Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Yesterday I dove into our packages of mail first thing in the morning, doing only those things that needed immediate attention.  Everything else (including trying to match Anthem’s “explanation of medical benefits” statements with each provider’s bills… how can they possibly make all that stuff SO confusing??) will sit in a pile on the table until I have the time and desire to deal with it.

The Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain at the dock in Hood RiverBy 10 am, I was on my state park supplied bicycle, cruising the trail to see if it needed to be blown.  Not bad, so I figured it could wait until an actual “work day” (our work week is Wednesday through Sunday, but since Odel is away, I’m trying to do a little more than my 20 hours).  On the way home I stopped at my favorite overlook and saw two “pirate ships” heading downriver.  They were moderately sized, old-looking, masted sailing ships, and they looked right at home.  Wow.

Back at the campsite, Ranger Matt was removing the front wheels from the Gator, taking them to town for new tires.  We had a short chat, and I confirmed the plan for Wednesday: the Visitor Center would be closed so I, the newbie volunteer, could go (for free) on the Mt. Hood Railroad, on a 4 hour excursion trip from Hood River south towards Mt. Hood.  Tough work day, huh?  :)

Then into the car, and off I went.  My first stop was the Hood River Chamber of Commerce (picking up “Fruit Loop” touring maps for my Visitor Center) – which happens to be at the Port of Hood River.  What did I spy with my little eye?  The ships!  They are the Lady Washington and (on the far right in the photo) the Hawaiian Chieftain, which I toured in Sacramento several years ago.

Seaplane at the dock in Hood River, with the marina behind. Turning 90 degrees to my left, I saw another unusual sight at the dock, a seaplane.  Sailing ships, the little seaplane, and on a windy day you see both sailboarders and wind surfers… very busy, colorful, and interesting.

Just before I headed off for further sightseeing, my phone rang: Dave, our good friend from Sacramento, and his friend Dwayne were calling from near Bend, Oregon.  They are heading to Alaska, and Hood River looked like a good stop for the night.  Dave was surprised to hear that Odel was in Memphis, but we made plans to have dinner together.

Shortly after I got home, my ranger radio chirped.  Ranger Matt called to say he couldn’t get back with the Gator tires until Wednesday afternoon.  I asked whether Dave and Dwayne could park their little van here on our acreage for the night – the answer was a cheery “Of course!”.  (Sydney and Frank, take note if you want to escape Arizona’s heat for a few days!) When Dave and Dwayne arrive a few hours later, they loved that development.

Dave and Dwayne, heading to Alaska in Dave's Class B, with kayaks on top.They set up the van for sleeping, took a quick stroll on the trail, then we headed off for the largest of Hood River’s two - or maybe three – breweries, Full Sail Brewing.  Over pub grub and microbrews (local white wine for me), we talked about travels, recent and ancient.  With Odel gone, it was particularly pleasant to spend time in the company of friends (plus, they treated me to dinner.) 

D & D were up with the sun this morning, setting off on the trail for several miles worth of exercise before they headed out at 8 am.  I was right behind them, heading to the Mt. Hood Railroad depot for my “continuing education”.

I had already researched the Mt. Hood Railroad, thinking it sounded like a fun trip, maybe something to do with visiting friends and family – but at $25 to $30 for an afternoon excursion trip (the least expensive way to go), I had mixed feelings. 

It seemed that most of the ride was through the forest.  This photo came from their website.It turns out that the Oregon State Parks Department thinks it is a good idea for the volunteers to be familiar with two of the Columbia Gorge’s tourist attractions, the Mt. Hood Railroad and the Sternwheeler, a riverboat that plies the Columbia. A few days ago, Ranger Diane radioed me, scheduling me on the free-to-me railroad trip, and today was the day. 

I met my little group at 9:30: Sally, the organizer who works at the Vista House at Crown Point; Melinda and Dick, the host at Rooster Rock, a day use park close to Portland, and three campground hosts from Memaloose State Park, the nearest campground to the Mosier Twin Tunnels Trail.  Everyone was friendly and talkative, and it was fun for me to meet other volunteers and hear stories of their experiences (ALL of them have hosted in numerous Oregon State Parks).

The train departed at 10:30 and returned at 3 pm, with a one hour stop in Parkdale for lunch and sightseeing.  On a sunny day, we would have had fabulous views of Mt. Hood from Parkdale, practically at the mountain’s foot – but today was overcast and hazy.  Most of the ride is through a tunnel of trees, with views (of anything but trees) few and far between. 

The Clear Creek Station, end of the line for the Mt. Hood Railroad in Parkdale, OregonThough the historian narrating the trip was full of interesting information (and corny comments), I’m afraid the public relations aspect of the trip was a failure – I could recommend the trip only to railroad buffs who find four hours on a bumpy, swaying train in an uncomfortable chair closely examining the trees of the Columbia Gorge a good way to spend their time.  Unless they do some serious chainsaw work along the side of the tracks (ha, ha), I would not make the trip again. 

I headed home, ready to fire up the Gator and clear the trail, but instead met Andy, another of the Rangers, apologizing that the Gator was still disabled.  Tomorrow, he says.  Maybe I’ll tackle the pile of mail… or take a walk on the trail… or have a glass of wine and commune with Luna… hmmmm…

I can’t wait until Odel gets home – I sure miss him!  So does Luna – she is always communicative, but with Odel gone, she often sits beside me, looking up into my face and meowing non-stop, as if to alert me that something is NOT RIGHT in her world.  I know, baby; I know just how you feel. 

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