San Juans

It's been quite a while now since I made this trip north to the San Juans. It was at a really busy time as the summer was winding down, filled with lots of other trips, which is why it came and went without notice. My dear friend Lindsay and I used to take trips like this all the time when we were younger. In high school, our parents let us drive the 5+ hours from Eugene to Seattle for the weekend and stay in a hostel. Looking back, even though we were responsible enough, we were also really fast drivers and a little careless (read: u-turns on the freeway). I think our last weekend trip was for a Cat Power concert with our friend Jess during college. We'd been talking about a trip to Vancouver for a while, and decided to add a couple days in the San Juans onto it. And I'm so glad we did. It had been 10 years since I had been to Vancouver, and while it's a really beautiful city, I felt like much of what we were doing there could be done at home in Portland. Although, there were certainly a few highlights - getting to go to Old Faithful, the deliciousness and charm of Nelson the Seagull, a great meal at Bao Bei, drinks gifted by strangers, and MacLeod's Books. But I preferred our time in the San Juans.

The trip as a whole made me think a lot about the idea behind this blog, and the connection I have to both urban and rural life. I kept telling Lindsay that I could definitely live on the islands, and once we were home I was determined to find my own cabin up there. That obviously didn't happen, but it's still on my mind. Just like that cabin in the Berkshires that I'm always dreaming about...

Lindsay and I stayed in a teepee on an organic farm, with a little outdoor kitchen and shower. The posting online claimed there was a "composting toilet" which sounds like it could be charming, like in a wooden hut or something, but that wasn't the case at all. It was a generic plastic outhouse. But it didn't really matter.

Lindsay's younger sister Emily, who I've known since she was just a little girl, was working on San Juan Island during the summer for a whale watching tour company. Their family tells a story about when Emily was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, at age of 3 or so, she replied, "an orca!" So this was pretty much her dream job. We bundled up and went out one afternoon on a boat and saw tons of orcas and learned about their migration patterns. It was really beautiful and amazing.

The two little towns on San Juan Island, where we were staying, were also very sweet. My favorite of the two was this one, Roche Harbor. I have no idea if my grandma ever visited this area, but there was something about it that reminded me of her. I could imagine her staying in the old Hotel de Haro, sipping a martini on the front porch, eating clam chowder. I got my itch to travel from her. She kept files of all the places around the world she had visited, with ticket stubs, maps, brochures and postcards picked up along the way. When I was young, every time I'd go to her house, I'd ask to look through her files. Sometimes I'd sneak a postcard of New York or Paris and hang it on my wall once I was home. I'd have her tell me stories of far away places, and I'd daydream of visiting one day. When she was still alive but could no longer travel, I'd always send her a postcard from every place I'd visit. Sometimes I miss doing that, as I know how much she loved it too.

The San Juans are a truly special place. I can't wait to go back and spend more time there, like maybe an entire summer?

____________________ All photos were taken with my film camera.

Summer blur

A year ago this weekend -- Labor Day weekend -- my dear friend Christie and I were camping at Smith Rock State Park in Central Oregon. It was a memorable weekend in which the highlight was a 40 or so mile long drive along a gravel road not meant for cars like the one we were driving. At times we weren't sure if we'd make it to our destination: the highway. The map we were using was either inaccurate, or we (most likely) made some wrong turns. It was supposed to be about 20 miles, but ended up taking hours longer than expected because we were going so slow most of the way that we didn't even shift out of first gear! At one point I had to get out of the car while we forded a creek, so as not to weigh it down any more than necessary. We both silently made note of our mileage as we would pass a house in order to know how many miles back we'd have to walk to civilization if the car got stuck or we broke down. There were hills as far as we could see, cows wandering in the roadway, and not a person for miles and miles. We finally made it back to the highway at dusk, luckily, and headed to our camp where we were rewarded with the most refreshing beer we'd ever had. There aren't many people I'd want to be in that situation with, but Christie has a sense of adventure that is contagious, which is also paired with extreme capability when it comes to precarious situations like that one.

It's hard to believe a year has passed since then, as it seems like such a vivid memory. Over the past year a lot has changed for me, however. In June I left my job of four years, which has completely turned my world upside down. I'm able to pursue the kind of work I want to be doing, and am already consumed with three different jobs, tons of projects, and trips seemingly every weekend, that I'm busier than ever! It's certainly not the summer I had expected it to be: unemployed and lazily taking river trips mid-week.

In Portland, summer officially starts on the fourth of July, once it finally gets warm. I was lucky to go camping even before that in Central Oregon, where it's much warmer and dryer, for my roommate Alea's birthday. Sharing the weekend with friends in the desert while eating great food and swimming in the John Day River was the best way to kick off summer.

I love Alea for a lot of reasons, but the one of the first things that brought us together was that we were raised about fifteen miles from one another out in the Coast Range of Western Oregon. We both have a little bit of country in us. Anyway, it was a beautiful weekend of getting dusty in the desert and celebrating Alea. The first night we stayed at Pine Mountain Observatory, where we saw the most incredible sky filled with stars. More than I've ever seen. There were astronomers with gigantic telescopes who pointed out the constellations and showed us Saturn, which was recognizable with the ring around it. While laying on the ground for just a short while, I counted at least ten shooting stars.

The next day we drove out to the Painted Hills and planned to find somewhere to camp along the way. It was hot out, and we wanted to find a place to swim. But with no cell phone reception and a proven unreliable map that I had used last year in the same area, we didn't really have a destination in mind. As we were driving down the highway, I saw a local dude and his two young sons near their driveway and quickly pulled over. I asked him if he knew of any good swimming holes nearby. He asked how serious we were, because if we wanted to drive on a gravel road, up a hill, he could direct us to the best place around. Little did he know that I had traversed those roads with wild abandon just last year. I memorized his directions, but for good measure he drew us a map:

We made it to the spot without a hitch, and were all in awe of the picturesque spot we found. Even though it wasn't really a campsite, we couldn't tear ourselves away from the spot and pitched out tents right there for the night.

A group of locals stopped by and joined us for a bit, just proving to us that we were at the best spot around.

I suppose there are memorable elements of every summer, but for the last two, some of the greatest moments were spent in Central Oregon along the John Day River, amongst friends.


In case you didn't know, Christie and I have a blog called Summer Goals that we rarely update anymore, but has been the source of much of my excitement for summer of the past few years. We also curated a book of the same name, published by Publication Studio.

____________________ All photos taken on my film camera.