Archive for 2010

A Lion’s Lunch

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

I’ve been to the zoo more last winter then in the rest of my life combined. The rule seems to be that on any given day half the exhibits are closed and half the remaining animals are just sleeping. It really takes a bunch of visits to appreciate them all. Some, like the orangutans, are always depressing but I try not to think too hard about it.

Ronin usually runs for the polar bears first thing. Sleeping, more often than not, but on lucky days we catch them swimming. It’s a wonderful thing to watch.

The lions sleep on the rocks or sometimes stand nobly looking off into the distance. However, on this day one lion was just going crazy and seemed desperate to get at the tender morsels on the other side of the glass. She was running back and forth clawing, snarling, and throwing herself at the glass. Ronin was oblivious. “Look at the big kitty.”

Last week they opened a robot dinosaur exhibit. We weren’t sure what Ronin would think but she likes dinosaurs, isn’t usually afraid of things, and the snarling lion didn’t phase her. She really didn’t like it though. Mostly I think it was the noise and the fact that they spit water at you. We explained that they were only toys and she seemed to understand. Now I’m afraid that she thinks all the animals are fake.

Batbear and Nigel up to no good

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Joshua had to go outside with a flashlight to search for Batbear, lest he be carried away by the raccoons while we slept. He found him stuffed in the bushes along the house like this:

If that’s not funny enough, here’s what she put on Nigel (we’ve been learning all about “big girl underwear” lately…):

It’s kind of embarrassing. We don’t let him out of the house like this.

Morels and Bunnies

Friday, May 7th, 2010

So, late in the game as usual, we set out for a bit of morel hunting. We’ve found them only a couple of times before. Once in possibly poisonous barkamulch in the brand new IKEA parking lot in Emeryville and another time in barkamulch outside the old-folks center near our old apartment in SE Portland. You never know what that barkamulch has been steeped in, or what they spray there to keep the dandelions at bay. We marveled, picked, dissected, and let be. We did not eat. It was so sad.

One other time we hit the morel jackpot is when we were hiking in the Slovenian Alps. We hiked up to a waterfall and stood on the little platform overlooking a startling drop and roaring waterfall. We looked down and there were like TEN huge monstrous beautiful gorgeous perfect amazing black morels clinging to the edge of the cliff. Maybe there were twenty. We made such a scene that I thought one of the German tourists would plunge to his death in an effort to pick them. But sadly no. Only the fairies would be eating those morels for dinner, sauteed with some butter, shallots, maybe a smidge of sherry… (SOB!)

We looked up morel season in our parts and lo! It was like last week! We freaked out and rushed out into the world to harvest them. We got amazingly lucky and the first place we stopped the car all, “This is morel territory if I ever saw it,” like we knew anything at all, we totally found one. Then two more. And that was all. We beat around the brush for a good two hours, until Ronin was totally spazzing, before heading home to saute our booty.

What we’ve been finding are golden morels, which are not as clustered and numerous as the black morel, supposedly. Also, we fear that there is a pretty stiff competition for the little buggers. The first couple of places we went we encountered other mushroomers or signs of mushroomers. That first day, a guy walking his dog came sauntering down the dirt road where we were parked illegally. He howdy-ed at us and asked nonchalantly if we were looking for mushrooms. We were all in a frizz after finding that first mushroom and hadn’t noticed him until he was right there; we must have looked very guilty or something as we stammered that um, yes, we um were… Then he told us that he had seen a lot of mushroomers recently but they were always focusing on the trees over near the river, not where we were looking. We took his advice with a huge brick of salt (mushroomers are known for being very territorial when it comes to hot patches). Then we found two more right where we were looking to begin with. Nice try, dude. We’re totally coming back next year. (Turned out he lived just down the road.)

Morel Hunt #2 found us along the banks of the Sandy River. We spent a long time looking where there surely MUST be morels, just look at the surroundings! But no. Ronin was mostly cooperative but usually only one of us could actively look while the other had to watch to be sure she didn’t dive into the river. We found two very large mushrooms this time. We also saw a few obvious mushroomers. One guy was actually whacking his way through the brush with a big stick and a large bag. We were sort of jealous but Ronin wanted to get sand on her hands, then wash it off in the river, then get sand on her hands, then wash it off in the river, then get sand on her hands… We literally carried her away kicking and screaming when we had to leave.

Hunt #3 was the most successful, not only in the volume of morels we found but in keeping Ronin happy and not melting down. It helped that there was neither a rushing river for her to fling herself into, nor was there a dangerous road for her to give me a heart attack on. We had nice meandering paths through the tall grass. And, if we were really lucky, maybe we would see a BUNNY in the grass!! We are bad, bad parents.

But it worked. Ronin was not only buzzed with excitement about the possibility of seeing a bunny, she actually kept up with us and helped look (maybe bunnies like to hide in the brush alongside the trail! And uh let us know if you see a mushroom while you are at it). She was pretty happy the entire time. We found two past-prime snatches of morels and one nice one, which was gratifying but we wondered if it’s maybe getting too late in the season. Every time Ronin stopped for too long, Joshua would shout from up ahead, “Ronin, let’s look up HERE for some bunnies!” and she’s take off running.

We found a nice park with a playground and Ronin played on the slide for a while before we started back. She was less enthusiastic about the return trip and the promise of bunnies was sort of wearing thin. However, I spotted a big morel, and then a few more. Joshua and I were instantly shot through with mushroom fever and started up again with the bunny talk. Ronin wandered off into a little grassy clearing while I scouted around the edge. She started nattering on about the bunnies and I wasn’t really listening to well, saying, “Keep looking, maybe we’ll see one,” and things like that.

After a few minutes Joshua came slowly over to me and said, “Look: she really found a bunny. I can’t believe it!” Ronin was there standing in the clearing, and not six feet away from her was a little bunny munching on grass and giving us all the eye. Ronin was just standing there staring at it and telling us over and over again, “I see a bunny! There’s a bunny right there!” And not only that, but Joshua had only come back because he found a bunny himself down the path a little ways. When Ronin got tired of this bunny, we could just head over and check out the other bunny. Which is what we did.

In all, it was a good day. We’ll remember that spot.

[Organic hemp mushroom bag abandoned (empty) in the woods by hippies and scored by Joshua, who will never learn when it comes to picking up strange bags in unexpected places.]

Decommissioned Hydroelectric Plant

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

We took a bunch of photos of the decommissioned hydroelectric plant at White River Falls. It was built in the early 1900s and supplied power until the late 50s when The Dalles Dam was completed. [Clicking the image shows a full-res huge version.]

Grandpa Jeff!

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Grandpa Jeff came to Portland to visit. We had an action-packed week with many trips to REI, some adventuring in the wilds of (practically) central Oregon, and much excellent food (and wine).

These are some massive fish at the Bonneville Dam fish hatchery in the Colombia gorge. These are sturgeon and they are MASSIVE (Herman the Sturgeon is 11 feet long, 500 pounds, and 70 years old). Unbelievably, horrifyingly, incredibly huge. I was flabbergasted. Also, I will never again swim in the river.

The fish hatchery grounds are actually really nice. Lots and lots of sturgeon to look at from baby minnow size up to full-on leviathan. There are also the largest rainbow trout you ever did see and you can feed them from a fish-pellet vending machine. Ronin was content to feed them pine needles she picked off a branch saying, “Hey fish! Here are some snacks.”

We drove way out to White River falls and after two+ hours in the car with a kid who dislikes such modes of transportation, we were so very relieved to discover that it is really freaking cool. And there is an abandoned power station to poke around in. Bonus! (I’ll get pics up in another post; we took about a million.) Ronin was placated because there was a river and sand and she got to take her pants off.

Jeff amongst the rocks and sagebrush. The sage smelled really nice and had these puffy-squishy little berries; I had never seen sageberries before.

We took one of the skinny blue lines home from the falls. It led us through some small town rural Oregonness and around the backside of Mt. Hood. I was a little worried that our scenic route would turn into a 4-hour epic drive and Ronin would drive me batty.

Then I started to worry that Bambi would get stuck in the snow (we don’t have chains) and Ronin would run out of diapers when we were forced to bivouac in a snow cave. My worries were all for not, however, and we stopped did a bit of frolicking in the snow. Ronin loved it and launched a furious vocal protest when we attempted to re-car her.

Behold! A gentle forest sprite!

When we were a mere three miles from the turnoff back onto the Real highway and civilization, we were confronted by a forest ranger. He asked us what the hell we thought we were doing out here on a seasonally closed road over the mountain with no chains on our pansy-ass little stationwagon. We looked harmless enough and he quickly relented, acknowledging that the sign had in fact been stolen from the direction we came. He said that if we had managed thus far, we’d probably make it the rest of the way. We did. I was happy.

This sign. Oops. Kind of awkwardly put really; we likely would have ignored it had we seen it.

Ronin didn’t nap the whole day and actually went down promptly that night. Aahhh.

Cheyenne Weil, Joshua Coxwell