its way to join the larger roar. Sometimes  a bird will chirp. The wind tickles the tree tops, and tufts of mist roost among the branches. Nice!

I do need to come back with a tripod. Some of these pictures would make nice murals or screen savers. Fortunately the best ones are close to the parking area.

Here are the pictures. You should maximize the slide viewer (in the top left corner) to properly appreciate them. Most pictures were taken with Nikon D5300 and some with my OnePlus 5 phone. The pictures are in high resolution and take a few seconds to load. You can click on the “+” in the top left corner to zoom in.

Salmon Butte Trail

Salmon Butte Trail

Salmon Butte Trail starts where the South Fork of the Salmon River meets the main course of the Salmon River, and is in my main hiking area, the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness portion of Mount Hood Forest. Overall the trail is smooth and rises steadily along its length. The total length is 6.1 miles and climbs 3490 feet. Compare that to Cool Creek which rises 3200 feet in 3.3 miles.

On December 22, 2018, I headed out to give it a try. I got a late start and arrived at the trail head at 12:30. Sunset is at 4:30 this time of year, and in the mountains it would get dark even sooner. I didn’t have much time.

The trail starts out by crossing an old concrete bridge and follows what appears to be an old logging road. The roadway is covered with only light growth, probably owing to a thick and well-packed layer of gravel. It would be hard to drive now, however, due to the number of stream-worn little canyons crossing it. After 1.5 miles, the trail goes off on its own, while the old road continues off in another direction. Up to this point you can hear the South Fork in the distance.

Once I turned off the road into the trees, it was less windy and felt warmer. The path is soft and smooth. About 2 miles in there was a light dusting of snow in the clearings, and at about 3 miles there was a little bit of snow under the trees. I was passed by a young man in shorts with a dog. At 3.5 miles I was still in good shape but knew that there was not enough time to get to the top. I did not want to be stuck hiking in the forest after dark. I turned around and had a late lunch when I reached the campsite. I reached the car at 4:00 and the sun was far behind the mountains.

On New Years Day of 2019 I headed out at sunrise to try again. The sky was clear and I had the whole day to try this. I arrived at the trail head at 8:40 and started. The old road follows the river for a while and there is a strong, cold breeze blowing along it. I was glad to get to the trail and out of the wind. There wasn’t any snow on the road portion but once I headed into the trees and got a little more altitude, there was snow. After about 3 miles there was several inches on the path and that made hiking a bit more strenuous. I also had trouble keeping my hands and fingers warm. Gloves that are fine in town are not warm enough up here. I made it a little more than 4 miles and had to turn around. I just couldn’t keep my hands warm enough, and I was getting pooped out. Perhaps not getting much sleep the night before had something to do with that. Hiking in even a few inches of snow is also hard work, a little bit like walking uphill in sand.

Oh well, it will be here in the Spring.

I started back and made lunch at a convenient spot along the trail. The Indian Vegetable Korma is very good but takes half an hour to soften all the vegetables. I had to set the fuel canister on a glove. If they get too cold the fuel doesn’t expand properly. Ideally I would have a small piece of foam padding to set it on. (That is why I practice cooking on these hikes. I have to remember or relearn all the tricks I’ve forgotten.)

I found some small animal tracks. These looked like cat tracks, more like a house cat than a cougar(!) and are probably raccoon tracks.

I explored some strange ice crystals in the moss along the trail, and explored what at first looked like strange clumps of snow on some dead sticks. Looking closely at them I found ice crystals growing under the bark of some dead branches. These crystals literally peeled the bark off the branches. The ice crystals were very fine, like cotton candy, and melted at the merest breath.

I got back to the car about 3pm.

Clothes: Duluth light thermal underwear, top & bottom. REI pants and Duluth poly longsleeve shirt. Brimmed wool hat with integral earmuffs. Duluth socks.
On the first hike I wore a heavy windbreaker. Second hike was colder and I used my Duluth hoodie. Hoodie and hat were sweat soaked from the inside and always hard to put back on after resting. Only had work gloves. Need to get ski gloves. I have a small spur on the outside of left foot which has been rubbing the boot on the last few hikes. Finally thought to put a bunion ring on it and that helps a lot.

No injuries, not even to pride.

There are some other exploring options: 1) Follow along the South Fork upstream from the bridge. It looks like a trail starts here, it would be nice to see how far it goes. 2) Follow the road instead of going onto the trail at the 1.5 mile point.

Here are the pictures. You should maximize the slide viewer (in the top left corner) to properly appreciate them. Most pictures were taken with Nikon D5300 and some with my OnePlus 5 phone. The pictures are in high resolution and take a few seconds to load. You can click on the “+” in the top left corner to zoom in.


Cool Creek Trail to Devil’s Peak

Cool Creek Trail to Devil’s Peak

According to the locals, we were having some unusually nice weather for October. I grabbed one of the nice days to see if I could make it up to Devil’s Peak Lookout again, up Cool Creek Trail this time: over 3000 feet up in just 3.5 miles. The hike map is shown below.

Here are the pictures. You should maximize the slide viewer (in the top left corner) to properly appreciate them. Most pictures were taken with Nikon D5300 and some with my OnePlus 5 phone. The pictures are in high resolution and take a few seconds to load. You can click on the “+” in the top left corner to zoom in.

As usual, I drove out US Highway 26 toward Mt Hood, starting at 8am. About 9 I arrived at Still Creek Road (also National Forest Development Rd 2612). This turned almost immediately into a single lane road, with only a few places where vehicles could pass. It is a very pretty drive and I would have been at trail head in a few minutes except for the line crew which blocked the road while it repaired a downed power line.

I took the opportunity to explore a foot bridge I passed. After I returned from that the way was clear and I arrived at the trail at 10:10 and started up.

The trail is relentless! There are very few gentle slopes, much less level portions. The views are fantastic. I allowed 3 hours and it took four, with many stops and much huffing and puffing. I did make it to the top and climbed into the lookout. It was already occupied by a nursing student who’d made it up earlier in the day. She was settled in, planning on spending the night, so she made it up with a full pack. I only carried my usual 25# adventure pack. We chatted a little while I made my lunch and rested. About 3 I headed back down. I would have explored a little bit, and rested longer, but I was already 2 hours later arriving than planned. Because of the steepness of the trail, getting down would not be much faster than going up. And it was getting dark soon. I made it down in about 2 hours and it was getting pretty dusky at the bottom of the valley where I was parked.

My new boots worked well. They’re a bit clunky and stumbled over things a bit – I’ll just have to get used to them. The main thing is that there was no damage to my toes after that steep downhill hike.

No injuries. The trekking poles helped some. They are good for resting while standing. They do get tangled in vegetation because they’re so light. I’m not sure they are better than my heavy walking stick.

Note: read the instructions on the freeze-dried food packages. They are not all the same. I was pretty tired and mentally fogged when I got to the top and made my lunch on automatic. The Turkey Casserole dinner (see picture) takes less water and a shorter steep time than the others I’ve had. It was still good and I ate both servings without any trouble.

Temperature was in the 40’s. I wore light hiking pants and long-sleeve hiking shirt. I started out with a jacket but warmed up quickly. At the top I put the jacket back on.

I took 2 liters in my hydration pack and 750ml in a bottle. I used every drop. I only took 1 Pemmican bar, ate that along the way and was starving when I got to the top.

For next time: Take more snacks and water. Start earlier.

Will I do this again? Absolutely! I want to spend a night up there and see the stars.


Salmon River: Take 1

Salmon River: Take 1

On Thursday, August 2, 2018 I hiked along the Salmon River.

This is further preparation for an overnight hike to Lake Kinzel. This picture shows the route I took. On the far right you can see a blue dot. That is Lake Kinzel, 1700 feet above my turn-around point. From there a trail parallells the Salmon River trail along a ridge and then ends a little northwest of the starting point. Next time… (Click on the map to enlarge it)

Total Distance: 13.1 miles (21km)
Total climb: 3699 feet (1128m)
Total time on the trail: 8.5 hours

Here are the pictures. You should maximize the slide viewer (in the top left corner) to properly appreciate them. Most pictures were taken with OnePlus 5 phone. Some with a Canon G10.

The Salmon River trailhead is about an hour from the house. It is located in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness which has some large areas of old-growth forest. Considering how rugged and steep some of the canyons are, it is no wonder that loggers would look for easier pickings.

The weather forecast was for cool, cloudy, and possibly some rain, which suited me just fine. I’m usually soaked anyway so a little rain would help me keep cool.

Here is how it went:
07:20 Left house. Some drizzle and hilltops wreathed in clouds.
08:00 Turned off highway onto Salmon River Road (at the Subway)
08:25 Arrived at the parking area by the bridge beyond Green Canyon Campground. Only two other cars here. Start hiking.
09:19 About 2 miles in, at sign-in station. Moving along easily and in no rush so I can check out some of the campsites and some side trails. Trail starts heading up-hill and away from the river at this point. Weather started to clear up. None of the hoped-for rain arrived.
13:00 At Kinzel Lake Trail beginning. According Runkeeper I’ve come 6.78 miles. The map says it’s 6 miles so my side explorations have added a bit to that. Walked a little way up the trail. It looks pretty and the map says it is only 2.2 miles to the lake, however it climbs another 1700 feet! That would take a few more hours and there’d be no time or energy to return. Definitely an overnight trip. Woohoo!
Settled down for lunch. There was a campsite a little ways back, but no view. I just stayed here, spread a ground sheet on a level area and heated some soup. I could have eaten the soup cold, out of the box, but having it hot is much more pleasant, and refreshing. Had a pack of Belvita crackers to go with it.
13:45 Prepared to head back. Oops!!! Very stiff getting up, sat too long in one position and right hip didn’t want to work. Finally got loosened up and headed back.
14:20 Stopped at a stream to soak feet. I had some very sore toes and discovered three bruised toenails. Arrgh! I trimmed them all back last night, hoping to avoid this. I need to get new boots! Water was cold! Could only keep feet in a few seconds at a time, but it felt really good.
Further on I started to get tired and knees were getting sore, so I was taking frequent breaks. No more detours or sightseeing. Skies got pretty clear and I was on the hillside facing the sun so it got pretty warm. Probably just in the 70’s but still…
17:00 Back at the car. Changed shirt, put on sandals and waded in the water. The river is a bit warmer than stream I put my feet into. It felt good on feet and knees.

Bear pack with 3L Bladder (holding 2.5L) and the usual stuff, some just for weight. Total: 25lbs (11kg)
Usual clothes & wooden staff

Had banana and müsli for breakfast before I left
Luna protein bar about 10:00
Soup box and crackers for lunch
Latte and Tomato/Mozzarella sandwich on way home
Took 2.5L water in bladder. 0.5L remained when I got home

It was a weekday so I hoped for light traffic. There were day-campers in the camp sites. Only met one group of hikers past the 2-mile sign-in station. Met a lone hiker at about 4 miles in. Chatted briefly and agreed that hiking alone in the wilderness is our “church”, and we do it in spite of our families’ bewilderment. She was accompanied by a miniature Italian greyhound (Frankie).
More traffic on the way back, again inside the 2-mile mark. Several groups. About 8 cars in the lot.

I used the Garmin inReach Explorer+ extensively. I’ve used it in the past for tracking and navigation but haven’t had much luck using the messaging function. This time I tested extensively before the trip and reread the instructions.
I did the self test in the parking lot and it took a few minutes to complete. I sent messages to SJ along the way, usually whenever I had an open space beside the river or on an outcropping. I also stayed still while I waited for the message to get through. It worked pretty well and took about 10 to 20 minutes for a message to go out. Replies would come in while I was hiking again. I kept the unit on top of the pack and used a phone app to send and receive messages via BT connection. The Garmin has a 3 to 4 day battery life but the phone was at 30% when I got back to the car. I will need a backup battery or charging system for longer hikes.

Bruised toenails. Looks like at least three will be coming out, maybe a fourth.
Knees started to get painful after about 10 miles. Needed to take frequent breaks after that.

For next time…
The water bladder works great while hiking but is not so good when I stop and take the pack off. Need some water in a bottle for sipping while resting, cooking and washing. Forgot cup.
Bring a few paper towels to wipe out the pot in case I’m not near water.
Left thermometer behind, again! Want to record air and water temps.
Bring more headbands and bandanas.
Need a piece of stiff foam 12″ x 12″ (expanded PVC?) as a stove base for uneven ground.
Schedule more rests, even if not tired.

Other notes…
Mosquitoes: Wasn’t bothered by them while hiking but I did notice a few gathering while I stopped for lunch. So, while I didn’t need any repellent on the hike, they might be a problem when I camp, especially if I stop by a lake.

I like the wooden staff better than a trekking pole

I’m writing this an the Saturday after and have only slight soreness left, Yeah!

And great fun was had by all!

A Foray into Gifford Pinchot National Forest

A Foray into Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Just north of the Columbia River, along the Cascades, is the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. I finally had a chance to check it out as a possible adventuring area. According to the maps I have, I should have been able to go to Carson and then follow some forest routes for a ways and then follow the Lewis River west and then return home. Things turned out a little differently, and more fun.

Here is the track I followed: (Click on the map to enlarge it)

Here are the pictures. You should maximize the slide viewer (in the top left corner) to properly appreciate the pictures.

From Gresham it took about an hour to get to Cascade Locks where you can cross the Columbia via the Bridge of the Gods. After some detours and short side explorations I ended up in Carson ( 1 ) about a half hour later. I gassed up at the single gas station and followed Wind River Road looking for Panther Creek Road. I found Bear Creek Road and took the next one ( 2 ), which was unmarked. It turned out to be the one I wanted.

Panther Creek Campground ( 3 ) has quite a few sites, not too crowded together. Some were reserved, and there were still a few open sites, despite the Memorial Day weekend. There is access to Panther Creek.

The road is nice and smoothly paved, 1 1/2 lanes wide. Real fun to drive on. Eventually I got to the intersection with 60 ( 4 ) and encountered a sign that indicated there might be a change in plans. The pavement soon ended and dust swirled on the gravel road. That wasn’t too bad until oncoming traffic zoomed by. Since I had the windows and roof open, there was soon dust everywhere. Falls Creek Horse Camp ( 5 ) would be a nice place to camp, and there are several trails around there.

An open spot along the road provided a nice view of Mt St Helens above the trees. I convinced one of the local bears to take a picture of me and Orion.

We got to what the sign warned about: a culvert was plugged and a small creek washed over the road ( 6 ). The original plan was to follow forest roads to ( 6a ), or even further north along the Lewis River and then head west. Large 4WD vehicles made it over fine, but without tools to level things out a little, I didn’t want to risk getting stuck, or worse, damaged. I don’t think breakdowns out here are covered by the roadside assistance coverage. And how would I contact them anyway? So, I backtrack to the intersection with 60 and head west. Poor Orion wanted so badly to cross the stream, and after watching the 4WD truck go through he had a serious case of big tire envy!

Along the way there was an inviting turn-off. After following some hillside-hugging and overgrown roads we ended up in a large meadow ( 7 ). Careful examination revealed that the flat area is actually a huge flattened pile of gravel. This might have been a gravel depot for preparing the forest roads. In the course of trying to find a route through the forest, I found several similar, smaller sites which might have been work and storage areas for road crews. All that was left was piles of gravel, trash, and evidence of much target practice.

This was a good place to have lunch and I convinced another bear to take our pictures. Unfortunately the bears are very bashful and wouldn’t let me take their picture. We had lunch and tea and said our good byes. A nice thing about this place: it was very quiet! Some wind, some birds and a few insects was all I could hear. What a place to have a cabin, and there was already an outhouse.

I was trying to find a route back to Wind River Road without having to return to 60, but failed. I got over a berm and moved a few (small) fallen trees but eventually the prepared road ran out. Again we backtracked, and continued on 60. The gravel road gave way to smooth pavement that wound through trees and we slalomed joyously along the traffic-free path until we rejoined Wind River Road ( 8 ).

It was a scenic drive to, and along, the Lewis River. McClellan Viewpoint ( 9 ) provided a spectacular panoramic view of Mt St Helens. The lakes looked pretty but trees blocked most of the view. It was getting late so I didn’t stop at any of the parks. The last picture was taken at ( 10 ).

Overall, the wilderness I passed through was rather typical, dry forest. It was pretty, but not really what I was looking for. At least I now know what it is, and may come back for some more exploring, particularly around Mt St Helens, but I think I need to aim west if I want to find rain-forest.

Equipment I need for Orion so we can go more places (because I can’t get him the big tires he wants):

  • Large folding bow saw
  • Collapsible but sturdy pick/shovel
  • Long tow strap, to reach to the nearest tree
  • Manual winch
  • Blocks to put under scissor jack, maybe pieces of 2×8 or 4×4
  • Wheel chocks
Going Around Mt Hood

Going Around Mt Hood

Some projects are finished and it’s time to go adventuring again!

The plan is to head down US Highway 26 toward Y’East (Mt Hood) and check out the trail head for an overnight hike I’m planning in mid-June. After that, just follow my hiking muse, or wherever Orion (my car) steers me. Ultimately, here is the track I followed: (Click on the map to enlarge it)

Here are the pictures. You should maximize the slide viewer (in the top left corner) to properly appreciate the pictures.

There are 5 major areas I explored. These are noted with the yellow numbers on the topographic map.

The drive from the house to Salmon River Road takes about 1 hour (Marker 1). Then it takes another 20 minutes or so to get to the trail head. I checked out the beginning of trail 793A, which starts opposite the sign to the Green Canyons campground. It has a (very) brief level section and them goes up, and up, and up. I went only 3/4 mile and climbed over 500 feet. Ultimately the climb is about 3000 feet! With an overnight pack that will be fun. After my quick mile and a half round trip, I went to the absolute end of Salmon River Road, which ends at the trailhead to Salmon Butte. That hike is 8 miles, round trip, and also climbs about 3000 feet. The main parking lot for the Salmon River trail was overflowing and there were plenty of cars here as well.

I wanted to stop at the ranger station at Zig Zag, but it was closed, so I continued along 26 and stopped at Mirror Lake (Marker 2). This can only be accessed from the uphill, or eastbound side of the highway. According to the signs, this is one of the most popular places to visit around Y’East. It is about 1 1/2 miles each way, with gentle switchbacks. You can see more comments in the picture descriptions. There was a lot of two- and four-legged traffic.

At Marker 3 I checked out Still Creek Campground. About half way around the campsites I noticed a dirt road and Orion pulled the wheel in that direction. This went through a strange collection of what looked like unofficial campsites that seem to be occupied for long durations. Eventually I found a sign leading me to Trillium Lake which was on my list of places to check out. My NW Forest Pass saved me the $5 entrance fee. It was a pretty busy place with lots of anglers, picnickers, and people enjoying the official beginning of summer that is marked by the Memorial Day weekend. I found an out-of-the-way picnic bench and made my lunch. I do not recommend the freeze-dried Pad Thai from Backpacker’s Pantry. It’s just noodles and textured soy protein and flavoring. It tastes fine but the textured soy protein has the consistency of bits of pencil eraser! Well, that’s why I’m trying it out on day trips like this. Even though it’s almost June, it’s in the low 40’s and I’m glad of the many layers of clothing. Hands were pretty cold. Another thing about the food packets: they never tear open the way they’re supposed to, and cold fingers have a hard time grabbing the tough plastic. Having a multi-tool with scissors is essential. It is unlikely that I will have a reason to revisit this park.

I returned to Highway 26 and had a choice of following it south toward some other lakes, or taking State Highway 35 north around Y’East. I chose 35 as the route that would still get me home that day. Shortly after turning onto 35 there was an unmarked dirt road off to the right (FR3560, according to the map). Again, Orion tugged that way and off we went at Marker 4 . A cliff-hanger of a drive with great views of Y’East. Eventually we were stopped by too much snow on the road. Definitely will come here again later in the summer, perhaps with Little Bear.

Marker 5 We headed home via the towns of Mt Hood and Hood River, and then west along the Columbia River. There were some nice views of Y’East along the way.

Overall, a very productive exploration. I know a little more about my planned overnight to Kinzel Lake and found a nice forest road to explore. The contrast between the west and east side of Y’East is interesting. As I came back west around the north side it got cooler and cloudy again. The town of Mt Hood on the north-east side had been sunny and warm.

Coming back along the gorge I could see the damage done by the Eagle Creek fire last summer.

Here is the day pack I prepared:

Adjustments for the future are:

  • Get a smaller tripod!
  • Don’t forget the lens filters!
Fort Stevens, Ho !

Fort Stevens, Ho !

(You have to maximize the picture viewer to properly appreciate the pictures.)

I took a little time to go exploring the area. Since the Mount Hood (original name is Wy’East) area has snow and ice, Orion and I headed west to the coast. The northwest tip of the state was the goal, a trip that usually should take less than two hours. It took me five – I just had to stop and explore some of the nooks and crannies along the way. And I passed up on many more.

The weather was typical Oregon January: on and off rain with occasional gaps in the clouds that let some sun shine through. Fog blurred some of the sights, and yet created a fantasy landscape in the hills.

Sauvie Island was the first major stop. It is nice and flat with many trails and should be good for easy bike riding. There are some very nice and new looking houseboats here. I saw some others along the way that looked like they were on the verge of sinking.

Rainier is a little town stuck to the hillside along the river. It is opposite Longview, Washington, which also has a port, and smokestack industries. Spelling does not appear to be important to the marina owners, but then all the slips were empty.

One of the downsides to winter exploring is that the days are short. If I was going to make it to Ft Stevens and back before dark, I had to get a move on. The highway wound up into some hills with nice views of the river and opposite bank. The sun was peeking through the clouds and hinted at some pictures. Just as I pulled into the Bradley State Scenic Viewpoint it started raining again. Sigh. I still took a few pictures, explored, and made use of the facilities. Then onward.

Somewhere along the way I was treated to a fantasy landscape draped in wisps of fog, or was it smoke rising from the Fire Swamp? Whichever, I couldn’t turn around on the hill so I had to go to the bottom and backtrack until I could find a spot to take pictures. (Note to self: Always bring the tripod! Better yet, leave one in the car, along with the go-pack.)

On to Astoria… I didn’t explore the town much, just a brief stop by the river-front, then to a Starbucks, and on to the park.

This part of the coast is sand dunes, no doubt sediment from the river, etc. Very different from the rocky coasts to the north and south. There’s so much to explore around here! Anyway, look at the pictures. The park looks like a nice place for easy biking in the summer. By the time I finished a quick tour of the park, it was time to head back.

The town of Seaside is built on the dunes, with some houses just a short walk away from the water. And there is not a barrier island or reef! Let’s see: rising seas, changing weather patterns, and no earthquakes in a while to relieve tectonic stresses – a perfect place to build! There are some nice neighborhoods, such as the gated one for horse owners. There are stables, lots of white fences and green grass on top of the rolling dunes. Very pretty, and expensive, I’m sure.

Just south of Seaside I headed back, reluctantly. (Orion didn’t want to turn the wheel! It would have been much more fun to continue south on 101!) Took 26 and skirted the northern edge of Tillamook State Forest.

Left at 8:30 and got back at 5:30

Window-Wide Webs

Window-Wide Webs

For many years I’ve had an imaginary pet spider, Amanda, and I even wrote a few stories about her. One day she actually showed up outside my workshop window and demonstrated her web-building skills. I was able to capture this on my new (at the time) semi-pro video camera.


This particular type of spider is known as the golden silk orb-weaver. They grow up to about two inches in size, not including leg span. With the legs, some are over five inches in size. Web silk is golden in color, hence the name. Their species is the oldest surviving spider genus. Fossil remnants are 165 million years old. They are mildly venomous, causing redness, blisters, and pain at the bite area. Their Latin name, Nephila clavipes, means “fond of spinning.”

As you watch her rebuilding the web, it appears she does it entirely by touch. Some of the legs wave about, searching for the non-sticky draglines (the spokes of the circle) and then she uses another leg to attach the sticky silk.

The first portion of the video shows her in action close up. Starting at 4 minutes in, there is a zoomed-out, and speeded-up portion which shows her circling around the web.

I filmed her for several days but was never able to be there when something was captured by the web. I really wanted to see what she does with the prey. Unfortunately, I only saw her while she was doing her repairs.

There are other videos I have which show her preparing an egg case on the outside of the window frame. I checked on this regularly, hoping to see a lot of little spiders emerge, but one day both the mama and the egg case were gone. Perhaps the victim of a larger predator. Or she found a new home.

While large, and fearsome looking, these spiders are quite harmless and need to be encouraged, since they prey on other nuisance insects.