Winter Retreat Ideas

Wintertime in the Pacific Northwest is often cold and wet, but this year, we’ve had a comparatively mild winter and many folks are considering heading outside to explore the area they live in. Winter retreats or getaways are a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of regular life and get caught up on some necessary rest and relaxation. Here are some of my go-to places in the Pacific Northwest that help me recharge!

Hood River:
This area has beautiful views of the water and lots of fun things to do. It’s full of amazing hiking and walking trails that offer breathtaking views of the Columbia River Gorge. There are also several wineries and vineyards that are fun to explore, as well as some great dining spots. There are a variety of vacation rental homes available or stay at one of the several in-town hotels, such as the historic Hood River Hotel.  No matter what you do here, you’ll be surrounded by quintessential Pacific Northwest stunning scenery.

Skamania Lodge:
This is another great place to unwind. It’s only a short drive from Clark County and the lodge is surrounded by forest greenery and overlooks the Columbia River Gorge. The lodge is known for their outstanding weekend brunch – it’s one that you won’t want to miss! Many of the rooms have fireplaces, so if a book and a cozy blanket by the fire sounds nice for your retreat, you’re in luck. Or, venture out to one of the nearby walking trails or take a short drive to Multnomah Falls to walk around.

Oregon/Washington Coast:
If escaping to the ocean is one of the ways you can best relax, you’re in luck with many different beach options. Rockaway Beach, Long Beach, Ocean Shores, Seaside, or Cannon Beach are all great options when it comes to a winter retreat. Wintertime at the beach can sometimes be rainy and stormy, but the smell of the ocean air is invigorating, no matter what. Stay inside and read or watch some of your favorite movies if the weather is stormy, and when the weather settles down for a bit, head out for a beach walk and some famous coast clam chowder.

Clark County:
Of course, if you need a retreat but your budget doesn’t allow for any overnight getaways, there are great ways to relax in the comfort of your own home. Unplug your laptop and your phone for a day or two and recharge without any electronics. Focus on doing some things that you love doing locally, even if it’s just sitting at home with your favorite warm beverage and catching up on reading your newspaper or watching some of your favorite shows.

No matter how you decide to take a break from the stresses of every day life, setting time aside for yourself to recharge is important and a winter retreat will do great things for your soul, body, and mind!

Posted on February 5, 2018 at 9:57 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Buying Tips, Selling Your Home, Vancouver History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Take a break from buying and selling & enjoy some local summer activities!

Summer in the Pacific Northwest is amazing. The days are longer and warmer and the rain is gone so you can get outside and enjoy the great outdoors. If you’re in the midst of buying or selling a home and you feel like you’re overwhelmed with the details, don’t forget to take time for yourself and enjoy the beauty that Washington has to offer. Here are some great tips on activities that you can participate in locally this summer.

#1: Summer reading program through Fort Vancouver Library.
Kids, teens, and adults alike can sign up for the summer reading program through the Fort Vancouver Regional Library. Log days that you’ve read and you can earn rewards and prizes with the free program. The best part: it keeps your reading skills sharp throughout the summer.

#2: Summer concerts and movies in the park.
Every year, the City of Vancouver puts on a summer concert series in Esther Short Park. Each concert is free and family friendly. Enjoy a variety of talented local artists, including Vancouver Pops Orchestra, and enjoy food from local vendors, too. The city also puts on Friday night movie nights in parks around Vancouver in July.

#3: Dive in!
Jump in and cool off! Klineline Pond is a great spot to cool off and enjoy the warm summer weather. The pond is located in a large park setting with large water features/fountains for the little ones to run around and cool off in, too. Not to mention, there is a playground, plenty of picnic tables, and lots of green space to walk. If you want to stay indoors to swim, the pools at Jim Parsley Community Center, Propstra Aquatic Center, and Firstenburg Community Center are great places to swim.

#4: Hike or camp!
Living in the Northwest means that there are many beautiful hikes and walking trails. Hike Mount St. Helens, take a drive out through the Columbia Gorge and hike the Multnomah Falls, or enjoy some family time by setting up a tent and a mini-campground in your backyard for one night.

No matter what you decide to do this summer, take time to relax and enjoy the beautiful area we live in!

Posted on July 17, 2017 at 5:15 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Buying Tips, Selling Your Home, Vancouver History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Learn More About SW Washington Schools


The strength and potential of a community is reflected in an area’s education system and we are fortunate to live in a place that values education through diverse programs and exceptional instruction.  Southwest Washington public schools are among some of the best in the state. Each school district is home to high-ranking, award winning teachers, administrators, and support staff. Whether it’s science and technology programs or culinary arts classes, Southwest Washington school districts are exemplary. Here is some basic information about each of the districts in the area.   

Vancouver School District
The first school in this district was founded in 1832 and since then, it has worked on pioneering innovative programs that have evolved with the times. Over the years, programs have started that engage the community and inspire young learners. Recently, a community-approved technology levy was passed and students from grade 3 to 12 will have one-to-one digital learning tools by next year.  In addition, magnet programs exist at the High School level for the Arts, medical and science.

Evergreen School District
The district is home to 35 schools that are supported by more than 1600 teachers. This district is incredibly diverse with 52 languages spoken and one in four students in an ethnic minority.  There are more than 26,000 students in the district.  As the district continues to grow, teachers and administrators continue to charge into unexplored territory to develop plans and instructional lessons to help children expand their knowledge and connect with the world around them.

Camas School District
Camas School District Superintendent Mike Nerland shared in a December 2015 letter to patrons that a community wide survey found that 70% of families moving to Camas in the last 10 years did so because of the quality of the school district. In a recent poll, 84% of community members gave the district a grade A or B. (1) This school district is made up of a variety of high-ranking teachers that are involved in the advancement of each student’s personal growth, making it a close-knit educational community that is dedicated to teaching kids self-confidence, respect, and quality communication as key parts of the learning experience.   

Battle Ground School District
Spanning 273 square miles, Battle Ground is one of the largest and most diverse districts in Washington that serves over 13,000 students in 18 schools. In 2010, the district celebrated 100 years operating in the community and it is not uncommon for former students to return to Battle Ground to raise their families there. There are more than 1400 highly trained staff members in the school district and there are a wide range of programs that integrate technology, vocational skills, as well as award-winning music and theater programs that received top state honors in competitions and individual performances.

Washougal School District
Washougal School District opened its first school in 1852 and has since grown to include thousands of students, including those that extend into Skamania County. The mission of this district is to develop supportive and welcoming school environments in order for students to succeed. This district is also active in the community, working with local businesses and agencies to introduce students to occupations so they not only have knowledge, but hands on, real work experiences. 

La Center
The Schools of La Center are a hub of the community and offer diversified learning opportunities including Advanced Placement, La Center Home School Academy, Running Start, and much more including award-winning athletic, music, and drama programs. It is a small district that services just over 1500 students and the district boasts small class sizes and low employee turnover rate, making it one of the most well-respected districts in the area.

Similar in size to La Center, this district is a small one — one high school, one middle school, and two elementary schools. It aspires to be the state’s premier district by leveraging strong community partnerships and has been consistently one of the highest performing school districts in Clark County with some of the highest performing test results in reading and math. One thing unique to this district is that it employs full time art specialist teachers in the elementary schools, where students receive over 270 hours of high=quality art instruction during the course of their elementary career. Ridgefield is also the only Clark County school district that still offers “outdoor school”, where 5th graders have a week of outdoor, hands-on learning opportunities.  

  1. Camas School District Website. Accessed January 18, 2016.

Written by Brooke Strickland (
Photo courtesy of Battle Ground Public Schools

Posted on January 26, 2016 at 6:02 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Buying Tips, Selling Your Home, Vancouver History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Looking for a charity to support this coming holiday season?

The holidays are a busy time, full of celebrations and family traditions. They can also be an incredibly difficult time for some people in the area that are struggling to make ends meet. With Thanksgiving and Christmas just weeks ago, now is a great time to think about giving back a little to a charity. There are hundreds of great organizations in the area that are doing wonderful things in the community and even worldwide, but here are some of my favorites!

World Vision Gift Catalog
This organization is near and dear to my heart and has some wonderful giving opportunities for children and families in need overseas, as well as here in the United States. World Vision is focused on creating sustainable change in people’s lives and one of the ways they do that is through the gift catalog. Do you have someone in your life that doesn’t really need anything, but you still want to honor them with something special? Honor a loved one with a gift that goes to someone in need. Animals like goats, sheep, and chickens can provide ongoing vital nutrition to families, while boosting the local economy with extra income. Or, give the gift of clean water to someone in another country or provide education or career training for young girls and women. There are a lot of wonderful options and I have seen these types of gifts bring wonderful transformation in families.

Habitat for Humanity
This is a great worldwide organization (over 100 countries have 2,100 active affiliates!) that provides quality housing for low income children and families. For many local families, kids don’t have a place to bring their friends home to, simply because they don’t have predictable and reliable housing. Families are selected through an application process and the family gets to be involved in the home building process. The current Habitat for Humanity home project is located off of Middle Way in Vancouver.

Share Vancouver
Share Vancouver currently runs three shelters, one for men and two for families that do not have homes. Last year, the organization served nearly 1300 people through the shelters and through its partnership with the Winter Hospitality Overflow program, which provides much-needed shelter to the homeless population during the cold fall and winter months. In addition, they provide daily, hot meals for free to homeless and low income families at their main location on 13th street in downtown Vancouver. Last year, they served more than 92,000 meals to people in the area with an additional 33,000 served at family shelters.

Friends of the Carpenter
I like this organization because of the focus it has on building relationships. In addition, it allows people to tap into what their purpose is in life. They have a day shelter that gives people a safe place to come and experience hope and warm hospitality. The organization helps teach people woodworking, which is a tangible activity that gives people a way to give back to the community in a meaningful way. Friends of the Carpenter was recently in the news providing homeless people downtown with Rubbermaid containers to store their valuables, memory books, or other items that were important to them that they don’t need all the time. People were given two bins each and if they wanted, the organization would store their items in the Friends of the Carpenter warehouse.  

In addition, every year Windermere hosts an annual coat and blanket drive. We are collecting blankets and coats through December 18. Or, if you don’t want to make an extra stop at the office for your donation, I will come pick it up for you!

May your upcoming season of Thanksgiving and Christmas be filled with the beauty of giving.

Posted on November 10, 2015 at 10:07 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Buying Tips, Home Remodeling Tips, Selling Your Home, Vancouver History | Tagged , , , , , ,

Best Parks & Walking Trails in Vancouver

Autumn is here and usually means cool mornings that lead to bright and sunny afternoons. This makes for the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the brisk air and falling leaves. Here are some of my top recommendations for best parks and walking trails in the Vancouver area!

Marshall Park:
This 19-acre park has everything you need! Big open green spaces, a huge playground, a ball field, covered picnic tables, restrooms, horseshoes, a community garden, walking paths, and more! Conveniently located off of Mill Plain near downtown Vancouver, this spot is also right next door to Marshall Community Center which is home to senior activities, swim lessons, dance class, summer camps, and much more. The covered picnic shelters can be reserved for events, weddings, parties, and small concerts for a reservation fee.

Esther Short Park:
This is one of the oldest and most well-known areas in Vancouver. Located in the heart of downtown, this space is home to the wonderful Farmer’s Market that happens during the spring and fall. Established in 1853, Esther Short Park was renovated and revitalized in the 1990s. There is a great playground area, unique bronze statues throughout, as well as a beautiful salmon bell tower. There is a water fountain area that is popular during the summer for kids to play in.  The space also has a big outdoor amphitheater area that is popular for movie nights, outdoor concerts, and much more.

Lacamas Lake Regional Park:
This park is 312 acres and is perfect for any outdoor enthusiast. It has a variety of recreational opportunities including fishing and hiking and has some much beautiful scenery it is a great place for photographers!  There are over 9 miles of trails, including the Heritage Trail and the Park Trail.

Discovery Historic Loop:
History lovers, this is a great trail for you! This is a two to three mile loop that winds through East Evergreen through Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, Officer’s Row and downtown Vancouver. Walk or bike the trail – it can usually be covered in about an hour or so, or just take little sections at a time by stopping and enjoying some of this historic spots.

Lewisville Park:
This flagship park encompasses forested areas, meadows, and stunning access to the Lewis River. Park goers can fish, bring a picnic, or rent one of the many shelters available for the whole day. There is a boat launch and swimming is allowed in the river. However, the river current can be very strong, water depths vary, and there are no lifeguards on duty.  There are also horseshoe pits and charcoal barbecues available for extra fun!

These are just some of the MANY beautiful parks and trail areas in Clark County. For a full list of natural areas, parks, and sports field, visit the Clark County Parks & Rec website here. Get out before our winter weather sets in and has us all staying indoors a bit more.

Posted on October 12, 2015 at 4:20 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Vancouver History

3 Unique Must-Visit Retail Shops in Clark County

Clark County is home to a variety of great local businesses that are owned and staffed by delightful people that are both passionate about and invested in Clark as a whole. The “shop local” focus is alive and well in Vancouver and the surrounding cities in Clark County and because many residents in the area recognize the importance of supporting small businesses in the area, retail shop owners are able to grow, expand, and continue offering unique destinations for residents and tourists alike.  Here are three featured businesses in the area that are unique

Vintage Books
Nestled in the corner of the Mill Plain Safeway shopping complex off of Andresen Road, Vintage Books has been a local, independent bookstore that has served book lovers throughout Clark County since 1975. If you’re a reading enthusiast, you could easily spend a couple of hours in this store browsing the extensive collection of used paperbacks for hours on end. The atmosphere inside of the store is relaxed and laid back. There are old chairs for settling into read for a bit and because the inventory changes daily, you’ll always find something new when you come and visit. The staff is knowledgeable and the combined experienced and diversity in reading tastes is reflected in the assortment of books for sale. This store is a Vancouver-area gem!

If you head into Kazoodles, chances are you will run into Bob or Mary Sisson, owners of the shop. This couple has been a part of the Clark County community for decades and they are some of the best people you can find. And not only are they friendly and love serving families in the community, they are passionate about providing high quality toys, games, and books for kids of all ages in their unique toy shop. Kazoodles has been in Cascade Park since 2010 and has been voted the “Best Toy Store” for 5 years in a row by readers of Vancouver Family Magazine. It has also been named “Best Toy and Craft Store” for three years in a row by The Columbian. From classic toys to the newest and best toys on the market, Kazoodles has pretty much everything a kid could dream of. 

Camas Antiques
Located in the heart of historic downtown Camas, Camas Antiques is an antique lover’s dream come true. Gift items, garden supplies, and home décor from years past, there are all sorts of unique items here that have a rich history behind them. Most of these things, you simply won’t be able to find anywhere else. The prices are very affordable and no matter what your design preference is, you’re sure to find something simple yet elegant for your home or office space here. While you’re there, don’t forget to visit the basement area, which is chock-full of even more treasures. This place is antiquing paradise.

There are some fantastic retail destinations in the area that are just waiting to be explored. So get out there and start enjoying the fantastic shopping to be had in Clark County!

Posted on February 16, 2015 at 4:36 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Vancouver History | Tagged , , , , , ,

History of Pearson Air Field

Chances are, you have driven past the 140 acre Pearson Air Field thousands of times, but have you stopped to think about the history behind it? Pearson Air Field is the oldest operating air field in the United States with its roots dating back to 1905. It is located in the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, operates completely in that area, and is the only airport in Washington that is a satellite airport. It is mostly used for general aviation, which ranges from flying clubs, gliders, powered parachutes, flight training, or agricultural aviation. You’ll often see a variety of small planes coming in and out of the airport and it can easily be seen from Highway 14 and the Columbia River.

Pearson Field is named after the first local resident of the United States Army, First Lieutenant Alexander Pearson Jr. In 1911, the first airplane landed at Pearson Air Field and a year later, a homebuilt airplane that was built on site at the Air Field first departed from it. From 1923 to 1941, Pearson Air Field was home to the US Army Air Service and in 1924, the airport served as a layover point on the Army’s first flight around the world.  In 1994, the City of Vancouver and the National Park Service partnered together to control the future of the Air Field and there are now 150T-hangars and tiedown facilities, with capacity for 175 aircraft. Today, the Pearson Air Field provides nearly 600 jobs to Clark County.

If you enjoy history as well as aircraft, Pearson Air Field is a great place to visit! Sign up for flying lessons or just walk around and learn about its unique aviation history and take in the sights.

Posted on January 19, 2015 at 4:40 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Vancouver History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

History of Officer’s Row

If you have driven through this portion of Evergreen Boulevard, you have seen some beautiful historic homes with nicely manicured lawns. The area is lined with mature, stately trees, there are often events happening in some of the buildings, and you’ll oftentimes see tourists and even Vancouver residents walking through the area to immerse themselves in history. Officer’s Row is one of Vancouver’s greatest assets.

What’s the history behind Officer’s Row?

For over 100 years, the homes along this row were used as residential housing for soldiers, officers, and families that were stationed in Vancouver at the Barracks.  The oldest homes date back to the mid-1800s! In the 1970s, there was an effort started to save the site and restore the properties. In 1987, there was a $10.9 million rehabilitation effort approved and the following year, tenants began moving in. Today, there are 34 residential units, office space, as well as business space in the various buildings.  Windermere Real Estate is a proud tenant of the building on the entrance to the Row at the traffic circle and the company also occupies another building to the west. In addition, many of the homes were originally duplexes that housed two military families, and today you can still see that mirror image as you visit the office space.

What are the specific houses used for?

There are three houses that have been designated for specific use.  The first is the George C. Marshall House. This home was built in 1886 for the commanding officer of the Department of the Columbia. In the 1880s and 1890s, it was a popular social destination for military and civic people. George C. Marshall (commanding officer at the Vancouver Barracks from 1936 to 1938) lived in the home. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953 for his efforts in helping rebuild economies in Europe and the Pacific Nations after World War 2. Today, the Marshall House is open to the public and is often rented out for weddings, ceremonies, conferences, and other social gatherings.

The second home is the Ulysses S. Grant House. This was the first home that was built on Officer’s Row and it was frequented many times by Grant when he was visiting the Vancouver Barracks. It served as an officer’s club for more than 25 years. After his incredible military successes, the home was named after him and today it is available to the public. The building also houses The Grant House Restaurant, which is open to the public.

The last home is the Howard House, which is named after the first General that lived there, General Oliver Otis Howard. He received a Congressional Medal of Honor in the Civil War and he worked to help aid former slaves. He also served as the U.S. Army’s Department of the Columbia Commander. The home boasts beautiful Italianate-style architecture.

If you haven’t experienced the beauty and rich history of Officer’s Row, head down there for a walk and visit some of the buildings.  

Posted on October 5, 2014 at 10:17 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Vancouver History