Adventures in Portlandia!

July 19-26, 2016

We came to Portland to see Jamie and help her get settled in her new house.

Just as we pulled in, a load of wood chips arrived! So our first project was laying down cardboard for "sheet mulch" and covering it with eight cubic yards of wood chips!
Portlandian Gothic.
A well-deserved lunch at McMenamin's Kennedy School
Dennis passing along his breadmaking skills to the next generation.

Historic Columbia River Highway

A friend suggested we check out the Historic Columbia River Highway, the nation's first scenic highway, constructed between 1913 and 1922. The road parallels Interstate 84, but loops along the cliffs overlooking the Columbia, through forests where the trees are so dense they form a dark tunnel, occasionally opening up for breathtaking views of the Columbia River.

Crown Point Overlook

Elowah Falls

The Columbia River Highway passes five major waterfalls in an eight-mile stretch between Crown Point and the Bonneville Locks. Even on a Thursday afternoon, there was bumper-to-bumper traffic and gridlock at most of the trailheads.

We continued past the more popular destinations to Elowah Falls, where a short hike leads to a 289-foot waterfall.
We had lunch just below the Bridge of the Gods, where the PCT crosses the Columbia River, near the Columbia River Sternwheeler Dock.

Waterfront Loop

The next day Dennis and I rented bikes and explored the Waterfront Loop, a fantastic urban bike ride along the Willamette River, over historic bridges and through a series of linear parks, as well as the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

One of the highlights was crossing the Steel Bridge, a truly multimodal bridge that carries bike, pedestrian and train traffic on its lower level and light rail and road traffic on the upper level. Built in 1912, it's one of the oldest lift bridges in the US.
We took a break at the Either/Or Cafe, a fantastic coffee shop right on the bike path near the Sellwood Bridge.

Oxbow Regional Park

While we were exploring the Columbia River Highway, we crossed over the Sandy River near Troutdale and noticed a very nice area along the river. So on Saturday we returned for an extended hike along the Sandy at Oxbow Regional Park.

We were astounded by the depth of the forest cover along the Sandy. The trees — mostly Douglas fir — are so tall their tops are not visible. When we heard a sharp crack in the forest, we did a quick calculation: possible range maybe 150 feet? Run! The Douglas firs have thick, dark, coarse bark — so different from the Ponderosa pines of Arizona's Sky Islands! There is no sign that they have burned recently, or at all. They are packed so tight that almost no light reaches the forest floor, and their branches are covered in thick "fir" coats of moss. Ferns run rampant at their feet, and trickles of water cross the trail at regular intervals.
We found Sasquatch!
Spider's web illuminated by filtered sun, looking like a warped 33⅓ RPM Record.
The trail runs along the Sandy River, a wide, shallow, stony-bottomed margarita green summer playground.

Mount Hood

South of Oxbow Regional Park, we continued on a winding country road that alternates between tunnel-like cliffside forest and bucolic hilltop farms, and from the latter we caught tantalizing glimpses of Mount Hood, its gleaming white triangular summit towering ghost-like above the blue-green horizon. So naturally we had to go check it out.

Ironically, the closer we got to Mount Hood, the less we could see of the summit! The Mount Hood Highway was already a westbound parking lot at 3:00 pm on a Sunday afternoon, and there was total gridlock at Government Camp. We took a short break from the traffic and hiked to Little Zigzag Falls, a tumbling torrent of snowmelt at the base of Mount Hood.

We stashed the car and took a short walk at an old ski lift, thinking we might get a better view from "just over the rise". Silly Arizonans! There are no breaks in this forest! We ended up trucking about two miles uphill, but we finally got a good view of Mount Hood, and along the way, we met an elderly couple who pointed out that the bushes were covered in huckleberries. We sampled those, had dinner at the Huckleberry Inn, and brought home a bottle of huckleberry syrup as a souvenir! Over dinner, we learned a bit more about Mount Hood. It's a potentially active volcano that has erupted many times in the past, as recently as the 1700s. Although it's not especially tall by western standards, at 11,249 feet it towers more than 7700 feet above the surrounding countryside, making it one of the most prominent peaks in the continental US. There are 12 named glaciers on the mountain and snowfields cover about 80 percent of the mountain above the 6,900-foot (2,100 m) level. There are no hiking trails to the summit — ice axes and crampons only! But there are a number of trails around the mountain. Yep, gotta come back and do that!

Sauvie Island

Jamie saved the best for last! On the warmest day of our trip, with temperatures approaching 90°, we drove to Sauvie Island, where there is a surprisingly nice sandy beach on the banks of the Columbia River. There was an enormous osprey nest near the beach. Birding friends, what's going on here? There's a whole lot of squawking and wing-flapping but not much flying!

Almost immediately, Jackson found a playmate in another black lab mix — also named "Jackson" — and the two of them had a blast chasing each others' tennis balls. Every once in a while, one of them got loose and I got to be the retriever!
So far Jackson doesn't quite understand the "retriever" part of "Labrador Retriever". Hey buddy, if you want us to throw the ball for you, you have to let go of it!
Dennis tries logic ...
... and a little behavior modeling.
Bye Jamie! Thanks for a great visit!