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Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

After almost two weeks since the return of our family camping trip, I am finally beginning to feel the return of our daily rhythms. While I am still catching up on what was a living room full of dirty clothes and blankets, waking and naptime have returned to their regular times, weekly chores are getting done, and I am finding myself with a little bit of free time once again. Whew!

However hectic it was to return from the trip, I must say, it is always worth it. Besides a few setbacks, our trip couldn’t have been more perfect. Although initially setting out for Glacier National Park, our plans were abruptly changed when two nights before departure, I decide to check the weather. Outlook did not look good. Freak weather rolled into the park, creating thunderstorms, highs of 50 and lows of 27 (not your ideal camping weather I must say). While the thunderstorms were certainly no reason to change plans, sleeping in a tent with 27 degrees was. I don’t even like to sleep in my HOUSE at 27 degrees! Although disappointed, we turned to the internet in search of a no-too-far locale where we could spend the week camping. It didn’t take us too long to find what seemed to be a perfect site inside Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Nestled in between Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams, we found a remote campground located on the lower falls of the Lewis River; the Lower Falls Recreation Area to be exact.  The next morning, we got in the car and headed south about three and a half hours. While there were only 40 sites at the campground, when we arrived on a Monday afternoon, there were plenty of sites to choose from. The sites were large and private. Easily able to hold five tents. The only visible sight of your neighbors was a flicker of their campfire and the falls were loud enough to be heard form all parts of the campground. The so-called “no-smell” composing toilets were close, yet far enough not to smell them. Perfect!

Here is a shot taken when we arrived. It took us some time to set up camp and scout out the place, so we decided to just relax and hang out by the river above the falls. DSC_0237

 

The next morning, we woke up (parents of toddler’s lingo for “woken up”) early and started out on what we thought was a hike down south to Big Creek Falls. However, an hour into the hike, we realized we went the wrong way and decided just to make the best of it. After about 5 miles of hiking, we decided to rest up on a bluff at the highest point on the trail. At that point, Liam was ready to turn around. What a beautiful sight though. (For pictures sake, I think I need to invest in a graduated density filter so that I can capture both the foreground and the sky without the sky being so overexposed… the list never ends). DSC_0270

The next day, was a big day. We decided to take a little road trip (about 25 miles) to get closer to Mt. St Helens and to explore the Indian Wilderness. First stop: Mt. St Helens.  Here she is in all her glory. Absolutely breathtaking!DSC_0286

 

Second stop: The Trail of Two Forests. Very cool. It is basically a location in Mt. St Helens where the lava had started to cool. Because if this, the lava didn’t completely wipe out the forest, but instead went around the trees. When it cooled completely, and the trees eventually died, it left huge holes and lava tubes (for the dead trees on the ground) where the trees once stood. There were also caves from where the lava cooled and eventually the cracked. I will be posting more pics of this on my Flickr page as it was truly one of the highlights of the trip. DSC_0308

 

Here is a 30 foot lave tube that I crawled through. It was dark, cold, and scary. You never think you’re afraid of closed spaces until you climb in a lave tube. DSC_0315

Next stop: Indian Heaven Wilderness. This hike is supposed to be a haven for huckleberries in late July and August. Offering some amazing views of Mt Adams and Mt. Hood, it is one of the best hikes in Washington. However, I so wish I was warned about the first mile and a half of some serious incline. I guess the huckleberries and the vistas are your reward 🙂 Here is a view of Mt Adams. DSC_0320

 

From this vista, you could see both Adams and Hood. However, my camera lens was not wide enough (and probably never will be after looking at the price of the lens) to capture both peaks. Below is Mt Hood. DSC_0317

 

The next day we decided to take it easy and do a 3 1/2 mile hike up to the Upper Falls of the Lewis River. Although almost losing our dog over a waterfall (the most panic stricken 10 minutes of my life), we managed to resuce her and make it up to the upper falls for a nice lunch. DSC_0483

After almost a week of eating really healthy, sustainable snacks and meals, we decided to stay longer and needed to restock at the local general store. As you can imagine, word of the food revolution has not spread to Cougar. Although I will say that there’s something to be said about eating canned green beans off a camp stove. Washed down with some diabetes-inducing homemade marshmallows, you feel like your…. well….. CAMPING! DSC_0515

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A while back, I promised to take a break from the baby business and write about random reasons why I love Seattle. Well, here it is, reason number three: split-shot breves.

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It’s the most satisfying, most decadant coffee drink there is. It needs no sugar, no whipped cream, no caramel, no sprinkles. Just steamed half and half and your choice of espresso period. Ahhh! Delish! And the choices of espresso here in Seattle are endless. Okay, okay, I know it sounds cliche to say that Seattle has really great coffee. I mean, after all, ask a non-native what the first thing that pops into their head when they think of Seattle, chances are pretty high that Starbucks may be the first word out of their mouths. But to be honest, corporate coffee definitely doesn’t rule all here in the emerald city. Here is a short list of my favs, in no apparent order.

Vivace Roastaria These guys have been here in Seattle since 1988 (now I feel old). Their motto is “una bella tazza di caffee” which in Italian means a beautiful cup of coffee. Their website stakes claim to creating a specialized, scientific method in expresso preparation AND roasting technique. They are coffee experts. The owners have published books on the perfect cup of coffee. Yes, books plural. I heard from a local that you have to learn how to make espresso for six months before they let you serve. Not sure how true it is, but I am sold. There breves are to die for. Emeril says it one of the best coffees in the world. WOW. Don’t even try ordering a cup of coffee there either…it’s espresso only.

Caffe Vita: They are another smaller roaster here in the city with a few locations around town. It is also not uncommon to see them served at a plethora of cafe’s and restaurants around town. Fuel, which is the coffee place up the street from me, serves their coffee and it is delightful. I keep a pound in my freezer at all times. You never know when there might be a coffee emergency 🙂 They didn’t get their start until 1995 (babies, I know), but you would never tell. I especially like Punchinello on thier logo. There’s an interesting story about it on their site.

 Caffe Ladro: They, like Caffe Vita, are seen all over the city. Their coffee is roasted in up in Bellingham. One of the qualities that I like about them is that they only serve 100% fair trade, organic, shade grown coffee. The other companies are social responsible as well, but for Caffe Ladro, its not an option.

Victrola Coffee Roasters:These guys got their start in 2003. They are a very small roaster, but their espresso is divine. I kinda like that they are small, unpretentious, and well, just simple. Check out their staff pics on their site.

Stumptown: Ok, I know what you are thinking. These guys aren’t from Seattle! Originally from Portland, they opened up shop here in Seattle a few years ago giving Vivace a run for their money. All I have to say is YUM-EE. I feel like I am drinking a glass of wine when I am in there. They are way serious about their coffee. I read somewehre that they paid over $50 a pound from some highly regarded coffee from Colombia. They are also known for doing vino’s version of tastings; they call them “cuppings”. You sit around and taste different types of coffee from all over the globe. And while it will give you the total opposite effect of wine tasting, if you have no reason to go to sleep that night, it’s so worth it. Drink up!

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So a while back I was contacted by a woman working for a travel website, Schmap.  She said that she had seen a picture of mine on Flickr and wanted to enter it as a possible pic for their site. Well, I just got news from them and they chose my picture of the First Congregational Church in Portland!! Yay! Check out my pic and the site here. I wonder why they didn’y want this one of me and Liam…hehe

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Seattle vs. Portland

So, I have been meaning to take a break from the baby business and write a post on Seattle. Well, here it is… sorta. Having spent two summers here in Seattle, my husband and I decided to venture down south and see what Oregon is all about. We decided to take a mini-vacation down to Eugene, OR. On the way, we stopped in Portland for a day and took in as much as we could while we were there. On the way back, we took the scenic route through the Colombia River Valley near the end of the Lewis and Clark Trail just outside of Portland. While my short visit to Portland and my 15 months in Seattle by no means make me an expert on either city, I figured I would give my “outsiders” opinion on the two.

Scenery: The Pacific Northwest is one of the, if not THE, most beautiful part of the country. It is a place where snow covered mountains literally meet deep blue seas; where waterfalls are abundant, and where a breathtaking vista is a stone’s throw away. Likewise, both Oregon and Washington are gorgeous. However, when it somes to strictly comparing the to cities, Seattle wins handidly. Now I may be biased having been here longer, but when you are in Seattle, you are surrounded by deep blue water and snow peaked mountains alike. Everywhere you look, you see trees, parks, lakes, etc. In Portland, there was definitely an abundance of trees and parks (the park lining Park St. actually trumps anything downtown in Seattle), but besides the murky Willamette River…not too much water. I would take sitting outside on Lake Washington or Puget Sound anyday over the riverfront in Portland!

Eats: When you think of good food, Seattle is probaby not one of the first cities to pop into your head, but if you live here or have travleled here frequently, you would be amazed to find excellent local good eats! From Vietnamese to Italian to Arabic, Seattle has an abundance of local as well as world cusines. Since living here, I have even experienced Hong Kong food. Those stone pots are delish!!! When we visited Portland, we loved how they had all of the steet vendors downtown. And these vendors were not just selling hot dogs and pretzels!! They were serving food from all over and it smelled and looked awesome. Had I ahd known, I may have skipped lunch at JAke’s crawfish, although the crawfish were yummy. So as far as food goes, I would say that they are probably tied when it come to quality, but Seattle is a bigger city, so there are more choices.

Vibe: When I visited Seattle for the first time, I though to myself, “Wow, these people are really laid back!” When I visited Portland for the first time, I wish I had a take-back for my comment on Seattle. When it comes to easy-going, Portland takes the cake! I think that on the surface Seattle seems casual, but when you start really looking at people’s attire and attitude’s, you begin to realize that yes, everyone is wearing jeans and jackets, BUT they are designer jeans and expensive jackets! Don’t get me wrong, Seattle is no L.A when it comes to fashion; in fact they are nowhere even close, but it seems that many Seattleites are well off, and it definitely shows…perhaps not in Dolce and Prada, but in $5,000 road bikes and $600 North Face jackets. I am sure there is some of that in Portland, but it doesn’t make up the masses. I saw people riding bikes, but they were Schwinn’s not Gary Fischer’s. I saw people with their babies everywhere, but they were in Graco’s and not Bugaboo’s.

Things to Do: In this category, there seems to be an even tie. Both cities are less than an hour from the Cascades. Both cities are close to great outdoor parks and forests; Portland has Mt. Hood and Seattle has Mt. Rainier. The coast is also not too far from either city;  its about 2.5 hours from Seattle and perhaps a little closer in Portland. Oregon and Washington are both home to hundreds of winerys and brewerys, and both are full of museums, historic sites, and local shops.

The bottom line is … visit these cities!!! They are great anytime of the year (despite the critics), and unless your my dad,  you just might want to stay clear of the beaches in December. (He’ll never hear the end of it)

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