Booked: Flag Point Lookout Weekend

Did you love tree houses as much as I did when you were young? My friend across the street had one in her backyard and we’d spend countless hours up there, plotting, the way kids do, away from the prying eyes and ears of adults. There was something magical about being up high, among the trees, away from the ground reality. I never outgrew this fascination. Maybe it’s because I’m short; any method of being higher/taller than others gives me great satisfaction.

So imagine my pure, child-like glee when I found out that you can rent forest fire lookouts in the National Forests around Oregon (and beyond) during the off-season. You know, to sleep in. Like a cabin, but way up high over the trees. How cool is that! My Oregonian friend mentioned wanting to do this awhile ago, and obviously we were in. It’s yet another instance of all the awesome things to do in and around Portland. Four of us are going to be staying at the Flag Point Lookout in Mount Hood National Forest for a weekend next fall.

It’s seriously cool!

flagpoint lookout, or

Flag Point Lookout, OR

With views like this!

flagpoint lookout, or

Mount Hood, OR

Isn’t it beautiful? I can picture it already… Playing board games, wrapping up in our cozy Pendleton blankets, eating, I don’t know, salmon jerky(?), drinking whiskey hot chocolate from our Stanley thermos… all with those rich autumnal colors surrounding us. It’s a photo shoot waiting to happen.

The reservation process is a little intense. Lookouts can be reserved exactly 6 months prior to their availability, so you gotta have a plan and act fast before someone else snatches up the days you want. Weekends are especially competitive. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit we were both logged in and frantically hitting the refresh button waiting for Flag Point to become available… for six months from now.

If you’re interested, here is the website where you can browse and select accommodations: recreation.gov. There are really cool spots all over the country, but we selected one that would be an easy weekend trip from Portland.

xxx

(image 1, 2)

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Booked: The Bay Area

As I mentioned yesterday, I have booked my first trip outta Portland. I leave a week from today. That was quick, right? I only lasted here for about six weeks before concocting my first escape. …And we’re about to close on a house. …And we need to get a car. …And there is still a lot to coordinate. …And …And!

I know. The truth is, we have a lot to do as we continue settling in. So why am I taking this trip already, in the middle of all the chaos? Well, there are several reasons. Here is my rationalization:

  1. Marisa has the week off and we are adventurous little partners in crime, so I pretty much have to take advantage of this glorious opportunity to explore with her. Another good friend just moved there too. (I’m looking at you, David.)
  2. This whole stale corporate apartment thing, crummy rental car situation, and lack of stuff (which I have complained about numerous times) is… well… I need a break. It’s like the perfect storm of misery.
  3. Speaking of rain, I might sink into a deep(er) depression from this weather if I don’t find some sunshine. Portland winters really are the pits. While very similar to our Dutch winter last year, I’m struggling a lot more with the frequent rain and overcast skies. Why, you ask? Two reasons. Reason 1: See point #2 above. Reason 2: The city isn’t as walkable/charming as Amsterdam and I don’t feel like getting in the car every time I want to go out. That’s just the urban warrior in me, I guess.
  4. In my opinion, Portland is missing elements of urban culture. At least, in the way that I’m used to. To me, that means museums, shopping, entertainment, dining, and all connected by decent public transportation. The only factor that stands out to me up to this point is the restaurant scene. That scene is thumpin’ and I’ve been impressed with the foodie culture here. But, for health & wealth reasons, we’re trying to limit that to weekends only. Living on the edge, huh?
  5. Speaking of things to do on weekends, what I’m realizing is that Portland’s a decent place to live where you are still close to the great outdoors. If you take a look on tripadvisor.com, the #1 thing to do “in Portland” is visit the Columbia River Gorge – which isn’t in Portland. Of course, I want to get out there, but not now (see point #3). It’s not exactly hiking weather. Even if it was, I don’t have my hiking stuff. Right now, it’s ski season. But I don’t have my ski stuff (see point #2). Inconvenient.
  6. Bonus: Jaro was/is in full support. He’s pretty much the best.

I realize that sounds like a lot of complaints about Portland. I’m sure many of you are thinking, make the best of it or spend this time getting to know your own city. I will. After this trip. And truly, things will be different by this time next year. They’ll be better. I’ll (hopefully) have found school or work that prevents boredom motivates me. We’ll be settled down, have the equipment and stability and knowledge and resources to enjoy this time of year in the Pacific Northwest.

Back to the Bay I go. The nice thing about visiting friends is that I don’t have much planning to do. Accommodations and transportation – dunzo. We have no set plans; just going to see where the breeze takes us. Looking forward to exploring San Francisco, Oakland, possibly taking day trips to Big Sur and Napa, with a fresh perspective, a full heart of gratitude and an open mind.

How do you justify travel? Do you ever rationalize trips for yourself even if you don’t necessarily have to? Are you impulsive about it, like me? I have to admit, sometimes I can be quick to the draw about booking travel (especially given my liberties last year) and then afterward, I’m like, oops, should I have done that? The answer in this case is absolutely. Sometimes, I just need to spell it out to remember why.

xxx

P.S. In celebration of Fat Tuesday, we’re going to meet up with our Run Club tonight. …And go out for beers after. Living on the edge, ya’ll. 

Booked: Sweet Home Chicago

We have booked our flights home to CHICAGO for this December. We’ll be home from December 7 through January 8. A solid month. It’s long overdue… It will be 15 months since we last set foot on American soil. We miss it.

Skyline views from North Ave beach.

Jaro & I on the roof of our old place. Summer 2010. Photo by Kate.

My beautiful sister & I at the Bean just before we moved. August 2011.

I can’t wait to go back. However, the bean is going to look more like this:

My handsome college roommate and I. December 2010.

And the streets will look like this:

Our old street, Leavitt. January 2011.

Oh well. There is something lovely, even romantic, about Chicago in the winter. (Though I much prefer summer.)

Thinking about everything we’ll want to do and everyone we’ll want to see is overwhelming. How are we going to fit it all in? The biggest focus is, of course, people. Then food, then sight-seeing (like tourists!). But I’ll save those other topics for future posts. We have already begun to think of ways to spend quality time with the people we love. Such as:

1. Couch surfing. Many of our friends live in the city. When we did, we had countless sleepovers with people from out of town (and sometimes people from in town too lazy to go home). And while that might have had something to do with our world’s-most-incredible couch (which I’m tempted to sleep on in our storage room while we’re back), we’re hoping there’s a pay it forward system here and people will take us in. It would be fun, right? Maybe we can even pay our rent for the night by cooking breakfast before they head off to work the next morning? I think it would be a great way for us to have private catch up time with some of our closest friends.

2. Hosting a bar night. This way, we can see lots of people at one time for a fun night out. There are so many people we would love to see and I wish we could do individual gatherings with everyone, but some are going to have priority… For one, my best friend Stacy (who visited in May) is getting married on NYE and she will be a huge priority for me since this is her special time. Missing her showers and bachelorette party is an unfortunate consequence of living so far away and I want to make up for it in whatever way I can. Secondly, Jaro’s brother & wife are having a baby in early December (good timing!) and we’ll want to see the little munchkin as much as possible. It’s our first niece or nephew! I think it will also take some of the attention off us. Babies are cuter/more exciting than me & Jaro. Thirdly, we are going to Florida to see my family down there for Christmas and that will pull us away from the Chicago scene for a few days. So… bar night? I think yes.

3. Lunch dates. Practically all our twenty-something/thirty-something friends work downtown. Since I will have free time during the day, lunch dates will be a super convenient way to see more friends. Plus, there are a million restaurants I want to visit, so that will knock some of those out. More on that later.

What else can we do? Thing is, we’ll also still need to find time to just be together back in our home city. Where we met. Where we fell in love. Where we got married. So we need to squeeze some at least one date night in there as well. And spend time with our parents. And siblings. It’s going to be the fastest month of my life. Like I said, I can’t wait.

xxx