Christmas is different in Oregon. Where I live now, in Portland, there is no snow. Now this year that doesn’t seem to really set it apart seeing as most parts of the country haven’t seen much snow but nonetheless, it doesn’t feel like Christmas to me. Add to that, due to my Thanksgiving Ditch Trip, I opted to forego a Christmas tree this year in the spirit of saving money and as I write this, a pumpkin candle I received from a friend on Halloween stares at me from my desktop as it castes a soft glow. Maybe this year also feels different because I haven’t seen my family in over a year. This is the first time in my life that that has ever happened. I miss them a lot, which is also a first time experience for me seeing as most of my life, I never went more than a couple months without seeing them. I especially miss them now since several people I know have recently lost loved ones. It makes me worry that something horrible will happen to them before I can see them again. I know I don’t have any control over that so there’s no sense in worrying too much.
This year is the first I’m not spending Christmas with my family. This has even more of an impact as historically, Christmas is the only holiday we ever gathered for to celebrate. I’m finally understanding what it means to get those “holiday blues” and hope that in coming years, I’ll be able to make a trip home to be with them. I can’t imagine how much harder this will all be once my parents have passed on. I guess this is the price I pay though for following my dreams, of starting a new life in Oregon and leaving everyone I care about behind. The draw of Oregon is so much bigger though than missing my parents and my friends.
|Ecola State Park|
To be clear, I have absolutely no regrets about leaving Wisconsin. I love Oregon. I love living in Portland. I even love the rain! I love writing at my desk and hearing the rain patter against the window and watch it stream downward while I listen to music. Sometimes Cole joins me and sits on my lap, other times he hangs out in his bed on the floor near my feet. How incredibly lucky am I to be able to pursue my dreams? To have a job? To have both my parents still alive? To have a best and life-long friend? To have Cole? To be healthy and mobile? To be able to be creative through photography and writing? To learn new things? To be able to visit the coast and mountains whenever I want? To be surrounded by so much beauty in all directions?
Cole and I decided to spend Christmas on the coast, my souls true companion. The drive on highway 26 over the coastal range mountains was unusually snowy. Even though it was a bit nerve wracking, the beauty more than made up for it. The trees that line the roadsides were draped in thick snow and all of their branches hung low. It was truly like a winter wonderland. Now this felt like Christmas!!
We visited Ecola State Park first. There we discovered two things. One: Indian Beach was “closed”, I imagine due to storm damage. Two: The viewpoint looking toward Haystack Rock was “permanently closed” because the ocean had literally reclaimed it. It is gone, forever, thanks to erosion. Cole played a bit with a dog we met there and I got lots of pictures, as usual.
After we were done at Ecola State Park, we headed south to Hug Point. The high tide didn’t leave much sand to walk on but we managed just fine nonetheless. Due to a dog off-leash that “didn’t play well with small dogs” according to it’s owner, I left Cole on his leash while we walked along the beach. He wasn’t too happy about that and frankly, neither was I. I can’t imagine bringing an unsocial dog to the beach and then letting them off their leash to possibly cause problems with other dogs. Since the high tide made it impossible to get around Hug Point to visit the caves and waterfall, we didn’t stay long before heading back north, toward Astoria.
|View from Astoria Column|
Once in Astoria, we stopped at the Astoria Column, which sits 600 feet above sea level and is 125 feet tall. Cole patiently waited in the car while I climbed the 164 steps to the top of the column. Once I took that last step and came to a door, I opened it and found it was a direct entry onto the narrow walkway that surrounded the column. My legs shook a bit and my heart raced but I wasn’t going to let my fear of heights stop me from taking photos. I hugged the column with my back and slowly made an entire loop around the column to get the 360 degree view of Astoria, the Columbia River, Saddle Mountain, Youngs Bay, Youngs River and the Lewis and Clark River. Once I completed my loop and reached the door, I took one last look to appreciate the view and then began my decent down the spiral staircase to greet Cole, eagerly awaiting my return to the car.
Seeing as I’ve never taken highway 30 home from the the coast, I decided this would be a good day to see what that drive along the Columbia River was like. The drive was a lot less stressful than the drive earlier on highway 26 seeing as there was no snow to contend with. I even found a nice overlook where I got to pull over and see some very cool fog hover and slowly make its way over the hills and trees far below.
All in all, it was a good Christmas despite not having my family around. Exploring Oregon with my sidekick, Cole, is always a good time. Even when things go wrong. Luckily for us, today it was relatively smooth sailing and a very merry Christmas through my camera lens.