From getaways

Agradecido: How the Inca Trail showed me my true inner strength

Words by Nadia Ibanez, photos by Alaina Hower, Romina Rossel and Nadia Ibanez

When you carry four day’s worth of stuff on your back. Packin’ heat. Photo credit: Romina Rossel

Editor’s note: The times of day, our wake up calls, distances, anything number related. These numbers might be slightly off because I was likely delirious with bliss and pain on the Inca Trail and also because I’m really bad at numbers. My apologies, I’ll let my travel mates let me know if I miss anything 🙂

Spoiler alert: If you have not seen the finale of “The Great British Baking Show” Season 3, please scroll down few paragraphs until I tell you to stop. I know, a British baking show is a tall order, but I figured I’d offer the spoiler alert so that I don’t get my first piece of hate mail 🙂


“I am never ever going to put boundaries on myself ever again.

I’m never going to say, ‘I can’t do it.’ I’m never going to say ‘Maybe.’ 

I’m never going to say, ‘I don’t think I can.’

I can. And I will.”

These were the words that home chef, Nadiya, said after winning Season 3 of “The Great British Baking Show.” My roommate got me hooked on the show and just a couple days before I left for Peru, I realized I never watched the last 45 minutes of the season finale. I was giving my brain and body a rest before leaving for the trip so I turned the episode on…not realizing it would leave me bawling at the end.

When I heard this contestant say these words, I couldn’t help but put myself in her footsteps. And it wasn’t just because we shared the same name. Feeling like an underdog and having to prove herself (in a group of men, no less), Nadiya had a certain attitude and prowess I started to see within myself.

These words were haunting me because I knew I was about to embark on not only an amazing vacation, but the hardest thing I was ever about to do.


OK, THE COAST IS CLEAR! SPOILER ALERT OVER.

Four days to Machu Picchu…

When Romina asked if I would be interested in hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, I said yes without even thinking about it. She mentioned words like “long trail” and “camping” and “trek”. I still instantly said yes. I had an approximate idea of what the trip would be: Hike and camp for a couple days. Be out in the middle of nowhere. Altitude.

No joke, you guys. I’m not going to lie. This was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

As I’ve grown as a traveler, I’ve found this weird new habit of deciding to go to a new place or check out a new thing without doing a lick of research. I love the surprise of just showing up somewhere and having no preconceived notion of what that thing would look like. I did it once before when my man took me to Gas Works Park in Seattle and I have loved that moment of awe ever since.

I knew the Inca Trail was going to be insane. Yet, I continued this habit of doing zero research…other than what to pack. I knew I was about to walk — a lot. And I figured that I knew my body enough to understand that it was possible to do this trek. I work out pretty much every day. I’m fit and I can walk long distances without a problem. It sounded like I had all of the prerequisites to do this trip.

I didn’t know anything. No clue how many miles we would do everyday. No idea about the change in altitude or how to treat it. (I ended up getting some meds from my doctor, and hallelujah that worked out.) I had no idea what I’d see and I didn’t mind keeping it that way.

We acclimated in Cusco, approximately 11,100 ft. in elevation, for two days before we left for the Inca Trail. The night before, we met with our guide, Clima, to get a brief on what to expect each day and how to prepare. He named off historical places we’d see, the slowness of what our pace should be when we started Day Two, what we needed to pack, and so much more.

Bright and chipper on day one.

All I kept thinking about was how crazy day two was supposed to be. It would be the hardest day but the shortest distance. We’d have to climb something called Dead Woman’s Pass with a peak of 13,800 ft. What the eff did I just get myself into?

Alas, I played it cool in front of everyone. I even remember telling my boyfriend the night before on the phone, “Oh, I feel so much better now knowing what I’m getting myself into!”


We woke up around 3:30 or 4 a.m. to catch our two or three-hour ride to Kilometer 82 in Piscacucho (9,200 ft. above sea level), the start of our trek. Clima started us off on the trail, teaching us the medicinal values of a few of the plants we’d pass along the way. We were a group of seven friends with one trekker who was dealing with food poisoning from the night before and another who was still nursing a neck injury from a surfing accident. Clima called us the Sexy Llamas but really we should have been the Sexy Tortugas (turtles) because we just needed some extra time. Clima probably thought we’d be hopeless and take forever to everrrything.

Starting out strong on day one.
Horses and mules were everywhere on day one.

We started day one and it was hot. We must have been in the desert, or at least that’s what it felt like to me. We were baking and my altitude pills said I couldn’t be in direct sunlight. Grrreat. We made it to our first stopping point after what Clima said would be a five minute hiking sample of what the insanity of day two would look like.

After our five minute intro to the Incan Hills.

Good lord, these hills do not love you. They want to break you down so much so that you can feel every muscle fiber light on fire. It burned and day two was starting to sound even more nuts. After a few more hours of hiking and Learning Corner with Clima, we made it to our lovely campsite alongside the Urubamba River.

Meals in our tent with Florenzio looking over while we enjoyed his delicious food.

The food on the trek was unbelievable. Sure, our blood sugar levels were probably through the roof when it came to meal time everyday so anything would have tasted delicious. But our chef, Florenzio, was fantastic. We had some of the best guacamole, grilled fish, lomo saltado, fresh vegetables and salads, the most amazing popcorn, and hearty soups. Each meal was like sitting down for a private three-course meal from a fancy Peruvian restaurant in our own little tent. One of our porters even took it upon himself to sculpt animals out of food for all of our meals.

One of our porters carving animals from fruits and vegetables.

I will forever be grateful to our porters on this trip. They took care of us in every way we needed, from serving Romina and I Chicha Morada when we’ve had enough of the trail to preparing warm water for us to wash our hands before meals when it was freezing out. While we had a bit of a language barrier, we made friends with each other. I called them my “novios más fuerte” and I will always remember you all.

WashingtĂłn, descansa en paz.

Mis novios mas fuertes y yo 🙂

Saeko and Tony getting amped for day two.

The start of day two was hours away. I popped a sleeping pill, since we had an early wake up call, and fell asleep underneath the stars and to the sounds of the river.

The entirety of day two was a bit blurry. We were to hike up to “Dead Woman’s Pass” (because the shape of the mountains resembled a woman, not because it’s named after a horrendous incident). Clima warned us again to take the trek very slowly. I took the tiniest of steps as we started approaching the peak of the Pass. I could barely breathe. I would take a few steps and instantly have to stop because I felt my heart pounding unlike I’ve ever felt before. Nonetheless, I was determined to finish and I kept telling myself, “The more steps you take, the closer you will be to the peak. Just get there. You are stronger than you think you are.”

The scenery on day two was amazing. We passed through the tundra, mountain ranges, the forest, and up into the clouds.

That entire morning, I kept hearing

I’m never going to say, ‘I can’t do it.’ I’m never going to say ‘Maybe.’ 

I knew that my body was capable of getting to the peak. I realized that I’ve proven myself to my actual self and I started to cry. The closer I got to the peak, the more emotional I was getting. My breathing was becoming even harder and I knew that if I didn’t keep my cool until reaching the peak, I’d have way more problems breathing.

All of us after ascending Dead Woman’s Pass.
Clima, leader of the Sexy Llamas, and Chrissy after reaching the peak on day two.

 

On top of Dead Woman’s Pass.

Finally. We made it to the highest point of our four-day trek. Clima gave us all hugs and congratulated us. We took a group photo at the top and everyone started to head down the crazy steep exit. Clima said I had three minutes until we all needed to get down. Apparently, your body can only handle a few minutes in that altitude. I climbed up a small hill (the breast of Dead Woman’s Pass, if you will) and sat for a moment.

These photos might be my favorite 🙂

“You did it. You f*cking did it. You made it. You are so strong,” I remember telling myself.

I started to cry — like full-on bawling. I couldn’t control it. I was so happy and felt an emotion I don’t think I’ve ever experienced. I had just accomplished something that seemed so unattainable. I will never forget that moment.

Our campsite on day two. It might have been the hardest day but it was the prettiest campsite.

The insanity of day two wasn’t over. We still had to hike down some treacherous steps for a few hours to get to base camp. But we all survived and celebrated. Camp was in the middle of the most amazing mountain range and we arrived with enough time to watch the sunset. We even had our own stream alongside our tents for us to fall asleep to. It was mystical and magical.

Sunrise from our campsite on day two.

Day three was definitely the most beautiful day of the trek. We climbed through mountainsides, the valley, clouds and jungle. We walked through tunnels and hugged the mountainside when the trail narrowed only to show off the massive and dramatic cliffs and drop offs just inches from our feet. Day three was the longest but somehow we didn’t notice because we were surrounded by beauty 100 percent of the time. We learned about the Phuyupatamarka ruins, the indigenous Andean religion, and the symbolism behind the native lands and animals.

We continued crossing through the jungle that seemed to closely resemble the movie Tarzan and I watched and listened as the birds and butterflies flew around us. We could see Aguas Calientes below us, a small town near Machu Picchu and the absolute finish line of our trek and where we’d say goodbye to Clima.

Chrissy and Sara <3

After hours on the trail, we made it to base camp. We shared our last meal with Clima and our porters. I think we all lavished in the idea that day four was going to be a breeze and that we’d end up at Machu Picchu by 8 a.m. the next day.

Near Cloud Forest, in all of her beauty.

Our wake up call on day four was around 3:30 a.m. We started the trek when it was still dark out and we passed through the clouds and vines as the sun started to rise. It was such a magical experience and I took a few breaks to just sit and listen. We finally approached the Sun Gate to Machu Picchu. Unfortunately the clouds didn’t have enough time to burn off by the time we passed so we didn’t get a clear shot of the ruins.

Finding a moment to sit, meditate, and listen on our way to Machu Picchu day four.

Clima gave us a tour of the grounds and taught us the significance of the stones, how the ruins were discovered, how the sun and moon played a role in how people used to live in Machu Picchu and SO much more. We had our own time to roam before eventually making our way to the bus out of the ruins to start the next leg of our adventure.

I wish I had all the words to say about the four days we spent on the trail. Knowing that only 500 people (with only 200 as fellow trekkers) are allowed on the trail on any given day, June 27-June 30, 2017 will always have a special place in my heart.

Walking through the jungle…
In the clouds on day four.
This photo barely shows how steep our paths were on day two and three.

Pachamama, te recordaré. Siempre estoy agradecido. 

Atop Machu Picchu.

And for all of you numbers people out there… (Thanks to Alaina’s Fitbit)

Inca Trail Numbers

Day OneDay TwoDay ThreeDay Four
Hiking: Five hours
Steps: 23,900
Floors: 170
Miles: 8.3
Calories: 2,900
Hiking: Six hours
Steps: 28,000
Floors: 449
Miles: 6.4
Calories: 3,500
Hiking: Eight hours
Steps: 33,000
Floors: 207
Miles: 10.8
Calories: 3,100
Hiking: Three hours
Miles: 4.3

Thank you Alaina for taking these amazing photos. You’ve captured our trip in the most beautiful of ways 🙂

A modern guide to the historic Indian Springs Calistoga

 Written by and photos by Meaghan Clark

In stark contrast to the crystal clear blue skies sits a shimmering white road, a welcome aura that elicits feelings of comfort and familiarity.

Indian Springs’ historic property nestled amongst the vineyards and mineral springs of Calistoga, California is the quintessential site to embrace nature, wash off your worries, and disconnect. A pristine oasis in the hustle of today’s social angst, the 17-acre property that dates back to 1862 celebrates regional flavor with a nod to history.

Indian Springs Calistoga mineral pool
The entrance to the historic (and recently renovated) pool

 

Upon entrance, settle in to a spacious room that overlooks some of the property’s best features, like a lagoon complete with lily pads, graciously green grasses or even a reflecting adult pool. While the property itself features everything from private bungalows to cottages and a lodge, size mean nothing to guests here — each individual retreat feels like a solo expedition.

Start your day with a quick jaunt through the neighborhood, where if you’re a jogger like me means traipsing up and down two-lane roads nestled between local vineyards. Wineries are tucked between residential homes in this part of town, just make sure to make a mental list to any places that pique your interest (my favorite is Tedeschi Family Winery).

Sam will hook you up
A delicious charcuterie plate prepared by the team at Sam’s Social Club

 

On your way back into the resort, stop for a quick cup of fresh coffee, set aside at the property’s Terrace Room adjacent to the resort entrance, where bocce courts and property chickens reside. A roaring fireplace and fresh, locally brewed coffee will be awaiting your arrival. Or, if you’d prefer, brew your own cup of Joe in your room supplied by Equator.

Head into the property’s restaurant, Sam’s Social Club, where you’ll find an assortment of spot-on morning trends like avocado toast and staples like a mushroom and leek scramble to curb your appetite. It’s essential to be a breakfast person today, as your next adventure awaits — the spa.

Locally brewed coffee in your room
Brew your own coffee in each spacious room with local beans from Equator

 

While the property is vast in its acreage, the spa is a quaint and friendly reminder of Indian Springs’ antiquity. The mud bath, a signature treatment of Calistoga, which combines local volcanic ash and mineral water, is without question the one treatment on the must-try list. Not much has changed over the years, from the stream room to the claw foot tubs or cucumber water, but why mess with a good thing?

Any of the treatments in the spa are on point but just make sure to give yourself some time to explore the surrounding Buddha pond, a retreat for those robe-clad individuals. With outdoor fireplaces, cool cucumber water, lounge chairs and umbrellas, it’s another serene space for any post-spa treatment. The constant humming of the mineral water churning will leave you mesmerized for hours as big puffs of smoke fill up the sky at all hours of the day.

view from the room
The view from a lagoon-facing room at Indian Springs Calistoga

 

You come to Calistoga for the mud and the waters, and Indian Springs delivers both.

Like the central figure in any blockbuster film, the resort’s Olympic-size mineral pool is the shining star. Nearly a century old, the recently restored pool (which was renovated this year and reopened July 25, 2016) steps up the tranquility level. Massive in size and ambient in temperature, the water isn’t dominated by faint hints of chlorine and temperate isn’t monitored by machine, but rather nature. As should be a requirement for any spa retreat in Calistoga, Indian Springs also provides an adult-only oasis that’s private and all grown up.

The small town feel that Calistoga is known for predominates its dining scene. Fear not, as the top restaurant in the city is within walking distance.

Sink your teeth into this
Hungry? The rib-eye at Sam’s Social Club in Calistoga is a feast

 

While we aren’t typically ones to suggest dining on site for two meals at day, the eclectic and surprising unique menu at Sam’s Social Club is a rare delight. The seasonal menu changes often, and rarely disappoints. Featuring fantastic starters like a ceviche and octopus, or main courses like the ever-present cauliflower steak, it’s impressive no matter the season. And while your visit to Indian Springs serves as a retreat to your mind and body, don’t forget to leave room for dessert.

 

Indian Springs Calistoga 

1712 Lincoln Avenue
Calistoga, CA 94515
707-942-4913

To enjoy the spa or make a reservation, visit Indian Springs Calistoga online.

What to do and where to stay in Hawaii

Written by and photos by Michael A.

Are you figuring out what to do and where to stay in Hawaii? Here’s the perfect guide to your Hawaiian adventure for both the thrillseeker and the maxin’ and relaxin’ type of vacationer.

Exploring the Hilo Side of Big Island

Where to stay while Visiting Volcanoes National Park: Volcano Mist Cottage

DSCN7352
Beautiful and comfortable private outdoor seating area with easy to start fireplace while you listen to the beautiful calls of the rainforest
DSCN7349
Outdoor seating
DSCN7356
Outdoor Shower
DSCN7313
Your view as you wake up to the peaceful sounds of the rainforest
DSCN7335
Indoor electric fireplace in your living room
DSCN7332
Full kitchen for those of you who like to cook
DSCN7324
Bathrobes for that true vacation feel

Look at these pictures!!!! Talk about three perfect days in Volcano Village! Volcano Mist Cottage makes you feel like you’re in a private massage and spa treatment sanctuary for your entire stay. Volcano Mist Cottage is one of the coolest places I’ve ever stayed. Situated a mere seven minute drive from Volcanoes National Park and only five minutes from local restaurants, this is the perfect place to stay when visiting this side of the island. Although many of you are familiar with both Kona and Hilo on the Big Island, the main reason people go to the “Hilo side” is to check out Volcanoes National Park because there really isn’t all that much to do in Hilo itself. If you were to stay in Hilo, the national park is about an hour away. You won’t want to spend the time driving each day so try to stay closer to the park. With that being said, there really aren’t too many hotels near the park (I mean very slim pickings). So, you’ll end up at a B&B or something on the smaller side. Read more

Looking for the Best Bed and Breakfast in Washington? Check out Domaine Madeleine!

DSCN6549
Spacious Bedroom

DSCN6570

DSCN6572

DSCN6573
Cozy Fireplace
DSCN6555
3 complimentary Harbinger bottles of wine for March’s Wine Month
DSCN6557
Spacious Bathroom with bidet
DSCN6559
Deep jacuzzi in 4 out of 5 of the rooms

 

DSCN6562
Beautiful spacious private deck overlooking the Straight of Juan de Fuca and CanadaDSCN6563
Beautiful spacious private deck overlooking the Straight of Juan de Fuca and Canada 

 

 

Written by and photos by Michael A.

Domaine Madeleine is truly a 5-star Bed and Breakfast for an unbelievable price. In my opinion, it’s the best bed and breakfast in Washington — if not in the U.S. Never have I been so blown away by a stay at a hotel, resort, or a B&B. I’m legitimately having withdrawals writing about this place knowing that I can’t be there right now. I often don’t travel to a place more than once, but I’ll definitely find a way to get back there as soon as possible. This is truly the perfect weekend/week/month/year-long getaway spot. Now that you’ve seen the pictures, please do yourself and your significant other a huge favor and go their site right now to book your stay as this place fills up fast!

The Rooms at Domaine Madeleine

This quaint B&B is nestled right on the northern edge of the state of Washington overlooking the Straight of Juan de Fuca and Canada. All but one of the rooms has an absolutely gorgeous view of the water and the vast well-maintained green lawn that precedes the bluffs. Each room is very spacious with huge windows facing the water to make sure that each guest can constantly admire the beauty of Domaine Madeleine’s location and experience the beauty that the Olympic Peninsula of Washington has to offer. Each room has a very earthly feel to it and comes with a beautiful painting above the bed that represents one part of the Olympic National Park.

There are five different rooms on this property. They are all nicely spread out so that you have complete privacy and it really makes you feel like you have your own little apartment. I stayed in the Hurricane Ridge Suite and it was absolutely stunning.

As I walked into the main house, I immediately fell in love with the place.  The beautiful dinning room had a chandelier hanging over the table and a huge window opening up to the beautiful green lawn, which hangs above the Straight of Juan de Fuca. There was a bowl of chocolates waiting for me as well as freshly made cookies at all times.

This room is fully equipped with a beautiful wood fireplace and lots of firewood, huge windows with an amazing view, a jacuzzi in the bathroom, flat screen TV, bidet, robes, slippers for him and her, binoculars (to see the wildlife from your room), a spacious balcony with lawn chairs and a table, and the most comfortable King size bed I have ever laid on, making this easily the best bed and breakfast in Washington.

With all of these amenities, this room made it so incredibly hard for me to leave and actually explore the area. I think I had the most relaxing stay I’ve ever had in my life. I would just hang out in the room with the fire going and drink wine all day while looking out at the gorgeous view. Book this place now!

The Food at Domaine Madeleine

DSCN6585
1st course
DSCN6593
2nd course
DSCN6595
2nd course
DSCN6602
3rd course
DSCN6614
4th course
DSCN6763
1st course
DSCN6766
2nd course
DSCN6772
3rd course
4th course
4th course

 

DSCN6540
Where much of their food is grown on the property

During those few hours that I was able to pull myself away from my room, I headed downstairs (you can also have it delivered to your room) for a four-course breakfast prepared by Brian, a Cordon Bleu-trained chef. Needless to say, if you’re going to have the best bed and breakfast in Washington the food has to also be amazing; and it definitely was!

The really cool part of the eating experience though was Brian himself. As he served each course, he would describe what was on the plate as well as where the food came from. The ingredients from each dish were truly hyper-local as just about every ingredient came from within a five mile radius of the B&B. In fact, I want to say that roughly 25 percent of the food is actually grown on the Domaine Madeleine property.

The ingredients are fresh, the food is delicious, and Brian really makes the experience wonderful and worth leaving your beautiful room for an hour or two.

Domaine Madeleine’s Location

DSCN6684
Olympic Game Farm; 4 feet away from our car
DSCN6738
Olympic Game Farm
DSCN6735
Olympic Game Farm; I smell Hot Cheeeeetos!
DSCN6801
Spruce Railroad Trail
DSCN6805
Spruce Railroad Trail

If you’re able to actually make it off of the grounds of Domaine Madeleine’s, unlike me, you’ll realize that this B&B is perfectly situated next to many of Olympic National Park’s main nature attractions. This is just another reason why this was easily the best bed and breakfast in Washington.

Domaine Madeleine is only 15 minutes away from the Olympic Game Farm which is a truly unique experience where you will have everything from peacocks to Bison, and Elk fighting for your attention as they swarm your car. If you drive a few minutes further, you’ll reach the Dungeness Spit & Lighthouse. In the other direction, Ediz Hook is only 30 minutes away. Go 15 minutes further and you’ll stumble upon Spruce Railroad Trail.

I stopped at Kokopelli Grill in Port Angeles on Friday night as I had heard wonderful things about their food. It definitely didn’t let me down and you should book early to get a reservation here.

DSCN6582
Kokopelli Grill
DSCN6583
Kokopelli Grill

If you played your cards like me and barely left the property, explore the grounds of Domaine Madeleine as it is very well kept and right in the middle of nature. They have a garden and the stunning views overlook the Straight of Juan de Fuca and Canada. Plus, you can check off your wildlife sightseeing adventure as there is a family of Bald Eagles living in the trees right outside the Domaine Madeleine property.

From the second I booked this place, Stephen, the Innkeeper, was absolutely tremendous. He not only gave me recommendations for where to eat and hike, but he reach out to every restaurant I considered just to make sure they would fit me in on a busy night. Stephen has a lot of pull in Port Angeles and the restaurants seemed to all know and value anyone staying at the Domaine Madeleine property.

Stephen not only showed me the ins-and-outs of my beautiful room, but he actually gave me a tour of the entire property. When I was out of wood for the fire (because I was using it all day), he had someone come up with more wood and set up the fire again. Stephen also made sure that my room always had wine from Harbinger Winery (DELICIOUS). I was even lucky enough to be treated to a private wine tasting in their main room with Harbinger Winery.

I really can’t say enough good things about the room, the food, the location, and the absolutely wonderful customer service and experience. This is easily the best bed and breakfast in Washington if not in the US. This had to be one of the most relaxing weekends of my life and that’s all thanks to the beauty of Domaine Madeleine. Do yourself, or your significant other, a favor and make a trip out here no matter where you are in the world. Don’t think of Olympic National Park as your travel destination and Domaine Madeleine as your place of stay, but rather make Domaine Madeleine your destination and you will be in for a great treat. This is truly a gem unlike any other.

Explore the many landscapes of Oregon

Crater Lake
I mean, just look at this place.

Written by and photos by Michael A.

Although no one would ever question the beauty of Oregon, the state is much more than just beautiful forests. Oregon is in a constant state of beauty whether you’re driving up the beautiful beaches, wandering around the forests, rock climbing in Smith Rock State Park, or eating the West Coast meets Southern style fusion food in Portland. And let’s not forget about all of the breweries and medical dispensaries that seem to be popping up all over the state.

So, follow me on a road trip from California through Oregon as I make stops in Klamath Falls, Crater Lake, Bend, Smith Rock State Park, Multnomah Falls, Portland, and all up and down the coast.

Crater Lake

DSCN4852

Although Crater Lake is regarded as one of Oregon’s biggest tourist destinations, it was pretty empty and peaceful on the day that I went. I should prefix that with the fact that I went on a Friday, mid-November afternoon when most people are working. Note to self: always check the driving advisories before making the trip to Crater Lake as it does get quite a bit of snow and your car will start sliding. Also, there aren’t any gas stations within around 30 miles of the Lake. So, don’t be like me and try to “man up” against your tank. Feed your car some of that sweet gas before making her drive to isolated areas. She’ll appreciate it ;).

I was a bit hesitant to make a stop here as there was a lot of other things I wanted to do in Oregon. Whether you want to stay by the coast your not, do yourself the favor and make a stop here. Although I had the benefit of not running into very many people, it’s hard not to find peace and tranquility with such a beautiful view.

Bend

12003878_10207808715198532_343401090921263105_n

Up until my visit, I can honestly say that I didn’t know all that much about Bend. When you think of cities in Oregon, for the most part, we just think of the state as having a ton of trees and that one city named Portland. However, Bend is a great city to stop on your way up through the state. There are tons of food options and breweries everywhere you look. With this combination, it’s hard not to have a good time. Oh, and did I mention, attractive people everywhere! Who would have thought? Since you are somewhat in the middle of nowhere, prices are cheap and you can easily find a hotel room for under $100.

Smith Rock State Park

DSCN5184

The central/eastern part of Oregon definitely doesn’t feel like Oregon anymore. Out with the tall trees and in with the beautiful wide-open landscapes. Oregon quickly transforms itself from greenery everywhere you look to a hay-type hue with beautiful rock formations. If you decide to go to Bend on your way north to Portland, this is an easy stop on the way. If you’re a rock climber, you’ll definitely not want to miss this stop as you’ll see hundreds of rock climbers trying to make these rock formations their bitch.

DSCN5094

Multnomah Falls

12208705_10207846707388313_2842090958914537290_n

Just an hour or so east of Portland is one of the most beautiful waterfalls I have ever laid my eyes on and that’s saying a lot. I’ve seen them all over Iceland, Ireland, Hawaii, Jamaica, etc. but there truly is something special about the waterfall here. It’s free to get in and you need to make sure you pick up your jaw, which will surely be hanging after 30 minutes of staring in awe as the mist eventually envelopes you as you work your way up to the top of the falls. There are great trails that you can spend hours on and essentially feel as though you’re trapped in some type of Disney fairy tale (or enjoyed the dispensaries way more than you should have).

DSCN4954

Portland

Portland

Oh boy! Just for a little perspective, I’ve been to 40 states and I usually try to go to the biggest to cities in each. I’ve heard good things in the past about Portland’s food and their beer culture, but it was never a top city of mine that I wanted to visit. I can now easily put Portland in my top five American cities to visit. The fusion of modern American/Southern comfort food is absolutely to die for (or from). While you’ll feel stuffed to the brim as you leave, every single meal left me with the ability to work up the energy to crack a smile before going into a two-hour food coma. SOOOOO GOOOOOOOD. Eat everything and do it as often as possible. Also, drink everywhere and do it as often as possible. Microbreweries are everywhere in this young man’s city so do yourself a favor and try to sign up for a beer tour as Portland is now known internationally for their unique and delicious beers.

Also, for all of you West Coast people who have always wanted to see the fall colors, don’t bother flying all the way across the country to the Northeast. I’ve lived on the east coast and although the fall season is beautiful, Portland does a great job making you forget all about the colors of New England.

Lastly, I can’t talk about Portland and not mention Voodoo Donuts. Voodoo Donuts is one of the top places to eat in Portland. You’ll likely wait a good 30 minutes just to get inside. Let me save you the time: OVERRATED. They are just donuts with the novelty of throwing a bunch of odd toppings on them like Fruit Loops. The donuts themselves don’t taste all that good and they are really heavy so you’re missing out an actual meal of delicious food from elsewhere in the city.

Oregon Coast

IMG_0716I strongly suggest driving up on the Eastern side of Oregon and then coming back down on the coast. The coast is beautifully filled with drastic cliffs cutting down into the ocean with tall forest trees resting above. It’s a rather unique view and one that you won’t get tired of as you drive the 8 hours or so from Northern Oregon to the California border.

TL, DR: Oregon = BEAUTY BEAUTY BEAUTY. Take the time, get a car, maybe a tent, a DD, and have a blast as you experience the many wonders of Oregon.

The simple beauty that is Oregon.
The simple beauty that is Oregon.