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.

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Crystal Ballroom

We really enjoy experiencing live music events as a family. Now that we live closer to a big city our chances at catching some great shows has increased. This past Sunday we had the pleasure of listening to some great live music at Portland’s historic Crystal Ballroom during their 104th Birthday Free-For-All.

The Crystal Ballroom opened in 1914 and has a long history of hosting dances and concerts in Portland (including Marvin Gaye, Ike & Tina Turner, and the Grateful Dead). It is now owned by McMenamins and features a brewery, hotel, and concert venue.

The time that we spent at the Crystal Ballroom was very enjoyable. We were able to see the amazing MarchFourth as well as Red Yarn, Moshow The Cat Rapper, and a very funny juggler. We were also able to break out our eighties dance moves at the ’80s Video Dance Attack. Incredibly there was no admission charge, so the entire afternoon and evening were free.

We all agreed that getting a preview of MarchFourth (we have tickets to their upcoming show) was amazing. However, the best part of the evening was dancing to 80’s music videos on the big screen. The wood floor at the Crystal Ballroom is bouncy making dancing even more fun. Finding venues where you can dance with your children is tricky, so having the opportunity to bust out some moves with the kids was amazing. We can’t wait to enjoy more great events at the Crystal Ballroom

Elegantly Eleven

Five of Heart’s turned eleven yesterday, but chose to celebrate her birthday today. This year she decided she wanted to get dressed up and visit one of the many wonderful restaurants in Portland. The first part of her birthday present came earlier last week when we paid a special visit to our local thrift store to search through the eclectic collection of clothes, shoes, and accessories for a fabulous new outfit. She ended up leaving the store with enough clothes for several outfits (thrift store prices are the best!) plus one extra fancy ensemble for her special day.

Five of Hearts then spent several hours doing research online to select the perfect birthday restaurant. With so many vegan friendly restaurants in the area it was a daunting task (they all sound so good). However, after reading hundreds of reviews and perusing several menus Five of Hearts selected KaTi Portland.

It turns out that all that research paid off big time as we had a fabulous lunch at KaTi Portland. The atmosphere was perfect and the food was amazing. Five of Hearts ordered her first curry and handled the spicy flavor like a champ.

After enjoying some of the best Thai food that we have had in years we headed to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) to check out the Gingerbread Adventures exhibit. Like seasoned food judges we had a blast viewing the five gigantic gingerbread sculptures with a critical eye and then voting on our favorite.

After a delicious outing it was time to return home for our turn at making food magic. We watched Vegan Cupcake Wars and then made vegan coconut raspberry cupcakes with coconut whipped frosting. Five of Hearts paired the cupcakes with one of her favorite movies, Trolls, and we ended the day dancing and feeling like “the world is all cupcakes and rainbows”.

You Goonie!

The Goonies is by far one of our favorite family movies and we couldn’t make a trip to the coast of Oregon without paying homage to the fabulous adventure of Mikey and his friends.

After watching The Goonies movie we headed to the Oregon Film Museum which celebrates the many movies filmed in Oregon. The museum is located in the old Astoria jail which was used for the jail break scene in The Goonies. The kids got a huge kick out of the many props displayed at the museum including the Fratellis’ Jeep and Data’s jacket.

However, the most exciting part of the museum was the film studio set up with cameras, lights, and three different sets. Visitors to the museum are invited to use the studio to make their own short videos. Props are provided as well as dialogue from popular Oregon movies. Visitors can film up to 5 takes and the museum staff then sends you the clips you filmed via email. The Younger Fives had such a blast with this feature of the museum and are so excited to have the film clips that they created as a memento of their visit to the Oregon Film Museum.

From the film museum we headed to Cannon Beach and Ecola State Park where many scenes from The Goonies were filmed. First we headed to the beach to view Haystack Rock which appears in several scenes of the movie. From there we took the road to Ecola State Park where the bicycle scene in the movie was filmed. The view from Ecola State Park is absolutely gorgeous and the kids had a blast exploring the park.

Being in the area where The Goonies was filmed was great fun for the whole family. It made one of our favorite family movies a little more special.

A Day In Astoria

Until a week ago we didn’t know much about Astoria, Oregon. However, with our vacation rental being located just over the 4 mile long Astoria–Megler Bridge we have spent a great deal of time these last two weeks getting to know this city of just under 10,000 residents. Situated on the bank of the Columbia River, Astoria is designated as being the first permanent U.S. settlement on the Pacific Coast. Since the early 1800’s the Port of Astoria has been vital in the shipping of goods to and from the area. However, not all of Astoria’s attractions have to do with the fishing or shipping industry and on a recent overcast day we kept ourselves busy by exploring some other sites of interest that Astoria has to offer.

The Astoria Column
There is no better place to get a view of Astoria, Oregon than the Astoria Column. This monument stands 600 feet above sea level and offers a 360 degree view of the surrounding area. The column was constructed in 1926 and is decorated with a hand-painted spiral frieze that depicts historical events of the area. While the 164 step climb to the very top of the column can be a bit dizzying (the staircase is a spiral the entire way up) the view from the top is remarkable. In addition the visitor shop sells small wooden gliders that can be thrown from the top. The Younger Fives really enjoyed launching their gliders from the top and were given several gliders to toss by older visitors to the tower. The boys would have happily spent the entire day going up and down the tower to throw and retrieve gliders.

Flavel House Museum
We made our way down from the Astoria Column and headed to the large Queen Anne style house on the corner of 8th and Duane streets. The beautifully constructed house was owned by Captain George Flavel who was a bar pilot on the Columbia River and a prominent businessman in Astoria. After being very successful in a variety of business ventures over the years he had the house built in 1886 for his wife and their two daughters. The house was eventually left to the city in 1934 and has since been transferred to the Astoria Historical Society who have restored the house and property to reflect the Victorian period and the history of the Flavel family. The history of the family was interesting, but we especially enjoyed the architecture of the house and the variety of trees planted in the garden including a very large Sequoia Tree.

Astoria River Walk and Sea Lion Dock
After being on our best behavior around the antiques in the Flavel House we needed to let off some energy. Thankfully the Astoria River Walk trail offered the ideal location to run around and view all the activity along the Columbia River. The paved path is about 6 miles long and follows the old train tracks. Starting in the spring a passenger trolley makes its way along the route. Unfortunately the trolley wasn’t running during our visit, but we had a wonderful time exploring the River Walk from the Maritime Museum all the way down to the Sea Lion Dock. While there has been a lot of controversy in Astoria about the presence of Sea Lions on their docks we all really enjoyed watching the large group of male sea lions trying to find a dry patch of dock to relax on. Their barks are so loud that we could hear them about a half-mile before we reached the docks. Watching the younger sea lions try and muscle in on the much older and bigger males was a very interesting end to our day in Astoria.