Posted by: GeekHiker | August 18, 2011

Portland – Friendship, Hiking, And Being A Tourist

This was my second stop in Portland in the past few years, the first one being the absolute amazing Oregon loop trip I did a few years ago.  It was on that trip that I met Just A Girl (starting or, rather, cementing a wonderful friendship), explored Powell’s for the first time, took in a movie at the Baghdad, and even attended a Pirate Festival.

I’ve been in town for a few days and started this post this morning; I’m finishing it by the light of a campfire far outside the city.  Over the past few years, people have been telling me how much they think I would fit in up here, given the town’s “green” credentials.  Four days in town, and I’m still unsure.  On the one hand, I can definitely see the appeals of the town: the bike culture, the limits on growth, the green building efforts, and so on.  On the other, there’s a definite “grunge” aspect to the city.  That’s not a slight; it’s more that I’m unsure if it’s a culture that I fit into.

Is it possible that my time in L.A. corrupted me?  Have I, at some point, become shi-shi?

Driving around Mt. Hood, I finally arrived in Portland and began searching for something I probably should have searched for well in advance: a hotel room.  This proved to be a bit more difficult than I’d anticipated, as most of the cheaper rooms around were long since booked out, but I finally managed to score a nice room at a Quality Inn.  After spending the morning catching up on emails and paying bills, I finally met another long-time reader Thursday afternoon: K of SkyBlueStateOfMind.

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Oregon is green, all right: this is the view from my 4th floor window

Before going any further, I have to pause here and point out that K is an absolutely awesome woman: smart, funny, and with a healthy sense of adventure.  Added bonus: she’s a lot better at making decisions on where to eat with I am.

She’s awful darn cute, too.  🙂

K has been a spectacular tour guide.  That first day in town, she took me to the Japanese Garden and walked me around the scenery of Washington Park.  As the sun set and bathed the city in twilight, we headed into the city to the Deschutes Brewery, where I had great beer and some amazing fish & chips.  (Even writing this a few days later, my mouth is actually watering.  Yes, they were that good.)  A final, quick stop at Powell’s Books, rounded out the evening.  I picked up a copy of “On The Road”, which I haven’t read before and feels like the quintessential road-trip book.  Of course, not knowing what my taste in books will be on this trip, I’ve packed an entire box of books along with me, so we’ll see what I get to first…

The weather was great, even though I’m told that “summer” only arrived in the PNW a couple of weeks ago.  Great beer, books, fine food, and beautiful summer weather?  It’s amazing I didn’t stop and buy a house right then.

Friday we decided to hit the trail, and avoid the weekend crowds.  We headed back up the road to Mt. Hood and spent the day hiking the Elk Meadow Loop Trail.  It’s pretty easy to see, after hiking this trail, why so many hikers are drawn to the Pacific Northwest.  Under a crystalline blue sky, we hiked through dense woods, tramped past open pockets filled with wildflowers, crossed frigid creeks with rushing clear water, and finally arrived at a wide open meadow with an inspiring view of Mt. Hood towering in front of us.

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Backpackers crossing one of the creeks of Mt. Hood’s runoff

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Columbine in one of the meadows

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Looking out towards Mt. Hood

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Carpets of wildflowers and Mt. Hood (I can’t decide which of these two I like better. Opinions?)

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Columbine and streaks of sunshine

After the hike, K kindly indulged me with a visit to the Timberline Lodge (I have something of a soft spot for the old railroad-era hotels in parks of the west, amongst my many interests), before capping off the evening with BBQ pizza and beer at the Ice Axe Grill in Government Camp.

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The Timberline

For my last full day in the city, we elected to be a bit more laid back and touristy.  We headed up the Columbia River Gorge, a trip I’ve wanted to take for a long time.  In fact, were my course not taking me northward (I’m in Washington as I write this), I would have followed the Columbia eastward, so I was happy to see a small part of it at least.

Answering the clarion call of the tourist, we stopped at Multnomah Falls.  It’s undeniably a tourist stop, with a restaurant, a big gift shop, and a parking lot full of cars.  Still, the beauty of the falls is undeniable.  In an effort to get away from the crowds, we headed up the steep, switchbacky 1-mile trail to the top, where a small platform overlooks the brink of the falls.  It was a little more of a workout than K and I expected, and we (or at least I) was sweating by the time we reached the top, but felt good nonetheless.

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Multnomah Falls

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Multnomah Falls t-shirt: didn’t buy, but oh so tempting…

We rounded out our tourist Saturday by continuing along the Interstate to the little town of Hood River, where we had lunch in a cute, old-fashioned diner called Bette’s Place.  Our intention had been to tour the brewery at Full Sail Brewing but, finding the lines long, we ended up taking back to the road.  Instead of taking the Interstate, we elected to take the old Historic River Highway.  Unlike the speedy, boring interstate highway below, the old highway is carved out high along the cliff, twisting and winding through the dark forest and natural folds of the landscape.  Along the way, we stopped at the Crown Point Vista House.  This historic site, built as a rest stop along the highway, is a beautiful building.  If you ever stop there, be sure to note the architectural details, such as the amazing glass work.

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The Vista House

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Stained glass and stairways: inside the Vista House

K and I rounded out our day by seeing “Cowboys and Aliens”.  The film was enjoyable fun, and a nice little break from traveling.

Last night we said our good-byes and she dropped me off back at my hotel.  K made these past few days in Portland.  Forget all the “things” we did: having someone to show you around and talk to and have spirited discussions with, that’s the best part.  It’s the first time in a long time that I’ve met with a reader and it’s always a mystery whether or not the friendship online will carry over in real life.  In this case it most certainly did, and hopefully some smart Portland boy will wise up and sweep her off her feet soon.

The only drawback?  Tonight, I miss my L.A. friends.

As for today, it’s mostly involved driving, finding a camping spot, and making a quick hike.  But I think I’ll save that for future writing…

[Addendum: how do travel writers manage to write?  I’m taking lots of notes, but writing seems to be eluding me.  Maybe it’s easier if you can stay up later in a warm hotel room, and don’t have to spend two hours setting up camp.  This might explain why travel writers are on cruises more often than in tents…]

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Responses

  1. Awe I loved Portland when I visited! Very cool you made that one of your stops. And Multnomah Falls are definitely worth it, even if they’re touristy. Is one of your motives in all this traveling to find a new place to call home? Portland might be a good fit!

  2. Awww… thanks, GH! My sleepy blog suddenly got a surge of traffic thanks to your endorsement, haha 🙂 Hope to read all about your adventures after Portland. And to all the “online friends” that are wondering whether you should meet him if he is ever in your ‘hood, yes, you should! 😀

  3. […] A revamped post about fun times in Portland, Oregon, with hiking, beer, and a new old friend.  Read all about it here. […]

  4. […] been pushing myself to take the next logical step, to continue the travelogue from where I left off in Portland and write about the next stage, which took me on up into Washington.  I want to write […]


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