Starvation Creek Falls

Starvation Creek Falls in Columbia River Gorge. Photo: KGilb.

Starvation Creek Falls in Columbia River Gorge. Photo: KGilb.

Hard to believe the pretty little horsetail waterfall that tumbles off the top of the steep basaltic cliff has such a dire name: Starvation Creek Falls. When we visited in mid-summer, the vegetation was a vibrant green. But the near tragedy that gave the creek its name didn’t happen in the summer. It took place in the dead of winter just one week before Christmas.

On December 18, 1884, the wind was howling as a blizzard swept through the Columbia Gorge. The Pacific Express, bound for Portland, rounded a curve near the creek and plowed right into a 25-foot-high snowdrift. The train stopped dead in its tracks, stranding 148 holiday passengers and the crew.

As the men started digging out, Conductor Edward Lyons rummaged through the baggage car. He came up with three cases of oysters, two quarters of beef, some mutton, and 75 jackrabbits. Not a lot considering how many mouths they had to feed. The women cooked over coal from the train until it ran out, then over wood gathered from under the snow. A relief party–made up of Gorge residents who either fought their way through the snow on foot or skied in–reached the stranded travelers on Christmas Day. Surely a welcome sight!

What happened to the train and its cargo of weary holiday travelers? It finally steamed into Portland on January 7, 1885 . . . three weeks late. (historical account taken from sign on site)

Though no one actually perished during the storm or in the days that followed, the site became known as Starveout Creek or Starvation Creek as it’s called today.

Starvation Creek Falls is actually a two tier waterfall, though the bottom tier is hidden by a huge boulder when viewed from trail’s end. From the top of the cliff, water plummets down about 140 feet into a pool. The stream then spills over into a smaller waterfall and finally becomes a shallow creek that rushes past a little picnic area on its way down to join the Columbia River.

Starvation Creek Falls is located about 55 miles east of Portland, Oregon, on I-84. (between Cascade Locks and Hood River) From the parking lot of the rest area, a paved walkway runs about a quarter mile to a viewpoint near the base of the falls. The trail follows the creek as it winds through a stand of shade trees, especially nice on a hot summer day.

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NW Snapshots: Victorian Amenities at Fort Worden

Antique radiator with built-in warming oven. Circa 1900. Photo: KGilb.

Antique radiator with built-in warming oven. Circa 1900. Photo: KGilb.

I love big, beautiful, Victorian-era houses.  They usually have so much more architectural detail than homes built today.  So you can imagine my delight when I stumbled across this little beauty in the dining room of a house used by officers at Fort Worden near Port Townsend, WA.  I’ve seen dozens of hot water radiators over the years, including some with ornate decorative designs.  But this is the first one I’ve ever seen that came with a built-in warming oven.  What a great idea!

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Gypsy Jazz by Pearl Django

Seattle gypsy jazz band's newest CD titled Eleven. Cover Credit: Pearl DJango.

Seattle gypsy jazz band’s newest CD titled Eleven. Cover Credit: Pearl DJango.

January 7, 2012.  I fell in love with Gypsy Jazz thanks in large part to Johnny Depp’s portrayal of a river rat in the 2000 film Chocolat.  Midway through the movie, Depp’s character picks up an acoustic guitar and launches into a lively rendition of “Minor Swing” which was composed by guitar legend Django Reinhardt.  Reinhardt was instrumental in the creation of Gypsy Jazz, a movement that sprang to life in the Hot Clubs and French cabarets of the 1930’s.

What is Gypsy Jazz?  To me, it’s a smooth blend of traditional gypsy music with melodies reminiscent of a street scene in Paris, circa 1930s, and the toe-tapping energy of Swing.  In short, it’s the kind of music that makes you want to get up and move.

Keeping the sound alive in the Pacific NW is a Seattle-based jazz  group called Pearl Django.  The group–comprised initially of Neil Andersson, Dudley Hill, and David “Pope” Firman–came together in 1994 in Tacoma, WA.  In 1995, they released their first album titled Le Jazz Hot, followed by ten more albums in fairly quick succession.

Over the years, the group lost some members and added others, eventually becoming a quintet.  Their repertoire expanded to include several original compositions.  They continued playing in a variety of nightclubs, cabarets, jazz concerts, and folk music festivals.  (including the Festival Django Reinhardt at Samois sur Seine, France)  And, in the process, they established a reputation as one of the best Hot Club-style groups in America.

The band’s most recent CD, Eleven, was released in June 2012 to critical acclaim.  The music has a rich, mellow sound with an almost “Paris After Hours” feel to it.  And three of the tracks feature award-winning guitarist Martin Taylor.  Buoyed by sales to enthusiastic fans, Eleven stayed on Jazz Week‘s Top 40 Chart for ten straight weeks.  (to sample some of the cuts, please check out Pearl Django on Amazon)

If you haven’t yet had a chance to catch this incredible jazz group live in concert, do yourself a favor.  Treat yourself to one of their CDs ASAP, but take care.  This music is so addictive, I’m betting you won’t be happy with just one.  Enjoy!


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Water Tower in Volunteer Park

Water Tower in Seattle's Volunteer Park. Photo: KGilb.

Water Tower in Seattle’s Volunteer Park. Photo: KGilb.

9/28/2012. The Water Tower rises 75 feet from the top of a small hillock at the south entrance of Seattle’s Volunteer Park.  Even on a day drenched with sunshine, it’s dark and foreboding like the stone keep of a medieval castle.  But over the years, the trees and shrubbery planted around its base have grown tall enough to obscure and soften the impact of the massive red brick tower.

A narrow path snakes around the base of the tower to a flight of stone steps that leads to the entrance.  Inside, voices echo as you climb the metal staircase that spirals up to an observation platform at the top.  107 steps, by my count, but the climb is worth it.  Arched windows, covered only by black metal grates, offer a gorgeous 360 degree view of the Seattle skyline.

The Water Tower was designed by the Olmsted Brothers.  (a landscape architectural firm in Brookline, MA)  Construction was completed in 1906.  The Olmsted Brothers, creators of NYC’s world-renowned Central Park, spent over 30 years in the Emerald City developing private properties in addition to Seattle’s incredible parks system.

While visiting the Water Tower, take some time to explore the other attractions in Volunteer Park:  the conservatory, the dahlia garden, the koi ponds, and the Seattle Asian Art Museum.  Or stroll along one of the many trails winding through the lush green lawns and towering trees of this 40-acre park.

The Water Tower is located at 1247 15th Avenue East in Seattle’s Capitol Hill District.  Open to the public from dawn til dusk.  For a map and detailed directions, please check out the Go Northwest website.

Special Note:  For interior photos of  the Water Tower in Volunteer Park, please check out our Wild About the NW Facebook Page.

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NW Snapshots: Cold Water Spring


Cold water spring near Mt Hood. Photo: KGilb.

Cold water spring near Mt Hood. Photo: KGilb.

9/11/2012.  We stumbled upon this cold water spring while traveling along a forest service road in northern Oregon.  How many years has water been burbling down into the catch basin?  Difficult to say.  There were no signs posted on site and no reference to it made on any of our maps.  But the fountain’s stonework is reminiscent of the stone bridges and guard rails found along the historic Columbia River Highway which was built between 1913 and 1922.  Could it be that old?  I guess only the moss knows for sure.

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What’s On Your BBQ?

Three great BBQ sauces from the Pacific NW. Photo: KGilb.

Three great BBQ sauces from the Pacific NW. Photo: KGilb.

8/15/2012. I love the taste of barbecue.  There’s nothing better during the summer.  But I hate sitting at a picnic table, trying to enjoy a plate full of my favorite barbecued foods, with tears streaming down my face.  It’s that lusciously sweet, smoky flavor I love, not a sauce so spicy hot that it sears my tongue to a cinder.

Fortunately, there are some very flavorful sauces out on the market right now that won’t set your mouth on fire . . . and many of them are made right here in the Pacific NW.  Here are three of my favorites:

Big Tony Brown’s Mild Sauce. A little sweet, a little tangy, and with just enough heat to give it a kick.  This is the sweetest of my three favorites.  Big Tony Brown comes from St. Louis, MO, where “Barbecue is King”.  He actually learned the art and craft of true backyard BBQ from his family.  Want an even bigger kick, but still nowhere near hot enough to reach for a fire extinguisher?  Try Big Tony Brown’s Spicy Sauce.  And for those who’d like to leave the grilling to someone else, Tony also does catering.

SweetFire Barbecue Sauce. Uniquely Northwest, SweetFire is slow-cooked to perfection from an old family recipe.  With its sweet tomato base and blend of spices, this sauce would go well with almost anything you might like to grill.  Beef, pork, poultry–even fish or veggie kabobs!  SweetFire is a natural born flavor enhancer that allows the true flavor of the food to shine through.  And, bite after bite, the heat is never overpowering.

Bette Jo’s Sweet Creole-style BBQ Sauce. This sauce was created in honor of Bette Jo Rideau whose passion for cooking was passed down to her daughter, Tori.  Bette Jo’s has a sweet, smoky flavor with a little surge of heat that sneaks in right at the end.  Good with beef, pork, or poultry, it’s also the perfect ingredient for a big pot of barbecue beans.  The secret to this scrumptious sauce?  Its unique blend of West African, Western European, and Native American influences.

Warning!  Big Tony Brown’s, SweetFire, and Bette Jo’s BBQ sauces are all about flavor.  Try them just once and I think you’ll be hooked.  But if all you’re looking for is a spicy hot sauce with the fire power of a blow torch, these products are definitely not for you.

Special Note:  Can’t find these BBQ sauces at your favorite grocery store?  Don’t despair!  All three can be ordered online from their individual websites.

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Taft Beach II

Driftwood on Taft Beach. Central Oregon Coast. Photo: KGilb.

Driftwood on Taft Beach. Central Oregon Coast. Photo: KGilb.

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Taft Beach on the Oregon Coast

Driftwood litters the sand at Taft Beach. Central Oregon Coast. Photo: KGilb.

Driftwood litters the sand at Taft Beach. Central Oregon Coast. Photo: KGilb.

July 27, 2012.  With over 300 miles of rugged coastline, Oregon has a lot of sandy beaches tucked away among its headlands and each one is unique.  Mention Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock springs instantly to mind.  Indian Beach at Ecola State Park, and it’s a misty image of wetsuit-clad surfers riding the waves into a small cove.  Cobble Beach is black with volcanic cobbles, and Taft Beach?  Picture a long curving stretch of sand littered with driftwood.  And oh, what driftwood!  We’re not talking skinny little pieces you can carry home and carve into walking sticks.  Most are huge logs or the trunks of mature trees with their root balls still attached.

Taft Beach is located on the north shore of Siletz Bay.  Walking along the hard-packed sand next to the water, the eye can’t help but return again and again to the jumble of driftwood cast up by the sea.  Some of the logs have been charred and blackened by campfires.  Others fashioned into crude shelters and wind breaks by fussy landlubbers so they can escape the stiff breeze off the ocean.  A few are clearly forts built and then abandoned by an “army” of kids.  Careful!  Before you know it, you might find yourself wandering up into the midst of all that weathered wood just to take a closer look.   What then?

Push on toward the ocean, hang a right, and there’s a stretch of uncluttered sand long enough to satisfy the most ardent beachcomber.  Brightly colored kites fly high overhead and a line of pelicans can often be seen skimming over the waves offshore.  If you’re a wave-watcher, the water is especially turbulent where the bay’s outwardly flowing current meets the ocean’s incoming tides.

Walking back in, watch for crabbers along the shore throwing crab rings into the water.  There’s also a colony of harbor seals who love to sun themselves on a sand spit nearby.  Best place to watch their antics?  From a wooden pier that juts out into the bay.

Taft Beach is located at the southern end of Lincoln City on the Central Oregon Coast.  From Highway 101 (Oregon Coast Highway), turn onto 51st Street and head toward the ocean.  Pass under the welcoming arch featuring Taft Beach’s crab mascot and continue on to the parking lot at the end of the street.  Ample parking available most of the time, though it may be crowded on a busy summer weekend.

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Sweet Taste of Summer

Juicy red cherries ready to be picked. Photo: KGilb.

Juicy red cherries ready to be picked. Photo: KGilb.

Bursting with flavor and with a distinctive rich red color, Bing cherries are the classic summer treat.  This year, however, why not try one of the other varieties grown here in the Pacific NW:  Chelan, Tieton, Lambert, Lapin, Skeena or Sweetheart cherries.  And for an extra special treat, be sure to sample some Rainiers–the large yellow cherry with a bright red blush.  Trust me . . . you haven’t lived until you’ve tried a thick slice of dark chocolate cake topped with a Rainier cherry sauce.  Mmmmmm.

These are absolutely the best tasting cherries in the country.  So, don’t miss out!  Pick up a couple of bags today and savor the sweet taste of summer for yourself.

Special Note:  The photo was taken at Tiny’s Organic in Wenatchee, WA.  This family-owned farm also grows peaches, plums, nectarines, apples, and a wide variety of vegetables.   

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Voodoo Magic in Eugene

VooDoo Doughnut #3 in Eugene OR. Photo: KGilb.

VooDoo Doughnut #3 in Eugene OR. Photo: KGilb.

7/9/2012.  We were strolling through downtown Eugene, OR, recently when we passed three young men huddled around an iconic pink box full of baked goodies.  The aroma wafting up from the box must have been too overpowering.  They didn’t even make it halfway down the block before digging in.  Voodoo Doughnut stikes again . . . and they didn’t even have to drive all the way to Portland for a fix!

Voodoo Doughnut #3 is located at 20 East Broadway (at Willamette Avenue) where you’ll find the same wickedly delicious treats as served in their original location.  Enjoy!

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