Losing Weight by Eating In
I've been working on losing weight since late 2015. It's been an up-and-down process. I haven't written about it in several months because it's been a lot more up than down since then. Plus lots of frustrating plateaus. Just recently, though, I've started dropping weight again. I've shed 5 pounds in the past two weeks.

I believe the reason for my recent success after months of plateauing and slowly gaining weight is eating more meals at home. My typical approach over the past 18 months has been to eat lunches out every day and eat home at least a few nights a week. When I eat out I pick places where I can get reasonably a low-carbohydrate option. But I've come to suspect that these options are not quite as low-carb as they may seem.

Restaurants succeed by making their food taste great. One way they do that is by sneaking sugar into places you wouldn't expect it, like meat marinades. As a result my carb count has been high enough to downshift my weight-loss diet to a maintenance diet.

Lately I've been eating more meals at home, including lunch several times a week. I believe that's made all the difference. Now I control the carbs and know what's in my food.

One small downside is that eating in so often makes me feel stir crazy. I've made a habit of lunches out the past many years not just because restaurant food is tasty but because it's a chance to get out. Having a change of scenery during the day elevates my mood. For now, I'll just have to console myself with the fact I'm finally losing weight again.

Southern Washington Wrap-Up
planes trains and automobiles
Southern Washington Weekend Getaway Travelog 7
PDX Airport Gate 16. Sun 23 Mar 2017, 9pm.

Right now I should be sitting on the airplane waiting for takeoff, but instead I'm in the gate area writing up notes on today's adventures. I've got extra time because our flight is delayed 45 minutes. 🙄

After hiking to Panther Creek Falls earlier today we kind of threw in the towel— on hiking, anyway. Hawk's back was torqued, and the increasing rain and gloom were additional disincentives.

That's not to say we were totally done with the outdoors. We did make a stop for another unmarked waterfall we could see from the road. It was at least 60' tall and back a few hundred yards in a canyon. We parked and explored the trail.

Unnamed roadside falls near Stevenson, WA. Apr 2017.

After a few steps in the trail took a very steep drop. In dry weather we would've climbed down but with everything soaked with rain we figured we'd slip a few times and get messy— or worse, hurt. I took a slightly less steep drop down side trail to a knob to shoot the picture above. Even there I slipped once. I wasn't hurt (thankfully) but did get muddy and was dissuaded from trying the steeper trail.

Next we stopped by the Stevenson Museum in Stevenson, WA. The manager at our hotel this morning had recommended it. Plus it had a bathroom where I could wash up from slipping in the mud. 😉

The museum's displays were focused primarily around US expansion along the Columbia River.You have died of dysentery. The famed Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-06 (Wikipedia link) mapped an overland route to the area and brought back stories of great wealth to be had in farming and trapping. Hardy settlers began heading west. To hold control of the area they killed a lot of natives. And even without the fighting, times were tough. I hear that lots of people died from dysentery.

After the museum we crossed over the river to Oregon on the Bridge of the Gods. I'd have stopped to take a picture but it was a narrow bridge and I would've held up traffic. Plus, the bridge was under car, so not really a great vantage point.

On the Oregon side of the river we passed the Bonneville Dam project. A glance at the clock showed we had about 20 minutes left until they closed at 5, so we decided to stop in and see their musuem. We had to go through a vehicle inspection run by a heavily armed guard. Apparently it's like this at all hydroelectric infrastructure now because terrorists might try to blow them up. Once inside we found the museum to be dull. It had only a few displays about the construction of the huge dam and two generating stations, each of which they diverted the massive Columbia River to build on dry land! And of course there was no access to the dam or electrical factories themselves. There was still a small sign to where there used to be a visitor center in one of the powerhouses. Well, I had a great tour years ago at the massive Shasta Dam. I guess that'll just have to do.

With still a few hours to kill before needing to be at the airport we considered doing a short waterfall hike. There are many great waterfalls along the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge. The thing is, the weather was still crummy— and getting worse with twilight approaching. And we've actually been to all the roadside falls before. On a trip in late 2015 I shared pictures from two of them: Multnomah Falls (our third visit there) and Wahkeena Falls. We didn't feel like being out in the drear to see them for the nth time so we headed to the airport to relax before our flight.

Now, if only the plane would get here....

Hunting Panther Creek Falls
hiking, in beauty i walk
Southern Washington Weekend Getaway Travelog 6
Carson, WA. Sun 23 Mar 2017, 2pm.

The weekend's crummy weather stuck with us as we ascended once again into the mountains of Washington's Gifford Pinchot National Forest. In fact it got worse. The rain poured more steadily beneath a solid layer of clouds that didn't seem very far above our elevation. The Panther Creek Falls we were headed to first sit at lower elevation than the Fall Creek Falls we hoped to do later in the day, so we hoped at least that snow wouldn't block us.

Like yesterday, finding the trailhead took some effort. Our guidebook gave a driving distance measurement, which we tracked carefully, but a side road near the trailhead was unsigned, as was the trail itself. These left us wondering if the distance measurement was accurate. We drove back and forth a few times before deciding to treat it as accurate, park, and search the area around it on foot for signs of a trail.

Once out of the car we could hear the falls, a clue we were in the right area. And Hawk caught a glimpse through a stand of trees. Then we found not one but two trails down the side of the hill. Hawk explored one while I checked out the other. Hers was rough and steep, and she torqued her back just investigating it, so we together down mine.

Panther Creek Falls, Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Apr 2017.
Two creeks tumble together at Panther Creek Falls. Which one is Panther Creek? Who cares!

For all the remoteness and hard-to-find-ness of the trail, the Forest Service has built a nice wooden viewing deck above the falls. The picture above shows the view. Panther Creek Falls is actually not one but two falls. Two creeks join together as they tumble over the cliffs.

Which one is Panther Creek, and what's the name of the other? With a sight as beautiful as above I don't care to figure out the answer.

After about 20 minutes we hiked back up the hill. Upon reaching the road I spotted that there actually is a trail sign.

Panther Creek Falls Trail Sign. Apr 2017.
Caption here

It looks huge and obvious from this angle, but I'm standing less than 10' away from it. While I was driving the car I was paying attention to signficantly father distances. At just 25' this light blue paint job becomes pretty much invisible, especially on a wet day like today.

Getting My Feet Wet at Dog Creek Falls
hiking, in beauty i walk
Southern Washington Weekend Getaway Travelog 5
Carson, WA. Sun 23 Mar 2017, noon.

As of a few days ago the weather forecast for Sunday in the Columbia River Gorge area looked to be partly crummy: bits of rain, bits of sun. But this morning the weather is definitely mostly crummy. It's cool and it's either actively raining or looking like it will start again soon. That puts a damper (no pun intended) on our desire to hike.

After breakfast we visited an antiques shop to look around instead of spending time outdoors. But once we hit the road our wanderlust caught back up to us. As we were rolling down the highway we spotted a pretty little waterfall in a side canyon. There was a gravel parking area nearby, so we turned around and went back to it to explore.

Dog Creek Falls Trailhead. Apr 2017.

For whatever reason Dog Creek Falls isn't in either of our guidebooks. Maybe it's too seasonal? Too short of a hike? Either way, it was flowing hard during this wet season, and the 1/4 mile walk was right in Hawk's comfort zone.

An easy trail enters the canyon and quickly leads to the 30' tall falls. From dry land the falls are partly obscured by a rock wall on the right. With my hiking boots on I wasn't afraid of a little water so I steped into the creek to take pictures like this:

Dog Creek Falls near Carson, WA. Apr 2017.

I got a little too bold with my plodding through the water and entered an area deep enough to overtop my boots. The water wasn't frigid like I expected. It was merely cold so I stood in it long enough to take pictures with various settings.

Once back on dry land it was squish-squish-squish as I walked. Fortunately I have other shoes and socks in the car.

A Night in Hood River
Golden Eagle
Southern Washington Weekend Getaway Travelog 4
Hood River, OR. Sun 23 Mar 2017, 10am.

We arrived at our hotel in Hood River, OR last night around 7pm. We checked in, cleaned up a little bit, and then headed out in search of food.

Hood River is an old lumber town along the Columbia River 60 miles east of Portland. Until several years ago it looked like a lot of old lumber towns: lots of old buildings, many of them empty. Recently it's enjoyed a rebirth as a weekend traveler mecca. Old buildings have been repurposed, and there's new construction everywhere.The hotels are mostly full, most of the restaurants had waits even at nearly 8pm.

We walked away from two restaurants that quoted us 45 minutes and gave up on one that seated us right away but couldn't be bothered to offer any service. We ended up at a Mexican restaurant that also had a sushi bar. I've never seen that combination before! I wasn't particularly trusting of sushi that's a side game so I stuck with a shredded beef burrito.

After dinner we returned to the hotel, went for a soak in the hot tub, and then wasted time online in our room before going to bed.

This morning we slept in a bit again. The weather outside wasn't quite nice enough to motivate us to get going early. "Rise and shine" isn't as much fun when the sun's not actually shining.

Not being in the mood for a big breakfast this morning, and not particularly wanting to deal with 45 minute waits, we figured we'd check out what food was available at a few gas station convenience marts nearby. The first gas station we visited had half its gas pumps out of service but did tout its microbrew beer selection and offered a drive-through espresso bar. Welcome to the Pacific Northwest!

A Day in Gifford Pinchot
cars, road trip!
Southern Washington Weekend Getaway Travelog 3
Carson, WA. Sat 22 Mar 2017, 7pm.

We've spent much of the day tooling around remote areas of Southern Washington in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Primarily we sought out waterfalls from our Very Dull Guidebook. We also enjoyed driving in the mountains and basically took things as they came today.

Google Map of Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington

Small Towns

This morning after breakfast we finally crossed into Washington for the first time in this "Southern Washington" trip. We passed quickly through Vancouver, WA, and exited the interstate highway to wend our way north. Suburbs gave way to sparse farms before we reach the tiny town of Yacolt. How tiny? It's basically a general store, a bank, and a school. Oh, and two coffee stands. Welcome to Washington! We were in Yacolt to see a waterfall, though, not drink the coffee, so after we visited we continued onward.

Next up we stopped in the tiny town of Chelatchie a bit further north. Again, it was a general store, a bank, and a school. But this general store looked bigger. We were ready for a bathroom stop and wanted to check road conditions ahead (cell service was very spotty even in this town) so we went inside.

True to form this general was, basically, everything. A gas station. A convenience store. A grocery store. Some goods on consignment. And a deli cafe with several tables. It seemed like a good time to stop for a light lunch so we did that while we were there.

Improvising As We Go

Back on the road we continued heading north/northeast, entering the southern part of the Mt. St. Helens area. The visitor center for the volcano view is on the opposite site so we didn't see that, but we spotted signs for "Ape Cave" which seemed interesting, so we gave that a shot.

Approaching the trailhead for the Ape Cave we crossed above the snow line. It was like, one minute, no snow. Next minute, patches of snow in well shaded areas. Minute after that, drifts and banks covering half the ground. And despite this the trailhead was crowded. While the presence of crowds generally indicates a trail is good, the snowy conditions, distance, and prospect of scrambling around in the cave seemed like more than Hawk wanted to tackle given her back, so we headed down back below the snow line and continued our drive.

The Ape Cave was not the only place we stopped on a whim. Throughout the day we passed numerous unnamed waterfalls along the side of the road. The Cascade Mountains in the middle of spring snow melt, and water is flowing everywhere. When we'd stop at one waterfall that looked pretty, usually we could turn around 180° and see another one miles away on the opposite side of the valley.

Getting Remote

Soon we veered off the better traveled routes through Gifford Pinchot and probed into really remote areas in search of a few waterfalls along Lewis Creek. Signs along this narrow but paved road warned that it might be blocked by snow ahead. We saw very little snow in the area but plenty of evidence of winter only barely over: branches and brush covered the road. In many places only a single lane swerved around a fallen tree or rock. Dodging these obstacles looked risky at first but we soon grew accustomed to it, and the road was never 100% blocked.

Steering around trees fallen across the road wasn't the only challenge. Searching for waterfalls here meant literally searching, as the directions in the Very Dull Guidebook were hard to align to conditions on the ground. Partly that's because the author is a university professor who apparently thought he was writing a hydrology diary rather than a hikers' guidebook, and partly it's because all the information is at least 10 years old and conditions change.

For one of the hikes we had to drive back and forth three times and try one false start before finding the right trailhead. In the years since that entry in the book was last proofed, storms have damaged part of the trail and the Forest Service has chosen to remove the signs and close off the small parking area instead of repairing it.

Over the Mountain and to the River

After visiting several waterfalls it was getting late in the afternoon so we planned a route out of the woods and toward Hood River, OR, our stop for the night. Ironically the rain that had been pouring on us all day let up at this point. But rather than be frustrated by that we chose to simply enjoy the better light as we crossed through some high country at the headwaters of the Wind River. Here we were well above the snowline, with drifts 3 to 4 feet deep on both sides of the road. The road was in great shape, fortunately, and with air temperatures about 41F (5C) we weren't worried about fresh snow or ice.

By the way, Gifford Pinchot, for whom the forest is named, was the first head of the US Forest Service. (Gifford Pinchot Wikipedia page) He introduced, for better or worse, the form of public-private partnership of national forests that lasts to this day. The government owns and manages the land, and grants logging rights to private companies.

10 Hours in Portland
planes trains and automobiles
Southern Washington Weekend Getaway Travelog 2
Hotel near PDX Airport. Sat 22 Mar 2017, 9:30am.

We're 10 hours in to our trip to Southern Washington— which is almost 25% of this crazy short weekend trip— and we're not even in Southern Washington yet. We're still in Oregon, near PDX airport, getting ready to leave our hotel and get some breakfast. This could have been like our last trip a month ago, 8 Hours in Portland, but this time around we decided to sleep in a bit later instead of setting alarms for 6:30am after checking in to the hotel after midnight and staying up until at least 1am.

Off to Portland
planes trains and automobiles
Southern Washington Weekend Getaway Travelog #1
SJC Airport. Fri 21 Mar 2017, 9pm.

Tonight Hawk and I are headed off to Portland this evening for a brief weekend getaway in the Columbia River area and Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington. We've visited the Oregon side of the Columbia River several times— it's beautiful and worth going back to— but this time we want to see new things. And our trusty Very Dull Book of Waterfalls indicates there are some nice ones in Southern Washington..

Yes, I'm going on this trip after the drama earlier today (locked post). The two weren't planned that way. They just fell together.

We planned this trip a few weeks ago. Yes, we also took a previous trip to Oregon just a few weeks ago! I don't remember for sure but I think we planned this one right after returning from the other one.

The initial impetus for this trip was status chasing. Southwest Airlines offered me a fast track for their A List if I take 6 flights in within a certain period of time ending April 30. With this trip I'll complete 6 paid flights and I'll have elite status for the rest of the year. But the trip isn't solely about status chasing. We plan to enjoy this weekend getaway doing stuff we love in the great outdoors! Too bad the weather looks like it'll be crummy up there, with cool temps and rain both days. Well, at least the flights were basically half price thanks to my Companion Pass earned from credit card churning.

And Then There Were Two
Golden Eagle
The family of geese that's been grazing in front of my company's office this month shrank from 4 goslings to 3 last week. This week there are only two chicks. Another one didn't make it, but those that have are growing fast. Circle of life.
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And Then There Were Three
Golden Eagle
The family of geese that's been grazing in front of my company's office the past few weeks was smaller by one last Friday. Only three of the goslings were out with mom and dad. "Maybe the little one's hiding," people whispered. Alas, no. The geese parents have never let the little ones stray more than 10 feet away from them. And no one saw the little one all day. I'm sure it's food for predators and carrion eaters by now. Circle of life.
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