Monday, July 29, 2013

God's Little Jewels

Long horizons are hypnotic: the ocean, the sagebrush steppe in Southeastern Oregon, and the farmlands of Central Illinois.

It’s been decades since I’d cruised heartland roads.  An old barn here or a farmhouse there punctuates the golden tassels blowing in the breeze under big clouds.  The clouds catch the last colors of the setting sun.  These were scenes from my youth, except for soybeans rotated into the mix and, of course, the massive wind turbines, which add movement and perspective miles away.

Whood-a thunk after this drive through the flat fields, past Peoria, past Pekin, and past Canton, I’d share the sunrise with a Great Blue Heron and Cedar Waxwings along the wooded shores of Lake Wee-Ma-Tuk.

Lois White has some 43 hummingbird feeders on her farm down the road in Smithfield, a couple miles from Spoon River.  "Hummingbird Haven," she calls it on the handwritten sign.  We sat in  four of the dozen or so chairs along her ranch house and watched the ruby-throated hummers buzz around.

Pat has developed a fond relationship with Lois, and she was very generous with her time, showing us the nests and answering my questions.

Lois must be well into her seventies.  She developed her interest in hummingbirds from her Grandma, who called them, "God's little jewels."

When Lois's one-room schoolhouse finally got the Encyclopedia Britannica, little Lois begged and begged her teacher to borrow the volume that had a picture of a hummingbird.  “Hummingbird!” she instructed her grandma. 

“Well, they’re still 'God’s little jewels.'” 

Back at the lake, we piled into the pontoon boat with Jim, a gem of a man, and Karen.  Jim is responsible for the O’Flahertys’ association with the area.  (A story for another day.)

Jim graciously educated me on the history of the area.

High-sulfur coal and International Harvester fueled the boom times, back when the mascot for Pekin High School was the “chinks.”  High-sulfur coal went out of fashion, as did insulting ethnic mascots.  Now, Dragons is the Pekin mascot, and discarded holes of mining companies have become a mini Land-o-Lakes.

Kendall and Cheryl made it dinner for eight.  Camo gear makes sense if you are a dog trainer, including for hunting and field trials.  He was one of the thousand people who tried for the 30 hunting blinds for a nearby area. Good people; full-time residents in the land of characters immortalized in Spoon River Anthology nearly 100 years ago.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

StayCation Grand Finale - Maryhill Winery Concert with Best Friends

It's a picnic, it's a concert, and it's a scenic overlook all in one.  

The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic area starts just east of the Portland Metro area and extends to about Maryhill, Washington.  The contrast in climate and scenery is stunning.  In the west, waterfalls spill through Douglas Firs.  In the middle, mixed conifers, snow-capped volcanoes and kite boarders catch the eye.  Out east, golden, treeless rolling hills stretch forever.  

Randi, Dale, Tim and Michelle met us at Maryhill Winery for food, wine, The Wallflowers, and The Counting Crows. The amphitheater offers a welcoming, lush lawn to spread a blanket and share food.  Because it is such a laid back atmosphere, people feel free to talk, like at a baseball game.

We left before the encores, a concession to work the next day.  So, we enjoyed recorded hits of the Counting Crows as we sped back after sunset but before total blackness.  The last light of day created the silhouettes of the rocky cliffs diving into the wide Columbia.  Above, stars and a crescent moon shown in the midnight blue.  Washington Highway 14 is curvy and hundreds of feet above the river out there.  It's the kind of road ad agencies use to sell BMWs.  As Tim once said during daylight hours, "It's like driving in a painting."

Sometimes, ya just gotta be grateful.  

Trout Lake Art Festival and Tour

Trout Lake Festival of the Arts
The Trout Lake Festival of the Arts has been raising money to promote the arts in the area for a couple of decades.  It was our first stop on Ann's private tour of the valley.

Next, we took her to the Zen Buddhist Abbey / Druid Sanctuary.   You see, the zen leader and druid leader chipped in to buy the  B & B that is now their joint home.

Click to Enlarge
Last, and probably least, we stopped at the Alpaca ranch and store.

Ann's visit was way too short.  But, 23 hours is better than no visit at all.

Mosquito Lake, PCT and Ann.

Mosquito Lake, Gifford Pinchot National Forest

July 13, 2013.

Saturdays in Trout Lake means waking up to 50-some degrees.  Then, we close the windows to bank the cool against the 80-something afternoon.  

This Saturday, we awakened with a vague plan to hike somewhere new.  So I studied the forest map over waffles and coffee, looking for a trailhead where we thought there would be no mosquitoes this time of year.

Ironically, we headed up to Mosquito Lake because our neighbors kayaked there last week and reported it bug free.  It’s a pretty little lake that reminds me of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe area because it is flat and pristine – no mountain view.  Then, we took off up the Pacific Crest Trail for a while.  

The PCT north of forest road 8851 is nothing special.  It is a gentle grade with no major ups and downs.  It provided us a simple walk in the woods, which suited us way better than a treadmill.   

Ann visited us on short notice, which meant dinner at the Country Inn instead of an Allyson-home-cooked feast.  We love visitors, especially Ann.  

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Gathering at the White Salmon River

White Salmon River (click to enlarge)

The White Salmon River has transported pure water and salmon to the Columbia River since time immemorial.  The Columbia River Gorge area was a vast gathering place for First Peoples, the epicenter of which was The Dalles, Oregon, where the volcanic rocky slabs narrowed the Columbia (before we constructed The Dalles Dam).  In the narrows, Native Americans netted the salmon swimming upstream to other parts of Washington, Oregon and Idaho.  Native Americans socialized, gambled and even created rock art as they harvested the salmon and processed what they could not eat today it into pemmican for the months ahead.  Studies of thousand-year-old bones indicate that salmon may have constituted nearly 50% of the diet of the Klickitat, Chinook and other First Peoples.     

I’m not sure when I first met Jim.  Maybe we attended Mrs. Cavanass’ kindergarten class together.  Maybe we met some time later at Madison Elementary School in Elmhurst, Illinois.  Either way, the time span is rapidly approaching 50 years.  Not exactly time immemorial, but give me a few more years towards Alzheimer’s, and I’ll need this journal to remember things. We discovered that we both lived in Portland a couple of years ago, thanks to mutual Facebook friends. Friday, we got together with his wife Jill to raft the wild and scenic White Salmon River.  

Zoller’s operates rafting trips from BZ Corners.  After they fit all their customers into wetsuits, booties, splash jackets, life jackets and helmets, they start instructing us on how to raft safely.  The instructions seemed to last forever.  -- “If you fall out, don’t stand up you might break a leg.  Float on your back with feet up.  If someone falls out, grab him by the life vest and yank him back. Don’t grab the arm or wrist; might break something.”

Finally, we march down and down and down the stairs to the bottom of the canyon and step into the rafts. It’s cool down there by the rushing river and the mossy rock wall.  Jim, Jill, our raft mates and I received an extra dose of instructions, cautions and war stories. That’s because ours was the last raft to launch.  So, Ben, our guide, kept talking.  He made sure we knew where to jam our feet for maximum holding power.  But, no one ever told us where to put our keesters.

The Middle Gorge of the White Salmon runs fast and cold.  Whitewater dominates.  It is a wild and fun ride.  It is too wild for Allyson.  She did not join us because, last time, she fell out of the raft.  When I yanked her back in, she looked up at the high canyon walls and realized she had to continue the bucking bronco ride.  There was no way out.
Rafts launching on White Salmon River

At long last, we launch.

Ben has been doing this for years and years:  over 400 trips down the river.  If someone pops out of the raft, his boss fines him $5.  Ben was an entertaining guy.  He kept talking the whole time.  He told us about nature; he showed us the nest of an American Dipper.  Ben had not lost a rafter all season, so far. Ben showed us where he has found Native American artifacts along the river. He never told us where to place hind ends.

You guessed it.  Someone fell out of the raft.  We fished her out with no broken bones.  Then, Ben tells her, for future reference, where on the raft she should’ve sat to avoid falling. 

Overall, it was a terrific trip.  Zoller’s offers people many places to get wet, whether it is paddling the raft upstream into a rapid, jumping off a 10-foot wall, or trying to survive Husum Falls.  We skipped the falls, thinking that the potential for spending months rehabbing body parts was not worth the thrill.

Four rafts full of people tried it. People paddle fiercely towards the roaring drop off.  Then, they drop down to survival position, and let fate take its course.  The rafts dive into the water below, submerge mostly or entirely out of view, then pop up like a cork.  The suspenseful question is whether they will land bottom down with people aboard. Most made it, with only a couple of people falling out. (No fines to raft guides for losing people at the Falls.)

After the falls, the river mellows out some.  This permits less focus on paddling and allows more time to enjoy the scenery until our exit.  

Later, we met Allyson at a brewpub in White Salmon, WA for dinner.

So, as it was centuries ago, the Columbia Gorge area provided a gathering place for socializing around food and river activities.  I had a lot of fun with my old / new friends, and we look forward to getting together again soon.  

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Bicycle to the Zen Abbey

Click on photos to enlarge.

A gorgeous, lazy summer day in Trout Lake.  We got on our bikes to burn off the waffles. But, instead of our normal 11-mile route over the rivers and around the farms, we detoured to the he Mt. Adams Zen Buddhist Abbey.

As we were looking around, the Rev. Kozen Sampson greeted us, welcomed us, and encouraged us to explore the ever-improving grounds.  He's done a wonderful job of building beautiful spaces and landscaping.

Bicyclists pause over the White Salmon River

Road to the Abbey

UFOs in Trout Lake, Washington

Trout Lake, Washington is known for UFO activity.  With clear skies and very little light pollution, Trout Lake offers good stargazing.  In just 40 minutes the other night, I spotted a couple of satellites plus a shooting star.

But, UFO’s? 

ECETI stands for Enlightened Contact with Extra Terrestrial Intelligence.  The Eceti Ranch is just down the road from our own Mt. Adams Base Camp.

James Gilliland, ECETI’s founder, has a theory, and he’s sticking to it.  Why would ET’s, who must be vastly superior to us, want to engage with Earth brutes who possess weapons of mass destruction?  Would you, for example, want to sit down to a chat with a hungry crocodile?  Of course not.  So, a prerequisite to benevolent contact from ET’s is an open mind and a loving heart.

What about Pope John Paul, II or President Obama, they both seem to have loving hearts and want to do good?  Why would ET’s chose James Gilliland over them?

His answer, “The benevolent ones do not want to further any one agenda, government or religion, which answers the question why they have not landed in the Vatican or the White House lawn.”  Mr. Gilliland continues, “They do not believe in structured truths which create separation, division and sometimes war in endless power struggles. They have transcended all religious and cultural boundaries into a profound love for all people and all life.”

So, ET’s select Trout Lake over Mecca or the Vatican.  I live in Trout Lake.  I have profound love for people that transcends any religious dogma.  I do not believe, for, example, in stoning to death insolent children, and I certainly disagree with hiding women under burqas.  Maybe my universal love of women and others is helping to draw ET’s to Trout Lake. 

According to,  “An unprecedented event is unfolding in a small town known as Trout Lake, Washington. This event has the potential to change the course and destiny of Humanity and the Earth. The people of Earth are being offered a chance to join the rest of the universe in peace.”

Uh oh!  This could be bad.  Will we have 10 million seekers rivaling the annual pilgrimage to Our Lady of Guadalupe?  Will there be hordes as in Lourdes?  I don’t want traffic jams driving north on WA 141 as millions visit.  I like the peace, quiet and bucolic character of this excellent community.

Fortunately, our Reporter possessed the requisite open heart and open mind to obtain an invitation for a private visit to the Eceti ranch, so I can get some insight.  He took Allyson.  I did not go.  I did not qualify because of my skepticism, born of logic and my ability to understand the English language.  Logic often disables people from following love gurus.  As the Bhagwan Shree Rashneesh said, “Logic ridicules love, and love smiles knowingly at the whole foolishness of logic.” 

Listen to the ET believers' videos and read their papers with a knowledge of English, and nothing makes sense.  Damn law school!  Damn my Vulcan logic!  I'll miss out on the upcoming world-altering events.

The Eceti Ranch consists of a beautiful 70 acres, if you don’t look too hard at some of the run-down structures.  Eceti’s “Field of Dreams” has a full view of Mt. Adams and a nearly horizon-to-horizon window to the star-filled sky.  

Our Reporter and Allyson saw many satellites and some shooting stars. 

The guy with the tattoo of a feline-like alien, with whom he has contact, saw something different. The woman who has had Ayahuasca treatment in the past saw things.  Believers and James Gilliland declared that moving objects were “powering up.”  THEY could distinguish "the motherships" from the "scout ships."  Those airplanes overhead must be keeping an eye on the Eceti Ranch and not merely be transporting people.  Lights on the mountain could not be backpackers overnighting before climbing Mt. Adams. “Why would they be looking this way?” “That’s 13 miles away; lights would not go this far.”

Well, our Reporter is into science, not fantasy.  Satellite speed depends on distance from Earth.  The ones farther away are not "powering up" – they go faster.  Allyson knows that campers look around in every direction, which would include the direction of the Field of Dreams.  Could it be that Eceti folks' shining lasers at moving objects attract attention from backpackers on the mountain with headlamps?

In conclusion, CarpeSummer’s intrepid reporters could not confirm any UFO activity.  That does not mean UFO’s do not visit Trout Lake with great frequency.  If our reporters had stayed until sunrise, maybe they'd have made contact.  Just because goofy people believe in something does not mean that it does not exist.  Maybe our reporters just missed contact by a night or two.  Maybe Allyson did not possess the requisite open mind. 

So, without ET contact, we have no way of disputing Mr. Gilliland’s experience with ET’s, and I do not want to dispute his hope for universal peace and love.  He wrote, “They all carry a universal message. Their focus is universal peace, brother / sisterly love and to honor the Creator in all creation. It is the same message handed down by every enlightened master that ever walked the Earth.”

Friday, July 5, 2013

Monte Cristo Trail Hike.

If it is early July in Trout Lake, then it is time to get to the Monte Cristo Trail. The trailhead is very hard
to find, which explains why we never see people on the trial, which explains why nature is taking back some of the trail (as pictured here).

Monte Cristo Trail, Gifford Pinchot Forest, Washington State
This time of year, one can see at least 2 or 3 dozen different species of flowers in bloom, two or three mountains, and "Sound of Music" views.  
We enjoyed clear, blue skies overhead as we saw a weather front of clouds to the West, over Camas and Vancouver.  Strong, blustery winds buffeting us on exposed ridges. .

Mt. Hood from Monte Cristo Trail
Monte Cristo Trail view of Mt. Adams

Great exercise walking up and down hills for over three hours, which made our dinner of homemade, grilled pizza taste even better.  

Day One for Trout Lake StayCation

We started our long stretch in Trout Lake with a creative meal entirely on sticks / skewers, thanks to Rob.  Get this. 

Caprese Salad on a stick (not grilled):  alternating tomato, mozzarella and basil leaf, then drizzle good balsamic vinegar.  Why don’t vendors hawk that at baseball games?  “Cold Beer!  Cold Beer! Caprese Salad!”

Next course:  Sectioned corn on the cob with red bell pepper in between, seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper and grilled.

Next: Grilled Brussels sprouts on a skewer.

Main course on a stick:  Grilled chicken, onion, and pepper.

Dessert on a stick (not grilled): soft fudge brownie, with raspberries with a drizzle of a raspberry, sugar and Grand Marnier reduction sauce on top. 

That provided plenty of energy for a fast walk along Trout Lake Creek before stargazing later.