Umpqua National Forest, Oregon

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 Harvesting Oregon grapes, which isn’t technically a grape at all, but a bush in the barberry family.

Harvesting Oregon grapes, which isn’t technically a grape at all, but a bush in the barberry family.

 Also harvesting Salal berries. I love the taste of these berries (a complex mix of blueberries and blackcurrant).

Also harvesting Salal berries. I love the taste of these berries (a complex mix of blueberries and blackcurrant).

 If you press the stem side of a salal berry, the other side opens up and creates a beautiful fruit flower!

If you press the stem side of a salal berry, the other side opens up and creates a beautiful fruit flower!

  Salal berry gimlet   1 ½ oz London Dry Gin 1 oz lime juice 1 oz salal berry syrup  Shake 20 sec with ice, strain over fresh ice.

Salal berry gimlet

1 ½ oz London Dry Gin
1 oz lime juice
1 oz salal berry syrup

Shake 20 sec with ice, strain over fresh ice.

It was quite something to drive through the very smoky part of the Umpqua National Forest being escorted by a pilot car (with signs saying: Active Wildfires, DO NOT STOP). It was hard to get accurate information online about the air condition (it changed fast and the sites were not up to date) and we thought we could camp near the Umpqua River Trail and bike part of it (it's an epic trail), but most of the campgrounds were closed because of the fires. We came across this little gem of a campground just as we were starting to feel a bit discouraged. The air was so cool and fresh by the falls! Oregon is full of incredible places.

We ended up staying there 2 nights and except for a few people driving in to see the falls, stay 10 minutes and leave, we had the whole place to ourselves. We had hoped to go to the Umpqua Hot Springs, but the access road was closed and it was cooking hot anyways. 

2017 Northern Migration - The USA Part

 Trying to find  Deer Butte Hot Springs , OR.

Trying to find Deer Butte Hot Springs, OR.

 Found it. Don't go looking for it... it has become a foot bath.

Found it. Don't go looking for it... it has become a foot bath.

 The water was unusually high this spring and the rock wall that allows to control how much cold water you let in from the river was nowhere to be seen. It was the weirdest experience since the burning hot water from the hot spring was floating on top of the freezing cold water from the river. So our thighs were burning while our feet were freezing. We had to keep stirring the water non stop to make it bearable... not the most relaxing experience!

The water was unusually high this spring and the rock wall that allows to control how much cold water you let in from the river was nowhere to be seen. It was the weirdest experience since the burning hot water from the hot spring was floating on top of the freezing cold water from the river. So our thighs were burning while our feet were freezing. We had to keep stirring the water non stop to make it bearable... not the most relaxing experience!

 The smell from the Juniper trees at  Skull Hollow Campground  (Oregon) was amazing. It was the perfect place to camp to enjoy Smith Rock State Park.

The smell from the Juniper trees at Skull Hollow Campground (Oregon) was amazing. It was the perfect place to camp to enjoy Smith Rock State Park.

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 Smith Rock SP totally blew our mind. We were taken aback by how thoughtful and well managed the place is. Twenty years ago, it was pretty much only visited by climbers, in fact the bridge didn’t exist and you had to do a tyrolean across the Crooked River (prior to that you could drive and camp beneath The Monument.) The trail system is great, sustainable and enviro and people friendly. The climbing scene and vibe is great and everyone, climbers and non-climbers, is very friendly. On the left, Mathilde climbing 5 gallon buckets, one of the most popular 5.8s in the park.

Smith Rock SP totally blew our mind. We were taken aback by how thoughtful and well managed the place is. Twenty years ago, it was pretty much only visited by climbers, in fact the bridge didn’t exist and you had to do a tyrolean across the Crooked River (prior to that you could drive and camp beneath The Monument.) The trail system is great, sustainable and enviro and people friendly. The climbing scene and vibe is great and everyone, climbers and non-climbers, is very friendly. On the left, Mathilde climbing 5 gallon buckets, one of the most popular 5.8s in the park.

 Our beautiful camping spot at Frenchman Coulee, Vantage, WA. These are climbing towers you see at the back. They are called The Feathers (or the French Fries). I could see people climbing from my bed! In a few hours, we climbed 6 routes in this sector and another one on Agathla Tower.

Our beautiful camping spot at Frenchman Coulee, Vantage, WA. These are climbing towers you see at the back. They are called The Feathers (or the French Fries). I could see people climbing from my bed! In a few hours, we climbed 6 routes in this sector and another one on Agathla Tower.

 Aisha belaying JF. These girls are getting strong!

Aisha belaying JF. These girls are getting strong!

 Mathilde climbing House of Cards, 5.8, on Agathla Tower.

Mathilde climbing House of Cards, 5.8, on Agathla Tower.

 Arrowleaf Balsamroot, or the Okanagan sunflower. It's everywhere in the Spring.

Arrowleaf Balsamroot, or the Okanagan sunflower. It's everywhere in the Spring.

When we left Maple Canyon, we quickly worked our way up towards Bend, Oregon, to spend a few days with our friends. We had such a good time, that I didn't take a single picture! We went mountain biking at Phil's trailhead and ended up hiking a part of it in ankle deep snow (tourists!) and shared great meals and drinks! Bend has the most incredible selection of beers and I tasted one of my favorite IPA (RPM from Boneyard Brewery, on tap only). It took me a few years to really enjoy an IPA. For a while I called it skunk pee beer, but I now truly enjoy many IPAs.

I remember my dad telling me that there are some food that you need to taste 10 times before you start appreciating them, as he proceeded to give me a slice of baguette with a tiny piece of Roquefort. There was also brain, frog legs, sweetbread (ris de veau sounds much tamer in French), mussels... and the yearly lobster feast where everybody exclaimed when they cracked open the lobster and found that green stuff that they ate with great delight.

Let’s be honest here, none of this is a love-at-first-sight food, but they do grow on you – some of them at least - to the point that you’ll pay quite a bit of money for it. Think caviar. I’ll always remember the first time I tried black caviar (brought directly from Russia by a client of my family when I lived in Italy)... or when I had risotto al nero di sepia (Italian rice cooked in squid ink... and yes, it’s black).

So what makes a delicacy a delicacy? Is it simply that you have tasted/eaten it enough time with people you loved and that appreciated it that you end up loving it too? Is my brain reminiscing all the joyful dinners with interesting adult conversations that I was allowed to participate in when I was a young teenager and when I could have a little sip of delicious port with the blue cheese? Does my mind remember the pleasure my grandpa had in sucking the lobsters’s little legs that people had left in a pile in the middle of the table covered in newspaper? Do all these memories collide in that one first bite? What do you think?

Mountain Biking in Bend, OR

As usual, I only have pictures taken at the trailhead since I don't carry my big camera with me when moutain biking (one day, I will have a small mirrorless that will come with me everywhere I go!). I posted some phone pictures however on my personal Facebook page and on Road it up FB page. 

Phil's Trail system is one of the most popular mountain biking spot in Bend, and Phil's trail is a classic! When I read that if everybody would start mountain biking on a trail like this one, the whole world would mountain bike, I knew it was for me! I had a few headbutting moment with mountain biking in the last few months and I need a real fun ride to get back on the horse fully. Phil's trail was just what I needed! It was pure flowy non-technical fun!

It was cold (like 33 degree F cold, 6 degree Celcius) and we bundled up with 4 layers of wool and puffy coats before heading down the trail! 

We only had 4 days in Bend this time, but we will sure be back to ride more trails. On our list for next time: Mrazek, Deschutes River Trail, the Mackenzie River Trail and much more!

Tour of the Deschutes Brewery, Bend, OR

We got to taste some different types of malted barley and smell hops (the smell is amazing!).

The Brewery was voted best place to work by Outside Magazine in 2014! I can see why! They even have chef on the premise that prepares you whatever you want at any time of the day... Oh! And free beer too!! 

The Black Butte Porter is their flagship beer and it is pretty darn tasty!

There are MANY breweries in Bend, but the Deschutes Brewery is the old school patriarch. The original brewery and pub that was opened in 1988 by Gary Fish is still located on Bond Street in downtown Bend. The brewing facility on Bend's West side produces close to 200 000 barrels of beer per year, which makes Deschutes Oregon's number one craft brewer. Their beer is distributed in 28 states and 2 Canadian provinces (BC and Alberta). 

The tour was very interesting (and free! Make sure to reserve online) and includes 4 sample of beer. The children are welcomed and are even served homemade ginger ale and root beer! We particularly liked the Chainbreaker White IPA, the River Ale, the Chasin' Freshies Fresh Hop IPA (seasonal), the Hop Pale Ale and the Black Butte Porter. We heard the Obsidian Stout was great, but it was not available that day. I love that they use local hops, wheat and barley, and that they have a whole network of local farmers that come pick up the leftover soaked grains to give to their cows, and that they give some of the cows' meat in exchange to the Deschutes pub for the burgers (they also turn some of that used grain into veggie burgers for the pub as well!). They compost everything else and use crushed old glass to make new bottles. 

A day in Bend, Oregon

We sampled 10 of their beers and really liked the Pray for Snow, the Swill, the Big Daddy Fresh and the Apocalypse IPA.

Read their story. I love it. It is so Bend!! Big powder day? The "Gone Skiing" sign goes up. Too hot to work? Mandatory company float (down the Deschutes River). 

This is truly all you need.

A bookshop café? Yes please!

A dressed-up cyclocross race.

We had been wanting to visit Bend for many years already. We knew it was a cool laid-back Pacific Northwest town with great mountain biking and breweries, but that was about it. 

Bend is only just a few miles away from some of the best mountain biking trails, hiking trails and ski resorts in Oregon. Outdoor enthusiasts flock from far and wide for parks like Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint, skiers and mountain bikers to Mount Bachelor, and rock climbers to Smith Rock State Park.

I have no clue how 10 brewpubs and three breweries (with more set to open soon) stay in business in a city of 80,000 persons. There are even cycle pubs for a very entertaining way of seeing Bend’s breweries. 

For a city of its size, Bend has a remarkable array of good restaurants. And Dog Fancy magazine called Bend the most dog-friendly city in the country. It’s hard to say what the city doesn’t do perfectly.

For many who move there, the point is to step out of the rat race, slow down and enjoy the finer things in life.

So yeah. Bend is the place.

The Oregon dunes

When I told my friend Andy we wanted to see the Oregon Coast two years ago, he convinced me to stick with the mountains of Montana and Wyoming and the Utah and AZ desert. This time around, when I told him we were doing the coast he said: Why do you want to go there? Isn't the Oregon coast always gray and rainy? Of course not, I replied, a bit too quickly... 

Needless to say, I have been replaying this conversation in my head more than a few times in the last 3 weeks, as it rains almost non-stop...

On the bright side, the forest is green and lush, our hair is beautiful and curly, our skin, moist.

But our shoes smell like dead fish and there is sand everywhere (but especially in my bed).

 

 

The sense of purpose

I used to be so busy. I was, like many, sucked by the glorification of busy. It never was a 9-t-o-5-at-the-office-breaking-a-sweat-at-the-gym-before-soccer-practice kind of busy, but a make-everything-from-scratch-and-tell-wonderful-stories-by-memories-to-the-kids-with-homemade-needle-felted-puppets-while-they-wear-handnits-from-wool-I-dyed-with-plants-I-grew kind of busy. It was the good kind of busy, right? The one that is full of satisfaction. The one that gave me a sense of purpose.

But it still was busy. I still derived my sense of contentment from everything I made happened every day.

So, I aimed for less busy. And the less busy I became, the more bored I became. It’s like I didn’t know how to be happy without being productive. Like my sense of purpose was directly related to my level of busyness, to the end product of that busyness…

As I wrote when we lived in Costa Rica, I realize how much boredom is a luxury in our society and that many people haven’t experienced boredom since they were 12 or 13 yo. But boredom is uncomfortable and unpleasant…

“If boredom is simply a lack of stimulation and the unpleasant feelings that go with it, then the antidote is not finding a source of entertainment – it’s finding motivation to brush away those unpleasant feelings.”– Tsh Oxenreider, Notes from a Blue Bike

When I told my dad I wanted to travel full-time so we could live an epic, exciting life, his answer was baffling. He said: “Your life on the road will become your new ordinary and it won’t be as exciting all the time. Life cannot be exciting all the time. 90 % of life is made of ordinary little things. One has to learn to live the ordinary.”

I thought he didn’t understand. Of course, life could be amazing and fascinating most of the time!

The more we travel, the more I understand what he meant. Our days are filled with beautiful moments together discovering new places, but a big chunk of it is still everyday life stuff. Life cannot be (and probably should not be) exciting all the time. But to accept that, I need to learn to live with moments of boredom, of non-entertainment, of ordinary little events. I am not used to be idle, to not be stimulated by conversations or activities, to not feel productive and useful most of the time. 

I know I am blessed to have the space to wonder what to do with parts of my days. I have no more to-do lists to check, no agenda or calendar to fill, no appointments or classes to drive to. I wanted a low-stress life and I truly created it, but I realize that there is a fine line between too little and too much. I know I have to learn to live with less full days and still find this exciting. To learn to not be productive and feel worthy and good about it.

If entertainment isn’t our right, does this mean our days have to be drudgery? Well, sometimes, yes. Life has never promised us non-stop parties and parades. But our everyday rituals can also become our entertainment, if we let them. (…) As an adult, my struggle isn’t recognizing the value behind the little things – it’s intentionally setting aside time, energy, and focus to breathe them in, deeply. Sucking the marrow out of life requires that I sit down in the silence, un-entertained.

And then, remarkably, the marrow-sucking becomes the entertainment I crave.” – Tsh Oxenreider, Notes from a Blue Bike


**The pictures have been taken at Lost Creek State Park, OR

The beautiful wild sea at Ecola State Park, OR

"People say that what we’re seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. What we seek is an experience of being alive." –Joseph Campbell

 

We had been dreaming of the sea for months and were all looking forward to hitting the Oregon coast.  Ecola State Park was our first stop and it didn't disapoint! The view from the cliffs is totally breathtaking and the beach (Indian Point) is nothing short of amazing, reminding us of our favorite secluded Costa Rican beach. The girls played for more than a half hour in the freezing cold water, among fully suited surfers!

*Note that this park is a day use area only (no camping) and the beautiful drive that leads to it is not suitable for an RV or larger trailer.
 

Mountain biking at L.L. Stub Stewart State Park, OR

 

We finally got our bus back on Friday night at 7 pm and we were more than ready to leave Portland. We took the road towards the coast not knowing where we would camp that night. When we arrived at L.L. Stub Stewart State Park, we were lucky enough to score one of the two last campsites available and we soon discovered that we had stumbled across an amazing playground. The mountain bike trails have been created by mountain bikers for mountain bikers and it shows! The single track was so much fun! 

Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon, is one of the most alternative cities in America. It's a green, cool and incredibly bike-friendly city. And it's a total foodie town. Food carts are the big thing here. They are everywhere and most offer very high quality tasty food. 

Every time we visit big cities, the girls are deeply disturbed by the sight of homeless people and beggars. They ask questions, try to understand how these people ended up on the street, feel sad and helpless. While we were waiting at one of the food cart, Mathilde had spotted a young woman begging on the corner of a street who looked quite unwell. She decided to buy a bratwurst for her with her own money. It was a very touching moment when she gave it to her.

JF spent a few day working at Stumptown Coffee while the girls and I explored the downtown area. We spent a few hours at Finnegan's Toy store (and good 30 minutes of those playing with wind-up toys and laughing!)

We spent more than 5 hours (over the course of 3 days) at Powell's City of book, the largest independent used and new bookstore in the world.

On another day, we walked Hawthorne Blvd and had a lot of fun in the vintage second-hand clothing stores. The girls even found their Halloween costumes!

We also went for a soak (and a shower!) in the beautiful outdoor heated pool of the Kennedy School, a 1916 school turned into an hotel, restaurant and theater. 

One day, we went to Washington Park and visited the rose garden while JF worked in the elephant house, an open building (with electricity!) that once housed the first elephant coming to Oregon from Thailand. We also went for a hike in the beautiful trails of that park.

A weekend of hiking in Mt. Hood National Forest, Oregon

Mt. Hood National Forest is about an hour drive from Portland. We camped at Still Creek campground at 4000 feet, an awesome little campground with the most beautiful campsites where barely no light filters through the tall trees. A land of moss, ferns and lichens...


On Saturday, we went hiking to Mirror Lake (so-called because we often can see the reflexion of Mt. Hood in it) and kept going up to Mt. Tom, Dick and Harry, where we had an incredible view of Mt. Hood. It was a perfect 10 km hike that we all loved!

Taking in the amazing view!

Great lunch on the trail!

On Sunday, we went to the Timberline Lodge and hiked the Timberline Trail (which is part of the Pacific Crest Trail, an interesting synchronicity since I am finishing the great book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed). The view was just stunning, especially on the ridge where we stopped for lunch. JF kept going and ran the Paradise Park loop up and down the canyon.

One of the most amazng campsites I have seen!

I could stop here and lead you to believe that we live the most idyllic and perfect life. And in a way, we truly do. But I wouldn't be honest if I didn't tell you that we have had rough patches. The bus is spending a week at the garage for a radiator problem and we have been sleeping in the garage courtyard in the Westy for a few nights, while JF tries to find places to work at 5 am... Portland is an awesome city, but it is not exactly camping-friendly. Boondocking is not allowed anywhere (not even in Walmart parking lots) and the only campgrounds less than 40 miles from town are two ugly and expensive RV parks. Finding a place to shower was a half-day feat! 

We are now at the hotel. We have electricity, a shower and a place to do our laundry. JF can focus on all the work he has to do while I try to fill our bellies with half-decent meals. The girls have been pretty awesome through all of this and we are spending amazing moments together everyday. It's just incredibly intense right now.