Category Archives: Travels

Sand Island: Swept Away By Summer Love

This past week I took my summer vacation. It was absolutely wonderful. It started off by spending some quality time down on the Willamette River by myself on the boat, and with a friend out on the river. There is no way I have time to detail all of the adventures that ensued that weekend, but basically it consisted of sleeping on the family boat–a Tolman Skiff, cruising the Willamette with a good friend, being boarded by the Coast Guard (yes I’m aware of how that sounds), seeing some horses running and swimming on Sauvie Island, enjoying Jimmy Johns on the deck of the boat, swimming off Kelly Point, and alas spending hours talking to a boy. A southern boy–a Texan more specifically. More on that small (read huge) detail later.

My brother and his wife flew in from NYC eventually and we crammed in some Portland musts including dinner with grandpa, a trip to Powell’s Books, and of course, our family breakfast at Bertie Lou’s Cafe in Sellwood. Breakfast filled with eggs, home fries, bacon, and of course biscuits and gravy marked the beginning of our annual voyage to Sand Island. I’ll probably be harassed if not killed by my family and our extended non-related relatives for divulging the existence of said island, but the fact is, there is no place quite like it, and it must be celebrated.

Looking south on Sand Island State Marine Park

Sand Island is located on the Columbia River right across from the small town of St. Helens, Oregon. One of the state’s beautiful marine parks, it was created to serve as a sand bar to protect the riverfront town from the wake of passing freighters. Over the years, tall cottonwood trees and an unknown number of wild animals such as racoons and deer have made this small oasis home. The Columbia River surrounding the island (as we refer to it) gives the much needed sanctuary from the hot summer sun, and has provided years of memories filled with swimming, sailing, and amazing river sunsets. My family has gone camping on the island every year of my life. We spend 51 weeks waiting to be reunited with its beauty–with daydreams of the sand between our to toes, and the cool evening breeze rocking the hammock as we gaze at the stars. Surely there could be no better place in the great northwest to spend one’s summer.

Looking north on Sand Island State Marine Park

Growing up, our family would camp anywhere from a weekend to several weeks on the island. No electricity, no running water, and no plumbing. Our non-relative relatives also camped with us. They had 5 kids. One couldn’t possibly fathom the amount of stuff they would cart across the river, then again, there were 5 kids. The oldest sibling was a boy my brother’s age, to this day they are still best friends. The second of the five was a girl–my best friend and kindred spirit–Babette.

1993

The final three siblings were all boys, so I really lucked out with Babette. The 7 of us were wild on the island. Swimsuits were the only clothing item worn from dawn to dusk. It was common to not even bring shoes to the island. Most days, the 7 of us could be found down at the beach creating the most elaborate mud pit you’ve ever seen. After all, it needed to fit all of us.

From left to right: Michael, Babette, Stephen, Sammy, Jeremiah, Me, Christopher

Luckily our parents documented these events. It would take hours of swimming and pretending to be mermaids (for Babette and I at least) to wash the evidence of earlier mud fights away. Our parents would force us to bathe in the river, which as we became older, was quite the tradition. My mother always said that there was “nothing sexier than a woman keeping up her appearance while camping.” So Babette and I would (and still do) suds up in our suits and wash our hair as the sun set over the hills.

Several summers, we made treasure maps and wrote notes claiming the island as our own, and sealed them in empty bottles. After adding several layers of duct tape, we would fasten a rope to the bottle and then swim it out to the old wooden pilings off the north end of the island.

The north end of Sand Island, standing on top of the dunes

Once used in the logging industry, lthe decaying logs now jet out of the water like totem poles. Hoisting each other up onto the wooden crossbeam, we would tie the rope off and hide the bottle inside of the metal cables binding the logs. The bottle never did make it until the following summer as we had hoped, but we all liked to imagine that some other kids found it and followed our treasure map to nothing–our punishment to them for thinking it was acceptable for them to spend time on our island. Who did they think they were anyway?!

When night fell more adventures ensued. Capture the flag would span across the entire island, with our little shadows darting around trees and the sand dunes, scaring each other and then shrieking with shear terror/joy. Our dad’s would tell ghost stories around the campfire about graveyard rats, and about “Herman,” the scary man who lived below the glorified outhouse. Strange as it sounds (because how on earth did he live under the outhouse?) we believed that one for years.

When Babette and I had enough with the boys, and were tired of waiting for our turn with the BB guns, we would spend hours painting rocks and driftwood, trying our best to capture the beauty of the island.

Nighttime on the river, circa 1998

This past week we sat together at the picnic table once again, listening to music, drinking iced coffee from the cooler, arguing and laughing over whose depiction was better. We laughed about how we used to argue about who’s tent was cozier, and whether or not straight hair was better than curly. These are the moments that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

I look forward to many more summers to come on Sand Island. Laughing, swimming, and being with the closest of friends and family.

;

Below are some more photos of the journey to the island.

Docked at the Willamette Sailing Club

Behind Ross Island, stopping for a dip and some relaxing in the sun

It really is a must to by smutty celebrity magazines while on vacation…

Lusting after the floating homes near Sellwood

On our way to the island, under all the Portland bridges, including the St. John’s Bridge

Close to the island at last!!!!
Warrior Rock Light, Sauvie Island, Oregon

Sand Island. In all of its glory

Sunrise on the island

Sleeping on the hammock might be the best part

It’s an island, so we obviously have to be well prepared…

And by being prepared I obviously mean being well-stocked with coffee options

Painting driftwood

Sailing at sunset

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A Fine Summer Day

Today was a wonderful day. It started with coffee and breakfast on the back deck in the sun. I called my friend and was easily able to convince her to spend the day in the sun on Sauvie Island. I packed the cooler with ice, grabbed the sun screen, and hopped into my swimsuit. We made a couple necessary stops  (sandwiches and beer of course) and were on our way. Sun shinning and the windows down.

Nothing beats sitting by the water with a friend. Look at this view.

Except when CRAY CRAY Seagulls try to eat your snacks!!!

To make our trip complete, we stopped at Kruger Farms to pick up some fruits a veggies. I also picked up some of these wonderful teal green berry containers (pre-berry) to re-purpose into jewelry containers.

Ah. So nice. And to finish off this wonderful day, I paid off my entire credit card!!! I’m getting closer to becoming debt free 😀

Yale Reservoir: Al Morrison Regatta Part II

A little photography follow-up on the Al Morris Regatta 2012. What a great way to combine the two passions!

Yale Reservoir

Crystal clear water!!! Who wouldn’t want to swim in this?!

Getting ready for the start. Quite a few boats were over-early although you can’t tell at this point. The roof of the Tolman (the red boat) proved to be a great place for taking photos (I was riding in the Whaler for this race).

Irie, my dad’s retirement restoration project. A fully restored 1957 wooden Thistle.

Sailing downwind

Probably going to enlarge this one…

Rounding the leeward mark

Look at my mom hiking out!

Red Rascal, the Alaskan Tolman Skiff that my dad built. My family is so cool.

Swiss Miss

Currently wishing I was in the Swiss Alps.

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I nearly made it down the mountain with that cow’s bell–which would have been the best souvenir–but I felt bad and left it. The size of bell reflects the quality of the milk produced by the cow i.e. biggest bell equals the best milk (or so I was told).

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Parapenting over the Bernese Alps near Leysin Switzerland.

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Every morning the clouds would roll in from the valley floor, floating over me while I lay in bed. Breathtaking.

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That’s when the wanderlust really set in.

Falling in Love in a New York Minute

There were so many beautiful photos to choose from, so I had to narrow it down to the top 12. More dialogue on my love affair with NYC later…

We started off the first morning with breakfast at Tiffany’s, perused the diamonds, strolled through Central Park, and simply enjoyed the city.

The beautiful architecture and signage found all around the city left me amazed. Welcome to the literary bar of the century.

Just gotta appreciate the NYC Metro. People falling asleep on each other, dudes selling incense and “black soap(?),” and the opportunity to have a conversation with someone that will inevitably include the 30 people standing around and on top of you.

Had to have my fortune read by Zoltar on the Coney Island boardwalk. Love the movie Big with Tom Hanks. AND Splash with Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah, & John Candy which ALSO takes place in NYC.

“Lecrecious the Walrus,” painted by Rob Fricke, my outlaw once removed. Referenced from a novel by my brother The Literary Man.

The Cyclone. World famous roller coaster on the board walk. I will say that the construction looks quite shotty, but at least your friends could say that you died on The Cyclone?

The New York Aquarium mural at Coney Island.

I love Ferris Wheels

“If Paris is France, Coney Island, between June and September, is the world.”

Meet me at the Empire State. We sat below on a roof top bar, and the Empire State building disappeared into the night fog. The scene was just perfect for drinking a Manhattan.

“Crab Kalash aka Khlav Kalash” -Part of a photo project my sister in law has been working on for the past several years. That’s an Alabama flag if you were curious. Also, the title is derived from the Simpsons episode “New York City Vs. Homer Simpson.”

Aquarium mural at Coney Island. I plan to paint this in very large scale.

Derby Day

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Mint Juleps: The Official Drink of the Derby
2 cups water
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
32 fluid ounces Kentucky bourbon
8 sprigs fresh mint leaves for garnish

1. Combine water, sugar and chopped mint leaves in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Allow syrup to cool, approximately 1 hour. Pour syrup through a strainer to remove mint leaves
2. Fill eight cups or frozen goblets with crushed ice and pour 4 ounces of bourbon and 1/4 cup mint syrup in each. (Proportions can be adjusted depending on each person’s sweet tooth). Top each cup with a mint sprig and a straw. Trim straws to just barely protrude from the top of the cups. Serve juleps on a silver platter.

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Cheers to the Race for the Roses!

The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved

“It’s a fantastic scene–thousands of people fainting, crying, copulating, trampling each other and fighting with broken whiskey bottles.” -Hunter S. Thompson

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It’s Derby Day once again. The fastest two minutes in sports. My first derby experience was epic. A road trip from Chicago to Kentucky to meet up with my bro, who had made the trek with his fratastic brahs from Vanderbilt. It had poured the Friday before, leaving the infield of The Churchill Downs a 2ft deep mud puddle that stretched nearly a half of a mile long.

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Needless to say, there was no staying clean that day–so I was obviously not going to put out any effort to do so i.e. mud wrestling seemed an appropriate choice to honor the day.

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It was after this epic moment that I remember something very important. I reached into my bra recalling the ziplock baggies that had been filled with whiskey. You see, you can’t bring any liquid into the derby, so sneaking liquor into the races in peculiar fashions was quite common. My brother had duct taped two catheter-like bags of bourbon to his thighs. I give the plastic a tug, expecting that it would have burst during my muddy plunge, only to pull out a fully sealed bag of Makers Mark.

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“This is the coolest you will ever be,” my brother said.