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Socially-Distanced Outdoor Birthday in the PacNW

Seizing upon a window of clear skies and low Covid numbers, we set out to explore an overlooked corner of our own backyard.

21 September 2020

The last day of summer means another trip around the sun. We don’t go overboard for birthdays, but generally like to mark the days by doing something new and unique.

Along with Covid precautions, recent wildfires had closed off eastbound and southbound routes. We just returned from a few days at the coast with family, so we weren’t going to head west.

Which left us with one direction: North.

The grandparents agreed to look after the kids for the day, so we had a bit of time on our hands. But still Covid…

I wanted to hike, but sadly hiking options had been hit hard by the recent fires.

Lori did some research and suggested we head north to Eugene.


We grew up an hour south of Eugene, and associate it with back-to-school shopping trips, regional high school sports tournaments, and Costco (before Costco came to our town).

So I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to spend my special day there.

But Lori had done her research and had a plan she thought I’d like.

And, as always, her plan for the day didn’t disappoint.

Mount Pisgah Arboretum, Eugene, Ore.

Somehow, some way, Lori managed to find good hiking that neither of us had done, and within an hour of where we grew up (and were currently based).

In fact, neither of us had ever done any hiking in and around Eugene.

Our first stop was Mount Pisgah Arboretum, five miles southeast of the city center.

The hill rises to 1,000 feet, offering commanding views of the area. There are seven miles of hiking trails spread out over 200 acres.

And best of all, we were treated to a beautiful, mostly sunny day following 10+ days of thick wildfire smoke in the valley.


What generally happens when Lori tries to take a “couples” selfie…



Skinner Butte, Eugene, Ore.

Next up, was a hike around Skinner Butte to Campbell Park along the Willamette River.

It wasn’t the most exciting hike ever, but nice for the fall colors and views of town.

The falling leaves were a stark reminder that fall is just around the corner, and we still don’t have anything solidified for the future.

We’ve got some ideas and solid leads, but all are contingent upon one thing: Lori having a passport.

She returned to the U.S. in August with one visa page left in a 52-page book (and three years left until expiry).

It seems to be a perpetual issue with us, with Noe having to get a new one in Phnom Penh last year, and me in Vientiane in 2017, for the same reason.

Both of those were quick and painless (passport renewals overseas generally are, and take under two weeks with no expedite fee).

But not in the time of Covid. The U.S. embassy shut down non-emergency services in March while we were still in Phnom Penh, and the U.S. has a months-long backlog of applications and wasn’t offering expedited service in August when we returned.

So, we wait.

Back to Eugene…

Sweet Cheeks Winery

After finishing up our hike, we head to two wineries along Territorial Highway that have generously-spaced outdoor seating and strict Covid protocols.

So strict, in fact, that the first place we visited berated us for moving tables to one with an umbrella after the sun started beating down, because they now had to disinfect it.

We also came for lunch and called ahead to make sure they were serving lunch, all to find that they had run out of lunch by 1pm (on a Monday!).

The place was surprisingly snooty and overpriced for an Oregon winery, and the wine was pretty meh.

But the view was nice, and the weather warm. And my expensive hipster beef stick was tasty enough and took the hunger edge off a bit after a morning of hiking.



Silvan Ridge Winery

Afterwards, we decided to check out the place across the highway, and were very glad we did. Silvan Ridge is exactly the type of winery we typically love visiting in Southern Oregon. Low key digs, friendly, down-to-earth staff eager to give us the inside scoop, a long history, and excellent wine.

We walked away with a special bottle to open when we figure out next steps. We are excited to get to break into that one for multiple reasons.

Silvan Ridge doesn’t have a swanky event patio, but it does have these chairs on a bluff overlooking the same valley as the other place across the way. Much more our style.

It’s the first day Lori and I have spent an entire day away from the boys in a long time, and also the first time we’ve been more than a few miles away from both boys in years.

We love our boys, but two toddlers are exhausting (as parents of multiple toddlers know). So we relished the opportunity to sit in chairs in peace and quiet for as long as we could until it was time to head back.

When we left, I told Noe I’d bring something special back for him and luckily found this.

He was very excited and found many uses over the next week for his feather.

Party Time

Back at home, Noe was having fun wrapping presents. I didn’t even know people received presents at my age.

Riley, on the other hand was busy on his “phone” (which is actually a cheap calculator).


Barbecue steak, beans and tortillas, and bubbles for daddy’s birthday.

And fiery muffins!


Coincidentally, that same day, a generous care package arrived from some close friends of ours for the boys. The boys thought it must be their birthday too.

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Happy birthday to all who believe it’s their day!! Beautiful shots and a new idea for a hike–the arboretum!!