How to Score Free Beer and Make New Friends in Beervana

facebook_1473463371168In the lower parking lot of Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB) sat a large square bin filled with recently harvested hop bines (yes, that’s the correct spelling). “These are from our neighbors, but we’re going to be harvesting more from our own lot back here in a few minutes”, Eric explained. “All you have to do is snip off a section of bine, pull the green hops off and put them in this bin.” I grab a section of bine and start picking hops off, dropping them into the bin. The 2016 HUB hop-picking party has begun.

The hops are soft and squishy, ranging from pea-sized to thumb-sized, with most somewhere in between. Hops are the flowers of the hops plant,and are used to flavor beer. They are lightweight, and when I drop them into the bin they land with a soft bounce. After stripping one section of bine clean, I throw it into a discard bin and grab another. The hops tend to grow in clusters, so if you can grab the stem near the base of a cluster, pinch your fingernails around the stem and pull toward the end, you can get a whole handful of hops at once. It is a satisfying, tactile task. If you squeeze a hop or tear it in two, you can see the sticky yellow lupuline glands which produce resins, acids and essential oils responsible for the hoppy bitterness, aroma and flavors in many craft beers. The blue plastic bin begins to fill up with layer upon layer of soft pillowy hops.

After the first batch of bines has been picked over, we notice the bottom of the bine bin is layered with bright green hops that have fallen off as people pulled the bines out. I reach over and start picking them up. Someone else tilts the bin so all the hops and leaves shift to one side, and I scrape the whole pile into a smaller bin for easier sorting. As I do so, dozens of spiders and an earwig scurry out of the pile. These bines are harboring a lot of critters. I wonder if they wonder what is happening to their shelter.

A while later my fingers begin to feel sticky and my arms start to itch as if I’ve just walked through a patch of tall corn. I look down and see tiny scratches covering the tender skin on the insides of my arms. “The first time we did this, we had to go home and put antibiotic cream on our arms”, the woman next to me says. I had noticed she was wearing cut off socks on both her arms. Her husband explained, “Yeah, those bines have tiny bristles on them – that’s what makes them able to climb up the rope and string. That’s what scratches you.” Sure enough, he was right. Those bines were rough and bristly and ripping right into my skin. But it was a small price to pay…this was fun.

Eric and other HUB employees bring out glasses, a jug of water, pitchers of free beer and free pizza for all of us hop pickers. Another forklift load of hop bines is delivered. We all pick more hops, snip bines, drink beer and chat. I marvel at the spontaneous teamwork and camaraderie of this group of 20 strangers gathered together for one purpose – to help make good beer (and maybe to learn a little bit about hops). As the pile of bines dwindles and the hop bins get full, Eric thanks us all for showing up to help and offers each of us a 4-pack of cold HUB beer to take home. Not a bad pay-check, on top of the free beer, pizza and fun work. The hop pickers linger awhile longer, sipping, talking, sharing stories about hops, beer and other Portland staples.

Nothing embodies “sense of place” in Portland quite like the beer scene.  After all, Portland is known as Beervana with over 60 breweries in the city limits alone. Today’s HUB hop-picking party is a classic example of how local breweries get the job done while building community and loyalty among their fans and neighbors.

Today’s fresh picked hops will be used to make a Festbier to be released by HUB in October. We’ll be there for a pint.

Here’s to good times, fresh hops, cold beer and new-found friends.

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Have a berry good time in Oregon this summer

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There is no denying that July is berry month in Oregon. Go for a walk just about anywhere west of the Cascades and you will find berries along the way, in the city and on the trail. Every supermarket, farm stand and farmer’s market is filled to the gills with mouth-watering fresh berries. We often stop and eat wild berries on our daily bike rides and hikes (more on wild berries later), but Oregon ranks #1 in the nation for commercial production of blackberries, black raspberries and boysenberries. In fact, 100% of the nation’s commercial blackberries and boysenberries come from Oregon. Wow! There are also many local, small berry farmers who produce some of the best blueberries, strawberries, marionberries and cranberries in the world.

obf-logo-horizontal-2016-locationYesterday we biked over to the Ecotrust building in northwest Portland to check out the Oregon Berry Festival. (It’s still going on today 7/16 if you want to go – you can catch the blackberry pie contest!) For a small festival crammed into a parking lot, it delivered big on products, information and entertainment. There were kids activities, live music, a scavenger hunt for a chance to win a bike and vendor booths promoting every berry product imaginable – fresh and frozen fruits, pies, ciders, juices and jams, and ice cream-  and a lot of new and unimaginable ones.

For example, I’d never heard of berry flavored marshmallows, but Nineteen27 S’Mores makes hand-crafted Oregon raspberry flavored marshmallows to go with their S’Mores packs. Who knew?

Several vendors were showcasing their shrub – a term I only formerly knew as a form of plant. Shrub, however, is also the term for an “acidulated beverage made with fruit juice, sugar and other ingredients”. Most are drinking vinegars, but some are steeped with alcohols. Yes, it’s complicated. But not really. We tasted two – one made simply with fruit syrup, sugar, vinegar and rosewater and one with vinegar, sugar and fruit only such as those from Sage & Sea Farms. Very refreshing and berry-ful.

Vincent Family Cranberries, a small family farm south of Bandon, OR offered some of the BEST cranberry juices I’ve ever tasted, Sweet Day Candy Cotton was spinning cotton candy flavored with berry sugars and  Clear Creek Distillery had a dozen kinds of berry flavored liqueurs for sale. The Healthy Berry Stage hosted cooking demonstrations and presentations on growing berries amid information booths about berries and their health-boosting properties.

Oregon’s bountiful and tasty berries are one of the many pleasures of summer here. There’s nothing quite like the burst of flavor on your tongue from biting into a warm fresh-picked blueberry or the tart sweetness of a plump, juicy blackberry.

Summer is here. Enjoy the fruits of Oregon and support your local farmer’s labor.

The Oregon Berry Festival…

What’s it like to do the Petal Pedal, World Naked Bike Ride, and Sunday Parkways in one weekend?

Exhausted. Exhilarated. Sore. Happy. That’s how we’re feeling after three magnificent Oregon bike rides this weekend. Three group rides – each completely different from the others, yet all so very Oregon. Three rides to satisfy our appetites for biking, socializing, feasting and belonging. We started with the classy, gourmet Petal Pedal in Silverton, moved on to the chilled-out protest of the World Naked Bike Ride in Portland and ended at the lemonade-stand mecca of Portland’s Sunday Parkways.

The Gourmet Petal Pedal

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The Petal Pedal is a fancy distance road ride through rural farmlands around Silverton, Oregon. It starts and ends at the Oregon Gardens, home to the 400-year old Signature Oak and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Gordon House. Riders choose from 30, 50, 70 and 100-mile routes and pedal by working farms, old barns, fields full of flowers, over rivers, and for the long-distance pedalers over hills and by waterfalls. We opted for the 30-mile route this time. The route is rolling, up and down gentle hills, through sun and shade. We saw flowers, yes, but also sheep and goats and grass and lots of cool farm buildngs and machinery.

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I say the ride is fancy because it’s pricey at $89 a ticket, cheaper if you did what we did and “recruit three to ride for free”. But the perks are so worth it: full SAG support, bike tuneups and repairs at every rest stop, rest stops with strawberry shortcake and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every 15 miles, quiet country roads and scenery to lift anyone’s lagging spirits.

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The icing on the cake, though, is the after-party. A catered gourmet lunch of chicken marsala, steak, salads, asparagus, bread and cake. Lots of cake – chocolate, carrot, ginger, German chocolate. Oh my. And did I mention all the beer and wine you want? Plus music, massage, bike jerseys and T-shirts for sale, and free access to roam the beautiful Oregon Gardens all afternoon. It’s a premiere ride – a gourmet ride. No wonder it is voted “Favorite Ride of the Year” by Oregon cyclists.

The Chilled-Out Protest World Naked Bike Ride

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After Petal Pedal, we drove home, grabbed a quick nap, switched bikes and headed out to the start point of Portland’s World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR). WNBR is a ride that “highlights the vulnerability of cyclists everywhere and decries society’s dependence on pollution-based transport”. In Portland it has also become a celebration of body positivity where 10,000+ people of all ages, shapes and sizes ride naked or “bare as you dare”. On our 5-mile ride to the start point, we were absorbed into a larger and larger group of WNBR commuters – most partially clothed, some already naked. Along the way we saw people partying in front yards and side yards in anticipation of the ride – or to ogle at participants headed south. The closer we got to Mt. Scott Park the more bicyclists we saw until finally the road was clogged and riding was no longer possible. Walking our bikes into the park was like entering another world.

Masses of naked and near naked people were everywhere. A woman painted gold from head to toe, a man posing for photos in front of a white screen, another painted like a zebra, white with black stripes, hand prints on butt cheeks, the words “F*%k Fossil Fuel” painted on backs. Then there were the minimalists – all naked bodies with no adornments. There were pieces of costumes – headdresses, tutus, briefs, clown masks – but mostly there was a lot of skin – and smiles. Lots of smiles. Smiles bright enough to light the unknown route we were about to take through town to a destination no one knew except our ride leader and a handful of police officers.

The atmosphere was cheerful but mellow. Party-like but purposeful. Watching the crowd was like looking into a microscope at an amoeba. The 10,000+ people moved fluidly through the park, in groups, in singles, one direction, then the other, pseudopods of bodies and bicycles pushing, flowing, anticipating. No one knew which direction we were heading out of the park, so everyone was watching for movement in one direction. Finally, a band started playing and police lights flashed in one corner of the park near us. Everyone headed that way and the amoeba stretched into the street, a throng of naked, happy people walking, then riding, bikes into the cool darkening evening.

People had lined up along the streets to take photos and stare. Some stepped in to give high fives. Some giggled. Everyone smiled. The route took us downhill along Woodstock Blvd. Bicycles jockeyed for space, skateboarders weaved in and out of the throng of cyclists. People waved, shouted, whistled, cheered. We were 10,000 cells in a single organism, bound by a purpose, an experience, a respect for each other and this freedom to be ourselves without judgement. Down that hill we rode, around curves and through neighborhoods, until finally the pace slowed, and we arrived at our final destination – Sellwood Park – overlooking the Willamette River as the last vestiges of twilight sank above the western hills. Someone blew flames of fire in the air. People danced. Music blared. Everyone smiled.

I’ve been told the World Naked Bike Ride is a transformative experience. One of my friends claims he’s addicted to it. I get it now.

Sunday Parkways

Sunday morning we pedaled our clothed bodies way up to North Portland to meet up with friends for one of the City of Portland’s Sunday Parkways rides. Sunday Parkways are traffic-free bike rides in different neighborhoods throughout the summer designed to encourage families to get out and ride, walk or skate in a safe, car-free zone. The routes run through and connect a bunch of the city’s parks. Streets are blocked off. Vendors with free goodies and food and ice cream are set up in the parks. Bands play, city departments and local non-profits give out information, kids play in the fountains and we ride in safe places.

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For this ride, we met friends in the rose gardens at Peninsula Park and headed toward Arbor Lodge Park to exchange old cable bike locks for free U-locks being given out by the Portland Police Department. Unfortunately we weren’t one of the first 50 to arrive, so we didn’t score locks, but that didn’t dampen our enthusiasm for the day. We rode on. One of the most fun parts of these rides is seeing the different neighborhoods and how residents take advantage of all these people riding through them.

I counted no less than 12 lemonade stands on the corners and sidewalks – kids set up to earn a few bucks off of hot, sweaty riders. Some folks host garage sales or set boxes of FREE STUFF out. One guy had set up a skeleton lounging on a sun chair, sipping a martini. Welcome to Portland!

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We bought ice cream, our friends got Emergency Water Containers for when the big one comes. There were hundreds of kids riding, including lots of cute little tykes on their Striders, dogs in carriers and on leashes, families and friends meeting and hugging and having fun. After last night’s ride, it took me a while to stop expecting everyone on a bike to be naked.

We rode and chatted, sharing stories and commenting on houses and bicycles. The day was gorgeous and clear, and coming around a bend on Willamette Boulevard suddenly there was Mt. Hood! My mountain was out and bold and beautiful. I’d ridden that road dozens of times and never seen Mt. Hood there before. It nearly brought me to tears. What a sight!

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By the time we got home, my legs were not-so-subtly telling me I’d had enough bike riding this weekend. But what a glorious weekend of riding it was! I thought about these three distinct rides, each with with great friends, each one so incredibly unique yet so uniquely Oregon. And I smiled.

#Pedalpalooza 2016 Kickoff Ride Rocks

 Strangers quickly become friends. People connect to each other.  Spirits soar. Peddling together somehow synchronizes our hearts and minds, creating a living, breathing thousand-wheeled organism.

 

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2016 Pedalpalooza Portland (Photo by  Jonothan Maus of bikeportland.org)

 

The clouds were gray and spritzing rain, but, hey, it’s Portland, and a little rain doesn’t stop people from enjoying a bike ride here. This wasn’t just any bike ride, either. This was the Pedalpalooza kickoff ride – the ride that marks the official beginning of the summer biking season in the City of Roses. Pedalpalooza is a three-week long bicycling orgy in Portland. Each day for three+ weeks, a dozen or more themed group rides take place. To participate, all you have to do is show up and ride – costumes optional, but encouraged.

My husband had been working on his Obi Wan Kenobi costume for weeks. Like most Pedalpalooza participants, he was eager to show off his creation and be a part of this fun, crazy, noisy, happy group bike ride. As soon as we had started peddling down the hill toward the starting point, folks who saw us along the way shouted greetings and comments. At the stoplight at SE Grand and Madison, we met a guy on a skateboard who took one look at our costumes and asked, “Are you going to the Thursday night ride?” “Yes, we are”, we replie. “Me, too,” he said and gave us high-fives.

From the Hawthorne bridge we could see the crowd gathering around the fountain – hundreds of bicycles and riders. As we pulled into the throng of cyclists we found our friends, dressed as Chewbacca and Princess Leia, being interviewed by a local TV station reporter. A guy in a Village People-style leather vest and hat biked up with his cargo cart booming with dance music, speakers bigger than my living room chair. Another guy rode up on his 6-foot tall bike wearing a camouflage vest that read “Buy Me Brunch”.

People chatted, took selfies, shared flyers for other Pedalpalooza bike rides, danced to the cacophony of music coming from every direction and laughed out loud. The party atmosphere was infectious. The sunshine peaked through the clouds. Tourists and other bystanders gawked and shot videos. The crowd grew bigger.

Suddenly a booming voice said “Roll out!” and bicycles began to pour onto Naito Parkway. Like a lava flow, the Pedalpalooza crowd slowly spilled onto the roadway, taking over the lane. People cheered, music blasted, butts wiggled and arms waved as we peddled up and over the Morrison Bridge. Cars honked, pedestrians waved. I looked back on the throng of bicyclists that followed me and saw hundreds of smiling, happy faces.

There’s nothing quite like being on a group ride where everyone is happy, celebrating biking and summer and the creative weirdness that is Portland. Strangers quickly become friends. People connect to each other.  Spirits soar. Peddling together somehow synchronizes our hearts and minds, creating a living, breathing thousand-wheeled organism.

As we wheeled up Belmont Street past bars and shops, apartment buildings and houses, people waved and clapped and cheered. Drivers stopped and patiently waited for the mile-long peddling mass to pass. We got extra loud cheers as we passed our apartment where our neighbors were having a building party. “But you’d rather be here riding with us, wouldn’t you?” yelled a biker beside me. Yes, I would. Because there’s nothing that has made me love Portland more than this beautiful, creative, quirky, inclusive cycling community. And Pedalpalooza is the exemplar for that.

Happy biking, my friends.

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Snowshoe a secret trail with Next Adventure

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Our group snowshoeing in Mt. Hood National Forest
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On the road headed up the mountain

The van wound its way up country roads, climbing gradually into Mt. Hood National Forest on this clear, sunny winter day. Its occupants chatted about favorite places to hike, which northwest guidebooks to read, and how beautiful a day it was for snowshoeing.

As the van climbed higher, we could see more and more snow in the forest. Then the road turned icy, packed with snow that had melted and frozen again. The van bumped along the slick ruts on studded tires, slowly but surely, carrying us to our destination.

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Our guides Drew (L) and Greg (R),  with new friends Myk and Leah in back 🙂

Upon arrival, we parked and unloaded gear, dressed in layers and donned our packs. Our Next Adventure guides, Greg and Drew, gave us – six snowshoe virgins – a quick lesson about how snowshoes work and how to wear them properly. After everyone geared up, we set off on the forest road leading up to our trail.

Crunch, crunch, crunch…up the icy road we trekked, each person testing their new footwear, bodies adjusting to the weight and width and cadence of putting one aluminum snow-gripping platform in front of the other. By the time we made it to our first turnoff, everyone was feeling comfortable and ready to carry on.

This part of the Mt. Hood National Forest is off the beaten track, away from the bustling crowds that frequent Hwy 26 up to the ski areas around Mt. Hood. This is where the locals hang out, but only if they drive high clearance 4×4 vehicles. The snowpack on the forest roads was significant, and the trail we trekked through is a summer hiking trail, unmarked and ungroomed for winter visitors.

forest trailAs soon as we turned into the forest trail, the snow was deeper, softer. The morning sun poured through the dense canopy of conifers as we continued uphill, stepping over logs, marveling at the play of light and shadow, listening to the crunch and glide of snowshoes and the puffing of labored breaths. Greg had told us to expect to hike 1/2 the distance at twice the effort of normal hiking, and we were feeling it. The legs lift a little higher and the feet land a little wider. Each movement takes more energy than normal hiking and warms you up quickly.

In the forest, tree branches bent to the ground with their tips still buried under snow. The effect was striking as each pile of snow took on various shapes, some looking like animals, some like gnome houses. The play of shadows on the bright white snow combined with the green of the rhododendrons and Doug firs made the forest feel magical.

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Mt. Jefferson at our lunch stop

Our lunch stop at the end of an old logging road afforded us stunning views of Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington and the Sisters. As we sat looking over the hills of the Roaring River Wilderness, we marveled at the quiet, the remoteness, the sheer beauty of it all, and thanked Greg and Drew for bringing us to this secret trail!

Greg gave us lessons on snowshoeing up and down steep slopes, then we headed back down the hill where we had impressive views of Mount St. Helens. We even took an off-trail side trip up to a high point for a better view of St. Helens. This was my favorite part of the trip because we got to practice snowshoeing in deeper snow (more than once, I sunk to my knees), and it gave us the opportunity to learn about back-country winter hazards like tree wells.

20160110_134643In the winter, trees – especially conifers with low-hanging branches – shelter their trunks from snowfall. This either leaves a void around the base of the tree or allows for very loose snow near the trunk. This space is called a tree well. Hikers, skiers or snowshoers who step too close to a tree well can fall into it and get injured or trapped.

As the sun sank deep in the southwestern sky and the shadows lengthened along the forest roads, we returned to the van where Greg and Drew had hot cocoa, cider and tea waiting for us – a perfect sweet ending to a perfect sweet day in the forest.

next-adventure-logoOur first snowshoe adventure introduced us to new skills, new places and new friends. Greg and Drew made every effort to ensure this adventure was what each of us wanted it to be. They were conscientious, kind, attentive, knowledgeable, and caring. So, if you are looking to learn how to snowshoe, cross-country ski or backpack in winter, or if you just want to find this secret trail, I recommend signing up for a Next Adventure adventure!

Today, I’m feeling that good muscle-soreness after our 5.5-mile walk, but now have the confidence to go out and snowshoe on my own. Thanks, Greg and Drew!

I can’t wait to find another trail to trek soon.  Where are your favorite snowshoe trails in Oregon?

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Our First Snow in Portland

While family back east is basking in a 70-degree Christmas Eve day, we got our first taste of snow in Portland today. This morning’s forecast called for rain/snow showers in the city, with snow possible above the 500-foot mark (which means maybe west hills, Rocky Butte, Powell Butte and Mt. Tabor). At our place it wasn’t even raining when we got up, so we were skeptical of the forecast.

But we decided to go for a hike on the north end of Portland’s Forest Park at the Firelane 15 trailhead where the elevation is about  at the 950-ft. mark. As we drove up and over the hill onto Skyline Blvd. we started seeing the white stuff along the roadsides. We ventured into one development on Glendoveer Lane where the lawns and roofs of some pretty impressive mansions were covered in snow and someone had made a feeble attempt at building the base of a snowperson.

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When we arrived at the trailhead, there was a patchy layer of snow all over the grass. Delighted, we headed into the woods and enjoyed hiking the hills and seeing the lush, wet green forest that is quintessential Northwest. The creeks are gushing, the moss is fresh, the ferns are bursting with color. I love the rainy season in Portland.

At the Firelane 12-BPA Road intersection it started raining with big fat wet snowflakes mixed in for about 2 minutes. Our first snowfall in Portland – yes!

That last picture is of a landslide we came upon just at the edge of BPA Road. While the hills are beautiful and provide spectacular views on clear days, this is always a concern during these rainy, wet winters.

I’m sure Powell Butte and other high points in the city were probably white with wet snow this morning as well… such fun. Of course, the big snows are in the Cascades. Mt. Hood has about seven feet of it right now. So, we’ll be headed up there this week for some serious snow play.

Merry Christmas!

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