Monday, August 23, 2004

How I Spent My Summer Vacation.

One thing is true: Catherine and I do not take lazy vacations. And if anyone is wondering why there's a hole in the ozone, I can probably explain: we (I) drove 1900 miles while we were gone. Fly 2000, drive almost-2000, fly another 2000 home. I am single-handedly depleting the world of its fossil-fuel reserves.

The trip started out fairly slow. We flew into PDX on Saturday afternoon, and arrived at Catherine's parents' house right after lunch. Highlight of the day: the plane didn't explode.

Most of my time in Portland was divided equally between eating, reading and sleeping. We did get out some, though. On Sunday, for instance, we went into town to the Portland Art Museum. Nice museum, but if you go, be prepared to spend as much money as it would cost you to visit the Guggenheim--no kidding. Same price as the Seattle Art Museum, and the SAM is better (sorry, Portland, but it's true). Highlight of the day: paintings from the "Northwest School" in the permanent collection.

Monday, Catherine and I went out to the coast. Perfect weather, we both got sunburned walking on the beach. We stayed out until the fog came in around 4:00. Highlight of the day: lunch at the Nehalem Dock Restaurant, owned by Tom "Wally" Inouye (Pool Service). If you skateboard, you know who that is. If you don't, you probably don't think that's cool. Second highlight of the day: I found a children's book I've been looking for at an antique store in Nehalem. Nehalem apparently rocks on many levels.

Tuesday, we had an incredibly late breakfast (our fault, we had to go running before we ate), then went up to Pumpkin Ridge for lunch almost immediately afterward. We dined w/some friends of the family, and it was really, really fun. Highlight of the day: that meal.

On Wednesday we left Portland and drove to Goldendale to spend some time at the observatory. We timed our visit to coincide with the Perseid meteor shower, which made for a really late night. Between our afternoon viewing and our evening viewing, we had nothing to do, so we drove to Bickleton. It's like starting out from the middle of nowhere and driving 30 minutes just so you could look over the edge to make sure you really were in the middle of nowhere. Highlight of the day: The billboard in Hood River had a huge picture of John Kerry as a windsurfer. Second highlight of the day: Looking at Venus through the telescope in the middle of the afternoon. Third highlight of the day: sweet and sour tomatoes. Fourth highlight of the day: the meteor that left a smoke trail. Anti-highlight of the day: the sliver I got in my thumb from the bench behind the observatory.

I'm not sure how many miles there are between Goldendale and Okanogan. My estimate is "too many." We compounded the damage by adding more miles on, taking a detour to Vantage so Catherine could visit the Ginkgo Petrified Forest. Being petrified, it hasn't changed much since I was there in college. It was really incredibly hot and the air quality was bad (we drove through a brush fire just south of Toppenish, and later saw the Fisher Fire blow up), so we didn't spend much time on the interpretive trail. We did acquire--legally--a few chunks of petrified wood to bring home. Highlight of the day: the cheese and tomato pastry my mom made. Anti-highlight of the day: heat and smoke.

Spent Thursday night w/my mom and dad, and then on Friday, we went camping up the Twisp River w/all the aunts and uncles from my mom's side (except my famous Uncle Dale, who was out fighting fire). Highlight of the day: not getting eaten by a cougar. Second highlight of the day: the swimming hole. Anti-highlight of the day: yellow jackets and heat.

Too hot to hike on Saturday, so we went driving in the backcountry w/my Uncle Ernie. He really needs a mini-van w/four wheel drive. First we went downtown to the farmer's market, then took the Poorman's Creek cut-off up to Black Pine Lake. Then we came back down around and went to Roads End, looking for Gilbert. It's amazing how difficult it can be to find a place when a) it consists of only two old cabins; b) the driver hasn't been there for 35 years; and c) nobody has a Forest Service map. Highlight of the day: relatives. Anti-highlight of the day: relatives.

Sunday, Catherine and I needed some time out (see "Anti-highlight of the day," above), so we drove up to Falls Creek Falls, up the Chewack/Chewuch. It was nice and cool in the spray of the falls. When we came back through Winthrop, we stopped to look at my grandparents' old house. Not even recognizable. Highlight of the day: being given a good deal at the fruit stand because of my family name. Anti-highlight of the day: pizza.

It was really crowded at my parents' house after this because my brother and sister were both visiting. We stayed in a tent in the backyard. Monday we went down to Brewster to visit my grandmother. Tuesday I drove to Tonasket twice. On the first visit, we saw my cousins Wayne and Sheryl, my cousin Ron, and my Great Aunt Pearl and Uncle Emert. On the second visit, we went out to dinner with Shawn and Marsie. Highlight of the day: watching a two-and-a-half-year-old trying to sweet talk firefighters in the Whistler's parking lot. Quasi-anti-highlight of the day: visiting a lot of people I might never see again.

The drive from my parents' house to Mt. St. Helens felt really long, but I guess it was only about 350 miles or so. We drove down through Ellensburg and over White Pass because I'd never been that way before (at least not since I was an infant). It's a very picturesque drive, but not particularly speedy. It was good to get out of the Okanogan Valley and all the smoke. The smoke got A LOT worse around Entiat/Orondo because of the Fisher Fire, but once we were actually in Wenatchee and heading toward Blewett, the air quality was much better. Highlight of the day: the spectacular view of Mt. Rainier.

We spent the last few days of our trip at Mt. St. Helens. I think we liked this part of the trip the best because it involved a lot of reading and thinking, but also a lot of outdoor time. Although we weren't exactly stupid about volcanoes in general or Mt. St. Helens in particular, it's true that we gained a lot of knowledge in the three days we stayed near the mountain. Part of what we learned came from the exhibits at the three visitor centers at the monument. The rest came from the books we lugged across the country to read as we went. We also talked to a lot of locals while we were there. You'd think they'd be tired of talking to tourists after 24 years, but it really didn't seem that way. Highlight of the day: watching the glass blowers @ the gift shop. Anti-highlight of the day: Weyerhaeuser.

We did some hiking on the Boundary Trail and the Hummocks Trail on Friday. The Boundary Trail is really hot and exposed (and steep and rocky in places), but the Hummocks Trail is mostly shady, going through wetlands formed by the eruption. We went back up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory after we were done outdoors and just hung out for awhile, asking the intrepreter questions. Highlight of the day: the boreal toad. Anti-highlight of the day: Weyerhaeuser.

Mt. St. Helens is w/in spitting distance of Portland, so we didn't have to get up at the crack of dawn to make it to the airport on time. It was a nice quiet trip home, I did some of the studying that I'd been putting off all vacation, and had a good pasta salad on Concourse C of the United Terminal in Chicago. Highlight of the day: the plane didn't explode. Anti-highlight of the day: vacation ended.

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