Western road trip Part 3: Oh, Oregon

View of Vista House in the Columbia River Gorge.
View of Vista House in the Columbia River Gorge.

It was all Oregon all the time on this roughly 1-week segment of the month-long road trip I took this summer. Tasty travel tidbits that week ranged from Umpqua elk and naked bike riders in Portland, to Hood River fruits and beers and Pendleton cowboys.

UmpquaAfter a blessedly cool couple of days on the Oregon coast, I headed inland via the lush Umpqua Highway (photo at right). Temperatures in the 100s awaited me in Portland. The drive along the Umpqua River — a flyfishing hotspot — was scenic but uneventful, except for a traffic-stopping herd of elk in a roadside field.

After reuniting with the significant other at PDX, it was time to sample all the artisan/locavore/craft-brewed goodies that Portland had to offer. In addition to the heat wave, the friend we stayed with alerted us to the nude bike ride going on the day we got in. Now, living in SoCal, there’s not much that shocks or surprises us about clothing choice or lack thereof. However, eating amidst buck-naked diners at a baked potato food truck was definitely a first (sorry, no photos).

Portland food trucks

Speaking of food trucks and all that is hip, the next day’s adventure had us visiting the very fun Division Street in SE and the fabulous Tidbit Food Farm cart pod— heaven on earth for foodies and lovers of all things crafted. Who knew there were so many varieties of tater tots?

And of course, the popcorn is artisan and the cupcakes saintly on NW 23rd Avenue (aka Trendy Third):

Artisan this and that on Trendy Third.
Artisan this and that on Trendy Third.

Later, we headed downtown so I could check out the Poler store, where I ended up buying a cool day pack. It’s a fun place to shop for hipster outdoor gear, tho this is not exactly the place to outfit yourself for your next ultralight backpack.

Blue checks out a local at Portland’s Poler store.

On our third and final day in the Portland area, we headed west to Astoria. After lunch at Fort George Brewery (IPA highly recommended!), we headed to Lewis and Clark National Park. This lush area is home to Fort Clatsop, the winter encampment site of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The excellent visitor center provides all you’ll ever need to know about the Corps of Discovery. We explored a reproduction of one their winter cabins, and then took a brief hike in the adjacent forest.

Replica at Fort Clatsop of the winter cabin used by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the early 1800s.
Trail at Ft. Clatsop.
Trail at Fort Clatsop.

Then it was on to the beach at Fort Stevens State Park (wow, this part of Oregon has a lot of forts). At this very cool spot with a huge expanse of sand at the mouth of the Columbia River, you can see a shipwreck on the beach.

Blue was happy as a clam at Fort Stevens.
Blue was happy as a clam at Fort Stevens.
Wreck of the Peter Iredale, which went aground at Fort Stevens in the early 1900s.
Wreck of the Peter Iredale, which went aground at Fort Stevens in the early 1900s.
This book at the Lewis & Clark visitor center came in handy when IDing the multitude of berries lining Oregon’s hiking trails.

The next day, after a quick tour of Sauvie Island (hello, u-pick blueberries!), we hit the road, heading east on the Columbia River Highway. This drive through the Columbia Gorge is a scenic alternative to Highway 84 and not to be missed. A 15-mile stretch known as Waterfall Alley is aptly named. My only regret is not spending enough time exploring — there are hikes to many of the 77 waterfalls along the way — but we had reservations in Hood River that night. That said, a stop at famous Multnomah Falls is a must:

Multnomah Falls is the biggest and most popular in the Columbia Gorge. And at 620 feet, only three falls in the U.S. are taller.
Multnomah Falls is the biggest and most popular in the Columbia Gorge. And at 620 feet, only three falls in the U.S. are taller.

Pacific Crest Trail hikers and fans of the movie Wild will recognize Bridge of the Gods, the distinctive steel toll bridge connecting Oregon and Washington that spans the Columbia near Cascade Locks, just east of Bonneville Dam:

Bridge of the Gods

A mere 68 miles from Portland, the cute town of Hood River is nestled along the Columbia River. Other than Bend, this is one of my favorite towns in Oregon and I keep vowing to spend more time there. The downtown area is lined with historic buildings, galleries, restaurants and outdoor shops, and a couple streets away sits Full Sail Brewing Company, one of my favorite beer pubs (why, oh why can’t I get their outstanding Pilsner in California??)

Downtown Hood River.
Downtown Hood River.
Pot and fires were big topics this summer in Oregon.
Pot and fires were big topics this summer in Oregon.

Thanks to windy conditions and its fortuitous location along the Columbia, Hood River has long been a windsurfing mecca. That sport has given way to kiteboarding and stand-up paddling. A beach at the marina is the perfect spot to exercise dogs and take in the sights:

The Columbia River, at Hood River's front door.
The Columbia River, at Hood River’s front door. That’s Washington state on the other side of the bridge.

layout of map mc 2010.qxd

The next day, we drove a portion of the Hood River “Fruit Loop,” a 35-mile scenic drive along Highway 35 through the Hood River Valley’s orchards, wineries, u-pick farms and rural towns. Farm stands are abundant, and I’m still savoring the last tidbits of cherry preserves I got at Smiley’s Red Barn (stop No. 5 on the Fruit Loop map, right).

It was not easy to leave Hood River, but alas we had reservations in Boise that night, so after our brief Fruit Loop drive, we again headed east along the Columbia.

The landscape gets much drier east of Hood River, and we said goodbye to the Columbia River as Interstate 84 turned south. You get a taste of eastern Oregon desert around these parts, and there aren’t many places for pitstops. Our next stop was Pendleton, the biggest town in the region and a big taste of the Old West.

Pendleton boot

We stumbled on the amazing Hamley & Co. store in Pendleton’s well-preserved downtown. Western riding lovers will drool over the bronze bucking bronco statue, custom-made saddles and all manner of apparel.

Hamleys statue

That’s about it for the Oregon portion of the big summer road trip, pardners. Next up: Boise, Sun Valley and the Sawtooth Range in Idaho, then the Wind Rivers and Grand Teton in Wyoming.

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