How to Take a Mental Health Retreat

I spent the evening of New Year’s Eve cramped in a car for about four hours. When I finally got to my destination, it was a hotel I wouldn’t recommend to the shadiest crack dealer. After passing by the police activity on the first floor, I made my way up to my room, where I discovered that one of the towels I used for my bath (believe me, I needed a BATH, not a shower after my previous day) had not been washed prior to my scheduled stay. I spent the evening trying, unsuccessfully, to connect to the wi-fi so I could work on my book, but ended up sacrificing my precious network data to stream Master of None from my cracked phone until about 1:00 am instead. I didn’t even notice the New Year when it passed. Instead, I happened to look at my phone around 12:07, only to lacksadaisically mutter to myself, “Oh. Happy 2016, me.”

To most people, this probably sounds like the most disappointing, boring, and lonely New Years Eve that anyone has ever experienced. But for me, it was everything I needed.

Let me back up a bit–and provide some context, because I think that would help.

As I mentioned in my previous entry, I recently experienced a breakup. In an effort to not come off as “airing dirty laundry”, I neglected to mention that said breakup occurred in the wee hours of December 30th. Even though I was fresh from an incredible road trip I took with my stepdad, I was in utterly miserable spirits thanks to this. So, in an effort to bring my pain level down from “hellish” to “bearable”, I vowed to take myself on a little mini-trip for the few following days–or, as I like to call it, a “Mental Health Retreat”. I left the afternoon of the 31st and spent four days in San Luis Obispo (and its surrounding areas), Lompoc, and Malibu. Sounds like paradise, right? Indeed, but that’s not why I went.

But before I go on, let’s look at pictures! YAY!

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Shortly after I began my hike up Bishop Peak – San Luis Obispo (note: got a NON-CRAPPY camera for Christmas and I’m elated!!!!!)
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Waves crashing down close to sunset at Montana de Oro State Park – Los Osos
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A look from inside a comfy car at the dunes at Pismo Beach.
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Morro Rock – Morro Bay
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The view from atop Bishop Peak – San Luis Obispo
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Our barn at the ranch in Lompoc.
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Brother Declan (9), sister Abby (15), and fabulous Donkey Joshua (wise beyond his years…a wiseass…get it??!)
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Our adorable horses, Big Red and Little Red (note: Big Red’s name is not really Big Red. That’s a placeholder because I’m a terrible person and I don’t remember her real name.)

Anyway, despite what you see above, I didn’t want it to be all paradise. In fact, even though I didn’t anticipate the hotel to be quite *that* crappy, I knew that I would be experiencing a range of emotions–many positive, but quite a few negative: wrenching remorse, cold apathy, sunny elation, deep sorrow. And believe it or not, wanted to feel all of those emotions. 

I wanted to come to terms with what had happened. I wanted to evaluate my life–past, present, and future–and figure out how I was going to move forward. I wanted to at least start the trip by spending a generous amount of time alone, which most people would find harrowing after a breakup. I decided, however, that I needed to feel the loneliness.

It sounds weird, but I think we become much more human and real if we allow ourselves to not only feel negative emotions, but bask in them. When we let these negative emotions run their proper course, we put less pressure and stress on ourselves to be this perfectly-put-together human (which, by the way, is impossible). Because I let myself experience a normally super-social, super-escapist holiday alone in an uncomfortable place, I feel like the negativity was all but flushed out of me that night.

It wasn’t all gloom, though. I also wanted to exercise, eat some delicious food, and see some beautiful sites while on my retreat, and I got to do all of those things. I also visited my stepmom, sisters, and little brother at our family ranch on Saturday and stayed the night at my dad’s house on Sunday. All was not emotionally wrenching; I had an amazing time.

If you’re having a rough time, and can afford (in both a time and money sense) to take a few days away, here are some ideas that can help make your Haley-style retreat a great one!:

  1. Have an open mind. This may be a retreat, but stuff like flat tires, lousy hotel rooms, and horribly inclement weather can still happen. Unless your budget is abnormally large, you must first come to terms with the fact that these things may happen and thus may interrupt your inner peace a tad. That’s okay, though. Just remember that this is your time and your only job is to make the most of it.
  2. Feel all the emotions you need to. That way, you can let go of the negative ones before you return to the “normal” world.
  3. Go somewhere you’ve never been. Distract your mind with newness–in a way that won’t damage you (or others) like a rebound will. Hooray for not using humans as unwilling objects!
  4. Go do stuff, but don’t put pressure on yourself to do a ton. Remember, this is more about taking a break from your routine and connecting with yourself.  While I’m normally a super-eager traveler who likes to pack in as many activities as possible, I felt better sticking with a couple of nice hikes or sightseeing activities per day during my short journey.
  5. Go somewhere where you can actually hear yourself think. This is why I chose SLO and the central coast: it’s super open, beautiful, and incredibly laid-back. Maybe don’t do places like New York or Miami if you’re trying to be as relaxed as possible.
  6. Let loved ones know where you’ll be. You might need space from the world, but the people you know and love aren’t suddenly going to stop caring about you. Let them know before you jet out that you’re taking some time. They will support you unequivocally.

I did get a few texts from said loved ones on New Year’s Eve–many of whom I hadn’t heard from in ages. Most of them had no idea about my breakup, they were just reaching out to say hi. So, be prepared for the fact that the littlest of nice surprises just might make you realize how lucky you are.

-H

 

Decoding Salt Lake City

If you’ve spent any time reading this blog previously, you’d know that I’m a Pacific Northwest girl through and through. The lush evergreenery, craggy coastline, and, most importantly, the gastronomical options give even my homeland of sunny SoCal a run for its money. I’ve always referred to places like Seattle and Portland as the “hidden jewels” of the U.S. due to them not sharing the same prominence as New York or LA but actually having just as much to offer. For some people, the only image the PacNW conjures up is “rain”, when in fact climate is only one component of this region. This simplification leads, unfortunately, to a decreased level of interest from people who think that that’s all it has to offer. The same can be said for the city I most recently traveled to: Salt Lake City.

The idea for the trip came because my partner, Steven, wanted to complete the first step of his Gym Jones certification at their Salt Lake City gym. For those as uneducated as I was about Gym Jones, these guys are the ones who train tier 1 special operators for the U.S. military, professional athletes, and the actors in movies like “Man of Steel” and “300”. But the unique selling point of Gym Jones is not necessary its high-profile clientele, but its philosophy. After consulting with Steven, I learned that Gym Jones feels that the gym should be a means for training for a tangible activity outside of the gym like rock-climbing or lacrosse or kayaking – not just “training to train”. The principle component of their philosophy is that the mind is primary, which means that the mind should be trained first. In other words, it’s easy to workout and lift heavy, but if you’re not training the mind mentally, you’ll fail during a competition. An athlete who has more mental toughness through this training will usually beat an athlete who is physically stronger during a competition. I found this fascinating and it gave me so much to think about with regards to my own training regimen, even though I didn’t actually attend the seminar. Check out Gym Jones here for more information about this unique gym.

I felt uncool here. And that's okay.

Warning: You may walk in here and feel out of shape and uncool. But youll come out feeling way more awesome.
Warning: You may walk in here and feel out of shape and uncool. But you’ll come out feeling way more awesome.

(Note: Neither my partner nor myself are affiliated with Gym Jones. We just like them a lot and believe in spreading the word about things we like. Take everything on IC as opinion, not fact – however fabulous and righteous I think these opinions are. 😉 )

Despite being an outdoor and fitness Mecca that’s next door to some of the most beautiful natural parks in the world (Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Arches, to name a few), most people seem to see Salt Lake as a place that is simply “super Mormon”, in their words. Many further make the mistake of assuming a one-dimensionality among members of the LDS church and assume that the presence of the religion has stifled some of the entertainment or beverage options that many non-Mormons like to enjoy. When I arrived, I was not only interested in learning more about the history of the LDS church in Utah for my own education, I was also interested in testing out the “theory” of SLC being this hyperconservative bubble. Are bars, coffee shops, and less-than-conservative merchants really few and far between? Is art or creative expression stifled? Is the city really as demographically homogeneous as others assume?

Briefly seeing the inside of Gym Jones and hearing some of the stories of the other people who traveled to do the seminar was my first indication that there was more to Salt Lake than met the eyes – or ears. As Steven enjoyed his seminar for the majority of our waking hours, I set out on Saturday to visit with dear friends and learn a little about the city. Well, actually, I first decided to bust the myth of Salt Lake as being coffee-dry by enjoying an out-of-this-world cup at Publik, which also happens to be a spectacular study/work spot. Then, after exploring a bit of the trendy, artsy, foodie-centric Sugar House region, my friends and I ventured to the opulent Temple Square in the middle of the city, which allowed for me to augment my Utah history knowledge and learn more about the LDS church. Despite its history with the LDS church, less than 50% of the city’s inhabitants identify as Mormon, though the number climbs into the 60-70% range outside of the Salt Lake metro area. Even more interesting is how diverse the city is, with many of its residents being immigrants from Tonga and Bosnia. There’s even a primarily Spanish-speaking neighborhood (Glendale). Admittedly, even I didn’t expect such a mix of different cultures and backgrounds, so this was awesome to learn about.

(I apologize for the lack of city pics, by the way. Sometimes, you just get too into it.)

Sunday was my day to do as much outdoor exploring as weather and my horrible clothing choices permitted. And to actually take pictures like a responsible blogger. See below for my pictures from Big Cottonwood Canyon, Antelope Island in the middle of the Great Salt Lake, and the Red Butte Garden.

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Driving through Big Cottonwood Canyon (note: picture not taken while driving).
Driving through Big Cottonwood Canyon (note: picture not taken while driving).

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Sand rarely looks cool. Here, it looks REALLY cool.
Sand rarely looks cool. Here, it looks REALLY cool.

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Fielding Garr ranch on Antelope Island.
Fielding Garr ranch on Antelope Island.
Entering Antelope Island, which lies approximately 45 minutes north of the city proper.
Entering Antelope Island, which lies approximately 45 minutes north of the city proper.
Red Butte Garden, a popular botanical garden (and musical venue) within the city.
Red Butte Garden, a popular botanical garden (and musical venue) within the city.

The above is just a sliver of what Salt Lake has to offer from an outdoor standpoint. Admittedly, my view of the city is still limited. Oh, and for those still curious about the state of alcohol, bars, and nightlife as a whole in Salt Lake, Sunday ended with my partner eating at one of the many famous breweries the city has to offer (Red Rock). Moreover, liquor consumption rules may be somewhat restrictive, but it’s not necessarily difficult to obtain alcohol. However, alcohol can almost never be purchased after 1:00 am, and “heavy beer” (over 3.5% alc. content) can be difficult to obtain unless you go to a state-owned liquor store or private club. This doesn’t stop Salt Lake from having a fairly thriving night scene with a ton of awesome restaurants and clubs. Nobody that we met who lives there is complaining – and having been there, I wonder who would?

With an up-and-coming art and food scene, a uniquely American history, and an endless supply of beautiful scenery, Salt Lake City should be on the radar of anyone traveling the U.S. If you’ve been to or live in Utah, feel free to add your expertise in the comments below. What do you love about Salt Lake? What other places shouldn’t be missed?

Oh, and one more thing…I’ll be announcing something pretty big in about a week. Stay tuned for the next adventure!

– H

 

Semi-Solo: Sea-to-Sky Edition, Part II

Forgive me, reading public, for I have sinned. This article is well over a month late and I am the only one to blame.

Rather than bore you with excuses for my tardiness, allow this second Semi-Solo entry to serve as a condensed guide to experiencing the Islands of Washington state. While there is much more to see than is contained herein, I would highly encourage you to use this as a jumping off point.

Continue reading “Semi-Solo: Sea-to-Sky Edition, Part II”

Semi-Solo: Sea-to-Sky Edition (or, put simply, my Pacific Northwest Trip), Part I

My dear, dear reading public.

Before you think for even one second that I have abdicated a life of adventure or bombastic antics, I am here to ring the buzzer. Not here! Not now! In fact, the adventure is on more than ever.

With another busy season behind me (*exhales sharply and exudes violent happiness*) and a surreal-seeming trip to Japan ahead of me (*repeat violent happiness*), I knew I needed to make the precious hours of my firm-mandated winter break special. As such, I took to my favorite area of the United States, the Pacific Northwest, to indulge in the splendor and beauty of the winter season up here.

Continue reading “Semi-Solo: Sea-to-Sky Edition (or, put simply, my Pacific Northwest Trip), Part I”

The Sands of Time

Last Saturday was a novel packed into short story form. Wrought with hundreds of miles, arid sand, warm waves of rock, and a sky as big, blue, and clear as a tropical ocean, I’m surprised that a 24-hour period could even handle this. As my good friend, Nadine, and I rose as slowly out of bed that morning, we could feel the tug-of-war with the sun to rise with us. And so was it that 5:35 am marked the beginning of a mystical (and I do mean “mystical” – things got existential up in this B)  journey to the unexplored lands of Canyon Country, Arizona.

Continue reading “The Sands of Time”

The Great Beaver State, or How to Properly Do (a large chunk of) Oregon in One Week’s Time

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In spite of my relatively limited travels throughout the region, I firmly maintain that the Pacific Northwest is the best kept secret of the United States. While the world and worlds beyond are aware of the rich history of New England, the bustling megalopolises of New York and Chicago, and the glitz and glam of Hollywood, the PNDubs gets a rap for the purported following attributes: rainy, cold, and depressing. My friends, that is exactly what the locals want you to think.

With lush evergreenery, a plethora of outdoor activities, and a restaurant scene that makes tastebuds sing, states like Oregon and Washington are anything but depressing. I was fortunate enough to spend an entire week in Oregon traveling alone. During the trip, I was able to experience the state in full panoramic view: from the windswept oceans, to the uniquely defined and vivacious pockets of Portland, to the serene mountains and even down to the sunkissed, arid climate of Central Oregon. I got to eat eel pie at a fancy French restaurant, drive on the beach, and ski on an active volcano. I got to bike across the Willamette River, sip tea in a Chinese garden, and buy some of the funkiest comics I’ve ever seen. I got to be a tourist and, dare I say, melted into the background as a local whenever I chose to be. I sometimes laid down with my computer at night and, while blogging about my days, sat in disbelief at my recently transpired experiences. I came back rejuvenated with great memories and an enormous reminder of the splendor and beauty of this world. If this cheesy paragraph is enough to convince you, I encourage you to visit.

…and now that you’re convinced – let’s start planning! 🙂

In the hopes of helping you along, here is a basic itinerary of what I did, along with more fun and helpful stuff.

PART I – BASIC ITINERARY

Day 1: Flew into Portland. Ate Peruvian in the upscale, posh Pearl District and spent some time in Sellwood-Moreland area, a fairly quiet, family-oriented area with a grand array of old Craftsman/Victorian homes. Stayed with a family I found on AirBnB, which I recommend far and above any other type of lodging any day. Stayed in Portland.

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Tanner Springs Park – Pearl District, Portland

Day 2: Biked from SM to downtown and spent the day there. Saw the Saturday/Sunday market, the library, the “token spots” of Oregon (Powell’s Books, Voodoo Doughnut, etc.) and spent the night exploring some spots in East Burnside, including the most expensive restaurant I’ve ever dined at in my life, ever. Stayed in Portland.

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Cherry blossoms in bloom near Saturday Market, downtown Portland

Day 3: Spent the morning/afternoon exploring more of natural/historical Portland (Pittock Mansion, Japanese Garden, Hoyt Arboretum) and later set course for Seaside. Spent the evening strolling the beaches and having dinner on “The Prom”, Seaside’s boardwalk and primary center of entertainment. Stayed in Seaside.

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Zen garden in Portland Japanese Garden

Day 4: Spent the day exploring the finest of the Northern Oregon Coast – Astoria, home of the famous Astoria Column and, of course, the Goonies house; Cannon Beach, which holds the gargantuan and impressive Haystack Rock as well as Ecola State Park and Indian Beach; Tillamook, where vast pastures and fun attractions (the Tillamook Cheese Factory and the Air Museum) await thee; and Cape Lookout, where I got trapped in a marsh and fell in a pile of mud one can see some of the most breathtaking scenery on the Pacific Coast. Returned to and stayed in Seaside.

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Haystack Rock – Cannon Beach

Day 5: Headed due east for Mt. Hood and skiied there for the day. Later explored the area around my hotel in nearby Welches and found fantastic hiking in forests that looked almost prehistoric. Stayed in Welches.

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A terrible picture of Mt. Hood. But hey, it’s Mt. Hood!

Day 6: In a spontaneous fit of adventure, headed south to Smith Rock State Park and spent the day hiking most of the trails available. Went south another skosh to Bend and explored more nearby hiking as well as the charming downtown for amazing sushi. Stayed in Bend.

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Monkey Face Spire – Smith Rock State Park (near Redmond and Terrebonne, 25 minutes from Bend)

Day 7: Made the journey back up from Bend to Portland and saw Multnomah Falls, the Chinese Garden, and Forest Park. Rested up before enjoying delectable Argentine food and a blast of a show at the swaggalicious Doug Fir in east Burnside. Stayed in Portland.

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Forest Park, Portland

Day 8: Made like a local and hit up Mississippi Avenue and the Alberta Arts district for some satisfying art spotting and antinque-trinket shopping, not to mention otherworldly ice cream-tasting. Headed out in the late afternoon to return to make my journey back to life.

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Lavendar and Pear/Blue Cheese Ice Cream from Salt and Straw. That went into my belly.

PART II: COST FIGURES; HOW MUCH I SPENT ON…

Airfare: …is completely dependent on where you’re coming from. My flight from Phoenix was purchased about 2 and 1/2 months in advance and cost about $215 roundtrip.

Where I stayed: Peoples’ house on AirBnB (best option), motels (decent option), and hotels (if-you-must option). $44-120 a night. Backpacking is an option I haven’t explored, but I’m sure you could do that and go even cheaper.

How I got around: Rented a car. HIGHLY recommend if you want to see the varying landscapes of the state. $576 total (ouch, but worth it), and only because I was born in 1990. Yeah, there’s a $200 underage fee added to your rental bill if you are under 25, which is something to consider when you’re a child like me traveling. Lame.

I also spent about $120 on gas the whole time I was there – quite a bargain for the amount of ground I covered, but it helped that my car had half-decent gas mileage. That includes tips to the attendants who pumped my gas for me – how exciting that was to experience for the first time ever! 🙂

Where I ate: Portland is one of those cities that offers myriad food choices that appease anyone and fit any budget. I chose to go the more dollar-burning route and ate the vast majority of my lunches and dinners out. It’s the cross for an aspiring foodie to bear, I suppose. Meals, like anywhere, can vary in price from $5-105, but I opted to spend about $60/day on food on average and ate QUITE handsomely. Again, though, there are food trucks galore throughout the city and they are EXTREMELY good. Not as many chain restaurants, but you’ll find a few and do fine if you so choose.

What I did for fun: Portland and Oregon in general have a TON of attractions and things to do outdoors. That being said, most of these cost at least something. State parks are generally $5 for a day pass. Local attractions like the Pittock Mansion or Japanese Garden run about $9-20. Certain places like Forest Park or some of the falls are totally free for both parking and visiting. You can avoid the ore expensive sites and still have an absolute blast, particularly if you’re active and like the outdoors.

PART III: OTHER STUFF

Favorite parts of the trip: Cue obligatory “ALL OF IT”, but in the spirit of decisiveness: my meal at Le Pigeon (see “most expensive meal I’ve ever eaten in my life, ever”), Smith Rock State Park, and the concert at the ‘Fir.

What I’d do differently next time: Purchase an annual park pass to save money on parking, check the weather before going skiing a little more carefully, and visit Southern Oregon to see the Shakespeare Festival, Mt. Hood, and my uncle who lives in Roseburg. I’d also try out some of the Portland brewery tours, as those are extremely popular in the city. Don’t even get me started on the dunes in Florence!

You’d like this trip if…: you love the outdoors, you want both solitude and urban buzz within close range of each other, or if you love food. Depending on the type of you, you should probably also be cool with rain.

For more detailed info: Ask me. I’m an open book.

Happy traveling, or should I say living!

– H

Thought of the Day: Practice patience. Do something, wait 20 minutes, then decide if it’s ready to be done/sent/submitted/shipped. 

 

Oregon 2014: Art, ice cream, everything.

The title for tonight’s post was originally going to be something to the effect of “The Trauma of Leaving Portland and Returning to Phoenix will Never be Forgotten”, but hey – I’m a pretty positive person! Let’s celebrate the day’s events, shall we? After all, it was a good day, and I feel it brought the Odyssey to a close beautifully.

I knew the day was off to a good start when I had my second complimentary breakfast in a row from the Country Inn near the airport. While the location certainly wasn’t ideal (I spent most of my day on Portland’s east side, several miles away), it was a really comfy and great place to stay for the evening and I was pleased. I set out to explore two culturally eclectic areas of Portland: Mississippi Avenue and Northeast Alberta Street.

Mississippi Ave.

The story goes that Miss Ave went from “grungy to trendy” nearly overnight. Speaking as someone who’s only seen the end result, I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised by this little strip of wonder. I parked up at Fremont Street (Mississippi’s main drag seems to run from Fremont to Shaver, or about three blocks) and made my first stop at Reading Frenzy, a white-washed indie bookstore filled with every little literary oddity you can imagine. Like some of the other bookstores in Portland, they also had some cute art prints available and other trinkets crafted by local artists. I picked up a few things for friends and, as I was walking down the street, noticed something unexpected: Control Voltage, a store entirely dedicated to electronic music apparatuses!

For a solid twenty minutes, I made my rounds in the room and tried out Moogs, Korgs, and even a theramin! I even got to chat with the store employee about electronic music and felt even more inspired to eventually get into this craft. This was probably my favorite stop in this section, so I recommend going here immediately if you’re at all interested in music (and especially making it!)

My final stop led to Fresh Pot, the street’s well-known coffee shop. They brewed up a fabulous americano for me, so I felt energized and ready to face more sunshine.

Overall, Mississippi balances an intimate, bohemian feel with a bit of historical Portland. It’s got quite a bit in a small amount of space and, like Portland as a whole, has something for anyone. Nonetheless, I truly feel that it embodies the “real Portland” and would probably make a great place to live for someone who’s truly interested in immersing themself in the culture.

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Side note: This taqueria, called Por que no?, was PACKED by the time I was leaving Miss Ave. Highly recommend you check it out if you’re passing through.

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Alberta Street

Feeling hungry and eager to begin my anticipated visit to the famous Alberta Arts District, I headed out and landed at Cafe Hibiscus, a tiny Swiss restaurant located in a aesthetically striking corrugated aluminum building. I was fortunate to make it in RIGHT before closing and was immediately sat by my gracious host and server, Tammy. My meal consisted of Swiss barley soup and emince zurichoise (pork sautéed in mushroom cream sauce) with a side of spätzli. Both were just delectable; in terms of comfort food, this is about as good as it gets.

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What’s additionally cool about this place is that due to its original roots extending to the Hawaiian islands, the food is entirely Swiss but set amidst a background of both Swiss and Polynesian decor. Breathtaking views of green fields spotted with edelweiss are juxtaposed with tropical sunsets, making the scrumptious lunch all the more captivating.

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While I could hardly resist Hibiscus’s mouth-watering dessert offerings (helloooo, chocolate torte!!!), I had had my heart set on the famous Salt and Straw Ice Cream for my final sweet-fix since I first stepped off the plane. But first, as I began the small trek over I just HAD to capture the little ad below and the optics store. Babiators? You’re killin’ me.

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This was the line for S&S:

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It took about 30 minutes of low-grade agony, but I got this, so it was worth it:

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Top: honey lavender; Bottom: Pear and Blue Cheese

As you can possibly infer from the above picture, S&S is mainly known for their unusual (but heavenly) flavors. Other examples included Salted Caramel Cupcake, Strawberry Balsamic with Cracked Pepper, and even Olive Oil, which I sampled and, amazingly, loved. They also source their ingredients from local, organic farmers, giving their ice cream an exceptionally smooth and rich taste. Or hey, maybe it’s all in my head.

Was it worth the wait? Absolutely. This is a fine example of a Portland staple that rises above any touristic connotations it has. Simply fantastic.

(Note: There was an art gallery right near here that looked incredible, but I didn’t get to see it other than a cursory glance from outside while waiting in line. It’s called Screaming Sky and it’s chockfull of anything a Japanese-culture fanatic could ever want, not to mention awesome art. Take a trip and I’ll live vicariously through you, thanks!)

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Unrelated to ice cream, but also fantastic.

I next moved onto the fairly new vintage shop, Zig Zag Wanderer. While I did get to buy a fabulously floral old blouse from the 70s, I think this place had a particularly nice selection of African- and Native-American-inspired articles. I nearly bought a small dish but resisted due to the potential heartbreak that would occur from it breaking in my overstuffed suitcase on the flight back. Nonetheless, it’s a great place and would also highly encourage a stop here.

Next stop was Ampersand, a larger, more gallery-focused version of my earlier romp in Reading Frenzy. The artist currently on display there, Matthew Fisher, had several works being shown on the walls that immediately whooshed me to the front counter to inquire about print prices. Only a cool 600. Dang. I WILL find a way to own a Matthew Fisher someday, though – you can count on that.

As the time to return my rental car drew nearer, I landed at my final stop, Townshend’s Tea. This place not only serves an overwhelming amount of teas, but also has a great selection of little pastries and an awesome garden to sit in in the back. With my mini Milk Oolong pot, I camped out in the garden for a solid 30 minutes, basking in the glory of the day.

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Although I enjoyed the serenity of the garden in the afternoon, I couldn’t help but feel a slight pang of bittersweet course through me at that moment. I looked up at the sky and realized that in just a few hours, I’d be headed back to familiar territory. I caught myself, though, and realized that this great adventure had not only been enjoyable, but had taught me a great deal about embracing my experiences in the company of only myself.

I’m a bit tired, though, so I’ll delve into that tomorrow.

Looking out the window as the plane took off, I fawned at the glimmering green with the biggest smile on my face and even in my eyes. From city, to sea, to mountain, I had made this journey entirely my own. I had rolled in the sand, danced in the crowd, and glided through the snowy hills. I had seen, I had done, I had conquered. I had met people, I had been entirely alone. I had seen beauty all around me that continued to caress my mind and inspire my thoughts. That’s something nobody can ever take from me.

– H

Thought of the day: You are the supreme ruler of you.

Oregon 2014: Return to Rip City

While I’d rather not think of today as such, the end of the Odyssey is nigh. Looking back on everything I’ve done this last week, it’s pretty amazing to recount all my experiences…but I’ll save that for another post.

Yesterday yielded another long drive from Bend to Portland. I was helped greatly by the free breakfast provided by the Days Inn, which might I say was FANTASTIC for an inexpensive little roosting point like that. If you’re in the area and looking to save money, the Days Inn is probably some of the best value you’ll find in terms of central location, cleanliness, and of course, free food, so snatch up a room to rest your weariness after the plethora of activities you’ll end up doing in Central Oregon.

I landed at Multnomah Falls around mid-morning, finally feeling my inner, kitschy tourist bones stop shaking. My internetting had informed me that a bridge leading to the stop was temporarily closed; a chunk had been taken out thanks to a rogue boulder sending itself over the edge of the falls. I’m sure it lived a good, long life. Anyway, this resulted in the normally 1.8-mile hike to the top being cut short to around a quarter mile. Ah, same thing. As evidenced by the photo below, no amount of regret was had for taking the time out, and there was no shortage of people visiting the falls to stare mouth-agape at the 600-foot wall of awesomeness.

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Before rounding out the rest of my “Portland outdoors” experience, I next headed to what I lovingly call my “alternative tourism” activity for the day…

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Voila, the Portland office of my beloved home of employment, KPMG! No, no, I wasn’t working. With all due respect to my adoring coworkers, that was not on the agenda. I simply forgot to submit my time and had to use a loaner computer located at the office to do so. Obviously on purpose, because I wanted to see the Portland version of where I work, duh!

My day’s journey next took me to another touristy activity, the Lan Su Chinese Garden. Much like the favored Japanese Gardens, this one boasts to be the most authentic garden of its kind outside of its originating country. I’ll take that at face value for now. Although the garden is smaller than you’d expect and a little more architecturally-focused (as opposed to nature-focused) than the Japanese gardens, it was still a beautiful side trip into a royal courtyard of 1600s China.

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The best part about this place is the tea house, which serves an overwhelming amount of fine teas along with some light tea snacks. This place is known to be crowded during peak season, but I was pleasantly surprised to find just a few other pockets of patrons and have a table to myself. I enjoyed a flight of three different Oolong teas and a mung bean moon cake (delicious) for about 45 minutes while listening to an older Chinese gentleman play the erhu. Flowing and delicate, the music provided the perfect atmosphere for sitting and enjoying my tea while looking out at the muted building colors, the fruit blossoms, and the little bit of sun that was peaking through.

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Moon cake and tea – the cake bearing the signature “Haley bite” prior to photography capture.

Still thirsting for nature, I eventually bid farewell to the Chinese Garden and headed to another Portland staple, Forest Park. It’s hard to believe that a large-ish metropolitan area can be in possession of something like FP, but Portland is and its citizens boast it proudly, as they should. FP contains over 70 miles worth of trails and gives a multitude of options to everyone from the “my friend dragged me to go hiking today” neophyte to the ripped hardbody who can mountain-bike a straight mile uphill. It’s also extremely pet-friendly, and I was able to meet a flurry of furry friends on my journey.

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Feeling refreshed and blessed for the connection with nature I had made today, I took a turn for the urban and had dinner at Ox, the Argentine-Portlandese fusion restaurant known for two-hours waits, woodsy-rustic smells, and delicious…tripe!??! I was intrigued from the moment I did a preliminary “Nearby” Yelp search, and I knew early on I’d be in for a treat.

As expected, the decor was a splendid setting for a delicious meal – clean, beechwood-colored counters and tables, rich brick walls, and an impressive silver-plated wood-fire oven. Untrue to the anticipated wait time, I was immediately sat at the bar, which is probably my favorite place to sit at restaurants anyway. Being that it was 7:00 pm on a Friday night, the place was poppin’ and full of locals enjoying empanadas and red wine galore. Taking recommendations from my bartender, Dylan, and fellow bar patrons, I went as big and as Argentinean as I could: buttery, smoky bone marrow clam chowder, a juicy lamb shoulder chop, and even a glass of Malbec! I indulge in a glass of wine maybe 5-6 times a year in the company of family and extremely close friends, but I felt this was well worth the punch in my Wine Card.

Per recommendation of my new chef friend sitting to my right, I took my adventuresome tastebuds to their edge. While I pride myself on being able to eat almost anything, I am wary of anything remotely spicy – a hindrance for me with respect to some of the hearty genres I love like Southern, Mexican, and South American food. The clam chowder was perfect in its creamy, mouth-melting goodness, but came with a few slices of jalapenos. Against my will, but at Tom the Chef’s insistence, I swirled the jalapeno into my soup, took a sip, and felt the flavor infuse my mouth and enrapture my senses. WHAT HAVE I BEEN MISSING ALL THESE YEARS!?! It became evident to me that the ancient use of spices truly does have a purpose, and that the phrase “spice of life” really was so apt. Needless to say, the soup you see below was finished in its entirety. 

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The lamb chop, too, was cooked all the way through and made me have a greater appreciation for fattier cuts of meat. Topped with the chimichurri raved to me by my leftside bar-neighbor, I felt temporarily transported to Meat Heaven. Shockingly, I didn’t even feel the need for dessert after dinner due to the level of satisfaction I was feeling afterwards. I slowly finished everything and hung around talking with the “bar-borhood” before trekking to the nearby Doug Fir for a show.

Being at a music show from approxmately 9:00-1:00 last night, I felt like I was actually in my early twenties for the first time in a couple weeks. This was the latest night I’ve had while on this trip, which I felt was completely appropriate being my last night in Portland. After all, I like to go out with a bang.

Let me start by saying that the Doug Fir is an absolute must-see for the full Portland cultural experience. While it’s obviously the only music venue I’ve been to while here, I can imagine it’s probably the coolest and one of the nicest, based on my conversations with locals. Once a dilapidated and nondescript motel, the place was drastically refurbished within the last decade (I believe) and now resembles a mid-century modern log cabin that perfectly embodies “swanky” in every way. With spherical lights, mirrored bathrooms, outside fire pits, and-oh-a glass-blown moose hanging up next to the bar, I was immediately intrigued and impressed by the level of emphasis on design placed here. The show venue downstairs also had a nice bar and allowed for adequate room to enjoy music and music-related activities.

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Billy Jean or Boogie Nights?

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Now…the music. There were three bands that played: first up was the jumpy, alt-pop and occasionally synthy Thumper. While it took just a little while to warm up, I couldn’t have been more pleased with their hand-clappy, catchy, almost chillwave-esque “Dancing’s Done”. Their last song was amazing too, but I had my first major fail of the night by neglecting to take the name of it down. Very upbeat with great guitar, though, so I’m sure that narrows it down for you if you happen to look ’em up. 😉

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Thumpers thumpin’ it out.

The next band, Pattern is Movement, was probably my favorite, so much that I was too enamored to even take a picture, apparently! With elements of Beirut, Pinback, and even James Blake, they run mostly on drums and crazily-tuned, layered vocals for their sound. Speaking of drums, the drummer’s faces were so classic that I deeply regret not capturing them during his performance. While everything was outstanding, the crowd went absolutely wild for the cover of D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does it Feel?)”. And I can say this: NEVER have I witnessed such impressive vocals in person, ever. To Spotify I go to add these gems to my fabled collection!

The final band and main headliner was Yellow Ostrich. As soon as they appeared onstage, I instantly noticed the swag of the lead singer – an integral component to a great performance. The Brooklyn-based outfit was classic, raw indie rock that brought in some of the atmospheric vocal layering reminiscent of the previous act. Needless to say, the harmony worked and I found myself a fan of them as well. All in all, I left thinking of my ticket as the underpriced key to my beautiful musical dream.

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No late night out is complete without food, so I joined a new concert-friend up at the restaurant part of DF for a scrumptious, warm, seasonal berry crisp. Not bad food and memorable service from one of incredibly entertaining servers (young guy with a beard – literally, you need to ask for him; sure that really narrows it down for you in Portland). It was a late night and an early morning, but I’ve never been happier to be tired in my life.

While I hope you enjoyed this latest installment of IC, the day is happening and I MUST seize it. Today brings journeys to Portland’s east side as well as another blog entry written from the air. Anything to counter my depression from leaving this exquisite state. 🙂

Enjoy the day!

– H

Thought of the day: Put yourself out of your comfort zone to find where you’ll be the most comfortable.

Oregon 2014: Just around the river, Bend

(Author pre-warning: the Internet is abysmal at my current place of lodging. As such, I was not able to post any pictures into this entry yet. Regardless, you can still check out my photos from today on my Flickr photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/haleyobryan/. Fellow accounting nerds might find it easy to view the words on one monitor and pictures on the other. In any event, pictures will be embedded tomorrow. Thank you for your patience!)

SO…SORE…CAN’T…MOVE!

That’s how you know it’s been a real adventure so far.

I looked out this morning and saw the primeval forestry that surrounded my hotel. No doubt, the gorge-ous (heh) Columbia Gorge and Mt. Hood National Forest are spectacles to be seen and are the places to be during winter in Oregon. But at that point, I realized that I had been looking at green things for five straight days. From the both-literally-and-figuratively-green Portland, to the woodsy Coast, to this endless forest that had now swallowed me up, my inner compass was pointing south – and south I headed.

I set course for today’s main event, the Smith Rock State Park, around 9:00 am and made my way down highway 26. About 20 minutes into my drive, I hit light snow that gradually become a bit more of a driving obstacle. Honestly, today was the first time I felt genuinely nervous on the road. I held onto the confidence of my tire chains and cat litter stuff and stayed strong, despite truly not being able to freaking see at times.

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It wasn’t long before the frosty, tree lined mountains turned into a dry, grassy, high-desert climate. I breathed a sigh of relief at this and stopped to take pictures of the incredible white-capped Cascades juxtaposed with this comparatively summery landscape. It was pretty breathtaking.

I stopped in the tiny town of Warm Springs to get myself caffeinated at the Eagle Crossing Restaurant, but ended up leaving with way more than I intended. I feel this establishment, of all that I’ve experienced on my trip, probably deserves the most special mention – not just for the delicious food, but for the absolutely incredible couple working there.

As I walked inside, I was immediately greeted by Brenda, who had me choose a seat in the spacious dining room surrounded by windows. Let me start by saying that any restaurant that gives me an entire carafe of coffee automatically gets at least 4 out of 5 stars in my book.

As the menu choices were vast, ranging from huckleberry pancakes to elk steak, I knew that I was in for a special treat. I ended up going with eggs and buffalo (my entry yesterday was only half-sarcastic – I really am a fan of unusual meats) and was not disappointed. When I overheard Brenda telling another customer that her husband and co-owner, Randy, homemade the delectable-looking cinnamon rolls at the front counter, I knew I had to jump on that immediately. When reviewing a restaurant, I normally take pictures of the food I eat, but my elation and excitement got the best of me. Rest assured, it was delicious, and I am enormously tempted to stop by again on my way back to Portland tomorrow.

Aside from the delicious eats, my favorite part about Eagle Crossing was getting to talk with Brenda. To put things into perspective, Brenda and her husband run the restaurant, a water sporting business, a farm, and a tax preparation business, essentially by themselves. Brenda also has a degree in fashion and has helped teach girls form underprivileged families make prom dresses. Okay, okay…I’m being a complete weirdo and telling someone’s like story whom I met 12 hours ago. That should tell you how much of an impression was made on me today!

Please – if you are EVER in the vicinity of central Oregon, or anywhere in Oregon, I implore you to come here. Great food, awesome people, and a little bit of central Oregon history in reading the newspaper clippings on the tables. You will not be disappointed.

I made it to SRSP shortly thereafter and spent about 2.5 hours hiking the cardio-blasting Misery Ridge and the leisurely River Trail. I don’t think I could have picked a better time to visit, because the scenery was absolutely gorgeous and the weather was PERFECT for some slightly strenuous hiking. I don’t necessarily recommend doing this, but I made it the entire time without a bottle of water in my hand and never feeling too hot or too cold. The hike itself was vaguely reminiscent of Arizona, but with a different treescape and far less sand.

All in all, this place is true to its reviews in that it has something to offer to everyone in terms of hiking length/difficulty. What’s most notable about the park is not necessarily the hikes, though, but the mountain climbing – mon Dieu! This is truly a rappeller’s paradise. There are unbelievable amount of smooth, red rock faces just prime for climbing, and climb people did. I managed to snap a quick shot of one such climber, below.

After my fun in the park, I finally made my way over to Bend – but not before at least attempting to stop by two local attractions that were alas, closed: Newberry Volcanic Monument and Tumalo Falls. While I had simply failed to Internet correctly while researching Newberry, Tumalo’s closing was completely out of nowhere. I was bummed, and had even trekked through a super-muddy path to try and get there, so I almost felt cheated. Nonetheless, all was not lost, as I was able to take a short segue from my would-be Newberry excursion later on to visit the awesome Benham Falls! While not necessarily as dramatic as Tumalo, I still felt that the brief hiker over (about a half-mile from where I parked) was well worth it.

My day ended with a trip to Bend’s Main Street for the best sushi in town and arguable central Oregon, 5 Fusion. Recommended to me by my cousin, Corey (thanks, cuz), I once again had an outstanding dining experience. The decor wasn’t terrible, either. I have to say that from what little I saw of Bend, it seemed pretty dang cool. Almost like a smaller, warmer, slower-paced Portland. It’s definitely on my list to explore on my next journey back to this great state.

I ordered the Spider roll, the chocolate cake, and approximately three pots of green tea. Since I sat at the bar, I met a few colorful characters and enjoyed the atmosphere immensely. I was at the restaurant for over two hours, chatting it up with Jim, the architect; Jane, the bartender; and occasionally Ian, the eccentric young man who introduced himself by offering me a piece of spicy edamame. The bar-sat populace seemed generally perplexed that I had recently celebrated my 24th birthday. For some reason, the fact that I was venturing out into the world alone at this age was shocking to them. I responded by telling them that this was my own personal method of “finding myself”, as every other 20-something that ever existed is constantly trying to do. I then posed a pivotal, serious question to my bar-neighbors, two of whom were around mid-forties and one of whom was in her late-twenties:

“Does it ever get easier?”

To sum up the responses, not at all – but you get a whole lot tougher.

Thought of the day: See above. Get back to me in 20 years RE above.

– H

p.s. My legs still hurt.

Oregon 2014: Girl in the Hood

This morning was the first of the Odyssey that required an alarm. The extra sleep was perhaps beckoned by my calves, which are still absolutely burning from yesterday’s adventure for some reason. Or maybe I did ballet lifts in my sleep last night. Either one is plausible.

I set out this morning for my longest drive yet: the trek from Seaside to Mt. Hood. My morning began by dropping over $40 on snow-ready equipment (namely tire chains and “get-out-of-the-snow-salt-stuff”) that I didn’t end up using at all. I’m definitely in the “better safe than sorry” camp, though, so no regrets were had.

Most of the drive was beautiful and there was literally no traffic – not that there would be in the middle on March on a Wednesday in western Oregon, but still. Being from Southern California, this is a serious point of culture shock to me.

The below photos are terrible, but I don’t feel like I’ve posted enough dangerously taken photographs of my distractingly beautiful drives while here, ya know?

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But remember what I said yesterday about it taking forever to get places here because you’ll eventually have to stop for something beautiful/funky/interesting? Well, I thought this morning that I would be able to satisfy my craving for kangaroo jerky. The minute I woke up, I knew I needed some and I secretly hoped I would find a kangaroo jerky peddler on my way to the Mountain. My hopes were dashed when I found a store that not only sold kangaroo jerky, but my other favorite, alligator jerky – but was CLOSED! Needless to say, I’m still recovering from the devastation.

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What could have been.

The drive up the mountain on Highway 26 gradually introduces snow into the landscape beautifully. I was bummed that Mirror Lake was closed (no luck from November till end of April, sadly), but continued on up and was still wowed, particularly when I passed this mini-valley of snow that opened up on each side of the road. Again, picture’s terrible, but I’m still alive:

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The one downfall of traveling alone is not having a personal photo-taker who a) can do this for you while driving and b) is generally a far superior photographer to you.

After reaching the Main Parking lot of Mt. Hood Meadows, I got situated with my rental gear (extremely easy process, by the way – I have to give a special shout-out to the Meadows staff for being awesome) and began my ski activities like any safety-conscious, risk-aware adult who skis once, maybe twice a year would: by starting out on the Blue Lower Face lift. FYI, this serves mostly-black diamond skiiers with hints of blue squares and a charity green circle towards the end. I felt pretty confident for the first 2 minutes until while mid-pizza down Ridge Run, a ski went bye-bye. The ski then decided to go off about 20 feet downhill from me. Fabulous. Mind you, it was snowing and visibility was getting poorer by the minute. At my first attempt to single-ski my way over, I ended up falling more downhill. At this point, I looked great and felt even better. “Come on, I can do this”, I thought. After reuniting with the ski, I converted the hill into my own private sledding party and made my way down the hill to flatter ground. It only took about 10 minutes for me to get my other ski on, much to other skiier/snowboarder amusement. I finally got it on and proceeded to find my way into off-limits ski areas galore (what IS it with me and getting into random areas?!), before finally making it back onto Beaver Tail. The rest of the run went smoothly, if you can call it that. Let’s just say I packed the equivalent of 200+ squats into my thighs with that first one thanks to my continuous “pizzaing” down 80% of the run.

Ego interlude: I mean, honestly guys, I’m NOT a terrible skiier. I skiied when I was little, took a break for snowboarding from 10-23, quit snowboarding because falling hurts, and then went back to skiing this year. The last time I went skiing, I was doing blues and occasionally diamonds by the end of the day. Key word: END of the day. I’m capable, it just happens slowly, dang it. Ego interlude complete.

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We’re off to a great start.

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It’s getting cold in here, so put on way more clothes…
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Frozen, bruised, and stuck on a hill at this point. Still happy.

Amazingly enough, after sticking to the Daisy and Easy Rider lifts, I found myself snapping right back to my “warmed up” level and enjoyed myself immensely. It finally became freezing around 3:00, so I did my last run and headed out to my hotel.

It took me about 30 minutes to land at my Welches, OR stopping point for the night, The Resort at the Mountain. I had book it pretty unassumingly, as I just needed a decent (and decently-priced) crash pad for the evening after a day in the snow. My, was I surprised! This place has a cute, refurbished mid-century modern/rustic northwest look and is a neat little spot.

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I spent a couple of hours touring the nearby grounds, including the empty golf courses. The Foxglove course was particularly nice, and even offered a giant, random rock to climb on, which I totally did.

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I came, I saw…
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…I conquered (taken from the top of my rock. Yes, MY rock!)

What was so cool about this place was that everywhere I went led to another mini-adventure in its own. While I started with the golf courses, the courses led to a creek.

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The creek led to trails.

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The trails led to more tree-lined streets with gorgeous homes of lucky people. But first, I found deer!

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I ended my journey by stopping at another nearby golf course to swing on the swing set while listening to music. As I looked out, I could see the vast green of the courses, the massive wall of green and white that was the mountains, and the lush forestry in between. The air smelled like a mixture between grass and a campfire. I could feel how fresh the air was on my skin. I was honestly the only human being out there at that moment, and I truly felt like I owned the world.

I returned to my room refreshed and ready for an early night.

If we’re giving themes to these days, I’d have to say that today taught me about tranquility. Whether it was during my mid-storm mountain debacle or my smooth-running bound through the forest, a tranquil state of mind is what made me feel the best. I was fortunate enough to enjoy a whole lot of beauty today, and I’ll never discount that. My eyes are smiling and thankful for what they’ve been given, and the world is all the more gorgeous to me now.

So, what does tomorrow bring? It’s a weird one. Oddly enough, tomorrow is the only night that I have no set plans and no lodging prepared. But I still have two full days here in Oregon that are in my hands, and I intend to make the most of them. What tomorrow brings may be a mystery, but I know the outcome will be amazing regarless.

Man, I’ve pretty much spoiled the thought of the day, haven’t I? Oh well, here it goes anyway…

Thought of the day: Despite everything that’s happening at any given moment, it’s a beautiful world out there. The beauty you seek could be right around the corner, so don’t be afraid to explore for it.

– H