Sunday, November 7, 2010

My (Late) Summer Vacation

For about a decade now, I have been intending to take a trip to the Pacific Northwest. Finally the time had come. I had quite an itinerary planned--arrive in Portland, Oregon; hook up with friends from the Salamander forum (Jennewt from New Mexico and Jacquie from Australia); tour the Pittock Mansion and the zoo in Portland; and then head with my friends to an amphibian education weekend at a beautiful Nature Center called Opal Creek. That was all the first weekend. After that, the Australian and I would continue with a road trip around the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state.
We arrived separately in Portland within 24 hours, and it all went well, except for the motel--America's Best Value Inn Portland; avoid it if you can. And you can, because there are plenty of other low-rent motels. Jen had suggested the Shilo Inn, where we stayed when we returned to Portland. It was heaven. I want to go back to Portland just to stay at that motel.

Here is the Pittock Mansion. (Double click on photos for larger views.)

Other Portland sights we took in included Powell's Books, VooDoo Donuts, and the Hoyt Arboretum.

And of course, the Portland Zoo.

We three had never met, but we remarked, it was just like getting together with old friends. Well, you don't spend hours every week on a salamander forum without learning a person's habits and quirks. So we weren't really strangers at all. I wanted to cement our friendship with a toast, so I got us some Bailey's. But Jen, ever the purist, would only be satisfied by mocking us weaklings who drink such infant formula; when we boasted back that we had tried tequila with the worm, she told us about the home brew she was intending--a scorpion in Everclear. OK, Jen, you beat us.

And off to Opal Creek! Located in Oregon's Willamette National Forest, the actual site we stayed at used to be a mining village (outpost? hardly a village).

Interesting light fixture--refers to some arcane miner humor, no doubt.

Here (below) we are, doing what we came to do. Herp. That is a verb, meaning "to search for herptiles", which are amphibians and reptiles. On the left, Jacquie catches her first ever salamander--I believe it was a Dicamptodon ensatus, or Pacific Giant Salamander.
Here are the three of us, proudly displaying our banner; me, herping in my beloved pink wellies (that sprung a leak and now lie in some Washington landfill); and Jen, wearing the most awesome hat ever.

In case you can't see it well enough, behold: Taricha granulosa sapiens.

and the original, for comparison:

Opal Creek is a beautiful piece of the rain forest. Here are only a few of the many inspiring views of the area. We can't wait to come back to do the "Lichens and Mosses" workshop! April 2012, be there, or be square!

After parting ways, Jacquie and I shot up to Olympia, and then west to the coast, which we drove along for a day.

Next Stop: The Quinault Rain Forest. On the way, we passed the Satsop nuclear power plant. Construction began in 1977 and halted in 1983; the facility was never completed.

The Appearance of a White Buffalo is a Sacred Oracle to many Native Americans. Others prize the Magical White Deer. I, of course, pray daily for the appearance of the Mystical White Otter. In the Pacific Northwest, they hold their collective breath awaiting the rare White Banana Slug.

It was a beautiful area, and we could barely see the outlines in a week. But we saw many beautiful and wonderful things, and I want to go back and see more!

Now I am going to write a bit about the movie Twilight and the town of Forks. We drove through Forks, which, before the movie, was nothing but a logging town. Now, every business in town had Twilight cutouts in the lobby, every retail store identified itself as "Your Twilight Center," and every motel was double the price of the rest of the Olympic Peninsula. There was even a store called "Dazzled By Twilight" (and a sister outlet, in Port Angeles). They offered bus tours of places mentioned in the story, like you might drive around and actually run into Bella Swan or one of the Cullens! There is even a dilapidated old red truck in front of Forks High School where you can go and take your picture.
Consumerism at its....well, you judge. I asked a bit sarcastically at the Port Angeles Twilight store, "So how long do you think you can ride this pony?" The kid working there was a "James" look-alike, and proud of it, with his fake vampire teeth--but you could be photographed with him for free, unlike "that arrogant Edward look-alike" who charged $20 a shot. He informed me, and very nicely too, that the economy in Forks was in the toilet before the movie came out. "All the storefronts were empty. Now look, there is a business in every one." He continued, telling me that even Port Angeles had a significant economic upswing (which is already a fair sized city, for the area). A bit chastened, I felt happy for the locals, and bought a couple bumper stickers, fridge magnets, and other necessities.

Continuing our coastal drive, we came to the very northwest tip of Washington.

This was one of the highlights of the trip, Cape Flattery. You park the car and take a short hike, and this is the view that rewards you. Here is a normal banana slug for you to compare.

A rugged land, an open land, where there is plenty of time for contemplation. Bards spend months thinking up just the right names for the topography.

What's up with the Correction Center sign, you ask? Remember, I work in a prison. The thought that I could move out there and not miss a step in the career ladder is...inspiring.

Our last day in Olympic Park, we drove--in 40 minutes--from sea level at Port Angeles, up to here, Hurricane Ridge. Amazing.

One more zoo--Port Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, Tacoma, WA.
This trip was everything I'd hoped it would be. It was such fun to meet my "long-lost friends." Jacquie turned out to be the best road-trip companion I ever had (i.e. she let me be the boss of everything!), and I met two women that I wish lived....much, much closer.

Otters dogged me wherever I went. Otters at the zoo, streets named after Otters, even an otter-shaped cloud threatened to rain on me! What more could you want from a vacation!

1 comment:

Abrahm said...

Spectacular! Sounds like you had quite the adventure. I'm glad you had such a wonderful time and even managed to find TAB while you were out in the Northwest. Opal Creek sounds like one of those places I really need to visit.