Scenes from bike adventures in urban Portland

Portland, Oregon has a lot of urban rides. Many will take you by jammed freeways, grain elevators, a working port, a refinery, and over and under bridges. I took these photos of the last three months. There is not grand unifying them other than the impression of what one sees when you get out of your car an on two wheels.

(Click on each photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

The makings of a great day

One type of great day happens when you pursue your passions and let your worries slip away. For me, this happens easiest when I connect with nature and tune out the crazy world.

Yesterday, Sept. 16, 2016, I had one of those classic “great days.” The weather was warm, Indian summer style. The sunrise over the farms of Washington County generated warm, William Turner-esque light.

Early Morning, Coast Band

A good surfing day begins with rising in darkness and knowing amazing waves and the smell of the ocean await you.

The winds were mild and the surf was gentle (two- to five-foot swells) at the Oregon Coast. Indian Beach in Ecoloa State Park offered amazingly clean sets that rolled in sweetly from the Pacific Ocean. I managed to get a few more rides–slowly I am building my skills and confidence. I felt that amazing serenity that only comes with being in the ocean, smelling and tasting the salt, and feeling the power of nature as I bob like a tiny bubble. Everyone surfing that day smiled and was in a good mood. I made some nice personal connections with people who gave me some tips about the surf.

Ecola State Park was as breathtaking as ever with its moss-covered semi-rain forest and coastal views. I had an absolutely perfect run after my surf at Cannon Beach. The dogs made me smile immensely. I seemed to pick up steam on the last three miles and felt stronger than I have in weeks. The 20 oz. IPA from Gigantic Brewing Company in Portland tasted better than ever. And my ratatouille tasted divine. Yeah, what a great day!

Alaska fall colors, as good as it gets

The past few days of news just totally sucked the wind out of my sails. Syrian conflict and refugees. Remembrances of 9-11 and how our country responded to this challenge. Global warming. It just goes on–argh!

So what to do? Remember, there is nature, nature, nature. I miss what Alaska could give me on a crisp, clear fall day. The colors and the cold air are without peers. Though, I would love to see what the fall colors in Kamchatka look like–I bet as pristine. So, in honor of tuning out the world and turning on to nature, I present for you fall in Alaska. All the shots were taken in Chugach State Park and one of the moose in the driveway next to my house in urban Anchorage. (Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

 

Fifteen years since 9-11, a brief remembrance

It is hard to believe 15 years has passed since the most important recent historic event in my country took place on the beautiful September day in 2001. I remember everything about it. I watched the replays on the TV and yelled, waking my housemate. I remember our nation’s ability to come together in the days and hours after this attacked, as demonstrated in my home of Seattle, where thousands gathered to express sorrow, unity, and hope. I grew concerned seeing how laws were passed by Congress that were never even read by some members, notably the Patriot Act, all in the name of national security. And then there were the two wars, and conflicts still rage in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Seattle Sikh community gathered days after 9-11 at the Seattle Center to express both their loyalty and concern in the aftermath of the attacks.

The Seattle Sikh community gathered days after 9-11 at the Seattle Center to express both their loyalty and concern in the aftermath of the attacks.

Yes, the day completely changed history, in the United States and more dramatically in the Middle East, especially for millions of innocent Iraqi civilians.

I dug these pictures out of my archive. I visited New York City in April 2005, to see Ground Zero and to see the scope of what happened. Work had already begun to build One World Trade Center. It was a silent place amid the bustle of the Big Apple. I am so glad I went.

(Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

Wind, wheat, and windy roads near The Dalles

(Click on each picture to see a larger photo on a separate picture page.)

I finally did a bike ride I had been meaning to complete for several years. The area near The Dalles, about 80 miles east of Portland on the Columbia River, is wheat country. There are lovely, rolling hills, old and working farms, and the occasional abandoned home. All of this makes for great cycling. A group of friends got together over the Labor Day weekend and explored the hills southeast of the city. This area is considered some of the best for cycling in Oregon. You are greeted with few cars and lonely, two-lane black-top roads that lead, well, to nowhere and also beautiful places.

 

 

Crazy kaleidoscope of colors at Oaks Amusement Park

During the summer, I head down to Oaks Amusement Park, the small, privately owned play land near my house. This is probably the most diverse place in all of Portland on any given Saturday and Sunday. There are families and people from every possible background here, and likely none of them very wealthy, because rich people do not visit carnie land places. It is also a lot of fun, even if you do not get on the old-school rides.

When I come down the hill to the noisy, colorful place I often bring my GoPro camera and experiment with different shots. Here is one I like. It captures the spirit of the place. You can see more photos and read more about the amusement park on my photo essay page.

Click on each photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.

Cannon Beach at sunset, almost perfect

I have been coming to Cannon Beach now for more than three decades. It always leaves me calm and in awe of the beauty of the Oregon Coast and the magnificent Pacific Ocean. I took every one of these photos was a consumer-grad point and shoot, and still I captured that Cannon Beach magic. (Click on each photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

Historic monasteries of Egypt and challenges that face Egypt’s Copts

In 2004, I visited Egypt. This was a dream come true. There is so much history in that land, one cannot appreciate its diversity in just one visit.

My trips usually focus on projects and themes. On this trip, I wanted to explore Coptic and Christian monasteries, having recently seen and visited monasteries in the Occupied West Bank and Turkey a few years earlier. I also was influenced by William Dalrymple’s superb travel and history narrative of the monasteries and Christians of the Mideast called From the Holy Mountain.

On this trip I visited the historic Coptic Egyptian monasteries of: Bishoi and Suriani near Cairo, St. Anthony and St. Paul near the Red Sea (only made it to the entrance of St. Paul), the long-abandoned St. Simeon near Aswan, and St. Tawdros Monastery near Luxor. I also visited and stayed at St. Catherine’s Monastery, the Greek Orthodox monastery founded during the reign of the Byzantine Empire and sacred to Jews, Moslems, and Christians. Some are 1,600 years old, and all but one of those seen here is still functional today.

My host at St. Tawdros Monastery gave me a tour of the historic site, just outside of Luxor. My visit required the permission of the local security detail, who also joined me. This was one of several times Egypt's security forces went out of their way to both help me and perhaps ensure I did not do anything suspcious. This visit was one of my highlights.

My host at St. Tawdros Monastery gave me a tour of the historic site, just outside of Luxor. My visit required the permission of the chief for the local security detail, who also joined me. This was one of several times Egypt’s security forces went out of their way to both help me and perhaps ensure I did not do anything suspcious. This visit was one of my highlights.

Visiting the monastery in Luxor required official approval of the head of local security. It was a tense time at any Christian site, and across the country it got worse after my trip. There were terrorist attacks on Copts before the start of the Arab Spring, when military protection of Christian sites began to melt away. Copts, one of the world’s oldest Christian sects, faced and still face systematic discrimination by the Moslem-dominated Egyptian government. This only became worse with the fall of the Mubarak dictatorship, (Read my essay on the persecution of Copts in modern Egypt.)

Still, everything about my 2004 trip was memorable—from meeting with Coptic monks to seeing pilgrims from Africa, South Korea, and other locations file through St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai, where Moses reportedly found the burning bush. While getting to each of these places proved dangerous, difficult, and expensive, I was rewarded by having a deeper appreciation of Christianity’s monastic traditions that represent some of the best elements of the faith that remain very much alive today.

You can read a history of Egypt’s ancient monasteries and Christian monasticism in Egypt in Michael McClellan’s book: Monasticism in Egypt: Images and Words of the Desert Fathers. There are also some wonderful historic photographs of monastic life from the first decades of the 20th century on this  blog published by Diana Buja. You can also buy Gawdat Gabra’s Coptic Monasteries: Egypt’s Monastic Art and Architecture.

Warm Springs on a summer day

Eight months ago, I made a quick stop in the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, about two hours east of Portland. The reservation, managed by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, is bisected by Highway 26, which stretches from Mt. Hood to central Oregon. Mountain forests give way to the high desert as one passes to the reservation’s main hub, Warm Springs. You’ll find the local casino and beautiful cultural center. Almost no one stops to see the community.

I did a drive through. I found quite a few houses in somewhat run-down condition, which is not unusual in rural areas of the West. The reservation also has what I consider to be classical reservation architecture. I have seen similar designs in Washington State, Montana. Alaska, and Kansas. There is a school, administrative buildings, and older government buildings that are now shuttered and closed. This is the older part of the community. The modern health center is found further away from the highway. You can read my old post to see the controversy that has roiled the reservation and its members concerning the alleged overspending of nearly $100 million in funds in the last 10 years.

I stopped on the highway to photograph the Warm Springs billboard that captures in beautiful simplicity the symbology of the tribe’s identify–a circle with four features, stretching out from the center. I have always found Native American design powerful for the references to tribal history, the earth, natures, and tribal beliefs. This is one of the best. The flag for the reservation actually shows eight tribes who make up the reservation, as well as the natural landmarks and native wildlife.

 

 

Newberry Crater, a hidden gem of central Oregon

Newberry National Volcanic Monument, known affectionately as Newberry Crater, is one of the most beautiful places in the Pacific Northwest. The volcanic landscape features 54,000+ acres of lakes, lava flows, and one of the most amazing geological features in central Oregon. Imagine Crater Lake, its more well-known cousin, except Newberry has two lakes. They are not as blue and deep as Crater Lake, but they are majestic twins. The highest point is Paulina Peak, 7,985 feet above sea level, which provides a commanding view of the natural area’s lava flows and cinder cones.

In their misguided wisdom decades earlier, U.S. Forest Service planners built a road to its top–evoking the lyrics of Joni Mitchell: “They paved paradise and put of a parking lot.” Hardy hikers can walk up. Everyone is rewarded with one of the greatest views in all of Oregon. You can see the vast expanse of high desert in all directions and the beautiful volcanic peaks of central Oregon: Mts. Bachelor, the Sisters, and Jefferson.Welcome to East Lake Resort Poster

I first came here in 2014, biking up from Highway 97. I pedaled up the steep climb and was rewarded by two clean mountain lakes (Paulina and East), a massive field of obsidian, photo-perfect lakeside campgrounds, and decades-old lodges on both lakes that seemed right out of the 1950s. I finally came back in August 2016. There is something for everyone here.

The four campgrounds are well-maintained, fronting the two lakes. Anglers bring in boats casting for kokanee and several species of trout (watch out there is natural mercury contamination). Fly fishermen can find many empty beach spaces to practice. A set of hot springs bubbles out of the gravel on the north shore of Paulina Lake–the hike to the springs and around the lake is fantastic! Lots of kayakers bring in their boats to explore the rocky shores. There are more than 30 trails. For a trail runner, you can circumnavigate the entire rim, or climb Paulina Peak, lap Paulina Lake, and more. You can also take a trail from the valley of the Deschutes National Forest along Paulina Creek to the majestic Paulina Falls, pouring from Paulina Lake. If you visit, be sure to bring your mountain bike to get around.

Visitors, if you can characterize them, mostly have massive V-8 trucks and large camping trailers towed behind. I saw lots of families, and plenty of dogs. The only people who were not white were adopted kids of some family members. Hiking and camping in central Oregon is still not a diverse activity. I kept wondering, would an African-American family want to spend a summer trip here? Likely not.

At the beautiful East Lake resort, which has old cabins looking west on East Lake, I grabbed morning coffee and got to know a retired Gresham principal who has been coming here with three generations of his family for 16 years. He boasted his 14-year-old granddaughter caught 17 trout one morning.

I doubt Newberry Crater will ever become “cool.” I hope it stays old-fashioned and affordable for locals seeking a cool getaway from their homes in the Northwest.