Archive for the Cascadia Fair Category

[OR_liff] Mount Hood Is Good … Boringly Good

Posted in Cascadia Fair, cascadian volcanoes, liff in Cascadia, liff in OR, liff in PDX, Mount Hood on February 14, 2012 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
2781I’ve declared my love unending for that beautiful Multnomah Indian maiden sitting on our eastern horizon, Mount Hood, or Wy’east, as the original natives called her. She gives Portland a backdrop that other cities would kill for (I know, I’ve asked Jacksonville, Florida). Smooth in profile on the south, rugged (but not too rugged) on the north, the mountain, the highest one in Oregon, seems to reflect beatifically upon the city that looks back with a highly-photographed, come-hither expression.

Of course, she’s one of the Cascade Range’s famous sleeping giants, who could (and have) erupted violently enough to lay waste to multiple square miles and throw entire states into darkness before noon. It’s like living with a gorgeous killer next door, a femme fatale like no other.

Or is it?

I was transfixed by an article in The Big O that attempts to explain Hood’s comparative quiescence. While Rainier sits in majesty, intimidating Seattle and threatening to unleash lahars as far west as Puyallup if they get any more uppity, Hood hangs out in the distance like a mellow fellow traveller, at ease with her surroundings.

It turns out that Mount Hood is good … boringly good.

After analyzing crystals embedded in lava from relatively recent eruptions, the researchers found that hot magma from deep below Mount Hood consistently mixes with cooler, mushier magma nearer the top weeks to months before an eruption.  

The heating makes the magma less viscous, or more runny. Potentially explosive gases can harmlessly escape the thinner mixture — think of the bubbles that stream to the surface when you open a can of soda, Koleszar said.  

And that prevents a high-powered explosion that blows the mountain’s top. 

The entire article at OLive is here:

Bottom line here, a so-called “Plinian” eruption … which is what Saint Helens had, and what almost every other volcanic mountain can expect to have at one time or another, is, through the chance of the process described above, extremely un-likely to ever happen with Mount Hood.

That’s not to say, of course, that an eruption at Hood wouldn’t cause some level of catastrophe. And lahars … mud, ice and rock flows that can scour out a river valley … are still a likely thing with our peak. Actually a lahar can happen because of an out-wash of glacial ice or an avalanche, not necessarily triggered by volcanic activity at all. So wariness of the volcano next-door is not to be discouraged.

But it is reassuring to know that the Mount Hood we’re familiar with isn’t likely to change much even if she erupts, and moreover, we know why.

The geologic province that the eastern reaches of Portland is embedded in is named for a pioneer community that’s received a lot of ribbing over the years for being Boring.

Turns out, majestic Hood is the most boring volcanic of them all. 


[liff] The Tom Peterson Watch Takes Seattle, Part 3: The Amtrak Cascades

Posted in Cascadia Fair, liff on September 15, 2010 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
2493.This is a chapter in a story that was continued from here.

We stood at the doorway to something I’d never done before; taking a train. I was excited, and The Wife™ was excited for me, as this is something she’d got to do, but never me.

My expectations were a little high, and swathed as I was by the nostalgic atmosphere of Portland’s justly-renowned Union Station, I was in high spirits as we were finally admitted out the door. The air of nostalgic near-luxury faded away pretty quickly however: approaching the train, as modern as it was, as something of a slog.

It was memorable in its tedious way counting down the cars til we came to ours. We were in car 8.

I just didn’t know what to expect. But, despite the spare nature of walking up to the train (I mean, I knew there wasn’t any such thing as a docking tube … but wouldn’t that have been awesome) my excitement was still pretty solidly there. I like the feeling of putting myself in the hands of a trusted crew, of being whisked to another destination without having to worry about my car breaking down enroute. In my mind, I was that seasoned train traveller out of the 1940s, with a felt fedora and a natty suit, and The Wife™ was dressed something like a sophisticated noir chick.

Trains are awesome that way.

Actually, another thing that was awesome was the interior of the train itself. it was one of those Talgo trains, and the inside reminded me of an airliner cabin – at least the few times in my life I’ve been on one of those.

Tom found it, of course, perfect:

We sat in our assigned seats, putting the seat and row slips in the clip over where we were. This was something I didn’t expect, but it makes sense … that way nobody sees your empty seat and helps themselves to it. And that was important since, as the engineer said, the train was booked solid.

There was several minutes of everyone arranging themselves, people finding seats, and playing with the tray table, until – with a inside-thrill – we got started.

The common thing between Portland leaving and Seattle arriving is that both routes start out of industrial areas. Portland’s, you probably all know. But the juxtaposition of natural splendor and industrial flats always gives the eye a feast, in my opinion.

You can have your own opinion. It’d be wrong, of course, but you’re welcome to it.

The train’s progress over the Willamette gave me a unique perspective on the Saint Johns Bridge:

… which arched in guardian splendor off to the north. The train then cruised through the cut through the North Portland peninsula; I remember chattering some small talk about how these are the memories that make a lifetime with my wife, the modest ones in interesting circumstances; the train proceeded over the might Columbia, with the Interstate Bridge and Wy’East in the distance on one side …

… Mt Hood is a little tough to see in this resolution, but it’s there, trust me … and the Vancouver port on the other side …

… and, after a stop at Vancouver’s Amtrak station, the trip really begun in earnest. Here was Terra-still-Incognita for me, and the beginning of a three-hour journey along the rails of western Washington.

My love wondered if it were possible to buy a ticket just from Portland to Vancouver. I have found out that this is indeed possible.

The Amtrak fare from Portland to Vancouver is $14.

The trip takes 15 minutes.

Slightly less than a dollar a minute – isn’t that absurd?

I should have had the camera snap a few more pix along the way, I know. The interior of Western Washington, though, is something I’ve seen before, and I was getting into seeing the same sights I usually saw from I-5 though from the train. It, like western Oregon, is miles and miles of pleasant green, small houses on big farms, pleasant countryside. It was beautiful though unremarkable, though this is the area I’ve lived in all my life, so, perhaps I could be forgiven a sort of jadedness … but make no mistake about it, I may take it for granted, but I love it more than life itself sometimes. I’ve seen some other areas of the USA, and ours is a beautiful country, but Cascadia beats them all.

The stop in Centralia was charming. The town sits astride the tracks and the station is in the middle of downtown, looks like those stations, say, President Truman or Roosevelt might have done a whistlestop at, and a very charming painting of the old Hotel Centralia on a wall visible from the train.

Electric lights, steam heat, and a horse-drawn hack to meet all trains. They sure know how to treat the traveller, in Centralia.

The train stopped at Kelso, Centralia, and Olympia/Lacey before breaching the Puget Sound. Centralia was the only real preposessing stop – the rest seemed unremarkable and forlorn, especially Olympia’s, which was located on Yelm Hwy some miles southeast of Olympia. I was hoping for a look at Oly’s Capitol building, but that was not to be. Soon enough – and it’s a good thing because the rushing greenery was actually contributing to The Wife™’s motion sickness (not Amtrak’s fault – she’s just prone to that, poor dear, always has been) we saw the Sound.

I always thought Puget Sound was one of the coolest things going. It’s like being at the ocean without having to go to the ocean; the sea comes to you. And I love the scent of a sea breeze. And the geography of the Puget has always enthralled me. I love the quirky little islands, all of which have some sort of a ferry landing.

The Saint Johns Bridge isn’t the only suspension span you get to see from the train. The rail goes along that long sweep of curved coastline along the back side of Tacoma, and you get marvelous views of the now two-span Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

The old one has that Golden Gate Bridge feel, and the new one has that modern, spare, almost Swiss feel to it. I understand the newer one is a toll bridge, which frets me; I’ve lived too long in Oregon, I suppose, where there’s no toll roads to speak of although, I understand, some misguided souls are working to change this. We should hope that they do not succeed. But I do digress, don’t I?

Rounding the top of the peninsula Tacoma’s built on, We finally get our first look at Mount Rainier … and if you didn’t know you were in Seattleland yet, doubts come removed right here.

There’s a massiveness to all Cascade volcanoes that I just can’t capture with my little ol’ faithful Plastic Fantastic. But I wasn’t struck by anything so much as how Rainier loomed, dominated its landscape, even across an industrial district.

I adore Hood, but a little corner of my mind wishes she were more like Rainier. Washington got all the really good mountains, including the one that blew up. Say lavee, as the Frenchies say.

Sidling along Tacoma’s downtown we go between the commercial center on the right and the dockland flats which is on the left. Connecting them is this nifty cable-stay bridge, which carries S. 11th Street (if my Tacoma geography is correct) over one of the industrial waterways:

The train then carries us a little south and east of downtown, as the station is near the Tacoma Dome, and then southeast toward Puyallup, thence north through the Duwamish River valley into the south side of Seattle. I saw us passing up what looked like Amtrak stations but which, I found out later, were actually Seattle’s LINK light rail stations, and affording at least one more magnificent view of a magnificent mountain:

… and that’s all I have for now.

But, before I leave off, riding the train was a fun experience. I enjoyed the strangely-organized space, the interiors that felt like an airplane … the restrooms were more comfortable than I expected, the tray-tables less. While we had food available on the train, it was kind of pricey, so we brought along peanut butter for her, potted meat for me, tortillas, and made ourselves little rollups right there in our seats.

Travel food never tasted so good. And, yes, I like potted meat. All I’ll say about that, right now, is that you know what you think Spam is? This is what it really is. I can’t explain why I like it … but I do.

But however you do it, travel on a train with your love. You’ll never regret it.

To be continued.

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[liff] The Tom Peterson Watch Takes Seattle, Part 2: We Reach Union Station

Posted in Cascadia Fair, liff, metareferencial things, pdx pictures on September 2, 2010 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis

Continued from here.

We now have reached the MAX Green Line station, and we must change modes.

I see a lot of carping, but you know, when you use it … it just makes so much sense. And it works so well. It’s a quick walk from the MAX stop in front of the Greyhound depot over to the front door of Union Station. And our planning is on point – we arrive about 250 feet from the front door of Union Station with a bit more than an hour to spare.

The Greyhound buses congregate between that funky barrier … and I regard it with some wistfulness, as I know we’ll be back there, in about 30 hours’ time.

The Wife™ insisted I get a photo of this:

… which is one of the seemingly endless condo projects going up in NW Portland, because she thought the porta-johns up there on the corner of the top floor was funny.

I guess you’d call that toilet humor?

Correction 10-Sep-2010 0929: in the comments, commenter Ben mentioned that that’s not a new condo tower but something much more estimable: the Housing Authority of Portland’s Resource Access Center, which you may find out about at Thanks for the correction and the great info, Ben!

Just across NW Irving Street from the station property itself is a big nifty looking bit of public art, which seems to speak to the fact that everything in these few blocks of NW Portland have to do with timing, in one way or the other.

I thought it a sundial at first, but the big clock-face is actually the backrest to a chair-like affair, that allows you to sig back and look right through a big circular hole in that screen-like affair, right at the clock in the Union Station tower. So that’s rather witty, actually.

Having certain things around, you tend to take them for granted. We all adore the Benson Bubblers, and all the public fountains installed since the originals echoing their look and feel. It reminded me how good they are – and how rare it is to expect to see them in any American city – when me and The Wife™ espied what was obviously a dad taking a picture of his wife and daughters all taking a drink in unison. I caught them (apparently them not realizing I was doing so) just after they broke formation.

As I intimated elsehwere, there is ineffable hilarity in observing the observers observing something, and this was no exception.

But, when it comes to public fountains, PDX rocks. And always will.

Now, at this point I always go for that “postcard” picture. Here’s this one’s:

Perfect, yes? Yes. And, of course, rights are up for sale … Man, I tell you, I should have been a photographer.

For pay, I mean.

As long as I have Tom Peterson along for the ride, let’s see how he feels about it:

Judging from the beatific smile, we can only assume that Tom is pleased too. But then, Tom is always upbeat.

It was getting close to departure time and as we arranged our tickets, I noticed that there was much activity at the front doors … a flock of hacks pertaining.

Black and yellow, red and white. No black and white though. Now, perhaps Union Station’s biggest reason for being is, indeed, the historic architecture, which pretty much wraps you up in charming, city-to-city train times, almost from before you enter. I enjoyed the sign:

… but not as much as I enjoyed the interior, with its dark, cool, cavernousness. This must be a fine place to work when it’s hot. And all the old-fashioned details, the arches in the architecture, the old-style signs. It is a very seductive atmosphere leading us jaded moderns to charming if predictable thoughts of what it must have been like before interstates and suchlike.

Now this is the point where my meagre photography skills (and my equally-meagre camera) do not quite measure up to the demands of the environment. The pictures are a little blurry because of the low light levels and the need to hold that camera still, but they’ll always remind me of a very pleasant hour … well, except for the line to the train, which I didn’t like much. But Union Station is a treasure, and we’re lucky to have it, because this is one of those buildings that they got right the first time.

Something that I found curious was there were only three gates to the trains – but they weren’t gates 1, 2, and 3; they were gates 6, 7, and  8. Judging by the interior structure, gates 1-5 used to be in the wing that goes around the far side of the gift shop, which forms a passthrough to the restrooms and (I was surprised to find) business suites as you go down through that segment of the building.

We walked to the train through gate 6, and people leaving the trains came in through gates 7 and 8. Lots of bikes – was pleased to find out how far you can get with a train and a bike here in Cascadia.

What really made me smile, though, was the neon signs along the sides. Beautiful, bright, old-fashioned signs that pointed the way, and charmed me to the soles of my feet.

Now that is old-fashioned class. As is the ticketing counter, with its arrivals/departure board, maintained, as it is clear, in the old fashioned way.

Aw, yeah, people in transit. Wish we had more trains.

Is this how railfannage begins?

From here, we boarded our train into the great beyond … which is detailed in the next chapter.

To be continued.

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[liff] The Tom Peterson Watch Takes Seattle, Part 1: MAX To Union Station

Posted in Cascadia Fair, food, Graphic Design, liff in PDX, typography on August 30, 2010 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis

Of course, it wasn’t all about the watch … but I get a little bit ahead of meself.

Last week, me and The Wife” and me had a special wedding anniversary. Something special was called for. Trouble was, nobody told my income this.

So The Wife” got creative. Had to you might say. Our budget was (and is) something that was tighter than … well, something that’s very very tight and discouraging. But she hit on a plan: Train up, Greyhound back.

Up and back to where?

Why, New York-Alki, of course … That City Up North … Seattle.

As excited as I was about going to Seattle (my lifetime currently doesn’t give out much travel) I was even more excited about going by train. I have never, not once in my life, been anywhere on Amtrak, and it always looked like some kind of fun.

We wanted to go train both ways, but the budget didn’t stretch that far. Not just that though; taking a bus back allowed us more time to tromp through downtown Seattle – something the two of us experienced marrieds had never shared.

Oh, and just as an impartial observer, we have this dude in tow. He’s attentive, always smiling, always has the correct time, and is usually out-of-focus in the pictures to follow. It’s this guy:

Yes, it’s Tom Peterson.

Let’s get started.

The whole thing was an adventure in a certain way: just go with what we had on our backs, our shoulder bag/rucksack, and a minimal amount of toiletries. From where we lived, we struck out on the shoulder of SE 117th Avenue between SE Market and SE Stark, headed for Burnside and 122nd.

700 Block of SE 117th Avenue, looking North.

The walk wasn’t as long as I thought it would be. Soon enough, with our homemade latte fortifying us, we arrived at the E 122nd Avenue MAX Station. The Wife” ducked into the Max Mart on the corner to get some more ice for the beverage, and I got the MAX tickets.

The E 122nd Avenue MAX Station. Blue Line Fever!

Tom’s happy, And when Tom’s happy, we’re happy.

The plan at this point was take the Blue line to Gateway, transfer to the Green Line that would take us quite close enough to the front door of Union Station to meet our Amtrak Cascades. Adventure, my friends, is that much closer.

Tom enjoys the comfortable ride of TriMet’s MAX. Right
background: the coolest bike-riding eastern European
Granny ever.

I want you all to observe the eastern-European-looking ol’ lady there on the right. This is without question the coolest granny ever saw. She was a bike-ridin’ granny. She was rocking one of those cheap-ass Magna 10-speeds from Target, and this was one of the older MAX cars, the one without the low floors. And if you know them Magna bikes, they aren’t built for connoisseurs or anything even close to that, so they heavy. But his lady, man, when her stop came she just bucked that bike off that bucket, wasn’t no thing.

Mad respect. Quintessentially Portland.

Riding in style & Portland Style.

Transferring to the Green line necessitated a wait & not a long one, but I kept communing with Tom as I fretted about the schedule (this is one of my secret superpowers, along with always knowing where North is). A bit hungry, and discovered that the little, bean and cheese burrito sold by the commuter kiosk was exactly what we needed. And we finished them just the moment the inbound Green line pulled in.

We were going the other way, of course. But I love
MAX signposts. Hey, who’s that chick with the stripey
socks & looks like my kinda lady &

The day, last Tuesday it will be recalled, was fine in Portland and was on its way into the 90s again, though not quite yet. We were busy razzing the heat & for we would be on the Amtrak Cascades soon enough, and laughing at the heat in comfort (and going north anyway). And so we chatted, my honey and me, enjoying each other’s company and loving the Portland scenery.

I’ve lived in Oregon all my life, and in Portland for (now) the majority of my adult life, and I never get tired of looking out at the window. Every trip anywhere is sightseeing, and just being in Oregon is nourishing. That’s why a scene like this:

That boat, she’s riding high. And how about that bridge
lineup? Tell you true, got that completely by accident …
happy accident.

The grain ship was particularly fun to see, as it was riding high because it was starting to be filled, or at least prepping to be starting. Not too visible is the swarm of crewmembers on top making ready. A city with a working harbor is a thing of beauty, and that’s a sure thing.

This was near the end of the first stage, as through the window in the distance, our intermediate destination hove into view. A PDX Classic.

Next stop – Union Station. The one and only.

To be continued.

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[liff] Seattle And The Mountain

Posted in Cascadia Fair, liff on August 28, 2010 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis

Both Seattle and Portland have their signature skylines, featuring gorgeous, inspiring volcanoes.

In the case of Portland, of course, it’s Wy’east (Mt. Hood). In the case of Seattle, if one really has to be told, it’s Tahoma – Mt. Rainier.

Seattle and Mount Rainier, 2010
photo copyright SJK

One thing this Oregonian has never been unimpressed by is the sheer visual size of Rainier. Of course, there’s the simple and inarguable fact that Rainier is simply a rather larger peak than Hood; 14,440 ft/4,392m vs. Hood’s 11,249 feet/3,249m. Turns out there’s just a little more than that, though.

There’s a thing called visual prominence. One of the hallmarks of a memorable peak is not only that it’s big but how head-and-shoulders about its surroundings it is. The difference between the peak’s top altitude and the highest “col”, ridge connecting it to its nearby surroundings – the difference between the highest high point and the highest low point adjacent to that mountain.

As it occurs, Rainier’s geographical prominence is 13,211 feet. Not only is it big, it remarkably stands out from its surroundings. Comparing with our beautiful Wy’east, Mount Hoods prominence is a mere 7,706 feet – scarcely more than half. Meaning that despite Hood’s height, its surroundings are also high – meaning it stands out less.

This is, of course, not to say that one is necessarily better, or that I’d rather wake up on a regular basis in Seattle; I’m a Portland kid until I assume room temperature. But it does explain why the first thing you get impressed with when you see Rainier from a distance is how freaking huge it seems. Not only is it big, but because of its high degree of prominence, it doesn’t have much visual competition.

There is design lessons to be learned here. They’re yours for the finding, though I may write about those later.

One more fun fact: The prominence of Rainier exceeds even that of the planet’s second-highest peak – K2 – by just 22 feet.

Photo Location: Space Needle Observation Deck, Seattle, Washington

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