Suntouched skies and moody sighs

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Week or two preceding 20-Mar-2021


Oregon is beautiful.

Back in University, there was a group of my friends who would take annual trips out to Oregon to ski on Mt. Hood, and to climb at Smith Rock. They called it something along the lines of “Big Sky adventure”… which I never quite understood. They showed some pretty photos, and shared some awesome photos, but I never really understood what they meant by “Big Sky” until I first moved out to Hood River.

Even here in Wilsonville, which is basically a paragon of suburbia, the sky never ceases to amaze me…

A hike to the Coast! The return of Cape Falcon!

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Sunday, 28-Feb-2021



The last few weekends, I’ve been up in the mountains. Snow, cold weather, beautifully crisp air… I love it.

Sometimes, we need a change of scenery though – Sticking with the theme of the weekend, I was hiking with a friend today, and she’d gotten into a crash while snowboarding back on Friday… so she wasn’t quite feeling like hanging out in the snow, which is rather understandable after cracking your helmet after flying through a whiteout.

We went in the other direction, trading cold snow and crisp air for warm breezes and salt spray!

Falcon’s Crest is a fairly short hike, with a surprising amount of mud in that short hike… but it’s a beautiful few miles, with light elevation gain and excellent views. The trees are covered in Moss, the forest is lush and green throughout the year… and while you can’t quite smell the sea air, you can still somehow sense that the ocean is nearby. Maybe it’s the subtle noise of the breakers, or the salt tint to the breeze… I couldn’t quite put a finger on it, but it’s still always an amazing feeling.

We hiked in, avoided as much mud as we could, and enjoyed a nice snack out on the point overlooking the waves.

We hiked back, rested for a while on a bench by the beach, and watched the surfers rock the breaking waves. Having Aliona along, I got to learn quite a bit about the surfers… or more accurately, the waves that they were chasing. That’s what I love about meeting new people, and spending time with friends – you can always learn more about something, if you have someone along for the ride to talk to.

Every activity has such surprising depth to it, and I truly love getting to learn the intricacies behind why people are doing what they’re doing.

After beach-gazing for a while, we headed back to the parking lot for a quick snack before driving back to town – Aliona pulled out a full camp cooking kitchen from the back of her car, and I got to enjoy a rather amazing late-lunch of indian-spiced ramen noodles. Not something I’ve ever thought to try, but it was gloriously delicious – smooth, spicy… an excellent end to a beautifully salt-sprayed day!

Cross Country skiing up the mountain… a little ways up the mountain, at least.

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Saturday, 27-Feb-2021

Mount Hood.

I’ve lived near it for years, now… and somehow, this winter is really the first time since probably 2017 that I’ve regularly gone up to visit. I love the snow, and I’m finally remembering just how much I can enjoy getting out onto the snow fields.

This weekend was a little unique – instead of going on a long solo adventure, I went with someone! Woo actually socializing! Go Ben!

It was a weekend of firsts – My friend Laurel had retreated into her winter cocoon for a while, so this was the first time I’d seen her since the Oregon rains has swept into town. It was also her first time putting chains on her truck, and her first time on cross country skis! Double-win, for double excitement! We met up in Portland, transferred probably too much gear from my car into her truck, and headed out toward the mountain with grins on our faces; there’d been a storm a few days prior, and the forecast was looking beautifully blustery.

Perfect weather to cross country ski in, right?

Right!

Things went pretty much exactly as planned – The roads before Mt. Hood were nice and clear, with a bit of rain and a smattering of traffic… but not much of either, thankfully. We ate breakfast sandwiches as we drove, stopping for coffee along the way. Soon enough we got to the pull off where the traffic cameras showed snow starting to accumulate, and we pulled over to put the chains on the truck before grinding upward into the snow.

Laurel did gloriously; not having much trouble getting the chains on, and then holding a steady hand on the wheel as we forged upward in elevation. Really, not much to say past that – the drive went well, with surprisingly few other cars doing strange things. People… seemed to be pretty sane this weekend, driving slowly and cautiously, with not a single person sliding sideways down the highway (unlike last weekend).

We parked, geared up, and headed into the snow.

The terrain was glorious – the snow was a bit deeper than it had been the weekend before when I was backpacking, but traveling was much quicker thanks to the skis, and the fact that I wasn’t carrying a 40lb backpack through the snow drifts.

Similarly to driving, Laurel did great on the skis – and as always, I got a deeper appreciation for the activity myself after seeing someone new taking to it. It’s why I love teaching people, and exposing people to new things – when you show someone something new, you have the chance to see it through their eyes for a few moments… and remember what it was like the first time you tried that activity.

It’s awesome, and I really appreciate getting to remember just how special and fun some of these adventures of mine are… especially when they start to become almost routine.

We skied ’till we couldn’t ski anymore.

Literally – we got right up to the foot of the glacier, where the trees stop and the mountain begins. It was beautiful.

It was beautiful, but also rather intimidating. Mt. Hood made it clear that we weren’t quite welcome today; the wind picked up as we left the cover of the trees, to the point that making forward progress was basically impossible… and seeing more than 10ft in front of ourselves was completely out of the question.

We’d come far enough though – our goal had always been just to explore and enjoy skiing, while catching up on the last few months, and we were accomplishing that goal quite well. So we didn’t press our luck – we took a short break in the lee of a tree, to have some cocoa and a quick snack of brownie bites. Then, headed back down the mountain toward the parking lot.

The way down was… interesting.

See, Laurel had rented her skis, which meant that they were in great condition and well waxed. Myself, on the other hand, had my pair of hand-me-down skis that some old neighbors had gifted me when they moved out of town. I haven’t ever waxed them, and I’ve been going on quite a few trips so far this year.

When we started downhill, I was pretty quickly left behind. One of my skis was still pretty well waxed, but the other was noticeably less so. But I’m nothing if not resourceful, so as we descended I pretty quickly got the hang of… well, basically skateboarding down the mountain. I’d balance mostly on my waxed ski, pushing off with my unwaxed one. I could control my speed pretty well, and was able to keep my fear of crashing to a pretty controlled unease.

I couldn’t quite keep up, still, but I think I did pretty well, all things considered.

After we arrived back at the truck, the cocoa thermos came out again. Sandwiches were made, cocoa was drank, and views were admired.

We drove home, a drive as uneventful as the drive up, thankfully. Nice and simple – a very good day on the mountain.



Then I got home, after transferring my inordinate amount of gear back into my own car, and found out that Laurel had sneakily attached a tiny hand to my antenna. The danger of hanging out with friends again – the pranks resume.