A Look Back at 2015

“The greatest adventure is what lies ahead” – J.R.R. Tolkien

This has been quite the year filled with many adventures, lots of photography and so much more. I’ve taken several road trips throughout Washington, Oregon and California. I’ve camped on mountains and next to rivers. I’ve hiked everywhere from the lakes and rivers of the Cascade Mountain range to the waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge to Portland’s parks and gardens to Oregon’s coastal beaches and sand dunes. With my visits to the Painted Hills, Smith Rock, and the Wallowas, this year marked the completion of visiting all of Oregon’s Seven Wonders. Mt. Hood, the Coast, the Columbia River Gorge and Crater Lake were all visited, often several times over, between 2011 and 2014.

My official adventure tally this year comes to:

23 beaches
18 parks
 9 hikes
 6 overlooks
 5 mountains
 4 camping trips
 3 waterfalls
 3 rivers
 2 scenic loops
 2 reservoirs
 1 slough
 1 garden
 1 observatory

In addition to all of my nature adventures, I’ve seen several concerts this year including my first Dave Matthews Band experience at the mecca of venues, the Gorge Amphitheater. I also saw one my favorite musicians again, Jackie Greene, at the Wonder Ballroom, and went to my first Modest Mouse show at the Crystal Ballroom.

A couple of visitors from back home in Wisconsin came to visit me this year and I thoroughly enjoyed playing tour guide extraordinaire while simultaneously managing to exhaust them with Oregon’s amazing restaurants and food carts, attractions and natural beauty.

I earned a promotion just recently at work and have also been on several trips to our Seattle office throughout the year. For some extra cash and an opportunity to further explore Portland, I signed up to be a driver for both Lyft and Uber this past fall although I still haven’t given any rides, as of yet. I’m sure that will change very soon though.

I celebrated my first “Oregonniversary” in June. I feel my first year as a resident of the beautiful state of Oregon is definitely worthy of creating a tradition to celebrate each year going forward. Speaking of celebrations, Cole enjoyed his seventh birthday in September, this year on the coast with his new pug-friend Emma. Cole and I together spent my 35th birthday in March on the coast with a friend.

My photography has grown considerably this past year. I created a website in March which may sound like a simple task but it meant many hours sifting through nearly 60,000 photos that I have taken over the past few years, and then deciding which ones were the best. I entered my work in a couple more photo contests this year and even sold some of my prints. I’m continually gaining more followers on a variety of social media platforms and some of my work is even getting picked up by local travel publications. This year also marks the first of what will now become an annual tradition of creating photo calendars for my family in Wisconsin. Not much in this world makes me happier than to share the beauty of the Pacific Northwest through photography with those that I care about.

As always in life, it isn’t all good, all the time.  This is a blog about my misadventures after all, isn’t it? I had an unfortunate car incident on Mt. Hood Thanksgiving weekend which cost me a whopping $1,000 insurance deductible to make my car good as new again. The silver lining of that experience though is that I made a new friend, the tow truck driver, so it wasn’t all bad. A simple procedure to remove a benign growth on my leg late this summer caused quite the issue during my recovery which ended up with me in urgent care. This year I’ve also joined the ranks of many other Oregonians who suffer from seasonal allergies so my “nature junkie” brand has a little bit more truth to it now that nature literally makes me sick and yet I continue to expose myself to it; nothing can keep me from spending time in nature.

After a breakup earlier this year, I ventured back into the wonderful, and sometimes downright strange, world of online dating which yielded some very interesting experiences, a new relationship and yet another breakup. What I found most fascinating about the heartache that came with that failed endeavor though is knowing that I’m still capable of truly caring for someone. At times, I feel like I’m somewhat broken when it comes to this part of my life but my resilience, or possibly just my stubbornness, will continue to keep me open to the possibilities that come with daring to risk being vulnerable with someone.  The journey continues into 2016!

There have been some weather oddities this year starting with a mild winter, then a very hot and long summer which sparked widespread wildfires throughout the Pacific Northwest. Then, this fall we got slammed with torrential downpours that created landslides, sinkholes and considerable flooding. To top it off, we even got some snow in Portland right after Christmas. Despite all of this, the Pacific Northwest is still a stunningly beautiful place to live and explore. I’m truly blessed to call this place home.

So, what have I taken away from my experiences this year? First, that our time here is too short to spend it being unhappy. If you don’t like something about your life, change it. It may not be easy and it probably won’t come without sacrifices and hard work but if it’s important to you and it’s something that makes your soul sing, I can assure you, it will be worth it. Second, be sure to spend lots of time in the places and with the people that make you feel happy to be alive. Third, and possibly most important, do not underestimate how important spending time alone is. That time by yourself is essential for reflecting upon your life. It allows you the space in an all too busy world to check-in with yourself, to ask important questions such as: Am I happy? Am I doing what I want to do? Is there anything that doesn’t feel right in the grand scheme of my life? These questions and others can help make sure you are headed in the right direction and living a life of purpose.

I’m looking forward to many more adventures in 2016 and to opportunities to explore, learn, grow and create.  I hope you’ll continue to follow along with my journey and I wish you all the best in the New Year!

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

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