Homeward Bound

The following is the final of a three part series. The second part, "Whatever happened to Washoe?" described the Chimposium where we learned about (and witnessed) the latest research regarding communication with chimpanzees.

Our destination was Portland, Oregon to visit dear relatives who wanted to show us the best of their city. To get there, we drove through the Yakama Indian Reservation. The terrain was just astounding. We were constantly stopping to take pictures. It is not like the Indians received a lot of terrific farmland, although one of their largest businesses is growing apples. It seemed that a significant part of their land was not very usable and documents the fact that they got what the settlers didn't want-some very big rocks.

Continuing to approach Portland, we drove along the Columbia River Gorge. It was a breathtakingly beautiful landscape. We actually became greedy-what will be around the next bend for us? Crossing at the Bridge of the Gods and discovering a road that took us past three incredible waterfalls (compliments of another active volcano, Mount Hood) was our introduction to the city of Portland. Pretty powerful.

The Art Museum

If forced to choose a favorite in Portland, I would have to pick the Japanese Gardens. I have never visited a more inviting, calming place (lots of paths along trickling streams and small falls). It can be walked in an hour but it is the kind of place you don't particularly want to leave. This was a photographer's paradise! The fall colors were strikingly vivid. In retrospect, our timing for this trip could not have been better. We slipped into off-season rates and there were no big crowds. And the leaves were peaking while we were there.

Portland is another West-Coast-friendly city with a fine zoo and easy mass transportation system. At the zoo, the polar bears were my favorite. They were swimming in a huge tank similar to ones at the aquariums. These 1400-pound polar bears were swimming right by the glass so we were nose-to-nose. Absolutely amazing-as amazing as the sea turtle exhibit at the Marine Science Museum at Virginia Beach.

Portland has a new garden now, the Classical Chinese Garden. Having just opened, this attraction had a few kinks to work out with the water system, but it was strikingly different from the Japanese Gardens. The craftsmanship (of the buildings and paths) was remarkable. Most noted by me were the floors. Everywhere I walked, the floors were pebbled with intricate designs that changed with the individual sections. If I managed to bring my eyes up, I saw the design of the buildings was equally detailed. For a new garden, the plants and trees were surprisingly large and established.

Also worth a stop was the main library in Portland. My native guide was proud of this place and wanted me to see all three floors. This is a big, old, cozy library-recently remodeled yet keeping its original character.

After eight days of fun and adventure, we were now heading back up to Seattle to fly home, with Mount St. Helens an easy detour. Unfortunately, we were already spoiled with good weather and verdant growth. Twenty years ago, Mount St. Helens erupted, and the damage is still overwhelmingly evident. Compared to the lushness of Mount Rainier, this area looked like a moonscape of lava and ash (actually, it is in the process of re-creating itself) but we just weren't up for seeing "whole forests blown over by the force of the blast." For the first time on this trip, it started to rain and the clouds would have prevented a good view of the volcano. Since our room for the final night of the trip had a pool, exercise room, Jacuzzi, and hot tub (our only such indulgence) we skipped the in-depth exploration of Mount St. Helens and went to the hotel early.

Our trip home got a bit tricky when two of my planes were broken (after boarding), a lightening storm closed the Dallas Airport (backing all the flights up), causing me to fall way behind in meeting up with Emily in Virginia. I learned that one advantage of a straight west to east trip was avoiding Dallas, which has a disproportionate number of closings because of severe storms. I still think it is worth the risk, at least once, to fly up and down the Rockies and see the geography from the sky. I ended up stuck in Atlanta, late at night with no way home to Emily (who arrived on time). Since the delays were not my fault, the airline compensated me with a great room, phone cards to call home, a fancy toiletries bag, and meals. At home, my husband was conducting central control and kept Emily and I informed of changes. He found friends near the Richmond Airport who were willing to pick her up and give her a place to stay until I got home the next day.


The return home was a whole different story. Even though I had left three boys (11,12, and 49) home alone, I hadn't expected the level of destruction I found. One of the most interesting things my boys did was to find an acorn muffin recipe in the wilderness survival cookbook. They went to a friend's house and collected five gallons of acorns, came home and did something with them. I know it involved cooking because of the stains around the stove. It also involved my coffee bean grinder, which had to be replaced because the motor was burned up. But, the muffins and subsequent recipe experiments have been tasty and of great texture.

Their biggest crisis was the fish tank. Our thirty-gallon tank (for no apparent reason) sprang a leak-and drained all over our home-office. As a result of sucking up a zillion drops of water, the Shop Vac broke (and has since been repaired). The fish survived. So did the boys. The good news is that there was no blood or Emergency Room visits.

What a great trip.

Copyright ©2001-Mary Wilson-All Rights Reserved


Mary Wilson...
Email: mary@trailz.org

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