Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Take a Vacation in your own Backyard !

It occurred to me as I pondered ideas prior to the arrival of my dad and stepmom (Marvin & Deann McMaster) coming to visit. Should I just do my normal routine? Should we do something special? Should I show them around town? I ultimately decided to make a list of all the things I have done and know are fun. In addition to that list I included a list of the things there are to do around here that I haven't done, but have been curious about. As we drove home from the airport, they read over the list and later that evening they circled the ones they were interested in. My brother Daniel advised me not to over-do their visit, but really it sounded like fun for me to explore beyond my comfort zone. The results ROCKED ! For all of you who may not be able to travel much, I hope you seize the opportunity to take a vacation in your own backyard! Although I'd prefer living in a hot sunny place year round, I do have to admit I'm in love with summertime in the Great Northwest.

Our first destination was Mount St. Helens. I've traveled there once before, but it was so long ago, and most of my memory consisted of a horribly hot, non-air-conditioned car ride, with an older couple whom I had little in common. This trip was exciting not just because of the destination, but because of the journey. Our first stop was to a dumpy looking trailer that had sign advertising it as a visitors center. As my dad and I exited the car we told Deann that if we weren't back in 20 minutes to call the cops. :-) Once inside, we inhaled a deep sigh of relief. Although small and shady on the outside, the inside was clean, and wall to wall, ceiling to ceiling packed full of brochures, maps, and coupons. There was a pleasant older woman at a long desk who efficiently googled "BIGFOOT CANYON" as my dad inquired to find it. She printed off information and gave us a map that showed the areas St Helens options, then she highlighted and wrote notes on it so we would know all the best places along the way. perfect!

Then off we were to find bigfoot. Did we find him you may be asking? The answer is oh YES WE DID ! What a fun little shop there too. Over the course of about 5 hours we made it to see bigfoot, the Mt. St. Helens Visitors Center, the Shell fuel station (which I am still SO thankful to have visited as my fuel tank lit up empty on the way) the Weyerhouser Forestry Center, a few Viewpoints, and the Johnston's Observatory. Check out this website for details:

A few tips:
  • Notice the details. If you do, the trip will improve dramatically.
  • Visit Bigfoot - he rocks. 
  • In hindsight we should have left a bit earlier in the day because the visitors centers all close around 4 or 5. 
  • If you have kids, make time to play at the playground at the Forest Visitors Center - it's super fun. 
  • For food, we packed a sandwich picnic and enjoyed it at one of the picnic tables available on the side of the road in front of a visitors center. 
All in all it was a fun day!


Next stop was the Glowing Greens on Taylor street in downtown Portland. It's basically a glow in the dark mini-golf course in the basement of a building. Everything glows under black-lights. Elijah was a little nervous at some of the moving skeletons, shaking boxes, scary faces. Luckily he had aunt Katie there to play with, stay busy and keep relatively unafraid. Not sure who won the game, but I am pretty sure I lost. But like I said before - it's not about the destination, but the journey.
For more information check it out at:


Portland always has something going on downtown during the summertime. We considered a picnic at waterfront park, but since we weren't sure about weather we figured we'd play it by ear. We wandered to Pioneer Courthouse Square and found "Sand in the City". Was a fundraiser for a good cause and showed off some mad-sandcastle-building-skills! Elijah got his face painted (for the first time) and we all had a good time just hanging out.

For more Portland Events check out:


So I drive under this thing every time I go to the airport, or downtown Portland, and have read about it, seen news about it, but never actually went out of my way to visit. When it was first available to ride, I thought "no I don't want to deal with crowds and wait in line for that ! " As time has faded, I just never ventured there. SO the perfect opportunity arose when my dad exclaimed on his last visit, "Whoa ! what is that thing!? Looks fun, can we ride it!?" And so it was. We rode. There was a nominal fee to ride, the parking was easy and cheap. The ride each way takes about 5 minutes, and even on a cloudy day made Portland look breathtaking.

What I didn't know was what awaited us at the top of the OHSU building. There's an excellent hang out spot with open air, tables and chairs, and of course a beautiful view. Would be cool to take a sack lunch up there during a clear, sunny day and enjoy lunch.

For more info:


Ahh the Oregon Coast. Truly the beach holds a special place in my heart. Perhaps it represents my teenage years when I felt like the beach was my freedom and escape from life, or maybe it's just the fresh air. In any case, two of my favorite places to visit are Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, and of course the Tillamook Cheese Factory. Haystack rock is fun because it forces you to break out from the norms of everyday life, and morph into a whole other world, where currents are king, starfish crawl at an excrutiatingly slow pace, and all your senses take in the best Mother Nature has to offer. A cool breeze on a sunny day, sunlight warming your face, the whooshing sounds, the clean fresh smells of the nearby ocean, the gulls cawing in their search for food, and the steady slow comforting sound of your own breathing. Your eyes feast on the world where dry earth and wet ocean meet. Life in abundance. (more details at: Good company can only improve the already blissful moments available to experience. We made sure to arrive when the tide was low - probably an hour after the lowest tide had occurred. Timing was good, there was much to see and explore in the tide pools. Later on we journeyed to the infamous cheese factory.
The overwhelming first breaths of sweet freshly made waffle cones, ice cream, cheese, and fudge greeted us. Really so sweet, warm and welcoming there's no way to describe it without getting hungry. The cheese factory has become even more alluring to me since I discovered Ryan and his families link to formerly being dairy farmers in Tillamook. Not visiting Helen was sad, but I'm sure her spirit is still watching over the beauty and bounty in the fields. It was a beautiful, warm, heartfilled day. 
If you only check out one website from this blog, choose this one! A favorite website full of recipes, and tasty products:

Yeah I know there's a zoo everywhere, but really there are some things that make each one unique. Exploring the zoo is one of the glimpses into my life because Elijah and I like to visit often. Every day the animals are doing different things, and we get to see the awesomeness God has created within each unique animal. Plus there's a train. Haha! Elijah loves to ride the train (and I can't blame him, it's enjoyable). The zoo makes 1 stop along it's 35 minute ride, at Washington Park. You could spend an entire day alone at this place. Within the park holds the Portland gem known as the International Rose Test Garden - The Portland Rose Garden. And what a beautiful garden it is ! We had fun talking, browsing, and smelling the various colored roses. Such a peaceful, romantic atmosphere there.  Check them out at: and

All good things must come to an end. But not really. If you're home then it means you can plan your next excursion out in the Pacific Northwest. You really don't need relatives in town as an excuse to get out there exploring, and making good use of your life. Good company just improves the shining moments. It's my sincere hope that you will take some time to break your daily norm and discover the world near where you live. Take a vacation in your own Backyard!
Daniel (my brother), Deann (my stepmom), Marvin (my dad), Elijah (my son), and Sara (me).

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