Category Archives: Travel

Deschutes River Trail

While Sunriver is the perfect place for casual, relaxing bike rides, there are other more challenging options. In the past, Bill and I tackled the Deschutes River Trail and enjoyed it immensely. We decided to give it another go in our recent trip to Sunriver. We started at the Benham Falls trailhead in north Sunriver and rode over a few miles of single-track trail littered with random collections of large, sharp rocks. This was sometimes difficult to ride through, and I ended up pushing my bike on a few occasions to keep from scraping my legs on the rocks or nearby trees. It’s a mixture of up- and downhill, so the ride had lots of easy parts too. The views of the Deschutes river are beautiful.

After a few miles, the trail arrives at Benham Falls park in Lava Lands (which is where Lava Butte makes its home), where the rest of the public can drive and walk a mile to view the falls. The first part of the walk is a quaint wooden bridge. Although you can’t quite see me, I’m at the end of the bridge in the picture.

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As you approach the falls, the Deschutes leaves the calm waters behind and picks up its fury.

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The falls are steeper and more intense than they look in this picture.

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After the falls, the water begins to smooth out again.

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Bill enjoying a break at the top of the falls.

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After we saw the falls, we rode another few miles along the river, sometimes along the edge of a ravine directly above the river. What stunning views we saw! We turned around at around seven miles and headed back to Sunriver.

On our way back, we were quite surprised to see my parents walking down the trail. They’d already viewed the falls and were starting to think about lunch. So we agreed to rendezvous at one of favorite watering holes, Sunriver Brewing Company in the Sunriver Village. We enjoyed a few pints and a delicious lunch. I fell in love with their Vicious Mosquito IPA!  If you pay them a visit, I highly recommend it. After filling our bellies, we headed back to our vacation home for a well-deserved rest in the sun on the back patio.

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Biking in Sunriver

My favorite thing to enjoy at Sunriver is a loooong bike ride on their miles and miles of paved trails. The trails meander through the resort, often along the Deschutes River. We enjoyed several of these relaxing bike rides.

There is a footbridge you can ride across the Deschutes. The best part about that is the views of the river, which is very calm in this area. Here’s looking north from atop the footbridge . . .

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And here’s looking south . . .

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Bill’s taking in the scenery from the footbridge.

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On our way back, we passed by this deer. She wasn’t at all concerned about being so close to humans, and just kept munching away while I snapped photos just a few feet away from her.

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Nature’s beauty at its best.


High Desert Oregon– Perfect Place to Unwind


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Sometimes life comes at you hard, and you have to not just survive, but grow and thrive. Like this scrub tree at the top of Lava Butte., south of Bend, Oregon. This tree, which is only about 18 inches tall, would probably normally be several feet tall. But the winds, snow, rains, and incessant summer sun keep it in check. It’s beautiful nonetheless, don’t you think?

It pretty much conveys how I feel these days. Challenged by life, but still working hard to make the best of things and rise above the difficulties that have been thrown my way.

With that in mind, I was anxious to join my parents for a week of fun, sun, relaxation, and good times in Sunriver, Oregon.

I started the trip with a solo drive from our home in Hillsboro east and south to Sunriver.  There’s nothing quite as soul cleansing as singing at the top of your lungs because no one is with you.  I covered it all–the Eagles, Steely Dan, Death Cab for Cutie, Madonna, and lots of others, and ended the set perfectly with Fleetwood Mac’s Thrown Down as I pulled into the driveway of the home my dad has for the week. Bill drove over earlier in the day because he can’t stay as long as me, and thankfully, he didn’t need to listen to me sing.

That was yesterday. Today I started the day with a run on the paved trails in Sunriver, with my mom and Bill keeping company. I ran and they walked; I doubled back every run phase to connect with them. So fun! And what a great way to at start the day.

By mid-morning we were all ready for adventure so me, Bill, Mom, and Dad headed to Lava Buttte, which is a few miles north of our temporary home in Sunriver.

We drove up the spiral to top of the butte. After parking, Mom and I hiked up to the fire tower while Bill and Dad  spent time on their short wave radios. Here’s Mom and I at the top of Lava Butte.

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What a view from up there! We enjoyed beautiful views 360 views of Oregon.

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We hiked around the crater. At the halfway point we stopped to enjoy the view.

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Lots of easy–but beautiful–hiking. Soon it was lunchtime. So off we headed to 10 Barrel, our favorite Bend respite. So here we are, with Mom and Dad enjoying a much deserved refreshment.

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Now back to Sunriver for more adventures.

 

 


Moab Day 2–Island in the Sky at Canyonlands National Park

September 19 . . . our 30th anniversary! And how wonderful to celebrate it exploring the stunning scenery around Moab. Our destination for the day was the Island in the Sky area of Canyonlands National Park. Canyonlands is quite large, and actually has three separate regions. Island in the Sky in the north, Needles to the south, and the Maze to the west. Each has its own distinct personality and types of land formations. You could spend an entire vacation just exploring Canyonlands and not make a dent in it.

Over coffee and another wonderful breakfast at our new favorite, Jailhouse Cafe, we planned our day trip to Canyonlads. It’s a short 32 miles from Moab to Island in the sky. Arches is only eight miles away, and it’s amazing to me that there are so many completely different geographic areas so close to Moab.

Shafer Canyon Overlook

Our first stop in Canylands was Shafer Canyon Overlook. Just a few miles past the park entrance, it provides stunning views. In the picture, the overlook is in the very center of the picture. We hiked the short distance out there. It’s unbelievable to me that there aren’t any railings along the edge of the overlook because it’s hundreds of feet down in some places, and you can walk right up to the edge of the drop-off. This was the one of many challenges to my acrophobia during the week.

Looking from the outlook, you could see a road that criss-crosses across the steep cliff. I couldn’t imagine being crazy enough to drive on that road with its sheer drop-offs. Bill, on the other hand, was determined to figure out a way to do it. And later in the week, we actually did. More about that in another posting.

Next stop was Mesa Arch. People climb up on top of this arch. From this view, it’s only about 25 feet above the ground. But on the other side, it drops down hundreds of feet.

Mesa Arch

Incredible views through Mesa Arch

View from the top and side of Mesa Arch

Upheaval Dome

We got back in our pick-up, and drove about 20 more miles to Upheaval Dome. This is a collapsed cinder cone, with a new greenish lava dome in the middle. It was a quite short, somewhat steep hike up to this view. The air was starting to get a little warm, so hiking uphill was not so enjoyable.

View from Green River Overlook

Driving back to the main road, we stopped at Green River Overlook. From here, you can look down into the plateaus above the Green River, which eventually flows into Grand Canyon. It’s hard to describe the other-worldliness of being up high on a plateau or mesa, looking down hundreds of feet at another layer of plateaus that are hundreds of feet above the Green River. It’s a little mind boggling, but gorgeous. We experienced this phenomenon throughout the day, and it’s really something I couldn’t get enough of.

Next, off the the grand finale of the park: Grand View Point Overlook. This area has stunning views that can be seen a short distance from the parking area. But you can also hike out along the edge of the cliff for a few miles, all the while looking hundreds of feet down to plateaus with their own unbelievable formations of needles and other rock structures.

View from Grand View Point Overlook

In the picture at right, just beyond the edge of the rocks in the foreground is a drop off of a few hundred feet. Then the plateaus below feature their own drops into deep canyons. These canyons have needles, fins, and other steep protrusions that are all a few hundred feet tall. It’s all unbelievably majestic.

You're really, seriously walking out there?

We hiked along the edge of the cliff for a few miles, and then back again. It was getting quite warm, so we took our time and enjoyed the scenery.  Bill had no qualms about getting right up to the edge to enjoy the spectacular views, scaring the crap out of me on numerous occasions.

Please . . . can't you step away from the edge?

After a day of hiking in the heat, we were pretty tired. We headed back to Moab and spent a few hours exploring the shops, restaurants, and brew pubs.

An adrenaline rush (for both of us)

For our anniversary dinner we went back to Jeffrey’s Steakhouse and Ghost Bar. We enjoyed our dessert there so much the night before that we wanted to try a full meal there. We weren’t disappointed. I had a filet mignon that just about melted in my mouth. What a perfect way to end our anniversary day. And we have plenty to look forward to in the days to come . . . quadding north of Moab, hiking in Devil’s Garden in Arches, a desert sunset ride in a Razr in the Hell’s Revenge area of Sand Flats recreation area (the 4-wheel drive headquarters of the world), the Needles region of Canyonlands, and a sunrise hike to the picturesque Delicate Arch in in Arches.


Moab Day 1–Arches National Park

We started the day in Moab with a delicious breakfast at the Jailhouse Cafe. This quickly became a favorite place, and we ended up coming here a couple of times throughout the week. Built in 1855, the building was a private residence and county courthouse.

One of the rooms has foot-thick adobe walls and was used as a jailhouse  in the early days.

We were able to eat outside on the patio.

After breakfast, we immediately drove the three or so miles from Moab to Arches National Park. Ever since reading Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey in the mid-1990’s, I’d wanted to visit this area. His vivid description of the park and its beauty and its ecosystem intrigued me. The park didn’t disappoint–it was all I’d hoped for and much more. Much, much more.

As you drive up the hill into the park, red sandstone cliffs flank one side of the road. A steep drop-off flanks the other side. Once you round the first corner, you are presented with an unending playground of red rock formations of all shapes and sizes. There are many, many places to pull over to take pictures and take short or long hikes. This place really caters to all comers, regardless of your fitness level or the level of adventure you’re looking for.

Balanced Rock is one of the more famous formations in the park. It is here that Edward Abbey lived in his trailer as he stewarded the park for a few years in the mid-1950’s. There is no sign of the trailer now, but you can envision what it must have been like to live here, in solitude much of the time.

Driving the 18-mile road to the end of the park, you can see rock formations of all types. These are many of the spires (or needles, as they’re sometimes called) that we saw.

Just a mile or so past Balanced Rock is an area called The Windows Section. It has several arches. You can see them from the parking lot, but it’s fun to hike up to them. It’s a short quarter-mile hike to Double Arch in The Windows Section. The only problem is it’s all up hill, and it was just starting to get hot by the time we did this hike. Notice the people at the bottom of the picture to get an idea of the size of this set of arches.

On the other side of the parking lot and up another (hot) hill there are three other arches. One of them, Turet Arch, is actually a formation with several interesting aspects.

We drove further down the road through the park, in continual awe. We started to realize we couldn’t stop and hike at each sight. Sigh. Too much beauty for one day! We took the turn off for Wolfe Ranch because this is where you find Delicate Arch, which is the arch that graces Utah’s license plate. By this time it was very hot, and someone we chatted with in the parking lot told us it was a steep uphill hike to get to the arch. But there are viewpoints from near the parking lot. We decided to take a short quarter-mile hike to one of the viewpoints today, and come back to hike directly to the arch early on another day when it was still relatively cool. we were able to zoom in and get a fairly decent picture. Again, notice the (small) people to get an idea of the size of the arch.

Next we stopped at Sand Dune Arch. To get to this arch, you hike between “fins,” which are tall, narrow, well . . . fins. It was shady and cool in between them. Ahhhh . . . relief from the heat for a moment.

Here’s another view of the fins near Sand Dune Arch. Later in the week, I found myself hiking on top (yikes!) of fins similar to these in an attempt to get to some arches we hadn’t seen. I don’t handle heights well, and was scared beyond belief. More about that frightening, unexpected experience in another post.

By the end of the day, we were hot, tired, and ready for refreshments. We headed back into Moab and spent the evening visiting several shops, and had drinks and snacks at various watering holes and restaurants.

We ended up having a delicious dessert at Jeffrey’s Steak House and Ghost Bar. Probably the nicest restaurant in Moab, Jeffrey’s features fine cuisine, including Wagyu beef. We headed upstairs to the Ghost Bar, where we had a nice visit with the owner and heard stories about how the Ghost Bar got its name. We enjoyed a wonderful dessert. Homemade lemon ice cream on a homemade crunchy, chewy, carmelized lemon  crust. Light and refreshing, a perfect ending to the day.


Off to Moab

At long last, we departed for Moab, Utah on the morning of Saturday September 17, 2011. We headed there for a week of exploration and adventure to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. Our flight left PDX bright and early at 6:30 am. We flew to Boise and had a two-hour layover, then we were off to Salt Lake City.

After landing in Salt Lake City around noon, we grabbed our rental car for the week. Budget was out of the 4WD SUV we had ordered, so they upgraded us to a 4WD crew cab pick-up. Score! We were set for whatever adventures the next week would bring.

The 230-mile drive south to Moab took us through lots of beautiful country and changing scenery. As we left Salt Lake, we saw the Wasatch mountains to the east.

After an hour or two, the scenery changed to rock cliffs alongside the highway.

Eventually we hit the wide open desert.

Wide open desert between Salt Lake City and Moab, Utah

As we approached Moab, the scenery changed drastically to red rock formations of all types.

By 6 pm, we were checked in our room and set about exploring the small town of Moab. We were happy to find that it had all sorts of wonderful restaurants, shopping, and other entertainment.

At the end of the evening, we had a last drink at the Slick Rock Cafe and enjoyed some live music from Lost Buffalo, a local group. Their rock/country/blues fit right into the desert surroundings. The lead singer, Doc Kota, has the coolest guitar with desert needle rock formations airbrushed onto it. At the time of this writing, you can download two free songs from their facebook page. I highly recommend Put Out Fire.


10 Years Ago Today–9/14 to 9/18

As I get ready to head off for a weeklong vacation to celebrate my 30th wedding anniversary (more about this in another blog post), I continue to reflect on 9/11/01 and the days after.

On 9/14/01, I left our corporate offices in Chelmsford, Mass., to drive cross-country to reach my home in Hillsboro, Oregon, just west of Portland. With two complete strangers. The three of us spent 12 to 14 hours a day in the rental car, rotating driving responsibilities and being able to stretch out in the back seat.

On our first day, we left Chelmsford around 1pm and drove until about 11 pm. We checked into a MicroTel motel somewhere in New York or Pennsylvania. I meant to make note of our location, but if I did, it’s lost in 10 years of accumulations in my home office. We made plans to be on the road by 8 am the next morning.

Saturday morning, true to our plans, we were on the road by 8 am. We drove on Interstate 80 all day, and into the evening, only making stops to eat or take a potty break. Conversation was relaxed and comfortable, but sparse. We had little in common, and my companions were physicists and existed in a world I had little knowledge of. Around 11 pm, we decided to call it a day and got a room in Des Moines, Iowa. What a mistake. At one end of the first floor, there was a rowdy bar that was closing for the evening about the time I was trying to fall asleep. Right outside my window, a bunch of drunks decided to get into a fight. A fist-throwing, object throwing fight. I thought they were going to come crashing through my window. There was plenty of yelling and screaming and thrashing around. It was pretty frightening.

The next morning, after very little sleep, I was anxious to get showered and leave what I’d started to think of as a hell-hole. I got into the shower and found it covered with black mold and slime. “Get me out of here” was all I could think. I rendezvoused with my traveling partners around 9 am, and we were on the road again. As we drove cross-country on I-80, we never once turned the radio on. I don’t think any of us wanted to chance hearing any more bad news. Each evening when I was alone in my room, I’d log on to cnn.com and check for updates, or maybe grab a local newspaper. Other than that, we were fairly disconnected from the world events that continued to unfold.

On Sunday, we drove from Des Moines to Cheyenne, Wyoming. Along the way, we stopped in Omaha, Nebraska to drop Arpad off at the airport. Halfway across the country, flights were slowly coming online again and he’d been lucky enough to find a flight home. Susan and I continued, sharing the driving with just the two of us now. Susan walked with the aid of a cane, and had a harder time getting around than I did. So I ended up doing the bulk of the driving, schlepping suitcases, etc. We arrived in Cheyenne around 7pm. This was a fairly early stopping time for us, but with only two to share the driving, we had to pace ourselves a little differently.

It felt good to be in Cheyenne. It’s western theme and open spaces felt more like home to me. It started feeling possible that we’d actually make it home in a few days.

Monday morning, 9/17/01, we left Cheyenne and drove across Wyoming on I-80. What a beautiful drive. Lots more wide open spaces and gorgeous scenery. We could easily cruise at 80 mph, so we made great progress. Once we crossed into Utah, the drive to Salt Lake City was especially beautiful. I made a secret pact with myself to someday come back to see that part of the country. It’s a strange coincidence (one that I didn’t realize until right at this moment), that on 9/17/01, we drove through Salt Lake City on our way home. Exactly ten years later to the day, on 9/17/11, I flew to Salt Lake City on the way to a vacation in Moab, Utah, to celebrate my ten year wedding anniversary. When I made the travel arrangements to Moab via Salt Lake City, I no idea of the date coincidence. But there are no coincidences, right?

By the end of the day, we’d made it to Boise. It was only 5 pm, and we toyed with the idea of driving the rest of the way to Portland. It was a possibility, but with only two of us to share the driving, and with me being the one to do the bulk of the driving, it didn’t seem like a good idea. We checked into a hotel, had a hot meal, then called it a day. Being in Boise felt even more like being at home. And knowing that we had a relatively short drive the next day–only eight hours–I slept better than I had in over a week.

We left Boise at 8 am on Tuesday 9/18. The drive was easy. Entering Oregon was a huge relief. It was almost as good as being home! As we drove through Pendleton, we decided to stop at the Pendleton Woolen Mills store. I celebrated being almost home by splurging on a gorgeous red and black plaid wool skirt and wool sweaters to match.

By 4 pm that day, we were approaching Portland. Susan had made plans for a pilot friend to meet her at PDX with a private plane to fly her to Seattle. We said our good-byes and I dropped her off at the the airport.

I turned in my rental car, and set about the business of finding my car that I had parked in the short-term parking lot on 9/10. I’d heard on the news that all cars in that area had been towed to another location because of security concerns. I found an attendant in the area to help me figure out where my car was, and she had no record of it. Unbelieveable! Was I stranded AGAIN? Frustrated, I found another attendant who drove me to another lot away from the airport. He drove me up and down the aisles until I spotted my beloved red Acura TL. I’d always loved that car, but I was never SO happy to see it.

I hopped in the car, and drove the 30 miles from PDX to my home in Hillsboro. It felt so good to breath the cool, clear Portland air that I’m so familiar with. And to see the fall colors blanketing the hills and roadsides.

When I got home, no one was home except my two dalmatians, Sparky and Bart. I went in the back yard and let them jump all over me. I was laying on the ground with them, crying from relief at being home, when my husband Bill came home. I was so thrilled to see him! We held each other, and then went about the business of getting back to a normal life. What we’d later learn was “the new normal.”

Since that time ten years ago, I’ve never heard from Susan or Arpad. Not a follow-up thank you for letting them join me on my journey at no cost to them for the rental car. And not a check-in at some point in the future. I am partially to blame for this. I could have looked them up and sent them an email. In the months and even the first few years after 9/11, I didn’t really want to do anything to reconnect with that time. And now all these years later, I don’t remember their last names or anything else that would help me connect with them. I hope that they are doing well and have at least some fond memories of our journey.


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