Today is the anniversary of my first full day living in Portland. A year ago I was rousing myself from bed after a sleepless night, afraid I wouldn’t be able to drive down a steep hill to the Trader Joe’s. I lived in a dark hole, was unemployed, and was quite depressed.
Now I bike to work in the mornings–weather permitting–along a bike trail right by my rental bungalow. I live in a nice neighborhood. I have roses, tomatoes, and hummingbirds in my garden. I have a job that drives me to the brink of insanity a lot of the time, but also challenges me in a way that none of my previous jobs did. I’m throwing a dinner party at my house for my office next week.
There’s plenty of adventure yet to come, but writing about it here is starting to seem more like a chore than anything else. I already tell my stories on the phone or in person to those I want to hear them. Posting them on the internet for strangers…I don’t see what good it does. Lord knows we could all use more human contact instead of staring at screens all the time.
I’ll be back on here if I hit a major life milestone (e.g., house, getting a record deal, becoming a famous writer…) but until then, you know where to find me.
Did you know that when tomatoes encounter temperatures above 90 degrees, it inhibits the ripening of the fruits?
Did you know that it’s also been consistently in the 90s most of this summer in Portland?
Am I in the South? No! So why is it so fucking hot???
It is now late August and my tomatoes are mostly green. I was rolling in Early Girls last year by this time. I had to give them away, I had so many. Really not a fan of the growing season in these parts.
Other things I’m not a fan of: When my favorite food cart pod of all time gets kicked off its property so more shitty condos can be built.
Does nobody understand that if you get rid of everything people enjoy about living here, NO ONE WILL MOVE INTO YOUR CONDOS BECAUSE NO ONE WILL WANT TO LIVE HERE? Ted Wheeler, are you listening???
I need a nice vacation somewhere out in the country where the temperature doesn’t make me want to kill myself, where there isn’t noise or a homelessness issue and where there’s a nice lake where I can swim and drink wine and be at peace.
Let’s start with the good: a few weeks ago, on a whim, I decided it was time for us to go deep-sea fishing. I had only Yelp reviews to go on when it came to the purveyor of the trip, and so I signed us up for a five-hour trip out of Newport, OR. We ended up being on a fishing boat with a bunch of rednecks for five hours. But we did get to fish for rockfish (?) of which there is quite a variety–orange fish, gray fish, giant sea monster-looking fish (sadly I did not catch one of these, though I must say our fish haul rivaled those of the others in the boat). We also got to watch the captain/crew fish for Dungeness crab (throw a baited trap over the boat, wait three hours, reel in trap, crabs abound). Our share was something like 20 crabs for the two of us…we made a game attempt, but did not manage to finish all the crabs. It was a great day and I need to get out on the ocean again soon. We didn’t even get seasick!
And now, the bad. It got really, really hot in Portland. Record-breaking hot. Hotter than Iv’e ever experienced in Chicago. And just because the heat wasn’t bad enough, we were also stuck under a blanket of wildfire smoke that drifted down from Canada on the hot winds from hell. Going outside was a painful experience. I brought a thermometer out with me and watched it register 105. I baked cookies on the dashboard of my car. But you can only have so much fun when you feel like you are being baked in a giant oven owned by Satan himself. I even spent a night sleeping on the basement floor (concrete) in search of just a bit of cool…the heat lasted for TWO WEEKS STRAIGHT and only broke yesterday. If this is a taste of what global warming will bring, I truly hope I’m dead and gone before the worst of it begins.
Desperate to escape the heat of hell Portland, seeds and I spent a weekend visiting the Crater Lake area. Crater Lake is quite remote and lacks many accommodations, so we stayed about two hours outside the park in a converted school bus (Airbnb…) No hot water for showers–damn, that was a cold shower–a composting toilet (fixture of cheap Airbnbs everywhere)…otherwise it was quite comfortable. After spending Friday night in the bus, we headed off Saturday to Crater Lake. The closer we got to the park, the smokier it got. The sky even took on an orange cast so it was all the more evident we were descending into hell. When we got to the gates of the park we found that half the park was closed because it was LITERALLY ON FIRE!!! We went on a “scenic” hike in the non-burning portion of the park, but the thick blanket of smoke prevented us from seeing much. This was much worse than the smoke being blown into Portland–you could smell the burning air you were breathing in, and see the divide between clean air and smoky death air at elevation. To make matters worse, the butterflies in the park were spawning madly and were whirling through the air, knocking into your arms and legs. I have never been so afraid of butterflies.
That said, I did get to jump off a cliff into the lake, and I got to swim in the lake. I’d been warned the temperature was glacial, but it wasn’t too bad. The park rangers told us that the water was clean enough to drink (“cleaner than the stuff coming out of your tap at home”…little did they know we were staying in a bus with water that smelled like sulfurous devil liquid), but we passed on that one…
Thankfully for dinner there was In N Out because Medford is close enough to the California border that they saw fit to put one in. Also note that in the recent Eater article of “southern Oregon restaurants worth traveling for,” this particular In N Out (I believe Oregon’s only) features prominently. The Californians are laughing at us.
On the way home we stopped at a fish and chip shop, a brewery that grows its own hops, and a winery whose bottles we couldn’t afford. Ah, Oregon.
This weekend was a lovely hike on Mt. Hood early in the morning before the other encroaching hikers arrived. We saw the mountain for the first time in two weeks (smoke) and also discovered some berry bounty that we’ll be back to pick next week.
Here’s to a fall that comes sooner rather than later. I want to break out my flannels again.
It’s certainly been an interesting month, though things are quieting down now.
Here’s what I’ve been up to:
Made a brief trip back to Chicago for a wedding. Jumped in Lake Michigan, of course.
Went on a great wildflower hike about 2.5 hours south of Portland. Never seen so many wildflowers.
Celebrated the 4th. Fireworks are legal in Oregon. We took advantage of that.
Ran a marathon. Yes, I did it. I ran the Missoula Marathon. It was really difficult, my stomach rebelled against me, and they even shortened the span you had to complete the race because of the intense heat (100+ degree days)—thankfully, I finished before that point. I’m not sure what to do with myself after psyching myself up about the marathon for so long. Triathlon? I might need some help with the swimming portion.
Visited a ghost town. This might have been my favorite part of the trip to Montana. I could have spent the whole day in the ghost town. Love the false-front buildings, the history of westward expansion, the remote setting…
Visited Glacier National Park post-marathon. Very crowded. Very beautiful. We made friends with some marmots (Western groundhogs, essentially); I fell down a hill (I survived); we saw a glacier that will be gone in 13 years (and yet our President is a climate change denier…every day this makes me sadder); and we did some intense hiking.
Got sick. See: marathon and Glacier National Park. I would be the person to do the 13-mile hike when I should have been in bed. When I got back from the trip and talked to my boss over the phone, he heard how congested I was and sent me home…
Biked to work. Biking to work changes lives, if your town has the infrastructure for it. Not only do I get to enjoy river views every day on my commute—not to mention sightings of various birds of prey overhead as a result of a nearby bird sanctuary—but my legs have never looked better. Even when I got my bike tire stuck in the MAX tracks and ripped up my side/permanently effed up my finger, I still bike to work. Just do it!
Last week Tuesday I woke up at an ungodly hour and hauled ass to PDX for my flights to Santa Fe (PDX->Phoenix, then Phoenix->Santa Fe) to be trained for work. Little did I know that the Santa Fe airport is about the size of a hotel lobby, with only one gate, and all the planes get unloaded right on the tarmac. That was an interesting surprise. Then they gave me a bright red Jeep and I catatonically drove through the streets seeking sustenance until I got some cheesy New Mexican food at a diner, drove another half an hour south to my Airbnb, and lay on the bed for two hours straight, unable to move because I was so exhausted.
The Airbnb was out in the boonies, but it was lovely and quiet. I think I accidentally offended my Airbnb host by not talking to her ever, but in my defense I was at work most of the day.
As for work, I got to meet many of the people I’ll be working with in person in Santa Fe before I spend the next however many months talking to them on the phone. They’re all smart people, and I ended up working an 11-hour day my second day of work and didn’t even mind.
The food in Santa Fe was superb–lots of red and green chiles, but also some damn tasty healthy food and Indian food I searched out–and the sun was strong and high in the sky. The only thing I disliked was the altitude because it made it very difficult to run, but I suppose it’s good marathon training.
Back I flew from Santa Fe on Friday night to find Portland rainy (rare in summer) and in the 50s–where it stayed all week. How depressing.
I’m acclimating to my office space downtown and to the all-encompassing mental and physical exhaustion that comes from working 8-hour days. It’s not like I haven’t had a full-time job before, and my commute has been much worse in the past (in fact, I biked to work on Tuesday, and it was only a 15-minute ride, though it was cheating somewhat because I was going to a different office than the usual one and one that was much closer to my house).
After this week, it was nice to take today and do a little exploring by the coast.
First stop was Cape Disappointment State Park in Washington, about 2.5 hours’ drive from our place. It was a disappointment because an explorer who ended up there couldn’t find the Columbia River (he was so close!) and was thus disappointed. Though it was too buggy to hike much, we did see two lighthouses and a lighthouse museum. Lighthouse museums are one of my favorite things because a) I aspire to be a lighthouse keeper and b) shipwrecks. Plus, and I’m not sure why this is, the copy written for lighthouse museum displays is always funny, quirky, and absurd. Stories from this one included knock-down, drag-out fights over oyster hunting grounds and the ghost of the first lighthouse keeper’s wife, who flung herself off a cliff in the throes of depression (“melancholia” back then) and may or may not haunt the lighthouse to this day. Ok, so the latter story is not exactly funny, but it does make me glad our research into mental health issues has advanced beyond where it was in the 1800s.
I also bought a $5 ticket for a raffle to win a night’s stay in a lighthouse keeper’s cottage at the park. The drawing is in September.
When we were paying for our admission to the park, I got the opportunity to peruse the brochures on the wall and found one for a garlic festival 15 miles north that just happened to be taking place today! So we drove there. Camo and trucks as far as the eye could see. I had been transported back to hell Ohio! Except Ohio didn’t have deep-fried garlic on a stick, so this was slightly better,
Next stop was Astoria, Oregon, and the fish and chip shop (in a boat) Oprah raved about in the latest issue of her magazine. The fish and chips were tuna, not cod, so less oozy. Delectable. Although if Oprah has ever set foot in Astoria, Oregon, I’ll eat that boat.
No trip to Astoria is complete without a stop at the Astoria column. We could climb it, so we did. They are making bank off that $5 admission to the column–though it is good for the entire year, so maybe we should just go back there every weekend to get our money’s worth.
Back when it was still cold and rainy in Portland, my husband and I planned a trip to San Diego. Naturally, a week before we leave, the weather breaks and we get sun and 70s every day. I’ll never understand this climate.
We got to San Diego and it was in the 60s, while Portland was in the 90s (huh?) We stayed in an Airbnb in Ocean Beach, which hasn’t changed since the 1970s, although all the old Beetles I remember being there a decade ago are gone now. We found some great cafes for acai bowls (they seem to be a thing in SoCal), did some kayaking in La Jolla (sea lions!), and visited Point Loma. We got out of our car at the latter because the line to get in was so long, only to find that there were no sidewalks anywhere because people do not walk in California. We walked all the way down to the tide pools on the shoulder of the road, but the tide was high and we couldn’t see anything. Then we walked all the way back up the road to the lighthouse, but there were too many tourists cramming themselves inside to see much. Not sure what the lesson there is. Don’t walk in California?
The following day we visited the attraction formerly known as the Wild Animal Park, which has rebranded itself and now extorts money from you at every opportunity. At least the money is going to a good cause, I hope. From there we drove to Ironside Fish & Oyster downtown, where we had uni for the first time (mmm), oysters of course, and I ate one of the best fish sandwiches of my life. The fish was something totally obscure that I forget the name of.
The next day we hit the road to Joshua Tree National Park by way of a detour past the Salton Sea. As an aficionado of abandoned things, I’ve been wanting to visit the sea for a long time. We stopped by the shore at Bombay Beach, formerly a resort town and now mostly graffitied husks of 50s-era beachside buildings and RVs. Frighteningly, people also still live in the town. The Salton Sea is beautiful, but not the place to take a dip.
Joshua Tree was broiling because it is in the desert, and I didn’t consider when booking the trip that summer in the desert might be hot. We managed to go on a couple of hikes, and lucked out on our second (and last) day in the park when the temperature dropped into the 70s under overcast skies. We were able to hike 6 miles that day, which included a view of an old gold mine (there’s GOLD in them thar hills!) and, of course, the Joshua Trees, which are truly astounding. I’ll definitely be back to Joshua Tree when the weather is a little bit more conducive to hiking—I still have to see the cactus garden and the Keys Ranch (damn I love hearing about homesteaders).
Now I’m back in Portland, where the sun is shining, for a grand total of five days, then I’m off to Santa Fe for job training.
In other news, one of my toenails fell off while I was training for the marathon I’m running in July, so I guess I can say I’m a real athlete now, albeit one very repulsed by what running can do to the body.
The last week has probably been the wildest I’ve had since we moved to Portland.
Last Saturday I finally went up to Mount St. Helens for the first time after a month of volunteering for MSHI. The weather was atrocious (blizzarding at times…in mid-May), and while that drove most of the people away, it also meant that we got an up close and personal hike with a naturalist! We learned all about the hummocks (rocks that got spewed from the volcano when it erupted) and the plants and animals on the volcano. It still boggles my mind that we were walking around on a volcano that erupted within living memory.
Sunday we visited Breitenbush Hot Springs, about 2.5 hours’ drive from our house. While it was next to impossible to get ahold of the reception desk to make reservations–which fill up months in advance–it ended up being well worth the hassle. The springs are remote and quiet and there are plenty of pools of various temperatures to relax in. It was cold and raining (and hailing), which felt refreshing on our NAKED SKIN as we sat in the pools. That’s right, the hot springs are clothing optional! The older I get, the less I care about nudity. It’s very liberating.
On Monday I learned that I’d scored an interview for a job I really wanted and also that the interview was in Denver. So I bought plane tickets, a hotel room, and reserved a rental pickup truck because it was supposed to snow when I was out there. I flew out Thursday afternoon and had an all-day interview Friday, then flew back to Portland late Friday night, getting into PDX a little after midnight. It was exhausting but worthwhile; I got to drive a huge truck and…I got the job! More on that when I’ve signed an official offer letter.
I didn’t have time to plan what to do this weekend because I spent the whole week cramming for my interview, so I figured that today we’d go on a short hike to a lake and read, sunbathe, and perhaps even swim. But the lake was in the mountains. You know what else is in the mountains? Snow. Even when it’s nearly June. So there we were traipsing through the snow as the sun beat down and it was around 70 degrees and hot…but there was still snow under our feet…and snow covering the trail. We made it to the lake after falling into countless holes in the snow and of course the lake was frozen. At least we got to stop at a trout farm on the way home.
It seems every weekend is an exercise in how little I know about mountains. You might even say learning about mountains is an uphill climb.
While my weekdays have left me tired at best and anguished at worst, I’ve nevertheless been trying to make our weekends enjoyable.
Last weekend was mushroom hunting through Wildcraft Studio School in Portland. This was actually a Christmas present for my husband and I bought tickets way in advance. We met our mushroom-hunting guide and a bunch of other foragers (mostly couples; I guess this is a couples’ activity in the PNW) near White Salmon, WA, then ventured to two super-secret mushroom picking spots to search for morels. Apparently everyone has his or her own morel spot and it’s a closely guarded secret, particularly now that the season started so late this year. One of our spots was a recently clear-cut forest, an environment where morels apparently like to grow. I found a large grouping of them and was excited out of my mind. Alas, we got skunked for the next two hours–which featured morel hunting in a forest–and I was in a bad mood for the rest of the day. That said, when cooked, the morels were delectable. Nice and meaty.
This weekend we did a hike in the Gorge: Dog Mountain. Dog Mountain is known as a wildflower hike and the wildflowers were just starting to come out, but not in full bloom yet. I forced my poor husband to wake up at 5 am so we could get to the parking lot before it filled up (and it did fill up. So there). Up at the top of the mountain the wind was blowing strongly, the temperature had to be in the 30s without wind chill, and fog obscured our view of the Gorge, but dissipated every couple of minutes or so, offering us a glimpse at good views. I did not pack enough layers and was convinced I was going to die, but we made it out. It was quite a grueling hike and a great workout.
We also managed to take a break this week to check out the rhododendron garden near our house. The place is HUGE, much larger than I expected, and only costs $5 to enter. The rhododendrons are flourishing, as they do in PDX, and there is also water and plenty of birds, including ducklings and goslings. I’ll be back there for sure.
It’s hard to believe it’s already May. I don’t know where the time has gone. I wish all these months of effort had resulted in employment.