Icelandic waterfalls, Geysir and hooray for rain jackets!

Þingvellir National Park, Iceland

Þingvellir National Park, Iceland

Anyone who knows me knows I hate the cold. I hate snow and winter sports (except for sledding, that counts right?) and trust me, no amount of boozy hot cocoa will convince me to feel otherwise. But when my husband and I decided to make Iceland our next vacation spot, I resigned myself to being cold and wet. We even bought new rain jackets for the occasion, which struck us both as funny since Portland was gearing up for an insane heat wave (it’s been in the 90s since we left). And yet, I’m not sad to be out of the sun. It’s been an amazing trip so far and we fully embraced our Icelandic adventure, spending our third day exploring the Golden Circle. The Golden Circle is one of the “must see” Icelandic excursions for a good reason – it includes some of the most awesome natural sights on the island, all within a few hours of each other. Our first stop was at Þingvellir National Park, which was the site of the original Icelandic parliament back in 930. It’s also home to a rift valley, where you can see the division of two tectonic plates, the North American and the Eurasian. The part we were in was so deep it actually created a canyon, which has a pathway winding down to allow for some exploring. Þingvellir National Park, Iceland Continue reading

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What you’ll find at the end of the road in Kodiak, Alaska

You can actually drive to the end of several roads in Kodiak, Alaska

You can actually drive to the end of several roads in Kodiak, Alaska

In college there was a moment when I turned to a few of my friends and asked if they wanted to go out the road that weekend. I was met with blank stares and utter confusion.

That’s when I realized “going out the road” was phrase only understood in certain places. For me, that place was my hometown, Kodiak, Alaska. Going out the road is the equivalent of going for a drive but the difference is how limited your drive is. We only have so much road in Kodiak so “going out the road” is fairly specific.

If you start in downtown, you can drive about 20 minutes north toward Ft. Abercrombie and then on to the end of that road to Monashka Beach, which is about another 15 minutes away. Monashka, or White Sands as we locals call it, was a favorite place for pallet parties when I was in high school. Ah, Alaska.

One super cool thing about this drive is you can see the “John Wayne.” I didn’t get a picture of it on this trip as the brush has grown over it, but usually you can spot this local treasure which has been painted on the rock wall as you drive out to Monashka. I think the drawing has been there for around 20 years, maybe longer.

You can also go the other direction “out the road” which after about 20 minutes or so will lead you to an intersection, or the Kodiak crossroads as I like to think of it.

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My favorite place in the world: Ft. Abercrombie State Park

This trail leads to an overlook that is my favorite part of the park

This trail leads to an overlook that is my favorite part of the park

While I’ve traveled quite a bit around the world, there is one place that will always have my heart — Ft. Abercrombie State Park on Kodiak Island, Alaska. I remember hiking the trails as a Girl Scout, hanging out on top of the bunkers as a teenager, spending hours partying (and legitimately exploring!) as a young adult and even now, all grown up, I can feel its pull.

The park is where I spent an incredible amount of time between the ages of 13 and 21. My friends and I had several favorite campsites that we would spend weekends at — when we were younger, we’d all pile into a tent to gossip the night away. As we got older, the group grew and the nights often ended with a mix of couples huddled around a campfire, drinking beer and talking about life after high school. Most of my best memories of my friends involve Ft. Abercrombie.

But besides the fact that it was a great places to escape, the park is also crazy beautiful and loaded with history.
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Headed to higher ground: Seeing Kodiak from above

View of St. Paul Harbor, Pillar Mt., Kodiak, AK

The best view of the city of Kodiak isn’t much of a secret, anyone will tell you — just drive up Pillar Mountain. The problem is it’s usually just too foggy to see anything. In fact the fog in Kodiak is legendary, it once saved the island from an air attack in WWII. It’s hard to bomb a place if you can’t find it!

But last weekend, I lucked out and had two gorgeous days on the island before the rain and fog came in. After 18 years of living on Kodiak, I can tell you this is an incredibly rare thing so I didn’t waste much time driving up to see the town from the top of Pillar.

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Feasting in the Forest

Nothing like a delicious meal in the most beautiful of settings!

View from Skamania Lodge

View from Skamania Lodge

Back in June my husband was asked to partake in a dinner series at Skamania Lodge, a luxurious hotel in the Columbia Gorge about an hour outside of Portland. When we heard that a room was included for the evening, he we accepted immediately. I am not in the habit of turning down a complimentary night away from home!

The event, called Feast in the Forest, brought two chefs out from Portland each month, from June to September, to do a sit-down, multi-coursed dinner. After the four dinners had taken place, a final dinner was planned where each guest chef would return to the lodge to cook a dish for the Grand Feast.

My husband’s first dinner was in July and he prepared this dish as his contribution:

Wild Boar Trio: homemade sausage, braised belly and rack

Wild boar sausage, braised boar belly and rack, with whipped cornbread and pickled cherries.

It was a wonderful meal and the view only got better as the night progressed:

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A sad farewell to the Last Frontier

Leaving Alaska

Leaving Alaska

Last night I said goodbye to my family and headed back home to Portland. It’s hard to believe that my mini-vacation is over. I had so much fun the days flew by!

I also realized that I have a much greater appreciate for my home state after having been away for so long. The sheer beauty of the landscape had me pulling out my camera every five minutes — I’m sure I took more pictures than your average tourist!

Here’s a few more scenes from my trip:

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