Fine Art in the Vance House

A number of years ago, Jenelle took a watercolor painting class at BYU.  Over the course of a summer term, she painted several lovely scenes that now grace the walls of our living room.  More recently, Jenelle also learned to cut mats for these paintings.  Jonathan’s contribution was pounding nails into the wall. . . .

Caught Red-Handed

Jonathan did. By moonlight. And porchlight. The biggest black animal with a white stripe you have ever seen. As he was returning to bed after a trip to the bathroom, Jonathan’s keen sense of hearing detected the faint clawing, ripping, and shredding of what is left of our backyard lawn – thanks to our partially opened window. My keen sense of hearing woke me from a deep sleep as I heard him carefully opening the blinds on our bedroom window. He was staring intently out the window, the full moon casting an eerie shadow over the hedges. I got out of bed quietly (since the window was open). We could hear the unmistakable rip of the grass and see a large black shape where the sound was coming from. It was surprising how big the lump of shadow was. It scurried to a new spot on the lawn and then we saw it. The unmistakable white stripe. It was a skunk! Jonathan took a chance and turned on the back porch light. The skunk was undeterred and continued its grub munching frenzy. It seemed to tire easily of its current feast and move to a complete new part of the lawn versus just down the pocked lawn a bit. Perhaps it had already eaten the grubs in that area on its previous trips. I tried to follow its movements out of one window while Jonathan readied the camera. Without warning, he snapped the shutter, but the skunk I was watching was no where near his field of vision. It was then we realized there were really two skunks working their 4 am havock! A big black and white grub-eating polecat Thanksgiving – right in our back yard! So that’s what ate my tomatoes and dug up the flowers! It’s disturbing to think how many grubs must be wiggling in the grass to keep the critters coming back. The lawn is a mass of grass clumps, dead and dried, thrown carelessly next to neat little holes. Did you know they can inflict their oily foul-smelling stuff 15 feet? We didn’t open the door. Though I suggested it – they were intriguing. Jonathan remained more clearheaded in the wee hours and reminded me of this minor factor.

After the reality of 4 am sank in, we called it quits shortly after this, went to bed and resumed our sleep, albeit dreaming of black and white stripes and grub annihilation.

The Fairbankses Visit

Jenelle’s parents spent the weekend with us here in Oregon.  A good time was had by all, though I think we wore them out enough that they were glad to go back to regular life and recover from their vacation.  Highlights included:

  • Silver Falls State Park
  • Powell’s City of Books
  • Crown Point in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Larch Mountain and its view of the surrounding peaks

Adventures with Skunks!

Jenelle and I went camping this weekend.  While we were sitting at our campsite near the banks of the Clackamas River, we munched peacefully on s’mores until we heard a rustle in the bushes behind us.  We turned around and found a skunk checking us out.  My instinct told me to get a picture, but I restrained myself.  Fortunately, all three of us stayed calm, and nobody got stinky.  He went his way back into the bushes, and we went to bed.

When we got home the next day, we found that a problem we’ve had with our lawn had gotten worse.  Mysterious divots (i.e., holes in the grass) have appeared on our back lawn over the past few months.  The divots underwent a population explosion sometime between Thursday evening and Saturday afternoon, and the lawn looked horrible in some places.  A little research revealed that some small mammals (including skunks) dig holes like this in grass to get at grubs livings beneath the lawn.  (Or, there’s a horrible golfer who comes to our backyard to practice in the middle of the night.)  We haven’t decided how to deal with the skunk-grub problem yet.

By the way, after we got home from camping, we also learned that the striped skunks indigenous to these parts can shoot their stinky stuff 15 feet, and that this can cause blindness.  This means that we were much too close to that skunk. . . .

Jonathan Vance, Senior Citizen

Coinciding with his birthday this past week, Jonathan received a nice letter from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) informing him that he is now eligible for membership in that great organization of people 50 years and older.  Of course, Jonathan is elated to be associated with this generation of people, some of whom once argued, "Never trust anyone over thirty."

Jonathan is presently busying himself with important AARP-related issues, including Social Security, the prescription drug benefit, and Matlock reruns.

Jonathan’s Christmas List

Back once again, by popular demand.  It’s not exhaustive, of course, and will be revised periodically in the coming weeks.

  • Antarctica: A Guide to the Wildlife, 4th Edition
    by Tony Soper, Dafila Scott (Illustrator)
  • Penguin
    by Christine Eckstrom (Editor), Frans Lanting (Photographer)
  • Pictures
  • Personal histories
  • Good recipes
  • Sinfonia Antartica (Symphony No. 7), Ralph Vaughan Williams
  • Spanish phrase book
  • The Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection, Vol. 2
  • The General, with Buster Keaton

Moving Day

Jonathan and Jenelle moved into their new house on Saturday.  They are very happy to be in a new home, except for the fact that they can’t find anything, and that they have to buy a lawn mower now.

Short and Long Stories from Crater Lake

The short version:
Jonathan and Jenelle spent Thursday, Friday and Saturday of last week backpacking in Crater Lake National Park. They had lots of new experiences, including:
  • Hiking thru rain, hail and snow.
  • Hanging their food from a tree at night to keep it away from bears.
  • Using a propane stove to start a campfire.
  • Checking their tent for leaks.
  • Conducting comparative studies of foam and inflatable mattresses.
  • Learning that manufacturer temperature ratings for sleeping bags aren’t always accurate.
  • Seeing a small herd of deer.
  • Digging a hole in the ground to go to the bathroom (which, by the way, is a lot more pleasant than using a porta-potty).
  • Seeing fungi that looked like plastic and felt like Jell-O.
  • Making French toast from dried eggs and powdered milk.
  • Deciding that a more exciting name for the park would be “Collapsed Mountain of Destruction Mega-Pond.”
You can see some pictures in the online photo album, as well as some panorama shots here:
Crater Lake Panorama 1
Crater Lake Panorama 2
Crater Lake Panorama 3
Pumice Desert Panorama
The long version:
Being avid hikers and occasional campers, Jonathan and Jenelle dreamt of going backpacking thru the wilderness, away from civilization, feasting upon the beauties of God’s creations. So, when their work schedules finally allowed it, they planned a backpacking trip in the beautiful North Cascade mountains in northern Washington. Something short and manageable, three days and maybe 20 or 25 miles. They read hiking guides and how-to books, looking for the perfect trail. They picked out a few, but it turned out that these had been washed away by a flood in 2003. And the day before their departure, Jonathan looked out his office window and noticed a fresh coat of snow above the timberline on Mt. Hood. This made him think that maybe he should check the weather forecast before dragging his wife into the mountains. Sure enough, there was cold weather and a 30% chance of precipitation in the North Cascades for that weekend. (And remember, cold weather + precipitation = snow.) So, the night before they left, Jonathan and Jenelle planned an entirely new trip to Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon, which they had always wanted to visit anyway, already having the license plate. The forecast seemed a little more encouraging there, too.
They rented some big backpacks from REI and stuffed all of their camping gear in them, including Jenelle’s spiffy, new, pink sleeping bag. (“Grapefruit pink” because it’s designed especially for women. And because pink repels bears.) They didn’t have a scale to weigh the loaded packs, but they felt like they were about 100 lbs. each.
Due to some delays, and longer than expected travel time, Jonathan and Jenelle didn’t reach the trailhead in the park until about 5p on Thursday. This worked out fine, as it gave them just enough time to hike to their first campsite at Lightning Spring, on the southwestern slope of Crater Lake. The weather was beautiful. At the spring they spent the first evening at a beautiful campsite within earshot of gurgling waters. They apparently had the whole valley to themselves. Jenelle decided to build a campfire, since this is her favorite part of camping. The setting sun dappled the forest with orange light, and by the time the hikers went to bed, stars were poking thru the forest canopy.  The wilderness solitude was very satisfying.
When they awoke the next morning, they made French toast for breakfast and wondered if the clouds would burn off. They began hiking up to the rim of the lake to take in the view, but turned back when they realized that it would be too cloudy to see anything. Hiking back down the mountainside, they saw a small herd of five deer, including two fawns. They also passed thru strange landscapes, large clearings where almost no trees could grow. These were reminiscent of the Pumice Desert, a large area north of the lake that was created when Mt. Mazamas (now Crater Lake) erupted some 7000 years ago. The Pumice Desert has pumice deposits 100 feet deep.
By lunchtime they came to a junction with the famed Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches from Mexico to Canada. Some people actually hike this trail end-to-end, though Jonathan and Jenelle didn’t see anyone but squirrels, birds and deer. That afternoon, it started raining, which was okay and not unheard of in Oregon. But eventually it rained enough that Jonathan’s feet got very wet which gave him blisters. When they reached their campsite at Dutton Creek that evening, it began raining very hard. They tried to build a fire, and as long as Jenelle held her poncho over the fire pit, it seemed that the fire had a chance against the rain. But the rain eventually won out, so the hikers just hung a tarp among some trees and cooked their meager dinner under there. They were very wet and a little discouraged.  Being inside the warm tent felt wonderful, though.
When they awoke in the morning, it was still raining and raining. At about 8a the rain stopped, so they got up, made breakfast and broke camp. Then they hiked back up the mountain, very eager to return to their car. In the meantime, it hailed for a few minutes. About 100 yards from the road that circle the rim of the lake, they saw the first person they’d seen since Thursday night.
On the rim, the weather had cleared up a bit, providing some beautiful views of the lake. The first snow of the season rested on the rim. When Jenelle reached the car, she said, “I’ve never been so glad to be finished!”
They are looking forward to going backpacking again in drier weather.