Saturday, May 23, 2009

Oregon Trail

Back in the day, heading off on the Oregon Trail might have been a two-thousand mile journey from the backwaters of the Missouri. Oregonian old-timers also might have taken the oxen-driven farm wagon instead of an air-conditioned, four wheel drive Toyota Tacoma but, still, I'd like to think there's semblance to the same adventure - a jumping off into great wide unknown. Washington will always be where I grew up; I can't imagine calling anywhere but Leavenworth my hometown. Later, Utah, the University, and the snowy Wasatch Mountains form an indelible part of my past. But it's the raw, burly backdrop of Bend, Oregon where I'm now home.

From the fertile Columbia River Valley, to the Cascade Mountains, the Goldendale scenescape you see here below, it's time to shake hands and say goodbye to Washington. In the distance, if you look closely, white windmills tilt to the sky. I hope Cervantes would be proud.

Grass Valley. Moro. Shaniko. All small towns I pass along the way, holding stories of commerce and community I can only guess at.

I round a corner. Just a stone's throw to the east rests the town of Terrebonne and the towering red spires - Smith Rock, the birthplace of U.S. sport climbing. Or so I'm told.

To the west, angry clouds collect above the Cascades. I try to remember the exact words the free-skier Doug Coombs said about listening to mountains. Something about tuning into and heeding what the mountains have to say today.

I arrive in Bend. My roommate Carl wrenches on his turbo-hopped rally car with the help of his dad. Mr. Dekker is not only a fossil-fuel fun seeker. He earns his wages riding mountain bikes for a living. He's not the only one in Bend that can seriously say this is their primary occupation.

The spelunker's view from inside a Central Oregon lava tube.

My playground. From left: Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top, South Sister, Middle Sister, North Sister.

The US Ski Team getting together for a national team camp on the cross country trails of Mt. Bachelor. To the best of times. And those that will be. Ciao.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Springtime Outside the Schoolyard

Just before heading off to Whistler in search of snow on the 2010 Olympic trails, I joined Mr. Peck's fifth grade class for another kind of search. We were on the lookout for wildflowers.

Chino and Kobe among the arrowleaf balsomroot.

Here my lil armada take in the view from the outrun of the K70 ski jump.

In time, identifying and drawing yellow bells and forget-me-nots were no match to the allure of boys hucking themselves off the jumps.

Here, Jaxon soars.

The girls were just a little more committed to the task at hand. Here, Kristin compiles the pertinent data from the chocolate lilies in bloom.

In all, the kids have to identify, draw, and write about at least fifty wildflowers.

From cultivating gardens and breeding quails in the fall, digging snow caves and learning about snow science in the winter, to frolicking in fields full of wildflowers in the spring, the fifth graders in Leavenworth experience a little science outside the domain of textbooks, lectures and classrooms.

Until the next time, -T