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My First Kayaking Trip!

November 24, 2015  •  Leave a Comment
Believe or not, I've never been kayaking, although it's been on my bucket list for some time now.  A friend of mine rounded up a couple kayaks and lucky for us, this past weekend was unusually dry and sunny for Portland. With conditions ideal for a crisp fall day of kayaking, we headed east, toward Benson Lake, reputed to be good for a newbie kayaker such as myself.  Once we got there though we discovered that the Columbia River Gorge wind was particularly strong and was creating large, choppy waves on the lake.  Seeing as this would not make for an enjoyable first kayaking experience, we decided to try another spot on the Columbia Slough by Kelly Point Park in North Portland and luckily, conditions there were perfect.

Also lucky for me, our access point was on a gentle incline on the shoreline.  This made getting in the kayak fairly simple, although getting out was a bit harder, I am happy to report that I did not fall in the water! At my current level of kayaking skill, if I had to enter/exit from a dock, I don't know if I could say the same thing. Due to this fear of falling in the water, I left Cole and my good camera at home and only brought my iPhone, snug in a Ziploc bag, with me to document the experience.  

Once in the water, we first paddled up the slough toward where the Willamette River meets the Columbia River.  Then we turned around and went the other way, passing under a bridge and railroad tracks. We stopped to explore a waterway that went inward a bit from the slough where I proceeded to get stuck on a couple of rocks lurking just below the surface of the water.  Fortunately, I was able to get going again fairly easily.  We continued down the slough for awhile longer and decided to turn around and head back at a fork in the waterway.

Going back toward our launch point, we worked against the current and my arms got got a good work out. All along the way, lots of Great Blue Herons and ducks frequently flew over our heads.  It was so quiet that we could hear the sounds of their wings cutting through the air.  The entire time, we were surrounded by the beautiful fall colors of leaves that still remained on the trees, all reflecting perfectly in the mirror like stillness of the waters surface.  The sun peaked through the trees that lined the shore and beams of light streaked down to the water.  At times, I just sat in silence and enjoyed the warmth from the sun, the silence and the slight bobbing that came from floating on the slowly flowing body of water.

Meanwhile, during this exact same time, I saw reports via Facebook from friends back home that it had snowed in Wisconsin. In Portland, it hovered right around fifty degrees but despite having slightly chilly hands and feet, I was quite comfortable the entire trip. It was one of those wonderful moments when I realized, yet again, how happy I am with my Oregon life and how lucky I am to call this magnificent state home.

I truly enjoyed my first kayaking experience and am thankful for my new friend and his kindness for making this trip happen.  If done slowly, it seems very feasible to attain the various items needed to incorporate this type of recreation into my life on a regular basis.  In the meantime, I will have to rely on the generosity of friends to keep getting out on the water.  My hope is that by next summer, I'll have my own gear so Cole and I can do a weekend camping/kayaking trip with friends. Cole looks quite good in a doggy life-vest and I think he would be just as thrilled with the kayaking experience as I am.



To view more of my photography from my nature-adventures, visit:



Halloween Road Trip

November 14, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

"I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude."
Henry David Thoreau 

Halloween weekend, while the heavy rains rolled into Portland, Cole and I hopped into my car, not-so-bright and early on Saturday morning, and headed toward sunny eastern Oregon.  We drove on I-84 through the Gorge, along the Columbia River all the way to Pendleton. After a quick stop to refuel, we continued east, on Highway's 11, 204 and then 82, through Enterprise and then into Joseph where I stopped to get photos of the beautiful Wallowa Mountains and also some friendly horses too. From Joseph, we took Highway 350 east and drove the Hell's Canyon Scenic Loop, stopping at the Hell's Canyon Overlook -- where I experienced the quietest view of a canyon ever, before driving Highway 86 to Baker City where we stopped for the night.

In the morning, after a good night of sleep and an hour added to the clock, we were back on the road, headed west, on Highway 7. We stopped at the Mason Reservoir, then the City of Sumpter to see a gold drudging machine, and then a covered wagon at an overlook in Prairie City, before visiting the Morse Gulch Overlook and John Day Fossil beds area off of Highway 26. As we entered the Mt. Hood National Forest, the sky became cloudy and as we got closer to Portland, the light rain turned a bit heavier.



It was an amazing 800 mile trip. I took about 1,300 photos and enjoyed the open road and solitude with only Cole as my co-pilot and my iPod belting out some good tunes.  On this trip, there were no detailed plans.  The only real major landmark I had planned to stop at was Hells' Canyon, the rest was up in the air.  It was wonderful to decompress from the work week and relax, to be alone with my thoughts and just see where the road took us, which was to some very beautiful places, all made better because they were all surprises.

I've taken many solo road trips, both short and long, and have always enjoyed my time. I thought a good travel buddy always made a trip better but I seemed to have an epiphany on this trip: I really do enjoy my own company and besides Cole, I might just be my own best travel buddy. Traveling alone allows me the time to truly be alone, adventure without anyone's help and allows me to completely rely on myself.  It gives me the freedom to really explore and just follow my intuition.  Best of all, it seems to fill my soul and who could really ask for anything more than that?

For a musical and visual snippet of my Eastern Oregon road trip, check out this video!



To view more of my photography from my nature-adventures, visit:



Blessings in Disguise

October 11, 2015  •  Leave a Comment
IslandWood, Bainbridge Island, Washington 2007
Do you have a moment in time when you can pinpoint the single most significant change in your life? I can, and it happened in August of 2007. I had been in my new position as the Finance and Administration Assistant for the National Credit Union Foundation in Madison, Wisconsin for less than a month and was sent on my first business trip (ever in my life) for ten days. I spent those ten days on Bainbridge Island, Washington with a group of fifty strangers from all corners of the United States as well as several other countries.  There were no modern day conveniences I had thought to expect while traveling such as television, vending machines, or even caffeinated beverages.  We were located at a place called IslandWood in the middle of 250 acres of forest. This was long before I discovered my love for the outdoors and camping and amidst a hefty caffeine dependency.  Needless to say, I was extremely uncomfortable, lonely and feeling far from home. I almost resigned and hopped a plane back to Wisconsin right then and there on my first night. Luckily, I stayed and spent twelve hours or more on each of those days in close proximity to this group of strangers, helping to facilitate experiences for the group to work together, learn from each other and discover the true spirit of cooperative principles, credit union philosophy and international development issues. I was intrigued with all the stories and experiences these people shared. These people, who had traveled the world, living for extended periods of time in exotic places, making lifelong friends along the way all while making a real difference for real people and their families, were inspiring.  I never knew that life could be lived with that kind of purpose and passion.

I started to reflect on my own life: Who was I? What was I doing with my life? Where was I going? What sort of legacy would I be leaving behind? It did not take me long to realize that I was not living my life, I was just merely existing. I wasn't truly applying myself to anything.  I was in a co-dependent marriage, settling for less than I needed with no real goals or vision for my future. I made a conscious decision that I needed to change my life and in a big way, although I knew I would have to start small and work my way up to the bigger things. I used that one experience at IslandWood, that one week in time, to make the single biggest and most important change in my life thus far.

Keep purpose constant ~ A favorite saying of Edward Filene, father of the U.S. credit union movement

From that point on, I began a deliberate shift in how I would do things.  I started small, with trying new foods.  Then, I started to look at opportunities with my "yes" goggles on.  I wanted to seize every opportunity that made sense, regardless of my fear, or the possibility of failure. Realizing the difficulty that exists in making true friends, I founded the Madison Women's Social Meetup group as a platform for women of diverse backgrounds to gather for the sole purpose of developing meaningful and lifelong friendships.  Most of my closest friendships today are due to the women I met in that group and better yet, there have been many similar success stories for other women in the group. This was my first taste of what it could mean to do something that was bigger than me, that could have longterm effects for the world around me. After several years of success and growing the group to over 800 members, I decided it was time to move on to other endeavors, so I handed over the leadership to someone new and the group continues to be successful for the women in Madison, Wisconsin.

The very first meeting of the Madison Women's Social Meetup Group
The confidence I gained from seeing the success of that group gave me the courage to do more.  I went back to school and also began volunteering for Alliance for Animals, to support causes that I was passionate about: animal and environmental rights.  Then, I got divorced, again.  At the time, it felt like my biggest failure  -- getting divorced not once but twice before I was even thirty years old. Thank goodness for a great therapist who talked me through some very dark days. It didn't take much time at all to realize that my divorce was exactly what I needed to happen to really succeed in my pursuit of a meaningful life.  I started to travel more.  First to Orlando for my 29th birthday to visit a coworker and then a few months later to New York City with a friend.  I took a series of solo trips, first to Mexico then to Las Vegas and then a road trip, based solely on seeing an artists work on the internet that moved me so much that I simply had to see it in person -- Ohio being the closest place I could do that at the time. Solo traveling is an experience that I think everyone, especially women, should have.  There is a lot to be learned about yourself when you have no one to rely on and need to make your own way in the world.

The connections I made through volunteering at Alliance for Animals led to a job opportunity managing an animal shelter in Neenah, Wisconsin. The idea of helping animals while in a leadership role was alluring. I knew it would be challenging, involve a huge time commitment and would mean leaving behind everything I had built in Madison.  I decided to go for it and packed my bags and moved a couple hours away to Oshkosh for the opportunity. It was challenging, as I knew it would be, but also rewarding.  I learned a lot along the way, everything from managing people to the politics of the nonprofit world. The best part of the experience though was making a sudden and unplanned decision to adopt a little black pug name Coleman -- named after the city in which he was born.  He was surrendered by a recently divorced woman whose long work hours didn't afford her the time to give him the love and care he needed. Enter Cole -- the number one best decision in my life!


Hiking with Cole at Pewitt's Nest, Wisconsin
When the shelter job no longer aligned with my values, I resigned and moved back to the Madison area, this time to Verona, and then shortly thereafter back to the west side of Madison.  Seven or so months later, I decided to sell everything I owned and relocate to Seattle, Washington in pursuit of something new, something bigger -- although I wasn't sure exactly what that would be.  After an amazing cross country road trip with Cole and my two cats, I was saddened when I quickly discovered that permanent work was harder to come by than I expected and the temporary work that I was promised ahead of time wasn't panning out.  I quickly went through what little money I had in savings, and reluctantly decided to move back to Wisconsin. From the outside looking in, it was seen as yet another failed endeavor -- on top of taking a chance on a job that didn't work out and two failed marriages. I got a tattoo the day before I moved back to Wisconsin. Despite feeling defeated, lost and not sure what I was going to do next, I wanted to commemorate the circumstances that had gotten me to that point and count my blessings for all the opportunities for growth and change that had come into my life after making that one big decision at IslandWood because of the people I met through DE training.

CUDE tattoo, Seattle, Washington 2010
Once back in Wisconsin, I went back to school, yet again. I worked temporary gigs through employment agencies and got politically involved when the Scott Walker protests started in Madison after watching a co-worker at a temp job essentially being silenced by her ultra-conservative husband. I applied and was accepted into Organizing For America as a community organizer and I even participated in a conference call with President Obama.  Then another connection from my volunteer days at Alliance for Animals approached me about volunteering for her newly formed non-profit organization, Heartland Farm Sanctuary. Through a series of events in which I said "yes" instead of the more realistic "no", I landed a paid gig. With other passionate and kind people, I helped bring one visionaries goal of building an organization from scratch that not only helped animals but also people suffering from trauma, to fruition.

Cannon Beach, Oregon 2011
Meanwhile, a plane voucher, gained from purchasing a flight back to Wisconsin from Seattle in anticipation for my sisters wedding, sat unused. Unbeknownst to me, the decision to use that voucher for an Oregon vacation with a good friend would yet again change my life in a big way that I had no way of seeing was coming.  Once I took that first footstep onto the Oregon coast, I was hooked.  I had found the home that I never knew was missing but had always felt it's absence.  I vowed one day to call Oregon home -- but this moment was not the time.

After my divorce, I focused on pursuing a life of purpose and after three years of solitude, I ventured into my first relationship.  During that relationship, I discovered my true love of hiking, nature and photography that, together with my Oregon vacation, sparked an appetite for nature adventures. After a year and a half, the relationship had run it's course and it became clear that I needed to move on. With a heavy heart, I made the difficult decision to end the relationship but I started writing again -- something I hadn't done in years -- and thinking more seriously about Oregon. Within four months, I met someone else who seemed pretty great and we dated for the next six months but alas, it didn't work out either. Shortly thereafter, my grandfather lost his battle with Alzheimer's and passed. After his funeral, I reflected yet again on my own life, as so many people do in these types of situations. What was I doing with my life?  What would I be remembered for?  Was I really happy with where I was at in life?

I decided it was the right time to make my move to Oregon. I worked hard to gain some extra income by picking up a contract job coordinating the Verona Hometown Days festival and, together with my gala bonus from Heartland, invested it in a nice camera and then a cross country move to Oregon. Since the move to Oregon, I've had many adventures in nature which I used the photos from to start my photography website.  I've also had two relationships, neither of which worked out but both contributed to me growing and learning a lot more about myself and what I needed in a relationship to be happy.



So what has changed in the last eight years since that one experience sparked the new direction in my life?  A lot.  In ways I could never have imagined.  From events that could easily be seen as failures to anyone looking in from the outside. I, myself, felt like a failure many times over but all of these experiences have helped me gain a strong sense of independence and confidence that I can pursue anything I put my mind to.  I learned how to connect with people better.  I learned how to go after what I want. I learned how to not settle for less than what I deserved. I developed a desire for spontaneity and adventure.  I live a life of compassion for people, animals and the environment.  I believe in karma and following the golden rule to do unto others as you'd like done to you -- even when it would be easier to wish ill upon someone who hurts you. I continually make time for introspective self-reflection through writing and solitude in nature. I allow myself to dream big but still live a simple life that values experiences over things.

We're all in a constant state of change.  Of growing.  Of improving. Of experiencing setbacks.  Often, what seems like a failure at any given time may just be a jumping off point to something so much better.  Although difficult to do, it's important to have faith that where we are is exactly where we are supposed to be and what is happening to us is exactly what's meant to be happening. There is no telling what we'll take away from those experiences and and how we'll apply that to our decisions going forward.  Life really is a mix of destiny and simply floating like a feather on the breeze. But what really makes up a persons life? Is it the things we leave behind?  Or the people we've touched? Perhaps it's the memories we've built?  Or the art we create?  I'm fairly certain that these questions can be answered simply by being open to what life puts in front of us and listening to our instincts when deciding what next step to take, in whatever direction we're meant to go.


To view more of my photography from my nature-adventures, visit:



So Many Adventures!

September 27, 2015  •  Leave a Comment
Fall has arrived in Portland.  The leaves are beginning to change from their myriad greens to beautiful reds, yellows and orange. The days are getting shorter and the nights a little cooler.  The rain is beginning to come back here and there.  Perhaps most appreciated is the disappearance of the unusual amount of ninety degree days. Besides the natural beauty that blankets the area, the moderate weather is one of the things I looked forward to most when moving here.  Mother nature sure does seem to have a sense of humor, I've found.

The second half of summer has been filled with much exploring: waterfalls, the coast, parks, hiking, camping, road tripping, concerts, mountains and more. I've been so busy exploring, that I've done a poor job of reporting back here to give you the stories behind the photos.  If you've been following along on Facebook, you've seen the pictures but here are some of the stories behind my recent Pacific Northwest adventures.

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls is a 120 foot waterfall located in Corbett, about 40 minutes east of Portland in the Columbia River Gorge.  Here I experimented with my first (of what will probably be many) long exposure shots.  Afterward, I stopped at the Crown Point overlook to watch the sunset over the Gorge. On the way home, coming around a bend, the moon was looking spectacular behind some light fog and high cliffs so I stopped to snap some photos from the roadside.



Indian Beach

Indian Beach is one of my favorite spots to visit on the Northern Oregon coast -- I go back often, it never gets old. It's located within the Ecola State Park grounds, about 90 minutes west of Portland.  On this particular visit I had the pleasure of observing lots of crabs hanging out in between the rocks that cover the southern end of the beach.






Mt. Tabor

When I first moved to Portland from Madison, Wisconsin, I lived in Northeast Portland near 60th & Glisan.  Mount Tabor Park is very close and Cole and I walked there once on a hot summer day but unfortunately we did not get to explore the park much at all that day.  I finally went back this summer and enjoyed the views. To the west is a birds eye view of Portland and Mount Hood can be seen to the east.  On this visit, all the views were taken in among the beautiful golden glow of the evenings slow setting, summer sun.

Fret Creek & Oval Lake 

A secluded 5 mile trail in the Mount Hood National Forest, Fret Creek and Oval Lake were challenging but rewarding experiences.  The trail started with a steep incline which eventually leveled out for a long while but toward the end, turned very steep for quite some time.  The serenity of the forest trees made up for the effort though.  After reaching the end of the trail and sitting by Oval Lake for some time, the weather had cooled dramatically and the wind picked up. On the way home to Portland, I enjoyed a delightful dinner at Timberline Lodge and finally was able to get a table by a window with a view that seemed to look out into forever.

Providence Bridge Pedal 2015


For twenty years, Providence Health and Services has hosted an annual Bridge Pedal fundraiser where, this year, 20,000 participants rode their bikes over the many bridges over the Willamette River that connect the east and west sides of Portland.  Taking photos of the riders is not something that would ever have occurred to me to do on my own, since I normally stick to nature and landscapes, but I'm happy I accepted the invitation to try my hand on a new subject. Shooting from the St. John's Bridge, I was delightfully surprised to see how so many of the riders came alive and hammed it up for the photographs.  It was one of those rare moments that somewhat restored my hope in the good of human kind.

Seattle & Mt. Rainier

I had another work trip to my firm's Seattle office and since this time I was healthy and cold virus-free, I took the opportunity to walk around the city a bit and explore, something I hadn't done since I lived there in 2010.  I finally made a visit to Pike's Place Market.  A band was performing which drew a decent crowd.  I also explored a bit more around the Space Needle and discovered a lovely art museum and sculpture garden called Chihuly Garden and Glass where I could easily spend a years salary if I was so inclined. After two days in Seattle, I drove back to Portland but stopped for another visit at Mt. Rainier National Park.  Along the way, I stopped at several points to take photos of the mountain, surrounding scenery and especially enjoyed my time at Reflection Lake.  As you may be able to guess, the lake serves as a perfect mirror to capture the reflection of Mt. Rainier.


Labor Day Weekend Road Trip


Painted Hills
Blue Pool
My Labor Day weekend consisted of a 1,872 mile road trip through Washington, Oregon and California and yielded over 1,300 pictures. From Portland, I drove east through the Gorge and then north to Leavenworth, Washington, a Bavarian style town nestled in the foothills of the Cascade Mountain range, where I encountered a strangely aggressive man preaching "the word of God". Next I enjoyed my first Dave Matthews Band concert at the Gorge Amphitheater. The view of the Gorge from high up on the hillside was definitely a spectacular backdrop to the stage and music that emanated from it.

The next day I stopped at Palouse Falls before driving through Starbuck on the way back to Oregon to see the Painted Hills.  I camped at 5,000 feet elevation in the Ochoco National Forest where I may or may not have had a close encounter with Bigfoot.

The next morning I watched the sun rise at Smith Rock State Park before driving the McKenzie Pass Scenic Byway west, stopping at Dee Wright Observatory and enjoying the view of the Three Sisters (mountain) and a huge lava field. Continuing west, I stumbled upon the Smith Reservoir before hiking the Tamolitch section of the McKenzie river trail to the Blue Pool which held water bluer than what I had seen at Crater Lake several years before. Not quite ready to head home yet, I drove toward the coast and stopped to walk the beach and watch the sunset in Bandon, my favorite city on the southern Oregon coast.

Giant Redwood Tree
After an unsettling night at a shady hotel in Brookings, Oregon, I drove south on Highway 101, stopping for a bit in Crescent City, where I found a neat pier shrouded in fog.  I continued south to visit the magnificent coastal Redwood trees and then, before turning north to head back home to Portland, I took the scenic Highway 299 east through the Shasta-Trinity National Forest to pay a visit to the mystical Mt. Shasta but not before stopping for a quick visit at Castle Crags State Park for a sneak peak of the mountain from a distance.


Camping at Spruce Run


Located about an hour west of Portland, not too far off Highway 26 on Lower Nehalem Road is the Henry Rierson Spruce Run campground in the Tillamook State Forest.  Here, I camped at a beautiful, secluded site along the Nehalem River among friends and after exploring the rivers edge and campground a bit, enjoyed a lovely night of interesting conversation around the soft glow of a warm camp fire with the comforting sounds of the Nehalem River rushing by in the background.



Cannon Beach

Although Cannon Beach is the birth place of my love affair with the Oregon coast in 2011, it is not my most favorite of places to visit as a now resident of this great state of Oregon. It tends to be overcrowded with visitors and parking is frequently hard to come by. There are a lot of great art galleries and shops to explore though and of course the magnificent 235 foot Haystack Rock provides for a spectacular backdrop. On this particular trip, I began to see the more charming qualities of this little town and enjoyed eating some of Mo's famous food at a picnic table alongside the beach.  The seagulls made for great entertainment, one of which sadly had a fishing hook stuck in his beak, but seeing as he was bigger than most of the other seagulls, he seemed to be getting by quite well.

As the winter approaches, my nature-adventures may slow down a bit but I'm looking forward to using the time to work on processing and perfecting some of my shots from this summer and sharing them with area publications and social media outlets that may be of interest.  This also means there will be more prints available for purchase on my website, if you're so inclined, so check back there frequently.


To view more of my photography from my nature-adventures, visit:



Happiness is....

July 25, 2015  •  Leave a Comment
"How many of us, I wonder, can recall that childhood moment when we experienced happiness as a state of being, that single moment of untarnished joy that moment when everything in our world, inside and out, was alright, everything was alright." - Hector and the Search for Happiness

Recently, Netflix recommended that I watch a movie called Hector and the Search for Happiness. I never heard of it before but Netflix suggested if I watched it, I would rate it five stars.  Since I rarely rate movies that highly, I decided to give it a try.   Essentially, the  movie is about a psychiatrist named Hector who travels the globe searching for what makes people happy.  Throughout the movie, he creates a list of the ideas he comes up with.  Below is Hector's list.  

1.   Making comparisons can spoil your happiness.
2.   A lot of people think happiness means being richer or more important.
3.   Many people only see happiness in their future.
4.   Happiness could be the freedom to love more than one woman at the same time.
5.   Sometimes happiness is not knowing the whole story.
6.   Avoiding unhappiness is not the road to happiness.
7.   Does this person bring you predominantly A. up B. down?
8.   Happiness is answering your calling.
9.   Happiness is being loved for who you are.
10. Sweet Potato Stew!
11. Fear is an impediment to happiness.
12. Happiness is feeling completely alive.
13. Happiness is knowing how to celebrate.
14. Listening is loving.
15. Nostalgia is not what it used to be.

This movie and this list got me wondering what would make it onto my "list"?  I have to agree with a lot from the list above, particularly the ideas of being loved for who we are and not avoiding unhappiness.  

For me, waking up each morning with Cole curled up next to me and snuggling him makes me feel happy.  


After a nature adventure, looking through my photos and finding one especially good shot in the bunch makes me happy. 


Having one life-long friend who knows more about me than anyone else in the world makes me happy.  


Having the freedom to pursue my dreams and make my own decisions makes me happy.  


No matter what happens, my family will always love me and knowing that makes me feel happy (and secure). 


Living life as my authentic self makes me happy (although it seems one of the hardest things to actually do). 

With all the things I know make me feel happy for moments, I'm still not sure what it means to actually "be happy". I know it can't be something we are every moment of every day.  I also know that without knowing unhappiness, we would have no barometer for what happiness is. The filmakers of Hector and the Search for Happiness have their own idea of what "happiness is".  Watch it and let me know what you think.