The Carolinas

Last month I had the opportunity to attend a friend’s wedding in South Carolina. It had been seven years since I last visited the Carolinas, and I must admit I’d missed the South! The landscape, the Southern hospitality and the slight differences between cultures you feel but can’t quite put your finger on – I’d missed it and totally enjoyed the weeklong adventure.

My friend is living in Vermont, but she wanted to have her wedding close to family in South Carolina. So I started out at her parents home in North Carolina, just a mile or two from the JAARS headquarters. We walked out to the JAARS campus, where she showed me where her fiancé had proposed along the “Prayer Walk” trail at Christmas-time.

It felt like old times, since I’d spent two of my college Spring breaks there in years past. It’s funny how things can stay the same and yet change. Over 2,800 miles east, on the other side of the country, the landscape greatly differs from what I see daily in Oregon. From Red mud to sand along the roads, just walking the country roads near my friend’s family home reminded me I was on the east coast. It was all the same, but a new year and a new reason for being there.

The Anne Springs Close Greenway was a gorgeous place to have a wedding! These photos were taken a few days before the wedding. Sadly, the day of the wedding was cool and drizzly. I was told the high of the day was about 55 degrees fahrenheit. Even so, the wedding was beautiful and such a happy time.

And her dress! It was so pretty! With her mother’s blessing, she took her mother’s wedding dress and used parts of it to make her own dress.

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Fort Vancouver, WA

The weekend of the annual Rose City Yarn Crawl took my sister and me over the greater Portland area visiting local yarn shops. One of these lys was in Vancouver, WA, Blizzard Yarn and Fiber . To get there we drove through Fort Vancouver.

Despite living in such close proximity to the site, I don’t recall ever visiting it and was surprised to see how much was there. So after visiting Blizzard, we went back, stopped and wandered around. The spacious well-kept park grounds of the reconstructed site with its informative signs made the spontaneous Sunday self-tour fun. Because it was Sunday we were unable to go inside the Fort as it, along with the Visitor’s Center and the Pearson Air Museum were all closed.

We did walk around the perimeter of the Fort and peaked inside the buildings. And we were not alone in our jaunt. Being a sunny spring day, the park was busy with kids playing on the playground and riding bikes along the paved walk way, dogs chasing balls through the grass and clusters of people sitting at picnic tables chatting away. Through our walk, we had beautiful views of Mount Hood over the Columbia River.

As we walked, we read the signs we came across. From these information signs, we learned how the location has changed over the years. Fort Vancouver National Historic Site was inducted in the National Parks System in 1948 and is part of the Vancouver National Historic Reserve. Native Americans, the Hudson’s Bay Company, a fur trading company, as well as the military and the city of Vancouver have all used the land. Over the years the landscape has changed with buildings being erected and torn down, and the current set-up is much closer to what it looked like in 1855. For the history buffs and those wanting a more details, this is a place to visit on a day when things are open. For those just looking for a new park to play in, come any day!

Lynden, WA

Visiting my grandma in Lynden, WA is always a good thing, and the visit always goes too quickly. Despite her struggles with dementia and her limited mobility, she tends to keep good spirits and always recognizes me. Her faith is so strong that it’s second nature. Our favorite pastimes are singing hymns and looking at photos. When we part, she always prays for me and asks when I’ll be back. It’s tough being so far from her and not knowing when I will see her again.

But on a happier note, here are few photos from that trip. The weather was so cold, but the sun was shinning and the snow clouds of days earlier had cleared. The snow-covered mountains were stunning. I’m not sure which mountains these are, but I believe most of them are in Canada. I know at least the one over Wiser Lake is Mount Baker!

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Seattle Washington Space Needle from I-5

Elk Flats Trail – Oregon

New Years Day, which, yes, happened over a month ago, was spent hiking with my sister. It was a beautiful cold winter day – a perfect day for hiking along the Oregon coast. We hiked the Elk Flats Trail (EFT), a portion of the Oregon Coast Trail (OCT), to Short Sand Beach in Oswald West State Park.


We started at the trail head and parking area (more like a gravel pullout) on Highway 101 where the OCT crosses the highway. On the east side of the highway, we could see the north Neah-Kah-Nie trail signs. We took the trail on the west side, traveling north through OWSP. As we began, we took a short detour to the Devil’s Cauldron Overlook (0.1 mile). Like I said, it was beautiful day – cool and clear – perfect for scenic stops. We then proceeded along the Elk Flats Trail (1.3 miles).


Reaching Short Sand Beach, or “Shorty’s” as called by locals, was a happy moment. I’m not a huge fan of destination hikes, there and back along the same trail, but reaching the beach made the idea worth it. As we approached, we caught glimpses of the beach while still winding through the beautiful coastal forest.


Despite being winter cold, there were still surfers and boogie boarders out enjoying the waves. Photographers were out. Families and groups of friends were hanging out. Happy dogs played with their equally happy people. No doubt about it, it was apparent that this little beach is a popular spot. If it hadn’t been so late in the day, I would have like to walk the whole beach. From the end of the trail I could see a waterfall on the other side of the cove-like area. Maybe during my next visit, I might get a closer look!

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If you’re going to hike the EFT, the southern trail head is not as easily found as the northern end. The next time I hike this portion I believe I’ll park my car at the Oswald West Parking lot and hike up along the EFT to highway 101 and then meander back down the trail. Oh, and the trail isn’t flat, despite any ideas from its name! The trail seemed to predominately slope down as we traveled northward. Thinking about hiking back to our car felt like a hike back up. It was rather rough and at times, muddy, along the trail.

We actually didn’t end up hiking back up the trail. Instead we power walked the mile along Highway 101. Stupid idea. Don’t do that. Give yourself enough daylight hours and wear shoes you’ve already worn in (my poor sister was got a blister) to hike to and from along the trail. Yes, it was quicker and slightly (0.3 miles) shorter, but there is no path to speak of and the cars speed by fast. I was quite shaken (literally shaking) by time we got back to the car. Not a good way to end a hike. The next one will be better!

Time Flies…

Wow – it sure does fly especially with work, family, friends… While I have been out adventuring, I have yet to share the photos here. Life happened and time got away. Now I’m sick at home, taking a sick day from work and catching up with blogging – reading others’ blog posts and actually posting one on mine. I’ve missed sharing adventures here. If I wasn’t coughing and feeling miserable – I’d go someplace.  Looking back over these photos has helped me feel somewhat better though. Along with being sick, I have a bit of the winter blues as well, so I have decided to share a few photos from summer adventures.

At one point way back last summer, I made it to Ivar’s in Seattle for lunch and highly recommend it. While the fresh fish is always tasty, eating it outside with the seagulls makes the experience fun. The signs make me laugh. Whether or not you enjoy sharing your food with the birds, it is entertaining to watch others do so, especially when a by flying seagulls snatch high held French fries.


Traveling further north to see family, I spent a few days in Bellingham, Washington that same trip. Bellingham is a beautiful little city just south of the Canadian border on the Puget Sound. Sadly, the summer haze reminded everyone that forest fires were blazing not too far away in both US and Canadian forests. While there I went on “normal life adventures”, like going to the Whatcome county dump and eating raspberry vanilla swirl ice cream at the local Edaleen Dairy.


Later in the summer, before the warm weather disappeared, I attended the annual Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival in Canby, Oregon. For the third year straight, I have entered and won their amateur photo contest. In 2017 I was the only one to enter (my family joked that I was the “featured photographer”), but this year I had some competition, including my work manager and her daughter! I still won a couple entries despite the increase of competitors.


Even though the coast is beautiful any time of the year, it is a quintessential destination in the summer, and I was able to check that destination off my summer list. Canon Beach, Oregon is simply one of my favorite spots along the northern Oregon coast.


By stopping and perusing my old photos, I realized I had forgotten about my afternoon in Rainier, Oregon, “The Spirited City on the Mighty Columbia.” I had driven up there to attend church with friends one Sunday morning, but due to a misunderstanding, we missed each other. They went out of town that Sunday. So there I was about an hour away from home and figured I would just explore the little town. I found myself taking a Sunday stroll through Riverside Park and learning about the Coho salmon that travel up and down Fox Creek to the Columbia River. I had expected to enjoy a lively afternoon with friends, perhaps eating out, talking and laughing, but enjoyed a more calm and quiet afternoon instead. It wasn’t the adventure I set out for, but it turned out great!

 

 

Washington County, Oregon

Sunday was a beautiful warm and sunny summer day. I believe it reached 98 degrees Fahrenheit / 36.6 Celsius. Earlier this month my friend Anna, a dedicated photographer, and I had made plans to go explore the Laurel farmlands and the Bald Peak area. By the time we arrived, our enthusiasm for being outside had waned. After taking a few photos and walking a short way along dusty paths, we were contemplating our other options. Despite being warm and bright, it was quite hazy in the distance over the Chehalem Valley, but even so, we spotted water out in the valley west of Bald Peak. That lake made us think of Henry Hagg Lake, which is one of the seemingly few outdoor swimming holes in Washington County. The lake is just 25 miles southwest of Portland, at the base of Oregon’s coastal range, and is filled in part by Scoggins Creek, which flows from these mountains.  Just thinking about the cool water, combined with the sweat trickling down our temples, prompted us to change plans and head out to Hagg Lake.


What a terrific idea it turned out to be! By time we reached the park it was just after 6 p.m., and the crowds were leaving! Park closing is at sunset (8:41 p.m.), so we had a little more than two hours to swim. This was the first time for both of us to swim at Hagg Lake. While I was surprised at how rocky the lake edge was even at C-Ramp Recreation Area where they have a “sand beach”, it didn’t take long to get beyond the rocks to deep water though. As the lake is a multi-use lake, speedboats cruised further out on the lake, and occasionally slowly cruised through the swimming area. And the water was warm! As the sun lowered, the water temperature cooled down, but it felt so good! Floating on the lake was the perfect way to cool down. As the sun sank behind the coniferous trees, the sky in the south became a gorgeous purple, pink and peachy light orange, while the water took on deep violet and indigo shades. By the time we left, the evening had cooled to a pleasant warmth, and home we drove, relaxed.


To know when you go:
Henry Hagg Lake: 50250 SW Scoggins Valley Road, Gaston, OR 97119
503-846-7000
Open dawn to dusk
Parking fee of $7 can be bought at the main gate.
A map of the park can be picked up at the gate as well.
Personal flotation device loaner stations are scattered along the west side of the park for people to borrow life vests.

Spring on the Oregon Coast

Spring weather on the Oregon Coast varies greatly day to day. Over these spring months, I have had the opportunity to get out to the coast a few times. Each visit has been beautiful, but then again, I am an Oregonian and a beach bum at heart. (Bad days at the beach never happen!)

I really enjoy the blustery, windy, rainy and stormy days. Despite the chill, the strength of the elements has a way of grounding me. Somehow the energy exerted to walk the beach on those days never exceeds the energy restored by the brave walk. Besides, afterwards a strong, hot and slightly sweet black tea tastes so much better while watching raindrops slide down the windowpane as your bones warm and your hair drips dry.

Now with that said, I must say that I do appreciate the idyllic warm, sunny beach days as well. Those days, with a slight cool breeze and a bright sky overhead stretching blue over 180 degrees as it merges and reflects in the open ocean, recharge my energy levels to a point of calm and full. Walks in the sunshine of those days take my problems, my worries, and shrink them to nothing-size.

Life isn’t always perfect, but God makes each day perfectly. Thankfully my visits have included both types of beach days.

Here are a few photos from Pacific City on a beautifully blustery early spring day. This was my first visit to Pacific City, a mid-sized coastal town where car bummer stickers proclaim: “Pacific City: a town of drunks with a fishing problem.” With the bay for fishing and a State Park with some very large sand dunes and strong wind for hang gliding, this town keeps hoppin’. I parked in the public parking at Cape Kiwanda and walked north on the beach away from town. Hiking the sandy Cape to get some of these shots was a calf-stretcher, but worth it!

My next visit to Pacific City was on a day more quintessentially the perfect beach day – sunny and warm. This time I explored along the southern end of Pacific City’s coastline, parking by the Green Acres horseback riding stables near Bob Straub State Park. The small parking lot had a very steep sand dune between it and the beach, which I had to climb – both ways, entering and leaving the beach. Slightly winded, I ended up sitting in the beach grass at the top of the dune for a bit. Sitting there I realized that, unlike Seaside or Cannon Beach on such days, there were very few people out on the beach. It was a nice ratio of people to sand space.

That same day, my friend Anna and I left Pacific City and drove south on highway 101 to Depoe Bay. There I shared with her the Depoe Bay Scenic Lookout. We walked along the rock coastline to view the town from a northwestern angle. Anna had previously only driven through Depoe Bay, which is understandable considering it doesn’t really have sandy beaches to speak of. It literally is a coastal town with a bay and a good fishing culture.

With summer almost here, I got one more spring beach trip in. This time, it was for a birthday celebration. The group of us drove out to Astoria, out on the mighty Columbia River – where the river meets the sea. During our stop in Astoria, we took the Old 300 trolley tour of Astoria’s old town. I highly recommend the one and a half hour tour. It cost a $2 donation and the guides were informative and very friendly!

For dinner we drove on to Fort Stevens State Park, out near the wreck of the Peter Iredale, where we built a bonfire and had a picnic dinner. For the fun of it, we brought a croquet set. Let me tell you, it is a whole different game in the sand! Balls just don’t roll the same in the sand as on grass…

Bald Peak State Park, Yamhill County, Oregon

After a week of snow falling each night and melting away in the day, I looked forward to getting outside in warmer weather. Today the weather reached the mid 40s F in the valley, with white puffy and not stormy clouds overhead, and streamed glimpses of sunshine through my window. I thought, Today – today I am going to see what new growth is springing up with this change in the weather.

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For whatever reason, Bald Peak State Park popped in my head as a place to go. As a small State Park in Yamhill county tucked in among family farms in the Chehalem hills, it does not offer much in the way of hiking, but on clear days it offers a beautiful view of Willamette Valley looking west out toward Hillsboro. On those clear days the Pacific Northwest’s volcanoes: Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, along with Mt. Rainier can be sighted from here. This was not one of those days.

Sure, I realized it was a cloudy day when I left for the park, but I thought the rise in elevation might put these clouds in a different perspective; and it sure did. What I did not anticipate, nor did I even notice, as I drove up the mountain was the decline in temperate. By the time I reached the park, elevation 1,629 feet, the temperature had dropped by 11 degrees F, down to 35. The wind had also picked up as my little car climbed the mountain, giving that wind chill that gets the cold right down the jacket and past the shirt collar. Snow was all over the ground, while gray storm clouds hovered right above the treetops. Water sporadically rained down in a combination of snow melting from the Douglas fir limbs brought down by the wind and sprinkles from the clouds.

Despite the chill, I decided to walk around. To get a better view, I took a side path down the hillside. I had not walked more than five minutes before I slipped and landed hard in the ice-crusted mud. While I would not go straight to treacherous or unpleasant, my 15-minute meander through the woods was more than enough! Despite being cloud covered, the view was worth trek.

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I chuckled to myself as I coasted down the mountain to warmer territory below. Of course it would be colder up the mountain! You know you would have enjoyed it more if you had been better prepared, I chided myself. But I enjoyed it any way!

The Oregon Coast in January

The Oregon Coast scenery and landscape is always changing. The phrase, “the shifting sands of time” makes sense once you’ve actually seen sand shift. With the recent winter storms, the sands have certainly been shifting at my favorite coastal destinations, Cannon Beach and Tolovana Beach.


New Year’s day at the coast was warm and sunny. The sand was wide, golden, soft, dry and deep. The bright blue sky and fluffy clouds, along with the sparkling blues of the ocean made for a spring-like day. I kicked off my shoes and walked the beach with many others out enjoying the day. There were even kids in their swimming suits braving the Pacific Ocean that day! (…and the Pacific is always cold in this section of the ocean.)

Three weeks later, the coast felt truly winter-like. With high tides, all shades of dark blue and gray stretching from the sand to the horizon and through the sky, with only little patches of clear light sky blue, it felt very much like the winter it is. Along with the darker colors, the constant wall of coast wind and the moments of rain added to chill of winter on the coast. With all the churning, pushing and pulling of the tides, the sand was flatter and covered with thick tumbling sea foam. Needless to say, fewer people were out walking the beach, and I saw no kids swimming!

Despite being warm and sunny, the visibility was not as good as on the cold and seemingly overcast day. From Tolovana Beach, the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse was visible not on the sunny day, but rather on the cool wintry one. When I went back and looked at my photos, I surprised when I noticed this!


But the sunsets during both visits were displays worth watching. Knowing that the day, while ending here, is just starting somewhere else, is mind expanding to think about. The sun is one of those things everyone around the world experiences and benefits from…

Banks-Vernonia Trail. Washington & Columbia County, Oregon

Stumbling on an adventure. What a great way to start my new year! I am surprised that it is already two weeks into the year and yet, here I am only now sharing my discovery!
While I enjoy a good celebration, I am not a party animal. Going out with friends and strangers, staying out late to party in the New Year just doesn’t do anything for me. At the same time, I didn’t want to just sit home either. Boring!
So, December 30th – that last Saturday before – I was on the Internet looking into renting a State Park cabin or yurt for New Year’s Eve. No such luck. Every one within a couple hours drive from my house was booked. There were several open for Monday night… but! Low and behold! I came across a promotion called: First Day Hike.
Apparently across the U.S. on New Year’s Day select State Parks waive any parking or entry fees and offer free guided hikes with a Park Ranger. The First Day Hikes have been going on for seven years now and seem to be very popular.


After browsing the 22 listed here in Oregon, I decided on the Banks-Vernonia State Trail. It is “the first “rails-to-trails” linear state park built in Oregon”  and follows the 22 miles of an abandoned train track between the small rural towns of Banks and Vernonia, with rail tracks now replaced with asphalt. The trail features a paved eight-foot wide trail for hikers and bicyclists along with a parallel gravel and woodchip horse trail.
The hiking group met at the Buxton Trailhead. At the picnic shelter Friends of the State Park had complimentary hot drinks, fruit and breakfast cookies. By 9 a.m. when the hike started, at least 60 people of all ages had gathered. (According to the State Parks stats, 75 people showed up!) The herd of us walked about a mile north into L.L. “Stub” Stewart State Park. At couple of points along the way, Ranger Betsy stopped the group to show off points of interest and talk about what we were seeing in the forest.


After turning back, we walked a short distance south of where we started and crossed the Buxton Trestle. It is 700 feet long and runs 80 feet above Mendenhall Creek. Built in 1920, the over one hundred year old train trestle still stands on the original supports. The top portion was converted to a pedestrian bridge a number of years back. It was impressive! I was in awe that train conductors once had the nerve to drive a train across it. After going across with the group, I went back over the trestle again, it was that impressive.


The day was cold, but the sun shone and with layers, the walking warmed me right up. The forest was beautiful with the sun piercing the dense woods. The camaraderie among the hikers was great, and you could tell that Ranger Betsy and her assistants were enjoying the first day of 2018 as much as anyone else. I highly recommend looking to see if there is a First Day Hike in your area! It turned out to be a great way to kick start a new adventure year!