Hello, 2008 – Remember Me?

Wow – I’m FINALLY done with a scrapbook about the backpacking trip that Cecily and I took to Arizona’s Chiricahua wilderness area back in November 2008.  I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, obviously, so I’m happy that it is done!  If you’re so inclined, take a look and see what I was up to (ahem) four years ago this month!

Cecily and Marci in the Chiricahua Wilderness

Cecily and Marci in the Chiricahua Wilderness

Click HERE to view the Shutterfly Album!

Olympic Peninsula Vacation

At the beginning of August, Chris and I took a long weekend to drive around the Olympic Peninsula.  We stopped at the Hoh Rainforest and Hurricane Ridge, the Olympic Game Farm, took the ferry over to Whidbey Island and drove over Deception Pass, then landed at Tulalip Casino where we lost a bunch of cash (aside from my winnings at a slot machine called Siberian Storm, featuring lots of tigers).  It was a great break from work and it felt like an actual vacation!  Check out my photo album HERE to see some of the places we stopped.

Me and Chris in the Hoh Rain Forest, part of Olympic National Park.

Me and Chris in the Hoh Rain Forest, part of Olympic National Park.

A Wonderful Way to Turn 90!

Last month Chris and I flew down to Paradise, California (near Chico) and met up with everyone from the Koski side of my family.  It was Gramma’s 90th birthday and I’m so happy that we got down there so that she and everyone else could meet Chris.  For those of you who are interested, here are a bunch of pictures that I’ve posted – check ’em out!

Gramma’s 90th Birthday

Crater…Caldera…It’s all the same, right?

I’m afraid not, my friends. That being the case, I propose that “Crater” Lake be renamed “Caldera Lake”, which more accurately reflects its origins and current state. The lake, of course, was formed during a massive volcanic explosion, which caused Mt. Mazama to collapse and form the lake at the top. As you may recall from Geology 101, a crater is formed by an impact (think asteroid impacts that form craters on the moon)…which is not the case with “Crater” (psh!) Lake.

One of our first views of “Crater” Lake. Gorgeous, huh?

At any rate, I thought I’d share a few pictures that we took when Chris and I went on a little road trip a couple of weeks ago. We headed down south through Bend to Diamond Lake, which is just north of “Crater” Lake by about 20 minutes. We camped with some friends for a couple of nights there at the Forest Service campground. First of all, what a gorgeous place to camp! Second of all, we need a bigger tent. My backpacking tent is just not much fun for car-camping, especially when the people you’re camping with have trailers and palatial tents with separate rooms for their dogs, for Pete’s sake!

We found this sign at the Crooked River overlook. Dogs are so dumb.
Our campsite at Diamond Lake. Mosquitoes are dumb, too.
These are dragonfly nymph exuvium that I found on the shore of Diamond Lake. Dragonflies are definitely kewl. I am obviously a nerd.

Our second day in we spent the day at “Crater” Lake. While it is misnamed, it *is* beautiful. Wowzers! And there was still plenty of snow up there. We drove around the lake, stopped at the visitor’s center so that I could get my National Parks Passport stamped (heh heh), then took the hike down Cleetwood Cove trail to the lake shore. From there, we took a 2.5 hour boat tour around the lake where our guide talked about the geology, mythology, and biology of the lake. We even got to see several hundred kokanee swimming below us at one point! They aren’t native (along with the rainbow trout), but the lake hasn’t been stocked since the 1940’s. It’s America’s deepest and most pristine lake, so removing the fish would be very difficult and the Park Service has decided to just let them persist. The hike back up the trail was not all that fun, but the weather was warm and sunny so I’m not going to complain much here.

Me and Chris at “Crater” Lake. The scenery was nice, too.
Our friends James, Becky, Wicket, and Willow. Even at the end of July the road was closed because there was still a little bit of snow around!
At the bottom of Cleetwood Cove Trail; that’s our boat waiting to take us around the lake.
Our view of Wizard Island from the lake surface. The water was really calm and clear.

The next day we stopped at Lava Butte National Volcanic Monument (and got another passport stamp – cha-ching!) on our way back home. It’s just a few minutes south of Bend, and it pretty darn cool. We drove to the top of the butte and you can see its huge lava flow – almost 7000 years old and the pumice field looked as sharp and jagged as ever.

The forest ends abruptly at the lava flow’s edge; yes, that wall of dark brown rubble is all sharp pumice from the flow!
Chris, in front of Lava Butte.
The view from the top of Lava Butte. You can see the lava flow extending out (dark brown) and then the forest beyond. 7000 years later and the rocks have not eroded or been colonized by plants!

Chris had a great birthday weekend, and I decided we need to go camping more. With a new tent. And possibly a queen-sized air mattress. But first thing’s first: where to go next?

Happy birthday, my love! You are smokin’!

Finally…A Sunny Weekend!

It seems that the weather has finally turned! Lately we’ve had more sun than rain, and the temperatures are getting to the point where I haven’t had to wear my coat to work (although I still wear my wrap sweater and use my space heater every day in my office). So, we took advantage of the sunny weather and headed out for a couple of nights at the coast over Memorial Day Weekend.

Our first task was wine tasting. We drove through Yamhill County, stopping at Penner-Ash (meh), and the Carlton Winemakers Studio (yum).

The view from the tasting room at Penner-Ash – it doesn’t look particularly sunny here, but it was gorgeous anyway!

We then made our way to Lincoln City, and drove south just a little way down the coast to Salishan Resort, where we stayed for two nights. It was actually a pretty nice place – our room had a view of the ocean, a fireplace, and the whole thing was kind of like an Ewok village because it was built in the forest with catwalks that connected all the buildings. It was almost like going to summer camp, but with much better food and a bar with a pool table. We even played a round of golf – 18 holes of putting greens (and I believe I won by 4 strokes).

The view from our room – we could even see the ocean.
Chris kind of kicked my butt at pool.
The putting course – it was very pretty, and was even registered as designated bird habitat by Audubon.
Chris may have beaten me at pool, but I triumphed at golf!

Over the course of two days we visited Chris’ friends Brad and Tyler, who were working on putting the finishing touches on a rental home they were helping to build in Lincoln City. The place was amazing. No drywall in the entire house – everything was wood. And, it was right on the coast – direct beach access, and lots of windows. We also met up with them at the casino those two nights – I didn’t do too terribly well at craps, and Chris did a little better at poker. But we didn’t lose our shorts, so I’ll consider it a success.

Coming back we had a marginally obscene breakfast at Lil’ Sambo’s (named after the beloved (?) racist children’s book), where there was some random old guy in the parking lot dressed as Captain America. I wanted to stop there because I remembered the story from when I was a kid, and liked the tiger in the front of the restaurant.

I finally remembered the story when I read it at their gift shop. Tigers turning into butter???
WTF??? And why isn’t his mask on correctly?

I look forward to more sunny weekends in the near future!

Act 4: The Afterglow!

Ok, I am soooo looking forward to being done with wedding blogging! So this one’s gonna be short – it’s the last installment of our 4-part series, and I’m excited about writing about more recent events. So let’s get crackin’!

Chris and I took our post-wedding vacation (I’m not too excited about the word “honeymoon” – it sounds so mushy!) on a cruise in the Western Caribbean. We went all over the place (in areas limited to the Western Caribbean)! We started in Florida, went to Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas, then hit up Aruba, Willemstad (Curacao), then sailed on over to the Panama Canal and Colon, up to Costa Rica, then back to Florida. We were gone 10 days, and one of the best things about the trip was the sun…this spring has been very rainy and gray in the Pacific Northwest region, so seeing the sun again was a welcome sight. And it was warm, too!

We really did have a fantastic time. The food was amazing, we got to dress up all fancy-like on formal nights, I learned how to play craps (1. pick up dice. 2. roll dice. 3. yay!), and we were even invited to eat dinner with the captain on our last formal night because we are just that awesome (or perhaps it was because we were the youngest couple on the ship).

You can view many pictures by clicking here: HERE. Alternatively, you may look at the Cliff Notes version below. At any rate, enjoy!

Our first day on board the Zuiderdam, in Ft. Lauderdale, after traveling all night.
Time for a drink on deck!
Our first stop was at Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas. Admittedly, this is a pretty dorky picture. I was riding Peanut, and Chris was on Just for You. After our land ride, we rode our horses as they swam in the ocean.
After our horseback ride, we went parasailing. This is Chris and me, probably about 500 feet up; that’s our ship in the background. Pretty water, huh?
Our first sea day, and our first formal night. Chris wore his pimp suit, and I wore my skank shoes.
In Aruba, we went boarded a catamaran and went snorkeling, which I’ve never really done before. It exceeded my expectations, for sure!
I took way better underwater pictures than this, but this picture shows the coolest thing we saw – squid! You can see one near the bottom center of the photo – you might even be able to see an eye if you look closely. They were less than a foot long, kind of brown, and swam in schools of 3-5 squid.
We spent a day in Willemstad, Curacao. We did quite a bit of walking, which led us to a non-tourist, more local market. These boats brought recently-dispatched sea creatures to market booths just off the dock.
Another formal night on a sea day.
We got to go through the Panama Canal to Lake Gatun!
We took a side trip to Gamboa Park, where we got on small boats, tooled around Lake Gatun, and saw some monkeys. These little guys were accustomed to being fed by the guides, unfortunately. But they were super cute!
In Costa Rica, we traveled to the central region of the country for some ziplining. Behind is is the AdrenaLine, a 700 m line that traverses a valley and river.
Our last formal night. This was the black and white ball, which we went to after eating dinner with the captain at his private table with a specially prepared meal. We were pretty fortunate to have that experience!
We spent our last evening on board at the Pinnacle Grill. It was a fantastic meal – here, our server is flaming my chicken kabob. Yum!

No, the *other* Vancouver!

Can you believe that Chris and I took *another* cruise? Well, we did, so believe it, folks! In fact, we took our second cruise on the very same ship we sailed to Alaska on, Holland America’s Rotterdam. We got a fantastic deal to sail from Seattle to Vancouver, B.C. during the seasonal transition period (the ship changes their weekly trips from Alaska in the summer to Hawaii and warmer locations in the winter), so we got to spend one night on the ship and it cost about as much as a nice hotel room. Plus, we had three meals included, along with all the fun of hanging out on a cruise ship.

Friday, Sept. 17, we drove up to Seattle and spent the night with Chris’ uncle Bruce and his two enthusiastic dogs, Bumper (shown at right with Chris) and Maddie. We wanted to get on the boat around noon, so the following day we only spent a few minutes allowing the dogs to burrow under our bedsheets (Bumper insisted, even though he is not as petite as he thinks he is) before we took off and parked the car at King Street Station. We took a cab to Pier 91 where we waited in several long lines to check in. Chris ran into an old high school classmate, whom we awkwardly passed in the line several times. What exactly is the protocol for that? We said hi, but is there any standard guidelines for what you should do each time you pass them in line? Do you have to make small talk at each intersection?

Anyway, our confusion and puzzlement were short-lived, because when we got to our check-in desk we discovered that we had been upgraded from a stinky standard D-category stateroom with just a little window on deck 2’s main floor to a fabulous private A-category veranda suite with our own balcony all the way up on deck 6. Suck it, steerage! We don’t wait in lines, and we don’t spend our nights in steerage!

After we explored our room, we ran over to the dining room and caught lunch at the last second that they were still serving. We enjoyed a fantastic lunch of salmon, ziti, chocolate mousse cake and fruit tart – so, in addition to not waiting lines and spending our nights in steerage, we also don’t eat on the lido deck at the infectious disease buffet! However, after lunch, we did enjoy drinks on the lido – mojitos and a sidecar – as Chris narrowly beat me at cribbage. And can you believe that they took photos for such a short cruise? Well, they did, so of course we had to go to the photo gallery to check out our prints.

After we had a loverly dinner in the dining room (yummy penne, eggplant cannelloni, toffee and apple strudel) with what appeared to be the cast of the Russian version of “Jersey Shore”, we met up with the ship’s photographer, Andreea, whom we had met on our first cruise. We’d been keeping in touch with her on facebook since our first cruise, so she was expecting to see us – we chatted over tea, and afterwards, she hooked us up with some of the photos of us that were at the photo gallery (wink wink!). It was nice to see a familiar face amongst a sea of so many strangers (except for Chris’ high school class mate, of course, which was just a bit awkward).

On Sunday, disembarkation started bright and early (ok, it wasn’t bright, since it was still pretty much dark outside). We ordered room service to arrive between 6:30 and 7:00 am, and at approximately 6:29 we got the knock on our door and the general PA announcement telling everyone to get off the boat according to their disembarkation group. Since we were in group 23 we at least had time to eat our breakfast, but we were off the boat with our packs on our backs by 7:30. Yawn! We had to go through Canadian customs, and were greeted by a smart-ass agent who cheerfully referred to us as being from “Vancouver Jr.” I looked over at Chris and almost wanted to start chanting “fight! fight! fight! fight!” but since we were going to have to do a lot of walking, I thought it might be best to conserve our energy.

We had to take some sort of bus through the port terminal, and then we took a taxi to Stanley Park. We didn’t really have a plan for the day, other than to “explore the great international city of Vancouver, B.C.” Unfortunately, there’s not much happening on Sunday at 7:30 in the morning, so Stanley Park was a good choice for us – we walked around the eastern side of the park as it started to rain, and then took a bunch of pictures at the totem pole display. After milling about for an acceptable amount of time, we walked back to the central part of the island to the Vancouver Aquarium, which is actually a pretty cool place. In addition to the standard fish exhibits, they also had a large section dedicated to the marine life of that area, a tropical rainforest section (with bats, a sloth, and tortoises), and a 4D movie about ocean life. Plus they had sea otters, particularly one named Milo. He really liked to eat!

After the aquarium, we took another taxi to the west side of the city, near English Bay, and shared fish and chips at the Boathouse – yum! We reluctantly strapped our heavy backpacks on (even though what we really wanted to do was take a nap) and started walking southeast through the very colorful Davies neighborhood. We jogged east through Robson, then southerly to Chinatown, where we spent some time walking through the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. Incidentally, I discovered that mastering the Chinese yo-yo is a whole lot harder than it looks, and that it is quite possible to bash yourself in unfortunate places with either/both the yoyo part or the sticks. I’m not sure I’m going to try *that* again.

After that, we walked west to the train station, where there were more very long lines and no upgrades available to business class. But that was actually ok, because once we were on our train, we found our seats to be quite roomy and nice – not at all like traveling on an airplane! Although the drinks were just as spendy – I enjoyed two rather large white Russians (courtesy of Christopher), a couple of episodes of The Office (season 6) on Chris’ laptop, and a nice nap after watching the sunset as we traveled back down to Seattle. I was briefly disturbed by a customs agent who came on at the boarder crossing – he asked us what we had purchased during our time in Canada, and my response was to look at the food wrappers on our fold-out trays and tell him “you’re lookin’ at it.” Grumpy when I get woken up from a good nap, duh!!!

We were back in Seattle by 10:30 pm, and since we had parked the car right at the train station, we were back on the road in short order. We drove down to Portland, and were in bed by 1:30 am. It was a busy trip and a long weekend, but we had a really great time seeing fancy new international places. You can check out more pictures by clicking here. Whew!

A Loverly Weekend in Waldport

I know it’s getting to be a little late, but I wanted to tell you about the splendid weekend that Chris and I had together in the beginning of September. My friend Julie, from grad school, invited us to her wedding so we took the opportunity to make a weekend of it and enjoy another little town on the Oregon coast.

Saturday, September 4, we wished Abbey a very happy first birthday (ok, Jesse only grudgingly wished her a happy birthday, but he got some wet food out of the deal so he wasn’t entirely unhappy about it) and headed west. We drove through Newburg, Dundee, and Newport, reminiscing about the excellent times we had there during previous long weekends and spring break. Ahhh, the memories! We arrived at the Cliff House B&B in Waldport and found it most remarkable…a fantastic view of the ocean and bay, along with friendly dogs and an incredible assortment of lace doilies covering most horizontal surfaces. Chris reserved the suite for us, which included vaulted ceilings, a private balcony overlooking the ocean, and a ginormous bathroom (complete with hot tub) that had mirrors covering EVERY surface except for the toilet seat cover. You might not believe it, but there are some angles that you might not prefer to view yourself from, and I discovered several of them that weekend!

We ate dinner at the Drift Inn in Yachats, under a ceiling of decorative umbrellas while listening to the modern Hawaiian-polka fusion stylings of two men armed with a Casio keyboard and a microphone. After dinner we went back to the B&B and practiced our putting skills (yes, for real, not a metaphor) while the sun set over the ocean. But that’s where I’ll stop for now…

On Sunday, Chris and I enjoyed an amazing breakfast (cooked by Sharon, the prioprietress of the Cliff House) consisting of smoked salmon quiche and home-fries, home-made muffins and scones. In the early afternoon we drove east out to Tidewater Falls Resort where Julie and Perry had their wedding – it looked like many people camped, and that the party had been going for at least a couple of days. I met up with several other friends from grad school whom I hadn’t seen in many years, including Jill, Audrey, and Andie, who came with her partner Rob. He cracked our shit up, and definitely sufficed for the evening’s entertainment in my book. And, if I can say so, I think that he became Chris’ new idol of sorts. Even Julie’s old dog Metzli was there – skulking in her familiar border collie way that I recognized from Colorado. The wedding was a simple and beautiful ceremony that took place under paper lanterns and a mirrored disco ball (I would expect nothing less), and was followed by hula hooping (how does Jill manage to defy gravity in such a nonchalant kind of way???), salmon, and wine wine wine by the bonfire. Congrats, Julie and Perry – we had an awesome time at your wedding!

Monday was Labor Day, so we had the day off. We enjoyed another delicious Cliff House breakfast, this time of cheese blintzes and more baked goods (at 8:30 sharp! don’t be late!). After packing up and waiting until the last possible moment to leave (there might have been another quick soak in the hot tub), we said our goodbyes and commenced our drive north. We stopped for lunch at Pelican Brew Pub on Cape Kiwanda, sharing fish tacos and humongous onion rings by the sea.

For an added bonus to our trip, as we drove north we stopped in Tillamook and toured the World Famous Tillamook Cheese Factory! I milked a plastic cow, and Chris bought me a magnet that said “Easy Rider”.

Which I guess just about sums up my role as the passenger on our weekend adventure!

San Antonio A-Go-Go!

Question: Given the unreasonably hot temperatures in San Antonio, why don’t we see more spontaneous human combustions among San Antonians?

Answer: Because the humidity is so damn high that the combustion process is pretty much stifled upon ignition. However, we do observe frequent cases of humans literally melting in the area…

Let’s face it – 100+ F temperatures are dumb. Which makes me super happy that I live in the very smart Pacific Northwest, where temperatures are usually not that high (except for this coming weekend…dang it!!!). However, when your excellent boyfriend, whom you miss very much, is in San Antonio for two weeks on active duty, your urge to visit him for the weekend might suppress any common sense you have to avoid super hot climates. If you can believe it, I was struck by such an affliction this past weekend when I visited Chris, who has to spend two weeks filling in for the Fort Sam Houston army band, which went on annual leave (clever band – they picked the hottest two weeks to get out of town!).

We visited the River Walk:

And went to Sea World:

And visited the River Walk again:

And then the Alamo:

And then I returned home in search of my sanity, which probably melted away at some point during the weekend. But in all honesty, I’m glad I got to go visit Chris – I will be even happier when he returns home! You can view more of my fabulous San Antonio pictures by clicking here.

OMG, It’s been too long…

I can’t believe how long it had been since I’d been camping, or sleeping outside in some manner. I think I was with Cecily the last time that happened…remember that, girl? It seems so long ago! Consequently, I finally decided it was time to get back out there. Chris and I picked a special weekend (his birthday, which was July 26) and a picturesque place (recommended to me from my supervisor), packed up, and hit the road.

Our destination was the Upper Lewis River in Gifford Pinchot National Forest. We started out by driving up the Columbia River Gorge, where we had incredible views of Mt. Hood and the Columbia River.

The overlook at Cape Horn

Next, we turned north and followed the Wind River up through the national forest. We stopped at the Carson National Fish Hatchery for a quick peek (they were closed for maintenance) and then continued up further into the basin where we had a spectacular view of Mt. St. Helens. This year is the 30th anniversary of the eruption, so it was pretty dang cool seeing pictures of what it looked like before, during and after, and then the view during our trip.

Mt. St. Helens from Gifford Pinchot National Forest

We eventually picked up the Lewis River, which we followed in a general north-east direction. We stopped at Lower Falls, which was spectacular. There were signs all over the place educating people about threatened bull trout, which are in the Lewis River, and happen to be a fish I work with quite a lot in my job. It was really interesting seeing the habitat they live in – that water is cold. Brrrr!!! Anyway, the Lower Falls marks the historic end of the line for salmon returning up to spawning grounds since they couldn’t get up past the waterfall. Native Americans used to fish there when the salmon returned, but fish passage issues and depleted stocks have resulted in the absence of salmon returns there now.

View of Lower Falls on the Lewis River, Washington

We continued up the Lewis River, and after driving around for a while we finally found our targeted campground, at Twin Falls. Someone had removed the sign from the main road, so it was difficult to find. I was worried that we wouldn’t get a site (there were only 5 or so), and since the campground was free, I was sure that we’d be out of luck in the middle of camping season. But it was no problem – we got a fantastic site right on the river. Our site was down an embankment so we didn’t hear noise from any of the other campers, who appeared to be a small group of under-aged kids celebrating a birthday (Tankimus Prime, apparently) the best way they knew how – by sitting in lawn chairs in the river, drinking vast quantities of beer, and smoking lots of pot out of a hookah pipe. They were friendly though, and the river was so loud we didn’t really hear much from them.

Our campsite on the Lewis River at the Twin Falls campground.

We cooked up “better with cheddar” pork sausages, drank a bottle of wine (what were we thinking when we bought that ultra-sweet blackberry wine???), and then moved on to s’mores over the camp fire. We slept in my tent, but I don’t think either of us got very much sleep (get your minds out of the gutter people, the ground was really hard and the river was very loud!). The morning light was beautiful on the river, and we were packed up and out of there by 9:30 (the Tankimus Prime group was still passed out).

Mmmmm…pork sausage with cheese inside! Nice and crispy…

We skipped over to the White Salmon River (amazing views of Mt. Adams!), following it down through the town of White Salmon, then crossed the Columbia River to Hood River where we had lunch at Big Horse Brewery. Because it was Chris’ birthday, he had two beers and I let him eat most of my corn on the cob!

Lovely Mt. Adams

Our camping trip ended much too quickly, but next time I’m hoping that we’ll get to spend more than one night out in the woods. Chris has proven to be a very worthy camping partner…maybe next time we’ll try a short backpacking trip! In case you didn’t get enough, you can view more pictures by clicking here. I think that Chris had a good birthday weekend – I know I did!