Beautiful Oregon

The last few weeks before school starts again and I’ve been hanging around with my family and friends and enjoying the beauty of nature. The other night, the kids and I went out to Stub Stewart State Park in the Coast Range and watched the Perseid meteor shower.

That’s an image from Sky and Telescope; it looked kind of like that. We waited several hours until the moon set at midnight or so and then a couple of meteors were visible every minute. It was quite the show. The best Perseid shower that I’ve seen since the 1990s in Africa. We were about 50 km west of Portland, and while there was a bit of city light visible to the east, when the moon was gone the sky was very dark. There were no clouds at all and the humidity was quite low so there was no noticeable haze. Quite a show.

The previous weekend, I was down at Phil Callicrate’s house north of Corvallis and we went for a walk in the MacDonald forest. This is an experimental forest maintained by Oregon State University’s Forestry Department, complete with an arena for competitive logging events. You would expect the Oregon State Beavers to have a competitive logging team (snark snark!). Nice walk in the woods, cooked a few pies and played a bunch of Age of Empires with Phil, Aaron Sahlstrom and the kids. Eating, video games, and hikes, what more do you need to make a good summer?

My friend Dade and I went up to Powell Butte last week. This is a very nice urban park in Oregon, over on the unfashionable east side of town and thus not heavily trafficked. I’ve been up there a lot, especially when we lived in Oregon City. Abraham and I went up there several times when he was younger and flew kites and his model airplanes in the bit open area at the summit.

Dade Powell Butte summit 640

That’s Dade at the summit; you can see the big open area, generally quite windy and appropriate for kite-flying. One added attraction is that the landing path for the Portland Airport goes just north of the park and you can watch the planes fly fairly close overhead. Another attraction is a fantastic view of Oregon’s tallest mountain, Mount Hood.

Mt Hood from Powell Butte 640

The iconic shape of the mountain, with the little bulge of Goat Rocks on the southern (right) side of the peak, really evokes home for us northern Oregonians. The mountain is just a little under 3500 meters (11250 feet), not very impressive by Alpine standards, but it is very treacherous. Our good friend Carey Cardon and his wife lost their lives up there in 1999, and several climbers get in trouble every year. Carey and his wife were both serious Alpinists who were planning to climb the highest peaks on all seven continents. They were preparing for an attempt at Denali with a quick warmup run up Hood, a climb they had made many times before. Snow conditions were poor, and they slipped on the descent and fell 800 meters down the cliff on the east face. In the early 1980s, a group of students from Oregon Episcopal School on a graduation trip got caught in a late snowstorm, holed up in snow caves, and most of them froze. Part of the attraction of nature is that it is not moderated. I don’t do things like climb mountains but I do like the idea of going outside of the zone that humans have domesticated. I always get a thrill when I pass those signs at the trailhead when you go into a designated wilderness area in the US; the ones that ask you to fill out a trip plan and put it in the box so they will know where to come collect your remains. Well, it doesn’t exactly say that, but there is an “abandon all hope, ye who enter here” flavor to the signage.

(Image credit:

This sign comes from Maine, by the way. Here in the west, 100 miles of wilderness is not especially remarkable.

This weekend, Kadija and I are at the Oregon Coast. We are staying in a five-star hotel with a beautiful beach view.

Beach from Spanish Head 640

Last night I walked down there to the little town of Taft, which has a bunch of nice eateries and drinking establishments including Cap’n Dan’s Pirate Pastry Shop, which I can recommend highly. I don’t know how much of a seaman Cap’n Dan is, but he is a heck of a pastry chef. This morning, Kadija and I went up to Drift Creek in the Coast Range. This is a Forest Service site, with a nice trail that has a beautiful suspension bridge on it.

SRK Drift Creek 2 640

Nice view of the waterfalls from the bridge

Drift Creek Falls 640

And from down below

SRK Drift Creek Falls 2 640

Not much water in the stream right now since it is August. The falls are much more spectacular in January, but then you have to be willing to walk about seven kilometers through an Oregon coastal forest in the eternal rains of January. We pay a price for all these nice green forests…

Kadija and I haven’t had any time alone together since before I left for Africa, so our friends Dade and Maty kindly offered to take the kids off our hands so we could spend the weekend together. We’re going to try to do this every three months or so; next time, I get to pick the destination. October/November will be too late for the high Cascades, but maybe somewhere up in the Gorge.

So that beach is calling me, I’m going to sign off now. School starts soon and there will some more substantive content. Elections coming up too, so they say. I haven’t noticed yet.



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