Oneonta Gorge Waterfall Hike

I don’t know if you guys are aware, but we here in Oregon & Washington State have had a record breaking summer heatwave with many, many 90+ degree days. And as we are used to 6 months or more of straight rain between Spring and Winter, we have all flocked to the coldest water spots we can find. This week we headed out to Oneonta Falls in the Columbia Gorge.

Because you are climbing over piles of fallen trees and wading through water that’s anywhere from ankle-deep to neck-deep, we opted to not bring our DSLR camera so you’re stuck with iPhone photos, but really you just have to check this place out for yourself to fathom the beauty of it!

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Disneyland – Shuttle Service vs. Anything Else

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So we are Disney freaks – yeah, I think “freaks” sums it up nicely. We have been to Disney World seven times and though that isn’t even remotely close to how many times a lot of people have been, being poor kids it’s pretty extreme. We had never gone to Disneyland until a few years ago and now we’ve been 3 times. I should preface this post on Disneyland by saying we are WDW till we die, but when you just can’t drop work for 2 weeks and you can’t really do a 6-hour flight then we just grab a couple friends and head on down to sunny Anaheim. Also, we apologize for the lack of photos, it seemed to have escaped us this trip to take a bunch of pictures!

My main reason for Disneyland not being my ultimate favorite is I feel that it lacks the standards that somewhere as big as Disney World does. I remember being in line for Space Mountain in Disneyland recently and there was trash all along the line; that’s something that would never even be seen in the World. And I don’t feel that the Cast Members are as friendly as they are in Orlando. BUT! That being said, it’s still a magical place and if Walt walked there then I sure as hell am going to walk there too.

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Toontown!

 

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This most recent visit was a super last minute decision and we decided to go just the two of us. We had some Delta points and used those towards the flight and it was around my birthday so we basically got to go for next to nothing. We only really had 2 full days so we spent a total of 25 hours in the two parks and it was pretty dang nice! No work to do, no business to talk about, nowhere to be but exactly where we wanted to be. We stayed in a Best Western with the tiniest pool, so we snuck into the Disneyland Hotel pool [shh] and drank beers and laid in the sun. We did that just long enough to actually miss our shuttle to the airport and ended up with a nice fat taxi bill but when I think about it, it was worth it.

Here’s a downside I found out the hard way – we took the Southern California Gray Line Disneyland Resort Express shuttle and I would never do it again. First off, it cost us $96 dollars just to be picked up and dropped off at the airport and if you miss the bus by even a minute it’s gone and won’t be back for a whole hour. We saw lots of other shuttles that had service to Disneyland that came by every 15 minutes and though I don’t know their cost really anything would have been better than waiting an hour for your shuttle bus that you paid good money for. This is another thing that irks me about Disneyland; you really pay nearly as much for a Disneyland vacation as you do for a Disney World vacation because nothing is included in California. Disney World’s FREE Magical Express Service is the absolute biggest perk I can think of. And they’re kind and on time. So shop around for your shuttle and if you do take the Gray Line, make sure you check the schedule thoroughly and know that they skip the 5 PM pick-up hour and will not help you at all or refund your money.

I literally never complain about anything trip related because all things can happen and we have to look on the plus side no matter what, but if I can save someone from one bummer I’m going to do my best! So. Rant over.

My best friend recently went to Disneyland and they decided to rent a car. They got a vehicle for 4 days for only a few dollars more than we paid for the shuttle and she said the experience with this company was really great! It’s a smaller company and their prices look incredibly reasonable, so maybe look into Midway Car Rental if you’re planning on hanging out for a few days in California!

Oh and I always beat my husband at Midway Mania
Oh and I always beat my husband at Midway Mania

Mount Saint Helens – Toutle, WA

The view of Mt. St. Helens from Johnston Ridge Observatory

The view of Mt. St. Helens from Johnston Ridge Observatory

It’s really easy to take for granted the world around you when you have grown up in a place your entire life, you can suddenly feel like there’s nothing left to explore. But this last week we had planned to celebrate my parents’ 40th Anniversary with a trip up to Mount Saint Helens; we have been there multiple times, especially as homeschooled kids, that was always involved in our yearly educational trips but none of us had been up there in a good number of years and it felt like a whole new place to me. It was super fun to get to re-explore something with all of us all grown up, and sharing it with our niece and nephew was super cool. It’s kind of like getting to see everything all over again.

My nephew Gideon in the helicopter simulator in the Forest Learning Center
My nephew Gideon in the helicopter simulator in the Forest Learning Center
View of Mt. St. Helens from the Forest Learning Center
View of Mt. St. Helens from the Forest Learning Center

Our first stop was the Forest Learning Center, which is FREE and was my favorite stop on the trip. It was very interactive and well done and I felt like I was ripping them off with seeing all of that for absolutely zero dollars. There was a fun playground outside and picnic tables scattered throughout which was perfect because there was 17 of us so there was plenty of room to spread out and do our own things.

You enter the Forest Learning Center via a little theater and watch the footage that they have of the actual eruption and then it releases you out into the exhibits. All in all just a great place to wander and learn. There’s no food on-site here so we packed a giant picnic lunch and just took our time eating and running around.

 

The Johnston Ridge outside area, here they do Ranger talks
The Johnston Ridge outside area, here they do Ranger talks

The Johnston Ridge Observatory was the next and final stop. This is just an amazing place to view the entire dome from a pretty close distance and we got some great photos here. They do try to enforce a payment, even just to view the dome but I always try to think of paying to view this stuff in a good light because it’s insuring the survival of these amazing wonders in our world. If you do pay the $8 fee [it’s free for 15 and under] you will be able to wander the exhibit inside which is really neat and informative as well as watch a movie that, I think, had a cool ending. I’d say it’s worth it and even better if you have a parks pass because then you get in “free”!

My niece Leslie in front of the mountain
My niece Leslie in front of the mountain
Gideon and I
Gideon and I

It really created in me an excitement just for exploring our own neck of the woods. I hope to do a whole bunch more local posts for those of you who live nearby and those who are interested in visiting the Pacific Northwest. We are just chockfull of incredible beauty and it deserves to be written about.

 

Hot Lake Springs – La Grande, Oregon

 

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We have always talked about visiting some creepy locations on Halloween but had never actually done it. Last Halloween, in 2013, we decided to shake things up and forgo the party norm. My husband and best friend spent quite a bit of time searching online and eventually came up with Hot Lake Springs. It was once a resort/hospital having the capability of housing nearly 1,000 guests, most of which called it home. In 1934 the wooden structure of the building burned down, causing half of its structure to be lost. It changed hands multiple times until 2003 when the Manuel family bought it and began restoring it for the next 7 years before opening their doors in 2010.

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This room above was the actual surgery room; beneath that carpet was the drain for the blood.
This room above was the actual surgery room; beneath that carpet was the drain for the blood.

We didn’t know what to expect but it absolutely delivered; it was probably one of the best Halloweens we have had in a long time. It’s a giant place. They have their own museum, which was super cool, and a restaurant and since it’s called Hot Lake Springs they have soaking pools out back. There were roughly 6 other people in the whole place that we saw intermittently throughout our stay including the owner. Everyone was really nice, like, almost too nice? I don’t know, that could have just been our Halloween minds. On Halloween night we decided to play hide and seek which was possibly the creepiest thing I’ve ever done, but all of the rooms that weren’t occupied were just left open so we had a huge area to hide in and lots of dark, spooky rooms to explore. We definitely had a really great time! They don’t have TV’s but we brought our friends’ and watched scary movies at night. I’d say I was sufficiently spooked the entire time, but that’s not really all that hard.

 

They had some rooms set up museum-style; pretty creepy.
They had some rooms set up museum-style; pretty creepy.

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Johnny in one of the abandoned outbuildings.
Johnny in one of the abandoned outbuildings.
And the obligatory near-fall.
And the obligatory near-fall.

Outside there are quite a few old outbuildings so we wandered around and inside those during the day. It’s out in a pretty remote area so it was nice to have some places on the grounds to explore and kill time in. We plan on doing more of this in the future, hopefully this coming Halloween as well! We’d love to travel outside of the Pacific Northwest sometime but there’s still so much more to be discovered here!

 

The whole group in the back courtyard. We just stared at all of the windows for a long time waiting to see a ghost. No such luck.
The whole group in the back courtyard. We just stared at all of the windows for a long time waiting to see a ghost. No such luck.
Needless to say, we had fun!
Needless to say, we had fun!

 

Sadly, after going to the Hot Lake Springs website I just learned that it is up for sale. Hopefully it will be purchased by someone who wants to keep the integrity of the building and its history because it really is an amazing place.

These Boots Were Made for Walking; European Streets

This is something that I have been painfully debating for months since we decided to go on this trip – do I just take the shoes I already own and hope that they can handle the miles upon miles a day of walking? Or do I invest in a whole new pair [or pairs] of shoes? Everything that I own is not really trek friendly, I’m a flip flop and tennis shoe girl and the only boots I own are very uncomfortable after a few hours and not waterproof at all.

We’re going in September-October so it’s highly likely that we will see quite a few drizzly days and being wet and in a foreign place does not sound like a recipe for comfort. I’ve researched quite a bit and feel like a pair of boots is probably my best bet; they go with anything. But what about the wet factor? I think I’ve come up with a solution but until I actually try some of these bad boys on I won’t really know if they will stand the test of 3 weeks of constant use. Blisters happen to the best of us in the best of shoes but I’d like to stall that for as long as possible.

1. JuJu Footwear Chelsea Rainboots

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I actually just ordered these. They’re normally $69 but Urban Outfitters had them for $30. I figured for that price I can’t really lose and they’re free to return if they don’t work out.

 

2. Chooka Top Solid Mid Rain Boot

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These are a bit clunkier then I would normally go for but they give me that “Old Man Marley” from Home Alone feel; just more chic.

3. Hunter® Bradwell Chelsea Boot Wellies

I’m not looking to spend much on boots but if cash were no problem I would absolutely get these awesome Hunter Wellies. What girl wouldn’t? Too bad they seem to be sold out everywhere.

 

Hopefully the Ju Ju boots I ordered work out or it’s back to the drawing board, but with high hopes in those all I need to find now is a great lightweight raincoat.

Poler Stuff – A Backpack for Europe

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We had been searching for the perfect backpacking packs for quite a while. I’d read all sorts of different blogs and most of them said to not get a bag over 45 liters because otherwise you’d be very weighed down; well to me, being 5’4” and 115lbs I felt like 45 liters was going to be pushing it for me personally. And since we enjoy a challenge we decided to go smaller. And by smaller I was thinking 35 liters, but when we came across these bags for a super great deal we decided to just jump on it. Regardless of whether or not we used them on our actual Europe trip the price was way too good.

Poler is based out of Portland, Oregon, which is a hop, skip, and a jump from our hometown so we kind of think of it as our hometown, too. The cost of these bags full retail isn’t really bad at all, but we stumbled across them at TJ Maxx for half the actual cost. We basically got two for the price of one. Anyways, The Rucksack on the left is 28.6 liters and The Rolltop on the right is 22 liters. Yeah. Small. But these guys expand nicely and I’m not worried at all about getting what we need inside of them. I mentioned we like a challenge, right? And since this is our first backpacking trip through Europe we are REALLY challenging ourselves. I guess we won’t know until we get back!

I have already been using The Rucksack bag on a daily basis and so far it’s been really comfortable and fits my frame. It has a laptop compartment so I use it when I head to work or a coffee shop; without the added poundage of my 15” laptop it’s going to work out just perfectly.

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They have the adjustable front clips to hold it snuggly to you; they do not have the hip clips though so if that’s something you demand in an all-day pack you may want to keep looking.

But you really can get great style, super quality and affordability into one backpack. Just because a blog links you to a $200 bag in no way means you have to pay that price. Keep looking around.

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We’re still on the hunt for a great daypack as well for those days we can stash our gear in lockers or hotel rooms so stay tuned!

Finding Beauty in all Places

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