Travel Advice: Wandering the PNW.

I don’t mind dirty fingernails, damp mornings, coffee in a tin cup and salty cheeks.

Sometimes my favorite noise in the quiet crunch of a wooded pathway.

I love finding new ways of seeing light through trees, leaves and moss.

Therefore, days spent exploring nooks and crannies of the Pacific Northwest are some of my favorite.

Two years ago I dreamed of visiting Seattle and Portland for the first time.

Funny how I said a lot of prayers about new adventures, opportunities to see new places and someone to love–and God handed over a woodsy city boy from Washington state.

This week marks my FOURTH trip to the PNW over the course of the last year.

In the funny rhythms of life, last Wednesday when I touched down in Portland it was also one year to the day since I first touched down in Seattle. August is a good time to visit the Northwest.

In the midst of seeing Andy’s new life in Portland, I’ve also already trekked back up to Seattle this past weekend, and am looking forward to next weekend on the Oregon Coast.

While I don’t have pictures QUITE ready to share. I do have some tips that I have learned over the past year if you’re planning a trip to the PNW any time soon (but honestly, I think these tips can go for any travel adventure):

  1. Do not pack an umbrella. The locals will laugh at you. Opt for that lightweight North Face parka instead.
  2. Do bring a lot of layers because it’s not rare to have a week where there are 90-degree days followed by 60-degree ones.
  3. Go see the tourist spots; but don’t make them your die-by priorities. That always gives you a reason to come back.
  4. Wander into neighborhoods you’ve never heard of fearlessly. Odds are that you’re going to find something you’ve never known you were looking for–and it makes for a way better story when you get back anyway. Hello, we’re explorers here — not just visitors.
  5. Take notes of the places that you visit. That wine bar that had the BEST view? Write it down. You’ll want to remember one day and there’s no guarantee that you won’t forget to take the receipt out of your pants pocket before those babies go through the spin cycle.
  6. Find a good camera. Yes, our iphones are a gift to on-the-fly photography. But you paid a good buck to be here. Take photos worth putting in an album. 
  7. Ask a stranger to take your photo. I know that sounds weird. But your kids don’t want to see all your selfies one day. They may however like to see a nice photo taken of you in a scenic or historic place — where you can actually see you + the background in good proportion.
  8. Don’t eat out for every meal. Not only do you feel like a whale by the end of your trip; but you maybe miss some of the nice al fresco parts of the city you’re in. For example, find a farmers market — get something local. If you don’t have a kitchen accessible, eat something that doesn’t require cooking. Picnics are a fun excuse and if you don’t want to cook or make your own; find a good local grocery store that likely sells pre-made food. You’re doing your stomach, wallet and overall experience all favors.
  9. Read the fliers on light poles. Not every evening of your trip may be jam-packed (and honestly, even if you love itineraries like me — try to avoid it — I PROMISE you that you will still have fun and not waste time) and for those evenings you have more time; what better way to spend it than to walk down the street to the Viking Boat Festival you had never heard of? Or maybe that adjacent neighborhood is having free family movie night down by the Willamette River. Find experiences you wouldn’t otherwise plan.
  10. Prepare yourself to want to return. You’re never going to get to do everything you want. All of the hikes, wineries, breweries, festivals, shows, attractions, ‘hoods. You’re never going to do it all in your trip like you plan. So instead, just plan for this to be your FIRST trip. Do and see as much as you can; but don’t make your itinerary make you miss an experience in the place you’re at. Stay longer if you need to at a restaurant. Wander further down a road. Add an extra stop on your hike. And then just find a way to return later. Because, let’s face it. When you visit, you’re going to fall in love anyway.

No matter where you’re going, when or why–take a deep breath–and if you’re just BEING. Odds are, you’re doing it right.

That’s what vacation is all about!

I can’t wait to show and share the most MAGICAL hike I’ve ever taken later this week. (Thank you, Oregon.)

But before that, I need to go find some Portland tacos….

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Playing Katniss Everdeen in Dupont Forest.

Fun thing about my going to Boston to study Broadcast Journalism? My interest actually stemmed from some experience working in background acting in the blossoming North Carolina film industry. (I even had acting lessons. Hard core, I know.) I had one of the best nights of my life in the same room as Mark Schwahn (One Tree Hill, anyone?) shooting a bar scene outside of Charlotte. Coincidentally with the same casting company that had also cast for The Hunger Games which had shot in North Carolina months before that time. I worked with a bunch of Hunger Games background actors and, like I already said, had one of the best nights ever.

Fast forward three years and I had upgraded to playing Katniss in my old friends’ movie––but in all actuality, I was just frolicking on one of the best WNC hikes I’ve been on in a while. On the natural set for a handful of scenes from the movie.

Dupont State Park

Photo cred: The lovely Sarah Bennett.

And my only qualifications at this point to play the part were actually that:

– I was wearing a braid.

– I had on fast running shoes.

– I have a degree in broadcast journalism now. So. . . I’m qualified to be on camera.

There were actually no tributes though. And no murdering. And for all that matter, the only camera was my iOS-5c.

Just beautiful waterfalls, gravel treks, families with dogs, spots for lunches on wide rocks and familiar sights from the big screen of years past.

Dupont State Forest It was an excellent way to pass a Saturday with Sarah. The teasing 50-degree weekends of North Carolina that fools you into thinking you can wear a t-shirt only for you to be cold–BUT realizing that it is still perfect hiking weather.

Dupont State Forest offers about four and a half miles of scenic views in Brevard, NC. A beautiful loop that takes you through some gorgeous woods and babbling water.

High Falls, Dupont State Forest

High Falls, Dupont State Forest

Seen above is High Falls. It is both gigantic and loud. Sarah and I trekked off the trail and out onto the rocks to grab these photos. It was delightfully fun and totally within the bounds of rules. But, still made us feel like risk takers. That said, it wasn’t a risk-taking hike by any means. If you’re looking for a moderately easy hike in WNC, this is one of your sure bets.

Five total waterfalls (that’s a lot) and a predominantly downhill hike. I’m not sure how much more you can ask for. Entertaining AND pretty easy.

Triple Falls, Dupont State Park

Triple Falls. This guy counts as three.

OK, Maybe an actual Jennifer Lawrence sighting? But you can’t have it all, they say.

This is the area where Katniss helps injured Peta. No sightings to report.

This is the area where Katniss helps injured Peta. No sightings to report.

It does appear that while the film industry in North Carolina has suffered since the high days of The Hunger Games, Dupont State Forest has profited from the increased tourism. There is a very helpful staff and new visitor center to point you on the right trail.

We ended the day with some tasty soup at Mayberry’s followed by a delicious American IPA at Brevard Brewing Company. Mayberry’s had a nice menu and very, very good biscuits with their soup. Brevard Brewing had a lot of brew options and at $3.75 a pint––again, I’m not sure what more you could ask for. I totally recommend the 10-minute drive to explore downtown Brevard. It’s the cute small town vibe in WNC that you’re looking for. I promise. The quintessential hike and brew Saturday that North Carolina gabs about.

Brevard Brewing Company

Post-hike brews with my Boston-to-NC bestie Sarah.

It’s days and adventures like this that really make me take a deep breath of NC. I’m so lucky for the time that I have here while I look for the next grand adventure. How lucky to have had the start here that has launched me on the trajectory that I’m headed.

Home is a very, very lovely place.

Getting healthy. Or, at the very least, trying.

Last week was the perfect storm of eating out. It was terrible (in the best way, of course). But it was at the least paired with some good workouts, a re-introduction to “Insanity,” a very strenuous 4.5-mile hike and finally a weekend-wrap up 5-mile run. Victory in physical forms. Less in eating forms.

But today, thanks to encouragement from officemate Victoria, I have a fun new water cup (seriously, we find motivation in the most simple ways) and am determined to up my water consumption.

I’m remembering to put on chapstick.

I’m lifting weights again.

Getting more sleep.

Going to paint my nails (it’s weird how that can make you feel more put together and focused).

And getting my butt to the gym in the morning. And hopefully, starting tomorrow, also in the evening. 10K is already on the calendar for April 6th and I’m feeling more and more confident for the half-marathon April 27th!

I figure with a 5-mile run this week, if I up my longest run by one mile each week I’ll have plenty of time to get up to par over the course of the next two months.

This girl refuses to be afraid of a swimsuit come the month of May.

John Muir on Hiking.

Climb The Mountain - Raw Art Letterpress

“Hiking – I don’t like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not hike! Do you know the origin of that word ‘saunter?’ It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, “A la sainte terre,’ ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.”