A weekend of relaxed adventures… or: Winter is upon us, so trips become smaller

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Saturday, 07-November-15
Saturday: hike Starvation Creek with Dave and Anthony, get pizza afterward, Ollie does well
So Winter in the Columbia River Gorge is a lot different than the Winter that I’m used to from New England.  As of November, it had basically just been a series of gross, rainy, cloudy, and unpleasantly cool / wet days.  We hadn’t had any snow, and it hadn’t gotten cold enough to have that really *crisp* feel of New England early winter.
So, a group of us got together and did some hiking.
Ollie, the dog that Sarah had just adopted earlier in the week, was coming along with us – this was set up to be her introduction to mountain hiking, and we were curious how she’d fare.  Ollie is basically a black lab, with a generous portion of border collie mixed in for good measure… so we weren’t particularly worried about her keeping up.  The worry was how long she’d be able to do so – she was still a puppy, after all.
So we all met up at the trailhead for Starvation Creek – Myself, Sarah, Ollie, our friend Dave, and my coworker Anthony.
The trail itself was, in a word, steep.  By steep, I mean “ohh my lord how am I still walking upward?  How many more up can I hike?”.  But we pressed through, and got some amazing views for our effort.  After a few hours Sarah and Dave headed back with Ollie, since she was starting to lag behind a bit, and Anthony and I continued on for the summit.
Which we totally reached.  We definitely didn’t turn around maybe a mile or two after splitting ways with Dave and Sarah.  I don’t know what you’re talking about.
To celebrate our totally actual and legitimate summit, we all ate some pizza.  It was delicious.

A Halloween without Halloween – also known as a climbing trip to Smith!

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Halloween – Saturday, 31-October-2015
Sarah and I had a few party invites on hand, but… well, none of them seemed quite as fun as going rock climbing down in Smith.
 
So, we went to Smith instead.
Sarah and I drove out to Smith early on Saturday morning – making the drive in her trusty truck.  The back was packed in with climbing gear and camping supplies, and the plan was to hit Moscow, followed up by some single pitch climbs… all dependent on how long the expected rain held off.  We made pretty good time; even though we left a little later than planned (don’t we always?) we still made it before noon, and were on the wall quickly.
Moscow 5.6 (Trad) – We’d done this one before, but I don’t mind re-doing route that I enjoyed.  And I had definitely enjoyed this one initially, so… why not, right?
Pitch 1 – per the last time we climbed this route, Pitch 1 is really fun, clean climbing.  However, this time I took the difficult variation, following a neat layback-crack up to the right, instead of following the traditional climbing line out left.  Definitely made it more difficult, but Sarah beared with my flailing, and I made it through the extra crux.
Pitch 2 – I actually built an anchor at the right spot!  Otherwise, exactly the same as the last time.
Pitch 3 – The longest pitch, and also the most interesting… but yeah, nothing new here.  Long, off-width, fun, super enjoyable.
Pitch 4 (the finish) – I still don’t really agree that this is 4th class… it’s maybe a V0 boulder problem to top off, but that problem is at the top of a ~250+ft cliff.  So we stayed roped in, and went left up a crack to a pair of bolts.
Walk off to the left, following a small path.
After climbing, we got back to the packs, ate some more burrito, and then headed back to the truck… the initial plan was to stay in town, relax, do some shopping, and maybe even visit a dog shelter in Bend on Sunday.  Instead, when we realized that we’d be leaving Smith ~ 6:15, we decided that a comfortable bed was more interesting than exploring Bend… and just headed back to Hood River.
We got some pizza for dinner at a place called “Base Camp pizza”… somehow there’s always a pizza place near climbing walls.  Makes sense – groups of hungry people, right?  We ate, played cornhole, and relaxed.
It wasn’t a simple drive back to Hood River, thanks to a torrential downpour that started around 7:45, but it wasn’t bad either.  Sarah and I kept each other awake for the time, talking and giggling and imaginging our next adventures… but honestly mostly wishing that it wasn’t raining, so that we could have stayed in town and climbed on Sunday as well.
Ce la vie.

Mom and Steve come for a visit!

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Weekend of 23-Oct, 24-Oct, 25-Oct
Since I’d already come back East to visit the family, it was high time that the family came West to visit me!  So my Mom and Steve packed up their bags and jumped on Alaskan Airlines to wing their way to the West Coast.  
The main plan was to do a bit of a split – half the time exploring Portland, and half the time exploring Hood River and the Columbia River Gorge.  
Friday, 23-October-2015
  • Met Mom & Steve at the airport, linking up by the rental car place.  Then we got a rental (after much attempted up-selling by the woman working there) and head into town!  We debated where to go and what to do… and finally settled in on just relaxing at the house and heading to bed early.
  • Got back to Sarah’s house, did the whole tour thing, then chilled out and chatted for a bit before heading to bed.  Dangers of flying across coasts – the time change is kinda killer.
Saturday, 24-October-2015
  • Up & at ’em pretty early; Sarah headed out to go mushroom hunting, and Mom, Steve & I took a quick walk to grab some breakfast at Naturalia down the street.
  • After breakfast we piled into the car and drove down the Gorge to Hood River – It was a kind of cloudy day, so unfortunately the views weren’t the best… but they were still pretty damn amazing (if I do say so myself).
  • Gave Mom & Steve a tour of the house in Hood River – relaxed, put the gear into their room, and then we headed out to get lunch at a brewery in town: specifically, Full Sail.  It was good and tasty; had burgers and pretzel bits and beer and yeah, it was good.
  • Finished food, and headed out to wander around Hood River for a bit.  Checked out a few shops, the hobby store, and then left Mom to do a little exploring on her own while Steve and I went back to grab his business cards and do a little bit of hustling at the hobby store to promote Steve’s new game company.
  • After exploring Hood River, we drove out to the Maryhill museum, a bit farther down the gorge in Washington state.  It was a nice drive, if a bit long.  But seeing the rather epic building which houses the Maryhill museum was neat – it was almost like a vault, or a bank… with high walls, a big almost castle-like entryway, and heavy bars over every window.  Creepy, if you ask me.  Looked like a Brinks fortress building.
  • But the museum itself was really neat!  “Ecclectic” is a good way to describe it… there were a ton of exhibits, but none of them really seemed to tie together in any real cohesive way.  There was an exhibit on Chess sets, a section on Native American tribes (including Alaskan ones), and then a section of wood prints.  Not really sure who curated them, but it was interesting to poke around in.
  • The outside of the museum had a whole slew of art as well – neat sculptures and large displays, definitely worth taking the time to check out.
  • From the Maryhill, we moved on toward The Dalles, where We checked checked out another game shop, and then grabbed dinner at Clocktower Brewing.  Sarah linked up with us there, and we hung out and heard all about each others adventures.
  • Dracula: The Musical? – A play put on by some of my coworkers, I’d been hearing about it for a while.  So I’d gotten tickets, and we headed to the community theater to check it out.  We got there just in time; dinner had taken a bit longer than planned, but we still made it right before curtains.
    The play?  It was hysterical – definitely a solid performance.  The music sections were well done, yet still funny… and the number of times that they broke the 4th wall was just right.
  • From the play, we headed back home to Hood River, where we relaxed, chatted, and then finally headed to bed.
Sunday, 25-October-2015
  • Up and at ’em early… that’s what we didn’t do.  Instead, my Mom and I got moving semi-early, and headed to the grocery store to get breakfast components… then I cooked them up, and we all had an excellently slow morning in Hood River.
  • The slow morning turns into a slow drive back down the gorge into Portland – we took a little time to clean up the house, but before long we’d made our way back into the city, and were doing a bit of exploring around.  Sarah had to leave for a bit to get an eye appointment in, but the rest of us did some shopping (we tried to find my sister some Tibetan prayer flags, with no luck), ate some sushi, and then explored the Lan Su Chinese Garden!
  • Lan Su – I love Scholars gardens.  Loved them since I first saw that style outside the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, where it was a sort of forbidden world due to almost never being open.  Then in New Zealand I saw a full Scholars Garden, and was hooked.
    The one here in Portland was just as amazing, full of small twists and turns, hidden vistas and neat little points of focus.
    So we explored, poked around, and I even bought a three legged toad demon from the gift shop.  Because why not?
  • Back home to Sarah’s house, via a really pretty rose garden and a stop at a grocery store to get components for dinner.
  • DINNER!  Sarah spent some time cleaning up the mushrooms that’d come out of her hunt the day before, while the rest of us relaxed and played Steve’s new game in the living room.  Then we cooked up a feast, and all sat down for an amazing meal together.  Super delicious, super cute, 100% awesome.
  • Relaxing around a fire in the living room – the fire was in the fireplace, technically – and lots of excellent drinks and fun conversations.  Then bed early, as a precaution against the insanely early morning that we were all going to have, between getting people to the airport and then getting both Sarah and I to work on time…