Well, we’re back from our 13-day trip to Oregon – and what a trip we had! I can honestly say that all four of us had a fantastic trip… and that Oregon is an absolutely beautiful, wonderful place. I should also mention that we didn’t find crowds to be a problem at all. When we changed the timing of our trip (from our original timing in June to the trip we ended up taking at the end of July/beginning of August), we were so worried that the crowds were going to be horrible. The only place we found crowds to be a problem was Multnomah Falls (even Crater Lake wasn’t busy!). In fact, we very often found ourselves alone. It was an unexpected and wonderful surprise.
Thanks again to all of you who helped me with this itinerary. We loved each and every leg of our trip and stayed in some incredible places. So here is some feedback and some details that will hopefully help those of you planning your Oregon itineraries in the future!
Day 1: We left Toronto for Oregon at 5p.m. Our Air Canada flight was on time and (despite a TON of baggage to carry and our young son that didn’t sleep at all!) all went well. We arrived at 7p.m. (Oregon time) and we quickly discovered how wonderful it is that the car rental area is directly connected to PDX. No shuttles required! We rented our minivan (a Town and Country that treated us well the entire trip) and off we headed to the Embassy Suites – Downtown Portland.
While all of the reviews of this hotel boasted that the hotel had retained a lot of the building’s historic elements and that it was a great place to stay, this is the one place we stayed that I wasn’t overly happy with. We stayed in a King Suite – a 2-room suite with one king bed in the bedroom. I think we must have been given the worst room in the place. It was a small, dark corner room on the 2nd floor (with a view of some machinery on the rooftop terrace outside our window). During our stay, we were able to look into a few of the other rooms on our floor and they seemed quite a bit nicer. We used the valet parking (which allowed us in and out privileges) and got good service (although the drop-off area is on quite a busy street). We found the hotel’s location to be ideal. Since it was already after 2a.m. (Toronto time) by the time we arrived, we ordered some room service and headed to bed.
Day 2: Upon waking, we headed downstairs for the hotel’s complimentary breakfast. It was great! Anything one could want… made-to-order omelets, pancakes, toast, cereals, oatmeal, bacon/ham, juice, fresh fruit… the food was really good. And although it was in the dark basement (and freezing!), the room was spacious and had a fountain and it was a great breakfast. We also made use of the hotel’s swimming pool… it was also fairly dark because it was in the basement and the water was a bit too cold, but still a fine pool.
After breakfast, we headed to the Oregon Zoo. It was a great half-day – great setup, lovely exhibits, fun animals. I think the highlight for all of us was the polar bear – he was literally doing a dance around the exhibit, waving his head from side to side and walking forwards and then backwards… it was hilarious. We also toured the Dinosaur Exhibit (an unbelievable value for $3.50!). As those of you who helped me with my itinerary may remember, this was quite important to my 4-year-old dinosaur-loving son (we had considered going down to Port Orford to the Prehistoric Gardens, but decided not to trek all the way south and instead chose the zoo exhibit). Unfortunately, as I suspected, my son was quite scared by the exhibit. The robotic dinosaurs were truly amazing and realistic and loud – which unfortunately made it a bit overwhelming for our son (who has always had sensitive ears). I think that the Prehistoric Gardens (with life-like sculptures of dinosaurs in a rainforest setting) would have been perfect for him. But as I say, the exhibit itself was amazing!
After the zoo, we headed back to the hotel to freshen up a bit and then walked over to the Chinese Gardens (only a 10-minute walk from our hotel). The admission cost was $8.50. We spent about 1 hour there and all of us really loved it. They gave my 4-year-old son a map and some things to search for… it kept him busy and we all enjoyed the adventure. We took our toddler’s stroller with us – it limited us somewhat (a few one-or-two steps here and there), but not too bad. The gardens were gorgeous with a really nice, peaceful vibe. And although the gardens were right within city limits, we found that the surrounding buildings actually blended nicely with the gardens.
That night, we headed to Andina Peruvian Restaurant for a terrific dinner. We had reservations, which I highly recommend – it’s a very busy place. The restaurant still had a lovely atmosphere and the food was great. We had the beef empanadas (outstanding) and Chicarron Chicken to start. My husband tried the grilled octopus and loved it. For our mains, we had the “Seco a la Nortena” (slow-cooked lamb shank) and “Arroz Con Pato” (duck breast and duck confit) and both were excellent. The restaurant is in the Pearl District – which was very trafficky on our way there, but looked like a nice area of town.
Our day 2 weather was great. It was chilly in the morning, but ended up about 82 degrees and sunny.
Day 3: My husband woke up early this morning and, being the wonderful man that he is, headed over to VooDoo Donuts to get us a dozen. We had walked by the day before hoping to get some donuts (my brother-in-law had told us about the place, having seen a TV show highlighting it) – what a neat-looking shop! But the line-up was literally around the corner! In the early morning, my hubbie waited about 25 minutes… but I happen to think that it was well worth it. He got a great selection of unique donuts… Fruit-Loop covered, The Blunt with cinnamon and red sprinkles, Oreo… all were delicious (although I found the maple with bacon a bit much).
After breakfast, we headed for the coast! Traveling with our two young kids, we found that we ran about 1/2 a day behind schedule for the entire trip… and so we arrived at Cannon Beach just after noon. It was overcast but pleasant when we arrived in town. We headed to the beach – and froze! It wasn’t just chilly – it was extremely windy and less than 60 degrees! But we all had a ball nonetheless… Our 16-month-old son loved the sand and our eldest loved running into the icy ocean and then charging out when the water got up to his knees. Let me tell you, I was happy that I had packed toques for the boys (they were much-needed during our stay on the coast!). After about an hour on the beach, we went for lunch at Ecola Seafoods. Outstanding fish n’ chips (pacific cod) and fried clams, shrimp and oysters (it’s known for its crab salad too, but we weren’t huge fans). The town of Cannon Beach was nice – cute shopping district (where we bought my son his first kite and also ate a delicious Smore crepe) and lovely looking restaurants.
After lunch, we headed to Ecola State Park. The view was amazing. There was quite a bit of fog, but that just made it all the more dramatic. What a lovely park… We hiked up to a couple of overlooks and enjoyed fabulous views. As was the case for most of our trip, our two boys miraculously let us take a lot of photos! And not only did we love the views of the coast, but we also loved the drive into the park – the lush forest was absolutely breathtaking.
We headed south on Hwy 101 towards our night’s lodging in Oceanside. There was some construction on the 3 Capes Loop and so we had to take a detour out of Tillamook. The drive was still really nice though and when we arrived in Oceanside, we couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. Cape Meares Rock stood peacefully in the distance and the cove was lovely. We ate dinner at Roseanna’s. The place was great – the food was very good, the view was beautiful and it had a lovely atmosphere (casual and friendly for families, but still somewhat romantic…). My husband said that the breaded oysters were outstanding; I would also highly recommend the deluxe mac n’ cheese that I had. And we brought a marionberry crumble back to our place and ate it with some melting Tillamook butterscotch ice cream – scrumptious.
Oceanside itself is not really much of a “town” (no real other shops or restaurants to speak of), but the residential area is so unique – a funky, laid-back beach town on the side of a cliff (you wouldn’t believe the roads up to the residences!). We loved it.
I totally recommend the townhome that we rented in Oceanside. I found it on VRBO ( http://www.vrbo.com/338158) and we loved the place. There were unfortunately a lot of stairs (all of our bags had to be carried up 30 stairs to the front door and then half of them up another 20 stairs to the bedrooms – my poor hubbie J), but the views made it very worthwhile. The place was completely stocked with dishes and the like; the views from the dining/living rooms were stunning. And then when we headed up to bed, the views were even more stunning from the master bedroom. One of the nicest views we’ve ever had.
Day 4: In the morning, we headed to Cape Meares and Cape Lookout. At Cape Meares, we hiked two short trails – one to the lighthouse and one to the Octopus Tree. Both were great. It was pretty cold – about 58 degrees – but sunny. We then headed to Cape Lookout and hiked the trail to spectacular views. We highly recommend this hike – all four of us really enjoyed it. It was a bit nerve-wracking with our 4-year-old hiking alongside us on the edge of a cliff down to the Pacific, but he was slowly learning that he had to hold our hands at key times and always hike slowly and carefully.
We checked out of the Oceanside townhouse and headed down to Cape Kiwanda and Pacific City. We weren’t expecting much from Pacific City (we had planned to just drive through) but we really enjoyed ourselves. It was a bit strange that cars were allowed on the beach (and a bit scary with young kids running around too!), but it was a crowded sunny, Sunday afternoon and there was a lively, fun crowd. We enjoyed an afternoon of kite-flying and playing in the sand and ocean. It was only about 69 degrees, but with the sun shining and the protection of the cove, it felt quite a bit warmer. We picked up a quick snack at Pelican Pub and Brewery – pretty decent food and yummy beer.
We traveled further down Hwy 101 to Yachats. The drive was windy and wonderful. We didn’t arrive in Yachats until about 7p.m. and so we just picked up some take-out fish n’ chips at Local Ocean Seafoods right in town. Unfortunately, there was slow line and long wait. But the battered fish n’ chips, fried oysters and fried clams were all unbelievably good.
We stayed in a lovely 2-bedroom cottage just slightly (maybe 1 mile) north of town (http://www.vrbo.com/91938), right beside the Sandsurf Motel. We adored this cottage – it was directly on the ocean (only about 25 steps through some grassland to the beach). The view from the living room was beautiful and the cottage itself was well laid-out, well-stocked and extremely comfortable.
We went on a lovely night-walk on the beach – a fun experience for our entire family. We saw people having bonfires on the beach and our kids had fun running on the sand in the dark.
Day 5: We headed straight to the Newport Aquarium after eating breakfast at the cottage. It wasn’t too crowded at that point (we arrived at about 10:30a.m.). We really enjoyed the Aquarium – we saw a feeding of the sea lions and seals – they put on a great show. And the “shark tunnel” was a lot of fun too. I should mention something that I wished I’d known in advance… Because we stayed in low-key beachtowns all along the way, I didn’t find there to be many gift shops along our route and so I wished that I’d made a few touristy purchases for the kids at the Aquarium’s nice gift shop.
From there, we headed to Newport. We went to the Historic Bayfront and enjoyed a lovely lunch at Saffron Salmon. Between the four of us, we had the breaded fish n’ chips (I’m laughing as I’m writing this since I’m not a seafood lover at all, but decided to eat as much fish n’ chips as I could while on the coast… ), the salmon sandwich and the club B.L.T. All were terrific. And the view from the restaurant was lovely too. Just outside the restaurant, some locals were catching crabs and our boys really enjoyed watching. We headed along the bayfront and got ourselves some Tillamook ice cream – the marionberry was to die for.
North to Yaquina Head Natural Outstanding Area. Nice lighthouse (although, admittedly, we’re not overly taken with lighthouses), but even more enjoyable were the 500 puffins that were on the surrounding rocks! They were so adorable and very loud! It was freezing right on the coast and so we were once again happy we had those toques!
Although it was cold, it was an extremely clear, sunny day and so we decided to head straight south to Cape Perpetua. What a fabulous place. We completed the classic loop, along the cliff to the rock shelter. As I say, it was clear day and so the views were amazing. We had hoped to hike to the 500-year-old spruce that we’d read about, but the boys were getting a little tired of hiking and we were told that the hike was quite a distance. Instead, we headed back to our cottage in Yachats. We played on the windy beach, searching for pirates (a game that we had created to keep our eldest son interested in our Oregon adventures ). And my hubbie and son finally mastered the flying of his new kite – one of our son’s favourite parts of the trip!
We went for an early dinner at Heidi’s Italian Restaurant, which is right in the town of Yachats with a view of the ocean. We were glad that we went early since they don’t take reservations and it was quite the busy place! Rightfully so – the food was delicious. The kids had pasta with meatballs and I had the sausage lasagna – both were great.
Another evening walk on the beach before heading to bed…
Day 6: We decided to check-out of the cottage first thing (well, first thing for us with the kids was about 9:30a.m.!) and went to Heceta Head/Devil’s Elbow. Although it was only 58 degrees that morning, the beach was so nice and sheltered. We immediately loved it there. Not only was it sheltered, but absolutely beautiful. As far as I’m concerned, this beach had it all for families. A lovely sandy beach, a rocky beach, caves and coves to explore on each side, plus a view of the Heceta Head Lighthouse. I wish that we’d been able to spend more time there (it was at that point that I remembered some of the recommendations for this place here on this forum and I wished that I’d remembered sooner!). As it was, we had a ton of fun in the few hours we spent there. During that time, the tide came in and created some fun little “rivers” to the sides of the beach and flooded some of the coves… that’s when we decided to head out.
As we left the coast, we made one last stop at the Sea Lion Caves in hopes of seeing some wildlife. Other than the puffins, we hadn’t seen any marine life at all (we were quite surprised by this, given that we had seen so much on the Californian coast a few years prior)! Alas there were no sea lions in the tide pools below and so we left the coast having only seen seals and sea lions at the aquarium.
Before heading inland, we stopped at the Oregon Dunes Overlook. We didn’t have time to spend an enormous amount of time at the dunes (given that we were going to be heading along the Umqua River to the Steamboat Inn that night) and we figured that the Overlook would give us the most bang for our buck. The Overlook was great – lovely ocean views amidst miles and miles of sand. We spent about an hour on the dunes – not too far from the boardwalk. We didn’t need to go far for all of us to have a ball! Both of our boys absolutely loved the dunes! My husband and 4-year-old went exploring further down (our son made it most of the way down via rolling ) and my youngest son and I stayed closer to the top. Even closer to the top, I’ll warn people that being on sand dunes with a toddler is not an easy feat!! He wanted so badly to slide/roll/climb down the dunes, but every time he did, I would of course then have to pick him up and carry him back up the hill – it got tiring very fast.
Upon reaching Reedsport, boy were we glad that we never pursued my original thought of staying there overnight! The town had no charm whatsoever and wasn’t even really on the coast… We headed inland with a quick stop to see the elk. We were lucky to see about 15 elk in the distance (although we were told by others that they are often right by the fence, which would have been much easier for my son to see).
And then came the next leg of our trip… the North Umqua River. The drive along Hwy 38/138 to the Steamboat Inn was breathtaking (if you’ll notice, I’m having trouble finding enough adjectives to describe how beautiful this state was!). It reminded us very much of a drive we once took in northern British Columbia… sparkling river below a rich forest. The roads were windy and fun. We were lucky enough to see an elk come to the side of the road – luckily, I spotted it in my rearview mirror, so I didn’t have to worry about it jumping out in front of us!
The weather was amazing. Sunny and hot – by the time we got inland by about 20 minutes, the temperature had gone up by 30 degrees! The warmth felt great. We arrived at the Steamboat Inn just before the restaurant closed (it closes at 6p.m. in order to prepare for their special guest dinner). I had the patty melt (patty and cheese on rye), my husband had the chiliburger – both were fine, but nothing special. The restaurant was virtually empty – we certainly got the impression that the majority of guests take part in the evening dinner. We didn’t get a chance to fully check out the Inn, but instead headed straight to our cottage.
We stayed in a Camp Water House – the Hemingway Cottage. It was awesome. 3 big bedrooms; spacious living room with wood-burning fireplace; big full kitchen and dining room and full laundry in-suite (which we were in desperate need of by this point!). The cottage had lots of windows and a cute backyard somewhat overlooking the river below. By evening, there were plenty of mosquitoes, but we took a nice short walk to a nearby bridge that we liked the look of on our drive in. As it turns out, it was Mott Bridge – a historic bridge built in 1936. Great views from the bridge too. We built a fire while eating the Inn’s forestberry pie (again, nothing special) and then headed to bed…
Day 7: We woke up once again to beautiful sunshine – and warm temperatures! It was hard to believe that we were on the west coast and had yet to see a drop of rain!! We left the cottage first thing and headed for Tokatee Falls. We expected throngs of people – there were NONE. We were the only car in the parking lot! We put our toddler in the backpack hiker (by this point, he’d decided he wanted to hike on my back exclusively!) and off we went. It was a steep path, but luckily there were lots of fences placed along the trail’s steepest parts. I found it to be much less nerve-wracking than many of our hikes along the ocean cliffs. And then we saw the falls… wow. My husband and I have hiked to some beautiful waterfalls all over the world and I must say that this is one of the most beautiful waterfalls we’ve ever seen. We spent about 15 minutes ALONE at the falls. Then the kids were getting anxious and so we decided to leave. As we started to head back, we came upon a couple of hikers. And during our entire hike back, probably about 30 more. We’d just had the greatest luck to be completely alone to enjoy the fallsview. As we returned to the minivan, the parking lot was indeed full (tour-buses and all!). We drove the couple of miles to the trailhead for Watson Falls. I should mention here that there was roadwork for most of the drive on Hwy 38 and so we got stopped several times to allow for oncoming traffic.
When we arrived at Watson Falls, there was only one other car in the lot. And yes, we got to hike to Watson Falls all on our own once again. Our 4-year-old was so fantastic… he was enjoying the hiking so much (except for the throngs of mosquitoes that would swarm whenever we stopped moving for even a second!) – he even managed to find some unique vantage-points for viewing the falls and showed them to his Mommy and Daddy. Watson Falls was beautiful. The lower part of the falls splashed spectacularly over the rocks and the upper part of the falls was lovely. We only made it about halfway up the “Upper Falls Trail” (it got a little too steep), which made it fairly difficult to view the entirety of the falls, but we loved both the falls and the hike. After a PB&J lunch (in the car – again because of mosquitoes ), we made our way to Crater Lake. We were much closer than we expected! I believe our drive to the north entrance was only about 35 minutes!
Crater Lake was more than we ever imagined. The lake was the incredible blue that we had read about (especially given the clear, sunny day that we were enjoying). The cliffs around the rim framed the lake beautifully. And an unexpected surprise was the surrounding area… we just didn’t expect the jaw-dropping beauty of the surrounding mountains. The rim drive was awesome regardless of which way we turned our heads. The crowds were not nearly what we expected – there were sometimes cars/RVs in the turnouts, but we were often the only car in sight while driving on the rim and the turnouts were never truly crowded (the only really crowded area was around the Village, which we pretty much avoided). We spent about 2.5 hours at the lake and reluctantly headed toward Bend… Crater Lake is definitely a hard place to leave!
The drive to Bend was one of the less fun drives of our trip. We were hoping to find a restaurant along the way, but there really wasn’t anything that looked good. So we stopped in for a quick dinner at the Full Sail Brewery in the Old Mill District of Bend (amazing french fries and particularly good old-fashioned pretzels with homemade mustard!) on the way to the Riverhouse Resort. The Resort was completely full actually! But we still got a nice “Family Kitchen Suite” right on the river. A very large 2-room suite with kitchenette and murphy bed in the living room. The room was a bit dark, but other than that, there was plenty of space, a nice view from the balcony and all of the amenities one could need (about what we had expected, but didn’t receive, from our suite at the Embassy Suites – Downtown Portland). It was a nice, comfy place to sleep.
Day 8: We ate breakfast overlooking the river. The breakfast buffet was awful (watery juice, horrible eggs and oatmeal…), nothing redeeming at all. But we enjoyed the resort. We didn’t find the smell of stale smoke (which had been mentioned in the reviews) to be a problem in the building we were staying in. And we had a nice relaxing morning enjoying the resort’s pool facilities (nice indoor and outdoor pool with hot tubs). And then I’ll admit that this was the one time during the trip that we felt at a bit of a loss… As we first expected, it seemed that Bend is more of a stopping-point to do other activities in the surrounding area… such as biking, rafting etc. (all activities that weren’t appropriate for our youngest son). And so we made the decision to head out of town to the Cascade Lakes Scenic Highway. The drive was beautiful (we stopped on the way to pick up a pizza at Abby’s Legendary Pizza – but we didn’t end up finding it overly legendary ) and we stopped at Sparks Lake for a couple of hours. We had a nice picnic lunch along the Ray Atkeson Loop Trail and then started into the lake for a swim – until my son decided that it was far too cold. It was a lovely (and sunny and hot!) afternoon and we knew that we had made the right decision for us (choosing a mountain drive over the volcano hikes). From there, we headed out of town to Brasada Ranch.
Upon leaving Bend, the landscape quickly turned to high desert. We had a nice drive – the boys particularly loved all of the horses and long-horned bulls! Yes, the grass was brown and dead and there was not much but scrub and junipers… but we actually really loved the landscape! And within 35 minutes, we turned the corner into one of the most peaceful and awesome places we’ve ever stayed. Our 2-bedroom cabin (http://www.vrbo.com/337499) was amazing. There was a master bedroom suite on the main floor (complete with gas fireplace, ensuite bathroom and kitchenette – a complete condo in itself); there was a huge living room with gas fireplace, 50” TV and stereo equipment; fully stocked kitchen and dining room attached to a deck overlooking the Cascade Mountains in the distance; private deck to the side of the cabin with a private hot tub; an upper level with a loft (including sofabed) and a big master bedroom with a large soaking tub, glass-enclosed shower and rooftop deck also overlooking the mountains. It really was incredible. Unfortunately, our cabin was one of the furthest cabins from the main part of the Ranch, which we were disappointed about at first, but it wasn’t a problem at all. It probably would have been about a 12-minute walk (and they also had deluxe golf cart shuttles anywhere on the ranch at anytime), but we chose to drive ourselves most of the time.
The Ranch’s facilities were unreal. It had an athletic centre that was almost like a mini all-inclusive resort! There were 2 large outdoor pools (with an attending life guard) – one infinity pool overlooking the mountains for lounging and relaxing, connected to another one with fountains and a lazy river and a long, twisty (fun!) waterslide. It also had a large indoor pool (open to the outdoors with huge “garage” doors) and a nice kiddie pool (with a depth of 1.5 feet). The centre had every pool toy imaginable – from life jackets to pool noodles to beach balls. The centre also had an attached “clubhouse” with children’s playground, ping pong, air hockey, children’s toys and crafts, video games, etc. Everything one could want.
The Ranch’s 2 restaurants were amazing. The Ranch House was a casual but exquisite place to eat. We ate most of our meals here and we weren’t ever disappointed. From buffalo meatloaf to ham-and-cheese paninis to shrimp piri piri – the food was magnificent. We sat outdoors overlooking the Ranch and the Cascades and it was always peaceful and quiet. We ate one dinner at the Range restaurant, which was slightly more formal and equally as good (their pistachio-encrusted pork dish was unlike anything we’d ever tasted before).
After a very beautiful sunset, we put our two boys to bed and spent some time in our private hot tub looking up at the stars. There must have been a million stars on that clear night… it was truly magnificent.
Day 9: Our 2 days and nights at the Ranch were certainly the most relaxing of our trip. We spent a lot of time at the pools (and eating J) and just simply gazing at the beautiful desert landscape and background mountains. On this day, we woke up super early (to avoid the heat of the day) and headed to Smith Rock State Park. It took about 40 minutes before we started seeing the unusual red canyon rocks… the anticipation was mounting! This was one of the hikes that we had been most excited about… Even though we arrived before 9:30a.m., the heat was overwhelming. Our son was starting to complain about the hiking almost before we started J, and so we knew that we definitely wouldn’t be able to tackle Misery Ridge. We started down the first big hill (which was a feat unto itself!) and then headed along the River Loop Trail (I should mention here that this was one park that was not well signed). The views were phenomenal. The loop was fairly easy, but there were also opportunities to hike up stairs/rocks up into the canyon rocks. There were a few rock climbers to watch (but not nearly as many as we thought there would be); perhaps it was already too late in the day. There were definitely quite a lot of people hiking, but it never felt crowded. Smith Rock was truly spectacular and even our son came around to enjoy the hike.
The rest of the day was spent at the Ranch. In addition to swimming and lounging around, we also paid a visit to Brasada Ranch’s equestrian centre (which is open to all of their guests). There were horses, ponies, donkeys. Trail rides were available, but we were there primarily to pet the horses (but be forewarned that the little pony (Elvis) bites! I would recommend against letting kids feed the horses).
We enjoyed some spectacular sunsets while at Brasada. We were blessed with 2 clear, sunny days and the sunsets were brilliantly red over the Cascades. Sunbum, I know that you mentioned in one of your posts that if we liked it at Brasada, that you may take a couple of friends there. If you haven’t gleaned from my review above, I highly recommend it. While we were there, there was a big group of adult friends there having a ball. The Ranch truly offers something for everyone.
Day 10: We decided to spend one last relaxed morning and lunch at the Ranch. We started on our drive toward the gorge just slightly after noon. I think that both my hubbie and I thought this would just be a “boring” day of driving – we should have known better in the state of Oregon. The drive was beautiful. We took highway 26 and then 35 up to Mount Hood – the desert landscape with rolling mountains and then Mount Hood in the background was amazing. We headed up Mount Hood (a very long and windy drive) and started into Timberline Lodge. It seemed like an amazing structure, but it was honestly so crowded that we really weren’t enjoying ourselves. So, as always do, we headed outside and enjoyed it much better. We watched some snowboarders and snow-skaters (something we’d never even heard of!) and enjoyed the views. Then we headed on our merry way toward Hood River. We passed through the fruit loop, a lovely area of vineyards and orchards surrounded by mountains, and picked up some fresh fruit and veggies. We arrived in Hood River shortly thereafter. It was jam-packed! We couldn’t believe the people… we couldn’t even find a parking spot! After a crazy search for parking, we had dinner at the Full Sail Brewery. The view of the gorge (and the kite-boarders!) was great, but unfortunately none of us were fans of the food. We got out of there quickly and headed over to Stevenson, WA to our cottage at Skamania Coves.
We were staying at the Riverhouse cottage (http://www.skamaniacoves.com/riverhouse.php) and it was yet another fantastic place to stay! The photos on the website don’t even do it justice. It was a 1-bedroom cottage (although we used the utility room as a place for our youngest son’s playpen J) with an open-concept living room/dining room/kitchen. The big front bay window directly overlooked the Columbia River (which was only about 20’ away) and surrounding mountains. There was a short path down to a private rocky beach and little island – our boys were in heaven! The cottage had an endearing stone chimney (for its woodburning fireplace) and colourful gardens. The beds and the sofabed were air mattresses, but remarkably comfortable for our night’s rest… The only thing that I should note is that the cottage is literally 15’ from the train tracks. When the first train went by, I thought “oh my, none of us is going to sleep tonight…”, but being from a big city, we easily got used to it and slept like babies.
Day 11: We started out early for Multnomah Falls in hopes of beating the crowds. No luck. We arrived to swarms of people. And sorry to those who love Multnomah Falls, but we were NOT impressed. The bridge over the lower falls was cool, no doubt, but other than that, Multnomah Falls really weren’t impressive. Partly because of the crowds (which were truly absurd), but also the fact that the falls just weren’t nearly as magnificent as some of the other falls we’d seen (and were about to see). We didn’t spend long there, but instead continued west toward Wahkeena Falls.
Wahkeena Falls, on the other hand, were spectacular. It was definitely worth the fairly easy hike up to see more. My son particularly loved hiking in this area. We had told him that we’d be seeing some rainforests (we had actually told him that when we thought we’d be heading to the southern coast, but then of course didn’t end up there and so these were the closest thing) – and he was suitably impressed. He wanted to see lush trees and vines (the Tarzan kind – we had to really stretch to find those!) and we managed to find an enormous tree slug and some beautiful birds, which helped him feel like we had truly hiked in the rainforest.
Throughout that morning and early afternoon, we saw Horsetail Falls (totally viewable from the parking lot turnout), Bridal Veil Falls (nice falls, but nothing spectacular) and also Latourell Falls. We enjoyed a picnic lunch at a nice picnic area on the other side of the parking area for Wahkeena Falls – nice setup and remarkably quiet. When our boys fell asleep in the car after that, we drove up to Vista House (spectacular – our recommendation is to just head straight to the top of Vista House for views – you can see everything (and more) from there that you would see from walking around the busy lookouts down below) and Women’s Forum (the views were nice, but not nearly as spectacular as Vista House). We also headed up Larch Mountain (about a 14-mile detour). Unfortunately, because our boys were sleeping, only one of us could hike in (we had thought that there’d be a lookout from the parking lot as well, but no luck). My husband did the 1-mile hike to Sherrard Point which provided unbelievable alpine views (he almost didn’t want to admit it to me, but the photos don’t lie J). It’s too bad that we didn’t have more time to hike together in the area, but we knew that our sons were tired and hiked-out and so we headed back down.
And what a lovely “last” evening we had (while technically we still had an evening in Portland ahead of us, we knew that we’d be in packing mode by that point…). We were back at the cottage by 5:00 and barbecued a nice steak dinner, threw rocks from our private beach into the river, ate popsicles, enjoyed a bonfire by the water while watching ships go by… it was peaceful and lovely.
Day 12: We packed up in the mid-morning and started heading toward Portland. The night before, my son had expressed a desire for Chinese food. We did a little research and ended up at Shandong for lunch (3724 NE Broadway St.) and it did not disappoint. We have some fantastic Chinese food in Toronto, and this ranked right up there. Modern dishes, but with a traditional flare; friendly service; all of us were happy and would highly recommend it.
We made our way to Washington Park. Highway 405S was closed for construction and so it was a pain to move around the city, but we eventually made it. Unfortunately, parking was no easy task! We literally had to circle the park and wait in lines for about 45 minutes. We were seriously ready to leave when a spot finally became available. Surprisingly, we didn’t enjoy the Japanese Gardens nearly as much as we expected to. Although we both commented that the gardens were beautiful, they not only seemed quite small, but also very disjointed (unlike the Chinese Gardens, which we’d loved). The admission cost of $9.50 seemed steep when we were ready to leave within about 30 minutes of arriving (keep in mind that certain trails were off-limits to us because we’d brought a stroller for our toddler).
From there, we headed to Tom McCall Waterfront Park and had a great time walking along the Williamette River. It was warm and the riverfront was packed with people. We saw people biking, running through fountains, drumming… and we even ran into Batman! Yes, Batman. If anyone can explain this phenomenon, it’d be greatly appreciated! Our eldest son is a huge fan of batman right now and so you can imagine our surprise when we ran right into the Dark Knight himself! His “entourage” were carrying video cameras… and as soon as they saw my son (who happened to be wearing Batman sunglasses, t-shirt and sandals ), they definitely wanted some footage. My son was quite sleepy at that precise moment and I think there’s a part of him that still thinks he dreamt it.
It was about 4:45p.m. when we stumbled upon the Portland Farmers’ Market (something we never thought we’d be able to fit in!). The booths were all starting to shut down, but we were happy that we were at least able to see what it was all about.
From there, we headed toward the Embassy Suites – Portland Airport. We stopped for a kitschy, fun family dinner at Elmers (nothing wrong with those pancakes for dinner!). And then the Embassy Suites was great. It had a nice, spacious lobby with a waterfall. They gave us a room on the top (8th) floor with a perfect view of the airport runway and so we were able to sit on the bed and watch the planes take off and land (with Mount Hood sitting behind!) – very exciting for our boys! The pool area served its purpose (although the tile floor was one of the slipperiest I’ve ever encountered) and we had a fun last swim… We returned the car with no fuss and caught the Embassy Suites’ shuttle back to the hotel before heading to bed.
Day 13: We awoke at 4:00a.m. and packed up, only to find that our flight had been delayed by a couple of hours (due to weather in Toronto the night before). L But our boys were remarkably well-behaved for the middle of the night (our 4-year-old even wanted to help pack up!) and we headed for the airport. The Embassy Suites has a 24-hour shuttle, and they had told us that it was “on demand” at that time of morning, but when we got down to the lobby, they didn’t have room for us on the shuttle that was departing and so we literally had to wait 20 minutes or so for the next shuttle… If we hadn’t been delayed, it would have made me a nervous wreck. Other than that slight issue, we were extremely happy with our stay at the Embassy Suites Portland Airport.
Aside from the delay, our flight home was turbulent, but mostly uneventful. Both boys slept a little and handled the flight well. All of us were definitely feeling a little sad about returning home after such an unbelievable adventure…
I suppose I should end this “novel” here. But I did want to add that although I left out of the report all of the plain family fun we’d had, there was certainly a lot of it. From funny songs in the car, to cheers for just about everyone (ourselves, our family, and even Oregon!), to our constant search for pirates (which we concluded with a “handwritten note” from those rotten pirates to my son at the back of his travel journal). We truly did have a ball. Oregon was breathtaking; our family amazing; our trip to Oregon unforgettable.
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