Cascades Lakes Region

25 June 2019

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Lava Lake

The town of Bend is only 30 miles north of La Pine, where we stayed for the night.  We’re not here to take the direct route, so instead we took two and half hours on Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway.  The highway ends in Bend but we took another diversion to hike the Rim Trail of Lava Butte at Newberry National Volcanic Monument.  When I planned the trip I expected the scenic byway to be the day’s highlight and tacked on Lava Butte as a fun side trip.  The scenic byway was nice but the Rim Trail became today’s highlight.

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Devil’s Lake

Newberry National Volcanic Monument has several places to visit.  We chose Lava Butte, a 500 foot tall volcanic cone.  You can hike or take the park shuttle bus to the top.  We opted to take the shuttle up and walk down.  The Rim Trail is an easy walk but it provides great views of the lava field and surrounding landscape.  The Lava River Cave also looked interesting but I was warned by my wife years ago – no more caves! – so we took the short drive to Bend.

Lava Butte

Bend is an idyllic small town tucked between the mountains on the Deschutes River.  There is not a lot to do in town but it serves as a great base camp for exploring the area.  Bend is also known as the location of the last Blockbuster store in the world.  It has become a bit of a tourist destination for the nostalgic.  Inside they have a display of Russell Crowe’s movie memorabilia bought at auction and donated by John Oliver’s from HBO’s Last Week Tonight show.  The movie props were originally donated to a store in Alaska but when it went out of business, they sent most of the items to the last store standing.  All-in-all, we had a great day.

Last of Its Kind

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Crater Lake National Park

24 June 2019

Pic 2019-0624 06 Crater Lake NP (79) edit
In a country full of stunning places, Crater Lake in Crater Lake National Park is one of my favorites. The views of this striking deep blue water and surroundings are more spectacular than these pictures could capture.

Crater Lake National Park was the fifth established in the United States and the only national park in Oregon. It is the deepest lake in the United States and ninth in the world. It has no rivers flowing in or out of it; instead it fills from the surrounding mountains at a rate enough to offset evaporation. The West Rim Road from the North to South Entrances was open but unfortunately we were too early in the season for the East Rim Road and The Pinnacles, both still snow covered. The park gets an average of 43 feet of snow each year!

Pic 2019-0624 06 Crater Lake NP (53) edit

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Toketee Falls and Diamond Lake

24 June 2019

Pic 2019-0624 03 Emerald Trail Area (16) edit2
Two and a half hours southeast of Eugene is Toketee Falls on the North Umpqua River. The overlook is only a half mile moderately strenuous hike from the trailhead. The double tiered waterfall is special. If traveling from the west to Crater Lake, Tokette Falls is an easy stop off Oregon Route 138.

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Toketee Falls

Continuing on Route 138, Diamond Lake was another quick stop.

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Diamond Lake

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Pacific Northwest

22 & 23 June 2019

Pic 2019-0623 01 Salem Oregon State Capitol (7) edit
We’ve started on our next adventure, the Pacific Northwest. The first day we flew into Portland International Airport and drove south to Oregon’s state capital, Salem, and bought supplies for our upcoming road trip. The next morning we visited the State Capitol Building and walked downtown, including Riverside Park and Union Street Bridge. Salem looks like a nice place to live. We enjoyed our visit and seeing another state capital.


After lunch we traveled south to see Oregon State University in Corvallis and University of Oregon in Eugene where we stayed for the night. For a special treat we got pie slices from Shari’s Cafe and Pies, an Oregon institution.

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Shake Shack – Nashville

14 April 2019

Pic 2019-0414 06 Nashville Shake Shack (5) edit

Since we stumbled into our first Shake Shack in New York City 2015, they have expanded globally.  We’ve found them in London, Tokyo, Austin, Hollywood, Baltimore and now Nashville.  So how long will it take for Raleigh, North Carolina to get its very own?

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Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge

15 – 18 April 2019

Pic 2019-0415 05 Gatlinburg Walk (11) edit

Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge-Sevierville is a popular resort area to explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It has become, for better or worse, the Myrtle Beach of the mountains. We love the action and excitement of Myrtle Beach so we loved our time here, but it’s not for everyone. We spent more time enjoying the fun and entertainment than the surrounding mountains.

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Gatlinburg

Fun in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge

Ogle Place in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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Nashville to Gatlinburg

15 April 2019

Pic 2019-0415 03 Foothills Parkway (4) edit

With our Nashville visit in the rearview mirror we drove east to our other main stop, Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains, and made several stops along the way. Hiking at Cummins Falls State Park outside Cookeville gave us an opportunity to stretch our legs. The American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge was interesting to learn more about the Manhattan Project. The last leg of the drive along the Foothills Parkway was not the quickest way to Gatlinburg but worth the time.

Pic 2019-0415 01 Cummins Falls State Park (7) edit

Cummins Falls State Park

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Foothills Parkway (Walland to Wears Valley)

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Nashville, Music City USA

12–14 April 2019

Pic 2019-0413 08 Nashville Seigenthaler Bridge (6) edit

For Spring Break this year we took the opportunity to get back on the road, this time to explore Nashville and Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Nashville, the Capital of Tennessee, is known by many names, the Capital of Country Music, Music City USA, and Nash Vegas amongst others. It is one of the United States’ unique destinations.

It didn’t take long for us to understand why they call it Nash Vegas. Outside of Las Vegas, we’ve never seen so many bachelorette parties – limos, buses, party wagons everywhere we looked up and down Broadway.

Downtown Nashville

Music City USA is a more obvious nickname. Live music rings out throughout downtown streets and alleys. Similar to the Blues in Memphis and Jazz in New Orleans, Country Music largely defines Nashville’s image. This was a family trip so we didn’t spend time in the juke-joints and honky-tonks that line the streets; instead we concentrated on the town’s history and quirky sites.

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Nashville Capitol Mall

Centennial Park located downtown, north of Vanderbilt University, was a bit of a disappointment. The park’s size and location in this vibrant town felt like an opportunity lost. Its highlight, the Parthenon, was worth the effort though. The full-scale replica of the original in Athens, Greece, was built in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition.

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Centennial Park

Nashville is filled with current and historically significant landmarks of Country Music. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum, Ryman Auditorium, Johnny Cash Museum, Music Row, The Grand Ole Opry, Bluebird Café, and Third Man Records top the list.

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Country Music Hall of Fame

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Third Man Records (Jack White of the White Stripes)

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The Grand Ole Opry

Antique Archaeology (American Pickers TV Show)

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Denver

17 August 2018

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Our 14 month trip ended with a concert from one of our favorite bands, Old Crow Medicine Show, at a bucket list venue, Red Rocks Amphitheatre. It was a perfect end to an amazing experience.

Before the show we stopped in Boulder to walk the University of Colorado and toured downtown Denver.

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University of Colorado

Denver

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Red Rocks Amphitheatre

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Rocky Mountain National Park

16 August 2018

Pic 2018-0816 99 Rocky Mtn NP (4) edit

Rocky Mountain National Park, established in 1915, is one of the great national parks. This was our second time in the park. We only had one day to spend but got to experience the highlights. If we had another day we might have taken on some longer hikes. As it was we drove Old Fall River Road – a one way dirt road up to the Alpine Visitor’s Center, hiked up to Marmot Point, and returned on Trail Ridge Road. Near Bear Lake we saw a large heard of Elk that frequent the area in the late afternoons. Our last hike of the day was a popular trail to Bear, Nymph, Dream and Emerald Lakes. We ended the day in the town of Estes Park, a tourist town near one of the park entrances.

Rocky Mountain National Park

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