Date of trip: May 28, 2015 - June 2, 2015
PDX is a land of many things but above all — hipsters and hipster descriptions such as beards, bikes, beer, and cool shoes — such was expected. Portland is a grungy land of tattoos (but really, like, everyone 10+), colorfully dyed hair (usually on middle aged women), music, alternative remedies, chiropractics, shade, roses, Thai food, ivy, front lawn gardens, food carts, container cranes, bamboo hedges, anything local, brewpubs, potted plants, hiking, gender-neutral bathrooms, and of course, organic food. So yea — we’re moving. Well, maybe? Minneapolis has a much more beautiful skyline, scenic waterways, and bike friendlier roads. Greater Oregon is a land of forests and mountains, waterfalls, drive-through espresso huts, moss covered trees and rocks, camping, Lewis and Clark, logging semi trucks, ghost towns, and Bigfoot.
- Day 1: Portland, Voodoo Donuts, Japenese Garden, Rose Garden, Fat Head Brewery, Hair of the Dog Brewery, Roadside Attraction, Stickmen Brewery, Green Dragon Brewpub, Pok Pok Thai Restaurant – Slept in Portland
- Day 2: Nob Hill Neighborhood, St. Johns Farmers Market, Forest Park, Breakside Brewery, Hopworks – Slept in Portland
- Day 3: Columbia River Gorge, Latourell Falls, Multnomah Falls, Hood River, Double Mountain Brewery, Mount Hood, Timberline Lodge – Slept in Hood River
- Day 4: Cannon Beach, Haystack Rock, Ecola State Park, Astoria – Slept in Chinook, WA
- Day 5: Portland – Flight home
Our journey to Portland began in the evening. We spent the night traveling to Phoenix, Arizona for a layover before heading to the NW. We flew Southwest and for those who don’t regularly fly with Southwest, know that seats are not assigned. Flyers are given a letter (A, B, or C) and a number (1-60), and line up in about those orders. On our first connection to Phoenix Chris and I sat apart since the first people to board all sat with seats in between them as social norms dictate. However, on our second flight I was in section A, and thus, saved his seat and the day. We slept, drooling on each other the whole 2.5 hours from Phoenix to Portland. We landed, drove, and arrived to our AirBnB in the city at one in the morning.
For only our second AirBnB experience, we were thrilled with our choice. We drove up a windy, dark road leading to the beautiful home we were staying in. Home? Mansion? Dream home? Whichever. The lights were on with notes leading us inside, up three flights of stairs, through the living space and to our bedroom. We were so happy to sleep — no less in a beautiful home and luxurious bed!
In the morning, we excitedly readied ourselves and drove off for some breakfast — for some donuts. And because Chris would tell you I am a shit navigator because of lingering curiosities and gaping-mouth-stares out the window, we got lost and ended up on the wrong side of the river. Chris silently took over navigation and I silently stayed silent as I continued to stare out the window at the city….silently. Upon seeing Voodoo donuts, all was well and the first words spoken were, “how many should we get?” But the line was long and our crabby stomachs needed a quicker reprieve. We found ourselves a block over at Bijou Cafe, eating a DELICIOUS breakfast. Chris forgave me for getting us lost soon after consuming some coffee.
THEN we waited in line for voodoo — which took only 15 minutes. A young girl in front of us stood facing the brick building saying, “I like the sparkles. Mom, I like the sparkles.” And indeed, the bricks of the building we stood alongside were painted like my nails were in 8th grade, with a clear lacquer of tiny sparkles. I liked it too. Our turn came and Voodoo did not disappoint.
Full from breakfast and dessert, we jumped in the car and headed to my most anticipated attraction (save Pok Pok and other food) — the Japanese Garden. Not as large as I thought it would be, the garden featured tea houses made in Japan.
After taking in all it’s beauty and considering we were basically walking around the Japanese equivalent of the infamous and harrowing arboretum (where we both worked for a combined 10+ years), we got out. We traded the tall and vast greenery of the park for downtown to find the food carts.
Downtown Portland is unlike Minneapolis. The streets are lined with huge trees, street art, homeless folk, and food carts, and the buildings are old and unique. It felt like a neighborhood — with a Portland version of I like You.
After walking and sweating from the heat, we found Fat Head Brewery and each ordered a flight of beers. We will keep our personal tastes out of it, but if you like a restaurant vibe to go with your brew, eat and drink up! We crossed the bridge to find Hair of the Dog brewery.
Note to Portland visitors: there is food served at Portland brewpubs (hence the name), and therefore, waitresses prefer if you don’t order beer at the bar as you might in a NE Minneapolis microbrew. You may just piss off a pink and blue haired Portlandian who wants your money.
Perhaps drunk, and but certainly merrily skipping around the east side of the river, we got lost (on purpose) and found a….bar……called Roadside Attraction. How does one explain a place seemingly taken from the middle of the Ozark’s with a patio made of tin, wood, iron, and scrap metal? I give up. Refer to pictures.
After enjoying a good beer made by Stickmen Brewery, we frolicked to Cascade Brewery. But promptly left after reading the beer menu as we don’t prefer sour and fruity beers. Across the street awaited the Green Dragon, a brewpub with a greenhouse. We quizzed each other with Trivial Pursuit, wishing Wilks and our other cultured friends had been there to help. However, we amused ourselves and ended with a question we both knew, “What is the capital of Iceland?” DUH.
And then, folks, I correctly navigated us to the famous Pok Pok Thai restaurant — my most anticipated part of the trip. We waited an hour for a bar seat and ordered the famous Ike’s fish sauce chicken wings, a pork curry, and asian ribs. Sadly to say, I was not hungry all day — the one day I had planned to stuff my face. Nonetheless, I happily gobbled up the wings and will die a happy woman.
We came back to our homestay and said hello and goodnight to the sweet asian woman (“Timi”) who owned the home.
On our second morning in Portland, we took our hostess’ advice and parked ourselves on Northwest 23rd Avenue in her Nob Hill neighborhood to find some coffee and take a morning stroll.
We found Barista coffee shop, and walked along the avenue admiring the old Victorian storefronts of specialty boutiques, bookstores, and wellness shops (float tanks, anyone?). Chris ordered a smoothie from Moberi, a tiny smoothie shop with a petal bike you ride to power the blender. He saw it on Shark Tank, apparently. It was good and we recommend it!
We finished our walk, changed, and headed to NE Portland by 11:30 to find some bikes for rent. Our plan was to bike around and drink at breweries but I had a better idea of renting bikes and biking miles and miles (and miles) across the city and into a forest. The first trek of biking was glorious. The sun was shining and we found a lemonade stand near the University of Portland. The young girl explained she was saving up for her business (creating some beadwork creation in high demand in her classroom), as well as for charity and her savings account. Her mother was kind enough to give us suggestions for our afternoon and for our drive through Mount Hood the next day. We took her first suggestion and stopped at the St. Johns Farmers Market before crossing the bridge into Forest Park.
A farmers market in Portland? Duh! Thank you small child who creates beadwork to sell to other Kindergarten children. There were all kinds of gems at the market — including authentic tamales and baby chickens for $4.00.
After eating at the market, we headed across St. Johns Bridge. Bridges in Minneapolis usually have biking lanes. Bridges in Portland, not so much. As such, I decided we should probably spare our lives and walk our bikes across the bridge on the skinny sidewalk. It was a long bridge and Chris didn’t see the point in safety. We may or may not have worn helmets.
Twenty minutes later we crossed the bridge and as we stood looking vertically into the sky at the vast forest ahead of us, I knew this was a bad idea. Up was the only way to go. And so we did, taking a hill up into the park — I mean forest park. I hopped off my bike knowing within 30 seconds I wouldn’t be able to bike up such an incline. At the top, Chris referenced the map from the bike shop, and pointed us in the direction of a dirt trail that led up even higher in the park. “Are you (explicative) serious?” In my flats, dress, and backpack full of camera and sweater, we walked our bikes up the hill and around the switchbacks.
The only things I remember are as follows:
Eventually, we stopped and contemplated turning around, not knowing when the trail would turn downwards. Surely there wasn’t anymore up to go but I also thought that 20 minutes prior. Right at that moment, a man and his dog came down the trail ahead of us and explained the trail only lasted another 300 yards, eventually connecting to a main trail. So onwards we went, getting scratched by branches and dodging the tree roots, mud, and fallen trees. Chris would later in the day admit that he felt bad. He had grown tired of the trek, and knowing if he was tired, I was close to dying.
Eventually we pooped out of the woods and stumbled onto a large dirt trail like two survivors of a lost island. I dropped my bike and saw a family looking me up and down. “Do you need a Band-Aid?” I looked back at the trail and it’s marker sign. A picture of a bike was crossed out in red. “That’s not a good idea,” I said pointing at the sign. “Are you sure you don’t need a band-aid?” It’s just dirt, I explained brushing myself off. They just looked at me as I stumbled back over to my bike and wobbled after Chris.
Lessons for the day: wear a helmet. You never know where your bike travels may take you in the land of Portland. Also, your adventures and risks don’t always pay off. Enjoy them when they do.
We eventually made it back to the bike rental shop, though our bikes were clicking in mysterious ways, surely due to their portage through the forest. We returned them and drove off to Breakside brewery as suggested by our beer snob, Patric. We were filthy and sweaty, but fully enjoyed our meal and drinks at Breakside — highly suggest this brewpub!
Since we hadn’t made it to the breweries as originally planned, we attempted to make it to a few more. We stopped after Hopworks though, as we didn’t like the restaurant vibe. Question: What is the difference between a gastropub and a microbrew? Portland proclaims they’re one in the same. We wanted a spot without food and the works — just a tap room with brick, shuffle board, and a food truck. Where was our Portland version of Indeed? Is that so wrong to ask for? Perhaps.
But from there we found a corner of food carts, picnic tables, hippy families, and a beer garden. There was even an old England double decker bus from 1965 converted into a traveling vintage store. After taking many photos and eating a wood fire pizza from Pyro Pizza, we headed back to our home to sit on the patio overlooking the city to sip tea and coffee, and to read Portland travel magazines.
It was the perfect way to unwind. However, at the end of the day as I scrubbed the chain oil and mountain dirt off myself, I felt so full of tea, beer, and donuts that I got sick. An hour or so later, I recovered and slept the tired away.
Favorite part of the day:
Ali: Sitting on the patio and reading.
Chris: Sitting on the patio and dreaming.
The next morning we left Portland by 7:30am and headed towards the Columbia River Gorge, Hood River, and Mount Hood. Upon the suggestion of our lemonade mother, we took the Historic Columbia River Highway route.
Along the way we saw homes and river bends, waterfalls and historic buildings.
We stopped to hike at the first waterfall called Latourell Falls. We hiked up the trail, in awe as we got closer and closer to the top. Chris, per usual, was much further ahead than I was and eventually I gave up calling for him. After some time trying to photograph some moss (longer than you’d imagine), I started the trek up to find him. He came stumbling down moments later saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry…(where were you?)…I’m sorry, I was taking photos at the top.” He needed not say more words after muttering, “Want to see where I was!?,” and pointing to a tree hanging over the edge of the 250 foot waterfall.
As I said choice words on our trek back down the trail, I was in the middle of explaining the details of his stupidity and possible untimely death at such dangerous heights when I tripped over a rock protruding from the trail. I bobbled like a sad Bambi for a few moments, arms out like a two year old. Chris saw it all. I laughed until I cried. Oh, the irony.
Lesson learned: bring phones at all times to make sure your significant other is not dangling over a 250 foot waterfall.
We drove further along the Columbia River Gorge, spotting more waterfalls and trees on trees on trees. We made it to the 600+ foot tall Multnomah Falls, ate a snack, and started hiking up the trail to take photos.
As our plans were to hike around Mount Hood for the latter part of the day, I was not expecting to embark on a short hiking trip to the top of this waterfall. However, Chris gave me no options. As I huffed and puffed walking the mile long incline up to the top, Chris shook his head and pointed at the young, old, and pregnant passing me up and down the mountain. If they could do it, I was the biggest whiner in the world. I stopped a couple on their way down to ask if it was worth it — they said it was. We kept going and eventually made it to the top where a platform overlooked the top of the waterfall.
After taking a few photos, we stumbled 100 feet further down a small dirt trail to check out the river. Chris took off his socks and shoes to take a time lapse in the middle of the 20 foot wide river and I sat, safe and dry on the banks.
On our way down, I gave kind words of encouragement to those who looked as poor and tired as I did. A girl standing with her hand on her hip at a bend in the path asked me if it was worth it, and if there are places to sit. We explained to her why it was worth it and the possibilities of sitting. “Sit by the water? Okay, I’m good. Let’s go. I’m doing this for you!” she yelled at us as she started back up the mountain. Her girlfriend thanked us.
We then headed towards Hood River along the Columbia River Gorge, stopping once at a lookout over with views of the highway, river, and the land beyond.
We arrived soon after and quickly found Double Mountain Brewery and happily consumed wood fire pizza and beer. Highly recommend it. A few gift shops later, we checked in at our next Airbnb, a lovely, private room shared by a woman named Leisa. She suggested some things to do in Hood River and we told her that we only had the afternoon to experience the city. We took her suggestion and headed towards Mount Hood to see a national historic landmark, Timberline Lodge. The lodge was built in the 1930’s due to President Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration project during the Great Depression (basically to get people working and making money again). In the ‘50’s the lodge was closed due to prostitution and gambling. However, it was revitalized by Richard Kohnstamm and became one of the most famous ski resorts for training and vacations alike. Today, the lodge still embodies it’s birth era with many of the same furnishings and a soundtrack from the 30’s humming lightly in the background. I was entranced by the place, snapping pictures let and right until I looked down from the balcony and saw Chris, arms crossed, looking at me mouthing, “Let’s go.” I didn’t even get an old photograph postcard!
On our way back to Hood River, Chris stopped at a lake in the middle of our forested drive — Lake Trillium — to soak up the sound of lapping water (and to take a time lapse).
We got back, changed, and found Solstace as a place for grub. We enjoyed it and highly recommend it! Afterwards, we walked across the road and sat by a beach on the river and wrote of our past couple days. That night we packed up our things to be ready for the morning and happily rested our toes.
Lesson learned: always have phones on each other incase your significant other is daydreaming of a time long gone and taking photos of a historic buildings’ wood work. Also, pack toilet paper, water gallons, and snacks for any and all road trips, for such trips rarely go as planned.
Favorite parts of the day:
Ali: Dinner at Solstace and relaxing on the beach
Chris: Walking in the river above Multnomah Falls
On Monday, we got ready and headed out of Mount Hood around 8:45. The drizzle and fog didn’t let up for our drive, though it made for great scenery. One last look at Mount Hood and we left the land of fruit fields and wind surfing. We drove past Portland and on to the coast, eager to see some water. As Chris drove, I wrote up our travels. Cue song, Over the river and through the woods. Atop a hill, we finally saw a break in the forest to Cannon Beach and the hazy water. We found a parking spot on a short stretch of Main Street. Cannon Beach looked much like Bainbridge Island — or any other small town that hosts weekenders and tourists for beach season. It was quant and tidy, with shop after shop and beach cottages. The nice elderly man at the information center was eager to suggest things for us to see, though was disappointed we were only staying for a couple hours. He suggested Haystack Rock and Ecola State Park.
We found the beach and walked along the water for a mile past the cottages and sand dunes.
After taking way too many pictures of Haystack rock, we walked without our cameras the mile back to the main stretch to catch a bite to eat and head to Ecola State Park. The Chinook native word for whale is Ecola, or E-cu-lah. The park is part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. So I’ve read, Clark spotted a beached whale on what is now called Cannon Beach from atop Tillamook Head, within Ecola State Park.
On our drive through the park we saw three young elk on the side of the road! I cried “Mooooose!” “Those are moose?” “Yea!” I was really sure they were moose, though when we told the admissions ranger he clarified they were elk — three of the twenty that lived in the park.
Continuing to the lookout, it made sense why the view was so popular. It looked out over the Pacific, rock stacks, and cliffs.
As we drove back through the park and to the highway, Chris was intent on communicating with the elk. He made some sort of animal call out his window (endlessly). Eventually his animal call changed. “What are you calling for now?” “The centaur.”
On our hour drive north to Astoria, we passed through Seaside, a coastal city of about 6,500. Honestly, we must have missed the big deal. Seaside is a popular beach side destination. To us it looked like an old town from the middle of Wisconsin with few places to eat. We continued on, hoping for something more overwhelming at the end of our drive. A bridge led us over Youngs Bay and into Astoria soon after. Big gasps! We’re here? The clouds hung low over the city, hiding the homes atop the hill. It was old — an old, working town that needed a paint job. However, I reminded myself this was where Lewis and Clark canoed around, trading with native persons and claiming shit.
The road into town quickly took us out — on to the Astoria-Megler Bridge spanning the Columbia River between Astoria and rural Megler, Washington — where our Airbnb was.
As we approached the bridge, Chris remarked about its size — surely it was larger than the Golden Gate Bridge. And indeed, Google confirmed the bridge was the longest truss bridge in North America at about four miles long. I was not a fan — my toes tingled like I was inching, clickety-clack into the sky like a rollercoaster ride. Even writing about it gives me the willies. In the middle of the bridge it flattens out low over the shallow waters of the river and rising again before ending in Washington.
We arrived to our cottage on the beach in nearby Chinook, Washington, and happily passed out for 45 minutes before getting up to explore the beach. Our cottage, owned by a Guam, US Navy vet and Oregon native, sat near the beach overlooking the Columbia River and the Pacific beyond. A small deck with two chairs faced the water and tall grass. We even had a fire pit with Tiki torches — what the cheeses, Mother Nature — give us a dry sky. We suited up in our rain jackets and took to the shoreline to find some treasures — like garbage, crab exoskeletons, a flip flop, and tires.
Amongst the drift wood graveyard, Chris spotted a small sunfish about 40 feet away from the water. “It’s mouth opened!” As we peered down at the small sandy fish, his little mouth popped open, “I’m ALIVE!” I scooped the sand up around his little fins and ran out into the low tide, jumping small pools, until the waves were just about to lick my toes. I tossed him in the waves and watched his white belly move with the waves. “He’s gone! He swam away!” Chris said. I didn’t see him swim away but I didn’t see his white belly anymore. Cue music, How to save a life…The rest of our walk back to the cottage was a rescue mission, eyes peeled for creatures to save. Unfortunately, we were too late for the tiny quarter size crab among the driftwood. After our walk on the beach, we headed back across the bridge to venture around Astoria and grab some food.
Folks, Astoria was founded in 1811 and was the earliest settlement west of the Rocky Mountains. It was named after John Jacob Astor, the first multimillionaire in the United States (he built a fur trade monopoly, so, yea). Lewis and Clark spent the winter of 1805-1806 in the area, and Fort Astoria, the primary fur trading post of the American Fur Company, was the first permanent U.S. settlement on the Pacific Coast. To say the least, it’s a very old place. As such, it would be gracious of me to describe the town as weathered, historic, and working. But it’s actually haunted and creepy. I should have taken many more photos.
We drove around Astoria looking at the old Victorian homes. We sought out the Astoria Column but it was under construction for the summer. Being much too lazy to park and walk to view the Goonies House, we opted for some eats and drinks at The Fort George Brewery and Public House. As I said before, Astoria was the main trading post for the American Fur Company, a branch of the Pacific Fur Company. Fort Astoria was renamed Fort George in 1813 under British authority, naming it after King George the Third.
The current building was built in 1924 over the original location of Fort George. The building originally housed an automotive service station and repair facility, was abandoned in the 90’s and is now renovated to house the brewery and a bakery. I had one question for the waitress: Is this place haunted? She laughed and said no as if it hadn’t ever crossed her mind. She mentioned, however, a creepy old photo of an unknown family hung behind the bar — she was new and didn’t know the significance. After dinner, we hightailed it out of town back to our little cottage for sleeps and snoozes.
Lesson learned: Do not book an Airbnb across the river from your destination if the only way across is the largest truss bridge in North America. Also, Google haunted buildings before your trip instead of after — it would make for a more interesting drive around town. Then again…
Favorite part of the day:
Ali: Driving through Ecola park and listening to Chris make animal calls. Videos were taken but deleted for phone space. Alive in only my memories.
Chris: Saving the fish.
On our last morning, we woke up to sun! Just kidding — it was rainy, grey, and wet. The tide had retreated a half mile out into the river, leaving us with a view of mud and tide pools. Packing up and saying goodbye to our cottage, we wrote a note to our hosts regretting the weather but thanking them for their tiny oasis by the water. We ate at Blue Scorcher Bakery Cafe directly beneath Fort George Brewery. We highly suggest eating here, as they have butterlicious baked goods, granola, egg dishes, and the food is all organic. As we ate, I sat looking at a local artist’s homemade coloring book that sat for sale in the window. The artist had drawn dinosaurs and wrote of their exploration through Astoria and its historic landmarks. I almost bought it. We finished our breakfast, said our quick goodbyes to the town, and made our way towards Portland. As we drove back through the ghost towns and mountains, I thought it only appropriate to Google Bigfoot sightings in the area. After finding way too many, I was thoroughly creeped (….but obviously tried spotting Bigfoot the whole rest of the way).
We were happy to be back in the city and ate lunch at Dorio Café and Taverna, a family-owned Greek restaurant off of NW 23rd Ave. It was Chris’s first time eating Greek! Twas also the moment when I decided I don’t really like to eat lamb. Tired from driving and touring new sights, we made one last walk through the green sidewalks to the car and headed to the airport, just 20 minutes away. Flying Southwest again, we weren’t sure if we would be seated by one another. However, our brave souls took the two seats others were neglecting — two seats surrounded by three babies. Thankfully, it wasn’t bad. The little human next to me cried only briefly and blinked tiredly at me through big brown eyes. I even got some smiles. WIN.
Our two hour layover in Phoenix turned into three — but we ate Panera and fiddled on our technology. On the flight home, I watched River Monsters on my phone, complimentary of Southwest. Our flight got in late at 1:55am. We sleepily taxied home and crawled into bed by 3:00am.
Favorite part of the day:
Ali: Sharing smiles with the baby on the plane
Chris: Sleeping in at the cottage
Oregon, you were one big fucking work out. I still have bruises on my legs and sore muscles. But I solemnly swear my name is Ali Leis, and I STILL really like you and long to return to explore more, preferably without Bigfoot, bear, or mountain lion encounters. We like to think we did Oregon right (for being there only 4.5 days), and went back and forth about it during the trip — especially as we drove around old and rural Astoria and Seaside. In hindsight, however, and as I sit writing about our memories back in Northeast, I remind myself that travel isn’t always about the sights, but the hidden stories as well. I’m glad we missed some of the good shit. We have many reasons to go back. Eh, Bigfoot, you’re not one of them.
Click here to see how I (seriously) only paid $22 on my two roundtrip flights from Minneapolis to Portland!
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