Where the Lost Dogs Go to Play

Many of you tuned in to my post, A Short Love Story, a post about a puppy we adopted off of the streets of Jordan, and the tragic end of her life. It was a tough experience, but it did not end in Jordan. I like to think that there was a little bit more to her story that ends in Black Butte Ranch in Central Oregon. For many of the dogs I have known, this is the place where their stories end, at least, the part I know.

My in-laws have a house that is hidden in a corner of the forest in Central Oregon, not far from Black Butte. Before I moved overseas, my wife and I would load up the car, and travel from Denver to here with our dog at the time, Bear. It is a great place to unwind and relax, and Bear loved it. There were plenty of places for him to roam, the wildlife always kept him on his toes, and it smelled of fresh pine. In other words, it was the perfect place for any dog. It was fun to watch him on the car trip over. He hated being in the back of the car, and would mope about the whole time, but as soon as we would get close to Black Butte Ranch, he would sit up and start to sniff at the air. I could easily say that it was his favorite place in the world.

When he passed away in 2014, there was only place that we could think of to spread his ashes. We took one more car ride across the country with him in the backseat, except this time he did not raise his head up to sniff the air as we got closer to Black Butte Ranch. We found a nice tree to spread his ashes at, and I like to think that he is now running through the forest that he loved so much.

Since then, I have been a part of spreading the ashes of other dogs from other members of the family. The backyard of the house has become a playground for all of these dogs and for most of them, this was their favorite place to be, so why shouldn’t they spend the rest of eternity frolicking here.

I was never able to bring Suji out to this special spot because she was not given that much time on this earth, but I would like to think that she would have really loved it if she was ever given the chance. So when we were thinking about a place to spread her ashes, this was the obvious choice. We could have found some place in Jordan to spread her ashes, but the places that came to mind did not lend themselves to a place for her to jump around and play with other dogs, so we started the long process of carrying her ashes halfway around the world to lay her to rest. It caused some fun moments at airports, but we eventually were able to make it, and introduce her to a couple of friends of ours in the process. I am happy to have done it too, because it gives Suji the happy ending that I know she deserved.

Rest in Peace, Suji, and have fun playing in the place where all the lost dogs go.

The Best Posts of 2021

2021 was another rollercoaster of a year, and though Covid continued to make life difficult, things loosened up enough to allow me the opportunity to travel a little more this year than the previous one. It is always fun for me to look back at the posts from the previous, and it shows me how great the last year has been. I hope you feel the same way as you take a trip back through the year of 2021.

#10 – Hindsight

This is the perfect post to start off this list for the year 2021 considering how difficult a year 2020 was. Based on how little we learning this year and how it feels like we are in the same place this year where we were last year, it might be an important poem to start the 2022 year. This post is also one of three poems that appear on this list which is the most that has ever appeared on any of the end of the year lists I have ever created.

#9 – The Dead Sea, Jordan

I moved to Jordan at the beginning of August, but did not have the chance to explore it much until October. There are many places that I want to visit, but I got a gift card for a night’s stay at the Kempinski Hotel at the Dead Sea, so this was the first place I voyaged off to. It was a great experience, and floating in the salt water really surprised me by how easy it is to do. I am hoping to post many more travelogues from places I visit in Jordan and other close-by countries in the coming year.

#8 – Rain on a Work Day

I do enjoy sharing the poetry I write while traveling with you, but only a select few people really get into it. This is why I love it when one of my poems pops up on the top ten list for the year. This one was written during a rainy afternoon in March when I was visiting Khao Sok, a reservoir in southern Thailand. I had taken off work to take this trip, and I enjoyed the way the rain forced me to take things easy on a day that I should have been working.

#7 – A Desert Feast – Wadi Rum, Jordan

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. It is not about spending more or giving gifts. It is all about sharing time with family and friends. Since I have moved overseas, this holiday has meant something a little different for me, but this year I was able to have an experience that will make it one of my favorite memories of this day of celebration. I was able to head down to Wadi Rum with new members of my school and spend some time with the Bedouins that live there. The meal was not a traditional Thanksgiving feast, but it was the best one I have ever had for a meal that was cooked underground. You seemed to be intrigued by this process as well to make it one of the bigger posts of the year even though I posted it so late.

#6 – Walking Street – Koh Lipe, Thailand

I did get to travel to a lot of different places in Thailand during the pandemic, and I feel lucky to have had that experience. Out of all of them that I went to see, Koh Lipe will always hold a special place in my heart. Not only was it a beautiful place to relax during my Spring Break right before the country went back to lockdown. It was also my last hurrah while living in Thailand. Though there were many parts of this island paradise that I wrote about, it was this feature that resinated the most with my followers. I hope the information I gave will give those that eventually travel there the hints to enjoy this place as much as I did.

#5 – Elephants in the Morning Mist – Khao Sok, Thailand

One of the many stops I was supposed to go on my road trip through Thailand last Winter Break was to the reservoir at Khao Sok, but we had to cut that portion of the trip out when the country started to close down. Luckily, the people at the resort let us rebook for a time in March. It create a moment in my life that I will never forget, wild elephants eating breakfast while I was kayaking nearby. This was even more remarkable considering that these elephants rarely come out to be viewed. I was told that because of the recent decline of tourism, they are more willing to come to the shore, and I was happy to be able to share this moment with those who cold not travel there and see it for themselves.

#4 – Problems and Possibilities

Late in 2020, I received an offer for a new job opportunity in Amman, Jordan, and I spent a lot of my time early this year preparing for the move. Part of that preparation meant signing on to a new email account at my new school as I started to transfer things over. The head of the school sent out an email describing the difference between problems and possibilities to inspire his staff who had been struggling with the pain of online teaching. It was the inspiration for this poem which seemed to connect with other people. It also makes me happy when one of my poems connects with people in this way.

#3 – Elk in the Backyard – Black Butte Ranch, Oregon

I have written a lot about Black Butte Ranch in central Oregon because I am lucky enough to get to spend a couple of weeks there every summer. It is also a place close to my heart because it is where I got married. The place is a beautiful collection of cabin-like houses underneath the shadow of Black Butte that is off the beaten path of the busy tourist towns and cities of central Oregon. Because of this quiet atmosphere, the wildlife likes to hand out in the forests. Most of the time this is squirrels, deer and coyotes, but I had never seen a herd of elk, so when they came wandering around the house I was staying at, it was reason to pull out the camera and take some pictures. Apparently, other people enjoy seeing these pictures as well because they kept of visiting this post long after its first publication.

#2 – The Bat Cave – Railay, Thailand

One of the nice things about Covid was it forced me to explore Thailand than I would have normally explored it. I spent the whole of the last Winter Break traveling through the southern portion of the country, and the city of Railay was one of my favorite spots. It was a small isolated town that can only be reached by boat where people go rock climbing, kayaking, and lounging on the beach. One of the most prominent features is a cave off of the Princess Beach that people hike up to all the time. My wife and I made this trek one day, and the story of how to get there has now helped a bunch of other people make the same hike.

#1 – Wingspan versus Everdell

Board games have become quite the hobby for me during the pandemic. They have been a great way to get together with friends, and continue to be social. The first one I bought to bring me back to this hobby was Everdell, but I had spent a lot of time researching whether this one of Wingspan was the one for me. I ultimately chose to build a woodland village, but I did have a chance to play Wingspan over the summer and compare the two. I have given my thoughts on both games in this post, and which one I thought was the better buy. The post did so well that I have considered doing more board game reviews in the future.

Honorable Mentions

Though there were many posts from the last year that were worthy to see, here is the lists of posts that continue to do well even though the were written in previous years.

The Mythology of Thailand – Chiang Mai, Thailand

Never Forget Dachau – Germany

A Toast to the End of the Semester

Being Indiana Jones – Hua Hin, Thailand

Lessons from Angkor Wat

Bend Sucks! Move Somewhere Else – Around the World Day 39

The Neighborhood Pool

In the land without air conditioning, many people are asking themselves how to stay cool during this period of unprecedented heat. If have heard some unique solutions to that problem, some of which I am sure worked and some that might still be in the developmental stage. Some people would sleep with ice packs wrapped around a towel and resting on their necks. Some people would stand in front of the open freezer, or if they were lucky enough to be at a place that had them, would spend time in a walk-in cooler. Some people would run over to the faucet in their kitchen every once in a while to run the head underneath the cool running water. The main thing that everybody in the Pacific Northwest had in common the last couple of days has been that they have been looking for a way to beat the heat.

One of the most obvious ones has been the neighborhood pool. It is a staple that can be found in many of the communities across America, and it is on days like these ones that it really brings the community together. All of the neighbors can come to this place to shed their work clothes for a more casual approach, relax in the shade with the good company of neighbors or a book, and cool off in the water with family or friends. All pretensions seem to melt away at this place, and people can really just enjoy themselves. The place is made for relaxation, and becomes hard to do anything else while being there.

Growing up, this is where I would spend most of my days during the summer. Both my mother and father worked, and they did not want anybody at our house while they were away. They did allow us to go to the pool though and we would arrange to meet all of our friends over there during the day. I know now that it was because we could be supervised while we were there, but I look at how the herds of children move around the pools now and think back to those days when I was among their numbers. It amazes me how we could be easily entertained all summer long by diving after different things we would throw in the deep end, or show off our skills by jumping and eventually diving off the diving boards, or playing intricate games of keep away with all of the other kids in the neighborhood. They have become some of my favorite childhood memories.

The pool that we went to had ten minutes at the end of every hour designated for adult swims. It was basically a time during every hour where nobody would be in the pool and we always wondered why they would do this if nobody took advantage of it. I wonder if it is still a thing at some pools because I have not run into it for years, and I still can’t think of what the purpose of this time was. Even though I would complain about it as a kid, I still enjoyed those ten minutes every hour. It was a time where we get our drenched bodies out of the water and lay down directly on the hot concrete around the pool. That heat always felt so good on the skin, and I remember enjoying the way it would dry me off after a good hour of swimming.

The Snack Shack was also a favorite of ours. We would scrape together our nickels, dimes, and quarters, and bring them with us every time we went to the pool so we could spend it on candy. A snickers bar got quickly devoured; whereas, a box of nerds became a treasure that we would slowly share with everybody else in the group as we experimented with the combinations of all the different fruit flavors. It is probably where I developed the sweet tooth that I still have today.

I may not be as active when I go to the pool anymore, but I still enjoy going. I’ll hop in every once in awhile to cool down while trying to find a corner where I can talk with my wife while avoiding all the kids that are around. (Maybe that is what adult swim is for.) Most of the time, you will find me in the shade with a good book, and of course, I will always find a reason to visit the Snack Shack if they have one. Nothing exciting every happens at the neighborhood pool, but that does not mean that I still don’t get excited to go to it when I have a chance. I am glad that I had one growing up, and if you find that you have one in your neighborhood, you might want to think about checking it out a couple times this summer, just to see what they are all about.

A Walk Around Black Butte Ranch – Oregon

Summer has been hiding behind the clouds ready to pop out. It isn’t quite the weather for shorts and swimming pools yet in Central Oregon, but it will come soon. That does not mean that I need to hide in my house and wait for it to come. I could still get out there and enjoy the view of Black Butte Ranch. I just need to plan a little better and make sure I am wearing pants and warmer clothes.

Black Butte Ranch boasts some dramatic views no matter what the weather is. It might even be better during those cool, cloudy days because it add something more to look at in the sky than just a warming blue. It is also early enough in the season that the people have not flooded into the resort yet and taken over the paths. The cool weather reinvigorated me, making the length of this walk tick away with each happy step I took.

It felt as if the empty roads were built for me alone, and each bend gave me another view of the spectacle that is the natural landscape of Central Oregon. I am happy to be out of the towns and cities right now, and am able enjoy these quiet streets. It would be a different scene in Bend, or Redmond, or even Sisters as they get their businesses and restaurants ready for the summer rush that will happen as soon as the nod from the Governor comes, telling them that can ramp things up again.

It will nice to get back to that normal way of life, and hints of it keep peeking out from my periphery. But until then, I will enjoy the lack of crowds and having the feel that the ranch is mine alone.

Elk in the Backyard – Black Butte Ranch, Oregon

It happened last night during dinner. I was finishing up a wonderful meal of curry, when I looked out the back window, and there was a herd of elk grazing in the forest that is essentially the backyard of the place I am staying. It wasn’t the first time that I saw them that day. They were always at the edge of the forest just beyond where a camera could capture an image of them that was worth seeing. But here they were just begging to have their photo taken.

Seeing wildlife in Central Oregon is not a new thing, especially if you are staying at Black Butte Ranch, one of the quieter communities out here, nestled in the forest close to the Cascade Mountain Range. Going a day without seeing a squirrel or a variety of birds in unusual, and there are many days I have run into deer while I am out for a walk, or sometimes just hanging out in the front yard waiting to scamper off when somebody opens the front door. On a hot day, they like to seek shelter under the deck attached to the house, and will dash out if anybody decides to come out on the deck. It is not unusual to see these wildlife sightings, but elk seems to be a new phenomenon out here.

That is not to say that elk have not been grazing in the mountains of Central Oregon before, but to see them wandering through the yards of Black Butte Ranch in new. Elk are amazingly smart creatures. I have come across the herds in Colorado before. They amaze me how they always seem to know when elk hunting season starts as they move down to Estes Park to find safety there during this time, or how a creature this big can disappear in an aspen grove without a trace. It makes me wonder if they have finally found the safety that is Black Butte Ranch and decided to hang out there now. Or is this a ripple that has been caused by the recent pandemic? Did last year, when people were stuck in their houses, give them the freedom to wander around in places where humans used to inhabit, and now they have the courage to reclaim that space? Whatever the reason, it was nice to witness them casually grazing in the backyard while eating dinner. It was a nice feeling, knowing that we could live together in this space and enjoy all that it has to offer.

As a side note, I know that there are a few people reading this that are not impressed with elk wandering through a forest. It is something that they come across at least a few times a year. And there are places where deer is a common occurrence, so they are wondering why I dedicated a whole post to this phenomenon. I get it, but I have not been in the United States for a couple of years, and this is something that I do not get to witness very often. I also have other people who read this post who have never seen an elk or even a deer before, and to think about this happening in someone’s backyard in something that they could never imagine. To those people, I would say that this would be very similar to going to a beach town or the hills outside of Bangkok, and running into all of the monkeys you would find out there. Every place in the world has its wildlife that you run into. It is just sometimes it is such a common thing that you shrug it off as, “Oh, there is another elk, or deer, or monkey!” But when you think about it from the perspective of a person who does not get this opportunity very often, it is something to get excited about. And when it is something you have not seen for awhile, it becomes a new experience again. Maybe, we shouldn’t take for granted these small occurrences, and enjoy them every time we come across them, whether it is a part of our daily routine, or something we can only experience every other year. The point being, enjoy those moments when they come because you do not know when they will happen again.

Heat versus Warmth

Thailand is hot. I think that this fact is not contested very often, but what people don’t seem to understand is that Thailand is hot. I mean always. Yes, there is a little bit of a reprieve in the dry months around December and January, but it is still hot. 80 degrees Fahrenheit feels pretty cool when you have been suffering through the 90s, but that is just a relative figure. There are many place around the world who have suffered through an extremely cold winter around that same time and would beg to experience an 80 degree day.

But before we left, the heat became oppressive. It wasn’t measured in actual heat, but instead was measured in real feel. I would get up at the same time as the roosters in the morning to go out on my daily run before it got too hot out there. I would check my weather app on my iPad I left to see how hot it was out there. It probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do because it drained my energy as soon as saw how hot it actually was out there. Though the real temperature would dip down to 80 degrees at this time in the morning, the real feel would never get below 90 degrees. And this was constant for a couple of months. We never got to experience temperatures below 90 degrees, and it made for a lot of indoor living. The only time that it got bearable outside was when the sun went down.

The strange thing was that the heat was one of the main factors we considered when planning our vacations, especially our longer summer excursions. Because we were working on the other side of the world from our families, we knew that we needed to spend time with them over the summer, and the fact that they lived in two different parts of the United States meant that we had to split our time between two locations, Colorado and Oregon. They are both amazing places during the summer with plenty of outdoor activities offered, but Colorado gets warmer in June where Oregon is trapped in a drizzly cool warmup still. For this reason, we elected to go to Oregon first this time around. The cool weather would be a welcoming change from the heat we were experiencing in Bangkok.

And let me tell you that it has been heavenly. I know that many Oregonians are waiting for this cool weather to break so they can enjoy the warmth of summer, but having a change of season if only for a couple of weeks has been exactly what we have been looking for. Our trip to Central Oregon had the temperatures drop even more. We arrived at my wife’s parent’s house in Black Butte Ranch and it was really cold outside. Once again, we had to scurry inside to feel comfortable, just like in Bangkok. We huddle next to the fireplace and turned the heat up in order to get warm again. But it is a different kind of feeling escaping the cold as opposed to running away from the heat, and I miss that feeling. When I got inside in Bangkok after being in the heat, I would strip off my shirt stand, grab a glass of cold water, and slump in a chair hoping to get cool off, and sometimes achieving that goal. Whereas, coming in from the cold, meant stomping our feet, building a fire, and huddling next to it with a mug of hot coffee as it warmed our hands. It required more activity to get warm and there was a camaraderie that went with it. I know that after awhile it gets old, and I will want warmer weather, but for the time being, it is a welcoming change.

I have looked at the weather for the next couple of days in the place I am at, and it will warm up again, but it won’t be as hot as Bangkok. It means that walks, kayaking and bike rides will be in order. I look forward to getting out there in the fresh air, and enjoy what Central Oregon has to offer. It is the perfect weather to enjoy summer, and I look forward to bringing that experience to you as well. Thanks for joining me, but I am going to go back to that fire to warm up a little more before the sun can do it for me. Until next time.

Another Word about Black Butte Ranch – The Move Day 23

Black Butte Ranch in Central Oregon is a strange blend of a lot of things that combined together make for an amazing vacation place. There are houses and cabins that are for rent, each one unique and comfortable in their own way. There are many things to do away from the commercialism that some vacation spots tend to throw in your face. And there is this harmony on the ranch with animals of all kinds. I believe that it is these animals that make the ranch a unique place to spend time at, no matter what season you decide to come here.

Underneath the shadow of the looming Black Butte in the middle of the ranch is a huge working field where workers move them around to make sure the fields are not destroyed by their grazing. There is a bike path that runs through the field that allows you to get closer to these animals and watch them as they go about their lazy day. The horses are also used to go on rides through the forests that surround the ranch, and during weddings, they will let them out in the fields giving photographers the perfect picture of the horses running free after the ceremony has taken place.

But the animals that inhabit this corner of the state are not always domesticated. There are a lot of wild animals that make their way through the grounds. Besides the squirrels, chipmunks, and various types of birds, I have heard coyotes howls in the middle of the nights, and have spotted so many deer that it become commonplace. Just yesterday, as I left the place I was staying, I saw a deer grazing on the wild grass in the front yard. It quickly bounded away when he saw that I was there, but they have also found shade underneath decks, and I came across this one off of the bike path near one of the gold courses, just enjoying an early afternoon munch.

But the animals are also brought in by the residents of the ranch. Early in the evening, you can always see people out walking their dogs and there are even more lounging on the decks that overlook the various bike trails. Some of them have even become staples of the people that come to visit on a regular basis. They are probably the most friendly of the residents of the ranch and are always willing to get to know a stranger a little better.

Overall, it is the animals of the ranch that transform the place from a mere vacation spot to a place of fun and surprises. It is one of the main reasons that I love this place so much.

Time to Take the Summer in – The Move Day 22

Mueller State Park in Colorado

I have really enjoyed the time that I have gotten to spend with family in friends over the last couple of weeks in both Colorado and Oregon. It is great to catch up and to go out and see a bunch of spots that I am familiar with as well as some new ones that have popped up since I have been away. Being back in the country that I grew up in brings back a comfortability that can’t be matched, but it has also worn me out.

It is probably one of the biggest complaints that I hear from people who decide to make a career out of international teaching, coming home can be exhausting. It is not a bad kind of exhausting. You get to see the people that you love and catch up, but the problem that comes is when you are being pulled in twelve different directions so you can make sure that you spend enough time with everybody you have come back home to see. By the time I get back to my job overseas, I am worn out and I need to get back to work so I can schedule some down time.

Glaze Meadow Pool at Black Butte Ranch

I know it sounds kind of bad that I am whining about going out to eat on a regular basis, hanging out with family and friends, and taking a break from the grind of being a teacher. Do not get me wrong. I love my summer vacation. I need it in order to recharge my batteries, so I can take on the pressures of the work that I do. I also love seeing all of these people and the fun stories that I get to create along the way. But I also need that time of mindless vacation where I have no concerns or worries, and I can take in the moment a little for myself.

Some of the trails at Black Butte Ranch

I am lucky in this aspect for there is a place where my path leads me every summer where I can do this exact thing, Black Butte Ranch. This little gem in the high desert of Central Oregon forces me to take time and just relax. It is a beautiful spot filled with lodgepole pine trees and clumps of aspens. It boasts of four pools where you can just kick up you feet and soak in the sun, and if you want to take a more active break, it has miles of bike paths that will get you lost for a time but also will take you back to a familiar spot eventually. There are also tennis courts and two amazing golf courses. You can go enjoy yourself at the parks or the little lake in the middle of the ranch that rents out paddles boards and kayaks or during the dusk hours attracts fishermen and bats looking for bugs that you can watch. There are three different restaurants and a couple of snack bars so you can grab a tasty bite to eat or a drink. All of this and more is at least a ten minute drive from any form of commercialized civilization that just pushes you into that stage of being completely disconnected from your problems and worries.

I am glad that I have been able to make it out here to really take in the summer months and relax for a bit. So for all of you that I have caught up with over the summer, it has been great seeing you and I miss you already, but I need a little John time and the best place in the world I have found where I can get this is Black Butte Ranch. So I am going to take this time to recharge the batteries and get ready for that next jump over the pond to my next adventure in international teaching in Thailand.

 

 

A Wintery Walk – The Holidays Day 10

One of the things that I miss the most while living in South Korea is the ability to go outside and take a stroll after a nice snow storm. I can do it, but I find myself deep in the city crowd, and it is not really fun because the wind bites, and the cold digs down deep into my bones clinging to them for hours after I return home. Being in Central Oregon at Black Butte Ranch, I was able to take the time to go out on one of these walks through the various bike paths and enjoy the scenery and the calm and quite.

Black Butte Ranch turns into a place where I can breathe easier and reflect on life during the winter. When I left on my walk, I thought that I would be the only person out on the bike paths, but I was surprised at the amount of people out there doing the same thing. Most of them were families taking the time away from their televisions and warmth of their houses to enjoy what the Ranch has to offer. Or they were out to give their dogs a little bit of time in the snow. But they were few and far between, so most of the time I felt like I had the whole place for myself.

Every turn took me to a place I was familiar with due to all of the time I have been able to spend out here during the summer. But with a blanket of snow over it all, it gives it a new look like it was the first time I was seeing it. I know I was out on the Ranch by myself, and not sharing these moments with anybody else, but it was the fact that I was out there by myself that made me feel like I was walking away with something that was completely mine. It was the walk that returned me to a simpler time when I had these moments to myself instead of the hustle and bustle and the constant contact of the busy city.  Even though it was a little bit of exercise, the walk was the thing I needed in order to recharge the batteries I needed to take on the last semester at my school.

I love the activity that can be found at this vacation spot during the summer as I hear the voices of children laughing from the various pools or the folks taking their voyages on the horses that they can rent out there, but I think the winter time is my favorite time at the Ranch. The fact that there is not as much to do forces me to take the time to stop and look at the Ranch a little more closely. The ruddiness my cheeks gathered and the calm I collected made it one of my favorite moments on this trip so far.

 

There is a Place – Around the World Day 40

I have been spending the last few days in Central Oregon, and like always, I have loved the time I have gotten to spend out here. Most of the time when people think of Central Oregon, they think of three different towns, Sister, Redmond, and Bend, but my home base is not any of these three places. Instead, I have been able to stay under the shadow of one of the smaller mountains in the area, but still one of the more prominent ones. It is a quiet collection of houses, a twenty minute drive from Sisters named Black Butte Ranch, and it happens to be one of my favorite places in the world.

This is the place I go to recharge my batteries. After a long, hard school year, I need the time to collect myself and feel like a human being again. It has also been the perfect place to have a vacation from my vacation. I know it sounds kind of snobbish, but all of that running around I did earlier in the summer wore me out, and if I did not take a little time to relax and slow down, then I would not have been ready for the next school year. That is why this place is so important to me.

Black Butte Ranch is located in the middle of national forest, and its borders are limited, so it will never experience any growth, and the people who own places here like it just that way. It does have three different restaurants that a person can enjoy, each having a different level of service associated with it. It also has two world class golf courses that you can play with some of the best views I have ever seen on a golf course. If this is not your cup of tea, there are a bunch of tennis courts, and they have been adding a few pickle ball courts for people who do not like to run as much. There are four different pools, each having a different level of activity involved with them, so you can enjoy a quiet, relaxing lounge next to a pool at one of them, or get crazy with the kids running around and screaming at another one. There are also a great amount of bike paths that will take you to many beautiful spots around the the place, and also make it easier to travel around the ranch on rather than driving a car all of the time. And there is also a small pond in the front where you can rent paddle boards, kayaks, or canoes, or join the other people that go out there with their fishing gear to practice catching a fish or two.

Even though it has all of this to offer, it is not the thing that I enjoy the most about being able to stay here every year. It is the fact that the people who run Black Butte Ranch have made a conscious choice to keep all of the commercial endeavors from the place. There are a couple of shops that will sell some select items, and there is a small convenience store that you can get some basic necessities at, but if you want to do some serious shopping, you need to go off to one of the other towns around the area. It is an opportunity to get back to the simple things in life, and put those other concerns away. Every time I do this, I am happy that I get to slow down for a bit because that is what Black Butte Ranch forces you to do. And even though I do take advantage of the facilities of this place, it is more about getting back to nature, and enjoying what that has to offer. I am glad that I have been able to stop here on relax on my trip around the world. It had helped me get back to where I need to be in order to be effective during the rest of the year.