Archive | December 2014

Building a Life

There was something I was avoiding.  After spending a wonderful Christmas holiday with Jon and his family, I spent a quiet weekend at home while Jon worked.  I finished a book I’d been reading.  I watched a movie.  I worked on this blog.  I did a bunch of laundry.  Yet, there was still something I wasn’t doing.  Something I couldn’t bring myself to do.  Last Sunday, I finally steeled myself for the unpleasant task.

Cleaning and packing my office.  Normally this task brings nothing but joy.  A new job, new challenges, new opportunities.  After all, I applied for this new job, and interviewed, and got the offer that I wanted.  So what was holding me back?

My coworkers.  Really they are my employees, but supervising them is such a breeze, and we are such a cohesive team, that I can’t bring myself to call them my employees.  And therein lies the rub.  I have built a life there.  A life that includes such fantastic women that I am grieving its end.  Even though I know that leaving them will bring advancement in my career, and all those things that we work so hard for.  Challenges, rewards, less stress, more recognition.  Gaining those things means leaving them, and that makes me so tremendously sad…

And so I avoided those moments all weekend – until I couldn’t put it off anymore.  Organizing files and folders and trying your hardest to get everything neatly laid out for the person who will take your place.  Recycling all those papers that seemed so pressing at the time, but long ago lost their importance (word to the wise – some problems really do solve themselves if you procrastinate long enough).  Those memories pinned to the corkboard, making you laugh out loud at the inside jokes and memories created over the years.  Taking down the artwork from the walls, and wrapping it up to wait for your next office.

I try to remind myself that I will still be in town; that we can get together anytime.  But there is something to be said for spending 40+ hours a week with a group of women who bring you so much laughter and joy.  Coworkers turned friends, who make the day fly by, who have your back on your darkest days.  Friends.  The ones who will be the first by your side when you truly need it.  The ones who encouraged you to apply for that new job, and literally yelled at you to accept that offer, even though your leaving would make their lives harder, at least in the short term.

I feel truly blessed for the friendships I have been given.  Goodbyes are hard, so at least this one is simply “until next time.”

Today was my last day at my old job, and I will start the new one after the New Year.  A few days off to decompress will be much needed.   I’m sure I will make new friends, but I feel fortunate that I will keep the old.  Happy New Year!

Kim Crawford 2013 Sauvignon Blanc

Who says you can’t drink a crisp white wine in the winter?

Jon cracked this baby open the day after Christmas, and I had a glass the next day.  It was certainly none the worse for the wear after being open for a day.  I can’t tell you much about the nose, because I think I might be getting a cold – just that I smelled fresh lemongrass.

The wine is crisp and bright, with flavors of lemongrass, pineapple and lychee.  There is some minerality, but not to the same degree as some other Sauvignon Blancs I have had.

2013 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc

2013 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc

Certainly a great wine at a reasonable price point – it would pair well with Thai or other Asian dishes, or buttery seafood.

Cheers!

A Bite at the Oregon Caves Chateau

Once we had toured the Oregon Caves, it was time for lunch in the historic Oregon Caves Chateau!  The Oregon Caves Chateau was built in 1934, in order to provide the tourists visiting the cave with lodging and meals.  The Chateau was designed and built by Gust Lium, a local contractor with no formal training.  His talents were recognized by the Forest Service, and he was responsible for several projects within the Siskiyou National Forest in Southern Oregon, where the Oregon Caves are located.

The Chateau is six stories tall, built over a steep ravine.  The location makes its appearance a bit misleading, because when viewed from one direction, you can see all six stories, but from the front entrance, only the top three stories are visible.  The Chateau has 23 guest rooms, and also houses a dining room and coffee shop.  In front of one of the entrances to the coffee shop is a courtyard with a pond.

A Side View of the Oregon Caves Chateau – the Coffee Shop is the door on the bottom left

A Side View of the Oregon Caves Chateau – the Coffee Shop is the door on the bottom left

The style is considered National Park Rustic, with cedar siding on the exterior of the building, giving it a shaggy appearance.  Inside, the Chateau has the largest public collection of Mason Monterey furniture, made by the Mason Manufacturing Company in the 1930s.  Much of the furniture is in original condition, although some has been restored.  Although we didn’t stay at the Chateau this time (one day I will!), the rooms all maintain their original appearance, with steam heaters, and no telephones or televisions.  Some people would call this dated, but I appreciate the intention of making sure there are places that stay true to history.

The fireplace in the lobby of the Oregon Caves Chateau

The fireplace in the lobby of the Oregon Caves Chateau

But this post is about the coffee shop.  It was completed in 1937, with birch and maple counter tops on a counter that snakes around the dining room and vinyl stools, and it is almost entirely original!  The knotty pine paneling is original, but the oak parquet floor that was constructed in the 1930s had to be replaced with a tile floor after a 1963 flood.  We were there for a late lunch, so it wasn’t that busy when we got there and we were able to get 4 stools all together.

The Oregon Caves Chateau Coffee Shop

The Oregon Caves Chateau Coffee Shop

They serve typical diner fare with a Northwest twist, but their signature items are the milkshakes and malts!  They make them from real, hard ice cream and there is a long list of flavors that you can choose from.  I am a purist, so I went with the chocolate.  Each milkshake is huge, arriving in a full glass that is as big as the stainless steel cup it is made in.  YUM!

Delicious Chocolate Milkshake!

Delicious Chocolate Milkshake!

I ordered the bison burger, which was perfectly made (I asked for mine medium rare) and fries.  Jon had the Chef salad.  They have a variety of other burgers and sandwiches, chili, chicken strips and meatloaf.  Although the menu is pretty heavy on the meat, there are some vegetarian options, as well as a vegan burger.  And you can substitute a gluten free bun on any of the burgers or sandwiches.

My buffalo burger and fries!

My buffalo burger and fries!

I really enjoyed just sitting on the stool, eating my burger and shake and chatting with Jon and his parents.  It was a real treat to enjoy a meal in this historic setting, and it reminded me that we need to take the time to just slow down and see and experience what is right in front of you.

Have you stayed at the Oregon Caves Chateau or dined there?

 

A Real Cave Tour!

I was finally going to tour the Oregon Caves!  But first a few safety precautions.  Not for us… For the bats!  You see, bats that live east of the Rocky Mountains are being decimated by White Nose Syndrome.  Infection with the fungus causes bats to rouse too frequently from hibernation and they starve to death through excessive activity.  The symptoms include loss of body fat, unusual winter behavior (including flying), damage and scarring of the wing membranes, and death.  Sadly, affected areas have experienced declines in the bat population of over 90%.

Luckily, White Nose Syndrome has not yet made its way to the bats at The Oregon Caves, so the tour guides take precautions.  You cannot bring any shoes or clothing that have entered a cave where the fungus is known to exist.  We checked out and got our tokens, indicating we had passed the safety check.

Then it was time!  The tour lasts about 90 minutes and travels about 1 mile through the cave.  We entered the cave at the entrance where Elijah Davidson first entered in 1874.  It was surprising how quickly the light goes away.  The cave is equipped with electric lights, but our Ranger turned them off to let us experience the total darkness.

A stream runs through the cave; so you could hear the sound of water.  Once the lights were back on, we were guided along a series of narrow passageways and metal staircases.  The Ranger showed us the dingy brown color of the marble along the route, discolored over a hundred years by the oils in so many hands; high up on the walls the marble was bright white.

Flowstone that shows how white the marble at the Oregon Caves used to be

Flowstone that shows how white the marble at the Oregon Caves used to be

We saw the different formations, stalactites and stalagmites, soda straws, popcorn, bacon, moonmilk, columns, draperies (also called curtains) and flowstone.  The draperies in one room reminded me of those meringue cookies that you can buy at the store.

Draperies in the Oregon Caves

Draperies in the Oregon Caves

We also saw where early tourists signed their names on the marble; the writing is clearly visible but is now encased in a clear stone layer, as new marble is forming over top.  Although geological changes occur extremely slowly, this is one time where change is clearly evident.  We also saw where stalactites and stalagmites were broken off and carted away by people eager for a souvenir.

Century Old Graffiti at the Oregon Caves

Century Old Graffiti at the Oregon Caves

Columns, Stalactites and Stalagmites in the Oregon Caves

Columns, Stalactites and Stalagmites in the Oregon Caves

Our Ranger also did a great job of showing us how the tour has changed over time.  We were walking on smooth surfaces lit by electric lights, with metal catwalks and metal staircases.  But in the early days of Oregon Cave tours, tourists did not have the luxury of today’s infrastructure.  They did their tours with lanterns and wooden ladders, which became very slippery from water dripping in caves.  Our Ranger pointed out where the original tour route was, and sections where visitors had to hold onto handholds in the wall, and creep along narrow ledges.  I’m not nearly that adventurous.

We also got to hear stories about life in the caves.  Fossil bones from several species have been found, including a jaguar that is estimated to be between 20,000 and 40,000 years old and a grizzly bear that is over 50,000 years old.  Other fossils include the rare mountain beaver and a blue grouse.  The tour took us by the grizzly bear bones, which are encased in a viewing box at the end of the tour – still in the same place where they were found.

The whole tour was fascinating, seeing all the different rooms and passages, and it didn’t feel like 90 minutes had gone by when we finished the tour.  The cave is pretty cold though, staying a relatively constant 44 degrees, so it was nice to get back out into the 80 degree sunshine!

And after the tour we went to get some lunch at the Oregon Caves Chateau!

Merry Christmas!

I have spent the day enjoying good food, great wine and excellent company today.  The weather is cold, but partly sunny, and we went for a nice hike on the beach and the bluff this afternoon.

Here’s hoping that you and your family are enjoying a wonderful Christmas.  May there be peace, love and hope in your lives.

Merry Christmas!

Camille

Oregon Caves National Monument – A Rare Marble Cave!

Did you know that only 5% of the world’s Caves are made of marble?  And we were lucky enough to visit one of them on our trip to Southern Oregon!

One day of our trip was devoted to a visit to the Oregon Caves National Monument.  I have been wanting to visit for a long time, but when we made our way through the area on our California Road Trip in March 2013, it was too early in the year, and the cave tours hadn’t started yet.  And when we passed through on our way home from our California Marathon Road Trip in December 2013, it was too late, and cave tours were done for the year!  Tours run April through October.  This time I was finally going to see it!

I was so excited about our visit to Oregon Caves National Monument!

I was so excited about our visit to Oregon Caves National Monument!

Oregon Caves is actually just one big cave, but they didn’t know that when it was named.  Although the cave was likely known to Native Americans in the area, they didn’t live inside, or really use the cave at all.  It was “discovered” by Elijah Davidson in November 1874, after he chased his beloved bear hunting dog into the cave as the dog was trying to corner a bear.  He found himself plunged into absolute darkness for several hours, and could only hear the sounds of his dog and the bear.  Eventually he found his way back out, and so did the dog, none the worse for the wear.  No word on how the bear made out…

The cave itself is made up of about 15,000 feet of passageways.  The stone was original limestone that formed about 190 million years ago; gradually the limestone metamorphosed to the marble that it is today.  Although the rock is old, the cave itself is thought to be only between 1 and 3 million years old.  I say that like I have any concept of something that is over 1 million years old!

Like many “explorations” of the time period, a cave exploration in the 1890s created a significant amount of destruction, breaking off stalactites and stalagmites, widening passageways by destroying cave formations, and sometimes dynamiting new passageways altogether…  Add to that the numbers of early tourists who wrote their names on the cave.  Ugh…  Fortunately, the carnage mostly stopped in 1903, when President Theodore Roosevelt designated the forest around the cave as a National Forest.  On July 12, 1909, Oregon Caves National Monument was protected by President William Howard Taft.

Because of the caves isolated location, only about 1,800 people visited in 1920.  After roads were constructed, tourism increased, but it wasn’t the easiest place to get to.  In 1934, the Oregon Caves Chateau was constructed, a six story, 23 room hotel built into the side of the mountain.  The chateau allowed people to stay at the site, rather than having to travel all the way from Grants Pass to the caves and back in one day.

I’ll tell you about our tour in my next post!

I’ll tell you about our tour in my next post!

Even so, Oregon Caves National Monument is still relatively isolated, about an hour from Grants Pass and up a long, winding and often narrow road.  It is 20 miles east of the small town of Cave Junction, Oregon.  The monument is open all year long, but cave tours don’t occur in winter, and the road is occasionally closed due to snow.  As a result, annual visitation is only estimated to be 80,894.  I’ll tell you about our visit and cave tour in my next post!

Have you visited Oregon Caves National Monument?  How did you enjoy your visit?

Peeper

Coraline loves the Christmas tree.  She loves running under it, running away from it, batting at the ornaments, and lying underneath.  She has mellowed out a bit, as this year there have been no ornament decapitations (knocking on wood now…).

This picture is of Coraline lying underneath the tree, peering out from between the branches.

 

Coraline peeks from her favorite spot

Coraline peeks from her favorite spot

Christmas will be here before we know it!  Happy Wednesday, Peeps!