Flora of the Sonoran Desert

One year ago I was standing on the edge of a big hole in the ground. This year, I’m awaiting the impending apocalypse. What a better way to pass the time than to relive the days when we could all go shopping and not worry about whether or not there will be toilet paper on the store shelves. If you’re one of the 3 people who will read this post, and you also happen to have a thing for cacti, then you’re in luck – this post is filled with cacti. Also flowers, because duh. Arizona was a really, really neat place and I will go back there someday, no hesitation. That is, if the world is still functional in a few years. Time will tell. The photos below are from the few days I spent in AZ last March. The first day there, we went hiking at a place called Cave Creek. An amusing aside, before the photos: less than 24 hours in AZ territory, I thought it would be fun to pick up a little cactus and bring it, where? Unclear in the moment; what was clear was the fact that as I was carrying the little cactus by one of its spines, I dropped it. Instead of letting it fall to the ground like a normal human being, I instead used my cat-like reflexes to catch the little cactus. Gravity assisted in the usual way, and caused the spines to become deeply embedded into my fingers. Of both hands. It was painful, yes, but I think I was more embarrassed than anything. I ran up to my travel companions, and asked for assistance. They thought I had a handful of rocks – imagine their surprise when they saw a handful of cactus, instead! Using a bottle cap, a rock and some ingenuity, they were able to free my hands of their spiky prison. It resulted in a little blood and a lot of complaining. Overall, a fairly typical experience for me. Also, I can say that I’ve been “cactus-embedded-in-hands” free for one whole year, now, so I’d say that’s something to write home about.

Please enjoy the photos below, as I think they are very nice. But don’t take my word for it.


Cave Creek, AZ


Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix AZ


Sedona, AZ


The Grand Canyon, South Rim

Glacial Lakes State Park

In September, I met up with my parents and my little sister in Alexandria, MN for a nice, quiet weekend getaway. We did a little shopping, checked in at our AirBnb, and then hit up the Carlos Creek Winery. My sister and I went for the wine tasting, while our parents went for the flights of beer. The wines I tried were pretty tasty, and we got a complementary wine glass after we were finished.

Carlos Creek Winery was a lovely little place, and it was a gorgeous day for drinking some wine. After we were finished, we headed back to the AirBnb for some grilled salmon supper. Mom brought fresh veggies from her garden to grill with the salmon, and boy was it tasty! We went to bed, several alcoholic beverages and many laughs later.

The next morning, we awoke, packed up and headed 30 miles southwest to Glacial Lakes State Park. Which, by the way, is probably one of my favorite places in Minnesota. We stayed in one of the cabins on the lake, unpacked and had a bit of lunch before going on a nice, leisurely walk. We got back to the cabin, lounged around for a bit, went on a canoe ride around the lake, and had some supper. We had a nice little fire going, as well.

The next morning, we went on another walk before heading home again. It was a beautiful day, and there was sunshine and there were butterflies. And then the drive home, inevitable.

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A Camping Trip from Long Ago

So, this is like, 26 months in the making, but in August of 2018 I went on a lovely camping trip to the Lake of the Woods, a place I’d never been to before. It was a gorgeous campsite, a gorgeous lake, a gorgeous forest, and so on. This blog post will simply be a compilation of photos I took during that camping trip, and since it has indeed been 26 months since that trip I do not vividly remember every little detail. I do know this was the first time we took the dogs camping, so that was an adventure. They did well, only ran off once, and had a nice time swimming in the lake.

And so, as promised, here are a bunch of pictures from Zipple Bay State Park, in very northern Minnesota. Enjoy!

 

 

A Weekend in the Mile High City

In July I went on a wonderful little weekend trip to Denver to visit my college friend Suzi. She moved out here a few months ago, giving me the perfect excuse to come visit. I left a relatively cool North Dakota to a steamy 100 degree Denver on Thursday afternoon, and after some technical difficulties with the Uber did manage to meet up with Suzi. We made out way out to Red Rocks for a concert. First off, I’m just going to say that Red Rocks is probably the coolest place to have a concert like, ever. Whoever decided that building an amphitheater into the side of a cliff was a good idea wasn’t wrong.

We went to see The Head and the Heart, a beautiful band if there ever was one. Seriously, here’s a link to one of my favorite songs. Go check them out, I’ll wait.

Okay, now you understand? Good. Go back and listen some more if you must, I won’t blame you!

The concert was wonderful, to say the least. The atmosphere was amazing, the band sounded amazing, the view of the city was amazing, just all around pretty darn amazing. It finished around 11 PM, but getting out of the park was a nightmare. It took over an hour for us to get out and back to Suzi’s place, but we managed. We were pretty hungry when we got back so we had a bit of food, then popped off to bed.

Friday we started the day pretty slowly, sitting at the table talking with Suzi and her boyfriend Cody for a good while before heading to a coffee shop (where I had a really luscious piece of quiche) to have beverages and play a card game called Golf. Let’s just say that if we were playing Anti-Golf I 100% would have won. It was an odd game, but somewhat intriguing.

At noon Suzi’s friend Emmy, who was at the concert with us the night before, picked us up and we headed to a place called the Denver Cat Company.20190719_140930.jpg

It is by far the most amazing cafe a person could go to, unless of course you have a cat allergy in which case you should probably avoid going there. This cafe was pretty basic when it came to foods and beverages (because of health codes and cats) but it was spot on with the cats. Yes, real cats. They had 14 at the time that they were fostering and all 14 were adoptable through the shelters they came from. What an superb idea! We went to the cat cafe with open minds, as Emmy was really entertaining the idea of adopting a cat, she even had a name picked out – Coconut.

So, we get to the cafe, pay the fee and start searching for Coconut. I happened to find THE most adorable kitten (besides Frankie, my cat, of course) and I was REALLY like almost going to adopt her and take her back on the airplane with me and everything. Oh it was just too much. Obviously I didn’t because North Dakota has cats too that would be much easier to bring home but, oh my heart, she was too much.

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Okay but during my whole kitten escapade we did continue the search for Coconut, and low and behold, found the most gorgeous Siamese/Ragdoll mix with happily crossed blue eyes, and some orangey tinge on the face and tail (Toasted Coconut, anyone?) and knew that we’d found the Coconut we were searching for. Coconut, or Phoenix as the cat cafe called her was a pretty sleepy little fella, hiding her face with one little paw. Oh, so cute! Couldn’t handle.20190719_135104.jpg

So Emmy was like, yes this is the one, it’s happening, so she filled out the application and we took one last look at Coconut (and my little lovely kitten) and headed out. I had decided I wanted to get another ear piercing, since the last cartilage piercing I got in Missoula, Montana so might as well keep getting piercings in places I visit. Anyway, we just chose a totally random one near the area where we were, and we went in and I talked with the piercer, his name was Sam. I chose the jewel I wanted, a blue color called London Blue that’s sort of a dark blue-green and very lovely. As I was sitting on the table, Sam asked me where I had gotten my shoulder tattoo, and I was like, oh someone in Fargo, North Dakota, not thinking that those words would mean anything to him, but he was like, oh really? Who did it? So I said the name of my tattoo artist and, what do you know, she had done a couple of tattoos on this guy like, 15 years ago. Small world, right? I guess they worked together at a tattoo shop 15-20 years ago, and I did recall my tattoo artist saying she was from Denver so that does check out. Just the weirdest thing! Anyway, got the piercing and it looks hella cool, said my goodbyes to Sam and we went on our way. We decided to go to Target to get some saline solution for my ear, and while we were there Emmy got a call from the shelter basically saying that she’s been approved for Coconut (cue celebration dance in the cat supplies aisle)! Oh we were thrilled. So we proceeded to pick out a litter box, some food and a fish taco toy that has catnip in it because, priorities. As we were leaving we realized that, because this Target had a parking garage below it and was technically on a second story with escalators, there was a specific escalator ramp FOR THE CARTS. Suzi and I had never seen such a sight, and therefore I’d have to say with 100% certainty that the cart escalator ramp was by far the best thing about my trip to Denver. Without a doubt. 100%.

Anyway after we got over our shock of seeing the escalator ramp, Emmy received another call saying that we could go pick up Coconut at the cat cafe. We were a little confused becuase that wasn’t what they had originally said but heck, we were so excited that we zoomed on over to the cat cafe as quick as we safely could. We walked in, explained what we had been told, and then the lady at the counter ended up dashing our dreams of bringing Coconut home that day. She said that someone made a mistake and the pick up time has to be scheduled through the owner of the cafe. So, with heavy hearts we left, but as we walked back to the car we decided that it was probably for the best, this gave everyone a chance to take a breath and a bit of space, as things were just progressing very, very rapidly up until that point. Also Emmy didn’t have a carrier which she would have needed to take Coconut anyway. So, not such a terrible thing that happened, after all.

We drove back toward Suzi’s apartment to find some food, deciding on a Mexican restaurant nearly across the street from where Suzi lives. It was pretty tasty, even though the salsa was more spicy than normal, according to Suzi. We ended the meal with dessert, Emmy and I choosing the cheesecake and Suzi the flan. She wanted to give it another go because she remembered having it when she was young and hated it, so she was going to eat it with an open mind, but sadly her reaction toward the dessert did not change much from the first time she tried it. But, the cheesecake was excellent!

After we finished we headed back to Suzi’s and played Exploding Kittens with Cody, and it was so fun! Super weird card game but I would definitely play it again. We went to bed around midnight, after a very emotionally draining day. Very much a rollercoaster of excitement, disappointment, and the like. It really felt like we did SO MUCH when really all we did was hang out with cats, go to Target and eat some food. A good day, despite all the emotional turmoil it caused.

Saturday, Suzi and I slept in a bit before getting dressed to go for a hike. We wanted to get breakfast at a place called Snooze but they had some kitchen issues and so the wait was suuuuuuper long. We decided to try a different place called Olive and Finch, and oh my was it so very good. The description on Google was that it was an “airy” restaurant, and they weren’t wrong. I’d compare it to a high class Panera Bread, but with much better food and beverages. We had a lavender mocha and was that ever delicious. Probably the best coffee drink I’ve ever had. The breakfast I had there was equally as delicious, a light scrambled egg over roasted potatoes with a small greens salad. Mm mm, tasty! After our meal we headed out toward Morrison, west of Denver, to do some hiking.

After a nice 1.5 mile hike, during which the clouds were rolling in ominously, we got in the car and within a minute of shutting the doors it started to downpour. And continued to downpour, leading to flash flooding on the Interstate, where we happened to be, trying to make our way back to Suzi’s. It was kind of scary, since we were in a little Prius and the water was actually pretty deep. The pick ups handled it with no problem, but we had to err on the side of caution. It took about 20-30 minutes more to get back to Suzi’s than it normally would have.

We finally got back, changed from our hiking clothes and picked up Emmy from her apartment. We were going to get ice cream from Little Man, an iconic Denver sweet shoppe.

As we were in line, again the clouds began to roll in ominously, but this time we weren’t so lucky. We were caught in an absolute downpour, so much rain, and also a lot of lightning. We were huddling in the bathroom area with about 10-15 soccer moms and their daughters from San Diego who were in Denver for a tournament. We all had a nice time eating out ice cream and watching the rain. A kind Little Man employee took pity on us and gave us garbage bags to wear as ponchos. After the ice cream was finished, Suzi, Emmy and I decided to go wait out the rain in a nearby bar. We walk into this place, literally wearing garbage bags, to find that it’s probably one of the fanciest eateries in Denver. Their faces as they looked at us made it clear we “didn’t belong” but they graciously said we could see if there was seating at the bar. We headed up to the bar area, which we decided was meant for commoners and peasants like us, only to be handed a drink menu on a fancy-ass clipboard. We decided that this was not the place for us and ventured back out into the rain. We went to another restaurant, a Mexican place this time, and again, fanciest goddamned Mexican/beach-themed restaurant in town. We did take a seat at the bar and ordered a drink, but the whole time we were discussing just how lowly we really are, and dressing in garbage bags didn’t help! Haha 🙂

But we spent 20 minutes at this restaurant, called Lola, before heading to Suzi’s car and going to the movie theater. We were going to see The Lion King, and my how wonderful it was! So good. If you haven’t seen it, I would highly recommend that you do.

After the movie, we went to Suzi’s place of employment, a British pub called Bull & Bush. We had something to eat before going back to our respective apartments.

Sunday morning, Suzi and I got up and I had all of my things packed, so we went out to have breakfast before my flight. We ate at Sam’s No. 3, and it was incredibly tasty, my goodness. Suzi dropped me off at the airport, I got checked in and through security only to discover that my flight was delayed about 2 hours. So, I spent some time wandering around the airport and drinking Caribou. Finally we were able to board the plane, and thus ended my weekend trip to Denver. When I got back to North Dakota, I spent about 45 minutes tidying up the house before settling down to watch some TV. All in all, an excellent weekend, and I have plans to return to Denver sometime soon! 🙂

Words & Flowers

Okay. So the six individuals who are currently following my blog (with a passion, I’m sure) might have noticed that I recently went through a name change. The essence of the blog remains, which is flowers, accompanied as always by words. Words & Flowers. Makes sense, right? I thought so.

As a sort of “grand re-opening” to my blog, I should like to share with you a series of photos I took in the last week or so, of my most favorite of flowers, lilacs and crab apple blossoms! They really do capture the essence of spring, embodying it fully. They make me oh so happy. Seriously, just take a look at them! I’m sure that if you are in a bad mood, you will be totally in a much better mood after spending some time on my blog. Unless you hate flowers and find words to be particularly annoying, then perhaps you should go somewhere else. I’ll bid you farewell now.

For the rest of you that love (or in the very least, tolerate) flowers, hold onto your hats! It’s about to get a whole lot more pink, purple and white up in here.

First up, the lilacs. They’re pretty self explanatory, I should think.

Oh aren’t they just lovely? You can almost smell them through the screen. If you’ve not ever taken the time to go out and put your sniffer to a lilac bush, you’ve been missing out on life. Now, if you are deathly allergic to lilac pollen, I am in no way encouraging you to go out and smell one, for your safety. Obviously. Anyway, they’re all but done blooming in this part of the land. A bittersweet time, spring is. The flowers bloom but ever so shortly, before giving way to plain old leaves. How dull. If you must, take a moment and go back to look at the beauty of the lilacs. I’ll wait.


Okay, now that we’ve twice examined the lilac flowers, let’s move on to the crab apple blossoms, in shades of pink and white.

Don’t they just make you happier than heck when you look at them? I know they do for me! Such happy, cheerful little blossoms, just going along doing whatever it is that blossoms do. Obviously making people happier than heck is priority numero uno for them.


Alright, moving onward to the last section of flowers I’ll be showcasing in this blog. I went back to southern Minnesota for Memorial Day weekend, and there was a whole pasture filled with purple Dame’s Rocket flowers. According to the Minnesota Wildflowers website, this plant is invasive and must be eradicated. Um, no thanks. I like flowers too much to just kill them for being who they are. It’s why I hate to partake in any dandelion massacres as well. They’re only a weed till you get to know them.

And there you have it! Words and Flowers, as promised. Expect to see more of the same soon. Soonish. Probably.

Have a wonderful day! 🙂

There And Back Again: A Swedish Christmas Adventure

Quick question: where did the first 1/6th of the year go? I had several intentions of writing a blog post immediately after returning from my three-week hiatus in Sweden with my sister, but time just kind of slipped away. Also I had to go back to work and do adult-life things, like buy groceries and get a promotion and purchase a new bedroom set. All necessary things, I assure you.

Okay so moving on, or perhaps backwards, to the middle of December (way back in 2017), when Sara and I were at home, mentally preparing ourselves for the 9 hours we would be spending on 2 different planes over the course of the next two days. Traveling across time zones is just the weirdest thing ever.

We were packed and ready to go. The parents were kind enough to give us a lift to the cities, and once we made it through security it was time to begin the waiting game. Our flight from Minneapolis was delayed about an hour, and we finally boarded around 7:30 after sitting in the airport for 3 hours. Upon arrival in Iceland, 6:30 am Icelandic time and 1:00 am MN time, we were baffled to discover a strike was in progress. Yes, an actual strike by the maintenance crew for Icelandair. They wanted more money. Same old story. Anyway, our 7:30 am flight was delayed until who knows when, with more information being provided at 9 am. So, the waiting game continued. We did board the plane at 9 am for Stockholm, thank goodness. I did not relish the idea of hanging out in Reykjavik. Not that I wouldn’t enjoy the opportunity to explore the country, I just had places to be and people to meet 1700 miles east of there. We did end up getting to said places and meeting up with said people. Our flight into Sweden took about 3 hours, and we made it to Arlanda around 1:30 pm. Sweden time. A total of 11 hours had passed since adjourning our journey; needless to say, we were a bit sleepy. And in need of a shower.

I shan’t regale you with the minute details of our time in Sweden, but let me tell you that there was definitely sight-seeing, family-visiting, and walking in the rain. Sweden is a damp, dark country in the winter. Nearly everyone we talked to said that we really should come back in the summer, it’s so much nicer in the summer, why did you come in the winter, it’s so dark and there’s nothing to do, and so on. We really just wanted to go on an adventure in a semi-foreign country and see if we could manage it. Well, we didn’t die or get mugged so I’d say we managed it just fine.

On to the photos.

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This is Mälaren, a very large lake with many fingers, stretching East to West, North to South. This photo is taken from Hässelby Strand, where Sara and I stayed for two of the three weeks.
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Flowers in December!
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The big clock tower in Stockholm’s Gamla Stan. It’s only like, 4:00 in this photo. Depressing, right?
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The Christmas Market in Gamla Stan, held in Stortorget Square, was quite quaint, with several homemade goodies, glögg, and reindeer meat.
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The Christmas Market in Old Town.
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The man standing below the half moon of lights is selling candied almonds. I didn’t have any but boy did they smell delicious!

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Christmas trees in the King’s Courtyard.

So that was the first week. We figured out how the trains worked, went to Old Town and the Mall of Scandinavia (which is the largest mall in Sweden, but is still way smaller than the Mall of America), and we bought groceries and slept and watched Netflix. Swedish Netflix is just subpar compared to American Netflix, because TV shows are released at different times in different countries. Sad, I know. We learned that the hard way.


The next series of photos are from our time in Skåne County, in southern Sweden. Our cousin and his family live near Malmö, so we traveled by train to spend Christmas with them. Apparently Skåne is just littered with castles, being on the coast it makes sense. We visited a castle which is now a museum/restaurant, although we did not eat at the restaurant due to the fact that it was closed due to the fact that it was Christmas Day. There was a nice forested path around the little lake that the castle sat near. It was fairly chilly and misty, but it was nice to go exploring.

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The two-year-old was not impressed with my camera. It interrupted his castle-staring.

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I found a small herd of horses, and they were hanging out in the distance but I coaxed them over and soon they were close enough for us to pet them. They were friendly little buggers. When I was in Sweden I was told that it is “illegal” to have one horse by itself. Horses are herd animals and therefore need a buddy. I’m totally on board with that law. 🙂

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Just five-year-old things.
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This guy lived next to a road and was therefore much less impressed by my clicks and kisses. Grass is more important.
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Finally, the castle! How regal.

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Okay so that was the castle we visited on a rainy Christmas Day. On the 26th, my cousin took Sara, his 5-year-old daughter and I to the southernmost point in Sweden, as seen below. This was the first day of the 4-day-long cold I was plagued with during the trip. Sara was also ill. Riding the 4-hour train ride back to Stockholm the next day was not fun, I tell you what. I think people looked at us like we had the Black Plague or something.

Moving on to a better topic, Smygehuk!

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The distances to various major European cities from this point.
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Sara and Freja, looking out across the Baltic Sea.
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A rare photo of me, plus Sara and Freja.
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It was hella windy, as you might be able to tell by this photo.
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And this photo.
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And this one.
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This was a giant metal funnel thing you could peer through. If you scroll down to the photo immediately past the daisy photo, you will see a giant metal statue of a man sitting on a giant metal chair, with the giant metal funnel in front of him as if he were looking through it.
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A daisy! A real, live daisy! In December!
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The giant metal man, chair, and funnel, as described in the photo above the daisy photo.
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The Southern Swedish Sea.
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The most quaint boathouses I ever did see!

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My cousin and his daughter, cheesin’!

Okay, so good food, laughs, and sharing memories basically sums up our time in Skåne county. Oh, we also went to Copenhagen, Denmark for a few hours, basically to say we did it. The bridge between Sweden and mainland Europe is about 15 kilometers, and because we took a car (there is a train that passes underneath the bridge for regular commuters) we had to pay a $60 fee. Both ways. But hey now I can say I’ve visited Denmark, so that’s a thing!


After we got back to Stockholm and spent two days recovering from our respective colds, we spent our last Saturday in Sweden with our good family friends, who took us to Sweden’s oldest town, Sigtuna.

But first, we made a pit stop along the way:

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This is actually the church in Sweden where my parents got married!

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As you can likely imagine, Sweden is home to many, many, many runestones. So many, in fact, that people decided to use them when building walls. It makes sense, why waste a perfectly good piece of stone by putting it in a museum?
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It’s also the church where my grandparents on my Mom’s side are buried.
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Isn’t it just the prettiest?
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Håtuna = village name; k:a = church
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Oh, the moss on that stone wall! How vibrant!

Okay so after our pit stop we continued down the road to Sigtuna. Being the oldest town in Sweden means you should probably be home to some pretty bad-ass ruins, and sure enough, there were some bad-ass ruins.

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This is St. Olof’s Church, which is through to be built around the year 1100. Nobody really knows who built it, but it is dedicated to the Norwegian Viking King Olaf Tryggvasson. Apparently there are remains of an even older stone church that this currently really old church is built upon. It is thought to be the first one built in Sweden.
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Can you spot the sneaky runestone, built into the wall of the ruin?
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There is a fence around the church, likely to keep mischievous children out or because it’s currently crumbling down and is a liability, probably both.
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Usually these runestones say something about someone’s father, but it’s hard to say.

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Here was another, less interesting ruin.
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The house that was located near the second ruin was vastly more interesting.
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A festive tree in the middle of the town square.
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Sigtuna has the loveliest, most colorful buildings and it was wonderful.

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More colorful buildings.

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This café, Tant Bruns Kaffestuga, is thought to be one of the oldest in Sweden, serving coffee since the 1700s and it’s still open today!
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Such festive windows!
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The cutest little ever-gnome! (I just made that up, will be officially claiming the term)

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The cutest door award goes to this fella.

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How classically Sweden is this little house?

After our stint in Sigtuna, we headed over to Uppsala, a university town through-and-through. Uppsala Univeristy is the oldest university in Sweden and all of the Nordic countries that is still in operation. Fancy, huh?

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This is the Uppsala domkyrka, a super huge church with lots of important people buried in it, like the first king of Sweden and Carl Linnaeus, the famous botanist.
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Very symmetrical.

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Below this gorgeous stained glass window is an enormous pipe organ; a few of the pipes can be seen glinting in the shadows to the left.

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The first king of Sweden.
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And his crest.

It was a good day of sight-seeing, to be sure.


The remaining photos are from one of our last outings into the city. I managed to get a few photos in between rain showers.

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SO MANY SWANS AND DUCKS
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A classic shot of Stockholm.

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A remaining rose in Kungsträdgården.
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They had a large ice skating rink in Kungsträdgården as well, open to the public.

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I included this photo because this is the very bench we sat on as a family in 2010, as you can see below.
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My dad took this photo. Don’t we look like a happy bunch! My brother is pissed, my sister is mad, and I’m eating ice cream. This photo ended up being on our Christmas card for that year 🙂

Well, that’s it, folks! I hope you enjoyed browsing through my photos and reading about my adventure. It’s easier if I don’t set a timeline for these things, so I’ll just say till next time, dear reader!

 

 

 

Montana, Naturally.

The words “Montana” and “nature” kind of go hand in hand. Why? Well, Montana is the 4th largest state in the USA and contains the 44th largest population so, you see, there is a lot of room and not a lot of people. Lots of cattle, though. But maybe that’s beside the point.

I think my point is that Montana can be a wonderful place to explore, what with 44 state parks, 7 state forests, 1 state memorial, 1 national park, 17 national forests, 2 national historic sites, 1 national historic park, 24 national wildlife refuges, and 2 national recreation areas, there is bound to be something to do for everyone in your posse.

When I went to Montana a couple of weeks ago for a music festival in Missoula, (see my post Travelers’ Rest Fest for more details on this glorious and wondrous time), we made time to visit two of Montana’s state parks: Travelers’ Rest State Park, in Lolo (a small town 10 miles south of Missoula), and Lost Creek State Park, in Anaconda (a small town 20 miles northwest of Butte). We would’ve liked to have popped up to Glacier National Park for a day or so, but alas our schedules did not allow for this. We made due with visiting the location at which Lewis and Clark made camp during their expedition west, which is now a state park, as well as a super off-the-wall state park that was rather hidden back in the mountain-y hills.

Nothing too thrilling happened at either state park, we just spent our time wandering around, collecting rocks, and taking photos of the beautiful nature surrounding us.

First up, photos from Travelers’ Rest State Park:

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A couple of lovely little sunflowers to brighten up the day.

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S1uch a busy little spider, weaving such an intricate little web.

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I just love the splash of purple from these little flowers.
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Suzi was collecting wild mint from the riverbank!
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Nicole, sporting her new Missoula hat that she had purchased in Missoula the day before.
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Suzi, finding all of the Fool’s Gold. 🙂
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Yes, that is actually smoke obscuring the distant mountains. There were some pretty severe forest fires in the area when we were visiting. Thankfully, it rained a bit this day which helped to clear the air.

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A picturesque barn, with some rather photogenic grass.
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Oh look, Sara found a feather.
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Doesn’t it remind you of fall time? It does me!
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Another shot of the smoke. One could potentially pass it off as fog, if we were in the Pacific Northwest.
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One last flower photo from Travelers’ Rest State Park!

We spent a good hour or two at Travelers’ Rest before heading back to Missoula and to the second day of Travelers’ Rest Fest, the music festival put on by The Decemberists. Which was amazing. But I’ve already mentioned how utterly stupendous the festival was in this post, plus I have a whole separate post dedicated to its awesomeness. Check it out, if you’re keen.

On Monday, after we packed our things and headed out of Missoula, we drove through the curves for about 80 miles before exiting I-90 and heading southwest, toward a little state park called Lost Creek State Park. Sara and I speculated that the name came about because some person found the creek, and then was unable to find it for some time, and maybe even had his/her children or grandchildren out searching for it (much like what happens in the movie Holes, when Sigourney Weaver’s grandpa makes her search for the treasure which is why she has the juvenile delinquents digging holes all the time.) before they finally found the “lost creek” and then they thought that would be a good area for a state park so the gave the land to the state. One theory among many, I’m sure.

Anyway. Lost Creek State Park was a lovely little place that had no other people in it while we were there. A good place for a potential quadruple homicide, if one had been in the mind for it. We parked the car and walked around a bit. We decided not to venture off of the main road, for fear of there potentially being an individual lurking in the woods who had quadruple homicide on the brain. It just seemed like the logical thing to do.

The hills here were not obscured by smoke, which was nice, and the flowers were oh-so-pretty. The following photos are those that I took at Lost Creek State Park:

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I rather fancied this flower, it was just begging to be photographed!

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I’m not entirely sure what this red color is on these leaves, if it is meant to be there or not. Either way, it looks nice.
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We were surrounded by these tall, rocky hill/cliffs, overlooking the “lost creek” that ran through the park.

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And there it is! We found the lost creek!

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For some reason, I like how dead flowers look almost as much (but probably not more) than the not-dead flowers. They just have so much more texture. It’s nice.

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Hello, tiny pine tree on top of the rocky mountain/hill!
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Okay, so I am about 96% sure that these are raspberries (I mean, what else could they be?), so I was like, “Hey Suzi, look. Wild raspberries!” And so she and I proceeded to pick a few and eat them. And then I go up to Sara, all excited-like, and say, “Hey Sara, Suzi and I just found some wild raspberries and we ate them.” Sara goes, “Oh God. If you guys get the shits later, we’ll know why!” Haha. If you were wondering, we did not get the shits. We were fine. 🙂

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These were the cutest little purple flowers I had ever seen, so lovely with their color popping out against the dull brown background.
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The road we followed to stay safe from those with homicidal intentions.
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The rushing creek. And some flowers, of course.
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Left to right: Nicole, Sara, and Suzi.
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Another shot of the rocky hill/mountain.
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This one features a nice forest of tall, thin pine trees.
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I nearly fell in the water getting this shot. That would have sucked.

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Hello again, adorable little purple flowers!

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Because I take too many photos, I am always and forever falling behind my companions. Sara says, “my favorite part about going back the way we came is that Anna has already seen everything and doesn’t need to stop every five seconds to take a picture.” What Sara doesn’t understand is that when we head back, I am seeing everything from a new angle so yes, I do need to stop every five seconds to take a picture.
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I like how cheerful this flower looks even after it is dead.

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And finally, a parting birch tree.

We spent a decent hour or so exploring this little state park. It was a nice break to get out and stretch our legs after driving for two hours and with only ten more to go… Seriously, what a jaunt! Attending the music festival was worth it, though. Totally worth it. And the state parks and flower photos were a nice added bonus. 🙂

A Visit to the Desert of North Dakota

North Dakota? Home to a desert? Who would have guessed that. North Dakota is fairly well known for it’s immense flatness and subzero coldness, which doesn’t quite fit the bill for what is traditionally thought of as a “desert.” Okay, so maybe North Dakota doesn’t quite have a desert, but it does have some pretty spectacular-looking Badlands in the southwest corner of the state.

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This past weekend, I went camping in the Badlands of North Dakota with this guy named Dan. Dan and I have been hanging out for the past few months, and I think I can safely say that he is basically my only friend in Jamestown at the moment. Well, technically he is my boyfriend but that’s beside the point. Not that I’m 100% clear on what the point here is. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been working here since May and I haven’t made any friends other than the dietitian (who was also my preceptor at the State Hospital this past spring) I work with. And even so, she’s more of an aunt-like figure in my life rather than a friend. Making friends is hard, especially when you don’t have a great affinity toward most people, like I do.

Okay so now that we have covered the fact that I don’t have any friends, let’s get back to the camping trip.

We stayed in a campground outside of Medora, ND. If you’re wondering where Medora is, just find I-94 on a map and go approximately 25 miles east of the Montana-North Dakota boarder. It’s a good distance (as in 130 to 330 miles) from basically all larger cities besides Dickinson, but even Dickinson is 40 or so miles away. Medora sits right on the southern edge of the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Which is the only National Park in North Dakota. So that’s neat. National Parks are always fun. I honestly don’t know if people actually live in Medora or not, or if it is basically a summer tourist-trap town and people commute every day or live in housing during the busy season. Totally unsure. I guess I could have asked someone, but that would require interaction with another human being. So I’ll have to settle with never knowing. Which is fine.

Dan and I left Jamestown around 11 am on Friday morning. We arrived in Medora (after Google Maps took us on a super random dirt road that we definitely did not need to drive on, there were a lot of cattle on the road, which made for difficult driving. The scenery was breathtaking, however.) around 3:00 or so. And actually, we were planning on staying at Sully Creek State Park, which was about 2 miles south of Medora, but when we got there the park ranger told us that all of the campsites were full. Everything out there is non-reservable, and is on a first-come, first-served basis. Apparently there was some big bike race that weekend, and there were people from all over there to ride their bikes in either the 25 mile or the 100 mile bike race. Now, I enjoy riding my bicycle, but 100 miles seems excessive. If I were to hop on my bike right now, without any training, it would probably take me about 9-ish hours to go 100 miles. And that would be 9-ish hours without stopping. So, good for those people who spent their Saturday riding their bicycles for an inordinately large amount of miles; I spent mine sleeping in and looking at colorful dirt hills. But more of that in a moment.

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The colorful dirt hills.

Dan and I set up the tent, which was much easier to assemble than the tent that I had when I went on my road trip out west with Sara and Jennifer. And Dan had totally offered us his tent but we decided to go with someone else’s tent, which was great but it definitely leaked. Dan’s tent, we found out that night, does not leak, which is a nice characteristic for a tent to have. It also has a fancy little porch area, screened in, of course, in which all of the shoes and dirt from the shoes can gather. This porch area also get super full of water when it rains, as the rain fly does not cover that particular part of the tent, but the designers of the tent kept this in mind and made sure that there is a handy way of removing any puddles from inside the tent. So, to make a long story short, Dan’s tent is a good tent, and does not leak. Actually I think this is the first time I have slept in a tent and not gotten wet. And I’ve gone camping a lot. I guess we just had bad luck with tents.

Okay, so tent was assembled, and we were hungry so we walked to town. Oh, yeah. So since the Sully Creek State Park sites were all full, we asked the Park Ranger where else we might stay. He gave us a few suggestions, and Dan called these suggestions. We managed to find a place to stay, at the Medora Campground. Which was conveniently located about half a mile from its namesake. So, Dan and I walked to the town and wandered around a bit. We had already decided that we would eat at a place called Badlands Pizza, because Dan loves pizza and requires pizza at least 2 times per week. We got there before the dinner rush, and we had nothing to do for the next two hours, so we got a pitcher of Summer Shandy and drank that, and then we got a bottle of Moscato, which we also drank. I am not a beer person in the slightest, but Summer Shandy was tolerable. The wine, however, was delicious. We ordered a pizza with vegetables, and it was spicy, so I did not enjoy it. I’m sure the average person would have not thought anything of the spice, but as the saying goes: “Swedes think milk is a spice.” I guess that fits, because I do not like spicy food. But my mom, who is 100% Swedish though and through, loves spicy food, so much so that she probably doesn’t even notice when it is spicy and so I have to specifically request that she not make food spicy to which I receive an eye roll and a mini-lecture on how spicy food is good for me. Yes, I am aware of the health benefits of spicy food, but that doesn’t change the fact that it hurts my tongue. So, for now, I will avoid spicy foods, lest my tongue fall off in protest.

After pizza and beer and wine (does pizza go with wine? We weren’t sure, but we also didn’t really care.), we made our way to the Medora Musical. Since we had been drinking, we decided to walk. It was only like, a mile and a half, but this mile included a rather large hill, which we had not been anticipating. We were offered a ride, once, but we declined. The walk was good for us, and it only took about half an hour.

The Medora Musical is a musical (who would have guessed) that is held every night during the summer. They do a different show every year, but the same show every night. It’s kind of a big deal, like, multiple-billboards-along-major-interstates-in-North Dakota-and-probably-Minnesota-and-maybe-South Dakota-kind-of-deal. Yeah. So, it was an experience, and my first time attending the Medora Musical will likely be my last. The singers were good, but it just wasn’t really my style. Too much country. Which I probably should have expected, but to be honest I didn’t really know what to expect. Anyway, I can now cross the Medora Musical off of the bucket list of things that I didn’t know I would ever have on a bucket list.

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A nice photo of the outdoor amphitheater in Medora. I think they’re trying to channel a Hollywood-esk vibe.

So after the musical concluded, Dan and I walked back to our campsite. It was cold but we survived. Going downhill is incidentally much easier than going uphill. We made it to the tent, and shortly thereafter it started raining. Which is very pleasant when you know that the tent isn’t going to leak.

On Saturday, we got up and had breakfast and eventually got our act together enough to go do something. We decided to drive through the Theodore Roosevelt National Park since it was possibly going to rain more and we also had no idea what else to do in Medora. We could have played mini golf. Or real golf. But those require effort and besides, I’m not really good at golf, real or mini. So driving through the national park, to observe the beauty of the world while polluting it with carbon emissions from the vehicle, seemed the better option.

IMG_4380_1_1T. R. National Park is a lovely place, though. So many hills and so much dirt. Colorful dirt, though. I believe the rock that this area is known for is scoria. It’s a fancy red volcanic rock. Lovely. So, side note: I collect rocks, quite avidly. Not for any particular reason other than to clean them and place them in a jar with a label. I have approximately 70 some jars of rocks from places I have been. No clue what I am going to do with them, but for now I have a good shelf at my parent’s house in Minnesota for them to rest upon. Anyway, the national park. It was a good 40-ish mile loop around the South Unit of the park, and we stopped occasionally for photos. We stopped at this one place, called Wind Canyon. It was, you guessed it, a canyon with the Missouri River flowing through it, and several rock formations with fancy holes in them from the wind being powerful and windy and forming said holes. It was rather neat.

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Hey look, it’s Wind Canyon! And the Missouri River.
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The fancy holes made by the fierce wind.
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And the lovely rocks I was able to choose from.

Probably the most-neat part about this little area was the fact that we could get down to the river. It was about a quarter-mile trek along a cow-path, which quite possibly could have been fraught with rattlesnakes but that did not even cross my mind. I was super focused on collecting rocks. Now, I realize that this probably wasn’t the most legal thing I’ve ever done, seeing as I was trespassing  on protected land and such. But hey, needs must. I collected my rocks and we made our way back to the car, sans rattlesnake interference, and continued on our merry way. We drove around some (mega) curves and Dan was like, why do you speed up when you go around a curve and I was like, because it’s awesome. So that’s how that went.

Please enjoy these photos featuring the North Dakota Badlands.

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And because I can’t go anywhere without taking pictures of flowers and/or grass:

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Do you see the Missouri River hiding behind this scraggly-looking sunflower? 🙂

20170805_130531_1_1IMG_4383_1_1We made it back to our campsite and decided to nap, which turned into a 2.5 hour sleep. And then we were hungry so we went back into town for more pizza. And we had the same waiter from South Africa. And of course he remembered us. Also we happened to sit in the same booth as we had the night before. But the pizza was 100% times better, as we got a cheese and mushroom pizza, with half pepperoni because Dan needed to have meat on his pizza. Which means it wasn’t spicy, so my mouth was happy. We had more wine and got pleasantly drunk. We were walking around Medora at like, 10 pm and “apparently” I was being “rambunctious” because I was doing “crow pose” in the “street.” Improper use of quotation marks? Of course not. But maybe.

We made our way back to the tent and then it started raining, again. And the tent did not leak, again. Which was nice. And then Sunday came and we packed everything up and headed back to Jamestown. It was a good adventure in the desert-y hills of North Dakota, the existence of which I feel the majority of people are not aware of.

IMG_4418_1_1Another thing you may or may not be aware of:

IMG_4402_1_1NORTH DAKOTA GROWS ITS OWN CACTI. LIKE, WHAT? They were the cutest little cacti and I really really really wanted to take one but Dan said no. He said that it wanted to stay in the ground and that I would likely kill it during transport from its natural dirt home to a new fake dirt home. So I reluctantly moved on. After taking some pictures, of course. 🙂

The Journey Home.

We began our long and arduous journey home at 10 am, Pacific time, after a weird and somewhat cryptic conversation with the store keeper. We preferred his wife, she was a nice woman. This dude was odd as heck. Anyway.

We woke up at 9 and packed up the tent and repacked the car, and then we were off! On the road back out to Ilwaco, we saw A MAMA BLACK BEAR IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD. Oh boy did we get excited. And then, we looked to the right and there, in the tree, just chillin’, was a little black bear cub! We died, he was so cute. We sat there for about 3 minutes, and then he climbed away and we also climbed away, except we were in a car so it was more like we drove away.

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The little bebe black bear! Be still, my heart. 

We drove north on Highway 101 for a while, and then I think we took something that may have been a highway 18 or a highway 7. Either way, it took us to I-5, which led directly to I-90. After that it was a straight shot west; it could not have been any easier. We stopped on occasion to use the bathroom, to get some food, and to stretch our legs, which usually happened because the one of the first two were occurring. I drove from literally the coast of Washington all the way to Billings, Montana. A solid 17 hours of driving through two and a half states (I’m totally counting the 80 miles we drove in Idaho as a state) under my belt. After a brief stop in Billings, we continued on our merry way. Jennifer drove from Billings to Dickinson, ND, and then I continued dirving all the way back to Grand Forks. In retrospect, that was probably not a great idea, me driving for like, a bazillion hours with little-to-no sleep. But hey we didn’t die, so score one for us!

We made it back to Grand Forks around 5 pm on Saturday, and by 8 pm we were back on the road. Sara was driving this time; we packed her car and took off for the cities. I curled up in the back seat and slept for about an hour and a half or so, bringing my grand total of hours slept in the past 36 to about two. Woo!

The three of us made it to the cities around 1 am, and after Sara and I said our goodbyes to dear Jennifer, we made our way south to our MN home. We arrived around 3 am, and we didn’t even bother to unpack any of our things. We practically fell into our beds and passed out until 1 pm on Sunday.


The following week was one of rest and recuperation. Sara and I didn’t do much, other than go on long walks and watch American Horror Story: Hotel. If you haven’t seen it, you definitely should. Lady Gaga is queen.

And with that, the saga of our super epic road trip is done. It was a really freaking awesome week, full of mountains and forests and oceans, and while I did put 3700 miles on my Jeep I’m gonna go ahead and say it was totally worth it.

Thanks Jen and Sara, for proving to me that we are adult enough to handle a road trip on our own. Till the next one! 🙂


Oh yeah, here are some more photos of flowers. You’re welcome.

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I believe this is Foxglove, it was near the coastal trail but since I only had a dead camera at the time I had to come back before we left Cape Disappointment and snap a few photos. 
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This is Coastal Rhododendron, which is the state flower of Washington. Oh my, were they ever in bloom this year! So flipping gorgeous, in colors ranging from red to purple to orange to pink. 
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I don’t know what this is, but I’m okay with that. 
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Oh, also here’s some moss. I’ll just leave this here for you.

Cape Disappointment did NOT live up to its name. Which is a good thing. I think.

On Thursday morning we awoke to a wet tent. It had rained during the night, and our pillows and most of Jennifer were decently damp. Mildly annoying.

We ate a spot of breakfast, and then we got dressed and ready for the day. Since this was our only full day at Cape Disappointment we decided we were going to do every trail. Which is exactly what we did.

We started out with the coastal loop trail that brought us next to the Columbia River outlet, and we could see the town of Ilwaco, Washington, from across the.. bay? River? Giant water puddle? Unsure, but the logistics are unimportant. What is important is the fact that my camera died during the middle of this hike. I was quite saddened by this, but I quickly moved on and started taking photos with my phone instead. Thank goodness for the fancy cameras that smart phones have these days!

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A lovely shot of our trail. A bit too much mud, if you ask me. Not that you are. But if you were to ask, that’s what I would say.
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Over yonder water is Ilwaco, WA; a town where the only gas station does not have a bathroom. Like, what?
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Sara and Jen, taking in the sights.
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So this photo isn’t great, but I can’t tell you how absolutely excited I got when I saw this heron. I love herons. They are my most favorite bird. Not 100% sure why, they just are.

After moving through this trail, we headed over to a parking lot, where we parked the car (who would have thought!) and hiked up to the old Cape Disappointment lighthouse. We passed by the Lewis and Clark interpretive center, and we might have stopped there if it hadn’t been for the two-bus-fulls of smallish children who made a bee-line straight for the center. So we avoided that place like the plague. Which was fine, we did a bit of interpretations regarding Lewis and Clark on our own. I don’t think I’ll get into that on here; some things are just better left un-typed.

We made our way to the lighthouse, and it was a lovely old lighthouse.

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I just love the wonderful indigo color of the ocean.

20170601_112312_1_1So we hung out with the light house for a while before making the trek back to the car. We headed down to the beach to sit on driftwood while Jennifer ate her apple. At least I think it was an apple. Was it an apple, Jen?

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That’s just so much driftwood.
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A nice little panoramic shot of the beach.
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I haven’t included any flower photos in this post yet, so here you go. I have no idea what these flowers are but I just LOVE the purple-pink-ombre thing they have going on. Also that lovely little water droplet. Really just sets the mood, wouldn’t you say

So after our brief hiatus on the driftwood of the beach, we decided to move on and do the last trail. This trail would be the longer of the three that we were doing, and it definitely proved to be the most difficult as well. This trail would lead us to the North Head Lighthouse, and the path was fraught with salamanders and mud. The trail was in the process of being updated, and by that I mean there were piles of lumber hanging out in the woods. So in the mean time, we had to forage our way through this trail which had more tree roots sticking out than was necessary.But! We survived! It was only about a 2.5 mile hike, but it took much longer than it needed to because of the less-than-ideal trail conditions. The rain the night before also did not help to make the trail more ideal. Oh, well.

As we approached the ocean, we heard a curious barking noise, and then we all got so super excited because we were hearing SEALS! The fellas must have been hanging out on the beach, and were just chattering away! We ran about 10 feet in our excitement before realizing that running was a dumb idea, as it would likely result in us not getting there any more quickly and just ending up with a twisted/sprained/shattered ankle and/or knee. So we continued walking at a pace that was appropriate for this somewhat awful and slightly dangerous trail. After some more time passed, we did make it to the lighthouse. Which was also under construction. How typical.

20170601_131650_1_1There was a couple sitting on a bench near this area, and they had a pair of binoculars and were “ooo-ing” and “ahh-ing” at something. They turned to us and told us that there were a couple of whales out in the distance, and proceeded to borrow us their binoculars so that we too, could “ooo” and “ahh” at the whales. They were quite lovely; having never seen a whale in the flesh before, I thought they were quite extraordinary, as well. The couple (hailing from California) also pointed out the seals to us, frolicking down in the waves. Oh they were just so cute! Gosh.

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The Cape, from the vantage point of North Head Lighthouse.

20170601_131852_1_1After we had our fill of whale- and seal-watching, we decided to head back. We made a solid attempt at going down the cliff-side to get to the beach, which would have ended up being a shorter route back to the campsite, but the path got real sketchy real fast, so we just went back the way we came. That’s right, all 2.5 miles of death-trail.

That may be a bit melodramatic. In reality, heading back did not take nearly as long as it did heading to the lighthouse. That’s usually how it ends up being, though.

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Hopefully you enjoy the photo of this funky-looking plant as much as I do.

We made it back to the car, and with muddy shoes and wet socks we headed back to the campsite. Two-thirds of us took showers, and then we hopped back in the car and drove on down to the great state of Oregon. Astoria, to be specific.

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Proof that I’ve been to Oregon! Yay!

I had made the connection between Astoria and the fun-loving, adventuring-having 80s movie The Goonies, when we were eating Mexican food on drive from Sol Duc. Oh man, did we get excited. Because the movie was shot in Astoria, the house that Mikey and Brand lived in is actually still there, and is currently occupied by some crotchety people who don’t allow visitors.Once we crossed the excessively long bridge that linked Washington with Oregon, we made our way down the somewhat confusing streets of Astoria to the Goonies House. Where we immediately became intimidated by the signs that said “DO NOT APPROACH WE WILL CALL THE POLICE” and so we parked about three blocks away and got as close as we dared. Which wasn’t very close.

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The Goonies House is the white one in the background. Like, the way background. In the middle. Because we didn’t dare to get any closer.

After our excursion to the Goonies House, we needed to find food. We ate at a place called the Wet Dog Cafe; not a super appetizing name, but that didn’t really matter because the food was absolutely amazing. I had a salmon burger. Super double yum.

To top off the night, we decided to get some ice cream, so we found this little place that puts potato chips on top of their ice cream sundaes. An odd yet delicious combination.

After the ice cream, we decided to get gas, because it was cheaper in Astoria than any place we had seen in Washington. So, I pull up to the pump, get out, and proceed to put the card in the thing. Then all of a sudden, this guy jogs out to my Jeep and was like, “I’ll get that for you.” Which leads me to stare at him blankly, because I am perfectly capable of filling up my own gas thank you very much. Had this happened like, 5 years ago I would have been like, heck yeah you can definitely fill up my gas and I’ll just take you with me so that you can always fill up my gas. But it wasn’t 5 years ago, it was right now, and I was confused. The man, his name was Stephen (but may have been pronounced like Steven), said to me, “Did you forget you were in Oregon?” Like I was some sort of person who forgets where they are. No, I did not forget I was in Oregon, I was apparently just very ignorant of the state-wide law which banned civilians from pumping their own gas. They have special people who do that for them, to prevent explosions I think.

Needless to say, I was mildly embarrassed and thoroughly confused when I got back in the car, which caused Sara and Jennifer to also become thoroughly confused. Jen used her handy-dandy phone to look up why in the heck I was unable to pump my own gas, and that’s when we discovered that we were in one of two states that ban people from this activity. Weird. The other state is New Jersey. Who knew!

After the gas-pumping fiasco, we made our way back to the campsite and promptly went to sleep, on our more-damp-than-dry pillows.

Ah well, there could be worse things!