Party in Pendleton

A few months ago, my best friend Alethea called me up and asked if I wanted to join a trip with her dad and his girlfriend to see Maroon 5 at the Pendleton Whisky Music Festival. Oh, and it would be free. Um, yes, of course, sign me up. Last weekend had basically everything I enjoy the most: time with Alethea, road trips, concerts, food, and new experiences.

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Saturday morning we set out on the easy road trip to¬†Pendleton, which is only a few hours away from Boise. It’s not difficult to understand how we get massive wildfires every summer when you see how dry all the brush is in the hills! I don’t usually head further West on my road trips, so when we got to the hotel I was shocked that it seemed to just appear and exist in the middle of nowhere. You look out the window and there is nothing but low hills in every direction. I imagine it’s quite a sight in winter!

We stayed at the Wildhorse Resort and Casino on the Umatilla Reservation. I always like new experiences, and this was my first time on a reservation and at a casino. Alethea and I had planned to at least try to cash in on our beginner’s luck at a slot machine or something, and we wandered around the casino for a while. Eventually we decided the casino was too overwhelming for us and we wandered out without placing a single bet.

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Having failed to win big at the casino, we popped up to the room to get done up for the evening and for a glass of wine before dinner. We were treated to an amazing dinner at the Plateau in the resort. As a vegetarian, I have noticed that fancy restaurants usually aren’t worth bothering with because most of their fancy and expensive dishes are so expensive because of the steak and seafood in every entr√©e. At the Plateau, they had a total of zero vegetarian entrees, but I was able to get a pasta without the meat elements and it was actually very impressive for a simple alfredo! I don’t know¬†what makes¬†the sauce so tasty, but I suspect I’d rather not know.

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The view from the restaurant.

After dinner it was time for the main event: the Pendleton Whisky Music Fest. Maroon 5 headlined the music festival, and it was a great performance! You can’t tell from the photo, but the venue was huge! The festival was held at the Pendleton Round Up grounds, which apparently is known for the grass arena and for being huge.

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After only one night in Pendleton, it was time to head back. We had a slight detour on the way home though, and we stopped by the Sumpter Nugget in the town of Sumpter to visit Alethea’s uncle. The Sumpter Nugget just so happens to be a marijuana dispensary, which is legal in Oregon. Here’s Alethea and I looking very entertained after a brief lesson in all things weed.

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Entertaining, but I like my drug-free life as is. We joked about the weekend as a weekend of vices- alcohol, gambling, food, and weed- but we stuck to the food and drink only. After that quick stop we headed back through the hills to Boise.

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Since we still liked each other after spending a whole weekend together, Alethea and I decided we should check out the grand opening of a new ice cream parlor in downtown Boise. We picked up her husband and headed to “The STIL”, which stands for the Sweetest Things in Life. I had a scoop of Huckleberry Lavender, and I was really impressed and would definitely go back! It was a sweet end to a fun weekend adventure.

Things may have been quiet here on the blog the past two weeks, but they have been anything but quiet for me. My brother has been in town on leave from the Army, so in the last two weeks we had several family dinners with both sides of the family, we went to the zoo, we went to Jumptime, we celebrated the 4th of July, the family came together to send of my cousin to the Navy, I got to hang out with my friend Olivia at last, my friend Emily and I went to 1st Thursday downtown to hang out and¬†practice German, and last night I watched the Game of Thrones premiere with my dad and his girlfriend’s family. It has been a great couple of weeks, but¬†having¬†plans almost every evening for two weeks straight is exhausting. The fun isn’t slowing down any time soon though, so stay tuned for more summer adventures!

Sandra.

P.S. Less than two months to go until Austria!

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Camping in the Sawtooths

Since living in a flat, sea-level city for almost a year, I have gained an appreciation for the mountains in Idaho that I¬†used to take¬†for granted. I have always loved camping and driving up into the mountains,¬†but¬†I didn’t realize how much they were¬†a part of my daily life before I left Idaho. I didn’t think I would get to go on another real camping trip before I leave for Austria, so I was¬†thrilled when my friend Emily¬†invited me to go camping in Stanley, Idaho. Stanley is at the base of the Sawtooth Mountains,¬†a smaller range within the Rocky Mountain range.¬†With all the camping I’ve done, I’m shocked I never made it to Stanley before now!

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A view from the drive.

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“Downtown” Stanley. Population: 63.

The first day of our trip was spent driving to Stanley and enjoying the scenery along the way, stopping by Redfish Lake, setting up camp, and taking our first hike.

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Redfish Lake.

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Pictured: Jeff and Jake.

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Pictured: Emily and Molly.

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Some casual log sitting in the creek running through our campsite. We camped at the Iron Creek campground, and I’m not sure I’ve ever had a cuter campsite.

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On day two the boys packed up their skis and gear and headed on a twelve mile trek in search of a good ski run down the mountain. Emily, Molly, and I had a long visit by an inquisitive fox in our camp in the morning. We decided to spend the day on a hike that should have taken us to the Lady Face and Bridal Veil waterfalls. There was supposed to be a subtle break off trail that would take us to the falls, but somehow we missed it and ended up hiking for miles without ever reaching any waterfalls. Still, it was a good hike and it felt good to get outside and see some gorgeous views. Here are some photos from that morning and hike.

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Photo courtesy of Molly. He came so close!

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Photo by Molly.

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Photo by Molly.

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On the last day we planned to redeem ourselves for our previous waterfall related failures with a short, easy hike to a waterfall on Redfish Lake. The hike was supposed to be only a mile and easy enough for children. We had to pay for a boat shuttle across Redfish Lake, and our guide informed us that part of the hike we intended to take required a bridge that was out due to the high water. He dropped us off at a tiny dock, and told us the trail was nearby.

We ascended a rocky hill for about a hundred feet, found only one trail, and followed it for over a mile until we finally had to turn back in defeat. Turns out, because the bridge was out we had been dropped off about one hundred feet past the trail we were looking for, and it would only have been a quarter mile hike from that point to the waterfall. Instead, we had found the trail that goes further than the waterfall and eventually makes a loop around the entire lake. So, instead of a quarter mile hike suitable for children, we embarked on a brutal two mile hike on an unmaintained trail where we had to climb over a bunch of fallen logs and wade through little streams. Waterfalls: 3. Us: 0. Still, we made the best of it, laughed it off, and enjoyed the views!

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It was a great trip, and I’m thankful Emily invited me. I’m glad I could sneak in another camping trip before I go, and I definitely recommend taking a trip up to see the Sawtooths. My only warning is that if you happen to be extra tasty to mosquitos like I am, arm yourself with bug spray, mosquito netting, citronella candles, and any other anti-bug thing you’ve got. Even with bug spray I left with a whopping 81 mosquito bites, but the views were worth it!

Sandra.

 

 

Photos by Sandra Walker unless otherwise noted. Stanley, Idaho including Redfish Lake, Iron Creek Campground, and surrounding trails. June 2017.

I Love Kyiv

Kyiv, Ukraine will always hold a special place in my heart, and going through the photos¬†made¬†me want to go back again!¬†It was the first place I visited when I went to Europe, and I got to go back with some friends six months after my first visit. A quick fun fact: Kiev is the Russian spelling, Kyiv is the Ukrainian spelling. Ukraine officially asked the media and other governments to recognize the Ukrainian spelling, but it has been ignored often because news sites worry their readers won’t recognize the spelling. I encourage you to use the Ukrainian spelling going forward to recognize the independence of Ukraine from Russia.

Kyiv is a city where anything can happen, and I’m excited for the future of Ukraine and hope to go back to see more of the country someday. This post contains photos from both my summer and spring trip to Kyiv. I went alone the first time, but met a couple girls in my hostel that I hung out with who¬†you will see in a few¬†photos.¬†Here are some photo mosaics highlighting some of my favorite things about Kyiv!

One thing that really struck me was the beauty of the churches. These are some of my favorites:

It was also interesting to see different phases of construction on some buildings, like this church. This is St. Andrew’s church in summer and then in spring.

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Aside from being the first place I visited, I think part of the reason¬† Kyiv stands out to me is that so many of the things I did there were unlike anything I did while abroad.¬†The city and country are changing rapidly as Ukraine distances itself from Russia and¬†moves towards becoming a part of the EU.¬†Here¬†are some photos from my¬†visit to the ousted-President Yanukovytch’s estate called the “Palace of Corruption”, the “Arc of Friendship” between Russia and Ukraine, the House with Chimeras, a Ukrainian bathhouse where we were beaten with leafy branches, the zipline across the Dnipro river, seeing mummified monks¬†beneath the churches,¬†failing to escape from an escape room, the mind-bogglingly enormous Mother Motherland statue, and seeing all of the sights around the main square- the center of the revolution in 2014.

The sights were incredible, but so were the people. The strangers were friendly, and I felt really welcomed at my hostel. Many people¬†have asked me if¬†Ukraine is scary or dangerous,¬†and my answer is always no. I didn’t worry about my safety in Kyiv more than I did in any other city. Be aware of your surroundings, stay in groups, and be wary after dark just like anywhere else and you should have no problems. Kyiv is beautiful, interesting, fun, and budget friendly if you’re willing to go off the beaten path and are up for an adventure. Pay Kyiv a visit, and¬†make sure you check out the deepest subway in the world, the¬†“Palace of Corruption”, the Pechersk-Lavra, make a trip up to Chernobyl, and go to a bathhouse!

Sandra.

 

Photos by Sandra Walker or helpful strangers. Kyiv, Ukraine Aug 2015 and April 2016.

 

SEA You Later

Long story short, I had to make a sudden dash to the honorary Austrian consulate in Seattle to submit my residency paperwork¬†on a Sunday and¬†I had to be back at work Monday morning. Future USTAs,¬†don’t be like me. Make sure you plan ahead for the fact¬†that you will have to go to one of the Austrian consulates in person¬†to submit your Best√§tigung paperwork.¬†My flight touched down right at 06:45 in Seattle and my return flight took off at 14:55, so I had about 8 hours to make my appointment and¬†enjoy Seattle.

I didn’t have much time, but I¬†made the most of the time I had! Navigating airports, taking public transit, using maps to find my way around the city, seeing new sights, and all the other little things that come with travelling really awakened my wanderlust and made me that much more excited to go to Austria. My trip started off with one of my favorite things in the world, which is to be in the air during a sunrise or sunset. Our flight took off just as day was breaking over Boise, and the views were stunning.

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I love plane wing photos. After I landed in Seattle, I made my way to the light rail to get from the airport to the city center. I’ve always like the light rail. It’s easy to use, and it has big windows so you get to see all the sights on the way, like this view of downtown.

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Unfortunately, the bulk of my free time on this trip was between 07:30 and 09:30 on a Sunday morning, well before anything opened. I still managed to accomplish two goals: see the ocean and pay Pike’s Place Market a visit. It was nice wandering the streets while it was still quiet in the city.

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Since I was one of the¬†first tourists wandering around Pike’s Place I got to be one of the first to snag some mini doughnuts. That also meant no one was around to see¬†me¬†get absolutely covered in powdered sugar like a kid.

 

 

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So that is all I saw on my mini trip to Seattle! I had eight hours on the ground, minus the time for the light rail trips and airport time and my appointment, so I was pretty pleased. I managed to walk almost six miles before 10 am, I saw some pretty views of Seattle, and most importantly I got my paperwork submitted without a hitch. It was one giant step towards going to Austria and a lovely day trip all in one.

SEA you in September, Seattle.

Sandra.

Photos taken by Sandra Walker. Seattle, WA. June 2017

The Perrine Bridge

Saturday’s adventure had it all:

Time with my dad. Motorcycle rides. Café Rio salads. Canyons. Former third highest bridges in the world. Evel Knievel.

When my dad came to Boise, I knew I had to get him in on my summer bucket list adventures, and what better way to see the jump site of a motorcycle riding daredevil than to road trip there on a motorcycle?

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I am a bit of an Evel Knievel fan. His life story is fascinating, ridiculous,¬†and hilarious. If nothing else, Evel Knievel embodied the idea of¬†“if at first you don’t succeed, try again”. Evel Knievel holds the Guinness World Record for most bones broken in a lifetime, and¬†somehow he just kept jumping and jumping.¬†I just listened to the Dollop podcast episode¬†called “Two Daredevils” about Evel Knievel and another stuntman, and two comedians go through and detail the antics of two stuntmen and I recommend checking it out because I was cracking up*.

Dad and I set out to find the little monument to Evel Knievel at the site on the Snake River Canyon. It’s located at the Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls, formerly the third tallest bridge in the world.¬†From the bridge¬†the ramp where he attempted to jump the canyon in a “skycycle” rocket is still visible. Of course, the stunt went awry and his parachutes deployed early. He escaped the incident relatively unscathed, incredibly. Here are some photos of the canyon and the dirt ramp.

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Mission accomplished, we found the Evel Knievel monument at the visitor’s center for the bridge! The bridge itself is really impressive. It’s huge, and I like how simple it is. It’s a common place for BASE jumpers, and we saw a big group of them jumping one by one.

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It was another great little road trip with my dad, and I’ll miss him and our adventures when I’m abroad again for sure.

Sandra.

 

*Podcast contains explicit language.

Photos by Sandra Walker. Twin Falls, Idaho. June 2017.

The Rollerdrome

Nampa isn’t exactly¬†Idaho’s top adventure destination, but there’s one reason why it’s worth paying a visit:¬†the Rollerdrome. This was a simple (but fun) addition to my summer bucket list, and reminded me of when I used to go ice skating in Germany after tests on Fridays. The Rollerdrome is a roller skating rink with¬†that classic¬†“bowling alley that hasn’t been updated since the 80s” feel. For an¬†$8 admission and $2 skate rental, you too can enjoy 3 hours of roller skating fun. There’s modest snack shop, and an arcade corner. I hadn’t been here since¬†Jr. High School, and I’m happy to report that it hasn’t changed a bit.

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Three hours of rollerskating, and¬†I only fell down once! Two very Idahoan summer adventures down, and many more on the calendar…..

Sandra.

P.S. The “Malcolm in the Middle” episode about roller skating is the greatest. 10/10

Photos by Sandra Lyn Walker and Molly King. Nampa, Idaho. June 2017

Sandy’s Very Idahoan Summer Bucket List

Fine, I’ll admit it. I missed Idaho just a little bit when I went abroad.

I‚Äôm suddenly very aware that I only have a few months left in Idaho until I leave for Austria, and I‚Äôm really not sure when I‚Äôll be back. I don‚Äôt have any more time to take my hometown for granted, so I’ve devised a plan to make the most of the time I have: I‚Äôve made a very Idahoan summer bucket list, and I‚Äôm dragging everyone I know along for the ride. My goals in making this list were simple:

  1. Bring together people I care about.
  2. Appreciate Idaho and all the things I know I will miss.
  3. Do the things I should have done by now as an Idahoan.
  4. Not go bankrupt in the process.

That brings us to the kick off adventure: the Shoshone Indian Ice Caves. Shoshone is about two hours from Boise, so six of us piled into two cars to road trip out there. The Ice Caves are out in the middle of nowhere, but the giant yellow native American and lime green dinosaur statues make them easy to find. The tour costs $10.00 and begins above ground, where the guide showed us the old volcano in the distance and some caved-in sections of the lava tube. I appreciated the classic sagebrush-steppe views, especially in contrast with some very questionable native American figures.

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From L-R: Jade, Molly, Malik, Alethea, Brent, Me

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Here you can see the entrance to the cave, along with a fake mountain lion because we can’t have nice things.

The cave was formed when a lava tube from a nearby shield volcano partially collapsed.¬†The way the tube collapsed, combined with the¬†type of rock it’s¬†made of¬†created a delicate airflow pattern which forces the¬†water out of the¬†air and¬†causes the temperature to drop below freezing. The floor of the cave is about twenty feet of¬†solid ice, covered with a few feet of water. Apparently, if you fell into the water you would get hypothermia in two minutes. We all decided against a swim.

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We were only underground for about fifteen minutes as our guide explained the various features inside the cave, and then it was back to the surface for a few more fun facts and a visit to the little museum. One of my travel philosophies is if you can go to the top or go underneath, always do it, so I would definitely recommend loading up some friends and road tripping out to see the caves.

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Nice rack, Malik.

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After we were finished at the caves we decided to head an hour South to see Shoshone Falls. It was a gorgeous day for a visit. I hadn’t been to the falls in almost four years, and I’m always surprised by how pretty the falls are.

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As the first adventure on a long list, I’m happy to say this road trip¬†was a success! I am even more excited now to keep checking things off on my very Idahoan summer bucket list. Stay tuned.

Sandra.

Photos taken by Sandra Walker. Shoshone, ID May 2017.