My rain-soaked Tom Bihn Guide’s Pack waits to be loaded into my Subaru Crosstrek after hiking in the rain for a few hours in late December, a scene that seems more apropos to my former home in Oregon than my current home in Arizona. I may seek out a rain cover at some point but for now I still pack it the way I did in Oregon, everything inside that needs to be protected from the wet gets stored in plastic bags, as the pack shucks off lighter rains without issue and I like easy access to water and food and clothes. I have rain gear from my time in the Northwest so funnily enough I was drier after this hike than many others (apart from my hands, my gloves aren’t waterproof) since I wasn’t sweating in the cool weather.
I took this picture a decade ago after a rare snowfall shortly before Christmas at our old house in Portland. Under the snow is our beloved old Outback, our first Subaru. You wouldn’t think I’d be able to take such a picture here in Scottsdale but I almost could as the part of the city where we bought our new house got over half a foot of snow this morning! When we were house hunting and visiting the house for the second time I thought to myself I’d be less likely to buy the house in a colder climate because you have to drive up a hill to get to the house and I remember what a nightmare the ice in Portland was for people on hills. We don’t take possession until the end of the month and we only got rain, lots of rain, at our rental house so no snow pictures today.
I love having pictures of my cars at the places I hike but I almost never remember to take them. This photo at Granite Mountain Trailhead in McDowell Sonoran Preserve (the park I visit most here in Arizona, though I usually go to the Brown’s Ranch Trailhead) joins my pictures from Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge (the park I visited most in the Northwest), Mount Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park, Redwood National and State Parks, and our home in Portland where Ellie and I started our walks through our wonderful old neighborhood of Irvington.
I bought the Crosstrek new when they arrived in America in 2012, it was the perfect car for me in the Northwest and still a pretty good fit for me in the Southwest. Now that I’m back to driving to work I would like some of the technology available today, especially adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, a better stereo, and Apple CarPlay. I’ve toyed with the idea of trading it in for an electric or plug-in hybrid as my commute could be done either entirely or mostly in electric mode with a plug-in, I’d love the quieter operation. Some of the electrics allow you to pre-cool the car remotely which would be nice when I leave after work (and even before work in the summer) and especially when I’m returning from a morning hike. But I love just about everything else about this little car, it still puts a smile on my face when I get in, so I’m not yet ready to surrender the keys.
It’s rare that I’ve experienced a white Christmas but, if this is to be our last Christmas here, at least we’re going out in style. I don’t know if the snow will last until morning but if not it’s OK, I appreciated getting to walk around in it. I couldn’t get Ellie to join me, she may have been worried about her footing at her age, but she did roll around in the snow in the backyard.
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.
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.
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!