The Golden Arches for Golden Eagles

gonrainThe weather report said windshield wipers and wet hair. I’m not normally a gambling person but something deep inside leaned forward over the Blackjack table of life and said, “Oh, yeah? Hit me!”

funny-sun-wearing-sunglasses

It was sunny all day, forcefully sunny. It played tricks on my brain. I actually thought taking Washington’s Highway 14 at dawn would be a delightful and scenic change of pace. Turns out, when you take that curvy road at sunset, you see quaint old farmhouses peeking out of deep green shadows, but in the full glare of day, those properties expose their secrets like Brittany Spears getting out of a cab. I passed sullen rural hoarders wedged into dirty plastic 2362cd123b76a44bf447d1ca0514e13alawn chairs, surrounded by broken, rotting crap in the blast pattern of an air-to-surface missile. Half of them were sucking alternately on Miller Lites and Marlboro Reds at 6 o’clock in the morning and yelling at random dogs. The looks they were giving passersby…Well, just insert banjo music here. 29YMD4Q

I pulled over at Cape Horn with the binoculars to ogle some sea lions sunbathing brazenly in the nude on Phoca Rock. They truly have no shame; they didn’t even shave.

They were my first ever Columbia River pinnipeds so I decided to celebrate at a coffee shop with my new invention, the Chocolate-Covered Espresso Bean. You order a small hot cocoa with extra chocolate and then dump a shot of coffee_chocolate_menespresso into it. Cheaper than mocha and twice as strong. Try it, you’ll hear colors.

Zipping around a curve, high on happiness in a disposable cup, I had a National Geographic moment: a massive Golden Eagle feasting on a carcass. Dude was the size of a Border Collie. I pulled a quick u-ey with one hand and tried to remove a trembling camera from its bag with the other. I put it in park about 20 yards away and kept the doors shut. No way was I exiting a metal-clad safety zone next to a raptor that could switch from dead animal to screaming human in two beats of its seven-foot wings. I am remarkably tender and delicious for a Portlander, I was marinated in Colorado.Watching a predator go to town on fresh meat live and in person is something every serious animal lover should aspire to. It really puts all those nature documentaries into perspective when you realize how much they edit out. It’s actually a slow, messy process eviscerating something in the grass without a Leatherman. Blood splatters, chunks fly–it’s not all that different from a Republican presidential debate.Three immature eagles were positioned at socially avoidant intervals in the white oaks above. I don’t know if they were getting disemboweling lessons from Uncle imagesHarry or simply waiting their turn as competition but they chattered away in deceptively high-pitched squeaks and titters while they monitored the seating situation at Chez Carnage. Eagles may look badass but they sound like squeeze toys. Imagine if Darth Vader declared, “I am your father,” in an Alvin the Chipmunk voice.

Meet Larry, Moe, and Curly.

At the ten-minute mark, everybody had enough of my voyeurism and flew to higher sF5DDW8trees. I got out of the truck and moved cautiously towards ground zero to perform some visual forensics on the heap of blood, muscle, and fur. Upwind, of course, and constantly sweeping the skies for any three-inch talons that might be coming for my scalp at thirty miles an hour. Looked like jackrabbit was on the menu today. I’d make a fast food joke here but I figure the post title is enough.

The thrill wore off down the road when I noticed with deep sadness how user-friendly Washington has made the parking for Coyote Wall. A miasma of bicyclists, dogs, crying children, and litter sullied a paved lot and public toilet where once stood a quiet wilderness full of butterflies and birdsong. This classic 1923 Ding Darling cartoon called “Look out! Here come the nature lovers” pretty much sums it up:screenshot_071Catherine Creek3 1-24-16Catherine Creek was packed, too, but it’s a more rustic trailhead and a longer drive away. You’d be surprised how efficiently those two factors scrape off the weekend warriors. Still, few dog owners in the milieu were able to take in the trail rules sign depicting a man walking a dog on a leash and work out that this may apply to them. From what I saw that day, the majority interpreted the line from the stick figure’s hand to his dog’s collar as symbolizing some sort of psychic connection to his pet, leaving Fido free to tear around in the undergrowth spooking wildlife, flattening flowers, and menacing other hikers and their children. You know, as nature intended.Catherine Creek2 1-24-16 I watched a miniature Doberman something-or-other run full bore across a road while its owner screamed, “Taco! Taco, come! Taco, stay! Bad Taco!” The mutt nearly became it’s namesake when it darted in front of a farm truck. So much for psychic connection. You can’t clip a leash onto road pizza but the eagles would’ve loved it.

Tonight’s tacos will be served “grilled.”Grills2-articleLarge

That was red flag enough for me. I was NOT going to take the usual route with the nattering, splattering hordes. Instead, I found a delightful out-of-the-way trail that I only had to share with Stellar’s Jays and midges, although neither one let me nap in the sun. Below is a massive panorama photo of my bliss.

For the trip home, I made the executive decision to drive another 15 miles upriver and cross over to the Oregon side at The Dalles Bridge. There’s all kinds of less roadkill over there.

January 24, 2016

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19 thoughts on “The Golden Arches for Golden Eagles

    • Absolutely. You owe it to yourself to go out and perfect your own recipe for this. My java nirvana was due, I believe, to the fact that the first place I had it did cocoa right. They made their own ganache from scratch and stirred it into heavy milk. None of that pump stuff. Also, their coffee was the rich, deep, organic, responsibly-made kind. As opposed to burnt-marshmallow-tasting Starbucks. Just sayin’.

      And a friend was buyin’. Always delicious.

        • I always thought it tasted like burnt marshmallows–you know, that black, crispy layer of carbon that forms on the outside of one when it catches fire.

          Take some ashes from the fireplace, stir them into coffee, pump sugary syrup into it, and charge five dollars. Starfucks.

            • I agree, but the burnt stuff only tastes wonderful when there’s copious marshmallow goodness hiding underneath to temper the flavor. If you were to scrape off that papery black dead zone on a hundred marshmallows and put it in a bowl all by its lonesome, I guarantee you it would be hard as hell choking it down.

              • My ex is from just outside of Seattle, so I learned early on in our relationship that Starbucks was not the preferred choice of the NW. I agreed, and would choose Seattle’s Best over it any day!

  1. some great pics there !

    p.s. no chance of me ever letting my jack russells (bite-sized snacks) off the lead anywhere with birds of prey that size around – one gobble and they’d be gone ! 😦

    • Thanks! Yes, terriers are a popular finger food for eagles around here. Yet, you’d be surprised how many people get all indignant and declare that nature must conform to THEM. Put poor Fido on a leash? Barbaric!

      I would give my right arm to see those same people meet a bear while hiking. And the bear would probably take THEIR right arm.

  2. Ah, the cycle of life, with a nice side of lives that may not cycle. Naturally, my favorite lines were “Blood splatters, chunks fly–it’s not all that different from a Republican presidential debate” and the nice PSA that “indicates brain waves”. And the magesty of your cocoaspresso invention? Sheer beauty…

    • Why, thank you, I admired me at exactly those points, too! Ha, ha!

      Actually, it’s quite nice to have a writer notice the writer stuff. Most people just worship me involuntarily. They want to throw money, but they’re not sure why. It’s part of my mystique. I just wish they were a better aim with the twenty dollar bills, Momma needs a new rainproof shell.

  3. I have seen a Golden Eagle close up before many years ago and I remember it being absolutely massive. I’d love to see one again. They’re beautiful — if frankly rather terrifying! 🙂

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