Saturday, September 29, 2012

Goat Rocks 2012

This weekend was supposed to be our epic trip to the Enchantments near Leavenworth, WA but after watching what seemed to be the entire central Washington Cascades catch fire we were forced to bail on the trip due to trailhead closures and smoke in the air.  Everyone was disappointed of course but I had a backup plan of our amazing Goat Rocks loop that Em and I took Alexa and Kevin on as well two years ago.  

This would be our third time going back, which unusual for me, was still exciting because nobody else in the group had been there yet.  We were supposed to take Friday off of work but instead I worked for the day to save the day off and everyone met us in Ridgefield around 7pm on Friday night.  

We were supposed to drive up and camp at the trailhead but at the mention of Chinese food and everyone agreeing to get up at 6am for the 2.5 hour drive I relented and we all spent the night at our place.  Emily and Jen went to go get the Chinese after some confusion ordering it and only half of it came so Scott drove back out to pick up the rest.  The girls had also come home with Krispy Kreme donuts which were a hit as well as beer for the group.  We rented the Avengers on our Apple TV and everyone was pretty much passed out by midnight anyway from food coma when the movie ended.

In the morning after some coffee and breakfast the 2.5 hour drive to the trailhead went pretty quick.  We followed a dust storm behind a pack of motorcycles for most of the way down the 17 mile dirt road off of route 12 near Packwood to the trailhead.  We were all packed and on the trail by 10am but the parking lot was pretty full of cars which made me a little worried.  

It was an easy going morning without any bugs in the air as we made our way across goat creek and up towards SnowGrass Flats.  Emily was obviously in a leadership mood feeling comfortable having been there before so she took the lead and I held back to chat it up with Jason and Jen who was being careful not to agitate a weak ankle on the hike in.  

Once we got to Snowgrass Flats it was of course an easy traverse along the side of the valley up to Goat Lake.  We stopped for lunch at the same small stream we stopped at with Kevin and Alexa and while there Adams began to poke out of the clouds that had been sitting on the area the entire morning.  Everyone in the group seemed to be really stoked to be up there and I knew the views hadn’t even begun yet.  Once we got above Snowgrass Flats everything opened up and I could tell that all our friends were amazed at where they were.  I took a crazy number of panorama photos with the new function in my iPhone 5 and they came out amazing!  Jason was snapping so many photos I thought his finger might cramp up.  

At this point we were happy to see that most people had decided to camp at Snowgrass Flats but Emily and I wanted the best spot at Goat Lake.  We saw a couple pass us headed up to Goat Lake and I guess that flipped the switch in Emily’s head because she transformed into super hiker with Chris and Scott and took off up the trail ahead of us while I stayed back with Danielle, Scott, Jason and Jen to take photos and our time up the valley.  This worked out great as Emily was able to overtake all the other hikers headed to Goat Lake and score the best campsite in the area for our four tents!  By the time we got there they had been there for about 20-30 minutes and had laid claim on the spot scaring away other climbers who questioned if it was available.  

We had our tents up in no time at all and pulled out the multiple bags of wine and flasks that we had packed in.  Chris even had 3 tallboy IPAs that he stuck under a rock in the cool snowmelt water of Goat Lake that ran past our campsite.  I used my UV Steripen to get some water for Em and I because we didn’t drink much on the way in.  Later I would try to use it again only to have it fail repeatedly on me.  I got a video to send in to the company about how awful the product is.  I’m going to give them one more chance before I turn to something more reliable for my purification needs in the woods.  

Before it got dark we all took a walk up to Goat Lake to check it out and were pleased to see a group of goats up on the hillside.  I ran back to camp to get the long lens and got some good shots of the goats munchin’ on the grass.  We also saw a couple hoary marmots on the slopes above the lake and could hear Pikas as well.  Holm of course walked way out on the ice only get scolded by other climbers who were setting up camp too close to the lake anyway.  

Back at our camp site we spent the rest of the evening cooking up food and drinking lots of wine.  When it got dark a full moon rose over the shoulder of Snowy Mountain and we could see fires on the side of Mt. Adams in the far distance.  The girls turned in first but we were soon after and I think everyone was passed out in their tents by 11pm.

On Sunday we took our time getting out of camp.  Jenn heated up a hot chocolate/coffee mix for everyone and Emily and I ate some granola bars.  It was a super clear morning unlike the day before and we had terrific views.  Our packs were a lot lighter as we headed up over the pass of Goat Ridge to descend down a different valley with great views of Mt. St. Helens in the distance.  There was also a surprising amount of wildflowers still in bloom at the high elevation.  

When we got down to tree line we took a break for lunch and to relax in the sun for a bit before continuing on.  When we got to the side trail up the ridge I decided I wanted to check it out with the DSLR which was a great choice because we ended up walking out on an open ridge we hadn’t been to before with spectacular views of the Goat Rocks area and Mt. Rainier in the distance.  Danielle and Scott then continued on down the trail as she was having trouble with the dust from the trail and breathing but the rest of us headed up to another overlook where an old fire tower used to be for more views over the valley we had hiked up the day before.  

From there it was just a  trudge down through the trees back to the parking lot.  Thankfully, there was no mosquitos like there were the last couple times.  Jenn ended up rolling her ankle really badly so Jason wrapped it with a brace Holm had and I gave her some oxycodon from my knee surgery.  This of course numbed her ankle and cheered her up quite a bit for the remainder of the short walk out.  

When we got to the Berry Patch trailhead the guys took off down the trail to get the cars while the ladies waited to be picked up with the packs.  All of us agreed it had been a great hike and we all were ravenous by the time we reached the Burgerville in Kelso for some dinner.  Emily and I will definitely let everyone know in the future when we make backpacking plans.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Bike Commute Challenge

This month WSI competed in the annual bike commute challenge where companies compete against each other to get the highest percentage of their employees to commute to work by bike for the month of September.  Mileage doesn’t count so long as each work day you commute at least partially to work by bike or foot.  Our office had weekly raffles and we will have a party in a couple weeks to celebrate our nearly gauranteed win in our business size category.  Although I live in a different state, 18 miles away from the office I personally challenged myself to bike each day to work on my 40lb downhill, full suspension mountain bike... I got a lot of looks from all the roadies in spandex around me on the road but I managed to keep up with most of them despite my nearly 3” wide tires.  I ended up more than doubling the mileage of the next person in the office with a total of over 500 miles biked for the month of September.  I feel in much better shape, my legs are stronger and I’m seeing my spare tires disappear from my waistline.  And compared to my two hour bus commute it’s only an extra hour more to get all that exercise in and I save about $150 in bus fair and truck gas a month by doing so as well.  It might be time for me to eat my words and buy a road bike, or at least a cross bike this Christmas if we are going to ultimately end up living in the Ridgefield area of Washington long term...

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fishing from Depoe Bay with Scott & Friends

This weekend I headed down to Corvallis on Friday night after picking my amazing iPhone 5 to spend the night at Scott and Danielle’s before going deep sea fishing with Scott and the boys on Saturday morning.  Emily was already in Corvallis for her job so I took the truck down with our bikes in the back in case we wanted to hit up MacDunn on Sunday.  I didn’t make it to their place until around 10pm after updating my new phone.  When I got there I was introduced to their friends Rob and Andrew and was given a mug of Danielle’s amazing homemade porter!  Barely able to keep my eyes open Emily and I hit the sack around 11:30pm because I would have to get up at 4:45 in the morning for the fishing trip out of Depoe Bay.

Jason met up with Andrew, Scott, Rob and I for the drive to Depoe Bay in Scott’s car for our 6:30 departure.  Rob was a bit slow casually drinking his coffee and having a smoke which led to me dubbing him Rob the slow loris.  Scott had to usher him out the door to get us going.  After stopping at McDonalds on the way (of course they go our order wrong) we arrived at the docks of Depoe Bay just behind Colin, Kevin, Mischa, and Loomis.  Tim was also there after driving down from Oceanside.  We all bought our fishing and crabbing licenses (8 pots total) and we headed out of the bay with Captain Kenny at the helm.  

We dropped pots and headed north up the coast for some rock fish.  Unlike at Tim’s bachelor party fishing trip we had incredible luck!  Almost as soon as we dropped our lines we started hitting fish, and they were big ones.  Mischa snagged a double on his line right off the bat and I quickly caught a huge rockfish shortly after.  This continued all morning as we and another of the fishing company’s boats competed with each other for the biggest fish in the area.  I had brought a cooler of beer with me and was happily sharing them with friends on the boat.  Nothing like a day of drinking that starts at 7am!  Jason also had a big loaf of banana bread and of course Colin had jerky with Tim also supplying some homemade smoked salmon he had cought.

We were allowed to catch 7 rockfish and 2 Lean Cod each and 12 crabs for each fishing license.  I ended up catching two huge Rock Fish and two massive Lean Cod as well.  I thought I was the friggin’ man on the boat until one of the two other people on the boat not in our group caught a Lean Cod that made mine look like bait fish!  The thing weighed in at 41 pounds (5+ of which was a recently swallowed lean cod in it’s belly we found out later).  The thing was the biggest Lean Cod the mates on the boat had seen that season.  Jason also landed one of the biggest Canarie Rock Fish we had ever seen, probably well over 100 years old.  

Unfortunately for the orange canarie fish they look too much like yellowfin rockfish which are endangered so we couldn’t keep them,  This didn’t make any sense to me because when we brought them up their swim bladders were blown out of their mouth and their eyes were bulging from the rapid change of pressure.  Even when we threw them back we all knew they would die floating on the surface with gulls eating them alive.  It was too bad because they would have tasted just as good as all the other rockfish we were able to keep.  

Almost everyone in our group caught at least 5 rockfish and many of us pulled up two fish at a time on our lines!  Both my lean cod were caught with small rockfish in their mouths they wouldn’t let go of on the way to the surface.  I ended up breaking my line twice but thankfully there was a deckhand nearby to scoop up my loose fish with a big net each time!  

On the way back in we had our fingers crossed when we began pulling up our crab pots.  To our amazement the first pot was absolutely packed with crabs and the next 7 were equally full.  Jason, Tim, Mischa etc took turns pulling up the pots while I got some video.  We sorted out the females and threw back the few that were too small and jammed them into plastic bins.  There were a couple that were brought up that were absolutely huge!  From there it was a pleasant ride back to Depoe Bay in calm seas and under a warm sun.

Back at the dock we all pooled our cash together to have the fish cleaned and filled for us and the crabs steamed with Old Bay.  It took a pretty long time for them to get through all of our fish.  We thanked Kenny for such a great trip and left him tips before heading back to Corvallis with our massive take!  Back in town we spent the rest of the afternoon watching football and gorging on crab and fish at Scott and Danielle’s who hosted a party for us.  All the girls were at fall festival in the morning but came over in the afternoon along with BD and Holm as well.  Scott had taped the Beaver game so we were able to watch them win which just made the day even better.  

Later in the night after much drink some of us wandered over to the neighbor’s house who were having a party to check out what undergrad parties are like these days.  To our disappointment and shock we found the kids playing beer pong with water in their cups and sipping their beers with the explanation that “everyone is doing it this way, it’s more sanitary”.  OMG, if I had ever said such a thing in College I would have been laughed out of the party or tied up and forced to chug.  What has this world come to?  Less than a year ago Scooter and I were playing with bourbon!  ha!  

Thanks to Danielle and Scott for organizing a great fishing trip and hosting us for the weekend.  Before we left town we headed over to Amy Jo and Loomis’ place for brunch on Sunday morning and were introduced to their massive wolf-dog Monk who seemed to be a giant white version of Dromi actually.  Seriously, if he had stood on his back legs he would have been taller than me, or maybe even Scott!  Em and I got to catch up with nearly everyone in Corvallis while we were there and it felt really good to see all of our close friends again!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Timbers vs. Sounders with the Riggotts

This weekend Emily’s parents were in town to help us out with some early wedding planning and surely to check out the venu we had picked.  Both Emily and I think they were a little nervous about how a wedding would be in Oregon so they wanted to check out the place themselves and help us out with suggestions on caterers.  Emily was traveling for work and didn’t get home until Friday afternoon.  I took Friday off of work because I was tired and work was slow at the time.  Emily’s parents got in Thurs night but hung out in Portland on Friday until Emily and I met them at Beaches on the Columbia for a nice dinner.

On Saturday we headed into Portland and caught the Timbers vs. Sounders game which was one of the biggest of the season as they are rival teams in the Northwest.  I had never been to an MLS game before but Emily’s parents assured me it was wilder than any soccer game they had seen on the East Coast.  The Timbers Army are simply nuts with their game chants and cheering non-stop throughout the entire game.  We ended up tying the Sounders which was pretty good because the Timbers aren’t that good this year.  

After the game we walked around downtown a bit and got some beers at Kelly’s which Emily’s dad just loves.  I was surprised to see Courtney from Ruby Tuesday’s working as a waitress there.  That’s a heck of a great job to work at if you are a waitress in Portland!  Good for her, and she bought us a beer!  We then headed back to Ridgefield for dinner and to relax with a movie for the night.

On Sunday we headed out early in the morning to Hood River to meet up with a really nice girl who owns a catering business with her husband.  She was super helpful, answering all of our wedding questions even if they didn’t necessarily have anything to do with her catering.  I liked her a lot and would be perfectly happy going with her as our caterer but I know Emily wants to look around a little bit more as well to make sure she is the right choice.  We spent a good 2 hours with her at a coffee shop downtown before heading up to Gorge Crest Vineyards so Emily’s parents could see the venu.  Both of us were very happy to see how happy her parents were with our choice.  They thought it was amazing and I could see how excited they both were about the options the place provides for us, along with the view which unfortunately was super hazy due to fires nearby this time of year.  Thankfully, our wedding is in July so hopefully there won’t be any forest fires at that time.  

After visiting the venu we spent the rest of the afternoon in Hood River walking around and checking out all the places our guests could see.  We stopped in at the Best Western to check out the rooms and also at the Hood River Hotel which Emily’s mom didn’t seem to like that much but her dad loved.  He also loved the fly fishing shop in town which gave him a bunch of business cards to call and book trips for next summer on the Deschutes River.  We stopped for EXTENSIVE wine tastings at the two caterers that Gorge Crest works with and Emily bought a bunch of bottles to take home and try with friends as well to make sure we pick the right ones.   

At around 6pm when everything seemed to be closing up we left and headed to McMenamins Edgefield for some dinner there and to show her dad the grounds there.  We went inside and pretended that we were planning a wedding there to get some room keys to show her dad the place.  Her mom didn’t like it because of the shared bathrooms and history of the place but her dad thought it was awesome.  We had dinner at the Powerhouse Restaurant there and I noticed that it was the same Irish weekend that we were there last year for Tim and Lindsay’s wedding!  

By the time we got home it was pretty late and we noticed that her dad wasn’t feeling too good.  Both of us had to work on Monday and when we got home were sad to see her dad wasn’t much better.  They had been able to take a drive out to Seaside though and out around Astoria.  On Tuesday they stayed in the Ridgefield area and went shopping for us buying us a Keurig coffee maker and bed topper for our pull out couch!  Hooray!  Her dad was still in pretty rough shape and went to bed early after barely eating anything for dinner.  Emily had to travel to Corvallis on Wednesday and I was happier to see when I got home from work that her dad was feeling a little bit better before their fight home that night.  I urged them to stay another day to make sure but they ended up heading out anyway.  It was great to have them visit us again and I think we all felt a lot better about the wedding plans after their visit.