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Biking, Brews, And Covered Bridges: Eugene, OR

Biking, Brews, And Covered Bridges: Eugene, OR

Posted by on Apr 13, 2017 in Biking, Food, Gallery, Oregon | 30 comments

At the risk of completely confusing everyone, I’m going to post a couple more “catch up” blogs from last fall, just before our travels and lives were temporarily derailed by Eric’s surgery. Next month, we’ll be back on the road. But for the sake of completion—and so that I have some hope of remembering what we’ve done before we start adding to our stash of travel memories again—let’s return to early October, and our visit to Eugene.

With abundant biking opportunities, cool neighborhood brewpubs, an epic farmers’ market, tasty local foods, and a liberal vibe, Eugene offers up our idea of fun. At only 178 miles from our hometown of Ashland, Eugene is a convenient stop for us as we travel the I-5 corridor. Even though we’ve visited many times, there’s always something new to discover, as well as “favorites” to return to.

This time, we took a little field trip 20 miles outside of town to bike the Row River Trail, which originates in Cottage Grove, the “Covered Bridge Capitol of the West.” On a pretty fall day, we biked 30 miles of the scenic trail that travels along Dorena Lake, through pastoral farmland, and past several of the historic bridges. Oregon possesses one of the largest collections of covered bridges in the country, and the most extensive collection in the West. Did you know the picturesque structures protect the timber trusses from the damp Oregon climate? (One of these days, all of these little tidbits of information are going to come in handy.)

After a long day of biking, we recovered at the award winning, eco-friendly Ninkasi Brewing Company, named for the Sumerian goddess of fermentation. Their Total Domination IPA is one of Eric’s perennial favorites, but all of their beer is tasty. The neighborhood beer garden with live music and food trucks makes for a good time hanging out with the locals. Another evening, we made our way to Sweet Cheeks Winery, about 20 miles west of town on a winding, beautiful country road. Gorgeous views, decent wine, and a beautiful patio with cozy fire pits—and they don’t mind a bit if you bring a picnic.

The Row River Trail is a good ride, but our favorite biking in Eugene remains the Ruth Bascom Riverbank Trail System. We never tire of biking the scenic 14-miles of trails that meander along both sides of the Willamette River, with a variety of interesting diversions along the way, including the lovely University of Oregon campus, the Owens Rose Garden, and wildlife ponds.

A visit to a salad bar might not be high on your list of attractions, but we never miss stopping at Provisions Market Hall in the Fifth Street Marketplace in downtown Eugene. We often make a detour when we’re biking on the Riverbank Trail. The salad bar offerings are creative and delicious (roast chicken, marinated cauliflower, pickled red onions, French potato salad, kale salad), they have yummy homemade soups and wood fired pizza, and you can enjoy a glass of good wine with your meal at their lovely wine bar.

Although biking and eating and sampling beer and wine consumed most of our time in Eugene, we did manage to feed our minds a bit at the small but excellent University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History. It’s a gem of a museum, and worth a visit just to admire the beautiful architecture and the wonderful sculptures of salmon, bear, and other Pacific Northwest critters that adorn the building.

Finally, we plan our visits to Eugene so that we can spend time at the lively Saturday Market—as the country’s longest running outdoors market, it’s been a happening event since 1970. We loaded up our shopping bags with an assortment of organic and locally produced foods, browsed the wonderful crafts (I’m always looking for travel sized treasures), listened to local music, and had fun people watching. There’s a reason Eugene was voted the “hippiest city” in the country. If you enjoy a laidback counter culture atmosphere, you’ll like Eugene. We certainly do.

About the RV Park:

We always stay at Armitage County Park, just a few miles outside of town in Coburg. The sites are spacious and green with full hook-ups, good Verizon coverage, and an excellent laundry. There’s a lovely, although rather short, walk along the river. If you plan to visit in the fall, check the University of Oregon football schedule—the campground is booked far in advance for the Duck’s home games.

Next Up: Ashland In The Fall (and then we’ll be caught up!)

Currin Bridge, circa 1925

In Cottage Grove

Sweet Little Farmstand Along The Way

On The Row River Trail

Mosey Creek Bridge, circa 1920

Fall Abundance At The Eugene Farmers' Market

Pastured Eggs At The Market

The Empathy Tent, Only In Eugene

Love The Logo For Sweet Cheeks Winery

Beautiful Afternoon At The Winery

Cool Neighborhood Microbrewery

Excellent Beer At Ninkasi

Fifth Street Market In Eugene

Delicious Lunch At Provisions

The Willamette River Bike Trail

Philosophical Truth Along The Trail

Lovely Owens Rose Garden

The Museum Of Natural And Cultural History

That Giant Sloth Was Creepy

Tribal Dress Decorated With Elk Teeth

Counterculture Immortalized: Ken Kesey Sculpture

Fall Colors In Downtown Eugene

Armitage Park In Eugene

Currin Bridge, circa 1925
In Cottage Grove
Sweet Little Farmstand Along The Way
On The Row River Trail
Mosey Creek Bridge, circa 1920
Fall Abundance At The Eugene Farmers' Market
Pastured Eggs At The Market
The Empathy Tent, Only In Eugene
Love The Logo For Sweet Cheeks Winery
Beautiful Afternoon At The Winery
Cool Neighborhood Microbrewery
Excellent Beer At Ninkasi
Fifth Street Market In Eugene
Delicious Lunch At Provisions
The Willamette River Bike Trail
Philosophical Truth Along The Trail
Lovely Owens Rose Garden
The Museum Of Natural And Cultural History
That Giant Sloth Was Creepy
Tribal Dress Decorated With Elk Teeth
Counterculture Immortalized: Ken Kesey Sculpture
Fall Colors In Downtown Eugene
Armitage Park In Eugene
Currin Bridge, circa 1925 thumbnail
In Cottage Grove thumbnail
Sweet Little Farmstand Along The Way thumbnail
On The Row River Trail thumbnail
Mosey Creek Bridge, circa 1920 thumbnail
Fall Abundance At The Eugene Farmers' Market thumbnail
Pastured Eggs At The Market thumbnail
The Empathy Tent, Only In Eugene thumbnail
Love The Logo For Sweet Cheeks Winery thumbnail
Beautiful Afternoon At The Winery thumbnail
Cool Neighborhood Microbrewery thumbnail
Excellent Beer At Ninkasi thumbnail
Fifth Street Market In Eugene thumbnail
Delicious Lunch At Provisions thumbnail
The Willamette River Bike Trail thumbnail
Philosophical Truth Along The Trail thumbnail
Lovely Owens Rose Garden thumbnail
The Museum Of Natural And Cultural History thumbnail
That Giant Sloth Was Creepy thumbnail
Tribal Dress Decorated With Elk Teeth thumbnail
Counterculture Immortalized: Ken Kesey Sculpture thumbnail
Fall Colors In Downtown Eugene thumbnail
Armitage Park In Eugene 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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On The Way To Lopez Island

On The Way To Lopez Island

Posted by on Oct 6, 2016 in Biking, Food, Gallery, Travel, Washington | 25 comments

On one of our first journeys to the San Juan Islands, we discovered the tiny hamlet of Edison, in the Skagit Valley of western Washington. With a population of only 133, it doesn’t seem like there could be much worth stopping for.

True, Edison is little more than a wide spot in the road. But this particular wide spot has a disproportionate number of seriously fine eating establishments and unique art galleries. Edison embodies the farm-to-table, healthy (with a side of local pastured bacon), environmentally conscious, creatively quirky ambiance that infuses much of the Pacific Northwest.

Leaving Winthrop and our adventures in the North Cascades, the drive along the North Cascades Scenic Byway and through the pastoral farmland of the Skagit Valley was a beautiful one. One hundred and forty miles later, we pulled into our favorite campground in the area—Bay View State Park, overlooking Padilla Bay. At only nine miles from the ferry landing in Anacortes, it puts us on the doorstep of the San Juan Islands—and it’s also perfectly positioned for a visit to Edison.

It’s an easy six-and-a-half mile bike ride along the bay and through acres of blueberry fields from Bay View State Park to Edison. Our destination is always Tweets, a former gas station turned café. (There are more good choices; this just happens to be our favorite.)

The big garage doors roll up Friday through Sunday, revealing a rustic interior with a charmingly eccentric décor of roughhewn wood tables, local artwork, random trinkets, and a twinkling chandelier. The food offerings are equally eclectic, prompted by what’s in season in the neighborhood (including eggs from the proprietors’ chickens and vegetables from their garden). The food is delicious, the atmosphere casual and relaxed, and the coffee excellent.

The two-block town is worth a leisurely exploration, including locally made treasures from reclaimed materials at the Lucky Dumpster; curiosities at Shop Curator that rival a small natural history museum; and lovely cheeses and wines at Slough Food. Even though breakfast is more than satisfying, we can never resist picking up a couple of bite-sized cocoa nib shortbread cookies from Breadfarm. (It’s also worth biking an additional mile to the even tinier hamlet of Bow; we’ve enjoyed both the Rhody Cafe and their sidekick Farm-To-Market Bakery.)

In the never-ending cycle of new adventures that traveling fulltime brings, we’ve found that we appreciate the familiarity of favorite places that we return to time and again. Stopping at Bay View State Park and biking into Edison has become something of a small tradition for us—a couple of days here gives us the opportunity to catch our breath from our long cross country journeys, and eases us into the laid-back island life that awaits.

About the campground:

At only nine miles from the ferry landing in Anacortes, Bay View State Park is perfectly located for a journey to the San Juan Islands. The best sites for RV’s are sites 1-9, which have partial hookups (water and electric) and also happen to be nearest Padilla Bay (the end sites even have views of the bay). There’s a nice biking/walking trail just a mile from the park that wends around the bay. Verizon coverage is good.

Next Up: Summer On Lopez Island 

Farmstand In The North Cascades

Heading West From Winthrop

Along The North Cascades Scenic Highway

Organic Treats From Cascadian Farm Stand

Blueberry Fields On The Way To Edison

Tweets Cafe

Inside Tweets Cafe

Slow Food On The Slough

The Lucky Dumpster Recycled Treasures

Baby Barn Swallows

Part Curio Shop, Part Gallery

Breadfarm Bakery In Edison

Yummy Cookies At Breadfarm

Biking To The Rhody Cafe

Inside Cozy Rhododendron Cafe

Biking Around Padilla Bay

Low Tide At Padilla Bay

RV Site At Bay View State Park

In Line For The Ferry To The Islands

Here Comes The Ferry!

Heading For The Islands

Sailing Past Mt. Baker

Arriving On Lopez Island

Farmstand In The North Cascades
Heading West From Winthrop
Along The North Cascades Scenic Highway
Organic Treats From Cascadian Farm Stand
Blueberry Fields On The Way To Edison
Tweets Cafe
Inside Tweets Cafe
Slow Food On The Slough
The Lucky Dumpster Recycled Treasures
Baby Barn Swallows
Part Curio Shop, Part Gallery
Breadfarm Bakery In Edison
Yummy Cookies At Breadfarm
Biking To The Rhody Cafe
Inside Cozy Rhododendron Cafe
Biking Around Padilla Bay
Low Tide At Padilla Bay
RV Site At Bay View State Park
In Line For The Ferry To The Islands
Here Comes The Ferry!
Heading For The Islands
Sailing Past Mt. Baker
Arriving On Lopez Island
Farmstand In The North Cascades thumbnail
Heading West From Winthrop thumbnail
Along The North Cascades Scenic Highway thumbnail
Organic Treats From Cascadian Farm Stand thumbnail
Blueberry Fields On The Way To Edison thumbnail
Tweets Cafe thumbnail
Inside Tweets Cafe thumbnail
Slow Food On The Slough thumbnail
The Lucky Dumpster Recycled Treasures thumbnail
Baby Barn Swallows thumbnail
Part Curio Shop, Part Gallery thumbnail
Breadfarm Bakery In Edison thumbnail
Yummy Cookies At Breadfarm thumbnail
Biking To The Rhody Cafe thumbnail
Inside Cozy Rhododendron Cafe thumbnail
Biking Around Padilla Bay thumbnail
Low Tide At Padilla Bay thumbnail
RV Site At Bay View State Park thumbnail
In Line For The Ferry To The Islands thumbnail
Here Comes The Ferry! thumbnail
Heading For The Islands thumbnail
Sailing Past Mt. Baker thumbnail
Arriving On Lopez Island thumbnail

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Finally! The North Cascades

Finally! The North Cascades

Posted by on Sep 24, 2016 in Food, Gallery, Hiking, Travel, Washington | 24 comments

We’ve tried at least four times in the past few years to get to North Cascades National Park. Each time, we were foiled by mudslides, snowstorms, or wildfires. In mid-June, no random acts of nature interfered, and we finally made it there.

The park is not easy to access under the best of conditions. Located in far northwestern Washington, it’s an untamed landscape of high jagged glacial peaks and deep, thickly forested valleys. One road—North Cascades Scenic Highway—crosses the park, and it’s closed for about six months of the year.

Unlike many other national parks, North Cascades isn’t particularly drive-by friendly (except for the highly photogenic Diablo Lake, featured in the photo above). To really appreciate the magnificence of the park, you need to get out and hike the trails. And that was our intention—although things didn’t turn out exactly the way we planned.

We set up camp for three nights at lovely Pearrygin Lake State Park, just outside the little Western themed town of Winthrop, near the eastern slope of the national park. Bright and early the next morning, we headed to the Forest Service office to pick up a trail map. What we neglected to consider is that most of the trails are still buried in snow until sometime in July.

Fortunately, the ranger was knowledgeable and helpful, and she steered us toward several lower elevation hikes off of State Route 20 (AKA North Cascades Scenic Highway). Although the hikes weren’t within the boundaries of the national park, they offered a wonderful introduction to the beauty of the North Cascades.

Our hikes off of Highway 20 (a 3.5-mile round trip meander along Cedar Creek to Cedar Falls, and a four-mile round-trip hike to Cutthroat Lake) were the quintessential Pacific Northwest forest hikes. We knocked out both of those in a day—if we had it to do again, we would go straight to the Cutthroat Lake Trail and hike all the way to Cutthroat Pass (for a 10-mile hike). The Cutthroat Lake Trail is more interesting, more challenging, and more spectacular than the Cedar Creek Trail.

For something entirely different, we drove about 12 miles from Lake Pearrygin to the Methow Valley, the eastern gateway to the national park. This is high desert, and the perfect place to explore in spring and early summer when there’s still snow at higher elevations. (Not so good when the weather heats up and the rattlesnakes emerge—we talked with several people who told us that the canyon is popular for rattlesnake hunting.)

We chose the Pipestone Canyon Rim Trail, another ranger-recommended hike; she told us that there might still be wildflowers in mid-June. That was an understatement—this was one of the most spectacular wildflower displays we’ve yet seen. For long stretches of the trail, we found ourselves wading through thick stands of purple lupine, white yarrow, and bright yellow balsamroot.

We started our hike on a chilly morning, perfect for keeping rattlers at bay. Clouds scudded across the sky, threatening and then delivering a rainstorm that almost made us turn back. But we unfurled our umbrellas and persevered. (I know, hiking with an umbrella seems ridiculous—but even though we have good raingear, there’s nothing like an umbrella for keeping dry in a storm.)

The 9-mile loop hike starts off as a flat, easy trail that quickly leads to a stunning canyon of cathedral-like rock columns (“pipestones”) rising 1500 feet above the canyon floor. After the first mile, the trail opens up into grassy meadows with a sprinkling of wildflowers and a few pieces of vintage farm equipment abandoned long ago. Three miles in, a narrow path heads up a steep trail to the ridge. And then, things start to get really interesting.

As soon as we crested the ridge, the skies cleared, and we found ourselves in wildflower heaven. Seriously, I’ve never seen wildflowers this tall and this lush. The backdrop was equally breathtaking—sweeping vistas of the dramatic peaks of the North Cascades rise above velvety green foothills, and the pretty Methow Valley sprawls far below. Every bit of this trail is gorgeous—it’s worth a trip to the Cascades in the spring just to experience Pipestone Canyon.

The beauty of the North Cascades captured our hearts, and there’s no question that we’ll return—next time, we’ll try a bit later in the year to that we can get to the higher elevation hikes. But had we not been there in mid-June, we would have certainly missed the spectacular Pipestone Canyon hike—it’s far too hot in summer, and of course, there’s the issue of rattlers.

For our adventures in civilization, we enjoyed a couple of forays into the little town of Winthrop (population 393). Once an aging little mining town, Winthrop reinvented itself in the mid-70’s as a Western themed town, replete with false Western storefronts, wooden sidewalks, and hitching posts. This is ordinarily the kind of place we would avoid (assuming it to be a prime tourist trap), but somehow, Winthrop has managed to skirt tackiness, and comes off as charming.

We enjoyed a stroll through town one evening, followed by a delicious tapas-style dinner and cocktails at the cozy Copper Glance. And we stopped by the Rocking Horse Bakery and coffee shop on the morning we set out to hike Pipestone Canyon for delicious gluten-free lemon curd muffins and espresso. I’ve been meaning to email the bakery to see if they’ll share their muffin recipe, it was that good.

About the campground:

Pearrygin Lake State Park was the perfect location for our explorations of the North Cascades and the Methow Valley. It’s a pretty park on the shores of Pearrygin Lake, with plenty of shade for hot days and an interesting 3-mile trail that traverses the hillside and a picturesque old homestead.

Note that there are two campgrounds here; the east campground is further along the access road and is the nicer of the two, with larger, more level, shady sites. The west campground was apparently originally an old RV park; the sites are much closer together. Electric/water/sewer hookups available; Verizon was decent. Our positive experience was probably because we camped there mid-week in mid-June. We’ve heard that weekends and summer are crazy (like most everywhere, right?).

Next Up: Heading To The Islands

The Road To Pearrygin Lake State Park

Hiking Trail From The Campground

The Grasses Are Over My Head

Thinking About A New Truck

Lovely Lake Pearrygin

A Muddy Stretch On Cedar Creek Trail

Cedar Creek Falls

On The Way To Cutthroat Lake

Such A Pretty Trail

One Of Many Obstacles

Happy To Have A Bridge

And Another Creek Crossing

Snow Even At Lower Elevations

Beautiful Cutthroat Lake

Hoodoos In Pipestone Canyon

Not Going To Let A Rainstorm Stop Us

Vintage Farm Equipment Along The Trail

Hiking Up To The Ridge

Clear Skies And Outrageous Wildflowers

Peaks Of The North Cascades In The Distance

The Vistas Are Breathtaking

Hip Deep In Wildflowers

"The Hills Are Alive" Lalala

Circling Back To The Trailhead

A Distant View Of Campbell Lake

Back To The Trailhead

A Shiny Brewer's Blackbird

Evening In Winthrop

Right Out Of The Wild West

He Needs A Stetson And Boots

Tapas Evening At The Copper Glance

Cocktails At The Copper Glance

Winthrop By Morning

Rocking Horse Bakery

The Local Brewery

Western Kitsch

At Lake Pearrygin State Park

Diablo Lake In North Cascades National Park

The Road To Pearrygin Lake State Park
Hiking Trail From The Campground
The Grasses Are Over My Head
Thinking About A New Truck
Lovely Lake Pearrygin
A Muddy Stretch On Cedar Creek Trail
Cedar Creek Falls
On The Way To Cutthroat Lake
Such A Pretty Trail
One Of Many Obstacles
Happy To Have A Bridge
And Another Creek Crossing
Snow Even At Lower Elevations
Beautiful Cutthroat Lake
Hoodoos In Pipestone Canyon
Not Going To Let A Rainstorm Stop Us
Vintage Farm Equipment Along The Trail
Hiking Up To The Ridge
Clear Skies And Outrageous Wildflowers
Peaks Of The North Cascades In The Distance
The Vistas Are Breathtaking
Hip Deep In Wildflowers
Circling Back To The Trailhead
A Distant View Of Campbell Lake
Back To The Trailhead
A Shiny Brewer's Blackbird
Evening In Winthrop
Right Out Of The Wild West
He Needs A Stetson And Boots
Tapas Evening At The Copper Glance
Cocktails At The Copper Glance
Winthrop By Morning
Rocking Horse Bakery
The Local Brewery
Western Kitsch
At Lake Pearrygin State Park
Diablo Lake In North Cascades National Park
The Road To Pearrygin Lake State Park thumbnail
Hiking Trail From The Campground thumbnail
The Grasses Are Over My Head thumbnail
Thinking About A New Truck thumbnail
Lovely Lake Pearrygin thumbnail
A Muddy Stretch On Cedar Creek Trail thumbnail
Cedar Creek Falls thumbnail
On The Way To Cutthroat Lake thumbnail
Such A Pretty Trail thumbnail
One Of Many Obstacles thumbnail
Happy To Have A Bridge thumbnail
And Another Creek Crossing thumbnail
Snow Even At Lower Elevations thumbnail
Beautiful Cutthroat Lake thumbnail
Hoodoos In Pipestone Canyon thumbnail
Not Going To Let A Rainstorm Stop Us thumbnail
Vintage Farm Equipment Along The Trail thumbnail
Hiking Up To The Ridge thumbnail
Clear Skies And Outrageous Wildflowers thumbnail
Peaks Of The North Cascades In The Distance thumbnail
The Vistas Are Breathtaking thumbnail
Hip Deep In Wildflowers thumbnail
Circling Back To The Trailhead thumbnail
A Distant View Of Campbell Lake thumbnail
Back To The Trailhead thumbnail
A Shiny Brewer's Blackbird thumbnail
Evening In Winthrop thumbnail
Right Out Of The Wild West thumbnail
He Needs A Stetson And Boots thumbnail
Tapas Evening At The Copper Glance thumbnail
Cocktails At The Copper Glance thumbnail
Winthrop By Morning thumbnail
Rocking Horse Bakery thumbnail
The Local Brewery thumbnail
Western Kitsch thumbnail
At Lake Pearrygin State Park thumbnail
Diablo Lake In North Cascades National Park thumbnail

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Having A Blast In Boise, ID

Having A Blast In Boise, ID

Posted by on Aug 29, 2016 in Art, Biking, Food, Gallery, Idaho, Travel | 30 comments

In late May, we spent a few days in Boise, Idaho. It turned out to be one of the most delightful cities we’ve yet visited, a near perfect combination of culture and nature (and great food).

We biked along the lovely riverfront trail every day, discovered wonderful restaurants and cafes, explored the attractive downtown, and enjoyed the relaxed, sunny ambiance of Boise. Several times I remarked to Eric, “This is how a city should be.”

Somehow, Boise has maintained a small town feel, even with a population of more than 200,000. Honestly, the city was very different from what we expected—given that it’s the capital of one of the “reddest” states in the country, we assumed it would be much more conservative. But that’s not the vibe we got. There’s a strong commitment to the environment, to human rights, to building healthy and vital communities, and to organic and sustainable practices. When we toured the capitol building, I was most impressed by the simple note on a legislator’s desk—in large print, it read, “Do No Harm.”

Our RV Park backed up to the Boise Greenbelt, making it convenient to hop on our bikes and head into town. Any city that makes it easy and enjoyable for people to get around via walking and biking scores big points with us—and the Boise trail system is one of the best we’ve come across in our travels. Twenty-five miles of paved trails hug the banks of the Boise River, offering a scenic ride through wildlife habitat and riverside parks, and providing easy access to the city center. I even felt comfortable biking the streets of downtown Boise—not something I generally enjoy.

We biked for several hours each day, exploring whatever caught our attention along the way, including the lovely city parks, the Boise Art Museum sculpture garden, the inspiring Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial, and the attractive capitol building (which looks like a miniature White House).

One of the highlights of our time in Boise was a visit to the Basque Block in the heart of the city. Basques originally made their way to Idaho as miners and sheepherders. I imagine that they felt comfortable in the golden hills of Idaho, which must have reminded them of the Pyrenees, their homeland that straddles the border between Spain and France. Boise has one of the largest Basque populations in the United States, and the Basque Block is a lively community, with a museum, cultural center, and restaurants featuring delicious Basque specialties (paella!). Our dinner at the Basque Market was excellent.

Boise surprised us with other fine food offerings—we had a memorable casual lunch at Bleubird, a friendly downtown café where the owners turn out creative and delicious sandwiches and salads and make their own fresh fruit and herbal sodas (the fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, rosemary infused simple syrup, and club soda was the best non-alcoholic drink I’ve ever had). We liked it so much we biked twice to the café for lunch.

With more than 50 craft breweries, we narrowed our choice down to Cloud 9 Brewery in the charming North End neighborhood. Salted Caramel Stout? Yes, please!! All of the beer was excellent at this sweet little pub—what makes them stand out from the crowd is their commitment to sustainable, local, and organic beers. Their small restaurant shares the same commitment and is equally excellent—on a delightful evening, we enjoyed a perfectly prepared risotto with local salmon, asparagus, and spring peas.

About the RV Park:

Boise Riverside RV Park is basically an enormous gravel parking lot with large sites, most with concrete pads, and some with shade trees. We were there in late spring, and had a very nice site that backed up to a grassy area with trees. It’s all about location here—the park is on the Greenbelt multiuse trail, which offers miles of peaceful walking and biking along the river; a 15-minute bike ride takes you to the downtown parks.

Along the Route Bonus Tips:

Three Island Crossing State Park: Glenn’s Ferry, Idaho

En route from Angel Creek, Nevada to Boise, we spent one night at Three Island Crossing State Park near Glenn’s Ferry, Idaho. This pretty, peaceful park is set along the Snake River, with spacious sites surrounded by shade trades. There’s a small museum devoted to the Oregon Trail and a view across the river of the deep wagon ruts carved into the hillside by intrepid pioneers who chose to cross the river here. We were wishing we had more time at this lovely park.

Shoshone Falls: Twin Falls, Idaho

Known as the Niagara of the West, Shoshone Falls (located at the edge of Twin Falls, Idaho) was on our route to Boise. Created by seasonal runoffs from the mighty Snake River, Shoshone is one of the largest natural waterfalls in the United States. We stopped for a picnic and a walk—it’s well worth a visit.

Coming Full Circle: Joseph, OR

Boise Outdoor Sculpture Garden

Double Rainbow Over Shoshone Falls

A Lovely Place For A Picnic

Three Island Crossing State Park

On The Oregon Trail

Biking In Boise

Beautiful Views Along The Bike Path

In The Rose Garden

Downtown Boise

Biking Downtown Boise

Boise Capitol Building

The Rotunda Dome

Inside The Legislative Chambers

A Good Motto For Decision Making

At The Bleubird Cafe Downtown

Homemade Fruit & Herbal Sodas

Turkey, Brie & Fig Jam With Arugula Salad

The Basque Center

The Basque Block

At The Basque Market

Dinner At The Basque Market

Cloud Nine Brewery

Flight Of Beers At Cloud Nine

At The Boise Farmers' Market

Nice Site At Boise Riverside RV Park

Boise Outdoor Sculpture Garden
Double Rainbow Over Shoshone Falls
A Lovely Place For A Picnic
Three Island Crossing State Park
On The Oregon Trail
Biking In Boise
Beautiful Views Along The Bike Path
In The Rose Garden
Downtown Boise
Biking Downtown Boise
Boise Capitol Building
The Rotunda Dome
Inside The Legislative Chambers
A Good Motto For Decision Making
At The Bleubird Cafe Downtown
Homemade Fruit & Herbal Sodas
Turkey, Brie & Fig Jam With Arugula Salad
The Basque Center
The Basque Block
At The Basque Market
Dinner At The Basque Market
Cloud Nine Brewery
Flight Of Beers At Cloud Nine
At The Boise Farmers' Market
Nice Site At Boise Riverside RV Park
Boise Outdoor Sculpture Garden thumbnail
Double Rainbow Over Shoshone Falls thumbnail
A Lovely Place For A Picnic thumbnail
Three Island Crossing State Park thumbnail
On The Oregon Trail thumbnail
Biking In Boise thumbnail
Beautiful Views Along The Bike Path thumbnail
In The Rose Garden thumbnail
Downtown Boise thumbnail
Biking Downtown Boise thumbnail
Boise Capitol Building thumbnail
The Rotunda Dome thumbnail
Inside The Legislative Chambers thumbnail
A Good Motto For Decision Making thumbnail
At The Bleubird Cafe Downtown thumbnail
Homemade Fruit & Herbal Sodas thumbnail
Turkey, Brie & Fig Jam With Arugula Salad thumbnail
The Basque Center thumbnail
The Basque Block thumbnail
At The Basque Market thumbnail
Dinner At The Basque Market thumbnail
Cloud Nine Brewery thumbnail
Flight Of Beers At Cloud Nine thumbnail
At The Boise Farmers' Market thumbnail
Nice Site At Boise Riverside RV Park thumbnail

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Colorful People & Places: Silver City, NM

Colorful People & Places: Silver City, NM

Posted by on Jun 11, 2016 in Art, Food, Gallery, Hiking, Hot Springs, New Mexico, Travel | 31 comments

As we started our hike up the trail overlooking Silver City, a man appeared on the path, seemingly out of nowhere. He wore a pair of slides reinforced with silver duct tape (incongruous footwear for the rocky trail), a white-and-black straw cowboy hat, and carried a guitar slung around his neck.

“First time here?” he inquired affably. We told him it was our third visit to Silver City, but our first time on the trails above town. “This is one of my favorite places,” he said. “I come here a few times a week to play my guitar in the hills and hunt for amethysts. I’ll show you, if you like.” As we studied the map, he started up the trail, strumming a lovely Spanish tune on his guitar. We followed behind, intrigued by the music and his tale of amethysts.

Sure enough, about a mile up the trail he veered off into the scrub, reached beneath a large sagebrush, and dragged out a heavy maul hidden there. With a few swift blows, he laid open several large rocks, exposing lavender amethyst crystals within. “Take whatever you like,” he offered. Obviously, traveling with a rock collection isn’t practical for our lifestyle, but we couldn’t resist picking up a couple of amethyst chunks.

Silver City is awash with colorful landscapes, art, buildings, and people. The sky is cobalt, the perfect backdrop for the sagebrush and mesquite-covered hills. Vividly painted doors and windows adorn adobe buildings (many in various stages of decrepitude). Home to a disproportionate number of artists and galleries, the town has also somehow become a mecca for foodies—which makes no sense at all, given that it’s a long way from any major or even minor metropolis.

Colorful locals (in addition to our amethyst benefactor) include Jake, the owner and chef at Café 1zero6, who sports full sleeve tattoos, decorates with Buddhist/Hindu/Bollywood flair, and cooks delicious creative fusion cuisine three times a week. We plan our visits to Silver City so that we can be sure to have a meal there (the small restaurant is open only on weekends).

Another evening, we had a most unique dinner at The Curious Kumquat, crafted of local wild foods from the nearby Gila Wilderness. Our six-course tasting menu included artfully presented and delicious offerings made with spring cattails, acorns, watercress, wild mushrooms, amaranth, nettles, and more, along with locally raised meats and vegetables.

In an attempt to balance our eating adventures, we hiked the lovely nearby 3-mile Dragonfly Loop Trail, the trails on Boston Hill above the town, and made a day trip through the Mimbres Valley to the Gila Wilderness to hike to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument and to Lightfeather Hot Springs (a three-mile round trip easy hike on the Gila River that involves two river crossings).

It was a relaxing and fun week in Silver City, filled with all kinds of colorful adventures. We’ll be back—there’s always more to explore, and there’s no telling what kinds of unexpected treasures await us on the trail (and in the restaurants).

About the RV Park:

This visit, we stayed at Manzano’s RV Park, just a few miles outside of town. It’s a small, family run park, with large sites and attractive desert landscaping. Full-hookups, excellent free Internet, good Verizon; $30 per night. It’s very “homey,” with a house on the property that serves as the clubhouse/laundry/bathhouse.

Next Up: A Delightful Visit To Lyman Lake State Park 

Colorful Yankie Street In Silver City, NM

A Colorful Silver City Local

Following The Music

Finding Treasures On The Trail

Cracking Open The Rocks Reveals Amethysts

Our Trail Friend Moves On

View From The Trails Above Silver City

Visitor Center In Silver City

On The Corner Of Yankie Street Arts District

Murals On The Street

Downtown Silver City

El Sol Theatre, Circa 1934

One Of Our Favorite Silver City Restaurants

Cafe One Zero Six

Dinner At The Curious Kumquat

Pickled Cattail Appetizer

Our Favorite Coffee Shop

Tour Of The Gila Bike Race

Speeding By

Cheering On The Cyclists

Wonderful Collection Of Mimbres Pottery Here

On The Dragonfly Trail

I Think I See A Cairn

The Dragonfly Petroglyph

On The Trail Of The Mountain Spirits

First Glimpse Of Gila Cliff Dwellings

Artistic Warning

Painted Redstart With A Bug

Climbing Up Into The Dwellings

Exploring The Cliff Dwellings

Hiking The Middle Fork Of The Gila River

Another River Crossing

Pretty Trail Along The Middle Fork Of The Gila

Natural Hot Pools Along The River

But Only Knee Deep

Enormous Site At Manzanos RV Park

Colorful Yankie Street In Silver City, NM
A Colorful Silver City Local
Following The Music
Finding Treasures On The Trail
Cracking Open The Rocks Reveals Amethysts
Our Trail Friend Moves On
View From The Trails Above Silver City
Visitor Center In Silver City
On The Corner Of Yankie Street Arts District
Murals On The Street
Downtown Silver City
El Sol Theatre, Circa 1934
One Of Our Favorite Silver City Restaurants
Cafe One Zero Six
Dinner At The Curious Kumquat
Pickled Cattail Appetizer
Our Favorite Coffee Shop
Tour Of The Gila Bike Race
Speeding By
Cheering On The Cyclists
Wonderful Collection Of Mimbres Pottery Here
On The Dragonfly Trail
I Think I See A Cairn
The Dragonfly Petroglyph
On The Trail Of The Mountain Spirits
First Glimpse Of Gila Cliff Dwellings
Artistic Warning
Painted Redstart With A Bug
Climbing Up Into The Dwellings
Exploring The Cliff Dwellings
Hiking The Middle Fork Of The Gila River
Another River Crossing
Pretty Trail Along The Middle Fork Of The Gila
Natural Hot Pools Along The River
But Only Knee Deep
Enormous Site At Manzanos RV Park
Colorful Yankie Street In Silver City, NM thumbnail
A Colorful Silver City Local thumbnail
Following The Music thumbnail
Finding Treasures On The Trail thumbnail
Cracking Open The Rocks Reveals Amethysts thumbnail
Our Trail Friend Moves On thumbnail
View From The Trails Above Silver City thumbnail
Visitor Center In Silver City thumbnail
On The Corner Of Yankie Street Arts District thumbnail
Murals On The Street thumbnail
Downtown Silver City thumbnail
El Sol Theatre, Circa 1934 thumbnail
One Of Our Favorite Silver City Restaurants thumbnail
Cafe One Zero Six thumbnail
Dinner At The Curious Kumquat thumbnail
Pickled Cattail Appetizer thumbnail
Our Favorite Coffee Shop thumbnail
Tour Of The Gila Bike Race thumbnail
Speeding By thumbnail
Cheering On The Cyclists thumbnail
Wonderful Collection Of Mimbres Pottery Here thumbnail
On The Dragonfly Trail thumbnail
I Think I See A Cairn thumbnail
The Dragonfly Petroglyph thumbnail
On The Trail Of The Mountain Spirits thumbnail
First Glimpse Of Gila Cliff Dwellings thumbnail
Artistic Warning thumbnail
Painted Redstart With A Bug thumbnail
Climbing Up Into The Dwellings thumbnail
Exploring The Cliff Dwellings thumbnail
Hiking The Middle Fork Of The Gila River thumbnail
Another River Crossing thumbnail
Pretty Trail Along The Middle Fork Of The Gila thumbnail
Natural Hot Pools Along The River thumbnail
But Only Knee Deep thumbnail
Enormous Site At Manzanos RV Park thumbnail

Read More