Oregon Photos

Tuesday, September 5th, 2006

I managed to cull my 634 photos from the week-long trip to 186 split into the following four albums:

Portland The city of Portland, Mount Hood, and the Willamette Valley wine country

View the Portland photos

Portland Gardens Portland’s International Rose Garden, Japanese Garden, and Classical Chinese Garden.

View the Portland Gardens photos

Columbia River Gorge Columbia River Gorge waterfalls and Bonneville Dam fish ladder

View the Columbia River Gorge photos

Oregon Coast Oregon coast from Astoria to Tillamook

View the Oregon Coast photos

You can read more about the trip in my Oregon blog entries.

Oregon Coast

Tuesday, September 5th, 2006

Leaving Brian in Portland to catch some more coffee and an earlier flight, I set out on one last excursion to the coast. The two-hour drive to Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River passed through open fields and wound through dense evergreen forests. The few sections that had been logged looked quite sad in comparison.

Astoria fit my ideal for a northwest coastal town: a bit of a cool breeze, fog obscuring the tree tops, and everything centered around the water. On the hill above town, I climbed the many steps inside the Astoria Column to gain an even higher vantage point. Despite the fog, it was still and impressive view, and a perfect glider launch for the kids.

In town, I stopped by the Maritime Museum for a photo session with the various anchors, buoys, and ships on display outside. A little further down the river was an elevated lookout and a good spot to enjoy a waterfront lunch of the week’s leftovers. Even after a few days in the fridge Wildwood’s natural steak was still tender enough to be cut with a plastic knife.

West of Astoria was Fort Clatsop, the final outpost of Lewis and Clark’s journey. While the displays of the tools and goods they carried were interesting, I was disappointed with the replica fort. After recently seeing a TV show that closely followed the methods the expedition used, this replica seemed much less authentic.

Going south along the coast, several beach access points allow you to drive right onto the packed sand. Something you can’t do at the Jersey shore with your bitchin’ Camaro… More importantly, I got to dip my toes in the Pacific, which satisfies a certain urge born of the traveler/swimmer mindset collision.

Seaside, the first of the beach towns, was a tacky mess full of people, imploring me to make a hasty exit after noting its historical significance as the end of Lewis and Clark’s expedition. Cannon Beach was a little more sedate and had a bit more charm, not to mention more photographic rocks out in the water.

Continuing south finally produced the quintessential west coast views: roads sweeping around mountain sides overlooking fog-shrouded rock outcroppings in the water. With plenty of time before my red-eye flight, I pressed on to Tillamook dairy country for a dinner of local halibut crusted with local hazelnuts.

The drive back to Portland was another nice winding path through the trees, now illuminated by the golden light of the setting sun behind me. As trees gave ways to fields, a waxing moon rose from the east. I made it to Portland’s PDX airport with plenty of time to pull out the MacBook and take advantage of their free wifi to blog this final entry of the trip.

Columbia River Gorge

Monday, September 4th, 2006

After geeking out a bit at the Albina Press with laptops and wifi, Brian and I headed east to the Columbia River Gorge. The old highway offered a scenic drive winding along the side of the gorge with frequent waterfalls. Being Labor Day weekend, there was a decent crowd doing the same drive, though they shied away from the longer hikes.

Two initial overlooks, including Vista House, provided a nice panorama of the gorge. Then it was onto the wateralls, starting with Latourell Falls. There wasn’t much trail signage, so we hiked to the top before discovering the easier trail to better views at the bottom. A tall, narrow waterfall, it made quite an impact at the base, though the cool spray was refreshing after the hike to the top.

Hiking back up from the bottom of the two-tiered Bridal Veil Falls, Brian found a pear tree and grabbed a quick snack. Wahkeena Falls involved an upwards hike to view the falls from a bridge near enough to catch a good spray and some up-close photos. Some descending hikers clued us into the extent of the trail network and even managed to produce a trail map, something largely absent from all of the stops.

Having finally fasted and trekked enough to burn though last night’s excellent dinner, we headed on to Cascade Locks for a late lunch at Salmon Pub. Heading back west on Interstate 84, we stopped at Bonneville Dam to check out the history of hydroelectric power on the Columbia River. More interesting, though, was the fish ladder allowing salmon to get upstream past the dam. Underwater windows let you watch 40+ pound salmon make their way through.

Nearby was a fish hatchery, featuring salmon and trout small and large. Even larger and stranger were the sturgeons. A bunch of ducks kept the fish company, and the whole complex was a surprisingly popular tourist destination.

Natural Food at Wildwood

Sunday, September 3rd, 2006

Taking a Chowhound suggestion and a slightly late bus, Brian and I headed to Wildwood in the Nob Hill area for dinner. Their niche is local natural ingredients, something they embrace wholeheartedly, down to the waiter being able to tell you where everything was from and how it was raised.

After scouring the wine list for some of the local pinot noirs we had sampled on our wine tasting trip, I started with some Puget Sound mussels. They were all quite meaty and accentuated by a saffron and butter sauce. As good as they were, the grass-fed strip steak was even better. Done to perfect pinkness, it tasted lighter than “normal” beef and went down nicely with the pinot. Along with some hush puppies and sauteed fresh veggies, it was quite a plate. The desert and after-dinner drink list were equally impressive, and I couldn’t pass up a chance to try their chocolate pudding with a side marshmellow and chocolate cracker smore. Brian also blogged about his dinner.

Though I don’t consider myself a real foodie or natural food devotee, I have to say that everything was excellent, and quality of the starting ingredients definitely has something to do with it.

Oregon Wine Tasting

Saturday, September 2nd, 2006

After strolling across the river to check out the diverse offerings at Portland’s Saturday Market, Brian and I headed out of the city for some wine tasting. While I bounced the car over gravel back roads, Brian selected worthy vineyards based on their winery map descriptions. We had to leave a few trying to charge $15 tasting fees, and instead had a much better time with wine makers who were more interested in chatting about the wine. Of course, that went doubly so when cute women were doing the pouring.

On one of their recommendations, we stopped for lunch at the Dundee Bistro and enjoyed a full meal made from local ingredients. Back on the wine trail, we checked out several on steep slopes, and one with “gravity flow” processing. Touring their barrel room, we learned this meant it was setup to move the grapes and wine through gravity instead of disturbing them with extraneous pumping and transfers.

The warmth of the Willamette Valley (hitting 96 during our trip) meant almost all of the wines - and certainly all the good ones - were pinot noirs. Places and wines we enjoyed:

Biking Mount Hood

Friday, September 1st, 2006

Despite flight delays out of O’Hare, Brian made it out to PDX Thursday night and we picked up the rental car. We started Friday morning with a jaunt to The Albina Press, home of a top-ranked barista, for Brian’s espresso fix. While I tried to acquire a taste for it, Brian talked shot length with the tattooed coffee gods. After a drive-by tour of the Missisippi neighborhood, we loaded up for the hour drive to Mount Hood.

Finding Government Camp at the base to be a bit empty, we climbed the road to the Timberline Lodge at 6000 feet to check out the scenic views and summer skiing. Though haze from several wildfires in Washington state obscured a bit of the view, we could easily make out some skiers and boarders on the remaining snow on the volcanic slopes.

Back at the base, we found the bike rental shop at the Skibowl, one of many summer “adventure” attractions. After finally convincing the proprietor that we intended to ride up the mountain instead of taking the lift, he outfitted us with some low-end rent-a-wreck Giant hardtails and set us out with some long and slightly sketchy directions. Loose gravel road gave way to loose singletrack, upping the degree of difficulty along the the bike’s handling.

The trail mellowed out after that, and Brian found some tasty, fresh, organic berries to munch on. He got a further fix on the paved road around Trillium Lake, finally running the bike out of gears. Looping to the far end of the lake provided some great vistas of Mt Hood across the water. After a few miles of descending, we finally realized we were on the wrong path and turned around for a long climb back up.

The bikes’ rebellion reached their peak at this point. My loose seat continued to pitch upwards in an attempt to reorient my bladder and prostate. Brian’s rear tire bled enough air to run almost flat, and we were only able to contain the hemorrhaging somewhat with my trusty pump. After the endless climb, we got a brief respite before tackling another climb out of the campground, taking the path of least resistance back along the highway.

After a nearly four-hour epic, we headed back up the the Ram’s Head Bar at the Timberline, which we learned was used for exteriors in The Shining. Local beers, chips and salsa, and sandwiches replaced a load of expended calories. Heading back to Portland, I kicked the tires on our rental Hyundai’s clutchless shifting, which was pretty lame for shifting, but useful for forcing downshifts coming off the mountain.

Around Town

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

This morning I set off to check out the small Mississippi neighborhood, and enjoyed a tasty breakfast burrito at a cozy coffee joint while waiting for the day to warm up. Amongst the small shops and coffee houses was the Rebuilding Center, where the aisles were piled high with recycled building materials, sinks, cabinets, and odds and ends. True to form, their own building was an eclectic creation, including a very cool fence.

Heading back into town, I finally picked up some postcards and settled into the coffee shop at Powell’s Books to write them. The multi-story, color-coded bookstore is also an attraction all of its own. At noon, I found my way to Pioneer Courthouse Square for the last of the city’s summer “Noon Tunes” free concerts. The sunny red brick steps drew a good crowd to listen to Last Tuesday out of Seattle.

After tracking down a post office and some lunch off one of the local lunch wagons, I returned to Washington Park. The Hoyt Arboretum covers a large wooded area, and includes a living Vietnam veterans memorial. The memorial is spirals out of large spiral bowl, leading you up into tall evergreens. With the day warming up under a clear blue sky, it was perfect weather for a walk in the woods.

The Pearl

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

After dropping in for a vinyasa class at Yoga in the Pearl, I wandered the Pearl neighborhood and came across Powell’s Technical Books. This branch of Portland institution Powell’s books has all the obscure technical books you’d expect to find in a musty professor’s office, and even captures some of the smell. Along the wall, they had their own “dead tech” collection of old computers. A few other friendly by-the-geeks, for-the-geeks amenities: free wifi and a fee-free ATM.

Walking over to the bus stop, I tripped over another fountain in the shadow of the tall US Bancorp tower. The metal Lee Kelly fountain also made a ready playground for at least one skateboarder.

Haunted Pizza, OMSI, and Hawthorne

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

Dinner Tuesday was at Old Town Pizza, whose old building is rumored to be haunted. The decor and furniture harken back to days long ago when having one too many might lead to getting shanghaied into servitude on the high seas. Nowadays, the biggest danger there is overindulging on tasty pizza.

Wednesday started off with a bus ride and short trek to the Oregon Musuem of Science and Industry (OMSI) on the eastern side of the river. It’s the kind of place I would’ve loved as a kid and still enjoyed as an adult: a musuem with tons of hands-on exhibits.

The USS Blueback, a 1959-vintage diesel-electric submarine, is moored out front along the river. Taking a tour really gave me an appreciation for how cramped life aboard a sub was at the height of the cold war before larger nuclear subs came into vogue.

For lunch, I headed east to the funky/hip Hawthorne district, similar in flavor to Philadelphia’s South Street. After a burger and another Free Range Red at Bread and Ink, I window-shopped, people-watched, and checked out the restored landmark Bagdad theatre.

Water, Water Everywhere

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

Starting the morning at the downtown visitors center armed me with many more brochures and a new mission: visit some of Portland’s public fountains. After checking out (and of course photographing) a few nearby, I hopped on MAX back to Skidmore Fountain in Old Town, and walked along the waterfront of the Willamette River towards Chinatown. Many bridges, often gritty, span the river, one even providing shelter for the Saturday Market.

Cooler, overcast skies had rolled in to replace the hot weather overnight, and soon turned to light drizzle through midday. It had a welcome effect on the Chinese Garden, though, creating myriad opportunities for “raindrops on flowers” photos. The garden packs many traditional Chinese garden features into a single city block. Though I preferred the space and aesthetics of the Japanese Garden, it was a still a relaxing respite from the rest of the city.

After lunch in Chinatown, I visited the local retail flagships of Oregon’s own Nike and Columbia before resuming the fountain tour with a ride on Portland’s Czech-made Streetcar. Nestled amongst high-rise riverside apartments I found the remaining fountains, including my favorite. The Keller fountain moves lots of water over a large-scale jumble of geometric shapes.