What I Did On My Goldener Oktober Vacation

Every once in a while (probably more often what with anthropogenic climate change), a kink develops in the weather, and the Pacific Northwest ends up with unseasonably warm weather. This can be torture in the summer, when desert air ambles up to say hello and desiccate everything. This time, it meant late summer weather in the fall, which was brilliant. especially since the antics with our vacation calendar meant I’d missed the latter half of summer. Only summer didn’t end on schedule.

There are many names for this summer reprise. It’s Indian Summer in America, which used to sound lovely before I became aware of the racism inherent in the term. What else to call it, then? It’s St. Martin’s Summer in Britain and Europe, which seems a bit too religious for my tastes. I quite liked All-hallown summer, as I love Halloween, and that’s not terribly religious despite the all-hallows root. Lots of Eastern European countries call it Old Ladies’ Summer, which is rather charming and conjures up basking in sunshine whilst chatting with old friends or perhaps doing that last little bit of gardening. Bulgarians call it Gypsy Summer, and I thought of using that, as we were wandering about. But for all I know, that’s an unkind poke at Gypsies, so perhaps best not.

I like Sweden’s Brittsomar, and Latvia’s Atvasara (re-summer) is delicious. Turkey’s pastırma – highly spiced – is nice. And I am in love with what the Chinese call it: qiu laohu – “a tiger in autumn.” Yes! The heat can be fierce and unexpected like that, the sun orange and sleek, the shadows stark black stripes, as those unanticipated extra summer days pounce seemingly from nowhere.

But the phrase that fits best is Germany and Austria’s Goldener Oktober. Golden October. The mild, sunny, summery-but-not-blazing-hot sunshiny deliciousness sometimes delivered up, warm and golden, in October. That’s exactly what this is. Glorious. Not to be missed!

Kitteh taking advantage of Goldener Oktober sunshine.

So I took a whole bunch of days off. And this is a summary of what I did on my Goldener Oktober vacation, complete with pictures.

Day 1: Erratics. Yes, I have found a ton of erratics this summer – and I took after some of them with the rock hammer. Sparks flew. Then I grabbed a grilled hot dog at a local stand, sat in the sunshine, and wrote out a full report for ye. That will be coming up soon.

One of the many lots of erratics I found exploring bits of the drumlin I’ve not been on. I didn’t take after this one with a rock hammer – yet.

Day 2: Drumlin. Didn’t have much time for adventuring, what with errands and all. I stopped by the local Barnes and Noble for a quick gander at their science section, and what did I see but the first actual book I’ve ever been published in, faced out bold as you please?

The book wot I am in with many other outstanding science writers. I know how the hell it happened. Doesn’t make me any less astonished.

So I grabbed them all, took them up to the Customer Service desk, and asked if they’d like to have them autographed. And they said, “Certainly!” and so I had my first-ever book signing. After which, I celebrated by getting the oil changed in my car. I know, I’m so exciting you just can’t stand it.

After that, I headed up on the drumlin to see what might be different in October. One thing: with it being so dry, a way was open that had never been open before. So I tromped through a formerly-marshy meadow up to the very tip-top of the drumlin, where I found a neighborhood I’d never before seen and got promptly lost. It was quite simply to find my way back out, though – merely a matter of following what looked to be a main road until I was back where I’d begun. Quite fun, that.

Day 3: Fishies. After a spectacularly lazy lie-in with the cat, I headed out for a long, lovely walk along North Creek, which I’ve reported some highlights from here. I spent an inordinate amount of time watching salmon.

There are salmon in this photo, I promise. You’ll see much more of them. Much, much more. I might have gotten a wee bit over-excited. There is video.

Then it was early to bed, because the real adventure was about to begin.

Day 4: Oregon! Lockwood and I didn’t have settled plans, but a hydrogeologic theme with a volcanic leitmotif emerged. We began in Corvallis, with a trip to Chip Ross Park, which has magnificent views and even more magnificent oaks.

Lockwood with a spectacular specimen. These oaks were gnarled and enormous, as proper October oaks should be.

You drive over the Corvallis Fault to get here, which is fascinating if you’re a geologist.

Then we crossed the Corvallis Fault once more, headed down to Avery Park. We had a wonderful walk along the Marys River, saw an old cut-off meander of it, played on a locomotive…

Moi with steam locomotive. This is just parked bold-as-you-please in the middle of the park, and you can climb about on it and get familiar with its bits, which will lead you to become impressed with human ingenuity.

…and visited a very large picnic table…

This picnic table is 85 feet long. And before you say, “Pfft, that’s nothing!” keep in mind this is made from a solid slab of wood. And there are six of them scattered about. I have quite the story to tell about that, but it might wait until I’ve dragged my intrepid companion round the mill it was sawed at.

And I know I didn’t promise you a rose garden, but thee shall have one anyway, eventually. Spent an inordinate amount of time with roses. Yum!

Then we toured the remarkable geology used in the construction of Oregon State University, including a visit to the building where the new geologists are made, which left me hyperventilating a bit, and almost had me signing up for a degree on the spot. Mebbe when I’m rich…

Coolest geologic badge ever.

Day 5: Moar Oregon! We headed up the McKenzie River, visiting spectacular falls…

A rainbow from falls along the McKenzie River. I know, I’m cruel, making you wait for the full-on falls.

…a very Clear Lake…

Fall foliage growing on the aa basalt lava flow that dammed Clear Lake, reflected on the lake, as seen between evergreens. How perfect is that?

…and lava flows made lovely by fall foliage. That’s one of the most scenic stretches of road in the world. We left it to climb up the cirque we’d come down on our previous visit to the area, and did the bits at the Dee Wright Observatory we’d not had a chance to do. Note to readers: allow time for the interpretive trail. Allow lots of time. It is made of awesome.

Shot of a road sign from the interpretive trail, which makes it look like the lava’s engulfed the road. The road’s there, just not visible from this angle. And yes, it’s very, very twisty-turny.

Then drive in to Sisters for a delicious sandwich at the Depot Deli. This is one of my favorite sandwich shops in the universe. It also serves wine. You will love it.

Depot Deli door. It’s one of those great places that’s all rustic in decor and thoroughly delicious in food, with just the right amount of hip.

When you drive back to Corvallis on a clear, dark night, don’t forget to stop and stare up at the stars. This will complete the awesome.

Day 6: Even Moar Oregon! We’d meant to do the Gorge, but when we got there, it was full of haze, smoke and fog, and not full of water. The falls were trickles.

Multnomah Falls from the parking area off I-84. Rather pathetic compared to what it normally is. On the other hand, you can easily see the geology it plunges over…

So we decided a change o’ plan was in order. We stopped in Cascade Locks to reassess, where we saw a nifty old steamboat and the Bridge of the Gods. People, I will soon be telling you stories of a landslide so big it dammed the Columbia River. Yes, that Columbia river – the one that is the fourth largest in the US and the largest in the Pacific Northwest. That’s one hell of a landslide.

We turned inland and did the loop round Mount Hood. We saw much scenery, most of it of a quality that makes geologists lightheaded, and ended up at Timberline.

View of Mount Jefferson and the Cascades from Timberline, which is on Mount Hood, with Mount Hood towering over it. Simply incredible, even on a very hazy day.

People at that lodge are a bit obsessive about the whole “bits of The Shining were filmed here!” thing. It became somewhat creepy. But the lodge itself is a confection of American West architecture, the art inside is lovely, and the views of Hood outside are spectacular.

Summit of Mount Hood, towering over the rest of Mount Hood. Utterly gorgeous. Very little snow up there, which is highly unusual and makes me glad we got there when we did – you can see much more geology.

The hydrogeologic theme continued as the mountain demonstrated why streams and rivers aren’t dry after over three months of no rain. As a bonus, most of the snow had melted off, exposing the geology wonderfully. We did not, alas, see the famed Saint Bernards, but there were compensations, and it’s not like we can’t go back with my intrepid companion and Suzanne in tow, and stake the place out.

Day 7: Home again. I’d meant to work in a visit with Suzanne and my boys, if possible, but we finished late on Day 6, and after breathing all the crap in the air, I was developing an annoying cough. So I made a beeline for home, where I promptly succumbed to a brief bout of bronchitis. That’ll teach me to go to Oregon when I’m still sick and the air is full of all of the parts of Oregon that are on fire. I watched the last day of Golden October pass through the window, as the kitteh and I lounged abed in the sunbeams, and dozed, and basked, and dozed again. Bit of a taste o’ a cat’s life, there. I like it. I could get used to it.

Now the rains have come, the skies are gray, the temperatures more cognizant of the calendar. For the rest of my vacation, which begins today, I shall be shifting to winter writing mode. There is much to research, many geologic delights to amaze you with, and plenty of Doctor Who to watch.

I’ll miss this endless summer, although I’m glad it’s no longer tempting me away from my work. I hope Goldener Oktober will come again next year. A Goldener Februar would be splendid as well….

What I Did On My Goldener Oktober Vacation

7 thoughts on “What I Did On My Goldener Oktober Vacation

  1. rq

    I’m going to re-read this post in more detail tomorrow when I’m less tired from the guests, but I’m THRILLED that you mentioned Latvia – we’re such a little country, and I was going to comment about our ‘atvasara’, except now I don’t have to. :) Yes, re-summer… Although for us it’s already here and gone by September. Well into autumn now.
    Jealous of the weather you obviously had – like I said, going to look at the pictures more closely tomorrow, but thanks for the visually delicious end to the evening! (Your Day 5 photos made my heart stop just a little bit. That second one, with the view to the lake and the colours through the evergreens… Especially that one. Not sure why, but just stunning, in an epic dream sort of way.)

  2. 3

    sorry we didn’t hook up but next time… i see the surgeon on the 17th to discuss doing total knee replacement — i figure by next spring i’ll be able to join ya in that stake out for the st bernards

    so glad ya had a great time – thanks for the readers digest version.

    and ohmystars squeal — you had a book signing!!!

  3. 5

    So many pretty pictures – that one with the fall colours by Clear Lake is breathtaking – and tantalizing promises of more details! I can’t wait! This will have to make up for the lack of an “Atvasara” (yay, new vocabulary word) in Ontario.

Comments are closed.