Thursday, August 28, 2008

This is amazing.....

This book is riveting.  

I have a different, wider perspective on Central Asia and our country's involvement.  

Monday, August 25, 2008

Finding Other Summits

I didn't get to climb the South Sister.  Trolling Google Images, I found this lovely photo of the   South Sister and Moraine Lake.  Getting the kids to Moraine Lake while some adults in our party continued on to summit the mountain had been the ultimate goal of Summit Summer.  The deal breaker was the thunder, the rain, heavy clouds and cold.  The week in the mountains began with a thunderstorm that moved through the area leaving 3 days of cold and rain in its wake.  We weren't exactly toughing it out, though.  My parents purchased a share in a vacation 'cabin' in 1976 in a Central Oregon resort and we have been visiting there ever since.  We checked the forecast online before we headed east and threw in jackets.  Frankly, after the VERY hot wedding events that preceded our trip, the mountain cold was a welcome reprieve. 

Summit Summer began in the spring when El Professor and I were looking ahead to the first June in several years where we didn't have to wrap up the crazy end-of-the-school-year by furthering the frenzy with a 'travel requiring' June family reunion or vacation/gathering.  Knowing that we would be heading to Central Oregon in August, I suggested that we take up a hiking/walking routine and summit Black Butte.  Last June we gathered with extended family in Central Oregon to celebrate my parent's 50th and El Professor and I were too out of shape to join in this very hike.  It's only a 4 miler, but the first two miles are UPHILL to the fire watch tower and to a panoramic view of the area.  I ran up much of it when I was in high school.  From the top the view is amazing.  My hilarious twin seconded the Summit Summer idea with a further challenge--that we throw in the South Sister summit as well.  She scrambled to the top of the peak last summer and texted me from the top.  I was hooked on the idea. This third highest peak in Oregon is one that doesn't require anything more than a decent pair of shoes, water, Power bars, good weather, and stamina.  Maybe next summer.  

Our week in the mountains began with a wonderful accomplishment, though.  El Professor and I took our two kids and one of my nieces to the top of Black Butte.  We hiked right up there. No sore muscles, no 'I'm dying' panting.  We broke a good sweat but it was not problem...a big change from last summer.  Our original goal was met.  (Unfortunately, my photos are on my niece's computer faraway--I'm going to mail her my thumb drive as she's not quite sure how to upload the photos to Costco.  :-))  From Black Butte we surveyed the South Sister--shrouded in an ominous looking cloud bank along with the North Sister, Broken Top, Mount Washington, Three Fingered Jack, Mount Jefferson.  I was disappointed that the kids couldn't see the mountains that I informed them of, pointing to each cloud bank and naming the mountain hidden there.  We did see the expanse of Central Oregon all around us, however, including the 'smokes' of the wildfires sparked by the recent lightning.  
The Cupola on top of Black Butte with Three Fingered Jack in the distance. 

Black Butte--a perfect cone shaped 'cinder cone'.  

The Big Day of our South Sister hike dawned chilly and rainy.  By now we had contented ourselves with a different hike beginning closer by, on the McKenzie Pass which had just opened the week before after remaining closed all summer as the heavy winter snows receded.  A cousin and her family were added to the ever growing hike group which now included both of my sisters, one nephew, three nieces and two brother-in-laws.  We wound up the mountain road to the pass to find the temperature to be 40 with heavy misty, moisty rain.  We opted for Plan B and headed 70 miles east to Newberry Crater where we were able to take the kids on the Obsidian Trail.  After years of arrowhead hunting in El Professor's childhood home I have wanted our kids to see one possible source of the obsidian for those arrowheads.  Newberry Crater is a shield volcano, sloping up out of the Eastern Oregon plateau differently than the rugged, heaved up composite volcanoes of the Cascade Range.  A few years ago we went on an expedition/tour that mountain bikes down the sloping Newberry Mountain stopping regularly to plunge into Paulina Creek on natural rock water slides.  On this cold, cloudy day, though, we walked the Obsidian Trail,  a short 'hike' where you enter a moonscape of pumice and rocks ribboned with obsidian. 
Ariel view of Newberry Mountain. 

By the time we returned to the 'cabin' in the late afternoon, the weather had cleared and the mountains stood clear and awesome.   I've seen them hundreds of times in their formation dividing Oregon into 'the wet side' and 'the dry side', and still their beauty takes my breath away.  I felt a sick disappointment about what could have been as I viewed the now clear South Sister, knowing that the right time and the right weather didn't coincide for us this time around.   Then, we hatched a plan.  'Hike' was now becoming a dreaded word for the kids, who were ready to spend a sunny day hanging out at the resort pool, riding bikes, etc.  A 'walk in the woods', early the next morning was pitched, now that the weather would be favorable, and then we would spend the rest of the day swimming at the resort.   We would take my nephew since my hilarious twin needed to attend a wedding that day.  It would be fun.  

The day of 'the walk in the woods' dawned chilly and clear.  Lovely.  We packed water, Power bars and all of the 'hike food', band aids, moleskin, etc. I had carefully stockpiled for the now defunct South Sister hike.  We gathered up my nephew and my almost-16-year-old niece decided to join us as well.  Ten had to hide in the back end of the car as our tiny 'Matrix' is only a 'five bun' car.  We drove back up the McKenzie Pass to find the misty, moisty rain had given way to clear skies and warming temperatures.  We set off on 'our walk'.  It was a 6 miler and was listed as 'easy' in the hike book. We'd be out by lunch.   A walk in the woods, we thought.  We were on a lake loop which was supposed to bring us to an awesome viewpoint where we would see the mountains now free from their inclimate shrouds.  

It was on this 'walk in the woods' that magic began to happen.   It came in the form of four cousins giggling and bonding in the deep, shady woods, gradually and then outright hiking up a forested ridge to an amazing wonderland of lava and alpine lakes. By the second lake we had gone 4.5 miles (my niece had a pedometer) and had not encountered the fabled viewpoint.  Clearly, this was going to be more than a six miler and it was past lunch time--the magic began wearing thin.  At the urging of some other hikers we decided to take a short, arduous side trail up Scott's Ridge where the view was supposed to be amazing.  After a scramble up the magic returned.  For El Professor and myself, it was the view.  So amazing.  So rewarding.  To some degree it satiated my disappointment about the South Sister hike.  We were on the shoulder of the Cascades with the North Sister to our left and Mount Washington, Three Fingered Jack and Mount Jefferson extending out on our right.  For the kids, it was the snow field.  They played and tumbled while I marveled at the great form of the North Sister just behind their alpine playground.   Wet and invigorated, we started back down the ridge, stopping to yell into the lava flow and listen to our echo. We named the spot 'Echo Ridge' and continued on our loop.  We found the fabled viewpoint, confirming our suspicion that we had been hiking the loop backward from the directions in the hike book.  We hiked along a high ridge drinking in the mountain view before descending back into the woods.  It was downhill most of the way and the cousins chatted, ran, walked and commented on what a great hike it had been.  My niece's pedometer measured our journey to be over 8.5 miles.  We made it out in time for a short swim and dinner. 
South Mattieu Lake with Scott's Ridge and The North Sister in the background.  

Postscript--remember Selma?  At the beginning of Summit Summer I mentioned my easily annoyed knee (which is doing better) and 'Selma', the name I gave to an almond sized cyst that literally appeared overnight on top of my left foot.  I had decided to live peaceably, if possible, with Selma as getting a cyst carved off my foot seemed like a Summit Summer squasher.  I purchased hiking/walking shoes with a wide toebox, good for avoiding downhill toe smashing and Selma contact.  My retired-surgeon-dad determined that Selma was probably a ganglion cyst and I decided to consider having her removed if she was still around in the fall.  Well, during the rehearsal for my niece's outdoor wedding I was sent through the maze of gardens at the event center to look for the wedding coordinator who was lost in some other venue.  I hoofed it in my black wedge, 'Selma friendly' shoes to look for her.  Upon my return (with the wedding coordinator) to the rehearsal I felt a familiar knawing of 'Selma pain'.  I kicked off my shoe to rub Selma a bit, but she was gone.  Just like that.  The cyst had burst and my foot had instantly returned to a lump free state, the pain was fleeting.  I mentioned it to my retired-surgeon-dad who was sitting nearby.  He nonchalantly mentioned that they do that.  He also quipped that one old method of treatment for a ganglion cyst is to 'whack it with the family bible'.  

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Hot August nights, days, afternoons, evenings.....

Wow--what a scorcher it has been!  Thursday through Sunday a heat wave descended upon the region as our family bustled about participating in the events around my niece's much anticipated wedding.  It has been a year in the works and, despite the heat, it was lovely.  (And sweaty.  Very sweaty.)  Thirteen turned out to be quite the poised and charming usher while Ten and her cousin made lovely flower girls.  My niece was a beautiful bride.  

One of the many jobs toward putting on the wedding involved painting paint stir sticks.  My niece had been to a wedding where wedding programs were glued to paint stir sticks to serve as a fan.  It seemed like a cute idea and El Professor took on the painting task, depite the fact that up until the wedding we had been experiencing an unseasonably cool summer.  The heatwave showed up just in time for the festivities and, in the six o'clock-in-full-sun-nearly one-hundred-degree-outdoor-wedding, the program/fans were just the thing!  

With the rehearsal dinner-wedding-brunch-hustle-bustle over, the heat wave has hit the road and we are going to as well.  We are off to the mountains for more extended family fun and some MUCH needed R and R. 


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Looking Back

As August marches on registrations and planning for the upcoming school year has been in the forefront of my week.  It's going to be a year of a lot of changes for us.  El Professor's position in the public schools is changing which means we probably won't see him at lunch everyday this year.  We have thrown our hat in the ring with a new, private home school program called 'Classical Conversations' which will provide most of our core curriculum.  We have always had a very ecclectic curriculum, so high accountability and a core curriculum will be new to us.  I will be a tutoring one of the classes which will be interesting!  Our wonderful, beloved 'beginning' piano teacher of four years has graduated the kids to other referrals make room for new beginners.  I am going to scale back on our 'outside obligations' to allow more time at home for margins, home tasks, tutor planning and creativity.  How it will all play out in a weekly schedule remains to be seen. 

This last year ended up being somewhat crazy as we maintained a busy schedule of 'outside' activities.  Still, it was a good year with a lot of good memories.  Before launching into the next school year I wanted to do a few posts on 'the year in review'. 

We kicked off the school year with an early September trip to Orcas Island with our mostly home schooled Boy Scout Troop.  El Professor was the coordinator/organizer/leader of the trip.  It was a fabulous time of camping, kayaking, ferry boat riding, hiking, shell hunting, tide pooling and shopping.  It was a last hurrah for us, as Thirteen opted to end his Boy Scout career on a good note.  (That is a BUSY bunch)

A friend organized a Friday morning hike group. 

One fond marker of fall for me involves numerous trips to a local orchard.  I used to take the school kids there for a field trip when I taught in the public schools.  Now it's a home school event for us....usually involving several trips as the fall progresses.  They have many varieties of apple that ripen from August to the end of October, and an authentic farm stand where most of the produce is their's and isn't trucked in from elsewhere. 
Walking the orchard rows.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Summit Summer

Are you impressed??

Actually, this is how we got up to the summit.  

Then we hiked down.  

Eagle Peak is part of a ski area.  After our first ride up we hiked down a black diamond run.  Can you say, "NOODLE LEGS?"  After the first descent I had serious noodle legs. The second time down we followed a woodsy mountain bike trail.  

Today was El Professor's last 'unspoken for' Friday before he returns to the public schools for another school year.  He wanted to do a downhill hike to work on our quads before we hit the South Sister in a few weeks.  The kids loved it!  Ten has two new blisters, but a great time was had by all.  

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Good things going on...other than the 'Bonsai Zucchini'.............

This morning Thirteen put on the silly yellow "farting" clogs (they make obnoxious sounds when you walk in them) and headed out to the strawberry barrels bright and early to gather some strawberries for breakfast.  I was delighted, especially since Thirteen doesn't relish garden work.  My favorite mornings involve a hot cup of coffee and a peek around the garden to see how things are coming along, only today Thirteen beat me to the farting clogs.  I had to wear the black ones. 

Pesto!  Also Bella's basil butter.  Mmmmmm.
Thirteen's morning gather.
Not much of this around.  I have some new baby starts.
El Professor planted two plum trees for me a few years ago.  One isn't doing well, but this one is!  
Mystery Squash.  Anyone know what it is??? 
The 'Bonsai Zucchini' is growing.  Yesterday it yielded two respectable sized zuchs.  
One of the 'Mystery Apples'.  When we bought the house El Professor scored four apples trees for $5/each at a nursery.  The ID tags had fallen off.  This one is a Red Striped Gravenstein, and one appears to be a Granny Smith.   The other two are still unknowns.   

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Garden Failures....

Bonsai zucchini.  There is such a thing.  It has been growing in my backyard, complete with little teeny, tiny zuchs, just the right size for Ten's Polly Pockets.  You know you are experiencing a garden failure when you are an avid vegetable grower and you have a bag of zucchini in the fridge that you just purchased at the local farmstand!!  I took this photo near the end of July with my flip flop  just to show how stunted my plant is.  I planted the usually unruly zucchini in the old strawberry patch--without first amending the soil.  By the time the photo was taken the thing should have been taking over its corner of the garden and producing baseball bats while we were hanging out at the lake.  My last great garden failure was a few years ago when the pole beans sprouted in depleted soil and turned a sickly yellow color.  By immediately amending them with the rabbit cage compost they greened up and grew into lovely beans.  The zucchini plant is responding to the worm bin compost I have worked in around it, the organic fertilizer, and a few swigs of compost tea.   It's kind of a fun experiment, but I think I will have to keep buying zucchini for a few more weeks.  In the meantime, the carrot area was overcrowded with volunteer lettuce and I have a gajillion beets.  A gajillion!  Hmmm.  We're not super big beet eaters.  

Sunday, August 3, 2008


A mountain lake, a cabin, a dock, a boat, a barbeque, a hiking trail, friends...all on the books and couldn't have come at a better time...for all of us.  A little sunburn, a few extra pounds, lots of laundry, very refreshed and was a wonderful week!