Thursday, July 29, 2010

On the Road: Summer 2010

The Road North and Southern Oregon (round one)

Cleo and I loaded the car and headed north at the end of June for a four-week trip to visit friends and family, collect field data, and spend time hiking, camping, and paddling. Our trip started with a six-hour drive via Interstate 395 to Mammoth Lakes, CA. Once clear of the city (it takes about two hours of driving to get through San Diego and the outskirts of L.A.) the drive
is pretty nice. The road crosses the desert then parallels the Sierra for well over 400 miles. The scenery is stunning, wide open basins covered in sage and grasslands, flanked on either side by 10,000-ft peaks. The distant views of valleys filled with aspens and flowing water help to erase the troubled thoughts brought on by heavy city traffic and the scenes of urban sprawl.

Mammoth Lakes makes for a nice pit-stop. Apart from excellent beer produced by Mammoth Lakes Brewing and superb access to the east side of the Sierra, this place still has an air of southern California about it. Strip developments, architecture in poor taste, and not much in the way of local personality.

After our overnight stay, we drove north to Sierraville, CA,
where a friend had recommended we stay at a hot-springs "resort". After about four hours of driving we found ourselves in Sierraville. The resort was a bit on the crunchy side of things complete with bare feet and patchouli, but the real deal killer was the $60 that they wanted for a campsite! Knowing that we were about a six hour drive from Grants Pass (our first major stopover point), we decided to have lunch and continue the drive north.

Our lunch spot near Sierraville CA

Following lunch we made the remainder of the drive to Grants Pass (total drive for day two, 550 miles).

The primary reason for our first stop through southern Oregon was to visit family and help re-roof my grandparents Naranjo's garage. The job was a big one, but we all pitched in and got it done in two days. The best part of the job was sharing more than one side-splitting laugh with the crew!

The roofing crew from left to right: Grandpa Chris, Cousin Brian, Jason, and my Dad (Chris)

The roofing crew from left to right: Jason, Dad, Grandpa Chris, my brother Alex and nephew Devik

Brian and Jason survey the job

Cleo on clean-up detail

Dad and Alex prep the roof for new materials

Cheers! To a job well done!

The day following the roofing job Cleo and I went to Ashland for dinner and a play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. We enjoyed dinner on Lithia Creek at the well-established Munchies Cafe and then headed for our seats to watch Twelfth Night.

On our way to the performance via Lithia Park

The performance was wonderful! Next time we are back through the area we'll try to catch more than one.

Hood River, the Columbia River Gorge, and Portland

On the morning of July 1st we drove to Hood River for the holiday weekend. The town of Hood River is a special place. Good food, nice people, great beer, beautiful surroundings, and easy access to everything from world-class whitewater kayaking to hiking and cycling.

Mt. Hood and the Hood River Valley as seen from the Oak Ridge Trail

While in Hood River we camped with friends at Tucker Park and enjoyed four days of good times! Two of the four days I spent on the White Salmon River kayaking the Green Truss and Farmlands sections, and two of days were spent hiking and relaxing. Cleo also visited a few farm stands and wineries and bought cherries, strawberries, fruit preserves, and wine.

Jason running "Cheese Grater" on the Green Truss
Photo by Nathan Pfeifer

Jason running "Little Brother" on the Green Truss
Photo by Nathan Pfeifer

Cleo taking in the view on Oak Ridge Trial

Wildflower on the Oak Ridge Trail

To finish off our stay we all headed to our favorite Hood River breakfast spot for fresh Dungeness Crab Eggs Benedict. Bette's does it right! Following breakfasts we drove west towards Portland where Cleo and I met up with Nate for a out-and-back hike at Eagle Creek. This trail is a bit crowded due to its relative ease and close proximity to Portland. That said, the scenery is high quality and the hike should not be missed.

Stream crossing on the Eagle Creek trail

Falls on Eagle Creek

Wildflowers along the Eagle Creek Trail

We spent the next six days of our trip in Portland collecting field data and enjoying the city. Thanks to Dan Watson we had comfortable accommodations in a cool location. Dan's place is located in the Hollywood District and provided easy access to both downtown and Cleo's study site. Dan's neighborhood is Portland at its finest. Walkable, bike friendly, excellent groceries, bars, cafes, and restaurants. On two of the evening we went out for dinner and drinks at Cha-Cha-Cha, a Latin/Mexican restaurant in the neighborhood that served up high quality food and well mixed margaritas. The Saturday prior to our departure we spent the morning at the neighborhood's growers market. While there we bough fresh salmon from a Native man from Underwood, WA, blueberries, raspberries, baguette bread, oysters, and home brew!

Our haul from the market

Later in the day we picked red currants at a local farm and Cleo made a custard pie topped with the fresh fruit. While Cleo baked Dan and I grilled the fish.

Freshly picked red currants!

While in Portland there was work that needed to be done. Cleo is in the process of completing her masters degree in Watershed Science. Her thesis focuses on the relationship between water quality and riparian vegetation and the implications that watershed management has for user groups. To complete this work she identified Rock Creek as her study site. The creek flows through the densely forested hills northwest of Portland, through farmlands and urban space before joining the Tualatin River. Cleo's study required that we take a variety of measurements at 14 different points along the creek from the forested sections into the urban areas. I acted as her field assistant. We spent five days wading, collecting data, swatting mosquitoes, chopping blackberry vines, and observing the nature of the creek. The work was difficult at times, but we had a great time doing it. Cleo's work is important because a large and growing number of user groups (e.g. farmers for agriculture and cities for drinking water) depend on clean water and the services that it provides. Understanding the science and policy implications of watershed health will allow for decisions to be made that promote the protection of water as one of our most valuable natural resources.

One of Cleo's data collection points on Rock Creek

Cleo measuring the creek's "wetted width"

Cleo determining the slope of the stream bank

Jason helping to measure the steam depth

The work complete and our car a bit heavier from recent purchases at Powell's Book Store, we turned south and drove to Eugene. The time spent in Portland made us both realize all the more that we would like to live there some time in the near future.

Eugene and Southern Oregon (round two)

Eugene, what can I say..... Still sleepy, plenty friendly, and a tad bit annoying. The time we spent in Eugene visiting friends was much needed. Leaving Eugene and moving to San Diego last year was difficult for both of us, primarily because our social group stayed and we moved on. These folks are like family. It felt good to reconnect with people and spend time laughing and catching up. Nate and Emily made sure that we had a warm bed and a place to call home while we were in town. Our days in Eugene were fairly lazy and began with coffee at Vero.

Cleo appreciating the start of another day

Stumptown Coffee starts the day of right

Several of our afternoons were spent out to lunch with friends. The evenings were filled with BBQ's, laughs, and top-notch ale. On one of the days, I had a lunch planned and Cleo had materials that she needed to access at one of University of Oregon's libraries. Upon meeting late that afternoon, Cleo told me that she and gotten a ticket. "For what," I asked. She replied, "for J-walking, $115 for crossing the street against a traffic signal!"

The city of Eugene has a number of problems related to law enforcement that range from managing juvenile delinquents, methamphetamine addicts, drunks, and sexual predators in the urban core, to a public image problem created by zealous police officers who use stun-guns to subdue hippies and foreign exchange students. A reasonable person would assume that J-walking would and should be low on the priority list. I guess not.

All things considered our visit in Eugene was a good one and we look forward to seeing those folks that we missed on our next trip through. Thanks to everyone for your smiles, warm hearts, and hospitality.

Leaving Eugene we drove to the Rogue Valley to see a concert, spend more time with family and soak up a little more of the southern Oregon hometown goodness before staring the drive back to San Diego.

We started our stay by celebrating our anniversary with an evening at the Morical House Inn in Ashland and dinner at New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro. The Morical House is a nice bed and breakfast that offers cozy yet refined accommodations. The owner and innkeeper has paid close attention to detail both in the decor and the fare. Rooms are tastefully done with some antiques, botanical prints and quality linens. Breakfast is served in three courses and is made with organic fruits, eggs, and meats. New Sammy's was a treat. This small eclectic restaurant serves dishes that are locally sourced (the veggies are grown on site) and skillfully prepared. It was nice to enjoy such good food in a nice quiet place that was unpretentious yet cultured.

The following evening we went to see the Barenaked Ladies in concert at the Britt in Jacksonville. The Britt is such a cool spot. This open air venue allows you to bring your own food and drinks to the show. No need to eat junk and pay for over priced beverages at this place.

The stage at the Britt

Looking uphill from our place on the lawn

The concert was a hoot! These guys put on an excellent show. They played for over two hours nonstop. Their improv style made for a very entertaining experience. I'm looking forward to seeing them again!

Over the course of the next five days we hiked and camped with my grandparents, BBQ'd with my aunt, uncle and cousins, fished and played horseshoes with my dad, went out for breakfast with my Mom, Don and my brother and his family, swam in the river, and stayed the night with my mom's folks. Needless to say we crisscrossed the valley more than once, but it was all well worth the time behind the wheel.

The Upper North Fork of the Rogue River near Union Creek

Enjoying a the trail with Grandparents Naranjo

Cleo and Grandma Mary Anne patiently waiting for lunch in Union Creek

Grandpa Chris and his new hat (we gave it to him for his 74th birthday)

Breakfast with mom and the family

Dad helping Cleo gear up for fish'n on Lost Creek Lake

Here fishy-fishy....

The catch

Six-Mile Creek swimming hole on the Illinois River

Our time in Oregon came to a close with an overnight visit at my Grandma Vicky and Grandpa Rod's place (mom's folks). We savored grilled salmon and cocktails on the deck while the cool breeze from the river rolled through the garden. It sure was nice to have been home for a while...

The Road South, Yosemite and the Eastern Sierra

Our return trip south took us down Interstate 5 to Stockton then east on Highway 120 through Yosemite to Interstate 395 south to San Diego via Mammoth Lakes. After a long day's drive we made camp at Sweetwater Campground in Stanislaus National Forest ten miles west of the Yosemite park boundary. This was home for next three nights and four days. Yosemite was inspiring. The valley was a bit crowded, but the high country was nearly empty. We did two long day hikes and saw as much as we could while we were there. We will be going back in the near future.

Marshmallow roasting

Fire tending

Yosemite Falls as seen from the valley floor

Nevada Falls as seen from the John Muir Trail

Vernal Falls as seen from the Mist Trail

North Dome towers over the Merced River Valley

Hiking the trail to North Dome summit

Cleo on the North Dome approach

Cleo admiring the view atop North Dome

Half Dome as seen from the approach ridge to North Dome

Coral flowers along the trail to North Dome

We finished our time in Yosemite with a drive east on Tioga Road trough Tuolumne Meadows.

A portion of Tuolumne Meadows

The Tuolumne River flowing through the meadows

Lunch found us at the Tioga Gas Mart and Whoa Nellie Deli in Lee Vinning. Cleo had amazing fish tacos with mango salsa and I had lobster taquitos and salad. The menu at this place ranges from Latin cuisine to Elk steak and mashed potatoes. The food is excellent and the folks serving it up are pleasant. Not your typical inexpensive roadside gut rot by any means. Heading south from Lee Vinning we encountered a substantial thunderstorm. Our plan was to camp that evening, but instead we opted for a warm dry bed at the historic Tamarack Lodge on Twin Lakes just outside of Mammoth Lakes. We spent the remainder of the afternoon watching the storm and sightseeing. On one of our stops at the Minarets Summit view point, we could see the beginnings of a forest fire down in the San Joaquin River valley that was the result of a lightning strike. After sunset we returned to see a portion of the valley in full blaze.

The Tamarack Lodge

Storm clouds emptying over the Owens River basin

Cloud burst and lightning flash with Sierra peaks in the background

Hot Creek in storm

Looking across I-395 towards Mammoth Crest and the Minarets

The Minarets

Cleo at the Minarets Summit view point

Wild flowers and sage at 9,000 ft.

Seeing what I could see

After our brief ramblings in the greater Mammoth Lakes area we saddled up and made the final push to San Diego. 3,700 miles and four weeks and three days later we found ourselves back in San Diego. Thanks to everyone who made our trip enjoyable! We look forward to seeing everyone again soon! Be well.