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Out with the Kids: Into the Woods

I can’t believe it’s almost the weekend again! I got so much accomplished last weekend, including spray painting some kid furniture, organizing my craft drawers and purging a ton of stuff. For whatever reason I was highly motivated, and hope that some of that motivation will carry over into this weekend as well. We also had a day of fun family adventure, too! David decided we’d take the kids fishing, and despite the cold Pacific Northwest weather, that is what we did!

It isn’t always easy taking kids this young somewhere this remote. In fact, sometimes it is really hard. You can’t let them out of your sight for a minute. But it’s always worth it. The kids see and find all kinds of things, and I want them to have these experiences in nature, with no house for miles and miles. Of course, I would never take them out this far by myself, but with two parents (or people) its fine. It does take a bit of planning though.

For us, planning usually falls into three categories:

1. Food & Snacks.
2. Entertainment
3. Clothing & Gear

Food & Snacks are a given, especially on long trips. It is so much cheaper to bring food, and often the next town is too far away to bother. Also, snacks can work wonders on long car rides, so they really double as entertainment.

While we try to have the kids just look out the windows and talk about what we see (including songs, i spy, etc), sometimes its easier after a while to just hand Chloe her ipad and headphones. At twenty-months, Leo is a pretty good traveler. Sometimes he’ll nap or be content to snack on something. When that doesn’t work we’ll hand him back various toys (cars, little animals, small board books) and as a last resort sometimes we’ll hand him an iphone. Unfortunately, he isn’t into shows like Chloe is, but he has a few apps that interest him right now like Peekaboo Wild, Where’s Gumbo, Wheels on the Bus and Itsy Bitsy Spider (the two latter by Duck Duck Moose). When we get where we’re going there always seems to be plenty to do – in this case, collecting rocks, seeing waterfalls, and discussing how a beaver gnaws down trees with his teeth to make his home.

Lastly there is Clothing & Gear. If there is mud, the kids will fall in it. If there is water, the kids will splash in it. That is life. I know this and always bring a full change of clothes and shoes. One thing I always make sure the kids have is quality long-underwear, usually purchased on deep discount from REI outlet. Chloe’s old ones get handed down to Leo (which is why his current bottoms are pink, but now I am buying them in neutral colors). Diapers and wipes are also necessities. Gear depends on where we go, but I always bring our becco baby carrier and sometimes we’ll bring our Kelty backpack carrier as well. For this trip, David also brought our pop-up shelter, which works as a “base” and makes a nice covered place to share a meal or hang out.

Like I mentioned earlier, it isn’t always easy. But easy isn’t always as meaningful, either, is it? So the kids get dirty and wet and I let them, knowing we’re prepared to clean them up once we get back to the car. We also try and listen and let the kids tell us when they’ve had enough. If they are too cold or uncomfortable, then no fun will be had and that isn’t the point.

And then we arrive back home to our cozy house and warm beds and all is right with the world…

 


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Camping with the kids

This past weekend we took the kids camping at Nehalem Bay State Park. It was… challenging. Not that it wasn’t worth it… it just… took a lot of effort. There were times we had to remind ourselves that home was less than two hours away and we could leave at any time. But hey, we did it! The kids had a great time playing on the beach both days – soaking up the sun, splashing in the water, flying the kite, and generally getting sand everywhere. The hardest part was in the evening, I think. Of course the kids couldn’t get to sleep on time, were occasionally loud which I worried bothered our fellow campers, and then there were “incidences” – like when Leo jabbed himself in the eye with a fork and I feared that we’d have to rush to the hospital, or when Chloe fell face first into the fire pit, scraping her face, bloodying her nose and getting soot all over herself. And sleeping, well… we only have 3 sleeping bags, so I shared mine with Leo, which was kind of awkward, and I kept waking up all night wondering if he or Chloe was cold.

Anyways, it was a good learning experience (and exercise in patience!). Next time we are going to do what our neighbors are doing this week, and getting a yurt. 🙂
More photos can be seen here.


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Molalla River

We haven’t gone fishing with David since way before Leo was born. It just got too difficult – being pregnant, dealing with Chloe on the long car rides (usually 2.5+ hours each way), keeping her from getting hurt, or falling in, dealing with the consequences of an absent nap, packing everything we might need and then un-packing/washing/putting it away… it just got to be too much. These aren’t friendly, easy to manage areas with picnic tables or park-like settings either. They are out-there, and miles and miles from “civilization,” not that I ever minded before. And now there are two little ones with very different needs to consider.

Anyway, we tried it on Sunday. Both kids were asleep in their car seats at the first spot, so I stayed in the car with them. It was a lovely, picturesque spot, too. I think I was the one who accidentally woke them up, trying to get my camera and things I’d want to have if we stayed there. David came back up the path right as we were all about to emerge and we decided to try another spot. The next one was bad. We should never have stopped there. It was down an extremely steep embankment and into a large but shallow section of running water with lots of rocks, but no place to actually stand, or sit without getting wet. Chloe fell several times and got her shoes and pants wet almost instantly. Did I mention the weather was cold and rainy? It turned particularly miserable while we were there. I was also worried. If something happened, I would only be able to take one kid up the steep embankment back to the car at a time, which means one would have to wait by himself/herself while I locked the other in the car, neither a good choice to be alone next to a rushing river.

We finally moved to a third spot. By this time I knew what we needed to look for, and I got out first to give the place a looking over before agreeing. Still not ideal, but less water flow with a dirt/rock section to pitch our pop-up shelter. While here, I wrote down the two things I felt I needed for safety and sanity:

1. To be close enough to the car that I could take both kids back to it at the same time, by myself, if we needed something. That means leaving the keys with me, too. (I didn’t have them at the previous spot, and David was beyond yelling distance and couldn’t hear me, so we couldn’t have gone back to the car anyway).

2. A spot near the river that gently slopes into it so Chloe can splash (there would be no keeping her out of it), and possibly fall in (which she did, of course), but far enough from the fast water that I could fish her out with plenty of time to spare. Plus a place for me to sit and safetley put Leo down.

The other thing would be to have more time to pack. By the time I realized David was serious about going and taking us with him I was rushing around trying to get everything I thought we’d need. The two things I had forgotten were a good pair of trail shoes for me and Leo’s bouncy seat (it was too muddy to just put him down on a blanket). That meant leaving him in his car seat when I wasn’t holding him, and what baby wants to spend that much time in his car seat?

So anyway, the trip wasn’t the perfect family outting we had all hoped for, but it was a very good learning experience. I really miss photographing nature like I used to, but I realized it was not easy while being responsible for my children. All in its time, I guess. One day they’ll be big enough to know the dangers, and by then be joining their father fishing, like I’d be doing. Then maybe I can spend more time with my camera. I did get this photo though… priceless.


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Bainbridge Island

Last week was full of adventures. At the beginning of the week David took a few days off and we rented a tiny beach cottage on Bainbridge Island on Puget Sound (that is Chloe above, playing right out front). We hung out, played by the water, checked out the parks and sampled a few local eateries (our picks: Treehouse Cafe, Blackbird Cafe, Pegasus Coffee House, Sawadty Thai, and not to be missed Mora’s Ice Cream. If we had a bigger budget and a baby sitter we totally would have tried Cafe Nola. Just reading their menu – bacon wrapped peaches! – made me salivate).


That chunky peach pecan muffin at Pegasus Cafe was super-yummy, and the ivy that covered the building was like out of a fairytale. There was a lively group of what looked to be local old men just chatting away. Maybe they get together and hang out there every morning.


The waterfront marina behind the cafe.


Chloe had a blast exploring this huge play structure at Battle Point Park.


Chloe and David at Fay Bainbridge State Park.


Chloe’s first ferry ride, Bainbridge Island to Seattle on the “Tacoma.”


Getting a rare photo of Leo and I while watching the islands go by from the ferry.

Later in the week we packed up again and headed to the Oregon coast for a family gathering with David’s work. They generously put us up in a plush 2-bedroom beach house just steps from the sand. At one point David took Chloe to play on the beach and, for the first time in a long while, I was able to browse the little shops in Manzanita at my own pace, with Leo sleeping peacefully on my chest in his carrier. I really enjoyed that dose of solitude. How different life is now from just a few short years ago. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

(More photos of our Bainbridge Island trip are here).


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Splish splash

Another beautiful Saturday at Cannon Beach. David and Chloe purchased her first “real” kite at the Kite Factory, and it joined the many other flying colors in the air that day. I felt so happy watching them play. I want Chloe’s (and Leo’s) childhood to be filled with days like this – full of sunshine and fresh air, and lots of joy. I want them to love the beach as much as I do. My only regret is not taking a photo of Leo. It’s his third time at the coast, but it’s always been too windy to lay him down on the sand. Instead, he spends his time sleeping on my chest in his carrier, which makes him hard to photograph. But it won’t be long before he is out enjoying the water just like his sister.


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Flowering Artichoke

Have you seen one of these before? I hadn’t, until we moved in to our house six years ago. It is an artichoke that has been left to flower. Isn’t it magnificent? Kind of structural and prehistoric looking, in the way a passion flower is. A couple of months ago my mom was visiting. She picked a few, sliced and steamed them, and added them to couscous. I was pretty impressed. We had never eaten them before, and just enjoyed the flowering. They attract lots of bees, too. They burrow in between the florets as if in bee nirvana. Some don’t come out. I wonder if it is a sweet death, gorged on whatever it is they are eating in there.

The third photo shows the mystery plant that Chloe brought home from preschool earlier this summer. Turns out it is a sunflower. A giant sunflower. If I’d have known that I would not have planted it in our vegetable garden. It perplexes me that the teacher wouldn’t have chosen something smaller, but c’est la vie. I’ve kind of grown to like it. And the rest of our garden? Despite not giving it as much attention this year (with the baby and all), it is doing better than ever. Who would have guessed?


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Sand and water

A couple weekends ago we had Daddy all to ourselves. This particular day we joined him for a brief afternoon on the river, and then a few hours at Cannon beach. It had been a long time since we’d done something like this, and we had such a great time. Chloe loved playing in the water and especially the sand, despite the cold temperature.

I wish we could do this kind of thing more often, like we used to, but there are so many reasons we don’t – I’ve been so tired this pregnancy, or David has to work the weekend, or we need to take care of house-related errands or chores… And honestly, Chloe is becoming a handful. At two, she is naturally more independent and willful (and sometimes downright naughty!). There are days I can’t even bear to take her for groceries, and have put it off, if it just isn’t a good day. I wish it wasn’t that way.

I wish getting out of the house was easier… that everyday could be spent somewhere stimulating and fun. But now I’m okay if its just a few times a week, not counting her dance class or her morning at baby preschool. And when Baby Two comes along… well, I think its going to be tough for a while. David said something along the lines of wishing we could fast-forward through that first year, and though I see his point, this will be my only other baby. The last time I’ll get to experience the wonder of a newborn and all the sweetness that entails. And I want to share that with Chloe in a good way. I want them to love each other, to get along, to be friends. But I won’t be able to help them do that if I’m exhausted all the time, like I am now. So, when things just happen to work out, like it did on this special day, I am that much more grateful.


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One snowy day

Although I lamented that our Colorado visit would include no snow, it finally did snow the day before we left. It was perfect: cold, soft, white, and a special experience for Chloe that she will rarely ever get in our part of Oregon. She had a great time, especially being pulled on her first sled ride. Despite freezing fingers and a rudolph-like red nose, she hardly seemed bothered by the falling temperature. I had to go in and warm up long before she did (plus my camera was getting soaked). Chloe was just having too much fun.

And here is the one glimpse I saw of the wood-pile rabbit. What a cutie!


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Details

Is it really almost September? Already, the white anemones in our front yard are in bloom, the last of our plants to flower before fall and winter come. Other than the heat wave we had recently, the summer has been pretty mild. Too mild, maybe, since our tomatoes plants are still only laden with green fruit.

This has been an unusual month for me. I guess something is out of whack with my system, and my body is letting me know it. Usually I feel fine. Hopefully it is nothing to be alarmed about, but the advice nurse at the clinic scheduled some tests and an appointment early next week. At this point, I’m happy to go.

I inspect the garden every day. Although we were sad to loose our backyard trees earlier this year, the garden is flourishing. I’m often surprised by even the day to day changes, and especially the details. Take a look:

Have a great weekend!


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Weekend Camping

We went camping this weekend in celebration of a friend’s 40th birthday. Once upon a time, 40 seemed so far away, but now that I am creeping up there myself, I can’t say I feel like I thought I’d feel. While I do feel like a grown-up (especially after the baby was born), I don’t feel as “grown-up” as I thought I’d feel by this point. I’m guessing it is true for most people, that though we live our adult lives every day, being grown-up doesn’t feel like we thought it would feel when we were kids thinking about being grown-up. Does that make sense?

Anyway, the highlight of this trip for me was the 2.2 mile hike to the Blue Pool, also known as Tamolitch Falls. The “Falls” actually no longer exists here. What used to be the upper section of the McKenzie river has been diverted, and now the water that fills this pool comes from an underground source. This is my favorite kind of hike -  with a destination, or “reward” at the end, and this one did not disappoint. As a matter of fact, the pool contained the bluest water I’ve ever seen in my life, more like a really deep turquoise. The photo does not do the color justice, nor does it even hint at it’s incredible depth.  Let me tell you, it was hard to resist the pull of all that glistening water on a summer day, but a quick temperature check with a dipped hand into the freezing cold instantly warned us that would not be a good idea.

And did I mention that I carried Chloe on my back on the hike up? I was pretty proud of myself. I think it actually made the experience more fun, hiking with friends with our babies on our backs. We brought the Beco carrier instead of the framed Kelty carrier because it packs down so much smaller in an already full car (Barkley was also with us). I’m happy to say the Beco continues to be worth every penny, although we use it less now than when Chloe was a newborn. And although camping with a toddler is quite challenging at times, I think it was still a good experience.


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Little Garden Visitors

Chloe and I play out in the back yard almost everyday. This year, early in the season, we bought several flats of fund-raiser plants from a neighbor. The growing color back there is wonderful! I’m also happy to report several mini-green tomatoes, zucchini, grapes and green beans peeking out from under their abundant foliage.

Yesterday, we saw an unusual amount of butterflies visiting our yard. Their drunken fluttering makes Chloe nervous, so she likes to have me close by. Unfortunately they were practically impossible to photograph. So we turned our attention to these little garden visitors instead…

Honey bee, back legs laden with pollen
Male “12-Spotted Skimmer” dragonfly, back view
Mason bee (I think)
Male “12-Spotted Skimmer” dragonfly, front view


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Heat Wave

We’re suffering through a heat wave in Portland right now. So far we’ve gotten by with only fans, but tomorrow I’m guessing the AC will get its first run of the season. Chloe’s lovin’ it, though. Yesterday she got to play in the nearby park fountain for the second time, although she will still quite timid. All of the jets except four are quite forceful, and the four tiny jets were crowded with other babies, toddlers and parents. So, today we broke out our new Melissa & Doug Blossom Sprinkler. I bought two on a whim back in March, and gave the second as a birthday gift. It is everything that I’d hoped for. Right now we’re keeping the flow low, so Chloe can get used to it, but it also goes big, and the sprinkler heads are soft and flexible for little feet. I think we’re going to get a lot of use out of it this summer, and since losing our trees, I’m sure our grass is going to thank us.

On another note, I recieved a lot of really insightful advice in the comments of my recent Maybe I should have spanked her post. I appreciated reading every one, and gleaned some good information.  It also spurred me to look at some “raising toddler” help books at the library. The one I’m currently reading is The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp, MD. I was really impressed with how well the techniques from his other book and DVD worked when Chloe was a newborn. I’ve gotten through the first four chapters so far, basically presenting the idea that parents should act as an “ambassador” to their children (vs. being a buddy, or a boss), and how to communicate respectfully using the “Fast Food rule” and “Toddler-ese.” To be honest, I was skeptical about the “Toddler-ese,” but I had an opportunity to try it during dinner tonight. Chloe must have hurt her mouth somehow and was crying. Daddy tried to distract her with redirection, which usually works, but she just continued crying. It was my opportunity to give toddler-ese a try. To my surprise, Chloe responded by pausing mid-wail, which was just long enough for Daddy to redirect her again with the promise of a cookie (it was the end of dinner, after all). Whoa! Was this just a coincidence? Hard to tell. I plan on trying it again in other situations, and if it works even half the time, then I’ll be happy.


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Rain forest, detail

I was looking through our recent Lake Quinault camping photos again and noticed that I didn’t include any of the detail shots. It’s easy to be bowled over by the big picture (so green! giant trees! lots of rain!), but a lot of what makes the rain forest such a special place are the little things – the carpets of clover, the furry mosses, the delicate unfurling of a fern frond – all those tiny lives being forged out of the clouds and mist. It’s amazing. I think its worth a second look, don’t you?


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Camping at Lake Quinault, Olympic National Forest

I hope everyone had a happy Memorial Day weekend!

We decided to go on a rare camping trip to the Lake Quinault area of the Olympic National Forest. It was cloudy, wet, and very cold (Hello! Rain forest!), but we did enjoy a brief break when the sun made an appearance on the second evening. I was finally able to pull out my camera and once I started I could hardly stop taking pictures. Everything was just so verdant and sparkling.

We pitched our tent in a beautiful spot, surrounded by lush vegetation and old-growth trees, right beside the lake. With Chloe in her framed backpack carrier, we explored the nearby rainforest trails, including one leading to the largest Sitka spruce in the world. The Lake Quinault Lodge was also picturesque and charming with it’s rough, weathered facade and stately presence.

Overall, the weather proved to be our biggest challenge, and sadly, our air mattress sprung a leak the very first night. We had bought a new REI Kingdom 4 “family” tent on sale just a few days earlier, and although roomy, it had a poorly designed fly that didn’t keep out the rain. Luckily David played it safe and packed our old Mountain Hardware tent, too, which was much more suited to the wet and cold environment.

I think I was the one who enjoyed our trip the most. Chloe wasn’t thrilled about the long car ride, or sleeping in her coat, but she did remarkably well and had a good time. I’m also proud to say we packed everything we needed, including food for delicious and easy camp-friendly meals. Our last night we enjoyed a special dinner at the Salmon House Restaurant in the Rainforest Resort Village while we watched the sun go down behind the mountains. It was a moment of perfection for me. I can’t wait until next time (when hopefully it will be just a little bit warmer!)


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Chanterelle Season

With the clouds and rain that mark the closing of summer, comes the beginning of golden chanterelles dotting the forest floor. It was a good day for a hike in the woods, and David was a trooper for carrying Chloe on his back the entire time.

Things I like about mushroom hunting:
•    The thrill of the hunt
•    Enjoying the outdoors
•    Letting the dog run off-leash
•    Getting something for free
•    Knowing that they’ll make something tasty and delicious
Things I don’t like about mushroom hunting:
•    Walking through spiderwebs
•    Possibly getting lost
•    Possibly picking the wrong type (however unlikely)
•    Hearing the gunshots of hunters in the distance


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On the horizon

We’re in Colorado. David is on a fly-fishing trip with his father and two brothers on the Gunnison River and Chloe and I have spent the week with David’s mom, taking day trips from their home near Colorado Springs. I’ll share more pictures and details of our adventures soon, but meanwhile I thought I’d post the two different views that David and I are enjoying right now.


View of Pike’s Peak from David’s parent’s house one morning, shot using a telephoto lens.


View from Lake City, taken with David’s iphone.


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A Sunny Weekend

What a beautiful weekend, perfect for starting some seeds in the garden and soaking in a little spring sunshine. On Sunday we took a drive so David could throw his line into the Wilson, while Chloe and I sat river side, enjoying the fresh air and view.

Back at home, we all crashed on the grass in the backyard. David and Chloe enjoying a little nap in the shade.


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Lost Lake

This is where David, Chloe and I went on Saturday. It was about halfway between Portland and the coast, high up in the mountains. After turning off the highway, the first dirt road we tried was snow covered, slippery and very steep. It made me nervous, especially with the baby. Finally I asked that we turn around. If something happened, it is possible that no one would know for a long time.

Before the baby, I probably would have viewed it as an exciting adventure. But now, her safety was foremost in my mind. I had visions of us sliding down the snowy mountainside and her helpless and freezing, if we didn’t survive. That was just too much.

So we turned around, and David found another way, an entry closer to the west that started at a lower elevation. Luckily, it was a beautiful drive that followed a river. The final climb was no less steep, but had much less snow until we reached closer to the top. It was breathtaking to see the miles of the tree covered mountain range. David stopped to re-check the map, thinking we should be there, and then looked up to find we were there. Through the trees the lake glistened, patiently waiting.

We thought we’d be completely alone (after all, who would make this kind of trek in the winter?), but it was Saturday and there was one small family already fishing, though they didn’t stay long. And finally we had this incredible place all to ourselves.

The thing I remember most was how quiet it was. At one point all I could hear was my heartbeat and Chloe’s breathing, despite being heavily bundled up against my chest. I sat with my back against a tree near the lake’s edge to nurse her, when other sounds came to my attention – a woodpecker that I spotted nearby, the faintest rustling of leaves, and the soft thudding of Barkley’s paws as he ran between us and where David was fishing father out. It felt magical, and I was again thankful to live in an area where such beauty could be experienced so peacefully.


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Collecting Chanterelles

While we were at the coast this weekend, we also went mushroom hunting for Chanterelles. It is a surprisingly fun past-time, especially with friends. You get to spend time outdoors, hiking in the deep woods, keeping your eyes peeled for little spots of color along the ground. Then you get the thrill of the find, sometimes falling upon a whole group at once. And later, once the little beauties are all checked over, cleaned, trimmed, and sliced, they get cooked up for dinner. We had them sauteed in butter and parsley this weekend, but the leftovers will likely find themselves into omelets, mushroom risotto, and other tasty dishes (like maybe mushroom turnovers with sour cream, a recipe from my new copy of Everyday Food).

Another cool thing about mushroom hunting is that you see things that you might have missed if you weren’t trying to look at everything so carefully. I’ve seen these little snails along the ground before, but I’ve never seen this little red woodland lizard that Marcy found. They are tiny things, and easily overlooked, but they all share the forest. It is cool to think about.

On our way home from the coast, we stopped along a side road off the highway, in an area that looked to be promising. We pretty much came on several batches right away, and stayed for maybe an hour. I was pretty exhausted and sore after hunting around the day before (imagine me for a moment, 34 months pregnant, clumsy and awkward, climbing over fallen logs, and up steep hillsides. Then imagine Marcy doing the same thing with a 6-month old strapped to her chest. At least we survived unhurt, unlike my poor husband who actually sprained his ankle). At this new place, however, it was almost like they just popped up on their own. I was hardly trying and there they were. So we borrowed Alex’s dehydrator and are giving that a whirl. After a few more harvests like this one, we’ll have mushrooms to last the winter.


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Sahalie Falls & Fishing


Sahalie Falls, McKenzie River, Oregon

This is one of two breathtaking waterfalls we saw this weekend. I only got a couple shots before my camera died, and I didn’t have a spare battery with me. The other falls, not far down, was called Koosah Falls. We were in the area so David could do some fly fishing on the McKenzie, which is 2+ hours south of Portland. If my camera had been working, I would have taken some great shots of David reeling in his catch. I’ve been trying to convince him lately that we should start keeping the big ones for dinner (instead of always releasing). He came so close this time, but in the end the beauty of the fish overwhelmed him and he had to let it go. That’s okay, honey, maybe next time.

Postscript: David just showed me this video on how to clean and cook river side trout “McKenzie Style.”

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