Thursday, July 19, 2012

West Coast Tour 2.0: Silver Falls in Oregon

I look back at these photos and have Rodney Atkins' "Take A Backroad" running through my head.  The next stop on our vacation/tour would be Oregon's Golden and Silver Falls State Natural Area.  The drive was pretty enjoyable.  Beautiful winding roads with a lot of lush trees, farmland and the occasional wild animal all right outside your car window... unless you venture outside.  Which we did. 

Our first stop was a little creek that runs off from the falls.  With a motor court-style entry and two picnic benches, it could easily host a small group or two as they kick back and enjoy the chirping birds and surging waters.  Jake, David, Kenzie and a neighbor friend Courtney went to investigate the waters before we moved on.  Jake decided to take a quick photo... well, I decided to take it.  He just hopped in front of every shot I took.  The dogs wanted to go running into the wilderness but we held them back.  After a little time walking around, we decided to check out another area.

But we did come back.  I'm breaking the timeline a bit here because I wanted you to see the whitewater in the background on both these photos.  Were it a bit deeper, I could see some tubing going on but not here.  The kids decided to try swimming when we returned and the water was icy cold.  Kerry and I took the dogs out a ways to look for suitable spots for them but there are some holes in the rock containing stagnant water with interesting little insects in there.  Had to prevent the dogs from drinking out of them.  Under the water looked like a series of slabs or plates, that seemed pretty sharp to me and I didn't like the look of it for the kids playing in it.  So after nibbling on a few chips and stretching our legs, Bear and Bettieann loaded up the truck and we the Tucson and we were gone.

Between the two visits to that area, we were on a mission.  It was an area called the Silver Falls and Golden Falls that my father-in-law had spotted some time back.  He'd taken Kerry's aunt and uncle to the latter before and now it was time to check the other one out.  But it was a distance away.  What amazes me about the drive is this canopy or archway the trees create.  It's stunning when a little light peeps through in an area that seems protected from the outside world.  Had to try to take a photo of it but the closest I got was on the way out.

By the time we parked, we divided off duties.  Bettieann stayed with the vehicles, I followed Kerry as she grabbed Bella, Bear stayed with David as he took Tulip, Jake and the kids tried to get up there as quick possible but Jake would reconsider at about half-way up-hill and decided to get his iPod and start over again.  I had a great time talking with Bear taking in the scenery as he got some great shots.  We also helped another hiker take a personal photo.  Speaking of personal pics, this one speaks volumes.  Dave is trying to keep pace with Tulip as they continue the journey upward.  There is something cute about a dog that stops and smells everything.  That cuteness can wear off when you have a goal that she doesn't seem to be on board for and she can be a bit stubborn.  Not exactly a jogging partner, there.  Gotta love her.  Dave has the Hawaiian swim shorts, polo shirt, gladiator-thing going on.  You have to like the hiking shoes?  Sandals may seem fun and easy to just slap on but so are Vans and moccasins and... they provide better traction and while letting less rocks in under your toes.  But, lessons have to be learned, right?

So what was the at the end of the trek?  I can't really gather the words well but I'll try.  If you've ever seen those videos of metal being heated into a liquid form and poured into a vessel, this reminded me of silver overflowing from that same vessel.  A very fitting name.  We didn't bother going to the other spot as, we were told, it didn't match this.  Couldn't chose between these two shots.  Enjoy.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

West Coast Tour 2.0: Gold Beach, Oregon

There is something to be said for man and his attempt to conquer the water.  We'll leave that for someone else to espouse.  What I will say, is that I've heard of Gold Beach before and when I heard about the possibility of a 90 minute drive to somewhere that would lead to a 104-mile whitewater wilderness tour, I felt it was a memory worth creating.  Or recreating, you see, Kerry had been on the same ride about 28 years before with her twin sister (for which we received a text saying something to the effect of "how dare you rewrite childhood memories without me.")  But the idea that it was such a strong memory for both of them meant that it would be a great one for 3 kids, 2 adults and a grandpa (who took some of the best photos shown here.)

Probably a good start is introducing the crew.  Pictured from left to right we have Kenzie, Jake, Dave and Bear on our single row on the boat.  Kerry has never been a fan of being photographed so, don't expect to see much of her.  We got a call early that morning saying that if we hurried down there a bit earlier than planned, they'd upgrade us from the mid-size and mid-priced ride to the wham-bam-who's-your-momma 7+ hour trip.  So drive Bear did, arriving just in time.  Wish I got a picture of the little dog out in front of the store that would shove a large smooth rock toward customers in hopes they'll shove it back to it -- in one of the funniest little games that I've ever seen.  Cute.  Oh, well, off to the boat...

One thing that I still remained impressed with were the bridges.  I mean, look at this one.  It's the first one you see when you leave the dock.  They mark a lot of the history in the area by how high floods were when they went through.  One specific bridge still stands despite flood waters rising about 10 feet above it.  But this bridge stood out.  I think they mentioned a French architect and some bill getting signed that made it happen.  From the opposite side, there were nests. (What kind can get lost on me.)  Someone even took a photo of the boat and its occupants from above.  Well, I shouldn't mention it and not show you.

I'm over there on the left side waving in a borrowed brown jacket next to Kerry (your only photo with her in it... see what I mean.)  It's a pretty good sized boat with 3 engines and (what took us a long time to notice) a dog.  I told the kids that it was a specially trained water dog there to rescue children that don't keep their hands in the boat and fall in the drink.  They were pretty well behaved, so the threat wasn't important.  Jake was a little seasick at first (and forgot to take a pill) but someone sitting behind us mentioned chewing gum... which flowed plentifully the rest of the trip.  What Kerry and I found funniest was the same man that helped Jake had a hat that said Navy on it.  He'd lunge forward every time there was burst of water from spray, waves or rapids and use the hat to block her face from each assault.  I told him later that he was definitely a true gentleman.  When he looked confused, I told him that not many men would throw the whole Navy in front of his 'lady love' to protect her from the elements.  Got a broad smile from him and a laugh from what I thought was his wife.

I mentioned wilderness in referring to the boat tour, right.  Well, there were a lot of funny little creatures everywhere.  And the driver did a great job of making sure we knew if something was nearby.  First there were the little birds nests on the opposite side of the bridge.  Then there were tons of birds... and I will not be able to tell you much about them other than there was an osprey, herons and well... this well-recognized American symbol.  I can tell you that I never in my life expected to see a bald eagle.  I guess that's the living-in-a-desert mentality.  I mean, I didn't see a lizard anywhere on this trip.

But we did see a bear!  Sure, the eagle was #1 on my list but to see a hunter in its pursuit of a meal just gives a tingling feeling.  We followed it down bank quite a ways.  From the photo, you can see she (the guide believed it was a female from previous sightings) is searching the water for a nearby fish to pounce on.  Didn't know how the kids would react to seeing something so natural as that (especially after they kept reciting lines from Finding Nemo) but we moved on.  Sure, having a cell-phone as your camera on a trip like this means only one thing: the battery is going to run out that much sooner.  So I had to keep turning it off and turning it on to save power to take specific shots.  Thankfully, Bear (my father-in-law... appropriate nickname to reinforce at this point, right?) had the good equipment to catch these.  My grainy photos could have been Sasquatch sightings.

There were a couple good breaks here and there and the kids got to stretch their legs.  Really beautiful surroundings to do so.

Do you remember me saying something about rapids and whitewater?  Well, that actually did happen.  The problem is that you really shouldn't use electronic equipment when the boat is rocking, when it is spraying water all over you or when the driver does a 360.  So a smart photographer would keep his equipment safe and dry.  So, Bear put his camera away and (cough) someone else took these final enjoyable shots of part of the waters of the Rogue River often called The Wild.

Another full day of the trip in the bag and, yes, a very long day with more sun than I'm used to.  So, it's time to recover.  Maybe a slow day.  Maybe not.

Friday, July 13, 2012

West Coast Tour 2.0 -- Coos Bay, Oregon

Today was the start of what I'm calling our West Coast Tour 2.0.  We started off in the great Las Vegas valley after the wife finished work.  With the mini SUV packed, nephew Jake and dogs belted in we were on our way.  18 hours later, we find ourselves in Coos Bay, Oregon with the Freidel clan (the in-laws.)

Tip #1 for long trips -- sleep.  If you get up at 3am, get ready, drive to work at 5am for your 6am shift, finish a full shift and then start that 18 hour drive... you may have issues.  Could be worse if you are as stubborn as myself or the missus.  So, both us us were a little sleep deprived and with only a 90-minute change at the wheel and several caffienated beverages... we made it in.

Tip #2 for long trips -- sharing.  I can be a little obsessive when it comes to music.  But, the idea I came up with, to avoid anyone wanting to put on their headphones and tune out, worked well.  In order of age, let each member of the 'team' choose an album that will be heard in its entirety.  Sure, you may have that awkward moment that someone chooses Yanni or N.W.A. but that could be a good thing.  Think about it... sometimes we don't know what our kids listen to.  Here you can evaluate what they like and... you have a captive audience for that assessment.  Best part?  Hearing one of the younger passengers singing "Daydream Believer" after hearing the Monkees' 'best of' without any prompting.

Tip #3 for long trips -- laughter.  It doesn't hurt to have little animals to break any monotony.  Just make sure to have fun.  Don't take things seriously, discuss the music, the trip, the stops along the way and yourselves.  As you can see... Jake had a little bit of fun with Bella.

All went well and we're enjoying the wea... ok, I need to knock on wood before I jinx the good weather here in the great Northwest.  As you can see from the first picture above, it's pretty nice out here.  Commence downtime!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

West Coast Tour 2.0

We took a year off from road travel but we are just 2 hours or so from our official West Coast Tour 2.0 (or so I like to call it.)  A lot was happening last year.  But I am expecting a lot of adventures ahead.  We will be exploring the "city by the bay" and our state capitol... as well as a few other stops.  Dogs will be trying out their new seat belts (expect a photo at some point.)  We will be riding up to Oregon with my nephew and exchange hostages with the in-laws.  Going to be educational, fun and well... you never know what may happen.  Will keep you updated as we go.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Starting The Day With A Thought

Yesterday was strange for many reasons but I would like to share the first one with you.  I visit my doctor -- an amazing man that I'd recommend in a heartbeat -- and he dropped a question in my lap.  It wasn't a normal question but something compelled him to ask about where I was going professionally.

Now, of course, we all think about what we do and where the path is leading.  But, with that question in my head for the rest of the day... it can make you nuts.  What urged him to ask?  Where is my path going?  Where are my new ventures heading?

I'm not unhappy with my direction but for some reason, it feels like I just got out of high school and was asked, "What do you want to do with your life?"