The Mighty Outdoors

We are Family

There has been no running in my life for the past five weeks and though painful, I have been staying occupied. My childhood friend, my cousin, and her daughter (my niece) trekked from sunny Florida to the Pacific NW and we made it a point to show off the mighty northwest.

A walking bridge is like pixie dust, it makes surroundings so magical.

Miami, Florida is a mega-tropolis and though I appreciated growing up in a such a rich and culturally diverse environment, there are definitely some drawbacks. With a population of 3,000,000 people – Oregon has a combined population of 4,000,000 – you can imagine what commuting looks like. Furthermore, because of it’s flat terrain, you don’t get to experience mountains or the views one would gain from climbing a mountain. Thus, it was critical for us to ensure my family experienced elevation and the rewards of the huffing and puffing that come from the climb.

The white patch shaped like a heart is what remains of Winter Snow.

Hosting and playing tour-guide was rather exhausting, but we felt great pride showing off the beauty the state of Oregon has to offer. What was most refreshing was the detachment to materialistic possessions. Hiking to the top of a mountain, pausing to enjoy a waterfall, sitting around a campfire to roast marshmallows, and the lack of reception made us feel not only connected to nature, but to one another. We were able to give each other our undivided attention and participate in the give and take of an organic conversation. The only status updates pertained to food, the beauty of our surroundings, and the magic of a campfire under the scintillating stars.

The rewards of stepping outside and setting one foot in front of the other.


I still have another three more weeks before I can even attempt to run a single mile, but as long as I have the mighty outdoors, I have enough to be grateful for. With two more months left of Summer, I reckon there will be plenty of adventures that will give me the opportunity to count my blessings.

Jake The Explorer. I swear our dog is 1/4 mountain goat.


 

 

We Got an RV!


We headed to Central Oregon for our first trip.


Camp fires will never go out of style regardless of whether we are sleeping in a tent or in a recreational vehicle.


We took in the beautiful scenery and hugged trees.


Some trees were too tall and robust to hug, but that made them even more impressive. This tree is the largest Ponderosa Tree in Oregon and approximately 500 years old.


En route back to the fast paced life, we made a pit-stop to Sparrow Bakery to indulge in the buzzed about ocean rolls.


Much to my chagrin, the bakery was closed (it closes around “2ish” according to their sign) and my disappointment was apparently evident to the young man who asked me to stand-by after I informed him I wanted to try the ocean rolls. He went back inside and came back with two rolls – on the house! The rolls did not disappoint! Sparrow bakery will be a must for me from now on. 


Do you own an RV? What campground do you recommend?

Roughing It

On Friday night, my husband, my daughters, the dog, and I, drove up to the mountains to spend quality time with the outdoors. In all frankness, I was dragged to the mountains, but it was because the forecast read rain from 11pm Friday until 8 am Saturday with the possibility of floods.

This is what the skies looked like when we headed on our camping trip.

While the spring temperatures are no longer below freezing, the weather for the Holiday weekend was supposed to be too cold for my liking. Cold anything is just not my cup of tea; cold weather, cold wind, cold rain, cold floors, and colds in general. If the temperature is not above 70 during camping, then I feel like the experience is more like survival. Since the whole family, including the dog, seemed excited for the excursion, I swallowed my selfishness and put on a happy face.

Traveling in style like the Beverly Hillbillies. Good thing our dog does not mind small spaces.

It was wet, cold, and breezy when we arrived to our campsite. A large group of my husband’s co-workers who had arrived to the campsite a couple of ours before us had already started a much needed fire for my cold bones. There were also quadrupedal species frolicking around like small children who came to greet us upon our arrival.

The dogs were like small children and they wanted to play all weekend long. Except for the beagle who was sunbathing. He wanted to sniff the ground and catch some sun all weekend long. The dog on the bottom right is a labrador pup, and he never seemed to tire no matter how many times I tossed him the ball.


As much as I wanted to relish and enjoy the outdoors, my mind was still stuck on the gray, wet, and cold weather. When I looked around the camp fire to observe whether anybody else seemed perturbed by the weather conditions, it dawned on me I was all alone in the “negative nancy” category. The cool wind and the scent of rain falling from the skies didn’t faze my two-year-old, who was running around with chocolate on her face and gooey marshmallow all over her hair. My ten-year-old had muddy legs and shoes after riding on an OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) with my husband, who was smoking a cigar and exhaling like Sean Connery on a James Bond film. Even Jake, my dog seemed to be enjoying the night as he was sitting cuddled under his fleece blanket next to the warm fire.Their happiness made up for my funk and the tempestuous nature of the dark clouds. Perhaps it wasn’t only the weather that was impacting me, given I had not worked out that morning. At approximately 9 pm, I decided to call it a night and told myself I would attempt to run the next morning so that I could create some positive energy.

 

Our humble abode.

 
Saturday was a much better day! Even though I had to get up at 2 in the morning while it was raining cats and dogs to do my business, and subsequently could not go back to sleep after doing my business due howling winds scratching the perimeters of our tent, I was still looking forward to the day. The rain continued until at least 10:00 am in the morning, but a breakfast filled with delicious eggs, hash browns, and pancakes further fueled my desires to go for a run. 

Rabbit Hole Warning: I know I have not made any updates pertaining to my running injury, but it’s mostly due to the fact that there has not  been much to update. There was an attempt on my behalf to shake out my legs around the track two weeks ago, which was around the fifth week of recovery, and while I managed to make it around the track four times, my foot hurt, so I decided not to push it. That one mile felt great in terms of being able to physically perform what I had easily been able to do eight weeks ago, but mentally, it was frustrating to accept the physical limitations.

Nonetheless, on Saturday, May 23rd, I accepted the strength of my body, and embraced the outdoors. Not only did I manage to pull out a 5k on a gravel/dirt hilly trail, the sun came out and warmed my body!! There was mild discomfort on my foot while, but not a painful kind of discomfort, just a cautious discomfort of not pushing it too far.  The pace was slow, but my legs and lungs were getting a good workout and there was a surge of endorphins that made the trip, the rain, and the mud worthwhile. Most importantly though, my run was full of gratitude towards all the service men and women who never made it back. Men and women who did not say good-bye to their spouse and children. Men and women who were children themselves and did not say good-bye to their parents. It was a reminder Freedom comes at a price that few are willing to pay but many advantageously enjoy; the price of one’s life.

 

Gravel, hills, wooden fences, and evergreens help shake off the funk.

 
For the first time, I also got to play in the mud (don’t like mud) and ride the trails in one of the OHV’s with my husband. In all honesty, I am not an adventurous person when it comes to new experiences. In fact, I tend to be apprehensive about experiences that I feel may lead to bodily harm and or drowning (bungee jumping, motorcycles rides, diving, snorkeling), so when my husband asked me to ride with him, I went with reservations. Once again, I was grateful I did not allow the voices of fear inside my head to seize the day and enjoyed a nice ride with my main man!

 

Riding, Rolling, and Spinning!

 
On our ride back home on Sunday afternoon, I noticed the mud on the side of our vehicle, the girls with knotted hair and dirty clothes, the dirt between my nails, the scent of burning wood wafting off my clothes, a tired beagle, and a handsome husband who seemed content to have spent time with his family in the outdoors. An enlightened smile was immediately planted on my face for not allowing my selfishness that overcame me on Friday afternoon to get in the way of the beautiful memories that we created as a family during the weekend. It was a good lesson for me to experience and learn on Memorial Day weekend.

 

The sun will come out tomorrow. And it did!

 
How was your Memorial Day Weekend? What are you most grateful for?

Never Too Old for S’mores

Una vacacion es un concepto extranjero para una familia Latinoamericana de bajos recursos. Pero un concepto aun mas raro es una vacacion de acampamento.

If you did not understand the preceding sentences, then you will understand what going on a vacation, more specifically a camping vacation, sounded like in our household. While we enjoyed an occasional excursion to the beaches of South Florida, the weekend family gathering of aunt/uncles/cousins, or a day at the park, we never went on a single vacation. Not in Summer, not during Spring Break, or Christmas, or any time whatsoever. Yes, the fact that my mother worked in a chicken factory earning minimum wage to feed the mouths of six hungry children played a significant role in our not having a vacation. However, camping, which may have been perceived as a rather inexpensive family excursion to a low-income family like ours was such a foreign concept, we found it mind-boggling “Americans” defined sleeping outside as a way of vacationing.

I had been introduced to “camping” in the Marine Corps, and I found nothing peaceful or fascinating about freezing my butt off while sleeping under the stars and pulling guard duty as part of war training. We had to carry our rifles everywhere and guard it with our life. Then there was the dirt, the digging of holes to bury bodily functions, the pounding of heavy combat boots through uneven terrain, and the MRE’s (meals ready to eat) loaded with ridiculous amount of calories. There were no s’mores, or campfires, or the occasional consumption of adult beverages.

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There were no s’mores in the Marine Corps, but that’s what makes them The FEW, the PROUD.

To be honest with you, it took some time to embrace camping, and it became much more enjoyable with the introduction of children. The night accompanied with a crisp camp fire is so primitive, so simple, yet powerful enough to convert any adult into a joyful child. Witnessing a little girl dancing around heat radiating flames, and grown-ups gathering around the warmth of burning wood under a blanket full of stars can make one forget the existence of an unjust world. The simple shelter of a tent and a sleeping bag is a way to recognize the beauty of nature in its truest form like the way our ancestors once did.

Camping with my husband and daugthers was my introduction to nature. It was an introduction to a life that was far more grand than any mansion or building erected by mankind. So when my sisters told me they were coming for a very short 5 day visit to Eastern Oregon from Miami, FL, I knew that camping was a must. I wanted to share with them the majesty of the mountains, lakes, and the “natural” amenities the state of Oregon offered. Camping was something my sisters had never done, and I knew it was something they would never pursue on their own. As the oldest sister, it was my duty to share with my sisters an experience that all human beings should do at least once in their life – camping.

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Our eight man tent. Except only women slept here. My hubby and the dog slept in a sleeping bag in the back of his SUV. He is such a trooper.

We decided to go to Wallowa Lake State Park. It is not the kind of backpacking-and-find-your-camping-spot camping experience, but it was far beyond outside the comfort zone of my “city-girls-at-heart” sisters. Plus, we also had a two-year-old and ten-year-old joining us, so that factor was taken into consideration as part of our camping location. I knew my sisters weren’t completely thrilled with the idea they’d be missing out on social media and the warmth of a comfortable bed under a sturdy roof, but they were good sports and went with the flow. However, I knew deep down inside they found the novelty of sleeping under the stars intriguing. We were only staying for two nights, but when you live in the big city, two nights outside with the elements can feel like a survival experience.

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Wallow Lake is a family friendly camping site with bathrooms, showers, and many more recreational activities that make is a fun family place to visit. While not pictured here, the State Park is a haven for deer. They are by no means shy and should you leave any crumbs around your campsite, they will make sure to pay your area a nightly visit.

We arrived to our campsite close to 6:30 pm, so we had very little daylight left to set up the tent. Once darkness fell and our tent was up, it was time for a fire and time to make everlasting memories. Most importantly, it was time for s’mores! I crashed early with my two-year-old, and my husband, sisters, and ten-year-old gathered around the fire and told scary stories. Scary stories are not my cup of tea, so I was a bit relieved I did not have to sit and pretend not to be scared.

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My sister Beth’s first S’more! This was my daughter’s third camping experience and she insisted this time around in roasting her own marshmallows.

The next day, we took a tram up to Mt. Howard and hiked the perimeter of the mountain, which was 8100 feet above sea level. Since Florida is flat as a pancake, I knew my sisters would enjoy the views of the Eagle Cap Wilderness. Our hike was a very slow hike because the pace was set by a 42″ toddler, but it helped us take our time and take in all of the views. There’s actually a restaurant at the top of the mountain, so we treated ourselves to a delicious late lunch after hiking for almost two hours!

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The best things in Life are Free! Breathtaking views and experiencing them with my sisters and my daughters.

Prior to nightfall on our second night, I managed to squeeze in a five-mile run, which was immediately followed by delicious hot dogs and bakes beans. I’d like to add the campsite has showers, so I did not go to bed with sweaty pores. I know, I know, there’s no shower in camping, but we were doing the quasi roughing-it version of camping.

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The Hills are Alive with my sister Angela.

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Taking it all in 8110 feet above the sea with my sister Beth.

More s’mores around the campfire followed, and I went to sleep that second night with my cup of happiness filled to the brim. My sisters were with me under a starry sky where there was only a nylon of fabric separating us and whatever it was the night would bring. As a little girl, I laid next to bed with my sisters for years, and not once did we ever fathom we’d share the experience of campfires and s’mores together. As and adult, we made memories that were not possible as children, but I felt like I was a little girl playing with my younger sisters once again during those two short but very memorable camping days. I’m not sure if my sisters will ever try camping on their own, but I am hoping my daughters will one day take their children like the way we will continue to take them.

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Making memories around the fire with my sisters and my ten-year-old.

Have you been camping? What is your favorite camping experience? Can you recall your first camping experience?

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My amazing husband following our very energetic two-year old.