Saturday, December 27, 2008


This Christmas I blew through 100,000 frequent flyer miles to fly Emily and I home to visit our families.  We decided to split the vacation half and half to make it fair for our relatives.  On Friday after I got out of Ruby Tuesday's Emily and I drove down to Portland with Bridget who also had a flight the following day to stay overnight at a Quality Inn near the airport.  This is always a great idea as they allow you to park your car in the parking lot for an entire week for only another 15 bucks as well as allowing you a good nights sleep before an early flight.  We picked up some beers and microwave dinners for the hotel room before settling in to watch some tv.  

Emily and I completely lucked out on Saturday as we zig-zagged across the nation missing every single major storm.  We left Portland literally hours before the city received nearly two feet of snow which is unheard of in the valley.  I read that if you combined all the snow Portland has received in the past 15 years it still wouldn't equal what that storm delivered.  In Chicago we flew out of the hub just as a storm was hitting there and we arrived in Hartford/Windsor Locks just 5 hours before a Nor'Easter hit the state.  We even managed to not lose any luggage or presents along the way either.  

On Sunday Emily and I woke up at her parents in a blizzard so decided to relax there for
the day rather than risk driving her mom's Mercedes in a blizzard to see my parents.  It was the first truly relaxing day I've had in months and really enjoyed it.  On Monday we drove up early to visit my dad in the hospital before heading over to my mother's house.  He was forced to leave the Landing where he has been staying because of a minor case of pneumonia.  He looked really bad and it was hard to see him in that condition.  We had to wake him from sleep and he was pretty out of it and a bit confused.  Just two weeks ago he turned 90.  I had to have a very hard conversation with him about dying with his doctor, Dr. Hoy, who stopped in to check on him.  Basically, he is being kept alive by machines (his dialysis every other day) because he has acute kidney failure.  He doesn't seem to want to let go but he also seems miserable and lonely. I think he is very scared of death.  After visiting with him for an hour with 
Emily who is always very supportive I left the hospital in tears trying to transition myself from utter sadness to happiness for when I would see my daughter and her mom who is visiting "Nana" for Christmas as well.

Emily and I put together a rocking horse for Ellie before they arrived at Aunt Catherine's Monday night.  We had a nice dinner with my mom before we all drove to Saratoga to meet up with Ellie and Nicolette.  Emily and I visited for about an hour before we took off to grab some drinks with Emily's old roomates as well as my High School buddy Matt Jones and the guy who hooked Emily and I up, Mike Lamonto.  Everyone was stoked to see Emily and I again and it felt like everyone in the room were couples which was nice.  Emily's old roomate Cassie got engaged the night we flew into
Hartford so everyone was excited about that.  I met Matt out at a bar and we chatted for a long time to catch up.  He apparently plans to move with his wife Sarah to Arizona as far as I could tell.  We don't talk enough but it is hard with our busy schedules and lives on opposite ends of the country.
   Mike loaned me a laptop charger which I had forgotten at Emily's parents so I could put together the digital picture frame for my father the following day.  Emily and I stayed until about 2am when we decided we should get back to Queensbury.
  It sure is nice having Emily's mom's Mercedes with heated seats!  We are not used to East Coast weather anymore.  

Having Ellie, Emily, Nicolette and my mom together for a couple days was very nice.  Ellie really seemed to like Emily and Emily was great with my daughter.  It was hard to stay excited all day every day because my thoughts kept drifting to my father lying alone in hospital bed for the holidays.  Nicolette and Ellie decided to bring an inflatable mattress to "Nana's" to stay there for Tuesday night (our fake Christmas Eve for Ellie).  All day tuesday we hung out in the house and played with Ellie, reading her books and even caring her around in the garbage bucket she climbed into (it was clean).  Ellie was so cute helping us peel potatoes in her high chair and break apart cauliflower.  She loved watching Nickolodean's Noggin's channel of educational cartoons for toddlers.  She is incredibly strong and loves to climb up on everything including all of us.  Her giggles and squeels of joy were great to hear in person and she is talking all the time now and can even sing the entire Twinkle Twinkle little star at just 2 years old.
Very impressive, must get her brains from her mom.  We had a wonderful ham dinner on our fake Christmas Eve and Ellie stayed up for quite a while before finally passing out.  

Christmas morning was really fun and I think Ellie enjoyed her new rocking horse and Sprigg Toy that Emily and I got her.  At first she didn't feel like opening presents but as soon as we started to she got right into it.  I got the
 2TB external drive I needed for my research at school and Emily got a nice sweater.  I also got a "I love Ellie" shirt from Nicolette.  After opening presents and playing with Ellie for a while I set my mind to making my dad a batch of his goulash and putting together his photo frame.  He really dislikes the hospital food and is becoming weaker because of it so I thought perhaps he would feel better with his favorite (and mine) meal.  Around 1pm Emily and I had to take off to visit my father on the way out of town to her parents.  It was hard saying goodbye to Ellie not knowing when I'll see her again.  She gave me a kiss saying "I love you daddy, bye bye".  Truly heartbreaking, just like when she wouldn't let go of me last time I visited home.  

Next it was on to my next heartbreaking goodbye, that of my father in the hospital.
He seemed really happy with the goulash but less happy with the photo frame, although he still enjoyed that as well.  I turned it on and left it next to him on the bed for him to watch and told the nurses to please keep it on and lay it down next to him.  It was filled with childhood photos of himself, his family, my family, me, Emily, my daughter and all the best photos from my journeys into the mountains across the country.  Unfortunately he is in and out of sleep so much I'm not sure how much he'll enjoy it.  I wasn't prepared for how bad he was when I got home.  I visited with him for an hour while he was going through dialysis.  Once again I told him that it was ok to let go and that all of us would be fine including my mother which he always seems to be concerned about.  He kept asking about the baby which was heartbreaking
 to me because I knew he wanted to see her but I also knew his condition would scare Ellie and frankly I don't want her to have any memories of her grandfather in the condition he is in.  I chose not to take any photos of him and I together because I don't want to remember him like this either.  This is really hard to write so I'm going to stop.  I love my father with all my heart but I feel his time has come and I won't see him again.  He is headed for a nursing home next for extra care as he rarely can get out of bed anymore.  Saying goodbye to him was one of the hardest things I've ever done because I know I probably won't see him again.  

Emily drove her mom's car through a rainstorm in the dark (which scared me a bit) to her brother Nick's place for a fantastic Filet dinner with her family.  It was great to see everyone again and they were happy to see me as well.  I especially get along with Emily's brother Chris very well because he's outdoorsy and very soft spoken and seems truly interested in the same things I like as well, plus we are around the same age.  On the way down Emily and I stopped at Boarders to pick up "Freedom of the Hills" for him which is the bible of mountaineering.  I knew he'd enjoy that.
After a great dinner prepared by Nick's wife Jen we all sat around chatting for a while and playing with Sammie the spoiled pug.  The parents soon left but us kids stayed for a while to watch "A Christmas Story" and chat.

Emily and I slept in until nearly 10am on Christmas day before coming down to open presents with her younger cousins Julia and Jess.  There were more presents underneath the tree than I've ever seen before.  Emily and I got an electric can opener, an electric whisk, some clothes and other small stuff from the stockings. The rest of the day was spent chatting and playing the Wii which all of us had a riot with, including her dad who dominated a few games.  Chris dominated tennis but I dominated all the balance games that required the balance board like Shawn White's Snowboarding.  Emily's mom even smacked her dad pretty good while playing Wii tennis later in the night.  We had a wonderful meal of roast pork that her mother cooked up and I tried to help with dishes afterwards.  

On Friday we all relaxed at the house and Chris and I helped his dad put together a new mailbox for the front yard.  It was comforting to see that Chris also didn't have mechanical skills with tools so I wasn't overly embarrassed for not having any either.
In the afternoon we all went to see Valkari at the movies which left us all pretty speechless at the end = good movie.  We then went to Red Robbin for some burgers before heading back to the house to relax for the night.  Chris decided to take off to get back to his girlfriend in Portland, ME.  In the evening Emily and I drove down to see some of her childhood friends in a nearby town.  I found myself in a room of 6-8 intoxicated females all laughing about things I didn't have a clue about but there was food out and everyone I met was really nice so I had a great time.  

On Saturday we left Hartford on an early flight that was pretty uneventful back to Oregon.  We easily hopped the hotel shuttle from the airport back to our car and made it back to Corvallis by 4pm.  It was a weird trip.  I was both very happy to see my family but but it was stressful to see my dad the way he was and it always sucks to say goodbye to my beautiful daughter.  Thankfully I know she is in wonderful hands with Nicolette.  I was happy to see that my mother is getting help cleaning up the house and seems to be in much better health then when I left her in August as well.  It was a great trip but unfortunately it was, as usual with my busy life, way too short.  Check out some cute videos below.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Snow in Corvallis

First significant snow of the season and Corvallis actually got hit!  Check out these photos from our apartment and downtown by the waterfront.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

First Day Skiing

Just a quick blog entry to say that Emily had our first day out skiing this season.  Timberline opened up two lifts so we packed up our equipment and headed to the mountain with Chris Holm.  It was pretty good skiing and the trees were fun.  It's so good to be back on my skis again!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008 & Mt. Tumalo

Once again this Thanksgiving we were able to stay at a rental home in Sunriver for the weekend. Bridget Brown and I organized the trip and were hoping for more people to come but with Mt. Bachelor being closed due to lack of snow there wasn't much inspiration for our other friends to make the 3 hour drive and pay 25$ a person per night (which I personally think is WAYYY CHEAP).  It turned out that it was just Bridget, Robyn, her boyfriend Bevin, Brendan, Emily and I, and Kendra and her boyfriend and her boyfriend Adam who stopped by for a night.  The house we rented was amazing with two floors, a hot tub, pool table, games, bikes, movies, fireplace, full kitchen and even a beach ball!  

On the way over 
Santiam Pass Emily and I stopped at the Ice Cave to show Brendan and we found a whole new set of passage ways, one which was just as long if not a little longer then the original we had found nearly a year ago.  Brendan had never been in lava caves before so he found them pretty cool.  We'll have to go back again with better light in the summer to check out the full extent of the cave networks in that area. 

The first night at the house was on Thanksgiving day so Robyn and Bridget and 
Bevin cooked up an amazing turkey dinner.  They made a sausage stuffing that was fantastic, definitely rivaling Kristen Splinters Holiday fried rolls from last year.  Emily and I had bought several bottles of liquor as well as a bottle of port so drinking was definitely in order.  We spent the night
soaking in the hot tub playing pool and relaxing by the fire.  Late in the evening I decided it was time for some midnight long boarding so we all went out and grabbed one of the bikes 
that was included with the unit and road around the neighborhood towing each other with a garden hose.  Bridget was nervous about getting on the board but eventually did. When it was her turn to pull me she road the bike directly into the woods with me behind because neither of us 
had any light to see where we were going.  It was hilarious.  

next day Brendan and I ventured into Bend to check out Best Buy and look at TV's that we were going to possibly purchase for Christmas gifts to each other.  It took us forever to find the friggin' store, even with using my Iphone GPS.   While we were browsing the store Robyn, Bevin and Bridget went to Mt. Bachelor to climb the cinder cone and ski it despite the resort not being open.  They came back with really great pictures and said that the skiing actually wasn't that bad.  Later that evening Kendra and Adam showed up just in time for Emily and I to make a great pasta dinner with her mom's sauce along with garlic bread and tomato/mozz appetizer.    We had so much great food in the house for the weekend.  Once again we drank the night away and had a longboard session, this time using a coiled phone cord as the rope (less heavy).  We also had an impromptu beach ball bashing game which Jake
the dog loved.  After drinking for several hours the girls also had the great idea of seeing who could fit through the narrow space between the stair boards which resulted in several very funny photos and videos.  When I tried my butt got stuck which was a little embarrassing!

On Saturday Kendra, Adam, Emily, Brendan and I decided to hike up Mt. Tumalo while the others returned to ski the cinder cone across the road from us.  We never saw them from our climb but new they were there.  It was a truly beautiful day and we all ended up hiking in long sleeve shirts to the open summit.  Kendra and Adam brought their dog Jake along who seemed to have a
fond affection for Emily's leg if you know what I mean.  He couldn't get enough of it.  It took us no time to get to
the summit but I was struggling from drinking the night before and having a bloody mary for breakfast which seemed to bubble up into my throat the entire climb.  From the summit we had absolutely amazing views of Broken Top and the Sisters volcano complex as well as full view of Mt. Bachelor from where we had come from.  At just under 8,000 feet Tumalo isn't a very big mountain but the backside of it had an amazing bowl that would be perfect for skiing.  In fact, there was quite a bit of snow at the summit and we met a kid who had brought his skis back up the mountain after having summited in the morning just to ski the bowl.  There were volcanic rock outcrops which would be fantastic to jump off of in deep powder below.  

When we got back to the house we all took it pretty easy, relaxing in the hot tub and playing a truly epic game of Trivial Pursuit.  It was also Brendan's birthday so we all had to take shots.  We gave him a shot of Sailor Jerry's rum and put whipped cream on top for him (yuck).  I made about 8 full mudslides for myself because I absolutely love them but it turned out to be a big mistake as I felt like a bloated fish for the rest of the evening!  

It was a great weekend with my new friends from Geography and I think we all had a great time.  Aaron Hartz never showed up and we all had to pay a little more money then we had planned to but it all worked out just fine and was well worth getting out of Corvallis for.   Hopefully next year we will have more of an interest or perhaps Emily and I will just leave town ourselves for some grand adventure.  

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Emily's friend Rachel had two extra tickets to the game so Emily and I decided to tag along.  I had to work at 5:30pm so I only drank a few beers and stopped at half time.  It was a beautiful day out and pretty warm for mid November.  On the way to the stadium we stopped by my office and dropped off some of our stuff while also having a few drinks.  Across the street from the Geo building I also caught up with Doug Degrosse from Watershed Sciences who shared some sliced 
marinated steak with me (he's a great cook).  The stadium was absolutely packed.  I believe the announcer said it was a new stadium record, probably because it was also Dad's Weekend for OSU.  The mascot for CAL (a bear) looked ridiculous and nothing like a bear.  

At half time we all walked back to where we tail-gaiting before the game with some of Rachel's parents friends.  At the game I also met Stephanie who works with Emily and her 
boyfriend Brandon as well as several of her other co-workers.  
With about 2 minutes left in the game and us holding the lead I started my run from the stadium back to my office for my longboard so
I could get to work.  Halfway to my office on my jog I heard the fireworks announcing our win.  I was only 10 minutes late to work which wasn't bad at all seeing that I easily beat the crowds to the restaurant.  The funniest picture I got all afternoon was that of a fan ironically wearing a Ruby Tuesday's shirt being put into a cruiser by 3 state police officers.  I still have to blow it up and bring it into work.  

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Emily and I decided to spend a day in Portland so that we could pick up a coffee table we found on Craigslist later that night.  We drove to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) to check it out.  It was very similar to the Boston Science Museum and there were a lot of exhibits for kids to have hands on learning experiences.  It would be a fantastic place to bring Ellie when she gets a little older.   For dinner we went to PF Changs in downtown Portland for a fantastic meal with cocktails.  

When we headed out of town and arrived to pick up the coffee table we were extremely disappointed when we saw it.  It was massive and way too 
big for our main room.  We thanked the guy and started driving home.  I pulled over briefly into a parking lot to check craigslist again on my iphone for any other possibilities and found a great one but there was no number listed so I left an email saying to call us back in the next 15 minutes before we head back to Corvallis.  After waiting about 10 minutes I started up my truck to head home and the phone rang.  Unbelievable the woman selling the table had just sat down to check her email for the night and told us to come over.  After a quick 10 minute drive we were picking up our new coffee table which is shown in the photo here.  We love it and it works out great in our room.   

P.S. I love my Iphone!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Beavers vs. Arizona

After waiting in line for an hour this past Monday I was able to score some tickets to the Arizona home game for Emily and I. I had the night off of work as well so drinking was definitely an option.  Zack and Rachel came over to our place in the afternoon for some drinks before we headed to the game.  Mac and Sarah also came over for some pre-game drinking.  Emily and I got to meet Rachel's dog Charlie as well who was adorable but had to be left in his dog cage to contain his mischievous behavior while we were gone.  It was a very rough night for me as I stupidly decided it would be appropriate to drink half a nalgene of port.  On top of that I decided to drink another half nalgene of jungle juice at half time with some tail-gaiters.  Apparently it was an amazing game and we clinched it in the 4th quarter but frankly I don't even remember the 2nd half.  When we got back to our apartment Emily decided to cook burgers for us all but I don't recall any of that either.  I woke up to find that I had put in Dave Chapelle for our amusement as well.  The night was a great time from what I've heard.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Triangulation Peak & Boca Cave

This weekend Emily and decided it was time to go on another short hike before I had to work at Ruby's.
We drove out towards the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness area with guidebooks in hand.  When we passed
by Detroit Lake I was absolutely amazed at how low the water level was.  When Kalin and I had passed by the lake in mid July on our Jefferson attempt it reminded me of Lake George.  There were hundreds of boats on the lake and it looked like a tourist
community.  Now the water level was about 50 feet lower and all the rocky barren shores were exposed and the waterway
under the bridge near the town looked like the grand canyon when we drove over it, completely impassible by boat now.  We only saw one boat on the lake and I have no idea how it got there because all the docks and boat ramps were laying on the bare ground now!  

The hike we chose was a relatively short one of about 6 miles or so round trip
and it took us by a beautiful rock spire appropriately called Spire Rock.  It rose straight up out of the side of the mountain like a thick needle about 80 feet into the sky.  If you look at some of the pictures posted here you should be able to see it.  The trail was very well maintained and seemed even easier than the Tripyramids that we climbed last month.  We quickly made it to the exposed
summit and were rewarded with absolutely beautiful views of Mt. Jefferson rising to the Northeast.  I could clearly see the ridge "Sentinal Hills" that Kalin and I had humped 60+ pound bags and skis over in our attempt to climb Jefferson in July.  It brought back really bad memories
of pain and anger from that trip.  Emily and stayed at the summit for a while eating some lunch and soaking in the sunshine of the beautiful day.  There were beautiful fall colors everywhere, ironically they were most beautiful in the clear cut logging areas.  The true summit of the mountain was a small rock outcropping about 30 yards from the lookout of Mt. Jefferson.  Emily and jogged over and snapped some pictures of each other on the rocks above some pretty steep cliffs.  Emily is a little nervous around exposed areas but I think she is gaining confidence in herself with every hike that we go on.  When I feel she is secure, confident and ready, I'll take her up a Cascade Volcano, perhaps in the spring.  

Just as we were packing up for a quick descent a couple at the top asked if we were headed down to the cave.  This question of course shocked us because no where in the guidebooks did it mention a cave.  After some quick directions Emily and were bounding off on a herdpath descending towards Mt. Jefferson from the main trail on Triangulation Peak.  There was a lot of blowdown on the trail and it was steep at times but then it leveled out across a small meadow of flowers leading to our destination.  Before reading on, play the video below, because this is exactly what we found when we walked around the corner to discover "Boca Cave".

Boca Cave was amazing!!!  The cavern entrance perfectly framed Mt. Jefferson in the distance and the
ceiling of the cave had to be 60 to 70 feet high.  The cave didn't go very deep into the mountain but the ground area was definitely very big and provided a lot of shelter for possible future camping trips.  I'm not sure what the geologic factors were that created the cave.  I took several photos of Emily to inside the cave to show the sheer size of it in perspective.  If the couple on the
summit hadn't mentioned it Emily and I would have just hiked back to the truck without ever checking it out.  It definitely seemed like a "locals only" location because there wasn't any graffiti or vandalism to the cave.  As soon as we left the cave I started to plan out return
camping trips to it in my head, perhaps a back country ski into the cave.  The road to the trailhead would be closed meaning it would be a 10 mile ski to the cave but the way out down to the main highway is all downhill which could potentially be a lot of fun and fast!  Hopefully this winter we'll get a good enough snowpack to test out the trip!  

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Climbing Weekends with Tiff & Chris

For a couple weekends now Emily and I have gone climbing with Chris and Tiffany.  The first weekend we drove all the way out to Flagstone for our first time there.  Emily didn't have any climbing shoes or a harness so she climbed in her sneakers and borrowed one of Chris'.  We climbed with Tiff and Chris for several hours before heading to Eugene to go to the Steelhead Brewery in Eugene for some Dinner on the way home.   Emily was fantastic at climbing even in her sneakers.   

Emily and I went back two 
weeks later to meet up with Chris and Tiffany again but this time after I got out of work at Ruby's at 9pm.  We drove 
quickly through the night to meet up with Aaron, Chris and Tiffany at the parking lot to camp out overnight.  By the time we got to the parking lot we were in about 3 inches of fresh snow glowing beautifully under the moonlight.  Since we were all there we decided to just stay the night and see if the rock was dry enough to climb in the morning.  So we chatted for a while over some beers, playing with Chris and 
Tiff's new dog Kya before Emily and I curled up in the bed of my truck under a canopy of stars.  

In the
morning we scouted out the area but decided that not only was there ice on the rock, it was way to friggin' cold to try to climb.  Our fingers would have frozen halfway up the rock!  So, we decided to head to the Columns in Eugene for some climbing before I had
 to take off for work at 4:30.  On our way out of the mountains from Flagstone we ran into some helicopter logging operations
which were really amazing to watch.  The pilot of the helicopter was truly an expert.  It was a single pilot helicopter with two very unique blades spinning simultaneously as rotors.  The chopper would drop down, almost as if falling out of the sky, stop, the workers would clip the dangling hook to a bunch of trees and the chopper would whisk them off to another part of the mountain for stripping and loading onto trucks.  Check out the video and pictures!

At the
columns we got a few good climbs 
in and Emily definitely appreciated having
the right rock climbing shoes this time!  I think this was probably going to be the last time Emily and I climb outside the rock gym at Dixon until next spring.  The main focus in my mind now is ski season coming up!