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?

The Halloween Pumpkin Hunt at The Feathers

The wind was so crazy that day, we had to move the ninjas inside to finish the pumpkin carving... It was like a desert-storm, sand whisking our faces and all. The ninja costume was perfect!

Rocks were seriously flying from the top of the pillars. JF even got one in his mouth while climbing! 

Java, the professional photo bomber.

Some of the treats: witch's fingers, bat poo, cat turd...

Happy exhausted ninjas

As you might know, we celebrate Halloween with a pumpkin hunt instead of trick-or-treating. This tradition started a long time ago, when the children were little (2010 here, there was snow on the ground too!) and we would invite friends over to our farm house and have one parent hide in every room with a carved pumpkin and homemade treats (every family had to bring 2 carved pumpkins and 2 types of homemade treats - enough for all the children), and the children would knock on the doors and then would have to answer a riddle to get the treat. 

In 2011, we moved the pumpkin hunt outside, at my friend Nini's. In 2012, we raised the bar by celebrating in Arches National Park. It was a memorable year! 2013 was again at Nini's. Last year, we were in San Francisco and decided to go trick or treating for the first time. The girls wanted to go back to the bus after one street. They simply didn't like it. However, we went to see the Dia de los Muertos procession the next day and it was incredible.

But this year was really something! JF and I each had a pumpkin to hide in this wonderful playground that are The Feathers. The kids would finally spot one of the two in the dark, head towards it, then realize that JF wasn't beside it and knew he would surprise them by coming out of a bush somewhere (or down from a cliff!)! Kids love to be scared! Then, they huddled together in the dark, singing a song so as to  not hear us go to our next hiding spot and we would start making scary witch laughs to let them know we were ready...

Waiting for them, hidden between these amazing rock pillars, in complete darkness, I looked up and tried to spot as many constellations as I could. I would finally hear their steps, their nervous laughter and surprise them with a screech! We had found some more complex riddles this year and we honestly all had a blast! We will never forget the year we celebrated Halloween at The Feathers!

Rock climbing the Sunshine Wall, Echo Basin, WA

Taking pictures with Mathilde at sunrise. This place is simply magical.

Heading to the Sunshine Wall. A gorgeous 20 minute hike from our base camp at Frenchman Coulee.

warm and sunny (and windy!) on top of the mesa.

We have to go through a short (and very narrow!) slot canyon to get to the wall. There was a drop at the end and we had to carry Java down. He was NOT impressed...

The view from where I was belaying...

Jennifer leading her first route. A 5.9+!!!

Look at the awesome pillars!!

Mara sitting on the "saddle" of Ride 'em Cowboy (5.9+), one of the most popular route on this crag. There are always line ups here on the weekends!

Just another sunset in paradise...

Sun gazing dog...

On the hike back, as we rounded a corner, we all stopped in our tracks, mesmerized by the big glowing rising moon (which is much smaller on the picture that it was in reality).

On the first day, we unknowingly started working on the toughest route on The Feathers (Hardening of the Arteries 5.10C ). The kids worked hard and persevered!

Some funky route names we came across so far: Crackmaster lambada, Elvis’ Pharmacist, Give Me a Second My Elvis is Pinched (those tight harnesses!) 

Rock climbing The Feathers, Frenchman Coulee, WA

When we came rock climbing here last year on our way to Portland, OR, we knew we would be back for more at some point. We can camp in the bus right by the rock climbing walls! No approach walk (this also means we can climb until it is almost dark!). The kids can go to the rig to eat, play, pee... It's heaven! And the beauty of this place is stunning. It is pretty packed on the weekend. Young cool hipsters come from Portland and Seattle to take selfies of themselves up on the wall (yes, we have seen that!) dressed up like they just jumped out of a magazine... We made the average age go up quite a bit! But they were all super nice and excited to see kids rock climbing. The Red Bus intrigued many and our lifestyle made a few commiserate over the fact that they had to drive back to the city for a week of work... Hey, we have solar power and good Internet connexion (even here in the middle of the desert!), we are good for a week!

There are two main rock climbing areas: Frenchman Coulee (The Feathers and Middle East Wall) and the Echo Basin (Sunshine Wall, M 'n M Wall, Powerhouse Wall and more.). The Feathers are short basalt columns; there is a North Side and a South Side. The difference in temperature when the sun is out is incredible!. On the North side, people were belaying with down coats and hats, while on the South side, we were belaying in tank tops and sweating! The routes are longer on the Sunshine Wall. There are now over 600 routes at the area, ranging from 5.2 to 5.13 (mostly sport, some trad, lots of begginners route, but lots of choss too). You need to get a Discover Pass for $30 to be allowed to park and camp here. This pass gives you access to all the rec sites in Washington State for the year. Here's a pretty decent topo we found online. We love this place! And we love our life!

Rock climbing at The Feathers, WA

We crossed the border from Osoyoos and headed down into Washington State. I had no idea that I would soon feel like I was in Utah, with canyons and mesas all around, and clusters of sagebush everywhere there is not an apple or pear orchard (there are so many, that the air smells of apples!), the only green spots in a dry desert landscape.

We went rock climbing in a wonderful spot called The Feathers, in Vantage. It was 31 degrees Celcius outside, so we chose the north side! The routes were so much fun!

We had stopped at a fruit stand on our way and found some incredible Honey Crisp apples (unsprayed!) for 1,50 a pound and a giant super sweet watermelon (organic) for $5! They were the perfect source of energy for a day of climbing in hot weather.