Tag Archive | Life

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.



Willapa Hills Trail – Chehalis, WA

As this summer has been busy, this adventure is from a few weeks back, but it started months ago with some planning this past spring. When my friend took me on the rails to trails trail back in May she mentioned that the blackberries along the trail were amazing. Since I love the taste of fresh, sun warmed, wild blackberries, we planned a blackberry foraging adventure for when they got ripe, which ended up being about the middle of August.

This time on the trail, she took me to a different section, about mile post 1 1/5. We picked up the Willapa Hills Trail (I now know its name!) off Tune Road in Chehalis. Not walking too far, we crossed train tracks (which are currently in use) and found patches of blackberries full of wonderfully plump and sweet berries! It was a good thing we weren’t in competition because she beat me and picked at least double the berries I gathered! In my defense though, I spotted a plum tree nestled behind the berries. The purple fruit looked ripe and, if I could only get through the berry thorns, within arm’s reach. There in the farmlands of western Washington, we had a good time getting sweaty, scratched and eating delicious fruit.

When I got home, and with a little internet searching, I discovered that the Willapa Hills Trail starts in Chehalis and ends about 56 miles away west in South Bend at Highway 101 (the historic Coastal Highway connecting the West Coast from Los Angeles, CA to Port Angeles, WA). The trail is a mix of paved and gravel, but consistently easy the whole way. As I was told, it used to be a train track and is relatively flat the entire distance.

Btw – I blame White Collar TV show for my lack of a blog post in August. Thank you, my berry picking pal, for recommending! It’s hilarious!

Portland, Oregon – Part Two

Late in the afternoon Tina and I again made our way into Portland. Just as we entered Multnomah County, we made our first stop – Cornell Farm and Cafe. Here we enjoyed hot drinks (despite the warmth of the day) among the pots of plants and flowers for sale. The chamomile and lavender tea pleased me and the Monk’s Coffee latte apparently pleased Tina just as well.

Picture 1DSC_0830

Refreshed, we proceeded into Portland. Tina and I never run out of things to talk about, which is good thing because traffic into Portland seemed especially backed up this particular weekday afternoon. After creeping along for several miles and getting to point where we joked about climbing the rocks and cliffs along the road during the long minutes we waited for our turn to creep up a few feet, we came upon the reason for decreased speed – a downed power line. The police were there with flares and soon after passing the spot, the flow of traffic picked right up.

Once in Portland, we hit a couple shops – the World Market and Zupan’s. Eating our Digestives from the World Market, we walked up Burnside Street a short distance and caught a couple shots of Mt. Hood. Yesterday we passed up all three of these things because our driver had been determined to go straight to Wailua Shave Ice.


Then we visited Powell’s just long enough to find the spot in the Pink room where we once ate Voodoo Doughnuts (also the second and last time I ate them because I dislike them, despite their fame). That last visit together to Powell’s, we figured happened seven years ago.

We also found the foreign language section. I became really excited when I found Enid Blyton books. Fond and slightly forgotten memories of reading her Famous Five and Secret Seven books (which most likely – but subconsciously – inspired our self-titled Fabulous Five moniker) came back immediately. Originally written and published in Great Britain, these particular books had been translated into German. Tina found a childhood favorite, a Dr. Seuss book, translated into a Middle Eastern language. The scripted font, so different from the alphabet we’re used to, and the right to left layout of the book made it seem like new book. After hanging out in Powell’s, we had one more stop to make.


Unable to go off to a foreign country, we thought visiting an embassy might be the next best thing. However, Portland doesn’t have any foreign embassies. A handful of foreign consulates reside here however. Through Google, we found the address for the Royal Norwegian Consult, but we didn’t know if it was an office or home address. After turning right too soon twice, driving by the building twice and accidentally running a red light, we finally found the building complex, one with a mix of business and residential units. As late in the evening as it was, the shops had closed for the day, and we still don’t know if we were creepy and wandering around the base of someone’s home or simply weird, walking by an office.

We stumbled on a lovely walk along the Willamette River though. The Cottonwood Bay Trail, as the name implies, has many Cottonwoods. Recently released fluffy seeds paved the trail white. After pausing to take in the River, we headed home.

Scoggins Valley Park/Henry Hagg Lake

At the end of last month, the end of May, I spent a Sunday out at Henry Hagg Lake with a friend. With all the early warm weather we had here in Oregon, the park was busy with boaters, fishers, swimmers, hikers, dog walkers and those generally looking to enjoy the outdoors. It was such a nice warm day, with blue sky and everything.


Scoggins Dam and Henry Hagg Lake

Partly because I didn’t take many photos or explore the park much, I realized I failed to post and share the location. Instead of using my camera, I read a book, ate food and dozed in comfy camp chair, all while in the warm shade of an old large tree, within earshot of Scoggins Creek and the shrieks and laughter of the children playing in it.

The 1,113 acre man-made lake is part of the Washington County Parks system. Being out in the county, just outside of the towns of Forest Grove and Gaston, there is only one road in to the park, Highway 47. The day access cost is $6, which can be paid for at the Ranger’s station and self-serve kiosks as you enter the park. From there the road loops around the lake, with side roads taking you to various recreation spots and lake access points.

With the northern half of the lake designated a “No Wake Zone”, along with motorboats, many kayaks, canoes and SUPs share the lake. At the Sain Creek Recreation Area there is even a nice open beach area for swimming, which on that particular Sunday was a little on the crowded side. It was along the northern shore of the lake, at the Scoggins Creek Recreations Area, that my friend and I found our “chill” spot – right beneath the sprawling limbs of an old coniferous tree, by a sturdy all-season picnic table and benches. Despite the park being quite popular and well visited, I appreciated the layout of the recreation areas. They made it easy for a large number of people to be there and be able to enjoy their own space.

On the way home, we drove through Aloha, and that is where I got this shot
of Mount Hood. Looking at the photos later, I realized I really should have asked my friend to pull over so I could take a better shot and should not have taken it through the glass. (*sigh* Live and learn…) Nevertheless, Mount Hood was out and certainly breath-taking.


Mount Hood


Centralia & Chehalis, Washington

Two hours and fifteen minutes– that’s it!
 That’s all it was? Wow!
Yep – not far, huh?
No – not far at all!

Now you have a mini recap of the conversation I had with myself as I pulled up behind my old friend’s car in front of the house where she has been living for over a year now. With her extended family living relatively close to me, over the past year or two we had been occasionally meeting up when she came by to visit them. This time, my sister and I were visiting her!

With a couple 5 to 10 mile stretches of pouring rain, the trip seemed longer than the actual time it took. Oregon speed limit on I-5 caps at 65 miles an hour. In Washington it increases to 70 miles an hour. Even though I tend to push the speed limit, with the pouring rain, unfamiliar road and 5 mile an hour increase, at times the short trip north was a bit stressful.

I don’t think I’ve ever stopped in either Chehalis or Centralia beyond briefly stopping for hot chocolate (Dutch Bros or Fiddler’s) or to eat a couple of times (Country Cousins) on the way up to Bellingham. These two towns are very close and together had more than I expected or ever noticed from I-5.

After chatting a bit, my friend took us to her favorite area lunch place – Once Upon A Thyme. It was a quaint restaurant with down-home, antique charm. The kitschy covered high walls balanced the large open eating space with a warm country home appeal. I totally recommend the pesto and olive pizza! Thickly spread with pesto and generously covered with greens, feta, dried tomatoes and olives, on soft multi-grain crust, the slice made quite an impression on me!

After lunch we headed off to the Rails to Trails. I was told it is a fifty mile paved trail that runs where train tracks once ran, and it runs all the way to the coast. Apparently it is a favorite trail for bicyclists, walkers, dogs and their people, and blackberry pickers in the summer. Sadly, we had not gone far before the weather decided to shift from being merely overcast to down pouring with both rain and hail. As we hurried back to the car, we laughed about how quickly our Pacific Northwest spring weather can change. It’ll probably pass in a few minutes and be sunny the rest of the day we speculated, and we surmised correctly.

We went back to our friend’s house and enjoyed her homemade coffee cake and tea. As we warmed up, so did the weather. Even though we did not walk in it, it made for a nice, relaxed drive home for dinner. I should have stopped to photograph some of the bright green hills, blue sky and warm sunshine, but they will have to live on in my memory.

The road to a friend’s house is never long!
Danish Proverb

15 Ways to Sound like a Local Oregonian

While traveling, what do you not want to do? One of the worst things to do is to blatantly ignore local lingo and sound like an obnoxious outsider. No one enjoys a visitor whose accent prevents clear communication or one who doesn’t try to learn basic words in the local language or a visitor who expects everyone to speak his or her language. It is especially annoying when that visitor doesn’t even try to help you understand what he or she is trying to say. There is nothing wrong with being from elsewhere and, if you are respectful and understandable, speaking with your native accent is perfectly fine. I personally take pleasure in hearing foreign accents and seeing out-of-towners enjoying my hometown. It helps me stop and notice the unique and special parts that may have become common place.

But sometimes we travelers have reasons for not wanting to sound like foreigners. If you want to sound like a local or like you belong there, you pay attention to how locals say things. If you don’t want to call attention to the fact you are from elsewhere, you want to blend and experience the location and culture without alerting others to the fact that you are new to the area, you try to imitate the locals. If you are nervous about being taken advantage as a stranger, you keep your ears and eyes wide open, your mouth shut and when you do open it, you really try to sound like a confident local. If you want to be better understood, you try to assimilate some of the local accent. If you want to show respect to the people and customs of a culture, pronouncing things as the locals do can show that desire.

Through my own travels and by hosting visitors, I have noticed a few things that are different here at home. For whatever reason you might have, here are fifteen tips for sounding and coming across like a local here in Oregon, USA, particularly the Northwest corner.

  1. Call Interstate 5: “I-5”. The letter “I” and the number “5”. Don’t refer to it as “Route 5” as my mom’s cousins from the East Coast did.
  2. Highway 26 is referred to as “The Sunset Highway,” “The Sunset” or simply “26”.
  3. Pacific Highway is called either “99” or “99-W”.
  4. While Oregon has golden sandy beaches and we do “go to the beach”, we more often “go to the coast”. We never “go to the seaside,” because Seaside is a coastal town.
  5. When you see Mount Hood (or any of the other elusive snow capped Cascades), you note it by saying, “Look, the mountain is out!” There are days when it is not out, and you can’t see it, despite it being a relatively clear day.
  6. Oregon is pronounced “Or-uh-gun,” and if you can’t manage that, “Organ,” like the musical instrument, will do.
  7. People from Oregon are called Oregonians, pronounced, “Or-uh-go-knee-ens.”
  8. Willamette, as in the ‘Willamette River’ and the ‘Willamette Valley,’ is pronounced “Will-lamb-it,” not “Will-uh-met.”
  9. We refer to the state of Washington as simply “Washington”. We refer to the U.S. Capital as either “D.C.” or “Washington D.C.”
  10. The drinks of choice around here are coffee, micro-brew beer, tea, kombucha and water. If you want the fizzy, non-alcoholic soft drink ask for a “pop,” but if you happen to ask for “soda,” no one will notice if you keep the other lingo correct.
  11. Distance is gauged in time more often than actual miles. It is very common to say something along the lines of, “I live like 5 minutes from here” rather than estimate miles as in, “I live like 2 miles from here,” even though both may be true.
  12. There is no state sales tax. What the price sticker says is the item’s price is what you will pay for the item. You don’t have to be surprised and ask, “That’s all it is?” They get our tax money other ways.
  13. Most Oregonians go to the coast rain or shine. Granted, more people go in late spring through early fall, and it is busier with more things to do. Thankfully however, we have Mo’s restaurants – a local chain started in Newport, Oregon. Mo’s restaurants have the best clam chowder, and it tastes even better on a raw, rainy day after a good long walk in the sand. If you think rain is a reason for not going to the beach, people might wonder where you’re from. (California?)
  14. We have coffee shops and drive through coffee shops all over the place. One time when I was traveling with friends, we hit the road, and we consciously decided to pass about four coffee shops within 10-minutes of driving. Why? We wanted a particular coffee shop, and we wanted to drive up. This is not uncommon.
  15. Pumping your own gas is illegal here in Oregon. Trying to pump your own gas immediately tells everyone that you’re not from around here. (Again, California?) There are gas attendants who pump it for you. After you greet him or her, you say which (regular, plus or premium), how much (fill, so many dollars or so many gallons) and how you’re paying (sometimes with cash you have to walk in to the gas station to pay). It was so awkward for me the first time I had to put gas in a car; Clucker’s gas station in Wilmore, Kentucky will forever be memorable to me for it.

Willamette Valley Snow Days

Happy New Year everyone!

Living in the Willamette Valley of Oregon means living in a very moderate climate. While we have four seasons, they are not as harshly distinct as in other parts of America. Each winter we usually see some snow (at least one dusting) and about every 6 years we get a mess of 6+ inches.

This winter has been a mess year. Between December and January we have had four separate and distinct snows. It has snowed, melted, and a few days later, snowed again. The last episode of snow was an unusually nice load of it too. The weather was dry for days after keeping the deep powder soft and fluffy for a full week. It was great! Sure, there were icy places in the road where cars had melted the snow, and it had frozen, but when you’re jobless (as I currently am), that doesn’t matter. I completely enjoyed the obligated chill time.

I’ve wanted to get up to Mount Hood or travel to Bend or another snow destination this winter, but I lucked out and the snow came to me. Snow changes absolutely everything -in the best ways possible. An area you once knew becomes suddenly new covered in snow. So I explored my own backyard in all its newness. With the powdery snow, I had no problems keeping traction as I adventured to the local park and around the neighborhood.

Walking in a winter land…

Toward the end of the week, when I heard we were about to get some freezing rain, I scrambled and found a few enthusiastic assistants. I had seen on Pinterest.com some fun photos created with unique light, and I didn’t want to miss this unique opportunity with all the glorious snow. So after dark I took them out to a snowy open space, along with a handful of 4th of July leftover sparklers. Boy I wish I had had more! More sparklers and more time to experiment…

On a side note, with the reflection off the bright white snow, even after dark, I learned that my camera’s aperture did not need to be wide open and the shutter speed did not have to be too long to get a decent shot. I set the aperture about halfway open and the shutter speed to 10 seconds to get these shots. Oh and I learned that the person running around with the sparkler needs to move fast and keep the light away from her face! (The ghost you might make out is me…)

It’s a good life

Well, here it is, one week and a day from the new year. Along with writing this blog, I keep a personal open-ended list of “ah-ha” zingers and epiphanies. I list little thoughts or ideas that occur to me – things I want to remember in relation to this blog. Some of them are ideas for future entries, while others are more moment-realization-type thoughts. They aren’t exactly profound or necessarily uniquely insightful epiphanies, but for me, reading them later helps me keep perspective and not get lost. They help me see where I am and not forget where I was or have been.

Yesterday I felt a little down and a bit frustrated with my current situation. Lately my days have been focused on job searching, family challenges, holiday preparations and getting over a nasty cold; I haven’t gotten out much, seen many friends or taken my camera out for anything this month. As I was dourly contemplating my life, I paused to read my list.

I have been to some beautiful places.
I have seen some truly lovely days.
I have experienced some serene moments.
I have experienced a good life.
Looking back over the places I have featured, reflecting on my travels, makes me grateful that God has given me those moments. How easy I forget what a good life I have. Despite the rainy, day-in day-out humdrum days, I get opportunities to experience a wonderful life, if I choose to see it.

The reminder discovered from over-a-year-ago-me encouraged me. So far I have had a good life. I expect it will continue to be good, if I choose to have a good life. I hope you are choosing a good life and are doing things that help you remember the good in your world.

As this is most likely my last post of the year, I’ll leave sharing one a few of my favorite photos from this past year.

Merry Christmas! Peace on earth and good will toward all! Happy New Year!

Yellowstone National Park Reflection

Rafting down the Snake River, Wyoming

Growing up and having family on both coasts, we usually visited one or the other side when my family took “vacation”. By time I turned 12, I’d traveled across America nearly half a dozen times. Traveling was a means to valued family time. Despite having friends who’d never flown or traveled out of state, at age 12, I was jealous of the ones who’d been to Disneyland!

Living on the West Coast meant more trips along Interstate 5 than cross-country. Around Christmas and at least twice again in the year, we packed up our silver grey Volvo station wagon and drove north for a long weekend. By pinching pennies, nickels and dimes, my parents saved enough for us to fly out to see our East Coast grandparents for a few weeks about every other summer.

Then one summer my mom’s favorite big brother and his wife came out West to go camping. And they were taking me (and the rest of the family) with them. They flew to PDX where we picked them up before packing up and driving to Yellowstone National Park. I was super excited. We were really going on a real vacation, a real adventure. We were off to see not some member of the family but solely to see a new location and experience a new place.

There in Yellowstone we saw waddling porcupine, sparring elk and shaggy lumbering buffalo. We attended reliably spouting Old Faithful’s water show and gazed at gorgeous snow crested mountains – the Grand Tetons and the Rockies. We rafted down the Snake River, walked around the hot brilliantly colored Paint Pots and waded in sparkling blue Jenny Lake. We ate scrambled eggs cooked over a camp stove, slept outside in a tent at a KOA, took the junior ranger pledge and learned all about preventing forest fires. The time flew by with all we experienced.

Charlie Tremendous Jones, a motivational speaker, has been quoted, “You’ll be the same in five years, except for the books you read and the people you meet.” A college professor of mine thoughtfully added, “And the places you visit.” Arguably you could say the places you visit lead you to the people you meet and thus that’s covered, but considering my Yellowstone experience, I’d have to agree with him. Sure, we spoke with rangers and exchanged greetings with the rafting guide, but being a kid, I really didn’t talk to those people. The people I interacted with were family. The people I barely met didn’t influence me like the place I visited.

All the memories came back the other day when I found a cassette. The recording my Aunt bought while in Wyoming – Goin’ Wild by the Banana Slug String Band – sounded just as peppy as it had the first time we listened to it while driving some highway in Wyoming or Idaho with miles of western scenery stretching out before us.

Did visiting Yellowstone change me? Am I a different person because of my Yellowstone experience? While I can’t say for certain that due to Yellowstone I resulted in changing these exact ways, looking back, I know it influenced me.

It changed my dreams. I dream of ‘returning’, which a different dream than the dream of ‘someday going’. Dreams of someday going always have an element of wonder and can take more belief that the trip is worth it. I wonder what xyz is really like; it’s gotta be amazing. Dreams of returning are more confident and more tangible in the memory. Dreams of returning to Yellowstone also bridge my dreams of other places and future trips. While I don’t know what it’s exactly like to ride with a pack string in the Rocky Mountain Range, having been to Yellowstone gave me a glimpse into that world. Someday I’ll take such a trip, and I know it will be amazing.

It increased my awareness of the world around me. The Paint Pots are a natural wonder had I not seen, I would not have remembered by only hearing or reading of them. Oh cool – colored hot springs. Ok, on to the next thing. No, no, no – they are more than that! They are BRILLIANTLY colored and acid-burn-you-to-death-HOT. Seeing them looking so clear and curiously deep, innocent and mesmerizing in a gorgeous mountain region, smelling the gases rising off them and leaning against the sturdy wooden rails to peer more closely at a sapphire blue pool – those are experiences you only get being there. Having seen such phenomenon of nature tantalized my appetite to see other wonders of this world. What else is out there?

It satisfied as only vacation travel can. The pressures involved in traveling to visit family are not there. Before cell phones my parents called my grandparents just as we left our house. My grandfather then estimated our time of arrival. We were always under time constraints to get there at or before Grandpa’s estimation. That pressure isn’t there. When we’d go visit the East Coast, my grandparents always expected us to stay with them. They’d raised seven kids in their old large New England home, and there was plenty of space and no reason we shouldn’t stay with them. That pressure isn’t there. The pressures are more internal with vacation traveling. When do you want to get there? Feel free to adjust that mid way along. Where do you want to stay? Let your imagination and wallet decide that.

Okay. Now I want to go on a vacation! While I still haven’t been to Disneyland, there have been other trips solely for suspending normal life to escape elsewhere for rest, relaxation and fun. Each one has influenced me, and it’s fun when something simple, like a cassette, can bring up such good memories.

Travel Oregon

When your friends or family come visit our wonderful state of Oregon – where do they want to go, or where do you want to take ’em? When you finally decide to vacation in Oregon, what do you want to see? When you’ve lived your entire life in Oregon and get adventurous, where do you want to explore?

For travel in Oregon, there are the favorite go-to spots: Multnomah Falls, Mount Hood and Timberline Lodge, Seaside and naturally, Crater Lake. Once you have hit those places, where do you go? With a rain forest, a desert, a prairie, an award winning hipster city, a completely free public access coast and two mountain ranges, there are many Oregon wonders to discover! Here are six I highly recommend.

1) Astoria
With a span of 1,232 feet (376m. – almost a quarter of a mile), the Astoria-Megler Bridge is the world’s longest continuous truss bridge. If you’ve ever wanted to walk or run the 50-year old bridge,October 16th is your opportunity this year. Annually the city closes the bridge to cars and opens it to walkers and runners.


The darker sand in the photo on the right is magnetic.

2) Fort Stevens State Park
While at PCC I took Oceanography, complete with a required science project. In passing our professor mentioned magnetic sand on the Oregon Coast. I took that and ran with it. It turns out that yes, near and along the Columbia River (not far west of Astoria) where the river meets the Pacific Ocean, there are patches of black magnetic sand.

2) Pendleton
One of Eastern Oregon’s largest cities and quintessentially Old West, Pendleton bustles as a hub in north-east corner of the state. One of rodeo’s oldest and much-loved events, the annual Pendleton Roundup held the second full week of September, draws visitors and competitors from across America. The Pendleton Roundup is known for having one of the sport’s largest arenas, and not only is it uniquely large, but it is also uniquely a grass arena. Let ‘er Buck!

3) Steens Mountain area
Steens Mountain rises up above the ridges and hills of the southeastern desert region. At 9,700 feet high, it seems perpetually covered in snow.
When I was a kid, the Alvord Hot Springs below the Mountain were free. It’s been awhile since those days, and I’ve heard the owners have capitalized on its popularity. In the area there is also the Alvord Desert, a dry desolate ancient lake spreads out about five by ten miles; it is great fun to drive on! While I have not hiked the area, I’ve heard about the trails and Alvord Lake. I also understand mustang bands roam the area. These attractions keep Steens Mountain on my further exploration list.

4) Powell’s Bookstore in Portland (and the smaller branch in Beaverton)
The largest independent bookseller in America, Powell’s City of Books was the pioneer in selling new and used side by side. With new titles as well as old, book buying has never been so much fun.

Ask any book-loving Portlander about this bookstore that takes up one full city block, and you are likely to hear a story. One of my friend’s first dates with her now husband were at Powell’s. Another friend exchanges wallets with her husband to fortify their weakened power and resist buying another good book. For me, this was the go to place each term of college and university semester. I’d compare the recommended newest edition with the older ones sitting next to it; Powell’s saved me money.


Upper North Falls

5) Silver Falls State Park 
The State Park in Silverton has an easy walking loop taking you by 10 different falls. The paved trail gets you close, even behind, some gorgeous waterfalls. However, to get in the water you need to drive over to lesser-accessed walk – to the Upper North Falls. A short walk from the parking area gets you right to falls. There the rocky edge is usually shallow enough for wading out a little ways before any drop in depth. Once in, relax as you are in a real rustic swimming hole – Pacific Northwest style.

Happy Trails!