Oregon Adventures: Oregon Coast

On the last day of our Oregon trip we drove about an hour and half west to the coast. Normally I’m not a beach and ocean person, I’d much rather be in the mountains, but I’ve fallen in love with the west coast. It’s different from the beaches my family and I would visit in Florida and around the Gulf of Mexico. We visited Cannon Beach and Ecola State Park, luckily they were about 10 minutes away from each other so we didn’t have to travel far. Cannon Beach is a charming tourist town filled with local shops and tons of fresh seafood. It is also home of the famous Haystack Rock, which was an incredible sight. Ecola State Park was lovely and definitely worth the fee you have to pay to get into the park. Both places provide stunning views of the ocean on one side and cliffs with tons of trees on the other. If you are ever in the area, these places are a definite must visit!

We got in around lunchtime so we grabbed lunch at Ecola Seafood Restaurant and Market. This restaurant offered fresh seafood. It was delicious!triptych

Next we got coffee at Insomnia Coffee Co. Such a great coffee shop!

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We then headed out to Ecola State Park and Cannon Beach. We spent most of the day here walking around and exploring.IMG_8136 IMG_8286 diptych2 IMG_8153 IMG_8205 IMG_8293 IMG_8210 diptych4 IMG_8307 diptych3 IMG_8262

That’s it for this trip! Now onto the next adventure!

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Oregon Adventures: Crater Lake National Park

Next on our Oregon adventure, we drove four hours south of Portland to Crater Lake National Park. The drive in was breathtaking in itself! Crater Lake National Park is home to America’s deepest lake, a lake so blue it almost doesn’t look real. Surrounding the lake is an old-growth forest and cliffs with sheer drop offs. There are many options to get the most of your trip to Crater Lake including, a road that goes around the entirety of the lake (depending on the time of year), hiking trails, boat tours and trolley tours. We chose to drive around the lake, which took approximately two and a half hours. During the drive there are many lookouts to view the lake at different perspectives. The day we went it was extremely windy, with winds from the north. That made the temperature, with wind chill, a lovely 36 degrees with occasional freezing rain and snow flurries. Even with the cold weather the views were incredible and definitely worth the occasional numb fingers. Tip: Bring gloves.

So what should you see?  If you have half a day to a day, I would recommend driving around the lake. If you plan to stay longer than a day, hike down the Cleetwood Trail. It’s the only trail that safely goes down to the lake surface. There you can take a boat tour to Wizard Island. No matter what you do, you’ll be enchanted by the beauty of this place.
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Oregon Adventures: Portland

The first week of October my friend Sarah and I took a rather spontaneous trip to Portland, Oregon. I’ve always wanted to visit the Pacific Northwest. It’s dreary and cool. It has a lot of trees, mountains and coffee shops. So I was excited to finally be taking my first trip out there. We spent a day and a half roaming around downtown Portland and the outer parts of the city. I’m normally not a big “city” person, I usually get extremely overwhelmed with the constant commotion, but I actually enjoyed Portland and its chaos. Plus, the traffic wasn’t too terrible and that usually is what stresses me out. As always, links to everywhere we went will be in the post. So without further ado, here is all we did in Portland. diptych10The flight in we had some awesome views. On the right is Mt. Hood from the air.diptych9 Our first stop was at Powell’s Books. A four-story, block wide book store. (!!!) This was the number one thing I wanted to see in Portland. Powell’s can be overwhelming because of its size, but luckily they have maps of the store so you can easily find the section you need. I finally found the book that I’ve spent more than a month looking for. They even have a coffee shop in the store where you can sip on some coffee and read your newly purchased book.diptych12

Of course I had to find the Harry Potter section. In the kids section they have “A Kid Pick”, which are book recommendations for kids by kids. I like this Imogen girl. She has good taste!diptych8 In Portland there is a coffee shop practically on every corner. My friend Heather recommended Stumptown Coffee Roasters as a definite must visit coffee shop. Plus my friend Sarah was overly excited that their logo has a bison in it.IMG_7757We then headed off to Mount Tabor City Park because we read online that it has a great view of the Portland skyline. It did not disappoint! IMG_7808 On the other side of the park we had a great view of Mt. Hood.diptychThe next day, we ventured again to downtown. It was overcast and cool. There is something so fascinating about architecture photography. I haven’t dabbled much into it, but I love when I get the chance to take city photos.
diptych2 IMG_7959 diptych11 diptych7 We then stopped at Public Domain on a whim. Their coffee was great and they have tons of windows to look out of to see the city.IMG_7955 One of the many bridges in Portland.diptych6Afterward, we ventured 45 mins east of Portland in hopes of finding a closer spot to see Mt Hood. It didn’t happen because of all the fog, but we did get to drive through Mt. Hood National Forest. It was breathtaking!diptych5 diptych3 diptych4 IMG_8109 On our second to last day in Oregon, we went and got doughnuts at Pip’s Original Doughnuts & Chai. They serve speciality chai drinks and make their doughnuts right in front of you. So you have a fresh, perfectly fried mini doughnut to enjoy.IMG_8114

That’s all for this post. Be on the lookout for part two of our Oregon trip soon. If you’ve been to Portland, leave in the comments what your favorite spot(s) was.

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National Parks: Carlsbad Caverns + Guadalupe Mountains

A few weeks ago two of my friends and I drove down to New Mexico and west Texas to went to visit Carlsbad Caverns National Park and the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Seeing all the National Parks in the United States is one of the items on my bucket list. (I’ve seen 7/59, Woo!) Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains are approximately 50 minutes away from each other, so we decided to visit both in a weekend. Both of these national parks provide unique experiences for both the extremely adventurous and not-so-adventurous folk.

Carlsbad Caverns offers self-guided cave tours, ranger guided tours (some include spelunking), a bat flight program and a night sky program. We did a self-guided tour down the natural entrance, which led into The Big Room. Approximately a three-mile trek. Sadly, we didn’t do either the bat flight program or night sky program due to time.

The Guadalupe Mountains offers many hiking trails both for the extreme hiker and the beginner hiker. Trails range from half a mile to 11.3 miles. This national park is not for the faint of heart (if you get ambitious, like we did) and requires some preparation for the hike.

So which one should you visit? Depends on what you want to see. If you have the time both are definitely worth seeing.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

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There are two options to get down into the cave: the natural entrance or you could ride an elevator down to The Big Room. We decided to take the natural entrance down to the cavern. It was steep, but was worth the extra views. (Left: Natural Entrance, Right: View of the “Twilight Zone” once inside the cave)cIMG_7363Once you get into the cave you are surrounded by incredible views, including some famous stalagmites and stalactites formations.cIMG_7373This is one of the many formations in the Hall of Giants.cIMG_7335 cIMG_7412The Big Room, the largest single cave chamber by volume in North America, is a 1.25 mile route. According to the National Park Service website, “roughly 6.2 football fields would fit into the Big Room.” So it is definitely a sight to see!cUntitled-2

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Guadalupe Mountains National Park

cUntitled-1cGuadalupe Mountains National Park, home of El Capitan (not to be confused with El Capitan of Yosemite) and Guadalupe Peak, the highest peak in Texas (8,751 ft). We chose to do the Devil’s Hall Trail due to time, weather (end of July in west Texas equals HOT), and lack of hiking experience. Ha!cIMG_7487 cUntitled-1Being in the desert (specifically the Chihuahua Desert) there were plenty of cacti. I was in love!cIMG_7484 cIMG_7477 cIMG_7455 cIMG_7479The last 2.5ish miles of the Devil’s Hall trail required some serious boulder climbing as it was in a river wash.

Carlsbad, New Mexico

Carlsbad, the town, is definitely a town because of the nearby national park. As a typical small town, there wasn’t a whole lot to do. They have a small downtown with many antique shops. Nearby is the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, which we didn’t have time to see. We ended finding some delicious restaurants and an awesome ice cream place (we went to it every day, it was that good).

carlsbaddLucy’s Mexicali Restaurant: (Rating 2/5 stars)
Right off the main road through Carlsbad, Lucy’s was a delicious Mexican restaurant choice. I have a sampler platter of Mexican dishes with lots of green chile.
Kaleidoscoops Ice Cream & More: (Rating 5/5 stars)
Best ice cream I’ve ever had! The handmade waffle cones are amazing. Definitely a must visit.
YellowBrix: (Rating 4/5 stars)
This restaurant was my favorite of the trip! It was cozy and slightly fancy. The food was amazing! Sarah and I both had Mexican dishes (when in New Mexico, green chile for every meal). Cecily had the Margarita Chicken and it was the best Margarita chicken I’ve ever had!
Danny’s Place BBQ: (Rating 3/5 stars)
Being from Oklahoma, I was a little skeptical of “new mexican” barbecue, but I was pleasantly surprised. I had a green chile burger (can you see my theme here) and it was really good! Definitely could taste the green chiles.

Roswell, New Mexico

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Carlsbad, NM was only an hour-and-a-half from Roswell, NM., also known as “the alien city.” So of course we took a little detour to see the aliens. This quaint town has really embraced the alien theme, as the International UFO Museum attracts many tourists a year. It also holds a yearly festival, the Roswell UFO Festival. Worth checking out, especially if you’re in to aliens.

For more information about Carlsbad National Park and the Guadalupe Mountains National Park visit the national park service website.
Carlsbad Caverns website
Guadalupe Mountains website
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Hot Springs National Park

During the middle of November a few of my friends and I went to visit Hot Springs National Park, which is located in the middle-of-nowhere Arkansas. Seeing all the National Parks in the United States is one of the items on my bucket list. (I’ve seen 4/59, Woo!) I’m not going to lie, after seeing national parks such as the Grand Canyon and Yosemite, I thought Hot Springs National Park was going to be a little underwhelming. But boy, was I wrong! This little national park is a gem. You have everything from hiking and waterfalls to spa retreats, shopping and a gangster museum. The park is smack dab in the middle of a historic downtown famous for its bathhouses and its illegal gambling during the 1930s. Al Capone, Frank Costello, and other infamous mobsters were known to visit this national park. Need more incentive to visit? For the outdoors lover, Lake Hamilton and the Ouachita National Forest are close by. There are many art museums and plenty of nightlife entertainment. So, what should you see? All of it.

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Buckstaff Baths is just one of the many bathhouses on Bathhouse Row.

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Quapaw Baths is the bathhouse we chose to visit. While I am not a huge fan of baths, it was a rather enjoyable experience. They have affordable individual aromatherapy baths that were quite relaxing. Visit their website for more information.

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A little sneak peek of downtown. The Ohio Club is a definite must see when visiting Hot Springs. It was one of the main “hangouts” for Al Capone and other mobsters. The bar is the original bar from the late 1800s. The staff was friendly and told us many stories about the bar and the city.

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Of course we had to take advantage of the hot spring water spouts all over town.

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Another shot of downtown. (Left) Hot Springs Mountain Tower (Right)

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An overlook of the city of Hot Springs.

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It rained or was foggy during our entire trip. Many would be bummed, but we loved the views on our hikes. It also gave us an awesome effect for our photos.

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For more information about Hot Springs National Park visit their website.