Tuesday, July 03, 2007

West Coast road trip

The internet is a permanent and public space - hence the policy of this blog not to publish the names or photos of other people, except under very unusual circumstances (like, for example, if that person lives in southern Argentina.) So if I tell you that I've been to a family reunion in Vancouver, BC, you'll have to let me leave it at that. This has meant driving from San Francisco to Canada up highway 101; here are some pictures from the trip.

First through redwood country in Northern California. We took a detour that takes you along a stretch of forest known as the "Avenue of the Giants" because of the size of the trees there. I learned recently from the latest BBC nature documentaries that a huge amount of the world's biomass can be found in redwood forests like these, but because most of that is inedible and locked up in spiny leaves, there is relatively little animal life here, even when compared with a seasonal deciduous forest. I suppose that may be why places like this are so often described as "peaceful" and "quiet." Except when there are passing trucks, of course.
We then drove up the Oregon and Washington coasts (it was raining), and stopped in Seattle for the second night of the trip. The next morning we arrived in Vancouver. Here you can see the iconic totem poles in Stanley Park, which I have photographed using my one and only photographic trick (something in foreground, interesting thing in background out of focus).

Having spent so much time in the car, we hiked up Grouse Mountain. The trail rises 2800 feet in a little over 2 miles. We finished in an hour and 26 minutes, only slightly less than the estimated hour and a half. Some regular runners went charging by, finishing in 35 minutes or so. Here you can see Vancouver from the top, as well as the cables of the tram that you use to descend - it's too steep to descend the same way you came up.

Finally, on the return trip, a bit of a pilgrimage. We stopped in Portland, which looked to me to be one of the most attractive and livable cities I've ever seen in the US. I swear it wasn't just because of Powell's City of Books, the largest bookstore in the world. The place rests heavily on a full city block and contains seven enormous rooms filled floor to ceiling with new and used material. (I had a dream last night, after going to Powell's, that I had too many books in my house and my floor was sagging dangerously.) It's impossible to capture the size of the place in a picture. Let me put it this way: this was one little hallway in one of the rooms: perhaps 1/15 of 1/7 of the bookstore. Dreamy. If that isn't enough, there are five other branch locations, some of them specialized stores, in the Portland area. In case you're wondering (and you're not), the Powell's in Chicago seems to have been started by the same person who started the Powell's in Oregon, but the companies are totally independent of each other. M. Powell, whoever you are, thank you.

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