Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Oregon, Land of Fog .

I don't get to write as often as I would like anymore. Time is something that becomes precious and you have many internal quarrels as you try to prioritize things and yet at the same time give them all equal attention. Thankfully I have been able to read others' posts often and keep up with what's going on here in the blogosphere.

The winter season in Oregon is long, cold, and wet. It rains a lot. It mists a lot. And a lot of times there is so much moisture in the air that you just feel wet all the time even if it's not actually raining. Picture walking through a cloud that actually is the density of about 10 clouds.

The weird thing is, you can get up and see the world before the fog rolls in. Around 530am, which is the time I normally roll out of bed, if you look out the window the world is still. The traffic ceases to exist. Sometimes the rain patters against the window and the street, and the world is distorted through the streaks that form on the glass.

Several times a week I go to the gym with a friend and when we wake up, it's totally still outside. You can almost always see your breath, and our voices pierce stagnant air, disturbing it from its peace. By the time we get out of the gym, despite it still being dark, you can't see. The fog is so thick you could cut it with a knife. It's truly unlike anything I have ever seen. I'd take a picture, but it probably wouldn't even look like anything.

The coolest part is when you are driving through and it's like you come into bubbles of clear air. It's like swimming out of the ocean for a moment and then diving right back in. But when the sun does finally come up and clear out the fog, damn the days are gorgeous. Makes you remember how beautiful the weather really can be.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

cold .

The air practically singed on its way down. A deep inhale, followed by a deeper exhale. My breath instantly silhouetted against the moon's light. No one else ever believed this was a respectable time to awaken. Checking my laces once more, I tightened them and knotted a double loop. The reflective strips along the soles shone, but the rest of me lay in shadow. I was a ninja of the night. Another inhale, another exhale. The cold crept into my lungs, alighting a fire inside to keep me warm. My heart raced with anticipation and I grew impatient. Propping my leg up on the handrail to my apartment steps I cautiously leaned over and touched my head to my knee. My hamstrings screamed, but they did not falter. Switching legs I glanced around. Not a soul in sight -- just the way I like it. The dark takes no prisoners, only victims. But this was different. I owned this place. This was my realm.

My instincts took over. Another inhale, another exhale. Adjusting the hat on my head, I brushed the hair out of my eyes, shifting in the hoodie and pants that had kept me warm over the years. I had gone miles in these clothes. I had pounded my feet in these shoes. My knees may have lost some of their ability to rebound, but my legs remained strong. Muscles built on years of pain and abuse kept them in place. I pushed myself, each, and every, day. And today was no different.

With one final glance behind me, I disappeared into the night. All that was left was the sound of my footsteps echoing down city streets, and the swirling mist left in my wake in the amber glow of the lights..

Thursday, January 2, 2014

she .

she is the light to my eyes:
a guide in a world of dark
a hand to grasp at sometimes
and a loving matriarch.

she whispers to me, i feel her close
she speaks of love,
something upon which you can never overdose.

i feel her close to me,
my heart bursts with joy
for a future together
is the life i plan to employ
and near or far i am comforted.

for we always make it work.

as sure as the sun sets and rises
and the moon pulls the tide,
as sure as a mother loves her child
and the poet's words are comprised,
i will love her.
may she forever know what she means to me
may she never forget she's the love i need

some nights we spend alone,
others we are together at home.
though all the while we feel, we ache, we love.

i live for her. we live for each other.
a hand, a shoulder, a pillow; laughter.
love: now, forever and

it is she.
out of all of the "she's" one could ask for
she gives herself to me and i am forever bonded with her.

it is she.
the one who makes you smile on a day
filled with bleak senses and tragedies away

it is she,
who i love.
 who is the one.

Oregon Bound: pt.12

This will be the final chapter of this little series that I started of so long ago. There's simply a lot of stories to fit into a drive across the country! But I'll reminisce more towards the end. First on the agenda today, we finally reached OREGON. Naturally, even just crossing the border into the state had its own little bit of drama.
 Upon crossing the border from Idaho to Oregon, we wanted to pull over and take a picture with the sign. But the minute we crossed the bridge into Oregon, we passed by a group of state trooper police cars sitting on the median. No sooner had we passed and pulled into the visitor center for Oregon, then a state trooper pulled up as we were walking to this very sign. He inquired as to where we were going and what we were doing, and though my dad was very put off by all of this (as he later told me, "It's profiling!") the cop eventually dropped his guard and we had a nice little chat about Oregon. I found the whole situation to be quite comical, actually. I mean honestly, some kid and his dad driving a packed and loaded car with two bikes on the back. What could we possibly have been doing? I suppose we were a suspicious party simply because we had New Jersey license plates.

As the cop told us during our little chat, eastern Oregon pretty much looks like a desert. Though once you cross through the mountains (not sure which ones those are) you will soon have, as he put it, "more trees than you know what to do with." Upon passing out of civilization a bit, it was very clear that this desert foreshadowing was exactly on par. We even hit some seriously nasty rain storms (pics to follow) and it kinda felt like we were in Oklahoma or something. However needless to say rain is, as we soon realized, one of the staples of Oregon. (After a whole term of living there, it doesn't really bother me anymore!)

Oregon.... desert?
here comes the rain!
 As we headed toward Bend, though, the skies parted after going through one of the mountain ranges, and the sun came out for the evening! Though driving through rain is never really that fun, I think that it makes you appreciate the sunshine that much more -- and there is simply nothing more beautiful than the sun showing its face after a nice rain storm.

After reaching Bend, Oregon (one of the earthiest places I've ever been to) and a slightly rushed dinner at Shari's (Oregon's equivalent of diners, though it is a chain), we headed to Klamath Falls, to a little motel that would hold us hostage for the night and unleash us the next day upon the cliff roads of Crater Lake. Crater Lake was one of those things that was definitely out of the way as far as getting Eugene, but both my dad and I wanted to see it. My dad had heard stories about it growing up and said that it really was something that had always been on his bucket list. And so we went. Crater Lake is one of the most beautiful, tranquil, and incredible places I have ever been in my life. Not only that, but we had an absolutely perfect day for it too! There's a little path that sort of winds its way up to viewing points in places, but other spots are literally just drive-your-car-up-and-look spots. I couldn't get over how blue the water was, nor how quiet everything was! The view was, put simply, spectacular.

This little rock formation is known as the (hold on, let me go check my facts...) Phantom Ship of Crater Lake. It's basically a bunch of pillars, and when it's super foggy, it actually does look like a ship coming through the mist. Obviously we didn't exactly have fog around to test that theory, but I'll take their word for it, and it does look kinda like a ship. I ended up taking some really cool shots of this place, but that often happens when you're at a place with views like this. But let's both pretend I'm good at photography for a moment, and I'll tell you with pride that I actually took a panorama I took on my phone, blew it up to 12x36 and framed it and gave it to my parents as a Christmas gift! It was a hit.

obsessed with the water droplets

My dad and I even found a few short paths to check out that involved some truly barren soil (above), gnarly trees, and even a sweet little action shot of dad (it was a little slippery). The paths like that are cool, and not just at Crater Lake but in general in the outdoors because they sort of segregate you from the cars we depend on oh so much in our every day lives, and allow for an unobstructed view of nature's beauty.

action shot 

That fun little mountain bit in the middle is actually a part of a volcano that (I think) is still active and that's how it was created in the lake. In fact, the lake itself used to be a humongous volcano, but the gaps inside were too large and the whole top collapsed, hence the crater! Fun stuff, eh?

a beautiful day... just makes you wanna spread your arms in the air

One of the coolest things about the lake was how calm the water was. It yielded a pretty damn near perfect reflection of what was happening outside the water, and with a sky that blue, the water looked pristine.

And this, my friends, is pretty much where the journey ends. After visiting Crater Lake in the morning, we got back on US 97 and headed North, where we picked up OR-58, which took us more or less right in Eugene, Oregon. Over 4000 miles of pavement, and what had to have been 70+ hours of driving (including all of the "fun" driving like stuff around parks and things like that) and we had made it. Lo and behold we arrived on a beautiful sunny day, not a cloud in sight, with a toasty 70 degree temperature. It is a trip I will never forget and a time I will always treasure. It is not very often someone gets to experience the entire breadth of the country in such a hands on (or perhaps wheels-on) way.

And now, with one term of six before I finish school already under my belt, I can't believe that this trip took place 3 months ago. Shit, I can't believe that my Barcelona study abroad program was years ago now (I came home around 2 years ago)! I hope that you all have had a wonderful time over the holidays with your families and loved ones, and that the New Year will bring fortune to all. In the coming months I hope to continue with blog posts, and while they may not be daily, I invite you to pull up a chair, warm your hands and sip some cocoa, invite your friends, and listen to a good story every once in awhile. That's what this is kinda all about, right? More to come my friends. And until then, I bid you adieu.

Oregon Bound: pt.11

Our days in Yellowstone were finally done, though the wonderful views contained by this country's national parks was not quite finished yet, for connected to Yellowstone is another of Wyoming's treasures: Grand Teton National Park. To be perfectly honest, there is a lot less to see here than in Yellowstone, and unless you plan on parking the car and going on a long hike, you won't really get too up close and personal with the mountains. However, I've been told that these are the very mountains that "purple mountains majesty" was named after! A vast plain separates the road and the mountain range, but it seemed that in the spring, when all the snow melts and water flows abundantly down the slopes, this vast plain actually became a lake. Just like Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park offers a slew of pull offs to be able to see the mountains, and though you know you're always looking at the same collection of them, you end up taking a kajillion pictures because each view seems more picturesque than the last! The pictures pretty much speak for themselves here, so peruse away!

the parking lot of the visitor center

one of my favorite pictures i took -- would be worth printing out!

Funny story about the next picture, I actually wasn't in a car to take it. As we were driving along the road, I thought that this would be such a cool shot, given that the road looked like it was about to crash straight into the mountains. There wasn't much traffic along the road, but I decided that I was going to pull off and try to take a shot from the absolute middle of the road. Sure enough I found my break in the traffic, but there wasn't much time! I must have looked crazy running into the middle of the road to take a photo, but I love the result!

Upon leaving Grand Teton National Park we came upon Jackson, Wyoming, home of the famed ski slope Jackson Hole. I suppose it's named as such because the town seems to literally sit in a hole in the mountains. Despite its small size, I even knew of Jackson Hole because of the slopes open for skiing and they even have their own airport! I would imagine that there are a great many people that go directly from the airport to the slopes and the ski resorts and never actually visit the town itself. However, our stomachs were grumbling and we made a stop at the Shades Cafe in Jackson. Shades Cafe was actually a Foursquare find, as I had been using it to find out cool local places to eat with good ratings. The place was really nice, with a little veranda out on the side you could sit on, with notes of jazz seeping into your ears.

Leaving Jackson Hole was not quite as easy as rolling in. The US highway that takes you out climbs through a mountain pass, and it is a 10% grade. For those of you who don't know, 6% grade is usually enough to get a sign posted warning truckers of steep grades and the need to use low gears. The hill was so steep (and perhaps my engine so weak) that I literally had to drive 10 or 15 below the limit in third gear in order to make it up with a full car load. Once we got to the top, we pulled off to have a look. Sure enough, there was Jackson, nestled into the valley, the one flat spot amongst the mountains. It was quite a sight, and as per the usual, pictures simply do not do it justice.

you can barely make out the buildings, but they are down there if you look close!
 The next stop was Idaho and as we finally got back onto an interstate highway, we racked up the miles quickly and made good time. We even escaped a massive storm on the way! Boise was not a place where we really had planned to do much of anything, but rather just a stop along the way that was convenient and easy to find a hotel at. As the land flattened out again as we made our way out of the mountains, all I could think about was whether or not I was finally going to see some real Idaho potatoes... my dad and I made a game out of trying to guess which farm fields were potatoes.

massive storm clouds

Oregon Bound: pt.10

Picking right back up where we left off, the last image we saw was of a bison chilling out in a field in the sunlight. And that is where he stayed... until we left to move on. I get the feeling that bison don't exactly move much. Which would be why I think that they'd be a much better source to become the American burger. Seriously. Bison > Cows. And taste better. And honestly, look cooler too. Horns over udders, giants beards over whatever you want to call a cow's face. Anyways...

We continued our drive through Yellowstone. By this point, we had seen more or less the big things that we wanted to see. The cool thing is, there are often little hidden treasures just a hop skip and a jump off the beaten path -- if only you know where to look. Of course, you may also run into these things out of pure dumb luck as well, which is what happened in the case of the river. I decided that I wanted to stop at a random pull off (one of what had to be hundreds in the park) and I'm so glad I did. What we saw next was a neat little section of rapids where you could literally go out almost over the water as it cascaded down through the rocks.

eh, kinda cool... what happens if we walk a little further... 
looking down the river, where my dad found an outcropping of his own
It was well worth the careful walk out onto the rocks. And it is here where a humorous anecdote arises. I had chosen this spot, the one where all of these photos were taken from. In the second photo, looking down the river, was my dad (somewhere). I don't think he's visible in that photo, but he ended up somewhere down there, next to a few other folks who had walked a little further down the road. They saw me, as I was perched right above the water, and the guy said to my dad, "Hey, look at that guy out there in the pink shirt." Sure enough, that was me. My dad replied, "I see him; that's my son!" I'm sure I made you proud, Dad. He eventually came out for a look of his own.
there i am, being artsy above the river (pic courtesy of dad)
We then diverged from the main road, and ended upon a road that took us right alongside a huge gorge. The pictures don't really do it justice. The roads in Yellowstone, more or less, follow the river, and it just so happens this often yields some of the most picturesque photos. These were no different, and after parking the car in generously sized pull off  that thankfully was not on the side of the gorge, we walked across the road to take a gander.
capturing the bend
 We headed to one more potentially interesting location that I'm pretty sure was named the Painted Pots. There are several spots like this, where the exhausted steam sort of combines with muddy areas and creates awesome colors. Apparently though, these are a lot more interesting in the spring when there is more water to sort of hold the structures that are created by geothermal activity together. It's always cool to see the geothermal activity, but this one didn't impress us too much. Always nice to get out of the car though, and this one spot included a nice little walk through the woods from the car. Note in the second picture that the trees look quite young. Forest fires are not only common, but necessary. It helps prune back old growth and allow for new growth to come in. You can sort of tell the age of the surrounding forest from the height of the trees! Pretty cool.
painted pots? artists pots? who knows
a perfect day
 We then headed back to the geyser basin we had barely been able to catch before dusk hit the night before, and it was well worth the trip back. It was totally different seeing it during the day rather than at dusk. One thing that always amazed me is that you walk across all this geothermal activity on these dinky little boardwalks. There are warnings galore about not setting foot on the ground and how everything is unstable and you never know what's going to happen. Kinda makes me antsy that I'm basically walking across wooden planks on top of all this nonsense. But, that's just what they do! Also I'm aware that the picture of me is pretty washed out. But it's kinda like I'm molding into a part of the landscape, no?

geyser basins galore
that trademark pink shirt again
liked the sky in this one

perhaps too many pictures of geysers now...
 The highlight of the second day in Yellowstone happened on our way back to the cabin for our last night there. We had seen about all we wanted to see, and were chewing up the pavement en route to the Lake Lodge and our place of residence for the past two days. It's often common for traffic to back up in places where something exciting is happening, and sometimes that is when someone sees a wild animal. Out of nowhere we came to a dead halt, and had no idea what the deal was. After a long day of driving, a traffic jam was the last thing I wanted. Instead we got a real treat. As I poked my head out the window, I saw was all the hubbub was about: a herd of bison, lazily trotting down the road. Big ones, small ones, calfs, and more! Seeing them walk right by your car window (I wasn't about to get out of the car now) really gives you an idea of how huge these guys are!
we can use the roads too, you know
what you looking at
 After some priceless pictures, we got ready to end the night with dinner and good night's sleep, feeling totally fulfilled at all we had seen in the park. It's one of the most beautiful places in the country hands down, and going there is something that everyone should do in their lifetime. If you haven't been, GO. More to come!
a herd of bison in the valley
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