Posts Tagged ‘Oregon’

A man and his seagull

November 1, 2010

Siletz Bay, Sunset, October 2010

While I was out

September 8, 2009

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

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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.

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The peeling bark of the evergreen Madrona tree.

Full of hot air

Hot air balloon on the inside

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

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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

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

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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

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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.

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

Soapbox Derby

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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.

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Team Lego Maniacs hydrates for the competition

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

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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.

And you thought it was simple

February 27, 2009

I like my coffee like I like my men. That’s right, you’re thinking it: COMPLEX. Turns out, I’m in luck. According to the experts at Portland’s Stumptown Coffee Roasters, coffee beans have about 800 flavor characteristics, more than twice the number found in wine.

The staff at the Southeast Belmont Stumptown offer twice-daily “cuppings” (at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.) to inform people about the finer points of the beverage. My sister Laura and I attended one with our aunt and uncle, who were visiting from Spokane last weekend.

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Coffee buyers carry out the ritualistic cupping process before each purchase to determine the quality and qualities of the beans in question. And really, they approach the whole thing with a mug-half-empty mentality: they’re in it to find the defects.

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We were encouraged not to share our observations during the cupping so as not to influence each other’s impressions.

At our cupping, a Stumptown coffee master lined up seven trays of coffee beans — from Guatamala, Panama, Ethiopia and Kenya — along the shop’s low, wooden counter. We sniffed, snorted and sipped our way down the line five times, evaluating the beans each time in a different way.

The process took about an hour and went something like this:

  • We smelled the dry grounds of each bean, making sure to inhale the fragrance through our noses AND our mouths.
  • We sniffed the grounds again, this time soaked in just-boiled water.
  • We used spoons to break the crust that developed on the surface of the solution and and inhaled the aroma again.
  • We dipped our spoons in the coffee mixture and slurped it up as loudly as possible, trying to get the coffee droplets to reach both our tongues and the back recesses of our nasal passages. (The Stumptown staff member demonstrating had this part of the process down, but when I tried to execute with as much gusto, I ended up just inhaling the coffee. Cough.)
  • We slurped down the line again to taste the coffee at a slightly cooler temperature, when its true qualities are said to reveal themselves.

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Some are fruity, some are nutty, and now I can tell you which is which

I’ve been aware that different blends of coffee have different characteristics, but I’ve never paid attention to what those differences are. I just drink whatever’s in my cup and have a general sense of whether I like it or not. The process of tasting coffees back to back enabled me, for the first time, to note the nuances that make each bean distinctive — and realize I have a lot to learn when it comes to café.

Oswald West State Park: BEACH TRIP ’09!!!

February 10, 2009

It was February, and it was the Pacific Ocean off the northern coast of Oregon, but we dove in anyway. Stripped to our skivvies and plunged headlong into the waves. The shock was invigorating, paralyzingly so, but by the time all 45 degrees had fully registered, we were sprinting toward dry sand and a large rock in the sun.

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My sister Laura and I and our friends Beth and Benjamin spent the entire day on the beach at Oswald West State Park, located in a secluded cove bounded by old-growth spruce, fir, hemlock and cedar trees. The 2,400-acre park, a mere 90 miles northwest of Portland, stretches four miles between Arch Cape and Neahkahnie Mountain and contains a section of the Oregon Coast Trail that we didn’t explore but would like to.

We’d expected weather typical of the Oregon coast in winter, but the day was so unseasonably warm and sunny that between our arrival at 10:30 a.m. and our departure after sunset, we never pulled the fleece hats, winter jackets and rain gear from our backpacks.

Here’s how we kept ourselves occupied:

  • Tiptoed into and bolted out of the ocean.

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Note the wet hair. Yes, we went in all the way.

  • Accepted the Cartwheel Challenge (meaning 30 in a row) and eventually became unable to distinguish the up from down.

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  • Ate mass quantities of Parmesan-flavored Goldfish crackers and chocolate that melted in our mouths, but first, in our hands.
  • Scaled the rocks as menacingly as possible.

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I don’t know how I remained so calm in this situation.

  • Bumped, set and tried to spike a small yellow volleyball that we dubbed “Big Red” until our forearms could not take it anymore.
  • Tried to imagine why women in skorts and a large group of children were carrying around My Little Ponies and a life-sized plastic dummy with well-developed calves.
  • Stared into the ocean, listening to the waves crash into the jagged rocks offshore.

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  • Read our books, which pretty much digressed into taking naps.

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  • Watched the setting sun cast the sky in shades of gold, then sink into the horizon.

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All in all, a perfect day.

Foiled by ice in the Columbia River Gorge

January 18, 2009

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I would have loved the waterfalls. At least that’s what my sister Laura told me as we turned around less than a mile into our hike on the Eagle Creek Trail in the Columbia River Gorge, 40 miles east of Portland. After crossing several patches of black ice over a 60-foot drop into a rushing river — and listening to a string of turned-around hikers describe the trail ahead — we joined the parade of bundled up people and sweatered dogs heading back to the parking lot.

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Laura on a vigorous hike

Good thing, too. On the descent, my right foot slipped on a patch of ice, sending me hurling toward the ground. Rather than busting, though, I caught myself in the deepest lunge I’ve ever done. My left knee hovered a mere centimeter from the ice for a few seconds before I pulled myself up and recovered my composure.

“Not the Eagle Creek Trail you’re used to, is it?” asked a member of the Forest Service crew working on the trail, passing us by with a chainsaw balanced over his shoulder.

Under less-icy circumstances, it would have been a great hike:  The Eagle Creek Trail climbs 13 miles to Wahtum Lake along the wall of the gorge, passing through forests of moss- and fern-covered conifers and by a number of waterfalls, including Punchbowl Falls (15 feet high, two miles from the trailhead) and Tunnel Falls (100 feet high, six miles in). We’ll definitely go back  when it’s warmer.

On the way home, Laura and I stopped at Multnomah Falls, a 620-foot waterfall along the side of Interstate 84 — the second-highest year-round falls in the United States and one of 77 falls on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge.

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The scene wasn’t much better. We hiked a quarter mile up a paved path to take in the view from the arched bridge beneath the falls, and upon arrival, found a chaos of people sliding around the icy structure, holding onto fence posts, trash cans, anything that would keep their legs under them (the highway signs are true, bridges DO ice first). I clobbered a 12-year-old while trying to make my way past her along a fence. People clung helpless to the handrails as they tried to secure their footing. Grown men bowled over their children. Laura caught the tiny woman who came flying at her.

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Fortunately, everyone present thought the situation was hilarious. And the falls was spectacular as well.

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Off to Oregon

January 1, 2009

I have packed up the back of my Subaru Forester, and tomorrow morning early, my sister Laura and I will set off from Greensboro, North Carolina driving west on I-40. We will probably be listening to the She & Him album we can’t get enough of, or immersed in the teenage vampire angst of the book Twilight, which we’re not afraid to admit we downloaded from iTunes.

A few days later, once we hit Bakersfield, Callifornia, we’ll turn right and head up the coast. Our final destination is Portland, Oregon, where we’ve both decided to settle for the next little bit; Laura, to study ceramics at the Oregon College of Art and Craft; me, to write-write-write.

There are tons of unknowns — where I’ll live, and how — but I am excited about all the possibilities in this venture. Plus, I know I’ll enjoy living in a place where excellent trail heads, cups of coffee and microbrews are just a bike ride away.

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Oh! And in other news, Laura built me a new Web site, which you can find at www.christinacooke.net. Check it out!

White water wafting the White Salmon

September 17, 2008

Q: What do you get when you put three dental equipment salesmen from Kansas City together in a river raft?

A: Knock-knock jokes!

I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say, I learned quite a few one-liners during a recent rafting trip in Washington State.

My friend Jonathan guides rafting trips on Washington’s White Salmon River for a company called Wet Planet. He took Helen and me — and the three salesmen — down the river on a recent Saturday morning.

Within seconds of shoving off shore, we were negotiating churning Class III and IV rapids (out of V navigable types) that didn’t relent until we pulled the raft off the water at the end of the run. This took a well-coordinated digging of paddles, an every-man-for-the-team mentality — and some skilled steering from the back.

The White Salmon River starts on the glaciers on Mount Adams, ends at the Columbia River near the town of Hood River, Oregon is protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The clear, frigid water was on its way through a narrow, steep-walled canyon of volcanic rock during the eight miles we followed it. The setting has a pristine beauty about it; flowers and ferns grow from cracks in the canyon walls, needly trees arch out over the water, and osprey circle overhead.

We abandoned our raft upstream of the first waterfall, BZ Falls, and while the empty vessel floated over the 24-foot drop by itself, we walked around. Then we jumped off a cliff and met it at the bottom.

“Make sure you land in the dead center of the river,” our trip leader had said before we hurled ourselves off the edge. “Land too close and you’ll hit the rock ledge on this shore. Land too far away, and you’ll hit the rock wall on the other side.” Instructions like that make for an exhilarating free fall. No really, it was fun.

The trip concluded at the base of the 10-foot Husum Falls. We stayed in the raft for that one, and practiced a stay-in-the-raft tactic as we approached. When Jonathan said “Get down!” we swung our paddles along the outside of the raft (being careful not to remove each other’s teeth in the process), scooted our butts onto the floor and grabbed a safety cord.

Here we are in action:

CRAFT IDEA: Why not print out these photos and staple them together to create your very own Husum Falls flip book?!!

Notice our calm composure as we approach the drop. That’s me, back right. Helen is directly in front of me.

OK, not as much composure here. This one has more of a “HOLY SHIT!” feeling to it.

That’s Jonathan, our guide.

You can still see his arm.

Aaaaaand, we’re back. And all accounted for!

Oh, to be alive!!!

I’d say that was a bonding experience

After Helen and I dried off, we drove to Giffort Pinchot National Forest to hike the Sleeping Beauty Trail. The 1.4-mile path ascended through a forest of firs and hemlocks draped in lichen.

It ended at a 4,900-foot rock outcropping that overlooked Mount Adams (pictured above), Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier.

Helen and me, windswept, at the top

And, a shot from the way down, some lichen in the sunlight:

Rafting photos courtesy of Wet Planet.

Portland, Oregon: Quite a catch

September 11, 2008

Portland wears graphic tees and skinny jeans and slings a courier bag over its shoulder whenever it goes anywhere. Its favorite color, by far, is green.

The city defies traditional categorization in many ways. But it also has some definite preferences. And here they are, in no order whatsoever:

  • Likes: Riding bikes, listening to indie rock, brunching, biodiesel, light drizzle, green space, sketching things in notebooks, brewpubs, organic stuff, reusable grocery bags, hanging out at coffee shops, tending vegetable gardens, feeding the chickens in the front-yard hutch
  • Dislikes: The Man, 9 to 5 desk jobs, strip malls, carbon footprints, categories, automobiles

I visited Portland, Oregon last week to scope it out as a potential next home base. I stayed with my friend Helen who moved from Birmingham in April. She lives in a newly-renovated, two-bedroom apartment in the hip Southeast part of town and started work last week as a teacher at a preschool where the students sing songs to Mother Earth and are allowed to take off their clothes whenever they want, provided they keep their undies on.

Helen lives with four cats who are constantly plotting against each other. This one LOOKS cute and harmless…

Here are a few things I really liked about Portland:

Everyone rides bikes
I felt very Portland as I rolled up my right pant leg, swung a leg over my bike and started peddling across town for a lunch date. In the west coast port city, the majority of the population, it seems, moves about on two wheels, and the question “Wanna ride bikes?” is as common among adults as second graders. Just my style.

A guy riding his bike in the park downtown along the Willamette River, taken with my old-fashioned camera. OK, not true. iPhoto is fun.

Voodoo Doughnuts
I have never tried a doughnut coated in Tang. Or Fruit Loops. Or Butterfinger crumbles.
All these toppings were options, though, at Portland’s Voodoo Doughnuts, located downtown on SW Third Avenue. I opted for the doughnut smothered in chocolate, peanut butter and Rice Krispies — and mmmm, was it good.

The doughnut shop, located in a small brick hole-in-the-wall near the river, offers such specialties as:

  • The Memphis Mafia — A large doughnut covered with glaze, chocolate chips, banana and peanut butter
  • The Arnold Palmer — A cake doughnut covered with lemon and tea powder
  • Triple Chocolate Penetration — A chocolate doughnut smothered in chocolate glaze and cocoa-puffs
  • And, get this: The Cock-n-Balls — A doughnut shaped like… well, you know… and filled with triple crème (ewwwww!)

BTW, the folks at Voodoo are also licensed to wed, so if you’re feelin’ the love, here are your nuptial options:

  • Intentional commitment: $25
  • Legal commitment: $175 (includes the wedding, with doughnuts and coffee for 10)
  • The Whole Shebang: $5,000 (includes airline tickets, a hotel room, sightseeing in Portland and the wedding package)

Powell’s Books

The flagship Powell’s Books is three stories tall and a city block wide. As such, it’s a good idea to have trail mix, water and a few Band Aids with you as you enter, and it’s also smart to leave your itinerary and expected departure time with a trusted friend.

The Portland institution — which operates seven stores in the Portland area and a nationally successful Web site www.powells.com — is the largest independent bookstore in the world. Despite its size, Powell’s maintains personal touches, like handwritten reviews below especially noteworthy books.

Food carts
I tasted the best cupcake in the world — and I do not kid about things like this — from a food cart on Alder Street called The Sugar Cube. The so-scrumptious piece of heaven, called the ‘Amy Winehouse,’ was described on the chalkboard as “boozy yellow cake with a hint of orange zest dipped in sexy chocolate ganache. DAMN!”

Damn is right. (I returned the next day for ‘Highway to Heaven’ — a “chocolate buttermilk cupcake filled with salted caramel, topped with chocolate ganache.” And, damn again.)

Owner Kirsten Jensen in her cart

The Sugar Cube is one of many food carts lining the sidewalk at 9th and Alder. The mobile restaurants, which have popped up all over Portland in recent years, serve short-order cuisine from all over the world — everything from falafel to Polish sausages to vegetable pakoras to beef burritos. The options can overwhelm, but the food is tasty, quick and generally a good bargain. Plus, the sidewalk tables offer a premium vantage point for people watching.

Cheap bowling
Got a quarter? Then get yer bowlin’ shoes on! We could hear the rumble of balls rolling and pins falling as we walked through the parking garage at AMF Pro 300 Lanes, which is located directly under the alley.
The start to my game was rough. I knocked down maybe two pins during the first three frames (faulty ball, right?). My luck turned around during the second game, however, when I scored three strikes in a row and dominated the rest of the game.

I felt oddly tempted by the awesome socks in the vending machine.

Public Art
Been looking for a place to ditch the My Little Pony you no longer play with? Free-range dioramas are pretty common to run across on sidewalks and street corners. Anyone can contribute.

Take this telephone pole, for instance

Stumptown Coffee Roasters
This Portland coffee roaster, which operates several cafes throughout the city, serves super high-quality espresso coffees, many of which have delicate designs swirled in the foam on top. Stumptown owner Duane Sorenson flies all over the world — to Africa, Central and South America and Indonesia — to develop personal relationships with coffee bean farmers. He pays them more than fair trade price to help them sustain themselves and their communities.
The coffeehouses are hipster centrals and usually packed with folks socializing or tapping away on their MacBooks.

Noble Rot
The Noble Rot wine bar serves ever-rotating “flights” of wine — or three two-ounce pours with a common thread. We opted for the Willamette Valley Pinot Noir flight to get an idea of what’s produced in the area. Apparently, Oregon produces some of the finest Pinot in the world. We sampled:

  • J. Daan, 2006
  • St. Innocent, 2006, White Rose Vineyard
  • Belle Pente, 2005 Estate Reserve, Yamhill-Carlton District

And our favorite? Numero tres.

Backyard fun

The Portlanders I met were smart, creative, laid back and fun. Makes for stimulating cookout conversation.

Obama all the way
In Portland, even sea creatures have the sense to support Obama!!!