July 2016: Hood River

After our amazing rafting trip, my aunt, uncle, cousin and I camped on a sustainable practices organic farm.  There were chickens, turkeys, horses and pigs.  The farm had views of both Mount Adams and Mount Hood, and other than the sound of the irrigation ditch, it was really quiet out there.

The next morning, we packed up the tent and my aunt and uncle’s trailer and went to Hood River, Oregon to check out the town.  We watched people parasailing on the Columbia River.  We wandered the main streets and checked out the shops.  We went into two wineries too.

 

Paddle Wheel River Boats on the Columbia River

Paddle Wheel River Boats on the Columbia River

 

What's up with the weirdo on the cell phone?

What’s up with the weirdo on the cell phone?

The first was Cascade Cliffs Winery.   Our server was very friendly, and she served us some fantastic wines.  She explained that the logo for the winery is a petroglyph that was discovered on the vineyard property.  I bought the 2014 Dolcetto and the 2015 Symphony white blend there.  I haven’t had them yet, but I might have to open one soon!

After Cascade Cliffs, we headed over to Naked Winery. Naked Winery was a fun and lively place; there was certainly a young hip vibe going on there. The focus seemed less on the quality of the wines and more on the “curb appeal.” The wines all have fun, sexy names, and the logo of the winery is a naked woman. I purchased a great sparkling wine there, and a bottle of their Wanderlust White. It comes in a plastic, lightweight bottle that is perfect for taking on a hiking trip!  I also got a bottle of their Frisky Sparkling Wine, which was pretty good!

The tasting menu at Naked Winery

The tasting menu at Naked Winery

My aunt and I had fun at both wineries, and my uncle was a trooper, even though it isn’t really his thing. After wine tasting, we headed over to the Three River’s Grill. I had the fish tacos, and they were absolutely delicious. The view was amazing too – we got to watch more para-sailors (is this the right word for people who are parasailing?) out on the water from our table on the deck.  I would absolutely love to go back there on another gorgeous summer day and watch the view on the water.  It was really relaxing.

We made one last stop before we got back on the road to head our separate ways. We made a stop at the Bonneville Dam and Fish Hatchery. The Hatchery has some adult White Sturgeon that visitors can see. They are big fish! White Sturgeon can grow to be 20 feet long are the third largest sturgeon species.  Unfortunately, populations of sturgeon on the Columbia River are not abundant, because the dams have inhibited their ability to migrate freely.

I also saw some lamprey, which have sucker mouths to attach to things; they really like to stick on the glass in the underwater viewing area. They were interesting to see, but apparently they are nuisance fish.  And of course, I also saw lots of different kinds of salmon and trout.  They have a pond at the hatchery where you can buy fish food for 50 cents and feed the salmon – they all come up to the surface like they haven’t eaten in days!  Even though you just fed them 10 seconds ago.  But hey, my cats are like that too…

And then, too soon, it was time for my long drive home…

2016 White Water Rafting

White water rafting has been on my bucket list for several years. And thanks to an invitation from my aunt and uncle, I got to go on my first trip!

My uncle’s niece runs a white water rafting business on the White Salmon Wild and Scenic River in White Salmon, WA. Although she is my cousin’s cousin, she is technically not my cousin. But having such a large family, these family distinctions get pretty blurry in my world, so we have just declared each other cousins! That’s often way easier than trying to explain that someone is your second cousin, or your first cousin once removed, or your who-knows-how-someone-is-actually-related-to you…

The trip took place in July, when I went down to spent a long weekend with my aunt, uncle and cousin. Before we drove out to the rafting site, we had lunch at a little café in White Salmon, WA, a cute yet tiny town along the Columbia River in the Gorge. My lunch was a delicious scramble with a cup of gourmet coffee.

We headed north from White Salmon to find BZ Corner and All Adventures Rafting, our guides and our gear! The first order of business was safety. Learning what would be expected for a safe and fun adventure. How to paddle, when to paddle, how and when to paddle backwards and most importantly, what happens if someone falls out of the raft!

Next, we were each fitted with a wetsuit, booties, and a splash jacket.  The water in the White Salmon River is only about 40 degrees even in the summer, because its headwaters are on Mount Adams.  Staying warm is a major consideration.  We had swimsuits on underneath.  And we got helmets too – you know, for that aforementioned falling out of the raft thing…

We rode up to where the rafts were ready to be launched, and went on our way!

My cousin and I were in the two front seats of the rafts.  The wettest seats.  We had a blast!

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I’m on the far left – in the front right seat

Parts of the river were very calm, and we had an opportunity to hear about the history of the river, its flora and fauna of the area.  The White Salmon River was dammed in 1913 by the Condit Dam, and the dam was removed in 2011.  It is one of two dams in Washington State that have been removed in order to restore critical salmon and steelhead habitat.

The story of the Condit Dam removal was an interesting one. The dam was built with fish ladders, but they were wiped out twice by floods shortly after the dam was built. Ultimately, they decided to not build new ladders, effectively wiping out the spawning grounds for salmon and steelhead on the river. In the 1990s, when the dam’s owners applied to renew their permits, a determination was made to require remediation for the habitat that was lost. The cost was prohibitive, operating the dam no longer made sense and the company ultimately decided to work toward removing the dam.

The removal was not without controversy. Property owners upriver from the dam had enjoyed a man-made lake for many years – removal of the dam lowered the level of the river in that area significantly and eliminated the lake. You could still see docks and stairs going down to what was the former water level, high up the cliffs. Other than the few homes that were right upstream from where the dam once was, I was fascinated by how wild the river still is – there were very few homes along the river and very little evidence of development.

Other areas of the river are white water rapids.  They were so much fun!  My cousin, who was steering the raft, did such a good job of keeping us rowing together and adjusting to get us positioned for the rapids.  The front seats really were wet – several times I was completely covered by water!

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I’m in there somewhere!

The entire trip took us a 8.5 miles down the river, and was about 3 hours.  I had a blast – I haven’t laughed that much in a long time.  Which was kind of a drawback for pictures, since there were many where my mouth was wide open, laughing (or gasping for breath)!

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After our rafting trip, my family and some of the staff from All Adventures Rafting hung out and had a picnic dinner together, with hotdogs, fresh salad greens from the garden, cowboy caviar, and beer and soda.  It was a great evening.

If you have the chance to go; I highly recommend All Adventures Rafting.  I would even say that if they were not my family.  It is a small, family owned business that is committed to sustainable, green practices.  They only put two rafts on each trip, so the groups are small and personal.  This is one of the best experiences I have had, and certainly a highlight of my year!

Kramer Vineyard Celebrate – Again!

On Friday night, Twitter told me that it was National Champagne Day.  Which I thought was a bit odd, as I always assumed that December 31 was National Champagne Day, but who am I to argue?  Do we really need an excuse to drink wine?

A friend of mine had come over to meet up for dinner, so I uncorked this lovely bottle of Kramer Vineyards Celebrate!  I have blogged about it before, and it was equally good this time around.  It is dry with light berry flavors, made from Pinot Noir grapes.  I first tried it at the Bubbles Fest Oregon Sparkling Wine Festival, and continue to enjoy it today.

Kramer Vineyards Celebrate! Rosé of Pinot Noir

Kramer Vineyards Celebrate! Rosé of Pinot Noir

If you have a chance, make sure you get some of this wine!  I hope you all enjoyed the weekend.

 

2016 Philomath Frolic

Back in July (I know, it seems like forever ago to me too, but it’s been a very long several months) I took a long weekend and went down to Oregon to spend some time with my family. My Aunt and Uncle were visiting Oregon from Michigan, because my cousin and his daughter live there.  They invited me down for a couple of days of fun activities.

First up – a rodeo in my cousin’s small town. I was about to experience my first-ever Philomath Frolic. It had been ages since I’d been to a rodeo, so I was excited to go. I know that not everybody agrees with rodeos, but I grew up riding horses, and running barrels and cattle penning for fun.  I even used to try to rope, but I was never talented enough…

The weather wasn’t great – it rained a good portion of the day, but it at least wasn’t too cold.  And we were in the covered grandstand.

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves…

The Drill Team – the Frolic had a drill team – a group of horses and riders who do a synchronized pattern on their horses.  It’s kind of like synchronized swimming.

grand-parade

First up in the competitive rodeo events was Saddle Bronc Riding.  The goal is to stay on for 8 seconds.  Your free hand can’t hold on!

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saddle-bronc-3

 

saddle-bronc-2

 

Next came Calf Roping – you have to rope the calf and lay him on the ground.  Best time wins.

calf-roping-1

 

This is breakaway roping.  The rider ropes the calf, but immediately lets go.  Best time wins here too.

calf-roping-2

 

In Team Roping, you have a Header and a Heeler.  It’s like it sounds, the Header ropes the head and the Heeler ropes the back legs.  There is a 5 second penalty if the Heeler only catches one back leg.

team-roping

 

Donkey Racing – this event is just for fun.  One person rides the donkey down the length of the arena and around a barrel.  The other person rides back!  Or as you can see, sometimes “riding” is a bit of a stretch.

donkey-race

 

This baby donkey was just born the night before!  He’s so cute!

donkey-foal

 

Barrel Racing – the rider and the horse execute a pattern of running around three barrels in a cloverleaf pattern.  Fastest time wins, with a 5 second penalty for knocking over barrels.

barrel-racing2

 

barrel-racing

 

Bull Riding is easily the most dangerous sport for the rodeo rider.  The goal is to stay on for 8 seconds.  It is hard to do!  I wish the first photo below was a little more clear, but I couldn’t resist posting it because it is such an awesome photo!

 

bull-riding2

 

bull-riding

 

So that was my Philomath Frolic experience.  I hope you enjoyed it!  Have you ever been to a rodeo?

Marina Seals

Work has settled down, but it was still a busy week because a good friend of mine was in town!  I hope that soon I will have the time for proper posts, and to get caught up on my recent adventures.  But for now, here’s a quick pic.

I was down at a work meeting in August in Everett, Washington, and the hotel I was staying at was right on the water.  I went for a walk at the marina in the morning, and was blessed to see this mama seal and her pup, hanging out.  They were so close, and as you can see, she was as curious about me as I was about them!  What a treat!

marina-seals

It just goes to show you, sometimes you don’t have to venture far to see something amazing.  Happy weekend everybody!

 

Boomtown Pinot Gris

Another tough couple of weeks at work, but at least it is the weekend!  When I got home from work, I cracked open the Boomtown Pinot Gris.  Boomtown is the second label from Dusted Valley, a Walla Walla winery with a tasting room in Woodinville.  Two Wisconsin natives with a dream for wine making opened a winery in Walla Walla, and they make some really good wine!

The Boomtown Pinot Gris is a wonderfully balanced wine; crisp with just a little sweetness.  It is certainly a Pinot Gris done the Washington way, with much less of the sweetness of the Oregon style Pinot Gris.  Not that I don’t love a good Oregon Pinot Gris, but this one is fantastic!

Boomtown Pinot Gris

Boomtown Pinot Gris

I paired mine with a tuna fish sandwich with pickles, because, hey, I like to class things up on a Friday night.  And you should drink what you like, and sometimes don’t worry about whether or not it goes with what you are eating.  Don’t tell anybody, but I had dinner in my pajamas too.  I said it was a long week!

Boomtown is available at grocery stores, restaurants, and through the tasting room, but you can’t buy it on their website.  If you see it, pick some up!

Olympic National Park: Ozette Triangle Hike

In early June, I headed out to the Olympic Peninsula to hike the Ozette Triangle hike. It is a 9.2 mile loop hike, that can be done either as a day hike or as a multi-day camping trip. I did a day hike, but there are two campgrounds, and one day I would like to go back and camp there.

The ferry to the Olympic Peninsula

The ferry to the Olympic Peninsula

 

Olympic National Park!

Olympic National Park!

From the starting point, you can choose either of two spurs – the one to Cape Alava (3.1 miles) or the one to Sand Point (3.0 miles). If you are camping, the spur you choose will probably depend on which campground you are planning to stay at – one allows campfires and the other does not. The hike is mostly flat, so there isn’t going to be much difference in elevation changes, although the Cape Alava spur has slightly more up and down.

The boardwalk on the spur trail to Sand Point

The boardwalk on the spur trail to Sand Point

The spur to the beach is mostly on raised wooden boardwalks through boggy forest, but I was surprised at the fact that there weren’t any mosquitoes. Perhaps they get worse later in the summer, and in the evenings. There were shady parts and sunny parts, depending on the number of trees in the immediate vicinity. It was very peaceful.

As I got closer to the beach, I started hearing the waves– I’m sure in the winter on a windy day, the sound would be very loud. I love the sound of waves on a shore, and the waves of the northern Washington Coast are wonderful.  To me, it is a truly peaceful sound…

The beach at Sand Point

The beach at Sand Point

I walked south on the beach a little ways, to find a beautiful sandy beach, with some driftwood at the tree line. I even found an intact sand dollar! The day was gorgeous, sunny, and hot! An absolutely perfect day!

Elwell and Piddles enjoying the view at Sand Point

Elwell and Piddles enjoying the view at Sand Point

The beach hike – 3.1 miles – is the hardest part of the hike. There is some hiking on packed or softer sand, but further north you are walking over rocks covered with kelp and barnacles, so you have to be careful. It can certainly be slippery.  Make sure to time this portion with a lower tide or else you’ll be doing a tougher hike through the forest above the tide line.

I love this wild beach!

I love this wild beach!

It was fun to poke around in the tide pools and find shells, and seeing the sea stacks in the distance was amazing. When the wind is blowing in the right direction, you can hear the sea lions on their offshore island perch. I was a little disappointed that I hadn’t brought my binoculars.

I love this wild beach!

I love this wild beach!

There are Native American petroglyphs visible on the rocks as you travel from north to south, but I did the hike in the opposite direction and ending up missing them. Oh well, just a reason to return!

A Bald Eagle feeding on a fish at the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge

A Bald Eagle feeding on a fish at the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge

After three miles on the beach, it was time to re-enter the woods on another set of raised boardwalks. These woods are home to lots of animals, including bears and cougars, but I didn’t see any during my midday hike. On the way back on the Cape Alava spur, I passed a boggy meadow, which once was a homesteader’s farm. He pastured sheep and cows in the meadow, but there isn’t much evidence of its history now.

The whole hike took about 5 hours at a leisurely pace, with a couple of stops for snacks and beach combing.  I loved it, and will certainly return!