The Other Film Suggestion #1

“What?” you say.  “A film suggestion from someone who doesn’t own a TV?”  Why yes, thanks to the modern miracle of DVDs, we occasionally watch a movie on our computer.

I would like to recommend Winged Migration, a film about the great journeys that birds make every year.  It covers birds from all over the world, showing some very funny birds in Oregon and a healthy dose of penguin footage.  Much of the film was shot while literally flying with the birds themselves.  It will make you do a double-take the next time you see a flock flying south for the winter.

Birthday on the Trail

Jenelle and Jonathan spent three days last week hiking the Eagle Creek Trail in the Columbia River Gorge. They had been on the first 6 miles of this trail several times before, but a yearning to carry heavy things on their backs caused them to plan a trip all the way to Wahtum Lake at the end of the trail (and then back, of course — you can’t stay at Wahtum Lake forever).

They resolved to set off on this 26.6-mile journey early Thursday afternoon, but one thing let to another, and they didn’t get to the trailhead until 4:45 that evening. So, they hiked in a few miles and made camp at a site on Eagle Creek.

The next day was a very special day — Jessica’s Birthday Eve, a.k.a. Jenelle’s Birthday. Not just any birthday, but the Big Three-O. (Some of our acquaintances would find this hard to believe, since they tell Jenelle she looks so young.) They celebrated with a candle-studded carrot cake muffin. That day they hiked and hiked, passing beautiful waterfalls, steep cliffs, peaceful forests, and sunlit groves. They pondered how much more pleasant backpacking can be in good weather. Late that afternoon, they reached the end of the trail at lovely Wahtum Lake and then made camp near a creek a few miles back on the trail.

Their third and final day was uneventful, though breakfast was cut short when the stove ran out of fuel in the middle of the first pancake. (Jonathan needs to learn to conserve fuel. Or just bring more.) Afterward, they went home, cleaned their gear, and treated their blisters.

Pictures are available here. We hope you enjoy them — Jonathan has said that he isn’t taking a camera with a heavy zoom lens backpacking again.

Return of the Critters

It was a ripping, munching sound that tore at Jenelle’s dreams early one morning. She opened a sleepy, tax-return weary eye and looked out the window. There they were on the lawn, big, furry, hungry animals, black with white accent — the skunks had returned.

But these weren’t skunks . . . instead, they were racoons looking for grub-munching goodness.

Racoons and skunks and grubs, oh my! She woke up Jonathan, and he got out the camera.
Apparently, the racoons were social animals, with one big racoon accompanying several little ones. They soon realized that they were being watched, and they made racoon sounds and soon became as curious about us as we were about them. Before long they were only inches from our bedroom window. The younger ones seemed to be the most curious.

Fine Art in the Vance House

A number of years ago, Jenelle took a watercolor painting class at BYU.  Over the course of a summer term, she painted several lovely scenes that now grace the walls of our living room.  More recently, Jenelle also learned to cut mats for these paintings.  Jonathan’s contribution was pounding nails into the wall. . . .

Caught Red-Handed

Jonathan did. By moonlight. And porchlight. The biggest black animal with a white stripe you have ever seen. As he was returning to bed after a trip to the bathroom, Jonathan’s keen sense of hearing detected the faint clawing, ripping, and shredding of what is left of our backyard lawn – thanks to our partially opened window. My keen sense of hearing woke me from a deep sleep as I heard him carefully opening the blinds on our bedroom window. He was staring intently out the window, the full moon casting an eerie shadow over the hedges. I got out of bed quietly (since the window was open). We could hear the unmistakable rip of the grass and see a large black shape where the sound was coming from. It was surprising how big the lump of shadow was. It scurried to a new spot on the lawn and then we saw it. The unmistakable white stripe. It was a skunk! Jonathan took a chance and turned on the back porch light. The skunk was undeterred and continued its grub munching frenzy. It seemed to tire easily of its current feast and move to a complete new part of the lawn versus just down the pocked lawn a bit. Perhaps it had already eaten the grubs in that area on its previous trips. I tried to follow its movements out of one window while Jonathan readied the camera. Without warning, he snapped the shutter, but the skunk I was watching was no where near his field of vision. It was then we realized there were really two skunks working their 4 am havock! A big black and white grub-eating polecat Thanksgiving – right in our back yard! So that’s what ate my tomatoes and dug up the flowers! It’s disturbing to think how many grubs must be wiggling in the grass to keep the critters coming back. The lawn is a mass of grass clumps, dead and dried, thrown carelessly next to neat little holes. Did you know they can inflict their oily foul-smelling stuff 15 feet? We didn’t open the door. Though I suggested it – they were intriguing. Jonathan remained more clearheaded in the wee hours and reminded me of this minor factor.

After the reality of 4 am sank in, we called it quits shortly after this, went to bed and resumed our sleep, albeit dreaming of black and white stripes and grub annihilation.

The Fairbankses Visit

Jenelle’s parents spent the weekend with us here in Oregon.  A good time was had by all, though I think we wore them out enough that they were glad to go back to regular life and recover from their vacation.  Highlights included:

  • Silver Falls State Park
  • Powell’s City of Books
  • Crown Point in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Larch Mountain and its view of the surrounding peaks

Adventures with Skunks!

Jenelle and I went camping this weekend.  While we were sitting at our campsite near the banks of the Clackamas River, we munched peacefully on s’mores until we heard a rustle in the bushes behind us.  We turned around and found a skunk checking us out.  My instinct told me to get a picture, but I restrained myself.  Fortunately, all three of us stayed calm, and nobody got stinky.  He went his way back into the bushes, and we went to bed.

When we got home the next day, we found that a problem we’ve had with our lawn had gotten worse.  Mysterious divots (i.e., holes in the grass) have appeared on our back lawn over the past few months.  The divots underwent a population explosion sometime between Thursday evening and Saturday afternoon, and the lawn looked horrible in some places.  A little research revealed that some small mammals (including skunks) dig holes like this in grass to get at grubs livings beneath the lawn.  (Or, there’s a horrible golfer who comes to our backyard to practice in the middle of the night.)  We haven’t decided how to deal with the skunk-grub problem yet.

By the way, after we got home from camping, we also learned that the striped skunks indigenous to these parts can shoot their stinky stuff 15 feet, and that this can cause blindness.  This means that we were much too close to that skunk. . . .

Jonathan Vance, Senior Citizen

Coinciding with his birthday this past week, Jonathan received a nice letter from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) informing him that he is now eligible for membership in that great organization of people 50 years and older.  Of course, Jonathan is elated to be associated with this generation of people, some of whom once argued, "Never trust anyone over thirty."

Jonathan is presently busying himself with important AARP-related issues, including Social Security, the prescription drug benefit, and Matlock reruns.