Friday, August 29, 2008

Still time to donate!

Just a reminder that it's not too late to help me in the 2008 Portland Race for the Cure. This will be my third year running the 5K with tens of thousands of others, raising money to beat breast cancer.

So far, with your help, I've raised 28% of my $500 goal - YAY!!! If you have been thinking of donating, now's the time :)
Just click HERE to visit my page ( and make a donation. Any amount will help.

As always, THANK YOU for your support!!
-Liz :)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Castle! 7/26/08

Liz and I were anxious to get another trip in before she headed back to work for the school year, so we planned an outing to Mount Rainier National Park. This is a place we had passed through on a previous vacation and were anxious to explore further. Our friends Jacob and Lindsey decided to join us for the adventure.

Since we planned the trip on short notice and weren’t exactly sure when we were going, we decided not to make camping reservations and just wing it. There are several large campgrounds in and near the park, so we didn’t really anticipate this being a problem (foreshadowing alert!).

We left after work on Friday. Upon reaching the park entrance after dark we were greeted by a sign that read, "All Campgrounds Full". We drove to scope out some campgrounds just outside the park, which were also full. Kept driving. Resort cabins--also full. Drove some more. Hotels--also full. "How about a spot on that church lawn? Churches like to help homeless people!" We deep sixed the church plan after pulling into the parking lot and realizing there was some type of all-night youth part going on that we decided we probably shouldn’t crash.

Out came the atlas as we debated which forest roads were likely to have flat spots for tents. As we headed down the first road to explore we ran across a sign for a Christian camp. We stopped in to ask if they had any place we could put up a couple tents and they turned us away because they had a family camp going on, but they did give us a couple of suggestions. The first was a teen party spot and garbage-dumping area in the woods. Not exactly the scenic National Park experience we came for, but we were getting desperate so we checked it out. It wasn’t as bad as I had pictured, but the only viable tent spots had been covered with piles of concrete.

The next place they suggested was this red-neck campground at the lake run by the Lion’s club. By this time we weren’t really excited about driving around in the dark on Forest Service land, so we headed for the lake. What we found was an open gravel parking lot with pit toilets, no water, no picnic tables, and no designated spots. As far as we could tell you put $10 in a box and put your tent/RV/boat trailer/motorcycle/4x4 anywhere you darn well pleased. So that’s what we did.

We put our tents next to an RV and parked our cars on the other side to protect us from getting run over by drunk red necks burning through the gravel parking lot at 3 a.m. We went to sleep under the glow of neon lights from the local tavern and drunken campers telling crude (and LOUD!) jokes into the wee-hours of the morning. Good times!

The view from our "campsite"

Despite our late night we woke up early, anxious to get out of there as fast as possible. We went to the park and set up to cook our breakfast in one of the day use areas. After breakfast we checked in at the park campgrounds to see if there might be an opening for that night. No luck, all booked up.

By now it was about noon so we decided to abandon our efforts at securing a place to stay for the night and go on the climbing trip we’d come for so the weekend wouldn’t be a total waste.

About 1:30 p.m. we left the trail at Reflection Lakes for the saddle between Pinnacle and Plummer peaks. The original plan was to climb Pinnacle, Plummer, and The Castle. Due to our late start, we opted to head straight for the most ambitious of the three peaks, The Castle.

Rainier on the approach

After reaching the saddle we traversed across the talus slope under Pinnacle towards The Castle. From my past experience on this climb I knew there was a hidden 4th class gully that makes a nice shortcut to the base of the summit block and eliminates some of the looser rock we would otherwise have to negotiate.

I sensed some trepidation amongst my companions when I pointed out the gully we would be ascending and they replied, "Really? Are you sure we’re supposed to go up that?"

I assured them it wasn’t as bad as it looked, but I had everyone don climbing harnesses in case someone decided they needed the added psychological confidence boost that a rope can provide.

4th class gully

Jacob bravely volunteered to go first. About ¾ of the way up he reached the crux, which required an exposed but easy step around a bulge in the rock. This obstacle seemed a bit overwhelming so I offered the added security of a rope, which he gladly accepted. I free-soloed to the top of the gully and set up a top rope, then rappelled back down to tie him in, then headed back up to the top to belay. Since I had the rope out, I used it to belay up Lindsey and my lovely assistant Liz, who helped at the bottom by making sure everyone was tied in correctly before heading up.

Once we were on top of the ridge we only needed to traverse 100 yards or so to the base of the summit block. From there I led the short pitch to the summit ridge and rappelled back down so that I could belay people up one at a time on top rope. We used this method to get everyone on top of the knife-edged ridge that forms the summit of The Castle.

It’s hard to get a feel for this alpine climbing stuff without actually being there, but I’ll do my best to describe it. Being on top of this ridge provides an airy feeling, with a few hundred feet of exposure above the valley separating us from the looming mass of Mt. Rainier. Once we were all gathered safely on the summit ridge I announced that they were going to have the opportunity to go to the top. "Aren’t we already on top?" they asked. "No, I mean the Tippy Top," I replied as I pointed toward the washing machine-sized block that marks the high point of this particular ridge.

From here I set out to secure a fixed line across the top of the ridge that we could use to run back and forth to the summit and back. Everyone was pretty content to stay put and take in the views from where we were, but with some encouragement I persuaded Liz and Jacob to make the final traverse to the true summit.

Liz on top!

After tagging the summit and taking some photos it was time to get down. Since nobody but me knew how to rappel, this involved tying in and lowering one person at a time, which took a while, but got everyone down safely. It took a lot of courage to sit back on the rope and trust the system and the belayer (yours truly), but everyone stepped up to the challenge.

We all made it down!

We turned on our headlamps about half way back to the car and spent some time laying in the empty parking lot next to Reflection Lakes and enjoying the warm summer night. Since we didn’t have anywhere to stay we opted to drive all the way home that night, which made for a pretty long day.

I must say I was quite impressed at the fortitude displayed by my group of alpine newbies. This was quite an ambitious trip for those with no previous climbing experience. Despite our disastrous camping experience, the climb went wonderfully, and everyone had smiles on their faces by the time we got back to the cars. I think they’ll be back for more. : )

Saturday, August 23, 2008

They pay me for this?!

I've always wanted a job where they paid me to organize, decorate and beautify stuff... oh, and bake! I am truly blessed.
-Liz :)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Gobble, gobble

I know summer's a long way from over, but the awesome cool, gray weather has me salivating for Turkey Feast 2008! Plans for the annual feeding fest are already under way, and I can't wait!

Turkey Feast 2007

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Stormy Monkeys

Monkey Face, Smith Rock (previous trip)

On June 28 I climbed one of Oregon’s most iconic rock formations, the Monkey Face in Smith Rock State Park.

I was joined by two of my classmates from the Mazamas Advanced Rock class for an ascent of the West Face Variation (5.8 A0) with a direct variation on pitch 2 (5.8).

There were at least three other groups ahead of us on the route, so we did a lot of waiting to get started as well as on the route. We didn’t get to leave the ground until around 11:30 a.m.

About 2 pitches up, a series of thunderstorms started rolling through. The winds would pick up and it would sprinkle a bit and then clear up. We could see these cloud systems moving through in the distance and dropping rain, but it would have been a real pain to bail since the rap station is just off the summit, so up we went.

By the time we were headed up the last pitch out of the cave onto the summit it was raining and hailing a bit and blowing like crazy. By the time the third person in our group was on the summit there was thunder and lightning out to the west. Time to get off fast! I was getting pretty worried about the 180’ free-hanging rappel in 30 mph winds, but we got lucky and the wind stopped and the sun came out by the time we got the rappel set up.

At camp that night people were telling about how they bailed on routes all over the park when the first series of storms came through. Some said there were pebbles blowing off the top, so it was basically raining rocks. Someone said there were gusts clocked at 55 mph, but I don’t think we had any over 30-35.

This was a great way to end the class. Definitely an adventure I’ll remember for quite some time.


Brad's Summer Adventures

Now that climbing season is winding down, Liz has been bugging me to chronicle a few of my alpine adventures this summer. I dedicated most of this season to taking the Mazamas Advanced Rock class. This comprehensive class teaches the technical and mental skills necessary to lead 5th-class rock. I was out on the rock with my class nearly every weekend from April through June. It was a great experience that has vastly increased my confidence and competence on technical rock. I’m looking forward to putting my new skills to the test on some more technical alpine routes.

Liz and I have managed to squeeze in a few climbing and hiking trips in the last month and still have a couple more on the calendar to finish out the summer. I’m planning to post a few trip reports over the next several weeks so you can see what adventures we’ve been up to. : )


I love rain!


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Pa's party

The sounds of Tony Pacini filled the hot evening air Thursday as family and friends celebrated Pa's 70th birthday. I think Pa was enjoying himself!
The granddaughters were all on hand to help blow out the 70 candles!!!
Happy birthday!!!!
-Liz :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Gifts for my garden

When Ma asked if Eryn and I wanted to take a leaf-casting class with her, we jumped at the chance! Saturday, we all drove to Roberta's house in Beaverton to learn the craft. The teacher first explained and demonstrated and then turned us loose in her garden to pick a leaf to cast in concrete. We got to work, trying to replicate her technique and remember all the dos and don'ts. There was lots of concrete left over, so she told us to pick out more leaves. In all, I made three castings.
We went home with a list of things to do before they are complete. I'm not expecting greatness but I hope they at least resemble leaves and will look nice tucked around my plants. On day two, I turned over my castings and, guess what... they look like leaves!!! They aren't perfect, but I'm really pleased.

They are now sitting in plastic bags. In a couple days I will take them out, but it will be three more weeks before they are cured and ready to go in the garden. I can't wait :)


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Bikes rule, cars drool!

It's that special day again: Bridge Pedal!!! Thousands of bicycles took over the streets and bridges of Portland this morning for the awesome annual event. Brad, Eryn, Dad and I did the 24-mile, 8 bridge route. The weather was perfect as we toured from the Ross Island to the St. Johns spans.

Eryn atop the Marquam:
Liz and Brad (this photo looks very similar to last year's pose!):
Dad on the top deck of the Fremont:
Gotta do the self portrait:
The route improvements really helped with congestion and allowed us to actually ride most of the time this year. But we felt that the atmosphere wasn't as festive as usual. The biggest thing I missed was the live music at the rest areas and interstate bridges.

We did see the aftermath of one major crash on the steep Marquam off ramp. The rider looked really messed up, and I pray that the road rash on his face was the worst of his injuries. Thankfully, there were medics and an ambulance at the ready to help him.


Saturday, August 9, 2008

The verdict's still out

For my last day of summer break, we loaded up the car and hit the road for Smith Rock in Central Oregon. Because of other weekend obligations, it was a short trip: out after work Thursday and home Friday night. Lightning spread out across the horizon as we drove across the Warm Springs Reservation after dark. We'd never stayed at the walk-in climbers' bivouac campground before, and getting our bearings in the dark was a little challenging. But for $4/person with real potties, running water and showers, it was worth the extra adventure. As an added bonus, lightning occasionally lit up our tent as we fell asleep.

Friday morning we went in search of easy climbing routes on the world-famous rock. I'm a true beginner, and the first one we picked was a bit above my head (literally!). After several tries, I could only get about 2 feet off the ground and gave up disappointed. We tried another "easy" route, and Brad had to boost me up just so I could get to the first ledge. Again, I gave up, thinking that rock climbing just isn't my sport.

Brad, determined to help me achieve success, found another bunch of routes made of different rock and different kinds of features. We ended up on Double Time (rated 5.7), and Brad thoroughly enjoyed climbing the trad route to set up my top rope.

The bottom 8 feet or so proved problematic just getting off the ground, and I almost gave up again, totally defeated. Then, all of the sudden, I was on it!! I worked my way up very slowly, freaking out most of the way. Brad helped me spot foot and hand holds that escaped my newbie eyes and gave me the encouragement I needed. After what seemed like forever, I stretched out as far as I could and touched the anchor! Brad lowered me down, and I nearly passed out from the stress :) Rock climbing is hard work!!

Climbing Double Time was probably one of the hardest things I've ever done, physically and mentally. I'm so glad I did it, and if I wasn't so exhausted, I would have tried it again to see if I could do it cleaner and faster! Maybe I'm a rock climber after all :)


PS - I almost forgot to mention the guy in the Speedo! As we were sitting in the car looking for that second climbing area, a very tan, not-so-buff, middle-aged man in a blue Speedo sauntered across the parking lot in front of us!
It was sort of like a train wreck: we couldn't look away as he wandered around, checking out the views and reading the signs. We walked by a few minutes later and, just as expected, heard him talking to his wife (who was actually wearing clothes) in a different language. Next to climbing Double Time, seeing Mr. Speedo was my favorite moment!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Quoting "The Simpsons"

Brad's dad sent us this hilarious link (thanks, Steve!). If you like "The Simpsons" you must check it out!

My favorite Simpsons food quote:

Homer at the QuikiMart after Apu has just cleaned the hot dog roller machine. He's eating a hot dog and says, with great disgust and disappointment, "Now all I can taste is the pig anus!"

-Liz :)

Timothy Lake

Each summer since college, we've taken a group of friends to Mount Hood's Timothy Lake for camping fun. This is most of our group from this year's excursion (minus Tim and Matthew) last weekend. (Thanks to Christine for the great pic!)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Grand finale

Sadly, this year's Weekly Wednesdays have come to an end. For our final outing, we headed to the beach for some back-to-school shopping fun.

Our Monday started with a light lunch at Alf's Ice Cream & Burgers in McMinnville. Brad thinks it's disgusting (which is exactly why we decided to go without him!), but I say you haven't lived until you've eaten with monkeys wearing pants! We each had a grilled cheese on white and shared a small chocolate shake... YUM!
We had a very successful day at the Lincoln City outlet mall, loading up mom with a couple pair of jeans and a whole bunch of cute tops. Eryn wasn't so lucky in the pants department (it's hard to be tiny and short) but also brought home a bunch of tops. I was there more for moral support but did manage a pair of half-off jeans, $8 Gap chinos and a half-off cardigan!

Then we met Uncle Don and Aunt Cindy (Arizonans who now summer on the Oregon Coast) for dinner at Mo's. It's so fun to have them near!
It's back to work next week for the McKee women...
-Liz :)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


We went out to breakfast last week to celebrate Ma and Pa's birthdays... including Pa's big 7-0! Next week, we're having a huge bash at my aunts' house, including live music from Pa's favorite jazz pianist, Tony Pacini!

I am so blessed to have such cool, young grandparents to hang with! Happy Birthday to you!!!!!!
-Liz :)