Friday, June 27, 2008

Leaving Gnat Creek

We have finished our work at Gnat Creek Fish Hatchery. After two months it is time to move on. But we have really enjoyed our time here. Without a doubt, the staff here has been the best we have ever worked with. All of them—Roger, Garth, Dave and Mike—have been easy to get along with, friendly, helpful and supportive. Such an atmosphere makes the time so pleasant.

In addition, we have enjoyed the work we do. After years of paid jobs that kept us inside, we enjoy the opportunity to work outside and do physical labor. Here we have used a weed eater and a blower to trim grass and maintain trails, used a John Deere mower and Kubota tractor as we worked with the landscaping and done traditional garden weeding. In addition to this, we have helped feed fish, repaired and cleaned fish net pens, kept the information kiosk stocked, cleaned a large storage area inside the hatchery and an outdoor storage area called the bone yard. The bone yard is a storage area for pipes, large pieces of wood, metal and scraps. We also cleaned the office and restrooms and I set up and entered transactions in Quicken.

The variety kept us interested. We also learned how to work outdoors in the rain and mist of the Pacific Northwest. It has been cool and rainy most of our time here. Nowhere in the US is having seasonal weather and everyone here has said this has been an unusually cool and wet period. We spent a number of days dressed in rain jackets and rain pants to work outside. After all, golf carts in western Oregon come with rain covers to keep the players dry between shots. We found rain doesn't need to stop most activities if you dress appropriately.

The hatchery includes a number of graveled hiking trails through the rain forest. They are so pretty. We really liked hiking them, as well as maintaining them. We will miss this beautiful place.

We have appreciated this part of Oregon. Astoria is an interesting town—the first European settlement west of the Mississippi River. There are lots of Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery sites in this area, where they spent the winter of 1806-07.

Fishing—on the Pacific Ocean or in the Columbia River and smaller freshwater streams—is a major recreational activity, as well as a commercial enterprise. As we drove to Astoria for recreation or shopping, we passed the John Day County Park where 100 or more trucks with boat trailers can park on a weekend day so their owners can put out into the Columbia. The sturgeon season just closed. Anglers fish Gnat Creek near the hatchery almost daily for salmon and trout. On the John Day River there is even a housing community. People live year round in this settlement.

It was a treat to watch the striking blue and black stellar jays that live around the hatchery, as well as the belted kingfishers that often dive into the hatchery ponds for a bite of Chinook salmon. One or two ravens also were good at catching fish out of those ponds.

During our two months here, running about three times a week, we logged 67 miles along US Hwy 30 and a logging road. We became a recognizable pair and some of the logging trucks began to honk and wave as they passed. One morning we saw a cow elk on the logging road. The shoulder of a busy highway isn't the best or safest place in the world to run but it had the advantage of being relatively flat and I don't like running up hills.

Now we will take a few days off to explore the Columbia River Gorge, then we head to the Oregon White River Wildlife Area east of the Cascade Mountains. It will be warmer and drier there.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Scandinavian Festival

Nine years ago we went on an Elderhostel trip to Sweden. Almost everyone on the trip had ancestors born in Sweden; many were first generation Americans. One man had grown up in a Swedish-American community where all of the students in his school had Swedish parents. He played basketball and when the coach wanted to criticize the players he would shout "you dumb Swedes." That statement took on a whole new meaning this weekend.

The Astoria Scandinavian Festival was held June 20-22 at the Clatsop County Fairgrounds. When we first heard about the festival, we were excited, since we both have Swedish ancestors. And we were even more excited when we read about the Troll Stroll, a running event. Since we run three miles, three times a week, we wanted to take part. When we checked out the website, we found registration for the run was to be received by June 6 to guarantee you received a T-shirt. Others were to register on Saturday before the event between 7 and 8 am. The run began at 8:30 am.

Since we hadn't registered in advance, we arrived at 7 am., the first people to show up. We were told they were getting set up. As more people arrived, we learned that the husband of the woman in charge of registration was a dairy farmer and he had been kicked in the face by a cow and they had spent much of the night at the emergency room. How sad. That must be tough.

When she did show up, a little after 8 am, about 15 people were waiting to register. No one asked who had arrived first. Two or three lines formed. There was only a limited number of T-shirts available for late registrants. We ended up in the wrong line. The last small and medium T-shirts had been handed out by the time we reached the table. We paid $20 each for a button and the "privilege" of running in the Troll Stroll with about 40 people. No T-shirt, just an expensive button. Like I said a new meaning to "Dumb Swedes." We don't know, however, if her ancestors came from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland or Iceland. The phrase should be "Dumb Scandinavian."

We finished our 3-mile run through pretty farm country, shopped some great Scandinavian booths, and then enjoyed a very good Scandinavian breakfast. I have never posted a photo of what we had to eat before, but since it was the highpoint of the day, I thought I would show it.

Beware of small, amateur races!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Why do we volunteer? For many years, our lives were focused on jobs and children. We earned money. Did our own thing. Were inwardly focused. Now it is time to give back.

When we first retired, we began volunteering at the Colorado Historical Society in the collections division of the museum. When we were in the Denver area, we spent one day a week there.

Since 1996 we have volunteered in state and national parks and now in a fish hatchery. We have enjoyed camping for many years. We know that both state and national parks have very limited budgets and it is difficult for them to do their jobs. We are able to help out and provide a better experience for those who visit the parks. We have a chance to give back to the community. For years we have benefited from a lot of tax breaks for home owners, for clergy, and for those receiving capital gains. We can spend some time and effort to benefit the taxpayers of this country through our volunteer labor.

This week we focused our volunteer labor in another direction. Three times a week we run down the edge of US Highway 30, then along an Oregon forest road. It isn't used much, except by us and by people who find it a convenient place to dump their trash. We spent some time picking up that trash. It was our way of showing appreciation for the land available to our use.

There are so many wonderful opportunities in this world. Sometimes we pay to take advantage of those opportunities. Sometimes we can give a little of our time and effort to help assure those opportunities will continue to be available for all to use. It makes us feel good to do that. True, we receive a free RV site when we do it. But we believe what we do benefits others, as well.


I don't know if I have ever seen rhododendrons until this visit to Oregon. They grow profusely here and they provide such beautiful masses of brilliant colors, it is amazing. They are grown here at the hatchery and around many homes in the area. We also saw many varieties when we visited the Portland Rose Test Garden and Japanese Gardens. Below are photos of many of the various colors we have seen.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Living in a Rain Forest

Our window frames have started to grow whiskers and for days on end we couldn't see out because of all the condensation on the windows. Where we live in Colorado, that only happens when it is very cold outside. Now we are living in a rain forest during an exceptionally cold and wet spring. The humidity inside the RV was above 70%.

So last Saturday we decided to try to find a dehumidifier. We didn't have any luck at either the hardware store or Fred Meyers. But when we visited Englund Marine we were in luck—boats have humidity owners want to get rid of. We have been running the dehumidifier full-time since then, plus using the Shurflo vent fan whenever I am cooking and using the stove and bathroom exhaust fans. I am happy to report the inside humidity came down to the low 50% range. And we can see out the windows!

When we travel we are always learning new things. Living most of our lives in a dry climate, we are more used to running a humidifier than being careful to get rid of humidity. We certainly have learned something this time. And some Clorox and water has cleaned up the whiskers on the window frames.

We live in such a small place, I know even in the dark where everything is on the floor. I don't have to look before I step. But when we work outside in the mist and rain, we often come home with wet shoes. The best way to get them dry before we go to work the next day is to put them on the heat vents. We only have four of those. One is about two feet from the kitchen sink and the stove. I must have kicked over the shoes 10 times preparing dinner. It about drove me nuts. I may never learn to watch the floor as I do my dinner prep, however.

We hear the statement, "In life you can't wait out the storm, you have to learn to dance in the rain." That sure has been true for us here in Oregon. We are tired of the mist and rain, but we have learned to enjoy our work and time, even in the rain. We bought lightweight rain pants and rain jackets. They keep us dry and the jackets are great windbreakers, as well. It's all about attitude, and we love the people and the work here. So we have learned to dance in the rain.

On a more sober note, I don't know if we would dance in the rain, flooding and tornados plaguing the Midwest the past few weeks. What tragic events we see unfolding there.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The December Storm

As we drove north along the Oregon coast, the closer we got to the Columbia River on our way to Gnat Creek, the more work we saw being done along the roads. We kept seeing large amounts of trees and brush being cleared, making us think that many of the roads were going to be widened this summer.

It wasn't until we had been here a few days that we learned about the massive storm that hit the northwest coast in Oregon and Washington on December 2, 3 and 4, 2007. I'm sure we must have heard something about it on the evening news back then, but we didn't remember anything about it.

Below is part of a December 3 Associated Press article from the Seattle Times regarding the storm affects in Oregon:

Twin storms cut off most of the northern Oregon coast today, knocking out transportation and communications.Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski declared a state of emergency because of flooding and wind damage Monday, which will allow the state to provide aid to stricken counties without them having to ask for it.The declaration is statewide, spokeswoman Patty Wentz said, adding that it will help get aid to where it is needed faster.Highways closed, and telephone service was disrupted. Electricity was out in thousands of homes, and schools closed. The National Weather Service issued flood warnings for seven coastal rivers, and two inland.

The state Department of Transportation warned drivers not to attempt passages through the Coast Range, where downed trees, rocks and mud slides and high water closed roads."This storm is hitting the coast so hard, it's not leaving any road open," said spokeswoman Christine Miles.U.S. 101 along the coast also was closed in places.Abby Kershaw of Oregon Emergency Management said telephone and other communications were so tenuous that it was impossible to determine how many people were out of their homes.The Red Cross opened shelters at St. Helens, Vernonia and the Tillamook County fairgrounds, the last of which drew 30 people initially, said spokeswoman Lise Harwin. But she said communications were so broken that the organization couldn't determine how many more might have arrived.

Early in the afternoon, it reported 40,000 homes without power, and it could be days before power is fully restored.The Daily Astorian said it didn't have power to run its presses Monday afternoon. Only in 1922, it said, when a fire destroyed downtown Astoria, had it missed an edition. It said it used Internet equipment at its sister paper in Pendleton to keep its Web site going and planned to print next at the Statesman Journal in Salem.

The Coast Guard station in Astoria lost communication with its command center, and the service launched a C-130 Hercules plane from Sacramento, Calif., to patrol the northern coast and handle distress calls.At Tillamook, often hit by floods, Sheriff Todd Anderson said officials evacuated some motel occupants and recreational vehicles from two parks.Winds blew steadily at 30 mph to 40 mph, with frequent gusts of up to 80 mph, said Steve Todd, meteorologist in charge at the service's Portland office.

Gusts of more than 100 mph were reported half a dozen times on the coast, he said, with the highest reading at 129 mph at Bay City.The state's geology agency warned of fast-moving mudslides that can follow severe rain, urging people to avoid steep landscapes, such as canyon bottoms, stream channels, the bases of hillsides or road cuts.

At least one wind gust in the storm was clocked at 147 mph and the US Weather Service issued it's first-ever hurricane warning for the coast. Interstate 5, the main road between Portland and Seattle, was closed for days because a one-mile section in Washington was underwater.

According to workers here at Gnat Creek, they experienced winds in excess of 100 mph for 30 hours and were without electrical power for at least eight days. And there was at least one hatchery host here in a motorhome! I can't imagine a storm of that magnitude, even if I were living in a stick house. How do you go through it in an RV?

They do have emergency generators here—to keep the hatchery operating and to provide electricity to the homes. They often face power outages. But extra generators were needed because of the duration of this lack of electricity.

We still see large blowdown areas, with huge trees lying around like pick-up sticks. Some were broken off, others tipped over, pulling up their roots. The clean-up probably won't be complete this year, maybe not even next year.

This photo shows trees blown down on part of the Gnat Creek Campground, a small Oregon forest campground about one mile from the hatchery. Three of the six campsites are buried in downed trees and they don't intend to remove them. So now, only sites one, two and three are usable.

When enough trees fall over and into local rivers and creeks, they create dams, stopping the flow of water. This happened at the intake where water flows from Gnat Creek into the pipes to the hatchery ponds. Two of the workers, Roger and Dave, were out in the middle of the storm, leaning out over the rushing creek with a chain saw to cut the trees and break the dam so the fish in the hatchery would have enough water.

Down US 30 to the east, a creek was blocked for several days. The storm had produced rain amounts exceeding all previous records, on top of existing snow pack at higher elevations. More water and mud flowed in behind the storm-created dam. Then the dam broke and a small community was covered with mud. This photo shows the marks of mud on the walls of the buildings. The next time we drove by, the buildings were being burned down. They could not be repaired.

Last year we visited New Orleans and saw some of the damage remaining from Hurricane Katrina. We also drove through a town in Arkansas that had recently been struck by a tornado. But this is the first time we have seen close up so much damage. It is certainly impressive.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


This week we will celebrate our 43rd wedding anniversary. Marriages that last that long are fairly rare. And marriages that include two people who are best friends and who really enjoy being together and share almost all the same interests are really unusual. We are blessed to be able to live our life together and in the way we both enjoy.

I think couples who travel many months of the year together in an RV, by definition, have a good marriage. This life-style puts you in constant contact. We live in about 250 square feet. We often spend day after day side by side in the truck as we travel across the country. We go the same places, do the same things. We do our best to find volunteer assignments where we can work together. We may work with people who are very nice and meet great people as we travel, but the only person we really know day to day is our spouse.

Couples who don't have a good marriage must find this kind of life, if they enter into it by mistake, a real disappointment and strain. John and I, and many other RVers, find the closeness, the common life, a real joy and blessing. At this time in our life, we wouldn't have it any other way.

It takes some deliberate actions to make life work when you are as close as we are, day after day. We each find a little private time in the day because John rises early in the morning, while I sleep in a little while. In the evening, he goes to bed early and I stay up. We both enjoy the quiet time this provides.

Sometimes we go our separate ways for an hour or two. Maybe I do the laundry while he gets the truck serviced. Or he drives to get propane and I stay at the RV to get something done. But most of the time we are together.

We also find good communication a must. We can't let any disagreement or small slight fester. It must be addressed. There is no time or space for a major disagreement.

For years we each had our own activities. Sometimes I was at home with our two sons while John worked. For many years we left in separate cars to drive to work. In the evening we had to catch up on the day's activities. We still have a steady, on-going conversation. But since we have lived the same things during the day, it has a different focus.

Marriage to the right person is a real gift from God and we thank him regularly for ours.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Fin Clipping

They are marking the spring Chinook salmon at the Gnat Creek Hatchery this week. As I mentioned a few days ago, the adipose fin on the fish’s back is clipped so anglers know that the fish they catch is a hatchery fish, not a wild salmon. We were told that clipping the fin is like cutting our fingernail, so it doesn’t hurt the fish. But they fish are anesthetized because otherwise it is nearly impossible to pick them up to do the clipping. Many years ago large chunks of ice were added to the water in the tanks where the fish were kept to slow them down enough to allow the fin to be clipped.

Last week a trailer was delivered to the hatchery to use by the fin clippers. The whole job is very labor-intensive. It took at least two days to set up the trailer for the work. Then pipes need to be set up to run water through the trailer and from the trailer to whichever pond the clipped fish will be sent.

Net pens (which John and I helped set up last week) are filled with fish, which makes it easier to dip the fish out and run them into the trailer. After the pens are in place and the pump is set up, a small chute is connected so the fish can be sent to the net pen. Then one of the technicians Dave, uses a large screen to crowd the fish at one end of the pond.

Next, he dips the fish out, hands the net to Mike, who carries the net to the chute, where the small fish are sent sailing into the net pen.

Twenty or so dips of the net moves maybe 40,000 fingerling salmon. They fish remain in the pens until they are again dipped out and sent into the trailer.

Now workers standing at small tables put some fish in the anesthetic, then move them into a second small net, pick them up one at a time and cut off the fin, drop the fish down a drain, and hit the counter to account for how many they clip. They work from 7:30 am to 4 pm. (I’m glad I don’t have to do that.)

The fish slide through the drain and into this clear pipe, down into a longer hose or pipe and arrive in a fish tank where they will live for the next few months.

This will go on for two to three weeks. The first day, with a short crew, 46,000 fish were clipped. They have nearly 900,000 to do before they finish.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Running on my 65th

This past weekend I celebrated my 65th birthday. It was a great day. And one of the activities was to run three miles. How many 65-year-old women do that on their birthday? In fact, how many people, period, can do that? I know I couldn't until about a year and a half ago.

I have walked for exercise for years. And nearly six years ago I bought my first pedometer. Since then, I have been trying to take at least 10,000 steps a day—the number recommended for losing weight and keeping it off. I reach that goal five or six days each week.

At the same time I began weight training exercise. John did, too. So the next spring when he retired and we were ready to set out in the RV, we wanted to continue that activity. So we purchased a 40-pound weight set. We work out three days a week, almost without fail. At that time, we also tried to walk at least 10,000 steps five or six days a week. We had each lost a bunch of weight—I lost 30 pounds, John lost 40—and we wanted to keep it off.

It is easier to maintain our exercise schedule when we are in the stick house. But we were, and are, determined to maintain it while we are on the road in the RV, too. We do the weight training before starting out on our day's activities. The walking may be done around the loops in a campground, hiking on mountain trails, sightseeing in the city, even walking the halls of a shopping mall or around a Wal-Mart. When we are traveling day after day is the hardest time to get in the walking. Sometimes we feel silly making 20 or 30 laps around a small RV park. But we have kept the weight off.

Then, about two years ago we joined our then six-year-old granddaughter in a one-mile fun run at her school. I thought, "I can do this." So I started running laps at the gym, eventually building up to three miles. Now I love it. And we get 6,000 steps in only a little over 30 minutes, rather than the 45 to 60 minutes it takes walking!

Keeping up an exercise program while living in an RV and traveling isn't easy. It takes real discipline. But we are certainly glad we have the will power to do it.