Jetty to Jetty

Last year we spent several weeks in the Astoria, Oregon area enjoying the ocean. We fell in love with the area and the amazing access to beaches, trails, and great wildlife viewing. So, this past week when we checked the weather forecast and noticed a stretch of sunny days we knew exactly where we wanted to head for a mini-getaway.

Astoria is situated at the mouth of the Columbia River where it meets with the Pacific Ocean. It has an incredible amount of history from the Chinook peoples who originally inhabited the area, to the Lewis and Clark expedition and John Jacob Astor who came to the area to explore and trade. However, the best part about Astoria is its central location to a number of great state and national park sites as well as national wildlife refuges. You could fill weeks with visiting these amazing natural areas (last year we did). However, for our second trip to Astoria we concentrated on visiting our favorites such as Benson Beach at Cape Disappointment State Park where you can walk to the North Jetty of the Columbia River. We also scrambled over a good deal of the South Jetty on the Oregon side by walking down to the beach at the northern tip of Fort Stevens State Park.

During our time in between rock hopping along jetties we watched sea lions on the docks in the Port of Astoria. For us it doesn’t get any better than observing sea lions up close so we made sure to visit them each day that we were in town. We also headed back to the Astoria Column to fly wooden gliders off the top of the column and roll down the hill. And finally to our great disappointment we were bested once again by the Weather Beach Trail at Leadbetter Point State Park. This is our second attempt to hike this trail from Willapa Bay to the Pacific Ocean and each time we are met with waist high water. We are determined to complete it one day and will try again. Luckily the protected Willapa Bay makes a nice warm place to play in the mud and we never leave Leadbetter Point too disappointed. Plus it gives us an excuse to keep returning to the Astoria area to take advantage of all the great parks and activities.



March Comes in with a Bang

The saying goes that “March comes in like a lion”, but for us it came in with a loud bang as we enjoyed two exciting yet loud events in Portland. The first was the much anticipated MarchFourth concert at the Crystal Ballroom. This amazing band originates from Portland and were back home to celebrate their 15th anniversary. We were able to see them perform a few songs earlier in the winter, but were super excited to go to their full show and we weren’t disappointed!

MarchFourth does an amazing job of bringing so much energy to the stage. In addition to the fabulous singers and musicians their shows features stilt walkers, acrobats, and amazing costumes. The music makes everyone dance (or at least tap their feet) and you can’t stop humming the songs for days afterwards. The Younger Fives did a great job staying up into the very late hours of the night in order to enjoy the show. They also rocked their new Peltor Ear Muffs (hearing protection at a MarchFourth show is a must), which made mom and dad very happy.

After a night of loud music and dancing we headed off to the Lan Su Chinese Garden for the very last day of Chinese New Year. In and of itself Lan Su Chinese Garden is an amazing oasis in the middle of downtown Portland, but during Chinese New Year it is even more special. The garden was beautifully decorated and there were many celebratory crafts and demonstrations going on.

However, most anticipated by our family was the Lion Dance. The Lion Dance is performed to chase away evil spirits and is occupied by loud banging and often firecrackers. The International Lion Dance Team performed the dance in the main courtyard of the garden and the kids had a great view of the three lions as they danced to the loud drums, cymbals, and gongs. The kids especially enjoyed watching the lions chew and spit out lettuce to bring good fortune for the new year.

It was definitely an exciting beginning to our month. Now we will just have to wait to see how March goes out. Maybe soft cuddly things are in our future.

Ballet Buddies

When she was just a toddler Five of Hearts and Five String bonded over ballet. Not necessarily dancing ballet, but in watching ballet and learning about the history of this style of dance. Before she could read to herself they would snuggle up together and read through a Child’s Introduction to Ballet: The Stories, Music, and Magic of Classical DanceAfter learning about each ballet they would watch a recording of it on DVD. In this way they quickly became Ballet Buddies.

For her 5th birthday they made a special trip to see the Boston Ballet perform the Nutcracker. It was a very special outing, but as our travel lifestyle began in earnest their love of seeing live ballet took a backseat to plane tickets and other adventures. So, it was with great joy this past Sunday that Fives of Hearts and Five String ventured into the city to see ALICE (in wonderland) performed by the Oregon Ballet Theatre.

Being fans of the book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland they were both excited to see how it would be adapted for ballet. Five of Hearts was especially excited to view the costumes as she has been taking a costume design class throughout the winter. When the show was over they were both impressed by the dancing and dazzled by the costumes. However, most of all they were just glad to be out together enjoying a common enthusiasm as father and daughter.


2018 Playground Winter Olympics

This week the snow came to us and the conditions were perfect for the first annual 2018 Playground Winter Olympics. Given the short notice (and the fact that we never dreamed of having more than flurries) there weren’t many participating athletes. However, the two that did show up were physically and mentally prepared to give it their all. In addition we had a fabulous grounds crew who worked tirelessly to keep the slopes, tracks, and equipment in pristine condition. Once the games were over and the medals awarded we all retired back to the Olympic Village for cocoa and camaraderie. Playing in the snow really does bring people together 🙂

In Search Of Snow

With the temperatures in the 60’s and flowers blooming in our backyard we figured that we had better hurry up and fulfill our promise to take the kids sledding before there was no more snow left to be found. So, this past Tuesday we headed off for our first trip to Mount Hood. On clear days Mount Hood is visible from our house and is stunning to behold. Driving up to the mountain wasn’t so stunning at least compared to other mountainous routes that we have taken in Montana, Colorado, and Wyoming. Route 26 which leads you up the mountain is two-lanes, well maintained and doesn’t offer much of a view.

The kids started to get worried once we got into the Mount Hood National Forest and there wasn’t any snow in site. We continued to follow the road to Government Camp (about 4,000 ft in elevation) and by that point there were some patches of snow on the roadside. However, not what we would have expected for February. However, as we continued onto Route 35 the snow pack started to get deeper and the kids started to relax. There would be sledding after all!

Sledding and snow play on Mount Hood is permitted only in designated Sno-Parks. Use of these parks is free but you have to buy a Sno-Park pass for your vehicle. A daily pass costs only $4, but depending on where you purchase one there can be a service charge. We made the mistake of buying for an Arco gas station and they tacked on a $2 fee. Next time we will buy from the Zigzag Ranger Station located between Mt Hood Village and Rhododendron on Route 26.

The most popular Sno-Park on the mountin is the White River West Sno-Park and that is where we decided to start our day. This park gets heavy use on the weekend and holidays, but on a Tuesday there were only about 20 cars in the 200 vehicle parking lot. The scenery from the parking lot is stunning with a wonderful view of Mount Hood. There was only about 2 feet of snow on the ground and the snow around the parking lot and main trail was pretty dirty. However, we headed off into the woods and found some pristine snow to sled down. While blazing your own sledding runs can be a lot of work the kids prefer going off trail to make their own runs as opposed to sledding pre-made trails. The only downside to this is the increased chance of smacking into trees, but the kids put mom and dad to good use acting as buffers.

Due to the warm weather (it was 45F) the kids gloves and snowpants became waterlogged. So, we headed back to the car for lunch and then went to visit the iconic Timberline Lodge. Construction on the lodge began in 1936 as part of the Works Progress Administration. It was dedicated in 1937 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The artistry that went into creating the lodge is absolutely stunning and visitors can walk around inside viewing the wonderful wood carvings, metal work, and mosaics. You definitely walk away with a great appreciation for the planning and construction put into the lodge.

After viewing the lodge and watching the ski and snowboarders skiing at the Timberline Ski Area we headed back out to find some more snow. This time we found a parking lot off to the side of the road leading to the lodge. The area was steep and the kids had a great time shooting down the hill while we tried to keep them from crashing into trees. Definitely not the best spot for those looking for a peaceful sledding hill. However, the sun was setting and the kids were eager to get in a few last runs before the end of the day.

All in all our trip to Mount Hood was decent. The Younger Fives miss having snow right outside their doorstep and sledding in their own backyard like they did in Montana. However, us older types have enjoyed not shoveling snow all winter long. Driving to Mount Hood seems like a good compromise and probably is pretty rewarding in years when the mountain receives more snow. This year the conditions just don’t seem to be prime, but we sure appreciated there being some snow left for our first Mount Hood adventure.