Monday, November 30, 2015

Risky Business

The "nose" route to the top of Mt. Arrowsmith...
Climbing the "nose" to the top of Mt Arrowsmith...
Last night I saw Everest in 3D at our local IMAX theatre. It's based on the 1996 disaster that resulted in the deaths of eight climbers who were caught in a blizzard near the top of the mountain, including team leader Rob Hall.

There's a quick scene in the movie where Rob Hall is showing off the base camp to his latest group. He motions to one side to indicate the 'IMAX team' tents.

Coincidentally, that would be the same IMAX team that eventually found Rob Hall's body while they were making their documentary, also titled Everest. And in a case of 'snake eating its own tail' the makers of the Hollywood version replicate some of the documentary shots that swoop from Everest's base to its peak.

Last summer I hiked to the top of local Mt. Arrowsmith with this same group of friends. It's the tallest mountain on Vancouver Island at a little over one mile in height.

Yes, it's only about one sixth the height of Everest, but it can be a challenging multi-day climb in winter, requiring some technical expertise in climbing. In the summer though it is possible to reach the top by hiking via some of the easier routes.

On our particular climb we chose a more difficult route that can sometimes require climbing skills and gear. Not being a climber myself, I chose to let the others do the final ascent by themselves. If there is one lesson that the movie demonstrated, it's the importance of respecting your physical limits. Recklessness is not the same as calculated risk.

My three friends appear in the photo above on their way to the top. Can you find them?

As I waited for their return I cautiously bum-crawled to the edge of a cliff to take the photo below.

Staring into the abyss...
At edge of the abyss...



Friday, November 27, 2015

Seaside Seaside

Lewis and Clark immortalized at Seaside, Oregon...
Lewis and Clark on the Seaside boardwalk...
Seaside, Oregon is a small tourist-centric community located south of Astoria. You have to wonder how much time the city's founders spent coming up with that name for their community? About the length of a coffee break, I'd guess.

The sculpture above on their boardwalk commemorates explorers Jerry Lewis and Dick Clark. They were Siamese twins who explored Oregon sometime in the early 19th century.

Kidding...

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark's exploration of the Pacific Northwest eventually led them to the mouth of the nearby Columbia River. They are a big deal in the history of the region.

Sunset over Seaside, Oregon...
The sun sets over Seaside, Oregon...

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Rust Never Sleeps

The wreck of the Peter Iredale on an Oregon beach...
The rusting bones of a ship wreck on an Oregon beach...
Fort Stevens State Park is close to Astoria... in fact, it marks the extreme northwest corner of the state. On the beach near the park, visitors can climb the rusting remains of the shipwreck Peter Iredale.

The vessel ran aground in 1906 while trying for the mouth of the Columbia River during a squall. No lives were lost. All of the crew were rescued.

The captain's final words to the ship were: ""May God bless you, and may your bones bleach in the sands."

His understanding of metallurgy was a bit murky, I guess. For the past 150 years, the bones of the Peter Iredale have been quietly turning to rust.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Re-hearse-ed

A re-purposed hearse...
A re-purposed hearse...
We spent a day and night near the city of Astoria in Oregon. Astoria is located in the northwest corner of Oregon at the mouth of the Columbia River.

We spent a morning exploring the beach at the mouth of the river. We came across this re-purposed hearse in the parking lot. Inside and out it was retro-fitted to carry the owner's fishing gear. It was an older vehicle, but in immaculate condition. No surprise perhaps... hearses aren't normally driven very fast or very far.


Astoria itself has a picturesque waterfront that features this old time trolley. It runs from one end of town to the other. What's clever is that at the far end, the seats easily convert to face the opposite direction simply by swinging the back of the seat up and over to the facing bench. In this way the trolley doesn't have to do a turn around... it simply goes in reverse.

The Astoria waterfront trolley...
The Astoria waterfront trolley...




Friday, November 20, 2015

The Magic is in the Hole!

Voodoo Donut in Portland, OR...
Voodoo Donut in Portland, OR...
Voodoo Donut is a popular Portland must-do activity. It is famous for its off-the-wall donut flavours. A few years ago, they even featured a donut flavoured with Pepto Bismal until they were slapped with 'cease and desist' by the city's health officer.

Enthusiastic patrons line up for their sugar bricks...
A street musician entertains the customers...
On any given day, there's typically a lineup of 30 to 45 minutes. Fortunately, on the day that we were there, we were entertained periodically by a shop employee who would circulate among the waiting crowd and entertain us with little bits of comedy.

Voodoo Donut... where the magic is in the hole and good things come in pink boxes! Who could argue with that?  ;)

"Good things come in pink boxes..."

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wayback Wednesday: Justin Beiber... anti-Christ

Justin Bieber is the anti-Christ?
(First published in May 2013...)


Thank to the recent federal election here in Canada, Bieber's status as our most visible Canadian on the international stage with the first name of Justin has been overtake by that OTHER Justin -- Justin Trudeau who won the election and ended a decade of Conservative rule.

The combination of election and the first name of Justin, prompted me to re-publish this photo for today's Wayback Wednesday. At the time this photo was taken, I was coaching a local candidate in public communications during our provincial election. On the day of the election, I was part of a two-man team tasked to oversee the counting of ballots at the polls. As we raced to and fro across town, we encountered this sign in a yard.

It inspired me to compose several haiku which I offer up (again) for your appreciation and/ or ridicule.

your anger is clear 
the message is boldly drawn 
i still don't get it 

your sign is horrid 
highlighted font hurts the eyes 
nice pink flowers though 

ssh the beiber sings... 
wait, what the hell is that noise?! 
it is auto-tune... 

beiber is satan? 
what did he do to wrong you? 
besides sing badly...

Monday, November 16, 2015

Oregon: Multnomah Falls

Tall falls in Oregon...
the tallest of falls
you can see right here
no taller falls
are anywhere near
Not far from Beacon Rock on the Oregon side of the Columbia River, is the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area which features Multnomah Falls.

At 611 feet high, it is the highest waterfall in Oregon and the second highest year-round water fall in the United States.

The photo below is taken from the span that you can see in the photo above. The lower pool is 70 feet below the span.

Feet dangle over the lower pool of Multnomah Falls...
Feet dangle over the lower pool of Multnomah Falls...



Friday, November 13, 2015

Figures in the Mist

Mist rolling off the sea and into the trees of Vancouver Island...

It's a typical Vancouver Island West Coast scene... tendrils of heavy fog drift ashore from the ocean, slipping between the trees like wraiths and reducing fellow beachcombers in the distance to barely visible silhouettes.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Wayback Wednesday: Playa del Carmen

The ruins of Tulum not far from Carmen del Playa...
The ruins at Tulum...
My wife and I are off for a week to catch up on our vitamin D in Playa del Carmen on Mexico's Caribbean coast.

During our last stay there three years ago we toured the ruins at Tulum (above). It's the remains of a Mayan settlement that flourished about 700 years ago. It sits on a cliff overlooking the ocean to the east.

While there we also snorkeled to see some of the local sea turtles. I very nearly became intimately acquainted with particular guy?gal? who apparently was too near-sighted to realize that I was directly in their flight path.

A sea turtle on a collision course with me...
Close enough to kiss!



Sunday, November 8, 2015

Bridge of the Gods

Most awesome name for a bridge, ever...
Just by crossing over it,
you'll feel like Thor crossing into Asgard...
To get to Beacon Rock, we crossed over from Oregon to Washington State via the Bridge of the Gods. Which has to be the most awesome name for a bridge ever, right?

If you saw the movie 2014 movie Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon, you've seen the bridge. It's where her character, Cheryl Strayed, ends her soul-searching hike of the Pacific Crest Trail.

I had seen the movie and during our trip had mentioned to my wife that I hoped to see the bridge. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember the name or the location of it from the movie. It was only AFTER our trip when I was doing research for this blog that I discovered that we HAD crossed the bridge... several times in fact.

The bridge is named after an ancient legend in local folklore.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Human racing...

The human race... don't be too anxious to get to the end...

In the First World, we are obsessed with setting goals and then chasing them with single-minded determination. That finish line beckons us to run faster, to beat everyone else in the race to reach it... and as soon as we sprint past the line what do we see? Another finish line in the distance. And so we race onward with grim determination.

When you are chasing a never-ending succession of finish lines, you can lose sight of the beautiful things -- big and small -- that are passing by you. Sometimes it's okay to slow down, leave the track, take your shoes off and enjoy the feeling of cool grass tickling your toes and warm sun on your face.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Beacon Rock

Beacon Rock of Washington State overlooks the Columbia River...
The imposing Beacon Rock...
The Columbia River is the physical boundary that separates Oregon from the state of Washington. 

Beacon Rock is an eye-catching geologic feature that overlooks the river about an hour east of Portland on the Washington side of the river. At 850 feet high, it is the solidified remains of the core of an ancient volcano. The explorers Lewis and Clark arrived here in 1805 and gave the rock its name.

Visitors can climb to the peak via a boardwalk that switchbacks across the western face of the rock. Along the way there are impressive views of the mighty Columbia River in both directions.

Hiking to the top of the rock...
Switchbacks take you to the top of Beacon Rock...
On the day we hiked to the top my wife and I shared the trail with a family of four, including two teenage girls. At the top, we were horrified when the youngest girl jump over the handrail and scrambled down to a ledge below us to peer over the edge. If she had slipped... or a bit of the cliff had given away under her weight... she would have plunged eighty stories to her death. 

Her mother screamed and swore at her to get her back to safety and it was all I could do not to add my own panicky voice to hers. Fortunately, the girl had the sense to turn around and climb back up to us and we were all able to start breathing again...

The view from the top of the rock...
Looking down the length of the Columbia River...


Monday, November 2, 2015

Joseph, Oregon

A dramatic sculpture on the main street of Joseph, Oregon...
A dramatic sculpture on the main street of Joseph, Oregon...
The website for Joseph, Oregon refers to itself as the "Little Switzerland of America" due to its location nestled in the Wallowa mountains of northeast Oregon. That image would seem to be at odds with the distinctly American West sculptures that line the main street of this picturesque little town.
The town itself is named after a historical Native American tribe leader.

One of Joseph's street sculptures...
Another of the sculptures found
along the main boulevard of Joseph, Oregon...