Crater Lake National Park and the Oregon coast

So after a couple of days in Bend we drove to Crater Lake National Park.  This had been on our list to visit for years, and the main reason for our Oregon trip.

It took a bit of time (maybe a couple of hours?) to get there from Bend, with lovely scenery on the way. At one point we had to drive slowly along the road as there were runners heading along it- it was organised as they had numbers on, but I couldn’t find the race when I tried googling later. It was pretty hot to be running.

Once at the park we drove to the village, had a walk around and then did the drive around the rim of the crater, stopping at plenty of places for photos (Interesting to note that they hold some weekends where cars are banned so that people can cycle the whole way around without traffic). Later we hiked up to the Watchman Tower- I think it was 1.6 miles out and back (well up and back)- there was even some snow by the path! The tower was for staff to look out for forest fires- you had a pretty spectacular view.

Basically the crater was formed thousands of year ago when a volcano erupted and the peak collapsed. Interestingly it was witnessed by Native Americans, so there are accounts of it happening. The lake is the deepest in the USA, and it doesn’t have any rivers running into it.

We had decided to stay in the hotel in the park, as we knew we’d only be there for the day and after going to Yellowstone and seeing how much quieter it was once the coaches and tour buses left for the day, decided it was worth it. This did mean that we were limited with things like meals, as there was a small cafe in the village and a restaurant in our hotel. We booked for dinner (the veggie options are usually pretty good in the National Parks) and went for a little walk at sunset before our table was ready. We saw lots of deer clambering up and down the steep slopes, and beautiful colours of the sky, water and mountains.

Just as our food arrived, the fire alarm started to go off. At first none of the staff seemed fussed, so we figured it was an accident and someone would turn it off, but then they told us to all get outside. I was thankful that I was wearing jeans and a jumper, but poor Andy was in shorts and a t-shirt. It was dark by that point, and after we waited for a bit, the sheriff turned up, then the fire truck, and then we were all moved away from the building. Someone walked through the crowd asking for people in room 109 (?), which was close to our room, so the I started to have a slight panic because literally everything we needed (mainly passports) was in our room- hopefully it wouldn’t actually burn.

The pace of the firefighters led us to believe it would be OK (they took about 10 mins to put on all their gear) and we stood outside for about an hour before we were allowed back inside. There were loads of people with kids, and we saw some really kind people pop to their cars and lend people blankets and things like that as it was really cold.

The next morning we headed to another part of the park, to watch a little information video. Now, I always find it funny that in the USA people often think we are Australian when they hear our accents. This video cracked me up because it had subtitles, and at one point there was an English person speaking and it said “Australian:…”- honestly why are they muddled?

Then we walked to a waterfall, which was very impressive. Close to the waterfall were loads of wildflowers and so many butterflies- I tried to video a few of them as they were all drinking the water on the path and were so pretty and delicate.

Then we drove to the coast- this was a long old drive (we did see loads of elk in a valley and lots of seals by the sea) and despite only stopping a couple of times to stretch the legs (and get a drink in Starbucks so we could use the bathroom) we didn’t arrive in Newport Beach until the evening.

Our hotel had a lovely view of the beach, so we got a takeaway pizza to share, and then walked along the beach as the sun was going down.

The next day we had a walk along the beach in the morning (and found lots of starfish) and the rest of the day was spent driving up the Oregon coast, stopping at various places en route.

The Devil’s Punchbowl was very impressive with a huge cave where the water filled and then splashed out. As we were looking out to sea we noticed whale blows (when they blow air out of their blowholes) and realised we could see some whales!

Our next stop was Depot Bay, apparently a whale spotting capital, as they have some resident grey (gray) whales that don’t migrate. We found a whale information centre, manned by staff who had binoculars to borrow and film cameras trained on the whales out in the bay, so we spent a while there watching them- at one point we could see two pairs of whales in different parts of the bay.

The coast here was a lot like northern California (no surprise as it’s fairly close)- like Big Sur. Very rugged cliffs and beaches, with very changeable weather (one minute blue skies, the next a lot of mist rolling in).

We arrived at Seaside and had a bit of a wander. It seemed more of a place for families or maybe teenagers, with lots of arcades, fast food places and a big aquarium on the seafront. It did have a 2 mile prom, so in the morning I went out for my longest run of the holiday so far (6 miles) going out and back along the prom.

I really wanted to go to Cannon’s Beach as it had the famous haystack rock on it, and also puffins live there. We drove to the town (which was a gorgeous place full of art shops and cafes- much more our style) and then along the beach. We saw some huge starfish (in the picture below I am crouched next to one to show the size)- beautiful purple and orange ones. One looked just like CJ from Nemo.

When we got to the haystack rock, there was a van set up with binoculars you could borrow and a telescope trained on the puffins. We queued up and had a look, then walked closer to the rock.

We started to see the puffins which really made me happy!

(I’m pointing at them here)- they were too far away to photograph but we could see their little wings and round bodies flying, and through the telescope you could see them on the rocks.

On the way back through town we passed an art shop with some gorgeous prints in the window, so popped in and ended up buying a picture of Mount Hood (where we had been a few days earlier) as a souvenir.

We then drove back to Portland. Our route took us briefly into Washington state and it amused me that the satnav said “Welcome to Washington” so I took a photo when we went back into Oregon. Also, no-one in the USA could get Andy’s name right when he ordered a drink- after the third or so time I took a photo and then we decided that I would always do the ordering. (Here he asked for an iced chai with almond milk, and ended up with a coconut milk one for “Andrei“- close!

After checking in to the hotel close to Portland airport we popped to Wholefoods for an easy dinner, and then it was time to properly pack the cases as we were off to Hawaii the next morning.

Have you been to any of the National Parks?

Portland and central Oregon

On Sunday morning we headed to the train station to board our (8 hour) train to Portland. It isn’t that far, but the trains in America go slowly (and give way to the freight trains too). We had big comfy seats and we had brought some food with us (no fresh fruit though as you can’t bring things like that across the border- just packaged snacks). On that point, the border is weird as unlike Eurostar where you go through passport control before getting onto the train (or lovely Europe where you just travel from France to Germany or wherever without restrictions), here the train stops just before getting into the USA, and immigration agents walk the length of the train checking everyone’s passports- seems so slow compared to over here.

The train ride itself was really scenic, mainly hugging the coast- we saw loads of bald eagles and deer. We have done part of that journey before (to Seattle, which is further north than Portland) but the evening one, so it was mostly dark, so it was lovely to see the views. We could see Mount Rainier (a really beautiful mountain and a National Park) and in the cities we passed by big football stadiums. I mainly listened to podcasts and my headphones managed about 7 and a half of the 8 hour journey.

(And back to the upside down photos- I thought I had sorted it, and it worked in the last post- sorry!)- the hotel just loved pineapples!

Once in Portland we dropped our things in our hotel and headed out to see the sights.

We had a lovely wander about, stumbled across an amazing looking cookie sandwich shop- you basically chose your cookie and ice cream flavour and could even have it dipped in chocolate if you wanted to. It was good!

After that we walked along by the water for a bit- there were lots of restaurants and it had a good lively feel .

On Monday we went out for brunch (Portland is apparently a city that does brunch as opposed to having one dish that it is known for)- this place did French toast dipped in cornflakes for a lovely crunchy coating. We shared a bowl of fruit too. Then we headed off on a tram to Washington Park, a huge park with a zoo, arboretum, Japanese garden, rose garden, forestry centre and a children’s museum. Once in the park there was a free shuttle that took you to the part of the park you wanted to visit. We started with the rose test garden (which was free and had loads of roses growing as well as a few statues). From here there were lovely views across the city and into the mountains too.

Then we went into the Japanese garden (you had to pay, and on Mondays they didn’t open until later for the public). It was a gorgeous garden- very calming and beautiful.

Once back in the city we had more of a wander. There was lots of cool street art (even the bins had cartoons on them) and there are scooters everywhere, and by everywhere I mean just laying in the pavements because they all work by an app so people don’t need to return them to a stand, they just leave them on the floor once done). We visited a few quirky shops (including a huge bookstore- Powell’s- an entire block of a book shop), a lovely little shop with local art and products, and then came across Voodoo doughnuts. Now, I am not a bit doughnut fan- I would not normally choose one, but Andy persuaded me to share one with him.

It was a peanut butter and chocolate one, and it was really good, with bits of cookie all over the top too. One to share was definitely plenty!

We finished the day with another walk by the waterfront- lovely.

On Tuesday I went for a run by the water. I had read in the guides that Portland was the best running city in the USA, and I did see loads of runners, but the route I took wasn’t the best. I ran along the river, crossed over a bridge but then ended up running next to a huge highway so it was really noisy. You did have good views of downtown Portland across the river, and the runners were a friendly bunch, all waving or saying hi (some people even reached their arms across to deliberately wave in front of me, which I really liked). I think had we been closer to the big park in Leave No Trace (a brilliant film) then it would have been more my style of running route.

Then we had breakfast in our hotel as we had a voucher. I loved the plate- it suited me perfectly (I have a reputation of getting very grumpy when I am hungry…).

Then we checked out (tip- get a print out of the bill as it turned out our bill had dinners and drinks on it from another person who had clearly given the wrong room number… thankfully the hotel took it  off our bill) and headed to the airport to pick up the hire car.

We spent the day driving along the Columbia river gorge, and it was stunning. Lots of gorgeous views of waterfalls and of course the river. Multnomah Falls was particularly stunning, with the bridge across the middle to really put into context how tall the falls were (189m)- bottom left picture.

We also stopped at a dam which had a really interesting visitor centre, inside viewing of the salmon ladder and even some ospreys nesting. Once we arrived at our hotel (in Hood River) I had a bit of a headache so we made a cup of tea in our room and then popped out to a lovely local supermarket and picked up some bread and hummus for a simple dinner, as I didn’t fancy eating out anywhere.

The next morning we went to the amazing Pine Street bakery as we had seen their amazing looking cinnamon buns, and then we drove into the mountains on our way to Bend.

We had a stop mid-way in a place called Government Town, which looked big on the map but was actually rather tiny, and then closer to Bend found a lovely lake to walk around, with views of the mountains (Mount Hood).

And then we had a long drive to Bend. We saw the aftermath of a couple of horrific car crashes (a few cars had driven head on into trees) but as we passed the ambulances, fire trucks and police cars were all arriving. It’s horrible to see, and a reminder to keep your eyes on the road even with all that amazing scenery.

Once in Bend we had a little walk in the centre, by the river, before checking into our Air BnB- a lovely apartment close to the centre. It was nice to spread out for a bit instead of living in one hotel room.

Bend had an art trail- including art on many of the roundabouts- in fact roundabouts are so unusual in America that they had a guide on how to drive on them in the welcome magazine!

Bend was a really great place to stay- it seemed to be a bit of a hub for people heading out to do various activities in the day.

The next morning (Thursday) I went out for a run along the river. There were loads of people out and about and the path went on for ages- I could have run much further than the 5 miles that I ended up doing.

After breakfast we drove to Smith Rock state park, a canyon in the high desert. It was very impressive (but sweltering)- a huge canyon with a river running through the bottom. Lots of people were rock climbing, and there was some information about how it was one of the first places that people started rock climbing without ropes (or free climbing maybe). We saw a sign warning of a cougar sighting- eek!

On driving back to town we saw a Trader Joe’s and had to stop by for some bits. We’d been listening to the Off Menu podcast (if you don’t listen to it, then give it a go- each week someone is interviewed about their dream meal, and it goes off on lovely tangents about travel and food)- they were raving about Trader Joe’s dark chocolate almonds with sea salt and turbinado (no idea?) sugar, and so of course we had to pick some up. They are delicious. They also did mini pb cups with a fruity filling, sort of like a chocolate pb&j. Good stuff.

My mainly peanut butter based snack and breakfast items

We then walked along the river to the old town part of Bend, enjoying an iced chai latte (they make them super spicy in Oregon) and then some ice cream. As we walked back through the park, there was a little festival going on, with music playing and lots of stalls- it had such a great atmosphere and we mooched around some of the stalls for a bit.

There were people tubing on the river (floating along in big inflatable rings) and we were tempted to give it a go. I was looking at the river and saw the head of an animal poke out of the water, duck under and then pop up again. I got excited thinking it was either an otter or a beaver, when a guy floating closer shouted “look at that snake!”- erm, nope I was not going in the water after that- if that was how big the head was, how long was the snake??

On Friday we checked out and drove to Crater Lake- the main point of our Oregon trip. We love going to the US National Parks and this one had been on our list (particularly Andy’s) for a long time.

Would you go in the river if you’d seen a big snake? 

The start of our holiday- Vancouver and Central parkrun (Burnaby)

So I’m home now from a wonderful holiday in the USA and Canada. I’m going to recap in several parts in the aim to keep each post a readable length!

Our trip started on a Thursday night with a train up to Manchester. This was on one of the hottest days, and of course the trains were delayed- we ended up waiting for a couple of hours at Milton Keynes, and even looking up Manchester airport parking options in case the train was cancelled. Thankfully it turned up in the end and we got to our hotel at about midnight.

After a little walk around Manchester first thing on Friday, we got the train to the airport and flew to New York (due to catch a flight to Vancouver later that day). Luckily we got to the airport nice and early because although we had checked in, when we got to drop off our bags we were told (very nicely) that we also needed the Canadian version of an ESTA (these didn’t exist the last time we went to Canada)- we applied over our phones (fiddly doing the long form on a small screen) and could show the email as proof so we were OK to fly. The flight was fine- we were upstairs on the plane in a sort of exit row, and I had an empty seat next to me so we felt like we could spread out. I watched a film (the one about Ted Bundy), and started watching the new Mary Poppins but the time went quickly and we soon landed. Then, because I had changed my name after getting married, I had to have a new USA ESTA, and so we had to join that queue (vs returning ESTA which was a far shorter queue), and I am not kidding you we were in that queue for well over 2 hours. Luckily our connection was a long one, and after finally getting our bags, re-dropping them  off and re-going through security (my most hated part of travel) we walked up and down by the gates to make sure we were tired for the second flight. I had a slight panic because before boarding they called out my name, saying they needed to see me at the  desk, but it turned out they were checking the Canadian ESTA (so lucky I could show them the email on my phone) and were checking every single person- I just happened to be one of the first names they called. As someone who gets easily panicked this didn’t really help any pre-flight worries!

For the NY-Vancouver flight, as soon as the flight had taken off I put on my headphones and eye mask, and loaded up some sleep stories from Calm, and although I woke up each time the story ended, I could just put on a new one and then drift off.  Immigration in Canada was far quicker, and after getting our bags and a taxi we were in our hotel at about 1am (which I think was 9am UK time)- as I was setting my alarm I heard that my dad was on his way to parkrun at home which was a weird thought!

When we booked our trip I had planned to go to Richmond Olympic parkrun, which is near to Vancouver airport and would have meant a 40 min Skytrain ride, but a few weeks before then I had seen (on the parkrun Canada facebook page) that a new one was launching (Central parkrun in Burnaby, a suburb of Vancouver) and this was only a 20 min Skytrain ride away result! Luckily they don’t mind people turning up to inaugurals in Canada, so I was OK to head there. Although I’d set my alarm, we both woke up before and Andy walked with me to the train station (he knows I have a terrible sense  of direction, and I had no data on my phone for Canada, and I had downloaded the Vancouver map but directions don’t work when the map is offline).

I was slightly apprehensive about finding the start, but I needn’t have worried because I could see the parkrun flag from the platform!

Me with my tired and slightly nervous face on the way, with my watch, train ticket and barcode- DFYB.

I chatted to a few tourists including one from Bristol who had been to a parkrun in Seattle the previous week, and the core team chatted too. They were worried that not many people would turn up, but they had 116 runners in the end.

The park was gorgeous and I was so glad that I chose to go there. (Despite it’s cool name, a few locals said that Richmond Olympic parkrun was like running up a gulley? and not particularly shaded- it’s out and back and possibly not so scenic). The park was filled with huge redwood trees, so it was lovely and shaded. There were black squirrels which I’d never seen before (despite looking out for them in Letchworth as there are some there). The route was two laps, and it went past ponds, clearings in the trees where loads of people were doing tai chi- with every turning there was a new view. Towards the end of each lap there was a slight incline, but nothing that you could call a hill. It was just beautiful.

(A few blurry photos from while I was running)

From their facebook page- I’m there in my apricot Ellenbrook Fields vest – too hot for t-shirts!

The two lap nature meant that you ran through the start/finish area which meant lots of lovely cheers from the teams. Lots of people were thanking marshals on the way around, which always makes me very happy.

After finishing and scanning my barcode, I chatted to a few other tourists for a little bit. I was trying to do a selfie with the sign in the background, and failing miserably (I still can’t get the hang of it, and always move the wrong way to where I need to move to get the right bit of background in) so someone offered to take my photo very kindly. I had sent Andy a text (no data in Canada for me) but it hadn’t sent so I didn’t want to hang about too much in case he worried, and of course we wanted a day in Vancouver so I got the train back. (My time was 28:31- this came through on email later in the day)

Yay- a new flag on Running Challenges!

After breakfast (in fact, second breakfast as I’d eaten a brioche roll when I’d first woken up as I already felt pretty hungry and hadn’t eaten anything since before the flight to NY, a good while ago by that point) we headed out for a wonderful day in Vancouver. It really is such a beautiful city. I think anywhere with water is vastly improved (lakes, rivers, oceans) and combined with the mountains in the background and the masses of green trees it is a perfect combination. We walked to Stanley Park and watched seaplanes taking off, watched for cormorants, seagulls and starfish on the beach, headed into the park for a bit to admire the collection of totem poles, and then walked back to the centre. I thought I would feel more tired, as the time difference is so huge, and we did sit down on a bench for a bit, but other than that we kept walking.

Once in the centre we had to stop by a David’s tea for an iced peach tea (so good), and then went to get an early dinner in a pasta place. I could not resist popping into a Bath and Bodyworks (I love their hand sanitisers) so I picked up a few bits for the holiday. We had seen this amazing bakery close to our hotel, so on our way back we stopped to get an evening snack- pretzel for Andy and a dark chocolate and cherry scone for me- so good.

We didn’t stay up too late as we had an early start- our train to Portland was leaving at 6.30am- I’ll save that for next time.

Are you a fan of flights?  Where is the furthest you have travelled to a parkrun?

Tell me about your favourite city…

Holiday prep and a heatwave!

As I didn’t run on the Sunday I needed to get a long run in on Monday (Great North Run training)- I had pencilled in 11 or 12 miles, and headed out with what I thought was an 11 mile route. I got so hot and thirsty and remembered that I hadn’t had my free Starbucks drink yet, so I stopped in town after 11.5 miles, got an iced chai and drank some, the half ran and half walked the mile home, carrying it with me. Once home I sat in the garden, did some stretches and enjoyed the rest of the drink. I needed that!

I didn’t fancy a big breakfast and ended up with a toasted hot cross bun and a peach, so later on when the runger struck I made some beans on toast- we had sourdough in the freezer and I added some marmite to the toast to make it extra savoury- so good!

I had a lot of work to be doing so got on with that, and then when Andy got home from work we went out to cut the hedges out the front- this took a good hour with all the clearing up. I was doubly glad of my big lunch then to tide me over to dinner.

On Tuesday I had a haircut booked, so walked into town, enjoying the glorious blue skies.

My hair had got rather wild so it was good to have it all smoothed and sorted. My haircut was at 10.30 so in my head I thought I’d have breakfast after, forgetting that it takes a good hour to get it cut- I was so hungry by the time I had finished. I had an almond croissant and a cup of tea (and yes I know it was super hot, but there was AC in Caffe Nero so it balances out). I had to get some cash for our holiday so popped into John Lewis for that, and got a few travel miniatures from Boots while I was at it.

Then it was operation stay cool. After the walk home (in the midday heat) I was sweltering and no-where seemed cool. I was so glad I wasn’t at work! I did some packing and generally had a lot of iced drinks.

In the evening I topped up the bird food and made an extra bird/ animal bath with an old plant pot (I added a brick as a ramp for things like hedgehogs as you never know). Then we went to see The Lion King 2 (or whatever it is called) with some Candy Kittens (a gift from a friend at work) as a snack.

The Lion King was good, but then the original is good. I did enjoy the little extras but I still don’t see the point of all of these remakes (well apart from cash-money for Disney).

I spotted these doughnut peaches for 10p and they were delicious!  On Wednesday I had a short run, shower and breakfast (including peaches) and then drove to St Albans and walked into town for a massage. It was very relaxing and thankfully I’d got there with enough time to sit in the waiting room and cool down (as it was nearly a 2 mile walk from where I parked). I had a few last minute holiday prep bits to get, and then sat in the cool of the A/C in Pret and had a tea and cookie. I asked for a bit of soya milk to go in my tea and I ended up being given frothy milk so it was a bit like a latte (a London Fog latte is so good).

I visited my mum who was looking after my niece, then popped to see my sister in law to deliver a few birthday cards, and then came home to do a few more holiday bits.

On Thursday (the hottest day I have ever known!) I went out on a 8.5 mile run, as my last longish run before holiday. I am taking my running things with me but I am not going to be spending hours doing long runs (plus it’s going to be warm where we are going). The Vitality drink comes through each Thursday so I got one on my way home, and after around 5 minutes all the ice had melted (on Monday I ran home with it and it was still full of bits of ice). Madness.

How did you cope in the heat? How good are you at getting ready for a holiday? I have plenty of lists but I always feel like I am forgetting something important!

Splendour Festival, cake and pancakes

For the first weekend of the holidays we were off to Nottingham. We checked into our hotel (I love the mirror map on the wall) and then wandered around the town for a bit. There’s a lovely cafe (called Homemade I think) so we shared a toastie and some peanut butter cake for lunch, and then got a delicious iced chai from Bird & Blend (they make the best iced chai ever) before heading to the bus to the Splendour Festival.

We were mostly going to see Ash (in the afternoon) and then Manic Street Preachers as the headliners. It had rained earlier in the day but brightened up when we arrived and was fairly warm. The bands were fab (and there were even real toilets!) so we had a fantastic evening.  Last summer we went to Penn Fest and also saw the Manics- a festival seems to be a good way to kick off the holidays in style!

Bottom right- more from Twinkl!

On Sunday morning we went out for brunch at The Pudding Pantry- they did a make your own pancakes so I chose banana, peanut butter and maple syrup – mmmm it was so good. After a wander around the shops we drove home. We’d bought some cake from the Homemade shop, so had that with a pot of tea in the afternoon (I think it was vegan lemon and raspberry- whatever it was it was delicious). I was impressed with my slicing skills too, as it isn’t easy to split them into half exactly.

Do you like going to festivals?