Happy Friday

Kiev, Ukraine

How is it Friday already? I swear, March hit and suddenly the weekends are sneaking up on me. Do you have any fun plans? We’re having friends over for dinner tonight (gotta show off our new kitchen while it’s still new!) and tomorrow, my sister is coming to visit! I can’t wait to show her around Portland and just hang out with her in real life. We’re so lucky to have technology like Skype and texts to keep us connected, but nothing beats a real hug. I might not let go.

xxx

{photo from happier times in Kiev’s Maidan. thinking about our friends in Ukraine. P.S. It’s not The Ukraine.}

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Camping in a Lookout Tower part 2

You can read part 1 here

Hello everyone. The tale of our lookout tower camping continues (with lots of photos this time). I last left you with the fact that we survived the first night. That in itself was an achievement. The next day was equally nerve-wrecking due to the gale force winds that constantly shook our little cage. Let’s just say if I was standing outside I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have had an arm anymore much less the umbrella I’d be holding.

In all honesty, we had heard rumblings about a winter storm warning but, psh, brushed them off because, really? It’s the very beginning of the season. Sitting in the whiteout through the morning hours, however, we agreed that if it was still coming down at 3pm, we’d head home. We were so remote that getting stranded would have been disastrous.

Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon

As we whiled away the hours playing Risk and drinking hot toddies, I got used to the constant rocking and was having genuine fun. Flinck was cozied up in front of the stove and life was good.

Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon

It was during this fun that we noticed a small poster on the wall, which was basically a tribute to the original tower that had fallen 10 years earlier in a storm. Umm. It couldn’t have been all that different from what we were experiencing, but I comforted myself with the notion that this new structure must have been built with proper reinforcement…

Lo and behold, the snow stopped right at 3 and didn’t appear to have accumulated much at all. With determination in our eyes, we all agreed to stay another night. Unfortunately, it was still so windy and cold that we decided not to go hiking, which had been our plan. Sad face. More Risk and more whiskey helped pass the time.

Jaro did brave the wind for these cool shots of the tower:

Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon

Because we weren’t tortured enough from getting lost and struggling with terrible weather, there was one more element of disquiet that I want to share. While we played our games and had our PG fun, random hunters would drive up to the tower and all climb out of their enormous vehicles for a peek around (for tracks?) throughout the day. They would stare up at us and we would stare back, attempting to smile and wave. It was never reciprocated. Creepy! And rude. We were all a little rattled by our surprise visitors and just hoping they wouldn’t come back and try to murder us in the night. These are the thoughts of rational adults, I swear…

As dusk shrouded us in its shadows, the winds picked up even more. We were in for another rough night. As we all attempted sleep, the tower shook so violently I thought we were going to get pulled right off the ground into a tornado. Wizard of Oz style. It was intense. But maybe worth it? The next morning, we awoke before sunrise and caught these incredible views:

Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon

Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon

On our last morning, I finally understood the appeal. The panorama was simply stunning. Just incredible landscapes in every direction. We relished the views for a few hours before starting our trek home. Because of the thick snowfall overnight (oops), we couldn’t see the treacherous potholes, and took turns walking in front of the car again. But at least this time, it was sunny. And beautiful.

Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon

All in all, it was so worth it. We all survived. We all had fun. Even Flinck! If you’d like to find lookout towers available in your area, click here. In the search, choose “lookouts.” We stayed at the one listed, Flag Point.

xxx

Camping in a Lookout Tower part 1

Are you adventurous? I like to think I am. I’ve traveled alone. Gone paragliding. Road-tripped around Europe with no itinerary. It’s nothing ground-breaking, but I have challenged myself in different ways. Stepped outside of my comfort zone.

None of that prepared me for this.

Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but this was a seriously scary experience. You may remember that I booked this little getaway six months in advance to secure the first weekend of the rental season. November 1st. How bad could it be? We had barely begun to see the rains come down in Portland, there was no way the weather could be that bad already. Right? Wrong. So let’s take a trip down memory lane and I’ll tell you the story…

It started out innocently enough. We piled in the car (pup included!), grabbed our two friends that were joining us, blasted some jams and headed out to Mt. Hood. The sky was clear as can be. Mt. Hood loomed in the distance. I smiled to myself.

My only goal was to make it to the tower before nightfall. As we approached the mountain, we realized we would have to rely on the park service directions as our phones would lose reception. Let’s just say that writing out detailed directions for unmarked roads is not the park service’s strong suit. We were lost (embarrassingly) for hours. A wrong turn here, a muddy misstep there and it was nightfall. Great.

After trudging along on a pothole infested road and losing all hope of finding the tower, we saw a light in the distance. So we drove up to it and realized it was a camp. Help! Yay! Almost immediately, a flashlight starts walking toward us from one of the cabins. Help? I was convinced it was a crazy mountain hermit/murderer. As he shined the light in our eyes, we could barely make him out aside from a long, scraggly gray beard. He peered at us suspiciously.

“You folks lost or somethin’?” 

Then we four city kids proceeded to explain our plight and plead for help. After informing us that we were quite far off and giving us very helpful, detailed directions, we got ready to pull away.

“Don’t get snowed in.” 

We laughed because… ridiculous. There was no snow, no wind, no weather of any kind. It wasn’t even that cold. Yet he just stared at us. Serious. Somber. ..Hmm.

Now that it was 8pm, we were finally heading in the right direction. Making our last turn onto the dirt service road that would lead us to our destination, we started to second guess ourselves. The potholes were asteroid craters and we kept scraping the bottom of our car. To lighten the load, the four of us passengers (yes, including Flinck) had to get out and walk to prevent the car from bouncing into the pits. It was… the pits. Our 4-wheel drive could barely manage it. So after stumbling into the pitch black darkness for over an hour, we decided to stop the car and two of us ran ahead with flashlights (much faster than the car could move) to see if the tower was just around the riverbend. As their tiny streams of light faded into the wilderness, the other two of us and Flinck hung back by the car. And waited. And waited. Finally, they re-emerged saying we should turn around. We must have missed the spur.

Tower Camping

Walking into the abyss. (sorry for the terrible photo quality)

Turning around, we still walked in front of the car, staying in the headlight beams. Because, you know, bears. And boogeymen. At least we decided to start calming my nerves enjoying our beers. Arriving back at the turnoff (another hour later), we saw a small spur leading up a hill. Was that it all along? Was it right there? Piling back in the car, we started up this hill… which turned out to be nearly vertical. Impossible to climb even with our trusty Subaru. So again, we all pile out and start climbing on foot, with nothing but little headlamps and two flashlights to guide us.

One empty field. No tower. By some miracle, being up on this plateau afforded us cell service and we were able to see that we had been correct on that other road and it was just another mile further.

<Insert string of profanity here>

Some time after 10pm, we pulled up to this lookout tower. In pitch black darkness. From what I could make out, it looked like a melancholy perch sitting about 50 feet up on some toothpick stilts. Lots of stairs. And to add to our problems adventure, the wind had picked up tremendously. Gathering all of our stuff, we trekked to the top. The wind was so strong, we could barely keep our eyes open. With Flinck wedged between myself and a pillow, I climbed the rickety stairs with honest to god fear. Not being able to see more than an arm’s length in front of my face, I stared out at the endless darkness between the slatted stairs.

Finally! We had made it. All of us and all our things were now safely inside this crow’s nest. It was one tiny room, with 360 degree windows, a wood-burning stove, a propane stove, and some other meager furniture. As the temps had dipped to 30 degrees, we got a fire started for warmth first. Priorities, people. As there was no electricity, we made and devoured our dinner under the glow of a few candles and promptly drank most of our booze.

Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon

Falling asleep eventually, I wasn’t even bothered I was gently being rocked back and forth as the tower swayed in the wind. Waking up in the middle of the night with a start, it bothered me enormously. It was no longer gentle, more like violent rocking. Not only that, but our fire had gone out and the space was freezing. The wind continued to howl outside. One of the dudes woke up and groggily tried to restart our fire. This is… fun?

After an infinite night of worrying we were going to plummet to our deaths (well, maybe that was just me), we woke up to this:

Tower Camping, Mt. Hood, Oregon

Yep. We were in the clouds, quite literally. More on this adventure coming soon, including photos of how we passed the time and the (insanely gorgeous) view once we eventually saw it.

Thanks for reading.

xxx

Happy Friday

Hi friends. It’s been a minute. I could fill the page with all my excuses for not writing, but I’ll leave it simply at this: I miss you and I’m back. It’s a new day…

Tower Camping

What are you up to this weekend? Whatever it is, I hope you stay cozy and warm as we finally enter the month of March. (Is it just me or is this winter never-ending?) We are having new kitchen countertops installed and as you other homeowners know, I am just beside myself with glee. I’m even excited for the months of ramen and PBR we’re going to have to suffer through enjoy to pay for them. 😉 Other than that, it’s more house projects (talk about never-ending…) and maybe we’ll sneak out to our favorite neighborhood bar for some non-PBR brews.

Here are two quick links to kick off your weekend:

– Think you know everything about Portland? I was surprised by a number of these. Especially #2!

– Laughed out loud at the Williamsburg of Portland. Agree 100%.

Looking forward to sharing some travel stories with you in the coming weeks. Europe! Kauai! Asia! And that’s just a few. Let’s just say that 2013 went out with a bang.

xxx

{photo from our adventures in lookout tower camping – more on that soon!}

Labor Day in Maine

Happy Tuesday ya’ll. Over the weekend, autumn arrived here in Portland right on cue. Mornings are now dark; the days overcast; the rain sporadic. At night there is a new chill in the air that was blissfully absent last week.

Luckily, we bid adieu to summer 2013 in the best way possible. Over an extended Labor Day weekend, we flew coast to coast (Portland to Portland to be exact) to celebrate the nuptials of two very dear friends. A wedding is as good a reason as any to travel to places that you otherwise might not prioritize. It was a no brainer to share the best day of our friends’ lives with them, but seeing as we live on the opposite side of the country, we also knew we had to make the most it. Who knows when we’ll have the opportunity to go to Maine again? Especially with 10 of our close friends?

As I mentioned before, this was my first trip to Maine and I had all sorts of ideas as to what it would be like. Quaint. Charming. Rustic. Woodsy. These words were all buzzing in my head as we prepared for our visit.

Turns out, they’re all spot on. Yet, I was surprised at just how very secluded and remote Maine felt. Maybe that was because we had to drive for hours and hours to get from one place to another, or maybe it was because we didn’t have decent cell reception ever. Outside of Portland, the small towns that speckled the landscape were few and far between.

For part of the trip, we were at a resort up in the mountains and for the rest, we rented a log cabin near the coast and Acadia National Park. We spent one day in the park and Bar Harbor, but otherwise were relaxing at the cabin, eating lobster, swigging PBRs, and laughing more than anyone should. I was all over Instagram this trip, while Jaro manned the DSLR. The pictures tell the story better than I could, so here are my Instagrams…

Holy Donut doughnuts

Holy Donut doughnuts

the good stuff

the good stuff

pier beer

pier beer

covered bridge

covered bridge

Newry, ME

morning jog in Newry, ME

Newry, ME

Newry, ME

Newry, ME

Newry, ME

Newry, ME

Newry, ME

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

our log cabin

our log cabin

view from our log cabin

view out the back door

So… Maine is perfection. And just what we needed to welcome fall.

xxx

Easy day trip: Oneonta Gorge

Having spent my childhood in the great plains of the Midwest, my world was flat. Flat cornfields, flat roads, flat everything made distant rolling hills and far off craggy mountaintops all the more majestic. There was something magical and mysterious about them; they were out of reach. To this day, I am still captivated by landscape that is not perfectly horizontal.

Midwesterner or not, the Oneonta Gorge is a delight for thrill seekers of all ages. A tall, narrow ravine only accessible by climbing slippery logjams and plunging chest deep into icy water, this gorge is a riveting experience. And just 40 minutes outside of Portland, it is well worth the drive for those wishing to actively participate in a slice of Oregon magic.

So, how do we get there? It’s actually quite straightforward and for those of you that have been out on the scenic route 30 have probably passed right by it. Just east of Multnomah Falls, there are signs for the Oneonta Gorge Trail. Go ahead and park in that designated area. To follow the trail, there is a bridge leading into a tunnel. But rather than go through the tunnel, you’ll want to take the overgrown stairs just before the bridge in the southwest corner.

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

This is where our adventure began. These steps led us down to the bottom of the ravine, rather than the marked trail. Initially, the trickle of water is not even ankle-deep and easily avoidable by the wide riverbanks. We walked along the bank until we got to this:

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

Yep. It’s a huge logjam with dozens of enormous, slick trees. It doesn’t look that treacherous, but trust. It’s taller and wider than it lseems. Climbing across it is somewhat dangerous. I mean, this area is unmaintained and there are no handrails. But we did see small nimble children, fit older folks, and even brave dogs making their way across. Know your own limits. It is NOT safe.

being a nerd.

being a nerd on top of the log jam

Once we successfully crossed, we understood the reason why so many people do it. Ahead of us was a deep cut in the mountains that looked like they were split apart with a jagged knife. Walking through it, we stared up in amazement.  It was otherworldly. We were not be the only ones murmuring, this is awesome. It is awesome. It invokes awe.

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

As we walked along, we realized our legs were tingling. Looking down, we saw that the earth dipped and the water slowly crept up and was hugging our calves. And the riverbanks had disappeared. The water was so clear we could barely tell. But, not wanting to be wimps, we forged on. (You can’t forge a river though.) Surprisingly, our legs numbed got used to it quickly.

The water receded just as fast as it rose, and we thought we were out of the danger zone. That wasn’t so bad! But a few steps ahead then the ground sank again. The stones on which we were walking kept dipping lower, and lower and lower beneath the surface of the water. This time, it wasn’t just to our knees. The water was now chest deep. And ice cold. Since we knew there was more ahead, we kept going, the cool water wrapping around our skin like a snake with a deathlike grip. It. Was. Freezing. But after a few minutes of torture, we were released and back on dry land.

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

deep!

Walking a few more paces into the canyon, we came to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Before us was a massive waterfall. We reached the end! After a few obligatory jumping photos, we traversed back out.

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

That entire adventure took us about 90 minutes. Well worth the drive from Portland to visit this natural treasure.

xxx

Monday Travel Memory: Amsterdam

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Over two years ago now (which I cannot believe), I choked out a tearful goodbye to life as I knew it in the United States. With one way tickets in our sweaty hands, my husband and I boarded a flight to our new home. Amsterdam. Stepping on that plane was a turning point. I’m forever changed because of it.

I reflect on our time in Amsterdam often. How in love with it I became (and still am). Yet the way that I think about it is completely different from the other cities and countries I merely visited and took vacations. When traveling, I was always looking for the extraordinary. The fabulous. The unexpected. The downright thrilling. For those reasons and so many more, I continue to travel.

But for Amsterdam I have a different sentiment. Why? Initially it was all those things. Extraordinary. Fabulous. Unexpected. And yes, downright thrilling. But as I settled in and became more comfortable, what I truly appreciated was the ordinary. It was everyday life. So wonderful and pleasant and… normal.

That’s what makes this memory different from all the others. It wasn’t the grandiose whirlwind of museum-browsing, guided tour-shuffling or extravagant dining that I remember so fondly. It was the falafel from the shop down the street that we would eat messily as we walked the half block home because we just couldn’t wait. It was the cheap wine we would drink as we sat in our window, legs dangling. It was going on dates by riding those rickety, old cruisers. Sometimes rather that ride my own, I would sit on Jaro’s rack, one arm casually draped around his waist, watching the cobblestone whiz by under my feet. It was the predictable weekend market where we would get the same lunch every single Saturday. From the same two dudes that ran the booth.

It was all the things we had to explore, learn and discover that only could have been done by actually living there. Like any seasoned traveler would tell you- Ask the café server what they order. Ask the store clerk where they go for nightlife. Always ask a local. In my own way, I became one. 

The way I came to appreciate Amsterdam has changed my view of the world. For the better, I would think. My gratitude for the way other people live their ordinary lives is something I have taken with me and carry in my heart. I may have left Amsterdam, but Amsterdam hasn’t left me. It never will.

(These are some photos from our final days there.)

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands

xxx

4th of July in Napa Valley

Napa Valley has been done. Am I right? It’s been written about from every angle, every budget, every preference, every possible perspective, so it’s almost intimidating to write about it, hoping to give it some fresh, new edge.

But, here it goes.

I had vacationed in Napa a few years ago with my girlfriends and we had the time of our lives. In those few days we spent there, I developed strong attachment to some (not all, certainly) of the wineries we visited, promising myself that I’d find my way back there. Lucky for us, some friends planned to marry in St. Helena this summer, so it was the perfect opportunity to go.

After driving down through the Redwoods, we found ourselves in the valley for four days of indulgence. What I love about this region is the ease. It is laid out so well. The downside of this is that it’s extremely commercial. Touristy (a word that makes travelers cringe).

Our goal was to avoid the traps that felt generic and overdone. In fact, as we moseyed up and down Rt. 29 (and the lesser used Silverado Trail), we skipped right over all the heavy hitters. I waved to Robert Mondavi and Sutter Home. We blew right past Sterling and Rutherford Hill. In fact, we attempted Stag’s Leap and walked right back out. Too crowded, loud, touristy and not at all the vibe we were going for during our vacation.

So now for the places we did go. Since we aren’t wine snobs (can’t remember the last time I turned away a bottle), our enjoyment was largely dependent on the atmosphere.

On day one, we first wanted to fuel up for the day of tastings ahead. Stopping at the Oxbow Public Market in Napa, we reveled in Latin American coffee flights and huevos rancheros. It was 10:30am and we were ready for wine!

William Hill Estate Winery

Our first stop was William Hill, just outside of Napa. We lounged on adirondack chairs under a shady umbrella (mercifully, as it was near 100° that day) and sipped on a custom tasting selection, which was just divine. It was very intimate, only a few other chairs speckled the grassy hilltop and guests were respectfully talking in hushed whispers. And the views were spectacular. With sweeping vistas of the valley in every direction, we immediately felt like we were on vacation. It was the best way to start. 

William Hill

William Hill

living the good life

living the good life

Robert Sinskey Vineyards

After grabbing hearty sandwiches from Soda Canyon, we drove up Silverado to Sinskey, outside of Yountville, for another tasting and a picnic lunch. Because of the blazing sun, the rose-lined patio was deserted and we planted ourselves under another umbrella. Enjoyed the solitude and, again, the views.

Robert Sinskey

Robert Sinskey

J+J

J+J

Mumm Napa

Further still up the Silverado Trail, we ended our day of touring at Mumm, near Rutherford. This one was a bit more crowded, but it was worth it for the sparkling bubbles to cap off a great day. It had larger capacity, but if you snag a table at the edge of the patio overlooking the vineyard, you feel miles away from anywhere.

Mumm Napa

Mumm Napa

Mumm views

Mumm views

Frog’s Leap Vineyard

The next morning, after some warm sourdough breakfast sandwiches from Model Bakery, we had a reservation at Frog’s Leap. This might be my favorite. I love the wrap-around porch and their organic, irrigation-free wines. I also love that you can get up close and personal with the vines and the gardens; you’re free to stroll around as you taste. Afterward, we cruised over to étoile Restaurant at the Chandon Estate. Needless to say, it was a luxurious meal.

"time's fun when you're having flies"

“time’s fun when you’re having flies”

Frog's Leap vines

Frog’s Leap vines

Rustridge Vineyard & Winery  

Sadly, this was the only disappointing stop in our visit. We were the only ones there, and while I like privacy, this was too much. More like a red flag. The grounds were nothing special, the wines were just okay, and the host was terribly awkward. Not sure it’s ever appropriate to make guests feel like they’re inconveniencing you by showing up. Still, I’m glad we went. It was a beautiful drive out on Sage Canyon Rd, way far away from the congestion in town. Our misadventure was framed by the pretty drives.

Rustridge

Rustridge

Rustridge

Rustridge

Sequoia Grove Vineyards

Another favorite. The wooden barn for Sequoia’s tasting room is rustic without being frumpy, a sort of quiet elegance that is comfortable and refined. I love it. We grabbed a bottle since we didn’t want to commit to a full tasting, and enjoyed a glass on the back patio.

Sequoia Grove

Sequoia Grove

Kelham Vineyard

This was the star of the show when I was here with girlfriends a few years ago. Tucked away on a quiet side street and only available by appointment, Kelham delivers a truly five-star experience. Set on the family estate, you are free to roam around by the reflecting pool and play with the dogs. Taking us through eight wines, it was the biggest tasting and most expensive (at $80 p.p.). Worth it.

Kelham

Kelham

Wait, but where’d we eat? Farmstead (the gnocchi!) and French Blue (the cheddar biscuit!) in St. Helena were both that perfect balance of laid-back charm and good, fresh food. Highly recommend. Carpé Diem in Napa was also great and they don’t have a corkage fee if you bring your own wine. Pass on the overbearing service at Goose & Gander; the drinks and apps were tasty, but the server was pushy.

And, of course, the wedding was lovely. How could it not be? Napa Valley is a slice of heaven.

xxx

P.S. I “discovered” the Silverado Trail in February.

P.P.S. French wine country is a little different.

Road Trip: Redwoods National Park

Perhaps my last post made it seem like we don’t do anything fun anymore. That’s not true. We do lots of fun things. And by fun things I mean pretty freaking awesome things.

For instance: When a friend says they’re getting married in Napa over the 4th of July, you say, SEE YOU THERE. Automatically. Without a second’s hesitation.

It was the perfect opportunity to take our first vacation since our move, especially now that we are on the west coast. Like the Barefoot Contessa would say, how easy is that? Speaking of food, we were hungry for more (like Napa was not enough?). We decided that, rather than fly straight to wine country, we’d road trip through the Redwood National Park for some scenic breaks along the way.

So that’s what this post is about. Those redwoods. I’ll get to Napa later. Did you know that the California redwoods are the tallest organisms on earth? With towering heights over 300 feet, no other living thing reaches so close to the sun.

The straight shot from Portland to Napa takes about 10 hours and could feasibly be done in a day. Adding the redwoods to our trip meant an extra 4-5 hours to our journey, so we chose to split it up over two days. Throwing our camping equipment into the truck (and caution to the wind), we figured we’d find a campground to crash for the night. I had read about some coastal dune camping that got us excited.

Fast forward through a gorgeous 7 hour drive through the Pacific Northwest (did you know Northern California is part of it?) and the trees suddenly look as if on steroids. We were in the national park. It’s late afternoon by this point and we needed to find a spot to set up our tent. After a quick visit to the state park visitor center, we see that the dune camping is full. Sad face. But it is first come, first serve and who did we think we were showing up at 4 in the afternoon? Myself, getting a little panicky and Jaro, staying ever so calm, head to a county campground, hoping for some available sites.

We pulled up to a tiny pitch tent campground that, thank god, had ample space and a friendly host. It was located on the banks of a pretty river and filled with giant redwoods. We set up quickly. Sitting on the riverbank, we enjoyed wine and the cool breeze as the sun went down. When the shadows chased us back to our campsite, we huddled around a fire, devouring grilled cheese sandwiches and taking small sips of whiskey.

Riverbank at sunset

riverbank at sunset

Grilled brie, blue and camembert sandwiches with apricot jam

grilled brie, blue, munster and camembert sandwiches with apricot jam

Our roof for the night. Redwoods National Park, CA

our roof for the night

It was very secluded; very quiet, which was only partially comforting as there was a state prison nearby.

MOVING ON.

Upon our survival without a murderer stalking us through the night, we packed up and headed to Big Tree, at the urging of my guidebook. That’s the name. It was… big. As we stood at the base, I stared up in wonder. There’s something about being dwarfed by nature that is so humbling and beautiful. That’s really all I can say about that.

Tolawa Dunes State Park, CA

morning fog. Tolawa Dunes State Park, CA

Redwood National Park, CA

there’s the sun. Redwood National Park, CA

Big Tree

Big Tree

Neck cramp at Big Tree

neck cramp at Big Tree

Feeling small. Big Tree, Redwood National Park, CA

feeling small. Big Tree, Redwood National Park, CA

Once we felt satisfyingly shrunken and tiny, we drove down to Lady Bird Johnson Grove, an easy one mile loop according to my book (and saw bears en route!). While flat, well-maintained, “easy”, etc., it took us a few hours to walk around this gem of a path. Your eyes don’t know what to do with themselves. There was so much to see. So many colors, textures and, not to mention, heights. We noticed all sorts of special moments, both big and small. High and low. Well worth the time to mosey around this one.

momma bear and cub sighting!

momma bear and cub sighting!

Lady Bird Johnson Grove

Lady Bird Johnson Grove

Lady Bird Johnson Grove

Lady Bird Johnson Grove

a reminder.

a sweet reminder

Our final farewell to the woods was a tour down the Avenue of the Giants and through the ever so cliché Drive Thru Tree. The former is a stretch of road that parallels the highway, but offers a more intimate experience than the wide open 101. Driving through a maze of Mother Nature’s skyscrapers gave us this sense of awe that we couldn’t (and still can’t) shake. The latter, well, is pretty self-explanatory.

grazing elk

grazing elk

avenue of giants

avenue of giants

drive thru tree

drive thru tree with all the tourists

So that was our brief trip through the redwoods. More on Napa soon…

xxx

P.S. Most photographs were taken by my talented husband.

P.P.S. I visited other redwoods earlier this year. And the last time we camped. Seems like ages ago.

Monday Travel Memory: Cinque Terre

Hey kids. It’s been awhile. A solid three month absence. Sometimes it’s good to take some distance from stuff, even stuff we love, to come back with better focus and energy. Right? It’s been nice to have some space and not spend so much time at the computer. Sounds like a legit excuse. Maybe nobody even noticed. 

And maybe you did. I know I miss writing on here and sharing bits of our sometimes interesting life. So why the long held breath? This had a little something to do with it:

This is Flinck.

This is Flinck.

Yes, we adopted a tiny puppy from the shelter where I volunteer (Oregon Humane Society). His name is Flinck, in honor of the street we lived on in Amsterdam (Govert Flinckstraat). And, not that I’m biased, he’s the best. 

But back to the topic at hand. As August hit, I realized that I have not been swimming or have even donned a swimsuit this summer. That’s just not right. To me, that’s the quintessential summer experience that I have not had this year. Too many house projects and other commitments have consumed our time. Bummer. Summer bummer.

This had led to some serious reminiscing. About this time last year, we took our summer vacation to Italy. Twelve months and some crazy life changes later, I’m still enchanted. And amazed at just how much Italy has to offer. Oh, Italy. What can I possibly say about you that hasn’t been said before? From your bustling streets in Roma, to the rolling hills of Tuscany, to your seaside luxury in Sorrento, to your decayed elegance in Venice, you truly have it all. And you have more. And on top of all that, you have this glorious little region known as the Cinque Terre.

I know I shared this trip with you before, but it’s fun to look at the pictures with fresh eyes and see the beauty anew. Sometimes I sit here and pinch myself because I cannot believe we were there. While far from a luxurious resort getaway (you lay out on rocks to sunbathe after all), it was the perfect break from reality for my husband and me.

When we arrived, I was instantly smitten with the colorful structures nestled into the rocky cliffs rising from the Ligurian Sea. It was magical. As we walked the narrow “streets” (they can hardly be called streets as barely a moped could squeeze through), you could smell the salty sea and catch whiffs of a grandmother’s sauce on the stove.

Each morning, we would wake up in our tiny room, head out for coffee and fresh fruit, then spend the days alternating between sunbathing on rocks and exploring the twisty streets in each of the five towns. Below are some more pictures that I didn’t include in my original write up. Those initial pictures captured little moments that I felt (at the time) best depicted our experience. Looking back, I realize I didn’t share much of the actual towns or the panoramas that created the wonderful backdrop to all those fried fish cones we devoured. Here you go:

Vernazza

Vernazza

Vernazza

Vernazza

The trail that connects the towns

the trail that connects the towns

Montorosso

Montorosso

Montorosso

Montorosso’s beach scene

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore

Kiss!

Kiss! along the trail

sunset from Manarola

sunset from Manarola

Manarola at dusk

Manarola at dusk

happy tree in Corniglia

a happy tree in Corniglia

pretty door in Corniglia

a pretty door in Corniglia

Corniglia

Corniglia

Corniglia

Vernazza

a "street" in Vernazza

a “street” in Vernazza

Negroni & Aperol Spritz for happy hour

Negroni & Aperol Spritz for happy hour

5am quiet

5am quiet in Vernazza

Vernazza at night

Vernazza at night

Our trip to the Cinque Terre was one of my favorite vacations. Ever. These pictures make me want to be back there immediately. August, while brimming with tourists, is still a great time to go. Now if only I could find my bathing suit…

xxx