Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Helicopters and Science

Maybe it was the helicopter, or maybe it was the hard hat and safety vest, but I went to California this weekend feeling like a student and I left feeling something like a scientist.    

On Saturday, at a leisurely pace, Lauren and I headed toward California.  After about 100 miles the Willamette Valley fog gave way to much needed sunshine.  We followed the highway as it wrapped around Mt. Shasta and took us East, toward the town of Burney and the Pitt River.  Determined to find accessible hot springs, we drove to the small town of Big Bend, population: fishermen.  One hot spring was closed for renovations as it was not up to code so we drove to where the road should have been to take us to the other spring.  Apparently, since the book's publication in 1997, the road had been blocked off and grown over.  It was getting dark and the mile plus walk in unfamiliar territory didn't sound like a great idea.  Hot spring fail.

It was time to find somewhere to camp so we drove the winding back roads looking for possibilities.  Although the area felt remote, no trespassing signs were everywhere and with the theme from "Deliverance" playing in our heads we decided not to risk camping on private property.  We stopped at the "Big Bend Community Clubhouse" to ask some grisled anglers if they knew of an area we could sleep for the night.  We ended up pitching our tent next to the Pitt 5 dam in a wide open campsite.

The next morning we met Ray for breakfast in Burney and headed out to do some recon.  Pacific Gas & Electricity has offered to support a Masters student to investigate the faults around their facilities, specifically the Pitt 3 dam.  We were in California to determine if there is enough substance for a thesis.

The day began at the Rocky Ledge fault:

And then through the Hat Creek Graben:

And up and down the Pitt River valley:

The sun was shining and autumn color was beginning to blanket the forest understory. 


After dinner at a small cafe in town, we set up in the State Park campground and settled in for the night.  Honey Whiskey between us, Lauren and I sat in the dark at a picnic table until we finally gave in to sleep.  

Did I mention there is a helicopter in this story?  Because there is.

Early Monday morning we showed up at the PG&E office and wandered out to the helicopter pad.  I was confused at first, because all I saw was clearly a child's toy.  Nonetheless, the four of us piled into the craft and took off on our tour.  I could go on and on about that helicopter ride, so here are some pictures instead:

Fog clearing from the valley 

 Mt. Shasta

Lassen Peak

Shasta in morning light

After the flight we spent the rest of the day looking at faults in the nearby Diatomite mine.

Around dinner time, we began the drive back to Eugene.  There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the fall color seemed to have doubled since the trip down.  We stopped on the side of the road to frolic and, more specifically, take some last minute pictures.

The sun set while we drove and peaks gave way to rolling Oregon hills.  As we neared Eugene, fingers of fog began to creep stealthily across the road.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Dry Northwest Autumn Day

For those of you who know, these don't just fall out of the sky . . . (see what I did there?)

I'm starting to find my routine.  The last time I was in a place like this, it was my first year of college, living in the UW dorms in Seattle, Wa.  Even though now I'm a "grown up," a certified adult with a Bachelors degree and everything, I started out just as scared as I was five years ago.  This week something changed and I finally am settled into my new home.

I wake up early, but since I don't have to, it somehow feels better.  I always start with a french press brew and maybe some yoga if I feel like jumping right out of bed.  I roll to school and start working.  There is always something to do: grading, reading, homework, getting an iMac for free through university surplus (like craigslist, but better); we figure out a way to fill up our time.  These things are all good, but it's the after hours that make me feel like I'm finally at home.

Monday finished off with my first track workout with the UO triathlon team followed by a practice with the UO climbing team.  This was my first track workout in over a year.  I wont lie, it hurt like hell, but in that good way that leaves your head buzzing with adrenaline.  I climbed a few fun 5.10's at the school crag to complete a robust monday.  Tuesday saw me with the tri team again, this time with a strength workout followed by, who would guess, more climbing.  This is what I refer to as a rampage.  Once the buzzing starts, I can hardly make myself stop.

But all of this is just a prelude for today.  Getting ready for school, I debate packing my rain pants.  The sun is out, the forecast says no rain all day, but any good Northwesterner knows if you leave without your rain gear, it will rain; Mother Nature's idea of a cruel, cruel joke.  I gambled and left the rain pants to make room for running and climbing gear since it's another track + climbing day.  Mother nature must have decided to phone it in, because the sun stayed out, the pavement dried and come mid-afternoon, it was a lovely 60 degrees.  Still mid rampage, I was ready to go to track and climb until my fingers fell off.

But I didn't.  In the middle of Eugene there is this nice little spot called Skinner's Butte.  That's right, there is a real life crag ten minutes from campus.  It was nearing 6pm so Lauren, James and I hustled to the columns and set up a top rope.  As the sun went down and the air changed from pleasant to brisk I managed two pitches of clumsy crack climbing.  I could have ran hills tonight, and climbed three times the plastic.  But I didn't.  Dry October days in the Northwest are like finding a $10 bill on the ground; it almost never happens, but when it does you spend it right away.


Afterward, we hit up Cornucopia, our favorite spot (so far) for dinner and beers.  As I biked the four miles home I felt overwhelmingly content.  I'm sure every week wont be this good, but who could go wrong with such lovely company in such a lovely town.

Calendar Contest

In the UO Department of Geological Sciences we have a little fundraiser for some fun of our own.  The students put together a calendar of photos taken by members of the department.  Tomorrow night there will be a voting party where we pick our 12 favorites for the calendar.  The categories are Oregon, Geology and general scenery/landscape.  These are my three submissions:

 "Geology":  Bryce Canyon National Park in March

 "Oregon":  Smith Rock State Park in May
"Scenery/Badassery":  Horseshoe Bend in March

Calendars with the winning photos will be for sale this holiday season!

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Beginning

I've never had a blog before.  I read a lot of blogs; friend's blogs, sports blogs, etc.  I'm not a writer and I'm not a photographer, but I want a place to put down some words and pictures of what I do with my time.  We will call this a virtual scrapbook or something.

I'm starting a new chapter of my life; away from the places I call home and the people that I love.  I hope that this will help me stay connected with them.  That is all for now, as I have some grading to attend to.

Though I wish I were here . . .
(Photo credit:  Peter Moore, check out his blog here!)