Archive for July, 2007

Kissing Garbage Trucks

Posted by julie on Tuesday, 31 July 2007, 21:41

Ooh, it’s a garbage truck.

Diamond Peak, Revisited

Posted by julie on Monday, 30 July 2007, 16:11

Diamond Peak from Odell Lake, June 2006Diamond Peak has beckoned since I arrived in Oregon. An unlikely-looking volcano, resembling a slumbering beast with its improbably long ridgeline stretching for over a mile from north to south, you can see Diamond Peak, whenever it’s not obscured by clouds, along Highway 58 from Oakridge past Willamette Pass, cloaked in snow two-thirds of the year. In my quest to climb some Cascades this summer, our friend, Larry, and I picked up some biodiesel and espresso at America’s best filling station and hit the road yesterday. Larry, with his generosity, big grin, penchant for adventure, and supply of stories is darn near a perfect traveling companion. Although he wasn’t present for any of them, Larry tells some detailed, frightening grizzly stories. Ask him about them.

We hiked in on trails 3699 and 3632 from a gravel Forest Service road on the mountain’s south side. A crew, which I believe included our friend Chandra, had worked on trail 3632 the previous day, digging drainage ditches and generally making sure the trail didn’t fall off the side of Diamond Rockpile. In a remarkably quick three miles, we reached Marie Lake, where 75 Scrambles in Oregon says to turn uphill through the trees. We did, as Chris and I had done two years ago in May 2005, but Larry and I later found out that this is not the best climbers’ route, at least not when the ground is snow-free.

Following a ridge uphill, with Diamond Peak hovering to our left, we ran into a trail that wasn’t supposed to be there. Hmm. After looking at the map, we realized that we had headed northeast instead of northwest, which is why Diamond Peak stayed to our left instead of looming ahead of us, so we took the trail northwest, the direction we wanted to head. Soon, we found a tree with a diamond-shaped metal trail marker, so we figured we’d ended up on the Pacific Crest Trail. Since we weren’t on a climbers’ trail and we knew where the PCT headed, we struck off through the trees toward the ridges to the west. In another fifteen minutes, we stumbled upon the darn PCT again as it doubled back on itself around the end of a ridge. We continued west, climbing over small ridges composed of relatively stable toaster oven-sized blocks of gray, angular igneous rocks (andesite?) and passing through shallow drainages full of basalt cinders, rust-red and full of vesicles.

We finally hit the ridge that 75 Scrambles recommends, with more of the same rock-hopping and scree-climbing. At one point, a small, light-colored bird of prey landed on top of a pine across the drainage. When it flew, we could see its square tail; because of its tail, narrow wings, and light color, I’m going to guess it was a juvenile kestrel, even though all the kestrels I’ve ever noticed have been vibrantly colored, easy to identify, and located at an elevation of around 500 feet.

California tortoiseshell on Diamond PeakWhen we left the mountain hemlocks and lodgepole pines behind to climb up a slope of blocks and cinders, a large patch of snow to our left, the wind suddenly blew butterflies against our faces. We stopped to look, and hundreds — no, thousands — of orange butterflies flitted, perched in the lee of rocks, and blew across the ridge, sometimes colliding with us. With a little research, I’ve decided that they were tortoiseshell butterflies, which have population explosions some years. Apparently, it’s not uncommon for the butterflies to make it two vertical miles above the ocean, either. I’ve never before encountered so many butterflies that I could HEAR their wings, even with the wind whistling enough that I feared my hat would fly down 2000 feet to the meadows below.

Larry and I climbed to the false summit, elevation 8421 feet, and lunched in the lee of a constructed rock wall. This is where Chris and I turned around two years ago. The corniced snow along the ridge, coupled with the steep windward slope that we considered walking across, proved too much for my then-pregnant sensibilities. With crampons and an ice axe, it could have been done — but maybe not by us, at least not with a 25-week-old fetus in there. But Larry and I continued on.

Julie enjoys the views from Diamond Peak’s summit. Thielsen in background.The first few hundred feet off the false summit narrowly skirt some bedrock pillars, so I know Chris and I decided wisely. Then the trail climbs easily another 300 feet to the actual summit, where we found a red coffee can trying to protect a broken glass jar stuffed with a full notebook, business cards, and Clif bar wrappers acting as an extended summit register. We enjoyed the panoramic view, including the Three Sisters to the north and Mount Thielsen and Mount Bailey to the south. To the northwest, clouds blanketed the sky at about 8000 feet, just below us. After snapping some photos (see below), we left the summit at 4 p.m.

We hurried down, concerned that our partners would be concerned about us. We passed two parties going up – one couple with a dog and one solo man — near the false summit; it was 4:15. With a skier’s perspective, versus a climber’s perspective, it was easier to see where all trails converged and headed down, and we followed the obvious climbers’ trail, marked with cairns and orange and pink plastic flagging tape — well, now it’s just marked with cairns. It’s a Wilderness Area, folks. Pink flagging tapes dismayed us. My hubby would have been proud (he calls flagging in wilderness “litter” and deals with it accordingly). And, let’s be fair, the trail was VERY obvious. Now here’s why we hadn’t seen it: The trail dumped us on the Pacific Crest Trail, north (yes, toward Canada) of where we’d decided to go cross-country again on the way up. So we hiked out on the PCT to its junction toward Marie Lake, then walked to the car, occasionally berated by stellar jays. We stopped along the gravel road to snap a photo of our mountain where we’d snapped one on the way in — but our mountain was gone! Clouds obscured the summit all the way down to Diamond Rockpile, elevation 5110 feet. We bought some salty chips in Oakridge and headed home, where all of our loved ones were already asleep.

For your amusement:

Diamond Peak false summit, the end of the line.

Diamond Peak summit, this time with no snow and no fetus.

Before and After the Nap

Posted by julie on Friday, 27 July 2007, 15:36

Sylvan asleep on bathroom floorSylvan wakes up in a good moodYesterday, Sylvan fell asleep on the bathroom floor, bare butt to the sky. I took him upstairs to his bed, where he nestled into his blankets.

After his nap, I didn’t hear any calls of “Mommy!”, only furniture-moving and book-dropping. When I entered his room, I was greeted with this image, ears and all.

Mount McLoughlin

Posted by julie on Wednesday, 25 July 2007, 15:30

The nighthawks had settled in to roost on the gravelly shore of Fourmile Lake after completing their graceful evening mosquito slaughter. I was sure that the lake held enormous bullfrogs, burping loudly, but it was nighthawks, pulling out of daredevil dives, that boomed through our dinner. Sylvan and Leslie share food. Leslie shares food, really.The birds earned the name “boom bat” in the South for these noises (I don’t know that they’re vocalizations) and for their crepuscular flying antics. After Wendy, Leslie, Chris, and Sylvan tucked into the tents, I sat leaning against piles of driftwood, Cassiopeia to my right and Mount McLoughlin over my left shoulder. Little dark waves faded into the dark gravel as they traveled toward me. The setting first-quarter moon brightened the edges of the cloud hovering over McLoughlin, at 9495 feet almost 4000 feet higher than Fourmile Lake. If I had to miss the Polhemus family reunion on Cape Cod, I’m glad I could spend the weekend here, especially with Leslie and Wendy, two of the most patient, generous toddler companions and friends we could find.

Leslie asked us to climb Mount McLoughlin and Mount St. Helens this summer. I immediately said, “yes,” with an especially enthusiastic response for McLoughlin, which is right off the Pacific Crest Trail in southern Oregon. In 2003, I had looked forward to climbing some of the Cascade peaks while on the Oregon PCT. That proved impossible within our timeframe, unfortunately, so I still hanker to slowly chip away at the list of volcanoes I want to stand on. McLoughlin is an easy climb —11 miles round-trip with 3900 feet of elevation gain — evidenced by the 15 cars in the parking lot by 9 a.m. on Sunday morning. If McLoughlin were situated in the central Oregon Cascades, we probably would have seen 100 people rather than 20, though. South Sister, on a sunny weekend, is a misery of too much company. But you will see someone you know, if that’s your thing.

Sylvan hikes Mt. McLoughlinDespite his mother’s ridiculous impatience, Sylvan walked for the first 2.5 miles and 1000 vertical feet of McLoughlin’s summit trail, with a short interlude of .25-.5 mile on Daddy’s back. While we were impressed with his endurance and rock-hopping ability, it wasn’t until we walked back down over that terrain that we really recognized Sylvan’s hiking prowess. And while he walked slowly, less than a mile an hour, folks who’d passed us on the way up still sat on the summit when the women in our party summited. I want to quietly encourage my little hiker, never pushing him to love what I love, so that perhaps he won’t rebel when he’s 14 and tell me that if he never hikes another step it will be too many.

When Sylvan’s naptime arrived, Chris shouldered the little big boy, carrying him up another few thousand feet — despite the fact that Chris had run 31 miles in a row eight days earlier. Then, 50 minutes before Leslie, Wendy, and I reached the summit, Chris and Sylvan headed down because the route included some boulder scrambling (Thanks for taking one for the team, Honey.). Above the boulders, the route along the ridge climbed through some slippery scree, never with frightening runout. We passed three dogs on their way down, all leading their separate parents down the slope. Ah, to have four legs for balance.

I signed the summit register, touched the tip-top rock, and scree-skied down, trying to make it down quickly because I understand the loud unhappiness of a nap-skipping toddler. I know that it’s easier to deal with that unhappiness in the company of another adult who will make faces, laugh uproariously, and generally mimic all of the toddler’s bad manners. Toddlers love that. Actually, ours does. Silliness almost always wins.

I told my sister that I’d climbed McLoughlin on her 28th birthday, and I said I was surprised at how strong I felt, like I really am bionic. I haven’t been running much, yet I hardly noticed that little climb. She said, “That’s what I’ve been waiting for. I keep asking you if you feel different since your surgery, and, finally, you do.”

A zoo picture for Patrick

Posted by jonesey on Wednesday, 25 July 2007, 4:09

This one is really just for Patrick, but the rest of you might enjoy it a little. Just a little something from our visit to the Columbus Zoo a couple of weeks ago.

two monkeys

Sylvan and I saw a bomber

Posted by jonesey on Wednesday, 25 July 2007, 3:55

I’m going through notes that I made for myself over the last few months, and I found a note that says “the plane we saw.” There’s a link to an article in the Eugene Register-Guard, our local paper.

Sylvan and I were weeding the garden or mowing the lawn in mid-May when a plane flew over. Sylvan looked up, found it, and let me know that a plane was flying over. He does that. “ehya-pane.”

I looked up and saw that this was no ordinary plane. Slow and lumbering, large and silver, four large propellers. “That looks like a B-17 bomber or something,” I thought, but what do I know. For a few seconds, I wondered what might be going on, but the grass was long and Sylvan needed attention, so I quickly taxied the plane to the back of my brain.

Later that weekend, I found an article in the paper explaining that sure enough, a B-17 bomber, one of a dozen still able to fly, had been visiting the Eugene airport as part of a tour to promote preservation and awareness of these historic planes. The plane was available for tours and flights. You can see pictures of the plane we saw on the Experimental Aircraft Association’s B-17 web site. Here’s a taste:

B-17 bomber (from

(Photo taken from I hope they don’t mind free publicity.)

Heavy Machinery Operator

Posted by julie on Monday, 23 July 2007, 13:42

The stars lined up for Sylvan last week. Saturday, we walked past the fire station, and Sylvan pasted himself against the building’s glass garage door, pining for the big red firetrucks. Firefighter Lance noticed Sylvan, and mimed a question, “Would you like to come inside?” Oh, yes! Sylvan drove the firetruck – twice, after saying, “Again,” when we were on our way out – observed the “binkin’ yights” on the truck, and banged the clapper on the real bell mounted on the truck’s bumper. Thank you, Lance.

Sylvan drives a steamrollerOn Tuesday, we came across some roadwork while out for a drizzly walk. The steamroller passed back and forth over the asphalt, its yellow light flashing, vibrating the ground as it backed up. Sylvan stood, smitten, for 12-15 minutes. After an asphalt layer is laid and smoothed, it apparently has to cool before another is laid, so one of the guys asked Sylvan if he’d like to drive. Oh, yes! And he beeped the gloriously loud horn, too.

The following day, Sylvan and Daddy went to the City of Eugene’s Touch a Truck, an event packed with heavy machinery enthusiasts of all ages. I don’t know the extent of the excitement, but I do know that Sylvan drove a mixer truck and was inside a police car. We’re writing a thank you note to municipal service employees this week.

Big Boy Bed

Posted by jonesey on Wednesday, 18 July 2007, 11:25

While I was away on Saturday night, Sylvan decided to start climbing out of his bed again. Julie, always on her toes, got on Craigslist and found a toddler bed for sale. We drove out to Crow and bought it on Sunday from a nice ex-toddler named Madison. Sylvan started sleeping in his new big boy bed on Sunday afternoon.

And when I say “sleeping,” I mean “waking up much more frequently than is absolutely necessary.” He woke up about five times the first night, twice the second night, and just once last night. I like the trend.

Big Boy Bed

Happy Birthday, Gramma Jo!

Posted by julie on Wednesday, 18 July 2007, 4:53

My Gramma Jo would have celebrated her 94th birthday last Thursday, the same day Sylvan turned 22 months old. When Gramma passed away in June of 2005, then Sylvan was born three months later, constitutionally unable to stop moving or to allow the adult holding him to stop walking, bouncing, or dancing, my Mom said, “Hmm, sounds like Gramma Jo.” Since Sylvan started walking, then running and dancing and hopping and twirling and wrestling, he has delighted in the world and protested very little. Gramma danced into her last year of life, and she certainly wouldn’t let any of her sisters get away without a quick partnered shuffle-step at a family reunion or birthday party.

We joined Netflix last week, after the only good, independent movie rental store in town shut its doors unexpectedly. Our television has lived in the garage since we moved in, so it’s only been turned on for some Olympics footage, a PBS Yosemite in winter special, and each summer season of “So You Think You Can Dance.” Thus, we’ve missed the good TV along with the barrels full of dregs. So, the first DVDs in our Netflix queue? The full 86 episodes of The Sopranos.

We’ve watched four so far. I’m glad my Italian heritage bypassed the north Jersey printed short suits and (at least recent?) mob ties, and I’m thankful that Gramma spoke like the true Italian-American that she was. Listening to Tony and Carmela Soprano say “stroy-a-del,” “mootzarell,” and “pro-jhoot,” just like Gramma, makes me want to correct my Americanized culinary language and tell it like it is. When I worked in Manhattan, I regularly bought “stroy-a-dels,” or sfogliatelles, at Bruno King of Ravioli on 8th Avenue in Chelsea. One day, the man behind the counter said, “Who taught you how to say that? That’s not how you say it.” Chastened, I started calling the pastries “sfoy-a-tella,” at least similar to Wikipedia’s pronunciation of “sfo-lyah-TEL-e.” But, after hearing Carmela say exactly what my Gramma used to say, I’m sticking to my guns. “Mootzarell,” here I come!

Mommy’s Weakness

Posted by julie on Sunday, 15 July 2007, 22:10

Mommy: “Sylvan, what’s your zebra drinking?”

Sylvan: “Mocha!”