Thursday, December 27, 2012

Cabo Pulmo, Mexico

Road to Los Frailles
We marvelled at the blue and blue-green hues of the Sea of Cortez, framed by white crescent beaches as we approached Cabo Pulmo on the gravelly road. I wondered if this is what Hawai'i looked in the 1920s. I mean, the parts of Hawai'i that are dry as desert, because on shore looks like Tucson or Scottsdale in the 1900s, with rosy, rocky hills, cactus, and scrubby trees.

The "town" itself consists of some houses, five restaurants, and a few dive operators  On the main street, behind the yellow wall, we stayed at "The Jewel of Cabo Pulmo."

The main house consists of one big, tall, charming, room, maybe 600 sq feet, with a kitchen, dining table, futon couch and a couple of chairs. It is painted with cheerful, bright colors, and red-framed windows are everywhere. We spent most of our time on the outdoor patio/deck, under the grass roof, looking out into the mature gardens to the hill down the road. Birds entertained us, especially the endemic Xantus Hummingbird, which jealously guarded the flowers right in front of the patio.

On top of the room is a rooftop deck with views stretching to the water on one side, and the desert hills on other. Mornngs, we caught a fiery sunrise and one evening presented us with a moon halo. No light pollution here. Even with a 61% moon, we could see just fine after dark.

This time of year, the winds keep people from the best snorkeling on the beach. Fortuntately, seven kilometers down the road is Los Frailes, a huge, empty, white cresent beach. The north end is protected from the wind, so we snorkeled there two days in the clear water with enough tropical fish to keep us entertained. On shore, the sun and blue skies were enough, even if we could not have gotten into the water.

Sunrise from roof patio.
For future reference, the best time for snorkeling begins October 15, when the water is warm and the evenings begin to cool. April, we hear, is also a good time, although the water is cooler.

Five restaurants serve food. We had two dinners with Nancy, a sweet gray-haired old woman who shuffles more than she walks. She started the second restaurant in town, when she joined her daughter and son-in-law in Cabo Pulmo shortly after the road came to town 20-some years ago. Before then, people had to get here by boat. Nancy's employees cook some good food, good enough for us to come back a second time; shrimp guajillo was a winner.

Los Caballeros is the other top restaurant in town, directly across the street. Good fish dinner there. The owners descend from the original family that occupied the area. Apparently, there have been a couple of lawsuits in which the family alleged that they still owned some of the land across the street, occupied by expats who bought the land from grandpa years ago. The courts have thrown out the suits twice, according the Karl, a gringo who's been coming down here for 22 years, and has lived here full time for the last five years. Locals have noticed a rise in sea level. Visitors, like me, can see where the erosion is taking away land that is not protected by sea walls.

Cabo Pulmo is a long way from anywhere. That is part of its attraction. There's nothing to do but unplug, be in the moment, and enjoy what nature and a few adventurous souls have to offer.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Why Travel to Cabo Pulmo?

Located near the Southern tip of Baja, Cabo Pulmo is a sleepy town 60 miles away from the touristy area. Fewer than 200 people call it home.  But just step into the water, and you'll find the only living coral reef in the Sea of Cortez, teaming with life. Decades ago, Jaques Cousteau called it the World's Acquarium.

Destructive bottom trawling and other unsustainable fishing practices nearly ruined it forever. Thankfully, in 1995, Mexico's President designated the offshore area of 17,560 acres a national marine park.   And it worked.  Between 1999 and 2009, the biomass - pounds of living things - increased 463 percent.  Recent photographs of the area provide a stunning tribute to a place, which UNESCO included within a world heritage site in 2005. Other photographs show rays breaching the water as if flying.

The reef should really be "reefs," plural.  Eight of them range located from close to shore to a short five minute boat ride into the bay, with depths ranging from about 12 feet to about 100 feet.

On shore is a desert landscape, which appeals to Oregonians this time of year.  So far, it retains an undeveloped beauty.  So, we figure, get there now, fit our feet into fins, and enjoy.  

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Brotherly Love

Ken (& Scout) and Steve (& Allyson):  Lake Merwin, the Shorthorn Trail, perfect weather and two brothers with widow-maker stents, which allow me to enjoy extended play with them. 
        Tuesday, Ken and I pretty much had Lake Merwin to ourselves.  The calm water leading to the waterfall was clear to the bottom and a beautiful blue-green.  Scout demonstrated his swimming ability (above) and his extreme devotion to his master.  We found a good place with a sandy bottom to get out of the boat in the water.  When Ken disappeared under the water, his loyal hound swam out.  
        16 months ago, Ken was lifeless for about 60 minutes while Ann and paramedics pumped his heart for him.  This week, we could lounge on the boat in the water, with a beverage and a sandwich and, like a dog, just enjoy being. (Couple more photos here).
            Saturday, Steve joined us for a fairly long, uphill walk on the Shorthorn Trial in the shadow of Mt. Adams.  It was pleasant, with temperatures in the 70s. This time of year, the trail is a bit dusty, and few flowers bloom until . . . . we reach the Spring-like area near the rushing creek, which is the payoff of the hike.  
                Soft, green grasses and bouquets of wildflowers envelop the sparkling water, which looks pure enough to drink. (Photos here). So, we lingered, talked, and did just a bit of exploring, where we spotted an American Dipper dancing, then flying down stream to keep its distance from us. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Welcome, Paige!

Welcome, Paige! 

Children are blessings to all those touched by the child. 

Children provide a point of contact for family and friends: reasons to visit with each other and share the joys and work of life.  Loved ones get together for birthday parties, children’s sporting and other events, proms, weddings, (bail hearings, jail release parties). . . .

Children remind us of the joys of learning, growing, and experiencing life: first words, first views of exotic animals at the zoo or a sprinkler on a hot day. 

Children give us another person to whom we can teach and from whom we learn.

Children provide cover for adults to watch cartoons, play with toys, and do childlike things that might, otherwise, cause people to think we are a bit weird or immature. 

We’re all ecstatic to have Paige in our lives and thankful that Paige and Lauren are healthy. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dear ol' Dad.

What?  Who visits South Florida in July?  I do, because there’s no guarantee I can get down there in the middle of winter, and I want to enjoy the company of my Dad. 

Remember the “green banana” joke.  You know, “I’m so old I quit buying green bananas.”  It’s a good sign when an 85-year-old man is investing not only in bananas, but also rental properties with the idea of earning an annual return on investment that will zero out the initial investment in about 12 to 15 years.  The good news is: he’ll make it to 100.  The bad news is that I have the same genes, so I need investments to last me another 47 years, or so.

My first night in town, I got to see the whole clan thanks to a 4th birthday party for little Troy.  Gloria’s kids and grandkids are a sweet, loving group to be proud of. 
We made a few trips to the latest condo to do prepare it for the first tenant.  We walked the mall (providing a quick performance on the piano for passers by) and the beach and the pier.  And we supported the local restaurants.  Plus, we had some time to sit and chat about things. 

But mostly, we perspired.  After all, it’s July in Naples.

Here's a video of the piano man playing one of the ol' favorites. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Busy in a Trout Lake kinda way.

Saturdays in July are prime time in Trout Lake, Washington.  We did not even have time for the Saturday Market. 

Morning into afternoon, we hiked the Salt Creek Trail with neighbor Dale and his two dogs.  It’s an easy trail, which, allegedly, has a great pay off where two rivers converge with an in-your-face mountain view.  Unfortunately, the “Trail End” signed fooled us into thinking we went the wrong way, so we turned around before the pay off.  So, instead, we enjoyed a 4+ hour hike through the woods, with views of one river, and a big pond / wetland engineered by beavers.  Evidence of their work in progress is below. 

Then, we popped into the Trout Lake Festival of the Arts to see this-year’s offerings of art and music.  I caught about four songs from The Humphrey | Hartman | Cameron Trio.  A cellist plus two other women who played guitar, and or banjo and sang with beautiful folky charm.  Their songs were funny, too.  One was a ballad on payday loans, another about the “cleavage” of the rear kind, inspired by sitting on the bleachers of a baseball game sitting behind people with shirts too high and pants too low. 

Kent and Karis then stopped by the J & A rest area to reconfigure their gear and get some food.

Later, we joined neighbor Susan and her friend Claudia on her back deck, which feels, like a picnic spot in the forest.  There, we enjoyed conversation, dogs and the rest of our homemade (by someone else) Huckleberry Pie as the as evening turned to starry night, which is best appreciated in our hot tub at home.  

Next morning, as I had sipped my coffee and read on the back deck, one of our other deer neighbors could not let me go without stopping by.  

Enjoying our Good Luck on Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th was a good day.  

A weekday / workday in Trout Lake means we place ourselves above our work.  It means sitting, watching the jays at the feeders, home cooking, and shoulders relaxed to a level at least two inches lower than times when we are at our desks keying out paragraphs and fending off E-mails like ninja warriors defending against samarai sword swipes. 

So, this morning, bicycled about 11 or 12 miles around the bucolic valley, with cows, views of two mountains and two rivers.  Then, we finally made our way to the local swimmin’ hole (bottom photo).  It’s too secret to disclose how to get there.  The water is cold, so we figure we must get inner tube float toys so that most of our bodies can absorb the hot temps while our butts and feet keep us cool. 

When we are in Portland, we think, “Why do we have a second house that we hardly visit?”  When we get out here, we think, “Why are we living in Portland?”

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Returning to the Scene

July 10 in Portland's International Rose Test Garden. Appetizers in the garden before dinner in Northwest Portland. As Uncle Benny would say, nine "GOOD" years.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Monte Cristo Hike in Gifford Pinchot Forest

July 7, 2012, Trout Lake.  We made it to Monte Cristo today.  Once again, we were the only people on this hike, which affords dramatic, top-of-the-world views and beautiful wildflowers.  It's a good workout.  To the former fire lookout and back takes about 3 hours of up and down, through woods and open meadows.

More photos here.

Sunset with a Beauty

Mt. St Helens from Sleeping Beauty
July 5, 2012 - Trout Lake, Washington.  Sunset on the top of Sleeping Beauty has been on my list for a couple of years, so I was eager to make it up top after a long day of work and chores.  It was about as perfect as I could imagine.  Peaceful, light breeze, and 100-mile views.  The three big mountains to see from up there are Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood, 60 or so miles away, and Mt. Adams, which looks close enough to touch.

Mt. Hood from Sleeping Beauty

Some people were in the gym after work.  I got my cardio in on the stair master walk through the woods to the top.  
Mt. Adams from Sleeping Beauty

Zydeco & Blues on a Hot Summer Day

‘Round midnight under a full moon in October, south of Rosedale, Mississippi, Robert Johnson approached the crossroads.  One legend has it that he met the Devil-man, who enticed him to sell his soul for mastery of the Delta Blues and all the whiskey and women that would, naturally, flow from such talent.  Robert Johnson kept walking, sealing his fate, and his legend lives on in art and music. 

Today at the Waterfront Blues Festival, I heard another man play the guitar in a way that must have come from another deal with the devil.  Roy Rogers is his name, and he played a song or two from ol’ Robert Johnson.  Mr. Johnson only had his guitar.  Roy Rogers had who-knows-how many watts of amplification.  When his top-drawer drummer pounded away, I could feel the shock wave hit me.  As one would expect when a festival has dozens of acts, not all can be terrific, but Roy Rogers was, and I will look for him again.

Some Zydeco fans promote the genre in Portland, and the Blues festival features several Zydeco acts.  I caught a couple of acts, and it makes me want to take some Zydeco dance lessons. 
Hot temperatures, blue skies, and thousands of people out on Portland’s waterfront enjoyed the final day of the annual bash that raises nearly one million dollars and tons of food for the Oregon Food Bank.  (And I think I have the blues .  .  .  . )
July 8, 2012, Portland, Oregon

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Rodeo Score: Bulls 11 - Cowboys 2

St. Paul - July 3, 2012.  It was a beautiful evening in the Willamette Valley, a place known for its farms or wineries.  We noticed how more and more land owners are growing nursery crops while driving to St. Paul.  To set the mood, we found Garth Brooks on the iPhone, and we made it to town just in time to avoid Allyson jumping out of the fast-moving car because of the bad music.  We looked forward to our first Rodeo of the summer - first Rodeo of the century, for us.

St. Paul is a good rodeo, with big enough money to draw some of the best cowboys.  In fact, the number one bull rider in the world was there.  He was one of only two cowboys to make it the required 8 seconds on the bull.  It's all or nothing for bull riding.  The unfortunate guy who busted his body for 7.72 seconds earned no points for his bruises.  The other event we caught was roping and tying up the calves.  Under 10 seconds was the best time we saw.  All in all, we sat in the historic grandstand about 1 1/2 hours for about  2 minutes of timed rodeo activity, some jocular and informative info from the announcers, plus pretty, sunset clouds behind a big flag of the U.S.A.

A comment on those bulls. Like AKC dogs, they have papers documenting their inbred lineage of nastiness.  But you don't need documents; just look at the nearly 1 ton of beef with 3 tons of attitude.  The poor cowboys who get flipped off lie a fly on my arm don't have any more chance than the poor little calves who get manhandled.  I think only two of the cute little four-legged innocents avoided the humiliation of being tackled, wrestled and tied up.

We retired early, like many others, to the Tack Room bar under the historic stands, which served up a historic White Zinfandel to poor Allyson.  It seemed like a scene that had not changed in about 40 years: a few cool-looking young guys and some upstanding-looking older men with cowboy hats to match their stations in life.  I had no hat, a goatee and urban-looking eyeglasses.  Clearly, I was an outsider, despite my cowboy boots that no one could see because the place was too packed.

Under a full-moon sky on the way home, I thought, "I'll bet no one would have left the stands for the Tack Room if they's switched up the animals tonight.  How 'bout they have the cowboys try to wrestle the big nasty bulls?"  "Quit picking on the little, innocent critters and see how manly you feel."

The new name for the event could be "St. Paul Rodeo and Paramedic Olympics."

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Road to Here.

Margaret Overton, a high school classmate, published a book entitled, Good in a Crisis.  With witty humor and frank insights, Margaret peeled the bandages from the bleeding wounds of her mid life for all to see.  

This was a trying time for Margaret: nasty divorce, dating after a 23-year hiatus, near-death brain aneurism, date rape, the death of dear friends, and the declining health of her mom.  But this post is not a book review.  Instead, I feel like expressing my own comments on aging, roads not taken, acceptance and happiness. 

It was not just Margaret’s book that got me thinking, but also our circumstances.  She and I attended the same advanced placement high school classes in Elmhurst, Illinois.  She turned down Stanford for the six-year college/medical school program at Northwestern.  I turned down Northwestern for Stanford.  She lived in Chicago condos. I used to wonder how I’d have liked the Chicago lifestyle.  Margaret had, and probably still has, the good looks of Charlize Theron – Ashley Judd.  Brains and beauty.  I used to look like Brad Pitt. (Well, would you believe . . . Marty Feldman?)

A thought that crossed Margaret’s mind when she contemplated her own death from the aneurism was the “lack of lasting impact . . . a person such as me makes during life,” (p. 74) as if raising two daughters and keeping people alive in trauma centers were not enough.  Those of us in high school a. p. classes were children with high expectations for ourselves.  Those expectations drove us to set and achieve goals.  Such potential also creates the risk that we may deem ourselves failures for not setting and achieving higher goals.  If Jesus Christ, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Franklin Roosevelt are the role models, then we are doomed to feeling like losers.

Possessing great potential might have prompted Margaret’s following words, which saddened, angered and motivated me to write this post. While watching marathon runners pass their homes, she and her neighbors talked about their bad knees, etc.  She started “thinking about how life chips away at our potential, athletic as well as otherwise, and defines the roads not taken.” (p. 36)

On one level, we all have such thoughts as we age.  It’s too late for me to try out for the Chicago Cubs.  I can’t sprint 800 meters without disabling pain for at least a week.  What if I’d avoided my first marriage? 

Here’s the thing.  Even stem cells must differentiate; one cannot become a heart valve AND an optic nerve.  A tree cut to frame a house will not support a Marbled Murrelet.  Childhood potential must grow from myriad choices and circumstances into something.  A life spent building a business is a life not spent as a professional golfer. Potential will be exploited in some manner, thereby becoming unavailable for exploitation in another realm. Regardless of the road travelled, we are in this spot at this moment in time.  Accepting and working with our realities, I believe, is the key.

“Acceptance” can get a bad reputation when used as a waiver or release from diligence.  Acceptance, as I use it, is not a philosophy to support slackers.  One must continue to set and achieve self-directed goals.  The focus must be forward-looking and positive: the half-full part of the glass.  I accept the fact that I cannot run a marathon.  The reality is that I do not resemble Brad Pitt in the slightest.  But, I feel like I possess skills, abilities, and judgment that I could never have imagined 36 years ago.  Some potential is gone, but new potential exists. 

So, when my former classmate refers to life as chipping away at our potential, I acknowledge her declaration as an expression of her entirely appropriate depression, but I reject it as a statement of true fact.  Everyone reading this post has enormous potential that cannot be exhausted in one lifetime, I’d argue.

As for happiness, we all would benefit from consistently taking stock of the good things in life.  Some days I walk around Portland with a broad inner smile of appreciation for all that is around me: sights, smells, people and their works -- the wonderful things that others are doing that I cannot and need not do.  (Of course, other days I curse the clouds and read a book.) I marvel at the things I’ve witnessed in my life, from new technology to centuries-old temples.  As days become fewer in number after our mid lives, we must strive to make them better in quality.  For me, the quickest fix is to avoid that which makes me unhappy (e.g., news of global environmental Armageddon) and focus on what pleases me. 

Nevertheless, at times one cannot simply change channels because shit happens in our own lives.  It certainly happened to Margaret Overton.  As my sister urges, seize a good hour if you cannot carpe a full diem.  Zoom to focus on that pleasant spot of beauty or gratitude whenever there's a break in the shit storm.

This morning as we parted for our jobs, I hugged my wife and told her I loved her.  Honestly, I’d feel greedy to want much more.  

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Newberry National Volcanic Monument

Summer snow and sleet greeted me at Newberry National Volcanic Monument.  Perhaps the weather kept some people away, giving me a private look at Paulina Falls and the Big Obsidian Flow. 

Fishermen and women were not deterred from launching their boats on the two lakes.  Although, when I went to the dock for a photo of the shore, one woman answered, “The weather was miserable” to my question about how things went this morning.
Paulina Falls are a spectacular pair of twins. A short paved path gets visitors (singular, today) to the top with a view upstream (top photo).  A path leads one down below for a middle and bottom views.

I enjoyed the interpretive trail up the Big Obsidian Flow.  The signs point out the significance of the natural black glass throughout the centuries.  The barren nature of the rock with a few Bonsai trees contrasts dramatically with the forested hills round the lake and along the river to the falls.

On my way back to the parking lot, I spotted deer, which slowed me down.  Then, I noticed something else as I looked down the steep slope to the pond. Some critter or critters was /were making waves.  Was it a beaver?  I tried to get closer without scaring them away.  No, with those tails, it must be otter, I thought.  Sure enough, my last photo on flicker captures their two heads looking back at me.  Although, with the quality of the photo, I might as well call it the Loch Ness monster. 

We finished up Allyson’s legal conference with food, beverage, disco and Karaoke.  We did a little dancing, during which I kinda felt like this was the special Olympics version of a bar scene.  Was there a defibrillator nearby?  

Friday, June 22, 2012

Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway

The Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway provides a great driving loop out of Sunriver, through lakes, rivers and forests, up to and around Mt. Bachelor, then to Bend or back south to Sunriver.  Even on an overcast day, with Mt. Bachelor invisible, it was well worth the trip.  (Click on photos to enlarge.)

Highlights included spotting a flock of white pelicans, the otherworldly green of Devil’s lake, and the serene beauty of the area. 

I happened upon Les Joslin, the retired forester responsible for the restoration of the historic Forest Service Guard Station at Elk Lake.  He was painting the sign pole, getting the place ready for the summer season.  Now, volunteer docents stay there for two-week stints to share the history of the place with those of us who travel the highway and stop in.  Les said he restored a few other stations around the West.  He provides an excellent example of someone who loves something so much that he’s able to inspire others to help him protect and preserve it.   This little piece of history is his legacy to all of us.

I posted a few other photos on flickr.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Starting Summer in the West.

The fragrance – pine, sage & juniper – signals that we left the Willamette Valley in the Pacific Northwest to the High Dessert of the West.  The scenic byway through the Santiam Pass is among my favorite drives, with the rushing river, wooded hills, and jagged peaks here and there.  Below is somewhat of a ghost forest, where fire turned the trees black first, but many have bleached out, since. 

On the first morning of summer at Sunriver, I spotted three coyotes, dozens of ground squirrels and dozens of horses being driven by a cowboy.  Then, human beings awakened and got moving, and we saw hundreds of children and adults at the new swim and recreation center, with pools indoors and outdoors, water slides, the and even a tubing hill, where plastic replaces show for the ride down hill. 

The reason for our trip out here is Allyson's lawyer convention.  We saw old and current friends and colleagues during dinner at the old great hall, which was built in the 1940s with old-growth trees.  

I've enjoyed the trip along the Santiam River to Bend and Sunriver since the 1980s.   Lots of memories and still a pleasure.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Preamble to Summer

Mountain Goats on Sleeping Beauty
Finally, summer begins at 4:09 p.m. tomorrow, at least for two days, before more rain on the weekend.  Nevertheless, I’m doing a pretty good job of enjoying what I can when I can, despite a fairly heavy workload.  The picture on top was from Saturday’s hike with Dale.   Four mountain goats we saw up there.  More pictures here.

Friday, I had the Buck Creek trail entirely to myself.  The variety of conifers is pretty remarkable.  Western Red Cedar with Ponderosa Pines plus a variety of firs.  The trail, like most of the area, seems to be on the knife-edge of the wet and dry climate. More photos here. 

Friday morning, I had my coffee on the “lake” in Trout Lake.  Once again, I had the space all to myself: smooth water that reflected the snow-capped mountain, the sounds of birds, and the feel of warm sun, even at 7:00 am. 

In all three of the above spots and times, it was a pleasure to just sit and let nature come to me.  On the lake, one snipe, then another, flew past.  On the Buck Creek hike, I paused for a while, and a small Rufous Hummingbird directed my attention to a single flower on a bunch of Indian Paintbrush.  It looked like a weed whacker had ripped off the other flowers - probably bitten off by deer.  And, of course, it was wonderful to view and ponder the presence of the mountain goats.  This must be the place to have their kids: very defensible from any predators because of the sheer cliffs and multiple crevices to hide behind.  I suppose they stand on top to watch out.  After awhile, they got uncomfortable with the stare down between them and us.  Mama and baby scampered down as the biggest one watched us.  After awhile, he worked his way down, too.  When other people arrived, we scampered down, too.  

Speaking of deer, a couple of them decided to eat at the bird feeder Saturday morning.  

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Seizing good weather opportunities

The weather gods have cooperated this spring; we’ve enjoyed some of our best days on the weekends.  Last Saturday was a great Saturday in Portland.  Allyson and I hiked 6 miles in Forest Park.  Then, we replenished our lost calories outdoors at Beesaw’s for brunch.  Later, we enjoyed an evening boat cruise with Ken and Ann. 

Even though we’ve been on that stretch of the Willamette many times in the past, it is always great to go.  Particularly the part between downtown and Lake Oswego, it seems like such a different world with the gracious waterfront yards rising to mansions, rocky cliffs, trees . . . . If we lived at the coast, we would walk the same beach.  So, why not boat the same river.
This weekend, too, I had plenty of sun on Friday, sat outside for dinner at the Country Inn, and walked along Trout Lake Creek this morning. You may ask, why is there water in the creek? Well, I’ll show you. 

Drive up about 8 miles, and the road is blocked by snow. Little Goose Creek, I hear, is truly little during the summer.  But now, with snowmelt, it seems pretty big and powerful as it tumbles through a steep rock gorge toward Trout Lake.    

Eventually, the water flows into Trout Lake Creek and wetlands, which is as close as we have to a lake in Trout Lake, Washington.