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Ciao 2015!

Each year, I feel blessed by the life that I’ve been given. I’m healthy, and happy, and have the ability to spend much of my time doing the things I enjoy. I get to spend my days with my husband, friends and family. As I reflect back on 2015, I’m surprised at how quickly it has flown by, and what amazing things I’ve done! 2015 was certainly a year full of travel – so much that I had to expand my Top 10 list to 12!

In no particular order:

  1. We welcomed a new niece to the family in early February, and this little one is busy exploring the world and is just days away from walking!
  2. The El Niño phenomenon brought us a crazy-mild winter. We are talking temps in the 60s in February. Which was perfect for a Valentine’s Day getaway to the first-ever Bubbles Fest at Anne Amie Winery. Eleven Oregon sparkling wine producers, about 25 wines, oysters on the half shell, chocolate, and gorgeous “sitting on the patio” weather! I hope they do this festival again!
  3. Jon and I took a mini-getaway in late March back to Moab, Utah and Salt Lake City. We hiked Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, and we visited Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake. And, I zip-lined for the first time and loved it!
  4. We knocked another National Park off our list by visiting Mount Rainier in April, on an unseasonably warm weekend. Temps were in the mid-60s! We snow-shoed for the first time, and did several great hikes, in addition to staying at the National Park Inn, our first “in park” accommodations!
  5. We spent a fun long weekend with my family on the Oregon Coast. Jon and I also had a chance to visit a few of the area’s attractions – beer, wine, a lighthouse, and Lewis and Clark’s Winter Fort! The beach at Nehalem Bay State Park is also where I experienced the most beautiful sunset of the year!
  6. There were no major illnesses or injuries among our “herd” this year! Biz is 28, and rocking his mostly toothless smile, after having four more teeth removed in June. Oliver is doing well on his kidney food, and is healthy, other than a random couple of days of vomiting in early December. Oscar still loves getting love on his terms, and Coraline got even pudgier, despite a year on diet food. Time to crack down on portion sizes!
  7. After having such a nice long weekend with Jon’s parents last year, we decided to take a week-long trip to Colorado in August. I planned an epic road trip to see five National Parks and Monuments, and lots of other fun stuff! We had a great time!
  8. I completed my 7th half-marathon in September – the Woodinville Wine Country Half-Marathon. The cool temperature was wonderful, the course was fast, and I shaved 18 seconds off of my previous personal record – despite not having trained for it! Jon got second place in his age division too, and we enjoyed some nice wines and beer at the end!
  9. Our big trip this year took place in October – a trip that has been in the works for three years now! We had almost two weeks to tour Virginia (with a couple of stops in other states). We saw Shenandoah National Park, four Presidential homes, five Civil War battlefields and the place where Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia. We also saw several other historic sites, and we finished off with a trip to Chincoteague Island to see the ponies made famous by Marguerite Henry and her children’s books. The memories will last a lifetime.  More posts on the trip are coming!
  10. I’ve been at my new job almost a year, and am enjoying the work (and the vacation accrual!) and making new friends. I miss seeing my old friends every day, but that’s just a reason to make sure we get together.
  11. Jon and I were feeling a bit sun deprived in December with all the rain here in the Northwest, so we booked a last minute weekend getaway to Joshua Tree National Park, in southern California. We hiked to our hearts content and added yet another park to the notches on our belts! The weather was dry the whole time, and it warmed up each day; it was the perfect sunny respite from our torrential downpours!
  12. And last but certainly not least, I celebrated two milestones this year. Jon and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary in June, and I turned 40 in September. I’m getting used to the 40 thing…
A stunning sunset at the Nehalem Bay Campground.

A Fabulous Sunset!

I know I have a tendency to gripe about the weather (and wouldn’t you if you had moss growing in your ears!), but in reality I know how lucky I am. I hope 2016 brings as much joy as 2015 did. And dear readers, I wish all of you all the best for the New Year!

Oregon Coast 2015: Lewis and Clark Were Here!

The Lewis and Clark National Historical Park

As I’m sure you remember, Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery departed in 1804 from St. Louis on a two year mission to map the United States’ newly acquired territory, find a route to the Pacific across the continental U.S. and establish an American presence to prevent Britain and other European powers from making claims.

Lewis and Clark National Historical Park is located at the site of the 1805-1806 winter camp of the expedition, known as Fort Clatsop.

Lewis and Clark National Historical Park

Lewis and Clark National Historical Park

In true Pacific Northwest fashion, it was a rainy winter. There were few dry days when the expedition was camped here. The group was able to prepare for the return trip the following spring, by creating a new stockpile of salt for preserving food, hunting and gathering other food, and trading with the tribes in the immediate vicinity. But the journals that exist from the period indicated that it was a claustrophobic, cramped, dreary time at Fort Clatsop. Many of the men came down with colds and the flu.

Fort Clatsop Replica - Built 2007

Fort Clatsop Replica – Built 2007

Interestingly, the winter camp was originally on the other side of the river, in what is now Washington. However, the food sources were minimal there, as the elk had moved higher into the mountains. Moving the camp was discussed, and each member of the expedition was able to vote on the move. It is widely believed to be the first time a slave and a woman were granted the vote in American history.

Inside Fort Clatsop

Inside Fort Clatsop

The expedition got on their way in March 1806 for the long trip back east. Fort Clatsop’s structures were given to one of the tribes and the fort was taken over again by nature. A replica was built when the site was designated as a National Historical Park in 1958. Sadly the replica burned in 2006; a replacement was built in 2007. The replica is thought to be historically accurate, having been built from sketches and descriptions that Lewis drew in his journals.

Living quarters for enlisted men

Living quarters for enlisted men – not much room!

Although not one of the larger sites in the National Park System, it is unique in many respects. There are several sites that make up the historical park, which is a partnership between the federal government and both Washington and Oregon State parks. The original winter camp on the Washington side of the river is protected, as well as the site on the beach where the expedition made salt to preserve their food. Approximately 191,867 people visited the park in 2011.

This particular site can be seen in about an hour – it is pretty surprising to see how they crammed over 30 people into such a small space. I can’t imagine the cabin fever of a cold, dark winter in that environment!

Jon and I would have loved to hike there – there is a 12 mile hike between the fort site and the historic Salt Works on the beach. Unfortunately, we still had a long drive ahead of us so we needed to get on our way…

We had one more stop on our drive home though – a mid-afternoon meal that would qualify as a very late lunch, or very early dinner. We went to the Rogue Brewery!

Rogue Brewery - on the pier in Astoria, Oregon

Rogue Brewery – on the pier in Astoria, Oregon

I have never been to a brewery where they give you an appetizer sample of beer, but right after we sat down, our server brought out samples of their Morimoto Soba Ale.  It was very unique, and delicious!  When we ordered, I told our server what kinds of beer I like, and then let him pick the sampler I tried. I’d say he did pretty well. I tried the Mom’s O Mix, the Chipotle Amber Ale, the Dead Guy Ale, and the Double Dead Guy Ale.  Jon of course had an IPA.

My taster tray at Rogue Brewery

My taster tray at Rogue Brewery

For our meal, we split a bowl of their clam chowder – it was delicious! It was super-creamy with lots of chunks of clam, potato and celery and served with yummy bread. We also each had a salad. I loved the salad, but found that the dressing, a balsamic vinaigrette, was too acidic for me – it made my tongue raw! This has happened several times, so I wonder if I’m not just becoming too sensitive to the acidity in salad dressing. Fortunately, I don’t have the same bad luck with wine!

Clam Chowder at the Rogue Brewery

Clam Chowder at the Rogue Brewery

Rogue Brewery is located out on the pier in Astoria, which means you drive across an old, one-vehicle-width bridge onto the pier. It was definitely a strange experience! The brewery itself is located in an old cannery building, which they have tried to maintain in its historic state. The restrooms are mostly original, and require a walk through an old warehouse area which gives you a great view of what this building once looked like!

Rogue Brewery - quiet at about 3:15 pm

Rogue Brewery – quiet at about 3:15 pm

I also was able to get a few good pics of a barn swallow perched on the railing of the pier outside the window. It was a great place to have lunch!

A barn swallow on the pier outside the Rogue Brewery

A barn swallow on the pier outside the Rogue Brewery

After our meal, we got back on the road for the long, and fortunately this time, relatively traffic free drive home…

Have you ever been to any of the Lewis and Clark expedition sites around the country?

Oregon Coast 2015: Rocks, Shipwrecks and Bombs

The second night of our Oregon Coast camping trip, my Mom was kind enough to load me up with some warm blankets, and I was nice and toasty in my sleeping bag, which meant that I slept a lot better! Sunday dawned warmer too, so we hung out with the kids as they played on the playground.

Shortly before noon we headed out to begin our long drive home, with a few planned stops along the way.

Haystack Rock

Haystack Rock is an iconic sea stack jutting out of the ocean just off the beach in Cannon Beach, Oregon.  Although there are many other “Haystack Rocks” around, including three others in Oregon, this is the actual, real one…  No really, I swear…  You have probably seen it, even if you haven’t been here, as it was featured in the opening scenes of The Goonies, when the bad guys are trying to flee across the beach.

Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, Oregon

Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, Oregon

It had been several years since I had been there, and Jon had never seen it, so we parked and strolled along the beach for a little while.  It is still beautiful.

From the beach, the Tillamook Rock Light is visible in the distance.  It was completed in 1881, with a First Order Fresnel lens, and at the time, was the most expensive lighthouse constructed on the West Coast.  The commute was so treacherous for light keepers that it became known as Terrible Tilly.  It was decommissioned in 1957, and over the years, the wind and surf have eroded the rock, damaged the lighthouse and shattered the lens.  It is now privately owned, and an unofficial columbarium.

Tillamook Rock Lighthouse - built 1881.

Tillamook Rock Light – built 1881.

The Peter Iredale and Fort Stevens State Park

The Peter Iredale was a cargo ship that ran aground on the Oregon Coast, October 25, 1906, while it was en-route to the Columbia River. She was built in 1890, was 287 feet long and was made from steel plates on an iron frame. She was named for her owner, who also owned an entire fleet in England. She grounded during a storm, and a lifeboat was dispatched to rescue the 27 stranded crew and 2 stowaways. All lives were saved.

The wreck of the Peter Iredale

The wreck of the Peter Iredale

Originally the intention was to tow the ship back into the sea, but after several weeks of waiting for good weather, the ship got ever more embedded in the sands, and she was ultimately sold for scrap. The bow, ribs and masts remained as a reminder of the wreck, and are now a popular tourist attraction. Interestingly, during World War II, Japanese submarines fired on the wreck of the Peter Iredale, so barbed wire was strung along the beach to hamper any planned invasion. The ship became entwined in the barbed wire and remained that way until the end of the war.

Jon with the Peter Iredale

Jon with the Peter Iredale

Fort Stevens was an active fort from the Civil War through World War II (although it wasn’t always manned), and had 3 batteries protecting the mouth of the Columbia River. Battery Russell was built between 1903 and 1904 and armed with two 10” disappearing guns. During the attack from the Japanese submarine, several shells landed near Battery Russell, but the order was given to hold return fire, and after 16 minutes of shelling, the submarine submerged and left. Did you know there had been a World War II attack on U.S. soil, other than Pearl Harbor?

Battery Russell at Fort Stevens State Park

Battery Russell at Fort Stevens State Park

 

An American Robin on a chain at Battery Russell

An American Robin on a chain at Battery Russell

It would have been fun to tour the other two batteries, but I had more sightseeing planned for us!

 

Oregon Coast 2015: Cape Meares and Wine

After we filled our tummies at Pelican Brewery, we were ready for an afternoon of sightseeing!

Cape Meares State Park

Next we headed to the Cape Meares Lighthouse. It was built in 1890, and has a first order Fresnel lens – it is 38 feet tall.  It is the shortest lighthouse in Oregon, and is constructed of bricks made on site, with iron plates covering them.  It originally had two keeper’s houses, which were connected to the light by a 1,000 foot boardwalk. The mechanism had to be wound every 2.5 hours!  The oil houses were removed in 1934 when the light was electrified – it was deactivated in 1963.

The Cape Meares Light - built in 1890 - 38' tall

The Cape Meares Light – built in 1890 – 38′ tall

There was talk at the time of demolishing the light, but public outcry caused the light to be turned over to the county. Sadly, during the period when the light and its keeper’s houses were vacant, there was a significant amount of vandalism to both, and in the end, the houses had to be torn down. All four bull’s eyes in the Fresnel lens were stolen too – but three have since been recovered. The tower was opened to the public in 1980.

Unfortunately, that didn’t stop the vandals. In January 2010, two drunk young men visited the lighthouse and took several potshots with a gun, breaking 15 of the lighthouse’s windows and significantly damaging the historic lens – damage to the lens is estimated to be more than $500,000 to repair.

The good news is that the men were dumb enough to also fire at and damage the nearby Coast Guard Station, which made their offenses a federal crime. They were caught and convicted, and the judge gave them an interesting sentence. In addition to $100,000 in restitution, the men were sentenced to 48 days in jail, which were served 16 days per year for three years – coinciding each year with the date of the vandalism.

We were able to tour the lighthouse, and see the damage to the lens. It breaks my heart when people don’t have respect for the historic treasures of this world. On a positive note, the tower of the light offers phenomenal views of the ocean and the nesting seabirds.

The view at Cape Meares - perfect for watching seabirds or the annual whale migration

The view at Cape Meares – perfect for watching seabirds or the annual whale migration

A closer look at a Cormorant colony

A closer look at a Cormorant colony

After the lighthouse, we also checked out the Octopus Tree at the park. It has no central trunk, instead having multiple branches that extend outward for as many as 16 feet before heading skyward. No one really knows why it grows this way, but assume that the strange phenomenon was caused by people. Native Americans consider it a sacred tree, but it is different than other Native American marker trees found throughout the United States, which are thought to be directional path markers.

The Octopus Tree

The Octopus Tree

The tribes in the area say that it was shaped in order to hold a canoe with the body of a tribal member, as a part of their funeral service.  However it was shaped in this unusual way, it sure is neat to look at!

Nehalem Bay Winery

There’s a funny story about this place. I have long made it known that one of my favorite wineries is Chehalem Winery in the Willamette Valley – I have blogged about their wines numerous times. My girlfriend Allysa took a vacation down the Oregon Coast a few years ago and texted me one day saying that she was at Nehalem Bay Winery. I responded, “Have fun! Take pictures!” which she apparently thought was odd, since why would I want to see pictures of a place that I had visited often?

Well, once she got back she mentioned having visited “Camille’s favorite winery,” and in the conversation that followed it became clear that there was a mix-up between Nehalem and Chehalem – I can’t imagine why! I had to tell her that I had never been to Nehalem Bay Winery! Since then it has become a running joke, and I can now tell her I have visited Nehalem Bay.

Nehalem Bay Winery

Nehalem Bay Winery

Nehalem Bay has a Bavarian style tasting room, and a line up of about a dozen grape wines and half a dozen fruit wines. They have been in business since the 70s. I really liked Nehalem Bay’s fruit wines, but I thought their grape wines were just ok.

I got to try a new grape too – Niagara – I didn’t like the wine at all! It was really sweet, which is a characteristic of the grape (after all it is predominantly used to make grape juice), but it had a very high alcohol smell too (some compare the smell to diesel fuel – but I didn’t get that from this wine). Jon enjoyed some of their reds though, so they really do have something for everyone. The owners served us, and they were warm and friendly.

Back to the Beach

After our visit to Nehalem Bay, we headed back to camp for a spaghetti dinner, and of course, smores… Paired with a lovely Nehalem Bay Cranperé wine, a light, sweet blend of Cranberry wine and Riesling. The evening activity was a couple mile bike ride with my brother, sister in law and all the kids. We had a lot of fun riding down the 2 mile bike loop around the campground.

We were also greeted with the most fabulous pink sunset – we missed seeing the sun go down but when I saw the pink in the sky I ran out to the beach with my camera in hand to catch the lingering light in the most gorgeous pink hues. It was one of the prettiest sunsets I have ever seen!

A stunning sunset at the Nehalem Bay Campground.

A stunning sunset at the Nehalem Bay Campground.

Have you ever camped on the northern Oregon Coast?  What did you see and do?

Oregon Coast 2015: Beer, Beach and Beer!

At the end of May Jon and I had the good fortune of going on a weekend camping trip with my family on the Oregon Coast. It was my parents, my brother and sister in law, and my two nieces and nephew. What a fun time!

Jon and I started our drive down in the early afternoon on Friday – he had to work until 1 pm. The traffic was absolutely terrible! What should be a two hour drive turned into four hours and 15 minutes along the notoriously crappy Puget Sound I-5 corridor – YUCK! That meant that we rolled in late for a beer at the Fort George Brewing Company in Astoria, Oregon.

The rows of windows at the Fort George Brewery!

The rows of windows at the Fort George Brewery!

The Fort George Brewing Company is located at the original fort site in Astoria, from when it was founded in 1811.  For years, it served as the primary fur trading post in the Northwest for the Pacific Fur Company.  Obviously, the current building wasn’t there then; the current building was built in 1924 and was originally a service station.  I love when companies re-purpose old buildings and preserve the history!

Jon ate dinner at the brewery, but I had succumbed to hunger hours before and had a fast food dinner on the road. I still had dessert though – in the form of two Willapa Bay oyster shooters – Delicious! I had the Divinity – a Belgian style wheat beer made with berries – and Jon had two; the 3-Way IPA and the Cavatica Stout.

We both enjoyed our beers very much, but we couldn’t linger too long as we still had over an hour of driving in the dark, before we finally reached the campground.

Thankfully, my Dad had set up our tent for us, so all we had to do was arrange our sleeping pads and bags, brush our teeth, and snuggle into bed. Where I promptly froze half to death all night, while watching Jon sleep peacefully next to me. That man can sleep through anything!

The cold night reaffirmed why I’m not a “camper,” because of course, being cold and not sleeping just meant that I lay there thinking about how I needed to go to the bathroom, and then I had to get out of the sleeping bag, get out of the tent, put shoes on, find a flashlight, walk to the bathroom, and go back and repeat the whole process in reverse. Can anybody else relate?  How does this beat a hotel?

But enough about my love of camping…

After a very early morning, vegging out like a zombie with a mug of hot coffee for a while, the morning was spent beach combing with the kids.  We found and picked up a million broken sand dollars and mussel shells, and saw a bunch of these little jelly blobs that looked like the bottom of a soda bottle. Like they had been molded. I still don’t know what they were. My nephew took a face plant in the water and decided that digging in the sand above the waterline was a much more fun option. I can’t blame him – it was a pretty cold morning!

The beach at Nehalem Bay, on a cool, cloudy morning

The beach at Nehalem Bay, on a cool, cloudy morning

The strangest molded jellyfish! Anybody know what this is? There were dozens of them.

The strangest molded jellyfish! Anybody know what this is? There were dozens of them.

Shortly before lunch, Jon and I headed out to explore some of the Oregon coast sights.

A Spotted Towhee (Northwest coast morph) near the beach at Nehalem Bay

A Spotted Towhee (Northwest coast morph) near the beach at Nehalem Bay

Pelican Brewery

We started out with two Netarts oyster shooters each, and we both had elk burgers for lunch at Pelican Brewery – mine was topped with feta – YUM! I had the beer sampler, with six of their regular selections, and my choice of a seventh beer.  I chose the “Meet the Flockers” wheat beer.

Beer Sampler - so many choices!

Beer Sampler – so many choices!

I enjoyed all of them, but my favorites were the Scottish Style Ale and the Brown Ale. Jon enjoyed the Imperial IPA. We sat out on the patio, where the weather had warmed from the morning, and I just let the heat sink into my cold, tired bones (don’t I sound like I’m 80!).

My Netarts Oyster Shooters at Pelican Brewery

My Netarts Oyster Shooters at Pelican Brewery

My Elk Burger at Pelican Brewery - simple and delicious!

My Elk Burger at Pelican Brewery – simple and delicious!

All in all, a great morning of relaxing.  But we weren’t done for the day!