Thursday, August 28, 2008

McKenzie Pass and The Three Sisters

This past week I took a three day weekend from work and Matt, my friend Robin and my friends Anya and Stephan who were visiting from Berkeley went on a camping trip to the Three Sisters area of Oregon. I had never been there before and was very excited to explore a new part of Oregon. The Three Sisters area is about an hour east of Eugene Oregon and a 3 hour drive from Portland.

We set out on Thursday and after finding a great camping spot headed off to Proxy falls, one of the most photographed waterfalls in Oregon. It was a short hike to the falls and we soon discovered that this area shows many signs of Oregons volcanic nature. Here's our intrepid group of travelers heading out through the lava.

We were pleasantly surprised to find huckleberries on the trail and Robin and Anya started picking away (the rest of us joined in too). Originally we were going to go camping in the Indian Heaven area near Mt. Adams specifically so Robin could pick huckleberries for canning or winemaking, however with the late snowpack in Oregon this year the huckleberries had not come in yet!

The glory of Proxy Falls:

After Proxy Falls we headed up to the Dee Wright Observatory at McKenzie Pass. There we checked out a 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains. The Forest Service has a great display which identifies all the surrounding mountains and the heights and distances. Unfortunately it was a bit overcast so we couldn't see the Three Sisters very clearly (3 10,000 foot plus mountains grouped tightly together) but we did have a nice view of the lava flows and Belknap Crater.

The next day we headed out to a few of the mountain lakes and were fortunate to get a clear day so we could get some nice photos of the 3 sisters. The 3 sisters from Hand Lake:

And the 3 Sisters from Scott Lake:

Here's Matt and I eating lunch at Scott Lake. Matt's expression says "hurry up and take this picture so I can stop being eaten alive by mosquitos". This was the only place that the mosquitos were bad. Quite a pretty lake though. By this point Anya and Stephan had taken off for California and Robin was heading back to the trailhead to do some painting.

That afternoon we headed over to Linton Lake so that Matt could seek out one of his "holy grails" of waterfalls or Linton falls a series of 2-3 falls that fall over 600 feet (that's really really tall). I submitted to going on this adventure with a few reservations and Robin stayed at the trailhead and painted and read.

I'm very happy I went along because the lake was gorgeous. The prettiest lake of the day even if it had no mountain views. It was a beautiful green color and the forest surrounding it felt very wild and natural.

The hike to the lake was about a mile and a half and half way around the lake the maintined trail ends. At that point we encountered huge amounts of downed logs that we had to navigate over and under.

We finally reached the point where the falls runs into Linnton Lake and headed up to find the lower tier which was about a 90 foot falls. It was a bit too much adventure for me, but I hung in there and climbed up and up over logs. After almost making Matt quit looking we finally found the lower falls. It was quite pretty.

The reward for me was finding this beautiful Cascade Lily at the top of the falls. I stopped to photograph it while Matt kept climbing up to see if he could find the bottom of the upper falls.

Even though I was exhausted the trip down made me feel like I would really like to return to Linton Lake for a backpacking trip because it was so beautiful.

Looking over my photos I'm realizing we really packed a lot of events into one short trip. One the way back to Portland we hit up too more waterfalls that were literally right off the side of the road. Koosah and Sahalie falls. They were powerfull and beautiful:

We ended are trip with a rainbow.

This trip really made me want to spend more time in the Three Sisters area. It will be hard to get back there but I'm already looking forward to the next time.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Creating a Wedding Cake

This past week I reached somewhat of a milestone in my pastry career. I made my first wedding cake! It may not seem like a lot, but for me it was a big endeavor and challenge to see what I could do. In culinary school I was required to make a wedding cake, so I had some experience with the process, but doing if for a real wedding where so many expectations were on the line was a whole different matter. It was a lot of work, a lot of fun and was definitely appreciated by my friend Jen, whose wedding I made it for. Here's the final results of more than a week of work:

The wedding was on Friday August 1st, and I started baking about two weeks earlier. Cakes hold up very well in the freezer and even gain moisture, as long as you don't freeze them for too long. I baked both chocolate buttermilk cakes and carrot cakes.

The Tuesday before the wedding I came home from work after my 4 a.m.-12:00 p.m. shift and spent the afternoon cutting, layering and frosting all 4 cakes with vanilla buttercream. My 5 lb bag of sugar wasn't enough and I ended up going to the store a second time for more butter and sugar.

On Wednesday and Thursday I went to work making the buttercream as smooth as possible and picked up the flowers from the florist. Friday morning I arranged the flowers, dowelled the cake (inserted plastic straws in the bottom 3 layers for support), and boxed up the cake. Matt helped me take the cakes to a YMCA camp near the site of the wedding (Oxbow Regional Park) and we went to help the set-up effort.

Unfortunately for my friends Jen and Al they managed to pick the one rainy day of the summer for their outdoor wedding day. What a Portland thing to happen! Luckily for them they had great friends organizing their wedding and we moved everything into the covered reception area and the wedding was still beautiful.

After the ceremony I left to pick up the cake and assembled it in the reception area. Matt documented me putting the layers together.

Then I made last minute fixes to the few areas of the borders I squished while putting the layers together, and the cake was good to go.

One of the sad things about being a pastry chef is that you create these beautiful things and then you have to accept the fact that they are meant to be eaten and they will be destroyed! The cake was only up in full form for about an hour before we cut it and distributed. Matt was my sous chef and helped hand out plates of cake. It seemed like everyone was happy and it was a great success.

After all that stress it was time to relax! Wine was the order of the day and Matt and I both enjoyed some and took a stroll through the woods. It's not every day you get to walk down a trail with a glass of wine!

All in all I was really happy to be a part of Jen's wedding. It was a community effort of all her friends to put on the wedding and it just felt really nice to be a part of the process. It was also great to be able to test out my wedding cake baking skills on a good friend that I know and love. She and Al were so appreciative and it was great to see what I'm capable of.