‘Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs’ on Historic Fort-to-Sea Trail

Continuing our series on 30 West Coast Ways: Celebrating Great Outdoors Month in Washington, Oregon and California, we’re off on an Oregon hike flush with history and salt air!

“How ‘bout Oregon?” Chris suggests on a Friday evening in June. “We haven’t done the Fort-to-Sea trail in awhile.”

About 13 miles RT, the Fort To Sea Trail winds through the woods south of Fort Clatsop to Sunset Beach on the Pacific Ocean, covering land that once was home to the Clatsop Indians who helped the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery Expedition. Fort Clatsop is a unit of the Lewis & Clark National and State Historical Parks.

The Astoria-Megler bridge spans the lower Columbia River, between Astoria, Oregon, and Point Ellice near Megler, Washington. It’s the longest continuous truss bridge in North America.

 “What’s the weather forecast?” I inquire, peering outside. A parade of fleecy dark clouds lumbers past the window like flannel gray pachyderms.

“Cloudy with a chance of meatballs” Chris grins. It’s our code for “no sun, but no rain, either. Let’s go!”

Sun tries to break through clouds off the Astoria-Megler Bridge.

We live is southwest Washington, in a Lilliputian little mountain hamlet hugging the coast. The Oregon state line is roughly 90 minutes south. It’s a bit of a drive for a day hike, but not an overwhelming one.

So we fill up our Camelbaks, get our boots, Black Diamond Trailbacks and lunch ready and pack enough trail snacks to choke a camel. Starting from Fort Clatsop in northern Oregon in the broad vicinity of Astoria, Oregon, the Fort-to-Sea trail is a long one – about 13 miles round trip. You do not want to run out of water here.

Fort to Sea Trail near Warrenton, OR is one of our Oregon “old faithfuls”. It’s about 13 miles RT. Yes, it’s kind of a long trail if you do the whole thing, starting at the Fort Clatsop Visitor Center out to Sunset Beach and back. But it’s a pretty, scenic hike through rolling countryside dotted with wooded pastures and small lakes and sweeping ridgeline views of the ocean.

Chris and I arrive at the trailhead at around 9:00 a.m. We take our time, winding through the first two miles of deep forest up and over Clatsop Ridge. On a clear day you can see through the trees to the Pacific Ocean from the top of the ridge, which isn’t that steep. Really.

Then we descend through more forest, cross a bridge spanning the Skipannon River, and wind our way under Highway 101 past the oldest Presbyterian Church in continuous existence west of the Rocky Mountains.

Forests fall away as we near the beach. The trail zig-zags through treeless open pastures for a mile or two. We call this portion of the trail The Frying Pan. Note: You do not want to be caught here at mid-day on a hot summer afternoon. We know this and time our hike accordingly.

Entering “The Frying Pan”
See what I mean?

Some trees and shade reappear closer to the beach. You can hear the ocean breakers and smell the salt air before you see the water.

We plop down on a large piece of driftwood, gulp from our Camelbaks and munch our sandwiches. Sea gulls squabble overhead. Gray chunks of clouds pile up on the horizon like jet-puffed marshmallows. A stiff breeze kicks up from the east.

Can’t wait to dip my tootsies in this!

We roam the beach after lunch, keeping an eye on the weather. Then it’s turn around and head back, usually arriving back at the trail head near dinner time.

Some destinations are worth the trek!
Wet Dog Cafe (now the Astoria Brewing Co.), here we come!

After a long day on the Fort-to-Sea Trail, Chris and I reward ourselves with dinner at our favorite Astoria restaurant: the Astoria Brewing Company (formerly the Wet Dog Café).

It’s been a beautiful, rainless day of enjoying the great outdoors of northern Oregon. We’re pleasantly tired as we amble back to the truck and head north and home.

The Fort to Sea trail is a beautiful hike, well worth the time. Unless you’re the Roadrunner, plan on a full day. Not bad for a “cloudy with a chance of meatballs” forecast. Not bad at all.

  • Rating: Moderate
  • Distance: 13 miles, round trip
  • Elevation Gain: 659 ft.
  • Leashed dogs okay

To be continued

Join us next time atop a San Diego landmark!

12+ Creative Ways To Share Some Outdoor Love!

posted in: Great Outdoors Month | 0

June 8, 2019 is National Get Outdoors Day! And no body does “outdoors” better than the Pacific Northwest! Here are 12+ creative ways to share some outdoor love:

  1. Celebrate the great outdoors on our oceans!
  2. Issue a road trip invitation using National Park Service (NPS) Shared Heritage Travel Itineraries, Wild & Scenic River story maps, or national heritage areas road trips.
  3. Mark the 51st anniversary of the National Trails System by yep, taking a hike!
  4. Use the hashtag #FindYourWay or #GreatOutdoorsMonth in your social media posts.
  5. Ready for something unusual? Consider Crescent Moon Ranch in Oregon. Fly fishing, golf, horseback riding, and alpacas! In Terrebonne, about three hours southeast of Portland.
  6. Give the gift of the great outdoors with a Washington State Parks gift certificate. Available in $5, $10 and $20 increments. Can be used for stays at campsites, cabins, vacation houses and more.
  7. Use Healthy Parks, Healthy People principles to highlight how being outdoors benefits body and soul!
  8. See Christine Barnes’s  Great Lodges of the National Parks. Here’s my review.
  9. Have little ones or know someone who does? Check out Awesome Outdoor Activities for Toddlers in the Forest.
  10. Visit a Washington State Park. More than 100 options! (Fee required.)
  11. Support Washington state parks and program by purchasing a state parks license plate.
  12. Drive Oregon’s Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. Sixty-six miles starting at Bend, OR. Don’t forget your camera/device and a picnic basket!
  13. Not the “hands-on” outdoor type? Not to worry. You can “armchair” The Great Outdoors vicariously with The Outdoor Channel. Jim Shockey’s Uncharted airs this month.

Finally, grab your copy of my newest E-book, Mining Coral at Mount Rainier. Just $3.99. For a limited time only!

… And A River Runs Through It

posted in: Great Outdoors Month | 0

Continuing our series on 30 West Coast Ways: Celebrating Great Outdoors Month in Washington, Oregon and California, join us for an awesome waterfall trial in Oregon.


Missoula, MT and Robert Redford don’t have a lock on A River Runs Through It.  The “crown jewel” of Oregon’s state parks system, Silver Falls State Park, is also in the running.

Silver Falls

Located about 25 windy miles east of Salem, Silver Falls State Park’s 9,000 acres offer camping, picnicking, a historic district, conference center, and 25 miles of multi-use trails friendly to horses, hikers, hikers with dogs, trail runners and mountain bikers. (Some trails are restricted. Be sure to check signage.)

The highlight of this park is the Trail of Ten Falls. We’re talking serious Wow Factor here.

This nationally recognized hiking trail snakes through a series of waterfalls along a rocky canyon thick with ferns, Big Leaf Maples, Western hemlock, Douglas fir and Alder trees. You pass behind several of the canyon’s most impressive gushers. (Hello, Hawkeye!)

The total loop trail is about nine miles. It offers several connecting points for shorter hikes, depending on what you want to see and how much time you have. For the best “Wow!” factor, you’ll probably want to start from the Stone Circle in the South Falls Day Use Area. Proceed along the Canyon Trail.

This trail might also double as the “International Trail.” The day we hiked this loop in September 2017, we met hikers from half a dozen different states as well as Canada, Poland, France, Australia, Switzerland, Germany, and the U.K. Also the entire coaching staff of the University of Minnesota.

Located near Salem, Oregon’s Silver Falls State Park includes the spectacular Trail of Ten Falls.

Official signage pegs the Trail of Ten Falls as “moderately difficult.” Nah. The trail includes some ups and downs and a few switchbacks. But the climbs are relatively short. The grades are mild. It’s a pretty easy hike for anyone in halfway decent shape. (If you’re not in halfway decent shape and tackle this trail, I won’t say “I told you so.” But I did tell you so.)

Also, the “No Trail” or “Stay Behind Rails” signs/barricades are there for a reason.

The trail of 10 falls winds BEHIND several waterfalls

Arrive early to avoid crowds, especially on clear, sunny summer weekends. We arrived just after opening – at 8:00 a.m. – and had the trail to ourselves for a couple hours. There’s a $5.00 day use fee. Self-pay stations are located in parking lots.

And yes, on the west and north portions of the trail, a river runs through it.

A Peace Arch and a Bucket List

posted in: Great Outdoors Month | 6

Chris peered at me. I peered back. “Well?” I gesture toward the truck. “What’re we waiting for?”

We exit the Alaska Packers Association Museum at Semiahmoo Park and bee-line to the Peace Arch State Park in Blaine, Washington. (For background, see Spit-in in Semiahmoo.)

With its two-lane road through downtown, quaint shops and restaurants, upscale residences and beach-hugging real estate, Blaine is about as far north as you can get in Washington State and still remain in the U.S. Blaine borders Canada. Its ocean-hugging real estate reminds me of the beautiful southern California town of Coronado.

We wind our way to the famous Peace Arch, which is both a state park and a national historic site. Rolling in to the parking lot, we adjust our Discover Pass on the rear view mirror, grab our Igloo cooler and step out on to the asphalt.

This park is amazing! Located half inside Washington State and half inside British Columbia, B.C., the park features some of the most beautiful grounds and rolling green hills ever.

The Canadian Port of Entry is just over my left shoulder.

“Check out these Rhodies!” Chris points out clusters of flowering blooms as we head toward a picnic table. The Rhododendrons light up the grounds like neon signs.

After lunch we follow the bricked path and signs to a hillside overlooking the Peace Arch. Silver shafts of afternoon sun pour out of the sky, bleaching the arch pearly white. Stately and august, the arch rises out of a trim green lawn smack dab in the middle of the highway, right between the U.S. Port of Entry and the Canadian Port of Entry.

U.S. Side of Peace Arch

“This is so cool!” I crow. We pause for the usual obligatory pictures on the U.S. side of the arch, dash a few feet to the other side and repeat the process on the Canadian side.

“Look, Ma! I’m in CANADA!” I wave at no one in particular. The arch straddles both U.S. and Canadian borders and commemorates the long friendship between these two great nations and the longest undefended border in the world.

“Look Ma! I’m in CANADA!”

The park is marinated in kaleidoscopic beauty on both sides of the border: trees, ferns, flowers, art work.

After about a million photos or so, Chris ambles back to the truck. I tarry a bit, striking up a conversation with a Border Patrol Agent walking the park on the U.S. side. He’s young, dark haired and sun-glassed. “Excuse me,” I smile and gesture to a saw-toothed mountain range east of Mount Baker. “Do you happen to know what mountains those are?”

He stops, following my hand. “Well, that’s Mount Baker over there,” he points to the snowy colossus to the west. “But I haven’t quite been here long enough to figure out what those other peaks are. You can always Google it.” He fishes out his phone but no luck. I make a mental note to check on-line when we get back to our hotel.

We swap horror stories about threading through Seattle’s horrendous downtown traffic – “everybody hates going through there. What a nightmare!”

“If we could chopper over that whole city and skip the I-5 entirely, we would” I reply, rolling my eyes. I mention that we’re visiting from southwest Washington for our 36th anniversary and this is our first visit to Blaine and Whatcom County.

“Congratulations,” he smiles. Pausing, he adds, “Do you know if you’ll be in the area for dinner?” He checks his watch. It’s mid-afternoon.

“Maybe,” I say. “Can you recommend a good place for dinner?” He recommends several and includes directions. I ask a few more tourist-type questions. He answers. We shake hands and I head back to the truck.

“I wish we had more time. I could spend a week here!” I tell Chris in the parking lot.

Chris nods as he tickles the ignition. ““Amen to that! I just can’t get over how beautiful this place is! There’s so much to see and do.”

“We’ll have to come back when we have more time – and our passports.”

Chris puts the truck in drive and we roll out of the parking lot. “Agreed. That’s going on our bucket list for sure!”

Join us for another “bucket list” adventure as we head to Oregon tomorriw for part five of our June series: 30 West Coast Ways: Celebrating Great Outdoors Month in Washington, Oregon and California.

Spit-in in Semiahmoo

Continuing our series on 30 West Coast Ways: Celebrating Great Outdoors Month in Washington, Oregon and California, we’re nipping north to Washington State to visit Semiahmoo Bay, Semiahmoo County Park, and the Semiahmoo Spit Trail.

Warmed by a platinum sun, the sand sucks at my feet as one sandal sinks into the grainy beach, is picked up, then sinks again. It’s slow going. Especially since they are lots of broken sea shells on this beach. But I don’t mind. Here, the day strums out a tune slow and mellow, like an old Country/Western ballad on a Gibson guitar.

White Rock, Canada across from Semiahmoo Bay.

After grabbing some photos, Chris and I clamber off the rocky beach at Semiahmoo County Park in Blaine, Washington, stroll back to the truck, and grab our hiking boots.

Lacing into our boots, we watch a mom caution two young children not to wander off. A thin young man in blue jeans and flip-flops glides past on a bicycle, cell phone pressed to his ear. A gray-haired couple pulls broad hat brims low against buttery sunshine as they unpack their lunch on a picnic table near the water.

A half hour later, clouds splinter. Gray skies are on the run. Seagulls wheels and squabble overhead. A toothy patch of blue grabs the horizon, widens, and swallows the last shards of morning mist.

We decide to take a walk and strike out on the Semiahmoo Spit Trail. It’s a short, flat, paved trail with sweeping views of Mount Baker and the Semiahmoo Resort, where U.S., Canadian, and Washington State flags snap smartly in a crisp blue breeze.

How cool is this?

“How ‘bout some ice cream?” Chris suggests as we near the terminus of the spit trail and the Semiahmoo marina, gift shop and cafe. “Sure,” I reply.

Semiahmoo Marina. Blaine, WA.

We enter a combination gift shop – shells, knick-knacks, kites, carvings, and trinkets –  and snack shop. They don’t have ice cream cones. I settle on a fruit smoothie. Chris gets a Dove bar and a coffee. We grab our snacks and meander past the boats in the Semiahmoo Marina out to the end of the spit. A couple of ramshackle, rust-roofed canneries of yesteryear lean against pilings like drunken sailors on shore leave.

From Semiahmoo Bay you can see Point Roberts along the slate-gray headlands near White Rock, Canada. Glance east and glimpse more of the city of Blaine, Washington. It’s as far north as you can get in the state and still remain on U.S. soil. In between is a sharp shard of restless water. Today the ocean surges under a flawless canopy of cyan sky.

Flags at Semiahmoo Resort.

We finish our snacks and stroll past the Semiahmoo Resort. Then we retrace our steps back to the park and pop in to the Alaska Packers Association Museum.

“That’s White Rock, Canada,” a white-haired docent advises, gesturing across the bay.

The museum isn’t officially “open” yet. But the two elderly ladies let us inside, cheerfully answering questions about freeways, directions, and local attractions.

“Have you ever been to the Peace Arch in Blaine?” asks one lady, blue eyes crinkling.

– To be continued –

Beggaring Description: San Diego’s Balboa Park

“Hey! It’s culture, man!”

We’re celebrating Great Outdoors Month by highlighting some of the “best in the West” outdoor sites we’ve visited first-hand in Washington, Oregon, and California. Today’s we’re visiting my old hometown of San Diego! Yeah, baby! Ready? Set? Let’s go!

Some places are so beautiful and unique, they beggar description. Like San Diego, where I was born and raised and have lived long enough to brag about.

The park’s lily pond was a favorite when I was a kid. (Doing double-duty here campaigning for a local candidate 🙂 )

One of my biggest San Diego brags is Balboa Park. I’ve been to more parks in more states than you can shake a surfboard or a tube of Coppertone at. But San Diego’s Balboa Park is in a class by itself (not that I’m biased or anything, okay?).

Balboa clock tower!

We’re talkin’ 1,200 acres of Serious Awesome here! Especially if you’re up for a brisk outdoor walk on a glorious spring day when the sky pours out an infinite bowl of blue and the sunshine is unstoppable. (Which is pretty much every day in San Diego. But who’s counting?)

Balboa Park plaza as seen from the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.
See the statue of El Cid?
The green median is where Santa’s sleigh and reindeer put in an appearance every Christmas season (or at least they used to).

Overlooking downtown San Diego, Balboa Park is an “urban cultural park” named in honor of Spanish-born Vasco Nuñez de Balboa. He was the first European to spot the Pacific Ocean while on exploration in Panama. The park’s original acreage was set aside in 1868. It was the site of the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition.

One of 16+ Balboa Park museums.

Today, the park’s 1,200 acres are home to more than 16 museums, art galleries, multiple performing arts venues, lovely gardens, trails, and many other creative and recreational attractions, including the world-famous San Diego Zoo. Also stunning fountains and gardens, the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, multiple museums, restaurants, ethnic Houses of Hospitality, a Spanish village art center, the Starlight Theatre and Starlight Bowl, a carousel, and a towering bronze statute of… El Cid Campeador.[1]

El Cid!

The park is also the site of the internationally acclaimed, Tony Award-winning Old Globe Theater, one of the most esteemed regional theaters in the country. (Yours truly attended many performances at this beautiful venue.)

Anyway, back in the day, Balboa Park was lit up like a proverbial Christmas tree for the Christmas season. Santa, his sleigh and eight plastic reindeer pranced along the grassy median just outside the park’s famous Spreckels Organ Pavilion. Double rows of lights blinked along the Cabrillo Bridge[2] near the El Prado/museum complex. The Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke was depicted in booths with life-sized statues along the organ pavilion.

Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

Lively and quick, my two brothers and kid sis and I never tired of taking in the whole enchanting display as the clock tower chimed Christmas carols at regular intervals. Even park fountains seemed ready to break into song.

Park plaza. Clock tower in background. It chimes every hour, on the hour!

So you may understand why “Balboa Park!” was my first choice when my kid sister asked me where I wanted to go when visiting from our now-home state of Washington a couple years back. If you’ve ever been to this fabulous park, you get it. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, now would be good.

Fun in the sun at San Diego’s beautiful Balboa Park!

For more on San Diego and Balboa Park, see: Hard Night: Growing Up in the Land of Endless Summer. By Yours Truly.

Join us next time for our third installment of 30 West Coast Ways: Celebrating GREAT OUTDOORS MONTH in Washington, Oregon, and California.

[1] Most people think it’s Balboa. It’s not.

[2] The structure can be seen from the Cabrillo Freeway (State Route 163), which is located on the floor of the canyon, 120 feet below. Construction of the freeway through the canyon below the bridge was completed in February 1948. Traffic on the bridge is not visible from the freeway due to the unusual height of the bridge, which is dictated by the topography of the canyon. El Prado crosses the bridge at the same level as the ground on either end of the bridge, while SR 163 passes beneath it at approximately the level of the original canyon floor.

How Does Your ‘Huntington’ Garden Grow?

posted in: Great Outdoors Month | 0

“How ‘bout we drive up to the Huntington Library and Gardens tomorrow?” husband Chris suggested between bites of spaghetti and meatballs. “I bet the flowers are at peak bloom. And maybe the Japanese gardens will be open this time” he enthused, blue eyes crinkling.

 “Let me think about it,” I replied lethargically. “I’m pretty tired.”

It was a Friday night in the mid-1980s. I had just wrapped up a hectic week cranking out press releases, feature stories, radio spots and interviews connected to my job as a staff writer in the Office of Public Information and Marketing at a private university in southern California. Navigating L.A.’s tangled freeways and traipsing around outside in southern California’s summer heat wasn’t high on my hit parade of Great Ideas for a Saturday.

“It’s been, what, a year since we were last there?” Chris continued, undeterred by lack of enthusiasm. “Maybe we could pack a picnic lunch, and then roam around the fountains and art galleries.” I nodded absently. “It’ll be a blast!” he crowed, chasing a meatball around his plate with a shard of garlic bread.

“Right. A blast,” I shrugged non-comittally. Part of me just wanted to pull up the covers and sleep in the next day. But the great outdoors and world-class botanical gardens tugged at another part…

The next morning I packed a picnic basket, blanket, and a thermos of lemonade. We nosed the truck onto the I-5 freeway and hooked northeast on the I-710 to San Marino, home of the world-famous Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The City of San Marino is located about 12 miles north of downtown Los Angeles. We were living in La Mirada at the time, a Los Angeles suburb hugging the Orange County line. It was about 25 miles to San Marino and the Huntington. Via its web site:

Huntington Library & Gardens, San Marino, CA. Possibly near the California Garden.

 “The Huntington is an institution that supports and promotes the appreciation of, as well as research and education, in the humanities, the arts, and botanical science.”

It includes:

Unloading in the parking lot, July in southern California hit us like a blast from a fire hose. A moment later we were intercepted by a white-haired, bespectacled security guard. “No picnicking allowed!” he barked, pointing at the picnic basket. “You’ll have to put that back or exit the premises.”

We pulled up short. Well good morning to you, too, bub I muttered under my breath. I smiled sweetly and chirped, “Where does it say that?”

“On the sign.”

We looked around, heads swiveling left and right. “What sign?”

That sign!” Mr. Barker waved at a Lilliputian sign tangled in a snarl of eucalyptus branches.


I suppose we could’ve argued the point, but why bother? Good thing we had a big breakfast Chris observed as we returned the picnic basket to the truck, did an about-face, and sauntered toward the entrance.

That inauspicious introduction soon faded as we meandered through the Huntington’s carefully manicured lawns, sparkling fountains, multi-hued lily ponds and lush gardens.

Purchased in 1903 by Henry E. Huntington, The Huntington was originally the San Marino Ranch, a working ranch with citrus groves, nut and fruit orchards, alfalfa crops, a small herd of cows, and poultry. Today, the estate is home to 16 spectacular themed gardens spread across 120 acres.

“The Huntington” includes 16 themed gardens spread across 120 acres. This is in the Japanese Garden.

We roamed every one, including palm, ranch, jungle, Japanese, desert, camellia, herb and Australian, Californian and. Our favorites were the Shakespearean, Japanese, and rose gardens. With its perfumed clouds of flowers, the latter featured kaleidoscopic blooms in virtually every color of the palette.

Evening rang down a curtain on day, purpling the Huntington grounds in shadow. A slim breeze blew in off the Pacific, dropping temperatures a few degrees. Chris and I ambled back to the parking lot to retrieve our picnic basket and eat elsewhere.

If I’d known that our mid-1980s visit to the famed Huntington Library and Gardens would be our last, I would’ve walked slower. Breathed Deeper. Taken more pictures. It’s a great outdoor adventure, with plenty of culture tucked in, too!

We moved the next year. And haven’t been back.

If you happen to trip on over to Los Angeles, be sure to look up San Marino and the Huntington Library and Gardens. A return visit is still on our bucket list.

Join us next time for our next installment of 30 West Coast Ways: Celebrating Great Outdoors Month in Washington, Oregon, and California.

Japanese garden bridge credit: FLickr – Chris Goldberg. (CC BY-NC 2.0 license)

15 Easy Ways to Enjoy GREAT OUTDOORS MONTH!

June is jam-packed with all kinds of splendiferous specialness (new word I just made up): Wedding. Anniversaries. Graduations. Father’s Day. The first day of summer. And GREAT OUTDOORS MONTH! Yeah, baby! Are you as excited as I am?

Here are 15 easy ways to celebrate Great Outdoors Month in the Pacific Northwest! Let’s rock ‘n roll, friends!

  1. Visit Mount Rainier National Park. Don’t make me explain this.
  2. Hike to Comet Falls. Spray Falls. Silver Falls. Myrtle, Narada, Ranger, or Chenius Falls. Carter, Madcap, or Christine Falls… See my post on 6 Best Waterfall Hikes at Mount Rainer.
  3. If you’re in or near Grays Harbor in southwest Washington, don’t miss Johns River Wildlife Area, Damon Point, Makarenko Park, or the Olympic Rain Forest and Lake Quinault. It doesn’t get much better than that.
  4. Look at the stars. Find some place quiet at night, away from city glare. Bring a chair and just look up. A constellation chart may help. Pro tip: The Ohanapecosh bridge on the east side of Mount Rainier National Park.
  5. Picnic. The Rooster Rock State Park in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge is perfect! (Day use fee required.)
  6. Check out Oregon’s Waterfall Corridor. We’re talkin’ seriously awesome!
  7. Visit a Wildlife Refuge or Reserve. Two of my favorites are the Billy Franks, Jr. Nisqually Wildlife Reserve and the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.
  8. Visit Oregon’s Silver Falls State Park and its Trail of 10 Falls. Yowza!
  9. If you’re near the Washington State Capitol of Olympia and hankerin’ for a hike, a picnic, playgrounds, or some choice views of the Olympic Mountains, pop in to Priest Point Park and the Ellis Cove Trail.
  10. Visit Lake Cushman in Olympic National Park. Note that most of the hikes here are either “moderate” (if you’re part Yeti) or “strenuous.” If you’re not up to hamstring-hollerin’ climbs, camping options also abound.
  11. Go camping.
  12. If you’re allergic to camping, fire up the ‘ole backyard barbecue and char some burgers or singe some marshmallows. Works for me!
  13. Read just about anything by Gary Paulsen. Don’t know where to start? Try Hatchet. An old favorite.
  14. Visit Mount Saint Helens. For choice views of Windy Ridge and Mounts St. Helens, Rainier, and Adams, take the trail to Bear Meadow.
  15. Pick some flowers (legally). Eat outside. Walk on the beach. Ride a bike. Roll down the car windows. Visit a zoo, garden, or park. Fly a kite. Toss a line in the water. Slow down. Relax. Rinse. Repeat.

For more ideas on outdoor activities you can enjoy with the fam and friends this month, visit me on Instagram at Thymelesswon.

Be sure to check back soon as we launch our new series for June: 30 West Coast Ways: Celebrating Great Outdoors Month in Washington, Oregon, and California. Featuring first-hand accounts of some of the Best in the West outdoor options, from the mountains to the sea.

Meanwhile, if you insist, here are a few more favorites:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What would you add?


Park-ing it in Whatcom

Tucked into the northwest corner of the Evergreen State, Whatcom County’s 2,503 square miles have a well-earned reputation for serene, stunning Northwest beauty. The county is bordered by Canada on the north, Okanogan County on the east, Skagit County on the south, and the Strait of Georgia on the west. It features some of the most stunning and scenic real estate in the state as well as some sweet local parks.

If you only have time for one county park in Whatcom County, check out Whatcom Falls Park

Whatcom Falls, in the county park that bears the same name.

Located in the City of Bellingham, the largest city in Whatcom County, this county park includes multiple waterfalls, picturesque ponds, marsh and song birds, picnicking, and a playground. Ditto a vast network of hiking trails that braid around Whatcom Creek. Trails are mostly brief, level, and easy, with lots of shade. Also a sweet little waterfall and stone bridge that was built by the WPA in 1939-40.

Swimming hole! Whatcom Falls Park.

If you continue hiking north and are willing to brave a busy street crossing you’ll find beautiful Bloedel-Donovan Park, where the lapping waters of Lake Whatcom kiss the shore. There’s also a popular leash-free zone for dogs at the south end of the park near Lake Whatcom. (For more, see: Whirling Through Whatcom: Washington’s Captivating Coastal County.)

Lake Whatcom!

It was warm when we visited this sweet little park in early May. The sky poured out an infinite bowl of blue. Sunshine bounced off waterfalls, lakes, and evergreens. We dropped our Camelbaks and lunched at a picnic table on the shores of Lake Whatcom while a cool breeze nipped the hems of some nearby conifers.

Talk about a sweet afternoon! We hope to make it back in the not-too-distant future.

Whatcom Falls Park is located at 1401 Electric Avenue in the Whatcom Falls Neighborhood.  There are two entrances to Whatcom Falls Park. To access the sports field and upper playground, use the entrance at 1401 Electric Ave. Or take I-5 exit 253 and drive 2 miles east on Lakeway Drive till you find the sign. It’s on the left near a traffic light.

When The Boat Needs Rocking

posted in: Just for Fun | 0

Ever jump into what looked like a great opportunity only to have it go south?

I did that recently. Someone contacted me for an interview. The focus was supposed to be about overcoming some difficulty or adversity. At least I thought that was what the blogger said.

We did a phone interview. She rattled off a bunch of questions. I responded. She said she’d write a draft and then send it to me for my input and corrections.

Homescreen Whatsapp Phone Ios Apps Iphone

So far, so good.

Then I received the draft. To put it charitably, it was cringe-worthy. I mean, it was… painful!

To be fair, the author said English is a second language. But this thing needed a major re-write. So I did. Submitted the revised version with profuse thanks from the original writer. Then I waited for the story to be posted.

When I received the email notifying me that the post was live, my reaction was kind of like:


That didn’t last long. Upon a second, closer re-read, my jaw hit the floor. The published post omitted every correction and revision I made. I mean, it was bad.

My initial response was to just Let. It. Go. I mean, geez.

It’s not like half the hemisphere is going to read this thing. Do I really want to rock the boat over this?

Short answer: Yep.

My name is in this post. It’s not only badly written, it’s inaccurate. Moreover, it’s not me. I have a right and probably a duty to speak up. Set the record straight. The original author may be okay with something this lousy. But I’m not. And I’m the subject. Yowza!

So I notified the author. I also told her I’d probably post my version.

So here it is:


I grew up in Sun Diego, where sun pours out of the sky by the truckload and nature surrounds us with tons of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. I’m also a lifelong book lover and hiker. I’ve hiked just about every day hike available at Mount Rainier National Park over the last 50 years or so (I’m way too young to be that old.) I also write, read, and manage a hiking blog. You get the picture. I love the outdoors and have spent a lot of time out in the sun. It took its toll.

With the fam at Mission Bay in 1972.

In 2013 I went to the doctor to check an odd patch of skin on the tip of my nose. My dermatologist did a biopsy. I was diagnosed with a form of skin cancer called Micronodular Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC).

MOHS micrographic surgery, a cutting-edge technique with an excellent success rate, was scheduled. I couldn’t help wondering how I’d look post-op.  The success rate for MOHS surgery is about 90%, so the odds were in my favor. But we’re not talking about an incision and scars on a shoulder, an arm, or my back. We were talking about surgery on the tip of my nose. The first thing you see. My face.

It took two surgeries, one right after the other, for the path screen to come back clear. This meant they got all the cancer cells! Post-surgery, the nurse asked if I wanted to see my face. I still have no idea why I said “Yes.” But I did. She handed me a mirror.

Big mistake.

With 50 sutures from my eyebrow to the tip of my nose, I looked like something out of Frankenstein. The swelling and bruising hadn’t even kicked in yet. But the next words out of the surgeon’s mouth weren’t exactly comforting:

“You’ll probably never want to be photographed up close.”

Apparently the doc was absent the day they taught “bed side manner” in med school. Anyway, she also said it would take about a year for my wound to heal completely. Also that although the redness and scarring would fade with time, they would never go away completely. 

“Great. How am I going to walk around looking like this?”

Post-surgery and recovery, I became very self-conscious about my nose. I felt like people were staring at my nose and scars, instead of seeing me for who I am. Emotionally, it took a toll. But with the kindness and support of my husband, kids, and my good dog, Kimber, I was eventually able to embrace my new me. I am flawed, but I accept who I am.

My good dog, Kimber. Ain’t she a beauty?

“If God had a fridge…”

My faith in God’s infinite goodness and grace also helped me through this challenging time. I was and am often reminded that although I walk through the valley, I need fear no evil thing, because He is with me and He comforts me. Author Max Lucado put it like this:

“If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning… Face it, friend. He is crazy about you!”

Beauty comes in many shapes and sizes

One day I made a decision that I was not going to allow my scars to define me. My exterior and my face are only one part of who I am.  I decided that true beauty grows with age because it’s internal, not external. I believe you become more beautiful as internal qualities become more seasoned and are put into practice. I also decided that I wasn’t going to hide indoors when the Great Outdoors, the trails and more adventures were calling!

For example, about a year ago I came home from a routine physical. I felt great at 59 years bold. “You’re really healthy,” the doc confirmed. “Keep up the good work.”

My son and I went outside to take some photos. “Hey Mom,” Josiah said. “What are you going to do with all these pictures?”

“I don’t know,” I shrugged. “I haven’t really thought about it.”

“You oughtta open an Instagram account so you can post this stuff. Also all the photos you take when you’re hiking.”

“I’m too old for that”

I was like: “Are you kidding me? Instagram??!! That millennials thing? I’m gonna be 60 next year. I’m too old for that.”

“I DARE you to open an Instagram account” Josiah persisted. “I double dare you!”

Well. Who can resist that?

And that’s how my Instagram account, Thymelesswon, was born. (Hi, doc!)

“Hi doc!”

A decision

I also decided I wasn’t going to let “cancer survivor” define me. Or slow me down. For instance, books and reading have always been a huge part of my life.

In 2018, I set my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal at 250 books in one year. Everyone said, either directly or indirectly, that I couldn’t do it.

Watch me!

My internal response? Watch me. Frankly, I’ve never been a big fan of “aim lower.” There’s nothing that motivates me more than having someone insist I can’t do something. That just revs me up to knuckle under. Dig deeper. Go farther, faster. Throttle up. So I quietly revised my reading goal for 2018 to 365 books in one year.

Going “faster, farther”:
383 books in one year!

I not only cleared that benchmark, I exceeded it, reading 383 books in one year. The jet fuel that propelled me across the reading finish line? The dubious looks and raised eyebrows from those who implied or otherwise indicated I couldn’t do it. Kind of like what my surgeon said about being photographed up close.

Joy is a Choice

I’ve learned a lot on this journey and I continue to learn. Like joy is a choice! We can’t always control our circumstances. But we can choose how we react to them. It’s part of our story.

You have a story to tell. The world needs to hear it.  Why? Because you’re one of a kind. No one else sees the world quite like you do. By sharing our stories, we can learn and grow together. It takes openness, vulnerability and risk. But have you noticed? Rewards almost never come without risk. Besides, your story may be exactly what someone else needs to hear. Your story may encourage them on their own journey and help them choose joy along the way, scars and all.

That’s why I’m sharing mine. 

Image credit: Sinking boat