Monday, September 23, 2013

Portland Romantic Adventurer's Weekend

Portland Romantic Adventurer's Weekend

Saturday Morning.

Let's just assume that you live in (or will be visiting) the Portland (Oregon) area. You have an adventurous partner and you wish to satisfy said partner's thirst for casual outdoor adventure and your continuing need for memorable romantic gestures. How might you fill up a weekend? Hey.... not too much planning, not too much money.... and we may have some house chores to do or a blog to write, but still. What can we do at this, the very last gasp of summer?

First thing you gotta do if you are really going to enjoy a weekend is to get up EARLY. Not crazy early, but you need to get up in time to have some self organization time before you jump into a car. This time of year (right near the equinox) you can get up with the sun, right around 6:00 (or maybe 7:00). Do you get the Oregonian? No one does, are you crazy? Ok, I will cook breakfast, you go out and get the paper, and don't you dare stop at Starbucks, I am making this new kind of coffee I brought.

And what is for Breakfast? Blueberry season is just winding down, but I have a pint basket of berries just begging to be made into waffles. (“Oh please, oh please, put us in waffles”, I hear them cry). Perhaps I should give you the intro to the waffle ritual.

First, Ingredients:
  1. White Flour (perhaps half and half with whole Wheat. I like using the good stuff from Bob's Red Mill, because it is local and I drive a Subaru)
  2. Baking Soda (not baking powder. Really, there is a difference. Trust me)
  3. Vegetable Oil (I have tried Olive Oil, since it is so much better for you than Crisco but I got complaints that the taste was overpowering. I didn't notice it. You do use a LOT of oil in a waffle recipe)
  4. Blueberries (I am still debating whether frozen or not is better. The frozen ones don't cook as much, which could be nice, but they sometimes keep the batter from cooking also)
  5. Plain Yogurt (this is the secret ingredient. You can also use flavored yogurts, just be careful not to mess with the taste of the blueberries)
  6. Real Maple Syrup (don't get me started)
  7. Spray Can of Oil (the cooking kind. Not WD40)(You could use a brush to put it on the griddle but, hell, might as well live in the present).

And Equipment:
  1. Big Glass Bowl (You can really use any bowl, but the glass one is clean.....)
  2. Wooden Mixing Spoon (Ditto)
  3. Waffle Iron (which is clean since the last time you used it...... right?)
  4. Fork (who cares if it is clean, it is just a Fraking Fork)
  5. +5 serving plates of yumminess.
  6. Laptop Computer. Preferably a Apple Air.

Wow, this is getting complex.
Ok. 3 things to do before you begin mixing.
  1. Check for the Baking Soda. You didn't have any the last time, remember? Oh, maybe it was 3 times ago that you didn't have any. Because you seem to have gotten baking soda the last 3 times you were at the store and now you have a life time supply. Excellent
  2. Turn on the Waffle Iron (plug it in first). This is really important. You need a HOT iron to make a good waffle and you really need to preheat the sucker. If you don't preheat it you will just be throwing the first waffle away, and you don't want that.
  3. If your Blueberries are frozen, Nuke them for 30 seconds.
  4. Now get out your laptop and do a web search for Waffle Recipe (or if you are reading this while you cook, then use that handy Hyperlink !!)
  5. Ok, 4 things.

Reading the Waffle Recipe is very important. It will tell you the exact amounts of the things you need and also tell you that the author has (once again) become confused over the difference between baking Soda and Baking Powder. You don't want Baking Soda, who in the hell told you that? That is crazy talk!!

I would also consider leaving out the vanilla. I think we are going to be putting enough flavors in there. But you do have this one extra ingredient that the recipes don't call for but we really want to add.... The yogurt. I got this yogurt recipe from a real nice restaurant on the North coast of California. What the yogurt does is to keep the inside of the waffle fluffy whilst allowing the outside to be crunchy. It works pretty good. Just put a couple of big spoonfulls in per cup of floor. Trust me. Would I steer you wrong? I mean, besides the Baking Powder debacle.

As a last bit, add the blueberries. Enough of them so you will get like 10 berries per waffle.

Ok, the waffle iron should be hot, so lets get going. Spray your PAM cooking oil (OK if it is olive oil, we aren't going to taste it) just before you put the batter in. The batter should be pretty thick, you may even have to push it around on the iron to get coverage. Don't put too much batter, you actually want it to look like there isn't quite enough to cover the whole thing when you close the lid. Now you have to wait. The way my iron works, the light comes on when the iron is Hot. Then when you add batter, the light will soon go out, indicating that cooking is happening. When the waffle is done the light will go off (and it makes a clicking noise, but never mind that). You should be able to flip the things out with a fork.

Sever with Butter and Real Maple Syrup. Maybe some strawberries. Collect yummy noises and maybe a kiss.

I believe I have found that a 1 cup flour recipe will make 2 runs on my waffle iron. So I usually do at least a 2 cup batch.

What a nice breakfast !!. And it isn't even 10:00 yet. Time to gear up for an adventure!! (Well, maybe just one more cup of coffee).

Saturday Afternoon

My partner said she wanted to go hiking today. Actually I have been bugging her that I wanted to do a calorie burn and to test out my knee, so we packed a nice lunch and headed out to one of my main go to hiking areas, Elk Creek.

Elk Creek trail is a side branch of the Wilson River trail in the Tillamook forest. It is the remnants of an old logging trail and it climbs pretty steeply up the East side of Elk Creek. Today was a gear test hike (Knee and Hammock) so we were only shooting to go about half way up (2 miles) before stopping for lunch in a sheltered little nook that I like. This time of year is a transitional time for the area. The spring and summer wild flowers are all gone but the summer leaves are still in the trees. Once the leaves fall, there will be better views of the surrounding hills. For now, the things that are coming into play are elk and deer hunting and mushroom hunting. Chantrels are very popular and can be found in this area, especially up on the top of the hill off in the pine forests.

Very Low Water

Very dry time of year. The creek is lower than I have ever seen it before. The place where I have seen huge Salmon swimming is now virtually dry. The waterfall just before the rest stop is just damp mossy stones. Still, the hike is a good one. Good footing, even in wet weather. Steep, but not so steep that it is dangerous. We got to the stopping point in just a little over an hour and we were feeling good. I was tempted to go on up another mile, but I am really not trusting my knee these days. So instead of hikig, I put up my new double nest hammock from REI and we climbed in a snuggled and ate our lunch.


The hammock worked out pretty well. I don't think 2 people could actually sleep in this things together, but it was a pleasant enough way to spend a half hour rest stop. And being in a hammock is nice after an uphill hike because the openness really bleeds the heat off of your back.

At this point I should put out a special thank you to my partner. I had somehow forgotten my water bottle in the car, but she had brought an extra. Otherwise I would have been very thirsty.

My new Camera does good blue

We got back home and it was only like 4:00. My partner and I were hungry and still looking for a little fun so we decided to head into the city. Hey, I am buying, let's go to Jake's !!

Jake's Famous Crawfish

Jake's is something of an institution in Portland. It has been around for a while and presidents and 3 famous people have eaten there and stuff. Mainly I like it because the building and furnishings are old (early 1900's?), the service is great, and the food is exquisite. And if you don't drink expensive wine, it really isn't all that pricey. Well, you may want to squint a little when you read the bill.

There are two locations for Jake's in downtown Portland. They are like 2 blocks away from each other and they have similar offerings. They are called Jake's Famous Crawfish and Jake's Grill. Tonight we have reservations at 8:15 at Jake's Famous Crawfish. It can be a dress up place (i.e. you won't feel like an idiot if you dress up, but people do show up and get fed in jeans and T-shirts) so my partner and I put on some nice clothes (ohhh, a dress and makeup. Jon likes) and we head into Portland. Often times when heading into the city, I would park at a convenient Max stop (like, Oh, say, Sunset transit) and take the light rail line in. I like the light rail. You can get a day pass for $5.00 and travel all over the city and not worry about parking or having to walk any long distance (in case it rains). Tonight we decided to drive in. More convenient we were thinking. We look too nice for the Max, I was thinking. And we had a terrible time finding parking. Siri just doesn't have any clue about how to find a parking garage in Portland. She took us to two closed facilities before we decided to screw it and go to the city parking we knew about over next to the 9th street Max location (just above the Real Mother Goose).

So a couple of blocks walk through Portland. Always a joy. Some cool new things in the city. Hey, a new City Target. That looks interesting. We were pretty early so we walked over to Powell's book store first. I needed an engineering book for work and Powells' has a big technical book enclave. Do you know about Powell's City of books

I stole this picture. Though I have one like it somewhere.

Besides having the world's greatest name, it is also the world's largest independent book store. It really is huge. Bigger than any Barnes and Noble or {some book store whose name I always forget but it is just like Barnes and Noble} books. It is in an older 4 story warehouse-like building with just TONS of books. Old ones, new ones, used ones, blue ones. Books, books, books. They have a rare book room (that you can't go in unless you are more special than me). It is sort of like a maze in there with different floors of different buildings connecting to each other in strange and mysterious ways. Each section has its own color. So you can say something like, “I need to look for a text in Purple for a while but then will meet you in Green and we can peruse Manga together”. 

 Since they buy and sell used books, you can take your boxes of books there, get some in-store credit, and then get great deals on other books that other people didn't want (Oh My God, Here is a Stranger in a Strange Land for only $1.50 !!).

On this particula occasion, however, I wanted a Python programmers guide and they wanted $60.00 for it while I knew I could get it on Amazon (delivered for free with Amazon Prime) for $40.00. I guess you can't always buy local.

We arrived at Jake's a few minutes early, but they sat us right away at a quiant little booth for 2 around in the back room. The menu was daunting. Lots of fish dishes that had been changed from boring healthy fish into exciting calorie laden fish and lobster and cheese creations. Oh man. We decided on a sort of semi-healthy sampler meal. We would start with an appetizer of fried crawfish (cause, I mean, come on, it is Jake's Famous Crawfish) and then move on to split a spinach and cajun orange vinaigrette with a (split) entree of crab stuffed King Salmon.

When the crawfish came it was a HUGE plate. We had to immediately put half of it aside to take home just to have room for dinner. And the crawfish was worthy of fame. The salad was likewise delicious, but the main entre was MUCH to good to have eaten a whole one. We were both very happy with our choices of food and company.

Sunday Morning

Aha !! It's Sunday already. Already !! Where is the weekend going?
Various morning chores.
But the main one was to get the kayaks onto the car in case we want to go for an emergency kayak after the softball game. Softball Game? Yes, My partner is in a couple of softball leagues and she has Sunday games. So we load the car with the kayak gear and the softball gear and we head out to the co-ed field out in North Portland. On the ride there we had thunder and lightening and a vicious rain squall. But over on the other side of town, at the field, it was dry and only threatening. So I guess we are playing. But lots of people didn't show up. So many, in fact, that the team captain asked me if I wanted to play. I mean, I did have my glove..... Ok. I will give it a try. I didn't have any cleats so I put on my hiking boots. I mean, when you haven't broken into a run in 5 years putting on hiking boots can't be a bad thing. I got to play a little first, a little catcher, a little right center. I didn't screw up to badly and I did hit the ball when up. So.... Maybe I can think about really playing. Can I still walk? Partially. Good enough. My partner pitched a few innings and then had a great inning in left field bringing in 2 flies and scooping up a line drive. Bottom Line: my team got slaughtered but my partner won player of the game !!

First Base Lefty !!

And then, we get to go Agate Hunting !

I have been wanting to find some agates ever since my partner and I accidentally found some out on Ross Island a few weeks ago. Well, I have given up going to places that don't have any so I decided that we should go back to Ross (also, it is an easy put-in and paddle on a Sunday Afternoon, with Thunder storms passing through). We didn"t paddle much at first. We cut across the Willamette and stopped at Toe Island (little rock bar right next to Ross). There were lots of really pretty rocks there. Round. But no agates (that we found).



So on we go. I am paddling my friend's Orange Tempest 170 today. I am trying to decide whether or not to buy one. Lots of sales going on right now. Nice red one for sale over at Next Adventure. Would match my dry suit. But today I am having troubles with this thing. The skeg assembly must have gotten some rocks in it because I can't get the skeg down, and with the skew up I am having a hell of a time going in a straight line. It keeps pulling to the left. So frustrating. Even when I edge hard right, I am still going left. And when I edge hard left..... I go really really left. Anyway, I wasn't liking it. Perhaps I will keep my Journey. She always goes straight when I want her to.

Out at the very tip of Ross Island we get out and walk around and find LOTS of agates. Mostly very small ones. This is the place for agate hunting for me!! But this is a secret place, so don't go telling everyone about it.


Point of interest. Tidal effects on the River at Portland. We are like 50 river miles from the ocean, and yet we still have tides. When we pulled up on this island, my Partner marked the water level with the little piece of wood you can see right below the left end of her pump. We were there for 30 minutes, see the water line?

We didn't stay out very long. We were tired from the hiking and softballing and such and wanted to get home early so we could be ready for a hard productive week at work

And then........

More Adventure !!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Agate Hunting: Hayden Island

Agate Hunting: Hayden Island with Bob

Once you get the Agate hunting bug into your blood it sticks to you like a mixed metaphor. We really needed to go out and find some more agates so we would have enough to work in a rock tumbling machine. I have this idea about making presents for people for Christmas using rocks that I found kayaking. See, if you are a good friend (or bad relative) of mine, you might get a rock !!

This week I am having a personal security crisis and have decided that everyone I name in my blog will be called Bob. Sorry Bob, that I couldn't use your real name, but Bob and Bob would get upset with me.

View Hayden Island Journey in a larger map

My Partner had it on good authority that the place to go to find agates is a little rocky spot on the beach on the Columbia side of Hayden Island just down near the western tip. We wanted to share this bounty with a few of our friends (what if we got too many to carry in one boat?) so we invited some of our Kayak Portland buddies to an impromptu meetup, kayak, and rock hunt. We thought we would meet at the little boat ramp out by Kelly Point Park, do the little paddle around the end of the Willamette and then the short distance up the Columbia to Hayden Island. Easy Peasy. A short paddle. A quick pounce on those wily agates, and presto !! Bob's your Uncle.

So we make our plans, we get an unexpectedly large number of “yes” replies to our invitation (i.e. more than zero) and we set a meet time of 2:30 (after my partner's sunday softball game). Things were going good. The team “BAM!!!!” won their season opener quite handily and we were in the car and heading for the launch with LOTS of time in our schedule. Then things started to go a bit wrong. Bob1 called to say he was running late and his girlfriend Bobette called to cancel completely. Then Bob2 called to say that he was down at the park, but the entire entry to the park was closed to traffic by the police because this was the day of the annual Hemp Fair. He asked where we wanted to meet instead and if we wanted him to bring some brownies. We decided to divert to the Alder Creek Kayak store out on the East end of Hayden Island and we sent out secret invisible messages to all of the other potential agate hunters. (I can send invisible messages on this thing called “iphone”. The messages just drift through the air, completely invisible, and they float at lightening speeds straight to the “iphone” of my friends. Really. Hey, can I have another brownie?). At Alder Creek we learned that they would close and lock their boat ramp at 6:00, so if we were not done by then we wouldn't be able to get from the water back to our cars on their ramp. Down at that end of the island, the side is very steep, and if you don't have a good ramp or stairs to climb, you are going to find it hard to slug out of the shore mud. So we needed yet another plan. “Don't despair” said the Alder Creek Guy (who I will call “Bob”) “you can gain access at Lotus Isle Park. Just park on the street right before you get to it.

That reminds me. I have been having a bad time today with men calling me "Sir". Now, I know that it is fair and proper for any man to address another as Sir. As in "Pardon me, Sir, but might I trouble you for the time?". But there is a certain way of saying "Sir" that clearly says something like "God Damn you are old, I sure hope you don't have a heart attack while I am talking to you with my young strong masculine voice".  It started with the Umpire at My Partner's game (notice how I never call her "Bob"?).  Anyway, the ball field was a little muddy in one section and they brought in a bag of dirt to un-muddify it (de-mud?) but they couldn't get the bag open. I was sitting on the other side of the chain link watching and I had this knife in my pocket so I called out , "Hey Ump,  need a knife?". Now this guy has been kidding and joking with all of the other players (including flirting with my Kayak Partner)  but he looks at me at says "Yes Sir, if you have one that would be great. Thank you, Sir." like I was his Dad's commanding officer. And now,  in the parking lot of Alder Creek Kayak, Bob2 meets us and my partner and he walk into the store just ahead of me. The guy (“Bob”) that is manning the desk looks at the two of them but doesn't say anything, and as I walk in he addresses me and says, “Can I help you, Sir?”  It is like the other two of them must be my children. Clearly I am the old guy who needs some help.  Pesky kids.

Bob1 had still not caught up to us. We could forgive him since he said he was bringing his 4 kids (squeakers all) and their 4 kayaks. Oh my. 4 kids. 5 Kayaks, and him in charge of lugging the whole lot. We really wanted to wait for him so we could help him get stuff to the water.

Sandy Embankment. And Dog. I swear this is steeper when you are carrying a kayak up it.

We found the park and it is as described except there is a 30 foot descent, down steep sandy cliff, to get to the river. Actually the going down wasn't that bad. Just drop the boat and drag it down. It was the going back up that I wasn't looking forward too. Bob1 shows up with a car just FULL of boats, but most of them were small Perception kid's boats, the kind you can lift with one hand. In fact, my Partner put one boat on each shoulder and carried two of them down to the water. Damn show off. Always has to have all of the fun. And of course, she loves kids and quickly had all of the squeakers telling her the good stories.

We were all here now and we got everyone into a PFD and into a boat and started our processions down the river in search of Agates. We were already an hour behind schedule. We also had a bit further to go than originally planned (well, twice as far).

The 2 youngest of the little ones really were not profient enough to be paddling along at any reasonable rate of speed, so Bob1 just hooked them into a line and towed them. My Partner also grabbed one of the older kids and gave him a lift. Getting into the spirit of things, I picked up the tow of the oldest (“Dad, I am so tired, can I please have a tow?”) and we all started making some progress.

These guys were so cute. And good sports.


The first part of this jaunt is all of these beautiful floating houses that line the banks of that part of the Columbia. Now these are not “house boats” per se. They are houses that look pretty much like normal land houses except they are floating, usually on huge old logs in the river. They are also usually very expensive and often have other special water features, like a garage door that opens to reveal a place to float-park your boat. These places are really beautiful. I have some pictures here as words just aren't going to do it.

This guy had a great LGB train setup.

(C) 2013 Chip MacAlpine

We pass under the I-5 bridge. More houses. Then we get to the old railroad bridge (this is the bridge that the passenger train up the coast takes) and we reach the undeveloped half of Hayden Island. Now we have a much lower lying part of the island, the shore is half as high as before, and the beach is usually a sandy beach, with the occasional rocky outcropping or old ship wreck. The kids had had enough of this entire boating thing and really wanted to go to the beach and have some fun. So we bid adeau to Bob1 and picked up the pace. It was like 4:30 by now and we hadn't even made it to the end of Hayden Island.

Hayden Island has been a bit in the news of late. There is some movement afoot to develop the undeveloped end of the island. Perhaps more floating homes. Or maybe a toxic waste dump site. Something nice. But there is also the insidious voice of “the people” that want a large wild area dedicated to “birds” and “small mammals”. Perhaps even a “park”. It is the democrats, I tell you. President Bush would have had those trees down and had a good toxic waste dump in place quicker than Bob's your Uncle. There was a man of action.

No Agate Beach

So, lots of controversy. What really is happening is that Portland wants to annex that part of the island (currently in unincorporated Multnomah County) and then put in a Port of Portland terminal to ship stuff to places. Perhaps LNG to China. Or Wood to China. Or Coal to China. Also Wheat to China. Other people (like the residents) want a park. The main thing that put a hold on the “Shipping all of Oregon to China” port was that they were depending on better highway access that was going to come from the new Columbia River Crossing bridge....... that was just killed by the State of Washington. (It seems that Washington was fine with the part of the bridge running from Washington to Oregon, they thought they could use it to get rid of Canadians seeking South, but they had no use for the Oregon to Washington part, which they deduced would only let more Californians into their fine state).
So, no bridge, no access, no new Port. More trees. Go Washington. Don't believe me? Read it for yourself here.

Man, we are paddling forever here. We pass under the power lines and now we can at least see the shipping yard which I believe marks end of the island and the start of the confluence of the Willamette. This is the place that we would have been in like 20 minutes had we launched from Kelly Point Park. Today there is a big car carrier parked at one pier and a pretty big container ship being unloaded at the pier with the big cranes. And all around it, in the channel, are lots of people doing water skiing and jet skiis and motor boats and just having a good time. We were in kayaks.


We finally get to the end of the island and come into the swirly water that always occurs at the end of islands, where the currents from both sides get together and makes eddies and sets up re-enforcing vibrations and such. So it is squirly. But not so much that we intrepid Bob's were deterred. Also the water was pretty shallow there. We could have just stood up. Or been impaled from below by a nail encrusted log. On the other side of the island, we were in the main channel of the Columbia. The river is pretty low this time of year and the tide is just starting to turn (from falling to rising) so there isn't a lot of current. We glide up out of the rough stuff into the lea of some (wheat?) transport barges (that judging from google maps have been there a long time).

Looking back toward the squirly part.


I was getting tired and getting a little anxious about the return trip, so I headed over to shore and beached myself hoping Bob and my Partner would follow. They did, so we had a snack on the beach and then walked up the shore a bit. We ran into a young family walking the beach and we asked after agates. Oh, No, they said, no rocks on this beach. Well, perhaps up there a ways where you can see the sun. Of course, I thought, the agates would be in the light. Where you could see them better. They are so kind and generous, those agates.

Not an Agate

And so we walked up the beach and into the light and there we found the magical agates, pulled into alignment by the conjunction of the local lay lines and the magnetic influence of the overhead power lines. Oh how they shown in the sun!! All bright and glisteny, with the promise of true love and long life.

OK OK. We found nothing but sand.
And it was like 5:30 and we had 2 hours of paddling to get back to the ramp and almost exactly that much sunlight left. And did I mention we had exactly NO agates? I counted. Twice.

We hurried back. Racing the rapidly setting sun. Got some cool pictures.

I felt a little guilty leaving Bob1 to tow that troop of kid scouts back to the landing (and he really did tow all 4) and then to have to carry all 5 boats up that sandy embankment and stow everything by himself. So we hustled. But we had just waited too long and we didn't see him on the water. The sun was going down and we were pushing our stay out limit as it was when we made the beach.  We needed 2 people a boat to get the damn things up that embankment. It wasn't that it was steep (though it was) it was that the sand was pretty deep and you would sink in and slide backwards when you pushed off. But we got to the top. On the top is green grass and a nice playground area that was completely overrun with screaming laughing munchkins. I was surprised so many kids were out so late until I realized that they were Our munchkins and they were just hanging out while Dad (AKA Bob1) finished putting the boats on the car. So we did catch them. I don't think we got to help him though. He was just too damn big, strong, young, and self sufficient. But at least he never calls me "Sir".  A little note here, I have some really adorable pictures of Bob1 towing his lovely little family down the river and some of my partner helping out, but I am not going to post them. I try and protect peoples identity here and I try to be especially protective of little ones. I mean, these pictures will be up for their entire lives and those of their grandchildren (when, unless they are capable of saying something like "Google?.... no... never heard of it")(Sort of like DEC) and I don't want to embarrass them. Well, OK, I don't care if I embarrass them, but what I do care about is evil people seeing their picture here and then being able to track them down. If you are an Evil person, don't try to do that or I will cut your heart out.

Oh, there are a few pictures here, which were chosen to be unidentifiable and safe and have been approved by Dad.

It was dark by the time we got the boats loaded and headed out. We did near 10 miles. We had a really great adventure. But, yes, we had no agates. We had no agates today.