Tag Archives: local_attractions

When Guests Come to Town

I love exploring Oregon. And I love having company. Getting to explore Oregon with company? Maybe one of my favorite things. When my parents visited over the summer, I took advantage of the opportunity to enjoy a couple of nearby attractions.

The first is literally just down the road in the small town of Winston. Wildlife Safari began in 1972 as a conservation facility and has grown into that and more. The major attraction is the drive-through wild animal park, featuring dozens of species that can be seen from the car.

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We saw zebras, giraffes, hippos, bears, and elephants, many of which get to roam completely free throughout their area of the park.

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There is a spot to feed some of the animals (buying feed is an additional charge and the vehicular line is even slower than the drive through the rest of the park).

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Wildlife Safari is especially known for their cheetah conservation and breeding program.

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An adult ticket is $17.99 and kids up to 12 years old are $11.99 per ticket. However, I’ve noticed that there are usually specials available, so you may check out Groupon before you go. In addition to the drive through portion, there is the Safari Village, which houses additional animal displays. There are special events throughout the year, as well. It was a fun way to spend a sunny, summery morning.

The other, super fun, thing that I did with my parents was Hellgate Jetboat Excursions. This was seriously one of the most fun things I have done in a while. We chose to do the dinner tour. With our $66 tickets booked in advance (I would recommend this – our tour was completely full), we arrived at Hellgate’s check-in desk (which not so subtly requires one to walk through a rather large gift shop) and then to the line to get onto the boats.

We started the tour with a lovely, relatively tame, mostly dry trip down the river.

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The scenery along the Rogue River was spectacular. We went all the way to Hellgate Canyon, with a few exciting spins and minor splashes thrown in.

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We then turned around and stopped by Hellgate’s own restaurant, The Ok Corral, on the river for dinner. Despite the fact that there were almost 300 people present, dinner in the open-air restaurant was delicious and well paced.

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The family style dinner included barbecue, salad, and delicious sides. I had preordered the vegetarian option, which was a surprisingly edible vegetarian lasagna.

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And let’s not forget the classic Oregon summer dessert – berry crumble.

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After dinner, there was time to wander around as the evening began to cool. Relaxed with the content feeling that only comes after dinner with good friends, little did we know what was in store.

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The real fun began with the ride back. What had been lively spins on the first part of the tour became wildly fun spins and splashes, sometimes in conjunction with another one of the boats that had everyone soaked and laughing by the time we arrived back in Grants Pass.

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There was literally no way to stay dry, even if you tried to use your child as a human shield, not to name names. My mom did her best to hide behind my dad. That too was unsuccessful. We had an absolute blast. As we pulled up to the dock to disembark from the tour, I felt a mix of disappointment that it was over and a strong desire to put on dry clothes. Too bad I hadn’t thought of that beforehand…

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If you are looking for a delightful summer activity in southern Oregon I highly recommend Hellgate. They have a number of tours, including one that goes further into the canyon and a brunch tour that probably needs to be a part of my plans next summer.

And with that, another successful weekend with out of town guests was completed.

 

 

 

It’s All Fun and Games Until You Get Stuck in the Snow

It sounded incredibly romantic – the boyfriend, a gorgeous and snowy Oregon day, hunting for the perfect Christmas tree. This year, I was not only going to have my first non-artificial Christmas tree ever, I was going to drive up into the mountains and cut one down. I mean, it sounds pretty much like a scene from a movie.

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And for much of the day it was.

I marveled at the initially frosty and then snowy trees (I’m still a Southern girl at heart and this never ceases to amaze me).

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I became ridiculously excited when we bought our $5 Christmas tree tag.

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We kissed in the middle of a frost covered bridge over a river surround by a white, wintry landscape.

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We stopped to admire the scenery. And to kiss some more.

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We climbed higher and higher, Brandon expertly driving the increasingly snow-covered mountain roads, in search of my perfect tree.

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I spent the day with a gigantic smile on my face.

And then we got stuck in the snow.

Perhaps the boyfriend was trying to impress me. Perhaps we were distracted by the undeniable beauty of the day. Or perhaps we felt like the perfect tree was just around the next curve in the road.

Regardless, we suddenly realized that the car was no longer, you know, moving forward. The wheels were spinning to no avail. After allowing ourselves a moment to take in the reality of our situation, which included being stuck in the snow on a lonely mountain road with no traffic and no cell service, Brandon jumped into action.

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He began to dig us out of the snow while trusting me to drive the car forward or in reverse according to his careful instructions. Despite our best efforts (and by “our” I actually mean “his” – the guy was digging us out with his ungloved hands while I was sitting on the heated driver’s seat inside of a heated car), the situation became increasingly bleak. As in we were either going to freeze to death in the car or we were going to walk miles down the mountain. And still possibly freeze to death in the process. I’ll take option C, please. That would be the one where I don’t die from the cold.

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And yet I didn’t despair. We kept working together (quite well, I might add) and persisted with our attempts to become unstuck.  At this point we were almost literally between a rock and a hard place. Through a combination of desperate prayers, Brandon cutting down a tree to use for leverage, him bracing his entire body against the car to push away from the rocks, and my amazing driving skills (hahaha…) we managed to somehow, finally get free. It was a moment of sheer relief.

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Out of the snow but rather worse for the wear

Although our relationship managed to survive the Great Christmas Tree Hunting Debacle of 2015 entirely intact, his car was somewhat less fortunate. Somehow the guy still likes me even though my desire for a real Christmas tree, found in and cut down from an Oregon forest, kind of messed up his car.

And yes, we did find the perfect tree.

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Beautiful despite its imperfections. Beautiful because of its imperfections. Like a Christmas tree, and a relationship, should be.

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The Art of the Showcation

You’ve heard of a vacation. You’ve heard of a staycation. But now that I live in Oregon, I get to enjoy what I have termed a showcation. This is when I have the opportunity to take a mini vacation and show off my home to friends and family who are visiting. My first experience with the Oregon showcation was when my brother visited in March. My entire motivation at that time was to convince him that Oregon was so amazing that he needed to move here. I’m still holding out hope that I will be successful. When my parents recently visited, I was motivated to convince them that I am, in fact, content and happy and doing wonderfully well living in Oregon. In other words, I needed to show them that I am doing okay, even if I was crazy enough to move thousands of miles away from them.

So I highlighted three aspects of my life that make me incredibly happy: amazing friends, beautiful places, and delicious food. Really, what more could any girl want?

Amazing friends: One reason I chose to move to Oregon was that one of my best friends moved here. One evening while my parents were here we hung out with her and her family. This proves to my parents that I am not all alone in Oregon. For example, I imagine that as my parents, they worry that I will get sick or in a car accident or stub my toe and that there will be no one there to help. Or something like that. Spending time with friends proves to them that they have (a little bit) less to worry about.

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Beautiful places: Pretty much anywhere you look in Oregon is scenic, so it would not have been hard to show my parents that I am surrounded by beauty. However, just to be safe, I made sure to show them the breathtaking, the awe-inspiring, the beyond beautiful. Beginning with Crater Lake.

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If a place like this doesn’t convince them that I live in an amazing place, nothing will. But that’s not all. There are also rivers and oceans and mountains and flowers. As an added bonus, they were able to enjoy all of this without breaking a sweat. Literally, it was like in the nineties and humid back in Arkansas, making the relatively cool Oregon weather seem even more wonderful by contrast.

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Shore Acres State Park was initially a private residence. The house is no longer there, but the gardens remain, gardens set against the dramatic backdrop of the rocky Oregon coastline.

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The only original building still standing is the gardener’s cottage.

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This particular rose had a citrusy smell.

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Delicious food: Last but not least, I took my parents to some of my favorite restaurants, as well as trying some new ones. I cooked them Oregon favorites like salmon and made homemade dishes that were good enough to convince them that my mostly vegetarian diet is not short on flavor.

While at Crater Lake, we tried the restaurant in the lodge. It was lovely and the food was quite good. 

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A salad made with Oregon ingredients such as hazelnuts and marionberry vinaigrette, and Oregonzola. It was especially yummy accompanied by the beer cheese soup.

Perhaps my favorite restaurant in the Roseburg area is the Lighthouse Bakery. An all vegetarian restaurant, my parents were somewhat skeptical that they would enjoy it. However, between the view and the incredible food, my parents were quickly convinced that a restaurant that did not serve meat was worth the drive.

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We also tried a new-to-me place in Grants Pass. River’s Edge, located as the name suggests next to the Rogue River, did not disappoint. We sat outside on the expansive deck and enjoyed our meal accompanied by live music. The scallops I ordered were beyond amazing and my mom got to eat one of her favorites – crab legs. It is a restaurant I will certainly go to again.

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Everything about this makes me happy.

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I am certain that my parents continue to wish that I lived a bit closer to home. However, I think that after their first visit to Oregon, they understand why I love living here. The people, the places, the cuisine, each of these did their part to reassure them that I’m happy and living a life that I love, even in far-way Oregon.

How to Convince Your Brother to Move to Oregon

Like all big sisters should, I have frequently had an opinion (or two… or ten) about what my brothers should be doing at any given point in time. And being the amazing big sister that I am, I was often successful in convincing them to agree with my (obviously superior) perspective. For instance, when we were children, I repeatedly convinced them that they should allow me to pretend like they were my own, personal, real-life dolls. Which basically meant playing dress up with them. Yes, pictures of my brothers in coordinating blue and pink dresses exist. There may have been makeup and high heels involved. But because I love them I will spare them the mortification that would ensue if I shared said pictures. Plus, I have bigger priorities at the moment (see below) that require at least one of my brothers to continue to like me.

Now that I live in far away Oregon, I have decided that at least one of my brothers should also live here, too. It seems perfectly reasonable to expect at least someone in my family to move closer to me. I shouldn’t have to miss them just because I decided I wanted to move halfway across the country. I want my cake (to live in beautiful Oregon) and to eat it, too (being close to family because I miss them). So it is only expected that I used Ethan’s recent trip to Oregon to implement my evil amazing plan: convince him he must move here.

Step 1: Introduce him to Oregon’s gastropubs and microbreweries. In fact, almost as soon as he got off the plane, we headed to Falling Sky Brewery in Eugene.

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Perhaps the best veggie burger I have ever had. The fries weren’t too bad, either.

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We had so much fun that we did it again the next day at Vista Pub in Brookings.

Four words: mango habanero jack cheese.
Four words: mango habanero jack cheese.

Step 2: Show him the undeniably beautiful and varied scenery of Oregon. Beach? Check! Breathtaking mountain views? Check! Redwoods? Check! Okay, so technically these were in California. Saturday morning, we drove to Jedediah Smith State Park in California to see the redwoods. Of course, I had to introduce him to the amazingness of Dutch Bros. Coffee first.

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Seriously, Dutch Brothers AND redwoods. How can he not move here?

When we stopped at the visitors center to determine where we wanted to hike, the ranger recommended the short Stout Grove Trail for the best views of the redwoods and then mentioned the Boy Scout Tree Trail, even if we did not want to hike the entire 5.2 miles. Apparently, this was where the Ewok Forest was filmed. She had Ethan at “Ewok Forest.” There was no way we were missing that.

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Navigating the old-fashioned way.
Navigating the old-fashioned way.

We spent Saturday night in Brookings, Oregon where even the Best Western has an ocean view.

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The next day, I showed Ethan even more of Oregon’s awesomeness with a drive along the coast. With views like this, no words are needed.

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I had to work Monday morning, but took the afternoon off to spend time with Ethan before he (reluctantly, I might add) left Tuesday morning. He had seen redwoods and the coast, but I couldn’t let him leave without introducing him to the North Umpqua. We spent Monday afternoon doing a bit of hiking – Fall Creek Falls, which was magical, and Susan Creek Falls, which was perfect because it’s an easy trail and you can actually talk when you’re not constantly walking uphill. Oh, and there were waterfalls.

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Step 3: Show him the wonderful and fun people he could hang out with if he moved to Oregon. We spent Saturday evening and Sunday morning with the family of one of my best friends. Okay, so technically a third of the people we spent the weekend with were from Texas. For now. My friend is implementing her own convince-them-to-move-to-Oregon plan with the distinct advantage of having grandchildren involved. Regardless, we had a really fun time eating delicious food, enjoying the antics of the kids, and spending time on the beach. Perfection.

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I get to call this place home. Thank you, sunset, for helping me convince Ethan that he should, too.

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A crucial part of my strategy was feeding Ethan delicious food: bruschetta, spinach artichoke dip, and homemade pizza. None of which I can take credit for. Although I will take credit for having friends who make amazing food.

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Step 4: Feed him oysters and seafood. You just can’t get fresh Oregon oysters or crab salad from crabs that had been alive earlier that day or smoked salmon sandwiches in Arkansas. And you certainly can’t eat such deliciousness while sitting next to the ocean.

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My first time eating raw oysters...
My first time eating raw oysters…

Step 5: Remind him how much fun we have together. And how awesome I am at being a big sister. I introduced him to Dutch Brothers and Radiolab. I forced him to watch Mockingjay and Pitch Perfect. I constantly elicited dating advice to get “a guy’s perspective.” We laughed. A lot. Why wouldn’t he want to leave everyone he knows back in Arkansas just so we can hang out/go hiking/have fun together more often? He’s pretty awesome, too. Like, he takes me out to dinner and does not expect me to put on makeup or fix my hair. And he changes the batteries in my smoke detectors. Which means that I don’t have to stand in a chair on a stool in 4-inch heels to change the batteries. Hypothetically, of course.

Step 6: Subtlety remind him about all the incredible things he “just didn’t have time to see.” The key here is subtle. Think, “I’m so sad we didn’t have time to make it to Crater Lake. I can’t wait for you to come back so we can go there!” and “Oh man, I’m so bummed that we didn’t get a chance to do a vineyard tour. Maybe next time!” or perhaps “You think this waterfall is great, you should see (insert one of many waterfalls here). You know, if you moved here we could go hiking together more often…” I am sure he did not pick up on my strategy.

Time will tell whether or not my plan was successful. Regardless, I am so thankful I had the opportunity to spend one hilarious and fun and unforgettable weekend with one of my favorite people.

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So it’s Been a While…

I have obviously not blogged in a while. And there are, like, 5 whole people who regularly read my blog and want an update about what’s been happening in my life. So here goes.

I wish I could say the reason I haven’t written is because I’ve been doing something fabulous and farflung. But the truth is, thus far in 2015 I have stayed close to home. Of course that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy. For instance, I recently decided to try online dating. It’s been completely weird and (thankfully) mostly fun. And so far I’ve been able to follow my brother’s advice to “not get murdered.” So that’s nice. In addition to being weird, fun, and non-murdery, it’s also a surprising time commitment. I know. Excuses, excuses. And there’s this little trip to China I have coming up soon which is requiring both time and money as I prepare (but, seriously, I’m going to China!!!).

So yeah, I haven’t taken any trips yet this year. I have been on a couple wonderful hikes, though. And there are pretty pictures. That I’m sharing. Because Oregon is beautiful.

A snowy Watson Falls (snow!!!)
A snowy Watson Falls (snow!!!)

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Toketee Falls
Toketee Falls
North Bank Habitat has become one of my new favorite spots.
North Bank Habitat has become one of my new favorite spots.

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There have been breathtaking sunrises and sunsets.

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There has even been an Oregon Ducks shirt.

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Don’t worry, Dad, I’m still a Razorback fan. No need to disown me. I realize I’ve already risked my inheritance by getting a tattoo and all.

This year may have begun quietly. But then again, so did 2014. And then I took a last-minute trip to Oregon and my life went in an entirely unexpected direction. Whatever it may be, I’m ready for the next adventure!

Sweat, Tears, or the Sea

The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea – Isak Dinesen
Some of my most difficult moments have been spent next to the ocean. During many times of sadness and grief, I have been fortunate enough to escape to the sea. The hypnotic rhythm of the waves, the endless possibilities of the open ocean, the warmth of the sun on the sand – all of these provide a sense comfort that can be found in no other place.
In the short time I’ve lived in Oregon, both of my grandmothers have passed away. The sense of loss I felt was compounded by distance from family and the inability to be there to grieve with them. One day, I woke up and was no longer someone’s granddaughter and would never again get to speak to or learn from the two amazing women I called Granny.
The weekend after the death of my second grandmother, I needed a way to process the loss; I needed to remember and I needed to grieve. If I could not be with family, I wanted to be alone. And I also wanted to be comforted, so I did what I had done before: I sought out the sea.
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I spent the day hiking 10-miles along the Oregon Coast Trail – from Sunset Bay State Park to Cape Arago and back. Of course, I planned to hike about 8.5 miles, but I got turned around a couple of times.
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And perhaps at one point, I walked for a while along a “trail” that was not the trail (in my defense, it looked more like a trail than did the actual trail and the directional arrow on the sign was rather ambiguous). Often, the view was obscured due to fog, but the ocean was no less lovely. The crash of the waves, the bark of the sea lions, and the sound of my own footsteps provided the soundtrack as I hiked and remembered and lovingly, if lonelily, celebrated the lives of two incredible women.
I began my hike at Sunset Bay.
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I then continued through the gardens at Shore Acres State Park.
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I finally arrived at Cape Arago where I stopped for an oceanside picnic. Then I made my way back along the coast to return to Sunset Bay.
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I was most amazed by the waves – such incredible power and mesmerizing beauty.
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The coastline reminded me of the Alaskan coastline my Granny Smith so loved – a place that stayed in her soul throughout the decades she lived in landlocked Arkansas. As I walked through blackberry bushes, I recalled childhood hours spent picking blackberries so my Granny Tyree could make her unmatched blackberry cobbler. Well, at least she could if my brothers and I brought back enough berries after eating as many as we could stand. Despite being in a new and unfamiliar place, the sea provided a constant backdrop against which I could locate the familiar and find traces of my grandmothers. My hike along the coast gave me the space and place to grieve.
At the end of the hike, I was tired both emotionally and physically, but I wasn’t ready to go home. I wasn’t ready to leave the crash of the waves and the possibilities of the ocean behind me. So for a while, I just sat, sat and watched the waves, feeling so thankful for the 30 years of my life that were shaped by my grandmothers, thankful that the cure to be found in the sea was only a short drive away.
When anxious, uneasy, and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused. -Rainer Maria Rilke

Dinosaur Valley State Park

Obviously I did not write a post last week. I had really important things to do instead like watching season 3 of Dexter, making my way through a 1,000+ page book, and eating pizza before I give up grains (and wine and sugar – yikes!!) for three weeks. Well, to be honest I will still be drinking sugary flavored creamer in my morning coffee, which I should technically not be drinking. But I have my limits – foregoing my morning coffee with creamer is where I draw the line. So, other than that I will not be eating/drinking sugar. Anyway, all of these things were vitally important activities that improved my life immensely and completely explain why I was too busy to blog last week.

This week, I feel the need to be moderately more productive, so I thought I would share what has thus far been my favorite place to hike near Dallas: Dinosaur Valley State Park. I use the term “near” Dallas quite loosely given that the park is located in Glen Rose, which is about 1 1/2 hour drive from Dallas.

The day I went, I did what any reasonable person would do. I woke up one rainy morning and thought, “Today is the perfect day to go hiking. And, even better, I should drive somewhere that is not even close to home so that I feel like I have to keep hiking even if the weather becomes more miserable.” Makes perfect sense, right?

So that’s how I found myself walking for miles in the rain. Again. Fortunately, for most of the morning the rain could be described as a light drizzle.

Dinosaur Valley State Park

Despite the rain, the park was beautiful. A nice bonus of the rainy weather was that the park was practically deserted. There were trees and a river and quiet. I was happy.

Dinosaur Valley State Park

Dinosaur Valley State Park

Dinosaur Valley State Park

The park has about 20 miles of trails, but I estimate that I probably hiked 9 – 10 miles. There are many activities other than hiking available in the park, including horseback riding, mountain biking, camping, fishing, and, most importantly, finding the fossilized dinosaur tracks that are the namesake of the park.

Dinosaur Valley State Park
Yep – I crossed this river more than once…without losing my balance, slipping on a rock, and falling in. It is practically a miracle.

Dinosaur Valley State Park

Dinosaur Valley State Park

And of course I had to take obligatory bluebonnet pictures.

Dinosaur Valley State Park

Dinosaur Valley State Park

Dinosaur Valley State Park

As the day wore on, I finally found some blue sky. How could I not feel happy and thankful when I got to spend the afternoon here?

Dinosaur Valley State Park

Dinosaur Valley State Park

Dinosaur Valley State Park

Dinosaur Valley State Park

Also, I found $20. That could have impacted my happiness level.

Ice cream also positively effects my mood. 9-plus mile hike + finding $20 = a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard from Dairy Queen. Don't judge.
Ice cream also positively effects my mood. A 9-plus mile hike + finding $20 = a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard from Dairy Queen. Don’t judge. Also, this was not in the park, in case you were wondering.

As my time in Dallas is (most likely) winding down, I am glad that I impulsively decided to spend a rainy day hiking in Dinosaur Valley State Park. Hopefully, I will have a chance to go back again. Regardless, I am trying to make the most of my remaining time in Dallas. Any suggestions for things I must see or do are appreciated!

Dinosaur Valley State Park

Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve

Yes, I know it’s another post about hiking. But between trying to move in a few months and saving money/getting ready for Peru, my weekends have been pretty consumed with hiking and spending time with friends. I have two upcoming trips to Tennessee, so I promise I will write about something else soon!

So, back to hiking.

Let me tell you a secret. I do not always enjoy hiking. Don’t get me wrong, usually my outdoor time on the weekends is a welcome relief from living in a city. I have said before that at heart I’m far from a “city girl” and I need trees now and then to really feel like myself. But there are some days when my reclusive lazy introverted side pulls me to just stay home. This particular Saturday was one of those days.

Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve

Despite the deceptively blue sky (which would later be more appropriately laden with gray clouds), the day was cold and windy. The trails were muddy. And I was tired. Regardless, I grabbed my favorite hiking buddy, Sydney, and forced myself out the door.

Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve

Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve

This illustrates the importance of living a life based on values and goals. I choose to hike not just because it’s something I enjoy, but also because it fits with the larger picture of my life: preparing for a trip to Peru, living a healthy and active lifestyle, making sure my sweet and energetic pup gets plenty of exercise. Without these things in mind, it would be simple to decide to stay home (in my pajamas, reading a book, and eating ice cream) on days like this. And yet I went anyway. On this particular day, I chose to check out Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve in Plano.

Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve

Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve

Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve

I wish I could say that once I got there, I had a great time, was so glad I went, etc. But that would be dishonest. The truth is the day kept getting more miserable and the trails were completely flat and not all that interesting. And by the end Sydney’s paws were encased in an impressive layer of mud.

Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve

Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve

Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve
Even Sydney’s seemingly endless enthusiasm was dampened by this point. Just look at the derisive expression she was directing toward me. Or maybe she was just annoyed that I was taking her picture.

Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve

I mentally divide the places I explore around Dallas into two categories: places worth driving to and places not worth the drive. Unfortunately, Oak Point fell into the latter category. If it were closer to where I live, it would be a nice place to take Sydney for walks after work, but as a destination for our longer weekend hikes, it was not ideal and is probably not a spot I will revisit. Regardless, by the end of the day, I was one small step closer to my goals, even if I did not enjoy the process. Which, now that I’m thinking about it, is basically the story of my life.

 

Dogwood Canyon and Cedar Mountain Preserve

Another Saturday, another hike. This time I checked out Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center and the nearby Cedar Mountain Preserve. It was another cool, cloudy morning, but I could not wait to be outside for a few hours. Or maybe I was just looking for an excuse to not study.

Dogwood Canyon currently has two miles of trails, with additional trails planned for the future. The main trail is the West Rim Trail. After a quarter-mile climb, the trail loops for a mile around the western rim of the canyon. The other trail is along the canyon floor and is ADA accessible. Although I did enjoy being outdoors (and more to the point, not being indoors studying), I imagine the scenery will be a little more beautiful in the spring than it was on the late winter day that I was there.

Dogwood Canyon

Dogwood Canyon

Dogwood Canyon

Dogwood Canyon

Dogwood Canyon

Dogwood Canyon

Dogwood Canyon

Dogwood Canyon

Cedar Mountain Preserve is accessible from the Dogwood Canyon parking lot, although you will first have to walk along the road and feel like you look conspicuously weird and are almost certainly going the wrong way and/or are lost. Or something like that. The natural surface trail is about 2 miles long and mostly wooded.

Cedar Mountain Preserve

Cedar Mountain Preserve

Cedar Mountain Preserve
A friendly reminder that you could DIE while hiking
And one more just in case you missed the first 3 warning signs and were not quite anxious enough yet.
And another set of signs just in case you somehow missed all the other warning signs and were not quite anxious enough.

Cedar Mountain Preserve

Cedar Mountain Preserve
Because these were two short trails, I took the time to slow down and really pay attention to what I noticed around me. I heard the wind through the trees, listened to the distant whir of cars driving by on the road below, noticed the sound of leaves crunching beneath my feet and the swish of my jacket, and caught the almost imperceptible sound of small animals scurrying in the woods. Although at first glance the scenery was various shades of brown, I began to notice glimpses of green and pops of color when I looked more closely. What initially appeared to be a solid gray sky was in fact varied in color and texture. I paid attention to the feel of the wind on my skin and the pressure of the ground beneath my feet. I smelled the coldness of the day and the scent of grass and cedar trees and dead leaves. I appreciated having a healthy body that allowed me to easily walk 4 miles.

Try taking some time to fully attend to something that you do today. Although it might be an everyday activity, being mindful can change your experience. You might be surprised what you notice.

Erwin Park

For me, sometimes the choice to hike is about working toward a goal. At other times, it’s a way for me to focus on and enjoy the present.

As someone who could be described as a planner, I have a tendency to look forward to the next thing (like moving to Oregon!) at the expense of slowing down and appreciating what is currently happening in my life. However, one lesson that I have certainly learned during this past year is that the things I anticipate in the future do not always come to pass. By living in the future, I rob myself of the opportunity to fully experience the current moment. Although perhaps it was understandable that I spent the last few years anticipating being finished with graduate school.

I do not want to spend my life never living it. Hiking and being outdoors are ways I can focus and find more meaning and satisfaction in the present.

          Erwin Park

That is how I, yet again, found myself at a place I have frequently hiked. Erwin Park in McKinney has an almost 9-mile mountain biking trail that can also be used for hiking. I enjoyed the park on a beautiful Saturday in February (which was approximately 26.45 hours before it was literally freezing again). It is recommended that hikers walk the trail counterclockwise in order to face oncoming bikers. Which is a really good idea given the number of mountain bikers on the trail most weekends. The park has a combination of wooded areas and open fields, providing a decent variety of scenery.

Erwin Park                     Erwin Park

Erwin Park also offers campsites, a playground, and picnic facilities.

Erwin Park                      Erwin Park

Although a 9-ish mile hike at a local park may not be life-changing, it was the perfect way for me to slow down in order to appreciate the gift of a beautiful day and to feel gratitude for what is happening in my life right now.

What are some ways you focus on the present or enjoy the moment?