Before i Forget : Simon Jones's blog

September 2006

Photography and TravelTuesday, September 5th, 2006, (8:12 pm)

I was really looking forward to staying in a tree house in Southern Oregon though I had no idea what to expect. When Missy suggested we take a trip to southern Oregon and stay in a tree house I was totally up for that adventure, it seemed so completely off the wall that I knew I’d regret it if I said no. But what is a tree house? Would it have any of the luxuries that we’ve become accustom to or would it be more like camping at altitude? I was about to find out.

Located in Takilma, Oregon, within the Siskyou Mountains and a stone’s throw from the Illinois River and the town of Cave Junction, the Out’n’About ‘treesort’ has a friendly ‘hippy commune feel to it.

As you drive up the unmade road toward the site a hand written sign tells you that the pace of life here is relaxed. Slow down! 10mph – Dust! And they’re not kidding, I looked in the rearview mirror as I drove up the road to see a huge cloud of dust behind me set against the dry landscape that reminded me of many a scene from a western.

We parked the car and looked around for someone to ‘check in’ with. We were a little late due to the fact we had made an unplanned stop at the Oregon Vortex to witness all kinds of strangeness and unexplained phenomena. There’s a large wooden house in the centre of the ‘treesort’ so we assumed this was where we should go first. No one answered the door so we walked in at which point I wondered if perhaps this was just someone’s house and we were trespassing. Like old friends we wandered around the house calling out “hello”, but no one answered.

Eventually we found one of the staff (called ‘tree fairies’) outside near the stables chatting with another guest. She greeted us warmly by name, which impressed me. She pointed up into the trees above and told us that we were staying in Forestree, the tallest tree at the ‘facilatree’ which is only accessible from a rope walk some 35ft high!

Missy specifically chose that four person tree house but looked to be having second thoughts when the ‘tree fairy’ told us that we shouldn’t be alarmed if the treehouse swayed in the wind. “It’s designed to do that.” She said.

To get to our tree house you had two flights of stairs (build around a tree of course) to a deck, then a rope walk to another deck, then another rope walk to the treehouse. Anyone who doesn’t have a head for heights is well advised to not even consider either of the two very tall treehouses at the ‘treesort’. The rope walks alone are scary enough. In fact it’s deemed more practical to actually winch your luggage up to the tree house rather than attempt to carry it across the rather rustic rope walks.

All of the tree houses were comfortable, if a little rustic at times. Showers and cooking facilities were situated in the main communal are which itself centered around an open fire and a stage area.

On our second evening there I sat around the fire with some of the other guests including a family and later a bunch of people from the Ambrosia restaurant in Eugene, Oregon. Accompanied by the sounds of crickets we toasted marshmallows and exchanged stories in true camp fire fashion until the silly hours.

The ‘treesort’ is actually ideally suited for families as there are plenty of activities you can do right there. We actually used the site as a home base and travelled down into Northern California to the Redwood National Forest, but I would imagine if you were a kid this place would make for a magical memory. Heck, it’s not a place I’ll be forgetting in a long time if only for the fact it is so unique.

In the mornings everyone heads to the main log cabin where a ‘breakfast fairy’ is preparing a selection of tasty treats to get the day started, but one thing that had us all curious were the ‘Fantasy Flakes.’ On the Out’n’About website there is mention of these fantasy flakes which rather look like they might be some kind of special breakfast cereal.

The founder of Out’n’About, Michael Garnier, informed us that if we wanted to experience ‘Fantasy Flakes’ we would have to go outside with him, which we all dutifully did. Once outside he instructed us, one at a time, to sit in the chair whereupon he used some wooden device to cast fast moving shadows on our eye lids. It sounds lame but was actually really cool. The effect was that we would all see strange shapes and colors which, here at least, are known as ‘fantasy flakes.’

All in all the whole experience was entirely enjoyable and quite different to anything else. The rustic ‘hippy’ feel to the place only made it seem more enchanting. In fact, one might say it all felt very ‘Oregon’, after all, where else would the breakfast cook be called a fairy? I should thank Missy for finding this place, and I’d recommend it to anyone else in a heartbeat.

Out’n’About ‘treesort’, Oregon
Oregon tree houses reviewed
Other tree houses reviewed
Oregon Vortex

Photography and TravelMonday, September 4th, 2006, (9:00 pm)

Oregon is without a doubt my most favorite state out of the many across the U.S that I have visited. It has a breathtaking array of landscapes and a rich variety of culture that I could explore time and time again. Visiting here is always a pleasure.

Usually I end up spending a lot of time hanging out in Portland while I’m here but on this occasion Missy decided to take some time off work while I was in town so that we could get out and travel a little. She had planned for us to visit Crater Lake and the Redwood national park in southern Oregon in a trip that would take in an overnight stay in Bend and then two nights in a tree house, something I was very excited about.

On the way to the tree houses we stopped overnight at a small town called Bend where we stayed in the Old St Francis School, a McMenamins hotel. The McMenamins group of pubs and hotels are usually based around restored historic buildings that each provide a unique experience based upon their history. Given the stress of my lost and found luggage situation I was happy to take advantage of the turkish bath at the Old St Francis School. Though I’m quite sure this wasn’t a feature when the place was a school, it was super relaxing to kick back and chill out in the 104 degree water under an open roof looking up at the sky above.

The next day we headed out early and went to the staggeringly beautiful Crater Lake. The journey took us through the dense Umpqua National Forest and the Pumice Desert where the smell of nearby pine forest mixed with the smell of burning wood from forest fires that couldn’t have been that far away. From there it was only a very short drive uphill to the edge of Crater Lake.

We couldn’t see the lake as we drove to the parking lot at ‘Merriam Point’ a famous viewing point, but I’d seen pictures in books so I knew that the view I was about to see would be stunning on this clear hot September day. As we walked to the viewpoint I wasn’t disappointed, looking across to Wizard Island the staggeringly deep blue lake stretched out before us stopping me in my tracks. It was awesome!

Crater Lake is some five miles wide and surrounded on all sides by cliffs up to 2,000 feet high. At its deepest point it’s 1,943 feet deep making it the deepest lake in the United States and among the deepest lakes in the world. With no streams running in or out of the the lake it is considered a closed ecological system. The crystal clear water comes from natural springs, rain and snow meaning the lake has remained unusually pure throughout time.

Old Saint Francis School
Umpqua national forest
Pumice Desert
Crater Lake national park
Crater Lake lodges
A bigger picture of Crater Lake

Found on the webSunday, September 3rd, 2006, (11:51 pm)

It would be kind of cool if it did…

Specialized Bicycle
Specialized body geometry

TravelSunday, September 3rd, 2006, (5:15 pm)

Its never a good feeling when you’re one of the last people stood in an airport baggage claim area as four bags that clearly don’t belong to you make laps on in the baggage carousel. You know those bags aren’t yours, but you check their tags anyway. You don’t want to give up hope on your luggage, instead you stand there watching the little entrance that the bags come into the baggage claim area hoping that your wayward bag will appear like a lost lost dog finding its way home. But after a while the truth becomes inescapable… this dog isn’t coming home tonight.

Baggage claim offices are always the same. Grumpy forgotten airline staff, presumably too awkward and ugly to work on the check in counter, ask you a series of mumbled questions demonstrating that they might actually be more fed up than you are. Any attempt to make light of the situation is wasted. Your luggage is lost, it’s really not that funny, and if you’re making a joke then you’re only showing how inexperienced you are at the whole lost luggage game. They know only to well that in a day or so, any good humor you had about the delay in getting your luggage will have evaporated like puddles in the sun.

I arrived on Friday. My flight wasn’t complicated. I flew from Manchester to Chicago then claimed my baggage and rechecked it onto my onward flight to Portland Oregon due to depart three hours after that time. Several hours later I am that person standing in the baggage claim area losing hope as I watch the same 4 bags make laps on the carousel like riderless horses of a merry-go-round.

Quite how United Airlines managed to lose my luggage is beyond me. But the miserable baggage claim agent assures me that the bag isn’t “lost” it’s just “delayed” and it will arrive early the next morning whereupon it will be delivered to my address in Portland. No amount of screaming and shouting will help, and besides after several hours of sitting in cattle class I’ve lost the will to do much else than nod my head in agreement with whatever I am told.

My luggage doesn’t arrive as promised and with all patience and understanding gone, I call United’s 1800 baggage claim number. First off I have to dispense with the friendly voice activated robotic operator who has trouble understanding my British accent. In order to help the virtual operator I have to put on an American accent so that ‘he’ can get me through to a real person. The next problem though is worse. That ‘real person’ is an Indian call centre operator in Dheli, India, and they have little grasp of the English language, let alone the geography of the United States.

What follows is a series of fumbles and mistakes that has my luggage flown to Phoenix where it spends a night before being flown to Denver, then back to Portland despite my explicit instructions to fly the luggage to Redmond then deliver it to my hotel just down the road from there in a town called Bend.

The luggage is scanned onto a flight to Redmond that arrives just as we are driving by the airport so we elect to pick it up. However when we get to the airport we’re told that the bag has again been lost as it wasn’t on that flight that just arrived. However, in this little airport it seems the staff really do care. Three of them start calling around trying to locate my wayward luggage, and eventually it is found in a baggage hall in Portland.

It will, according to United staff at Redmond, be put on a flight from Portland to their little airport these evening then delivered to my hotel later tonight. This time I feel a little more confident that it might just get here, but in all honesty I won’t be the least bit surprised if I don’t see it until I return to Portland on Thursday.

Movies and PoliticalSaturday, September 2nd, 2006, (12:55 pm)

A sniper has gunned down President Bush as he delivered a speech to business leaders in Chicago. Secret service agents attempted to rush the President away, but he slumped to the floor and died at the scene.

That’s the story-line of a what promises to be a highly controversial film called ‘Death of a President’ which will be premiered at the Toronto film festival next month and aired on the British digital TV station, More4, shortly thereafter. The film, which is shot in the style of a retrospective documentary, starts with the assassination of President Bush in October 2007. It uses the fictional murder to explore the effects of Mr Bush’s war on terror both in the US and across the world.

Using a combination of archive footage, and computer enhanced special effects the President’s fictional moments are chillingly ‘real looking’.

“I’m sure there will be people who are upset by it. But when you watch it, you realise what a sophisticated piece of work it is,” said Peter Dale, the head of More4. “It’s not sensational or simplistic, it’s thought provoking.”

At this time there are no plans to release the film in the United States, but the film makers and distributors are believed to be keen to see it aired on American television. The White House declined to comment on any matter regarding the film.

Upon the announcement that the film would be aired on British television the Daily Mail newspaper published a article that also takes a retrospective look at a world after President Bush is assassinated. In the piece written by Mark Almond he writes. “gloating over Bush’s death soon gave way to a sober realisation that he had actually been a check on Dick Cheney’s ruthless way of defending America from enemies at home or abroad.”

As unpopular as the President may indeed be, it would seem that few relish a possibility of having vice President Dick Cheney sitting in the oval office.

More4 are also set feature a another upcoming film called ‘The Trial of Tony Blair’, which takes a satirical look at the imagined resignation of Britain’s Prime Minister. Both films are intended to spark political debate, though ‘Death of a President’ is expected to be the focus of much controversy when it airs in October.

What if Bush really was assassinated?
More4 risks US ire with Bush assassination film

TravelFriday, September 1st, 2006, (6:30 am)

Look our America, here I come! I’ll be in Portland, Oregon, in time for dinner.

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