Wednesday, January 18, 2012

West Coast Winter

Here in Eugene we are, at last, circling the deep pit of winter.  It's only 1:00, but the sky outside my office looks like dusk.  It's been raining for days, with only a brief teaser of snow.  So here I sit, reading posts of the "snowpocalypse" in Seattle, missing it dearly and finding myself unable to focus.

As horrible as it is, the shitstorm down here means the white stuff up there.  I got a taste of it this weekend; two days of fresh powder.  One day, Bert and I went up behind Hoodoo and lapped a rolling hill of fluffy, light, snow.

 Doing it in style.

 Trying to ski down a hill with skins on. 


Loving the pow.



 There's a rock in there.
Hayrick Butte

Happy Campers

Overnight the cascades got dumped on again.  Lauren, Eric, Peter and I drove to Willamette Pass and went in search of more powder.  Only two lifts were running, so we found some abandoned groomers to skin up.  We climbed to just below Eagle Peak where there was a steep pitch of thigh deep powder and stopped for some lunch.  The snow was deep, but light as a feather.  I managed a handful of turns that just glided through the snow like butter.  We cruised the rest of the way down to the parking lot and stopped into the lodge for a hot beverage.






Now I'm at home where it isn't as dismal.  There is still a sheet of water coming down outside and a comprable downpour of snowy city pictures from up north.  In an attempt to salvage our day, Lauren and I have retreated to the warmth of my living room to make soup, eat a loaf of sourdough bread and read papers on a cozy couch.  Hopefully that mountain snow will stick around for our next adventure, but for now, this will do.



Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Closing Out 2011

I started off December with a week in San Francisco.  We were there for the American Geophysical Union's annual meeting.  It was sunny and warm, perfect for my first trip to SF (that I can remember).  The week was a blur of science and beer, punctuated by maybe an absurd amount of conversations with homeless people.  The best part was getting to see a few of my Seattle friends; most of those nights are foggy, but I think it was just like old times.

After a three day struggle to finish my last final, I packed up to leave Eugene for the rest of the month.

"Your brain on Microsoft Excel": My biggest accomplishment in those three days.

My first stop was McMinnville to visit Whitney, my old high school partner in crime (literally).  We had a great lunch at Community Plate, a rustic little spot downtown.  The rest of the afternoon was spent, watching every holiday episode of The Office, drinking wine and reminiscing.  



I made my way to Hood River to spend a few days with Peter.  On Thursday, Sandra and Timothy came over from Portland and we played around in the Teacup Lake Snowpark.  It was my first time on touring skis and I spent a few minutes stumbling and tripping but got the hang of it fairly quickly.  The sun was shining and the snow was soft.  We finished off with a beer at Double Mountain Brewery.





The following day I skied alone at Hood Meadows while Peter worked.  I was borrowing skis that felt clumsy and unforgiving, not to mention the snow was a consistency similar to that of cream cheese.  I have skied since I was a small child and feel completely comfortable getting down anything in bounds, but that day on the slopes destroyed my confidence.  I was just a turd out there.   

The Talking Tree, Mt. Hood


The next day I went on my first real tour.  We skinned up east of Timberline on Mt. Hood and Peter taught me kick turns, and how to use an avalanche beacon.  We did a few drills and I was proficient at finding a hidden beacon.  I also managed to locate, probe and dig out a buried backpack . . . at the expense of putting a hole in the nylon.  The weather was beautiful, but as it cooled off a crust formed on the snow.  Skiing back down was a rhythmic pshhhh-whump! pshhhh-whump! pshhhh-whump! as I fell at every attempt to turn.  The sun was setting as we reached the parking lot and Hood looked as though it was on fire. 

 Timberline
 Mt. Hood
Mt. Jefferson

The next day we set out for the Washington Family Christmas Tour.  We spent a day in Yakima with my family, eating, drinking and merrying.  Then a day in Seattle with his family doing the same.  After he went back to Hood River, I stayed a few days to make the rounds in Seattle.  After returning to Yakima, my days were filled with family time.  This is the farthest I have lived from home and after months of not seeing my family, it was wonderful to be there.  I got another ski day in at White Pass, my home slope than went much better than the first at Hood.  Now outfitted with my "new" skis from Peter, I felt much more like my old skiing self.  Not as much turdiness. 

New Years weekend brought another cabin party.  On Friday, Bert, Lauren and Nathan came to Yakima from Seattle.  I took them to the best taco truck in town and it lived up to its reputation.  After collecting food and spirits for the weekend, we spent the evening hanging out and drinking margaritas.  Peter joined us later in the evening and in the morning we set off for the cabin with the family dog, Lucy, in tow.



The American Ridge Lodge used to be a small ski resort in the 1930's and 40's, now you can rent it out for reasonable fee.  A spur of the Bailey cabin group was there in addition to us. We packed the festivities into sleds and skinned up to the cabin.  A cord of wood was ordered for the weekend so most of us returned to the parking lot to shuttle our needed warmth back up the hill.  



We rang in the New Year by the light of a few Coleman lanterns and keg cups filled with champagne.  After midnight people began to slowly trickle off to the corners to sleep.  The sun rose in a clear sky on New Years Day.  After breakfast, a large group set off on a ski tour.  The snow was less than desirable . . . okay, awful, but as we climbed it grew deeper and less icy.  We stopped to eat lunch on an exposed ridge before skiing down. 

Photo: Eric McNeill


Back at the cabin we set to work on the kegs, more out of duty than anything else.  The afternoon was mild and we sat on the porch enjoying the sun.



Did I mention this cabin comes equipped with a 20 seat outhouse?  'Cause it does . . .


The night brought even more merriment than NYE, perhaps too much to contain.

    


Monday, we packed up at a leisurely pace and made our way back down to the cars.  Dragging full sleds up a hill is a different ball game than pulling them down; it's open to much more creativity.

video


I spent the next couple of days in Hood River.  On Tuesday, Lauren and Eric joined us for a tour at Tilly Jane on Hood.  Typical for this winter, the sun was shining and the snow was icy.  We investigated the Tilly Jane Cabin for future activities and found ourselves having a beer with an eccentric woman at the historic Cloud Cap Inn.






The last scraps of vacation brought a day at Mt Hood Meadows (with the VIP pass, no less), a day in Portland and, back in Eugene, an unseasonably warm day hike.

 Mt. Jefferson from Hood Meadows

Sandra and Timothy in Forest Park, Portland


Mt. June

All in all, it was a successful closing of 2011.  Here's to a new year with new adventures!

Left to right: Jefferson, Sisters, Diamond Peak (and those in between).


Addendum:  A few more pictures of wood . . .