Road Trip to Oregon

I just got home from a week long solo driving tour of Oregon, a state I had not previously visited, and it was awesome. Me and my little orange Prius C took a 1500 mile break from life. No work, no obligations, and all new things to see. I took a lot of photos, walked and hiked many miles, and felt myself decompress from the monotony of day to day repetition of job, gym, home, job, gym, home. By the end of the week, I was still having a great time, and aside from missing my boyfriend, I didn’t want to come home. That is unusual for me when it comes to vacations, as I am usually ready to come home by day 4 or 5. With this though, I felt like I could keep going for another week, maybe another month, maybe forever! Well, it is not to be. I will be back to work tomorrow, on Monday, but before that happens, I wanted to write this post about what I did and saw while it is still fresh in my mind.

Ashland-Lithia Park
Sunset in Lithia Park, Ashland, Oregon

On Sunday, I drove to Ashland, OR on I-5. The drive was as quick as it could be, and blissfully free of traffic. On the way there, I had my first view of one of California’s tallest mountains, Mt Shasta. I believe it was also the first time in my life I had ever seen a volcano. I crossed the Oregon border for the first time in my life, visiting a new state and the farthest north I have been on the west coast. I spent the afternoon wandering around downtown Ashland and Lithia Park, a beautiful city park. Ashland was adorable. I would have liked to have spent more time there. The next morning I was up before dawn and went out for breakfast at a place that had this beautiful view of Ashland and the surrounding countryside.

Sunrise in Ashland

Next, I headed to Crater Lake National Park on the way to Portland. The drive there was just lovely, miles and miles of forest and nice easy straight roads. For such a remote park, it was quite easy to access. The view overlooking the mountains around Crater Lake was perfect on such a clear day. I know I got lucky with the weather on this trip, it was all sunny blue skies and 60-70 degree temperatures. Often at this time of year Crater Lake can be snowed in, but no snow had yet fallen.

Crater Lake-view of southern OR
View from Crater Lake, looking south. Mt Shasta in the distance

The lake itself, which fills what used to be the top of a large mountain that exploded thousands of years ago in a volcanic eruption, was an amazing deep blue color. The water comes entirely from precipitation, mostly melted snow, making it very pure and clear. There was a lot I learned about the geology of Oregon in this week, and much if it had to do with volcanoes, a new and interesting experience for me having never spent any time in a volcanic landscape before.

Crater Lake-perfect blue sky
Crater Lake, a lake in a volcano with another volcano in the middle of the lake

When I left Crater Lake, I headed up to Portland. I found out I love Portland. As a person with celiac disease, I was in gluten free heaven. I never realized how deficient the Bay Area is in that regard, but in Portland, I almost felt like a normal person again. Everywhere I ate, I found that people knew what I was talking about with the need to be gluten free, which is not the case where I live, sadly. Even the grocery stores had better GF bread options. I would move to Portland for that alone. Monday evening, I had an amazing dinner at a Peruvian tapas place with a live Spanish guitar player providing wonderful ambiance.


Portland-fall colors
Portland OR, Mt Hood in the distance

I stayed in a really nice vacation rental apartment in Beaverton, hosted by a lovely older couple who gave me lots of good tips about things to do. I love meeting people who are obviously proud of the place they live and want to share it with visitors. I took their advice and headed east to the Columbia River Gorge on Tuesday morning to see the views and waterfalls.

Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge

I stopped at two falls in the gorge, both easy short walks from the parking. What a beautiful place! My first thought upon seeing Latourell Falls was “it’s like Yosemite without the people and with more foliage!” It was early in the morning, which always reduces crowds, but I was amazed to see such astonishing waterfalls in peace and quiet.

Latourell Falls
Latourell Falls

Next I took a short trail to Bridal Veil Falls, another quiet and peaceful place at that time of day. With the soft light of the morning and the fall colors just starting to show, it was a perfect photographer’s place to see.

Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls

I decided not to continue to the famous Multnomah Falls area due to a road closure which would have made visiting it a circuitous drive, and not wanting to deal with the crowds that would surely be at such a popular tourist spot. Instead, I headed back to Portland to Washington Park. First, I visited the rose garden, which was enormous and very impressive.

Portland-rose garden
Washington Park rose garden

Again it was a perfectly sunny day and I enjoyed one of my favorite activities, taking pictures of roses and stopping to smell them.

Portland-rose garden rose
One of many photos of roses I took that day

I wavered a little about going into the Japanese Garden because it looked quite busy and there was a fee, but I was so glad I decided to do it. I have been to many Japanese gardens, but this one was by far the nicest and largest I have seen. It was very peaceful, even with the other tourists milling about and I could have stayed there all day.

Portland-Japanese gardens
Japanese Garden

There were so many beautiful details and the fall colors added a lot to the green and mossy color palette. I would love to see what that place looks like in the fog.

Portland-Japanese Garden detail
Mossy stone in the Japanese Gardens

That afternoon I headed to the famous Powell’s City of Books, which was indeed a City of books. Wow! I love books and it was overwhelmingly cool to visit such a huge book store. Finally, in the evening I had Thai food for dinner and wandered around some little shops. It was a perfect day. I probably should have scheduled more time in Portland, the next day I headed south again. Before I left, I met a friend for coffee at a wonderful gluten free bakery where I had a slice of quiche and got some baked goodies to go.

On my way to Eugene, I went to Silver Falls State Park. What an incredible place that turned out to be! I chose to go there because I wanted to do a little hiking on this trip, but being alone, I didn’t want to go anywhere remote and I read that it was quite a popular place. This turned out to be true and even on a Wednesday morning, there were quite a lot of people. But, as with almost any 8 mile hike, people mostly gathered up near the beginning and spread out quite a lot once I got a few miles into it. So I got to enjoy some quiet solitude in nature, while also feeling like it was a pretty safe place to be alone.

Silver Falls fall colors
Fall colors at Silver Falls State Park

The falls combined with the fall colors created a sublime scene. Around every corner, there was a photographer’s dream composition. And there were 10 big waterfalls on the trail, a few of which had trails that took you behind the falls. Again, I felt like it was just as cool as Yosemite, and nowhere near as crowded. Silver Falls could easily be a National Park, but I’m glad it’s not since most people have never heard of it and that means it’s not completely overrun with tourists on a sunny October weekday.

Silver Falls State Park
Waterfalls and fall colors, photography dream come true

That evening I arrived I Eugene and I was beat. So I had dinner at “home” (the little cottage I rented) and spent the evening relaxing. Thursday, I walked around downtown Eugene and visited an art museum on campus before having another memorable gluten free dinner. There is a burger joint there, Dickie Jo’s, that has gluten free options and even a dedicated fryer. It had been years since I had a “fast food style” burger and fries. Such a simple thing, but it was a great treat since I can never have it, no matter how good it sounds.

Friday, I was time to start heading home. I decided to drive to the coast so that I could see something different than I had seen on the way up, opting to take 101 South instead of I-5. The drive from Eugene to the coast through fall colored forest and fog in the morning was beautiful. It was very foggy on the coast, so it was some time before I saw the ocean.

My trusty Prius C
My trusty Prius C parked along the coastal highway in the fog

When the ocean finally came into view, it was gorgeous and sparkling as usual. The drive along the Oregon coast in this area is not treacherous like it is on 1 in California. It was a nice easy highway drive with lots of places to stop and admire the Pacific.

Oregon coast
Pacific Ocean beach in Oregon

When I crossed the state line back into California, it was early afternoon and there was time to stop and see my friends, the redwood trees. Since I had just been to Redwood National and State Parks earlier this summer, I was already familiar with the area and knew just where I wanted to go. First I stopped at Jedediah Smith to visit the Stout Grove, which I am convinced has real magic in it. Visiting ancient redwoods is like time travel to me. They have been standing there for longer than my imagination can encompass. The late day light was lovely.

Jedediah Smith-Stout Grove
Stout Grove at Jed Smith

Then I drove south through Prairie Creek on the Newton B Drury scenic parkway. Wow! That is a gorgeous drive. It was getting dark by that point, so I didn’t have time to do any visiting with the trees, but I really enjoyed the view from the car. A lot of the trip was like that. I could have stopped to take pictures every few minutes, but then I never would have gotten anywhere, so it will just have to live in my memory.

Finally it was time to head home on Saturday. After staying the night in Arcata, I got up early and headed to Humboldt Redwoods Avenue of the Giants. There, I visited the Grieg-French Bell Grove, which I did not see when I was in Humboldt earlier this summer. Oh how lovely and peaceful it was early in the morning. I was the only person there, even on a Saturday.

Humboldt Redwoods
Humboldt in the morning

From there, I headed home. 101 south from Oregon is a much more interesting drive than I-5, but not as fast. I ended up coming back over the Golden Gate Bridge, which had its fair share of tourists doing the same thing I had been doing for the last week, gawking and taking photos of the beautiful foggy Marin headlands. I was tempted to stop myself, but I live here. I can go take that photo any time and I was feeling pretty worn out from the long week of driving.

C590DBC4-92D6-471C-80C1-E4C3E1B17585I had a great time on this trip and I really loved Oregon. Now that I have done this whirlwind tour, I have ideas about where I’d like to visit again and spend more time. Portland turned out to be just as cool as it seemed to me from reading about it, and I would like to move there some day when I am ready for the next change of scenery. All told, it was a perfect week and I loved every minute of it.









2017 Photo Review and Top 10

It’s been about 2 years now that I’ve been seriously taking photos with something other than my phone. I consider the photography year over, because I already sent off my order for my 2017 photobook. I did the same last year, so 2018 photography starts now for me.

In 2017, I took 8,545 photos. I edited about 900 of them. From that 900 I chose 30 of my favorites to have printed.

I went shooting 72 times this year.

Lately I’ve discovered a love of black and white landscape photos. Even though that was something that really only developed in the last few months, I chose it as a theme for my book this year. I also took many photos of flowers. For awhile there, I was taking photos at San Mateo Central Park several times a week.

My photography improves, and my artwork, which is based on my photography improves. I realized this year that light is the most important thing. I think I already knew that, but I changed my priorities to really looking at the light and I think my photos and art got much better because of that. Now I am drawn to birds and want to get a longer zoom than my 250mm for bird photos. I was also surprised to find out this year what a great lens that is for flowers. Maybe 400mm flowers too?

I went through my edited photos and chose my 10 favorites for this post. Happy New Photo Year!


Black and White by the Bay

I have discovered that if I want to be not early for something, or even, gasp!, late, I need to plan it. Planned lateness probably sounds weird to most people, but honestly left to my own devices I will arrive early to everything all the time, unless there is some real crazy emergency or twice as much traffic as I could have imagined. I thought for sure the traffic around here would cure me of my earliness, but it didn’t. Apparently I just rolled it right into my mental calculation of when I need to leave to be wherever I am going on time (which is what makes me early in the first place, because if you really want to be on time, you have to leave extra time for things that often don’t happen.)

Being early for things is usually good or neutral, but in some cases it’s not. When it would be better to be late than early, I decide to purposefully do something I know I don’t have time for- like stopping to take pictures on the way to a party last night.


Edgewood Park

Another old haunt I haven’t been to in years, dating back to before I started dslr photography. Edgewood Park is across the street from my usual Pulgas Ridge Open Space Preserve. My main complaint about this park is the traffic noise from 280. It’s audible from parts of Pulgas too, but it’s just really loud on the whole northern side of Edgewood. However, I seem to be in a mood for variety in hiking, so I decided to give it another chance. It does have its charms. The twisty creepy branches of Pulgas seem to have multiplied here, on the other side of Edgewood Road. I saw a lot of deer and several bunnies. I also noticed that they have really added a lot to the educational center and they now have a labeled wildflower garden. I need to check this out when wildflower season comes.

I took these pictures yesterday, on Halloween, and seem to have captured a bit of a Halloween spirit with the long shadows and twisty tree silhouettes.


Artistic Windy Hill

I find that I think of my hiking photos two ways, both when I am taking them and when I am deciding what to edit and post. The first is the obvious desire to document a beautiful place. The second is making artistic compositions. Of course, I do the second while taking the first.

The second kind of photo may not show off the beauty of the place, but rather captures, usually small, details or interesting light that catch my eye. I think of the second type of photos as the more artistic, but I like looking at both. Yesterday’s post was the first type of photo. Today’s is the second.


Land’s End, SF

Perhaps the last weekend of the year before the first rain, which they tell us could come as soon as Thursday. I hope it is true for the sake of the victims of the fires, as well as for all of us breathing the smoke that has been blown down here on the wind.

There’s a thin coating of ash on everything, from plants to cars. I am amazed at how far the smoke and ash can travel. There has been plenty where I live, a good 60 miles away. The wind turned and we had good air again this weekend. But it does make you think about what the world would be like if we allowed as much pollution as can be spewed into the atmosphere unchecked. I read that the air quality here was on par with Beijing. I can’t imagine having to live with it all the time.

I also can’t imagine why anybody would oppose steps to stop us from destroying the earth. It seems like such a basic thing to me. Without air to breathe, what is the point of anything? Even those who don’t claim to care about nature, animals- what about themselves? Surely everyone is selfish enough to want air to breathe.

I recently finished a book, Death’s End, the third in Cixin Liu’s Three Body Problem trilogy, and one of the passages described the symbiotic relationship between life (plants, animals, etc) and atmosphere and water on planets. Without an atmosphere, the water evaporates or freezes. Without water, no life (as we understand it). But without life (plants balancing oxygen and carbon dioxide) there can be no atmosphere. So it is like a closed circle- no life without atmosphere, no atmosphere without life.

Everywhere else we have looked in space, there is nothing. Only dark cold death. So what the heck people? Are we really this short sighted?

Hurricanes, flooding, fires, there will only be more and more as the ocean and air temperatures rise.

I guess I went off on a tangent. It’s just really nice to be able to walk around outside, you know? I didn’t like being trapped inside because the air is deemed unhealthy to breathe. Of course this is nothing compared to actually being in the fire itself and losing one’s life or property.

Anyway, pictures.


Wunderlich Park b&w

I have an order of difficulty ranking in my head for the hikes near me. Pulgas Ridge is the easiest. This I can do pretty much any time even if I feel out of shape. But it will be tiring if I am actually out of shape.

Next on the list is Wunderlich, which is a much bigger park with longer hike options, but still nicely graded trails so it’s pretty much the easiest 10 mile hike with 2000 ft of elevation change you’ll find anywhere. Or so it was. Apparently after last winter’s crazy rain, there was a landslide that cut off one of the usual trails. The current work-around is a (thankfully brief) steep slog that cuts off one of the switchbacks. Which wasn’t exactly what I signed up for today, but it was fine. I disliked going back down it more than up.

So, that tells me I am ready for my third level hike- Purisima Creek. I will check the trail conditions before I go. Live and learn.


Ocean Birds

I went to Pacifica this morning for a walk and photos. The heat has been nuts the last few days and it was just too hot to be outside. It finally broke last night, but it’s still hazy out there. There’s something kind of beautiful about it, if apocalyptic in a way. I’ll have another post later or tomorrow for some of my other photos.

For now here are some birds. The pelicans were out in droves this morning. It was fun standing by the edge of the water trying to catch them in their antics.