Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Winter Olympics

I LOVE the Olympics!! These Winter Olympics has me thinking not of the nearby Vancouver BC, but of Northern Michigan!

I love both the summer and winter Olympics, and even competed and closely followed gymnastics as a kid. But after living in Northern Michigan, I've been favoring, more and more, the Winter Olympic sports. And curling is a sport that the town of Lewiston, where we lived, is well known for. Right there in town is one of the few curling clubs in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, the Lewiston Curling Club. Unlike gymnastics, the sport of curling can be played well into adulthood and even well into the senior years. I joke that I have gills behind my ears, since I grew up in Louisiana, but my boys both definitely have what I like to call "ice legs", after spending a big chunk of their childhood in Michigan. They're not alone. Many of the Winter Olympic athletes I've been watching on TV are also from Michigan. With a winter season that is so long, it's no wonder. Hockey clubs, ice skating and local ski hills are sprinkled liberally all over the state. We learned to love all winter sports while living there, and I sorely miss them now. Oregon does have some winter sports, but in no way does it even come close to matching the ease and accessibility they have in Michigan.

Curling involves "throwing", or sliding a large granite rock towards a target on a sheet of ice. It reminds me of shuffleboard more than any other sport. Team mates sweep a broom in front of the rock to help control it's speed and direction. Oh, and did I mention that the curlers wear a special shoe on one foot that actually makes them slide EASIER? The ice is specially prepared, and is different than traditional ice rink ice. It is finely sprinkled with water droplets and the stone actually rides on top of those ice beads. What I don't know about curling is far greater than what I do know, and as I watched my son practice, I started gaining a finer appreciation of the sport of curling. I would be leaving out an important aspect of the sport if I failed to mention that the sport of curling has to be the most social sport of any winter games, if not summer as well. Loaded with all of this relatively new information and appreciation of the sport, I'm a bit let down at how little coverage it gets on TV.

I always wanted to try curling, but didn't grow up with "ice legs", as my kids did. I took so many nasty falls on ice just trying to get across the parking lots. It took a real effort on my part, as an adult, to learn even how to walk on ice... taking those tiny "shuffle steps", keeping an eye on the ground, carefully looking for that bit of snow or sand to step on to provide a bit of added traction. But I knew that it was the perfect time to get my kids involved in these sports. My oldest was able to take a few months of curling lessons, and both kids learned how to down hill ski while we were there, at the local Treetops Resort, near Gaylord, MI. I even mastered (ha!) the "snowplow" on the bunny hill and am still incredibly grateful for my son's school teacher for teaching me during the school's "ski club" outings, in exchange for chaperon duties. Both boys and I really want to learn how to snowboard, and plan to maybe next winter when we hopefully have a bit more flexibility in the family budget.
So what about you? What are your favorite Winter Olympic Events?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Battle Mountain and Umatilla National Forest

Over the week-end, we decided to take a drive South from Pendleton to Battle Mountain and beyond. Heading South on Hwy 395 we drove through rolling hills, slowly climbing in altitude. About 30 miles South we entered the "Battle Mountain Forest State Scenic Corridor". Grass covered hills gave way to snow-dappled forests of Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine. We also passed by the entrance of Battle Mountain State Park, but it is currently closed for the winter. As we drove in the cold rain, we saw many groups of Mule Deer, but the elk my husband was looking for weren't to be found.... yet...

We decided to drive further South into the Umatilla National Forest. Taking a Forest Service Road, just North of Dale, we followed it East into the mountains until we found a nice place to park and get out. There's still a bit of snow on the ground higher up, but not much! But the kids and the dog had a blast running free and throwing big rocks off a nearby bridge. There was ice partially covering the creek and my boys delighted in trying to get the rocks to break through the ice shelf. I wish we were all so easily entertained. We all took turns hiking up to a high point to see if we could get some good views, and the boys discovered the thrill of rock climbing. After an hour or so we decided to drive back home.

We stopped in the little town of Ukiah, OR, mostly because of pure curiosity on my part. My husband had been there numerous time during elk hunting seasons past, and a few of my Michigan friends had also lived there prior to moving to Michigan. We always seem to hit the local towns on a Sunday, and as a result, they're frequently very quiet. This was no exception. This is however, the home of the North Fork John Day Ranger District of the Umatilla National Forest, and a place to stop for information about the forest, as well as gas, food and lodging. The Blue Mountain Scenic Byway also goes right through Ukiah, but parts can be closed in the winter, so I'm saving this much-anticipated drive for Spring after the snow is gone and the wildflowers come out.

As the shadows started lengthening we started our drive back to Pendleton, and just as we were driving over Battle Mountain, we spotted a large herd of elk right next to Hwy 395. I was able to grab my camera and take this video. Please excuse the background noise of a loud radio and excited dog. No doubt this was the high light of the day.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Who dat!

I just wanted to say thanks to the New Orleans Saints for giving me a few hours of unadulterated bliss last night. My family and I watched from home and greatly enjoyed their victory along with so many other Saints' fans across the nation. It's hard to describe what this victory stands for for so many of us who have lived in New Orleans and who have been through so much sadness. Just to make it to the Super bowl was such a cause for celebration. The victory last night was truly icing on the cake.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a sports fan. I was raised in a family that wasn't big enthusiasts, but did get to go to the occasional college baseball game with my dad growing up as a kid. Last night really changed things for me. For a few hours I was able to escape, root for the only professional team I ever knew about growing up and was able to celebrate their victory with so many friends across the country via the Internet.

So thanks Saints! I DO believe!!!

On a more somber note, I've been having a particularly challenging time with my computer lately, and haven't been able to upload any photos to any websites. I've tried a bunch of things, but just don't have time to play around with it much more. I enjoy blogging because it's one of the few opportunities I have as a stay at home mom to do something mentally stimulating. It's also a way to connect to others which I enjoy. I also got offered a job, albeit volunteer, to do some writing from home, thanks in part to this blog. But until I can get the picture-thing figured out, it's just not as much fun blogging. So this may (or may not) be the last post here. Thanks for your interest and support.