20 December 2006

Market day in Recife

7 November 2006

Recife tapioca stand
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
I’ve always felt that the best gauge of the true pulse of a city is to wander the streets during one of the day’s busiest times. While the tour group perused the gift shops at Casa Cultural for a little souvenir shopping, I slipped outside for a brisk walk through the teeming side streets of the central market district in Recife.

The call of the vendors, the clap of the hands to signal a potential customer, the stalls of leather belts and sandals, pyramids of fruit stacked at the ready, and the smell of street food such as grilled meat or tapioca omelets create the seamless ebb and flow of daily living. You can purchase most of your household necessities within a radius of only four or five blocks.

Recife fruit stand

Throngs of pedestrians crossing the bridge as the work day ends are treated to a serenade by a local folk duo who has positioned themselves at the bridge entrance. Some stop to listen, to shuffle a few dance steps with a partner, or to drop a few coins before continuing on to complete the evening shopping on the way home. There is a sense of purpose in their stride, and yet an air of leisure as the people of the city begin to unwind from the cares and worries of the day.

10 December 2006


Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
A few months after I moved to Salem, I met Liz. We soon discovered that we share a birthday (along with a healthy appreciation for gelato and all things Italian).

When November arrived, I posed the question, "What are we going to do for our birthday this year?" while thinking silently to myself that it should be decadent and involve chocolate.

So last Thursday we cleared some space in our schedules to celebrate at Pix Patisserie, a little corner shop in Portland that has grown to three locations. We stood for several moments in front of the pastry case transfixed by the array of eye-catching delicacies.

How does one choose between Almond cream, chocolate ganache, and orange vanilla bean crème brulée all piled into a buttery tart shell and Chocolate mousse blanketing a crisp hazelnut praline filling and dacquoise base surrounded by a mosaic of nougatine?

In the end, we couldn’t settle for just one…

04 December 2006

Astoria the Divine

sunset at low tide
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
Now, if the students I worked with this past weekend heard me use such an adjective in conjuction with their small town, they'd no doubt be perplexed and perhaps even roll their eyes. I know. I grew up in an even smaller town further up the river, and you never think your hometown is anything special. That is, until you return years later and see it in another light.

I arrived in Astoria on Friday afternoon just in time to catch an inspiring sunset across Youngs Bay. When the area isn't shrouded in fog, you can truly see some amazing vistas.

That night I conducted training for ten Alumni Teen Leaders, high school students I initially met as new leaders last year. It's fun to reconnect with them and see how they're growing in confidence and individuality. It's an aspect of my work that is really gratifying, and makes the long days and sterile hotel rooms more bearable.

So yes, the sunsets were stunning, but the truly divine part? The discovery of possibly the best rocky road brownie in Oregon. As you crest the top of the hill and turn onto Niagara Avenue, you'll pass a small store called the Peter Pan Market. Neither the name nor the storefront will beckon to you, but if you pass on by you'll also miss the perfect blend of cake-like brownie speckled with walnuts, chocolate chips, and marzipan beneath a thin layer of chocolate frosting. Mmm...it's a good thing I pass through Astoria only once or twice a year.

27 November 2006

Happy Feet

le pidgeon
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
There's something that comes with getting older -- you learn how to take better care of yourself. Truly, you understand that simple things can bring great pleasure, and that greater or grander or brighter and bigger are sometimes just subtle subterfuge.

So when I determined how I wanted to mark the passing of another year (yes, my birthday), my mind swiftly turned to a day in Portland. Portland has long been one of my favorite cities: a tangle of one-way streets, hills, bridges, quirky neighborhoods, and colorful people. It is large enough I can easily think of a dozen things to do, see, explore…and yet small enough to navigate in an afternoon. It is a muse for my creative mind.

I did a little window shopping, splurged on a pair of Acorn slippers with memory foam, ate at little French-inspired bistro on East Burnside, admired artwork by Rachel Austin, explored the endless light fixtures, glass globes, and doorknobs at Hippo Hardware, and enjoyed the best ginger- molasses-cocoa cookie with a hot cup of steamed soy milk flavored with almond at my favorite corner café, Crema.

The next day, when someone asked who I went to Portland with, I replied, “With me!” I’m content with my own company. Which is not to say that I don’t welcome the companionship of others -- simply that it can be a treat to enjoy a little solitude and contemplation.

And now I have very happy, toasty feet as I pad around my house.

* I will return to the Brasil travel narrative soon.

19 November 2006

Let's Start in South Beach

30 October 2006

I can think of no better way to start a vacation than to stroll along South Beach and wait and hour and a half in an airport security line due to an unidentified threat.

My first experience with Miami was six years ago, when I attended a national Harm Reduction conference. It was also my first official business trip, surely an indication that I was a part of the professional workforce. I had, on that occasion, prided myself on my thrifty ways. I determined the bus to take from the airport which deposited me at the metro station that would transport me to within walking distance of my hotel – all while hauling my Samsonite valet bag. Needless to say, I had the not-for-profit business model firmly entrenched in my psyche along with a healthy dose of naiveté. I soon learned, however, and cabbed it back to the airport for my return trip.

So to commemorate my return to the city where I first tasted ropa vieja and platanos maduros, I retraced my earlier steps to the South Beach district in search of the Lincoln Road Café. After satiating my appetite for Cuban cuisine, I admired the muted pastels, rounded corners, and art deco lines of the buildings occupying Lincoln Road and Collins Avenue. A stroll along the Miami Beach Walk almost convinced me that the waters of the Atlantic in Rio de Janeiro couldn’t possibly be much different than this lovely location…

I decided it would be best to test that theory in person, however, and climbed aboard the bus to return to the airport. After claiming my luggage at baggage check, I headed to the international terminal in search of my parents and to meet the rest of the group headed to São Paulo.

30 September 2006

Under the Autumn Moon

Chinatown Lamppost
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
Autumn in the Pacific Northwest has been ushered in with spectacular weather: blue skies, high temperatures, and the glow of amber and crimson leaves.

This weekend is the Autumn Moon Festival in the Chinatown/Old Town section of Portland. It’s a celebration of tradition and history, as well as shaping a path for continued appreciation of culture and diversity.

For the past several years, the city has been busy with a development project in Old Town. They’ve installed more of the uniform red lampposts throughout the district, as well as updated signage, poured new curbs and sidewalks, installed public art and historical markers, and planted over 100 new trees. The festival was a way to reintroduce the public to this revitalized area.

Two different stages for musical entertainment anchored the festival streets along Third and Fourth Avenues. In between, you’ll find an assortment of curios shops, restaurants, and even an herbalist. The Hailin Temple, an unassuming storefront from the street, was conducting a Zambhala Dharma Assembly. A look inside reveals bright colors and ornate decorations lining this inviting space.

The Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association was the hub for youth-oriented activities, including origami. Two large dragons, which no doubt had danced in the streets during the morning parade, remained on display in the hall. One could also watch or join in various games using mahjong tiles.

An indoor warehouse was converted into a global bazaar space for the weekend. One could sip the milk out of a whole coconut, then return to have the vendor split the orb in half to enjoy the tender meat inside. Along with art, pottery, and imported food stuffs, one could also touch the soft and pliant texture of clothing woven from bamboo fiber. Throughout the bazaar, little girls in silk kimonos with baskets wandered around proffering fortune cookies to festival goers.

On the adjacent plaza, the pungent aromas of food vendors mingled with the steady rhythms of the cooking demonstrations and the beats rising from the World Stage. I enjoyed watching several numbers performed by Portland Taiko, a local ensemble that practices and teaches this traditional Japanese drumming performance art.

15 September 2006

Is that the Southern Hemisphere Calling?

Originally uploaded by calinisima.
The trip to Brazil is beginning to feel official. The information packet from the travel group arrived yesterday. My passport stamped with the necessary tourist visa from the Brazilian Consulate in Houston arrived a couple of weeks ago. And I’ve made my flight reservations from Portland to Miami where I will meet up with the rest of the group.

Here’s a glimpse at the itinerary (29 October-11 November 2006):
• Sao Paulo
• Porto Alegre
• Iguaçu Falls
• Rio de Janeiro
• Recife
• Manaus

For me, so much of the fun and anticipation of a trip is in the planning stages. I like to take a small travel notebook with me in which I have written little tidbits of advice culled from internet research and others’ recommendations. Of particular interest to me on this trip will be taking photographs of city and street life, the natural surroundings, and market/grocery items unique to the country.

I imagine some of you have favorite tips, adventurous ideas, or just plain ‘ol advice. So what should I be on the lookout for?

10 September 2006

On a Country Road

Eugene Market
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
With summer quickly fading, I wanted to take advantage of the warm days and blue skies before the fading daylight and crisp air sweep in the approaching autumn. I had not visited the Eugene Saturday Market yet this season, and I was anxious to follow up on a conversation pointing me in the direction of the Oakhill Pioneer Cemetery. So today I set out for Lane County.

The Saturday Market in Eugene has a unique flavor all its own. Interested in a rune reading? Need the latest in tie-dyed fashions for your little one? Searching for one-of-kind jewelry or perhaps a wind chime for the back porch? Well, a stop at the market will satisfy all of those wishes. Fashion is certainly free-form here, and you’ll encounter a number of merchants and activists who are passionate about what they do.

At the adjacent farmers’ market I stop to pick up some fresh corn on the cob, button squash, and a sweet-smelling summer melon. After consuming a handmade tamale with chunks of potato and a prune nestled in the center, I leave the market to navigate the western reaches of Highway 126.

For the past several months, my dad and I have been on a mission to locate the grave marker of Ellen Hemenway Humphrey. So far, the search has taken me along country roads in Bellfountain, to the Oregon state archives and state library in Salem, and now to the small settlement of Veneta.

Established by John Bailey in 1850, the Oakhill Cemetery covers two sides of a small knoll within sight of the Fern Ridge Reservoir. It has become a resting place for many of the early pioneers who came out west via the Oregon Trail, including my great-great-great-grandfather, Ansel Asa Hemenway. At the crest of the hill bordering the gravel drive sits the marker for part of the Hemenway clan: patriarch Ansel, his wife Abigail, and one of their sons, Urban. After 110 years, signs of age and erosion are particularly evident on the north-facing side of the marker. Still decipherable, however, is a tender inscription:

Tis hard to break the tender cord
When love has bound the heart
Tis hard so hard to speak the words
Must we forever part

After a quiet walk through the cemetery rows, I leave with another piece of the family puzzle in place.

19 August 2006


little italy lamppost
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
It wouldn't be August without the requisite visit to the Italian Cultural Fair in Salt Lake City. A tiny affair, it grows a little bit in popularity and sponsorship each year.

Why do I go? To enjoy the gelato and Italian ice, of course! For the past two years, my friends Heather and Karin have joined me as we peruse the booths and sit in the shade to happily share vibrant flavors such as black cherry, pistachio, and lemon.

As we pass the nearby bocce competition, we leave pining for another Italian adventure!

14 August 2006

Blue Herons and Bike Rides

bikes on bridge
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
Eighteen years ago, my parents were fortunate enough to acquire a patch of land along the Buffalo River with one of my aunts and her husband. Since then, our summers have been full of blue skies alternating with thunderstorms, lazy afternoon floats down the river, and the exploration of dusty paths in this southeastern corner of Idaho.

Promoted as “the longest Main Street” in America, this 33-mile stretch along Highway 20 provides access to numerous lakes and rivers for water sports and fishing, groomed trails for snowmobiling, and access for exploring the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

As the area grew in popularity for outdoor sports, a number of lodges and inns sprung to life in response to the tourist traffic. Pond's Lodge, Phillips Lodge, Island Park Lodge, Mack’s Inn, and Big Springs Inn were just a few of the businesses established during the early 20th century. With the passage of time, those lodges that remain struggle to adapt and draw modern travelers.

Island Park holds a lot of memories for my mother, who spent her summers in the area as a young girl. In the 1940s, she began working at Pond’s Lodge, a stopping point for motorists as well as a supply point for the families who spent their summers in the area. Punctuated with hard work and good, clean fun, it was a way of life that she longed to share with her family.

And so, over the years, Island Park has come to mean those things to us as well: canoe rides, bicycle trips to the railroad bridge, feeding the fish at Big Springs, and spying blue herons and moose around the reservoir at twilight time. Though my schedule only allowed for a few short days here this August, the shared memories of summers past will continue to linger.

05 August 2006

A Painted Sense of History

on horseback
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.

In central Washington as you travel along Highway 97 you will pass the small farming community of Toppenish. You will be tempted to just keep on driving, to continue on your journey and reach your destination, but a brief stop here to stretch your legs will be worth the time.

Highlighting the historical importance of the area, buildings throughout the downtown area showcase 69 murals that are thoroughly researched and meticulously painted – with one new mural being added each year. You’ll find a depiction of an early hop harvest, a round of an Indian stick game, migratory waterfowl, and a mother hanging out the wash among other scenes that hearken back to the history of the area "where the West still lives.”

You can guide yourself on a personal walking tour of the murals by following the brass horseshoes embedded in the sidewalks, or join an official tour which will transport you by wagon while imparting local facts and stories.

Want to see the artists in action? The First Saturday of each June, mural artists gather in a race against the clock to complete the new mural in one day. Bleachers are set up for spectators, and a small food and craft fair accompanies the event.

If your travels take you through the Yakima Valley during the first weekend in August, make a stop at the Guerra farm in Sunnyside and enjoy the fabulous dinner they prepare each year as part of their Chile Pepper Festival.

*Clicking on the picture will link you to photos of additional murals

28 July 2006

In the Blues

Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
Six o’clock in the morning comes very early – especially in the summertime when you’re twelve years old. For three weeks each summer, from the ages of 10 through 15, I earned money for new school clothes by picking blueberries. For most of those summers my mom and my older sister, Beth, were there, too.

By 6:30 am we’d be out in the field, on our assigned row, and reaching for those first few handfuls of cool, morning berries. Not being much of a morning person myself, the thought of wet grass and wet berries combined with the early hour was not very motivating.

My mother had to do a fair amount of cajoling to get us to be productive pickers. She came up with all sorts of techniques. Who could pick the first bucket of the day? Who would have the heaviest bucket? She taught us to clean pick, and pick well, by reminding us to gather up our “lead berries,” berries that had fallen to the ground and would therefore add that extra weight to our bucket. Once one of us was ready to “top off” our bucket before taking it to be weighed, everyone would pitch in those last few handfuls to finish it off.

If you came back with anything less than 15 pounds, well, then, the berries were small (or you just hadn’t been picking very earnestly that morning). Anything over 18 pounds was really pushing it. You ran the risk of losing precious handfuls of berries as you tried to haul it down the row without stray branches wicking off the top, or your own feeble fingers losing their grasp on the handle.

At the end of each day, we’d receive a carbon copy receipt of our total poundage. We’d keep these posted on the side of the refrigerator at home -- a little friendly competition to spur us on throughout the season. One summer we picked one ton (2,000 lbs.) between the three of us.

By two o’clock in the afternoon the harvest would be done for the day. The truck would be arriving soon to pick up the flats, as the escalating heat would only crush the berries. Sometimes as an afternoon treat, mom would take us to the city park along the Columbia River where we could cool off in the water and play in the waves from the river traffic.

Today I went out to Fordyce Farm in northeast Salem at a more civilized hour, and picked at a rather leisurely pace. I was reminded of the solitude of the blueberry patch, and how good a cool breeze feels when you’re out working in the sun. I paid $4.50 for my 5.8 pounds of fresh blues.

15 July 2006

A Saturday of Sun and Saveur

Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
With the hot afternoon sun already drawing crowds to the cascading fountain at Jamison Square Park, the area was brimming with music, food, and francophiles in celebration of Bastille Day. Of particular anticipation was the second annual Waiters Race, in which servers from local bars and restaurants competed for prizes (and bragging rights).

The task was to speedwalk – good waiters never run – multiple times around the perimeter of the square, the total distance roughly equaling one mile. Sounds simple, right? The trick was doing it in traditional Parisian waiter attire while balancing a tray with a full water bottle and three full glasses. The successful participant would pass the finish line with as close to a “full complement” as possible. Penalties were assigned for spilled items, or tactics such as balancing the tray against the body for stability. The best times after figuring in the penalties collected one round-trip air ticket to Paris (first place) and small cash awards (second and third places).

08 July 2006

Along the Long Tom Country Trail

Long Tom Trail
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
I headed south today on a self-guided tour through the farmlands of the Long Tom River watershed. Lane County has started a new ecotourism project, and the Long Tom Country Trail is the first part. Already existing farms, stables, galleries, and vineyards give shape to the trail route. It’s a way to sustain local economic ventures, and draw customers to the area. You are welcome to stop at any of the sites indicated on the map and enjoy what they have to offer. Next month, the Lorane Country Trail will open, and in August the Fern Ridge Country Trail will be ready for visitors.

After printing out the online map, I burned a cd of songs that had been trapped on my computer to be my soundtrack for the afternoon. My goal was to drive as much of the trail as I could and still make it to the Lane County Historical Museum before it closed at 4 pm.

Field mowing was the task of the day. Nearly every field in Linn and Lane Counties had sickle-bar mowers busily cutting dried grass and shaping it into windrows to be baled. Passing the Smyth Ranch, at first glance I thought I saw three bulls standing in the shade. A few yards down the road when my double take caught up with my brain, I realized they weren’t bulls after all…but bison clustered together near the farm gate. Whether it is alpacas, appaloosas, sheep, cows, or even the odd buffalo -- a drive along these roads provides good animal watching.

Something that caught my eye that was not indicated on the trail map was the Danish Cemetery on High Pass Road. Set on a small knoll overlooking the surrounding farmland were headstones engraved with names such as Sogaard, Jendresen, Mikkelsen, and Bertelsen. The arch at the entrance states: Kampen er til ende bract. The accompanying plaque simply says “The struggle has ended.” It is dedicated to the Danish settlers, 1903-1981.

After driving through Cheshire and Alvadore, I arrived at the Historical Museum with time to spare. I submitted a records request to the archives for the original diary of Ellen Hemenway Humphrey, my great-great-grandmother. Part of her writing was published in a 1994 anthology of Oregon letters and diaries. The anthology indicates that the museum is the keeper of the original document. In a few weeks, I’ll find out if that is the case, and what new adventures that may send me on!

24 June 2006

I Spy the Space Needle...

Volunteer Park
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
Saturday was a day dedicated to exploring the Capitol Hill neighborhood. I had intended to start at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, but was sidetracked by St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral. The exterior, in part, looked like an old, concrete warehouse. The interior was simply immense. When the cathedral was originally drafted, it was to be much more elegant and ornate than it is today, but the depression that started in 1929 tempered those plans.

Volunteer Park is home to the Asian Art Museum, as well as the site of the old water tower which serves as a unique 360° panoramic viewpoint of the area. If you’re out of shape like I am, your knees will tremble and your face will flush, but the climb to the top is utterly worth the exertion. Your gaze will travel from the boaters on Lake Washington to the Space Needle and downtown high rises to the majestic slopes of Mount Rainier. As one climber announced to his companion when they reached the top, “Oh, the mountain is out!” And when it is, you will have spectacular views.

After walking through the exhibits at the museum, I continued my exploration of the neighborhood. Broadway is one of the main thoroughfares for shopping and eating – and entertaining people watching. I highly recommend a stop at Piroshky, a tiny shop that serves delicious combinations of savory stuffings in handmade rolls. Madison Street and 15th Avenue are also two more areas with eateries and boutiques to peruse.

The real highlight of the neighborhood, though, is a drive along Lake Washington Boulevard. Driving south will give you unparalleled views of Mount Rainier, and a drive north will provide easy access to the many parking turnouts. You can pick a spot and plant yourself with a good book, or watch the many boaters and swimmers enjoying the water.

How to keep occupied on Capitol Hill:

St. Mark’s Cathedral
Volunteer Park
Seattle Asian Art Museum
Empty Space Uncommon Theatre
Japanese Garden
Capitol Hill Neighbors

23 June 2006

Urban Dispatch from Capitol Hill

lee ctr
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
Earlier this week, I thought to myself,“If I went to Seattle this weekend, what would I do?” A quick internet search reveals a one-woman show opening at the Lee Center for the Arts on the Seattle University campus. Mmm. A few clicks later and I’m checking out the current exhibits at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. And guess what? Bellevue is holding their annual Strawberry Festival this weekend. That’s all it takes, and I’m off to my neighbor to the north.

So tonight I find myself in the Capitol Hill area in search of the arts center. The format and the content of the play intrigue me on a couple of levels. It’s a semi-autobiographical work by Lauren Weedman about her experiences working as a volunteer case manager with the woman at the L.A. Twin Towers Correctional Facility. I’ve written and performed monologues before, and I wanted to see how an entire show could be carried by just one person.

The theatre is a traditional black-box style, with seating for 150 people. As soon as I see it, it takes me back to another impromptu theatre experience four years ago. My friend, Szejn, and I had traversed our respective countries (me from Utah, and he from Calgary) to meet in Montreal. It was a sorely needed 4-day break for me, a time to decompress after several months of high demands and stress at work.

One night, we decided to attend a local production we had seen advertised in a local paper. I cannot remember the title or any of it predominant themes. What I do remember is a long, raised platform consuming the length of the performance area -- actors running full pace from one end down to the other, circling back to the starting point behind the curtains, and reappearing in a continuous loop of scurrying fanatics. I don’t think there was nary a word of English in the entire play, but a fare amount of French, some Russian, and another mysterious tongue. It’s an odd memory, but one I’m happy to share with my friend.

Lauren brought tremendous energy and skill for characterization to her performance tonight. For one hour and forty minutes she portrayed a slice of her life in all of its humorous, muddled, and honest combinations. Her work as a volunteer resonates with me because of similar experiences I’ve had working with incarcerated populations. You don’t forget the nuances of the first time you enter a maximum security facility. Her work as a writer resonates because it reflects life.

17 June 2006

A Trip to Bellfountain

Bellfountain cemetery
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
After many far-flung road trips in recent weeks, I wanted somewhere relatively close to explore today. In a cubbyhole of my mind was a faded memory about Bellfountain, Oregon, and a family reunion held there over two decades ago. I remember my Dad rolling out a long sheet of colored butcher paper on the park picnic tables which traced the various family lines, and inviting everyone there to add to or clarify their information. I remember the requisite family photograph and a ball game with cousins I didn’t really know very well. So with Father’s Day this weekend, it seems apropos to pay tribute to a bit of family history.

Four miles off Highway 99 W in the corner of Benton County is the intersection that forms the hub of Bellfountain. The hill on the northeast corner proudly displays a well-kept community church. To the southeast is the Bellfountain Cornerstone Christian School, already at recess for the summer. On the southwest corner sits an abandoned, dilapidated storefront and two weed-encrusted gas pumps. Painted in script on the front of the pay station are the words, “Gone Fishing.” One gets the impression that this is a permanent fishing trip. To the west is the town park, the location of that family reunion so many years ago.

When I returned to Salem, I called my Dad to see how we were related to the names on the grave markers I had photographed. I should have called him prior to my trip. I didn’t realize that so much of his immediate family history is rooted in the rolling farmland around Bellfountain.

The community park sits on land that once was part of the Humphrey family farm. Over time, great-uncle George divvied up the land among his four sons. It’s where my grandfather, Eston Bruce Humphrey, and his father, Walter, were both born. Since then, it has changed hands outside of the family. The patch of hillside where the old cemetery is fenced off has a good clan of Humphrey men and their Perin wives resting underneath the douglas fir trees. It was a good reminder that I need to have more conversations like that with my Dad.

*The title is inspired by the 1985 film, The Trip to Bountiful, in which a woman in her twilight years yearns to return for one last visit to her childhood home in Bountiful, Texas. Geraldine Page was awarded an Academy Award for her work in the movie.

10 June 2006

Balloon Blogging from Bend

balloon glow
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
The first time I saw a hot air balloon night glow was entirely by happenstance. I was living in southeastern New Mexico at the time, serving as a missionary, and enjoying dinner with some members of the local congregation. Bobbing up over their backyard fence we could see the balloons inflate and rise into golden orbs glowing in the evening spring air. Dinner was forgotten as we dashed around the block to watch and mingle and enjoy the event.

That was ten years ago, and I’ve thought many times about attending another balloon fest. When I found out about the Balloons Over Bend Festival a couple of months ago, I quickly made plans to go. Tonight was the balloon glow at Pilot Butte State Park. I arrived just in time to watch the balloons glow in the twilight for about ten minutes before deflating and packing up for tomorrow’s morning flight.

Since I don’t land in Bend that often, dinner was the gnocchi genovese at Giuseppe’s Italian Ristorante. The gnocchi is seared crisp on the top, and served with grilled leeks and sautéed pancetta and mushrooms over a creamy gorgonzola sauce. It’s definitely a good idea to bring a hungry dining companion with you.

29 May 2006

Exploring the Inland Pacific Northwest

It’s been awhile since I have experienced the anticipation of the unknown. That feeling you have when you close the door of the rental car--with only a basic map in hand--and wonder not only how you’re going to find your hotel, but how you’ll get out of the parking lot. That moment of excitement when you turn the corner and catch your first glimpse of a vista that is new and unexplored expanding before you. That is what travel does for me, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s Sicily – or in this case Spokane – that is the featured destination.

I am frequently queried by friends, “You’re going where? Why?” Suffice it to say they just don’t share the same sense of adventure about some of my more obscure trips.

Spokane has been on my list for a while. I don’t know anyone there. I don’t have relatives or former college roommates to visit. But I have been hearing good things about this area of the inland Pacific Northwest. So with a long weekend ahead of me and with the aid of some online budget hunting, I landed in Spokane for three days of discovery.

My first impression of the landscape is that it’s a perfect hybrid of the foliage and green you’re accustomed to associating with a place like Oregon, crossed with the sometimes rocky and barren landscape of southeastern Idaho. One distinctive feature of the region is the Spokane River around which the downtown area encircles. The city has capitalized on this feature by expanding on the riverside park created for the 1974 World’s Fair. You can walk from one end of downtown to the other, and across the river, via several footpaths that offer stunning views of the Spokane Falls.

Much of downtown is a designated historical district, so many of the buildings are rich with architectural details. The South Hill area is home to the ornate Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist and the expansive Manito Park. The 90-acre park has manicured rose and lilac gardens, greenhouses, a Japanese garden, tennis courts, playgrounds, and a duck pond. In good weather, one could easily spend and afternoon here.

25 May 2006

How to Shear a Pack of Alpacas

Alpaca shearing
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
About a year ago, my co-worker Patrick started talking about alpacas. Sure, I’d seen the furry critters on occasion during drives through the countryside, but I knew relatively little about them. Smaller than a llama, native to the Andean mountain range, perhaps related to the camel? That was about the extent of my random knowledge.

Then last fall, Patrick bought four alpacas. I told him that when shearing time came around, I’d be interesting in seeing the process. The date was set, and off I went with my camera in hand to observe.

Monte Bella Ranch is located along a ridge of hills in Sherwood. As the name suggests, it is a beautiful area for both mountain and valley views. Due to typical Oregon spring rains, the animals had been sharing quarters in a neighbor’s barn for a couple of days in order to dry out their coats before shearing.

The crew was quick and efficient. They had an alternating system that allowed over 30 animals to be sheered in about 3 hours. Eddie, the shearer, hails from New Zealand. He spends six months of the year in Oregon working the circuit, and then returns to the southern hemisphere to continue through the shearing season there.

I spent some time bagging and labeling fleece with Mickie, a friend of the family that owns the farm, who had flown out from Florida for the event. She has a beautiful dark-haired alpaca named Hershey that has produced two equally striking offspring named Hugs and Special Dark.

21 May 2006

One Last Look

Setting up the equipment
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
Some called it history in the making, to others it was mere spectacle. But whatever your view, I must admit there is some magnetic pull toward witnessing demolition. I had mixed sentiments about the implosion of the Trojan cooling tower, which I wrote about earlier.

But in the end, I had to witness it for myself. I knew the best viewing position would most likely be from the Washington side of the Columbia River. So I drove north to Woodland the evening before the event, and then woke up at 5:30 am on Sunday morning to jockey for a position at the Kalama Marina.

The press was well established along the riverfront footpath, already queuing up people with stories and perspectives to tell. I wondered what the crowd reaction would be. Would there be any clapping or cheering?

In the end, it took less than 10 seconds for over 40,000 tons of concrete to be pulverized into dust. It looked like a collapsible drinking cup--the sort you might take camping--folding in on itself. My digital photography equipment was woefully inadequate to capture the event. But that’s okay, there’s plenty of good footage on the web for those who want to watch the tower fall from every angle.

My wish was simply to observe the implosion firsthand, be a part of the crowd, and take one last look. In the end, it became just a pile of rubble, and I don’t know what practical purpose the tower could have fulfilled if it had remained.

One hundred years ago, the Trojan Powder Company manufactured dynamite at that site. When PGE purchased the land, they retained the name and bestowed in upon the new nuclear plant. So to see the tower imploded by similar explosives seemed a fitting farewell to a landmark that was always visible just around the bend from home.

20 May 2006

Remembering Sicily

Wildflowers at Morgantina
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
One year ago today I was exploring the streets of Palermo for the first time. Recently, I've found myself thinking about my time there...and secretly wishing I could return soon. Spring was the perfect time to visit. I wish I was there now!

14 May 2006

Bring on the Rhubarb!

rhubarb danish
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.

The advent of summer brings the anticipation of local farmers’ markets. I can’t entirely explain my attraction to them, but I have previously written about two that I am particularly fond of in Salt Lake City and Portland.

I had read about the Hillsdale market last year, but never made a visit. So I decided that today was the day, given that a trip to Portland was already on my agenda. After perusing the spring greens and dodging a few wagons full of produce, I settled on selecting something with rhubarb. Baker & Spice, a local company, had three tempting offerings with the aforementioned ingredient. In the end it was the pairing of sassy rhubarb with mellow cream cheese perfectly melded together in the center of danish pastry dough that won out.

The season is just beginning, and on my farmers-market-must-visit-list this summer are: Beaverton, Corvallis, and Eugene. There’s no better time to be living in the Willamette Valley!

28 April 2006

Along the Crooked River

Prineville, Oregon
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
Although spring was officially ushered in over a month ago, the weather hasn’t wholeheartedly corresponded with the season until this past week. With spring just beginning to bud, the landscape of central Oregon is not yet parched, cracked, and baked to a crisp. Descending from the plateau into the Crooked River Valley made me reminiscent of other high desert locales I’ve called home: southeastern New Mexico, Salt Lake City, and the valley south of El Paso, Texas. The desert grows on you after a while.

This was only my second visit to Prineville, which is home to the Les Schwab Tires empire. For now, it still retains its small-town feel where its appeal continues to draw native sons and daughters home to raise their own families within its intimate atmosphere. There’s no doubt that the natural landscape has much to offer: nearby lakes and reservoirs for water activities, Smith Rock State Park for the rock climber (or observer) in all of us, and the Three Sisters Wilderness area and Mt. Bachelor for all those snow sports.

On the horizon, however, a contrast is surfacing. The marketing of an outdoor lifestyle with all the amenities in nearby Bend, Oregon, and subsequent growth in both the job and housing markets has produced all the makings for a population boom that is already in the works. The overflow from neighboring Deschutes County is cropping up in Prineville, and will more than double the population when the planned developments are completed over the next decade.

18 April 2006

A Little Recognition for Riddle

Riddle, Oregon
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
If you were to conduct a quick search on the internet to learn more about Riddle, Oregon, chances are, very little would come up.

At least, that was my experience. Usually I can find some small tidbit of information to inform me before arriving in a new place. My searches returned nothing but empty pages, and the southern Oregon tourism website doesn't even acknowledge its existence.

As I was leaving town yesterday, I took this photograph from my car window. And as I look at it now, I realize that it alone portrays a fairly accurate picture of Riddle.

The fact that the sign itself is carved out of wood is apropos for a town with several lumber mills. Even the small re-forested hills in the background signal what is the predominant industry in this part of Douglas county: timber. The local high school student body is known as the "Irish," hence the shamrock and green arrow. The 2006 Miss Junior Rodeo Queen, Alicia, lives here. She’s been riding horses since she was seven, and is a barrel racer. No need to note the population of about 1,000 citizens on the sign. Not much changes around here.

13 April 2006

The End of an Era

Trojan cooling tower
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
In the early morning hours of 21 May 2006, the 499-foot cooling tower of the Trojan Nuclear Plant is scheduled to be demolished by Controlled Demolition, Inc. This is the same company that imploded the Seattle Superdome in 2000. I write about this impending event not to spark any sort of environmental debate, but rather to reflect on the role Trojan had as a symbol associated with the small town I grew up in: Rainier, Oregon.

Last fall, when I first heard that PGE was planning on having the tower demolished, I was surprised. Trojan had closed nearly 20 years early in January 1993. I graduated from high school a few months later and left Oregon to attend college in another state. Five years later, my parents retired and relocated to Idaho, so I hadn’t realized that PGE has been working on decommissioning the plant since 1996. The early closure had a sizeable economic impact on our community, but I always thought even in dormancy the tower would stand as a silent sentinel along the river.

Growing up in Rainier, I didn’t think much about Trojan or what it may symbolize to other people. It was a part of my known environment, and consequently I thought it had always been there. My parents were teachers in the local school district, as were the parents of four of my classmates. Other classmates’ parents were loggers, longshoremen, or worked for one of the local paper and pulp mills along the river. Some worked at Trojan, just another fact in the fabric of my childhood. In the past, my father had been a tour guide there during the summer.

There I participated in bikeathons for cystic fibrosis, went to church picnics, and attended a friend’s wedding reception -- all at the park at the base of the Trojan cooling tower. PGE owns over 600 acres along the Columbia River, and they established a park with trails and bike paths around some of the surrounding wetlands. The location of the park didn’t strike me as odd or out of place until many years later. It was just another part of the community.

PGE is encouraging curious onlookers to watch the implosion from their television screens. I don’t know if the cameras can do it justice, or if I can resist watching the fall of the tower from across the river in Washington. But I do know it marks the end of another era in Rainier’s history.

31 March 2006

Flat Stanley Tours Oregon

Stanley in Oregon
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
For the past month, Flat Stanley has been touring Oregon before returning home to Linden Park Elementary School in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

He’s had many adventures that have taken him near and far. First, he traveled south, almost to the border with California. Here he stopped for a picnic near the Upper Klamath Lake. The lake is almost 30 miles long and 8 miles wide. It’s a popular place to go boating. It sure was windy that day!

Shortly after that, Stanley discovered a covered bridge in Westfir. It might seem silly now to put a roof on a bridge, but it protected the wooden beams from all the Oregon rain! This one even had a special walkway so Stanley didn’t have to worry about the traffic.

In between trips, Stanley has been hanging out in Salem with Aunt Kait. Salem is the capital city of Oregon. Oregon became a state in 1859. Over 142,000 people live here. He wanted to stay longer, but Stanley will have new places to discover soon!

*This entry is for my 8 year-old niece, Olivia. If you’re not familiar with children’s literature, Flat Stanley is a book written by Jeff Brown in 1964. He’s a perfectly normal boy, until one morning when he wakes up flat. He discovers that his new compressed state allows him freedoms he never had before, such as touring the country by mail!

17 March 2006

Welcome to Westfir

bridge interior
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
Tucked behind the hills of Highway 58 near Oakridge sits the tiny town of Westfir (population 276). Once a logging camp, the prominent feature of Westfir is the Office Covered Bridge. The bridge was built to connect a lumber mill on one side of the river with the company office, which sat on the other.

At 180 feet in length, the bridge is the longest covered bridge to remain in Oregon. One unique feature is the separate pedestrian walkway which flanks the still drivable vehicle roadway.

The town of Westifr, along with the accompanying logging company and bridge, were sold in 1977 to an investment company. Today, with the mill gone and the local economy struggling, the Westfir area is trying to capitalize on their beautiful location to promote outdoor recreation such as mountain biking, hiking, fly fishing, and camping.

23 February 2006

A Slice of Northwest Trivia

full crop1
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
I love it when I stumble upon something unexpected, which I did yesterday as I journeyed "to the middle of the nowhere" for a work assignment.

I was overnighting in the small town of Canyonville in Douglas County. Situated in the heart of timber country between the hills of the Umpqua Valley, a traveler would most likely pass right by unless they had reason to venture off of the beaten track.

When I casually turned the corner at the Saw & Supply Shop, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a rather LARGE hunk of Douglas Fir.

Not just any Douglas fir, mind you, but a specimen measured to be 110 inches in diameter and 142 years old when Columbus first set foot upon the continent.

09 January 2006

A Short Trip to Stayton

Downtown Stayton
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
As spring emerges and blue skies become more prominent, an afternoon excursion to the historic downtown area of Stayton is sure to lift your winter-weary spirits.

This small town located only 15 miles east of Salem gained its name from one of its first settlers, Drury Stayton. Stayton built a sawmill along the North Santiam River in 1870, and helped to plat the downtown area, which was incorporated in 1891.

Stayton wanted to name the town Florence, in honor of his daughter, but was hindered from doing so because a town along the coast had already laid claim to that name. Instead, he bestowed the name upon one of the main streets. On Florence Street, you will find a row of four tidy bungalows originally used as worker’s cottages due to their proximity to the mills once located on Water Street. The steady supply of water from the North Santiam River was a cheap way to generate energy, and the area soon became a hub for the town’s growing businesses.

A walking tour of the notable buildings along Second and Third Avenues will showcase a time when masonry work was common. The Diedrich Building at 195 Third Avenue still retains the original entryways and display windows as when it was built in 1912. You’ll find another example of concrete stonework at 122 Third Avenue, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Building.

When your feet tire of walking, a visit to the Santiam Historical Society Museum at 260 N Second Avenue will allow you to view historical photographs and memorabilia of the local area. The museum itself is housed in the building originally constructed as the Stayton Women’s Club in 1927. The museum is open on Saturdays from 1-4 pm.

The historical society’s current project is the renovation of the Charles and Martha Brown House at 421 First Avenue. Once a stunning example of the Queen Anne style, the community is hoping once again to see this 1903 house return to its position as one of the most elegant residences in town.

No trip to Stayton would be complete without a walk across the Stayton-Jordan covered bridge at Pioneer Park. This replica replaces the original, which once spanned Thomas Creek in neighboring Scio, and burned in 1994. Be sure to bring along a picnic so that you can enjoy this wooded park, which also has play equipment and walking paths. The park will host the fourth annual Oregon Covered Bridge Festival this September with tours, information, and activities for the entire family.