Long view of the boardwalk at the Painted Cove Trail

Long view of the boardwalk at the Painted Cove Trail

Four short trails provided access at different parts of the Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.  Each allowed closer access to the painted hills.

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The Painted Cove Trail took us on a nature walk around a rounded clay hill.  We stayed on a boardwalk for most of the short trail.

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Dramatic skies above the Painted Hills

Dramatic skies above the Painted Hills

Another trail, the Red Hill Trail, took us to yet another painted hill.

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We had timed our visit perfectly.  The rains held off until we were on our drive back north to Washington.  The rain came in cloud bursts, so heavy that once I had to pull off the road until the rain let up.  As we crossed the Columbia River into Washington, a vibrant rainbow appeared, seemingly giving a final blessing to our trip.

Clouds scudding along the Cascade range in Oregon

Clouds scudding along the Cascade range in Oregon

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And then the skies let down a curtain of rain.

And then the skies let down a curtain of rain.

Crossing the Columbia River into Washington (taken from the car window)

Crossing the Columbia River into Washington (taken from the car window)

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Fish-Cleaning Table, Confluence Project, Cape Disappointment State Park

Fish-Cleaning Table, Confluence Project, Cape Disappointment State Park

The Confluence Project is a multi-site land art installation long the Columbia River.  Maya Lin — who is perhaps best known for the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. — helped to design the components of the project in conjunction with the 200 year anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition.  I had already visited one of the Confluence Project sites, the Vancouver Land Bridge, in 2010 shortly after I had first heard about the project.  (You can link to my blog post about the Vancouver Land Bridge here.)  So I was excited to see the Confluence Project site at Cape Disappointment.

There are five parts to the Cape Disappointment Confluence Project Artwork:

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The fish-cleaning table is a working, functional basalt sculpture inscribed with a Chinook origin legend about the interdependence of the Chinook people and the Columbia River salmon.

Basalt fish-cleaning table

Basalt fish-cleaning table

Close by and down a path surrounded by native plants is a viewing platform overlooking Baker Bay.  On the surface of the platform is etched a journal entry from a member of the Corps of Discovery.

Viewing platform

Viewing platform

The Amphitheater Trail, another part of the Confluence Project, leads through dune grasses to a little grove.  The trail is inscribed with the words of a Chinook praise song, with the repeated refrain, “Teach us, and show us the way.”  You read each stanza as you walk the short path.

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At the end of the path is a Cedar Circle, a group of four cedar driftwood columns standing like sentinels around a section of an ancient cedar tree.

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The fifth and final component of Cape Disappointment’s Confluence Project is a boardwalk which represents the 4133-mile length of the Lewis and Clark expedition.  As you walk the boardwalk and reprise the journey of the Corps of Discovery, you read brief observations from the expedition’s journals, including data measurements.  The final step takes you on to the beach, the end of their mission.

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The artwork at this site is more in the nature of landscape architecture than sculptures.  But I liked that so much of the work incorporated texts from native and explorer sources.  Etching words on surfaces seems to be a trademark of Maya Lin’s art (think of the names on the Vietnam War Memorial).  And as always, she seem sensitive to having her work blend into the landscape.

Someday I will have to travel to the other Confluence Project sites and complete my investigation of this art.

 

North Head Lighthouse, Cape Disappointment State Park

North Head Lighthouse, Cape Disappointment State Park

We approached out road trip to Cape Disappointment State Park with the spirit of adventure.  Neither my husband nor I had ever been there before.  It is in the far southwest corner of Washington state, where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean.  It was here that Lewis and Clark fulfilled the mission of their expedition to find a route to the Pacific Ocean.  For them, it was a journey of 4, 132 miles.

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The confluence of the Columbia River and the ocean is anything but pacific.  The currents, surf, fog, and shifting sand bars make it a notoriously difficult place to navigate.  In fact, Cape Disappointment got its name from a sea captain who, to his frustration, could not even find the Columbia River despite searching hard for it.

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These days there are two long jetties that mark the entrance to the Columbia River from the ocean — one on the Oregon side of the river and one at Cape Disappointment.

You can see the jetties in the distance.

You can see the jetties in the distance.

Cape Disappointment State Park is spread out across a large area and contains two lighthouses, miles of beach, a huge campground, hiking and biking trails, a jetty and boat launch, an interpretive center, forested slopes, seagulls, cormorants, and raccoons among other wildlife.  It felt so good to be outside experiencing the wild ocean (always awesome) and natural environment.  It even felt good to sleep in a tent.  Here are some photos to give you a sense of the place:

North Head Lighthouse

North Head Lighthouse

North Head Lighthouse

North Head Lighthouse

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

Wild beach at Cape Disappointment

Wild beach at Cape Disappointment

The beach just a few steps from our campsite.

The beach just a few steps from our campsite.

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Now that we are back at work in Seattle, I can’t believe how often my thoughts turn back to our weekend away.  I remember how much I like camping, but we so rarely do it.  We were drawn to the Pacific NW for its accessibility to mountains, ocean, hiking trails, etc.  but have fallen away from making effort to enjoy those things.  I will have to make outings a higher priority this summer and in the years to come.

Impressionistic Photography

November 28, 2015

Foggy morning, Columbia River

Foggy morning, Columbia River

I’m finding it fun to experiment more with my photos, taking time to make a beautiful impression from some of my duds, those photos that I would ordinarily consider too blurry to keep.  I use an app called Photoshop Express to edit my images — crop, tint, color saturation.  I try to create more expressive, subjective, abstract images.  I am pleased with the painterly quality of the resulting photos.  Don’t you agree that they are beautiful?

This is a more natural view of the Columbia River, the morning after Thanksgiving, as the early morning fog was dissipating.

This is a more natural view of the Columbia River, the morning after Thanksgiving, as the early morning fog was dissipating.

This is a more impressionistic take on the same view.

This is a more impressionistic take on the same view.

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As much as I yearn to find time to paint, I still love to take photos.  And it feels very satisfying to push myself in new ways with my photography.  Experimenting makes me feel alive.  I don’t think I will ever set aside my camera for my paintbrushes.  I want time to play around with both.

 

Finding Solace

October 31, 2014

Foggy morning on the Columbia River, Mount Hood looms

Foggy morning on the Columbia River, Mount Hood looms

Ask
by William Stafford, from Crossing Unmarked Snow

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made.  Ask me whether
what I have done is my life.  Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate as made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait.  We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

Stafford offers some thoughts on the making of this poem, one of those he calls “accepting what comes.”  He says, “We are surrounded by mystery, tremendous things that do not reveal themselves to us.  That river, that world — and our lives — all share the depth and stillness of much more significance than our task, or intentions.  There is a steadiness and somehow a solace in knowing that what is around us so greatly surpasses our human concerns.”

Sunrise over the Columbia River

Sunrise over the Columbia River

Mount Hood

Mount Hood

I do find solace in Stafford’s poem and in my unknowing.  Why am I here?  What does my life mean?  I do not know, perhaps cannot know.  But I accept with gratitude that I am still here trying to figure it out!

 

 

 

 

 

“Make your own images, and you will make your own memories.”
— Danny Gregory, An Illustrated Journey:  Inspiration from the Private Art Journals of Traveling Artists, Illustrators and Designers

Replica of Stonehenge on the Columbia River near Goldendale, WA

Replica of Stonehenge on the Columbia River near Goldendale, WA

” . . . to truly see the places one has traveled so far to see, one need only pack along a pen and a sketchbook.”
— Danny Gregory, An Illustrated Journey:  Inspiration from the Private Art Journals of Traveling Artists, Illustrators and Designers

I admire nature journals and travel sketchbooks but I’ve always had trouble slowing down enough on my travels to stop and pull out paints and paper and actually sketch something.  I didn’t even try on last weekend’s getaway to Eastern Washington.  But I was so inspired by Danny Gregory’s book, An Illustrated Journey:  Inspiration from the Private Art Journals of Traveling Artists, Illustrators and Designers, that when I got home, I attempted a sketch from one of the photos I took at the war memorial and Stonehenge replica along the Columbia River near Goldendale.  I will try to make it a priority to do this more often as a way to build even more memories from my travels.

Interior view, Stonehange replica

Interior view, Stonehenge replica

Replica of Stonehenge on a bluff over the Columbia River

Replica of Stonehenge on a bluff over the Columbia River

Watercolor sketch of my husband at the Stonehenge replica

Watercolor sketch of my husband at the Stonehenge replica

 

 

 

 

Morning clouds swirl on the hillsides above the Columbia River north of Wenatchee, WA

“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness . . .”
John Keats

The drive back home to Seattle from Chelan was a wet, misty affair.  But the low clouds clinging to the hillsides and mountainsides created a beautiful, moody atmosphere as I covered the miles.  I drove Hwy 97-alt south along the Columbia River to Wenatchee, and then drove west on Hwy 2 over Stevens Pass in the Cascade Mountains.  It’s a great fall drive with lots of color.

The gray skies dulled the colors a bit along the Columbia River

Yellow poplar trees along the Columbia River

Hwy 2 as I approached Leavenworth

Along Hwy 2 in the Cascades

Moss-covered branches

A little open meadow along Hwy 2

Fall color on the mountainside near Stevens Pass

Tree branch with waterfalls

Road trip on Hwy 2 in autumn

The mighty Columbia River from Hwy 97 approaching Chelan, WA

“Travel alerts the eye and humbles the hand.  Its final destination is radiance: to be transported . . .”
— Patricia Hampl, Blue Arabesque

“The hunger for wonder is appeased by nothing as it is satisfied by travel.”
— Patricia Hampl, Blue Arabesque

I spent the first few days of this week in eastern Washington (east of the Cascade Mountains) in Chelan at a work conference.  I was able to arrive early, on Saturday, and spend two days there with my husband before settling in to work.  Other than a long-ago boat trip down Lake Chelan to Stehekin many years ago, I had not spent any time in Chelan.  So it was fun to explore.  We drove along the lake shore on both sides of the lake until the roads dead ended.  The area is surrounded by dry hills and mountains, yet water is a central feature of the landscape — both Lake Chelan and the Columbia River dominate the views.  We drove along rural roads dotted with vineyards and orchards.  And even though it was cloudy and rainy at times, we did find plenty of radiance in the fall colors.  My hunger for wonder was appeased.

Here are some photos:

Historic mural in the town of Chelan

Rows of blueberry bushes, Blueberry Hills Farm, Manson, WA

Old farm implements, Blueberry Hills Farm

Radiance in a row of yellow trees at the top of a distant hill, Manson, WA

Small lakes nestled in the hills around Manson, WA

Fall reflections in Dry Lake near Manson

Further along Dry Lake’s shoreline

Grape vines covered with netting

At Atam Vineyard near Manson, WA

Grapes, Atam Vineyard

Golden color in a ravine across Lake Chelan

Picnic tables at Lake Chelan State Park — very quiet this time of year

Lake Chelan with clouds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shadows: replica of Stonehenge along the Columbia River near Goldendale, WA

“It is indeed immensely picturesque.  I can fancy sitting all a summer’s day watching its shadows shorten and lengthen again, and drawing a delicious contrast between the world’s duration and the feeble span of individual experience.  There is something in Stonehenge almost reassuring; and if you are disposed to feel that life is rather a superficial matter, and that we soon get to the bottom of things, the immemorial gray pillars may serve to remind you of the enormous background of time.”
— Henry James, 1875

I have not had the privilege of seeing Stonehenge on the Salisbury plain of England, but I hope to get there some day.  In the meantime, I finally visited a life-sized replica of Stonehenge situated along the Columbia River near Goldendale, WA.  This Stonehenge was built after World War I as a memorial to those soldiers from Klickitat County who lost their lives in that Great War.

I was surprised at how small this replica is — in my mind, Stonehenge has always been a grand monument, somewhat larger-than-life.  Washington’s Stonehenge misses some of the mystery of the original ancient and irregular stones.  This replica is a bit too uniformly constructed.  But its location in the arid range along the gorge of the Columbia River is impressive, and I’m glad I finally made the time to see it.

Replica of Stonehenge along the Columbia River

Just a replica, but still impressive

Stonehenge with blue sky

From inside the circle of pillars

Stonehenge with windmill

Posterized effect

View of Mount Hood from Stonehenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

” . . . a taste for the beautiful is most cultivated out of doors, where there is no house and no housekeeper.”
— Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Columbia River sunrise with Mount Hood, 2007

“We have lost the response of the heart to what is presented to the senses.”
— Stephen H. Buhner, The Secret Teachings of Plants:  The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature

Thoreau is advocating for experiencing the world directly, without the barriers of intellect, learned responses, or the opinions of art critics, for example.  In today’s world, we accept even more barriers, content to experience nature through the filter of our flat-screen televisions, computer screens, and hand-held devices.  Yes, there are some benefits — by means of the magic of technology, we can see the wildebeest migrations, swimming penguins, erupting volcanoes, etc. — things we would not be exposed to otherwise.  But what have we lost by settling for this filtered view rather than first-hand observations?

Unfortunately, technology makes it far too easy for us to become viewers rather than participants in life.  It feels like work to actually spend some real time outside and open our senses to what nature provides.  We have to remember that the effort is worth it, even though it’s difficult to articulate how being surrounded by beauty actually improves our lives.  I find that resting in beauty is restorative and feeds the soul.  A life without beauty would be barren indeed.

It may be that taking time for beauty — whether natural beauty or created beauty —  is pointless, but still worthwhile.  David Orr offers this point of view in Beautiful & Pointless:  A Guide to Modern Poetry:

“So what are we left with?  Perhaps nothing more than the realization that much of life is devoted to things that in the end don’t matter very much, except to us. . . . I can’t tell you why you should bother to read poems, or to write them; I can only say that if you do choose to give your attention to poetry, as against all the other things you might turn to instead, that choice can be meaningful.  There’s little grandeur in this, maybe, but out of such small, unnecessary devotions is the abundance of our lives sometimes made evident.”

“Mankind will be saved by beauty.”
— Dostoevsky