Portland’s Epic Snow Storm

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I apologize for the delay in posting but Portland is going through one of our biggest snow storms of the last 20-30 years.  The blog has taken a back seat to long treks to work and the joy and wonder of walking and shooting hundreds of pictures in the snow.

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Iconic Portland sign framed by snow.

We got over a foot in the space of about 8 hours.  And it all happened over night so imagine the joy (or horror depending on your outlook) of waking up to this magical new world.  It has been a challenge to get around – the car has been in the garage and I am getting a lot of good walking done.

It has been unusually cold so nothing has melted since the snow fell last Tuesday night.  And we have had a beautiful “wolf” moon – so the moon sets and night time walks have been spectacular.

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The West Hills from the roof of my hospital.

Words really can’t describe the beauty so I will let the pictures tell the story.

On the first morning of the storm – we received about 12 inches and it was still snowing.  Getting to work was challenging – Portland is just not that prepared for these kinds of snow events.  When I finally got on a bus headed to work – our bus got stuck behind another bus (see photograph below).

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A big shout out to Tri-Met our local mass transit company – they weren’t perfect but they got a lot of Portlanders to work, to needed healthcare, to events – the bus drivers did their best under stressful conditions.

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Favorite Roads – Columbia River highway

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The famous Rowena curves of the Columbia River highway.

This is a continuation of my Favorite Roads Series… see first Favorite Road post here.

This post and others to follow – I will share thoughts and pictures on  my favorite road in Oregon – the historic Columbia River highway.  A 75 mile scenic two lane road following the Columbia River from Troutdale to The Dalles in Oregon.

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The highway near Rowena Crest is a great area to cycle.

Photographing the historic highway provides a bounty of creative opportunity – from waterfalls to tree lined roads to historic structures (Vista House, Multnomah Falls Lodge), bridges, wildflowers, hiking trails, basalt columns, and views – in the posts ahead I will share some of my favorite spots.  Today’s post is about one of the most famous sections of the highway – the Rowena loops and crest.

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Balsamroot and lupine as far as the eye can see at Rowena Plateau.

As with many great rivers across the world, the Columbia River has a tremendous history – from native Americans to the explorers Lewis and Clark – the Oregon Trail, and in the 20th century the burst of dam building and the building of the new freeway which parallels the historic Columbia River highway.

Pictured at the top of this post are the famous Rowena Crest curves – one of the most photographed spots in Oregon.  When the highway was built vehicles could not manage anything more than a 10% grade – so engineers created a series of  curves and loops to make the gradual 500 foot ascent to the top of Rowena Crest – not knowing they were creating a photographer’s dream.

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Rowena Narrows – where pirates would dwell.

Before dams flooded this area – Rowena was where the river narrowed as it passed basalt cliffs – Rowena Crest on the south side and Klickitat River watershed on the north.  Pirates and others tried to seize boats passing through the “narrows”.  There was a small army post at the base of Rowena Crest to protect the boats and others in this area.  A young Army lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant was commissioned here for a short time before he went on to become a famous Civil War general and then president of the United States.

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View of Columbia River highway from Rowena Crest.

Oregon Mountain Snow Day

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Mt. Hood Meadows

Coast, Columbia Gorge, mountains, wine country – such abundance and so much to be grateful for here in Oregon.  In 2016 I did a lot of exploring and only barely scratched the surface.  I can’t wait to keep going in 2017…

New Years Eve – my older brother Phil and I opted to explore Oregon’s Mt. Hood ski area.  He skied and I pulled a camera out of the bag that I haven’t used for a while.  I need to sell it but like an ex-lover, I wanted one more day together.

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Crystal cone

We went to Mt. Hood Meadows Nordic Center – full of friendly, fit, sober, Subaru owners!

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Big brother looking awesome!

Tale of Two Cities – Ice Storm Part 2

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That sweet little snow storm I was alluding to in the last post – turned into the ice storm I was dreading and hit Portland hard.  We started with enough snow to cancel school on Thursday.  And forecasters stated the cold air was going to move out early Friday.  But it didn’t do that… and more precipitation and cold winds created a thick icy coat over everything.  Every tree sagged from the additional weight with devastating results.

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One of many broken trees along NE Alameda, Portland, Oregon

And the city just wouldn’t warm up and two days of carrying that weight is too long for many trees to bear.  

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This tree imploded.

But in my neighborhood just a few miles south – and a few degrees warmer – it was a much different story.  Just good old fashioned Oregon rain.

Its sad to see so many trees go down but that is nature taking its course.  We have had ice storms in this area since the Columbia Basalt Field rose up above the river to create that beautiful gorge. 

Ice storms can be devastating but they sure are beautiful. 

 

Sense of Place – Portland & Snow

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A rare blanket of snow in my neighborhood from January, 2016.

Portland is expecting a snow event in the next 24-48 hours. 

Those two words don’t go together very well.  Its like Pepe LePeu and the Paris cat getting together – not pretty.  It doesn’t happen very often but when it does – the city shuts down.

Even though half of our city is now immigrants from places that regularly get snow – we still manage to fuck it up.  These are people who know how to drive in snow.  I am not saying we Oregonians don’t add an appropriate amount of chaos to the situation – we definitely do.  But somehow all sanity leaves perfectly good drivers when cold weather comes to Portland.

Here is why… Portland is uniquely located at the confluence of two things: 1) the Columbia Gorge which is a perfect conduit for frigid cold air from the inland and 2) the Pacific Ocean.  Moisture meets frigid air doesn’t create fluffy, pretty snow.  It creates ICE!

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A lesson in keeping your garage clean so the car fits!

Snow in Portland is like the brother in law no one likes and who annoys everyone at holiday gatherings.  Thankfully – just like your annoying brother-in-law – snow doesn’t visit us very often.

PS – I take the bus. 

Sense of Place – Astoria, Oregon

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With no destination in mind – but with a firm desire to road trip – I left my last meeting on Friday with only the open road before me.  I had to get home from Dash Point, Washington to Portland.  This is a quarterly trip so I was used to the routine of getting on I-5 south.  Part of me wanted to get home and be a responsible leaf-raking home owner.

For no reason that I can explain, just north of Centralia I veered off the freeway and headed to the coast.  Ironically – the retreat I had been just attending was all about decision making. My head was full of ethical discernments.  This was spontaneous – absolutely no discerning other than seeing a road sign saying “Aberdeen/Raymond” next exit.

Taking all the anticipation out of this road trip tale – I ended up in Astoria, Oregon for 2 days.  Best decision I have made in quite some time – I must have learned something at that retreat.

Some of the highlights:

Early morning photo shooting in Astoria and exploring this wonderful and historic town – founded in 1811!

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Early morning at the Cannery Hotel

Wave watching at Cape Disappointment (not disappointing!!)

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Buoy Beer for dinner

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And finally, there is this little church about 2 miles west of the Astoria Megler bridge on the way to Ilwaco, Washington that I have passed a hundred times.  It’s in the middle of nowhere but is beautiful in its simplicity and isolation.  I have regretted never stopping and learning the story of this church by the sea.  I stopped.

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St. Mary’s Church, McGowan, Washington

History fans (I am one!) should read Peter Stark’s Astoria – recently released in paperback – for a closer look at the early years of Astoria.

Astoria has transformed from river city with an economy and industry (most significantly fish canneries) reliant on the Columbia River – to an artistic corner of Oregon – focused on tourism and the two mainstays of Oregon – beer and coffee.

The Columbia River is still a strong force.  Cargo ships provide entertainment as their huge hulks pass by the waterfront. And the nautical history is never far away – including the Flavel House Museum (George Flavel was the Columbia’s first river pilot back in 1850).  But you are more likely to see Willapa Bay Oysters featured on area menu’s than Columbia River salmon.

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