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Summer In The San Juan Islands

Summer In The San Juan Islands

Posted by on Sep 22, 2017 in Biking, Family, Food, Friends, Gallery, Hiking, Kayaking, Music, San Juan Islands, Washington | 34 comments

We left Lopez Island two weeks ago, waving goodbye from the deck of the ferry as we sailed away. Although we were on the island for two months, our parting is always bittersweet. Are we excited about continuing on to new adventures? Yes! At the same time, it’s hard to leave a place where we feel so deeply connected.

The first year we arrived as volunteers at Spencer Spit State Park, we met a couple that had been hosting there for 15 years. “Fifteen years?” I thought. “I can’t imagine.” Well, we just finished up our seventh summer at the park, and we’re planning to return next summer. There’s something about Lopez…

We’re drawn back year after year by the natural beauty, our delight in teaching the interpretive programs, the diversity of interesting outdoor and cultural events, and the wonderful friends we’ve made on the island.

We feel extraordinarily fortunate to have discovered Lopez, and to have the opportunity to settle in for the summer in a place we love, with people we love, doing volunteer work that we love. We’re also fortunate to have friends and family visit us on the island each year. And with several other islands in the San Juan Island archipelago just a short ferry ride away, we never run out of things to do. For us, life doesn’t get any better than Lopez in the summertime.

I’ve written a lot about Lopez and the San Juan Islands over the past several years, so I’ll keep this simple by just posting photos of some of our island adventures. These photos come with a disclaimer: I could post hundreds of photos, and I still wouldn’t be able to adequately convey the beauty and magic of this special place.

The only real downside to life on Lopez is the almost complete lack of internet, which exacerbates the usual challenge I have of keeping up with our blog. Hence, you’re getting one GIANT postcard. (Sorry about that!)

oxoxo Laurel & Eric

Ferry sailing by Spencer Spit

Settling into our new site at the park; it was a bumper crop year for Dungeness crab

A visitor to our campsite; a Red-breasted Nuthatch comes to bathe

Our favorite farm stand, just a short bike ride away

Inter-Tribal Canoe Journey lands on Lopez en route to Campbell River, British Columbia

Dusk at Shark Reef is always in shades of purple and orange

Views of Mount Baker

Adventures On San Juan Island

Lime Kiln Lighthouse on San Juan Island

Adventures On Orcas Island

Raven sculpture, Orcas Island

A Day Trip To Sucia Island

Peaceful bay on Sucia Island

Next Up: A Bucket List Adventure: Vancouver Island, BC

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Meandering Along The North Oregon Coast

Meandering Along The North Oregon Coast

Posted by on Jun 16, 2017 in Birding, Family, Food, Friends, Gallery, Hiking, Oregon | 30 comments

Ican’t tell you how many times we’ve been cruising along in our travels and I’ve exclaimed, “Oh! Look at that beautiful view/interesting wayside trail/cool one-street town/yummy café” and we’ve just zoomed on by, because there isn’t a place to pull over with our trailer and we still have a long drive ahead of us. (Left to my own devices, I would pull over at every whim. But I do realize that we would never get anywhere at that rate.)

We’ve spent the past couple of weeks on the north Oregon Coast, moving short distances and spending four or five days in each place. It’s been great. And there’s been almost enough time to explore all of the places that capture our interest.

Following our stay in Tillamook, we moved 25 miles up the coast to Nehalem Bay State Park, another lovely Oregon State Park. Not only is the natural setting gorgeous, the picturesque little towns of Nehalem, Manzanita, and Cannon Beach are nearby. Being so close to Portland, there’s a hip vibe that’s drifted over to the coast, which means that along with beach strolls and hiking nearby trails, we could get good coffee, browse bookstores and intriguing shops, and enjoy creative offerings from local cafés.

The proximity of Portland also means that we were close enough for Eric’s sister Peggy to drive over for a visit. We spent a couple of days together exploring the adorable town of Manzanita and relaxing and catching up. It’s always fun when we’re together. We also were able to catch up with our friends Rick and Kim, whom we last saw in Taos. They’ve recently bought a sweet home in Seaside, which they’ve beautifully renovated. We spent a delightful afternoon and evening with them, including a long walk along the beach and dinner at a tasty Mediterranean café.

We rose early one morning to head to Cannon Beach, only 25 miles away. Our goal was to see Tufted Puffins at Haystack Rock, an iconic landmark on Cannon Beach and home to a nesting colony of puffins (as well as Pigeon Guillemots, Common Murres, Pelagic Cormorants, Western Gulls, and Black Oystercatchers). We had great views of the birds, but came away with no photos of Tufted Puffins. When they leave their nest burrows in search of fish, the puffins fly speedily and awkwardly overhead, like little bowling pins with wings. They are impossible to photograph in flight—and when they head back to their nests, they disappear immediately into their burrows. The lack of photo opportunities notwithstanding, we had a blast watching them.

Five miles south of Cannon Beach is Hug Point State Recreation Site. We were lured by the promise of unique scenic beauty, where at low tide, a half-mile hike leads to a beach with beautiful sandstone caves, a seasonal waterfall, and tidepools. Little did we know that the history here is as interesting as the landscape.

Before the coastal highway was built, people traveled the coast via the beach. Getting around this particular headland required hugging the point at low tide (hence the name). Stagecoaches plunged into the sea to careen around the point, until someone decided to blast a trail through the rock. Even then, it was a risky ride. At low tide, you can walk along the original stagecoach road, just steps from the pounding surf and tidepools below. At high tide, the old road floods quickly—you had better move fast when the tide starts to roll back in (I speak from experience).

The Hug Point road played an important role in the fight to preserve public access to Oregon beaches. In 1913, Governor Oswald West used the road as an example of why Oregon beaches needed to remain public—he basically saved the beaches by declaring them state highways. In many cases, such as Hug Point, there were no alternative routes. Although the beaches are no longer highways (thank goodness!) all of us Oregonians are really happy that Governor West had the foresight to preserve our beautiful beaches and keep them out of the clutches of private ownership.

At Oswald West State Park (named in honor of Governor West), just 10 miles south of Cannon Beach, we hiked the beautiful Cape Falcon Trail, a five-mile round trip journey that winds through a forest of ferns, cedars, and spruces and ends up in a maze of tall salal and wild beach roses. We bushwhacked our way through to openings that revealed spectacular views of the coastline below. We highly recommend this gorgeous hike.

As far as culinary adventures, we loved Buttercup in Nehalem, a fabulous little take-away eatery that serves up excellent chowders and ice creams. That’s it for the menu. But oh wow, the chef/owner is a genius. She sources everything locally, including fresh seafood, dairy products, organic vegetables, and even local salt from Jacobsen Salt (the little salt producer we visited near Tillamook). The offerings change frequently; we came away with spring clam chowder and Malaysian fish chowder (both excellent) and a basil strawberry sorbet that was ridiculously good.

About the campground:

Nehalem Bay State Park is another beautiful coastal Oregon State Park. The sites are spacious, level, and surrounded by shore pines, each with a grassy sitting area, picnic table, and fire pit. We especially liked the sites in A-loop, and even better, those backing up to the dunes (we were in one of those sites). Electric and water hookups, good Verizon coverage, quiet, and dark night skies—all things that make us happy. Walking trails lead from the campground through the dunes to four miles of beautiful beaches that we always seemed to have to ourselves.

Meandering Along The North Oregon Coast

Dunes To The Beach At Nehalem Bay Campground

Not Sure Where Everyone Else Is....

Roosevelt Elk Browsing In The Dunes

Happy Hour With Peggy

In The Sweet Little Town Of Manzanita

Wonderful Bookstore In Manzanita

Independent Bookstores Are The Best

Scenic Views Along The Coastal Highway

The Curving Coastline And Nehalem Bay

The Pretty Nehalem River

Tiny And Cute Downtown Nehalem

Don't Miss Buttercup!

Amazing Homemade Chowders

The Beehive Artisan Tea Shop, Nehalem

The Refindery, Ultimate In Recycling

A Chandelier From Spoons, Forks And Knives

Breezy Day At Hug Point

A Really Little But Cute Waterfall

Heading For The Old Coastal Road

Great Views From The Old Road

Hug Point Road In The Early 1900s

The Old Road As It Looks Now

Lush Ferns On Cape Falcon Trail

A Bit Wet In A Few Places

Lovely Wild Douglas Iris

Views Along Cape Falcon Trail

Serenaded By A Pacific Wren

The Trail Is A Bit Overgrown With Salal

Wonderful Views From The Tip Of Cape Falcon

The Promenade Turnaround At Seaside

Fun Reunion With Rick And Kim

Sleepy Monk Coffee Roasters In Cannon Beach

I Could Have Spent The Whole Morning Here

Interesting Shops For Browsing In Cannon Beach

Searching For Puffins At Haystack Rock

A Picturesque Cormorant Colony

Pigeon Guillemots In Breeding Finery

Campsite At Nehalem Bay State Park

Meandering Along The North Oregon Coast
Dunes To The Beach At Nehalem Bay Campground
Not Sure Where Everyone Else Is....
Roosevelt Elk Browsing In The Dunes
Happy Hour With Peggy
In The Sweet Little Town Of Manzanita
Wonderful Bookstore In Manzanita
Independent Bookstores Are The Best
Scenic Views Along The Coastal Highway
The Curving Coastline And Nehalem Bay
The Pretty Nehalem River
Tiny And Cute Downtown Nehalem
Don't Miss Buttercup!
Amazing Homemade Chowders
The Beehive Artisan Tea Shop, Nehalem
The Refindery, Ultimate In Recycling
A Chandelier From Spoons, Forks And Knives
Breezy Day At Hug Point
A Really Little But Cute Waterfall
Heading For The Old Coastal Road
Great Views From The Old Road
Hug Point Road In The Early 1900s
The Old Road As It Looks Now
Lush Ferns On Cape Falcon Trail
A Bit Wet In A Few Places
Lovely Wild Douglas Iris
Views Along Cape Falcon Trail
Serenaded By A Pacific Wren
The Trail Is A Bit Overgrown With Salal
Wonderful Views From The Tip Of Cape Falcon
The Promenade Turnaround At Seaside
Fun Reunion With Rick And Kim
Sleepy Monk Coffee Roasters In Cannon Beach
I Could Have Spent The Whole Morning Here
Interesting Shops For Browsing In Cannon Beach
Searching For Puffins At Haystack Rock
A Picturesque Cormorant Colony
Pigeon Guillemots In Breeding Finery
Campsite At Nehalem Bay State Park
Meandering Along The North Oregon Coast thumbnail
Dunes To The Beach At Nehalem Bay Campground thumbnail
Not Sure Where Everyone Else Is.... thumbnail
Roosevelt Elk Browsing In The Dunes thumbnail
Happy Hour With Peggy thumbnail
In The Sweet Little Town Of Manzanita thumbnail
Wonderful Bookstore In Manzanita thumbnail
Independent Bookstores Are The Best thumbnail
Scenic Views Along The Coastal Highway thumbnail
The Curving Coastline And Nehalem Bay thumbnail
The Pretty Nehalem River thumbnail
Tiny And Cute Downtown Nehalem thumbnail
Don't Miss Buttercup! thumbnail
Amazing Homemade Chowders thumbnail
The Beehive Artisan Tea Shop, Nehalem thumbnail
The Refindery, Ultimate In Recycling thumbnail
A Chandelier From Spoons, Forks And Knives thumbnail
Breezy Day At Hug Point thumbnail
A Really Little But Cute Waterfall thumbnail
Heading For The Old Coastal Road thumbnail
Great Views From The Old Road thumbnail
Hug Point Road In The Early 1900s thumbnail
The Old Road As It Looks Now thumbnail
Lush Ferns On Cape Falcon Trail thumbnail
A Bit Wet In A Few Places thumbnail
Lovely Wild Douglas Iris thumbnail
Views Along Cape Falcon Trail thumbnail
Serenaded By A Pacific Wren thumbnail
The Trail Is A Bit Overgrown With Salal thumbnail
Wonderful Views From The Tip Of Cape Falcon thumbnail
The Promenade Turnaround At Seaside thumbnail
Fun Reunion With Rick And Kim thumbnail
Sleepy Monk Coffee Roasters In Cannon Beach thumbnail
I Could Have Spent The Whole Morning Here thumbnail
Interesting Shops For Browsing In Cannon Beach thumbnail
Searching For Puffins At Haystack Rock thumbnail
A Picturesque Cormorant Colony thumbnail
Pigeon Guillemots In Breeding Finery thumbnail
Campsite At Nehalem Bay State Park thumbnail

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Enjoying Portland, Even In The Rain

Enjoying Portland, Even In The Rain

Posted by on Mar 29, 2017 in Family, Food, Gallery, Oregon | 35 comments

In early October, we spent 10 days in Portland, Oregon. We love visiting Portland in the fall. The leaves are turning, the temperatures are perfect, and the rainy season doesn’t begin until November. Except for this year. In October 2016, Portland set all-time records for rainfall, and the deluge continued throughout the winter.

We didn’t expect day-after-day of gray skies and showers, but we still found plenty to enjoy, even in the rain. It’s a good thing, because 10 days cooped up in our 27’ trailer would have been about 9 ½ days too much.

Fortunately, rain in Portland isn’t like rain in the East or the South. Most of the time, there’s just a constant light drizzle, not enough to warrant unfurling an umbrella. Throw on a fleece, a rain jacket, and waterproof shoes, and you’re good to go.

Our main reason for visiting Portland every year is to spend time with Eric’s sister Peggy. While there, we also carve out time for hiking, cultural, and culinary adventures. There is no lack of interesting things to do in Portland—the biggest challenge for us is narrowing down our choices! 

Some of our favorites from this visit:

Urban Hike: The 2.6-mile Waterfront Loop meanders along the waterfront, including the Eastbank esplanade’s floating walkways, and crosses the Willamette on a couple of Portland’s famous bridges. The views of the downtown skyline are terrific.

The loop passes right by the Saturday Market—an excellent place for a taste of “Keeping Portland Weird.” (Honestly, Portland doesn’t seem weird to us at all—our hometown of Ashland is equally, delightfully weird.)

Neighborhood Wanderings: The Alphabet District/Northwest Portland is one of our favorite neighborhoods to explore on foot. It’s a charming mix of appealing shops, cafes, and beautiful renovated historic homes. On a rainy afternoon, we wandered in and out of interesting shops, lunched at award winning Ken’s Artisan Bakery (the soup and salad specials are excellent), and spent a couple of hours reading and relaxing at the cozy Dragonfly Coffee House.

Nature Fixes: Given that we stay 15 miles outside of Portland (it’s the closest RV park for our visits to Eric’s sister) we’re always in search of nearby places to hike/walk. This time, we discovered Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge and Graham Oaks Nature Park, both with several miles of beautiful trails. We also spent an afternoon at Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve in search of birds—all of which had more sense than we did, and were snuggled up somewhere out of the rain.

The Japanese Garden: Always a delight, the Portland Japanese Garden offers a tranquil respite in the city. We were a week or two early for the full-on display of autumn colors, but appreciated the peaceful beauty of the gardens, as well as a temporary show of fantastic sculptural bamboo pieces scattered throughout. Not only is this place gorgeous, it’s considered to be the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan. If you want insights into the deeper meaning of the natural elements of the garden, take one of the excellent free guided tours.

The Food: The food—oh my, the food! Portland is renowned for creative, local, handcrafted, organic, delicious fare. This visit, the standout for us was Dove Vivi, a friendly little neighborhood bistro in Northeast Portland that “celebrates the loot of their locale” by making everything from scratch. We were smitten by the crispy cornmeal crust pizza baked in an iron skillet, layered with balsamic roasted red onions, fresh corn, and smoked mozzarella, accompanied by a kale salad and local beer. Really, really, tasty.

Another day we enjoyed a late lunch at Pine Street Market, a trendy showcase of nine local restaurants in a very cool renovated 1886 historic livery. Lots of choices here—we opted for the excellent roast chicken and radicchio salad from Pollo Bravo. We happened to arrive mid-afternoon after a long ramble through downtown Portland in search of the famed “Portlandia” statue, and were glad we missed what appears to be a crazed lunch rush. (Bonus: Happy hour is from 3-6, with good deals on food and brews.)

McMenamins Kennedy School: On our dreariest day in Portland we headed to Northeast Portland for a matinee at the Kennedy School, a historic 1915 elementary school recycled into a boutique hotel replete with movie theatre, brewery, multiple small bars, soaking pool, and restaurant. We enjoyed a showing of Star Trek while relaxing on comfy sofas in the former auditorium, followed by a brew in the honors bar. It’s a colorful venue with a quirky Portland ambiance. Loved it.

Famers’ Market: Rain or shine, we never miss a visit to the Portland Farmers’ Market at Portland State University. On a drizzly day we perused the lush offerings and loaded up on organic vegetables, excellent locally crafted chocolate, pastured eggs, local goat cheese, and wild caught salmon. It’s a great place to catch some local music, grab a tasty meal from local purveyors, and soak in more of the vibe that makes Portland so welcoming, even in the rain.

 

About the RV Park:

Pheasant Ridge RV Park is about 15 miles from downtown Portland, and it’s an easy drive into the city on I-5 as long as you avoid the morning and afternoon rush hours. The park is immaculate and tightly run; sites have concrete pads, grassy lawns, and attractive landscaping. Full hookups, nice laundry and bathhouse, good Verizon coverage.

The Portland Japanese Garden

Wonderful Bamboo Art Exhibit In The Garden

Bamboo Arch Overlooking Portland

Bamboo Fountain And Autumn Leaves

Peggy And Eric At Jackson Bottom Preserve

Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge

On The Trails At Graham Oaks Nature Park

Local Pork Tacos At The Farmers Market

A New Variety Of Radicchio At The Market

Exploring The Northwest District

Colorful Neighborhood Homes

Lunch At Ken's Artisan Bakery

Organic French Inspired Local Bakery

Dragonfly Cafe In NW Portland

Late Afternoon Tea At The Dragonfly

Rainy Day Matinee At The Kennedy School

Boiler Room Turned Bar

Reward In The Honors Bar

Gourmet Pizza At Dove Vivi

Pine Street Market

Delicious Tapas Lunch At Pine Street Market

Walking The Waterfront Loop

Picturesque Morrison Bridge

Too Bad We Forgot Our Red Dresses

Colorful Portland Characters

Downtown Portland

Portlandia

Pheasant Ridge RV Park

The Portland Japanese Garden
Wonderful Bamboo Art Exhibit In The Garden
Bamboo Arch Overlooking Portland
Bamboo Fountain And Autumn Leaves
Peggy And Eric At Jackson Bottom Preserve
Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge
On The Trails At Graham Oaks Nature Park
Local Pork Tacos At The Farmers Market
A New Variety Of Radicchio At The Market
Exploring The Northwest District
Colorful Neighborhood Homes
Lunch At Ken's Artisan Bakery
Organic French Inspired Local Bakery
Dragonfly Cafe In NW Portland
Late Afternoon Tea At The Dragonfly
Rainy Day Matinee At The Kennedy School
Boiler Room Turned Bar
Reward In The Honors Bar
Gourmet Pizza At Dove Vivi
Pine Street Market
Delicious Tapas Lunch At Pine Street Market
Walking The Waterfront Loop
Picturesque Morrison Bridge
Too Bad We Forgot Our Red Dresses
Colorful Portland Characters
Downtown Portland
Portlandia
Pheasant Ridge RV Park
The Portland Japanese Garden thumbnail
Wonderful Bamboo Art Exhibit In The Garden thumbnail
Bamboo Arch Overlooking Portland thumbnail
Bamboo Fountain And Autumn Leaves thumbnail
Peggy And Eric At Jackson Bottom Preserve thumbnail
Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge thumbnail
On The Trails At Graham Oaks Nature Park thumbnail
Local Pork Tacos At The Farmers Market thumbnail
A New Variety Of Radicchio At The Market thumbnail
Exploring The Northwest District thumbnail
Colorful Neighborhood Homes thumbnail
Lunch At Ken's Artisan Bakery thumbnail
Organic French Inspired Local Bakery thumbnail
Dragonfly Cafe In NW Portland thumbnail
Late Afternoon Tea At The Dragonfly thumbnail
Rainy Day Matinee At The Kennedy School thumbnail
Boiler Room Turned Bar thumbnail
Reward In The Honors Bar thumbnail
Gourmet Pizza At Dove Vivi thumbnail
Pine Street Market thumbnail
Delicious Tapas Lunch At Pine Street Market thumbnail
Walking The Waterfront Loop thumbnail
Picturesque Morrison Bridge thumbnail
Too Bad We Forgot Our Red Dresses thumbnail
Colorful Portland Characters thumbnail
Downtown Portland thumbnail
Portlandia thumbnail
Pheasant Ridge RV Park thumbnail

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Matters Of The Heart

Matters Of The Heart

Posted by on Dec 30, 2016 in Family, Friends, Gallery, Musings, Oregon | 88 comments

On the morning of December 5th, Eric underwent open-heart surgery and a triple bypass. As he told the surgeon, this experience was not on his bucket list. Nor mine. Needless to say, this has been the most intense month of our lives.

All things considered, Eric is doing remarkably well. He’s now walking 30 minutes a day, soon to increase to 45 minutes. He looks great. But he looked great before the surgery, and had no symptoms other than occasional minor chest tightness when we were hiking or biking strenuously. We were lucky. This could have turned out very differently, and I try not to think too much about that.

There have been times in our adventures when we’ve been hiking alone in the middle of nowhere and I’ve thought, “I wouldn’t want to sprain an ankle out here, miles away from help.” I’ve even had brief imaginings of “What if something really bad happened and help was hours away?” At those moments, I’ve reassured myself by acknowledging that I’d rather accept the risks that come with doing what I love instead of indulging my fears and staying home where life is undeniably safer. Nonetheless, I am extraordinarily grateful that we didn’t suffer a tragedy on the trail.

Our doctor told us that Eric is very fortunate—that only about one quarter of people have symptoms that indicate cardiovascular disease. Apparently the first symptom for the remaining unlucky 75 percent is a heart attack. Eric didn’t suffer a heart attack. In fact, his heart is remarkably strong (the EKG tech referred to him as a “work horse”). He also has perfect blood pressure, a heart rate in the 50’s, low cholesterol, and takes no medications. We thought he was bullet proof. But his dad had a heart attack at age 47, and died from cardiovascular disease at 58. So there’s that.

Even now, almost four weeks after we entered the cardiac lab for a diagnostic angiogram (“He might need a stent,” said the cardiologist) and ended up in the hospital for nine long days and major surgery, the whole experience is surreal. I still have times when I expect to wake up and discover that this was all merely a bad dream. The image of Eric in intensive care, hooked up to a tangle of tubes and wires and flashing lights, haunts me. More than ever, I am in awe of both the fragility and resilience of the human body and spirit.

I have always been skittish around hospitals and medical procedures, and do my best to keep medical intervention at bay with a healthy diet, daily exercise, and a positive attitude. When we need help, we turn to herbs, acupuncture, massage, and other noninvasive treatments. This problem, obviously, required drastic measures. The technology and approach of Western medicine is at once terrifying and miraculous. This has been the most humbling experience of my life, and I will be eternally grateful to the skilled and compassionate people who saved Eric’s life and made a scary situation as comfortable as it possibly could have been.

Both Eric’s surgeon and cardiologist assure us that in time, we will be able to return to our normal lives. And they understand that “normal” for us looks different from what most people think of as normal. The doctors and nurses were intrigued by our stories of travel and our outdoor adventures. In Eric’s chart, one of the doctors wrote, “He and his wife travel the country full-time in their RV, and are active hikers, bikers, and kayakers.” I loved reading that. It made me feel that they understood something about us, and that they cared.

So, here we are. We would never have signed up for this adventure, but we are extraordinarily grateful that we discovered the problem before it turned into a tragedy. We are grateful that we’re here in our hometown, within a few miles of one of the finest cardiac centers in the country. We’re grateful for our wonderful surgeon and the skilled nursing care Eric received. And we are grateful to be in the embrace of our loving community of friends and family, who have held us in the most challenging moments, opened their homes and their hearts, brought us nourishment, and encouraged and supported us through it all.

Here’s to life, and to doing what makes your heart happy. You’ve heard it many times, but I have to say it anyway—don’t put off doing what you want to do. Tell your family and friends that you love them. You can’t say it too much. I know that I’m going to do my best to be more present, more generous, and more compassionate in this amazing, wild journey of life. We wish you peace, joy, and good health in the New Year.

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Family Fun In Pullman, WA

Family Fun In Pullman, WA

Posted by on Sep 19, 2016 in Biking, Family, Gallery, Hiking, Travel, Washington | 26 comments

Located in far eastern Washington is a handsome countryside of rolling agricultural land. Fields of wheat and lentils are a verdant green in spring, fading  to gold in late summer. Blue sky and clouds provide the backdrop; a few barns here and there add a bit of vertical interest. This is the Palouse.

It’s a place of bucolic beauty, and a photographer’s dream. But the big draw for us is family, and that’s why we once again found ourselves in Pullman in early June.

Our daughter Amanda, her partner Armando, and our grandson Findlay have been living in Pullman for a year now. It was a big adjustment for them, coming from San Juan Island, off the coast of Washington. (And honestly, an adjustment for us, as well. We were accustomed to having them as our next-door-island neighbors during our summers on Lopez Island.)

Amanda is in her second year of graduate school in ethnobotany at Washington State University, and Armando is working on his PhD. Findlay just started first grade. As you can imagine, they are all very busy with their various educational endeavors. We planned our visit for a window of opportunity when they all had a bit of free time, and we spent a wonderful week hanging out together, catching up, sharing meals, and exploring the area.

We biked the wonderful trail between Pullman and Moscow a couple of times (an easy 14-mile round trip ride through rolling farmland), enjoyed a morning at the Moscow Farmers Market (with an essential side-trip to the toy store on the plaza), and hiked up Kamiak Butte (the only real hike in the area, but a worthwhile one). And for a bit of art and culture, we visited the Dahmen Barn, a 1935 dairy barn turned into artists studios, with a unique fence made of 1,000 antique rusted wheels. Viewing art from the perspective of a six-year old is always enlightening.

It was a wonderful week. The only problem is that it went by far too quickly.

About the RV Park:

The only RV option in Pullman is the city park (Pullman RV Park). It’s not a resort by any means, but it’s a fine place to stay, and centrally located for walking to the beautiful Washington State University campus and pretty neighborhood parks. Full hook-ups, excellent Verizon coverage, and remarkably quiet at night (as long as you don’t plan your visit during a WSU home football game).

Next Up: Finally! The North Cascades

Family Fun In Pullman, WA

The Scenery Around Pullman

At The Moscow Farmers Market

Hooping At The Market

A Study In Radishes

His Current Passion

Counting Up His Life Savings

A Hiking Adventure

View From Kamiak Butte

Hiking Buddies

Having Fun

On Top Of Kamaik Butte

A Sweet Moment

Biking Trail From Pullman To Moscow

Mostly Farmland Along The Trail

Armando And Amanda

Enjoying The Botanical Garden

Cooling Off On A Hot Day

Neighborhood Park In Pullman

The Dahmen Barn

A Pair Of Art Critics

Antique Iron Wheel Fence

Mustard In Bloom

Pullman RV Park

Family Fun In Pullman, WA
The Scenery Around Pullman
At The Moscow Farmers Market
Hooping At The Market
A Study In Radishes
His Current Passion
Counting Up His Life Savings
A Hiking Adventure
View From Kamiak Butte
Hiking Buddies
Having Fun
On Top Of Kamaik Butte
A Sweet Moment
Biking Trail From Pullman To Moscow
Mostly Farmland Along The Trail
Armando And Amanda
Enjoying The Botanical Garden
Cooling Off On A Hot Day
Neighborhood Park In Pullman
The Dahmen Barn
A Pair Of Art Critics
Antique Iron Wheel Fence
Mustard In Bloom
Pullman RV Park
Family Fun In Pullman, WA thumbnail
The Scenery Around Pullman thumbnail
At The Moscow Farmers Market thumbnail
Hooping At The Market thumbnail
A Study In Radishes thumbnail
His Current Passion thumbnail
Counting Up His Life Savings thumbnail
A Hiking Adventure thumbnail
View From Kamiak Butte thumbnail
Hiking Buddies thumbnail
Having Fun thumbnail
On Top Of Kamaik Butte thumbnail
A Sweet Moment thumbnail
Biking Trail From Pullman To Moscow thumbnail
Mostly Farmland Along The Trail thumbnail
Armando And Amanda thumbnail
Enjoying The Botanical Garden thumbnail
Cooling Off On A Hot Day thumbnail
Neighborhood Park In Pullman thumbnail
The Dahmen Barn thumbnail
A Pair Of Art Critics thumbnail
Antique Iron Wheel Fence thumbnail
Mustard In Bloom thumbnail
Pullman RV Park thumbnail

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Treasures Of The Forgotten Coast

Treasures Of The Forgotten Coast

Posted by on Apr 12, 2016 in Birding, Family, Florida, Gallery, Travel | 30 comments

Tucked into the crook of the Florida Panhandle on the Gulf of Mexico, a two-lane highway meanders along 130 miles of laid-back coastal Old Florida. This is the Forgotten Coast, an area of small fishing towns, pristine wilderness, and rustic beauty. Here, southern accents are as thick as the Spanish moss dripping from the cypress trees, and wildlife vastly outnumbers people.

I know this part of Florida well. My family roots run deep here—both my grandfather and my dad were born in Apalachicola, the crown jewel of the Forgotten Coast. This is home, on the deepest soul-level.

I grew up in Miami, but spent many a long weekend and summer vacation in Apalachicola. We fished and crabbed in the bay, and cooked up feasts of blue crab, oysters, flounder, and shrimp. On nearby St. George Island, we enjoyed miles of sugar sand beaches, shelling, and swimming in the warm Gulf waters. We harvested wild blueberries in the Apalachicola National Forest, picnicked on the scenic Ochlockonee River, and cooled off in refreshing Wakulla Springs.

I moved away from Florida more than thirty years ago to expand my horizons, just about the time my parents retired in East Point, across the bay from Apalachicola. I never imagined that decades after I left Florida behind, I’d return to spend winters on the Forgotten Coast.

Eric and I both love this area, but the primary reason we make the long journey from the West Coast so often is to spend time with my mom and dad. From late November until late March we were “next door neighbors,” parked on my folks’ beautiful property overlooking the bay for about a week at a time, interspersed with our many other Florida adventures. I’m grateful that my mom and dad—now 85 and 87—are still in the home that they built, in the town that they love. I’m also eternally grateful that they chose such an interesting and beautiful spot in which to live. I’m well aware that we could be spending long stretches of time in a much less desirable locale.

By some miracle, the Forgotten Coast has been largely overlooked by developers. The places that I’ve known and loved since childhood are remarkably untouched—I’m hoping they remain so. Here, a few of our favorite spots on the Forgotten Coast (in addition to Apalachicola, of course, which I’ve written about here and here.).

(Oh, you might be wondering—if we love this area so much, why don’t we live here? Mostly because of the heat, humidity, and biting bugs that descend in the summer, which runs from about May to October. I would have to spend six months of the year floating in a swimming pool lounger, G & T in hand. Which actually sounds pretty appealing—but probably isn’t the healthiest lifestyle choice.)

Ochlockonee River State Park: Located in Sopchoppy, 40 miles east of Apalachicola, this pretty park offers hiking and biking trails through pine flatwoods and kayaking on the Ochlockonee River. It’s home to adorable white squirrels (a genetic mutation of the common gray squirrel) and the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker. The park protects large stands of longleaf pine, the habitat the woodpeckers need for nesting and foraging.

About the campground: Set on the banks of the Ochlockonee River amidst pines and scrub oaks, it’s a rustic, but nice campground—$20 per night, with electric, water, and decent Verizon coverage.

St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge: Established in 1931, this was one of the first National Wildlife Refuges. The biking and hiking trails are wonderful and there’s lots of birdlife—especially shorebirds, ducks, and wading birds—and of course, alligators. It’s also home to the oldest lighthouse on the Gulf coast, built in 1842 and still in use today.

About the campground: There’s no camping in the refuge, but Newport Campground, a small county park, is located just a few miles from the refuge (and about 60 miles from Apalachicola). This is one of the few parks we’ve encountered that has lowered their prices while upgrading their facilities. Full-hookups (with internet!) are $28 night, electric and water are $23. An added bonus is the kayak launch for the St. Marks River, located right next to the campground.

More nearby kayaking: About 3 miles from the campground is the county launch for the Wakulla River, about a six-mile round trip paddle on a wide, pretty river. About 25 miles away is the Wacissa River, one of the most remote and wild rivers in Florida. We discovered a primitive, free, and pretty campground on the banks of the river at Goose Pasture, one of the launch points for the Wacissa. Not close to anything, but if you’re looking for an out in the middle of nowhere adventure, here it is.

Wakulla Springs State Park: This lovely park is worth a stop to stroll through the lodge and grounds—if it’s hot, take a swim in the beautiful spring. Don’t miss the Jungle Cruise that takes you deep into the cypress swamp. I’ve been coming here since I was a child, and never tire of the fun boat trip. You’re guaranteed to see plentiful wildlife (including alligators) and if you’re there in the winter, manatees. No camping here, but it’s just a few miles from Newport Campground.

Next Up: Slowing Down On Dauphin Island

Late Afternoon At St. Marks Wildlife Refuge

Newport Campground, St. Marks

St. Marks Lighthouse

Photographing Ducks On The Ponds

Redheads

Tricolored Heron

Glossy Ibis

Biking The Dikes At St. Marks

Gator Sunning

Great Egret Preening

Flocks Of White Pelicans

Snowy Egret

Disheveled Tricolored Heron

Boardwalks At St. Marks

Black-Crowned Night Heron In The Marsh

Playing Tourist With Our Friend Beth

Wakulla Springs Lodge

Jungle Cruise On The Wakulla

Anhinga On The Wakulla

Kayaking The Wakulla River

Spanish Moss Decorated Osprey Nest

On The Wild Wacissa River

A Secretive Sora In The Reeds

White Ibis

A Relaxing Float Downriver On The Wacissa

Free Campground On The Wacissa River

Overlooking The Ochlockonee River

A Long Leaf Pine Flatwoods

White Squirrel At Ochlockonee River SP

Outdoor Shower At Ochlockonee River State Park

On The Trails Through The Pine Flatwoods

A Pair Of Red Cockaded Woodpeckers

Cool Kayak Launch On The Ochlockonee River

Calm Day Kayaking On The Ochlockonee River

Immature Little Blue Heron With Crawfish

Spacious Campsite At Ochlockonee River SP

Hermit Thrush In Our Campsite

Sunset On The Ochlockonee River

Retro Picnic Area On Carrabelle Beach

Apalachicola Waterfront

Biking Along The Waterfront

In Downtown Apalachicola

Oyster City Brewing Company

Local Radio Station

Working With My Dad

Dad And Eric Repairing The Seawall

Mom On The Patio

Sunset In My Folks' Back Yard

Late Afternoon At St. Marks Wildlife Refuge
Newport Campground, St. Marks
St. Marks Lighthouse
Photographing Ducks On The Ponds
Redheads
Tricolored Heron
Glossy Ibis
Biking The Dikes At St. Marks
Gator Sunning
Great Egret Preening
Flocks Of White Pelicans
Snowy Egret
Disheveled Tricolored Heron
Boardwalks At St. Marks
Black-Crowned Night Heron In The Marsh
Playing Tourist With Our Friend Beth
Wakulla Springs Lodge
Jungle Cruise On The Wakulla
Anhinga On The Wakulla
Kayaking The Wakulla River
Spanish Moss Decorated Osprey Nest
On The Wild Wacissa River
A Secretive Sora In The Reeds
White Ibis
A Relaxing Float Downriver On The Wacissa
Free Campground On The Wacissa River
Overlooking The Ochlockonee River
A Long Leaf Pine Flatwoods
White Squirrel At Ochlockonee River SP
Outdoor Shower At Ochlockonee River State Park
On The Trails Through The Pine Flatwoods
A Pair Of Red Cockaded Woodpeckers
Cool Kayak Launch On The Ochlockonee River
Calm Day Kayaking On The Ochlockonee River
Immature Little Blue Heron With Crawfish
Spacious Campsite At Ochlockonee River SP
Hermit Thrush In Our Campsite
Sunset On The Ochlockonee River
Retro Picnic Area On Carrabelle Beach
Apalachicola Waterfront
Biking Along The Waterfront
In Downtown Apalachicola
Oyster City Brewing Company
Local Radio Station
Working With My Dad
Dad And Eric Repairing The Seawall
Mom On The Patio
Sunset In My Folks' Back Yard
Late Afternoon At St. Marks Wildlife Refuge thumbnail
Newport Campground, St. Marks thumbnail
St. Marks Lighthouse thumbnail
Photographing Ducks On The Ponds thumbnail
Redheads thumbnail
Tricolored Heron thumbnail
Glossy Ibis thumbnail
Biking The Dikes At St. Marks thumbnail
Gator Sunning thumbnail
Great Egret Preening thumbnail
Flocks Of White Pelicans thumbnail
Snowy Egret thumbnail
Disheveled Tricolored Heron thumbnail
Boardwalks At St. Marks thumbnail
Black-Crowned Night Heron In The Marsh thumbnail
Playing Tourist With Our Friend Beth thumbnail
Wakulla Springs Lodge thumbnail
Jungle Cruise On The Wakulla thumbnail
Anhinga On The Wakulla thumbnail
Kayaking The Wakulla River thumbnail
Spanish Moss Decorated Osprey Nest thumbnail
On The Wild Wacissa River thumbnail
A Secretive Sora In The Reeds thumbnail
White Ibis thumbnail
A Relaxing Float Downriver On The Wacissa thumbnail
Free Campground On The Wacissa River thumbnail
Overlooking The Ochlockonee River thumbnail
A Long Leaf Pine Flatwoods thumbnail
White Squirrel At Ochlockonee River SP thumbnail
Outdoor Shower At Ochlockonee River State Park thumbnail
On The Trails Through The Pine Flatwoods thumbnail
A Pair Of Red Cockaded Woodpeckers thumbnail
Cool Kayak Launch On The Ochlockonee River thumbnail
Calm Day Kayaking On The Ochlockonee River thumbnail
Immature Little Blue Heron With Crawfish thumbnail
Spacious Campsite At Ochlockonee River SP thumbnail
Hermit Thrush In Our Campsite thumbnail
Sunset On The Ochlockonee River thumbnail
Retro Picnic Area On Carrabelle Beach thumbnail
Apalachicola Waterfront thumbnail
Biking Along The Waterfront thumbnail
In Downtown Apalachicola thumbnail
Oyster City Brewing Company thumbnail
Local Radio Station thumbnail
Working With My Dad thumbnail
Dad And Eric Repairing The Seawall thumbnail
Mom On The Patio thumbnail
Sunset In My Folks' Back Yard thumbnail

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