Oregon 2005

Below is the journal for our self-guided trip to Oregon, taken October 7-16, 2005. The journal is divided up by day, and most sections include links to related pictures taken with Ken's Canon Powershot A70 digital camera. This is a great little 3 megapixel camera. It has a decent 35mm-80mm (equivalent) zoom lens, and we got through the whole week on two sets of four AA batteries. Plus, we can fit 150+ pictures in a single 256 MB flash card, which makes this camera great for light-weight traveling.

Our main reason for heading to Oregon was to attend the wedding of Julie's cousin Jean in the Portland area. Ken's mom Marilyn decided to come along, and we took the opportunity to tour the Columbia River Gorge area, Mt. Hood, the Oregon coast, and Portland itself as a bit of a retirement celebration. Marilyn began her trip in Milwaukee, and met up with Ken and Julie in the Minneapolis airport for a shared flight to Portland.

If you'd rather slog through the entire set of pictures we took while on our trip (there are around 130 of them), you can check out the Gallery page.

Day 1 - Friday, October 7

Friday was just a travel day for us. Julie had to be at a seminar for work during the day, which made coordinating a trip to the airport difficult. Ken ran some errands in the morning, and then decided to try taking the bus and light rail to the airport rather than a cab. This actually worked pretty well, and only cost $1.50. Between the walk to the bus, the bus ride itself, and the light-rail ride from downtown to the airport, it only took and hour and a half.

Ken got to the airport early enough to meet Marilyn getting off her connection from Milwaukee at 4:00pm. However, even though he was standing at her gate, he failed to see her get off the plane. They met up later at the Portland gate, and found Julie a few minutes later. (Julie brought all of the checked luggage and parked her car at the airport.)

The ride to Portland was uneventful, but since the plane was completely full, we all sat separately. In Portland, we caught a National Car Rental shuttle to pick up our car. Unfortunately, the Cadillac DeVille Ken ordered turned into a Pontiac Bonneville. That was kind of a disappointment, but at least they gave us a discount for our trouble. After getting our car, we found our hotel (the Quality Inn) and then got dinner at a chain called Shari's.

Day 2 - Saturday, October 8

Saturday morning, we got up around 8:00am, got breakfast in the hotel lobby (very good!) and then got dressed to go to Jean's wedding. The wedding was at 11:00am at All Saints Catholic Church, about 15 minutes from our hotel. The ceremony was small, attended mostly by family. We met up there with Julie's Grandma Block and her Aunt Maryellen and Uncle Randy, who had been traveling in Oregon the week prior to the wedding.

After the wedding, we all split up and headed independently to Hood River, where the reception was going to be held. Hood River is about an hour from Portland, and we had until 2:30pm to get to the reception, so we took the opportunity to drive most of the Columbia River Scenic Highway on the way there [ 1, 2 ].

The reception at the Columbia River Gorge Hotel was very classy, and the food was great. We had chicken and beef appetizers, strawberries dipped in chocolate, and some great wine before the meal. Dinner was either salmon or filet mignon, plus there was a great wedding cake for dessert.

After the reception was done, it was raining, so we went back to our hotel room at the Comfort Suites in Hood River. Once we were settled in, we did some planning for the next day, and went to Wal*Mart across the street to get supplies (bottled water, soda, snacks, etc.)

Day 3 - Sunday, October 9

Sunday morning, we got up early and met Grandma, Maryellen and Randy for breakfast at their hotel (a few exits away) around 8:30am. As we left our hotel, we realized it was full of people doing a BMW "club ride". There must have been 20 or 30 BMWs in the parking lot. Once breakfast was done (around 9:30am), we said our goodbyes and headed for Mt. Hood.

Because we were already in Hood River, we approached Mt. Hood from the north, rather than from the more heavily-used route most people would take from Portland. We got really lucky and had clear skies almost from the start. This mountain is absolutely stunning [ 1, 2 ].

Our first stop was the Timberline ski area [ 1, 2 ]. Once there, we walked part way up the mountain rather than paying to ride the ski lift [ 1, 2, 3, 4 ]. This view shows the part of the mountain we were hiking on [ 1 ]. After coming down from Timberline, we got an excellent lunch at the Huckleberry Inn in Government Camp and also toured the (small) visitors center there [ 1 ].

Later, we drove down the other side of the mountain (using the road most Portland visitors would use) and looked around that area. There were lots of trails to hike, but we couldn't initially find anywhere to buy a parking pass. So, instead of parking, we did some driving, at one point up a long dirt road that we weren't sure we should really be on [ 1 ].

When we were done with our drive, we bought a parking pass at a grocery store, and headed back up the mountain toward the trail to Mirror Lake [ 1, 2, 3 ]. The hike to Mirror Lake was a little longer than we expected (a mile is pretty long when it's all uphill), but it was well worth it [ 1, 2, 3, 4 ]. Luck came our way again after the Mirror Lake hike, and we got another cloud-free view of Mt. Hood from different angle [ 1, 2, 3 ]. It was a great way to end our tour of the mountain.

After driving back to Hood River, we had a mediocre dinner at a brew pub, and then headed back to the hotel for a relaxing evening of cards. Ken won almost every game, which was a little odd.

Day 4 - Monday, October 10

Our goal for Monday was to tour the Columbia River Gorge before heading back to Portland for the night. We got breakfast at the hotel, and then headed out around 8:00am. Our initial goal was to see the site of the old river road, which is higher up the bluffs than the current river-grade road [ 1, 2 ]. From up here, we also had a great view of the river itself [ 1 ]. The road was intially 17 feet wide, OK for Model Ts. Later, it was widened to 20 feet and was made one-way to avoid collisions. Eventually, it was closed because waiting traffic was vulnerable to rockfalls.

After walking part way down the trail, we decided to cross into Washington State so Marilyn could say she had been in Washington (only two lower-48 states to go now!). We crossed into White Salmon, Washington at the at Hood River bridge. The people at the tourist info booth there said we were now on the sunnier bank of the river. :)

We crossed back into Oregon at the Bridge of the Gods. The Bridge of the Gods is at a site where local Indian legend holds that there was once a rock bridge across the river, that was destroyed in a battle between the mountains. Recently-discovered archaelogical and geological evidence shows that the legend is probably true. Kind of neat.

Once back in Oregon, we looked at the Bonneville Dam and locks [ 1 ]. We couldn't actually tour the dam itself. However, the visitor center was neat, and we got a chance to look at the fish (salmon and others) working their way through the fish ladders and other things that are available so they don't go through the generators in the dam.

After visiting the dam, we got lunch nearby, and then headed to what our guidebook called a "can't miss" trail at Eagle Creek. This turned out to not be quite what we were expecting. The trail was steep, muddy, and often had a sharp drop-off to one side or another. We gave up about a half-hour in and turned around. It was neat, but not that neat. A highlight, which we unfortunately didn't catch in a picture, was to see spring salmon spawning in the shallow creek by the side of the trail. (The term is "spring salmon" because these fish started their journey upstream in the spring.) It was kind of disturbing to see the creek full of dead fish, along with the live ones flopping around in about 3 inches of water.

After this hike, we decided to drive back down the scenic highway and stop at some waterfalls along there. First stop was at Horsetail Falls [ 1 ]. Then, we spent the rest of the afternoon at Multnomah Falls [ 1, 2, 3 ]. This waterfall is over 600 feet tall, and we decided to hike to the top of it using the trail that starts at the visitor center. We nearly gave up several times, but ultimately made it all of the way. It was worth it, although Ken did not like the viewing platform on the top at all.

By the time we got down, it was mostly dark, so we finished up the rest of the scenic highway with another stop at Vista Point [ 1, 2, 3 ]. Then, we headed back toward Portland and got dinner around dusk at a truck stop exit about half-way back. By the time we got done with dinner, it was dark and raining, a poor combination for navigating in downtown Portland. We finally found our hotel (the Sheraton Four Points downtown) after about 45 minutes of trial-and-error navigation and more wrong turns than we are willing to admit to.

Day 5 - Tuesday, October 11

Tuesday was spent on a tour of Portland proper. We left the car at the hotel, got breakfast at a coffee shop, and both walked and took public transit around the city. First, we took the light rail out to the Washington Park area, with the goal of seeing the Japanese Gardens. Due to some confusion with the posted shuttle bus schedule, we ended up walking about an hour through the Hoyt Arboretum on the way to the gardens. This turned out to be a lot of fun, and we were glad we walked rather than waiting for the bus.

The Japanese Gardens were great. They're supposed to be perhaps the finest example of this kind of garden in the U.S., and we could believe it [ 1, 2, 3, 4 ]. After finishing up at the gardens, we walked down the street to the free International Rose Test Garden, which is maintained by the city of Portland (the "City of Roses"). This place has hundreds of different kinds of roses, which are all being tested for how well they grow in Portland's climate [ 1, 2, 3 ].

Next came lunch. Or rather, next came an intention to get lunch, which required most of an hour walk through Washington Park to the nearest neighborhood with any restaurants in it. On our walk, we stopped at the Portland Holocaust Memorial [ 1 ]. We finally had lunch in a small Italian place around 2:00pm. At this point, Ken was apparently so tired and hungry that he spilled his soda all over the table. <sigh>

After lunch, we attempted to walk to the Pittock Mansion, but ran out of sidewalk on a really busy road (in Portland, of all places!). A very friendly bus driver on the other side of the street picked us up at a place that wasn't really a stop, and took us a few minutes further down the road to the right place (we had transit passes already from our earlier trip to the garden). The Pittock Mansion is a turn-of-the-century mansion on the highest point in Portland. It was a 15-minute uphill walk from the bus stop to the house, but it was worth it [ 1, 2, 3 ].

After touring the house, we walked back down the hill, caught a bus to downtown, and then decided to walk 20 minutes back to our hotel for the fun of it at the first transfer point. After that, we got dinner and spent the night playing cards (and Ken won again!).

Day 6 - Wednesday, October 12

Wednesday was a transitional day for us. We were going to be staying on the Oregon coast, so we knew we had a drive ahead of us. However, we wanted to see a little more of Portland before leaving. We checked out of the hotel and packed the car, and then got breakfast at Great Harvest Bread before walking around downtown to see a few sights, including the Portlandia statue [ 1 ].

Then, we walked over to Chinatown, with the intent of doing some touristing. Ugh. Chinatown was not somewhere we really wanted to be. It was dumpy and generally felt unsafe. However, we kept walking because we wanted to see the Chinese Gardens. Initially, these looked like they might be a disappointment, since they were right in the middle of the city and were so much smaller than the Japanese Gardens. However, we ended up really liking them [ 1, 2, 3 ].

We finished up our tour of Portland by walking down the Willamette riverfront back to the hotel. There, we got in the car, and headed down the highway toward the coast. On the spur of the moment, we decided to stop in Salem (Oregon's capitol) for lunch. While we were there, we walked through a farmer's market and the capitol building itself before getting back on the road.

We got to Lincoln City around 4:00pm, and had no problem finding our condo, called Water's Edge. It was indeed on the water, although it was actually on a bay and not right on the ocean edge like other things in Lincoln City. (In fact, Lincoln City is so close to the water that there are "Tsunami Danger Zone" signs all over the place, and our condo came with tsunami evacuation instructions.) This second-floor condo was fantastic, with a full kitchen, two bedrooms, and porch looking over the water. Plus, we got off-season rates. :)

We decided that we wanted to go somewhere nice for dinner, so we asked the desk person where we should eat. She recommended Kernville Steak and Seafood, saying that everyone who had gone there over the summer had come back saying good things. We drove off to find the place, then got some groceries and went back to the condo to shower before going to dinner (we decided to dress up a little).

This place turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. It was a little restaurant on a small river leading to the ocean. It was nearly empty, and we were treated like royalty. Plus, the steak that Ken got ranks as one of two or three best he's ever had in his life. Marilyn had halibut, and Julie had crab cakes, and they were quite good too -- as was the Dixie Pie for dessert. We left feeling very satisfied, and went home to spend another evening playing cards.

Day 7 - Thursday, October 13

Thursday, we decided to head down the coast toward Newport. Unfortunately, the forecast showed rain off and on all day, but we didn't let that stop us. Instead, we made "indoor" and "outdoor" plans and decided to just wing it depending on how bad the weather was. First stop was Boiler Bay, an ocean overlook [ 1, 2 ].

Next, we headed to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, which we had heard good things about. It was a bit expensive, but worth it. Unlike most other aquariums we've been to, this one was partly outside, which made a little bit of a difference since it was drizzling most of the time we were there. We spent more than two and a half hours touring it, and really liked what we saw, including turtles, lots of different kinds of coast fish, a "touch pool" and even an outdoor aquatic bird exhibit [ 1, 2, 3, 4 ].

When we were done at the aquarium, we sat in the car and ate the bag lunch we had packed (since we had a fridge at the condo). Then, we headed back up the coast and spent some time at the Seal Rock recreation area [ 1, 2, 3 ]. We also looked at the so-called "world's smallest harbor" in Depoe Bay [ 1, 2 ], which is apparently special because there's a natural jetty that shelters the harbor.

When we got back to Lincoln City, we were greeted with a fantastic sunset out our porch [ 1, 2 ]. We decided to take it easy for the evening, and got a take-home pizza from Papa Murphy's and a video from Blockbuster (Hitchhiker's Guide, which even Ken had to admit was not very good).

Day 8 - Friday, October 14

Friday's forecast also showed a lot of rain in the afternoon, so we got up early, in an attempt to get in as much outdoor touring as possible. This time, we headed even further down the coast to Cape Perpetua, the highest cape on the Oregon coast. When we got to the top of the cape, it was beginning to drizzle, and the wind was blowing so hard off the ocean that we sometimes had to lean into it. However, the views were fantastic [ 1, 2, 3, 4 ]. After looking around the edge of the cape, we also spent a little time hiking further into it. The cape receives as much as 12 feet (yes, feet!) of rain per year, which qualifies it as a temperate rain forest [ 1 ]. You can get a feel for how big the cape is in this picture, where if you squint, you might be able to see the lookout point we were at on top [ 1 ].

When we came down from the cape itself, we headed to the nearby visitor center, and spent the next few hours walking the various trails in the area (originally constructed by the depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps). There were lots of neat things to see, including wind-swept trees [ 1 ], tidal pools [ 1 ], "cauldrons" where waves crash in spectacular ways, and even "horns", which are water fountains that look like geysers or whale spray, formed when waves push into underwater caves and pressure is released through a hole higher up in the cliff. Very neat.

At this point, we were having a good day with no rain, so we decided to head even further down the coast to see some dunes that weren't in our original plan. We ate our sandwiches in the car again, and then headed back down the coast. The dunes were a lot like what we would see in the Great Lakes area [ 1, 2, 3 ]. However, the planting of European Beach Grass in the early 20th century makes for some differences, including the development of a "foredune" where vegetation can actually take hold [ 1 ], which doesn't happen in a natural dune environment.

After walking around the outlook area, we decided to push our luck and walk all of the way out to the ocean. This was going well until we got a little over half-way out and it started drizzling. Then, it started pouring. The rain was coming down sideways, and hard. We decided to push on, but we only had rain jackets with us, not rain pants, and we all got pretty wet. It was fun, though, and we were laughing at ourselves when we got back to the car a half-hour later.

The drive back to Lincoln City was around 90 miles, so we had mostly dried off by the time we got there. However, we all felt like we needed a shower before heading to dinner. We got dinner at a place called Kylio's, and then got packed up before spending the rest of the night playing cards. This time, we played Canasta, and Ken lost miserably (Julie says that's because Canasta requires some skill).

Day 9 - Saturday, October 15

Saturday, we had intended to do some touring up the coast north of Lincoln City before heading back to our hotel at the Portland airport. However, the forecast was for rain all day. We decided to try and get out early, but to delay a little if it was raining when we got up. We were out of bed a little late, but the air was clear when we loaded the car and checked out. Then, not even three blocks north of the hotel, we were in a downpour.

We pushed on anyway toward Tillamook, looking at a few scenic overlooks on the way, but by then it was raining pretty hard and there wasn't much to see. We eventually decided to "abort" and head inland toward McMinnville, to the Evergreen Air Museum there. We figured that way, we would at least be inside and dry.

This turned out to be a great idea, and we spent more than three hours at the museum. The centerpiece of the exhibits is the Hughes "Spruce Goose" [ 1, 2, 3, 4 ], but there were a lot of other exceptional exhibits, including an SR-71 Blackbird [ 1, 2, 3 ], and several fully-restored WWII aircraft including a P-38, P-51, Corsair, B-17 and a B-25 [ 1, 2, 3 ]. Well worth the $11 admission.

After finishing up at the air museum, the rain had mostly cleared, and we hit a few more "items of interest", including a stop in historic Oregon City [ 1, 2, 3 ]. Then, we headed to the Gresham neighborhood of Portland (quiet, quaint, quite nice) for dinner, and went for a walk afterwards before heading back to the Quality Inn for the night. We had a bit of an adventure finding a gas station (they're oddly scarce near the airport), but everything worked out. Once at the hotel, we repacked everything, scheduled a 6:30am wakeup call (shudder), showered, and then played cards some more until it was time for bed.

Day 10 - Sunday, October 16

We were up at 6:30am, at breakfast by 6:55am, and at the airport a little after 7:30am. We didn't need all of that time, but it was nice to have a little to spare because the lines both for checkin and for security were fairly long. On the plane, we were once again completely separated, with Marilyn almost all of the way in back, Ken at the very front of coach class, and Julie somewhere in between. Back in Minneapolis, we split up with Marilyn heading to her Milwaukee connecting flight and Ken and Julie getting their bags and heading back home. The off-site parking Julie had used worked out great, and Marilyn's cab ride to her friend's house worked out fine, too. Everyone was back home by 6:00pm.