Stanley, Idaho

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Stanley, Idaho is the kind of place that you want to come to die.

That sounds like a morbid thought, but what I mean is that it’s the kind of breathtaking beauty you could see yourself enjoying for the rest of your days once you’re ready to be done with civilization. And yes, we’ll ignore the fact that winters there can be no less than brutal — we’re talking 30 below zero kind of brutal. Apparently its location is such that inversions are pretty common, sending the temperature plummeting on the regs.

This surely contributes to why the year-round population is about 65 people (63 as of the 2010 census). You have to 1) love the mountains and 2) be hardcore AF to live in Stanley year round. Props to all the people who do. We were told the summertime population swells to several thousand, which is hard to imagine for such a small place!

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So much pretty.

We stayed at Elk Mountain RV Park about 9 miles out of town. It’s just off the highway but road noise wasn’t a problem for us, perhaps due to the late season (we got there September 24th). The park has two “levels,” an upper lot with fewer trees (bonus: more sunshine to keep you warm) and the lower level with more foliage and closer to the cafe, where the WiFi works great and free coffee is served every day. The cafe is a restaurant with a daily menu and Wed/Sat Prime Rib night so plenty of locals and travelers alike pass through for a bite to eat.

Stanley proper is what you could consider a tiny collection of about 5 or 6 blocks of buildings: a post office, library, restaurants and cafes, homes, hotels, cabins, a meditation chapel, park, gas station and mercantile, and visitor’s office make up the majority of the town. The town itself sits at about 6,200 feet on a flat stretch of valley at the base of the Sawtooth Mountains, which are fucking spectacular.

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The dreamiest skies.

Hiking, hot springs, rafting, fishing, climbing, skiing, kayaking, horseback riding, ATVing…name the outdoor activity and chances are you can do it here. We were too late for rafting season (sad panda to the max) but the fall colors were in full swing and hot springs abound, so no complaints here.

Hot Springs

I may have mentioned before that I LIVE FOR HOT SPRINGS. Lucky for me the Salmon River affords plenty of opportunities to soak in hot, sulfuric water. 😀

When it comes to natural hot springs that are free to use, though, please remember to be respectful of the land you are on. Don’t leave your beer cans or shave your armpits. These are shared spaces, too, so be considerate of how long you stay in them if you’re not there alone.

I asked a local what the etiquette was, because some of these springs aren’t big enough for more than a couple of people at a time. The answer is that an hour is generally the amount of time that’s okay to stay, especially if you’re lording over a spring that others may want to sit in. We found that most people did not know or understand this etiquette and seemed to think literally camping out over a favorite pool was an okay thing to do.

Boat Box

Boat Box was our favorite. It’s right in and along the Salmon River; a giant cauldron sits just off the side of the road and you can drain it if it’s looking hazy or gross, and refill it from the giant PVC pipe that brings the water in from the other side of the road. A bucket lives there too, so you can cool it down with river water if need be.

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Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn, and cauldron bubble!

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Enjoying our own private Idaho.

There are also dammed pools alongside the river that you can adjust for temperature. We loved these the most because you sit next to the (freezing) river rushing by while you keep warm and toasty right next door. We saw a bald eagle soar overhead during one visit, too. AMURRICA!

Mountain Village Resort

Mountain Village has their own private, sandy bottom hot spring tub that’s inside a wooden cabin. The doors open to a lovely view of the mountains. Visiting the tub is free for lodge guests and $25 for up to 4 people for an hour if you’re not staying there. Personally that seems a bit too steep to me based on other springs I’ve been to, so if you’re going to shell out try to aim for an hour that you’ll have it to yourself – the office can help you there but no guarantees.

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Okay it’s ‘spensive but at least it’s AWESOME.

Snake Pit

Snake Pit is just beyond the Mountain Village’s cabin along the river. It’s a wide, shallow pool that isn’t super hot, so best for a day with some sunshine that’s not too cold out. This is the kind of pool where if it’s a bit nippy out, you’ll get in and spend the entire time wishing it was just a bit hotter. There’s one sport where hot water seeps in from the ground, but it’s barely big enough for more than one butt.

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This isn’t Snakepit, but this is basically the view you’ll have from it.

Sunbeam

About a 20-minute drive up the road past Lower Stanley, Sunbeam is well-marked and easy to find. We went on colder, rainy afternoon and didn’t commit to getting in because it was so chilly outside and from a quick inspection it wasn’t certain that the hot spots would be big enough or hot enough for two people in the rain. But on a sunny day it would be delightful – like Boat Box but bigger. We were told there are always people there, though, so you may not get a private experience.

Pro tip: looking for more hot springs? Hit up Riverwear. They sell apparel and outdoor goods and whatnot, but also have a store copy of Doug Roloff’s Complete Guide to Idaho Hot Springs. They’ll let you peruse the pages in-store to find additional spots. 

Hiking

So. Much. Hiking. We only did a couple of hikes since we are still weekend warriors for the most part and wanted to make time for some longer walks.

Alpine Lake

There are two Alpine Lake hikes in the area; we did the 11-mile trek that starts from the far side of Redfish Lake.

Redfish Lodge offers shuttle trips across the lake for hikers, climbers, or anyone who wants to start at the far end without adding the 4.5 miles across and back to their trek. It’s $17 round trip per person (scheduled pickups happen at 3 and 5pm), which probably makes it the most expensive hike we’ve ever paid to do!

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Redfish Marina on Redfish Lake, early morning start to our hike.

We hopped on the 9am boat for an early start; aside from a lone climber we were the only ones on it. The first mile of the hike is a slow, gentle climb into the valley. The majority of the walking is easy, low-grade through forest and along Redfish Lake Creek. The last two or three miles are an ascent followed by a pretty burly set of switchbacks if you’re not expecting them. We weren’t, so we were gassed by the time we got to the top but recovery is swift as you follow the rest of the trail to the lake. Glorious!

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The hike back down affords several extremely bitchin’ views of the valley.

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Fishhook Creek

This was the perfect post-work afternoon hike. Super easy and gentle, and follows Fishhook Creek before opening into a jaw-dropping view of a sprawling meadow in front of the mountains. Sawtooth Wilderness for the win, y’all.

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Eating

Stanley Baking Company

Stanley Baking Company is the hot spot in town. Sourdough pancakes are to die for. Everything is amazing. Go early, the line can get pretty bonkers (I can’t actually imagine it in high season, it must be insanity) and don’t be that dick who lets your friend/partner stand in line while you go save a table. That shit doesn’t work here, and for good reason. You wait in line, you order, then you go sit.

Mountain Village Restaurant

This place is all things wood-cabin-cozy. Delicious burgers and steaks, sports games on the TVs if that’s your jam, and a separate bar area for the mega Broncos fans. They have a fun cocktail menu, too. Perfect place for a post-hot spring snack.

Sawtooth Luce’s

Not always open so we were stoked to catch them on their last open day of the year. Their Kobe burger with fries was outstanding. A storm was rolling in, too and we had the perfect vantage point to watch it roll in over the mountains.

Sawtooth Hotel

Probably the priciest menu in town (and worth it) with one of the best views of the Sawtooth Mountains. All wood everything, lovely atmosphere, and bonus points for live music on the outdoor patio and the loveliest bathrooms in town.

Bridge Street Grill

This rustic spot is nestled right on the Salmon River. The bridge in question is a rail-less, metal affair that seems like it would be a death trap in the event of snow and ice; fortunately it’s private property so you should stay off of it anyway (though it’s picturesque AF, if you ask nicely in the restaurant first, they’ll let you snap some quick pics from it). Get the trout!

Other Stuff

Meditation Chapel

My dad told me to find the chapel because he remembered the stained glass windows from when he’d been there decades before. I understand why: they’re my favorite stained glass windows to date. The chapel is locked but you can call a number for an access code that you can punch in on the door to get in for a visit. They had a keyboard inside so Travis got to jam.

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One of about eight beautiful stained glass windows in the meditation chapel.

Stanley Museum

We had a knack for showing up to see things on the last day of the season; The Stanley Museum was no exception. Plus they were giving out free ice cream. 😀 This is an old 1930s ranger station and has lots of artifacts and photos from the early days of Stanley.  A small room at the front sells books, cards, coffee mugs, patches, and other items.

Ketchum

We took a day trip up to Ketchum one day just for funsies. About an hour drive through the mountains, we enjoyed views of the first dusting of snow before rolling into the brilliant aspen trees that greet you before you enter the town proper.

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First snow of the year!

We stuffed our faces with some delicious pupusas at El Niño Y Pupuseria, inside an old train car just as we rolled into town. We hadn’t had pupusas since leaving the beloved Red Hook food trucks last summer so our tastebuds were in heaven.

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Fall colors on the way into Ketchum, ID.

 

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Look at those Aspen trees! 

We had an amazing couple of weeks up here and understand why everyone we talked to told us we’d love it (you were right, all of you!). Our plans were to hit up Bozeman, MT and then Yellowstone but the weather forecast showed lots of snow and rain.

We’ve had a few long, rainy days in the RV. One here and there is okay but even a few in a row is too many. We don’t do well with being cooped up in that small of a space for more than a day! And if we weren’t going to truly be able to enjoy hiking, walking, or generally exploring those places we figured it made sense to change tacks.

And so, fellow blog followers, we’re happy but sad to say that our next stop will involve selling our RV.

That’s right, we’re wrapping up full time life for now for something a little more stationary. We’ve loved full timing, but as two Libras we’re all about balance. And we’re closing in on being ready for something a little more stable. And I mean that literally…we want to live in something that doesn’t shake when one person walks.

Next stop: Back to Boise!

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Boise, Idaho

Boise was a different kind of stop. Namely because I grew up just outside of Boise in Meridian and hadn’t been back in about 20 years. Not only was Boise familiar territory, I knew that it had changed drastically since my last visit; whereas almost everywhere else we’ve been has been brand new and unknown.

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Downtown Boise: it’s grown a lot on the sides, but the heart feels the same.

For the last three weeks we’ve been posted up at Boise Riverside RV Park in Garden City. Garden City has cleaned up quite a bit; I remember a lot more trailer parks in this area from my youth — “Garden Shitty” was always the running joke. Now I suppose we’re technically the trailer trash I used to make fun of as a kid, so it’s entirely perfect.

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The RV Park is great. It’s situated right along the Greenbelt, a 25-mile multi-use path that travels alongside the picturesque Boise River. My only complaint is the internet: sorry guys, it sucks. They have it, it “works” — but it’s really slow and totally depends on how many others are using it at the time. Which, for me, seemed to be all day starting at 8:30am. :/ I was the least productive I’ve been in months.

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The Boise River

A Whole New World…?

On our way into town from Bend, Google told us to take I-84, but I insisted we hop on Chinden Blvd. because it would drive us right past the dirt road to my childhood hom out in the sticks. I already knew that dirt road was gone, replaced by a ginormous subdivision. I knew it would make me sad, yet the desire to return to this place that I have known and loved so well was truly beyond my control. I had thought I might avoid going altogether to preserve my memory of it; but for all the remembering (warning: more on that later) I have done regularly over the years I knew that a return was inevitable.

As we hopped on the highway from Caldwell, the rural landscape was much of what I remembered, which made me happy. As we passed Star Road, we passed the old road that my best friend lived off of, which is now a giant super highway that goes to Emmett.

My house was off of Chinden between Black Cat and Ten Mile. There used to be literally nothing out here but farmland and a few houses; ours was down a flat, straight dirt road that went a quarter mile down from Chinden to the top rim of the Phyllis Canal (you couldn’t actually see the house from Chinden; just a dollop of trees in the distance). As we crossed over Black Cat, the change was instantaneous. A stoplight exists where that dirt road used to be, which leads into the giant, terrible subdivision of my Google map stalking. My jaw dropped. Both sides of the road are loaded with subdivisions non-stop until you get to the original fancy-pants subdivision five miles later. Everyone was right — it had changed significantly.

But as we passed the Hewlett-Packard compound a further down the road, the same view opened up of the valley and foothills, unspoiled, unchanged. A certain relief poured through me; it wasn’t all so different, it was just that my ground zero was an unrecognizable nightmare.

All the Frands

Normally we hit the ground running when we get to a new spot (see: every other blog post I’ve written). This was different. We spent almost all our time catching up with old friends and Travis’s brother who lives here now, too.

Reconnecting with everyone reminded me what it’s like to have a community, which felt great. We’ve both been missing that piece of being somewhere more permanently, and to catch up with people who made us feel immediately at home was no small thing. Thanks to everyone for who took the time to hang!

Things We DID Do

We hit up the annual Art in the Park in Julia Davis park, visited the World Center for Birds of Prey, hit a tailgate party for a BSU game (thanks, Geoff!), explored downtown and Hyde Park/Camel’s Back Park, rode the Greenbelt, and drove past all my old schools.

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Star Elementary School: Still the same!

Quick Denver Excursion

My driver’s license expires this year and renewing online wasn’t an option because it’s been more than 10 years since I’ve shown up in person to a DMV. So off to Colorado I went for a quick trip to the DMV and a fun weekend seeing friends and family.

Back in Boise: The Return Home

Where I grew up, our only neighbors were down the hill from us — not exactly next door. Elias Aldape was a Basque farmer; we called him Al. He called my dad Doc (my dad was a practicing ER physician). He and his wife, Marg lived, what we called, “down below.,” which meant down below the rim of the canal we lived over.

Marg and Al’s daughter Peg and her husband, Rex, also lived down below with their kids Jim and Scott. While Marg and Al have moved on from this life, Peg and Rex are still down below; now their son Jim lives next door with his wife and kids. We planned a visit with them and also return to the actual spot where my house used to be.

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Boise’s Basque museum shows a collection of brands from local Basque farmers — our neighbor Al (Elias Aldape)’s is shown here.

Up until about a month ago, my childhood house stood where it always was. Then, someone bought it and had the whole thing lifted off its foundation and moved to another town. I’ve always dreamed of showing my person the house I grew up in; needless to say I was dismayed by the fact that I wouldn’t be able show Travis.

To get to The Down Below (it’s like The Upside Down, see), we had to drive through the mega-subdivision. I can’t say I enjoyed the drive, particularly as we came up to the oddly empty lot where the house was. I gawked but knew we’d come back by after our visit with Peg and Rex.

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Marty! We’ve gone back too far! This was exactly like being in Back to the Future when Marty lands in 1955 only to find his childhood home doesn’t exist yet…but the opposite of that. This is the now empty lot where my house used to be.

To get down below, we had to drive off the side of the paved road where it ends and back onto the dirt road that was always there. As soon as that happened, though, it was as if nothing had changed. It was like a time warp. I immediately felt better.

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Where the Sidewalk Ends: “This road to be extended in the future.”

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Down below, unchanged. Phew.

We had a lovely catch up with Peg and Rex. They let us drive around afterward to see their old barn and our shop. My dad was a car junkie and we had a detached shop where he worked on cars and tinkered on other workshop related projects — that shop was moved down below and was the only standing remnant we could visit. Now it was time to go back up and walk through the rubble.

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Travis and I with Peg and Rex. Peg is Marg and Al’s daughter.

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There’s our old shop!

Home (Warning: Long)

When I cannot fall asleep at night and need a happy, meditative place to go to, I go back in time to my childhood home and walk through its rooms, remembering every detail that I can. I’ve included old pics I have on hand to help with the imagery.

I walk through the wood front door with the brass door knocker inscribed with the name Vickman on it in script, flanked by two large glass windows trimmed in stained glass borders that my mom made. I put my coat on one of the wall hooks, my shoes in the corner, then I walk through the kitchen, with its white linoleum floors, brick shithouse butcher block table in the center, surrounded by what would now be kitschy brown appliances and cabinetry and white tiled countertops. The Dutch Woman cookie jar is almost always stocked with Oreos.

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Butcher block table, all brown everything, John doing his Fire Marshall Bill face.

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Probably my best portrait, ever. I have a spatula, and I know how to use it. Also, note the stained glass window and the cookie jar.

The view over the kitchen sink looks out to a large expanse of green grass — one view has the giant oak tree out front, in another it’s missing — one year the tree was hit by lightning and had to be cut down. Vast fields of mint or corn are out to the left of the grass lawn; the shop is at the end behind a pine tree.

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Yard party; the shop in the background. Long live acid washed denim and bangs.

The desk built into one side of the kitchen contains drawers of knick knacks and pencils, a wooden chair. The desk is where mom’s canary lived; a brown phone is on the wall.

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Mom and baby John Boy; the desk in the background. Brown phone, canary cage. Seriously, everything is brown.

The dining room right next to the kitchen, visible above the kitchen stove but beneath the hood and cabinets, has an old darkened brass chandelier with glass crystals and a garden window full of healthy green plants. A doorway on the wall opens to a wooden deck that runs the length of the house with a hot tub on the far end; a picnic table underneath a Concord grape trellis is on this end.

On the opposite end of the dining table, a doorless doorway that leads into the living room. I pass the fireplace with the pheasant wreath over it over green carpet; a big leather chair with a brass reading lamp, a painting of a pheasant hangs on rough wooden walls, Vivian’s handmade crocheted blankets on the sofa, a giant hand-carved bookcase stands on one end of the living room, two Klipsch Klipschorn Heritage speakers sit in each corner.

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Living room cuddles on Christmas morning.

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See? SO MUCH BROWN.

I look out the expansive windows over the Boise valley and its rolling, brown foothills. A strip of lawn sits in front of a rectangular garden blooming with Iris; but years before, green snap peas and raspberries. Always cornfields beyond.

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Cornfields beyond the garden. Pre-pond days.

An arbor leads through the narrow garden to a verdant pond full of lilypads and Japanese Koi and mosquito eaters; lined with green grass and tall Poplar trees. Currant and blackberry bushes grew in one corner. Once a blue heron landed on the edge of the pond and poached one of the giant Koi goldfish in one gulp. To the side of the pond is where I found my poor cat’s broken, dead body one year; her back had been broken by an unknown intruder, my single scream of sorrow followed her into the next world.

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Mowin’ the lawn! 

From the living room I wander back toward the front door but this time I go away from the kitchen and down the hall. The bathroom on my left has a red, octagonal linoleum floor and a built-in wall heater. A shadow box on the counter contains butterflies, seashells, an old pair of vintage wire frame eyeglasses, and a photo of Dooby, my parents’ first golden retriever.

At the end of the hall, there’s a vintage Singer treadle sewing machine; my mom used it to sew clothes, at least I think she did. I turn left into the office with a desk that’s made from an old door. The desktop computer is where I spent many an afternoon playing Kings Quest, Space Quest, building a Geocities website on dial-up, perusing my dad’s office library, ignoring all the boring file cabinets.

I exit the office and cross to the other side of the hallway, into dad’s room with a red-toned Persian rug and nature photography prints on the walls. I open the sliding glass door and go out onto wood patio with a built in bench that sits underneath a Montmorency sour cherry tree. The yard expands to the edge of the rim; green grass with an apple tree and lilac bushes along the edge. An apricot tree is out there, too; a peach tree even farther out but that one never seemed to proliferate.

Dad’s bathroom has a corner shower (always Prell shampoo)  and a copy of Hemmings Motor News was always by the toilet; a blue hinged box of nail clippers and physician’s scissors and forceps and nail files always in the drawer. Combs, brushes, a chair where I would sit and Vivian would put my hair in braids.

I go back down the hallway toward the front door, only I turn right just beforehand and go downstairs. I pass what we called the Wall of Shame — every single baby and school photo is displayed, all our family photos taken by the same photographer, among fall foliage. My terrible bangs documented for all eternity. We used to play hot lava all the time, going down the stairs was tricky. I slide down the bannister to expedite my journey.

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A very small sample of the wall of shame.

Downstairs now, the floor plan mimics that of the first floor. I turn left down the hallway, the first door on my left is another bathroom with a built-in wall heater. I accidentally burnt by butt on it once while bending over to towel off. The countertops are a bizarre green laced pattern over white. Two sinks though, one for me, one for my stinky brother. Once my mom washed my mouth out in here with soap for saying a dirty word. I don’t remember the word, I remember never doing it within earshot of her ever again, though. I remember cleaning up someone else’s vomit after a high school party one night, that person had definitely been eating Fritos. :/

I leave the bathroom; the next door on the left is my bedroom. One vision is with the original brown, beige, and pea green striped wallpaper and beige striped comforter; the next is the sea green wallpaper I chose when we redecorated — the colorful floral strip at the top matches my comforter, giant white tiger and polar bear stuffed animals sit on the bed. An ancient alarm clock radio with stick on earrings all over it is on the nightstand, next to a cat lamp and Kurt Vonnegut books.

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Don’t forget the Cabbage Patch Kids…

My childhood rocking chair stays where it’s always been, beneath the window well. Sleeping in this room was like sleeping in a tomb; dark, quiet, peaceful. I used to hear one of our cats in the window well at night, meowing to get in. It would make me so sad I would cry. Other nights I had nightmares about the Statue of Liberty. Look, she had a scary lookin’ face, okay? One of my parents would rock me back to sleep in that chair until I fell back asleep.

Just past the chair was a stereo in my high school years, then an inner sanctum — another room lined with apple crates full of toys, stuffed animals, Things. A wooden vanity with a little bench and big round mirror sit along one wall. I had wanted a vanity so badly growing up; my dad found the perfect one at an old furniture sale. All my girly things are on it; Shine Free makeup, who knows what else. My dresser sits behind, the closet on the wall in between, a full size mirror on the wall opposite that. My crib was in here, I would play guitar in here, cut up old blankets to make costumes (sorryyyyyy), stick every imaginable post card and poster and ticket to the wall, play with friends. Sometimes I would find spiders and earwigs and other underground bugs where the carpet met the wall.

Across the hall is my brother’s room, two twin beds. We shared this room when Vivian would stay; she lived in with us when dad was on night shifts at the ER. Model airplanes and action figures line his shelves, along with model rockets and games like Mouse Trap. Posters of hot air balloons and race cars gave way to the album cover of Warrant’s Cherry Pie. One time a bat got into his room and the extraction process was exciting because OMG the bat is INSIDE; I can’t quite remember what happened but I do think perhaps the bat did not make it.

Back down the hall the closet contains a massive, heavy vacuum cleaner with a headlight on the front. They don’t make ’em like they used to. The small table at the end of the closet has a rotary phone on it. All the numbers in Meridian started with 888. Dialing anyone from that phone always took fucking forever. The TV room, directly beneath the living room, has an entire wall of built-in shelving for books with a TV right in the middle. Saturday mornings were for cartoons (She-Ra, He-Man, Garfield), week day afternoons after school were for Where In the World is Carmen San Diego before running outside to play.

The drawers beneath the television contained all the VHS tapes you could ever want, including all the James Bond movies, all the Star Wars and Indiana Jones series, and about 12 full recorded tapes of In Living Color episodes. Games lived inside the cupboards, marble towers and Monopoly. Two couches; one blue and red plaid, the other an old brown thing, made for comfy seating. The back corner of the TV room had a burgundy enameled, cast iron L. Lange Danish wood burning that sat on a bricked in surface. The wood box next to it has chopped up firewood that dad would haul in from somewhere outside. Along one wall, between the fireplace and couches, was a big hobby table. This is where model planes and other craft projects took place, beneath the magnifying clamp lamp.

We always wanted a trampoline but never had one; instead dad dragged an old mattress into the basement and put it between the back of the plaid couch and the fireplace. I used to spend all day outside, dirt in the skirt, then come in and jump and down until, conveniently, I would just lie down on the mattress, too exhausted to get up.

The other end of the hallway was what we called the basement. Funny, considering this entire level of the house was the basement, really. But this room had no carpet, just concrete flooring. It’s where an extra refrigerator and freezer lived; full of old fruitcake in Christmas wrapping paper, jars of homemade preserves, an ancient jar of marijuana. I wouldn’t know the jar was there until I was in my ’30s and had somehow made the long journey to my dad’s freezer in Tampa, FL.

I see the washer and dryer, water heater, water softener, all the pipes and machinery. An old sink; my mom used to keep her stained glass window making supplies underneath, sheets of sharp-edged, brilliantly colored glass. In the back, there’s shelving, a corner whose contents I can’t recall. This was prime hide and seek territory.

I go back upstairs, taking two at a time, zooming back out through the front door, into the garage; bikes, roller skates, the giant blue cat food dish which occasionally contained a sleeping cat. We always had cats: Buttercup, Guinea, Tiger, Pumpkin, Grady, Oby-Wan Ben Kenobi, Willy, Yogart.

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Tiger and Pumpkin and Perpetual Swimsuits

That garage smell. Any number of vehicles inside, a Mercedes station wagon, a Subaru, an old Jag I can’t quite remember.

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Just a boy and his broom.

A turquoise green Ford is parked outside, off to the side of the paved part of the driveway where our sandbox used to be; a sandbox that just turned into a giant litter box. The turquoise Ford turns into the dark green one; lovingly referred to as the Green Bean, a 1978 Ford F-250 Lariat 4×4. The interior is the exact same color as the exterior. When I turned 15, it’s what I learned to drive in. If you can parallel park a truck like that you’ll ace your driver’s ed exam.

I walk down the driveway leading away from the house. On my left, the driveway is lined with railroad ties and juniper bushes, home to all the funnel spiders in Idaho. On my right is a tree-lined irrigation ditch.

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Slingshot! Plus, juniper bushes full of spiders.

There were enough old trees by that ditch that we tied up an old rope to one and made a rope swing; another lay sideways and was perfect for climbing straight from the ditch into the yard behind the house. Nothing feels better than the squelch of mud between your toes in an irrigation ditch. That mud is made from special, very fine dirt that becomes the most magical kind of squish. Toward the end of the driveway is a fork. To my left is the shop.

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Amazing what fun a tree-lined irrigation ditch can be.

The shop had a dog kennel next to it where our golden retrievers lived. Dooby, Gus, Peaches; Freddie too but she was an English Pointer. You could always find antlion burrows in the dirt next the kennel; we’d spend what felt like hours tracing tiny sticks along the side of the inverted cone-shaped depressions, waiting for the tiny bug with a big maw to attack it’s fake prey.

The shop was where the Green Bean lived, along with the riding lawnmower, leaf sweeper, and all of dad’s tools and workshop stuff. Out behind the shop was a pile of old cinder blocks where wasps proliferated.

At the end of the driveway to the right, the dirt road leads to our mailbox. Across from it on the other side of the road is a flat, unfarmed piece of land where the burn pile lives. Seasons worth of detritus like dried leaves, grass clippings, and tree limbs were hauled out and dumped onto the pile.

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We learned young! From the shop to the burn pile on the riding lawnmower.

After it was emptied, dad would put us kids in the old wooden wheelbarrow along with the yard scraps and give us rides back to the house. Some days dad called the fire department to let them know what was happening, and then the most glorious thing would happen: he would set the whole fucking thing on fire and we watch it burn.

The dirt road away from the house takes me back down the quarter mile dirt road to the highway. We used to walk that road home from school every day after the bus dropped us off; first on, last off, always. The Osprey platform on the top of one of the the power line poles marked the halfway point. We named the returning pair Oscar and Ollie. We’d pick horsetails, kick rocks, race each other — anything to get home a little faster.

This time, though, I walk on the dirt road going the other way, toward the down below. Across the bridge, over the Phyllis Canal, to see Marg and Al and Rex and Peg.

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Crossing the bridge over the Phyllis Canal to get down below; our house used to sit along the rim on upper right hand side where that lone big tree is.

The Rubble

All that’s left now is an empty lot with a depression in it that’s been filled with dirt, surrounded by enormous single family homes in a giant subdivision. The irrigation ditch is gone, along with the trees that lined it. The mailbox is on the other side of the now-paved street. Two big trees still stand on the property, but that’s it. The dust is the same, though, that microfine dust that makes the best mud.

I walked through it, slowly, absorbing the massive missing piece of my life that is my refuge when I always need it to be there. It exists only in memories. The only thing that was the same was the view — that amazing view of the Boise valley and the down below was the only thing I could share with my husband to help to illuminate where I came from, what I’m made of. I made it to the edge of the rim and looked out at the rolling foothills before I cried; I’m crying right now just writing about it.

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Then.

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Now.

Loss is a part of life. I’m sure it seems ridiculous to many that I’m so wrapped up in the nostalgia of my childhood home. As an adult I can appreciate how lucky I am to have grown up somewhere so amazing — one part boonies nowhereland, two parts great parents and learning how to fall down and get back up again.

But part of this trip is a quest to find our new home. So of course I had to go back to the one that has always felt the most like home that a place can feel. I needed to dig it up and really roll around in it, and remember what it feels like to be there so that Travis and I can recreate that for ourselves wherever we end up. If you made it this far, thanks for reading.

Next stop: Stanley, Idaho!

Bend, Oregon

Bend Sucks, Tell Your Friends

When we first rolled into Bend through Sisters, the smoke was pretty thick. Our first week was spent doing more exploring-by-driving – the air quality was gross enough to want to avoid any extraneous huffing and puffing.

We were super excited to catch up with our pals Scott and Jaime of Away We Winnebago ⏤ we met them down in Baja at Victor’s RV Park and hoped our paths would cross again in Oregon. We got to see them up in Sisters, OR and ate a great meal and drank (too much) wine.

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San Felipe Kids 4-Eva

That headline is all misdirection. Bend is a great town. It’s a great size, the Deschutes River runs right through it (which you can float down, which we did), and there’s lots of great food and beer to be had. A few of our favorites were: The Ale Apothecary, Crux Fermentation Project, The Good Life, Bend Brewing Company, Chow, Spork….the list goes on. And on.

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What better way to spend a late summer afternoon?

I hit up the salt water soaking pool twice at McMenamin’s, a former Catholic school compound that’s been turned into a hotel, pub, and theater. The pool is $5 for non hotel guests and absolutely worth every single penny.

The turquoise tiled room has a Romanesque flavor – from the central fountain to the lion statues with water flowing out their mouths to the tiled images on each wall of who I had to assume was St. Francis of Assisi with all the animals (heathen here, I know next to nothing about Bible stuff…and probably I’m wrong about the Romanesque thing, too).

The ceiling around the center was entirely open. A light rain drizzled down on one of the days I was there…I bet being there while it’s snowing is nothing short of magical.

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There’s also a “secret” bar in a broom closet that was fun to hunt down.

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The “secret” broom closet bar!

I can see why the town is experiencing an influx of new residents…it’s pretty wonderful. But also pretty expensive. It’s not a buyer’s market at the mo.

But the endless outdoor activities, relatively small (read: bikeable) size, and easygoing culture were really appealing to us.

We also got see our friends Tim & Lauren who are traveling around the country for a few months for their honeymoon ⏤ we hiked Mount Bachelor and hit up Sunriver Brewing with them.

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The Gerber-Fleurys!

Newberry National Volcanic Monument

This stop is about 15 minutes out of Bend proper. This (still active) shield volcano is the site of a cinder cone and caldera you can walk around and/or drive up to.

Lava Butte is the cinder cone; the land all around it is strewn with all manner of volcanic rock – pumice, cinders, and the lone tree here and there. It looks like a barren wasteland of pain, but with the plants that have managed to survive in what little soil there is, it’s actually quite beautiful.

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Lava Butte at Newberry Volcanic Monument

We also hiked the mile-long lava tube cave. We’ve been in several caves at this point and each one is so different and amazing. All the caves we’ve been to thus far all contain some kind of man-made, artificial lighting, mainly for safety and because they run tours.

The lava tubes, though, you’re on your own and there’s NOTHING down there to light your way. You aren’t allowed in without some kind of flashlight (which they can rent to you if you don’t have your own).

We wore headlamps and while there’s not actually much to see in terms of variety, seeing the light reflecting off of thousands of tiny droplets of water across the ceilings and walls was mind bending.

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The entrance to the Lava Tube cave

We stopped a few times when we’d managed to break away from the steady flow of foot traffic to shut off our head lamps and experience the most intense blackness possible.

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Thanks to oncoming traffic, I was able to snap this photo of the interior

It’s amazing to pay attention to what your mind does when one or some of your senses are removed. I started to feel as though my headlamp view was a pair of glasses made of light…!

High Desert Museum

The High Desert Museum isn’t far from the Volcanic Monument so it made sense to stop and check it out.

It’s a great indoor/outdoor museum with most sections devoted to wildlife as well as the history of the area and the native populations. There’s a birds of prey section, too, where rescued birds that cannot be released into the wild are housed in outdoor shelters – a bald eagle, golden eagle, an owl, and more.

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Man will fly alright! Like a ROCK! A burrowing owl.

Tumalo Falls

We had originally planned to hike Tumalo Falls with Scott and Jaime but the air quality was too crappy so we came back the following weekend and it was worth the wait: the air was much, much better.

Funnily enough, we were re-routed on the (very simple) way there, and it took us an hour and 45 minutes to get to the trailhead instead of 40. Pro tip: don’t trust Google maps in the Oregon wilderness. Eventually some excessively good looking, outdoorsy Oregonian dude with perfect, straight teeth came by in a pickup asking if we were lost. We didn’t know that we were because In Google We Trust. He gave us proper directions, but not before tech shaming us and encouraging us to get a “paper” map and get to know the area.

But eventually we got there, we hiked, it was beautiful. As you can see:

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We also celebrated our first year of full time RV living on the 31st of August and our 2nd wedding anniversary on the 2nd. Huzzah!

Next stop: Boise, Idaho – land of my birth! 😛

Silverton, Oregon

We spent 10 days at Silver Spur RV Park about 30 minutes outside of Salem in Silverton, Oregon. The WiFi works, there’s a pool and a hot tub, great facilities, but more cramped in than our last spot.

Silverton

Silverton is a cute, small town. The main downtown area consists of about five easily walkable blocks with restaurants, coffee shops, antique stores, a single-screen theater, wine bar, vintage store, an art gallery or two, and a couple of breweries. I hit up Seven Brides and enjoyed a delicious BLTA with their Summer Saison.

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If Monkey is happy, we are happy.

We also strolled through the annual Fine Arts Festival in Coolidge McClaine Park. It was fun to nose around all the handmade goodies. It made me miss my jewelry making! I can’t wait to dig into that again someday.

Portland

Travis went to Boise for a few days on vacation to visit his brother so we had to head to the city to get him to the airport. We made a day of it and hit the outdoor Saturday Market (more handmade goodies) and met up with my friend Jordan for lunch at Sushi Ichiban, a dope little spot with a bar/counter that features grab-as-you-desire sushi plates that go by on a little train. Amazing!

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Lerrnch with Jrrrdrrrrn.

After Jordan had to bounce to go to work, we took advantage of the Electric Scooter Wars and jumped on some Birds to scoot around the city, along the waterfront, and back around to downtown and the Alphabet District. What a great way to get around!

We e-scooted back in Venice, CA and loved it then; still loving it now. But it’s pretty easy to see why there’s some backlash.

For example, you’re “required” to wear a helmet. No one does this. You’re only supposed to have one rider per scooter. You definitely see people doubling up, probably looking around for another scooter for that second person (or not).

You’re supposed to leave them somewhere that’s not in the way. We saw one literally plopped on an intersection sidewalk corner where every single human would have to go around it.

The main thing, though, is that the “instructions” you get for where to ride are pretty vague. The Bird app tells you to use the bike lanes when you can; it also tells you not to mow down pedestrians on the sidewalks. This sort of implies you can ride wherever the hell you want on them, which seems irresponsible. We stuck to bike lanes and the road and basically took on the same rules as cycling. I went on the sidewalk once when the street narrowed in a way that felt dangerous, and there were no pedestrians there at the time.

The app’s built-in map tells you if certain areas are not meant to be e-scooted through, but if you’ve ever ridden one you know your hands are busy accelerating and braking and 100% NOT holding your phone to look at a map to determine if you can scoot through a small park or not.

Overall I hope the e-scooter thing is here to stay, but it probably requires more regulation or more responsible riders. Which do you think is more realistic?

On a different day, we also hit up 10 Barrel Brewing, Muu-Muu’s for delicious dinner (again, with Jordan!), followed by the Abbey Bar & Bottle Shop where we split a bottle of Ale Apothecary’s Sahalie. YAS Portland!

Silver Falls State Park

What a gem this place is! I went hiking here while Travis was away, then we went back after he returned. The park contains 10 waterfalls you can see and/or walk behind along a 7 mile loop that you can do in one fell swoop or break up into two shorter hikes. I did the North end on my own, then we started at South Falls and did the other loop the following weekend. Pro tip: get there early to avoid the crowds. We recommend starting no later than 10am.

Prepare for waterfall porn ahead!

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South Falls

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South Falls

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Upper North Falls.

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Middle North Falls

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This is one FINE ass tree.

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Salamander friend!

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I’ll never tire of seeing light through leaves.

After our South Falls loop, we stopped at the Silver Falls Country Store, home of the Sasquatch burger (aka 2 patties + fixins + egg + bacon + ham + avo) for lunch. I tried Bauman’s Blackberry Cider which was amaaaaazing. Travis had the ‘Squatch burger. A totally worthwhile, rewarding stop.

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The Oregon Garden

As one of Silverton’s noted attractions, I felt moved to mosey out to this 80-acre botanical garden while Travis was away; at $12 for an adult ticket some might consider it spendy for what you see.

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Perhaps that is because 1) it was quite hot and smoky out so the strolling was less pleasant than it might otherwise normally be, 2) I’ve been spoiled by all the non-landscaped natural beauty that one can see for free in Oregon.

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In any case, there was some cool artworks sprinkled throughout the park which was lovely, and the ponds were quite full of frogs and tadpoles.

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IMG_5683Overall Silverton was a great spot to hang for a few days; the pool on those hot afternoons was definitely a bonus.

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Sweet, sweet poolside office!

Next stop: Bend, OR!

 

Lincoln City, OR

I’ve been so eager to get to the Oregon coast!

When I was a kid, my dad used to take my older brother and I to Cannon Beach. We would rent banana bikes and muppet about in the tide pools, sticking our fingers into all the anemones. I would collect all the shells until the smell became apparent and I’d throw them back. I remember sun, fog, and Haystack rock. I remember when I realized the Goonies was filmed on this very same beach years later. I remember a hot pink tie dye t shirt and a pink shell bangle. Funny the things we remember.

The Digs

We posted up at Wapiti RV Park, which is inland a couple of miles. Knowing that the Oregon coast can be foggy, windy, and chilly even in the height of summer meant we weren’t trying to lock down any beachfront RV sites; plus, most of the parks are right off the 101, which, much like coastal New England, is a two-lane thoroughfare through all the coastal towns that can get relatively congested.

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It was a good choice, too – the sun comes out here while the coast two miles away is almost always socked in with mist and clouds. Pros? It’s tucked away and very quiet and peaceful. They have horseshoes set up in one of the many green grass yards. Trees abound. Cons? Facilities aren’t exactly rave-worthy (bathrooms are functional, there’s one shower per gender…we don’t have a sewer hookup so we’re using their shower), no laundry, and WiFi has been pretty spotty. Which, as we’ve mentioned before, only matters because we rely on the internet to do our jobs. 🙂

Depoe Bay

I hit up Depoe Bay one afternoon while Travis had to work. It’s a tiny blip of a town with a short strip of tchotchke shops, seafood restaurants, and a whale watching station. A long sea wall that runs the length of the ocean is perfect for watching grey whales breach. If there are tour boats out, you can just watch them…they are usually honing in on a whale they’ve spotted.

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Not actually Depoe Bay.

The shoreline is made up of lava beds that have been carved out underneath by water, creating what are called “spouting horns.” When the tide and waves roll in, the water spouts up from below, creating big spouts of gushing water.

Otter Crest State Scenic Viewpoint

We went here around low tide specifically for tide pool exploration (see first paragraph). I found the Giant Green Anemones of my childhood, and definitely stuck my fingers in there.

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Gooseneck barnacles. They look like armadillo feet.

We also saw seals and I spotted a GIANT orange starfish of some kind clinging to a rock through my binoculars. We sat on the beach, sifting through rock piles to find those magic Oregon agates. The skies were grey, the clouds were low, it smelled of sand and seaweed. It was lovely.

Newport

We went to Rogue Brewery for burgers and beer (this burgers and beer thing is becoming a pattern). Of everything we tried, Combat Wombat was the most interesting. It’s a sour/IPA blend that I thought had to be awful, but wasn’t. I’m still befuddled by it. Try it if you get a chance!

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Afterward we stopped at Fogarty Creek to putz around on the beach for a couple hours and collect agates. No one will believe me when I say this, but Travis was the one who was dying to collect rocks this time, NOT ME!

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Agate haul! 

The RV Wash

On our way out of town we hit the RV wash in Lincoln City! Washing an RV is a motherf***ing task and a half. We hadn’t washed ours since we were back in North Carolina at The Backyard Fig Bush Campground in November 😬.

Most RV parks we’ve been to have specific restrictions against washing your RV on site, which makes sense given the amount space between sites in some places, how much water it uses, and the mess you’d make doing it. Not to mention the gear you’d need to do it: brushes, things with telescoping handles, etc.

But it begs the question: how the heck DO you wash your RV? Car washes big enough for RVs aren’t exactly on every street corner. Plus, when already faced with a day drive of 4 to 5 hours, does adding even more time for a wash make sense? For us, it never has. We just wanna GET THERE since we spend so much time driving as it is, and we’ve got the cat in the truck, and I’m generally working while Travis drives.

Travis spotted this place earlier in the week so we just decided to pull the trigger and do it since our day drive was much shorter this time. Armed with $20 in quarters, we game planned the best way to git ‘er done. The machine only allowed a max of $5 at a time, which meant someone would have to be ready to shove more money into it once the beeping started, but we also realized that shifting the hose from side to side meant someone needed to be on the roof to ensure it didn’t get caught on any of the vents or the cable TV antennae.

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So fresh and so clean clean.

So with me on the roof, Travis on the ground, and both of us with pockets full of quarters we proceeded to wash the RV as best we could. It’s not quite as sparkling as it was the first time given our time and quarter constraints but in about an hour and $13 the rig was washed and mostly dried. 😀

Next stop: Silverton, Oregon!

Westfir / Eugene, OR

A quick week went by in Westfir, about 45 minutes from Eugene!

The Digs

We posted up at Casey’s Riverside RV Park right next to the middle fork of the Willamette River and were pretty happy to be out of the smoke-filled valley of Ashland. Major bonus: Casey’s RV Park has a soft serve machine in a covered pavilion that is accessible 24/7. Cones are $1, paid on the honor system via a cash box next to it.

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The very best kind of backyard.

The biggest downside of this park is that it’s pretty close to the Pacific Union railroad and several trains ran by day and night. Fortunately, though, with the fan running at night and the river itself we had enough white noise to keep us from waking up. Oh, and the wi-fi was pretty terrible, not going to lie.

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BUT ICE CREAM AT ALL HOURS!

It was hot here; not as hot as Ashland, with a nice breeze that kicked up every afternoon. The river itself was a bit too swift (and cold, to be honest) for swimming but it sure made for a beautiful backdrop.

Friday afternoon we rode our bikes into nearby Oakridge for dinner at Mazatlan so we could carbo-load for our big Saturday adventure…

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Full of burritos and enchiladas.

Saturday

Saturday morning we started the day with a quick, short hike up the start of the North Fork trail along the river. A 100/50/25 mile mountain bike race was going on at the same time; the hundred milers had already bounced, we basically squeezed our hike as the 50-milers started. On our way back we had to hop off the trail while they whizzed past us, which was pretty fun to watch.

North Fork Trail

North Fork Trail – watch out for racing mountain bikers!

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The site of a former water mill on the North Fork trail.

After our serene morning walk, we went into Eugene for the day. We explored the big Saturday Market, a farmer’s- and craft-market combo with artisan goods, fresh produce, food stalls, and live music. From there we walked to Voodoo Doughnuts, because duh.

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Nomming on the Old Dirty Bastard Donut, topped with Oreos and peanut butter.

Then we made our way toward the Whiteaker Block Party, a free, annual event with live bands, craft stalls, beer, and that distinct Eugene spirit  (think: glassblowers, bubble blowers, tricked out buses, and high concentrations of white people, tattoos, and piercings).

Spacebuds

Spacebuds: The Dispensary 🤣

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Pirate bus, Whiteaker Block Party

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Awesome wall mural, Whiteaker Block Party

After noodling around in the heat we stopped at Oakshire Brewing Public House for a rest and refresh with Gose and Berlinerweisse and IPA.

We walked back toward downtown along the river, which runs through the city. We saw tons of tubers (toobers?!)…not potatoes, people in inner tubes. Cities where you can inner tube on a river are A+ in my book.

We ate dinner at a place called Oregon Electric Station which was also A+. It’s inside a former train station from 1912.

Sunday

Sunday Funday was spent renting a couple of kayaks and heading up to Waldo Lake to paddle around for a few hours.

On the way up we stopped at the second tallest waterfall in the state, Salt Creek Falls.

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Salt Creek Falls

Waldo is another stunning alpine lake, and like Crater, it’s not stream fed in any way, resulting in bright blue, clear water. Without more nutrients flowing into the water there wasn’t as much wildlife, but we did see some Mergansers and some tiny frogs.

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Waldo Lake

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Paddling in the tulies

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This is the color of the water!

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It’s like the Caribbean Sea…just colder.

Post paddle, we stopped at McCredie Hot Springs on the way back; a natural hot springs right next to the river. Bliss.

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McCredie Hot Springs

Followed by burgers and beer at Brewers Union Local 180, an all-cask brewery with their own brews and a handful of guest taps.

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Lunch/dinner: cask ale and burgers.

Overall, we loved Eugene and the surrounding area.

Next up: Lincoln City, OR!