Postcards from Oregon and Washington

Portland, Oregon, Tuesday, September 21, 1999

It's a great relief to be headed off on a holiday. The past month has been a nightmare due to failures of our new disk unit. Although that had the "advantage" that it forced us to improve our disaster recovery procedures and some of our I/O error recovery code, it was not what I needed so close to the dreaded Y2K. By the middle of last week, my colleagues and I were so sleep-deprived that we were barely functioning. I was touched to walk into my office Wednesday afternoon and find that Lee had put a dozen red roses there to comfort me. Finally, on Wednesday the vendor concluded that there was something wrong with this particular box and promised to deliver a new one by Saturday morning.

Keeping that promise was made difficult by Hurricane Floyd, which came through here Thursday. The University shut down at 11 Thursday morning, which gave us a chance to fix our latest disaster without users around. We never lost power and our only damage at home was a bit of water in the basement, but we woke Friday morning to the news that the water plant that serves Princeton was flooded. (The water rose so quickly that the people who stayed in the plant to do an orderly shutdown had to be evacuated by helicopter.) We were instructed to boil our water or use bottled water, which made me glad I'd carried a few bottles of water back from our trip to Peru. The cats were terribly impressed when they saw me pouring bottled water into their water dish.

On Saturday morning, I updated my Y2K Web page to show 15 weeks remaining (it started at 137 weeks and has been counting down ever since--I decided when I set the page up not to automate the updating, because I wanted to remind myself weekly of how much time remained) and spent the rest of the day doing the final Y2K testing for yet another piece of software. Well, actually, I spent the day awaiting the arrival of the replacement disk unit and worrying whether Security would remember their promise to let the truck through the football game barriers (if it succeeded in finding a dry route from Atlanta to Princeton). The truck finally arrived at 8pm and the engineers were on site ready to install it. They phoned us at 4:30am on Sunday to say that the new box had been installed and tested and was ready for us to use. Lee went in right away to start copying all of our data from the bad box to the good one. (I straggled in later.) We finally had the system up (and stable!) 9 hours later.

By Sunday, the water situation had gotten much worse. Nearby communities had no water at all, and we were instructed not to bathe, wash dishes, or do laundry. Of course, with all of the disk problems, I'm way behind on both laundry and dishwashing, so all I could do before we left the house this morning was hide the dirty dishes in the dishwasher. We've left the catsitter a note asking him to use some little blue paper plates for feeding the cats. (They're not pleased; the first blue plate was promptly pushed off the table onto the floor, but landed food side up, oddly enough.) We were able to buy some gallon jugs of water yesterday, so the cats will have water to drink while we're away.

All summer long I've been working on a needlepoint seat cover for a little rockingchair we're taking to our new grandniece Kamille. It features an alphabet with a picture to go with each letter, an alligator for "A", balloons for "B", and so on to the zipper for "Z". I decided to change "I" from an Indian to a picture of Ivy, the nice black Labrador Retriever that Kamille will grow up with. (Poor Ivy has had a hard time adjusting to her changed rank within the pack since Kamille came along.) Since I can't draw at all, getting the glob beside "I" to be recognizable as a black dog was a real struggle. It looks more like a poodle than a Lab, but that's OK--everyone I've shown it to can tell that it's a black dog, which was as much as I could hope for.

In my usual frantic way, I finished the needlepointing on Sunday while the disks were being copied (I calculated that the number of stitches was 13 x 13 x 15 x 15, but that doesn't count the ones that got ripped out and done over), blocked the canvas that evening, and stapled the cover to the seat last evening. This morning, I cut up a blue-and-white nightgown (which fortunately I had washed just before the hurricane) to make the lining for the seat and pinned it in place and stowed the seat in my briefcase to stitch on the plane.

We left work at 2 this afternoon and headed to Newark Airport in the rain.

Walking through the airport, I was boggled to see a little kid walking along talking on a cell phone. Isn't it appalling that a whole generation is growing up believing that it's perfectly normal to make an ass of oneself by discussing private matters out loud in public places?

We were pleased that the plane got off in time, despite the weather. I spent the first part of the trip stitching the lining on the seat. It was the first time I had ever used one of those curved upholstery needles. I'd ransacked my drawers to find this one, a formidable weapon about 5 inches long, curved to form a quarter circle and very sharp on both ends. Like all good tools, it was very satisfying to use. (Another favorite tool is the perfect little silver pen with a turquoise cabochon on the cap that I'm using to write this--a gift from Sandra.) I found myself thinking back to earlier seamstresses and wondering whether a mammoth bone needle would have been strong enough for this job (it might have been sharp enough but probably would have broken from being jerked through the tough canvas--I had a blister on my thumb by the time the lining was done).

Once the seat was finished I could relax and gobble down the latest National Geographic (galaxies, genes, and Graeco-Roman Egyptian antiquities) before starting to read Michael Frayn's new novel Headlong (we very much enjoyed his play Copenhagen when we were in London earlier this year). Headlong is wonderfully funny. I was glad a movie was being shown, so I wasn't too conspicuous laughing out loud on the plane.

We were relieved to find when we arrived in Portland that the box with the rockingchair (which we'd taken as luggage) was unbattered.

It was an easy flight and we had no trouble picking up our rental car and getting to our hotel near the Portland airport, but I was completely exhausted, probably from finally letting go and relaxing. Lee knows that when my irises start oscillating (a sort of positive feedback loop) I am too tired to make sense, so he just took charge of everything and I was soon in bed without even having taken that long, hot shower I'd been promising myself for days.

Yachats, Oregon, Wednesday, September 22, 1999

We slept nine hours last night--it was wonderful--and then I finally got that hot shower I'd been longing for.

Like so many hotels, the one we stayed in last night delivered USA Today to our door this morning. A headline on the front page said "100 Days to Y2K". (The only other time I've stayed in a hotel in Portland was to attend an Educom conference several years ago. The newspaper I found by my door then was The Chronicle of Higher Education, an altogether less frivolous publication.)

We had a nice breakfast in our room; Lee ordered the "California French Toast" to find out what it was (it was made with raisin cinnamon bread).

Then we were off driving westward (and upward) into beautiful mountainous country, mostly forested, with just a hint of Fall color at the lower elevations. There were serious, long-distance cyclists all along the road, many of them white-haired, but they were outnumbered by the RVs. (One of my ambitions for our retirement is to do some bike touring.)

One pair of cyclists had lain their bikes down and were across the road hungrily picking berries from a roadside thicket.

Many of the conifers were festooned with moss. As we got closer to the ocean, the bright sunshine alternated with banks of fog that rolled down over a mountain or streamed up a river valley.

Our first stop was to buy a screwdriver for attaching the seat to the rockingchair (I'd put the screws in my purse but had forgotten to pack a screwdriver). There were Brewer's Blackbirds in the parking lot where we stopped.

A roadside sign informed us that we had crossed the 45th parallel, so were halfway between the equator and the North Pole.

When we could see the ocean in the distance, we came upon a small bridge with a bunch of cars and pickup trucks parked around it. A man was showing off a huge fish he'd just caught, and we weren't surprised to see the sign on the bridge identify the stream as "Salmon River".

When we got to the ocean, we stopped on a nice beach to see the birds. I didn't take time to identify the gulls (that's too much like work) but did make out the Brewer's Blackbirds catching crumbs deftly at the picnic tables. Lee photographed the folks from the Angel Retirement Village having a cookout on the beach in rather colder weather than they'd hold a cookout in at the McCutchen. There were many crows on the beach, too, and I found myself wondering if they are expanding their populations everywhere as they seem to be in Princeton.

As we drove along, I had my first chance for live views of "sea stacks", the remnants of eroding cliffs left standing as islands in the sea, often with a few windswept trees still clinging to them. I remembered them from Lee's photographs from his solo trip to this area a few years ago, but it was good to see them for real--very lovely.

All day long, we saw pretty flower gardens everywhere, even so late in the season.

We stopped for lunch in the small seaside town of Depoe Bay--a nice chicken bisque and BLTs. Dessert was a very good marionberry deep dish pie a la mode. (I could live on berries.)

We were given a table overlooking the bay. A gull sat on a ledge right outside the window posing nicely, but I'd not brought the field guide in from the car, so it got photographed but not identified. Watching the gulls in the bay below us, we soon spotted a black head poking out of the water briefly; the waitress identified it as a harbor seal. It surfaced several times while we watched. (The gulls always noticed it first and flew over to it, presumably to steal scraps of fish.) The seal would loll on its back for a while and then dive with a sort of backwards roll.

We walked down the street to a saltwater taffy shop where Lee selected a couple of dozen flavors, combining them in a large bag. When I saw that he'd included some of the (yuck) chocolate peanut butter, I had to make my own bag of just peanut-butterless chocolate and peppermint.

Our next stop was the lookout at Cape Foulweather. The view was limited by the fog but still nice. We stopped in the shop to get some postcards and I got myself a really pretty slice of blue agate to keep on my desk.

In mid-afternoon, we reached Yachats (pronounced "YAH-hots") where our nephew Jim and his wife Bonnie had arranged a beach house for us all for the next few days. We found the beautifully landscaped house with no difficulty. It is just across a narrow road from a pretty little bay and has a small mountain rising not far behind it. While we waited for the others to arrive, we sat at a picnic table on the low cliff over the bay and checked out the birds gathered on the sandbars below. Then we remembered that Jim had given us his cell phone number, so we phoned and got the combination for the box that has the house key and went on in so we could get the rockingchair put together before they arrived.

We barely had it set up when two cars drove up. The first held Jim, Bonnie, Kamille (who was born March 5), and their dog Ivy, and the second held Jim's youngest brother, Christopher. We hadn't known Chris was coming and were delighted that he could make it, too.

Kamille is (this will surprise you) totally adorable, wonderfully bright-eyed and alert. Despite the fact that she is cutting her first tooth, she won our hearts with her abundant smiles.

After the cars were unloaded, the rockingchair was suitably admired. We sat Kamille in it and she seemed pleased, although she can't yet sit on her own. She smiled at the bright orange-and-white striped Princeton socks Lee had bought for her a few days ago and at the tiger beanbag he had found for her.

We all wanted to be outside (especially Kamille, who always seems happier outside), so we soon headed out to walk on the beach and sandbars. Ivy was in heaven, as we took turns throwing sticks into the water to be fetched.

We had a wonderful, warm family evening together. Bonnie had brought a big pan of her excellent vegetable lasagna, Chris made a great salad, and Jim made us blueberry crisp for dessert. And we talked and talked and talked.

When it was finally time to say goodnight, we were given the very attractive master bedroom, which takes up the entire second floor and has windows all around.

Yachats, Oregon, Thursday, September 23, 1999

I woke up once during the night and was startled to see stars! There is a skylight just above my side of the bed. I could see a part of the Little Dipper, alternately bright or obscured by the clouds drifting by.

Jim had intended to make blueberry muffins for breakfast, but the lack of a muffin tin turned it into a single (very good) "muffin".

After breakfast, Chris (mindful of his duties as Ivy's "uncle") took her out for a swim in the surf. (Hearing the word "walk" is enough to make her tremble with pleasure.) I was reminded of the family friends who came by specifically to play with Chris to prevent his feeling slighted after his baby sister was brought home from the hospital.

We had a warm, happy family day together, playing with Kamille and talking, talking, with Lee jotting down recommendations from the "kids" for books we should read and films we should see (one of the many reasons I really look forward to being with them all).

Kamille seems quite content to let me hold her. When Bonnie sat her in the rockingchair again, she was able to sit up by herself, although a guarding hand is still needed nearby lest she lose her balance. Her eyes got very big when we rocked her gently.

She was not happy about her mommy braiding her hair, but her daddy kept her distracted long enough for the last barrette to be eased into place.

We went out for a walk before lunch. The tide was high, so we walked along the top of the low cliffs. The coast here is very rocky and the surf is rough. There are tsunami warning signs every so often. We could see lots of ducks and gulls in the water, but my hoped-for loon turned into a cormorant.

People were fishing in the surf and we came upon a man who had just landed a huge salmon (a Chinook, I think). He was doing a little victory dance, totally amazed by the size of his fish. "Oh, man! Oh, man!" He said his wrist was just about broken from the effort.

The progress of our walk was repeatedly delayed by the necessity to stop to pick wild blackberries. They are so good. Ivy loves them, too, and is very grateful to have them picked for her so that she doesn't have to get thorns in her muzzle.

A light rain began to fall, so we put up the rain hood on Bonnie's backpack baby carrier, but Kamille was sleeping so soundly I doubt she would have noticed a little rain.

Lunch was really nice turkey and cheese sandwiches. We talked all afternoon, and then Chris and Lee went out to pick up dinner at a local restaurant, and we talked all evening.

When Kamille woke, we photographed her in the frog Wellies I'd got for her at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. They're several years too big, but I figured a little kid growing up in Oregon will need galoshes. These are green with frog eyes and mouth at the end of the feet. Kamille was fascinated to have eyes on her feet, but she didn't like the rubber taste. (She is at the age where it is easy and natural to taste one's toes.)

Jim (who graduated from law school June before last) has just finished a great year as a clerk to a state Supreme Court judge. He told us about the baby shower the people at the court gave for him. His judge wanted to be assured that Jim would not use the baby bike trailer they'd given him on the road and that he would always attach the warning flags.

We told them about our plans for the rest of our trip and got advice on places to go. When I mentioned that I am somewhat dreading the trip to Mount St. Helens (where I had my first bad attack of acrophobia some years ago), Jim made us laugh by describing a bus trip he and Bonnie took in Guatemala (where they went as election observers), in a rickety bus on narrow mountain roads.

I was delighted to see Kamille's joy in being read to. Whenever she gets fussy, especially when she needs a nap but isn't ready to give up and fall asleep, Bonnie or Jim get out her little Cat-in-the-Hat bookbag and she starts waving her arms in eagerness. The books are ones for very small children, with pages made of cardboard for easy turning. She sits in the reader's lap gazing raptly at the bright pictures. Chris, our poet, says it is the rhythm of the words that charms her, and I think he may be right, as Bonnie says that when they're out without the books, she can simply recite one to Kamille to quiet her (having memorized them herself from having read them so many times). Proud Uncle Chris notes that Kamille "always chews on the right page".

We said goodbye to Chris before going to bed, as he is leaving for home (Seattle) very early in the morning. Fortunately, we will see him again in a couple of days.

Eugene, Oregon, Friday, September 24, 1999

We woke to another beautiful sunny day and set about to close up the beachhouse in Yachats. Once the cars were loaded, we headed south along the coast. The views were wonderful as the sunlight hit the mist rising from the sea. Looking up or down the coast, we could see each successive inlet a bit more shrouded and a deeper blue. The sea was a lovely gray-blue in the sunshine.

We stopped on a nice shingled beach, where I watched a Kildeer bathing in a little inlet, politely letting me see all of its plumage, including the two black bands across its white breast and the reddish orange of its rump. (The Kildeer is a large plover. I thought that this one was a "lifer" for me until a search on "Kildeer" in my email archives reminded me that Lee and I saw one in the grass by the side of a road a couple of years ago while driving to Plainfield to see his father. This time I got a far better look, however.)

Ivy was delighted by the chance to swim. She is clearly a born retriever (even though Jim says that "Lab is only the predominant theme" in her breeding--they took her in after finding her abandoned in a parking lot as a puppy). They have to be careful that she doesn't hurt her feet on rocky beaches like that one, so they stood at the edge of the water to throw sticks for her to swim after. Even so, she was favoring one leg slightly by the time we left the beach.

Further on, we stopped for lunch at a picnic table with an ocean view and finished off all of the food we'd brought with us, especially the Newman's Own Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies.

After lunch, we went down to the broad sandy beach. As we walked along it, we all got wonderful looks at a handsome Whimbrel. (The Whimbrel is an elegant large (17") brown shorebird with a long down-curved bill. I was close enough to make out its blue legs. The stripes on its head were very striking.) We also had some peeps I didn't try to identify and a couple of plovers that may have been Semi-Palmated.

Ivy greatly enjoyed having her toy thrown for her even though we couldn't let her go into the water because of the ominous warnings about the currents.

We drove past another beach with huge sand dunes coming a mile or so inland. Bonnie told me they had walked there in the spring and had kept Ivy on a leash because of nesting plovers. (I'm guessing they would have been Snowy Plovers.) It was probably just as well we didn't stop there, too, as by this time Lee was visibly sun-burned. (He always forgets to bring a hat, which is why he owns such a huge collection of souvenir baseball caps.)

We turned inland then to drive through the mountains toward Eugene. (Lee spotted a kingfisher on a wire as we were driving along, but I totally missed it.)

Lee has concluded that Oregon must have a really strong cyclist lobby. There are lots of provisions for them along the highway, although Bonnie mentioned that the state parks have recently closed their shower rooms, which were a boon to cyclists. The highway tunnels have signs saying that a flashing light indicates that there is a cyclist in the tunnel, in which case the speed limit is lowered. We don't understand what makes the lights flash, however.

Eugene was the first place I'd ever seen drive-through espresso stands.

Jim and Bonnie live in Springfield, which is just across the river from Eugene. (They bought the house, their first one, since our last visit, so we were eager to see it.) Jim starts a new job in Eugene next week and will have "a great bike commute" with herons along the way.

We spent one last evening together, seeing their house, admiring their bonsai and Jim's very large, very green pumpkins and the goldfish pond that will soon have to be converted into a sandbox. We had the joy of playing with the baby and, even more, of watching Jim and Bonnie do so after so many years of longing for a child. We sat on the deck that overlooks their beautifully planted back yard until dark and then went inside to go through photo albums full of Kamille pictures.

Lee and Bonnie went out to pick up a really good Thai dinner for us all.

After dinner, Kamille made us laugh by lying on her back balancing a big purple ball on her hands and feet, pretending to be a trained seal and obviously pleased with her skill.

It was hard to say goodbye to them.

Seattle, Washington, Saturday, September 25, 1999

We rose early this morning in Eugene, microwaved the blueberry muffins we'd bought last evening, and headed north on I-5. We had bright sun all day, interrupted now and then by light rain.

Passing through Salem (Oregon's capital) gave us a feeling for the long commute Jim has had every day for the past year.

Driving along, we were listening to an NPR station that had a discussion of how international law applies to the atrocities in East Timor. The conclusion was that they are not war crimes, because there is no war, but they are clearly crimes against humanity, which is sufficient (legally) to justify international intervention. Because Lee follows the Australian newspapers regularly on the Web, we've been watching the situation in East Timor for a couple of years, dreading what would happen. It is difficult to understand how the United Nations could claim to be surprised by the violence; it seemed totally predictable. It has been heartening, however, to see the degree to which the Web empowered this revolution. One would like to think that the Web is making it harder and harder to maintain an oppressive regime.

When we got to the Columbia River port of Longview, there was a rainbow so huge and vivid that it almost stopped the traffic.

Not long after entering Washington, we turned east to drive to the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, stopping at a little diner along the road for a good cheeseburger lunch. (The waitress disappointed us, however, as she was cutting the chocolate mousse pie for the folks at the next table, by declaring it under-cooked and sending it back to the kitchen just after we had decided we'd order some, too.)

The road we were taking followed the Toutle River upstream (this is the river that had the devastating mudflows following the eruption).

The visitor centers for Mount St. Helens are very handsome. We stopped at the first one so that we could walk along its boardwalk through marshy areas along the river, but the marshes are too dry at this season to have much wildlife. The exhibits inside the building, especially the photos of the 1980 eruption, were very interesting. In the shop, we bought a book about wild berries for Jim and Bonnie and a spider finger puppet for Kamille (who is very fond of her lobster finger puppet).

The next stop was at what is known in Governmentese as a "sediment retention structure". In other words, it is a dam across the Toutle that allows sediment to settle out of the water, which is then released to continue downstream. The dam was built several years after the eruption to stop the constant resedimenting of the Columbia from all the debris and ash still being carried down the Toutle.

Nailed to a tree outside the nearby souvenir shop was a BC cartoon: "The volcano is erupting!" "Quick, get some lumber and nails." "To build a shelter?" "No, to build a souvenir stand."

That was enough to make us go into the souvenir shop, where I indulged in some really pretty Christmas tree balls blown by a local glassblower from Mount St. Helens ash (one for me and one just like it for Sandra and then Lee decided to get a gold-and-silver one for the gold-and-silver tree at the McCutchen).

Lee also got himself yet another baseball cap to prevent further sunburn. I was assuming that it must say "Mount St. Helens" (he already has one such from his last visit); only later in the day did he let me see that it actually says "Bigfoot Country".

The lady in the shop showed us a photo of her sons brushing the ash from her roof the day of the eruption. Fortunately, her house is far enough above the river that the mudflows didn't reach it.

The next visitors center had a telescope for looking at elk down in the river valley, but there were no elk. (The valley is very wide and flat, obviously still filled in by the huge mud flows from the eruption. The stream is not large and braids its way back and forth across the valley.)

We couldn't see the volcano yet because of cloud cover.

We stopped next at the "Forest Learning Center", which is sponsored by Weyerhauser to explain to people why clear-cutting is good. It had a really super playground that was full of children; I wanted to take off my shoes and join them.

There was also a heroic bronze sculpture of The Tree Planter, dedicated to the people who replanted the 18,000,000 trees on Weyerhauser land after the eruption (probably at the minimum wage).

Just beyond the sculpture was an overlook from which we could see two dozen elk on a big island down in the Toutle.

The road to Mount St. Helens has all been rebuilt (obviously). It was repositioned very high on the side of the ridges, with each little creek valley being crossed by a high-flying bridge. It must have been terribly expensive to build, but the views are grand.

At the end of the very newest part of the road (they keep extending it as things quieten down) is the Johnston Ridge Volcano Observatory, a very handsome concrete building dug into the side of the ridge. From there, we hiked up a steep path (in very cold wind) to a lookout at 4314 feet. Up so high, there is still only very light plant cover, even so many years after the eruption.

We were looking directly across a valley at the volcano and could see into the crater (the very top, however, was still cloud covered). There was snow in the crater, but we could make out the bulge of the new dome. Off to the left, we could see one end of Spirit Lake. (I remember it well from our visit several years ago, when we stood high above it and looked down to see what seemed like a million trees still floating in it.)

When the side of the mountain gave way, releasing the pressure and triggering the eruption, the avalanche flowed down this valley and up over Johnston Ridge, where the flow split in two. There are still some trees standing between the two flows and in the lee of ridges here and there, but they are all dead, killed by the ash and gas. The debris is full of huge trees that were snapped off by the avalanche. The Toutle is carving paths through the debris that look to be about 100 feet deep now where the gradient is steep. Some of the debris- and ash-filled valleys high up are now so eroded that they are described as "hummocky".

The approach to the Observatory building is via a cut, like a highway cut only narrower. There is a wide sidewalk, with a nice grey stone wall along each side. As we walked back down that sidewalk, we saw a chipmunk come running down the left-hand cut, jump to the left wall, jump to the middle of the sidewalk, jump to the right-hand wall, and run up the right-hand cut, all in much less time than it takes to tell about it. That was obviously his regular path, and the tourists weren't meant to see him as anything but a blur. We were able to watch him climb into his burrow in a huge fallen log, peek out briefly from a hole at the end of that log, and then disappear for good, all too fast to be photographed.

Our last stop was the Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center, which Lee wanted me to see because of the attractive copper-roofed building (with green glass skylights in the form of pyramids).

A ranger there said that the landslide that started the eruption was the largest one ever recorded, though the eruption itself was tiny compared to some others in recorded history.

We stopped in the cafe to get dishes of vanilla ice cream smothered in blackberries and sat to eat them on stools with a view across the valley to the volcano. When we were done, we went out to a balcony to take some photos. The balcony had a concrete wall topped by a metal handrail. I looked far down the wall and saw a chipmunk running toward us on top of the wall, his cheek pouches bulging with food. He jumped to the balcony floor and continued running toward us, but when he rounded a corner and saw us standing there, he quickly scurried back where he'd come from, jumped from the wall to the ground, and went on his way, grumbling about being unable to use his nifty concrete shortcut. As before, this one was too fast to photograph.

We returned to I-5 and continued north to Seattle. The drive was pleasant until we got to Olympia (Washington's capital), after which it was bumper-to-bumper. Since this was a Saturday afternoon, one doesn't like to imagine a weekday morning there.

There was just enough cloud cover to prevent our seeing Mount Rainier.

When we got to Seattle, we checked into a hotel in the university district (a handsome Art Deco building) and then dashed out to see if the university bookstore was still open. It had just closed, so we explored the district for a while.

We had a dinner of very good tacos in a "taqueria" that serves definitely authentic Mexican food. A mural of Mexico City's Plaza de la Reforma covered one wall. A game show from Mexico was blaring on the television.

I'd spotted an ice cream shop as we were looking for the hotel, so that was our next stop. When a young family sat down at the next table, I noticed that the man was wearing an unusual pendant on a chain around his neck. A few minutes later, a burst of giggles from his two little children caused us to turn and see that the pendant was actually a vial of soapy water with a small bubble wand. The children were enchanted by the cascades of tiny soap bubbles their father was making for them.

Our last stop was at a nice produce store, where we selected scones and fresh blueberries for breakfast tomorrow.

Lee has gone across the street to the cinema that he was delighted to notice is showing Hitchcock's North by Northwest, and I have settled in to read.

Seattle, Washington, Sunday, September 26, 1999

We lazed in bed for a while this morning before dashing downtown to the famous Elliott Bay Book Company. We got slightly lost on our way; I remember going past the Space Needle in both directions. When we got to Elliott Bay there was no parking nearby, so Lee circled the block while I ran in just to pick up two copies of Frayn's Headlong. It was physically painful for me to leave such a good bookstore without a long browse, but I made myself do it.

We wanted to be sure to be on time for our luncheon engagement with Christopher and our friend and former colleague Jacqueline Brown, who is now at the University of Washington here in Seattle. Jacqueline had made reservations for us all at Etta's, near the Pike Place Market.

We got to the market area early and had less difficulty than we had anticipated in finding a place to park, so we had some time to explore the market. I could imagine myself spending many Sundays wandering through this market. The flower stands are especially spectacular--the glorious big bouquets of mixed flowers were tempting even though we'd no place to put them.

There were all sorts of specialized groceries and many food stands. One could spend a year eating one's way through all the varieties of bread.

We stopped in a stall that specialized in dried fruits and nibbled their samples and decided to buy a big package of the tart cherries to use in muffins this winter and also to get small packages of tart cherries, bing cherries, blueberries, cranberries, and strawberries for my parents. (The logo on the packages is a Chukar, a beautiful introduced partridge species we've never seen. When Jacqueline noticed them later, she told us that the brand is her favorite, too, and offered to keep us supplied.)

At another shop selling cutlery and kitchen tools, we found a good Christmas present for my gadget-loving father, which I won't describe here because it would spoil the surprise.

The scent of spices filled the sidewalk as we passed an Indian grocery.

We were happy to introduce Jacqueline and Chris, who are both very dear to us and both connoisseurs of good food and good books. It was a pity that Clarence Brown couldn't be with us, too; he is halfway across the country driving back to Princeton for the final packing up of their Princeton house. Jacqueline was pleased to tell us that Clarence has started reviewing books for one of the Seattle newspapers and that his first review is in this morning's edition.

We gave Jacqueline and Chris both a copy of the Frayn novel with the hope that they will enjoy it as much as I am. Chris had brought me two books, Sherman Alexie's The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and Douglas Coupland's Shampoo Planet. And Lee took the opportunity to return the copy of the mystery Who the Hell is Wanda Fuca? that Jacqueline lent him at least five years ago. (We will be travelling along the Straight of Juan de Fuca tomorrow and the next day.)

Jacqueline had certainly chosen the restaurant well. We had a really delicious meal. I indulged in Huevos Rancheros and Creme Brulee and made myself almost ill from eating so much rich food. And, of course, we talked and talked. Jacqueline is shortly to take trips to Alaska and Egypt, so we wanted to hear her plans for those. She and Chris exchanged notes on Seattle restaurants and he amused us with stories about his life as a budding restaurateur.

After lunch, we hugged Jacqueline goodbye and then headed off through the market with Chris to another good bookstore, where I chose several books for myself and asked Chris to choose some too. (He keeps me more au courant than I would be on my own.)

As we were both picking up David Foster Wallace's latest book, we chatted with a young man who was trying to decide whether he should buy one of Wallace's other books. "Is it as good as Infinite Jest?" "Well, no, that is his best so far, but this is one you should read, too."

Walking through the market earlier, we had stopped to listen to some street musicians, a good gospel quartet. Walking back through the market, we paused to listen to another song or two and Chris bought Lee a tape of their music.

When we were all in Yachats a few days ago, we gave Chris a video of a splendid 1976 production of Macbeth with Ian McKellan and Judi Dench. He mentioned now that he has invited a theatrical friend to come over later this week to view it with him.

We dropped Chris off at the restaurant (Bandoleone), as he had to work, and went back to our hotel to nap and read. I couldn't resist dipping into the Alexie. From one of his stories about life on the Spokane Indian Reservation:

During all these kinds of tiny storms, Victor's mother would rise with her medicine and magic. She would pull air down from empty cupboards and make fry bread. She would shake thick blankets free from old bandanas. She would comb Victor's braids into dreams.
Early in the evening, we met Chris and his charming friend Megan at Bandoleone and had our first experience of "tapas", which was enough to make us converts. The food was excellent and beautifully presented. One of my favorites was the three-grain cornbread, made with grains of three sizes that separate into layers as the bread is cooked. We were happy for the chance to get to know Megan, as we sat there for hours talking and talking and being entertained by a jazz guitarist. When we decided that we needed one more course, Chris went out to the kitchen and talked with the cook, who told him that he had some very good tuna and asked if Chris would like him to do something with that. The result was a blackened tuna with black bean sauce that was stunningly good.

We finally, with great reluctance, said goodbye to them and headed back to our hotel, ready to be off to the Olympic Peninsula early in the morning. Before falling asleep, I sent Jacqueline email telling her the secret to finding a parking place near Bandoleone.

Port Angeles, Washington, Monday, September 27, 1999

Shortly after we woke in Seattle this morning, I phoned my parents. My father answered the phone and immediately said, "Tell me about the baby." "She's wonderful!" "I suppose I didn't really need to ask." I promised them photos soon.

Listening to the news, we heard that there will be a pumpkin shortage this year because the pumpkins here are still green, which, if we can judge by Jim's, is certainly true. We also heard that I-5 was a mess in the university district because this is the first day of classes, so we plotted a different route out of the city.

I dipped into the Coupland while Lee packed:

Which shampoo will I use today? Maybe PsycoPath (r), the sports shampoo with salon-grade microprotein packed in a manly black injection-molded plastic motor-oil canister. Afterward? A bracing energizer splash of Monk-On-Fire (r), containing placenta, nectarine-pit extract, and B vitamins. And to hold it all together? First-Strike (tm) sculpting mousse manufactured by the pluTONium (tm) hair-care institute of Sherman Oaks, California. It's self-adjusting, with aloe, chamomile, and resins taken from quail eggs. Gloss, hold, and confidence. What a deal.
Heading west, we kept seeing plant nurseries offering "winter veggie starts". The climate here is so mild that people can grow lettuce and such in the winter. I've never been to Seattle before, but this short visit has been enough introduction for me to see why people love it.

We crossed Puget Sound on a huge ferry from Edmonds to Kingston. I was amazed to see how many big trucks it could carry. (Not surprisingly, there was an espresso stand catering specifically to the people waiting in line to drive onto the ferry and it was getting plenty of business.) The crossing took about half an hour and was very smooth. We got out of our car and stood up on the deck for a while. It was a bright sunny day, but there were clouds obscuring the mountains. I was amused to notice pigeons riding the ferry.

We spent the rest of the day driving west along the northern side of the Olympic Peninsula, which is bordered by the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Most of the areas we drove through were forested, with an occasional small town or farm. (We were surprised by the number of llama farms.) Most of the interior of the peninsula is taken up by the Olympic National Park; we will be visiting several parts of that.

I had thought that the flower gardens and hanging baskets earlier in the trip were magnificent, but the ones here are even more stunning. Almost every house and business is flower bedecked. The variety of flowers and colors is delightful. (Nasturtiums seem to do especially well here.)

I salivated every time we passed a blackberry thicket along the road, so finally we stopped at a nice produce stand and bought some blackberries, along with scones for tomorrow's breakfast and a cherry toffee oatmeal cookie to share.

We made a quick tour through the nice old port town of Port Townsend, which, from the quality of the older buildings, must have had a good deal of wealth in the Victorian era. It is now mostly in the tourist business with lots of interesting-looking shops in those beautiful old buildings.

We drove on for a while and then stopped along the water at the John Wayne Marina for a pleasant lunch, after which we continued driving westward, never getting far from ocean views.

With some difficulty (there were no signs at all), we found the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge located on "the world's longest natural sand spit", a wishbone-shaped spit extending 4.5 miles out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We didn't walk out on the spit; we were more interested in the beautiful woods above it.

Our first stop as we drove into the Refuge was the top of a sand cliff with very convincing signs warning against standing too close to the crumbling edge. Looking down into the water, we found an undeniable Common Loon, still in full breeding plumage. In the bright sunshine, the black and white stripes of its "necklace" and the black and white hatching on its back were very clear, as was the dark green of its head. (The dark bill distinguished it from the similar Yellow-billed Loon, which can be seen here, too.) As it swam along the cliff bottom, we followed along the cliff top and got a very good view.

When we got to the woods above the start of the spit, we chatted briefly with the volunteer ranger, a Princeton parent, and then walked through the fragrant conifer woods, among splendid ferns and peekaboo chickadees. We tried very hard to see the squirrel that was scolding us, but it stayed well hidden.

Just before we reached a handsome wooden deck projecting from the hill above the spit, we found a pretty doe grazing calmly near the trail.

From the deck, we had a good view of the shorebird area but there were not many birds other than gulls. I lent my binoculars to a man who wanted a better look at the Great Blue Heron that had just glided in and landed at the top of a tall spruce near the water.

Above the deck was a grassy area with feeders and water that had attracted California Quail, Spotted Towhees, Fox Sparrows, and Rufous-backed Chickadees. We got good long looks at all of them. (The last two were birds we had never seen before.)

Our next stop after we left the refuge was the art shop at the Jamestown S'Kallam Tribal Center in Sequim. We brought a wonderful calendar of Northwest Indian art and a few other little things, including a wooden hummingbird Christmas tree ornament in the Northwest Indian style. Lee got a small enameled salmon zipper-pull for his beloved "London Zoo" jacket, and we picked up a copy of Northwest Indian magazine featuring heart-breakingly beautiful art.

We continued westward and Lee was delighted that the weather remained so lovely because he has twice earlier attempted the Hurricane Ridge drive, only to be turned back because of snow. We made it this time and it was great! In seventeen miles, the road climbs up one mile. It took us through lovely forests dripping with moss. There was bright sunshine the entire time except when we passed through a cloud that was rolling down the mountain. When we got to the top (5242 feet), we found a deer drinking from a puddle in the parking lot, completely unconcerned by our presence. Other deer were casually grazing on the hillside near the paths. (These are Black-tailed Deer.)

There were small patches of snow in shaded areas, and we could see the glaciers on the still-higher mountains further inland. We've read that Hurricane Ridge normally receives 300-400 inches of snow each year, but total snowfall last winter was 746 inches! They had big avalanche problems, not surprisingly.

A flyer we picked up in the visitors center at the top instructed us on how to behave if we encounter a cougar. (Don't run. Stand and face it. Pick up children. Appear large. Back away slowly. Keep eye contact.) The flyer's message was made more urgent by also showing a life-size paw print.

There were no cougars in sight, alas, so when we'd drunk our fill of the mountain views, we started back down the road and had a lovely view out over the strait.

We were soon settled in our inn in Port Angeles. Our room is right down at water level and separated from the harbor by only about 20 feet of lawn. Once we were unpacked, I sat cross-legged on the floor in front of the sliding glass doors to identify a gull posing on the lawn a few feet away--a second-winter Thayer's.

Our room looks northeast, but we had a glorious sunset anyhow. The sky shaded from mauve to yellow to green to turquoise, and that was echoed exactly in the sea, with only a narrow bright turquoise line separating the mauve of the sky from the mauve of the sea. As we watched, that turquoise band expanded until the sky and the sea were all turquoise except for the black silhouette of a gull crossing by occasionally.

Once it was dark, we logged on to read our email and were cheered to see that things are quiet back home and that the water restrictions were lifted this morning.

We read in the local newspaper about the plans to remove two dams from the nearby Elwha River to "fully restore the ecosystem and native anadromous fisheries".

We dined in our room (I had a delicious "alder-planked salmon") and then settled in to read.

La Push, Washington, Tuesday, September 28, 1999

We woke this morning in time to see the sunrise from our room in Port Angeles. I opened the drapes and we cuddled in bed watching the sky go through many shades of pink and blue.

However, I was soon drawn from the bed to the window. True to the birdwatcher's adage that once you've seen a bird you're longing for you will keep seeing it, I had spotted two Common Loons in the water right outside our room. One was in breeding plumage and the other was in juvenile/winter plumage.

I wish I had a film of the adult loon. The still water rippled in pink and blue, as though it had been painted by Monet, while this beautiful bird, with his stark black-and-white plaid and stripes, floated among the ripples preening himself. An unforgettable sight.

The two loons were joined by a seal, and we watched as the three of them dived and resurfaced. I learned to tell when one of the loons was about to come up from a dive--a small bubbly patch appears on the surface of the water. The seal was harder to predict and never showed us more than its head.

As we breakfasted on raisin scones, we watched another winter-plumaged loon and two grebes that were either Clark's or Western.

Then a really amazing new bird floated very near. It was mostly black with a distinctive white patch on its forehead and a white oval down the back of its neck. The shape of its bright red-orange bill misled me into thinking it must be some kind of eider. I was bamboozled (and close to phoning Laurie) when Lee leafed through the book some more and realized that it had to be a male Surf Scoter. Just then, it rose into the air and flew very low over the water in great arcs around the bay until it finally landed among a group of black dots far out in the water, which I can only guess were other Surf Scoters. A really beautiful bird (and much more striking than it looks in the book).

As we loaded the bags into the car, Lee pointed out the plastic owls on the roof of the inn. If they were put there to keep the gulls away, they weren't doing their job. Indeed, it appeared that the gulls were congregating around them. ("Meet me at the third owl.")

We stopped on our way out of town to see the exhibits at the main visitors center for Olympic National Park. There was a sign saying that one of the campgrounds is closed temporarily "due to cougar activity".

Our goal this morning was Cape Flattery, the northwest-most point of the contiguous U.S. A fortunate detour on the way caused us to take a narrow winding little road that we hadn't planned to take. As we drove along among the beautiful forests with a lake off to our left, we came upon a stately deer that only very reluctantly got off the road to let us pass.

Shortly beyond the deer, I whispered, "Stop!". A large bird had been about to cross the road. Lee stopped the car just soon enough not to frighten the bird back into the woods. Instead it froze and we froze (about 15 feet away from it). It was a Ruffed Grouse (the red morph), a beautiful bird, all speckled and spotted in russet and white and gold. It stood there letting us get a wonderful look for a couple of minutes. (Fortunately, there were no other cars.) Then it slowly put one foot out (which let me see that it wore a "pantaloon" of pale golden feathers) and then the other foot, as it crept across the road before scurrying into the woods. (Laurie says they behave as though they believe you can't see them if they move slowly, and that seemed to be exactly so.)

I was delighted, of course, and told Lee that the day would be complete if he could just find me a kingfisher.

We were soon back on the main road and close to the sea again. Just as we were entering the small town of Seiku, Lee pulled off the road so that we could look at the cormorants on some large rocks in the water. Conveniently, there were two of very different size drying their wings on the nearest rock. The size difference made it easy to decide that one was a Pelagic and the other was a Double-Crested.

We stopped for lunch in Seiku at a diner that was just across the road from a curving stone breakwater that enclosed a small marina. We sat in front of a window looking toward the breakwater and had a good show. We were close enough that I could make out that the big gulls sunning themselves on the breakwater were Glaucous-winged. I was pleased that they were then joined by a couple of the much smaller Heerman's Gulls (handsome grey-brown birds with bright red-orange bills that are migrating through here at this season).

Off to our left, I spotted a flock of Surf Scoters (again true to the adage) flying low around the bay. I think I will be able to recognize them in the future from the way they fly. (I've read that "scoter" is derived from "scooter".)

And then Lee said, "Something just landed on that post", and I had my kingfisher! It perched for a couple of minutes, which is the longest look I've ever had at a Belted Kingfisher. Unfortunately, it didn't let us see its front, so we couldn't tell the sex. After it dove, we watched the post in the hope that it would come back, but it didn't.

After lunch, we continued westward, with the strait on our right and the mountains on our left. We could see the rugged mountains of Canada across the strait.

Cape Flattery is on the Makah Indian Reservation. There is a very nice (but tiring) trail through beautiful forests to a cliff with several handsome wooden lookouts with views down to the rocky coast and to offshore islets full of seabirds. When we arrived at the northwest-most point of the contiguous U.S., the people who were already there told us that they had just seen a whale spouting.

We watched a group of sea lions fishing offshore. Each time one of them surfaced, it was immediately mobbed by gulls trying to steal some fish.

We stayed for quite a while enjoying the view and scanning for whales. Standing there, we could look down upon the northwest-most tree (very stunted and windswept) and see the northwest-most Song Sparrow. (The Song Sparrows here are much darker than the ones at home, chocolate and white striped.)

On the way back up the steep trail, we paused to catch our breath and were seriously scolded by our life Winter Wren.

The Makah Tribal Museum is said to be very good, but, alas, it is now on winter hours and was closed. We stopped at a small shop in town and had a nice talk with the proprietor, a Makah woman who is a basket weaver. She was weaving a small basket as we talked and stopped in mid-sentence to say, "Oh, darn!". She'd just realized that she had forgotten to change colors a couple of rows earlier.

We bought a nice abalone shell pendant she had made and a lithograph of her son's. The lithograph was done to commemorate the tribe's recent whale hunt. Copies were presented to the participants and to dignitaries who attended the potlatch in celebration of the successful hunt. As little as I am reconciled to killing whales for any reason, it is a very powerful work. As she explained the symbolism to us, my thoughts ran to the wonderful lightning gods in the rock art we saw during our second trip to Australia. In this print, the thunder bird and the lightning serpent preside over the hunt.

As we were driving out of town, we stopped for a few minutes in front of a house that had feeders that were attracting Red-winged Blackbirds and Steller's Jays.

We headed south then. The countryside was beautiful except where there'd been clear-cutting. The tall conifers had moss hanging thickly from their stubby branches.

Near the town of Forks, we turned westward toward the Quileute Indian Reservation. There were tree plantations all along that road and the air was filled with small pale-yellow moths that obviously prey on the kind of tree being grown there (one of the many problems with monoculture). Lee's comment was that "something has roused these moths into an automobile-smashing frenzy". So many slammed into the car that it felt as though we were being slowed by the impacts.

We are staying in a rustic cabin right on the shore, one of the tribal enterprises. We have a wonderful ocean view, with dramatic tree-topped sea stacks just offshore. (I am reminded of the cover of David Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars, which I read with pleasure last year.)

After we'd gotten settled, we drove back toward Forks for dinner. The meal was pleasant but the blackberry cobbler was a disappointment. (I think we may have been permanently spoiled by the blackberry cobbler we had in Sante Fe a few years ago.)

A man at the next table was saying during dinner that a big alder tree in his yard died last year and that a local salmon fisherman had asked if he could cut it. "It's the only wood to use for smoking salmon."

We are back in our cozy cabin for a very quiet night.

Kalaloch Lodge, Olympic National Park, Wednesday, September 29, 1999

When we woke this morning in La Push, we dressed quickly and went out to walk on the beach and in the brambles above the beach. The brambles were full of blackberry bushes, and a zillion strawberry plants had tesselated the sand with their bright red runners. We were too absorbed in the lovely seascape to identify the numerous small birds in the bushes, but I did catch my breath at the sight of a flock of two dozen Great Blue Herons flying low above the sea stacks (a couple of hundred feet offshore). Enormous drift logs two hundred feet from the surf gave one an idea of how violent the sea can be here, but it was calm today.

While Lee packed, I stood watching as a bank of fog rolled over the stacks, finally making them disappear altogether. I didn't envy the small boat full of fishermen clad in yellow raingear whom I saw heading out into the fog.

Before leaving, we stopped in the tribal shop. I got myself a very nice little notebook with a bright cover of bird motifs in the local style, for use in recording future trips. The shop had some lovely craft items, especially the hats woven of split cedar bark. I bought a few notecards reproducing paintings by Northwest Indian artists that I know I will be too selfish ever to send to anybody.

We drove a few miles to Rialto Beach, from which we could still see the sea stacks we slept near last night. (The fog had already lifted.) Those stacks formed the left end of a chain of stacks, progressively more eroded and barren, that extended way out into the sea, arced back, and eventually met a point far to our right. This little bay was obviously once a point that has been eroded away.

The beach is formed of water-smoothed pebbles covered with mountains of driftwood, more than I ever imagined in one place. Here and there a patch of soil clings to the pebbles and those patches were all abloom, the prettiest with bright purple sweetpeas. A small wooded mountain rises immediately behind the beach. The first ranks of trees have been killed by the harsh environment, though Lee remembers them as having been alive when he last visited here. A path leads into the wooded area. There, very close to the sea, we were serenaded beautifully by a tiny Winter Wren perched atop a small tree.

We drove south toward the Hoh River (which gives rise to some rather tedious place names, such as Westward Hoh and Hoh Humm). Our goal was another part of the Olympic National Park, the Hoh Rainforest, one of the world's few temperate rainforests, a treasure.

The Hoh River is a gentle river meandering through a wide bed of water-smoothed cobbles. As we drove up the river from the sea, the trees along the road became progressively more moss-covered. We stopped to see a 500-year-old spruce, really enormous, and walked a short trail from there to the bank of the river. As in tropical rainforests, the streams here are extremely clear (the forests retain the nutrients and the soil). We could see ribbony waterplants undulating in the current and small fishes darting about. The trees in the woods are mostly Sitka Spruce (a moisture-loving species that grows along the coast from Alaska to here and follows the humid river valleys upstream) and Big-leaf Maple. There is little undergrowth (because the elk eat it). The ground is covered with lush ferns and an oxalis with unusually large leaves. Huckleberries are also common.

We drove on to the visitors center, which has a sign saying that this area gets more rainfall annually than the height of the building. We got a poster with a wonderful photograph of the "Hall of Mosses" trail and then walked the trail itself, which is stunningly beautiful. For days now, I've been describing trees as dripping with moss, but the ones here have draperies of moss. A single branch may have moss hanging as much as three feet below it, in a graceful curtain.

Unlike in tropical rainforests, there are few other epiphytes growing on these trees. The spikemoss is everywhere, and it occasionally provides a foothold for ferns growing high in the trees. Interestingly, many of the trees themselves start out growing on other trees. When a large tree falls and begins to decay, it often becomes a "nursery tree" on which a row of young saplings get a good start. Eventually, their roots reach the ground. Later the nursery tree rots away, leaving a colonnade of trees of the same age. In other cases, when a tree breaks off leaving only a stump standing, a small tree may start growing on the stump, even very high off the ground. It, too, sends roots to the ground and survives its host, appearing to stand on stilts. Examples of both of these phenomena were easy to spot as we hiked along the lovely trail.

In the intensely lush growth, birds were easier to hear than to see. We looked quite a while before concluding that the little birds in one tree must be Golden-crowned Kinglets. They were so tiny that I mistook the first two or three I saw flit to another tree for butterflies. They called constantly to one another with a gentle little call. (I've read that this serves to keep the flock together so that they will be able to find one another to huddle together in the chill of the night.)

Near the highest point of the trail, we heard a soft woodpecker noise and stopped to look for the woodpecker. It took several minutes before Lee spotted it and several more before I was sure of the identification, a Red-breasted Sapsucker. (Even on this bright sunny day, the light in the forest was dim enough that it took a while even to be sure of the bird's very red head.)

After we finished our hike, we headed back toward the sea, stopping at the Hard Rain Cafe for a very late lunch. The cafe is really a sort of general store with a couple of tables for serving sandwiches. It has an odd mixture of goods for sale, ranging from the very practical, such as kerosene lanterns, to souvenirs for tourists. It became obvious that one of the hazards of living in a temperate rainforest is world-class slugs. There were a variety of slug pellets, etc., for sale, along with little jars of pear jam labelled "Slug Butter". I couldn't resist getting one for my slug-hating father. I also indulged in huckleberry jam and huckleberry hand-lotion for myself and raspberry tea cookies for us to nibble on.

(The cookies are very good. They look just like the little pecan puffs I always make for Christmas, except that they are pink. Reading the list of ingredients I found "powdered raspberry juice". I think the bakers may just roll the hot cookies in raspberry drink powder, rather than in powdered sugar. This calls for some experimenting at Christmas time, assuming I get time out from Y2K stuff to make cookies at all this year.)

From the Hoh Valley, we had a pleasant drive to the Kalaloch Lodge, which sits on an eroding bluff above the sea. (From where we parked to check in, it was clear that there used to be a sidewalk where there is now only air above the water. We later read that the cabins have been moved back from the bluff repeatedly.)

We have a very comfortable cabin looking down the bluff to a sandy beach heaped with drift logs. In the distance we can see the lighthouse on Destruction Island, which looks to be aptly named.

A sign on our wall warns that people are killed every year by drift logs in the surf.

We had barely got our things into the cabin when I had a chance to do some more in-room birding. The cabin has a big window looking over a small lawn to a split-rail fence at the cliff top. From there down to the beach is a blackberry thicket that attracts lots of birds. Although this environment is nothing like a savannah, I was finally confident that the birds flitting in and out of the blackberries were Savannah Sparrows.

We dined in the lodge, sitting before large windows with a sunset view. I had a very nice salmon topped with Chilean shrimp and Bearnaise sauce. We dawdled over the blackberry cobbler (better than yesterday's) waiting along with the folks at the next table to try to see the green flash at sundown. They had seen it here two days ago, but none of us saw it this evening.

Back in our cabin, Lee went into pyromaniac mode and made a very hot fire in the wood-burning stove. (We ultimately had to open the cabin door to keep from roasting.) I spent the evening finishing Frayn's Headlong, still delighted with the book.

Portland, Oregon, Thursday, September 30, 1999

We breakfasted this morning at Kalaloch Lodge, again sitting before a window with an ocean view that let us watch the fog banks rolling in. I had a lovely bowl of yogurt and fresh fruit. Two very energetic older women at the next table were saying that they had hiked all the way out to the lighthouse at the tip of the Dungeness spit yesterday.

On the way back to our cabin, we could see Fox Sparrows in the blackberry brambles.

While Lee packed the car, I searched the brambles along the fence and finally found one ripe blackberry within reach. (There were millions beyond my reach.) It was a very, very good one and probably my last for quite a while.

We drove all morning through timberland close to the coast and saw some of the tallest trees of our trip in the few areas that hadn't been cut.

There was lots of roadwork going on, so we were stopped repeatedly by flagmen. I had just reminded Lee of the times we've seen very good birds while waiting for a flagman (such as the Pygmy Nuthatch at Yellowstone), when we were stopped again and spotted the most unexpected bird of the trip.

Several gulls were dabbling about in a large puddle not far from the road. Two geese were with them, neither of them like anything we had ever seen. Fortunately, we were stopped for ten minutes, so we got a very good look and finally found one of the geese on the "Exotic Waterfowl" page of the National Geographic guide. It was a Chinese Goose! The most striking feature was its high knobbed bill, black with a white edge. The upper part of the head was dark brown, with the brown extending into a narrow stripe down the back of the white neck. The back was brown with white markings and the breast was buffy. According to the Geo, it is an ornamental bird that sometimes escapes and becomes established in the wild. Clearly, there was some breeding going on, because the other goose had exactly the same shape, including the very unusual knobbed bill, but was all white with an orange bill, presumably a hybrid between a Chinese Goose and a domestic goose.

We continued south along the coast until we reached the Columbia River (wide and slow-moving here) and turned inland to follow it to Portland. Every wooden post in the river seemed to have sprouted greenery.

We stopped along the way at the Hansen NWR, which was established as a refuge for a rare species of deer. We found no deer, but there were Turkey Vultures and Ravens near the deer's waterhole. A Raven with a broken wing seemed to be finding plenty to eat hunting on foot around the edges of the parking lot.

We also stopped at the Ridgefield NWR, where we had photographed a Marsh Wren some years ago (and had brought the photograph back so Laurie could confirm our identification). This time, the refuge was much drier than on our earlier visit, with not many birds other than flocks of Robins and Coots.

Driving into Portland, we had lovely views of Mt. Hood.

After we checked into the same airport hotel we'd stayed in at the start of the trip, Lee returned the rental car (which we'd driven 1389 miles) and we settled in for the night. We've checked our email for the first time in three days and found no crises (I had 777 pieces of mail waiting) and have had a pleasant dinner in our room.

I've begun reading Tonto and the Lone Ranger Fistfight in Heaven and am dazzled. Here are some samples:

Uncle Moses sat in his sandwich chair eating a sandwich. Between bites, he hummed an it-is-a-good-day song. He sat in front of the house he built himself fifty years before. The house sat down at random angles to the ground. The front room leaned to the west, the bedroom to the east, and the bathroom simply folded in on itself.

There was no foundation, no hidden closet, nothing built into the thin walls. On the whole, it was the kind of house that would stand even years after Moses died, held up by the tribal imagination. Driving by, the Indians would look across the field toward the house and hold it upright with their eyes, remembering Moses lived there.

July 4th and all is hell. . . . How can we imagine a new language when the language of the enemy keeps our dismembered tongues tied to his belt? How can we imagine a new alphabet when the old jumps off billboards down into our stomachs? Adrian, what did you say? I want to rasp into sober cryptology and say something dynamic but tonight is my laundry night.
Do you believe that laughter can save us? All I know is that I count coyotes to help me sleep.
We fly home early tomorrow morning.

Love to you all,

Melinda Varian / Office of Information Technology / Princeton University / Melinda@Princeton.EDU
30 Sep 1999