An Oregonian Whirlwind Trip: From city to coast to desert to mountains

Having never been to the Pacific Northwest (and being mildly jealous of Ben’s photos from his trip), Char and I hopped a Frontier Airlines flight and landed in Portland. The idea was simple: spend a few days seeing as much of the Oregon landscape as possible.

To pull this off, we were going to put a few miles on the rental car and the hiking shoes: by the end of the week, we’d covered roughly 900 miles driving and 50 miles walking.) I had planned to go from Portland to the coast along highway 99W and arriving somewhere near Lincoln City, but we couldn’t bear the thought of missing Cannon Beach. So after spending a day roaming around Portland (the Rose Test Garden, the Japanese Garden, a small farmer’s market, and a great dinner at Southpark Seafood), we started Monday with a quick stop at Blue Star Donuts and headed for the coast.

Monday: Portland – Cannon Beach – Bandon

This was a long day, punctuated by a few fun stops and some beautiful Oregon coastline. Arriving at Cannon Beach, we drove a couple miles north to Ecola State Park and jumped out and started hiking. We hiked from the main parking area to Indian Point Beach, where surfers and kids alike were all decked out in full wetsuits. Stunning place and one of the best views of Cannon Beach available.

From there, we drove nearly the entire length of the Oregon coastline, stopping for essentials like coffee and food and to gaze in wonder at one postcard-worthy overlook after another. At some point, you get a little numb to just how beautiful everything is. Keep in mind: the weather you see in all of the photos below was in one day, often within minutes. With the marine clouds blowing in from the sea, the sky could quickly and easily go from completely gray to azure blue (and back again) in moments. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Tuesday: Bandon to Crescent City

After wandering around town and having breakfast, we stopped by Bandon Beach before getting on the road to Crescent City, California. Bandon might be the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen, dotted with enormous haystack rocks from from volcano activity eons ago.

From the beach, we fell into “overlook postcard mode” again as the marine clouds poured in from the ocean and into the hills and the weather changed from temperate rain forest to beautiful blue skies… and back again. As we got closer to California, the sky turned blue and stayed that way.

Arriving in Crescent City, we took a quick break and then set out for Jedediah State Park to walk among the giant Redwoods. It’s hard to explain how big a one of these trees actually is, but these might help:

One tip: We walked a couple of the few paths in the park and stopped in Stout Grove before leaving. Stout Grove is a small loop trail very near the parking area and really shouldn’t be missed. Behind the grove is the Smith River, and there is a sort of extended walking bridge across the river to access a campground. It was a beautiful, quiet place to spend some time.

Smith River Bridge

Wednesday: Crescent City – Crater Lake – Bend

We were on a schedule for Wednesday: we needed to cover the mileage from Northern California up to Bend and be there in time to meet our guide for a moonlight canoe tour. Along the way, we stopped to gape at Crater Lake National Park. If you’re ever close enough to decide if you should go see it: Go see it. You won’t be disappointed.

At Crater Lake, we hiked up the Garfield Peak Trail, which leads away from the lodge and up into a spectacular overlook. The trail is a little sketchy in parts and definitely steep, crossing over snow fields and through rocky switchbacks. It takes about 90 minutes to get to the top, but the scenery is worth every step.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention: Early in the morning, while out walking along the beach, I spotted Bigfoot (top left corner, click for larger image):

Bigfoot Sighting

We arrived in Bend just in time to meet up with the tour group at Wanderlust Tours. Boarded a bus and drove about 45 minutes to a special lake that Courtney, our guide, had chosen. Along the way, she told stories about the area wildlife and geology. As a Naturalist, she had a deep knowledge and appreciation for this beautiful state and was eager to share it with us. Along the way, we passed a volcanic dacite flow that looked like it happened a few years ago, when in fact it had been nearly 2,000 years. “A lot of things you encounter out here look like they just happened. Things like forest fires and volcanic remains have a strangely recent appearance, but it’s very deceiving,” she said. The dacite flow was a perfect example.

It’s hard to get a photo on an iPhone from a canoe at dusk, but this shot of Mt. Bachelor in the distance and the sunset from the front of the canoe are close to how it looked. It was incredibly peaceful being on the water in full dark.

Thursday: Smith Rock State Park to Mt. Hood

Before leaving the tour, I asked Courtney if there was anything we absolutely had to see in Bend. Without hesitation she replied, “Smith Rock.” I’m so glad I asked, because this internationally renowned state park – widely considered to be the birthplace of rock climbing – was one of the highlights of the week.

We spent the morning in Bend, wandering the shops, drinking coffee, sitting on the river bank, so we arrived at Smith Rock around 2pm. We sort of missed the point that we had fully moved from coastal region to high desert, and were slightly unprepared for the heat that accompanied us on this hike. In retrospect, it would have been better to get here early in the morning, but I really wouldn’t have traded our time in Bend, either.

So we filled up the water bottles, looked over the map, and set out on Misery Ridge Trail. It was very hot, very dry, very steep, and very, very beautiful.

Leaving Bend and Smith Rock behind, we hit the road bound for the historic Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood. As we drove into the mountains, the weather turned, shrouded the peak in clouds. The temperature dropped nearly 30 degrees as we drove, and arrived at the lodge in a misty rain.

Even so, the Timberline is a sight to behold. Built as a WPA project and dedicated by FDR in 1937, the entire building is an homage to the perseverance and craftsmanship of the American worker. Sitting at the base of the summit, it’s one of the few places (maybe the only place?) in the US that has snow all year, so it’s a popular destination for ski teams around the world to come and practice. While we were there, in addition to the many local ski schools, there were teams from Canada, Italy and the Netherlands. Skiers and snowboarders roamed the ground, and from the back of the lodge you could just make out the halfpipe above on the mountain.

The weather was typically temperamental, quickly changing from sunny to foggy to misty, so we roamed around the lodge, at two exceptional meals, and headed out of Friday morning.

Friday: Mt. Hood to Portland

Looking back, we made two tactical errors and, unfortunately, they were both on the same day. Leaving Mt. Hood, we passed the trailhead for Mirror Lake Trail, a beautiful uphill walk through the evergreens to a lake that provides beautiful views of Mt. Hood. You have to have a pass to use the trail, and they don’t sell the passes at the trailhead. (They do have them at Timberline and Government Camp, just up the road.) But we didn’t have the time to backtrack, so we missed out. (As cloudy as it was, I’ve convinced myself that we wouldn’t have been able to see anything, but it’s only slight consolation.)

We also had a choice of driving north to and through the Columbia River Gorge or heading west to see the Oregon lavender farm. Though the lavender was certainly nice, we should have gone to the gorge. I guess we’ll just have to go back another time…

Lavender Fields

Route Map:

If you’re interested in a trip like this, I would definitely encourage you to go. Oregon is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen, and – as you can see on the map below – we saw a fairly small portion of it. Though I do recall the naturalist telling us that something 80% of Oregonians live west of the Cascade mountains, so while we only saw part of the state, we met most of the people. (The population density map shows just how dramatic this is.)

The Rothe Loop: Oregon

Though I would definitely go back to Oregon in a heartbeat, I would plan the trip differently. Well, I wouldn’t do this particular trip (what I’ve taken to calling “The Rothe Loop”) again, though I do recommend it as a way to see a lot in a short period of time. Going back I would likely set up camp in Bend and explore from there: Three Sisters, Mt. Bachelor, Smith Rock, and more than 120 lakes to explore. From Bend, you could get the full Oregon experience in a hip small town.

Safe travels!

“You’ve just been pep-talked!”

Kid President's Awesome YearEveryone needs a little pep talk now and then. Here’s yours for today, presented by Kid President, a kid with wisdom beyond his years. His primary message: “You were made to be awesome. Now get out there and get to it.”

I suggest you watch it. Bookmark it. Then come back tomorrow and watch it again.

Some pearls of wisdom in there, including these:

The world needs you; stop being boring. Boring is easy, everybody can be boring. But you’re gooder than that.

This is life, people! You got air coming through your nose! You got a heartbeat! That means it’s time to do something!

A poem: “Two roads diverged in the woods. And I took the road less traveled. AND IT HURT, MAN!” Really bad! Rocks! Thorns! Glass! My pants broke! NOT COOL ROBERT FROST!

But what if there really were two paths? I want to be on the one that leads to awesome.

It’s like that dude Journey said: ‘Don’t stop believing. Unless your dream is stupid. Then you should bet a better dream.’ I think that’s how it goes. Get a better dream, then keep goin’, keep goin’, and keep goin’.

What if Michael Jordan had quit? Well, he did quit. But he retired, yeah that’s it, he retired. But before that? In high school? What if he quit when he didn’t make the team? he would have never made Space Jam. (And I love Space Jam.)

What will be your Space Jam? What will you create when you make the world awesome? Nothing if you keep sitting’ there! This is why I’m talking to you today!

This is your time! This is my time! This is our time! We can make every day better for each other.

If we’re all on the same team, let’s start acting like it. We’ve got work to do. We can cry about it, or we can dance about it.

You were made to be awesome. Let’s get out there!

I don’t know everything, I’m just a kid. But I do know this: It’s everyone’s duty to give the world a reason to dance. So get to it.

You’ve just been pep-talked!

This is exactly how I feel about what the team is doing here at Rare Bird. These guys are creating awesome every day, often without any fanfare and definitely not enough dancing. So kudos to you, Birds. Now get back out there and get to it!

(Note: Kid President dedicated this pep talk to Gabbi, “who is fighting cancer. Like a boss!” This kid is awesome. Here’s a little more background info on Robby, aka Kid President.)

Doing what you love is the quickest path to success (and self-fulfillment)

This one-minute video is one of the best things I’ve ever seen on YouTube. It was created by Patrick Boivin, a French Canadian autodidact movie maker. Patrick started in the creative arts by drawing comic books and soon realized that it was much faster to tell a story with video. Frankly, the world is a better place because of that decision.

Case in point: Dragon Baby (below), where an unsuspecting 2-year-old is attacked by a dragon while playing in his back yard. In Patrick’s world, 2-year-olds don’t get their butts kicked by dragons; they do the butt-kicking themselves. Watch how the scene unfolds:

Here’s why I love this so much: Patrick could be doing all kinds of other things with his time. He could be filling out tax forms, pursuing a professional curling career (he is Canadian, after all), or simply mowing the lawn. Instead, he chooses to stretch the limits of his capabilities, working to hone his skills as a story teller to sharpen his creative aptitude. Keep in mind: what he knows has been self-taught. When you watch the toddler doing battle with a stuffed dragon, remember that he went from having no skill whatsoever to putting together something this good, simply because he wanted to.

It might also be useful to pause long enough to ask ourselves, “are we pursuing our own dreams with the same kind of perseverance and purpose, where the actual work to get better is so much fun?” If not, why not?

Hats off to you, Patrick. Keep up the great work.

(By the way, Dragon Baby is Iron Baby’s little brother. You can use this link to see Patrick’s other work.)

Is this the one thing holding you back?



Success is a funny (and often fleeting) thing. One day, you’re on top of the world, the next you’re tumbling into an abyss. Or, on a smaller scale, one minute you feel great, and the next — just one phone call — can have you wallowing in self-pity. But is success really so fleeting, and should our emotions be so delicately tied to outside influence? I think not.

In a recent post by author and sales guru Geoffrey James, he argues that the key to lifelong success “is the regular exercise of a single emotional muscle: gratitude.” I agree. He continues:

People who approach life with a sense of gratitude are constantly aware of what’s wonderful in their life. Because they enjoy the fruits of their successes, they seek out more success. And when things don’t go as planned, people who are grateful can put failure into perspective.

By contrast, people who lack gratitude are never truly happy. If they succeed at a task, they don’t enjoy it. For them, a string of successes is like trying to fill a bucket with a huge leak in the bottom. And failure invariably makes them bitter, angry, and discouraged.

I really, really hope you see your own attitude in the first paragraph and not the second. But if your gratitude exercise plan needs a bit of work, James has some thoughts on that, too.

The good news is that gratitude, like most emotions, is like a muscle: It gets stronger and more resilient the more you use it. (When I pause to consider this, I can’t help but be quietly aghast at some of the emotions my kids are turning into very strong muscles. Yikes!) James offers one key tip to help you become more aware of your own perspective toward gratitude and to build resilience that will push you toward more success in life. He says:

The best time to exercise gratitude is just before bed. Take out your tablet (electronic or otherwise) and record the events of the day that created positive emotions, either in you or in those around you.

Did you help somebody solve a problem? Write it down. Did you connect with a colleague or friend? Write it down. Did you make somebody smile? Write it down.

What you’re doing is “programming your brain” to view your day more positively. You’re throwing mental focus on what worked well, and shrugging off what didn’t. As a result, you’ll sleep better, and you’ll wake up more refreshed.

More important, you’re also programming your brain to notice even more reasons to feel gratitude. You’ll quickly discover that even a “bad day” is full of moments that are worthy of gratitude. Success becomes sweeter; failure, less sour.

This is outstanding advice. Just before I lay my head on my pillow tonight, this will be one of the things that I record being grateful for. Thanks, Geoffrey James, this is a reminder I needed to hear.

(If you need more, you can read his complete article on

Love that dog… and that boy

Love That Dog

Love That Dog (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My Jack loves to read; always has. Last night he shared with me his latest ‘favorite’ story, a delightful little book called Love That Dog by Sharon Creech. It is, appropriately, the story of a boy named Jack, his dog, his teacher, and – eventually – his words. Creech describes it like this:

The story develops through Jack’s responses to his teacher, Miss Stretchberry, over the course of a school year. At first, his responses are short and cranky: “I don’t want to” and “I tried. Can’t do it. Brain’s empty.” But as his teacher feeds him inspiration, Jack finds that he has a lot to say and he finds ways to say it.

Jack is both stubborn and warm-hearted, and he can be both serious and funny. Although he hates poetry at first, he begins to find poems that inspire him. All year long, he is trying to find a way to talk about his beloved dog, Sky, and the poems his teacher offers him eventually give him a way to do that.

In the book, Jack becomes especially enamored by the poem “Love That Boy” written by Walter Dean Myers. Ultimately, it is this work that inspires Jack to tell the whole story of his dog, Sky.

When I walked in the door last night, Jack’s first request was for the sequel to Love That Dog, the appropriately-named Hate That Cat.

I love that Jack loves to read. I’ll be absolutely thrilled when he decides he also wants to write.

Here is “Love That Boy” in full:

Love that boy,
like a rabbit loves to run
I said I love that boy
like a rabbit loves to run
Love to call him in the morning
love to call him
“Hey there, son!”

He walk like his Grandpa,
Grins like his Uncle Ben.
I said he walk like his Grandpa,
And grins like his Uncle Ben.
Grins when he’s happy,
When he sad, he grins again.

His mama like to hold him,
Like to feed him cherry pie.
I said his mama like to hold him.
Like to feed him that cherry pie.
She can have him now,
I’ll get him by and by

He got long roads to walk down
Before the setting sun.
I said he got a long, long road to walk down
Before the setting sun.
He’ll be a long stride walker,
And a good man before he done.
Walter Dean Myers