An Oregonian Whirlwind Trip: From city to coast to desert to mountains

Having never been to the Pacific Northwest (and being mildly jealous of Ben’s photos from his trip), Char and I hopped a Frontier Airlines flight and landed in Portland. The idea was simple: spend a few days seeing as much of the Oregon landscape as possible.

To pull this off, we were going to put a few miles on the rental car and the hiking shoes: by the end of the week, we’d covered roughly 900 miles driving and 50 miles walking.) I had planned to go from Portland to the coast along highway 99W and arriving somewhere near Lincoln City, but we couldn’t bear the thought of missing Cannon Beach. So after spending a day roaming around Portland (the Rose Test Garden, the Japanese Garden, a small farmer’s market, and a great dinner at Southpark Seafood), we started Monday with a quick stop at Blue Star Donuts and headed for the coast.

Monday: Portland – Cannon Beach – Bandon

This was a long day, punctuated by a few fun stops and some beautiful Oregon coastline. Arriving at Cannon Beach, we drove a couple miles north to Ecola State Park and jumped out and started hiking. We hiked from the main parking area to Indian Point Beach, where surfers and kids alike were all decked out in full wetsuits. Stunning place and one of the best views of Cannon Beach available.

From there, we drove nearly the entire length of the Oregon coastline, stopping for essentials like coffee and food and to gaze in wonder at one postcard-worthy overlook after another. At some point, you get a little numb to just how beautiful everything is. Keep in mind: the weather you see in all of the photos below was in one day, often within minutes. With the marine clouds blowing in from the sea, the sky could quickly and easily go from completely gray to azure blue (and back again) in moments. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Tuesday: Bandon to Crescent City

After wandering around town and having breakfast, we stopped by Bandon Beach before getting on the road to Crescent City, California. Bandon might be the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen, dotted with enormous haystack rocks from from volcano activity eons ago.

From the beach, we fell into “overlook postcard mode” again as the marine clouds poured in from the ocean and into the hills and the weather changed from temperate rain forest to beautiful blue skies… and back again. As we got closer to California, the sky turned blue and stayed that way.

Arriving in Crescent City, we took a quick break and then set out for Jedediah State Park to walk among the giant Redwoods. It’s hard to explain how big a one of these trees actually is, but these might help:

One tip: We walked a couple of the few paths in the park and stopped in Stout Grove before leaving. Stout Grove is a small loop trail very near the parking area and really shouldn’t be missed. Behind the grove is the Smith River, and there is a sort of extended walking bridge across the river to access a campground. It was a beautiful, quiet place to spend some time.

Smith River Bridge

Wednesday: Crescent City – Crater Lake – Bend

We were on a schedule for Wednesday: we needed to cover the mileage from Northern California up to Bend and be there in time to meet our guide for a moonlight canoe tour. Along the way, we stopped to gape at Crater Lake National Park. If you’re ever close enough to decide if you should go see it: Go see it. You won’t be disappointed.

At Crater Lake, we hiked up the Garfield Peak Trail, which leads away from the lodge and up into a spectacular overlook. The trail is a little sketchy in parts and definitely steep, crossing over snow fields and through rocky switchbacks. It takes about 90 minutes to get to the top, but the scenery is worth every step.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention: Early in the morning, while out walking along the beach, I spotted Bigfoot (top left corner, click for larger image):

Bigfoot Sighting

We arrived in Bend just in time to meet up with the tour group at Wanderlust Tours. Boarded a bus and drove about 45 minutes to a special lake that Courtney, our guide, had chosen. Along the way, she told stories about the area wildlife and geology. As a Naturalist, she had a deep knowledge and appreciation for this beautiful state and was eager to share it with us. Along the way, we passed a volcanic dacite flow that looked like it happened a few years ago, when in fact it had been nearly 2,000 years. “A lot of things you encounter out here look like they just happened. Things like forest fires and volcanic remains have a strangely recent appearance, but it’s very deceiving,” she said. The dacite flow was a perfect example.

It’s hard to get a photo on an iPhone from a canoe at dusk, but this shot of Mt. Bachelor in the distance and the sunset from the front of the canoe are close to how it looked. It was incredibly peaceful being on the water in full dark.

Thursday: Smith Rock State Park to Mt. Hood

Before leaving the tour, I asked Courtney if there was anything we absolutely had to see in Bend. Without hesitation she replied, “Smith Rock.” I’m so glad I asked, because this internationally renowned state park – widely considered to be the birthplace of rock climbing – was one of the highlights of the week.

We spent the morning in Bend, wandering the shops, drinking coffee, sitting on the river bank, so we arrived at Smith Rock around 2pm. We sort of missed the point that we had fully moved from coastal region to high desert, and were slightly unprepared for the heat that accompanied us on this hike. In retrospect, it would have been better to get here early in the morning, but I really wouldn’t have traded our time in Bend, either.

So we filled up the water bottles, looked over the map, and set out on Misery Ridge Trail. It was very hot, very dry, very steep, and very, very beautiful.

Leaving Bend and Smith Rock behind, we hit the road bound for the historic Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood. As we drove into the mountains, the weather turned, shrouded the peak in clouds. The temperature dropped nearly 30 degrees as we drove, and arrived at the lodge in a misty rain.

Even so, the Timberline is a sight to behold. Built as a WPA project and dedicated by FDR in 1937, the entire building is an homage to the perseverance and craftsmanship of the American worker. Sitting at the base of the summit, it’s one of the few places (maybe the only place?) in the US that has snow all year, so it’s a popular destination for ski teams around the world to come and practice. While we were there, in addition to the many local ski schools, there were teams from Canada, Italy and the Netherlands. Skiers and snowboarders roamed the ground, and from the back of the lodge you could just make out the halfpipe above on the mountain.

The weather was typically temperamental, quickly changing from sunny to foggy to misty, so we roamed around the lodge, at two exceptional meals, and headed out of Friday morning.

Friday: Mt. Hood to Portland

Looking back, we made two tactical errors and, unfortunately, they were both on the same day. Leaving Mt. Hood, we passed the trailhead for Mirror Lake Trail, a beautiful uphill walk through the evergreens to a lake that provides beautiful views of Mt. Hood. You have to have a pass to use the trail, and they don’t sell the passes at the trailhead. (They do have them at Timberline and Government Camp, just up the road.) But we didn’t have the time to backtrack, so we missed out. (As cloudy as it was, I’ve convinced myself that we wouldn’t have been able to see anything, but it’s only slight consolation.)

We also had a choice of driving north to and through the Columbia River Gorge or heading west to see the Oregon lavender farm. Though the lavender was certainly nice, we should have gone to the gorge. I guess we’ll just have to go back another time…

Lavender Fields

Route Map:

If you’re interested in a trip like this, I would definitely encourage you to go. Oregon is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen, and – as you can see on the map below – we saw a fairly small portion of it. Though I do recall the naturalist telling us that something 80% of Oregonians live west of the Cascade mountains, so while we only saw part of the state, we met most of the people. (The population density map shows just how dramatic this is.)

The Rothe Loop: Oregon

Though I would definitely go back to Oregon in a heartbeat, I would plan the trip differently. Well, I wouldn’t do this particular trip (what I’ve taken to calling “The Rothe Loop”) again, though I do recommend it as a way to see a lot in a short period of time. Going back I would likely set up camp in Bend and explore from there: Three Sisters, Mt. Bachelor, Smith Rock, and more than 120 lakes to explore. From Bend, you could get the full Oregon experience in a hip small town.

Safe travels!

The holidays have arrived… along with all your relatives

Ah, the holidays. Depending on your luck (and your perspective), you may find yourself surrounded by near and distant family sometime over the next few weeks. And you may remember why distance makes the heart grow fonder. It can be daunting, amidst the pressure of finding perfect gifts, getting everyone where they need to be (and when), and struggling to keep the real spirit of the season in mind, to have extended family lurking in the shadows.

You remember them, right? The in-laws and their list of demands, the crazy uncle who always seems to be one cocktail ahead of everyone else, the branch that’s global-warming-denying/social-medicine-supporting/Obama-hating/Hillary-loving… There are at least two sides to every issue and when most families get together, there’s plenty of room to choose sides and get into a good old-fashioned boondoggle.

Family. The very mention of them sends some people heading for the woods. Maybe it’s because we’re all so damned flawed and no one knows your flaws better than they do. Or has longer memories. Or quicker tongues. Growing up around my house, it was common to hear the admonition that you’d better have thick skin to withstand all the shots that would be taken. The result? You either developed that thick skin or adopted a complicated schedule that kept you from having to show up too much.

Families are designed to prepare us for the world outside, so it’s fitting that you get tossed out of the nest with a full suit of armor. The world, as everyone knows, is a difficult place; shouldn’t hurt you a bit to know what you’re getting into. On the other hand, not everyone is naturally attuned or easily prepared for the cruelty outside. There are some (including at least one among my own kids) who simply prefer to see the world for the mesmerizing, beautiful place it is. She doesn’t need thicker skin; she needs the rest of us to have brighter, more perceptive eyes. We should all be so lucky to see the world as she does.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this:

Our families are a gift (as screwed up as they may be). A gift that, for most of us, can’t be returned. With all their flaws and our misgivings about them, they provide a window into our own personalities, which can ben mighty painful. But they’re here for us, they have our back, and they usually mean well. Really, they do. They also give us love and courage to face the world at large, and provide a safe haven where we can go to be reminded of our shortcomings when we get weary of strangers pointing them out.

Hopefully you’ll be lucky enough to have some of your family around in the next few weeks. I hope you try to be patient, and kind, and forgiving. I was reminded of this when I watched the short film “Denali.” pictured above and viewable here. In it, the narrator says, “There was this really smart scientist guy who thought that people could learn a lot from dogs. He said, ‘When someone you love walks in through the door, even if it happens five times a day, you should go totally insane with joy.’

It won’t be easy, but I promise it’s worth the effort. And wouldn’t it be nice if it happened that way for you, too?

Here’s wishing you and yours a beautiful holiday filled with moments totally insane with joy.

[Note: Read “What Our Dogs Teach Us About Aging” or, if you’re the video watching type, don’t miss Denali.]

Six-Word Memoirs help provide focus and inspiration

six-word memoir

For this: “I love you, Dad.”

There’s a legend that the Hemingway wrote the greatest short story ever using just six words:

“For sale, baby shoes. Never worn.”

There are many indications that Papa didn’t pen those words or— if he did— was not the first to do so. But the Hemingway attribution persists, as these things often do.

The baby shoes story is illustrative of trying to tell a story with the absolute minimum of works. Generally referred to as flash fiction, the six-word limit led to the idea of the six-word memoir, including a collection published in book form by Smith Magazine in 2008.

Regardless, the point remains: you can say a lot without saying much at all. Which brings me around to my question today.

Why are you doing what you’re doing? Or, put another way, when you’re gone, what do you want people to remember about you? 

Recently, my CEO group was tasked with considering these questions and writing our own six-word memoirs. It’s a great exercise that will help you hone in on the things that really keep you going, enabling you to marginalize all the noise and trash that just interferes with clear thinking.

It was also surprisingly difficult to do. In the end, I finally settled on:

For this: “I love you, Dad.” 

Do you have your own six-word memoir? If so, I’d love to read it; share it in the comments below. If you haven’t written one yet but want to try, Smith Magazine has some great examples and good inspiration.

Heartbreak leads to a tiny, lovely tribute from a worldwide community

rebeccapurple

Rebecca Alison Meyer
June 7, 2008 – June 7, 2014

Eric Meyer is an expert in what we call Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), which are used to control how things “look” in your web browser. Truth be told, he’s a bit of a legend who has spearheaded the development of making it easier for us to build beautiful things. At Rare Bird, we’re all familiar with his work and some of us have either heard him speak or read his books (or, in a few cases, both.)

A couple of weeks ago, on June 7, his daughter Rebecca passed away. She was six.

Eric and his wife, Kathryn, requested that those who attend the services and are comfortable wearing purple do so in honor of Rebecca and her favorite color. Upon hearing this, a member of the WC3 staff, Dom Hazaël-Massieux, requested that a purple in the CSS color list be named “Becca Purple” in her memory. Eric suggested that it be named “rebeccapurple” instead, because his daughter wanted everyone to call her Rebecca after she turned six, and – after all – she was six for almost 12 hours.

On Saturday, June 21, Rebecca Purple (#663399) was officially added as the 141st color to be recognized by name by all web browsers.

And so, from this tremendous heartbreak, a color is born.