Friday, December 30, 2016

A Pacific Northwest Year in Pictures

Here we are again. Goodbye 2016, hello 2017!

I'd like to share substantive, moving reflections on the year just passed (or almost past, depending on when you read this). But I'm spent.  I've been down with a cold and am just starting to feel part of the world again today. Check my gratitude blog post in November for reflections.

So today's post is primarily photos of the year past. I hope you enjoy this perspective of my cherished Pacific Northwest. 

Winter 2016
Two words sum up my winter:  lowland hiking.  In some ways the best time of year to be out, with much lower traffic on our increasingly popular trails.

Deception Pass State Park, WA. Great winter hiking trails!
View of Salish Sea from Fragrance Lake Trail, WA
Spring 2016
One word:  Sunsets.  I love to shoot sunrises and sunsets all year. And I hike all year.

Salish Sea sunset from Seattle's Carkeek Park

Barclay Lake, WA
Sunset from Seattle's Golden Gardens Park

Two themes: (1) Hiking. A recurring theme. It's relatively inexpensive, it's good for you, and we've got endless wonderful trails here in Upper Left USA, and (2) SE Alaska and ferry ride home down the Inside Passage. One of my awesome-est trips ever!

Snow Lake, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, WA

Inside Passage, AK

Two words:  Returning and richness. For me autumn is about returning, usually to the North Cascades Institute for some wonderful food, environmental-themed speakers, and hiking; to the north-central Cascades to stalk golden larches; and to Hood River Valley for an annual weekend with high school friends. It's all rich and wonderful. My favorite season.

Draper Girls's Country Farm, Hood River Valley, Oregon
Golden larch with Mt. Stuart backdrop, Washington

And this winter now that will blend into 2017? 

Holiday frenzy shifting down to mostly napping. A nasty cold has forced me to stop everything and just allow myself to heal/regenerate/read/be.  Of course, on the first day of winter last week I did begin with an exhilarating day on the slopes.

Stevens Pass, WA (same as top photo on this post).
 So the circle starts again.

Wishing you and yours a happy, productive, joyous 2017 with a good dose of outdoors and adventure, if that's your taste.

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Portland Holiday Overnight Getaway

I've hardly gotten out for any Pacific Northwest adventuring recently, but this past weekend I dashed down to Portland from Seattle for a long overdue overnight to see family and friends.

I'm always drawn to Portland around the holidays.  Partly I'm nostalgic for childhood holiday season memories like visiting Santa on the top floor of Meier & Frank downtown or watching for the red nose on the White Stag sign as we crossed the Willamette River. Meier & Frank is long gone, but the huge neon sign is still there (although the words have changed).

When I arrived, the city was still slick and frosted in lingering snow from earlier in the week, but by midday things were warming up fast. After visiting with friends for a birthday and then meeting up with my brother and wife for lunch at the Grand Central Bakery in Multnomah Village (excellent sandwiches), I headed downtown for a few hours.

Compared to downtown Seattle, downtown Portland is more compact, walkable, and charming. Seattle grew quickly in the 1890s as a gold rush town (gateway to the Klondike) in a haphazard fashion, while Portland was settled more sedately by New Englanders. It shows in how each city is planned (or not) and laid out.

 As usual, I made a beeline for Powell's Books on Burnside, perched at the edge of gentrified Pearl District. I could spend hours browsing this treasure of a huge bookstore, and came away with several books/ Christmas gifts for family and friends.

Overall I spent a couple hours wandering and shopping, and popped down to Pioneer Courthouse Square to see the Christmas tree (see top photo). While Portland has excellent transit in the form of streetcars, MAX light rail, and buses, I usually find street parking south of Burnside and up around 10th and 12th (forget about the Pearl).

Early evening was dancing and R&B at the Blue Diamond, east across the Willamette River on Sandy Boulevard. What I loved about this unpretentious bar was the great music, friendly atmosphere (a birthday boy was offering everyone free cupcakes and Voodoo Doughnuts), and a decidedly un-hipster vibe.

Instead of hitting up friends or family for a place to stay, this trip I was treated to an overnight at McMenamins Kennedy School in north Portland's Alberta Arts District. Okay, I will try to be balanced here - we weren't impressed with the  comfort and quality of the room for the cost ($260/night), the alarm clock beside the bed randomly waking us up at 4 am, and that the cozy Dentention Bar was closed. We caught an okay movie in the theater, but alas missed out on the highlight of staying here, the saltwater soaking pool.

To be fair, they did give a discount when these issues were declared.

Before heading back north, breakfast was a delicious and interesting breakfast burrito at The Big Egg Breakfast Shop on Alberta. (sorry no photo). This cozy, cute little breakfast place was the perfect spot before the slog drive back north.

Even though I was born in Seattle and have lived there most of my adult life, Portland will always have a piece of my heartespecially during the holiday season.

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.

When You Go
This post is just a teensy snapshot of what an overnight in Portland can be like. While I drove from Seattle (a little less than 3 hours via Interstate 5) this trip, the trip via Amtrak train is a wonderful way to travel. What do you like to do and see in Portland?