October Surf

After months of prep and painting we finally gave ourselves permission to pause on the house and go for a much anticipated surf vacation. A mini trip to the Washington coast was exactly what we needed. We had roughly scouted out where to go, and decided on Grayland Beach state park…just south of where we would surf in Westport.

Friday afternoon Matt picked me up from work in a SUPER full car and we headed to the coast with no visibility out out windows. Camping in a mini cooper is quite a feat. But hey, when you only have one vehicle you work with what you have!

A mere 2.5 hours later and we were in Westport! First stop: a surf shop to get the lay of the land. We inquired about boards and surf breaks and then went to check out the jetty.

What a great spot! It was cloudy and foggy that afternoon but the weekend forecast was for warm, sunny weather. And SO MANY sand dollars! You could not go more than a few steps without reaching for another one!

Our campsite was great and had easy access to the beach. Next time we may try out one of the yurts.

Day one of surfing was fun, but hard. The current was pushing pretty hard south and the surf was really mushy and fast. It was exhausting to get yourself out far enough to catch a cleaner wave. We both had a great time though and were totally wiped and sporting sunburned faces out when we headed to dinner.

Sunset from our campground. We drank tea and watched it go down…and saw A GREEN FLASH! This elusive phenomenon has been on my family’s hit list for YEARS and we finally saw one!!! So cool!

Sunday was a down day and thank goodness…we were exhausted! We decided to explore the area and took a drive up to Moclips and the other seaside towns to the North. We stopped for clam chowder and ice cream in Ocean Shores before heading back to Grayland for a long beach walk.

Monday was the highlight though. After an ok breakfast at the Blue Bouy we stopped by the surf shop for boards. We grabbed two long boards and hit the road.

We got to the beach and saw exactly what we were hoping for: clean, easy, long breaks with no current. Beautiful!

I spent the morning catching wave after wave while Matt struggled with the other board. At lunch we swapped and then he was having all the success! Eventually even getting out to the “real” lineup at the back and catching big green waves like a pro! It was incredible to see how far we have come! Unfortunately I did not have better luck with the second board either. For some reason neither of us could catch a wave on it even though it was a bigger, longer board. The balance we could just not get down. Goes to show that we need to try out boards before we buy as they are NOT equal!

We surfed until nearly 5, showered and headed back to camp for the sunset and dinner. What a sunset it was! Probably one of the top 5 of my life. Seriously, how spectacular is this?!:

What a wonderful getaway. No cell service, awesome waves and only a few hours from home. We are already itching to go back!

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July 4th

The 4th of July: a pinnacle of summer fun. Lemonade, fireworks, BBQs, lawn games, maybe a campfire all come to mind. For many of us the the PNW this has not been the record for the 4th. The weather forecast usually promises sun about 10 days out, and then ends up being drizzly and 60 degrees on the actual day. Not ideal.

This year was an exceptional exception to this Seattle “rule”! We were camping at the family lake property on the Kitsap Peninsula and it was between 85 and 95 all weekend long. Perfect for camping sans rain-fly, running around in swimsuits and lots and lots of water time. The lake water was super warm and clear this year, and we spent hours splashing around like big kids. Paddle boating, swimming, water Frisbee toss, and making good use out of the neighbors floating raft with waterslide and diving board.

We chowed down on hot dogs, fire roasted corn and s’mores (and steamed broccoli because we like to get our veggies in!) and then were treated with a surprise apple pie! The neighbor, Mike, brought over a fresh-out-of-the-oven homemade apple pie, complete and homemade vanilla ice cream and a shaker of extra cinnamon! What a treat!

It was a spectacular, HOT 4th of July!IMG_5018[1] IMG_5163[1]  IMG_5175[1]IMG_5059[1]

Summer Finale: Surfing with Seals

Leaves are starting to turn. That was the first observation we made as the pack mini cooper zipped down the Washington coast. Fall is in the air. This was definitely an end of summer trip.

Matt and I took five glorious days to adventure the Oregon Coast. Camping, road tripping and most of all: surfing! After two great trips to Todos Santos we were ready to legitimize ourselves as surfers and tackle local, cold water.

Months ago we picked the week, and then managed to snag 4 nights at Nehalem Bay State park for camping. Those reservations fill up WAY in advance! We loaded the car, crossed our fingers for good weather and waves and set off.

Our campsite was good. What you would expect from an RV filled state park, but it did have hot showers, running water and was a quick 5 minute walk to the beach. We were blessed with dry weather, and even two days of sunshine.

The beach walk from our site was beautiful. Miles of fine grained sand, waves and treasures to find. We had fun running from the tide changes, taking photos and dipping our toes in the freezing cold Pacific. We were planning to surf in this? Are you nuts?!

Surfing was spectacular. The first day we rented two beginner boards like what we were familiar with from Mexico. We hiked in to Short Sands beach at Oswald West State Park and bundled up in our wet suits. Fully covered except for our faces, we were totally comfortable in the water. Not even a goose bump! We tackled the waves on our beginner boards and by the second day had leveled up to a REAL epoxy hard top board. Surfers we can legitimately say we are!

There were even seals playing in the surf with us. It was incredible. We are totally hooked.

Dinners were grilled melts with tomato soup. Smore’s for dinner. We hiked out to the beach for breakfast picnics on a sand dune.

On our surf recovery day we ventured along the coast to find a lighthouse, some new beaches, more supplies and ice cream at the Tillamook factory.

Oregon, you are a stunner. We will be back for more surf soon.

Details:

Camped at: Nehalem Bay State Park

Surf rentals: Cleanline Surf (Cannon Beach)

Surf beach: Short Sands

PNW Summer Adventure: Camping, Wedding & Anniversary in the North Cascades

The moment our laundry was done it was packed up again for another weekend adventure. Towels were crammed into our beach bag, tents folded, cooler stocked…we were off for an anniversary/wedding/camping weekend in the North Cascades!

Our first stop was a visit at my parents in Ferndale. We played croquet, ate tons of food, explored the garden, visited with visiting grandparents and cousins, prepped camping meals and had some good down time. And I made pie crust. Sour cream super easy and amazingly delicious pie crust!

Early Friday morning we jumped in the car (only an hour later than planned…) and drove out Hwy 20 to North Cascades National Park. It was a glorious day for a drive! Our goal was a campsite at the Colonial Creek Campground. After one loop around the campground we began to get nervous…there were hardly any empty sites left! We managed snag a private site with HUGE trees…not exactly riverfront but still pretty nice. Our mini looked tiny next to those trees!

After setting up camp and filling water bottles we packed our for our first hike: Diablo Lake. 7.5 miles from the Diablo Dam all the way up to Ross Lake’s dam. Beautiful hike, saw only 4 other people. Perfect! We were hot and dusty from our hike, and with no showers at the sites what were we to do? Swim in the lake of course! Yes, we were a little nuts to jump in the FRIDGID glacial waters (hey, the color looks like the Caribbean!) but it felt so good!

 

Dinner was epic. Homemade buffalo kabobs with mushrooms, peppers and onions. Completed with corn on the cob, cucumber salad and champagne we have been saving from our wedding. With plastic camping wine glasses we toasted to two years of marriage!

 

The next morning we made pancakes and geared up for another hike, this time on the Thunder Creek trail. We trekked two miles along a beautiful river, crossed a bridge, and then made our way back to camp…to grab swimsuits and chacos! With our water –adventuring attire we ventured back down the path until we found a side trail to take us to the water. We waded across the wide, sparkling (ahem, FREEZING!!!) river to a beautiful rock sandbar. We splashed and swam and bodysurfed rapids until we could not feel our legs. It was SO COLD! But the sunshine was warm and we dried off quickly. Swimming in glacial rivers really makes you feel alive!

 

Refreshed and clean, we put on wedding clothes and drove over to the North Cascades Learning Center for my good friend and old apartment-mate’s wedding! Too much wine, a canoe-full of beer, lots of food, many friends I had not seen in ages, and topped off with karaoke…it was a fun night.

The next morning, not so fun. Poor Matt was cursed with a camping hangover. While he recovered I broke camp and loaded up the car for our drive back to Seattle. A quick stop at Costco for groceries, some gelato and a hot dog to share (great hangover food) filled every last space in the car. We managed to pull into the ferry line just as one was starting to load. Great timing!

As always, it felt so good to be home. We cleaned and unpacked. Watered the garden and visited with the kitties. And to celebrate our actual 2 year anniversary, we had leftover kabobs in the back yard. Matt gave me an antique sapphire necklace from the antique store on Vashon. 

Two years. It has been great. What a glorious end to an epic PNW summer weekend.

 

PNW Summer Adventure: Kayak Camping on Skagit Island

Friday was a milestone in our household: Matt’s final day at a job he really did not like. We had a cinnamon roll date to celebrate, and then took a final water taxi ride home together in the sunshine excited and light with this dark cloud lifted. What is next for him? We are not sure! For the moment house projects, relaxing and job searching. The goal? Take a break and figure out what he could really enjoy.

We spent the evening in a mad dash of packing, sorting, organizing and loading the car for a weekend adventure. Sea kayak camping!

The 6:25 boat pulled in with a stunning sunrise. We celebrated with a stop at the Original Bakery for bran muffins. Driving in Seattle is usually a miserable experience, but at that early morning weekend hour we zipped through town and up I-5 all the way to Deception Pass. And got their earlier than the rest of our group so we waited. And poached good waterfront parking spots.

When Ryan and Matt (not my Matt, another one) showed up with boats and dry bags it was another yard sale of stuff to pack up the boats. Everything fit, and when we were loaded and suited up it was time to push off! Our first real kayak adventure! Matt and I were in a double and Matt and Ryan each had a single.

It was a 2 mile paddle out to Skagit Island from the marina, and when we landed on the beach the campsite was occupied. Luckily the people camping were on their final day so we just hung around until they left. The site was epic!!! When we read “primitive site” we were expecting bare bones, and it turned out to have an outhouse, picnic table, fire ring AND waterfront views from the tents. SO AWESOME! There was a trail around the whole island and it was our private retreat for the next two days.

The first night we cooked dinner, made a fire (regretted that we did not bring smore’s stuff), played games and then I went to bed early. The boys all stayed up to play more games, watch stars and saw bioluminescence in the water!

We woke up to fog. Beautiful filtered light on our private island. Freeze dried breakfast pouch was on the menu and coffee from our inherited camping coffee pot. Nothing beats good coffee when you are camping!

With camp set we were able to go on a daytime paddle without extra weight. We took off around the North side of the Kukutali Preserve, and then headed south to Hope Island. A beach provided the perfect relaxing spot for lunch, exploration and naps before we headed back to Skagit Island. The scenery was beautiful. The water was nearly calm as a lake. Perfect paddling day.

After landing boats back on our island we headed out for a hike. The trail took us through thick salal, alongside waterfront cliffs, through a madrona forest, a dry desolate rock face and finally back through thick salal to our campsite. Great trek! The boys collected firewood while I took photos.

So now what do we do? Downtime on these camping trips is always the best part. The boys immediately all turned into 8 year olds tackling projects. Matt and Ryan went about making fire with sticks. My Matt moved driftwood around the beach to make a raft. He eventually called out for someone to come play with him so I joined my sweet husband on the raft in the FREEZING cold water of Skagit Bay. We had a ball!

Dinner that night was another camping freeze dried meal (I was really excited to try these!) of spaghetti and meat sauce. It was great! That was followed by more games, sunset watching, campfire and beach star gazing.

In the morning I woke up to eagle calls overhead. No fog, just brilliant sunshine that made the tent unbearably hot. Guess that is the price you pay for waterfront property!

We took the morning slow but eventually packed the boats and headed back towards Deception Pass and ultimately, home. After tying the boats up, sorting out wet gear and packing the cars, we celebrated a great weekend with burger and shakes at the Chuck Wagon Drive-In in Mt. Vernon. Great end to an epic weekend.

….

Now we are off on another adventure! The gear has been aired out, laundry done and the car packed once again. We are off to the North Cascades for a wedding and our 2 year anniversary weekend camping!

Persistence Pays Off!

It pays to check back!

Last spring we decided to do a surf/road/camping trip to the Oregon cost. On recommendations from some local surfing friends (thanks Anna and Heather!) we selected Manzanita, OR as our destination with the intent of trying out our cold water surf skills at Short Sands. Dates were picked, vacation applied for at work, and….well, there were no camp spots available. NONE. Zero. Apparently this place is in demand.

I decided to sit on it and see if we can up with a good backup. Hotels are great but add up quickly and we really wanted to camp.

Well today, on a whim, I rechecked the reservation website. ONE. SITE. AVAILABLE! Woohoo!! I snatched it up and am happy to report that we are camping at Nehalem Bay State Park in September!

It pays to be persistent! And after scouting out photos from Todos Santos last night to frame and hang up, I am really itching for some surf!

Memory Marathon

For us, this 4th of July was a five day weekend. Camping at the lake, a day at home, dinner with neighbors and finally wrapped up with Grandpo’s funeral and a recovery day at home. It was a marathon of creating new memories and digging up old ones. So much reminiscing, tears, and laughter. It was exhausting. But sunshine and picnics always help the recovery process.

So let me start with the holiday portion. For the 4th we hopped a ferry and drove out to Matt’s parent’s lake property on Tiger Lake…a short 40 minutes away from our island home. We spent the first night just the two of us, eating pizza by the fire and paddle boating around the still water.

The next afternoon friends started to arrive and the day turned into swimming, water fights, more paddle boating, campfires, games, hot dogs and fireworks. And rain. Dang rain! It was not hard and not constant but also not the brilliant sunshine that of course came right after the 4th. Oh Pacific Northwest how you are so reliable to have iffy 4th of July weather.

It was still a wonderful time.

On Saturday afternoon we headed back home to see the cats, water the garden and relax in the hot tub. By Sunday, the brilliant blue sky and sunshine was back. Curses! But we enjoyed it. I painted more of the deck, watered the garden again, and we took a walk to Wingehaven Park with Mexican popsicles in tow. It was hot.

Monday was a marathon day. We woke up, showered and loaded the car to make one final trip to Grandpo’s house in Tacoma for the funeral. The service was very nice, very Catholic, very Grandpo. All his grandkids and great-grandkids and grand-daughters-in-law (me and Emily) said something. I may be biased but I liked Matt’s tribute the most. He and Grandpo were very close, and his passing has been really tough. We motorcaded to the cemetery and said our final farewells complete with a taps and a rifle salute. It was my first visit to Matt’s grandma’s grave and we plan to visit both of them again next time we are down there.

After the service all the family piled back to Grandpo’s house to sort through stuff. Matt and I had visited last week and already picked a few sentimental things to take home and packed them up in the car. It is hard to sort through so much stuff. At 6:30 we all went to dinner and by 9:05 we were back home ready to collapse from exhaustion. What a day.

We felt so lucky to have an additional day of bereavement (and we are taking next Monday off too) to just be at home and collect ourselves. We put away all the camping stuff, had the second live vole brought lovingly in to run around our home (thanks kitties…), found homes for all our things from Grandpo, worked on the deck (me), played video games (Matt) and finally packed up a romantic and relaxing picnic to take to the beach.

We took a long drive around Maury Island (connected to Vashon) and found two new parks!

Then we drove out to Lisabella Park for a beach picnic dinner. Bread, wine, cheese, tomatoes, pickles, and fresh garden lettuce were on the menu. We also decided to bring out a jar of tuna stuffed peppers we brought back from Italy on our honeymoon. And a rum cake from Grand Cayman we had planned to give to Grandpo but was still in our pantry. Grandpo loved food, and this was a great way to reflect and honor him after a long weekend. We enjoyed the afternoon sunshine while sitting on warm, round stones and reminisced about Grandpo, the lake, our island and life. We are nearly at our 2 year anniversary, and only days away from four years of knowing each other. Life is good and precious, and nothing reminds you quite like slowing down to appreciate it.