Ash Tuesday

Ash from the Eagle Creek fire covers the green hood of a Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid

I washed my wife’s car on Monday morning, its lovely green paint shining in the sun, but this is how it looked Tuesday morning. A bit of a bloom from the crepe myrtle above the driveway had fallen onto the hood, where it was surrounded by the charred remains of trees in the Columbia River Gorge, ash that had been drifting down throughout the evening and night. A fire started on the Eagle Creek trail over the Labor Day weekend, possibly by teens setting off fireworks, and with high winds and a parched forest it soon spread to other parts of the Gorge, including several areas I’ve been hiking this year and will be back visiting soon. Walking to the train this morning in our Portland neighborhood the sun was deep red even well after sunrise but by evening when I returned home you couldn’t even see the sun so thick was the smoke in the air.

It’s too soon to know the extent of the damage to the forests and the trails as the fire is still raging, but this is the sort of area that is burning, looking down into the Oneonta Gorge, taken on a hike in the spring when everything was a luscious green. Move away from the mountain streams and much of the surrounding forest is not so damp, especially not after such a hot dry summer. My thanks to all the firefighters trying to contain the blaze and protect the historic structures and the small communities in the area, and who led about 150 people trapped on the Eagle Creek trail by the fire to safety.

Lush greenery surrounds a mountain stream in the Oneonta Gorge

Waiting Patiently

My Subaru Crosstrek is barely visible through the trees

As much as I love hiking, it always makes me smile when returning to the trailhead to see my car peeking at me through the trees. I had just returned from a short hike on the Kestner Homestead Trail in Olympic National Park after driving for hours through an absolute downpour, which my little Subaru handled like a champ before waiting patiently for me to return from my wander in the trees.

Where Do I Live Again?

The snow-covered Subaru logo on the front of my XV Crosstrek

Our winters here in Portland are generally mild, but this fall has packed a bit of a punch at the end. We got a little bit of snow on Thursday a week and a half ago, and thankfully since I have some flexibility with vacation time right now, I was able to take the day off and let our dog Ellie enjoy the snow. But then as so often happens in Portland, we got some freezing rain and suddenly everything is coated in ice and trees and branches started falling all around our old neighborhood. We lost power a few times on Friday but never for too long. While walking Ellie I noticed a tree had fallen on a lovely old Mercedes a couple of streets over, completely crushing the back.

In the wee hours of Saturday morning while we were asleep the power kicked off and we didn’t get it back until that evening. Sadly the house was at its coolest when we lost power since we let it cool down at night, so I piled on extra layers and a hat until we had heat again. The house never got that cold so we weren’t exactly suffering, it was only down to 57 when the electricity returned.

This past week we got more snow, not very much but it arrived right before the evening rush hour and made a mess of everything. Fortunately I had also taken that day off but my wife wasn’t so lucky, since the train she was going to take home got shut down when some switches froze, she ended up spending the night at work. It’s going to warm tomorrow and the remaining ice should be gone, which will make a certain dog (and her walker) very happy, even if it takes the snow with it.

That’s enough winter weather for me this year, and winter hasn’t officially started yet!

At the End of the Trail

Our 2000 Subaru Outback parked at the trailhead of the Storm Point Trail in Yellowstone

I became intrigued with the Subaru Outback while in graduate school so when we moved to Oregon and were ready to replace my wife’s car, it was our first choice. It was my wife’s daily driver for fourteen years and I took it on all my hiking trips, near and far. It was always a welcome sight when I arrived back at the end of the trail, in this case the Storm Point Trail in Yellowstone.

Late in its life it got hit a few times, once by someone who ran a red light and twice by people who inexplicably plowed into the back of it. I suppose one sign of how much we loved it is not just that we drove it for so long, and not just that we replaced it with another Subaru, but that we replaced my Honda with a Subaru too.

We bought this model when it first came out and fell in love with the color, which had literally just arrived at the dealer (they hadn’t even had time to take the protective wrapping off). Apparently a lot of other people loved the color too so we ended up seeing them everywhere, including a few nearby in our neighborhood. There are still enough on the road that I frequently get a nice reminder of our dependable little wagon that I took to so many of my favorite places.