While living in Portland, Oregon, my husband, Brendan, and I spent a lot of time exploring the Pacific Northwest – from the Olympic National Forest to the Oregon Coast to the Wallowas – and had been wanting to do the same for New England. Timing was always a challenge, though. So last October, when a friend announced he was getting married in Pittsburgh, we decided to tack a couple days onto the trip to drive through upstate Pennsylvania and New York and do a bit of exploring. The wedding was a raging success – happy couple, excellent food and drinks, and a full night of shaking our booties on the dance floor at LeMont. A few of us even snuck in a quick ride on the incline mid-festivities.
After seeing the couple off and saying our goodbyes, we set out from Pittsburgh on a Sunday morning and drove north through the Allegheny National Forest to New York state, catching the tail-end of leaf peeping season along the way.
Fully loaded up on audiobooks and Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me episodes, we meandered along two lane roads and stopped repeatedly for me to take pictures. After grabbing lunch at the adorable A Slice of the 80s pizzeria, we arrived at Letchworth State Park and spent the rest of the rainy day slowly driving along the ravine.
Originally the backyard of New York businessman and philanthropist William Pryor Letchworth, it was converted into a state park in 1907 after Letchworth gifted it to the park system.
And holy buckets, this place is incredible. Imagine if we can come just two weeks earlier? We will be returning (someday) in slightly better weather (without fog or torrential downpour) to thoroughly explore the hiking trails, lodges, and ravines.
The sun was setting as we left the park, so we traded the scenic way for the highway and decamped in Seneca Falls for the night.
Monday morning we were up and out early, with a quick stop in Skaneateles for coffee and baked goods. It’s currently my favorite small town. Perched at the north tip of Skaneateles Lake, this charming little city feels like everything I ever pictured New England to be: waterfront parks, old fashioned street lamps, charming buildings, bustling bakeries and coffee shops… (Now I just need to make it to New England to see if I’m right!).
We spent Monday roaming around the numerous small towns of the Finger Lakes area. The sun was out and the fog had lifted, resulting in a crisp, clear Fall day with brilliantly blue skies – perfect for a meandering drive. Our afternoon destination was Ithaca and Cornell University’s sprawling campus, mainly because we had heard they were beautiful and neither of us had been. It did not disappoint – the tree-dense campus crawls up the city hills, bestowing on the campus killer views and a surefire way to prevent the “freshman 15.”
While driving out of town we passed a sign for Buttermilk Falls. Curious, we pulled into the parking lot and opened gawked at this monster, rushing waterfall.
We climbed the well-marked paths and stairs up and around the falls. It was an unexpected treat – not only to discover this place, but also to stretch our legs and work our lungs before jumping back in the car.
We finished our scenic route with the gorgeous Taughannock Falls, the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi.
Time was up, though. We snapped a few photos, jumped back in the car and headed back to Pittsburgh for our early Tuesday morning flight home. These whirlwind road trips continue to be our favorite weekend activity, and this one in particular was one of the best!
Through the long months of rain and the snow, tucked between the Sequoia, Pine trees, Magnolias and Palms in Portland’s Washington Park, a magical little garden remains quiet and dormant.
With February showers leading to March showers leading to April showers, I watch the thorny sticks, willing them to bring spring.
On the occasional warm, sunny day, the bushes seem to tease, refusing to show any small pricks of color until they are ready.
So I wait for the roses in the Shakespeare Garden, where all the non-roses – flowering trees and bulbs and tropical plants – make an early spring appearance.
And then, without any particular pomp or warning, the rose buds begin to open. The fragrance of the garden becomes sweeter as the roses emerge in every color imaginable: pink, purple, red, yellow, blue, magenta, burgundy.
Over 650 varietals of roses fill row after row up the hillside.
Some of the roses are so unusual that it is hard to make of them, such as the tie-die rose that reminds me of dyed carnations in middle school.
O’er Blue Yonder is one of my top three favorites, for its unusual color, tissue paper petals and unique fragrance.
Near the fountain, is my second favorite, the rose aptly named Peace. Its soft yellow color laced with pink dares you to be anxious in its presence.
And then there is the Barbara Streisand. A dear friend first showed me striking blooms several years ago. Their color is unusual, classy, and sophisticated, much like their namesake. They look so magnificent that you can hardly expect anything else from them, but then you take a waft of their scent and realize that is what makes them absolutely divide.
Portland may have some long, gray, rainy days in winter and spring, but Barbara Streisand is completely worth the wait.
Some weekends just beg for road trips. We are road-trippers to the core, so as the (rare) snow storm let up in Portland, Oregon, we piled our boots and puff jackets in the car and headed north to the Mt. Baker area of the Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington State for a weekend of audio-books and snowshoeing.
Even though I previously lived in Seattle for five years, I had never visited this area – opting instead to head due east or bypass it entirely for Vancouver, B.C.. What a gem I missed!
The Mt. Baker/Shuksan area is unbelievably beautiful. We snowshoed the hills of Mt. Baker, skirting the ski slopes (which boasted fresh powder, beautiful scenery, and a lovely lack of crowds) to reach the summit of Artist Point:
Can you believe this view? It was the steepest, sweatiest climb of my snowshoe life and 100% worth it.
On our way home, we decided to take the scenic tour and inadvertently ended up on Snoqualmie Falls – a lucky find for a Twin Peaks fan like Brendan.