Happy Places

Today, I am both honored and thrilled to have a guest post from my dear friend, Cari Gesch. She’s my favorite photographer and hiking buddy. I hope you enjoy her thoughts and her photos as much as I do! 

Recently, someone asked me a thought-provoking question: “Where is your happy place?”

I responded, full of snark: “You know I can’t tell you that. It’s a secret. If I go telling people that, you never know who will show up and interrupt me!”

Later, I got to thinking about it and thought to myself: Does it have to be an actual place, or just a state of mind?

If you asked most people that know me where my happy place is, the overwhelming response would be the Columbia River Gorge. Really, what’s not to love about it? Waterfalls, basalt cliffs overlooking the Columbia River, moss-drenched forest and all of the treasures the farmland of the Hood River Valley has to offer. It’s perfect.

Another response may be “On the Hiking Trail”. I work in the heart of downtown Portland, surrounded daily by traffic noise and the accompanying smell of exhaust, constant streams of people, and the occasional “Occupy” protest which brings riot police and swarming news helicopters. Sometimes the only way I can truly escape from the stresses of life is to retreat to a hiking trail. Urban noise is replaced by the sounds of rushing water and birds calling to each other in the trees. Exhaust is replaced by the earthy smell of the forest air, and streams of people, by the occasional fellow hiker, smiling as you pass on the trail.

Or maybe the answer is when I am out exploring the wonders of Oregon with my two girls, ages 11 and 5. The wonder and joy in their faces as we play in the outdoors certainly brings a happiness to my heart. If you ask my youngest, she will tell you her happy place is anywhere there is water, rocks, sand and/or sticks.

My true happy place, however, is not so much a particular place, but a state of mind. It’s when I see something so beautiful or amazing that it almost cannot be believed, lift my camera to my eye, bring a scene into focus with my lens and press the shutter. That moment, when I know I have captured an incredible image to share with those that could not be with me there, that is my happy place.

So tell me, where is your happy place? Is it going to a spot that holds a special place in your heart, or is it doing something that you truly love? Or are you afraid to share for fear someone will interrupt you there?

You can find Cari online at her Wahkeena Exposures blog or store. All of the photos above were taken by her (except the one of her five-year-old playing in the water, which was taken by me and loaned for this post). She’s fabulously talented and her sites are well worth the time to browse! Also, you can find her on Twitter as @mahjerle.

About Sarah Salter


  1. David Allen says:

    I don’t have a happy place unfortunately. Just a less stressful one.

  2. Sarah Salter says:

    Well, you know, David, there’s always an empty place at my kitchen table… And you DO live just a few minutes away. 😉

  3. Sarah Salter says:

    I have more than one happy place, too. The Coast of NC is one of those places that just BEING there relaxes me. As soon as I smell the salt air, I can feel the knots and the kinks falling out of my muscles. And more recently, I’ve learned some of the same relief and relaxation in the Pacific Northwest. There’s something intensely freeing about standing near a waterfall, feeling the spray on your face. Or sitting on a log with your feet in the FRIGID water flowing off a mountainside… 51 Days and I’ll be back there! 🙂

  4. Kerri (Earringopia) says:

    My happy place is usually situational. I often find it getting together with a group of friends (you know who you are, LOL) or when I’m on my own, particularly when I discover something new or interesting. A natural lifelong happy place is Mt. Hood for so many reasons, but in particular the three summers I spent more or less living up there when I was a camp counselor. I love reflecting on that time and going back and visiting “the mountain.” One of my original happy places was the library, which I started haunting early on with my mom, and going back there just instantly relaxes me. Museums, particularly Maryhill Museum, make me very happy. I could go on and on, but I think you catch my drift!

  5. Sarah Salter says:

    Kerri, we have many similar happy places. I love libraries and museums, too! Must be one of the reasons we get along so well! And if I’m not mistaken, you’re referring to the Ruby Council (aka “group of friends”). 😉

  6. It’s funny. I’m always telling my girls that it’s not about what is going on around you or where you are, it’s all about ATTITUDE. It’s amazing how the world can be going nuts around you, but if you keep the right perspective and do routine attitude checks, you can always be at least nearby your “happy place” (if only to laugh and dream about being there!).

    Great post Cari. And I’ve always loved your photographs! Keep it up!

  7. Sarah Salter says:

    Good point, Ginny! And I’ve found that being AWAY from my happy places and having to “visit” them from afar makes them SO much more special when I get there. But UNTIL I get there in body, it’s really important to just have the right attitude wherever I am. 🙂

  8. You’re absolutely right Sarah, we’ve talked about it a few times before. I think it’s time we DO something about it. I’ll send you a note if I can find your email address

  9. Sarah Salter says:

    David, if you can’t find it, it’s smsalter78 at yahoo dot com or you can message me on FB. 🙂

  10. Beautiful pictures, Cari! Thanks to you (and Sarah) for sharing.

  11. Vicky Warrick says:

    I guess I have several happy places. Sometimes just closing my office door, turning my phone off, and escaping the day if only for 5 minutes takes me to a happy place. My home is my main happy place, humble as it is. When my son (he was then a young child) and I moved out on our own, I told him our home would always be a stress-free environment – somewhere he could be himself. A couple years ago, his girlfriend told me that upon his inviting her to the house for the first time, that she would be welcomed there and that it was always a stress-free zone.

  12. Sarah Salter says:

    Oh, Vicky, that’s so sweet that your son carried that with him! I love it! Thank you for your response! 🙂

  13. Sorry, I am a little late coming back to the party here. Thank you all for your wonderful comments. One of my happy places, that I neglected to mention, is anywhere I am with my friends!!!

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