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Monday, March 13, 2017

First Ride of the Year

I know it has been entirely too long since I've posted up a blog, but the dry weather days and blog worthy material have been pretty much non-existent these last few months.

Last Friday we had a beautiful sunny day. Unfortunately I had to work in the morning, but we were able to get out for a nice long walk in the afternoon and soak up some much needed vitamin D sunshine.

While Saturday was a mixed bag of rain and showers, yesterday was another dry day.  While not as warm as Friday it was still dry and in the high 50's in the morning.

What to do, what to do?  We had the option of motorcycles or bicycles since we knew we wanted to be on two wheels.  Troubadour deferred to me for making the decision and I chose bicycles. Why you might ask?  Well, after such a rainy winter I just couldn't put all that gear on for a motorcycle ride.  I wanted to wear minimal gear and enjoy the outdoors.  That, and I was worried about the mud up in the hills if we rode the little dual sports.

So, having decided on bicycles I had to decide where.  I chose the 7 mile (11.26 km) Vineyard Mountain Loop at Lewisburg Saddle Trailhead just north of town.  I believe the last time we were up there I was on my hybrid bike and had to do a lot of pushing on the uphills.  Not so this time on my trusty Cannondale Tango 7.

First step was getting the bikes off the racks in the garage, putting some air in the tires, and then Troubadour mounted our fenders.  A nice set of front and rear SKS, made in Germany. Shockblade II for the front and X-Blade for the rear.  He'd had his mounted at some point last year, but this was the first time they'd be mounted on my bike.

We left the house about 1 pm and were at the trailhead in about 10 minutes.  Unfortunately parking was scarce.  It seemed everyone wanted to be outside and play in the dry weather. Someone pulled out and we were able to park on the side of the road.  Good thing Troubadour has mad parallel parking skills.

We chose to ride the loop clockwise, which means you start off on a downhill grade, end up with a long uphill grade, but also end on a long downhill grade.  Easy start and finish and a long slog in the middle.  We stopped for a few rest breaks pictures along the way.

(Vineyard Mountain Loop, MacDonald Forest, Corvallis, OR)

(Apparently our winter storms brought down trees)

(Some stops had a nice view of the valley)

(The research forest is managed by Oregon State University)

(A close up of the informational plaque)

(Troubadour on his Trek waiting for me as I took the above few pictures)
Troubadour beat me to the top of one particular long uphill stretch and took the few pictures below as I huffed and puffed.

(Trobairitz huffing and puffing)

(Just keep spinning, just keep spinning.......)

(Ta-da, made it)

(The long hill I'd just ridden up, the hill goes way beyond those trees)

(Troubadour & Trobairitz - helmet selfie)
Where we stopped was at the junction at the end of the loop where we would start heading back towards the car, we still had some more uphill to go so we stopped at the cap house for a quick photo opp.

("Built in 1937 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Cap House was designed to store blasting caps for various projects, such as stump removal on road clearing projects and rock quarrying.")

(The bikes at the abandoned Cap House)

(Close up of the bikes)
We finally made it over the hill and on one of the downhill runs I was out in front and stopped to wait for Troubadour.  Not because I was faster than him, but because he'd stopped to try and identify a bird call.  We think it might actually have been an owl.  Anyway, it gave me a chance to snap a few pics of him as he caught up.

(Troubadour on a Trek)

(Hamming it up for the camera -  no hands downhill - now that's balance)

(He caught me)

It was all downhill from the above photo so we didn't stop for any more pictures.  We did slow down when we approached two riders on horseback.  Didn't want to spook the pretty horses. We made it back to the car and the indicated temperature was 63˚F (17.2˚C).  Nice.

This was a good opportunity for a shake down ride to evaluate our level of fitness.  While Brad had a wee 5 mile (8 km) ride on Friday, this was the first time I'd been on my bicycle since September.

Surprisingly I feel pretty good today.  And I was quite proud that I'd ridden the whole way this time.  While I might have stopped a few times to catch my breath (I have exercise induced asthma) I was able to get back on and ride after just a minute or so and keep going.  No pushing this time, yay.

Hopefully it won't be as long between posts and two wheeled riding next time.

- Au Revoir

"Get a bicycle.  You won't regret it.  If you live." - Mark Twain "Taming the Bicycle"
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Monday, December 26, 2016

Snow Hiking

With no plans for the Christmas holiday Troubadour and I decided to go for a hike.  Where to go we pondered.  We finally decided to see if we could get all the way up Marys Peak to the parking lot.  We could see the Peak from our house and knew there would be snow, but we weren't sure how much, and if we could make it in the Subaru.  The year we bought the Subaru we couldn't get to the parking lot because of the deep snow.

According to the Siuslaw National Forest website: "at 4,097 ft (1,249 meters) of elevation, Marys Peak is the highest peak in the Oregon Coast Range. It is the highest point in Benton County and ranks 11th in the State for prominence."

We set out a little after lunch, the temperature having warmed up above freezing and the sun high overhead.

We took the back roads to Highway 34 and up the twisties to the turn off. The road was a little frosty in places and soon enough as we watched the outdoor temperature on the dash drop to freezing and we encountered snow.

(The road to Marys Peak, Benton County, Oregon)
We made it to the parking lot with out any issues, the trusty Subaru never missed a beat.  I was surprised at how many people were there.  And even more surprised to see folks sledding down the hills.  I would never have thought of that.  Most folks had dogs with them as well who were enjoying themselves and running around playing.

We pulled on some extra layers, mittens, and knitted caps and walked around the parking area and took a few pictures.

(Subaru in the snow)

(Panoramic by Troubadour)

(Notice how small vehicles and people look compared to the trees)

(Looking a little north-east over the valley to the Cascade Mountains)

(Looking a little south-east over the valley to the Cascade Mountains)

(More beautiful snowy trees)
Now, it is a little hard to tell from the following picture, but there is a path that turns into a gravel road that goes across this hill and around to the right where it climbs to the peak.  On the peak is a set of communication towers, a picnic table and a 360˚ view.  This was our destination, a 1.5 mile (2.4 km) round trip hike.

(Folks sledding at Marys Peak, Christmas Day 2016)
It was slow going with the steep grade and walking in snow but we were determined.  Part way up I took a look back at the parking lot and this was the view.

(Looking back at the parking lot from part way up the hill)
Onward we trudged looking in awe at the ice covered trees and shrubs, snapping pics along the way.

(Random picture on the way up)

(Looking back at where we'd been - part way to the Peak)

(More random snowy trees)

(This shrub was covered in ice crystals)
With only a little huffing and puffing and a few breaks for pictures we made it to the peak, which we had all to ourselves. The wind was kicking up and the clouds were rolling in so we didn't linger too long.  Just long enough for a few pictures and of course a selfie.

(Panoramic at the top - photo by Troubadour)

(Zoomed in view of the valley and Cascade Mountains to the east)

(Fenced in Bonneville Power Administration communication towers at the top of Marys Peak)

(The ice on the fence was sticking out 4-5 inches horizontally)

(Troubadour took a picture of my taking a picture of the fence above, notice the clouds rolling in)

(Ice crystals coated everything at the top even dormant grasses)

(And the obligatory selfie - Troubadour and Trobairitz)
Brrrr, after the selfie taking we started the walk back down.  I looked back at the towers and took one more picture of it with the blue sky background.

(Looking up at the BPA communication towers on the Peak)

(Walking down off the Peak, heading back to the car)

(A close up of the icicles on one of the trees)

(Further down we walked, still in awe of the view across the valley)

(One last picture as the sun disappeared and we hurried our steps to the car)
We made it down to the car and noticed that with the sun disappearing behind the clouds the people had also dispursed.  There weren't nearly as many cars in the parking lot.

We headed out and made it home around 5pm.  

I think this was the perfect way to enjoy snow - not on the valley floor where one has to shovel it and commute in it, but up on the Peak where one can visit it if they choose to.

- Au Revoir

" If the October days were a cordial like the sub-acids of fruits, these are a tonic like the wine of iron. Drink deep or be careful how you taste this December vintage.  The first sip may chill, but a full draught warms and invigorates." - John Burroughs "Winter Sunshine"
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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Remembering Sunshine......

Remember back in the summer when we were complaining that it was too hot?  Yeah, we shouldn't have done that.

October sucked in regards to weather and we broke records for high levels of rainfall.  November didn't shatter any records but, while it was drier than October, it was still quite wet. December can't seem to make up its mind.  Should it be 45˚F (7.2˚C) and rain, or maybe 32˚F (0˚C) and freezing rain or random snowflakes?

As I sit at my computer, the boss having sent me home at 1:30 pm worried about road conditions, it is slushing outside.  Not really snow, not quite hail, not quite rain, and it is adding up. The below photo was taken around 2:30 this afternoon through our living room window with my iPhone.

(Fiat in our driveway, an inch of slush will shut down the town)
All this wet weather hasn't been very motivating to hop on two wheels, but it does make us think fondly of that warm summer weather.

Back in August Troubadour and I didn't make big plans for our 20th wedding anniversary.  Not only did it fall mid-week while we were working, but we just couldn't think of anything grand to do with the summer heat.  Instead we chose to go play at the coast that Friday.  Not an overnighter just a day on the sand.

I never posted a blog about it so I thought I'd post about it now as I reflect fondly on the warm summer sun.

FRIDAY AUGUST 12, 2016

We left Corvallis and headed southwest along Highway 34 to the coast.  The pace wasn't very fast  since the ODOT was doing some seal coating/chip seal along the way.  We took the Fiat 500 so we could pack along picnic supplies, blankets, and the kites.

We arrived in Waldport on Highway 101 and turned south to Yachats to enjoy lunch at the Green Salmon Cafe.  One of the only places to get vegan eats in the land of seafood.  While most of it is assembled from prefab processed foods, at least it is an option.  We sat outside in the beautiful sunshine.  Not as warm at the coast compared to the heat of the valley.  I had the Tempeh Reuben sandwich while Troubadour partook of the Tofurkey Italian Sausage.  We may have purchased a few vegan danishes to go as well.

(My Tempeh Reuben sandwich - Green Salmon cafe, Yachats)

(Troubadour's Tofurkey Italian Sausage, Green Salmon Cafe, Yachats)
From Yachats we drove south on Highway 101 along the coast and stopped at one of our favorite little hideaway beaches.  The wind was up, but the sun was out, and the sand was warm on our bare feet.  Not too hot, and not too cold.

(Summertime at the Oregon Coast)
As we broke out the kites, the mist started to roll in, which made for some interesting pictures. Warm sand and a cool breeze was a good combination.

(Mist rolling in)

(Troubadour flying his kite)

(Even more mist rolling in)

(Hold on Troubadour)
While Troubadour was flying his kite I decided to explore the sea critters along the large rock closer to the water. The rock was covered in barnacles and mussels, and around the base at sand level were the sea anemones. Here is a link to a pdf guide titled Oregon's Rocky Intertidal Areas "tidepools" published by Oregon State Parks. LINK

(Looking down at the California mussels and Gooseneck Barnacles)

(Anemones, mussels, and Gooseneck barnacles)

(Anemones close until the tide comes in to conserve moisture)

(All different shades of green)
As the sun was blocked out by the mist, we started getting a little chilly from the wind and decided to head back to the car and check our guide book for hikes on the coast instead.

We discovered where there was a hiking trail to get to Heceta Head Lighthouse.  Heceta is pronounced "huh-see-tah".  You park on the side of the highway and hike a 2.6 mile round trip route (4.18 km) rather than driving further south and parking at the visitors center/State Park. Sounds good.  I can't count how many times we've driven down Highway 101 and never knew about it.

Heceta Head is located 13 miles north of the city of Florence.  Heceta Head is the most photographed of all of Oregon's 11 Lighthouses and was built in 1894. "Bricks for the tower were shipped from San Francisco to Florence and hauled over the hills on wagons.  The 2-ton Fresnel lens, with 640 delicate, hand-ground prisms was off-loaded onto the cape by surf boat."

You can visit all but one of Oregon's Lighthouses - the infamous Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, which is located 1.2 miles (1.9 km) offshore. LINK on more info on that one.

As we were getting out of the car I discovered my camera battery had died so the remaining pictures are all courtesy of Troubadour and his iPhone 4s.

(Trail to Heceta Head Lighthouse from Highway 101)

(Sunshine and mist filtering through the trees)

(Nature's Majesty.....so pretty)
I never realized that there was such a hill climb between the highway and the ocean.  Up and up we climbed. There were even several sets of stairs.  It is quite damp and muddy in some areas and others where the sun would come through were dry.

(We always manage to find mushrooms on our hikes)
Here and there along the trail were spur trails leading to views of the Pacific Ocean.

(View of the Pacific Ocean north of Heceta Head Lighthouse)
After some huffing and puffing we caught our first view of the lighthouse.

(Heceta Head Lighthouse, Oregon)

(A zoomed in view)

(Down a path and we arrived at the lighthouse and oil shed)

(A view at the base of the lighthouse)

(A view of the Pacific Ocean from the lighthouse)
Unfortunately we arrived too late in the day to actually climb to the lens of the lighthouse.  From the lighthouse point we could look a little south towards the highway and visitor's center and the old caretakers cottage, rumored to be haunted.

(Old caretakers cottage and Highway 101 over Cape Creek Bridge)

(Cape Creek Bridge over Highway 101 opened in 1932)
We decided to walk towards the Visitor's Center and the Bed &Breakfast, which was actually one of the old caretaker's homes.

(Trobairitz and the caretakers cottage - there used to be two residences inside the fence)
From the cottage we could look back up the winding road to the lighthouse.

(Heceta Head Lighthouse viewed from caretakers cottage)

(A view showing the terrain to get to the lighthouse)

(The thistles were in full bloom along the road between the cottage and lighthouse)

(One last look at the lighthouse as we hiked 1.3 miles back to the car)

By the time we returned to the car our bodies informed us that we hadn't done near enough hiking this year.  Heading south into Florence we pondered whether to drive to Eugene for dinner.  Thinking of city traffic on a Friday night we opted to take Highway 36 around Triangle Lake. We stopped along the way for a picnic dinner and those vegan danishes from the Green Salmon for dessert.

We arrived home around 8:30 pm.  Tired but we'd had a good day.  Fond memories as I sit here and  look outside at the slush adding up.

- Au Revoir

" Those who can laugh without cause have either found the true meaning of happiness or have gone stark raving mad." - Norm Papernick
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