Tag Archives: waterfall

On a Rock, In a Bay, On an Island, In Jamaica: South Coast

After a day relaxing on the beach, we were looking for a bit more excitement as our vacation continued. Neither one of us is so great at doing nothing for more than a day. Plus, I knew if Brandon got bored, he would start annoying me. In that super fun, 5-year-old, pestering kind of way. We needed to add some adventure to our lives. For both our sakes.

We decided to explore the south part of the island, so we hired Fabian as our driver for the day. There was more to see than we could possibly fit in a single day and it was a bit of a drive to get there, so we settled on YS Falls and Pelican Bar as our stops for the day. We also wanted to stop by the Appleton Rum Estate, but we learned it was closed for renovations.

Although, as with Appleton, there were instances when things were not open because it was the off-season, we actually loved being in Jamaica when things were a little slower. We could decide to do something a day or two before, or even last minute, and be able to make arrangements. During the high season, we would have had to do much more pre-booking to ensure that we would be able to do all of our desired tours and activities. That’s not really our style. Our preference is to research (okay, for me to research) all of the things we might like to do, perhaps prebook one or two especially important activities, and then take a relaxed, day-by-day approach once we are on vacation. Jamaica in the off-season was ideal for this. Having a private driver for the day also added to our go with the flow approach – we could choose exactly where we wanted to go and stay there for as long as we wanted. Although there were more affordable day tours to the spots we visited, our day would have been much more structured and, at times, rushed. As it was, we could take our time and create a day that was perfect for us.

One thing that cannot be denied, Jamaica is gorgeous. Like constantly-being-in-awe-can’t-believe-your-eyes gorgeous. Even sitting in the car for a couple of hours is a pleasant experience. That being said, we were pretty excited to get to YS Falls.

Honestly, we did not really know what to expect. We had sort of randomly picked this spot from our list of things to do that we had put together before the trip, but had not looked much beyond that into the specifics. We knew there was a waterfall. And we knew that we would probably get wet.

What we learned is that this property is a farm that has been owned by the same family for several generations. In 1992, the property, and its seven-tiered waterfall, was opened to the public. Although there is still some farm activity related to cattle, the farm no longer produces sugar cane and timber. When we arrived, we paid $19 a person to access the falls and the other attractions. From the main building, we took a short and scenic ride in the tractor-pulled, open-air cart to the site of the falls.

Once at the falls, we had a moment to look around before the guided portion of the tour began.

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And then the part we were really not expecting: at the falls, small groups (in our case, our “group” was just the two of us) were led up the falls by a guide who also took photos throughout the climb. I don’t know why I had not considered this given that walking up waterfalls while someone periodically takes pictures of you, specifically at Dunn’s River Falls, is one of Jamaica’s most well-known and popular attractions. Thankfully, I had thought to wear clothes that could easily be slipped on and off over my swimsuit and to bring towels (my favorite beach towels, still holding up after lots of use). I was also glad to be wearing shoes that could get wet, as well (thank you, Chacos). It made climbing up the waterfall a bit more comfortable than it would have been in bare feet.

The walk started off nice and easy, literally just getting our feet wet with the gently cascading falls creating the perfect photo backdrop. Soon, however, we were getting into the first pool. After we posed for pictures at each stop, we had time to enjoy the pleasantly cold water before moving on.

To be honest, the water was shockingly cold at first, but wonderful after we acclimated and as the day got warmer. Although Brandon would have loved to explore on his own, the nice thing about having a guide (other than the pictures, obviously), was that the guide knew where to swim, where to jump, and any areas to avoid.

If you need a laugh, take a good look at the intensely worried look on my face in this moment. I am wonderfully skilled at having fun while also being simultaneously anxious.

There were also two rope swings. Brandon, of course, did the “big” swing. I, on the other hand, was pretty darn proud that I did any swing at all.

Due to safety issues, they do not allow people to go the very top of the falls, but we had as much time as we wanted at the final pool. We could have climbed up the falls again, as well.

Promise there won’t be too many kissing pictures

After tipping our guide, we took some time to explore the rest of the property. And to discuss whether we wanted to do the zipline. This was one reason YS Falls had been on my radar. Brandon enjoys ziplining, but it was something I had never done before. This seemed like the perfect place to do something fun and adventurous together. However, when it came down to it, the anxiety started to creep up. But you only live once, so we paid our $70 and got ready to go. Although the ziplining is on the YS Falls property, it is operated by a separate company and is an additional fee. Also know that the credit card system may or may not be working. Or at least you may be told that it is not working. Point is, bring cash just in case.

Brandon looking cool, calm, and collected. Me trying to look cool, calm, and collected.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was A-N-X-I-O-U-S. Like heart racing, palms sweating, jittery, slightly lightheaded, anxious. And I think the guys working the zipline could tell. They did their best to help me calm down before the first line, but ultimately the only thing that made a difference was taking that first step out into open air.

It was equal parts fun and terrifying! But the second one was a little less scary. And I think I actually managed to stop clinging to the harness line at some point.

I look like I might be having a good time

But just when I thought I was getting the hang of it, there was this:

The long line all the way down the falls. It was invigorating to fly over the falls, but there were also complicated directions for steering given the length of this line. My mind went something like this: “This is fun, look at the beaut…oh goodness, left! left!…okay, feet are forward…look at that water…weeee!!…oh my, right! no left! okay, I’m good…I can do this…this is amazing!…and here’s the end…feet first, feet first, feet first…I made it!! That was incredible!!!”

The rest was a breeze and I even managed to look (almost) relaxed by the end, if a little shaky.

Would I do it again? Absolutely!!

Even so, I needed to calm my autonomic nervous a bit, so we spent the rest of our time at YS Falls leisurely checking out the lush gardens and floating in the natural spring pool.

When we finally pulled ourselves away from the water, we were ready for our next stop, Pelican Bar.

This isn’t just any tropical bar. To get there, you have to take a boat about a mile out to a sand bar, where Pelican Bar is located.

We negotiated a price for the charter. And by negotiate, the boat owner said a price and I said yes. There are some things I am really not good at. Don’t be like me and (probably) significantly overpay for a short boat ride to a hut seemingly made of driftwood and discarded Red Stripe bottles.

If there is a cooler way to arrive at a bar, I really do not know what it is.

Traveler’s tip: when you are dropped off at a bar in the middle of the ocean, try to remember where the boat you were on was from. That way when it is time to leave, you know who to ask the people at the bar to call, instead of pointing and rambling about yellow buildings and blue roofs and places that possibly start with a B, or a D…

We ordered some Red Stripe and a lobster plate to share (because when you’re in Jamaica you can eat lobster all day every day and it is glorious) before finding a spot to settle in.

The bar was colorful and quirky and oh-so-laid-back, the perfect place to waste away a sunny afternoon doing nothing. And everything.

Slightly sunburned and perfectly content, we made our way back to Negril and the Rockhouse.

I spent the rest of the afternoon alternating relaxing by the pool with relaxing by the ocean.

Brandon spent the rest of the afternoon jumping off of cliffs into the ocean and snorkeling.

And that, my friends, pretty much sums us up.

Remembering Jamaica has been so fun and I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet. As I write this, I am sitting on my couch cuddled up in blankets while drinking hot apple cider because it is cold and cloudy outside. I am thankful for memories of warm, tropical days filled with sunshine and adventure and love. And perhaps a touch of adrenaline.

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Baby, Let’s Get Lost

If you’ve somehow missed this fact, I will share it again: I love living in Oregon. I absolutely love everything about it. I especially love the random Saturdays when Brandon and I set out to explore. With no real destination in mind, the chance of getting lost, or stuck, and/or ending up nowhere in particular is great, but what is even more certain is that we will have a good time.

Thus, on a rare sunny winter day, we set out with the vague notion that we would find Golden and Silver Falls. Which we never actually found. What we did find in our meandering exploration was a completely deserted Loon Lake.

With the campground and all facilities closed for the season, we had the place to ourselves after finding a spot to park and walk in on foot.

I’m still not sure whether or not we were technically trespassing, but we did not see anything strictly saying we couldn’t be there. I mean we were not camping. Plus, Brandon likes to bend/break the rules every now and then.

Even though the sandy beach that is there in the summer was pulled in, presumably to prevent loss of sand due to increased lake volume, there was plenty to see. We hiked, we saw a waterfall, we scoped out the best camping sites for the next camping season.

It was an absolutely lovely day that we didn’t have to share with anyone else. The normally crowded campground was still and quiet. The lake, so busy in summertime, gave us an unobstructed view of its beauty. Sydney was free to roam and run to her heart’s content.

And, as we continued to drive around, aimlessly finding somewhere else to go (and finding ourselves driving down a rather potholed gravel road that probably isn’t intended for Honda Civics), we stumbled upon this:

I will happily get lost with Brandon anytime.

Aloha Maui: The Road to Hana

First, let me state the obvious. I am sooooo behind on this little blog of mine. I one hundred percent, absolutely, and completely blame the Oregon summer. I have been spending most of my spare time outdoors in the sun and usually on the water. I can’t wait to share more about how I’ve been having all kinds of fun camping, hiking, and relaxing this summer, but for now, let’s return to Hawaii. Because Hawaii.

For any first time (and possibly anytime) visitor to Maui, driving the road to Hana is a must.

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This curvy, quite popular drive with waterfalls around (almost!) every curve in the road is famous for a reason. I know there are approximately a million articles out in the world about where to stop and what to do (we relied heavily on the Maui Revealed guidebook). This will not be that post. For one, it was rainy, so as much as we absolutely enjoyed the day, there were times when we simply did not want to get out of the car and thus probably missed some of the “must see” sights. But I will share some of the pointers I found helpful.

  • Get an early start. We left our Kahului hotel before 8 am to beat the rush. We intentionally chose a morning when we were staying in Kahului to take our drive. We stayed at the convenient Courtyard Maui Kahului Airport our first two nights. It was incredibly wonderful to not have to drive far after a long day of flying and an 8 pm arrival on Sunday. And it made an early morning start that much easier the following day.
  • Bring supplies, a.k.a snacks and coffee. There are plenty of fruit stands along the way, but if you’re in need of coffee before you can be functional (not that I know anyone who could be described that way…), then Maui Coffee Roasters is worth a stop. Coffee = happiness = I become tolerable to be around. Also in the supplies category is gas. Start with a full tank.IMG_0558
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Whole wheat bagel with guava butter
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Now I’m ready to have a good day
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Love him. Especially because he did not hold anything I said before coffee against me.
  • Don’t let a rainy day keep you from having a good time. If you keep driving long enough, you might even find the sun!

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  • Find a decent guide and stop where you want to. There are even audio guides available that you can play while you drive. In a single day, there is no way to see every scenic or interesting spot. Spend a little time doing some research and prioritize what you want to see. But also, allow yourself the chance to stop if you find something intriguing. For instance, I knew I wanted to see the black sand beach, but the choice to stop for coconuts was completely impulsive. In other words, plan, but don’t plan too much.

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  • Do not rush. Listen, this road is curvy. And trafficy. And scenicy. That is a combination that equals slooooow. Do not feel pressure to drive fast, but if you are holding up traffic, be courteous, pull over, and let the cars behind you pass. There will also be many one-lane bridges. Take your time and enjoy the journey. Honestly, with an early start and not feeling pressure to go at a certain pace, we did not find the traffic troublesome.
  • At least consider driving all the way around. Most people will turn around in Hana, or just past it, and then drive back the way they came. This is largely due to the belief that the road after Hana becomes more rugged and dangerous to drive. It was no more curvy, in fact, often less so, than the road to Hana. Although the road was narrow, brief moments of bravery and a willingness to honk around blind corners were all that was needed. Even the gravel portions of the road were in good condition. Speaking from personal experience, if you have ever driven on a non-paved road in Oregon, you will be fine. We both loved getting to see another side of the island that was a marked departure from the lush scenery of the first part of the day. And there was much less traffic. And much more sunshine. I would say give it a go if you feel comfortable with even the smallest amount of risk taking.

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Using these tips, we had a lovely day viewing waterfalls

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swimming in the rain

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taking in the views while eating mangos and wearing flowers found along the way

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hiking Pipiwai Trail

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and checking out the remarkable O’heo Gulch, even if it was closed to swimming that day.

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We chased the sun and made some random stops along the way.

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We found a delicious spot for a Thai food lunch in Hana

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and stopped for fresh coconuts when we “needed” an afternoon snack.

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Most of all, we repeatedly stated how lucky we were to spend a day together in such an incredible place. And really, I think regardless of where you stop and what you do, that is what the road to Hana is all about.

A Wintery Week in Iceland: Land of Ice

As I talked about previously, Iceland is a place where the impact of the elements is easily seen. Shaped by fire, Iceland is also a land of ice. With 8 months of winter, learning how to walk in the snow is a needed skill throughout much of the year. February is certainly no exception. Despite the snow and ice, I managed to only fall once. And it wasn’t entirely my fault because I was distracted by someone walking around in a storm trooper costume. Yes, you read that correctly. I fell only once even though I sometimes manage to wear entirely inappropriate foot wear. It’s a gift.

In my defense, the itinerary said we visiting Parliament. Which I thought would be a building. As in a place with floors sheltered from the elements.
In my defense, the itinerary said we were visiting Parliament. Which I thought would be a building. As in a place with floors sheltered from the elements. And for the record, I wore these very shoes all over Reykjavik without slipping. It was wearing my Sorrel’s when I fell. So there.

I quickly learned that we were, in fact, not going to a building. Rather, Parliament referred to the Althing. Held every summer at Thingvellir, the snowy site that we visited, the ancient assembly was the Icelandic lawmaking system from 930 until 1798. When Iceland separated from Norway in 1844, the Althing relocated to Reykjavik. The scenery at the ancient site is incredible, another spot where the separation of tectonic plates is evident. Thingvellir continues to be an important site to Icelanders today. And, as an added bonus, it is also one of the many filming locations for Game of Thrones.

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Iceland is also home to many waterfalls, partially frozen in the cold February weather. I got to see some of the most well-known ones during my short trip.

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Gullfoss

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Seljalandsfoss, which you can walk behind when the weather is a bit warmer and the ground isn’t a solid sheet of ice

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Skógafoss

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Although I live in a place where I can easily and often hike to waterfalls, they never stop taking my breath away. They never cease to be wondrous.

Ice even showed up in unexpected places. Like the beach.

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And I have to talk about the horses. Not exactly ice related, but they did have their soft winter coats to insulate them from the cold. But they must be spoken of. Because this:

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And this:

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Seriously, they were incredibly gentle and friendly. And beautiful and soft. Apparently, Icelandic horses are born with a completely one-of-a-kind smooth gait found in no other horses in the world. It is important to remember that the horses have a very specific diet that includes the worst of the worst kind of grass. Their stomachs cannot handle good quality hay and foods like apples and carrots can be disastrous. So, please do not feed the horses. Content yourself with taking approximately 30 pictures of said horses instead. Or riding them, something I did not have the opportunity to do.

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Of course, sometimes one can get a bit tired of ice. When visiting Kerith Crater and given the opportunity to walk around the rim, as a group we began the walk before having the collective thought that it was cold and windy and that it would look exactly like an icy hole in the ground whether or not we walked all of the way around it. Not worth it.

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Perhaps in the summer…

One of the highlights of my trip was hiking on Solheimajokull glacier. You know it’s going to be an, ummm, interesting afternoon when your guide starts with “Here’s a harness. Put in on so that I can pull you out if you fall into a crevasse.” Fantastic. There were also crampons and an ice pick. Suddenly it felt like the “hike on a glacier especially designed for beginners” was not so amateur after all.

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Especially when this sign greets you as you step onto the glacier.

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Of course, there was some sense of relief when we saw the people way up on the glacier. Certainly we, the beginner hikers, were not going all the way up there. We would surely just get the short and scenic tour just long enough to be able to sound awesome by saying, “Yeah, I hiked on a glacier today. No big deal.”

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Yep, so didn’t happen that way. We did, in fact, go way. up. there. At each point of interest where we stopped to learn about the glacier and it’s ever-changing environment, I would think surely this is the place where we will stop and turn around. But no. Up we would go, slowly making our way across the icy surface of the glacier.

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At the end of the 3-hour hike, I was tired and a bit relieved to see the parking lot again.

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But I was also feeling pretty accomplished. I had climbed up and down the often steep surface of a glacier. I had walked through caves and tunnels made of ice. I had remained upright. It was not an easy afternoon, but then again, the most amazing and worthwhile things in life are rarely easy. Welcome to Iceland!

A Wintery Week in Iceland: An Introduction

I have struggled with where to begin. I obviously have little difficulty writing at length about all kinds of things, travel being one of them, but something about this trip has left me at a loss for words. What I expected, what I hoped for, what happened –  I am struggling to express any of it.

But sometimes you just have to dive in. And hope that you can even begin to do justice to the experience.

Over the months that I planned the trip, I was frequently asked, “Why Iceland?” That’s a great question. Unfortunately my best answer was, “Ummm, because it seems awesome…”

From the moment I landed in the country on a dark, cold, Sunday morning, I knew my answer, while inadequate, was also replete with truth. Awesome it was, in the truest sense of the word. Almost immediately upon my arrival, as the sun began to slowly spread its color and warmth across the snowy landscape, I began to appreciate the magic of Iceland.

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Beauty there is not fleeting. It is temporary, of course, as is all beauty, but it does not pass quickly. Iceland is a place where the sunrise lasts for hours rather than minutes, where waves crash relentlessly and endlessly against the rocky coastline, where mountains and glaciers experience the seemingly minutest of changes. It is a beauty meant to be savored.

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At the same time, it is a land constantly in flux. A land that has been and continues to be shaped by water and wind and earthquakes and volcanoes. A powerful place that is continually changing. At any moment, the landscape could be violently and irrevocably altered by the forces of nature.

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So that’s where I choose to begin. With beauty and change. With magnificence and power. And the hope that as I share more about Iceland in the upcoming weeks, I can even begin to communicate what an incredible place it is.

 

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!

Lions and Tigers and Bears

I realize I said I would write about how I managed to get Sydney from Texas to Oregon with her doggie mental health intact. But I just don’t feel like writing about that. Plus, I was not exactly successful – we’ve been in Oregon for 6 weeks and I still don’t think she’s fully recovered. And really, it is my blog, so if I don’t feel like writing about something, I kind of don’t have to. Maybe another time.

One of the things I have most loved about living in Oregon is the ready access I have to numerous hiking trails. Given that I intend to spend many of my weekends exploring Oregon, I recently decided that, in the interest of personal safety, I should perhaps develop a level of awareness about potential risks I could encounter while hiking.

Of course I decided to research this vitally important topic the night before I was planning to hike to four of the six waterfalls collectively known as the Little River Waterfalls. That is how I found myself searching at an increasingly frantic pace “things that can kill you while hiking in Oregon.” At midnight. There was both good news and bad news.

On the one hand, there was the surprisingly reassuring fact that the only venomous snake in Oregon is the rattlesnake. That is reassuring to someone who is accustomed to also considering the possibility of death by copperhead or water moccasin. First, because there is at least the possibility that a rattlesnake will give you a warning. Second, because, unlike water moccasins, who are obviously on earth only to viciously attack and kill all humans, rattlesnakes are not naturally aggressive. At least that is what I told myself.

Of course, on the other hand, there are bears and cougars. Oh, and as some websites felt the need to remind me, the possibility of “human predators.” I was briefly reassured that Oregon has only black bears and does not have grizzly bears – black bears are generally less aggressive. But I don’t think that would matter all that much if a black bear changed his mind when I happened to be in the vicinity.

Then I realized I had no more than a vague concept of what a cougar was (a large cat, obviously) and how it could kill you. I tried to be reassured by the statistics I found (because stats never lie…) that in Oregon the wild animal that was most likely to cause my death was a wild horse (yes, I actually read some type of official report documenting wild animal deaths in Oregon) and that there were no known human deaths by cougar and very few documented deaths by bear in Oregon. But then again, how many lone hikers like myself had been killed by one of these animals without anyone ever knowing? However, like a good psychologist, I allowed myself to be reassured that the statistics at least were on my side and that I was overwhelmingly likely to be just fine. At least that is what I told myself.

Armed with statistics, repetitious reassurances, and a laundry list of tips for preventing wild animal attacks, I set out for the first of the four waterfalls I planned to see that day. My first stop was Wolf Creek Falls. Incidentally, this was the only trail where I saw an actual human being. Thankfully, he was very friendly in a not-a-human-predator kind of way.

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My relaxed, smiling face belies the worry-filled and sleepless night I had just experienced.
My relaxed, smiling face belies the worry-filled and sleepless night I had just experienced.

As I walked along, I could not shake the feeling that something would inevitably go wrong. I repeatedly rehearsed the advice from the night before. “If I see a bear, I should not make eye contact, no I should make…no that’s if I see a cougar, okay, well either way I should definitely not run and I should do my best to look like I am not easy prey, which would probably be easier if I were taller than the average 6th grader, darn it, why can’t I be taller or at least have a more intimidating voice if I need to yell at something, maybe I should sing, well that would be silly, I will just walk loudly, I should have brought the hand sanitizer that does not smell like Japanese Cherry Blossom, I’m going to die” Basically, it was one run on sentence of worry. Thankfully, that did not stop me from being completely awed by the beauty around me.

The trails to the next two waterfalls – Hemlock and Yakso – were both located near the Lake in the Woods Campground. This was also a great spot for a picnic. The campground was empty, so I grabbed a lakeside picnic table at one of the campsites and enjoyed the view while I ate.

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Honestly, I felt somewhat reassured by the seemingly flimsy and so-not-bear-proof nature of this trash can. If such a trash can was appropriate, then certainly bears could not be a problem in this area. Right?
Honestly, I felt somewhat reassured by the seemingly flimsy and so-not-bear-proof nature of this trash can. If such a trash can was appropriate, then certainly bears could not be a problem in this area. Right?

Of course, there was the moment when I realized I was walking in the middle of a berry patch, which is of course something you should never do when you are avoiding bears, especially in the fall when their job is basically eating berries. I considered trying the berries once I verified that there was not a bear lurking nearby. They looked like wild blueberries, which are delicious. But then I realized that the one thing I forgot to search the night before was “poisonous berries in Oregon.” Why on earth had I not thought of that? I have since remedied the oversight.

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The final waterfall was the most out-of-the-way and wonderful of all. The trail to Grotto Falls is located off a gravel road that winds around several miles of mountain. Thankfully, my little car has had lots of practice driving on gravel roads, so that was no deterrent. It was worth the effort. Not that I am ever very good at picking a favorite of anything, but if I had to pick a favorite waterfall that day, it may have been this one. There were caves behind it, which would have been much more interesting if I were not imagining all of the things that could have been hiding in them. Regardless, it was incredible to walk behind and under the waterfall.

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I am still trying to fully grasp that I now live in such an amazing place – a place where I can wake up on a Saturday morning and hike to any number of scenic places. I’m pretty sure I will never get tired of hiking to waterfalls, even if I do have to face my fear of bears and cougars.