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Day 1, The Gorge

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We arrived in Portland on Tuesday about noontime after an uneventful flight, picked up our rental car, and checked in at our hotel. There were three things I wanted to do during our exploring phase: the Columbia River Gorge, the coast, and the mountains. The Gorge was the closest and shortest, so we decided to head out that afternoon and start our adventuring immediately.

We had a quick lunch at Burgerville, then headed out to the Gorge. We brought our GPS from home, so had no problems navigating (well, other than the usual GPS problems). I wanted to drive on the old historic highway until we reached Multnomah Falls, which I had seen plenty of pictures of in the past and was looking forward to seeing.

The historic highway is a tiny road that is very twisty and narrow. Very fun to drive on, even when you are not driving a Mustang. Our first stop was at Chanticleer Point, where we got our first good view of the river and of Crown Point rest area. We continued our drive out to Vista House on Crown Point, which is a gem of a rest stop, and where we read a bit about the historic highway.

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Then came the falls. We both agreed that out of all the falls we saw on our drive, the first one was our favorite. Latourell Falls is stunning, both the falls and the rocks which create the backdrop, and you can walk practically to the base. Here is a video I took, which does not do it justice.

We stopped at several other falls along the way; Bridal Veil, Shepard’s Dell, Wahkeena. It’s an embarrassment of riches. You are almost tired of waterfalls when you reach Multnomah! We parked at Wahkeena and hiked a pleasant half mile along the road to see Multnomah. It is right off the interstate and has many visitors. You can see the falls from the parking lot/rest area/visitors’ center, and it is a short walk up to the bridge for a better view.

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Don’t get me wrong, it is beautiful! But not actually our favorite. You miss too much if this is the only one you stop to see.

Me looking under a giant rock on the trail.

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After we reached Multnomah Falls, my itinerary was simply to drive back to the hotel–perhaps on the Washington side of the river. Little did I know what we would get up to on our way back.

We stopped at Cascade Locks and learned about the locks (now defunct) and crossed the Bridge of the Gods. It was a nice drive back towards Portland, and Reed mentioned that he would like to stop at Beacon Rock if we saw it. Eventually, we wound back up the gorge to Beacon Rock and pulled over to take a picture and read the signs.

Reed had been joking that back east, someone would have found a way to put an elevator to the top of Beacon Rock and we could pay $7 a person to ride to the top. As I read the sign at the edge of the parking lot, I said (fateful words), “Well, there’s a trail to the top.”

This is where the hilarity began. We figured that we would just go as far along the trail as we could, and when/if it became difficult, then we would just turn around and go back to the car. After all, the trail is not even a mile long! Surely we can walk a mile. So, off we went. The sign near the trailhead says it is .9 miles of easy to moderate hiking to the top of the 848 foot tall rock.

Did we have any water with us? No. Any snacks? No. Cell phones? Mine was out of juice and Reed’s was on its last gasp. Jackets? Ok, I had my sweater. At least we were both wearing our sandals, and it was very cool so we didn’t have to worry about being overheated.

Tra-la-la. This trail has over 50 switchbacks. Before the serious switchbacks begin, you go through a metal door on the trail that warns you to be off the rock before dusk (whenever that is), or you will be locked up there on the rock.

Really, it wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t what I would call an easy hike, but it is just one foot in front of the other and knowing when you need to rest a bit. You can see some of the trail here. Once I saw the door, I tried to be really aware of the time. We started after 6 p.m., so I decided if we weren’t to the top by 7, then we would have to go down anyway. There are magnificent views of the river and countryside nearly all the way up. After a while, you go around the rock to the other side, where there is an evergreen forest and it is nice and cool.

At long last, we made it to the very top of the rock. We were mildly ecstatic that we had not collapsed.

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A view from the top.

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Going down must be where the easy part comes in, and we made it back to the car without any problems. Then, it was back to Portland. We drove out to Beaverton to eat at Yuzu, and had a lovely Japanese dinner before doing some grocery shopping and heading back to the hotel.

Portland Recap

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One of the best things about travelling is coming back home. I always appreciate having my little nest more once I have been away from it for a while. We are back from spending a week in Portland, Oregon for the Evolution 2010 conference that Reed attended. Besides the conference, we also spent three days exploring the region in general.

Oregon might just be the most beautiful place I have ever been. We went to the coast, drove along the Columbia River Gorge, traveled through huge forests and out to a beautiful plateau. When we were in town, we were in the midst of a large, decently old, city with museums and restaurants, weekly markets, open-air music, and with no need at all for a car. People were very friendly and laid back, and they don’t drive aggressively (a huge change from Houston!).

It wasn’t all perfect, of course. Portland was cold–it made its way up to 80 degrees one of the days we were there, and people acted like they were melting. Most of the time it was between 50 and 70. There were many people living on the street and begging. Things were more expensive there than other places we have lived.

All in all, though, I would love to go back. There was no way to do more than the tiniest fraction of what interested us. Over the next few days, I’ll write up our trip in more detail and with pictures.

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