From the patio of Maryhill Winery along the Columbia River Gorge in Washington, savor sippable views of Mt. Hood with a glass of their Rose of Sangiovese.
With mud from my toes to my nose and sloshing through my shoes, I waded through waist deep mud and over heaps of slippery dirt with only one thing on my mind, finishing. Exhaustion setting in and my knees splitting from an old injury…and falling on my face around mile 5, the cold mud for once in the course felt oddly and momentarily refreshing. “We are almost there,” I thought as I sludged my mud-caked Nikes out of the pit. But as two of my teammates pulled me out of the pond of goop and I hobbled (broken pirate style) around the last bend, there it was…the mountain of all obstacles – literally. Everest, a greased half-pipe, and Electroshock therapy, dangling electrified wires, were the last two obstacles that stood in my way. “Bring it on!”
Dubbed as one of the toughest obstacle course races, the Tough Mudder is an intense 11-mile, 25 obstacle race. Designed by British Special Forces to test your strength, stamina, mental grit and camaraderie, the course has you climbing walls, swimming through fields of mud, squirming under barbed (and sometimes electrified) wire, running almost a marathon and dunking your body into ice tanks, among other things. It’s a race that gives you the opportunity to prove yourself, not only to your teammates and the other competitors but also to yourself, that you truly are tough enough – or just crazy enough!
The highlights of the Tough Mudder, Las Vegas race for me were:
- Kiss of mud – crawling under barbed wire through muddy water
- Arctic Enema – a quick dip into ice-cold (and I mean ice-cold) water.
- Funky Monkey – a monkey bar challenge that brought me back to the good old days on the play ground
- The Wounded Warrior run – I hopped a free ride on a random dude’s back for half of it!
- Berlin Walls – scaling 3 sets of wooden walls that progressively got taller
- And of course, Everest. It took me four very painful attempts to grab my teammates’ hands, but I did successfully scale the half-pipe.
However, when they say that Tough Mudder is a race that you can’t finish alone – nor would you want to – they mean it. The best part about competing in this race was running it with my co-workers. The camaraderie, support and energy everyone brought to the course made the event. From running buddies to helpful boosts over the obstacles, my co-workers and all the other competitors are what got me through the race, up the walls, through the mud and across the finish line. (Plus it’s amazing what a little peer pressure and a bunch of stubbornness will get you through as well!)
Are you tough enough?
Looking out for ships nearing the coast of Oregon from 1881 – 1957, the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse perches delicately in the Pacific on its ocean pedestal. For the best vantage point of this lighthouse, also known as Terrible Tilly, hike the 2.7-mile Clatsop Loop trail in Ecola State Park starting at the Indian Beach parking lot.
What is your favorite lighthouse?
Located just a few miles off of highway 26 near Seaside, Oregon this spectacular hike takes you high into the coastal range – 3,283 feet to be exact for views of the ocean, mountains, Columbia River and surrounding forests. A 5.5 mile round trip hike, the walk up Saddle Mountain is steep at times with grated fencing underfoot to help retain the trail and your footing, but the views just get better and better as you climb.This is a great half-day hike, especially if the coast Gods grace you with a clear sky.
Along for the ride, my nephew came with us on his first hike ever! He didn’t make it quiet to the top with his parents, but for a 13 month old, he is a tough kiddo.
Escape the sand or city with your family to walk this trail together!
Here are more photos from the hike:
View from half way up!
Me standing on the edge of one of the trails.
Last section of the hike and by far the steepest!
Climbing the last stretch, a mile straight up through red-brown silt and gravel, I kept my eyes on the peak ahead. The blue sky over the rounded bulge summit at 10,358 feet beckoning me like a turquoise pendant. Reaching the top of this mountain however, awarded me with a hiking high better than any jewels could offer.
Hitting the trail, I completed the first hike of my “10 hikes in 10 years” plan by summiting the South Sister in central Oregon. The third largest mountain in Oregon and the highest of the three sisters, the South Sister is one of few climbs of its size in the state that doesn’t require technical equipment. A 12-mile round trip trail leads from the base of the valley at Devils Lake up the mountain plains then finally along a rocky ridge to the mountain’s summit. Continue reading
Headin east from Portland along highway 84, we raced the rising summer sun. Warming from the tip-top cliffs of the river valley down to the curving road that hugs the waters’ shore, the sun kissed the Columbia River Gorge as we set off on a day-long adventure.
Following the Historic Columbia River Highway (highway 30), from just east of Troutdale, we dotted our way slowly along the winding road in search of the scenic byway’s many waterfalls – and boy did we discover our fair share of tumbling water!
The drive started with a quick stop at the Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint to take in the dramatic landscape from the mouth of this scenic byway. From here we could see the jagged cliffs of the Gorge, the shimmering blue river and our second stop, Crown Point Vista House, an octagonal shaped observatory built in 1916.
Escaping deeper along the highway, we rounded the corner to our first waterfall, Latourell Falls. Located within Guy W. Talbot State Park, this thin stream of water left both our mouths hanging open in awe. Plunging 224-feet from a wall of basalt, the white water impressively contrasted with the dark rock and neon green lichen that highlighted its face.
From here we continued along highway 30 to Shepperd’s Dell Falls. A series of trickling plateau, this grouping of falls took you down below the highway to catch some cool spray before hopping back in the car to take off to Bridal Veil Falls. Elegantly streaming like a wedding veil in two separate falls, this waterfall gushes with glory before it descends into the Columbia River.
Next up, cascading also in two folds, Wahkeena Falls steps down 242-feet through a crack in two rock outcroppings surrounded by the forest’s lush greenery – making it quite the sight. Originally known as Gordon Falls, this waterfall was re-birthed Wahkeena – meaning “most-beautiful” in Yakima Indian – in 1915 with the completion of the highway.
Following the dirt trail from Wahkeena Falls for a half-mile, we finally made it to the granddaddy of waterfalls along the Columbia River Scenic Highway, Multnomah Falls. Oregon’s tallest waterfall, Multnomah cascades 620-feet in total and is fed by natural underground springs that originate at Larch Mountain. Spanning over the second fall, Benson Bridge offers visitors a unique viewpoint of the upper falls in all its glory.
But the fun didn’t end there! Before taking the westward journey back to Portland, we cruised down the end of the scenic highway past Horsetail Falls and finally ended the day exploring the mouth of Oneonta Gorge (can’t wait to return and do this whole hike – looks epic!) as the sun started to fall in the sky.
Have you ever driven this scenic highway? What is your favorite waterfall along the route?
This past weekend, I attended the Wine Blogger’s Conference in Portland, Oregon. As part of a wine excursion, I visited Willamette Valley Vineyards just south of Salem and snapped this photo as the sun was just beginning to set. For more about the wine conference, check out my wine blog: Oregon Winette.
After two failed attempts to find Kentucky Falls, I finally made it to this beautiful forested hike deep in the Siuslaw National Forest. Featuring three tumbling waterfalls, the Kentucky Falls trail is a fantastic 4-mile half-day hike that follows a bubbling creek through the shade of lush trees. An out and back trail that starts with a steady downhill climb, the hikes showcases some of Oregon’s best cascading water. (One more Bucket List hike checked off!) Continue reading