Close Encounters Above and Below

Dateline Roswell,NM-July 1947

Imagine being a sheep rancher on rounds and discovering a debris field of a flying craft made of material you have never seen before. You pick up some of the items and take them to the sheriff who then calls in soldiers from the local airbase. You then find yourself  held for five days and interrogated without being able to contact anyone. Well that is exactly what happened in July 1947 in Roswell, NM, as the boys and I discovered at the International UFO Museum and Research Center.

This center has replicas of UFO’s and materials found at the site, newspapers, gov’t and local accounts of the “crash”.  The story is that a UFO crashed and a cover-up then ensued to keep the public from knowing what happened.  Supposedly there were alien bodies and one survivor. We do not know what happened because we were not present but we all decided that with the material and circumstantial evidence something occurred that the government did not want the public to know about. Was it a UFO? Was it a weather balloon as the government claimed? Or was it something else? We don’t know but we do believe in Roswell 1947!

Our next adventure was under the ground in the Carlsbad Caverns.  These caverns were developed 250-280 million years ago by an inland sea and carved out by sulfuric acid. We decided to do the natural walk entrance to the cavern versus taking the elevator down to the bottom. The “walk” into the cave is 1.25 miles down a steep path, it is the equivalent to dropping 75 stories to the bottom or “big room”.  This cavern also is home to 300,000-1,000,000 bats who fly out in search of food at dusk.  As we entered the cave, Angie, who does not have a passion for bats, was very distressed at the site and sound of bats and of Beck pointing out guano glowing on the rocks. But she put her “big girl pants” on and powered on through for the good of the team.

As we descended we saw all types of formations and when we reached the bottom,we walked a one mile trail around the “big room” looking at the bottomless pit, the giants, mirror lake and other out of this world formations. When we finished we did ride the elevator back up the 750 feet to the top. This was a cool experience (literally-56 degrees)  to go from the desert above to the bowels of the earth. As Beck said it is amazing that  they say the wonders of the worlds are man-made when the “real” wonders are God’s earth.

Settling into Santa Fe

I am convinced that part of a city’s magic lies in your first visit there. Scott and I met best friends here six years ago. We fell in love with the city and the terrain. So we were very excited to visit again. Overall we had a nice visit but like so many things in life  – the visit didn’t quite live up to our repeat expectations.

We stayed in a great house in Santa Fe that we found on VRBO. One of the greatest treats from our stay there was having space – real space- to stretch out, relax, cook and rest. We didn’t have that sense of urgency to “go, go go.” We allowed ourselves slow starts to each day and a continued, relaxed pace as the day progressed. The boys said it was great to just “chill out!”

The house was convenient to travel and was decorated with an abundance of folk art from the area. We did some grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s. It was great to eat breakfast in our house each day. We also ate lunch or dinner there, too. Scott was once again “master of the grill” and we had several good meals.

I didn’t realize how much I was missing my morning “quiet time” (with coffee in hand) until I discovered it again in Santa Fe. I woke up first each day and slipped downstairs to get lost in caffeine and a good book. The owner had a bookshelf with many titles. I stumbled upon a book entitled The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. For so many reasons – in so many ways-it was meant to find me. I look forward to sharing lessons learned and inspirations with others.

Our place was near the Railyard District so we went exploring. I found several worthy consignment stores. There are so many stores that sell consignment cowboy boots. For all of you that know me well – you KNOW that I looked at every pair in every store. I’m sad to say there wasn’t a pair that had to leave with me – not the right color, size and/or price. The boys did get vintage cowboy-style shirts and they look great in them!

Of course we visited the Historic Plaza in Santa Fe. We hope you enjoy the art as we did.

One evening we went in search of a neighborhood park. We found an empty baseball field and a spontaneous game of kickball broke out. The Angry Elves (a.k.a. Scott & Beck) beat Hozho Hamsteads (a.k.a. Angie & Griffin) 12-11. It was so much fun. Those unplanned, unexpected true family times TOGETHER are what this trip is all about!

Another fun adventure was riding a train from Santa Fe to Albuquerque. It was called The Rail Runner. It was very comfortable and reasonably priced. I was glad for Scott to have the 1.5 hours each way to enjoy the scenery because he has driven all 7,00o miles thus far on the trip. Once we arrived in Albuquerque we were without a car and basically tooled around downtown. We did stumble across a very neat non-profit called One Million Bones. Check it out at We are hoping to contribute to the project once we are home by organizing a “bone party” for friends and/or at Nature’s Way.

It wouldn’t be vintage Hamstead if we didn’t visit museums and flea markets while in town – so we did both. We visited the Museum of International Folk Art and the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture. We enjoyed the journeys inside and gathered many insights and inspirations. One of my favorite posted quotes was ” We are made of prayers. Wrapped in blankets of love and wisdom.” Lucia Tapahonso (Navajo) Another tidbit of wisdom was that some native peoples believe that headbands carry your burdens. Good to know.

Know that you are blessed!




Our visit in Taos was brief and special. Scott and I traveled to New Mexico years ago with dear friends but had not visited Taos. So, when scheduling specifics for this once-in-a-lifetime journey, I inserted 24 hours in Taos.

When we got to town we walked around the plaza shopping district and had an organic, locally sourced meal at The Love Apple. Don’t you love the name of that restaurant? After dinner we all settled in to watch a movie from our beds and slept to the sound of falling rain. We have been so blessed with abundant blue skies on our travels. The sound of rain is a celebration for the dry grounds in the Southwest and soothing to all.

We stayed at the historic San Geronimo Lodge. It was built in 1925 and is a beautiful historical location. One of the reasons we chose to stay there was because the owners had built a prayer walk and a labyrinth on the property. The experience of both were enlightening.

Each one of us embraced the two experiences individually. You are encouraged to engage with an open mind and heart. The path to the center of the labyrinth and out again was one-quarter mile. I could literally feel energy pulsing through me as I did intentional deep breathing and prayerful reflection on each of my four labyrinth walks. I used a section of our family mantra for focused meditation on each trek. God, illuminate our path………..use us up…………..heal us…………and guide us.

The prayer path wound throughout the property. It was comprised of 14 stations with specific words for reflection. There were benches for rest and reflection. I want to share the 14 stations with you in hopes that they will bless you.

One of our favorite “stops” along the Prayer Path was the Dump Your Demons shed. You were invited to enter, write your demons on a special piece of paper, put the paper in a bowl of water, stir and watch your demons disappear. The magic of the surrounding nature and this intentional “letting go” of the things that bind you were very healing.

Scott, Griffin and Beck all had personal and enriching experiences, too. They described both the labyrinth and prayer path as “hard to describe, moving, calming, relieving and special.” Beck said he felt very “connected” and he knew that he could say what he wanted to say and it would be heard.

Make sure you bring your open mind and heart to our home in future visits because you just might be given the opportunity to experience something cool we took away from Taos!

Grand Views and Cliff Dwellings

It is hard to imagine the sheer size and magnitude of the Grand Canyon unless you are standing on the rim and looking as far as your eye can see from right to left and seeing a canyon over 270 miles long and over a mile wide. No pictures can do it justice, I know that phrase is overused but it is true. The evening we arrived we had reservations to eat at the famous El Tolvar Lodge Restaurant. As we arrived we walked over to the rim for our first vista view and WOW is it BIG. We had a nice dinner at the Lodge and called it a day.

The following day,  Beck got us to hike down into canyon on the Bright Angel Trail for about a quarter of a mile to get an idea of how it feels to be inside the canyon. This is the trail that the mule train takes to the bottom of the canyon as well as many hikers who walk down to the Colorado River, which carved this wonder of nature over millions of years.  This trail was originally used by Native Americans and is only about nine miles long but it takes about eight to ten hours to hike out from the river. Needless to say, we will save that for another family visit or Griffin and Beck have said they want to come back and do a brother hike down to the river and ride the rapids.

Afterwards, we hiked for about two miles around the rim trail to get a great view of the canyon from a number of viewing points. The best was from Hopi Point which allows you to get an incredible East-West view for miles and miles. Along the way we saw a Condor, lizards and other birds flying around the canyon.

The next day we headed a few miles down the road to the Desert View area and the Indian Watchtower, which was designed by Mary Colter to look like other watchtowers she had seen in the Southwest. She even had Hopi native paint murals inside for an authentic look. After this adventure we said goodbye to the Grand Canyon and got ready for our next adventure to Mesa Verde National Park.



On Friday we loaded up and headed to Mesa Verde, the trip entailed a route through Navajo lands and to the Four Corners area, the only place in America where you can stand in four states at once-Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado.  We barely got going before we saw a roadside market and stopped to take a look. The Navajos we met there were very open about their culture and told us the correct way to say hozho and what it means to them. Angie spoke with some of the women about their lives and their children. It seemed every few miles there were roadside stands selling arts and crafts, it is a bit sad to see these people having to depend on tourists for their livelihood but the reality is that there is hardly any industry in the area.

The landscape is like something from a space movie, one can see how some people think the moon landing was faked and filmed out in the desert.  We arrived at the Four Corners in the afternoon and discovered how we could stand in four states at once. This area which is actually on Navajo land is in a desolate area and has a marketplace as well were native peoples sell their wares.



After this stop we headed to Mesa Verde N.P., we arrived at the Far View Lodge and boy is that name correct. The Lodge is at approximately 8200 feet elevation and you can literally see to the Rocky Mountains from here.  As we got to our room we were surprised to see three large Mule deer grazing at our doorstep.

On Saturday we had two reservations for Ranger guided tours of some of the cliff dwellings that Mesa Verde is famous for. The first was called Long House and it is one of the largest dwellings in the Southwest, it is thought that between 60-80 people may have lived at this site. After a steep trail down to the site we were granted the view of this 800 year old ruin were ancient Puebloans lived and breathed. They grew beans, corn and squash on the Mesas, hunted, raised turkeys and generally lived a good life before abandoning these sites and moving south to follow the resources. Around 1240 A.D. these sites began to abandoned and by 1300 were empty. We saw petroglyphs-rock drawings, kivas-ceremonial living rooms, family houses and seep springs (areas at the base of rocks were water seeps out) were these people got their water in this harsh, dry land.

Our next tour was of Balcony House, a  tour that involved climbing a 32 foot ladder, squeezing into a 12 foot 18″ tunnel and climbing up a 60 foot open rock face. Needless to say all the boys loved it and Mom tolerated it for our sake. It was amazing to see where and how these societies lived using local resources to build homes and live off the land. As Griffin said ” They were so smart in being able to use what nature gave them to live.”




We had a full day of visiting Mesa Verde, ate dinner at the Lodge and got ready to head to Taos, NM on Sunday.


Red Rocks and Double Rainbows

Sedona was absolutely BEAUTIFUL! I loved, loved, loved it there!! As soon as we began to descend into the area we were struck and inspired by the landscape.

We were originally scheduled to be there for three nights. My spirit kept stirring me to add more to our stay. So, with gratitude for flexibility, we added a fourth night. There are so many highlights from our time there.

We rented an ATV and drove off road for four hours. The boys (all three of them) especially loved this adventure. It was steep, rocky, dusty and spectacular.  Check out that helmet cam I am wearing!

During the off road adventure we all enjoyed visiting the Honanki ruins. Look closely- you can see some of the original petroglyphs.

We also visited the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. The hike was hot and steep but well worth it. We had another chance to embrace a spiritual experience different from our usual routine. The Cathedral was built by a Hungarian woman in tribute to her parents. It smelled of burning candles and incense. Its pews were filled with locals, visiting Americans and foreign tourists. Its beauty was in the wrought iron metal work, red rock views and simplicity.

Scott and I each had a massage with our new friend Michelle. She was talented and her touch was healing. Once again I have made a vow to myself to get quarterly massages because I believe so strongly in their power to nurture the body, mind and soul! Let’s hope I can keep that vow this time.

There was a light rain falling as we returned to our room. After the rain we were greeted with the most vibrant, electrifying double rainbow. The intensity of the colors and the fact that not one-but two arches -framed the red rocks before us was MORE THAN MOVING! God’s creation amazes daily.

Beck met some new friends that offered him a chance to paint with them. So one morning he sat down with them and created the scene below. He really does have an artist within and we are blessed to be able to “see it” come to life! Check out his masterpiece.

We were blessed by many delicious meals. I am celebrating that Beck has become a salad eater on this trip! Both boys are healthy eaters for the most part but until now I have been unable to get them to try salad. Beck is now hooked and I couldn’t be happier. Griffin has also been watching his red meat intake and staying committed to “boot camp” exercises. Way to go, Griffin & Beck.

While in Sedona The Green Lantern (our 2000 Honda Odyssey van) turned 200,000 miles. Go, Green Lantern, go!

Some thoughts from the family;

“Beautiful vistas, quality family time, vibrant community and interesting energy.” Scott

“Sedona was yet another wonderful stop along our path with bumpy off roading, double rainbows and a great time to relax and regain our strength.” Griffin

“Again, along our journey,majestic, amazing, beautiful creations of God.” Beck

We also visited the Crescent Moon Ranch. There we were greeted by Buddha Beach and a creek that captivated Griffin and Beck for hours. One of the nearby rock formations looked like a peace sign to us. Maybe that’s the Sedona way- you begin to see beauty, peace and energy all around you and in everything. Live hozho!

Yosemite, King’s Canyon and Sequoia Parks

As we left San Fran for Yosemite we drove over the Bay Bridge connecting San Fran to Oakland and points East and said goodbye to the City on the Bay. We drove through the San Joaquin Valley and moved from grasslands and agriculture to woodlands. We landed in Oakhurst, CA , a few miles from the southern entrance to Yosemite. On our way into Oakhurst we passed Griffin Drive and were obliged to get a picture.                                      


The next morning we got up early for a date with bikes in Yosemite. It is a one and half hour drive from Oakhurst to the Yosemite Valley due to the speed limits and the twisting, turning two lane roads.  As we arrived in the valley we saw huge granite cliffs, waterfalls and massive stones rising from the ground. We rented bikes and prepared for a day of exploring. We rode all around the valley enjoying the sites and sounds, we hiked and the waded in the COLD waters. About four p.m. as our backsides were aching we turned in our bikes and bid a farewell to Yosemite.

The following day we headed to King’s Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. We drove past orange groves, fruit trees and other agriculture. Rising from the valley we climbed to a height of around 7000 feet, into the land of the giants. We visited the famous giant Sequoia trees, General Sherman, the largest living organism by volume, and General Grant, one of the five largest trees in the world. California redwoods can be taller but the Sequoia is much wider, like a basketball player versus a Sumo wrestler. Other trees in the groves included the Tennessee tree, the fallen Monarch and the Twin Sisters. These trees are all well over 1ooo years old and are just massive and amazing, it is an awe inspiring sight.  Most of the giants have some type of fire damage to their trunks, but this is part of their natural cycle. The fire reduces underbrush and prepares the soil and the fire is required for the trees to release their seeds from the cones, which are about the size of an egg. The bark can be up to two feet thick and the inside wood does not burn very well so they just keep growing after the fire. It is difficult through pictures to convey the size of these trees!


One of our favorite areas was Beetle Rock, a large granite outcropping at 6500 feet were you can almost see to San Francisco- unfortunately this valley has the second worst ozone pollution in the country.  That evening we stayed in the John Muir Lodge and prepared for our trip to Needles, CA as a stopover to Sedona, AZ.

Summertime in San Francisco

Our first stop as we worked our way into the San Francisco Bay area was in Sausalito. We walked the streets and the piers. We met Diamond Dog Sausalito and his owner. They were a joy-filled welcome to the city. He sang “This Little Light of Mine” and “KUUMBYA!” What can we say …….. it felt like love and individuality were embracing us with two arms!

Under Scott’s excellent guidance (and our GPS) we made our way to our hotel which bordered the financial and union square districts. We let the valet park the car and didn’t see it again until we loaded up to head out on Monday morning. We bought three-day Muni passes which gave us access to the buses, street cars, cable cars and underground trains. Hamsteads do mass transit in San Fran! It took us awhile to get our bearings straight but we managed fine. It was a great opportunity for Griffin and Beck to apply real-world map reading skills!

Overall we had some very good meals in San Francisco. Some of our favorites included seared scallop and pear salad, cioppino, crab and corn bisque in a sourdough bread bowl, crab sandwich, Niman ranch
burger and cubano sandwich. Scrumptious!

My favorite day was Sunday. The day began with our family doing service at Glide Memorial in the Mission district. They serve three meals a day, 365 days a year, to the needy. It’s an impressive outreach program. We made sandwiches for a few hours and then headed upstairs to experience the service. It was a spirit-filled experience for sure. A huge ensemble of singers and musicians fill the sanctuary with soul-stirring sounds. The atmosphere is one of acceptance and love for all. It is always beneficial to step outside of your regular pattern of worship and experience grace and gratitude through another lens.

After Glide we met an old friend for brunch at Starbelly. It was a yummy, local spot. It was so fun to reconnect with him and spend the rest of the afternoon strolling around the famous Haight-Ashbury district. The day was relaxed and an organic San Francisco experience!

Later we walked to a restaurant near the hotel for dinner. On the way back we came upon two young men. They were both totally lost in a world of dysfunction and homelessness. Their eyes were glazed over with the addiction that haunts them. They haunted me. Young men always bother me most- probably because I am the mother of two sons. I felt myself laying awake praying for them, wishing I could do more, knowing they probably have parents and loved ones somewhere missing them. I think that in the pattern of my normal life I become accustomed to or “numb” to the neediness around me. This journey is “out of our norm” in so many ways- including the depths to which homelessness SHOUTS out to me.

I enjoyed San Francisco but was ready to trade it in for more nature!

When I think of San Francisco I think of cool mornings and chilly afternoons as the fog rolls in off the bay. Another iconic image that comes to mind is the Golden Gate Bridge. On Friday we made the mandatory trek to the Golden Gate Park and Bridge. At the park we saw the de Young Museum, California Academy of Sciences, Stowe Lake and the Japanese Gardens. Then we moved on to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge which was jammed with bicyclists and other tourists. We did find it to be magnificent in structure and had a great view of a variety of Bay activities and sights- kite surfing, sailing, cargo ships and the San Fran skyline. It was really windy, foggy and cold. It is definitely not an adventure for those afraid of heights or wearing skimpy outfits!!

We caught a bus to Chinatown. We ate at a recommended restaurant called Oriental Pearl. It was good food and we were happy to be cozy inside. After dinner we explored Chinatown- taking in the culture, atmosphere, shops and street vendors.

It proved to a long day and we headed back to the Galleria Park Hotel for some much needed rest.

San Francisco is a large and diverse city. One of my favorite days was Sunday and our Glide experience! I am glad we made the stop in San Fran but it won’t be my #1 city.

Saturday was a busy, bustling, crowded day. We did end the day with a jewel of an experience.

That morning we went down to Market Street to catch the “F.” It was a futuristic looking streetcar that actually ran back in the 1930’s and 1940’s. The driver was a real comedian and entertained us along the route to Fisherman’s Wharf.

We ate at Boudins, visited Ghiradelli Square and laughed as the “bush man” scared people on the sidewalk. We also went to Pier 39 where we bought Hard Rock San Fran pins and watched the magnificent sea lions. As we left we watched Paco the spray paint artist that dazzled us with his spray paint and simplistic tools. His talent was amazing!

This day the best was saved for last! We boarded a cruise for a night tour of Alcatraz. It’s hard to put into words how magnificent it was. The wind nipped our faces as the island came into view and we entered the realm of Alcatraz.

The audio tour informed us as we viewed the prison. The narrators were former prisoners and guards and their voices added an authenticity to the experience. We saw cells and other prisoner facilities. The tour included escape stories and other fascinating information.

Interestingly enough, from 1969-1971, after its use as a federal prison, Native American activists occupied the island. They were making a stand about reclaiming Native lands and Native American rights.

We ended the night tour with the “sounds of the slammer” which was a reenactment of the cell doors closing each night.

All in all San Francisco was a neat experience for us but it was a little too big and crowded. Glide, meeting Andy and visiting Haight-Ashbury (including the purchase of our new stylish hats) were also really fun.

Griffin and Beck

Music of the Moment

At the beginning of the trip, we all selected a song to embody some messages that we wanted to share. So, while we were driving across open fields, windy hills, and ocean views we wanted to each pick another song embodying some messages that we like, or lyrics, or a good melody.

Scott– America the Beautiful, by Willie Nelson. iTunes: (this is not the Willie Nelson version, it is Ray Charles)

Angie- Beautiful Day, by India Arie. iTunes:

Beck- Everybody Needs Love, by the Drive-By Truckers. iTunes:

Griffin- What I Got, by Michael Franti and Spearhead. iTunes:

We hope that you guys find something in these songs like we did!

South on 101 and 1-The Dramamine Highway

As we left Portland we traveled south on I-5 toward Eugene where we would exit and travel to the coast. As we exited the highway and made our way to Bandon we were traveling on a two lane road through forests and fields. We picked up the famous Highway 101 and were treated to ocean views and coastal towns until we arrived at the Bandon Beach Motel and the views did not disappoint. The motel is on a point overlooking the beautiful Oregon coast.


The next day we explored the beach in our fleece jackets and toboggans, the air temps were in the sixties and the water temps in the forties as the boys and I found out-ouch, our feet were numb. This was the first time for Scott, Griffin & Beck to put their feet in the Pacific Ocean! The boys found some dunes and rocks to play upon as well as some interesting sea life in the tidal pools. One day far in the future when Beck lives in a beach town somewhere  we will always smile as we remember the light in his eyes when he said, “I feel so free here on the dunes and the beach. If it wasn’t so cold here all the time I would want to live here!”





For lunch we went to “Old Town” and found Tony’s Crab Shack, a small counter order shop with outside seating. This is some of the best food we have had, the smoked salmon sandwich and crab cakes rocked. It was all locally sourced and prepared right there on the dock. The next day we headed to Arcata, CA, a small bohemian town on the northern coast.  As we traveled we encountered Tsunami Hazard Zones, Elk, Redwoods, Paul Bunyan and Babe, a sick whale in the Klamath river and huge rock formations stuck out in the ocean like a child’s play toy left in a bathtub.



We stayed in a very nice apartment overlooking the town plaza, which is surrounded by shops and restaurants. It was a time to do laundry and rest up as we had nothing pressing. The people watching  in the plaza was very interesting, there were “travelers” who hung out all day and most of the night. As Beck said “the sixties came and never left”, but the best show was the naked skateboarder that we caught one afternoon walking to dinner and we caught him coming and going, the moon and the stars-whoa.

On Wednesday we moved further down the coast to Ft.Bragg, CA, a small harbor town, near Mendocino.  We drove on Highway 1, which travels along the coast for some breathtaking views, including a drive-thru tree, Bigfoot crossings and gift shop. At a gas stop we met a group that is biking from the Bay to Brooklyn in honor of the fallen firefighters from 9-11 and the guy who is driving their lead car is living with one kidney as well, his  doctors said it was a birth defect but was not found until he was in his thirties, so you never know.  In Ft. Bragg we went to a local beach called “glass beach” due to the fact that the locals once used it for a dump and sea glass washes up, however, over the years most of the big pieces have been taken although the kids found some small pieces. We stayed at the Shoreline Cottages, a nice little cabin type complex, good for a stopover.

Thursday we headed to the big city of San Francisco, the largest city we will visit.  As part of the title says Highway 1 is called the Dramamine Highway and for good reason, the stretch from Ft. Bragg to San Fran is full of beautiful vistas but also has so many switchbacks, curves and ups and downs that if you are prone to car sickness do not attempt. All of us got a bit queasy. You can see for miles out to sea and down the coast from the sides of the cliffs you are driving inches from.  Angie loved seeing a group of cows on the beach down by the water, catching up on their tans. As we got closer to San Fran we moved from the coast to dairy and wine country.

Good Day Portland

We loved our drive through the Blalock Canyon and Columbia River Gorge on our way to Portland. The hills were scattered with wind giants (wind driven power turbines). It gives you hope that where possible, as a nation we are seeking alternative power sources. We also passed a large number of wind and kite surfers. It is a world famous spot for those sports.

We stayed at the Inn at Northrup Station which is located in the Nob Hill district – the northwest section of the city. The hotel was great and the convenience (a streetcar station was literally out the front doors) was awesome. We spent a lot of time riding the streetcars – getting on and off when the spirit moved us-and exploring the city. The weather over our 4 days was spectacular – 70’s, breezy, sunny and no humidity! Of course we love the southeast that we call home but I do NOT miss the summer humidity!

On our last full day we took a 4 mile hike in the historic Forest Hills area. It was very close to our hotel and an oasis of nature. We joined many other nature and fitness enthusiasts as we jogged/walked the Leif Erikson trail!

I found several great consignment stores and was lucky to find great treats with the right price tag. I love buying clothes that support a true recycle and reuse mindset. We were also lucky to still be there on Saturday morning for the Portland Saturday Market – an arts and craft lovers dream! We all enjoyed seeing the work of West Coast artists and purchasing some great presents for others.

The many people sleeping in the waterfront park stirred my soul. I became mindful of the reality that we may be passing out “blessing bags” but that outreach is followed by our sleeping in a nice hotel, eating wonderful food and buying more stuff. Doing something for others is better than being self-centered and self-focused all the time – but the amount we are sharing is a fraction of what we are consuming ourselves. I consider the time to ponder these deep thoughts and questions as one of the greatest gifts of this trip! I also embrace the opportunities we take as a family to talk about them.

Portland gets two thumbs up from me! Love to all of you!


Our first full day in Portland began with the wake up call and a hectic transit to the docks. Then meeting our guide Lewis we geared up and put the kayaks in the water, and happily got in. We began our journey through the Willamette River main channel to Ross Island. Once reaching Ross Island, we veered to the left and started around the island. About halfway to the other side of the island we came across a mother wood duck and her ducklings. On the other side of the island we encountered some large birds of prey. The journey back to the docks was an experience through the cross winds which took an extra effort and push. It was something different and fun and still a great experience.

We had a lot of good food in Portland, but some of the best were donuts that seemed to be cursed with Voodoo goodness. Voodoo Donuts is a famous donut shop in downtown Portland. Turns out that we weren’t the only ones that wanted a bite of “heaven on wax paper” as Dad calls it. The line outside the store was long, very long. Timing it on my watch, we waited in line for 45 minutes! By the time we got to the front we spent almost 20 more minutes trying to make crucial decisions, “Which Donuts to Pick?” However our cashier was very nice and was very patient, we did not feel rushed at all. The wait was well worth the reward though! Beck got a Classic Voodoo Doll (the original), a Maple Bacon Bar, and a Tangtastic. Dad got a Maple Bacon Bar, a D.O.B. (Dirty Old B.), and a Buttermilk Bar. Mom got a regular Maple Bar, A Butterfinger Donut (not sure of the official name), and a Bavarian Creme (also not sure of the name). And I got a Voodoo Doll, a Maple Bacon Bar, and an Oreo Donut. Dad, Beck, and I all agreed that our favorite was the Maple Bacon Bar, an indescribably good combination sweet and salty, creamy and crunchy, well it was just plain perfect. Mom’s favorite was the Butterfinger one, which was a chocolate cake donut topped with butterfinger. We were all very satisfied after finishing off our donuts, and despite our efforts, we did not return to the magical Voodoo Donuts in Portland.

Portland was a good combination of unique food and quality time together.

-Griffin and Beck

As mentioned above the drive through the gorge was beautiful and somewhat other worldly at the beginning, grassy with volcanic looking rocks all around. The gorge was shaped by glaciers and is wild looking as the wind blows constantly and the water rushes through a number of dams along the way.

The boys were right about eating some good food, one afternoon as Angie was browsing the consignment shops, we found a cluster of food trucks , which dot the city. We decided to sample a number of dishes and came away with some “heaven on a paper plate.”  Cackalacks Hot Chicken , Viking Soul food wraps, Italian Ice sodas and Hot Box lobster ravioli were our choices. We all voted the hot chicken sandwich the best. The Viking wraps which included one with smoked salmon and dill sauce and another with pork meatballs wrapped in a potato pancake were a close second. We brought Angie a few bites and she liked the salmon wrap best. The food trucks are all around the city and are a great way to taste different cuisines.

One night we came across an outdoor street party called Sundown @ Ecotrust.  They had booths about the environment, green energy, and reliable sustainability. There was a local band called the Dimes, which we all enjoyed along with the food and drinks. It was a great night weather wise and all appreciated the time outside soaking in the atmosphere.

Portland-food, weather, streetcar, kayaking, people watching ….. all in all a great visit.