Tuesday, May 11, 2010

California Dreamin'

California Here We Come

Above, from left to right: Disneyland, Hearst Castle, Big Sur, Carmel Mission

"So!", you may be asking yourself: "What on God's green Earth is the Booktraveler going to write about now, now that the tales from last summer's Western Sojourn have (finally) wrapped up?"

Well, not to worry my fellow travelers. For since that unparalleled summer odyssey, your humble Booktraveler has once again been wandering the planet, bringing more stories from the road with which to edify and regale. So sit back, fasten your seat belt and, if you're sitting in first class, please enjoy the beverage of your choice before we get under way.

Our next tale from the road begins, once again, out west. This time in California, where I found myself touching down just a few short weeks after my vaunted Western Sojourn.

Ah, California. Land of Hollywood, hipsters and hype. While the prevailing image conveyed by the media may leave something to be desired, that's largely because most of what Hollywood and the media focus on is confined to the suburban megalopolis of Greater Los Angeles, or LaLa Land, as I prefer to call it, which in my opinion, is the least tempting slice of this most delicious pie.

OK, OK, I'm not busting on LA. There's plenty of great stuff to see and do there, which we'll get to shortly. But California is a huge state (second only in size to Alaska and Texas) with a lifetime's worth of things to see and do. LaLa Land is just one small part.

In fact, California the most populous state in the US with a cozy 37 million inhabitants sprinkled around its 163,000 (and change) square miles, nearly 2/3 of whom (upwards of 22 million) live in or around the two largest metropolitan areas of Greater Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area 400 miles to the north. It's also a state of incomparable beauty and unsurpassed diversity. I mean, just the fact that you can see the highest point in the Continental US (Mt. Whitney @ 14,494 ft.) from the lowest (Death Valley @ -282 ft.) tells you something.

How do I come to know so much about California my fellow travelers? Well, it just so happens I used to live there for oh, a little over a decade or so, during my formative adult years. That's right, I'm one of those anomalies of life, the former West Coaster who prefers the hard boiled realities of life in Philly. But that's a different story altogether.

For our current soiree we'll be starting off in the afore-mentioned LaLa Land, then make our way up the coast to Hearst Castle, the soaring cliffs of Big Sur and the halcyon streets of Carmel before heading north to San Francisco and the Wine Country. This being a somewhat compressed trip, there wasn't a whole lot of time to visit local book establishments. But don't fret none booklovers, there'll still be an interesting literary tidbit or two along the way.

So check back soon and we'll kick off our trip with a visit to that most famous of all California destinations, Disneyland. Yippi-i-0-ki-yay! Until then...keep reading!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Wild West Wrap Up


Hello and welcome back my fellow travelers. I know you have long since come to believe that your humble Book Traveler dropped off the face of the Earth never to be heard from again. But here I am, back in the saddle again, and ready to wrap up the final installment of this long delayed
Western Sojourn Extravaganza.

Now, you may ask, what on God's green Earth have I been doing all this time that has kept me from regaling you with stories from the Blogosphere? Well, I could stretch the truth and say that the ring finger of my left hand was badly mauled in a vicious squirrel attack, which left me unable to type the letters w, s and x...but I'm sure you ould find thi to be quite the hitty e cuse.

Nope, the only defense I can offer is that I just haven't been able to get around to it, which is really no excuse at all. Be that as it may, rest assured that this behavior is all now completely in the past (well, most of it anyway). As you've been able to bear with me, we now return for the final, heart pounding installment of this long delayed chapter of my incredible Western Sojourn, leaving the past behind to forge our way fearlessly onward... into the past.

Luckily, as carefully outlined in my previous post:
with a prodigious memory, copious notes, ample photography and a rapacious (or at least rapier) wit, I am now fully geared up to complete the task and share with you the exciting final chapter of the journey on which I embarked lo those many, many months ago. And don't worry, I'll soon be following up with more tales from the road.

Let me please reiterate
that the fact you are still here to read and enjoy these entries is a testament not only to you as an individual, but to the outstanding qualities of your superior character and intellect. For this, I applaud and thank you! - BT


Wild West Wrap Up

I definitely feel it. 3 weeks worth of wear and tear is catching up. When I finally woke on this, the final full day of my Western Sojourn Extravaganza, I was unable to extract myself from beneath the feather comforter until well after 8am, more than two hours behind schedule. Even at that, another hour or two of sleep would have been nice, as I still felt a little like a well chewed piece of beef jerky after two days of exertion and imbibing in Bend.

Be that as it may, there's no rest for the weary and once up, we gathered ourselves quickly, hopped in the Jeep and made our way into the brisk, crystal clear morning. It was an extreme misfortune that due to the lateness of the hour I was unable to enjoy a final breakfast at Milo's. Instead, it was a trip through the famed Golden Arches drive-thru for a delicate repast of Sausage McMuffin and McHash Browns, washed down by a tall cup of scalding McCoffee (with a secret ingredient reminiscent of well-aged dirt).

Having spent the bulk of the trip roaming the hills, mountains and valleys of the American interior, I was looking forward spending this final day of the Sojourn taking in the stunning beauty of the Pacific. We were on our way to Astoria, Oregon, the quaint Pacific port town famous as the setting for "The Goonies", "Kindergarten Cop" and "Free Willy". Oh yes, and as the turnaround and over-wintering point for the Lewis & Clark expedition, a distinction one finds mentioned rather copiously at various regional venues.

It was a stunning morning as we set out from Portland. To the east, Mt. Hood stood motionless against an azure sky, while to the north, the flattened, smoldering remains of Mt. St. Helens loomed a distant menacing shadow.
We opted to take scenic route 30 to the coast, starting north along the banks of the Willamette River then turning west to parallel the mighty Columbia as it carves its way through the coastal hills to the pacific.

While not as stunning as the famed Columbia River Gorge to the east, the pastoral hills, valleys and towns along this stretch of the river have a unique beauty all their own.
At several stages along the drive, the road rises high above the valley floor providing incredible views across the river to Washington State. As you draw nearer the coast, the vegetation grows ever denser, becoming a thick conifer rain forest matted everywhere in thick layers of hoary moss. I gather it must it must rain here on occasion (understatement).

Roughly half way to the coast, traffic came to a sudden and inexplicable halt. Looking ahead, the line of stopped cars, buses, trucks and RVs stretched into the distance and people could already been seen getting out of their cars and loitering about the highway. Not a good sign.

Having waited long enough to turn the motor off and get out of the Jeep, we were pondering our next move when a vehicle coming the other way informed us and our neighbors of a terrible accident about a mile or so up ahead. State troupers were estimating cleanup would keep the road closed 4 hours or more. When we heard, a few minutes later, that a medevac helicopter was on the way, that was our queue to seek an alternate route.

Luckily we turned around and, following a series of small roads through the forested hills, were able to feel our way back down to the highway on the other side of the accident in about 20 minutes. We were doubly lucky in that the entire region became an impassible parking lot later that afternoon. We heard later reports that 4 teenagers were killed when their SUV lost control passing another vehicle and veered directly into a van coming the other way. The driver of the van was also killed and a passenger was in critical condition. Horrible. I thought of my friends in Denver who lost their son in a similar accident four years earlier. A sad and tragic day.

Above: Looking East Along Commercial St., Downtown Astoria.

Upon reaching Astoria after this disheartening detour, my fellow travelers and I rekindled our spirits and epicurean enthusiasm with a light lunch replete with a local brews at Astoria's famed Fort George Brewery + Public House. Located in a hip refurbished factory along Duane St. in the commercial heart of town, Ft. George offers a superb selection of great daily lunch and dinner specials from their chalk board menu, backed by a singularly diverse selection of their own unique and satisfying home brewed beers. NICE!

Above: Fort George Brewery + Public House a great place for lunch, dinner + brews!

After lunch, we drifted out to wander around the center of town. Astoria sits on a small hilly peninsula jutting into the river roughly 5 miles east of where it empties in to the cold Pacific. The downtown strip, situated along the northern edge of the peninsula, is a scenic, hippie gentrified port town that still retains vestigial reminders of it's rustic heritage. Steep, tree covered hills garnished with rows of quaint Victorian homes rise above downtown, providing a scenic backdrop to the rustic street scene.

Above: Godfather's Books & Espresso Above: Godfather's Espresso Bar

Much to my surprise, these quaint and inviting streets offers a fun selection of interesting shops and venues including a couple of independent new and used bookstores perfect for a afternoon's perusal. Our first stop was Godfather's Books and Espresso at the corner of 11th and Commercial Streets.

Above: The painted ceiling tiles above Godfather's Espresso bar are worth the visit .

Godfather's has been a staple of the Astoria book scene for over 15 years. Besides offering a robust, if not totally unique, selection of new and used books, this diamond-in-the-rough makes for a singularly interesting visit simply for the character, and cast of characters, found at their colorful Espresso Bar. Grab a book, order your favorite hot beverage, and settle in for some interesting conversation with the local proletariat. The painted ceiling tiles above the bar are worth the visit alone.

Above left: The beautifully restored Liberty Theater, cultural hub of Astoria. Above right: The hills above downtown.

Just a block east along Commercial St. and half block up from the beautifully restored Liberty Theater is Lucy's Books at 348 12th St. This adorable new and used indie has been serving the needs of Astorians for over 11 years. Owner Laura Snyder has a great little selection of titles tailored to her local customers, in a cozy, well lit store that offers a great second story reading loft for the kids.

Above left: Lucy's Books storefront, just a half block up from the Liberty Theater. Above right: Lucy's Books interior with the Kid's Book Loft above.

Lucy's plays host to a full calendar of local and national authors and as stated on their website: "We are lifelong readers and advocates of old-fashioned, small town interactions, in other words, conversation! Hence, a real, live bookshop downtown". A great little place to exercise your love of books with fellow kindred spirits.

Above: View over downtown and the Astoria-Megler Bridge from Column Park. Cape Disappointment can be seen the distance and beyond that, the Pacific Ocean. The shores of Washington State lie directly across the Columbia River, here over 4 miles across.

It was already late afternoon by the time we hopped back in the Jeep and headed up the narrow, Victorian lined streets above downtown to Column Park. Here atop of the highest hill in Astoria is the famed, 125 foot high Astoria Column. Built in 1926, the column offers a sweeping panoramic view of the entire region for those willing (and able) to ascend the 164 steps to the top.

Above: The Astoria Column (left) and the view east up the Columbia River (right).

Pulling ourselves away from the splendid views of Column Park we hopped back in the Jeep and headed west over the Young's Bay Bridge and south along the Oregon Coast Highway to the seaside resort town of...Seaside. This somewhat typical coastal resort town is much like any you find across the US, with the somewhat notable exception of frequent inclement weather and an inhospitably cold ocean.

Above: The view south from Astoria Column. Youngs River is in the foreground with aptly named Saddle Mountain rising on the left.

Proof yet again that people will frolic near the ocean regardless of the conditions. Northern Oregon is certainly no exception. In fact, Seaside is one of two coastal resort towns in the area. The other is the famed Cannon Beach just a few miles to the south. Both resorts are intersected by the Sunset Highway, providing easy access from Portland, roughly 2 hours to the east.

Above: View of Saddle Mountain on the way to Seaside via the Youngs River Bridge.

Even today, the sun became obscured behind a chilling, thick ceiling of brooding gray as we approached the coast, and this was in the warmest part of the summer. But if you don't mind the relentless pounding of north pacific winter storms accompanied by bark-stripping winds and drenching rains 7-8 months of the year, with ocean water temps in the low to mid 40's, then this is the place for you! We watched the local surfer populace glide along the wind-textured waves for a while before saddling up for our return to Portland.

We headed back through the thick rain-forested mountains via the Sunset highway. Once away from the coast, the low gray clouds gave way to a stunning and cloudless afternoon, the orange sun casting a late day glow over the pastoral farm lands of the interior valleys. A fitting and beautiful end to my final day on the road.

On the way back to Portland, we stopped off for dinner at McMenamins famous Grand Lodge in Forest Grove, 20 minutes west of Portland. After a robust meal it was back to the home of my gracious hosts in Portland, where we enjoyed a few final glasses of wine together before returning to my room to pack for the early morning flight, just hours away.

After 3 weeks on the road, the flight back to Philadelphia offered a welcome opportunity for sleep. The drive to the airport the next morning proved uneventful, the security line was short and we set off right on time. The flight was smooth and in fact, were it not for one final episode, our story would have reached it's conclusion.



However, particularly for those of you less than enamored or even fearful of flying: a brief, final coda I hope you'll enjoy:

As I said, the the flight proved smooth and uneventful. We were on time into Atlanta, where I was to have a layover and plane change. The second flight to Philadelphia boarded right on time and all seemed well. I was buckled in to a window seat near the rear of the plane as we pushed back from the jetway.

Once away from the terminal the plane stopped on the tarmac whereI heard the metallic whir and whining crescendo of the left engine starting up. This was soon followed by the same metallic whir from the right engine. It was during this process that a sudden loud POP! came from the rear of the plane, much like a large firecracker or small electrical explosion, whereupon the entire plane went instantly dark and silent. The engines, even the little fans above the seats, everything stopped working amidst utter silence.

Needless to say this proved somewhat unsettling. A low murmur rose from the passengers as we sat in darkness awaiting word from the flight crew. After about 20 seconds or so, emergency lighting dully illuminated the darkness, but still utter silence. After two very long minutes or so, it was apparent that a tug was pulling us back to the gate. Great!

After reaching the gate, lights, fans and gentle music returned. The flight crew came on the intercom to announce that a transformer used to start the engine had blown. This was a common problem we were assured, and we would be back on our way in 20 minutes or so once repairs were completed.

As you can imagine, the duration of the flight from Atlanta to Philadelphia was spent harboring visions of transformers popping at 30,000 feet, the darkened plane plummeting silently, minute upon minute, to the earth below. Suffice it to say the alcohol concession did quite well on that flight. I couldn't have been happier when the wheels finally touched down in Philadelphia.


In Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed our Western Sojourn together. We traveled from Denver and Boulder through the Rockies to the Tetons and Yellowstone. From Wyoming down through Salt Lake City and the land of the Mormons, through Moab, Aspen and the front range of Colorado Springs. We enjoyed the splendors of the Pacific northwest from Portland to Bend and from Astoria to Seaside. There were mountains climbed, near misses with bear and buffalo, geysers witnessed and many a great meal and hearty libation. Through it all we visited nearly 40 independent bookstores and met a ton of exceptional people who daily dedicate their lives to books. I can't say enough about the dedication and commitment of this most diverse group of booklovers I met along the way. Many of the stores I visited along my two thousand mile journey have been around for decades, and there's no hiding the fact that everyone involved harbors a deep and abiding passion for books and literature. We can only hope that in this age of Kindle, e-readers and Google, that these stores, who's passion and commitment have so far withstood the test of time, are not relegated to the footnote of history. Thanks for coming along, I've enjoyed having you, and I hope you stay tuned for more Book Traveler reports from the road. -BT

Monday, September 28, 2009

Bend But Don't Break


Before you dive head first into this wildly anticipated, second to last entry of your humble Booktraveler's Western Sojourn Extravaganza, a couple of brief and highly personal...well, maybe not
that personal...comments or observations, if you will.

For those of you following the blog, you'll notice that a fair amount of time has passed since the trip began. You'll probably also notice that it has been quite a while since the last post. This may have you thinking: is this trip ever going to end? Did the Booktraveler move to Oregon, go on a month long bender and disappear Into the Wild? Should we contact the authorities? Jon Krakauer perhaps?

Well, not to worry. Just as Mark Twain wrote "Roughing It" to great acclaim
years after he returned from his sojourn out west, your humble Booktraveler needed a little extra time, merely a few short weeks, to bring things to a resounding, heart pounding conclusion. Not that I'm comparing myself to Mark Twain, mind you - although a few weeks is certainly a lot shorter than a few years - as far as work ethic goes.

Anyway, to make a long story short, the grinding necessities and whirling timetables of your humble Booktraveler's life took a firm grip towards the end of the trip, ripped me asunder and deposited me here, weeks later, stunned and disheveled, but no worse for wear and tear, to complete the task.

Don't worry my friends and readers: with a prodigious memory, copious notes, ample photography and a rapacious (or at least rapier) wit, I am now fully geared up to complete the task and share with you the exciting final chapters of the journey on which I set out lo those many, many weeks ago.

That you are still here to read and enjoy these entries is a testament not only to you as an individual, but to the outstanding qualities of your superior character and intellect. For this, I applaud and thank you!

That said, without any further ado, let us continue tracing with great anticipation the eventful final daze of our western sojourn together.


Bend But Don't Break

As anticipated, it was a rough go the next morning. Somehow we managed to get up, get out and on our way to Bend in the first glow of morning, heading east out of Portland along the Columbia River in my host's two door Jeep Wrangler. Although the Jeep's doors and top were attached, the back flaps were tied open, making for a bracing (and noisy) drive up and over the Cascades.

With multiple layers of clothing and heat going full blast there was still quite a chill once we got up over the 3,500 foot level.This was in August, mind you! After passing through the quaintly named towns of Zigzag, Rhododendron and Government Camp, we made it up and over 4,100 foot Barlow Pass along the shoulder of Mt. Hood and began our long descent to the sparse, arid plains to the east. Looking back, the topmost peak of Mt. Hood, which looked close enough to touch, was crowned in majestic pink and gold by the cresting morning sun.

For every thousand feet we descended the temperature warmed by ten degrees. This made it eminently more pleasant by the time we made it down to the aptly named Warm Springs Indian Reservation, allowing me to abandon a layer or two and truly enjoy the cool summer morning. From there we headed over the spectacular Deschutes River canyon and up onto the flats of the eastern high plains.

Above: Two views of Smith Rocks State Park.

We stopped briefly to take in the beauty of Smith Rocks State Park, whose rocky promontories and scorched valley floors provide startling contrast to the thick forests of the Cascades. We then continued south through Redmond and onward to the outdoor paradise of Bend.

Starting out as a small logging town perched along a scenic bend in the Deschutes River in the early 1900's, Bend has grown to become the largest city in central Oregon with an estimated (pre-recession) population approaching 200,000. The reason for this astounding growth is the unparalleled richness and variety of outdoor activities that draws people to the region. It runs the gamut: from kayaking, rafting, fishing, climbing, backpacking and golf in the summer to world class skiing and snowboarding, cross country skiing and treking in the winter. If that weren't enough, the abundance of nearby natural wonders are ample to keep even the most overactive outdoorsy type satisfied for decades.

After passing through the ubiquitous "anywhere USA" big box store section north of town, we headed through historic downtown, past scenic Mirror Pond, then west on highway 372 to our first stop, Mt. Bachelor, 30 minutes west of town. This world-renowned ski area sits on the rugged face of its imposing namesake volcano, cresting at a blustery 9,000 feet in altitude. In the summer you can ride the chair lift up to Pine Marten Lodge for spectacular views of the region's other main attractions, the towering The Three Sisters and Broken Top volcanoes, which rise above the tree lined valley to the north.

Above: Views from the Mt Bachelor ski lift looking across to Three Sisters and Broken Top.

After paying the requisite fee we jumped aboard the lift and headed up to the Lodge, enjoying spectacular views along the way. Disembarking just above treeline at 7,700 feet, you're met with stunning views of the rugged Mt. Bachelor peak and turning around, the amazing beauty of Three Sisters and Broken Top. There's a frisbee golf course at this level of the mountain, and I saw more than a few discs get hurled into cracks and crags along the rocky face, never to be seen again. Bummer Dude!

We walked around the otherworldly terrain, enjoying views from as many angles as possible. After stopping in the lodge for refreshments, we headed back to enjoy the unique thrill of riding the ski lift down the mountain. A unique experience to say the least. It was time for lunch as we headed back into Bend, and on the recommendation of my friend and host, we stopped at the Cascade Lakes Brewing Company Lodge just outside of town for some fine home brew and victuals. Ohhhh baby, was it ever worth it...just for the beer alone!

After a lager or two or three, we headed in to explore the wide variety of shops, stores, specialty retail outlets and restaurants skirting scenic Bond and Wall Streets in the central downtown district near Mirror Pond. There, much to my surprise, I discovered a veritable cornucopia of unique used bookstores and indies offering a prolific potpourri of printed perusables along with great coffee and entertainment to boot!

Above: Dudley's Bookshop Cafe. Clockwise from top left: facade, coffee bar, downstairs lounge and upstairs reading room.

Dudley's Bookshop Cafe at 135 NW Minnesota offers a great selection of new and used books in a colorful and cordial establishment that has ample places to sit, relax and enjoy. There's a great coffee bar with coffee, espresso, teas and a range of delectable treats downstairs, with a comfortable upstairs that offers reading solitude within a series of huge windows that offer a superb view of the street below, far above the maddening crowd. Opened in December of 2008, Dudley's features work by local authors and artisans as well as a bustling schedule of live readings and musical performances. It's a one stop cultural collective that has a little something for everyone and well worth a visit if you find yourself wandering aimlessly around town looking for a cultural fix.

Above: Pegasus Books, front and interior featuring owner Duncan McCreary.

A short block away from Dudley's is Pegasus Books, owned by Duncan and Linda McCreary. Pegasus has been a staple of the community for over 25 years offering an outstanding and interesting collection of comics, graphic novels, pop culture ephemera, action figures and toys along with a great selection of new and used books. The store is a must see simply for the posters and action figures alone, and Duncan is a helpful and knowledgeable host. Great place for the enthusiast and layman alike. You can read Duncan's blog at http://pegasusbooksofbend.blogspot.com/ .

Duncan and Linda also own a great little used book indie on the outskirts of town called The Bookmark on Greenwood Avenue. It offers a diverse selection of general used titles covering a broad range of subjects from bestsellers to local interest, all at great prices. Unfortunately we arrived there too late to go in (they were already closed for the day) so all I could do was view it drooling from the window. Hopefully they'll be able to clean the window and I'll be able to stop in on my next visit to Bend.

Above: The Bookmark, outside and in.

Just across the street from The Bookmark is The Open Book, also on Greenwood Avenue, which features a great selection of used books and an even greater selection of used and reasonably priced CD's. Last but certainly not least, there's Between the Covers Bookstore on Delaware Ave., which offers a great selection of used books along with an outstanding coffee shop, or perhaps it's the other way around.

Above: Between The Covers bookstore and coffee bar.

Anyway you slice it, Bend is a bodacious bonanza for any bibliophile and we're not even mentioning the large bookstore chains just out of town. At any rate it was getting late and we stopped in at the pub and brewery at McMenamins Old St. Francis School for dinner and draft specialties, after which we retired to our digs at the Hampton Inn outside town. I usually stay at the fabulous Mill Inn when in Bend, but they were booked so I had to opt for the antiseptic comforts of the national chain.

Left: Early morning drive to South Sister, Mt. Bachelor in the background.
Right: Our destination: the summit of South Sister

Next morning we were up before the sun and headed west again, this time to scale South Sister, Oregon's third highest peak after Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson. We stopped at a local eatery and grabbed a couple of breakfast sandwiches to go, along with supplies for the hike. It was a 12 mile round trip hike going up (and then back down, let's not forget) 5,000 feet in altitude or 10,000 feet total.

Left: Halfway up South Sister heading to the final steeps.
Broken Top mountain in the distance taken during the final ascent.

It was a beautiful morning when we set out. Hazy, with just enough clouds clinging to the peaks to make it supremely breathtaking. The trail head starts from the parking lot at Devil's Lake Campground out past Mt. Bachelor. Even at this early hour it was hard to find parking and groups of hikers were already scurrying across the highway. We found out later there was a large group of marines climbing the mountain that day, which was one of the reasons why it was so crowded at 6 am.

Left: Near the top of South Sister looking down the rugged trail.
North Rim of South Sister. Watch that last step, it's a doozy!

Once on the trail, the crowd cleared quickly and we soon found ourselves panting alone on our way up the mountainside, caressed by the gently sounds of nearby cascades. For the first three miles, the trail winds its way up through thick temperate forest. At you approach the mid section of the climb however, the trees fall away, providing spectacular views of the stark, rough hewn landscape.

The trail continues over a relatively easy high shoulder to the base of the steep final section of the climb. From there it's a steep, two mile, 3,000 foot climb over loose rock and gravel to reach the summit, the meat and potatoes of the climb. Even at this relatively low altitude, the climb proved quite formidable. It was slow and meticulous going, but well worth it once we reached the top where, chests heaving, we were rewarded by 360 degree views of the surrounding peaks and valleys. I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

Left: Views of Middle and North Sister from the summit.
Crossing the snow filled caldera at the summit to begin our descent.

At 10,353 feet, the top of South Sister is a broad, glaciated caldera about a half mile across. We climbed around the difficult northern ridge and had lunch with our feet dangling off a 500 foot drop, with Middle and North Sisters standing tall above the beautiful snow laced valley below. After about an hour at the top, we headed back directly across the caldera glacier to the trail head to begin our descent down the mountain.

Peering down the steep crusty trail, I was amazed to see a near continuous line of humanity snaking up from the rocky reaches below. Starting down, the unrelenting downward pressure on my knees had me shifting quickly from a knee buckling plod to a faster albeit more dangerous jog down the rugged terrain. While this provided welcome relief for my knees and greatly speeded the descent, I didn't feel much love from the hikers on their way up who found us suddenly bearing down on them in an hail of roiling dust and igneous rocks. Of course, it was also abundantly clear that many of the people along the trail had no business whatsoever being on the mountain.

As we reached the bottom of the initial 2-mile descent, we found a group of people gathered around a large and rather rotund woman in sneakers wearing orange socks and shorts and a white t-shirt. She was rolling around in the dirt screaming and, I might add, working up quite a formidable cloud of dust. Spit came out in spurts and drops from the corners of the dirt covered mouth as she cried. Everything was covered in dust, including her hair, and a redish mud was beginning to form in areas bathed in sweat and spittle.

Her party (and a growing crowd of interested bystanders) stood transfixed by the whole thing, unable to decide what to do. The woman bellowed hysterically through tears that she couldn't make it one more step. Seeing as they hadn't even made it to the base of the final 2-mile ascent, I had to agree wholeheartedly. However, a few of her companions were in no mood to turn around and had obviously discussed this eventuality beforehand. A fight ensued, which was our cue to continue on our merry way down the mountain.

Another mile or so along the trail we came upon a mountain rescue team sitting in a large clearing. They were waiting for a medevac helicopter that had been called in to take out a middle aged man who was suffering from chest pains and having trouble breathing. A couple of the rescuers were attending to the victim who was now laying on the ground wearing an oxygen mask. The others stood around talking or smoking. Truth be told, some of the rescuers looked in as bad a shape as the victim after their three mile climb up to the clearing, and seemed none to pleased at the prospect of the hike back down.

Continuing along, it seemed twice as far back down to the Jeep as it had seemed on the way up. Several times I thought we had lost the trail and would have to fend for ourselves cold and alone in the untamed wilderness overnight. Rounding the final bend however, there we were, back safe and sound at the Devil's Lake Campground and the comfort of a sun-warmed jeep with plenty of cold brewskies. A refreshing way to end the day's expedition!

With an hour on top for lunch, the climb had taken about five and a half hours total. Not a bad way to wrap up our stay in Bend. We headed back into town to enjoy a late lunch at the Deschutes Brew Pub. Their microbrewery is located nearby, so it was great to enjoy my beloved Mirror Pond Ale on draft just a block or two from the source.

Above: Mount Jefferson viewed from Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood.

We headed back for Portland full, tired, happy and bathed in the late afternoon sun. It was warm and comfortable and we enjoyed the panoramic view as we passed from the Sisters to Mt. Jefferson, then on towards Mt. Hood and the Cascades. It was getting late when we turned off the highway for a quick trip up to Timberline Lodge for a view of the Mt. Hood Summit. We walked around above the lodge and after a quick Mexican Coffee or two at the bar where we enjoyed spectacular views of the Summit, we made our way down to Portland and the comfort of our soft, inviting beds.

Left: Timberline Lodge Mt. Hood
Mt. Hood approaching the lodge on Timberline Drive.

It was hard to believe I only had one day left before heading back to the east coast. I was determined to use it to the fullest. In the morning we were headed west to the coast and the storied port town of Astoria, Oregon, the land of Lewis and Clark, Kindergarten Cop and The Goonies. Here, the five mile wide Columbia River meets the North Pacific in one of the most treacherous stretches of marine navigation in the entire United States. It should be fun! Hopefully the weather will cooperate. Join me, won't you?

Until then-