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Celebrating People, Places & the Good Life in SW Washington State
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March Events: Spring is Coming!

It’s March and, though it’s not quite here yet, spring is in the air. The roses are pruned, our daffodils are starting to open and it’s time to plant the peas. If you are itching to get out and about, here are some options around our region:

March 4-26 – The Inner Light Photographic Society celebrates 25 years of image making at Angst Gallery, 1015 Main Street, Vancouver. Opening night will be at the First Friday Artwalk – Friday, March 4, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Don’t miss all the other galleries, too. Downtown Vancouver is quite lively on First Friday nights!

March 13- Marble Mountain to Chocolate Falls Snow Shoe Adventure – Check out Mount St. Helens Institute for details. Snowshoeing is the best! All the fun of cross-country skiing without the bruised bodies and egos. If you can walk, you can snowshoe.

March 12-19 Japanese Culture Week in Longview at various locations with events that include anime, Taiko drumming, origami and much more. The week culminates with an exciting performance on March 19 by Taiko (re)Generation at the Columbia Theatre.

March 18-20 – Don’t miss the 16th annual Peninsula Quilt Guild’s show in Ilwaco. More than 100 quilts will be on display. Quilts will be at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum in Ilwaco.

March 18 – St. Patty’s for the Parks featuring Patrick Lamb at Shorty’s Garden & Home, Mill Plain Store in Vancouver. This is a benefit for the Parks Foundation of Clark County. Over 21 only. Food by Beaches.

March 19 – St. Patty’s for the Kids – same location as March 18 but with a family focus and free!

March 19 – Clark College at Columbia Tech Center Open House and Green Resource Fair, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. 18700 SE Mill Plain Blvd, Vancouver. Includes cooking demonstrations, gardening tips, local wineries and a showing of one of the best food movies ever, The Big Night. You will find the flyer here: Spring 2011 Open House Cooking School

March 27 – Third Annual Fort Vancouver Run – Shake off your sluggish winter body with a 6K, 10K or 15 K run plus kids’ events. Starts at Fred Meyer Grand Central Shopping Center.

As always, lots happening in Southwest Washington! See you out there!

February 28, 2011   No Comments

Exploring with Kids: Take a Hike to June Lake

By Sarah Coomber

Over the past two months my 5-year-old and I had completed numerous hikes but stayed pretty close to home. Sensing we were ready for an out-of-town hike, I hustled him and my husband out the door on a recent sunny Saturday morning. Destination: June Lake.

Father and son on the June Lake trail

I had learned of June Lake a couple of days earlier when The Columbian’s Allen Thomas described it as cold, clear and wading-friendly in his July 22 column on summer hikes for families. As a native of Minnesota and lover of lake country, mention of such a lake draws me like an ant to ice cream. Turns out the big bonus on this hike is the spectacular view of Mount St. Helens that regularly pops out from behind the trees. (I enjoyed it so much that I didn’t take time to take a photo of it!)

We figured the June Lake hike might be a stretch for our son—the trail is 1.4 miles each way—so we tried not to fixate on getting to the lake. But we also packed backpacks full of loot: a cashew-raisin-chocolate chip mixture (heavy on the chocolate), energy bars, turkey jerky and water. With snack breaks every 20 minutes or so and a couple of lifts on the home stretch, our junior hiker did wonderfully. Along with his dad, he napped all the way home. Our adventure, not including driving, took us a bit over two hours.

The trail climbs nearly 700 feet, from 2,710 to 3,400 feet above sea level, a steady rise but easy hiking. The lake, which is small but pretty, provides an excellent incentive and then a great break at the end of the trail. We changed into flipflops and sandals at its little beach and cooled our feet while gazing at the waterfalls on the opposite side of the lake. Also of interest is a lava flow that backs the beach and, apparently, another trail system that continues from there. More information is available at the Gifford Pinchot National Forest Web site.

We encountered several young children on the trail who seemed to be having a grand time as well, and only one who had mounted a walking protest. She made it to the lake but not happily or quietly, and her mother reported that bugs are an issue for her. I did not notice any bugginess, but in Minnesota the mosquito is our most constant companion during the warm months, so I might not be the best judge.

The trailhead for June Lake is located a little more than an hour’s drive east of Woodland, Wash., just south of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. It is an out-of-the-way location, so we were surprised to find dozens of cars already there to greet us. But once we got on the trail, we had plenty of time alone in the woods. It appears there are a few other trails heading out of that parking area.

Getting there: See the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument map.

Good to know:
• The trail is good but not stroller-friendly.
• Parking is free.

• Snack and water
• Flipflops or water shoes for the lake

September 13, 2010   No Comments

Here Chick, Chick, Chick…

“Regard it as just as desirable to build a chicken house as to build a cathedral.” – Frank Lloyd Wright

When I was a kid, chickens lived in barnyards. I was in awe of my grandmother’s fearlessness as she entered her long, white hen house and reached under each angry hen to snatch her egg. Those beaks looked mighty scary to me.

Looking back, I can’t imagine what it was like to have the 150 Rhode Island Reds and White Leghorns, which she tended to every day. That is a LOT of eggs! Combine that with multiple crowing roosters and we’re talking serious (and noisy) poultry.

Pondering the age-old question: Which came first?

The Wall Street Journal reported about the urban chicken trend on July 8, article here. Now chickens enjoy city backyards and Vancouver is no exception. We love our chickens!

Roosters are forbidden in our city limits (thank you, City of Vancouver!) but hens are doing quite well. In fact, the chickens will be queens for the day on July 17 at the Coop du Jour Tour, which will allow us to look into their castles. A fundraiser for the Hough Foundation, the self-guided tour will feature chicken coops of various designs in Vancouver’s Uptown Village neighborhoods. The tour will be held from Noon to 4 pm.

I had the opportunity to preview one of the coops in June. “Coop” is WAY too weak of a word. This was nothing like my grandmother’s utilitarian hen house. The Mowats have created a stylish home for their brood in the Hough Neighborhood and will be part of the tour.

Much More than a 'Coop'

A Condo for Hens

My neighbors Caitlyn and Jerrad are inspiring new chicken owners. They have creatively transformed their daughter’s play structure into a handy coop, while preserving the swings, upper deck and slide for play. They will explain their architectural wonder during the tour. Frank Lloyd Wright would be proud.

Play Structure or Chicken Coop? It's Both!

Buy your tickets now for the Coop du Jour. They are available at Arnada Naturals and Mint Tea in advance (Only $10 per family) or on the day of the event. More info about the tour is here.

Grandma Moses reputedly said that if she hadn’t been a painter, she would have raised chickens. She would have enjoyed the Coop du Jour.

July 10, 2010   No Comments

Five Boys, Three Moms, Trolls and Treasure at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

By Sarah Coomber
Photos by Andria Villanueva and Sarah Coomber

“Let’s find the treasure!” called Andria, another mom I’ve roped into my mission to stay sane by hiking this pre-school and largely daycare-free summer.

The adventure begins...

That got our little guys’ attention and lured them out of the tall grass near the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge parking lot and toward the pedestrian bridge that arches high over the railroad tracks and into the refuge itself.

About a mile north of the city of Ridgefield, in the refuge’s Carty Unit, the Oaks to Wetlands Trail is a 2-mile loop that rambles through old oaks and cedars and alongside grassy wetlands. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the refuge is home to waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors, river otter, black-tailed deer and coyotes. (Friends of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge provide additional information here.)

Along the trail

As three moms with five little boys ranging from 2 months to 5 years of age, we had no illusions about seeing wildlife. (Other than the ones we brought with us.) That said, this was a wonderful place for us to soak up some sunshine and scenery while the boys ran and rummaged.

Looking for trolls

Highlights for the little ones included searching for trolls under the trail’s little wooden bridges, looking for secret passageways in the woods and watching a couple of passing Burlington Northern Santa Fe trains from the pedestrian bridge. (The tracks run along the eastern border of the refuge.)

Exploring at Cathlapotle Plankhouse

All of us were fascinated by the Cathlapotle Plankhouse, located just inside the refuge. Completed in 2005 by more than 100 volunteer builders, this full-size replica of a Chinookan cedar plankhouse resembles the ones explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark visited in 1806 not far from this site.

The Plankhouse is beautiful to look at and smells wonderful too. It is open most Saturday and Sunday afternoons between April and October and offers educational and children’s activities the second Sunday of each month. (July 11— basket weaving; Aug. 8—Ravenstail weaving, flintknapping, Chinookan style carving, atlatl throwing and textile arts; and Sept. 12—prehistoric artifacts. Check the Plankhouse calendar for more information.

The happy explorers

Our visit to the refuge lasted about two hours during which we hit maybe a third of the trail system before breaking for snacks and train-watching. It was during snack time that little Ian, beaming, shouted, “I found the treasure!” and brought his mom, another Sarah, something that looked like a piece of hose. No … it looked like a twig with a dangling cocoon. No … it looked like a nearly-but-not-quite-beheaded garter snake! Mom ran, and Ian, thankfully and oh-so-thoughtfully, tossed the whole works into the tall grass behind us.

Boys do put the wild in wildlife.

Good to know:
• Primitive restrooms are available at the parking lot.
• Some trails are muddy—not stroller-friendly.

• $3 to park
• Insect repellent (On June 25th the mosquitoes were out in force.)
• Snack/water

Watch out for:
• Easy-exit gate to the train tracks a bit north of the plankhouse.
It has a “danger” sign, but little ones don’t read. Or care.
• Mosquitoes in the wooded area.

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July 2, 2010   1 Comment