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Pacific North West - Trip Report (Oregon - Oct 4th-11th)

Watford
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Pacific North West - Trip Report (Oregon - Oct 4th-11th)

For your delectation and enjoyment (I hope) please find below the report of the first leg of our jaunt. One day per post. Washington & British Columbia will follow on those fora but I will post a link here.

I also attach a link to our photos - http://www.flickr.com/photos/53601297@N00/278188678/in/set-72157594351557003/

You can view them one by one with captions or as a slideshow but without captions (curse you flickr).

Questions and comments (and abuse for being wimps) welcome!

adamhornets@yahoo.com

Watford
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1. Re: Pacific North West - Trip Report (Oregon - Oct 4th-11th)

Days One & Two: October 4th & 5th – The one with Wacky Races, a gentleman’s club and a picnic

BA 53 arrived at Seatac on time and we were through immigration and customs in near record time only to join a line for our Alamo car that wasn’t moving thanks to a customer who appeared not to know how to spell car let alone which one to select. After about 20 minutes, and with the line increasing, the clerk decided to announce that there was another desk further along the terminal building.

Cue wacky races. Considering we were towards the head of the line this meant we were at a disadvantage when it came to being first at this next desk but my years of experience in driving carts (trolleys) through airports meant we arrived in pole position if somewhat breathless.

Anyway we were soon sorted and in proud (?) possession of a 4 door brand new white Chevrolet Cobalt and heading south on I-5. Slow going until we cleared the Olympia area but we arrived at Centralia before dark to find the Olympic Club in all its restored Edwardian glory. Built in 1908 as an exclusive gentleman’s club, it is now owned by the microbrewery moguls, the McMenamin brothers. In addition to some roomy if basic bedrooms it houses a restaurant (basic pub food), bar complete with original wood burning stove and a massive pool hall.

Mrs Hornets felt the need for her bed but yours truly attempted to stay up by drinking with the locals in an attempt to defeat jetlag. Of course the IPA went down so well that… well let’s say I awoke at 2.00, 3.00, 4.00… So much for good intentions and all that.

An early breakfast and we were away before 8.00am. We crossed the Columbia at Longview and drove alongside the mighty river to Astoria where we drove up Coxcomb Hill to admire the column, a 125 feet monolith patterned after Trajan’s column in Rome and built in 1926. The fog was rolling around and we got some great shots of the town and the 4 mile long Astoria bridge that brought 101 in from Washington. We also moseyed around the excellent Columbia River Maritime Museum before heading south.

Now we had arrived in Centralia to discover a large box awaiting us in our room. It turned out to be a wondrous picnic box donated by an unnamed TALFer containing local Oregon produce including salmon, cheese, crackers and truffles. This we unpacked and mightily enjoyed whilst admiring the first of many amazing viewpoints along the coast at Ecola State Park near the town of Cannon Beach.

Time was pushing so we ignored the delights (and smells – lots of cheese and therefore cows) of Tillamook and drove the Three Capes Loop. Only time today to stop at Cape Mears where there is an Octopus tree (wait for the pictures) and the shortest lighthouse in Oregon. The night was spent at the modern Eagle’s View B&B on the outskirts of Pacific City where, in the absence of the owners, we were welcomed by Simone, an elderly black cat who showed us up the path and to the front door - Big rooms with a view of the bay, an eclectic modern art collection and a welcoming shower. Disappointing (our only one of the entire trip) meal at The Riverview restaurant where we didn’t get a view of the river, well it was dark!

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2. Re: Pacific North West - Trip Report (Oregon - Oct 4th-11th)

Day Three: Oct 6th – The one with the fish and the music

Another early rise but this time we had to wait until 8.30 for breakfast which allowed us to talk further with Simone (I like talking to cats). A drizzly fine rain complete with low cloud had started during the night so rather than head back to Cape Kiwanda we pushed on south to Newport and the excellent Oregon Coast Aquarium where we came face to face with sharks and other sea creatures in their ‘Passages of the Deep’ attraction, a trio of tanks linked by a 200 foot underwater tunnel with 360-degree views. We watched the sea otters (why do guidebooks always describe them as playful?) being fed and had a surprisingly good hot dog in the cafeteria.

The weather showed signs of brightening up so we took off and stopped a few miles further south at Cape Perpetua. The tide was on the way out so the surf only crashed a little and it wasn’t far enough out for us to explore the tidepools but the sense of isolation was acute, something we noticed all along the coast and indeed later when we went to Ruby Beach on the Olympic Peninsula, and the ocean was mesmerising. We then drove the two miles up to the viewpoint at the top of the cape where on a good viewing day one can see 150 miles north and 37 miles out to sea. This wasn’t a good viewing day but the mist was lifting and we admired the stone observation point built by workers in the 1930’s as part of FDR’s back to work programmes.

10 miles on and we parked in Devil’s Elbow SP by one of the several art deco style bridges (more 1930’s designs that still look impressive today) that dot the coast and walked the mile or so up to probably the most famous lighthouse on the Oregon coast, Heceta Head. The nearby lighthouse keeper’s house is said to be haunted and is now a B&B. Talking of which, our B&B in Florence called so we ignored the siren calls of the sea lions in their caves and drove into town for our Friday night fun.

The Edwin K is a traditional B&B situated on Bay Street, the road that runs through what is left of the old town of Florence alongside the Siuslaw and opposite the highest sand dune one could wish to see. From our side of the river it looked more like a hill, which in a way I suppose it was. There was said to be a good choice of restaurants on Bay Street but no one told us of what can only be a local city ordinance which states that every restaurant or bar in old town Florence MUST play live music on a Friday night. Not great when one is tired and in need of a good meal and a little relaxation. We lasted ten minutes in one place (Note: Ray Charles played on an electronic organ with the bass turned up to 11 does not add up to relaxing entertainment) and were on the verge of giving up and getting a take away pizza when we saw some other guests from the B&B who were just sitting down in Bridgewaters. They had found the one table in town which didn’t required earplugs and we happily joined them for a very pleasant meal. We will be forever grateful to P&E from Auburn.

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3. Re: Pacific North West - Trip Report (Oregon - Oct 4th-11th)

Day 4: 7th October – The one where not very much happened

At last the jet lag was starting to wear off and we gathered around a delightful old wooden breakfast table at 9.00 for a five course repast complete with narration from the B&B owner. The Edwin K was named after one of its previous owners and was ordered from a 1914 Sears Roebuck catalogue. An end of season sale resulted in a coffee mug and golf shirt to add to our collection – one day we will end up going home with less than what we arrived with.

The weather was gorgeous and we would have loved to explore some of the dunes but we had to push on as we were staying the next two nights with a friend near Ashland in the southern part of the state so we stopped at an overlook which gave us a wonderful panorama of the dunes. It was a mile to the sea and on another day…

At Reedsport we turned inland along the Umpqua River. The elk of Dean Creek were keeping themselves to themselves so we carried on and eventually reached the town of Grants Pass in time for a sandwich and coffee. The Hellgate jetboats had (thankfully) packed up for the season so we made do with a quick walk and carried on to Jacksonville, the oldest settlement in Southern Oregon where the buildings had been preserved from the 1880’s although the businesses inside were all contemporary. This gave the town a rather artificial feel. Not a lot to actually see other than the cemetery which was located up a winding lane just outside of town.

Our friend P was waiting for us and we enjoyed some lively conversation, delicious lamb chops, an excellent local chardonnay, an IPA from Deschutes Brewery in Bend, a telephone conversation with FullSailMom and an early night.

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4. Re: Pacific North West - Trip Report (Oregon - Oct 4th-11th)

Day 5: 8th October – The one with the lake, the hippies and the salad trousers

Crater Lake was expected to be one of the highlights of our trip and so it proved. Armed with directions we set off early and nearly two hours later we reached the National Park visitors centre. For those who have never been, all I can say is, go as soon as possible. The 21 square mile lake is the deepest and clearest in the US and is the world’s seventh deepest. It was created some 7,700 years ago following the eruption of Mt. Mazama. Bluer even than Tahoe, on the quiet clear day that we were lucky enough to get, one feels totally at peace just gazing at the water and admiring the views.

There is a 33 mile rim drive that offers several viewpoints and there are a few trails but only one that leads down to the water’s edge where in summer you can take a boat to Wizard Island, a 760ft cinder cone. There is also a side road that takes you to the Pinnacles, a valley of pumice and ash hoodoos that are rather like a grey version of the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon.

Returning to Ashland we took a chance and drove along some unnumbered roads that turned out (with one exception) to be two lane blacktop all the way to town. We had some time so parked up by the delightful Lithia Park and spent an enjoyable sunny hour wandering. Being a Sunday a lot of people were out and about and it seemed most were children of the 1960’s. I half expected to be offered a joint and some peace and love. It felt a little like we had gone back 40 years and were acting in the chorus of a production of Hair in Central Park as the setting sun filtered through the trees and a wise old barn owl looked down seeing and hearing all.

That evening we took P and C, a 91 year old matron of wise mien and jolly nature to McGrath’s, a fish restaurant where the salmon had just arrived from Alaska and was as fresh as you would imagine. I was surprised to learn it was part of a chain and surprised further by the waitress who decided to tip half my uneaten salad over my trousers. Cue apologies and free desserts all round and we were able to clean the trousers overnight at P’s.

Talking of salads, why does North America make it so difficult to order? First we have to decide what to have as a side: soup, potatoes or salad? Then, if a salad is chosen, what dressing: ranch, 1000 island, honey mustard etc? As Mrs H is just a tad hard of hearing and the wait staff (no doubt fed up at having to repeat the choices) mumble or gabble these options, it can take some considerable time before normal service is resumed. By which time I have usually forgotten what I was going to order.

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5. Re: Pacific North West - Trip Report (Oregon - Oct 4th-11th)

Day 6: 9th October – The one where Mrs H goes into orbit

A long day’s driving as we needed to get from Ashland to Silverton without using I-5. In all I drove just over 300 miles firstly up 97 to Bend and then across the Cascades on 20 and 22. The morning drive was quite easy with long stretches that allowed me to reach 80mph+. Naughty I hear you say but we just don’t get roads like that in the UK and it may a change for me to overtake trucks unlike on Interstates where I tended to drive more slowly and let them overtake me. For those who don’t know, trucks in the UK are limited to 56MPH (90K) and seeing one overtake another on a Motorway is like watching paint dry. But I digress…

Just south of Bend we stopped at The High Desert Museum. This fascinating museum tells the story of the region (totally different to coastal Oregon) from both a historical and a natural history perspective. In addition to the impressive walk-through dioramas we encountered a very regal looking Canadian Lynx who knew how to pose, a bald eagle that wasn’t very bald, some other more impressive birds of prey and a rather sad looking river otter.

The afternoon scenery was more impressive and we had views of several mountains as we turned north-west arriving via Sisters in Silverton around 5.30. Now being a Monday not a lot was open in this delightful working small town on the banks of Silver Creek. It was take-away pizza or Thai so we chose the later. Now we are not experts in this cuisine and whilst I got lucky, Mrs H’s first bite of her fish and something concoction turned out to be a green chilli which immediately turned her face red and her speech into gibberish. I thought at first she was having a heart attack and then that she was going to take off into orbit. Luckily the water on the table proved sufficient to put out the fire but it was a close run thing!

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6. Re: Pacific North West - Trip Report (Oregon - Oct 4th-11th)

Day 7: 10th October – The one with the leaping salmon and the pitch & putt course for drinkers

We had been very lucky with B&B’s so far and The Water Street Inn was no exception. Another historic building (1890) that had fallen on hard times, the Inn was purchased and refurbished in 2001 by a no nonsense English lady (from Chelmsford in Essex) and her son and daughter-in-law and a splendid job they made of it. Our bed was comfy, the bathroom (including a double shower) massive and the whole place, whilst retaining its Victorian dignity mercifully lacked the tweeness that some B&B’s of that style have.

The Columbia River Gorge was our destination today. An hour’s drive took us to I-84 where we looked for signs to Route 30 at Troutdale, also known as The Columbia River Scenic Highway. Let me tell you that despite assurances to the contrary signs for the latter don’t exist at exit 17. Luckily there was one last exit before the two roads diverged for good and we crawled up a windy narrow road to reach the scenic highway just before Crown Point SP. Here we enjoyed some truly amazing (and much photographed) views both up and down river. The two tired octagonal Vista House, dating from 1918 and newly restored, had some very useful information about the Gorge as well as a book about Silverton’s Bobbie, a grey collie who is Oregon’s answer to Lassie and whom we had never heard of until that morning when he was mentioned over the breakfast table. He travelled 2500 miles over a 6 month period in order to be reunited with his owner. I had a car like that once.

The most popular of the many waterfalls that dot this area of the Gorge is Multnomah Falls. We did the tourist thing and walked up towards the 620ft double-decker torrent, the 5th highest in the US for those of you keeping score. With more time I would suggest escaping the crowds and possibly walking to one of the other less touristy falls such as Bridal Veil, Latourell or Horsetail.

Fancying something different we drove onto the Bonneville Dam where the Visitor Centre tells you all you need to know about this 1937 modern wonder whose generators have a capacity of nearly a million kilowatts, enough to power more than 200,000 homes. More interestingly you can watch salmon leaping/struggling up river through underwater windows. Thanks are also due to the very nice security guard who on wanting to check our trunk suggested pushing a button on the key fob that opened the trunk without the need for the key. You never know, she might be reading this!

We crossed the Columbia into Washington on The Bridge of the Gods (less exciting than it sounds and now a dollar rather than the 75c that all the guide books claim!) and took lunch in Stevenson at the Big River Grill where the beer menu was nearly as long as the lunch one and the waitress was the wife of the local brewer. And I was driving…grrr. The north side of the riverbank is generally less forested thus giving better views of the river and Mount Hood way beyond in the distance. We crossed back into Oregon at The Dalles where I kept expecting to see JR and Miss Ellie. Instead we admired some of the Victorian and Edwardian houses on the west side of town before heading back along the Interstate.

It was getting dark and we were getting hungry so we diverted to another McMenamins property, The Edgefield. A former poor farm, the 38 acre site included two restaurants (we ate in The Power Station), a brewery, a winery and a distillery as well as a 17 hole (don’t ask me why) pitch and putt course that has a tree like sculpture honouring Jerry Garcia and where the pre-requisite for playing seemed to be the ability to carry a pint and three golf clubs in one hand. The Edgefield is a good place for stocking upon gifts for beer drinking buddies back home and a fine example of how to turn an old dilapidated property into a flourishing business.

Back in Silverton the local bar was so quiet that I doubled the number of patrons. The barmaid was impressed that I was reading a book. I thought it time to go…

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7. Re: Pacific North West - Trip Report (Oregon - Oct 4th-11th)

Day 8 – 11th October – The one where we realise we weren’t as fit as we could be

Another beautiful morning saw us head the short distance to Silver Falls State Park, at 8,700 acres the largest State Park in Oregon. There are miles of trails that link the various waterfalls encompassed with second growth stands of Douglas Fir and Hemlock (the evergreen tree rather than the poisonous plant we think of as Hemlock in the UK). Fern lovers would be in heaven. We also saw some Pacific blacktail deer in the stream below. Well they saw us first and by the time I had my camera out, they were off.

We started at the North Falls (where the path goes behind the waterfall) and were planning on a loop that would take in most of the waterfalls but after a couple of miles we realised that my right calf (all that pedal to the metal?) and Mrs H’s knee were not up to it so we shortened our loop. To add insult to injury we were then overtaken on an upslope by a bunch of cheery elderly hikers clearly planning on covering every inch of the 8.7 mile Trail of Ten Falls. We decided not too rush and ambled back to our car and drove the short distance to the main parking area to take in the beauty of the 177 foot South Falls and to grab a bite to eat at the historic Lodge.

We drove the long way back to Silverton which offered delightful views down into the Willamette Valley and stopped at The Oregon Garden which is located just a mile outside of town. Now a number of people had suggested that we might be disappointed with this new (less than 10 years old) garden but although it could still be considered a work in progress and I believe that there has been some major financial problems, we thought it a wonderful peaceful place to while away a couple of hours and we were also impressed by the passion of the staff. In all there are some 20 different gardens offering as the guidebooks say “something for everyone” including wetlands, conifers, oaks, a sensory garden and a number of different water features. There’s even a pet friendly garden. We were both glad we had visited and I would urge any locals who haven’t yet been to give it a try.

Our last evening in Silverton saw our best meal of the holiday so far. The Silver Grille uses local ingredients and has a small but select menu. We had three delicious courses, wine and coffee and the whole bill ($87 including tip) came to not much more than what we would have spent at a Pizza Express back in the UK.

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8. Re: Pacific North West - Trip Report (Oregon - Oct 4th-11th)

Adam,

I've not gotten to your pictures yet, but the descriptions are so well written! What a wonderful time you have had.

Note to Mrs. H: milk is usually better for cooling the flames than water; glad water worked for you!

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9. Re: Pacific North West - Trip Report (Oregon - Oct 4th-11th)

Adam: Great report and photos! Thanks for sharing.

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10. Re: Pacific North West - Trip Report (Oregon - Oct 4th-11th)

Adam ~> Wow the pictures are amazing. What can I say! The ocean is shockingly outstanding as usual. Oregon is marvelous! Thanks for sharing the photos - thanks to your dear DW as well.