Jan 262015
 

After the disappointing lack of snow in Bend, we came back to Portland where it was a mixture of sunny and decent (but cold) and then alternating rainy days. I saw in the forecast SUNSHINE and 60 degree weather! I am so ready for spring! When I saw how nice the weather was going to be I suggested we plan a hike/day trip to the beach. Oddly enough, the weather was going to be a little warmer at the beach over the weekend (which is usually the opposite–Portland is usually warmer).

Sunday morning we woke up early and packed the car for the day and set out towards Cannon Beach to do some hiking. We parked at Oswald West State Park and were lucky to get a parking spot. Seemed everyone else on the planet had the same plan as we did and lots of the hiking trailheads were filling up.

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We followed the “Short Sand Beach Trail” from the parking lot and it walked alongside a roaring river where we came to several forks in the road. Michael looked at me and I just shrugged. We randomly picked a direction to walk and went up the trail where we came to a suspension bridge! Thankfully it wasn’t super high up (I’m afraid of heights) but it was still scary. And Bella was completely freaked out. She was refusing to cross the bridge and was walking backwards. I went first to see if she’d follow. The bridge was kinda scary and there were some loose boards (um, that seems safe right?) and it bounced up and down when two people were walking across it.

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Somehow Bella conquered her fear and made it across the bridge. ;) We walked down a fork in the trail to the beach where we had our picnic lunches. Even though we’d just started our hike, we had to eat or it would throw off dinner. It was around noon at this time I think. I got to practice with my new telephoto lens that Michael got me for my birthday!

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Pretty nice, huh? I need to practice with it. We were really far away when I took these pictures. The zoom is incredible! The day was warming up but there was still some mist at the beach. This little beach was a really popular one. I don’t think I’ve ever been to it but there TONS of people and a lot of surfers, too. Everyone seemed to be carrying a surfboard on the trail to the beach.

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After lunch we walked back up to the main trail and took the Old Growth Forest Loop trail that turned into Elk Flat Trail. The book I have is pretty old and doesn’t have great detail about a lot of the hikes we’ve found just going out on our own. Like this one, the Neahkahnie Mountain hike is the one we picked and got at the Oswald West trailhead except there seemed to be about half a dozen or more other trails all connecting. We just randomly picked Elk Flat and that’s what we did.

It was a pretty steep climb almost immediately. The trail was narrow and wound through the trees.

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We tromped through old growth forest, surrounded by giant sitka trees, pine trees, evergreens and so much green everywhere! There were also a bunch of giant trees that had grown out of the sides of hills like this one:

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It kind of reminded me of when I went to the Redwood Forest as a kid.

The ground was soft with some bounce–almost trampoline-like, covered in pinecones, pine needles, leaves and centuries of compost from the damp forest. It’s nice walking on soft ground like that. Also, the mud wasn’t too bad because there were so many tree roots that had formed stairs through the forest as we climbed up.

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The trail leveled off at the top and we were both sweating buckets. We stopped to rest and have some water, give Bella some water, and take off some of our layers. We were both really warm! It turned out to be a gorgeous day, despite the dense fog and cool air in the morning. We continued on the trail and it started to wind through an area of the forest that was less dense with trees and bushes. It was kind of spooky how slender and sparse the trees were after so much old growth.

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We got to what seemed like the end of the trail. It just kind of stopped–and I wasn’t willing to explore without a trail. Besides, we’d been hiking for over an hour and a half by this time. We turned around and came across a couple with two dogs off leash–who thankfully put them both on a leash while they passed us (I thanked them for that). It was so nice! The trail was uphill for a bit and then it was mostly downhill in mud and those root-stairs.

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I was glad my knees did ok on that really steep downgrade. We got back down to the main trail, crossed the suspension bridge again (Bella did ok but was still scared). We got back to the car, covered in mud, but feeling pretty good! We ended up hiking 3.14 miles in just under 2 hours. I burned 658 calories on the hike.

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Michael pulled over at a viewpoint so I could take some more pictures with my new lens. Then we headed to Cannon Beach to do some beach walking. I love the beach and it’s even better in the sunshine. There’s just something restorative about old forests, the ocean and sunshine for me. I really do need this time to reconnect with nature after spending so much of my time in a cubicle, or a gym, or at home. I need that disconnect time.

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Cannon Beach is a tourist trap. It’s a sleepy little beach town with typical beach-tourist shops and restaurants. Cannon Beach itself is actually pretty short and it’s always really crowded in the summertime so it’s not one I generally go to often. I much prefer going to Rockaway where you could walk for miles and miles and it’s never that crowded. That’s where we always went for summer vacations when I was a kid. But yesterday it was just perfect.

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Cannon Beach was packed! Everyone else in Portland had the same idea we did. Bella was SUPER STOKED to be at the beach! There was so much going on and so many other dogs. She met lots of dogs and made friends, was scared by one that barked at her (a giant husky fluff-ball thing) and then met a 2 month old German Shephard puppy:

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Bella did her usual: rolling around in the sand, exfoliating. (I did post some videos on Instagram if you want to see.) She was one filthy puppy between the muddy hike and the sandy beach. She made sure she got sand in every inch of her body. I love this picture of her:

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To me it says: “MOM, I LOVE THE BEACH! And the sunshine! Let’s stay here forever!” I’m not sure how many miles we walked the beach but it was for about an hour or so. It was so warm I took of my long-sleeved shirt. It’s shocking how warm it was at the beach in Oregon in January. That’s just nuts.

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We finally said goodbye to Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock and went in search of food.

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Dinner time! Well, early dinner. I was FAMISHED. My lunch was NOT enough calories for the strenuous hike we did and then walking on the beach. So we ended up eating dinner around 4:30.  We actually ate dinner in Seaside, about a 15 minute drive north of Cannon Beach. We found a pub, U Street Pub, on the south side of town that wasn’t too crowded and had decent reviews online.

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All I wanted was clam chowder. I’d been craving it for about a week and as usual, the line for Mo’s was way too long. I was glad we went here because the chowder was fantastic! Perfect consistency, creamy with tiny chunks of celery and potatoes (I hate it when the chunks are too large), and a generous amount of bacon in the chowder. It came with two small slices of toast. Michael got the pastrami sandwich and an order of mozzarella sticks. I had 2 mozzarella sticks and called that my limit. The bar had a decent beer list but I stuck with diet coke. We had a lovely dinner and then I stopped in a souvenir shop to get a postcard for my grandma and we headed home.

The drive home was slow going. There was a lot of traffic (all the other people who wanted to play in the sun like we did) heading back to Portland. The night grew dark and the dense fog returned but we made it home safely and Little Miss got a quick bath (she is so good at this routine now, every time we go for a hike she immediately runs into the bathroom and hops into the tub!) and then I sorted through photos before calling it an early night. I think all three of us were beyond exhausted after our day adventure!

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Jan 212015
 

Part Two: MAJOR disappointment on the snowshoeing. I’d been really looking forward to it and I know our friends were, too. Since it was sunny, warm and like 50 degrees we decided to go for a hike instead. That’s the nice thing about the High Desert–Bend has 300 days of sunshine a year. You can pretty much count on decent weather (either good snow or good sun!). We picked Tumalo Falls because it was highly rated and the falls were fairly close to the trail start (supposedly) so we could at least see that, right?

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We drove to Tumalo Falls and as we got closer and closer, the temperature dropped to the low 40’s and there was ice on the side of the road. We got to the trailhead and got out of the car and were shocked at how frigid it was. We layered up the best we could and set out on the trail. It was deceptively cold–the sun was out but the wind was icy!

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The hike was along a roaring river that looked like immediate hypothermia if you fell in. The trees were swaying in the windy weather. Some parts of the water were frozen solid, too.

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Needless to say, the wind was so strong and so cold, we didn’t get very far before we decided “screw this” and turned around. It was another bust. Never saw the falls, did just a little over a mile on the hike. LOL Some hike! (We got Bella a snow jacket–it’s fleece lined and water proof–works great!)

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I was bummed that the hike was a fail, too. So much for exploring nature!

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We went back to the house, changed into normal clothes and then the four of us walked to downtown Bend to do some shopping and walking around. The sun was warm and it was a gorgeous day. The walk was nice! Again, our house was super close so we could walk pretty much anywhere we wanted to go. The Boneyard brewery was a few blocks away, as were a few others.

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We were shopping and walking around when the Seahawks game was going nuts and people in the bars were freaking out screaming (we could hear it from outside) so we ducked into a dive bar for the last 15 minutes or so of the game and enjoyed a Boneyard beer. Next up: Crux Fermentation!

Several of us had been told by friends “you must go to Crux”. I’d never heard of it so it was new to me. It was mid-afternoon by this time so we headed over there. It was a super cool space with a large outdoor patio, some of it was heated and covered and some of it was open. There was a smoker grill, a taco food truck and cornhole. People were milling around outside playing and hanging out in the sunshine.

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We went inside and got a table. The place was packed. Service was absolutely outstanding. I’ve never had such a good experience at a restaurant. Waitress was funny, smart, knowledgable about beer, had great recommendations and just cool.

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We ordered an appetizer to share–house-made jerky. We’d never seen jerky as an appetizer on a menu before so we had to try it. And it was probably the best jerky I’ve ever had. They smoke it themselves, soaked in their beer. Best.Jerky.Ever.

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Margie and I shared a tasting tray of 6 beers. We got:

Better Off Red: Flanders Red

Outcast IPA

Sugar Daddy IPA

Half Hitch Imperial IPA

Bert Scotch Ale

Tough Love Imperial Stout

Can you guess which ones mine were? ;) Yep, the IPA. The Half Hitch and Outcast IPAs were really, really good. I am NOT a fan of dark beers. I love coffee. I love chocolate. I do not love them in my beers. So I rarely ever enjoy a stout or porter. I had a sip of the Tough Love Imperial Stout and was amazed at how smooth, tasty and balanced it was. It was a stout I could actually drink and enjoy. But the real winner for me was the Bert Scotch Ale. It might have been my favorite beer that we tried and Michael and I ended up getting a full pint of it and sharing it. It was so fantastic.

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We were having such a good time I didn’t want to leave but we planned on getting a pizza and hanging out at the house so we left. Michael and I picked up pizza from Pizza Mondo (it was just ok), we played Cards Against Humanity and Ticket to Ride, drank our Boneyard and talked. It was a great night!

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We were up late Sunday night but it was worth it! Monday we packed up and headed home. We’d talked about trying to snowshoe on Mt. Hood on the way back to Portland but after a week of warm weather and rain, the snow conditions weren’t much better. Raincheck. On the way out of town we stopped at Thump coffeeshop and I got a coffee with homemade Mexican hot chocolate. It might have been the best coffee drink I’ve ever had. Birthday treat!

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The drive was uneventful and sunny until we got to Mt. Hood. Then the temperatures dropped and there was snow mixed with rain. Michael and I drove up to Timberline Lodge with the thought of hanging out in the lodge before going home.

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The roads were clear until about two miles from Timberline and then all of a sudden the road grew treacherous, there were snowplows trying to clean it and it was snowing a lot. Of course, NOW we find snow.

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We got to Timberline and there wasn’t really parking, the place was covered in snow (of course) and it was just too cold for us to leave Bella in the car so we didn’t stay long at Timberline. Bummer.

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So we found snow, finally, but couldn’t play in it. We drove (very slowly) back down to the highway and back to Portland, where it was in the mid-50’s and sunny.

Michael took me out to dinner in Portland for my birthday. I picked The Observatory. It’s a restaurant I’ve wanted to go to for years but haven’t been–I did try once with a friend and it was packed and had an insane wait time so we went to a dive bar nearby and had a surprisingly good meal there instead.

This time, we had to wait maybe 10 minutes for a table? I ordered a drink – the Tart Cherry Aperol Spritzer. It was a tart cherry puree with champagne and it was delightful!

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For dinner I got the blackened snapper. It came with a small serving of their mac n’ cheese and braised collard greens. I’ve never had snapper before. I eat a ton of seafood but somehow never tried it. It was a white fish, kind of a middle ground between tilapia and halibut. It wasn’t as light and flaky as the tilapia and closer to the “steak” like consistency of halibut. It was good! The blackening spice/gravy was a little rich but it was tasty. Loved the mac n’ cheese (and that it was a small portion).

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Michael got the fried chicken with brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes. By far the mashed potatoes were the star of the entire meal. We couldn’t figure out what they made them with–lemon? Red wine vinegar? Regular vinegar? There was a tartness to it and they were to die for. I ate more than a few bites of his mashed potatoes. :)

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Since it was a my birthday we shared a dessert. I was close to being stuffed, but we’d had a small lunch and a normal sized breakfast (eggs and bacon) so it wasn’t like I’d eaten a ton that day. We ordered the peppermint cheesecake!

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It was outstanding. It came in a little mason jar, chocolate crust on the bottom, cheesecake, topped with whipped cream and a layer of peppermint chocolate. There were small peppermint chocolate beans on the side and a little pansy flower on the plate. It was so incredible. One of the best desserts I’ve had in a long time. I rarely get dessert. This was such a treat!

It was a really good weekend and birthday (despite the lack of snow thing). Now back on track!

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