Archive for October, 2011

We’re finally done with Washington state. The lousy weather drove us out of the Palouse. We had two days of driving through the grassy country of Eastern Washington and Oregon. We arrived in Dayville and found the pretty Fish House Inn & RV Park. In mid-afternoon, we drove into the Sheep Rock Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. This is the kind of place we are always looking for – interesting geological formations in the middle of nowhere. The afternoon light was muted, good for photographing the rainbow-colored strata. Each area’s layers (there are three widely-separated areas of this monument) contain different fossils dependant on a different environment. For example, the Haystack Assemblage featured good rainfall that fostered hardwood forests that fed rhinos, camels, horses, etc. The Clarno Nut Beds was a wet, lush, semitropical forest with lots of fruits and nuts, creating many plant fossils.

We walked up the Story in Stone Trail, enjoying gorgeous turquoise formations. We also went up the Island in Time Trail, that included some replicas of the fossils found at that point. As we made our way, I heard a weird, gurgling sound that seemed to be coming from the hills around us. Dave said “No, it’s cranes”. We didn’t see any cranes and it seemed very unlikely to me that they were the cause of the sounds. When we returned down to the same point, we heard the noise again. “Look up” said Dave, and there, far, far up in the sky was a very large “V” of cranes. It’s so hard to believe they were overhead at the same point we went up and came down the trail, but there it is.

We regretfully left the pretty campground and headed west to get closer to another unit of the John Day Fossil Beds Monument – the Painted Hills Unit. This area has been pointed out in Outdoor Photographer as a prime spot and indeed it was. The hills are russet, olive and sage green, sepia, burgundy, pumpkin orange. Some of the areas looked like sliced kiwi fruit. From a distance, they had the texture of velvet or our old brown sofa. Close up, they made great abstracts and reminded me of some of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings. After a while, the sun came out (finally!) and the light got better. It’s grandeur made Artist’s Palette in Death Valley look like a sad little (and difficult to photograph) collection of colored rocks. It is so much fun to find a new, spectacular area.

On Monday, we drove a short way to the outskirts of Bend, Oregon. Once again, we lucked out and found Tumalo State Park, a very pretty campground with hookups. A warm afternoon allowed us to snack on tortillas broiled with butter, cheddar and smoked almonds. Eat ’em up, yum! And we relished our last bottle of lemoncello, toasting the generosity of Jeff and Betty, the donors of the yellow ambrosia. As we watched life in the campground, we heard crinkling plastic and I saw what I thought was a bag being blown by the wind. But there was no wind. Instead, it was a chipmunk, dragging off its booty, a bag of peanut brittle, from a nearby campsite. He must have experienced a sugar high; it was half a package. After a dinner of soup, we had our second campfire of the trip. Dave builds a good fire and we pondered it for an hour or two.

The next morning we drove into the Cascade Range, looking for fall foliage. Initially, we were disappointed by the evergreen forest surrounding us. We got out of the car to see the Dee Wright Observatory and immediately froze our tookuses. But oh what a view – mountains all around us – the Sisters, Mt. Washington and way far off, the teeny-tiny tip of Mt. Hood. The Observatory was built by the CCC in the 30’s, from the material at hand – lava. It’s pretty amazing. But the cold and wind got to us quickly and we returned to the warmth of the car.

As soon as we starting descending from that summit, the deciduous trees and undergrowth began to show color. We stopped a few times, but it was the trail to Proxy Falls that was fun to photograph.

We continued on our loop drive and found Sahalie Falls, a surprisingly voluminous waterfall with a roiling river boiling down from the bottom of the falls. I never get tired of looking at water.

After a day of chores, we took off on another drive, looking for colorful fall foliage. But we were on a lake drive with a lot of lakes surrounded by evergreens. So we did my fallback plan: visit Newberry National Volcanic Monument. After viewing a waterfall and a few more lakes, we walked the Obsidian Flow Trail. We’ve climbed around obsidian rock piles at the Mono Craters, but this walk had so much more obsidian. I love obsidian (It’s shiny! You can see your face in it, sometimes.) We spent about an hour on the half-mile path. So the day wasn’t a waste, photographically.

And so, that’s it for Oregon. We’re heading back to California and see how the autumn colors are doing there.

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The rainy weather finally caught up with us. Last Wednesday, we drove south to visit Mount St. Helens, expecting some showers. The next day, we started to drive the 50 miles to get to the highest point that the Spirit Lake road goes, but eventually turned around because of a heavy ground fog. We decided that driving another 20 miles with about 4 feet of visibility wasn’t a good idea and we probably weren’t going see much of the mountain anyway. Too bad.

On Friday, we drove down to Portland for our “day away” from the RV life. Oh boy – a motel! After carrying in our pillowcases that contained our personal items (we don’t have room for luggage in the motorhome), we spread out and relaxed. Then we attended the NewSpace gallery opening. Dave has a print in the new show, and it’s rare that we get to see the shows that he is part of. We were disappointed to miss out meeting some friends from the recent Lazy Daze get-together. They came to the gallery, but somehow we missed each other. After that, we went to dinner at Denicolas, an Italian restaurant that had absolutely enormous portions of good food (Eggplant Parmesan) and many enormous people eating there.

We got a break from the rain the next day so we decided to reprise a drive down the Columbia Gorge. We drove the 14 miles up a side road to Larch Mountain. We thought it was clear enough to get some good views. Not all the mountains were “out” but it was pretty spectacular anyway. After that, we didn’t stop until Multnomah Lodge, where we had a very pleasant lunch. We crossed the river from Oregon to Washington at Cascade Locks and found many more views of the Columbia River from the north side. We stopped at the Cape Horn lookout and enjoyed the beautiful light on the water.

Sunday was supposed to be a fairly nice day, so we decided to go over the mountains, east to Yakima. There was some spritzing, but we made it easily over the 4,500-foot White Pass, and coasted downhill. Dave was driving when I yelled “Pull over now!” It was Mt. Rainier, poking through the clouds. This mountain, viewable from half of Washington, was visible to us for the second time on our trip.

After noting the lack of fall foliage on Highway 12 and looking at the weather week ahead, we finally gave up any plans to drive into the Cascades. We drove to the southeast Palouse section of Washington state, marveling at the rolling hills. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to pull off on the side of road with the motorhome and the weather was uniformly cloudy and gray. We had some trouble finding a place to stay; the tourist season is over and Colfax, the town we want to center in, didn’t seem to have an open RV park. We finally nested outside of town in the county fairgrounds. They were just turning the water off, so we got a good deal ($10 per night). After hooking up, we set off on a short reconnaissance trip. The terrain looked wonderful, in varying shades of gold, tan, green and dirt. The Palouse is about wheat, everywhere. It is amazing how much of the land is planted with wheat.

The next day, we went for a drive. In this rural area, there are interstates, highways, roads and dirt tracks. It’s easy to get off the main drag and the unfenced fields go right to the edge of the road. Although the country is composed of rolling hills, dry farming allows almost everything to be plowed and planted: hills, gullies, up, down, over and out. There are little unplowed islands, mostly containing trees or buildings, but some are inexplicably left untouched.  The result is the opposite of a neat patchwork of squares; it’s farmland on acid. Our primary destination was Steptoe Butte State Park, a high point with a 360-degree view overlooking the Palouse. The road ascended, circling the butte, going higher and higher. It was surreal, mindblowing. The wind was blowing hard and the clouds were flying, causing an amazing light and shadow dance across the land. Wow!

We also visited the foremost landmark in Colfax – the Codger Pole, a chainsaw-carved monument that commemorates a football game rematch, 50 years after the original 1938 game. It’s 65 feet tall, it consists of portraits, carved into five upended red cedar logs, of the 51 players involved. The players are shown in old age but are wearing the football uniforms of the thirties. One of them is looking rather suspiciously at another codger, Dave.

The next morning we rose at 6 a.m. and went back to Steptoe Butte for dawn. It was extremely cold and windy, but we persevered in the name of art. At first I thought that dust was flying by us, but it was icy mist. I stayed outside the car to photograph as much as I could but the cold killed my ambition after a while. It was totally amazing to just look out the window at the light on the landscape. It is one of the most impressive viewpoints I have ever seen. We stopped for coffee and warmth in the small town of Rosalia, then moved on. We drove around 100 miles with lots of stops and we were both exhausted when we got back to the motorhome. We gave up on the idea of an afternoon trip.

Today we did another drive. Each little side road offers new vistas; it’s really fun driving around here.

We planned to move south to the town of Pullman, but can only stay for one night. Tomorrow the UW Cougars (Go Cougs!) play Stanford and the RV park is totally full tomorrow with people driving in to attend the game. We spoke with one guy who stayed in the RV park for half a day just so he would be early in the line to overnight with his motorhome in the stadium parking lot. I bet they do good tailgates there! We were going to do another little drive in the afternoon, but the light is lousy. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow, so we may say farewell to the Palouse and move on to Walla Walla.

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We’ve spent 3 unexpected days in Gig Harbor. The day we were to drive closer to Seattle was so blustery and showery that we holed up in Gig Harbor. Driving the Lazy Daze with a tow car in bad weather through big cities (Tacoma) and complicated highway connections is not a good idea. So we found a pretty little RV park and settled down for some R&R. (Mostly for the rest, we’ve been doing a lot of recreation lately and could use a break.)

On Tuesday, we drove into Tacoma to visit the Museum of Glass. We found out that it is closed on Tuesdays (I didn’t read the AAA Tour Guide carefully enough) and returned to Gig Harbor disgruntled, though a pleasant lunch at the harbor improved my mood. Wednesday, we tried again and gained access to the really neat Museum of Glass, with galleries displaying a diversity of glass art. One installation titled “Glimmering Gone” by Ingalena Klenell and Beth Lipman, was amazing. Part of it was composed of thin sheets of uncolored glass, hung in layers to compose a landscape with mountains, a waterfall, a river and trees. We weren’t allowed to photograph it, but I’ve never seen anything like it. To see some pictures of the exhibition (but no pictures capture the intricacy and delicacy of this installation), use this link: http://museumofglass.org/page.aspx?pid=386

The Museum also has The Hot Shop, a glass-working area. Resident and visiting artists work with molten glass while the audience watches from a gallery. The artists are so casual, in t-shirts and shorts, handling torches and molten glass, seemingly without care. (I’m sure that’s not true.) The incredible 90-foot tower, pictured below, contains the Hot Shop.

Afterwards, we checked out the adjacent Bridge of Glass, that connects the Museum of Glass, over train tracks and freeway, to the beautifully restored Union Station. The glassworks displayed there are all by Dale Chihuly, and though I think some of his work is florid and over the top, many of the separate pieces displayed here were quite beautiful.

We found Dave’s birthday dinner in the Murano Hotel, a modern hotel that incorporates glass artwork throughout. The centerpiece in the restaurant wasn’t any glass artwork – it was the view of Mt. Rainier, floating in the distance. All of the wind and rain had cleared the air so we could see the mountain clearly. It has an imposing bulk. Dave’s dessert was comped as a birthday present from the hotel.  After dinner, we revisited the Bridge of Glass in the dark and I took several pictures that indicate I wasn’t too steady with the camera.

We zoomed past Tacoma on Thursday, on our way to Redmond to visit Bev and Frank Seiter, some old friends who abandoned San Francisco many years ago. We spent a pleasant afternoon and evening, enjoying them and their backyard deck and Lulu, the very large cat. Frank still works (I guess somebody has to keep things running) and so we could only take Bev out for a late breakfast to a busy little Redmond diner. (The food just seems to keep coming.) On Friday we went north to Bothell and had fun in an Edmonds restaurant with my Uncle Stan and Cousin Kim and her boyfriend, Ed. Stan is doing great for being 90. (I missed his big birthday party earlier this year.)

We drove into Seattle proper on Saturday to check out the Photo Center Northwest, a good photographic gallery. We also visited the Frye Museum, but the part of their permanent collection we were interested in (Hopper, Wyeth, etc.) wasn’t up. Oh well. We then went over to Washington Park and walked through the various gardens and an Ikebana display. The weather is cloudy but is holding out, so far.

Sunday we changed RV parks to a cheaper, more convenient place with satellite reception. After all, the new season of Dexter was starting, and we wanted to see what the mass murderer was up to. After settling in, we took advantage of another not-quite-rainy day and drove down to the Space Needle. It wasn’t too crowded and the views were very good, although Mt. Rainier was hiding in the clouds. After relaxing over a coffee at the top of the needle, we dropped down and circled the Experience Music Project, a fantastic building. We’ll go inside on another day.

After enjoying the Olympic Sculpture Park by the water, we got back in the car just as the rain got serious. We experienced heavy rain for the 16-mile drive back, but we weren’t out in it, so we didn’t care.

We drove downtown again on Monday and the clouds never let loose on us. We walked around Pike Place Market and met an old friend, Mike Milne, for coffee at (where else in Seattle?) Starbucks. Mike, poor thing, is still working, so we comforted him as best we could and wandered off as he went back to work. The highlight of the afternoon was the Seattle Central Library. What a great building! We wandered around, inside and out, and clicked away. I love the fact that so many people still use the library (a lot of them are homeless with nowhere else to go). We decided that Pioneer Square wasn’t our favorite place, hiked back to Pike Place and then headed home to do the laundry.

Our final trip to Seattle was straight to the Experience Music Project. Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, loves rock, and had enough money to build a monument to it. Frank Gehry designed the building, and we were entranced with the exterior. The interior is pretty cool as well.











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