Apple Picking in Skagit Valley

For the past few years, I've yearned to go apple picking. In my hometown of Virginia Beach, it's a popular fall activity to travel three hours to Charlottesville and pick apples at Carter Mountain Orchard. Despite my desire to go, my schedule was always too busy for the trip. Back in October, Michael and I had the bright idea to find an apple orchard near Seattle, and my dream of picking juicy apples finally came to fruition!

On a gloomy Saturday, we drove an hour and a half North to Jones Creek Farm in Sedro-Woolley, Washington. The farm had pumpkins, pears, and a huge variety of apples. We parked at the base of a gorgeous mountain, grabbed two plastic bags from the cashier, and made our way into the orchard.

We had a blast! The weather was perfect, the apples were overflowing and delicious, and we even made small talk with a few fellow visitors. After picking a few pounds each, we made our way to the cashier and paid for our loot.

On our way back to Seattle, we stopped at Eagle Haven Winery to indulge in a wine tasting. We tried so many interesting wines. Blueberry and apple were my favorites! We were the only visitors at the winery, so we were able to converse freely with the bartender. We purchased a bottle of apple wine before heading home.

Our experience at Jones Creek Farm was fantastic. I'm definitely planning on going apple picking at Carter Mountain Orchard this fall!

Bainbridge Island

Back in September, Michael and I took the ferry to Bainbridge Island. We decided to take Michael's car aboard in case we wanted to explore beyond a walkable distance. It was quite a strange sensation driving onto a boat! The trip across Elliott Bay took about 45 minutes. When we arrived, we decided to grab lunch first. We made our way to Hitchcock Delicatessen and shared a delicious sandwich loaded with smoked turkey, figs, and goat cheese. For dessert, we split a "Magic Bar". I have no idea what the bar contained, but it was heavenly. After that, we did some light shopping. Michael ended up buying some Halloween candles, and I resisted the temptation to buy a pair of expensive (but gorgeous!) leather sandals. To top off our afternoon adventure, we splurged on ice cream from Mora Iced Creamery. I ordered pistachio and blackberry, and Michael tried lavender and blueberry cheesecake. The flavors were glorious. We spent a few minutes sitting underneath an umbrella, enjoying our ice cream, and basking in the sunshine. The weather was absolutely perfect that day. Blue, sunny skies and a warm breeze made for an excellent day of adventure. Now that Seattle is experiencing autumn (and constant rain), I'm looking back on my arrival with longing. I miss the sun! There are very few places as beautiful as Seattle in the summertime.

Harrisonburg, Virginia

Harrisonburg holds a very special place in my heart. When I first stepped foot on the James Madison University campus as a college freshman, I was skeptical of the city's small town charm. The four hour drive to school, laden with rural scenery and empty fields, slightly worried me. Interstate 81 held acres of farmland, herds of cows and rolling mountains. Deer were scattered along the side of the highway. Semi-trucks thundered down the road, and every exit seemed to lead to the middle of nowhere. It wasn't very enticing. I became so disheartened that I considered transferring to a different university after fall semester. I decided to give it another shot, however, which turned out to be the best decision I've ever made. Three years later, when I walked across the stage at graduation in my purple cap and gown, Harrisonburg had morphed into my home.

Being a college freshman was hard. I wasn't allowed to bring my car to school, which limited my ability to explore - something I really loved to do. Fortunately, sophomore year presented freedom. I moved into an apartment off-campus and returned in the fall with a trusty set of wheels. Along with transportation came glorious convenience. I finally realized small towns can hold just as many opportunities for adventure as big cities do, especially when you have a way to get around. I used this fact to my advantage and began to explore all that Harrisonburg had to offer.

One of my first discoveries was Downtown Harrisonburg. I quickly grew enamored with its large variety of small cafes, clothing shops and rowdy bars. The area was small but incredibly charming. Some noteworthy local favorites were: The Artful Dodger for a cup of coffee, Jack Brown's on a Friday night for their mind-blowing Greg Brady burger, and Clementine Cafe for live music and cocktails. The area was cozy and quirky and beautiful, especially when the leaves started changing colors in the fall. And when it snowed? Don't even get me started. My apartment was located a short drive from the area, which I loved.

My second discovery was Harrisonburg's close proximity to several unique landscapes. The most memorable was Skyline Drive in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Michael and I spent weekend after weekend driving through the narrow mountain roads, admiring the skyline at every overlook and eating lunch at various campsites. We also managed to visit the Natural Chimneys, Lake Shenandoah, the Natural Bridge, and Reddish Knob. In addition, Charlottesville and Washington D.C. were close enough to visit frequently. We traveled around the state of Virginia often, exploring various cities and constantly researching new places to see.

The best discovery of all, however, took place throughout the duration of my three years in Harrisonburg. I discovered the beauty in simplicity. I discovered that in order to be happy, you must bloom where you are planted. I discovered how deeply I had fallen in love with JMU's gorgeous campus. The bluestone academic buildings, the newly renovated football stadium, the train that regularly rolled through campus, Open Mic nights at TDU, the phenomenal dining halls (they're ranked #2 in the nation!), East Campus Library, and the picturesque Quad. It felt like home. It was home. I couldn't imagine being anywhere else. 

Even more important than my surroundings were the amazing friendships that developed. My roommates felt like sisters, and my capacity to meet new people soared. JMU's remarkably friendly environment drew me out of my shell, and by senior year, I found myself participating in activities I never would've imagined when I was a timid freshman. JMU taught me how to learn and how to love, but best of all, JMU taught me how to feel alive. 

During my college career, my passion for adventure amplified. I learned how to explore when opportunities for exploration seemed scarce. I learned how to adjust to a new city with new people, and I fought through inconceivable difficulties before emerging victoriously on the other side. I learned how to nurture lifelong friendships and create new ones from scratch. I learned how to care for myself while simultaneously caring for others. I went through an incredible period of growth, one that changed my life forever. I have Harrisonburg, and JMU in particular, to thank for that.

Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston's colorful streets were absolutely charming. Palm trees lined the sidewalks and luxury shops glittered with tantalizing goodies. The building architecture and pastel exteriors were beautiful. Downtown emitted a preppy vibe; the area was historic yet eclectic, mellow yet energetic. By the time we reached South Carolina, we were starving. After some quick research, we visited Magnolia's for lunch. Pictured below are the phenomenal fried green tomatoes I devoured in about thirty seconds flat. Crispy tomatoes covered a bed of rich cheddar and onion grits. Tomato chutney and tangy mustard enhanced the flavor. Every bite was heaven. Michael ordered a fried catfish sandwich, which was just as satisfying.

We spent the rest of our day exploring the city. My favorite spot was Vendue Wharf Pier in Waterfront Park. Stretching over Cooper River and bright green marsh grasses, the pier was incredibly refreshing. Flags waved sporadically in the cool breeze, and several wooden swings rocked back and forth in the shade. We took cover from the sun for awhile, savoring the blue skies and salty air.

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We stumbled upon an adorable pineapple-shaped fountain in Waterfront Park, which I immediately had to photograph and send to my mom. She has a large collection of pineapple knick knacks, and I knew she would love it. Some other highlights from our trip: eating pineapple mango gelato at Belgian Gelato, browsing the Charleston Farmers Market, and frolicking around White Point Garden after dinner. We also visited the Angel Oak Tree, believed to be the oldest tree East of the Mississippi River.

One night wasn't nearly enough time to explore Charleston, but I got a lovely little taste of the city, and I can't wait to return for a longer visit.

Savannah, Georgia

Live oaks and heritage trees lined the streets of Savannah, creating a hauntingly beautiful canopy of green foliage. Charming cobblestone streets were abundant, as were genuine gestures of Southern hospitality. When Michael and I first arrived, we grabbed lunch at Henry's. The shrimp and grits instantly caught my eye. Within minutes, a bowl of creamy grits, sautéed shrimp, peppers, onions, and bacon sat before me. The different flavors blended together perfectly and filled our booth with an outstanding aroma. We spent the rest of our day walking through town, browsing art galleries in City Market with cold cups of peach sangria. We also visited Forysth Park, basking in the rich greenery and relaxing on a bench near Forsyth Fountain. After a delicious dinner at The Melting Pot and a walk past SCAD, we headed to Historic River Street. The cobblestone walkway was shimmering beautifully with the reflection of the moon in the night sky. Eclectic tourist shops littered the riverfront, advertising souvenirs and sweets. I couldn't resist purchasing a small snowglobe and a shot glass. I'm a sucker for tourist traps. My souvenir collection is getting a little out of hand. At least I can admit I have a problem, right? Eventually, we crossed the street and strolled along the Savannah River. Talented musicians sat along the waterway, strumming guitar strings and singing softly. The scene was picturesque, especially when a young boy approached me with a flower he had picked and shyly ran away.

Shortly after resisting the urge to empty our wallets on fudge and candy at River Street Sweets, we headed back to The Thunderbird Inn. This hotel still ranks as one of my top favorites. The exterior was very retro, with bright green doors and colorful paneling. Moon pies were placed on each pillow in our room, and glazed doughnuts were served with orange juice and coffee in the morning. The hotel's groovy vibe was contagious, from the room's vintage bath ceramics to Elvis Presley crooning in the lobby jukebox. According to their website, The Thunderbird Inn is affectionately known as "the hippest hotel in Savannah". It was a great (and affordable) place to stay.