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Trip Report Trip Report: 9 Days in Northwest Oregon in early Sept 2012

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Just got back from a fantastic 9-day trip (28 August to 7 September 2012) in the NW part of Oregon. Thought I’d share the details in case it helps with others’ trip planning to that lovely part of the state.

Day 1: Portland
Drove from Seattle to Portland. Stayed at The Nines (www.thenines.com). Very modern décor, great central downtown location. Rooms were decent size and clean, but unfortunately we were given rooms that looked out onto the hotel restaurant in the interior of the building (maybe why we got such a great room rate). At the recommendation of lovely Ian at the front door, we had a really delicious lunch on outdoor patio at Veritable Quandary (www.veritablequandary.com). From there, we walked a few blocks and then took free streetcar to Powell’s bookstore and browsed around a while there, then walked back to the hotel. For dinner, we sat outside at futuristic, “Jetsons”-ish Departure (www.departureportland.com) on the top floor of the hotel. Food and cocktails were great (if you can handle spicy stuff, try a cocktail with their Thai chili infused vodka!), and we were treated to an impromptu fireworks display over the Willamette River (no one seemed to know what it was for).

Day 2: Columbia River Waterfalls and Gorge
We tried to go to Screen Door but it’s only open for brunch on the weekend, so we went around the corner to City State Diner (www.citystatediner.com). Casual, neighborhood place with good food. Then we headed for Hood River. At the rec of some friends, we got off 84-E onto the Historic Columbia River Highway (http://www.columbiariverhighway.com/historic_columbia_river_highway.pdf) and drove up to Vista House at the Crown Point Overlook, which offered amazing views of the Columbia River and Gorge. We then continued back along the Historic Highway for some waterfall viewing. We stopped at Latourell Falls (our favorite as you can walk right up underneath the falls, though prepare to get wet! … park at the pullout and go UNDER the bridge to walk to the falls), Wahkeena Falls, Multnomah Falls (very touristy but it is a lovely waterfall and worth a quick check out), and Horsetail Falls. Next we stopped to check out Herman the Sturgeon at the Bonneville Fish Hatchery (http://www.oregon.com/columbia_gorge_attractions/bonneville_hatchery). The hatchery was on surprisingly pretty grounds and Herman didn’t disappoint – he’s 10 feet long, 450 pounds and over 70 years old! Then it was on to our lodgings for the evening, Columbia Gorge Hotel (www.columbiagorgehotel.com) in Hood River. CGH is an old, historic hotel (quite a change from The Nines!), situated right above the river for great views and beautifully landscaped grounds. We had happy hour on the outdoor patio and watched the sun go down, then ate in the restaurant (food was good). They didn’t have many visitors for Friday night, and the place had a little bit of a creepy, “Shining”-esque feel to it (but in a fun way).

Day 3: Hood River to Mt. Hood
We had breakfast in the hotel, and then drove into downtown Hood River, which is a really cute little town. Did some shopping (check out Twiggs for great home décor and jewelry) and then had lunch at the Full Sail Brewery (www.fullsailbrewing.com), which was PACKED and for good reason: great brews and yummy food! Then we headed for Mt. Hood. The Timberline Lodge was celebrating its 75th anniversary over Labor Day weekend so we couldn’t get a room there. Instead, we stayed at Resort at the Mountain (www.theresort.com) in Welches. The rooms there were nice and the campus had a cozy feel to it. We ate dinner at The Rendezvous Grill, which was surprisingly good for such a remote location.

Day 4: Mt. Hood
Had breakfast at The Mallards Café at the golf course adjoining the Resort. Food was pretty good but service was really slow and inexperienced. We got picnic fixings at the Thriftway grocery store in Welches and then headed back up Mt. Hood to do the Mirror Lake hike (trailhead located 1 mile west of Government Camp Village on Hwy 26 at mile post 51.7). It was 1.5 miles to Mirror Lake, which was pretty but very crowded (Saturday of Labor Day weekend), and then we continued another 1.7 miles up to the ridge top of Tom Dick and Harry Mountain (that is really its name!), which was much quieter. It was a beautiful, clear day and from the summit we not only got a spectacular view of Mt. Hood, but could also see Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier on the Washington side and Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters mountains on the Oregon side. It was breathtaking, and one of the highlights of the 8-day trip for us! We ate dinner at The Rendezvous again since it was so good on Friday night.

Day 5: Mt. Hood to Willamette Valley
Had breakfast at The Mallards again, which was a mistake as the service was even slower than the previous day – it took over 30 minutes for them to bring our food, even though we were one of only 5 occupied tables in the dining room. Painful. We then drove back up Mt. Hood to check out the famous, historic Timberline Lodge (www.timberlinelodge.com), the exterior of which was featured in The Shining). We didn’t realize we were visiting on the actual 75th anniversary day of the lodge and the place was an absolute madhouse. We managed to get a table in the Ram’s Head Bar for quick bowls of chili before fleeing the crowds to take a few photos of the grounds, and then we hit the road again for Willamette Valley. We stayed at Le Puy (ww.lepuy-inn.com), a beautiful, modern bed and breakfast in Newberg, run by two architects. After a relaxing champagne happy hour on the deck of our room (“Thunder”) looking out over farmland and rolling hills, we headed into Newberg for dinner at Subterra (www.subterrarestaurant.com).

Day 6: Willamette Valley Wine Tasting
After a delicious crepe breakfast served up by our hosts at Le Puy, we were picked up by our driver and wine guide, Scott Denis of Uncorked Northwest Wine Tours (www.uncorkednw.com). We stopped first at Argyle (www.argylewinery.com), which is known for its champagne and it didn’t disappoint (my favorite was the Knudsen Brut). The Tasting Room is located on a busy boulevard but it has a pretty flowering garden and the staff were friendly. Next stop was Anne Amie Vineyards (www.anneamie.com), which is in a gorgeous location overlooking a valley of farmland. Particularly liked the dessert wines and the Pinot Blanc vintage 2009. Then we headed to WillaKenzie (www.willakenzie.com), which was also situated in lovely setting. Scott provided us with a delicious al fresco lunch of cheese, meats, fruit and chocolate to pair with the wines we were tasting (again, my favorite was the Pinot Blanc), and then gave us a tour of the winemaking facilities and explained how the magic happens. Our last stop of the day was Zerba’s Tasting Room (www.zerbacellars.com), which is close to Argyle on the highway. My dad wanted to taste some “big reds,” and Zerba’s didn’t disappoint (vineyards are actually in Walla Walla Valley). This was a good place for a last stop of the day, as they stay open later than most other tasting rooms in the area (and not surprisingly, the crowd at that time of day was a bit raucous). After a little rest back at Le Puy, we headed out for dinner at Recipe in Newburg (www.recipenewburgor.com), a converted old house that had a cozy feel and delicious fresh bread.

Day 7: Willamette Valley to Cannon Beach
Another delicious breakfast was served up at Le Puy when we got up, this time a very tasty French toast recipe. We stopped at one more winery on our way out of town, Colene Clemens (www.coleneclemens.com). It’s a newer winery and they only had three wines for tasting, but the grounds were really beautiful and the staff was very nice. From there we headed for the coast. We ended up taking a slightly longer route (Wilson River Highway) through the Tillamook State Forest so we’d be able to see more of the coastline before arriving in Cannon Beach. We stopped for lunch at the Tillamook Cheese Factory—the place seemed like a real tourist trap so we opted out of a tour and just ate quickly and got back on the road. The drive up the coast on 101 was really pretty, especially around Nehalem Bay and Oswald West State Park—the views from a few of the scenic overlooks were breathtaking and reminded me a bit of the Big Sur area in California. Arriving in Cannon Beach, we stopped to admire Haystack Rock, and I’m glad we did, since the fog rolled in and we didn’t get another look at it for the two days we were in town! We stayed at Schooner’s Cove (www.schoonerscove.com), which was in a fantastic location right on the beach and walking distance to lots of shops and restaurants. To economize, the four of us stayed in a “Super Sloop” room, which had a small private room and another bed in an alcove area next to the living room. It was a bit cramped, but we didn’t plan to spend much time in the room so it worked out fine. We enjoyed an al fresco happy hour in the inn’s grassy picnic area next to the beach and watched the fog settle in. For dinner we walked around the corner to Bill’s Tavern for some tasty beer and fish & chips.

Day 8: Cannon Beach
Got up and went for a yummy brunch a few blocks from the inn at Lazy Susan Café (it’s a small place and very popular so plan to wait for a table!). Since it was still fogged in and chilly, we wandered around the town and did some shopping and poking around in some of the art galleries. Went for a wine tasting at The Wine Shack, which has a great set of labels and friendly staff. We had dinner at Fishes, a short walk from the inn, which had tasty sushi and friendly service.

Day 9: Cannon Beach to Seattle (home)
Hit up Lazy Susan Café for breakfast again, then took a long walk on the (still fogged in) beach before packing up the car for the last time and heading home. On our way back to Seattle, we headed up the coast and had lunch in Astoria at a seafood restaurant (can’t remember the name) that had a fantastic view of the Columbia River but pretty mediocre food. Got great views of Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier on the drive back!

In all, it was a great trip that I’d recommend to others. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out!

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