Friday, July 27, 2012

Going Away Party

On Saturday the Commune on 25th street saw it’s final party!  Because Emily and I were moving out Kevin and Alexa also moved out to a new place a few blocks away.  This weekend was the last weekend we would be in the place so on Friday we threw a rager to say goodbye to where I had lived for 6 years and to all of our friends.  I say “goodbye” but I know that I will still see most of them weekend activities and such, but not on a daily basis and for Wed movie nights I had been.  

Not everyone was able to attend as Chris and others were up in Washington on a river with motorboats, and some co-workers were in the field etc but Carrie, Kris, Pete, Scott, Danielle, Mike, Jess, Jen, Jason, Mischa, Erin, Adam, Sarah, Amy Jo, Loomis, Chris Miwa, Cassie and Garrett all showed up for the party.  With plenty of good food, good friends, washers, fantastic beer, and a bonfire at the end of the night it was a great send off for Emily and I.

Most people brought some food to throw on the grill and Carrie even brought clams that she had dug up in Siletz Bay.  Danielle brought a full keg of porter she had brewed herself and honestly it made my top 3 beers I’ve ever had list!  I grabbed a big guy mug I took from Ruby’s and refilled it from the keg multiple times throughout the night.  As usual there were many games of Washers and as usual Scott ruled the boards.  Sarah and Adam brought me a bottle of my favorite chocolate wine and swedish fish and Jen in tears gave me a jar of black cherry jam she and Jason had made for me (our job is to use it and refill it with something we make down the road and give it back to them).  Later in the night both Jason and I asked each other to be in each other’s wedding parties as well, much to Jen’s excitement!

Later in the evening I started a fire in the backyard in our very rusty fire pit that ended up having a hole in the bottom, lighting the grass on fire!  With Garrett in attendance we of course had to burn the dry Christmas tree that was in the backyard.  He waved it around a bit above his head but only when Jen picked it up over her head did it really ignite!  Not sure who took the drunk card at this party but it may have been Mike who ended up passed out on our catch with cheeto’s and ketchup on his bare belly.  He also helped us dismantle our towel rack in the bathroom...   

It was a tremendous party and by the end of the night there were bodies all over the apartment happily passed out.  Glad to know the Commune went out with a bang rather than a wimper and surprisingly no cops showed up this time!  Emily and I will miss the commune, Kev and Alexa and especially my favorite Dromi Dog!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Hotel Life & Leaving Corvallis

It’s official.  Emily and I have officially left the wonderful town of Corvallis, OR.  I had been in Corvallis for 1 month shy of 6 years while Emily had been there one month shy of 4 years.  It was the longest either of us had lived in one place since leaving our childhood homes for college.  I can’t say enough how amazing Corvallis is and how much I will personally miss the beautiful little town and all of our best friends that are still there.  

We are moving because Emily was offered a job at the Clatskanie, OR mill on the Columbia River about 45 minutes northwest of Portland.  Along with a nice raise, working at the bigger mill will eventually prime her for taking over an HR Manager role at a mill in the northwest down the road.  Watershed Sciences (now renamed WSI) has an office in downtown Portland so this worked out for me as well.  In June I interviewed at the office and they wanted me there as of the 1st of July as they were super busy with large projects that I had experience to help with.

So, for the last 4 weeks Emily and I have been living out of a La Quinta Inn hotel in Salmon Creek, WA at the junction between I-205 and I-5.  Emily has an hour commute to work from there and I have about a 20-30 minute commute via bus to the downtown office.  The C-Train 134 bus takes me directly from the large and newly rebuilt Salmon Creek Park & Ride directly downtown within a block of my office with no stops in between!  Emily listens to audiobooks on her drive while I work on my laptop (writing this post on the ride now actually).  On the way home the bus picks me up at a stop about 50 feet from the entrance to my building.  It’s very convenient although it costs $113 a month it ultimately will save me gas and parking garage fees in the city.  

After nearly a month of desperately looking for places to rent in the Salmon Creek area we found a nice 3 bedroom/2.5 bath house in a small community on the border of Ridgefield and Salmon Creek.  It’s far more spacious than our little apartment in Corvallis and we were excited to have the room for all of our gear that we now have a garage for!  On Sunday Danielle and Scott helped us move all of our stuff in one go using a 20’ Uhaul truck.  They helped us unload all the heavy furniture and get all the boxes into the garage before we took them out to dinner on Sunday night at Beaches on the Washington shore of the Columbia.  

Emily and I have a lot of exploring to do in our new area.  We were stoked to find a place in Ridgefield as it is on the northern outskirts of Vancouver in a nicer area and closer to the country side.  From what we have seen of Vancouver (Vantucky as Portlanders call it) we do not like it.   Downtown Vancouver and the waterfront is beautiful but the rest of the area reminds me of Albany, NY which I was never fond of, just a lot of box building chain stores and chain restaurants and many unsavory people walking around.  It’s also a far more conservative town than Corvallis.  The Prius cars we saw in Corvallis have now been replaced by either lowered trucks with loud bass systems or raised trucks with giant tires and loud exhaust systems.  But, like I said, we have tried to avoid that area by living further north.  

Emily and I are going to really miss all of our friends in Corvallis.  We both agree that it is the right career move for both of us but losing the convenience of living walking distance from all of our best friends is rough and not knowing anyone in our new offices isn’t fun either.  I’m sure we will adjust with time but right now I miss all of my friends and have a lot of work to do setting up our new place...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Oregon Country Fair

This weekend Chris joined Emily and I on our first adventure to the annual Oregon Country Fair just outside of Eugene, aka the biggest hippy gathering besides Woodstock.  We had to buy tickets at Safeway before heading down to Eugene and were shocked to find that tickets were $30 a piece!  For that much money I was expecting to have my mind blown by the Country Fair... I was disappointed.  

For some, the fair is an amazing event every year.  There were literally hundreds of vendors with booths set up throughout a system of paths through the woods that seemed endless.  These of course ranged from knitted items, to pottery, to metal structures, to carved items, etc.  Very artsy scene but nothing really blew my mind and many were very similar to each other.  I feel like a lot of people at this fair scrape buy on their arts and crafts.  There were people lying around on blankets everywhere and areas were set up for free yoga, drum sessions and painting.  To each their own I guess.  They are all probably really great human beings but eventually the smell of B.O. and countless people uttering “keep it mellow dude” wore me down.  Not even the countless topless women (many of whom seemed to be high school teens) could keep me interested in the fair.  Holm got a good laugh out of my dismay as I flashed the peace sign out the window on our way out of the grounds.  Great food, boring art, bare boobs, and B.O. pretty much sums up my opinion on the fair.  Seen it once, that’s enough.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

John Day Fossil Beds and Painted Hills

This past weekend Emily and I joined Kevin and Alexa for a trip to the Painted Hills and the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in Eastern Oregon.  Watershed moved the day off for the 4th of July holiday to Friday so people could have a three day weekend.  Unfortunately, Emily had to work friday so we had to leave in the afternoon while Kevin and Alexa got an early start that morning.  This worked out well though, as they were able to secure a pretty sweet camp spot for us off Highway 26 near John Day.

After about a 4 hour drive over the Cascades and east along Highway 26 we arrived at the campsite around 9pm just as the sun was setting beautifully to the west.  We unpacked and had a few beers around a camp lantern they had brought before heading to bed. 

On Saturday morning we woke up fairly early and headed to a the Thomas Candon Paleontology Visitor Center in the park to check out the exhibits.  This area of Eastern Oregon is loaded with fossils and over many millions of years the landscape changed from swamps to the dry desert we have today.  The short story without getting to deep into the geology is that through volcanism and the changing landscape over time different layers were established in the geology of the area from each type of ecosystem.  Later uplift and erosion have both exposed the many colorful layers over time as well as myriad fossils from the different plants and animals of each time period making the area a hot bed for paleontology and archeologists.  We stayed at the visitor center long enough to snap some photos of the exhibits and the outside surroundings as well as listen to a short presentation by a park ranger about the fossils in the area before moving on to our hikes for the day.

Our first hike was a three mile loop called the Blue Basin Overlook Trail.  It first started alongside a field whose crops were being watered so the bright green really stood out against the drab colors of the surrounding rocks.  We then found ourselves climbing about 500 feet up along a ridge until we were looking down into some magnificent blue rock.  We then saw a bunch of birds called Chukar fly/run themselves up the face of the rock as we approached.  They were funny looking birds that resembled grouse.

The blue rock was definitely vastly different than the surrounding area and through time and erosion had formed very cool features that looked like fins running down the hillsides.  In the distance there was a hillside of exposed red rock that really contrasted the blue.  For a geologist, this area was pretty darn beautiful.  I took the time to snap a few good photos of Emily in front of all the beautiful rock layers.

Unfortunately for Dromi, she was a black dog and not a geologist.  A black dog without sneakers on.... It soon became apparent that the hot sand was of the late morning was hurting her as she insisted on stopping in any shady area for a bit before continuing on.  Eventually, Kevin and I took turns carrying her over sections and she didn’t resist at all.  We gave her water continually, but the rocks were just too hot for her.  When we got back down to the car we ate some lunch and watched a mule deer run across the opposite slope before moving on to our next hikes.

We drove north on Highway 19 to the Story in Stone and Flood of Fire paths.  These were very short quarter-mile paths that took us to a couple overlooks over more colored rock.  Alexa and Emily both shared the task of staying in the shade with Dromi at a picnic table while we checked out the trails.  They weren’t anything to write home about but the Flood of Fire trail had a pretty good overlook at a wall of rock with colors ranging from red and orange at the top to a turquoise bue at the base.  

By this point in the day we were really hot in the nearly 100 degree desert heat so I spotted us a good swimming hole in the John Day River along Highway 19 for us to take a break in.  We spent a good half hour or more swimming in the shallow river and to our shock and amazement, Dromi jumped into the river on her own accord.  This is unheard of because the dog seems to despise stepping in any water but perhaps the heat simply got to her and instinct took over.  She swam all around but because it is so new to her when we scooped her up out of the water her tiny little paws kept paddling away anyway.  The dip definitely cooled her off and she instantly seemed like a happier dog.

We then drove into Dayville through Picture Canyon to grab some more ice, drinks, and ice cream at the very beautiful Dayville Mercantile general store.  This town was so small that if you blinked you would miss it.  There was a gang of bikers across the street taking a break before continuing on their ride and I felt bad for them all because immediately as they began to leave the sky opened up in a drenching thunderstorm.  We simply waited on the porch of the store until the showers were over before heading back to our campsite.  

On the way back we attempted to find a lake deep in the woods but the road was too rough and too far for the Prius with no guarantee there was any water in the lake anyway so we bailed on the plan. Instead, we found a sunny area with some logs to sit on and drank in the sun along the road for a bit before heading back to our campsite for dinner and more tasty drinks.  

That night was fun as we felt safe starting a small fire after the rain during the day and we had plenty of good drinks and food to eat.  Dromi was absolutely exhausted except for perking up briefly when a mule deer made its way through our campsite.   It was nice to spend one last night camping with our housemates as this may be the last time for a while after we move to Washington.  

Not sure what time we went to bed but I had a truly terrible night with stomach pains and some of the worst heartburn I’ve ever had which forced me to puke (loudly) a short distance from camp.  Embarrassing because there were a few other couples in the campsite area as well that may have heard me at 3am.   Not sure why I get heartburn so randomly and so severely... it sucks.

On Sunday we made our way to the Painted Hills Unit of the National Monument for a few more short hikes.  This area was truly the most beautiful of the whole weekend.  When we first entered the area we took the Painted Hills Overlook Trail for some amazing views of the yellow-red banded hillsides all around us.  Signs everywhere said to stay off the hillsides but apparently the deer don’t pay attention to them because there were hoof prints over all of them.  All the trails in the area were really short so Dromi was able to come on them with us.  

After the overlook trail we traveled deeper into the hills for the Painted Cove Trail which was an interpretive sign trail over a boardwalk through a brightly colored landscape.  The clay of the hills is so compact that no life can grow on it and the hills dynamically change color throughout the year as cracks open up in the clay in the dry season introducing shadows and contrast which give them a deeper color while in the wet season they close up giving the hills a more pastel color.  It was pretty interesting to read about as we walked around the area.  In the distance we could see a large body of water calling to us but unfortunately it was private land and we couldn’t gain access to it.

Our last two hikes in the area were on the short Leaf Hill Trail and the Red Hill trail.  The Leaf Hill Trail was apparently a very popular place for fossil hunting in the 90’s as thousands of plant fossils were discovered there.  The hillside was littered with loose rock fragments.  I couldn’t tell if this was left over from the paleontologists or just rocks that became exposed through erosion.  I was hoping on the trip to see more mammal fossils and we saw a few signs with plastic molds of fossils strapped to them but we not much more than that.  Red Hill was a very short trail that I literally jogged to get a better view of the colorful backside of the very red triangle-shaped hill.  

Looking at the map we realized that we had literally walked all the short trails of the National Monument so we decided to head home rather than stay in the hot desert heat.  We happily stopped at the Ochocco Reservoir for a picnic lunch and a dip with Dromi who refused this time to go for a swim.  Apparently, she was a good temperature but watching her whine and yip at our encouragements was funny.  From there it was about a three hour drive back over the Cascades to Corvallis for a relaxing night at home before I had to drive back up to Salmon Creek for my first full week at the PDX office.