Monday, September 29, 2008

Home cooking.

Rather than eat at the roach coach around the corner from my house, last night Loni and I made our own tacos! I'd started some pinto beans soaking in the morning before our hike, and cooked them after I got back in my new stainless pressure cooker (thanks, Emily!)

Trader Joe's is one of my favorite places to buy good food. I got some thick handmade tortillas rather than stack two of the thin ones.
I also grabbed a giant slab of carne asada marinated meat, some Jalapenos, an onion, a bag o' limes.
Still had to get cilantro from Fred Meyers, but that's okay.
Salsa: Jalepeno, garlic, onion, lime juice, cilantro, salt.
Taco: several strips of meat, a couple spoons of beans, and a couple spoons of salsa.
Overall, delicious. Should have got some serrano peppers for the salsa, because the jalepenos weren't that hot. I ate three and was stuffed. They tasted pretty authentic, even though my neighborhood anthrax shack doesn't use beans. Oh well. Fiber is ALWAYS good for you, right?

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Update: Added a habanero and serrano pepper to the salsa, to see if it could be kicked up a notch. The answer is yes. Also added some queso fresco for greater fat content, and cubed the beef for convenience. God, I could fork myself full of those tacos until I died of complete cardiovascular arrest from lipids plugging my pipes. Ahhhh.

Silver Star Mountain from Grouse Vista

Loni and I did Silver Star Mountain today. Our previous attempt a year or two ago failed on account of a painful knee plus running out of water. Current attempt was almost derailed on account of Loni has a cold. She wanted to hike anyway, and since it would otherwise have been a boring day we geared up ad headed out.

3.4 miles to the summit, 1000 vertical feet. It's a breeze exercise-wise, but the large loose rocks on long parts of the trail can be hard on the ankles. In much the same fashion, the road to Grouse Vista is hard on car suspension.

We had much trail munching, with huckleberries, salmonberries, blackberries, and thimbleberries. I also found small patches of chanterelles on the way up and the way back. Omelets for breakfast tomorrow, obviously.

The whole time we were on the trail, we could hear the routine cracking of a rifle at regular intervals. It didn't really affect us, but started to get irritating towards the end. The wind blew my brains out, but the various birds looked like they were having fun performing aerobatics in the gusts.

When we hit the top, it was fairly close to where we'd turned around the time before. So close! Oh well. We'd found fresh bear scat, same as our previous hike up this trail. Next trip, we'll be taking a detour to the Indian pits. We'll probably also do the Tarbell trail on the way up if we come via Grouse Vista.

The view is pretty amazing from up top. There is a concrete foundation on one side of the forked summit, and you can see Adams, Hood, Rainier, and St. Helens. It was sort of hazy, so my pictures don't show the peaks as well as I'd like.

There were some older folks arguing about the hikes they'd done while drinking some wine. Also a pack (herd?) of loud boys and girls wearing almost no clothes and drinking beer on top of the rocks. 6 people doesn't really constitute a herd, I guess. We'll say pack. I was jealous for a second because I didn't have beer, but then I saw the domestic swill they were guzzling. C'mon, if you're going to grab cans, get some Caldera or Dale's Pale Ale.

It was a nice slow hike up, and a somewhat quicker descent. On the way back, a couple passing reported a second-hand bear sighting on the trail. No bears were seen by us. Alas. This prompted an alphabetical listing of all of the things we'd seen on the trail, which occupied the next mile or so.
  • A is for Apples, which we forgot to buy.
  • B is for Black Bears, which we didn't see. Or Bolete mushrooms (many!) or Blackberry.
  • C is for Crowded, at the summit. Or Chanterelles, in my fridge. (Caterpiller!)
  • D is for Dogs, brought by everybody, apparently.
  • E is for Enteritis, and the hopes we don't get it from eating all those berries.
  • F is for Fall, bringing mushrooms and red leaves, also maybe waterfalls.
  • G is for Gun, being shot by the asshole down in the valley continuously for 4+ hours.
  • H is for Huckleberries. Yum. Also lots of them in the bear scat on the trail...
  • I is for Idiots. Drinking beer at the summit. Should've packed a pony keg at least, bros!
  • J is for Junko, what a cute little bird.
  • M is for Mushrooms, quite a few out early this year.
  • P is for Plants, none of which I know well enough to eat yet.
  • Q is for Quick, the descent from the summit.
  • R is for Rocks, my feet hurt. Somebody get me a tissue.
  • S is for Steep. At least for the first part. Also salmonberries.
  • T is for Tarbell, the trail we'll take next time. Also thimbleberries..
  • V is for View, although today was sort of hazy.
  • W is for Wind, trying to blow us off the mountain.

K, X, X, Y, and Z don't bring anything to mind, so I leave them be.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Country Cat is so fired.

The first visit to the hipster restaurant "The Country Cat" was okay. Mediocre bloody Mary, but attentive service and pretty tasty food (lemon preserves in their hollandaise were unusual but very good.) Somewhat on the high end for prices, so I never went back. The second visit was awful.

Loni and I did our traditional pre-hike breakfast, and chose this place again as it was almost on the way. We had a tattooed waitress with reddish Betty Boop style hair who was...attentive, but colder than ice. It didn't seem very busy, but she seemed really put out when pressed to provide service.

It all started to go downhill when we asked for EXTRA SPICY bloody Marys. We got the same ones as last time, if not weaker. Also, the last time we were here, the waiter/bartender guy suggested the Indio wasabi vodka because we were discussing local liquor. Took a bottle of it to a little party, thinking it'd make an interesting addition to the mix. As it turned out upon sampling, this vodka bears more than a slight resemblance to diesel fuel. You could see what they were attempting with this blend, but they failed badly... Oh well, hopefully it got drunk eventually. The guy making this recommendation would probably be the same guy mixing your Mary.

Our entrees were the huevos rancheros. When you pop $11 for a plate of the absolute cheapest down home ranch food you can imagine, you'd expect a lot of food, right? Or that it would be the most amazing plate of beans and eggs on tortillas you'd ever had, right?
    Not so much, either way:
  • Two tortillas.
  • Two eggs, over-poached (sigh.)
  • Some cheese.
  • A smattering of beans.
  • An ocean of mediocre green sauce.
  • Some mediocre salsa.
  • A dollop of sour cream.

I just priced this out, and the actual food cost of our meal was approx. $0.92 per plate. I just spent an extra $10 a plate for the vibe of having brunch in a stupid hipster cafe for an unsatisfying meal with an irritated waitress? That's one strike for the price, one strike for the food, one strike for the service. I don't even have a strike left for the drink.

Okay, that's as mean as I can be to this place. It'll succeed anyway. We need more breakfast places in this town.

Below is rambling, for my future reference. I'm just saving my thoughts on this visit, and it is pure blahblahblah. You should run away before your brain dissolves into the vapid essence of "my theory of what happens to restaurants", part one million.

I figure what happened is this: someone had an idea for a nightclub and breakfast cafe that was cool. Really cool. Awesome decor, awesome space, awesome staff. Everything would set the right mood, and be attended to so that everyone was happy. Drinks, food, music, it would have it all!

They pulled it off. It's called the Doug Fir.

Everyone else has been distant second comers for that competition, unfortunately. D.F.'s got a hotel on site, the best location close to both hipster SE and downtown, and they've been up for a while and getting better (fortunately!)

The Country Cat seems like a D.F. that could have been. It feels like it's getting burnt out and overloaded. They've lost the attention to detail that make a place stand out. It's attracted all the wrong folks (me and mine), real people, who aren't awesome! We're not the hung-over hedonist hipsters holding down semi-grown-up jobs who spend slightly too much money who frequent the night life part of this restaurant scene. We're just good food people, and normal folks, and neighborhood locals. On the menu, you make like your food is the bomb. But it's not. It's just fairly well executed regular food on a larger and faster production scale. For the prices, I could be eating at Francis or Genies or the Doug Fir or even Screen Door!
They all do it better and they're all bigger operations! I'm not sure what the Country Cat folks pay in rent, being that close to Stark's finest oddball storefront set. Tan-n'-tub (Your [sic] going the wrong way!), Foam Products, Ya Hala (my mind has a conscious association Ya Hala=Good), and a farmer's market. Maybe some of their food is from there? I can only hope...

I feel the same way about the Screen Door as I do about the Doug Fir. They've been up for a while, and they keep getting better! How is this possible? They get more expensive, but not really, and not by much more than the rest... I just have to give props to the places that make it, and that stay true to their food. It makes me want to eat out ALL THE TIME, just to see what'll come up as a special on the chalk board.

Francis also goes in this category. Their message is something like this: "You can always come for standard breakfast fare! Our specials are very well constructed. Eggs, good bacon, excellent breads, potatoes, pancakes, french toast, etc. But today only, you can try *THIS*!" Usually it's amazing. At Screen Door, it's always a meat or seafood dish, rarely anything vegetarian unless it's on their small plate list. Their breakfast standard fare involves fried chicken and waffles, which is AWESOME, just don't even think about going up Hamilton Mountain at speed if you eat the whole thing. I wanted to vomit several times during the ascent, and may have suffered minor strokes during the hike due to congealing fat in my brain.

It took, literally, half a bottle of weirdly watered-down Tabasco to bring the bloody Mary at Country Cat up to snuff. We even had to ASK for the Tabasco, like they were surprised it wasn't spicy enough... Their Mary has beef jerky on the skewer with a non-pitted olive and some sweet pickled green beans. Big deal. Save your jerky, pit your olive, and sweet has NO PLACE in a bloody Mary! Bring some HEAT, peeps! We ask for extra spicy, the appropriate response is "Would you like scalding, scorching, or face melting?" and that's it! Better yet, why don't you pit your olive and stuff it with an habanero, so you can shut up numb-skulls like me when we ask for it? Not too much to ask, I'd think, unless the rest of your clientele are completely wankers.

The best response I can think of from the house, when asked for a bloody Mary, Extra Spicy would be to offer the equivalent of a Salvador Molly's Great Ball o' Fire.

Those things are no joke, I ate the whole set of five with ALL the sauce at the old S.M. off Belmont only to find out the jerks had no film for their Polaroid camera. Later that night I felt like I was dying from the pain of the capsaicin-laced cheese passing through my body. I can handle one of these, no major problems. I even find it sort of exciting! No more than one, because that's when life gets all ugly. I'm pretty sure I was hallucinating for a bit after eating them.

Anyway, WAY too many words later, I arrive at this: Nobody makes a super-hot bloody Mary. I think it should be a mark of pride for a breakfast place to offer a superbly crafted and extremely remarkable Mary, virgin or otherwise that BRINGS THE HEAT. If nothing else, purchase a vial of Satan's Blood and throw a couple the drinks according to heat preference! My very first Genie's Bloody Extra Spicy was THAT HOT! Totally on fire in my mouth and brain, feeling awake and alive and fantastic. And on fire. Hot hot hot hot. Now, when you get a Genie's Bloody Extra Spicy you have to dump half a bottle of the Secret Aardvark sauce in 'em just to wake them up. Is that entirely me? I doubt it, I still have the same sensitivity to Tabasco I've always had. My spicy scale is still calibrated the same way. Maybe they aren't instilling their vodkas as long, or they aren't changing their peppers as often.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bay Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant

Well, batting two for two today. I wanted to visit the Kalga Kafe for dinner tonite. I wanted to go vegetarian style to make up for all the meat I've been ingesting. As has been the case the last dozen times I've wanted to eat at the Kalga Cafe, the fates have intervened and they were closed. I made the mistake of settling for the Bay Leaf vegetarian restaurant just a few blocks further out Division.

If I were to review this on a five star scale, this is totally a one star dining experience.

-1/2 a star for making us wait to place our orders, not setting our places, and generally ignoring us.
-1/2 a star for the droning instrumental music typical of every Chinese place you've ever eaten in.
-1/2 a star for the decor. A couple of wall scrolls and bamboo plants aren't enough.
-1 star for the food, below.
-1/2 a star for getting my order wrong and also ignoring us some more during dinner.
-1/2 a star for generalized awkwardness due to the rotten handling of other diners during the checkout phase of the meal. Did I mention waiting and being ignored? Oh. Well, we did some more of that during this time period, too. It gave us a chance to catch up on recent happenings in our lives.
-1/2 a star for the prices being too high for generic Chinese food with no meat.

The 1 star this place got? Half of that that would be the tea. We got a small (really small) pot of Bai Mu Dan tea which was really good. The man making the tea did it with care and attention, which was pleasant to watch. The other half was that they had Lion's Mane mushroom on the menu with baby bok choi. It wasn't identifiable as Lion's Mane when it was battered and fried and slathered with sauce, but just to see the species mentioned reminded me that mushroom days are coming soon!

The food:
Satay Lion's Mane Mushrooms. It says it comes with garden greens, and I guess Baby Bok Choi qualifies. It is listed on the menu as spicy. I requested EXTRA spicy. I got NO spicy. Not even the most remote hint of heat. Like, this was as spicy as...milk? Or as fiery as...vanilla ice cream? Maybe it's as hot as...chicken? It was edible, sure. The baby bok choi is really delicious, and the presentation was interesting. Just, the mushrooms didn't even taste of mushrooms. Where are they getting lion's mane mushrooms this early in the year? Do they grow them commercially in this region? I want to know, because I'd do something TOTALLY different with them besides bread them and fry them. I really couldn't tell it was even mushrooms under the coating. It could have been orange chicken if they'd used a different sauce! It had no flavor whatsoever! Grrrr.

The mushroom dish came with some mixed rice. The rice was better than plain old white rice, and we'll leave it at that. To analyze it further would be somewhat like picking a scab.

The Mu Shu vegetables were just okay. As were the tortillas that we used to make our burritos. As was the plum sauce. The vegetables were really salty. They were also greasy, bland, and unremarkable. This dish was an almost-tasty waste of my time.

I had thought that the lack of cars in the parking lot was due to the health conscious clientele that would frequent a vegetarian Chinese restaurant. Alas, I think it's because this place is a barely adequate excuse for your standard Chinese hole-in-the-wall, with much higher prices and no meat in their dishes. I would think that in wanting to promote their meat-free cuisine, they would strive to produce excellent and memorable meals. Said meals would be best enjoyed in a discreetly attentive atmosphere with smiling and helpful service. At least my mediocre meal at Heidi's this morning had SOME service...

Pho Van 82nd

Another phenomenal meal on Saturday night. Pho Van on 82nd.

I had eaten here once before, right after moving to Portland. It was less refined than it is now, with bistro-style seating and a more..."Styrofoam box to go" sort of flavor. I had heard from the H-man that it was one of his favorite places to eat, so I had to give it a try again. I'd been hanging out with a seasoned food critic that day, and they agreed to give this place a thorough once-over for dinner.

On arrival, I notice that parking is awkward all the way around. Oh well. That's what I get for removing power steering from my truck... The front desk could be any asian restaurant anywhere. We were seated in a booth below some faux-rice-paper shades, which were actually grass-patterned plexiglass light covers. It was a good solution for lighting and made the whole place more pleasant. It's a rather open building with high ceilings and a semi-courtyard feel to everything. I liked that I couldn't hear any music playing, or if it was it was so non-offensive that I didn't notice it. Recently, my asian dining experiences have been made less pleasant due to the piercing drone of traditional instruments combined with the semi-nasal singing in languages I don't comprehend. All of this is usually played at too high a volume. Sometimes there will be a beautiful piece played, but that seems all too rare.

After poring over the menu, my dining companion and I decided to try the "7 Course Beef" in order to try a broad range of dishes at a reasonable price. The menu says it serves two, and it does, but these are not the sort of dish you can take home if you don't finish it all. I elected to get chrysanthemum tea in order to avoid caffeine that late in the day. It was aromatic and delicious, with a strong flavor of sticks.

Our seven course meal started with a salad. Oh, what a salad. Shredded Daikon, baby celery (I think?), onions, fried scallions, and succulent strips of beef. It had a slightly spicy vinegary dressing and the whole dish had tremendous depth of flavor. I could have eaten just a mountain of that salad for dinner and been extremely satisfied. There were puffed rice-crackers on the side, which added some different texture. I am so glad that I came back here, because they are only about 5 minutes from my work! Whoooooo!

Once we had killed the salad, the waitress started bringing out dish after dish of odd things:

  • One plate of cooked cold vermicelli noodles, with some chopped green onion on top
  • One plate of rice paper triangles
  • A slotted ceramic tank of hot water to soften the rice paper
  • A portable stove, with a bowl containing broth with scallions & other tasty things floating in it
  • A plate of thinly sliced raw beef with onions and scallions sliced on top
  • Little bowls of a bizarre and wonderful sauce
  • A giant tray of fruits & vegetables & greens:

    • Spearmint
    • Cilantro
    • Lettuce
    • Small chilis
    • Lemon Balm (or a close asian relative...)
    • Bean Sprouts
    • Daikon
    • Carrot
    • Green apple
    • Pineapple
    • Cucumber

Our server referred to the whole shebang as the "Hot Pot" and once she had them all set up, we were walked through making our own rolls. Obviously a pro, she lit the stove and grabbed a rice paper triangle. Dunked it in the slotted ceramic hot-water holder and dropped it on a plate. She promptly grabbed some fruits and veggies from the plate, topped them with an assortment of greens, and threw some noodles on top. The water was boiling by this point, so she dumped the onions and scallions from on top of the beef into the pot. She gave it a minute or so to cook, and then grabbed a slice of the beef. I think these are the same little slices of beef that you get in your Pho. She cooked it to medium, about 10 seconds. Once the beef was cooked, she put it on top of the pile of veggies etc. and within seconds had a marvelously shaped roll. Unfortunately, it didn't end up on my plate but now I could a similar roll for my own. Which I did. Again, and again. After the beef was gone, we experimented with combinations of veggies and also grabbed the cooked scallions from the broth on the stove to add to the flavor.

The waitress showed up again, this time with a plate full of (suprise!) more beef.
Three different kinds of rolls, two of each style. Also, a mound of something resembling hamburger. They also included four more puffed rice crackers.
Two of the rolls were basically rolled up strips of beef, fried with different sauces or seasonings. The whole set were delicious and amazing to my mouth. I ate part of each as an ingredient in a roll to break up the meatiness of it. The third roll was basically the same components as the hamburger mound, but shaped and fried.

The water in the vase began to cool, so the rice papers weren't rolling as well. I finished this course by eating some of the remaining fruit.

Towards the end I was slowing down a bit, because all of the flavors (and all the meat) overload your brain. Fruit in a roll is brilliant and it was very novel for me. I also enjoyed the wide variety of greens. The variety of flavors I got to encounter in this dinner was astonishing and exciting for me.

I also ate here for lunch today. Pho #3. Fatty brisket, round steak, and flank.
Good, deep, savory broth. Not too broad a flavor profile, but it was still very tasty. My opinion of the meats wandered a bit, with the fatty brisket being more cow flavored bubblegum and the other two ranking right up there with the other meats I had on Saturday. Their vegetable plate for this soup isn't terribly generous. You get a handful of bean sprouts, a lime wedge, one medium branch of basil, and a couple slivers of jalapeno. I would have liked more chili to spice up the ocean of broth, but it all worked well together. $7.00 for a bowl of soup bigger than your head, plus $1.50 for a pot of chrysanthemum tea? Wow, now THAT'S a lunch!

Doug Fir Breakfast

Nommed at the Doug Fir for the second time Saturday morning. This will go down as one of my better recent breakfasts.

Decor: Think upscale vintage Denny's. Comfortable brown vinyl covered booths make for pleasant seating. The whole bank of windows allows a lot of natural light in, but there are some darker nooks towards the doors. The logs used in the construction make the whole arrangement seem rather homey without giving up any of their hipster cred.

The wait staff were pleasant and attentive, although I think the girls ought to be just a wee bit more conservative with their miniskirts. When you bend over to bus a table and I can tell what color underwear you have on (I hope they were flesh-colored...) that might be too short. Our waiter was a burly ex-skater with a surprisingly cultured demeanor who was really on top of things. Our coffee never got low, and we never felt pestered. The concept of leaving a wine bottle of water for the table to top up their glasses is interesting. Although, I think some of the clientèle might be too limp-wristed to lift a magnum safely...

The Doug Fir is known as an excellent venue for music shows, and it doesn't surprise me that they put on a decent mix for the morning crowd. No screamers, no drum'n'bass, no top-40 pop. Just a pleasant blend: some classic rock seasoned with both new and old indie rock.

I tried their bloody Mary, per my usual M.O., and was pleasantly surprised. My expectations for the restaurant bloody Mary were RUINED by a delicious fireball I was served at Genie's once upon a time. Since that pleasantly painful event I've been disappointed by every bloody Mary I've been served, even my return visits to the Genie's. Francis put up a good one for a bit, but has since returned to a mediocrity that is comparable to everywhere else. The Doug Fir Bloody is a horseradish spicy, with a seasoned-salt rim, and very very good olives. They put a lime on it, but I don't think it adds anything. It woke up my appetite something fierce.

Food was traditional breakfast fare. I had the Logger's Breakfast, with a chicken-fried steak and two eggs over medium. The eggs were just right. Their oven-roasted rosemary potatoes are excellent and well seasoned, but I don't really go for the breakfast spud these days for some reason. The chicken-fried steak was monumentally good. I was pleased that it was relatively small, versus the ones I've had previously that drooped off the side of the plate all the way around. It was perfectly fried, tender and moist on the inside. Not a hint of toughness anywhere. I also really liked their gravy. Very rich and deep flavor.

I got to try a couple bites of the Satyricon Scramble, and it was fantastic! It really smacks you around in the mouth, with some kalamata olives, feta cheese, and whole cloves of roasted garlic. Wow! I'll be going for this on the next visit, for sure. On the same topic, I guess Satyricon is back open again? Bizarre!

My first visit to the Doug Fir wasn't as memorable. I got the smoked salmon Benedict, and it was just okay. After this visit, I'm sure I'll be coming back more frequently. It's strange to me how few really good breakfast places Portland has. You'd think we could do better than Elmer's, right?

Grilling Pizza with Bob's Harem

I spent Friday night in the company of four lovely ladies that comprise exactly half of "Bob's Harem". We grilled pizzas at Kelly's house on her huge grill, using fresh ingredients and homemade pizza dough. Kelly found some pizza pans that work on the grill, even allowing you to shut the lid without removing the handles. We figured that out later, but it's still nice to know.

I attempted to make the Margarita pizza, but our pies were fairly small, so all of my cheese just made a puddle on top, despite my attempt to spread out the little bits of fresh mozzerella. I grilled my crust to a nice level of crispiness, and the tomatoes and basil blended well with the sauce (Boboli out of the bag.) Delicious. I grilled some of the leftover bell peppers and a few of the mushrooms to snack on after. We had multiple wines, and Cape Cod's made with orange Stoli and "light" cranberry juice.

At the end, we all got to play with some vintage Strawberry Shortcake dolls. I guess I'm the Purple Pieman from this point forward.

High points:
Kelly setting off minor propane explosions. She didn't need those eyebrows anyway...
Calla charring the crust of her mountainous pie. Panic!
Emily snapping photos of everyone and everything.
Pam utterly failing to provoke, shock, or titillate during our impromptu "Would You Rather?" game.

There were some adorable hummingbirds in Kelly's backyard, and I'm borrowing her collection of classic arcade games to destroy my home productivity for a few days.

Summer is almost over, and this was a very pleasant way to spend one of the remaining evenings.

Monday, September 15, 2008

What goes up: Decending Dog Mtn. by headlamp.

I figured that the trail down would be easier than the climb, because I was planning to use my headlight. This was not the case. The 3.7 miles is longer than the ascent, so it's slightly less steep. I covered the longer distance in about the same time as I had spent hiking up. I was fairly well hydrated and calorified starting down the trail, but shaky and weak in all my major muscle groups. Adrenaline is a bitch like that. No slackpacker speedball this trip, just big ups and downs in series. Harsh!

Shortly after the split below the summit, I encountered an unknown number of deer, bouncing down all over the f'ing hill. The were crashing down the incredibly steep incline above and below my narrow little trail because I had startled them. I briefly considered reconfiguring my giant hiking stick as a spear (nice modular design), but I would not have been able to recover the pole had it somehow ended up downhill. It's too nice a pole for that. Plus I'd have died trying to carry a deer carcass by moonlight. I was already predigested muscle mush by this time anyway.

I didn't hit the switch on my lights until I hit the trees beyond the second exposed stretch, and I could have made it further if I hadn't been so anxious to be down. Once the lights were on, I really started to move, almost to a jog in a few places. It's too steep to break into a run, so jogging is more of a jarring quick-step that rattles your bones.


I found a cute little patch of puffball mushrooms on the trail about a third of the way down. My camera takes pretty good pictures close-up at night, seems to me.

My headlamp hustle started out good, making excellent time going down the trail. I could galumph like the ogre that I am rather than picking my stealthy way through the inky forest. Well, that's all great until your body gets all worked up again. Once I'd hoofed myself into a good lather, the area of gloom and murk around my headlight and flashlight was somewhat more interesting to my spastic little dark-fearing brain. So, if what is in front of you is good (light) what is behind must be bad (dark). Rather than run away from whatever evil wood-demons that were creeping up on me, I used my flashlight to scan the shrubbery for a while. Never saw a single damn critter the whole time! Grrr. You'd think there were armies of rodents fighting in the shrubbery for all the noise they made!

Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks to headlights. Namely, my neck is sore, from swiveling my head back and forth for the whole stupid downhill. Once you turn on that damn light, you can't turn it off unless you want to stumble blindly in the dark for 30 minutes. I did supplement with an additional light source, but it wasn't really useful. I also did just fine with a flashlight without the light on my noggin. I will absolutely be purchasing a better flashlight in the VERY near future. I want a 9 LED tactical lights, powered by a stack of potent yet lightweight batteries. Also, I'm going to get some filters so I can switch back to night vision without the long wait.

I have this fantasy of putting a car battery in a backpack and wiring up a suit of LEDs all over my body, lighting up the forest as if I were god manifest. Maybe a big xenon bulb on my chest, Iron-man style. I'd be confident nothing would mess with me when I'm so bright I have to wear a welding helmet just to see the trail. The forest service planes would have to bomb me with water because of nearby greenery curling up and catching fire.

Even into today, I have sore feet, ankles, abs and ribs. I guess I could have gone slower on the descent and I'd never have felt a single ache, but I just flat wanted OFF that hill. Now I really can't understand how people run this mountain. Are they made of jerky or something? What do you do for knees after you come back down? I want to know, because mine are SERIOUSLY unhappy!

My opinion of Dog Mountain is that it's a nice walk by day. However, I recommend you do not bother with this hill at night. The cookie you get from this hike is small and dry and crumbly. Not much flavor. I always hate and suffer during my hikes, but almost always remember them very fondly the next day. This hike is not like that at all. My memory of this hike has a bitter taste and is rough to my brain like sandpaper. I've decided that there will be no more night hikes for a good long while until I can erase all the badness. I'll eventually polish this memory into a gleaming jewel of excitement. Hence this post: to remind myself why we do not do stupid things like hike hard hills in the dark.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Up, up, and AWAY!: Dog Mt. by dark, part 2

Terror - I need to look up some synonyms, or this will be a boring post.

I had plenty of courage at the bottom of this hill, while on the nice bright trail. I lost it all (and almost my sphincter control) the first time something scrambled away in the brush. This set the tone for the rest of the hike. I wanted to face my fear of darkness, and ended up facing fear itself. The woods in the dark really freaked me out more than I had expected.

I made it up the well-lit portion with no real difficulties, and got to see some really bizarre views of the river by night. Once into the more heavily forested portion of the trail my imagination began to run wild. I started to see people walking on the trail ahead, only to find that they were tricks of the moonlight. The wind was warm and gentle, despite constantly rattling the bones of the trees overhead. What breeze could be felt on the trail didn't cool me down at all but just sent chills down my back and made the rest of me feel clammy. I was completely amped up on adrenaline and sweating profusely.

My imagination also started messing with the sounds around me. Halfway through an especially dark portion of the trail, I heard the creepiest and most bone-chilling noise ever. Panic overrode almost all of my reason and I froze solid. This is obviously my full preparation for the fight or flight that normally follows. As it turns out, it was one of the straps on my backpack that had caught a branch. It's almost too bad it wasn't a monster, because I could probably have crushed it bare-handed with sheer ogre panic strength. I started walking much quieter and more deliberately so I could hear the forest better. It also helped me to avoid the hand-like branches that kept trying to remove my headlamp and poke out my eyes.

At this point I realized that the fear and adrenaline were making my body lie to my brain. On the blank canvas of darkness, my eyes and imagination were painting pictures of stalking creatures and other nocturnal horrors. However, I kept the reins tight and never lit the headlamp or flashlight. My ears heard stalking cats and boogymen coming out of every large patch of shadow. I got a grip on myself, mostly by whispering lies to my ego about being the most dangerous creature in the forest. Hah! I'd be lunch for a sneaky kitty, for sure.

Another difficulty I had also encountered on Angel's Rest: The moon is sometimes TOO bright! It puts everything into a high contrast and it overloads the cones and rods when you switch between the shadows and the exposed areas too often. I had the best times hiking when I could stay in the murky dark or the bright moonlight for longer periods to allow my vision to adjust. Right before the trail opened out onto the hillside, I had an owl launch from a tree just a few feet from my head. Once again, total body malfunction with sphincter control barely retained. Freezing up doesn't strike me as very helpful in these situations, but I can't figure out a conscious mechanism for controlling this reaction.

Here is the trip from the parking lot: I took the shorter and steeper trail towards the top. At the hard or harder fork, I went right so that I could hit the lookout point. It adds 0.4 miles, but is more open and less steep. Once the trails hit the second lookout point, I took the exposed route to the summit so I didn't have to hike the trees around the backside of the hill. It also saves 0.2 miles. However, this part of the trail has significant exposure and it was not at all lessened by the lower light levels. Exposure is still exposure and I could still see the tree line hundreds of feet down the slope where a body would fetch up if they tripped off the trail. I didn't get vertigo too bad this time, thanks to the addition of electrolytes and sugars to my drinking mixture. Plus, I don't think I had any adrenaline remaining in my glands by that point.

I sat at the top for about 30 minutes, staring at the river and Wind Mountain. Another 300 calories went down the hatch as fuel for the descent. A very slight mist began to coalesce in the air, more pronounced toward the river. It didn't affect my visibility, and it may have helped diffuse the moonlight. I finished my snack and checked in with my safety backup before starting back down the hill.

If you go: Be familiar with the trail. Imagine hiking it in the dark as you are climbing up the hill. It won't help once you are actually out there in the dark, but it's an interesting exercise regardless... All of the trails on the way up were well-maintained and pretty familiar to me since I've hiked this mountain a few times. There are a few slightly narrow parts where the big-leafed plants were trying to spread into my hiking space. The damp area right after the fork to "hard" is really dark, with lots of good bog noises to creep you out. This is the only spot where I considered using a light. Above all, don't panic. There isn't anywhere to run anyway.

This ascent was hard for me. I'm glad I made it without resorting to artificial light. I am also pleased I didn't have a panic attack, a heart attack, or loss of voluntary control over certain bodily functions. Despite my relative pleasure at the successful climb, I'm done with night hiking for a while. Probably a LONG while.

The descent will go up once I wrap up my current battle with the laundry monster.

Gluttony, part Roux...

If I were a catholic, I'd be very concerned about my soul. Today, I may have participated in one of the seven deadly sins: Gluttony

A friend from the veterinary hospital where I work, one Dr. Horner (a.k.a. H-man, Dr. Homer), took me out to brunch. Loni was also invited so we could celebrate her transfer to a new position in the company. We joined Joshua and his wife Kim at a wonderful place in North Portland called Roux. It's just a few blocks east of Interstate on N. Killingsworth, which is a grip of driving but well worth the trip.

Loni suggested the "Four course brunch", but neglected to specify that she would be willing to share. None of us really knew how much food was involved and we all ended up ordering this way. It may be slightly cheaper than the buffet at Salty's if you go this route, especially if you split them. It depends how much you can eat, I guess. I am willing to fall on either of those grenades, for sure.

    Here is the list of what I consumed today:

  • Several cups of coffee with cream and sugar.
  • A delicious bloody mary.
  • 2 shrimp fritters with a deliciously spicy remoulade.
  • 1 fresh oyster on the half-shell with a tasty peppercorn vinegar dressing.
  • 1 fruit bowl (blueberries, grapefruit or pomelo, cantaloupe, honeydew).
  • 1 largish cornmeal muffin, buttered with some preserves.
  • 1 medium scone (blueberry?)
  • 1 oyster and bacon Benedict. 4 large battered and fried oysters, 2 slices bacon.
  • Half of the Yukon Gold home fries that came with the Benedict.
  • 1 plate o' meat: 2 slices bacon, 1 link each white and andouille sausages.
  • More cantaloupe and honeydew with the Benedict.
  • 3 beignets with lemon curd.

Oh my god, I think I may have ruptured my stomach! My gall bladder has retreated to my kidney region to regroup in the face of the lipid onslaught. I'm sure all of my arteries are nearly closed up with rich, buttery, cholesterolic plaque. You could kill a man with that meal if they had any kind of circulatory disease. Unless you're a real he-man (or H-man), pick regular entrées or split it. The decor is tasteful, subdued, upscale. The tables are very well laid, clean, and a high degree of attention to detail. There may have been excess rounds of silverware laid during our brunch, because I'm sure most people are comfortable using a fork for multiple dishes. Service was attentive and friendly, and they didn't rush us through our epic brunch orgy. Total time in the joint was 2.5 hours. Hey, good food and entertaining conversation makes the clock fly...

The bloody mary is very good, with a decent kick. I'd almost put it up against Genie's and Francis', depending on the day. They toss a nice assortment of vegetables on top, too. The oyster was excellent, as were the shrimp fritters.

All of my Benedict's have had slightly overcooked eggs lately, and this was no exception. The hollandaise sauce was very well executed, though. The Yukon Gold home-fries were just too much food, even for me. I felt bad leaving half of them behind, because they tasted good. There are children starving in Africa, damn it! Oh well.

I really liked all the meats, especially the white sausage. I think it was probably a boudin blanc, based on my relatively narrow meat history. It had a slight sweetness that helped convince me to finish it. The andouille sausage was spicy, although I didn't quite make it to the end of that link. I managed to scarf down all four large slices of deliciously smoky bacon. It still hasn't passed my pylorus, I'm sure.

Really, when they kept coming back and setting more food in front of me, I was looking for the hidden camera. I was SURE there were sociologists and behaviorists waiting to see my reaction to the continuous trough-load of calories presented to us. As they took away the home fries and the stub of sausage that I didn't finish, I looked over to see the H-man with a COMPLETELY empty plate. I think he may have even licked it clean.

I was happy to see dessert arrive in the form of the beignets. I'm sure that ONE of these little sugar-covered bars of fried dough would have been adequate to round off breakfast. Three is excessive. They were very heavily covered in powdered sugar - DON'T breathe in while you are taking a bite! The lemon curd was nicely tart and may have helped break down some of the fat rind that was forming on the inside of my mouth. I dipped one of mine in Roux's decent (but not spectacular) coffee and it was also good that way. Again, looking for the hidden camera while I rammed the last few bites down my gullet. I almost resorted to using the back of my butter knife to get it past my epiglottis, but by taking shallower breaths I created JUST enough space for it.

When we left the restaurant there was still swallowed food queued up in my esophagus waiting to get into my stomach. I spent the remainder of today in a state of post-prandial somnolence (a.k.a. food coma.) I drank some White Table Wine from the Magnificent Wine Company, in the hopes that the alcohol or the acidity could dissolve some of the fat. It didn't. That, plus the heat (mid to upper 90's) served only to increase my torpor. I'm sure the lack of sleep last night contributed as well.

I am unable to even guess how many calories this was, but it's 8 hours later and I'm still not hungry. I may not even be hungry tomorrow!

So now my gluttony has resulted in an express train to the lower regions of hell. Excellent. Next time, I'll treat for a breakfast or dinner or whatever, because this was absolutely one good turn and it deserves another. My gratitude to Joshua and Kim for this excellent brunch adventure!

Night Hike Dog Mountain, Part 1

Last night I made a night hike of Dog Mountain. This is going on the list of less than wise decisions I've made recently. I consider Dog Mountain to be a walk. A slightly steep and somewhat rocky walk with some exposure. Well, by night it acquires an entirely different and less pleasant persona. I dunno why I felt the need to follow-up on Angels Rest, but I'm going to record my experience in case this bug bites me again. Someone sensible can quote me my own freaked-out impressions to remind me why normal people don't do this kind of thing.

The evening started with an opportunity to sample some superior tequila with some co-workers. A far, far wiser choice that I spurned in favor of this maniacal adventure. The moon was bright in the sky, and I must have caught some form of lunacy to have listened to it's glimmering lies. "I'll show you the path!" it said. "I'll be right over your shoulder, the whole way..."

At least this time, I brought my hydration pack and big stick. And my camera, which doesn't work a DAMN at night, despite awesome lunar lighting. Oh, and my headlamp, an extra flashlight, and some spare batteries! Good idea, that last bit.

This was a pretty moving experience, that I'm going to try and record as a supplement for my own somewhat leaky memory. I'm planning on breaking the actual hiking into two more parts (plus a wrap-up of recent lessons learned) to avoid a novel-length message...

This adventure was terrifying. Everyone has a fear or two. Some people are afraid of heights. Others are scared of insects or snakes. Mine is the dark. Not phobic afraid, just sensibly terrified of the awful things I know are always lurking in the absense of light. I'm pretty sure that when they can genetically engineer people to have cat eyes, I'll consider doing my next night hike so equipped. I already have the cat-like reflexes, so that's no worry.

The basics convey nothing of the actual experience. 3.3 miles up. Started 9:41PM, ended 11:17PM. No headlight. 3.7 miles down. Started 11:43PM, ended 1:12AM. Highbeams on for most of the way.

I got maybe 3 hours of sleep last night between this hike, my nerves, and the morning sun through my window. I'm a wreck. More to come once I've wrapped myself around a largish meal.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Ruckle Creek + Saddle Mtn.

Ruckle is a lovely hike. I mean that in all of the best possible ways.

For starters, it parallels 84 for a good long while. I love that.

Then it turns into a pretty brutal uphill along the next ridge east of Ruckle Ridge.
I'm too tired to review the elevation on this one, since it ended being an up-and back. Loni and I hit snow, which made the poorly flagged trail difficult to follow from our direction. It was marked headed the other direction, but relatively infrequently... For significant portions of the climb, I thought it actually WAS Ruckle Ridge, since we were looking down on it at that point. Later, I saw Ruckle Ridge roll right on past my elevation on my right and realized how steep it actually was! The first weekend we get that is dry to 5000 feet I would like to check out Benson plateau. Maybe get the chance to take the traditional route, which is Ruckle Ridge up, and back via Ruckle Creek... Also, there is a Eagle Creek loop to that trail, so a total of 6 possible fairly hard-core loops with awesome views.

Cautions: Ruckle Ridge may have hugely exposed spine section referred to as the "catwalk". May also have section of giant boulder/slab climbing - relatively exposed and would probably best be explained by thing of Rock Of Ages crossed with Munra Point. Assuming you had done both loops, since it's sort of hard to describe otherwise. God, I make so many assumptions when writing! I end up just wanting to break my fingers to keep them away from the keyboard. There would be far less damage done, really. The violence of the keys on this blank keyboard, I can't even express. Yes, half of those keystrokes are of the backspace key, don't sweat it.

Anyway, Loni and I turned around. I hate f'ing turning around, but sometimes it's the only thing you can do. We also had to turn around on a recent up-and back: Saddle Mountain. Pros: Easy and very beautiful in the snow. Stayed dry in waterproof gear. Cons: Rough road (Air Hyundai), the chickenwire trail, it was snowing and the upper 1/2 mile was fairly deep snow, then snow pellets driven by high winds began pelting our faces. Limited visibility combined with the wind covering the trail behind us led Loni and I to beat a retreat at the bottom of the last climb to the summit. The whole trail is short and it really wasn't a good idea to be up there in those conditions. I stupidly brought a completely stripped hydration pack, since the trail was so short, so I had no additional coverage for those conditions.

Note to self: Goggles + baklava + gaiters + boot chains or snowshoes solve the stupid snow problem and make it fun instead of dangerous. A bivy and food would make it almost easy on such a short stretch, but I didn't even think to consider anything worse than rain. Rain gear from Costco rocks, but I was actually too warm for most of the climb. I never got the "body condom" effect, but I opened my zips early and ended up opening the jacket front for extended periods. I'll buy an REI jacket eventually, but hopefully I'll be too fit to need it at that point. Keep your fingers crossed that some sales happen or something. Maybe spring will have the good red one on sale!

A poem and analysis plus generalized trip report for Ruckle Ridge:

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Francis Restaurant

I've been eating at Francis for a couple of years now. This morning was the first time it hasn't been spectacular, but I'm sure it was a fluke. I see from the City Search reviews that some people may have had bad experiences here, but I call bullshit on them - it looks like someone is trying to run this place down anonymously.

This restaurant is run by one Christopher Pierce, who is a very grand fellow both in size and nature. I have no idea if he is a kitchen nazi, but he does have the skills of a gracious host. The dishes here are all relatively high-calorie, including some that will leave a coating of delicious fat on the inside of your mouth. I would recommend a bloody mary to help strip your palate clean and dissolve some of the clogs in your arteries. Fat is where the flavor is, people!

The menu includes a moderately long list of breakfast staples. There is also a menu board posted that lists the daily offerings. These are almost always the worthy way to go, but are usually more expensive due to the finer and more interesting ingredients.

Today, the outside tables were all full, so Mr. Pierce offered a sun-lit table in the east window. He didn't really seem himself, and I worried a little about him. I had coffee and a bloody mary mason, to try and shake off the funk. My selection from the daily specials was the Rock Shrimp Benedict. The shrimp were very good, but my eggs were slightly overcooked with no runny yolk goodness at all. The hollandaise was excellent, but they quantity was meager to sparing, and their mint compote was skinny over the fruit. They always have good coffee, and this was no exception. I will say that their bloody mary is always drinkable but rather variable. This time it didn't have much kick.

All told, this morning's breakfast was one of my least memorable. The food here is generally so delicious that it may have just been a beat-down mental state that caused the food to be This is a far cry from my usual concern, that Francis will become another Genie's and have 10 gazillion hipsters lined up on the sidewalks. I think that Genie's food is starting to slide in terms of taste and quality because of their popularity.

If you go to Francis, the overnight oatmeal pancakes with bourbon butter are fantastic. Don's Benedict and the Smoked Salmon Benedict are excellent. Lastly, their scratch cinnamon rolls and biscuits are phenomenal. I also recommend anything from the special board, as I feel today's meal was an anomaly. Here's to the Francis Restaurant, I trust we will both be better when next we meet.

Roots Brewing

After Table Mountain, Loni and I wanted to refuel. I suggested Roots, because they had just tapped some of their Calypso ale. This beer is brewed with Scotch Bonnet (habaneros) peppers and was a fantastic find at a recent brewers festival.

There was a century bicycle ride/race ending just as we grabbed a seat outside. Three teams of sweaty cyclists and their families were milling around on the sidewalk. I understand the biking gear, but jesus, people! Tuck that package to the back, my lumpy friend...

They apparently don't really offer table service outside, but the lady was nice enough to do it anyway. She might have been sympathetic to how badly we were limping from the hike, though.

The beer was all over the place. The taster tray didn't provide enough information on the selections, neither did the waitress introduce the seasonals. Oh well. The Calypso was fairly good, but somehow not nearly as spicy as the last time. The "Youngers Nightmare" was a 9% ABV monster that reminded me of Jaegermeister. I liked their red so much I got another pint of it.

I had a BBQ chicken burrito that was quite tasty. It had lots of delicious chicken flesh with a nicely toasted tortilla wrapped around it. The best part was the sauce itself. Spicy and interesting, and it went very well with my beer. This came with two sides: some decent black beans, and some very good coleslaw. Neither were fantastic, but I ate every last bite with no complaint.

Loni elected to go for a smoked pork wrap. Her meal arrived looking very similar to mine except her side was just a bag of chips. Really tasty chips, but still... Oh, and she got a peppercini, which made me a little jealous. Hers had the same BBQ sauce, but also got some horseradish, which added a little bit more zing to the meal.

Overall, this place was very good. I think I will probably go back to try more of their beer as well as alternate menu selections. I don't feel that starving and exhausted provides the proper mindset for evaluating a venue, so it's all subjective this time...

Table Mountain

Loni and I hiked Table mountain yesterday (Saturday.) It was far more difficult than the trip reports indicated. At no point did I expect this to turn into a scramble with severe drops mere feet away, but Loni conquered her vertigo and we made it to the top. She elected to skip the last quarter-mile along the ridge to the overlook, to avoid aggravating her phobia. From the very edge of the cliff, you stand above a 500 foot drop. Turns my stomach, it does. Although, there is something fascinating about the feeling of falling. It's not the fall that hurts, it's when you hit the ground. True as in so many other areas of life!

The good:
We started from the Bonneville trailhead, which connects to the PCT pretty dang quick. The PCT was great, blackberries and birds along with various interesting scat to examine. We passed some lovely little ponds, although some people would call them lakes. This section of trail was fairly gentle. There was also a PCT trail crew cleaning up some of the underbrush and digging culverts. It looked like it might be worth joining one of those crews to learn how to build trails. We also found lots of mushrooms (Yay for chantrelles!) and may have spotted a pileated woodpecker. The view from the overlook was CRAZY. My legs turn into jello when I see that kind of drop. Gravity all of a sudden seems excessively potent and my heart starts skipping. I was so scared I almost cramped my taint from nervousness. God, what a rush. We also met some very nice peeps on the way up, Neil and Sarah, who gave us a ride to the car when we went back their shorter route. They are new transplants to Oregon, and I tried to give them some advice on good hikes and mushroom picking out here.

Advice: always worth about what you pay for it.

The bad:
We hiked through a few stands of stumps, the remains of previous clearcuts. The two trails that used to fork off the PCT to summit Table Mt. were re-built at some recent point to avoid delicate ecological areas. Never having been up this mountain previously, I cannot compare the replacements. The route I selected bypassed the first arm of the loop and continued a half-mile further along the PCT. Leaving only 0.75 miles in which to climb a quarter-mile. It was a steep, rocky scramble. Exhausting and sometimes a little terrifying. Fortunately, the way back was almost as awful. One particular stretch was a "talus field" which is the usual volcanic rock pile down a slope that we've previously called scree. The two routes (East & West) comprise the "Heartbreak Ridge Trail" as the kiosk labeled it. Cheesy name, but pretty accurate.

The ugly:
We didn't bring enough water for the full 15 mile hike. We again didn't keep up with our caloric needs going up the hill, resulting in brain and muscle fatigue. The downhill section of the scramble was super hard on the feet and I've got some achy arches from walking across pointy rocks for what seemed like ages. Finally, I completely underestimated the hike. Simple math mistake: 7.5 miles to climb 4300 feet. Nobody tells you that all the climbing is in the last two miles! I've been officially fired as hike selector by Loni. This means that I will have to do my last few gorge hikes solo, because they are tough and I don't really trust any of my other hiking buddies to handle it. I'll probably pony up for an emergency beacon first, because some of the last few beastly hikes look to be slightly risky.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Hopworks Urban Brewery

After we got down from the Munra Point hike on Saturday, we descended on Hopworks Urban Brewery for eats and beer.
This restaurant had a very nice decor going for it, with bike frames forming an interesting "awning" over one of the bars and a very industrial setting. They were fairly crowded, with lots of families, which isn't really a great thing but we'll let that go. We passed up what would probably have been a decent booth indoors for the chance to catch the evening sun on their patio. The people who run this place decided to go for powerful if slightly hard to read fonts and color schemes that really grab your retinas and shake 'em.
5 out of 5 for decor.

Oh, and we also got to share the various stupid, rude, and obnoxious conversation points from the group of ex-frat-boys and their girlfriends (wanna-be wives, I'm sure) parked at the table next to ours. I think if you can positively identify an ex-frat-boy you are allowed to shoot on sight. The season on vermin is always open, right? Obviously this particular cup of vitriol doesn't apply to the academic frats, but then they probably only drink top-shelf liquor and wine now anyway. I really liked that they played some decent music on their slightly worn-out outdoor speakers. It really brings new life to music to increase the distortion levels. Seriously, this is one of my favorite sounds, and believe it or not it's even better when the speakers are almost completely blown or operating at the very limits of their power and are just starting to come apart - just amazing sound! Because of the frat people, I still have to say 0 out of 5 for ambiance (on this visit, anyway).

So the beer at this place was all organic. Good for them. It wasn't really all that distinctive in any direction. Their double alt (secret seasonal special) was toasty. Their hefeweizen had a nose of unripe oranges gone slightly moldy, but finished nice and crisp despite all the cloudy body. The remainder of the beers were fairly tasty and drinkable, but you can pull that just about anywhere in Portland. Seriously, pick up a rock and throw it. Odds are good you just hit either a brewpub or someone who's going to open one tomorrow. I went back for a pint of their Deluxe Organic Ale, Loni had their Organic Survival "Seven-Grain" Stout. Their sampler is a good deal if you want to try out what they have to offer. 9 three ounce pours for $6.50 sounds about right for an appetizer... I'd give them 3 out of five for the beer, which is harsher than you might think. They need to do more to stand out than just be "organic". Really, to make merely drinkable beer and advertise it as "organic" doesn't help an already diluted term - you must create EXCELLENT beer, which should make people think that it tastes better BECAUSE it's organic.

The food was excellent. I had a cup of minestrone for starters, and it was slightly spicy with large (LARGE) chunks of vegetables. It was not overcooked, and bore no relations that I could detect to anything that previously had a home in a can.
We had the "Gatherer" pizza, and it was EXCELLENT! I had to restrain myself, else I'd have gorged my way through the whole pie. Thin, crispy, slightly buttery crust. Sweetish mixed with savory for the sauce. The cheese was fresh, mostly mozzarella and something else with a little more character. The toppings were plentiful and blended well with the rest of the pie. None of this, however, blended well with the beer. Overall, I give them 5 out of 5 for brewpub food. For the pizza alone, it was up there with A Pizza Scholls. Except without the fucking hordes of people.

Service was good, helpful, friendly, but we missed our waiter for a while in the middle. The frat pack kept him running, so I don't blame him for taking a break. I'd give them a 4 out of 5 for service, and I left some props for him on their comment card. Kick down, HUB - he's a good server and you should give him a raise! Maybe only a nickle an hour or something, we don't want it to go to his head, right?

I think this place would be better for groups. For a regular two person dinner it seemed a little busy and maybe just slightly rushed. Also somewhat noisy. Difficult to appreciate a beer when there are so many distractions. Prices were fair. No great values (except maybe the sampler) but nothing was too expensive, either. Lots of vegetarian options, which is always good. Overall, by all the brewpub standards held dear in my stone heart, I give them 4 out of a possible 5. I expect I'd like to go again, after I've tried all of the other brewpubs here in Portland.

Munra Point Hike

This Saturday event was a hike called Munra Point, and it was...steep. Call it a scramble with a wee bit of non-technical climbing.

I've coined a new term: Slackpacker's Speedball. It's that huge whacking rush of adrenaline layered on top of a gooey base layer of endorphins. Better than a regular speedball because it's all natural and probably won't kill you.

What you are DOING might kill you, but you won't OD or anything.

I got my first big hit of this mix as I came up the ridge on Munra Point, and I think I may already be a junkie...

Loni threw in the towel from vertigo at the 2/3 mark. She wanted to wait for me to summit, so I booked ass up the hill. I wanted to get to the top so I could get back down to where she was - but I had thought I was much closer to the top than I actually was. I cranked up the ridge for 20 minutes at about top hiking speed until my body basically was all done in. Out of breath, out of calories, and all the endorphins from exertion made me even more shaky and woozy. My body was exhausted and weak, and then I saw the drops on either side. My tiny little brain couldn't process keeping me upright and the gigantic drops on either side. My adrenals kicked in and I just about vomited from all the raw adrenaline punching me in the kidneys and spine. I had to climb the last little knob like a spider, both hands and feet. The plan was just to take some pictures and get down as fast as I could. Once I'd calmed down a few minutes, I was able to stand up on the knob and not get freaked out. I think the chemicals were making my senses lie to me somehow, because I didn't even use my hands when I came down from the knob. Vertigo is a fucker, for sure.

If you go, lace up tight for the downhill. Also, some thick & tough pants would be a good idea. If you fall, you are going to slide (and slide, and scream, and maybe die or become seriously injured...) and you don't want your legs to be all scratched up when they pull your ruined body from the bottom of the canyon. Seriously, it's not that tough, just steep. I could see this being a really nice trail with a little work (some switchbacks, maybe?) but then more people would do it and I'd have to hip-check them off the trail because they'd be those fucking weekender townies out for a little adventure. Wait, that almost sounds like...never mind.

Well, this is the price we pay for being slackpackers. Keep it steep, rough, heinously rocky with tons of nettles, spiders, snakes, ticks, bears, cats, poison oak, brambles, and cliffs. Some wildflowers and mushrooms are nice too, but don't put them where stupid average peeps can see them, because they'll just get picked and kicked, respectively.

One last bit of advice for those who want to tackle this little hill. Don't hike across from the Yeon trailhead. It's stupid having to listen to the traffic on I84 any more than you absolutely have to. Park under the bridge (coming back from the dam, there is a pull-out on the LEFT side of the westbound freeway). It's about 100 feet from the bridge to the trailhead. Easy to find: Find the bridge over the creek. Walk towards Bonneville along the trail for a hundred feet or so, it'll be on your right. There's a sign tacked to a tree about 30 feet from the trail, warning you the trail isn't maintained.

Remember: Carry a cell phone to help others. If you have to carry a cell phone to help yourself, you shouldn't be there.

Next up for scrambles: Ruckle Ridge