My fourth anniversary of moving to Portland came and went about a month ago. More than anything else, coming to Portland might be the best decision I’ve ever made. I mean, if I’d chosen to live somewhere else after grad school, I might have met someone else and married him, but that guy wouldn’t be nearly as great as the husband I got here. (Right?) And even though I’m stuck in the purgatory of living across the river in Vancouver for a few more months (the things we do for love…), Portland’s been very good to me. The quality of life quotient here is off the charts.

Which brings me to summer. The Pacific Northwest is one of the few areas of the country where summer actually means something. We spend 9 months cramped up inside, hiding from never-ending grey drizzle, and when we finally get a day that breaks 70-degrees, watch out.  One sunny day here is worth 20 in Southern Cal or Florida. And best of all, it’s a breezy, tolerable heat. I haven’t owned an air conditioner since I moved here, and I can count on one hand the number of days where an air conditioner would have even been needed.

We’re not doing a whole lot this summer in terms of travel because that costs money and babies cost way more money, but we’ve managed to squeeze in a few fun mini-trips:

A hike on the Cape Horn Trail on the WA side of the Columbia River Gorge. This photo doesn’t begin to do the view justice; needless to say, if it’s waterfalls and crowds you’re after, head to the Oregon side of the Gorge, but for solitude, views, and altitude, go to the Washington side.

San Juan Islands for whale-watching.  Astute readers may remember when I did this on a solo trip a few years ago, and had the time of my life. J. had never been, so we did a quick overnight trip. We stopped in Seattle to have lunch and coffee with my aunt and cousin in the Ballard neighborhood, one of the few areas of Seattle that actually seems tolerable, then headed on to La Conner, WA, to stay at a wonderful B&B called the Wild Iris Inn. We splurged on their nicest room which had an in-room jacuzzi that seemed large enough to fit an entire sorority, plus a fireplace and homemade cookies waiting for us when we arrived. Next day we took the ferry up to Friday Harbor and did a tour with the same company I’d gone with last time. The first half of the trip was sunny and mellow, and we saw several metric tons of orcas. They were great! They breached and played and had fun. The second half turned into a scene from The Perfect Storm; it became dark and rained and the waves tossed us around for a few hours, plus the whales ditched us. Lots of people got seasick. I loved it. So did the baby, I’m sure, because it was like being in a womb inside a womb–constant rocking and swaying. A significant portion of my childhood was spent on a boat at my grandparents’ lakehouse, so I’m immune to seasickness. (Along with spelling skills and being surprisingly photogenic, this is one of my most treasured personal qualities.) Anyway, it’s a little hard because we were somewhat far away from the whales, but here’s Doublestuf:

Mount St. Helens, for the geology nerd in all of us. Yesterday we drove up to Mount St. Helens, which you can see on a clear day from almost any decent vantage point in Portland, but we had never been there in person. Plus, when you see it from Portland, you only see the nice pretty side of the mountain, not the side that imploded when it exploded (those are the wrong verbs, but whatever). It’s really quite amazing in person. And it’s still alive, brewing away. The Boston Globe had an incredible set of photos of the eruption on the 30th anniversary.

My husband is truly a big geology nerd, but had never made the trip despite living here 11 years, so this was quite a treat for him. Again, the photos don’t quite do it justice, but here’s a few:

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