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There are plenty of redwoods in various areas around San Francisco.  However, they don't reach the incredible size that the redwoods do up in the Redwood National Park.  Up there, the conditions are right for redwoods to dominate the ecosystem and grow to incredible heights.  Wandering among the giants conjured up feelings of being tiny creatures in a world full of beings too large to notice us.  It's the sort of forest that leads to the creation of rich fairytales like Miyazake's Nausicaa and Princess Mononoke.

Humboldt Redwoods state park  Humboldt Redwoods state park
Redwoods National Park  Redwoods National Park  Redwoods National Park
Redwoods National Park  Humboldt Redwoods state park  Redwoods National Park 

Perspective on a fallen tree:

Humboldt Redwoods state park

Redwoods have numerous ways of reproducing -- their genetic material can restart a complete tree from a root or piece of burl. It's an interesting evolutionary trick to manage numerous methods of asexual reproduction in a way that prevents disorganized and runaway growth. 

Redwoods National Park

This tree, on the other hand, is ready to reproduce sexually.  Or maybe I'm just anthropomorphizing.  Why do I keep finding cock-trees?

Redwoods National Park

On a completely different note, there were some incredibly cheesy roadside attractions mixed in with the redwood trees.  Here's a bright idea -- combine a gas station and a casino!  Wheeee! 

It's a gas station AND a casino!

There was also this place, which had plenty of kitsch and an anatomically correct blue ox to keep Paul Bunyan company.

Trees of MYSTERY

Trees of MYSTERY  Trees of MYSTERY  Trees of MYSTERY

All the redwood pics on Flickr!
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Lots of little towns along the coast competed for our attention.  Most people who run roadside attractions don't understand that it takes time for people to decide whether or not to stop the car for something.  Not that many people will turn around and go back, even for something cool-looking.  If there are lots of people in the car, the decide-to-stop time will be a couple of orders of magnitude longer than the visual reaction time, as there is discussion time, deliberation time, and decision time.  It pays to put a series of signs along the road, starting at least a mile in advance, to alert potential customers of your attraction. 

The town of Port Orford figured out something clever -- they painted a giant "OCEAN VIEW" sign on the road, an irresistible call to passing motorists that will divert their cars off the highway and bring them to a dead stop.  

Port Orford, OR

It sort of worked in the sense that we spent an hour walking around their beach, but we failed to spend any money there.  Instead we reappropriated their flowers, crabs, and seaweed for our own nefarious purposes.

Port Orford, OR  Port Orford, OR
Port Orford, OR  Port Orford, OR  Port Orford, OR
Port Orford, OR  Port Orford, OR

I became briefly trapped in a Matthew Barney film.  Everything was overly absurd, pretentious, and high contrast.  All it took to get me there was putting this piece of dried plant matter on my head. 

Port Orford, OR


We later discovered a visually fascinating but unmarked area that turned out to be a state park called Sisters Rock.

Sisters Rock, OR  Sisters Rock, OR
Sisters Rock, OR  Sisters Rock, OR
Sisters Rock, OR  Sisters Rock, OR

More pictures on Flickr for Sisters Rock and Port Orford

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Yes, the rumors are true.  [ profile] browascension 's parents run an alpaca farm.  Investigating the veracity of this particular tidbit more or less set our route back down through Oregon -- two hours of primarily boring but occasionally exhilarating driving down I-5 followed by a hop over to the more interesting coastal route. 

Ann and Mike are not career alpaca ranchers -- they became interested in alpacas only three years ago, and have engaged in raising a herd as a focus and pursuit during semi-retirement.  They have learned what it takes to run a farm and raise and breed alpacas.  They have delved into the intricacies of the many genes that code for coat color.

Like other camelids, alpacas have extremely expressive faces.  They're a joy to watch.  I'm sure their anthropomorphic appearance is helped by the fact that they are sheared everywhere on their body except for the tops of their heads, giving them the appearance of various haircuts.  The alpacas all have names, and the names have backstories -- they're named after things as diverse as characters from Irish mythology, heroes of Ayn Rand novels, and brands of premium chocolate. 

Aragon Alpacas  Aragon Alpacas
Aragon Alpacas  Aragon Alpacas  Aragon Alpacas

Aragon Alpacas  Aragon Alpacas

The alpaca wool is extremely soft and lacks the itchiness of sheep' wool.  Ann and Mike have experimented with making numerous types of yarn and garments out of the wool. Here the wool lies in storage on the barn:  

Aragon Alpacas

In case anyone needs further proof that I met Paul's mom, check out her socks:

Aragon Alpacas

Learn more at their site, Aragon Alpacas

See more lovely alpacas on Flickr!
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Simran and Amanda's wedding was a perfect encapsulation of the union of their personalities -- it was small, informal, irrepressibly playful, full of puns and aikido moves, and engineered to flout numerous traditions but always with good reason.  Flour girls replaced flower girls.  Instead of being held in a cathedral, it was held under a bridge with structural supports that offered a cathedral-like appearance. 

Simran & Amanda's wedding, Portland  Simran & Amanda's wedding, Portland  Simran & Amanda's wedding, Portland
Simran & Amanda's wedding, Portland  Simran & Amanda's wedding, Portland

Wedding guests:

Simran & Amanda's wedding, Portland  Simran & Amanda's wedding, Portland
Simran & Amanda's wedding, Portland  Simran & Amanda's wedding, Portland  Simran & Amanda's wedding, Portland
Simran & Amanda's wedding, Portland  Simran & Amanda's wedding, Portland  Simran & Amanda's wedding, Portland

The afterparty, which lasted all day, featured a full reenactment of the wedding as a shotgun wedding, with an undershirt beach ball acting as stand-in for the unplanned pregnancy.  This truly is the fabled Summer of Weddings, as I have attended four since June and have one more coming up later this month. 

See all the wedding photos on flickr!
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We took the scenic route through Central Oregon into Portland.  The experience of traveling on a road cut straight through tall, dense forest triggers old memories of watching the final scenes of Star Wars, when the Rebels improbably flew down that trench...

Highway 138, central Oregon  Highway 138, central Oregon

Later, we encountered a beautiful desert on the way to Mt Hood

Highway 26, northwest Oregon  Highway 26, northwest Oregon

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Crater Lake is one hell of an impressive place.  It's the remnant of a volcano that was so massive that it blew off numerous cubic miles of itself in a single cataclysmic explosion around 6000 years ago.  (I wonder what Bible literalists think when they read about things like this... perhaps they shake their heads at the obvious stupidity and arrogance of those so-called scientists)  The scale is mind-blowing -- looking at it, I can think "this used to be a mountain, and a center piece that's a mile high, five miles wide, and six miles long just vanished, leaving this hole.  The water of the lake is extraordinarily clear. 

The site was made a national park over a century ago, and bears the hallmark of many years of planning for tourist-friendliness.  It is a huge tourist draw despite its remoteness from major cities.  Unlike Castle Crags, the hikes are easy and well protected; the coddled tourists are encouraged to enjoy the fantastic views in a limited number of easily accessible locations. 

Crater Lake, Oregon

Yes, you.

Crater Lake, Oregon  Crater Lake, Oregon
Crater Lake, Oregon  Crater Lake, Oregon

There was one spot where we could hike down into the lake and jump into its almost drink-ably pristine blue waters.  I hadn't planned on doing this, but the cliff tempted me, so I made do with some boxer shorts as marginal swimming trunks.

Crater Lake, Oregon  Crater Lake, Oregon  Crater Lake, Oregon

More photos... )

See all the crater lake photos on flickr!
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We spent the first night with some friends in Chico.  On the second day, we planned to visit the interesting-looking Castle Crags state park (we chose a lot of minor destinations based on noticing the names of green sections on the map we were passing near and then looking those names up on flickr) for a couple of hours before heading on to a full day of hiking on Mt Shasta. 

Instead, we were so entranced with Castle Crags that we embarked on a rather strenuous 6 mile hike with a 2000 ft elevation gain.  The apex of the hike offered up an additional off-trail don't-say-we-didn't-warn-you climb up a 500-ft dome that offered incredible views of the crags and of Mt Shasta. 

Castle Crags

The final climb was a bit harrowing.  Climbing real, somewhat crumbly rocks without proper equipment or a clear route is an interesting task for a pair of somewhat risk-averse people.   Our adventures on the way:

Castle Crags  Castle Crags
Castle Crags  Castle Crags
Castle Crags  Castle Crags  Castle Crags

We were very happy to finally make it to the top, and were stunned at how few other hikers we saw along the way.  No one else was adventurous or foolish enough to go up the dome as well.

Castle Crags  Castle Crags

The view of Shasta from there was fantastic.  Unfortunately our hike took so long that we had very little time to explore Shasta before sunset, and we had to play don't-flinch-at-the-trucks'-massive-headlights for a couple of hours on a narrow road to Klamath Falls before we could sleep.

Castle Crags  Sunset on Mt Shasta
Sunset on Mt Shasta

I want to go back and climb Mt Shasta.  In the late summer it can be done with minimal equipment.  It's a 12 mile roundtrip with a 4000ft elevation gain (and the climb starts at 10000 feet, so it's very thin air. 

See all the Castle Crags photos on flickr!
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Desi and I returned from our week-long roadtrip to Portland yesterday.  The ostensible purpose of the trip was to watch our friends Simran and Amanda get married in Portland, but to me the point of driving (which is more expensive and a lot more work than flying) was to see all the lovely stuff in between.  We kept off major highways, opting instead for the roads that wind through hilly landscapes and briefly become the main street of various small towns, with the obligatory local revenue-generating 25mph speed limits that allow us to glimpse the life scattered across the vastness of the US.

Overall it was a wonderful experience, despite the occasional grumpiness that long drives can generate in people who are accustomed to movement and exercise.  We spent a couple of hours sorting through the 500 or so trip photos, wielding Lightroom's magic toolset over our favorites to make them better approximate our firsthand experiences.  The pictures are on flickr now, and I'll be writing up some entries to go with them over the next hour or two.

Map of the trip


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February 2011

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