Opal Creek Wilderness

Still river It's tacitly agreed among us hikers that you always *wink* stick to the trail when you hike because, you know, the signs say so. Not to mention the numerous perils that may befall the hiker who strays: catastrophic injury, wild animals, catastrophic injury by wild animals, and impossibly lost pair of Ray-Bans. Nevertheless, the allure of something truly wild the fiction so easily found of being lost where no one's tread before, the bewildering phenomenon that occurs when a traveller and an environment merge into a transcendental whole make a compelling case for leaving the beaten, paved, enclosed path behind. Other times, a bulldozer blocks the right-of-way.

Such was the case at Opal Creek in early June. Maintenance on Forest Road 2209, the main thoroughfare to Jawbone Flats and Opal Pool, closed passage to hikers for all but brief periods during the day, and this wasn't one of them. The bridge was blocked from rail to rail by a backhoe in full operation. There was truly no way to pass discreetly, without interruption. About 200 feet below the bridge's platform burbled one of the many creeks that feed the Little North Santiam River. Steep forested banks on either side of the bridge made a descent to its waters beyond peril, just as they made it impossible to detonate explosive charges in outrage. The return from an unfulfilled hike was full of curses and resentment, but the shame might might've been harder to bear. Shame at the lack of foresight to check trail conditions. Shame at the lack of courage to ask the construction crew for an exception to their rule.


At the Opal Creek trailhead, a map shows in very stark detail the path of Forest Road 2209 and the course of the Little North Santiam in parallel, just south of the road. Unnoted on the map, of course, are tens of improvised trails that connect the river to the forest road. On the southern side of FR2209, the map reads, is a Scenic Recreation Area. On the northern side is Opal Creek Wilderness. The difference? The Scenic Recreation Area permits mineral collection. Where minerals can be collected, rivers can be forded.

In other words, the rules don't apply to the creative adventurer.

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/213426240" params="auto_play=true&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true" width="100%" height="300" iframe="true" /]


The Dalles Mountain Ranch

This post comes to you a little late—I visited the Ranch, otherwise known as Columbia Hills State Park, in early April, hoping to catch the apex of wildflower season. Last week was crazy with interviews, a skillset I'm still very uncomfortable deploying, so I was preoccupied by obsessively turning questions and answers over in my head until I couldn't see straight. Inch by dirty, nail-biting, hard-scrabble inch. I didn't have to scratch around at the Dalles Mountain Ranch, though I spent a surprising amount of time flat on my back. More on that in a moment. Dalles Mountain Ranch complex

The Dalles Mountain Ranch is a homestead complex that has been preserved by the State of Washington in its abandoned condition. The State has been buying up land in the area for some time and is developing amenities that you might expect at a well-funded public park—they've built trailheads, and I understand there's an interpretive center in the works. This is good news and bad news: nicer park, cushier experience; more regulation, signs that restrict access. Likewise, I heard rumors that this park is great for off-trail wandering (it is), but signs posted all over the place restricted me to the trail. I'd like to ignore these types of directives, but my conscience won't allow it. Unfortunate, but inevitable. It's a beautiful park, and while it will probably get 99 percent of its foot traffic during the month of spring when the wildflowers emerge, it's the only way to preserve the land.

The Columbia Gorge Broadleaf Lupine.

I had about five hours to burn, but I had planned absolutely nothing in advance of my trip, and I still don't know where I hiked. I know that I was east of Eightmile Creek, and I started at the homestead—Dalles Mountain Ranch proper. From there, I continued east along a dirt path through huge groves of balsamroot. Like the Labyrinth, fewer than 20 miles away, Columbia Hills State Park encompasses coats of grassland over rolling hills, and I found myself thinking about the default Windows desktop every time I snapped a photo. (Which is, being a hundred miles away from my computer, a minor sacrilege.)

The sky was textured beautifully in early April, so I celebrated by taking this picture of an old tire.

The trail continues east for a few miles, in parallel with the Columbia River and dipping in and out of shallow ravines. The weather was fantastic for most of the day, and little puffs of cottony cumulus cast long shadows over the hills. The skies are broad here, the vistas spectacular. After a few miles, the trail curls south and downhill toward the Columbia before looping back for the trek home. It skirts a steep hillside where I stopped to shoot a panorama. I've discovered that photography can be really physical; I spent most of the day crouching, kneeling, sitting, on my side like a beached whale. Here I lay flat on my back and listened to western meadowlark call to each other.

The trail up Eightmile Creek is flanked by a footpath. Farther up, there's an old livestock trail that continues to follow the creek.

The trail continues its descent toward the Columbia, but I split off at Eightmile Creek and headed uphill. I had run out of time, and it was time to head back to the car. The timing couldn't have been better, the sky grew cloudy and dark about halfway up Eightmile, and 200 yards before the parking lot, it unloaded. First rain, then hail. I definitely took a few shots to the face.

Brooding skies in the afternoon weren't nearly as hospitable as they were in the morning. Felt like a snowball in summer.

The day was worth it nonetheless.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2d9GVxylPto&w=420&h=315]

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/204758982" params="auto_play=true&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true" width="100%" height="450" iframe="true" /]

To tide you over

An homage to my sister's homage of a better photographer's good idea. I went to Columbia Hills State Park a couple weeks ago, and I'm still editing photos. I took about one million of them. I'm also adding audio and video to these posts, which adds an extra dimension of complexity—I haven't spent a lot of time editing either, but I want to progress continually toward realism with the scenes I recreate here. Alas, this requires time.

The morning light served our photographic purposes well. Low-angled light illuminated the mist plumes that rose from the waterfall's point of impact.

In the interim, I went to Abiqua Falls yesterday, a far shorter and less photo-intense adventure. Information is widely available on the web, so I won't spend a lot of time huffing about it here. The falls and the "basaltic amphitheater" it created are spectacular—just go already.

At a measured height of 92 feet, those who kayaked over Abiqua's precipice were thought to be world record holders. At 92 feet, no one cares because that's a *#$%ing long way to fall.

Word to the wise: Plan on parking at the top of the 2.25-mile spur to the "trailhead." This is immediately after turning off of Crooked Finger Road onto a road marked only with an "off-road vehicle staging area" sign.* The parking is extremely limited at the bottom, and you may get blocked in by other vehicles. In addition, the road down is as choppy and undermaintained as it's reputed to be. If you don't have a high-clearance vehicle, definitely park higher up.

The aforementioned basalt. Here it is fractured in a beautiful honeycomb pattern.

This photo is interactive. Click on them and drag your cursor to pan left, right, up or down. On a Mac, iPhone or iPad, standard gestures will also zoom in or out. For a bigger viewer, click View on Google Maps in the upper left corner. If you think you’re nuts, get some of these.

[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?layer=c&panoid=AWHvY8WjU1sAAAQo8AU7zA&ie=UTF8&source=embed&output=svembed&cbp=13%2C141.7393726695628%2C%2C0%2C-12.51224908763082&w=560&h=315]

*Alternatively, you could park on one of the spurs along the way down, just don't park at the bottom. There's a huge quarry-ish area where we found a VW Bug, for example.

Park here. If memory serves me, it's about 1.5 to 2 miles away from the Abiqua trail, as it were, but you'll avoid complications on the way out.

Hills like down pillows

Suspended above Drift Creek, the North Fork drops 66 feet, creating this stunner. Drift Creek doesn't impress as the kind of place to produce spectacle. About two hours outside of downtown Portland, the drive feels at times more rewarding than the hike itself, despite enduring about an hour of suburban traffic between Portland and Newberg. (A commuter corridor where, it should be noted, there seems to be an abundance of Stetsons, a detail that pleases me so much that I refrain from absolutely unloading on the uncoordinated traffic interchanges at regular intervals of 300 yards and the mile upon mile of low density commercial and the peripatetic packs of 30 year-old men on scooters and the—I hate the area. But I love the hats.)

Without a macro lens, many of these intimate shots are less detailed than they could've been. Nevertheless, forests are full of life that's easy to miss.

Thereafter, the country crumples like an unmade bed, and I found myself in the heart of wine country, the Yamhill Valley. I've been here many times—to Dayton, Amity, Willamina, St. Paul—but the idyllic beauty of this bucolic landscape strikes me only now. The hills roll like down pillows, the vines fall like hair. I counted about a thousand sheep before Route 18 slipped deep into Siuslaw National Forest. There the familiar weight of temperate rainforest returns, the bite of cold air, the musk of decay. The ferns and the firs and the clover and the hollowed out stumps that crumble to the touch. (I found Spirit Mountain Casino there. Who knew?)

Twenty or thirty miles of highway and backroads later, I arrived at the Drift Creek Trailhead. There were many cars, more people, a shed with bathrooms and a trail. If this sounds underwhelming, it's because it was.

Wahh, waaaah.

OK, I should probably back this up a bit. I have a preexisting relationship with the Coast Range, and there's a certain protocol I follow when going there. The drives are longer, so I handpick the music, which if habit is any indication tends to be a combination of Pink Floyd and Rachmaninoff piano concertos. Imagine, if you will, the sinusoidal ups and downs of hills and valleys to Dark Side of the Moon against the high-pitched ambient buzz of a four-cylinder engine. The conspiracy of forces has a sort of somnolent effect on me, I am neither asleep nor awake, and the first time I experienced this odd transformation, I explored an abandoned railroad line along the Salmonberry River on a Tuesday, not a soul in sight, just me and the coyote who wanted to eat my lunch. I can't think of anything to say except... I think it's marvelous.

A carpet of clover.

TL;DR: I was really disappointed when a crowded parking lot opened upon scrub alder and the clusterfuck of tangled undergrowth that typifies forest 50 years young amid the lingering putrefaction of trailhead bathrooms.

I was wrong.

It took a quarter-mile to let go of my hate, and once I did the forest sprang to life. I take no pleasure in photographing forest undergrowth—I just can't do it right—so I went small instead, sticking my nose in the little places that get lost in the big picture. Even the people brightened up. There's a weird unspoken hiker's code that dictates greetings for each and every hiker passed, and it was in full effect at Drift Creek; no economical "hello!" for entire groups here.

Green, green, green. It's still early in spring, so the full spectrum of color has yet to arrive in the forest.

The trail descends 500 feet in ambling switchbacks, then flattens as it follows the contours of the land for a solid mile. Deeper into the forest, much of the disheartening roadside scrub fades away and the land acquires more character. Evidence of old growth can be found in places: a carpet of clover surrounding the disemboweled remains of a Doug fir that must've been hundreds of years old when it fell; further on, across footbridges caked in mud, the trees rose like flying buttresses under a stained glass canopy.

These photos are interactive. Click on them and drag your cursor to pan left, right, up or down. On a Mac, iPhone or iPad, standard gestures will also zoom in or out. For a bigger viewer, click View on Google Maps in the upper left corner. If you think you’re nuts, get some of these. (This photo demonstrates the limit of what Google's app can do.)

[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?layer=c&panoid=orzFUmgkD-4AAAQfDP1t7w&ie=UTF8&source=embed&output=svembed&cbp=13%2C275.5783456015247%2C%2C0%2C34.15080095622826&w=560&h=315]

But none of these sights compared to what waited at the end. Drift Creek Falls isn't terribly tall, but you get every inch of its 66 feet. Before I was even aware of the creek's plunge, I encountered a 200-foot suspension bridge crossing the Drift Creek canyon floor 100 feet below. No big deal.

In August of 2010, the massive slab of rock at center broke from the main precipice and dramatically changed the appearance of the falls. Check out the difference.

The view of the falls is magnificent from every angle. I spent about an hour here to shoot photos and eat dinner. After an hour back up the trail, I headed home.

Small rapids near the base of Drift Creek Falls.

For Marley

This is probably balsamroot, of the genus balsamorhiza. But it might be Mule's Ears, of the genus wyethia. The two are hard to distinguish. I met Marley* while checking out at Whole Foods. He's gotta be in his early twenties, which is practically a baby, and he said he's from LA. He said he's lived in Portland for a year. He said he loves the outdoors.

This is funny, because when I told Marley that I'd spent a day in the Gorge, he looked at me with a blank face and an asterisk above his head.

"What's that?" he asked me.

"The Columbia River Gorge," I said. I'd never had to explain this to anyone before. "It's east of Portland?"

Marley showed no change in emotion.

This is the Columbia River Gorge, Harvey.

These photos are interactive. Click on them and drag your cursor to pan left, right, up or down. On a Mac, iPhone or iPad, standard gestures will also zoom in or out. For a bigger viewer, click View on Google Maps in the upper left corner. If you think you’re nuts, get some of these.

[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?layer=c&panoid=TKM0mf6hvykAAAQfDPaNYQ&ie=UTF8&source=embed&output=svembed&cbp=13%2C259.87506514906534%2C%2C0%2C-2.9258989262145576&w=560&h=315]

OK, I said. So first of all, the Columbia River is the second longest river in the Western Hemisphere that flows into the Pacific Ocean. Its headwaters begin at Columbia Lake in British Columbia, 1,243 miles from its terminus near Astoria, OR. Its 250,000 square-mile watershed drains the Columbia River Basalt Group, an ancient lava bed created between 17 and 15 million years ago when the lid blew off the Pacific Northwest—a hot spot under Yellowstone that triggered regional volcanic activity in intensities that match some of the biggest and most voluminous in geologic history.

The Columbia River Gorge is a 100-mile corridor that cuts through the basalt, a porous and easily eroded igneous rock, at a saddle in the Cascade Range. It was carved some 18,000 to 13,000 years ago when an ice dam periodically broke and refroze, releasing the waters from ancient Glacial Lake Missoula. The volume of this lake is estimated to have been about 500 cubic miles, or about half the size of Lake Michigan, and its floodwaters reached as far as Eugene, OR in the Willamette Valley, flowing as fast as 80 miles per hour. This happened at least 25 times during the period.

Fortunately, these days are long gone, and the worst I had to deal with when I visited the Labyrinth on Saturday was a sunburn.

The identity of these little guys is a mystery to me.

The Labyrinth gets its name from the lattice of bike trails that have been carved out of the grassy basalt hillsides. Their milage is virtually infinite, and a hiker can spend a day or two exploring the paths on foot without wanting for new discoveries.

A vast network of bike trails, built over the years by regular use, create a labyrinth of intersecting routes—hence the name of the area.

[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?layer=c&panoid=3CbGiKcclpoAAAQfDPfnSQ&ie=UTF8&source=embed&output=svembed&cbp=13%2C137.42659220397724%2C%2C0%2C3.0761808402317286&w=560&h=315]

I began my trek at the Coyote Wall trailhead, where I was fortunate enough to find a parking spot within the grounds proper. Saturday was the first legitimately beautiful day of the season—fair skies, warm weather—and unless it's been like this regularly east of the Cascades, I can see the area getting packed later in spring and summer.

I experimented with bracketing, the tactic of photographic a range of lengths of exposure, and I continued to do so here until a mountain biker yelled, "GETTING THAT POISON OAK, EH?" I had no idea.

I followed the abandoned highway past the Coyote Wall Trail to the Labyrinth Trail. Portions of this highway have been absolutely pummeled by rock fall, in some places so severe that there were no remains of any highway whatsoever. In places, it appeared that concrete had once been poured, it just wasn't there anymore. Just as amazing, there are flattened sections at the base of Coyote Wall—access roads, no doubt, abandoned long ago—that were entirely swallowed by talus. Of course, my first thought upon seeing the wall was: climb.

About a third of the way up Labyrinth Trail, its course begins to stray through copses and in and out of ravines.

Following the course of the abandoned highway, I turned off onto the Labyrinth Trail and began to climb. The area around Hood River, OR, a stretch of the Columbia River Gorge that includes the Labyrinth and Dog Mountain, is one of the most compelling parts of Oregon. From the top of these basalt escarpments, I can trace the desiccation of the Columbia Gorge by scanning from west to east. This area of the Gorge straddles an ecotone between the high plains in the east and the lush forests nearer the Willamette Valley. It turns out that this is one of the planet's sharpest ecological divides, with the western portion of this 30 mile corridor receiving as much as 75 inches of rain, whereas the eastern portion only receives 15 inches. Likewise, to the west, I could see the dense forests near Multnomah Falls and the Oneonta Gorge, but to the east the trees scatter like buckshot and vanish just as quickly.

This, I think, is a wildflower called Hood's phlox, phlox hoodii. It's one of the earliest wildflowers to bloom in the Gorge.

Still, despite its relative exposure—the mighty Columbia is rarely out of sight—the Labyrinth preserves the intimate atmosphere of its more decorated westerly counterparts. I followed several packs of hikers, many with ever-ebullient children, and found, to my surprise, that I managed to lose all of them, engrossed in whatever thing I was taking a picture of. Basalt is still basalt without the massive bodies of Doug fir to blot out the sun, and in the Labyrinth it is similarly eroded. Trails around the Labyrinth duck into a gulch or a gully, emerge onto the spine of a ridge with 270-degree views of the Columbia, then dip back into a meadow. The result is an overland experience every bit as intimate as an old growth trail with the added spectacle of a riverine vista around every corner.

I stopped here for awhile.

This isn't the place for destination hikers. True to its name, the Labyrinth is a place that rewards wanderers. It's a place to enjoy the birds and wildflowers with friends and a dog and maybe a mountain bike, and they're everywhere. All of them. But unlike a true Labyrinth, it's almost impossible to get lost here. You can see for miles, and in a bind, there's almost always someone to ask.

Caught these folks on the move along Coyote Wall.

* Marley is not his real name.

Ponytail Falls

Ponytail Falls photographed from behind. It's a Gorge favorite, and has been photographed quite a bit. Ponytail Falls is pretty accessible to anyone who wants to see it, and it's been documented thoroughly by visitors who have come before me, so I'm not going to write a full post on the visit. I still wanted to share the photos I brought home with me.

These photos are interactive. Click on them and drag your cursor to pan left, right, up or down. On a Mac, iPhone or iPad, standard gestures will also zoom in or out. For a bigger viewer, click View on Google Maps in the upper left corner. If you think you’re nuts, get some of these.

[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?layer=c&panoid=j1-XZ64bzPMAAAQpkog0Hw&ie=UTF8&source=embed&output=svembed&cbp=13%2C267.2624603266862%2C%2C0%2C-8.371709349245535&w=560&h=315]

Ponytail Falls

Like many falls at Silver Falls State Park, Ponytail has a cavern carved out behind it. I'd like to figure out what mechanism makes this happen. Is there a difference between the rock types between the precipice and where the falls impact? Is it a function of normal erosion, or is there something special that hollows out the cavern?

The video I shot was the best part of the trip. It's rainy in Oregon this weekend, and I noticed at Silver Falls that there's a "curtain" of water droplets that fall all along the precipice on each side of a waterfall. This was true at Ponytail Falls as well. I shot a video that contrasts the impact of these little drops to the thundering turmoil of the bigger Falls. Slow motion video is always a fun effect to play with, but shooting the falls alone is pretty straightforward, and I think I found a pretty good contrast here.


There seems to be just as much energy in the little drops, and I end up watching them more often than the waterfall in the background. I wanted to get closer to the pool, but I also wanted to keep the waterfall in the frame. My phone is also the most important tool I have, and it doesn't mix well with water.

Where Balloons Go to Die*

Upper Three Corners Falls I shot 360° panoramas at Three Corners Falls today, a set of four waterfalls along an officially unnamed creek outside of Stevenson, WA. The payoff was palpable, if I had any feeling left in my palps to sense it: four waterfalls, not the planned three, all in rapid succession (geographically speaking) along an untamed-since-loggers-last-had-it corridor on the north side of the Columbia River Gorge. I hoped to catch them on the girthier side of recent rains, and I think I succeeded. This might explain the mysterious fourth waterfall, a lightweight of 15 to 20 feet in height that preceded the more vertiginous Upper Corner Creek Falls.

The "hike," if I were to call it that, required about two hours of off-trail bushwhacking through dense forest. Water and Devil's club were everywhere, and a want for solid footing made for intimate encounters with both. I took many, many branches to the face and at least one tree trunk to the groin, which seems to be a discouraging trend during these excursions.

These photos are interactive. Click on them and drag your cursor to pan left, right, up or down. On a Mac, iPhone or iPad, standard gestures will also zoom in or out. For a bigger viewer, click View on Google Maps in the upper left corner. If you think you're nuts, get some of these.

[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?layer=c&panoid=WyvAMR5cWZEAAAQpgX9pNw&ie=UTF8&source=embed&output=svembed&cbp=13%2C325.29061396731527%2C%2C0%2C2.5706652577633804&w=560&h=315]Tributary of Rock Creek just south of Red Bluff Road

This is the view from the approximate trailhead. As you can see, the creek is the trail.

[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?layer=c&panoid=eX7yBTjNPUEAAAQpg4CR_g&ie=UTF8&source=embed&output=svembed&cbp=13%2C113.10363751841226%2C%2C0%2C33.653386709897454&w=560&h=315]On my ass above Middle Three Corners Falls

In order to reach the higher falls, however, you have to climb around the vertical drops. Here, I went way too high. Many of these rocks were loose, and all of them were covered in a coat of moss at times six to eight inches thick.

[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?layer=c&panoid=NqVWpJce6n0AAAQphLeCyQ&ie=UTF8&source=embed&output=svembed&cbp=13%2C185.6808%2C%2C0%2C0&w=560&h=315]Lower Three Corners Falls
[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?layer=c&panoid=gKeOgKRS06wAAAQpgX9pNg&ie=UTF8&source=embed&output=svembed&cbp=13%2C142.28022898089824%2C%2C0%2C20.358646762011574&w=560&h=315]Middle Three Corners Falls
[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?layer=c&panoid=0GKfklNx7IoAAAQphPDZQQ&ie=UTF8&source=embed&output=svembed&cbp=13%2C222.8844%2C%2C0%2C0&w=560&h=315]Mysterious unnamed falls
[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?layer=c&panoid=U-hsWGAwDhcAAAQphPDZQA&ie=UTF8&source=embed&output=svembed&cbp=13%2C203.06693367509035%2C%2C0%2C-16.605228809143355&w=560&h=315]Upper Three Corners Falls

In hike reports, Upper Three Corners Falls purported to be a perfect location for a panorama. It didn't disappoint, despite my belief that it was a triple-falls instead of a double-. I was surprised to find something this scenic in a part of the Northwest that's been pored over for destinations. I've heard, but never really acknowledged, that there are backwaters of the Gorge that feature even greater spectacle, places that few know about and fewer visit. I hope that this is an example of the costs and benefits. For example, has anyone scaled the rock face on the southern side of the Gorge? There's gotta be some cool stuff up there.

Anyone looking to follow in my footsteps, be forewarned: this isn't for the faint of heart. Be prepared for a physical challenge. Wear protective clothing—Gore-Tex or other durable rain gear will shield you from spikes, thorns, and other blood-letting barbs, not to mention moisture. In particular, wear durable gloves, because you'll want to keep four points on the ground in many places. Most importantly, go once, and never go back. I can't stress enough how destructive I was in getting from fall to fall, and how unavoidable it was to be destructive. You can stick to the creek, but you'll have to step out at different points, and higher-trafficked areas already bear signs of scarring this early in the season—heavy boot prints, flattened ferns, bare branches serendipitously scraped clean of moss. Soak it up the first time, because next year, people will know you've been there.

Other goodies:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkeKQBUVZC0]Slow motion video of Middle Three Corners Falls

A simple panorama of the twin falls at Upper Three Corners Falls.

* Not a figure of speech.


I watched Neil Patrick Harris' opening number at the Oscars on Sunday. Referenced in the performance were hours and hours and hours of the most recognizable entertainment we have as a culture, to the tune of spectacle and awe that's traditionally associated with Hollywood. Likewise, they signify hours and hours and hours spent watching them. For the record, I loved the intro. Some good ol' homoerotic tension between Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Jack Black's rock opera bubble that almost burst wide open. Anna Kendrick. But I watch NPH's homage to the industry and I ask myself about the relationship I have to the people depicted onscreen, the way I relate to the medium itself, and the collateral seepage of voyeurism into my daily life. I've seen nearly all of the "moving pictures" referenced in the video. Singing in the Rain. North by Northwest. Star Wars. Basic Instinct. I recognize their stars, even silhouetted. Gene Kelly. Cary Grant. Darth Vader. No matter how real they feel, they're simulacra, and I'm in a relationship with a screen. I smile at their quirks, I laugh at their jokes, and if they were in the room I might air-punch their chin and say, "You." Unfortunately, they aren't. In fact, no one's in the room. It's just me.

Moving pictures, millions of pixels on screens. They may not be real life but they'll show you what life really means.

The entire performance is meant to instill a nostalgia that I can feel running up my spine, and it's a little disturbing to feel these moments more than some of my own memories. Some of my memories are these moments. I've always thought myself to be someone who isn't content to be the spectator to great people, great events, or great experiences (or, conversely, great acts of psychokinetic homicide). It isn't enough for me to watch. One of the great and insidious things about TV and the like is that it confirms the things you want to believe about yourself, but I've reached the point in my pop cultural consumption where I want more than vicarious experience. Yeah, let me actually escape a low-flying biplane. Someone PLEASE teach me how to use the Force. I think I'll pass on interviewing a psychopath, but I'd gladly watch from behind a one-way mirror. If you can weed out the irony there, mediated entertainment replaced genuine terrene in-the-present experience at some forgotten point in my life. Probably when I watched LOTR for the 46th time.

Look, I don't think TV was meant to be used in the way that I use it, so I'm not going to make any high and mighty arguments about how TV and Hollywood and YouTube are destroying our lives. I just want mine back. Starting tomorrow, I'm giving up television for 40 days.

That means:

No more The Tudors, which was mildly entertaining to begin with and has started to wane in its televisual adolescence I watched a few more episodes, and I'm more impressed by Jonathan Rhys Meyers' aging, understated King Henry—but no more. No more Game of Thrones. No more X Files, which I had never really watched before a week or two ago and have found exceedingly entertaining in the way that Friends is entertaining. Speaking of Friends. No more live sports. This is such a broad category that I could list events by name. No more Blazers games.

No more Twin Peaks, which hosts a coven of timeless beauties—no joke. I'd watch it for that reason alone, but Kyle MacLachlan and David Lynch make it a classic. No more Django in Chains, which I forgot to watch the first time. No more Californication, a salacious comedy series that really soured in its later seasons, but season one nevertheless one of the more meaningful TV experiences I've had. This fact doesn't really recommend me as a person. No more Trailer Park Boys, which was renewed in recent years after a long hiatus. No more Marco Polo, Netflix's awful epic that doubles as a fantastic nightlight. No more Epic Rap Battles of History, a guilty pleasure I revisit every couple months. No more Let's Talk About Something More Interesting. No more The Newsroom or Boardwalk Empire, which were over anyway. No more House of Cardsno more House of Cards—which releases its third season in four days. I might as well give up food. No more Vikings, yet another guilty pleasure that just started its third season. No more Parks and Rec. No more All Is Bright, Love Actually, Wreck-It Ralph. No more The Life Aquatic, which you have to be high to really enjoy. No more Take Shelter, one of the best movies I've seen in the last year. No more Mike Tyson Mysteries, which breaks my heart. No more Last Week Tonight, The Daily Show, or The Colbert Report, which I still mourn. No more Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy. No more Highlander. No more Life of Pi. No more Utopia. No more Veep. No more The Lottery, Identity Thief, Oz the Great and Powerful, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity (the second-best movie I've seen in the past year), Ender's Game, Americans in Bed, Captain Phillips, Good Will Hunting, American Hustle, Band of Brothers, Tyrant, Bad Santa, or Cloud Atlas. No more Planet Earth. No more Sherlock.

And that's just the viewing history from a non-Netflix app. The list goes on, but this isn't the Book of Genesis. I think you get the idea.

Photospheres from Silver Falls State Park

One of my five-year plans is to get into 360-degree photography. These days, this is incredibly easy to do–pick up your smart phone, download a Google app called Photo Sphere Camera, and start snapping pics. I'd actually recommend that you download the app for viewing as well, especially if you have an iPad. In addition to photography, it allows you to use the tablet as a viewer, and you can look around a photosphere by moving the iPad around. Photos take a while, and it'll make you look a little bit like a goofball as you stand in one spot and take about 30 consecutive photos—at least one guy glared at me—but the result is worth it. I've taken a couple trips to do this in the past month, one a teaser for a much longer journey that's part of a mapping project I want to put together. The more recent, a trip to Silver Falls State Park, was much more spectacular. I've never been to Silver Falls, and I shy from heavily trafficked natural areas for reasons I have trouble defending, but I'm telling you, this is one of the most amazing places in Oregon. On a good day, after we've had a lot of rain, the falls are roaring. We were lucky enough to visit on a day when the park was relatively deserted. Aside from a time commitment that forced us to speed up a leisurely pace, it was one of the best hiking days I've had in a long time.

Anyway, I took a lot of photospheres, found out that "photosphere" is a cumbersome word that sounds really nerdy when you say you're about to take them, and emasculated myself on a huge log that blocked the trail. Be forewarned that the photos aren't perfect, so any floating heads, arms, or other human appendages (which you'll find) are merely technological defects and not the evidence of gratuitous violence. In time, the technology will improve and the task will become less demanding. In the meantime, here are some of my favorites. There are around 15 of these. You can look a few here, but for best viewing, check out my profile on Google Views.

[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?layer=c&panoid=VZLASHjYBdcAAAQZbqZPhQ&ie=UTF8&source=embed&output=svembed&cbp=13%2C85.01396804963849%2C%2C0%2C0.10977365817709028&w=560&h=315]
Double Falls
[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?layer=c&panoid=Ub2wFH3MOjMAAAQZbOUfFQ&ie=UTF8&source=embed&output=svembed&cbp=13%2C126.1664428387779%2C%2C0%2C2.57396977459085&w=560&h=315]
Middle North Falls
[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?layer=c&panoid=CcbW7kGT2LkAAAQZbOUfDA&ie=UTF8&source=embed&output=svembed&cbp=13%2C352.7200296229941%2C%2C0%2C8.979040579664712&w=560&h=315]
Middle North Falls from inside
[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?layer=c&panoid=qGJK2ViiRpEAAAQZbOUfCw&ie=UTF8&source=embed&output=svembed&cbp=13%2C227.9184590535697%2C%2C0%2C0.41527243176535933&w=560&h=315]
North Falls

I shot a video, too:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tu8vkGWtJ8E]

And how about a few more photos for posterity:

In what felt like old growth, Doug Firs like this had to be 150-200 feet tall. Some of them were double trees with trunks that split a quarter of the way up.

Panorama taken at the entrance to the park, facing west toward Silverton and I-5. The valley is shrouded in fog.

Elmer's All-Purpose Glue

I have before me an espresso. It sits in a little cup, whose handle is so small I have to pinch it. This little ceramic cup sits on a saucer of appropriate size, set in with a smaller inlaid or debossed circle for the purpose of retaining the little ceramic cup in a certain area. Next to the little ceramic cup, laid obliquely such that its broad concavity is nearest to me, is a little metal spoon. It retains some of the either soap or sediment from its most recent washing. I suspect that it's a water stain, though Portland water is reputed to be soft. As an alternative to pinching, I can grasp the entire cup in my paw as a way to avoid the snooty position my hand attains, a sort of declined or rotated A-O.K. sign that lifts and separates my pinkie and ring fingers, though the contrast between the size of my hand and the cup it holds is probably enough to defeat the purpose of the movement, which is to preserve masculinity. There's something absurd about seeking masculinity in the way one holds a cup. The espresso itself is the color of bark, something between a Douglas fir (an earthy brown) and California redwood (a ruddy brown). The Latin name for California redwood is Sequoia sempervirons. The espresso began its life with a frothy patina that coated the liquid's surface. In its adolescence, the patina has since fragmented, separated, or simmered down to cover now only portions of the liquid's surface. This looks very similar to maps of prehistoric continental drift, and this map most accurately resembles a world with high sea levels. One continent looks like a crescent moon; the length of its southern curvilinear coastline is jagged with fjordal archipelago. The other continent looks like modern Antarctica, and floats to the immediate northwest. As I write this, each continent has doubled in size.

This espresso has a twangy bitterness that is probably explained by the amount of time it's been in the cup, though I don't have the gustatory capacity to discern the difference. Meaning, in other words, that it tasted the same when I first drank from it with my pinkie fluttering in the wind as it does now, clasped firmly in my paw. The only significant difference I can detect is the temperature, which has cooled from pleasant and warm to a tepid room temperature.

As the espresso level gets lower, that is the level of the liquid in the cup gets lower, I come to understand that the frothy foam that once coated the surface has not popped or mysteriously dissipated as I assumed, but rather just coats the inside of the cup that's no longer submerged in espresso.

The action of swallowing it can be described as a kind of event of swallowing it: two fingers pressed in the side of the throat, as one might if searching for a pulse, reveal a much more complex muscular sequence that reverberates from jaw to trachia and feels something like an esophageal earthquake, if such a thing existed. The sound of it is totally internal (except in the instance of loud swallowers, one of whom we are all familiar with) and hard to explain. It has no comparison that I can think of. It's just the sound of swallowing.

The most peculiar thing about espresso is the way it changes sensuous experience. The onset is gradual and subtle, but can be described as looking through a microscope. It helps to magnify the smallest object and clarify its idiosyncrasies. In sufficient amounts, espresso exaggerates experience the way an electron microscope magnifies microbiota, a metaphor appropriate for its extreme and in most cases irrelevant detail and the kinetic energy that over-caffeinated espresso drinkers tend to exhibit. This mental state isn't especially noteworthy except in relation to normal, unmodified sensuous experience, which (in my subjective interpretation) is a little bit like wading through a slick of Elmer's All-Purpose Glue–some glitter here, cotton there, and the occasional obstacle presented by a popsicle stick, all experienced frame-by-frame with long interludes to pull one foot forward at a time, or occasionally dislodge a boot stuck in the muck, replacing it onto one foot while trying to maintain balance on the other, long spindles of spidery tack stretching from the bottom of the boot's sole to its last imprinted position like stalactites and stalagmites in reverse chronology, that is slowly stretching apart and thinning with length until they finally snap under the tension. Espresso expedites this process. It doesn't remove the obstacles and distractions, or water down the glue to a more (shall we say) economical viscosity. It somehow makes it O.K. to struggle and fight with the shoe and the glue such that it's a simple step-by-step process, from start to finish, something that just requires a little focus and time. And then it provides that focus.

One just needs to provide the time.

Dinosaur Flotillas

In boredom, I've taken to random walks around town. Generally these take place along 21st or 23rd Avenues. I don't usually see anything stimulating, so the benefit of walks like these is debatable. But it's still an opportunity to walk, to move around, and god damn do I get frustrated after long hours without it. It's also an opportunity to clear my head. Thanks to technological advances of the last fifteen years I can write and walk at the same time. Question: would Joyce have written Ulysses worse, as well, or better with an iPhone 5?

I consider happy hour at Mio Sushi, and remind myself to try the relatively new restaurant, Fireside, residing where the old Music Millennium used to be. I see lots of people. I've noticed two cat-printed shirts more than I noticed last year. Everyone is just as white as they've always been. I think about walking up to some of them and introducing myself. I ask them how they're doing and what they're up to tonight. I see them floating down the Willamette River on inflatable T. Rexes with marionberry daiquiris in their hands, under the city lights. They all have beards, even the girls. There are hundreds of them floating by. Some of them are tattooed from head to toe, others are naked, still others are both tattooed and naked from head to toe, which beckons some truly grotesque imagery. Dispersed throughout the flotilla are designated photographers in bowler hats and reflective safety vests. Bursts of shouting move peripatetically from bow to stern in coordination with camera flashes. It's a party.

I imagine this until the recognition of a coworker's voice brings me back to myself. It isn't him, but I looked hard enough and long enough to give him the wrong impression.

A block later, I'm home.