[Wander Washington] Searching for Swimming Holes along the Skykomish

When we first moved up to the Pacific North West a year and a half ago, one of the first things my husband said to me was: “Now, how do we get to those swimming holes?!” Both of us born and raised in California, myself from the Bay Area and him from the High Desert in Southern California – most of our aquatic adventures had been to the beach, or a community pool, or with water balloons in the backyard on a long, hot afternoon. When we lived in Oregon, we lucked out – our new neighborhood friends told us about a stellar iPhone app, aptly titled Oregon Swimming Holes. Now, there are some fantastic applications for Forests in the Pacific North West, as well those for Wildflower, Plant and Fungi Identification – but so far to date, I haven’t seen any remnants of anything similar up here; which initially felt disheartening – but then, we turned it into an adventure; making notes on maps, dropping pins and doing some research.

It wasn’t until weeks later, wrapped in a vibrant conversation with a local that we were slyly informed of where the getting was good. And now that I understand Washington, and Seattle, more and more, I think I know why there isn’t an app that’s easy-peasy, lemon squeazy: they want you to pioneer your own life, to be a maker of your own moments. Washington and Seattle are rich with a strong craft and small business community, and within that – there are strong notions of being able to do for your self, and make it self sustainable. If being told “It rains a lot!” is enough to deter you from either visiting, or moving, you’re probably not going to have a good time; but here’s a hint: it really doesn’t rain a lot! It’s actually beautiful most days, and if you don’t like the weather – just wait thirty minutes. Anyhow, I digress. So, we took their advice – pack up a picnic basket, grab a swimsuit, and take the 2 East; then, enjoy!

So, we took a Summer drive along the winding Skykomish River and let our wanderlust guide us the rest of the way. All along the freeway, there are hidden nooks and crannies where you can hop out of your car, and into the refreshing, roaring waters. Pro Tip: if you’re unsure where to stop, just look at where the other cars along the way are, then plan accordingly and don’t be afraid to double back! I recommend a solid pair of water shoes, as I managed to slice my foot pretty well on the side of a rock – but besides that, my only other piece of advice is to give yourself a whole day and really enjoy marinating in a magical slice of wilderness.

As we gallivanted along our route, a spotted sky gave way into gradients of bright blue, echoing the vibrancy of the lush forest against the rushing Skykomish. It felt like Fern Gully, or even Avatar – and could make you believe that fairy tales were real. Descending down to the waters edge, you could see to the bottom of the river as the water cascaded over, around and even through some of the ancient pieces of rock that were lodged in the river.

Walk in nature and feel the healing power of the trees.” – Anthony William

From Monroe to Gold Bar, Index, Baring, and the town Skykomish – as you head towards Eastern Washington, it feels like there are an infinite amount of places to get lost for a few hours, so that you can rediscover yourself at your core.

Where do you turn to find your next big adventure? Do you ask around, find an app, research in a magazine or just wing it? Let me know in the comments below!

[Local Lore] Wild and Free at the William L. Finley Wildlife Refuge

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Tucked deep in the heart of Corvallis sits a whimsical wildlife habitat; a home to many seasonal creatures as they make their semi-annual migratory routes. Created back in 1964, the William L Finley National Wildlife Refuge is a preserved natural land area in the Oregon’s greater Willamette Valley and is notorious for the flocks of dusky Canada geese that frequent the landscape. Unlike typical Canadian geese, their dusky cousins nest and mate along the Copper River Delta in Alaska over the Summer and visit the vast acreage of wetlands of the Finley Wildlife Refuge during the colder, Winter months.

One of the last intact wet prairies in the area, the refuge was a reaction to the Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964 which diminished the available natural land for dusky Canadian geese. Fast forward almost forty years and in 2006 the Snag Boat Bend Unit was acquired as a partition of the reserve, adding almost 350 acres of unique, historic habitat to the already sprawling 5,300 acres of wetlands covered by the Finley Reserve.

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Beyond the dusky Canadian goose, the William L Finley Wildlife Refuge also plays homebase for a variety of flora, fauna and fowl throughout the year with a handful of habitat regions on site, ranging from wet prairies on the East End to sprawling wetlands off of Muddy Creek, or to the upland Oregon white oak savannas and forests. On any given day, you could run into a menagerie of birds and waterfowl from migratory raptors like the rough-legged hawk to turkey vultures, peregrine falcons, golden and bald eagles, to great horned owls and geese, great blue herons, wood ducks and swans, woodpecker colonies and meadowlarks; not to mention the herds of Roosevelt Elk, blacktailed deer, coyotes and bobcats, alongside pond turtles, red legged frogs and the endangered yet recently re-introduced Fender’s blue butterfly.

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For a full spectrum of the Refuge, I highly suggest returning throughout the year. Even though Winter is wonderful to observe the migratory patterns of waterfowl, November marks the beginning of ‘Sanctuary Season’ which closes off the interior or the park for resting animals; the season end on April 1st, and all interior trails are opened once again.

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Whether you’re hiking, cycling or simply just observing the world at large, the refuge boasts a menagerie of looping trails and rolling hills throughout the grounds, offering over a handful unique hiking paths that cover over a dozen miles of land. For those looking to stay lazy, fret not – there’s an auto tour route with ample roads for roaming. Posted every now and again, you’ll find neat tidbits and educational facts on the nature and ancient nurture of the area.

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Originally, the land was settled by the Kalapuya tribe – a conglomeration of thirteen related tribal groups speaking three distinct languages among themselves; each tribal group inhabited a specific area along and around the Willamette River. With the volcanic Cascade Mountains nearby, tribes around the river effectively fashioned obsidian  arrowheads and spears; if you look hard enough, you can still find obsidian artifacts and minerals in the area to this day – including in the grounds of the Wildlife Refuge. On the other end of history, is the Willamette Valley segment of the Applegate Trail, first used in the 1840’s – it’s a more southerly trail than the Oregon Trail sauntered through by European Settlers.

For more on the William L Finley Wildlife Refuge, head to their social channels – or simply go pay them a wonderful visit; I promise, it’s worth it!

What are your favorite spots to observe the wistful, wonderous wildlife in your town? Let me know in the comments below!

Website | Friends of the WLF Refuge | Facebook | Twitter

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[Self Discovery] Falling for Autumn

 

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Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower 
– Albert Camus –

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As of this past weekend, Summer officially gave way to Autumn and up here in the Pacific NorthWest, we’re experiencing all the Fall colors in all of their glory.  There’s a cornucopia of shades springing out from all the flora and the fauna; flowers, trees, bushes, ivy – you name it, it’s changing – and essentially right in front of your eyes. Sunflowers, Rhododendrons and Roses are shedding their vibrant petals, much to the late season chagrin of bees and hummingbirds.

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With our recent move up to Oregon, some of the top comments we’ve heard across the board are about the abundance of unfavorable weather and consistent rainy, grey skies;  neither of which I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing yet.  Instead, I’ve taken full advantage of the sunshine, with the Canon 6D in tow and gotten to know the new neighborhood.  Not to mention, Fall is an excellent time for letting go and turning into oneself to rediscover what makes our inner fires burn brighter. watching as leaves descended in a dizzying dance to the ground, it felt like I was letting go of my past, and shedding my seasoned skin for a chance to refresh the soul and hibernate the spirit, only to emerge refreshed next Spring.

Here are some of my favorite snaps of the change in season; can’t wait to share more!

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For more on the beauty of Fall, or just Corvallis, check the Flickr Album!

 

[Local Lore] A Cacophony of Color at the Corvallis Farmer’s Market

Moving to Corvallis after living in California for the last thirty odd years, there’s a lot of change to wrap my head around, ranging from the menial and small to mind boggling large.  I know that I shouldn’t compare Apples to Oranges, but when all you’ve known are apples – when you find an orange, it’s like OH MY GOD, THAT’S ORANGE?! Corvallis is like continually discovering that there were other fruits in the world when all I wanted to look for where Apples.

There are more farms and less people, more seasons and less oppressive heat all the time, more clouds and rain and less sun, more rural roads and less highways, a heightened sense of calm versus a continual sense of anxiety, the list could go on and on,

If you think the colors of Autumn are astounding, have you even seen the colors at the local farmer’s market?? Sure, there are Farmer’s Markets everywhere, and I don’t mean to diminish your personal experience, but the variety and vivacity of the fruits, vegetables, dairy and locally grown meat you can find here are simply out of this world.

Feasting on seasonal change, I’ve loved taking in the cacophony of colors at the Corvallis Farmer’s Market. Running both mid-week on Wednesday mornings, as well as Saturday morning on the weekends, the local Farmer’s Market has become my church.  I revel at the productions, and am not so secretly plotting to enter my crafts into their Saturday fair.  Here’s just a taste of my favorite scenes from the local Farmer’s Market; enjoy!

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For more on the Farmer’s Market here in Corvallis, take a trip downtown on Wednesday or Saturday between 9 and 1pm to see for yourself; or simply head to their socials!

[Traveling Tales] Finding Magic on the Emerald Coast

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By and large, the best thing about living in California was the not just the proximity to, but vast amount of National Parks and National Forests within a stones throw.  From Southern California’s  Anza-Borrego  Desert State Park in San Diego to the Antelope Valley Poppy Fields, Joshua Tree and the Angeles National Forest up to Big Sur, Sequoia and the Redwood Forest of Northern California – the state is rich with magical nooks of nature and luminous landscapes.  But – I no longer live in California!

Last year at our wedding, Danny and I promised each other that within a year, we’d be making our way up through the Pacific NorthWest and into the wonderful state of Oregon. Like many good thoughts, it sat on a shelf of our minds that we would dust every so often with life changes, epiphanies and our growing love for each other. A few weeks ago, we realized that our time in California felt like it was slowly slipping from us. We wrote lists for pros and cons, rights and wrongs and then we realized: there will always be something to second guess, and hold you in place – there is beauty in calmness, but there is growth in chaos; there is no perfect time for your next big adventure, because the time will always – and forever will be – NOW. So, one year to the date of our wedding – we looked, and then we took a leap of love and moved ourselves, and the kitties, up to the wonderful town of Corvallis, Oregon where my father grew up and now resides again.

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While we were living in Los Angeles, even though nature was just a hop, skip and a jump away – that hop, skip and a jump came at a cost: crowded roadways leading to overpopulated parks, where each nook and cranny was taken over.  Up in Oregon, it’s a horse of a very different color.  Just the other weekend, we took to the Emerald Coast, paying visits to Newport, Devil’s Churn, Thor’s Well and Yachats; up and down the beach, you could take in the coastline for miles and miles – and barely a soul was there to share it with us.  Traveling the beaten forest paths, we would run into a small group of family maybe every other mile – if that.  Not to mention, the Oregon Coast is what happens if you merge the majestic coastlines of Big Sur with the sprawling forests of Sequoia – it’s just that beautiful!

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Nearly every beach boasts a bevvy of tide pools, full of technicolor sea anemones and itty bitty crabs.  Crawling over the porous coastline near of Yachats with Cape Perpetua in the background, Danny had a hunch that we were frolicking over a volcanic vein – a little bit of GTS later, and low and behold we were!  As if the sprawling landscape of the Oregon Coast wasn’t enough to make one feel infinitesimal it turns out, Cape Perpetua is a now dormant volcano, last active over 50 million years ago! Growing up, I had a favorite beach in Yacahats – Bob Creek Beach; my family would flock there from early morning to sundown, picking blackberries along the way.

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Some of my favorite memories of being with my grandmother and her family involved skipping down to the shoreline during low tide and browsing the wares the ocean waves had brought us.  The beach itself is famous for its agate hunting, and combined with the idea that an old volcano slumbers sweetly nearby, it makes all the more sense. We came away with so many goodies, and I can’t wait to start including them in my crafts and jewelry up here!

When we weren’t up to our wrists and ankles snagging promising rocks and scoops of sand off the rocky shoreline, we were adventuring as far as we could see.  If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I’m a sucker for a great reflection shot – and living in Oregon is going to be this kitty’s photographic dream. 

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 Another apt lesson that we learned is while in Oregon: if you want an adventure, go on an adventure; if you’re going to sit there and worry about the weather, maybe just move back to California.  The weekend we went out to the coast, the forecast was 60 and scattered clouds with sprinkles; good news, we didn’t actually check until we were already out there.  Instead of checking on the chances of rain or shine pre-trip, we simply packed for a weekend of whimsical weather where we took all the options into consideration: sandals, hiking shoes, sweaters, tank tops, swimsuits, the works.  It looked like we were leaving for a week vacation even though it was just a few days, and I’m proud to say that for once my overpacking worked in my favor.

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UntitledThe first day on the Coast boasted salacious sunshine, only to be slowly overtaken by the marine layer during the evening, the next entertained patchwork clouds and a light mist, while the last was one of the most beautiful days I’ve ever experienced.  Clouds danced along the horizon expediently, taking shape after shape in front of our eyes and crafting eerie shadow pockets into the water.  Cruising over to Devil’s Churn, we could see the tide had overtaken the shore we’d been sitting on the day before, bouncing waves off the sides like a handball game of epic proportion.

Image may contain: 1 person, food and outdoorAs we gathered our things to head home, we had to make two last pivotal stops.  First, we were on a mission for some of the freshest fish and chips and oysters a kitty could eat.  Heading out to the coast where Highway 20 canoodles with the Pacific Coast Highway, the main town – Newport proper has an incredible arrangement of restaurants, including a personal favorite Local Ocean; but, we’re ballers on a budget and were looking for something a little more ‘hole in the wall’ – and let me tell you: we found it.  Just a little south of town, across the bridge and close to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, you’ll find the South Beach Fish Market.  Featuring fresh catches from the day, whole Dungeness Crabs and oysters as big as your face, we stuffed our mouths to the brim and kept our pockets full.

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As we lingered longer, we realized we were in no rush to actually hurry home – so instead we kept our eyes on the Corvallis-Newport Highway.  Lined with thousands of shades of green on millions and millions of trees as far as the eye could see, Highway 20 contains a lot of little loops through the forest, into a land far more wild in Western Oregon than I’d ever seen, including unpaved roads and covered bridges that brought me back to the days of the Oregon Trail.  The scenic way seems to be the only way for me, and I’m very okay with that.

The more time I’ve spent in Oregon, away from highway interchanges, bustling crosswalks, and the dense vivacity of California, the more I’ve realized this is where my soul truly resides: somewhere lost in the forest, full of wonder.

What are some of your favorite spots of hidden nature?

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[Traveling Tales] A Double Date of Drinks at Block15 and 4 Spirits

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In what’s become a tradition of sorts, several times a year I venture off to Corvallis to visit my family, reconnect with nature and reset my personal frequency.  While the school year brings a hearty amount of hustle and bustle to the mostly agricultural community, the Summertime brings sleepy months of stunning sunsets mixed with fantastic weather; and the food and drink? Thanks to the Oregon maker spirit and an influx of former California natives, they live up to the state motto ‘Alis volat propriis‘, and they’re getting better all the time.

This romp around Central Oregon was absolutely different than anything else; first and foremost, after three years of planning – Danny and I were finally getting married, and secondly – it was fueled with the energy of the Total Solar Eclipse.   Though there were some fantastic moments over the entire week, one of my personal highlights was actually after the weight of the big day had been lifted and we were just left with some key players, including my now husband, my dad, our officiant + best friend and my cousin.  For one glorious afternoon, we enjoyed a double date of delicious drinks and rumpus games at Corvallis’ own Block15 Brewery and 4 Spirits Distillery.  Though I’d been through the former haunt of 4 Spirits, I hadn’t had a chance to visit since their migration. 

Now conveniently located side by side, 4 Spirits and Block15 pack a hearty one two punch of some of the finest beer and rustic whiskey Oregon has to offer.  When visiting, our friend reminded us of the old adage ‘Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear’, so off to 4 Spirits we went!

Boasting a bevvy of Rums, Whiskeys and a signature Vodka, at it’s heart – 4 Spirits is a philanthropic venture, giving back to both homegrown programs from Oregon and initiatives in Wyoming, Montana and Washington. To taste a flight of four hearty half ounce shots, it’s only $5 – and if a member of you group happens to purchase a bottle, then the rounds are on the house. For the whiskey drinkers, there’s the Bourbon Whiskey with delicious undercurrents of vanilla and caramel, the American Whiskey, and Single Malt; for the rum-ophiles, there’s a silver rum, a light rum, a dark rum, and my personal favorite (and take that to heart, because I’m not a rum drinker) – their habanero spiced rum; and last, and least, their vodka – which was great, but that’s not why one goes to 4 Spirits.  To add to their cornucopia of liquor, the new spot also offers a kitchen with munch worthy snacks like Stuffed Tots and fries, full sized fare ranging from burgers and sandwiches to pizza, plus a lawn version of Yahtzee, appropriately called Yard-zee.
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After loosening ourselves up with liquor, we were off to the second stop on our double date – Block15.  Literally a hop, skip and a jump across the parking lot sat Block15’s Brewery and Taproom, not to be confused with their restaurant located in the heart (aka. within the four blocks) of Downtown Corvallis.  For about $5-8 depending on your tastes, you can get a flight of five tasty beverages.  My favorites was Hopnotize, Wandlepad and the Lil’ Dab, a cannabis infused drink – cheers to you, Oregon.  Hypnosis was on the heavier side, so if you’re of the type that likes to chew their beer – this is your best bet. Though their food menu isn’t nearly as deep at the Taproom as it is at their Restaurant, the kitchen still produces some bomb eats including a DIY charcuterie board, hearty sandwiches and a hands down the best bier pretzel I’ve ever tasted.

For anyone who happens across Oregon’s Central region or finds themselves in Corvallis, between these two locations you simply can’t go wrong.  So hop on the good foot, and do the drinks thing.

For more on 4 Spirits and Block15, visit Corvallis – their socials:

4 SpiritsWebsite | Facebook 

Block 15: Website | Facebook | Instagram

[Traveling Tales] Soul Searching at Oregon’s Silver Falls

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Growing up in the Bay Area during the midst of the explosion of computing in the 90’s, technology has more or less become my second language – some might even argue that it’s my first.  Fast forward twenty odd years and life more or less seems inundated with the same things I used to covet, like the corrosive use of cell phones and how they detract from pure and honest social connection.  The good news, is I’ve discovered a lovely trick: I turn to nature, and dive into a digital detox.  Whether it’s just five minutes soaking up the sun, a quick walk taking in the sounds and smells of the neighborhood without my tether of a phone, an afternoon in the park or a whole weekend away – delving into nature while escaping the calamity of the daily rat race is necessary, and practically deserves of it’s own tier on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

For me, Oregon has become a symbol of beautiful escape from the go-go-go faster reality of Los Angeles, hell – California even.  It’s my home away from home, and a fresh chance for me to recharge remotely while my anxieties dissipate like fresh dew on a Summer’s day.  The air up there tastes like the first sip of water after an afternoon of play while the skies have an unprecedented depth paired against the towering treeline.Silver Falls + More

Last month when I was visiting with my family for wedding prep, we had a chance to fit in a quick trip to Silver Falls and I’m infinitely happy that we made the time for it.  Sitting about two hours South West of Portland and twenty or so minutes from Salem, Silver Falls encompasses over 9,000 acres of land – making it the largest State Park in Oregon.  The park boasts a menagerie of different paths for bikers, hikers and equestrians, with twenty five miles of walking trails, 14 miles of horse trails and 4 for bikers.  In my opinion, any path is the right path – and all paths lead to exactly where you ought to be.  Gallivanting over to the South Falls, we walked directly behind the waterfall while I reveled in the sheer force of nature literally washing over me.

While ebbing and flowing throughout the park, my back straightened and eyes brightened; musing to myself that truly taking in the moment is a wonderful drug all to itself. Slowing down the world inside me and the world around me, I discovered new shades of green that I’d never noticed before while flowers danced intimately in the crisp air.  The goal, I’ve realized, is bottling up that calm, collected, one-with-the-universe feeling and making it accessible when you need it the most: back in the digital world, surrounded by cell phones and lap tops, WiFi signals and mixed signals, surrounded by all your stuff, things, and immaterial material possessions that do an odd job of mirroring a distorted view of self worth.  You are not your possessions, but you are your thoughts; you are star dust and dirt, and deserve to bathe your soul in them every now and again.

Where do you go when you need a digital detox?

For more on Oregon’s spectacular Silver Falls, head to their website.

Silver Falls + More
Silver Falls + More

Silver Falls + More

“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
― Henry David ThoreauWalden: Or, Life in the Woods