In late December as I returned from a joyful hike in the rain on my first visit to Cave Creek Regional Park, I stopped as I pulled out of the empty parking lot and positioned the car for a quick shot in front of the desert in a downpour. I knew our time together was coming to a close and while it would take me another month to finalize my decision, yesterday morning the Crosstrek and I went on our final hike before I traded it in that afternoon. I loved this car so much, not for what it could do but for what it allowed me to do. We went to the Columbia River Gorge, to Mount Rainier, to the rain forests and mountains and beaches of the Olympics, to the Oregon coast, to the redwoods, to endless trips to the auto tour at Ridgefield to sit in silence watching bitterns and listening to the ducks and geese and swans. It ferried all our pets but Templeton to the vet. It brought three worried cats and one worried driver on a three day trip from Oregon to Arizona, with my wife and pup following in her Crosstrek. Here in Arizona it took me to work each day now that I have to drive and to many local hikes, somewhere around 150 in our almost two years here.
The Crosstrek was my little mountain goat, equally at home in our urban neighborhood in Portland as it was on rutted gravel roads leading to my favorite places. My deepest thanks to everyone who played a role in bringing this car to market, back before small crossovers were cool. I measure cars not in specs but in smiles and this one brought a lot of them. The new car has big shoes to fill.
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.
After the movers packed up our belongings, I took a quick picture with my phone before leaving the rental house for the last time. Or almost the last time, I was back yesterday to let the carpet cleaner in. As excited as I am about our new house, I was a little sad pulling away from the rental house as it was a great home for us during our first year in Arizona. That’s my Crosstrek out front, its utility proved itself multiple times both on the move a year ago and in this last move, even if I replace it with something a little better suited to my current commute I will always love this little Subaru.
At the back of the large backyard was this old bird feeder, it provided endless entertainment for both me and the cats during our year there. I saw 30 bird species over the year, many of which fed at or below the feeder. The most surprising visitors were the boisterous rosy-faced lovebirds, they aren’t native but a population has established itself in Scottsdale.
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 was a year ago today that I ordered the Sony A6500 and a handful of lenses and, while it was a difficult decision at the time, I’m so glad I did. It’s the camera I’ve used for nearly everything since then apart from some wildlife shots, but I’ve used it for wildlife too. I wanted a small system that would be easy to take along but also provide good quality for when I’m hiking, and it has gone with me on all of the morning walks with the dog since then as well as all of my hikes. I took this picture shortly before heading out the door to catch my flight to Arizona. I had the camera packed for the trip but took it out at the last minute, so that I wouldn’t be tempted to do too much hiking when I should be driving around getting a feel for the city and its neighborhoods.
We’ll have a lot of fun together in Arizona, the A6500 and I, just as we did in Portland.
They say Santa has a sleigh, but I hope he has a Subaru.
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.