Friday, July 29, 2011

Living Life to the Fullest

Last weekend was by far one of the most action-packed weekends that I’ve had since arriving in Oregon.  Friday night I left Newport from a long and tiring week out in the field prepared to take on the weekend full of gusto.  Friday night, Stephanie, Tim, and I headed to Downward Dog again to take advantage of their OSU (Oregon State University) Summer Session deals – this week’s was a buy one get one appetizer.  We enjoyed drinks and five appetizers between the three of us before Tim and I headed up to Portland for the weekend.

On the way, Tim told me that we were stopping to pick up some plants for his dad’s landscaping business.  Unbeknownst to me, we were headed to Tim’s family friend’s place for a cookout and laughter by the fire.  The location of their house was quite similar to the town that I grew up in.  The warm feeling that their old farmhouse had to offer and the unrestrained open fields full of night peepers along with a pond and cow pasture next door made me feel at home.  The company was also great and it was a superb way to start off my weekend.
Every Day is an Adventure
The View Point Inn - Destroyed after a devastating fire. 

The next day, I was determined to hike up to another waterfall.  So, I got up early and scanned the internet for my next adventure.  After some browsing, I discovered a hike that was just what I was looking for – Triple Falls.  Triple Falls is a four mile round trip hike in the Columbia River Gorge up to a mesmeric waterfall that splits into three plumes as the water plummets down 120 feet below.  After making my decision, I convinced Tim to partake in the great endeavor that lay ahead of us and we headed out the door.  On the way to the trailhead, Tim took me to see the View Point Inn which is a famous restaurant overlooking the Columbia River.  This is where the high school prom was held in the first Twilight movie.  Quite upsettingly, the inn caught fire a few weeks ago and destroyed the roof and upper floor in its entirety.  Nonetheless, it was still an enchanting place to see and the view of the gorge was not too shabby either.  After chatting with a friend of the owner for a bit to learn about the history of the place, we headed back to our truck to drive to our hike.
Sara Duncan -
The view of Mt. Hood from the top of Larch Mountain. 
Without knowing it, we turned the wrong way after leaving the inn and man, was that a great wrong turn to take!  After driving for twelve miles through the logging forests of Oregon thinking we were going to come out on the main road, we dead ended at a state park named Larch Mountain.  Without cell phone service to look up where we were, we asked around to see what this park had to offer.  We promptly learned that there was a short hike that we could take which would reveal a view of five snowy mountain peaks from the top.  We decided to make the most out of getting lost and checked it out.  After climbing several sets of stairs, we reached the top to be welcomed by a gorgeous view of five of the most well known peaks in Oregon and Washington.  They were Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Jefferson.  After a bit of picture taking and marveling at the beauty that was before us we headed on down the mountain to find our intended destination. 
Triple Falls
Since we did not plan for the time that the detour would take and did not have any food, we stopped at one of Oregon’s most famous waterfalls, Multnomah Falls, for an overpriced lunch.  I visited this beautiful waterfall last summer on a much less crowded day, but I was glad to see it again from the road.  After filling up, we finally made it to the trailhead and began our hike.  Although short, this hike was rather intense due to a series of switchbacks that brought us higher up into the gorge.  At one point, the trail forked and we didn’t know which way to go, on a whim I chose one of the options and about a mile later, I learned that I was right.  One of the feelings that I enjoy the most about hiking to waterfalls, especially ones that are far into the forest, is coming around a corner and suddenly being able to hear the water falling, but not being able to see it.  It builds up the suspense as to what is about to come.  Upon rounding the next bend the magnificent waterfall revealed itself to us.  As explained earlier in this post, the water plummeted over a 120 foot cliff in three separate streams to the river below.  After viewing the waterfall from downstream, we made our way to above the waterfall to climb on rocks and logs and view the falls from above.  After snapping a few more pictures and taking in the sights, we headed back down the trail to head home and off to our next adventure. 
New Hobbies?
Sara Duncan - Do I look like a pro?

I have been sharing with Tim for a while now that I would like to try my hand a golfing.  Since Tim enjoys surprising me with new experiences, once we got home he instructed me to change my clothes and put on some tennis shoes so that we could head to our next destination.  I had already expected that the driving range was where we were going and I was right!  Since Tim’s dad, Robert, enjoys golfing as well he decided to come along.  He definitely knows what he is doing, so I was glad to have him there!  Golfing is an interesting sport that I think I might learn to like.  The whole point of the game is to outplay yourself.  There is no opponent running up to you trying to knock the ball away; it’s just you, the ball, your club, and your intended target.  Just in that hour or two that we were there it was great to see myself improve.  Small adjustments were all it took to get the desired effect – “Just a little to the right. Swing from a little higher. Put your hands up higher.”  These fine-tunings improved my game a lot for being a beginner.  After a couple more of these practices, I can see myself playing for real at a nine-hole golf course!
After golfing, Tim and Robert took me out to Chang’s Mongolian Grill which is one of their favorite places to eat Asian Cuisine.  This place was interesting because you choose your own raw meat and vegetables and make your own sauce and then give it to the cooks to have them make your masterpiece right before your eyes.  I tried two different dishes: one with chicken, pineapple, mushrooms, noodles, and a mild sauce, and the other with shrimp, several types of vegetables, and a hot sauce.  Pineapple is a new favorite fruit of mine since moving to Hawaii so I liked my first plate the best.  I don’t think it deserves as much hype as Tim and his dad give it, but it still was really good!   Upon arriving home, we indulged ourselves with an hour in the hot tub before heading to bed for the night. 
The Simple Life
The next morning we drove down to Tim’s sister, Chritin’s, place to spend some time with her, her husband, Tom, and her three precious little boys.  Christin lives on a farm with several goats, chickens, and a dog along the Molalla River
Sara Duncan - Learning how to milk the sweet goat.  

View Larger Map about an hour south of Portland.  When we arrived, we were delighted to see that Christin was milking her goat.  Of course I was eager to try, so she jumped right in and started teaching me.  I actually found it to be quite easy and enjoyed the feeling of being self sustainable.  To make it even better, goat’s milk is delicious – I drank a whole quart almost by myself.  Check out a video of me learning how to milk the goat here: Goat Milking 101: My sister shows us
.  After successfully milking two goats only to have one of them kick the bucket over, we put on our swimsuits and headed down to the river.  I was excited, although a bit scared, to see a zip line spanning the length of the river.  There was a deep pool in the middle of the river where you could let go and plunge into the cool water below.  Things like this scare me, but I knew that I couldn’t miss out on the opportunity.  So, after seeing a couple other people make it out alive, I grabbed on to the zip line bar and let it fly.  I uploaded a recording of it here: Zip Lining on the Molalla River. Although I am a bit scared of heights, the rush was totally worth it and I can see myself zip lining again.  We spent the afternoon basking in the sun by the river before we headed inside so that Tim and I could look after the boys for awhile while Christin and Tom were out.  We played with them for an hour or two until they got back and headed down to Corvallis and then to Newport to finish off another one of Sara’s Oregon Adventures
Sara Duncan - Having fun with Christin's three boys.  

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

An Unexpected Weekend Off

The weekend before last was supposed to be spent in the field conducting more experiments, but sadly an issue came up that resulted in our project completely falling apart (check out my other blog here if you want to see what happened:  Although this was an unfortunate event, it lead me to experience another great weekend in Oregon.  If there was any weekend that I wanted off the most, it was definitely this past weekend, so I was elated to spend it as I wished.  Upon leaving work, I called Tim to come pick me up who was surprised that I was asking him to do so since he thought I was working all weekend.  Friday night after work I headed east to Corvallis with my coworker, Stephanie, to meet Tim and go out for drinks at the Downward Dog which is a fun bar in Corvallis with great mac and cheese!

Sara Duncan - At Gustav's German Restaurant.

That night we headed back up to Tim’s dad’s place in Damascus where we went to sleep to prepare for our next fun weekend.  That morning, I got to visit with Tracey, Tim’s stepmom, and her rat terrier, Brittan.   I was excited to get to see them.  That afternoon, Tim’s sister, Christin, stopped by with her beautiful three little boys.  We played outside and got into tickle fights which were a lot of fun.  That night, I went out to dinner with Tim, Tracey, Tim’s dad, Robert, and Tracey’s son to Gustav’s German Restaurant.  Since I recently turned 21 a couple of months ago, I enjoy trying new drinks, so I ordered a “Sea of Cortez.” It was too strong for me and had a weird combination of sweet, salty, and spicy, but I will try everything once!   I wounded down that night with a relaxing sunset by the fire at Robert’s hilltop residence. 

Sara Duncan - Visiting Voodoo Doughnut. 
The next day was spent relaxing and studying for the GRE that I will be taking in September.  One of the main reasons why I wanted to come up to Portland that weekend was to see one of my favorite artists, Mat Kearney, perform at the Roseland Theatre in Northwest Portland.  On Sunday afternoon, Tim and I headed into the city to grab some dinner at Habibi’s Lebanese Cuisine and watch the concert.  We stopped at Voodoo Doughnut while we were waiting for the show to start.  Voodoo Doughnut is a famous doughnut bakery is Portland that is known for its interesting doughnut creations.  The line was out the door, but we had to at least stop by to check it out.  After that we headed over to watch the concert.  The Roseland is a great venue to watch a show.  It is rather small which makes there no bad seat in the house.  Mat Kearney was great and we enjoyed the main performance, Owl City, afterwards before we headed back down to Corvallis.  I’m glad I got to spend the weekend relaxing and visiting with Tim’s family before my hectic field work schedule back in the lab.  It was a well deserved break! 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Two weekends ago, some and my friends from the EPA, my boyfriend, and I on a whim, decided to embark on a hiking/ camping trip up in the Cascade Mountain Range of Central Oregon.  That Friday night, we headed to Corvallis, Oregon which is about an hour east of Newport, to begin an intense planning session as to what adventures we would partake in for the weekend.  After an hour or two of scanning the map and looking up hikes on the internet, we decided to visit Opal Creek which is about two hours northeast of Corvallis in the small town of Detroit
View Larger Map.  The Opal Creek trail is a ten mile round trip hike along a magnificent blue river through towering Douglass Fur forests concluding with thousand year old cedar trees.  Man was it a great decision! 

Ready, set, go!

Before we embarked on our journey up the Opal Creek trail, we stopped at a waterfall referred to as Salmon Falls.  This waterfall was rather small, but still beautiful.  There was a rock ledge that you could climb up to at the top of the waterfall and peer down into the turquoise pool twenty-five feet below.  My friend Chelsea had a crazy idea to jump off the waterfall into the freezing cold water and of course once she did it, the rest of us had to as well.  Being rather afraid of heights, I was a bit hesitant to jump off, but once I did the rush was worth it.  The worse part though, was hitting the 50°F pool at the bottom which was cold enough to numb my body.   I’m definitely glad I did it.  Check out my video of me doing it here: Salmon Falls Waterfall Jump.

The towering trees of the Northwest

Sara Duncan - Taking a break at Opal Pool along Opal Creek.

Upon leaving our first adventure, we headed to our main destination, Opal Creek in the Willamette National Forest.  As we entered the forest, my senses were instantly heightened.  The trees are so tall and beautiful that I had to force myself to look down to keep myself from tripping.  About a mile into the hike we encountered brilliant blue Opal Creek.  According to someone that we met on our hike the water is blue due to the oxidation of a closed down copper mine up the mountain.  This river had to offer several large waterfalls one of which two of my friends jumped off of (this jump was a little too high for me).  We carried on with our hike even after we passed the main waterfall attractions to see the giant cedar trees.  These trees were huge.  The six of us could barely wrap around it altogether.  Since, some of them are over a thousand years old, I often think about what has happened in the history of its lifetime.  Eastern Oregon is home to some of the oldest trees in the world, one of them sprouted from its seed over 11,000 years ago.  Now that would be a sight to see! 
The meadow that we slept in. 

After we finished with our hike that afternoon, we headed out to find a place to camp.  For me, growing up, I am used to camping at a designated campground.  My friends are definitely more extreme than that and insisted on finding a random place to camp along a dirt road.  We drove for about an hour looking for a place before we stumbled upon a meadow of wild daisies overlooking the forest.  It was beautiful!  There was no one else camping for miles and the only other person we saw that night was a friendly deputy sherrif.  It felt invigorating to be secluded in a forest with only the wildlife to listen to.  My friends had all of the proper gear for “dispersed” camping, but I felt silly because the only tent that we had was a huge eight person tent that was way too big for the two of us and took forever to put up.  After we got done putting up the tents, we built a fire, ate a lot of food, and laughed together until midnight when we disappeared into our tents for a good night’s sleep. 
Sara Duncan - Mt. Jefferson - I made it!

The next morning we woke up feeling refreshed and ready for our next escapade through the Willamette National Forest.  We decided to hike to Pamelia Lake at the base of Mount Jefferson, one of central Oregon’s majestic mountains.  This hike, being only five miles round trip, was a nice break from our ten mile hike the day before.  This trail ran along another creek before opening up to a crystal blue lake.  We walked around the lake for a bit until we could see the grand mountain.  Mount Jefferson towered over us as we stared at its gleaming white peaks.  It was certainly amazing to see!  Maybe I will climb it one day.  After we took in as much of the mountain in as we could as our bodies cooled down from the hike we decided to head back to Newport to prepare for the next week of work. 

Learning from the pros

Even though I was sad to leave, I can say that I sure learned a lot.  During our hike I encountered several people that were backpacking and camping up the trail.  My friends were also well traveled backpackers and this has sparked my interest and enthusiasm to do it myself.  Not being a distance hiker, I did not have the proper shoes or the proper gear to make the most out of the hike.  By the end, my feet had blisters all over them and my cheap backpack would no longer zip up.  After that trip, I now plan to get involved with hard core backpacking as well and I have a much better idea as to how to do it.  I love being able to go out into the woods and experience what Mother Nature has to offer me.  The idea of being completely immersed in it for several days has lured me in.  I’m sure I’ll be out there doing it myself and when I do, I’ll be sure to fill you in on how it goes!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Celebration of our Nation’s Independence

July 4th, Independence Day, is by far one of my favorite holidays.  It is smack dab in the middle of the hot summer and gives us time to celebrate the freedom that we all take for granted.  I of course, enjoyed this holiday weekend to the fullest extent.  On Friday night, I drove up with some of my fellow Sea Granters to spend the weekend with Tim who lives with his dad for the summer in Damascus, Oregon
View Larger Map
about 40 minutes southeast of Portland.  Since my friends were going to the Blues Festival that weekend, it worked out perfectly that I could hitch a ride up with them. 

Relaxation Time

That Friday night I hung out with Tim, his dad, and my friends out by his beautiful outdoor fire place.  Tim’s dad is really interested in space and astronomy, so we made sure that we were outside at 10:00pm to watch the international space station go by.  It just amazes me to think that we humans have put this big hunk of metal with all of this high tech equipment into space.  To think about everything that we know strictly because of our space missions and satellites- it’s crazy to think about, but even crazier to think about what we don’t know!  Anyway, after about four hours around the fire eating s’mores and having a good time, we decided to head to bed to get a good night’s sleep for our next day adventures.

New Experiences

Oneonta Gorge
The next day Tim surprised me with a hike to Oneonta Falls which is in the Columbia River Gorge northeast of Portland.  The Columbia River Gorge is home to some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the northwest.  For this waterfall, we had to climb up the river in order to get to it.  Our first obstacle upon entering the lush green gorge was a log jam piled up 20 feet high in some places.  Not being a fan of heights, I was a little uneasy at some spots but I was happy that Tim pushed me to finish.  And boy, was it worth it.  After we got through the log jam, we continued to hike up the river.  On either side of the river was a vertical cliff, so we were forced to walk through it.  At one point the water got about 10 feet deep so I had to swim a ways.  The water couldn’t have been more than 50°F – I was freezing!  Unfortunately we had to ditch our clothes and camera so we couldn’t get any pictures after that part, but trust me it was worth it.  The quote “Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone” perfectly describes my experience that day.  I was reminded that when the going gets scary/ tough/ cold/ etc, keep pushing because it will be worth it in the end! 

Sara Duncan - OMSI Planetarium
Sara Duncan - Waterfront outside OMSI
After our hike we returned home to spend some time with Tim’s grandpa that I met for the first time earlier that day.  He was so excited to finally meet me that he cooked me fried oysters.  He also took us to Dim Sum the next day which was another new experience for me.  I’m not sure if I can say that I’m a fan 

of either of them, but I’m glad I tried it!  After lunch, we all headed to OMSI, which is the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.  We went to the planetarium and since the museum was having a $2 admission special, we took advantage of it to visit the rest.  I really enjoyed the chemistry lab because I got to teach Tim a little bit about what I do! We took time at the end to walk around the waterfront along the Willamette River afterwards which was breathtaking. 


Sara Duncan -
Enjoying our viewing spot while waiting for the fireworks
Tim’s new favorite thing is surprising me with different events, so on Fourth of July, Tim took me to a parade in the town of Hillsboro southwest of Portland, where we marched in it with our Oregon State Representative friend Matt Wingard.  I got to ride on a retired fire truck with a pumpkin shooter on top.  It was fun to throw candy to the kids and it reminded me of all of the big parades back home.  After the parade, we went to Tim’s brother’s house where we played RockBand and enjoyed a cookout with all the neighbors on the street.  As it started getting late, we decided to head up to Portland to watch the extravagant fireworks from a friend’s rooftop deck overlooking the Willamette River.  Before nightfall, we walked down to the waterfront to check out the Blues Festival that was going on all weekend. We were also interviewed by the Fox 12 News station here in Portland about the fireworks, but we don’t know if we made it on TV or not because we were too busy watching the fireworks! 

The next day was my last day before we headed back to Newport.  We stopped at Tim’s sister’s house, Christin, along the way.  She and her family live in a little cabin right next to the river.  I loved getting to see her “live off the land” lifestyle, it was very peaceful.  Tim then drove me down to my home for the summer on the coast in Newport.  He insisted on going to Mo’s, which is a famous clam chowder place.  We both got the clam chowder bread bowl.  To be honest, it was good, but nothing to write home about.  I think I’m spoiled from my real New England clam chowder over on the east coast… haha

Now I’m back to work and excited for my next weekend.  Thinking about going camping - maybe to Crater Lake National Park.  I’ll keep you posted as to what we decide! 

Thanks Dad and everyone else who has sacrificed for our country, so that I may be able to enjoy the freedoms that I have today.  I enjoyed celebrating what you fought for this weekend. You are always in my heart!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

New Observations

It's about three weeks from when I arrived in Oregon and two weeks since I got here to Newport and I can say that I think I'm starting to get used to my life here. This is not just a place that I am visiting; it is my home for the summer. Every day I discover something new about Oregon. My senses are heightened and I keep scanning, scanning, scanning for the next new piece of interesting/ exciting information.
One of the things that I've noticed is the rather large logging presence here. It seems like everywhere I turn there's a lumber yard, logging truck, or tree clearing. Last week I went scouting for sites up the estuary for my internship. Up the road about 20 minutes we entered the small town of Toledo, Oregon. View Larger Map The main industry in the town is a paper mill. I was in awe as we drove passed the immense piles of wood chips awaiting their fate to be driven into the factory as a pile of wood and out as a pile of paper. The sweet smell of the paper mill drew me in; I'd love to get a tour of the place this summer. I am often conflicted by logging because on one hand I see jobs and homes and paper, while on the other hand I see habitats lost and a barren land on top of a hill that eerily reminds me of the destruction from the F4 tornadoes that came close to my hometown in Massachusetts a few short weeks ago.  At the very least, I think the loggers should be required to replant the forest instead of leaving it desolate atop a once green hill which it seems like they are doing already.
Kites flying in Lincoln City, Oregon
Most nights I am lulled to sleep by the sound of the lighthouse horn. Several people have told me that the Yaquina Bay lighthouse doesn't have a horn but I like the idea of believing that that is where the sweet sound is coming from. 
The Oregon coast is known for glassblowing and kite flying.  At the farmers markets here I notice the sweet smell of strawberries at what seems like every other stand. 

Enjoying my pear cider at Nana's Irish Pub
Friday night, some of my fellow Sea Granters and I decided to hit up the bars in the sleepy town of Newport The only problem was just that – it’s sleepy! And most places were closed by 9pm.  We really wanted to go check out the bar Bier One because we hear it’s the most happening place in town, but as we walked in at around 8:45pm (relatively early to be going out for drinks) they told us that we’d only have enough time to buy a drink and leave.   Instead we decided to try Nana’s Irish Pub.  Not being a big beer fan, I decided to try the pear cider. It was great!  My roommate, Nicole, and I were hungry so we ordered the baked brie appetizer. It was brie baked in crescent roll type bread and was served with apple slices, crackers, and a sweet sauce.  I thought it was the most random combination of things, but eaten together on the cracker, it was great! 

Sara Duncan - Drift Creek Falls
Saturday, we finally headed to the hike that I’ve been wanting to do in Lincoln City called Drift Creek Falls.  As I said in my first blog, waterfalls are one of my favorite things about Oregon.  This was a short three mile round trip hike though the lush green forests of Western Oregon.  We heard the rush of the water fall as we approached the suspension bridge that crossed over the waterfall. Hiking is one of my favorite activities.  In Oregon it is especially majestic.  The smell of the trees, the sound of the birds, the touch of the cool air on my skin, and the sight of the fertile forests of the northwest entices my senses.  I feel spoiled by the beauty of Oregon’s waterfalls because I was not nearly as impressed by this waterfall as I have been by some of the other ones in Oregon- haha.  But it was still beautiful by no means.  One of my goals for the summer: visit five new waterfalls!
Enjoying our Tillamook ice cream on a very cold and
windy beach in Lincoln City, Oregon

Shop! Shop! Shop!

Since we were in Lincoln City for the hike, we went up to town to eat lunch and partake in some old fashioned Goodwill shopping.  We stopped at a fish n’ chips place and I tried the halibut.  The fish melted in my mouth.  I loved it and I will definitely be indulging on it again before I leave.  After lunch we went up to Goodwill where I was finally able to find some warm sweaters!  Before we left Lincoln City, we stopped for some Tillamook ice cream and went to the beach to see some kite flying.  Lincoln City is such a fun little town, sometimes I wish that I was interning up there- I guess I have to stay where the estuary is.  Newport is extremely beautiful too, so I can’t complain! 
A few days ago I went shopping at Fred Meyer.  For those of you back home who don’t know what that is, I would describe it as an upscale grocery store paired with a nicer Sears.  Since I didn’t own any shoes, I was able to pick up two pairs from clearance.  I also found the jewelry section which was 50% off!  Compared to Hawaii, everything is so cheap here that I can’t resist.  It’s fun to pick up new things for my wardrobe when I’m living in a new place.  I’m trying to find pieces that help my inner hippy come out and so far I’ve been rather successful! 
Stay tuned for my 4th of July adventures!