Posts Tagged ‘Jefferson’

After last week’s visit to the DMV licensing facility, I wasn’t eager to endure government bureaucracy again.  But my Oregon vehicle registration expires soon and I had an opening in my morning, so I headed off to the Jefferson County office complex (affectionately known as the Taj Mahal).  The Motor Vehicles office opens at 7:30 and doesn’t close until 5:30, which means that someone with my work schedule could actually do their business without having to use up vacation time.In fact, there was no one in line when we arrived (Bo came with me for this trip).  It was too good to be true–Bo even was asked twice if anyone was helping him!–  and it was, in fact, not true.  The distinctly un-sour employee informed me that I had all documents except one: a Vehicle Identification Number verification.  I knew about the existence of this VIN verification form, but since I had 4 documents with my VIN on them (title, Oregon registration, insurance card, and Colorado emissions testing facility report), and since the VIN on each document was exactly the same, I figured I was covered.  But no… this was not good enough.  Before I could register my car, I had to go to a dealership, a law enforcement officer, or back to the emissions testing facility to get this piece of paper filled out.  The employee helpfully printed out a blank form for me.

I leaned over the desk and said quietly, “Is it always like this here?  I mean… is it usually more busy?”  With a wink, he took out another form, marked it in various places with a circle and an X, and said, “Tell you what– if you come back today, don’t take a number–  just give the attendant this No-Wait Form, and you can skip the line.”

Bo asked what I wanted to do as we walked back out to the parking lot.  I crankily replied that I wanted to go to work… but I didn’t want to have to figure out when I could come back and do this.  Since I had noticed a building marked “County Sheriff” on the way into the complex, I thought maybe we could just go there and quickly find an officer of the law.

We mistakenly wound up on the “jail” side of the building (Bo opted not to come in with me this time), and the officer was happy to tell me I could go around to the other side of the building and find someone to fill out my paperwork.  This was true– again, no waiting in line!– and ten minutes later, I had my VIN verified.

The Motor Vehicles employee was almost jovial when I came back (again, no line), and seemed very pleased that I had figured out that officers of the law can be found at the County Sheriff’s office.  “I’m not allowed to tell you to go there, but I am allowed to mention that officers of the law can sign the form,” he explained.  The rest went fairly quickly.  A few signatures– including one form attesting that the “Lia Mary Vella” of the passport was “one in the same” as the “Lia M. Vella” on the Oregon vehicle title (we had a conversation about the grammatical flaws of this form, and he agreed with me that it was incorrect, but since he didn’t write the form there apparently was nothing he could do about it)– plus a check for over $100 (good for only one year !!), and I had my set of plates tucked under my arm as we walked out the door.

This excursion provided very little in the way of entertainment, as last week’s did.  Our only comic relief occurred in the parking lot, where a couple was apparently preparing themselves to go to court: she in a tank top, brushing out her long blonde hair in all four compass directions with a lit cigarette hanging out of her mouth all the while; he impatiently jingling the coins in his dress pants.

And, in case you are wondering about the impressive appearance of the courthouse building in the photo above:  well, it occurred to me when I saw the bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson inside that the county is named after our third US president, and the building is actually meant to look like his home, Monticello, not the Taj Mahal.  Phew!  good thing.  I’d hate for some current presidential candidate to think our local government facilities were named in honor of one of his establishments.


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View from the window

fall colors out the window

Yesterday morning as I stood in the master bathroom getting ready to go out running, I looked through the bedroom and out the windows above the bed, and noticed for the first time how vibrant the fall colors have become already.

Already fall?  Impossible!  Yet, it’s October now, and we’ve spent just a week over a year in this house.  It’s been a good year, and we’ve enjoyed the house.  The future is a bit uncertain at this point, but we will move out in about 3 weeks, and do some traveling, and then?  A new job for me, probably.

I always look forward to the future and whatever comes next, but I sometimes stop and experience a period of sadness about leaving a place.  That’s where I am now– thinking “this may be the last time I walk this trail,” “this may be the last time I eat at this restaurant,” or “this may be the last time I see this acquaintance.”

There’s a school of Dutch painting that involves landscapes as seen through a window of some interior space, and I was thinking about that as I took this photo.  I certainly don’t know much about the theory behind this style of painting and I wasn’t under the illusion of taking an “artsy” photo, but now that I download the picture and get a better look at it, I really have to laugh at myself.  The blue electrical tape around the window sills glare out of the picture, defying any idea at all of artistic composition.  The tape was a quick solution to the problem of ill-fitting window screens, which were failing to prevent the plentiful midges from getting in at night, and everywhere in this oh-so-white house, the blue stands out starkly around the window sills.

So, I’ll take that as a metaphor– a cautionary note against too much nostalgia for a time or a place– and someday years from now, I’ll probably find this picture and remember the good year in this lovely view house, and laugh about the tape and the hordes of midges that occasioned its use.

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The North Fork of Little Butte Creek is dammed as it comes out of Fish Lake, but the spill valve was letting out a huge surge of water on the day we hiked the trail along the creek.  Apparently, the creek’s flow is controlled all the way down to Medford, where its water is used to irrigate the orchards.  I bought some Medford peaches last weekend and eagerly tasted them.  Maybe it’s too early in the season, or maybe it’s a bad year for peaches– but hiking the trail was a far more pleasant experience.

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Mt McLoughlin

Bo at the trailhead sign, sort of

It was the place to be on a Saturday in mid-August!  We just didn’t know it until we arrived.  We’d been sort-of planning to climb Mount McLoughlin since last year, and definitely planning to climb it since last week.  Not until we were on our way to the trailhead did Bo mention that the Klamath Falls Herald and News had printed a front-page article on hiking this trail just a few days before.  “Great!” I said, “We’ll have all of Klamath Falls up there with us!”

whitebark pine and me

Mt. McLoughlin is the southernmost “big” peak in the Oregon Cascades.  At just a smidge under 10,000 feet, the ascent consists of a hike and then a bit of  scrambling or bouldering near the top, where the ground is unconsolidated and covered with rocks large and small (anchored and not- anchored).  In the summer, you don’t need any special equipment, just a decent set of lungs and joints.  It’s nothing to sneeze at, either, though.

When we parked at the trailhead, sure enough, there were almost two dozen cars already there.  We cleverly arrived at least two to three hours after most self-respecting hikers would have started up the trail, so that gave us the feeling of relative solitude.  Of course, we saw lots of people on their way down, including the entire Mazama High School football team (that would be the Vikings– see my earlier post about midges– it took me a minute to figure out that it wasn’t a bunch of teenaged boys who all just happened to be fans of Minnesota’s NFL team).

lunch stop, and first panoramic views

The first 3.5 miles or so were really nice– a bit of climb, but mostly smooth walking through a forested landscape.  The last mile and a half or so are the part that take some fortitude.  Above treeline, this part of the trail is not very well-defined, and it involves climbing over boulders and/or sliding your way through ashy, volcanic dirt, and at a fairly high elevation that might make you short of breath or make your head a bit spinny when you stand up from the crouch you’ve been in as you hop and crawl along.  And then, finally, after yet another break to catch our breaths and enjoy the view– voila! we climbed over another rock, and there was nowhere else to go!  I actually asked a woman sitting next to a rock if this was the top (it must have been a side-effect of the shortage of oxygen; normally I would never ask a stranger a dumb question like that).

ah! Summit!

So, that was it.  We sat for awhile, ate some food, Bo took video and I took photos, I rooted around in the foundation of the old look-out tower until I found “the canister” (a mountaineering tradition: a container where you can put a piece of paper with your name and the date you were there), which turned out to be an empty plastic Gatorade bottle stuffed with business cards and such.  I didn’t have a pen with me and had to use the burnt end of a stick as a charcoal pencil on the back of a piece of paper ripped off my photocopy of the trail guide.  The sky was hazy with smoke from nearby wildfires, and some weather seemed to be coming in, too, but we could still see Mt. Shasta to the south and most of the the closer peaks.  There’s just something about being up at the top, above treeline, that is different from any other experience– any other hike, or even flying over in a small plane.

The clouds getting darker and gathering over our heads, we came down.  Bo proposed pizza and beer at a Klamath Falls brewery, and I think that sped our steps.  When we got back to the parking lot, most of the cars from the morning were gone.  And that was it!  We did it.

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Golden Dome CaveAbout 45 minutes south of Klamath Falls, just over the California border,  is Lava Beds National Monument.  It’s a strange, flat landscape dotted with cinder cones and littered with dark brown basalt rock.  When you look a little closer, you realize that it is also littered with lava tube caves.

In my opinion, the caves are a nice thing to have around here, where daytime temperatures often reach 100+ in the summer and any given day is likely to be marked by unpredictable high winds, clouds of tiny midges or buzzing mosquitoes, rain, or snow.  The caves, for the most part, provide respite from all these elements, while still offering a change to explore and have fun doing something particular to the area.

The photo above is the entrance to Golden Dome cave, which didn’t seem very special at first, but once we had walked in about 1,000 feet– very slowly, as our eyes adjusted to the minimal light coming from our headlamps and our feet got used to the jagged, rocky floor– we saw the reason for the cave’s name.  The ceiling and walls of the cave are colonized by hydrophobic yellow bacteria, and when rainwater drips down through cracks in the ground, they shine like veins of gold.

Sunshine CaveWe explored Sunshine Cave, in which the roof has collapsed in a few places, letting in sunlight and allowing vegetation to grow.  I think my favorite cave of the day, that I hope to go back to again, was Valentine Cave.  It was discovered on Valentine’s Day in 1933, and is younger than the other caves we explored.  Most of it is very large, with smooth floors.  Right at the entrance is a huge round column connecting the floor and the ceiling, where the lava flow went completely around the rock.  Here’s a photo, though it might be hard to see the giant rock column.Valentine Cave

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Welcome to the State of Jefferson! Greetings especially to all of the Blogtrotters who are dropping in for the day.

I am writing from Klamath Falls, Oregon, very close to the border with California.  But since 1941, many of the counties in southern Oregon and northern California have called themselves the State of Jefferson, after the third US president.  There have been many reasons– political, topographical, and cultural– for the creation of this fictional state.  I won’t get into those.  For me, this area is all about water– water of many forms, states, temperatures, and in many places.  As is often true in the American West, the water is a cause of and solution to many problems, and the source of many conflicts between people– farmers, native people, boaters, ranchers– and the local plants and animals.  About ten years ago, Klamath Falls made national news because of the dramatic and somewhat violent clash between federal land managers, who shut down the irrigation due to drought and the survival of an ugly little group of species called the suckerfish, and the farmers and ranchers who formed actual bucket brigades to continue irrigating anyway.upper Klamath Lake I live on Upper Klamath Lake, which is very long and shallow– only about 6-8 feet deep in most places.  It is also what lake scientists call hypereutrophic, which basically means that lots and lots of stuff live in it– bacteria, algae, plants, fish, and so on.

If you drive about an hour north of my house, you get to the north end of this crazy lake and, after driving up a mountain, you wind up at the deepest lake in the United States: Crater Lake. Crater LakeCrater Lake sits in the caldera of a volcano that is still considered active– Mount Mazama.  The lake is nearly 2,000 feet deep, and lake scientists call it ultraoligotrophic— which basically means that there is hardly any life growing in it at all, because it the water is so cold and pure.

I love the contrast of these two totally opposite bodies of water being right next to each other.  It’s like the two siblings whose personalities are completely opposite being forced to share the back seat of the car for a long family road trip.  “You think you’re so deep and mysterious??  Well, I have most of the surface area of the back seat, so there!”  “Well, if you think I am going to waste my time talking to someone as shallow and germy as you, you can just forget it!”

Spreing CreekOf course like all siblings, even those who are complete opposites in personality, these two bodies of water share common blood.  Crater Lake  contains such a large volume of water and is at such a high elevation, that some of the water escapes.  To the southeast of the lake, there is a little stream called Spring Creek that originates as freezing cold, pure water that comes out of the ground in hundreds of springs and then makes its way to the Williamson River, which feeds Upper Klamath Lake.

Spring Creek

one of the springs that feed Spring Creek

Then the water (all of it that doesn’t get captured for irrigation, anyway) makes its way from Upper Klamath Lake into the Klamath River and south into northern California, where it curls west and north again, collecting more and more tributaries, until it enters the ocean near Crescent City, CA, just a hair south of the Oregon border.  So, you see, even the ultraoligotrophic water eventually mixes with the hypereutrophic water and it all goes to the same place: the Pacific Ocean.mouth of the Klamath RiverJust like our mixed up watershed, there are lots of different people and lifestyles in the State of Jefferson.  From sunbaked ranchers east of town to Shakespearean actors over the mountains in Ashland, from retired lumberjacks to retired bankers from the Bay area, to hippie bakers to F-15 pilots at the military base– there are all kinds of people here.  And despite the disagreements about various issues like water and how to use it, I’ve found the atmosphere to be one of friendliness and care.  So, I hope that you blogtrotters out there will come and explore this place non-virtually some day!

PS:  Please be sure to read the correction I put up after writing this post!

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Finally, the weather was fine, and we were ready.  Yesterday morning, after a bit of stomping around the house and expleting expletives about how late it was getting to be, we got ourselves down to the airplane and flew to the coast.

Gold Beach is about 75 minutes away by air, nearly due west of Klamath Falls.  It takes 5 or 6 hours to get there by car, or longer, if the winding and unpaved roads through the Siskiyou Mountains are covered in snow.  So, Gold Beach is pretty quiet in winter.  Its airport is also right in town, which makes it a great place to fly into for the day.

We landed a little after noon, so the first stop was lunch at the Porthole cafe, located at the port, where the Rogue River flows out into the Pacific ocean and Highway 101 crosses its mouth.  Then we walked out to the docks, where the seals and sea lions were sunning themselves.  There was a bit of a squabble between a lone sea lion who seemed to be trying to join a gang of other fat fellows on the dock.  I took some video of the indignant incumbents barking and shooing him away, but I haven’t yet figured out how to load video onto the blog, so I’ll have to settle for a still photo.

After more than an hour walking on the beach– and even a bit of sunning ourselves– we cut up onto the main street in town and walked toward Gold Beach books, one of my favorites in Oregon.  Housed in a plain, unremarkable box of a building, it is owned by people who obviously know and love the book business.  New and used books fill up the first floor and half of the second, and a surprising and very impressive rare books room takes up the other half of the upstairs.  A coffee and pastry bar completes the picture.

We were about to head for the plane after leaving the bookstore, when Bo noticed some banners and signs about a block away, advertising a wine bar and bistro.  We had never noticed this before, so we walked over to investigate.  It was indeed a new restaurant.  Even though the sign on the door said it was closed for spring break, music was playing inside and out, and a stout man wearing an apron was suddenly at the door inviting us in.  We hesitated a bit– but the warm wood interior beckoned.  A tiny space seating only about 14 people, Anna’s-by-the-Sea smelled like, well, the interior of a wooden box.  The chef sat us down at the bar and gave me a glass of tempranillo (since Bo was flying, he stuck to his coffee) while we watched him cook smoked turkey breasts and mashed potatoes for a private party later that evening.  I didn’t get a picture documenting this unexpected segment of our day, but I recommend that anyone going to Gold Beach eat at Anna’s.  It’s a homey space with a good wine selection and a character who seems to enjoy cooking.  I would say it’s run by a guy who likes to cook, but it became clear that his wife, Yanzi– the Anna of the restaurant’s name– might actually be the boss.

After this stop, we made our way back to the plane and had an uneventful trip back to Klamath Falls– with the sunset at our back, memories of the surf in our ears, and the smells of hardwood and smoked turkey in our noses.

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